Sunday, 30 September 2012

Night Engine - I'll Make It Worth Your While

Sometimes when I hear a group for the first time, I try to play a game of 'spot the influences', where I attempt to find as many reference points as I can for the artist in question. Take London based quartet Night Engine for example. Formed in January of this year, the group have released their first track, "I'll Make It Worth Your While," which seems to act as a 'who's who' of trendy influences condensed down into 3 minutes of pure joy. Elements of Chic, David Bowie, Franz Ferdinand, Talking Heads, Human League & LCD Soundsystem. With great fun hits-in-waiting such as this one, as well as several upcoming gigs which have already sold out, it looks like the future could be rather rosy for the band.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Ottilia - The Sonic

It's been a good 9 months since TMB last checked in with Swedish-born, London based singer-songwriter Ottilia Kjulsten. You may recall that back in December she first appeared on the radar with the Phoenix-inspired "Forty Million Light Years". I say recall, as the track in question appears to have disappeared completely from the interweb, as if the song was nothing but a beautiful dream.

 Since then, she has been honing her craft, performing live around London and collaborating with a variety of exciting artists. Yesterday, the first fruit of her collaboration with Ed Harcourt made its first internet appearance. "The Sonic" is currently listed as being a demo, although it still sounds quite well-formed. 

It's a bit moodier than some of her other songs, being more akin to the sound Lana Del Rey than the quirky pop that made me fall in love with her in the first place. Nevertheless, it's a pretty strong tune, with some interesting production and engaging vocals from Miss Kjulsten, and has made me curious as what's still to come from her. 

The Harbourmaster - The Mega Yacht

Dear All Around The World Records,

How are things going? I hope this message finds you well.

I'm guessing that you might be confused at receiving a correspondence from this blog. After all, up until this point mainstream Hi-NRG dance music has been something that has not been associated with either myself or The Metaphorical Boat. However, the truth is that cheesy dance music has been somewhat of a guilty pleasure of mine, something which I attribute to the fact that many of your artists were scoring big hits around the same time that our family's TV first got a music channel back in 2003 (e.g Ultrabeat, Eyeopener, Special D). Having been aware of your label for so long, I'd like to think that I have a decent idea of what your output should sound like.

It is because of this that I would like to draw your attention to a song by Wiltshire based musician Marcus Abott, who release music under the name of The Harbourmaster. The song in question, "The Megayacht,"  was brought to my attention recently via Tom Robinson's Twitter feed, and it immediately got under my skin. It's a great piece of summer filled house music that calls to mind some of the recent output by Avicii, in particular the song "Levels". So why I am I letting you know about this track?

Because it needs to be a hit.

I don't think I've heard a hook as infectious in a commercial dance track in quite a while, and I feel that given the right targeted promotion, it could easily become your next big hit.

Now I know you might be a bit wary of the hit potential of the track due to its current length of 6 minutes and 2 seconds, which is good for DJ play, but not for radio playlist purposes. However, I feel that it is possible to make a radio edit of the song to cut it down to your preferred length of 2 minutes 30 seconds so it can be easily slotted into commercial radio playlists. I suggest that the radio edit should begin 1 minute 58 seconds into the current version, with minor edits made throughout the rest of the song that ensure it doesn't lose its original charm.

If you do, rather wisely, decide to licence this track, I have a few recommendations as to its release. Firstly, please resist the temptation to hire a 'rent-a-rapper' to make the song more 'appealing' to UK radio audiences. I have seen many a good dance song ruined due to the perception that UK radio audiences can't handle an instrumental dance track (c.f  "Riverside" & "Badman Riddim"), and it would be a shame to see it happen to "The Megayacht".

Secondly, if a video is made for the track, I would like to see something a bit more high concept than several youngish girls acting provocatively. There seems to be a perception that just because music has been created on a computer that it should instantly appeal to the lowest common denominator. I am fully aware of the mantra that 'sex sells', but I don't think it would do justice to this song. As other dance artists like Fatboy Slim & Chemical Brothers have shown, its possible to make high-concept (and in some cases, low budget) videos that match the mood of the piece. I know that given the song title there would be the temptation to just film several scantly-clad girls partying on a massive yacht, but I would like you to resist that temptation.

