Friday 28 February 2014

The Lost Music Club (plus Speedy - Heard, Seen, Done, Been)

The Lost Music Club is a new record label which is co-run by the respected Alcopop! Records and the editor of the fantastic blog 1p Album Club (a blog which reviews albums that can be bought online for a solitary penny). The aim of the label is to release albums from respected artists which never saw the light of day for various reasons. Having announced the launch of the label last month, today they announced their first release, and for someone like myself, who has a great affinity for the Britpop era but hasn't delved into music by some of the "also rans" of the movement, it is a rather interesting one.

Step forward Sheffield band Speedy. Having formed in 1993, the group split up in 1997 when the Britpop bubble burst with only a solitary hit to their name ("Boy Wonder", which reached the dizzy heights of #56 in the chart in 1996), before their debut album "News From Nowhere" could be released. Now seventeen years later, that album is finally going to see the light of day, and in anticipation, the band have made one of the songs from the album "Heard, Seen, Done, Been" available as a free download. It is a song that is very much of its time - the song is mid 90s through and through. But that doesn't mean it isn't good, because it is ruddy fantastic.

We wish The Lost Music Club well with their new venture, and look forward to seeing what other lost gems they intend to unearth. In case they are angling for suggestions of albums that never saw the light of day, we'd like to suggest fellow Britpop "also rans" Catch, Joe Lean & The Jing Jong (perhaps the most famous unreleased album of the mid 00s indie rock revival), and the second album from Geneva, "Weather Underground" (which technically was released, albeit very much under the radar).

"News From Nowhere" by Speedy will be released on 7th April 2014. The band will reform for two gigs to coincide with its re-release in London and Sheffield at the start of April.

Thursday 27 February 2014

Rams' Pocket Radio - Love Is A Bitter Thing

Over the past few weeks, this blog has had a steady stream of invites from bands and PRs inviting us to attend their showcase at this year's SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas. We're flattered to be asked, but unfortunately given that we're based on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, we're very unlikely to be able to attend the festival this year. (However, I will be going to be at The Great Escape in Brighton, which is more or less the UK's equivalent of SXSW, so any bands who are going to be playing at that festival should feel free to badger me about it from now until May).

Thankfully, there's still going to be a Northern Irish presence from here at the SXSW Festival. Among the acts from here who are making the trip westwards is Rams' Pocket Radio, who after launching his debut album "Béton" last year will be playing at several events at the festival. In order to drum up awareness before the trip, he has promoted one of the songs from the album, "Love Is a Bitter Thing", to single status.

It's something of an odd choice, in that there are more accessible, hookier songs on the album that could do a great job of introducing his music to a new audience, like "Boats" or "Dogs Run In Packs" (although in fairness, the latter has already been released as a single - twice). "Love Is A Bitter Thing" is quite a stripped back track, both in terms of how it's been produced and in regard to the emotion on show. Hopefully it should help Mr McCauley to win over a few new fans, particularly those who lean towards music of the "heart on sleeve" variety.

"Love Is A Bitter Thing" will be released on 17th March. Rams' Pocket Radio will be playing at several dates at SXSW, including the Northern Irish party on 10th March and an SXSW Official Showcase gig at BD Rileys on 14th March.

Tuesday 25 February 2014

We Are Aerials - We Are Chemicals

We Are Aerials is the new project of Derry man Conor McAteer and a cast of collaborators. Having already released two albums under his own name, the songs he has recorded under this new moniker have begun to receive quite a bit of attention locally in the run-up to the release of his new album. The one track that has received the most attention has been "We Are Chemicals", and when you listen to the song, you'll understand why. The song is a haunting yet emotional piano ballad that draws you in from the very first piano chord until the fade out, by which point you will just sit there in stunned silence, attempting to digest what you've just listened to. It's a real beauty of a track.

"We Are Chemicals" is taken from the album "Voeckler", which is out now. It will be launched on March 7th in Bennigans, Derry.

Photo is (C) Fearghal Bonner. 

Monday 24 February 2014

KITS - The Glow

Lancaster based Jayson Turner is a computer scientist by day, and by night he records music under the moniker KITS. The first original song he has recorded is "The Glow", a self-described synthfolk track (I guess folktronica has become a bit passé), which mixes a pure voice and guitar with ethereal and warm electronic noodling. It's a mixture of sounds that have been done many times before - yet somehow KITS have managed to put their own stamp on it. Keep an eye out for the name in the future, it's bound to be one you'll be hearing a lot of in the future.

