Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Tribes - Sappho

Tribes are the latest hyped guitar band to come out of Camden, and having supported the Mystery Jets as well as releasing an excellent EP, they seem to promise something new. Not in the sense that they are going to redefine their genre, but simply in that they are a band who seems to have the rare ability of writing good song after good song. Subsequent to the ‘We Were Children’ EP, Tribes return with new single ‘Sappho’.

Johnny Lloyd’s self assured vocals swagger over the track from the beginning; electric guitars and drums as a swooning compliment. Dropping down at first for the almost whispered chorus builds the tension as you can almost hear the attempt to add some controversial grime to the song. As the chorus is roared again to finish it off it is clear that ‘Sappho’ simply does not have the hooks or the sing along effect to draw in the listener. It all feels a bit similar to everything else coming out of Camden constantly.

The attention afforded to Tribes is growing every day suggesting that the masses like the song, so hopefully the album (due in January) will prove that ‘We Were Children’ was not a one off and the band can write some better hits than ‘Sappho’.

By Jessy Parker

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Florence And The Machine - What The Water Gave Me

The time has come we have all been waiting for and once again Florence Welch has used her witchy musical craft to begin what I am sure will be a great year for her, with a thrilling come back single. With the release of Florence and the Machine’s album out November 7th, our first mystical instalment has finally arrived. The question was if Florence Welch would trade her iconic sound which just over two years ago sailed her to the top of the charts for a different route, although I am relieved to say the realise of new single “What The Water Gave Me” has stayed true to Florence’s roots we all loved so much, however this time with a more soulful approach from album Lungs.

The single starts with an instant grabbing intro which grows gradually throughout the song, until we can not contain ourselves any longer and we are dancing around like a hippie, secretly pretending to be Florence. Yes the song has that effect! Folk-like chanting accompanied with a small choir, above twinkling harps, complex orchestral arrangements and a heavy smashing bass finally leads to her iconic quivering howl, adding that magical Florence loveliness we all love. I’m sure it will not be long until are twitter feeds are filled with lyrics taken from the song. Such as lyrics like “pockets full of stones” which was inspired by the death of English writer Virginia Woof, who drowned herself by filling her pockets with stones.

Florence’s two week stint with producer of album Lungs and new album out November Paul Epworth, seems to have paid off. Mind bogglingly feel good with that Florence and the Machine passion and excitement and thats “What The Water Gave Me”.  The mighty 5.32 minutes really isn’t enough to satisfy my Florence love though. Bring on November!

By Ailsa Morris

Slow Club - Paradise

Paradise starts off with a bang, soulful and punchy with electronic undertones, lead single 'Two Cousins' sees a departure from Slow Club's 2009 debut full length 'Yeah So' which was more of an ode to teenage heartbreak and all things 'twee'. Whether Slow Club have done this consciously or not, they will definitely shake off the twee tag with Paradise. Some of this album feels like it's advert ready with 'Two Cousins' sounding like the soundtrack to a KFC advert, whereas 'Never Look Back' could easily replace the current M&S advert. Although not quite so different that it's unrecognisable, this Sheffield duo's sophomore effort has matured with the band like a fine wine. As Rebecca and Charles harmonise on 'Where I'm Waking', "You've got something to smile about", rest assured they have something to smile about with this album. 

Featuring more of Rebecca's glorious vocals and trademark drums that seem to fully establish themselves throughout the album, Paradise sees Slow Club fully in their element. Although a lot more bipolar emotionally than 'Yeah So', it's great to see the contrast such as on 'Where I'm Waking' which is a discombobulation of crashing drums and shouting vocals where 'Hackney Marsh' is more mellow and acoustic. Although following the same themes as their debut, Slow Club have adapted their sound for the tricky second album but they've succeeded, much like Noah and the Whale's transition between Peaceful, The World Lays Me Down and The First Days of Spring, Slow Club are opting for a slightly more solemn approach which seems to prove popular. 

By Aurora Mitchell

Monday, 29 August 2011

Balam Acab - Wander/Wonder

The growing popularity of 'witch house' has brought a number of new, internet-based musicians to the forefront of modern synth music. Balam Acab, the project of young Pennsylvanian Alec Koone, has been one of the most talked-about artists representing the sub-genre. Shrouded in mystery, his music combines erratic synths, slow tempos, distorted vocals and atmospheric, natural sounds. ‘Wander/Wonder’ is Koone’s first full-length album, after the release of the acclaimed See Birds EP in August 2010.

It’s difficult to judge the album by its individual tracks. It feels almost wrong to listen to only one track then ignore the rest, this album sounds and feels more natural as a whole. Nearly all of the tracks revolve around the same structure, each one beginning with crackling noise and warped vocals, often building up to a deep bassline and stuttering drum beat. Each track blends together to essentially create a 37 minute lullaby, being separated only by a few seconds of silence each time. The silence fits perfectly, often complimenting the quiet, peaceful melodies.

The mystery surrounding Alec Koone and his music is part of what makes the album enthralling. With vague song titles, often consisting of only two syllables, it appears that the song’s focus and subject is open for interpretation. Although some might say the tracks on ‘Wander/Wonder’ don’t need interpretation, Koone is purely focusing on making beautiful, almost ethereal music.

