Sunday 30 December 2012

Bleeding Heart Pigeons - Soliloquies, Massacres

As a music fan, you know that it's the end of another year when you see the 'tip sheets' of various publications coming in thick or fast. Be it the BBC Sound of... poll, the Blog Sound Of... poll (which for the first time this year I was one of the judging panel), or even my very own lists, they act as a good indicator of what musicians are worth keeping an eye on over the next 12 months. Because isn't that smug sense of self-satisfaction you get when you hear someone talking about an artist a few months down the line and you think to yourself "I heard of them back in November!" just wonderful?

In any of these lists, you know that an artist is going to do particularly well when you find the same artists cropping up again and again. The Irish Times recently asked some trendy media people which artists that they are tipping for big things next year. Several of the people asked, including Conor O'Brien of Villagers, came up with an artist whom I hadn't heard of up until now, but one that I've really taken to - Limerick based trio Bleeding Heart Pigeons, and their three-part alternate-rock movement* "Soliloquies, Massacres".

The first part of the movement is "Visiting Myself In Hospital", a track which combines the forceful electronic-rock of These New Puritans with a vocal/guitar aesthetic borrowed from Manic Street Preachers. The second part, "Premeditation", takes on board some of the more intimate sounds of Radiohead, before climaxing with some very Warp-esque bleeps.

This is then followed by the final part, "Catharsis", which suddenly and surprisingly hurtles the music into Vampire Weekend territory for three glorious minutes, before pulling the plug entirely for the final two minutes, stripping the song down to just guitar and vocals.

For a band that are still in their teens, "Soliloquies, Massacres" is an incredibly inventive introduction to Bleeding Heart Pigeons. The band have done the impossible by taking the best bits of some of the most inventive artists of the past twenty years, yet made something both strikingly original and very much their own. Where they can possibly go from here is anybody's guess.

"Soliloquies, Massacres" is out now, with parts II & III available to download for free.

*It's posher than saying E.P.

Thursday 27 December 2012

Aware Wolf - Skummy Skummy Skam Guy


For a rock band that only has two members, New York based Aware Wolf sure do make a lot of noise. Taken from their first E.P, "Scummy Scummy Skam Guy" takes its lead from a variety of different sources, be it the loud guitars of Japandroids, the lo-fi charm of The Libertines, or the pop-laden punk of Green Day (elements of the track do bear melodic similarities to their track "Jesus of Suburbia"). It's this sort of fun garage-pop that inspired me to start this blog in the first place nearly two years ago, and it's a song well worth taking 2 1/2 minutes out of your day to listen to.

The track from the band's self-titled debut E.P, which is available on a pay-what-you-like basis.

Saturday 22 December 2012

Maglia Rosa Group - Nighthawks

Are you one of those people that howls angrily at your computer screen whenever you see someone referring to Florence Welch as the new Kate Bush? If so, then I recommend finding a good anger management course. But before that, it might be worth checking out Norwich based quartet Maglia Rose Group, a band who seem to encapsulate the voice and sonic influences of the "Hounds of Love" artist more than any Machine.

Their latest release, "Nighthawks", is a dark, introverted song featuring love, longing and loss, with the encapsulating vocals of lead singer Daisy Lawrence showing off an almost operatic feeling.

The debut E.P by Maglia Rosa Group, "Nighthawks", is out now.

Thursday 20 December 2012

Beard of Wolves - My Father Drives The Death Star

Even though we're very close to the end of the year, there are still some artists determined to win the award for both the "Strangest Artist Name" and "Most Bonkers Song title of 2012." Until now, there have been few contenders vying for both titles simultaneously. Until now. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Welsh group Beard of Wolves!

Ahead of a forthcoming E.P release in March, the Welsh group have made the first track from the release available immediately as a free download, which is rather gloriously called "My Father Drives The Death Star". The track straddles the line between garage rock and harsh electro, ending up with a song not to dissimilar to a more primitive version of Does It Offend You, Yeah.

Monday 17 December 2012

And So I Watch You From Afar - Like a Mouse

This morning, both my Facebook and Twitter feeds exploded simultaneously with the news that Belfast's loudest, heaviest and most respected post-rockers, And So I Watch You From Afar, are gearing up to release their third studio album next year.

Much has changed in Afar Land since the release of their last album "Gangs". The band have consolidated to a three piece following the departure of Tony Wright (now plying his trade as VerseChorusVerse), and the band's record label has shifted to Sargent House, following the winding up of much respected Dublin label Richter Collective.

What hasn't changed however, is the group's knack for a killer tune, as evidenced by the first song to be taken from their upcoming album. "Like a Mouse" is a great re-introduction to the band featuring some of their trademark sounds - loud guitars, shifting time signatures and riff, and lyric-less chants tailor made for live audience shenanigans.

The band's 3rd album, "All Hail Bright Futures", will be released on March 19th.

Sunday 16 December 2012

Hologram - Fight or Flight

Having released their debut single over the summer, Belfast based piano-rockers Hologram are gearing up to release their first E.P in the new year. In anticipation of that release they have made its first track available to download as a free single. "Fight Or Flight" is a heart-tugger of a tune, one which calls to mind the work of fellow Nordie band Rams' Pocket Radio.

