Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Top 10 Albums of 2011


10. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues 
Helplessness Blues' melancholic harmonies and gentle guitar strumming makes for a perfect blend of mellow folking greatness. The album's simplicity is raw and honest, and an impressive progression from their eponymous debut album. 


 
9. Beirut - The Rip Tide
 Known for their rich sound and variety of instruments, Beirut definitely didn't let fans down with their third album. With a distinctly European feel, The Rip Tide's vibrancy and colourful music is like none other, and the dulcet symposium of the brass section combined with an accordion, ukulele and Zach Condon's powerful voice ensures that the magic of Beirut isn't lost on anyone. 

8. Ben Howard - Every Kingdom
Newcomer, Ben Howard's debut album has received critical acclaim from music critics - and rightly so. Although singer-songwriter guitarists are far from rare, Howard shines out from the crowd with a certain uniqueness and his sincere lyrics really do seem to stem from the heart. With beautiful background harmonies and catchy hooks, the surfer from Devon has found a niche sufficiently different from the many clichéd acoustic guitar acts of today.
 
7. Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - Noel Gallagher's High  Flying Birds
Since Oasis split in 2009 it seems like Noel Gallagher has been rolling around like a tumbleweed in the desert, not really going anywhere,  and his very public feud with his brother has been hard to escape; however his debut album under Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, demonstrates his triumphant return to music. Whilst not having strayed far from the distinctive sounds of Oasis, Gallagher combines exhilarating guitars and jazzy trumpets for a truly uplifting rock album.

6. tUnE-yArDs - W H O K I L L 
Beyond doubt there is no one quite like Merrill Garbus, and once you've gotten over the annoyance of having to type out tUnE-yArDs, her kooky, dreamy looping is mesmerising. The sheer range in her voice is extraordinarily impressive, and W H O K I L L showcases her ability to create such intriguing and exciting music from the simplest of hooks and riffs.
  
5. Cults - Cults 
The Manhattan duo broke onto the music scene this year with their eponymous debut album bringing the perfect soundtrack of shimmering pop to the summer. With infectious tunes, and the flawless mix of Madeleine Follin and Brian Oblivion's contrasting voices, the sugary-sweet tones of Cults are refreshing and upbeat - a melodic triumph. 
 


4. The Vaccines - What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?
After receiving praise for their music in 2010, it was with much anticipation that their debut album was released in 2011, and well, what other did we expect from The Vaccines than a fantastic album? Over the past few years it seems that Britain has been slightly lacking in good guitar bands, but The Vaccines seem to have brought rock back to Britain with great gusto. With most of the songs on the album under the three minute mark, it's a quick listen but with a lasting impact. 

3. Noah & The Whale - Last Night On Earth
Despite the success of their first single Five Years Time, their debut album Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down and it's follow up The First Days of Spring were slightly disappointing. However with their third album Last Night On Earth, it seems that Noah & The Whale have really found themselves now. Although the upbeat tunes seem to drift more into the indie-pop category than the folk genre which Noah & The Whale are so associated with, Last Night on Earth sparkles with harmonies and a new found sense of fun. Where the songs on their previous albums drifted into the background, their newest album stands out proudly and makes for a perfect mix of simple, honest lyrics, and catchy tunes. 
2. Cloud Control - Bliss Release
The easy-breezy pop of Cloud Control's debut album Bliss Release combines the beautiful harmonies of Alister Wright and Heidi Lenffer with jangly guitars and driving drum beats. Meditation Song #2 is perhaps the stand out song on the album - a summery mixture of electric and acoustic guitar accompanied by a cheerful tambourine. With such a strong first album, we can be sure that an equally good follow up will be on the cards shortly.
   
1. The Antlers - Burst Apart
Having featured on the majority of 'best albums of 2011' lists, it's safe to say that this year has been a great one for The Antlers. Despite the underlying dark melancholy of the lyrics (only marginally lighter than the abusive relationships and cancer explored in their last album, Hospice), lead singer, Peter Silberman's soothing voice accompanied by a relaxed beat and background electronica makes a harmonious sound that is carried throughout the album. Tiptoe gives a feeling of floating under water, and is perfectly juxtaposed with the slightly more frantic Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out to create an album full of variation and exciting new songs. 

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Songs For Christmas


With only three days (!) until the big day itself, I thought it was time to share with you the best songs from the 2011 festive season. Sit back with a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie, and enjoy the tunes...

Little Saint Nick - She & Him

Snowflake - Kate Bush


Christmas Day - Tim Wheeler and Emmy The Great
 

Somewhere Only Santa Knows - Keane

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The Drums at Shepherds Bush Empire

The History Of Apple Pie provided a slightly disappointing start to the evening. Lead singer Stephanie Min's voice was barely audible over the thrash of heavy guitars, and I wondered whether this was the desired effect, or simply the product of a faulty mic. Their new single Mallory was actually quite a tuneful, colourful little number on second listening on Youtube and Kelly Owens' background vocals melted into the guitars perfectly, it was just a shame that the full effect wasn't witnessed in their set.

