30 Nov 2015

RA! / Oh Unhappy Bella (album review)

Presenting themselves online as a seemingly anonymous arts collective, the now defunct suicide-pop outfit RA! only this week put their one and only album Oh Unhappy Bella up for online (and free) release. The full length article of a Southampton-based band that could have gone on to have substantial cult following, the release of their allegorical hourlong record should (if any justice is done) see RA! get the posthumous mythology built around them that the modern music press reserve only for the likes of Nick Drake, Joy Division and WU LYF.

Tales of depression, suicide and drug addiction, the subject matter of the record is - bar their space-age cover of Be My Baby – incredibly dark. The lo-fi wheeze of the title track speaks of the titular character “experimenting with medication”, whilst the fluff-on-the-needle noise-pop of lead single Lady Luck revolves around the motif of “cut the tissue, make it bleed”. Both intimate and distant, the songwriting is fiercely personal, and every single word that feels so heartfelt coming from RA!'s frontman's raw, raspy voice.

The main focal point of the record isn’t the songsmithstry or the depth of the lyrics though, because whilst it’s almost impossible to believe with the clean-yet-clangy guitars, the smooth drum samples and the intrusive synthesisers, this album is the result of a DIY-as-fuck bedroom project. Despite this, its musically so rich, seeing the bricolage of elements of everything great about alternative music; from the atomic synth parts of Liars, to the squeaky clean drum samples of DJ Shadow to the insular lo-fi pop of Galaxie 500 and Pavement; this album has all the right touchpoints, yet becomes something entirely different.

RA! craft a dystopic world of their own through combining their eclectic influences. No album released this year quite transports you, as the listener are put right in the shoes of Bella and her doomed lover; you feel the lusty youthfulness of Sugar in my honey’s eyes, you’re pushed into disconcerting lows and doubtful dizziness of the skits D-S=M and Poor Thing, and you get cut right open, deep in the heart with the album’s sprawling closer Our Fallen Church.

Although they’re no longer a band, Oh Unhappy Bella should serve almost as an artefact of DIY perfection sonically blowing the more perfectly polished world of indie music out the water. A perfect nugget of underground mastery that – if history is kind, and has any music taste – will be looked at in twenty years like we look at The Velvet Underground & Nico. “Only 40-odd people bought the initial run of Oh Unhappy Bella”, they’ll say: “but everyone that did was left gobsmacked by it.”


RA!'s one and only album is available as a free download from their bandcamp home page. We at vapour trail couldn't recommend it more as a record. CLICK THIS LINK to obtain and stream the album. Stream one song from it below... RA!'s electrifying version of Be My Baby

(written by calum cashin)

21 Nov 2015

Y2K: how the turn of the century saw the release of some of the most evocative, prudent and incredible albums of all time

Sometimes, when I'm bored I come up with little albums of the year lists in my head for whatever year happened to cross my mind; listening to the Ambulance Ltd LP album, sends me off on a sorta What Else Was Swell About 2004? journey, and hearing people reminisce about the eighties, talking about how great The Human League were makes me think 'it can't have all been that bad, right?'

Incidentally, I've been trying to suss out what the best year, ever, in the world, of all time was for album releases, and whilst I'm not sure I've stumbled upon a reasonable answer just yet, there's one year which has an artistic output that is if not the best, the most intruiging year for music.
In modern history, the year 2000 stands out as quite an odd, revolutionary time; not only did Jarvis Cocker and Deborah's retrospective catchup probably happen, but it was a time where waves of technology were slowly being embraced by more and more of the wider culture. It was to some a brave new world, whilst to others, it was a crazy, uncertain and even frightening time. I can imagine people feeling that it was very 1984, and artists put some of these insecurities into their music - a wave of amazing albums (which we'll go into detail about later on in the article) perfectly summed up a changing time with music that was so symbolic of changing social attitudes.

It has been said that music is the cultural barometer of changing times, and the aftermath of the Gregorian Calendar-following world moving from the second millennium into the second was a time where this was no different.

No album sums up this time quite as well as Radiohead's most arguably divisive record Kid A. After the release of OK Computer, an instantly heralded masterpiece, made the band one of the biggest in the world, Radiohead went into meltdown, and frontman Thom Yorke had a particularly bad case of writer's block - it's not surprising really; where do you go after releasing an album that is actually OK Computer? But the band took some time out, became obsessed with the consumerist critique No Logo, and emerged with the ever so evocative Kid A.

