Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Tips for 2011 – One Year On (Part Three)

The third part of my review of my tips for 2011, parts one and two can be found with a click on their respective numbers.

11. Memoryhouse
Toronto duo Memoryhouse sent aural bliss through the blogging world back in 2010 with a series of outstanding tracks that were dreamy, soothing and beautiful, in March it was announced that Sub Pop had signed the duo (at the same time that they snapped up fellow tips for '11 Still Corners) with a release promised this year.

The release turned out to be an expanded vinyl re-issue of their debut EP 'The Years' with two additional tracks, the achingly beautiful piano ballad "Quiet America" and the slow-burning "Modern Normal", both continued to insinuate incredible promise for the ambient, dreampop duo but I was a little disappointed we weren't treated to a full album instead, though of course that's just me being impatient and hopefully 2012 will see that very thing (as well as European shows on the back of their US October shows). Edit - 2012 will bring that exact thing, yesterday saw the official announcement of 'The Slideshow Effect' due 28th Feb, more on that once I know it I'm sure.

The Years can be ordered now from Sub Pop here.

Memoryhouse - Modern Normal

12. 2:54
Another band seemingly in no hurry to get their debut album out are 2:54 who like Memoryhouse above spent much of the year out of the blogging eye, though perhaps in hindsight I am being over critical, in the digital / internet would it's sometimes expected that when a band release a couple of demos that produce some buzz and positive reception that an album will follow the next day and impending stardom is just around the corner and that's not really fair or realistic.

March saw the girls release their first 7", the fantastic "On a Wire" as well as play a wonderful and very sold-out gig at The Lexington where the girls were brilliant, their live show has really developed from the first time I saw them and they've quickly developed a sound that just as brooding and menacing on stage.

A quiet summer followed before announcing a string of November dates and an EP through Fiction, the EP 'Scarlet' (order) is a similarly excellent sultry and moody vein of dark atmospheric pop. Take the title-track for instance, where a sharp, reverb drenched guitar, chugging bass and Colette's gorgeous, seductive misty vocals pour out, wrap around you and won't let you go. If 2:54 follow up on these releases 2012 is for the taking.

2:54 - On A Wire by House Anxiety

13.  Ramona
The year started quiet for news with Ramona who it seemed were happy to spend their days split between recording in New York and lead singer / songwriters Karen's modelling career, I (thought) things were picking up with news of the release of "Tell That Girl", a song I believe has the potential to reach Blondie sized proportions, it's an indie-pop sizzler that should have troubled the charts, but it didn't, as far as I can tell it never ended up actually being released, in July the band played the iTunes festival and shared a few acoustic versions of new tracks but now it's all gone, vanished.

What's happened? I've no idea. Will they return in 2012? I'm not sure though if they don't, I doubt it's the last we've heard of Karen Anne, her gorgeous looks and sultry voice are surely destined to fulfil its promise.

Ramona - Tell That Girl

14. Gazelle Twin
I first came across the enigmatic and mysterious Gazelle Twin (Elizabeth Walling) around the release of her debut, digital release "Changeling" back in November 2010, it was backed with a Prince cover of "I Wonder U", it remains in a small handful of covers of the Purple One that I can listen to, a warped cover that perfectly introduces the twisted vision and alter-ego of Walling.

In April it was followed by the mesmerising "I Am Shell I Am Bone" where pulsating machine-gun drums, metallic synths and distorted, ethereal vocals create the sort of intense, unnerving and yet beautiful atmospheres that provide the perfect backdrop for the apocalyptic dystopia that some might say the World finds itself in now.

July saw the release of her soundtrack like debut 'The Entire City', the final result of Elizabeth's self-funded endeavours doesn't disappoint at all, I did one of my meandering reviews here so I won't repeat myself, just remind you to snap it up (you can buy it here), for of fans of chilly, dark artistic electronica it'll be amongst the best buys of the year.

There have been a small handful of shows this year, hopefully more are to follow next, if there is any justice in the world someone with the financial clout to allow Elizabeth to create something visually on stage worthy of its recorded backdrop will come forward. It'd be one of the best live experiences of the year.

Gazelle Twin - Changelings by Cannonball_PR

15. The Joy Formidable
What can I say about this band without sounding like a fanboy? Hmm, nothing, so I'll just stick with sounding like a fanboy... The Joy Formidable weren't so much a tip for the year, they were a guarantee. Whilst some Scrooges (which I'm known to be sometimes) could argue that their debut album 'The Big Roar' is a mere rehash of the debut EP with a few added tracks (it does contain four tracks from the EP) it's an unfair tag, the version of "Whirring" on the album is far removed from the original with the added 'live' ending it's a true testiment to the band, they take their most commercially successful and appealing song (some could argue that is "Austere") and they turn it into an absolute monster that's not at all suitable for radio (though a radio edit does exist). The Joy Formidable are my band of 2011 hands down.

The album came out in January picking up a steady stream of positive reviews and saw the band play a host of gigs in February cumulating in a sold-out Koko show, spring and summer saw the media storm really kick off, radio one airplay US shows galore followed by a sensational festival season leaving many audiences blown away (I know - I was at quite a few of them) before being tagged by Dave Grohl as the hottest band around and hand-picked for Foo Fighters support dates around the US, another UK tour later (this time selling out Kentish Town Forum) and the band are, for those in the know, the best live band in the UK right now.

