Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Sounds of System Breakdown - Mayfly

I stumbled across Dublin trio Sounds of System Breakdown after they made the final shortlist considered for inclusion in Derry-Londonderry's Other Voices Showcase, alongside other acts like blog favourites Little Bear. Their latest single, "Mayfly", is a lovely electronic rock track, with a gorgeous understated chorus ("let's surface, so the weight of the world can hurt us"), and a quirky central guitar riff/synth interplay. The song calls to mind the songs of Two Door Cinema Club, Ladyhawke, and a little bit of Human League too.

"Mayfly" is taken from Sounds of System Breakdown's 2nd album, "Nomad", which will be released on 1st March.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The Deadline Shakes - Boy

Glasgow quartet The Deadline Shakes have picked up a bit of support recently for their first two singles. They have received radio support from the likes of Steve Lamacq and Tom Robinson, as well as being featured in various corners of the blogosphere. Now the band have lined up the release of their second official single, "Boy", which is a shiny little gem indeed.

"Boy" is a tune that straddles the lines between indie-rock, folk and power-pop, coming across like a mixture between The Leisure Society and Belle & Sebastian. With a pure sense of joyous wistfulness, as well as a great appreciation for a well-constructed wall of sound, The Deadline Shakes have a style that should find them great admires across the UK.

"Boy" will be released on March 18th.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Northern Ireland Tunes - Round-Up #10

Here is the first round-up of various tunes from Northern Ireland that have piqued my interest this month. As it's a new year, this is the first time that these artists have gained a mention on this blog, and hopefully it won't be the last.

Hannah McPhillimy - Jailhouse Blues

For the second year running, the Oh Yeah Centre is running Scratch My Progress, a scheme whereby four local performers are given guidance by industry professionals so that they can eventually have a long career in the music industry. Katharine Philippa took part in the scheme last year, and ended up playing in the Ulster Hall off the back of it. 

This year, the artists selected for the scheme include Go Wolf, Howl & Basic Translation. However, the artist from the scheme that seems to have piqued the most interest so far is Hannah McPhillimy. Take a listen below to "Jailhouse Blues", and it's easy to see why. It's the sort of song that instantly transports you to a smoky cafe in the corner of New Orleans. 


Kept Under Glass - I Don't Even Like Clubs

Long drum introduction? Check. Power chords? Check. Lovely guitar riffs? Check. A distaste for sweaty clubs that play the same monotonous beats over and over and over again? The debut single from Carryduff alt-rocke trio Kept Under Glass, "I Don't Even Like Clubs", ticks all my metaphorical boxes. Plus, any guitarist who claims to have fingers of uranium-235 gets a big plus in anybody's book.


Bellos - Something In My Mind

Formed in August 2012, Belfast trio Bellos seem to be channeling the spirit of Kurt Cobain, if their debut single "Something In My Mind" is anything to go by. It's a promising start for a band who seem to be channeling a different set of influences to many of their Belfast contemporaries.


Bee Mick See - Hey Girl

And to finish off this round-up, here's some Norn Iron rap, courtesy of Oregon born, Belfast based Bee Mick See. "Hey Girl", the lead track from his new E.P "Birds Over Nupes" (whatever that means), takes influences from rock, ska (members of Pocket Billiards provide the horns), and grime (the song samples the same drums as "Fix Up Look Sharp"). Lyrically, there is no doubt the song could have been formulated anywhere but Northern Ireland, given the song references Boojum, Phoenix Gas, Antrim and Cow & Gate.

One criticism - using Bob Mould's name as an insult doesn't go down well with someone who considers "If I Can't Change Your Mind" to be one of the greatest pop songs ever written.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Crash & the 'Coots - Don't Kill Bugs

Having slimmed down to a three-piece since the release of their "John Coles Park" E.P, Crash & The Coots have released the first track to be taken from their upcoming E.P release. "Don't Kill Bugs" is a sub 2 minute blast of quirky low-fi alternate rock, that sits somewhere between Cake & The Flaming Lips sonically. Lyrically, the band claim that the song's central message is "as big of a statement as we will ever make." If followers of Jainism were ever in need of an anthem to promote their cause, then this song might be the one for them.