Made up of sound collages (Treefingers), electronic-based quirky pop numbers (Everything in it's right place) and everything in between. Almost unprecedented as a record, it was released without any singles, or any promotion; the ten bizarre songs that make the record up come together as one cohesive body of experimental works that in a way transcend the more tradition songwriting of the band's other output. The perfect curveball record, Kid A started the 21st century in a way that perfectly encapsulated the mood among the uhhh sadder realms of society at the time; it's a claustrophobic record full to the brim with fear, with uncertainty, and with an overwhelming feeling of numbness. Kid A is the obvious choice as an album that sums up the whole 'year 2k' paranoia, and I guess maybe I'd say it's my favourite Radiohead record, but Radiohead were far from the only band to evocatively capture such a mood at this uncertain crazy time in human history.

With a particular focus on the overwhelming developments in technology that came with the rapid developments of the internet, of mobile phones and of countless devices that might have even seemed batshit if they appeared in Star Trek, US indie visionaries Grandaddy were another band that captured the cynicism of the time. On their 2000 album The Sophtware Slump, the band built on an already strong debut with what is the most essential twee critique of the whole Y2K thing; they wanted nothing more than to strip back to times where the Earth was a more natural place, and encouraged a general feeling of wariness and unease in the listener. Lead single Crystal Lake, with its glistening synth parts and its cosmic whirr, told the story of someone from the countryside blown away by the enormity and the absurdity of the capitalist city areas. Jed the Humanoid talks about a robot, and Broken Household Appliance National Forest juxtaposes the natural and the manmade. The absolute crowning glory of this oh-so-cynical opus is the opening track He's Simple He's Dumb He's The Pilot, which is a spiralling 10 minute long masterpiece that sounds like it fuses different bits of songs together in the same way that Bohemian Rhapsody does in an allegorical way to tell the story of the 'year thousand man', who leaves the earth because it's such a state - it's beautiful, evocative, and the best of the bunch where it comes to Grandaddy's special, special album, which is every bit as perfect now as it was then.

Whilst Grandaddy's music captured lyrically so perfectly the feeling of the Y2K, over here Broadcast released their debut album The Noise Made By People, which was a record that had been in the works a long time. Lyrically it sticks to themes of interpersonal relationships mainly, but sonically it's much more bleak and much more dystopic than anything that broke through in the nineties. Clean, cold, and deadpan, it didn't break through in the same way Kid A did, but perfectly captured a similar mood. Songs like Unchanging Window and City in Progress, for me, are among the most innovative and amazing pop songs floating around the sphere of weird, quirky pop music. It's hard to describe just how a fairly twee-yet-experimental guitar group managed to create such atmospheric music, but frontwoman Trish Keenan's voice might be a factor in it; cold yet warming, soulless yet so soulful and human, this record has one of my favourite vocal performances of the entire millenium's output. Alongside Radiohead, this band are unparalleled in inviting listeners into their own private dystopia, and there's nothing about it that isn't just stunning.

Near conventional sounding indie guitar music of the Americana persuasion via the major label debut of Modest Mouse tapped into a similar part of the psyche, as the near unbelievable year for art that is 2000 saw them put out the Moon and Antarctica album. Hailed instantly as a classic by the likes of Pitchfork, it's a seventy minute album that is still considered the best work of American indie music's darlings. It catches a forlornness, and sonically falls halfway between the uneasy atmosphere of Broadcast and the uncertain lyrics of Grandaddy, which makes it another record symptomatic of changing times. But more than that, it turns that emotion into raw, beautiful art; take the opening track Third Planet; I can't think of any songs that quite grip you at the start of an album in the way that Third Planet does; it gives an emotional taster of the sonic palette that MM paint so vibrantly with. I always thought that the album artwork showed a boat on thundery tides, as I'd only seen it in small on Spotify and Wikipedia, and never really questioned it; but whilst that's really not what it is, I think that would have been a more fitting bit of album artwork for a record that so humbly tiptoes at a time of absolute uncertainty and at a time of real cultural storm.

On the subject of indie music around this time, it would be criminal to talk about great albums from the year 2000 without giving Elliott Smith's Figure 8 a mention, which is much more introspective than Modest Mouse's effort. With some amazing songwriting, Elliott Smith's forlorn first go at the double LP is one trip, which is almost ruthless and uncompromisingly sad, and whilst it has a few plodders on there it has some of his best work. It's an album very consistent, but I think it's notable for track 1, Son of Sam, which has an instrumental intro that just sounds like the feeling of uncertainty I keep mentioning personified.

