Monday, 31 December 2012

Top 10 albums of 2012

10. Tom Williams & The Boat - Teenage Blood
Tunbridge Wells band, Tom Williams & The Boat have appropriately made waves this year with their latest album, Teenage Blood. With its mixture of melancholic songs but also some surprisingly uplifting numbers, the whole album is a masterpiece of different styles, and makes for easy listening. Stand out track, Too Young, with its jazzy piano riffs and catchy melody, proves why the band have become so popular of late - their simple and pure guitar music is a refreshing change from the many rock bands trying to make it today.

9. Alt-J - An Awesome Wave
Practically unheard of before the start of 2012, Alt-J crashed on to the music scene with their debut album, An Awesome Wave, in May. Immaculately produced, combing heavy bass and gentle melodies,  it's hard to exactly define the album within a genre. However, this is perhaps a strength of the album - Alt-J has the ability to easily move from soaring vocals to psychedelic melodies whilst still retaining its own distinct personality within each song.



8. Kyla La Grange - Ashes
Due to all the Lana Del Rey hype during 2011, it seems that Kyla La Grange was pushed to the side, and has only recently been receiving the recognition that she deserves. However, to compare the two singers would be a disservice to La Grange, who fortunately lacks the simpering tones of Del Rey. Instead, she has an edge to her songs with heavy guitar and drums anchoring her soulful voice.




7. The Temper Trap - The Temper Trap
Best known for Sweet Disposition, which featured on the 500 Days of Summer soundtrack, The Temper Trap have returned with their second album. After receiving so much praise for their first album, it was always going to be difficult creating the follow-up, but the Australian group seem to have successfully managed it. With more of an 80s vibe, the album is definitely more energetic than their previous offering and shows a clear development in their sound, whilst still sticking to their roots of rousing melodies to sing along to drunkenly.


6. The Maccabees - Given To The Wild
On their third album, Given To The Wild, lead singer, Orlando Weeks' delicate voice adds mystique to the glittering guitars riffs, particularly on stand out track, Feel To Follow, where close-harmonied vocals are swiftly followed by full-on guitar madness. This can be said for much of the album where dulcet melodies are combined with a contrasting harsher guitar, meshing beautifully to make 13 wonderful tracks.



5. Beach House - Bloom
For those waiting for a follow-up to Beach House's stunning album, Teen Dream, 2012 proved to be a good year,with the band  receiving wide praise for their latest offering. They may have remained firmly in the territory of electronic melancholy, but why change a formula that works so well? Bloom encompasses everything that is good about a Beach House record,with breathy vocals and slide guitar aplenty.



4. Django Django - Django Django
 The infectious funk of Django Django sound tracked the summer, with the release of their eponymous debut album which has been a long time in the making. With big bass lines and enough synths to satisfy even the hippest of hipster's needs, their almost chant like vocals melt into a wonderful sea of colourful noise, making them one of the most exciting bands of the moment.




3. Francois & The Atlas Mountains - E Volo Love
Hailing from Bordeaux, Francois & The Atlas Mountains released their debut album this year, which has proved to be a success not only in France, but on English shores as well. Although the Channel may only be 20 miles across at its narrowest, it's rare that French acts make the difficult transition into the British music scene. However, Francois Marry and pals, with their African influenced drumbeats, and charming mix of French and English lyrics have brought someoverdue Gallic energy to our music scene.


2. Dry The River -Shallow Bed
The haunting voice of Peter Siddle soars over the album with a tender solemnity, as violins weave in and out of electric guitars and crashing drums, and though at times the songs are rather mournful, there's no denying that it's a stunning effort. It's not only the musical elements that create such a wonderful record though. The lyrics are gloriously poetic - nostalgic for ancient lands with King Solomon and Rehoboam referenced on No Rest, whilst Shield Your Eyes talks of the 'Phrygian lion'. In many ways, Shallow Bed is much like the Greek myths it appears to be emulating, with an epic feel throughout that bewilders and astounds.


1. Beth Jeans Houghton & The Hooves of Destiny - Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose
From the bizarre name of her debut album, it's easy to guess that Beth Jeans Houghton likes to stand out from the crowd. Opening track, Sweet Tooth Bird confirms this suspicion, with its trumpet fanfares and almost operatic vocals. However this is far from being a pretentious record. Yes, it's different and unexpected, but triumphantly so. The feeling of exhilaration that spans across the album never disappears, constantly taking surprising twists and turns with the gentle tones of Dodecahedron greatly contrasting with the fast paced, almost frantic excitement of Atlas that follows it. 

