Thursday, 30 April 2009

Polly Scattergood - Please Don't Touch

On 4th May Polly Scattergood releases Please Don’t Touch, from her self titled debut album. Please Don’t Touch is notable for being musically upbeat and rather sunny. With skippy acoustic guitar and schoolyard handclaps a plenty it certainly isn’t representative of the rest of the album which is formed from darker electronic atmospheric soundscapes. This is a schizophrenic slightly blemished song, with Polly pleading in her marmite tasting little girl lost voice “Please don’t touch, please don’t stop and stare, yes I thank you for your kindness, but there’s sadness in the air.” The double sided emotion hints at violence as well when Polly adds “Love me tender love me true, show your colours black and blue.” It’s an obvious single to push out due to its jaunty instrumentation and pop music ideals, although there are deeper and far more interesting tracks on the album.

Here’s the video, and for those familiar with Brighton in the UK, see how many places you can identify in this shoot.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Little Boots - New In Town

At the back end of last year in our Ones To Watch 2009 list we wrote “2009 may just be the year that the girls hit the dance floor hard and Breaking More Waves is predicting that La Roux will be one of the two girls leading the charge.” Well, with a No.2 hit single with In For The Kill under her belt, and what looks like a very promising album coming from the sampler we’ve heard, the first part of that prediction has come true. Now here comes that second girl. Our No.2 prediction in our Ones To Watch list. It’s Little Boots.

New In Town is Little Boots first proper crack at the charts following previous low key releases. Her previous singles have been high on our play list for half a year now. The remixes of the new single have been all over the blogosphere for a while and have heightened expectations. So why does New In Town leave us just a little cold ? Despite the big ascending synth riff, and the inevitably catchy chorus, the song lacks some of the spunk, the subtle quirkiness and oddball personality of her previous tunes. Sure it’s accessible and will probably storm the charts, but for Breaking More Waves, it sounds just like plenty of other average mainstream pop tunes out there at the moment. Victoria Hesketh has always made it clear that she wants to record a pop album, and at Breaking More Waves we believe that great pop can illuminate lives. Let’s hope the album lights us up with a little more of the off kilter tenorion thumbing, stylophone pressing, keytar wielding verve she has hinted at than New In Town does. The track is due for release on 25th May.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Rose Elinor Dougall - Interview

Rose Elinor Dougall will shortly be releasing her second single, Start / Stop / Synchro on Spanish label Elefant Records, who are based in Madrid. The label is probably best known for putting out some of Camera Obscura's work until they were signed to 4AD. An adventurous pop song, coated with grace and maturity, it shows another leap from her self released single. We catch up with Rose to talk about her new material, and her perceptions as an artist on such issues as illegal downloading and success.

Hi Rose. Ok first of all, we’re not going to ask you any questions about The Pipettes. Not because we didn’t enjoy them, but because we think that has been done to death elsewhere. So instead this is about the here and now and the future.

First of all can you tell us a little bit about the new single Start / Stop / Synchro ?

Yeah this is the second single off the record. I guess it is concerned with memories and remnants of moments passed, and trying to rationalise them in some kind of coherent way, to maybe find a way of moving somewhere else..

And then there’s an album to follow - Without Why. We hear that the title is based on a poem by Angelus Silesius? Can you explain why you have chosen that?

The poem was brought to my attention by a friend, mainly because it referenced roses, but then I read through the whole thing and I realised that it bore more relevance to the processes involved in the making of this record.. The quote is 'The rose is without why, it blooms because it blooms, It pays not attention to itself, asks not whether it is seen.'

I guess I couldn't really explain why I felt the necessity to write those songs, I just found myself compelled to do it, regardless of whether anyone else cared about them or not. I suppose a lot of the songs were methods of me trying to make some kind of sense of certain experiences, and part of me enjoys the idea of this being a futile pursuit, because i expect to forever be perplexed by life.

Referencing a german mystic and poet suggests that you are quite a cultured person. What extent does literature and art influence your music, and in what ways?

Ha!! Well, I try and read and engage with other art forms as much as possible, and that undoubtedly provides stimulus for my music, even if the influence is subconcious. Sometimes little phrases or images spark ideas that turn into something else. I think all of this stuff is about questioning, and so being aware of other peoples processes or potential attempts at answers is very important to me.

I left a fine art degree to tour with The Pipettes, but my time at university did help me to begin to understand how to deconstruct the creative process, to try and get to the root of the problem, to develop some kind of critical understanding of why I make what I make.

The list of your influences on your Myspace suggests this as well, with bands such as Broadcast, The Sundays (one of Breaking More Waves favourite bands ever !) and My Bloody Valentine suggesting an artistic and slightly old fashioned taste in ‘indie’ music before ‘indie’ became transformed by Britpop. How have you come about such tastes in music, as you are too young to have been around when these bands were releasing material?

Well I suppose I have always sought out music that registers with me in some way, and so that would inevitably lead me to discovering music made before my time. I suppose I do feel a little bit out of time, and I'm not really interested in what's trendy or fashionable, even though I do really care about contemporary music too. Some of this stuff was played at home when I was a kid and I have returned to it later on my own terms, other stuff has come to me through other people or by chance fishing through records. I think there is something about that late eighties, early nineties indie sound that appeals to me, maybe because its is still really concerned with the idea of 'songs' but also about exploring sound and atmosphere, and I can't help but feel that music has become far more cynical since the whole Britpop thing. Thats just one side of my musical taste though, a big part of it is focused on folk music, and then modern classical like Steve Reich or the Penguin Cafe Orchestra etc, and a whole load of other stuff that would take me too long to list.

What can we expect from the album?