Considering that Alec Koone is only at the age of 20, it’s impressive that he can produce such beautiful, haunting music that will encapsulate the listener from start to finish. If Balam Acab were to develop and progress with age, who knows what kind of direction he could take next.

By Calum Stephen

Jay Z & Kanye West - Watch The Throne

Jay-Z and Kanye West need absolutely no introduction whatsoever. This collaborative album between two of rap’s biggest has been in the making for nine months. Despite featuring together on a couple of tracks, most notably Jay-Z’s "Run This Town" and West’s "Monster", this is the first full-length album to be released by the duo. Originally planned to be a five-track EP, ‘Watch the Throne’ apparently took three attempts to finally complete, and while it is phenomenal in places, it is evident that, judging by previous efforts, the duo could have done better.

The album does have highs, the musicianship showcased on the album being just one of them. The music on every track is bold, vast and dark, similar to West’s excellent ‘My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy’. The production is distinct and compliments each track well, showing both rappers’ unique taste and style. The album’s main highlight, "Lift Off", is an outstanding track featuring none other than Mrs Jay-Z herself. The soaring introduction heralds BeyoncĂ©’s arrival before the outstanding chorus kicks. It’s an obvious choice for a single, but the correct one. It deserves to top singles charts all over the world. Other highlights are provided in the form of "No Church in the Wild" featuring Odd Future’s Frank Ocean, "New Day" which contains an auto-tuned sample of Nina Simone’s "Feeling Good", and "Murder to Excellence" which broadcasts the most serious message on the whole album.

However, it’s the moments where both artists have nothing important to say that bring the album down. Occasionally on the album, the lyrics focus around the rich, luxurious lifestyle of the duo, and while it is the lifestyle that most would love to have, it doesn’t make for good listening. Other lows on the album are provided when the music and the lyrics become cluttered and sound disjointed. The lead track "Otis" ends at the right moment, if it had gone on for longer, the sample would have became annoying. Thankfully, the album only has a small of number of flaws, which can be overlooked.

With a collaboration this big, you would have been hoping for album of the century. But the best rap album of the year will do just fine. Now, will there be a follow-up and will we have to wait ages for that to happen?


By Calum Stephen

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Bombay Bicycle Club - A Different Kind Of Fix

When 'Shuffle' was released a single, some fans were confused as to where the Bombay Bicycle Club they knew and loved had gone. Waking up the bleary eyed with a wonky piano riff, droning undertones and less formulaic production, 'Shuffle' is the point at which you can clearly see the influence that Animal Collective producer Ben Allen has had on Bombay Bicycle Club's third studio album A Different Kind Of Fix. Dissimilar to I Had The Blues... and Flaws, A Different Kind Of Fix doesn't contain songs like the instant hits that have made them so renowned through audiences young and old. For the North London based band, this is their most hotly anticipated album since Flaws charted at #2 in the UK charts which gained them plenty new fans who perhaps thought Bombay had found their niche and would stay with the acoustic sound.

Featuring on the Eclipse soundtrack, opener 'How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep' has become a fan favourite despite the fact that I doubt many of their fans actually saw the third installment of the demeaning Twilight series. The album goes from strength to strength as 'Bad Timing' is akin to the hits of 'I Had The Blues...' but sounding a lot more mature and with epic guitars of Interpol proportions. This is new territory for the band as they have released two very consistent and dare I say it, safe albums. There isn't a song on A Different Kind Of Fix that sounds similar to the next and Jack Steadman even treads on Thom Yorke's shoes in 'Still', where his falsetto bears a canny resemblance to the Radiohead frontman. 

New addition to both live shows and recording, Lucy Rose provides a soothing, female equivalent vocal to Jack Steadman's, producing perfect harmonious points on the album, most notably on 'Lights Out, Words Gone'. It feels as if they have really pushed the boundaries of their sound while still staying very true to themselves. Although A Different Kind Of Fix doesn't possess the instant charisma of I Had The Blues or the fairytale charm of Flaws, the record grows with every listen, it may not be that festival friendly but it's impossible to stop yourself singing along. Bombay Bicycle Club are releasing albums at breakneck speed and show no signs of slowing down for anyone. 

By Aurora Mitchell

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Bands to look out for #11

Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey has the spirit of an old Hollywood star in the aftermath of their fame but with modern narcissism.  She has aptly named her music 'Hollywood sadcore' and you could argue that there's a pretentious air about her for creating yet another sub genre for blogs to go crazy about. Her debut single 'Video Games' romanticises about celebrity life but in an old fashioned way which reflects in the video, which includes many clips of events including an Oscars after party, depicting a woman stumbling around drunk which sums up the whole song. This nasally lament puts Lana Del Rey into a good position where the likes of Adele and Florence have been blocking up the charts with their whiney and over reheased voices. It's rare that you find a voice as raw and powerful that has the ability to capture your heart and spit it out in the same song. You can tell she knows she has talent so it's just as well people agree with her. This one's for the bitter women sat with a cigarette in one hand and a stale glass of gin in the other.  Debut single Video Games is out October 16 on Stranger Records
By Aurora Mitchell

Katy B - Witches Brew

'Witches Brew' is the fifth single to be taken from Katie Brien aka Katy B’s debut album “On A Mission” and although taking five singles from an album could be risky for a new artist she has every right to considering the success of the album which entered at Number 1 in the UK Album Charts and recently was nominated for the Barclaycard Mercury Prize.

