Saturday, 30 November 2013

Eliza & The Bear - It Gets Cold

Although they didn't make our own Tips for 2014 lists, it's fair to say that Essex 5-piece Eliza & The Bear are shaping up to have a monumental 12 months. They've been much loved by our favourite blogs for nearly 2 years now (including Breaking More WavesThe Mad Mackerel), and in the past year they've picked up extensive support from Radio 1 and landed supporting slots for both Paramore and Imagine Dragons. Shamefully, this blog has only just now starting to take notice of the band, but it terms of songs designed to capture one's attention, "It Gets Cold" does a brilliant job.

Their press describe them as a cross between Beirut and Two Door Cinema Club, a comparison that I can hardly disagree with, given that "It Gets Cold" mixes an expansive folk sensibility with sprightly guitar riffs and an indie-centric image. Given that Mumford & Sons and TDCC have been so incredibly popular over the past few years, it's seems amiss that not many acts have thought to combine the the sound of the two, and it is this combining of the familiar into something that is completely their own that will win people over to Eliza & The Bear in the future. The song's already picked up tens of thousands of streams in about a week since the track went live, and if they can keep up the momentum they're riding, 2014 will surely be a magical year.

"It Gets Cold" will be released on January 26th.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Champs - Savannah

Is there an influx of duos from the Isle of Wight making incredible music at the moment? In reality, no, there is not. But as the old maxim goes, "one is an accident, two is a trend". So after introducing Isle of Wight duo Hentai Babies a few months ago (they weren't a duo then, but are now), it's time to cast our eye on fellow islanders Champs, our justification for calling it a trend.

Champs are made up of brothers Michael & David Champion, and they make music as enjoyable as it is lovely. Their new single is "Savannah", a great little alt-folk built around an infectious piano riff and well constructed multi-tracked vocals which thankfully stay respectfully tasteful, without running into gimmicky territory as is sometimes prone to happening on tracks of this nature.

"Savannah" is taken from their debut album "Down Like Gold", which will be released on February 24th.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

The Metaphorical Boat's Tips For 2014 - The Rest of the World

After looking at our tips for 2014 from our own stomping group, The Metaphorical Boat will now be looking a little bit further afield to look at our five tips from elsewhere in the world.

Given that there is basically an infinite amount of bands to choose from, rounding it down to five was always going to be a challenge, but five is the number of counting, and the number of counting shall be five, so commiserations to some of the artists who are sure to make great music in 2014, like The Dancers, Dumb, Hentai Babies & Prides, who just fall short of making our list. Our five consist of three English artists, one American band and a French trio, and are artists who either will be big in 2014, will be big in 2014 if the stars align, or are unlikely to be big, but will sure as heck make some enjoyable music regardless.

And we commence with:

6. Amber Run

Nottingham-born group Amber Run (previously just Amber) burst into our consciousness back in June with the release of "Noah", a track that mixed nu-folk with stadium rock and quasi-Biblical references. The followed it up this month with "Heaven", a song which saw them delve even deeper into stadium rock territory, albeit in a much more free form manner.

Now signed to the same label David Bowie, the band have been touring up and down the country to great enthusiasm, and have picked up quite a bit of support on late night Radio 1, so expect Amber Run to run into many people's good books in 2014.

7. Fryars

Call it dream pop, call it nu-gaze, call it psychedelic, call it what you like, as long as you call the musical output of Benjamin Garrett, aka Fryars, wonderful. When he's not busy composing soundtracks for Danny Dyer movies, he's creating sumptuous, cinematic soundscapes with a real heart of pop. He has gained support from artists like Kanye West and Depeche Mode, and has made the Radio 1 Playlist with his most recent single, "The Power".

With hundreds of thousands of people already following him on Soundcloud, world domination in 2014 seems like a foregone conclusion for Fryars. And if it leads to thousands of teenagers discovering Mercury Rev as a result of their shared musical DNA, then all the better. 

