Tuesday, 21 November 2017
Mette Mortensen, Alex Flockhart and Mads Christensen are Off Bloom from Denmark. They make rampant spikey modern electronic pop music and they are the seventh of Breaking More Waves Ones to Watch 2018. They’re also one of just two acts on this list that hasn’t featured on Breaking More Waves before (the other being #4 The Blinders)
Rather like Danish pop counterpart MØ Off Bloom stand out from the pop crowd because of their attitude. Live lead singer Mette takes the front person role very seriously – her energy is addictive – more rock ‘n’ roll / punk than what you might expect of someone fronting a electronic pop band.
Off Bloom are also the second act on this list that have recently supported Dua Lipa and they have also played shows with Breaking More Waves favourites Fickle Friends.
Having originally formed in 2015 Off Bloom first came to a lot of people’s attention with the video for their song Love To Hate It, but even better is the song Falcon Eye – a bona fide banger which probably deserves a rerelease as the band’s profile increases. The trio’s most recent output is the Lover Like Me EP which helps continue their trajectory. Off Bloom describe it as an EP “about love, sex, frustration, intoxication and of course loyalty.”
Expect them to be challenging MØ as the rulers of Danish power pop very soon.
Off Bloom - Falcon Eye (Video)
Off Bloom - Rockefella (Fuck That To Be Honest)
Monday, 20 November 2017
There’s only one song from Brighton’s Grace Carter available on streaming services, but what a song it is. Since Silence appeared on Breaking More Waves back in May it’s racked up over 4 million plays on Spotify alone. It doesn’t surprise me. It’s a beautifully crafted and vulnerable soul number with hints of gospel in the chorus that despite its despondent lyrics sounds supremely uplifting. Grace grew up listening to the likes of Lauryn Hill and Nina Simone and you can tell. There are further hints of what’s to come on You Tube where various live and session recordings can be found, and it’s clear that if you’re a fan of tear jerking soulful ballads, Grace Carter is a name for you.
Having recently toured with Dua Lipa Grace will be stepping out again in the new year as part of Line of Best Fit’s Five Day Forecast event at The Lexington in London. Make her one of your Ones To Watch and catch her there if you can.
Grace Carter - Silence
Sunday, 19 November 2017
Pale Waves might have come to prominence at the start of 2017 with the ultra-hooky There’s A Honey but the band's origins date back as far as 2014 when they were operating under the name Creek before changing to their current moniker in 2015 and being picked up by a handful of early adopter blogs.
Much has been made of the involvement of Matt Healey of The 1975 in the development of Pale Waves, although he has been at pains to point out recently that whilst he has helped with the production and editing of the songs, he’s not some sort of svengali. The songs were already there before his involvement and even in 2015 early reviews were making comparisons of the Pale Waves sound to The 1975, as well as the likes of Peace and Swim Deep.
Pale Waves deal in accessible indie pop anthems with chiming guitars and rousing choruses, but the emphasis is on the pop here; lead singer Heather Baron-Gracie not only has the looks of Robert Smith of The Cure’s daughter but her band take the same path as the more upbeat end of the goth-pop masters music. Just don’t expect and Disintegration or Pornography bleakness quite yet.
With three songs out there in the world, the aforementioned There’s A Honey, Television Romance which sounds to all intents and purposes like There’s A Honey and recent release New Year’s Eve, a two months supporting The 1975 in huge US venues, their own headline tour of the pubs and clubs of the UK and a forthcoming US headline shows Pale Waves are carefully stepping upwards, maybe not towards global domination, but at least to a point where they have enough of a fan base to release an album to.
Pale Waves - Television Romance (Video)
Saturday, 18 November 2017
“The future’s bleak, but at least we get to decide it’s soundtrack,” state The Blinders. And what a soundtrack. Take one listen to Brave New World, a gritty and raucous mix of punk, psychedelia, shouty indie and a hint of Carter USM’s Bloodsports For All and you’ll see. It’s the stuff of sweat, blood and tears. It’s the sound of a band who, if they have ever been told that guitar music is dead, have clearly decided that it’s fake news.
Having released their debut EP Hidden Horror Dance back in 2016 The Blinders have been slowly growing an audience ever since. 2017 saw them doing the business through hard gigging, support slots with Cabbage, one of last year’s Ones to Watch, and festivals such as Great Escape, Reading and Festival No.6. Next year will see the band hitting the road for their own headline tour which is likely to be an explosive and highly energetic affair.
Manchester-based, but Doncaster born, The Blinders have had comparisons thrown at them ranging from Arctic Monkeys to Jimi Hendrix Experience and they're a band that are not afraid to address the current state of the nation. They’ll be bringing a mosh pit to a town near you soon. Ones to Watch in 2018 for sure. They bring the noise.
The Blinders - Brave New World (Video)
The Blinders - Murder At The Ballet
Friday, 17 November 2017
Over the last few years there’s been a noticeable shift in the music industry insofar as the vast majority of commercially successful artists seem to be solo ones. From a certain perspective you could argue that bands are on the way out. Which is what makes Superorganism such an intriguing prospect - as they fully buck the trend. They’re almost a supergroup.
