Tuesday 30 October 2012

The 1975 - You

As October gives way to November, we are reaching the stage of the year where DJs, broadcasters and bloggers begin to formulate their predictions for which artists they think will be the next big thing in 2013, especially with the longlist for BBC's Sound of 2013 forthcoming. This is why you tend to see a lot of 'hype' bands releasing music around this period, hoping to capitalize on the feeding frenzy by getting their material out there at this time of the year so that they're fresh in the minds of the judges of these polls. As such, expect to see artists such as Chvrches, Seasfire & Bastille, who have had new songs out in the past few weeks, appearing periodically on these lists.

And there's one more name that are worth keeping an eye out for: Manchester based quartet The 1975. Ever since I posted their song "Sex" a few weeks ago, that blog post has gone on to become The Metaphorical Boat's most visited page by a country mile. This tells me either one of two things - that The 1975 have been picking up such a fevered following that their fans are searching every single music blog for tidbits about the band, or that the article I wrote about them was so brilliant and life-affirming that people are continually re-reading to in order to share in the glory of my writing brilliance. As much as I wish it was the latter, it's probably the former.

But anyway, the band have released the next track that will feature on their "Sex" E.P, which is out on October 19th. "You" demonstrates the band's diverse approach to their sound, adding baggy-influences to their sound, as well as maintaining their trademark unreal industrial drumming. 

The 1975 will be touring the UK in December, including a date in Belfast in the Oh Yeah Centre on December 12th.

Monday 29 October 2012

Seán McGowan - Never Let Us In

Hampshire based Seán McGowan (no relation to Shane) has been picking up a bit of traction with his trademark acoustic rap-punk sound. His most recent single, "Never Let Us In", is about the aftermath of a boozy night out, and calls to mind both Frank Turner and Jamie T. Despite McGowan's Irish heritage, there's something remarkably English about the song, with its tales of "cheesy chips, black eyes, split lips."

"Never Let Us In" is taken from "The People's Music EP", which will be released on November 12th.

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Solomon Grey - Firechild

It sounds as if London duo Solomon Grey have found the perfect balance between blogosphere friendly alternative music and accessible pop. Their debut single, "Firechild", has all the hallmarks of an expansive TV On the Radio near-classic, yet with a sleek electro sheen that calls to mind the work of Pet Shop Boys. And if that isn't enough, there's even strings to be found. And what could be better than an electro track with added strings? (Answer - A Caramac Kit-Kat Chunky)

"Firechild" is available now as a free download.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Crash & The 'Coots - John Coles Park E.P

I recently had a go all those people who refuse to call The Wonder Villains pop, given that they feel the need to prefix it with anti-, indie-, or some other unnecessary term. Pop is not a dirty word, and artists should not be ashamed to label themselves as such. Having said that, it does make it rather awkward to talk about the next band. To paraphrase a rather well known sci-fi phrase, "it's pop Jim, but not as we know it."

Hailing from the South-West of England, Crash & The 'Coots* has released an E.P, "John Cole Park", that is very much a pop affair. However, these tunes have been passed through The 'Coots' own lo-fi, idiosyncratic filter, so that they are that little bit more tricky to characterize. There's elements of The Flaming Lips throughout the E.P, especially on "Emily (He He)", which calls to mind the bass of "It Overtakes Me."

Elsewhere, an alternative version of "Brian Fury Wins" (named after a character from the Tekken series) sounds like a 90s baggy track as recorded in a haunted house, whilst the set closes with a somewhat surprising Brigitte Bardot cover, which sounds like the most fun (and most coherent) song that Beck has recorded for quite some time.

Crash & The 'Coots have all the hallmarks of a great pop band. They've got some brilliant, tunes, exhibit a sense of unbridled fun, and aren't too bad looking either. But should we stop at pop, or should we try to affix something to the start of their name to point out their eccentricities? I'll let you be the judge of that.

"John Cole Park E.P" will be released on October 29th, both as a cassette and as a download.

*Previously known as Crash & The Bandicoots until they were made to change their name earlier this year. I'm presuming that it's because Naughty Dog are lining up a single by Crash Bandicoot as a potential song for this year's Christmas Number 1.

Monday 22 October 2012

Trails & Ways - Border Crosser

If there's one thing that pop music needs a lot more of, it's the use of a melancholy whistle hook. Last week, we featured Little Bear and their folk influenced "Devil Is A Songbird". Now, we travel across the sea, where we find California based quartet Trails & Ways.

