Tuesday 25 November 2014

Hurdles - France

It might have taken until near the end of the year, but we've finally managed to get some new music from one of our Northern Irish Tips for 2014Hurdles. The band of course haven't been sitting on the posteriors all year - they've been involved in the Scratch My Progress scheme run by the Oh Yeah Centre, which gives support to several local artists every year, and having now rejigged their line-up slightly, the band have dropped a massive new song on us all.

Given that the band's indie-pop sound has been compared to Phoenix on numerous occasions, it's probably with a sense of self-awareness that the band have decided to name their new single "France". Those influences still remain firmly in the blueprint of this new song, but it does see the band move away from the more overt references of their earlier material. It's a more subdued effort from the group, but it's still a great, funky, groovy little earworm nonetheless.

"France" is taken from the compilation CD "Scratch My Progress Vol.3", which also features songs by Hot Cops, Matthew Duly, Serotonin & R51.

Sunday 23 November 2014

Robocobra Quartet - Knotweed/Witch Hunt

There's no greater pleasure than coming across a local band who sound like nothing else that Northern Ireland has to offer. That's why it was great to be introduced to Belfast group Robocobra Quartet back in July with their single "Artbook Flipping". Its release helped the band to pick up quite a bit of local attention, and the band's subsequent live gigs have received heaps of praise, including the approval of Tom Robinson.

So there's no better time to check in with the band and the release of their latest double-A side single (remember when they were still an actual thing?) "Knotweed/Witch Hunt". The songs see the band mix improvisational jazz with "acoustically sampled melodies" (which we think is the same thing as interpolating) and hip-hop influenced rhythms and spoken word vocals from Chris Ryan*, which come together to create a cacophony of downbeat yet brilliant sonic explorations.

Of the two songs on offer, the highlight would be slightly less chaotic "Witch Hunt". The song is based around a melody by New Jersey saxophonist Wayne Shorter, and is an amalgam of a rather groovy bass line, duelling saxes, and some deadpan lyricism ('How did blue-collar Bruce get to be known as "The Boss"? And if this schedule's not right, how do I know if I've just missed the bus?').

Robocobra Quartet are the sort of band that even if you don't necessarily enjoy their music, you have to admire their drive, ambition, and pure originality. Their sound might be quite a challenging listen, and one imagines that if they tried their hand at a more 'accessible' sound, they would lose that spark of genius that makes them so unique in the first place. However, if you're willing to invest you time in them, you are going to fall in love with something very special indeed.

"Knotweed/Witch Hunt" is available now on a pay what you like basis.

*who's involved in another band we've featured on TMB before.

Wednesday 19 November 2014

The Jepettos - Closer E.P

It's been a few months since we heard from The Jepettos, the Belfast 'lullaby-folk' group fronted by husband and wife duo Mike and Ruth Aicken, but it's fair to say that quite a lot of people have. After all, the band have somewhat unexpectedly, yet welcomely, become of the most popular local artists on Spotify. Two of their songs, including most recent single "Orchard", have racked up over a million streams on the service, whilst at least six others are current north of 100,000. Given the royalty rates Spotify offers, that's probably only earned them enough to buy a packet of Fruit Pastilles, but it's great to see them picking up such a massive audience.

And that audience is only going to grow further, with the release of their new E.P, "Closer". The E.P contains four tracks that the band wrote for a play developed by the Re:Play Theatre Company for children with PMLD. The first track, "Shimmer", harks back to the sound of the song that first brought The Jepettos to our attention all those years ago, "Goldrush". Next up is "Meet The Aliens", a hand clap dominated song that sees Ruth joined on vocals by a children's choir, which reminds us a little bit of "Raconte-Moi Une Histoire" by M83 in some places.

Up next is the endearingly sweet sounds of  "The Mission", a song that contains one of my favourite chord sequences ever. The band finish with a bang in the form of "Shooting Stars & Fireworks", a song that is about as raucous as a band like The Jepettos are ever going to get.  The song is like a more playful, ukelele led younger cousin of the sort of track that might have appeared on the last Elbow record.

"Closer" is an absolutely lovely E.P from start to finish - it's like an aural comfort blanket. Although the songs have been written for a younger audience, there is enough sweetness and gorgeousness on the E.P to charm anybody of any age.

