Saturday, 20 December 2014
Released this Monday (December 15) (although first appeared on the EP of the same name back in 2011) Waylayers' last offering of 2014 - ‘Weightless’.
Crowning what has been a pivotal year for the London outfit (which included playing SXSW back in March and achieving relative success in the US with 'Medicine' - which reached #1 on the iTunes US Electronic Chart! -and 'Take Hold'), 'Weightless' finds them yet again ringing out those shimmering synth sounds, well timed drums and soaring vocals that has seen them likened to what Chris Martin might sound like fronting Bombay Bicycle Club.
Friday, 19 December 2014
As one year in music draws to a close, as another is about to open, we take a look back into the past as well as ahead with some of our writers to see what most impressed them in 2014, and what they are looking forward to in 2015.
Whilst 2014 might have been an odd year in terms of music, at least for me personally at any rate, one thing that's for definite is that it saw a whole host of debut records blow their more established competition right out of the water. The big stories such as Prince's intimate shows, U2's invasion of privacy and Kate Bush's London residency, all left rather a lot to be to be desired and actually impacted very little overall on the year's musical landscape, at least once the hype had died down, at any rate.
No, whilst such news stories dominated the headlines of the music press, debut releases from the likes of Eagulls and Woman's Hour made longer-lasting impressions on reviewers almost universally. The sheer energy and aggression of the former's early-March debut shaking off any lingering winter blues; the sleek sophistication of the latter's 'Conversations' providing an elegant an understated juxtaposition, making my favourite two records of the year, an eclectic choice.
Gig-wise 2014 has been somewhat quiet. A couple of truly memorable occasions stand head and shoulder above their peers but when compared to last year it really does seem a little flat. The Pixies at Castlefield Bowl was a show I wish I could go back and relive time and time again, it really doesn't get much better than seeing your favourite band on a balmy summer evening outdoors. Y-Not Festival, too, was another highlight. My first festival experience as press and, despite camping with the clean-up crews accidentally, allowed me to finally meet Frank Turner and allowed Dizzee Rascal to redeem himself after Wakestock 2009's shambolic headline set.
I can only hope that 2015 will be a less erratic musical year, but if the festivals are as frequent, and if the standard of the debuts which will start flowing in January is anywhere near the quality that we've seen this year, then we'll have little to worry. Let's just hope too, that those musical stories which threaten to break the music press are a little more worthy of the hyperbole, and that those albums which have the hype machine rolling before barely a track's laid manage to match expectation.
Ones I'll be watching closely next year are Pinkshinyultrablast, with a new LP dropping in January; The Jacques, signed to 25 Hour Convenience Store and just released their debut EP, and Slow Down Molasses, a Canadian garage rock/punk, another with a January album to kick start the next 12 months.
If there's one song that is going to remind me of 2014 then it's Bad Breeding's 'Burn This Flag'. Short, sharp, as fierce as fuckin' hell - and which I played practically non-stop for two weeks on first hearing it. The Stevenage boys really brought it home with that. It may not necessarily been the best track of the year, but the band's street cred and ethos is much to be applauded.
So many wonderful albums out this year, but sadly also too many that were overlooked. One of which is Dragon Turtle's 'Distances'. The US East Coast duo delivered a poetic and melodic work of beauty. If you haven't heard it - do so. Other notables are New Yorker Mitski who provided us with with one of the best albums of the year in 'Bury Me At Make Out Creek', and must surely be a very definite 'one to watch' next year; Soft Walls, Dan Reeves' (Cold Pumas) parallel life, gave new meaning to psych drones on 'No Time', proving both surprising and hypnotic in equal measure.
Next year, I can't wait to see and hear more of the mysteriously good St. Tropez, who have definitely lit a spark with their recent debut 'I Don't Wanna Fall In Love'. Palace really graced themselves and left a big impression, which I feel sure will be further replicated in 2015. Storms have just signed a three album deal, which means I am not the only one feeling spine chills about them. Allusondrugs and Glasgow's Jim Valentine are both looking like big New Year hitters.
Personally, next year I would like to hear a lot less of the synthesizer in music, and electronica as a whole - unless it is within a framework of something more original. So much of this genre's output has now for the last couple of years sounded very formulaic. Come on, let's have something really new and energizing.
I think next year we will see the rise of the solo artist, the singer / songwriter, oft to be found with a guitar slung around his neck, or flexing fingers across a keyboard. Hitchin's Rhodes, Leeds-based folk grunger Eaves, and Shivum Sharma, with his debut EP out now, and songstress Laura Doggett are all ready to explode. 16-year-old Sydney girl MAra (featured on Little Indie Blogs recently) has an interesting take on electronica - she plays a glockenspiel too! - that makes her worth paying attention to.
