Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Northern Ireland Tunes - Round-Up #32

It's always great doing the annual round-up of this blog's favourite releases of 2014, however one thing it means is that we focus all our attention towards it, and a result there might be some great songs that we may have written about but didn't get around to due to our laser-focused attentions being elsewhere. So to remedy this, here's a few tracks from Northern Ireland that we've been rather taken by in the past few weeks that we think will float your Metaphorical Boat
Viola Dust - Trick

Having featured on this blog on several occasions throughout 2014, you'd think that Newry band Viola Dust don't need any introduction, but I never let that stop me.

Viola Dust have built up a stellar reputation, and a little bit of blog lovin', with their rather intelligent take on electronic-pop. As of today, "The Big Hop" has racked up over 25,000 streams on Soundcloud, which is pretty fantastic going for a band who've only being a going concern since May. Their latest single to made available is "Trick", a fantastic single with a monster of a chorus. It would not surprise me if Jay-Z nicked it as the main hook of his next hit single. It's available to download for free, which is a steal if I ever saw one.

Lauren Bird - Goodbye, Good Luck

Last month, I went down to Dawsons in Belfast city centre to watch a friend of the blog who was taking part in a singer/songwriter competition that they were running. As part of the competition, they had to perform two songs, one original song and one cover. Although most of them were okay, I was completely blown away by one performer in particular. Armed with a ukulele, she broke into one of the most downbeat songs ever made, "No Surprises", and turned it into a thing of beauty. I joked on Twitter at the time that I refuse to listen to that song unless it's played by a girl from Strabane on the ukulele, but the more I think about it, the more I agree with myself.

I later learned that her name is Lauren Bird (having spent hours searching for her music in vain after mishearing it as Byrne), and discovered that she released a self-titled E.P of her own songs a few months ago, which is available on a pay-what-you-want basis. Taken from the E.P is "Goodbye, Good Luck", which was the song that she performed alongside "No Surprises" when I saw her last month. It's a heartfelt ode to a relationship gone awry, which calls to mind a more acoustic version of Kate Nash.

Aspen Pales - Blue

And finishing off the round-up this month is Rostrevor band Aspen Pales. The track "Blue" premièred on Chordblossom earlier this month, taken from a recently released self-titled album. It's a deceptively simple song that ebbs and flows throughout, whilst burying itself deep under your skin without you realising it. It's one of those songs that seems to have existed in a time bubble, as if it has always been ever-present in the background, like cosmic radiation.

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs/Albums of 2014 - The Lists

For the benefit of those who like cold, hard data, here is The Metaphorical Boat's top albums and songs of 2014 in easy to digest list form.

Top Songs of 2014

1. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - Eurydice
2. Alvvays - Next of Kin
3. Wonder Villains – Golden Five
4. The Fat White Family - Touch the Leather
5. King Creosote - For One Night Only
6. Billy Lockett – Old Man
7. Go Swim - Call Sign
8. The War on Drugs - Red Eyes
9. In An Instant - Something Right and Something Real
10. Eels - Parallels
11. Nick Mulvey - Cucurucu
12. Rainy Boy Sleep - Ambulance
13. Faul & Wad Ad vs. Pnau - Changes
14. Indiana - Solo Dancing
15. Little Matador – Stitch Yourself Up
16. Kassassin Street – Centre Straight Atom
17. Southern - Where The Wild Are
18. East India Youth - Dripping Down
19. Glass Animals - Gooey
20. George Ezra - Budapest
21. Kaiser Chiefs - Coming Home
22. American Authors - Best Day Of My Life
23. alt-J - Every Other Freckle
24. KONGOS – Come With Me Now
25. Sheppard - Geronimo
26. Temples - Mesmerise
27. Elbow - New York Morning
28. The New Pornographers - War on The East Coast
29. Jack White - Lazaretto
30. The Death of Pop - Whenever
31. Cheerleader - Perfect Vision
32. Shonen Knife - Bad Luck Song
33. The War On Drugs - Under The Pressure
34. The Magician ft Years & Years – Sunlight
35. We Were Evergreen - False Start
36. Calan Mai - We've Got Love
37. Tigercats - Junior Champion
38. We Are Aerials - We Are Chemicals
39. Bakermat - Vandaag (One Day)
40. The Wood Burning Savages - Boom
41. Kasabian - eez-eh
42. The Corner Laughers - Midsommar
43. Malibu Shark Attack! - Better Off As Friends
44. Saint Motel – My Type
45. PORTS - Second In Line
46. SOAK - Blud
47. BABYMETAL - Gimme Chocolate!!
48. Andrew Montgomery – After The Storm
49. Ibibio Sound Machine Let's Dance (Yak Inek Unek)
50. Clean Bandit - Rather Be (feat. Jess Glynne)

Top Albums of 2014

1.  Wonder Villains – Rocky
2. The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream
3. Alvvays – Alvvays
4. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – Days of Abandon
5. Eels – The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett
6. King Creosote – From Scotland With Love
7. Little Matador – Little Matador
8. Elbow – The Take Off and Landing Of Everything
9. Kaiser Chiefs – Education, Education, Education & War
10. nano.RIPE - Namida no Ochiru Sokudo

Sunday, 21 December 2014

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Albums of 2014 - 5-1

5. Eels – The Cautionary Tales Of Mark Oliver Everett
(E Works)

For an artist who's never been afraid of bearing it all on record, the directness of approach on "The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett" by Eels is still very stark. If past albums have been like rifling through pages of E's diary, then "Cautionary Tales" is like looking directly into the heart of his soul. With songs dealing with break-ups, death and despair, this is a very human album, that still manages to find beauty in the darkness. The best tracks from the album are the wonderful "Parallels", the explosive "Lockdown Hurricane", and the surprisingly upbeat "Where I'm At".

4. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart – Days of Abandon
(Fierce Panda)

2014 saw The Pains of Being Pure At Heart effectively becoming a solo project, after Kip Berman was left as the only original member of the group. Regardless, he managed to get a new bunch of guys together to create "Days Of Abandon", a worthy and infectious follow-up to "Belong". 

The album features some of the best songs of the band's career, with the faultless "Eurydice" and the shoegaze-y "Until The Sun Explodes" being among the highlights. And surprisingly, despite the change in personnel, Kip takes the back seat for several tracks on the album, with Jen Goma taking over lead vocal duties on the religious portrait "Life After Life" and the wonderful "Kelly". It's a great pop album, and a wonderful conclusion to a trilogy of fantastic albums. Although the less said about that artwork, the better. 

3. Alvvays – Alvvays
(Transgressive Records)

The self-titled debut album from Canandian band Alvvays is a master class in subversive indie-pop. Whether it's the jauntiest song about a riverside drowning, "Next Of Kin", the quarter-life crisis of "Adult Diversion", or the anti-wedding sentiment of "Archie, Marry Me", the band have made a perfect antidote for a genre that, either fairly or otherwise, has a reputation for being twee and fluffy. 

For a more in-depth analysis of its awesomeness, follow this link.

2. The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream
(Secretly Canadian)

Many years ago, a group of the world's leading thinkers holed themselves up in a bunker in a secret location, quite possibly Austin. They had been gathered there in order to solve a problem that had been troubling them for many years - just how do we sell Dire Straits and Bruce Springsteen to a generation of hipsters? After spending years attempting to come across the correct answer to this troubling conundrum, the boffins finally managed to find their answer.

And that answer was "Lost In The Dream" by The War On Drugs. The album is a love letter to 80s corporate rock, yet has somehow managed to appeal to a younger, more 'hip' demographic than anyone could have anticipated. Indeed, just last week it was announced the album had been certified silver in the UK, which is a remarkable achievement in 2014. But a very much expected one, for even if it does feel all too familiar, "Lost In The Dream" is a near faultless rock album.

1. Wonder Villains – Rocky
(Third Bar/No Dancing)

Let's be honest, there was only ever going to be one album that was going to top this poll.

After teasing us for all too long, Wonder Villains finally got around to giving us their debut album, "Rocky", this year. The album was 12 slices of pure, unadulterated pop music, devoid of cynicism and downbeatness, and filled to the brim with fizz and good times. It's an album where it's genuinely hard to pick a favourite track, be it the ode to the boob tube ("TV"), the terrace anthem in waiting ("Zola"), a song about one of the protagonists of the oft-forgotten Heroes ("Oh Peter"), or, of course, the infectious "Golden Five", its an album that should be savoured from start to finish. 

It's a real shame that the album hasn't received the wide attention it deserved this year, a nomination for the NI Music Prize aside, but hopefully the band can get some solace in knowing that they have released The Metaphorical Boat's Number 1 album of 2014.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Albums of 2014 - 10-6

After all the fun and hijinks of looking at our favourite songs of 2014, it is time to delve into listageddon once more, by looking at the ten albums that most shaped The Metaphorical Boat's listening habits over the past twelve months.

To repeat the same thing I've said the past three years, it is usually much harder to decide on an order for best albums of the year than it is for best songs. For single tracks, it goes in order of which songs I'd be happy enough to hear again and again in descending order. For albums on the other hand, there are a lot more variables involved. Should an album with lots of decent tracks receive a better placing than an album with two of the greatest songs of the year and some filler? Should an album that works well as a complete work be given preference to an album with better songs, but with more variety and a poorer flow? Should an act who I've loved immensely in the past place highly even if their album from this year didn't match up to their usual high standards?

So after taking these thoughts into consideration, and after much self-deliberation, here is the first half of The Metaphorical Boat's top albums of 2014:

10. nano.RIPE - Namida no Ochiru Sokudo


We start off the album countdown with an album that I can almost definitely say does not feature in any other UK music blogs' Top Albums of 2014. In fact, I'm so confident that if there is a blog in which it features, there is 20 Caramac Bars in it for them.

"Namida no Ochiru Sokudo" (which I believe is translated as "The Speed of Falling Tears") is the sixth album of Japanese pop-rock group nano.RIPE. Whilst the band might not be generally well known outside their home country (I had to spend £20 ordering in this album from Japan as it's not available here, even on iTunes/Spotify), they are known for providing theme tunes for Japanese animation. (Two of the songs on the album, "Tsuki Hana" and "Nanairo Biyori", serve as themes to Hataraku Maou-Sama and Non Non Biyori respectively.) It's an album of fun J-rock tunes which are instantly recognisable from Kimiko's idiosyncratic vocals, which are about as high as the human voice can reach without being reliant on helium.

It's an acquired taste of an album, especially as it may be too sugary for some, and too impenetrable for others (the entire album's in Japanese), but it's definitely one of my favourites of the year.

9. Kaiser Chiefs – Education, Education, Education & War 


"Education, Education, Education & War" by the Kaiser Chiefs is not only TMB's 9th favourite album of 2014, it is also the best album of 2006. With its title being an obvious allusion to the policy's of Tony Blair's Labour government, as well as the poem recited by Bill Nighy on "Cannons" alluding to the Iraq War, this album feels like it should have been the artsy, political follow-up to their monster début album "Employment", rather than reaching us eight years later.

