Friday, 31 May 2013

Hibou - Sunder

The surf-rock genre has had something of a resurgence in recent years, with alternative artists like Wild Nothing, DIIV and Belfast guys Girls Names winning over the blogosphere with their jangly tunes. The next artist hoping to break through with his own take on the sub-genre is Seattle based Peter Michel, who records under the name Hibou (which incidentally, is the French word for owl).

If you're a fan of the aforementioned groups, you will find much to love in his latest single, "Sunder". All the trademarks are there - the jangly guitars, a prominent bassline, hushed vocals buried in the mix, and a more-than-slight hint of the "17 Seconds" era of The Cure. It would have been nice if the song had something extra to distinguish it from its influences (the distorted vocal break from 1:50 notwithstanding), but it's a decent song, and one that should find favour with many people.

Hibou's debut E.P, "Dunes", will be released on June 13th. "Sunder" is available as a free download.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Straw Bear - Snobbery

The initial release of the album "Black Bank" by Straw Bear seemed to have been largely neglected by many people when it was initially released last year. It's probably because it was released in right in the heart of December, when bloggers and the musical intelligentsia are too busy informing us of their best tracks of the year to delve into new releases. Nevertheless, in the past few months the band have made enormous strides. The album's first single, the delicate "Kitty" picked up some airplay on BBC Radio 2, and a performance at The Great Escape festival led to the band getting played on Radio 1.

The 2nd song to be released from the album is "Snobbery", which has been snipped by a minute from its original version for radio purposes. Whilst it's not the most obvious choice of song from the album ("State of The Nation" just screams out for the single treatment), it is the one which most represents the Straw Bear sound. A breezy folk melody, strong vocals and sly lyrics about wanting to escape from one's in-laws make this a very enjoyable track indeed.

"Snobbery" will be released on July 29th. It's taken from the album "Black Bank", which is out now. Find out why you should own a copy here.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Future Chaser - The Bronze E.P

Derry band Future Chaser have been a going concern locally for many years now, although the haven't been as active recently. This is probably due to the fact that two of the members, Ryan and Kieran, also make up half of Wonder Villains, who have been doing rather well for themselves. The boys are now back on the Future Chaser train, and as well as a few upcoming gigs in Belfast, the gang have released a new E.P, "Bronze".

The E.P is largely made up of decent pop-rock tunes, not too dissimilar to the youthful, punky energy of early Ash. "Fighting In The Streets" is the best song in this style, complete with a strong chorus and a great vocal hook. The best song on the E.P however is the one that strays away from this formula, "Bronze". The track, which features fellow Villains Eimear and Cheylene on backing vocals, is a slow burning rock tune which explodes like a time released firework, which calls to mind "Kings and Queens" by 30 Seconds to Mars.

"Bronze" E.P is available now on a pay-what-you-like basis.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Lonely Beaches - Force of Love

Following the conclusion of BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend festivities on Sunday evening, the station dedicated its BBC Introducing show solely to new and emerging artists from Northern Ireland. It was not only great to hear two hours of some of the blog's favourite artists from 'our wee province' (plus Ryan Vail), but it was also fantastic to discover some artists who hadn't crossed our path to date.

Artists such as Niall Kearney, who records under the name Lonely Beaches. Hailing from Derry but based in Brighton, the project is electronic-based, yet still carries a great warmth. The best track to its name so far is "Force of Love", a track which sounds like a dance-orintated version of Beach House. The track is available to download for free, which I'm sure we can all agree is a very reasonable price indeed.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Little Bear - Night Dries Like Ink/Killer

It's safe to say that things have been going rather peachy for Derry's Little Bear. Since the release of their debut E.P, they've picked up extensive airplay both in Northern Ireland and further afield, with "Few and Far Between" even making it to the Radio 1 playlist. They've also came into their own live, filling in for Two Door Cinema Club when they had to pull out of Other Voices in Derry, and then ended up making the trip over to London for a gig there.

Despite the flurry of label interest in the group, Little Bear have decided to sign to local record label Smalltown America, where they will be releasing their double A-side single "Night Dries Like Ink/Killer," a release that shows off and advances the dark folk-tinged tracks that they've become well known for.

