Wednesday, 2 November 2016

#606: Sleaford Mods, Academy 1, Manchester

Having only seen Sleaford Mods' live show once before, and at a questionable festival of psychedelia at that, the prospect of seeing them on their own tour is an exciting one. Rarely has a modern band polarised audiences to such an extent, though given the Mods' propensity for telling it like it is, for drawing attention to an ever-widening class divide, that shouldn't come as a surprise.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

#605: Fuelling the Fire: Catching Up with Less Than Jake

As ska-punk stalwarts Less Than Jake prepare to head out on their Fuelling the Fire tour, we caught up with guitarist/vocalist Chris DeMake, while sax player JR provided us with a Top Ten bands he thinks everyone should check out.

#604: NOFX - First Ditch Effort

​​Having spent the majority of their career epitomising punk’s live fast, die young ideology, it comes as somewhat of a surprise that the latest record from Los Angeles’ NOFX is underpinned, not by an anarchic sense of debauchery, but a prevailing maturity and, dare we say it, sobriety.

#603: Sleaford Mods - T.C.R (EP Review)

Arguably one of Britain’s most divisive bands, Sleaford Mods have been painting portraits of a broken Britain since their inception in 2007. Combining minimal electronica with inventive expletives and astute social commentary, the duo manage to turn imagery that would otherwise feel depressing and downtrodden into something humorous and often painfully familiar.

#602: Die Antwoord - Mount Ninji and da Nice Time Kid

When Die Antwoord emerged from the darkest reaches of Johannesburg in 2009, no-one could have predicted the phenomenon they’d become. Embodying the Zef culture (think South African chav, or white trash) of their home-town, the trio possessed an underdog quality, an us-against-the-world mentality that was both endearing and admirable. 

#601: Mouses - The Mouses Album

While two-piece bands aren't quite as innovative as they once were thanks to the rise of acts such as Royal Blood or Drenge, the scrappy garage-pop of Billingham's Mouses feels like a breath of fresh air when lumped in amongst such luminaries.

Monday, 26 September 2016

#600: Festival Coverage: Leeds Festival 2016

Where Leeds was once a bastion for a more alternative North, recent years have seen the festival diversify to such an extent that it now feels like a very different event from that of a few years ago. This isn't to the festivals detriment of course, times and tastes change and companies (such as Festival Republic) have to adapt.

#599: Colour of Spring - Snow (single review)

From its opening imposing walls of noise, the latest single from Leeds shoegazers Colour of Spring, is both bold, and much like its namesake, staggeringly pretty. Coming off the back of the band’s previous single Pillow, Snow feels weightier, more reserved, possessing a brooding quality that’s much more introspective than previous cuts appeared; the towering guitars falling away throughout the verses, replaced instead by a shimmering, melancholic vocal delivery that in turn offsets the track’s inherent weight.

#598: The Decline - Are You Gonna Eat That? Reissue)

Reissuing old material can go one of two ways. It can introduce a band’s material to a new generation, while shedding light on rarities and demo tracks. It can also mean long time fans and collectors shelling once again for the songs they’ve heard a hundred times before, albeit this time with worse production, or even better yet, unfinished; just ask any Nirvana or Beatles fan.

#597: Dreaming Big: Catching Up With Pinegrove

An amalgamation of rough-edged indie, anxiety-fuelled emo and light country guitars, Pinegrove’s debut album ‘Cardinal’ is a record that feels both insular and big-thinking. The prevailing themes of language, memory and home - grandiose topics by their nature - are tackled with an easy-going maturity, making them accessible while belying the band’s relatively young years.  

#596: Slow Club - One Day All of This Won't Matter Anymore

Sheffield two-piece Slow Club have come a long way since their 2009 debut, ‘Yeah So’. Comprised of 12 tracks of sweet indie-pop, it was an aesthetic that earned the band deserved early praise. But it would have ultimately worn thin, had the duo not built and expanded upon it every record since.

