Tuesday, 30 August 2011

We Are In Demand - Ultralove

When the "Big Book o' Mid 00s Alt-rock" is written up (if it hasn't already), the band that will surely grace the cover will be The White Stripes. What made the band stand head and shoulders above the rest is that despite the self-imposed limitations on their sound (guitar, drums & vocals), they were still able to churn out six fairly diverse albums of a high quality before calling it a day.

Which brings us to London based duo We Are In Demand. Like the aforementioned group, they strip their recordings down to the bare minimum. However, unlike the Stripes, this minimum consists of just bass guitar, drums and vocals. However, based on their song "Ultralove", they don't need anything more.

"Ultralove" is a sub-two minute pop punk song that manages to fit in an aggressive bass riff, and the most infectious whistle hook since Noah & the Whale's "Jealous Kind of Love." The band are still a little rough around the edges, but I am sure that is something that future recordings will iron out.

Mappa Mundi - What Have You Done?

Brooklyn based quintet (and sometimes more) Mappa Mundi are the next in a long line of chamber pop musicians that have included The Byrds, The Divine Comedy and, to a lesser extent, Vampire Weekend. The group released their first mini-album, "And in this Way We Come Unmoored" in 2010, and have followed it up with the "Song for a Fortnight" project, in which the band record a track every 14 days and make it available to download for free.

Taken from this project is the song "What Have You Done?", which is a Beatles-esque number (right down to the title, which is taken from the song "Sexy Sadie"), which sees vocalist Adam Levine (no relation to the Maroon 5 frontman, as far as I am aware) sounding quite rather like Muse frontman Matt Bellamy. There are also shades of Rialto in the mix as well.

"What Have You Done" is available to download for free.

Femme Fatality - Southwest Syndrome

Formed in 2003, LA based duo Femme Fatality have been producing their own brand of synthpop goodness for some time now. They recently released a mini album on Stickfigure Records, and taken from it is the track "Southwest Syndrome.

"Southwest Syndrome" is a hi-octane track that takes you by the proverbials and doesn't let you go. The group are like a less annoying but shoutier verision of 3OH!3 (an oxymoron if I ever saw one), with vocals that call to mind Pelle Almqvist of The Hives.

"Southwest Syndrome" is taken from the duo's "That's It, That's It" mini album, and is available to download for free.

Fading Flags - Lest We Forget

LinkWith their heavy, epic minded production and their heavily empassioned vocals, unsigned Swansea based quartet Fading Flags sound like a cross between the Manic Street Preachers and Lostprophets on their track "Lest We Forget". Here it is, in all its glory:

Monday, 29 August 2011

The Deadsets - Medusa

Great Britpop inspired tunes are like busses - you wait ages to discover one and end up finding two in the same week.

Swansea based quintet The Deadsets churn out stadium-sized tunes that have the status of potential future anthems in the making. On their track "Medusa", the band mix the scowl of Liam Gallagher with pyschedelic guitar work that is reminiscent of The Verve's "The Rolling People" and the lyrical stylings of the Stone Roses. How these guys have remained unsigned for so long is beyond me.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

The Cold One Hundred - Hedonist

Manchester based five piece The Cold One Hundred first came to my attention when I learned that they would be supporting my beloved Brett Anderson during his London and Manchester gigs in October. Having checked out their music, it is fair to say that he has chosen very wisely.

"Hedonist" is a deliciously dark piece of indie rock that treads a similar lyrical path that Monsieur Anderson took during his early days in Suede ("In between the sex, I'm a hedonist" is a choice lyric), whilst vocalist Amory channels the same spirits kept Martin Rossiter going whilst in Gene.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

The Search - Silent Days

Sweden may be renowned for its rich pop tapestry, but it also has habit of churning out some fantastic indie and alternative artists as well, with acts such as The Hives, Dungen & First Aid Kit floating my Metaphorical Boat in the past few years. Now the next act from the country hoping to break through are Uppsala based quartet The Search.

On their track "Silent Days" the group mix Gary Numan-esque synths with the rock stylings of Echo and the Bunnymen for a dark, alluring track that forces the listener to revel in its own sense of melancholy, and not let go. The Search make you want to embrace the dark side, and sometimes there's nothing wrong with that.

"Silent Days" features on the album "The Search for Connection Contact and Community", which will be released on 30th September.

Ace City Racers - City Boys

If the general failure of the Viva Brother bandwagon is to be believed, then these isles are not ready for a full blown Britpop revival. It also carries a secondary warning for young bands - beware the premature praise of NME, for they will turn on you quicker than Megan Fox turns on men.

Even though VB were not really my cup of tea, I am still adamant that there will be a full blown Britpop revival on the cards in the near future , and with Suede and Pulp reforming, one could say the seeds are already being sewn.