Despite containing an incredibly catchy chorus and clearly demonstrating Katy’s vocal talent, “Witches Brew” will never be as successful as “Katy On A Mission” and should have been kept as an album track rather than being released as a single as it appears to blend in with the rest of the album. Undoubtedly it will be played in clubs and pubs across the UK for weeks on end, but it will not have people racing to the dance floor as it seems to lack that Katy “spark”. However you will have the “oh oh oooh’s” stuck in your head for the rest of the night.

By Julia Christmas

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Oupa - Forget

Daniel Blumberg’s side project Oupa demonstrates a totally different sound to the scuzzy rock of Yuck, his main band; ‘Forget’ is a delicate and lonely record, with sadness pervading most of the tracks. A follow up to the ‘Weakend’ EP Blumberg shows off his emotionally charged vocals over a softer background. Opening track ‘Driving’ starts with a delicate acoustic guitar under pinning his reverb drenched voice as he moans “I drove too slow for you”. ‘Waiting For The Car’ and ‘Forget’ continue the melancholic, eerie feel, with Blumberg pleading “no, you can’t forget me now”.

The synth chords on ‘Physical’ compliment the continued torment which sounds as if he is desperately trying to make someone real and ‘Windows’ echoes the Yuck track ‘Suicide Policeman’ about trying to save someone. The album continually displays a longing to help and change things but ultimately it being a pointless effort.

Stand out track ‘New Home’ takes on a more classic song structure compared to the more languid previous songs. The drums push it forward as Blumberg moans “I’ve been waiting for so long now” before a distorted synth solo which again lends itself to Yuck’s sound, whereas ‘Those Are The Senses’ is a ten minute epic which gradually builds.  Opening with a slow guitar solo it is then caressed by vocals before ending with thirty seconds of distortion, a contrasting finish.

Occasionally the album drifts a bit but it is a small fault. It’ll be interesting to see if Yuck begin to sound more like Oupa considering its Blumberg’s more recent writing but only time will tell.  For now though ‘Forget’ is a stripped down proof of Blumberg’s song-writing talent.

By Jessy Parker

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Howler - This One's Different EP

The name of Howler’s debut EP is both correct and slightly misleading. With these five songs the band have taken a sound which is not very different at all, reminiscent of many bands, most notably the Strokes. But the latest signings from Rough Trade have twisted it into something undeniably more original than that. Howler are a five piece from Minnesota and they’re not short on press in Britain either, having just been named the number one band in the NME’s “Top 25 acts you need to hear”. With most of the songs under three minutes, there is a catchy, punky vibe to the EP. The raucous ‘This One’s Different’ and ‘I Told You Once’ demonstrate Jordan Gatesmith’s cocky vocals while the very Strokes-esque ‘For All Concern’ leaves Gatesmith sounding broody and menacing as he sings “I’m easy to love/and I’m easy to hate”

“You Like White Women, I Like Cigarettes” holds no pretence as the band soundtrack Gatesmith’s moans until he roars “I’m so tired of making out”. But the oddity of the EP is “14 Days” which takes a totally different direction to the rest of the tracks. The pulsing drum beat pushes the song forward but the guitars are swathed in distortion and it is here where it becomes clear that Howler are not just the newest American guitar band.

As finishing touches are being put to the new album, it is a very promising start from America’s most recent export. Just don’t say they’re the new Strokes. 

By Jessy Parker

Friday, 19 August 2011

Wolf Gang - Suego Faults

On first glance, it’s easy to be misled by artist name “Wolf Gang,” however it’s safe to say when uncovered, the sound bears no resemblance to that of cult rap sensation Odd Future” and secondly, would sound out of place soundtracking the sombre setting of the album artwork that looks like a daylight scene from an amateur horror film.

An unusual preconception to start with, on the first listen to opening track ‘Lions in Cages,’ it has to be said that the intro is promising, and whilst the simple hooks & riffs are reluctantly catchy, the chorus is practically incomprehensible lyrically, and the bridge sounds like a cringeworthy build up to an explosion of fireworks and confetti, the kind of thing you might expect at a Katy Perry concert.
The first couple of tracks embody a poppy, upbeat energy, with the feeling that Max McElligott is pouring all his passion for…well…nothing in particular into his falsetto crooning which quite frankly makes exhausting listening. And that’s only for the first three tracks.

As if soundtracking a cheap broadway musical, it seems as though a sudden trial and tribulation arises and the exuberance that we were so overwhelmed by has been drained when it comes to title track, ‘Suego Faults,’ conjuring imagery of not a gang of wolves, but a lone wolf under a spotlight encased in darkness.

One thing they have got right though is the contrast between that of ‘Suego Faults’ and ‘The King and All of His Men,’ which finally gives a welcome break from the similarity that all of the first few tracks seem to share. At several points I found myself thinking, “haven’t I already heard this one?” only to look at the tracklisting and see that I was actually halfway through a song.

Towards the end of the album, it feels as though ‘Wolf Gang’ are starting to lose the direction, which was never really clear to begin with, the tone begins to get darker and heavier however it feels as though all that shrill wailing has exhausted him and there’s nothing in the songs that grabs your attention.