#595: Doe - Some Things Last Longer Than You

Though a permanent presence on the UK DIY scene for the last three years, new material has been a long time coming for London-based three-piece Doe. Having proved themselves as a band with promise thanks to a quartet of well-received EPs, all of which ticked the right boxes on release yet felt a little well-trodden by the time they were compiled as 'First Four' back in 2014, there's a fair amount of expectation surrounding their first album proper.

#594: Beach Slang - A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings

Raw, honest and heartfelt, there's a sense of vigour and vitality that flows through the latest LP from Philadelphia's Beach Slang that transcends your everyday punk record. Much more than an ode to misspent youth, 'A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings' is an ode to a youth spent on the brink of giving up, yet managing against all odds to keep a grip, finding the strength to do so through only the kind of belligerent determination youth can muster.

This review was orignally written for Clash Magazine. Click here to read in full.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

#593: Festival Coverage: Blackthorn 2016 - Day Three

Somewhat groggily despite an earlier night than most it seems, we arrive back on site and head straight to the Paddock Stage where a crowd’s starting to form for the first band of the day. Fresh-faced (though perhaps not in the literal sense given the two days partying they’ve endured) The Claremonts are one of Manchester’s brightest young prospects and their set is one we’ve been waiting for all weekend.

#592: Festival Coverage: Blackthorn 2016: Day Two

Staying at home proves a wise decision. Back on site by midday, fuelled by little more than and a gin and tonic and a ham sandwich, we look and feel a little less delicate than some of last night’s more ardent partiers. It’s obvious too though that many have opted to arrive today, with families, couples and bands turning up in a steady stream.

#591: Festival Coverage: Blackthorn 2016 - Day One

Though it seems more and more festivals are leaving behind the traditional bucolic locales in favour of a more urban environment, Stockport’s Blackthorn Festival is keeping the flag flying for those who like their live music accompanied by a bit of greenery. Spread over three days in the lush South Manchester suburb of Compstall, Blackthorn’s now in its third year, and is fast making a name for itself as a truly independent event that supports not just its local music scene, but also the local community.

#590: FLIIIS - On the Sonnet (single review)

Since relocating to the city in order to study, Manchester two-piece Fliiis have earned their fans through their subtle blend of understated electronica and wistful dream-pop. Much like Delamere, with whom they share a hometown, the duo’s ability to temper atmospheric indie with latent pop sensibility is nothing short of impressive, allowing them to relish in an aesthetic rooted in traditional songwriting, but coming off as utterly contemporary.

#589: Bear's Den - Red Earth, Pouring Rain

When Bear's Den appeared a little over three years ago, it wasn't just me who they made a lasting impression upon. Crafting a richly emotive brand of folk, the trio garnered fans on both sides of the Atlantic and even as far afield as Australia thanks to their traditionally rigorous approach to touring.

#588: Descendents - Hypercaffium Spazzinate

With Blink-182 releasing their comeback album earlier this month, you’d be forgiven for assuming that that was the most important pop-punk record of not just the month, but the entire year. You would, however, be dead wrong. Arriving 12 years on from their last album, Hypercaffium Spazzinate is a comeback album of blistering proportions. Managing to quash any doubts about its relevancy within the opening 75 seconds, it picks up almost exactly where Cool to Be You left off, proving Descendents have still got something left to give.

#587: Festival Coverage: Y-Not 2016

Having started life as a 6th form results party just over a decade ago, Y-Not Festival has always retained an almost-stringent DIY sensibility, something they've endeavoured to uphold despite attracting some of the biggest names in the business in recent years. Wandering around this year's site, it's obvious that certain compromises have had to be made in order to accommodate expanded numbers; a necessary evil as far as the growth of a festival is concerned. For the most part however, the changes to this year's festival are almost universally positive.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

#586: Woodkid & Nils Frahm – Ellis

As a black-clad Robert DeNiro stalks the halls of a decrepit and peeling Ellis Island, each step accompanied by the icy piano motifs of Woodkid and Nils Frahm, its easy to imagine the gravitas of the situation millions found themselves in. Caught between a rock and a hard place, desperate to forge a new life in a strange country, it’s a narrative that draws comparisons with today’s current refugee crisis.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

#585: Odonis Odonis - Post Plague

Since exploding on to the Toronto scene roughly five years ago, post-punk trio Odonis Odonis have gone from strength to strength. Interested predominantly in the angrier and more angsty side of the genre, their previous releases were deliberately abrasive affairs, back-boned by an uncompromising weight. It’s somewhat of a surprise then, that the band’s third effort, Post Plague, is arguably their most accessible release to date.

