Monday, 30 April 2012

September Girls #2 - Tape

Here's something you'll probably want to act quite quickly on, the debut tape released by Dublin's finest Caoimhe, Jessie, Lauren, Paula & Sarah, or perhaps somewhat easier to remember, September Girls, limited to just 100 copies and released via the good people at Soft Power today for a paltry £1.99 I doubt they'll hang around too long.

It's been some six months since I first discovered the girls and while this tape sticks with those initial demo tracks I'm still every bit as excited for the future of the band, their blend of sweet, harmonious girl-group vocals, and trashy, fuzzed-up garage pop is exactly the sort of music that should soundtrack your summer, be it outside drinking beers with friends or inside dressing up and dancing around your room like Ziggy Stardust (or maybe that's just me!). "Wanting More" is the perfect example of what the girls do, pounding drums, thick, over-amped bass and strong, catchy lyrics. September Girls, if they aren't already, are here to be your favourite new band.

The girls are over in the UK in July for Indietracks with hopefully some other dates coming at the same time, stay tuned for those.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Shy Around Strangers - New Music "Introducing"

Here's a post I've been meaning to post for two months now, New York trio Shy Around Strangers have since amassed an incredible 4k + facebook followers and critical acclaim from around the global with just one song, the debut track to be released from their debut EP (due August), "Never Look Down".

A few listens later and it's not hard to see why, the potent combination of racing drums, huge guitars, keys and vocalist Emily Powers' husky vocal delivery is immediately alluring, Emily's voice comes from a similar field to that of Shirley Manson or Emily Haines, it's powerful from the outset and the choice to make it so prominent in the mix was definitely a good one. "Never Look Down" hits you like a freight train and pulls you along for the journey, an exhilarating ride that can only get you excited for more.

To highlight another side of the band, they've also shared an acoustic version of the same track, gone is the glitzy 80's rock, instead, paired with a stripped-bare acoustic guitar the track takes on altogether more melancholic route, one that's completely different from the electric version but equally rewarding and overwhelmingly beautiful.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Great Escape 2012 - Preview (Part Three) Saturday

So here we are at the third and final part of my preview of The Great Escape 2012, you can find Thursday's preview here and likewise Friday's here, no need to beat around the bush with introductions to a third part, straight on with Saturday's bands to see (in my opinion). Again I've limited it to seven acts, to give both time to enjoy Brighton and for me to write this. I've also decided to leave out the three bands I picked as tips for the Camden Crawl to avoid too much duplication with those posts (sorry Stealing Sheep, Novella and Echo Lake, I'll still try and see you!).

The Hydrant, Saturday 12th May 13.00 (Alt Escape)

Like Spinning would be worth half the entrance fee to The Great Escape alone but this as this show is an alternative escape, you don't even need a festival wristband to come, an incredible line-up at The Hydrant on Saturday starts with Redwood red who I'm also hoping to catch before Like Spinning take to the stage.

Like Spinning are now in the higher echelons of my favourite acts, for proof why watch the video below of Kari performing an absolutely sublime new track called "The Hours", it was even better than this at The Old Queen's Head gig a few weeks back. I can't wait to see Like Spinning again and have those goosebumps return.

The Hydrant, Saturday 12th May 15.15 (Alt-Escape)

Emily and the Woods also earns my highest possible recommendation (and also played so exquisitely a few weeks back at The Old Queen's Head), Emily not only possesses the most beautifully natural voice that instantly eases your burden and writes flawless melodies with reflective, introspective lyrics but also has the most enchanting and humorous stage presence, that has an audience in the palm of her hand, my advice is simple, come and be one of those disciples.

Emily & The Woods - More Like Me from vProject on Vimeo.

The Hydrant, Saturday 12th May 16.00 (Alt-Escape)
St Mary's Church, Saturday 12th May 19.45

Staying in the same venue (I told you the line-up was good), Karima Francis is up next, a completely different voice to Emily before but one that is equally beguiling. Soulful, rich and impassioned, Karima's auto-biographical lyrics are heart-felt delivery is the perfect compliment for her show stopping voice.

I'm repeating myself I know, but I promise you, come to Hydrant for on Saturday afternoon and you won't be leaving in any hurry (especially when Stealing Sheep are playing too, the reasons they aren't featuring in this preview is mentioned above but they were the best I've ever seen them at Hoxton Bar & Kitchen last week and are highly recommended).

The Louche - Facebook
Pav Tav (Upstairs), Saturday 12th May 20.30

After I finally leave The Hydrant I'm looking forward to catching Manchester four piece The Louche, their luscious shoegaze soundscapes, drenched in sumptous fizz, downbeat beats and delicious girl-group vocals are exactly the sort of think to kick start a Saturday night of music and is exactly the sort of music I love. Quite why they've not featured here before this paragraph is quite beyond me. One to be continued...

Haim - Facebook
Psychosocial Basement, Friday 11th May 21.45
Audio, Saturday 12th May 20.45

America's answer to The Staves is probably a harsh introduction to Haim, but it's about what all I muster up on this Saturday morning (sorry) - and one that besides their family ties and long flowing hair is one that's not too accurate.. There's an undoubted TLC vibe to the Haim sisters too, their voices are strong and raw, their harmonies undoubtedly hit harder than those of the Staves and their guitars hark more the 70's rock then folk, with booming percussion "Better Off" packs one hell of punch. If NME pick up on Haim, they're going to be huge. Perhaps Haim will be one of the acts who provide an 'I was there' moment like Warpaint's show of a few years back.

