Wednesday, 26 February 2014

FEATURE: Tracks of the Week - 21/2/14

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (21/2/14)

Every week we trawl through masses of new music to bring you the best of the rest. Here’s our pick of the most exciting new tunes over the last seven days. 

As all eyes were on the Brits, some lent their ears to Zane Lowe’s BBC Radio One show for Jungle’s latest offering, “Busy Earnin”. Rather than continue on a placid groove, the elusive soul/funk-pop duo dropped one hell of an anthemic brass blowout, embellished with big bass slaps, jewelled synths and smug harmonies. It’s now more important than ever to keep an eye on them.

Leeds-based five-piece Goodbye Chanel knew exactly how to transport us to warmer climes this week with the tropical-pop goodness of “Foreva”. Its effervescent rhythms and sparkly math guitars sit somewhere between Foals' sound of yore and US quirk-pop experimentalists GIVERS; a layered, escapist sound that is more than welcome at this bleak time of year.

Returning to the funk furrows of Jungle’s sound, JUCE dished-out the unbelievable catchy, “Call You Out”. Recalling the late 70s disco vibes of Donna Summer, the track is at once modern and old in its sound, brightened by swoon synths and soft harmonies. An exciting debut offering.

We were lucky to premiere the sonic new track by Still Corners/Hush Arbors music man Leon Dufficy, under the guise of Winter Drones. “Towns Alight” is relentless with its guitar drone and urgent motorik rhythms, basking in dream-pop murmurs and weighty multi-layers. His debut album is out this April.

Lastly, Oxford quartet Glass Animals unveiled their latest sultry experiment, “Gooey”. With frontman David Bayley’s lascivious falsetto, undulating rhythms and sketchy electronic whips, it’s an idiosyncratic offering from the band who were the first to sign to Paul Epworth’s (Adele, Florence And The Machine) Wolf Tone label. Bring on their debut album.

Listen to our selection of the week’s best new music below:

LIVE: Metronomy, CHVRCHES, Angel Haze – The Hospital Club, London 18/02/14

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (21/2/14)

One of the few delights during the bleak winter months is the awards season. From star-studded film ceremonies, to big music awards like the Grammys and the BRITS, it’s a treat for avid culture vultures and the entertainment industry alike. The first of many (October’s 2013 Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize) crowned James Blake a worthy winner for his LP Overgrown, nicely warming us up for a fruitful spell of events that help us digest the year in its various art forms. To keep the Mercury flame alight, and to celebrate live music, there is also a series of one-off gigs featuring nominee alumni and other acts – and tonight’s debut instalment of Barclaycard’s Mercury Prize Sessions boasts a fine line-up. 

The Hospital Club’s basement studio isn't packed to the rafters with the expected tastemakers. No, making up the majority of the crowd in the modest space are competition winners – and it shows. As New York-based rapper/lyricist Angel Haze runs onto the stage, there’s giddy, tangible excitement: all hands in the air and beaming faces.

It’s clear to see why Haze has been so welcomed. What follows is a 20-minute set of some of the most provoking live music to reach these shores; Haze spitting rhymes over an extremely tight and vivacious backing band. New song, “Sing About Me”, and debut album-closer, “New York”, are so well executed they sound like they’ve been ripped straight from the studio, if only to be shaken up by Haze’s riotous spit and lurches into the crowd.

Before long, rising Brooklyn soloist LOLO jumps onstage to sing on “Drunk In Love” and Haze’s new single, “Battle Cry”. It’s a good, though not brilliant performance: LOLO’s solid, soulful vocal not quite carrying above the bulge of the rhythm section. The song that most comes into itself on this opening set is “A Tribe Called Red”, bustling with bright keys, motif aahs and oohs and huge, pneumatic beats.

Next up, CHVRCHES. Admittedly, the juxtaposition between Haze’s rap snarl and the Scottish trio’s balmy brand of electropop is all too sharp, with vocalist Lauren Mayberry getting lost in Iain Cook and Martin Doherty’s fuzzy synthesisers. “Lies” soon sees the meek-n-mild Mayberry connect with the audience, punching the air on every synth clap and lifting her chin to the crowd.

Bodies later throw to the beat of “Recover”, with a stunning blue hue blanketing the band at its breakdown, but “Under the Tide” unfortunately jars against it with Doherty’s awkward take on frontman duties: flailing his arms around like an excitable child. At this moment, the slightly sanitised nature of the gig (which is being filmed for later broadcast) becomes most apparent; the crowd stifled by Doherty’s urgent performance to camera. “Two more and then you're done”, Mayberry says afterwards, as if to roll out the red for headliners Metronomy. Set closer, “The Mother We Share”, sounds somewhat small with its live bass guitar, but is thankfully saved by glorious, syncopated vocal melodies at the end.

