19 Sep 2014

Albums To Look Forward To...

With all this talk of mediocre albums being released at the moment, I thought I'd write a post about some albums that are worth getting excited about. Some have release dates, some are mere rumours, but nonetheless, the promise of new albums is one that always gets people talking. 

Wolf Alice's Debut Album
It's no secret what so ever that I am a huge fan of Wolf Alice (the biggest ever) so the fact that sooner rather than later, they will be releasing their very first album is absolutely amazing. All four members are exceptionally talented with all their previous EP's (Blush and Creature Songs) and their singles (Fluffy, Bros & Leaving You) are utterly phenomenal, and that's not me saying it from a fans perspective. Taking out all the adoration for this band and just talking about the music, their small but wonderful discography proves that they are one of, if not the, best up and coming band around today. No doubt that over the course of this year and next, they will be huge. I wish them all the luck in the world with touring and their album and they truly deserve every bit of success they attain. 

Peace's Second Album
As someone who was fairly skeptical about whether Peace would be able to follow their massive debut, In Love, released last year, I can tell you that I have no doubt that album number two will be on the same level.  Set for release early next year, I am praying it will come with a tour and I can see just how well they can play the other album tracks live. The tracks they have released from it, although unsure at first, have fully grown on me and I cannot wait to hear the rest of the album. Lost On Me, Money and World Pleasure are all absolute anthems, and trust me, they sound just as groovy live. Playing new music to a crowd the size of the one at Reading & Leeds was a huge risk, but the new songs went down just as good as I hoped, with even a few people joining in with the Lost On Me routine. This shows that a ton of other people are just as excited as album number two as I am.

Palma Violets' Second Album
Similarly to Wolf Alice, my adoration for Palma Violets is not one I tend to hide. My overall favourite set at Reading Festival and my favourite ever 'small' gig, their debut album '180' was one of the best debut albums released in the last ten years. After the release of their album and their riotous and rowdy tours, the buzz only grew around What Would Palma Violets Do Next? So far? Nothing. Well I say nothing, in an interview with NME two weeks ago, they revealed that they have actually been playing new songs for quite a while now. They disguise the new songs by calling them 'covers' and by doing this, it ensure that new songs are not leaked on the internet, thus only making the hype even crazier for album number two! Very clever indeed, but frustrating for fans? Guess so, but after hearing four 'covers' at Reading, album number two is sounding insanely strong, so no doubts that it will be just as extraordinary as their debut.

Hookworms / The Hum
When I saw Hookworms earlier this year, I can safely say that it was one of the weirdest, trippiest, jaw droppingly strange yet amazing nights of my life and Calum would back me up on this. Pearl Mystic was released March 2013, and it's that good that people still talk about the innovative-ness of it. The combination of shoegaze/psychedelic/post-punk garage rock is one that has never really been tackled before, and that's why it's so good. Not a lot of new tracks have been released from LP #2, but a few new singles have been played on the radio, as well as being played live, and let me tell you, they are just as stunningly strange as their previous work. Due for release on the 10th of November alongside their tour, I recommend everyone and anyone to go and see them live. Even if they aren't your usual cup of tea. Seriously amazing.

Jamie T / Carry On The Grudge
When Jamie T announced his comeback earlier this year, the world went mad. When he announced a tour, it sold out in minutes. When he announced a secret set at Reading, well, the bruises I had for three weeks following that set prove his popularity. This album will be his third studio album and it promises to be impressive. The singles released from it so far are Zombie and Don't You Find. Both on the same level as his old stuff, meaning no disappointment from fans at all. Released in just under two weeks, it has the potential to shoot straight up to number one. Considering I wasn't a 'proper' fan before seeing him live, I am shocked with how much good music I missed out on by this one artist, and delighted of the prospect of him releasing a whole album of new songs.

Superfood / Don't Say That
Superfood have had a great year-and-a-bit. They've supported a ton of bands on massive tours, got their singles out and even headed out on a tour of their own. Recently released to be going out on the NME New Breed Tour with Honeyblood around the same time of the revealing their debut album would be released later this year, the hype around this band just keeps growing. Think your typical indie band, with a gritter, grungier edge, but still able to create summery tracks. Check out their MAM EP to see just how beautifully diverse they are. Another top-class band to come out of the B-Town music scene, I have no worries that this album will be anything short of fantastic. Can't wait to hear it, and to see them live. 

(Written By Poppy Marriott)

18 Sep 2014

7 bands around the Southampton/Portsmouth area to get excited about

Growing up, I've always felt like there is a real shortage of talent where I live. As a resident of Southampton, with Portsmouth, Bournemouth and Winchester all close by, there hasn't really been many bands to get that excited about. Although, despite this, recent times have seen a bit of a surge of new bands from all around the area, which is something I'd never have expected a few years back. Although, I was reminded daily that the secondary school I went to was the same one that Craig David went to. Wow. Music heritage right there, eh.

Furious two-piece Dolomite Minor are quite possibly the best known band coming through right now. A couple of people I know from the internet (that aren't from Southampton) are fans, and that's quite an achievement. Their music consists of lots a fuzzy riffs, and drumming that allows them to produce a sound that's not unlike Queens of The Stone Age, but not in a bad way. Their latest release Talk Like An Aztec combines the sludge-fuelled riffs of Mudhoney with tired Julian Casablanacas-esque voice. Listen to Talk Like An Aztec here.

