Saturday 31 May 2014

In An Instant - Light You Know And Love E.P

It's been a long time coming, but on Thursday 29th May, almost a year after their initial demos got so many people excited, and after 7 months in the making, Bangor four-piece In An Instant finally released their debut E.P, "Light You Know And Love", to an appreciative crowd at Voodoo in Belfast. (Incidentally, top marks to the band for selling their band t-shirts at the gig for a bargain price of £5. You wouldn't even get a plain t-shirt in Primark for that amount of money.)  So, has it been worth the wait?

The answer is a resounding yes. The E.P kicks off with "Lovers Apart", a song which showcase the band's ability to mix both rock and electronic elements in such a seamless fashion. The song, with its anthemic chorus and ascending guitar lines, calls to mind the sound of bands like The Killers, and dare I say it, Snow Patrol. Next up is "The Mighty Hands", a re-recorded version of one of their earlier demos, which is a dance-friendly indie rock track which lends itself well to being played live, with its well executed use of the humble 'woah'.

The strongest track on the E.P is "Something Right And Something Real". As we've mentioned before, the song contains great big guitar hook, an exquisite use of electronic instruments to bolster, but not overwhelm, their sound, a massive chorus and an irresistible, danceable rhythm. It's early days yet, but at the moments it's a frontrunner for this blog's favourite song of 2014. The tempo goes down considerably for "Boundaries", a song which pulls of the oxymoronic trick of on the one hand being subdued, whilst simultaneously sounding loud, impassioned and anthemic. It's the one song on the E.P that's the least typical of the sound of In An Instant, yet is still a rather great song.

 E.P finishes with a re-recorded version of "All Binds Fall Undone", the song that made this blog fall for In An Instant in the first place. It took a few listens to warm to this version, as they've made a few changes from the initial demo, with a heavier emphasis on guitar and a different treatment of the vocals. However, it's safe to say that on reflection, the new version is still a quality track, one which is more in line with the sound of the E.P, and a fitting conclusion to the E.P.

At the E.P launch of "Something Right And Something Real", I heard a few members of the crowd making some grand statements both about the band's performance at the gig (for the record, they were pretty awesome), and about what they were likely to achieve - one person called it the most important event in Northern Irish music since the A Little Solidarity gigs back in 2008, whilst another person commented that watching In An Instant perform in this place, at this time, was like witnessing a little bit of history. Whether these statements just amount to hyperbole, or whether this really is the start of a new movement in music here, remains to be seem. What we can say with certainty however is that the"Something Right and Something Real" is a brilliant starting point for what has to be the meteoric journey of In An Instant.

The E.P is available to buy now.

Wednesday 28 May 2014

Viola Dust - The Big Hop

It's not often that you come across a début song by a group that sounds like it could appear in the Top 40 on Sunday in its current form and not sound out of place. It's rarer still for said song to come from a band who are literally in their infancy, only playing their first gig two weeks ago and not even having a Facebook page until this week. And its even rarer still for said band to hail from lovely Newry (Northern Ireland's newest city since 2002).

Yet all these circumstances have come together like a beautiful cosmic collision to give us "The Big Hop" the début single from 5-piece group Viola Dust. The song is one part post-Guetta electro-pop, one part Bastille, one part alternative rock, and one part that they can claim as their very own. It's a sleekly produced, well polished track. Many more established acts would have taken years trying to perfect this kind of sound. Viola Dust have cracked it on their first attempt.

So have we found ourselves another reason to get excited about Northern Irish music? You bet your bottom dollar we have.

"The Big Hop" will be released as a single at the end of the summer, with an Irish tour planned for July/August time.

Tuesday 27 May 2014

Fold - Be Water My Friend

"Be Water My Friend" is the new single from Leeds based live trip-hop group Fold, their first release since their E.P collaboration with Mr Gee, "Salvation", back in October. In some ways, the song sees the band returning to how they operated in the past - using speech samples as a springboard for musical expression. However, the way they have done this on "Be Water My Friend" is quite different to how they've done so before.

