Thursday, 29 August 2013

#159: The Darlingtons - Who Says There's No Beach In Doncaster?

The Darlingtons

Who Says There's No Beach In Doncaster?

September 16 2013 (Self released)


As an indie band in 2013, there's a very real risk that you can come off sounding like one of the many hundreds if not thousands of bands already gracing the pages and blogs of professional and amateur music press alike. Conversely, sound too different, too left-field, and you run the risk of alienating your target audience by not appealing to their exact tastes. Thankfully, while Taunton's The Darlingtons are very much making the kind of music you're already familiar with, they do it with such confidence, such style, that it really doesn't matter that you've heard it before because the chances are you haven't heard it done this well.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

#158: The Last Scout - Self-Titled

Recently, folk music has found itself at the forefront of a resurgence. No longer is it destined to remain a staple of spit and sawdust bars, specialist festivals and niche radio stations. Nor is it only reserved for beardy types who have memorised the entire Emmy-Lou Harris back catalogue (although admittedly there are still a good amount of beards at play). These days folk music seems to have returned to it's roots as a music for the people, by the people. Sure bands such as Mumford & Sons has catapulted it to the dizzying platforms of stadium shows and bigger festivals than perhaps the public was expecting, but that doesn't stop the plethora of acts and artists in the grass-roots scene from plying their trade with enough heart and candour to make anyone swoon. One such band are Cheshire's The Last Scout.

A four-piece act who formed through a shared love of acoustic music, art and photography, The Last Scout are a band whose intelligence and song-writing prowess are shadowed only by their obvious passion for each musical undertaking. Having featured the band earlier in the year and following their progress since, I was excited to learn that the band have finally put together their self-titled, first EP, and even though it's yet to be mastered, the record is a brilliant example of just what the band are capable of.

Beginning with an impactive fusion of picked guitar, cymbals and an effective sample in the form of the intro of 'The Cowboy Song', The Last Scout kicks off proceedings in a brilliant fashion whilst embracing the cultural heritage of a genre that bridges continental divides. Rich vocal layers glide effortlessly over skilled finger-picking and almost-militant drum rolls in a bid to contemporise an aesthetic doused in Americana. All thoughts of the Wild West quickly dissipate, however, when the first notes and harmony of the quaint and delicate 'Scar Love' follow on. A personal favourite of mine, 'Scar Love' is a swooning and quintessentially British affair that adds romantic cello and vocal layers to a backbone of subtle percussion and guitar. It comes off sounding like the record Kate Nash wanted to make before she realised her lyricism left a lot to be desired, and as such, it's all the better for it.

Indeed, that should be the only comparison between the two acts. The final three tracks featured on The Last Scout do nothing to hamper any expectations laid out by the first two, with 'Burn' particularly being a stand-out track in which a vocal duality steals the show amidst haunting guitars. It's a darker, heavier addition to the record, but a welcome one nevertheless, and it's positioning allows the the proceeding tracks ('Alone Tonight' and 'By Starlight' respectively) to sore back to the uplifting and romantic heights established earlier.

One of the most appealing facets of The Last Scout, is their decision not to use their own images; instead the band create their own artwork and photography to use within their work, choosing to let their music and indeed the bespoke art that surrounds it to speak for itself. It's an unusual way of doing things but it's a good way (one that will appeal to those familiar with Canada's Arts & Crafts label) and goes hand in hand with the folk image that The Last Scout are upholding.