Live standouts this year, in pole position has to be The War On Drugs at Flèche D'Or, Paris in May, who, with their album 'Lost In The Dream' have really had a great year; Perfume Genius at Visions festival, and strangely, The Hell at Nightmare festival, Camden. Damon Albarn and Hookworms also pulled out some crackers in the album stakes, while FKA Twigs owned it with 'Two Weeks', as did the irrepressible Jungle with their slick and synthy 'Busy Earnin'.
Oh 2014, how did I love thee? Well, for these reasons, really. The Cure at the Royal Albert Hall - how can anyone complain that one of the best live bands in the world played for too long? Lola Colt's 'Away from the Water' - guitars as instruments, not afterthoughts. Metallica making a big show off playing Glastonbury and then sucking harder than a hungry newborn. A decent new album from a revitalised Blyth Power. Annie Keating’s ‘I Want to Believe’ - proving there is such a thing as goth/folk. SANDY. Suzerain being as good as they were eight years ago. Eat the Evidence's 'Tories go to Waitrose' - now a constant refrain around my way. Jesus Jones back on tour...and whilst we are at it, the mildly incestuous Wonder Stuff/Jesus Jones drummer swapping.
That's a lot to live up to, 2015, but this is what I'm expecting: More guitars ...more soul...the end of reality talent shows...Coldplay splitting up...Radiohead not making a record...One Direction spontaneously combusting...no-one I like dying or splitting up...a comeback for Pretty Girls Make Graves...someone to take up my radio show...A decent Indian takeaway opening near my house...lots and lots of lovely commissions from Little Indie Blogs...and, of course, for Little Indie Blogs to become the go to site for quality writing about all of the best music. Dammit, I nearly forgot Babymetal, quite the most bonkers thing to happen in music this year
So another year passes and as is usual we all take a look back to see how it’s treated us musically. I can’t say that I think 2014 has been a classic year but it has still provided plenty of excitement. My personal highlight of the year has been the continuing rise of Ty Segall and the scene that surrounds him. 2014 has not only seen Ty release the album of his career in 'Manipulator', but has also seen him take up drumming duties on the wonderful debut album from fuzz rockers Meatbodies. Added to that was an psych pop gem of an album from long time collaborator White Fence, and a fuzzed-out psychedelic offering from Wand which was released on Segall’s Drag City imprint God. If you have a soft spot for Tame Impala and haven’t heard the Wand album yet, I highly recommend checking it out. Another 2014 highlight was getting hold of the debut Temples album and finally getting to see them live, when they played a stunning set at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. Little Indie Blogs was the first site to alert me to the potential of this band in October 2012 and I had been keenly following their every move since that first article came out so to finally get the album and not only that but to find that it delivered on all that they had previously promised was a great thing. The world is truly their oyster.
As is the way with the music business whilst we are reviewing the year just passed we are also looking ahead to the New Year and eagerly eyeing up the new music ahead. I’ve been keenly following the wonderful Theatre Royal for several years now, who released their third long player in 2014 - another album packed with intelligent lyrics and sharp melodious jangle pop. Mourning Birds have been exciting me more and more with each single release, and the word is that they have their debut album ready to go, sometime in early 2015. They specialise in 2- to 3-minute trashy/grungy garage rock outs, and these guys have the potential to be huge. Deux Furieuses, an all female duo, grabbed the attention of the blogs and John Kennedy on XFM with their angry garage punk debut 'Can We Talk About This?' back in September. The Parade have been around for a few years slowly building interest through sporadic internet releases and regular live shows. This year, however, saw their first 7” single release, 'Connected'. It was another instant classic showcasing their exciting brand of folk/punk/pop. Let’s hope for more of the same in 2015!
Live events which stand out for me this year have been Jack Garratt playing at The Louisiana, Bristol, Vance Joy at the Anson Rooms, and Years and Years at Thekla. Jack Garratt is a London-based singer and multi-instrumentalist who combines intense electronic sounds and guitar solos with incredible songwriting and a stunning voice that is reminiscent of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. His debut EP ‘Remnants’ was released in October and live he gave a stunning performance. It's no surprise that Garratt has established a dedicated following that continues to grow. Vance Joy is an immensely talented singer-songwriter from Melbourne, Australia, who writes beautifully and teams his songs with catchy, upbeat acoustic guitar riffs that are impossible not to sing along to. He too proved himself on delivering an exceptional performance to the sold-out crowd featuring many tracks that are equally as stunning as ‘Riptide’, showing that he has much more to offer. Years and Years are an electro-pop trio are not to be missed, and following acknowledgement through their Brit Award Critics’ Choice nomination, they look set for a big 2015.