I doubt the band have had much time to breathe, at least 100 shows in the calendar year and also the release of a new EP, 'The Big More' which finally brought the release of fan favourite "Anemone", a perfect portrayal of the bands effortless ability to combine beautiful, ethereal melody and maelstroms of intense, incredible noise. The year ended with news that the band are writing and recording the follow-up due for release in 2012 and contributing a song to a soundtrack to something called the Twilight movies, the track "Endtapes" one of the bands earliest tracks and although its placement maybe caused a bit of talk amongst the bands fanbase, it's the perfect way for the band to reach new audience, the track is wonderful too, of course it is.

I've been to three gigs this week and at every single one of them I saw at least one TJF t-shirt. What that tells me is that the gig going public fucking love this band as much as I do. My only concern about TJF? The fact that they'll be so much demand that I'm going to have to get used to arena shows.

The Joy Formidable, Endtapes

Tips for 2011 – One Year On (Part Two)

6. Kitten
Part one saw me go through five acts that released albums in 2011 and everyone one of them has made my 40 album long short-list (an oxymoron for you) for my top 25 albums of 2011 (which depending on how I've structured these posts after writing them towards the end of November will either be posted soon, or has already been posted), part two is a little different.

Kitten, a band that jumped onto my radar in October 2010 haven't released anything officially in 2011, there's been a handful of live videos shared and numerous shows (included a return to the UK in May where I saw the band perform a fiery, energetic and possibly slightly too enthusiastic set) as well as a CD re-issue of their EP 'Sunday School'. Signed with Atlantic Records they are clearly taking their time with the young band - I think there has also been a line-up change with their facebook referring to them as a trio.

So nothing new to review really, though on "Kill The Light" Chloe and Kitten show the sort of promise that still leads me to believe that Kitten is definitely a band worth keeping an eye on with their debut album due in 2012.

Kitten - Kill The Light

7. Let's Buy Happiness
Another act I've gone all gooey eyed for numerous times in the past eighteen months are Let's Buy Happiness, while they've yet to release their debut album the four part Geordie one part Mackem blog-darlings have still had a pretty successful year cumulating in a support slot for Primal Scream in Brixton last month.

What they have released in 2011 has continued their 100% success rate with my ears, in February came the wonderful "Fast Fast", tropical, fast drums, shimmering guitars and celestial vocals, it earnt them mainstream airplay and numerous glowing reviews, live festival shows over the summer further enhanced their reputation and September saw "Dirty Lakes" released as a digital single, a joyous melody and delicious chiming soundscapes, the band can do no wrong as far am I'm concerned.

The development on stage has been equally encouraging, it might be a little OTT to say Sarah resembled a deer caught in the headlights the first time I saw the band but I've now seen them play seven times and I'd definitely say they've all grown in confidence and ability, their live show is a genuine joy. Though guys,  please put "Devil's Show" back in the set!

With tracks like "Skinny Moon" and "Clean Mistake" still sitting unreleased the future looks even brighter, ones to watch 2012? Almost definitely (giving away a future post here!).

Buy 'Fast Fast' and previous release 'Six Wolves' from the band on their bandcamp.

Let's Buy Happiness - Dirty Lakes

8. Terror Bird
Terror Bird sound tracked the first part of my 2011, I discovered the band at the back end of 2010 and quickly snapped up their 'Shadows in the Halls' and 'Shame Is On Your Side' EP's, the combination of dark haunted gloom-pop arrangements, the catchy, upbeat melodies and the hypnotic voice of Nikki Never were enough to melt my heart and encourage me to approach the band with the view of releasing their material on via my own living-room run label.

In early 2011 and the band were unrelenting with their output, their debut full length 'Human Culture' picked up some great reviews from those in the know, thirteen synth/piano and drum lo-fi through reverb and Nikki's stirring, emotive vocals. Then there were two UK releases to support a European tour in March, firstly the ghostly synth wonder 'Outside / When I Woke Up' released by the excellent Night School and then (full disclosure via my label) a four track EP 'Waiting For Nothing'. I love it, it's obvious I do so I'll just give you a track to listen below instead of my .

Terror Bird shouldn't be overlooked, the band are preparing more releases going into 2012 and hopefully more European shows to come too. All the bands 2011 releases are available in Rough Trade or Norman Records now.

Terror Bird - She Kissed Me (And I Fell Ill) by Verulamium Records

9. Summer Camp
It's impossible not to like Summer Camp, their music delights on every listen, joyous and uplifting while their online presence on twitter and numerous interviews / sessions shows them as two of the nicest people in the industry today. Seriously, how many other bands can you name that have given their fans an audio book of an entire Adrian Mole book!

The band have had a pretty busy and spectacular 2011 by all accounts, a few UK tours both as support and headlines in their own right on the release of their debut album 'Welcome to Condale' in the last quarter of the year, a brilliant mélange of straightforward bouncy pop-hooks on tracks like singles "Better Off Without You" and "Down", where catchy beats and gorgeous vocal harmonies do a good job of hiding the love turned bad lyrics, a common theme throughout the album and darker, heavier tracks like "I Want You" awash with a fizzing synth pulse.

