Tuesday 31 January 2012

Caught Live - Snow Patrol/Everything Everything/A Plastic Rose

This review was carried out for Queen's Radio, and is published with permission.

Venue - The Odyssey Arena, Belfast

Date - 25th January 2012

A lively crowd pack into the Odyssey Arena after standing in the pouring rain for hours in anticipation of Snow Patrol’s final concert of three in Belfast’s biggest music venue. But before NI’s brightest stars take to the stage, there is music from two up and coming groups.

Local heroes A Plastic Rose are used to selling out smaller Belfast venues to their loyal and dedicated fans (“you may have seen us in Auntie Annies or the Pavilion,” lead singer Gerry Norman helpfully reminds us), so transferring their sound over to a much bigger space, to a crowd who are largely both unfamiliar and unprepared for their alternative rock sound, is a tough task. Although early songs get little more than a polite response from the crowd, many of whom are still filtering into the arena, they are soon won over by the band’s sound, as well as the humour of lead singer Gerry Norman. He jokes that for the next twenty minutes, “we’re going to steal Snow Patrol’s fans,” and calls Snow Patrol member Gary Lightbody a hippy for having long hair.

By the end of the set, they have the audience firmly on their side, getting the whole crowd to chant Snow Patrol, and singing along to their closing song, “Kids Don’t Behave Like This.” As the band leaves the stage, there is no doubt that A Plastic Rose have won over the crowd, and have probably gained a few new fans as well.

Next up are Manchester based quartet Everything Everything, who have been the main support act for the majority of the tour. Their esoteric, keyboard based sound is rather dissimilar from the bands they find themselves sandwiched between, which leads to a rather muted response from the audience. Whilst songs such as “My Kz, Yr BF” go down well, the audience, which by this stage is at near full capacity, seem restless throughout, and the band fail to really engage with them. With quite a niche sound, it would have been an uphill struggle to connect with the crowd, and unfortunately it seems that this evening, the band just didn’t gel.

And up next are the band the 10,000+ crowd have been waiting for, as the instrumental “Berlin” plays as Snow Patrol enter the stage to a thunderous applause. After beginning with “I’ll Never Let Go”, the band goes straight into their ode to Belfast, “Take Back the City”, with the crowd singing along to every word in unison.

It’s a testament to the sheer class of the band’s back catalogue that they can play a modern day classic like “Run” so early on in their set and still have plenty more classics in waiting. For “Set the Fire to the Third Bar”, the band invite Shauna Tohill of Rams Pocket Radio/Silhouette to duet with Gary Lightbody on the track, whilst the band dedicate “Chasing Cars” to Davy Matchett, and give a rare live performance of “Somewhere a Clock Is Ticking.”

One of the most magical moments of the night occurs when Gary Lightbody gets the crowds to put their mobile phones in the air during “You Could Be Happy”, leading to a sea of light permeating throughout the stadium, like thousands of electro-fireflies. “It’s technology, but it’s like nature,” Lightbody philosophises. “It’s like we’re all floating in space.” The band’s finish off with “You’re All I Have, before the band exit the stage to rapturous applause.

Before the band take to the stage for an encore, Gary Lightbody announces that this evening’s gig has broken the Odyssey Arena’s attendance record (or as he puts it, the gig is “super-duper sold out.”) He pays tribute to the other bands playing that evening, telling Gerry Norman of A Plastic Rose that regarding his hair, “the feeling is mutual,” before dedicating the first song of the encore, the tender Teenage Fanclub referencing “Life-ning”, to his father, who is sitting in the audience. The group then launch into the uplifting “Open Your Eyes,” before finishing with the powerful “Just Say Yes”, leaving the stage to a thunderous reception.

As the crowd filters out of The Odyssey Arena, they will remember this evening’s record breaking gig with fondness. Snow Patrol have indeed taken back the city with aplomb.

Saturday 28 January 2012

The Bland Band - Palsboda Jam

Describing themselves as a "modest little band", Swedish four piece The Bland Band make pleasant music that can probably be best described as indie-country. Their debut single, "Palsboda Jam", which is available to download for free, is a charming affair that calls to mind some of the more laid back work of Van Morrison.

Friday 27 January 2012

Fixers - Iron Deer Dream

One of my Tips for 2012, Oxford based Fixers, have released the new video for their single "Iron Deer Dream." The track is a re-recording of last year's single, and sees the band at their psychedelic pinnacle.

The music video is very much a "what the hell" moment, given that it features people suffering from a condition where they have various breakfast cereals growing on their body, before being cured by eating cactus jam.

"Iron Deer Dream" will be released on March 11th.

