One of the joys of being long in the tooth as a reviewer is that you get to watch acts evolve over the years and Wilding has been one of the more enjoyable and rewarding careers to watch. From the sleek and simple lines as a solo singer-songwriter to the brilliant textures that the Lighterthief team wrapped around his already elegant and eloquent songs and finally with a full live band gathered around him, George Wilding could almost be a template of how to kick-start your career as a musician. The lad I used to describe as looking like Nick Drake’s dealer is actually much more astute, much cleverer than his rabbit in the headlights image suggests.
I’ve said it before, probably in previous Lucy Mason reviews, but dream-pop and indie genres make perfect bedfellows. The former brings a wonderful haziness and it softens edges whilst the later adds a contemporary cool and accessibility, the meeting of these two worlds has created some of my favourite music as recent times. 3 AM is certainly up there with that group.
After three years away because of “writers’s block, collective band depression and half-hearted ventures into other lines of work,” The Royal Concept have finally bounced back with a fantastic new single. Need To Know sits wonderfully between Swedish melancholy and the California sun, will appeal to fans of the more discerning pop and indie sound and somehow seems like both a wonderfully reverential step back whilst being a sure-footed sonic move forward.
If indie music often tries so hard to be cool you can hear it creaking under the weight of its own earnestness, and soul music is often regarded as a niche or more underground genre these days, especially by fans of white, guitar driven sounds, then perhaps Olga Solar is the answer. Then again, genres are pretty meaningless these days. But Tulips is effortlessly soulful without being soul music by any usual definition. It also easily conforms to the usual indie music benchmarks but what it is acting independently of is anyones guess…bad music I suppose. Yet it ticks a lot of boxes in both of these, often mutually exclusive, areas. Strange!
With a slight nod to Kaiser Chiefs, the new single from new-wave punk band Time Dilation Unit tackles the relatively recent phenomenon of self-diagnoses, or, to be more precise, self-diagnoses with the ‘help’ of the internet.
Pop needs saving and Hajk could be just the band to do it. Pop, R&B and Indie music are all very potent forces in their own right but it seems when the modern music industry mixes them together in search of a winning formula they always end up turning those vibrant colours into a nondescript sonic shade of grey. A shade that works as the perfect, dull and perfectly dull background for songs whose agenda of dance-routines and celebrity rappers, tried and tested templates and borrowed grooves should have been discarded years ago. But discard such artists and what do you replace them with? Hajk, that’s what!
One of the reasons that I get so annoyed with the current trend of people only attending gigs by bands that they already know, who fit exactly into their current musical wheelhouse, that their brother-in-law plays bass for, or whatever comfortable fit it might be, is that you miss the opportunity to be totally surprised by a band you previously knew nothing about. That was how I first encountered these splendid people, a small festival, the knowledge of one of the members previous musical art attacks and cool name was my ticket, and boy did taking a chance on them really pay off.
As soon as the name Glen Hansard comes up most people think of that iconic sonic moment in the film Once or perhaps a general allegiance to the classic lines and timeless songwriting styles of artists such as Dylan, Van Morrison and Leonard Cohen. But Hansard has always found ways of upsetting expectations and this new track from the looming fourth solo album, This Wild Willing, is as strange and mercurial as anything found in the darker and less immediate corners of his regular musical vehicle, The Frames, back-catalogue.
The history of contemporary music is littered with high drama and over the top behaviour. The path to rock ’n’roll infamy is paved with imploding bands, bad behaviour, reckless acts and personal feuds. That side of history might make good copy and is thus assured the column inches in the press but the reality for most bands is very different indeed. It is generally one of hard work and dedication punctuated with moments of genius, a slow fade out and a long wait before attaining the title of cult band. The story of The Go-Betweens follows just such a pathway and because of its lack of intensity and intrigue is probably more valuable a document for those wishing to understand the reality of the music business.
Bristol’s Our Nameless Boy are pleased to announce their return with their forthcoming new EP ‘Tomorrow I’ll Be Scared Again’ set for release through Beth Shalom Records on 1st March 2019.