So far in my exploration of the year 2000 I've gone through albums that capture a kind of tentative uncertain mood, which was surprisingly prominent in the prehis-Strokic (you can use that word if you want) time for alternative music, both in the US and the UK. I've written about five of my favourite seven or eight records that came along during this amazing time for music, and an amazing time for our culture. They all capture a real forlorn mood that was seemingly present accross the music scene before The Stokes and The Hives came along and shook everything up by making derivative (yet really fun) music the in thing. However, a couple of my favourite albums that came out in 2000 that reacted to the change in technology and whatnot that rapidly engulfed humanity not by sounding uncertain, but by blowing all comers out the park with mind-blowingly evocative post-rock.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor's seminal Lift Yr Skinny Fists album came along at the turn of the century, and still stands to me as the greatest post-rock album - in fact, I'd say that this period was post-rock's sorta 'golden age'. Four 20-odd minute long pieces of incredible music, there's a kind of euphoria in the slow building, hard-hitting climatic music of this band. This was so critically acclaimed when it came out, and I personally believe that it's one of the greatest albums of all time; vast, thunderous and full of instrumental segments that cover an awkward middle ground between classical music and ambitious guitar music in the best way possible.

The other post-rock album from this particular year is the second Sigur Ros album Ágætis byrjun, which whilst being released in Iceland in 1999, saw it's international release and main widespread critical acclaim in the year 2K; back then, all we knew about them was that they were from Iceland and Radiohead liked them, but now we know that the post-rock group are responsible for some of the most beautiful, soul-nourishing pieces of music this century. This record in particular was their first to see any international acclaim, but as soon as critics picked up on it - boom! Outlets like Pitchfork were quick to hail it as one of the decade's greatest releases, and it's sprawling sonic landscapes were soon to soundbed every totes emosh scene in BBC's TV adverts. The title translates as a good beginning, and let's be honest, in terms of a beginning for music in the twenty first century, that is one hell of an understatement.

These two albums for me, are - certainly in the terms of what is conventionally called post-rock - the two genre defining records for me. Sure, it wasn't anything completely new, but this birthing of great post-rock at the start of the decade meant that some of the most beautiful, serene albums ever to be released came out in this decade.

So sure; 2000 might not quite be the best year for music. Years like 1967 and 1994 remain perennial favourites among musos, whilst the likes of 1997 and 1984 are potential faves for me, and all of them are so different and saw the release of so many great albums, all different from each other in their own unique ways. And anyhow, it's seemingly pretentious to just judge years by their artistic output like this, seeing as I can't really, off the top of my head, name a post-1959 year that didn't yield a record I still love to this day. BUT, the music of the year 2000 that brought the underground into a new millennium is undoubtedly some of the most amazing stuff you'll ever hear. Cultural documents of the uncertain turn of the century the aforementioned albums are, sonically accompanying us into a new millennium with music that's every bit as much a sign of the times as Nevermind the bollocks was in 1977.

(written by calum cashin)

18 Nov 2015

iNDEPENDENCE fest review - day two

If day one of iNDEPENDENCE packed some surprises in the likes of East India Youth and Cold Ocean Lies' sets, day two blew it out the water with some undeniably incredible line up choices. Even with London psychosis rockers Yak stranded logistically in the wake of the attacks in Paris, the line up remained one of the best things to grace Southampton since Graziano Pelle first signed a year or so ago. (you can read the DAY ONE review here)

The Sunday morning hangovers were blasted away with first band of the day, Bel Esprit, who proved an early highlight with a scintillating set. Whilst their sound is essentially your average indie rock stomp, their set was so energetic, and guitarist Fahad Siddiqui's playing so mesmerising that you couldn't help but be knocked for six by Bel Esprit.

The roars of Theo Verney made his set of psychedelic trucker rock pretty damn mesmeric, as his full band got a serious heavy groove on for the whole of the set; think Springsteen gets really stoned and puts together an album of Leadbelly covers. By the same token, The Black Tambourines - a band who have a core following in their hometown of Falmouth but all too little coverage elsewhere - were incredible, and whilst not at the best I'd seen them, their thrashy garage sound of surfy nuggets was just the ticket. As they're a band who put so much more into their live performances, their fizzy stage presences made for such a great performance of the songs off of their brand new Freedom album.

