Friday, 21 December 2012

REVIEW: Album Of The Year: Grimes - Visions

*Originally published for the Oxford Music Blog (20/12/12) 

Certainly one to file in ‘other’, Grimes third and best album to date is a tricky old thing to define.

Critics have lazily described Claire Boucher’s music as having a ‘post-internet’ sound, but really she just has an incredible knack for marrying genres of the past with the present.

The result is a kind of ancient machine: established and contemporary. Boucher’s weightless, Cocteau Twins-like singing invariably meets with versatile synth patterns, an ambient sound that, unlike other modern electronic acts, doesn’t become repetitive.

Whether it’s the menacing pop of ‘Oblivion’, the video game glitches of ‘Genesis’, the classical-meets-digital brainwash of ‘Symphonia IX’ or the cataclysms of ‘Circumambient’, Visions is the kind of record that you will return to time and time again.

Friday, 14 December 2012

FEATURE: Dan Croll

*Originally published for The Generator's Tipping Point blog (13/12/12)

I’m honoured to at last reference a musician with (phonetically) the same strange surname as me, but only because the artist in question is breathtakingly good.

Dan Croll was first tipped by us in August when Toby Rogers praised his Flaws-era Bombay Bicycle Club balladry. A couple of months later, the Liverpool musician has come forward with a debut single sounding broader than all of his tracks put together (this is far from a discredit – check out the wonderful ‘Home’ and ‘Always Like This’) – so much so that the likes of Nick Grimshaw and Annie Mac have aired/interviewed him on their shows.

‘From Nowhere’ literally has arrived from another part of Croll’s mind, opening with a fairground organ that wouldn’t feel out of place on The English Riviera. It bursts forth with a statement bass-line, reggae rhythms and vacant jazz chords that, in all honesty, make you wiggle like a child in your desk chair. There’s a boyish, earnest tone to Croll’s singing, which nonchalantly glides over the track’s shimmering multicultural sound.

In essence, ‘From Nowhere’ does nothing less than hark to the kind of cool pop music that Santigold writes across the pond, but Dan Croll makes it in Britain. His debut album is out next year.

Friday, 7 December 2012

PREVIEW: Lewis Watson headlines BBC Introducing's Upstairs at the O2 Academy

*Originally published for BBC News Oxford (6/12/12)

Oxfordshire internet sensation Lewis Watson will be supported by four local singer-songwriters at December's Upstairs at the O2 Academy in association with BBC Introducing.

The gig on Saturday 8 December will see performances from Adam Barnes, Jasmine Hill, Gavroche and Alex Lanyon.

Lewis Watson, 20, was first played by BBC Introducing in 2010 and has received almost five million video views on YouTube.

He performed the lead single from new EP Another Four Sad Songs on Zane Lowe's BBC Radio 1 show after it charted on iTunes in November.

He said: "I've been to plenty of gigs at the O2 Academy, but now I'm headlining. It's great.

"Oxford is a great place to start out [as a musician]. I started doing open mics and it's fantastic for that."

Although not one to shrug off comparisons to artists like Ed Sheeran, Lewis likens himself to musicians a little further from the spotlight.

"It's a massive compliment to be compared to Ed Sheeran. I like to think that I draw more influence from Ed's workrate than his music though.

"I'd compare my music to City And Colour, or maybe Benjamin Francis Leftwich." 

The Oxford singer-songwriter is signed to Warner Bros and expanded much of his early fanbase through social media.

His success in the virtual world is now very much in the real, with the recent announcement that he is to support Birdy on her Australian tour in April 2013.

He added: "I'll be playing the Sydney Opera House before I'm 21. Mental."

Thriving scene

Adam Barnes will be playing a BBC Introducing gig for the second time Adam Barnes played an Upstairs gig in support of Glasgow's Admiral Fallow in May, but this month the event is completely bursting with local music.

Speaking of the "thriving" Oxford music scene, Adam said: "The best part is that there are always great bands to listen to who are currently doing well, not just in Oxford but across the UK."

He is also acutely aware of the important role that solo musicians play in the music industry.

"More have moved into the spotlight recently, but there are just as many as there ever were.

"You have to think that within every band there are one or two songwriters. The time period does change and different musical genres do steal the limelight, but songwriters have always been up there, from the Bob Dylans to the Springsteens to the Damien Rices."

Adam's music has taken more of a contemporary folk route of late, something that he is proud to exhibit at the Introducing gig.

"It's going to be a good show. It's always great to be involved with BBC Introducing in Oxford so I'm really looking forward to it.

"I'm also heading into the studio over Christmas and starting the recording of my debut album which is really exciting for me."

'Endlessly buzzing'

Jasmine Hill, 17, from Hook Norton, is another young act performing on the night.

She describes her music as "hook-based with pretty quirky productions... a mash up of Paloma Faith, Newton Faulkner, Adele, and Ed Sheeran".

While her covers of similar pop artists have garnered her attention on the internet, Jasmine is determined to share more of her original songs.

"I currently have a stash of originals in the bag and I'm now really focusing on adding to these as well as working and writing with top musicians and producers."

She has also found a way to get her music into a different medium.

"A song I wrote awhile back called 'Free' is being used in a film out early 2013 which is extremely exciting," she said.

Jasmine believes the support she has received from people in the local creative industries is down to their generally "open-minded" natures.

"The music scene [in Oxford] is endlessly buzzing with new talent and fresh music. The majority of people in Oxford are supportive of new artists and genres, so it's awesome for me to showcase my music."

The next couple of weeks are booked up with studio dates in London to record her material.

Also on the line up is Lucie Norton a.k.a. Gavroche who describes her music as "alternative angst folk with electronic tendencies". Singer-songwriter Alex Lanyon will open the night.

Every month a selection of local talent play the regular band nights at the O2 Academy, with highlights featured on BBC Introducing in Oxford.