The group have released a music video to coincide with the single's release, which has been shot all across Belfast city:

Saturday 15 December 2012

The Metaphorical Boat's Best of 2012 - The Lists

For the benefit of those who don't like musical embeds, or opinions about the music featured, here are The Metaphorical Boat's top songs and albums in list form. For those who enjoy cold, hard data.

Top Songs of 2012:
  1. The Asteroids Galaxy Tour - Heart Attack
  2. Little Comets - Jennifer
  3. Public Service Broadcasting - Spitfire
  4. Japandroids - The House That Heaven Built
  5. Wonder Villains - Ferrari
  6. Foals - Inhaler
  7. Django Django - Default
  8. Passion Pit - Take a Walk
  9. Eugene McGuinness - Harlequinade
  10. Shonen Knife - Pop Tune
  11. Bruce Springsteen - We Take Care of Our Own
  12. Jake Bugg - Lightning Bolt
  13. B>E>A>K - Kehaar
  14. Various Cruelties - Great Unknown
  15. The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock - The Brutal Here and Now (Part I)
  16. Free Swim - The Smell of Pregnancy
  17. The Futureheads - The No. 1 Song in Heaven
  18. SOAK - Sea Creatures
  19. Public Service Broadcasting - Roygbiv
  20. Howler - Back Of Your Neck
  21. Future of the Left - Sheena Is a T-Shirt Salesman
  22. Jack White - Sixteen Saltines
  23. Of Monsters and Men - Little Talks
  24. blur - Under the Westway
  25. Ren Harvieu - Open Up Your Arms
  26. The Vaccines - Teenage Icon
  27. Wonder Villains - TV
  28. I Am Not Lefthanded - Screamager
  29. Alabama Shakes - Hold On
  30. The Heartbreaks - Delay, Delay
  31. Cashier No.9 - Death of Fun
  32. Lucy Rose - Lines
  33. Muse - Madness
  34. The 1975 - Sex
  35. The Big Pink - Hit The Ground (Superman)
  36. Eugene McGuinness - Sugarplum
  37. David Byrne & St. Vincent - Who
  38. Grimes - Genesis
  39. Eatenbybears - Simple As Hell
  40. Imagine Dragons - It's Time
  41. Jake Bugg - Two Fingers
  42. The Super Happy Fun Club -Way Back (The Conflict)
  43. Underworld ft Alex Trimble - Caliban's Dream
  44. Athletes in Paris - Echoes Louder Than Voices
  45. The Black Keys - Gold On The Ceiling
  46. The Diamond Noise - Never Say Never Say Never
  47. nano.RIPE - Real World
  48. A Plastic Rose - Build From the Ground Up
  49. Diiv - Doused
  50. Spector - Celestine
Top Albums of 2012:
  1. Little Comets - Life Is Elsewhere
  2. Japandroids - Celebration Rock
  3. Eugene McGuinness - The Invitation to the Voyage
  4. Bruce Springsteen - Wrecking Ball
  5. Jack White - Blunderbuss 
  6. Shonen Knife - Pop Tune
  7. Jake Bugg - Jake Bugg
  8. Django Django - Django Django
  9. Tribes - Baby
  10. Lucy Rose - Like I Used To

The Metaphorical Boat's Albums of 2012 - 5-1

Now it's time for The Metaphorical Boat's Top 5 albums of 2012. Some real beauties in these top 5, with many of them destined to become future classics, or in some cases, future forgotten gems:

5. Jack White - Blunderbuss

(XL Recordings)

After calling the rigid set-up of The White Stripes to a close, and taking breaks from the other 39 bands that he is a member of, Detroit's Jack White graced us this year with his debut solo album, a record that reawakened many people's interest in the guitarist after getting lost somewhere between The Raconteurs' sophomore record and The Dead Weather's debut single.

Just like the albums he made with Meg, "Blunderbuss" is notable for the sheer variety of songs on offer here, albeit one that expands upon the rule of thirds he had stuck to over those 6 records. From balls-up rock on "Sixteen Saltines", to razor-tinted balladry of "Love Interruption", through to blues covers and piano waltzes ("I'm Shaking" and "Take Me With You..." respectively), "Blunderbuss" is kaleidoscopic view into the wonderful mind of Jack White.

4. Bruce Springsteen - Wrecking Ball


When Bruce Springsteen released "Working On A Dream" in 2009, it was a time of great hope. Barack Obama's election gave the impression of a new generation of politics, various foreign conflicts were coming to an end, and the financial crisis seemed to be nearly over. Perhaps it's because of this that in hindsight, the album was something of a damp squib.

Fast forward three years, and it turns out that things didn't quite go according to plan. The economy is in a worse off state than it was then, the country still found itself caught up in conflicts abroad, and Obama failed to walk on water and feed the five thousand. All of this has contributed to Springsteen's angriest album for some time, and consequently his best.

"We Take Care of Our Own" is his most accessible single in years, yet     shows a great anger for the apathy shown by the government. Other tracks see The Boss addressing the bankers whom he blames for the economic downturn (using some colourful language on "Jack on All Trades"), and sees him addressing spiritual and catholic themes ("Rocky Ground" and "Land of Hope and Dreams).