"Don't Kill Bugs" is available as a free download, and is taken from the "Hill Rise" EP, which will be released on March 25th.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Kodaline - High Hopes

Since they shot into the public consciousness in September with the release of the "All I Want" E.P, Dublin quintet Kodaline seem to have hit upon the winning formula for band success. The formula goes something like this:

Post-Coldplay influenced emotional indie x YouTube-baiting music video guaranteed to pull at the heartstrings = Popularity.

Having hit pay dirt with this formula for their first E.P, the group have continued this marriage on to the release of their 2nd E.P. The animated video for "The Answer" which dropped a few weeks ago is particularly emotion-catching, but the music video for the E.P's title track, "High Hopes", is almost exploitative in its appeal to human emotions. The video in question sees a man being saved from suicide by the woman he loves, only to see her shot to death in front of her eyes by an aggrieved party.

By the way, remember the name Stevie Russell in the future. He's the person who directed this music video. Given his ability to manipulate emotions in his directing, I'm sure a long and prosperous career in Academy Award-baiting weepies awaits him.

So is the video manipulative, or just brilliant? At the moment, I feel it's a mix of both, but watch it for yourselves and let me know what you think:

"High Hopes E.P" by Kodaline will be released on 18th March, with their debut album "In a Perfect World" to follow a week later.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The Fiery Piano - Scene From A Science Fictional Love Story

Dusty indie-pop is the order of the day from Stockholm native Gustaf Montelius, who records under the moniker The Fiery Piano. Inspired by a love of space, the rather wordy "Scene From a Science Fictional Love Story" is a charming piece of indie-pop from the project, which just goes to show just why the Swedes have a great reputation for pop songs.

"Scene From a Science Fiction Love Story" is available as a free download, and is taken from The Fiery Piano's debut album "Second Space", which is out now.

Kagoule - Mudhole

Nottingham based trio Kagoule appear to have a pioneered a new genre on their latest single "Mudhole", one which I didn't think could possibly exist - intimate grunge. The song sees distortion turned up to the maximum, yet doesn't cause the listener to drown in feedback. Think of it as strange cross between The xx and Pearl Jam.

"Mudhole" will be released as a single on February 25th.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

The 1975 - Chocolate

Having charmed me in 2012 with their single "Sex", as well as impressed me with their live performance in Belfast last month, Manchester quartet The 1975 are gearing up to make 2013 their year. Ahead of their debut album planned for later this year, as well as a trailer for their 3rd E.P, the band have released their latest song, "Chocolate", which is a delicious little ditty indeed.

From the sound of it, the group have been taking a few cues from label mates Little Comets, given the adoption of syncopated rhythms and a similar vocal pattern to Robert Coles. The sound is still distinctively The 1975 though, even if the track sees them abandoning the incredibly deep drums that I had taken to be the band's trademark. With its sophisticated production, and its appealing pop aesthetic, "Chocolate" should be the track that firmly silences the band's naysayers, and should give the group's core followers something else to cherish.

"Chocolate" is taken from their upcoming E.P "Music For Cars", which will be released on 4th March

Monday, 21 January 2013

B>E>A>K - Night Owls

What a great way to offset a dreary Monday. Everyone's favourite Sunderland based avian-rock collective B>E>A>K have released their first new tune of 2013. As if that wasn't exciting enough, the band have released a stop-motion music video to coincide with the release, which premiered on earlier today.

The song, "Night Owls", sees the group incorporating vocals into their sound for the first time, as well as featuring prominent synth lines as well. The music video is an incredibly strange beast indeed, featuring a twig-based raven doing battle with an apple-birth beast, all whilst an old radio tries to dance along in the most appropriate fashion.

And I've managed to write about B>E>A>K without resorting to bird puns. What a lark.

"Night Owls" is taken from "The Blue Edition", which will be released on February 18th.

