Tuesday, 27 December 2011

REVIEW: OMB's Albums of 2011: Fleet Foxes - 'Helplessness Blues'


*Originally published for the Oxford Music Blog (23/12/11)

Pecknold and co. returned this year with a more ambitious follow up to their critically-acclaimed debut. Billowing flutes and Middle-Eastern tinged violins are but a few of the experimental nuances that have expanded Fleet Foxes' signature sound of open-tuned guitars and glowing harmonies. Tracks such as the toe-tapping, variably structured, ‘Helplessness Blues’ explore the album’s complex motif of maturity, while gentle, jazzy snare snaps in, ‘Bedouin Dress’ offer escapism to the tranquil, Yeats-inspired, “Innisfree.” Certainly, the most brave move on the album (and by the band to date) exists in, ‘The Shrine/An Argument’, with bizarre, dissonant trumpets that succinctly reflect the brashness of a passionate feud. A colourful and triumphant return.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

FEATURE: Blog post for BBC 6 Music Introducing with Tom Robinson

Tom Robinson and Jono McCleery

*Originally published for BBC 6 Music (13/11/11)

After Bethan Elfyn’s superb takeover of the show for the last two weeks, Tom returned from his break this morning with more of the best new streaming tunes around. As ever, he brought an eclectic mix of music to the show; from the chillwave soundscapes of Newcastle producer Waskerley Way to the folky vibes of Will Varley and the gothic electronic nuances of NY artist Bonnie Baxter, aka Shad[]wb[]x.

Joining us in the studio this week was the fantastic London-based artist Jono McCleery (with Tom, above). Since his initial airplay on 6 Music in 2006, Jono has been swiftly snapped up by Ninja Tune Records - and his second album There Is is out now. As well as talking to us about the positive reception of his new album in France and the US and his love for jazz/ improvisational styles, he admitted to a secret fetish for mastering the double-bass. This was unbeknown to us and it certainly adds to McCleery’s musical aresenal ! We played Tie Me In - one of his favourites from the new album - and  we loved its jazz-snap rhythms, brooding vocals and yearning strings. Jono plays a headline show at London's legendary 100 Club on November and we wish him a storming succes.

Our Sunday morning tip from Huw Stephens at Radio One featured, he told us, the "musical hip-hop genius" of 26 year old London rapper, Mikill Pane. The heavy marching rhythms and booming chorus of his track I Can Feel It make it near-impossible to not dance to. DJ Target recommended To And Fro by the Ipswich duo De’ Vide, while Bobby Friction brought us a brash but catchy hip-hop chant called I Don’t Really Care by the London artist Menis, aka The Brown Boi. We were interested to note that Menis had been part of an Asian cultural delegation to Downing Street recently, where he met PM David Cameron. Also in attendance was Swami Baracus - featured on this Monday’s Mixtape edition of the show.

In place of session tracks this week we had two live recordings by The Slow Show - who were recommended to support Elbow at Manchester Cathedral last month by the city's local BBC Introducing show - and were recorded there by BBC Radio 2. Working in a similar vein to to the contemplative, alt-rock stylings of bands such as The National. it's amazing to think how far this unsigned band have come since their formation just a few months ago.

Tom gave repeat plays to several of his favourite tracks - including Ghosting by Secret Rivals, and All At Sea by The Peryls - while tonight's spin of the Introducing Roulette wheel turned up the Ulster quartet Seven Summits, with I Want Somebody. It came to us courtesy of Steven Rainey from Rory McConnell’s BBC Introducing In Northern Ireland programme - and our thanks go out as usual to the listeners, artists and colleagues who recommended yet another great week of diverse under-the-radar music from cyberspace.

Charlotte Krol and Tom Robinson

Friday, 28 October 2011

NEWS: Listen to the first 'Charlotte's Web' cloudcast

If you missed the radio show on NSR this week, then check out the Week 3 cloudcast here:
 (NB: following shows may appear now too)!


Brand new tracks from Dimbleby & Capper, The Black Keys, Coldplay and Mazzy Star, as well as some great tunes from Spotlight Kid and Little Dragon...

Shows will be uploaded on a weekly basis at Mixcloud.

The lovely, Chris Scott, will be hosting the next three shows.

Enjoy.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

This week, it's all about...

LIVE: NME Radar Tour 2011

With the crowd sparse in attendance at this year’s NME Radar Tour at the O2 Academy Newcastle, it was up to Malin Dahlström of Niki & The Dove (Sweden’s first – no second – perhaps even fourth lady of electro-pop, with the likes of Robyn, Fever Ray and Lykki Li before her) to pull the punters in. And she didn’t disappoint. Her powerful, shrill vocals, swathed in groggy synth, constantly demanded the attention of the somewhat bemused crowd who were
clearly captivated by her Kate Bush-like immersive dance routine. The drum rumbles and trance hooks in ‘Mother Courage’ sounded flawless live and Malin Dahlström’s strange, animalistic glottal noises made it a solid, if not disturbing performance.


Storming onto the stage next with angsty self-importance was London’s post-punk/krautrockers S.C.U.M, opening with their fantastic single, ‘Amber Hands’. The chiming octave guitar chords, pounding beats and eerie fairground synths, or as the band like to put it, ‘machines/press’, were astonishing to hear live. Thomas Cohen’s Bowie-meets-Molko vocal is an instrument in itself, jittering against the onslaught of off-beat drums, cryptic sounds and jaunty bass lines in upcoming single, ‘Whitechapel’. The band are true performers - especially circus ringleader Cohen - with his spindly fingers casting a spell over the crowd.


Headliners for the evening, Wolf Gang, however were the most comfortable on stage, or should I say was, since Max McElligot is credited as the sole personification of the band. God knows why - there is astonishing chemistry between him and the other four members. Besides this, MGMT and the 80s electro-pop nuances of Talking Heads immediately sprung to mind. McElligot’s songwriting style is very advanced for his short time being recognised as an NME rising star; his choruses never fail to worm their way into your brain, with thunderous pianos, delayed guitars and sprightly falsetto harmonies. Wolf Gang are clearly the most conventional band of the night, but this is no discredit to them, since they at least got the crowd jumping to the up-beat indie pop of ‘Lions In Cages’ and swaying to the crystal-clear, angelic sounds of ‘Suego Faults’. What is refreshing overall is that NME can host a gig that shows a wealth of diverse styles breaking from the underground, and many onlookers will have left with their bellies full of wonderful, new music.

*Originally published for NSR (24/10/11)

Monday, 24 October 2011

REVIEW: Wild Beasts - 'Reach A Bit Further'


Notably inspired by the Romantics and the sublime scenery of their hometown of Kendal, Wild Beasts are certainly modern –day Lake Poets in their own right.

'Reach A Bit Further', the next single taken from their critically-acclaimed third album, Smother, shows the band submitting to this identity; with strong, lyrical metaphor exploring the vast complexities of modern romance. The quartet, however, also shuns expectations with strange, exotic syncopated drumbeats and pitchy guitars that chase each other amongst chiming xylophones. The vocal call-and-response between Hayden Thorpe’s startling countertenor and Tom Fleming’s warm Cumbrian burr is also utterly charming – Flemings’ voice is supremely reminiscent of Elbow’s Guy Garvey’s comforting tone – and the song has, however rare an occurrence, a wonderfully repetitive core. It is an absolute delight to hear.

