Thursday, 28 February 2013

February 2013 - A Month in Music

February came and went in almost the blink of an eye. It's not the shortest month of the year for nothing but we were treated to many musical treats (I'm not talking about the Brit Awards). My February was dominated by a few (familar) artists.....

Gig(s) of the month.

The Joy Formidable - La Botanique, Brussels - 1st February
Caitlin Rose - The Haunt, Brighton - 25th February / Dingwalls, London - 27th February

I saw both my favourite current acts twice in February and I'm not even going to attempt to split them here (I'll be seeing them both in March to, just to warn you). The Joy Formidable started my month off with a road trip to Brussels. I'd already heard some of the new album live the previous year and also seen the band at a Rough Trade in-store in January but this was the first time I'd seen TJF on the Wolf's Law tour.

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.

Despite admitting to having release day /opening show nerves during her performance at Brighton's The Haunt, Caitlin Rose never really exhibits any such traits (besides the odd ramble in-between songs), her pure vocals melt hearts as she (and her wonderful band) race through her new album The Stand-In interlaced with memorable tracks from her 2010 debut Own Side Now.

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.

Caitlin Rose - The Stand-In

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.



Runner up.
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.

Haim - Falling

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 dates soon. - a show at Heaven on April 24th goes on sale tomorrow - presale instantly sold-out so act quick.



Discovery of the Month.

Lotte Kestner

(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.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Dog In The Snow #2 - Fear

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Dog In The Snow released their new video last week (I posted about their first three last month), entitled "Fear" its title tells you alone that the Brighton duo are taking their stark sounds to the next level of haunting / creepy. Echoing around bleak landscapes "Fear" is their most dramatic track to date and also possibly their best....

Amongst a sparse mix of melodramatic choral vocals, minimal guitar and soft synths heavy toms burst out as the repetitive rhythms make up a delightfully eerie, unsettling melody. "Fear's" sombre-hued mysteriousness chills amongst Helen's deadpan delivery and will no doubt find a home with fans of darkly-laced music.

There's a break in "Fear" when it all goes a bit mental with various sound effects sounding like the murder scene off a low budget horror film - that's my favourite bit.

Amason - Margins

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Amason (note the different spelling to everyone's favourite tax dodging multi-national online retailer*) are a five piece Swedish super group of sorts consisting of members of Dungen, Miike Snow and more who formed as recently (online at least) as January of this year and have to date played just the two shows together.

Their only track shared online to date is the surely destined for radio track "Margins" which has got me all gooey inside. Sonically it is near on perfect with an undeniably sumptuous vocal and a rich, precise melody that melts inside you, quite magical indeed.


*allegedly

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Soap&Skin #5 - Sugarbread

Facebook / soapandskin.com

Are you ready? I hope so. This track is going to knock you for six. It is huge.

According to my earlier posts (I've forgotten) I came across Anja Plaschg (aka Soap&Skin) in early 2010 via last.fm. A strange discovery format for me I must admit but a cool one, I'm an out and out geek and do love tracking my statistics (regular readers won't be surprised to learn Caitlin Rose is head and shoulders above anything else on my tracked plays - since about 2007). Anyway, Soap&Skin has since become one of my favourite artists, Lovetune For Vacuum is close to being one of my Desert Island Discs (if the invention of mp3 has made such issues trivial) and her live show at Union Chapel was one of the most incredible, unpredictable, emotive shows I've ever seen - and I've seen about 500.

Her new track "Sugarbread" is taken from a stand alone 7" of the same name which closes the Narrow period of work. You can pre-order it from the Soap&Skin shop now - released 11th March - it's intense, chaotic, amazing. A goose-bumps inducing track supported by a video of collaged imagery and sound effects which combine to dramatic, almost disturbing results. Captivating yet beautiful, traits which almost perfectly sum up Soap&Skin. I'm looking forward to the next album already.


Soap&Skin - Sugarbread from Soap&Skin on Vimeo.

Phildel #2 - The Disappearance of the Girl

Facebook / phildel.com

Phildel came to my attention through her track "Storm Song" which blossomed with majestic, dramatic beauty towards the end of last year. Now to tease her forthcoming album The Disappearance of the Girl (due for release 11th March) she has been gradually releasing tracks from it via a series of artistic YouTube videos full of natural imagery and symbolism that have provided a real treat for the senses.

You can view the entire series via the link above, I'll pick a couple of my favourites below... The title track is absolutely bloody marvellous, Phildel's voice the absolute star of the show, rich and luxurious her ethereal voice hovers amongst luscious strings and restrained instrumentation that adds immeasurable levels of haunting beauty.

Both "Union Stone" and "Beside You" are made with heart and soul, equally memorable stark piano led ballads with fragile, whispered vocals unfold like a dream overflowing with emotions and fairytale-esque flourishes. I love the arrangements, I love the music, yeah The Disappearance of the Girl is an album that is going to be worth investigating fully.