One of the slickest looking bands on the scene, if you're from Southampton you'll recognise them instantly as the band that supported Peace, Swim Deep and Wolf Alice. In three piece suits. They're more interesting than most, because they write their songs based on old Western movies, but naturally, they're Westerns that didn't happen. Hailing from Portsmouth, they're a Noir-Americana five piece that have just announced a debut album via Kickstarter, and their unique sound could probably be described as a cross between Sean Lennon's The Goastt and the first Kings of Leon album. What is a shame, however is that they've seemingly forgotten about Daniel, one of my favourite songs of recent times. Listen to The Devil's Rope EP here.

Another southern band with enough notoriety for people that live outside of Southampton to recognise the name, this band are one of the best upcoming indie bands on the circuit, full stop. Their music is sun-drenched, and their debut EP Place To Haunt is just the perfect example of their thirst-quenching sound. Whilst the EP might jump out at you because it has some of the better cover art seen this year, it also features some of the best indie music consigned to vinyl recently. Their zenith comes from the EP, and it's a 7-minute long track of dreamy summer pop - listen to it here.

Another band that support just about everyone at Southampton's best venue, The Joiners, this band are so much better than their name might imply. Whilst they take their name from an Arctic Monkeys song, they bear more musical similarities with The Hives than they do with NME's finest pseudo-yanks. Whilst they have one song on YouTube, the dashing Comedown Machine, (Yeah, they're a lot like The Strokes too) their energetic live shows - which routinely feature a cover of Jerk It Out by The Caesars - more than make up for what they lack in originality, they're a very tight outfit. Listen to Comedown Machine here.

There's a lot to love about Rickyfitts. Firstly, they take their name straight from a character in American Beauty, one of my favourite films. Secondly, they're from down the road, in Portsmouth. And thirdly, they're a self-confessed "greebo two-piece", which is exactly what you want in a band. Like the Pale Seas and New Desert Blues, they're one of the most exciting bands around for me, with the only drawback being that their last two shows have A) clashed with Hookworms in Brighton and B) at an eighteen plus venue. Fuckers. Whilst you can't find any of their stuff on YouTube, their Soundcloud is well worth checking out because it features the excellent Common Way EP and a free download of a pretty damn good track (Awakening). And, and, and, it features this ten minute masterclass, Bone Palace Ballet which you can hear here.

With The Wytches everyone's favourite band at the moment, it would make sense for everyone to check out this band of grunge-revivalists. Whilst the singer lacks Kristian Bell's voice, fantastic riffs make Battery Hens a fantastic Mudhoney throwback. Like Rickyfitts, their only failing was that they played their last show on the same night Hookworms played Brighton, so I've not actually seen them yet, but that's something I can't wait for. The most essential track from their, so far, limited output that will only grow is Bad Science, which you can hear here.  

A four-piece who bear much similarities to Bombay Bicycle Club circa album number one, The Cartels are, I think, the youngest band on the list. Since their formation they've played acclaimed gigs all around Southampton and Portsmouth to rack up a reputation as an impressive live band. In January of this year they brought out their debut EP, which was every bit as energetic as you'd expect it to be, and very soon they're bringing out a new single Nevermore... (spoiler alert: it's fantastic) Listen and download the Cartels EP here for free.

(written by calum cashin)

Children Of Leir / Black Annis (single review)

Mythology has been a source of songwriting inspiration for many songwriters throughout history. The German commune band Amon Duul II dedicated their Yeti album's many instrumentals to the abominable snowman, Goat sing about witchdoctors from their native village, and Julian Cope has sung songs about Stone Circles and everything that comes with them since the dawn of time itself. But when a hypnotic new band, armed with a cannon of interesting influences and a mythological being you've not heard of before, you can't not sit up to attention.

Black Annis hereself:
Very much the Aphrodite of her day
Leicestershire shoegazers Children Of Leir's forthcoming single has down just that; it's called Black Annis, and it takes it's name from some of the local mythology in the Leicester area. It seemed like an intruiging name for a song, and it takes its name from Black Annis; a mythological pagan deity of the evil variety. At the time of writing of the myth of Black Annis, she was said to have killed young children from the area and used their skin as decoration for her cave - which she supposedly dug with her bare hands. Wow, it made me think. Talk about strong, independent women, eh?

But how far does Children Of Leir's single, due for October convey the myth through song? Black Annis is a two and a half minute hypnotic single that has all the influences it needs to be right up my street. Motorik helicopter drums thrust a NEU! influence in your face, whilst a fuzzed out droned up shoegaze tone of the post-Spacemen 3 variety provides the sinister-but-probably-not-sinister-enough melody. On a basic listening level, it's absolutely fantastic. The hooks are hypnotic, the vocals are subsumed beautifully by the reverb of the guitar, and the backing vocals are pretty damn haunting. It's a pretty fantastic track, and although it's not dramatic, it's tight and it's hypnotic.

BUT, there is one thing. For something based on a myth so powerful, and so murderous, it's not very powerful, or murderous. Although a beautiful 168 seconds of drone-pop, the fact that Black Annis is about such dark stuff is something you'd really have to study the lyrics for because it's really not evident from the oh-so-cool riffing. I guess the matter of Black Annis would probably be best tackled in a seven minute epic, with more pained vocals and a more shamanic vibe overall. Still, that doesn't detract from its brilliance as a fine example of nu-gazing dream pop.