The most anticipated act of the night is evidently Metronomy, with conversations about their new album, Love Letters, hanging heavy in the air. For those lucky enough to have heard their third release, tonight is the perfect litmus test for the new numbers. But a couple of songs in and it’s clear there will be no golden oldies for the eager crowd.

One such example is “Month of Sundays” – a quirky slice of pop with gospel overtones that sounds wonderful with its humid harmonies and a tender, free-flowing guitar solos. The second single from the London-based six-piece’s new LP, “Love Letter” – complete with statement honky-tonk piano, hammering beats and 60s-indebted choral singing – is almost perfect live, if not impaired by frontman Joe Mount’s weak harmony line.

Where “Call Me” is flaccid and disengaging, 40s doo-wap single “I’m Aquarius” is mercifully sleek and slick, finally placing Mount as the bandleader centrestage. Some of the earlier tracks, such as the instrumental, “Boy Racers”, add little to the set. But these are excused by the snappy, “Reservoir”, and the frankly brilliant, “The Most Immaculate Haircut” (a funny ode to Connan Mockasin’s lid) which sees the band at their most unified: flitting between Mount’s solitary verses and a choruses ripe with bold group singing. 

Although all the performances tonight have their inconsistencies – of course part and parcel of the nature of live music – it was a special and quietly momentous evening that celebrated all that is good and varied about contemporary music. Raise your glasses, and bring on the next.

LISTEN/WATCH: The Acid, The Night VI, Labyrinth Ear

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (17/2/14 - 20/2/14)

The Acid - "Basic Instinct"

The one that nearly got away: this breathtaking video for “Basic Instinct” is an audio-visual triumph, and a statement piece of art from the get-go by burgeoning three-piece, The Acid.

Comprised of Australia-via-LA producer/artist Ry X, grammy-nominated British DJ and producer Adam Freeland and Californian native producer/composer Steve Nalepa, the band came together quietly in early 2013 with the simple aim of making music together. What has emerged is something so spectacular, so untimely, and so down-right intriguing that their genesis is more than a blessing.

“Basic Instinct” – the first we've heard from the band – refuses to be categorised with its wiry acoustics, scuzzy talkbox vocals and house music sentiments. Add to the mix the dystopian-inspired visuals, featuring surrealist, uniformed performers (from notable dance/art group WIFE) jumping slow-mo amongst mountains and lakes, and you've got something all together the more mystifying.

“Coming up for air/coming up for air, air” Ry stutters intimately into your ear, as stunning visual close-ups on the textures of the characters’ creased costumes and mopped hair become at once comforting and discomforting. Dotty synth claps and lyrical repetition flirts with something more dance-lead, if only to be snatched back down to earth by multi-layered acoustics and perturbing oohs. The song isn’t a million miles away from the eclectic and syncopated sounds of latter-day Radiohead – and yet, nothing really like it at all. 

The Acid play their first live show at Chat’s Palace, London on 31 March. Their debut self-titled four-track EP is released on 14 April via Infectious Music.

The Night VI - "Thinkin Bout You" (Frank Ocean cover)

After last year’s elegant debut, “Thinking Of You”, London-based six-piece The Night VI return today with a similarly titled follow-up in the form of a lilting, understated Frank Ocean cover.

Built of warm acoustics, fluttering harp lines, silky harmonies and Sophie-Rose Harper’s gorgeous hum, “Thinkin Bout You” extracts the heavy melody from Ocean’s original and makes it the track’s centerpiece. Subdued, comforting and perfectly executed, it’s a good day to have the band back in our ears.

Labyrinth Ear - "Crescent Moon"

An exclusive taste of what’s to come on their debut full-length, London electronic duo Labyrinth Ear present stunning escapism in their new track, “Crescent Moon”. 

Opening with tumbling drum pads and motorik clicks, the song soon swings into play with glassy house bloops, warm synth kisses and vocalist Emily’s beautiful, husky coo. Equally at home on a balmy Balearic isle than accompanying a contemplative late-night drive, “Crescent Moon” will nicely wrap you up in its intricate polyrhythms and glistening electronic blushes. 

The Orchid Room is released on 14 April, with pre-order available soon.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

FEATURE: Tracks of the Week - 14/2/14

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (14/2/14)

We’ve done the rounds again and picked out the best new music from the last seven days. Consider your Valentine’s playlist sorted. 