Although I do hope that the economy etc. picks up pretty soon, there's a dark side of me that hopes things still haven't sorted themselves out by the time Bruce Springsteen releases his next album. After all, it's during times of crises that he writes his best work.

3. Eugene McGuinness - The Invitation to the Voyage


Who've thought that the guitarist for Miles Kane would write one of the greatest grown-up pop records of the year? "The Invitation To The Voyage" mixes sophisticated production techniques with literate and occasionally witty lyrics to great effect. "Harlequinade", "Sugarplum" & "Thunderbolt" feature some of the best pop hooks of the year, "Lion", the only indie-rock tune on the record, mixes a hypnotic guitar riff with side-splitting vocals, whilst he manages to sample Tricky on "Shotgun" and get away with it. It's not an album I envisage appearing on many other year-end lists, but it is a wonderful record if you take thetime to absorb it.

2. Japandroids - Celebration Rock


I feel that I might have been unduly harsh on "Celebration Rock" by Canadian duo Japandroids when I first mentioned it in July. Back then, I complained that it was too short (only 8 songs), and was far too indebted to Bruce Springsteen. However, given that I have declared it to be by 2nd favourite album of the year, it's fair to say my opinion has changed a lot.

Having spent a lot more time with the album, I think that eight tracks is the perfect length for the record, for if it was any longer, it would lose what was so special about it. Plus, as the band's website helpfully points out, "Born To Run" was only 8 tracks long as well. It is unashamedly a rock record, with guitars distorted to the maximum, and vocals set firmly on powerful. These are the songs of long nights spent on the road going from one city to the next. These are the songs spent performing in small-to-medium sized venues as fans chant along to the single's biggest hooks. And most of all, it's the music to soundtrack having the best of times, whilst you still can.

1. Little Comets - Life Is Elsewhere

(Dirty Hit)

If you had said to me two years ago that the Newcastle based group Little Comets would make the album I would consider to be the best of the year, I would have laughed in your face. After all, their debut album was released at the tail end of the so called "landfill indie" landslide, and the prospects of them even making it to album two seemed slim. Yet in losing a member to the real world, something extraordinary happened.

The band got good. Very good in fact. 

"Life Is Elsewhere" is the sound of a band maturing and moving into interesting new waters. Conventional rock rhythms are ignored in favour of different rhythms and time signatures (The chorus of "A Little Opus is in 9/4 time, for example). The sound is comparable to a mix of mainstream 80s pop with the Afro-beat sound as popularized  by Vampire Weekend. Whilst this new approach to writing has paid off really well, the album's most prominent feature is one that many other writers have failed to pick up on.

Lyrically, the album is a very dark affair.

Some of the reviews have tended to comment more on the upbeat hooks of the record, yet have downplayed the darkness of the lyrics, or in some baffling cases, ignored it all together. The only time I have ever been angry whilst reading an album review was when I read Earmilk's thoughts about "Life Is Elsewhere". According to their woefully misguided review
"The album is full to the brim with light-hearted tunes. You won't find any dark or melancholic draws here, that's not Little Comets' style."
This conveniently ignores the fact that one of the tracks on the album, "Violence Out Tonight", deals with the brutal subject of rape, whilst another track, "Bayonne", was inspired by familial shootings. It makes me wonder if they really listened to the same album that I did.

"Life Is Elsewhere" is a mature offering which is just as likely to make you think than to move. It it is an album that despite its bleakness, offers something reassuringly human at the centre. And it is an album that deserves to be listened to over and over again.

Friday 14 December 2012

The Metaphorical Boat's Albums of 2012 - 10-6

After all the fun and hijinks of looking at our favourite songs of 2012, it is time to look at the ten albums that most shaped The Metaphorical Boat's listening habits over the past twelve months.

As always, it is usually much harder to decide on an order for best albums 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 much more 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? 

It's for reasons like this that I have great respect for one music blogger, who decides his best-of list based on a complex mathematical formula. It's a good system, but whilst maths might be useful in some areas of music (e.g. ensuring your drummer can count to four is a necessity for any good rock band), when it comes to choosing favourites, going with your heart and gut is probably the best option.

So here is the first half of The Metaphorical Boat's top albums of 2012:

10. Lucy Rose - Like I Used To


The release of the debut album by Lucy Rose was the moment when she stopped being defined by her relationship with Bombay Bicycle Club and became a fully fledged artist in her own right. "Like I Used To" is a wonderful album full of acoustic charm and soothing vocals from Ms  Rose.

9. Tribes - Baby


I think that we can all agree that the best album of 2013 is likely to be Suede's long awaited sixth studio album. But until we await their second coming, there are plenty of bands that have attempted to keep the Britpop sound alive. But whilst many bands failed miserably in their quest (Viva Brother, anyone?), there was one that managed to stand head and shoulder above the rest - London group Tribes.

Their debut album, "Baby" was compared favorably to Suede's "Coming Up", an understandable comparison, even if it isn't entirely true. Their debut album contains such wonderful nuggets as "Corner Of An English Field", the existential angst of "Sappho", and the wonderfully anthemic "We Were Children". The album might not have soared to the heights that their major label backing might have hoped for, but at the very least "Baby" has gifted them a second album, which in today's musical climate is something of an achievement.