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Top 10 Singles of 2012

10. Breezeblocks - Alt-J

9. Five Seconds - Twin Shadow

8. Trembling Hands - The Temper Trap

7. Sun - Two Door Cinema Club

6. Les Plus Beaux - Francois & The Atlas Mountains

5. The Waves - Villagers

4. Laura - Bat For Lashes

3. Life's A Beach - Django Django 

2. Atlas - Beth Jeans Houghton

1. Cough Cough - Everything Everything

What have been your top singles of the year? Write in the comments below!

Monday, 24 December 2012

'Twas The Night Before Christmas

This Christmas season has been sound-tracked by the sweet sounds of Andy Burrows and pals, created for The Snowman and the The Snowdog, sequel to The Snowman. The half-hour film was shown on Channel 4 this evening, but I'm sure it will be up on 4OD soon.

Light The Night - Andy Burrows


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Interview: Spring Offensive

 It's been a brilliant year for Spring Offensive. Having just returned from a European tour, they were recently named BBC Introducing in Oxford's 'band of the year', whilst their single, Not Drowning But Waving, released in September, has been widely praised. However, amongst all this, they found the time to answer some questions - carry on reading to find out how the music scene in Oxford has shaped them as a band, and the most intimate place to play a gig...

First off, how did you all meet?
Rather unexcitingly, most of us met at school a long long long time ago. Lucas and Theo are brothers though, so they had met each other before. We just started playing music together one day, and it kind of went from there.

Why did you decide to name the band after the Wilfred Owen poem, 'Spring Offensive'?
Just fanboys of the poem really. We feel like it is a name that we have kind of grown into a bit; as if it is more suited to us now than ever before.


What is it that inspires you to write songs? Is it a band collaboration or does one person take the lead?
Matt usually starts the song off with an idea, or a verse of something and we take it from there. It is very much of a collaboration though. Lucas and Matt work closely on the lyrics and melody, and the rest of the guys make the music sound super special. It is a bit clinical to take it apart like that. It is a group thing really. It is shaped by all five of us.

Have you found that your current songs have a very different sound to those you wrote when you first started out as a band?
Yeah there has been a natural change and shift in sound. Having said that though, we are still playing songs that we had at our first ever shows in Oxford. We are still singing about the same things in the same way, it is just that hopefully we are better at doing it! Naturally, a band kind of hones in on its sound.

You've played in a huge variety of venues, from living rooms to churches to museums, but what's your favourite setting for a gig?
Living rooms are always pretty special. You can't really get much more intimate. Except maybe in a bed....

Oxford has been producing many first class bands of late - do you feel the rich diversity of the Oxford music scene has helped with the band's development?
Of course! We thought we knew what we were doing when we arrived in Oxford. We thought we were brilliant. Then we started watching other local acts and realising that the calibre of bands in Oxford is incredible. We knew that we had to up our game! It's all on your doorstep with a local music scene like Ox. So many gigs to choose from, playing such a variety of styles. It is hard not to soak it all up!


You've just been on a big European tour. When you're spending so much time together, how do you avoid getting on each other's nerves?
Who said we avoid getting on each other's nerves?

With illegal downloading so common nowadays, how important do you think tours are for bands in terms of building your profile and paying the bills?
100%. Not only that though, a live show on a tour, in our opinion, is one of the best ways of seeing a band play. For a new band it is the best way of getting yourself out there. But yeah, the frequent need to tour (especially for bigger acts) is a consequence of money slowly trickling away via illegal downloading, amongst other things.

A live show is something that cannot be replicated or compromised in any way. Obviously. Unless they invent some new technology which would enable holograms of the band playing a live show in your room. Hmmm. Now there's an idea.

If you weren't in Spring Offensive, what would you all be doing?
Easy! A TV cookery show!

Can you recommend some bands we probably haven't heard of, but really should?
Tricky one, because we don't know how much you know! Our Lost Infantry have just released a fantastic album. Tessera Skies from Newcastle blew us away the other day. Also, All We Are from Liverpool are amazing too.

Finally, any plans for a new album to be released soon?
It shouldn't be too long now. But we don't like making promises that we cannot keep.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Stornoway announces news of sophomore album, Tales From Terra Firma


     Today brought the exciting news of Stornoway's long awaited follow-up to their debut album, Beachcomber's Windowsill, which had great success  in 2010 with sales of over 75,000. Due to be released on 11 March, Tales From Terra Firma coincides with a 25 date UK tour, including two in the band's hometown of Oxford, and a show at The Forum in London.

     But for those who can't wait that long, on 5 December, the band will be taking part in the Sounds From A Room sessions, performing songs from their new album, which will be streamed live via The Guardian.

