Thursday 30 August 2012

Team Genius - Everything's Alright

For the last time this month, we have a new release from one of the bands who first tickled my fancy back when TMB first started. I first came across New York septet Team Genius last August following the release of the charming "Love & Love Songs" and its accompanying E.P. Now, the band are lining up TWO E.P releases and an album before the end of the year.

Taken from one of those E.Ps is "Everything's Alright", which is available now as a free download. In comparison to the more electronic-tinged sound of their last E.P, "Everything's Alright" is a folk-punk stomper, with guitars, vocals and general shenanigans set firmly to 11.

"Everything's Alright" is taken from Team Genius's E.P "Loud Songs", which will be released on October 2nd. Another E.P, "Whiskey Songs", will be released the same day, whilst a full length LP, "New York Songs", will follow in November.  

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Desert Hearts - Wolf Down

Having been around in various forms for over 10 years, Desert Hearts are perhaps one of the longest running, most respected groups on the Belfast music scene. In fact, at one point their line-up included my secondary school drama teacher. The band are gearing up to release their 3rd album, and have released a taster track from that record, which is available to download for free. "Wolf Down" is a country-tinged track, that calls to mind some of the heavier elements of groups such as Teenage Fanclub and Velvet Crush.

"Wolf Down" is taken from "Enturbulation=No Challenge", which will be released towards the end of the year.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Lux Lisbon - Your Heart Is A Weapon The Size Of Your Fist

I first heard about Nottingham based band Lux Lisbon after their politically charged single "Bullingdon Club" became a firm favourite with both Tom Robinson and Billy Bragg. This week, they have released their latest single, "Your Heart Is A Weapon the Size of Your First", which I must say is in the upper echelons  of awesomeness.

The song is a synth-led power-pop song which is full of spiky energy and a chorus as big as the Grand Canyon, one which calls to mind the work of The Killers, or the more electro moments of Bloc Party. It's an incredibly infectious number, and one that needs to be savoured.

The group have also released a brilliant music video to accompany the release, which sees the band fight off a zombie invasion in a computer generated world. It's a cracking video, and one which goes to show that even on a modest budget, you can create something wonderful if you're brimming with creativity. 

"Your Heart Is a Weapon the Size of Your Fist" by Lux Lisbon is available now as a free download. An album by the band with the same name is also available.

The Wooden Sky - Take Me Out

Canadian group The Wooden Sky are gearing up to release their third album in October. In anticipation of the release, they have brought out a new track to preview the album.

Not to be confused with the Franz Ferdinand song of the same name, "Take Me Out" is a wonderfully nostalgic song, mixing the introspective folk of Fleet Foxes with a distinctive 50s rock and roll waltz feel to it. If you happen to be reading this blog with a partner or loved one in the room, then I advise you to stick this song on play, and slow-dance with them for the next 4 minutes. It's that lovely.

"Take Me Out" is taken from the album "Every Child a Daughter, Every Moon a Sun", which is released on October 8th, and is available to download for free.

Sunday 26 August 2012

Angelica's Elegy - When You're Asleep

It can be a great relief when a band's description is a million miles away from how they really sound. Take Norwegian four-piece Angelica's Elegy. Having described themselves as sounding like "Beach House with Disneyesque vocals", I'd immediately feared the worst.

Thankfully, their latest single, "When You're Asleep" is a wonderful piece of lo-fi indie rock, with dreamy piano chords, lyrics describing treasured childhood memories, and an 'organized chaos' style of production. And not a single hint of mouse ears.

"When You're Asleep" is taken from the "Cognitive Dissonance" E.P, which will be released on 10" vinyl on 3rd September.

(Photo is © Benedikte Olson)

Friday 24 August 2012

The Burning of Rome - Ballad of An Onion Sprout

The latest single by San Diego band The Burning of Rome is an odd beast indeed. It's familiar, yet surprisingly fresh. It's rather pop-orientated, yet still has the feeling of being off-kilter. Rather bonkers, yet still with its feel on the ground. It's probably why the band have been chosen to open for such a varied range of bands, from The Black Keys to Skrillex, by way of Devo.

"Ballad of An Onion Sprout" sounds like it's stuck the Blondie tracks "Rapture" and "Heart of Glass" in a blender, with bits of Vampire Weekend and The Flaming Lips thrown in for good measure. It's a wonderfully weird song, yet one that does not betray its firm pop roots.

"Ballad of an Onion Sprout" is taken from the debut album by The Burning of Rome, entitled "With Us", which is released on September 18th.