8. Django Django - Django Django

(Because Music)

I have found it hard to correctly categorize the self-titled debut album by everybody's favourite band epizeuxis Django Django. The received wisdom is to describe it as art-rock, because the band members went to art school (?), but even that would be too narrow a description. The band even seem to have acknowledged the difficulty of categorizing themselves, seeing as the linear notes to "Django Django" list approximately 1000 different artists and writers who proved influential in making the record.

Once you listen to the album in its entirety, you begin to realise just how wonderfully unpigeonholable the album is, mixing the organic and the artificial superbly, and treading the fine line between accessible and self-indulgent with aplomb. Maybe in the future, Django Django might itself become a genre onto itself?

7. Jake Bugg - Jake Bugg


Nottingham teenager Jake Bugg surprised many pundits and guitar is dead naysayers by taking his self-titled debut album to number one in October. The only people who weren't surprised of course were those who actually took the time to listen to the album in question.

One of the greatest charms of the album  the feeling of being more like a demo tape than a fully fledged album ("Lightning Bolt" has no bassline), its lo-fi feeling helping to separate him from another major number 1 selling singer/songwriter,the over-polished Ed Sheeran.

Much of the album has been co-written and performed by Iain Archer, who's most famous for co-writing "Run" by Snow Patrol, and as such has steered Mr Bugg in the direction of guitar anthemics. Yet some of the album's solo moments reveal a more tender side to the singer. "Someone Told Me" is a wonderful tune, with some exquisite finger-picked guitar work that really strikes a chord.

6. Shonen Knife - Pop Tune


Thirty years into their career, Japanese pop-punk trio Shonen Knife show no signs of slowing down. “Pop Tune”, their 18th studio effort, is a great album from a band that is very much a one-of-a-kind act. After all, how many other bands can get away with songs about eating lots of food ("All You Can Eat"), a song sung from the perspective of a piece of office stationary ("Paper Clip"), or going to them parks ("Ghost Train")? 

While there are a few more mellow moments to the album than one would expect from Shonen Knife, on the whole it is a fantastically bonkers, energetic, and above all, fun album from the trio.

Thursday 13 December 2012

Caught Live - The 1975/Go Wolf

Venue: The Oh Yeah Centre, Belfast

Date: 12th December 2012

There is something of a sparse crowd in attendance for the gig this evening at the Oh Yeah Centre. A combination of terrible weather and flag related tomfoolery around the city means that the crowd for The 1975 only number about thirty people.Yet those that have braved into Belfast city centre are in for a treat in the form of the music on offer.

The support act for this evening is Belfast pop four-piece Go Wolf. The first half of their set consists of some competent, if somewhat pedestrian, tunes. However, at the halfway point the band suddenly come into their own and step things up a gear. The tune which marks this change is "Visions", a song that mixes synthesized vocal keyboard samples with a funky, French touch bassline and a rhythm not too dissimilar to the sound that got people dancing to Franz Ferdinand all those years ago.

They then follow this up with two fantastic songs in a row - "All Good Things", with its soaring guitars and impressive rhythm section, current single "Voices", which shows off the great boy/girl harmonies that the group have to offer. They conclude their set with the thundering sound of "Oceans", and leave the stage to a decent reception. The band still have a good bit to go before they become a must-see band locally, but if the second half of the set is anything to go by, then Go Wolf have absolute heaps of potential.

Go Wolf, doing their thing.

Before they get up on stage, Matt Healey, the lead singer of The 1975 approaches us to advise us to bring seats up to the dance floor during their upcoming performance. It's probably a wise move - throughout Go Wolf's set, the entire audience loitered at the back of the venue in typical Belfast fashion, so having the crowd closer, albeit seated, makes for a better show. After being seated for about five minutes, the band enter the stage and burst into their first song, the soaring sound scape of "The City", much to the excitement of the crowd.

The 1975 (centre). Joe Strummer quote (bottom left)

Whilst the sound for the majority of the set is soaring, with guitars very much in My Bloody Valentine territory, the band display quite a bit of variation in their sound, something that hasn't really come across on their E.Ps. Throughout their set, they display elements of afro-rock (not too dissimilar to their label-mates Little Comets), ambient music, and at one point even U2-esque stadium rock. At one point, Matt plays the song "Woman" on his own and reveals that it was written in Belfast after meeting someone during a stay in the city last year. So if your name is Eileen and you worked at Malmaison Hotel in Belfast city centre last year - congratulations! There is a song about you being played across the UK by a Manchester band.

The group finish the set with their two loudest, most crowd pleasing songs - "Sex", which evokes the loudest reaction from the crowd and leads to some awkward 'chair dancing' among some crowd members, and "You", which concludes with singer Matt jumping off the stage, then destroying the microphone on his way back up. It's a memorable finish to a great set, and the band leave the stage to a great applause from the small, but dedicated crowd.