It is unsurprising that given the growing affection towards the band, these songs are the most accessible songs they have released to date. Both songs have more than their fair share of an Elbow sound to them, particularly the pre-"Seldom Seen Kid" era version before they neglected their drum kit. On top of this, "Killer" also calls to mind an ever more grandiose version of Wild Beasts, something that at one point seemed impossible. On top of all this, both tracks feature soaring guitar lines, impassioned vocals, and a production style that just screams 'stadium anthemics'.

On the strength of these tracks, it is no surprise why Little Bear are blowing their fellow countrymen out of the water -their sound is ambitious, their songs are captivating, and they aren't half-bad live either. Derry will only be the City of Culture for another 7 months. Let's see if we can make them national household names by then, okay?

"Night Dries Like Ink/Killer" will be released on July 15th, but the MP3s can be purchased direct from Smalltown America now.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

New Desert Blues - Adam

If you're in search of bands that encapsulate Americana, a group of five souls from Hampshire might not be your first port of call. But New Desert Blues aren't a group who let something as pesky as geographical location get in the way of their Transatlantic tunes. Their latest single "Adam", is a dark yet enjoyable slice of roots rock, inspired not only by classic Americana sounds, but also from more contemporary bands like Arcade Fire and Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros.

"Adam" is released 8th July.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Melt Yourself Down - We Are Enough

Say what you like about Jools Holland, but 20 years into hosting "Later...", his show can still throw up the odd musical surprise. Anyone who watched the live show on Tuesday evening would have been treated to the musical delight that is Melt Yourself Down, performing their single "We Are Enough".

The band are made up of six individuals who have been part of London's jazz scene over the years with many different projects, including Polar Bear & Acoustic Ladyland. In spite of this, their sound encompasses many different genres, including electronica, punk, world beat and alternate rock. My initial thoughts on the group are as follows:

1. Melt Yourself Down sound like a screamo band with funky brass taking the place of scuzzed out guitars.

2. Melt Yourself Down want to be nominated for the Mercury Prize. I mean, they really, REALLY want to be nominated for the Mercury Prize.

3. I really hope that Kushal Gaya didn't destroy any of the studio's equipment during their performance. Amps aren't cheap.

4. They are very good indeed. Musically they're faultless, and it's fair to say that there isn't any other bands out there doing exactly what they do.

"We Are Enough" is taken from Melt Yourself Down's self-titled album, which is out on 17th June.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Hurdles - Kaleidoscope

Dungannon born/Belfast based 4-piece Hurdles have been making a name for themselves on the local scene for a few months now, having first played live in November and releasing two songs at the end of last year. The band have now released "Kaleidoscope", a song that deserves to be the band's breakout single.

Recorded at Start Together Studios (probably the best recording studio that Belfast has to offer), "Kaleidoscope" sees the group beginning to grow in confidence in their own sound. The track is a great slice of Phoenix-esque indie-rock which is slickly produced and performed with much aplomb. It's a great leap forward for Hurdles, who are now sounding like a band who could just as easily have come from Brooklyn than the back end of Northern Ireland.

"Kaleidoscope" is out now on a pay what you want basis.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Northern Ireland Festival Watch 2013 - Tennent's Vital/Belsonic/ Glasgowbury

It's not too long to go until summer, which means that the anticipation for this year's festival season is starting to build up. To help you decide what you might want to spend your hard earned money on this summer, The Metaphorical Boat will be providing a round-up of the festivals happening in Northern Ireland this year. The first part will look at three of the major festivals happening in Northern Ireland - Tennent's Vital, Belsonic & Glasgowbury:

Tennent's Vital

What is it?  
A three day outdoor event featuring some of the best known artists in the music world. Last year it saw performances from Foo Fighters & The Stone Roses, among others.

Where is it?  
Boucher Playing Fields, Belfast.

When is it?
Wednesday 13th August, Thursday 14th August & Friday 16th August 2012.

How Much Is It? 
It is £49.50 for each day.

Who's headlining? 
On Wednesday, the headliners are Kings of Leon, a band who always go down well at Irish festivals.

