Monday 27 October 2014

Gaze Is Ghost - Revolvere

Hat tip to the Northern Irish blogosphere* for alerting me to this wonderful artist, the grammatically puzzling Gaze Is Ghost. Gaze Is Ghost is the pseudonym of Laura McGarrigle, originally from Strabane but currently based across the water in Cambridge. Having released an E.P, "Plume" last year, she has dropped a new double-A single this month, produced by local uber-producer Rocky O'Reilly. Of the two songs on offer, "Revolvere" is the one that has warranted the most attention, and it is not too hard to see why.

"Revolvere" is a dark, haunting track that seems to play out like a cosmic battle between the land of the living and the land of the dead, with the song mixing up heavy atmospheric sounds, punctuated by the sounds of natural instrumentations of brass, guitar, strings and piano trying to break their way through the track's ghostly mood. This is all brought together by Laura's voice, which is a comforting presence amongst the track's foreboding atmosphere.

If you missed the release of her debut E.P last year, "Revolvere" does make for a fantastic introduction to Gaze Is Ghost. If you're a fan of fellow countrywoman Katharine Philippa, you'll find a lot to like here. 

"Revolvere" is available now on a pay what your heart desires basis.

*well, technically just Chordblossom and Encore NI. But those two and a handful of others is more or less what accounts for a Northern Irish blogosphere. 

Saturday 25 October 2014

Cold, cold heart - Wolf eyes, you're staring

Hailing from London and Chichester, trio Cold, cold heart would at first glance appear to be cut from the same instrumental post-rock cloth as Mogwai and Maybeshewill. Whilst fans of those bands will undoubtedly find something to love about their latest track, "Wolf eyes, you're staring", there's enough going on to distinguish them from their peers.

For a start, the band don't have a drummer or percussionist, giving the band a more delicate, sparser sound. It also means that they avoid the tried-and-tested trick of the 'build-build-build-boom' song structure that underpins a large chunk of the post-rock back catalogue, instead creating a song that ebbs and flows over it's 5 1/2 minute running time. "Wolf eyes, you're staring" is a stunningly beautiful piece of music.

"Wolf eyes, you're staring" is due to feature on the debut album of Cold, cold heart, which is due to be released in the spring.

Friday 24 October 2014

Asylums - I've Seen Your Face in a Music Magazine

Who would have thought that such great rock music could come from a band from Southend-On-Sea? David Rowntree-approved 4-piece Asylums are about to support The Vaselines on a couple of dates next month, and preceding that they are releasing a new single, "I've Seen Your Face In a Music Magazine." The song is a sub-150 second blast of spunky goodness, combining elements of Britpop and 90s American rock to create something both in-your-face, and yet decidedly irresistible.

"I've Seen Your Face in a Music Magazine" will be released on October 27th.

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Joy Surrender - Escape

Joy Surrender is the solo project of Winchester based musician Tristan Irvine, who amongst other things has composed music for various media. Although you could probably guess that from his debut single, which has something of a cinematic feel to it.

Tristan describes the sound that he was trying to achieve on "Escape" as 'orchestronica', in that it features layers and layers of keyboard and electronic sounds arranged in an almost symphonic fashion. It may be a slightly grandiose descriptor, but there's no denying that it isn't incredibly effective. It's a rousing, expansive sounding track which feels as if it is going to completely envelop you in pure, blissful noise.

If TV music supervisors ever get bored of using "Hoppipolla" as the soundtrack of their life-affirming montages of wildlife and the natural world in documentaries, they'll have a rather suitable replacement in "Escape". Joy Surrender may be on to a good thing with this 'orchestronica' thingy.

"Escape" is available to download for free.

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Sykes - Gold Dust E.P

London trio Sykes came to my attention a few months ago after the people at Fresh on The Net made one of their tracks a weekly fresh favourite. I'd meant to give them a bit of blog loving at the time, but never got around to it. But never to fear, for the band have just released a new E.P, "Gold Dust", which gives us the perfect opportunity to introduce you to this wonderful band.

To start with, the title track is something special indeed. It's a fantastic alternative pop track with a real heart that fans of Chvrches will completely lap up. I'd said back in July that if Ellie Goulding released this track as her new single, it would spend weeks on end at #1, and three months later I still stand by that assessment. 

The rest of the E.P doesn't match up to the title track, although there are some songs worth listening to. "Anybody Out There" sounds like a more chilled out La Roux, and the guitar work at the end of "Away She Goes" is rather impressive. 