I really hope that you take the time to listen to this song, as it deserves to reach the biggest audience possible.

Yours sincerely,
Christopher McBride.
Captain of The Metaphorical Boat.

P.S. Whatever happened to DJ Casper?

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The 1975 - Sex

Most groups seem to have a trademark sound that marks them out whenever you hear them on the radio. With Teenage Fanclub, it's the group's close harmonies. With Vampire Weekend, it's their Afro-beat rhythms and quirky lyrics and with Oasis, it's their ripping off loving homages to The Beatles.

Which brings me nicely onto Manchester based quartet The 1975. The Manchester band's main trademark, as first heard on their last single "The City", are drum beats that are so big and so deep, that seems impossible that they were created by a human. I like to imagine that the drums were forged in a factory by an intelligent robot that disobeyed its master's wishes to make dental floss and instead created a drum kit that created abnormally deep beats, before being marked for destruction and escaping, to be hunted down Blade Runner style. The kit however found its way into the hands of The 1975, who would use its compressed sound as the cornerstone for its anthemic indie-rock.

Their latest E.P, "Sex", will be released on October 19th. They play in the Oh Yeah Centre, Belfast on December 12th.

September Girls - Green Eyed

Scuzzy garage-pop is the order of the day for Dublin based quintet September Girls. Formed in September  2011, the group's first release, a cassette only single, sold out within a week of its release in April this year. Their follow up release is "Green Eyed", a track that mixes dark garage sounds with sumptuous vocal harmonies taken from 60s girl groups on the chorus.

"Green Eyed" will be released as a limited edition 7" in October.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Wonder Villains - TV

There is absolutely nothing wrong with being pop. Sure, what we call pop has included travesties like Daphne & Celeste, Vanilla & Fe-m@il (don't look them up), but the term can be, and has been, applied to a-ha, T-Rex and yes, even The Beatles. What I'm trying to say that just because something is regarded as "pop", it does not automatically mean that it's disposable or frivolous.

This brings me nicely onto the new release by one of my favourite groups coming out of the north at the minute, Derry's Wonder Villains. People have taken to calling them indie-pop, alt-pop or even, God forbid, anti-pop. They are wrong, and they are not. Wonder Villains are a pop band. They make music to make you smile, to make you dance, to make you feel young at heart (and God knows there's times I need to feel that way) and above all, to make you sing along. There is no need to to re-label them in an attempt to get around the dreaded three letter word. Just embrace the exuberant, youthful pop of the colourful "TV", perhaps the most synth-heavy song the band have released in the past year, and just have a good time. 

"TV E.P" by Wonder Villains will be released on 29th October on No Dancing Records. 

Churches - The Mother We Share

Scottish trio Churches (stylized as Chvrches for archaic reasons) seem to be ticking all the right metaphorical boxes for 2013 super stardom. Having first getting people's attention with "Lies" during the first half of the year, gaining the support of both pop fans and hip new music blogs, the group are now gearing up to release their latest single. "The Mother We Share" is a fantastic slice of sleek M83-esque electro-pop, buoyed up by singer Lauren Mayberry's girlish yet engaging vocals.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Caught Live: Rams' Pocket Radio/Pretty Child Backfire/Katharine Philippa

Venue: Limelight 2, Belfast

Date: 21st September 2012

It’s the start of a new era at the newly christened Limelight 2 (previously The Limelight), as tonight marks the start of a new weekly event in the venue. Transmit is to be a weekly showcase of three upcoming artists from Northern Ireland. In that respect, it finds itself in direct competition with Radar Live, an event with a similar outlook which has been running every Thursday in The Speakeasy for several years. That’s probably why the organizers have nabbed a headliner who is on the verge of making serious waves for their debut event.