          However, when Cloud Control stepped onto the stage, the evening was immediately turned around. Having seen them support Stornoway at Somerset House back in July, and instantly falling in love, I was excited when I discovered they'd be supporting The Drums. Opening with crowd favourite, Meditation Song #2, the jangly summery pop immediately gripped the audience, and the voices of Alister Wright and Heidi Lenffer merged together beautifully to create the perfect opening to their set. The epicness of the tune was reinforced by the four piece's enthusiasm - Wright's slightly shy but nonetheless infectious grin was humbling, and complemented by Lenffer's exuberant tambourine playing (one of the few people who can make the tambourine seem like the coolest instrument on the earth) the crowd was drawn into their cheery psych-folk.

        My Fear #2 followed with the same gusto and once again Lenffer's delicate backing vocals were a faultless accompaniment to Wright's strong, melodic voice. It wasn't just the music that made it such a brilliant set though. Their onstage banter with the audience made them instantly likable, and dedicating Gold Canary to the bird who the day before had been hit by their bus and 'shattered the windscreen' was a nice touch... The animal lovers then went on to sing said song, and I'm sure the bird would have felt honoured to have such a beautiful, cheery ditty dedicated to him. Despite seeing them live once before, their songs still felt refreshing and with a renewed sense of energy in them, and I can only imagine that their headlining gigs are of an even higher calibre.



With the exhilarating What You Were from The Drums' second album, Portamento, their set opened with an animated Johnny Pierce bouncing around the stage singing 'I gave you my heart' much to the delight of several screaming girls in the audience. As with most of The Drums' songs, What You Were's catchy hooks and danceable nature encouraged the crowd to loosen up, and livened the slightly gloomy atmosphere after a long wait for the band to take to the stage. Both Best Friend and Me And The Moon from their eponymous debut album gave Pierce a chance to showcase his latest dance moves - something resembling the robot and lots of prancing amongst them.

             The more haunting If He Likes It Let Him Do It was a contrast to the upbeat tempo of Me And The Moon, and the dark bass line beautifully intertwined with Pierce's soaring vocals. However the hidden gem of the song was Jacob Graham in the background fiddling with buttons and knobs. I'm not usually a synths fan, but the gentle underlying drone beautifully tied in with the slightly macabre tone of the melody.

            Down By The Water brought a calming melancholy to the evening, and gave Pierce a chance to show his gentler vocals, casting enraptured silence over the audience. On the livelier songs, where the crowd had joined in singing (and for the most part quite bad singing - particularly the wailing teenagers next to me!), they now stood mesmerised by Pierce's more laidback approach to the song, and he even stopped with the dancing for a moment, which helped the audienceto just focus on the sheer power of his voice.

            Despite a dramatic change in the lineup of the band over the summer, The Drums have proved that they deserve all the success that has come to them so far. The lack of Let's Go Surfing in the evening wasn't necessarily a bad thing, as their concern that they don't want to be known just for that one song is understandable. With two stunning albums under the belt, it's now just a waiting game to see what album number three has in store for us - and my guesses are, it's going to be a good one!





Sunday, 11 December 2011

I've Been Listening To...

Keep Your Head Up - Ben Howard


Sorry blogging's been a bit quiet of late - things always get really hectic in the run up to Christmas! I have lots of posts lined up though, including a review of The Drums at Shepherds Bush Empire. And in the meantime, have you liked the NotAnotherRainySunday facebook page yet?!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Oh Rosie - Foxes!


Oh Rosie is the first sneak preview from Foxes! eponymous debut album which comes out on Big Salad Records on January 16th 2012. Animated by lead singer, Kayla Bell, herself, the wonderful video for Oh Rosie is the perfect match for Bell's voice over the jangly indie-pop beats.


Catch Foxes! at the Brixton Windmill on 16th December or at the Green Door Store in Brighton on 23rd December.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The End of Google Friend Connect

Just to give you a heads up, as of March 2012, Google Friend Connect will no longer exist for non blogger users, so if you aren't following NotAnotherRainySunday via Blogger and still want to recieve updates about new posts, then you might want to follow via Blog Lovin',the facebook page, or twitter. At the moment I'm still a bit unclear about it all, but when I have more details I'll be sure to let you all know.

Monday, 28 November 2011

December Sessions


Throughout December be sure to catch some live music at the O2.  Potentially playing to an audience of thousands, up and coming bands have the chance to play at one of the world's biggest venues in a 'once in a lifetime' gig. Already confirmed are Tree Top Flyers (winners of this year's Glastonbury Emerging Talent competition), and former Hoosiers' frontman, Irwin Sparkes' new band, The Sea and I; and with 100 acts playing over 20 nights (December 3rd -22nd), there's sure to be something that takes your fancy. And best of all, it's free!