*Published for NSR Music Blog (24/10/11) http://www.facebook.com/notes/newcastle-student-radio/wild-beasts-review-by-charlotte-krol/10150340872229195#!/notes/newcastle-student-radio/wild-beasts-review-by-charlotte-krol/10150340872229195

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

NEWS: Tune in to 'Charlotte's Web' on NSR


'Charlotte's Web' has entered another dimension. You can now listen to the associated radio show live on Newcastle Student Radio, 10am - 11am on Friday mornings: http://www.unionsociety.co.uk/nsr/

Podcasts will be uploaded onto my NSR Mixcloud account following the broadcasts:
http://www.mixcloud.com/Charlottes_Web/

The show will feature many of the bands/artists that I write about here.

On another note, a review of Wild Beasts' latest single and the NME Radar Tour 2011 will be posted here soon...

Monday, 17 October 2011

REVIEW: GIVERS - 'In Light'



GIVERS are exactly what their name states; the Louisiana quintet relentlessly pump happy-go-lucky pop euphoria into every inch of their upbeat debut LP, In Light, which makes you want to embrace any unassuming stranger passing by. But is their colourful patchwork quilt of afro-pop, indie, ska, punk, nosie rock and disco all too suffocating for its fifty minute running time?
     ‘Up Up Up’ introduces the band’s cosmic, eclectic sound, with a magnetic off-beat drum snap, billowing flutes and angry synths behind an impossibly catchy chorus. When you think that the song has finished– you guessed it – GIVERS keep on giving (pun intended) from hand-clapped breakdowns and compressed vocals, to ceremonial blast beats and grand guitar slams.
     Upcoming single, ‘Meantime’, offers an equally attractive chorus, with a calypso jingle in the verse and Vampire Weekend-esque guitar solos, but ‘Saw You First’ is arguably a better choice for their next single release, for it demonstrates GIVERS ability to tone down their music and envelop it in a more rustic sound. Country acoustics are complimented by subtle, ghostly synths and a warm bass, while Tiffany Lamson and Taylor Guarisco’s harmonies and hopelessly romantic lyrics simmer over stomping rhythms.
     After the warm and fuzzy nuances on the first few tracks, there appears to be a pattern of sounds emerging. In short, experimenting with as many instruments as possible isn’t a guarantee for musical variation. In addition, rarely has a more irritating chorus existed than found in ‘In Light’. Criticisms aside, it is promising to hear a band channelling remarkably buoyant sounds through a generally solid debut.

7/10


*Published for The Courier  (17/10/11)- edited version found here: http://thecourieronline.co.uk/2011/10/album-review-givers-in-light/

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

REVIEW: Lanterns On The Lake - 'Gracious Tide, Take Me Home'



The putrid debauchery of the lads and lasses on MTV’s hit reality-show, Geordie Shore, has sent shockwaves around the globe in recent months and it has reportedly outraged those closer to home in Newcastle, leaving us with a fairly biased image of the people in the North East. Further away from the city lights and from the mouth of the River Tyne, however, surfaces Lanterns On The Lake, with their elegant debut album, Gracious Tide, Take Me Home. The record brims with nautical imagery and deeply poignant lyrics – a far cry from the cries of “on it like a car bonnet” – and radiates extremely elevating music, which varies from nu-folk, chamber pop and shoegaze, to post-rock and classical sounds. The creative sextet is certainly a little hard to pigeonhole, which is good news for the fixed media portrayals of the Tyne and Wear.

‘If I’ve Been Unkind’ is a perfect example of where the band are complicating current perceptions of the recent ‘nu-folk’ scene. The track lingers with traditional folk guitars, picked beneath Andy Sykes’ solid Geordie hum and archaic talk, ‘When you went missing, I looked almost everywhere, I sailed the seas, You were never even there.’ It all seems very predictable until bowed guitars, classical piano and giant reverb creeps in; creating a wholly new sound that shifts any nu-folk Mumford & Sons comparisons right over to the sonic-size reverberations of Sigur Rós. The immediacy of ‘If I’ve Been Unkind’ also contrasts vastly with the strange, experimental electronic glitches and scurrying tick-tocks in album opener, ‘Lungs Quicken.’ While Hazel Wilde’s celestial whispers take a little while to adjust to, glowing harmonies soon trickle in and add a beautiful gravity to her voice, which gently introduces the band’s contemplative sound.

The relaxed pace of the first three tracks (‘Lungs Quicken’, ‘If I’ve Been Unkind’ and ‘Keep On Trying’) does begin to stagnate, but this is entirely contrasted by Wilde’s Sean-Nós-like solo singing in ‘Ships In The Rain’, which laments the true story of a Tynemouth boy who went missing at sea, with only fragile drones and ‘oohs’ looming in the background. ‘A Kingdom’ explodes after the silence of ‘Ships In The Rain’, with galloping rhythms, American slide-guitars, meandering violins and low and high octaves bouncing between Wilde and Sykes. It possesses a different kind of energy that intelligently breaks the album up and boasts the sextet’s diversity with its vibrant and warm country pulse.

The weaker points in the album are where stripped pianos that accompany Wilde’s vocals are the centrepiece . ‘Blanket Of Leaves’ and ‘I Love You, Sleepyhead’ both feature a piano that overpowers Wilde’s delicate vocals, and, by nature of the multitude of instruments used on the majority of the record, the keys are simply too lacklustre. Thankfully, ‘You’re Almost There’, with its lower piano bass notes , addictive high-note Massive Attack key progression and accompanying creaky violins render it poles apart from the previous tracks.

Conversely, nestled between the sleepy pianos in the latter part of the record is the impossibly breathtaking, ‘Tricks’. Celtic violins ebb and flow with twinkling glockenspiel melodies, and tribal beats carry the boom of the bass and piano notes before the song swells in a shimmering wave of gigantic ethereal sounds. It is undoubtedly the most stunning track on the record, where the sextet’s experimentation falls perfectly into place and resonates with you for hours, just like the core of the album.

Lanterns On The Lake have hand-crafted a diverse record that overflows with all the maturity needed to mend some of the cracks in the media’s portrayal of the images and sounds of Newcastle. There is certainly scope for them to push the boundaries of their musical identity even further in any later releases, and here’s to hoping that they produce an even more beautiful record than this wonderful debut.

8/10


*Published for the Oxford Music Blog (4/10/11)http://www.oxfordmusicblog.co.uk/2011/10/lanterns-on-the-lake-gracious-tide-take-me-home/

Monday, 19 September 2011

REVIEW: Girls - 'Father, Son, Holy Ghost'



Christopher Owens, chief songwriter, vocalist and guitarist of San Fran duo Girls, revealed last year that he was learning the craft of great songwriting. Whether that was him thinking that it would eliminate the difficulty of making that notoriously tricky second album – especially after the success of Girls’ debut LP, Album in 2009 – or if it was simply for his personal development as a musician, or both, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that Owens has improved as what may be regarded as a ‘classic’ songwriter, but he has destroyed the fervour and affectionate ‘let-it-grow-on-you’ aspect of his earlier material and has instead mainly churned out predictably structured, dull pop songs that hardly resonate after the first listen.

Thankfully, album opener, ‘Honey Bunny’ is not one of these lacklustre tracks. With its rolling snares, clean-cut Beach Boys vibrato, Chet ‘JR’ White’s walking bass and Owens’ glottal stops, ‘Honey Bunny’ could easily be the younger brother of ‘Heartbreaker’ (from Girls’ 2010 EP, Broken Dreams Club). Interestingly, both songs open in the same key, but the romantic, lo-fi quality of ‘Heartbreaker’ is long-gone on this polished track. “They don’t like my bony body/ They don’t like my dirty hair”, project Owens’ typical self-aggrandisement, although he should feel confident here, for this may well be the best track on the album, with a fantastic mid-song tempo twist that breaks into an incongruous, crooner-like middle eight; giving Father, Son, Holy Ghost considerable opening bite.