Monday, 25 February 2013

Polar Bear - New Music "Introducing"

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Austrian duo Polar Bear only have a couple of tracks on their soundcloud page to base these superlatives (and with a facebook page created as recently as September 2012 I'm assuming they are quite newly formed) on but the lo-fi demos introduce a beautiful restrained electro pop sound of pared-down minimalism and fragile wonder.

Their track "Twenty-Something" came as my introduction and the glistening night-time synth overtures come across somewhere between The XX and the Drive soundtrack with twinkling keys and guitar effects taking me to a place far, far away.

"And The Fire" is likewise full of subtle, moody ambience with contrasting male/female vocals blending perfectly with the blissful melody. Haunting, raw and engaging, I doubt this will be the last I hear of this Polar Bear. Buzz-blog stardom awaits?



No Joy #5 - Lunar Phobia

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I can trace my following of No Joy right back to their beginning. A band that I've held in high regard since their debut 7" blew me away back in mid 2010. My love grew with a couple of killer UK shows and a deafening Primavera set the following spring (I've said this before but No Joy are definitely an act to see live). I don't think the band headed to Europe with last years Negaverse EP but hopefully that will change this year with the announcement of their second LP Wait to Pleasure (due via Mexican Summer on April 22nd), and its lead track "Lunar Phobia" to stream...

The track sees the band diversify somewhat, less blast your face off skyscraper sized noise with buzz saw drone and frenetic pacing and more sun-kissed daydreams as swirling layers of gorgeous psychedelia and languid, processed beats melt your heart, more akin to the likes of 90's shoegazers Curve, where beautiful ethereal vocals guide the mellow, melodic glow. Lovely stuff indeed.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Catnaps - Shuteye EP

Facebook / catnaps.bandcamp.com

One thing you can absolutely guarantee as a new band blog author is that there is always more new music than you possibly listen to in one lifetime. I'll use that as my excuse for not coming across the delicious fuzz pop band Catnaps before, with an album under their sleeves already from 2011 and a single last year it was the recently released Shuteye EP that came to my attention..

Opener "Cherry Lips" introduces a polished 90's punk-pop sound with a dollop of surf rock and attitude to boot. Here guitar and bass sound perfect, equally raw and smooth with sour-sweet vocals and tumbling drums, its shining hooks and catchy bounce charms immediately. Similarly "Novelty" is full of dreamy energy, a perfectly married combination of lovely vocals and slow-burning, sparkling guitars.

The highlight for me though in undoubtedly "Trouble", a track which in itself is a bit of a departure from the other two on the EP, blossoming from a sedate acoustic opening with soft, whispered vocals to an exhilarating fuzzed-up monsoon of noise, a sonic wall of sound that's blisteringly distorted, melodic, beautiful, magnificent.

You can download the Shuteye EP on a pay-what-you-like basis from Bandcamp now.


Marika Hackman #2 - That Iron Taste

Facebookmarikahackman.com

Since I featured Marika Hackman last August there's been a lot of new material from the busy young singer/songwriter, you can download a free Covers EP from Markia's website here and there has been a series of acoustic videos seemingly recorded in a subway tunnel to accompany news that a mini-album release That Iron Taste is due next week via Dirty Hit.

The albums advanced previews have done much to heighten anticipation for the release with Marika's poetic lyrics and disarming honesty bringing strength to the highlight "Cannibal", a delicious (pun) ambient soft psychedelic-folk track which swirls around experimental instrumentation and soothing, ethereal vocals as the dark-ish lyrics strike home. "Retina Television" sounds fresh, odd and haunting. Here the use of some unorthodox sounds (and lack of any traditional instruments) combines with Marika's natural, refreshing voice to create an atmospheric, hazy gaze in which you can immerse yourself fully.

A captivating young artist shows the first signs of a talent that could keep listeners happy for years to come.




Thursday, 21 February 2013

Woman's Hour #3 - To The End

Facebookwomanshour.co.uk

Woman's Hour announced their return last October in smouldering fashion with the understated "Our Love Has No Rhythm". Since the now London based quartet have been steadily playing live shows around the capital before earlier this week announcing their new single (backed by the aforementioned "Our Love..") To The End (released via Parlour Records on April 8th - pre-order now).

No, not a cover of the marvellous Blur song of the same name (nor the even better duet with Françoise Hardy that was the highlight of the "Country House" single), "To The End" is an unhurried track that's even more liable to be described as luxurious, slow-motion bliss, with vocalist Fiona Burgess' romantic coos and carefully orchestrated electronic nuances guiding restrained percussion it's as beautiful and fragile as anything 2013 has offered us so far.



Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Tiny Fireflies #2 // Baffin Island - Split Single

Baffin Island (pictured left) - Facebook
Tiny Fireflies (pictured below) - Facebook

Two for one today - how I spoil you. Though I almost missed the email with these gems in altogether - the word vs. in its title completely put me off - it brought instant thoughts of mash-ups and remixes, neither things I am very fond of... The truth though is somewhat simpler, it's simply two acts covering each other.