Admittedly, it feels like McElligott has genuinely tried really hard with his debut album but the feeling of inexperience doesn’t make for an intriguing naivety, it’s the kind of inexperience that makes the album sound more as though it’s made up of demos recorded on a karaoke machine.

In places it feels as though he’s run out of sounds and lyrics making for an overall patchy record full of futile repetition in order to bulk out the otherwise empty gaps that needed filling for the sake of it, however his sense of determination and ambition (the album is a lengthy 13 songs all around 4 minutes long,) you get the feeling that you perhaps should want to like him, just incase it does pick up, yet way before the end you’re left feeling severely disappointed. His perseverance results in a couple of listenable tracks that wouldn’t go amiss on a playlist for alternative newcomers to the top 40, in all honesty I think if I were blindfolded and told that this was a Scissor Sisters comeback album then I probably wouldn’t have been all that surprised.

Wolf Gang is comparable to what can only be described as the morally questionable lovechild of MGMT, Mika and Everything Everything, there’s something very familiar and played out about it. 

By Bella Roach

Fleet Foxes @ Brighton Dome 16/08/11 - Live Review

The last time Fleet Foxes played a show in Brighton it was at the Audio. A venue with a capacity of one hundred people and a reputation for hosting new and upcoming bands. Three years on and Fleet Foxes return to the south east coast, only this time to make their presence felt at the sold out Dome. They’re predictably and noticeably a bigger band today than they were three years ago and with a second album now in their locker, Fleet Foxes are recognised worldwide as one of, if not the best band in modern folk music. Tickets for the show flew out in no time and the lucky two thousand odd fans who managed to get their hands on a ticket, patiently stood in the packed out concert hall, quietly and eagerly awaiting the bands entrance. The pre gig build up to this show created a real buzz within the city, with many predicting it to be a somewhat perfect and memorable occasion.
The venue’s Victorian appearance partnered with an attentive, appreciative crowd paved the way for Fleet Foxes to be at their best and make for, maybe not a perfect occasion but a thoroughly special one. The show starts slowly, an awkward introduction from frontman Robin Pecknold turns into a stunning rendition of ‘The Cascades’. An opener that showcases his acoustic talent and ability to draw in the audience with two minutes of guitar playing. It grows into an emotional set from the Seattle band, with many members of the audience clearly moved by the intensity of the performance. Harmonies seemed to float around the venue at ease whilst the mandolins and organs blended effortlessly into their surroundings, setting up a night that not only sounded dazzling but looked it too. Playing an array of songs from both their self titled debut and ‘Helplessness Blues’, the set was watched in complete silence at most times. Many including myself, were far too engaged with the performance to form any reaction at all. ‘Helplessness Blues’ marks the end of the night for Fleet Foxes, and causes Brighton Dome to erupt into a rightly timed applause.

By Josh Barrow

Neon Indian - Polish Girl

Just as the hypnotic charms of Neon Indian's debut 'Psychic Chasms' echo and fade away on an ocean of former blog-buzz, Alan Palomo instantly thrusts his way back into people's heads with yet another irresistible slice of electro-pop mastercraft. Along the same lines of the blueprint set out on his debut, 'Polish Girl' trundles along joyfully like an ice-cream van in space. The bleepy synth hook the song centres around is an un-relenting earworm which resonates gleefully, recalling songs from the first album's upbeat pop sensibilities (Sleep Paralysist, Local Joke) 

It's not a massive stylistic shift from Neon Indian's earlier work, unlike the recent work of genre compadres Toro y Moi and Washed Out both of whom pursued polarising directions to escape the clutches of the omni-present application of the 'chillwave' tag.

While 'Polish Girl' is not exactly a revolutionary step forward, it serves as a befitting taster to forthcoming album 'Era Extrana' and will undoubtedly keep the core fans happy. The album is shaping up to show some signs of progression however, a three part instrumental and the other turbo-charged early release song 'Fallout' both seem promising in making sure Neon Indian is still very much a relevant and interesting prospect. 

By Toby McCarron

Male Bonding - Endless Now

There have been records released this year that have drawn so heavily from a particular era or place that they have simply become a pastiche of the sound associated with it (we’re looking at you Yuck). Endless Now could easily have been one of those records. Male Bonding’s debut was an excellent album that wore it’s influences proudly on it’s sleeve and allowed it to fit perfectly alongside contemporaries like Vivian Girls or Wavves, but Endless Now casts off the fuzz that characterised Nothing Hurts and is a far better record for it. A glorious, clattering adrenaline rush that only relents on ‘The Saddle’ a melancholy acoustic number that uses it’s short running time to perfectly demonstrate that Male Bonding are great songwriters and that the layers of guitars and frenetic drums are not a disguise but an aesthetic choice that enhances the emotional core of the tracks.

 The album peaks with the stunning ‘What’s That Scene’, the closest the album comes to an anthem, it simultaneously recalls Blink-182 angst and No Age’s knack for intricate yet shambolic riffs and it’s all drenched in a sea of reverb that only adds to the anthemic quality. Instead of rehashing what made their debut great, male Bonding have expanded and adjusted, crafting an album that is at once delicate and brutal, euphoric and melancholy. A truly brilliant album.


