Saturday, 31 October 2015

The Creeping Ivies - Your New Favourite Garage Band

Article by KevW

It was probably a no-brainier for garage/freakbeat phantoms The Creeping Ivies to unleash a compilation of tracks on October 31st. Many appear on CD for the first time and are lifted from various releases the band have put out thus far. 'Your New Favourite Garage Band' might be a bold statement, especially as the album's title (mind you, The Hives' UK debut was a similar compilation called simply 'Your New Favourite Band'), but you wouldn't mind betting that for a good few people, that will be the case. With some records made solely for US labels, this will likely serve as an introduction to The Creeping Ivies for many, despite the fact that they're based in Glasgow and have been around since 2011.

First becoming known to this site with the bare-bones, unrelenting single 'Spinning' back in summer 2013, it was this year's pretty darn amazing 'The Witch House' EP that really made them a group to take notice of. That track, with its great riff and reverb-heavy vocals opens the album, so immediately it's off to a flier. 'Black Cat' follows and is rougher around the edges with a more basic but no less effective punk sound, and, later, 'Buggin' Around' is another relatively simple track, but the fuzzed-out guitar and minimal production ensure it's exciting. Some songs are a little cruder, perhaps resembling a female-led version of The Monks (by the way, if that concept sounds interesting, then it's worth checking out all-girl Monks cover band Ye Nuns). 'Don't Cry' could fall into this category, as could closer 'Chicken Voodoo Blues'. Simple, repetitive guitar and drums have rarely sounded as well used as on the likes of 'The Ghost Train' with its spine-tingling howls. 'Rock 'n' Roll Party' is about as primitive as we get, but, due to its very nature, this makes for a raw and impassioned thrash around.

When The Creeping Ivies are at their very best is when they allow themselves to be that bit more tuneful. 'Head To Tail' is still one of the more rugged tunes here, but the surfy intro and gravel-voiced howl from singer Becca Bomb are given a neat melody to play with and a scuzzy but ace chorus. Likewise, 'What Would Joey Ramone Do?' bears more than a resemblance to his band, taking that same girl-group influence and wrapping it around some top proto-punk. The gorgeous 'Bye Bye Babe' was a highlight of their most recent EP and remains one here, again taking the sound of '60s girl groups to serve up some real ear-candy, and 'Only The Moon' from the same release indicates that The Creeping Ivies are only getting better and better, embellishing their music a little more but without losing any of their natural charm. You'll be hard-pushed to find a better garage-style track in recent years than 'Forever Leather' which is the sound of Phil Spector colliding with Blondie and getting a Cramps obsession. It really is a fantastic tune, and it's worth buying the album for this song alone, but the bonus is that you get another dozen high-calibre, addictive, rough-hewn gems to go with it. Your new favourite garage band? Well, they're certainly mine.

The Creeping Ivies' website

Stream or buy the album

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Get Me Free #77: Phone Home - Funhouse

Article by KevW

How's this for a way to start a band: “I’m going to buy a few keyboards and play weird riffs over your drum beats”. That was the message that John Vallarelli received from his brother Michael back in 2010, and that's basically the way the duo still operate today. After years playing in separate punk bands around New York, Phone Home was born as something experimental, exciting and with surprisingly listenable tunes for such an odd set-up. They dubbed the genre "spacecore", and that's pretty much what it sounds like. New EP 'Heights was released at the end of September.

Taken from it, and with a newly released video, just in time for Halloween, is single 'Funhouse'. The video shows the brothers entering a building, drinking an unknown concoction, and then running into all kinds of ghoulish and scary characters. The song itself is equally as weird, but in a cosmic, psychedelic and strangely poppy way. Entirely instrumental (as with all their music), the drums change from clattering, flailing fills one minute to steady, spacious beats the next. The keyboard sounds are twisted, warped, piercing and give the track a sound that's really theirs alone. A real (trick or) treat.

Phone Home's website

Buy the EP

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Friday, 30 October 2015

Tim Korenich - What A Weird Thing

Article by James Grimshaw

After a full week of caning Father John Misty’s 'I Love You, Honeybear', out of some inexplicable yet fundamental love for his post-modern, no-nonsense narcissism/self-doubt dichotomy – and more pertinently, his ace acoustic cover of Arcade Fire’s 'The Suburbs' –, it’s a breath of fresh air to return to the land of the earnest, of cheeks uninhabited by tongues. Tim Korenich, with his debut LP 'What A Weird Thing', manages a near-perfect combination of alt-folk nostalgia and modern musical conceit – and here’s how.

The nostalgia game is nothing new to the wider folk scene. You needn’t look further than FJM, or Bonnie Prince Billy, or Dad Rocks!, or Mermonte, to find something that conjures up that very particular nostalgia, perhaps the same one you feel when hearing that song from ‘Hello Dolly’ at the beginning of 'Wall-E', or any song by George Gershwin unexpectedly. In this game, Korenich’s album represents the sober side of today’s '50s-love-pop pastiche – the earnest, measured approach in comparison to tremolo-singing(/squealing) lovesick-core TRUDY or surf-rock-Beach-Boys Spring King. There’s a tenderness to the LP that leans Korenich closer to the place in ‘Singer-Songwritersville’ where Hey, Sleeper and Colin Macleod (formerly The Boy Who Trapped The Sun) live.