One of the acts have been covered here before, Chicago duo Tiny Fireflies who appeared as a delicious Valentine's Day offering last year, their dreamy, luscious vein of pop is the sort of thing to cause butterflies in your stomach and the other is a new act to me, Baffin Island. A trans-continental trio named by the mid point of their geographical locations (if you go the long way round) who fill a traditional upbeat, jangle indie-pop sound with multi-instrumented melodies, infinite charm and pure vocals.

Tiny Fireflies add harmonising vocals on their lovely version of "You Make Two Weeks Two Days" where sparse casio-led strokes and drum machine patterns wash you with bitter-sweet memories whereas "Baffin Island" bring instant joy and bright melodies to "So Sad To Say Goodbye" which is so utterly loveable from the outset of sweet vocals, shuffling percussion and swirling keys.

You can download the Across Oceans split single for free via the ever reliable EardrumsPop label. It should be more than enough to whet your appetite and luckily for you (and me) both acts also have a previous (and similarly free) EP's out by the same label (Tiny Fireflies // Baffin Island) - they're wonderful so go and fill your boots.


Tuesday, 19 February 2013

The Beautiful Word - New Music "Introducing"

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I must be going soft in my old age, progressing from the dark, moody miserabilist of my youth to increasingly beautiful and bright music now I'm a veteran (over 30). This band even come with a pre-warning of their soft and happy being in their name, Brighton quintet The Beautiful Word sound as gorgeous as their name indicates with entwined vocals of songwriters Emily and Megan beautifully floating around delicate, restrained folk-pop instrumentation.

Latest single "May Not Be Love" perfectly sums that up, with gorgeous melodies and harmonies it's easy on the ears and should melt even the sternest of hearts with sweetly sung vocals that will stick in your head and make you smile all day long. Earlier "Emily" similarly glistens with light, infectious ease, a chiming music box of unapproachable beauty as pretty-as-a-flower lyrics guide fluttering drum beats and wondering bass grooves. Lovely indeed.

Download for free via the soundcloud links below with live dates in London and local Sussex venues on their website.




The Tuts #2 - Tut Tut Tut

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The good folk at bandcamp have created a lovely new feature called 'fan pages' (here's mine by the way) where you can follow bands you like and also people too. Then when new releases drop by your artists (or your 'friends' buy something) you get a daily digest email telling you, it's almost the perfect quality control filter.

It's by this method that I found the new single by The Tuts, the Uxbridge based trio I discovered here last Summer with a (now verified) kick-ass live show and a exhilarating spunky pop sound that is guaranteed to brighten up your day with breathless energy and infectious enthusiasm.

Just like "I Call You Up" the girls latest track "Tut Tut Tut" is short and sharp, fun and frenetic with its mixture of upbeat sing-a-long melodies, crashing percussion and fuzzed-up guitar riffs. There's no time to rest here, the two and a half minute duration of "Tut Tut Tut" should be spent dancing around your room...

Download the single from Bandcamp now.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Cave Ghosts - New Music "Introducing"

Facebook / caveghosts.tumblr.com

I came across Cave Ghosts when I posted about the Hunk! cassette back at the end of November as the bands vocalist Jen Connell added her gorgeous, dreamy vocals to the fellow Dublin bands release. I posted links in my draft folder to remind me to download the bands EP and make this post shortly after. I forgot. Today though I came across the post and the rest, as they say, is history...

I belatedly re-discover an EP of sweet, summery sounds that would have raised a few smiles over the cold, winter months, a three track demo EP (available to download free via Cave Ghost's Bandcamp) of overwhelming, swoonsome beauty. Opener "Hideway" the perfect example with its sumptuous cocktail of vintage sounds, uke-strumming and drum popping. I can't help but make similarities between the romantic vibe of Tennis' first LP, that's no bad thing to me.

Throughout Cave Ghosts show an effortless way with melody and knack of creating well-crafted pop tracks that are made to be enjoyed. Jen's vocals on the similarly irresistible "When You Go Away" float above bright, poppy instrumentation and on "La Concha" there's a warm, sun-drenched fuzz-pop sound with slaphazard drums and reverb-a-plenty. All in all, it's rather ace. Download the EP now before you forget about it...


Sunday, 17 February 2013

Miniatures - New Music "Introducing"

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Miniatures released their debut EP almost a year ago now but the New Zealand duo have recently expanded to a quartet and according to this site are ready to tour and release some new material which should come as good news if like me you've just discovered the band...

That debut (available to download for free via Bandcamp) introduces a signature shoegaze sound that bristles with excitement and beauty throughout. "Midwinter (Air)" whilst undoubtedly rough-around the edges gets your adrenaline pumping with an urgent rush of deliciously fuzzed-up guitar brutally soaring over hazy, shimmering melody, relentless drum beats and echoed vocals while "Glass Box", softer and dreamy meanders with gorgeous layers, the perfect juxtaposition of fuzzy carnage and cooing, drifting bliss.