The "Closer" E.P is available to buy now.

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Public Service Broadcasting - Gagarin

Public Service Broadcasting are back.

This is not a drill. I repeat, Public Service Broadcasting are back.

It is with great pleasure that we can say that J Willgoose Esq. and his esteemed colleague Wrigglesworth will be releasing their 2nd album early next year, and we at The Metaphorical Boat cannot be any more delighted. This blog have been keen supporters of the band since early 2012, and we were delighted when more and more people warmed to them, to the point that by the time they released "Inform-Educate-Entertain" last year, the album crashed into the chart at #21, with the band's selling out some large venues whilst promoting the album. And of course, they were not only responsible for this blog's top album of 2013, but also the top song of the year as well, with the wonderful "Signal 30".

So it goes without saying that we have been awaiting their follow-up album with much excitement, and it looks as if it's going to be a fantastic one indeed. "The Race For Space" will see the band looking to the stars as they give us a musical accompaniment to the Cold War space race between the USA and the Soviet Union between 1957 and 1972, using vocal samples taken from the time. As recent weeks have demonstrated, there is still an insatiable appetite from the public to learn more about the world beyond our atmosphere, so there couldn't be a better time for Public Service Broadcasting to, as their maxim states, teach the lessons of the past through the music of the future. Although I loved "Inform - Educate - Entertain", a few people felt that the album didn't have a real theme running through it, unlike their earlier "War Room" E.P, so hopefully theming a full-length record around a central concept will help to silence the doubters.

And finally, the band have just made available the first single to be taken from the album. "Gagarin" takes its name from Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, and is very atypical of what one might expect a song honouring a Soviet cosmonaut to sound like, given that it's a funky, brassy disco number that sounds more like a theme tune to an 80s cop show, and a ruddy brilliant one at that.

Unfortunately, if you watch the music video, the chances are you won't be able to hear any of that, as you'll be laughing so loudly that you won't be able to hear anything the first time. The music video sees Willgoose and Wrigglesworth don space suits for a sophisticated, hilarious choreographed dance routine that's as ridiculous as it is informative. If this goes viral, I will not be shocked. We may have just found the winner of the internet.

Welcome back, Public Service Broadcasting. I look forward to the launch of their new album, and given that they've already sold-out two nights at the National Space Centre in Leicester, they are undoubtedly going to be blasted off into the stratosphere.

"The Race For Space" will be released on the 23rd February 2015. "Gagarin" will be available to download from 1st December for people who pre-order the album from the band's website.

Monday 17 November 2014

Thoughts on the Northern Ireland Music Prize 2014

So, on Friday the 15th November, the Northern Irish music industry came together and declared, in their collective wisdom, that the best album of the last twelve months was "Blood of the Innocents" by Robyn G. Shiels, beating out eleven other rivals to scoop the big prize. Here are some brief thoughts from The Metaphorical Boat on the ceremony and the award itself:

1. For the 2nd year running, an older singer-songwriter came home with the prize - After the inaugral prize was won last year by Foy Vance, the victory for Robyn G. Shiels sees the current strike rate for male singer-songwriters of a certain age remain at 100%. If this trend continues next year, then you're unlikely to win if you are under the age of 35, lack a Y chromosome, and have friends.

2. Robyn G. Shiels would not have been my choice of winner - As any keen reader of this blog will undoubtedly know by now, our vote for the prize went to Wonder Villains, so it was disappointing that "Rocky" didn't take home the prize. However, I thought that if it wasn't them, then either Mojo Fury or VerseChorusVerse would have taken home the prize. "Blood of the Innocents" never really hooked me, and his performance on the night didn't do enough to win me over. Still, that's the thing about the democratic voting process, there's always going to be at least one person unhappy with the outcome. And at least he was there on the night to pick up the prize, unlike last year's winner.

3. The ceremony part of the evening remained pretty decent - Just like last year, the visuals and videos for each nominated album were well put together, adding to the excitement of the event, and once again Rigsy did a good job of compering the evening. Just three nominated acts played this year (five graced the stage in 2013). Aside from the aforementioned winner, folk duo Sullivan and Gold and storming rockers More Than Conquerors graced the stage. Perhaps not as much diversity as last year's performers, but I dare you to find one person that wasn't blown away by how fantastic More Than Conquerors were on the night. Had the votes been counted after that performance, I daresay the eventual winner might have been a little bit different.