The album opens with ‘What’ll It Take’, a neat introduction that starts the LP off with Los-Camp guitar, husky vocals and some well-thought harmonies that are pure ear-candy. The track fills out in a lush, pleasant, spacey fullness, building with slightness and warmth. The next track is our first honest-to-goodness taste of what the album perhaps does best; ‘Darlin’ evokes the slow-paced '60s surf song, those post-war halcyon days of happily-ever-after, without treading too heavily on dreampop’s happy-clappy modern takes on the same. Korenich pairs frank lyrics with vocal lines to make you melt, while the song’s laid-back aesthetic is contrasted by a lead guitar that leaps, itches to leave like a small-town kid looking at the bus to L.A.

‘SRT’ starts out with a plaintive piano note, repeated over increasingly fervent drums and falsetto until a horn-imbued denouement/moment of clarity, whereupon Tim and his backing harmonise along with airy "ba-dums" and "oohs". What follows is ‘Natural Light’, the album’s lullaby ode. A hymn-esque drone lullaby-holds the warm, clear electric guitar, honest vocals – "When night falls/I don’t need walls/to keep the light in/when you strip down to your natural light" – and reverberated horns climbing to somnolent grace. ‘How We’ve Grown’ juxtaposes ‘Natural Light’’s night-time setting with the fingerpicked guitars of a morning chorus. Lush harmonies stab in at choice words, while the instruments hit the perfect balance of enfolding warmth (held by the droned bass part) and toned, trebled clarity. Korenich’s vocals sit behind the guitar, as if waking to it and singing still from half-sleep.

‘Sweet Summer Rose’ is a standout track on 'What A Weird Thing', if only for it being perhaps the most discretely complete songs on the album, as well as a perfect modern evocation of that '50s love-song nostalgia. Brushed drums, warm guitar and '60s warble permeate your ears, and intentionally cliché, dated lyrics melt the heart. ‘Tim Vs Weasel’ brings the album back towards its other mode; synth loops burble under now-idiosyncratic jazz chords, this time put to a Bonnie-Prince-Billy-meets-Elliott-Smith dirt-folk lament. Loops and delays melt Korenich’s layered vocals into each other while a tremeloed electric guitar skitters over like a dying storm cloud.   

Tim Korenich's website

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Figures - Unravel

Article by KevW

It can be a wise move to not just rush into things. Many bands form and then release a debut single or EP within a couple of months, when really they'd be better left to work on their sound and unveil themselves to the world when they've gelled properly and had time to build an identity and stronger material. Essex trio Figures formed around 18 months ago and will put out their first EP, 'Unravel', on November 16th (a demo of abrasive, mathy, tempo-changing and atmospheric EP track 'NScessity' was made available as a free download on Bandcamp this summer) and it's not just your average first foray into the world of music; you can tell that much care, attention and thought has gone into building these tracks, with the aforementioned 'NScessity' being a prime example.

That's perhaps not even the best song here though, as the group showcase a wide-ranging set of influences and prove to be a tight-knit unit. 'Wigourney Seaver' has a '90s alt-rock vibe that recalls the likes of dEUS and AC Acoustics, but perhaps with sharper edges and a more contemporary sound. Regular verse-chorus-verse formats are largely done away with for a more experimental approach, but without ever being too try-hard. The reverberating, post-rock style intro to 'Modulation' showcases this well, as it drifts by with a haunted ambiance and touches upon prog whilst doing so, gradually building into something of stature by switching to a much harder sound. The result is quite epic. As that track shudders to a sudden halt, the seemingly more accessible beginning of 'The Marginal Guideline Effect' comes into view, and this too proves to be something of a journey. Pensive and slightly wistful at first, space-rock starts to creep in and that mathy edge they've shown before joins it to forge a compelling, shifting and innovative finale. They do say the best things come to those who wait...

Figures' website

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Get Me Free #76: Boat To Row - Time And Time Again

Article by KevW

The recent revival in indie-folk and pop-folk has been somewhat similar to the often derided "new acoustic movement" that came into fashion at the turn of the century. Much like that scene, people have had to step away from troupes playing hollow wooden instruments and pretending to be rustic country types when really they grew up in a comfortable middle class household inside the M25. Heck, even flipping Mumford & Sons promised to ditch the banjos! There are still plenty of boring blokes with acoustic guitars clogging up the charts, but there's no need to write off everything that even comes close to fitting any of the above brackets though.

Now we've passed saturation point and the dust begins to settle, the cream begins to rise to the top. Birmingham group Boat To Row will release their debut album 'I Found You Here' on November 20th, and free taster 'Time And Time Again' shows a deftness of touch that few possess. There's a clear folk influence, but as it builds from its maudlin intro and the different layers intertwine you can detect the influence of indie and even post-rock. Sound-wise this is pristine and begs to be listened to closely, as the melancholia gives way to a bubbly finale without using all the obvious tricks; this feels more like a natural progression. If your view of acoustic music has been tarnished, you might like to give these guys a go and hear it done properly.

Boat To Row's website

Pre-order the album

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Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Get Me Free #75: Dazy Crown - Common Scents

Article by KevW

It seems that more and more countries are lurching to the right-wing, and Poland can now be added that list as their Conservative party eased to victory this week. One country that's bucking the trend is Canada who recently elected their Liberal party to power, but not without the usual pantomime-style ridicule and stupid statements that accompany elections. Young Canadian musician and producer Thomas Little, AKA Dazy Crown, may be based in the UK at the moment, but he's been keeping his eye on what's going on at home, and as a result of the Conservative propaganda (and general actions) he's written this deceivingly politically-charged new song.