"Things Better" and "Time Is" are both raw and in perhaps in need of some studio time but are both exhilarating and irresistible with screeching guitar dissonance weaving around popping melodies. It's free, go and grab it now then join the queue of people waiting for more...


Silkies #2 - It Hurts to be Sixteen

Facebook / silkies.bandcamp.com

Silkies featured here with their debut track "Like One" back in September, that track later became the lead track to the bands debut release, a three track cassette released via Brighton based indie Heart Throb Records, now the band have treated you - I own it already - to a free download of the bonus track from the tape, a cover of Andrea Carroll's 60's doo-wop song "It Hurts to be Sixteen".

Bursting out of the gates with fast-paced youthful exuberance the track combines the raucous garage-scuzz that defined the duos early recordings with the original's classic girl group vocal harmonies, the result is breathless and instant, get your groove with a click on the download button below.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Oh Odessa - New Music "Introducing"

Facebook / ohodessa.bandcamp.com

I've always been (and will probably be) notoriously slow to processing emails in my inbox, it doesn't really take that long to siphon through the ones which are completely irrelevant to the blog (unroll.me helps too) and then leave yourself with ones that are worth investigating further. This though is where the time consuming bit really starts.

If I listen to ten tracks/acts in full (about the number I'm normally left with) on a daily basis that would take up most of the time I have to write a blog, so naturally some personal filtering has to come into place. Often those acts which you've never heard of before but like the sound of take the longest to process, purely for timing reasons, you want to listen to a record a few times to form a proper opinion on it.

That's basically what happened here, Brooklyn based quartet Oh Odessa came to my attention over a month ago now but I wanted write a considered summation when the time was right and not a rush job. Their self titled debut album (which was actually released as far back as January 2012 and is available to stream and purchase via bandcamp now) is an intoxicating blend of emotionally charged folk-rock and acoustic grace led by Jeni Magana's breathy, gorgeous vocals and beautiful song-writing.

Opener "Tempting Fate" is full of haunting, homely charm with ukulele plucks and fluttering drums roaming free, the next track "Wrong Things" is similarly majestic, soft, delicate and exuding prettiness throughout. "Another Boy" and "Silent Sound" bring together an energetic, well-honed sound and match it with a powerful set of songs that attack you with feeling. The latter especially slow burns with unexpected twists and haunting depth, building around echoey instrumentation and swathes of beautiful, heartbreaking wonder.

I think my favourite track from the record is "What The World Doesn't Know" which reminds me of St Vincent, a rich and mystical tapestry which creep and crawls around your brain. I really like the cover of "Female of the Species" on the bands tumblr too. Thanks inbox.



Thursday, 14 February 2013

The Aquadolls - New Music "Introducing"

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It's Valentines's Day, love is in the air and we are all happy with our loved ones. Or so the card shops and florists would have us believe. Any, ignoring the cynical aspects of commercialism behind I'll concentrate on a band I've been aiming to post about for a while, California's The Aquadolls. They came to my attention on the same Bandcamp session that led to me discovering La Luz, I ordered their We Are Free EP CD that day and it arrived at my house shortly afterwards in the most personalised packaging I've ever received - major brownie points there.

There are so many tracks (with more added on a seemingly weekly basis) that It's hard to know where to start with their music on a little blog posting like this. I'll concentrate on a few of their most recent releases, today came a digital Valentine's Day 7" called First Kiss. The title-track is super sweet, languid drums and guitar shimmers create a dreamy, youthful sound around gorgeous doo-wop choruses, it sounds like falling in love for the first time all over again.

A quick scan through their discography so far finds a host of recordings continuing with the nostalgic day-dreams interlaced with a rough and ready psychedelic garage edge. Most of The Aquadolls' material so far (principally the bedroom made work of Melissa Brooks) are raw demos with fuzzy surf rock melodies and jangly pop hooks singing songs of love old and new. Perhaps best seen on the wonderful "Honey" which is laid-back, warm and just lovely. Then there's the thrashy but sweet "Sinus Infection" or the fleetingly short number "My My Baby" which defines the bands slightly sloppy approach, or you could equally point to the super charged fun-times of "I'm Your Burger Dream Girl", with a title alone that tells you this is a band that don't take themselves too seriously

There's a shed load of merch and digital tracks on the bands bandcamp - so spoil yourself (or your Valentine if you'd rather. If you are a cheapskate - damn you and you can download "First Kiss" (and quite a few other great tracks including another act I've planned for posting very soon) on the 17 track Sincerely California Valentine's Day mix-tape over here.



Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Haim #4 - Falling


Facebook // haimtheband.com

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 dates soon.

