Friday, 21 December 2012

Sound Influx Albums of 2012: 10-1

10. Tame Impala - Lonerism 

Lonerism is a record that resonated on a lot of levels but personal feelings aside, Tame Impala’s second album is a massive progression in the Australian five piece’s sound, both sonically and lyrically. The word “psychedelic” is bound to crop up in almost all pieces of writing about Tame Impala and whilst that has connotations with drugs, frontman Parker has frequently stated in interviews that Lonerism was not a drug-fuelled record, although it perhaps helped at times. This psychedelic edge is imbedded with relatable lyrics and bubbling, analogue synth lines as well as the familiar recorded-in-a-garage sounding drums. Whilst there are a lot of downbeat moments on the album, single ‘Elephant’ raises spirits with the most brilliant bassline of the year. It may have only been released in the back end of 2012 but Lonerism has made quite the impact. Aurora Mitchell

9. Grizzly Bear - Shields 

Grizzly Bear aren't necessarily a band who push the boat out, but the signature sound they stick to they do oh so well. Shields is very much building upon previous records, the fragile Yellow House and the dreamy Veckatimest. However Shields still manages to be a fantastically enchanting record, with it's mix of melancholy philosophical musings that hit as hard as they are soft, and the more adventurous musically accomplished tracks that the band have always been celebrated for. Songs like 'Yet Again', 'A Simple Answer' and 'Sun In Your Eyes' manage to be simultaneously uplifting and impressive - with life affirming chord lifts and heavenly vocals primarily from frontman Ed Droste. The more thoughtful tracks like 'Gun Shy' and 'The Hunt', revel in their own beauty in a really special under-stated way that marks Shields out as an astonishingly well thought out album, and arguably the band's best output to date. Toby McCarron

8. Animal Collective - Centipede HZ 

It's never easy to follow up a landmark album; 2009's Merriweather Post Pavilion sprung Baltimore's finest experimental electronic group to new heights critically and commercially and remains as one of the most iconic albums in a long time. But it seems unfair to completely compare Centipede HZ to Merriweather, as the more considered and emotive soundscapes have been replaced by something altogether more challenging and messy. Centipede HZ is Animal Collective super-charged with ideas, with many of them being sprayed onto the record often simultaneously creating a cacophony of noise where one really has to look deep for the hidden gems. There are the more outright accessible songs like Today's Supernatural and Rosie Oh, but both still carry something otherworldly about them whether it be Avey Tare's impassioned yelps or Panda Bear's meandering coos. Tracks like Monkey Riches and New Town Burnout also showed off a more ambitious side to the group to dizzying effects, with barrages of colour and vibrancy oscillating through the listener's mind. It might not be their most affecting album to date, but it's certainly an experience to listen through, and an often rewarding one at that. Toby McCarron

7. Purity Ring - Shrines

If like me, you’ve spent a large amount of the year trying to defend what’s left of the guitar scene now that anyone that listens to Mumford and fucking Sons or their American cousins The Lumineers is branded an indie kid; you’ll probably be reluctant to listen to Shrines. Luckily for my ears, as the first twinkling sounds of 'Crawlersout' found their way into my ears, I was converted. Having heard 'Lofticries' for the first time a long time ago, I was thinking there’d be a similarity, or that the album would hang off it, but the likes of 'Fineshrine'; which almost has a powerful chorus (in electronic music?!) and 'Odebear' - which is almost begging to be an RnB track more than assist in lifting this album from alright to standout. It’s by no means perfect, but for a first effort it’s not bad. Another 4AD triumph. Braden Fletcher