One band that may find themselves at the forefront of this new wave is Glasgow based trio Ace City Racers. Their song "City Boys" evokes the spirit of Bluetones classic "Slight Return", Parklife-era Blur, with a little bit of the Kaiser Chiefs thrown in for good measure.

Simian Ghost - Free Agent

Unless you've been living under a blog-free rock for the past few years, then you are probably familiar with the concept of chillwave, a sub-genre of electronic pop, which one person rather fittingly described as 'someone pouring vaseline over 80s new wave master tapes.' Seems to be that most of the leading lights of the genre, such as Memory Tapes, Washed Out and Toro Y Moi, seem to hail from America.

Thankfully this side of the Atlantic has our own act who can compete with them on the world stage, in the form of Simian Ghost. Hailing from Sweden, the trio mix chillwave influences with smart electro-pop sensibilities.

On the first track from their upcoming mini-album, "Free Agent", the Sebastian Arnstrom and co play up to their retro style, with the song beginning and concluding with the sound of a tape being turned off and on, and the song features seemingly random pitch jumps throughout the song, as it you really were playing the song in 1986 on your elder brother's record player (which I imagine might cause some confusion if someone really does play this track on a record player).

"Free Agent" will feature on Simian Ghost's mini album "Lovelorn", which will be released on November 14th on Heist or Hit Records.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Conor Owen - There's Only You

Having toured with The Subways and We Are Scientists in the past, English singer/songwriter Conor Owen knows how to write an anthemic track to get crowds excited. On his track "There's Only You", he sings about hopeless romantic devotion over a pop-folk soundtrack, as it cresendos into a string-laden climax.

"There's Only You" is taken from Conor Owen's debut album "The Observationalist" and is released on September 26th on Kickface Records.

Perfect Little Circles - The Organ Song

Sunderland based trio Perfect Little Circles are the self-styled purveyors of 'simple, catchy sweet and sour pop.' They are releasing their debut E.P on 12th September (which curiously enough, is also called "September"), and taken from it is the lovely "Organ Song."

"The Organ Song" (so called due to the synthesized organ sound that overwhelms the song) is a finely crafted indie song, that features harmony vocals that call to mind the Gerard Love-penned songs of Teenage Fanclub, mixed with a playful, lo-fi production aesthetic.

"September E.P" will be released on September 12th on Tiny Lights Recordings.

Jezzy & The Belles - Confess Child

I have been a fan of music for so long that I sometimes begin to believe that everything that can be done with music has already been done, and that everything new that comes out is just a re-hash of whatever has gone before. Thankfully, every now and again I come across an act such as Jezzy & the Belles, which snaps me back into reality.

"Confess Child" starts out 'normally' enough, with it's mariachi trumpet and an arpeggiated guitar riff that resembles something from Radiohead's "In Rainbows" album. Then out of the blue, a drum & bass rhythm section breaks in, and we hear the breathtaking vocals of Jessica Eisenberg (the sole constant member of the band), whose Beth Gibbons-esque dark sensual style oozes through the busy production of Tonearm. If one was in a genre-inventing mood, I would label this style "folk and bass."

With the genre-hopping ease that Jessica Eisenberg exhibits throughout "Confess Child", and the rest of her "Compasses and Maps EP", would it be premature to declare this Brooklyn belle as the female Beck?

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

HandS - No Romance

Every now and then, I come across a well crafted piece of pure pop music that really gets me excited, despite my reservations about the genré in general. One such song that has really grabbed me is the song "No Romance" by Norwegian duo HandS.

Proving once again that the purveyors of the finest pop hail from Scandinavia, "No Romance" features a main riff that has echoes of "The Final Countdown" by Europe, mixed with the production of Robyn, and a massive guitar riff in the chorus that has a feeling of New Order about it.

With the right backing behind them, HandS have the potential to have a smash hit right across Europe, with a sophisticated production to please the pop fans, and trendy influences to appease the indie crowd. Let's just hope that the world sits up and takes notice.

Mind the Gap - Once You Leave

"Once You Leave" by LA quartet Mind the Gap is an icy cool slice of radio friendly electronic-rock that echoes the sound that brought Foster the People into the US Top 10 this summer, as well as reminding me slightly of "Sunshine" by Keane.

With a background in writing for TV, the band have a real knack for creating music that can elicit an instant response from listeners. The dual chorus approach on "Once You Leave" will set the song up as a future anthem of youth.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Bronze Medallists - Mathematics

London based 4-piece Bronze Medallists were named after an Idlewild lyric, and will be supported soft-rock group The Feeling in October. On their track "Mathematics", they sound nothing like either one of them.

"Mathematics" is a heavily electronic 80s inspired track lamenting the unpredictability of love. When they sing that they "wish love was mathematic," I'm sure we are all reminded of a time when we thought we'd cracked the formula to interpersonal relationships, only to have our rationality tumble down like a ton of bricks.