The Glastonbury sets were spectacular, Jeremy's spontaneous acoustic of rendition of "Karma Police" was a genuine highlight of the festival, their overall whole package is perfect for an 80's kid like myself, retro imagery and sounds that offer ideal memoirs of youth, some sepia coloured blinkered memories of sometimes falsely remembered events that's ideally fantasised, romantic and thoroughly enjoyable.

Summer Camp - Better Off Without You

10. I Break Horses
From the instant I heard the initial demos from I Break Horses in July 2010 I knew we were in for something special, snapped up by Bella Union (of course) we had to wait until May to hear any concrete news but from the moment I heard the final versions of the stunning "Hearts" and "Winter Beats" I knew my early optimism was completely redeemed.

"Hearts" for me is the signature I Break Horses track, perhaps because it's what hooked me first, it's simply heavenly. The glistening, frozen beats the fizzing, pulsating momentum, the echoey drums and the hushed yet stunningly ethereal vocal of Maria Lindén . Her voice, as beautiful as it is, acts as another layer of the instrumentation where the lyrics matter little. The album continues in similar luxurious fashion, a sonic orgasm of swoonsome atmosphere. Personal favourites are "No Way Outro" and "I Kill Love, Baby!" but really this album demands whole consumption rather than cherry picking for the whole thing is nothing short of completely and undeniably luxurious.

I Break Horses are about to make their live debut, excitement overload in anticipation of Cargo on December 5th.To tease we've been treated to a few live videos, 'bedroom sessions', the slow-building beauty is slowly, surely delivered. Everything about the project has been so exquisitely crafted and delivered and surely I Break Horses have delivered one of the finest debuts in a year of incredible debuts.

I Break Horses - Winter Beats by Bella Union

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Tips for 2011 – One Year On (Part One)

Before I start with my end of year posts (favourite albums / songs of 2011 / tips for 2012), I thought I'd revisit  my tips for 2011... In early December 2010 I gave fifteen acts whom I tipped not for stardom (though perhaps it would have been nice in some cases) but as artists that potentially could offer some of the finest releases of the year, now almost twelve months later I’ll revisit the acts and (perhaps) see if I was right or not by form a brief (or not so in some cases) synopsis of what they've been up to. That sounds equal parts stalkerish and good fun, we’ll see how it works. Part one today and parts two and three to follow over the next 30 hours.

The original posts 'Tips for 2011' posts can be found here: 1 – 5 // 6 – 10 // 11 – 15

1. Stricken City
Hmm, well it’s fair to say I didn't get off to the best of starts here; before 2010 was even out, two weeks after I tipped them as one of my acts to follow through 2011 Stricken City announced their end, a brief statement announced a last ever show and second, final, album for February.

All was not lost though, that last show was bloody excellent and left the audience with a bittersweet taste of what could, probably should have been, in a time when mundane fills the charts here we have a band splitting up because "We never stood a chance". Rebekah is a captivating front-woman, her voice is beautiful and the bands blend of 90's brit-pop and tropical rhythm luscious... Instead we’re left waiting for what Rebekah and Iain come up with next, as yet I’ve heard diddly-squat.

The album, ‘Losing Colour’, while undoubtedly still a work in progress with a couple of tracks that probably wouldn’t have ended up on a final album if the band completed its recording, still has enough to make it a highly satisfying memoire (and for Pitchfork to give it a 7.7 - ), the highs are superb, "Animal Festival" is incredible, anybody who saw the SC live show will know what I mean when I say the infectious, energetic live performance of Raa is highlighted at it's best here, "Corridors" moody demure gradually builds up through skittish rhythms and (once again) impeccable vocals. Early single and live favourite, the revamped "Lost Art (ii)" is the perfect "should have been anthem", a propelling guitar intro and killer hooks, the highlight though is the title track, the shimmering "Losing Colour" a hypnotic, majestic and soothing number which finds the band at their beautiful best.

Stricken City might be gone, but they certainly won't be forgotten by those who were lucky enough to share at least some of the journey with them.

You can order the album for just £6 here, it comes in a delightful vinyl packaging too (as well as the equally superb debut mini-lp for just a fiver) from their shop here.

Losing Colour by {Stricken City}

Stricken City - Animal Festival from Phil Sharp on Vimeo.

2. Still Corners
The first time I saw Still Corners last August the slight nod of head approval between me and the guys I was with at the end of the show spoke volumes, it was that silent indication that "we've found one here", found one we had because in the following eighteen months the London based act have become one of my favourite acts both on record and live (although I'm still sticking to my previous comment that their live dynamic is more suited to a five piece rather than four - perhaps I'll get used to it).

2011 has seen the band play probably a handful of London shows as well as pick up high praise for their SXSW performances, their live show is (besides my minor criticism above) sensational, soaring guitars, hollow drums and twinkling keys create mystical, hazy dreamscapes rounded off by the ethereal beauty that is Tessa's vocal. As well as getting signed up by US indie giants Sub Pop and releasing the spellbinding debut 'Creatures of an Hour" in October. Shimmering single "Cuckoo" and "Endless Summer" return and are as immaculate as ever, the album as a whole, doesn't disappoint one bit.