Appropriately, we kick things off with Bella Union’s latest signing, Ráj, and his debut, “Let Me Love You”. Don’t be fooled though – this is no happy ending. Sheer heartbreak over empty guitars and spooky percussion, Ráj’s soul repeatedly bleats, “let me love you, ’till it hurts”, and we might just hurt a bit too. An exceptionally promising debut from the LA-based artist. 

Another heart-tugger, “1955″, from new London-based dream-poppers Anto Dust was too hard to ignore despite its imitative dreamgaze composition. Walls of reverb, echoed vocals, humming psych organs and dampened beats combine to make a song that never starts nor ends; an endless loop of expansive, otherworldly sounds.

Woman’s Hour treated us to the first fruits of their labour since signing to Secretly Canadian with “Her Ghost” - a soft, progressive number that glows with confidence. Thankfully, the London-via-Kendal four-piece haven’t lost their knack for keeping musical components at arm’s length: synths skittering at their own accord and guitar lines darting. Fiona Jane’s gentle Northern burr nicely blankets the track, snatching you away from February’s cold winds.

Perhaps it was all the attention on Prince over the last week that got us hooked on Meanwhile's funk-pop debut, “Luvletta”. Ignoring the obvious musical comparisons, the song is so buoyant it could blow the roof off any raucous house party. Horn-sections, big synth barks, colourful vocals and a vivacious rhythm section make for a surefire weekend winner.

Last but not least, Cornwall-based sister duo Hockeysmith dropped possibly the best thing we’ve heard this year: “But Blood”. Where previous demos were mesmerising, if not a little distracted, “But Blood” is the sound of a band truly beginning to hone their craft: angled on brooding sub-bass, skewered acid hooks, fluid drone and opulent vocals. The stunning video is also worth a peep.

Listen to our selection of the week’s best tracks below:


*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (13/2/14)

Girl + guitar? Yeah, we’ve heard it all before. But you haven’t, not quite the way Norwegian singer-songwriter Kari Jahnsen, aka Farao, writes music. As if thumbing through ancient tomes, this newcomer has quietly mastered the basics of great, emotional songwriting whilst allowing her affection for contemporary music to pervade; a beautiful conflict of old and new. That is, of course, if her wonderful debut EP Farao is anything to go by.

But it’s not just an acoustic guitar at the helm of Farao’s music. She plays almost every instrument under the sun in an array of other bands, from drums in London/Brighton lo-fi lot Hella Better Dancer, to bass in Norway-via-London’s Anna Lena & The Orchids. Perhaps this vast knowledge and experience with music, the wealth of which belies her age, is what makes her alternative brand of folk-pop so rich, so crisp, so compelling.

Now based in London after relocating from Norway, those chilly landscapes never sound too far away from Farao’s cutting melodies and deeply moving lyrics, aided no less than by Iceland serving as the backdrop for the recording of her aforementioned EP. Like the enthusiasm embroiled in learning new instruments (viola is next on the agenda), Miss Jahnsen will literally move shores for her music.

We try to decipher where this drive comes from, learning that being bred isolation can be more a blessing than a curse, and that Radiohead are her true inspiration.

What was it like growing up in Norway? 

Norway is a sheltered place to grow up, and I had a very good and stable childhood there. I grew up in a small place called Valdres where there aren’t that many opportunities, specifically within the arts. I could really notice that in a negative way when I moved away at the age of 19 and had never been in a band before. Although I love where I’m from, I’m much better suited in a city. I become very restless if I don’t have something to do and people to meet and gigs to attend all the time.

When did your affair with music begin? 

I started really caring about music in my early teens. I went to as many music festivals as I possibly could every summer, and often drove with my friends to Oslo (3 hour drive from my home town) to go to gigs, and drive back in the night in time for school the next day.

What music did you grow up listening to and what do you like now? 

It all started out with punk/rock and grunge for me. Dave Grohl was my Justin Bieber, and early Foo Fighters and Nirvana was a big thing in my life. After my rebellious punk rock period I discovered Sigur Rós and Radiohead, and that’s when I knew I wanted to become a musician. Right now I listen to stuff like Warpaint, Poliça, Wild Beasts, Emilie Nicolas, James Blake, Atoms For Peace, Angelica’s Elegy and Samaris.

How many instruments do you play and how did you learn them? 