For more information, visit their website

Friday, 25 November 2011

Stornoway - La Blogothèque


Back in October, whilst in Paris for the Pitchfork Festival, Stornoway performed new song, 'When You Touch Down From Outer Space', for La Blogothèque as part of their 'Concerts A Emporter' series. With Adam Briggs on the trumpet, it provides the perfect mix of chirpy melancholia (never did I think those two words would go in the same sentence!) for a cold autumnal evening.

Read my interview with Rob Steadman (drummer of Stornoway) here

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Fleet Foxes: The Shrine/An Argument Video



Directed by lead singer, Robin Pecknold's brother, Sean Pecknold, the wonderful new video for The Shrine/An Argument has just surfaced. Although slightly unsettling, the eight minute animation is beautifully crafted and fits with the serene music perfectly. 


Saturday, 19 November 2011

Review: Mylo Xyloto - Coldplay


Release date: 24th October 2011
Best song: Paradise
Rating: 6/10

Described by Chris Martin as an album about 'love, addiction, OCD, escape and working for someone you don't like' Mylo Xyloto is a progression from their previous albums - a step forward perhaps as Coldplay work to compete with some of the biggest pop acts of today; and produced by Brian Eno, it's obvious he's had a huge influence on the album's sound. With stifling synths and heavy beats, the buzzing electronica of Mylo Xyloto dramatically contrasts with their earlier work. The gentle piano hooks of their second album,  'A Rush Of Blood To The Head' seem a million miles away from 'Princess of China', featuring none other than the princess of pop herself, Rihanna.On first listening, I thought my speakers had broken, but no it turns out the song's tinny, slightly fuzzy sound is all part of the effect, and I was rather disappointed that there wasn't much more to the song than a lot of 'oohing' - a typical Coldplay lyric.

     The distortion on Martin's voice in 'Hurts Like Heaven' ruins what is otherwise an upbeat catchy tune, and despite it's 'poppish' roots, is still distinctly Coldplay.However, where they truly redeem themselves is on Paradise. Yes, it's pop and yes, it's synthesised, but for once, nothing detracts attention from the emotion conveyed by Chris Martin. With a minute long introduction rich with strings, Paradise's power stands alone from the rest of the album, and is truly glittering.

       Despite the success of Paradise, as a band that is officially 'The Best Act In The World Today' I expected more of Coldplay's fifth studio album. The songs disappear into a sea of heavy synths, and the lyrics are underwhelming. Regardless of the critical acclaim the band has had for its previous albums, Mylo Xyloto is dull, and wasn't the 'stripped back' album that Chris Martin promised. The tracks lack depth and overall were disappointing considering the hype over the release of Mylo Xyloto.

Monday, 14 November 2011

La Blogothèque


French music blog, La Blogothèque, started in September 2003, has become a haven of new music. Describing themselves as 'bloggers who wanted to write about music but do it differently', the people behind the blog are constantly on the hunt to find breakthrough artists from the underground music scenes, and their hugely successful series 'Concerts à Emporter' (Takeaway Shows) , has featured sessions with bands like Local Natives, Wavves, and Sigúr Ros to name but a few. Even if you can’t read French, La Blogothèque is a great way to discover new bands – just visit their youtube channel




Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Travelling Band at Borderline



Famous for its music scene, Manchester didn't disappoint when offspring The Travelling Band visited the Big Smoke last Thursday; and despite it being a miserable rainy evening outside, Londoners weren't deterred from filling The Boderline in Soho. In fact, the rich warmth radiated from the set was enough to warm anyone on the cold November night.

     Adam Gorman's gentle voice on opening song 'Screaming is Something' set the tone for the evening, and in true folk-rock style the background harmonies provided a perfect accompaniment to the melancholic melody and sincere lyrics. With a rendition of Blind Lemon Jefferson's 'One Dime Blues', the five-piece managed to cast enraptured silence over the audience from the first line that Jo Dudderidge uttered, and when he sang completely unaccompanied, you could have heard a pin drop in the venue. Constrasting with many of their other songs, the stripped back quality of 'One Dime Blues' was refreshing and even though it wasn't a Travelling Band original, the song was so uniquely arranged you wouldn't be mistaken in thinking that they'd written it themselves.

  'Battlescars' easy breezy country pop was uplifting, and despite it being nearly Winter, the summery twang of the guitar brought back memories of the months just passed. With drummer, Nick Vaal, on the maracas and such an upbeat tempo it was a definite crowd-pleaser and much to my amusement I noticed two women link arms and dance around in a circle. The true highlight of the evening however, came in the form of 'Sundial', their latest single, and perhaps one of their most upbeat numbers as well. With a strong drum beat and catchy lyrics it was hard not to sing along, and Dudderidge picked up on this, dividing the audience into singing two part harmonies. The most successful of gigs always involve audience interaction, and it was no surprise that despite a few grumbles from the 'uncofident females' as Dudderidge described them, the crowd  didn't hesitate in joining in.