The next two artists I saw were Tigercub and Kagoule; a bit of a battle of power trios. Tigercub were solid, with their sound just a bit of a sonic punch in the face; emphasis on 'power' there'. But Kagoule were truly mesmerising, one of the best and most incredible live bands I've seen all year. Tracks like Glue and Gush were probably the highlights, but the band's brilliant stage presence was more than enough to get me running to check out the Urth album, which I kinda overlooked on its release a few months ago.

The day's highlight though, came in the form of The Wytches with their brand new organist. A sound even more overtly sinister than their already visceral live shows, the band opened with a new intro number that wouldn't be out of place in a horror film, whilst the set contained the likes of Wastybois and Gravedweller to showcase that pummeling sound the band have built up a core following with. The highlight for me though was the bleach soaked heart-wrenching Summer Again, which is by far my favourite track off their Annabel Dream Reader debut. On of the most passionate songs ever written, it was so great to see the deep cut live, especially seeing as it had taken seven goes at seeing them to see it blasted out.

TOY's headline set was very, very good, with that collected psychedelia they do ever so well sounding as cool as ever. With a new album well on the way, the most interesting tracks to hear were new'uns like Jungle Games and Clear Shot, which look likely to be on their third full length, due early next year - both of which proved that it's definitely just business as usual for the turtleneck wearing dreamlords. They closed their set with a pummeling, swirling version of Join the Dots, a fizzy krautpop number from their sophomore record of the same name. Looking seemingly like they could produce these sounds in their sleep, TOY's set was just proof that they're rightfully kingpins of the psychedelic underground scene.

iNDEPENDENCE was a great chance to see some the UK's best bands in one place, so here's hoping it happens next year - a genuinely great festival happening in the heart of Southampton. Of the few urban festivals I've been too, this was probably the best, with such a good line up it was mad and a really nice unrestricted feel, you were missing out if you weren't there.

(written by calum cashin)

iNDEPENDENCE fest review - day one

iNDEPENDENCE, happening this weekend, was a brilliant chance to marry Southampton's vibrant underground scene with some of the best psychedelic, indie and alt bands in the country. Over two days, the festival offered some of the British Underground's finest a chance to showcase their psychedelic sounds to a south coast audience, whilst also giving the 'ampshire music scene's finest rising stars a chance to play on a fairly big stage.

Opening up the Saturday afternoon came a duo of psych bands that have graced the Lennon's stage with their presence before; Birmingham's Cold Ocean Lies and London's Hidden Charms. The subsuming guitar sound of Brum band Cold Ocean Lies was one of the most immediately captivating guitar sounds of the weekend, being halfway between the glacial crunch of Ride circa 1990 and the mesmeric psychedelic swell of Hookworms' Pearl Mystic album - in the studio, Cold Ocean Lies are an almost middling indie band with an underlying psych influence, but their live show on the Southampton Engine Rooms stage was a truly gripping ethereal tour de force.

Hidden Charms looked as though they'd been dragged backwards through a Brick Lane vintage market, and their psych sound that tiptoed backwards through every era of musical history; one minute they were having it large with a Nuggets-like psych-pop swagger, before popping through a Foalsian math-rock groove and finally settling on a clangy riff of industrial pop. Both Hidden Charms and Cold Ocean Lies really made a mark on me this weekend and I'd say they were among day 1's best few bands; two outfits with a lot of potential to make a mark on Britain's increasingly thriving psychedelic underground.
The Crookes seemed on the surface to be hungover survivors of the landfill indie days; baggy Hawaiian shirts, and a handful of tunes that would probably have got into the top 20 in 2006, but their live show's raw power and energy really won me over. Highlights came from their earlier songs; Maybe in the Dark gave the loud bit-quiet bit that Pixies did so well a Geordie twist, whilst electrifying closer Afterglow is just a scintillating indie disco banger that will never not be a fucking brilliant track.

One of the city's homegrown talents added some character to the proceedings, Saaaaafamptoning things right up; Sean McGowan, Joiners barman,
delivered a brilliant set next. Sean couldn't be more iconic of the city, even if he crashed into an iceberg killing Leonard DiCaprio, so his raw set of witty allegorical early Jamie T-meets-Frank Turner singer-songwritery couldn't have felt more fitting. His speech on the Paris events was truly touching, earning him a round of applause, but the set's highlights came as the local folk hero rattled through a heart-wrencher geologically set around the Millbrook Road.

