Phil Lewis – Patchwork Heart

Phil Lewis_RingMaster Review

Being introduced to Phil Lewis through his highly enjoyable Age of Nothing EP, it is fair to say that we have bred an increasingly eager appetite for the pop rock prowess of the Welsh singer songwriter. Though he had already reaped a potent reputation and a healthy level of acclaim for a trio of earlier albums, the EP was the biggest nudge yet on widespread recognition. Now that potent hint has become a mighty roar thanks to the release of Patchwork Heart, a contagion of inspiring hooks and essential melodies united in some of the best pop tracks you are likely to heard this year.

Hailing from Penarth, Lewis had his musical passion seeded in “frighteningly dressed people on Top of the Pops”, and then in turn “the various genre charts in NME and Melody Maker”. It sparked the dream to have one of his own songs in the charts and in 2008 the release of his first single Just One Kiss became a very close miss on realising that dream. The first spark in an evolving and increasingly successful career came just before it though, with the unveiling of debut album Ancient Light the year before. Since then Lewis has released another pair of well-received and acclaimed full-lengths in Movements In Space (2009) and Ripples From a Small Pond (2011), with the aforementioned Age of Nothing hooking a great many more of us at the beginning of 2014.

artwork_RingMaster Review    Patchwork Heart is the next proposition from the man and in many ways the coming of age of his songwriting and pop invention. Its nine tracks provide a torrent of enslaving pop ingredients but composed and delivered with an imagination and almost mischievous energy and passion. Lyrically the album sees Lewis look with intimate honesty at the tough times he faced over past years, including the death of his father from Alzheimer’s Disease and the end of a long-term relationship as well as himself being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Musically it all comes with a hope fuelled, emotionally uplifting hug though, Lewis easy to suspect a ‘glass half full’ character with sings always seeming to veer towards the long term light.

Created again in collaboration with Ben Haynes, who produced the record and plays all the instruments, Patchwork Heart opens with Tumbling Down. Within a few breaths, the song is coaxing ears with blues spiced guitar and tenacious beats, the voice of Lewis as potent and strong as ever as things bounce and revolve around him. The track’s prime hook has an air of familiarity to it which only adds to the temptation whilst the fiery guitar endeavour of Haynes is extra tang in a rousing opener.

Things only become more infectious and gripping though as the tantalising Japan-esque Up On This Shelf swings up to the imagination. An exotic melody starts things off, a pulsating bass throb with crystalline shards of guitar quickly taking over as the tones of Lewis entice. The track is mesmeric, a sublime slice of elegant seduction with an underlying sonic eroticism. Not for the last time within Patchwork Heart, an open eighties flavouring and inspiration colour song and ears, Right on Time immediately after also providing a similar lusty hue of nostalgia kissed and undoubtedly fresh revelry. Virulent in all aspects, the song romps along on another bait of anthemic rhythms wrapped in the dramatic enterprise cast by guitar, keys, and bass. Like a blend of China Crisis, Pete Wylie, and The Killers, the track is glorious; Lewis at his pop conjuring best.

Healing Hands slips in next with a far more subdued energy to that of its predecessor as shadow toned guitar and vocals are gripped by a warm but melancholic expression. Lewis’ voice embrace ears in a reflectively intimate croon as that bright, crystal like quality to the melodies of earlier songs emerges again to resonate in the spatial climate above the intimate canvas. Over time the song’s air becomes more tempestuous leading to one highly provocative and stirring climax. The track is a powerful incitement on body and emotions, as too the following Smile in its very different way. From a synth pop start, the song is a vibrant shuffle manipulating ears and feet from the get go. The bubbly electronics continue to lure and tempt as guitars and vocals brew up an irresistible feast of pop infection backed by the great vocals of Sarah Haynes. The song takes thoughts again back to the eighties, its pop tonic hinting at the likes of Thomas Dolby and Thompson Twins, and to be honest quite impossible not to get physically involved with.

Next up is Sunshine in the Night, a song just as much a puppeteer on body and appetite which from its initial smothering of emotive beauty breeds a mouth-watering mix of repetitious teasing, contagion spewing vocal tempting, and immersive atmospherics. Rhythmically too, the track is a nonstop invitation which simply gets under the skin and leaves a big grin on the psyche.

The country spiced, fiery shimmer of Fantasy Reality bewitches next, its voice and body an alluring evocation of the heart whilst I Believe is a sixties hued offering with a good whisper of the Walker Brothers to its strolling enticement. The track’s chorus is another rousing hard to resist proposal, though that applies to most of them across the release to be honest, as proven one last time by the brilliant Be A Hero. The closer epitomises a Phil Lewis song, bold rhythms aligned to drama soaked imagination and the rich enterprise gripping ears as Lewis provides the strength of his voice. With more enthralling backing vocals, this time from Lizzie Dean, the track is a jungle of intrigue and emotive theatre, and the perfect way to end a thoroughly thrilling and impressive release.