    Playing at such an intimate venue like Borderline, The Travelling Band's raw energy shone through in a way that is often lost on a larger stage, however as their fan base steadily grows it'll be interesting to see how they cope playing at far larger venues, though knowing them, the sound will only be bigger and better.


The Travelling Band continue on their tour of the UK, so check http://thetravellingband.co.uk for more details. Their album 'Screaming Is Something' is out now.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Update

Just a quick post to let you know that NotAnotherRainySunday is now on facebook, so 'like' the page, and spread the word! A review of The Travelling Band at Borderline should be up in the next few days, but in the meantime I leave you with a couple of songs to enjoy.

 Knight Of Wands - Au Revoir Simone


Spanish Dance Troupe - Gorky's Zygotic Mynci


Thursday, 27 October 2011

Interview: Mat Gibson

 Signed to Clubhouse Records, singer/song-writer, Mat Gibson, released a mini album entitled 'Forest Fire' (reviewed on NotAnotherRainySunday at the start of the month) in September to critical aclaim. Appearing at the O2 Academy in Oxford, and on the main stage at Truck Festival, it's clearly been a successful year for Gibson, and he's certainly one we should be watching. In this interview for NotAnotherRainySunday he discusses living in Canada, his influences in 'Forest Fire' and being likened to the iconic king of country-rock, Neil Young. 
How would you describe your style of music ?
I suppose it fits loosely into a few genres, Americana, indie, folk etc... 

Growing up, who were your musical influences? What was the first record you bought ?
Well my parents used to listen to early Genesis, Led Zeppelin, Free and the Beatles but it wasn't until I think I heard Nirvana's Nevermind at the age of 11/12 that I started to form musical tastes of my own...

Your music seems to fit very well with the Americana genre. Is that a fair description ? What was your first introduction to Americana music ? 
Absolutely, Americana encompasses such a wide range of artistic direction these days but its roots lie in a country and folk tradition and the lyrics in those early songs really struck a chord with me at a time in my life when I was looking for answers in music. It also coincided conveniently with the rise of bands like Wilco and Ryan Adams who I revered as a budding musician back at the turn of the millennium.

There seem to be Canadian influences in ‘Forest Fire’ – how have your experiences living in Canada come across in your work ?
Well I think the natural world has had the biggest influence on 'Forest Fire'. When I moved to Canada I fell in love with the natural beauty there and spent a lot of my free time camping, hiking and taking pictures of nature and wildlife. So it was very odd timing that the day I had to leave Canada there was a massive forest fire in the area north of Quebec City where I lived and the smoke had spread to Montreal and Boston, through Vermont and Maine... the areas which I'd come to love so much at that time, like a home from home. It was like turning the page on a chapter of my life. 

Is the songwriting process a long one, or is it something that comes naturally to you ?
I go through bursts of creativity where everything comes very naturally and fast, but there are long, long droughts where I don't write anything for months and months. I usually use that time recording, gigging etc

Last week you played at the iconic Half Moon in Putney –do you enjoy the intimacy that the Half Moon offers or do you prefer a larger stage ?
The Half Moon is one of the better venues I've played for its intimacy and its a great room, with a great sound. I think for the kind of music we're playing at this stage, venues like the Half Moon are perfect but we have plans to expand our sound and hopefully bigger venues will come hand in hand.

When are you most at one with your music ? - when it’s just you and a guitar, or when you’re interacting with a band ?
I love the songwriting process, when I'm on my own. But I also love the creative process involved in production, expanding on an initial idea and making things happen. I've only recently begun to appreciate the experience of playing live, and the immediacy of it all. I always used to dread getting up on stage but now I really enjoy it and can relax and focus on the intensity of the show.

How do you feel about being likened to the great Neil Young ?
If I had to choose only one album to take with me somewhere without other music it would probably be a Neil Young album... I mean the man is a living legend. But to be compared to him, I take that with a pinch of salt, as great as it sounds. Stylistically, I don't think I'm that much like him to be honest but I admire him more than any other musician for the range and depth of his music, and the quality!

What do you listen to when….
 - you’ve had a bad day ?
Something which takes me on a journey, that takes me away from it all. I don't know, all good music can do that can't it?
-  life’s rosy ?
I like listening to stuff I used to listen to as a teenager, like the Lemonheads, Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr etc
- you’re stuck in traffic ?
Whatever I've got on my iPod, today I listened to 'Mix Tape' by the Felice Brothers

And Finally, vinyl, CD or MP3 ? 
Obviously, nothing can match the convenience and immediacy of an mp3 but people have lost touch with the experience of listening to an album on vinyl or even CD for that matter. It used to be an event for a lot of people, and for some it still is, thankfully. Personally, I don't buy vinyl as I can't afford it but I'd like to think that one day I could.

