LIVE REVIEW. Natalie McCool at The Cluny 2 with Katsi and Mat Hunsley

Date: 16th March 2017.
Venue: Cluny 2, Newcastle
Genre: Alt-pop
Words and Photography: Victoria Ling

North East newcomers, Katsi started the night bringing their haunting harmonies with a few original numbers and selected covers of Fleetwood Mac, Britney Spears and TLC. With Katsi’s interesting mix of minimal guitars and carefully constructed vocal layers, this could be a duo to watch out for.

I was quite anxious for the next support as I had heard great things about their music and even met them but and never actually seen what they could do. What was to come? Would it be an anti-climax or would I like them as much as those who had recommended them so highly? Mat Hunsley is the artist in question and he was everything we wanted and more. He begins solo and then his set becomes “instantly happier” as drums and bass join him – his words not mine! With both set-ups he was captivating as he performed a set of original folk material with an indie undertone.

unnamed (5)Having seen Natalie McCool on her last tour on the back of a successful Pledge Music campaign for her magical debut album The Great Unknown’, I was very excited to hear she was coming back to Newcastle to coincide with the release of her single ‘You & I’.  McCool oozes stage presence wherever she goes and with drummer Laura and keys player James added to the mix, there’s that extra bit of fierceness to the set up. Kicking off with the energetic ‘Magnet’ sets the tone of the night and with a slight technical hitch early in the set of tangled wires before her poppiest song of the night, ‘Cardiac Arrest’, McCool still has it under control and the audience still engaged. I mean if you don’t loose your shit getting tangled in wires and pulling out your mic, you have a lot to be admired for. Even with the slight confusion over the set list, everything is calm and the show goes on. This is what I love about Natalie McCool live and with the company of her band on stage – the joy and chemistry between them is so genuine. Everything is free flowing and everything is so real.  These little hitches make YOU feel more engaged so when the songs about Natalie’s exes are performed you feel like she has caught that bit of you in the performance…. that is if you have had an ex!

Highlights of the night were definitely ‘Sorry Sight’, a new song and ‘Feel Good’, from the album. Sorry Sight has a slight touch of Florence and The Machine as Natalie’s vocals do some impressive acrobatics. We are told it might get a release and if it does I will be the one shouting about it.  Feel Good is a personal favourite. Great on the album but when you witness it live, it is like an out-of-body experience – you can feel that guitar, those drums and the keys just get under every part of your skin. Basically, everything you want to feel at a live gig whatever the genre of music – Feel Good is one of those few moments for me.  Then Natalie tells us ‘Fortress’ is going to get a release soon with an added choir. Can you imagine that performed live? Brilliant with this three-piece set up but add that choir and I might just loose it when I next see Natalie McCool live, as I was on the verge of it this night.


Make sure to check out Natalie McCool’s new single You & I here. You can also follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.


Through the eyes of Lil Vik

SINGLE REVIEW. Siboney + Andy – Secret

Release date: Out now!

Genre: Pop-Folk

Rating: ★★★1/2

Siboney + Andy recently joined forces, along with their influences and styles to create this debut EP, encompassing a variety of pop/folk/electro vibes. This title track of the EP certainly makes a statement and ensures their names will not be easily forgotten.

With a delicate opening, Siboney tells a painful tail, supposedly from personal experience. The opening verse could be claimed to be predictable, but as the bridge builds up, Siboney’s voice steps up before delivering a powerful blow with the lyrics “I will keep this sib-and-andy-02-lowres1secret ’till I die” during the chorus. With a blaring electric riff accompanying the voice, a new level of passion is brought to this track. The second verse is more playful as the due get settled into what they’re doing, with electro-pop synths coupled with folk-y vocals
and guitar, this is a creative song showcasing what it is Siboney + Andy are capable of. As Andy emerges into the track not only as a producer but a vocalist, the track gets that bit warmer. It is at this moment you can see why the due work so well together, as their voices intertwine to create a pop/electro-pop juxtaposition.

The music video for this track brings a visual element to better explain the journey this track takes. The pair describe the following: “The lyrics in Secret are quite literal, and pull from rather painful self-experience, so we wanted to hint at that feeling within the video, but let people come to their own conclusions within the narrative.”


Check out the music video for Sectret and follow Siboney and Andy’s journey:

Check out the debut EP ‘Secret’ here.

You can also find Siboney + Andy on FacebookTwitter and Instagram



Baker out.

INTRODUCING SAM WINSTON – The ultimate DIY artist with self produced album ‘The Fire & The Icicle’

Genre: Indie-folk pop


Sam Winston encompasses all meanings of the word ‘independent’ regarding his music. This South East London artist is building up his career one DIY milestone at a time. Not only has he written, arranged, recorded and produced ‘The Fire & The Icicle‘ all in his home-built studio, but he has done it well – an achievemt that is becoming quite hard to find these days. With self-taught expertise in many an instrument, this debut album is not just the typical solo acoustic guitar act that is becoming tireless now, we get to hear Sam play ukelele, kalimba (African thumb piano), mandolin and bass.  The album also features folk-pop melodies strummed from his own hand-crafted electro-acoustic guitar (what is this guy like?!).