A Phil Lewis song lies somewhere between those of the previously mentioned Pete Wylie and Colin Vearncombe (Black), and now after Patchwork Heart deserve to be contemplated in the same breath. Also out now is Digging for Earworms, a free to download best of album covering previous releases and including the riveting likes of Let’s Play, Age of Nothing, and Imprisoned. Both are albums all rock/pop fans should treat themselves to, as Lewis confirms himself as one of Britain’s brightest artists.

Patchwork Heart is out now @

Pete RingMaster 24/11/2015

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Phil Lewis – Age of Nothing EP

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    Stocked full with hooks which just will not let go and melodies which linger long after their passing, the Age of Nothing EP from Welsh singer/songwriter Phil Lewis provides six buoyant and inventive tracks which play like new adventures but approach the imagination like old friends you feel you previously knew. The release certainly embraces the ears and its own enterprise with relish, with an eagerness and vibrancy which soaks every accomplished note and idea, and though it also offers open familiarities in its presence it wears those inspirations proudly on its sleeve showing the eclectic influences on the creativity of Lewis.

    Hailing from Penarth, Lewis has already released a trio of well-received and acclaimed albums since 2007, the release year of debut Ancient Light. Bringing inspirations from the likes of The Killers into the new release it is only another flavour which has marked the informative and creative years of the man. From listening to the top Forty every Sunday as a child to start him off, Lewis has been drawn and been nourished by the likes of 1970’s funk, indie music, and ‘big stadium bands’ like U2 and Coldplay, as well as finding a particular affinity with African rhythm music too. All these sparks in his own tempting style helped to take subsequent albums Movements In Space and Ripples From a Small Pond, 2009 and ’11 respectively, to a certain and keen recognition but it is easy to suggest that the excellent Age of Nothing might be the one to make Lewis a name on many more appreciative lips.

     It is fair to say that the EP does not come down on the ear and seduce like an instant classic, though it certainly provides a bait Folderthat is impossible to move away from, but it is when the songs, their melodies, and those impossibly addictive hooks return on their own with a beckoning potency far away from the record that you know there is something extra i and long term about the release. Opening track Imprisoned is a prime example, a song which in its company is a sizeable temptation but one laying seeds within which blossom and seduce all over again whenever they want at any unpredictable moment away from the record and music. The song emerges from a small and enticing sonic web with a great bassline coaxing which is almost gnawing the senses. As with all the instruments, the delicious bait is provided by Lewis’ collaborator Ben Haynes who also produced the EP, as well as previous albums. The trap is soon snapped shut as an immediate appetite for the thick heavy tones and punchy rhythms is further lured by flames of guitars and the distinct tones of Lewis. His voice does not jump out but there is a quality which defines it and works well with the melodic harmonies which join him throughout. A definite early U2 feel to the track breaks out to add a further vein of strong suasion but it is the hypnotic rhythmic enticement which grips the deepest whilst making a virulent canvas for the melodies and infectious charms of the song to work their rich attraction.

The impressive start is instantly matched by the equally contagious Ready. Less energetic than the first but still with an eager gait to its persuasion the bass again steals the march on the other sounds as it strolls alongside the vocals. Soon though elegant electro kisses and a melodic tantalising is adding extra magnetism as the song leads into the emotively fired chorus. It is like a flare up of melodic flame and again has something recognisable in its seventies rock built presence. Not as irresistible as its predecessor but an easy to welcome and hard to escape slice of rock pop smouldering, the song only increases the already strong appeal of the release.

    The title track is another interminably seductive offering, guitars and rhythms resourcefully veining a poetic ambience before all collude to forge a pop sculpted song with a rock frame and pounding which leaves you wanting more whilst implanting again that essence which brings it back to mind again and again. Its successor Devil Comes To Dance shows another side to the release and Lewis’ songwriting, the track a scuzz lit rub of vocals and guitar creating a dark atmospheric intrigue whilst keys add Doors like melodic heat and psyche tempting to the causticity. Though maybe this is one song which fails to linger and return like the others it is a riveting blaze face to face which sets you up perfectly for the fully addictive Fly Again. There is a sixties rock/pop air to the song which enlarges its lure with a sultry melodic climate and expressive guitar craft, at times an Echo and the Bunnymen spice pervading its narrative.

    The EP is completed by Calling Me, a song with a similar premise and spicery to the previous song whilst creating its own distinct character and enjoyable venture. It is a strong and ripe final invitation into the world of Phil Lewis, another influential beckoning which if not as powerful as earlier track certainly like the EP as a whole spotlights the satisfying creativity of an artist who on the evidence of Age of Nothing deserves a much wider attentive audience.


RingMaster 20/01/2014

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