Thats a very hard question for me to answer because I have been so wrapped up in it for over a year now, and now that its nearly finished I am trying to work out what the hell it is i've made! But I know it is a personal record, which I hope avoids being self indulgent, and I think it is an honest momento of the months that led to it coming to fruition. I think melody is the key element, but also that there is a wide enough sonic breadth within the record to make for something that is interesting and dynamic. I guess, it represents where I'm coming from musically right now, and whilst there are nods to the things that have influenced me I hope that I have managed to create my own aesthetic through that... Er, that all sounds pretty vague but I don't know how else to describe it!

You’ve been working with Lee Baker, what does he bring to the mix?

Lee has been great to work with. When I started to think about recording my songs properly I really wanted someone to learn from and challenge me, and tell me if I'd done a shit vocal take, and deconstruct my songs so that we got to the core of them. When I came to him all I had was a bunch of demos I had made in my room on my casiotone, so the songs were quite bare and could have gone in a number of directions. So me and Lee have been trying to find out where these songs should go, and its good cos he's never afraid to try anything. I think he has really engaged with where I'm coming from and I think that has led to a really interesting working relationship, which hopefully has brought out the best in my songs.

What do you want to achieve with your music? Assuming you want to have some success with it, how would you define success (We ask this question as we recently published an article on success and the music industry on the blog.)

Of course I want this record to be heard by as many people as possible, but really all I want is to be able to function, to be able to be in a position to make another one, to get to go around with my band playing for as long as possible, to make records that I'm proud of, and develop my songwriting and voice. I know that is probably a big ask, but I'm not expecting to get on the front cover of magazines necessarily; it would be wonderful if I'd made something that other people would want to listen to and relate to themselves..

As an artist what is your take on illegal downloading?

Well it's obviously a really complicated issue. Part of me doesn't really care because I just want to get my songs out there. I wish that the music industry could find a way of utilising the internet in a way that worked for both artist and music listener, and I do think programs like Spotify are potentially the way forward.The fact is its gonna happen, and you just have to hope that people are still interested in the object, and seeing live music.

And likewise what about artists who are giving away their art (their music) for free?

Well obviously most of the bands that have done it are already well established so can afford to take those kind of risks, and I suppose are relying on dedicated fans to buy the special box set or whatever. I'm all up for democratising music and all, but I don't really see how its a sustainable model for most bands right now. I do think that it's exciting that music can be made available without all the hassle of going through record labels, and I really like how instantaneous that is.

And finally, on a less serious note (and sorry we’re going to mention The Pipettes after promising not to...) you were always our favourite Pipette just like everyone has a favourite Revel. What’s your favourite Revel?

Um, well, i'm sure you say that to all the Pipettes, hah. I was never a massive fan of Revels, I always liked the Malteser ones, so probably just buy a packet of Maltesers then...

And on that note, and with thanks to Rose, Breaking More Waves is off down the shops to buy a packet of Maltesers and put an order in for Start / Stop / Synchro which is due for release in June.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Everything Everything @ Portsmouth Fat Fox

Just down the road Dappy and his gang are rocking the joint. N-Dubz are in town and no doubt the teenagers of the south coast are having the time of their lives. Meanwhile in another corner of the city a smaller select group stare intently at four men who are standing on stage whilst nursery rhyme favourite The Wheels On The Bus plays over the P.A. The music stops and the band launch into a disjointed, sometimes complex experimental indie guitar sound where lemonade keyboards fizz, frantic drums judder and high pitched harmonic yelping vocals are delivered in the fashion of an art school Futureheads. This is the world of Everything Everything and it’s one that would probably make the fans of Dappy, Fazer and Tulisa think they have entered a parallel universe.

“This is as new to us as it is to you,” announce the band before they rocket into songs that certainly don’t sound formulaic or straightforward. They’re like an indie version of a free form jazz band forsaking true melodies for experimentation, yet they maintain the reins enough to keep to three and four minute pop songs. There are moments when there is a hint of Prince, a lick of Wild Beasts, a pinch of Vampire Weekend guitar and on the stomping, rocking and grooving Suffragette Suffragette a light wash of TV On The Radio. With this sound and a keyboard playing vocalist that stands side on to the audience, Everything Everything are certainly not conventional. In places their approach of throwing so many ideas into the mix makes them almost inaccessible. When however the frenetic experimental energy of the music is allowed a little bit of breathing space, songs do begin to come through.

If 2009 is the year of slightly oddball band and performer then Everything Everything are right there in the mix.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Slow Club - Bandstand Busking

The name Slow Club is perfect for Breaking More Waves perceptions of this band. For Slow Club’s brand of country folk pop has been slowly and gradually enveloping us with love over the last year, kissing us with its warm whimsical charm. Whilst Slow Club may be accused of being a little twee at times, their music is always beautifully engaging. Cuteness can be nauseating sometimes, but Slow Club drop just enough sugar cubes in your cup of tea and stir just the right amount. They have the sort of sound that befits a glorious spring day. And such a day it was when the band recently took their turn at bandstand busking.

With a new single It Doesn’t Have To Be Beautiful out at the end of June and an album entitled Yeah So - probably the most cocksure title we’ve heard for a while, to follow on Moshi Moshi in July, it’s going to be a busy few months for Slow Club, with a variety of gigs and festivals through the summer. But for now enjoy this ditty When I Go, complete with whistling interlude, recorded at the Northampton Square bandstand. There are further songs, including the single at the bandstand busking website. Then once you’ve enjoyed that, ponder if Charles is beginning to look like a trendier, younger version of Radio 1’s Colin Murray with beard.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Run Toto Run - Plastic Gold

Since we first featured Run Toto Run at Breaking More Waves there has been a change of personnel and also a change in musical direction. Now a finely balanced four piece of two girls and two boys, the band have thrown out their folky recorder school hall assembly sound and replaced it with a lilting toy town piece of gentle electronica. It also seems that the band have developed a devilish style of dressing up like animals, rather like Breaking More Waves alter ego DJ persona DJ Hojo Hits.