"Gold Dust" offers a decent introduction to the music of Sykes, and if they can deliver more pop gems like the title track, then they are going to be a very interesting prospect going forward.

The "Gold Dust" E.P is out now.

Saturday 18 October 2014

Kassassin Street - Centre Straight Atom

We first became aware of Portsmouth based 5-piece Kassassin Street back in June through their mystical, psychedelic single "The Royal Handkerchief Ballet". Having spent the summer honing their craft whilst playing at Isle of Wight Festival, Bestival, and other non-island related gigs, the band have announced the release of a brand new single, and it's a real corker indeed.

"Centre Straight Atom" tones down the more overt psychedelic sounds of their last single, and replaces it with a more electronic and, dare I say it, radio-friendly, core. It mixes electronic verses with powerful, heavy yet poppy rock guitars on its chorus to create something rather delicious indeed. Plus, it reminds us a little of local electro-rockers Not Squares, which is definitely no bad thing. Kassassin Street set the bar quite high with "The Royal Handkerchief Ballet", so it's great that the band have managed to well and truly smash that benchmark.

And on a final note, in our review of their last single, we had suggested that the band had named themselves after a village in Egypt. Many thanks to Robin at Breaking More Waves (who has also written about the band) for pointing out that Kassassin Street is the name of a road in the Eastney district of Portsmouth. We guess that makes a bit more sense.

"Centre Straight Atom" will be released as a single on November 10th.

Friday 17 October 2014

Southern - Cool Kid

If there's one band from Northern Ireland who have had a magical 2014, it is the Belfast sibling duo Southern. They've signed a record deal, solidified their sound through the release of a fantastic E.P and single, and have been touring like crazy, building up a solid fanbase (including playing a homecoming gig this week in support of Jake Bugg in the Odyssey Arena).

We'll be getting a long-awaiting album from them in early 2015, but before that they've announced the release of a brand new single, "Cool Kid". It's a bit more pared back compared to their other lead tracks released this year, although that doesn't mean it's any less engaging. It's probably the best demonstration to date of how well they work together vocally - both Lucy & Thom's vocals blend into each other so effortlessly that it's as if a new voice entirely is coming through.

There's probably going to be a more radio-friendly single or two released before the album drops this year, but in terms of drawing a line under what they've achieved so far in 2014, whilst signalling what to expect from the band in 2015, "Cool Kid" does just the job. If they're not selling out decent sized venues UK-wide by this time next year, we will be very surprised indeed.

"Cool Kid" will be released on 24th November

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Northern Ireland Tunes - Round-Up #31

We hope you've been having a great October so far. If not, we've got the perfect remedy to your condition - a round-up of some great new music coming out of Northern Ireland at the moment - 
White Male Actors - Mysteries And Histories

It's nice to see that how healthy the music scene in Strabane is at the moment. We've already brought you music from Freak's and Those Ghosts over the past year or so, and now we've got a new name to add to the mix - White Male Actors. The band apparently received the seal of approval from former R.E.M member Bill Berry on one of their demos, and are about to release their debut E.P, "Ghosts", on October 20th. The lead track from the E.P is "Mysteries & Histories", and listening to it it's clear to see why they went down so well - it's a well produced, highly polished alternative-rock tune, which should go down well with fans of U2 and the aforementioned R.E.M.

The Elliott Duo - Nashville Dreamer

Not one, but TWO Strabane based bands for you this month? You lucky, lucky people. The Elliott Duo are brother and sister Gary & Kim. Their song "Nashville Dreamer" combines Southern rock with a bit of country into something incredibly radio-friendly and Tennessee-pleasing, and not too dissimilar to another NI brother/sister duo doing well at the moment, Southern. I wonder if this would be up the metaphorical street of fellow country-loving Strabanite Hugo Duncan? Perhaps a bit too cool for him, methinks.

Treehome - Keep Our Loving Discrete

Belfast trio Treehome describe themselves as mixing 'elements of Soul, Funk, Jazz and Rock backed up by catchy melodies, tasty riffs and pop sensibilities'. We'll take their word for it. Have a listen to their debut single "Keep Our Loving Discrete", which is definitely a more novel take on indie-rock for the young band.


¿Que-Pasa- The Logic of Matthew Dixon

And finishing us off this week is the schoolboy septet from Lugan, Dromore & Banbridge, who go by the name ¿Que-Pasa? & claim to have invented the genre of "swez". Their debue E.P "Mellon" has just been released, and taken from it is "The Logic of Matthew Dixon", a pretty upbeat track that mixes rock, brassy funk, pop, and a little bit of rap into a song that reminds us of both The Cat Empire and the song "Centerfold". It's nice to hear a band making such delightful with their tongues held firmly in cheek.