"The Glow" is available to download in exchange for an email address.

Saturday 22 February 2014

windings/Land Lovers - Split Single

Two of Ireland's finest indie-pop acts, windings and Land Lovers, have come together to release a joint album. In anticipation of its release, the groups have released a split double A-side single to give us a taste of what to expect.

Limerick band windings, who already have a Meteor Choice nomination under their belt, as well as impressing at last year's Glasgowbury Festival, offer up "Neverwood", which is a fun track, as well one of the few tracks released this year that is likely to feature a Theremin solo.

Dublin band Land Lovers offer us "Vittima di Cucina", which is a sub 2-minute tune that sounds like a heady mixture of Velvet Crush, They Might Be Giants & Shonen Knife, sounding like they've been eating nothing but Haribo for a week before recording this track.

"Neverwood/Vittima di Cucina" are available to download now. The joint album "windings/Land Lovers" will be released on February 28th.

Thursday 20 February 2014

Juice - Sugar

Ah Birmingham, aka "B-Town" (still a horrendous name), the indie-rock gift that just keeps on giving. Just when you thought they had nothing left to give after giving us Swim Deep, Peace, Superfood, Dumb & Babypink in the past year, along comes trio Juice, a band who came to our attention early today thanks to the wonderful music blog Don't Need No Melody.

They have just released their debut single "Sugar", and although it might not necessarily be sweet, it is still a brilliant song to be savoured. Sounding like the best bits of the pre-Britpop 90s (Ride in particular may be a suitable reference point), "Sugar" is an incredibly powerful first effort from the band, and should remind the world that despite a few decent names from Birmingham making a mark recently, there's still a lot more where that came from.

PictureHouse - Rules of Science

Don't we all love a great underdog story?

It's hard enough for new Irish acts who self-release their own material to get their music playlisted on Radio 2. But what about a band from Ireland who only had minor chart success in their home country in their prime, when you could make the top 30 with approximately 50 sales, never made the charts in the UK, and are releasing new music for over a decade? Nigh on impossible, right?

Well, don't tell that to recently reformed Dublin band PictureHouse. They were active in the late 90s/early 00s, with their highest charting single, "Everybody Loves My Girl", scaling the dizzy heights of #17 in the Irish Hit Parade. This week, the latest single from their most recent album, "Rules Of Science", found its way onto the playlist of Radio 2, the biggest radio station in the UK, seemingly against all odds. And listening to the song, it's not hard to hear why - it is perhaps the epitome of a Radio 2-friendly song. Had Take That released this piano-pop ditty when they reformed, it would have stayed lodged in the top 10 for weeks. Unfortunately, given how the singles charts skews towards songs that get airtime on Radio 1 rather than Radio 2, it is unlikely that PictureHouse will get their first UK chart hit. But who knows, its success could lead to the band reaching a new peak in their home country, and wouldn't that be a lovely surprise?

"Rules of Science" will be released on March 17th. It's taken from their album "Evolution", which is out now.

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Circa Waves - Stuck in My Teeth

It's time to jump on the bandwagon again. With news just in from Radio 1's Head of Music, claiming that guitar music is now on its way back (just like it did the last time he made that pronouncement back in November 2012), it couldn't be a better time for hotly tipped Liverpool group Circa Waves to bring out their latest single, "Stuck In My Teeth". As far as the song goes, it's pretty standard stuff - fairly enjoyable yet incredibly familiar major label-friendly indie guitar sounds. It won't alter the axis of rock, but it'll be a rather decent ride nonetheless. With a slot on the NME Tour, copious Radio 1 play to-date, as well as a US record deal with the label who look after The 1975, it's fair to say that there's a lot riding on the success or failure of Circa Waves. After all, how many artists have failed to become successful after successfully gaining the blue tick on Twitter?

Sunday 16 February 2014

Go Swim - Call Sign

Belfast based 5-piece Go Swim have barely been quiet since they formed less than a year ago. In that short space of time, they've already put three decent singles under their belt, picked up a bit of radio airplay locally, and started to establish themselves as a reputable, reliable live act. In spite of this promising start, they still hadn't come across that illustrious breakthrough song, the one that will become an instant live favourite, and make everyone, even the doubters, stand up and really take notice of them.