On Thursday, local juggernauts Snow Patrol will be taking to the stage at Boucher Road for their only European date over the summer. Given that their three nights playing at the 15,000 capacity Odyssey Arena were sell-outs last year, it's safe to say that tickets for this one won't be on sale for long.

Friday's headliner will be Swedish DJ/producer Avicii, who no doubt will be pressing buttons, then rolling his fist in a circular fashion.

Who else is playing? 
Kings of Leon will be ably supported by English indie favourites The Vaccines.

The support artists for Snow Patrol are definitely on the energetic side. US singer/songwriter Jason Mraz, up and coming Dublin group Kodaline and local hero Foy Vance will be taking to the stage on the Wednesday.

Performing under Avicii will be rap supremo Tinie Tempah, live drum & bass from Rudimental, and Australian dance artist Tommy Trash.

Is here.


What is it?  
Less of a festival and more of a series of gigs under the same banner, Belsonic is one of Belfast's premier summer music events. It's ability to attract world class names, as well as incredibly strong supporting acts, adds to its prestige. Last year, the festival boasted names such as Tom Jones, David Guetta, Emili Sande & Two Door Cinema Club.

Where is it?  
Custom House Square, Belfast. It's situated right in the middle of the city centre, so it's relatively easy to travel to and from.

When is it?
Between Friday 16th August and Monday 26th August 2013.

How Much Is It? 
Prices start at £27.50 for each day, plus booking fees.

Who's headlining? 
Seven bands will be headlining the stage at Customer House Square. They are Basement Jaxx, Ben Howard, Nine Inch NailsThe Lumineers, Jake Bugg, Steve Angello & Bullet For My Valentine.

Oh, and a little known band called Suede, who are playing their first Belfast gig in over 10 years.

Who else is playing? 
Steve Angello will be ably supported on Sunday 25th August by An21, Max Vangeli, Third Party & Qulinez (me neither).

Bullet For My Valentine will be supported by fellow shouty rockers Bring Me The Horizon, as well as Gojira.

Nine Inch Nails will be supported by local instrumental-rock band And So I Watch You From Afar.

Michael Kiwanuka and local rising star SOAK will support one-hit wonders The Lumineers.

Jake Bugg will be joined by The Courteeners, Nina Nesbitt & Silhouette.

Suede will have James on the bill with them, alongside local group RunawayGO.

Clickety Click-Click.


What is it?  
Seen as the jewel in the metaphorical crown of Northern Ireland's festival season, the "Small But Massive" festival's aim is to "nurture young creative talent while providing a platform for the Irish music scene," a vision that has seen it pick up a plethora of awards.

Where is it?  
Draperstown, in County (London)Derry. And definitely not in Glasgow, as many people are still prone to believe.

When is it?
Friday July 19th & Saturday July 20th. For the first time, the festival will be happening over two days - Friday will feature solely Derry artists (this being its year as UK City of Culture), with Saturday's festival featuring music from all over Ireland.

How Much Is It? 
£35 for Saturday, £45 for both days.

Who's headlining? 
This year's Glasgowbury boasts three headlining acts. Firstly there's Derry dance duo The Japanese Popstars, who will be delivering the bass & beats up the side of the mountain. Instrumental rockers And So I Watch You From Afar will be bringing their energetic show to Draperstown, and Downpatrick's The Answer will be delivering some classic rock vibes.

Who else is playing? 
As always, Glasgowbury plays host to the cream of musical talent in Northern Ireland (and a few from down south as well). Some of the artists returning to the festival include Derry poppers Wonder Villains, indie-rock mainstays RunawayGO, singer/songwriter VerseChorusVerse, rock titans More Than Conquerors, heavy rockers Trucker Diablo and returning after a long absence, Jetplane Landing.

And as always, the festival plays host to many Glasgowbury first-timers. This includes singer/songwriters Susie-Blue & Rosie Carney, classic rock revivalists Million Dollar Reload, indie rockers The Clameens, grunge revivalists Vanilla Gloom, rising rock stars Those Ghosts, and Donegal folksters In Their Thousands.

I assume you know how a hyperlink works. It is the 21st century after all.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Keston Cobblers' Club - Beam

It's always lovely to hear new material from Kent folksters Keston Cobblers' Club. Their debut album "One, For Words" demonstrated their own quirky take on English folk, and their memorable music videos helped them to stand out among the post-Mumford crowd. Fleetwood Mac really have no excuse not to return their calls.