Their latest single, "Border Crosser", tells the tale of how their lead singer's grandparents moved from Europe to America in the 1940s. The song, which has the production feel of an 80s college-rock hit, contains a rather poppy chorus, lyrics in German as well as English, and most importantly, a massive whistling hook that is both melancholic, yet hopeful simultaneously.

"Border Crosser" is taken from the debut album by Trails & Ways, "Trilingual", which will be released next year.  It is available as a free download in exchange for a Facebook like.

Sunday 21 October 2012

Honeymilk - It Might Be

Recently, I read an interesting article on Cracked.com which outlined how a person's taste in music is conditioned. Of the facts brought up in the piece, one of the most interesting pieces of information attains to when a person's musical preferences become set in stone. Interestingly, it claims that the music you enjoy at the age of fourteen will set the standard for the rest of your life. It's an interesting, slightly scary article, which I fully recommend that you take 5 minutes to read in full.

This leads me on nicely to Swedish band Honeymilk. Their debut single, "It Might Be", is the sort of song that my 14 year-old self would have loved to bits had it been released back then, with its wonderfully spiky indie-rock sensibilities. Thankfully, as science has now proven, my current X year-old self very much enjoys this song just as much.

"It Might Be" is available to download now for free.

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Coves - No Ladder

Formed less than a year ago, London duo Coves already have gigs with Echo & The Bunnymen under their belt. Now with a tour with Eugene McGuinness forthcoming, the group are gearing up to release their latest single. "No Ladder" is a song that mixes psychedelic rock with Eastern influences, and topped off by the alluring vocals of Rebekah Wood. It's wonderful kaleidoscope of sound, which is a joy to behold.

"No Ladder" is taken from the "Cast A Shadow E.P", which is out now. An instrumental remix by TOY is available to download for free.

Little Bear - The Devil Is a Songbird

Although I have said it on numerous occasions, I think this is a point that bears repeating - in the United Kingdom and Ireland, the city that seems to be producing the most exciting new talent is Derry. And with its year as the City of Culture nearly upon us, it is well placed to showcase its breadth of talent to the world. Last week, I took to Twitter to ask my followers if there were any artists from the area that I hadn't featured on the blog in much detail that they would like me to mention, with the exception of Wonder Villains and SOAK, whom are taken as given. However, two artists that came up time and time again in the discussions happened to be...Wonder Villains and SOAK.

But in amongst those suggestions, there was one band that cropped up that I hadn't originally been aware of, and I'm glad that they've been brought to my attention. They are the folksy trio Little Bear. Their latest single is "The Devil Is a Songbird", is an achingly beautiful piece of music, featuring lovelorn lyrics and a haunting whistling hook.

The song is taken from the "I'd Let You Win E.P", which will be available to download from next month.

6 Reasons Why The Artist You Love Isn't In the UK Chart

I am a big fan of the UK Top 40. I have been following its ins and outs with great interest from an early age. I used to love watching Top of The Pops to find out what new songs have sold enough to make it to the top 40. My favourite round in Pointless is where they are asked to name top 40 hits by a particular artist. My party trick (if you call it that) is that if you name an artist or musician, I can immediately tell you what their highest charting song is and what position it got to. So far I've only been stumped twice.*

Yet in the past few years, the chart has changed beyond all recognition. There isn't the same variety in the charts as there was five years ago. Many of the songs are very similar and seem to blend into one big blob. For some, this has led them to dismiss the charts as irrelevant. A wonderful piece from the music blog The Recommender has suggested that the because the charts have become so generic, they have lost their relevance in today's musical landscape. Whilst the post does a great job at examining what it is that the charts seem to have lost, it doesn't seem to fully address the reasons why the so called "credible" music doesn't feature in the charts to the same extent it used to. Therefore, as someone who holds a deep affection for both the charts and for new and upcoming music, I have listed six reasons why I believe that some of the artists that we love who might have made the charts in the past don't seem to have a chance of doing so in the current climate.

I should point out that I am not suggesting that these are the only reasons for the changing face of the chart. Furthermore, whilst these reasons might also be relevant to other charts around the world, I believe that many of them are specific to the UK Chart, due to it being based solely on sales.