Thursday 23 August 2012

The Joy Formidable - Wolf's Law

In news that will delight many, Welsh noise-rock trio The Joy Formidable are back. I've had a soft spot for band ever since I interviewed their lead singer, the lovely Ritzy, for Queen's Radio back in 2010 (a hint to any would-be interviewers- she will give you exclusive album info if you bake her a cake). Since then, they released their well received debut album "The Big Roar", had a surprise top 10 in in America with "Whirring", and toured the world, including a date in Belfast, which I enjoyed despite being souped up on Lemsip.

The band have now released the first track that will feature on their upcoming sophomore album, and it seems that the band may have changed things up a little. The first part of new single, "Wolf's Law", seems to indicate this, with only the piano and vocals featuring. However, as the track progresses, it builds up in a crescendo of noise and becomes more Joy Formidable-esque. It sounds as if the band are vying to challenge Sigur Ros' "Hoppipolla" for the title of "song most likely to soundtrack a nature documentary narrated by David Attenborough", something that the official video they have made to coincide with the release makes abundantly clear. Still, it's a welcome return for a band who are quite close to my heart.

"Wolf's Law" is available now as a free download in exchange for an email address.

Tuesday 21 August 2012

Plastic Animals - Automation EP

Sprawling, atmospheric noise-rock is the order of the day for Edinburgh based quartet Plastic Animals. On their latest E.P, "Automation", the tempo rarely exceeds the rate of a human heartbeat, yet still manages to pack quite a punch. Whether it's the end-of-the-night haze of "Sundowning", the slow-building menace of "Yellowcraig", or the slightly more straightforward, Cure-like charm of "Ghosts", the E.P is a good showcase for a band who have taken influences from the creme-de-la-creme of alt-rock, and refashioned it through their own particular lens.

"Automation E.P" will be released in September on Strange Fish Records.

Sunday 19 August 2012

Emma - Perfect Blue

When sending music out to music bloggers, make sure that your music fits in with the preferences of your target audience. It's a simple, important piece of advice, but it is still one that so many artists still mess up on. I get sent a lot of remixes of popular songs, quite a few songs in the rap/hip-hop genres, and a disproportionate amount of covers of Lana Del Rey tracks, areas of music that I have absolutely no interest in writing about. Of course there are exceptions, but the chances are that if you are one, then I will come across it on my own.

All of this of course is why I am delighted to see a song drop through my inbox that could not possibly have been better targeted at me. It comes courtesy of Emma, a four-piece band from North London, who describe themselves as 'psychedelic electronic rock.' While that description is enough to pique my interest, what sold them to me is the name of the track in question: "Perfect Blue".

For those not aware, Perfect Blue is a 1997 Japanese animated film, which tells the story of a young women who is plagued by murderous delusions after she leaves her career as a pop singer to become an actress. The film proved influential, especially on director Darren Aranofsky, whose film Black Swan has been described as "Perfect Blue with pirouettes." It was directed by the late Satoshi Kon, who is one of my favourite directors of anime. In fact, my university Film Studies dissertation looked at the role of female characters within this film, Millennium Actress & Paprika.

So how does the song match up to the film? It does a good job of encapsulating the paranoia and feelings of identity loss featured in "Perfect Blue", through its mechanised instrumentation and its otherworldly vocal effects, calling to mind a much moodier version of M83. The band have only been together for a few months, but with such a promising (well targeted) introduction, they look like they could make an impact.

"Perfect Blue" will feature on Emma's debut E.P, "Purple Trees".

Thursday 16 August 2012

Ireland Tunes - Round-up #5

Another month has passed us by, and once again, there is another batch of tunes from this great isle worth taking a gander at. Here are a few assorted tracks that have been floating The Metaphorical Boat this August:

Master & Dog - Canada

Up until recently, Master & Dog had been known professionally as John, Shelly & The Creatures. I'm presuming that the sextet decided a name change was necessary after one too many uninformed journalists opened an interview with the question "So, which one of you is John Shelly?" Released at the tail-end of June, their latest single, "Canada", is a soaring slice of rock anthemics, and one which went down well at last month's Glasgowbury Festival, and one which will feature on their self-titled sophomore album. A music video has been released for the song, which features some rather disturbing puppetry.


Tokyo Empire - Barcelona

It's taken my almost a year, but I've finally gotten around to writing about a group from the lovely county of Tyrone. And they're a pretty decent one too. Tokyo Empire are a five piece synth-rock group from Strabane. This instantly makes them the 2nd most famous musical act to come from Strabane (the most famous is, of course, Hugo Duncan). Their latest track, "Barcelona", calls to mind The Killers, albeit a version that doesn't rely as heavily of Bruce Springsteen for their influences.