But regardless of it seeming out of place in 2014, there's no denying that "EEE&W" saw the band returning to fine form. "Coming Home" saw the band deservedly enter the top 40 for the first time in six years, and "The Factory Gates", "Ruffians On Parade" and the glorious "Meanwhile Up In Heaven" are worthy additions to the band's back catalogue. 

8. Elbow – The Take Off and Landing Of Everything


Although we're unlikely to see Elbow give us another rock monster like "Grounds For Divorce", "Fallen Angel" or "Forget Myself", it's nice to hear the band continuing to do their own thing on their sixth album, "The Take Off And Landing Of Everything". It's another album of Elbow doing what they do best - grandiose music to warm your cockles. Highlights of the album are the sweeping "New York Morning", the lifting title track, and as you might expect, the wonderful "My Sad Captains". 

7. Little Matador – Little Matador 

Helping to smash the stereotype that all side-projects are self-indulgent twaddle, Snow Patrol guitarist Nathan Connolly's first album with Little Matador is an album of straight-to-the-point rock beasts. From the opening of "Stitch Yourself", the glam-rock aping "Reasons", through to the frantic sub-2 minute punk of "Liar Liar", it's an album that doesn't mess around.

6. King Creosote – From Scotland With Love


"From Scotland With Love" by King Creosote is the soundtrack to a documentary of the same name that was released this year to commemorate the Commonwealth Games being held in Glasgow. The film condensed decades of archive footage from Scottish history and condensed them down to 75 minutes, with the songs of Kenny Anderson being the only sound accompaniment. Although if thought that songs wouldn't work outside the context of the film, you'd be dead wrong.

From the euphoric ode to the weekend, "For One Night Only", to the jaunty seaside ditty of "Largs", through to the almost hymnal "Pauper's Dough", the album is an album that is both sombre, thought provoking, and thoroughly enjoyable. Plus, you can't not like the children's choir who join Kenny on a rendition of the folk song "Bluebell, Cockleshell 123".

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2014 - Number One

1. The Pains of Being Pure At Heart - Eurydice

Eurydice, I never stop losing you.

And we reach the end of the road, with "Eurydice" by perennial favourites of ours, The Pains of Being Pure At Heart. The songs takes its name from the ancient Greek myth, and demonstrates the band's continuing excellence at crafting the perfect pop song. Just when you thought they couldn't top "Heart In Your Heartbreak", they offer us a song as sumptuous and infectious as "Eurydice". Its shining moment is at the 3 minute 10 mark, when the counter-melody kicks, and you realise just how special this song really is. Never has perfection sounded so good.

So hit up the play button below, and enjoy The Metaphorical Boat's Top Song of 2014 - 

Monday, 15 December 2014

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2014 - 5-2

We've nearly reached the top of the heap now. Here's the songs that just fell short of this year's top billing, with the songs ranked from number 5 to number 2 -

5. King Creosote - For One Night Only

There has been many a song released to celebrate the joys of getting off work on Friday to enjoy the weekend, but there hasn't been a classier ode to free time released this year than “For One Night Only” by Kenny Anderson, aka King Creosote. Taken from the soundtrack for a documentary about Scottish life over the past hundred years, the song is a real symphonic delight.

4. Fat White Family - Touch the Leather

It's been nearly a year on from hearing this song for the first time, and yet I'm still no closer to finding out what exactly "Touch The Leather" actually means. Is it a euphemism for something so smutty that my innocent little mind cannot fully comprehend it? Or is it just a simple song about two serial DFS botherers? Either way, I'm too scared to Google it, so I guess I'll have to use my imagination. Still, Fat White Family have given us a real gem this year, a guttural, primal rock track that's sure been drowned in a mixture of gravel and whiskey before reaching us for consumption.

3. Wonder Villains – Golden Five

Well, what can I say about "Golden Five" by Wonder Villains that I already haven't? (Answer - not much, but that's not going to stop me from trying). Having been a live favourite for well over a year before it was released as a single, the studio version of the song took everything great about the song and amplified it to the nth degree. It's pure pop at its finest - if your mood has not improved by at least 1,000 percent after listening to this song, then either you've been listening to the wrong tune or are a gargoyle.

2. Alvvays - Next of Kin

Falling at the final hurdle by the slimmest of margins is "Next Of Kin" by Canadian indie-poppers Alvvays. There's many things about this track that made it so loved - that fantastic surf-rock opening riff, the brilliant vocals from Molly Rankin, and the fact that they took a genre (indie-pop) that's known for being somewhat twee, and giving us a song about an incredibly dark subject within it, in this case a riverside drowning. It's a finely crafted song that's practically perfect in every way.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2014 - 10-6

We now plunge straight into the top 10, with some of the best songs of the year, from 10-6, plus a little bit about why exactly they float The Metaphorical Boat:

10. Eels - Parallels

I'm genuinely surprised that "Parallels" by Eels was never really pushed as a single/buzz track/stream enticer in 2014, as it's the best song that Mark Oliver Everett has committed to tape in yonks. The song is a tribute to his quantum mechanist father's Parallel Worlds Theory, with the song imagining that there is a timeline out there where he is still alive and happy. A song that is absolutely stunning in its simplicity.

9. In An Instant - Something Right and Something Real

After getting us incredibly excited with a batch of demos last year, Bangor boys In An Instant finally gave us their first set of official tracks this year, with the highlight being "Something Right & Something Real". The song sees the band meld rock with electronic production in such a way that hadn't been done so successfully by a local act since fellow Bangor boys Two Door Cinema Club.