8. Step Rockets

For rock music to survive, it must evolve beyond its roots. That appears to be the mantra that Minneapolis band Step Rockets have adhered to. Like their contemporaries Imagine Dragons and AWOLNATION, they have a sound that is recognizably rock, yet this sound is then augmented with layers of keyboards and synthetic drums to create a sound that is more accessible to the masses. This formula payed off earlier this year when their fantastic single "Kisser" topped the Hype Machine with little-to-no PR and just a tiny amount of blog love (including from yours truly).

When this blog wrote about Step Rockets back in August, we said they had every chance of being everyone's new favourite band in 2014. Step forward a few months and we truly stand by that prediction. Look out for their next single "Sleep Position", which is due to drop early next year.

9. Superfood

In the past few years, this blog has seen many bands come and go who have promised to bring back the glory of the Britpop era, yet have failed to step up to the mark and break through to the mainstream. Viva Brother were treated as a running joke in the music press before splitting in 2011, whilst Tribes split earlier this year without making the breakthrough they deserved, despite releasing one great album, a decent album and a host of fantastic singles.

So with that in mind, can Birmingham band Superfood break through with a sound that hasn't had mass success since the late 90s? The early signs are good for the band - they've toured with Peace, have been seen as the leading lights of the B-Town scene (a name which this blog acknowledges through gritted teeth), and have recently inked a record deal with Infectious, the former home of Ash and current home of Alt-J. And of course, they've got some great songs under their belt. Upcoming singles "Melting" and "Bubbles", plus their debut self-titled single show a band with a knack for revisiting some of the better moments of Britpop, despite being barely out of nappies when the movement was in full swing in the mid 90s. 

10. We Were Evergreen

Concluding our tips for 2014 is We Were Evergreen, a French trio who are now based in London. They approach music with a childlike innocence, deftly combining folk melodies, unconventional rhythms and instruments, electronic beats and samples and wonderful harmonies to create something that is utterly unique, utterly accessible, and utterly brilliant. They've showed off their knack for creating earworms galore on tracks such as "Baby Blue" and "Leeway", a song which is made of nothing but hooks, hooks, and even more hooks.

They've notched up support slots with everyone from Ed Sheeran to Little Dragon, and with a fan-funded debut album due to be released next year, 2014 is going to be a lot more fun thanks to We Were Evergreen.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

The Metaphorical Boat's Tips For 2014 - Northern Ireland

As is tradition for The Metaphorical Boat as we reach the end of the year, it is time to dust of our metaphorical crystal ball and get our prognostication on, as we look at ten artists that we are going to keep our eyes on in 2014. As is the case with every year on the blog, our tips will be split into two groups of five. The first five artists will be from our own stomping ground of Northern Ireland, whilst the second group will be from elsewhere in the world.

So first off we'll look at five artists from 'our wee province' who The Metaphorical Boat hope will go on to great, or further, success in 2014. There's been so many great artists to from here that have been making good music that it's been hard to narrow them down to five. But five is the number of counting, and the number of counting shall be five, to commiserations to some of the artists who didn't quite make our list, including Go Wolf, TeamRKT, Ed Zealous & Hologram, all of whom will still probably have a wonderful 2014 regardless.

And we start with:

1. A Plastic Rose

It does feel a bit of a cheat to include A Plastic Rose in a section about tips for 2014 from Northern Ireland, mainly because a) they've already released a critically acclaimed album which was nominated for the Northern Ireland Music Prize, and b) they're now based in Nottingham. But in the end, given that they're still regarded as a Northern Irish band, ad because they're on the cusp of a national breakout, it felt only right to give them a place on the list.

Back in October, A Plastic Rose released "This Side of Winter", quite possibly their poppiest and best single to date, and to say that it was well received would be an understatement. In the space of a month, the song was played on BBC Radio 1 a whopping twelve times, solely through spot plays by supportive DJs. That's more than some songs that make the playlist get over the same period. If A Plastic Rose can recapture that magic several more times in 2014, which they are very likely to do, then next year could be the year that the band transition from Irish heroes to international superstars.