To see the full list of tour dates visit www.stornoway.eu 
and read my interviews with Oli Steadman (bassist) and Rob Steadman (drummer)


Monday, 12 November 2012

Album review: Sell Everything You Own - The Standard Lamps




Album: Sell Everything You Own
Genre: Indie-folk
Best song: Right Train
Rating: 8/10

      For a band that 'believe in sounding like where you come from', I'm rather glad that in my view, The Standard Lamps don't sound like their home town of Brighton, considering my memories of a rather soggy, bitterly cold day in February spent down there. Instead, the band harnesses a vibrant sound with a rock'n'roll edge - more United States than southern England.

      But never mind where they hail from, as at its core Sell Everything You Own is a brilliant masterclass in compressing a wide-ranging variety of genres into 35 thrilling minutes. The 60s vibe of Portland is infectiously happy with jangling guitar hooks whilst The Harmonica Song's americana roots transport you to the deserts of North America. It's the almost Hispanic feel towards the end of Distractions, however, that truly brings the album into its own, with its melancholy melody contrasting with the upbeat nature of the other tracks.

      Despite the lyrics lacking a certain amount of depth, their simplicity is unpretentious, and though the album might not contain the most thought-provoking of songs, it's a lovely recording - proof that we will see more good things from The Standard Lamps in the future.

Sell Everything You Own is out now. For more information visit:  www.standardlamps.wordpress.com

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Halloween Single: Skeletons & That - Family Machine

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In the spirit of all things Halloween, Family Machine have released a special Halloween single. Normally those words would fill me with dread, but Skeletons & That moves away from all the typical Halloween cliches, and instead has a gentle melody and thoughtful, non-gimmicky lyrics. Have a listen below, and download Skeletons & That for free here.



Sunday, 21 October 2012

Interview: Tom Williams & The Boat

 After the success of their second album, Teenage Blood, Tom Williams & The Boat have spent the summer playing at numerous festivals, and most recently supported folk duo Smoke Faeries at their Kings College Student Union show. Although often compared with folk acts, on the album, the band's raw sound moves from upbeat to contemplative to dark and moody and as the nights draw in, it has firmly cemented itself in my autumnal playlist.

How did the band form?
We met at a venue in Tunbridge Wells, called the Grey Lady.

When did you first pick up an instrument?
Aged 6 or 7 I think, I started with the violin and then moved onto the sax, but dropped them all for guitar age 15!

When you were growing up, who were your music influences?
My mum played a lot of Springsteen, in the womb!

Earlier this year you released your second album, Teenage Blood. How has your sound evolved since you started out as a band?
I think I've got better at listening to the band, it's their ideas that make the union worthwhile.

You've had an exciting summer playing at a whole host of festivals after the release of your album - has it been a turning point for the band?
It keeps getting better and better year on year, we can't complain. The journey continues!

What's your favourite venue to play at?
I love the theatres in London we've been lucky enough to play at, I'd love to be able to sell them out on our own merit. Shepherds Bush Empire and Koko were very special.

And which venue would you love to play that you haven't played already?
Brixton Academy is on the hit list...

Tom, you've appeared on Steve Lamacq's Round Table reviewing the singles of the week - what would you be recommending right now?
Ooh, I love the new single by Rough Comforts who supported us in Canterbury recently, Jessie Baylin a song called Hurry Hurry, and the new Grizzly Bear sounds great.



You hail from Tunbridge Wells in Kent - how would you describe the music scene there?
Bipolar!

And are there any other good local bands you can recommend?
Certainly, Two Wounded Birds from Margate, Stray Dogs from Tunbridge Wells and Standard Lamps from Brighton.

You sold your own brand of beer on tour earlier this year. Is this something we'll see more of in the future, or might you branch out into other products?!
It did phenomenally well, it was amazing! Would love to, it's important to have fun, who knows!

You've been touring recently - how do you keep from getting on each other's nerves when surrounded by the same people every day?
I don't know, it's important to keep a sense of humour, but the M1 can certainly chip away at that... A good gig fixes everything for sure.

You released Teenage Blood after raising funds through Pledge Music by offering unique items and experiences to fans. How do you feel about this current development in music sponsorship? Does it make you feel more connected with your fans?
It does yes but it also means you can put your own record out in a way that people can keep track of and understand, it's great.

And leading on from that, with illegal downloading so rife, how important do you feel it is to build a close relationship with your fan base?
Very important, they'll be there for you when the chips are down.

Finally, what's next for the band?
Writing for the next album and playing a string of shows towards the end of the year...