An eight piece from around the world Superorganism initially formed through online forums before they started making music by sharing tracks via email. Then they finally came together to live in the UK in East London. They make askew oddball pop music with equally left of centre videos. Earlier this year I described buzz single Something For Your M.I.N.D as ‘simple, inventive, hooky and lackadaisically cool,’ and that description seems to fit well with much of their quirky cartoonish sound.
Since first arriving on the scene a deal with Domino Records has been signed and without further ado the band sold out their debut show at London’s 600 capacity Village Underground. There was no messing around slogging round the regional toilet circuit here. The reviews back from the London gig were 100% positive – not just because of the music, but because of the band’s stage presentation. Superorganism had a clear vision of how to present themselves – something that even now a lot of bands don’t particularly think of. At Village Underground they all dressed in colourful raincoats in front of psychedelic visuals, creating that same sense of occasion that bands like The Flaming Lips, Jungle and The Polyphonic Spree have managed to create in the past. Gorillaz meets The Moldy Peaches is possibly the best approximation of their sound.
During 2017 Superorganism have created a unique space in the universe of pop. It’s why as they continue to expand that space in 2018 they have to be regarded as Ones to Watch.
Superorganism - Something For Your M.I.N.D
Superorganism - Nobody Cares (Video)
Thursday, 16 November 2017
Jade Bird first appeared on this blog back in 2016 before she’d even released a single, having come to my attention via a You Tube TEAFilms Live Session for a song called Madeline. She then impressed me when I caught her live at an early afternoon set at Brighton’s Great Escape playing to a room of mainly music industry representatives 2017. Then in summer there was the release of her debut EP Something American, which took the classic sounds of country, folk, americana and the delta-blues and framed them in the world of teenager in 2017 who has spent time in South Wales, Germany and Chesterfield.
Jade’s impressive vocal delivery, musicianship and talent hasn’t gone unnoticed. A few months later she was the recipient of the prestigious ANCHOR award at the Reeperbahn Festival International Music Festival. This award identifies the most promising emerging music talent from the festival’s program and serves as a label of excellence and guide for fans and music professionals alike and is described as a springboard into an international career.
More recently she took on the challenge of covering Kate Bush's Running Up That Hill for Radio 1's piano sessions and came out victor (you can see the video of that below).
With bags of talent and a highly likeable chatty stage presence the only question with Jade is (as I’ve discussed before) where does her real audience lie? She’s very young but many of her songs are possibly a better fit for an older and possibly American audience, in the same way as say a band such as First Aid Kit are.
As we go into 2018 and Jade releases more material, maybe that question will become clearer, but whoever’s ears her music falls upon the chances are they’ll be charmed.
Jade Bird - Cathedral
Jade Bird - Running Up That Hill (Radio 1 Piano Session)
Wednesday, 15 November 2017
To any new music fan the selection of Norwegian pop singer Sigrid Solbakk Raabe (who just goes by the name of Sigrid) as the first of Breaking More Waves Ones to Watch for 2018 probably feels a little bit old hat. After all her songs Don’t Kill My Vibe and Plot Twist have achieved seemingly international recognition in 2017 and she’s already been pulling large enthusiastic crowds for both headline shows and festivals.
Yet it’s probably worth remembering that despite her success so far Sigrid only signed to Virgin records in 2016, has released just 1 EP plus another original song Strangers and that Don’t Kill My Vibe achieved a highest chart position in the UK of 62 in 2017. She’s still a long way from being a huge international popstar.
With a voice that manages to display elements of tenderness and delicate emotion alongside a slightly throaty raspy fullness Sigrid has the versatility. She can do big belter pop songs or fragile ballads of intimacy. There's a hint of another Scandinavian pop singer - Robyn - in what Sigrid does. Combine that with an enthusiastic and endearing stage presence something akin to a punchy gazelle and a bunch of strong still to be released tunes and it’s clear that of this year’s Ones to Watch she’s possibly the one with the most commercial potential.
Just in case you've been living under a rock, you can see the video for Plot Twist plus a rather lush remix of Don't Kill My Vibe by Gryffin below.
Sigrid - Plot Twist
Sigrid - Don't Kill My Vibe (Gryffin Remix)
Tuesday, 14 November 2017
Ever since I started this new music blog in 2008 I have, around this time, published a tip list for the year ahead. I’ve always called it my Ones to Watch list.
This year is no different. Over the next 10 days, starting Wednesday 15th November, I’ll be publishing 10 artists who ,for a variety of different reasons, I believe will be worth watching in 2018.
Over the years, in choosing these selections, I’ve come up with a number of questions, challenges and difficulties. If you’re like me and interested in this geeky kind of stuff about how the lists are formed read on. If not it's probably just to come back here on Wednesday. If any of you have read my previous ponderings on how to form an album of the year list you'll know that I probably spend way too much time thinking about stuff like this.
Here are some of the questions that have gone through my mind when forming my Ones to Watch lists, and the answers I've made to resolve them. Feel free to criticise my thoughts / ideas, but remember, this is my list not yours, so I can do what I want. Go and start your own blog. OK?
1. The basis of choice.
Do I choose acts I love or acts I think will be successful (commercially or critically), irrespective of if I like them?
