Friday, 31 May 2013

Gallery: Stagecoach @ Birthdays Dalston

"We've been a band for around 10 years, we didn't think we'd ever make an album" Luke Barham, front man of Stagecoach declares. Tonight is the release party for the Surrey band's debut record 'Say Hi to the Band' and spirits are high, even if we are in a basement in Dalston.

Recent single WorkWorkWork opens the evening’s proceedings in true pop-rock style and the act who have been compared to Weezer set off to a roaring start. Whilst the crowd participation is limited to singing along to previously familiar material such as We Got Tazers!, the mood is high and its clear that their time as an act has glued Stagecoach into a tightly knit live group.

Highlights include Threequel and new single Action before the willing crowd is permitted to a rare Stagecoach encore which features an ushering of Alcopop record boss JackPop to the stage to play mandolin. As the band themselves would say, Like Woah!

Photos and words by Braden Fletcher

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Los Porcos - Jesus Luvs U Baby / Do You Wanna Live?

You will probably be hearing Los Porcos billed as the new band from former members of WU LYF. Los Porcos consists of three quarters of the recently disbanded group, no prizes for guessing who the absentee is. Also made up of members from FAMY, who supported WU LYF on tour, and solo artist Profondo, Los Porcos played their first show at the Salon Club in London’s Embassy Hotel in April. The new outfit, who wore matching t-shirts with ‘New Pork City’ printed on the front, played a six-strong-setlist, including two tracks that have been posted online, “Jesus Luvs U Baby” and “Do You Wanna Live?”.

The former is a slow, dreamy affair. Slinking guitar lines shift in and out, swapping time with the main vocal melody. The track doesn’t really go anywhere, and similarly to its compadre is repetitive. However, “Do You Wanna Live?” is one of the most infectious songs of the year. The falsetto vocal melody can be off-putting to the hopeful WU LYF fans, it effectively acts as a polar opposite to Ellery Roberts’ gruff, incoherent howls. It’s obvious that moving on from the past was the best option, and while this may be hard for some to accept, it has resulted in this catchy tune of, self-proclaimed, yacht rock.

Los Porcos might not be to everyone’s taste, especially the most devoted of WU LYF fans. However, it will be interesting to hear more music from both parties, especially if this new collective has anything to match the contagious shimmer of “Do You Wanna Live?”.

Calum Stephen

Friday, 24 May 2013

Gallery: Live at Leeds '13

We made a visit to Leeds the other week for the ever wonderful Live at Leeds festival. In the space of one day, Holly and Braden saw 15 bands between them. Here's the gallery from Braden's perspective and the writeup from Holly is here.


Braden Fletcher

Live at Leeds '13

The 1975 at Live at Leeds

Sound Influx started Live At Leeds 2013 with a visit to The Wardrobe on the Friday night to catch Bearfoot Beware and Wet Nun’s sets. Although Bearfoot Beware entertained, it was Wet Nuns who really impressed. The duo created a sound of a volume seemingly beyond their means. That sound was full of huge riffs and thunderous drums, and boy was it LOUD. Their blend of lo-fi blues/punk really must be experienced live to have its sheer power appreciated fully.

Wild Swim

On the Saturday, it was a long walk to the Brudenell Social Club (buses/taxis are cheating, apparently) to catch the end of Wild Swim’s set. Their emotional songs with Wild Beasts style keys and vocals were certainly worth the walk, especially closer ‘Echo’. Next, to the Faversham, where Swiss Lips’ energetic set surely won them some new fans. The band’s sugar sweet vocals, synths and drum machine beats are easy to hate, but after seeing them live, this cynical view might just have changed for some. The Manc popsters really did bring a fun atmosphere, and live, their sound is just much less, well…annoying. One band who didn’t need to convince anyone was Dinosaur Pile-Up. The local lads certainly know how to whip up a crowd and there were circles going from early in the set. But my god were they loud. Loud is to be expected and anticipated from this band, but ears ringing four hours and the lasting regret of forgetting earplugs isn’t. This was a bit of a shame as it meant the set wasn’t as enjoyable as it could have been.