For information on their upcoming shows visit: www.tomwilliamsandtheboat.co.uk

Sunday, 14 October 2012

The Epstein - exciting news


It was announced this week that Oxford band, The Epstein, have been signed to PIAS in BENELUX, and will be releasing their second album, Murmurations, in 2013. With a new line up, the band are ready to take on mainland Europe with their Americana infused music and gentle melodies. They're playing a number of dates in the Netherlands in November (visit their website for more details) and you can check out their brilliant single, I Held You Once, below.



Read my interview with lead singer, Olly Wills, here, and for information on tour dates visit: www.theepstein.com

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Album Review: Long Goner - Mat Gibson



Album: Long Goner
Record Label: RoseBird Records
Genre: Americana
For fans of: Fleet Foxes
Best Song: Before The Dawn
Rating: 9/10

      Since the release of Forest Fire back in 2011, Mat Gibson has gone from strength to strength to produce an even more sumptuous follow-up in Long Goner, a year on.

     Gibson's voice rings out with a beautiful sensitivity on Before The Dawn, whilst the crashing keys and drums anchor the haunting melody from drifting away. The Americana feel to the song stays true to Gibson's roots, but also exudes a sophistication that Forest Fire occasionally lacked in; his faultless tone making hairs stand on end.

     This new-found elegance spans the whole album, with the lyrics relating a darker edge than his previous work. On Dark Well of Sorrow, Gibson sings 'when you feel left for dead, when every glimmer of hope is gone, don't fall or trip, take another dip into the dark well of sorrow' - a simple lesson in the beauty of indulging in your inner melancholy.

     Long Goner is the perfect release for Autumn, with Gibson's icy voice wonderfully contrasting with the warmth of the rich guitar and piano. Whilst the leaves fall off the trees in a sea of oranges and reds, curl up by the fire with a wee dram and Long Goner on repeat, close your eyes and allow your mind to wallow in that delicious autumnal malaise.

Long Goner is out now on RoseBird Records. For more information, and to get a free download of Before The Dawn, visit www.matgibson.co.uk

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Review: Yard Sessions - Modern Art Oxford, 31st August

      The Yard at Modern Art Oxford is the perfect setting for hosting a series of summer gigs, and featuring some of Oxford's finest bands of the moment, with the addition of headliners, Treetop Flyers, (winner of Glastonbury's Emerging Talent Competition) the third Yard Session was an evening filled with a diverse range of musical genres and sounds.

Oli Steadman, Count Drachma
      The evening got underway with local Oxford lads Broken Bedsteads. Despite their young age, the confidence they exuded made them seem much older than their years, and with a sound similar to The Vaccines and Razorlight, their infectious basslines filled the room with glittering janglings.

      Billy T'rivers followed, with his americana twinged folk music, performing what was in fact his debut gig. For someone who lacks in experience playing live, he certainly executed an impressive set. Although the vocal harmonies could have been a little tighter, his music was easy listening, with gentle guitars and a soulful voice.

      Count Drachma transported the audience to their native South Africa with their zulu beats, ironic considering the 'colonial moustache' lead singer, Oli Steadman, pointed out that he was sporting. Comprising members of Oxford band, Stornoway, it was a somewhat smaller gig than they perhaps are used to, however their melodies flowed in a sea of colour and with saxophone grooves and bass-harmonicas aplenty, the set featured a medley of various folktunes, lullabies, and even a song about a shape-shifting lizard.


      Headliners, Treetop Flyers' relaxed folk rock was a perfect end to the evening, with lead singer, Reid Morrison's gritty voice gleaming with a rawness that many aspiring country artists can only try to emulate. Despite it being the last day of August (and therefore in my view the last evening of the summer), the band's soulful music had a summery feel to it, and in the semi-openness of the yard with its hanging baskets and cosy atmosphere, it was an intimate set, brought together by the obvious enthusiasm of the audience - a small one, but appreciative nonetheless. Unfortunately the call of London's last tubes meant the set was cut short for myself, and it was sad not to see the band through to the end, but the first half I saw was magical with its close harmonies and americana infused guitar hooks.

Treetop Flyers

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Single Review: Not Drowning But Waving - Spring Offensive


Rating: 9/10

Out today, Spring Offensive's harrowing Not Drowning But Waving is a beautiful take on the Stevie Smith poem with rich four part harmonies and dark lyrics relating the tale of a man's guilt of letting another drown. The pulsing guitars and breathy vocals singing 'a freezing mist comes rolling in', add to the haunting melodies with ghostly background murmurs and refrains of 'I will be blamed for this one'.



