Sunday, 29 September 2013

#170: Yuck - Glow and Behold


Glow & Behold

September 30 2013 (Fat Possum)


Back in April when Yuck frontman Daniel Blumberg announced he was leaving to focus on solo material, those left in the band were adamant that it wasn't the end, announcing their second album on the same day as Blumberg's departure. True to their word, and with guitarist and ex-Cajun Dance Party bandmate Max Bloom stepping in to the role of frontman, Yuck are set to release their second album 'Glow and Behold' on 30th September and while it's certainly a consistent album, it lacks any of the youthful scuzz that endeared it's self-titled predecessor to fans and critics alike.

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

Friday, 27 September 2013

#169: Letters To Fiesta - Aphorism (EP review)

Letters to Fiesta


October 28 2013 (Self-Release)


Very little is known about Manchester synth-pop quartet Letters to Fiesta, though it doesn't seem as if it will stay that way for long. Despite having been together for a couple of years, it wasn't until early 2013 that the enigmatic air surrounding the band slowly began to dissipate, as they released their first tracks online to more than favourable responses. Now, with the likes of This is Fake DIY and The Line of Best Fit championing them, Letters to Fiesta are set to reveal their d├ębut EP 'Aphorism', which as it turns out, is a dazzling record full of haunting atmospherics, camp theatrics and huge ambitions.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

#168: Chvrches - The Bones of What You Believe

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

#167: Plainview - Years From Now (EP review)

Lancaster's Plainview are a band brought together, not by a shared appreciation of a certain genre but by a mutual ethos that merges aspects and elements from a plethora of musical stylings and a variety of previous experiences. This fusion of genres has allowed the band to create a sound that's not only fresh and varied but also wistfully nostalgic. There's a certain romantic energy about the ideas the band have, after all, why should a band be pigeon-holed in to playing just one kind of music when there's so much more at their disposal? And whilst most of the tracks from most recent EP Years From Now were available online prior to it's release, it's not until the songs are paired next to each other in EP form than the diversity at play really begins to reveal itself.

It's clear from even an initial listen that Years From Now aims to take listeners on a journey from genre to genre. First track, 'Golden Sound', is an indie-pop anthem which sees suitably jangly guitars paired with crashing symbols to make for an infectious and ultimately accessible introduction to the world of Plainview whilst other tracks on the record, such as 'Drift Away' eschews the youthful optimism of other tracks in favour of a darker, more matured and stripped down aesthetic. A clearly discernible bass guitar rolls the track forward, and lends some weight to the otherwise floaty vocals and guitar work of singer Darren Leadsom. It's a fine example of the musicianship within the band and one which iterates the lack of generic convention across the record brilliantly.

The records climax comes in the form of 'Warmth of the Sun', a five minute grungey shoegaze affair that features dreamy vocals from Leadsom and a particularly effective wall of noise forming the backdrop on which the lyricism can paint. Melodic vocal harmonies compliment what guitar can occasionally be picked out of the caustic tumult it creates. It's blissed out shoegaze at it's most commercial and yet a further example of just how little regard the band have for musical confines.

When bands try to give every track from a record a different vibe or aesthetic, it often comes across as fragmented and forced, tracks never truly roll in to each other one feels they should. That isn't the case with Plainview. What the band have done is create a record which showcases the band's influences without aping them. It blends them together in a decade spanning amalgam that builds on elements of 60s pop, jazz, rock and countless other genres in to one accessible and radio-friendly collection of tracks. It feels as if these songs belong next to each other, despite their differences and it's this that is the key to the band's appeal. Rarely does anything feel out of place and rarely does an EP this varied come off as tight as this one does, Plainview are clearly a band destined for bigger things.  