Swiss Lips

After a break for burritos (the ultimate festival food, probably), we got ourselves to the Stylus to see the fantastic MØ, who’s energetic stage presence combined with infectious pop songs made for a really great set. The use of projections as a backdrop was a nice touch, adding an extra dimension to the show for those at the back. ‘Pilgrim’ and ‘Glass’, with Singer Karen Marie Ørsted prowling the stage in a leopard print bomber jacket. From one definite highlight of the weekend and straight on to another, I managed to get to the front for Savage’s set. That renowned intensity wasn’t hampered too much by sound difficulties with singer Jehn’s mic. Once these problems were fixed the launched into a full on rendition of ‘Shut Up’, and there’s probably some irony to be found in there somewhere. The rest of the set, with rumbling bass, punchy drums and, of course, Jehn’s fierce, intense vocals made sure that savages’ performance stayed in my mind for a good long while. They scared and thrilled in equal measures and SI loved every minute.

Dinosaur Pile Up

After getting slightly lost, SI managed to arrive at the beautiful Holy Trinity church in time for Sóley’s sound check. Her set was beautiful, even despite a quite impossibly loud argument breaking out halfway through, which left a slightly awkward, embarrassed atmosphere lingering for a few songs. However this went away as throughout the rest of her set Sóley created such beautiful, haunting songs which had the audience in a sort of hushed reverence, befitting the church setting. ‘Pretty Face’ and ‘I’ll Drown’, with its echoing, sampled vocals, were the highlights of a truly captivating performance.

Embers were a last minute addition to the line-up, and although they clashed with headliners The Walkmen, they were un-missable, as a band who have played too few shows since they first burst onto the Manchester scene. And they didn’t disappoint, creating huge, reverberating songs that filled the tiny, boiling Nation Of Shopkeepers from wall to wall. It may have been the walking, or the heat, or the lack of sleep, but SI may have found ourselves getting a little emotional towards the end of their set. Embers’ blend of shoegaze and post-rock is immensely impressive live, and SI implores you to go and see them.

After realising that I had missed ‘The Rat’, SI is ashamed to say that we left The Walkmen’s set early. A whole day of intensive band watching, walking and getting lost in Leeds had taken its toll and we needed a bit of a sit down. As the Stylus was packed (and rightly so) for The Walkmen, we wandered down to The Mine to Watch Sky Larkin. To end the weekend with a band who have been a part of the Northern music scene for many years seemed fitting somehow, and was really quite special. It seems they have only got better since we last saw them all those years ago.

Live At Leeds, though exhausting, was a thoroughly fantastic festival with a great atmosphere. And, for this writer, who had never been to Leeds before, it also proved a fantastic tour around the city and some of its impressive venues. The only downside was missing so many bands due to clashes , walking or both. Honourable mentions go to The Crookes, The Staves, Micky P Kerr and King Krule. We’re sure that there’ll be plenty of opportunities to see this lot soon though. Roll on Live At Leeds 2014!

Words: Holly Read Challen
Photos: Braden Fletcher

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Magic Eye - Japan (Space Echo Version)


Edinburgh four-piece, Magic Eye, made up of band-members Alex, Bek, Roma and Francis, first wound up on our stereos this time last year in the form of 11 track EP cassette, Shreddin’ On Heaven’s Floor. The EP, released on record label Animal Image Search, introduced the world to Magic Eye’s unique guitar-based brand of dream pop with tracks such as ‘Flamin Teenage,’ and their impressively experimental cover of Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game,’ screaming psychedelic ambiance  Not unlike Fleetwood Mac’s Tango In The Night, though with added poignancy created by palpitating drums and Roma’s captivating vocals, Shreddin’ On Heaven’s Door established the band’s synth-laden, atmospheric musical direction. Taking reverb and guitar riffs to the extreme, and featuring a touching level of melancholy sentimentality across the expanse of its tracks, the EP set the foursome apart among an ever-growing crowd of repetitive and hollow dream pop artists. Somewhat quiet since then, the quartet’s recent release of the Space Echo version of their three and a half minute long oriental wonder ‘Japan’, has whole-heartedly reignited love for the band’s ethereal, indie pop, ‘aquarium rock’ style.