But before that we’ve got two artists whose music couldn’t be any more different. The first act up is Katharine Philippa. She is performing on her own, ably assisted by a loop pedal and a laptop. She seems to be rather awkwardly placed on the stage, as her keyboard appears to be angled away from the audience. There is a lot of space in her music, with most of her songs sounding as if it they have been situated somewhere between the xx and John Cage’s “4:33”. Her vocal style seems to share the same eccentricity as Bjork, although she appears to be a somewhat more reserved character. The highlight of her set is her mash-up of songs by Gotye, Labrinth & Lana Del Rey, which is about as odd as it sounds.

There is a complete change of pace for the next artist, heavy indie quartet Pretty Child Backfire. They inform us that this is to be their last gig before they record their debut album, so they aim to ensure that the crowd keeps them on their mind before their enforced hibernation. Their songs make use of unconventional rhythmic structures and short but memorable guitar hooks which call to mind Vampire Weekend (although I did spend the set arguing with someone who claimed they sounded more like U2). “We Can Last…” and “All The Things …” have a great feel to them, whilst “The Swell & The Break”, with its terrace chant backing vocals, sounds like it could be a potential live favourite. Unfortunately, a technological problem means that they are left unable to perform their intended set closer (“I Wish I Knew You Better”), but they soldier on and perform “Gentlemen’s Afternoon” instead, concluding what has been a solid set from the guys.

Following massive support slots for both Snow Patrol and Matchbox 20, this evening’s headliner is Peter McCauley, aka piano-rock maestro Rams’ Pocket Radio, who is performing tonight as a four-piece. The set gets off to an incredible start, with three of his most epic songs, “Dogs Run In Packs”, which features some of his trademark keyboard breakdowns, “1+2” & “Dieter Rams” being fired off in quick succession. Putting his biggest hitters at the very beginning of the set is perhaps not the best move, as the crowd appears to get less enthusiastic at the set goes on. Other highlights of the set include the Billy Joel-esque “Numbers/Letter/Architecture” and the sprawling “Sickness & the Taste.” They finish off the set with a brand new song, “Aria”, with begins with a bleepy-bloopy intro and concludes with an enthusiastic three man drum breakdown. As the band leave the stage to a great applause, it is clear as to why Rams’ have been so highly tipped.   

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Echotape - Spinning/Awakening

Hailing from the south of England, quintet Echotape have taken the concept of art-rock to a whole new level. This is because the music video for their latest single, "Spinning", also forms part of an art installation which is on display at the Tate Modern. The song itself is decent attempt to emulate a British version of The Killers, in particular calling to mind their song "All These Things I've Done."

"Spinning" will be released as a double A-side single on October 22nd, twinned with the more ambient sounds of  "Awakening".

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Album Review: Mumford & Sons - Babel

(Gentlemen of the Road/Island)

When Mumford & Sons released their debut album "Sigh No More" back in 2009, no-one could possibly have predicted the monumental success that would greet it. Emerging from the much hyped London folk scene alongside artists such as Noah & The Whale, Laura Marling & Jay Jay Pistolet, Mumford & Sons towered well above their peers, with "Sigh No More" selling in excess of 1.2 million copies in the UK and spawning two massive hit singles, "Little Lion Man" & "The Cave". Bigger things were to come, with the album becoming a smash hit in America, going double platinum and leading to the band performing with Bob Dylan at the Grammys. 

Three years later, and the band are gearing up to release their sophomore album, "Babel". Much has changed in the intervening years. Whilst their peers have gone off in different musical directions (N&TW going mainstream rock, Marling going country & Pistolet becoming lead singer of indie darlings The Vaccines), the "Mumford sound" has become somewhat ubiquitous, with hundreds of groups emerging that have followed their anthemic, literate folk blueprint to the letter. So the question surrounding the follow-up is this: do Mumford & Sons alter their sound at the risk of losing followers, or do they stick rigidly to the sound of their debut record?