Why deceivingly? Well, 'Common Scents' sounds like the kind of chilled, carefree guitar-pop that's built for lazy summer days rather than a vented spleen at poor policy decisions (and specifically, a Liberal-baiting advert about the supposed stupidity of legalizing cannabis). Don't be fooled into thinking this is some stoner teen though, because Little's argument for the legalization is more about possible other uses than wasting your days away. This is all wrapped up in a pretty and melodic pop song with a sunny guitar twang though, and anyway, the Liberals won, so the Tories can stick that in their pipe and smoke it.

Dazy Crown's website

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Monday, 26 October 2015

PoP Campaign - Dead Dark - Track By Track Guide

On October 30th, PoP Campaign will release their new album 'Dead Dark with all proceeds going to Macmillan Cancer Support. Mark from the band talks about the influences behind the record.

PoP Campaign were born out of a frustration at the apathy of modern music. 
PoP have been Inspired by bands such as Orbital and Mogwai; who whilst using very little in the way of vocals, have very clear messages through their music.

The duo have taken their music around the world, from their beginnings in Glasgow, to Scandinavia, the Baltics, Europe, and even as far flung as South Korea and Japan.

'Dead Dark' is their fourth album and it explores the depths of the human psyche and the limits that people are driven to. Having lived in London for the past 3 1/2 years, the band are fascinated by the history of the city and the secrets it must carry within it. They are particularly drawn to the dark side of Victoriana and murky characters like Jack The Ripper. This record is set in the misty landscape of the city they call home. 

Here is a track-by-track breakdown:

'Feart' - A Scottish word meaning scared. Wanted this to be a bitesize piece to start the album. Sounds a bit world music to me now!

'PoP Against Fascism' - The start beat and groove sound like a fascist rally to me. A bit like those ones we have for our royal family during unbearably dull and pointless occasions. A death march with optimism in the synth line that evokes hope against it all.

'Twatting a Tory' - First time we’ve ever used a string sound like that on one of our records. Probably one of the best things we’ve done.

'A Kill’t a Boy' - Repetition, glorious repetition. A wee bit Jean Michel Jarre to these ears.

'VILLIAN' - Thought this sounded like Ricardo Villalobos in its early form, hence the title. Not so much now. Ambience with a dark undercurrent.

'Berlin ’92' - Sounds like an older PoP Campaign tune. Very simple. Along the lines of our first single, 'Schadenfreude'.

'Total and Utter Knightmare' - Introduction to Side Two of the record - high end turned to max. 'Knightmare' (80s kids’ programme on ITV) used to keep me awake at night. Those naïve yet haunting graphics, that medieval presenter with the beard and the gear; gives the shivers just thinking about it.

'Victorian London' - Creepy and haunting, like the seedy backstreets of London in the Victorian era. Danger awaits.

'Glasgow Style' - Tried to get those sounds like the second side of 'Low' and 'Heroes'. All that mad experimentation from Bowie and Eno. Bowieno.

'Dracula Unleashed' - Took a basic, straight sounding gothy track and cut it all up. This is the result. The title is taken from the Mega CD game which terrified me as a child.

'Time Burglar' - An oldie. Probably 6 years old. Found it on my computer by chance and thought it worked perfectly on the album.

'My boyfriend, the depressant' - The cousin of Feart. The circle is complete.

PoP Campaign's website

'Dead Dark' will be available through Touched Music from October 30th

The Sound Of Confusion on Twitter and Facebook

Space Above - Fall Through

Article by KevW

It can be annoying when bands' or artists' PR companies (or even the acts themselves) try and make themselves out to be something they're not by falsely describing their sound on biographies, press releases and so on. For example, at the moment it seems that every young pop starlet tries to insert the word "indie" when looking to categorise themselves, presumably in an attempt to appeal to more alternative publications. It lacks a little imagination, and even if they are on an independent label, their sound is anything but. Using imagination in both music and sound description are New Zealand trio Space Above who've come up with the term "space tech" to accurately describe their form of experimental, electronic alt-pop.

They began as a project Aaron Short of The Naked and Famous and Sam McCarthy of Strange Babes, with vocalist and songwriter Maddie North of So Below completing the line-up soon after. 'Fall Through' is a dreamy wonderland with a steady, propulsive beat, soft, drifting vocals and plenty of cosmic sounds invading the background and making for a warm and fuzzy listen. There's lots here for fans of more conventional pop to get stuck into though; there may be an alternative edge to the band but there's also a strong sense of melody and something quite hypnotic about the track. 'Fall Through' gently draws you in more with each listen and the multitude of sonic layers add depth. A great track, and Space Above deserve bonus points for inventing a genre of their own that actually fits the music they make.

Space Above's website

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Slow Riot - Cathedral

Article by KevW

Limerick trio Slow Riot released their new EP 'Cathedral' this week, and these brooding post-punk tracks are quite fitting considering their band name. Opener 'Demons' does begin at a fairly slow pace, setting a tone not dissimilar to certain mid-paced Interpol or early Editors tracks, but then explodes into a beautiful cacophony of noise that lifts the song into grandiose territory. It's a marked difference from lead single 'City Of Culture' which brings in more of the "riot" aspect, powering through like a resurrected Joy Division with a bee in their bonnet. By the end the anger in the strained voice is palpable.

The tempo drops again for the start of 'Adele' which, as far as I can tell, isn't about the singer. However, much like her work, the track is perhaps the most emotive here, although it's a far cry from chart break-up ballads, and sound-wise is in keeping with the rest of the EP. The final minute and a half sees everything ramped up so that drums crash louder, the guitar is blistering as if it's been set on fire and the backline is weighty and bass-heavy. It's a neat post-punk bassline that kicks-off the atmospheric 'Cooper's Dream' too, before being joined by a chiming guitar line. With many of the bands that have dealt in a similar style in recent years either changing their sound or yielding diminishing returns, Slow Riot are more than capable of filling the hole. 