In the past, Fold have tended to sample speeches with a political perspective, like on "Mr President, We're In Trouble". However, "Be Water My Friend" is instead more philosophical in nature, as a result of sampling a speech from the kung-fu king himself, Bruce Lee. In terms of the sound, the band have added a 3-piece brass section as well as vibraphone to their downtempo sound, and as a result, the instrumental sounds like it would not sound out of place on a 60s American spy TV show.

"Be Water My Friend" is an interesting new song from Fold - at once instantly recognisable as one of their songs, whilst still adding new ideas to the mix.

"Be Water My Friend" will be released at a 7" single on June 23rd.

Sunday 25 May 2014

The Corner Laughers - Midsommar

If there every was a competition to find the world's most twee-friendly band, then it's safe to say that Californian indie-poppers The Corner Laughers would be one of the main contenders to the crown. To date, they've released three albums of sugar-y sunshine-pop tracks, many of which, like "Grasshopper Clock", are so sucrose-infused that they're believed to be a leading cause of tooth decay among music fans.

Ahead of the release of a 4th album, the band are releasing a new single, "Midsommar", to mark the summer solstice. And I'm happy to say that it's quite possibly their best song to date. It still retains their trademark sugar-y sheen, whilst adding elements of English folk to their sound. In particular, the song "Northern Lights" by Renaissance springs to mind. Plus, how can anyone resist the song's exquisite double-tracked guitar solo? With much difficulty, one suspects.

"Midsommar" is a wonderfully upbeat track which deserves to bring The Corner Laughers' music to a brand new audience. Now, when does the International Tweedom Ceremony take place?

"Midsommar" will be released on June 17th.

Saturday 24 May 2014

Blog Collective - The VPME

Over the next few months, The Metaphorical Boat, alongside Drunken Werewolf, The VPME, The Blue Walrus & God Is In The TV, will be looking at some of the music that our fellow music bloggers have been raving about as part of the Blog Collective. Each month, we will be focusing on one of the music blogs in the Collective and picking out a few artists  from said publication that we think you will enjoy.

In May, the focus is on The VPME, the Liverpool based blog run by Andy Von Pip. The blog tends to feature a lot of post-punk and jangly indie-rock, genres that TMB very much approve of. The VPME was one of the first music blogs that I would take the time to read on a daily basis whenever TMB first got going, so it's fair to say that it's a blog I have a lot of respect and love for (especially given that it's written quite a bit about one of my favourite local bands, Wonder Villains). He's also pretty funny and biting in equal measure on Twitter, so well worth a follow if you're in to that thing.

Here's a few tracks that have featured on The VPME that we think you might enjoy -

Cruising - You Made Me Do That

The VPME - "‘You Made Me Do That’ is a grimy, brooding depraved slice of f***** up distorted subterranean punk which crowbars your skull open."

TMB - Given that the band is a supergroup containing members of fantastic Irish bands Girls Names, Sea Pinks & September Girls, it's fair to say that we're going to like this one. "You Made Me Do That" is a primal, snarling, lo-fi, chainsaw-buzzing gem of a track that will get under your skin.

The Beaches - Little Pieces

The VPME - "‘Little Pieces’ melds post-punk rhythms, synths new-wave guitars and lip curling attitude packed vocals with style, sass, and substance."

TMB - If you're a fan of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, then you'll find The Beaches and "Little Pieces" an insatiable prospect

Desperate Journalist - Happening

The VPME -  "...there is a tangible sense of righteous anger burning away at the core of their glorious incendiary post-punk noise."

TMB - the fact that they're named after an early session track by The Cure should tell you everything you need to know about the London band. "Happening" is a wonderfully luscious post-punk tune, albeit one that doesn't neglect its melodic centre.

Loom - Yosoko

The VPME - "sounds like the Sisters Of Mercy colliding with Nirvana"

TMB - Even without their familial connections (as The VPME points out, the lead singer of the band's brother is in The Horrors), it's safe to say that Loom were always going to do well. "Yosoko" is a great, uncomplicated rock tune that's happy to get straight to the point.

Luna Green - Swedish Strawberries

The VPME - "...whilst it may throw the occasional nod to Lana and compatriot Lykke it also manages to sound refreshingly avant-garde and slightly off the wall."

