20-20 Vision by Tenderhooks

2020 Vision Album Cover

This seventh album for the eternally talented ‘alt rock pop blues’ (and a few more genres too) band, ‘Tenderhooks’, is as slick and diverse as every other one I have been fortunate enough to review.

Opening with the alluring ‘Prelude’, purely instrumental with initially just a solo piano, before being joined by a sax, one certainly feels drawn in to listen on, as it seamlessly drifts into ‘Bright Lights City’, a chilled number reminiscent of ‘80s disco sounds, with a hint of soul.

The title track of the album follows. Unlike the usual Tenderhooks fare, which tends towards ‘feelgood’ or narrative, ‘20-20 Vision’ hovers on the periphery of politics. Referencing environmental concerns, hats off to singer/songwriter Markus Leinweber for the musical reminder that the onus is on us for the well-being of our majestic planet.

‘This’n’That’, with its bassy reggae/ska feel throughout, will bring you back to a wonderfully mellow mood, especially if – like me – you were a fan of ‘The Specials’ back in the day. Another charming piano intro heralds ‘Run into the Sun’ next; with some beautifully clear vocals from Markus and some rousing guitar solos into the mix, this gentle rock song earns its place as one of my favourites.

Changing the tempo considerably is the lively ‘Thinking Cap’, followed by ‘Cell Number 9’. The latter is dominated by some skilled piano playing and tells the dark story of a wrongly convicted inmate. The minor key and choir of humming backing singers adds a powerful poignancy to the song. If you like show tunes, this is for you; it definitely feels like a song from a score for a gritty modern musical.

‘Smash It’ is another lively offering, displaying the vast array of instruments skillfully played by the Tenderhooks musicians. ‘No-one Gives a Monkies’ – definite blast from an ‘80s past with a bouncy ska/Britpop mix – precedes ‘Mermaids’, which is a gentle and quirky mermaid story to wrap up this energetic album.

Lucky me – I attended the launch party AND I have the album. But the fabulous news for you, is that it is now available on many digital platforms, including Spotify.

Tenderhooks band pic

Tenderhooks’ seventh album is available on many digital platforms, including Spotify.

Lisa O’Connor.

‘Tenderhooks’ launch ’20-20 Vision’ @’The Brunswick’

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Little did I know, when I popped along to one of my favourite Brighton (well, Hove actually) venues on March 7th, to an album launch party, it would be my last night out for … well – who knows when? I’m glad because firstly, it was at ‘The Brunswick’ which looks like a fairy-tale castle on the outside and is so classically timeless, with sturdy wooden tables, real people and good beer, that it could pass for a castle on the inside too. I’m also glad because it was to see the eternally talented ‘Tenderhooks’, so obviously, it was a rocking night watching this ‘alt rock pop blues’ (and dare I say a few more genres too) band, launch their 7th album: ’20-20 Vision’.

‘The Brunswick’ houses two venues: one on the right as you walk in and another downstairs (‘The Cellar Bar’). Readers of my blog of old will know the former as ‘The Cabaret Bar’, as this is what I named it when first I wandered in one summer night for Open Mic, on account of there being a stage and little tables with cloths and pretty candles burning. ‘Tenderhooks’ performed in this bar but not before whetting our party spirit with the delightful ‘Across the Sea’: a duo comprising a female powerhouse of a singer and a perfectionist of a male guitarist who also boasted some enviable locks. Well-placed, just before the main event, were ‘The DBs’ who evoked the same carefree vibe as ‘Tenderhooks’ themselves. Personally loved the folkiness of the fiddle and the jazziness of the sax.

The party started aptly with Tenderhooks’ ‘Bright Lights City’: ’80s disco with a hint of soul, before the title track itself of the album: ‘20-20 Vision’. Unlike the usual Tenderhooks fare, which tends to either be ‘feelgood’ or narrative, this song hovers on the periphery of politics. Referencing environmental concerns, (baseball) hats off to singer/songwriter Markus for the musical reminder that the onus is on us for the well-being of our majestic planet.

A charming piano intro, courtesy of Markus, heralded ‘Run into the Sun’ next; with some beautifully clear vocals from Markus also and some rousing guitar solos into the mix, this mellow rock song earned its place as my favourite.

Continuing with the buoyant mood was ‘Thinking Cap’, followed by ‘Smash It!’, both putting on show the unending array of instruments being energetically bashed and plucked for our entertainment.

‘No-one Gives a Monkies’ – definite blast from an ‘80s past with a bouncy ska/Britpop mix – preceded ‘Mermaids’: a quirky and gentle story about mermaids, which, as we all know, exist ‘at the bottom of the sea’.

And thus ended the album launch … I’m lucky to be in possession of Tenderhooks’ latest offering, but the good news for you is that it is now available on many digital platforms, including Spotify.

Actually, it didn’t end there … we were treated to a few more favourites from this happy, slick band because Markus is the ultimate showman, in the best possible sense of the word.

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20-20 Vision’ is Tenderhooks’ 7th album and is now available on many digital platforms, including Spotify.

Lisa O’Connor 7th March 2020 @The Brunswick, Hove.

Skeleton Dance

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To call ‘Tenderhooks’ latest album ‘Skeleton Dance’, a feelgood album of the highest order, would be an understatement. Even the opening track ‘Stardust Memories’, where frontman Markus Napier bemoans the news making him ‘feel so blue’, gets you in the mood. For anything, really. Tenderhooks are one of the most creative bands I have encountered; all of their work is original, but Markus’s interest in music spanning decades is clearly manifest in the diversity of genres represented and on a deeper level, occasional subtle influences by specific musicians will fleetingly bounce off your eardrums. Poignant references to a musician who has transcended to that rocking gig on high, against a backdrop of nostalgic beats make ‘Stardust Memories’ a great first track. When the enjoyment of a cultural experience is reliant on prior knowledge, it is enjoyed all the more … and Markus is smart enough to realise this.