The band have released a new single to coincide with their tour dates supporting The Leisure Society. "Beam" is another reliable foot-stomping folk effort from the group, but what makes the song is the nifty music video that they've made for the release. Meager in budget yet brimming with fun and creativity, the clip sees the band invading a clothes shop with a group of friends, sort of like an eccentric English version of the Harlem Shake.

"Beam" by Keston Cobblers' Club is out now.

Meltybrains? - Intros Are So Original

You've really got to love a band who let you know exactly what you're setting yourself up for in their band name. This is most definitely the case with Irish 5-piece Meltybrains?. The quasi-mysterious group are one of a growing number of instrumental rock groups who are getting the island very excited indeed, and as their latest single, the rather sarcastically titled "Intros Are So Original" suggests, they have added their own spin on the form.

As its title suggests, "Intros Are So Original" seems to be inspired by the introductory tracks certain alternative artists' albums. Whilst it might be lazy to suggest that the song sounds like a mix between "Intro" and "Intro" by the xx and Foals respectively, borrowing the former's guitar sound and the latter's drum production, it is a decent starting point to describe what to expect. The group do expand beyond this base though, with the song adding some nifty electronics, as well as some expert fiddle playing that wouldn't sound  out of place on an Irish trad album.

So, will Meltybrains? um...melt your brain? Most definitely. But with instrumental-rock every bit as exciting as And So I Watch You From Afar or Maybeshewill, it will be a fun ride regardless.

"Intros Are So Original" is taken from their E.P "Attention! Now That We Have Your Attention", which will be released on May 20th as a limited edition t-shirt.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Waylayers - S.O.S

Perhaps the most backhanded compliment that one can give to a band is to say that they sound like Coldplay. This largely because this has become shorthand for generic anthemic rock by-the-numbers. Bands like Snow Patrol, Starsailor, The Fray, or more recently Kodaline have had the "new-Coldplay"
tag attached to them, whether or not it is a fair assessment of their sound.

This brings us onto London based trio Waylayers. Waylayers sound like Coldplay. They really, really sound like Coldplay. "S.O.S" sounds like a song that could have easily fitted onto the "Mylo Xyloto" album, despite its less lavish production and lack of knob botherer Brian Eno. The vocals of Harry Lee are so Chris Martin-esque that it's hard to believe that this isn't a super secret side project.

That's not saying that "S.O.S" is a bad song. On the contrary, it's a very good one indeed. There's some lovely synth-work on the track, and it's melancholic indie-dance sound is quite refreshing. I just hope that their future work is more Waylayers and less Coldplay.

"S.O.S" is taken from their "Fault Lines" E.P, which is released in July.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Those Ghosts - Little Persuasions E.P

For a band that hadn't even played a live gig three months ago, Strabane based group Those Ghosts have been picking up quite a bit of traction lately. Their debut release "Evelyn" received quite a bit of local airplay, and has had much more streams on Soundcloud than the average Northern Irish artist. Even more promisingly, the band followed in the footsteps of SOAK by coming first in Chordblossom's Kickstart competition, winning some great prizes to help them on their way to musical notability.

Off the back of this support, the group have released their 2nd E.P, "Little Persuasions", a release which should help to cement their reputation further. Anyone who became enamored with the band off the back of "Evelyn" will enjoy the first two tracks on the E.P, which tread a similar path. "Set Upon By Dogs" and "Unknow" are very much in the Foo Fighters mold of alternative-rock, both feature a strong guitar riff that anchor the song from the beginning, and both have massive choruses, the latter song sharing similarities to "California" by Phantom Planet.

"It's Caving In" on the other hand is a different beast altogether, coming across more like Placebo than US alt-rock. It's also the only track on the record to feature keyboards, adding a welcome bit of variety to the song's soaring outro. The final track "All Is Even"  has a decent Stereophonics-lite chorus, but it can't quite match the strength of the E.P's other songs.

