28 Jan 2016

Vote Milly Toomey and Ask Martin : Unearthing GIRLI's Secret Past

GIRLI; next big thing right? London pop hotshot is hotly tipped to make it massive this year with her own brand of self-described 'anti-pop'. Kind of sounding like what Grimes would sound like if she were a Hollyoaks character, her music's loved by blogs and scenesters alike, but what most of her fans (about 930 if the views on youtube are to be believed, and to tell you the truth I don't see why not) don't know about is that she ran in her school's election a few years back.

You can watch the video below, and you should, but you know the worst part? She didn't even win the election.



And here's a video of her first proper band, Ask Martin (who we actually wrote a post about here)



You can read a big interview with GIRLI on the blog of our pals at The Setlisted here, where this and lots of other revelations leaked.

(written by calum cashin)

24 Jan 2016

DIY ‘Hello 2016’, Old Blue Last (19/01/16)

Could there be any better way to spend my inaugural visit to east London’s most infamous back room – the Old Blue Last – than in the company of some of the hottest new musical talent, tipped for big things this year by the indie powers that be DIY Magazine? No, quite frankly. Getting a feel for the dark corridors before doors opened, the night looked set to be an occasion to behold, and with four fantastic new artists on the bill, it certainly was just that.

Kicking off the show was London’s own teen grungers Fish, whose twinkly garage-rock tunes seeped out into the rapidly filling room like smoke. Frontwoman Asha’s vocals were sinister but mesmerising, a siren call dancing over a chunky bassline, not hugely different from the likes of Bully or a juvenile Wolf Alice. Brattish smirks and the odd tongue poke flaunted the four-piece’s infectious charisma, and ending the set with screams of joy and Strokesy guitar riffs, it was all smiles from the get-go both onstage and off.

https://soundcloud.com/fishuk

Irrefutably the highlight of the show, Girli came next on the bill. Her iconic pink dress code and unapologetically pure pop songs have been splashed across ones-to-watch lists since the end of last year, and anticipation in the Old Blue Last was pushed to breaking point when she finally swaggered up to the mic. From the first note of the 8-bit symphony ‘Girls Get Angry Too’, the room was a riot, snarky quips about feminism and teen sexuality spewing out forcefully over a pounding hip-hop beat. ‘ASBOys’ played out like a call to arms for the wasted youth of London with its siren-laden verses, and new material like ‘Girl I Met On the Internet’, an ode to the plastic princess of Instagram, mixed laugh-out-loud lyrics with video game sound effects to create what could easily become the most unlikely indie anthem of the year. ‘Fuck Right Back Off to L.A.’ (from the ‘Girli FM’ mixtape) also got a play, a true site to behold, as Girli and her partner in rhyme DJ Kitty flipped the bird in synchronised choreography over the infectious “fuck you”-s of the chorus. Closing on ‘So You Think You Can Fuck With Me Do Ya’ with a stage invasion in full swing, the most energetic and utterly batshit set of the night concluded in a hurricane of tampons, condoms and Hello Kitty chocolates being spewed into the crowd as the storm of pink fury ended no less suddenly than it had begun.

Assuming the night had peaked there, I headed outside, a decision I immediately regretted when the thunderous sound of Yonaka punched through the walls of the Old Blue Last, grabbing me by the scruff of the neck and dragging me back inside. There I saw frontwoman Theresa Jarvis half rapping, half howling to ‘Run’, the band’s phenomenal lead single, striking a huge bass drum at the same time, and looking like a total fucking bad-ass too. The few songs I managed to catch were infectious and primal, mixing elements of Florence and the Machine’s ethereal ambience, Savages’ aggressive no-nonsense lyrics and Haim’s trademark Cali-cool stage presence. Simply put, Yonaka are one of the best new acts I’ve seen in a long time and you’d be a fool not to check them out on their upcoming headline tour in March.

https://soundcloud.com/yonaka-1

It was at this point that the train home beckoned its cruel finger, so I didn’t get to see Beach Baby rock the stage at the old bluey. Sad face. Nonetheless, their latest single ‘Sleeperhead’ is an instant earworm and having seen them at Norwich’s Sound & Vision festival last autumn, I can confirm that their live show is just as rampantly fruity as their studio releases. They head out on an extensive UK tour with Sundara Karma next month, a show well worth heading down to if you can.

DIY, it has to be said that you sure know your talent. Ta for a fantastic night of free music and kicking off 2016 with a bang.

DIY’s ‘Hello 2016’ series concludes this Tuesday January 26th at London’s Old Blue Last, with free performances from Pumarosa, Cloud Castle Lake, Babeheaven and Salen.






(Words: Alex Cabré / Photos: Poppy Marirott)

21 Jan 2016

THE MAGIC GANG AND THE SECRET TO HAPPINESS

Brighton’s quirkiest new four-piece the Magic Gang are finally breaking onto the indie scene after months lying low, releasing sultry singles and playing small but riotous shows up and down the country. Now, with an EP in the shops and a headline tour on the horizon, 2016 looks set to be their year. We had a chat with frontman Jack Kaye about Derren Brown, the secret to happiness and the highs and lows of being in one of the UK’s most exciting new bands.