Hard to say…I play guitar obviously, started when I was around 17. I have been singing all my life. I started playing drums after college, when a friend asked me to join her band. I said yes, not knowing how to play drums but figured it out eventually. I play bass in my band mate’s solo project, Anna Lena & The Orchids. I am trying to learn the viola too; it no longer sounds like a dying cat when I play it, but I am definitely not good. I can also make it sound like I know how to play piano to someone who doesn't know how to play piano.

Where do the drone sounds that feature so heavily on Farao come from?

I used an old synth, a Russian beauty called Elektronika EM-25. It’s pretty awesome. I combined that with my Casiotone MT-65. Those two together are a big part of the sound on the EP.


You moved from Norway to London, England. Does landscape have much of a part to play in your writing? 

Not intentionally, but I think the wild and dramatic landscape of where I'm from has definitely influenced the Nordic sound and that, in turn, has shaped the music I make. London is pretty much the exact opposite and that contrast is inspiring.

Do you write from experience or just from what you read/hear about relationships, life etc.? 

I write mostly from my own experience. I write about any kind of relationship I have with other people, be it professional, friendly or romantic. I enjoy putting myself in their shoes and writing a song from the other person’s perspective, so I am kind of singing back at myself. It makes me view myself from outside.

How did playing drums for Hella Better Dancer come about? 

I met them when I did a gig in Cambridge a year and a half ago, we were on the same bill and ended up getting the train back to London together. I love playing with them, but unfortunately there’s less and less time for that now that Farao is kicking off.

What do you want to achieve with your music? 

When I hear a truly amazing song, I think to myself that that song must have always existed somewhere. It seems impossible to me that songs like “Paranoid Android ” at one point didn't exist. I want to work as I hard as I can to write a song like that, where my listeners would not be able to imagine ever having been without it.

Why is music so important to you?

I write music to express myself, and process my thoughts and emotions. The best way to get something out of my head is to put it in a song and leave it there, so I can move on.

Future plans? 

Record my debut album in February, tour in the spring and play as many festivals as I possibly can in the summer!

Farao’s self-titled debut EP is due for release on 10 February via Something Nothing Records. She headlines The Waiting Room, London on 25 February.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

LISTEN/WATCH: Reptile Youth, Volcanoes, Anto Dust

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (11/2/14 - 12/2/14)

Reptile Youth - "JJ"

An exciting new offering from Danish duo Reptile Youth – “JJ” is an impeccably infectious debut. 

Bouncy rhythms and swirling, My Bloody Valentine-indebted guitars spin over five minutes of hypnotic shoepop, paired with stunning black and white videography. “Testing out your immortality”, vocalist Mads Damsgaard Kristiansen shoots from the back of his throat as we peer in on him and co-member Esben Valløe suitably sacrificing themselves to icy seas. As joyful basslines pop and guitars crunch, we are constantly awaiting their next move, if only to get swallowed by the track’s attractive, patterned melodies. 

“JJ” is out now, and the band’s new album, Rivers That Run For A Sea That Is Gone, is released on 10 March.

Volcanoes - "When We Melodise"

Sheffield four-piece Volcanoes reveal a charming, imaginative video to accompany their breathtaking new single, “When We Melodise”, premiering today on Best Fit. 

Comprised of paper puppets and abundant with symbolism, the video sees a young wanderer on a quest to find a key to unlock a happiness. Like the songs’s building kinetics, it has a natural flow that slowly gathers momentum. 

The track itself is some of the most promising music we’ve heard from a young band this year: brimming with frilly guitars, murmuring strings and glowing, call-and-response harmonies that would prick up the ears of many a Fleet Foxes fan. “When We Melodise”'s strength lies it its gentle composition, with layers of folk melodies playing tag and falling just short of one another. Truly wonderful. 

“When We Melodise” will be available for sale and download on 9 March and is taken from Volcanoes’ debut album, Radiogeist, to be released later this year.

Anto Dust - "1955"

Sometimes you chance upon a band that speaks to you right from the offset and there’s no absolute way to explain why. Step forward London five-piece Anto Dust and their spellbinding new track, “1955″.

Reverb-saturated guitars, whirring psych keys, breathy vocals, looped melodies – sure, there’s nothing remarkable about the track’s distinctive dream-pop makeup, but that doesn't matter. Founded last summer by Sardinian songwriter Anto Cossu, Anto Dust were conjured for one thing only: to “fulfil her vision of her music”. Brought up on a diet of Slowdive and The Velvet Underground, it’s clear to see how that vision has been met via ethereal walls of sound and beefy atmospherics.

A song that demands to be replayed – even when looped melodies render no strict beginning nor end – is a song that deserves to be shared. All hail, “1955″.