Soda Blonde: “It’s been a little less daunting and unknown this time around”

Soda Blonde, pic: Ste Murray

Born from the remnants of acclaimed harmonising pop-rockers Little Green Cars, Soda Blonde’s early career was unusual: not so much a slog in front of tiny crowds, but instant recognition of their ability, and no little local hype based on their previous work, resulting in mid-sized gigs from day one.

The four-piece are led by the vocally distinctive Faye O’Rourke, and produce spacey yet vibrant alt pop that nods to their past, but is less abstract and more engaged in social commentary. New single ‘Love Me World’, for example, is a personal ode to looking for acceptance and love through darker moments.

“I don’t think anything should feel easy,” O’Rourke says of the rebranded return. “It’s been a little less daunting and unknown this time around but it was a huge deal to pick up and start again. We have more control over the visual aspects of this project. That was always something that we wanted to harness more in the past, and with this new beginning we’ve been able to have a lot of fun with that.”

“The single is about acknowledging the darker moments of wanting to be loved by everyone,” she continues. “The idea of bending to fit within the zeitgeist in the pursuit of acceptance and love. Being judged certainly lies within that sentiment, but I think it’s more interesting to focus on what and why that happens.”

“I think what ‘fake’ we wish to portray says a lot about who we are and what we desire. I do think people have to be brave today to expose what they really think.”

Like most acts, Soda Blonde have struggled a touch with the lock down, though O’Rourke says there have been good and bad days. Virtual gigs – something the band did in support of the single – are not something they particularly crave. “The audience is 99% of the experience of a live show,” she says.

Long shots: Patterns Repeat (week 17)

As we get towards the midde of the seasonm the same teams seem to be struggling and suceeding from amid my army of long shots. Metz continue to charge. Fulham falter. Here’s the latest…

FC Metz 2-0 v Nantes at home, 8th place

Nantes great run now represents their best first 20 or so games of the season since the 90s – not bad for a team that were heavily odds on to go down.

This one saw Nantes in control in the early stages, though there was little in the way of chances at either end. Metz took over towards half time, scoring a goal that looked offside to take the lead.

From then on it was tit for tat for most of the second half, with a piledriver of a second for Metz late on to confirm the points and lift them to a season-high of 8th. No risk of relegation here.

Long shots: 100 goals scored (week 16)

It’s taken roughly 88 games (it depends who you consider to have played ‘first’), but my teams have now collectively scored 100 goals this season, and some of them are running really well.

Metz, for example, pulled off a smash and grab this week against league leaders Lyon in France to move up to the top half, while Arminia grabbed a 3-0 win in Germany to open a gap on automatic relegation. Fulham look in the most trouble…

Spezia 13th place, 0-0 away to Torino.

What Spezia really need is to just keep chipping away towards a points total that will keep them up for an unlikely second season in Serie A, and this one is a great example. They were down to ten men after just 8 minutes – their third red card in four games – Luca Vignali the culprit this time.

After that it was always going to be tough, but oddly Spezia had the better of the chances in the first half and a couple of decent looks in the second half, too, before Torino started to dominate as they tired. Spezia have been consistently good away, but this has to be classed as a top result all things considered. They go up to 13th. A midweek win away to Roma in the Copa Italia, 4-2, didn’t do any harm either.

FYNCH: “Admirable traits in men stem from your basic humanity, not being a tough lad”

Drimnagh rapper FYNCH is very much the modern-day rapper, using his music to examine the themes of modern-day life, such as battles with toxic masculinity, while forming connections to assist his music online.

FYNCH’s debut EP ‘Bookies Pens & Loose Ends’ was released late last year, and for much of the time since then, like the rest of us, he’s been forced into a life less ordinary. Self examination has been an important road.

“Self-reflection is always something which comes out in my tunes, and I’ve looked at the patriarchal society we live in as being detrimental to seemingly everything, including men at large. I just recalled and recounted elements of it in the track, even the title is a nod to the instance of being a ‘big man’ as though it’s somehow admirable. Admirable traits in men (and indeed everyone) stem from your basic humanity, not being a tough lad.”

Latest single ‘Big Man’, out this week, is the product of a collaboration with regular partner in crime Local Boy and an unlikely backbeat sourced from elsewhere in Europe.

“The track I found by chance by trawling through the internet,” FYNCH explains. “Mikkel is a Danish producer and I loved his stuff, so I hit him up and we went from there. As for myself and Local Boy, I had the track written, but I needed some signature flavour, so I hit up Local Boy and asked him to hop on the track. Thankfully, he didn’t need any persuasion, so we went from there.”

Dagny: an album a decade in the making.

