Wednesday, 22 February 2017
Pop music’s a funny old thing, isn’t it?
Or at least pop music is a funny old thing when it comes down to defining yourself by the bands that really mean something to you and those that don’t.
Take The 1975. They’re a band that seem to mean an awful lot to an increasingly large number of people. They’re an oddity; as a group, they inspire the same sort of obsessive fan base that the likes of Bieber or pre-split Take That had and yet they also have the seal of approval of many critics, music bloggers and the like. Their pretentiously titled (and for the record, I don’t use the word pretentious as a criticism, I love pretentiousness in pop music, otherwise it would be boring) second album I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It was a commercial big hitter and found its way onto the Mercury Prize list. They sell out arena sized shows and get very good reviews for them. In an age when new bands are struggling to assert themselves over the deluge of solo artists, The 1975 are succeeding.
Yet they really don’t mean anything to me. They’re one of those acts that I just don’t get. Every music fan has a few of these. I’ve never really got Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin or more recently Rihanna. It’s not that I dislike any of these artists, they’re just a bit ‘shoulder shrug’ to me. I’ve even seen The 1975 live in the hope of understanding why people adore them, but they didn’t connect. Sure, Love Me, The Sound and Chocolate are all very good radio-friendly if somewhat unoriginal singles, but they don’t grab me in the heart as they clearly do for many. For me their latest album, whilst having moments of some interest, is way too long and becomes a snoozefest by the end. And although it doesn’t have anything to do with the music, I do find Matt Healy a tad annoying – although to be fair the lad does seem to realise it himself: “I’m surprised no one has ever punched me in the face,” he said once. "I am a bit of a knob," he told the Guardian in an interview last year.
So, when a couple of days ago I heard a new song that sounded remarkably like The 1975 with a female singer the alarm bells began to ring. Why? Because, I discovered that the track was produced by Matt Healy and George Daniel from the band. By rights I shouldn’t like it. But I did. More than that, I loved it. Maybe The 1975 were finally going to win me over, but from an alternative route than their own music.
The group in question is Manchester reverb and glitter indie-pop quartet Pale Waves, who are Heather Baron-Gracie (vocals, guitar), Ciara Doran (drums), Hugo Silvani (guitar) and Charlie Wood (bass). They've been around for some time now, first under the name Creek before changing to their current moniker, with tracks like Heavenly, The Tide, Dangerous and Lust picking up some traction on blogs from as far back as 2014. Since that time, they’ve signed with Dirty Hit records (home of The 1975 and The Japanese House) deleted those old songs and this week release There’s A Honey as their first official single. It is 100% catchy. Once you’ve heard the “I would give you my body, but am I sure that you want me?” line once it will be lodged in your head all day. A piece of radiant pop that will make your day all the more better.
Pale Waves - There's A Honey
Tuesday, 21 February 2017
I’m not sure if Leeds based 3-piece Polo are named after the horseback sport, the Volkswagen car, the aftershave (which takes its name from the sport) or the classic British mint sweet with a hole in it, but what I do know is that their quirky and twitchy song Gold Horizons, taken from their debut EP Alice is an earworm.
Over pitter-patter beats, including what sounds like a dripping tap, and crisp tropical electronics it finds law student Kat McHugh singing of a bad choice; a devil on her shoulder that she keeps mistaking for an angel. There’s something devilish about the tune itself too as it sneaks gently up on you in its three minutes and forty seconds of oddball but delightfully enjoyable astute pop.
Released today, Soak, the second song from the EP gives a further dimension to the band’s sound. It’s both vulnerable in its lyrical delivery but fully robust and ergonomically designed in its detailed electronic soul pop delivery and adds a new dimension to their first release.
Take a listen to both songs below. The Alice EP is out on 10th March. The trio are currently playing a handful of dates across the country and will be at The Garage in London on 24th February.
Polo - Gold Horizons
Polo - Soak
Leave your preconceived ideas at the door for this one. If you saw the name Winston Marshall and thought ‘he’s in Mumford & Sons’ you’re right. What you’d be wrong about though was if you had assumed that this collaboration with Austrian electronic production duo HVOB was going to sound something akin to the vomit inducing techno-folk of Wake Me Up by Avicii. For The Blame Game, the first single from HVOB’s upcoming album Silk, is a thing of absolute beauty rather than something shameful, so we can all breathe a sigh of relief.
Taking you on a journey from sedately intimate XX-like reverb laden guitar chords to dark whirlpools of warped wavy techno this is a song that needs all of the six minutes it occupies to expand fully outwards whilst immersing you inwards. Yet those six minutes never feel long. In fact they seem to pass far too quickly.
The song came about simply because Marshall emailed HVOB telling them that he liked their music and that he’d like to work with them. The duo didn’t take the email seriously at first, believing it to be fake, but a year and a half later, this unusual meeting of minds has produced a stunning piece of music that deserves your attention, whatever your thoughts on Mumford & Sons.
HVOB and Winston Marshall - The Blame Game
Monday, 20 February 2017
Total banger alert!
Take one call and response chant, a pumping house backing, some crafty guitar licks and some smooth lyrics about keeping you up all night and there you have it. Ten imagine throwing in a dancefloor, darkness, strobes, dry ice and a whole bunch of people ready to go batshit mental and you’ve got yourself A MOMENT.
Actually, you’ve got yourself A MOMENT even without the dry ice and strobes. Just turn this one up and add it to your best bangers in the worlds ever playlist.
There's a hint of Sleigh Bells with this one, as Sofi Tukker bring the noise. "This is one of the first times Sophie has ever screamed," say the duo. "Unfortunately there's a lot to scream about right now."
Sofi Tukker - Greed