We Are Scientists - Facebook
Coalition, Saturday 12th May 22.00

After all most three days of running around Brighton checking out as much new music as I can possibly manage I am extremely excited about the prospect of seeing We Are Scientists again, I last saw them playing at Camden Barfly before the release of their last album, there might be an ounce of truth to talk that they've not matched their debut (although I love 'Brain Thrust Mastery' too) but give me the chance to be spilling beer jumping up and down and singing every word of (the perfectly titled) "The Great Escape", "Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt" and "After Hours" towards the end of my Saturday night and there is only one answer. Viva 2005.

EMA - Facebook
Pavilion Theatre, Saturday 12th May 23.45

EMA was one of the acts of The Great Escape 2011, her gig on the Saturday night at Jam was easily one of the best of the weekend (probably second to Josh T Pearson's) and although the venue here is probably five times as large I'm looking forward to a feeling of déjà vu as I come towards the end of 2012's festival. I'm sure countless others are thinking the same.

Friday, 27 April 2012

The Great Escape 2012 - Preview (Part Two) Friday

The second part of my preview of The Great Escape focuses on Friday, the second day of the festival. If you land and this page and are interested in reading Thursday's preview, you'll find it here. There are so many amazing acts playing at TGE this year that I could easily have picked over a dozen or so recommendations throughout Friday and even more if I included clashing acts, with half a foot in the real world I've limited myself to seven picks to give me some time to enjoy some sunlight, sleep and perhaps even a little food, I might end up catching more, who knows.. The full line-up can be found on The Great Escape website.

Martha - Facebook
Komedia (Downstairs), Friday 11th May 12.00

A new find for me, part of the reason TGE is as good as it is, is because it leads to the discovery of new talents (some you find before and some you come across ad-hoc through the festival). I've gone through the programmes from past years before and the amount of artists you didn't see because you had no idea who they were but now do and wished you'd been there is incredible, with that in mind I do try and spend some time (there are too many for all) listening to acts I've not heard of before and that was how I came across Guildford singer-songwriter Martha Paton. A few demos on soundcloud highlight a soft, tender voice backed by gentle acoustic guitar plucks, beautiful and enchanting, the perfect start to your musical day.

Unitarian Church, Thursday 10th May 19.30
Latest Music Bar, Friday 11th May 15.00

There are quite a few Brighton acts I'm recommending in this section, the first is Abi Wade, armed with a cello, a percussion box and a seriously powerful voice she creates mysterious, atmospheric and beautiful music that is stark, haunting and wholly captivating, combining her spacious instrumentation to powerful and ethereal effect. I can't think other artists similar to Abi, her style is unique, I think she'll be very much worth your time.

Queens Hotel, Friday 11th May 16.30
The Warren, Friday 11th May 21.15

Rae Morris, a young singer/songwriter with incredible hair and an even more incredible voice has been making waves in 2012 already, a sold out London show at the Slaughtered Lamb and support slots across the country with Noah & The Whale. Take a listen to her music and it's not hard to know why. She possesses a captivating vocal range and with a collection of self-penned songs that has you listening to her every word.

Rae is on her way towards the big time and a show in the basement of a hotel could be about the smallest venue she'll play ever be playing again.

Emma Gatrill - Facebook
The Fishbowl, Friday 11th May 18.45

Another local pick, Emma Gatrill will be playing in the tiny Fishbowl pub near the Queen's Hotel (a tip after my friend made the mistake last year, don't order the Tiger beer!) and is another recent discovery but I find myself overwhelmingly charmed by her beautiful voice and soft, delicate song-craft. After performing with numerous Willkommen collective bands Emma's debut solo album will be released the week after the festival.

"Josephine" is bound to appeal to fans of Joanna Newsom et al, not just because of its harp based instrumentation, Emma's classical arrangements flutter and soar over a truly gorgeous folk lullaby, Emma's set promises to be early evening bliss.

Queens Hotel, Friday 11th May 21.30

I'm intrigued to see Fear of Men again, I've not seen them since last year and the Brighton/London quartet have had a bit of a make-over since then with two new members joining the ranks, their releases thus far have been nothing short of exceptional. 'Ritual Confessions' was one of the best debut 7" of last year (now sold-out so my opinion is not alone) and their demo tapes (similarly unavailable) were nothing short of wonderful.

"Doldrums" while only a demo, is just gorgeous, swirling guitars and precise drums give the platform for Jess's gorgeous vocals to make you go weak at the knees before a fuzzed-up stomping finale hints at the bands live bite. One not to miss.

Queens Hotel, Friday 11th May 22.30

I'm expecting this show to be rammed, the blogging frenzy that followed the release of their debut track 'Eleventh Hour' surely means the Manchester four-piece will be courting interest from numerous A&R guys, expect them to be towards the back of the gig, with us geeky, music addicts enjoy ourselves at the front. The following is what I wrote on my single review, it's why PINS are one of the must see acts of the weekend, a new band for a new music festival.