4. Despite my misgivings, the inclusion of Therapy? was a canny move - when it was initially announced that 90s alt-rock legends Therapy? would receive a lifetime achievement award at the ceremony, I was initially sceptical, as I felt it would detract from the ceremony. Whilst that might still have been the case, it was still a great decision - their inclusion got a lot of people talking about the ceremony beforehand, and Mandela Hall was completely packed by the time the band took to the stage. If just a handful of people who had came especially for Therapy? discovered some hitherto undiscovered artist as a result, then that can only be a good thing. Mike Edgar's speech before handing the band the award, which contextualised the band's music in terms of the music scene that came both before and after them was just wonderful - if he ever writes a book about the Northern Irish music scene, I would be the first in line to buy a copy. And of course, Therapy? blew everyone away with their performance of their 1994 album "Troublegum" in full (an album which, incidentally, was nominated for the Mercury Prize that year).

5. The ceremony has got some press - A quick Google search reveals that the announcement of the winner has been covered in the Belfast Telegraph and Hot Press Magazine, as well as other local media outlets. It's also nice to see that one of the more respected music blogs worldwide, Nialler9, has written about it, so hopefully quite a few people outside of Northern Ireland will be made aware of the award. I've said this before, but it bears repeating - unless the ceremony is covered extensively both within here, and further afield, then the prize runs the risk of falling into self-congratulatory back slapping, rather than a ceremony that deserves to be taken seriously, so if you see any decent coverage of the award from further afield, please do let me know.

6. The NI Music Prize should be back next year - even if more than half the crowd were there just to see Therapy? rather than the ceremony itself, the hefty turnout for the event should see the NI Music Prize back again next year. If (or when) it does, I imagine that they'll follow the same format as this year and finish with a performance from a legendary Northern Irish act to supplement the ceremony. If so, the smart money would be on either Ash or Divine Comedy.

7. I've smashed my own record for "closest distance I've ever been from Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol - I was sat 5 feet away from Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol for a large proportion of the ceremony, which smashes my original record of approximately 200 feet (from when I saw the band at the Odyssey Arena a few years ago). Why I am so excited about this development, I still cannot fathom.

So congratulations to Robyn G. Shiels at winning 2014 NI Music Prize, so here's a song from the winning album, "Hello Death" -

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Daveit Ferris - This Is Your Captain Speaking

Following a near death experience at the end of last year, Derry musician and former Mascara Story frontman Daveit Ferris decided to pour his creative energies into his music. And by all, we certainly mean all, for Daveit is about to launch "365 Sparks" a project that will see him release a new song every day during 2015. He's certainly not someone who does things by halves.

To whet our collective appetite before the project steams ahead, he's released an E.P of songs to give us a taste of what to expect. Of the tracks on offer, our highlight would be "This Is Your Captain Speaking", a song that should silence the doubters who might think that as output increases, quality takes a nosedive. The song is a pretty darn impressive alternate-rock song that is just screaming to be playlisted on Kerrang! Radio, such is its heavy, driving, early Fall Out Boy-ish sound. Plus, if The Metaphorical Boat is ever in need of its own theme tune, we'll have this one very much on file.

It's a pretty impressive taster for the project, and we wish Daveit Ferris all the very best for the upcoming year. And we very much expect a few of them to pop up again here in 2015.

"A Taste of 365 Sparks" is available to download on a pay what thou likes basis. 365 Sparks begins in January.

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Wonder Villains - Golden Five

We've been waiting for this moment for a long time.

After expressing our desire that it would happen for some time, Wonder Villains have finally decided to release the fantastic, exuberant, stupendous, gloryriffic, bloody brilliant "Golden Five" as a single. Or a focus track. Or whatever you call a post-album, non physical release of a tune in the dark, post-CD dominated world that we now live in. But regardless, now everything Wonder Villain-y is now centred around this glorious, Metronomy-meets-"Boys Don't Cry" pop song for the time being, and we for one could not be happier.

And even better, the band have just released a new music video to accompany its release, and it should come as no surprise that it's well worth watching. The 'plot' of the video seems to follow Eimear and Cheylene as they try to find their band mates Ryan and Kieran, but in reality it's just an excuse to watch the gang get up to silly things for 3 1/2 minutes. When they finally get around to giving Wonder Villains their own Miami 7-esque TV show, they might have just found their opening credits.