8. The War on Drugs - Red Eyes

The 2nd track from The War on Drugs to make the countdown. "Red Eyes" is a driving rock tune that has one foot in the 80s and one in the here and now.

7. Go Swim - Call Sign

"Call Sign" by Go Swim can best be described as a manic version of "Inhaler" by Foals. Vocalists Steven and Julianne perform dual lead vocals, singing manic, alternating lyrics which both compliment and oppose each other at the same time, whilst the rhythm of the track changes from intense to danceable almost at the drop of a hat, without feeling jarring or out of place. It felt like a real breath of fresh air when it came out in February, and many months later it still retains that intensity and instantness.

6. Billy Lockett – Old Man

It takes a lot for a song to make your humble captain cry, but Billy Lockett managed to do that with "Old Man", a heartfelt tribute to his father, who died earlier this year. It is an absolutely gorgeous piano-pop song that had all the hallmarks of a monster radio hit about it, and although it did not become the ultimate smash that it deserved to be, it did touch a lot of people emotionally, myself included.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2014 - 15-11

We're nearing the crunch time here folks, with songs that made 15 through 11 in our countdown. These selections feature a Snow Patrol side project, a sensual dance song that crossed over from the blogs straight into the top 40, the best sax-house hit of 2014, another of the finest talents to come out of Derry, and a song based around a lullaby.

15. Little Matador – Stitch Yourself Up

14. Indiana - Solo Dancing

13. Faul & Wad Ad vs. Pnau - Changes

12. Rainy Boy Sleep - Ambulance

11. Nick Mulvey - Cucurucu

Friday, 12 December 2014

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2014 - 20-16

We're getting closer and closer to the top now, with songs that ranked 20 to 16 in our reckoning this year. These five include one of the biggest radio hits of 2014 (although technically we first heard and loved it in 2013, we decided that it should still feature in our list), Some sexy electronica, some more sexy electronica, one of Northern Ireland's best prospects for 2015 (who we've been bigging up since 2011), and the best thing to come out of Portsmouth since that song by Mike Oldfield -

20. George Ezra - Budapest

19. Glass Animals - Gooey

18. East India Youth - Dripping Down

17. Southern - Where The Wild Are

16. Kassassin Street – Centre Straight Atom

Thursday, 11 December 2014

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2014 - 25-21

We're now into the top half of the countdown, with numbers 25 through 21. In this part of the countdown we've got accordion-led rock (which fans of the FA Cup may just recognise), Australian pop, the kings of weird art-rock, some banjo, and a return to form for a veteran band -

25.    Sheppard - Geronimo


24.    KONGOS – Come With Me Now

23.    alt-J -  Every Other Freckle

22.    American Authors - Best Day Of My Life

21.    Kaiser Chiefs - Coming Home

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2014 - 30-26

Numbers 30 to 26 are up next. In this section we've got an indie supergroup, the world's classiest band, a man who's 5 years away from being a certified rock god, as well as some jangle-gaze and psychedelia thrown in for good measure -

30. The Death of Pop - Whenever

29. Jack White - Lazaretto

28. The New Pornographers - War on The East Coast

27. Elbow - New York Morning

26. Temples - Mesmerise

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2014 - 35-31

We're up to numbers 35 through to 31 now. Included in this section are French tropical pop, 80s inspired rock, a song that was inexplicably used in the trailers for BBC's Masterchef, and Shonen Knife, who have made the top 50 for the fourth year in a row - 

35. We Were Evergreen - False Start

34. The Magician ft Years & Years – Sunlight

33. The War On Drugs - Under The Pressure

32. Shonen Knife - Bad Luck Song

31. Cheerleader - Perfect Vision

Monday, 8 December 2014

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2014 - 40-36

Up next are the songs ranked 40 to 36, and include two bands from Stroke City, a chess-based love song, the Australian Frank Turner, and Martin Luther King -

40. The Wood Burning Savages - Boom

39. Bakermat - Vandaag (One Day) 

38. We Are Aerials - We Are Chemicals

37. Tigercats - Junior Champion

36. Calan Mai - We've Got Love

Sunday, 7 December 2014

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2014 - 45-41

As is tradition, we follow up numbers 50-46 with numbers 45 to 41. This selection of songs incluse two very different Northern Irish artists (folk rock vs electro-rap), one of the few indie-ish songs to breach the UK Top 40 this year, the Grand High Princess (and princes) of twee, and Kasabian, who also make music -

45. PORTS - Second In Line

44. Saint Motel – My Type

43. Malibu Shark Attack! - Better Off As Friends

42. The Corner Laughers - Midsommar

41. Kasabian - eez-eh

Saturday, 6 December 2014

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2014 - 50-46

Time for the annual listageddon here at The Metaphorical Boat. Over the next few days we will be counting down the blog's top 50 songs of 2014. There will be songs that have featured on the blog, songs that didn't feature on the blog, and songs that really should have featured. But regardless, they are all awesome, and hopefully there will be a few songs here that will float your Metaphorical Boat.

We start with the songs from 50-46 on the list. This part features one of the biggest selling singles of the year, a former Britpop survivor, Northern Ireland's brightest prospect for 2014 and...J-pop meets death metal? Who said that we never surprise you?