Spring Offensive will be touring around Europe from late September. Visit www.springoffensive.co.uk for more details

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Focus On: All We Are



Written in a Norwegian cabin, arranged in an abandoned school, and recorded in a n old church, the 'We Hunt' EP by Liverpudlian trio, All We Are, is not surprisingly filled with rich melodies doing justice to the majestic locations in which it was produced. Single, Cardhouse, has a haunting and strangely hypnotic feel to it, with soaring choruses, a thumping drum beat, and beautiful intertwining layers of male and female vocals. You can listen to Cardhouse below, and get a free download of it here.


Catch All We Are play in Liverpool on 6th September and London on 11th September. For more information visit: 

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Review: Latitude Festival, Suffolk 12-15th July



      There's no doubt that it has been a difficult year for British music festivals, with declining ticket sales across the board, and Sonisphere being cancelled. However, Latitude came up on top with its rich diversity of acts, and despite the rain, the weekend was a huge success with brilliant sets from Elbow, Alt-J, Metronomy and Twin Shadow amongst many others.

     The fact that Latitude is very much a family festival certainly didn't detract teenagers from attending. The crowd gathered in the Obelisk Arena for Givers on the Friday morning was a good mix of ages, and despite having the difficult first slot on the main stage, Tiffany Lamson's banshee-like yet melodically brilliant scream bounced around the arena, pulling more listeners in as the set progressed.

     It was a general consensus amongst my friends that First Aid Kit turned out to be somewhat of a disappointment. Dressed like peasants in their flowery embroidered kaftans, the Swedish sisters, although they had stunning voices, were underwhelming in their songs. Lacking energy, each song sounded much like its predecessor, and although their music would have been perfectly adequate in the background of a dinner party, the duo simply weren't strong enough as a standalone act.

      After a rather mediocre half hour spent watching First Aid Kit, it was up to Twin Shadow to turn things around in the i Arena, and that, he did. With his thick mass of hair being thrown all over the place, George Lewis jr. was in his element. Spitting out his words to the mass of people crammed inside the tent, the rich framework of electric guitars bled into the thudding drum with a frantic excitement, and although the set was short, it was exhilarating.

      Though much more relaxed in their style of music than their American counterparts, the slow moving pace of The Antlers' opener, Rolled Together, was never in danger of drifting into dull waters. There was little audience banter, which usually annoys me. However, for The Antlers, the silence between songs seemed fitting. The hypnotic nature of the set was mellowing, and provided a calmer moment amongst all the excitement of the day. 

     Due to an annoying clash with The Antlers in the schedule, I was only able to witness a short section of Amadou and Mariam's set. However, of what I saw, the couple's soulful music complete with a driving African drumbeat, and an explosion of colour in the clothing on stage warmed the shivering crowd who had gathered by the main stage in the rain to hear the Mali duo play.

Amadou and Mariam in the Obelisk Arena
      After watching Dexys, who appeared to be wearing the same clothes they wore the first time round, and learning exactly how many times the chorus of Come On, Eileen can be repeated before it becomes the very bane of your existence, it was on to the Lake Stage for Alt-J. Despite looking a bit geeky, the thumping bass gave them an edge which anchored some of the less catchy tunes from drifting into nothingness. Crowd favourite, Breezeblocks, was met with countless triangles of appreciation being made with hands in the air (Alt-J is the mac shortcut for the triangle symbol) and it was clear why. Leadsinger Joe Newman's voice rose above the synths and heavy guitar in a sumptuous sea of noise. Though only a recent addition to the British music scene, the sheer amount of people crowded around the stage was a testament to the success that they have become since the release of their debut album, An Awesome Wave. 

     Saturday brought yet more rain, but also the promise of some brilliant music. Of Monsters and Men played to a packed out tent in the i Arena, their songs a healthy dose of folkish tunes and glittering pop; whilst Theme Park lit up the Lake Stage with new single Jamaica which lived up to its name with its summery hooks and laid back beat. 

     Having narrowly missed out on The Crookes playing at the Borderline last year, I was excited when I heard they'd be playing at Latitude, and they certainly didn't disappoint. Playing new material (Maybe In The Dark, Afterglow) alongside some of their older songs, there was plenty of variety in the set. During Backstreet Lovers, lead singer, George Waite, suggested that as a solution to the rain, the audience shared the warmth the band were radiating, by jumping over the barrier, overcoming the small female security guard and storming the stage. Although in reality the crowd was far too placid to do such a thing, it certainly got a bit more movement amongst the spectators, and was a clever tactic on Waite's behalf. The chirpy Yes, Yes, We're Magicians, ended the set with a rousing finish, and sticking around to chat with fans at the end cemented The Crookes as not only skilled musicians, but officially lovely chaps as well.