TMB - Yes, the vocal similarities to Ms Del Rey might be a bit distracting to some people, but unlike her, there's a real sense of playful fun within "Swedish Strawberries".

Tuesday 20 May 2014

The Jepettos ft Tabitha Agnew - Orchard

The Jepettos sure love a good old collaboration, don't they? Less than a year after collaborating with Alana Henderson and Scott Jamison on "Water", the Derry duo have teamed up with 15-year old Tabitha Agnew on their new single, "Orchard". Tabitha is a member of bluegrass trio Cup O' Joe (who despite their name, hail from Armagh), and plays the banjo and takes lead vocals on the track, adding a country flavour to The Jepettos' traditional 'lullaby folk' archetype. Country-ish music is currently enjoying its best press in years, thanks in no small part to Avicii, and recently evidenced when The Common Linnets got a surprise top 10 hit this week, so hopefully "Orchard" will be warmly welcomed in many quarters.

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

Sunday 18 May 2014

Northern Ireland Tunes - Round-Up #27

Here's a round-up of a few songs from "our wee province" that are likely to float your Metaphorical Boat in the month of May, with a little bit of something for everyone, provided the something that everyone is after includes indie, hardcore, singer-songwriters, and something a little bit nutty - 

Callum Stewart - Free

17-year old Magherafelt singer/songwriter Callum Stewart may have only just released his debut single "Free" this month, but it's fair to say that he hasn't already made an impact. He was longlisted for Chordblossom's Kickstart competition, has received airplay on local radio, and its music video has already recorded over 3,000 hits in two weeks (which for an NI artist is pretty good going). And it's no surprise, as "Free" is a pretty great, finely produced pop-rock song, very much in the mould of early 00s American MOR radio rock. If he can keep up the quality, he is going to be a force to be reckoned with.

3D Shark - My Name Is Brian Clough

And from the sublime to the sublimely ridiculous. 3D Shark are a Belfast four-piece who make power-pop with pop-culture references and a pretty hilarious sense of humour. Their most recent E.P, "Some Boys Like To Hide Away", contains such gems like "Ronnie O'Sullivan", an ode to one of the most successful snooker players of his generation, and "Spuds", a song mourning the loss of one of the finest post-drinking food establishments within the vicinity of Queen's University. The highlight of the E.P however is "My Name Is Brian Clough", a semi-spoken word song looking at the various successes and failure of the eponymous football manager. It's rare to see many local bands embracing a sense of silliness, so it's great to know that we've got bands like 3D Shark plying their trade here.

Hot Cops - Kenzie's Farmhouse

Belfast indie-rock 5-piece Hot Cops released their debut E.P "Another Teen Age" back in March. Taken from it is "Kenzie's Farmhouse", a decent Vaccines-esque tune that doesn't need to resort to gimmickry to make an impact.

Towers - Untitled

And to conclude this month's batch, here's something a little heavier than usual from Belfast hardcore 4-piece Towers. "Untitled" is taken from the band's debut E.P "Seasons", which the band have kindly offered as a free download. Northern Ireland does have a good reputation for well constructed metal, so Towers are sure to find a certain amount of favour.

Saturday 17 May 2014

Microwave Jenny - Shine Like New

I came across a plethora of great bands at The Great Escape this year, including this next bunch, who weren't even playing at the festival. On the Saturday of the festival, I went to Concorde 2 to see Sheppard, who were playing as part of the Australian Showcase being held in the venue (and as I said before, if the band get a good push on this side of the world, they are going to be massive). After their set, whilst queueing up for an Australian taco (which as I learned, is a sausage wrapped in a piece of bread), I got talking to two people about music and the festival. After numerous philosophical discussions took, place, including the revelation that sweet chilli sauce is indeed the new ketchup, I learned that the two of them were Microwave Jenny, a husband/wife duo who were playing a few gigs in England alongside Sheppard.

I promised to check out their music when I returned home, and it's safe to say that I was not disappointed. Take "Shine Like New" for example, one of the newest songs to be uploaded to their Soundcloud page. The song is a breezy slice of soulful pop gorgeousness, like something pulled straight from 2006, when Lily Allen and Amy Winehouse were riding the charts with a similar sound. The duo will be based in the UK for the next few months, so you should start to see their name crop up all over the place in the near future.