The City And Horses - We Will Never be Discovered

Most bands dream of living the high life, being airwave darlings and having millions of adoring fans screaming their names in a Beatlemania-esque flurry of hysteria. One band that apparantly do not want that is New York 6-piece The City and Horses.

The title track of their upcoming album, "We We Will Never be Discovered", is an ode to remaining in perpetual obscurity. Musically, with it's jazzy flute and it's spoken word verses, it sounds like a cross between Cake's "Short Skirt/Long Jacket" and Focus's "House of the King."

One would like to think that The City and Horses' cries for remaining underground are just an example of reverse psychology to encourage us music fans to scream their name from the rooftops until everone has heard about them. In the case of yours truly, it looks like they may have succeeded.

"We Will Never be Discovered" will be released on September 27th.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Biscuithead & the Biscuit Badgers - Seaweed Under the Sofa

Listening to Leeds based 4-piece Biscuithead & the Biscuit Badgers, I can't help but be reminded of the episode of "The Mighty Boosh", where Vince and Howard, in an attempt to out-retro a rival band, perform a gig in medieval garb whilst playing a lute.

Biscuithead & the Biscuit Badgers don't go back as far as that, of course, but their track "Seaweed Under the Sofa" is a throwback to the music of the 1930s, with it's George Formby-esque ukelele and incredibly English vocalist telling a tale of losing a girl whilst eating a Chinese. It's a devilishly fun tune.

Biscuithead & the Biscuit Badgers will be releasing their 2nd album, "The Greatest Show on Toast", on September 19th.

Roman Foot Soldiers - Waterfront

It's not often that I write about a group that hail from Indonesia, but it's not often that you come across a band like 6-piece group Roman Foot Soldiers and their own brand of cool, electro-rock.

Their track "Waterfront" evokes the style of Phoenix and Cut Copy, with an anthemic chorus and stadium sized synths. It's no wonder that they have supported Hurts in the past.

Caught Live - Amidships

Venue: Head Entertainment, Belfast

Date: 20th August 2011

The independent record shop Head Entertainment has been open in Belfast for less than a year now, and already has become one of my go-to places for new music. Perhaps it's because for a while I erroneously believed the store was named after a Suede album, or perhaps it's due to the fact that I was able to pick up an album by Athlete for a quid. But one thing that the store definately has going for it is its support of local music.

Playing live in the store today were local band Amidships. The last time I talked about them, I I said that they were "one of the most exciting bands to come out of these isles for some time." Now that I've had the chance to see them live, I can say that this is not just empty hyperbole: they really are that good.

Their eleven song set went down very well with the handful of dedicated fans who resisted the temptation to browse through the spoken word CDs for half an hour. It consisted of songs from their storming debut E.P "Friendly Fire", including "Oceans & Layers", which is like a waltzier, more atmospheric version of "Hangingaround" by Counting Crows, as well as a few new songs. "Sailing", a fast, rock and roll paced song, was my favourite of the new songs, and I'm glad to hear that it will be getting a release in November.

Amidships, doing their thing.

I really enjoyed seeing Amidships live, although I feel that the atmospheric sound of the band would be better suited to a music venue rather than a record store. Thankfully, the band will be playing at the IMRO Showcase in the Limelight on September 7th, so hopefully I will be able to get a chance to hear them again.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Rubashov - C-Dog

Not Squares have been one of my favourite Northern Irish bands from the last few years, with their song "Release the Bees" being amongst my top 10 singles of 2010. Not content with encouraging us to dance ourselves silly in his main band, Keith Winter has now formed an interesting side project with Dublin based visual artist Michael John Whelan called Rubashov.

The Rubashov project came about when the two members spent a week recording in Berlin, creating an album based around the isolation of the main protagonist of the novel "High Noon." The first track to come from the album, "C-Dog", is an atmospheric piece, with spoken work mantras, a surprisingly hooky chorus, and a beat that reminds me of the sounds of Warp Records, When Pilots Eject, and oddly enough, "Funky Town."

The band are currently raising funds to finance a vinyl release of the parent album "Are You Here For the Conference As Well?"

Let's Buy Happiness - Dirty Lakes

Newcastle based 5 piece Let's Buy Happiness have been creating quite a buzz lately, supporting bands like The Temper Trap and Frankie & the Heartstrings, playing Glastonbury, and recording live sessions for Huw Stevens. They are now lining up their next single release, which is the rather groovy "Dirty Lakes."

"Dirty Lakes" has an odd feel to it, given that Sarah Hall's empassionate vocals and evocative lyrics seem more akin to Melanie-esque folk than the Joy Formidable-esque instrumentation that the song contains. Nonetheless, this juxstaposition of styles works wonders on this track.

"Dirty Lakes" will be released on September 26th on Ghost Arc Records

Thursday, 18 August 2011

The Meek Odyssey - Risky Business

I'm not too sure about you guys, but the most disappointing album that I have bought in the past few years has been "Third" by Portishead. I know that when a band disappears for 12 years you shouldn't expect them to sound exactly the same when they return, but when I heard it, I couldn't believe this was the same band responsible for one of the 90s greatest albums, "Dummy."