I have relatively commercial tastes, so this isn’t too much of a problem for me. You’re unlikely to find me tipping an underground screamo noise band that are currently playing to six people in a cellar bar in Lithuania. Generally (although not exclusively) acts I like make music that is reasonably accessible to most people. So I tend to choose acts I love at the time and hope the success will follow. In choosing acts I like it also means that the vast majority of them will have already appeared on the blog in the last year or so. In many ways my Ones to Watch list is a summary of some of the best acts I’ve introduced on the blog in the previous year.
2. How new is new?
This is a difficult one. Acts I may perceive as new may to others seem as old hat and vice versa. For example one year I tipped Clare Maguire as an artist to watch on the back of some demos on Myspace (remember that?). A year later she still hadn’t released anything. She was too new. Likewise I tipped Rag N Bone Man as One to Watch in 2014. Last year he cropped up on the BBC’s Sound of list. My criteria for newness is largely centred around if the artist has had any UK Top 40 chart hits and have they released an album. If the answer to either of those is yes, then I probably won’t consider them new. But most of the acts I’m tipping will have released a number of songs either through labels or independently.
3. Tip what everyone else is tipping or go off-piste?
These days every website and publication has its own tip list. Do I try and tip acts that are different from every other site, or follow the pack as there are always certain artists that everyone seems to be tipping? I try and negate this as much as possible by writing and publishing my list early – that way I’m not influenced by other lists.
4. Balance and diversity
If you look at the BBC Sound of list (to be published later this month) you will see that the producers make a real effort to engage a diverse voting panel. I can’t do that. This list is just compiled by me and therefore is ultimately based on my tastes and specialisms. So you’re unlikely to find any heavy rock on the list and very little grime – although last year I did include grime act Dave on the list as I really liked what he was doing (and still do). This also means there is likely to be a higher number of female vocalists on the list than male as that’s where my tastes tend to sit at the moment. The list is also likely to feature far more British acts than other countries – as that’s where I am based and even allowing for the internet, it’s easier to tap into acts from this country.
5. Tipping is perilous.
Look back at any so called ‘tastemakers’ list and you’ll find as many hits as misses. Nobody ever gets it ‘right’ all the time, whatever ‘right’ actually is. There's a few acts that I've tipped in the past that I look back now and think 'what was I thinking?' But by and large the majority of past choices I'm happy with - even if some of them never achieved long term careers as artists of merit.
Check back tomorrow and at around 8.30am and every day after that for the next 10 days to see Breaking More Waves Ones To Watch 2018.
Here’s a list of all my previous selections from the last 9 years on the blog.
Alabama Shakes, Alessi’s Ark, Alice Jemima, Aurora, Avec Sans, Banks, Beth Jeans Houghton, Billie Marten, Cabbage, Coasts, Charli XCX, Chasing Grace, Chloe Black, Chloe Howl, Chvrches, Clare Maguire, Clock Opera, Curxes, Dave, Declan McKenna, Dot Rotten, D/R/U/G/S, Delphic, Elderbrook, Ellie Goulding, Eva Stone, Foxes, Florence & The Machine, Flyte, Gabrielle Aplin, George Ezra, Haim, Hazel English, Holly Miranda, Hurts, Iyes, James Blake, Jerry Williams, Jospeh Salvat, Jungle, La Roux, Lane Del Rey, LANY, Lapsley, Laura Doggett, Laura Mvula, Let’s Buy Happiness, Lianne La Havas, Little Boots, Liv Dawson, Loyle Carner, Lucy Rose, Luke Sital-Singh, Maggie Rogers, Majik, Marina & The Diamonds, Matt Corby, Michael Kiwanuka, Mirrors, Misty Miller, Mononoke, Mumford & Sons, Mura Masa, Nao, Outfit, Passion Pit, Pumarosa, Queen of Hearts, Rag ‘N’ Bone Man, Ren Harvieu, Ryn Weaver, Seinabo Sey, Savages, Seramic, Skint & Demoralised, Skott, Sofi Tukker, Sons & Lovers, Sophie Jamieson, Spark, Spector, Starsmith, Stornoway, Rachel Sermanni, The Milk, The Night VI, The Shires, The Staves, The Vaccines, Tom Odell, Unicorn Kid, Valerie June, Visions Of Trees, White Lies, Willy Moon, Wolf Alice, Xylaroo, Yes Giantess, Zyra.
Monday, 13 November 2017
If British TV show Skins was still running then the new video from Dream Wife could easily have featured in it for sure. There’s dancing! Snogging! Music! More dancing! More snogging! More music! It looks great. The way all the best prom parties should be.
Unfortunately Dream Wife don’t look like they’re having a particularly good time through it all, but at least they can be happy with the knowledge that their debut album arrives at the end of January, so there will be more opportunities for celebrations and possibly making out (with consent of course) then.
Dream Wife - Let's Make Out (Video)
Saturday, 11 November 2017
Portsmouth, my home city, doesn’t have a great track record of artists crossing over to the wider mainstream and national stage. However, right now it certainly feels like Pompey’s Jerry Williams has all the potential to break the mould. She's managed to get on the big old important Spotify New Music Friday playlist this week, which shows somebody is taking notice, and she’s certainly one of the best, if not the best, unsigned artists from the south coast central area.
New single Grab Life is an even more convincing argument to that last statement. It’s a snappy, good to be alive indie pop song that finds Jerry singing about seizing your time on the planet before it all ends: “Don’t watch the sunshine from your bed.” With its bright musicality and Jerry’s mellifluous voice Grab Life is the musical equivalent of Mr Motivator and after listening you’ll probably want to go and hug a stranger or at least do a little dance with one. Filled with personality and joy, this is a cracker.