It works because the material is so good, masterminded by Greg Hughes who wrote everything you hear 'Creatures of an Hour' exceptionally crafted film-noir aesthetic transports you through an expansive journey of kaleidoscope soundscapes that are delicate, beautiful and dreamy yet with an undeniably misty, dark undercurrent (though with titles such as "I Wrote in Blood" and "Demons" it's not that much of an undercurrent!). My favourites are probably "I Wrote in Blood" and "Submarine", though I also love the stunning bonus "Cabot Cave" that came on a free flexi-disc with pre-orders. It's a stunning debut that's been really well received critically (dis 8/10) and although it's perhaps a little too soon to judge commercial success, a sold out album lunch at Cafe Oto and its rapturous applause at the end indicates to me, at least, that this is a band that's going in the right direction.

Buy the album now from Sub Pop or Rough Trade with a bonus mix CD.

Still Corners - Cuckoo by subpop

Wish from Still Corners on Vimeo.

3. Esben and the Witch
Esben and the Witch were a surprise addition (at least to me) in the long-list of the BBC sound of 2011, less of a surprise is they didn't make the top five (especially since Jessie "never heard of PJ Harvey" J scooped first place). I doubt they were too bothered. More important than a being tipped by apparent industry know-it-alls is that their debut album 'Violet Cries' (which came out way back in January via Matador) delivered on all counts, ten tracks which combine to offer a dark, mystical fairytale of uncompromising and bold intent. Equal parts beauty and misery encompassed in atmospheric gloom combining stark beauty and intense droning guitar haze washes over electronic glitches and gothic enchantress Rachel Davies' vocal incantations. It's utterly sublime and deserving of every one of the high end of year lists placing it receives - including my own.

If that wasn't enough they followed it up with the best release of Record Store Day 2011, the 'Chorea EP' is worthy of that for "Corridors Installation" alone, an eighteen minute experimental epic that starts twinkling drones before shrouding its soundscape in typically misty ambience with unsettling chants, hollow drum beats and chilling guitars, easily one of the best things you'll hear this year.

Clearly not a band to rest on their laurels (they probably don't own any either), the six part 'Hexagons' was released as a digital EP in November. A concept EP which saw the band take over their local cinema in Brighton for a number of screenings, it's overall more sparse then the album, for example where "Argyria" used military drums and building force to sweep you away where on the whole "Hexagons" is shivering ambience of swirling keys and celestial vocals. This is a band who've created a vision and then (I'm guessing) spend endless hours meticulously planning to deliver it with stunning results.

I only managed to catch Esben live twice this year, they are to be seen to be believed, enacting a hypnotic séance of foreboding drums, guitar swirls and ethereal vocals, thrashing guitars and electronic soundscapes make it hard to believe that there are just three people making this racket. Have Esben delivered? Oh yes.

Order the album now on gorgeous gatefold vinyl (and mp3s) or bonus CD version from Rough Trade.

Esben And The Witch - Warpath

Esben and the Witch - Marching Song (Official Video) from David Procter on Vimeo.

4. Lanterns on the Lake
Another band I discovered mid way through 2010 and who've spent 18 months firmly in the category of 'favourite bands' are Lanterns on the Lake, signed up by the impeccable Bella Union at the turn of the year the sextet spend the first six months playing a few shows (included the spine-tingling shows I caught at The Great Escape and finalising their album 'Gracious Tide, Take Me Home' which was released in September.

The album fulfilled every ounce of my incredible expectation, awash with natural beauty and elegance, the purposely restrained melancholia that shrouds the eleven tracks are the very definition of sensual, dreamy bliss. The soft, delicate whisper of Hazel's voice is enough to make you fall in love alone.

It's difficult to pick highlights, the album flows so beautifully it's best to sit and listen on one luscious sitting, windswept instrumentation sweeps and swoons while heartbroken melodies tug at your heart strings, the updated version of "I Love You, Sleepyhead" the perfection summation, genuinely gorgeous. Another track revisited from the early EP's "A Kingdom" is fantastic, sweeping strings and galloping beat, Hazel's voice combines perfectly with Adam's while the graceful elegance of "Keep on Trying" provides more emotional joy.

Critical acclaim has been forthcoming and a sold out show at The Lexington in November showed the band have certainly hit the right note in the capital where a show at Cargo has been announced for January - get your ticket to that here and buy the album from Rough Trade as it comes with a bonus EP that contains much superior version to album closure "Not Going Back to the Harbour" as well as two exclusive tracks.

Keep On Trying by Lanterns on the Lake

Lanterns on the Lake - You're Almost There from Bella Union on Vimeo.

5. Veronica Falls
Just part one in this review of my tips and I feel like I've been revisiting all of this years blog favourite acts, the feeling certainly isn't leaving as I come to Veronica Falls, another band snapped up by Bella Union. The London / Glasgow quartet have been favourites since early last year and the release of their signature tune 'Found Love in a Graveyard' which some eighteen months later hasn't lost any of its immediate charm and now finds itself as the lead track on the bands self-titled debut album, any song that can sing about falling in love with a ghost in a graveyard yet sound as irresistibly catchy as a Cliff Richard Christmas song (joke!) is a winner in my book.