Well, given that the lead single for this album, "I Will Wait", is a re-recorded version of a track that first featured on the b-side of "The Cave", the answer to this appears to be, for the most part, the latter. Anyone looking for "Sigh No More" Mk2 will be very pleased with this follow-up. Many of the trademarks of the Mumford & Sons sound can once again be found on this record. The instrument set-up of banjo/guitar/bass/drums remains largely unchanged. So too is the band's tendency to start a song rather muted, before bringing in the drums & banjo to bring the song to a rousing climax (c.f  "Holland Road", "Lovers' Eyes", "Hopeless Wanderer"). The notable exception is "Reminder", which features just Marcus Mumford's vocals and guitar, which is the tenderest track on the record, as he sings about his "stoic mind and bleeding heart".

Some of the Christian lyrical themes that featured on the debut also appear on this album. "Below My Feet" features the lyric "I was told by Jesus all is well, so all is well". "Broken Crown", which is by far the angriest song on the album, alludes to both Judas and the story of Adam and Eve, whilst the title track, which no doubt is a contender to be the next single from the album, refers to the city in the Bible where everybody spoke a common language before being scattered across the world.

But despite recreating some of the ideas featuring on the debut album, "Babel" is still a worthwhile follow-up. For a start, the band sound a lot more confident than they did on the first album. The experience of several years of touring have had a positive effect on the recording of this album, with the tracks sounding as if they were designed for rousing shout-alongs at concerts.

The remarkable success of  "Sigh No More" and its subsequent influence on the music industry meant that Mumford & Sons are taking a risk by releasing an album which doesn't veer to strongly away from its blueprint. It is to their credit therefore that "Babel" is a more than worthy successor. When it comes to creating the Mumford & Sons sound, which is literate, intelligent, rousing folk music tailored for the rock crowd, there is only one band in the world that can ever reach those heights, and that is its originators. Whether album number 3 will see a seismic shift in their sound remains to be seen.

Released: 24th September 2012

Highlights: "Babel", "Hopeless Wanderer", "Reminder", "Below My Feet".

Monday, 17 September 2012

Charley Bickers - My Goodbye

Charley Bickers is most certainly a well connected fellow, based on the assortment of guests who are lined up to appear on his upcoming album. They include Coldplay's string arranger, Fyfe Dangerfield of The Guillemots, as well as Simon Jones and Nick McCabe, best known for being members of The Verve.

The first single to be taken from the album is the tender "My Goodbye". It's a personal ode to losing someone and realizing that you didn't get the chance to say your farewells, and a song built to pull at the heartstrings.

"My Goodbye" will be released on October 7th, and will feature on his debut album, "Our Frail Hearts."

Friday, 14 September 2012

Ireland Tunes - Round-Up #6

And so summer turns into Autumn, and another month passes in the various distractions between sleep that we call life. And true to form, this month brings about another set of tunes from the island of Ireland that floats The Metaphorical Boat. From the rocking, to the sensitive, to the downright bizarre, there's something for everyone in this month's round-up (as long as you're looking for tunes that are either rocking, sensitive or downright bizarre).

Kodaline - All I Want

The music of Dublin based quartet Kodaline first plopped into my inbox at the start of July, when I was sent information about their self-titled E.P. Whilst there was some things to like about them, in particular their wonderful video for "Lose Your Mind" (which features a modern-day, Jeremy Kyle inspired guru), I didn't really engage with them that much. Until this week, when I looked at the UK iTunes chart and realized something.

Kodaline are going to be massive.

As of writing (Friday 14th), "All I Want" looks certain to become a hit for the band. A minor, top 75 hit, but a hit nonetheless. For a debut release from a band with lots of room still to grow, this is a wonderful achievement (although it should be noted that the band did have a number 1 single in 2007 under their former name, 21 Demands. However, this was in the Irish charts, where you need to sell approximately 27 copies to reach the top spot). As for the tune itself, "All I Want" is a piece of anthemic-sounding rock very much in the U2/Coldplay, which will stand them in very good stead for their inevitable nomination in the BBC Sound of 2013 poll.