Fyfe, 23-year-old Manchester University graduate Paul Dixon, who has previously released music under the name ‘David’s Lyre’, completed the ‘Communion New Faces’ tour recently, which should set him up in good stead for his album ‘Control’, which arrives in March. Amber Run, the Nottingham five-piece, also have an early '15 album due. During my interview with them, the band divulged that work had been finished on the album since early this year, but they were waiting until they had finished touring to release it as this allowed them to expand their already loyal fanbase and ensure that their debut would be released to as many people as possible. Following the release of their incredible 3 EPs ‘Noah’, ‘Spark’ and ‘Pilot’, it will be exciting to see what new material the band will have contributed. Hopefully it will contain more of the stunning harmonies that feature on tracks such as 'I Found'.
Liu Bei have provided one of the most delightful musical moments in 2014, in the heart-rending 'Infatuation' back in early summer. Now the London-based outfit, led by the remarkable Richard Walters, close the year with a taste of their forthcoming EP.
'Goodness' - stream below - is the title track from the three-song work (which also features Slowdive's Rachel Goswell on 'Fields') which is released on February 2 2015 via the newly founded Museumgoer Records.
Melding the shimmer of shoegaze with moments of interwoven ethereal delicacy, tied together with effortless melodic hooks, 'Goodness' is filled with heartstring tugging lyrics, delivered with intensity and emotion.
Liu Bei play several live dates in February to coincide with the EP release.
03. The Cellar, Oxford
04. The Shacklewell Arms, London
05. Eagle Tavern, Manchester
06. Leadmill, Sheffield
For our last hot list selection of 2014, we are treating ourselves - and you - to a bumper fifteen tracks instead of the usual ten. Enjoy!
Happy Christmas. Stay tuned for more next year.
PORTRAYAL - NEVER ADJUSTED
Second online track from the Shrewsbury guitar/electronic duo (Joe Crook, vocals/guitars; Rob Tranter, guitars/synths), ahead of their debut album, 'To the Black Sea', set for release early next year. Darkly hypnotic vibe. Keep these two on the radar.
DEAD SEA - KEEP IT HIGH
Parisian four-piece follow their debut ‘Before We Die’ with a just released two-track electronic/chillwave 'EP'.
SURF ROCK IS DEAD - EQUINOX
Debut single from the new Brooklyn-based duo (Kevin Pariso and Joel Witenberg) that proves surf rock is far from deceased quite yet with this hazy, reverbed-fuelled first outing that kicks like a crab in the sand.
PINKSHINYULTRABLAST - HOLY FOREST
The Russian five-piece band precede their debut album ‘Everything Else Matters’ release - on January 26 2015 thru Club AC30 - with this new single, out the week before. They created a buzz in the last half of this year, and seem set to further that next year.
FEELS - WEIGHTLESS
First single from Helsinki electro-pop trio featuring singer Sofi Meronen,
keyboardist Mikael Myrskog and Jooel Jons behind the drum pad, who describe their music as "epic, gripping and toned with northern melancholy".
GOODBYE STRANGER - CAVE
Our Track Of The Day this week from the London synthpop outfit, which had really grown on us the more we have heard it. Dark and beaty.
DREADFULLL YOUTH - MISFITS
Part Pogues, part Levellers, this demo (one of two, with 'C.O.L.D') uploaded a few days ago by Cheltenham-based, knotty vocalled Sam Jones, and produced by Facedown (who we have previously featured in his own right), leads us to believe the Gloucestershire town is building its own healthy little scene.
MENACE BEACH - TASTES LIKE MEDICINE
This third track from the upcoming debut album 'Ratworld', out next month, from the Leeds outfit, doesn't taste like any medicine you may have taken, though Liza Violet’s soothing vocals could probably cure a lot of ills.
PLASTIC MERMAIDS - SATURN
Isle of Wight's dreampop five-piece air a track (with self-directed video) from their second EP 'Inhale the Universe' out March 9 2015 on Cross Keys Records. Catch them live at The Lexington, London on February 25 2015.