Monday 13 October 2014

Fallings - I Saw Ghosts

If there's one thing us Irish seem to be excelling at in recent times, it's a knack for what I'd like to call epic folk, as demonstrated by bands like PØRTS in the north and In Their Thousands in the south. Now we've got another name to add to that list, in the form of Kerry based 4-piece Fallings. The track that has really got us excited is the wonderful "I Saw Ghosts", which we imagine will similarly excite fans of the aforementioned bands. The arrangement of the song starts off incredibly sparse, before building up in a crescendo into a thunderous, anthemic wall of noise. It does remind us a little bit of "Heaven" by Bryan Adams in parts, but we won't hold that against them.

The band's debut E.P, "Hide. Fight. Fall. Unite", is due to be released soon.

Sunday 12 October 2014

Northern Ireland Music Prize 2014 - Who's The Most Popular?

As we mentioned last week, the nominees for the 2014 Northern Ireland Music Prize have been announced. To recap, here are the twelve albums to make the cut for this year's prize -

Alana Henderson - Windfall
Ed Zealous - Wired
Little Matador - Little Matador
Malibu Shark Attack! - Malibu Shark Attack
Mojo Fury - The Difference Between
More Than Conquerors - Everything I've Learnt
Rams' Pocket Radio - Béton
Robyn G Shiels - The Blood of the Innocents
Slomatics - Estron
Sullivan and Gold - For Foes
VerseChorusVerse - VerseChorusVerse
Wonder Villains - Rocky

Just like last year, I thought it would be interesting to do a little bit of number crunching to see just how popular the twelve artists nominated for the prize really are. Using data which I gleamed from the popular website, which records just how often artists are listened to digitally, I looked at how many individuals listened to each of them over a 4-week period. I then divided this number by four to give an average weekly listener figure, and ranked each artist from most popular to least popular.

Average Weekly Listeners On
(Time period covered - 31/08/14 - 28/09/14) 

  1. Alana Henderson - 699.25 w/a
  2. Wonder Villains - 84.75 w/a
  3. Ed Zealous - 73.75 w/a
  4. Slomatics - 66.75 w/a
  5. Little Matador - 51.75 w/a
  6. Rams' Pocket Radio - 23.5 w/a
  7. Mojo Fury - 23.25 w/a
  8. More Than Conquerors - 20.25 w/a
  9. Robyn G Shiels - 12.5 w/a
  10. VerseChorusVerse - 7.75 w/a
  11. Malibu Shark Attack! - 6.75 w/a
  12. Sullivan and Gold - 1.75 w/a
(For context, Two Door Cinema Club have an average weekly listener figure of about 29,500 p/w for the same period)

There are some interesting observations to be had from this information. The most striking aspect is that compared to the data we collated last year, the average weekly figures appears to be much lower. This year's #1 would have fitted in at #6 had it enjoyed the same amount of plays last year, whilst our #2 would have found itself down at #9 on the 2013 list. This seems to confirm our belief that this year's list is a lot less "mainstream" than last year's shortlisted acts.

In terms of the most listened to, the runaway winner by a country mile is Alana Henderson, no doubt given a massive boost through her membership of Hozier's live band, and is approximately 8 times more popular than the 2nd placed band, Wonder Villains. Slomatics are a lot more popular than I would have expected (they probably have a loyal following amongst devotees of the sludge-rock scene), whilst the only band signed to a major label, Little Matador, seem to be much lower than you might expect. And spare a thought for Sullivan & Gold, who bring up the rear despite "For Foes" being a rather lovely record.

Once again, I should stress that the data is not exactly scientific, and a few caveats should be noted. The data is based on users from, so unless the listener is a member of and listens to one of the artists' songs digitally, it wouldn't have been recorded. Therefore, artists who listeners prefer CDs or vinyl would not have the data collated. Also, the data is based on whether someone has listened to an artist over a 7 day period or not, and therefore a person listening to one track by an artist or a person listening to an entire album is treated equally.

I also thought it would be interesting to see which individual song taken from a nominated album is the most popular. In order to find this out, I used the data collated from Spotify, looking at the song with the most individual steams for each artist as of today.

