Monday 31 March 2014

Fickle Friends - Play

Do you remember Brighton group Fickle Friends? Of course you do - they were more or less the first band to release a song in 2014 with "Swim", a song that literally every single blog in the world fell in love with. Despite their success, one question plays on my mind - would the song have racked up 370,000 plays had they released it a week later, when they faced a lot more competition? It probably would have been popular, albeit probably not to the same extent. Sometimes a kick-ass song isn't enough - sometimes being in the right time at the right place helps as well.

But now is not the time for "what if's", for Fickle Friends have just released the song that they hold will capitalize on the success of "Swim", the similarly mononymously named "Play". In comparison to its predecessor, "Play" is a little bit more upbeat and forceful whilst curiously sounding a little bit like School of Seven Bells at the same time.

At the very least, "Play" proves that Fickle Friends are not a one hit pony. At best, indie-pop may just have a new leading light. Let's just see how things stand a few months down the line.

"Play" is available to download as of today.

Sunday 30 March 2014

Joshua Burnside - Platonia

This blog first came across Lisbane artist Joshua Burnside back in July, with the self-release of his highly inventive E.P "If You're Goin' That Way". He has since signed to newly formed Belfast label Broken Melody Records, who to-date have released two compilation albums of some of the most interesting music from Northern Ireland.

His first stand-alone release on the label is a double-A side single. One of the tracks, "Desert Wine", appeared in a different form on his last E.P, but "Platonia" is a brand new recording. Similar to his previous releases, the song is very much indebted to the folk tradition, yet he adds he own spin to the genre, with electronic noodling, shifting time signatures, and even some subtle tropical influences underpinning the song, creating a song that fits somewhere between Tunng and Neutral Milk Hotel.

"Platonia" is available to download now for a reasonable price.

Saturday 29 March 2014

The Night VI - Sienna

At the end of last year, Anglo-French band The Night VI released a series of covers of classic songs in their own style, including a fantastic version of "Music Sounds Better With You" (which sadly, now appears to have been removed from the interwebs).

The band are now back in familiar territory with the release of their latest single, "Sienna", which has already racked up an enormous amount of plays in the past 2 weeks. Based on a stormy meeting with the ex-partner of one of the band member's girlfriend, the song is a great melding of both tenderness and danceable, and shows just how great a pop prospect the band really are.

"Sienna" will be released on April 28th.

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Those Ghosts - Not Waiting For The End

Is Northern Ireland's next rock revolution going to burst forth from the town of Strabane? Probably not, but that's not to say it's lacking in good bands. They've got at least two of them - Freak's, who we mentioned on the blog a few weeks ago, and Those Ghosts, who picked up steam last year off the back of two well-received EPs. Both bands are receiving attention for their very different sounds, and both are looking to put the town on the musical landscape, or at the very least wrestle it away from Hugo Duncan. However, if you were to choose your favourite, which one would you choose?

Well, perhaps the new single from Those Ghosts might help you make up your mind. At first, "Not Waiting For The End" might confuse those familiar with their previous material, insofar that they have moved away from the heavy, riff-based, Foo Fighters-esque rock of yore into more U2-sounding territory. It's sounds more polished compared to what the band have given us before, and although it's not their strongest single to date (even now, their debut single "Evelyn" takes some beating), it does show a different, more confident, more focused side to the band.

And crucially, in the Battle of Strabane, it pushes them ahead of their rivals. Now it's your move, Freak's.

"Not Waiting For The End" is available as a free download.

Monday 24 March 2014

Calan Mai - We've Got Love

Your humble Captain might be known for many thing, but one thing he's not known for being is a prognosticator. However, in spite of this, he can confidently state that the following sentence is going to feature of a good lot of new music blogs over the next few months -

"Calan Mai  is Australia's answer to Frank Turner."

Or at least that's what they'll be saying off the back of his debut single, "We've Got Love". The song has all the trademarks of that noted troubadour - acoustic-rock production with a slight punky edge, lyrics that offer a commentary of the human condition, and a knack for a great sing-along chorus.