By Ned Powley

Fantasy Rainbow - Interview

At only 18, Oliver Catt (Fantasy Rainbow) has two EPs under his belt and has already been receiving praise for his music with airplay from XFM and BBC 6Music. He very recently released his second EP 'Teens' through independent label Tiny Lights Recordings. With untainted talent, Oliver creates relaxing guitar riffs to accompany both canned and natural vocals. We speak to Oliver about everything from his recent radio attention to The Simpsons;

You're signed to label Tiny Lights Recordings, how did this come about?
Basically, my first demo got ‘Demo of the Month’ in an awesome independent music magazine called NARC magazine which is based in Newcastle, then I read somewhere that one of the writers, Paul, was starting up a record label and I got in touch with him about it and from there we decided to put out an EP, and then that came out on Monday. So yeah.

You released 'Demo #1' in May in which the artwork depicted two girls with cats for heads, what made you choose this for the artwork?
A friend of mine who’s really bad ass at photography basically doctored two photos together and I saw it and just thought it was pretty funny, that’s pretty much the main reason I chose it, plus topless girls are cool.

'Demo #1' has a very DIY feel and has a distinct acoustic sound, was it important for you to create a certain sound?
I suppose it was pretty important to get a distinctive sound, i’m not sure, my best friend Jonny did all of the production on that record and he and I both basically had an idea of what we wanted the record to sound like so when it came to mixing it he was pretty confident with what he was doing. The only thing I ever said was “add more reverb and turn the vocals down” so he pretty much just got to make something we would both be proud of.

Your new EP 'Teens' has just been released which sounds a lot louder to previous material, was the recording process different to previous material?
The difference between the two records is that the first one was done in the same way me and Jonny have recorded for years and years in that I’d have a basic idea and then just kind of make up what we were doing on the day. With the second record I wrote a lot of it using a loop pedal so the songs are based around a lot of repetitive phrases and layering, which i think is pretty audible in the songs. Another big difference was for the first time ever, it wasn’t just me and Jonny doing it, it got sent away for mastering by Jack Laidlaw who used to be in the band The Motorettes which was pretty exciting, so it was more than one persons take on it.

What do you do when you're not making music?
The majority of my time is spent either making music or listening to music. When I’m not making music I’m listening to it. I’m a big lover of new music and I have a lot of friends who troll the internet for new music to review. My friend Ayesha writes for the 405 and I pretty much just check her Spotify playlists everyday to listen to new bands, she’s recently turned me on to ‘Meth Teeth’ and ‘So Cow’ who are two really awesome bands.

What was it like when you played your first live gig as Fantasy Rainbow?
The first live gig was really weird, I was totally nervous ‘cause I’d never played live on my own before, plus I had my friend Jack making comments like “don’t fall out with your loop pedal” etc, so it was a pretty surreal experience. Oh, something in the back line blew and I went on like 2 hours after I meant to, so by that point everyone was pretty drunk so I think it went down pretty well.

You've recently had airplay from XFM and BBC 6 Music, how did it feel to know you were getting radio coverage?
Radio coverage is weird, ‘cause you don’t know who’s listening or if they like you and you don’t often get much feedback so it’s sort of like it happens and you’re more excited than everyone else and then it’s over. It is really cool though, knowing people all over the country are listening to you. Plus, when it’s stations you actually listen to it feels pretty cool.

Are there any plans to do a tour as of yet?
There’s things in place to do a tour but nothing is concrete yet. I’d be really excited to do a tour though and I really hope it comes off.

I know that you like The Simpsons, who's your favourite character and why?
Hands down Lenny Leonard, him and Carl make the show. I just love that his apartment is half squash court, he had the first HD TV in Springfield and that he carved Mt. Carlmore. Yeah, basically he’s just the greatest man to ever live.

By Aurora Mitchell

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Marina and the Diamonds - Fear and Loathing

Posted on the 4th day of the London riots, this new track from Marina and the Diamonds (posted under the alias Electra Heart on Youtube) feels like a fitting message towards the rioters, in the words of Marina, "There is no crime in being kind". Moving away from the bouncy pop hits from 'Family Jewels', a more cinematic approach has been taken towards her song writing.  Perhaps this is Marina Diamandis' way of telling people to sit up and listen because she's not just a one trick pony. 

Starting with stacatto beats that sound like morse code and nuanced synths, this is a world away  from Marina's previous work. Although she has kept her trademark vocals, in the video for 'Fear And Loathing', she hastily chops her hair off to signify a new start. Lyrically, she has grown up and it feels like she's delving into the deep core of her emotional stream. She has worded them in such a way that it has her own personal touch on it, confessing "I've lived a lot of different lives/Been different people many times". 'Fear and Loathing' will hit a nerve with many as Marina has encapsulated the thoughts of those who cannot face up to reality and can't admit their own flaws. 

By Aurora Mitchell

The War On Drugs - Come To The City

Philadelphia-based band The War On Drugs started off with songwriter Adam Granduciel and Kurt Vile, but slowly evolved into a fully fledged band, almost a collective. After their debut albumWagonwheel Blues, they have spent 3 years writing and recording their sophomore effort Slave Ambient which is out August 16th on Secretly Canadian.
Single “Come To The City” sounds just as stadium-rock friendly as Arcade Fire. With a theatrical introduction, echoing drums and vocals that any frontman would be jealous of, you can’t help but speculate that The War On Drugs are headed for the same commercial success as Arcade Fire. The whole production is tinged with 80s influences, notably Bruce Springsteen along with Dinosaur Jr. which is not surprising as J Mascis and Kurt Vile have toured together earlier this year. All bands aspire to evoke emotions in their music and convey a sense of atmosphere, “Come To The City” is epic and grandiose, designed for fist pumping and those “I’m going to sort my life out” epiphanies.