Folk bands these days seem to be ten a penny but rarely is there as much care, candour and romance at play as there is here. The Last Scout is a relatable and indeed important record, and not just for the band. It's a statement, a statement that says folk music is still for everyone. They're not just songs about the band's life; they're songs about yours. And while it might be “a perfect day for a breakdown” it won't be as bad as you think, especially if The Last Scout are sound-tracking it. Captivating stuff.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

#157: Cast of Lions - Eyes Wide to New Places

Cast of Lions

Eyes Wide to New Places

August 19 2013 (Self-released)


Ambitious, uplifting, anthemic. All words which could be used to describe 'Eyes Wide to New Places', the debut album from London's Cast of Lions. Formerly known as Chapters, the band have completely self-funded the release of 'Eyes Wide...' through sales of their previous EPs and as such, we find a record which is completely unadulterated by label influence resulting in an album of rich and varied textures and aesthetics that are entirely of the band's own choosing.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

#156: Introducing...Twister

As a genre, pop-rock is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, catchy pop-hooks and polished vocal work can really draw in an audience whilst maintaining a heavier edge will appeal to fans of more alternative sounds; the counterbalance to this is that keeping it too commercial (as opposed to accessible) could potentially damage a band's reputation and stop them from playing certain tours or venues that they might want to. Luckily for Durham's Twister, they bridge the gap perfectly, providing enough grit to balance out the pop production and coming off sounding like one of the most confident and energetic band's I've heard this year.

Following in the footsteps of similar pop-rock acts such as Go:Audio or Saving Aimee, Twister have already garnered support from the likes of The Joy Formidable and EMI and are well on their way to being signed. Fusing together universal sentiments with a melodic blend of radio-friendly guitar-pop and call and response vocal work that's back-boned by consistently tight rhythm sections and percussion; without a doubt Twister are one of the most solid bands on the unsigned circuit at the moment.

It goes without saying, however, that the pomp and the polish won't be for everyone and there is a fair degree of both, particularly on track's such as 'Fall With Me' and 'This Isn't Wonderland'. However underneath the theatrics is a legitimately well-rounded and ambitious group of musicians with a penchant for anthemics that works completely in their favour. Twister are a band that are destined for bigger things; stages, audiences and even aesthetics, exhibited perfectly in their most recent track 'Watch Over You' which is somewhat indicative of The Revival's 'Supercollider', is by no means a negative comparison.

Perhaps my personal favourite track in the band's repertoire (and possibly a guilty pleasure) is 'The I.O.P', a melodic affair that is particularly indicative of the aforementioned yet ultimately ill-fated Saving Aimee. The lyricism is both simple, yet with enough candour to keep it interesting whilst the lead guitar coming courtesy of Steve Stoker is perhaps his strongest performance yet.

While it's certainly not my personal preference, Twister's perfect balance of pop and rock aesthetics is impossible to deny. It's tight; it's radio-friendly; it's polished, doubtless to make teenager girls swoon and ultimately it's getting them noticed. It's also a testament to the nine years that the lads have be been playing together. Proof that dedication and hard-work do pay off. 


Monday, 19 August 2013

#155: Velocets - Castle Hotel, Manchester - 16/08/13

Live Review

Velocets + Puppet Rebellion + Rise of General Mezmar

Castle Hotel, Manchester

August 16 2013
Photos: Trust A Fox Photography

Being from Manchester, I'm lucky enough to have a rich and vibrant music scene right on my metaphorical doorstep. Every night the city plays host to a plethora of club nights and gigs in a variety of genres and venues to suit tastes of every persuasion. Being the city that it is, steeped with indie heritage, it goes without saying that within the burgeoning flock of bands vying for the spotlight competition is fierce, yet within this competition, friendships and relationships are formed which allow gigs such as tonight's to take place. Featuring two of Manchester hottest unsigned bands, Puppet Rebellion and Velocets, and the Wirral-based psychedelic Rise of General Mezmar who kick off the proceedings.

#154: Dowsing - I Don’t Even Care Anymore

Many people view emo as pantomime punk; music without any real degree of resonance to it and, of course, we have Messrs Way and Wentz to thank for that. For some though, emo wasn't (or indeed, isn't) more than just a fringe and a Myspace profile, it's something far more ingrained and far-reaching than that. And while the glory days of the 1990s are over, with pioneers such as Texas Is The Reason finally drawing the curtains on 20 years of touring and emotional turmoil, the torch has been passed on; where record labels such as Jade Tree or Drive-Thru once dominated the scene, it's time for smaller, more nuanced labels and artists to wear their emotional scars with pride and make their own mark on a genre might have lay dormant, but was certainly never dead.