"The reason why I'm happy to wax lyrical about them off one three minute track is simple, it's a fucking great track that doesn't disappoint any of my sky high expectations. Right from the initial impact of dark, powerful hard-hitting drums and layered guitars whirring ferociously it stirs up something in you, the droning riff hypnotises and doesn't let go, the brooding vocals similarly coerce you, part sugary and part commanding, the video is similarly wonderful, the perfect backdrop for the girls blend of 90's influenced noise-pop and 60's psychedelia. PINS are here to be your new favourite band, they're certainly on my short-list already."

Riki Tiks, Friday 11th May / Saturday 12th May 01.30(am) (Alt Escape)

In what will definitely be my final call of the evening (I'm almost 30 and can't hack late nights anymore), I'll be taking a trip to a venue I've never been to before, Riki Tiks to see south-coast dark electro duo Curxes (and Labyrinth Ear before them with any luck), it will be the first time and I'm going with high expectations, because let's not beat around the bush here, the initial tracks they've shared with planet Earth have been nothing short of awesome.

"Haunted Gold" bites hard, real hard, with monstrous, industrial pop rhythms and pounding metallic beats its twisted terminator guitar is like a futuristic tale of the apocalypse whilst Roberta's commanding vocals cause their own thunderstorm. Likely to send an adrenaline bolt through those, like me, who are nearing the time for their beds, Curxes will be worth staying up for.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

The Great Escape 2012 - Preview (Part One) Thursday

The Great Escape Website

It's now just a fortnight until The Great Escape, I'm already excited, I said in my review last year that 2011 was the best yet (I've been to four) and 2012 has the potential to be even better with more venues, more lunch time shows and more bands than ever before, over 30 venues with over 300 bands crammed into three days in the wonderful city of Brighton.

Sounds fun right? It is. Running from Thursday 10th to Saturday 12th of May there are so many incredible acts that I've decided to preview in three parts, split by day, I'll pick what I think is the best of what The Great Escape and the Alternative Escape has to offer.I was going to limit myself to six a day but in the end I couldn't narrow it down so I've gone with seven a day, which still misses out a few bands I'd like to catch... So much choice for one weekend.

We Were Evergreen - Facebook
Komedia (Studio Bar), Thursday 10th May 13.30
Komedia (Studio Bar), Thursday 10th May 21.15
The Hub, Jubilee Square, Friday 11th May 16.00

This French/London trio will be the perfect way to get your Great Escape weekend going in fine fashion, with hopefully beautiful sunshine providing the platform for their bright and breezy male/female harmonies and tropical synth/ukulele/glockenspiel  melodies. Cute and bouncy for sure, We Were Evergreen are here to bring some their fun-filled, infectious songcraft to your weekend, one that will be all the better for it.

Shinies - Facebook
The Hydrant, Thursday 10th May 16.00 (Alt-Escape)
Queens Hotel, Friday 11th May 20.30

I'll be tipping a few Manchester bands in my previews, there is an undeniably excitement around numerous bands coming out of the North-West at the minute, more so than in recent memory. One of the reasons are Shinies who've been caught up in a whirlwind of acclaim since they released debut demo "Spent Youth" six months or so, with distorted noise-pop guitars, fast-paced drums and echoed vocals "Spent Youth" and its b-side "Shola" are good enough to make sure you spend your Thursday afternoon mingling with numerous A&R guys seeing if this trio are as good in the flesh.

Ren Harvieu - Facebook
The Loft, Thursday 10th May 18.30

An unusual timing for one of the days must-see acts, Ren Harvieu first featured on this blog exactly one year ago today and now a few weeks away from the release of her debut album she is ready to finally dominate the stereos of household around the world.

Armed with a voice to die for her melodramatic ballads soaked in sweeping string orchestration and nostalgia are simply sublime.I've said this before but Ren's cover of The Rolling Stone's "Sister Morphine" is spine-tingling good. A queen will be crowned, make sure you're in the audience.

Deaf Club - Facebook
Green Door Store, Thursday 10th May 20.00

Wales/London five piece Deaf Club are a bit different to the acts I've covered so far, their beautifully expansive guitar led sound is something I'm very much looking forward to catching over the weekend, I've flirted with seeing them before but this will be the moment I finally do.

Their sold-out tape via Kissability (who host their show at The Great Escape) highlights their beautiful soundscapes, soaring, shimmering guitars interwoven with forlorn drum melodies and the brooding vocals of Polly Mackey. Gorgeous.

Cut Ribbons - Facebook
Green Door Store, Thursday 10th May 20.45

Sticking at the same venue, the next band up are Llanelli ;based Cut Ribbons, whose punchy stadium-sized indie-rock will fill the small(ish) Brighton venue with glistening guitars and dual vocal harmonies.

Their pretty, melodious hooks are polished and will surely result in a few pints of lager being spilled as people bounce around with joy.

Hannah Cohen - Facebook
Unitarian Church, Thursday 10th May 22.00

Another of Thursday's not to be missed acts is Hannah Cohen, this will only be her second ever UK show (after playing in London the night before) from (as I said just a couple of days ago) one of 2012's best new voices.