Where was the humanity behind the heavily processed beats that made the band so famous? "Machine Gun" still gives me an ear-ache trying to listen to it, and the only song worth listening to is "Deep Water", a 90 second ukulele ballad. For a while I've tried to imagine what I would've liked the album to sound like.

But as of today, I no longer need to imagine, as I've discovered Canadian duo The Meek Odyssey. On their track "Risky Business", they have taken the trip-hop formula that Portishead concocted all those years ago, and have updated them for the 21st century, with heavily compressed sampled drums, atmospheric synth washes, hearty string samples, and of course the honeyed vocals of Megan Keetly, which both echoes that of Beth Gibbons, with a little bit of Bjork thrown in for good measure. Sometimes, a little disappointment can lead to greater things.

"Risky Business" will feature on the band's debut album "Florid New Hymns", which is out on 25th September.

Mesita - The Front Rage

On his latest single "The Front Range", Colorado local James Cooley, aka Mesita, mixes the multi-tracked rich harmonies of Bon Iver with the experimental indie that made Morning Teleportation's last album so exhilarating. With such rich production and superb instrumentation, it is surprising that this fellow is still unsigned. This is the sort of music that should be getting the Pitchfork posse all excited.

"The Front Range" is available to download for free now.

Caught Live - Shonen Knife/The Continuous Battle of Order

Venue: The Black Box, Belfast

Date: 18th August 2011

There was almost a capacity crowd who came to see Japanese pop-punkers Shonen Knife, with the age of the audience ranging from their teens up to people in their late 50s, which is a testament to the longevity of the band that they can attract fans from across the spectrum. But before we can get to them, we have support from local band The Continuous Battle of Order.

Given how almost diametrically opposed the music of The Continuous Battle of Order is to the sounds of Shonen Knife, I’m beginning to wonder how they were ever chosen to support them. (Incidentally, the weirdest combination I’ve ever came across at a gig was when post-hardcore group In Case of Fire were supported by chiptune girl Chipzel). I’d love to have been a fly on the wall during the discussion between the gig promoters and Shonen Knife’s management:

Management: So guys, I hope you have a fantastic local band lined up as support for Shonen Knife. What are they called again?

Promoter: The Continuous Battle of Order.

M: Oh. That’s a rather dark name for a pop-punk band.

P: Pop…punk?

M: Yes, pop-punk. You did get the memo, didn’t you?

P: Oh, that’s what that letter was? Sorry, I thought that was a bill. Mega lolz. But you’ll love these two guys anyway, they’re quite hardcore.

M: Excuse me, TWO?

P: Yeah, there are two fellows in the band, Craig and Hornby. They’re quite talented musicians.

M: Oh, like The White Stripes?

P: Um… yeah, if you say so.

M: Okay, so will these guys be singing about?

P: Singing?

M: Yes, singing. The act of uttering a series of words or sounds in musical tones. Will they be singing songs about love, hate, cake, or something in between?

P: Oh no, no, no! These guys don’t sing. They just jam out with 5 minute rock instrumentals, with complex time signatures, the best drummer these isles have to offer, and virtuoso level guitar playing. They are rather good.

M: Sigh. Remind me again why I allow you to choose your own support act?

So we’ve established that these guys are a bit different for a support act (as well as establishing the reason why I’ve haven’t sold a film script yet), but are they worth seeing? The answer, a resounding “yes.” Having only heard the one song by the band before seeing them, “01101111 01101110 01100101” (or for those of us who understand binary, “One”), I can safely say that CBO are a far more exciting prospect live than on record. I have not seen a drummer move his right foot so quickly and with as much force since I saw *insert generic good footballer’s name here*, whilst Hornby was able to produce sounds from his guitar that I only thought were possible using several synthesizers.

The band also showed a sense of self-deprecating humour. Having received a muted reaction from a new song, Craig Kearney joked that “In fairness, that was the first time WE’VE ever heard that song. The music of CBO is not the sort of thing I would listen to all the time, but in a live setting, there is something rather special about them.

The Continuous Battle of Order, doing their thing.

The crowd rushed to the front of the stage as Japanese female trio Shonen Knife took to the stage for their first ever gig in Belfast, opening with Konnichiwa, then launching into the first track from their latest album, “Perfect Freedom.” I must admit that I have never seen a politer pop-punk band in my time, given that they took the time to extensively thank the audience after each song.

Shonen Knife, rocking out.

There has always been such a sense of playfulness in the music of the group, with two songs about cute animals (“I Am a Cat” and “Capybara”), and a song about eating their favourite kind of food, “Sushi Bar”, which got the whole crowd singing along. Many of the lyrics are rather daft, but when they come from these girls, it begins to make a lot of sense.

