Monday, 13 May 2019

Late Guest At The Party - Most of the Time

Originally from Italy but now based in New York, Late Guest At The Party make rather nifty electro-pop tunes, with their newest song, "Most of the Time", being a great demonstrator of their sound. Its sonic-manipulation production style and lyrical content calls to mind a cross between Cut Copy & CHVRCHES, and has a groove to it that is likely to pull you in.

"Most of The Time" is out now.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Will Cash Machine Charges Destroy The Grassroots Music Industry?

(The short answer is no, but please indulge me).

This afternoon, I went to the cash machine at St George's Market in Belfast, in order to take out some money. To my surprise, I found that the Cashzone machine, which up until that point had been free of charge, was now charging a fee of £1 for any withdrawals. This mildly infuriated me, as it would be to anyone who found themselves being charged for something that up until recently they could access for nowt.

This is not an isolated case, as I had heard from a lot of people in my local area that several cash machines that had previously been free were now charging a fee for withdrawals, with some people finding that the closest free machine was many miles further away than it previously was. I contacted Cashzone to understand the reason for this - they explained that the reason that some fees had been introduced was because the banks have cut the fees that they receive for each withdrawal, and therefore to continue operating they will need need to charge a fee for each withdrawal. Although interestingly, according to a recent article, this fee has been cut by just 5p per transaction, so a charge of £1 seems above and beyond what would be required to balance out any losses, but hey ho, it's not my company.

There are two main reasons why the introduction of this fee annoyed me. Firstly, it is because if possible, I prefer to spend physical money where I have the opportunity to, rather than by card or by app. There is a psychological reason why I prefer this - according to research, we are less likely to spend money when we pay by cash than by any other means, as our brains see such transactions as more painful when money is physically exchanged, therefore we are more likely to be savvier when we pay for things with cash. I know there are several things that I would never have bought had I come across them in a shop, compared to something that piqued my interest whilst browsing online (occasionally, influenced by alcohol). Over the years, these have included such joys as the soundtrack to the 1991 film Ranma ½: Big Trouble in Nekonron, China, a toilet brush shaped like a cherry, or a sweater based upon an 1859 woodcarving by Utagawa Hiroshige.

Still, worth every penny

There is another, slightly more pertinent reason why I prefer cash - there are some things you have have no option but to pay cash for. The reason why I took out money from the cash machine was to pay to top up my bus ticket, which in many shops in Belfast you can only do using cash. I've also seen over the years that there are other items, such as lottery tickets & fuel top-ups which will only take cash, which can be rather annoying when you go to pay for it once it has been topped up, only to have to run out to the cash machine when you realise it doesn't take cards. A recent article has claimed that around 25 million people in the UK alone would find it hard to live without cash, so that's a lot of people who are likely to get peeved off if they find themselves having to pay a quid every time they take money out of the machine.

So what does all this have to do with music (this nominally being a music blog, after all?) Well, after being hit by the charge, it got me thinking of the one activity where I would spend quite a lot of physical cash, and that is going to gigs. As someone who enjoys local music, quite a lot of the gigs that I would go to would be cash-only affairs, paying for a ticket on the door, and handing over dosh for any merchandise that I may or may not buy (especially if said merch includes mugs - oh gosh, how I love branded mugs). If paying to take out money becomes the norm, could it mean that myself and others will be less likely to take out money, and therefore spend less money at grassroots music events, therefore meaning decreased earnings for artists to get by on?

Quite possibly, although I'm probably being a little over-dramatic. After all, even if we are become more of a cashless society, there are still ways for grassroots artists to sell tickets & merch without relying on money - they can sell tickets for their gigs on websites such as Eventbrite (indeed, one local artist managed to sell over 150 tickets for his album launch last week through this platform), and as for merch, they can use apps such as iZettle to easily take debit card payments (indeed, the app is even being used by buskers to take payments - although you'd have to be very trusting to give some money that way). The drawback with those services of course is that they will take a small but significant cut of any earnings you make from payments through them, which could lead you somewhat worse off. Although as I mentioned earlier, people are psychologically more willing to pay for something if they don't physically transfer the money over, so swings & roundabouts.

I would love to know your thoughts on all this, especially if you are a musician. Do you still rely mainly on cash for your takings at gigs? And if people were less likely to take cash with them to gigs, do you think this would adversely impact you?

In conclusion, music good. Cash machine charges, bad.

(Also worth every penny - what a soundtrack). 

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Sun Gods - Zanzara

By the start of January, I had assumed that the song that would end up being The Metaphorical Boat's Top Song of 2019 would be a dead certainty. After all, what song in this calendar year could hope to compete with "Harmony Hall", the breathtakingly stunning return from Vampire Weekend? Ever since then, it's been far and away the favourite, with no other song even hoping to come close to its brilliance.

Until now that is, as we've now discovered a song that might give it a run for its money. The song comes courtesy of Sun Gods, a 4-piece Belgian band, and boy, does it tick a lot of our metaphorical boxes. "Zanzara" (which is Italian for mosquito), is a tender electro-stomper of a song that calls to mind the production of Prides or Bear's Den circa "Red Earth & Pouring Rain", with a songwriting style that draws fond comparisons with The Waterboys.

So is it as good as "Harmony Hall"? After several listens, I would say not. But it comes pretty darn close.

"Zanzara" is out now.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Ferals - The Low

Hailing from Belfast via the north coast, the finely-facial haired trio Ferals first made a name for themselves in 2018 off the back of their ode to the former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, and subsequently got picked up for the Oh Yeah Centre's "Scratch My Progress" for career development.

They've got 2019 off to a bang with their new single, "The Low", which is a great demonstration of their noise-y, post-rock sound. It calls to mind a more angular version of Biffy Clyro, with its heavily distorted guitar hooks and gang vocals.

"The Low" is out now.

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Dean Maywood - Jane

Hailing from Donegal, singer/songwriter Dean Maywood has been picking up a bit of support in the past year, supporting artists like The 4 of Us and Gareth Dunlop amongst many others. His latest single is "Jane", which should act as a solid introduction to his style of music. It's a song that could be best described as alt-country, taking inspiration from artists such as John Prine or Neil Young. It's quite a sparse sounding track, allowing Maywood's heart-on-the-sleeve style of songwriting to take centre stage.

"Jane" is taken from his debut E.P, which is due for release in May.