This time last year, fellow Aussie Vance Joy burst out of the blogosphere straight into the chart with his own brand of acoustic rock. Could Calan Mai repeat that story this year? It's might be a bit early yet to tell, but We've Got Love" is a decent starting point.

"We've Got Love" is taken from the E.P "Days on The Rock Face", which will be released in July.

Sunday 23 March 2014

Oktoba - Aeroplane

As we're now knee-deep in spring, and with the next season slowly creeping up on us, we're at the time of year when summery sounding tunes really begin to take hold. Which is why it's nice to come across Brighton based Chris Athorne. Having been a member of BBC Introducing approved rockers The Boy Wonders, he has decided to go in a different musical direction, recording solo under the name Oktoba.

The first single from this new project is a lovely track indeed. "Aeroplane" is a pop-folk which is underpinned by an almost childlike simplicity and an incredibly infectious whistling hook. Believe me, if you can listen to the song without whistling the hook for the next few hours, then you're stronger willed than me, which would be evidence that you may in fact be Neo. If you're looking for  a poppier version of Ben Howard, or a less whiny version of Passenger, then you might find something to like in Oktoba.

"Aeroplane" is taken from the E.P "Takes & Shadows", which is out now.

Saturday 22 March 2014

Hot Shorts - Web Design (E.P)

On their debut E.P, "Web Design", Manchester based band Hot Shorts show that it's possible to write good songs about anything. The four track E.P is loosely based around the internet and how we interact with it. It might not sound that exciting on paper, but in practice it come across fantastically.

The band's sound could be best described as lo-fi, quasi-slacker indie-rock, comparable to Pavement, early Fountains of Wayne, and given their penchant for the odd vocal harmony, very early Teenage Fanclub. Opener "I Don't Want to Do My Job Any More" is about quitting your job (unsurprisingly), whilst "I Stayed Up All Night (Working on My Website) is similarly self-explanatory. "I Feel So Depressed" is one of the more interesting songs musically, given that it changes key about six times in the final half of the song.

The only weak track on the record is the closing one, "Just Trollin", which is a song about making fun of the recently deceased online. I know that it's supposed to be tongue in cheek, and is definitely not supposed to be sincere, but it comes across as somewhat mean-spirited rather than funny. It's a shame, as the first three tracks on the E.P are great, with this one leaving a bitter taste in the mouth.

Regardless of that, Hot Shorts have still delivered a rather enjoyable, short E.P of lo-fi guitar-rock. It will be interesting to hear how they develop as they mature.

"Web Design" is available to download now on a pay what you like basis.

Wednesday 19 March 2014

Silences - Nevernames E.P

This blog first came across Armagh's Conchúr White, who records under the name Silences, after being blown away by his demo of "Ghosts" 16 months ago. Since then, Silences has expanded to a five piece band, and off the back of some high-profile gigs, including a slot at Other Voices Music Trail in Dingle, they have just released their debut E.P in their current form, "Nevernames".

The E.P's lead track "Santa Cruz" has been getting the most attention in the past few weeks, and deservedly so. It's a highly emotional folk-rock tune, somewhere in the vein of Villagers, and is one of those songs that pulls at the heartstrings so tightly that you begin to worry about your aorta detaching itself. The E.P's other two tracks, "Emma" and "Vancouver Aches", tread a similar musical path, but don't come anywhere as close in matching it in terms of grace, emotion or impact.

"Nevernames" is a fairly decent release from the expanded Silences. If they can deliver more songs in the vein of "Santa Cruz", then there's no doubt that they're going to be in it for the long haul.

"Nevernames" is out now.

Monday 17 March 2014

Dead Heart Bloom - Broken Babylon

It's nice to become re-acquainted with a group that I hadn't come across for years. New York trio Dead Heart Bloom first came to my attention in my pre-blog days back in 2009, when their rather lovely track "Meet Me" somehow made its way onto my iTunes folder. Although it was a decent track, I didn't delve any deeper into their bak catalog, and the band slipped out of my mind until earlier this year, when I learned several things -

a) The band were still going strong.
b) The band's most recent E.P was produced by Anthony Molina, best known for his work in Mercury Rev.
And perhaps most importantly -
c) The band sound absolutely nothing like I had imagined them to be.