For an encore, the band come back on stage and treat the crowd to three covers of Ramones songs, “Sheena is a Punk Rocker,” “The KKK Took my Baby Away,” and “Blitzkreig Bop,” then exit the stage to a rapturous applause.

They then showed off their scarves, which were rather nice indeed.

When the late Kurt Cobain was asked about seeing Shonen Knife, he replied: “I was transformed into a hysterical nine-year-old girl at a Beatles concert." Having seen the band live, I can understand where he was coming from. Shonen Knife are a band that make you want to feel young and feel happy, and how can you dismiss music that does that?

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Team Genius - Love and Love Songs

I can already hear the various denizens of the Metaphorical Boat saying "what's that, Mr. McBride? ANOTHER song about not writing a song? Don't you realize that we've had to suffer through songs by Sara Bareilles and Weezer on that very same subject in the past few years?" Well fear not, music fans, for this song by Brooklyn septet Team Genius is very, very good indeed.

Very nearly bordering on twee, "Love and Love Songs" has echoes of the softer electro-rock moments of LCD Soundsystem, as well as sounding like a more reserved version of Los Campesinos! It also features one of the best examples of start/stop drums this side of "Release the Bees" by Not Squares.

"Love and Love Songs" by Team Genius will feature on their "Pop Songs E.P", and is available to download for free now, courtesy of Paper Garden Records (a label who seem unable to do any wrong at the moment).

Ghost Estates - Forever or Never

Dublin based 5 piece Ghost Estates are purveyors of the finest indie rock this Emerald Isle currently has to offer, at least that's what their stunning 2nd single "Forver or Never" seems to suggest.

The song is an fine piece of Pains of Being Pure at Heart-esque guitar pop, mixed with the style of mid-00s indie, and with an extended synth outro that calls to mind some of the more experiemental side of Radiohead. Ghost Estates are surely a band to be reckoned with.

"Forever or Never" is available to download for free from the band's Soundcloud page.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Fantasy Rainbow - Youth Forever

Still in his teens, Richmond native Oliver Catt, a.k.a Fantasy Rainbow, creates music that shows a wisdom beyond his years. On his track "Youth Forever", he mixes lush, folkly soundscapes and close harmony vocals with lyrics that yearn for the innocence of perpetual adolescence.

"Youth Forever" is the lead track from the "Teens EP", which is available to buy now on Tiny Lights Recordings.

Good Dangers - Brasilia

On their track "Brasilia", London based 5 piece Good Dangers mix a piano riff that is not too dissimilar from the sort of thing that Keane were famed for on their first album with the dreamy pop of Foster the People and a recurrant guitar riff that seems to remind me of Paul Simon's "Graceland" album for some odd reason. Good Dangers have a knack for writing an anthemic chorus, and long may it continue.

And a fact for you trivia fans - Brasilia is the capital city of Brazil, and not Rio de Janeiro as many people erroneously believe.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Cashier No.9 - Lost At Sea

Northern Ireland quintet Cashier No.9 have released the video for their latest single, the shanty-esque "Lost At Sea", which is taken from their Bella Union issued album "To The Death of Fun." Eagle eyed viewers will notice that they have filmed the whole shebang in Belfast, with the pristine beauty of the Cave Hill featuring in a good proportion of it. The clever stop-motion video also features a trout playing the harmonica, although I should point out that this is not a feature of Belfast.

Babeshadow - Days of Old

On their latest single "Days Of Old", London based group Babeshadow showcase a back to basics style that takes its cues from the 21st century guitar-rock of bands such as The Libertines and Vampire Weekend, as well as adding a splash of 50s rock and roll into the mix as well. It's no wonder they've attracted some well known fans, with the band having a support slot for Florence and the Machine under their belt.

"Days of Old" is out now on Luvluvluv Records.

Empty Lungs - Identity Lost

The members Belfast punk group Empty Lungs have been playing on the Belfast scene for many years now, playing in bands like Bomb City 7 and The Lobotomies. The trio formed less than eight months ago and are gearing up to release their debut single "Identity Lost" on September 20th.

Mixed by Oppenheimer's Rocky O'Reilly, "Identity Lost" is a powerful piece of alternate-punk that exhibits an intelligence and musical virtuosity beyond what you would expect from the genre. Definitely a band worth watching on the local scene.

Brett Anderson - Brittle Heart

2011 has been a great year for Brett Anderson. Already this year has seen the singer play though his band Suede's first three albums in their entirety to capacity crowds in both London and Dublin. Now Brett is lining up to release his fourth studio album "Black Rainbows", notably his first to be released with major label backing since "A New Morning" back in 2002. As a trailer for the album, the first single, "Brittle Heart", was released to the world today.