Guaranteed to something quite spectacular, just like her album 'Child Bride', her sensational voice and elegant instrumentation will leave many hearts aflutter. A truly beautiful venue too. Can't wait for this one.

Toy - Facebook
Pavilion Theatre, Thursday 10th May 22.45

I've not got too much to add to what I've said a couple of times about Toy in the month or so, displaying almost as much hair as talent, the London five piece summed up the buzz with "Left Myself Behind", an eight minute runaway rollercoaster that combines the best bits of psyche, krautrock and shoegaze in one glorious track, gorgeous shimmering guitars duel with the korg keys and consistent drum beats, to keep it simple, it's one of the essential tracks of the last six months from one of the UK's hottest new properties. Truly superb, hard, dense, melodic, brilliant.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Greta Isaac - New Music "Introducing"


Greta Isaac, a young singer-songwriter from Cardiff is one of those rare talents, one that upon listening to a few demos shared with the world via soundcloud you know possesses the 'something' that will, in time, take her towards the top of her game, her soft captivating voice will melt the most apathetic of hearts with a songwriting talent that belies' her 16 years.

"Signs" is the one that does it to me, its beauty is beyond the following words. Her instrumentation is quite simple, it's all that it needs to be, gentle acoustic guitar plucks allow Greta's delicate vocals to bring you goosebumps, pure and innocent, it's the sort of voice that would make just about anything feel better, soft, soothing and just simply gorgeous.

The latest demo "Hold Her Hand" similarly beguiles, had a hard day in the office and want to unwind? You couldn't ask for more than Greta Isaac.

Honeyslide - New Music "Introducing"

I'm aware I've been a bit folk-centric with my posts the last couple of weeks or so, it's to be expected that I go through phases of one particular type of music, there was a predominately shoegaze period last year, this blog is, and will always be, a journal of my music tastes. I post what I like when I come to find it, it's with that where I introduce London based noise-sludge four piece Honeyslide whose grunge / slacker-pop / shoegaze sound exploded onto my horizon last week, the three songs on their soundcloud form their debut EP (couldn't find any fixed details for a release) and they've made quite the impression in the blogging world already.

My favourite is "Drippin'" which reminds me a little bit of Trailer Trash Tracy's, the languid pacing and dreamy, spaced-out vocals circle around your head as they blend swooningly with lashings of shoegaze guitars and heavy sludge, hazy and beautiful, it's a track that deserves the praise it's already received (recently played by Jen Long on Radio One Introducing). "Made For You" sees twangy guitar and precise drums provide the platform for echoed vocals to resonate like ghosts of 90's past, the thick tempo changes though are where the track comes into it's own. Quite incredible.

Honeyslide played their debut live show last week, signs are they'll be ones to watch, which you can on their next outing on May 17th, Upstairs at The Garage - details.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Bree Tranter - New Music "Introducing"

I seems to be posting continual superlatives about exquisite and beautiful music on a daily basis at the moment, another candiate for the most breathtaking thing I've heard for a while is "Winter" by Bree Tranter (formerly of The Middle East), her debut track is simply to die for.

Haunting is definitely the key word, circling acoustic guitar provide the platform for Bree's voice to send shivers down your spine, soft and hushed, her fragile spectral voice is as close to perfection as you'll ever hear.

Cannot wait to hear more from Bree, "Winter" has set the bar high. Listen / watch below:

The Cornshed Sisters - New Music "Introducing"


Saturday was Record Store Day, I did a long waffling bordering around the subject a couple of days ago so I'll try and avoid any debate again, instead I'll just say how I was introduced to The Cornshed Sisters, it was in a record store on RSD, yes, a record store.

Just like those joyous discoveries in the care-free (so people keep telling you) days of old, I was browsing Rough Trade West in between exceptional sets by Smoke Fairies and Allo Darlin' and saw a CD that caught my eye, it was by The Cornshed Sisters, I'd not heard of them before, RT's description intrigued me and the fact it came with a bonus CD with a cover of Prince intrigued me more. So I took a chance and bought it, yes in 2012 when I could have gone home and listened to some tracks online (or more than likely forgot about it on the journey home) I spent £9.99 on a CD I'd never heard by an act I'd never heard of. I'm glad I did.

The Cornshed Sisters aren't siblings but are a folk-pop quartet (made up of Jennie, Cath, Liz and Marie) from the North East of England (retrospective searching leads me to learn they include a previous member of Kenickie). The album 'Tell Tales' is delightful, ten tracks that instantly leave their mark and are guaranteed to brighten you mood. Part traditional folk stories that make you wish you were dancing around a maypole and part humorous musings, never more than on the 'sinister' "Pies For The Fair". Actually I take back what I just wrote, I'm not sure I'd want to be going to a May-day fete with The Cornshed Sisters if they like human pie! The Independent mentions The Wicker Man on their review and I can only concur, a track of surreal pagan-esque folk for the wry humoured amongst us.