In spite of the fact subject matter doesn't QUITE go with the hypnotic shamanic shoegaze, it's not completely contrasting. Whilst they don't build up the creepy atmospheres Robin Guthrie does, it's definitely haunting, like a nu-gaze Julian Cope in full Pagan furore. With Black Annis, Children Of Leir have made their mark in the sand as one of Britain's most exciting new shoegazing bands - coming to you right from the home of the Black Annis. This is a single that is a must hear for any fans of shoegaze, Pagan myths, or Dinger-esque drumming, that will leave you mesmerised, and wanting more. Which is just what you'll get from Children Of Leir in early 2015.

B-side: 'Children of Leir'
Released: 27th October, on SiMULATiONS
Where to buy the 7': HERE
Where to hear it: RIGHT HERE
Rating: 16/20

[written by calum cashin]

15 Sep 2014

Catfish and the Bottlemen / The Balcony (album review)

Here at Vapour Trail our opinions clash regularly, and usually one of the bands in the middle of it all is Catfish and the Bottlemen. I had nothing against them, and still think they're a good band although much better live, and both times I have seen them I have been incredibly impressed. However, as I am reminded by some of the vile things they have said and done in the past, my opinion began to change. Alas, after the massive hype around their debut album, I thought hey, I will give it a go and see what it's like, I still enjoy their music. When you hype an album that much, and publicise it as much as they have, it's pretty disappointing to find out that it's just all their singles that have already been released, plus four other songs. That's literally it. I'm not denying for a second that those previously singles aren't good, of course they are, but it just seems pretty lame. Anyway, enough of my opinions (you can get more of how we feel about the 'lids' in the article Calum wrote here) and on with our album review.

The album actually opens with one of my favourite songs by CATB, Homesick. With a slow start and suddenly rockier chorus, it's the perfect opener for this album. "I'm only looking out for you/she said it's obvious that's a lie" is growled over a bass/guitar/drums combo which becomes all to familiar when you get further into the album, but alas, on its own, it's a very good song and definitely better live. Following this comes the song Kathleen which when released at the start of 2014, was received greatly. Once again, no denying it's not a good song, but that's all it is, good. Your typical indie song with a pop-rock twist I guess? First time I heard it I couldn't tell it apart from any other indie bands around today. Nothing special, but still not a bad song. Something about the order of this album already feels wrong and I don't know if it's the lumping together of nearly all their singles in a row that makes it feel like that but it just doesn't really flow. Following Kathleen comes the newest single Cocoon. Now this is probably my second favourite track off the album. It demonstrates the rockier side to CATB where they seem to excel, and with a catchy bridge and 'relatable' lyrics, it's definitely one of their better songs. The lyrics although 'relatable' are pretty mediocre, ("fuck it if they talk/fuck it if they try and get to us" is the chorus, bit lame if you ask me?) However, it does have a pretty cool bridge and a great guitar break in the middle, and when performed live, the song gets 10x better. 

Continuing on with the rollercoaster of mediocracy, the single prior to Cocoon follows, Fallout. It's getting difficult to write about this without being repetitive, but thats exactly what the album is. It's the same chords, the same lyrical topics, the same rhythms, for Gods sake the drummer is Almost As Lame As Meg White. (except the CATB's drummer can actually play) It's just all very samey, and your typical indie-pop music. But once again, 10x better live. Why is that? You can see how passionate these guys are about their wonderfully average music and that automatically makes it so much more fun. The run of singles ends here with third single Pacifier. It's certainly not a bad song, and one of their most loved tracks amongst fans, and I can see why. Channelling the rocky style which I prefer, this one always spawns massive crowd involvement and always gets everyone going. Van Mc Cann whines "But baaabe" over the chords and drums that you see in nearly every song, but something about this one sounds different and fresher. One of their strongest tracks definitely. 

Three out of the four new songs Hourglass, Business and 26 are just what you would expect. AVERAGE. ALBUM. FILLERS. People are raving about Hourglass and god knows why. It just proves that Van Mc Cann can sing and write a pretty decent and soppy love song. Nobody has ever done that before have they! Original! Business is a little creepy and a little stalkery, but one of the better new songs. Wouldn't mind this being a single if they hadn't released over 60% of their album already. 26 is their attempt at a rock song and let me tell you, it's so much better when they don't try to be rocky and just write their songs in a style they like. Please don't get me wrong, I have nothing against this band except on terms of misogyny and pervy-ness, but for a band who are so passionate about what they do, it just all seems so rushed and like they weren't ready to put out a debut just yet. It's disappointing really because their live sets are always so much fun. Anyway, I digress. The almost-the-best song off the album comes next. Rango. What a tune. Dancey, rocky, catchy. Nothing more needs to be said. It's just a bloody good pop song and I don't want to spoil it by writing things about it because I read too much into it. 