Which brings us to "Broken Babylon", the lead track from their most recent E.P "So It Goes". Unlike the harmonious Beatles-esque I'd come to expect from the band, this is a song that packs a real punch. It's a powerful space-rock tune that, somewhat unsurprisingly, has a little bit of the Rev to it, but also little flickers of Spiritualized and The Verve as well.

Dead Heart Bloom are an interesting group indeed - they're a prolific bunch who seem to have received quite a lot of blog love over the past few years without ever crossing over to the indie "mainstream". Hopefully this release will push them into a few more minds. It's great to become re-acquainted with old friends, it's even greater when they surprise you in such a positive way.

"Broken Babylon" is available as a free download in exchange for an email address.

Northern Ireland Tunes - Round-Up #25

A happy March to each and every one of you. March is always a good month here on TMB, especially as it contains the birth date of your humble Captain (a day that we're happy to share with the nicest man in rock, Guy Garvey). 

And in the spirit of this month's happiness, we would like to extend congratulations towards Bangor band In An Instant, one of the blogs Tips For 2014, for winning the Chordblossom Kickstart competition. Previous winners include SOAK and Those Ghosts, and the prizes this year include a slot at this year's Stendhal Festival, studio time, and PR, all of which is invaluable for artists at the start of their career. Hopefully it gives them the boost that they deserve - I've been eagerly awaiting their upcoming E.P with giddy abandon.

And keeping it local, here's a few tunes from here we've come across this month that have floated The Metaphorical Boat

Daniel James - The Bridge

Northern Irish lad Daniel James is seemingly being groomed for international superstardom, having recently toured with million selling man of the moment Sam Smith and due to support Saint Raymond quite soon. He's got a lot of support behind him, so I imagine that by the end of the year he'll be getting a major push for next year's "Sound Of'..." polls. Until then, enjoy his new single, "The Bridge", which will be released on April 21st. It's fairly inoffensive radio-friendly singer-songwriter-y stuff, which should find favour with those who are keen on Kodaline and Hudson Taylor.


Runabay - Cold Outside

Although In An Instant took home the Chordblossom Kickstart prize, that's not to say they didn't have stiff competition to get there. One of the other finalists who impressed greatly were Cushendall's Runabay, who won the crowd over with their folk-rock sound, in spite of the fact they had only just played their first gig. Given the sound of their debut release "Cold Outside", this might come as a surprise, as they have the sound of a band who have been around for years. Imagine a heavier Bon Iver, and you might be slightly on the way to describing how they sound.

HOW - Woo Hoo

A part of me always wonders if Blur's 90s classic "Song 2" would have hit the number 1 spot had it instead been called, as may people still believe it to be, "Woo Hoo"? We'll never know the answer to that question, although I guess it's a bit of serendipity that the song ended up peaking at #2 instead.

However, when it comes to Armagh trio HOW, there's no chance of making that mistake, given that they've named their song after the one bit of the song that will stick in your head long after you've stopped listening to the song. Altogether now -  "Woo Hoo! (handclaps). Woo Hoo! (handclaps)"


The Dandy Horses - Driving Toward Blue Skies

And concluding this month's round-up is Belfast quintet The Dandy Horses. They'll be launching their 2nd E.P, the tweefully titled "Hat On The Sun", on Saturday 22nd March in The Black Box, Belfast. Taken from the E.P is the absolutely lovely "Driving Towards Blue Skies", a country-folk tune, which they guarantee will kick away the winter blues.

Sunday 16 March 2014

The Wood Burning Savages - America

It's always nice when a band you know release a song that completely takes you by surprise. Up until now, Derry's The Wood Burning Savages have been known for their rollicking rock & roll sound, the occasional excursion into folk notwithstanding.