6. Grimes - Visions

Canada has unsurprisingly had an amazing year for music in 2012, including the likes of Japandroids, Purity Ring and Crystal Castles amongst others releasing brilliant LPs. However, no Canadian artist has had such a climatic year as Vancouver based electronic artist Grimes. In Visions, Boucher has crafted a record that seeps a ghostly, fragile atmosphere but mixed with clunky, video-game music esque production. Her oddball, at points shrieky, vocals are an acquired taste and whilst there are some more left-field vocal takes on songs such as ‘Eight’, there lies some gentle and more pop-driven vocals as epitomised in standout singles ‘Genesis’ and ‘Oblivion’. Claire Boucher may have constantly divided opinions throughout this year and although she’s inspired by the mainstream side of pop such as Nicki Minaj and Justin Bieber; her take on pop in Visions is darker and mystical. A unique record that unravels something new to love with every repeat. Aurora Mitchell

5. Liars - WIXIW

It’s not uncommon to hear of artists locking themselves away in isolated places to get a record finished and to inspire them. Well Brooklyn trio Liars chose a warehouse in downtown LA, a place without windows. As you can imagine, this location influenced their 6th album WIXIW – a very eerie, murky and claustrophobic listen. It feels very weird to play this record in daylight what with all the unsettling nuances, Angus Andrew’s low-register, almost incomprehensible vocals and weird melodies. Touted as their ‘electronic’ album, it’s not necessarily an album you can dance to (maybe with the exception of ‘Brats’) and instead is a more introverted electronic sound that’s hard to make sense of at first. Liars also leaned away from modern electronic production techniques, acquiring organic sounds from everyday objects and processing them electronically. WIXIW is by no means an instant album and it really does require all the attention you can afford to give it to appreciate the minute details that Liars have slaved over. Aurora Mitchell

4. El-P - Cancer For Cure

Cancer for Cure is exactly what you want a rap record to sound like in 2012, with a predication for narrative-driven songs and an emphasis on exhibiting every facet of the beats. In that respect it’s miles ahead of its peers. Whilst rap as a whole is moving into a new era of self-obsession it’s positively shocking to hear one adopting a first-person perspective that isn’t their own (or an extension of their own). Its conscious rap without preachiness, you could dance or you could ponder its lyrical themes. You could do both (in fact, it wants you to do both, ‘Oh Hail No’ features a Danny Brown guest spot that’s funny and word-smart, spat over a thrumming beat that shifts and clangs endlessly).

A fully-formed jolt of uninhibited rage, delivered as a sermon, a story and a lecture. Denser than an album three times its size and more opinionated than a hundred Lupe Fiasco’s, it’s easily the most enthralling record that’s come about in a very long time. Ned Powley

3. Death Grips - The Money Store

Way back in the first quarter of the year when Death Grips began trickling out songs and videos from an album that was (presumably) on the cusp of being released, it felt as if they were trying to say something. Not some grand artistic statement or message of intent but something much neater and more focused. That statement turned out to be a series of increasingly polarising decisions that included cancelling a tour, signing to a major label (Epic), leaking their next album and leaking confidential emails with their label, which led to a clusterfuck of legal arguments which ended their relationship with Epic completely. It was impossible to see inside their world or predict their next step.

What they weren’t trying to say with those gradually teased-out releases was “buy our album”, which is good because barely anyone did. The majority of its songs compromise of dense, blown out instrumentation layered over sharp electronic noises but the formula is fucked with so much on every occasion that by its close it’s impossible to remember what it started out sounding like. You could just about dance to it and you could easily throw your body into someone else’s to it, to such an extent that listening to it through alone becomes alienating and unpleasant. Though the aims of the band and the driving themes of The Money Store remain unclear, its immediate purpose was obvious: this was music that treated the listener as a receiver and nothing else. Ned Powley

2. Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan

Rarely does a band fill every moment of their music with such detail and thought. A sum of all previous parts of Dirty Projectors’ discography, Swing Lo Magellan balances the excessively intelligent with the accessible and honest. Each twist and turn reveals something dynamic: ‘Just From Chevron’ is heart-warming and fragile; ‘The Socialites’ is beautifully suave; ‘About to Die’ is triumphantly infectious and ‘Unto Caesar’ is incredibly well controlled chaos. Some moments recall previous records like 2004’s Slaves, Graves and Ballads or 2007’s Rise Above, while other moments feel reminiscent of Talking Heads or mid-era Beatles, yet the album still feels distinctly unique. An astounding display of songwriting and musicianship, Swing Lo Magellan cements David Longstreth’s Dirty Projectors as one of the greatest bands in the world.   William Hall