Heritage Centre - The Boss

Dublin based quintet Heritage Centre release their debut album, "Alright, Check It Out" this week. It has been produced by David Newfield, who has worked with Broken Social Scene & Los Campesinos. Taken from the album is "The Boss", a track that combines the hearty energy of Edward Sharpe with the pop sensibilities of Phoenix.


Sethway - The Constant

Hailing from Ballymena, pop-punk quintet Sethway have been on the go for several years now, but are only now beginning to really find their feet musically. Their latest single, "The Constant", is scheduled for release on September 24th, and sees the band with a new-found confidence. Massive guitars, rousing vocal chants & emo-inspired vocals make this a new watershed moment for the band as they go forward into the wild blue yonder.


Owen Denvir - Stones From Paris

Multi-instrumentalist & occasional viola player for Rams' Pocket Radio, Owen Denvir has recently released his debut album, "Scenarios of Her". The highlight of the album is "Stones From Paris", which best encapsulates the sound of the record. The song takes the tried and tested singer/songwriter formula and adds some subtle electronic noodling into the mix, calling to mind some of the tunes of David Gray's seminal "White Ladder" album.


Little Miss Stakes - Dr. Frankenstein

Yes, I find it hard to believe too: Belfast has got its own horror-punk band. "Dr. Frankenstein" is taken from the debut E.P from Little Miss Stakes, which is wonderfully titled "Bela Lugosi's Pro Skater 3," and is a fun little piece of Misfits inspired punk.

Born With Stripes - Sundream

The sunny days of summer may be long over us (at least in Belfast anyway), but one band have just released a song that will hopefully add a bit of warmth into these cold autumn days. Born in Leeds and based in Nottingham, Born With Stripes make upbeat indie-pop inspired by The Lemonheads & Black Lips. Their latest single, "Sundream", is a lovely piece of guitar-pop, which calls to mind a version of The Pains of Being Pure At Heart in which their singer doesn't feel the need to hush his voice or hide it behind mountains of reverb.

"Sundream" is available to download now.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Public Service Broadcasting - Everest

If you had told me at the start of the year that my favourite new artist of 2012 would be a duo who mix electronica and rock with vocals sampled from old public information films, I would no doubt have laughed in your face. Then Public Service Broadcasting happened.

At the start of the year, the London duo released "ROYGBIV", which was based around samples of films heralding the beginning of colour TV. They followed it up in May with the fantastic 'War Room E.P", which took its inspiration from WWII-era films. The E.P was a resounding success for the group. The 12" version of the EP sold out before its official release date, which led to a re-printed CD version following in August. It even made the UK indie chart, with two of the songs taken from it, "Spitfire" and "London Can Take It", receiving extensive airplay on 6music. Excellent stuff for a group who still self-release their material.

Now, Public Service Broadcasting are gearing up to release their next single. Not one to abandon their winning formula, their latest song, "Everest", is based around samples taken from The Conquest of Everest, a film which follows the success of Edmund Hillary and Tenzig Norgay's successful climb of Mount Everest in 1953. In comparison with the sound of  "The War Room", whose harsh beats reflected the reality of WWII life, "Everest" is a much dreamier affair, in reflection of the pinnacle of human achievement that was achieved back in 1953 by those brave mountaineers. It's a euphoric song, and one that should remind us that nothing is impossible.

Back in the 1920s, mountaineer George Mallory was asked by an interviewer why he wanted to climb Mount Everest. He is reported to have gruffly replied "because it's there." Perhaps that is the reason why Public Service Broadcasting choose to take samples from old films to meld with their electronica masterpieces - because they are there, and because we still have so much to learn from them.

"Everest" will be released on November 12th to coincide with a UK-wide tour.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Fossil Collective - On & On

What is it about Leeds and good music, seriously? That's not a rhetorical question by the way, I want an explanation as to why there's so much great new music coming out of the city at the moment. In the form of haiku, if possible.