‘Japan (Space Echo Version)’ is an elaborate development on the original EP version of the track, which takes synth-loaded reverberation and echoed byzantine beats to another level entirely. The re-working of this track, already powerful in its chiming orientalism, encapsulates the group’s quietly enigmatic melodies and striking meaningfulness. I highly recommend this awe-inspiring track, and the others featured on Shreddin’ On Heaven’s Door, which are available to stream on SoundCloud, and are guaranteed to give you that uplifting level of transcendence that only the best tracks can. So take a listen and renew your passion for the spiritual musical-stylings of this band, or if you’re a Magic Eye virgin, kick-start your obsession now. 

Rosie Ramsden

Monday, 20 May 2013

Drenge - Backwaters

If the bludgeoning 'Bloodsports' hasn't been enough to keep you tided over from Drenge, then new track 'Backwaters' should do quite nicely. After witnessing an incendiary set at last weekend's Great Escape in front of a packed Brighton corn exchange, it's hard to see how the DFA1979 meets QOTSA pummeling guitar/drums duo won't blow everyone's minds, and ears this year.

Toby McCarron

Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires Of The City

Vampire Weekend have done it again. With ‘Modern Vampires Of The City’ they have created a beautiful, infectious and strange record. And ‘record’ seems the right word. It is the last chapter in a trilogy, a record of the lives of characters first visited on their self-titled debut in 2008. It is a chapter sound tracked by tracks laden with hooks, peppered with infectious rhythms and more measured harmonies and melodies. Singer Ezra Koenig’s voice is also shown off to a greater extent on this record than any other. And it really does sound effortless. 

As usual, their lyrical focus is intellectual and sometimes downright obscure to the average listener, especially on first listen. But that is the joy with Vampire Weekend; their music can be understood- or not- and enjoyed on many levels: the harmonies, the hooks and the strange percussion or the classics influenced, religious referencing and historical allusion heavy lyrics. And there’s plenty of both. There are the typical flashes of Vampire Weekend lyrical brilliance, like the fantastic ‘stale conversation deserves but a breadknife’ on the stately, harpsichord heavy ‘Step’. There are also moments of lyrical universality, for example on ‘Unbelievers’, ‘the world is a cold, cold place to be/ want a little warmth but who’s gonna save a little warmth for me?’ 

This album, though still having that quintessential Vampire Weekend sound, is definitely stranger than those preceding it, most notably thanks to the prominence of chopped, screwed and auto tuned vocals throughout. One of the teaser tracks for the album, ‘Diane Young’, a hyperactive stomp which is just plain addictive, uses this technique, as does the beautifully weird ‘Ya Hey’, with particularly manipulated vocals. (They will stick in your head for days and they are almost impossible to replicate out loud). Another new touch is the use of spoken monologues during the songs; ’Ya Hey’ and a particularly beautiful example of forbidden falafel shop love in ‘Finger Back’. And it works: it’s these touches which move the record on from the previous ones, while fitting the band’s signature commitment to intelligent, strange, slightly wonky pop music. 

In true Vampire Weekend tradition, the album is a mix of fast and furious tracks and slower, more leisurely ones. ‘Hannah Hunt’ and ‘Don’t Lie’ are examples of the latter, ‘Hannah Hunt’ being particularly beautiful. The piano-lead ‘Young Lion’ is also a slower number and at under 2 minutes, is a perfect, simple close the album. ‘Hudson’ is probably the strangest song on the record, a slightly menacing tale accompanied by broken up military tattoo drums. The verses of ‘Worship You’ shows Ezra spitting lyrics at a properly impressive speed, and follows on nicely from songs like ‘California English’ on the previous record. 

‘Modern Vampires Of The City’ really is a triumph. It is as infectiously strange as it is beautiful and it surely is a contender for album of the year (yes, already!) 


Holly Read-Challen

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

MS MR - Second Hand Rupture

Gloom-pop, glitch-pop, dark wave; riding a wave of emoticons, reblogs and fickle, LOL hungry teens, the New York duo of Lizzy Plapinger and Max Hershenow deliver their debut album.

