Monday, 30 December 2013

LISTEN: BROODS - Never Gonna Change

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (30/12/13)

Packing enough pop punch to force anyone to revise their ones to watch lists, NZ siblings BROODS return with another stellar creation in 'Never Gonna Change'. 

October’s 'Bridges' was a breakthrough for the duo who have since signed to Polydor (UK) and Capitol (USA). It was hard to imagine another track that could so quickly shoot you in the heart.

But 'Never Gonna Change' is equally as gripping, showing off the act’s darker side with brooding (geddit?) synths, scuttling percussion and fleshy vocal blushes. Georgia Nott whips her souffléd vocals into a thicker syrup, complemented by heavy harmonies and coarse guitar solos. It’s quite startling and is only the second song they’ve ever written. Ever.

Expect big things for BROODS in 2014, who have Lorde producer Joel Little in tow and support from, basically, the whole internet.

LISTEN: Painted Palms - Here It Comes

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (30/12/13)

San Francisco/Louisiana duo Painted Palms have got us all caught up in their swirling, 60s-indebted psych pop with new track, “Here It Comes”.

Light-hearted synths are tightly wound and released over crackling beats, jingle bells and layers of muddy vocal. There’s something creative and childlike about the song with its densely looped melodies, simple keys and heavy bass plods, like if Animal Collective were to soundtrack the Rugrats (now, wouldn’t that be something)?

“Forever” got blogs talking but “Here It Comes” is just as much a conversation starter. The duo release their self-titled debut album in January 2014.

FEATURE: Laura Welsh - Ones to Watch 2014

*Originally published for The Tipping Point (11/12/13)

Seemingly arriving from nowhere with the Dev Hynes-produced ‘Unravel’ in March, London-based singer Laura Welsh was in fact giving her musical career another push. 

Previously heading up acts Laura And The Tears in 2010 and Hey Laura, the songstress had taken a hiatus to reset her ideas and “write songs for myself”. She later moved on to work with the likes of Rhye and Emile Haynie (Kanye West, Lana Del Rey). “It felt like a sort of period in time where I had a lot of freedom to just build on what I wanted to do”, she said.

That freedom is duly encapsulated in her music, particularly the candid lyricism of ‘Unravel’ – “I’ll give you all my love/ just take what I don’t need”. All the components are exposed to the elements, from bare piano notes to breathy vocal hums and hushes, allowing Ms Welsh to stand with the take-me-as-I am spirit of neo soul peers Jessie Ware and Laura Mvula.

In October, Radio 1 added her latest single ‘Undiscovered’ to the In New Music We Trust playlist and a flurry of famous producers have since jumped to remix her work.

Now putting the final touches to her debut LP due early 2014, it seems Laura has set herself up well for what we think will be her busiest year to date. A holiday does wonders for the soul.

WATCH: Hella Better Dancer - Sleeptalking [Premiere]

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (9/12/13)

Lo-fi London quartet Hella Better Dancer present their magical new video for 'Sleeptalking', premièring today on Best Fit. 

Directed by Billy Boyd Cape, the video sees actors and bandmembers caught in a starry daze, dancing with eyes closed in a blue and red hue. It’s well-suited to the track’s dreamy harmonies, powerhouse rhythms and ricochet guitars, hypnotising you with it’s clever slow-mo camera twists and turns.

'Sleeptalking' is available as a free download here. The band play Roundhouse Rising on 23 February 2014

FEATURE: Tracks of the Week - 6/12/13

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (6/12/13)

December – where did that come from? This week’s new music certainly doesn’t sound like it’s the end of the year.

Laura Bettinson was formerly the brains behind afrobeat group Dimbleby & Capper, currently heads up Ultraísta and has now has a new guise as FEMME. October’s 'Fever Boy' was instantly recognisable as one of her own with its clap-happy beats, cutting vocals and undulating grooves. The track’s now been washed with Canadian rapper Cadence Weapon’s heaving chants and dirty drops, and squares up well to the original cut.

Eugene Quell’s debut offering 'Weird Purr' was too hard to ignore with its soft grunge snarls and fuzzy layers. He’s no stranger to this sound though, having played in bands since the early 90s. The track makes a bed in your head with drowsy snare snaps and chatty vocals. It might be laid back, but it’s deceptively bright and confident, psyching us up for future releases.

Building on the game-changing RnB that’s dominated this year is the latest track from Ben Khan. 'Savage' is buoyant, energetic and a quick shot in the heart with its funk guitars, klaxon synths and rich singing. We think he might have chucked older hooks into the mix here, clogging up its thick layers with sprightly guitar lines. 

London duo Kaleida dropped the second track from their debut EP and our synthpop hearts exploded. Like 'Eden', 'Tropea'‘s synths glint inside dark chasms of ghostly vocals and gallant rhythms. It’s promising music: self-assured and wholly accessible.

As far as debuts go, few can stretch minds as well as Adult Jazz’ first effort. 'Springful'‘s art school, chop-pop textures recall much of Dirty Projectors’ back catalogue and yet sound completely new. The Leeds fourpiece are trying to push boundaries. They can do this as much as they like.

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

FEATURE: Empress Of - Ones To Watch 2014

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (6/12/13)

The honest pursuit of innovation has stood proud over the last 12 months of music, from “future-garage” to “PBR&B”, or any other suitable names critics will feed internet minds looking for a quick-fix musical education.

With such a crowded market comes some inevitable shirking of genres: 90s revivalism and the death of nu-folk (thank god for the latter). That’s not to say guitar music is dead, however. Far from it. It’s simply evolving, blurring the line between electronics and acoustics, between producer and artist, swirling a multitude of influences in its bottomless glass.

For now, this creativity is very exciting. Any self-respecting music geek would have spent more than a few unhealthy hours dreaming up unlikely genre pairings (who knew era-hopping could sound as good this)? But the future of music is always fearsome because it is unknown. To know how to deal with it when you’re in it – when you’re in the zeitgeist – is just as disconcerting, with a sharp bite of rhetoric.