Kate Epps / Soft Pink (EP review)

Raw, soothing, and overwhelmingly heartfelt, the first EP by London-based singer-songwriter Kate Epps is a bedroom-pop gem you've almost gotta hear. Mainly focused around disparate piano chords and Epps' borderline-soulful voice, it's a five song EP that - despite the technical limitations of the format - touches upon pop perfection. The four original compositions (Smile is on there twice, once as a completely raw demo and another as the most well produced song on the record) are almost like little coming of age of films filtered into forlorn 3 minute pop-songs.

Prom queen ballad and Fragile are probably my favourite two from the EP in terms of songwriting;  "Are you happy? Was it all that it seemed?" Epps refrains on Prom Queen Ballad, almost summarises the really forlorn mood that she conjures almost with ease.

Smile, due to the really endearing touches of strings and lone guitar notes indispersed at the end of some of the lines is where this record - for me - sounds most like the bands you'd associate with the phrase 'bedroom-pop'; Alex G, Ducktails, Ariel Pink, etc (most of these aren't so inclined towards 'bedroom-pop' now, but you get the gist - that sorta sound). This song almost sounds like Lana Del Rey singing to Teen Suicide's Waste Yrself, which is probably the strangest, yet highest praise I've dished out all day.

I'd say that for the most part though, it's kind of meaningless to mull over trying to pigeonhole the music of Kate Epps; what we have here in Soft Pink is an EP of really passionate, powerful songs that will really resonate with a lot of listeners... it's a free download here so download it and get sad to it



(written by calum cashin)

20 Jan 2016

Amber Arcades - Heavenly Recs' Latest Signing And Your New Favourite Artist


Heavenly Records has been a bastion for what I would say is the absolute best kinda pop music for as long as I've been a big music fan. Last year came the celestial, kraut-pop record Y Dydd Olaf, as well as warm nostalgic indie pop from Kid Wave and angular neo-folktronica from Stealing Sheep, and before that the likes of TOY and Saint Etienne have found a home there. So it's one label who - when they make new signings - really prick my interests. Amber Arcades (stage name of Dutch musician Annelotte de Graaf) is the latest act to find a home on the label's roster, so obviously I had to check her out. below is the first cut from her forthcoming debut



Turning Light is the first cut from her debut, which is already recorded and should be on it's way soon. You're immediately taken into Amber Arcades' dreamy microcosm by the atmospheric synth-beats combo, which develops into a more streamlined dream-pop sound with de Graaf's dreamy reverb clad vocals. This song stands out from the field of dream-pop I get sent though (believe me, when you call your blog vapour trail expect every DIIV copycat to send you their freakishly unoriginal EPs), as it progresses into a whirring, other-worldly dreamscape, fuelled by the motorik drums.

This is much more honed than her previous efforts, which you can find on her soundcloud here. Her patiently EP has a similar dreamlike quality, although drums are taken out the equation completely, making her sound a bit like Syd Barrett. The five little cuts from this record, although unspectacular, have a kind of fantastical fairytale-like feel to them, much in the same way that the album tracks on Mercury Rev's Deserter's Songs feel like they're taken right out of Alice in Wonderland. Whilst this means that her debut - due Spring - could sound any which way this talented artist chooses, you know that it's going to be an intriguing addition to the Heavenly back catalogue.

(written by calum cashin)

19 Jan 2016

The Last Shadow Puppets / Bad Habits (single review)


I'm going to preface this review by saying I hope to fuck that the rest of this band's output proves me wrong in everything I write, but at this point - a few listens in - I'm really struggling to see that happening.

The Last Shadow Puppets are a supergroup formed of Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys) and Miles Kane (mod that sings sometimes), who put out a really good, cinematic alt-pop record about 8 years ago. What made it good, great even, was it's ambitious feel, and it's sophisticated use of strings and other instruments that Alex Turner's contemporaries would never have dared try to use - if you need a flavour of that, this Jools performance is brilliant. My Mistakes Were Made For You adds some beautifully caressing strings and horns to an already elegant pop song, and Standing Next To Me combines a real salsa strut with subtle, intricate strings sections. It's a really bloody good album, and their Age of the Understatement is one of my favourite side projects of the past ten years. But.

But.

Since then, 8 years have passed, and for Mr Turner and Mr Kane a lot has happened; a lot. At this point, Arctic Monkeys had two records in the bag, the stellar Whatever People Say... debut, and the Favourite Worst Nightmare follow-up, which alongside effort #3 Humbug are undeniably their best records. Meaning, well, since then Arctic Monkeys' output hasn't just tailed off, but it's fallen off the fucking cliff; what were once instantly memorable indie bangers, then near-essential strutting psych-influenced anthems turned quickly into cocaine caricatures and sleazy substanceless rock tracks, which has kinda rubbed off on the new Last Shadow Puppets song.