Tea Leigh - Left Behind

After Popjustice's sweeping declaration that Lana Del Rey is now firmly the property of pop, the hunt is on for hundreds of indie bloggers to find a new alternative chanteuse to rally behind (well, at least among those who either ignore PJ or haven't moved on to the fabulous Lucy Rose already).

Whether Boston based Tea Leigh can be that person to whip the blogosphere into that dizzy hysteria remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that there is a lot of charm in her track "Left Behind."

A song that revels in it's lo-fi aesthetics (c.f the tape hiss), "Left Behind" is a minimalist track, featuring just finger picked guitar and luscious harmony vocals, with heartfelt, delicate lyrics throughout ("love is like the schoolyard, you dared me to do it").

There is a lot of potential and charm in Tea Leigh's lo-fi recording. However, I can't help but feel that with a bit of production polish, Tea Leigh, like Ms Del Rey before her, has the potential to have something truly magical in her hands.

Wednesday 25 January 2012

Good Dangers - Abigail

It's been a few months since I last wrote about London five piece Good Dangers. They are gearing up to release their first official single in a few months, but before that they have released a 'taster' track, which is available as a free download.

"Abigail" is a textbook example of Good Danger's creative genre-mining style - the drumming style is taken straight from post-punk, the guitars and vocals call to mind early shoegaze (the recurring 'oohs' seem to be taken straight out of "Pearl" by Chapterhouse), and the melody seems quite similar to Green Day's "Wake Me Up When September Ends."

Saturday 21 January 2012

Luik - We're Both Extermined

Hailing from the Netherlands, 4-piece slowcore group Luik make moody indie music that's about as fast as a three legged tortoise. The lead track from their debut album, "We're Both Extermined", is a downbeat yet atmospheric track that in-trances from the opening beat.

The band have made an equally moody video for the song, which was shot in Beijing, China:

"We're Both Extermined" is taken from their album "Owls", and is available to download for free.

Thursday 19 January 2012

Kayfabe - Bicycle Day in the Cosmos

Named after the term for a wrestling story line that is presented as real (presumably), Kayfabe is a collaboration between Nial Conway of Irish electro duo Nouveaunoise and singer/songwriter Paul Melia.

Their debut single "Bicycle Day In the Cosmos", is a promising start for the group. Both artists have taken the strongest elements from their own acts (Nial's ability to mould engaging electronic soundscapes, Paul's knack for writing strong pop hooks), and have created a monster of a tune.

As Paul sings on the chorus, "there's another place outside the one we know." Kayfabe is currently a side-project for the guys, but if they can continue to produce tunes as engaging as "Bicycle Day in the Cosmos", perhaps this other place could become their new home.

"Bicycle Day in the Cosmos" is available to download for free.

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Wrongkong - My Dearest Enemy

On "My Dearest Enemy", French-Canadian synth-rockers Wrongkong appear to have pitched themselves somewhere in between Moloko and Florence & the Machine, especially with vocals from the lovely Cyrena Dunbar. The production is quite dance orientated, which isn't surprising, given that one of the members was part of The Strike Boys.

"My Dearest Enemy" is taken from the band's album "So Electric", which is out now.

Francois & The Atlas Mountains - Les Plus Beaux

On their latest single, "Les Plus Beaux" (which according to Google, can be translated as either "The Best" or "The Most Beautiful), Francois & The Atlas Mountains mix African percussive rhythms with indie-pop vocals, sung in a sensual French accent. It's a gorgeous piece of work, which goes to show that the French are the undoubted musical kings of sexy.

"Les Plus Beaux" is taken from the group's album "E Volo Love" (absolutely no idea what that translates as), which is out on 23rd January

Monday 16 January 2012

Proof I Exist - Modern Day Love Song

Cleveland based artist Paul Kulis, a.k.a Proof I Exist, seems to be channeling the energy of Eels' front man E on "Modern Day Love Song". His vocal delivery, lyrical themes, and liberal use of profanity would not seem out of place on "Daisies of the Galaxy." What differentiates him however is an upbeat production, which calls to mind 90s one-hit wonders Deep Blue Something (especially the guitar solo, which does have a "Breakfast at Tiffany's" feel to it).

"Modern Day Love Song" is taken from Proof I Exist's album "Suburban Sci-Fi", which is available to download for free.

Saturday 14 January 2012

Ted Morris - New York

I'm a real sucker for brass-led rock, which is why I was so enamored with "New York" by Hässleholm native Ted Morris.

"New York", which is available to download for free, acts as an open love letter to the City that Never sleeps, mixing Randy Newman-esque
pianos with triumphant trumpet blasts.

Friday 13 January 2012

Auction for the Promise Club - Under China

With an indie-noise based sound and a female frontwoman, it could be easy to compare Cornwall based trio Auction for the Promise Club to The Joy Formidable. However, what sets the band apart is in the vocals of Zoe White Chambers.