The following track, ‘Alex’, is equally attractive, overflowing with an assortment of 90s/00s American shoegaze/indie/pop- rock; with its gritty Pixies reverb, poppy blink-182 pre-choruses and hammering Strokes guitars. Owens’ crisp, lethargic, but ultimately charming vocals exude a likeable innocence that trickles throughout this track and the rest of the album, but unfortunately, the raw and impassioned vocals found on his past releases have disappeared. Apart from these two opening treasures, most of the ensuing tracks on the album are very run-of- the-mill.

‘How Can I Say I Love You’ and album-closer ‘Jamie Marie’, for instance, are wholly forgettable and unimaginative. Perhaps Owens has erred on the side of ‘classic’ songwriting in the standard, structural sense, with the former track being all too conventional and regurgitating horribly clichéd lyrics, “How can I say I love you/ Now that you’ve said I love you/How can I say I need you/ Now that you’ve said I need you” (insert related verb here). Musically, a handful of the songs on Father, Son, Holy Ghost sound like they should be theme-tunes for kids’ TV shows, like the tacky, Status-Quo rock of ‘Magic’ and the completely unoriginal prog-rock chords and accompanying pitch-bend guitar solos that are barely palatable on, ‘Die’. Most disappointingly of all is the critically-acclaimed single, ‘Vomit’, which is a spiritualised homage to heartbreak, as Owens gently whispers:  "The nights I spend alone/ I spend alone now looking for you baby”. Admittedly, the song features a liberating, organ-chiming chorus with a fully-installed gospel choir backing-up Owens’ lyrical begging, but the song drags and is littered with cheesy ‘ooh- yeahs’.

The second half of the album truly lacks the vivacity that ‘Honey Bunny’ and ‘Alex’ hold in the first, save for the exquisite, cascading flamenco guitars, edgy discordant bass notes and swelling flute patterns on the lullaby-like, ‘Just A Song.’ However, for the larger part, the song is merely what the title states and the majority of the album’s tracks could well be entitled this too.

Perhaps critical hype has jinxed this album. Perhaps an original love for Girls’ lo-fi Californian pop has overpowered the eclectic, yet mismatched jumble of blues-rock, prog-rock, surf-pop, gospel and shoegaze installed on the record. It could be all manner of things, but what is clear is that Girls have lost their identity in a forest of experimentation where one would have hoped they would have found it. Regrettably, Owens and White’s songwriting efforts have created predominantly average songs overall.

5/10


Saturday, 10 September 2011

LIVE: HEALTH @ Jericho Tavern, Oxford (1/9/11)


HEALTH live. One way to describe the experience is; mind-fuck. I don’t think that I have been more terrified of a band in my life, and that has little to do with the unsettling sounds in their experimental noise rock. The LA four-piece not only know how to write compellingly original and exciting music, but they also know how to execute it live. It is horrifying how good they are.

The moment that they began clattering drums on stage at The Jericho Tavern and screamed at each other with death rattles as repulsive as Lord Voldemort’s, the audience knew that they were in for something different. Fan-favourite, ‘Die Slow’, with its bomb drop off-beats and oscillating synth fuzzes sounded flawless live, while Jake Duzsik and Jupiter Keys had their guitars so heavily drenched in gain that it was almost as if they were arrogantly challenging one another to match the tempo of the feedback to the marching rhythms, yet both achieved it with such smooth dexterity. Paradoxically, Duzsik’s soft, effeminate vocals brought a level of harmony to the scratchy sounds of ‘Die Slow’ and it is this bitter-sweet combination that makes HEALTH so utterly fascinating to watch live. How can zoothorns, dissonant guitars, seemingly out-of-tune synths and supple vocals fit so well together on a record, let alone live? It is because their music is so intelligent, brave and bizarre in comparison to the reams of rubbish surfer rock bands that have saturated the market in recent years. You cannot help but be drawn towards something so much more diverse, and four very talented and passionate musicians happen to be creating it.

‘Death +’ is the pinnacle of that unconventional attraction. The crowd are completely sucked into what can be best described as the sound of a computer melting; with sluggish, industrial beats that build until everything cuts out abruptly and bassist, John Flamigetti, stops spinning his long hair in a hypnotic spiral. HEALTH are simply teasing the audience with ‘Death+’; they know that everyone is desperate to hear more of their strangely enthralling clamour, or to delve into Duzsik’s melancholic world of repetitive, lyrical rhetoric, “Does it matter how?/Does it matter when? /If you market yourself for blood / How do you come back?”

When the set reaches the half-way mark, HEALTH suddenly offer more conventional sounds, starting with their brand-spanking-new cover of Pictureplane’s, ‘Goth Star’. Ironically, ‘Goth Star’ samples Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Seven Wonders’ (a product of one of the most melodious bands in rock history) so it is surprising that HEALTH would pinch it – yet it completely works under their experimental panache. The track seems to turn the sceptics amongst the crowd into believers while the band relish the chance to show off their more intricate musicianship with tight guitar pickings and skillful mixing – a far cry from the seismic wall of sound that has been flooding the stage thus far.

‘USA Boys’ lifts the bar even higher with weighty hip-hop beats that force the crowd to bounce so hard that it feels as is if the Jericho is going to collapse. Duzsik’s Cobain-inspired groans and meaty power chords clap to the shutter-snaps of electro-pop synths, and soon the most astonishingly gorgeous vocal harmony blossoms between Duzsik and Keys before the set draws to a close. That’s right, I am using the word “gorgeous” to describe HEALTH, because it is something that the band can stir into their rather ugly-yet-beautiful musical broth if they want to. And, my gosh, do they serve it well.

5/5

Published for the Oxford Music Blog (9/9/11) http://www.oxfordmusicblog.co.uk/2011/09/health-jericho-tavern-live-review/

LIVE: Truck Festival 2011


Now in its fourteenth year, Oxfordshire’s home-grown premier music festival, set in the green pastures of Steventon Village, returned this July with an expanded site, a more diverse crowd and a solid line-up with the likes of Bellowhead, Tribes, Benjamin Francis Leftwich, The Go! Team, Gruff Rhys and Johnny Flynn.

The festival underwent quite a large redesign this year. Apart from the usual quaint tea stalls, stages and shops, the flat-bed truck stage that originally comprised the Main Stage was replaced by a ‘natural’ amphitheatre. Upon first impressions, this was a shame simply for the novelty of the unusual stage at the festival, but placing nostalgia aside, the new stage blasted out a remarkable level of sound across the sun kissed Oxfordshire countryside. More importantly, the Clash Tent (curated by independent labels, Transgressive, Heavenly and Bella Union) were among many other stages such as the Last. FM Tent and the Wood Stage, that have been added since my previous visits, meaning that an even larger variety of established and talented up-and-coming bands have been able to grace the festival this summer.

Amenities aside, one of the first Main Stage bands at the festival was Fixers, who, after receiving extensive airplay on BBC Radio One/BBC Introducing, were one of the most hotly-tipped acts of the weekend. Running out onto the main stage in crazy attire that ranged from hairy mammal faces to sailor hats, everyone could see that Fixers were out for some fun, or at least as the lead singer, Jack Goldstein, shouted, “a fantastical, an out of body experience!” Their mash-up of exciting buzzy synths, sleigh bells and multi-part harmonies, however, did not carry well live and it almost felt too early to be watching these five wild lads jump around onstage whilst toddlers interweaved the crowds.

