Thursday, 17 December 2015

#529: Catching Up With...Calvin Johnson

Though the influence of Beat Happening and K Records is unquestionable, both the band and the label's refusal to bow to the restrictions of the mainstream music industry has seen them become bastions of American independence. That’s at least as far as music is concerned. For while the legacy of Beat Happening is indeed far reaching, the band themselves haven't in fact released anything new in over 15 years, and it's this fact that makes the release of Look Around so interesting.

#528: Introducing...ACTOR

Though in recent years Leeds has earned a reputation as being West Yorkshire’s answer to Seattle, it’s local scene has much more to offer than just flannel shirts and sludgy guitars. One band who are merging the city’s penchant for electronica with their own beguiling brand of pop are Actor. A sleek and seductive three-piece, the band create their self-styled “emotional euphoria” in a disused bomb factory, now art space.

#527: The Fin. - Night Time (EP Review)

The Fin.

Night Time

December 4 2015 (Lost In The Manor Records)


Like many people, I often find myself fetishising Japan. There's something enigmatic and exotic about the country, its rich culture, sprawling metropolises and vast wilderness. It's a particularly Westernised way of looking, however, and arguably the reason I was first drawn to The Fin. in the first place - after all, Japan and dream-pop, what's not to love?

#526: Get Your Gun - The Worrying Kind

While Get Your Gun’s The Worrying Kind can best be described as a progressive rock record, genre purists might be a little perturbed to find it doesn’t seem to go anywhere; it neither cantors nor gallops, and instead plods belligerently forward at its own, often infuriating, pace.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

#525: Maximo Park, Albert Hall, Manchester

It's been ten years since Maximo Park released A Certain Trigger, their seminal debut. Arguably a defining record of the mid-'00s indie boom, a lot has changed since Paul Smith and co scissor-kicked their way on the pages of NME. Many of their contemporaries have split up or faded in to obscurity, whilst others have been catapulted in to mega-stardom. Maximo Park on the other hand, have done none of those things. Instead they've tread comfortable waters, releasing a steady stream of albums, toured regularly and been celebrated by an ardent yet modest by comparison fan-base.

#524: Catching Up With...BLOOMS

As far as musical cities go, Manchester is arguably one of the world’s most famous. This is something which in recent years, has proved to be a double-edged sword for the city’s musical output. Far too many bands these days are preoccupied with reliving the heady days of the ’90s, appropriating the baggy aesthetic in order to leave their mark within the burgeoning pages of Manchester’s musical legacy. But for those bands who haven’t grown up in the city, its history is far less intoxicating, allowing for individuality and integrity both to bleed through their work.

#523: Death Cab For Cutie, Manchester Academy

Seattle’s Chastity Belt might at first appear an odd choice of support for the restrained indie of Death Cab for Cutie, but tonight the girls seemed to have reigned in their trademarked rattling garage punk, in favour of a more subdued version aimed at appealing to the now ageing emo contingent in attendance tonight. Fortunately whilst the band seem to have lost some of the snarl and swagger that they harboured on record, they retain much of the pseudo-pop charm that made them great to begin with.

#522: Forever Cult - Tunnel Vision (single review)

Occupying the murky middle ground between melody and cacophony must be a tiring job, but much like the musical schizophrenics they are, it’s something Leeds’ Forever Cult manage with a vehement tenacity. Coming quickly off the back of previous single Antonio Banderas, the band’s latest release Tunnel Vision is a warped slacker anthem much like we’ve come to expect from FC. Falling somewhere in between the wonky pop of early Nirvana cuts and the abrasiveness of Big Black.

#521: Introducing...Viola Beach

With the clocks going back tonight, you could be forgiven for thinking that with shorter days comes the inevitable bleakness of an English winter. And though you might be right, and I certainly wouldn’t bet against the fact, Warrington’s Viola Beach are a band for whom seasons mean nothing. Operating within a bubble of perpetual summer, their upbeat indie oikishness draws parallels to the likes of Rat Boy, and their latest single Swings and Waterslides is a perfect slice of optimistic slacker-pop that’s sure to offset the cold weather just enough to see us through to their next release. We caught up with the band to find out a little more about them.

