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: