Tuesday 29 May 2012

New Hands - Tulips

Hailing from Ontario, Canada, the sound of 5-piece New Hands could be best described as 'eclectic.' The first single to be released from their upcoming self-released debut album, "Tulips", serves as a handy introduction to the band's sound.

The song mixes acoustic and electronic percussion, epic synthesizer soundscapes, murky guitar lines, plus the Ian Curtis aping baritone of lead singer Spence Newell. If the rest of the album is as promising as "Tulips" is, then their upcoming album will be a delicious prospect indeed.

"Tulips" is available as a free download

Monday 28 May 2012

Rebecca Mayes - The Lights

Apparently Devon based singer/songwriter Rebecca Mayes first started to build a profile through sound tracking lovable curmudgeon Charlie Brooker's Gameswipe TV programme, and reviews video games in musical form (her song review of Madworld is a thing of genius).

In light of this, it's something of a miracle that her latest single, "The Lights", is completely devoid of bleeps, bloops, or passive cynacism. It's a charming, banjo driven pop ode to the innocence of youth, and the yearning for something beyond your own situation.

"The Lights" is out to download now. 

Thursday 24 May 2012

Little Comets - Jennifer

Dear Robert Coles,

Hey, how's it going? I hope that Newcastle is treating you well at this time of the year.

I was interested to hear that your band Little Comets have a new E.P coming out next month on Heist and Hit Records. I have been listening to "Jennifer" on near-repeat for the past few weeks, and I thought that it was would send you a message make sure you were alright.

Based on your impassioned pleas on your latest song, which effortlessly combines the afro-pop of Vampire Weekend with a touch of mainstream 80s pop, it would appear that this "Jennifer" woman has been causing you some heartache recently, given that she has taken to emblazoning the slogan "It's a shame that I don't love you better" on her jumper (which is a fashion no-no, in my humble opinion), and has left you in a situation where you have started to existentially scream out her name in a melodic way in your band's choruses.

Normally my advice would be to  forget about her and move on, as there are plenty more metaphorical fish in the sea. But then again, without this heartbreak you would never have written such a wonderful song, which has slowly crept up on me to become my favourite tune of the year. I'm looking forward to your band's E.P "Jennifer and Other Short Stories", which is out on June 11th, which I very much hope will help you to move on in this difficult period of your life.

I hope this letter finds you well. If you and the rest of the Little Comets are ever in Belfast and in need of a chat, give me a buzz. I know a great bar with imported cider that plays decent music, and hopefully make you forget all about this "Jennifer" women (although not the lyrics, obviously).

Yours sincerely,
Christopher McBride,
Captain of The Metaphorical Boat.

P.S "Worry" was a pretty awesome track too. More of the same, please.

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Susanne Sundfør - White Foxes (Maps Remix)


I have great respect for electronic musician James Chapman, who records under the name Maps. His 2007 Mercury Prize nominated sonic masterpiece "We Can Create" was the first album I bought from outside the Top 40, and kicked started my love of alternative music. As the world awaits his upcoming 3rd studio album, which like that album is being mixed by Ken Thomas, he has done a remix of Norwegian artist Susanne Sundfør's track "White Foxes", which is a treat for the ears.

Combining Maps' trademark electronic noodling with Susanne Sundfør 's breathy Scandinavian vocals, "White Foxes" is a track that sounds incredibly up-to-date. With a tour with M83 coming up in the future, it looks as if Susanne Sundfør is a name we will be hearing quite a lot from in the future.

The Maps remix of "White Coats" is available as a free download, and is taken from Susanne Sundfør's 2nd album "The Silicone Veil."

Sunday 20 May 2012

The Metaphorical Boat's Album Briefs - May 2012

So much music, so little time. Here's a round-up of some of the albums that have been floating The Metaphorical Boat this month:

Jack White - Blunderbuss

(XL Recordings)

On his first album recorded after the dissolution of The White Stripes, "Blunderbuss" has given Jack White the opportunity to record out of the strict rigidity he enforced as a member of the duo. Recorded in a similar way to his eye-catching recent TV performances, with half being recorded with an all-male backing band and another with an all-female backing band (a move that could be regarded as either brilliant marketing, or incredibly sexist, depending on what part of the feminist scale you currently reside on), it is perhaps the strongest thing Mr White has recorded since "Elephant" back in 2004. 