To celebrate the news the band have revealed the video for new single ‘All It Is’ – an intense visual documentation of guitarist/vocalist Ian Gorrie’s recovery from an 11-month long battle with testicular cancer.
Imagine if The Cult had, instead of embracing foot on the monitor, leather clad rock, gone down a more 4AD inspire route around album three. Imagine if Echo and The Bunnymen had been inspired by Kate Bush rather than their retro-American influences. Imagine if The Church had opted for a shoegaze infused sound rather than the iconic 12-string jangle. All strange and hypothetical scenarios, but all ones that go some way to describe the glorious sound that Crooked Ghost make on this, their second album. I guess it is only journalists flailing for a handle who conjure such ridiculous images but it says a lot about a band when you need to resort to such extremes. Although, I must admit, it is also a fun thing to do.
Whilst studio creations have the luxury of presenting the band which all the polish and glamour that the technology and time will allow, live recordings can be seen as a more honest representation of what a band really is all about. So this time as the latest offering from Tough on Fridays landed in the review pile we got to hear them in the flesh, as it were.
Guitar music has to walk some pretty fine lines. Take rock music for example, there isn’t much daylight between a cool guitar-slinger with all the chops and swagger and a cliched buffoon with his foot on the monitor shouting “Hello Cleveland” at a stadium audience. Similarly for every 100 indie bands busily checking its hair in the mirror or alt-rock band making sure that it has just the right designer skinny jeans for the photo shoot, there is probably one or two that get it right. You either have it or you don’t, some things are just inherent, unteachable, natural. Pretty Noise is the sound of a band getting it right.
A few weeks ago, I was in a pub chatting about music with a friend of mine and we were discussing how there don’t seem to be any bands coming through that have good songs, a good following and have the chance at long careers. Who are the next Oasis? The next Coldplay? Radiohead? Arctic Monkeys? Muse?
See, this is exactly what I have been talking about for years. Folk music and indie music make the perfect match, the deft and delicate delivery of the former and the cool and polished sound of the latter make an exquisite musical hook up. But a practical on too. If folk is going to stay relevant and Indie music interesting such musical marriages are essential. But this is no clumsy marriage of convenience, I Think I Saw You on the Street is the gorgeous off-spring of two good looking generic parents – the practical and solid folk father, the gracious and the charming hipster mother.
We approach that time of year again when supermarkets up and down the country take down the Halloween stock only to replace it with Christmas goodies. Endless boxes of chocolates and treats line the aisles, each with a variation of flavours and textures to help bring in the season of joy, which, ironically is the title of Nik Barrell’s new album; Joy.
Mancunian, Hayes & Y have returned with a brand new single, ‘Blue’. Described by CLASH magazine as “a moody dancefloor burner with a killer chorus”, it follows recent track ‘Always So Simple, Always So Cold’ which was featured on Spotify’s UK Viral Top 50 chart. Already picking up plays at BBC Introducing and BBC 6 Music, the group adds a little more insight into their latest creation;
When Oslo’s Spielbergs brought their debut single We Are All Going To Die to the world in February this year, their impact was immediate. It was a rallying cry, an urgent and insistent examination of mortality that instantly exploded through the rafters and shot for the sky. It was a track that united rock and indie fans and writers the world over, topping the Hype Machine as most blogged about band in the world, making Lamacq’s Livener on BBC 6 Music and cementing the band as ones to keep a very close eye on going forward.
We Journalists love our genres, our pigeon-holes, our easy handles, but this one has got even me stumped. But that’s a good thing right? If it is easy to pin down then you have probably heard it, or at least something similar, before. Where you attempt to pace Phantom Phunk in the scheme of things really depends on which aspect of the sound you pick up on first. Hip-hop vocals blended with soulful-pop responses, electro-rock back beats, warped indie guitars and a strange neo-psychedelic vibe surrounding everything. Intrigued?
I guess I should stop expecting music to fall into easily defined genres or neat pigeon-holes. Those days are gone and people like Matty Marz really aren’t helping. But then I wouldn’t want it any other way. Who wants a string of identikit rock bands, urban acts all sampling the same sources or soul music that just repeats the same pop tricks that we have heard many times before in a move to make a quick buck? Not me, give me Matty Marz and albums like Dandy any day of the week. The fact that I can’t sum things up in a quick and easy sound bite is exactly why it is so great.