50. Clean Bandit ft. Jess Glynne - Rather Be

49. Ibibio Sound Machine - Let's Dance (Yak Inek Unuk)

48. Andrew Montgomery - After The Storm

47. Babymetal - Gimme Chocolate!!

46. Soak - Blud

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Blog Sound of 2015 - The Longlist

The Blog Sound of 2015 poll aims to showcase some of the best new emerging artists. However, unlike the ubiquitous BBC Sound Of... poll, the artists nominated aren’t picked just by industry experts. Instead they’re voted for by music bloggers, a small number of whom may work in the music industry, but the majority of which are just hardcore fans who write their blogs because of their genuine passion for music, normally with no financial incentive to do so.

This poll is not about picking acts who bloggers think will be famous. The bloggers involved are asked to vote for their favourite acts, irrespective of chances of commercial success.
How The Voting Worked
This year the Blog Sound of 2015 poll canvassed 62 UK music blogs in November 2014, the most ever since its 2011 start. It asked each one to pick its 3 favourite emerging artists and rank them in order of preference. In total 148 artists received at least 1 vote, showing the diversity of bloggers' tastes. The acts scored 3, 2 and 1 points respectively. The bloggers could choose any artist they wanted, providing the artist had not had a top 40 hit (including as a collaborator on a song) by the time voting started and that they weren’t related to or have any financial interest in any artist they selected. Where 2 artists tied on the same number of points, the artist with the most first place votes was ranked higher. The 15 acts which received the most points formed this year's longlist.

The act who gained the most amount of points in the poll will be announced on January 2nd 2015.
The Full Blog Sound of 2015 Longlist (In alphabetical order)

All We Are

Black Honey

Chloe Black



Fickle Friends








Sophie Jamieson

Tei Shi

It goes without saying that The Metaphorical Boat is absolutely delighted to see one of our nominees, Derry's own Soak selected as the one of the hive mind's most promising artists for 2015. Having seen her grow from strength to strength for years, having first featured her on the blog way back in 2012 (and given her our vote for the Blog Sound of 2013 two years ago) , it's great that the rest of the UK blogosphere has finally woken up to her. She's also the first Northern Irish artist to make the Blog Sound Of... since its inception in 2011, so it's doubly wonderful to see her pop up here. 

Elsewhere, we're also pleased to see Scottish electro-poppers Prides make the list after becoming smitten with them last year, as well as Brighton's Fickle Friends, who must definitely be front runners for most blogged about new artist of 2014. And although we hadn't heard much of their music beforehand, we've had the wonderful indie-poppers Flyte playing on repeat since they made the longlist, and we'll definitely be keeping tabs on them in particular in 2015.

It's still disappointing that (to the best of our knowledge) The Metaphorical Boat was the only Northern Ireland based music blog to contribute to this year's list, but as always, it's always a pleasure to be involved with this wonderful process. Fingers crossed that all 15 nominated artists have a most excellent 2015. 

The Blogs That Participated In This Year's Poll:
17 Seconds, A New Band A Day, A Pocket Full Of Seeds, A World Of Music And Madness, Across The Kitchen Table, Alphabet Bands, Beat Surrender, Beat2aChord, Both Bars On, Brapscallions, Bratfaced LDN, Breaking More Waves, Brighton Music Blog, Daisy Digital, Dots And Dashes, Drunken Werewolf, Echoes and Dust, Electronic Rumors, Even The Stars, Everything Flows, Getintothis, God Is In The TV, Hearty Vibes, Hitsville UK, I Love Pie, Just Music That I Like, Kemptation, Like 1999, Lipstick Disco, Little Indie Blogs, Love Music : Love Life, Music Broke My Bones, Music Liberation, Music Like Dirt, My Day By Day Music, Never Enough Notes, Not Many Experts, Notes For A Road Sign, One Album A Week, Popped Music, Queen Beetch, Rave Child, Scientists Of Sound, Some Of It Is True, Song By Toad, Sounds Good To Me Too, Sound Of Now Music, Spectral Nights, Sweeping The Nation, The Blue Walrus, The Devil Has The Best Tuna, The Electricity Club, The Evening's Empire, The Mad Mackerel, The Metaphorical Boat, The Paper Penguins, This Must Be Pop, Thoughts On Music, Three Beams, Too Many Blogs, The VPME, What If I Had A Music Blog,

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Hurdles - France

It might have taken until near the end of the year, but we've finally managed to get some new music from one of our Northern Irish Tips for 2014Hurdles. The band of course haven't been sitting on the posteriors all year - they've been involved in the Scratch My Progress scheme run by the Oh Yeah Centre, which gives support to several local artists every year, and having now rejigged their line-up slightly, the band have dropped a massive new song on us all.

Given that the band's indie-pop sound has been compared to Phoenix on numerous occasions, it's probably with a sense of self-awareness that the band have decided to name their new single "France". Those influences still remain firmly in the blueprint of this new song, but it does see the band move away from the more overt references of their earlier material. It's a more subdued effort from the group, but it's still a great, funky, groovy little earworm nonetheless.

"France" is taken from the compilation CD "Scratch My Progress Vol.3", which also features songs by Hot Cops, Matthew Duly, Serotonin & R51.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Robocobra Quartet - Knotweed/Witch Hunt

There's no greater pleasure than coming across a local band who sound like nothing else that Northern Ireland has to offer. That's why it was great to be introduced to Belfast group Robocobra Quartet back in July with their single "Artbook Flipping". Its release helped the band to pick up quite a bit of local attention, and the band's subsequent live gigs have received heaps of praise, including the approval of Tom Robinson.