The album does cover familiar territory. The power chord riff driven "Sixteen Saltines" could find itself at home comfortably beside "Fell in Love With With a Girl" or "Hypnotize", while "I'm Shakin'" sees his tradition of featuring at least one blues cover per album extended further (it's also worth listening to just to hear how he pronounces the word "nervous"). Elsewhere, "Love Interruption" mixes dark lyrics with light, clarinet led music, whilst closing track "Take Me With You Wherever You Go" goesfrom a piano led waltz into classic Jack White within the space of 4 minutes. 

"Blunderbuss" is an incredibly strong contender for album of the year. Let's just hope that Mr White doesn't decide to go join one of his 1462 other projects before album no.2 comes.

Released: April 2012

Highlights: Sixteen Saltines, I'm Shakin, Take Me With You When You Go


Various Cruelties - Various Cruelties

(Hideout Records)

I've been a great fan of "Great Unknown", the first single released this year from Various Cruelties' self-titled debut album, ever since I wrote about it last October. Apparently Rough Trade Records seemed to like my opinion, given that they quoted it on the single's release page (not that I'm bitter about not being cited). It's a cracking single, but the big question is can they maintain it over the course of an album?

The answer is a very heavy-hearted "no". The album undoubtedly has some wonderful gems on it. The short bounce of  "Cold As You", the majesty of "Beautiful Delerium" and the infectious "Chemicals" are all brilliant in isolation, but over the course of the 11 tracks, it just doesn't seem to gel that well together. The problem might lie with vocalist Liam O'Donnell. Whilst undoubtedly a great singer, there doesn't seem to be a great deal of variety to his vocal technique throughout the album. 

It's not a bad album, unfortunately it's just not as good as it had the potential to be.

Released: April 2012

Highlights: Great Unknown, Beautiful Delerium, Cold As You.


Pocket Billiards - Last Chance to Dance


In a recent interview, Belfast group Pocket Billiards expressed a desire to break away from the ska-punk genre that they had been pigeonholed into. I'm guessing that's a feeling that Michael Bay could sympathise with. It's a little known fact that Michael Bay had originally intended Transformers to be a heartfelt love story with social commentary inter weaved throughout it, until his financier said to him "Wait a minute, you Michael Bay, the explosions guy. Your audience doesn't want good stories, they want fiery balls of flame. Please change this pronto." Hence why that film is the hulking carcass we know today.

So anyway, "Last Chance to Dance", the 2nd album for Pocket Billiards, sees the band moving away from ska-punk and experimenting with different genres and sounds. Lead single "So Many People So Little Time" uses dubstep/drum and bass rhythms to enhance their sounds. The absolutely bonkers "Tetrisaurus Rex" encompasses elements of chiptune (including samples from Sonic the Hedgehog), whilst the short burst of "Drinkin'" is less of a ska-punk song, more a punk song that happens to feature brass instruments in it. 

It probably won't stop people from labelling the band ska-punk, but "Last Chance to Dance" does show why the band is so beloved in the north, there's just something so unbelievable fun about them.

Released: May 2012

Highlights: Tetrisaurus Rex, Drinkin', So Many People So Little Time


Various Artists - Home Volume 3.

(Rash Records)

Co-curated by punk-rock legend, 6music presenter and champion of new music Tom Robinson, "Home Volume 3" is the latest compilation from Rash Records which compiles some of the best underground and self-released music by new and upcoming artists. As well as featuring "Seaweed Under the Sofa" by Biscuithead & the Biscuit Badgers, one of the blog's top 50 songs on 2011, the album features protest-rock ("Things that Make Me Angry"), string lead folk ("Restaraunt"), and some epic indie rock courtesy of Pandas and People ("I Am the Floor"). What's even better is that all 20 tracks are available as a free download, so you can enjoy all these wonderful tunes for nothing.

Released: May 2012

Highlights: Seaweed Under the Sofa, I Am The Floor, South By South West Not, Things that Make Me Angry.

Various Artists - Sing Up For the Boys In Green

 (Indiecater Records)

Back in 2010, Dublin based label Indiecater Records did the impossible by releasing a 32-track World Cup album featuring football songs that were actually good. Now two years on, the label have released another football based compilation just in time for Euro 2012. Unlike the previous album, which featured a song about each team in the World Cup, "Sing Up for the Boys in Green" features 11 songs about one - the Republic of Ireland. 

The highlight of the album is Ican Ican't with the fantastically catchy "Three Nil-Nils." Special mention much go out to The Holy Roman Army with "Royston Flies Into the Heart of Darkness", which has spawned what will no doubt become a future catchphrase: "Do I look like a want a f****** Tiffin Square?" 