Jerry will be playing on the same bill as Sam Fender and Love Ssega at the Courtyard Theatre in London on the 22nd November and headlines another London show at The Lexington on the 5th February next year before she flies out to play SXSW Festival.
Jerry Williams - Grab Life
Friday, 10 November 2017
Here’s a little warning for you. Having listened to the casual downbeat grooves of Leicester’s Easy Life and their debut single Pockets, do not go on to Spotify (other streaming services are available) type their name and then play the songs I’m Fading Away, 21, Light Me Up or I’ll Leave You Behind. Same band name, very different sound and band. Your ears may bleed if you do.
However, if rather than having to endure that pain you’d rather have them coated in something akin to fur trimmed ear muffs - music that is warmer, smoother and altogether more pleasant - then do listen to Pockets. A modern-day commentary on over consumption, material greed, excess and questioning the way they’re used in society to over compensate and anaesthetize for what’s missing - it’s a jam and then some. It reminds me a little of a late night, soulful version of Jamie T.
Unsurprisingly the release comes via Chess Club records who now have a 10-year history in seeking out a widely eclectic mix of brilliantly fresh and eclectic music. Pockets certainly meets those criteria. A brassy, effortlessly cool debut that stands out from the crowd.
Easy Life - Pockets
After managing to work the Don’t Kill My Vibe EP for virtually the whole year, finally there’s some new music from Sigrid. Hurrah!
Strangers isn’t the best song in her bag (anyone that has seen her live will know that she still has some even bigger bangers to come) yet it’s better than probably 95% of other pop music released this week. Why? Because: 1) It does what all good pop songs should do and gets straight in your head. 2) You can dance to it with your hands in the air. OK, maybe not the mellow beginning, but once it fires itself up and starts pumping big electronic pulses out, you’ll be raving. 3) The mellow beginning is lovely: “Just like in the movies, it starts to rain and we’re the broken beauties.” Perfect.
She’s mainstream pop music's brightest hope for 2018 for sure.
Sigrid - Strangers
Wednesday, 8 November 2017
For those of you who have been with me since virtually the beginning of the blog you might remember the name Alessi’s Ark cropping up as far back as 2008. I’m very pleased to see that Alessi is still making music and this latest cut, Desert, finds her on strong form with her always agreeable voice being backed with a classic scruffy indie-pop sound; if you’re a fan of bands like Alvvays then the chances are you’ll love this tune.
As much as I enjoy this song, what really strikes me is the new video, for quite personal reasons, as it is in the form of a rapidly changing photo collage which documents a journey from London via my home city of Portsmouth (you’ll see pictures of the harbour including HMS Warrior and the Spinnaker Tower) to the Isle of Wight - a place that I have very strong connections with. In particular a lot of the photos are taken in the seaside resort of Ventnor, a charming idiosyncratic cliffside town that can lay claim to having more sunny days than pretty much anywhere else in the UK. Alas it appears the weather when the photos were taken wasn’t so good, but the pictures give you an idea of the wonderful vistas, it's homeliness and its old-fashioned lure. If you ever get the chance to visit the Isle of Wight make sure you spend some time in Ventnor. For a place with a population of around just 6,000 it has an awful lot to offer including some great restaurants and the Ventnor Fringe Festival.
Alessi's Ark - Desert (Video)
Tuesday, 7 November 2017
There were a few questions asked of Manchester’s Pale Waves in these quarters at least when their second release Television Romance sounded like a copycat version of their rather brilliant and hooky debut There’s A Honey. Add in a slightly stilted and samey debut London headline gig and I was beginning to question if the indie-buzz in the UK around the band was really justified.
Thankfully the third song out of the bag, New Year’s Eve gives more hope. Sure, it’s not radically different from the other two and there’s still the nagging suspicion that lead singer Heather’s vocal delivery might become a bit tiresome over a whole album, but New Year’s Eve is undeniably catchy, from its chilled ambient beginning through to the 80’s jam-pop funkiness which sounds not that dissimilar to Breaking More Waves favourites Fickle Friends.
The music is certainly upbeat and confident, but it’s not that way lyrically on the song: “I don’t want to be alone on New Year’s Eve, do you even wanna be with me?” sings Heather doubtfully.
A sad fact for you all – whilst Heather is worrying about New Year’s Eve studies show that for a lot of people New Year’s Day is even worse – and I don’t just mean because of bad hangovers. In the UK December 31st has one of the lowest suicide rates of the year, whilst January 1st is the day with the highest rate. There’s a suggestion that this is because of the ‘broken promises effect’, when hopes of a new beginning are not met.
New Year’s Eve is the first track to come from Pale Waves forthcoming debut EP, released in early 2018 on Dirty Hit.
Pale Waves - New Year's Eve
Friday, 3 November 2017
Today sees the release of a brand-new song by The Staves and it’s a fascinating piece of work, the band having collaborated with orchestral chamber pop six-piece yMusic (who have previously worked with the likes of The Tallest Man On Earth, Paul Simon and Ben Folds) from New York. Even more intriguing is that this is not just a one off single – a whole album between the two groups, The Way Is Read, is due digitally on 24th November with vinyl following on the 1st December. The record comes about after The Staves and yMusic were first commissioned to work together on a live performance piece for Justin Vernon’s (Bon Iver) Eaux Claires Festival and have followed that through to a full record.