So there's no better time to check in with the band and the release of their latest double-A side single (remember when they were still an actual thing?) "Knotweed/Witch Hunt". The songs see the band mix improvisational jazz with "acoustically sampled melodies" (which we think is the same thing as interpolating) and hip-hop influenced rhythms and spoken word vocals from Chris Ryan*, which come together to create a cacophony of downbeat yet brilliant sonic explorations.

Of the two songs on offer, the highlight would be slightly less chaotic "Witch Hunt". The song is based around a melody by New Jersey saxophonist Wayne Shorter, and is an amalgam of a rather groovy bass line, duelling saxes, and some deadpan lyricism ('How did blue-collar Bruce get to be known as "The Boss"? And if this schedule's not right, how do I know if I've just missed the bus?').

Robocobra Quartet are the sort of band that even if you don't necessarily enjoy their music, you have to admire their drive, ambition, and pure originality. Their sound might be quite a challenging listen, and one imagines that if they tried their hand at a more 'accessible' sound, they would lose that spark of genius that makes them so unique in the first place. However, if you're willing to invest you time in them, you are going to fall in love with something very special indeed.

"Knotweed/Witch Hunt" is available now on a pay what you like basis.

*who's involved in another band we've featured on TMB before.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

The Jepettos - Closer E.P

It's been a few months since we heard from The Jepettos, the Belfast 'lullaby-folk' group fronted by husband and wife duo Mike and Ruth Aicken, but it's fair to say that quite a lot of people have. After all, the band have somewhat unexpectedly, yet welcomely, become of the most popular local artists on Spotify. Two of their songs, including most recent single "Orchard", have racked up over a million streams on the service, whilst at least six others are current north of 100,000. Given the royalty rates Spotify offers, that's probably only earned them enough to buy a packet of Fruit Pastilles, but it's great to see them picking up such a massive audience.

And that audience is only going to grow further, with the release of their new E.P, "Closer". The E.P contains four tracks that the band wrote for a play developed by the Re:Play Theatre Company for children with PMLD. The first track, "Shimmer", harks back to the sound of the song that first brought The Jepettos to our attention all those years ago, "Goldrush". Next up is "Meet The Aliens", a hand clap dominated song that sees Ruth joined on vocals by a children's choir, which reminds us a little bit of "Raconte-Moi Une Histoire" by M83 in some places.

Up next is the endearingly sweet sounds of  "The Mission", a song that contains one of my favourite chord sequences ever. The band finish with a bang in the form of "Shooting Stars & Fireworks", a song that is about as raucous as a band like The Jepettos are ever going to get.  The song is like a more playful, ukelele led younger cousin of the sort of track that might have appeared on the last Elbow record.

"Closer" is an absolutely lovely E.P from start to finish - it's like an aural comfort blanket. Although the songs have been written for a younger audience, there is enough sweetness and gorgeousness on the E.P to charm anybody of any age.

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

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Public Service Broadcasting - Gagarin

Public Service Broadcasting are back.

This is not a drill. I repeat, Public Service Broadcasting are back.

It is with great pleasure that we can say that J Willgoose Esq. and his esteemed colleague Wrigglesworth will be releasing their 2nd album early next year, and we at The Metaphorical Boat cannot be any more delighted. This blog have been keen supporters of the band since early 2012, and we were delighted when more and more people warmed to them, to the point that by the time they released "Inform-Educate-Entertain" last year, the album crashed into the chart at #21, with the band's selling out some large venues whilst promoting the album. And of course, they were not only responsible for this blog's top album of 2013, but also the top song of the year as well, with the wonderful "Signal 30".

So it goes without saying that we have been awaiting their follow-up album with much excitement, and it looks as if it's going to be a fantastic one indeed. "The Race For Space" will see the band looking to the stars as they give us a musical accompaniment to the Cold War space race between the USA and the Soviet Union between 1957 and 1972, using vocal samples taken from the time. As recent weeks have demonstrated, there is still an insatiable appetite from the public to learn more about the world beyond our atmosphere, so there couldn't be a better time for Public Service Broadcasting to, as their maxim states, teach the lessons of the past through the music of the future. Although I loved "Inform - Educate - Entertain", a few people felt that the album didn't have a real theme running through it, unlike their earlier "War Room" E.P, so hopefully theming a full-length record around a central concept will help to silence the doubters.

And finally, the band have just made available the first single to be taken from the album. "Gagarin" takes its name from Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, and is very atypical of what one might expect a song honouring a Soviet cosmonaut to sound like, given that it's a funky, brassy disco number that sounds more like a theme tune to an 80s cop show, and a ruddy brilliant one at that.

Unfortunately, if you watch the music video, the chances are you won't be able to hear any of that, as you'll be laughing so loudly that you won't be able to hear anything the first time. The music video sees Willgoose and Wrigglesworth don space suits for a sophisticated, hilarious choreographed dance routine that's as ridiculous as it is informative. If this goes viral, I will not be shocked. We may have just found the winner of the internet.

Welcome back, Public Service Broadcasting. I look forward to the launch of their new album, and given that they've already sold-out two nights at the National Space Centre in Leicester, they are undoubtedly going to be blasted off into the stratosphere.

"The Race For Space" will be released on the 23rd February 2015. "Gagarin" will be available to download from 1st December for people who pre-order the album from the band's website.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Thoughts on the Northern Ireland Music Prize 2014

So, on Friday the 15th November, the Northern Irish music industry came together and declared, in their collective wisdom, that the best album of the last twelve months was "Blood of the Innocents" by Robyn G. Shiels, beating out eleven other rivals to scoop the big prize. Here are some brief thoughts from The Metaphorical Boat on the ceremony and the award itself:

1. For the 2nd year running, an older singer-songwriter came home with the prize - After the inaugral prize was won last year by Foy Vance, the victory for Robyn G. Shiels sees the current strike rate for male singer-songwriters of a certain age remain at 100%. If this trend continues next year, then you're unlikely to win if you are under the age of 35, lack a Y chromosome, and have friends.