Next comes the best song CATB ever created. Sidewinder. Definition of 'WHAT A BANGER OF A TRACK.' It shows off everything that a song should, musical talents? check. Clever, mostly unoffensive lyrics? check. It's easily the greatest song they have ever written and including it on their album was by far the best decision. It's such a good song that it earned them an extra point when I was scoring the album out of 20. Final track is Tyrants. The song they end nearly all their live sets with, and the song to end their debut. It's my favourite track out of the few new ones they actually released, and it's a great ending to the live sets. However, it sounds as if they have written it and thought "Hey, this is OK for an album/set opener, lets use it for that always." Closes the album in a strong way, and I do like the ending a lot, but something about it just seems rushed and like it's just there. Nonetheless, it's up there with my favourite CATB tracks and I like it a lot. 

Overall, this album is painfully mediocre, and quite frankly disappointing. I had incredibly high hopes for this band because they really have so much potential and talent and the passion is there, but it doesn't come across on record. I would still recommend going to see them live, as that is where they excel, but for now, this album will have to do. Sad isn't it. 

A good solid 11/20 from me. 

(written by Poppy Marriott)

Let's Not Forget That Catfish and the Bottlemen Are Pretty Damn Creepy

It's probably best to start this post off by saying I don't hate Catfish and the Bottlemen's music, and I would never think less of someone who did. I find them a largely inoffensive middle-of-the-road NME buzz band, of the most mediocre variety. The fact that their debut album's out today couldn't really phase me less but it doesn't annoy me or anything like that. But it's not their 'eh' standard music that I hold against Catfish and the Bottlemen; that’s not a big deal.  The sexism that surrounds them, and laces their music is however, to me, a really fucking big deal.
See, a number of weeks ago, everyone was talking about an article, this article, written by one Jonnie Barnett about a live Bottlemen gig up north. Whilst it confirmed any suspicions that they're just another middle-of-the-road indie rock act, it also opened everyone's eyes to the underlying sexism of the band as a whole, and whilst that's sadly all too common in indie rock over the past 10 years, it's certainly not acceptable. It showed the the sperm they've got for a logo is actually a pretty good summary of the band themselves; it's tacky, it's simple and it's sleazy as. The article states that the lead singer Van McCann (which is a fake name, although, who’d choose that out of all the names in the world you could go for?) allegedly asked a number of women in the audience to take their tops off (and also misused the word 'gay' in a way that could be seen as homophobic). Seriously. And whether their music's your cup of tea or not, abusing a position of power and influence is just plain wrong, and just plain grotesque. And really fucking creepy. 
I guess maybe you could say I'm writing this because I don't really like the band all that much, which is true; I’ve seen them  twice now, at both Latitude and Truck festival, and they’ve been notably underwhelming each time; but that’s not quite why I’m writing this. Using your power and influence to harass and (a quick scan of the internet suggests) harass (and even more) with people that have paid money to see your music seems not right to me. In fact it seems just plain sick, and I can't be alone in this, right? Catfish and the Bottlemen seem creepy as to everyone else too, right?
And combine all the talk of the sexist ‘banter’ from their gigs with the lyrics “I’ve got to give it to you, you give me problems when you’re not in the mood” from their single Kathleen, and Catfish seem to be ever so symptomatic of rape culture. Lyrics in which the singer’s persona directly tells his lover that it’s a ‘problem’ she’s not in the mood? That’s creepy to say the least.
Catfish and the bottlemen.jpgAnd their infamous merch posters, they're embarrassing, aren’t they? Maybe they'd be funny if they were entirely sarcastic, but the fact that they go through the trouble of writing it out every single show they play, on the off chance that someone will pay them the price of the entry ticket for "5 tugs on the porridge pistol" and a kiss is almost worrying. It's really sad that some bands take advantage of their fans like that. It’s so symptomatic of lad culture, and it’s just gross. Maybe on its own, this poster wouldn’t be so bad, it might even deserve some cheap laughs, maybe. I can see it's a joke, but one which positions female fans in a way which is demeaning. But really, especially when it’s combined with ballads of rape-culture and creepy album artwork, this kind of laddish humour might be a bit of a step too far. Maybe with the recent cancellation of Dapper Laughs, we should also cancel Catfish and The Bottlemen.
I guess their music is pretty lacklustre too - nothing you've not heard before is an understatement. They're not my cup of tea, but they clearly come from that niche of clunky guitar bands that only wanna be The Courteeners or the first album-era Arctic Monkeys. Their songs are everything you've heard before, and less. But to be fair to them, they're not quite as bad as The Courteeners, and they’re certainly a tad better than Razorlight. Maybe they’re even a solid Kooks on a good day.
And perhaps, a bit like Razorlight or The Courteeners, one look at them tells you all you need to know; they've got an incredibly handsome frontman who partakes in every  single Catfish interview, and a band more anonymous than, well, the members of Anonymous. Van is the only member as such, the rest seem completely expendable. And somehow, even dressed in all black, the other 3 look like they’d rather be anywhere but where they are. A bit like me, at Catfish’s Truck show. It's a rare that a band don't pull off wearing all black at every possible occasion, but this summery indie band would probably be better suited to some more Proper Lad Clobber, so they can be just like The Courteeners.

Oh, and they call everyone "lids", because "lads" isn't fucking annoying enough.
To summarise; Catfish and The Bottlemen are a creepy band that not only sing mediocre leather jacket love songs that belong in 2001, but also perpetuate and normalise the rape culture epidemic that’s making society a horrible hostile environment for both women and those with a fair amount of moral fibre. Yes, their music has it's merits, and, from what I understand they are very hardworking people, but for all the reason above their music, and music of a similar ilk, is certainly not for me.