George Waite of The Crookes talking to fans after their set on the Lake Stage
     It was a shame that Django Django, despite having a large following, were playing on one of the smallest stages. The Scots' jangling synth-pop, although brilliant, didn't carry well enough outside the tent to where hundreds of people were craning their necks to try and catch a glimpse of the band. After many futile attempts to get inside the tent, I gave up and instead settled for watching Laura Marling on the main stage. I've never been much of a Marling fan, but her set confirmed for me how truly dull I find her. It wasn't her fault that she was drowned out by the thumping bass of SBTRKT in a nearby tent, but her lack of stage presence didn't help either. Hardly ever looking up from her guitar, she seemed far away from the audience, and came across disinterested and cold. 

     However Metronomy quickly turned the evening around with their quirky electronic pop. With Anna Prior on drums (who is quite possibly the coolest woman in music) the songs had a summery feel to them, particularly crowd favourites The Bay and The Look. 

     Elbow continued the feel-good vibes with their headline set. As thousands gathered in the Obelisk Arena, the rich guitar hooks of Grounds For Divorce bounced around the field as drunken revellers shouted the lyrics with joyful enthusiasm. Despite lead singer Guy Garvey's incessant cries of 'Good attitude, Latitude. We have gratitude for your platitude.' wearing a little thin after the tenth hearing, he came across brilliantly. Singing 'it's looking like a beautiful day' mere hours after the sun appeared for the first time in the weekend as fireworks exploded into the inky night, was a magical ending to the second day. 

     Sunday got underway with Francois and the Atlas Mountains in the i Arena. Due to a late start, the set was cut to a paltry twenty minutes, and from the raptuous applause at the end it was clear that the audience had appreciated every precious second. Having seen them play only a month earlier at The Applecart Festival, I was surprised by how different the sets seemed. Perhaps it was the fact that the sun was shining down on Latitude at that particular moment (rather than the torrential rain Applecart witnessed) but the songs seemed to glitter in the sunshine with their glorious mix of French and English lyrics.

     Alabama Shakes lit up the Obelisk Arena with their blues rock. Lead singer, Brittany Howard's soulful voice rang out on Hold On, and the laid back nature of their songs created the perfect ambiance for a sunny afternoon.

Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes
     Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes were next up on stage. Opening with 40 Day Dream, leadsinger, Alex Ebert (looking rather messianic with his white linen outfit and thick brown hair and beard) jumped into the crowd much to the delight of thousands of screaming fans as they shouted the lyrics back at him. It's safe to say that it was one of the most energetic performances at the weekend. Ebert was accompanied on stage by around 10 others on a variety of instruments, and they seemed to play up the happy family atmosphere on stage. However, at times the set came across as a tad contrived. Perhaps I'm just a cynic, but I thought it was all a bit twee (an accordionist with Heidi plaits and co-singer Jade Castrinos' references to how much she loved her mum didn't help matters). Despite their somewhat annoying on-stage personas, musically, the set was brilliant - a lesson for all in making upbeat, catchy songs with a good mix of instruments to create layers of rich sounds that knit together beautifully.

     It was obvious that Ben Howard was a little overwhelmed playing to thousands of people on the main stage, so it was no surprise when he stated: 'Jesus Christ, this is the biggest crowd I've ever played to, and I've just broken a guitar string'. However Howard needn't have been so worried. The crowd lapped up every note and every shy smile, and soon he seemed much more at ease, singing Keep Your Head Up with a fiery passion, spurred on by the fans eagerly singing along.

     The last act to appear at Latitude was the mod-father himself, Paul Weller. It was perhaps a sign of the 'family feel' of the festival, that it was mainly middle aged folk watching the set who remembered him from the first time around; however there were still plenty of teenagers having a boogie to classics from The Jam era like Eton Rifles and Town Called Malice. The crowd was noticeably smaller than that for Elbow's headline set the previous night though, and it seemed a shame that the sets hadn't been switched around - Elbow would have made a much more jubilant finish to the weekend. Despite this, the evening was still good fun, and a happy end to 3 days of wonderful music.


 For (much!) better quality photos visit the Latitude website

Summer Playlist

After a much needed break from the blog, I am finally back with my review of Latitude (better late than never, right?!) which will be posted shortly. In the meantime check out the tunes that have rolling around my head this summer.