But just in case all of that made you ask yourself (all over again) WHY we had to lose all that talent … ‘Cheers Cheers Cheers’, will make you want to join the cast of Riverdance. Even if you can’t dance. With its expert fiddle-playing and some rousing drumming, it ticks all the Irish jig boxes. Fast-paced lyrics with a Gaelic vibe abound and there are even background pub noises to make you feel like you’re downing a Guinness in the Emerald Isle itself.

A twangy strings intro to ‘Skeleton Dance’ promises country but delivers rock. And whilst listening to Markus’s versatile tones, I was reminded of Billy Bragg’s uniquely clear voice; definitely a similarity there. Who would have thought that a song about skeletons would be such fun? But it really is.

‘Rise and Shine’ conjures up a black tie event in a jazz club with a grand piano so shiny you could do your make-up in the reflection. Dominated by the sounds of that grand piano, this is not just feelgood, it’s ‘feelbest’.

‘Black Rain’ might be my favourite; delicate pizzicato at the start captures the subtle beginnings of what could be a biblical downfall. The piano joins in to create a crescendo and the vocals start to reveal a story, which is characteristic of Tenderhooks songs. The main protagonist of this story is a nightclub singer who – to continue the rain metaphor – provides ‘shelter’ to her clientele from their woes and worries. Attention to detail within the lyrics create superb imagery for this track and the ending, as you would expect, tails off as the ‘storm’ draws to a close.

‘Cosmic Disco’ kicks off with some synthetic cosmic sounds and references to ‘Space Invaders’, along with that archaic word ‘disco’ in the title, throws you right back to late ‘70s/early ‘80s. Fun. Just like a disco!

With a wind instrument intro reminiscent of ‘The Specials’, ‘Sandy Dunes’ might be my second favourite. Any song sporting the word ‘jalopy’ is going to make you want to pack a picnic and soak up some sun. So the song is aptly named; like a modern day version of ‘Sur la Plage’ from Sandy Wilson’s ‘The Boyfriend’. Percussion and piano dominate, reflecting the perfection and simplicity of a day at a beach.

‘Bird on Fire’ changes the vibe; a slightly Latino intro with some synthetic sounds create an atmosphere of mystery. A minor key and dramatic lyrics fuel the mystery until the story unfolds, again, with attention to detail in the words which create powerful imagery.

‘Son of a Gun’ will rescue you from any prolonged melancholy though, as it tells the story of – well, the son of a gun. Background bar noise, honky tonk keys and a drum beat reflect this snapshot of a gangster character brilliantly, complete with his ‘beautiful wife’.

Another Latino style intro for ‘Running Man’ who could be ‘Son of a Gun’s’ quieter brother. A bit of a geezer, we hear about his online dating experiences to some very speedy piano and percussion and definite shades of britpop.

‘Rule the World’ is an anthem. A motivational speech put to music, it is a reminder of our own power over our own destiny.

Penultimate track, ‘Teenage Crush’, has some fast-paced strings and an ‘80s feel … certainly one that must be relevant to everyone’s teen years!

And finally, the beautiful  ‘Tumbling’ is a love story for our planet. Piano and wind instruments make it a bluesy number and its thoughtful lyrics make it a wonderfully reflective piece to round off an album stuffed with talent and diversity.

I messaged Markus Napier himself halfway through writing this to tell him I was having a blast writing this review. Go have a blast folks – get your hands and your ears on this banquet of music. Enjoy.

 

Lazer and Levi’s ‘The Prologue’

Lazer & Levi The Prologue

I definitely felt a touch of nostalgia on hearing the opening bars of ‘One More Time’ – the first track on rock duo Lazer and Levi’s EP ‘The Prologue’. Iconic ‘80s rock band Dire Straits came to mind as accomplished lead guitar, then a confident drumbeat (David Laine) promised a rocking first song … which indeed it was. A more mellow opening to second track ‘Just a Game’ reflected a shift in mood; a slower beat (and still I’m reminded of said ‘80s rock band) and a platform for Levi Blehm to show off his impressive vocal range – his honeyed tones hit the high notes with as much consistency as any other notes.

Versatile and Enduring

Track number three, ‘Confessions’, begins with a solid bluesy feel, embracing rock about a minute in. The ability to adapt to a number of genres is the hallmark of a versatile and therefore enduring band, as is an ability to finish a song with a flourish, as demonstrated beautifully here.

Penultimate track ‘Go On’ has an overall feeling of flawlessness and takes us into a country genre with its folky strings and later on, some rousing drums, leaving us with some feelgood motivational lyrics to soften the blow of the (almost) finish.

The aptly-named  ‘Say You Want More’ hits the spot with a lilty, old-timey vibe and some gentle lyrics, fitting for a gentle voice.

Best New Artist

‘Those Boys from Colorado’ have written over a hundred songs and were nominated for the ‘Best New Artist’ in the Rocky Mountain CMA’s (iHeart) and listening to this EP, this is a deserved accolade. I look forward to hearing more from these immensely talented brothers, who have been making their way in the music scene from childhood. And I needed an alternative to iconic ‘80s rock bands …

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Lisa O’Connor