When a band such as The 1975 receives such massive hype, there is always the chance that it could easily deflate if they are unable to live up to the buzz live. However, in the case of The 1975, the hype is very much deserved. They have a great stage presence, a wonderful energy, and perhaps most importantly, some fantastic songs. Let's just hope that the next time they come back to Belfast, they play to a slightly bigger crowd. 

'Oh Yeah' indeed.

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Northern Ireland Tunes - Round-Up #9

Although it's been fun looking through some of the best songs that 2012 had to offer, it is always great to look at some local songs that might have been overlooked. Here's a few tunes from 'our wee province' that have been floating The Metaphorical Boat recently:
Go Wolf - Voices

There's something of a French touch to Belfast based quartet Go Wolf, if their debut single "Voices" is anything to go by. It's a fun tune, aided along by a funky bassline and some effortless synth work. If you want to catch them live, you don't have long to wait - they are supporting The 1975 at the Oh Yeah Centre on Wednesday 12th December.

Feet For Wings - Rose Before Bloom

Belfast trio Feet For Wings make honest to goodness earnest folk music, which can be seen on their latest single "Rose Before Bloom". It is a eloquently sung, finely produced song.

Lulubelle III - Radiant

Derry duo Lulubelle III will release their second album, "Foyle Delta Blues", on 12th December. Taken from that album is "Radiant", a track that calls to mind the hushed romantic melancholy of Jesus & Mary Chain.

Not Stanley - Fill Me Up

Hailing from the town of Portrush (a place where many a day was wasted on the Tuppenny Nudgers), Not Stanley are the latest group of young upstarts hoping to make an impact with their pop-punk style. For a debut single, "Fill Me Up" is quite impressive, with its buzzsaw riffs and confident, youth-filled energy.

Sunday 9 December 2012

Album Review: Straw Bear - Black Bank


I recently got into a conversation with someone as to whether Mumford & Sons should really be considered a folk band or not. The person I was talking to argued that the sound of the band owes more to American bluegrass music than to the English folk tradition, and therefore should not really be considered to be folk, or 'nu-folk', at all.

This conversation sticks in the mind when it comes to reviewing "Black Bank", the second album by English group Straw Bear. On the surface, "Black Bank" may appear to be a quintessential English folk album. Yet this pigeonholing would be a disservice to their music.

There are some wonderfully folksy tunes on the album, that's for sure. The delicate sound of the album opener, "Kitty" is both wistful and hopeful at the same time, whilst "Quartermaster" is a song that wouldn't seem out of place at Ye Olde Renaissance Faire. However, there are aspects, both musical and lyrical, that give it an edge over other 'folk' artists.

This includes their ability to flesh out characters and situations that you feel empathy for. The titular "Kitty", for example, is described as the "archetypal artist...(who) only creates fantasies of stadium tours and celebrity dates", painting a picture of someone whose critical self-consciousness leaves her unable to reach her full potential.

Sometimes, their lyrical odysseys can be downright bizarre. "Urban Fox", a song that has more than a hint of Blur in it, is a tale about those noisy little critters keeping people awake at night due to their, to use a euphemism, over-activeness. That vocalist Ian Ray can sing about this without corpsing is a testament to his resolve, especially given the "angry Scottish monologue" that occurs halfway through the track. Another track on the record, "Cocker Pug", sees Ray compare himself and others to various breeds of dog over a sunny guitar riff, before settling on a springer spaniel (and definitely not a bulldog).  

And then there are the songs that cannot in good conscience be considered folk at all. "Manana" sounds like the song that you would find as the last track on a Britpop compilation CD when the compilers couldn't get the rights to "Smile" by The Supernaturals and needed a less well known track to fill in the space at the end, which would eventually osmosisize into the wider world's psyche. And the closing track, the rocky romp "State of The Nation", sounds like a cross between the garage power of The Hives and the more reflective sound of The Guillemots. It's rare to see a band leave their best song to the very end of an album, but in this case it seems to work rather effectively.

"Black Bank" by Straw Bear is a rather odd beast indeed. It's an album that largely eschews the folk tradition, yet there is something typically British about it. In the end, the best way to describe is probably "Postmodern English folk". It is an album full of quirky gems that seem tailor made for repeat listening.

And by popular demand, this review will end with a pun. If "Black Bank" becomes successful, and artists begin to cite it as influence, does that mean those bands are Straw Bear-y flavoured? 

Release Date: 10th December (purchase it from their official website here)

Highlights: "Kitty", "Cocker Pug", "State of The Nation".

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2012 - Number One

And after a week of counting down, we finally reach the one song that shone the brightest for me in 2012. The ace in the pack, the leader of the gang, a rather good egg etc. And I can now reveal that The Metaphorical Boat's top song of 2012 is...
1. The Asteroids Galaxy Tour - Heart Attack

 You've got me head over heels on gasoline
You know how it feels, like nicotine
Head over heels you raise your flag
Come on bang, bang, bang, give me heart attack

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - pop is not a dirty word. Which is why I'm glad that the song that I have judged to be the best of 2012 that is absolutely brimming with pop goodness. "Heart Attack" by Danish duo The Asteroids Galaxy Tour is the sort of joyous tune that make you either glad to be young, or pine for your youth. It's smartly produced, with an infectious keyboard riff, a vocalist (Mette Lindberg) who is absolutely brimming with attitude, and an effective dual-chorus that builds to a satisfying conclusion. The Asteroids Galaxy Tour are a group who have discovered the formula to the near-perfect pop song, and "Heart Attack" is the captivating proof.