Slow Riot's website

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Get Me Free #74: The Echo And The Sound - Virginia Law

Article by KevW

Formed in 2012, Los Angeles duo The Echo And The Sound offer a stripped-down but energetic take on modern garage music. Consisting of Brian Rich on guitar and vocals and Douglas Jewell on drums, the pair released the album 'Buffalo Mouth' earlier this year, but it's being given a fresh release tomorrow as a double EP. Being a guitar and drums duo, certain comparisons are inevitable, but they don't limit themselves to those instruments alone, although they can kick up a heck of a sound when they do.

Lead single 'Virginia Law' is a prime example of they genre they've made for themselves. "Gothic cantina" may be difficult to envisage by name alone, but if you take raw garage rock 'n' roll, throw in a little blues and a punky edge then that sums things up pretty well. Despite the fact tat there are only two of them, there's not much room to move on 'Virginia Law', as it's crammed with fervently strummed electric guitar, a surging beat, handclaps and even a touch of harmonica. The Echo And The Sound may not be the first to attempt this kind of thing, but they still manage to keep it sounding fresh and exciting.

Free download: 'Virginia Law'
(Right click, save as)

The Echo And The Sound's website

Buy the single

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Sunday, 25 October 2015

The Fallen Leaves - Out In A Forest

Article by KevW

London group The Fallen Leaves have been making "minimum R&B" together over a decade now, and while new single 'Out In A Forest' does contain elements of R&B, it's perhaps not the first genre that springs to mind upon first listen (hence the tongue-in-cheek "minimum" rather than "maximum" maybe?), although the soulful vocals of Rob Green do steer it in that direction. The opening jangle of guitars are more reminiscent of '60s guitar-pop, but there's a clear mod influence here as well, which, coupled with traces '80s indie leads to a retro post-punk sound overall, which perhaps isn't a surprise considering the band include Subway Sect guitarist Rob Symmons amongst their ranks.

They clearly know what to do, and whichever decade the tune reminds you of it's undeniably good, and the fact that it picks up traces of so many eras and scenes works in its favour and gives a timeless quality. With the band name they have, and with lyrics such as "all the leaves are falling down to the ground, all the leaves are turning, they're turning brown" its release is timed to perfection too. Besides a simple, spoken "Hello" and "Goodbye" at the start and end respectively of intriguingly-named B-side 'The Inside Of A Chair', the song sounds like a lost freakbeat instrumental - perhaps something that one of the rawer surf bands may have recorded. It has punk attitude and if it had been from that far in the past you could imagine it being in The Cramps' record collection. Top stuff all round.

The Fallen Leaves' website

Buy the single

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Hundred Handed - Love Me Like The Weekend

Article by KevW

Los Angeles trio Hundred Handed only formed recently, but in new single 'Love Me Like The Weekend' they're already displaying enough talent to make them potential crossover stars. Jordan McGraw (vocals/guitar), Drew Langan (drums) and Matt Black (bass) don't just have confidence and musical ability, they have a knack with a melody, and arrangements that bring out the very best in this track. The production is perfect for the mix of indie-rock and alt-pop and could find fans in many corners of the music world.

Crisp and clean, 'Love Me Like The Weekend' is built from a snappy beat, shimmering guitar, occasional piano and some great melodies and harmonies. They drop in a chorus that's both contagious and euphoric; the entire song feels like one big celebration. Unless this is a one-off, it deserves a reissue once the band become better known, something which, if they have more of these waiting in the wings, seems almost inevitable. Don't bet against hearing a lot more from these guys before long.

Hundred Handed's website

Buy the single

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PREMIERE: Trick Mist - Tampering Happy

Article by KevW

It's amazing what some people decide to throw away. Manchester-based Irishman Gavin Murray (who you may know as a member of Bold Things) found what he describes as a "pristine" violin in a wheelie bin outside his house. He's put it to good use on his debut solo release under the guise of Trick Mist whose 'Jars In Rows' EP will be out on October 29th. In fact, for the next few days you'll be able to stream the whole record by means of a video on his website which consists of a shot of a Manchester bus stop at night - it's not your regular promotional route, but then Trick Mist don't really have a regular sound.

That violin adds a lovely, almost John Cale-esque drone to 'Tampering Happy', but any Velvet Underground comparisons just about end there. This slightly haunted number is perhaps more in line with, say, Nick Cave or Tindersticks, and the layers of repetitive instrumentation will almost leave you in a trance. There's much more going on here than you first realise, and when a switch occurs halfway through it becomes even darker in tone and makes great use of the combination of organic and electronic sounds. 'Tampering Happy' is something of a collage, carefully pieced together, but makes for a wonderfully cohesive journey that is completely engaging.

Trick Mist's website

The EP will be available from October 29th via Bandcamp

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Get Me Free #73: Look Vibrant - Callous Reactions

Article by KevW

Montreal's Look Vibrant couldn't be better named, as their music is an explosion of sound and is bursting with energy. Following a string of singles, the duo of Justin Lazarus and Matt Murphy (they expand to a five-piece for live dates, and with so much going on it's no surprise) put out their debut EP at the end of last month. At five tracks long and available as a free download, it's a total bargain, and single 'Callous Reactions' is a perfect example of their melodic, experimental electro/rock/indie/pop hybrid.