Owing a debt both to Blondie’s sleek new-wave and the present generation of synth-pop assisted divas, it effectively pre-empts Florence Welch’s next move by throwing big-lunged choruses over syncopated rhythms and glossy synths. With beats that wouldn't seem out of place on a Calvin Harris record it seems as if every ingredient is present for ‘Secondhand Rapture’ to be a big success. Yet despite Plapinger’s Tumblr friendly hair colour and the duo’s dark-wave pretenses  the choruses are as sugary and predictable as they come and there’s no sense of illicit thrills that the very best electronic music can offer; the razorblade in the cotton candy or the bittersweet pill that makes the highs all the more vivid.

At least Florence’s faux-pagan theatrics and private school upbringing were offset by interviews in which it became apparent that the wide-eyed kook in Victorian attire was not some carefully thought out marketing gimmick and she genuinely did live her life as if she were Kate Bush in the Wuthering Heights video. In contrast, by surfing in on a wave of net zeitgeist MS MR are left re-packaging the tropes that made them a trending topic in the hope of making an album that holds together for more than forty minutes. In some ways ‘Secondhand Rapture’ is an unfortunate choice of title because rather than conjuring up the air of mystique that MS MR evidently strive for, it actually highlights their most prominent weakness: we've heard this before.

All four tracks from last year’s Candy Bar Creep Show EP are included here; the product of a record company wanting to capitalise on their online buzz in an era of low attention spans, but the problem is that the duo just haven’t generated enough top quality material. For this reason it will probably be judged a disappointment that ‘Bones’ failed to become a smash hit despite appearing in a trailer for Game of Thrones but both ‘Bones’ and the earlier single ‘Hurricane’ are still the two best moments here. The former’s macabre refrain and enormous piano motif contrast nicely with the clattering percussion of the latter whilst both push Plapinger’s soulful vocals to the front and centre.

They’re not inventors or innovators but they’re competent scavengers with a 21st century grasp of presence and presentation. Ultimately however MS MR make music that when matched to the right visuals or dropped on an undemanding dance floor delivers a brief spark but tends to leave the soul alone.

Max Sefton

Monday, 13 May 2013

Little Boots - Nocturnes

Little Boots is not one of a kind, she is one of a kin, a group of chic young musicians showing it is possible to break away from the cliché of the pop wave girlgroups, and still deliver songs which light up a dance floor between your ears. 

Her premier release in 2009, Hands, was met with moderate success due to the rise of kinswoman Lady Gaga, La Roux and Ellie Goulding. With her new album Nocturnes, Little Boots delves into the more recent archives of 90's synth pop dance hybrids rather than the 70's disco tinges of her first album. It creates a soundscape immediately familiar to the audience. At times it sounds like Kylie Minogue at her best, and that is served up as a compliment. It's what is needed or expected in order to meet the genre and her perfect pop vocal rides high. 

Opening track 'Motorway' is a beautiful segue, a welcome mat of a track. The piano intro is reminiscent of Miike Snow, and the dropping out of the bulk of the instrumentation to highlight the lyrics about the pining of a need to escape with the one you love is blissful. Similarly 'Confusion' has the slow electro clap of a thousand 90's floor fillers. It's a Ministry Of Sound track. 

The cool thing about Nocturnes is that it doesn't sound like a straight album, some of the tweaks and drops are akin to the remixes found as B-sides on CD singles, in a time when Woolworths had a purpose. It gives an edge. It's impossible to imagine Little Boots performing synchronised moves in a midst of writhing backing dancers or having elaborate costume changes or set pieces. The songs and their messages and style speak for themselves, she's a serious artist who doesn't need the bells and whistles to be the head of discussion.
'Shake' begins with the Madonna's Erotica form of sensuality through hushed, compressed issues of the title before giving out to the GarageBand preset warbling bass part which is the modern day equivalent of the 80's synth we all mock so readily now. By the time the chorus; "Everybody shake, until your heart breaks" begins, all is forgiven. It's another example of how to work the genre and an album perfectly. This is followed by 'Beat Beat' which is so close to Can't Get You Out Of My Head you can almost hear the court case. 
Closer 'Satellites' is the sumptuous end required. Her husky vocals in the opening verse call you in before the chorus jumps about with the bouncing synth spots on either side like being overtaken. What Little Boots has managed to achieve is an absolute feat. In a world where there are far too many artists trying to do the same thing, she has dared to tuck into the pocket of 90's house and pulled out gold. 