Maybe the two most different artists on the whole bill were Sean McGowan and the following act; East India Youth. East India Youth - the solo project of Will Doyle - seemed, to me as an outsider having heard a bit on the radio, like it might be vaguely danceable electronic indie-pop with a sort of 6music friendly First Aid Kit alt-J type feel. But that it was absolutely not, as Doyle, making all the sounds himself, blasted out the festival's single most sonically invasive, and single most mesmerising sets. Pummeling electronica mixed with Doyle's almost hypnotic voice really shook things up, and probably sent the folk that were only there to see The Rifles running to the hills. Maybe it wasn't my thing entirely, but East India Youth were just something you couldn't take your eyes off for a second.

Gaz Coombes, arguably the only person from the entire nineties to put out a great solo record ever with this year's Matador, his silky sweet voice is every bit as majestic as it is on some of the more gorgeous Supergrass material - cuts like The Girl Who Fell To Earth and Buffalo hypnotised with Coombes voice sounding so glorious that it was easy to overlook the fact that he didn't slip a Supergrass classic in there somewhere.

Following suite and the night's last notable highlight was the psych-leaning indie-pop of Mancunian fast-risers Blossoms. Their legs all slender enough to send The Horrors into meltdown, their set gathered charming momentum with opener Cut Me and I'll Bleed, while other highlights from their already credible discography included the likes of Blow and Charlegmane. Before seeing them here I really struggled to get the hype surrounding them, but live they're just so tight that it's easy to see why they're selling out massive arenas all of a sudden.

Whilst the music from day one came in with such a bang, and sustained it, it closed with the festivals two more mediocre bands; the Sunshine Underground & The Rifles. The dancey alt of the Sunshine Underground had a bit of a groove to it, but ultimately was a bit on the lackluster, uninteresting side. The Rifles again - were a tight live band - but they were what I can only describe as what The Courteeners would be like if they were fronted by Super Hans after he got back on the straight and narrow. Largely uninteresting guitar music (albeit played well) where most the choruses were so simple Wayne Rooney could have written them, The Rifles were certainly a band that catered to an entirely different audience to those losing themselves in Gaz Coombes' heavenly voice and those absorbed by the pulsations of East India Youth, which left a bit of a sour taste in the wake of an otherwise incredible day of music. Southampton has one of the best underground and indie scenes in the country, and day one of iNDEPENDENCE was testimony to that.

(written by calum cashin)

Fever just uploading a fuzzy garage nugget and you'll LOVE it

The south coast - namely Southampton - has been a real hotbed for incredible bands recently. RA!'s experimental bedroom pop is the best new thing I've heard this year, Melt Dunes' heady shows of sprawling psychedelia are among the best live shows you can attend, and Palms and Pelicans are a field leading dream-pop band, with the emphasis being on punchy pop songs. So it's no surprise that the next band I'm here to make you feel in love with, Fever, are part of the city's vibrant music scene.

A four piece, Fever make that kinda scuzzy surf rock that just sounds best when heard at a high volume in a local dive. With a real slacker aesthetic, Fever are a really fuckin cool indie band that no doubt will go on to have a place in the hearts of lots of indie kids nationwide.

Their latest effort, snotty fuzz-pop banger Sucker sees an infectious chorus that drives the song along, and some brilliant guitar thrashes that summon images of Pavement and Supergrass. The main pull of this track is probably the trembling voice of frontman Connor Smith, equally gripping on every track they've uploaded, his punchy voice distinguishes Fever from some all too faceless indie contemporaries.

The band's material online is scant, with this and the rumbling Shellshock debut single the only things you can hear right now, but it's definitely not testimony to how bloody good this band are; pretty big in the local music scene, having played great support slots for the likes of Hooton Tennis Club and Yak, it's only a matter of time before they become beloved on a local level.

Hear the new track SUCKER below, and follow Fever at @FEVERTHEBAND

(written by calum cashin)

12 Nov 2015

Ko_Plune / Panda (single review)

Ko_Plune, a female fronted alternative four piece from Southampton, have just released their debut single, the charming funked-up soft grunge Panda.

Knowing nothing about the band, I was pleasantly surprised when I heard female vocals which sound vaguely like Paramore's Hayley Williams. Courtney Grey provides an inspiring and confident vocal take on the track, which is one of Ko_Plune's strongest assets.