After spending the first six months of the year quietly beavering away behind the scenes the band exploded back onto the scene with the outstanding "Come on Over" in July, it's one of the highlights of the album and contains just about everything I love about Veronica Falls, urgent pacing where cleverly constructed male/female vocal harmonies deliciously combine whilst infectious, head-nodding melodies which embed themselves around your brain.

They followed it up with another belter, the anti-feel good "Bad Feeling" a song from the same morbid scrap book as Graveyard, as well as another of the early singles “Beachy Head” and new track “Misery”. It’s not all high energy ramshackle guitars, the slower paced “Veronica Falls” is a genuine highlight where Roxanne’s usual nonchalant delivery changes to a soft, beautiful lullaby.

New shows have hinted at a quick follow-up with the band including two exceptional new tracks in their live sets, they’ve played quite a few shows around the capital recently including a few support slots where they got as good a reaction as the headliners. Rough Trade voted the album number six in their top albums of the year, hopefully another catalyst towards worldwide domination for the band.

Order the album from Rough Trade (I’m not on commission I promise) and received a five track covers EP which includes a simply wonderful rendition of the Eurythmics' "Thorn In My Side", definitely amongst the best cover versions of the year and deserving a release of its own, don't let it hide away here unheard buy it and tell your friends to do the same!

Come On Over by Veronica Falls

Veronica Falls - Bad Feeling from Slumberland Records on Vimeo.

Part one over, I was on fire with those choices wasn't I? Two to follow.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Joanna Gruesome - New Music "Introducing"

I listened to Joanna Gruesome for the first time with some trepidation, I'm not sure if it was the use of the word gruesome bringing unpleasant memories or the similarities in name to Joanna Newsom (not that I hate her, opposite). Now that I've listened to them I've decided two things, firstly I quite like the name and secondly, that I needn't have worried because the Cardiff five piece have everything going for them, a delightful combination of sweet indie-pop and grungy garage rock which you can hear on their debut EP (available on a pay what you like basis on bandcamp now).

"Lemonade Grrl" is a nice introduction to the sound, all scuzzy and lo-fi, a thunderous intoxication combines fast and furious drumming, fuzzy jangling guitars, and gorgeous harmonised vocals, it's a blast of late 80's / early 90's noise pop that's undeniably fun and energetic.

The two closing tracks, "Yr Dick" and "Candy" are possibly my favourites, syrupy dual vocals contrast superbly with the crashing drums, as thick as tar baseline and loud, chugging guitars, part MBV, part LC!, part Beat Happening. All in all, it's an enticing debut from the band that certainly hint at great things ahead.


Joanna Gruesome - Lemonade Grrl

Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Hysterical Injury - New Music "Introducing"

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The Hysterical Injury are a Welsh brother / sister noise pop duo consisting of Annie (bass and vocals) and Tom (drums) Gardiner, they came to my attention through a free download of a track from their forthcoming debut which you can grab yourself a copy of below, do that because it's quite superb.

If "Maths" is any indication of what to expect from the album 'Dead Wolf Situation' (set for release on 6th February next year) then I'm preparing to be blown away by the now Bristol/Bath based duo. "Maths" is an uncompromising concoction of super charged energy, driven by relentless drum thumps and noisy, distorted bass. It really is just drum and bass from two people making all that beautiful racket, Annie's intoxicating vocal is melodious and equally powerful. A quite super track indeed.

A quick Google search leads me to see they've been around for a while, playing over 200 shows and releasing two EP's, a track of which "Three" is similarly blistering in its sonic assault on your eardrums, loud as fuck fuzzed up joy. If you're equally slow on the scene, listen below:

  Hysterical Injury - Maths

Veronica Falls #7 - Sessions + B-Side


Veronica Falls have had a remarkable year, undoubtedly one of my favourite acts of the past eighteen months or so (more on that soon when I post a round up of my tips for 2011). The band have recently been airing new tracks in their live show and a taster can be heard now, the band performed this sparlking rendition of "Last Conversation" for a session with the wonderful Future Sweden, watch it below and check out two further videos here.

Veronica Falls - Last Conversation from Future Sweden on Vimeo.

The song hints at a quick return for the London / Glasgow four piece and is utterly brilliant. As well as that, producer Rory Bratwell has shared one of Veronica Falls he produced, "Back Page" the recent b-side to the amazing "Bad Feeling", it's a laid back and dreamy number where the emphasis is on the luscious harmonies that are an underlining feature of the band. Love it:

Veronica Falls - Back Page by Brattwell Recordings

There's also this rather slickly produced video from another recent session for insound, here is "Beachy Head": Watch the full session and download an mp3 of the track here. If you're curious of hearing more new ones you might want to click on the link because one of the other videos is another new one, "Bury Me Alive" sounds like it could (and possibly should) have made the debut, continuing the bands underlying themes of dark, macabre lyrics over fast, urgent guitar and drum melodies. Delicious.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Army Girls - New Music "Introducing"

Army Girls are a Toronto based two piece formed by Andy Smith and Carmen Elle last year, the drums-and-guitar duo have recently released their debut EP 'Close to the Bone', it's a great name to describe their lo-fi garage sound, a fiery intensity runs throughout the five track EP which makes for an immensely pleasurable listen.

