Sunday, 27 October 2013

Introducing: Jordan O'Shea

Desperation, My Dear cover art
Perfect Sunday evening listening comes in the form of Oxford's Jordan O'Shea who describes his music as 'music you can escape to'. Gentle and understated, his debut album, Desperation, My Dear, is a wonderful mix of acoustic guitar and melancholic melodies, whilst simple piano riffs anchor each song. The album as a whole is beautifully haunting, almost reminiscent of Bon Iver with breathy vocals and a tender, soothing quality. If you're in a dreamy mood, have a listen on his bandcamp. 

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Mini-LP Review: You Don't Know Anything - Stornoway

Mini-LP: You Don't Know Anything
Release date: 11th November 2013
Rating: 9/10

After the success of their sophomore album, Tales From Terra Firma, (reviewed here back in March), Stornoway have returned with a mini-LP of songs which didn't quite  fit the 'mood' of their latest album.

Opener, When You Touch Down From Outer Space, has been a crowd favourite since it started being performed at gigs a few years back, but a studio version hasn't appeared until now. Despite the whimsical talk of 'cyborgs' and 'outer space', the lyrics convey a deeper and more emotional sense of exploration - lead-singer, Brian Briggs, wrote the song after the birth of his first child; singing 'I can't wait to introduce you to your new world', it's a touching ode to new life.

This theme of fresh beginnings is echoed in Waiting On The Clock, focusing on starting university and first love in a 'new found world'. However not everything is new; Stornoway have always found solace in the natural world, and we've come to anticipate this in each new release. 'So superior to beast and bird, drive them out unless they make us richer', Briggs sings on The Sixth Wave, whilst its marching beat could almost make it a Greenpeace anthem.

Tumbling Bay has a romantically nostalgic feel to it with talk of time machines 'to bring back Saturday'. It's a more laid-back vibe, creating the perfect breather in the middle of the album. The song seems to draw to a close, but an unexpected but nonetheless enchanting addition almost acts as a scene change into You Don't Know Anything, a song which has all the usual elements of a great Stornoway number - references to Oxford, vocal harmonies and trumpets. Clockwatching takes an entirely different approach, but is an exhilarating listen with a rather sinister edge to it, whilst Briggs' voice takes on a gruffer tone.

Tales From Terra Firma saw a clear progression from their debut album and again, You Don't Know Anything marks new territory for the band. Whilst these songs may be almost unrecognisable from those on Beachcomber's Windowsill, Stornoway touches still remain with trumpets striking up in triumphant fanfare across the album. It's a dramatic new sound from the band, and perhaps the most exciting one yet.

For more information visit:
You can also read my interviews with Oli Steadman (bassist) and Rob Steadman (drummer)

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

EP Review: Contours - Toliesel


EP: Contours
Label: One Note Forever Records
Release date: 16th September 2013
Rating: 9/10

Mid-September saw the release of the glorious new EP, Contours, from Oxford's Toliesel.  As the first release for One Note Forever Records, it's a promising start for the label. Having added to their line-up over the past few years to include a new bassist and guitarist, the band have hit the ground running with their catchy hooks and beautiful harmonies.

It's not often that a band manages to produce an EP on which every track is as stunning as the last, but for Toliesel, it doesn't seem to have been difficult. Whispered Half Asleep is a wonderful opener with chilled vibes and crystal-clear vocals. The Light, despite having been around on the internet for a while, is still as exhilarating as on first listening. The Lighthouse is a more paired-back song, with a simple acoustic guitar intro that beautifully contrasts with the power of Jack Olchawski's voice, whilst the strings added later give it richly melancholic undertones. Final song, Brothers, continues this sense of malaise with ghoulish background vocals that gradually build up to create an epic spine-tingling finale.

Contours is unashamedly poppy, and whilst not breaking down any musical barriers, it's a sumptuous sixteen minutes of catchy riffs and jangling basslines. The music is vibrantly colourful, each musical layer melting into the next, creating a rich texture that provides the perfect pick-me-up in this cold weather. Summer may now have passed, but with the release of Contours, Toliesel have provided us with the means to enjoy the sunshine for a little while longer.

Contours is out now. For more information visit:
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