It makes the sound of their latest single, "America", sound almost alien at first - of all the directions you might have expected the group to slide into, disco-rock would have been somewhere near the bottom. They do a good job of it though - "America" is a sleekly produced track full of syncopated basslines, oscillating synths and a somewhat psychedelic guitar riff that come together to make something both satisfying and a little bit different.

It's nice to hear a band who don't try to confine themselves to just one rigid genre. Let's just hope this doesn't mean that their next single will be an excursion into death metal polka-rap.

"America" will be released on March 18th.

Saturday 15 March 2014

Southern - Where The Wild Are (E.P)

To say that this blog has something of a fondness for Southern, the Belfast bred, Liverpool based sibling duo, would be something of an understatement. They were the first local band we re-discovered after returning from a year spent in the Midwestern wilderness, they were the second Northern Irish group this blog wrote about when we started way back on July 2011 (the first being Yes Cadets, who are still going strong), and we have revisited them on several occasions, watching them as they have grown in maturity and in terms of their fanbase.

The past 6 months or so however has seem them take massive leaps and bounds forward, with the band seemingly finding the sound that they're most comfortable - a combination of rock, blues, folk and country, all tied up by the intertwining vocals of the duo. This has seen them rewarded with a record deal which has made them label mates of Jagwar Ma and Childhood, featured on a Kitsuné compilation album, and receive extensive airplay on Radio 1 and XFM among others.

It is off the back of this that the band have released their latest E.P, "Where The Wild Are". If the name sounds familiar to you, there's a reason for that - the song was originally released as a free single back in May 2012, causing a few minor ripples on the blogosphere at the time. If you think this is merely a re-release of that song, then you'd be dead wrong - for this version is a radical re-imagining of the original recording in a style that better suits the band's current musical style. It's no longer a breezy, cute, acoustic number, instead it's a slide guitar led blues rocker which, for lack of a better phrase, has a lot of balls.

When I first heard the new version, it didn't click straight away, as the original version of "Where The Wild Are" had been my favourite Southern tune to date, and I wasn't too impressed that the new version only bore a passing resemblance to the original. However, over the past few days it has completely clicked - this is how the song needs to be presented, and deserves to be presented.

The other two songs on the E.P show different aspects to the band. "Oh Won't You Go" sees Lucy take sole lead vocals, and shows of the band's more tender, Mazzy Star-like side, whilst "Four Days" could perhaps be best described as heavy country. Neither of the two songs are a match for the title track, but still show the band's knack for crafting rather decent songs.

Southern have come on leaps and bounds in the few years since they first came to our attention. 2014 could be the year where they burst their way into the big leagues, which if this E.P is anything to go by, is not empty hyperbole.

The "Where The Wild Are" E.P will be released on April 14th.

Friday 14 March 2014

Cosmo Sheldrake - The Moss

Many of you may have already came across the music of Cosmo Sheldrake on the interwebs over the past year or so, but for the uninitiated (of which we must shamefully declare this blog a member), he's a 24-year old London based producer and multi-instrumentalist who has won over music fans with his off-kilter pop productions and supporting artists like Bombay Bicycle Club and Johnny Flynn in the process.

He recently signed to Transgressive Records, ahead of the release of his 'debut' single, "The Moss". The song is a well-constructed piece of earthy-yet-otherworldly electro-folk, with finely-tuned vocal harmonies and lyrics that draw upon the nonsensical. It's a shame it's taken so long for us to fall for his unique style and charm, but we're glad that we have.

"The Moss" will be released on April 21st both as a download and on vinyl.

Sunday 9 March 2014

Ciara O'Neill - Dead, Black

There's no shortage of folk artists here in Northern Ireland - for some reason, there's a lot of that sort of thing here, and the majority of it is bloody wonderful. Somewhat surprisingly however, it's quite rare to hear songs the skew to the darker side of the genre from this neck of the woods.