The song, which is great; starts with a bolshy and loud sequence, which subtly builds to a dreamy indie-pop recurring riff, I am a huge fan of this.

The vocals are poetic and soft, which is complimented by indie-pop style riffs which where mentioned earlier, combined these elements have created what is a huge accomplishment for the band.

About four minutes in, there is a facemelting guitar solo, which I am a sucker for. The solo elevates the songs potential to succeed massively as it clearly reflects the tight musical talent Ko_Plune have.

Overall, the band's debut single is great, it's fresh, original and has elements of what is needed to make any song a success. Ko_Plune have also revealed through various social media sites that they are working on their first EP, which I'm sure will be another great release.

follow the band for updates at @ko_plune

(written by ruby kenwright)

11 Nov 2015

Hinds / San Diego (single review)

With just 2 months till Hinds’ release their debut album Leave Me Alone a new single, San Diego, has been streamed on their soundcloud.

Loud and full of energy San Diego holds nothing surprising, but it shows a lot of development into more complicated guitar riffs and a fuller sound.This track is quite poppy, but has a rawness that comes through in both Carlotta and Ana’s vocals and the way they work together.

Hinds describe this song as being “about staying awake, just staying awake” which makes sense as there is nothing terribly deep or heady in this track,  there isn’t anything that makes you want to cry. It is quite the opposite really. There is a very typically garage sound in this song as it is slightly rough around the edges and not completely, polished which personally I love, and is one of the things that makes Hinds a bit different from an all-too-polished wave of indie bands. Although this song is nothing new or shocking, it’s a good, easy listen and promises good things for the album.

(written by isobel mcleod)

8 Nov 2015

Beach House / Depression Cherry (album re-review)

It's really rare that I admit I'm wrong about anything. In fact, my October review of Depression Cherry, the fifth album by Baltimore dream-pop duo Beach House, might well be the first documented instance of me being wrong about something. But wrong about it I definitely was, as I called the album 'boring' and 'unexciting', I couldn't have been more wrong.

The review of Depression Cherry was one I'd written having listened to it enough times, but only in the context of having it on whilst milling about, and as I'm sure everyone knows, the pleasure any listener gets from Beach  House's slow-burning syrupy sound isn't an instantly gratifying pop sound, and more something you've got to let overcome you slowly. Maybe it's not the greatest record ever in the context of having it on during your brisk walks to college, but in the right context, Depression Cherry is amongst the greatest, most beautiful albums you'll ever hear. And as the likes of David Byrne (in How Music Works) will tell you, context is everything when listening to music: everything.

Since writing that review of DC, it's been a record that's grown on me so much that I spent nearly a week's food budget on a clear vinyl copy, to kick back and lose myself to. I think part of the album's charm lies in how raw the sound is on songs like 10:37 and lead single Sparks, which expose a beautiful side to Victoria's vocals away from either the wishy washy reverb or the commanding rasps of their earlier albums, as she sings in a way that is dreamy and ethereal without a range of effects pedal putting the dream atop the pop for her.

The whole of this album is unavoidably beautiful though, it really is; so beautiful that I'd rather embarrass myself by writing about it retrospectively now, than brush my bad review of the album under the carpet. Days of Candy has a really beautiful symphonic feel to it (as well as a synth part that sounds a bit Clockwork Orange) that is so life-affirming, so goosebump-inducing, and so absolutely beautiful, which is a word it's really hard not to overuse in a Beach House review. Space Song is an incredible number, almost signature, with its accomplished wall of sound and its synth bounces, while  Wildflower and Bluebird both keep up a really entrancing mood to the entire record.

Sure, maybe it's not as instantly beautiful as the prime cuts from the earlier albums; nothing knocks you straight for six like Myth or Norway do, and nothing is quite as instant or obvious as Saltwater or Zebra, but with Depression Cherry, Beach House haven't played it safe, they've pushed the boat out much more than I (and other reviewers probably) initially gave them credit for. This is every bit as essential as Bloom and Teen Dream, and if you don't think so, maybe you should dim the lights, burn some incense, have a glass of wine, and give it another go until you LOVE it.

heres the original review in which i gave it a 6.1/10. in hindsight the rating it probably deserves (not that anybody cares what we give albums is


(written by calum cashin)

4 Nov 2015

Dolores Haze / The Haze is Forever (album review)

Messy grunge with an undeniably cool, cutting quality to it, Dolores Haze's debut album is arriving in November, and it's a brilliant collection of work by one of the coolest upcoming bands in the world. Led by incredibly cool frontwoman Groovy Nicks, Dolores Haze are Sweden's coolest girl gang, with the band and their thrashy music being just the right mix of being mesmerising to watch and listen to and absolutely unapproachably intimidating.