Friday, 16 August 2013

#153: The Vaccines - Melody Calling (EP Review)

The Vaccines

Melody Calling

August 12 2013 (Columbia Records)


The Vaccines are a band who really need little introduction. After bursting onto the London scene in 2010, they have gone from strength to strength with both albums hitting high in the UK album chart and seeing them play a slew of high profile support slots for the likes of The Rolling Stones, Arcade Fire and Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Now a global entity in their own right, The Vaccines release their fourth EP Melody Calling and look set to change opinions of both stringent fans and naysayers alike.

This article was orignally written for Little Indie Blogs. Click here to read the full review.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

#152: The Departed - Steal The Crown

Over the last ten years, the UK has found itself playing host to a burgeoning hardcore scene that could rival that of any country. Bands such as Azriel, Your Demise and More Than Life have helped to spread the word of hardcore outside of their home-town's respective scenes and in to a much wider setting. One such band are Grimsby's The Departed, who have been toting their own personal blend of melodic hardcore since 2006, clocking up tours both at home and in Europe with hardcore royalty such as Defeater and Terror. Now, seven years after their inception, the band have released their second full length entitled 'Steal the Crown' and while there is certainly no denying that the band have both the talent and the passion to go along with their stringent hardcore ideologies, one can't help but think that maybe we've heard it all before.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

#151: Honorable Mention - Coalescence (EP review)

Since 2003, many bands have tried to encapsulate, channel or recreate the spirit left behind by the ill-fated yet ultimately seminal Long Island pop-punk outfit The Movielife. Few, if any, have managed, something which could conclusively be attributed to the zeitgeist of their particular scene having passed in a blur of bleeding hearts and contrived clichés from those who just missed the bandwagon. That is, until now.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

#150: A Few Too Many - Escape to LA (single review)

Pop-punk is a genre that has been maligned as much as it has been celebrated; even the most stringent of fans can come to blows over what can and can't be considered as such. Like most contested genres though, the idea of what is and isn't pop-punk, is purely subjective and thus it falls at the feet of any given listeners personal musical background to define what they consider to be an apt depiction of the genre. One band, however, who shouldn't have too much trouble in this area, is Essex-based A Few Too Many whose energetic and explosive blend of Anglo innocence and American self-deprecation is completely and unequivocally pop-punk.

2012 saw the band release their début EP Saint, Sinner, Winner, a record that was met with generally favourable reviews and was quickly followed up by a music video for the EP's eponymous title track. Now, almost a year after their EP release, A Few Too Many are back with their new single 'Escape to LA', a sun-bleached and upbeat affair that yearns for the Californian streets of it's namesake.

At three-and-a-half minutes long, 'Escape to LA' falls perfectly in to generic pop-punk territory and fans of bands such as New Found Glory or Simple Plan will positively reel with excitement as the first chords and cymbal crashes burst forth from one's speakers, whilst those who prefer their pop-punk with a little more snot and sneer will probably opt to dust off their Descendants or Ergs records than delve further. That shouldn't deter any interest one may have though; scratch away at the charm and the innocence, and what you'll find is a quintet of musicians who are harbouring barrels of potential. And while there are the occasional cracks in the band's youthful veneer, it's this potential, along with their energy, that plugs those cracks and keeps the good ship Many afloat. Further to this, whilst many of the UK's up-and-coming pop-punk acts are opting to move more towards the genres heavier elements (and we can thank You Me At Six for that), A Few Too Many are embracing the genre as it was fifteen years ago, and while it won't give you the same sense of frisson that hearing the opening chords of Green Day's Dookie or Blink-182's Dude Ranch did, there is absolutely every chance that AFTM will go on to put out a record that holds the same cultural impact as the aforementioned, albeit for generations yet to come.