Similarly, Miles Kane arrived on the first LSP album full of ideas, yet to release a proper album and full of that kinda youthful energy that can make any decent indie band listenable. But since then, he too has burnt lightly, then burnt out, with his second album fiercely unoriginal, and kinda unlistenable (sorry Miles). And anyway, his music never sounded as good solo to begin with as it did with Alex Turner (sorry again, Miles), don't forget whose legs you're on boy.

Also, before this recent LSP reunion slash single slash album came into fruition I overheard someone in a record shop say that they knew a guy that knew someone that they knew Miles Kane had run out of money, and that the Last Shadow Puppets were going to inevitably get back together. Not a reliable source, I know, but a theory that makes sense. A lot of sense; "Miles, do you wanna come over to LA for a mad one with me and the lads?" "I've got no money left mate, come to the Mersey, I've had to get a part time job at Tesco Metro" "Hmmm [sighs], I guess I've got some unreleased b-side ideas floating around, we'll get Puppets back together" "Okay" "Okay."

So really, where the two musicians that make up the Last Shadow Puppets aren't quite the creative force they were back in 2008, so the single Bad Habits came to me without any real expectations. I expected it to be alright, you know? But what I got wasn't even alright, it was pretty fucking far from alright. It begins with a bassline far removed from the subtlety of their first record, clunky and packing precisely 0 punch that the yelps and screams in the background imply that it should have.

Similarly, the strings that made Age of the Understatement stand out are back. But here they're about as subtle as an earthquake. Loud violins and the occasional horns penetrate the timbre in a way that is so painfully self aware (you'd like to hope). But instead of being woven into the sonic tapestry elegantly like it is on the first LSP record, it sounds really dissonant, and just generally makes me feel a bit uncomfortable, and not in the way that menacing punk bands like The Cramps or whoever make me feel a bit uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable because it's just cringeworthy.

And the lyrics never really stray away from 'BAD HABITS! ooh! BAD HABITS! yeah!' in a way that kind of makes the main refrain unlistenable if you've had to listen to it more than once. Which I have, in desperate search of the merits of this song. By the time I reach this point in the post, I've listened to it 5 or 6 times too many to even think about putting it on.

In short, this is not the Last Shadow Puppets we know and love, but this is what we knew and expected. Metacritic gave album #1 a score of 77 as an aggregate of all the reviews it received - 'generally positive' reception that means - when it arguably deserved quite a bit more. I'd give it at least a 8.2 Best New Music out of 10. That was the age of the understatement that. But y'know, if Bad Habits receives a reception in any way similar we will officially be entering the age of the overstatement.

But anyway, like I said at the start, I hope I'm proved wrong.

watch it below



(written by calum cashin)

Public Memory; an eerie electronic outfit you need to know

The perfect soundtrack to an eerie walk home at night through a busy, the atmospherics provided by Robert Toher aka Public Memory are probably the best thing I've found trawling through all the PR emails I received between Christmas and now. Much like the more ethereal cuts of Kid A or Dummy, his latest track Ringleader - one of two songs you can hear from Public Memory's new Wuthering Drum LP before it drops - creates a subsuming, downbeat atmosphere that grabs you completely from the start, and invites you into Toher's warped, dark world.

Most the instrumental unease comes from a mix of percussion and a menacing Korg synth. There's something ominous about Public Memory's music that makes it feel like something dark is going to happen in any minute, creating the perfect atmosphere of unease. Toher's vocals - contorted and echoing beyond decipherable - contribute to this massively, as they sound plain ghoulish in the two songs Lunar and Ringleader.

Essential for fans of all things classic Bristol trip-hop, the Wuthering Drum album is coming out in March, and I for one can't wait to get my hands on it. Obviously though, you've not gotta take my word for it, so if this sounds up your street (it should) listen to Public Memory below.





(written by calum cashin)

18 Jan 2016

Mystery Jets / Curve of the Earth (album review)


A long decade on since their jaunty debut Making Dens, London’s most underrated indie darlings Mystery Jets have finally come of age. Curve of the Earth sees the five piece return in a refreshing flourish of spacey prog-inspired rock, streets away from the classic Americana sound of their 2012 effort Radlands. Telomere kicks off the madness from a dizzying peak, Blaine Harrison’s charming vocals soaring over repetitive scratchy guitars before Bombay Blue brings in a calmer sound, with downbeat acoustic guitars and a catchy and enchanting chorus. Midnight’s Mirror is dystopian and eerie whilst Blood Red Balloon intersects foot-tapping verses with the Jets’ signature choral vocals, clocking in at almost seven minutes but keeping focus until the very end with oozing effects and humming synthesizers. In keeping with the record’s extra-terrestrial ethos, Saturnine rekindles the sense of experiencing some higher force as Harrison recalls some “distant star in two lovers’ eyes” before hypnotic guitar feedback and buzzing keyboards melt away into the sleepy percussion. “Won’t it be strange to see how we change when we’re all grown up? Yes I hope I end up with you”, Harrison croons on The End Up, closing a fantastically effervescent album with the sentimental, delicate touch it deserves. 