And as we end this epic journey of The Metaphorical Boat's top songs comes to an end, all that's left to do is for the chart topping artist to play us out. Take it away, Asteroids Galaxy Tour

Saturday 8 December 2012

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2012 - 5-2

We're nearing the end of the road now. Before we reach The Metaphorical Boat's favourite song of 2012, here are the four tracks that just fell at the final hurdle.

5. Wonder Villains - Ferrari

Wonder Villains first released "Ferrari" as part of a compilation CD curated by the Oh Yeah Centre. When it came to recording their second official single, the track was re-recording with a more prominent guitar riff, to make it the wonderful exercise in energy-soaked pop that it is today. It contains one of the most playfully fun lyrics of the year, and one that hits home with a 90s child like myself: "I swapped my brother for a Pokémon card, shiny Charizard.

4. Japandroids - The House That Heaven Built

Canadian rock duo Japandroids had an rock monster on their hands when they unleashed "The House That Heaven Built" to the unsuspecting public. It was one of those songs that crossed so many boundaries for so many people. The hard rock fans loved the loud guitars, the NME/indie crowd loved the hooky "oh oh's", the likes of which hadn't been used so effective since The Futurehead's cover of "Hounds of Love", whilst the classic rock purists were in it for the Springsteen-y overtones to the tune. It's a tune that struck a chord with so many people. It just a shame that after they played this song live in Belfast, half the audience promptly left.

3. Public Service Broadcasting - Spitfire

Taking public information films and turning them into electro-rock masterpieces? Only Public Service Broadcasting could have pulled it off with such aplomb. "Spitfire" takes samples from a propaganda film from World War 2, and somewhat ironically adds a krautrock backing to the proceedings. Who said that learning couldn't be fun?

2. Little Comets - Jennifer

And falling at the final hurdle is Newcastle based group Little Comets, with "Jennifer". The band combined elements of afrobeat and 80s mainstream pop music to create a song brimming with pathos, impassioned pleas, and a chorus that really sticks in your brain.

On a separate note, lead singer Robert Coles never replied to the open letter I wrote him back in May. Perhaps knowing that I thought that only one song this year was better than one of his compositions might spur him into action?

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2012 - 10-6

Things are heating up now as we head into the top 10. As these are some of my ultimate highlights of the year, each entry has a few sentences about what is so brilliant about them.

10. Shonen Knife - Pop Tune

30 years into their career, Japanese pop-punk trio Shonen Knife are still able to deliver songs full of the joys of youth. The title track from their 18th studio album, "Pop Tune" exists very much at the pop end of pop-punk, with sumptuous backing vocals and a last minute key change making it a joy to listen to.

9. Eugene McGuinness - Harlequinade

Mr McGuinness appears to be one of the most well-read artists currently operating in the popsphere, if the sound of "Harlequinade" is anything to go by. The lyrics hark back to the time of the commedia dell'Arte, a dramatic form in Italy in the middle ages, where the performers wore masks and improvised the action based on predetermined scenarios with stock characters. Two of these stock characters are mentioned by name in the song, Harlequin and Pantaloon, who are seen as the zany archetypes.

And I think the last paragraph just justified my drama degree. Thanks a lot, Eugene McGuinness.

8. Passion Pit - Take a Walk

It's strange that in a time of economic meltdown, the situations faced by many people hasn't really been reflected in mainstream music. One exception to this however is the wonderful "Take a Walk" by Passion Pit. On the surface, it appears to be a jaunty synth-pop tune with an infectious electronic riff. However, take a closer look at the lyrics and it reveals a dark side, about not being in control of your finances and being unable to admit your faults to the ones you love. If only all pop music would reveal such depth.

7. Django Django - Default

Who'd have thought that the most badass guitar riff of the year would come from a group of architecture graduates? Django Django hit pay dirt in 2012 with their hypnotic alt-rock sound. "Default" was the highlight of the set, with an epic two-chord riff and seemingly nonsense lyrics coming together to make something engaging and suspiciously intellectual. And if that wasn't enough, their lead singer is from Derry.

6. Foals - Inhaler

Is this really the same band that first broke through at the tail end of 'landfill indie' in 2008? "Inhaler" is a tightly produced, confident tune, brushing with intense energy that belies its relatively modest BPM.

Friday 7 December 2012

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2012 - 15-11

Next up, the songs that just missed out on the top 10. We've got rock legends, Irish psych-folk, Jake Bugg's 2nd entry of the year, and some bird-rock.