Thursday 15 May 2014

Owl & Mouse - Don't Read The Classics

It's nice to revisit an artist we haven't featured in years. The last time this blog wrote about the Australian born, London based Hannah Botting, aka Owl & Mouse, was back in 2011 following the release of her first E.P. Since then, she provided guest vocals on Tigercats' cover of "Everywhere" expanded Owl & Mouse into a four-piece. A new full-band E.P is forthcoming, and the first track from it has been released to the public.

For those familiar with the O&M of old, "Don't Read The Classics" will be very welcome, as it strips things back to just the voice and ukulele. The song is a heart-rendering ode about being hurt so badly by someone that you can't even bare to read the books that reminds you of them. It's a song with a great poetic bent to it, so if you like your songs fragile with hearts firmly on sleeve, you'll find something to like in this song.

"Don't Read The Classics" is taken from the E.P "Somewhere To Go", which is released on 23rd June on sky-blue 7" vinyl.


Monday 12 May 2014

In An Instant - Something Right & Something Real

It's been far, far too long, but a year after their initial demos got so many people excited (your humble captain included), Bangor based group In An Instant have finally released their first official, début single. The problem that many bands can have when they go from initial demos to something more polished is whether they can capture what it was that made them so special in the first place. So the fateful question is thus - do In An Instant fall into that trap on "Something Right and Something Real"?

The answer, thankfully, is a resounding no, as "Something Right And Something Real" sounds fantastic. It does sound a lot more professional and polished in comparison to their demos (the vocals sound more beefed up for example), but they've still kept everything that made them so brilliant in the first place - a great big guitar hook, exquisite use of electronic instruments to bolster, but not overwhelm, their sound, a knack for a great chorus, and an irresistible, danceable rhythm.

In An Instant have done themselves proud with their new single, which one imagines will help to cement them as Northern Ireland's most exciting new act. Here's hoping that they can follow in the footsteps of other great bands to have emerged from Bangor in recent years.

"Something Right And Something Real" is taken from their E.P "Light You Know And Love". The E.P will be launched on May 29th in Voodoo, Belfast. Support comes from Affleck and C-Beams.

Sunday 11 May 2014

The Great Escape - Saturday 11th May

Before going through the artists witnessed on the final day of The Great Escape, I'd just like to mention some of the artists that I would have liked to see, but couldn't due to various reasons. These include, but are not limited to, Ballet School, The Clameens, Wonder Villains, The Trouble With Templeton, Ballet School, Fat White Family & East India Youth. Hopefully Brighton will not have been the last opportunity to see these bands.

But back to what I did see in The Great Escape on Saturday, accompanied, as ever, by hastily taken photographs - 

Bridie Jackson & The Arbour

Location - Komedia

Spellbinding folk from the Newcastle band. With a stripped down sound and an unconventional approach to instrumentation (at one point, they used bells that looked like wallpaper strippers), they were in a class above the rest.


Location - Concorde 2

Australian sextet Sheppard were the most unashamedly commercial bands I saw at TGE, but also one of the best. They delivered catchy tune after catchy tune, from the chorus-tastic "Geronimo" (a song that the organisers of the showcase were keen to point out was a #1 hit for 5 weeks in their home country), to the jaunty "Let Me Down Easy", to a rather angry yet accessible song whose name I didn't get, but sounded as if it would be a monster hit if recorded by Miley Cyrus. They were a real class act, and if they can get a good push, they're going to be just as big here as they already are back home.

Buffalo Daughter

Venue - Queen's Hotel

I'd never heard of Buffalo Daughter before seeing them at TGE, but they've been going for over 20 years, and from the full room for their performance, it looks as if they've amassed a decent fan base. Their music could be best described as post-experimental rock, with the traditional rock setup supplemented by a turntable and sample operator, who is perhaps the weirdest band member I've ever seen live (at one point, he started flashing a small torch at the wall and into the audience for no clear reason). Quite a bizarre sound and performance, but rather decent. Might need to do a bit more digging into these guys.