Lost Avenue - Ethanol

I've said it before, but I'm going to say it again with a little bit more hyperbole - Derry NEEDS a major rock act to break through internationally by next year, to coincide with with its year as City of Culture. Although Fighting With Wire will probably do well for themselves now that they're signed to Frank Turner's label, and The Japanese Popstars have got to the stage where they are the official musicians for an F1 Racing team, it seems as if there hasn't been a band from Derry that has become a household name since The Undertones back in the 70s. Expect to see them headline a few City of Culture events next year.

Of the current breed of young Derry bands hoping to break through, none of them seems to share their punk spirit any more than Lost Avenue. Their latest single "Ethanol" owes a great debt to Feargal Sharkey & company, with its tales of being young, in love, and being incredibly inebriated. Could Lost Avenue be the next band from the area to break through? It's too early to say, but at least they'll have an incredibly fun ride whilst they're doing it.


Carried By Waves - Stranger Talk

Cork native Ronan McCann releases atmospheric, glitchy electronica under the name Carried By Waves. Last month, he made his debut album "Softly Held Together" available to download for free from his Bandcamp page. The highlight of the set for me is "Stranger Talk", a finely crafted piece of up-to-date electronic music, which is greater boosted by the guest appearance of Karen O'Doherty on violin.

Wednesday 15 August 2012

B>E>A>K - Kehaar

If there's one reason why record shops deserve to stay open for the foreseeable future, it's the in-depth musical discussion and personal music recommendations that you can get from them. On Tuesday, I spent a day doing 'real-life things' in Newcastle. As I had a few hours to kill before getting the plane back over the Irish Sea, I wandered around the city centre until I stumbled across RPM Records. Whilst browsing the shop, I was somehow sucked into a conversation about Beastie Boys drum breaks and discussed the merits of pre-"Bat Out of Hell" Meat Loaf, as you do. I then asked him if there was any new releases by local artists that he thought would be of interest to me. Amongst his other suggestions, he recommended that I should buy out the latest release by a Sunderland collective called B>E>A>K.

And it's just as well he did, because even though I absolutely adore their music, it's hardly the sort of thing that would be flagged as of interest to me on either iTunes nor Containing members of Field Music and The Lake Poets, B>E>A>K are an avian mask wearing bunch of fellows who have injected an immense sense of fun into a genre with a reputation for stony-faced seriousness - instrumental rock. On their latest single, "Kehaar", the band sound like an instrumental version of Maximo Park, with some captivating brass lines thrown into the mix for good measure. This is fantastic music for having the maximum amount of fun humanly possible.

"Kehaar" is taken from "The White Edition", and is available as a free download. A CD version is also available to buy in many good independent music shops. 

Lord Huron - Time To Run

In 2012, there have been a lot of contenders for the title of the 'Bruce Springsteen-est Song of The Year'. So far, songs by Japandroids ("The House That Heaven Built"), The Killers ("Runaways") and even Keane ("On The Road") owe a great deal of debt to The Boss. Not bad for a year when Springsteen himself released an album. 

Which leads me on nicely to Lord Huron. Originally started as a solo project by Michigan born Ben Schneider, the group have expanded into a five-piece in anticipation of their debut E.P for PIAS. The first track taken from the E.P, "Time to Run", is available as a free download, and is an upbeat piece of Springsteen-esque Americana, mixed with a psychedelic pop style that calls to mind the sunny haze of Cashier No.9

"Time to Run" is taken from Lord Huron's debut E.P, which will be released on October 8th.

Friday 10 August 2012

Le Roi Crocodile - Ghost Speak

When I was a young, sprightly 16-year-old, the closest I ever came to making decent electronic music was when I used a simple computer programme to stick an 'Amen break' over "Connection" by Elastica to make a 'dance remix'. Therefore, it's great to see a good lot of tech-savvy kids coming through who are making electronic music which belie their years. One such artist is Vancouver based teen Le Roi Crocodile (King Crocodile), whose sleek synth-pop sound of "Ghost Speak" meshes up the chillwave of artists like Washed Out with the poppier sensibilities of Owl City. So far it's the only song that he's uploaded to his Soundcloud page, but it bodes well for his future releases.

Sissy & The Blisters - Killing Time

It feels like it's been timewarp month for me at The Metaphorical Boat, with a lot of the artists covered being ones that I first mentioned over a year ago (including Gaolers Daughter, Fuzzy Empire & Fantasy Rainbow). Not one to break a seemingly winning formula, it's time to talk about the new release from Sissy & The Blisters, whom we first mentioned on the blog way in September last year. It's taken them 11 months to get around to getting material released because, according to their PR, they "had put out all the music they’d ever written."