1. You need to sell a lot of copies to get ANYWHERE near the chart
In 2006 it was estimated that an artist needed to sell 2,500 copies in order to stand a chance of making the UK Top 40. While it might be a lot for an artist still building a fanbase, it was still a reasonably achievable goal. Now fast forward six years, and the bar has been raised much, much higher. Now an artist needs to be selling at least 8,000 copies to stand a chance of making the Top 40. If an artist doesn't have that number of followers of Facebook or Twitter, then the chances of them making the charts are slim-to-none.

2. Downloads mean that there's more competition
Prior to 2005, if you wanted your song to reach the charts, you needed to have a physical copy of your single in as many record shops as you possibly can in order so that you could sell enough copies to make the chart. This gave a big advantage to major record companies over smaller indie labels, as they had a better infrastructure in place to distribute their records into the shops that reported their data to the chart company. Because these costs become minimal when selling singles as MP3s, I was surprised that when it was announced that downloads would be counted towards the chart, it was the indie labels that cried foul. I thought that as it would be easier to get their songs to consumers, it would help to put them on a level playing field to the major record labels. How wrong I was.

Now, instead of competing against the 500 or so single releases that would have been available to buy in record shops, a newly minted song finds itself in direct competition with EVERY SONG EVER RELEASED. Album tracks, b-sides and other oddities have just as much chance of making the chart as a brand new song that was first put onto iTunes. Who could forget that moment in 2007 when Led Zeppelin, a band who famously never released any singles in the UK, got to #37 with "Stairway to Heaven"?

Similarly, if a major recording artist dies, then you better believe that their most beloved songs are going to be cherrypicked by their grief-stricken fans. Just witness the chart from July 2009, when the death of Michael Jackson led to a whopping THIRTEEN of his songs making the top 40.

3. The act of purchasing a single is quicker and more prone to impulse.
There has been no shortage of songs in the past that have become hit singles as a result of being used in an advert or being performed on a TV Show. The only difference between then and now is the time-frame. When The Clash allowed one of their anti-establishment anthems to be used to flog jeans, it took several months after its premiere to print the singles to allow it to become a hit. This year, within hours of being featured in an advert for an ineffective internet browser, Alex Clare's hit "Too Close" raced up the charts.  It's been noted that if a song is "performed" on a TV show such as the X Factor, then its position on the iTunes chart (other download charts are available) will rapidly increase, hence why "Iris" & "Cannonball" made the top 10 for the first time last year.

Once again, downloads play a hand in this one. In the past, buying a single has been more of a conscious, thought out decision. If you heard a song on the radio or in an advert and wanted to buy it, you'd have to make the trip down to your friendly music provider to purchase a copy, if they even had one in the first place. Now if you hear a song you like, you can go purchase a copy of a song on your computer or smartphone and own it within seconds. If you regret your decision later on, it's too late - your money has been taken and Mr Clare has another sale to his chart tally. This is one of the reasons why it's been mainly club and dance music that has thrived in the download era, as these are the genres most prone to the impulse buys, the sort of songs you download to your phone after hearing it on a night out whilst half-polejaxxed. If you're a fan of thoughtful, introspective indie-rock, then you're not going to find much to your taste in a chart that gives an edge to the perpetually inebriated.

4. Multi-formatting is dead
If you look back to the UK charts of the 1990s, you might be surprised to see some of the bands that have had top 40 singles. Sebadoh and Rocket From The Crypt graced the charts with "Flame" and "On a Rope" respectively, Pavement made the top 40 twice, Teenage Fanclub have five hits to their name, whilst The Wildhearts have accumulated a massive THIRTEEN top 40 hits. What is the factor that made it so easy for these bands to float into the charts? The answer is by encouraging their fans to buy as many copies of the single as possible.

"On A Rope" got to #12, believe it or not. 

You see, back in the 1990s, it was traditional for a band to release their single across three different formats, the maximum the Chart Company would allow. This would normally consist of 2 CDs and a cassette, or 2 CDs and a 7" vinyl, and could contain between one and three extra tracks on this release. Theoretically, this meant that if you were to buy on all three formats, you could end up getting up to EIGHT new, exclusive tracks in addition to main song being promoted. It kind of takes away from the concept of it being a SINGLES chart, when you think about it. I absolutely love Suede, and I am especially proud of the fact that they achieved five top 10 singles from their "Coming Up" album. However, if it wasn't for their aggressive multi-formatting, and their incredibly impressive b-sides, it wouldn't have been possible at all.