1. Django Django - Django Django

So what is it that makes this album from a slightly nerdy looking Scottish four-piece with a silly name our album of the year? Well for a start, the tunes this album packs is almost unparalleled by anything else to have come out this year. The spine-tingling transition between Intro and Hail Bop before it explodes into impeccable harmonies and a chorus catchy as anything, the unabashed stomp of the anthemic Default and the pulse-quickening Wor, the bass throbs and building percussion on Waveforms, and the more subtle classiness of more restrained songs Firewater and Storm which still pack mighty hooks. 

Likeability is the key to this album, it seems near impossible to have much of an objection to anything displayed here. The vocal harmonies are tight, the musicianship is innovative albeit in a way that is accessible to the common person and doesn't alienate, and importantly the record sounds wonderfully quirky and definably British. Django Django can appeal to anyone, the chin-stroking Quietus reader, the edgy 20-somethings who although seeking purely intelligent music still find solace in a great melody, the average Joe on his way home from work who taps his foot to Default on the radio, and the teenage girl who appreciates boys in bands making catchy pop tunes but not entirely adhering to the conventions exploited by The Vaccines or The Maccabees. 

Functioning both as a fun pop album, and a clever musically precise indie record, Django Django are a shining beacon of the mantra of not taking yourself too seriously but still maintaining integrity (A Mercury Prize nomination and critical praise across the board would suggest). An essential listen but ultimately the most enjoyable of the year. Toby McCarron

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Sound Influx Albums of 2012: 20-11

So here it is, after a year of stellar music across the board, here is our picks of the best albums 2012 had to offer. Compiled by the votes of our contributors, this is a pretty accurate representation of what we've all enjoyed the most in our ears this year.

20. Mount Eerie - Clear Moon 

We are drawn into the music, yet we are also given the impression that Elverum does it for himself, in his own world. Living and recording in the sparsely populated area of Anacortes, Washington, Elverum lives his music. His fascination with nature comes down to his surroundings, and the same may be said about the darkness of his music. It may come across as one, but musically, this is not a criticism. In fact, relating to the earlier point of honesty and emotion, these factors are what make his music more genuine. These are what make the music feel as though it has come directly from Elverum’s heart, or the heart of nature; Clear Moon is a startlingly real practise in what Elverum knows best. William Hall

19. Perfume Genius - Put Your Back N 2 It

For those unaware of Mike Hadreas aka Perfume Genius' work, the title of this album may have misled. Sounding a little like the title of a rap album, the music could not be more different. For those aware and unaware of his music alike, this album is a triumph of heartbreaking beauty. The power of emotion that this man can create cannot be denied by anyone, and the album built upon the themes and methods of the first, only creating a much more cohesive sound and mood. A fantastic album, all quavering voice and sad piano, yet never depressing, always slightly uplifting. Holly Read-Challen

18. Jack White - Blunderbuss

From assembling two backing groups – one male, one female – to enlisting his recently divorced wife on backing vocals the ex-White Stripes main man played with everyone’s expectations once again in 2012. Indulging his theatrical side ‘Blunderbuss’ managed to channel blues, garage, country and music hall whilst still sounding totally unique. From the gorgeous duet ‘Love Interruption’ to the nursery-rhyme like ‘Hip Eponymous Poor Boy’ and the jaunty vaudevillian ‘I’m Shakin’ throughout it’s one of Jack’s finest collections of pure songwriting and a worthy addition to his impressive back catalogue. ‘Sixteen Saltines’ rocked like ‘Black Math’ on steroids, ‘Freedom at 21’ growled and screamed and the spirit of his adopted Nashville hometown twisted fiddle, pedal steel and double bass into an idiosyncratic vision of Americana in the 21st century. In the year in which The Rolling Stones turned 50, he remains the only musician of his generation you can see sticking around for another half a century. Max Sefton