2. Robyn G. Shiels would not have been my choice of winner - As any keen reader of this blog will undoubtedly know by now, our vote for the prize went to Wonder Villains, so it was disappointing that "Rocky" didn't take home the prize. However, I thought that if it wasn't them, then either Mojo Fury or VerseChorusVerse would have taken home the prize. "Blood of the Innocents" never really hooked me, and his performance on the night didn't do enough to win me over. Still, that's the thing about the democratic voting process, there's always going to be at least one person unhappy with the outcome. And at least he was there on the night to pick up the prize, unlike last year's winner.

3. The ceremony part of the evening remained pretty decent - Just like last year, the visuals and videos for each nominated album were well put together, adding to the excitement of the event, and once again Rigsy did a good job of compering the evening. Just three nominated acts played this year (five graced the stage in 2013). Aside from the aforementioned winner, folk duo Sullivan and Gold and storming rockers More Than Conquerors graced the stage. Perhaps not as much diversity as last year's performers, but I dare you to find one person that wasn't blown away by how fantastic More Than Conquerors were on the night. Had the votes been counted after that performance, I daresay the eventual winner might have been a little bit different.

4. Despite my misgivings, the inclusion of Therapy? was a canny move - when it was initially announced that 90s alt-rock legends Therapy? would receive a lifetime achievement award at the ceremony, I was initially sceptical, as I felt it would detract from the ceremony. Whilst that might still have been the case, it was still a great decision - their inclusion got a lot of people talking about the ceremony beforehand, and Mandela Hall was completely packed by the time the band took to the stage. If just a handful of people who had came especially for Therapy? discovered some hitherto undiscovered artist as a result, then that can only be a good thing. Mike Edgar's speech before handing the band the award, which contextualised the band's music in terms of the music scene that came both before and after them was just wonderful - if he ever writes a book about the Northern Irish music scene, I would be the first in line to buy a copy. And of course, Therapy? blew everyone away with their performance of their 1994 album "Troublegum" in full (an album which, incidentally, was nominated for the Mercury Prize that year).

5. The ceremony has got some press - A quick Google search reveals that the announcement of the winner has been covered in the Belfast Telegraph and Hot Press Magazine, as well as other local media outlets. It's also nice to see that one of the more respected music blogs worldwide, Nialler9, has written about it, so hopefully quite a few people outside of Northern Ireland will be made aware of the award. I've said this before, but it bears repeating - 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, so if you see any decent coverage of the award from further afield, please do let me know.

6. The NI Music Prize should be back next year - even if more than half the crowd were there just to see Therapy? rather than the ceremony itself, the hefty turnout for the event should see the NI Music Prize back again next year. If (or when) it does, I imagine that they'll follow the same format as this year and finish with a performance from a legendary Northern Irish act to supplement the ceremony. If so, the smart money would be on either Ash or Divine Comedy.

7. I've smashed my own record for "closest distance I've ever been from Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol - I was sat 5 feet away from Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol for a large proportion of the ceremony, which smashes my original record of approximately 200 feet (from when I saw the band at the Odyssey Arena a few years ago). Why I am so excited about this development, I still cannot fathom.

So congratulations to Robyn G. Shiels at winning 2014 NI Music Prize, so here's a song from the winning album, "Hello Death" -

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Daveit Ferris - This Is Your Captain Speaking

Following a near death experience at the end of last year, Derry musician and former Mascara Story frontman Daveit Ferris decided to pour his creative energies into his music. And by all, we certainly mean all, for Daveit is about to launch "365 Sparks" a project that will see him release a new song every day during 2015. He's certainly not someone who does things by halves.

To whet our collective appetite before the project steams ahead, he's released an E.P of songs to give us a taste of what to expect. Of the tracks on offer, our highlight would be "This Is Your Captain Speaking", a song that should silence the doubters who might think that as output increases, quality takes a nosedive. The song is a pretty darn impressive alternate-rock song that is just screaming to be playlisted on Kerrang! Radio, such is its heavy, driving, early Fall Out Boy-ish sound. Plus, if The Metaphorical Boat is ever in need of its own theme tune, we'll have this one very much on file.

It's a pretty impressive taster for the project, and we wish Daveit Ferris all the very best for the upcoming year. And we very much expect a few of them to pop up again here in 2015.

"A Taste of 365 Sparks" is available to download on a pay what thou likes basis. 365 Sparks begins in January.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Wonder Villains - Golden Five

We've been waiting for this moment for a long time.

After expressing our desire that it would happen for some time, Wonder Villains have finally decided to release the fantastic, exuberant, stupendous, gloryriffic, bloody brilliant "Golden Five" as a single. Or a focus track. Or whatever you call a post-album, non physical release of a tune in the dark, post-CD dominated world that we now live in. But regardless, now everything Wonder Villain-y is now centred around this glorious, Metronomy-meets-"Boys Don't Cry" pop song for the time being, and we for one could not be happier.

And even better, the band have just released a new music video to accompany its release, and it should come as no surprise that it's well worth watching. The 'plot' of the video seems to follow Eimear and Cheylene as they try to find their band mates Ryan and Kieran, but in reality it's just an excuse to watch the gang get up to silly things for 3 1/2 minutes. When they finally get around to giving Wonder Villains their own Miami 7-esque TV show, they might have just found their opening credits.