#520: Ellie Goulding - Delirium

With her 2010 debut Lights, Ellie Goulding instantly asserted herself as a solid mainstream artist while managing to retain a somewhat independent spirit. Despite having the backing of Polydor, it was a record that bristled with moody atmospherics not often seen in the Top 40.

#519: Ringo Deathstarr - Pure Mood

Spending time with 'Pure Mood'. the fifth album from Texan shoegazers Ringo Deathstarr, is much like spending time under the influence of ketamine. Like the dissociative, it lulls listeners in to a false sense of dream-like security before bludgeoning them with amorphous walls of discord;  feeling both natural, yet completely synthesized, it's a record of lush and expansive soundscapes juxtaposed against the oppressive throbs and drones made staple by the genre's pioneers. Though while there are obvious harkenings to the likes of Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine, 'Pure Mood' is very much its own beast entirely.

#518: GEMS - Kill The One You Love

Based on title alone, it’s clear that Washington’s Gems are a band unafraid to explore the darker side of life. Itself a reference to Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, ‘Kill The One You Love’ is dark, confessional, and at times, otherworldly. Much like the novel from which it takes its name, it’s bound together by narrative strands of love, death and fatalism.

This review was originally written for DIY. Click here to read in full.

Monday, 9 November 2015

#517: Warm Brains - Big Wow

An album built around the paradoxical combination of self-deprecation and self-satisfaction, Big Wow is, by its very nature, a record at odds with itself from the word go. A cacophonous and lightly psychedelic foray in to the realms of lo-fi indie, Rory Attwell has managed to create a record ripe with all the conventions of a DIY bedroom production, while still managing to mask the wealth of subtle nuances that play out beneath its rough exterior.

#516: Car Seat Headrest - Teens of Style

Given that Teens of Style is a debut of sorts, you’d be forgiven for assuming that the record’s inherent looseness stems not from aesthetic decision, but lack of experience on the behalf of Car Seat Headrest.

#515: Trust Fund - Seems Unfair

Despite coming just months after the band’s debut LP, Seems Unfair marks a surprising step-up from Trust Fund, and though the DIY twee sensibility of No One’s Coming For Us is still present in swathes, it’s far from a record comprised of that album’s cast offs.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

#514: The Cribs, Albert Hall, Manchester

Image: Katie Clare

When The Cribs last played Manchester back in February, the show was as raucous and as sweaty affair as one might imagine; the ground floor of The Ritz becoming a heaving throng, sweat dripping and limbs flailing. What else you may have noticed if you were at that show, is how the then-new tracks, 'An Ivory Hand' or 'Pink Snow' for instance, despite fitting in with established tracks sonically, brought about a lull in the proceedings thanks to the crowd's unfamiliarity with the material. But, six months have passed since then, and the material from From All My Sisters now sits snugly in The Cribs' canon, as if it had been there from the start.

#513: Bear's Den, HMV Ritz, Manchester

Image: Lee Hammond

Having followed Bear's Den for a number of years now, it's encouraging to see them grow from the little-known folk three-piece they were, in to the rapidly accelerating force they're becoming. And, as if their burgeoning visibility isn't proof enough, tonight's venue has been up-scaled from Academy 2 to The Ritz, in order to accommodate the fans that clamored for tickets. Indeed such an up-scaling in venue certainly attests to the band's popularity, whilst keeping fans happy, but where does it leave Bear's Den themselves? Can a band that thrives on intimacy make a venue such as The Ritz feel as intimate as those early shows at the likes of The Deaf Institute or Ruby Lounge?

