Tuesday 28 June 2016

Jelly - I Feel Fine

Time for a song that'll get you into the summer mood. Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, Jelly (or as they are known in the UK, The Jam*) are two brothers who make feelgood surf-rock. Their latest single, "I Feel Fine", is a breezy, upbeat guitar-pop song which despite dark lyrics from the onset, is a joyous little number, with shades of early Van Morrison and "Roll To Me" by Del Amitri. Lovely stuff.

"I Feel Fine" is taken from the E.P "Greetings From Jelly", which is out now.

*Yes, that was a terrible joke, but this is my blog, and it is my right, nay, my duty, to interject with sub-cracker humour from time to time.

Monday 27 June 2016

The Metaphorical Boat Spotify Playlist - May/June 2016

For those of you who like your musical recommendations in playlist-able Spotify form, on a bimonthly basis The Metaphorical Boat posts a selection of songs that we have been enjoying over the prior eight weeks or so, containing songs that we've written about, new songs that we haven't written about but are enjoying nonetheless, and a few older but fantastic tracks that are currently floating our Metaphorical Boat.

Below you can find our playlist of songs that we really enjoyed in May and June 2016. If you like what you hear, or just want another playlist to add to your growing list of playlists, then we really hope that you'll take the time to visit the playlist on Spotify and give it a follow. You never know, your new favourite song of all time could be somewhere on this playlist!

This month's playlist feature songs from established artists Radiohead, Beck, Paul Simon & Teenage Fanclub, songs from newer bands such as Meilyr Jones, Half Japanese Half Muscle &  Basement Revolver, local acts Ciaran Lavery & Jealous of The Birds, plus we also included our favourite song from this year's Eurovision Song Contest, because why not?

Sunday 26 June 2016

Streets of Laredo - 99.9%

Streets of Laredo are a five-piece indie folk rock band from Brookyn by way for New Zealand. They released their debut album "Volume I & II" a few years ago, a release that admittedly went over or heads when it came out. However, it looks like we've picked a good time to get acquainted with them, as the first song from their sophomore album is a rather great one.

"99.9%" mixes Springsteen-esque lyrical imagery with a driving rock rhythm that mixes horns and electronics rather effortlessly. It also reminds us a little but of a more uptempo Neutral Milk Hotel in parts, which can't be a bad thing at all.

"99.9%" is out now. Their 2nd album is due out in the autumn.

Photo is © Jessie Sara English

Bad Fit - Strong Forever

We've featured quite a bit of fuzzy indie-pop on the blog from further afield in the past few days, so it's nice to be able to write about some from a bit closer to home. Hailing from Northern Ireland's north coast, Bad Fit only played their first official gig together a few days ago, although their members have played with a plethora of different local acts over the years, including Vanilla Gloom, Lantern For A Gale & The Salt Flats. One of them was also a contestant on the game show Pointless a few years back, but that's not really relevant to their music, but is still worth mentioning, because Pointless is awesome.

Their debut single, "Strong Forever", is a very promising start for the four-piece, with its honeyed vocals mixed with fuzzy guitars calling to mind not only the indie-pop of Alvvays, but also elements of 90s American alt-rock in the style of Belly. 

"Strong Forever" will be released on 27th June.

Saturday 25 June 2016

Teenage Fanclub - I'm In Love

As anyone who has read this blog on a regular basis or follows me on Twitter will know that one of my favourite bands ever is Teenage Fanclub. As far as the rankings go, I put them at #3 on my list of top musicians, although admittedly it's been a while since I've considered my internal band ranking, so I might have to sit down at some point and consider whether there should be any movement (and just so you know, #2 is The Cure, and I don't need to tell you who is at #1).

It's been about six years since the band have released their last album, "Shadows", although the members have been rather busy in the interim period. Norman Blake releasing records as both The New Mendicants and in collaboration with Euros Childs, Jonny. Gerard Love released an album under the name Lightships, whilst Raymond McGinley played guitar for Snowgoose. They reconvened last year to record a new album, and with that on its way in September, they've unleashed the lead single on us.