"Little Persuasions" should be enough to excite those who are already fond of Those Ghosts and to pique the interest of those who aren't, being immediately familiar whilst covering some new ground. It's great to hear a rock band that isn't allergic to songs with big, accessible choruses.

"Little Persuasions" is available to download for free.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Northern Ireland Tunes - Round-Up #15

The past few weeks have been emotional for music lovers in Belfast, as one of the key venues in the city, Auntie Annies, closed its doors. The venue has played host to many great touring musicians in its lifetime. Mumford & Sons, Laura Marling & Frank Turner played at the venue during their formative years of touring. But most importantly, the venue has played host to hundreds of local gigs and events over the years, mainly due to its central location just between Belfast city centre and Queen's University and its relative cheap rental price (on many occasions it was possible to rent the room gratis). It's closure will leave a hole in the local scene, as there isn't really a comparable venue in Belfast in terms of size and affordability for smaller artists. 

But in more positive music news, May 24th-26th will see Derry/Londonderry play host to the Radio 1 Big Weekend. There are some great artists booked for the line-up - blog favourites such as The 1975, Kodaline, Bastille, Vampire Weekend & Jake Bugg have all been announced for the series of gigs. However, there is one glaring omission from the 40+ artists scheduled to play.

Not one of them is from Derry/Londonderry.

And only one is from Northern Ireland - Two Door Cinema Club.

Given that the event has been scheduled in Derry to mark its year as the UK City of Culture, it seems odd that not one artist from the city has been booked for the event. And it's not like Derry is devoid of talent - Wonder Villains, SOAK and Little Bear are just three of the artists from the area who  received airtime on Radio 1 in the past year (with the former two even making the BBC Introducing Playlist). Those lucky enough to get tickets will still have a great time. It's just a pity that they couldn't fit just one artist from the area onto the bill.

In fairness to the BBC, they're not ignoring music from Stroke City entirely. Next week, Radio 1 will be hosting a series of gigs in the Nerve Centre with artists from Derry and beyond scheduled to perform. The artists include Girls Names, Droids, Axis of, Ryan Vail, Silhouette & Wylding, and more information about these can be found at the BBC's website here.

Preamble/rant over. Now here's some songs from four local artists that have floated The Metaphorical Boat this month, from country-pop, to heavy rock, to some things in between:

The Vals - Mailbox

The ever evolving line-up of The Vals will be releasing their 2nd album "Wildflower Ray" in the coming months. In the past week, the band have put on of the tracks from the album up for streaming. "Mailbox" is an upbeat little pop number that has more than a few nods to The Beatles, from the close harmonies to the harmonica riffing.


Freak's - Symmetry and Correlation

Strabane based trio Freak's came to my attention when Stephen McCauley played one of their tracks on his Electric Mainline show on Radio Foyle. It's hard to compare their song "Symmetry and Correlation" to other bands as there's they don't immediately sound like anyone else. However, I imagine that fans of The Pixies and Pavement will probably find something to like here.


The Last Generation - Battle Royale

There hasn't been a brilliant hard rock riff from a Northern Irish group for some time, possibly since "Tuppenny Nudger" by Lafaro. But that doesn't mean that it doesn't have a few great ones up its sleeve, like the one on "Battle Royale" by Maghera based quartet The Last Generation. If they continue to throw up great riffs like this one, they could end up as successors to the throne of Therapy?.


Aidan Logan - Tell Me

And finishing us off this week is Belfast singer-songwriter Aidan Logan with his debut single "Tell Me." The song is a bouncy, country-tinged number despite its darker lyrics about insecurity, and should act as a good introduction to Mr Logan's sound.

Sweet Jane - Witches

Since the release of their debut album "Sugar for My Soul" in 2010 and the live dates from around that time (including three nights supporting Suede), it's been all change for Dublin based band Sweet Jane. Their co-lead singer Lydia Des Dolles left the band, with Danda Paxton becoming the group's sole vocalist. The band also added brothers Neil & Conor to the line-up, giving the band a grand total of four Paxtons.

The change of line-up sees the band move away from the shoegaze-y sound of their first album into a more psychedelic rock format. The lead track from their most recent E.P, "Witches", is firmly in the rock camp, yet features prominent (synthesized) string segments throughout, making it sound like a cross between the rockier songs of Primal Scream and "Me Plus One" by Kasabian. I do wonder why they decided to keep the name Sweet Jane rather than go under a new moniker given the change in the band's sound and membership, but it's a rather nice song, regardless of its banner.