The most recent band from the city to catch my attention are duo Fossil Collective. Having released their debut E.P to critical acclaim off the back of tours with Benjamin Francis Leftwich and Ren Harvieu, the band are gearing up to release their sophomore E.P. The first track to be taken from it is "On And On", which is a gorgeous piece of music indeed. Whilst the vocals call to mind James Walsh of Starsailor, the instrumentation seems to be rooted firmly into folk-rock, and even finds time to fit in a flute solo. 

The band have also released a stop-motion music video for the track, although I should inform you that despite featuring a deer and a wolf ballroom dancing, it is a bit of a downer. It is recommended therefore that you line up some videos of cats doing cute things once this one concludes. 

"On & On" is the title track of the 2nd E.P by Fossil Collective, and will be released on October 22nd. 

Friday, 7 September 2012

KOPPS - Bastard Baby

I am not a fan of profanity. At all. I very rarely use it in real life, and I try to eschew using it altogether on the internet. Unfortunately, artists such as KOPPS come along who make it very hard for me to avoid doing so permanently. 

The New York based trio ply their trade making delightfully dark dance tunes inspired by psychotherapy and an analysis of sexuality. The first song to come from their upcoming E.P, "Bastard Baby", combines the dark synths of Fuck Buttons with Beth Ditto-esque vocals, little snippets of mid 90s commercial dance, as well as an infectious saxophone hook, an instrument that has been scientifically proven* to be the sexiest out there. 

"Bastard Baby" is currently available as a free download. It will feature on their upcoming E.P "Fuck Jams", which will be released of September 25th as a download, cassette, and in a move that will bring pleasure to many, as a condom. 

*In this context, 'scientifically proven' means "something I just made up to reinforce my point."

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

More Than Conquerors - When The Well Runs Dry

It's fair to say that this summer has been rather rosy for Belfast based quartet More Than Conquerors. Following some high-profile festival sets at both T In The Park & Glasgowbury, the band found themselves added to the Radio 1 Introducing Playlist with "Bear Knuckle Fight", following in the footsteps of other local groups (Kowalski, The Wonder Villains, Rams' Pocket Radio, Yes Cadets) who also got that nod.

In anticipation of their upcoming UK tour, including a Belfast date tomorrow (6th September) in Auntie Annies, the band have brought out the first single which will feature on their Smalltown America released debut album. "When The Well Run Dry" is a fine piece of heavy, thundering alt-rock in the 30 Seconds to Mars/Jimmy Eat World tradition. If it gains the same amount of support as their last release, then if is clear than More than Conquerors could be the heaviest band from the north to break through nationally for some time.

"When The Well Runs Dry" is available to download now.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The Metaphorical Boat Album Briefs - September 2012

It's that time again where The Metaphorical Boat takes a look at some of the albums that have ticked our fancy recently. 

Eugene McGuinness - The Invitation to The Voyage


He's signed to Domino Records, the label that did rather well from the success of Arctic Monkeys, and he plays guitar in Miles Kane's live band. So surely the third album from Eugene McGuinness, "The Invitation to The Voyage", can only sound like one thing, right?

Well prepare yourselves to be amazed, for the album is not a series of "Favourite Worst Nightmares" knockoffs, but a collection of ten intelligent, sophisticated, grown-up pop tunes. Eugene McGuinness comes across as a rather literate fellow, with the lyrics of "Harlequinade" referencing the commedia dell'Arte, and "Japanese Cars" teaching me a new word: 'tarantism' (which according to the Free Dictionary, is a "A disorder characterized by an uncontrollable urge to dance, especially prevalent in southern Italy from the 15th to the 17th century and popularly attributed to the bite of a tarantula."

There's some side-splitting word-play on the only guitar-heavy track, "Lion" (sample lyric: "I'm sitting on the ventriloquist's knee, allowing his hand somewhere it shouldn't be"), whilst "Shotgun" channels the spirit of Henry Mancini by way of Tricky. Overall, it's a highly enjoyable set of pop gems, and it's a real contender for my album of the year come December.

Released: August 2012

Highlights: Harlequinade, Lion, Videogame. 