WALL #2 - Shoestring

Facebook / thisiswall.com

Here's another track that I could probably surmise with one or two words, something like genuinely gorgeous or truly beautiful. I do like to waffle on though, so instead of that we'll add a couple of paragraphs saying pretty much the same thing. WALL return (after the irresistible "Magazine") with the lead track from a forthcoming and similarly titled EP "Shoestring"...

The backing in sparse and delicate throughout with minimal beats and swirling synths easing you into Lyla's intimate, hushed vocals, the result is sweet, blissful and guaranteed to leave you feeling all weak at the knees.

The five track EP Shoestring is released on April 1st via Big Picnic Records with Wall playing her biggest headlining show to date at London's Bush Hall on the 11th of the same month - tickets.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Psalms - New Music "Introducing"


Fresh from the ashes of Fever Fever come Psalms with a debut track that's bound to garner attention from their former bands rabid fan base and win them new ones too...

Building with strong, commanding presence and confidence from the outset "Low Plane" doesn't really sound like a bands first track, no doubt aided by their past experiences, it builds with layers of artfully constructed noise, snarling and snapping with thumping drum and bass cutting through raw vocals that shrieks and purr in equal measure.

Psalms play what I think may be their debut London show as part of Jen Long's Simply Rad night at the Queen of Hoxton on Feb 27th - details.

Thea & The Wild - New Music "Introducing"

Facebook / theaandthewild.com

So on the day The Great Escape announced their first wave of acts (head to their website to see that - I give it 6/10 - a little too 'buzzy' for me) I'll bring a couple of acts who would fit in perfectly at the festival (hint to organisers). Thea & The Wild is led by Thea Glenton Raknes from Oslo, their debut single "Cry Sometimes" is a great, breezy pop tune with some rough-edged guitar and individual, experimental subtleties. Amongst a web of rich instrumentation this gloriously melodic radio friendly track is quirky and beautifully refreshing throughout.

The only other track currently available is a demo called "Trains" which revs up the fuzz level with gritty, snarling guitars adding a level of filth to seductive keys and percussive claps, it's not quite garage-rock, it's far too well produced and slick for that and Thea's vocals, whilst direct, are beautiful and clean but it is hypnotic and endearing and I'm looking forward to hearing more from my latest in a long line of Scandinavian finds.



Monday, 11 February 2013

Bored Spies - New Music "Introducing"

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Bored Spies is a three-piece band from Singapore, their debut single Summer 720 is due later this Spring on 7" and contains two instantly endearing power-pop beauties...

A little bit of searching leads me to find their vocalist / guitarist is Cherie Ko from Obedient Wives Club (who coincidently will be back on the blog in their own right very shortly) and Bored Spies similarly traverse dreamy, melodic planes but instead of a hazy Best Coast-esque sound with quick-paced, fuzzed out guitars "Summer 720" plays soft and smooth with languid beats, shimmering guitar and sweet, sweet vocals

I've no idea how to start naming the tracks flip side but it's equally atmospheric and swoon-some, hushed vocals and a blanket of luscious textures caressing your mind, gorgeous.

The band are due to play Primavera in May with a London date planned on June 2nd at the Sebright Arms.

Lotte Kestner - Cliff

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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 is due for release on Feb 26th via Saint Marie Records (available to pre-order 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.



Sunday, 10 February 2013

Mt. Wolf #2 - Hypolight

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For all the superlatives I seem to use sometimes the simplest, most frequently used are the best.

I can't think of a better word to describe Mt. Wolf and their new track "Hypolight" than beautiful. It is beautiful, of that there can be no debate. Restrained guitars, subtle electronic nuances and a beguiling vocal performance combine to something that is ineffably beautiful. Kate's Sproule's controls her voice with effortless ease, throughout; one moment ethereal, whispered bliss and the next soaring, emotive power, just stunning this.

The band play London's XOYO on February 28th (details) with an EP of the same name due soon.

Scanners #2 - State of Wonder

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I've got a bit of a habit of featuring bands I've not done for ages at the minute, the latest are Scanners who came back to my horizon with the simply gorgeous "State of Wonder". Originally released very late last year as a Christmas give-away single (still available to download below) it's planned for inclusion on the bands forthcoming album Love is Symmetry...

It should be anyway, because it's a real fucking beauty, a slow burning melodic anthem which finds itself imprinted on your heart and mind from the very first listen, repetitive keys glisten amongst beautiful, beautiful inspiring choruses. Apparently an ode to a river, I don't a river has ever been so lucky.



Saturday, 9 February 2013

Field Mouse #3 - Tomorrow Is Yesterday

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Brooklyn shoegaze quartet Field Mouse already have a couple of killer 7" to their name ("You Guys Are Gonna Wake Up My Mom" and "How Do You Know" if you didn't already know), and now they return with their punchiest, power-pop track to date "Tomorrow Is Yesterday" (taken from an as yet unannounced album to follow later this year).