9/10

(Words: Alex Cabré)


17 Jan 2016

Our David Bowie tribute - our favourite songs and why we love them



David Bowie has had an enormous impact on the lives of so, so many people. David Bowie changed your life? Of course he did. Our Brixton Boy's rise to stardom, and how he changed and contorted his image when he got there, and almost every single part of his incredible output is so inspiring. The man is a genius, a pioneer, a superstar and a legend, so I, a few of the blog's writers and a few of our passionate friends wrote a bit on our favourite Bowie songs for you all to enjoy.

Calum (@pearlmystic) on Sweet Thing (1974)
David Bowie has been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember, and certainly for as long as I've been a raging music obsessive. Picking a favourite song of his for me is like a parent choosing a favourite child, although most parents only have a few children (certainly only a few they actually love), and David Bowie has about 80 songs that I really, really love. However, for the format of this post I've gone for one - Sweet Thing (or on some releases Sweet Thing, Candidate, Sweet Thing, but it's just one sprawling 9 minute suite) - which appears on his 1974 album Diamond Dogs. It's a really long winding song, that starts with a low croon of "it's safe in the city/to love in a doorway/wrangle some screams from the dawn", which is actually the lowest pitched line in his back catalogue, and then progresses on a twisted trip through the dystopic microcosm that Bowie as Halloween Jack (his most overlooked 70's character, everyone just assumed he was Ziggy Stardust but also a pirate) walks you through. On it, Bowie's voice sounds its absolute most incredible, he rattles off some of the most perfect, pictorial lines ("my set is amazing, it even smells like a real street/there's a bar on the end where I can meet you and a friend", "But there's a shop on the corner that's selling papier mache/Making bullet-proof faces; Charlie Manson, Cassius Clay"), and as well as this the instrumentation is a dark precursor to the dark, atmospheric futuristic alt-jazz that would make Outside and more recently Blackstar creepy, menacing and disturbing. This track is a real oddity, it's incredbly ambitious, but I love every single second of it's swooping duration.

Poppy (@poppymarriott_) on "Heroes" (1977)
Picking a favourite Bowie song is almost impossible for me. I’ve grown up listening to him and fallen in love with nearly every album so my favourite song tends to fluctuate massively depending on what mood I’m in. But right now, at possibly the most crucial time, my favourite Bowie song has to be “Heroes.” It’s encompassing of everything I feel about him; happiness, hope and nostalgia. Every time I listen to it the lyrics mean something different to me, I hear a new aspect of the song I fall in love with. It’s use in popular culture and cinema (perks of being a wallflower/life on mars/horns) only reiterates how much this song means to such a huge range of people. Despite it not being so popular when it was initially released, this song has gone on to be one of Bowie’s most loved songs, being the most streamed song on Spotify shortly after his death. “Heroes” keeps me going through the hardest times, and as you can imagine the play count has rocketed this week. “We can be heroes, forever and ever…”

Rachel (@weirdfishes__) on Memory Of  A Free Festival (1969)
This song is wonderful, Bowie has this knack of transporting you to his world, the world he so expertly crafted during his time here. The song is a trip, a whirling melodic trip with bizarrely beautiful imagery and his haunting vocals. This is about being free, about being you, something that Bowie did unapologetically and gracefully. This man, this genius took all the outsiders by the hand and assured them it was ok to not be like the rest of them. Bowie defines the idea that being yourself, being weird is the only thing you can be, and that is achingly important. This song is an anthem in the greatest sense of the world. 'The sun machine is coming and we're gonna have a party' emphasises the attitude we should have upon his death (worth noting that lots of people chanted it at the Brixton party), he needs to be celebrated and honoured. We love you Bowie, you're immortal to us.

Izzi (@_yourloveswhore) on Starman (1972)
An extraterrestrial kinda being, greater than all the rest of the earth-dwellers and giving messages of hope with Ziggy Stardust as his messenger, a Starman. The idea of someone “waiting in the sky” is undoubtedly comforting and the persona surrounding this contributes to why this song means so much (to me anyway). On a personal level Starman has been there throughout my life, and is one of the first songs I can remember listening to and loving every second of. Through his many concepts, characters and creations Bowie has reached out and influenced generations of people all over the world for many many years, so because of this he can never completely die as he, on top of his music and image, will live on forever.

Ruby (@musicandkievs) on "Heroes" (1977)
I've had few memories of Bowie in my life, but one I can distinctly remember was my late grandfather telling me all about his notorious 'to dos' as he described them; he would go on about how Bowie revolutionised a new music style, one that broke all of the boundaries. A more recent memory, was the numerous house parties i had attended where Lets Dance or Heroes would come on and the whole party would raise their drinks and chant every single word. I knew this man was something special. My favourite of his (like I can choose just one) is Heroes, I feel it's so cliche, however very necessary. It's my mothers favourite also, so I pretty much grew up with this song blaring out of our car whilst driving around. This song screams flamboyant confidence in the most obvious ways, complimented by perfect whirring musical arrangements. When I listen to the song it instantly gives me a boost of confidence, which I'm positive he intended whilst creating.