'Forest Fire' is out now on Clubhouse Records. For more information visit: http://www.matgibson.co.uk/

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Musical Roots: Scandinavia

Lykke Li
Swedish singer, Lykke Li broke onto the music scene in 2007 with her debut EP Little Bit, and was an instant success with her slightly unconventional, breathy voice, and minimalistic style. Her use of synthesisers and strings amongst other instruments gives her songs an ethereal quality, and the lyrics relate a deep anguish. The Nordic siren's melancholic nature comes across in her songs with a tenderness and vulnerability, and makes for beautiful listening.


Efterklang
Signed to 4AD, Danish indie-rock group, Efterklang's rich variety of instruments provides an energetic backdrop to lead singer Casper Clausen's gentle voice and thought-provoking lyrics. Each song is produced with such carefulness and precision, and on listening, the atmospheric sound plants images in your mind of the snow tipped pines and wide open spaces of Denmark. 'Modern Drift' has a cold, icy feel to it, and when the music swells in the chorus, the violins, drums and piano knit together to create a harmonious intertwining of contrasting themes.


Jens Lekman
Swedish-born Lekman's simplistic lyrics and uncomplicated style of music is crisp and fresh. Often compared with Belle & Sebastian and The Magnetic Fields, his most recent single An Argument With Myself  stays just on the right side of Euro-pop - catchy hooks without veering towards Eurovision. Foregoing the usual strings section, Lekman's first EP since the release of his second album Night Falls Over Kortedala 4 years ago, contrasts with the rest of his discography, however it is a pleasant change, and shows Lekman's versatility in producing music with a twist.



Kings of Convenience
Norwegian indie folk-pop duo, Kings of Convenience, who describe themselves as 'music your parents would like too', combine catchy songs with the beautifully melodic harmonies of Eirik Bøe and Erlend Øye. What they sometimes lack lyrically, they make up for in their pure voices and gentle guitar strumming, and their laid-back, almost jazzy style of music is soothing and mellow - the perfect soundtrack to a lazy afternoon.



Sunday, 16 October 2011

4AD Sessions


4AD Sessions which started back in 2008 features the creme de la creme of the bands on their roster, and now you can even buy the LP of a select few of the songs or download the MP3 version for free. Featuring a variety of bands from Twin Shadow to Iron and Wine to Gang Gang Dance, the 10 track compilation album is available to download here. For more information visit: http://www.4ad.com/

 4AD Sessions 2008-2011
A1. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti ‘Menopause Man’
A2. Blonde Redhead ‘Here Sometimes’
A3. Twin Shadow ‘Forget’
A4. Gang Gang Dance ‘Chinese High’
A5. Deerhunter ‘Never Stops’

B1. tUnE-yArDs ‘Powa’
B2. Efterklang ‘I Was Playing Drums’
B3. Broken Records ‘Home’
B4. Stornoway ‘Here Comes The Blackout’
B5. Iron & Wine ‘Big Burned Hand’

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Saturday, 8 October 2011

I've Been Listening To...


Paradise - Coldplay


Every Teardrop is a Waterfall, the first single from Coldplay's upcoming studio album, Mylo Xyloto, seemed less that inspired, and didn't instill much excitement in me, however with the release of their second single, Paradise, I suddenly can't wait for the release of their fifth album on 24 October. Paradise is distant from some of Coldplay's older material (in particular Clocks and Politik), being a lot more electronic, but this is a good step forward for the band, and shows their versatility that each of their albums has such a distinct sound from the others.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

In Memory of Steve Jobs 1955-2011


Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, sadly passed away yesterday after years of battling with pancreatic cancer. Jobs arguably single-handedly revolutionised the way we listen to music in the digital age, and leaves a great legacy behind him.

You can send messages of condolence to: rememberingsteve@apple.com

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Focus On: Mat Gibson



 Album: Forest Fire
Record label: Clubhouse Records
Genre: Americana
For fans of: Bruce Springsteen 
Best song: Lord Only Knows
Rating: 7/10

 Forest Fire opens with the haunting Lord Only Knows, and in the first few bars it's almost reminiscent of Fleet Foxes - a paired down opening with no added frills or extraneous baggage. With many country/folk songs it seems that they trot along at the same pace, never really going anywhere; however the slide guitar echoing in the background of Lord Only Knows introduces a bridge in the journey, and ensures that it actually reaches somewhere.

     Having lived in Quebec for a couple of years, it's clear where Mat Gibson's influences come from. The songs on Forest Fire are crisp and fresh and the harmonica solos conjure up images of the soaring mountains and cooling lakes of the open Canadian landscape. Recorded with producer, Rowland Prytherch (Danny & The Champions of the World, The Epstein) Forest Fire is simple and minimalistic, and the lack of a percussion section means that little detracts from the power of Gibson's voice.

     Musically, at times the songs are a tad repetitive if one were to listen to the album in full, however in short busts Forest Fire has thought-provoking elements and a simplicity that is refreshing.
      For those around in London tomorrow evening (October 3rd), Mat Gibson will be playing at The Windmill in Brixton so be sure to check him out!