Away from the main arena in the Last.FM Tent were some more subdued local boys: Trophy Wife and Pet Moon. Trophy Wife were well and truly suited-and-booted for their slot of disco/indie-pop, with the catchy, ‘The Quiet Earth’ and fan-favourite, ‘Microlite’, which duly prepared the crowd for an explosive performance of, ‘Take This Night.’ The latter song certainly regurgitated the most gigantic sound of the set with its pitchy guitars, walking bass and crisp tech drums. Electronic experimentalists, Pet Moon, however, got off to a very shakey start with technical difficulties and, unfortunately, they did not redeem themselves nor truly engage the crowd throughout, regardless of the former Youthmovies front man, Andrew Mears, spilling his heart out onstage. Later that evening, chillwave extraordinaire, Chad Valley, completely wowed the audience with his one man show of electronic fireworks and dozens of guest dancers to boot on his pop-tropical hit, ‘Now That I’m Real’. Tribes also gave a powerful performance the following day, with an anthemic rendition of, ‘We Were Children’ which effectively fuelled their addictive, My Bloody Valentine-meets-The Libertines grunge rock. Their carefree, rock ‘n’ roll attitude was completely refreshing in comparison to Pet Moon’s introverted performance and they were by far one of the highlights of the weekend.

Everyone was glued to Sea Of Bee's atmospheric folk music on the Saturday evening in the Clash Tent, with the band’s adorable knitted jumpers pairing beautifully with Julie Ann’s vocals – vocals as sweet as the soft rock rhythms of ‘Marmalade.’ In her closing solo performance, Bee dexterously mapped out the constellations of her story with her voice and guitar, hooking every member of the audience onto each twist and turn in the narrative. Happy-go-lucky Danes,Treefight For Sunlight, were one of the most consistent acts in the Clash Tent, let alone the entire weekend and after the trembling piano build up in their new single, ‘Time Stretcher’ and the funky, Bee-Gee like harmonies that fluttered throughout, ‘Facing the Sun’, they revealed a pitch-perfect cover of Kate Bush’s, ‘Wuthering Heights’, albeit sung by the most unassuming man imaginable.

Over on the Wood Stage, fans of the critically-acclaimed singer/songwriter, Benjamin Francis Leftwich, were treated to a wonderfully intimate performance with mats spread across the canopy floor, low-level lighting and choral to the hushed melodies of, ‘Atlas Hands’ and ‘Pictures.’ Contrastingly, The Go! Team's overly-distorted guitars on the Sunday evening drowned out any singing and while this was hugely frustrating, they nonetheless gave an incredibly energetic performance as the sun nestled itself behind a crescent-moon amphitheatre.

Truck Festival 2011 was overall a mixed bag of many delights with a few disappointments. It is fantastic to see such a boastful number of promising and established bands performing at a local festival at such a reasonable price (£100 for the 3-day adult weekend ticket) and the atmosphere remains as warm, friendly and relaxing as it was in previous years.

3.5/5

Published for Impact Magazine http://www.impactnottingham.com/2011/09/truck-festival-2011-review/ (6/9/11)

Thursday, 1 September 2011

NEWS: New Howling Bells album and UK tour.


Sydney-bred, London-based alt rockers, Howling Bells, are set to release their third studio album, The Loudest Engine, on 12th September.

Following the underrated experimental nuances of their previous album, Radio Wars (2010) and the brilliance of their Americana-tinged folk rock on their self-titled debut in 2006, it is difficult to imagine what the Australian four piece will reveal next - a return to their former grassy routes? The ambience of their later sound? A combination of the two? Or maybe a completely new sound?

Here is a preview of what it in store, with the gently psychedelic track, 'Into The Sky' (available to buy later this month):


The band are also touring the UK this month, as well as Europe with the wonderful Elbow in November.
.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

FEATURE: I Break Horses


Who: Swedish duo, Maria Lindén and Fredrik Balck aka, I Break Horses.

Why: Their icy synths, uplifting beats and hypnotic drones provide the perfect bridge between the dulcet tones of the late summer months and the beginnings of autumn.

Sound: Nu-Gaze/Ambient.

Similar Artists: My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins, School of Seven Bells.

Listen To: 'Hearts' - the leading single from their debut album of the same name (released last week).




Thursday, 25 August 2011

NEWS: Bon Iver and James Blake collaboration surfaces.


It's here!
'Fall Creek Boys Choir'. Broadcasted earlier on Zane Lowe's BBC Radio One show. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

NEWS: Wild Beasts remix Lady Gaga, new Bombay Bicycle Club album and more.

                               

Described as 'bedframe-rattling brilliance' (NME), Wild Beasts' remix of the Gaga's new song is a beautiful bundle of minimalist euphoria. Check out the video above.

In other news, Bombay Bicycle Club's new album is out this Monday and the band are set to preview most of the content from A Different Kind of Fix at Reading and Leeds festival this Bank Holiday weekend.

There has been recent speculation surrounding a song collaboration (named 'Fall Creek Boys Choir') between singer/songwriter Bon Iver and electronic experimentalist, James Blake which is expected to be released later this month. Both artists are also embarking on separate UK tours this Autumn. Other bands on tour in the UK in the next few months include: Cults, Best Coast, Laura Marling, White Denim, Dutch Uncles and the ever-elusive 80's revival Indie kids, Mystery Jets.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

FEATURE: Washed Out.



Who:  Ernest Greene, aka Washed Out, from Georgia, USA.
Why:  If you fancy some dreamy sounds to welcome in the long, lazy Summer days (the weather in the UK has only just warmed up!) then this is your man.
Sound:  Chillwave/Lo-fi/Synth-pop goodness.
Similar Artists:  Star Slinger, Chad Valley, Bonobo.
Listen To:   'Eyes Be Closed' (from his debut album, Within and Without released last month).




Also, check out his somewhat off-kilter cover of Chris Isaak's, 'Wicked Game'. (Stick with it - it's a grower)!





Tuesday, 26 July 2011

NEWS: Laura Marling - New Album, Song and Tour Dates


Hampshire Folk maiden Laura Marling is due to release her third studio album A Creature I Don't Know on 12th September 2011 (UK), followed by a Cathedral-venue UK tour in October.

The album's tracklisting has been posted on her website http://www.lauramarling.com/news/2011/07/22/new-album-artwork-and-tracklisting/and, noticeably, it does not include a studio version of 'Is A Hope' (which featured on the popular E4 series, Skins back in 2010) but will offer listeners a mastered version of another popular closet track, 'Rest In The Bed.'

New song, 'Sophia', was Zane Lowe's 'Hottest Record' on BBC Radio 1 last night.

It is an extremely exciting preview of Marling's new album and you can listen to the track below:


UK Autumn Tour Dates:

Fri 14th – Exeter, Exeter Cathedral
Sat 15th – Winchester, Winchester Cathedral
Mon 17th – Guildford, Guildford Cathedral
Tue 18th – Gloucester, Gloucester Cathedral
Fri 21st – York, York Minster
Sat 22nd – Sheffield, Sheffield Cathedral
Mon 24th – Manchester, Manchester Cathedral (standing venue)
Tue 25th – Bristol, Bristol Cathedral
Wed 26th – London, Westminster Central Hall (standing venue)
Fri 28th -  Liverpool, Liverpool Anglican Cathedral
Sat 29th – Birmingham, Birmingham Cathedral

Tickets go on sale at 10am this Friday.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

REVIEW: Latitude Festival 2011


It was my first time at Latitude Festival this year and my expectations were high for the critically-acclaimed, 'mini Glasto', nestled deep in the heart of the Suffolk countryside at Henham Park. The festival boasted a very eclectic line-up - not only musically - but also within the literature, comedy, poetry, dance, theatre and other artistic strands which comprise the annual event. Music, however, is the focus here.

This year's line-up was all about the smaller, lesser-known bands. While the headline slots gloated with the return of 90's glam-rock inspired Suede, it was unlikely that Saturday's headliner, Paolo Nutini, was going to be the highlight of the festival for me personally, and unfortunately, The National, are more boring than they are talented. BUT, the smaller acts? Simply wonderful. Special mentions must go to the double-trouble of Indie boys, Dog Is Dead, and Math-rockers, Trophy Wife, in the Sunrise Arena with their uplifting, feel-good performances. The intimacy of the venue, shaded by tree canopies and encompassed by fellow festival-goers perched on white bark tree logs, was aesthetically and audiologically my favourite venue (also, incidentally, because I saw the best performances here). Braids too delivered a pitch-perfect, harmonious slice of delicious minimalist/shoe-gaze/pyschadelia in the cosy tent and joined Spanish Disco-Pop/Rock experimentalists Crystal Fighters among my favourite performances of the weekend. Foals gave very strong performance in the Word Arena on the Saturday night, but sadly, Bombay Bicycle Club and other acts such as  The Naked and Famous sounded too distorted and/or messy, which was a huge surprise after being overwhelmed by both acts at previous gigs.

What made the experience extra-special was the unbelievable intimacy and attention to detail that Festival Rebublic paid to the site: multi-coloured sheep, floating water stages, giant glow-in-the-dark flower decorations, contemporary art works hidden in the woods, punting on the river, light/water projections, painted trees, giant bookshelves, fairgrounds, outdoor beds, snugs and tree lanterns! Latitude has pretty much everything on its big brothers, Reading and Leeds, except for reeling in larger international bands.

Here are some awards to sum it all up:

Best Act:  Crystal Fighters (astounding enthusiasm and musical tightness).

Worst Act:  James Blake (as dull as dishwater).

Biggest Surprise:  Villagers (absolutely flawless live, even if the singer's clipped vocals grate).

Biggest Disappointment:  Deerhunter (I was really looking forward to seeing them live, but they gave a poor performance).

Favourite New Act:  Braids (admittedly discovered them a few months back, but now the love is gigantic).

...and a healthy 8/10 for overall festival experience.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

REVIEW: Chad Valley - 'Equatorial Ultravox' EP

Chad Valley – Equatorial Ultravox EP

Back in 2010, Chad Valley (aka: side-project of Hugo Manuel from Oxford-based, Jonquil) impressed many with the lush, tropical chill-wave sounds of his debut self-titled EP and added more to the pot of excitement surrounding local indie-pop 6-piece, Jonquil. The summery, Ibiza come-down feel of his debut has been extended to some degree in his new release, but Mr Manuel has also pushed the beach-worn boat out and experimented with plenty of new themes and sounds in his stunning new record.

We are firstly confronted with the chilling, fairground organ tune ‘Now That I’m Real’, which loops over effect-laden vocals before an acute keyboard melody turns the song into an instant-hit. The steel drums and female vocals nicely transpose us to the tropical recesses of Chad Valley’s first EP, but this is a maturer sound. It is true to say that it is more upfront pop song than the minimalist progression of ‘Up And Down’ (a song that I grew to love last year on his first EP) and some may dislike this more mainstream sound, but credit must be given to Manuel’s sharp deliverance of an immediately-catchy melody.

‘Acker Bilk’ and ‘Reach Lines’ are the breeziest songs on the record, with impossibly relaxed beats; the latter providing the sexiest bass-line and ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ you will hear all summer. Sometimes the vocal sound-effects on ‘Reach Lines’ are a little overdone, but this is presumably to maintain variety and to prevent Manuel’s vocals from fading too much into the background. ‘Acker Bilk’ promotes beautifully wholesome harmonies and Manuel’s falsetto notes soar above mountains like a Celtic warrior’s. This really is a stand-out track for him vocally. What sounds like a Hip-Hop sample kick-starts a firm tune accompanied with star-dusted synths, but like the previous track, ‘Fast Challenges’, it is not as intelligently layered as the other songs.

Manuel adequately bridges the gap between the conspicuous summer sounds of the first tracks, and the more reserved sounds of the later tracks, with ‘Shell Suite’. A charming, brittle guitar riff distinguishes this song from the rest and nestles its head between harmonious synths and warm piano notes. He also carefully constructs the cross-fades, vocal repetitions, crescendos and breakdowns to allow this song to burst open into the most solid and beautiful track on the record.

Hot tribal dance beats finally pulsate throughout the EP’s closer, ‘Shapeless’, to sandwich Chad Valley’s trademark tropical chill-wave over the top of the new sounds found in ‘Shell Suite’ and ‘Acker Bike’. Criminally, it is too short, but leaves the EP on a breathtaking high.


8/10

Published for the Oxford Music Blog on 9th July 2011*

*You can read the original here: http://www.oxfordmusicblog.co.uk/2011/07/chad-valley-equatorial-ultravox-review/

Saturday, 2 July 2011

FEATURE: Watch Warpaint's full set @ Glastonbury 2011


We all know that Coldplay and Beyonce completely dominated Glastonbury 2011 (and rightly so!) but here's a more little-known band with a lot of promise...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/festivals/glastonbury/2011/artists/warpaint/#p00hswbh

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

NEWS: Spanking-new Bombay Bicycle Club song - 'Shuffle'

Bombay have done it again - what a cracker of a new song! The multi-layered piano loop that drives 'Shuffle' and Jack Steadman & co's falsetto echoes are instantly likeable. It is fantastic to hear the boys plugging in their guitars again, which creates a nice divide with their strictly acoustic-only second album, 'Flaws'. Who knows what the rest of their new album 'Another Kind of Fix' holds (released 29th August)...


Here's to the start of summer!

Friday, 3 June 2011

REVIEW: Gunning For Tamar, 'Deaf Cow Motel' EP

Oxford-based four piece Gunning For Tamar have made quite a name for themselves over the last year and not just locally. Forming early last year, they have already featured on XFM and BBC Introducing, produced a split EP with fellow Oxfordians Phantom Theory, won NME’s “Breakthrough track of the week” for their debut single ‘The Organs’ and have just begun a relentless tour of the country to promote their debut E.P, Deaf Cow Motel, out 30th May.

Opener, ‘German Treasure Island’, with its crashing drums and energetic heavily-distorted guitars, immediately conjures an impression of those early-mid 00’s catchy post-hardcore tracks from the likes of Thrice and Funeral For A Friend; bands which often projected heartfelt or emotional ‘emo’ lyrics which guided many bemused teenagers (myself for one) through their formative years. The contrasting time signature that unfolds at the bridge, however, is quite different to the opening riff and verse and it is most certainly the highlight of the track, with Joe Wallis singing a gorgeous melody, “your legs were painted gold and silver” while delayed, intricate guitar riffs weave between the vocals. It is quite refreshing to hear a band like Gunning For Tamar project sounds of the post-hardcore genre while  proudly stamping their own math-rock style on it – bringing their music into the new decade rather than letting it perish along with the thousands of other musical genres that seem to have fallen by the wayside (bubblegum punk, anyone)?