Whilst there's hardly anything new about "Tomorrow Is Yesterday" the nostalgic cocktail of 90's fuzz-laden guitars, crashing drums and dreamy female vocals is used to winning effect. Rachel's sensual vocals are so soft and effortless in their beauty that you can almost float amongst them and the chugging bass-line bursts with toe-tapping energy while swirling textures similarly embed in your brain making "Tomorrow Is Yesterday" a two and a half minute dose of sugary hooks and shoegaze master-class - who can refuse that?

I'll also point you in the direction of their blissful rendition of the Twin Peaks theme song from their last 7"; delicate, hazy perfection...



Friday, 8 February 2013

Glastonbury Emerging Talent Contest 2013

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Earlier this year I was honoured to be asked to take part in the 2013 Emerging Talent Contest run by Glastonbury Festival. In the past its entrants (for better or worse) have become well known bands, The Subways, Stornoway and 2011's winner Treetop Flyers all come instantly to mind.

The 2013 contest kicked off in early January when new and emerging bands had just a week to enter to win a chance to play on the main stage at the festival (and boy did they enter). Over 8000 entries were received in that time, a record number. That meant 40 of us bloggers (full list) later received a list with approximately 200 acts to listen to, our task was then a relatively simple (but incredibly difficult) job of whittling that number down to just three acts each.

What happens next? Well all the bloggers short-lists (which will be announced in full on Friday March 8th) are sent forward for a panel of judges (including Emily & Michael Eavis) to pick eight (just eight from 8000+) acts who will play at a grand, live final in Pilton in April. The winner of course will play a live pyramid slot at this years Glastonbury but other acts might just find their way onto the bill too. In 2011 I saw Emily & The Woods on the Acoustic Stage after she made the bloggers short-list. All in all, a useful exercise then...

Anyway, bringing the competition to the blog, this long post will hopefully bring a bit of exposure to a dozen of my favourite acts discovered through the competition. Of 200 acts on my entry list not a single act had previously featured on this blog. A singular statement that goes to highlight the breadth of talent in the UK - Glastonbury ETC was UK artists only - whilst naturally the list was a bit of a mixed bag in terms on my own particular taste there were a great number of exciting acts to discover.

Of my own particular short-list some are brand, brand new with only a handful of YouTube/Soundcloud plays (by far the most popular source of stream for entrants - although two bands did go 'old school' with MySpace links!) and some acts that already have a number of EP's and albums to their name with hundreds and thousands of plays. Hopefully you'll enjoy them as much as I did during the judging procedure. The acts are ordered alphabetically in order according to the track I've included in the post.

Please note that I cannot and will not say which of these acts are in my final three until the full results are revealed on March 8th, please don't ask.

Lillian Todd Jones - Butter Soul (website)

"Butter Soul" is the striking, captivating debut from Lillian Todd Jones. Raw and passionate throughout it's a rare track that is dark, intriguing and beautiful all in one go.



Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker - Done (website)

A gorgeous blend of traditional folk and masterful instrumentation topped by a vocal radiant and clear. "Done" is sparse yet uniquely captivating.



Little Bear - The Few and Far Between (website)

Although not the typical band to feature here Derry's Little Bear have music steeped in dreamy, swelling instrumentation and joyful beauty, "The Few and Far Between" is well-crafted, shimmering and has simply exquisite harmonies.



Joyce the Librarian - Follow Me, I'm Right Behind You (website)

"Follow Me, I’m Right Behind You" is a laid-back little beauty with a gentle, whimsical melody and precious, delicate harmonies. Pretty much perfect for an early morning, sun-soaked set at a Festival then (yeah, who am I kidding at Glastonbury).



Sally Archer - For Us (website)

"For Us" is taken from Sally Archer's debut EP Fades, an EP which could lay claim to the young London based singer-songwriter being the UK's answer to Regina Spektor, a strong, passionate vocal and sweeping, emotive sounds.



Luke Wylde and The Japes! - Ghost (website)

A super sweet track that you can imagine being played on both Radio Two and BBC Six Music, gorgeous call and response vocals and full of beautiful, catchy pop hooks, very nice indeed.

Couldn't find an embeddable player - listen at their website here.

Lucid Pattern - Hanging Here

I couldn't find any further information about this act at all but the track submitted "Hanging Here" is all smouldering dual vocals and shimmering guitar textures, they may be a college band or something for now but a few more like this and that might not be the case for too long.



Katey Brooks - In Light of You (website)

A jaw-dropping vocal performance around gentle acoustic plucks, "In Light of You" spends two minutes as a genuinely gorgeous melancholic lament before transforming with a breezy, airy melody that will have even the hardest of souls toe-tapping before the end.


Lion The Weak - Midnight (website)

"Midnight" is a slow-burning minimalistic pop beauty, ethereal, moody and mellow, the sort of track that propelled The XX to headline The Park stage a few years ago...



Lowood - The More People (website)

Another artist I failed to find anything on, Lowood, I'm guessing is a solo, bedroom electronic project of London based Cheryl ..., "The More People" with jaunty synths and cool, smooth vocals highlights a sound with infinite potential, definitely one I shall be following in the future.