"Witches" is taken from the band's sophomore album "By the Ocean, By The Sea", which will be released on September 9th.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Prides - Out of the Blue

Oh, don't we all just love a good old bandwagon?

Several months after Glaswegian synth-pop trio Chvrches became blog catnip on the back of just one song, another Glaswegian synth-pop trio have released a single song onto the wild wild web, which has been met with the predictable glowing praise from many corners of the blogosphere and has shot up the Hype Machine chart rather nicely. The group in question are Prides, who according to one blog previously made mini-roars under the name Midnight Lion, and the song that has tickled the fancy of so many is "Out of the Blue".

And of course, there's a reason why the song has excited so many people - it's a ruddy brilliant song indeed. The song is fashioned around a synth riff that isn't too dissimilar to "Take a Walk" by Passion Pit, a harsh electronic production somewhat akin to The Naked and Famous, and most excitingly of all, a massive chorus the size of the Sea of Tranquility.

As a "calling card track," it makes a rather marvelous first impression. The question is where the band are going to go next. If I was a wittier blogger, I would suggest that they ask Mark E. Smith if they can support his band so they can finally prove once and for all that Prides come before The Fall, but alas, I'm not. For now, I'm just happy enough to get on the bandwagon of the makers of a song indeed.

Big Wave - Goldmine

Hailing from the great musical nirvana that is Torquay, 5-piece Big Wave make the sort of indie-pop that makes you feel glad to be alive (as opposed to the type that makes you wish you were dead?). Having spent 2012 releasing an E.P and two singles, as well as gaining support slots with Metronomy and Tender Trap,  the group are gearing up to release their latest single, which is a rather lovely treat indeed.

"Goldmine" is a song which borrows elements from some of the best songs of the last 40 years and mixes it into one fluffy, summery package. From the chord sequences inspired by "Sweet Jane" and "Teenage Kicks", the guitar riff not to dissimilar to "The Bucket" by Kings of Leon 2 1/2 minutes into the sort, right through to the shouty gang-pop vocals which call to mind The Go! Team's most recent album, there is a lot on the song which will sound familiar, and there is so much to love as well.

"Goldmine" will be released on May 20th as a limited edition gold cassette.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Casi Wyn - Winter

Hailing from Bangor in Wales, Casi Wyn has recently released her debut E.P, the folk-pop influenced "1". Although the majority of the E.P is sung gorgeously in Welsh, her native tongue, the final track on the E.P, "Winter", is sung entirely in English. Ironically enough, it is also the strongest song on the record, and the one which deserves to reach the largest possible audience.

"Winter" is a track which is largely electronically produced, yet at the centre is something wholly organic. This is largely down to Casi Wyn's beautiful voice, one which is both vulnerable and powerful in equal measures. The song is a mix similar to the style of Ellie Goulding, Loreen and Bat For Lashes, and fans  of any of those artists will find much to love here.

"Winter" features on her E.P "1", which is out now.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Say Yes Dog - Get It

Who would have thought that Luxembourg would be the home of some fantastically cosmopolitan electro-indie? Say Yes Dog are a trio of fellows who make seriously danceable tunes, if "Get It" is anything to go by. It's an electronic/bass led tune in the mold of Metronomy, with some Balearic atmosphere adding in for good measure. It's a really strong introduction to the group.

Say Yes Dog are currently touring Europe, including dates at The Great Escape, Brighton on 16th & 17th May.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Catfish and The Bottlemen - Homesick

Hailing from Llandudno in Wales, Catfish and The Bottlemen are not the sort of group one would expect to be signed to Communion Records, the home of Ben Howard and Michael Kiwanuka. For the group seem to like their music a little bit louder, if debut single "Homesick" is anything to go by.

The song is firmly in the anthemic mode, building from a serene beginning into a chorus that just demands to be shouted back by the group's fans at their gigs. The song sits somewhere between U2 and some of the rockier moments from Stereophonics, which isn't a bad thing indeed.