"Golden Five" is taken from their debut album "Rocky", which we implore you to purchase right now.

Monday 10 November 2014

Twin Wild - Another Stranger

Here's a band that seem to have been doing well for themselves recently. London based pop-rock dreamboats* Twin Wild have picked up fans in AlunaGeorge and You Me At Six recently, as well as being invited to support Young Guns on tour. Their last single, "Fears", has so far picked up over 280,000 streams on Soundcloud, which in scientific terms, is described as a 'ruddy boat-load'. The band are gearing up for the release of a new single next month, which is going to be released just in time for the band to be contenders for the Christmas #1 slot.

Although realistically they've got no hope of competing with the likes of Band Aid redux, Tom Odell or whatever mannequin wins this year's X Factor for the coveted slot (or even charting at all), it's definitely worth giving yours a little piece of "Another Stranger". It's not hard to see why they count Young Guns and YM@6 among their admirers, as they share a similar rock-but-not-rock blueprint that make those those bands so beloved among the teen crowd. It's also got a little bit of a Klaxons vibe to it, albeit with less rave-y vibe overall.

Twin Wild definitely have the potential to build a decent sized fanbase over the next few months, and "Another Stranger" should put them in good stead for their future development.

"Another Stranger" will be released on December 14th.

*I mean seriously, look at that press picture. They sure are a photogenic lot. 

Friday 7 November 2014

Emmy The Great - Swimming Pool

Now here's something we've been looking forward to for some time. We first fell for Emma-Lee Moss, aka Emmy The Great many moons ago after guesting on the fantastic BPA single "Seattle" (which really should have been a massive hit, or at the very least, a hit). Our love of her music was later solidified following the release of her 2nd album "Virtue", an intelligent, beautiful, poetic album that was among our favourite albums of 2011. She's been relatively quiet musically since, but the good news is that having signed to Bella Union (home of Fleet Foxes, Cashier No.9 etc.), she will be releasing a new album and E.P next year, and today the first song from that E.P has been release.

If you're familiar with Emmy The Great's music of yore, the sound of "Swimming Pool" might come as a bit of a surprise. Featuring guest vocals from Tom Fleming (aka the low-voiced one from Wild Beasts), the song seems take a more straightforward approach to lyrics compared to the more poetic style of her earlier music whilst still retaining that essence that made her love her in the first place. The sound has changed as well, instead of the folk sound that we had come to expect, "Swimming Pool" is a more sultry, siren-y song, and given that Emmy appears to sing in a lower register than in the past, it does have some obvious Lana Del Rey vibes to it.

It's absolutely fabulous to have new music from Emmy The Great. "Swimming Pool" might not have been what we'd expected from her return, but it's a pretty great song regardless.

"Swimming Pool" is taken from her E.P "S", which will be released on 26th January.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Owen McGarry ft Conor Scott - Soon

Time for a local artist who seems to have spent a longer time than is fair occupying our musical blind-spot. Belfast singer-songwriter Owen McGarry has been on the go for several years now, releasing music under his own name since 2012. However, it is only in the past few months that he's popped up on our radar. He's won us over with his live performances, which are a cut above your average acoustic guitar botherer - one of the highlights of his sets is his surprisingly melodic mash-up of "99 Problems" and "Lose Yourself," which needs to be heard to be believed.

He's slowly but surely building up a decent local following, so there's no better time for him to give us some new recorded music. Last month, he released an E.P of songs featuring collaborations with lots of different artists on the local scene, including Kris Platt from More Than Conquerors and Shauna Tohill of Silhouette/Rams' Pocket Radio. The song that is getting us the most excited however is "Soon", which is a collaboration with The Voice UK Series 2 participant and all-around good egg Conor Scott. Despite both artists being more acoustic-based live, the track in question rations its use of guitar, letting electronics, keyboards and fantastically compressed drums dominate proceedings. Plus, if all that isn't enough, they've also managed to include one of the best saxophone solos this side of "Midnight City" at the 2:30 minute mark, which is always to be commended.

So Owen McGarry has now moved firmly into our field of vision. If he can continue to give us songs as good as "Soon", he's going to stay there for some time to come.