Maglia Rosa Group - Nighthawks (website)

Swirling with Siouxsie like mysticism "Nighthawks" is a dark, gorgeous beauty that shines through sparse, rhythmic drums and shimmering guitar textures whilst haunting vocal swoops immerse you fully in its atmospheric grace - a wonderful track.



Gerard and the Watchmen - Stables (website)

Gerard and the Watchmen have a sound that is full of rich, restrained melodies and affecting lyrics. "Stables" is heart-warming and truly beautiful.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Lay Low - The Backbone

Facebook / laylow.is/

A way overdue posting now, Lay Low was the first act I saw in 2013, supporting Daughter in Brighton last month. I didn't know too much about her before the show but her gorgeous, charming and intimate show won me over sufficiently to spend the last cash in my wallet on her CD after the show. Lay Low is Icelandic singer/songwriter Lovísa Elísabet Sigrúnardóttir (copy and pasted!) and has three albums going back to 2006, I'm going to concentrate on her latest release, last years "The Backbone" here...

A warm and dusty Americana sound that blends blues and folk is quickly highlighted, her live set was solo show but here her guitar and sweet, honey-toned voice are back by a restrained band whose deep drums and rich, melancholic instrumentation only add to the well-rounded, melt-your-heart sounds.

B-side "Rearrangement" starts further stripped back with acoustic finger-plucking before building around a slightly off-kilter psychedelic melody, almost Stealing-Sheep like with beautiful vocals and poetic lyrics. Two different styles, one superb single. You can buy the record and Lovísa's earlier work from her shop.




Torres #2 - Jealousy and I

Facebook / torrestorrestorres.com

As far as I'm concerned you can't beat a live airing of a song to portray the real thought-process behind it, often a studio version can gloss over some aspects of a tracks meaning but when seen live, you can often fully understand or even first-hand witness the outpouring of intense human emotions that came to make a single track, here's one such case for you. Although Torres has yet to play a UK date so the 'live' airing is in fact a studio session....

The track "Jealousy and I" is already one of my favourites from her (Mackenzie Scott's) self-titled debut (available now digitally via bandcamp).Open and honest from the start, with bare-boned guitar shimmers and reverb pretty much the only accompaniment to Torres' hauntingly personal songs, the out-poring of emotion is there for all to see but on this live version (for Ripped Ears) the intensity is ramped up ten-fold, jaw dropping and heart-wrenching at the same time, one thing for sure, you simply can't take your eyes off it.

Pre-order links for the physical version of the album of available via Torres' website.



Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Just Handshakes #2 - London Bound

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I band I fell completely smitten with last year were Just Handshakes (although they had previously featured here back in April 2011). The last six months or so I've been patiently waiting for news of their next release content with listening to their debut 7", demo tape and a sampler CD given to my Clara at a Beautiful Strange gig last year (there are earlier CD singles that I missed out on). Earlier today that wait was over as news reached me of the first single to be taken from their forthcoming debut full length Say It, the wonderful "London Bound"...

The single is one you may have heard previously as a demo on the aforementioned tape, here it comes alive with studio polish and instantly finds a sweet place in your brain with its infectious, swirling melody. Gorgeously contagious "London Bound" glistens with upbeat, indie pop charm amongst rat-a-tat percussion, shimmering keys and jangly guitars whilst Clara's fragile, distinctive vocals resonate with sweet, enduring ease. "London Bound" is a track that perfectly captures the essence of Just Handshakes - consider me excited for more.

London Bound is released digitally via Bleeding Gold Records on Feb 18th with the album, as yet, without a date.

GAPS - New Music "Introducing"

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Brighton duo Rachel & Ed aka GAPS are relatively new on the music scene (under this current guise anyway, they may have previously been in another band, I don't know), but have already amassed a handful of tracks on their soundcloud and have already received glowing praise from some highly regarded blogs.

Their sound can't be immediately pigeon-holed too easily, seemingly a combination of desolate laments set to sparse backdrops of electronic music that floats under a sea of folk roots with a smidge of dub added for good effect...

Their debut "Belong" is probably my favourite, minimalistic and ethereal with beautifully imposing key strokes adding a dramatic element to ambient synths and breathy vocals which progresses with folky acoustic plucks and sonic textures.

"The Void" paints an equally bare landscape with airy experimental sounds full of spacious echoes while latest teaser "Inside Your Head" combines increasingly electronic nuances with heavenly vocals and mellow guitar creating the sort of melancholic but sweet ambience that should be the soundtrack to many a after-hours playlist.



Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Secret Mountains #3 - High Horse

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Last week I got myself reacquainted with Secret Mountains after a two year absence so it only feels fair that like London buses they feature twice within a few weeks here. Especially when it's with a track as bewitching as this...