Thankfully, their latest single, "Killing Time", has been worth the wait. If you liked the regressive indie-rock of "Let It Go", then you will probably find lots to like in this single, with it's heavy guitars, rather pop-oriented hooks, and surprisingly, an organ riff that sounds suspiciously sinilar to The Banana Splits. Sissy & The Blisters are a band with no apparent agenda, no esoteric style, and no pretencions. Just straight-up enjoyable songs. And they're all the better for it.

"Killing Time" will be released on August 27th on vinyl, CD & digital.

Wednesday 8 August 2012

Hologram - Touch & Go

Belfast based 4-piece Hologram might be a new band, but they already have a great pedigree behind them. Singer/ivory tinkler Paul Shevlin had previously been a member of local folk group The 1930s, as well as releasing several brilliant piano-pop singles under his own name

The first release from the newly formed group is "Touch & Go", which in comparison to previous releases by Shevlin is firmly in alt-rock territory, with its soaring guitar lines and intense production values.

"Touch & Go" is available now as a free download.

Tuesday 7 August 2012

Keston Cobblers' Club - Your Mother

Following the June release of the promo single from the group's upcoming debut album, Kent group Keston Cobblers' Club have released the latest song which will feature on the album. "Your Mother" is a great slice of summery folk, but what is really great about the release is the video the band shot to coincide with the release.

The music video, which is shot in one unedited take, is set in a Jungle Jims, and follows what appears to be a young women wearing a fox mask playing in the facilities whilst surrounded by other dancers. It is choreographed superbly, featuring a rather memorable dance routine, and a rather intricate 'cup dance'. It looks as if it was an incredibly fun video to make, and without sounding premature, it could possibly be the best music video I will see all year.

"Your Mother" is taken from Keston Cobblers' Club's debut album, "One, For Words", which will be released on August 27th.

Fuzzy Empire - Chroma

In my review of the last single by Dublin based trio Fuzzy Empire, I indicated that "Contraband" could act as a new 'Ground Zero' for the electronica group. Little did I know that the band, now signed to Swedish label Substeam, would do a complete u-turn from the latter's electro-punk styles, and release a song that's more R.E.M than LCD Soundsystem.

Their latest song release, "Chroma" still has the hallmarks of a Fuzzy Empire song, with interesting uses of electronic noodling (the main keyboard riff is taken from manipulated samples of guitar harmonics), and an intense, driving rhythm. Other aspects of their sound have changed, with the structure of the song being a lot more 'traditional' than their other songs, and the vocals of Emmet, which have a Michael Stipe-esque quality to them, take centre stage for the first time. Fuzzy Empire are a criminally under-rated group who seem to completely confound my expectations with each one of their releases, which can only make their upcoming releases a joy to behold.

"Chroma" will feature on their upcoming E.P, which will be released in September on Substream Records.

To Kill a King - Word of Mouth E.P

I can only guess that London based group To Kill a King have given their latest E.P the title "Word of Mouth" in the hope that those who listen to it and enjoy it are encouraged to pass it along to their friends and followers so that it becomes a, ahem, word of mouth success.

Thankfully, the band doesn't need to rely solely on (un)subliminal messages to encourage people to share the E.P, as it stands on its own as an incredibly strong set of songs, which could be best described as astral folk. Lead track "Howling" is a slow-building track, which goes from Bon Iver to Arcade Fire, by way of Wild Beasts, with "Wolves" and "Funeral" following a similar grandiose pattern. "Besides She Said" shares the same sort of elegence with Noah & The Whale's "Blue Skies" album, whilst the set closes with a cover of Feist's "Let It Die", which has been stripped down to the bare bones.

The only real weak track on the E.P is "Rays", which sounds like Editors being left on auto-pilot. That track aside however, "Word of Mouth" is an incredibly strong release, and one which should see fans of their music waiting with baiting breath for their next record, so that they can pass it along.

"Word of Mouth E.P" by To Kill a King is out now as a free download, with 500 hand-printed copies also available.

Monday 6 August 2012

Seasfire - Heartbeat

In recent weeks, a buzz around Bristol 4-piece Seasfire seems to have slowly built up. Although I'd seen a few assorted Twitter posts about them, I hadn't got around to checking them out because, in my ignorance, I'd assumed that they were some re-releases from a 90s band that I had already dismissed. However, having caught the band in live session on 6music at the weekend, it turns out that I had them mixed up with a completely different band with a similar sounding name, and that Seafire are in fact a completely new band. Mea culpa.