If you're not a fan of football, or the Irish national football team, then this is will probably not be your cup of metaphorical tea. But if you're one of those people that has followed the team's international progress with an increasing warmth, and you've heard "Joxer Goes to Stuttgart" one too many times, then "Sing Up for the Boys in Green" might just be the thing for you.

Released: April 2012

Highlights: 3 Nil-Nils, Royston Flies into the Heart of Darkness, Little Red Elvis.

Saturday 19 May 2012

Dinowalrus - Beth Steel

With a name like Dinowalrus, the Brooklyn trio seem to have taken their inspiration of low budget Roger Corman movies from the 1950s. Thankfully, their sound is more akin to the early 90s, with single "Beth Steel" taking its directions from baggy, shoegaze and psychedelia simultaneously. It's as if Chapterhouse never grew up.

"Beth Steel" is taken from the band's album "Best Behavior", which is out on June 4th.


Wednesday 16 May 2012

Northern Ireland Tunes - A Round-up

With so much great music coming out of Northern Ireland at the moment, it's hard to keep up with some of the best new artists and releases. So here is a brief round-up of some artists and tunes from the area that are currently floating my Metaphorical Boat:

Best Boy Grip - Russian Roulette

Before I talk about this song, first of all I would like to make a clarification. When I first wrote about Best Boy Grip's fantastic song "Barbara" back in January, I described it as sounding as if "The Feeling have recorded an album inside a black hole." Some of the group's fans took exception to my description, feeling that I had insulted the artist in question. I can categorically say that it was not my intention in the slightest. The point I was trying to make is that Best Boy Grip's music encompasses both the darkness in the lyrics (the black hole) and the light in the production (The Feeling), which is what makes them so great in the first place. "Barbara" is a fantastic song, and having had the pleasure of seeing BBG supporting Rams' Pocket Radio, I can say that the group are far and away one of the most promising groups to break out of the north this year.

But anyway, Best Boy Grip have released their next single, "Russian Roulette", and this time I will avoid any ambiguity in my description of it. It is absolutely fantastic - beautiful, heartfelt and emotional. The group's front man, Eoin O'Callaghan, has directed the dark, yet fantastically produced video for the song, which you can view below:

Droids - Astromech and Protocol

Derry based 4-piece Droids have done a great job of making me sit up and take notice of a genre that I am not the biggest fan in the world of - metal. "Astromech and Protocol", the lead track from their upcoming E.P, is one that mixes a thundering guitar riff with effective gang vocals, plus something that I find is lacking in so many metal songs - a decent melody.

Goodnight Romeo - You Know What I've Done

My love affair with music from Derry continues. On their debut single, "You Know What I Done", Goodnight Romeo have done a great job of making intelligent, friendly, stop-starting pop-punk that doesn't try to take itself too seriously. With Paramore just announced as the closing act of this year's Belsonic Festival, they'd have a hard job finding a more suitable opening act than Goodnight Romeo.

Firebobbies -  Pursuit

While the Foo Fighters-esque rock of "Pursuit" might not be everybody's cup of metaphorical tea, I think we can all agree that the best named band in the north at the minute has to be Belfast based Firebobbies. I dare to say that name out loud without giggling like a schoolgirl.

Monday 14 May 2012

Public Service Broadcasting - Spitfire

Having released the gloriously colourful "ROYGBIV" back in March, London duo Public Service Broadcasting are gearing up to release their first major E.P of the year. It follows the example of their previous single in using vocal samples as a starting point for sonic exploration, although takes it into much darker territory.

Having gained permission from the British Film Institute, PSB have taken samples from the WWII era film "The First of the Few" and turned it into "Spitfire", a thumping behemoth of a tune. Harsh drums, incredibly clever electronic noodling, and a powerful guitar riff mix extraordinarily well with the vocal samples, which help to bring home the message of the destructive power of war, and the futility of man's pursuit of it. The record itself is dedicated to the memory of the great uncle of PSB's J. Wilgoose Esq, who perished in the Battle of Dunkirk in 1940.

"The War Room E.P" is released on May 28th, as both a download and on 12" vinyl.

Thursday 10 May 2012

Thom Bowden - Nevermore

Described as a "charming, humble chap", Surrey born indie-rocker Thom Bowden has managed to get the legendary Steve Albini to produce his upcoming solo album. Before its release, he is gearing up to release his debut E.P. 

The lead track from the E.P is "Nevermore", is currently available as a complimentary download. The track acts as a striking introduction to Thom's world. Although he cites Fugazi and White Stripes among his influences, his sound has an unmistakably British feel to it, with its primal urgency and sleazy tales of debauchery ("there's a lot of s*** happening here up on my cross" being a choice lyric) calling to mind debut album-era Suede (have I ever mentioned that I love Suede?), as well as a little bit of Cast thrown in for good measure. 