That's why it's nice to hear from Armagh singer/songwriter Ciara O'Neill. Although not the biggest name locally at the moment, she has started to establish herself as a live performer - she played at this year's Belfast Nashville Songwriter's Festival, and recently supported respected folk duo Smoke Fairies. Her first solo track released is called "Dead, Black", which as you can probably guess from the title, is not going to be all sunshine and lollipops. It's a haunting, stripped back folk track that sounds like it comes from a different plane of existence. It's got a similar vibe to Marika Hackman, whose pitch-black folk has been winning plaudits from all over, so with a few more songs under her belt, she could start to make a serious impact.

"Dead, Black" is due to feature on her debut E.P, which should be released soon.

Saturday 8 March 2014

Little Matador - Stitch Yourself Up

Irish/Northern Irish supergroup Little Matador have built upon the promise of last November's "Liar Liar" E.P with "Stitch Yourself Up", which acts as a preview for their debut album. It's a pretty straightforward ballsy rock song, which for some odd reason reminds me of something Scissor Sisters might put out, despite sounding absolutely nothing like them.

To coincide with the release, the band have put out a music video for the track, which due to its slightly risque nature, is NSFW) -

Little Matador's self-titled debut album will be released on April 21st.

Wednesday 5 March 2014

Teleman - Lady Low

London-based Teleman are one of a long list of groups that this blog has meant to write something about, but has never really got around to doing so. Because let's face it, they do tick many of our metaphorical boxes - their upcoming debut album has been produced by Bernard Butler, a man whom I am incapable of finding fault in. They have supported Suede, the best band of all-time, and over the next few months they are also going to be supporting Franz Ferdinand, one of the best bands of the last 10 years, and Maximo Park, who also make music. They released some great tracks last year, including the wonderfully ethereal "Steam Train Girl", and looked certain to go on to brilliant things this year.

The latest track the band have released is "Lady Low", which the band are making available to download now in exchange for an email address. For a band who have been touring extensively with guitar-heavy groups, it's a surprisingly subdued track, almost like something you might expect to hear on Jazz FM, although that might just be the saxophone solo that dominates the latter half of the song, as if 2011 never ended. Not since Air's heyday as music this lounge-y sounded so effortlessly cool. Roll on their debut album.

"Breakfast" will be released on May 26th.

Photo is (c) Claudia Burlotti.

Tuesday 4 March 2014

Oh Volcano - Oceans

Although it's been more than a year since the announcement, people in Northern Ireland are still getting over the shock of beloved sons General Fiasco going on hiatus, having logged 2 albums and hundreds of gigs under their collective belt. Sure, for some, other bands will come about who can fill that indie-rock hole in their hearts, but what about those people for whom the guys in the band meant everything? How will they be able to cope?

Well fear not, for 1/2 of the band, Enda & Owen Strathern, have just announced their new project, Oh Volcano. In what has become something of a trend for artists from this neck of the woods, they have abandoned the guitar-centric sound their previous project was known for in lieu of the purely synthetic. Their first song under the Oh Volcano name is "Oceans", which is a fairly decent slice of atmospheric Caribou-esque electronica, which should act as a great few first steps towards the road they are sure to travel down over the next few months.

"Oceans" is available to download for free.

Freak's - Number One

We've featured Strabane's finest oddball 4-piece Freak's on TMB a few times in the past, charming us in the last year their off-kilter tunes such as "Old Piano" and "Symmetry and Correlation". Now the band have released their latest single, "Number One", and it's fair to say it's their best song to date.

For a start, it's a song that's incredibly hook-y from the get-go, with two interlocking vocal "ah-ah" and "ooo's" which lead into the lovely little guitar riff. The lyrics fall into "good side of daft" territory, with lyrics concerning Northern Irish golfers, a city in the African country of Mali, and rare flavours of Pot Noodle.

The band have also released a cracking, hilarious music video for the song, which is as gloriously wonky as the song itself. Without giving too much away, let's just say it features one of the oddest romances to feature in a music video.

"Number One" is the strongest song to date from the Freak's fellows. Let's hope they keep their bonkers-indie sound going for their future releases.

"Number One" is available to download now for a very modest price.