Forest Fire is out now. Visit http://www.matgibson.co.uk/ for more information.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Beirut at Brixton Academy

Having received critical acclaim for their newest album, The Rip Tide, the queue snaking down the side of The Brixton Academy was a testament to the success Beirut has become.
     With support from tUnE-yArDs, the evening got underway with Merrill Garbus' rhythmic beats, looping, ukulele strumming, and something that could have been yodelling mixed with the wail of a police car's siren - which isn't necessarily a bad thing. With such an extraordinarily powerful voice, from the offset, Garbus silenced the audience, no mean feat for a support band, who often are ignored by those who only care to see the main act.
     Bizness combined chirpy harmonies (all created one at a time on stage and looped together) with an African-influenced drum rhythm, and a repetitive and highly catchy saxophone part to create a melodic symposium of contrasting sounds, that somehow worked together. tUnE-yArDs softer side was shown on Powa, a more laid-back, bluesy song than 'Bizness', and one in which the full extent of Merrill Garbus' vocal range was witnessed. The whole set was truly inspirational and it seemed that the whole of Brixton Academy was captivated by the exceptional talent Garbus possesses for creating music so unlike any other artist.
 
Opening with Scenic World, Beirut began their set with an explosion of noise, combining an accordion, bass, trombone and trumpets in a truly European sounding way. Brixton Academy is a huge venue, and yet none of the sound was lost on the room - instead the deep drones of the brass penetrated every corner of the building, and Zach Condon's voice, filled with such emotion and power touched everyone.  
    Postcards From Italy on the other hand, was a lot more stripped back (well for Beirut anyway..), with a simple ukulele riff keeping a gentle pulse, whilst the brass section perfectly blended into the background - still audible, but not overpowering. Perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of the evening though was the sighting of the sousaphone (a large tuba), which featured on quite a few of the songs including Cocek, a purely instrumental number, that could have been straight out of Kazakhstan - if Borat walked out onto the stage at that moment I wouldn't have been surprised.  
   After leaving the stage, Zach Condon and friends returned for an encore of no less than 6 songs, and I did have to question at what point an encore stops being an encore, and just the second half after the interval... But nonetheless, it was very much appreciated, as the audience wasn't ready for the evening to finish. Goshen, one of the few Beirut songs featuring a piano, was a true highlight of the set.  The simple, understated song was not typically 'Beirut' and without the added frills of trumpets and accordions; but it was beautifully crafted, and a breath of fresh air after the richness of some of their other songs.
     Musically, it was a stunning set. The extraordinary variety of instruments fit perfectly with Condon's melodic voice, and every song had the audience singing and dancing along. However, it seemed that Beirut lacked confidence in their stage presence. Condon appeared overwhelmed by the mass of people in front of him, and hardly spoke to the audience throughout the set. Overall though, it was a fantastic evening which could only be improved by Beirut's engagement with their audience matching the musical excellence on show.


l've Been Listening To...


Zebra - Beach House 


Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Up and Coming: Lana Del Rey

American singer Lana Del Rey has suddenly burst on the music scene over the past few months, with her new single 'Video Games'. With such a beautiful, husky voice, her songs have a certain melancholy aspect to them, that makes her so different from the hundreds of female singers trying to make it today. The 24 year old has had an amazing year so far - 'Video Games' was featured as one of  Pitchfork's rising stars, and her London gig sold out within half an hour. Sure to be one to watch, 'Video Games' and 'Blue Jeans' are released on 9th October (as a download), and on limited edition 7" on 10th October.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Villagers: Cecelia & Her Selfhood

Villagers have finally released the long-awaited video for their song 'Cecelia and her Selfhood'. The simple animations fit perfectly with the gentle melody of the song, and creator, Adrien Merigeau has done a wonderful job. For a free MP3 download of the single visit their website.




Sunday, 18 September 2011

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Summer Playlist

Sorry the posts have been so sporadic, I've been swamped with work (the start of the school year is always hectic), but I'm starting to get on top of things, so hopefully I'll pick up the pace on blogging again soon. In the meantime I thought I'd share with you some of my favourite songs from my Summer playlist... yes I know Summer's over, but you can still enjoy them.

The Boy With The Arab Strap - Belle & Sebastian 
The Ghost Inside - Broken Bells
French Navy - Camera Obscura 
This Is What I Said - Cloud Control
Go Outside - Cults
We Are The People - Empire of the Sun
I Held You Once - The Epstein 
King Of Rome - Goldheart Assembly
Hydra Fancies - of Montreal
No Soap (In A Dirty War) - Reverend & The Makers
All In White - The Vaccines
The Pact - Villagers

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Concert4Conservation: The Dreaming Spires, The Epstein and Stornoway