Just like being able to throw a bad record away like a Frisbee if it's terrible, multi-formatting is one of those things that has gone out the window when downloads became the main source of single sales. It's hard to convince someone to buy the same single (or "bundle") more than once when it consists of nothing more than 0s and 1s.

But if an artist is willing to continue multi-formatting, and has a big enough fanbase willing to buy all the formats available, then they can continue to reap the rewards chart-wise. Noel Gallagher has got 4 Top 75 hits from his first solo album, whilst Biffy Clyro released six singles from their "Only Revolutions" album with 18 exclusive b-sides, and they all made the Top 40.

5. Without Radio 1, you're dead in the water.
The one thing that unites almost all of the songs in the current UK Top 40 is that they are or have been playlisted by Radio 1. For those who are unaware, most radio stations have a list of about 50 or so new songs that will received regular airplay on the station over the next week. If an artist isn't on the Radio 1 playlist, then you kiss goodbye to any chance of making the charts.

There are a three main reasons for this. Radio 1 is the third most listened to radio station in the UK. Only Radio 2 & 4 have greater listening figures. Secondly, the station caters for the younger audience of people who are more likely to buy singles. This is why being playlisted on Radio 2 doesn't have the same impact on the singles chart, despite having double the listeners.

Thirdly, many commercial and community stations use the Radio 1 playlist as a reference point when it comes to drawing up their own playlists. Speaking from experience from my role as Head of Music for Queen's Radio, I am very reluctant to forward songs for our playlist from dance, pop & urban artists unless they have first made the playlist at Radio 1, and I think that other Music Programmers are of the same opinion as well.

Of course, there are exceptions to this. In the past 2 years, songs by The Wanted, Lawson & Cover Drive have made the top 5 despite not being playlisted on Radio 1. However, given that all these artists are managed by the company that owns Capital Radio, it's fair to say that they haven't been entirely neglected by all radio. Also, being playlisted on Radio 1 doesn't always guarantee a chart entry. From the current playlist, I really can't see The Gaslight Anthem, Bastille or Grimes making the chart anytime soon.

(NOTE on 29/10: since writing this article, Bastille managed to get to #21 in the chart with "Flaws". Mea culpa)

6. Artists either don't understand how the chart works, or seemingly care about it.
Every so often, I come across a Facebook group for another over-optimistic, naive unsigned artist who thinks that they are going to gather enough support from their supporters to engage in a 'campaign' to get their latest song into the charts. Whilst there have been some artists that have achieved this (Koopa, Urbnri, Lahayna, Honey Ryder), these mainly date from when a track could first chart from downloads alone, and haven't become a weekly occurrence in the charts.

Urbnri. It's Irn-Bru backwards. They're Scottish, you see. 

The next time you come across one of these groups, have a look at when they advise their fans to start buying the track in attempt to storm the chart. 9 times out of 10, I bet you that they will tell them to start buying from Monday. This ignores the fact that the Official Chart Company starts compiling charts from Sunday to Saturday, meaning that they will be losing out on a day of sales. If they don't understand how the chart works, then how do they expect to storm right into it?

Maybe I'm being a bit harsh on those artists. After all, if I wasn't such a chart otaku who has been a member of various forums on the subject for years, I certainly wouldn't know the ins and outs of how it works. But perhaps those artists don't realize that making the chart isn't a one way ticket to riches and fame. Of the four artists mentioned above, none of them have been able to build a lasting career out of getting Top 40. Making the chart should not be the pinacle of an artist's achievements. Instead it should be used as an incentive to spur on an artist into having a successful career, not an end in itself.

Bis on TOTP. It happened.

It's a pity that Top of the Pops isn't on anymore - it's cancellation is seen as one of the reasons why artists/labels don't care about the charts anymore. After all, the incentives to push for a chart place aren't there if you don't get the opportunity to perform on national TV as a reward. And perhaps, as The Recommender article suggests, the internet offers other alternatives to the main chart. On The Hype Machine, for example, an artist could reach the number 1 position if they can get about 1,000 people worldwide to 'heart' their song, instantly opening themselves up to a wider audience.
So that's my two pennies worth on the UK Charts. Even though for the most part, the music isn't my cup of tea, I will still tune into Radio 1 at 4pm whenever I can to hear which artist has sold the most copies in the last seven days. Who knows, maybe several of the artists whose single I bought within the past seven days will be played to the millions of people listening. Or not. You never know.