Oscar (@weightsandfries) on Life on Mars (1971)
But my favourite thing about this track is how it has been used in countless TV and film titles- notably the BBC series named after the track. There are running Bowie references in 'Life on Mars', but the most powerful use of this tune is during the credits of the finale. Without spoilers, because you really should watch the programme if you haven't already, it really emphasises the ending, epitomising the main characters fate and how the story ends. This is a great example of how David Bowie's music can be used, and the palette of emotions he was able to create using his incredible talent as an artist. RIP David Bowie. Legend.

Laura (@senoralauraa) on Quicksand (1971)
Obviously, choosing just one of Bowie’s songs as an eternal favorite is an impossibly difficult thing to do. When I heard the news on Monday though, my first inclination was to go straight to Quicksand off Hunky Dory. Maybe it’s the melancholy sentiment this song’s always conveyed, but I think I really just needed to soundtrack my own crying about the loss of someone who was not only one of my biggest inspirations but also my best friend who I never met.  Anyways, Quicksand was what I listened to on repeat as I processed what had happened, and although I’d already loved the song before, its meaning to me has grown massively since then. The lyrics have such an uplifting message regarding life and death and existence in general – God, Bowie was so fucking brilliantly profound – expressing a desire to be more than human, but being “tethered to the logic of homo sapien.”  And, of course: “knowledge comes with death’s release” is comforting to hear because it’s so true, and now our Starman is out there in the universe somewhere, finally getting that knowledge, finally not tethered to the logic of the Earth anymore – no longer affected by anything that limits humans, and free to be literally everything he’s ever desired. Quicksand is the bittersweet send-off that Bowie deserved, and I’m sure he would want us to know that he’s not gone – in fact, he’s become everything.


Meg (@meggreenwo0d) on You Will Set The World On Fire (2013)
David Bowie posses a timeless ability to empower, and I continue to use present tense because a man of such talent, such individuality will never cease to empower those lucky enough to listen to his music. Track after track Bowie's desire for success implants itself within your deepest meaning. For me, as obvious as it may be (You Will) Set The World on Fire is (to me) Bowie's greatest empowering track. Bowie not only made it okay to be a freak, he made it f*cking cool! he made the outsiders sympathise with the "in" kids for not being weird, for not being outsiders, for not being freaks. Empowering and strengthening the little kids, holding up depressives when they fell down, giving that 17 year old an extra push so he'd finish his education; just a handful of cases where this track became much more than just a track on an album. You get a sense of meaning listening this track, a quality very few artists posses but Bowie, Bowie is timeless and that, we can all agree on.

Maddy (@maddymokeefe) on Lady Grinning Soul (1973)
David Bowie is a person(/god) I grew up with and has been in my life for as long as I can remember. I was so shocked that someone so immortal and permanent COULD die, and completely devastated that something as human as cancer was what killed him. His image and music are the most visceral, evocative things: he epitomises glamour and intensity. It was definitely Bowie (at least in part) that spawned my interest in fashion, dressing up, costume and drama. His face is utterly iconic with its jagged teeth, high cheekbones and mismatched eyes and I have always been completely in love with every part of it - he made it cool for a man to wear makeup and look like an alien. I can’t remember when I first heard Lady Grinning Soul but it is one of the most sexy, utterly beautiful songs I’ve ever heard and probably my favourite Bowie song (very hard to choose though). I have put this song at the end of most parties I’ve ever been to, cried to it, danced to it alone, put it on most playlists I’ve ever made and it holds so many fond memories. The pauses, fluttering piano and Bowie’s beautiful, weird voice are so sensual, completely transporting and atmospheric. I could listen to it forever.

Henry (@harryhenrysmall) on Under Pressure (1981)
Arguably one of the best duets by two of the best male vocal talents England has ever produced (if you've never listened to the isolated vocal track of this then you really must, hearing them push each other is incredible). I remember listening to this on a Queen compilation and being blown away by both Freddie and Bowie in my pre-teens. I'm pretty sure It's the song that got me into Bowie from just wanting to hear more of those vocals. For me Under Pressure, although cowritten, had some of Bowie's most emotional lyrics and painted a vision of what both Freddie and Bowie wanted; Bowie's lines focus on the idea of love being old fashioned as well as being defaced ('slashed and torn'), the need to challenge the ways in which we care about each other in our current world that we know is full of terror, while we ourselves are under the same pressure of trying to avoid insanity. It's an incredible powerful song, and a fitting reminder of someone who wanted to, and did in many ways, change the way the world thinks.