15. The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock - The Brutal Here and Now (Part I)

14. Various Cruelties - Great Unknown

13. B>E>A>K - Kehaar

12. Jake Bugg - Lightning Bolt

11. Bruce Springsteen - We Take Care of Our Own

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2012 - 20-16

We're close to the end now, so here are the tunes from number 20 to number 16, and include indie bands going acapella, songs build around samples of public information films, and Northern Ireland's most promising singer/songwriter:

20. Howler - Back Of Your Neck

19. Public Service Broadcasting - Roygbiv

18. SOAK - Sea Creatures

17. The Futureheads - The No. 1 Song in Heaven

16. Free Swim - The Smell of Pregnancy

Thursday 6 December 2012

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2012 - 25-21

We're past the halfway point now, so we're into the even more awesome stuff. The next 5 songs include angry punk-rock, Icelandic folk, and a comeback single from Britpop legends. 

25. Ren Harvieu - Open Up Your Arms

24. Blur - Under the Westway

23. Of Monsters and Men - Little Talks

22. Jack White - Sixteen Saltines

21. Future of the Left - Sheena Is a T-Shirt Salesman

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2012 - 30-26

The next part of our countdown features indie-rock, blues-rock, one of the brightest young bands from NI, and a cover of one of NI's greatest anthems:

30. The Heartbreaks - Delay, Delay

29. Alabama Shakes - Hold On

 28. I Am Not Lefthanded - Screamager

27. Wonder Villains - TV

26. The Vaccines - Teenage Icon

Wednesday 5 December 2012

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2012 - 35-31

The next part of the countdown features a band tipped for big things in 2013, a band who were tipped for big things in 2009, the biggest (non-Coldplay) band from England, and a track from one of my favourite Northern Irish bands:

35. The Big Pink - Hit The Ground (Superman)

34. The 1975 - Sex

33. Muse - Madness

32. Lucy Rose - Lines

31. Cashier No.9 - Death of Fun

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2012 - 40-36

The next part of our countdown features the quintessential blogger's artist, Northern Ireland's premier shifty-pop group, and a collaboration which on paper sounded ill-advised, but in practice is rather fantastic:

40. Imagine Dragons - It's Time

39. Eatenbybears - Simple As Hell

38. Grimes - Genesis

37. David Byrne & St. Vincent - Who

36. Eugene McGuinness - Sugarplum

Tuesday 4 December 2012

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2012 - 45-41

The next part of our countdown looks at songs from 45-41, and includes American stadium-rockers, young indie guitarists and a song premiered during the Olympic Opening Ceremony. 

45. The Black Keys - Gold On The Ceiling

44. Athletes in Paris - Echoes Louder Than Voices

43. Underworld ft Alex Trimble - Caliban's Dream

42. The Super Happy Fun Club -Way Back (The Conflict)

41. Jake Bugg - Two Fingers

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2012 - 50-46

As we're reaching the end of the year, it's a good time as ever to reflect back on the wonderful music that has came into my life over the past 12 months. As such, like every good music blogger, over the next few days I will be running through the fifty songs that I enjoyed the most this year. Some of these are songs that have featured on the blog at some point or another. Some of the songs might be surprising inclusions, but I feel that they will be the tunes that I will remember the most fondly when I look back at 2012.

And in the words of that immortal philosopher Julie Andrews, let's start at the very beginning. The first 5 tunes in the top 50 include a buzz band, the first Northern Irish artist in the countdown, and a song sung entirely in Japanese:

50. Spector - Celestine

49. Diiv - Doused

48. A Plastic Rose - Build From the Ground Up

47. nano.RIPE - Real World

46. The Diamond Noise - Never Say Never Say Never

Monday 3 December 2012

Blog Sound of 2013 - Poll Results

The Blog Sound Poll was first published in 2011. The concept of the poll wasn’t to criticise the established BBC Sound of list, but simply an experiment to see if UK music bloggers could come up with its own list of emerging artists that was more representative of their community and give the artists that were nominated some extra publicity. Indeed the idea was to compliment the BBC list in many ways by providing an alternative to compare and contrast.

Last year’s final long list provided some interesting alternatives to the BBC list; most notably it included Alt-J, this year’s Mercury Prize winners, who didn’t feature on the BBC list at all.

The Blog Sound of 2013 poll has expanded with 49 UK blogs nominating their 5 favourite emerging artists. Just over 170 acts received at least 1 vote. The winning act received votes from around 25% of all bloggers.

The long list represents the very best of new music and draws from major label, indie label and completely unsigned acts. The likes of Haim may be featuring on a lot of new music tip lists at the moment, but the Blog Sound poll also highlights lesser known bands such as Curxes and Randolph’s Leap, bands that do not have big PR representation, and this is what makes the Blog Sound list fascinating and exciting.

The poll was organised by Robin Seamer (Breaking More Waves) and Andy Von Pip (The Von Pip Express). “Each blog was allowed to vote for five acts and the diversity of the nominations was staggering. Based on the evidence of the spread of votes anyone that says that music bloggers are sheep and are all writing about the same artists has got it wrong. However, the results of the poll show that certain artists do have a lot of support and love from a significant portion of UK bloggers and those artists make up the Blog Sound of 2013 list,” says Robin.