Trouble On My Mind is a weighty yet restful piece that showcases The Staves pure and arresting vocals, against a backdrop of the ensembles bewitching orchestral arrangement. I’ve always thought that The Staves could do a perfect Christmas album (and The Unthanks as well) and whilst this isn’t one its sound is about as close as you could get, with its crisp wintery music and warming vocals it brings in those sort of festive feelings, in a very different way to that which Mariah Carey ever could. Gorgeous.
The Staves - Trouble On My Mind (Video)
Wednesday, 1 November 2017
Back in 2014 I wrote a piece about Fickle Friends and their single For You. The post alluded to the fact that whilst the band was doing very well online in terms of attracting lots of blog and website praise they still had a long way to go to achieve any sort of real world success, such as selling lots of tickets for larger shows and developing a real-life fan base. 3 years on from that article it gives me absolute pleasure to see the band continuing to work hard and achieving that success, as a recent sold out show in London’s Kentish Town Forum (2,300 capacity) attests to.
Hard graft and putting the hours in is undoubtedly part of the reason why the band are doing so well, but let’s not ever underestimate the power of a hooky tune, and Fickle Friends seem to be churning them out by the bucket load. Current single Hard To Be Myself might on a casual listen sound like a piece of throw away pop with Natti asking you to ‘party with me’ but a closer listen will find that there’s something deeper going on, with Natti touching on insecurity and anxiety – the idea of being the life and soul of the party, but the reality maybe isn’t quite the same.
Today the band released a video for the song, which explores these ideas further. Director Daniel Harris explains: “The split-screen concept for Fickle Friends' Hard To Be Myself was built off the structure of ‘Expectation’ vs ‘Reality’, all based around a ‘90s American Frat House party aesthetic. From the beginning of the two narratives, I wanted to create a clear point of difference in the behaviour of our lead, Leo, by directing a left-side character that was relentlessly decisive, unapologetically confident and free from social inhibition versus a right-side character that was uncomfortable in his own skin and nervous. Then we surrounded him with the same character-set in the two different realities, one inside the party and the other on the doorstep, uninvited. These played side by side created a really beautiful juxtaposition. Alongside the narrative, we peppered in a gorgeous telephoto performance of Natti and shots from the band that flow along with the story.”
For lovers of all good pop music around the world, it’s time to enjoy some more Fickle Friends.
Fickle Friends - Hard To Be Myself (Video)
This new video from Grace Lightman is for a song she released earlier this year and is described as a ‘Live Karaoke Performance’. All I can say is that Grace has attended some far better Karaoke sessions than me. There’s no evidence of a drunk bloke shouting out the lyrics to Mr Brightside* as he’s cheered on to shouts of ‘go on son’ whilst necking five pints of lager. No this is Karaoke by way of a scene out of Twin Peaks. Given its eerie, ghostly sound and visual atmosphere I’m not sure if Halloween really is over in Grace Lightman’s world, but nonetheless this is unsettling in a good way.
*Footnote. Mr Brightside is a great song, but it's now become the 00's equivalent of Wonderwall in the UK at least - over played to the point of annoyance.
Grace Lightman - Halloween Is Over (Live Karaoke Performance)
Tuesday, 31 October 2017
It’s very early days for Isabelle Brown but listening to her debut release Pot Of Gold you’d think she has been doing this for years. Well, in a way she has, for 7 at least; because that’s when she wrote her first love song. However, that was when she was just 7 years old. Yes, Isabelle is just 14, but you’d never be able to tell by listening to her sturdily deep soulful voice.
Listening to Brown reminds me a little of the first time I heard Joss Stone, another singer who blew everyone away when she first arrived at the age of just 16 with the Soul Sessions album – it’s the jazzy maturity of what she’s producing that stuns as much as the actual song. Pot of Gold sounds like Isabelle is already destined a prime slot on Later... with Jools Holland.
However, let’s not get too hasty here. To repeat, it’s very early days.
So, what can I tell you about Isabelle? She’s from Brighton, that first love song that she wrote at junior school age she describes as "an absolute laugh, as I'd never even kissed a boy but thought I was the number one romance guru", and she was brought up in two different creative households when her parents separated whilst she was still young. This debut track features rising Arizona trio Injury Reserve who bring their old-school laid-back rap style to compliment Isabelle’s soul and is all about achieving your potential, something which Brown already seems close to doing. A more than impressive start.
Isabelle Brown - Pot of Gold
Sunday, 29 October 2017
Last week I caught up with the ever effervescent Anteros live on the Brighton leg of the Hopscotch tour, a fantastic value (free) 3 band affair that also featured Stereo Honey and Yonaka. What was clear was that despite their indie pop songs being rather old fashioned sounding (in a good way - I can imagine them having fitted in quite nicely around the time of mid 90's Britpop) the Anteros fans, who were bouncing up and down at the front in a sweaty smiling mass, were full of youthfulness.