EDIT 25th January: it appears that the original video for "Night Owls" has been taken off the internet due to copyright issues, as the footage was re-edited from a 2010 short film. However, the song itself is still available to listen to on YouTube:

Stagecoach - Threequel (plus a Cat in a Hat)

Yesterday I was sent the link to the new track by London based quintet Stagecoach, which will feature on their upcoming album to be released in May. "Threequel" is a fine piece of fuzzy indie-pop, which is very much worth downloading.

However, the band's record label, Alcopop!, felt that just offering the band's song as a free E.P wasn't enough. So in a stroke of marketing genius, the label have created a playlist for myself and several other music bloggers containing songs from both Stagecoach, and other members of the Alcopop roster tailored specifically for each individual blog. Even more exciting, each playlist comes with its own exclusive cat wearing a hat, because if there's one thing the Egyptians and the internet have in common, it's their worship of cats. Above you can see The Metaphorical Boat's rather dapper cat. They missed a trick by not putting it in a sailor's hat, but given that I don't get sent pictures of cats with music that often, I'm willing to forgive them.

All the songs on Alcopop's Cat in A Hat Sampler are available to download for free, with TMB's compilation featuring songs from Freeze The Atlantic, Bear Cavalry, Glow Kit and My First Tooth.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Best Boy Grip - The Clerk EP

It's been just over a year since Eoin O'Callaghan, aka Best Boy Grip released his debut E.P "Barbara", which introduced the world to his charming piano-pop style. Since then, they've picked up consistant airplay locally and played to increasingly receptive audiences, including a well-received set at the Glasgowbury Festival. And if that wasn't enough, one of their songs was chosen as the introduction music for the UTV weather, and there's not many people who can claim to introduce Frank Mitchell* every night.

Best Boy Grip's second E.P, "The Clerk", is one which sees O'Callaghan developing the group's sound further, adding new instruments and structures, all whilst keeping the charm that made them such a delightful proposition in the first place. That's not to say there's a few curveballs thrown in - the first 6 seconds of the title track gives the impression that a David Guetta-esque club banger is imminent. Thankfully, this is something of a red herring, with the track itself being a great piano-led tune with great brass arrangements and subtle switches between 4/4 and 3/4.

Elsewhere of the E.P, "Postman" has a real Supertramp vibe to it, whilst the subtle, stripped-back arrangement of "Aim" shows the group at its most fragile and delicate. In contrast, the final track on the E.P, "Sun Lotion", sees Best Boy Grip at its most vibrant - with a driving rhythm dominating the final half of the track. Whether the lyrical nod to fellow Derry lads The Undertones on that song was intentional or not remains to be seen.

"The Clerk E.P" is a worthy sophomore release for Best Boy Grip. Although nothing on the E.P comes close to matching the pop perfection of "Barbara", it acts as a good representation of the evolution of their sound, and is one that will make any future release for them a must-have.

"The Clerk E.P" is available to buy now.

*For those not from Northern Ireland, think Michael Fish with a love of town-based riddles. 

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Retriever - Come On

In the 18 months since the blog last visited Newcastle based group Retriever, the band have shaken things up a little. They have abandoned ol' Echo and expanded to a four-piece with the introduction of a live drummer (Fintan Dawson, formerly of fellow Geordies Cult Image). With a new release with the updated line-up forthcoming, the group have made their first song, "Come On", available as a free download

Whilst the song is lighter than some of their previous material, it still finds itself in dark territory, like the difference between Night Jewels and Rum Caramel on the Dulux Colour Chart. With the similar sounding Savages being tipped for big things in 2013, the Siouxie-inspired Retriver could see their music receive a much more appreciative audience over the next few months. 

"Come On" is taken from the group's upcoming E.P, which is due for release in the spring. 

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Ruairi and The Owls - About You

Taking time away from his role in alt-rockers Furlo, Limavady lad Ruairi Connolly takes things into folksier territory through his Ruairi & The Owls project. Having impressed last year with the summer release of the "Fishing in Your Dark" EP, as well as the accompanying single "Let You Out" (featuring Rainy Boy Sleep), the collective are gearing up to release their first E.P of 2013. In order to promote the release, they have made the first song from the release, "About You", available as a free download.