By Aurora Mitchell

Monday, 15 August 2011

The Drums - Money

‘Money’ is the first single off The Drums’ forthcoming album ‘Portamento’ and, despite lacking original guitarist Adam Kessler, it does not lose any of the trademark sounds which many associate with the band. Jonathan Pierce’s falsetto vocals cut across the pulsing drum beat and repetitive guitar part as he croons ‘I want to buy you something/but I don’t have any money’. The addition of some sing along ‘oohs’ mean that the song will linger in your head for at least the rest of the day.

Arguably it would have been more impressive to see The Drums develop the sound away from the Summertime EP and eponymous debut album but if you are still looking for catchy guitar music it is clear that ‘Portamento’ is going to easily live up to the standards the band have already proven they can reach.

Portamento is available on 12th October

By Jessy Parker

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Das Racist - Michael Jackson

The first cut from upcoming debut Relax, Michael Jackson is a wonderfully snarky beast of a track. It’s a world away from the egotistical wordplay of Lil B, Gucci Mane and Tyler that has come to characterise the state of rap this year. The back-and-forth between frontmen Heems and Kool A.D is remarkable, the former’s hoarse tones offset by the latter’s smooth, bleary-eyed flow. The backbone to the track is a pummelling beat littered with vaguely oriental samples, an ingenious counter-point to the aggression that defines the track.  And best of all, it boasts a chorus that is simply enormous in scale, a harsh blade ripping through the hordes of rappers who use a minimalist style to disguise their lack of talent.  Das Racist have always been ahead of their contemporaries in terms of their credibility, but Michael Jackson sees them soar above those around them with flair, wit and righteous ire. Also, it wins points for at no point using the word swag, making it the first rap release this year to do so. Well done Das Racist, gold stars all round.

By Ned Powley

Dum Dum Girls - Coming Down

Dum Dum Girls are a girl group who formed in 2008 which consists of Dee-Dee, Jules, Bambi and Sandy. Last year saw the release of their debut full length I Will Be on Sub Pop, which was warm and fuzzy with lo-fi treats galore including danceable hits “Jail La La” and “Bhang Bhang I’m A Burnout.” Although they have often been compared to 60s girl groups, the distorted vocals and pounding drum beats they use mean that there is also a shoegaze element to it; reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine.
With new album Only In Dreams being released 27 September on Sub Pop, new single “Coming Down” surfaced on the internet as a free download from the band’s website. Any lo-fi tags associated with Dum Dum Girls will quickly be dispersed as this new song showcases piercing female vocals from Dee Dee alongside more polished guitars. A sobering effort compared to old material, “Coming Down” is like a mellow come-down from a hazy drug trip. Slow and lovelorn, this wouldn’t sound out of place as a track on a heartbreakingly romantic 80s film soundtrack.

By Aurora Mitchell

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Bands to look out for #10

It feels like it's been a long time coming but finally we reached our 10th band to look out for! Liverpool based Outfit have been talked about by the most important people regarding new bands, Guardian Band of the Day's Paul Lester and NME's New Music Editor Matt Wilkinson. Although single 'Two Islands' takes a while to kick in, simmering slowly with faint percussion and atmospheric guitars for a minute exactly, ricocheting piano jumps in and crooning vocals. They're signed to Double Denim and that comes as no surprise since they share the same label with Stay+ (formerly Christian AIDS), also seemingly playing up to their mystery as the former two and obscuring their faces (as shown in above photo, which bears similarity to Neil Krug's Skying shots for The Horrors). With a band name like 'Outfit', they're going to be almost as Google unfriendly as Girls. B side to 'Two Islands', 'Vehicles' shows a more upbeat side to the band but not in a chaotic way that many bands seem to end up doing, it's like trying to stuff your whole wardrobe into a suitcase, it just doesn't work. 'Two Islands' sounds like it could be a B Side to a Wild Beasts single and that's definitely a good thing.
Debut single Two Islands/Vehicles 7" comes out 12th September on Double Denim

By Aurora Mitchell

Laura Marling - Sophia

After a more than successful 2010, Laura Marling's music has returned to our ears this month with new single 'Sophia', taken from the forthcoming album 'A Creature I Don't Know'. The 21 year old has quietly gone about her business, picking up two Mercury Prize nominations and a Brit Award along the way, making it easy to forget that the acknowledged solo artist we know today began her career singing backing vocals for Noah and The Whale and collaborating with Mystery Jets and The Rakes. Perhaps though, the reason for this is that with every release Marling evidently grows as an artist, taking further strides and improving on her previous attempts. 'Sophia' doesn't stray from this pattern however it does unravel a much more contemporary folk feel than that of Marling's back catalogue. A risk no doubt, but one that pays off with every second of the song. 