The kids are right of course; Anteros is a great band. This four piece know how to write a bouncy, life affirming pop tune. New addition Bonnie is another one of those and is a call to the ideals of acceptance of what you have in life rather than comparing yourselves to others all the time. With the narcissistic environment that social media creates these days where only the most positive, charming, funny and succesful aspects of peoples lives are publicized and the less interesting stuff is ignored, it can be harder and harder for some people to find that ideal.
There's just a couple of dates on the Hopscotch tour remaining, so if you're in Leeds tomorrow (30th Oct) or London on Tuesday (31st Oct) do try and get along to see three great bands playing - you can grab free tickets from this link.
Bonnie - Anteros
If shout a-long girl gang hyper-punk vocals, Dick Dale surfing safari guitars and bonkers lyrics about tangy cheesy pizza boyfriends and yummy creamy watermelon kinky girlfriends sound like your sort of thing, then come and have a high energy pogo to the second release from Pink Kink, a maverick bunch of souls who seem intent on proving that Shakespeare really was right when he wrote that music was the food of love – although to be fair he probably wasn’t thinking of chilli chips, rainbow coloured spaghetti and eating you out when he sat down to write Twelfth Night.
What’s not to love about a song that sounds like a Hanna-Barbara cartoon dirty dancing in a late-night garage club with this decade's version of the B52’s providing the soundtrack? Munchie Magic is irreverent, naughty and childishly fun and it's all the better for being those things.
Pink Kink - Munchie Magic
Saturday, 28 October 2017
Sometimes, no matter how much of a music fan you are, no matter how many records you listen to, there will always be some that get away. Or at least almost get away. My theory is that eventually the good stuff will nearly always find its way to you, even if it’s not instantly.
Australia’s Gang of Youths are one such band. They're already two albums in. The second one achieved a number 1 slot in their homeland, although it has only just recently been released in the UK. Until the other day I hadn’t heard of them. You, being a discerning music fan probably have. But if like me, somehow they’ve passed you by, let me introduce you. I ‘discovered’ them just a couple of days ago in a provincial nightclub on the outskirts of London playing to a small but passionate fan base and now I need to shout about this band from the rooftops (or at least this small corner of the internet). Why? Because this is a group that has produced a vast and triumphant record that is undoubtedly one of the finest indie rock albums of the year. It's called Go Farther In Lightness.
If you’re a fan of The National, The Walkmen, The Strokes or Bruce Springsteen as well as (perhaps surprisingly) American composer Phillip Glass and (at least for one moment) Guns N Roses the chances are you’ll love this record, which their incredibly charismatic frontman Dave Le’aupepe describes as being: “About being a real life human being, with all our self-loathing, hopes, anxieties, sorrows and joys. It is about not knowing what the f*ck I’m doing, but having a good old stab at it anyways. It is about demonstrating empathy, overthinking metaphysics and, at the risk of seeming overly trite, embracing humanness in myself and those around me in the here and now.”
Go Farther In Lightness is an album that clearly comes from the heart. It’s vulnerable, powerful, cathartic and packed full of incredible songs.
Watch the video for The Deepest Sighs, The Frankest Shadows and get ready to feel so many emotions run through your body, then crash that body around the room to the frantic What Can I Do If The Fire Goes Out? which streams via Soundcloud. This album comes highly recommended, as do the band’s exuberant live shows. Go buy it, stream it, devour it and fall in love with it.
If like me you’re late to the party, it’s OK, we’re only getting started. Welcome Gang of Youths into your life.
Gang of Youths - The Deepest Sighs, the Frankest Shadows
Gang of Youths - What Can I Do If The Fire Goes Out?
Tuesday, 24 October 2017
Every now and then, just as pop music seems to becoming very beige Chløë Black comes along and puts some spunk back into it. 27 Club, Wild At Heart and Groupie were all fascinating insights into a pop provocateur who irrespective of if she was singing an anti-slut shaming anthem and or a ghoulish gold song always did it with high levels of confidence and hooks.
Now after a short hiatus she returns with new tune Waterbed. From the moment she sings “1996 we’re f*cking on the waterbed,” you know that this is undoubtedly Chløë. It really couldn't be anyone else. It’s dark, edgy, dirty and overall a more understated piece of work than some of her previous bangers. It is nonetheless stunning. Black is most definitely back.
Can you imagine if all pop was as dangerous as this. Now that would be something.
Chløë Black - Waterbed
Friday, 20 October 2017
If you went down to B & Q or other similar DIY store today to buy some paint to redecorate your bedroom and found that because it was the biggest seller B & Q had decided that from now on they would only be stocking magnolia you’d probably be pretty pissed off, right? It’s a bit like that with a hell of a lot of mainstream pop music right now. It’s colourless, very bland and all the f*ckin’ same - because that seems to be what sells. Now of course the argument is that mainstream pop is always that way, that’s what makes it mainstream, but to my ears the variety that there used to be has been flushed down the drain.
I could probably write a thesis on the reasons for this rapid dilution of pop but we’re all busy people, so for now here’s just one factor that I believe is to blame: Production. In the past pop has always concerned itself with songs. You know, the basic stuff such as interesting melodies that distance themselves from the verses. But now it seems that the production is more important. Mainstream pop music now seems to be full of meandering flavourless identikit tunes (Drake, one of the biggest stars in the world is the biggest exponent of this) that forget that a big proper chorus with a great melody is a grand thing. Love him or hate him, it's probably one of the reasons why Ed Sheeran is so popular - first and foremost with his material comes the song, not the production.