Retro synths and full-throttle guitars open up the track and they never look back from there, as a galloping beat enters the fray and the expertly-crafted pop melodies are beautifully sung. 'Callous Reactions' changes tempo a few times and harmonies also appear, along with a variety of electronic sounds that make kaleidoscopic noise that's fun, colourful, innovative and very easy to listen to at the same time; it's proper ear candy, and you need to tuck in right away. 

Download the EP for free by heading here

Look Vibrant's website

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Thursday, 22 October 2015

Get Me Free #72: Superfecta - All Of These Places

Article by KevW

Another bumper 'Get Me Free' today. New York alt-rock group Superfecta have just released a new six-track EP as a name-your-price download via Bandcamp. What sets them apart from much of NY's guitar music scene is that they're not trying overly hard to be "alternative", instead mixing a love of classic rock influences into indie-rock. For example, 'Resurrection' could easily be the cover of a '70s track and isn't afraid to use lead guitar in a more conventional sense, which really works for them. 'Talking To Myself' also has a timeless sound that blends in a little funk. There are slower, more anthemic moments too, the most prominent perhaps being the countryish 'Weeds and Trees', but lighter, chiming guitars also make themselves known on 'Pedestal'. They even nail the "epic last track" with the lovely 'Always Waiting'.

If it's something that more resembles a conventional single that you're after, then the title-track will provide the goods and is a nice marker of their merger of the new and the old. 'All Of These Places' is alt-rock that doesn't take long to come firing out of the barrel. The occasional pause for something a bit more subtle gives clues as to what else the band have to offer on the record. Superfecta haven't tried to step too far outside of the box here, but with so many others being indier-than-thou, this is actually a refreshing change and gives them their own space to indulge in whatever they choose without the need to conform. A good fuzzy guitar solo doesn't do the track any harm either, and even uses Brian May-esque harmonics at one point. Yeah you can get all this lot for free, but it's probably worth splashing a little cash if you can.

Superfecta's website

Stream or buy the EP

Catch them live:

Nov 23 - 9 PM at The Shrine in Harlem

The Sound Of Confusion on Twitter and Facebook

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Willie J Healey - Dude Like Him

Article by KevW

Oxford-based artist Willie J Healey has been described as offering a British take on the grungy, slacker-pop of people like Kurt Vile and Mac DeMarco. When you factor in his own description of his music being "rock 'n' stroll", then a surprisingly accurate picture is painted. A new EP, 'Saturday Night Feeling', is set for release on November 6th, with single 'Dude Like Him' out now and very much living up to the comparisons.

The guitar is very much in the tradition of modern garage bands, even hinting at early Strokes tracks while also possessing an airiness that could be inspired by The War On Drugs. This is uptempo but spacious with it. Those aforementioned slacker vibes come across in the vocal delivery as well as certain lyrics and, despite those American references, this does have a very British quality to it. With a contagious stomp that grows with each listen, 'Dude Like Him' lends itself to radio play and deserves a decent amount of coverage.

Willie J Healey's website

Buy the single

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elemantra - You Feel Bad About You

Article by KevW

Within the first minute of opening track 'I Wish I Could Swim' we get hazy, distorted guitar that's complimented by wavering chimes and then a distant, almost otherworldly vocal, so it's clear right from the off that we're possibly in the realms of shoegaze and dreampop with 'You Feel Bad About You', the new album by Salamanca, NewYork band elemantra, but what also becomes apparent on the first song is that formulas don't really apply. By the middle of the track the atmosphere has changed and is closer to US alt-rock. You get the impression that the album could be an interesting ride, especially as they close this opening gambit with a hybrid of both (barring the final few seconds where a more traditional guitar solo also joins in).

This blend bleeds through into the sometimes grungy 'We All Know' where guitars are again allowed to roam free. The short, scuzzy title-track is a highlight, pushing them closer to shoegaze again, and then the epic 'Bermuda' finds us in dreampop territory that once more brings in alt-rock influences as it builds. The album flits between the two genres regularly, as if trying to find the perfect way to combine them. 'Saccharine' gets it right, as does the dreamy 'Bunny', and the trippy, sample-heavy 'Reticulan' is interesting for all the right reasons.

'You Feel Bad About You' is sometimes a bit disjointed and does slightly misfire on occasion (single 'Clovers' suffers a little from the quality of the recording), although it's a good album on the whole and is certainly the sound of a band who have plenty of ideas and potential, even if it does feel as though they're still finding their feet at times. Given more time to gel, and perhaps with the help of an external producer, elemantra have what it takes to go the distance. It's certainly a space worth watching.

elemantra's website

Stream or buy the album

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danmarck - ny låt/ny EP

Article by KevW

If, as Swedish group danmarck did, a band announces themselves to the wider world with a track inspired by The Damned's hi-octane 'Neat Neat Neat', then it's fairly safe to assume their own material isn't likely to pull any punches. On their latest EP, though, Richard Ahlgren and co. offer up music of a higher intensity than they perhaps have before. The most obvious examples of this are 'pants on pants off leaves on leaves off' and 'ice eyes'. The former takes punk rock and pumps it full of steroids so that the drums pummel and the vocals are throat-shredding. It's a ferocious effort for sure. 'Ice Eyes' is equally as powerful and perhaps even more noisy - especially the grinding feedback that starts the song and hovers around in the background throughout. Again the vocals border on being hardcore, but this is a melodic form of musical brutality.