"I'm In Love" offers a welcome return to the band after their absence. Like most of their post "Songs From Northern Britain" material, it's a lot less noisy and more subdued, yet still has all those qualities that make us love the band - the sunkissed harmonies, the jangly guitars, and that unbridled optimism that shines through. At this point in their career, what you get from a new Teenage Fanclub release is more or less what you expect from it, but of course that doesn't make it any less satisfying.

"Here" will be released on 9th September on CD, vinyl, download & cassette.

Basement Revolver - Words

Hamilton-based trio Basement Revolver picked up quite a big of blog love off the back of their debut single, the wistful "Johnny", back in April. Of the back of its acclaim, the band signed a deal with a UK-based label to release an E.P next month, and the group are about to undertake a tour of Canada to support the release.

What's more, they've just released a new single in anticipation of all the exciting shenanigans ahead, called "Words". The song is about how words come to be meaningless when you think about them (like 'dreamt'. That's a very weird word when you say it over and over and over again). It follows on from their debut single in its mix of fuzzy guitars, Alvvays-esque indie-pop and the wistful delivery from Chrisy Hurn. If they can deliver more great singles like this, then maybe at some point they'll receive the same plaudits as their indie-pop contemporaries.

"Words" is taken from Basement Revolver's self-titled E.P, which is out on July 15th, as a download and on cassette.

Sunday 5 June 2016

Cutaways: Can An Album Be Truly "Lost"?

Last month, one of my absolute favourite "personal" music blogs, The Album Wall, carried out a survey in order to get an idea of how people consume music, the results of which make for very interesting, albeit not entirely scientific, reading.

Whilst most of the questions on the survey revolved around questions to build up the data set for the results, there was one question that was asked that was something a bit more personal - "recommend an album that I've never heard before." As someone who spends a great deal of time trying to ram my musical preferences down other people's lugholes, asking this offers a genuine opportunity - not only do I have the option to talk about the music that I love, but the chances are high that they might actually LISTEN to it as well.

The difficult part then was deciding what hitherto unheard album I should recommend to TAW. Should I recommend one of the albums that I love and are well regarded by many people, but might have slipped under their radar, like albums from King Creosote, Japandroids or Eugene McGuinness or should I go for something a little more obtuse, a little bit more obscure, and a little bit more personal to me? In the end, I went for the latter, and recommended "Earth & Earthly Things", a 2009 album from Cutaways.

Cutaways were a band that were really close to my heart whenever I was first getting into local Northern Irish music and independent music. I first saw them live in 2008 when I was helping out at a "pay what you like" gig in The Black Box, and was won over by their angular, stop-start indie-pop with songs like "Lovers Are Lunatics" and "I Spilled Your Drink, So You Broke My Heart". Over the next few years, I ended up seeing them live at least five more times after that, becoming my favourite local band until a certain Derry four-piece came along.

The album "Earth & Earthly Things" received some coverage when it was released, earning favourable comparisons to Los Campesinos! and Dananananaykroyd, being reviewed in The Skinny & the now sadly defunct AU Magazine, as well as receiving a perfect score by The 405 and being named one of their best albums of 2009. I loved it at the time, it resided in my car stereo for quite a while after its release, and I ended up playing almost every song on that record on my show on student radio at the time.

Yet despite enjoying the album, "Earth & Earthly Things" didn't catapult the band to the heightened success that I would have hoped for, and the band eventually called it a day in 2010. However, I didn't let this get me down, for I knew in my heart of hearts that this was a very special album indeed, and that years in the future, as word of mouth spreads and people who were inspired by Cutaways begin forming bands of their own, then the album would be re-evaluated, re-appraised, and within several years it will be held up as a classic record.