Pop-punk is a genre that will always pull at my heart-strings and beg me to dust of my Converse and start up a circle pit, and I'm sure it's the same for thousands of others. The genre might not be basking in the limelight like it once did, but it will always have a place in the hearts of aficionados. This, coupled with the fact that the UK is still producing bands that want to make this kind of music, should assure both the band, and pop-punk naysayers alike, that the future of pop-punk, and the futures all those helping build it, AFTM included, are looking very rosy indeed.

#149: Yellowcard - Ocean Avenue (Acoustic Reissue)

Album review: Yellowcard - Ocean Avenue Acoustic Reissue (2013)

This article was originally written for Muso's Guide. Click the link above to read the review.

Monday, 12 August 2013

#148: Introducing...Get Inuit

Very little is known about Sittingbourne's Get Inuit; indeed, it's been less than two weeks since the band's first demos materialised on their Soundcloud page, yet the plays have already been mounting up. Perhaps it can be attributed to the weather, but there's really no denying that this Kent-based four-piece, comprised of James, Ollie, James and Rob, have an irresistible edge to their sun-kissed surf-pop that's really hard not to take notice of.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

#147: Drenge - Self-Titled



Infectious Music (19 August)


Words: Dave Beech

Despite their name being banded around the pages of both the music and national press, Drenge are a band who seem oblivious to the hype that surrounds them. Even when Labour MP Tom Watson name dropped and recommended them in his resignation letter to Ed Milliband, their reaction was nothing short of nonchalant. I'm not totally overjoyed that it happened but at the same time I don't really care.” brothers Eoin and Rory Loveless proclaimed upon hearing the news. Thankfully the air of nonchalance they exude doesn't bleed in to their music and following on from the success of singles such as 'Backwaters' and 'Face Like A Skull' the band are now set to unleash their self-titled full-length début upon the masses.

Monday, 5 August 2013

#146: Catching Up with Naymedici (U&I Music Magazine - August 2013)

Manchester is a city which, given it’s geographical location, unsurprisingly has deep-seated connections with Ireland and Irish heritage, and whilst some of these connections date back hundreds of years and don’t always bear remembrance given the occasionally violent or criminal nature of the narrative, a more contemporary facet of the Manc-Irish discourse, not overshadowed by politics or criminality, would be music after all four members of The Smiths had Irish heritage, likewise with the Gallagher brothers and even Mani from The Stone Roses had an Irish mother. It goes without saying, then, that with bands as pivotal as the aforementioned, Irish influence will always find a way to permeate Manchester’s music scene, via one band or another, and Naymedici are no exception.

From the opening five seconds of flagship single 'Paddy McGee' you can tell that the band are whole-heartedly embracing their Irish roots; a finger-picked guitar is quickly joined by a fiddle before singer Mike King smashes any illusions that this is a traditional folk affair and instead asserts both song and band well and truly in the realms of Celtic Punk.

In a genre as niche as Celtic Punk, every act runs the risk of being compared to those bands that everyone knows. Rather than ape the aggression of the Dropkicks or the self-deprecation of Flogging Molly however, Naymedici prefer to uphold a slightly more experimental nature to their song-writing, an aspect of the band that underpins the entirety of their most recent single 'Koo Koo the Bird Girl', indeed this track has far more in common with the gypsy-tinged ancestry of Gogol Bordello than the Jameson's-soaked sounds of Against Me! An unusual and atypical affair, 'Koo Koo...' might not be the best introduction to the band for those who aren't familiar with the quirks and nuances of Naymedici's repertoire, but it certainly suggests that, as a band, they're more diverse than the genre usually allows.

There's an unprecedented amount of energy upheld by the band, and it bleeds through in to their music effortlessly; described as “The Pogues and Gogol Bordello having a bar fight”, the band are fusing Irish and Baltic traditions with punk ideals and an unrelenting work ethic which has seen them tour Ireland no less than three times and play headline slots at festivals such as Y-Not and Kendal Calling. It's this work ethic, coupled with their penchant for not taking things too seriously that has allowed them to garner a burgeoning fan-base and affirm their place at the forefront of both Manchester and Ireland's music scenes. Never being fortunate enough to catch the band live, I can't make any judgement on their sets, but if the tenacity that's present on record transfers to a live environment then you can safely say that they're a band who deserves the hype they're enveloped in.