The most notable thing about the new single is that it is perhaps the most rock orientated song of Brett Anderson's solo career. He has explored many territories on his solo works; from the orchestral pop of his eponymous debut album, the tender piano ballads of "Wilderness", and the pastoral folk stylings of "Slow Attack", but it's nice to hear him coming back to what he does best. Thankfully, it seems that rumours of "Black Rainbows" being a heavy metal album proved to be unfounded.

Produced by Leo Abrhams, who also produced Brett Anderson's 2009 album "Slow Attack", "Brittle Heart" sees Brett doing what he does best - empassioned romanticism and heartfelt lyrics that hide a darkness beneath them.

"Black Rainbows" will be released on 26th September, with "Brittle Heart" available now to download from all good MP3 retailers. The video for "Brittle Heart" is available to watch now.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Sick Figures - Graveyard Swagger

There is a Tom Waits-esque feeling to the saloon-rock stylings of Atlanta based group Sick Figures. I imagine that this is how Bruce Springsteen might have sounded like had he started his career in the 1870s, rather than the 1970s.

"Graveyard Swagger" will feature on the album "Two Ghosts", which will be released on Stickfigure Records on 27th September.

Deer Meet - Yeah! Cool Head

Kentucky based indie trio Deer Meet make the same kind of joyously lo-fi discordant rock that made Pavement such a hot property in the mid 90s. Indeed their song "Yeah! Cool Head" carries echoes of their classic hit "Cut Your Hair", with towering falsetto vocals, and the scat-like 'na na na's' that dominate the chorus.

"Yeah! Cool Head" is taken from the trio's album "You Can Walk Across it on the Grass", and is available to download for free from their Soundcloud page.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Ben Sommers - A Town Called Starving Jane

For his upcoming album "Avocado Chip", London singer-songwriter Ben Sommers has created an entire universe in which he delves into the depths and despair of 21st century life, with tales of debauchery and society gone wrong.

Taken from the album is "A Town Called Starving Jane", which is a demented slice of paranoid, carnival-esque rock and sets the scene for the madness that will surely follow.

Ben Sommers has released a claymation video for "A Town Called Starving Jane", which sees the beginning of the battle of good vs evil between Oculus and Old Tall Sam.

"Avocado Chip" will be released on October 3rd.

WARNING - this video features clay people getting up to naughty things. NSFW.

A Day Overdue - From Now On (Bedroom Eyes)

Every few years, a new band comes along that hopes to become this side of the Atlantic's equivalent to blink-182 or Green Day, adored by legions of screaming teenage fans, and soundtracking their formative years. Pop-punk is a very hard genre to get just right; for every You Me At Six that finds success, there's countless more Go:Audio's out there who disappear without a trace.

The next big hope for the genre is Glaswegian group A Day Overdue, who recently signed to Only Sky Records. The band, and their recent single "From Now On" seems to have all the ingredients required to make it to the top of the genre. The approval of Kerrang! magazine? Check. Touring with fellow pop-punk luminaries like Elliot Minor? Check. Photogenic lead singer? Check. And most importantly, a heavy song with a killer singalong chorus that captures the angst of going through your teenage years? Check, check, check.

A Day Overdue certainly seem to have all the ingredients necessary for staging an assault on the country and the charts. We'll just have to see how far they can take it.

Echo Me - You Never Will Be Mine

There is a beautiful simplicity in the songs of Danish singer-songwriter Jesper Madsen, aka Echo Me. "You Never Will Be Mine" is a folk-inspired tune about yearning for a girl that is out of your reach, a feeling that many of us will be able to empathize with.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Dad Rocks! - Take Care

Icelandic singer/songwriter Snævar Njáll Albertsson, who is known has the vocalist for Danish based 'post-rock' band Mimas, has recorded a collection of folk based songs, which he has created under the rather knowing moniker Dad Rocks! But Aerosmith and Paul Weller this is not.

"Take Care" is a well crafted slice of post-Fleet Foxes pastoral folk, with delicately played acoustic guitar mixed with luscious strings, and horns that remind me slightly of "Hoppipolla" by fellow Icelandics Sigur Ros.

"Take Care" will feature on the debut album Dad Rocks! entitled "Mount Modern", which will be released on November 8th

Fuzzy Empire - The Rolling Hours

Dublin based duo Fuzzy Empire produce a similar kind of rock tinged electronica that has helped Foster the People reach stratospheric heights in recent months, although they take it into a completely different territory.

Their track "The Rolling Hours" mixes stuttering beats and an industrial guitar riff with Boards of Canada-esque synth washes and vocals that wouldn't sound out of place on the last Empire of the Sun album.

Fuzzy Empire have a sound that is very much their own, which can never be a bad thing.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Dutch Schultz - LACF

Northern Ireland based heavy trio Dutch Schultz will be releasing their 2nd album "Tonight We Hunt" next year. One song that won't be making the album however is "LACF", which was apparently deemed "too obscene" to be put on the record. The band have however made the song available as a free download, and have filmed a promotional video for the song.