'skull earth' is perhaps lighter and maybe an easier listen for those more into conventional punk, grunge or alt-rock. It still packs a punch though, and the backing is crammed with clanging guitars and strange noises that sound like some kind of flute being burned to death. You could call it a perfect mix of tune and noise. 'Manga' is similar in style, but this time the flute isn't tortured and is allowed to pipe up from time to time, becoming an unusual addition to this type of music. Vocally, the chanting is almost tribal in nature, but always aggressive with it. Essentially we're looking at a modern, bastardised form of garage-rock that wants to be in your face whether you like it or not. So it's pretty handy that it is so likeable then, because it's hard to avoid sounds this potent.

danmarck's website

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Get Me Free #71: Sound Is Lovv - Take Me With You

Article by KevW

Los Angeles group Sound Is Lovv began life as the solo project of Brad Watson before expanding to a full band and releasing their highly impressive debut EP this week. 'Shipwrecks' doesn't sound like the first tentative steps of a fledgling band, with tracks such as 'And Don't Believe' and 'Not Good Enough' grabbing a classic shoegaze sound by the scruff of the neck and pounding it full of energy while keeping the vocals soft and switching between aural guitar and drum assaults to slower, more subtle moments. 'Love FM' covers all bases and is typical of the epic sound that the genre has been known for in the past.

Single 'Take Me With You' is another that really shines out from an accomplished set of songs. A video set on a rocky shoreline doesn't just fit the title of the EP, the bright sunshine mirrors the uplifting, golden sound of the track, and the endless blue sea and sky only serve to make 'Take Me With You' even more expansive than it already is. Drums crash, guitar squalls out a great solo and the entire tune shimmers like the sun's rays of the water. This isn't a mere retread of another band's work, Sound Is Lovv have taken the music they like and stamped their own hallmark on it. An extremely good first offering.

Sound Is Lovv's website

Stream or download the EP

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Tuesday, 20 October 2015

A Shoreline Dream - Time Is A Machine Gun

Article by KevW

It's always interesting to hear what influences a band or artist cite. Some try to be ultra-cool, naming bands they know are trendy but probably have heard little by, some are more honest and you'd pick out the same list in a blindfold test when listening to their music. Some are more surprising, acts you'd never have guessed (but then judging by my own varied personal taste, perhaps it shouldn't be that way). Denver's A Shoreline Dream (possibly named because Denver is slap-bang in the middle of the US, with no shoreline for hundreds of miles) then? Ulrich Schnauss? Yeah, that fits their atmospheric, electronic-tinged sound. Engineers? Sure, this slow-paced shoegaze-inspired music belongs in the same category. The Pet Shop Boys? Tori Amos? Perhaps that's what they listen to in their spare time, but judging by latest single, 'Time Is A Machine Gun', little of their particular styles have rubbed off.

Whatever A Shoreline Dream's record collection consists of is, of course, essentially non-important when reviewing their own tunes, but it gives an interesting insight nonetheless. The first release since last year's acclaimed 'The Silent Sunrise' album, 'Time Is A Machine Gun' uses post-rock guitars to bring a spacious ambiance right from the start, as samples of astronaut communication are placed far back in the mix, almost acting as an instrument in themselves, as well as giving the cosmic edge the band are after. Their own vocals are soft, drifting and woozy, an effect that's also mirrored by the production as a whole. What's created is to a certain extent quite hypnotic and belongs in the twilight zone; it almost feels surreal and angelic, and it's definitely quite majestic. The final vocal sample perhaps sums up A Shoreline Dream's manifesto: "man must explore... and this is exploration at its greatest". This is something the band have obviously done with their own listening habits, and that's transferred to the records they make. Maybe those influences should be as surprising after all.

A Shoreline Dream's website

Stream or buy the single

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Get Me Free #70: Windmill - How Many Times?

Article by KevW

It's been a steady and graceful rise for Liverpool's Windmill. The project was initially conceived by Mick Dolan some years ago, but it wasn't until he began working with vocalist Dawn Williams that things really took off, and debut single 'Birdman' was released at the start of 2014. Almost two years later, and now expanded to a five-piece, the string of hauntingly beautiful, dreamy indie-folk tracks they've delivered are set set to be followed by an album. 'Wanderlust' is scheduled for the end of January and will include new track 'How Many Times?'.

More stripped-down than previous releases, the ominous, booming production has been swapped for something more delicate and intimate. 'How Many Times?' is almost an exercise in restraint; knowing when to go overboard and when to keep arrangements relatively simple. A gentle, monotonous bass loop bobs through the song alongside the picked acoustic guitar. Atmosphere has always been a key aspect of what's made Windmill so enticing, and even scaled-back this song is flooded with it - not least because of the simply gorgeous vocal harmonies that make you stop what you're doing and just listen. Windmill don't have a bad tune to their name yet, and there's no reason to doubt that the forthcoming album will also deliver the goods.

Windmill's website

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Friday, 16 October 2015

Frozy - Lesser Pop

Article by KevW

In a way, 'Lesser Pop' is the perfect title for the latest album by Seaford-based trio Frozy. Not because it somehow lacks quality, but because it's very stripped-back and with no frills, just great songs with well-written lyrics and a simple, lo-fi production that gives a certain intimacy to tracks like 'Cardinals' and 'Summer End'. Indiepop can often be a dirty word; shorthand for twee, sickly music, or melodic songs that are covered in distortion to hide the fact that beneath it all there's little of value. Frozy give themselves nowhere to hide, and they don't need to.

