Wednesday, 28 May 2014

#295: The Nankeens - Gorilla, Manchester (17/05/14)

Whilst it almost goes without saying that there's a plethora of quality music on offer in Manchester on a daily basis, there are some gigs that bring together those in the city, that are supposedly in the know - promoters, critics, labels and perhaps most importantly of all, other bands. Tonight is one such night. Hosted by local label Scruff of the Neck Records, the bill features some of Greater Manchester's most promising talent in the form of Salford boys The Nankeens, with The High Nines, Skinny Roller and David Liversedge in support.

The gents at Scruff of the Neck Records have a free mixtape available featuring both The High Nines and Skinny Roller, click here to download it.

All photos courtesy of Trust A Fox Photography.

Monday, 26 May 2014

#294: BIRD - My Fear and Me


My Fear and Me

May 26 2014 (Baltic Records)


As the brooding first notes of opening track 'Ghost' begin to wash over you, it's immediately obvious what kind of album this is going to be: Dark, ominous, poetic, beautiful, the sombre imagery a stark contrast to much of the other bands on offer at the moment. Think London Grammar by way of Savages and with little in the way of either band's often overt intensity, and you'll be fairly close to Merseyside's BIRD.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

#293: TEEN - The Way and the Colour

When Brooklyn’s TEEN released their debut full-length in 2012, it was met with mixed reviews. Many praised its psychedelic, lo-fi nature, whilst others noted that its lack of direction and overly long songs detracted from its overall quality. Fast forward two years, and TEEN are back with their second album The Way and Colour, and instead of building on the foundations laid by their debut, the band have opted to shatter any preconceptions you may have had prior to the record’s release, instead filling its 45 minute run time with ten tracks of both contemporary indie and contemporary R&B, the rich layers of instrumentation and synth and vocal melodies having far more in common with the likes of Haim than any of the names TEEN’s debut conjured as influences.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

#292: Catching Up With...NARCS

First brought to my attention last summer, Leeds-based four-piece NARCS are a band that have gone from strength to strength over recent months. Part of the ever-brilliant Clue Records roster and, along with current Yorkshire darlings Allusondrugs and relative newcomers Forever Cult make up West Yorkshire's trinity of '90s inspired fuzz-mongery.

NARCS own personal disposition might not be the sunniest (and having personally lived in Leeds for three years, I can't blame them) but their blend of punk, indie and straightforward rock holds enough universal appeal to appease even the pickiest of music fans in one way or another.

We caught up with lead singer Wilko to discuss new single 'Coast to Coast', the pros and cons of being a band in the perpetually grey North of England and what the future holds in store for NARCS.

This feature was originally written for Shout4Music. Click here to read in full.

#291: Catching Up With...Allusondrugs

With Leeds being a city on the up, the amount of exciting talent emerging from its industrial inners is on the rise too and whilst Allusondrugs aren't technically from Leeds, they're close enough to be considered part of the ever-growing wave of acts the city has to offer.
Playing what's quickly becoming a quintessential Leeds sound and essentially having an appreciation for all things heavy, the band, whilst describing themselves as the catch-all term - alternative rock, fuse together grunge and indie in an incendiary blend of both nostalgia and the contemporary.
We caught up with guitarist Drey for a chat about their most recent single, and their plans looking towards the end of the year.

#290: The Pixies - Indie Cindy

Album Review: The Pixies - Indie Cindy (2014)

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

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

#286: Introducing...U&I Top Ten (U&I Music Magazine - May Issue)

Somehow or another, a whole year has gone by since I started writing for U&I and a lot has happened in those 12 months; I graduated, got fatter, saw some amazing bands and got fatter still. One thing which hasn't changed however, is the constant outpouring of good, quality music that comes out of Manchester. Now given that I can only feature one band a month, there's been plenty of top acts that I've had to pass on, so it seems only fair that I take this opportunity to big up some of the bands which didn't quite make my column, but could have done quite easily.

Jeremiah Ferrari

With their foundations firmly set in the traditional roots/reggae movement fused together with elements of ska and calypso, Jeremiah Ferrari are a far cry from Manchester's assumed indie heritage. Soulful vocals and upstrokes make for an ultimate party band, but that shouldn't detract from the solid song-writing and genuinely catchy melodies that perpetuate the band's music. Their live shows too, are fantastic.

Check out: Jazz Cigarette

The Gramotones

Another end of the spectrum now, The Gramotones' sound is a rich and melodic pop affair flecked with moments of solid indie and occasional camp theatrics. Having recently earned themselves a support slot on Paul Weller's forthcoming European tour, it's obvious that the band are going in the right direction; their lavish vocal melodies are steeped the '60s, affording the band a timelessness not often seen in such a relatively young act.

Check out: M62

Feed the Kid

Feed the Kid uphold an undeniable sense of the bucolic, their emotionally-driven folk building on a same foundations as bands such as Bear's Den. Those anticipating the Mumford and Sons branded arena folk will be disappointed, however, as there's a definite and appealing roughness at play too, which one can assume is an aesthetic decision given the polish over the anthemic 'Fellaheen'.