#512: Catching Up With...Viola Beach

With the clocks going back tonight, you could be forgiven for thinking that with shorter days comes the inevitable bleakness of an English winter. And though you might be right, and I certainly wouldn’t bet against the fact, Warrington’s Viola Beach are a band for whom seasons mean nothing. Operating within a bubble of perpetual summer, their upbeat indie oikishness draws parallels to the likes of Rat Boy, and their latest single Swings and Waterslides is a perfect slice of optimistic slacker-pop that’s sure to offset the cold weather just enough to see us through to their next release.

We caught up with the band to find out a little more about them.

#511: Midcity - Honed (EP Review)

Despite not one of their four members being old enough to drink yet, Leicester-based Midcity are a band far more realised than their tender years would have you believe.

Having recorded all previous material in a garage, their aptly titled 'Honed' EP marks their first foray into the studio, allowing them to polish the rough edges of their demos whilst retaining the dynamic nature of that initial sound. As such, the finished product is one that's remarkably mature for a band of such a collectively young age; the record's three tracks veering from moody indie to ambitious post-rock with apparent ease.

#510: Cat Bear Tree - Settled (EP review)

It's somewhat fitting that first track on Cat Bear Tree's latest EP is called 'Adult'. Having come a long way since the DIY recordings of their debut back in 2013, 'Settled In Our Hearts', and indeed the track that opens it, is the sound of a band having truly found their feet, completed the maturing process hinted at on last year's 'Spaces In Between' and as such, allowed their sound to become fully-realised in the process.

Friday, 16 October 2015

#509: TRASH - Urban Glow

For anyone who caught TRASH’s excellently anarchic set at this year’s Y-Not Festival, the melodic subtleties and quiet anxiety of their debut EP Urban Glow will come as a surprise.While their live show is built on infectious youthful energy, on record a less calamitous side to the band is brought to the fore; tongue-in-cheek pop sensibilities are merged effortlessly with introspective lyrics, their delivery almost always understated, and occasionally downtrodden.

#508: Catching Up With...Frog

Though Frog’s debut album was a subtle master-stroke , its title did little to hint at the quality contained therein. Built around narratives inspired by sleepy suburban America, the Star Spangled blood that runs through the album isn’t patriotic, as one might assume, but is instead nostalgic, wistful and even cynical. Conjuring images of diners, drive-in movies and Golden Age starlets, this appreciation, or romanticisation, of their country is something present even on their lesser-known debut EP; tracks such as ‘Nancy Kerrigan’ and ‘Arkansas’ providing the Americana flavours in that instance. Interestingly enough, however, despite the band’s obsession with their native country, it was a writer at the Bristol-based GoldFlakePaint that initially drew attention to the band followed swiftly by a piece from London’s Line of Best Fit.

#507: Chain of Flowers - Self-Titled

Contrary to their name, Chain Of Flowers don't harbour the sunniest of dispositions, but that doesn't mean to say they're all about the doom and gloom either. Instead, the band tread the murky waters somewhere between post-punk and shoegaze; a cloying urban cynicism juxtaposed against shimmering otherworldly elation.

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

Saturday, 3 October 2015

#506: Shopping - Why Choose

Much like their debut LP, the second effort from East London’s SHOPPING is a frenetic and angular foray in to the realms of pop-flecked post-punk, and unsurprisingly sees the band channeling the likes of Gang Of Four, ESG and The Slits.

This review was originally written for Line of Best Fit. Click here to read in full.

#505: Chvrches - Every Open Eye


Every Open Eye

September 25 2015 (Virgin/Glassnote)


When Lauren Mayberry was half-quoted as saying Chvrches were an emo band in disguise, it's likely she wasn't referring to the kind the diluted boy-girl miserablia that popularised the genre in the '00s. Instead, much like those bands that pioneered the genre, Chvrches lyrics draw from a wealth of personal experiences, some positive, others not. Surprisingly, given the torrents of abuse the band, and Mayberry in particular, are subjected to, 'Every Open Eye' isn't a downbeat record. It isn't even a particularly angry. What it is is a record that deviates little from the band's original blueprint and instead serves to solidify the sound that benefited them so well over the last two years.