Fickle Friends

Location - The Mesmerist 

The place was absolutely rammed for local group Fickle Friends, with lots of people standing outside the venue listening in. I didn't enjoy them as much as I would have liked to, but I was very much in the minority in that regard. There was much love for them.


Venue - Corn Exchange

Caught the last 15 minutes of these guys after failing to get in to another band (Southern, for whom there was a massive queue for), and it was a very welcome substitute. Delicious indie-pop of the tastiest variety, and with a decent crowd for them despite being rather new, it looks like they'll be doing business for some time yet.
Years & Years

Venue - Corn Exchange

Probably the biggest disappointment for me. On record, they are very good, but their electronic-pop sound didn't work for me live, caused by a mixture of a lead singer whom I found very hard to warm to and a clunky choice of songs covered (including "Breathe" by Blu Cantrelle). I'll still be keeping an eye on them, but just not with the same rose-tinted spectacles.

Love Park

Location - Audio

The band looked bored during the set, and so was I. Landfill indie at its most seagull-attracting. 

Satellite Stories

Location - Audio

If Two Door Cinema Club aren't Scandinavian-y enough for you, you'll love Finland's Satellite Stories. They've got a few decent tunes under their belt, and you can't say fairer than that.


Location - Dome Studio.

It's Bernard Butler's new band. Of course I'm going to love this, major technical issues aside. 

Saturday 10 May 2014

The Great Escape - Friday 10th May

So day 2 of The Great Escape has concluded. Here's what was experienced on this day, completed with hastily-taken photos - 

Kaiser Chiefs

Location - Concorde 2

The 15-year-old version of myself was jumping with joy at being able to see Kaiser Chiefs in such a small venue, and current me was pretty chuffed as well. The band were near faultless, mixing classic hits like "Everyday I Love You Less and Less" and "Ruby" with newer songs like "Coming Home" and "Meanwhile Up In Heaven" very well. Ricky Wilson was an absolutely mad front man, at one point playing trapeze along the rafters of the venue. Definitely an inexpected highlight.

Ryan Vail

Location - The Prince Albert

Lovely, luscious intelligent dance music from the Derry duo. Audiences at their gigs tend to have a serious case of STFU-itis at their gigs, but I'm happy to report that today, the crowd was very well behaved.


Location - The Prince Albert

The venue was rammed for UNKNWN, who duly delivered with their cranial, bass music. 


Location - Green Door Store

Prides had to cut their performance short by two songs due to their sound check running over (one of the pains of having a 15-minute turn around time at most venues), but in spite of this, the trio gave a blinding performance, impressing with their heavy synth-pop sound. The highlight of the set was their closing track, the anthem-in-waiting "Out of the Blue".

Jay Arner

Location - Queen's Hotel

The Canadians put on a reasonable, if unspectacular set at the Queen's Hotel. Their in-between song antics however were quite notable - at one point their lead singer forgot their own setlist, despite being the one wrote it in the first place. At another, their lead singer got frustrated trying to switch over his guitar pedals and just sat down on the stage, at which point their keyboardist implored the audience not to blog about the performance.

Best Friends

Location - Queen's Hotel

The garage-rock band put on a very noisy, but rather decent set - "Nosebleeds" being the highlight of the set.

We Were Evergreen

Location - Brighthelm Centre

What a wonderful way to conclude the evening's musical activities. The French trio put on a blinding performance of tropical indie-pop, with the trio switching instruments in between songs, culminating in a 3 person drum performance. Just fantastic.

Friday 9 May 2014

The Great Escape - Thursday 9th May

So day 1 of The Great Escape in Brighton has concluded. Here's a round-up of what we saw on Thursday at the festival, and whether they were any good or not, complete with hastily taken photos - 


Location - Blind Tiger.

Canadian band Alvvays were the first band seen on the day, and the first band I fell in love with. The five-piece won me over with their jangly indie-pop sound. Some of their songs were a bit like The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, some went into Beach House territory, and they were all fantastic. I might have just found a new favourite band.

Location tip - the Coca-Cola in Blind Tiger tastes a little bit like banana, if that's your thing.


Location - Blind Tiger.

White noise and pan pipes. I'm sure it may be someone's cup of tea, but not me. 5 minutes was all I could endure.