17. Alt-J - An Awesome Wave

When you’re the buzzband of the year, its very difficult to please everyone so for Cambridge via Leeds alternative group Alt-J, An Awesome Wave was bound to turn a few eyebrows as well as cause a variety of reviews. Seven months on from the release of their debut album however, Alt-J are looking just as strong as they were when we first heard the likes of Matilda for the first time. Whilst far from flawless, you’re welcomed in to An Awesome Wave from its ethos building Intro through the likes of “Triangles are my favourite shape” track Tesselate in a debut album out to prove a point. It trails off towards the end but we defy you to not enjoy the bass on Fitzpleasure or get a little carried away on Where the Wild Things Go homage Breezeblocks. Braden Fletcher  

16. Frank Ocean - Channel Orange

Frank Ocean's channel ORANGE is a confident and sultry debut that covers everything from crack addicts to religion to strippers and isn't even scared to turn the goofy yet loveable Forrest Gump into a sexy and soulful character who's “runnin” on Frank's mind. Finally! Some obvious same gender pronouns in mainstream R&B! 

Like his mixtape nostalgia ULTRA, the album relies heavily on samples, from the Playstation start up noise to Elton John, and that just emphasises the hazy and nostalgic summery feel of the album. I fell in love with channel ORANGE right from the moment Frank croons “a tornado flew around my room before you came” and it's still hard to find any faults with the album. Pyramids is easily the greatest track on the record, an epic that almost spans over 10 minutes and tells the story of Frank's stripper lover that conjures up images of Showgirls and synth heavy sci-fi films. channel ORANGE is an exciting and refreshing debut which is what mainstream hip hop and R&B really needed. Eden Young

15. Beach House - Bloom

Like Sigur Ros their songs seem to channel an epic romance even when there isn't a word being said. Opener ‘Myth’ blurred glistening vocals with some of Alex’s strongest guitar work while ‘Lazuli’ transforms what seems like a childish keyboard melody into a cooing, swirling ode to memory and lost love. As usual the duo need little more than Victoria Legrand’s husky voice and Alex Scully’s shimmering guitar to entrance but where ‘Teen Dream’ was glacial, ‘Bloom’ practically fizzes with life. The recurring motif of flowers gives a sense of perfect moment framed in music and offers hope for re-birth and renewal through Legrand’s gorgeous, floating vocals. With tasteful production from Chris Coady and a soaring sense of ambition there seems no limits for the Baltimore duo and at a fleeting ten tracks it continues their trend of making beautiful statements with not a second wasted. Max Sefton

14. Kendrick Lamar - Good Kid, M.A.A.D City

For a prodigy of Dr. Dre, nobody was going to represent West Coast rap as well as Kendrick Lamar in 2012. Good Kid, M.A.A.D City exceeded all expectations laid out by his 2011 tape Section 80, combining the grit and vitality of someone who has grown up in the 'M.A.A.D City' of Compton with a keen sense for great beats and pop hooks. Kendrick's flow throughout the record is mesmerizing and clever, his sculpting of words and metaphors putting to shame his contemporaries who are more preoccupied with the hedonism of money and women. Which other rapper can sample Beach House ('Money Trees'), brag about fucking the world with a penis the size of the Eiffel Tower ('Backseat Freestyle'), provide an emotional and philosophical work of musical art ('Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst') and have radio and club ready hits ('Bitch Don't Kill My Vibe', 'Swimming Pools')? Kendrick Lamar can. Toby McCarron

13. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti - Mature Themes

Whilst the clean production ensured it was definitely another step away from his lo-fi roots towards a more fully realised vision, ‘Mature Themes’ ensured there was still plenty for fans old and new to chew on, be it the bonkers ‘Schnitzel Boogie’ or the tense, melancholic ‘Baby’. When not taking us on a madcap ride through his frankly disturbing imagination, Ariel deployed a range of voices to craft his lushest listen to date. After almost a decade of scatter-gun lo-fi, his second record for freak haven 4AD was alternately disgusting, discursive and surprisingly listenable, laying perfect pop moments like ‘Only In My Dreams’ alongside something as strange and unexpected as ‘Kinski Assassin’. What makes it great though is the sense that for once Ariel isn’t just playing the sounds in his head but poking out tendrils to his audience and his bandmates and using the experience to make a record that’s challenging yet engaging at the same time. The hipster king reigns once more. Max Sefton

12. John Talabot -ƒIN

In 2012, electronic music has been inundated with talented debut LPs from producers but John Talabot’s ƒIN has perhaps garnered the most adoration and attention. As it was released quite early on in the year, it felt as if this record might slowly fade away but in fact - the opposite has happened. Whilst many in the field remain mysterious for unknown reasons, Talabot cited that he’d rather his music do the talking rather than his image and that’s exactly what it does on ƒIN. Packed with intricate euro-house loops and Hispanic percussive samples – Talabot’s heritage shines through in his music and makes it more personable. The two standouts on the album, ‘Destiny’ and the nearly 7 minute long epic ‘So Will Be Now’ feature fellow Spaniard and producer Pional who've shown that they’re a great music match, since making a song together and more recently remixing The xx together. A pulsating record full of vitality and colourful production, ƒIN is going to be hard to top. Aurora Mitchell

11. Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel...

Fiona Apple knows how to leave people in suspense. After Extraordinary Machine in 2005, Apple left her fans waiting for 7 years for a new album - perhaps partly due to her relationship with writer Jonathan Ames from 2007 to 2010. Whilst Apple being happy is good news for her, it meant fans were left in waiting for new material. 2 years after the relationship ended, Apple came back stronger than ever with a statement to make in new album The Idler Wheel… and she’s made sure that everyone in earshot has heard it. From the compassionate cry of “I just want to feel everything” on ‘Every Single Night’ to the desperate plea of “look at, look at, look at me/I am all the fishes in the sea” on ‘Daredevil’ to “I don’t want to talk about anything” on ‘Jonathan’– Apple’s lyrics bite harder than ever and reflect on the tumultuous year that she’s had. Arrested and mistreated in Texas for marijuana possession and cancelling a leg of her tour due to her poorly dog, it’s not been easy. Whilst this year may not be a high point emotionally for Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel… is a career high. Aurora Mitchell

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Foxygen @ Sebright Arms, London

Hoxton’s Sebright Arms is tucked away behind the main road, with an out of use front door and replacement alleyway entrance. Inside, it is filled to the brim with tables occupied by 20-somethings; in turn with either a beard or fringe, eating from an American menu or drinking from the tap. I manoeuvre my way through them, trying not to make it obvious that I have no clue where the show is actually taking place. Eventually I find a door, dressed with a ‘SOLD OUT’ poster. Down infinite flights of brightly lit stairwells is another door, behind which lays an intimate – to say the least – venue. Although in some ways it feels like I’ve theatrically descended down into hell, the room is cosy and, after some time, I have no intention of returning upstairs: the room has warmed to me (and physically warmed me).
Rather fittingly, with the room’s darkness and swirling lightshow, support act Wytches take to the stage. With a sound recalling doom metal, psychedelia and post punk, the band’s rhythm section provides a tight foundation upon which frontman and guitarist Kristian Bell shreds and gymnastically yelps. Their standout song and set closer cleverly plays off the lyric “swing like a pendulum”, gradually slowing down in tempo as its oscillation draws to an end. The performance is deafeningly loud, but a great warm up for what is to come. The spectacle is just beginning.