The rest of the E.P shows a great consistency, with the gloriously riff-tastic "Nihilism for Beginners" being the other highlight within an incredibly strong set of songs. If he is this strong on his debut release, I cannot begin to imagine what heights he will be reaching once his debut album comes out next year. 

"The Damage E.P" by Thom Bowden will be released on Monday 16th July on Sex Farm Records on limited edition red vinyl.

Sunday 6 May 2012

Northern Ireland Festival Watch Part 2 - Glasgowbury/Sunflowerfest/Stendhal Festival of Art

As summer approaches quicker than Eric Pickles at an all-you-can-eat curry house,, The Metaphorical Boat is going to guide you through some of the festivals on offer in Northern Ireland in 2012, from the big, the small, to the not so big and the not so small. The first part can be found here.  This second installment features Glasgowbury, Sunflowerfest and Stendhal Festival of Art.

What is it?  
Seen as the jewel in the metaphorical crown of Northern Ireland's festival season, the "Small But Massive" festival's aim is to "nurture young creative talent while providing a platform for the Irish music scene," a vision that has seen it pick up a plethora of awards.

Where is it?  
Draperstown, in County (London)Derry. And definitely not in Glasgow, as I had originally thought when I first discovered the festival.

When is it?
Saturday 21st July 2012.

How Much Is It? 
Between £30-£40

Who's headlining? 
The festival will be headlined by alt-rock legends, Therapy?, on the back of their "Brief Crack of Light" album, which has seen the band gain their best reviews for quite a while. Expect absolute mayhem when their big hits like "Screamager" and "Nowhere" start up.

Who else is playing? 
As if having a set from The Wonder Villains isn't exciting enough, there's sets from some of the most wonderful acts in the province. Robert Smith collaborators The Japanese Popstars should bring their electric live show to town, while there are also sets from Lafaro, RunawayGO, Sons of Caliber, Amidships, VerseChorusVerse & Our Krypton Son, amongst other names.

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What is it?  
One of the quirkier festivals on offer, Sunflowerfest will have therapy areas, a debating room and a boutique crafts village in addition to several stages of music. They get props for calling their main stage the Finn McCool stage, even if it brings back traumatic memories of my P5 school play.

Where is it?  
Tubby's Farm, Hillsborough. Just 10 miles from Belfast Centre.

When is it?
Friday 17th-Sunday 19th August 2012.

How Much Is It? 
£49 for the weekend.

Who's headlining? 
Top billing is shared by six bands. 90s dance pioneers Dreadzone, performance poet/rapper Scroobius Pip, Brassroots, Irish funk-rockers Republic of Loose, double winners of the Choice Music Prize Jape, and our very own Duke Special.

Who else is playing? 
A host of names from across UK & Ireland. Blog picks include The Wonder Villains (of course), Lanterns on the Lake, Elspeth, Parachutes Over Paris, A Plastic Rose, Katie & the Carnival and Katharine Philippa.

Al Gore invented hyperlinks. Fact.
Stendhal Festival of Art

What is it?  
According to its curators, the festival exist to "inspire the discovery of performing and visual arts, showcasing local, national and international artists, with a reputation for innovation and exceptional hospitality."

Where is it?  
Ballymunny Cottage Farm, Limavady, Co. (London)Derry.

When is it?
Friday 17th & Saturday 18th August 2012.

How Much Is It? 
£25 for the weekend. £20 for Saturday only. £10 for just Friday.

Who's headlining? 
Henry McCullough, famous for playing with Paul McCartney in Wings.

Who else is playing? 
Many names from the county are on the bill, as well as several from further afield. Artists worth mentioning include Best Boy Grip, Silhouette, Furlo, Axis of, Exit Pursued by Bear (there's not enough post-rock bands named after Shakespearean stage directions), Intermission (featuring ex-members of Karma 45) and Master & Dog. There is also a Limavady band called General Biscuit playing, although I know nothing of them, apart from the fact that I absolutely adore their name.

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So that's three more festivals taking place in NI this summer. Are you going to grace any of them with your presence this year? What do you think of the lineups? Are you as confused as I am as to why there's a question mark in Therapy?? Let me know in the comments section below.

Saturday 5 May 2012

Northern Ireland Festival Watch Part 1 - Belsonic/Tennent's Vital/Pigstock

As we near closer into the summer months, The Metaphorical Boat is going to guide you through some of the festivals on offer in Northern Ireland in 2012, from the big, the small, to the not so big and the not so small. This first installment features Belsonic, Tennent's Vital, and Pigstock.