'Sophia' is a different direction, it's a song that shows progression. It grows from a dark seed into a bright flower. Opening with soft vocals and gentle chords, Marling reveals her usual charm with her voice so delicate it's as though she is speaking in conversation directly at you. Before long the transformation unfolds and the Hampshire born artist announces something far more melodic. A string quartet and electric guitars are introduced as the song reaches it's climax, turning from an unhurried ballad into a pitch perfect harmony. With the additional band and backing vocals, 'Sophia' is the birth of Marling's first anthem. A beautiful, poetic release that stays true to her graceful past, but creates something that not only feels good but jumps over the fences that Laura Marling had only previously pushed at.
By Josh Barrow

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Grouplove - Tongue Tied

Californian five-piece Grouplove specialise in catchy, summery songs. This latest release, from forthcoming album ’Never Trust a Happy Song’, is no different. After a short acoustic intro, a shimmering, glorious melody kicks in, and your fixation with this song has begun. The rest of the song continues along the same lines, with a hypnotic chorus and a soaring bridge to finish, leaving the listener craving for more.

It doesn’t matter whether you listen to this song once or constantly, its melody will sneak into your head and never escape. Not that you’ll complain, you’ll be too in love with Grouplove to even notice.

By Calum Stephen

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Jay Z & Kanye West - Otis

"I invented swag" boasts Jay-Z on ‘Otis’, the second track to be released from the highly-anticipated collaboration between himself and Kanye West; a rap supergroup dubbed as The Throne. With the modern rap scene currently populated by shock factor lyrics spat out by kids barely out of their teens, the two titans are back to show who is still best. This track heavily samples Otis Redding’s ‘Try a Little Tenderness’, showcasing both Jay-Z and Kanye’s love of sampling older music. Both artists, Hova and Yeezy as they are referred to in this track, swap verses, slowly building up to a climax where Kanye announces "We killin’ ‘em".

With razor-sharp lines and a strong chemistry between them, it’s clear that both artists are intending on taking back the limelight, and it seems no one is fit enough to stop them.

By Calum Stephen

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Kai Fish - Cobalt Cheeks

Kai Fish’s day job is playing bass guitar in London band Mystery Jets, but in his spare time he has also written songs for the likes of Mark Ronson and The Count and Sinden. He has described his forthcoming debut solo album, ‘Life in Monochrome’, as ‘introspective’ and the first single from it certainly backs up his statement. Starting slowly with a simple guitar motif below Fish’s baritone voice it soon builds into a wave of distorted guitars and Fish asking "Will you come with me?". The tone of the track is very much self-reflecting and a leap away from the sonically lighter work of his alma-mater Mystery Jets. It bodes well for the album, and serves well as a taster of what’s to come.

Album Life in Monochrome is available on September 26th
By Jessy Parker

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Mellowhype - BlackenedWhite

Usually foreshadowed by Tyler, The Creator, many of the sub-groups associated with Odd Future don't get as much recognition as the work of the ring leader and founder. Mellowhype, a collaboration between Tyler's hype-man Hodgy Beats and producer Left Brain, seem to be the group causing the most ripples beside Tyler. Hodgy has a much better flow on these albums and his ability to bend words and lyrical structures to suit his purpose is impecable and of a much higher rate than many of the other members of Odd Future. The production styles used are also a massive step up and Left Brain is slowly but surely forging his own "style" within the group.The album is also a lot more radio friendly in comparison to the controversy ridden Goblin (released earlier this year). In terms of their previous output, BlackendWhite is a major step up for the group and is a good platform for the group to expand their reputation.

However the main aspect bringing this album down is the production, which at times is way off with the vocals in the mix being too quiet and causing quite a clash for the instrumental. As with any other Odd Future release, BlackendWhite is littered with other members contributing verses to certain songs (Tyler, Domo Genesis and Frank Ocean all provide vocals). Whilst this shows the depth the group has and adds to the diversity of tracks, it's becoming quite tiresome to see yet more songs being improved by the use of some of the more established artists.

In all, it's a much cleaner polished album and on release, would be a good album from many modern day hip-hop acts but with the entire blogsphere expecting big things of every Odd Future release it just doesn't live up to the hype surrounding it.


By Robbie Baxendale

Active Child - You Are All I See

Pat Grossi, writing under the alias of Active Child, first reached ears with debut EP ‘Curtis Lane’. Grossi mixes vocals reminiscent of Justin Vernon’s (Bon Iver) with harps and synths to create an eerie, ethereal sound.

‘You Are All I See’ opens with the title track, a melisma of harp notes and vocal layering, setting the tone for the rest of the record. The magical ‘Ancient Eyes’ and the cinematic ‘Ivy’ continue to show off Active Child’s ability to create swirling soundscapes.

However Grossi is truly at his best when he focuses on the melodic centre of his songs. ‘Hanging On’ is an apologetic break up and ‘Way Too Fast’ evokes the atmospheric post-dubstep of James Blake. Undeniably the stand out track of the album is Active Child’s collaboration with How To Dress Well on ‘Playing House’, a melancholic worrying track which showcases the contrast of vocals between the two artists.

The album does not manage to live up to the hype of ‘Curtis Lane’ but offers more on every listen.

By Jessy Parker

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Spectrals - Interview

Although not a man of many words, Spectrals (alias of Louis Jones) has managed to gain quite a good reputation for his music on the internet. After the release of his EP ‘Extended Play’, it has been confirmed that Wichita will be releasing his full length later this year. Intended for release earlier this year, ‘Bad Penny’ is late but you know what they say, better later than never. Behold a short but sweet interview with Louis Jones;

 How did the name Spectrals come about?
I saw the word when I was reading about ghosts and weird stuff on Wikipedia.
It's also a little nod to Phil Spector.