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here's a picture of jack on a phonebox at the brixton street party
Jack (@macdebarto) on Golden Years (1976)
My favourite David Bowie track is the first of his I ever knowingly heard, Golden Years. 14 
years ago whilst watching A Knight’s Tale I was given a brief but brilliant introduction to Bowie’s music. In the scene Heath Ledger leads an impromptu dance to the track in a royal hall. 
It wasn’t until years later I’d be reunited with the song as I began to break into Bowie’s vast catalogue of music. Wedged somewhere in between funk and soul it’s a perfect example how easily he could switch up his sound and master it just like that. Lyrically, its punchy and witty and the vocal delivery is wonderful with Bowie switching from crooning to near-falsetto notes with ease. Golden Years perfectly sums up Bowie for me and now I can fully appreciate what will forever be my favorite Bowie track, it’s bold and self-assured and unbelievably cool. / You can read Jack's blog Setlisted here

Anna (@annalaurasmith7) on Young Americans (1975)
Young Americans, the eponymous track off the Thin White Duke's ninth studio album sees him throw to one side all the influences he'd drawn from in the past and immerse himself in his self confessed obsession with soul music. From the opening piano glissando you can feel the influence of "local dance halls" and "swanky R&B rhythms of Philadelphia Soul", assisting the British musician in addressing certain touchy American issues. It took a mere two days to record, and over the course of these two days fans would gather outside the studio in Philadelphia, where they were recording in between Diamond Dogs tour dates, and Bowie built up a rapport with these fans, whom he came to refer to as the "Sigma Kids". Young Americans isn't necessarily my all time favourite Bowie, but I do see it as a perfect representation of the diversity of the enigmatic Starman's talent. / You can read Anna's blog here

Honor (@kittynoise) on Sound and Vision (1976) 
I think the fact that I always wish it was longer is a testament to how perfect this song is. It builds in such a cheesy feel good way, all ‘aah’s and ‘doo de doo’s before Bowie’s vocal cuts in, asking if you ever wonder about sound and vision. It paints an eloquent picture of a very specific location in space and time, describes what happens there and then leaves, which I think is masterful. The song almost feels automatic, as if it happened spontaneously with no intervention from any human. Ethereal synth sounds cut into the mix, a kind of audible sparkling, like musical glitter. This track is definitely the highlight of one of my favourite Bowie albums (Low) which makes it like.. the cherry on the cake. If you like cherries and cake. / Honor also had a hand in organising the Brixton street party last Monday, this feels worthy of noting

Georgia (@georgiamaesixx) on Station to Station (1976)
Only Bowie could make listening to two and a half minutes of mesmerising ticking and train noises an experience to remember. I've had this song stuck in my head ever since I heard the news on Monday, and it seems strangely poignant now. I love his vocals in this song, his drawn out lyrics at the start, all the way through to the eerie but awaited return of the thin white duke. “It's not the side effects of the cocaine, I'm thinking that it must be love” has always stuck out as one of my favourite lyrics of all time. You can't help but want to dance to this option of the song, and it's one of the most memorable opening album tracks. To me, the Station to Station album is one of my top five as it is just so perfect in such a short length. I'll sorely miss this man, a man who got me through some of the worst times I've had over the last two years, but this song especially has its own special way of lifting my mood. It must be love.

Charl (@primarycoIours) on Lady Grinning Soul (1973)
The first time I ever listened to Lady Grinning Soul I was completely and utterly captivated. I didn't know what it was about the song (or the lyrics, for that matter) that had me in such a state of wonderment, but what I did know is that I could listen to it on repeat forever. I'd listened to Bowie before, growing up I was used to my parents taking me on long car journeys and singing along to his albums, but it wasn't until that moment that I realised how beautiful his music was. I spent the rest of that day, as a thirteen year old girl who didn't know what she wanted from life, listening to the majority of Bowie's discography. I completely adored it. From that moment on all I wanted to be was David Bowie. He has inspired me continuously, and I will always be thankful of the music he has given us.



rest in peace david; thank you for the music.

"one of my most important inspirations, so fearless, so creative, he gave us magic for a lifetime." - kanye west

16 Jan 2016

Hinds / Leave Me Alone (album review)


Finally! After forming in 2011, Hinds (f.k.a Deers) have released their debut album featuring a mixture of new songs and tracks off their previous singles and best of EP. With as much energy and excitement as ever this is an album to dance, laugh and have fun to.

Opening with Garden, a previously released single, Leave Me Alone gets off to a exciting start. Garden is quintessentially Hinds with jangly riff and garagey guitars.This is a wonderful opener with such a strong chorus that’s so full of energy.

There is a slight language barrier in the title of the next track Fat Calmed Kiddos. First off the name could mean anything and I must admit that I can’t work it out at all. But it makes absolutely no difference because it’s still a great song. Carlotta and Ana’s voices harmonise perfectly together, and is evident of their development because now the two take on different melodies and have fine-tuned the relationship between their separate vocal styles.