#584: Samaris - Black Lights

That ‘Black Lights’ is something of a change in direction for Samaris is understandable. Having found themselves for the first time in completely separate locations across Europe, it’s clear their respective cities have permeated the record insidiously.

#583: Stephen Steinbrink - Anagrams

“While making ‘Anagrams’ I felt like I was losing it,” claimed Phoenix, Arizona-born songwriter Stephen Steinbrink in a statement about his new album. “Lately, writing songs almost makes the world seem more chaotic”. That might seem a strange claim for those familiar with the easygoing wanderlust of 2014’s ‘Arranged Waves’. But even though it shares at least some of that record’s characteristics, ‘Anagrams’ feels fuller and somewhat less optimistic.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

#582: The Gotobeds - Blood // Sugar // Secs // Traffic

​For a record steeped in off-kilter post-punk and chaotic garage rock, Blood // Sugar // Secs // Traffic retains a surprising amount of pop sensibility, providing it with an accessibility other records of its genre lack. ​Despite this, it’s still a record that clatters and cavorts with wilful abandon; the deranged Frank Black vocal yelps the perfect accompaniment to the screeching guitars.

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

#581: Drowners - On Desire

With their 2014 self-titled debut LP, New York's Drowners proved that they really were children of the Big Apple. Entrenched in the jangle and fuzz we've come to expect from NYC garage pop, it was a record that embodied the effortless cool and sexual ambiguity synonymous with the city. For all its plus points, however, it was a record that also oozed familiarity, casting aspersions as to whether such well-trodden aesthetics would hold up on their inevitable second LP.

#580: Amber Arcades - Fading Lines

Taken on face value, ‘Fading Lines’ might appear nothing more than a paint-by-numbers indie-pop record. Built around the genre’s trademark ephemeral melodies and dream-like production, it’s awash in a familiar, textural haze. Spend some time with it however, and what once felt familiar and somewhat fleeting insidiously starts to take root, revealing a staggeringly pretty debut release, which under the surface harbours a wonderfully understated intelligence.

#579: Less Win - TRUST

While Copenhagen’s Less Win peddle post-punk - a genre entrenched within their city’s musical history - they’re absolutely an international band. Comprised of an Australian, Polish and Spanish musicians, their respective cultures are matched in diversity only by myriad influences.

#578: Deerhoof - The Magic

San Francisco’s Deerhoof have never been a band interested in convention and conformity. Unpredictable, erratic and anarchic are all words which could be used to accurately describe them. In spite (or often because) of this, they’re a band that have received almost universal critical acclaim over a twenty-two year career.

Monday, 27 June 2016

#577: Blink-182 - California

Growing up, the music of Blink-182 was never more than the press of a play button away from me. Yes, it was juvenile and simplistic and even at times, glaringly misogynistic, but to a ten year old on the cusp of puberty, it was music that opened doors and provided me with an identity.

Friday, 17 June 2016

#576: Introducing...Loco Ono

Excellent name aside, London-based Loco Ono are a band that should be on your radar. Harbouring a lo-fi aesthetic (and flirting with almost every genre that entails) what little of the band’s material is available online segues through C86 jangle pop, imposing shoegaze and biting riot grrrl with effortless ease. Rather than causing the material to feel disjointed or fractured however, a heavy fuzz blankets the production of each track, providing an idiosyncratic link between the varying moods.

#575: PAWS - No Grace

There’s no denying that being in a band can take its toll on the members. In a time where artists rely on tours more and more to make a living, being away from home for weeks at a time isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Something Glasgow’s Paws found out first hand. Rather than turn their negative emotions inwards however, imploding underneath the strain as often bands do, Paws came to the collective conclusion that when shit hits the fan, you go big, or go home.