Before long, Foxygen take the stage. Occasionally with a new band, you get the sense that you’re incredibly lucky to be witnessing their live performance; that this is the start of something good; that before long, this band will be everywhere. Recently signed to Jagjaguwar, the current home of Bon Iver, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Women, and having already gained great acclaim for 2011 EP Take The Kids Off Broadway, Foxygen are such a case. Although baby-faced, the band is unbelievably well informed on the music of the past, taking inspiration from the best moments of the 60s, 70s and 80s: if this band were to ‘wear their influences on their sleeve’, it would be of an unholy length.

Sam France and Jonathan Rado alternate between keyboard and 12-string guitar, as they storm through incredible new single ‘Shuggie’ and Broadway highlight ‘Make It Known’, for which France’s voice switches to a Lou Reed-like baritone. Each song is equally energetic, and between tracks the band engages in conversation with the crowd. “At school, they used to call me the retard: WELL HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW, MOM?” yells France, before informing us that “this song is about having your heartbroken... by a dolphin”. The crowd laugh to the point of tears, but are fully engrossed when it comes down to the music, and although small in numbers, a joyous atmosphere is built. They preview tracks from their upcoming record like ‘Destruction’ and set closer ‘San Francisco’, which features an appearance from a fairly bemused but sporting looking man named Ralph. They finish with France repeatedly hitting himself comically in the head with his microphone, and cheers and laughter disproportionate to the small audience. The audience has engaged and the band has entertained. An utterly brilliant performance.

William Hall

Monday, 10 December 2012

Bondax - It's You (feat. Kilo Kish)

Bondax are a duo of teenage producers from that renowned centre of underground dance music; Lancaster, England. Having provided excellent remixes for AlunaGeorge and Rudimental they’ve recently been opening for hitmaker StarSlinger stateside and have now released this reimagining of their summer hit to promote their upcoming shows.
Fresh from her appearance on Childish Gambino’s ‘Royalty’ mixtape, Brooklyn-based singer Kilo Kish’s carefree vocals play up the duo’s youthfulness over a bank of upbeat house-influenced synth loops. Her rapping is smooth and the hook is clear and catchy but the track as a whole is fairly lightweight. For music to chill to the unlikely union of Brooklynite vocalist and northern vibe-makers is a good fit and the duo are clearly drawing a lot of attention to themselves so perhaps some more high-profile collaborations will soon be on the cards. There are worse ways to be whisked away from Lancaster to LA.

Max Sefton

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Gallops - Yours Sincerely, Doctor Hardcore

Having known Gallops a good few years, being natives to my home town Wrexham, I have had the opportunity to see them progress from being a jewel in Huw Stephens' eye, to releasing this long awaited debut album, entitled ‘Yours Sincerely, Doctor Hardcore’. For those unaware of what a Gallops is, I will do my best to use my words in a succinct yet descriptive manor. In sound, they are the closest embodiment of what the Blade Runner Soundtrack would be if it were a band, had been weaned on a keen diet of 90s metal, and had just recently discovered pick-rock. In actuality, they are a four piece, a combination of two guitars (half glitched-up, half meat-filled), one electronically ethereal/plinky plunky laptop and one thunder drummer (somewhat the gallop in the Gallops gallop). I couldn't name a band with a more fitting name, either. The way the band charges through a song is pretty much the ideal score for a futuristic dark lord to ride along a massive plain on his mighty steed to. At least during the consistent parts, otherwise in the more mosh-heavy, chaotic moments, he would be more likely found waging some kind of futuristic Lord Of The Rings scale of epicness battle against a good alliance. But, I digress. 

‘YS, DH’ is the debut album Gallops needed to make. It pretty much maps the bands entire career, and has been a long time coming. Namely due to how long they've been touring nearly every song on here, especially ‘Lasers’, ‘Crutches’ and ‘Windows FX’, which have been floating around for the past four odd years. However, those unaware to their work prior to this, will probably be quite surprised by what they hear. The album is a fine example of what progressive rock can be in the modern age; embracing the moods and electronic chirps of 80s b-movie soundtracks, the punch of 90s thrash metal and the start/stop nature of 00s pick rock, whilst still being able to cohesively blend all those elements together simultaneously with the progressive majesty of a band like Pink Floyd.