After much drooling over Empress Of’s Cocteau Twins-indebted Colourmusic project (2012) and Systems EP (2013), we thought we had a pretty good idea of what the experimental Brooklynite would bring next. But October’s 'Realize You' was the jittery, bold club-banger that scoffed at any scribbles of dreamy synthpop.

“I want to have constant change”, says Lorely Rodriguez (AKA Empress Of). I get frustrated when an artist I like is regurgitating the same thing.

“I’m in denial. I recently played in an opera house at [Iceland] Airwaves festival. It was a seated venue and people starting to dance and stuff to 'Realize You'. I was like, 'this is not good', but my manager thought it was great. I’m not sure…

“I mean, I wrote that song about a relationship", she sighs on the phone from USA.  "I was emotional and mad. It’s like I was moving on the inside and my music was moving on the outside. Making dreamy music was just not reflecting what I felt.”

She adds that her influences are “really all over the place”, ranging from Nirvana to James Holden and AlunaGeorge.

“This year has actually been a constant year of listening to music. I really appreciate when someone tries to do something different. Like Kanye West. I’ve looked up to him this year. Yeezus sounds like so many things and not like anything, also.”

Lorely’s answers are dichotomous, often flitting between a yes/no. “I’m just figuring out what I want to do with my music” is heard a few times down the crackly phoneline.

Perhaps this uncertainty is healthy for modern music, for the smorgasbord of sounds we now hear today – the perfect tonic for developing her sound?

“I’m a songwriter and I love interesting melodies. My earlier stuff was really romantic and had complicated rhythms. I think this year will be more simple, more consistent like a heartbeat. The melodies will be quirkier. I want to challenge myself.”

That’s her most definite answer yet.

NEWS/LIVE: Boxed In plays debut London headline show

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (3/12/13)

An in-demand producer and musician Oli Bayston of Boxed In has helped pen songs for the likes of Lily Allen but the release of his debut single, 'All Your Love Is Gone' in November pushed him into a new limelight. An excitable crowd gathered at London’s The Waiting Room last night to hear what all the fuss is about.

The wood plated walls of the Stoke Newington venue were a mirror to Boxed In’s snugly packed structures and melodies. Better still, the room burst at the seams with fans and friends all eager to be a part of his headline show.

Every song was as tightly performed as the former – be it the strict motorik rhythms on 'All Your Love Is Gone' or 'Subtle Knife'‘s house music inflections. For many a fervent fan out there the performance gave them a strong taste of what’s to come: from smart dance music to upbeat, jazz-inflected pop.

Foot Of The Hill
Subtle Knife
Run Quicker
No Joke
All Your Love Is Gone
False Alarm – The Melody (Carl Craig cover)

FEATURE: Tracks of the Week - 1/12/13

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (1/12/13)

It’s been another whirlwind week of new music. This is what we got excited about. 

London-based artists Sivu and Marika Hackman paired up for 'I Hold' and it was a match made in quirk-pop heaven. Billowing flutes, glitchy electronics and frail vocals lean on each other for support in world full of dreamy desire and chants of “I wanna be yours”.

We were astounded by Welsh vocalist Violet Skies’ debut track, 'How Mighty'. Opening and closing as a spindling piano ballad, bold electronics soon flood the space with oscillating bass throbs and synths akin to electro-soul goddess, Jessie Ware. What an impressive start.

Rising Norwegian star Cashmere Cat’s latest track sounds like a million ideas rolled into one. 'With Me' is a bewildering experiment of contrasts between the heavy and the gentle: dirty synths fight with tender xylophone pops and airy vocals quick-foot snappy beats. New release, The Wedding Bells, is out in the new year.

With an influx of inventive synth music in recent years, especially from the Nordic lands, it’s refreshing to hear such rooted folk-pop perfection from Swedish duo, Solander. 'All Opportunities' teems with grave strings, rumbling percussion and gorgeous vocals, making it far too easy to become part of its thriving lifeblood.

Finally, London artist Dornik did what we wanted him to do. He released a track that deftly builds on his debut single, 'Something About You', with the glistening, upbeat RnB of 'Rebound'. Colourful vocals cling to a danceable, metronomic rhythm that is fully complimented by playful bass and starry synths. Infectious stuff.

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

NEWS/LIVE: Wild Beasts play new material in Oxford

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (29/11/13)

Wild Beasts last unleashed their emotive, off-kilter pop songs on Smother more than two years ago. Last night, a loyal crowd in Oxford got the taste of new material on their tongues.

It was the third show of the Kendal four-piece’s intimate UK tour, but the apprehension onstage at Oxford’s O2 Academy 2 could have convinced anyone it was their first. Not that the band lacked any professionalism; there stood four musicians effortlessly swapping instruments or playing such acute attention to songs that it was like pressing play. Merely, the bandmembers’ boundless thanks and delighted faces proved that their new material – including 'Sweet Spot' and 'Pregnant Pause' – were more than well received. Relief swamped the stage.

As expected, old favourites 'Hooting & Howling' and 'All The King’s Men' were the sparks that lit the fuse in the close space. The floor might have quivered underfoot for these performances, but the new songs had everyone enchanted.

Reach A Bit Further
We Still Got The Taste Dancin’ On Our Tongues
Sweet Spot
The Devil’s Crayon
The Fun Powder Plot
Pregnant Pause
Hooting & Howling
A Dog’s Life
Loop The Loop
Bed Of Nails
This Is Our Lot
All The King’s Men
Lion’s Share

LISTEN: Conner Youngblood - Aqua Regia/Amelia

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (27/11/13)

Conner Youngblood returns with his most immersive and beat-heavy music yet in 'Aqua Regia/Amelia'.

The Texan’s latest work is testament to his multi-instrumentalist talent. On 'Amelia', we are thrown into a world full of spooled guitars, marching drums, jewelled keys and faraway falsettos.

Second track, 'Aqua Regia', hears lethargic hip-hop rhythms and demonised vocals float about with what sounds like Appalachian zither instruments. Mr Youngblood certainly isn’t one to restrict himself.

It’s stirring, original stuff that’ll to get you tangled in unbounded layers. We’re excited to see what’s next.