‘Running With Scissors’ sounds slightly different with its opening off-beat snappy snare drum and stocatto guitar progressions, but the dissonant notes still nurture the darker sound that runs through ‘German Treasure Island’ and, interestingly, both songs are in the same key. Thankfully, the distortion is turned down for the verses/closing riffs, which gives the track variation and distinguishes it from the previous song since there is a danger of these tracks merging into one another.

Ben Green’s muscular basslines are finally clearly heard in ‘God Made Colours’, but this is by far the weakest track on the EP with Wallis’ vocals thinly stretching over a fairly forgettable chorus. It seems as if previously-penned lyrics have been forced to fit a chorus which is not really there, and the song becomes a frustrating listen overall.

The final, stand-out track, ‘Bonfires’ allows the drums to take a back-seat while gentle, bluesy riffs and vocals take force. The musicians really permit themselves to breathe in this song and the music nicely ripens, with root notes supporting the poetically-charged chorus as layers upon layers of octaves and alternating vocal melodies build to a beautiful crescendo which concludes the EP.

Deaf Cow Motel is a fairly solid debut EP from a band that formed barely a year ago and their energy, precise musicianship and thunderous rhythms culminate in an impression of a band that certainly have a lot of promise. Catch them on their current tour at The Jericho Tavern and The Cellar on 18th and 30th June.

7/10

Published for the Oxford Music Blog, 30th May 2011*

*You can read the original review here: http://www.oxfordmusicblog.co.uk/2011/05/gunning-for-tamar-deaf-cow-motel-review/

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

NEWS: Givers to release album

Louisiana-based Givers should be added to everyone's summer playlists. Self-described as 'Dance Pop Indie Folk' (Soundcloud) these guys provide listeners with plenty of  innovative, feel-good anthems. Their record is out on 6th July. Check out their wonderful single, 'Up Up Up', below.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

FEATURE: Dream-Pop

One of the genres that has been getting me through the slog of my last year at university is Dream Pop
Sam Tully and I have have been playing tracks from bands such as: Tamaryn, Beach House, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Deerhunter, Best CoastPuro Instinct, Beach Fossils etc. relentlessly on our weekly radio show on URN http://www.urn1350.net/. While I have been listening to a few of these bands for a couple of years, the woozy, summer sounds of these largely lo-fi and/or shoegaze revival bands have only recently started to be classified under the sub-genre of 'Dream-Pop'. Call it what you want, but it's bloody, ruddy good!

Check out a recent favourite, 'Blue Star' by Sea Pony, which features on their upcoming album, Go With Me.



Happy Easter!

Monday, 18 April 2011

REVIEW: Alexi Murdoch – 'Towards The Sun'

Alexi Murdoch – Towards The Sun
Born in London, raised in Scotland, Greece and France and living in Los Angeles, singer-songwriter Alexi Murdoch is a man of many landscapes. In his self-released 2006 debut album, Time Without Consequence, Murdoch presents a varied array of dusty folk and American bluesy sounds that extend for nearly an hour and seem to reflect these experiences , but in Towards The Sun, his thirty five minute showcase is surprisingly too long and devoid of the variety and soundscapes found in his previous release. While Murdoch’s lyrics have most certainly matured, there are only fleeting moments where his song writing has developed.

‘Towards The Sun’ is a disappointing opening track. The looped root notes do nicely marinate with Murdoch’s romantic, pastoral lyrics and earthy vocal tones, “the water is so cold and heavy on my mind, I dreamed of walking with you but I fell behind”, but the actual vocal melody is stale and lifeless. The following track, ‘At Your Door’, contrasts using a more up-beat pace and a promising guitar melody, but just as a cacophony of horns nicely build a crescendo, the song suddenly ends.

‘Slow Revolution’ and ‘Some Day Soon’, however, mark where the album first sprouts life. Murdoch is at the peak of his poetical writing in the former; his omniscient narration evoking strong images, “Martin was bright as he stood up and sang in the choir, his hearts all in pieces, was breaking, his head was on fire, they took him from that place and they buried him deep in the ground, out with the light, quiet the sound” and residual political messages.

There is (at last!) real instrumental texture in ‘Some Day Soon’ with a thumping bass drum, gentle banjo, chiming piano and whispery female backing vocals supporting Murdoch while he yearns for his father’s company. The song is one of the highlights of the album, alongside the closing track, ‘Crinan Wood’ which features a simple, crackling-fire side ukulele melody with Kelly Pratt (Beirut) and Kyle Resnick (The National) carrying the weight of the song’s excitement through warm brass tones, which weave beautifully between Murdoch’s stories of love, loss and nostalgia.

Murdoch’s vocals in the preceding song, ‘The Light (Her Hands Were Leaves)’ mirror the honesty of his tone found in ‘Some Day Soon’ and similar familial themes also exist, “Brother how you shine/Mother you are a bird.” The song does, however, drag musically. Towards the end of the album, epic guitar delay and ebow sounds introduce ‘Through The Dark’ but are not allowed to grow with Murdoch’s plucked strings and mid-tenor Celtic hums, and this would have added some much-needed colour overall.

Murdoch’s lyrics remain strong throughout the album, but his music unfortunately lacks the refreshing variety found in his previous releases. There are no real signs of musical development or experimentalism, just feelings of stunted growth.

4/10

Published for the Oxford Music Blog, 18th April 2011*

*You can read the published review here
http://www.oxfordmusicblog.co.uk/2011/04/alexi-murdoch-towards-the-sun/#more-4223

Monday, 14 March 2011

LIVE: Warpaint @ O2 Shepherd's Bush - 21st February 2011


Warpaint are a difficult band to pigeonhole. Post-punk /psychedelia/prog-rock only cover half of the band’s sound, but the trouble classifying their music would probably run smoothly with the experimental LA all-girl quartet. Vocally, Warpaint draw influences from the likes of Cat Power and Bjork, but listening more closely to their debut album, ‘The Fool’, the guitars are so heavily saturated in lilting phaser effects that their music harks back to early The Cure and even The Verve. I am digressing; just like their music swallows you up a world of ghostly landscapes and angelic harmonies, and it is this profound musical escapism that I wanted to see performed live by one of the most hotly-tipped acts of 2011.

The quartet opened their set with the monotonous, yet dulcet bass tones of ‘Set Your Arms Down’, allowing the crowd to slowly fall in love with guitarist/singer Emily Kokal’s ethereal vocals and meander to guitarist Theresa Wayman’s delicate arpeggios. While ‘Set Your Arms Down’ is a personal favourite, there was a sense among the crowd that this was not perhaps the best song to open with and, unfortunately, either the P.A or the band’s volume levels were too low to fully appreciate the beauty of this song live. The volume increased a little more for the remainder of the gig and fans did not let the earlier levels impede their engagement with the band’s ability to thread hypnotic guitar lines between eerie vocals, walking bass progressions and syncopated beats.

It was fantastic to hear the band play tracks off their 2009 EP, ‘Exquisite Corpse’, such as the progressively haunting, ‘Stars,’ which implanted a deeper appreciation of the band’s early style and their capability to stay true to their experimentalism – also displayed by ‘The Fool’. Their unpredictable rhythm changes and irregular song structures clearly show how the band are passively avoiding being fashioned for mass-consumption, albeit their celeb-culture origins (Kokal used to date RHCP guitarist John Frusciante/Bassist Jenny’s sister is actress Shannyn Sossamon). Refreshingly, it is their talent and extremely original song writing that has pushed the band into the spotlight, reflected by the all-ages audience who sway in trance-like states, hypnotised by Warpaint’s on stage cosmology.