The Vaccines - Come of Age


Has there been a band in recent memory that has inspired such Marmite reactions than The Vaccines? Their supporters see them as the band that have brought (or attempted to bring) indie-rock back into the mainstream, whilst their detractors have considered them as a watered-down version of the major label-led "landfill indie" blight of the mid-00s. I suppose that for myself, I have been somewhat of a cautious supporter of the band. Although I declared "Norgaard" my favourite single of 2011, I acknowledged that their album was not as consistent as it could have been.

With their second album "Come of Age", out this week, both the band's supporters/detractors will have something to cheer/moan about. The band don't really change things up too much on this album, with the exception of ridding itself of the sub 2-minute tracks (which were my favourite moments of the last album, incidentally). The band showcase their literacy in popular music throughout, with slight musical references to popular songs. "I Always Knew" features a riff not too dissimilar to "Crocodile Rock", "Aftershave Ocean" calls to mind "Days" by The Kinks, whilst it's hard to to listen to "Weirdo" without immediately thinking of "Creep".

Perhaps the most ill-advised track on the album is "I Wish I Was A Girl" (which isn't a cover of the early 00s song by Violent Delights). The song attempts to be a Franz Ferdinand-esque strutter, but comes across as just laughable. I'm sure that feminists will be delighted to hear that Justin Young wants to be a girl because "life is easy when you're easy on the eye." There is the possibility that the track is supposed to be satirical, although if someone was to claim that The Vaccines' whole career was just one long satirical joke, I imagine there'd be many people who wouldn't be surprised.

But anyway, "Come of Age" is more of the same from a band who have some decent tunes.

Released: September 2012

Highlights: Teenage Icon, Weirdo, Bad Mood

. -----------------------------------------------------------

The Burning of Rome - With Us

(Surfdog Records)

Having reviewed the lead single from San Diego band The Burning of Rome's debut album, "With Us", a few weeks ago I was expecting the entire album to showcase the same gloriously bonkers style as offered on "Ballad on An Onion Sprout." However, it seems like that song was something of a false friend, as the rest of the album, with the exception of the Little Shop of Horrors sampling "Audrey II", the album seems to be rather...normal.

Which isn't to say it's a bad album, as it does have some good tunes on it, in a very eclectic range of styles. "Little Piranhas" is a great piece of Arcade Fire-esque alt-rock, "Norman Bates" has the feeling of Depeche Mode about it, and "Cowboys & Cut Cigars" sounds like either The Black Keys if they were 87% more evil, or Marylin Manson if he was 13% less evil. The song that owes the most debt to another artist however is "Opus For Sleeping", which I can only conclude has only been composed in order to mock the overly bombastic music of Muse.

It's an incredibly varied kaleidoscopic album that flirts with many different styles, which unfortunately comes at the cost of any real cohesiveness. There's some real gems to be found here however, and because no song on the album sounds like another, there's bound to be at least one song on this album you can fall in love with.

Released: September 2012

Highlights: Ballad of An Onion Sprout, Cowboys & Cut Cigars, Opus for Sleeping.


Elbow - Leaders of the Free World

Look at me reviewing an album from 7 years ago. I'm really on the cusp of new musical discoveries. 

There seems to be a growing feeling in popular culture that despite releasing three albums that sold reasonably well, Elbow's career didn't really start until 2008 with "The Seldom Seen Kid", an attitude that I must confess I also shared. This attitude hasn't really been helped by the band themselves, seeing that during their recent sets all but three of the songs didn't feature on either "SSK" or "Build a Rocket Boys". Having listened to "Leaders of the Free World" for the first time recently, I'm starting to think that their earlier material deserves to be removed from the shadows of their most recent work.