Most popular individual track from each nominated album on Spotify:
(Snapshot from 12/10/14):

  1. Wonder Villains - Blonde - 67,108
  2. Alana Henderson - The Banks of The Roses - 48,065
  3. Rams' Pocket Radio - Dieter Rams Has Got The Pocket Radios - 46,865
  4. Little Matador - Stitch Yourself Up - 35,099
  5. More Than Conquerors - When The Well Runs Dry - 28,470
  6. Robyn G Shiels - Hello Death - 11,537
  7. Malibu Shark Attack! - Doing It Wrong - 6,233
  8. Ed Zealous - Diamonds For Eyes - 5,462
  9. Sullivan and Gold - Run Faster - 3,014
  10. Mojo Fury - Origami Bird - 3,010
  11. Slomatics - Troglorite - 3,000
  12. VerseChorusVerse - Our Truth Could Be Their Lie - 1,022
(For comparison's sake, one of the most popular songs of 2014, "Rude" by MAGIC!, currently has over 145,000,000 streams)

So well done to Wonder Villains and their song "Blonde", which is the most streamed song taken from an NI Music Prize nominated album, pushing Alana Henderson into 2nd place (although had all songs by nominated artists been included, Alana would have won hands down, as her "Song About a Song" currently has over 1.5 million streams, but wasn't included on "Windfall"). Both Ed Zealous and Slomatics appear lower down this list than the list, which could suggest that their listeners aren't big on using Spotify or listening to individual songs. And let's spare a thought for VerseChorusVerse, who brings up the rear with "Our Truth Could Be Their Lie".

Once again, this data is just a snapshot, so it should not be seen as scientifically rigorous, but it should give some general idea as to what are likely to be the most popular artists vying for this year's prize. Not that it's guaranteed to have any bearing on the final winner, any one of the twelve could come away with the award come November. It will be interesting to see which one claims the crown.

The Northern Ireland Music Prize will awarded at a ceremony in the Mandela Hall, Belfast on November 15th, Nominees Robyn G Shiels, Sullivan & Gold and More Than Conquerors will perform on the night, as will Therapy?.

Thursday 9 October 2014

Step Rockets - Phantom Flower

It's an absolute delight to hear some new music from Minneapolis based band Step Rockets. For the uninitiated, the band first came to our attention last August with their faultless "Kisser", a song that fused rock with modern production sensibilities, which blew up online to such an unprecedented scale, and warranted the band a place on our Tips for 2014 list. They then followed it up in April of this year with "Heart Attack Again". The song saw the band taking on a more R&B inflected sound, and whilst the song is a great track, and picked up a decent audience, it had nowhere near the runaway success that "Kisser" enjoyed.

Now six months later, the band have released their latest single, and we have every faith that this song is going to be massive. The song in question is "Phantom Flower", and it is absolutely fantastic. The song sees the band exquisitely blend electronic production and indie-rock in such a way that both sounds take equal precedence without overpowering the other. Just watch how the heavily synthesized verses merge into the unapologetically rocky choruses without feeling clunky whatsoever. Also, it might sound weird, but such is the fast-moving nature of music that it's somewhat nostalgic to hear a band in 2014 incorporating a dubstep-esque breakdown in their song, so kudos to that.

"Phantom Flower" sees the band returning to the sound of their runaway blog hit "Kisser", and it is our hope that it is just as successful for Step Rockets. It deserves to be.

Gengahr - Powder

There sure are a lot of bands with Pokémon related names going around at the moment, aren't there? Off the top of my head, there's been TeamRKT, Team Rockit, The Pidgeys, Eevee and Mssingno, and there's probably tonnes more that haven't popped onto our radar just yet. One that has however is London based group Gengahr, who share their name with a ghost-type creature from that game. A few demos released earlier this year caused quite a bit of interest and a record deal with Transgressive Records, and are on the verge of releasing their official debut single, "Powder".

So what to make of "Powder"? At first, it appears to be an left-of-centre, artsy track, before the band pull a bait-and-switch on us on the chorus, morphing into a song that has all the hallmarks of the classic British indie-rock sound. It's rare to hear a band attempting to mash the two distinctive sounds together on a song successfully, but it looks as if Gengahr have just about pulled it off.

"Powder" will be released on 22nd October.