Music history is littered with examples of artists who sold next to nothing whilst they were recording, but due to word of mouth and increasing exposure to their work has led to them becoming even more popular years after their initial demise. For starters, there's The Velvet Underground. It's estimated that their debut album sold around 10,000 copies when it was first released, but as that famous quote by Brian Eno goes, "everyone that bought it started a band". That album's now sold more than half a million copies in the USA alone, and songs like "Venus In Furs" and "Sunday Morning" are now regarded as bona fide classics.

There's also Vashti Bunyan, who released her album "Just Another Day" back in 1970. It sold next to nothing on its initial release, and Bunyan effectively retired from music shortly after its release. However, word of mouth over the years increased its reputation, and by the time the album was finally released on CD in 2000 the album was regarded as a classic of the Brit-folk era (with copies allegedly selling for $1,000 according to one source). Reviews of the re-issue were universally glowing, and due to popular demand she eventually released a follow-up album in 2005, more than an entire lifetime after she debuted.

On a most famous yet tragic cases of post-release success was Nick Drake, who released three albums, "Five Leaves Left", "Bryter Layter" and "Pink Moon" with little success, before taking his own life in 1974 at the age of just 26. He reputation grew in stature over the years, with REM & The Cure citing him as influences and being the inspiration behind the global hit "Life In A Northern Town" by Dream Academy. However, it was the use of "Pink Moon" in a Volkswagen advert in 2000 that really cemented him in the popular psyche, with sales of the album increasing by 600% in the direct aftermath of its release.

However, all this got me wondering - in the internet age, is it truly possible for an album or artist to truly become a "lost" classic? In the past, an album could disappear from the public if the album was to go out of print, and if you wanted it to resurface it would take a particularly loyal, dedicated, and most importantly influential champion of the record to bring it back into the public consciousness (normally a musician citing it as an influence, or a major celebrity fan). Nowadays, you don't need to worry about the album being deleted as the joys of the internet mean that one the album is uploaded to the internet just once, then it should stay there forever, so in some way, it will always exist.

Another argument why there's unlikely to be a "lost" classic artist in the internet age is that thanks to its connectivity, it's much easier to find an audience for your music and to retain them. As Tom Robinson mentioned in his BBC Introducing talk in 2013, in the past if you wanted to hear music, your options were severely limited, so finding music that matched your tastes was a lot harder, as there were less opportunities to discover music. Now there's so much music available to listen to at a touch of a button, in every style and every combination imaginable, so if you make any kind of music, there's a chance that there's someone out there that will be able to discover it. Heck, if there's a market for sleeping playlists, there's a market for anything.

Here's one for you - if it wasn't for the early online reviews of "Funeral", would Arcade Fire be the Glastonbury headlining behemoth they are today? Without the internet, would they just be another "cult" band that gets praised to high heavens by those "in the know", but largely ignored by everyone else? I believe so, but the truth is we'll never know. Let me know what you think.

But back to Cutaways. It's now been 7 years since "Earth & Earthly Things" was released. So has my prediction that the band's music would be even more popular years after they split up? Well, if this last.fm graph of their monthly listeners between 2010 to now is anything to go by...

...it's the exact opposite.

There hasn't been much talk about the band, nor the album, since they split up - a quick Google search doesn't turn up much written about them post-2010. As for opportunities for people to discover them - as the album's not on Spotify, which is perhaps one of the biggest places to discover music at this moment in time, their chances of them receiving post-split fame via that channel remains closed.

However, I still remain hopeful that eventually, Cutaways will receive the recognition that they truly deserved. The album's still available on the internet, and as the band are a nice bunch, they've left it up for anyone who wants it to download for free. And who knows - maybe a music programmer comes across it, falls in love with one of the songs, and uses it in an international ad campaign, bring the band to a global audience through pure commercialism.

And even now, people are warming to Cutaways for the first time. Let's go back to The Album Wall, look at their May playlist, and have a look at the 5th song on the list.

The re-evaluation is beginning.