The album starts off with the firey, energetic track ‘No November Like It‘, the type of song that could make for the perfect track to sing along to on a roadtrip  in the summer. Tracks such as ‘Reach You‘ and ‘Defenceless‘ showcase Sam’s ability to create a huge vocal sound and range, with self-matching harmonies and layers. Meanwhile, songs such as ‘Stand and Fight‘ and ‘The Bad Wolf‘ take a softer, more delicate style, with influences of Ben Howard shining through while bringing an original ‘Sam Winston’ jazzy undertone. ‘Who Decides?’ is a moment of self-realisation for Sam, where he questions everything and everyone around him, hopefully by the end of this album, he comes to realise how much hope and potential there is in him – Some hopeful light within the dark, just as the album artwork indicates.

Let the wonderful Sam Winston serenade you here:

(Also out now on iTunes, Soundcloud and Spotify)

You can also check him out on facebook and twitter


See him do his thing live at the following dates:

25 July – Charente Festival, Brossac France

27 August – Folk On The Dock Festival, Liverpool

23 October – Park Langley, Beckenham, Kent

All images: Courtesy of Sam Winston 

Baker out.

SINGLE REVIEW. Why Disturbed’s cover of ‘The Sound of Silence’ needs to be heard.

So on one hand you have Simon & Garfunkle‘s 1964 ambient folk hit ‘The Sound Of Silence‘, a warning about the dangers of lacking empathy within society for the Vietnam generation in the form of a US folk anthem.

On the other hand, you have Disturbed: A nu-metal powerhouse fronted by David Draiman. They are known for ingeniously-absurd headbangers such as ‘Down With The Sickness‘ and are going to be rocking Download Festival this summer.

How on Earth do these two pieces fit together? 



Well, the idea first came to Disturbed, during plans to do a cover for their most recent album, ‘Immortalized‘, as they normally include at least one on each major album. In the past, they have done hardcore and somewhat aggressive covers of ‘Land Of Confusion‘ by Genesis and ‘Shout‘ by Tears For Fears which have gone down a dream, but they wanted to do something different this time.

In an interview for Philadelphia’s radio station, 93.3 WMMR, David Draiman explains how the band’s drummer, Mike Wengren, suggested the Simon & Garfunkle hit and the band knew it was the one after the haunting opening piano notes were played to them, and David did “the longest vocal session of [his] career”. After experimenting with multiple variations of the track, they did it. They created something both wonderfully distinct from the original track, and from Disturbed’s traditional musical trend.

Despite this track being released last year, the song has since exploded online after the music video (link below) and a special live performance on the ‘Conan’ show last month. With the music video now having nearly 50 million views on YouTube, and the track having more than 30 million listens on Spotify, it is safe to say that it has been well received around the world.  But my message to you is that this is not simply just an impressive cover of an old 60s song, it is so much more.

The moments of emphasis in this cover are well-thought and invigorating. The vocal range Draiman demonstrates is not only highly emotive but truly sensational, so much so that Draiman himself admitted “tearing up listening to it, because it had been so long since I have allowed myself to go to that place vocally”. Simon & Garfunkle were the embodiment of countercultural icons of the 1960s, and Disturbed are, arguably, an aging dad-rock group still living off the fame of screaming 2000s hits. And yet once in a while, two opposite sides of a spectrum come together to create something truly admirable and significant, not just to fans of either side – this stunning rendition can be relatable to everybody. Disturbed capture the meaning behind these 60s lyrics that now have new-found relevance in our world – from the baritone annunciations to the haunting crescendos that send reverberations down one’s spine. The music video even takes the songs deeper meanings and develops them. With images of instruments being ‘rediscovered’ by otherwise hopeless individuals, the group questions what has happened to real musicianship?

This cover is not just for devout fans of either Disturbed or Simon & Garfunkle, but for anyone else looking for some hope or simply looking to experience a rare artistic moment within popular music.

Check out their somewhat art house music video here



Baker out.


New Original Track – Disarming

Music is an undeniable passion, an ever-growing interest and a spectacular fascination of mine.

Aside from immersing myself into music from a consumer’s point of view through listening, watching, and reviewing, I also love songwriting and performing. I am inspired by a myriad of differing influences and always looking to progress as a musician.

You can listen to my new original song, Disarming, here.

It centres around the idea of knowing what is good for you and what is not. And when to admit and distance yourself from something that is not good for you, even if it seems like the most difficult choice of all.

This is a rough, sneak peak of my first single. The songwriting process has been so fun, and so personal to me. The process of recording and putting all of the different sounds together has also taught me a lot.

Written by Steph Baker and Simon Pitt, performed by Steph Baker.

All thoughts and comments are greatly appreciated!