Maybe pushing it for the release date, but ‘Yours Sincerely, Doctor Hardcore’ might be a contender for one of the best albums of 2012. If you can, go see them live. Their power and talent as live musicians is only ever half-captured on records. Go on, and make yourself a happy chappy. 


Friday, 7 December 2012

Crystal Castles - Glasgow ABC

Fresh from releasing the excellent Crystal Castles III, the Canadian synth-punks roll into town at the end of their UK tour with a fearsome reputation as a live act preceding them.

Unfortunately, Glaswegian rockers Vukovi are already being rushed off stage when SI arrives at the venue at 7:45 tonight and the rapidly swelling crowd are instead treated to a set from female DJ trio Pretty Ugly. It should be pretty much impossible to spin the likes of Le Tigre’s ‘Deceptacon’ and ‘Paper Planes’ by MIA and not get arms in the air, yet maybe it’s the raised lights or the black clad nature of the gig itself but appendages stay resolutely pinned to sides. Ladyhawke’s ‘My Delirium’ manages four hands, two of which are attached to the same body (mine). After Pretty Ugly vanish (preferably without a trace) the house DJ’s decide to treat us to the complete back catalogue of Wu Tang Clan, which without inherently being a bad decision sits rather awkwardly with a mostly teenage, white and Scottish crowd; all of whom look fairly unlikely to have first-hand experience of New York gang life. The headliners are elusive though, and leaving almost an hour before taking the stage raises a couple of boos from the crowd. 

When the lights finally dim however, chaos duly ensues as Crystal Castles ensnare Glasgow in their dark grasp. Opening with the evil one-two of ‘Plague’ and ‘Baptism’, Alice Glass and Ethan Kath unleash the gates of sonic hell upon sell-out crowd of gig-goers, triggering a mess of flailing limbs and enthusiastic pogoing. Charisma and attitude undoubtedly win out over vocal talent for Alice Glass. She’s a menacing, magnetic presence and when she stands astride a sea of hands, mouthing ‘I love you’ to adoring hordes it’s as if she’s a vampire drawing strength from the energy and enthusiasm of the crowd. Far from the druggy vibe of this summer’s live footage tonight she looks focused and energetic, throwing herself around the stage and twirling her microphone out into the crowd as Ethan disappears in clouds of thick smoke. 

Drenched in blue light she purrs through a monstrous ‘Black Panther’ backed by Ethan’s electronic arsenal of synths n’ tricks and a live drummer. Debut single ‘Alice Practice’ is a formidable statement of intent but even live the chorus is too awkward and un-danceable to make you move your feet. If anything it’s like being dropped into an angry and disorientating Gameboy game. Amidst an hour and a quarter of craziness the duo drop in tracks from all three albums but special cheers seem reserved for the colossal synth-rave of ‘Sad Eyes’ and ‘Wrath of God’ from Crystal Castles III. As possibly the only tracks on which Alice’s voice can be heard clearly, they may yet mark a path towards an increased emphasis on melody over crashing beats and ear-piercing sirens. 

Everything you’ve heard about Crystal Castles being an electro-gig with the vibe of a hardcore-punk show is almost vindicated by the razorsharp attack of ‘Crime Wave’ or the dubstep drops of ‘Pale Flesh’ though the twisted, distorted thump of ‘Insulin’ is only for those who liked CC best when they sounded like a toaster going through an existential crisis. Even if you remain unconvinced by the raw old-school synth attack of their records, live Crystal Castles are a thrilling prospect.  