Chiming guitars, basic drums and a crystal clear vocal open up the album on 'Ferris Wheel', and Frozy's stall is pretty much set out from there, but that's not to say they simply repeat the same trick for the next half an hour. 'You Did' is a pretty tune that does follow suit, and 'Sea Air' does likewise, but 'Angela' has a slightly more lush arrangement and melodically recalls The Velvet Underground before dipping into '90s alt-rock for the chorus, but this song is the exception rather than the rule, and the almost bare-bones approach is, on the whole, more reminiscent of a less punky Violent Femmes, perhaps most obviously so on 'Where Are You'.

There are hooky aplenty, and the "ba ba bas" on the excellent 'Hang Up' don't require repeat plays to fall for. Even on slower tracks like instrumental 'Ohio' there's something to catch your ear right away, in this case the melodic lead guitar, and the winding lead on 'Five Roses' has a similar effect. 'March Again' is fairly innocuous at first, but the scuzzy guitar kicks in and gives it some extra sparkle, and the upbeat 'Clement's Songfinal' is a late highlight before we bow out with sentimental feeling 'Snow'. Frozy aren't trying to change the world or reinvent the wheel with 'Lesser Pop', but if it's a collection of natural, personal and well-made songs that you're after, then you won't find much to grumble about here.

Frozy's website

Buy the album

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Baston - Gesture

Article by KevW

From Air to M83, France has led the line in electronic/pop crossover acts; experimental but commercial with it. That legacy doesn't look like going away any time soon, especially with groups such as Yeti Lane pushing things forward even more, but Baston belong to a whole different scene that's emerging across the channel. Hailing from Rennes, the trio have maybe been listening to the swathe of garage-pop acts to come out of America in recent times and lit up the indie world. To give you an idea, both Deerhunter and Beach Fossils are cited as references, but there are so many more creating a similar noise to great success. That really begs a couple of questions. Does the world need another similar sounding band? And can Baston possibly stand out in a genre that's not lacking in representatives? Well, the world always needs good bands, no matter what style they fit. And the second question is easily answered by listening to new EP 'Gesture'.

Spooky guitar twangs kick off 'Maybe I'm Dead', before it fully impacts with a jangle that's part C86 and part '60s freakbeat with a catchy, instantly likable melody, it bodes well from the very start. As they move on to the slightly darker 'Decay', they prove it's not a one-off. Elements of post-punk creep in, along with a touch of surf which is ever-present on the EP. 'Sword' is another undeniably top tune that will reel you in upon first play; these guys clearly have what it takes. From there they segue straight into the '50s flecked 'Honda'.  Echo is used heavily on 'Holotape' where they ramp up the atmosphere that bit more and craft something that has a certain stateliness despite the relatively trebly, lo-fi production. Baston aren't ones for simply regurgitating the same song over again either, and you only need to look at the excellent 'Jacques Vache (It's Complicated With)' which soars higher with terrific vocal and a grandeur not often associated with music of this kind. It twangs, it's epic, and it's a match for just about any of their contemporaries. They even leave enough to sign off with an epic last track in the form of the quite fantastic and dreamy 'Gefahr'. It's safe to say that Baston can, and indeed have, managed to make a record stands out. This is stellar stuff.

Baston's website

Stream or buy the EP

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Get Me Free #69: Wet Ashes - Spot In The Sun

Article by KevW

Bands having members in different countries is becoming less rare these days thanks to the ease of transferring ideas back and forth via the internet, and that's been the case with Wet Ashes. The group have been together a few years, but only released their debut album late last year after they'd cemented a line-up that worked and written a high calibre of songs. Split between Chicago and Mexico, different musicians, producers and engineers work together to give them a hybrid of various indie-rock sounds.

There is something traditional about their music, but at the same time it holds an almost danceable groove and takes in elements of US alt-rock, the UK guitar-pop scene, as well as glimmers of psychedelia and an experimental leaning. 'Spot In The Sun' captures that vision perfectly and is a tangible progression from their early recordings (they started exchanging ideas over five years ago). There's nothing overly commercial about this track; Wet Ashes plan doesn't seem to be toppling Taylor Swift or anything, it feels as though they're a band making the music they want. And when that's done to a high standard, you can easily find yourself going places.

Free download: 'Spot In The Sun'
(Right click, save as)

Wet Ashes' website

Buy the single

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Thursday, 15 October 2015

Get Me Free #68: Drull X Sandy Beales - Blind Sea

Article by KevW

It may seem like an odd pairing at first, experimental electro-rock duo Drull teaming up with One Direction's bass player Sandy Beales - their musical output has been poles apart - yet after a chance meeting they joined forces and began working on a series of tracks together, bringing in other musicians from around the world for a series of singles to be released in the next year or so. As debut track and free download 'Blind Sea' shows, it actually turned out to be a perfect match.

'Blind Sea' is an amalgamation of sounds and pushes boundaries in much the same way that Drull have always done. Jagged, stuttering beats flit between trip-hop, drum and bass and IDM, with a softer voice leading the way. The production is innovative and sometimes slightly abrasive whist also chiming and adding different effects to the vocal. It's a deep bass that underpins the track though, making the speakers shudder and underlining the fact that 'Blind Sea' is best listened to loudly. With another ten or so tracks ready to go, we could be in for some incredibly interesting music. It may not have been a collaboration that most people saw coming, but it sure as hell works. 