"Soon" is taken from Owen McGarry's collaborative E.P "STRAY", which is out now.

Port Isla - In The Long Run

After being blown away by Norwich 4-piece Port Isla at The Great Escape, we predicted that it wouldn't be long before they would get snapped up by a major label. And true enough, not long after they got off stage the band inked a deal with Parlophone Records, the home of Coldplay, Two Door Cinema Club and, um, Tiny Dancers (well, we liked them, unlike the rest of the world).

Having come off a tour with George Ezra, the band are due to release their first E.P with their new overlords  label, which by a major coincidence happens to occur just when blogs and the industry are starting to compile their "Tips for 2015" lists. The lead tune from the E.P "In The Long Run", a song that sees the band jettisoning the folksy elements that had permeated their music since their earliest demos and replaces it with a more anthemic, stadium rock sound which had been hinted it with "Steamroller" back in April. Once again, Bruce Springsteen and 3rd album Noah & The Whale are the main touchstones, as well as a little bit of Coldplay thrown in as well (which, as we are always at pains to stress, we don't mean as an insult).

They've got the songs behind them. They've got major label backing. Now all Port Isla need is that elusive hit. Could "In The Long Run" be it? Quite possibly.

"In The Long Run" is taken from the E.P of the same name, which is out on October 23rd.

Saturday 1 November 2014

Caught Live: Band Of Skulls/DZ Deathrays

Date: 30th October 2014

Location: The Limelight 2, Belfast

It seems like quite a bit of synchronicity that a band called Band of Skulls are due to play in Belfast on the eve of Halloween, as the Limelight 2 plays host to a near sell-out crowd (guitarist Russell Marsden later remarks that it is one of the most intimate gigs of their tour).

But before we get to Band of Skulls we are treated to the opening act, Australian duo DZ Deathrays, an act whose name I was familiar with beforehand, whilst not being really familiar with their music. Thankfully, the band did a good job to impress right from the start, taking a lot of people by surprise by their intense, noise-rock sound and a good amount of depth and variety of sounds despite the limitations of the guitar/drums combination (quite how they managed to make their guitar sound like a robotic dentist drill at one point is somewhat beyond me, but one imagines some sort of extreme sorcery is involved).  There were a few drawbacks from their set – Shane Parson’s microphone seemed to stop working a few times during the set, and the addition of an additional rhythm guitarist for the 2nd half of the set seems a little bit superfluous, but overall it’s a great set that did enough to make people sit up and take notice of them.

And now for the main attraction. Band of Skulls guitarist/vocalist Russell promises that they will try and fit as many songs into the set before the curfew, and that is exactly what the trio do over the next 90 minutes, in a rich and highly enjoyable set. Kicking off with “Light of The Morning”, the band launch into a set full of great blues inflected rock tracks. They are near faultless on the night, treating the crowd to a stellar set of tunes culled from the band’s three albums. Some of the highlights of the set included “Patterns”, one of the few songs featuring bassist Emma Richardson on lead vocals, which has the crowd ‘ooh oohing’ along to the song’s main riff, and “Sweet Sour”, which sees both Russell and Emma standing eye-to-eye to each other whilst playing, unsure as to whether they are going to embrace or knock each other out (or neither, as it eventually turns out). Quite a few of their newer songs go down well on the evening, with the most notable being “Asleep at The Wheel”, a song filled to the brim with an insatiable Muse-y bombast.

The band close their set with three-song salvo of their best-loved songs in quick succession, “Death By Diamonds And Pearls”, “The Devil Takes Care of His Own” and arguably their signature song, “I Know What I Am”*, which best demonstrates the band interplay between Russell and Emma, before leaving to the rapturous reception from the crowd. Their encore doesn’t capture the same energy, but it doesn’t really matter, as the band have managed to demonstrate what makes Band of Skulls such an irresistible live band – tight musicianship, great inter-band interaction, and above all, a barrel-full of catchy-as-heck rock songs.

*It also turns out that I’ve been getting the lyrics to that song wrong all these years. The lyrics are “I know what I am, they know what they are, so let me be.” Not, as I have thought since 2010, “I know what I am, there ain’t no other arsehole. Let me be.” Makes a lot more sense in hindsight.