A Postcard To Nina - Jens Lekman 

 
Houdini - Foster The People 


Little Talks - Of Monsters and Men 


Humble Digs - Beth Jeans Houghton & The Hooves of Destiny 



Sunday, 8 July 2012

Choice Cuts: best new releases for Monday 9th July

Band: The Crookes
Album: Hold Fast
Record Label: Fierce Panda


After the success of their debut album, Chasing After Ghosts, in 2011, The Crookes have swiftly returned with their sophomore effort, Hold Fast. Despite co-founding member, Alex Saunders, leaving the band in September 2011, they have been joined by Tom Dakin of fellow Sheffield band, Silent Film Project, to create the new album. With a 50s rock'n'roll edge, both singles, Afterglow and Maybe After Dark, are set to be definite crowd-pleasers at The Crookes' many festival dates over the summer.





Artist: Lianne La Havas
Album: Is Your Love Big Enough?
Record Label: Warner Bros

Since appearing on Jools Holland last year, Lianne La Havas has steadily been gaining momentum to become the new darling of music critics and appear on the BBC Sound of 2012 poll. Her debut album, Is Your Love Big Enough?, is an impressive effort from the 22 year old. The dulcet tones of Gone and No Room For Doubt (joined by Willy Mason for the latter) contrast beautifully with the more upbeat title track, to produce a wonderfully knitted album full of melodic surprises. Lianne La Havas is playing at Rough Trade East on Monday 9th at 7pm, and it's definitely not a set you want to miss. 




Artist: Twin Shadow
Album: Confess
Record Label: 4AD

George Lewis Jr., the man behind the Twin Shadow moniker, has defied what many artists face with the 'difficult second album'. Confess has proved to be a worthy follow-up to his debut, Forget. With the slightly warped sound of the single, Five Seconds, the album has an 80s feel to it that was so synonymous with Confess. However, this isn't to say that Lewis has only stuck to what he knows. His second album is a definite progression from his first, with darker lyrics and a far more pristine sound.





Band: Dirty Projectors
Album: Swing Lo Magellan
Record Label: Domino Records

Returning with their sixth studio album, it's only fitting that Dirty Projectors find their latest effort amongst the elite of the music world. The first single, Gun Has No Trigger, has a certain sophistication which requires little sound-wise to convey front man, David Longstreth's power and emotion. The track is basic, with hardly any instrumentation apart from the driving drum beat, and female backing vocals. This simplicity is common throughout the album, making it perfect listening for a lazy summer evening. 


Monday, 25 June 2012

Friday, 22 June 2012

Single Review: Too Young - Tom Williams & The Boat


Rating: 8/10

Too Young, taken from Tom Williams & The Boat's new album, Teenage Blood, has recently been added to the A-list of BBC 6Music's playlist, and it's no surprise why. The layers of jangly guitar riffs, violins and tinkling piano create a blissfully upbeat tune; a perfect start-of-summer track. The music video, with its 1200 frames hand-drawn by Mr Williams himself, from the offset shows the intricate detail with which Too Young has been lovingly created, and the simplicity of the drawings ensure nothing detracts from the subtlety of Williams' voice. 


Teenage Blood is out now.
Visit www.tomwilliamsandtheboat.co.uk for more details.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

The Applecart Festival - Victoria Park


Francois Marry
       For the very British nature of the weekend, with dear Queen Betty celebrating 60 years on the throne, it was only apt that the most British of weathers accompanied the festivities. And so with an anorak and some wellies I ventured into the great unknown of East London, for a day filled with jovial jubilations to lift my spirits out of the depressing existence of looming exams.

       The dulcet tones of French band, Fran├žois & The Atlas Mountains brought a splattering of Mediterranean sunshine to the otherwise rain-soaked morning, and the almost hypnotic feel of Les Plus Beaux reminded me of fellow French act, M83, with its gentle melodies and whispered vocals. The set was brief, with hardly a spoken word directed at the growing crowd apart from the occasional 'merci', but lead singer, Fran├žois Marry, kept the audience enraptured with his mesmerising swaying around the stage, and a little grin escaping from his rather solemn face every once in a while.

       Taking to the stage next was Gaz Coombes (lead-singer of Supergrass). After the band split up in 2010 after 17 years together, Coombes has returned with his debut solo album,
Here Come The Bombs. 'With a song entitled Whore, Coombes' new tracks seem to encompass a melancholic psychedelia, far from the easy-breezy Britpop of Supergrass' Alright  and Sun Hits The Sky.