Friday, 20 September 2013

#166: Exit Calm - The Future Isn't What It Used To Be

Exit Calm

The Future Isn't What It Used To Be

September 23 2013 (Club AC30)


From the first moments of opening track 'Rapture' it's clear that Barnsley's Exit Calm are a band with an exceptional amount of talent and an inordinate amount of ideas. New album The Future Isn't What It Used To Be is a record that defies any sort of categorisation. From the optimistic and anthemic exhibited in the likes of 'When They Rise' to the frenetic break-beat appreciating 'Albion' each track offers something different, something new. Rarely can a band merge this many influences and ideas in a record and still come across this coherent, this natural.

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

Thursday, 12 September 2013

#163: Lonesound - The Great Outdoors Part 3 (EP review)

For many the dissolution of a band can kind of be like a messy break-up, an end of an era. Personal friendships can fall apart and resentment can kick in. For others though, it can be the start of something new, something fresh, and if you choose to strike out on your own, as the lead singer of ill-fated indie band My Luminaries did, it can mean a whole new level of freedom and control never experienced within a band.

James Ewers aka Lonesound has, for the last 12 months, been releasing a series of EPs entitled The Great Outdoors, an obvious reference to his new found creative liberation. The collection of records, charting his journey as a solo artist over the period of a year were an interesting way of releasing the songs I’d begun after my band split up...and seeing where it might lead me." And lead him places it did, having received critical acclaim across radio and blogosphere alike for the first two parts, Lonesound has recently released The Great Outdoors (Part 3) a collection of four tracks pertaining to his engagement on New Years Day.

Opener 'A Place For Everyone' is an ode to loneliness and sees Ewers take on a variety of roles including keys and acoustic and electric guitars. It's a solid opener, though thankfully the most downbeat of the four tracks featured. Proceeding track '(You Don't Have To Be) Strong' is a much more optimistic affair. Jangly indie-pop guitars work in tandem with keys to form an infectious and hook filled track written about his future bride. Similarly, 'As We Along' is more of the same. Vocal harmonies are matched by keys and violin both, while the lyrics are perhaps some of the most picturesque seen in contemporary acoustic music. There's an unashamed camp quality to his music. And despite initial reservations, by the third or fourth listen to the EP, it becomes obvious that Ewers is not only a hugely accomplished musician. He's also a fantastic songwriter too.

Even though it's a solid track, 'A Place For Everyone' really is the song that stops this record from being almost perfect. It just doesn't stand up to the level of quality held up by the rest of the record. Whether that's because a song about loneliness just doesn't seem to convincing from a man recently engaged and obviously ecstatic at the prospect of marrying the woman he loves, or whether it's simply because it's just a weaker track in general, instrumentation aside, I don't know. What I do know, is that James Ewers going solo is probably the best thing he could have done and if the his forthcoming solo album stands up to the level of quality exhibited here, then it's certainly going to be a record worth taking notice of

This article was originally written for Ears On. Click here to see what else they've been up to.

Monday, 9 September 2013

#162: Catching Up With...King Kartel (U&I Music Magazine - September Issue)

Following on from my feature(s) of Naymedici over this month issue and lasts, another band bridging the gap between Ireland and Manchester is King Kartel. The roots of this band are founded in a group I was familiar with a saw a number of times several years ago: The Genuine Articles. However, according to singer Hugh, King Kartel are the testosterone-fuelled adolescence to TGA's prepubescent tween years and coming off as the bastard spawn of The Libertines and The View, it's easy to see why. These tracks are sharper, more mature yet still bubble with the same youthful optimisitc romance that endeared me to The Genuine Articles so much.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about King Kartel, is that that there sound isn't inherently Manchester, in fact, without Hugh's accent, it wouldn't be possible to pin them down to any location, such is the universality of the band's music. Guitar's jangle as much as they crunch, sometimes within the same song, blending together elements of garage rock and indie-pop in to irresistible and energetic harmonies that are impossible to ignore.

While the band might not be inherently Manchester, they're certainly inherently indie. Track's with name's such as 'How'd He Ever Pull That?' couldn't be from any other genre, meeting and exceeding expectations with reckless abandon. There's a frantic and almost discordant tenacity at play within the band's more up-tempo songs and it certainly seems to be where they excel themselves. That shouldn't detract from their slower tracks; 'Artillery' is an indie club anthem in the making, though more akin to the likes of Two Door Cinema Club than earlier comparisons.