Stand-out "The Power" is an ideal starting point, the (once more) perfectly titled track sees heavy, rumbling drums, raw guitar and incredible vocals (her range is staggering) combine to pack quite a punch.

Similarly "Always" carries its simple melody with a youthful energy that's immediate and satisfying while on "Here It Comes" Carmen's deliciously rich vocals really shine, fuzzed up guitar and a gentler beat make for more gorgeousness - a short and succinct intro to a band who we could be hearing a lot more of.

A limited edition CD is available here or digitally on bandcamp.

ALWAYS by Army Girls
Army Girls - The Power
HERE IT COMES by Army Girls

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Female Band - New Music "Introducing"


Female Band states on her soundcloud that's she from Brooklyn, New York, now all the indications I can find (basically her posting times on facebook and twitter - you know, stalker that I am!) belie that and make me think that she (a solo act rather than a band) is probably from London (other posts suggest as much).

There are two rough demos up to share, one "And Only I, Know Why" beautifully highlights her charismatically lo-fi, ambient bedroom noise that has already generated enough interest from John Kennedy to get airplay on xfm, not bad for a track live for just sixteen days and for an artist who self-describes her sound as 'badly made demos'.

The other track "One Day the Sea Will Swallow Me" similarly sees slow-burning melancholic drones that are equal parts haunting and gorgeous. We don't know much about her yet but what we do know is to keep an eye on where this project is heading.

And only I, know why by femaleband
one day the sea will swallow me by femaleband

Sharon Van Etten #5 - Serpents


Sharon Van Etten has given us the first taster of her third album 'Tramp', due Feb 7th next year via Jagjaguwar and is due to feature the Dessner brothers (if you went err, think The National) as well as a whole A-Z of American indie names.

"Serpents" is a fiery track with a bluesy / folk melody which is a decidingly more up-tempo rock & roll number than what we heard on last years incredible 'Epic'. That's a good thing, though I'm a sucker for the devastatingly powerful, intimate songs of Sharons' too.

As well as the album to look forward to, a London dates has also been annouced through ATP, Sharon will play Cargo on March 1st - tickets.

Sharon Van Etten - Serpents

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Alpine - New Music "Introducing"


Alpine (not to be confused with Alpines) are an indie-pop sextet from Melbourne who are receiving rave reviews and amassing fans by the bucket load in their native country including a recent string of dates with The Jezabels, their latest single 'Hands' is the first  release from their forthcoming debut album (due early 2012) and follows last years 'Zurich' EP.
The bands name is apt when it comes to describing their sound, "Hands" is built around icy synth beat rhythms, shimmering guitars, hand claps and smooth, ethereal vocal harmonies that you'd be forgiving for describing as somewhat Scandinavian.

"Villages" understated guitar riff builds through fluid key-changes to a catchy, hooky chorus. The production is sleek throughout, the chiming guitars, pounding percussion and soothing, blissful dual vocals make the lead-track perhaps the strongest on their debut EP. Their pop sensibilities can be heard on the "Heartlove", its fast, urgent pacing lead to a multi-layered pop / dance track that is irresistibly fun while "Tough Skin" highlights a softer, gentle of the side with a fizzing synth beat and daydream inducing vocals.

The band have some dates throughout Australia in January next year, their album is one to keep an eye out for. Listen below:

Hands by alpineband

Villages by alpineband

The video is, err, odd! If you've a licking fetish it's definitely for you!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Birds of Passage #4 - Highwaymen in Midnight Masks

Back in April I shared a video for a live version of an absolutely stunning live track by Alicia Merz whose recordings under the name Birds of Passage have reduced me to stunned silence numerous times this past year, now I'm pretty happy to mention that the track, "Highwaymen in Midnight Masks" is to be released on wax.

The outstanding Denovali Records will release a limited three track 10" led by the unbelievable eight and a half minute title track on December 17th (pre-orders open 29th Nov here) and to help pass the time until that release you can download the title-track for free (click on the soundcloud link below).

You should all do that now, the track is simply beautiful, a slowly revealed dark-pop fairytale where Alicia's softly spoken, fragile vocals gracefully guide you through sparse instrumentation, minimalist-drone washes and echo-laden glacial chills that create an intoxicating, dreamlike state that is incredibly evocative and comforting.

If that wasn't enough, there is also the news that Alicia has an another album due later this year, following from March's re-issue of her debut 'Without The World' and October's 'Dear and Familiar' (which completely escaped my attention until I was writing this and has quickly been added to my to listen to list), 'Winter Lady' is also released by Denovali on December 17th, I'll no doubt bring more on that when I hear it! If you haven't got 'Without The World' you can order it in their store now. Three albums in one year, I'd call that prolific!

Late November / December is the perfect time for it's release, Birds of Passage music for me is an incredibly private one, you're not going to use Alicia's music to soundtrack your party but if you're feeling melancholic, weary or tired then grab a blanket, a nice drink and let this incredible artist lull your worries away:

Highwaymen in Midnight Masks by birds of passage

Here's that live track again, prepare for goosebumps:

birds of passage - highwaymen in midnight masks from Sebastien Dehesdin on Vimeo.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Death Rattle - New Music "Introducing"

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"The Dig" is the debut release from UK duo Death Rattle, I can't tell you too much about the band, they formed this year and are currently recording an album in France, that's all the information they've chosen to officially share at the minute.