Lianne La Havas
      Lianne La Havas, by contrast, brightened up the main stage tent with her soulful voice and radiant smile. Opening with No Room For Doubt, La Havas' vocals rang out into the tent with a crystal clarity, delivering each line with certainty and precision. Despite the sombre tone of the song, her bubbly personality was soon clear to the audience - getting out her iPhone to take a picture of the crowd only increased the warmth felt towards her. Gone, a song which she relates is written about her ex-boyfriend, almost has a jazz-lounge feel to it, and showcased the extraordinary power of her voice, when the music swelled in the chorus. The upbeat Is Your Love Big Enough? brought the set to a rousing finish, and despite the crowd shying away when La Havas invited them to join in with the chorus, the number of photographers in the press pit was a testament to the success she has already found, and an inkling that there's a lot more to come from the gorgeous London lass.
                                                                             
 

       
        It  was not surprising on the Jubilee weekend that Billy Bragg had a lot to say about the monarchy and the state of the country in the present moment. Where others, he states, feel proud to be British when they see the Queen, he feels patriotic when watching the Leveson Enquiry on the television - a theme firmly embedded in Never Buy The Sun. A rendition of Bob Marley's One Love reflected the political activism with new lyrics about dropping the debt in Africa, and complete with actions for the audience, proceeded to be a huge success amongst the crowd. Despite Bragg declaring to the audience that 'music doesn't have the power to change the world', his lyrics certainly evoked much thought amongst the audience members, and I was left with the sense that perhaps Bragg's songs have a larger impact on people than he thinks.

Billy Bragg

       With both tents running around forty minutes behind schedule, there was a lot of hanging around before Beth Jeans Houghton & The Hooves Of Destiny took to the stage over in the other tent -  though it was definitely worth the wait. Houghton, with her slightly uncouth but good-humoured nature, delighted the audience with her Geordie charm, and in the spirit of the festivities related her search for loo roll because she 'needed a poo'. When Houghton sang, however, her voice took on an older, more sophisticated tone. The summery vibe of Atlas warded off thoughts of the impending gloom of the pouring rain outside, and filled the tent with glittering sunshine for a brief moment, whilst Dodecahedron showed a softer and more vulnerable side.

        Stornoway's set opened with new song, Farewell, Appalachia!, a haunting but magical number with lead singer, Brian Briggs' voice intertwining with the soaring violin to create a beautiful but spine-chilling effect, whilst the thundering cymbals conjured up images of the dramatic landscape of the Appalachian Mountains. The audience were also introduced to other songs which didn't feature on debut album, Beachcomber's Windowsill. Having already heard The Bigger Picture at previous gigs, and not immediately falling in love with it, I was pleasantly surprised with the new arrangement, which now involves input from the whole band for a much fuller sound, which certainly made for a bigger impact than the last few times I've heard it.

       All the elements of the perfect Stornoway set were present. Crowd favourites, Watching Birds and Zorbing were played with the charm and exuberance that make Stornoway so loved by many, and in usual Storno-fashion, Briggs delighted the audience with his many anecdotes - relating both the plight of hundreds of sheep falling off a lorry on an Australian motorway; and the day it rained sardines in Ipswich, making the rain lashing down outside seem quite tame in comparison.

Charlie Fink
         After a rather interesting hour spent watching Adam Ant,  the long wait for Noah and the Whale to appear was finally over. Walking on stage to a jazzed up version of the theme music from 2001: A Space Odyssey, the wannabee astronauts opened with Life Is Life - with its rousing chorus and close harmonies, it was an instant hit with the crowd. The gospel-like Old Joy contrasted beautifully with the more upbeat tempos of Waiting For My Chance To Come and Give It All Back, and as Charlie Fink (lead-singer) noted, the pitter-patter of raindrops sounding on the roof of the tent provided the perfect backdrop to the song.
   
        With a good mix of songs from all three of their albums, their headline set proved to be a huge success amongst everyone in the audience. Finishing with L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N, the masses spilled out from Victoria Park onto the streets of East London in high spirits, with hardly a thought for the royal flotilla only a short distance away, which had been preoccupying the minds of most of the country.



For more photos from the day, visit the NotAnotherRainySunday facebook page 

Friday, 18 May 2012

Up and Coming: Family of the Year

While I'm holed up inside revising (my excuse for why posts have been slightly sporadic), Family of the Year have been providing me with the perfect soundtrack to remind me of the summer months to come. Hailing from Los Angeles, it's clear that Tinseltown has had a huge influence over the music - the tracks glitter with summery guitar rifts, whilst their close-harmonied choruses encompass everything that's good about sunshine indie-pop. Perhaps they verge slightly over to TV advert soundtrack territory in some of their songs, but the members of Family of the Year certainly contain a passion for laid-back, feel-good tunes, and it's obvious that the future's not only bright, but positively sparkling for the West Coast four-piece.


Thursday, 10 May 2012

Live lounge: Ben Howard - Call Me Maybe (Cover)

Lesson 1 in taking an awful song and making it something worthwhile listening to: enlist the help of Ben Howard.


Wednesday, 2 May 2012

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