Summery and completely ready for festivals is Warts. Catchy, poppy, one to sing along to this is complete indie pop.Following on is Easy with a definite slacker rock feel, it is a lot steadier than a lot of the tracks on the album, aside from Solar GapSolar Gap is the one instrumental on Leave Me Alone showing that the girls are exploring musically and straying from just playing lo-fi garage rock.This track has a definite influence from fellow indie favourite Mac DeMarco who they have cited before as an inspiration.

The slower tempo doesn’t continue for long with Castigadas En El Granero, Chili Town and San Diego three earlier released tracks. Castigadas has been re-recorded with more distortion being used in the guitars and a lot more thought being put into the vocals. The track has lost a lot of the roughness it previously contained, similarly to the whole album the sound is more polished than any of the earlier releases. Hinds as a whole are growing up a lot, but none of the energy or excitement has been lost in their songs and they are still as fresh as their very early releases under Deers.One of the songs on the album that has been there from the beginning is Bamboo;  it has evolved a lot since its first release with tighter guitars, cleaner vocals and tighter drumming. However even with these minor changes ‘Bamboo’ is essentially the same,and to a live crowd is an anthem.
Hinds aren’t a group of gals to mess with, as portrayed in both their lyrics, presence and image they are a tight knit gang, and this camaraderie is very present in And I Will Send Your Flowers Back. 

I could be your babe but I’ll be your man” these lyrics are just another reason why Hinds are so bloody cool is they’re strong females in a very male dominated genre. The last three songs on Leave Me Alone are a lot more mellow and chilled out which isn’t a bad thing, as it allows their musical talent and the meaning to come through the songs which can sometimes get lost amongst the chaos of songs like Garden or Chili Town. Hinds described the album as showing 12 sides of love, and they weren’t wrong. I’ll Be Your Man is caring, kind and soft in both lyrics and the gentle rhythm guitar and simple riff over the top.To end the record Walking Home could be pretty soppy but the surfy 60s guitar and typical Hinds-style vocals make the album end on a high note.

As I expected I am completely in love with this album. I think they have really expanded their style and explored different types of songs and genres more than ever. Even so Hinds have managed to keep everything that they’re known and loved for such as the sheer amount of  fun in their music.Similarly to last year I bet they will kill it on their February UK tour and go on to do some great festival slots. A wonderful album overall, featuring both old and new favourites.

9.0/10

15 Jan 2016

Autumn Diet Plans / Red/Yellow (EP review)

Nottingham-based Autumn Diet Plans have been around a short while now and following the likes of lineup change and also progression in terms of musical direction, they release their debut EP in Red/Yellow.

Their sound owes influence to a wide range of bands and from the second that thunderous opener Freezer erupts into a barrage of noise and effected guitars, you can pick out flickers of Smashing Pumpkins and 90s grunge and emo, all the way through to relatively new band (also from Notts) Kagoule, although I doubt this was any kind of thought to their sound and feel. This does however,  show signs of a band who have carefully thought out their path to a sound they want and the EP gives off vibes of a release which has been in the making for a long time.

All this is good news for the 4 piece outfit. The EP’s quality is impeccable yet rough round the edges as it should be for music of this feel. Vocalist Lew has come a long way from his shouty roots, heard in early Bandcamp releases, and the band now sound tight with the parts bounce off each other and create some interesting soundscapes and melodies. One song, which really stands out, is ‘Spoons’, which has a seriously catchy chorus. A big strength of this band is the fact they have such a wide palette of dynamics and can switch from ear splitting fuzz to delicate cleans in an instant.

If you are partial to massive 90s inspired tunes, with a side of emo then make sure you check out Autumn Diet Plans’ Red/Yellow EP on its release (January 16th).

You can find the band here

The EP will be available here from the 16th January - http://autumndietplans.bandcamp.com/

(written by oscar sault)

Listen To The Brilliant New Tacocat Track 'I Hate The Weekend'



Catchy, shimmering lo-fi indie pop from Seattle, Tacocat are among the best indie bands in the business. They've forged a reputation for their youthful sound and caustic lyrics, and a year and a bit since we last heard from them, they're back with a new song.

Upbeat melodies, scratchy Dinosaur Jr guitars and lackadaisical vox, this is very much business as usual for the Washington band. If you've never listened to them, it's a great intro to a band that you'll love if you're in any way into fantastic guitar music. They've got a new record out later this year, by the name of Lost Time, and I Hate The Weekend is a deadbeat taster of what is to come, and be inevitably fantastic.



tacocat are labelmates with the likes of chastity belt, protomartyr and shannon & the clams on hardly art records, if you wanna read up more on that label give our fave labels of last year post a whirl

(written by calum cashin)

12 Jan 2016

David Bowie / Blackstar (album review)


Blackstar is an album I first listened to on the day it came out, after trawling round London record shops desperately looking for somewhere selling a luscious looking vinyl copy - on the fourth time of asking, I found a copy in Sister Ray, Soho, took it home, and since then it's only left my turntable a handful of times. And most of those have been so I can put it back in the sleeve and appreciate the cut-out star of the ominous cover art.