14 Sep 2014

The Horrors - Ten Best Tracks

The Horrors! Five Southend based garage goth revivalists that have made some of the most interesting and most innovative music of the past ten years. Over the course of their career, they've been exponents of Cramps-style garage punk, post-Loop shoegaze, and euphoric psychedelia of the electronic variety. Over four albums, Strange House, Primary Colours, Skying and Luminous, The Horrors have done the seemingly impossible, what so many bands have failed trying; they've mastered a tricky trademark sound, and moved on to another one. Where a normal band would find a genius sound like the oscillating shoegaze of Mirror's Image, and stick with it for a handful of albums. But no! The Horrors are an ever-evolving entity,  and that's what makes them the neo-psychedelic titans they are. These ten songs from across their career highlight just how versatile The Horrors are, and why they're one of the best bands in the world today.

10. I See You (2014)
The first offering from their fourth album Luminous announced the synth-driven ways of their new direction in style. Consisting of three parts, I See You is already a classic, despite only being aired for the first time in February; those three parts being the cosmic waves of an extensive intro, the ghostly snarl of the synth-driven verses, and ultimately the three minutes of the instrumental outro that escalates and escalates. Whilst Luminous is arguably the weakest Horrors album, I See You is one of the highlights that carries it from 'good' to 'excellent' whilst capturing the euphoria of the rest of the album.

9. Gloves (2006)
Oh so different from Luminous, if you're hearing Gloves for the first time, it's quite hard to believe that it's actually the actual Horrors. Coming out around the same time they appeared as The Black Tubes in the Boosh, Gloves sounds suitably Booshlike; a Jack The Ripper-style gothic thrash that encompasses a bit of a mini-murderer monologue. Gloves sees The Horrors at their most horrific, it's the best song on Strange House and it's a scintillating track that you'd just wish they'd maybe play live, once or twice.

8. Do You Remember (2009)
The perfect pop riff - it's no wonder Peace ripped this one right off of Josh Hayward; the Do You Remember riff is a pop highlight for The Horrors, as the track could easily have been lead single if Primary Colours was a more accessible record on the whole. It deals with the same themes as a lot of the record - namely Who Can Say? which it's almost a twin track with, because it precedes and sheds a much more optimistic light on the same breakup.

7. Moving Further Away (2011)
One from Skying now, this epic is the longest song in The Horrors entire discography. It's 10 seconds shy of nine minutes on record, but it can reach well over 10 in a live environment. Descending synthesisers and the rallying ghostly cry of "Moving further/moving further away" gives this song one of it's catchiest choruses, whilst the latter half of cathartic improvisation escalates it to a fantastic standard. Although the out and out verse-chorus-verse songs on Skying are the most mind-blowing, the escalating runaway psych of Moving Further Away (and Ocean's Burning) are just as essential to the album's prowess.

6. I Can See Through You (2011)
What leaps out at you with this number is the incredible sense of euphoria that comes with it. Ascending chord progression and a chorus you can't not sing along to make this one of the best pop songs in their entire discography. It's incredibly upbeat, and captures a real sense of bliss; the polar opposite of like, EVERYTHING that came pre-2011 for The Horrors. It's also an obvious pinpoint to see how The Horrors evolved from their garage guitar-driven psych to their synth-powered newer material.

5. Death At The Chapel (2006)
An early classic, Death At The Chapel is an electrifying 2 minute long surge of punk energy. Imagine for a second you've never heard any music, or noises, associated with the word 'goth'. Now, reimagine what something gothic is; terrifying serial killer screams, a church organ being battered, and a few odd noises in the background. I think The Horrors have a tendency to mull over this bit of their career. It was certainly, well, not very subtle, and from the outside looking in it's seems like The Horrors in 2006 were more about style than substance, but no! Death At The Chapel is such a strong song that it's obvious that's not the case.

4. Jealous Sun (2014)
From their latest album Luminous, Jealous Sun is a fantastic track. The warped MBV-style intro is a reprieve from the synths, as Josh Hayward lays pedal to the metal, whilst the rest of the band create some really intriguing, unique sounds. The verses show The Horrors at their coolest; strutting and nonchalant through the chaotic tones. 'Take your love/and take your tomorrows' is a line that springs to mind, sounding so cool rolling out of Faris' mouth. Jealous Sun is one of the finest songs released this year so far and it's just tragic that the quenching oasis of shoegazing electronica is so difficult to recreate live.

3. I Only Think Of You (2009)
This slow mournful ballad is one of the single most beautiful songs written in recent years, let alone by The Horrors. I guess it's kind of ambiguous, because you don't know the circumstances Faris is singing about, but boy is it beautiful. It probably means different things to different people, in the same way Desolation Row by Bob Dylan and Waltz #2 by Elliott Smith do, and whatever way you look at it, it's really beautiful. And the forlorn accompaniment wouldn't sound out of place as a Souvlaki outtake, I guess the whole thing is just a very perfect song that feels much shorter than 7 minutes.