I believe it's the new project of Helen and Chris, formally of London based trio That Mouth (a band who're sitting in my ridiculously overflowing draft folder) who recently released their debut album before deciding calling it a day. Their facebook page offers a few more insights besides tellingly a set of influences that can help you ideally place this, their debut (that I know of) track.

Three seminal bands are stated as influences and you can hear them all on "The Dig", the pounding synth menace could be Depeche Mode, the throbbing rhythm and harsh metallic beat is much akin to Nine Inch Nails and the overall feel of the dark, evocative track and vocals is very Fever Ray, gritty, moody electronica and I like it.

I don't always watch the promo videos all the way through but I did this one, it's stylish monochrome and the perfect accompaniment for the song. The track can be downloaded (for free) from bandcamp and streamed below. Death Rattle have perked my curiosity and I'll certainly investigate where they go from here.

The Dig by Death Rattle

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Tashaki Miyaki #2 - Tashaki Miyaki EP

Tashaki Miyaki sent the blogging world into frenzy early this year with their spellbinding track "Somethin' Is Better Than Nothin", a gorgeous fuzzed up feel good track that deserved every bit of praise it received, my post on that and the equally beautiful cover of The Everly Brothers "All I Have To Do Is Dream" can be found here.

I don't know much more about them than I did back in March, they've played a London date a while back but it was a Wednesday which ruled me out of,  they're a girl (Lucy) / boy (Rocky) duo who presumably don't want us to know their surnames.

They recently released their debut self-titled EP and I'm happy to say it doesn't disappoint at all. Continuing with the nostalgic, woozy fuzz-pop that earned those snowballing blog posts, "Somethin' Is Better Than Nothin" kicks off proceedings, the dreamy, nonchalant vocals remain as optimistic and uplifting as ever backed by prominent scuzzy guitar and solid drums its still a genuinely outstanding track. The highlight though is saved for last, "Get it Right" shrouds its beautiful melody in a melancholic haze, the guitars thick and the pacing languid, it's simply irresistible.

As well as the four tracks that make up the EP there are a few bonus tracks available via bandcamp, one of them, Buddy Holly's "Heartbeat" gets covered in a thick layer of distorted guitars while Lucy's vocals remain as alluring and soft as ever. You can buy the limited EP (just 300 copies) on 12" vinyl for just a fiver direct from The Sounds of Sweet Nothing now.

Tashaki Miyaki - Heartbeat (Buddy Holly Cover)
Tashaki Miyaki - Get It Right

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Magic City - New Music "Introducing"

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It's time to take a trip down memory lane with this blissfully nostalgic dream pop from across the pond, Magic City are a four piece from Chicago, the Windy City is doubtful to be the inspiration for the shimmering charm that could be the perfect soundtrack to your weekend, it'd be even better if it was sunny outside but hey, you can't have everything.

Their debut EP 'Little Bits' came out last week and is available on a pay what you like download from bandcamp with a limited CD / cassette release to follow via feeltrip. "Your Eyes" is simply delicious, vocalist Lauren Whitacre's vocals are soulful and sweet, the lazy guitar melody seductive and dreamy, then from nowhere there is this thrashing guitar solo amongst syrupy coo's, it an unusual combination but it's one that works wonderfully. It's a genre I love, check back on my old posts for proof but "Your Eyes" is certainly one of the finest dream / noise-pop tracks I can remember.

"Work For Us" transports you to a beautiful dream-like state as the gorgeous harmony equally relaxes and seduces you, as the song progresses it raises in tempo with hollow drums and another expectional guitar solo shimmers. The wistful closure "Hard to Imagine" is equally lovely, continuing the languid and gentle theme, if you are willing to let Magic City into your weekend you might just fall in love.

Your Eyes by Magic City
Work For Us by Magic City

Friday, 18 November 2011

Soko #2 - I Thought I Was An Alien

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My last SoKo post came a few days before I saw her play London's Borderline, a fantastic show where she treated the packed (sold-out on pure hear-say and facebook messages) venue to a sublime hour set drawing entirely of songs from her forthcoming debut LP 'I Thought I Was An Alien' and some from her 'songbook' including an incredble number which she claimed to have written the day before.

Her talent is undeniable and her stage persona intelligence and witty, SoKo seems set to finally conquer with her new style of beautifully crafted folk, a world ahead of the early EP tracks that made her name back in 2007.

Following from the wonderful youtube tracks I've previously picked up on, Stephanie has released a new, self-directed clip for the debut albums title track, a dreamy, woozy number about (unsurprisingly given its title!) an extraterrestrial romance. The album has been put back until February 20th, it'll be worth the extra wait.

Listen / watch below:

SoKo: I Thought I Was An Alien
SoKo - No More Home, No More Love

Thursday, 17 November 2011

The Jezabels #3 - Try Colour

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The Jezabels release their debut album in the UK March next year (it's already out and reached the dizzy heights of number two in the Australian chart), in preparation they've shared the second single from it as a free download (below), "Try Colour" follows the wonderful "Endless Summer", led by a powerful rhythmic drums, echoey guitars and dark ambient keys it's got everything I've come to expect (and love) about what is probably Australia's strongest current act, sweeping cinematic indie rock that's confident, strong and sure to propel the four piece on their way to arenas befitting their huge sound.