LISTEN: Rainer - Hope [Woman's Hour Remix]

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (22/11/13)

A pairing between some of our favourite new acts this year, Rainer’s 'Hope' is given the eerie once-over by Kendal/Manchester electronic pop lot, Woman’s Hour

Where the original picks up its dancing feet, Woman’s Hour’s remix draws out every inch of the stems with yearning synths, drugged-out beats and sparse, choral hums. There’s no room for dancing here, just a beautiful cacophony of sounds.

The fact that the remix is instantly recognisable as the four piece’s own is a great sign of the band starting to make their mark.

'Hope [Woman's Hour Remix]' is our Song of the Day. Listen now below.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

FEATURE: Tracks of the Week - 22/11/13

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (22/11/13)

Welcome to the latest round-up of the best new music from emerging artists. Consider your weekend listening sorted. 

A short time ago, we were lucky enough to premiere 'Alligator', the debut track by Ascot trio, Febueder. The band released yet another brash but beautiful pop song this week with “Sloppiness Tank”, awash with off-kilter structures, ghoulish wails and angular guitars. Just like “Alligator”, the track takes you on a journey of twisted paths and blind corners, ever testing your ability to guess what’s next.

Australian soloist Banoffee spoilt our sweet tooth with 'Reign Down', a gorgeous, supple RnB number. The weighty rhythms and deep vocoda vocals give the track the punch it needs with warm synths and Martha Brown’s voice cooing underneath.

Garage pop lovers beware: Boston’s Quilt have offered-up one coarse, upbeat and affecting affair. 'Tired & Buttered' hears jangling guitar hooks, fuzzy vocals and kitchen sink drums clamber on top on each other. But that’s not all. Somewhere in the mix lies 60s psych pop with whirring organ effects and clipped harmonies. Fans of Foxygen and Jagwar Ma will likely dig.

Perhaps the most inventive track to reach our ears this week was 'Hide', the debut release from Stockholm-based artist, China. Subtle textures and hollow beats float over bulky synths that are all wrapped up in Daniel Tjäder’s (The Radio Dept./Korallreven) crisp production. Around the 1:40 mark you’ll swear you can hear another song leaking into the track, but glassy synths and dissonant notes fit strangely well into the shape. “I’ve got my eye on you”, China Yggström sings. We better keep our eye on her.

Last but not least, we were a little short of stunned by the debut track from London newcomers, Groves. 'Papercut' could settle itself quite nicely as a Rumours off-cut, albeit brightened by modern electronics. As we noted previously, there’s an interesting mix of warm genres that poke their heads above the surface, from folk to disco, and you are truly rewarded with every listen.

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

WATCH: La Shark - Prison Palace [Premiere]

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (21/11/13)

La Shark show off their eccentric knack for fusing funk, pop and rock with a clever video for latest single “Prison Palace”, premiering today on Best Fit.

Directed by Tilly Shiner and Becan Rickard-Elliott and produced by A Mint and Lime Production, the video sees the London four piece gallivanting in battle re-enactment costumes, gearing up for park jogs and nerding-out on games consoles.

All these images seem rather irrelevant until vocalist Samuel Geronimo Deschamps’ lyrics, “her prison is a palace/showing you it’s not so bad”, begin to trudge through the thick layers of industrial bass and funk guitar.

The need for reckless abandon/exploration detailed by the constant running and RPG escapism (notice The Legend of Zelda reference, anyone?) is soon turned on its head by “taking the tools you were given”, “forging a home out of cold steel”, and accepting that what you’ve got ain’t half bad.

Prison Palace is out now. La Shark headline Electrowerkz, London on 28 November.

LISTEN: Febueder - Sloppiness Tank

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (20/11/13)

Ahead of the release of their debut EP this month, Ascot outfit Febueder treat us to another bracing, off-kilter pop song in 'Sloppiness Tank'. 

Hollow guitar notes and glottal vocals at the start spark quick comparisons to Alt-J (the track sounds a lot like 'Taro'), but there’s something different about Febueder. There’s more more groove and stomp to what we’ve heard so far of their music – more rock ‘n’ roll – even if neurotic coos and mathy guitars are found sweeping in and out.

It’s early to make big statements about the trio, but they’ve sure as hell got some fire in their bellies.

Soap Carve EP is out on 25 November on Tape Club Records.

LISTEN: Banoffee - Reign Down

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (20/11/13)

Australian soloist Banoffee follows up her impressive debut single with 'Reign Down' – a delicious slice of supple RnB. 

Blanket synths, slow beats and twisted, vocoda-like male vocals make a warm concoction for Martha Brown’s brand of sugary, electronic RnB. It’s more immediate than debut single 'Ninja' with its forceful rhythms and is bound to get everyone a little excited for her upcoming EP.

Banoffee’s new EP is scheduled for release in early 2014.

Friday, 15 November 2013

FEATURE: Tracks of the Week - 15/11/13

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (15/11/13)

It’s that time of the week when we look back at the most exciting new releases from emerging artists.

In line with the release of their debut EP, Medusa, Washington DC duo GEMS showed off yet more impressive songwriting with 'Ephemera'. Giant beats, 80s guitar, clear-cut vocals and spotless layers of synth congeal to make another pop hit-in-waiting. They’re one of our favourite new bands of 2013.

'Secrets' saw the striking pairing of the established and the new: big vocals from Canadian wonderboy The Weeknd and smooth electronics crafted by little-known producer, Jr. Hi. Starting as minimalist RnB with soulful vocals and restrained bleeps, the track soon progresses into heavier, more bulbous electronic territory. A great collaboration.

NYC model and filmmaker duo Cable unleashed debut single, 'Roxanne', and got us fixated on the song’s seductive protagonist. A definite nod to the 80s with chiming synths and tinny beats, the track details a figure "calling your name" over and over again. The cries continue long after listening.

One of the most creative pieces of new music we heard all week came in the form of 'Keepyourbusinesstoyourself' by Indian born, Australian-based artist Jitwam. A wonderful fushion of sounds from muddled hip-hop to electronic jazz, 'Keepyourbusinesstoyourself' will have everyone guessing Jitwam’s next move.