It's impossible not to completely enamoured by their harmonies, they are divine, four angelic voices that mould together effortlessly. On the whole, the instrumentation is gentle and sparse, either elegantly strummed acoustic guitar or beautifully played piano, sometimes it's done away with altogether and the girls sing a capella, it works. The girls know their main instrument is their voices and they use it with beguiling power, "Tommy" the perfect example, hymnal in quality it's one of the more serious and definitely the most poignant on the album.

It's difficult to pick stand-outs, the whole CD flows so perfectly, "Dance At My Wedding" is definitely amongst my favourites (I don't think I'll ever come across a track that harmonise's the words "good job on the gravy"), it combines everything I've said before, it's witty, intelligent and unique. "Ocelot Song" is equally magical and perhaps the strongest vocal performance while "If You Were Mine" also needs to be mentioned. Oh, and yeah, the Prince cover is amazing too, "When Doves Cry" transformed to a barbershop quartet song, gorgeous. I'm sure Mr Nelson would approve.

Let's just say impulse purchasing has made a welcome return to my agenda. Next time you're in a record shop why not try it? 'Tell Tales' is available via rough trade (with that bonus disc) here. Highly recommended

Monday, 23 April 2012

Hannah Cohen #2 - Child Bride / Don't Say


Today sees the release of Hannah Cohen's debut album 'Child Bride', her introduction to the world of music (after a successful career as a model) was the haunting beauty "The Crying Game", which stirs up similar emotions on its place towards the end of the LP, fluttering between the painful, torn moments that make the overriding mood of the album melancholic and blissful, there are though a couple of upbeat numbers like "California", a light and breezy departure where loosely strummed guitar and sweetly cooed vocals let in rays of sunshine, bright and catchy, it's a welcome addition to the record but it is those aching, heart wrenching moments that stay with you the longest.

"Don't Say" is simply divine, the sweeping guitar waltz and gentle drum brushes provide space for Hannah's vocals to pierce your heart, her voice is genuinely gorgeous possessing a devastating tone that is capable of shining like a star,or being sweet and mysterious, or being haunting and emotional, and then heartbroken all in the space of half an hour. It's without doubt what makes the album one of the finest of 2012 so far. You can pick your own superlatives, Hannah Cohen deserves them all.

The instrumentation is equally elegant as the central theme of love lost tugs at your every sense, it remains delicate and controlled throughout but once in a while it shimmers and swells luxuriously, never better than on the sublime "The Simplest" and another of the stand-out's "Shadows", a fragile, ethereal ballad that's one of the more heartfelt tracks in an album of them.

'Child Game' is the perfect soundtrack for a candlelit evening in with a loved one, or alone if you'd rather,the good news is the album is available to enjoy via Bella Union on CD/LP now and even better is news is that Hannah plays London's Vortex on May 9th (tickets) with a show at The Great Escape the following day. See you there TGE.

Alice Jemima #3 - Million Dollar Man

It's impossible to do this post without mentioning Lana Del Rey so I'll just fire straight into it, the track here (covered so delightfully by the wonderful Alice Jemima, more on that in a minute) is one of her songs, "Million Dollar Man". Straight up, I don't know the original, I stayed completely out of the LDR debate that swept the Internet towards the end of last year and carried on until about, and somewhat ironically, the time of her record release (surely that's the time when debate should have happened?) but her original tracks didn't get me overly excited so I let other people have that particular discussion, that's the best way if you ask me... if you aren't too interested in something leave it people who are to talk about .

This version of "Million Dollar Man" is so unbelievably gorgeous that I can't help but post it here, Alice said to me that she records her demos on garageband in her home, the quality of them though will surely make some studios jealous, this recording is as ever, impeccable. Delicate beats and guitar twangs provide a melancholic platform for perhaps Alice's finest vocal performance to date. Her soft, hushed vocals will seduce and set your heart aflutter, if you've not heard of Alice Jemima before, get ready to fall in love (though please join the queue behind me and Robin at Breaking Move Waves!).

Beautiful Strange Presents at The Gallery Cafe

Without meaning to use my blog as too much as a platform of self-promotion and putting off people who read this blog because of my normal posts I'd like to use this post to update anyone who may be reading this on my music events nights which run under the name Beautiful Strange Presents (website: so if you're not the sort to partake in live music (why the hell not I ask) or don't live in London this post might not be too relevant to you (apart from having some bloody good music in it).

I started promoting nights at The Old Queen's Head in January, something I've mentioned here previously (the next one is on May 8th with Delta/Alaska + Dark Bells + Fountains - further details) and now I have expanded to host nights at The Gallery Cafe on Old Ford Road in Bethnal Green too. There are two venues there, the first in the cafe itself which holds 100 people in a traditional gig environment, a gorgeous stage with the cafe open for all your nourishment/refreshments and secondly in St Margaret's Chapel, a wonderful 50 capacity room where I plan to run unplugged / acoustic nights (so if you plan on coming and chatting, think again!). Here's a picture to give you an idea:

The first evening in both locations have now been announced and (in my biased opinion) I think the line-up's are pretty special. In the chapel room will be the incredible This is the Kit and Eliza Shaddad (with an opening act to still be confirmed) on Friday May 4th, half the tickets have already gone at just five pounds and are available via wegottickets. The cafe will be open before, during and after to serve drinks etc, it promises to be a memorable evening. It would be great to have a few regular readers of this blog along, do say hello if you can make it.