"High Horse" is Secret Mountain's most beautiful yet, purposely slow and bare, the unfussy arrangements build hauntingly, blissfully with soft, entrancing instrumentation and lullaby comforting vocals. Today's order is to spare yourself five minutes, stop whatever you are doing, grab yourself some decent speakers/headphones (not your crappy, tinny PC ones) and immerse yourself fully in this - just gorgeous.

Rainer, Secret Mountains debut LP is due February 26th via Friends Records limited to just 500 copies.
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Le Page - Ileana / Closure

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An email came into my inbox before Christmas, I discovered it late last night. How very silly of me, consider this blog my long overdue apology...

Le Page are from Greece and currently reside in Athens and Paris, the minimalist dream-pop of their latest digital single "Ileana" highlights a beautiful, psychedelic, 60s film-noiry sound with soft, airy vocals and cinematic soundscapes much akin to Still Corners. It's one I have instantly fallen in love with and no doubt, if you are still reading this, you will too. "Ileana" is slightly sinister yet wholly gorgeous, a mixture of sweetly sung breathy vocals and intoxicating melody, with spooky organ swirls and rat-a-tat drum machine beats keeping you on the edge of your seat.

"Closure" is slower and more purposeful, recalling 80's synth-pop's darker moments with a ghostly key melody leading dual, suspenseful vocals. Atmospheric for sure and equally impressive too.

Download the single for free via Sonic Playground now.


Monday, 4 February 2013

Tristen #2 - No One's Gonna Know

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Tristen featured two years ago with an Introducing post but in truth her debut full-length 2011's Charlatans At The Garden Gate should definitely have been mentioned here more (iTunes tells me I last listened to her in June of the same year - a mistake).

Tristen seemingly missed the ears of pretty much every journo this side of the Atlantic too, it's strange because Tristen has all the attributes that could easily have placed her on a similar level to fellow Nashville resident (and friend - they've featured and written with each other too I believe) Caitlin Rose. A beautiful, clean voice with crisp, country-pop songs which shine lyrically. Rich with atmosphere and with a touch of twang, "Easy for your Love" and "Baby Drugs" are a perfect fit for UK radio.

My memory got well and truly jogged with an email about Tristen's second record Caves. Well more to the point, a Kickstarter project to raise the funds to release it. It came with a link to "No One's Gonna Know" (see below), a wonderful track which could well be her best track to date, something of a new approach with the addition of synthesizers and drum machine beats to her guitar and string flourishes. With polished production and her gorgeous voice, Tristen shouldn't be left ignored by the UK press for long, not if I can help it anyway.

You can pledge to CAVES via Kickstarter now and pick up her earlier work here.

Chalk and Numbers #4 - Boy

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The utterly charming Chalk and Numbers are back with "Boy", the first track to be taken from their forthcoming EP Parade (due March 12th). I've been a fan of the duo's easy on your ears, sunny day pop music for a while now but if you're new to the Brooklyn act, I promise you, your Monday morning is about to get infinitely better. Especially if you stayed up half the night watching men run around a field...

"Boy" is deliciously upbeat, a guaranteed mood-enhancing track about finding love which is both nostalgic and warm, as I listen to it, it fills me with a fuzzy feeling and I find myself hitting the repeat button again and again. Completely irresistible, Chalk and Numbers again prove themselves able of making pop tunes of the very finest order.

If you haven't already, make sure you have the wonderful seven track debut EP He Knew too, free via bandcamp.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Wolf Alice #3 - White Leather

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After "Leaving You" and more recently "Fluffy" I thought (wrongly) that Wolf Alice had morphed into a grunge-rock band and left their folkier roots behind them. With "Fluffy" especially the very definition of the word monster, big, pummelling beats and ballsy riffs which it left little to the imagination...

Now though we've been treated (and I do mean treated) to the single's flip-Side "White Leather", which recalls the London bands earlier material, a tender, love-lorn ballad with Ellie's soft vocals resonating beautifully over languid beats and surf guitars.

Incredible to think it's just a B-Side? Gorgeous stuff. Pre-order on 7" via Rough Trade.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Bird #4 - Ophelia

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Bird were one of my favourite discoveries (or you could almost say re-discovery after I originally posted about the band under an almost completely different line-up back in July 2011) of the second half of 2012. A couple of stunning live performances and a magical, otherworldly EP Shadows propelled the Liverpool trio into my 'Tips for 2013' lists. Now with a new EP, Ophelia, due for release on February 14th via Jack to Phono Records (and a two week long UK tour starting the day after - full dates) they've already started filling columns in publications a bit more lofty than this - check out this weeks NME if you don't believe me....

To preview the EP we've been treated to its title track "Ophelia", Bird's most ambitious (and perhaps 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 though Adele and Sian's majestic harmonies flutter siren-like with grace and beauty to send you to heavenly plains.

I'm away on the London date on March 2nd, come back soon please. I'll add an EP pre-order link here when I find one - digital pre-order via iTunes.