Finally, Disclosure affiliate Tourist offered-up his take on 'Lies' by CHVRCHES. Reminiscient of Jacques Green’s slow and sensitive rendition of Radiohead’s 'Lotus Flower', the London producer’s remix doesn’t take away from the original – it only adds. Lauren Mayberry’s vocals are left untouched (though sound strangely less Glaswegian without her bandmates’ barrage of muscular synths), whilst a nice house mid-section gets underway. The remix builds at a perfect pace, leaving a gentle piano naked at the close.

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

NEWS/LIVE: Glass Animals play a packed homecoming show in Oxford

                             Photograph taken at The Great Escape Festival in Brighton by Andrew Novell.
*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (15/11/13)

Glass Animals have had a busy summer diet: European festivals, new singles and even closing a deal with producer Paul Epworth’s (Primal Scream, Bloc Party, Adele) new label, Wolf Tone. Last night saw them digest it all with a packed-out homecoming show.

The small space in The Jericho Tavern, renowned for housing Radiohead’s debut gig, was well suited for the close textures of Glass Animals’ experimental sound. Better still, it enabled vocalist/guitarist Dave Bayley’s abstract and poetic lyrics to float between the many pairs of ears stacked to the front. Bayley is a natural frontman, with finely-tuned support from his bandmates.

The gig also gave the four-piece the chance to debut new material; 'Gooey' and 'Fresh Coast' sounded almost as established as buzz-hits 'Cocoa Hooves' and 'Black Mambo'.

A taste of what to expect of their debut album (due to be released in March/April 2014) hung heavy in the air at the show’s close, but at least we won’t have to wait too long for new recorded material. The band plan on releasing a mixtape as a late Christmas present in January.

Dust In Your Pocket
Golden Antlers
Fresh Coast
Cocoa Hooves
Toes Wyrd
Black Mambo

LISTEN: Saol Álainn - Nostroke

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (15/11/13)

LA producer Saol Álainn may be new on the scene, but debut track 'Nostroke' sounds like an established artist at work.

'Nostroke' is an intelligent, off-kilter piece of music. Weedy harmonies lie quiet at the start, before one of the nastiest drops we’ve heard in months dumps itself atop glitchy electronics. There’s jittery house, rewound piano, dulled beats and intricate time signatures, which all seem to add up to some clever musical algorithm way beyond our ears.

Information on Mr Álainn is sparse; but whatever musical secrets he’s hiding, bring them forth. 'Nostroke' is out now on NY-based label, No Recordings.

LISTEN: GEMS - Ephemera

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (14/11/13)

Washington DC pop duo GEMS released their debut EP this week and their latest track 'Ephemera' will make you gush all the more about your new favourite band.

Pop hits-in-waiting of this kind can be few and far between, but GEMS seem to unload them with enviable ease. Opening with starry synths, 'Ephemera' soon ignites with big, bad beats, 80s phaser guitar and Lindsay Pitts’ glacial vocals.

There’s uncanny chemistry between Ms Pitts and her accomplice, Cliff Usher, whose gentle boy/girl harmonies bubble away beneath the surface, quickly reaching boiling point with shattered electro drums and densely layered synth.

If you do one thing this week, listen to their music and tell all your friends.

Monday, 11 November 2013

FEATURE: Tracks of the Week - 8/11/13

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (8/11/13)

November is already shaping up to be a very exciting month for new music. Here’s our picks of the best songs from the last seven days.

With driving beats, reverb-soaked guitars and heavy-eyed vocals, No Joy’s 'Second Spine' made it sound like it was ’91 again. The Montreal shoegazers know a thing or two about crafting dreamy melodies (check out 'Hare Tarot Lies') and while this latest offering is a straighter cut, it’s no less enchanting.

Iceland’s Ásgeir has already made waves in his home country, and 'Torrent' is another tempest waiting to hit foreign shores. Much like Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, the pull with Ásgeir is the way he manipulates his voice to become a new instrument. It’s especially apparent on this track, using billowing vocals to lift a marble piano above roll-snap rhythms.

Although we know next-to-nothing about Álauda, we know 'Falling Star' is one of the most arresting debuts of late. Sounding like an unreleased Warpaint song, 'Falling Star' is multi-layered, atmospheric and oddly catchy. Morphing from one structure to the next, it leaves you second-guessing it’s every move. We can only hope another release will follow shortly.

Another mysterious act popped up on our radar this week, this time in the form of Tabloid. Overlooking the seismic seizure that is their tumblr, 'Voyeur' is quick-fire techno-pop, counterbalanced with witch house wobbles and polished vocal. A nice surprise.

Stealing the crown for best hook was IYES with ''Til Infinity'. Dazzling synths, liquorice boy/girl vocals and lucid melodies scramble for an explosive chorus that will leave you panting for another listen. The Brighton duo have been quiet for the past few months, but have more than made up for their silence with this new song.

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

LISTEN: IYES - 'Til Infinity

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (6/11/13)

Brighton duo IYES shared promising demos 'Glow' and 'Lighthouse' earlier this year, and then went a bit quiet. Nothing could prepare us for the storm of ''Til Infinity.'

Mixing kitchen-sink drums with cooing vocals, bright synths and an eye-popping chorus, the duo’s new single is an immediate sell. Garage blips, warm boy/girl vocals and infectious melodies make for a thickly layered electro-pop sound that sucks you in seconds into the track. You know you’ve found a beauty when melodies rattle around your head after just one listen.

Catch IYES at Brighton Dome Studio Bar, Brighton on 22 November and Servant Jazz Quarters, London 25 November.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

LISTEN: Glass Animals - Woozy [feat. Jean Deaux]

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (5/11/13)

It’s been more than a year since Oxford’s Glass Animals unleashed the unnerving, electronic sounds of 'Cocoa Hooves'. 'Exxus' ran in a similar vein. But a balmy, unexpected collaboration with Chicago rapper Jean Deaux proves we still haven’t worked them out yet, and neither have they.