"LACF" is an infectious, dark and surprisingly funny slice of heavy rock, and incredibly fun to sing along to. Just don't make the mistake I made of singing it whilst going about your daily business. People will run.

Dutch Schultz's album "Tonight We Hunt" will be released in 2012 on Di Di Mau Records.

WARNING - This song is NSFW, and definitely not suitable for people of a nervous disposition.

Lucy Rose - Middle of the Bed

English singer-songwriter Lucy Rose has a real knack for making intelligent, emotive-folk of the sort that made Laura Marling and Emmy the Great so well known, so it was no wonder that she was asked to appear on Bombay Bicycle Club's last album. Now, she has released "Middle of the Bed," which will hopefully help to push her music into the stratosphere.

"Middle of the Bed" melds the styles of these artists with the hushed intimacy and production style of the xx, in this tale of a love doomed to failure. The repeated lyrics "you don't know my hand size" carries a very strong resonance indeed.

The "Middle of the Bed EP" is out now on Fauna Records.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Retriever - Arms Out Wide

A few days ago I looked at "Little Black Cloud" by Cult Image and stated that it would be released as a split 7" on September 10th. In the interest of fairness, I thought I would take a moment to look at the band whom they are sharing the release with, the dark and gritty Retriever.

Newcastle Upon Tyne 3-piece Retriever have been described as "the dark unbelly of the Newcastle scene", and on listening to "Arms Out Wide", it is not difficult to see why. The song is a mixture of the vocals stylings of Siouxie Sioux, and the sonic attacks of Joy Division and Bauhaus. "Arms Open Wide" is a song that revels in its unforgiving darkness.

The track will be released on a split 7" on September 10th with Cult Image on Splash One Records.

Piet Hagg - There is Nothing Like a Nice Anthemic Ballad

Do you feel that there is not enough irony in your daily musical constitution? Have you ingested the entire back catalogue of The Divine Comedy, but your sarcasm meter is still dangerously low? If so, then Glaswegian singer/songwriter Piet Hagg may be just your thing.

"There is Nothing Like a Nice Anthemic Ballad" is exactly what it says on the tin, which is a satire Celtic-tinged ballad with an anthemic, sing along chorus that disguises the dark, dank themes brought out in the verses. The fact that you really could imagine this song being sung in a muddy field in the miffly of July by thousands of drunk revellers makes this tune all the better.

Other themes that Hagg tackles in his songs include artists that are more stule over substance ("SXSW Not") Fleet Foxes-eque folk ("My Song Has Only Got One Chord") and, um, bloggers who are obsessed with Twin Atlantic ("I Love Your Blog"). Surely Piet Hagg is a future cult star in the making.

Sharliza Jelita - No Go Pogo

London based Singaporean artist Sharliza Jelita produces a brand of high energy alt-pop that has slowly disappered from the mainstream in the past few years. But is Sharliza the artist to bring it back again? Based on her recent single "No Go Pogo", the answer could be yes.

"No Go Pogo" mixes the infectious pop vocals and euphoric songwriting of The Noisettes with the production and instrumentation of The Go! Team for a joyous three minutes of pure bliss.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Milk Maid - Dead Wrong

Milk Maid were formed by former Nine Black Alps bassist Martin Cohen, and released their debut album "Yucca" in June of this year. Now they are lining up to release their next single from the album, the fantastic "Dead Wrong."

"Dead Wrong" melds the dark undertones of Lou Reed's "Transformer", with the noisy simplicity of Teenage Fanclub's "Bandwagonesque" era and sublime pop melodies. Never before has darkness been so joyous.

"Dead Wrong" will be released as a 7 inch single on September 19th on FatCat Records, backed up with new song "I Know."

PIAS Distribution Warehouse burns down

For anyone who is a fan of independent music, this is really some shocking news indeed. From the Guardian:

"Numerous independent record labels fear they have lost a catastrophic amount of stock in a fire at a distribution warehouse in north London during the riots in the capital on Monday night. A three-storey, 20,000 square-metre building in Enfield, owned by Sony DADC and holding stock to be distributed by the Pias Group, was burned to the ground.

A statement on the Pias website read: "There was a fire last night at the SonyDADC warehouse which services the physical distribution for Pias in the UK and Ireland. Pias is working closely with SonyDADC who are implementing their emergency plans. Pias's UK offices in London and all other areas of our business are unaffected. More information will be communicated shortly to all our labels and partners."

Industry analyst Paul Scaife said: "Physical retail is still absolutely crucial to many in the independent sector and if – as seems quite likely – several smaller labels aren't covered by insurers, this could be the difference between survival and going out of business.""