2. Hurdles

Back in May, Hurdles released their luscious Phoenix-esque indie-pop single "Kaleidoscope", a song so cosmopolitan, so well polished, and so finely produced, that it seemed impossible to have come from a band who'd only been playing together for a few months and who hail from Dungannon. Yet the band then went on to prove that song was not a one-off fluke by releasing the "Where To Start" E.P last month, a release which showed the band know exactly how to craft an enjoyable, danceable guitar-pop song. With a UK tour on the horizon, and lots of airplay for the band both locally and further afield, 2014 shouldn't be a great year for Hurdles.

3. In An Instant

The inclusion of Bangor trio In An Instant may seem like a particularly odd one, as to date they are yet to officially release any music. However, if the two demos that the band have released are anything to go by, then they are going to be an insatiable prospect when we do get their debut E.P in January. After all, "All Binds Fall Undone", a song with an irresistible mix of guitars, synths, and danceable rhythms, is a better song in demo form than songs that many bands make through thousands of pounds worth of studio time. Having been relatively quiet on the gig scene in 2013, next year should see the band start to become local favourites within Northern Ireland, especially when their E.P drops at the beginning of the years. If it's better then the demos, then it might literally blow a few minds.

4. The Jepettos

Derry's The Jepettos have been on our radar for quite a long time now, with this blog first getting excited about their lullaby-folk sound at the very beginning of 2012. But this year has seen them cement their place in many people's hearts, with songs such as "Water" and "Chemicals" (a song that still leaves a tear in our eye when we hear it), as well as their stunning performance at the Belfast Music Week Showcase, leaving us in no doubt that the husband/wife duo (plus a few friends) are by far the cutest band to come out on Northern Ireland in quite some time, if not ever. With a new E.P primed for December, 2014 should be a great year for one of our more unconventional bands.

5. Little Bear

Of the five acts that TMB's tipping for 2014, the one band that probably has the greatest prospect of becoming international sensations next year is Derry 4-piece Little Bear. They've already been playlisted by Radio 1 this year, released a fantastic double-A side single (Night Dries Like Ink/Killer), and have been involved with some of the most memorable gigs of the year, including their performance at Other Voices and their fantastic performance at Glasgowbury in an overflowing tent. Kodaline became massive in 2013 on the back of a sound that wasn't too dissimilar to Little Bear's, although it's fair to say that LB trump them in terms of stagemanship, harmony vocals, and the sheer variety of songs on offer. So why can't 2014 be their year?

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Petter Seander - Shoulders

Swedish craftsman of fine pop tunes Petter Seander first popped onto our radar back in 2011 with his wonderful song "When Something Dies", which ended up as as one of TMB's top 20 songs of the year. Now in 2013, Petter has announced the release of a new E.P, "Dear Impossible Dream", and taken from that is "Shoulders", a great tune that further's Petter's penchant for taking dark lyrics and setting them to an uplifting pop sound bed.

The song is available to download now for free.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

The Fireworks - Runaround

I wonder how many fireworks-based puns I can cram into this piece about the new single by The Fireworks? Oh well, let's have a crack at it.

The Fireworks are and explosive indie-pop four-piece from London. Having lit the fuse and got their career off to a bang with their debut E.P in March, the band have released their new single, "Runaround", a fiery, sparkly, enjoyable tune that doesn't taper out early. It's a rocket-fulled garage-rock banger of a tune, which should be a must-have for fans of indie-pop from the likes of The Wedding Present and Allo Darlin, although I'm not exactly sure whether it will be for fans of Catherine Wheel.

And that's eight firework-based puns. Go me.