#504: Frog - Self-Titled (EP Review)

Upon first hearing Kind of Blah, Frog’s debut LP earlier in the year, I was taken aback by its apparent simplicity; a simplicity that at first masked a wealth of subtle nuances, wry homages, and nostalgic narratives that were enough to make listeners lament growing up anywhere other than suburban America.

This review was originally written for Line of Best Fit. Click here to read in full.

#503: Introducing...Big White

Whilst Australian music is unlikely to ever rival the States, at least in terms of that which makes it across to the UK, it has seen a proliferation of sorts in the last couple of years that has afforded the country’s bands more visibility on the global scene. One of the most recent bands currently enjoying the benefits such visibility has brought them, is Sydney’s Big White.

#502: Catching Up With...Frank Turner

With a title like Positive Songs for Negative People, Frank Turner‘s sixth studio album was never going to be a particularly depressing or downbeat record. And though there’s a couple of tracks brought about through unfortunate circumstances, the overarching message is one of optimism and positivity; the differences between this and 2013’s Tape Deck Heart are something Turner is quick to point out.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

#501: The World Is A Beautiful Place and I'm No Longer Afraid To Die - Harmlessness

Though affiliated, and often lumped in, with the current emo resurgence (it's not a revival, it never really went away), Connecticut's The World Is A Beautiful Place & I'm No Longer Afraid To Die are a band far more three dimensional than such labels would have you believe.

This review was originally written for Subba Cultcha. Click here to read in full.

#500: Florence + the Machine, Manchester Arena

Corporate, vacuous, soulless, all words that can be used to describe Manchester Arena. Housing a cool 21,000 when at full capacity, it's difficult to imagine any artist being able to make such a room feel intimate, yet that's exactly how the venue feels almost from the first moment Florence Welch takes her first barefooted step on to the stage.

#499: No Hot Ashes - Easy Peeler (single review)

When well-known funk and soul fan Craig Charles was caught in a taxi buying numerous jazz mags and smoking crack cocaine almost ten years ago, he wouldn’t have been listening to No Hot Ashes. We like to think, however, that should a similar scandal erupt now it would be the band’s latest double A-Side that would soundtrack such a downward spiral.

This review was originally written for Louder Than War. Click here to read in full.

#498: Gold Celeste - The Glow

Though the nights might be slowly drawing in, those who aren’t quite ready to relinquish their grip on summer could do far worse than spending an afternoon awash in the melodious haze of The Glow, the debut release from Oslo-based three-piece Gold Celeste.​

This review was originally written for Line of Best Fit. Click here to read in full.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

#497: Festival Coverage: Leeds Festival 2015 - Sunday

With Sunday morning comes familiar feelings that go along with any festival, dull aches and deflated air mattresses. Thankfully the weather has been kind to us this year, and spirits are high (and in full flow) when we head to the Main Stage to catch the first band of the final day.

#496: Festival Coverage: Leeds Festival 2015 - Saturday

Still on a high from the previous evening, Saturday begins with a liquid breakfast and a trip to the Main Stage to catch LA's Mariachi El Bronx, who cheekily introduce themselves as “The Bad News Bears from Reno, Nevada” before immediately launching in to a short but perfectly executed set of Mariachi music.

#495: Festival Coverage: Leeds Festival 2015 - Friday

Walking through the campsites at Leeds Festival, one would be forgiven for thinking they'd stumbled head-first in to a kind of post-modern Last Days of Caligula - the heady scent of perfumed Roman's replaced by piss and Lynx Africa; the Italian wine by Somersby Cider; the opium by some questionable MDMA bought from a bloke called 'Greg'. It's horrific. It's eye-opening. It's beautiful. 