Norwegian pop act Dagny – a singer who made her way in the world through singles and shining gems of short pop-songs – has finally, a decade in, got around to an album. It’s unsurprising, perhaps, that now that the moment for a longer record has arrived, the popular singles-merchant, who has nearly half a billion streams to her name, has found her way to producing something that firmly breaks her own mold, going gloriously popcorn to long-form and conceptual.

‘Strangers/ Lovers’ is being released in two seperate parts across 2020 – a benefit of the less format-focused nature of albums in a post hard-copy world – and documents the stages of a relationship, from meeting someone new to the intimacy and closeness of being together, and the strange alienation that comes if it falls apart again.

“This album is a two part album, and it’s because of the way I assessed the songs,” Dagny explains. “I had well over 250 of them to look at when I started a couple of years back. I landed on my twelve favourites. I played all of the songs to my guitarist, and he said it sounds like there were two sides to the story. That kind of split things up, and created a conceptual album, giving me the idea for what it would be. I was worried it would be seen as two EPs and not an album, actually, but I’m happy I did it like that.”

With the songs written over a long period of time, they were the ones that happened to fit together, augmented by some extras written late in the day to hold things together. “I knew what the concept I would draw out was at the end,” Dagny says, “which made it easier to tap into the emotions in the studio and draw it out. Before I was so much about singles, and for this I was thinking about the whole, the story, and how all the tracks fit together. That’s been a really exciting part of the album.”

“There were songs I’d love to have on the album but they don’t really fit. It’s about the whole idea of meeting someone that’s a stranger to you, then you fast forward a year and you’re the closest people and they’re the person you always go to. And then when a break up happens you go from lovers to strangers, that transition, that disconnect and not being able to call them anymore… I find that whole scenario kind of brutal and yet inspiring.”

“There are so many emotions I wish I could put in the album,” she continues. “I could have written three albums on the same kind of subject, but I don’t know if people would go for that. It does feel like the music world is more a free game now, people can just do what suits them, and I like that.”

Long shots: Fulham Love to Draw… (Week 15)

The Christmas season is in some ways a turning point in a footballing year. A good couple of weeks (crammed with games) can certainly be the difference between relegation and a relatively comfortably end of the season, and my five strugglers went in distinctly different directions over the holidays.

Fulham are looking more realistic survivors, for example, while Metz go from strength to strength compared to expectations. Elche and Arminia Bielefeld, though, have slipped into trouble. It’s back to normality this week instead of the big round ups. Here’s how it went down…

Fulham 18th, 1-1 away to Tottenham

Fulham drew their fifth game on the trot away to Tottenham, and it’s kind of working for them, as they slowly but surely close the gap in Burnley and Brighton ahead of them with games in hand, too.

In truth, Tottenham should really have been out of sight in this one, with Kane putting them ahead after numerous decent chances. Spurs have that very Mourinho habit of trying to sit on leads, though, and they did it again here. By the time Fulham got level with 15 to go, they deserved it. A 2-0 away win to QPR in the cup won’t do confidence any harm, either.

Long shots: Spezia Christmas round up (weeks 12-14)

I’ve loved watching Spezia. They have exactly the kind of pluck I was looking for when I started this project; an entertaining underdog from a small town looking to put it up to the likes of Juventus, Roma, Inter Milan and Napoli.

Before Christmas they were hovering in about their best case scenario for the season in my view: outside the drop zone, and ahead of a couple of proper Serie A big guns:

Spezia have kind of ground out results when it’s mattered so far this season, and while their Christmas wasn’t a great one, it ended with a real bang.

First up were Bologna, who are one of those kind of hovering teams in Serie A who are beatable but still solid. Spezia should really have won this one, with star man Nzola putting them two up with less than half an hour to go.

Spezia should have been out of sight, in truth, but Bologna fought back in a game they’d been utterly outplayed in, equalising with a lob from just short of the half way line (worth a watch!), before a great stop from a late penalty denied Bologna what would have been a daylight robbery of a win. 2-2.

Long shots: FC Metz Christmas round up (weeks 12-14)

Metz’ pre-Christmas part to the season has been easily the biggest success story of my ‘long shots’ project: the team, who were an astonishing 1/6 to go down this year, got off to a poor start, though looking competitive, before going on a long unbeaten run. They had lost two before the break, but still looked solid in mid table, as below.

From that position, a team like this should really be looking to consolidate their safety from relegation and then worry about what kind of achievements they can pull off in the remainder of the season. Metz went ahead and did exactly that with their four Christmas games.

Montpellier had won five in six when Metz traveled there in mid December, but Metz are great away and grabbed a win in a scrappy game that kind of suited them. Montpellier didn’t look up to all that much going forward, and Metz got a silly penalty in the second half, and added polish to win 2-0 in the dying seconds.