Hollie Cook

Location - Bermuda Triangle

Definitely the classiest act seen at TGE on Thursday. Hollie Cook makes gorgeous electronic-inflected reggae, and went down a treat with the crowd in the rather cramped venue. "Sugar Water" was the highlight of the set.


Location - Green Door Store

Great German electro-pop, a bit like M83 with a female lead singer and a more danceable vibe.

The Night VI

Location - Brighthelm Centre

The Night VI were a lot rockier live than one might have expected from their recordings, but still had all the hypnotic qualities that made the band such a wonderful prospect. I was a bit distracted by their singer's trousers, given that they looked as if they had been made from papier maché.

Location tip - at 70p for a tin of 7 Up, Brighhelm Centre is one of the most affordable places to buy soft drinks at the festival.

Port Isla

Location - Sticky Mike's Frog Bar

These guys absolutely blew me away. They looked good on stage, musically they were near faultless, and their songs are of a ridiculously high standard. They've definitely got Coldplay vibes, but in a very good way. Highlights of the set were "Sinking Ship" (although it's changed from the recorded version, presumably to avoid a copyright suit from KT Tunstall) and "1953". If the band don't get snapped up sharpish after this performance, I will be very surprised indeed.

Little Matador

Location - The East Wing

An absolute blinder of a set from the NI supergroup, made up of no-frills rock tunes from their debut album. "Stitch Yourself Up" sounds as wonderful as ever (although it feels more like a set closer than an opener in my opinion), and "Liar Liar" is so fast and frantic that Nathan needs a moment to catch his breath when it's over.

Beaty Heart

Location - Above Audio

The band were hit by a power-cut before their last song, so they weren't able to play their best song, "Seafood", but up until that point, they gave a great, energetic performance of their alt-tropicalia tunes, full of strange rhythms, percussive elements, and band members switching between instruments at a drop of a hat. 


Location - Unitarian Church

During his performance, I remarked on Twitter that my goosebumps had goosebumps listening to him. With just his voice and a clean electric guitar, he made music so beautiful that it took everything in my being to hold back the tears. There is something incredibly special about this fellow.

A Plastic Rose

Location - Blind Tiger

The stage banter of A Plastic Rose has never been better or more inappropriately hilarious, and their songs aren't too bad either. It was nice to hear old favourites like "Boy Racer" and "Kids Don't Behave Like This" sounding good alongside newer tracks like "Metal Man" and the wonderful "This Side of Winter". They got a pretty good crowd for the gig, and it looks as if they won over quite a few of them as the gig went on.

Wednesday 7 May 2014

Wonder Villains - Space Jam

We're less than six weeks away from the long-anticipated début album from Derry's finest pop group, Wonder Villains. To whet our appetite before its release, the band have made a song that didn't make the cut available as a free download. But don't think that this is an off-cut, oh no. This is a very special song indeed.

If you've been a fan of Wonder Villains for as long as I have, then "Space Jam" is a song that you should be very familiar with. It has been part of their live set from as far back as 2010, and to the best of my knowledge, it was their only single that received a CD release (I'm a proud owner of one of them, complete with its hand-made cover). More importantly, it was the song that made be fall in love with the band in the first place. Ostensibly about the cult Michael Jordan meets Bugs Bunny film, "Space Jam" was a manic, invigorating tune full of youthful verve, one which made me realise that these guys had something very special indeed.

I was disappointed when I saw the track listing for their album that "Space Jam" didn't make the cut, but I'm delighted that the band have re-recorded the song. In comparison to the original, this version, which has been produced by Rocky O'Reilly, is slightly more sparkly and guitar-centric. However, it's still as wonderfully poptastic and fun as it's ever been. My appetite has now been well and truly whetted. Their album cannot come soon enough.

"Rocky" will be released on June 23rd. They play several dates at The Great Escape in Brighton.

Tuesday 6 May 2014

Young Night - Picasso

Young Night are one of an increasing amount of artists who have relocated from their home country (in this case, Australia) to settle in Brighton for musical reasons. Why that town in particular has become such a hub is uncertain, although one might suspect that being a short distance away from London without the capital's extortionate rental prices, coupled with a reputation for great events promoting upcoming artists (such as this weekend's Great Escape Festival) make it an attractive location for hungry young artists.