Which brings me to Naaz. She’s already impressed with her delightful ditty Words (here) and now she has done it again with Up To Something. It only takes about 20 seconds to get to a hooky pre-chorus and from there on the whole thing just sticks. Sure, it’s simple, but that’s so much better than a song being overloaded with ‘clever’ production. It’s the same as so called ‘good’ writers who use a thesaurus to find the most complex words possible and use six sentences to express something that could be said in 5 simply understood words. (No comments about this blog post please!) This is mainstream pop done well, with a simple personal commentary thrown in: “I don’t want to hurt them, but this is who I am. Chasing ambition making my own mistakes,” which no doubt refers to Naaz’s Kurdish background and the conflict with her parents about pursuing a career in music, which is detailed in the video with a scene of her sitting to eat with other Kurdish people, taking a break from running around a sterile white building.
Naaz - Up To Something (Video)
Wednesday, 18 October 2017
Unless you’ve been living under a rock and have only just discovered the internet, the chances are that that you will have seen or come across George ‘Joji’ Miller already. Yes, he’s the guy responsible for the Filthy Frank TV series and irrespective of your views on the thing (for the record I didn’t like it at all) it was a huge online hit, pulling in millions of views. He also put out, under the name Pink Guy, a low-brow cringey ‘comedy’ album that ended up topping the iTunes chart. It was an offensive release that made me shake my head in disbelief and realise that no matter how interested I remain in popular youth culture as I get older, I just wasn’t in touch with what ‘the kids’ were into these days.
Yet Joji has also gone on record saying that he only started Filthy Frank and Pink Guy to draw attention to himself and that it all just got a little bit out of control so he had to roll with it. Underneath all the pink bodysuited You Tube weirdness (click here if you still have no idea) and meme frenzies was a serious musician just waiting to break out and today Joji delivered on his promise with Will He the first song from his forthcoming debut EP due at the start of November.
Will He is a surprisingly downbeat piece of music featuring stripped back ghostly piano reminiscent of something you might expect to hear on a Nils Frahm or Aphex Twin ambient record, with slo-mo beats and languid woozy vocals. It’s difficult to comprehend that this is even the same man as Filthy Frank, such is the lonely late-night feel of this drowsy song, which is really rather (and I'm in shock to say this) beautiful.
The video is mesmerising as well – and yes Breaking More Waves regulars will be very pleased to see that he’s wasted no time in getting into the bath, albeit a blood one.
Despite having been on-line for less than 24 hours this video has already had over 500,000 views, showing the power of You Tube in developing an artists profile. Let's hope he keeps things like this and doesn't start referencing Dumplings or scaring people for lols.
Joji - Will He (Video)
The back story to Phoenix's Kailee Morgue and her music is that she tweeted a video clip of her singing a demo of her song Medusa back in January with the words “I apologize for my voice cracking and the unflattering angles but here's something I'm working on,” then a few months later she had been signed by Republic records, and the tweet had been retweeted over 45,000 times by October.
It’s impressive statistics, however they were achieved, but let’s all remember that there is often a massive disconnect between online numbers and the real world; I’ve been to see bands that have had millions of plays on Spotify playing to rooms of less than 50 people and vice versa I’ve seen artists that appear to have relatively small on-line statistics play to packed houses. Just because someone takes a second to favourite something on line doesn't mean they'll come to your show or invest any money into supporting you as an artist buy buying your products. There's more to it than that.
However, what matters as far as this blog is concerned is simply this; does the music do it for me? Irrespective of profile. And with this one, the answer is a resounding YES! Medusa is such a pretty electronic pop song that works because of some very straightforward things.
First its simplicity in its lilting dreamy construction; there’s nothing more than what needs to be there – it doesn’t need any extra polish or make up to make it sound just right. Second there’s the hooky chorus; “She looked right through me and I turned to stone,” will soon be bouncing around the inside of your brain. Guaranteed. Then third it’s Kailee’s highly palatable vocal delivery on the song – she has one of those girl-next-door voices that’s just really easy on the ears.
The question now is will Kailee be a one song wonder or something more? The fact that she’s already been signed to a label suggests that somebody thinks she can deliver. Let’s watch this space.
Kailee Morgue - Medusa
Tuesday, 17 October 2017
It’s not often that a song features on Breaking More Waves twice, so when it does you know that it’s something bloody special to me. Keir’s astonishing tour de force Squeeze Me first came to my attention by way of a Maida Vale Session video that I posted in January. It got me swearing like a trooper excitedly about the man’s raw impassioned delivery and performance. “This guy is a star.” I thought.
Of course, it was just one track and one video. But having now seen Keir live and in the flesh I can confirm he is the real deal. He might have only been playing a small stage at Glastonbury but the intensity and beauty of his show made me think that he had all the potential to play the Pyramid stage one day. He owned the place like a true rock opera star.
Keir is making music totally out of time and out of place with everything else that’s in fashion right now, but don’t damn him because of it. The weighty emotional punch of his sound and his expressive quality transcend the zeitgeist.
Now (finally) Squeeze Me is getting an official release. I’m pleased to say the recorded version doesn’t let him down. It's been worth the wait. Keir is staggeringly good.