2. Still Life (2011)
Still Life is the ultimate pop song. The intro is a wall of synthesised psychedelic sound breached by some calculated drumming and a life-giving bassline, whilst the verses feature some of the best lyrics Faris Badwan has written outside of Cat's Eyes. It has all the ingredients to be one of the greatest 4 minute pop-songs ever, and there's honestly nothing greater than it. Well, maybe one thing...

1. Sea Within A Sea (2009)
Possibly the greatest song of the past five or six years, Sea Within A Sea is something else. It pinpoints the exact second that The Horrors went from garange punk upstarts to transcendent neo-psychedelic innovators. Clocking in at 8 minutes, it revolves around a pulsing bassline, some dark lyrics, and an ascending synth that spirals on and on til it's out of control. It's almost a modern day Sister Ray, or a Trilogy (Sonic Youth) for the 21st century. It keeps on escalating with it's otherworldly synth and it's ever-present thudding bass. The Horrors have released many great songs, and four great albums, but the closer to the second is as good as it gets. From anybody. I honestly believe it could be the best thing released in my lifetime.


(written by calum cashin)

11 Sep 2014

Be Slowly / Jaws (album review)

When this dreamy surf pop quartet announced their debut album Be Slowly would be released later on that year, the hype around it was huge. Their two EP's released a fair while before the announcement of the debut were both received very very well and so great things are expected from B-town boys, JAWS. Alongside the announcement of the album and tour, JAWS released the title track from the album, and it has been cited as an /indie/ sound of the summer, despite the album not being released until now. So what do we think of this hyped up, synth pop, alt rock debut? You're about to find out.

The album opener is called Time and it starts of with a series of chords being strung out, before kicking off the album in the best way JAWS know how. The drum kicks in and the riffs follow suit as the song gradually builds up and up. Influences on this track sound sort of DIIV/Peace-esque, but as soon as Connor Schofield's beautifully unique voice kicks in, it sounds like a JAWS track all over again. It's not a high energy opener, but that's exactly why I like it, it sets you up perfectly for the rest of the album. 

The second track is the song that brought this band together. Cameron is a chilled out surfers paradise that again channels very early Peace vibes with a stoners twist on it. This was the song that Connor put a demo of online before starting up JAWS. Since then the track has grown and grown and finally reached its best form in good time, on their debut album. It's one of my favourite JAWS tracks and I am so glad it was put on the album.

Gold follows, and this is my all time most loved JAWS track. It's the first one I heard and has always stuck in my mind. The chorus lyrics "take me/where the gold drips from the sun/onto my back" are wailed over a conglomoration of chord progressions laced in FX pedals, catchy cymbal clashes and a thumping bass riff, all to form the perfect indie-pop chorus and in time, the perfect indie-pop song. Not only does it show off JAWS musical talents, but also just how well they can write rockier songs as opposed to a wishy washy stoners anthem.

Following Gold, comes the trippy experience that is Swim. Personally I feel like I should be donning dreadlocks and tie dye while listening to this song, but hey, that might just be me. The song itself has a lot of FX on it, but I think that's why it works so well. With JAWS style being quite specific, they risk getting boring quite quickly, but as they have developed as a band and grown up, they have learnt exactly how to use tricks and techniques to their full advantage. I have seen a lot of people saying Swim is their favourite song of the album and I can see why. I get a sort of 80's vibe from it, but an 80's song after it's been dragged through the 90's a bit and then rolled around in indie and dream-pop. It's a great track and a definite album highlight. 

Home is the next song, and this is more upbeat, more punchy, more rocky. The opening guitar has a note or two slightly off key which gives it an Nirvana sounding start, before throwing the listener back into the JAWS style we know so well. The combination of these two styles makes for a slightly darker indie track, and I really like it. 

The title track follows, and it's an exceptionally good one. The most dance-y, poppy, sing-a-long-y sort of song on the album, Be Slowly definitely shows off everything good about JAWS. Musical talents? The melodies, drum beats & riffs are flawless. Lyrical talents? Ok, so the song doesn't actually make sense, but it's an upbeat indie track, when do they ever? It's been stuck in my head since I heard it, and I love it.

Think Too Much, Feel Too Little brings the tone of the album back down to a chilled out vibe, and it's a song that you would listen to on the beach while sipping a cocktail. Totally feel-good and relaxed, totally JAWS-esque. The rhythms and the guitar are particular highlights in this song, as the melodies really are brilliant. 

Eight track, Filth, takes it back to the grungier side (as the name would suggest) with dirty bass notes and darker guitar chords taking over from the surf funk feel of the album and again it shows off their musical talents and abilities to work together as a young band. I personally prefer this style of music for JAWS, but the fact that they can do both is a huge advantage when looking at a unique selling point for a band. It also means they don't fall into a hole of surf-pop and get boring fast. 

JAWS channel multiple genres in a mellow and clever way that give them this stunningly individual sound, and this song is no exception. The next track, Sunset State, at first hear sounds almost shoegazey. The opening notes echo ones of a Slowdive song, yet as the rest of the instruments kick in, their familiar sound comes back into play, but there are various points in the song where the noise emulates that of the Cocteau Twins or even Ride. Once again, a very strong track which could easily stand on it's own away from the album. Next single perhaps?