"Runaround" will be released on November 26th as a limited edition 7" single.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Painted Palms - Forever

If The Beatles were starting out in 2013 rather than 1963, would they have sounded like "Forever", the new single by Polyvinyl signed American duo Painted Palms? The answer to that question is, in fact, no. They would have sounded like The 1975. But there's no denying that there's a little bit of the Fab Four in "Forever", albeit a version that has been weaved around an electronic, borderline psychedelic web. It's a great wee song, and with a decent push next year, Painted Palms could be the indie fraternity's new 'hip to namedrop' band.

"Forever" is taken from their debut album of the same name, which is released on 14th January 2014.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Joni Fuller - Real Love

Who would have thought that folk, pop and cheerleader-esque chants would go so well together? Not us, that's for sure, until we came across "Real Love", a song by Lancashire singer/songwriter/violinist Joni Fuller. The song is an irresistible piece that has all the required elements of folk, yet with the deceptive simplicity of a great pop song. It comes across as an earthier version of "Whenever, Wherever" by Shakira, which is by no means a bad thing indeed.

"Real Love" is available to download for free.

(H/T to the wonderful Fresh on the Net for bringing this song to my attention). 

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Northern Ireland Tunes - Round-up #20

So have we all enjoyed this year's Belfast Music Week? I very much hope so. There was some great events that we really enjoyed this year. The Northern Ireland Music Prize, the Belfast Music Week Showcase (which I didn't enjoy as much as last year despite some enjoyable performances, unfortunately), and the opportunity to see the fantastic Public Service Broadcasting live for the second time (and it was great to see local band Yes Cadets, whom we've written about in the past, supporting them. They seem to have completely changed their line-up and sound since the last time we saw them, but they still sound fantastic. Expect to hear more from them on this blog in the near future). But as is usually the case, there's just so much music, and so little time. Here's a few songs from NI that have been floating The Metaphorical Boat. Some old, some new, and some in between:

Mojo Fury - Origami Bird

One of the most respected bands on the local scene, Mojo Fury, are about to launch their second album "The Difference Between", a record which has been funded by their fans via a PledgeMusic campaign. Based on the album's latest single "Origami Bird", a song which has picked up a great amount of local airplay, as well as seemingly being played over the PA of every event during Belfast Music Week, they were worth every single penny. Alternative heavy rock at its finest.


Cashier No.9 - Moonbeam Song

In 2011 psych-rockers Cashier No.9 released their much awaiting debut album "To The Death Of Fun", a wonderful album which ranks among the best albums from here from the last few years (although ashamedly, due to an oversight on our part it didn't feature in our own countdown of albums in 2011. If we repeated the list now, they would have easily taken the #1 spot. Sorry, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart). They recently announced that their follow-up album is due to be released in 2014, and to whet our appetite, they have recorded a few covers of their favourite songs. The first release is "Moonbeam Song", a cover of American singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson.


Seven Summits - Little Twist

With two albums and countless local gigs under their belt, it seems rather surprising that this blog had not seen Seven Summits live until they took part in the Belfast Music Week Showcase on Thursday. And it's fair to say that they were very impressive, and not at all like I expected them to be. For some reason I'd got it into my head they were a bunch Mumford-esque banjo botherers, and thankfully my expectations were confounded. They closed with brand new single "Little Twist", a song inspired by one of the members fracturing their fibula. It's a fine slice of alternative-rock, one which may give this blog reason to reassess its opinion of the band for the better.


Skymas - This River

And to close this month off we have Skymas, an electronic-rock trio based in Belfast. They recently released their debut two track E.P (or as it was called in the old days, a 'double A-side'), and taken from it is "This River", an LCD Soundsystem inspired song with a hypnotic base line.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

So, the Northern Ireland Music Prize...