Keir - Squeeze Me
Sunday, 15 October 2017
When Lauran Hibberd introduces her song Eliza live she often states that it’s about a girl she used to know once and she wasn’t very nice. This sounds pretty harsh until Lauran sings: “Eliza built a home in the back of my mind,” and you begin to wonder who Eliza really is. Maybe she's is a lot closer to Lauran than we all first thought? If she is, then it looks like Lauran has dislodged the inner demon now though: “The girl you lead astray is going to be OK.”
Lauran’s music seems to be gradually evolving from a softer folky feel to something with a more idiosyncratic indie feel. Eliza is a good example of this, rushing headlong into three minutes of an exuberant and raw stomp, with the chorus spelled out letter by letter E-L-I-Z-A. This self-assured noisier sound suits her well.
Following a main stage set at this year’s Bestival and a date supporting Sarah Close, you can next find Lauran treading the boards when she supports another Breaking More Waves supported act, Jerry Williams, at the Black Sheep Bar in Ryde, Isle of Wight on 22nd October, with more dates to be announced soon.
Lauran Hibberd - Eliza
Friday, 13 October 2017
Now ladies and gentlemen, if you like that list, add Ace Marino and his debut EP Cocaine Flamingo to it.
From it, streaming below, is Communication. Together, we’re living in electric dreams.
Ace Marino - Communication
There’s no background and no story with this new artist who goes by the rather odd name of iZNiiK. Despite doing the usual detective work of a whole lot of Google searches and with no record label or PR email to hand, it’s impossible to tell even if iZNiiK is one person or a group. If I were to hazard a guess though I’d suggest they’re a solo artist, because iZNiiK’s debut EP (simply called EP1) sounds like some sort of crazy off-your-face bedroom DJ mash up project. Songs, if you can call them that, are formed from a cleverly pieced together collage of vocal samples, jazzy grooves, hip hop beats, r ‘n’ b thrills and spills and whatever else iZNiiK decides needs to be there. The obvious comparison is of course The Avalanches, and perhaps there are minor elements of Clarence Clarity and Jai Paul as well, but with iZNiiK the sound is if anything, more confusing, more deliberately screwy and definitely more funked up. How this whole thing works is beyond me, but it does.
Take a listen to the futuristic sounding So Easy below and then check out the whole EP by clicking here.
iZNiiK - so easy
A few years ago talking about politics in pop music was something that musicians just didn’t do. Singing about being 'in da club' and 'not giving a fuck' was the standard and even so called alternative musicians, who in past decades had been more politicised, seemed to have grown brains of beige.
Remember a few years ago when Farris from The Horrors was quoted in the Guardian as saying: “Politics doesn’t mean anything to me, the stuff that gets discussed on Newsnight isn’t relevant to me, and it’s pretty much not relevant to anyone.” And this was from a singer in a band who was supposedly well educated. “I don’t think you get anything from voting. I find it funny that someone would vote for another person, whether it’s on Celebrity Big Brother or as a politician, on the basis that they could imagine going for a drink with them. I just think voting is for people who don’t have their own imagination. It’s for a different generation. You’re not accomplishing anything.”
Well sorry Farris. You’re wrong. And thankfully after Brexit, Trump and the rise of the 1000-1 outsider Corbyn, people in all aspects of pop music are talking about politics in interviews, to their audiences and in songs. It's important because young people look up to musicians and their favourite pop stars. If they're talking about politics then it makes it OK / cool for their fans to do the same.
Since naming him as one of my Ones to Watch for 2017 last year, Dave has been developing a bigger and bigger audience and in his new track Question Time he’s certainly talking about the issues that matter in this quite incredible track. Game over Farris.
Dave - Question Time (Video)
Thursday, 12 October 2017
One things I’ve always been a fan of in pop music is the Marmite band and The Rhythm Method are very much are Marmite band. (Apologies to readers in countries who don’t have Marmite and hence have no idea what I’m talking about. To explain it’s a spreadable yeast extract which is often put on toast in the UK and is generally either loved or hated by those who have tried it. There is no middle ground.)
In the case of The Rhythm Method I fall very much on the positive side of things. There are so many things to love. There’s the clever / funny / sometimes politicised wordplay that reminds me a little of everything from Ian Dury to The Streets. There’s the way they manage to sneak in the pop hooks amongst the spoken word and before you know it you're humming the tunes and wondering how they got into your head. There’s the way that every song sounds that little bit different from the previous and yet they are all undeniably by the same band. There’s the way that the duo don’t really look like pop stars / musicians at all (although what exactly a pop star / musician is meant to look like, I really don’t know – but maybe just not like The Rhythm Method).
The Rhythm Method are one of those acts that will probably never appeal to the masses, but from the couple of shows I’ve seen them play now (at The Great Escape and in the Bollywood Tent at Bestival), they will appeal to some – perhaps a mini-cult following? They're on the Moshi Moshi label as well, which seems a perfect home for them, being a label that often specialises in the slightly off-kilter but still accessible side of pop music.
Here’s the video for their latest funky offering, Something For The Weekend, which actually came out a few weeks ago, but as a true
They’re out on tour in the UK at the moment. Go and see why they make me smile if you get the chance.
The Rhythm Method - Something For The Weekend (Video)