"About You" is a tender song about being in an unhappy relationship, whilst acknowledging the pain that love can cause ("This heart starts to beat, but this overrated meat, has got me in the s*** so many times"), over a folk-rock backdrop complete with interlocking boy/girl harmonies. If you're not familiar with Ruairi & The Owls, then the track acts as a great introduction to their tender sound. And if you were already familiar with them, then "About You" should cement their reputation in your head as a band unafraid to wear their heart on their sleeve.

"About You" is taken from the E.P "Rip Through Her Sky", which will be released on 18th January.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Darktown Jubilee - Stay

Anthemic-sounding indie is the order of the day for Manchester based group Darktown Jubilee. Mixed by Cenzo Townsend, who's worked with The Vaccines and Lightning Seeds in the past, "Stay" is the sound of a group not necessarily reinventing the wheel, but of a band accepting the wheel as an inevitability and ensuring that said wheel does a good job of staying on the road. That is to say, it's a rather decent tune.

"Stay" will be released as a single on February 18th, ahead of their debut album "The World, The Flesh & The Devil" a week later.

We Were Evergreen - Leeway

Whenever the blog first took notice of Paris trio We Were Evergreen back in April, I described the group as sounding as if Phoenix had taken their instrumental cues from kindergarten children, given its smart pop-orientated production and its child-like charm. Now almost a year on, the band have lined up their next single, one which furthers their sound without sacrificing the playfulness that marked them out in the first place.

"Leeway" is a song based around a doo-wop vocal sample, which builds up into a quirky twee-pop number complete with an infectious xylophone riff and some lovely vocal harmonies. The trio have come on leaps and bounds in the space of a year, and look likely to become real contenders for one of the most interesting pop groups of 2013. 

"Leeway" will be released on February 25th.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Axis Of - Lifehammer

Portstewart based power trio Axis Of are one of those Northern Ireland groups that I have been aware of for many years, yet have never really engaged with them or taken much time to check out their material. When I heard that the group had released their latest single, I treated the news with a certain degree of apathy. Thankfully, that feeling changed when I finally got around to checking out the track.

Because "Lifehammer" is a rather fine track indeed. Produced by Rocky O'Reilly (a surefire sign of a well produced track), the song mixes the band's guitar-centric riffage with a rather accessible, playground chant vocal style. It's perhaps the closest that heavy rock is going to get to feeling like a nursery rhyme. Having supported The Bronx and The Joy Formidable recently, and with a few more live dates forthcoming, 2013 could be the year that Axis Of begin to make a break for the wide world.

"Lifehammer" is out to download now, and is taken from their debut album "Finding St Kilda", which will be released later this year.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Suede - Barriers

Ring the bells, and let the joyous news be spread - Suede have released their first single in ten years!

Ever since the band regrouped in 2010 following an extended hiatus, the question that has been on the lips of Suede fans has been whether the group would be releasing any new material following their reformation. At first it seemed rather unlikely, as the group took to the road to promote re-issues of their five studio albums, including three night residencies in both London and Dublin, where they played their first three albums in full. However, the group maintained that they wouldn't resort to treading on past glories alone, so 2012 saw the band take to the studio to record what will eventually be their their sixth album which will be titled "Bloodsports".

And now, the band have brought out "Barriers", the first new material the quintet have released since their 2003 singles collection. Even better, they've made it available as a free download. And it's a wonderful entry to the Suede catalog. It is a song that doesn't sound like it would fit neatly onto any of the band's current albums, yet neither does it sound like the band attempting to refashion their sound to suit the mores of 2013, although it does appear to have taken a few cues from lead singer Brett Anderson's recent "Black Rainbows" album.

Ladies and gentlemen, Suede are back. Enjoy it while you can.

Dead On TV - Already Gone

London based quartet Dead On TV describe themselves as being a group somewhere between being young and not-so-young, who write songs about "how wonderful it is to realise that our dreams probably aren't going to come true." Yet these aren't grim songs full of self-loathing and bitter regrets, as current single "Already Gone" attests to.