Nocturnes should be one of the pop albums of the year. It's refreshing in its immediate references and bold in content and delivery. It's not an album to sit on a commute with, it is a top down sunset drive album. Lets pray the sun is around for us to race towards it.


Paul Schiernecker 

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Preview: Live at Leeds

This weekend, Live at Leeds follows in a long line of walkabout city festivals, perfect for those who love seeing lots of bands, but don’t fancy facing camping and wading around in a sea of mud to do so. Also, there will hopefully be less people dressed as fairies/in morph suits. Though you never know. A day of venue-hopping is probably ahead of you, so make sure you wear sensible shoes, and maybe invest in some blister plasters…

With a host of fantastic venues hosting some brilliant bands, new and old, for a very impressive price, this is a festival with a lot to offer. It’s like The Great Escape, but with more ‘YORKSHIRE!’ chants (probably).The line-up boasts headliners The Walkmen, Everything Everything (they are from the wrong side of the pennies, surely?) and local lot Sky Larkin among many others. Here’s our pick of 6 artists, other than those fab three, to catch over the weekend:

Wet Nuns
Playing on the Friday, Wet Nuns are a Yorkshire band that sound a lot like they’ve come via the Deep South. They play heavy, blues influenced punk rock about whiskey and women with some loud guitar hooks and shattering drums. And they are awesome. Their set promises to be: LOUD.

Swiss Lips
Our Mancunian friends and sorcerers of dangerously infectious pop music that will get the indie-kids moving as much as those prone to the dancefloor fillers; Swiss Lips will be playing Live at Leeds for the second year running this weekend. Their new single U Got The Power is bound to go down a storm and we're sure the band will pick up a lot of new friends across the day. Their slot promises to be: sexy, northern, powerful and full of dancing.

Composer, singer and songwriter Sóley Stefánsdottir is one member of the wonderful Seabear. Hailing from Iceland and bringing thoughtful, wonky indie-pop to our shores. She crafts beautiful, piano-led songs with offbeat clapping and strange percussion. Her set promises to be: captivating, maybe even a little tear-jerking

When introducing us to this act, a friend described Mø as ‘the Danish Grimes’. And that comparison, although widely made is pretty on point. Mø aka Karen Marie Ørsted uses a blend of samples, synths and her beautiful voice to create fantastically wonky pop songs. Her song ‘Glass’, with its ice cream van style riffs, is one of my personal favourites of the year so far. Her set promises to be: fun and full of catchy wonky pop songs.

Sweet Baboo
Sweet Baboo aka Stephen Black, known in certain (dare we say twee…?) indie-pop circles as one time collaborator/member of Slow Club. However his solo work really is worth investigating. His songs are full of wonderful idiosyncrasies, touching and funny lyrics, all carried along by his distinctive voice. His single ‘Let’s Go Swimming Wild’ may be familiar to Radio 6 listeners, as it was on Steve Lamaq’s ‘Rebel Playlist’ last year. It is full of brass, hence why we're hoping for plenty of brass during his set! Even without Brass, this promises to be fantastic.

Little Comets
Little Comets are a band who know how to craft a darn catchy tune. You may remember them from their debut single, ‘One Night In October’, which was pretty infectious when it was released back in 2009. Or maybe from ‘Dancing Song’, that one off that advert. (what was it for? Shampoo or something?) They are a fantastic live band, slightly infamous for percussion instruments dangling over the front of the stage, who deliver an energetic, danceable set with enthusiasm. Their show promises to: make you dance to sometimes sad but always catchy songs.

See the full lineup here and buy a last minute ticket from here or visit Crash or Jumbo Records in Leeds.

Holly Read-Challen