Bilk is back out doing what it does best. And what it does best is deliver short, sharp salvos of trashy street punk energy woven through infectious and highly charged indie blasts. Three eighteen year old Essex boys singing about exactly what eighteen year old Essex boys should be singing about, that is falling out of one glorious weekend of drunken chaos with the vow to do it all again once the working week is done.
Part social commentary, part pure celebration, Bilk is the perfect successor to the likes of Mike Skinner’s Street’s in providing the background groove to young lives in the modern age and echos with the same visceral sound that The Libertines found kicking about the backstreets of London where it had lain dormant since the punks packed up and headed off down new musical paths. But that was all a long time ago and a new generation has come through looking for their own soundtrack to urban life, to lost weekends, to one-night stands, to letting off steam, to irresponsibility, frustration and social carnage. Next Weekend proves once again that Bilk is the perfect band for the job.
The further down this dark, spacious path Leah Hinton takes her solo Murmur Tooth project, the more I love it. Always aware that there is more musical currency in atmosphere and anticipation than bombast and clutter, here she builds a powerful and punchy piece from the bear minimum of sonics. The icing on this rich, dark and bitter sweet cake is the melancholic trumpet that weaves its way through turning a shrouded modern indie song into a twisted, timeless Old World dirge.
Dealing with the sensitive issue of memory loss, something that at least is being spoken about more and more in the current climate, it instils the conversation with an intimate perspective and a cold dread that comes with the thought that everything that makes up your life, your history, your personality, your very being, could one day drop from your memory piece by piece leaving you anonymous and detached from everything you once were.
As always it is the combination of beauty and terror that Leah captures so elegantly, the tension and drifting atmosphere that floats about the listener as if they themselves were part of a chorus line from a gothic musical. Cold, deep, poignant and reflective but also gorgeous, ephemeral and eloquent. It’s what she does.
To be honest, these daily by-genre posts are really just me working my way through the favourite bits of my record collection, but it gives us something to bond over…or argue over. Indie music of course is a tricky term, aren’t they all, but for a man of my age it is more about an independent ethic which existed in the post-punk era, led to a whole genre being built around the term in the 90’s and which is again in evidence in the modern age with the various D.I.Y and grassroots ways of operating away from the majors.
Also feel free to make suggestions for videos to post in these categories, it isn’t all about me. It is mainly about me though!
It’s nice to come across a band who actually live in the real world for a change. Too many artists are all about self-mythologising, creating their own celebrity, talking about their own aggrandised and shallow jet set life styles. Thankfully Camens live in the same world as you and I. They party on the beach with their friends, they blow off steam playing video games and they are not afraid to look at failing relationships and dreams of running off to the sun.
Slept on The Sofa, like most of their music, is honest but even when dealing with the grim realities of life, it is also euphoric. They know how to write big songs with even bigger choruses that somehow meld fist in the air festival antics with “we’ve all been there mate” moments. It’s also very British, that kitchen-sink drama approach that we do so well, after all more people can relate to an uncomfortable night sleeping in the front room than the glitz and glamour of the celebrity world.
When 90’s pioneers melded 60’s rock with 80’s indie and created Brit-pop, no one realised that we would have to wait until 2018 before someone actually got the blend right. Now all we need is a new name for it….
Stock in the Bauhaus name is riding high at the moment. With one half of the band currently working as Poptone and David J undertaking an extensive world tour with Pete Murphy as we speak, it is certainly the perfect time to re-release J’s sophomore solo album, a record which he describes as “ a personal pastoral favourite” and one “that really set the tone for all my future solo endeavours.” And pastoral is indeed a great word to use even if it is hardly one that you would associate with either Bauhaus or Love and Rockets, the band that he would shortly form.