The Haze Is Forever is the band's first full length, and well, maybe you'd question just how full length it is with its collection of 8 punchy punk rock nuggets, but that doesn't matter. This is brilliantly youthful, and has the same pummeling energy of Bikini Kill or Sleater-Kinney, making it perfect listening for angsty teenagers like yours truly.

The title track is Dolores Haze at their most punk rock; it's brimming with the lively energy that the band have in their incredible live performance. Similarly with the daunting menace of short number Milk, mixing up quiet trembling vocals with overpowering riffs, Nicks' vocals just build up a bit of a witchlike mythology around the band, as Dolores Haze seem a bit like the kind of band that might be a secret witches coven on the side of making noise rock.

Screeching The Garden is the album's last song, and probably my highlight; again, it sees Nicks' musical persona seeming so effortlessly cool, and this time overtly provocative and overtly murderous, whilst the rest of the band provide some of the more electrifying grungey guitar playing this side of the Atlantic, and that side of The North Sea.

It's a short, punchy record, but The Haze Is Forever is the kinda album that just suits the angsty messy haired teenage demographic down to the ground, and seeing as the band are one of the coolest live acts on the circuit, I'd ten outta ten recommend getting out of your squalor to see them on their next UK tour.


(written by calum cashin)

a mighty fine beatles playlist for people that don't like the beatles

I feel like a large percentage of music fans fall into two categories; bloody loving the Beatles having had them as a really formative band, or just don't get the whole The Bealtes Are The Best Thing Ever thing. Sure, lots of people feel somewhere in between, because the band were just really, really good and really, really likeable, but when I was a hell of a lot younger than today, I just thought The Beatles were really overrated and I didn't feel like I was in a HUGE minority.

This is a playlist for the people that similarly find The Beatles grossly overrated, because I too was once like you. But there's another way. Here's some of the band's most out there, innovative, and still sonically fresh material put into one playlist for your enjoyment and education; give it a listen, with an open mind, etc.

The most of this playlist is made up of their psychedelic, innovative stuff; Love You To, Tomorrow Never Knows and Eleanor Rigby all coming from the band's magnum opus, Revolver, which I'd say is probably the best complete album to listen to if you're a Beatle-cynic, because it's just so good.

A lot of the best bits on the playlist come from the band really trying to push boundaries; the backwards guitar on Rain, those moogy fades on I want you (she's so heavy), and the crazy musique concrete thing going on with Revolution #9. All of these should be adored and taken on board by fans of anything experiemental, because they're just mad tracks for the time, as well as brilliantly written songs in their own right.

As well as that, I slipped a few of their great pop songs in towards the end, because let's face it; no one hates Here Comes the Sun or Twist and Shout. NO ONE. And you can't even get away from the brilliant songwriting of Eleanor Rigby, Norwegian Wood or even I am the Walrus, which has lyrical brilliance in the way that - if you take away all meaning from them - the words sound fantastic and give the song a really great sense of momentum, y'know?

There's 18 songs on the playlist, so it should be enough Beatles to chew over, and make you rethink your thoughts on the band.

listen to it below or here

(written by calum cashin)

2 Nov 2015

BREEZE / Intro (song review)

Last Thursday, indie Birmingham band Breeze dropped their new song Intro as a teaser track in the run up to the release of their Debut EP. Only just over a minute long, the track may be considered short yet shows off with ease what the band can do so well instrumentally. With similar vibes to earlier song Sellotape, Intro quickly builds up in pace and captivates its listener with memorable and melodic guitar riffs which will stay stuck in your head for hours and leave you dying to hear what will come next.

It's - if you'll pardon the pun - the perfect introduction to an incredibly promising young band that you can hear below.

(written by jess fleming) 

Top 5 Galaxie 500 songs

One of my favourite bands in the whole wide world, Galaxie 500 have a very distinct sound that tiptoes beautifully between shambolic indie rock on the verge of falling apart and dreamy shoegaze, with all their music having this kinda raw, yet still ever so dreamy sound. Between about 1987 and 1991, the three piece created what was essentially entirely their own sound - no-fi psychedelia - which went on to be incredibly influential to shoegaze, dream-pop, and the wider spectrum of indie rock throughout the 1990s and beyond. Here is an UNORDERED list of my favourite 5 songs, as a little sampler to the band should soundtrack everyone's Autumn and Winter.