Hi guys, thanks a lot for doing this. Just to get the ball rolling, how did you come up with the name Naymedici, and what does it mean?

We backed a horse called Cosimo De Medici, and when it didn't come in, all yelled 'Naymedici'.

Manchester obviously has more than its fair share of great new band on the up and up, a lot of which seem to be indie bands indebted to Morrissey and Marr, or the Gallagher brothers, why did you choose to go down the punk road when so many others eschew it?

We wanted to do something different. We're not really interested in rehashing the old 90's Manc scene ourselves, but fair play to anyone else going down that path.

Given that this particular column is about the Manchester scene, what do you think it is about the city that makes it the hotbed for young talent that it is?

Not too sure. There's always something to do, somewhere to go, something to see. There are so many live music venues in the city that it's hard to avoid the music scene. Everyone seems to love a good gig in Manchester.

Your music obviously stems from a number of diverse and eclectic influences, both musical and otherwise, care to name some?

We're massive fans of The Pogues, Dubliners, and Gogol Bordello. I listen to a lot of Bob Dylan and Tom Waits. Really like folk songs, the older the better. And anything with an accordion or a fiddle is normally a winner!

Your track ’Koo Koo the Bird Girl’ isn’t exactly your usual run of the mill, three minute radio-friendly affair, in fact it seems more like an LSD soaked exercise in alternate history. What’s the story behind that?

It's based on a woman called Minnie Woolsley, who worked in various carnivals under the name 'Koo Koo The Bird Girl'. It's a true story – the only things I've changed are the facts.

Obviously you have major ties with Ireland, relocating there quite recently. How intrinsic do you think the Anglo-Irish narrative is to the music your making and indeed to other bands that share similar backgrounds?

We're living in Ireland now, and are spending a lot of time gigging all over the country. At first we thought it might look a bit odd, us English lads all going over there to play Irish music, but everyone has been very appreciative so far. We play the Irish songs loud and brashly, so I think they can't help but be won over.

A lot of punks bands have quite stringent and dogmatic ideologies, political or otherwise, do you find that your own politics bleed through in to your music or even live shows?

We all have our own ideas on politics, but we're not too bothered about forcing them down peoples throats.

Here’s a question I ask every band I interview now; what would be in your ideal rider, and why?

We'd just be happy with plenty of ale to be honest. The more the better. Probably worth having a Spar next door for our bass player, Hilly, so he can go on the crisp butty run.

I’ve featured you on my own blog before now, a post which has garnered almost my highest amount of hits. Do you find that bridging the gap, both physical and metaphorical, between Manchester and Ireland has allowed you to develop a following that includes people who might have not batted an eyelid without those connections there?

Yeah possibly, we're gigging all the time now, both all over the UK and all over Ireland. It gets us into places that wouldn't necessarily have heard of us. We've not got any money to spend shitloads on PR, so it suits us to do things at a grassroots level. The harder we seem to work, the more things seem to come our way. We've still got a long way to go, but fingers crossed things will start to come good!

Finally, what’s on the horizon for Naymedici as a whole, and where can we catch you live?

We should be releasing our debut EP in the next few months, which will have our new single 'Whack Fol The Diddle' on it. After that we're hoping to tour around Europe, in between fitting gigs in around Ireland and the UK. Check out our website for upcoming gig dates.

Cheers guys, it’s been a pleasure as always.
Cheers Dave.


This article was originally written for U&I Music Magazine, click here to check out the rest of the mag.