DIRTY DISHES - RED ROULETTE
Third single from the LA/Boston duo's upcoming full-length debut, 'Guilty', out on Exploding In Sound on January 27 - and our former Track Of The Day. Could be a big contender next year.
SENOPIA - REEK
Second single (from the debut album 'Modern Squalor'), released as a double A-side (w/ 'Crash') this week, from the four-piece alt-rock London band (with members from England, Austria and a Swedish-speaking enclave in Finland. Who knew?), that pounds along at a fair pace.
LAZY DAZE - HARLOW
New Adelaide quartet with the first single from their upcoming EP. Engaging vocal of frontman Dylan Francis ensures it will keep your ears tuning in.
NOBLE OAK - ERASE ME
We featured 23-year-old space pop' house producer Patrick Fiore here in August, now the Vancouver multi-instrumentalist is about to release this latest which he describes as being "about recognizing that we possess an ability to cause pain without noticing, the realization of which can help guide us away from doing so - to something greater." It's also deliciously mellow.
MIRACLE SWEEPSTAKES - PRIVATE DISGUISE
New York three-piece with latest pop rock track recorded with Daniel Schlett (DIIV/Here We Go Magic) that rolls along on piano chimes, buzzy guitars, and Craig Heed supplying a graceful overlaid vocal.
MALE BONDING - FALLING
After last week's surprise unveiling of ‘A Kick to The Face’, the trio quickly follow up with this - signs of an imminent album? Catch them live this Sunday (December 21) at Islington’s Buffalo Bar, London.
Thursday, 18 December 2014
Fuzzy post-punk band ("with 60s pop hook sensibilities") The K's hail from what they call 'a geographical eyesore' called Earlestown, near St Helens on Merseyside.
Over the last year they have been busy refining their sound, says guitarist Sam Craighan. "We rented a derelict warehouse and turned it into our own little recording den of warmness. The last year has been a crucial rite of passage for us, honing our craft prolifically and headlining numerous, albeit small time, rampacked local shows, when just a few months earlier we were getting kicked out of the venues we'd just played at for under-age drinking!" (Three of the band are still in their late teens, only drummer Adam officially a twentysomething.)
Support for their first online track, 'Black Money' has been positive, but, Sam adds, "we're keen to show people the more melodic, texture orientated post-punk sound we've been crafting in the studio." Which the band should be doing early in the New Year with a number of live shows planned, including dates in Liverpool and Leeds.
The K's are: Jamie Boyle - vocals/guitar, Sam Craighan - guitar/keys/vocals, Dexter Baker - bass, Adam Baldwin - drums.
Goodbye Stranger, the London indie synth-pop band we featured in our weekly hot ten tracks back in April with their first outing, 'Miles Away', now return (newly upgraded to a four-piece and with a change of frontman) with their latest release.
Just out is 'Cave', a lush little track with a very appealing dance rhythm that bounces along on its bass beat, along with those tingly synth and guitar riffs, and new vocalist George providing the moodily atmospheric vocal overlay. This is definitely one for playing loud while driving - and, more than once.
Goodbye Stranger are: George McMillan - vocals/synths, Morgan Kilmartin - guitar, Aaron Miller - bass/synths/guitar, Rob Wheatley - guitar/backing vocals.
Wednesday, 17 December 2014
St. Vincent has unveiled the video to 'Birth In Reverse', taken from her acclaimed self-titled fourth album released earlier this year.
This new video is directed by recent collaborator Willie Peron and finds Annie Clarke in scintillating form as a kind of goddess ruling over the world, and is interspersed with shots of the sky.
Just Enough Hip To Be Woman
December 8 2014 (Dine Alone Records)
Words: Richard O’Hagan
Long ago, before the internet was born, there was New Wave music, which brought us legendary bands such as Talking Heads, The Pretenders and The Cars. Then, in the early 1990s, we had the New Wave of New Wave, which brought us such eminently forgettable acts as S*M*A*S*H, These Animal Men and the like. Now, bravely trailing what is presumably the New Wave of the New Wave of New Wave banner, come Oklahoma’s Broncho, a three-piece who, fortunately, seem to have taken their influences from the original group of new wave bands rather than the latter bunch of losers.
Arguably the most important thing to remember about this album is not to be put off by what might be one of the worst titles given to a record in recent years. Get beyond that and you’ll be greeted with the warm fuzziness of opening track ‘What’, followed by the daft but catchy ‘do do do’ vocals of lead single ‘Class Historian’.