Crocodile Tears is certainly of its time, it sounds of its mid 80’s birthplace both in style and production but like any album which stays in the collective consciousness long enough to be labelled classic, iconic or influential, and this has been called all this and more, it has survived and transcended fad and fashion. Like black and white movies, favourite shirts and old photographs there is a hint of nostalgia to the songs found here from the point of the listener, how could there not be but also enough time has passed that a whole new generation can engage with it without the baggage that it carries. But you only have to listen to how ahead of its time songs such as Light and Shade are to see why it has survived. I could name 5 modern alt-country bands who would kill to have that on their resume.
Songs wander from the classic singer songwriter such as the folky Justine to the smooth soulful lines of the title track, the Lilac Time-esque fey-pop jaunt of Too Clever By Half to the shimmering sixties vibes of Slip The Rope. It is a vast departure from his earlier, darker band days but to many people, myself included, it was destined for more spins around the house than the more challenging Bauhaus back catalogue. And for those who found this an unexpected departure at the time, hindsight now tells us that a reunion with Daniel Ash in the form of Love and Rockets and all the glitz and glamour, punch and panache which that entailed was just around the corner.
Imagine if Brit-pop had got beyond its “madferit!” self-worship, calmed down, got serious and grown the hell up. Imagine if The Kinks had formed this decade having been brought up on a steady diet of their dad’s record collection. Imagine if pop music had remembered where it had left its bite or indie music stopped checking its hair in the mirror for a brief moment. Okay, they are just fictitious scenarios but any one of them could be a creation myth…or even a Creation myth…for The Swagger.
Of course it comes as no surprise that Alan McGee is already lining up to help the band out, a sixties musical vibe as pushed through 90’s indie rock filter with big guitars and no small amount of swagger, (okay, that was bound to happen wasn’t it) that sounds like him all over. For those too young to have encountered the Brit-pop explosion then this will more than serve in its place. Those who were there at the time can consider this a nostalgic reminder. Either way it’s a cracking song but one that very much looks to future potential rather than merely past glory. Which is as it should be.
Not that there was ever any doubt, but the fact that Palm Rose choose to open this debut e.p. with a song built of transient grace and gentle drifting qualities, proves that they know just how good their songs are. They are probably too modest to admit it but deep down inside they know. Most bands would go in big, play the obvious single, get the listener fired up, make a big impact and then try to ride out the wave of enthusiasm before it peters out. Not Palm Rose. No sir. Even when they are doing nothing more than delivering simple but soaring vocals over a musical dreamscape wash, they do so with more poise and integrity than most of the bands on the contemporary alt-pop scene.
It is this ability to use minimalism to maximum effect that means when the chiming guitar tones and understated grooves of Where Are We Now kick in, it sounds like the biggest song in the world. It’s all relative… relatively speaking. And that is the great thing about the band, that they understand space and atmosphere, how to build anticipation and allure through what is not being played, which means that even the gaps between the notes and the pauses between the lyrics become powerful musical tools. Not an unknown concept but certainly a much overlooked one.
Move Slowly captures a slight Morrissey vibe in Adam’s voice which, twenty years ago would have been a talking point, now it is best to gloss right over and Tender Crush/Heartless Love is a wonderful slow burn running between atmospheric pop and shimmering shoegazery. The swan song of the collection, Daydream in C is a perfect coming together of the bands ability to write pulsing bass hooks and infectious riffs, of soaring majesty and widescreen cinematics. Perfect.
If you took almost any current indie-pop album, folded it up, took a pair of scissors and cut out shapes of little people so that when you opened it out again you had a row of joined dancers…well, I suppose that you wouldn’t be able to play those albums again! If, whilst wondering why you did that in the first place, you put Daydreams on they would probably all start grooving around to the music. Or something about leaving gaps in music, or less being more….I don’t know, I’m not good with analogy!
I’m not for a moment suggesting that John Andrew Fredrick is set in his ways but even he would be the first to admit that after fifteen albums he has a certain musical signature. How could he not, all artists have one. It’s the sound of the artist’s personality coded into their songs, their subconscious essence binding with the DNA of their music so much so that the two become, to a degree, synonymous. And, knowing this, it is exactly why the illustrious Mr F. made a conscious effort to record an album of music which deliberately moved away from the path so deftly travelled so far.