Then in The Gallery Cafe itself on Saturday 19th May it's my pleasure to announce Maud in Cahoots, Camille Delean and Ellie Rumbold. If you've followed me for a while you'll know I think Camille is one of the most incredible young singer-songwriters (now based) in London and I am delighted to have her playing, Ellie likewise, she's just turned 17 and has one hell of a future ahead of her. Maud in Cahoots will headline and I cannot to hear them live, below is a beautiful live version of "Further I Go" from their forthcoming EP, three stunning acts if I do say so myself!

Tickets for this night are super cheap at £2.50 (Beautiful Strange is primarily a hobby, I don't aim to make a profit, the money taken goes towards paying for the sound engineer, bands etc). Please come and support independent music, I promise more talent on stage than at any Simon Cowell produced event.

The Gallery Cafe is an all ages venue. If you'd like to keep up to date with all my events please follow Beautiful Strange on facebook or tumblr. Thanks, normal posting will resume very shortly and I hope to see you there!

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Tennis #5 - My Better Self / Petition

Facebook /

Something I've touched on a couple of times whilst writing this blog is the seeming need for bloggers to continue posting 'fresh' music on their sites which can lead to bands that have 'been there done that' as far as blog coverage goes far too quickly. The drive to be first (don't get me started on the 'buzz blog') and the self-manifested hunger to 'discover' new acts means there have been plenty of instances where bands have their debut track (normally recorded in their bedroom on a crappy laptop) promptly lauded over and quickly shared by 100's of bloggers around the world. Mega-stardom awaits it seems, or does it?

Before you know it the same band has gone from the best thing since slice bread to being forgotten and dumped in an ever growing abyss along with last weeks news. Yes, a slight exaggeration but it's similar to what happens. Even before a band actually has the time to produce a decent album they're resigned to chip paper. I'm not sure what it is. Perhaps it's the Internet and high speed broadband which means I can basically have any song I want right now. Or the iTunes effect which means people dip in and out of bands willy nilly. I'm an album person, I've always been an album person and hopefully given the chance I always will be but I've friends who are not. They want the one song by an artist that was on that car advert and aren't interested in anything else they've got to offer. Why spend time looking for music, good music should come to you. Or should it? I don't know.

I'm a music geek, there's not much that gets me excited like spending hours listening to a slab of wax or a new b-side for the first time. I am though in a minority. Yet today is now (as I write this the clock turns over to midnight) Record Store Day, a day when all other geeky minorities come together and support their local record store, but will you talk to anyone in the shop, the same one you've been going to for years and forge lasting relationships? No. You'll keep anonymous under a pair of headphones whilst you scramble to find that Ziggy Stardust picture disc or the St Vincent 7" with two new tracks that you can't even pronounce (hands off, I want that one!) and then quickly share the pictures of your 'stash' with your 1000 twitter 'friends'. That is the world we live in. Would I change it? Probably not.

Not much of that will probably make much sense when I come to re-read it in the morning, that page of text wasn't planned. The plan was a little introduction to say that if you read blogs in the summer of 2010 a band you wouldn't have missed on any blog were Tennis. They were about (according to blogs) to be 'massive'. "Marathon" and "Baltimore" were the perfect soundtrack to your summer and Tennis were the band to blissfully fall in love too. Yet here we are in 2012 (before I come to the obvious but, I'll just say that this is not a criticism or a negative towards the band at all - I love them, I've covered them quite a few times here, on a fan-blog which is 'the music that I like'), after Tennis' second album has been released and I see the band have announced gigs where they'll be playing in front of (at most) 150 people in Oxford. That's not exactly what all that early praise would have you believe, don't get me wrong, it's the basis of a career but where are the arenas? Where are the armies of fans? Where are the blog fanfares now? (They've more than twelve thousand fans of facebook to be fair). They've all moved on. Tupac's hologram and Lana Del Rey, that's where it is at (if you didn't know).

It's a shame because Tennis have just announced a double a-side single which should very well be the soundtrack for a summer of young love. Two highlights from their second LP 'Young and Old', "My Better Self" / "Petition" will be released via ATP Recordings on May 28th on 7" / Digital Download (with the previous mentioned UK shows around the same time - full details). It's safe to say both tracks are utterly marvellous. "My Better Self" is the softer and more restrained of the two, the swoon-some vocals of Alaina Moore are heartfelt and irresistible while "Petition" is overwhelmingly charming, with its gorgeous, glittery melody and bouncy key strokes it's likely to melt your heart and provide a burst of sunshine to your hectic life. Yes, perhaps we were right after all, Tennis are a band to love and be excited about. Best of all, you still can, no re-union tour needed here.

P.S. Those wanted a nostalgia trip of old windows operating system should visit the band's website too. Phew. If you're still here, well done you!

Friday, 20 April 2012

Rachel Sermanni #5 - Eggshells

I went and saw some extraordinarily beautiful music in London last night, over the course of just one evening I got to see four acts, all previously featured on this blog in the same town, that's the beauty of living near London and I think it's probably something I take for granted most of the time. I'm a lucky so-and-so to be here, the London music scene, in my opinion, is the best in the world.

