Gig(s) of the month.
The Joy Formidable - La Botanique, Brussels - 1st February
Caitlin Rose - The Haunt, Brighton - 25th February / Dingwalls, London - 27th February
New tracks "Tendons" and "Forest Serenade" fit instantly into the set amongst main-stay favourites "The Greatest Light...", "Whirring" and "Spectrum" though no place yet (and understandably given it's orchestral backing) to my favourite from the record "The Turnaround".
The Joy Formidable are a truly excellent live act, they put their entire bodies on the line and give a 90 minute lesson in rock show performance. Deadly riffs from the new album collide with Ritzy's beautiful vocals, effortlessly shifting from ethereal wonder to venomous spite in the blink of her wide open glare. Equally appreciative of the crowd a drunk American finds her way on stage to 'dance' towards the end of the set and then remembering a lad who'd crash landed during a stage diving attempt the previous time the band were in time - that sums up The Joy Formidable perfectly, a nicer all round band you are not likely to find. As amazingly talented one too.
Early set favourites "No One To Call" and "Only A Clown" showcase her matured sound, polished, slick and exuberant, there's a confident swagger to her band and their ballsy country-twang riffs and then of course there's Caitlin herself. I've never heard anyone control their voice as well, and with such devastating ability as Caitlin Rose, it's perhaps why everything she's leant it too over the past three years I've lapped up like a kitten does milk. Though it's the delicious - not your wedding song - "Pink Champagne" that floors me best, full of emotive grace and beauty whilst the closing swagger of old favourite "Shanghai Cigarettes is met with heartily appreciation by the crowd.
It's a wonderful set that's memorable throughout, the opening half of the set could easily be a greatest hits set for her forthcoming festival appearances. I expect it will be. The lack of an early curfew in London led to its attendees's joining Caitlin and band in a sing-along finale of "Bottles", a superb, smirk-inducing moment to end any night.
Album(s) of the month.
I'll let the real reviewers give proper plaudits to this LP as a whole, they've already been doing in their droves but I'll no doubt give a few mentions of my own between now and my end of year lists...
My love affair with Caitlin Rose's music goes back to spring 2010 when I fell for her incredible talents with "For The Rabbits", the lead off single for her debut Own Side Now. That summer I saw Caitlin over a half dozen times in the space of a few months and fell in love with her record, it's soon become by far and away my most listened to record of recent time. Therefore it was only natural to approach the follow up with a mixture of excitement and trepidation, The Stand-In had big boots to fill, in the end, any worries were put to bed on my first play through. The album instantly hits you with stylishly crafted numbers and luscious lyrical depth.
The songs are bigger and more polished, we've already heard the rocking "No One To Call" and the albums next single "Only A Clown" follows suit, it should be the track that takes Caitlin from main-stay of blogs and critics to Nashville's biggest export, with killer hooks aplomb her clear vocals it's a track made to seamlessly flown through wireless's around the world.
Album highlights are throughout, "Pink Champagne" is a stunning heart-breaker, a cover of the Felice Brothers' "Dallas" (an ode to Caitlin's home-town) is plain gorgeous while "Old Numbers" ends the album with an unexpected jazzy stomp. The Stand-In s the album may be called, a joke about the long gestation period of the Own Side Now period, but here, a real star is found.
Veronica Falls - Waiting For Something To Happen
Another second album that raises the bar for the artist involved, ;Waiting For Something To Happen shows a marked step-up for Veronica Falls (but also one that has much in keeping with their debut). From the opening bars of "Tell Me" to the wisful closure "Last Conversation" you are treated to a deceptively simple indie-pop sound that is pure, charming and genuinely wonderful. Part of their magic is their knack of making their tracks sound like something you're already familiar with.
"Teenage" is perhaps their finest moment to date, a pure, unadulterated pop tune that's as bright and catchy as anything we've heard from them before. "Buried Alive" is playful and infectious from the off and combines the bands infinite charm, fuzz-pop hooks and ominous sense of immediate death. All wrapped up within three minute of sweetly-sung, quick-paced wondrousness. Veronica Falls have refined their own sound and Waiting For Something TO Happen is it at its succinct, effortless best.
EP of the Month.
Bird - Ophelia
I was already pretty excited to hear Ophelia, Bird's third EP before its title-track floored me, it is perhaps Bird's most ambitious (and best) track to date, starting with a deep bass line and psychedelic guitar patterns it highlights a different side to the bands previous recorded output, one I've previously encountered in their live show, a hypnotic and sprawling groove that hooks you in even before the 'signature' Bird sound enters, soon enough Adele and Sian's majestic harmonies flutter siren-like with grace and beauty to send you to heavenly plains.
I'm as much of a fan of "The Waltz" though, easily one of the most beautiful things you're likely to hear this year, taking the ethereal and haunting comments to a new plain as it gradually builds up around a steady percussive heart-beat and orchestral flourishes. Spine-tinglingly gorgeous.
Single of the Month.
From my "Falling" post February 13th:
I often debate the necessity to post about bands that have 'made it' on my little blog, the chances of you discovering Haim here two months after they topped just about every 'tips for 2013' are minimal at best but here I am posting about the Los Angeles trio once more because they've (once again) come up with an absolute killer track...
Brimming with typical Haim confidence and adrenalin "Falling" combines all the attributes that have garnered so much attention so far, anthem like production, funk-laden hooks, gorgeous harmonies and tight rock guitars. Their topping of the BBC sound of 2013 list led me to read quite a few mumblings of dislike aimed at the act, something that was a bit of a surprise to me, I'd somewhat foolishly believed Haim had managed to win over almost all quarters. In my opinion the "back-lash" that followed was little more than playground squabbling - we can't all like the same thing, especially what's become popular after-all.
"Falling" is available now digitally with a 10" vinyl version released on April 1st - pre-order from Rough Trade - unfortunately there are only remixes on the flip-side. Expect UK
Discovery of the Month.
(text below from my post of February 11th)
Lotte Kestner is the solo project of Trespassers William vocalist Anna-Lynne Williams from Seattle. Her third album (but my introduction point) The Bluebird of Happiness and was released this week via Saint Marie Records (available via Bandcamp), its lead track "Cliff" is bloody lovely too...
Essentially a bare-boned ballad made up of little more than swirling keyboard strokes and soft strings flourishes it holds its weight due to the devastatingly beautiful and intimate nature of Lotte's emotive delivery and the absorbing ambience she manages to create with her minimalistic arrangements. Blissful and tinged in sadness, "Cliff" is a track that will stay with you long after it has finished.
There's a whole treasure chests worth of Lotte Kestner music to delve into on her bandcamp page too.