After such an incredible evening seeing Stornoway play at Somerset House back in July, it was with great anticipation that I found myself waiting outside The Regal in Oxford on Saturday evening. As a Londoner myself, part of the excitement was seeing them play on their home turf; and standing on the Cowley Road, I half expected to see a giant Zorb rolling through the Street at any given moment. Once in the queue we were quickly approached by an orang-utan and something resembling a 5 ft chicken taking money from us. No we weren’t being robbed by primates and birds; instead the evening was a charity fundraiser. The Concert4Conservation was in aid of 3 charities, The Sumatran Orangutan Society, The Earth Trust, and The RSPB – charities chosen by Stornoway, and particularly apt ones considering Brian’s previous job as an ornithologist, perhaps reinforcing the idea of escaping our ‘battery human’ existence. Supported by fellow Oxford bands The Epstein and The Dreaming Spires and organised by Truck, it had all the ingredients for a perfect homecoming for Stornoway – their first concert to a home crowd since 2010.
            Brothers, Robin and Joe Bennett (founders of Truck Festival and the recently opened Truck Store on Cowley Road) kicked off the evening with their band, The Dreaming Spires, recently featured as Steve Lamacq’s ‘favourite new band’ on BBC radio 6. Not knowing much about the band I was taken aback by their rock‘n’roll sound, such a contrast to the likes of some of Stornoway’s more muted songs, but nonetheless, I decided to give them a chance, and was even slightly surprised that I liked what I heard. With such a rich tapestry of full-on guitars and drums, the sheer energy being generated on the stage was enough for anyone to truly feel a part of the music – though I didn’t appreciate the constant elbowing from the people rocking out next to me!  However the true highlight of the set for me had to be ‘In Our Lifetimes’, a song which Robin Bennett told us had been written to accompany a video game his neighbour had created about running the United Nations Climate Agency – appropriate for an evening In aid of wildlife conservation. The gentler tones contrasted with the rest of their repertoire, and for the first time in the evening, I didn’t feel in danger of a seizure from the strobe lighting. With an album set to be released in October on Clubhouse Records, they’re sure to be one to watch, though whether I will be queuing up for it is a different matter. 


            The opening bars of ‘6.06pm’ reminded me why I love The Epstein so much. The ethereal quality of the piece was truly magical, and the lack of lyrics ensured that nothing detracted from the beauty of the melody and the intertwining instruments that came together to produce a sound so stunning that when the music swelled and crescendoed all your hairs stood on end. ‘Black Dog’ by contrast showed the band’s playfulness. Shut your eyes, and you could almost imagine yourself sitting on the porch of a cattle ranch in Wyoming, showing The Epstein’s versatility that two songs by the same band are such polar opposites. Olly Wills’ powerful voice in ‘Morning News’ combined with the background harmonies of Seb Reynolds and Jon Berry made for an exhilarating slice of Americana, which had even the most phlegmatic tapping their feet along to. And suddenly all too soon, they were onto their final song, ‘Leave Your Light On’ a reflective number ‘to sing around the fire’ that only required Olly and Jon and two acoustic guitars on stage. It was truly beautiful, but sadly the mesmerising musicality of it was lost on the back on the room, whose main priority seemed to be the bar. However, for those who were listening, it was an enchanting end to one of the best live sets I’ve ever seen. 

After what seemed like an age, and a technical hitch or two (well it couldn’t be a Stornoway gig without a couple of those!), Tim Bearder (Radio DJ and huge champion of the band) finally stepped on stage to introduce the headline act to the adoring fans. Reading from the email Stornoway first sent to him many years ago, he reminded us what a ‘polite band they are’, and well, that’s all part of their charm. Lead singer, Brian Briggs, seemed slightly taken aback by the mass of screaming audience members, and it’s reassuring that unlike so many bands, Stornoway haven’t ever taken their success for granted. It was a smart idea for ‘Fuel Up’ to be one of the first songs of the evening, considering that the concert was all about conserving the planet, and despite the serious implications to the environment that ‘fuelling up’ has, the song was as beautiful as ever - Brian’s clear voice rang out over the gentle strumming of the guitar and the harmonies of Jon Ouin, and Oli and Rob Steadman, and the driving beat of the drum (if you excuse the pun) kept the pace without distracting from the lyrical quality of the vocals. 

To restore the evening back to its green roots, it was appropriate that new song, ‘Sixth Wave’ followed – a song about mass extinction. Featuring the auto-harp (an instrument which Brian learnt especially for the occasion), the fast pace was a dramatic change from the slow melancholy of ‘Fuel Up’, and completely different to any of the material on their debut album ‘Beachcomber’s Windowsill’. For many in the audience, it was also the first time that they’d heard ‘Waiting On The Clock’, a fairly old song of the band’s, co-written by Brian and Oli that didn’t make it onto their first album. The references to Oxford landmarks (The Jericho Cafe and Worcester Place), the insanely catchy melody, and background vocals, encompassed everything that’s good about a classic Stornoway song, and Oli’s spinning round on the stage with an infectious grin was enough to carry the audience with him, sharing the moment. The high standard which Stornoway set themselves was never in danger of slipping. ‘The Ones We Hurt the Most’, had all 4 Storno-members around a single mic, singing in perfect four part harmonies, that cast a spell over the audience members, enraptured by the beauty of the gentle vocals, that at the same time was steeped with power and emotion.