Released on the 8th June, new single Plastic Gold is a colourful music box of a song which will make you dance like a clockwork marionette. “If the truth is really told, my joy for you is plastic gold,” sings Rachael Kichenside, with one of those genuine unaffected voices that sounds like it doesn’t have to try too hard and yet manages to be quite graceful and lovely all at the same time. And whilst Rachael adds some comforting oh oh woahs, xylophones, bass, keyboard sounds and clattering clapping merge in a slightly odd dreamy way. Not quite as instant as previous single Your Face, Plastic Gold flourishes with repeated listens. Click on the Run Toto Run link above to visit the bands Myspace and hear the tune. The band will be playing gigs around the UK this summer.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

William Fitzsimmons - New Waves @ Breaking More Waves

It seems almost mandatory these days for any American new acoustic country folk artist to fashion a fine beard. From Fleet Foxes to Bon Iver, it seems that everyone is at it. William Fitzsimmons beats the lot of them hands down though - or should that be razors down ? He also creates very good music.

Having previously released two self produced albums, a third release The Sparrow And The Crow is his first fully produced studio release. William is currently on tour in the U.S and will grace the UK for two shows, firstly at the Bush Hall in London, followed by a lunchtime gig at Arc, Brighton as part of the Great Escape Festival where he is one of the opening acts of the whole festival.

The back story with Fitzsimmons goes something like this; born of two now divorced blind parents, his childhood home was filled with objects of sound to make up for what his parents missed in vision. Pianos, guitars, trombones and pipe organs combined with his mothers collection of Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel. By the time he left school Fitzsimmons was well versed in these instruments and music, but instead decided to work and study in the area of mental health. It was only when his studies were complete that he returned to music, the products of which can now be heard, significantly through exposure from the television programs Greys Anatomy and One Tree Hill. His new album acts as a form of psychotherapy, following what he has described as his bleakest hour - his own divorce.

Fitzsimmons songs are downbeat, hushed and have a warm solemn sleepy quality to them. With the sounds of acoustic guitar, occasional piano and simple percussion there are hints of Elliot Smith, Iron & Wine, Sufjan Stevens and Evan Dando at his most mellow. With titles like We Feel Alone, Funeral Dress and You Still Hurt Me it is unlikely that you’ll be hearing William Fitzsimmons blasting out at many parties; it seems that the man has had his fair share of pain and emotional struggle. On It’s Not True he mourns sadly of his recent love lost, and on a song directed to his father called Everything Has Changed he recalls the separation of his blind parents “A guide dog had to serve the role that you would not let the mother of your children ever really play,” before recalling a dream where is father is deceased and apologising for everything that happened.

It’s all pretty damn bleak but William Fitzsimmons has said that he finds making this intensely personal music curative and healing for him. Despite this intimacy, the songs are now available for the whole world to share. Go cry with him and find the beauty out of tragedy.


Passion Pit - The Reeling ( Video )

Sadly Passion Pit have had to cancel their second visit to the UK where they were due to tour with Rob Da Bank and make an appearance at The Great Escape Festival in Brighton. "Due to a personal situation at home, we will unfortunately not be able to play our May UK/Euro dates," the group explained in a statement. "We feel really awful about this and hope that everyone understands. We are looking forward to getting back overseas soon to make up all these shows for you." In the meantime, for dissapointed fans, console yourselves with the video for the new single The Reeling which was posted on the internet today for the first time.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Bat For Lashes @ Brighton Corn Exchange

It was just a few weeks ago when we posted our review of the first live outing of Bat For Lashes for this year, at their pre-tour warm up show in Portsmouth. Now with the tour fully underway they return to the south coast and a much larger venue at the Corn Exchange in Brighton. This is a homecoming gig for Natasha Khan; during the set she dedicates one of the songs to her old school friends who are here tonight amongst the Khan fashion lookalike wannabe girls and punters wearing Bat For Lashes masks.

Unfortunately the magnitude of the venue doesn’t suit Bat For Lashes tonight. Visually and audibly the performance does not project any further back than the front few rows. Much of the gig is languid, with Khan often seated at her keyboard delivering tunes with lack of fervour and heart. Recent single Daniel should be a highlight, but a stripped down version placed early in the set lacks weight and is only mildly diverting. It is only when the band bring in heavier dancier multi drumming beats towards the end on Two Planets that the show really comes alive. Eventually the band revive Daniel for a second outing, this time powerful and potent, with clannish sounding synths and an excellent dreamy haunting vocal. These highlights are few however, not even the reuniting of the band with former member Caroline Weeks for one song brings any freshness or emotion.

Two years ago we saw Natasha Khan play songs from her debut album on a large stage at several festivals and found her music to be incredibly moving. At this show in Brighton however, be it the extensiveness of the venue or the lack of soul in the new material the set fails to be anything other than disappointingly average.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Blue Roses - Blue Roses

This week here at Breaking More Waves towers we are going excitably hype crazy. Yesterday we wrote about the best gig we have been to so far this year. Today we feature an album that come year end can almost guarantee itself a place in our Top 10 Albums of the Year list.

Blue Roses self titled debut is the work of one Laura Groves from Shipley, Bradford. It is a cliché to say that an artist shows maturity beyond their years, and in recent times many talented female singers from Laura Marling to Adele have been tagged in this way. It is likely that the music of Blue Roses will also receive such seals of approval, but if it does it will be for a very different type of maturity. Vocally Laura Groves certainly doesn’t sound particularly seasoned. Startling and wonderful yes, but her high reaching voice is more reminiscent of a choir girl than some ageing troubadour. Instead the maturity from Blue Roses emanates from the ethereal classicism of her beautiful music.

The songs of Blue Roses are not instant. They will never light up the pop charts or bother the mainstream. They are delicate and subtle pieces to immerse yourself in. Layered but never over saturated with soft coloured experimentation, they are elegant and involving.