Due to data limits, only the interview features in this months issue, the write-up itself will feature in September’s issue.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

#145: Introducing...Delamere (U&I Music Magazine - August 2013)

Take any city in the UK, and almost literally, you can find an unsigned scene that's completely saturated with bands and artists from a myriad of genres and backgrounds that are all vying to put their city on the musical map. At best, only a handful from each city will get signed and fewer still will go on to make it. There's those that approach their music with a cocksure arrogance soaked liberally in sense of self-entitlement who, unfortunately do end up going places. Then there's bands like Stoke's Delamere; a band whose music isn't their own way of certifying their own arrogance, but a cathartic means for them and their listeners to escape the drudgery of the everyday monotony.

Rather than release a single EP, the band meticulously write then rewrite singular tracks and release them on an almost monthly basis. Indeed, having only been together a short space of time, releasing each track individually allowed them to garner a fan-base from a small yet steady stream of tracks while the fans in turn eagerly await each single, as opposed to hearing an EP and tiring of it quickly. 

Not that that would be the case, however. Each track released by Delamere upholds a distinctly anthemic ideal; there's an underpinning sense of ambition, hidden brilliantly by a darkly optimistic veneer. The first track to be uploaded to their SoundCloud page, 'Vampire', quickly asserted Delamere as a band with a penchant for aesthetics and suggests an understated intelligence to their song writing rarely exhibited in the indie scene. I caught up with the band earlier in the year, and the same quiet intelligence came through then, though conversely, their sincerity is manifested in their music and in conversation the band are light hearted and chatty. This is a side seen in their most recent track 'Colour Me in'. Uplifting and optimistic, a perpetual high hat drives the song forward and gives texture and grounding to guitars that threaten to float away. Singer James Fitford excels himself in each and every of the band's releases, and it's been an absolute joy to hear them progress and mature over the five months I've been following them.

Support slots with hotly tipped bands such as Peace and Palma Violets suggests that people are beginning to take notice of Delamere, and well they should. The band are so much more than the majority of bands that grace the pages of the nations music press. They harbour a youthful energy that's all too aware of a darker more sincere side of life; it's this dynamic that the band thrives on and it's this that gives them the edge over so many of their contemporaries. Set to release the début EP towards the end of Summer, there's bound to be big things happening with Delamere and they couldn't be more deserving of it.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

#144: Twee-Punk Riot Grrrls Cat Bear Tree Release Video For Their Single 'Blind'

Much like their début EP Let's Share Hearts, the video for leading track 'Blind' at first seems to be an overly simple offering from London Trio Cat Bear Tree. However, much like the record again, as the video progresses one begins to realise that the beauty of the video lies in it's simplicity. Filmed mostly in monochrome, what little colour there is plays only a fleeting role in the videos composition; a brilliant aesthetic decision on the part of Claudia, Sarah and Zoe, it allows viewers to focus almost entirely on the music. There are no convoluted camera shots or a contrived narrative, instead, the trio fade in and out of a white background, almost as if the camera itself is blinking. Not only this, but the choice of filming in almost-greyscale provides a more serious coupling to one of the band's more sombre songs. It's a perfectly executed piece of film work and one which goes hand in hand with the band's DIY sensibilities. There's nothing complex at play here but as I said earlier, that's the root of the videos appeal and one can't criticise a band whose autonomous ideologies are so blatantly rooted in anti-mainstream mantras. But I didn't expect anything less.

Cat Bear Tree's debut EP Let's Share Hearts is out on Monday 5th of August via self-release.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

#143: Greta Svabo Bech - Shut Up & Sing (Single review)

Greta Svabo Bech

'Shut Up & Sing'

July 29 2013 (Self-release)


Greta Svabo Bech is a woman of many talents. Since being noticed by Deadmau5 in 2010, her career has gone from strength to strength, including a Grammy nomination for her work with the aforementioned Canadian producer and a colab with The Bloody Beetroots. Three years later sees Greta release a run of solo singles, including most recent 'Shut Up and Sing' a fantastic fusion of both digital and analog sounds that marks a diversifying milestone in her career.