The band play a one-off London date at Heaven on the 29th (tickets) on the way home from their current state-side tour. I went to their last show at XOYO and it was enormous. Hayley's powerhouse vocals literally bouncing off the walls, their sound thunderous and intense at time and then also delicate, beautiful. This spectrum of light and dark is what I like about them so much and with three EP's and tracks from the forthcoming album too, they've enough material to make an hour fly by.

The Jezabels - Try Colour

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

EMA #6- Endless Nameless


Another week passes and guess what, another week with an EMA posting. Erika has announced a split Nirvana cover 7" with Male Bonding, EMA's take of "Endless Nameless" was mentioned here a while back and it seems the folk at Rough Trade and Sub Pop liked it enough to get it released on wax. Limited to 500 copies you can pre-order here, expected 6th January.

Seriously, this is just insane. Thick guitar sludges, crashing cymbals and screaming vocal cries; alongside Oh Land's take of "Bloodbuzz Ohio" by The National and Chelsea Wolfe's rendition of Nick Cave's "I Let Love In" this ranks as the best cover of the year, by far. Listen / watch, be blown away below:

EMA - Endless Nameless

Christmas - New Music "Introducing"

Don't worry, I'm not posting festive tracks too bloody early, I'm well aware that the day to pretend you love Grannies oversized knitted jumpers (although I've been known to sport some quite similar) and Mum's brussels sprouts is still miles away (seriously, a one month warm up is ample), instead I'm letting you know about a new download you can get from Olympia, Washington based punk quartet Christmas.

Christmas, possibly the least Google friendly band I've ever come across, released the wild as fuck "Pyong" as a (free downloadable) tour-single for a east coast tour through October / November, in typical fashion, I'm posting this too late to advertise that to you Stateside folk so instead I'll just hopefully draw a few peoples attention to their urgent, intense and utterly shambolic rock. "Pyong" is possibly their best track yet too, an awesome repetitive bass line, scattergun drums, distorted guitars scrawls and the wailing vocals of frontwoman Emily Beanblossom, it's (and to quote their own facebook bio) "sweaty trainwreck fuck-off music that your parents will think is stupid". Get it after all my rambling.

Their self-titled debut LP came out in March this year, can be ordered on vinyl here and in the UK at Rough Trade or digitally here. Ten tracks that offer little room to catch your breath; fast, furious and compellingly infectious. Check out "Pies", I literally cannot understand a word Emily screams, her howling vocals might be in English or Polish (I believe there is a link to Poland anyway!) but I don't really care, it's loud, chaotic and fucking brilliant, "Santa Cruz" and "Castle" offer equally frenetic explorations of heavy grunge / garage punk with a result that is sure to cause mayhem at the front of their live shows.

There are some melodious moments that offer a more psychedelic sensibilities, "Faster" and "Dog Problems" are more tempered beasts where you can hear that Emily really has this quite beautiful voice, it's hard to give an album justice with this short summation review, just give it a spin for yourself, I've picked a couple of tracks to stream below:

Pyong (tour single) by ᙅℍƦIS†ⅯѦ§
Dog Problems by ᙅℍƦIS†ⅯѦ§
Santa Cruz by ᙅℍƦIS†ⅯѦ§

Christmas "Pies" from Descend the Stairs on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Tennis #4 - Origins / Tell Her No


I originally had this post saved in draft form to mention Tennis' new (and now old) recordings, beautiful covers of The Zombie's "Tell Her No" and Brenda Lee's "Is It True", faithful to the classic originals in terms of composition and melody and faithful to the duo's own LP in terms of the bright guitar lines and sweet affection of Alaina's gorgeous vocals. Both tracks are available for free from the Tennis' website here.

More excitingly though, the Denver based husband and wife duo, expanded to a trio with drummer James Barone have annouced two new releases, their second album, due via Fat Possum on Valentine's Day 2012 and before that a new double a-side 7" single, 'Origins' which will be released December 13th via Brooklyn label Forest Family. Run by the guys at Gorilla vs. Bear they have an exemplory record of releases and sales too, as even in these tough times for records, every one of their releases is sold-out, this will be soon too.

"Origins" is equally charming, the vocals warms and welcoming, the key line bouncy and repetitive, for those who thought their debut was a little lacking and similar the instrumentation is expanded and beautifully polished. I'm certainly excited to hear the flip side and the rest of the album. You can pre-order now via Rough Trade.

I've only seen them once, at Primavera, it was bloody lovely. 'Cape Dory' possibly hasn't got the acclaim I expected it to, perhaps the blog hype they got around the time of "Marathon" last summer had waned a little by it's January release, or perhaps folk couldn't accept a nautical themed, fuzzy and warm love story in the cold, cold months. I've no idea, it's a great album anyway, check it out if you haven't. They play some US dates in December with hopefully a UK return on the horizon next year.

Origins by tennisinc
Tell Her No by tennisinc
Is It True? by tennisinc