Check out: Kerry

No Hot Ashes

Reasonably new to the Manchester scene, No Hot Ashes fuse together funk with infectious indie that's hard not to sit up and take notice of. Championed by the illusive promoter/podcaster Mr Peeps it won't be long before No Hot Ashes follow in a similar direction to the likes of Puppet Rebellion; their music more danceable than Pup Reb's but both equally as solid in execution. Expect big things over the next few months.

Check out: Skeleton

The Backhanders

The Backhanders first caught my attention towards the end of last year, as much for their haircuts as for their melodic fusion of both punk and mod sounds. Seemingly causing a bit of a stir on the unsigned scene around Manchester at the moment, it's easy to see why. As the band flit from Stone Roses/Oasis-esque heady brit-pop to two-tone tinged punk, it's not hard to imagine a rowdy Manc crowd thoroughly enjoying themselves.

Check out: Don't Let Your Man Know

Lucky T. Jackson

Cheating a bit with this one, but the band, in this iteration at least, haven't been together all that long. With some members formerly of Manc band The Quangos, Lucky T. Jackson are fortunate enough to have people with a vested interest in them almost right off the bat. Having seen their debut gig at The Whisky Jar, I felt almost obligated to include them; their infectious blend of contemporary indie and sugary '60s harmonies proving too much of a draw not to mention. Potential for a full column piece in the coming months for sure.

Check out: This Particular Girl

Stolen Haven

Having seen Stolen Haven live a couple of times now, I know for a fact that they're one of the most promising live bands coming up in Manchester at the moment; their solid no nonsense indie earning them support slots with the likes of Puppet Rebellion. While their overall sound is nothing new, the confidence they have in themselves makes for some solid song-writing that just can't be ignored. Quiet on the release front of late, we can presume new things will emerge later this year.

Check out: Decent Shoes

The Lottery Winners

'Born in Salford, raised on romance' proclaims the Facebook page of The Lottery Winners, and from the first moments of hearing their bubblegum indie-pop, it's obvious how true that is. This is a band who don't so much wear their heart on their sleeve as wave it on a flag above their heads. You can almost imagine that this is what Morrisey might have sounded like had someone introduced him to Prozac.

Check out: I Only Want to Be With You

The Bluntskins

Not quite the usual fare here, The Bluntskins are one of Manchester's best hip-hop outfits who make their appreciation of cannabis culture known. Made up of two rappers, Bill Sykes and Cheech, and completed by producer DJ Pro P, the trio use a mixture of beats, bars and samples, resulting in a heady combination that just begs to blaze to. The lyrical content might not be to everyone's tastes, as might not the fractured but expertly mixed backing tracks, but for those who appreciate a little indulgence from time to time, or just like some good old fashioned hip-hop, then they could do far worse then checking out The Bluntskins.

Check out: High As A Helicopter

Kult Country

Part of Sways Records, (whose roster once boasted MONEY), Kult Country are a band without boundaries. Their music, though hard to pin down, draws from the likes of My Bloody Valentine, but isn't completely indebted to them, fusing together shoegaze and noise with elements of sparse post-punk and futuristic techno. It's an odd combination, but it's an exciting one, and we can hope to see far more of them this year, as they aim to follow in the footsteps of their previous label mates.

Check out: Slowburn

Monday, 12 May 2014

#285: Art Trip and the Static Sound - Nothing is Static

Art Trip & The Static Sound

Nothing Is Static

May 19 2014 (Fiasco Recordings)


Having first heard Art Trip & The Static Sound a little over a year ago and having thoroughly enjoyed their second release 'EP2', I approached their debut full length full of anticipation, and given the time in between my experiences of the band, I was expecting the few creases that marred my last experience to be ironed out by now. As it happens, I was half right. 'Nothing Is Static' feels like it has more direction than Art Trip's previous releases and benefits from it massively. However, there are times -mainly during the first half - when the production, though intentionally lacking in polish, is so lo-fi that it stops adding to the record's overall DIY aesthetic, and actually detracts from it instead.

Friday, 9 May 2014

#284: Morning Smoke - In Euphoria (EP review)

Morning Smoke

In Euphoria

May 4 2014 (Stray Cat Records)


Sometimes contrary to popular belief music journalists don't mind being wrong; in fact, we can actually quite enjoy it, especially if it means that a band followed from almost their outset have defied expectations and are slowly transforming into the band you knew they could be, despite a pretty negative first impression. For me, one such band is Brighton's Morning Smoke, a five-piece who blur the lines of contemporary indie and nu-gaze, and whilst they're not without their foibles, the way in which they've progressed over the course of the last 12 months really can't be sniffed at.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

#283: Ring Ring Rouge - Head Full of Fog

Ring Ring Rouge

Head Full of Fog

April 28 2014 (Jack To Phono)


Upon first listen, Ring Ring Rouge seemed to me to be the pop equivalent of methadone; a substitute tailor-made to appease anyone who thinks it's been too long since the last Keane record. Scratch below the surface, however, beneath the stadium-sized choruses that go hand in hand with the stadium-sized clich├ęs, and 'Head Full of Fog' proves to be a fairly accomplished album that's shaped around a variety of influences. As a result it's nothing original, but that doesn't mean to say it isn't without merit.