The performances of ‘Bees’, ‘Warpaint’ and ‘Shadows’ is where the band really comes into their own. Drummer Stella Mozgawa is rapturous behind her drum-kit, half-standing up with excitement as she snaps at the snare drum in ‘Shadows’. The fragmentary structure of ‘Bees’ ambushed the crowd half-way through the set, with Wayman and Kokal’s riffs splashing in restless dissonance and Lindberg’s roaring bass lines also cleverly interlacing Mozgawa’s off-beat pelts. Their hit, ‘Undertow’ was a little weaker than expected live, while the romantic, ‘Billie Holiday’, projected a faultless three-part harmony that looped beneath the gentle folk ballad tones.

Warpaint returned to the stage with a little more confidence for their encore; the capillary wave of Wayman’s guitar hook in ‘Elephants’ creeping about the stage and Kokal’s manipulative lyrics, ‘I’ll break your heart’, cunningly worming their way into the crowd’s heads. They most certainly left a residue.

4.5 /5

Published for 'Impact Magazine', 14th March 2011.

Friday, 4 March 2011

FEATURE: URN After Dark - 'Sam and Char Show' tracks of the week

After Sam and I finished our show on URN (http://urn1350.net/) this Thursday, we had a quick chat about our favourite tracks of the evening. Sam voted for Gil Scott Heron and Jamie xx, 'NY Is Killing Me' and I have chosen this track...

Rainbow Arabia - 'Without You'

Enjoy.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

INTERVIEW: Jimmy from Foals

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Whilst on the Nottingham leg of their busy European tour, Impact’s Charlotte Krol caught up with Jimmy from Foals to discuss life on the road, their new album and what we can expect to hear from the band next.

Impact: Firstly, how does it feel to be on tour again in the U.K after your U.S.A tour?
Jimmy: Really good, it’s a bit of a blur with jetlag and stuff and the first week’s been a bit weird, but good.
Impact: Is it as exciting as playing in America?
Jimmy: Yeah, just very different. The shows over there for us are a lot smaller; it’s a lot harder work touring there. It’s cushier here with a big rider and stuff, but yeah we come back home and we’ve got sold out shows, it’s great.
Impact: How does playing in Nottingham compare with some of the other U.K cities?
Jimmy: We’ve played here loads of times, in fact we’ve played most places in England now which is cool and Nottingham’s great. We always have a good night out.
Impact: The title of your latest album 'Total Life Forever' comes from Ray Kurzweil’s 'Theory of Singularity', which looks at the concept of a human-created artificial intelligence producing a more advanced version of itself and the next A.I. producing an even more advanced version until this multiplies enough that mankind is eventually overtaken. Is this something that affects you as a band? There are many lyrics in the album that focus on your anxieties about the future.
Jimmy: Yeah, I guess so. It’s mainly something that interests Yannis (lead singer/guitarist) and it is a concept that we do think about as a band.
Impact: Your latest album is in some ways the opposite of the angular and fast-paced feel of 'Antidotes'; there are longer pauses and drawn-out crescendos that allow us more time to mull over the music and lyrics. Was this a natural progression, stemming from a developed maturity in the band or just experimentation with a different musical style, or both?
Jimmy: Yeah, it was just a natural progression. We’re not so A.D.D as we were then. There was an excitement about filling every second with music, with angular riffs.
Impact: It’s almost like a type of punk-funk.
Jimmy: Yeah it was also a representation of where we were playing live at the time too, like at house parties which are all in-your-face fun, and that can get boring after a while. As the shows get bigger, you can change  as a band and you want to fill those spaces with bigger sounds. Our latest sounds are more about space and leaving it, allowing time to ponder about what’s happened and what’s coming.
Impact: What was it like to record the album in Gothenburg?
Jimmy: The recoding was a lot different, it was really exciting when we got there it was this group of like 15 hardcore Swedish guys and girls all working together in a studio, building it, adding on rooms, always hanging around.
Impact: Do the Swedes have a different way of looking at music and music production?
Jimmy: They were just a lot more relaxed than we were used to. Very laid back, very calm, very cool, they basically formed this collective when they can just churn music out. Its brilliant, no third parties  involved, no big investor, Not like how it is in London where you’re suddenly under this big umbrella and there’s this big company telling you what to do and the studio could close any minute.
Impact: And is that quite a shock when you first start getting known in the music business? You’ve been in bands before then, but did it grab you out of no-where? Or was it something that you knew was approaching?
Jimmy: No, it’s not really a slap in the face. It’s really a learning curve. You can never be a young band starting out and knowing what the music business is. We’re just learning to steer our ship past all the f**king icebergs.
Impact: What’s your approach to making an album? Do you tend to write the music before the lyrics or the other way round?
Jimmy: Yeah we used to but not any more really. That’s the big different on this album, everything was done at the same time.
Impact: And do you write the lyrics at all or is it just Yannis?
Jimmy: (Laughs) I’ve tried, but find it too hard. Yannis is actually under a lot of pressure, especially when we’re recording and he has to write lyrics to say, 12 songs before the end of the fortnight! Sometimes we only have until the end of the week to write a whole song. I do try to write though to give Yannis a break, but I just don’t have the talent.
Impact: Wasn’t Yannis formerly an English student at the University of Oxford? Do you think that makes him feel more confident with words?
Jimmy: Yeah, he’s just got that string to his bow.
Impact: And you are the only member of the band that has completed your degree right?
Jimmy: Yes.
Impact: What would you advise to any current university students who are considering pursuing a music career?
Jimmy: Obviously it depends on a lot of things, like I was fortunate to have already completed mine just as we were taking off, but I would say definitely pursue it if things are looking really positive for the band. I mean I didn’t have the best university experience, you know I didn’t get anything out of it. I was enjoying it, maybe a bit too much, but not academically. You have to balance it out and decide whether it’s really worth it. There’s about an 80% chance that things won’t work out for people in the music world. When we started out about 5 years ago, the chances were a little stronger. There are now so many more bands. It’s a very dangerous time to be a new band at the moment, which is a good and bad thing.
Impact: What are you opinions about Spotify? You have your latest album up there at the moment.
Jimmy: I think the more people that can hear the album, the better. We sell, as it appears to us, a lot of records, but in the grand scheme of things we really don’t and so I guess it is an odd concept. The majority of fans aren’t really going to buy our records, so I don’t care. It’s good that they can hear it online like that. The more people hear our stuff; the more they’re likely to come see us play live and then probably will buy our CD’s anyway. It’d be lovely it you got properly paid for it though, of course.
Impact: Do you think you will ever revert back to or want to play some smaller-scaled gigs, even at, say, Oxford’s ‘Truck Festival’?
Jimmy: We’d love to. We always prefer smaller shows, for the sound quality and everything. Bigger venues are almost a novelty. I don’t like the way that they’re not crammed full and there’s always a smell of dry ice (laughs). I think most people prefer smaller shows.
Impact: What are the band’s musical influences? You certainly have a Talking Heads sound about you.
Jimmy: Yeah they’re a massive influence and you know we grew up listening to a lot of Math Rock, although saying that everyone calls us that and we’re not that. In fact, only a very small number of bands are ‘math rock’ and most of them don’t exist anymore.
Impact: It’s hard to pigeon-hole your sound.
Jimmy: Yeah, that’s good. That’s an aim of ours. We’ve been called minimalist pop, which is crazy. That’s the exact opposite of what our live shows are about.
Impact: If you had to label yourselves, could you or would you?
Jimmy: (laughs) I don’t know. Something like ‘Space-Jam Rock’. It’s difficult, but journalists have to do it. You have full permission to call us that or make something up.
Impact: Are there any artists you could recommend to our readers?
Jimmy: Well the bands that are supporting us are all great. Crystal Fighters, Toro Y Moi, Trophy Wife and Pet Moon.
Impact: Your new album was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize this year. How did you feel about this?
Jimmy: It was fantastic! If not a little political, but I’ve got to watch what I say…Anyhow, The xx totally deserved it.
Impact: In the light of our earlier comments, what’s in store for fans in months to come?
Jimmy: Yeah riffs are starting to come together during sound checks for new songs.
Impact: Do you have acoustics lying around that you jam on?
Jimmy: Yeah we do. We try to do that but it’s really hard to do it on tour. As weird as that sounds, when you’re hanging around the venue all day. We’re taking the whole of January off and we’re going to Australia to record with a friend there for 20 days or so and also play a roaming festival tour around the country and briefly stop off in New Zealand.
Impact: Are you going to do anything wildly different on your next album?
Jimmy: I think we’re just going to see how it goes. It’s really exciting.