With the deeply tragic and affecting death of my hero, David Bowie, a man for whom my tongue-in-cheek hyperboles are not fit to describe the brilliance of, occurring yesterday, Blackstar is an album that carries so much importance in the narrative of Britain's greatest cultural export. I don't know about you lot, but I had eerily prophetic worries about the Thin White Duke in the run-up to its release. But obviously I didn't expect us to lose Bowie 3 days after its release...

In wake of his passing, the final parting gift, the final work of art, and what we are left with by Bowie is Blackstar, an album of such poignancy and a genuine feeling of importance. The run up to this album gave it a sense of importance (and not the kind of pseudo-importance that say, Paul McCartney built up by releasing an album called New a few years back) anyway; it's the only album of his to not feature an image of him on the cover and it's the album with probably the most ambitious, experimental lead single. It's an album that feels like a fitting goodbye. However, I am most certainly not a mug and I won't give this album a good review merely because it happened to come out the same time he died, or however you wanna interpret the situation (I like to think he released it knowing exactly when he'd die), so on with the review of the actual music on the record.

Opening song Blackstar is a song I've already expressed my undying love for a hell of a lot, and with its furious ambition its easy to see why it's so well loved already; hypnotic Eastern instrumentation is juxtaposed with strong mystical imagery in the first part of the song, where David undoubtedly sounds frail; the imagery of the solitary candle is powerful and Bowie's sighing 'ahhhhhh, ahhhhh' croons make for quite the atmosphere. Then, the song - promising at first - takes a life of its own, as the instrumentation clears, reaching a melodic clearing, and David starts to belt out the lyrics as if it were 1975 all over again. Full of drones, swooning jazz instrumentation and dramatic retrospectively bleak lyrics, this is David Bowie seeing boundaries and eating boundaries.

The rest of the record has this fearless variation of instrumentation, and an array of juxtapositions that create a dark atmosphere on David Bowie's swansong. The discordance of the guitars on the gung-ho re-recording of 2014 single Sue amplifies the offbeat intensity of the song, made even more out there with otherworldly synths and scratchy brass parts that sound like they belong on Kid A, and the fact that 3 minutes of loose jazz noodling have been chopped from it makes it a more streamlined, punchy opener to side 2.

Lazarus is the song that has got the critics talking the most, and that's because there are so many glorious talking points. Thick, smoky saxophones atop an ominous bassline that coulda been a Joy Division classic, it's a subsuming song that before the Thin White Duke even opens his mouth, But then the lyrics - oh the lyrics - are just the most poignant gems on the record (I know I keep using that word, but there really are no other words for Blackstar). "Look up here/I'm in heaven/I've got scars that can't be seen", he croons on what is the highlight to his final record; the timing is so perfect, as if he isn't just living with his art like he did in the seventies as Ziggy Stardust, he's dying for his art too. Deep and affecting, Lazarus is probably the highlight for me, and the song that will be the closer for all his best ofs in the future, you'd like to hope.

Girl Loves Me is an angular stompy one that is sang entirely nadsat, which you'll know from the novel A Clockwork Orange, and it makes for a quite frankly real horrorshow offkey banger, sounding - as the best Bowie songs always do - like it is from another planet. Dollar Days is maybe the only track I'd describe as less than perfect, almost forgettable, but even so it has an air of defiance prevalent on the whole record - he sings about how he is quite literally 'dying to push their backs against the grain', which is almost like a perfect creative manifesto for the man, and a very good penultimate track to the album, even if it leaves more to be desired musically than the album's other six cuts.

I Can't Give Everything Away is the closer. The last song on the final David Bowie album. It's a fitting curtain call; a great goodbye - the final verse is 'I know something is very wrong/The pulse returns for prodigal sons/The blackout's hearts with flowered news/With skull designs upon my shoes', and the song gives an enormous, almost euphoric sense of closure, with the manic woozy guitar stabs and all.

On the whole of this album David Bowie utilises jazz instrumentation in a way he never has before, but unlike the likes of Tom Jones and Buble, it's not a front for conservative crooning. This is his most ambitious album since Low, his darkest since Station To Station (if not ever) and his best since Scary Monsters. I've seen a few posts on renowned sites like Consequence of sound and The Guardian quizically asking if Bowie wrote this knowing he was going to die; of course he did. This is a poignant, oracular masterwork; musically brilliant when you remove the context, absolute genius when you look at it as part of the amazing narrative that is David Bowie's incredible career as an artist.



10/10




(written by calum cashin)

3 Jan 2016

BEL ESPRIT: SOUTHAMPTON INDIES ON THE RISE

Bel Esprit are one of the more exciting indie bands in Southampton at the moment, which says a lot because the city genuinely has one of the best music scenes in the country. I caught up with Fahad Siddiqui, the lead guitarist to discuss McCartney, The Joiners, and the great city.