Surround You comes next, and the FX are in full play on this one. Another personal favourite JAWS track, it's got a killer beat behind a ton of clever guitar tricks and punchy lyrics. The verses are fairly normal JAWS verses, but the chorus sounds like a raining down of piano keys. "Let the wind blow through your hair/send me crazy with your stare" is warbled over this magnificent sound before the bridge with a brief 3 second drum break builds you up for a final rendition of the chorus. Beautifully surfy and euphonious, it is a joy to listen to.

The album closer named NYE brings back the shoegazey element and is a chance for Connor to show off his vocals. His distinctive and mellifluous voice lays over the melodies in such a way that calms you down. It's a lot slower, and the rest of the band chip in with 'oooh's' and echoes to make it a perfect ending to a magnificent debut album. Very very well done lads.

Rating: 16/20

(written by Poppy Marriott)

10 Sep 2014

Back To The 1980's: Reload Festival Review

When my dear ol' mum told me that Human League were playing in Norwich, my reaction was one not to be forgotten. Having been brought up on a mix of Morrissey, Human League and Duran Duran, alongside many other amazing bands, (of who I am grateful to have learnt about from a young age, thank you mum and dad) It was certainly a gig I wanted to attend. When I further learnt it was a festival containing the likes of ABC, Go West, Heaven 17 and Sister Sledge, it was a need. As I also managed to cop the opportunity to photograph there, I was very very excited. 

The first day lineup had the most acts we wanted to see, including the very first act, From The Jam which features original Jam bass player, Bruce Foxton. As this was the closest I would ever come to seeing The Jam live, I was thrilled when this legend took to the stage alongside his fellow band members, who might I add, play The Jam songs perfectly considering they are not the original members. From The Jam played a setlist stacked full of hits, including Down In The Tube Station At Midnight, Going Underground and Eton Rifles. It was a wonderful experience and I would recommend to anyone to go and see them live.

Next up who we saw (and were interested in) came Go West. One of my Mum's absolute favourite bands from the 80's, and the owners of some of my favourite feel-good songs, safe to say we were both pretty excited. They took to the stage with a different kind of energy that the previous bands had brought, and Peter Cox has certainly still got it. Go West played so well, and the hits were all there. We had a sing-a-long to my favourite King Of Wishful Thinking and of course, We Close Our Eyes. Not only did the audience get fully involved, but Cox and the rest of Go West continually showed appreciation for the huge crowd they drew. Definitely one of the most feel good and musically exceptional sets I have ever seen at a festival, and would 10/10 go see them again. If you don't know who Go West are, find out.

Following Go West came the legends that are, ABC. With what I would percieve as an 80's anthem under their belt (The Look of Love) it was in no doubt that they would have one of the largest audiences of the whole weekend. It's difficult to put into words what an experience this set was because the wall of noise created by the synths, combined with everything funky just worked so well together. There was dancing, singing, crowd involvement and all in all it was a great time. Watching that many people get to relive their prime time by skanking to Look of Love in a neon tutu and legwarmers was heartwarming, if not slightly (very) embarrassing for all around. Absolutely wonderful, loved every minute. That marked the end of our Saturday because not only was Rick Astley on a lot later than originally stated, meaning we would have to sit through Soul II Soul (not the biggest fans) but the overplaying of Madonna and 'that sort of 80's shite' was getting a little too much. So we headed home and prepared for Sunday.

We arrived on the Sunday just as Heaven 17 finished which was a disappointment, but of course that meant we had to sit through Jason Donovan. Although incredibly self indulgent, he put on a wondrous show which included his song from Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat. Safe to say, I shan't go into that one in detail. 

Next came the ever so funky Sister Sledge. Harbouring a string of dance hits, Sister Sledge promised to be a whole lot of fun. I wasn't disappointed in the slightest. They've all aged very very well and are still as talented and energetic as they used to be. Final song We Are Family ensured that every single person at the festival sang a long, because who doesn't know that banger? All in all, it was just bloody good fun and I loved every second. 

Following Sister Sledge came Billy Ocean of who I wasn't fussed about seeing. However, he was absolutely incredibly. His voice has actually improved over time, like a fine wine. He sang the hits like he always did, and they were flawless. Amazingly fun and energetic for a man of his age, and the perfect pre-headline act for the band I had been waiting for all weekend. THE HUMAN LEAGUE.

Human League took to the ever-so-techno stage with Susan and Joanne donning wonderfully classy, yet 80's outfits of a mini dress and a jumpsuit. Phil Oakley then took to the stage in all black, with a leather coat on top and I don't think I have ever seen anyone look so cool. The set was phenomenal. Not only did it contain all the hits (including a slight remix of the anthem Don't You Want Me) but the final song was my favourite Human League song ever released, their first single, Being Boiled. If you don't know this song, think Kraftwerk meets Visage with a very Human League-y spin on it. It's the funkiest techno song ever made and I couldn't have been happier that they played it. Mum & I successfully opened up a skank pit (coolest mum ever) and danced alongside a ton of other crowd members while taking in the whole experience. It was one of the best festival sets from this year that I have seen, and I am so glad I went. Human League, PLEASE TOUR.

(apologies for the atrocious quality, took this on my phone rather than camera)

Overall, Reload was such a wonderful weekend and I cherish the oppurtunity I had to see all those bands live. Especially Human League. They ruled. 