In reverse order, my night ended with an astonishing set by Sea of Bees, almost a year after the last time I saw Jules (the first with a full band) and her new album sounded amazing (more on that to follow), supporting were one of my tips for 2012 and an act featured many times here before, Stealing Sheep. I think it was the fifth time I've seen the girls and it was easily the best, they've grown in size, the songs sounded bigger and better than ever and I'm very much looking forward to their debut full-length due over the summer.

Before heading to Hoxton I stayed in the train station of my arrival, St Pancras, not for a bit of shopping nor to admire the trains, but to see a gig... Amongst the rather unusual surroundings of Eurostar departures and thousands of rushing commuter's two singers were stealing the hearts of the few people willing to take time out of their schedules and take a minute or two for themselves. Karima Francis was the second of the two, the first time I've seen Karima and her voice was every bit as captivating as I expected, previewing tracks from her album due over the summer, she's going to be a star. The main point of this waffling, badly written transcript through my night was to introduce Rachel Sermanni, the first act I saw yesterday. This was just a half hour set before a full show later in the evening at The Lexington (if I could have cut myself in two I'd have gone to that as well) but her gorgeous, soothing tones and exquisitely crafted song-craft aptly backed by a trio of beautiful fiddlers and delicate key strokes was enough to start the night in glorious fashion.

For those of you still yet to fall for the undeniable charms of Rachel's beautiful, poetic music her new single "Eggshells" is the perfect place to start. Well when I say new, I've actually got a demo CD of "Eggshells" which is a couple of years old now that was sold at gigs a while ago, this, a completely updated recording shows the signs of Rachel's progression since, the effortless ability to control her voice, the soft and delicate delivery of Rachel's vocal is simply beautiful whilst the irresistible string instrumentation remains restrained pulling on your heartstrings, the sound you hear after listening to "Eggshells" is that of you falling in love.

"Eggshells" is due for release on May 14th on gatefold 7" and CD and is available to pre-order here and if you head to Rachel's website you can download for free an acoustic version of the track.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Exlovers #3 - This Love Will Lead You On


At the moment I'm probably listening to more folk rooted music than I have ever before, of course that hasn't stopped me from forgetting my indie based past and this little number by London based quintet exlovers certainly hits the right note with me, "This Love Will Lead You On" is the lead single from their debut album 'Moth', (due in June via Young & Lost Club) and released as a single next Monday, April 23rd.

Softly whispered male/female harmonies combine with instantly pleasing guitar melodies, shimmering in sun-soaked beauty, punctuated by purposeful drums, "This Love Will Lead You On" is the sort of track that made the likes of Teenage Fanclub and Pains of Being Pure at Heart household names, they might not be treading too much new ground with the vein of glistening, summer's day indie-pop but exlovers are on the right path to follow suit.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Love Like Birds - New Music "Introducing"


Most bloggers will say one of the best ways to discover new artists is to trawl through support artist listings for gigs / venues that interest you, well I was looking at the Dark Dark Dark show listing in London a couple of weeks back and came across this artist, the support for their show at Bush Hall Love Like Birds (the pseudonym of Belgian singer/songwriter Elke De Mey), who released a five track self-titled EP towards the end of last year...

It is, in a word, stunning. Elke has a beautiful, warming voice that caresses your mind and the delicate, intimate nature of her songcraft is bound to tug at many a heartstring. Opener "Oscar" sets a soft and dreamy tone where fragile guitar plucks provide the only accompaniment for her hushed, soothing words, a track that will make you want to grab a blanket, close your eyes and think of better times.

The highlights, for me, are when the EP is at its most vulnerable, like on the bare-boned "Heavy Heart", deeply felt and subtly delivered, the honesty of the lyrics and tone of Elke's voice is aching and bruised, I find myself completely drawn in as it touches my soul and send shivers down my spine and likewise when the guitar is swapped for a piano on the closing track "Cold Ground", similarly restrained with a haunting simplicity, her sad, longing vocals drench melancholic keystrokes to finish the EP on a lonely, heart-felt note.

I find myself introduced to s a singer/songwriter with a seemingly effortless, natural talent with the potential to make a real impact here in the UK, I'm not quite sure why I can't see any UK coverage thus far if I'm perfectly honest. Let this be the start. An EP you are going to want to buy, which you can on CD via Love Like Birds own shop or digitally via bandcamp. The next time she's in London, consider me there.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Eliza Shaddad - New Music "Introducing" / Facebook

At present Britain is lucky enough to be graced with a healthy number of talented singer/songwriters that with varying degrees of success (the pinnacle currently being a certain Ms Marling) ply their trade where maybe ten, fifteen years ago there wasn't such a market. Despite its many pitfalls when it comes to musical sharing, one thing no one can deny is the Internet allows an increasing number of artists to reach an audience that traditional methods of releasing and gigging would not, for example Google stats tell me this blogs third most popular country in terms of audience is Germany, with Ukraine and Japan also in the top ten. Would fifteen years ago a guy from Staffordshire living near London get to hear a Scottish / Sudanese singer/songwriter whose likewise made the trip to London? I don't know, what I do know is I came across Eliza Shaddad a few weeks ago and was immediately spellbound by her debut four track EP, 'January ~ March'

Eliza writes beautiful songs with really thoughtful, honest lyrics and sings them with a graceful and warm simplicity, backed on the whole by her own delicately plucked guitar the EP is understated, heart-felt and one hundred percent captivating. It's hard to pick a favourite, the third track "From The Boat" is possibly it. Stripped-back and bare-boned, where a gently plucked circling acoustic melody provides the subtle platform for Eliza's smooth tones to steal your heart, clean and natural it enthrals from the outset and by its conclusion you're likely rendered speechless.