On the on the verses of their track "Under China", Zoe showcases a sense of real vulnerability in her voice, which has the feeling of Ellie Goulding. However, when the track hits the chorus, the heavy guitars come in and we see the strength coming back. When she shouts "take me down," we begin to feel like we're being taken down with her. It's a striking introduction to Auction for the Promise Club, and it will be interesting to see where the band will go from here.

"Under China" is taken from the band's debut E.P "One", which will be released on February 24th.

A Cavalcade of Cover Versons

And by cavalcade, I mean two. But I hope you won't begrudge me the opportunity to use that awesome word.

Anyway, on to the covers, which are available to download for free from the respective artist's Bandcamp pages:

Moscow Times - Electric Feel

Belfast band Moscow Times cover of MGMT's 2008 single serves as a reminder that behind the the day-glo production, there is a fantastic song just waiting to escape. Stripped down to just guitar and vocals, this version is simple, yet empassioned.

David C. Clements - Video Games

It seems that Lana Del Rey's "Video Games" has been covered more times in 6 months than "Yesterday" has been in over 40 years. David C. Clement's version, recorded live for Across the Line, has more of a country feel to it.

Thursday 12 January 2012

The Cold 100 - New Stories

Scuzzy blues-rock is the order of the day for Dublin based quartet The Cold 100. Their song "New Stories", which is available as a free download, sees whisky-soaked guitars mixed with shades of Britpop influences (Simon Delaney's vocals delivery is quite similar to Richard Ashcroft, particularly in the verses). They have an interesting style to them, so it'll be interesting to see where they go from here.

(NOTE: The Cold 100 should not be confused with the similarly named Manchester band Cold One Hundred who were featured on the blog last August)

Allo Darlin' - Capricornia

Indie-poppers Allo Darlin' are gearing up to release their sophomore album "Europe" this spring, ahead of a UK tour (with the fabulous This Many Boyfriends supporting on a few of the dates). The first single to be taken from is "Capricornia", which is a charming re-introduction to the world of Elizabeth Morris & co.

"Capricornia" will be released on February 13th on Sub Pop.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

The Jepettos - Goldrush

In an episode of The Simpsons from the mid 00s, Homer wears a bracelet with the initials "WWJD" on it, which he claims is his philosophy of life. When Lisa says that it's profound that Homer would wear a bracelet inspiring him to think "What would Jesus do," he is immediately annoyed. "Jesus? I thought it was Geppetto." I have no idea whether this exchange was the inspiration for Derry 5 piece The Jeppetos' name, but I'd like to think that it was.

The band, which centres around the vocals of husband and wife team of Mike & Ruth Aicken, utilizes interesting instruments in the sound to create dynamic soundscapes , with clarinets, the glockenspiel and even a keyboard-flute featuring in their sound. This is most evident on the title track of their most recent E.P "Goldrush." Featuring local legend Duke Special on the piano, the track, which is available as a free download, is a whimsical, quirky folk track that won't let go until you get a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.

"Goldrush" is taken from The Jepettos' debut E.P "Start a New People", which is out now

Thursday 5 January 2012

Best Boy Grip - Barbara

"This ain't gonna be a love song," proclaims Eoin O'Callaghan at the beginning of "Barbara" by Derry based band Best Boy Grip. The group produce what could best be described as piano-pop with a dark heart. The sharp contrast between the jaunty, polished Beatles-esque melody and the bleak, bordering-on-nihilistic lyrics is stark - it's as if The Feeling have recorded an album inside a black hole.

"Barbara" is title track from their debut E.P, which mixes the dark with the light throughout.

Sunday 1 January 2012

David C. Clements - Hurricane

As a new year dawns, it is usually a great time to ring in the changes, attempt a reinvention or do something a little bit different. Perhaps it's fitting that the first day of 2012 sees the release of the first new material from Belfast based David C. Clements, who up until yesterday went under the moniker of Captain Cameron.

The first tunes to emerge from David C. Clements is a two track E.P entitled "The Longest Day In History." (Note to youngsters: prior to 2004, us old timers used to call a 2 track E.P a 'single'). The lead track, "Hurricane", is a slow burning 6 1/2 minute alternative folk epic that mixes entranced romanticism with multi-tracked harmonies and expansive production values.

Unlike many songs of its length, it does not waste a single nanosecond of its running time, avoiding the pitfalls of being either overly strung out nor overlong. This of course means attempting to cut it down to a radio edit would prove to be a difficult task, which probably means that the other track on the E.P, the jaunty "Not Sleeping", will pick up the lion's share of airplay.

Welcome to 2012, David C. Clements. Hopefully the year will be a good 'un.

"The Longest Day In History" is available as a free download from David C. Clements' Bandcamp page.