There’s a lot to like about Broncho. They have a formula – low key, often almost Mary Chain-esque, vocals, choppy and slightly scuzzy guitars, basic drum patterns – but they don’t stick to it too rigidly, not being afraid to mix things up when the mood takes them (see ‘Taj Mahal’). There are times when you do wish that you could hear a little more of Ryan Lindley’s vocal, but that’s also part of the attraction of one of the most promising debuts of 2014.
Modest Mouse have unveiled the lead single to their new album 'Strangers To Ourselves', which is set for release on March 3 2015 - and is their first album since 'We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank' came out in 2007.
The full on stomper 'Lampshades On Fire' was sent to fans via a limited-edition 7″ last weekend, and has been part of the band's live set for the last three years. The track will be available as a download to those who pre-order the album on iTunes or Amazon, which can also be pre-ordered on CD or vinyl, and also as a part of special packages containing either a T-shirt , hoodie or vintage
posters signed by artist Shepard Fairey.
Swedish psych pop from the Stockholm-based duo Anti Pony, who, with this new single single release (out now via PNKSLM Recordings), do look as if they will go places.
We featured the other side of 'I Go Places' - 'Cry On The Floor' - back in November as one of our weekly hot ten tracks. Equally, Sanna Colling and Alexander Pierre give us another hauntingly evocative track that combines their mix of glorious dulcet vocals and dreamy swirls of guitar layering.
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Pond, the Tame Impala spin-off, have released a video for their bliss ballad track ‘Sitting Up On Our Crane’.
Check out the vid below.
The song comes from their upcoming second album, ‘Man It Feels Like Space Again', which is out on January 27 2015.
The music video was created by Alejandro Miguel Justino Crawford - VJ of MGMT.
Brighton's DarkTrain - no, not the Victoria express - came to our attention back in the summer (see our Introducing feature) and now the duo return for a final adieu to 2014 with a cover of Julee Cruise's 'Falling' - the theme song for the cult US television series Twin Peaks.
The indietronica duo - Lauren Bateman and Canadian Marcel Ino - who cite Chvrches as an influence, take the classic track and add a touch of their own brand of dark electronica to the mix. Take a listen below.
Produced by Ian Dowling (who has worked with Adele, Kasabian, Jungle, Bombay Bicycle Club), new West London quartet Sheikh have an instantly likeable debut in 'Fonda', released on January 16 2015.
Formed in Bahrain originally as a three-piece, Mazen Almaskati (vocals), Rab Honar (bass), and Vish Mhatre (drums), then met up with Jad Habib (guitar) in London to put together Sheikh.
Citing influences such as The Cure, Arcade Fire, Fleetwood Mac ... and Boney-M, there's not a lot of similarity in 'Fonda' (nor are we told if this is a homage to Jane) with any of those, but what it does have in abundance is plenty of twangy reverbed guitars and foot-tapping beat that are pinned in place by Almaskati's understated vocal.
Monday, 15 December 2014
It is always intriguing when a new artist comes along that stops you in your tracks on first hearing.
LemuelG seems to have started popping up in inboxes, supplying just one online track and nothing more. 'Life Cap' instantly feels personal; the listener almost intruding on the inner psyche of the writer: "I'm young and distressed/boxed in for life is what it seems/no satisfaction apart from my dreams/I'm kicking and screaming to get let out/nobody can hear me, no whisper or shout/so I feel like it's the end."
The writer, and musician in question, is 25-year-old Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania native Lemuel Wilcox. 'Life Cap' is the first taste from a debut album by the multi-instrumentalist/producer currently being worked on, and mooted for release early next summer.
"'Life Cap' is about how I feel I have lived two lives," Lem - as he is known - told us this weekend. "It's about putting an end to my past life and how I felt when I was in it." Without saying too much, from what we understand Lem has fought battles against drugs and alcohol in the past; now fighting back and putting all into his music.
We featured the Essex five-piece JacksonsWarehouse back in September as our Track Of The Day with the impressive six-minute track 'Right Here, Right Now'.
Now to end the year in equally impressive style they return with the epic eight minutes of 'Lead Me Into The Dark'. Released on December 8 via iTunes, like its predecessor it aims big, traverses a range of influential styles, and cuts no corners lyrically: "It's about DEATH and SECRETS, TV+MEDIA BULLSHIT" they scream from their Facebook page.
Backed by strong guitars, rocking percussion and strident drums, the bass kicking a power weight behind the intense lyrics delivered in powerful measure. However, whilst the first five minutes excel, it may have done better with editing down on the final three which go off on a bit of a tangent. Still a mighty track though.