Recorded in living rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms of various houses, the album is formed from the basis of complex piano works more reminiscent of Schubert or Debussy, and folkish guitar pieces that dance in the moonlight with Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell. Cover Your Tracks is one such song, a lovely lullaby which features xylophone, a repeated plucked acoustic guitar refrain and soothing vocals from a choir and Fyfe Dangerfield from the Guillemots. Single Doubtful Comforts is a haunting minimal ghost waltz with the distant crackle of old vinyl present. Then there’s Can’t Sleep where Laura sings of the unreachable expectations of love, “Beyond this ceiling’s heaven, is that where we’re aspiring?” she questions. Every song on the album has the same degree of perfectly measured morning mist tranquillity without ever being ‘coffee table music.’

If catchy verse chorus verse pop songs are your only thing, then the music of Blue Roses will not meet your taste. However if you are prepared to listen to something that is a little more ambitious, dreamlike and unique then Blue Roses is an album that you will slowly begin to treasure.

Here is a simple acoustic version of the song I Am Leaving from the album, brought to you by the wonderful bandstand busking people. The album will be released next Monday, 27th April.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

PJ Harvey @ Brighton Corn Exchange

With a brief “Good evening ladies and gentlemen,” and a warm smile, PJ Harvey takes to the stage of Brighton’s Corn Exchange for the first night of her European tour. Despite Polly’s extensive back catalogue this is no greatest hits show. Instead the music played is derived from the two albums that Polly has created with her long term friend and collaborator John Parish. Parish himself and several other members of the less than youthful backing band sport trilby hats and look more like a jazz ensemble than a rock band, but rock they do; creating a dark, off kilter and often fantastically disturbing noise. Polly meanwhile is dressed in a black dress and for some unexplained reason plays the whole gig with a small handbag over her arm. Maybe she’s going to dance round it later.

Starting with Black Hearted Love the music tonight is stunning, powerful and varied. From the simplicity of ukulele fronted The Soldier to the sad and lonely spoken word of Cracks In The Canvas every song played outweighs the recorded versions in its punch. With Parish and band focussing on the instrumentation, Harvey is left to concentrate on vocals and dramatic theatrical performance. Every song she presents is like a new character in a book. Sometimes she stands motionless singing in a ghostly, scary falsetto. Then at other moments her slight and frail looking body is prowling the stage like a wired aggressor, delivering a guttural bluesy howl as she rasps with an evil glint in her eye “Now its my time to laugh, I’ll stick it up your fuckin’ ass,” before the whole song cascades into a frantic dirty wig out. It’s incredibly physical and superb to watch; and certainly never gets boring. For the encore she envelopes the microphone to elicit a roughly bristled tone as she sings “How could I have worn inappropriate clothing?” Then, taking a step back she opens up with powerful clarity “I dreamed, I dreamed, April, that I’m walking, that I’m watching.” It‘s a vocal that resonates with electrifying power. It is no wonder that the audience great her with ecstatic applause.

PJ Harvey is not only a superb vocalist, but a spectacular and engrossing performer who completely immerses herself into her show. She is one of the most creative and darkly exciting live artists Breaking More Waves has seen in a long time, and quite easily the best gig we have attended so far this year.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Doves - Kingdom Of Rust

Kingdom Of Rust by Doves is by most bands standards a very good album. So why after repeated listens does it leave us with a slight sense of disappointment ? We suspect it is because after four years away it doesn’t feel that there is that many years of evolution in this record. There’s a warm safe familiarity with Kingdom Of Rust, no matter how good some of the songs are. It feels like Doves being Doves and no more.

Recorded on a Cheshire farm, Kingdom Of Rust is an album created from a musical geography and landscape of big widescreen melancholy anthems. Opening song Jetstream is a fine example of a band doing what they do incredibly well. All pulsing synths and throbbing bass it is sonically adventurous and vast. Elsewhere 10.03 starts with a spaghetti western bassline before the song becomes a firework display for the ears, with exploding distorted riffs. But despite these carefully crafted songs, tracks such as Winter Hill and Spellbound could have come from any other Doves album. Part of the problem is the vocals. Jimi Goodwin has a distinctive voice that is both sad and sweet in equal measures, but the lack of variation of his mournful tone seems just a little too over familiar after four albums.

Unfortunately when the band do take musical risks and step out of the box significantly the results are not particularly good. Compulsion is one such example. An experimental and certainly brave funk meets reggae work out, the song mixes elements of Blondie and The Clash circa Sandinista. The outcome of this doesn’t really gel, jarring with the tone of the rest of the album.

Kingdom Of Rust has received significant critical acclaim, and there is no doubt that it is immaculately produced and will please many fans. But for Breaking More Waves we just wish there were more songs that surprised us.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Bat For Lashes - Two Suns

Two Suns by Bat For Lashes is the follow up to the Mercury nominated Fur and Gold. The debut was a slow burner, that peaked in popular and critical acclaim during the run up to the Mercury Awards. With Two Suns, Natasha Khan drops the more baroque elements of her debut and replaces it with ethereal synth sounds, tribal dynamic beats and in places a lush pop sensibility. On Two Suns her voice engages with a constantly alluring and warm tone that in places replicates the echoing mysticism of Enya and Clannad.

The cover of Two Suns depicts Khan on the front and on the reverse her new alter ego; a blonde wigged white faced woman named Pearl. The idea is that Pearl represents the destructive, self absorbed, drama prone side of Khan‘s id, to Khan’s rational nature loving superego, and that much of the album is formed around these two personalities. A concept album then ? Quite possibly. Pretentious ? Almost definitely.