But of course, there was only ever one song that would satisfy the audience at the end of such a memorable Stornoway evening, and backed by The North Sea Radio Orchestra; ‘Zorbing’ concluded the set with the same power and freshness it had on first hearing. With a second album looming in early 2012,  the fans are clearly ready to hear more from this remarkable band. 

 Read my interviews with Olly Wills of The Epstein and Rob Steadman of Stornoway, and for more information visit: 




Sunday, 28 August 2011

Interview: The Epstein


L-R: Jon Berry, Olly Wills, Seb Reynolds

After receiving lots of lovely comments about my interview with Stornoway, I thought it was time to treat you to an interview with another of my favourite bands (and fellow Oxford band), 'The Epstein'. I got in touch with lead singer, Olly Wills, and he very kindly agreed to answer some questions, so enjoy!

First of all, how was The Epstein founded, and where did the name come from?
The Epstein started out a few years back as a 2 piece playing open mics and in the back rooms of smokey pubs and has steadily evolved from there. I don't think there was a day one as it were... it just happened. In terms of the name - one of the founder members suffered from a virus called the Epstein Virus and this had laid him up in bed for quite a while... it was during this time that he started writing songs so we thought it was a good thing to take a positive from a negative.

How would you describe The Epstein in five words?
Honest. Powerful. Tuneful. Exciting and Lyrical.

You had a great year in 2010 playing on Bob Harris' show on BBC Radio 2 and being the editor's choice in Rolling Stone magazine. Did you find it hard to get noticed when you first set out as a band, or has it always been quite an easy road?
I wouldn't say that it has ever been an easy road and would doubt that many musicians have that luck... It is a case of continued hard graft over a very long period of time. Keep playing and getting better, keep writing and writing better songs and keep releasing songs.. then after all that you hope that people are going to notice you and give you a chance. It is wonderful to play on BBC Radio2 and get the Rolling Stone review but those things are the continuing part of the process and you have to keep pushing onwards all the time.

You're playing at The Regal in September with two other Oxford bands; Stornoway and The Dreaming Spires. How would you describe Oxford's music scene?
The Oxford music scene is busy and competitive. There are loads of great bands in our town and that is good for everyone. The ones that emerge out of it have to work hard to do it and that is great for the scene.

Are there any musicians that you've found particularly inspiring?
We recently toured with a band called The Johnny Parry Trio and they blew our minds mixing up the live show with amazing and very thought provoking visuals... I think that we all have very different inspirations within the band as we have all come from different musical backgrounds. I have been listening to a lot of Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave recently. Jon has been going through an African blues stage in the last few months and Seb is massively inspired by the work of Joseph Zarwinal and Weather Report.

You've spent quite a lot of time touring in Holland and Germany - do you have any particular links with these countries?
We have live agents both in Germany and Holland so that is the reason that we have been travelling back and forth so much. We did 2 really great tours this summer and played some lovely festivals so hopefully that link will grow over the following years.

Was music something you were always drawn to, or when you were younger were there different career paths you had in mind?
Jon and Seb have been playing in bands from a very young age so I think it has always been a path they have been on... I started pretty late in terms of bands but started singing at age 7 so it has always been part of my life... In other lives Jon would be an archaeologist, Seb would be a model and I would be a chef...

How have the dynamics of the group changed since the departure of your drummer and bassist?
There has been a massive change within the group since the sad departure of those guys at the beginning of the year and for the most part it has been a real positive change. It has allowed us to play with a whole bunch of great musicians and has forced us to change our live shows so we can do shows as a 3, 4, and 5 piece... creatively this has been a really good step for the band.


Do you prefer to play more intimate gigs, or at larger festivals?
Personally I love them all! Well.. most of them.
The best shows are the ones where you really get the crowd onside and into the band and we have been lucky to have done this on both large and small stages this year. When you get that energy going from the crowd then it is an amazing feeling. We did a couple of festivals in Holland and Germany recently where it went perfectly... those are the shows you want to take with you everywhere!


Are there any particular bands you've got your eye on at the moment?
Treetop Flyers are really marching on which is exciting. Cashier No.9 who we played with recently are on the rise too and Johnny Parry - who we mentioned earlier - is releasing a new record in October so that is a good start... I am also awaiting the new Feist album... where is it?

And finally, can we look forward to a new album soon?
 You can, new tracks are being recorded and the masterpiece will be done! About time too...


I Held You Once

Ring On Her Finger

The Epstein are playing at The Concert4Conservation at The Regal in Oxford on Saturday 3rd September alongside Stornoway and The Dreaming Spires. Tickets are on sale for £15 (in advance) or £16 (on the door) and you can buy them here.
    To find out more about The Epstein, visit their website, facebook, twitter or myspace.
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