The song is a jaunty piano number which has a melody that runs throughout it with similarities to "Life on Mars" by David Bowie, whilst also sounding musically like certain tunes from Ocean Colour Scene and The Feeling

"Already Gone" is out now. 

Photo is © Derek Barnes.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Brøthers - We Are Pushing On

In the increasingly connected internet era, where artists are more open than ever, it's nice to see the occasion artist who keep their cards firmly close to their chests. Take electronic group Brøthers for example, who at the moment seem content to have a little bit of mystery about them. All that's known for sure about them is that they were formed from the ashes of several long-running musical projects, and that despite their Scandinavian lettering, they are an American based group.

And of course, they look like they've got a few great tracks up their sleeve, especially if their debut single, "We Are Pushing On", is anything to go by. The song is a heavy slice of modern electronica, with a chorus that channels the best, more pop orientated aspects of Passion Pit. They may be a group reluctant to give anything away about themselves at this stage, but that doesn't mean that they haven't given us any talking points. They just seem happy enough to let their music speak for itself.

"We Are Pushing On" by Brøthers is available now to download for free

Blog Sound of 2013 - The Top 5

The Blog Sound of 2013 poll is a survey of UK music bloggers to find out what emerging artists they think are best.

The votes have been counted, the results are in and the winners can now be revealed. 

Congratulations to the winners Haim, who narrowly held off runners up Chvrches by just 1 nomination.

The 5 artists that received the most votes by the 49 UK music blogs that took part in the poll are:


3= Pins

The Blog Sound poll was run by Robin Seamer from Breaking More Waves and Andy Von Pip from The Von Pip Express asking 49 UK music bloggers what emerging acts they were particularly excited about. The poll wasn’t intended to criticise the BBC’s Sound of list, but to simply represent the tastes of the voting bloggers.

The 2013 Blog Sound long list contained 7 acts that were also then revealed to be on the BBC Sound of List (AlunaGeorge, Chvrches, Haim, Laura Mvula, Palma Violets, Savages and Tom Odell) and 8 that weren’t (Curxes, Daughter, Mo, Pins, Randolph’s Leap, Rhye, Seasfire and The Neighbourhood).

In total just over 170 acts received at least 1 vote in the poll, but Haim and Chvrches were way ahead of the chasing pack when it came to the final count. Pins and Savages, tied for third place with The Neighbourhood, the second US act on the list after Haim in fifth.

So there we are, these are the top five acts that the UK blogosphere are tipping for success in 2013. I'm not really that fussed on The Neighbourhood, and I flirt between liking/loathing Haim depending on my mood, but the rest of the top 5 are rather lovely indeed. Here's hoping that this year goes well for their collective music endeavours. 

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

The Metaphorical Boat's 2013 Resolutions

The earth has finally made its way back around to where it was this time 365 days ago, meaning that another year has passed us by. 2012 has been a memorable year for The Metaphorical Boat, in its first full calendar year afloat on the blogosphere. We've seen our traffic explode throughout the year, with more people than ever getting to hear some of the brilliant tunes that have excited me over the last 12 months. The blog was even shortlisted for three awards at the Blog Awards Ireland, and was lucky enough to be on the voting panel for the Blog Sound of 2013.

But now is not the time for the blog to rest on its laurels, for with the new year comes new challenges, new opportunities, and most importantly, new music. Therefore, The Metaphorical Boat has set itself a few musical New Year's Resolutions for 2013. Throughout the year, I hope that it can deliver all of this and more. They are:

1. Write more long-form articles.
Of the over 200 posts that I wrote in 2012, the one that I am most proud of is "6 Reasons Why The Artist You Love Isn't In The UK Chart." At over 2000 words, it was by far the longest post I wrote this year, and the one that seems to have provoked the most attention and debate, especially among fans of the UK chart. Therefore, over the next year, I endeavour to write several more long-form articles on areas of music and the industry that tickle my fancy.