Congratulations is in order for Foy Vance, who last night won the inaugural Northern Ireland Music Prize for his 2nd album "Joy Of Nothing" in a ceremony held in the Mandela Hall, beating 13 other nominees in the process. In what was a close run contest, Foy beat out an unspecified rival who he tied with on final votes, but won out on second preferences. Here are some brief thoughts from The Metaphorical Boat on the ceremony, and the awards itself:

1. Where's the winner? - Despite winning the award, Foy Vance could not be there in person to pick up his award, due to his current touring commitments in America. His band picked up the award on his behalf, leading to the question of why the band are here and not there. The theory that the band are in fact space hopping wizards has yet to be disproved.

2. The ceremony was pretty decent - The visuals and videos for each nominated album were well put together, and added to the excitement of the event. The five nominated acts who played were well chosen, ranging from the electronic funk odyssey of Space Dimension Controller, the post-punk revivalists Girls Names (who were this blog's vote for the prize), and The Bonnevilles, who were late getting to the stage due to "costume problems". Anthony Toner was a real surprise - he seemed rather out of place compared to the other nominations in terms of genre, but he won a lot of people over with his storytelling singer-songwriting style.

3. The ceremony has got some press, but not as much as one would like - A quick Google search reveals that the announcement of the winner has, as you'd expect, been covered in on Across The Line, Belfast Telegraph and Hot Press Magazine. Even more excitingly, it has also been announced in Music Week, which is basically the UK music industry's bible. It's nice to see the ceremony get a bit of coverage outside of Northern Ireland, but as I mentioned before, unless the ceremony is covered extensively both within here, and further afield, then the prize runs the risk of falling into self-congratulatory back slapping, rather than a ceremony that deserves to be taken seriously.

4. The ceremony should have done enough to warrant a second NI Music Prize next year - but it is important that the organizers learn from this year and ensure that it becomes a feature of the local music calender for many years to come. Firstly, 14 albums is far too many - If 12 is good enough for the Mercurys, then there's no reason to exceed that number. Secondly - get as much press coverage of the event and its run-up. It would have been great for BBC NI and UTV to cover the awards ceremony visually (although to its credit, Radio Ulster has done more than its fair share). Thirdly - for goodness sake, make sure the winner can be there to collect the prize.

And here's the video for "Closed Hands, Full Of Friends", the Radio 2 playlisted song from "Joy Of Nothing", the first ever Northern Ireland Music Prize winning album. Well done, Foy Vance, and your splendid moustache.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Little Matador - Liar Liar E.P

For a band that has barely been together for a year, Little Matador sure have racked up some impressive support slots. So far in 2013, they've warmed up for Nine Inch NailsJimmy Eat World, and will be opening for Queens of the Stone Age at their gig in the Odyssey Arena in Belfast on November 18th. Of course, given the caliber of the artists involved in the band, it's no surprise that they've made the leap to the big leagues so soon.

Little Matador is the new project of Nathan Connolly, who is best known as the guitarist for the biggest Northern Irish band of the last 10 years, Snow Patrol. Joining him in the band is Troy Stewart (The Windsor Player), Gavin Fox (formerly of Idlewild), Binzer Brennan (ex-The Frames) and Dave Magee of heavy rockers Lafaro.

Their first release as a band is "Liar Liar", a 4 track sampler of songs that will feature on their upcoming debut album, due in 2014. Of the sampler's tracks, the highlights are "Reasons", an electro-glam rock stomper with an infectious chorus, and the driving punk sound of "Liar Liar". It's a fairly strong introduction to the band, with the tracks almost certain to make them an exciting live draw over the next year or so.

The "Liar Liar E.P" is currently only available to buy from Little Matador's live shows. The title track is available as a free download from the band's website.

Clockwork Noise - The Tourists

You just can't help but take notice of a band that describe themselves as "Nine Inch Nails playing Buddy Holly songs, with a string section." That is the sound that Irish 5-piece Clockwork Noise appear to be aiming for on their latest single "The Tourists". And although it might not exactly sound like that, it's still a rather great piece of music nonetheless.