No matter how much thought has gone in to the concept of an album, if it doesn’t deliver musically then it’s all going to be worthless. Luckily for the most part Two Suns does deliver, albeit Khans song writing remains very much of a leftfield style and there are several fillers. There are simple piano ballads such as Moon and Moon, the haunting beats and electronica of Pearl’s Dream and the rhythmic strangeness of Two Planets which sounds like something Bjork would happily have recorded. Scott Walker also makes the briefest of appearances on closing song The Big Sleep where it seems that Khan puts Pearl to rest with lyrics about “curtains down time” and “the last show.”

Two Suns is a well crafted slightly peculiar album, that is unlikely to propel Bat For Lashes into the full mainstream. There is however enough here to satisfy, without it ever having the same impact that the debut had.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Blue Roses @ Brighton Resident Records

Surrounded by Animal Collective, Jeff Buckley and Bon Iver, Laura Groves aka Blue Roses is in good company. Alas this company is only by way of the racked CD’s, which her debut album will shortly join, as she plays a short in-store live set at Resident Records, Brighton. The intimacy of the venue and hushed silence that greets Laura’s performance is enough to make any artist jittery and certainly at the start she appears slightly nervous. However if there are nerves, they surrender as soon as she begins to play, the confidence and beauty of the music taking over. Besides the songs the only sound that can be heard is that of a weary brush, sweeping the street outside. The Council worker in charge of the brush seems to linger by the open shop doorway an unnaturally long time; the sound of Blue Roses may have found another fan.

Blue Roses mix songs between piano and guitar, Laura’s voice wonderfully strong and otherworldly throughout. She sounds like a young Kate Bush or Joanna Newsom. These are not simple pop or folk tunes but deft and often complex pieces of work. The piano based songs in particular owe more in their structure to classical music, inventive and challenging, rising and falling in waves. The guitar songs are slightly simpler, nimbly plucked with a folkish tinge and then layered with her mesmerising voice. “I want to see the electricity, on the masts of the ships, as the storm builds,” she sings poetically on Coast against gentle faultless guitar and backing xylophone accompaniment. Innocently seducing, the music of Blue Roses deserves its place on those record store racks. Based on this performance she is a very unique artist.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Mono - Hymn To The Immortal Wind

With Hymn To The Immortal Wind, Japanese post rock group Mono have quite possibly delivered their masterpiece. Recorded and mixed in Chicago over the summer and winter of 2008 with legendary producer Steve Albini, Hymn To The Immortal Wind sees the band take their blend of shimmering post rock and merge it with a huge classical orchestra to create a vast, heavy but always beautiful album.

With seven tracks and a length of almost seventy minutes, Hymn To The Immortal Wind is unlikely to find itself played on many pop music stations. Instead this is an album that would find a better place as a film soundtrack. Full of epic peaks and powerful crescendos, violins and cellos marry in perfect symmetry with crashing cymbals, heavy timpani drums and layers of guitar noise. The tone is set on opening track Ashes In The Snow which gradually grows from a subtle and restrained birth to the sound of the world crashing in on itself. It is the evocative and cinematic nature of the music that brings imagery to mind so easily. On the tear jearking Follow The Map the listener can conjure a vision of a struggling hero crawling, hungry and exhausted through the storms trying to reach his destination.

With these references to immense strings and motion picture soundscapes one could imagine that Hymn To The Immortal Wind is simply an album of incidental music. This is not the case. It is certainly not a coffee table album. It is a cacophonous yet composed rock album, that demands the listener to immerse themselves in its textures; ideally alone with headphones in the dark.

If there is one criticism of Hymn To The Immortal Wind it is that the songs tend to follow a formula of slowly building quietness to grandiose atmospheric endings, but what a formula it is. Hymn To The Immortal Wind is an album that sets Mono above many of their post rock peers and takes them and the listener to a place far removed from the ordinary.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Billy Vincent - Sugar & Soap

When we first posted about new folk things Billy Vincent back in February we described their sound as “Shanty style gypsy folk rock.” However the bands debut single Sugar & Soap displays very little of the these elements. Instead Sugar & Soap has at least one big toe in the anthemic stadium camp. It also owes some debt to bands such as Arcade Fire and Broken Records.

The song is flushed with dramatic Phil Spector drums and an epic evocative “Oh woah, oh woah,” vocal middle section that slowly builds and swells to give a sense of arms wide open euphoria. “Hold my wrist don’t tap my veins,” the band sing over crashing drums and elated electric guitars. It’s classic song writing that grows with every listen. You can hear the song in the video below.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz

Yeah Yeah Yeahs have always seemed to be fashionably art school cool. It therefore comes as no surprise to find that with synth bands back in vogue, their new album It‘s Blitz is loaded with keyboard sounds. It marks a departure for the group, helping them deliver a very of the moment record. Immaculately produced by TV On The Radios David Sitek, It’s Blitz sees Karen O and her two footmen get scrubbed up and glossily polished. For the most part this less abrasive, less punk sound works well. From the taught pulsing Moroder electronics of lead single Zero to the heady ambient minimalism of ballad Skeletons, there are a number of songs that stand up as some of their best work. Highlight is Heads Will Roll which starts like an early nineties swirling synth rave classic before Karen O delivers her yelping killer commandment; “Off with your head, dance till you’re dead.” No doubt it will be vibrating sweaty indie dance floors in the next few months. Not every song pays dividends though. The jangly Dragon Queen is a funky experiment gone wrong, sounding like a CSS B side. It’s a step too far with a weak tune.

The overall tone of It’s Blitz is more mellow and consistent than either of their two previous albums. It is less raw, with a significant number of slower songs. Whilst the synths dominate, there are some guitars in the mix. There is plenty of riffing fury on Dull Life which motors along at a rate of knots. Shame And Fortune also has dirty repetitive guitar slashed right across its core.