The notable thing about "Leaders of the Free World" is that unlike their recent work, which seems happy to flirt with mid-tempo stadium anthemics, this is a straight-up rock album. I've felt sorry for Elbow drummer Richard Jupp, as he doesn't seem to have had much to do on recent albums (I remember the band's performance of "Lippy Kids" during the Mercury Prize, where all he seemed to do for the song's duration was dust his symbols). On "Leaders of the Free World", he gets to flex his muscles on stompers such as "Forget Myself" and the deeply political title track (this album was released during the height of the Bush Administration). Sure, there were hints of what was to come on tracks such as "The Stops" and "My Very Best", but above all this album shows a louder, more aggressive side to Elbow that they deserve to bring out on a regular basis. 

Released: September 2005

Highlights: Forget Myself, The Stops, Leaders of the Free World.


Various Artists - Doesn't Your Balloon Ever Land?

(Sweeping the Nation)

There seems to be an unwritten law which states that "the longer a music blog is running, its odds of releasing a compilation album reaches 1". Because I am not an egotistical person, I hereby dub this rule "McBride's Law".

The latest music blog to release a compilation of their favourite tunes is the wonderful UK based Sweeping the Nation, with the release entitled "Does Your Balloon Ever Land?". There's a few tracks from great acts that I've mentioned before on this blog, including local boys Amateur Historians, This Many Boyfriends (with a sneak preview track from their upcoming debut album) and Maybeshewill. There's also great tracks from Runaround Kids, Nature Set & Screaming Maldini.

The album is currently on sale for the reasonable price of £3 for 25 tracks. That's the equivalent of three Battenberg Cakes, or 4 Caramac Bars. All the proceeds from the release will directly benefit Macmillan Cancer Support, so really don't have an excuse not to buy it.

Released: August 2012

Highlights: Lesser Loved, Just Saying, The Party & The Aftermath.

Dark Horses - Alone

Hailing from Brighton, sextet Dark Horses seem to have a sound that treads the line between Garbage and The xx. Their latest single, "Alone", is produced by Richard Fearless from Death In Vegas, and mixes a forward thinking production style with an incredibly funky bassline, and vocals that go from vulnerable to powerful over the course of it's running time. 

"Alone" will be released on October 22nd, with their debut album "Black Music" to follow on October 29th. 

(N.B - Dark Horses should not be confused with Dublin band A Dark Horse, as featured on the blog back in June)

Monday, 3 September 2012

Andrew Montgomery - I Sing the Body Electric

Earlier this week, I was made aware of a new release from Andrew Montgomery, singer in one of the most underrated bands of the late 90s, Geneva.

I'd first came across Geneva a couple of years ago when I asked the owner of a local independent music shop if he had anything in stock similar to Suede. He recommended their album "Weather Underground", which had been released in 2000 on the same record label as Suede, and I immediately fell for it. A concept album based around mankind's attempt to re-settle on the Moon, its biggest strength was the powerful voice of frontman Andrew Montgomery, whose searing falsetto dominated the proceeding on songs such as "Dollars in the Heavens" and the beautiful "If You Have To Go". Unfortunately, due to promotional issues and delays in its release, it sold bugger all, and the band split shortly after. It's a real shame, as "Weather Underground" ranks amongst my top 20 albums of the noughties, and really deserves to be re-appraised after all these years.

 I'd been following the fortunes of Mr Montgomery for the past few years to see if there was any new music coming from him. Back in 2009 I thought I heard a new song from him on 6music, although it later turned out to be "Hooting & Howling" by Wild Beasts (incidentally, I gave my own copy of "Weather Underground" to the band after they played in Belfast to see if they would like it, but they never got back to me. Would love to have heard their thoughts.) At one point he was involved in a project called St. Famous, but that one seemed to have fallen by the wayside.

However, earlier this week I was informed that not only was Andrew Montgomery still recording, but he has a new album ready for release by the end of the year. Even more promisingly, it has been produced by Sean McGhee, whose latest project Artmagic is a collaboration with Richard Oakes of Suede. The first fruits of their collaboration is "I Sing the Body Electric", a song that shows that Montgomery's has lost none of its tone, strength, nor vulnerability in the intervening years. It is a real thing of beauty, and has really whetted my appetite for the upcoming album when it is released.