Having already seen airtime on the likes of BBC ATL, it's clear that band are starting to get noticed, and well they should. It's music without frills, music the way it should be played. Destined for the fields and stages of the festival circuit, it's perfect for a cider and a summer evening and while it isn't specifically doing anything to break any boundaries, it doesn't need to; records of this calibre are a testament to themselves and a testament to the work that the band's that release them put in. Seeing King Kartel progress and mature from the youthful and rough Genuine Articles in to the fully realised entity they are today has been an absolute joy and hopefully soon they'll find themselves playing the stages they fully deserve to.

What do you think it is about Manchester that makes it such the hot bed for young talent that it is?

Its history probably. Music and Manchester go hand in hand.

There's a kind of guttural romance to Manchester that lends itself so well to the bands that it produces but what do you think it is about the city that has such an established cultural appeal outside of its music scene?

Apart from the weather? If not I think it must be the beach in Castlefield.

I was familiar with your previous band The Genuine Articles, how do you think King Kartel differ from them?

TGA would have been like the early stages of puberty for us as a band. King Kartel would be when your balls drop, so yeah there’s a pretty big difference.

Obviously you're a band with roots in both Newry and Manchester, how does that impact on your fan-base? Do you think it gives you more of a universal appeal rather than just falling in to the category of “Just another Manc indie band”?

It could do. As only one of us is from Manchester, we had to work hard to build a following as we couldn’t get all our friends, aunties, uncles and cousins down to tell us we’re good. Some of our accents aren’t very manc sounding also.

You've just finished recording an EP, what can we expect from that and when is it out?

Yeah we’ve been sitting on it over a month now. It’s not out until October 14th. One of the tracks got played and featured on BBC ATL within two days of being uploaded. We normally get the ‘your track has been listened to’ email, then fuck all else. So we’ll take that as a good sign.

A question I ask all bands now. You've obviously played your fair share of gigs and presumably drank more than your fair share of free beer. What would be in your ideal rider, and why?

Unlimited supplies of beer, whisky and vodka, and Jessica Alba or Michelle Keegan to do all the pouring for us, in as little clothes as possible.

You've also obviously shared stages with some of Manchester's most up-and-coming bands/artists. Care to plug some of your favourites?

There’s quite a few good bands about but the ones we go to see again and again are Naymedici and Sam Haine & the Bloodflames.

Following on from that, Manchester is a city full of venues, which has been your favourite, both to play and to see a band at?

The Ruby Lounge is probably our favourite venue. The setup is class, the sound systems class the guys who run it are 110%! Scott, Jay and the staff are brilliant and up for a laugh. We’ve played some great gigs in there.

There's clearly a wide variety of influences at play within your music, both old and new, care to list some of your biggest influences?

The Beatles, The Stone Roses, Oasis, Arctic Monkeys & The Fratellis. We’re also big fans of The Vaccines, The Courteeners & Jake Bugg too.

Finally, any live dates or single releases you want to take the time to let us know about?

EP is out 14th October. Then the tour kicks off in Manchester, we play the Kraak Gallery on Saturday 26th of October. All other dates will be put up on facebook and the website for anyone outside of Manchester including: London, Glasgow, Liverpool, Leeds, Newry, Dublin and maybe Cork.

This article was originally written for U&I Music Magazine. Click here to see what else we've been up to.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

#161: Only Shadows - Forest Fires (EP review)

Only Shadows

Forest Fires

September 2 2013 (self-released)


Having only formed in early 2013, relatively little is known about Midlands-based power-pop quartet Only Shadows. Drawing on a variety of influences including Biffy Clyro and Frightened Rabbit, as well as American indie acts such as Manchester Orchestra, the band have been honing and perfecting their sound over several months, and now, after a line-up change, Only Shadows are set to releases their debut record, a four track EP entitled 'Forest Fires' which they hope will signify the start of something special for Nick Ashby and co.