It’s Blitz is a coherent piece of work that shows a band moving forward, still sparkling with some new ideas and a waft of experimentation. It’s not by any means perfect but provides enough to excite old fans and maybe bring in some new ones as well.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

PJ Harvey & John Parish - A Woman A Man Walked By

A Woman A Man Walked By from PJ Harvey and John Parish is an album that is easy to admire but not always easy to love. Born from Harvey’s desire to continually progress and evolve musically, this album is a testament to creative freedom. It is singularly strange and curious, notable for the lack of bass on many of the tracks and full of songs of random scuttling sketchbook instrumentation. Harvey is well enough established that she does not have to be overly concerned about commercial concerns. This really is an album that sounds like the cliché “I’ll play the songs that I like, and if anyone else enjoys them that’s a bonus.”

Twelve years after their first and only other joint venture, A Woman A Man Walked By follows a formula where Parish writes and plays the music whilst Harvey concentrates on the lyrics and vocals. It enables Harvey to push her voice to the limits. Sometimes her performance becomes almost over ambitious and too theatrical, such as on April where she sounds like a girlish hunched old lady. Harvey is often at her best when she holds back a little. A song such as the organ led spoken word mantra of Cracks In The Canvas displays such restraint where she intones “How do we cope with the days after death? Empty days. Nothing left. Not even a funeral.” It’s vaguely reminiscent of the miserable art house pop of Black Box Recorder.

The variation of the songs is wide. There’s the atmospheric guitar rock of Black Hearted Love which sounds not that far removed from The Howling Bells, the snarling, rasping Pig Will Not which harks back to her earlier solo work and the banjo fronted Sixteen, Fifteen, Fourteen, one of the other highlights of the record.

Ultimately A Woman A Man Walked By will preserve Harvey’s status of an artist who is always prepared to challenge, take risks and divert away from the mainstream. It may not be her finest hour, but it is still an interesting and admirable concoction.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Blue Roses - Coast (Live Performance)

Doubtful Comforts the spellbinding single by Blue Roses aka Laura Groves was released last month. It is one of our singles of the year so far and has lead to high expectations for the album that will follow. From the tracks we have heard, the record will be a jewellery box of delights, something to really treasure.

A few weeks ago Laura shot some live performances of songs that will be found on the album. Recorded in various locations around her home town of Shipley, these songs are being uploaded to the Blue Roses Myspace over the next few weeks. The first of these performances is the song Coast which was recorded at Shipley Harmonium Museum. Originally featured on the Something I Learned Today compilation, released a couple of years back on Dance To The Radio, Coast features sky kissing choir girl vocals and acoustic guitar subtly backed by xylophone and violin. If you like this keep checking the Blue Roses Myspace for further instalments.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Mirrors - New Waves @ Breaking More Waves

Mirrors are a band formed from the ashes of Mumm-Ra, but the phoenix that has risen from the flames is a very different beast. Rather like the way that White Lies were a different proposition from their previous incarnation Fear of Flying, Mirrors are much removed from Mumm-Ra. This three piece are an artily cool pop-noir keyboard toting band whose sound references early OMD, Depeche Mode and Blancmange.

Rather like The Cordelier Club who we featured last week, Mirrors have only one song available to the world at large at this moment in time, the restrained and haughtily highbrow Look At Me. From this song it’s easy to imagine the band shooting videos that are stylish, dramatic and intelligent, parading the dark shadowy streets of an Eastern European city wearing long overcoats whilst giving furtive sideways glances to camera over their upturned collars. After all this is a band who include amongst their influences François Pierre de la Varenne, who codified French cuisine for the age of Louis XIV, left wing journalist Wilfred Burchett and composer Claude Debussy. Pretentious ? Quite possibly yes, but this is not a criticism. It’s about time bands started making a claim to distinction with their reference points. So whilst Mirrors rifle through the works of Erwin Blumenfeld and the records of Kraftwerk, New Order and The Human League, we’ll leave you with this simple low budget film of the song Look At Me.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

The Hot Toddies @ Portsmouth Edge Of The Wedge

“We’re having a great time in the UK, getting drunk every night and waking up with jet lag every morning,” announce The Hot Toddies on the third night on their UK tour at the Edge Of The Wedge in Portsmouth. Crammed into a tiny corner of the bar, The Hot Toddies bring a simple but charming low-fi aesthetic to their live show, with set lists written on paper towels, uncluttered bunny eared drumming and all girl vocal harmonies. Unfortunately due to some technical problems the bands sound is not always as good as it could be, with their funny lyrics sometimes lost in the mix. This doesn’t seem to detract from their syrupy indie surf tunes bringing a smile to the small audience. The group seem to want more though. “Nobody dances in England. Does anybody know how to break dance ?” they laugh. It's a pity that nobody volunteers for a display of top rock, down rock, power moves and freezes. The b-boys are not in the house tonight.

So it’s left to the girls to bang out their retro, summery sounding guitar pop with numbers such as the comically titled Wet Dream where the group conclude that oranges are better than tangerines and set closer Surf Song which grooves like a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack. With tunes about pirates, cooking and sex, all set against a backdrop of retro sounding jangly guitars the band have a relaxed approach that makes the gig akin to watching a friends band perform in your front room.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Yes Giantess - Tuff N Stuff

Like a massive slab of cheddar in between two chunks of keyboard, Tuff N Stuff by Yes Giantess is the total dance party sandwich. Or maybe the ultimate chick cruising tune. Wind the car windows down, turn up the stereo, and bob your head like a loon. That’s an order.

Here at Breaking More Waves we’ve been fans of this band since December last year, when we named them in our Ones to Watch list for 2009. Following a slight name change from Giantess to Yes Giantess, these Boston party dudes are about to release Tuff N Stuff in the UK, backed by the hyper excitable You Were Young on a 7” vinyl single through Neon Gold Records. You can buy a copy of the single exclusively through Pure Groove here. The band will also be playing their first shows outside of America in May at The Great Escape Festival in Brighton, UK which is likely to include a Neon Gold showcase at The Ocean Rooms and another show at The Ark. We also hear news of some other London dates being lined up the week after.

