Thursday, 22 December 2011
Sunday, 18 December 2011
Bon Iver – Bon Iver
Monday, 31 October 2011
Tuesday, 25 October 2011
Monday, 19 September 2011
Matthew Lawes is one such filmmaker/ director, founder of City Sessions and all-round lovely man. His first film, a vibrant animated music video for Fyfe Dangerfield’s Faster Than The Setting Sun, is one of 30-odd shortlisted acts that will be shown on big BBC screens all around the country. IWAOS caught up with him to talk about the festival, his plans and the importance of live music.
Ages ago I read about it online and I wanted to do it because if you get selected they play the videos on these huge screens all across the UK, apparently they go out to 1000s of people. And I chose the Fyfe video because it was the first thing I ever did, it’s the most lof-fi and I thought it sort of represented what I'm about.
And now you’re expanding City Sessions...
Keep an eye out for the big screens all over the country that will be showing Matthew's and other new and talented filmmaker's videos over the next couple of weeks and don't forget to visit City Sessions for more live music videos.
Wednesday, 31 August 2011
First up is the Allah-las, who must be pretty new as they only have two songs out, this one 'Catamaran' and the equally jangly and brilliant 'Long Journey'. According to one of my favourite music blogs Aquarium Drunkard (the reading of which makes me want to move to California immediately) the Allah-las are resident band at the Echo club in San Francisco where they play a free gig every month - it's just the getting there that will set me back then.
Then a band which I have sort of tried to follow for ages. I say tried to because every time I go to check them out they've changed their name. I think at this stage they were called Jack Lewis and the Cutoffs but now they're named Jack Lewis and Awkward Enemy. Anyway, I love the low-fi sound of this track 'Shadow Party' and the video is cool too.
And finally to Nick Waterhouse who I get the impression is something of a dude in his hometown of San Francisco, and with a soul sound like this you wouldn't expect anything less.
Tuesday, 9 August 2011
Thursday, 28 July 2011
Butcher the Bar's album For Each A Future Tethered is Joel Nicholson's second stab at this album malarky and if, as I suspect, this time he set out to create a collection of sweet and sunny folk-pop songs then he has succeeded.
There are a few artists that Nicholson in his Butcher The Bar incarnation brings to mind and many come from across the pond. His sweetly sung, breathy songs definitely evoke Elliot Smith but perhaps without the darker edge – from the amount of sunshine that comes bursting through the songs on this album it’s certainly difficult to believe that Nicholson is of a similar disposition to the late Smith.
Shoegazey ditties like Alpha Street West conjure Josh Radin or Jason Schwartzman’s band Coconut Records and there’s definitely something Eels-esque in the rousing Lullaby. As for a homegrown influence then you wouldn’t be far off if you imagined the best of Badly Drawn Boy’s back catalogue.
Butcher The Bar’s sound is quite a full one – layers of clarinets, keyboards, glockenspiels, trumpets, and guitars all pile up to make for some pretty hefty choruses. It would definitely be interesting to check them out at a gig to see if they can translate this big sound into their lives shows.
Inspiration for most of the lyrics seem to be taken from the every day with many tracks recounting little stories – including walks with loved ones, imagined romances and teenaged mums – giving the album a really lovely, personal feel.
Giant with it’s refrain of “you’re my favourite, favourite one” is a good example of the material on offer here – it’s not complicated stuff, but it’s so sweet and backed-up by some pretty impressive musicianship. In fact most of the songs don’t surpass 3 and-a-half minutes so there is no hint that Nicholson is trying to do anything particularly wacky or experimental. For Each A Future Tethered is simply a collection of delightful indie-pop songs, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Wednesday, 25 May 2011
Written for and published by The 405.
In places this album hints at a change of track for Australian band The Middle East, and certainly there are more experimental sounds and sometimes just the bare bones of songs on I Want That You Are Always Happy, but just beneath the surface is a collection of achingly beautiful tracks. The sound might be simpler than their debut The Recordings of the Middle East, but this album will not disappoint fans of their previously more intricate acoustic sound.
First up and Black Death 1349 is a downbeat start but it’s a perfect introduction to Jordan Ireland’s voice, which is as bewitching a voice as I’ve heard in a long time and it’s this voice that still draws me to listen to Blood, perhaps their most well-known track to date, again and again.
The decidedly more chart-friendly Jesus Came To My Birthday Party is a standard in indie pop. I don’t know if the inclusion of songs like Jesus is a deliberate attempt at creating something more commercial or just a new direction the band wanted to explore? But it works – the song topped the charts in Australia as soon as it was released.
However, this is one of those albums that takes a few listens, perhaps because listened to together the tracks appear bitty and disconnected. At 14 songs, it’s quite a long album, which makes me think we could do without the more experimental tracks on the album – Mount Morgan and Sydney to Newcastle – that detract from the wonderful simplicity of the other tracks.
For those who are gagging for more of the pretty ditties that we heard on the first record, and it can’t be denied that this band can come up with the prettiest of ditties, there are plenty to choose from, including Land Of The Bloody Unknown, Dan’s Silverleaf, Months and the countrified Hunger Song and As I Go To See Janey.