What is it?  
Less of a festival and more of a series of gigs under the same banner, Belsonic is one of Belfast's premier summer music events. It's ability to attract world class names, as well as incredibly strong supporting acts, adds to its prestige.

Where is it?  
Custom House Square, in Belfast City Centre.

When is it?
Wednesday 15th August to Sunday 26th August 2012.

How Much Is It? 
Depending on what day you go on, £22.50-£30 (plus booking fee)

Who's headlining? 
The headliners this year are  Tom Jones, James Morrison, Skrillex,Thin Lizzy, Emili Sande,  Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, Madness, David Guetta, Paramore and local boys Two Door Cinema Club.

Who else is playing? 
Some of the line-ups are yet to be formalised. Currently announced support includes The Enemy, Noah & the Whale, Dillon Francis and FM.

The festivals reputation for featuring local artists on the bill remains in place this year, with Foy Vance (Emili Sande), The Answer & Sweet Savage (playing with what purports to be Thin Lizzy), and The Cast of Cheers, who join Two Door Cinema Club on Thursday 23rd August.

EDIT 25th May - New supporting artists announced include Duke Special (playing with Emili Sande), Newton Falkner and Gareth Dunlop (with James Morrison), Jody Has a Hitlist (supporting Paramore), with Brian Kennedy announced as the support for Tom Jones.

Can be found here.

Tennents Vital

What is it?  
After a 4 year hiatus, Tennent's Vital re-launched itself last year with an explosive headline set from Eminem. Now the two day event returns this year to remind people what made it so great in the first place.

Where is it?  
Boucher Road Playing Fields, Belfast.

When is it?
Tuesday 21st & Wednesday 22nd August. It has been scheduled to avoid a conflict with Belsonic's dates.

How Much Is It? 
£49.50 per day

Who's headlining? 
Tuesday sees American rock legends Foo Fighters take to the stage, whilst Wednesday sees recently reformed Manchester group Stone Roses play to the crowd.

Who else is playing? 
The Black Keys and Dublin rock and rollers The Minutes have been announced for Tuesday, with Florence & the Machine and classical guitarists Rodrigo y Gabriella confirmed for Wednesday.

The festival is also running "Tennent's Untapped", a competition that will see two local unsigned bands winning the opportunity to open the event. Blog favourites such as Best Boy Grip, The Jepettos, Two Glass Eyes and Pretty Child Backfire are among the 16 acts hoping to win the opportunity to play the biggest gig of their life.

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What is it?  
Established in 2008, Pigstock offers a variety of great music from all corners of Ireland at a very reasonable price. It was nominated for Best Festival at the Northern Irish Music Awards in 2011.

Where is it?  
In the village of Killinchy, County Down. Population is 491, which multiplies by at least four times during Pigstock weekend.

When is it?
Friday June 1st- Sunday June 3rd 2012, making it one of the first music festivals of the summer

How Much Is It? 
£35 for the weekend, £20 if you are only going on Saturday 2nd.

Who's headlining? 
Belfast band Fighting With Wire are headlining on Friday night, with Mojo Fury headlining the Main Stage on Saturday.

Who else is playing? 
Some brilliant musicians from across the island of Ireland. Some of the blog's tips include Kowalski, RunawayGo, the ever energetic Pocket Billiards, SquareheadSilhouette, Eatenbybears, and my own personal favourite, Not Squares.

One of the more inspired bookings this year is Irish electronica artist Mmoths, a recent signing to the Beggar's Group who is about to enter the stratosphere. Whether he can transfer his atmospheric sound over to the live arena remains to be seen.

You know the drill.

So what are your thoughts on these three festivals? Are you going to any of them? Are you excited about the line-ups? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday 3 May 2012

Southern - Where the Wild Are

It's nice to hear some new music coming from the Belfast based Southern siblings Thom and Lucy. After playing a series of well received gigs around their home town on Belfast in 2011, including a support slot with The Pains of Being Pure At Heart and a sold-out E.P launch in the Mandela Hall, the band decamped to Liverpool to record a bunch of new material.

The first new fruit from these sessions is "Where the Wild Are", which is a breezy folk number that makes great use of the contrast between Thom and Lucy's voices in the lush harmonies that they effortlessly weave throughout. The production values have been stepped up since their last release, which calls to mind the expansive sound of another one of Belfast's own heroes, Cashier No.9.

"Where the Wild Are" will be released as a free download on May 21st.