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

#574: Steve Gunn - Eyes On the Line

With 2014’s Way Out Weather, American troubadour Steve Gunn continued the great songwriter tradition of allowing your surroundings to seep into your art. No stranger to travel, the result was a record that conjured pastoral images, open vistas, rolling hills; a bucolic lifestyle brought to life through deftly plucked strings. For Gunn though, the journey continues even when the recording stops, and now two years later, he finds himself in a different environment.

This review was originally written for Drowned In Sound. Click here to read in full.

#573: Two Sides to Every Coin - Catching Up With Mutual Benefit

With his debut album ‘Love’s Crushing Diamond’, Mutual Benefit’s Jordan Lee proved himself to be a deeply personal lyricist. Dripping with DIY sensibilities, it was a record both vulnerable and warm-hearted. Though his circumstances have changed  significantly since then, the vulnerability that went in to that first record can still be found now, three years later on its follow-up, ‘Skip A Sinking Stone’.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

#572: Festivals & Football Stickers - Catching Up With Los Campesinos!

When XFM’s John Kennedy gave Los Campesinos! their radio debut in the form of We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives, it was arguably my ‘Teenage Kicks moment’. A little young to have been able to truly appreciate Peel any way but posthumously, it seems fitting that another John should provide me with such a moment. That was ten years ago now, and while many of the acts I was introduced to by Kennedy have since been lost to the grey haze of memory, or imploded under their own arrogance, Los Campesinos! have successfully stood the test of time, releasing a steady stream of albums backed by annual tours.

#571: Malcolm Middleton - Summer of '13

Despite a complete unfamiliarity with the work of Arab Strap, Malcolm Middleton’s solo material is something that’s been on my periphery for almost a decade now. Seemingly built around a deft balance of hope and hopelessness, Middleton’s usual solo fare dealt in feelings of the downtrodden and the desperate, all offset by major key meanderings. It’s somewhat of a pleasant surprise then, that Summer of ’13, his first solo outing in nine years, harbours a sunnier disposition than previous offerings, allowing optimism only previously hinted at, to flourish.

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

Monday, 23 May 2016

#570: Minor Victories - Self-Titled

The idea of the supergroup is an archaic one. Born out of the in-band disputes and inflated egos of the late 60s and 70s, it's a term arguably only as relevant now as the bands for which it was coined. Sure, the likes of Foo Fighters, or more recently Atoms for Peace, could be considered as such, but in doing so we make the assumption that whatever a band releases will be of a better or equal quality to the material released by the sum of its parts. Fortunately for us, the music industry is a fickle business, allowing me to get away with the following blatant contradiction:

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

#569: The fin. - Through the Deep

That Japanese dream-poppers The fin. “just want to be seen as borderless” is no coincidence. First drawn to the band by incorrect assumptions of an Eastern mystique woven in to their compositions, it was for reasons the exact opposite that I fell in love. Much like myself being first attracted on promises of Eastern exotica, The fin. themselves create a Europhile hybrid of electro-pop and shoegaze – influenced heavily by both the genre's heavyweights, and the western culture they came from.

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

#568: Bivouac - Sweet Heart Deal (single review)

While it’s all well and good to find an intelligent angle for a music review, making a connection to the current Zeitgeist or a reference to the bigger picture, sometimes a release comes along that shatters any plans or preconceived notions a writer might have. Sweet Heart Deal, the comeback single from cult alt-rockers Bivouac is one such release.

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

#567: Modern Baseball - Holy Ghost

I grew up on pop-punk. It shaped my music taste and arguably attributed to an annoying over-sensitivity that remains today. I also grew out of it though, somewhere around the time Billie-Joe Armstrong began the long ascent up his own arsehole and fart jokes and references to incest stopped being funny. Or so I thought.