Download 'Blind Sea' for free by heading here

Sandy Beales' website

Drull's website

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Wednesday, 14 October 2015

British India - Threshold American

Article by KevW

The lucky folk of New York will be well aware that this year's CMJ Music Marathon kicked off yesterday, with many top alternative music groups making multiple appearances. Among them are Australians British India who play their first date tomorrow (15th October). Already highly acclaimed, the quartet could well be on the verge of a major breakthrough, having already become known for their live shows (they shared a stage with The Rolling Stones last year) and with four top 10 albums under their belt in their homeland, most recently with this year's 'Nothing Touches Me'.

To mark their US debut shows though, the band have chosen to release the track 'Threshold American' as their new single, a song that was originally recorded for 2013 album 'Controller'. It's a fine choice, and not just because of its title. In fact, like much of their material, this song is influenced by US alt-rock and indie, and will likely be a hit with fans of groups such as The War On Drugs and many modern garage bands, taking a little of each to whip up a powerful, mildly psychedelic and dreamy tune that's fluid and atmospheric, as well as being angry at times. They've got the tunes, now it's time for the wider world to take notice.

British India's website

Catch them live:

Thursday, Oct. 15th @ Parkside Lounge
Friday, Oct. 16th @ Pianos  
Saturday, Oct. 17th @ The Delancey

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Field Music - The Noisy Days Are Over

Article by KevW

Despite not having released a proper studio album since 2012, Field Music seem ever present on the music scene. They did soundtrack work earlier this year, and the last couple of years have seen the brothers Brewis busy with other projects: both toured as members of Slug, while Peter joined forces for an album with Maximo Park's Paul Smith and David has released another solo album as well as working on the solo debut by Fiery Furnaces' Eleanor Friedberger. It's safe to say that writer's block has never been much of an issue.

At last, a new Field Music album, 'The Noisy Days Are Over', has been announced and will be out on Memphis Industries on February 5th. The first cut lifted from the record is opener and title-track, 'The Noisy Days Are Over', a song that sees the pair on typically fine form and, as usual, difficult to categorise. With a funky, Talking Heads style beat, sax breaks and even a hint of Malcolm McLaren's 'Buffalo Girls', this is something akin to an update of various new-wave sounds but still catches you off guard at times, such as the Beatles-esque strings that appear right before the end. This is a wonderful and cohesive hotch-potch of ideas that proves Field Music are nowhere near bereft of ideas yet.

Field Music's website

Buy the single

Catch them live:

Feb 25 Newcastle, The Cluny
Feb 26 Newcastle, The Cluny
Feb 28 York, The Duchess
Mar 03 Cardiff, The Globe
Mar 04 Exeter Phoenix, Exeter
Mar 05 Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
Mar 10 Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
Mar 11 Manchester, Band on the Wall
Mar 13 Glasgow, CCA
Mar 18 London, Islington Assembly Hall
Mar 19 Southampton, Engine Rooms
Mar 20 Brighton, The Haunt

Mar 24, Washington DC, DC9
Mar 25, Philadelphia, Johnny Brenda's
Mar 26, New York, NY, Rough Trade
Mar 27, Boston, MA, Great Scott
Mar 29, Seattle, WA, Crocodile
Mar 30, Portland, OR, Doug Fir
Apr 01, San Francisco, CA, Independent

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Get Me Free #67: Victory Kicks - Died A Patriot

Article by KevW

If you've followed the UK music press lately, you may have seen shows or read articles that discuss exactly what "indie" music is/means nowadays. The idea of it being a genre of music essentially vanished many years ago, but independent labels can have hits as big as the majors and house some of the biggest acts in the world. Really, indie is more an ethic than anything else, and it's one that Victory Kicks adhere to. Formed on The Isle Of Wight as a vehicle for songwriter John Sibley, they're now based in London and produce and release their records on their own label.

Most recent album, 'High Wires', was released in the summer and it's from this that double A-side single 'Died A Patriot'/'The North Fall' is taken, and the pair have been made a free download. The slow-burning, slightly funky 'The North Fall' is well worth checking out, but 'Died A Patriot' perhaps edges it. More immediate, this track mixes in a gritty, almost southern-fried guitar riff with the lighter tones of the sparking arrangement. This is alt-rock that should have a wide appeal without ever sounding watered-down. Proof that if you have the talent, big label cash injections aren't needed to come up with the goods.

Victory Kicks' website

Stream the single in full

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Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Club 8 - Love Dies

Article by KevW

It's hard to believe that Swedish indiepoppers Club 8 celebrate their 20th anniversary this year (S Club 7 came and went in that time, although I believe an attempted comeback is in progress), especially given the fact that various members are involved in other bands as well - it would have been easy to move on, but their chemistry is too good for that. Throughout that time you've never known quite what to expect from each new release, as they've moved from guitar-driven songs to a more electronic sound and even more atmospheric sounds that could be classed as chillwave. They're always up for experimenting rather than repeating the same formula over and over again, and they've rarely faltered.

Their new album 'Pleasure' is due on November 20th through Labrador Records and is preceded by current single 'Love Dies'. Where does this fall in terms of categorisation? Well, that's typically difficult to precisely pinpoint. The umbrella term "indiepop" fits, but so too does electro-pop, dreampop and chillwave. This is a subtle track that gently glides along on a layer of background fuzz with angelic vocals as the focal point. Held together by synths and keys, 'Love Dies' manages to convey the emotion the title suggests, and the glistening ambiance of it all is quite lovely. Electronic beats are used sparingly so that when they do appear, they add an extra dimension. It's slightly ironic that two decades together is marked by a break-up song, but we can only hope the band remain as solid as ever.

Club 8's website

Buy the single

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