The move away from the more complex, multi-instrumental arrangements of their first album has definitely landed The Middle East with more of a country vibe and they pull it off well. Americana is a common thread – Deep Water with its slide guitar and Ninth Avenue Revenue brings to mind the bluesy Ray LaMontagne – with their lyrics, “You say you can’t stop crying/ it’s just the power of the song/ riding along the midnight grass again”, it’s a potent combination and may well move you with the power of the song.
I hope The Middle East will find new fans with this release. Afterall since their debut in 2008 the folk scene has really exploded worldwide and anyone who is a fan of the likes of Fleet Foxes and their banjo touting and ethereal-voiced contemporaries should certainly feel happy that they’ve discovered The Middle East.
I Want That You Are Always Happy is released on May 30.
Thursday, 19 May 2011
Wednesday, 18 May 2011
The Travelling Band hail from Manchester, so the group are joining the ranks of some pretty impressive acts including Oasis, Elbow and Doves – although they much more closely resemble the latter two of that particular group. The first single from the record, Fairweather Friends could well have been inspired by their fellow Mancunians, the layering of instruments, shimmering guitars and affecting harmonies create a ‘big’ sound a la Elbow, perhaps even X&Y era Coldplay.
You’re reminded of their heritage every now and then too, when a Manc accent sneaks in, such as on Horizon Me And You. This is a fantastic folk pop song and shows real promise in their ability to create a catchy tune and yet make it their own.
It’s Sundial that claims the prize for best track on the album though, and it’s a real highlight – anthemic but all the while remaining sweet, “If I had a home to call my own/ then I wouldn’t need a sun dial/ to stop me roaming around” – it’s calling out for a sunny afternoon at a music festival one day this summer, and it stayed on repeat for a long while before my housemates and neighbours tired of it. Just give it a listen and see how long you can go without humming the chorus.
Indeed the band are no strangers to music festivals and actually got their break by winning the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition in 2008 where they then performed – I for one, am sorry to have missed them. A homemade video shows the boys hanging out, enjoying the sunshine, and performing Horizon Me and You at The Park at Glastonbury last year (above). And what an idyllic scene, boys performing their pretty music in the pretty countryside, makes you proud to be British.
Tracks Under the Pavement and Hindsight are perhaps a bit confused – the folksier sound definitely suits this band more than rocking out to guitars, but perhaps live this would actually work better. All-in-all this album passes in a hazy stream of sunny guitars and lilting harmonies, the slower songs are perhaps slightly less successful than the more upbeat tunes, which is where the band appear to really flourish, but if you’re looking for a soundtrack to kick off your summer then The Travelling Band’s new album Screaming Is Something could very well be the record you’re looking for.
Illustration by Melissa Dow, you can see her website, here.
Thursday, 12 May 2011
I was hoping to be able to stay away from the Joy Division comparisons while writing this review of New York band Crystal Stilt’s new album In Love With Oblivion, but like many before me I’ve found it basically impossible – the influence of Ian Curtis flows through the band’s second album like a vein of precious metal. It’s singer Brad Hargett’s drone-like vocal that does it, strongly recalling Curtis as well as the similarly enigmatic Jim Reid of The Jesus and Mary Chain. (And now I won’t mention the J D words ever again…promise.)
In fact quite a lot has been written about Hargett’s singing style, sometimes scathingly, and his vocals are a little monotonous. There are points on this record when I really wanted him to surprise me by stepping out of the echo chamber to give some these songs a bit of extra punch. On Silver Sun for instance, the whole band are doing some pretty great stuff – the guitars and the organs and the jangle of the tambourine but Hargett maintains his monotonal drawl. There are few upbeat tracks on this record and if Hargett switched his style up a bit on some of them, it would lift the whole album.
But perhaps I’m missing the point, this appears to be an album that is more concerned with creating atmospheres or feelings than totally nailing each individual track. Hargett’s obvious attachment to the echo effect and the whole lo-fi approach towards recording and production makes this album sound dreamlike, almost as if you could be listening to it underwater, and to over-produce or clean up the sound would mean losing some of this otherworldly charm.
There’s also a kind of filmic side to the album, thanks to the murky sound and doom-laden lyrics, not forgetting the use of sound effects. Songs open and end with gusts of wind, car crashes, and crickets – it’s totally atmospheric and a big hint that Crystal Stilts aren’t your average Brooklyn-based hipster garage band.
The band clearly includes some skilful musicians, the Johnny Cash-inspired guitar licks of opening track Sycamore Tree provides as good an introduction as any – this is a track that sounds like it’s been around for the last 50 years. In fact there are clear 1960s influences throughout and pretty convincing in places, like the band went to sleep in 1964 and woke up in 2011 and continued making music like nothing had changed, which for someone like me, who happens to love the music of the 1960s, makes this album a really interesting prospect.
There are peaks and troughs with this record though, the seven minute Alien Rivers is a needless addition but those that follow like stand-out track Flying Into the Sun is a fantastic listen and includes the inspired lyrics “There’s a black hole/ behind these eyes/ takes everything with it/ when it dies.” Like the album title suggests there is a bit of an emo vibe running through much of Hargett’s songwriting.
This is the kind of album then, that may well find itself providing the soundtrack to a whole host of late night gatherings and post-party hangouts, and I suspect could sound even better when you’re burnt out but not ready to go to bed just yet.
Crystal Stilts are playing in XOYO in London on June 21 – their only UK date and by the sounds of it, well worth getting down to.