But that’s for the future. Tuff N Stuff is about the now. It’s a ridiculously epic sex synth space ride that bumps and grinds itself up against the planets. It’s totally of the moment, like a lascivious pop Passion Pit out of the eighties. When the big overworked keyboards drop in the middle and lead singer Jan Rosenfeld croons “I just say wanna say that you're beautiful, you're looking incredible, girl you're making everybody’s day, and I love that your edges are rough, when you try to act tuff n stuff. I love you so much,” it is inevitable that girls hearts will be stolen. Tuff N Stuff is due for release at the end of April. There's no video at the moment, but you can hear the tune on the myspace.

Big funky killer pop. The sound of an electronic disco orgasm. Love it. Love it. Love it.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

The Cordelier Club - New Waves @ Breaking More Waves

The Cordelier Club are not, as far as we are aware, French revolutionaries and they do not wish to act against the monarchy or the old regime. In fact the one song we’ve heard from The Cordelier Club creates a right royal sound. We know very little about this sibling duo named Alice and Richard, except they are playing this years Camden Crawl as well as Bestival and that Stolen Lovers is a madly eccentric pop song that could appeal to the masses. It starts like a delicate floating indie folk tune with a hardy female vocal before it breaks out into a star catching, boot stomping pop song with enough “Ba ba ba,” and “Woah Woah Woah,” chants to satiate or sicken depending on your perspective. There’s even a keyboard part that sounds like Sparks or Supertramp. It’s a song that is creepily chirpy and undoubtedly brimming with life. For now we’re filing this band in that tall drawer named big mainstream pop potential.

There's no video for the song, but pop over to their myspace on the link above and have a listen.

Edit : 7th April - No sooner had this post gone up, than the band took the song down from their Myspace ! So now instead have a listen to When You Were Young another chirpy tune which doesn't quite match up to Stolen Lovers but is still half decent, until they take it down and put something else up!

Friday, 3 April 2009

Local Natives - New Waves @ Breaking More Waves

At a time when the spirit for American folk pop artists producing beautiful melancholic layered harmonies in the manner of Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver is in the ascendancy, Local Natives could be the next in line to capitalise on the interest in such music.

Local Natives hail from Silverlake, California. They have just completed a gruelling nine shows in four days at SXSW in Austin, Texas. The band have a strong and certain rhythmic tribalism about them; it is therefore no great surprise to see Warning Sign, the Talking Heads song posted as a cover version on their Myspace. It is this sense of musical movement in Local Natives sound that sets them apart from others in their peer group. Take Airplanes where driving piano and skittering train track percussion gives way to a solid thumping beat and a beautiful falsetto. Or Stranger Things where pounding drums and soaring instrumentation gives just a hint of a less bombastic Arcade Fire.

The band will release an album Gorilla Manor, named after their experience of writing the record whilst living together in one house. The artwork for the album is likely to be the bands own design, with three of the band having worked in the graphic design field.

Local Natives have also uploaded a wonderful percussive tree banging version of the Simon and Garfunkel classic Cecilia onto You Tube that demands your attention; it can be viewed below.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Bat For Lashes @ Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms

“This is a bit nerve-wracking, we haven’t played live since last June,” announces Natasha Khan of Bat For Lashes. The group are at Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms to play a low key pre-tour warm up show, prior to the release of their second album Two Suns. Then follows a daunting trek across Europe and America before they finish at Bestival on the Isle Of Wight at the end of summer.

With a new live line up which includes ex Ash guitarist Charlotte Hatherley on throbbing fuzzed up bass, guitar, and keyboards, Sarah Jones on drums and Ben Christophers on all manner of electronic tricks, this is an evening for Natasha to brush off any cobwebs she has. It’s time for her to introduce an audience to her new songs, as well as a few choice cuts from the debut album Fur And Gold. The new material that the band play is similar in compositional structure to the debut album. However in parts the songs are more heavily based around keyboards, delivering a more spacey sound with complex experimental beats and atmospheric electronics. They are complimented and contrasted by some delicate piano pieces.

Just as Natasha is a little nervous, the audience seem so as well. It’s a polite and restrained Sunday evening atmosphere.“You’re all so quiet. C’mon I want ravenous animal noises,” she requests towards the end of the set, which elicits a few screams as well as a rather sinister cow moo. It breaks the calmness of the crowd a little as does new song Two Planets. A hauntingly tribal number reminiscent of Bjork, the track builds around an echoing drum beat that sounds a little like something Aphex Twin may produce in his more mellow moments. It gets heads bobbing and even a few feet dancing. New single Daniel is played early in the set, a shamanic sounding pop song with hints of Little Lies by Fleetwood Mac and Eurythmics Who’s That Girl, all airy synths and soulful ghostly vocals. And it is the vocals that impresses the most. Although there are some pre recorded backing voices, when Khan opens her mouth the sounds that come from it are both ethereal and warm at the same time. She has a range and pitch that seems natural and never strained.

After just over an hour Bat For Lashes have proven beyond doubt that Natasha Khan is a talented musician who can produce experimental exotic and slightly eccentric pop music. The world is certainly a better place for her.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Opinions And Blogs

Criticism is a difficult thing. Subjective negative thoughts can damage a persons ego. It can be hard to take. Most people want to be liked don’t they ? But sometimes opinions will differ.

The internet is full of opinions. From forums to blogs, the internet has enabled everyone to publish their views for the whole world to see. Up there in black and white the opinions are there to be validated or criticised by everyone. Even though it's just one persons view.

Opinions. They’re just what you believe. They’re not right or wrong. They’re just thoughts based on your picture of the world. Sometimes they may be harshly said, sometimes they may be said in a more diplomatic way, but they are still just opinions. It’s easier to announce to the world your thoughts on a subject, sitting in the comfort and protection of your home, than it is to go out and say it to peoples faces.