Have you ever used some of your first attempts at song writing in your music we can hear now?
No, the first song I ever did was a hardcore punk song called "Sort Your Life Out"  I'm not sure how I feel about that now.

Where did you record?
I recorded at Hall Place in Leeds with Richard Formby.

With the debut album soon to be released and having toured with the likes of Girls and Best Coast, what have you found more enjoyable - making the record, or getting out on the road and playing shows with other bands?
Making the record was one of the best things I've ever gotten to do, so that. I think going on tour is ace though!

Will there be any differences between the sound of 'Extended Play' and that of the forthcoming album?
Yeah, the album has got quite a bit more going on it I think, and it's all new songs, so it's moved on a little bit. It's not like I've gone Industrial Noise though. 
I saw your cd in HMV. How did it feel to see it on the shelves?
I was suited, my girlfriend sent me a picture of it on the shelves at Oxford St. HMV in London, it was next to Ronnie Spector!
 Do you dislike being compared to other bands?
Only rubbish ones.

Any festivals we can look forward to seeing you at next year in the pipeline?
Field Day, Beacons, hopefully a few European ones that I can't really talk about yet but will be a lot of fun if they happen.

If you could collaborate with any band/artist, dead or alive, who would you choose to do it with?
Elvis Costello or Blink-182. 
What's the biggest goal for Spectrals in the near future?
To keep doing songs and get my hair cut.

By Ailsa Morris and Joshua Barrow

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Bleeding Knees Club - Have Fun/Bad Guys

Bleeding Knees Club are a two piece lo-fi  garage punk band hailing from Queensland, Australia consisting of members Alex Wall and Jordan Malane (Or Jasmine and Kristy according to their MySpace.) They recorded their EP 'Virginity' in the back of a shoe shop and have fans as far flung and far out as Nylon Magazine.

At nearly 24,000 views on YouTube, Bleeding Knees Club have been gaining plenty of attention with single 'Have Fun' which sounds like Harlem if you locked them inside a tin can. With the early Wavves  style riff and pounding drumbeat Bleeding Knees Club 'just wanna have fun' and it is clearly showing.

'Bad Guys' is more of the same from Bleeding Knees Club, over  Two and a half minutes of boisterous racket reminiscent of early Black Lips.

 'Have Fun' is out now.

By Aaron Lewins

Fixers - Interview

Fixers are a band getting a lot of the right attention at the moment, they come from Oxford home to a thriving music scene of late. Although you wouldn't know it, Fixers are a very diverse and hard to pinpoint band, comparisons were previously made to the psychedelic MGMT and even to The Beach Boys, but with new single 'Swimmhaus Johannesberg', all these labels were shoved aside as they produced a song almost as worthy for Eurovision as any of Hurts' output. We quizzed Fixers on everything from the new single to alien invasions;

Your new single Swimmhaus Johannesberg is somewhat of a departure from your recent EP, is this to shrug off anyone pigeonholing Fixers' sound?
We were all listening to 90s dance and italian disco the week we recorded it.These are the kind of fleeting obsessions that last about a week for us.

The new single also sounds a bit Eurovision, are you fans?
I like ABBA.

Your new video for 'Swimmhaus...'just got released, what's the story behind it?
It is fairly subjective, it does have a narrative but it's a correlation between two artists, i.e the director Lucy Bridger and ourselves so it wouldn't feel fair to profess any kind of understanding.

Its fun, the pure naivety of everything that occurs in the video adds this beautiful innocence - its a treatment that is very representative of our band aesthetic, our headspace at the time was that we wanted to evoke fun without any cynicism.

I really didn't want to appear in the video, I couldn't see the virtue of juxtaposing my face with quite possibly the most beautiful Japanese girl ever.

It was always going to be a losing battle, I still love it though.

Oxford has a big reputation for up and coming bands at the moment, what sets fixers aside from these other bands?
I dunno, I haven't really seen any other Oxford bands.

Its great that Oxford is cultivating so much music though, that can only be a really positive thing.
Having people from Oxford who enthuse about championing the cities music culture has been integral to us and we are indebted to them in many ways.

We are friends with Chad Valley and a few other bands, its a shame but we only really get to see each other when we play shows or festivals together.

In terms of music taste, what have you been listening of late, and has there been anything that has influenced your work?
Do you prefer big studio productions or a more hands on DIY style of recording?
I like DIY in a big studio.

Its a mix of the two and it usually comes about when big record labels pump money into bands/artists that they realise are popular but they themselves can't quite see the artistic value in.
They are like cats in headlights, they panic and send bedroom pop artists into grand studios and wind up with this overtly exuberant and beautifully misguided collision of aesthetics. 

Its messy but fascinating.

Your EP "here comes 2001..." seems to be influenced by extra-terrestrial elements, do you think there is any chance of an alien invasion?
Yeah, I guess.

What has been your favourite album or body of work from any other artist so far in 2011?
Gang Gang Dance - Eye Contact.

I'm looking forward to Brian Wilson's Disney record too.

What is next for Fixers as a band?
We are all going to sleep as caterpillars.

Hopefully we will wake up as butterflies.;

By Toby McCarron