The song sees Clockwork Noise making full use of quiet/loud dynamics, with the serene yet slightly menacing string arrangements during the first part of the song becoming slowly punctuated with moments of noise, before ending the song on a noisy, unexpectedly indie-poppy moment.

"The Tourists" is taken from the band's album "Whethermachines", which is out now.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

The Soft Look - Stay in the Dark

Anyone with even the tinniest big of knowledge of the Northern Irish music scene over the past few years will have came across Paul McIver in one of the many groups he's been involved with over the years. He was previously a member of indie-pop trio Cutaways, one of the first local bands I really got into, who released an album "Earth and Earthly Things" and a number of singles before calling it a day in 2010. (Incidentally, the band made their entire back catalogue available to download for free shortly after their split, which is still available on Bandcamp. Their album is a sorely underrated gem). He was later involved in the more electronically-orientated Morning Claws, who released a few singles before splitting up last year.

Having now relocated to London, Paul McIver is now recording under the name The Soft Look, premiering the project last weekend at the Start Together Studios last week in Belfast. The first official single released under this name is "Stay In The Dark", a track which sees McIver eschew guitars altogether to create something much more electronic than he's been involved with before. Featuring manipulated vocal samples and rather snazzy electronic synths and rhythms, the song sounds like it would be right at home within Warp Records' discography.

"Stay In The Dark" is the latest release by the Start Together Singles Club, and is available to buy, as per the image above, as a limited edition pocket mirror.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Amidships - Oceans

After a relatively quiet 2012 for Amidships material-wise, 2013 has seen the Belfast collective in a more fruitful state, and as reaped the benefits as a result. The release of "Lost" and "Forever Here" earlier in the year led to a renewed interest in the group, with the former track being used extensively in adverts for the BBC NI television series 6 Degrees, which I am informed is a very good show indeed

And now the group have released a new single, "Oceans". The song is one that should be familiar to Amidships' long term admirers, as it originally featured in a radically different acoustic version on their debut E.P in 2011 under a different title. Now rejigged for 2013, the song is a swearier, slow building track that mixes emotive strings with heavy, National-esque guitars in the song's deafness-inducing final 90 seconds.

"Oceans" is available to download now.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The Night IV - Music Sounds Better With You

The Metaphorical Boat very rarely goes in for cover versions, so if you see one here, you better believe that it's in the upper echelons of awesomeness.

The Night IV previously featured on this blog back in June following the release of "Thinking Of You", which went down very well with the collective interwebs. To whet our appetite before the release of their 2nd E.P in the new year, the band are recording six cover versions over the space of six weeks, each song being chosen by a member of the band. This week, their harpist & vocalist Anna chose "Music Sounds Better With You", that 90s dance classic by fellow French group Stardust (which featured 1/2 of Daft Punk). In order to make it more appealing for a live band to record, the band incorporated lyrics from "Fate" by Chaka Khan, the song that was sampled on "MSBWY", which really helps to add their own spin to the already fantastic song. Because as much as you may love the original, you'd be hard pressed to disagree that it is improved immensely by concluding with an epic funky guitar solo.  

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Huskies - Beach

It's fair to say that Nottingham has had its fair share of decent artists to either emerge or grow in 2013. Jake Bugg is selling out stadiums, London Grammar have been picking up the critical plaudits, whilst newcomers like Amber Run and Kagoule are setting up their stall for the future. And let's not forget A Plastic Rose, who have come on by leaps and bounds since relocating to the city.

Another Nottingham newcomer that has been picking up a bit of interest recently is 4-piece Huskies. Having recently been tipped by Huw Stevens, the band look likely to make a mark over the next 12 months, based on their latest single, "Beach". It is a sterling slice of dreamy guitar-pop which calls to mind Swim Deep, and strangely enough the song "Closing Time" by Semisonic.

"Beach" is available as a free download. For an insider's look at emerging Nottingham bands, check out this enlightening feature on Drowned In Sound.