Well, I say hadn't, because it looks like Go Swim have cracked it on their latest single, "Call Sign". The song has been described elsewhere as sounding like "Foals on drugs". Whilst one cannot condone the use of any illicit substances, you can understand where they're coming from. Go Swim appear to have taken their song "Inhaler" as a starting point for "Call Sign", before adding their own spin on it. Vocalists Steven and Julianne perform dual lead vocals, singing manic, alternating lyrics which both compliment and oppose each other at the same time, whilst the rhythm of the track changes from intense to danceable almost at the drop of a hat, without feeling jarring or out of place.

It's a pity that at just over the 4 1/2 minute mark, the song might not easily fit into normal radio rotation, but it should not take away from what should go on to be Go Swim's trademark track. Let's just see if things will continue to go swimmingly for the band.

"Call Sign" is available to download for free. A video for the song has also been released.

Photo of Go Swim is (C) Carrie Davenport. 

Wednesday 12 February 2014

Northern Ireland Tunes - Round-Up #23

Don't you just love February? By the end of it, you'll be one month closer to spring time, one month closer to the summer, and one month closer to your birthday (provided your birthday isn't in February, of course). And if you don't love February then hopefully this will help. Here's a few tunes from Northern Ireland which are sure to float your Metaphorical Boat this month:

Alana Henderson - The Banks of The Roses

Alana Henderson has taken time away from her original cello-led compositions to record "Windfall", an album (extended E.P?) of folk songs from the north of Ireland reinterpreted with more contemporary arrangements. The first track on the record is  wonderful version of "The Banks of The Roses", a song that really shows off Alana's voice. I'm looking forward to the release of more of Alana's original material, but for now the tracks on "Windfall" offer a wonderful diversion.


Patrick Gardener - He's Not Right For You

Magheralin teenager Patrick Gardener seems to have been picking up steam in the past few months. He's been tipped by The Guardian, picked up airplay locally, and just this week his song "He's Not Right For You" was featured on Tom Robinson's BBC Introducing Mixtape. And it's no surprise why he's coming in for such praise - "He's Not Right..." is a wonderful song that sounds both timeless and solidly produced. I'm somewhat ashamed that it's taken so long for me to come across him (the E.P this song was taken from, "Save Myself", was released back in 2012).

He's also worth following on Twitter. His timeline skirts the fine line between genius and downright bonkers.

Surfhouse - Take It Back

Now here's something you don't come across very often - an Antrim based baggy influenced band, which is what Surfhouse are. The trio are still in the early stages of their career, and still have some room for development. Case in point - one of the songs on their debut E.P actually samples "Loaded" by Primal Scream. Talk about wearing you influences on your sleeve.

That doesn't mean they don't have heaps of potential, as their instrumental "Take It Back" evidently shows. It's a wonderful mix of dance-y break beats and greater guitar work, which is a real early 90s authenticity to it.


Amanda St. John - Big Strong Man

Jazzy rockabilly is the order of the day for Belfast based singer/songwriter Amanda St John. Her new single "Big Strong Man" has already picked up daytime radio play on Radio Ulster, and it's not hard to understand why. The song is a fun little ditty which, in a world where Imelda May and Caro Emerald can make a healthy living off similar music style, should go down very well indeed. She'll be launching the single at The Harp Bar in Belfast on March 2nd, ahead of its release the next day.


Candy's Eyes - For The Birds

And we finish off the round-up with something a little bit on the nutty side. Elizabeth McGeown was formerly the vocalist in well respected electro-poppers Uber Glitterati. She's now reinvented herself as Candy's Eyes, which she describes as striking "a balance between acoustic folk and jazz".

It does not strike the balance very well,  is no bad thing when you come off with such eccentric offerings like "For The Birds", a demented little ditty which mixes a calm acoustic backing with quasi-operatic vocals and sinister organ sounds. It's a very acquired taste, but if it's your thing it is one you will truly savour.

Monday 10 February 2014

The Slowdown - Right On TV

What would a band who sound like a cross between Air and Beck sound like?* It's quite possible that it would sound a little bit like Kansas band The Slowdown, at least if new single "Right On TV" is anything to go by. The song is a space-y, alternate-pop ballad which sounds like it lies on the border between "Love 2" and "Sea Change".

The song will feature on the band's album "Digital Gold", which will be released on March 11th.

*Yes, pedants, I do realise that Beck & Air did record songs together, so there's no need to point that out.

Saturday 8 February 2014

Malibu Shark Attack - Better Off As Friends

Don't you just hate it when your favourite bands split and splinter?