*In case you were wondering, those artists were Big Audio Dynamite and Crosby, Stills & Nash.

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Runaround Kids/The Spills - Split Single

As part of its Bitching Cassettes series, independent record label Philophobia Records have released a limited edition single featuring two rather fine Wakefield based noisemakers, Runaround Kids & The Spills. The contribution from Runaround Kids is "Into The Light", a track that melds catchy indie rock with elements of screamo. As for The Spills, they give us the charmingly titled "Atomic Arabian Facebuster", a delightfully lo-fi headphone overpowerer.

The split single from Runaround Kids/The Spills is out now in cassette format, limited to just 100 copies.


Sunday 14 October 2012

Album Review: Little Comets - Life Is Elsewhere

(Dirty Hit)

The sophomore album from Newcastle band Little Comets, "Life Is Elsewhere", has the sound of a band who have been given a new breath of life. Their debut album "In Search Of Elusive..." was released at the point where apathy towards British indie groups was at an all-time low, and went over the heads of many people. Subsequently, Mark Harle left the group in order to seek "gainful employment." Whilst all this might have been enough to bring a band to a grinding halt, the band used it as an opportunity to re-evaluate themselves and reformulate their sound.

The first fruits of their new approach arrived at the end of last year, with the release of  "Worry", a song that mixed Afro-beat rhythmic structures with a massive chorus that seemed to have been appropriated from 80s mainstream pop (in particular, Steve Winwood's "Higher Love"). The band followed it up in June with the spectacular "Jennifer", which will most likely go down as the greatest song that Little Comets will ever record, with its mix of heartbreak, angst, and a guitar hook which hits straight for the heart. It is these tracks which set the blueprint for the overall sound of "Life Is Elsewhere."

One of the most noticeable things about "Life Is Elsewhere" is that it eschews the straightforward rock rhythms that dominated the debut in favour of more unorthodox structures. Given that it was the band's drummer that left the group, this seems a somewhat surprising development. These include drum patterns akin to Kate Bush's "Hounds Of Love" album ("Tense/Empty", "Semaphores on the Lawn"), Paul Simon's "Graceland" ("The Western Boy") or Vampire Weekend ("Worry", "Waiting in the Shadows of the Dead of Night"). In fact, the only song on the album that seems to be somewhat conventional is "Woman Woman", and that's a song that features no percussion whatsoever.

This new approach to songwriting has also helped to quell one of the flaws that marred Little Comets in the past, the vocals of lead singer Robert Coles. In the past, his idiosyncratic vocal style didn't seem to suit the music, which is one of the reasons why it took me about a year before I could get any further than 10 seconds into their song "Joanna". This time around, his vocals seem to suit the style of the music a lot better, especially given the lyrical content involved on "Life Is Elsewhere".

Despite some flourishes of pop moments on the album, including the "Worry" and "Bayonne", the album is something of a sombre, dark affair. The band's self-described "kitchen-sink indie" is in full force on this record, with tales of violence, deception, and hurt being on full display. "Bayonet" features lyrics about being shot in the back, whilst title of "In Blue Music We Trust" is pretty self-explanatory.

The darkest moment on the album by a long shot is "Violence Out Tonight", a striking story about the brutality of rape. As someone who abhors violence against women, this song is one that will strike a chord, and Little Comets should be commended taking a stand against such brutality, as well as making the fact known that many of the transgressors remain unpunished, in the following lyric: "the poor conviction rate for rape can often leave a woman  feeling more at blame than able to talk about violence."

The 2nd album by Little Comets is one that sees them making seismic steps forward from their debut. "Life Is Elsewhere" is a mature offering of songs that are just as likely to make you think than move. It's 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.
Released: 15th October 2012

Highlights: "Jennifer", "Worry", "W-O-E", "Violence Out Tonight".


Friday 12 October 2012

Foxygen - Shuggie

Electro-lounge hasn't really been seen as being in the upper echelons of cool since Air were in their "Moon Safari" heyday. However, American duo Foxygen hope to change that with the release of their upcoming album. The first song to be taken from the release is "Shuggie", which mixes the dreamy electronic sounds with elements of David Bowie & Scott Walker thrown in for good measure.

"Shuggie" is taken from the album "We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic", which will be released on January 22nd 2013.