A dance record with minimal drum beat drive? Syd Barrett fronting New Order? A move away from the unexpected commercial viability of previous album The Gospel According to John and a return to more obscure or at least less obvious roots? It runs with all of these pre-planned considerations but like any good album, and this is indeed a great album, it is more than the sum of the predicted parts. And whilst it certainly has a bounce and buoyancy at times, as always, things are not quite that simple.
There are a number of central themes to these intricate pop songs, magic for one, but not magic as some mysterious otherworldly power but more magic as an ingredient to a happy life, the glue that makes relationships work, the magic of the unplanned, the mystical energy that makes things complete.
Some songs live up to the dance vibe that is cast loosely over the record, Georgette, Georgette being a groovesome beast, 80’s vibe post-punk/new pop but given the passage of time feeling totally at the edge of a whole new wave of musical reinvention as well-rendered pop once more takes on the fickle fad and fashion of the status quo. From Hampstead Heath is a dreamscape of delicate and resonant picked guitars and Graymalkin Comes picks up on the early Syd qualities as intended.
Talk has surrounded the question of where next for John Andrew Fredrick as he has occasionally hinted at a move away from the music making side of his creative life. On the strength of Witches! it is obvious that he would be sorely missed. That blend of the obscure and the accessible. The intricate and the melodic. The direct and the textured. The cool and the cultish. The backward-glancing and the forward-thinking. All of those mutually exclusive ideas and dozens more beside inhabit his songs in a way that is rarely seen and I for one am not ready to see such wonderfully mercurial oxymorons slip into the back catalogue of musical history just yet.
After a run of festival dates in the UK and Europe this summer including a mainstage appearance at Kendal Calling, Saint Agnes release live favourite ‘Diablo, Take Me Home’. Onstage they declare “We are Saint Agnes. We are a rock band.” and in doing so are re-claiming the word ‘rock’ and redefining it for the 21st century. They are the leather jacket wearing, chain smoking, hard rocking siblings to bands like Starcrawler and Black Honey, seemingly raised on a diet of fuzz guitar riffs and hopeless tales of murder. A chemistry reminiscent of The Kills sets them apart with sparks flying between frontwoman Kitty Arabella Austen and co-lead Jon James Tufnell as they trade riffs and vocals with an intense fury highlighted by the raw, analogue production.
Among their consistent releases the band have been relentlessly touring in the UK and across Europe, spending weeks at a time fearlessly preaching their rock n’ roll gospel and converting all who see them to their own Coven. Kitty’s fearless live performances set a new standard for what it is to be a woman in a rock band in 2018.
New single ‘Diablo, Take Me Home’, the band tell us, “is about the conscious decision to escape. Our generation have a (legitimate) sense of hopelessness about the future. The main lyric is a metaphor for giving yourself over to your immediate desires, letting the devil on your shoulder guide you and throwing yourself into the hands of fate. Fuck tomorrow, give me more of today. This song is a battlecry for a screwed generation. We recorded live in a room to 2” tape, no computers, no messing around”
Tancred is excited to share the brand new music video for “Something Else”. Described as “Gay Riverdale inspired” by Jess Abbott, the force behind Tancred and ex Now, Now band member, the video stars the band Potty Mouth and “America’s Lesbian Sweetheart” Brittany Ashley.
Director Jason Lester elaborates, “Jess and I wanted to pay tribute to the stylized, teen dream melodramas we love, from Riverdale to Twin Peaks. The giddy feeling of attraction represented by TV’s archetypes of youth, cotton candy colors, and often repressed sexuality felt perfectly in sync with Tancred’s swooning track.” Abbott further adds, “Brittany and I had wanted to work on a video together for awhile, and Potty Mouth basically is Josie and the Pussycats, so it all came together just right.”
Produced by Lewis Pesacov (Best Coast, Generationals), Nightstand is the follow up to the Maine based musician’s well received 2016 release Out of The Garden. That album was deemed “violently catchy” by The FADER and won praise from Stereogum, Rookie, USA Today, and many others, while leading to tours with the likes of Speedy Ortiz and Weaves.