The band's latest single is "Picasso", is a quirky little indie-pop number, albeit one that take you on a sprawling journey throughout its running time, before putting you back exactly where you started. It's a bit like Vampire Weekend with a harsher edge. It is an interesting, fresh approach to a familiar style of music, which should make Young Night a band worth keeping an eye on.

"Picasso" is available as a free download.

Monday 5 May 2014

Album Review: Bridie Jackson & The Arbour - New Skin


Bridie Jackson & The Arbour are a folk four-piece from Newcastle. Although they released their first album back in 2012, it has only really been in the past twelve months that they have really started to take off. They've released several well-received singles, beat out over 8,000 other bands to win a slot at Glastonbury, recorded sessions on BBC Radio 2, and somewhat oddly, won a North-East Museum Award. All this has culminated in the release of their sophomore album, "New Skin".

The first thing that really stands out on "New Skin" is Bridie's vocals. As I mentioned last year when reviewing their single "Prolong" (which makes an appearance on this album), "Bridie Jackson could sing from the directory of phone directories, and still we would hang on to every single syllable as if it was the most beautiful thing in the world". This can be heard throughout the album, be it on the album's string laden title track, the sinister-playful musings of "Scarecrow", or the closing track "One Winter Evening", Bridie has a voice that warrants attention, one that really speaks to the heart, whether those feelings are of the dark, or of the light.

There's a few other great tracks on the album that are worth highlighting. "Diminutive Man" is perhaps the closest thing to an 'upbeat' track on "New Skin", with its country-ish bent, handclaps and fiddle coming off like a close companion to Laura Marling circa "A Creature I Don't Know". Meanwhile, "Sandgate Dandling Song" sees the band take an obscure folk song, originally written by a 19th century Tyneside musician, and reinterpret it through their own haunted, closed-harmonised gaze. In all honesty the song seems somewhat out of place with the other songs on the record, but in spite of this (or possibly because of it), it is the most irresistible tracks on it.

"New Skin" by Bridie Jackson & The Arbour is a fine example of the more haunting, introspective side of English folk music. It may not be the sort of album that is easy to get into on first listen, but if you give it time to grow, and immerse yourself it the worlds created within it, you will uncover something very special indeed.

Released: 5th May 2014 - available to purchase from the band's website.

Highlights: "New Skin", "Diminutive Man", "Sandgate Dandling Song".

Sunday 4 May 2014

Happyness - Great Minds Think Alike, All Brains Taste The Same

London based trio Happyness appear to have been brought up on a diet consisting entirely of 90s American slacker rock, if their latest single, the wonderfully titled "Great Minds Think Alike, All Brains Taste The Same", is anything to go by. This sub-2 minute track combines Pavement-esque grooves and "ooh-oohs" with some of the most deadpan lyrics (sample - "the more I like you, the more I like my dog"). It's great that they give off the impression of not trying very hard, yet have given us something very special indeed.

The debut album from Happyness, "Weird Little Birthday", will be released on June 16th.

Thursday 1 May 2014

The Diamond Age - I Might Just Be

Here's another artist that has been in the "Inbox of Shame" for some time now. Southampton based duo The Diamond Age have been floating on the cusps of our peripheral vision for a few months now, and whilst there was something interesting about their sound, I never did get around to posting something about them.

But having seen the name bandied about on Twitter recently, as well as noting that they're playing at The Great Escape next week, I felt it was worth revisiting their most recent release, "I Might Just Be", and realised that it actually is quite good. Listening to the track, you might understand the initial reservations, as it sounds as if it's been recorded in a tin can, which even someone like myself who doesn't mind lo-fi recordings found a little off-putting. However, once you get over this, what's left is a delightful little dreamy surf-rock tune, with a wonderfully crafted guitar riff and some blissed out vocals. Definitely one to keep a more focused eye on.

"I Might Just Be" will be released on Monday 5th May. They play The Great Escape Festival, Brighton on May 10th at 3pm at Sticky Mike's Frog Bar.