A good place to start, the most famous song by this band is a sorta lovesong that got a lot of rotation on US college radio, hence why it reached a whole new generation on the soundtrack to the indie chickflick The Perks of Being A Wallflower. Galaxie-era Dean Wareham's vocals are at their most polished here, and the band are probably at their tightest, with the production at its most standard for a G500 record. This is a really wonderful indie pop record with that ethereal feel, and the perfect introduction to an incredible band.

This is how I was first introduced to the band; it's on a MOJO magazine free CD from like, 2006 called Love will tear you apart, which is just songs about heartbreak - my favourite kind of songs about things. It has that trademark 'slowcore' feel, trotting along as forlorn emotions slowly billow out of frontman Wareham. "And I'm sorry that I love you" he murmurs, showcasing the band at their rawest, most emotional best. It's a sonic staple of teenage angst, and I can't help but feel that this is the kind of song you'll feel a kind of psychic pain by not having in your life that can only be alleviated by putting it on and going into a slowcore trance.

Blue Thunder
"Now now, Blue Thunder" bleats Wareham on the opening song to what is essentially the magnum opus of the band's career, the Rough Trade released On Fire. It's another really sombre number, which EVERY SINGLE NUMBER by this band is, so you should expect that by this point of the list, because the band only really capture one forlorn, autumnal emotion VERY WELL. There's a version of this I have on a 12', that has a heavy dose of sax and then a New Order cover on the b-side, which as you can tell is one of my favourite items.

Don't Let Our Youth Go To Waste
This is the most out there song in their catalogue, a sorta lo-fi free jazz number in which Wareham promises us "memories to rival Berlin in the thirties" as the song just clambers on with regular bluesy guitar stabs. This is where they get closest to their heavy Velvet Underground influence, as well touching on Revovler-era Beatles, being a song that is kinda like European Son in that it just doesn't slow down with it's noodly stomp. It's a charming, memorable number and I can't fault it as the iconic centrepiece of the Today album.

Decomposing Trees
An ever so dreamy song that is just loaded with the emotions of someone coming down from the psychedelics, this is the most essential Galaxie 500 song in their discography in my book, as its lyrics just describe the band's sound and their appeal perfectly. The parallels of someone coming down, or just slowly dropping in emotion in a more general sense, and the autumn phenomena of watching trees decompose are exactly what the sound of G500's music is. It's just an album track, and it's a totally ordinary pop song, but it is the sound of the Autumn and if you've never heard this band, do it right this very second now.

check out also - Snowstorm, Isn't It A Pity (George Harrison cover), King Of Spain, Summertime, Ceremony (New Order cover), Oblivious, Flowers, etc, etc, and anything this amazing band put out

(written by calum cashin)

The Velvet Hands / Games/Who Cares (single review)

This week we put up our review of Falmouth's premier surf-rock band The Black Tambourines' second LP, Freedom. Not ones to rest, the band's guitarist Sam Stacpoole has produced the debut double A-side of fast-rising Cornish duo The Velvet Hands, and it's a thrashy, self-assured gem that is the start of a very promising career.

The Velvet Hands, sorta like Beach House, revolve around the core frontal duo of Toby Mitchell and Dan Able - both of whom are eighteen, play noodly garage rock guitars, and toss vocal duties between one another - who tend to just rope in whoever's 'in the right place at the right time' to play the drums or the bass parts.

Their debut single is made up of the songs Who Cares (below) and Games (above), two energetic numbers that wouldn't be out of place on Is This It. Games is a punchy number that channels small-town teenage angst, as the two frontmen hurl vocals at each other in the style of Palma Violets' Chilli Jesson and Sam Fryer, except you get the feeling that The Velvet Hands have more than one timeless single in their arsenal.

The other side to the single is equally memorable boisterous garage thrash, and accompanied by a brilliantly psychedelic video that again, gives you the impression that these lads are channeling that small-town angst that was so prevalent in the USA's 1960s garage psych scene, as the band flit around a seaside town with guitars in tow. With a voice not unlike Julian Casablancas at his best, or James Murphy on the Sound Of Silver album, the singer of Who Cares has a punchy croon that perfectly matches the raucous punch of their sleazy garage guitar sound.

games/who cares is out now
(written by calum cashin)