What is clear, however, is the quartet’s love for experimentation. Where 'Golden Antlers' touched upon post-dubstep, new song 'Woozy' is an intelligent jazz/electronica/hip-hop hybrid, replete with brush-taps, fluid bass and Jean Deaux’s self-assured rapping.

Perhaps it’s not best to signpost genres here, but with the band’s constant evolution, a little orientation might be in order.

Glass Animals play Broadcast, Glasgow on 8 November, Concrete, London on 12 November, and a hometown show at The Jericho Tavern, Oxford on 14 November.

REVIEW: Gathering 2013

*Originally published for The Oxford Mail (25/10/13)

Oxford gets its fair share of buzz bands and international stars, but sometimes a quick journey to London is needed to satisfy musical needs. When Gathering comes to town, however, it’s all eyes on us.

The festival, now in its second year, sees more than 40 acts descend on the city for one night of explosive music across different East Oxford venues. It’s a real treat for music lovers.

First on at the Cowley Road Methodist Church was singer-songwriter and St Edward’s School alumnus, Nathan Ball. His lulling, acoustic songs are reminiscent of British songwriter Alexi Murdoch, with his half-whispered vocals and warm guitar chords. Nathan was nervous of playing to a tiny crowd in a giant room, but it did the intimacy of his songs great service.

A brisk walk up the Cowley Road to The Art Bar (formerly The Bullingdon Arms) found 80s synth-popstress Pawws entertaining a lively crowd. Lucy Taylor’s vocals were crystal-clear and the energy rose once she beckoned the crowd to move closer to the stage for 'Slow Love'. Impressive, upbeat pop.

Laura Welsh was the evening’s game-changer over in the East Oxford Community Centre. Her take on modern soul (akin to electro-soul goddess Jessie Ware) is astonishing, and it’s easy to see why she drew a big crowd. Taking things up another level is Rhodes, who plays to a busy crowd in Truck Store. The Hertfordshire singer-songwriter only picked up a guitar in January but, coupled with his beautiful vocals, it’s like he’s been performing all his life. He completely unravels onstage, tugging at many a girl’s heartstrings with striking balladry.

One of Gathering’s low points, as to be expected at an urban festival, is venue capacity. You have to queue for a good 45 minutes to see the bigger acts and you might not get in. This was the case for many London Grammar fans. The O2 Academy was crammed with excitable gig-goers. Opener 'Hey Now' sounded sublime, with Hannah Reid’s arresting vocals soaring high.

Restoring any faith lost in technical issues were Temples, upstairs in the Academy. Close your eyes and transport yourself to the 60s; here lies flowery guitar, prog-rock basslines, electronic organ and supple harmonies. They were the slickest act of the evening.

NME favourites Wolf Alice brought their 90s rock to the East Oxford Community Centre at the end of the night. Singer Ellie Rowsel’s raw vocals helped to build mini mosh pits – a sure-fire way to leave everyone satiated.

Despite inevitable, though frustrating, logistical problems, Gathering is slowly starting to establish itself against the big one-day festivals. We’re more than lucky to have it in our humble abode.

LISTEN: Álauda - Falling Star

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (4/11/13)

Proving that an elusive internet presence doesn’t always make for shallow creations, behold the stunning atmos-pop of Álauda.

With its twisted bass, banshee wails, phaser guitars and velvet synths, 'Falling Star' has so much texture it could be knitted out of a thousand sounds. Rather fittingly, vocals fall out of the sky, akin to Theresa Wayman’s (Warpaint) softly-spun vocal. Suddenly, just shy of the two-minute mark, the song warps into an altered beast with a different key and hurried, crystal piano. You’ll spot a new nuance with every listen.

We don’t know who Álauda is or are. We don’t know where she is/they are from. But we really like what we hear.

LISTEN: Bayou - Everybody's Gotta Learn

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (4/11/13)

Setting blogs ablaze since the sugary bedroom RnB of 'Cherry Cola' popped tastemakers’ ears last November, London’s Bayou (Hari Ashurst) returns with another sparkling, downbeat synth-pop tune – this time, a cover of The Korgis’ classic 'Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime'.

Opening with unnerving, discordant harmonies, 'Everybody’s Gotta Learn' soon cracks its melodious whip with hearty bass womps, darting synth horns and a funk guitar duly dipped in the ocean. The track hears Ashurst’s vocals at their most intimate to date, whispering alongside creaking percussion and gently mechanised keys.

'Everybody’s Gotta Learn' certainly adds weight to Bayou’s consistency. We can’t wait to hear more.

REVIEW: Sundays - Of Eros And I EP

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (1/11/13)

Sundays is a tease. Log on to her social media profiles and you’ll be inundated with arty Instagrams that obscure her face, or life mottos and pictures of her breakfast. Much like her atmospheric electrosoul, the Vancouver artist is constantly toying between mystery and openness, between the spooks of minimalism and the warmth of soul. And this teasing is best expressed through the sensual sounds of her debut EP, Of Eros And I.

With sultry vocals, hip-hop beats and ghostly synths, 'World Of Our Own' could not be a more seductive opener. Sundays is a clever producer; she somehow manages to keep the stems of the track compartmentalised and yet completely together. When knuckle-crack beats drop and harmonies throb at the chorus, you can’t wait to hear the rest.

'Forces' carries over the deep hum of her vocal whilst acoustic guitars gleam in the background. Lyrics detail an immeasurable lust, "Forces beyond all of my control/I feel the tension slowly build/I don’t know what to make of it/I thought I could escape your touch", whilst tribal rhythms rumble beneath. There’s exoticism and honesty running between the sheets, once again playing on the distant/intimate dichotomy.

Slow-motion tempos and thin electronic pulses can make for a disengaged moments on the record. The centre of the EP is littered with drowsy tracks ('Behind Her Every Purpose', 'Hope It’s Enough') that smile at the consistency of Sundays’ gorgeous vocal but frown at the music’s tedium. Perhaps these unhurried songs are simply her style, but there’s not enough upbeat numbers to justify the further drop in pace.

Contentment closes the record on 'Things You Do', which hears Sundays at peace with her Eros. Vocal harmonies chase each other’s heels and makeshift beats thud with bright and cheerful synths. It shows the potential for future musical directions, more in line with bubblegum RnB.