It's only when you see the extent of all the record labels affected that you realise how catastrophic this situation really is. Great labels such as Angular, Domino, Chemikal Underground, Full Time Hobby, Kitsune, Memphis Industry, One Little Indian & Warp Records depend on PIAS for the distribution of their records, and to see the works of so many great artists on so many great labels go up in flames is heartbreaking indeed. It would be a shame if this turn of events led to the closure of just one of these fantastic labels.

If you want to do your bit to support any of the artists who have been affected by the fire, you can find a list of affected labels on the link above. If you take the time to buy just one album by one of the affected labels, then you will be doing your bit to prevent some of our great musical instututions from going out of business.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Bitter Ruin - Trust

Classically trained Brighton based duo Bitter Ruin formed in 2007, and since then have been winning over crowds and gaining new fans (whom they dub 'The Ruined') at an explosive rate, all without the support of a record label. They are gearing up for a re-release of their single "Trust" on October 3rd, and what a powerful song that is.

"Trust" is a brutal slice of powerful, theatrical pop, with co-vocalists Georgia Train and Ben Richards bouncing lyrics off each other like long-time sparring partners. The two of them spend their verses giving their own account of events that have occured, before their concurrent melodies slide effortlessly off each other in the massive chorus. "Trust" plays out like a song from a long-lost Steven Sondheim musical, and is all the better for it. Never before has pop been so dramatic.

You can check out the video below, which compliments the message of the song incredibly well.

Miaou - Own Your Colours

Japanese post-rock trio Miaou will be releasing their fourth studio album, "The Day Will come Before Long," on September 8th, their first full length album in three years. The band have released two songs from the album as a preview of the album. "Lost Souls" features Radical Face frontman Ben Cooper on guest vocals, but the song that really grabs my attention is the fantastic "Own Your Colours."

"Own Your Colours" sits on the 'achingly beautiful' end of the post-rock spectrum, with the six minute instrumental track building up from it's surreal acoustic guitar/computer going haywire intro into a powerful, uplifting tour-de-force by its climax. Miaou's transcendal sound is definately not one of this earth, but what's wrong with that?

Caught Live - Grand Forever/Lowly Knights/Captain Cameron/The Unprotected

Venue - Auntie Annies, Belfast.

Date - 7th August 2011

There was a good turnout for Grand Forever’s first Belfast gig, with a near capacity crowd filling Auntie Annies for the duration of the night. And the crowd, many of whom who were still recovering from this weekend’s Forfey Festival, were in for a treat as four diverse groups took to the stage.

“We’re not like the rest of them – we are beautiful and different,” exclaims St. Dave, the lead singer of self-proclaimed t***-rock five piece The Unprotected, during their opening set. And it would be hard to disagree with that. St. Dave, who is dressed for the duration of the gig in hot pants, leather boots and a Tottenham Hotspurs t-shirt, tends to tread the very fine line between endearing and annoying. Thankfully, he really knows how to get the crowd on his side, spending most of the gig running amongst the crowd, being the very definition of the flamboyant front man.

Not pictured - subtlety

Just when you think you’ve seen everything, The Unprotected have a surprise in store in the shape of Northern Irish music hero Peter Wilson aka Duke Special, who sings co-lead vocals on a very well received cover version of T-Rex’s “20th Century Boy.” Sometimes, there is nothing wrong with being beautiful and different.

The Unprotected, with the Duke.

With such an over-the-top opening act, the act that followed them had a very difficult task indeed. Thankfully, Captain Cameron more than held his own during his set. Starting out quite folky, his set got increasingly more rock orientated as it went on. Cameron promised that there would be “no cheesy covers” during his set, a promise he later went back on five songs in when his group broke into a cover of Aerosmith’s power ballad “I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing,” which went down very well with the crowd.

Captain Cameron in action.

Live favourites The Lowly Knights were next, with the folk-pop sextet more than winning over the local audience. The band utilized a massive arsenal of instruments throughout their set, with synths, mandolin, cello, and the xylophone complimenting the standard bass/drums/guitar combo, which sounded great on songs such as “Even Keel”, “Devotion” (a song that the enraptured crowd sung every single lyric to), and their handclap-friendly closing number “This Other Boys”, which really brought the house down.

And clarinet. Did I mention the clarinet?

“We’re not sixstarhotel. We’re not General Fiasco. We’re not Two Door Cinema Club,” were the soon to be immortal words that instrumental rock quartet Grand Forever used to mark their debut performance with. And it was very hard to disagree with them on those points. Grand Forever’s dance-rock style proved to be very popular indeed, with tracks such as “Kapillian”, “It Made Me Stand a Little Quieter”, and final track and potential single “Don’t Go Easy on Me” proving very popular during the fast paced set. The set seemed to draw to a close quite quickly, but whether it was due to the relative shortness of the songs or the enjoyability of their performance is anybody’s guess.

Grand Forever, doing their thing.

Auntie Annies has long been one of my favourite venues in Belfast, and with great performances such as the ones I witnessed this evening, it’s not hard to see why.