Monday 6 October 2014

Coronation Ball - I Feel Fine

Avant-garde pop is the order of the day for the Tunbridge Wells based quintet Coronation Ball. The band have invited comparisons to Wild Beasts with their off-kilter take on guitar music, but their most recent single, "I Feel Fine", invites an even wider range of touchstones. The melody has more than a little bit of "Sunny Afternoon" to it, whilst the crooning of lead vocalist Dominic Scott has more than a little bit of both Brett Anderson and Andrew Montgomery throughout the song, which of course is no bad thing indeed. It's a rather nice starting point for the band, and although they might not yet be the finished article at the moment, one feels that they are going to develop into a very interesting proposition a little further down the line.

"I Feel Fine" will be released on 3rd November.

Sunday 5 October 2014

Northern Ireland Music Prize 2014 - The Nominations

On Monday 5th October, the twelve nominees were announced for the 2nd annual Northern Ireland Music Prize. After tallying nominations from over 70 people within the Northern Irish music industry (full disclosure - The Metaphorical Boat was one of the outlets to submit a nomination), this is the shortlist that was arrived at -

Alana Henderson - Windfall
Ed Zealous - Wired
Little Matador - Little Matador
Malibu Shark Attack! - Malibu Shark Attack
Mojo Fury - The Difference Between
More Than Conquerors - Everything I've Learnt
Rams' Pocket Radio - Béton
Robyn G Shiels - The Blood of the Innocents
Slomatics - Estron
Sullivan and Gold - For Foes
VerseChorusVerse - VerseChorusVerse
Wonder Villains - Rocky

So, what are our thoughts about the nominations? One of the first things that immediately pops out about the list this year is that in comparison to last year list, which featured Two Door Cinema Club, And So I Watch You From Afar Tired Pony among the contenders, the acts nominated do not seem to have had the same national or international attention, with the rest of many of them restricted to Northern Ireland. Just one of the bands on the list is signed to a major record label (Little Matador, who are signed to Polydor, the same label as Snow Patrol), with the rest either self-released on or put out on indies.

The fact that there aren't any "household names" in this year's shortlist may prove detrimental to one of the hopes I had for the award after last year. It has always been my hope to see the Award receive the same amount of attention and respect as other regional musical prizes, such as SAY Award in Scotland and Wales' Welsh Music Prize, and unfortunately, the music press isn't as likely to pay attention to it if they're not familiar with any of the artists nominated. Not that there weren't any household names that could have been nominated mind you. Cara Dillon, Brian Kennedy & Stiff Little Fingers all released albums within the nomination window, although the latter might have come out just too late to warrant the judges' attention.

As for the albums that did make it, we do have a great selection of albums on offer with lots of diverse sounds, ranging from rock (Mojo Fury, Little Matador), folk (Sullivan & Gold), piano-pop (Rams' Pocket Radio), through to dayglo-pop (Wonder Villains), all the way to Transatlantic rap (Malibu Shark Attack!), with some other stops in between.

I must confess that there are two albums whose nominations surprise me somewhat. Slomatics are a band whom I knew very little about before their fourth album "Estron" made the cut for this year's prize, and it's somewhat surprising that their sludge-rock sound won over so many of the award's voters. I can't say it's a genre that I have much understanding of, so for all I know the album could be stoner rock's "OK Computer".

The nomination of Alana Henderson's "Windfall" is also somewhat surprising as well. Described as a side-project separate from her other solo work, one suspects that her increased reputation through playing in Hozier's live band may have contributed to its nomination, rather than the album itself. That is not to detract from the album itself mind you, which is a great collection of Irish folk songs updated with a more contemporary folk production.

This blog will be revisiting the Northern Ireland Music Prize before it is awarded at a ceremony in the Mandela Hall on November 15th, to do a bit of number crunching on the albums and artists nominated for the prize. As for who we would like to win the prize, we'll keep that information to ourselves for now. In the meantime, here's a few songs from some of the nominees -

Saturday 4 October 2014

Looks - Back to the Fire

After our two week hiatus here at The Metaphorical Boat, owing to a trip Stateside for musical and non-musical reasons (pro tip - there is no finer environment to enjoy a War on Drugs gig than a crowded Nebraskan bar), it's only fair that our first tune back after such a gap is a real humdinger of a track. Thankfully, we have a real aural treat for you, courtesy of London based group Looks.

The trio picked up a little bit of blog traction earlier this year following the release of their debut single "Everest" (not to be confused with other songs of the same name), the band have put out "Back To The Fire" for human consumption, which is a great mix of synths, rock guitars, drums as deep as the Atlantic Ocean, and that ever  present love of an anthemic chorus. It's as if The Big Pink never went away, and ain't that a great thing indeed.

"Back To The Fire" will be released on 20th October.