Sunday, 6 September 2015

#494: False Advertising - Self-Titled

Despite murmurings of the band beginning as far back as 2013, Manchester's False Advertising took things slowly. Very slowly. Unlike most bands who strive to record and release almost as soon as they're able, False Advertising built on their insider knowledge of the industry, bouncing ideas back and forth, finely tuning their sound in to something they were happy with, then ripping it up and starting all over again. A painfully drawn out process it may have been, but the result is a debut album of intense slabs of fuzzy grunge, wonky slacker riffs and poppy vocal melodies that somehow manage to never once feel at odds with the overall weight of the record.

#493: The Offspring, The Apollo, Manchester

Hindsight can be a fickle thing. A little over ten years ago, I saw The Offspring on the very same stage they’re about to take to this evening, and whilst the glasses I wore that night were clearly rose-tinted, I remember the snotty 14 year old I was thoroughly enjoying himself. As such, it’s with a cocktail of nostalgia and apprehension that we approach the doors of Manchester’s Apollo this evening, just as Pennsylvania’s The Menzingers plug in and allow the feedback to wash over the throng of people already in attendance.

#492: Frank Turner, The Night and Day, Manchester

Given his vocal involvement with the campaign to allow the venue to retain it’s music licence, it seems only fitting that Frank Turner should once again grace the stage of Manchester’s iconic Night & Day Cafe. No stranger to the venue’s narrow confines, it’s an almost-annual haunt for the man who regularly played here to just 60 people in the formative years of his solo career. Unsurprisingly, tonight is a little different, and the vast majority of those in attendance had their names drawn in a lottery, finally giving them the chance to see Turner in a venue that’s a far cry from the “soulless corporate circus tops” of his Academy and arena tours.

#491: Catching Up With...PJ Bond

There’s something inherently romantic about the image of the lone musician, they who leave behind their home in order to live hand to mouth, gig to gig, sofa to sofa. Arguably it’s the sense of freedom such a life suggests, the almost-primal notion of experiencing, to a degree, the unknown and the idea of having nothing tying you down.

This feature was originally written for Louder Than War. Click here to read in full.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

#490: Festival Coverage: Y-Not 2015 - Sunday

Though Sunday starts much like Saturday, an overcast gloom shrouding the festival site, the clouds soon dissipate and we find ourselves sticky with sun-cream and sweat and in front of the Main Stage early in order to catch Bedforshire's CC Smugglers, a six-piece band who make “original music from nostalgic influences”. They may not be our usual fare, and had we caught them in a different environment our opinions might be somewhat different, but for an opening, their swing/jazz/blues combination makes for a gentle beginning to the final day. That doesn't mean to say that the band lack any energy mind you, they clearly thrive on a sense of traditional band camaraderie, and though they're in no way unique, they're delightfully inoffensive and prove dance-able enough to get a few pockets of the early crowd jiving.

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

#489: Festival Coverage: Y-Not 2015 - Saturday

With Saturday comes the only threat of bad weather of the entire weekend; a thick fog enveloping the hills that surround the site bringing with it sporadic pockets of light rain. For some, there's no such thing as bad weather however, just the wrong clothes, so with last year's thunderstorms playing at the back of our mind, and making sure we're dressed accordingly, we venture to the Giant Squid stage for some early afternoon technical wizardry in the form of Alright the Captain.

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

#488: Festival Coverage: Y-Not 2015 - Friday

With Friday morning comes the inevitable sound of a main-stage sound-check, the repetitious “One-Two, One-Two” and the seemingly perpetual thud of a bass drum being mic-ed up. In normal circumstances this would be a horrific way to the start the day, but with the beating sun and the prospect of a whole day of class acts proving too much to resist, we start the day early with questionable bacon and less questionable beers.