Published online for 'Impact Magzazine' on 17th November 2010.

NEWS: Blog, 'On Second Thoughts'

Hello, just a quick note to say please check out my friends' new music blog, On Second Thoughts.
It covers the latest music news, releases and reviews, from two very disparate minds...

http://www.on-second-thoughts.co.uk/

Monday, 28 February 2011

NEWS: Denmark's Efterklang win IMPALA award for best European Independent Album of the Year

I am a huge fan of these Experimental/Indie/Art-Rockers and think that they wholeheartedly deserved to win. Here's a link to the beautiful, 'Modern Drift,' the first single off their third studio album, 'Magic Chairs' (released February 2010):

Saturday, 26 February 2011

LIVE: The Naked and Famous @ Bodega Social Club, Nottingham - 18th February 2011

The Naked and Famous are not quite as internationally-renowned as their name boasts, regardless of their success in their native New Zealand, but the Bodega crowds’ excitement before the Electro-Pop band’s headline slot was more than tangible. Following on from Wolf Gang’s promising performance, The Naked and Famous started the show with an unusual song choice, ‘All of This’, which with its mid-tempo beats and oscillating crescendos made it a frustrating opener. Nevertheless, they made the brave decision of playing arguably their most popular song, ‘Punching in a Dream’ second, which really lifted the crowds’ spirits and allowed the band to shake off their somewhat hesitant dispositions.

Front-man and woman, Thom Powers and Alisa Xayalith, share beautiful falsetto harmonies and have real chemistry on stage, with Powers often stringing out discordant guitar notes that add darker layers to the band’s essentially classic pop music, and Xayalith firing out rippling synths while impressively whipping her hair back and forth more times than lil’ miss Willow Smith herself. Jessie Wood’s machine-precise, yet remarkably inventive drumming is fashioned by a half-acoustic/half-electric kit that drives The Naked and Famous’ thunderous and explosive set forward.

The band’s delicate track ‘The Sun’ nicely interrupted the set mid-way through, beautifully unravelling its subtle tones so that it echoed the minimalist experimentalism found in Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’. The heavily -distorted guitar riffs in ‘No Way’ following this further proved that this band are no one-trick pony, and ending on their anthem, ‘Young Blood’, The Naked and Famous sent their intimate crowd into a flurry of call-and-response ‘Yeah oh yeahs’, delivering the perfect ending to a very enjoyable gig overall.

4/5

Published for 'Impact Magazine' on 25th February 2011.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

FEATURE: Helplessness Blues...

I was raised up believing,
I was somehow unique,
Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes,
Unique in each way you can see.

And now after some thinking,
I'd say I'd rather be,
A functioning cog in some great machinery,
Serving something beyond me.

But I don't, I don't know what that will be,
I'll get back to you someday soon you will see.

Monday, 7 February 2011

LIVE: Annie Mac @ Stealth, Nottingham - 1st October 2010


3.05am. The wait for Annie Mac is over. After rushing from one of her gigs in Lincoln, she takes to the stage unannounced and lets the music explode before the crowd, dropping melodic synths, clipped samples and heavy beats from every corner of Stealth’s sweat box. As a relatively new fan, it was incredible to see the room come alive so quickly with her presence, regardless of the fact that she had not spoken a word nor lifted her dark mass of curly hair from the decks. The crowd happily delved into the dubstep bass lines and syncopated rhythms and before long, Annie threw them off course by creating her own live mash up, switching to DnB with the likes of Shy FX and then mixing her set further with Swedish House Mafia’s energetic, ‘One’.

Annie consistently attended to everyone’s musical needs – she successfully prolonged breakdowns for a good few minutes, before swelling crescendos finally exploded into cacophonies of heavy beats and frenzied dances. She also continued to display a perfect balance between the unpredictable and predictable; one minute presenting you with an eclectic mash up of underground electro and dubstep tunes, and the next, briskly moving on to more well known tracks, such as the first lady of dubstep, Katy B’s track, ‘On a Mission’. The power behind the sub-bass here propelled itself through the hundreds packed into the club before the final song, M.I.A ‘Paper Planes’ burst onto the scene, with Annie’s repeated and spliced samples adding yet another dimension to the immense diversity and excitement of her set overall.

Published for 'Impact Magazine' on 12th November 2010.

FEATURE: What is it like to be in a band in Nottingham?


Playing in a band at Nottingham may seem like too much to balance for us students with our heavy workloads and social lives to lead, but for me it is fundamental creative escape. There is something really exciting about getting a group of like-minded people into a hot, sweaty and steamy...no wait, crammed, practice room, ready to join ideas and play loud music for a good few hours each week. While this can be paralleled to the reverberations of weekly clubbing, it is indescribable how elated you feel when a song comes together, or when a stranger after a gig claps you on the back to say “well done”.

Being in a band at Nottingham is totally different to my home experiences (in my case, Oxford).  Before, I was sometimes having to get my parents to help me lug equipment to the outskirts of the county; from run down pubs with seemingly inbred audiences, to popular venues in the city and even playing at my school. Although Nottingham is a much bigger city, the music scene appears to be more localised yet with the similar range of venues. Seven is one of the best known venues for university bands, with its acoustic bar downstairs and the area upstairs allowing the gain to be increased. While this is probably the most regularly played venue for bands at Nottingham, I have also had the opportunity to play at the Rescue Rooms and at a little-known venue called the Maze, situated on Mansfield Road. On first impressions it appears to be a standard pub, but as you delve into its depths, an intimate venue emerges with corner staging, a bar and a large audience area. Apart from the above, there are still so many places to explore across the city and the range that I have experienced so far is varied and refreshing.
So how do you get involved? Well, for the individual artist, just grab your guitar or whatever instrument you play and book yourself in at places such as Snug and Wax Bar. The atmosphere at both is always chilled and extremely welcoming. For the group artist, firstly knock on a few doors in your hall. I can guarantee that at least one person will play the guitar or have a half-decent voice. Get chatting and get jamming. Alternatively, become a member of Nottingham’s very own Band Society...surprisingly called BandSoc, which hosts regular gig nights at Seven featuring university bands. Membership enables you to have access to its fully- equipped practice rooms, joined to the New Theatre and to the Archaeology building. It is really fantastic to be involved and I would recommend anyone with a burning musical desire to give it a go. Who knows, one day you might be headlining the Summer Party...
To get involved with BandSoc, check out www.bandsoc.net

Published for 'Impact Magazine'.