The fifteen nominated artists are:

AlunaGeorge - Infectious R&B influenced pop from London

Curxes  - Dark industrial-pop electronic duo from Brighton and Portsmouth

Chvrches – Scottish electro pop trio formed from a variety of other bands

Daughter – Minimal / ambient sounding folk

Haim – Classic rock from LA with pop sensibilities

Laura Mvula – Jazz / soul singer hailing from Birmingham

MØ – Hip soulful female vocal electronic pop from Denmark

Palma Violets – Raw and energetic indie rock band

Pins – Edgily cool and raucous all-female indie band from Manchester

Randolph’s Leap – Glasgow based indie folk pop with a twist of brass

Rhye – Smooth and blissful pop duo


Savages – Intense post-punk with female vocals

Seasfire – Modern rock band from Bristol who mix electronic beats with guitars

The Neighbourhood – Atmospheric Californian 5 piece rock / pop band 

Tom Odell – Piano based singer songwriter originally from Chichester

There are some great artists on this year's list, and I'm glad to have been one of the 49 bloggers to have made up this year's voting panel. Although artists we nominated didn't make the longlist, and although no Northern Irish artists made the list, I feel that does offer a great overview of what acts the UK blogosphere will be keeping tabs on over the next 12 months. I will enjoy following the progress of all 15 artists next year, especially Randolph's Leap, who are perhaps the most surprising nominee and greatest gem on the list.

The 49 blogs who voted in the poll are:

A New Band A Day, A Pocket Full Of Seeds, All Noise, Alphabet Bands, Both Bars On, Brapscallions, Breaking More Waves, Brighton Music Blog, Details Of My Life So Far, Don’t Watch Me Dancing, Dots And Dashes, Drunken Werewolf, Eaten By Monsters, Electronic Rumors, Faded Glamour, Folly Of Youth, Flying With Anna, God Is In The TV, Harder Blogger Faster, Howl, In Love Not Limbo, Just Music That I Like, Killing Moon, KowalskiyLove Music : Love LifeMudkiss, Music Broke My Bones, Music Fans Mic, Music Liberation, Music Like Dirt, My Bands Better Than Your Band, Not Many Experts, Peenko, Real Horrorshow, Scottish Fiction, SkeletorySong By Toad, Sounds Good To Me Too, Storm’s Brewing, Sweeping The Nation, The Blue Walrus, The Electricity Club, The Mad Mackerel, The Metaphorical Boat, The Music Hoarder, The Recommender, This Must Be Pop, Von Pip Musical Express, 17 Seconds

Friday 30 November 2012

The Metaphorical Boat's Tips for 2013 - Part II

After looking at artists from Northern Ireland that are worth looking out for in 2013, it is time for The Metaphorical Boat to cast its net further afield to see which artists from the rest of the world are worth keeping an eye on next year.

And we begin with:

 6. Public Service Broadcasting

It's safe to say that J. Willgoose Esq., aided and abetted by his companion Wriggleworth, have had a wonderful year recording as Public Service Broadcasting. Having started the year with a low profile and a name which made them incredibly difficult to search for on Google, they ended it with a sold-out tour of the UK.

The public have been won over with their combination of old public information films and forward thinking electro-rock production. Whether it's tackling the dawn of coloured television on "Roygbiv", the pinnacle of human achievement on "Everest", or the truths of World War II on their E.P "The War Room" (which has sold over 10,000 copies to date), Public Service Broadcasting have set out their stall as one of the most consistently original musical concepts. With their first album scheduled for May, there will surely be countless people who will be educated and entertained by the group.

7. The 1975

Manchester based quartet The 1975 have been around for some time now under different guises, first coming to people's attention under the names Drive Like I Do and B I G S L E E P. Since adopting their current guise, they have built up a considerable buzz through two well-received E.Ps, "The City" in July and "Sex" this month. Their heavy Britpop influenced styling and their lovely, deep drums have slowly won me over to their side. Having already received major support from Radio 1, and with their debut album scheduled for next year, things do look like they'll go The 1975's way, backlash aside.

8. Seasfire

Bristol based Seasfire have won over the hearts of many bloggers with their forward-thinking approach to rock music.Their self-titled E.P, including the wonderful "Heartbeat", got under our skin, whilst their upcoming E.P, "We Will Wake", seems to take on a more pop orientated sound. Given their seemingly endless spells at the top of The Hype Machine's chart, I imagine that 2013 will see the beginning of Seasfire's journey into the mainstream consciousness.

9. Ottilia

Born in Sweden but currently based in London, Ottilia first came to my attention through her self-posted quirky pop numbers at the end of last year. Since then, she has hooked up with producer Ed Harcourt, and altered her style into a timeless, Lana Del Rey-esque chanteuse. It's somewhat different from the artist I originally fell in love with just under a year ago, but with strong songs like "The Sonic" and "Heartless" in her arsenal, it's hard for me to complain.

With a tour supporting Willy Mason upcoming, and a debut album on the horizon, 2013 should be a positive year for Miss Kjulsten. 

10. B>E>A>K

And I conclude this year's tips with something of an oddball offering. North-east avian supergroup B>E>A>K probably won't go on to worldwide mega-stardom in 2013, but at the very least, they will have copious amounts of fun next year. Their instrumental 'bird-rock' has gone down a tweet with me, and with a devoted live local following, and an upcoming release, "The Blue Edition", due to hatch in January, 2013 will most definitely not be a fowl year for the sextet.