2. Interviews 
Despite running the blog for nearly 18 months of running The Metaphorical Boat, there has yet to be any interviews carried out for the blog. One of the reasons for this is that I have found taking an verbal interview and transcribing it in a form that is both informative and entertaining to be something of a challenge. Another is that I have a greater preference for radio interviews through my work at Queen's Radio, where I've interviewed The Joy Formidable and Pop Will Eat Itself, among others.

However, I feel that in 2013, it's time for the blog to try something new, and try to spend some time talking to some of the artists that we are passionate about, to understand what it is about what they do that excites them, and hopefully to learn some new things about them that were previously unknown.

3. Continue to cover as many exciting Northern Irish artists as possible.
In many ways, 2012 was one of the most exciting years for music in Northern Ireland. Snow Patrol are as popular as ever, Two Door Cinema Club continue their ascent, performing to ever growing audiences, and other popular local acts such as General Fiasco, Master & Dog and Duke Special returned with critically acclaimed albums. Some wonderful new artists began to make their mark in 2012, with artists such as Wonder Villains and Eatenbybears building up loyal followings. Then of course there's SOAK, whose rapid ascent from unknown to Radio 1 playlisted in the space of a few short months is slowly becoming something of legend.

There is so much talent coming out of Northern Ireland at the moment, and I have been proud to write about these aforementioned artists from here, as well as many others that I haven't got around to mentioning. With Derry/Londonderry being the UK City of Culture in 2013, all eyes will be on 'our wee province' over the next few months. Therefore, I will continue to highlight some of the best new artists coming out of here.

4. Encourage the establishment of more Northern Ireland music blogs.
Within Northern Ireland, there are some great websites and avenues that new and emerging artists have on offer in order to help to get their name out there. AU, the website of the now dormant Alternative Ulster Magazine, does a good job of highlighting some of the newer artists on the block, as does Chordblossom, another Northern Irish music website, which has gained a great reputation despite only existing for a year. And of course there's Across The Line, Radio Ulster's flagship new music programme, a show that opens up so many doors for the artists blessed enough to get airtime there.

Whilst all three of these do a wonderful job of promoting local artists, the one thing that they don't seem to be encouraging is the promotion of these acts on a national and international scale, which I guess is understandable based on their target audiences. This is why I believe that music blogs are the best way to go about building an audience, as a music blog can break down barriers and reach those from another country entirely. Indeed, this blog receives just as much traffic from America than it does from the United Kingdom, so artists looking to reach out to those beyond their own borders could do a lot worse that approaching their friendly local music blogger. (Hint hint)

Yet within Belfast at least, there seems to be a reluctance for passionate music fans to start blogging themselves. As far as I am aware, out of the 137 music blogs from the United Kingdom listed on the Hype Machine, only two of them are from Northern Ireland. Gigantic, a blog run by the DJs of the club night of the same name, and yours truly. We have a great many fans of new music here, both of local stuff and further afield, yet very few are reluctant to start blogging themselves.

Therefore, it my resolution to encourage as many of those people to stop procrastinating an encourage them to get on the blogging waggon themselves. It's an inexpensive exercise, and its greatly rewarding when you discover that someone has found their new favourite musician as a result of the song you posted. Let's see if we can get a few more blogging Nordies by the end of 2013, eh?

And finally:

5. Buy a captain's hat
Well, I can't continue being the captain of The Metaphorical Boat without a captain's hat, can I?

Rams' Pocket Radio - Cavities

2012 seems to have gone rather well for Northern Irish lad Peter McCauley, aka Rams' Pocket Radio, performing to ever increasing audiences and releasing their first unofficial album, "Trajectories", a collection of E.Ps released over the space of a year.

With the upcoming release of their first official album this year, 2013 looks like it will be an even more exciting period for the group. In order to whet our collective appetite, Rams' Pocket Radio have uploaded the first song from the upcoming album sessions. "Cavities" was produced by David Kosten (Everything Everything/Bat For Lashes), and features fellow upcoming local artist Katharine Philippa. The song is perhaps the most luscious song they have released to date, with their anthemic piano-pop sound augmented with some heavy string arrangements.

"Cavities" is available as a free download for the first two weeks of 2013.