Max Sefton

We'd like to extent a thanks to Glasgow's finest in the form of RaveChild for allowing us to use their lovely photos by Juliet Eccleston. HERE

Bands to look out for #16


"Am I allowed to love you yet?" implores Lyla Foy, the swoon-worthy songstress behind Wall, a dreamy, minimalist pop band who are well on their way to capturing hearts everywhere. Amidst soft percussion and plaintive melody, Foy's vocals evoke a very real sense of vulnerability, and her masterfully vague lyrics seem to suspend reality itself, drawing the listener closer to her fantasy world; teasing, perhaps, with the promise of a withheld secret.

And Foy is almost as mysterious as her music: all that anyone seems to know about her are the basics. A London-based producer-slash-singer-song-writer, she wrote and produced her 7", titled Magazine entirely by herself. She plays all the instruments too, though when playing shows she entrusts this to members Oli Deakin and Dan Bell. And that's pretty much all there is to know about her at the moment, excepting the odd, sparse interview here and there.

That's not to say that she's completely invisible though. As the first artist to be signed to the newly-formed BCS Records, they already have two videos of her performing in their well-known back cab. As well as this, the official video for their single, Magazine, perfectly expresses Wall's close-up, super-intimate style.

With a Tumblr-friendly colour palette and a cast of kooky actors, the video creates a fragile, childlike atmosphere which perfectly complements Foy's tenderly uncertain lyrics. Soft visuals and precisely ordered props provide a further sense of immersion into a delicate world, and the ending shot - a furtive, eager peek into an unlimited night sky - is indicative of the beginning of Wall's own career.

What will Wall do next? Will wider recognition drown out their soft, earnest voice? Because at this point it seems undoubted that they can remain in obscurity for much longer, with their obvious talent and charming sound. If you like Youth Lagoon or The xx, Wall are definitely a band to look out for, and I for one am looking forward to watching them quietly dominate music discussion in months to come.

Ruthie Kennedy

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Ben Howard @ Brixton Academy

Having conquered the charts, gained a coveted Mercury Prize nomination and even gone Gold in the UK. This then, three nights at Brixton surrounded by a series of other national dates; is the victory lap for Every Kingdom, released 15 months ago and keeping Ben Howard on the road ever since. These nights appear to be the limbo for him’ trapped in the knowledge he could sell out Wembley Arena but in the want to maintain some level of intimacy.

It doesn’t seem to faze him though as he steps out onto the huge stage with his full band. Humble as ever, he gently breaks into the title track of the new Burgh Island EP. It’s dramatic, as is most of his new material, but hardly an apt choice for such a show and you instantly start to wonder if Ben is capable of filing such a space. 

Old Pine kicks off the night properly though and Brixton Academy briefly stops being a big old theatre and for a short period of time anyway, becomes a room of (mostly young, female) fans having a good time and Howard sharing in that love.
Doing little more than smiling and thanking the raucously loud crowd for their adoration, Howard at times feels the unwilling leader of the masses; this is, until he breaks into his next track. You can almost visibly see him get lost into the music he wrote and at times he hardly seems as if he’s in the same room as everyone else.

“I’m going to tell you a secret now that I’ve not told anyone before” he starts. “That last song [Keep Your Head Up]; I didn’t mean it when I wrote it, but now, I kind of do.” He smiles again with a smile so infectious you hardly even question how much of Howard’s music he really means with this. Nonetheless, he appears to have followed the words he didn’t really believe in and they’ve set him in good stead so maybe there’s genuine inspiration in there somewhere.

Closing his main set with The Fear, there’s a certain resounding feeling that maybe this could be the last we see of Ben Howard for a while. “I’ve been worrying that my time is a little unclear. I’ve been worrying am I losing the ones I hold dear? I’ve been worrying that we all live our lives in the confines of fear”. Perhaps its just another big single he doesn’t really mean, but you can’t help but wonder that maybe in escaping his confines and keeping his friends in his band on the road with him; he’s lost something else.

Nonetheless, the encore goes on as we hear new track The Burren sound promising, if remaining in the area of dark-new material and Promise closes the night in apt fashion. It's been his night once more, but you can't help but feel that it's time for Ben Howard to go home for a while.

Braden Fletcher