"Seven" weaves its own spell, a dense web of poetic, story-telling lyrics which display style, vulnerability and contemplation and the darker "Brackets" which provides a show-stopping conclusion, it ebbs and flows with intricate guitar melodies which suddenly ignite with bursts of sharp, dramatic increases in intensity and drums. Though, it's Eliza's rich and commanding voice you remember the longest. If you still need proof as to her vocal ability, listen to the 'hidden' final track on the EP, a haunting acapella track that sends shivers down your spine.

'January ~ March' came out towards the end of last month and can be purchased digitally via bandcamp now with a lovely cardboard digipack CD available of shows... and speaking of shows, the cherry on the cake for me at the least is the news that Eliza will play for one of my Beautiful Strange nights, on May 4th at The Gallery Cafe's gorgeous Chapel Room (watch this video for a glimpse at just how wonderful it is).

Full details of the evening will be announced very soon over here:, put it in your diary, it promises to be a special, special evening.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Caitlin Rose #21 - Piledriver Waltz

One pretty quick way to have a lynch mob after you is to cover an artist with a strong, loyal fan-base. I know this through first hand experience (though I was never the sort to go onto other message boards and write what basically is abuse), turn the clock back a dozen years or so and I followed Prince and Queen to unhealthy, borderline fanatical levels and often blindly supported their (sometimes) questionable ventures with little compromise for naysayers and certainly with no regard to covers versions (how dare once tread such fallow ground!).

I've since changed my outlook and matured a little (Brian and Roger's continual abuse of the 'Queen' name and Prince's continual Internet delusions, alongside broken promises in the NPGMC and Lotusflow3r campaigns certainly make breaking such connections easier) and I'm quite open to everything and everyone these days (as long as it's good, I jest, see Holly Miranda's breathtaking version of "I Love You, But I Don't Trust You Anymore" for a recent example of how to cover Prince well), so I've been amused to see developments over the past four or five hours with Arctic Monkey fans seemingly warming up their pitchforks for one of my favourite artists, Caitlin Rose. The reason is basic petulance, an artist 99% of them had not heard of yesterday has now covered 'their' band. The simple question to be answered it seems: Is the Caitlin Rose version of Alex Turner's (and later Arctic Monkeys) "Piledriver Waltz" that bad?

(I'm biased) No, no it's not. It's not bad at all, in fact it's great, really great. Alex Turner undeniably has great lyrical prose though I have to admit that I'm not a big Arctic Monkeys fan (the first album had more than its few moments) but the track is undoubtedly a good number and the instant Caitlin's vocals enter I'm transfixed. It's been a while since I've heard them I'll be honest, I've not listened to my favourite artist of 2010 and most of 2011 much recently but her luxurious voice, able to effortlessly match the songs numerous key changes from wistful, heartfelt memories, to bluesy charm to full on pop chanteuse and back again is to simply to die for, with its long slide guitar outro there is a real country spin to the track too, as you'd probably expect from one of country-rock's modern day stars. I love the video too, I'm sure if you've seen Caitlin perform live you'd similarly testify to her charismatic stage presence, full of wit and charm, it's shown in abundance here dressed as a rodeo clown.

"Piledriver Waltz" is available on 7" vinyl this Saturday April 21st as part of Record Store Day. Consider it item number one on my list. Though, fear not Arctic Monkeys die-hards, the B-side is only another AM track, "Love Is A Laserquest" but as Caitlin (I quote) "is cute like baby koala" we're all ok now, aren't we? Good. Phew.

You Me & Us - New Music "Introducing"

Californian trio You Me & Us make the sort of fuzzed up, supercharged garage-pop that I can't help but fall for as memories of the UK's early summer's days have all but faded under blankets of threatening grey clouds. Available for free via bandcamp, their debut six track EP 'Paperweights' runs at just ten minutes but its concise, sweet and infectious tracks will stay with you much longer than that.

Their location rubs off on the sun-kissed nature of the recordings, shimmering like the Californian sun on the exquisite "Bright Red Marker" while closing track "Paperweights" similarly blasts out surf-rock riffs, frenetic drums and gorgeous vocals. It's these three key attribute throughout, the noisy "California Street's" pummelling drum and jagged guitar jangle equally worthy of praise.

The playing maybe slightly dishevelled at times but the bands youthful exuberance more than makes up for it, retaining a real sense of fun throughout, killer hooks and Carlee's adorable vocals illuminate "Off Pudding", a real tornade of a track where I could just as easily throw in a lazy, early Best Coast comparison too.

The EP is almost a year old now so hopefully a future release is brewing round about now. Listen / download below:

You Me & Us - Bright Red Marker