Self-referential "post-new wave-prog-electronic-indiecore-synthpop" is the order of the day for Malibu Shark Attack, a band made up of Belfast super-producer Rocky O'Reilly and Atlanta rapper Tribe One. Their new single "Better Off As Friends" features a guest appearance from The Dudley Corporation, sees Tribe One rapping about the dissolution of the band's previous musical endeavors, whilst trying to win over fans who are still hung up on their split, over Rocky's fizzy electro-pop production. The single has already picked up a few admirers, with Steve Lamacq loving it so much that he played it twice in a row on 6music, so it should hopefully win over those people who still haven't got over the end of Oppenheimer.

"Better Off As Friends" by Malibu Shark Attack will be released on 17th March, with their self-titled debut album to be released in May.

Thursday 6 February 2014

Wonder Villains - Marshall

The moment that this blog has been waiting for since 2009 is nearly upon us - 2014 is going to be the year when Wonder Villains finally release their long-overdue debut album. This blog has probably written more about these guys than any other artist, local or otherwise, since it started in 2011, so to say that it is our most anticipated release of the year would be something of an understatement.

But as the old saying goes, "if you want to make an omelette, you've got to crack open a few eggs". And in this metaphor, the eggs are represented by the singles which will be released prior to the album's release (the omelette of this incredibly tenuous metaphor), the next one of which is "Marshall". Fans of Wonder Villains will be more than familiar with the track - it's been a key component of their live sets for several years, and was featured as a b-side of an earlier single release. It's been given a new coat of paint for this release, and it's sounded as fresh as ever. Taking its name from a character from How I Met Your Mother, "Marshall" is a fizzy, well constructed banger of a pop tune that doesn't outstay its welcome (141 seconds, which as Elastica demonstrated many moons ago, is more or less the ideal length for a pop song).

If feels as if I think that every song Wonder Villains release is the song that should give them the breakout they deserve. But in the case of "Marshall", it is doubly true - if this song doesn't give them the uber-breakout that they deserve, I will be incredibly sad.

"Marshall" will be released on 24th March. Their debut album, "Rocky", will be released on June 23rd.
(Hey, that means that there could be time for one more pre-album single before it's release. I sincerely hope it's "Golden Five", it's been the highlight of their set for the past few months. Please, make it so - The Captain). 

Monday 3 February 2014

Mere Moths - You Grew Up

Mere Moths used to be the name of a band from Dromore, who released the E.P "Water of The Land" in 2012, when the average age of the band was just 15, before splitting up not long after its release. However, like Passenger before them, their lead songwriter Patrick Wright decided to hold on to the name for his subsequent solo releases, the first of which being the E.P "You Grew Up".

The title track of the E.P is an interesting little song indeed. Unlike many young performers, who feel the need to fill every single nook and cranny with some sort of noise, Patrick Wright seems happy enough to leave the production of the song quite sparse, as if the silence is just as important as the music. And somewhat paradoxically, by doing so, the track leaves much more of an impact as a result. It's a confident, mature offering from Mere Moths, one which should win him some new fans during the rest of 2014.

The "You Grew Up" E.P will be launched at the Oh Yeah Centre in Belfast on February 20th.

Sunday 2 February 2014

Superfood - TV

Has this blog mentioned our love of Birmingham's Superfood, that we love their Britpop sound, and that we really hope that they are the band that finally pushes Nu-Britpop well into the mainstream? Actually, yes we have. On many occasions. So why stop now?

The band have recently released the music video for their new single "TV", which will feature on their upcoming E.P "MAM". As you might expect from their sound, the video has a real 90s feel to it, from the Teletext references, through to the videotape quality of the filming, through to the Supergrass-esque amount of fun that seems to have gone into making the video.

The "MAM" E.P will be released on March 3rd on 10" vinyl.

Saturday 1 February 2014

Lady of The North - Cold At Night

There seems to be an absolute dearth of information regarding the artist known as Lady of the North both on the internet and on her social media pages, so this is what we know. Her real name is Cathy Moorehead, she hails from Belfast, she released an E.P a couple of years ago, and is a fan of Daft Punk.

She has got a new E.P coming out soon, and the first track to be taken from it is "Cold At Night", a track that should ensure that she does not remain criminally ignored locally for much longer. It's a haunting electronic track which showcases Cathy's vocals incredibly well, coming off as quite similar to Kate Bush. Hopefully the track helps her win a few more admirers. Then we can hopefully find out a little bit more about her, eh?