#487: Festival Coverage: Y-Not 2015 - Thursday Evening

There's something uniquely liberating about the first evening of a festival; inhibitions are cast off and comedowns are yet to set in; respective sites aren't yet sullied by beer cans and half-eaten burgers, and the toilets aren't something you enter at your own risk. It's a rare twelve hour window where people still look and smell their best and there's no-one wandering around pallid and sweaty, bedecked in a sleeping bag whilst trying to shake off last night's Jager haze. Couple this with the rural idyll of Pikehall in the beautiful Peak District, not to mention a couple of quality opening bands, and Thursday's at Y-Not Festival are an absolute winner.

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

Thursday, 13 August 2015

#486: Catching Up With...Simon Berridge of Bromide

Now five albums and twenty years in to their career, Bromide have proven themselves to be a band all about quality over quantity. Now approaching the release of I Remember, the title-track from their latest album, Dave Beech chats to front-man Simon Berridge.

#485: The Decline - Resister

Ten to fifteen years ago, it was almost impossible to turn on an alternative music channel, watch a film, and even in some cases play a video game, without being assaulted by skate punk from the likes of Bad Religion, Pennywise and Lagwagon. Such is the nature of the music industry however, that the third wave of emo was just around the corner, and soon black eyeliner and bad dye jobs pushed skate punk out of the limelight and into, at best, the periphery.

#484: Jingo - The Ghost in the Machine (single review)

Keeping true to their reputation as being one of the most prolific acts doing the rounds at the moment, Jingo have released their second track in almost as many months. Following swiftly off the back of A.D.D, the band’s latest single Ghost In The Machine is interested in whether science and logic have it right by saying trial and error have allowed both society and the individual to flourish, or whether there’s unseen, unfelt forces at play behind the very human machinations that allow us to thrive.

This review was originally written for Louder Than War. Click here to read in full.

#483: White Fright - Turning Pt 1 (single review)

Forming from the remnants of Bury St Edmund’s band King Blood, White Fright are much like the proverbial phoenix, rising from the ashes in a burst of heat and crashing cymbals. Though there’s definite similarities between the two, the latter emerged from the flames reborn, cleansed and stripped of any reservations that plagued their earlier iteration.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

#482: La Luz - Weirdo Shrine

For better or worse, there are many bands at the moment that attempt to encapsulate the way their music sounds on record. Now without taking in to account the way a live setting can breed improvisation, and the way in which the occasional fuck-up can endear us to a band (after all, musicians are only human, despite the pedestals some are placed on), there’s still a whole host of variables within a gig scenario that make mirroring recorded output all-but impossible. And this is where Seattle ‘surf-noir’ band La Luz and their second LP ‘Weirdo Shrine’ really turns things on their head.

#481: Catching Up With...Queen Kwong

Having been discovered by Trent Reznor, LA’s Queen Kwong, otherwise known as CarrĂ© Callaway, is fast making a name for herself as one of the most visceral performers around. The band, whose members include Limp Bizkit’s Wes Borland on guitar as well as former members of Marylin Manson and AWOL Nation, performed a sold out four show residency in London earlier in the year, which, when coupled with regular airplay on Radio 1, has allowed the band to build a solid reputation even before they’ve released an album. All that looks set to change change however, as Queen Kwong are scheduled to release their debut album Get A Witness on the 28th August…’ as well as appearances at this year’s Reading and Leeds festival in support of the release.

#480: Landmarks - Fighting Gravity (EP Review)

Whilst pop-punk will always be ubiquitous with the warmer climes of California, and indeed America as a whole, anyone with even a slight interest in the genre can tell you that over the last few years the UK has formulated a scene of its own. Unlike the country’s provincial indie scenes which spring up like questionable rashes – brief and somewhat irritating –  pop-punk here feels like one big party as opposed to several more elite and overly-dressed ones. Because of that, there’s a sense of real solidarity and union behind all the pizza and partying, which allows bands from across the UK to really come together, regardless of region.