Even if Of Eros and I is meant to be full of slow jams, some songs do lack an essential energy that leaves the stronger tracks noticeably so. There’s no doubt about Sundays’ raw talent though; here is a new artist playing freely with modern soul. It’s a welcome experiment.


FEATURE: Tracks of the Week - 1/11/13

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (1/11/13)

Another week has flown-by and with it a bounty of new music. Here’s our pick of the best tunes from the past seven days.

There’s no stopping Brooklyn popstress, Empress Of. Earlier this week, her supple vocals were heard jumping their way around a brilliant duet with Amateur Best. Then she suddenly dropped 'Realize You' and everyone’s mouths fell open. The track is daring, fresh, and addictive – surely a contender for those end-of-year best ofs.

London newcomer Manou gave us the first taste of her work with heavyweight producer PNUT (Dido and Amy Winehouse) on 'Sadie'. Glassy synths pepper her youthful vocals and half-rhymes flow through airy harmonies. It’s a very impressive debut from this 16-year-old who shrieks of early Marina & The Diamonds. We can’t wait to hear more.

It’s certainly been a good week for Scandinavian/Nordic artists (Akiine, F U R N S, Jacob Douglas) and a welcome return from Iceland’s Rökkurró. Back after a three-year absence with two new band members, the band presented 'Killing Time', a restful orchestral song fleshed-out with electronics and group singing. It’s an intricate track that thanks you for close listening. Maybe it’s all the attention on Airwaves festival, but the music that arrives from those northerly Arctic winds is constantly rewarding.

Cornish sisters Hockeysmith fittingly spooked-us out yesterday with their latest track, “Meanwhile.” Meditative, experimental and electronically crisp, “Meanwhile” sounds like Warpaint in afterglow, replete with erratic rhythms and ethereal synths. It’s anyone’s guess what goods they’ll come up with next.

Lastly, Kwabs showed-off that voice on the SOHN-produced, 'Last Stand'. His soulful vocal is fed repeatedly through SOHN’s rooted synth and bass until the earth in shatters at the crescendo. The stormy, plainchant-like backing vocals might make the gods above a little angry too.

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

Thursday, 31 October 2013

LISTEN: Cut Ribbons - Bound In Love

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (29/10/13)

Cut Ribbons' lead single from their upcoming EP doesn’t mark a dramatic change in sound, nor does it need to. “Bound In Love” is a sprightly pop-rock nugget, even more assured than the Welsh troupe’s previous offerings.

Muted guitars worm their way around buoyant drums and charming harmonies, giving us a sweet sneak-peek into Bound In Love EP. There couldn’t be better vocal pairing between singers Aled Rees and Anna Griffiths, with Griffiths’ soprano dancing nicely atop Rees’ docile vocal.

Clean-cut hand snaps, lively rhythms and breezy guitar hooks scream of the 1975's creative, sugar-rush pop music. It’s catchy, fun and confident – surely ready to home itself on radio playlists.

Bound In Love EP drops 18 November on Kissability. The new single is out on 8 December.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

LISTEN: Hella Better Dancer - Sleeptalking

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (28/10/13)

Brighton/London four piece Hella Better Dancer have been making dreamy, lo-fi guitar pop in their bedrooms for a few years. 'Sleeptalking' sounds like a band ready to flock the nest.

Perhaps it’s the prickly guitar solo and half-shouted harmonies that’s allowed the band to take on a more immediate personality? Or the weighty reverb and shaded vocals? Maybe it’s the band’s adoption of Norwegian songstress Farao last year as drummer? There’s certainly a cathartic experience when listening to both Hella Better Dancer and Farao’s music, made all the more appropriate by them playing church gigs together.

Whatever the reason, 'Sleeptalking' is a sure-fire step in the right direction. It doesn’t shed the band’s hallmark spacious sound (check out 2012′s Living Room EP) nor is it a simple repetition of their previous efforts. We can’t wait to hear more.

The self-produced/recorded single is out available as a free download here. Beautiful Strange will release 'Sleeptalking' on limited 7″ vinyl on 11 November.

FEATURE: Tracks of the Week - 25/10/13

*Originally published for The Line Of Best Fit (25/10/13)

We revisit the sounds that have been whirring around our heads the last seven days. Consider your weekend playlist sorted with our selection of the best new tunes around.

Stockholm’s Erik Hassle has been quiet these past few months, so he needed to bring us something special on his return. 'Talk About It' is his boldest effort to date: synths sweep, cymbals crash and Hassle’s soulful vocals blast out a hooky chorus. A smooth, electro pop nugget.

Shirking any attempt at slick production was Australian producer D.D Dumbo with his rough ‘n’ ready, 'Tropical Oceans'. Unhinged lyrics go hand in hand with unhinged sounds: deep south riffs skip intermittently between tribal percussion and shrill harmonies. A collaboration with Grizzly Bear would work far too well.

London girl Rainy Milo showed-off her slow jams with new track, 'Rats'. A fresh take on RnB, Miss Milo mixes crisp electronics with colloquial vocals and reggae echoes. It’s quietly confident and instantly catchy, nodding to the bright pop components of AlunaGeorge.

Genre-defying, gravity-defying, just-about-anything defying, are Febueder. ‘Alligator’ is so damn exciting it hurts. Four and a half minutes are crammed with different songs – or so the unpredictable structures make you believe. Mischievous guitars, barmy vocals and rattlesnake rhythms creep and crawl. The band’s green and pleasant land of Ascot couldn’t sound further away.

Lastly, wrapping us in its warm textures was the new tune by vocalist Nicole Millar. The Australian is very much in demand at the moment, collaborating with Cosmo’s Midnight, Emoh Instead and now Nottingham’s Crvvcks. Downbeat rhythms and crackling synths make for an ambient, post-dubstep dream.

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

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

LISTEN: Nicole Millar - Fall

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (22/10/13)

We heard Nicole Millar in April when she sang on a track by Aussie duo Cosmo’s Midnight. Now she’s hopped overseas to have Nottingham’s Crvvcks shroud her china vocals in bass and beats.