Tuesday 9 October 2012

Ireland Tunes - Round-Up #7

Who wants another round-up of songs from the island of Ireland that have been floating my Metaphorical Boat this month? Nobody? Well tough, because you're going to get it anyway. 

 Alice Kona Band - Film

Those guys from the Alice Kona Band are generous fellows indeed. Not content with releasing the fantabulous heavy-pop sound of "Bad Dreams" back in July, the band have released their latest single. Not only that, they've made it available as a free download. "Films" feels like a natural progression on from their last single, with the band concentrating more on "heavy" that "pop" this time around whilst still maintaining their accessible sensibilities. Just listen to those Beach Boys-esque backing vocals if you don't believe me.

Chocolate Love Factory - Burn

The Northern Irish band with the 2nd most ridiculous name (number one incidentally is Little Sausage Disorder), Armagh trio Chocolate Love Factory's sound usually consists of grungy, QOTSA-esque stoner-rock. However, on their latest single, they takes things into more melodic territory. Released to coincide with a gig in The Empire on October 11th where they will be playing acoustically, "Burn" calls to mind the rock power-ballads on the late 80s/early-90s.

Little Rivers - Little Lea

Little Rivers is the solo project of Callum Cairns, who was previously a member of Colly Strings. In comparison to his old band's anthemic indie-rock, Little Rivers see Cairns entering more pastoral territory. "Little Lea" is a gorgeous piece of King Creosote influenced folk, mixed with incredibly subtle electronics to create something incredibly lovely indeed. This is a song to pull at your heartstrings.

Clockwork Orchestra - The Book That Won't Be Read

And finishing off this round-up is something a little bit offbeat. Clockwork Orchestra is the project of Dublin based Paul Mangan, who has combined his love of  "nursery rhymes, vintage keyboard instruments and lyrical storytelling" into an album that is as mad, strange, and offbeat as a box of snakes, "Friends Without Names". Taken from the album is "The Book That Won't Be Read", an electro chamber-pop ode to those people who neglect the world to spend ages composing a masterpiece that stands no chance of finding an audience.

Monday 8 October 2012

Runaway GO - Jump Start

Having grabbed our attention over the past 12 months with three fantastic singles, including the wonderful "Electric" back in April, there was a flurry of anticipation for the release of Belfast based quintet Runaway GO's latest single, which debuted earlier this evening. And true to form, it's a corker of a tune.

Produced by Jonathan Shakhovskoy, who has worked with artists as diverse as Beady Eye and Shakira, "Jump Start" sees the band playing up to their strengths. Their trademark girl-boy vocals are very much intact, with the double team of Fiona O'Kane and Dave Jackson both complimenting and offering a distinct contrast. Their penchant for heavy guitar riffs remains, although this time they've been complimented with a riff that has a whiff of TDCC about it. It's perhaps their poppiest number to date, and it sets them up nicely for the release of their debut album early next year.

"Jump Start" is out now, both as a download and as a CD Single.

Thursday 4 October 2012

Cold Hiker - Phosphenes

Melbourne based quartet Cold Hiker's modus operandi is to mix unusual time signatures and chord progressions into an alternative-rock setting. The best example of this sound can be found on their simple "Phosphenes". It demonstrates their shifty-pop styling admirably, calling to mind the work of Radiohead, Alt-J and because of their soaring vocals, Geneva. If you like your guitar music on the esoteric side, then these Aussies are the group for you. 

"Phosphenes" is taken from Cold Hiker's self-titled E.P, which is out now. 

Strange Boats - Boys Walk Faster Than Girls

It looks like I might have found another contender for 'The Bruce Springsteen-est Song of 2012' from a group much closer to home. Formerly known as The Coonics, Tuam based quartet Strange Boats will be releasing their next single "Boys Walk Faster Than Girls" on October 26th. The song owes a great debt to The Boss, in particular the intro guitar riff which is reminiscent of "Born to Run", mixing it with a noisy-energy reminiscent of fellow Springsteen-istas Japandroids.

Strange Boats will be touring Ireland throughout October and November, including a date in Belfast on November 23th in Mandela Hall, supporting Saw Doctors.

The Voluntary Butler Scheme - Brain Freeze

Rob Jones, aka The Voluntary Butler Scheme, is gearing up to release his third album early next year. In anticipation of its release, he has brought out the first song to be taken from it, and it's a real cracker.