"Golden Five" is taken from their debut album "Rocky", which we implore you to purchase right now.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Twin Wild - Another Stranger

Here's a band that seem to have been doing well for themselves recently. London based pop-rock dreamboats* Twin Wild have picked up fans in AlunaGeorge and You Me At Six recently, as well as being invited to support Young Guns on tour. Their last single, "Fears", has so far picked up over 280,000 streams on Soundcloud, which in scientific terms, is described as a 'ruddy boat-load'. The band are gearing up for the release of a new single next month, which is going to be released just in time for the band to be contenders for the Christmas #1 slot.

Although realistically they've got no hope of competing with the likes of Band Aid redux, Tom Odell or whatever mannequin wins this year's X Factor for the coveted slot (or even charting at all), it's definitely worth giving yours a little piece of "Another Stranger". It's not hard to see why they count Young Guns and YM@6 among their admirers, as they share a similar rock-but-not-rock blueprint that make those those bands so beloved among the teen crowd. It's also got a little bit of a Klaxons vibe to it, albeit with less rave-y vibe overall.

Twin Wild definitely have the potential to build a decent sized fanbase over the next few months, and "Another Stranger" should put them in good stead for their future development.

"Another Stranger" will be released on December 14th.

*I mean seriously, look at that press picture. They sure are a photogenic lot. 

Friday, 7 November 2014

Emmy The Great - Swimming Pool

Now here's something we've been looking forward to for some time. We first fell for Emma-Lee Moss, aka Emmy The Great many moons ago after guesting on the fantastic BPA single "Seattle" (which really should have been a massive hit, or at the very least, a hit). Our love of her music was later solidified following the release of her 2nd album "Virtue", an intelligent, beautiful, poetic album that was among our favourite albums of 2011. She's been relatively quiet musically since, but the good news is that having signed to Bella Union (home of Fleet Foxes, Cashier No.9 etc.), she will be releasing a new album and E.P next year, and today the first song from that E.P has been release.

If you're familiar with Emmy The Great's music of yore, the sound of "Swimming Pool" might come as a bit of a surprise. Featuring guest vocals from Tom Fleming (aka the low-voiced one from Wild Beasts), the song seems take a more straightforward approach to lyrics compared to the more poetic style of her earlier music whilst still retaining that essence that made her love her in the first place. The sound has changed as well, instead of the folk sound that we had come to expect, "Swimming Pool" is a more sultry, siren-y song, and given that Emmy appears to sing in a lower register than in the past, it does have some obvious Lana Del Rey vibes to it.

It's absolutely fabulous to have new music from Emmy The Great. "Swimming Pool" might not have been what we'd expected from her return, but it's a pretty great song regardless.

"Swimming Pool" is taken from her E.P "S", which will be released on 26th January.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Owen McGarry ft Conor Scott - Soon

Time for a local artist who seems to have spent a longer time than is fair occupying our musical blind-spot. Belfast singer-songwriter Owen McGarry has been on the go for several years now, releasing music under his own name since 2012. However, it is only in the past few months that he's popped up on our radar. He's won us over with his live performances, which are a cut above your average acoustic guitar botherer - one of the highlights of his sets is his surprisingly melodic mash-up of "99 Problems" and "Lose Yourself," which needs to be heard to be believed.

He's slowly but surely building up a decent local following, so there's no better time for him to give us some new recorded music. Last month, he released an E.P of songs featuring collaborations with lots of different artists on the local scene, including Kris Platt from More Than Conquerors and Shauna Tohill of Silhouette/Rams' Pocket Radio. The song that is getting us the most excited however is "Soon", which is a collaboration with The Voice UK Series 2 participant and all-around good egg Conor Scott. Despite both artists being more acoustic-based live, the track in question rations its use of guitar, letting electronics, keyboards and fantastically compressed drums dominate proceedings. Plus, if all that isn't enough, they've also managed to include one of the best saxophone solos this side of "Midnight City" at the 2:30 minute mark, which is always to be commended.

So Owen McGarry has now moved firmly into our field of vision. If he can continue to give us songs as good as "Soon", he's going to stay there for some time to come.

"Soon" is taken from Owen McGarry's collaborative E.P "STRAY", which is out now.

Port Isla - In The Long Run

After being blown away by Norwich 4-piece Port Isla at The Great Escape, we predicted that it wouldn't be long before they would get snapped up by a major label. And true enough, not long after they got off stage the band inked a deal with Parlophone Records, the home of Coldplay, Two Door Cinema Club and, um, Tiny Dancers (well, we liked them, unlike the rest of the world).

Having come off a tour with George Ezra, the band are due to release their first E.P with their new overlords  label, which by a major coincidence happens to occur just when blogs and the industry are starting to compile their "Tips for 2015" lists. The lead tune from the E.P "In The Long Run", a song that sees the band jettisoning the folksy elements that had permeated their music since their earliest demos and replaces it with a more anthemic, stadium rock sound which had been hinted it with "Steamroller" back in April. Once again, Bruce Springsteen and 3rd album Noah & The Whale are the main touchstones, as well as a little bit of Coldplay thrown in as well (which, as we are always at pains to stress, we don't mean as an insult).

They've got the songs behind them. They've got major label backing. Now all Port Isla need is that elusive hit. Could "In The Long Run" be it? Quite possibly.

"In The Long Run" is taken from the E.P of the same name, which is out on October 23rd.