Aching synths and downbeat rhythms drag their feet on 'Fall', with Millar’s breathless vocal turning it into a post-dubby dream. A friend pointed out that she sounds like Bjork and it’s a good comparison. Lyrics spin and hand-claps crackle over slow tempos: a suitable track for working in the after-hours.

Her unnamed EP drops this month but there are no details on the exact release date. Check out her Facebook page for more information.

REVIEW: Rhodes - Raise Your Love EP

*Originally published for The 405 (22/10/13)

Childhood curiosity, openness and immunity to fear is a perfect mix for trying new things: from learning to ride a bike, to picking up a new language. All this becomes more challenging as you grow up and many would discard trying to master a new skill. But not 24-year-old David Rhodes. In January this year, he picked up a guitar, discovered he had a voice and set about to write some music. And the results are quite startling.

It's rare that a song can move you as quickly as 'Run' does. Guitars trickle like waterfalls over Rhodes' devastatingly beautiful vocals, whilst a gospel chorus lifts the track to a higher state. It would certainly suit a indie film soundtrack with its steadied and commanding crescendos.

'Worry' feels like an old friend with its instantly catchy chorus. Rhodes knows a way into a girl's heart with guttural, soulful vocals, nicely tied up at the end with aquatic guitars harking to Parachutes-era Coldplay.

The weakest song on the EP (though by no means "weak") is 'Darker Side'. It never quite takes off, but has the same earworm-of-a-chorus as 'Worry.' The thread attaching all of the songs is undoubtedly raw simplicity via Rhodes' pairing of ringing guitar and vocals (of the Jeff Buckley ilk) and, though this can be samey at times, it's powerful in its consistency.

Closer 'Raise Your Love' allows Rhodes' songwriting to really crawl into your head. The deep-seated projection of his voice in the verses is astounding as gentle percussion kisses a clanging electric guitar. Harmonies soar and echoes resound, leaving the record perched firmly on a high.

Raise Your Love is an arresting introduction to this impossibly-talented songwriter. It's the type of record that stops you in your tracks and swallows you whole, and it's frightening to think what heights can be reached next.


LISTEN: Roosevelt - Montreal

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (22/10/13)

The Cologne master of sunny house, Roosevelt, presents the b-side to 'Elliot', taken from his debut EP released this summer.

Whilst 'Montreal' hasn’t quite got the vibrancy of previous singles 'Sun' and 'Elliot', basslines are strapped to funky house and Marius Lauber’s misty vocals carry well over wriggling synths. There’s a sleepy and content feel about it, befitting a post-club beach session on some faraway Balearic island.

Elliot is out now on Greco-Roman. Roosevelt plays a DJ set at Fabric, London on 8 November.

Friday, 18 October 2013

FEATURE: Tracks of the Week - 18/10/13

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (18/10/13)

Another week, another attack of exciting new music. Here’s our selection of the best tunes from the last seven days.

Elusive London duo Jungle unveiled their new track, 'Lucky I Got What I Want' and got everyone’s ears pricked up. Smooth urban grooves and richly layered vocals make for another faultless song from the nameless pair, readying us for the release of The Heat EP on Monday.

Building on the urban jungle was the latest offering from SZA, the first female signed to TDE (Kendrick Lamar/Black Hippy’s label).'Teen Spirit' trapped us in its web of dreamy RnB with the New Jersey artist threading her sultry vocals between deep beats and crisp-clean production.

There have been some startling remixes of Lana Del Rey's work over the past few years (personal favourite: Jamie Woon's, 'Blue Jeans') and Mokadem has done a fine job on 'Gods & Monsters'. Glassy synths drop on downbeat rhythms as the South London producer plays sensitively with Del Rey’s vocal. It’s all pretty doom and gloom, but completely encapsulating.

Sensuality runs throughout the lead track from Rainer's upcoming EP, due for release in November. Lyrics detail the tugging and pulling of a relationship as beats pop and synths throb to off-kilter harmonies. The song’s unpredictable nature keeps you pressing refresh until you’re satisfied you’ve got your head around it – all part of its devilish allure.

Finally, Oli Bayston of Boxed In couldn’t have impressed us more on his catchy debut single, 'All Your Love Is Gone'. Driving, Krautrock rhythms, gritty guitar solos and deliciously languid vocals seem to loop on forever and ever. Quite frankly, we don’t want it to stop.

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

WATCH: East India Youth - Looking For Someone

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (17/10/13)

Bloggers went crazy for East India Youth’s sound experiment 'Heaven, How Long' earlier this year. Now William Doyle presents his first official video for 'Looking For Someone', taken from April’s Hostel EP.
The dizzying, schoolboy harmonies that open the track go hand in hand with video vertigo; Mr Doyle is seen floating up London’s Heron Tower with skewed camera angles and barf-inducing twists. The heavy layering of electronic sound, here reminiscent of Animal Collective, and ecclesial organ nicely compliments the slow-burning journey up to the heavens.
East India Youth will release his debut album on Stolen Recordings in early 2014.

LISTEN: Magic Island - Baby Blu

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (16/10/13)

Experimental Berlin-based popstress Magic Island dishes out a new track just two months after the release of her debut EP, Intoxicated Sunset.

'Baby Blu' sounds like stripped-back Lana Del Rey, with Canadian Emma Czerny’s clipped vocals exerting complete control over honky-tonk keys and hip-hop rhythms. Sickly lyrics about romance and glistening percussion slip in and out whilst harmonies fall on top of each other. The closing oohs and aahs hark to the 90s RnB that fellow Canadian Grimes continually vows to make.

'Baby Blu' is taken from Magic Island’s upcoming EP, Wasted Dawn.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

LISTEN: Boxed In - All Your Love Is Gone

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (15/10/13)

It’s a promising start for London soloist Boxed In with his flourishing debut single ‘All Your Love is Gone’, and a far cry from helping out on Lily Allen songs.