Anyway, now that I've had the chance to listen to the group without any preconceived notions, I've found their music to be rather fantastic. Their latest single, "Heartbeat", is a captivating piece of sparse, emotive electronica, a little bit like Thrice with the guitars in the background rather than at the forefront. 

"Heartbeat" is available to download now. 

Friday 3 August 2012

Amateur Historians - These Cities Are Stealing My Soul

Short, irreverent indie-pop is the order of the day for Belfast trio Amateur Historians. Formed over the internet, their new single, "These Cities Are Stealing My Soul", is a sub-two minute burst of youthful energy that expresses the desire to escape from the city of your birth. It's off kilter rhythmic chop-and-change approach, as well as its upbeat charm, despite its rather downcast lyrics, calls to mind Vampire Weekend, Los Campesinos and, dare I say it, a little bit of early Ash as well. 

"These Cities Are Stealing My Soul" is taken from Amateur Historians' debut E.P, "New Homes/New Hopes", which will be released on CD/download on August 15th. 

Thursday 2 August 2012

Before Machines - Ornaments

In their few years together, Belfast based 4-piece Before Machines have built up a reputation for engaging live shows, including support slots for Cashier No.9 and Cymbals Eat Guitars, and for their intricate song craft.

Their latest single release, "Ornaments", should help the band to cement their reputation as Belfast's noisy upstarts. Mixed by the wonderful Rocky O'Reilly of Oppenheimer fame, "Ornaments" has the feeling of early Biffy Clyro, with its slightly off-kilter rhythm, infectious guitar line and powerful gang vocals. It's a rather good song, and one which bodes well for their fantastic upcoming album.

"Ornaments" is available as a free download, and is taken from Before Machine's debut album "Tundra", which will be released at the end of the year. 

Gaoler's Daughter - When We Were Young

It's been more than a year since I last paid a visit to London based 4-piece Gaoler's Daughter. Since the release of "St Peter", the band have toured with Graham Coxon and We Are Scientists, as well as recording a live session with Tom Robinson. 

Their newest single is due out at the end of this month. "When We Were Young" (not to be confused with The Killers track with a similar name) continues the band's tradition of releasing darkly tinged, yet infectious tracks with engaging guitar hooks, as singer John Sterry croons about unobtainable childhood dreams. The band have also released a music video to coincide with the release, with its cardboard stop-motion action tying in to the song's themes of kid-like naivety. 

"When We Were Young" will be self-released on August 27th as a limited edition CD. 

Wednesday 1 August 2012

Album Review: Reel Big Fish - Candy Coated Fury

(Rock Ridge Music)

Like many people of a certain age, I was first introduced to the California ska-punk band Reel Big Fish when two of their songs, "Beer" and a cover of a-ha's "Take On Me", featured in the severely underrated 1998 film BASEketball, starring Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park fame. "Sell Out" became familiar to me when it featured as the loading music for the Playstation game Fifa 2000, and I've slowly became acquainted with the rest of their back catalogue after picking up their "best of" album, which due to licencing issues contained re-recordings of their most well known songs. After five years, the band have released their 7th studio album, "Candy Coated Fury", which has been described as a "return to the hyperkinetic ska and biting wit of the band’s beloved early albums."

Most of the songs on the album follow a similar musical pattern - sardonic, sly, bordering on negative lyrics which is juxtaposed with bouncy, brass led melodies and a reliable ska-rock rhythm section. This blueprint is used to the greatest effect in songs such as opener "Everybody Else Is an Asshole", "Your Girlfriend Sucks" and "I Love, You Suck". 

Some of the more interesting moments on the album happen when the band move away from this blueprint into less straightforward territory. "I Dare You To Break My Heart" was inspired by the band's attempt to write a song inspired by The Darkness (making Reel Big Fish one of the few bands to be PROUD of being influenced by that group) adds elements of glam-rock and 80s hair metal into the band's ska-punk style, whilst "Hiding In My Headphones", which features guest turns from Coolie Ranx and Sonic Boom Six, adds a reggae hip-hop element to the mix. 

Like the band's other albums, "Candy Coated Fury" features two ska cover versions of 80s hits, "Don't Let Me Down Gently" and " The Promise". These covers might not be as good as the originals by The Wonder Stuff and When In Rome respectively, but they do sound rather good when performed in the band's idiosyncratic style.

After performaning for over twenty years, the chances are that if you have been a fan of Reel Big Fish up to now, then you will probably find much to like in the dependable "Candy Coated Fury". And if not, then you are missing an incredibly fun, upbeat, yet angry album.

Released: 31st July 2012

Highlights: "Everyone Else is An Asshole", "Don't Let Me Down", "I Dare You to Break My Heart".