Following the largely electronic sound of his last album, the rather disappointing "The Grandad Galaxy", "Brain Freeze" sees Jones return to the retro-pop sound that made his debut album "At Breakfast, Dinner, Tea" so beloved. It features incredibly quirky lyrics ("if I had the money I'd drive in the bus lane"), and some fantastic instrumentation including, for the first time in VBS's sound, trumpets and saxophone. "Brain Freeze" is the sound of The Voluntary Butler Scheme returning to full form with aplomb.

"Brain Freeze" is currently only available to buy as an iTunes app. It will feature on their third studio album, "A Million Ways To Make Gold", which will be released early next year.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Wild Swim - Echo

Since I first introduced teen Oxford quintet Wild Swim in December last year, things have been going, ahem, rather swimmingly for them, playing at T In The Park and supporting such great artists as Django Django and Spector.

The group are gearing up to release their first official single next month, and it is a real cracker. Produced by Steve Osborne, who was responsible for producing Suede's "Head Music", "Echo" is a great slice of baroque-pop, which for the most part finds itself firmly in the Wild Beasts mold (the similarities between Richard Sansom and the aforementioned group are uncanny). The last 45 seconds however goes off in a completely different direction, sounding like an updated version of "Under The Bridge" for the 2010s. The band's ability to spring such surprises is one of its strong points, and should see the band firmly placed for the new year.

"Echo" will be released on November 26th on Believe Records.

Artmagic - Down In The River

Time to plug up a hole on The Metaphorical Boat that I've been meaning to cover for some time. I've briefly mentioned duo Artmagic on several occasions, but haven't gotten around to covering any of their tunes in great detail, and there's no better time like the present to right that wrong.

Anyway, Artmagic consists of Sean McGhee, who has produced and mixed for artists such as Robyn and Alanis Morissette, and Richard Oakes, who is most famous for his work as the guitarist for Suede from "Coming Up" onwards. Their next single release is "Down In The River", which utilizes the strengths from both halves of the duo to create something rather great. McGhee's production experience brings an accessible pop sheen to the proceedings, whilst Oakes brings his trademark guitar sound that made him so beloved among the Suede faithful. 

"Down By The River" will be released on October 29th, and is taken from Artmagic's album "Become The One You Love", which is out now.

Tuesday 2 October 2012

The Rest - Hey! For Horses

Canadian alt-rock seven-piece  The Rest have recently released their debut album, "Seesaw". In order to promote its release, the band will be releasing ten music videos for each of the ten tracks on the album. The first video is for the song "Hey! For Horses!", which is bizarre, to say the least. Have a look below and see what you think.

WARNING - This video contains nude puppets in compromising positions, and is NSFW.

Satellite Stories - Sirens

As a proud Nordie (well, most of the time anyway), I absolutely love it when groups from elsewhere in the world seem to be directly influenced by our artists. Which is why it's great to hear a new track from Finnish group Satellite Stories. Take a listen to "Sirens", which is available to download for free, and let me know which Northern Irish group, who recently had a UK no.2 album, they remind me of.

Satellite Stories' debut album "Phrases to Break the Ice" is out now. The band will be playing two gigs in London at the end of the month.

Gypsy & The Cat - Bloom

Australian duo Gypsy & The Cat were one of those artists who were tipped for mega-stardom in 2011, but just fell short of that all-important breakthrough. This was quite surprising, as it wasn't due to a lack of fantastic songs, with their debut album "Gilgamesh" being choc-a-block with massive glo-fi pop hits-in-waiting, including "The Piper's Song", which was one of my top songs of last year. Nevertheless, the group are as determined as ever to make that elusive breakthrough, with an American release of their debut forthcoming (and presumably in the UK as well, where it was only available as a download), and preparing for the release on their sophomore album early next year.

The first song to be taken from their follow-up is entitled "Bloom", and is a song likely to make people prick up their ears and take note of the group again. Mixed by Brian Friedman, who was responsible for producing one of the bands Gypsy & the Cat were compared with on their debut album, MGMT, the song follows on from their debut in taking the sounds of the 80s and wrapping them in a 00s dreamscape sheen. This song however is a little less Toto and a little bit more of The Cure at their poppiest. With its pop charm and dreamy exterior, "Bloom" has the potential to drag Gypsy & The Cat out of the 'also-ran' category, and put them firmly in the 'running at full speed' classification.

"Bloom" will feature on the group's 2nd album "The Late Blue", and is available as a free download from the band's website for the next week.