Credited for work on records by Allen and TOY, Oli Bayston is now taking the solo spotlight with a thriving, pulsating debut single in ‘All Your Love is Gone’. Crisp piano and meaty bass meander around a tight motorik rhythm as Bayston curls his lip with drawled vocals. Repetitive melodies and sharp beats deftly build the song to a gratifying climax, with the combined textures sounding not a world away from ‘No.1 Against The Rush’ by Liars. It’s exciting stuff.

‘All Your Love is Gone’ is released on limited edition 7″ vinyl and download on 25 November via Moshi Moshi Singles Club. Boxed In headlines The Waiting Room, London on 2 December.

LISTEN: YUNO - Grapefruit

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (14/10/13)

With the nights drawing in, the balmy new track by Florida bedroom musician YUNO couldn’t sound more out of place. It’s just what we need, though.

Put the heavy clouds and wet clothes aside and let ‘Grapefruit’ be your new hot water bottle; its warm RnB rhythms and breezy vocals are an immediate comfort. Synths chirp happily to one another as tropical drums weave in between the main hook.

Although its quite different to YUNO’s earlier surf-pop (remember summer anthem, ‘Sunlight‘?), ‘Grapefruit’ sounds very sure of itself, giving us curious insight into us into his forthcoming, Kickstarter-backed debut LP, V.

Monday, 14 October 2013

LISTEN: Boardwalk - Crying

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (10/10/13)

LA pairing Boardwalk lie somewhere between Big Deal and Beach House with their lo-fi guitars and hazy vocals - due to get teenage knickers in a twist as their debut LP release approaches.

The reason for this? Boardwalk – formed just last summer – know how to sex up dream-pop. On ‘Crying’, Amber Quintero’s lethargic, come-back-to-bed vocals effortlessly climb over Mike Edge’s muted garage-rock guitars. Slow tempos and floaty guitar solos are the ideal soundtrack to a Sunday morning spent with a sore head, with simple rhymes ensuring you’ll be pressing the repeat button.

Boardwalk’s self-titled debut album is out on 15 October via Stone Throw Records.

LISTEN: Killing Fields of Ontario - Our Place To Drown

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (9/10/13)

Leeds via Birmingham via London five-piece Killing Fields of Ontario might be a little displaced geographically, but their uplifting folk-rock remains rooted in its soil.

They’ve been simmering quietly in the background for a few years with regular slots on Tom Robinson’s BBC Introducing show, but new track ‘Our Place To Drown’ sounds like a band vying for more. Train rhythms and playful bass confidently carry billowing guitars over Tom Brewster’s pseudo-Southern drawl. It’s gentle but purposeful, the soundtrack for an endless journey.

Partner it up with the intense folk-country of lead single, ‘Cloud’ – taken from their forthcoming album, How The World Ends - and the rest of it looks rather promising.

How The World Ends is out on 28 October via KFoO Records.

LISTEN: Solomon Grey - Firechild

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (9/10/13)

Electronica duo Solomon Grey are re-releasing their unbearably catchy single ‘Firechild’ ahead of their debut live performances next month.

Judging by the sound of their 80s krautrock-meets-modern pop, the twosome will be throwing quite a party at their first live shows. ‘Firechild’ hears juddering, spacey synths provide a comfortable bed for smug falsettos and spanking-clean string progressions. It’s danceable, likeable pop that sounds damn sure of itself. 

Catch the English-Australian duo at The White Building, Hackney on 20 and 21 November.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

LISTEN: Woman's Hour - Darkest Place [Oceaán remix]

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (7/10/13)

Oceaán caught our attention earlier this year with the smooth and silky ‘Need U’. Now the Manchester producer delivers a delicate remix of ‘Darkest Place’ by electronic minimalists, Woman’s Hour.

There is a real sense of partnership in Oceaán’s reworking of ‘Darkest Place’; Fiona Burgess’ naked vocals swim fluidly between “Oliver Cean”'s soulful hums. Finger snaps build to scurrying rhythms and harmonies glint in the background.

What is so attractive about the remix is that the original is instantly recognisable –  just kissed with a new warmth – likely found basking in clubbers’ afterglow or accompanying late-night drives.

Monday, 7 October 2013

LISTEN: Blood Cultures - Indian Summer

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (7/10/13)

It's tempting to give artists the silent treatment when internet bios are intentionally sparse, but in the case of elusive New Jersey soloist, Blood Cultures, it'd be plain rude. 

Put simply, the debut offering from the synth-pop artist is too good to miss. Opening with groovy, palm-muted guitars akin to what we've heard so far from Jai Paul, 'Indian Summer' quickly journeys into explosive synth-pop territory.

Off-kilter, vacuous vocals climb pentatonic scales on top of brash – if not a little cheesy – synths that nod to Europop. It sounds more like it's been washed up on the shores of Sweden than New Jersey, no more than a pebble stone's throw away from Iamamiwhoami.

Friday, 4 October 2013

LISTEN: Fractures - Cadence

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (4/10/13)

Australian producer/multi-instrumentalist Fractures returns with drugged RnB months after nursing, ironically, a fractured neck.

The solitude caused by such an incident can be a blessing for creativity, mind. New single 'Cadence' perfectly embodies the frustrations of unrequited love: cyclical motions, yearning vocals and a bass that's far too hot to touch. The opening keys draw parallels to 70s funk clavinet, but the track is soon engulfed by downtempo not unlike that of electro-soul crooner, Jamie Woon.

While it could be a bit brighter on the production side, it gives us a nice peek into his debut EP set for release in early 2014.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

LISTEN: Lupa - The Creature

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (3/10/13).

Fifteen-year-old Lupa knows a thing or two about fusing organic sounds with tender electronica.

The Sydney-based artist (real name Imogen Jones) cites Daughter and Grimes amongst her influences and that folk-meets- electronic sound is prevalent in new song, 'The Creature'. Crystalline vocals and plucked violins drip-feed into snapped beats, reaching an enchanting climax just shy of the four minute mark. What lies at the heart of the track is its clever simplicity - descending scales looping with repetitive beats - thanks in part to Miss Jones' classical music background. Trained musicians will be the first to tell you less is more.
Aussies triple j love her, and we might just a bit too.