(written by Poppy Marriott)

9 Sep 2014

Death From Above 1979 / The Physical World (album review)

Interpol were on the front of NME this week, with their recent band reunion, and recent album all the rage. And it got me thinking just how often these band reunions are things you couldn't care less about. Interpol are alriiiight at best, but recently one reunion album has been so unspeakably exciting that I can't quite rationalise it even now, 8 days after it started streaming. Ravenous, raucous and hard-riffing, Death From Above 1979's first album in 10 years was released this Monday to an amazing reception; Canada's loudest two-piece are back and even more furious than they were in 2004.

Death From Above 1979 - The Physical World

The lead single has been all over the radio this past month, and it was scintillating. The fact that 6music played Trainwreck 1979 every programme was motivation enough to switch on the radio. Loud and brash, Trainwreck announced DFA immediately as the two-piece to follow for 2014. The danceable edge to the hard-riffing basslines of Jesse Keeler were really something to behold, and alas! Sebastian Grainger's OTT drumming was beyond the perfect fit to it. Trainwreck 1979 is undoubtedly the best single of 2014 so far.

But with the rest of the album, there isn't a drop in class at all. Opening gambit Cheap Talk is breath-taking, as Grainger kicks off what is probably 2014's best drumming performance on an album. DFA are back to exactly where they left off, as the hard-grooving closer to Side 1 White Is Red shows.

And it's the little things too that make it seem like this isn't a half-arsed money-grabbing comeback. The spine-curling feedback, and the determined breaths that kicks off the album version of Trainwreck 1979. The downbreaking false-ending of Virgins. The Vapour Trail-esque orchestrals at the end of the closer, The Physical World. The drum fills throughout Nothing Left. It all equates to a perfectly put together album of adrenaline fuelled post-punk furore.

From start to finish, there are no weak tracks. Maybe White is Red seems a bit off par because it's followed by Trainwreck 1979, but that's the only possible loophole in the perfect weave of the DFA web. This franitc, yet perfect return straight to form from Death From Above 1979 ensures that it's the best comeback album since... well... maybe it's not as good as m b v, but it's certainly one of the most hair-raising returns to music from any band, ever.

Out: NOW! (released 8th September)
Essential songs: All of it! Trainwreck 1979, The Physical World, Gemini, Virgins...

(written by calum cashin)

Royal Blood are pretty much just a metaphor for Capitalism

For want of a better word, the indie contingent of the music industry probably tries to promote the belief that music is quite a meritocratic affair; the cream will rise to the top, and the shit will sink, right? The harder you try, and the more talented you are, the more likely you are to get signed and tour arenas and support The Courteeners and appear on Jools in ill fitting suits. Well, that's what they want you to think. See, recently the issue was brought to the fore when NME's favourite pseudo-metalheads Royal Blood topped the UK charts with their self-titled debut, about a year after they formed.

And, well, it's not as if it's a bad album, but it's incredibly mediocre, and it's something that pretty much anybody could recreate. It's not too musically complex, and the song-writing feels a bit rushed. It's by no means a bad album, but historically bands that make middle-of-the-road hard rock aren't regular chart toppers.

But what makes Royal Blood special isn't their musical prowess, or their good looks, or their immensely cool image. Because all those things aren't particularly in abundance with Royal Blood. No, they're where they are because they know exactly who they know. Royal Blood are just in the right place at the right time with the right people.

In June last year, BEFORE THEY EVEN HAD A SONG OUT, Arctic Monkeys' Matt Helders wore one of their 'Royal Blood' t-shirts on stage at Glastonbury. Who even has t-shirts before songs? What is the point? And again, the band shared equal billing with Miles Kane at Arctic Monkeys' two London gigs. I'm no Miles Kane fan, but that guy sells out gigs pretty damn fast, and Royal Blood were just an unsigned band, signed only to the same management company as, you guessed it, Arctic Monkeys.

For a genre, for want of a better phrase, with fans that pride themselves on discovering new bands, and ensuring that the next big thing is bloody good. I mean, their seems to be an underlying feeling of that in the indie music community, doesn't there? I mean, maybe it's just me, but there's a lot of emphasis on the hardest working, most talented bands being recognised for being the most hard working talented bands. I think.

So the fact that a band that's literally been on the circuit a year and a bit is topping the charts at ease, it's a bit of a mystery. As well as that, it's all personal taste, but I think they're very mediocre. I mean hard-rocking rock-duos are so my cup of tea, so why do Royal Blood seem so lame? I know I'm not alone in this, but I really don't think that Royal Blood where they are for any reason other than who their mates are. I mean, with that kind of PR any given band that can string a riff together could top the charts. They're kind of the mainstream alternative version of X Factor winners, really.

And don't get me wrong, this isn't a personal attack on Royal Blood, because their music... isn't bad, and I'd probably favour it over Sam Smith (who took the #1 spot this week) but in the rawest sense, they are a metaphor for capitalism. Royal Blood are as functionalist as a pair of politically impartial people can be - well, you say politically impartial but with their chums not bothering with taxes who knows how right-wing they are...

BUT THAT'S NOT THE POINT, what this wibbly-wobbly rant about Royal Blood proves is just how easy being musically successful comes if you know the right people. It's less about how you can play than it is about who you know, even in /indie/ music.

(written by calum cashin)