It's an incredibly confident debut single from a band who are still in their teens. Just don't let their ridiculous name get in the way of your enjoyment.

"Homesick" will be released on June 17th.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Biscuithead & The Biscuit Badgers - Soy Milk

If there's one group you can rely on for tuba powered pop with completely daft lyrics, it's Leeds quartet Biscuithead & The Biscuit Badgers. Having previously charmed us with their tales of wanting to co-exist with dinosaurs and losing the love of your life whilst eating a chinese, the group are back with their latest offering, the lactose-free "Soy Milk".

The song continues the band's mixture of quirky instrumentation and somewhat hilarious lyrics about the joys of the bean based liquid, including "there's nothing to spoil my enjoyment, cause when you were made no cows were exploited". In keeping with their other releases, the music video is a rather offbeat affair, with the members of the band going to their garden shed laboratory in an attempt to find out the secrets behind soy milk.

Biscuithead & The Biscuit Badgers might not be racing up the charts in the future, nor headlining the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, but there is something incredibly charming about the group. Such is the timeless quality of "Soy Milk" that it could have been recorded 40 years ago, or 40 years in the future, sharing the same eccentric feeling of The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.

Album Review: Public Service Broadcasting - "Inform - Educate - Entertain"

(Test Card)

Who would have thought this last time last year that many people's most anticipated album of 2013 would be from an artist that turns public information films into sleek, enjoyable tunes? Yet that is exactly what London duo Public Service Broadcasting have done with their debut album "Inform - Educate - Entertain".

For those not immediately familiar with PSB- it consists of J Wilgoose Esq. and his drumming amigo Wrigglesworth, who use vocal samples from archive films as a springboard for their musical excursions into the past. Over the 11 tracks, these include films covering the fashion industry, climbing mountains, car safety and the birth of colour TV.

What is particularly striking about the album is its sheer variety. When an album is centred primarily around vocal samples, it is possible that the music could end up very samey and repetitive. Thankfully, that is not the case on "Inform - Educate - Entertain." If it had to be pigeonholed into one genre, it would be electronic-rock, although even that would be inaccurate, with some songs being more rock-orientated and vice versa.

It is the more rock-orientated songs that end up being the strongest tracks on the album. Their most recent single, the car safety inspired "Signal 30", is a thundering rock track that wouldn't be out of place on a Queens of the Stone Age album, whilst "Spitfire" has one of the best guitar hooks that you're likely to hear on an album all year. There's also a playfully dark sense of humour to be found on these tracks - some of the vocal samples on "Signal 30" are hilarious when taken in isolation ("no drinking and driving...not even water"), and there's something profoundly ironic about the Krautrock influences on "Spitfire".

Of the more electronic-orientated songs, the highlight is "ROYGBIV", the Lemon Jelly-esque track that acted as an introduction to Public Service Broadcasting for many people last year. Slightly re-recorded for the album, the track is  the most freeform tracks on the album, with the track evolving and moving in new directions at a whim. The introduction of the banjo line 50 seconds into the song is a particular highlight. Also of note is triumphant "Everest", which mixes Jan Hammer sounding electronics with a wonderful brass section, and the fashion inspired "Now Generation", which mixes a Prince-esque strutter with keyboards that wouldn't sound out of place on a Sega Megadrive game. 

It also seems that one track on the album has opened the door to a new genre altogether. "Night Mail" is a track based around the Post Office, yet the way that the samples have been manipulated, it appears that the track is being "rapped" by the presenter, in what might just be the first recorded example of "Post-rap". 

If the album has one weakness, it's that it's a rather short album. Although it has 11 tracks, one of these, "Qomolangma", is a short instrumental companion piece to "Everest" (Qomolangma being the Tibetan name for the mountain), whilst the title track is a megamix of the album's remaining songs. Even so, these are minor quibbles that don't detract from the enjoyment of the album.

"Inform - Educate - Entertain" by Public Service Broadcasting is definitely an early contender for album of the year. For an album based on such a narrow premise, it is a richly diverse album, a highly enjoyable one, and one which is very much unique.

Released: 5th May 2013

Highlights: "Signal 30", "Spitfire", "ROYGBIV", "Night Mail".