#566: Mutual Benefit - To Skip A Sinking Stone

An album of two distinct halves, ‘Skip A Sinking Stone’ is made for extended listening sessions, flipping the sides over on a record. Its first half, taking place in the year that proceed Mutual Benefit’s debut LP, finds Jordan Lee in what could be considered a settled life – something manifested in its breezy instrumentation and major key meanderings. The second half however sees Lee in New York, gifted with having the time to work on the new record full-time, but dogged by a growing depression, and a downturn in the relationship that delicately colours the first half.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

#565: Eagulls - Ullages

When Leeds-based quartet Eagulls released their self-titled debut back in 2014, I'd just completed a three year degree in the city. During those three years it became increasingly obvious that, as far as cities go, Leeds wasn't enjoying the same sort kind of rejuvenation as its counterparts further down the M62, and that there was a general consensus of discontent. This feeling was something encapsulated perfectly on Eagulls' debut; a brooding aphorism that provided a voice to the disenchanted while depicting a city apparently resigned to its industrial roots.

#564: Arbor Labour Union - I Hear You

Falling somewhere in between Pixies at their most unhinged and The Velvet Underground at their most propulsive, Georgia's Arbor Labor Union create a kind of psychedelic Southern rock, engrained with grooves and peppered with hallucinogenic imagery. Releasing their first record under the name of Pinecones, the four-piece have since taken root and developed in to the hypnotic, and hugely upbeat and off-kilter outfit they are today.

#563: The Coathangers - Nosebleed Weekend

Though it comes across with all the energy and urgency of a debut record, stick with it and 'Nosebleed Weekend' gently reveals the ten-year career which has preceded it. Formed as a four-piece in Atlanta in 2006, The Coathangers' ambitions went little further than having fun with friends, something which was manifest in the irreverent and angular garage-punk of the band's early releases, and can still be felt in their records even now.

Friday, 6 May 2016

#562: RM Hubbert - Telling the Trees

With his collaborative Scottish Album of the Year winner Thirteen Lost & Found, RM Hubbert, or Hubby as he’s more affectionately known, reconnected with old musician friends, holing themselves “in a room for 6 hours, as we tried to capture our reconnection”. With Telling the Trees, Hubby not only revisits that format, but turns it on its head.

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

#561: Introducing...RedRooms

Though RedRooms certainly seem to occupy some of the darkest corners of Manchester’s indie scene, such darkness rarely extends further than their imagery. And though love and death are prevalent themes, the music itself is built around a strong emphasis on melody, resulting in a rich juxtaposition that belies the band’s relatively young years.

#560: Slow Riot - Trophy Wife (single review)

“Nice to meet you in the morning, when you greet me with a fist” begins guitarist/vocalist Niall Clancy, instantaneously setting the prevailing tone for single. A track about being in a relationship for all the wrong reasons, Trophy Wife exhibits the same, familiar darkness as their debut EP Cathedral, bringing to mind such post-punk royalty as Wire and Television whilst retaining an air of contemporary acts such as Eagulls.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

#559: Weezer, Manchester Academy

That it's been ten years since Weezer last graced Manchester is a fact not lost on tonight's crowd; the anticipation that bristles through the venue as the house lights dim is palpable. That this is only one of two shows the band are playing in the UK is a further fact not lost, with people coming from afar afield as Hamburg to see them, something which not just adds to tonight's expectations, but is also a testament to the devotion Weezer fans harbour.

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

#558: The Joy Formidable - Hitch

When The Joy Formidable released The Big Roar back in 2011, it was a record that lived up to its name. Huge walls of noise mixed effortlessly with pop sensibilities to make an album that was quite literally made for the arenas and festival stages it inevitably took them to. Its follow up, 2013’s Wolf’s Law, felt similar. Backed this time with a larger budget, the band’s music palette grew along with their ambitions, resulting in a record of monolithic, if not more polished, proportions.

#557: Introducing...Tacocat

Subscribing to a similar brand of party pop as fellow Seattleites Chastity Belt, Tacocat harbour a sound upbeat and sugary, whilst retaining enough bite and bitterness to prevent it boiling over in to total twee territory. Making art about experiences in which gender is both foregrounded and neutralized, the band highlight the fact that ‘Women’s Issues’ are just issues, and they do so by ironically drawing very little attention to them.

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