But what is the value of another persons opinion? And in particular what is the value of the opinion of a music blog? Is there really a value in reading the criticism of someone that you don’t know? Someone who quite possibly lives on the other side of the world from you ? Here at Breaking More Waves only 50% of our readership lives in the UK, our home country. We have significant readership from the USA, Ireland, Canada, Australia and the rest of Europe. 99.9% of the people who read this blog have never met the author. So why would anyone be interested in what our opinion is ?

Here are ten reasons why Breaking More Waves believes that the music blog as a form of communication is important, and why our opinions matter.

Band Promotion / Marketing

Positive opinions are good for bands and artists, they boost their ego and for new acts present an opportunity to use some positive quotations on their press packs or Myspace. There have been several examples of bands who have come to wider public recognition because of a blog frenzy. Black Kids and Passion Pit spring immediately to mind. Blogs can be a great source of promotion at no financial cost for a group. Many blogs get thousands of hits a month which is a lot of potential new listeners for a band starting out.

The Honesty Of A Trusted Friend

If when reading a blog you find some common ground with the authors musical opinion you may begin to value that opinion and revisit the blog. You may possibly even sign up to receiving it in your in box. Then in the same way that you may consider listening and even following the suggestions and wisdom of a respected friend, you may begin to investigate some of the bands or artists the blog celebrates if you haven’t heard of them. A blog is likely to be more open and honest than a music industry publication that is heavily influenced by advertising revenue, industry insiders and audience demographic. With no paymaster at the door the blog has less to lose. When Breaking More Waves attends a gig it never accepts guest list places, although they are offered. This way when we write a review of a disappointing gig we cannot be influenced by the fact the ticket was free. We hope that people appreciate honesty, even if they don’t agree with our opinions. Honesty builds trust with readers and we belive trust is important.

Sole Authorship

One of the fundamental beauties of a blog relates to its often singular authorship. There is no opinion by committee, and because of this the views expressed may have a greater degree of consistency than say the published music press or larger websites. The personal touch of a blog also gives a unique perspective which large publications cannot achieve.

Entertainment Value

Negative opinions can be fun. A well written vitriol of hatred against a band can in terms of pure entertainment value be far more amusing than a sycophantic celebration of a bands talents. Except for the poor victims of the piece and their hardcore fans, who sometimes find it impossible to accept that someone in the world is allowed to think in a different way from themselves.

One of Breaking More Waves favourite books of the last few months is Bad Vibes - Britpop And My Part In Its Downfall by Luke Haines. It’s an arrogant spite filled pitch black memoir of Britpop that pulls no punches in slating everyone from Damon Albarn of Blur and Justine Frischmann of Elastica who are described as “A gruesome couple. A pair of greedy hobgoblins, knocking down small children in their path,” to Oasis who Haines summarises as “mindless northern bluff.” It paints a very different and comically dark picture of both the Brit Pop genre and the authors own band of almost achievers The Auteurs to most books published on the subject. What makes this book so fundamentally enjoyable is Haines negativity. Haines is neither right or wrong, it’s just his opinion; but we believe it's hellishly funny to read.

Every now and then Breaking More Waves will slag something off. Sometimes we do it purely to entertain. Apologies to bands or artists that become our victims, but we do believe in what we write at that moment in time. We of course also reserve the right to change our mind. Just because we put it in black and white then, doesn’t mean we won’t alter our opinion in the future. Anyone who has fallen in and then out of love with someone or something will understand.

Useful Information From Negative Views

A negative opinion, when fleshed out with the reasons for the negativity can be as useful to the reader as a positive opinion. If Breaking More Waves describes a band as “another low grade dirty, unimaginative band of ugly losers playing landfill indie with simple repetitive three chord abortions that are excuses for songs,” and upon reading this you are appalled with our summary, you are probably a fan of The Pigeon Detectives. Therefore the chances are you will like the band I’ve just described and may investigate them further. For arguments sake lets call this band The Fratellis. If you haven’t heard of them before and you think they are for you, it gives you something to investigate. If you click here you will find a very useful site about this band, trust us. Once you’ve finished investigating them we also suggest you sign yourself in to your local mental institution for a brain transplant.

Debate Is Healthy

Negative opinions can promote debate. Debate is good, it can healthily push thinking forward for those who are open enough to embrace and listen to others, although not necessarily agree. Sometimes it can bring new perceptions to fixed ideas and stimulate the mind. If your self esteem is fragile and you can’t accept that someone wants to disagree with you, Breaking More Waves politely suggests that don’t rise to the bait in the first place.

Social Interaction

A blog can help our human need for social interaction. It can give the reader something to talk to his friends about down the pub. “Did you read that idiot at Breaking More Waves slagging off skinny jeans wearing bands again ? He doesn’t know what he’s talking about !” Of course, such statements are woefully wrong. Here at Breaking More Waves we are right every time !

Journalistic Learning Ground

For budding music journalists the music blog is a way of practicing their art and getting it noticed. Whilst Breaking More Waves certainly doesn’t fall into this category, some do, and in a similar way to some of the great fanzines of the past being the stepping stone for journalists such as Steve Lamacq to have a career in the music industry, blogs of today will no doubt also foster some of tomorrows future journalistic talent.

Free MP3’s

For editorial reasons that we may well explain in another blog at some point, you won’t find any free MP3’s at Breaking More Waves. However there are many blogs out there where you can download some great free music. Blogs of this sort may not necessarily give opinions, but they are a useful tool for artists to communicate their work and music to listeners and gain a wider fan base.

Passion And Love

Blogs opinions matter because they are often written by enthusiasts who are unpaid for what they write. They do it because they love it, they are passionate about it and they want to communicate that. These are often the best blogs. There is no ulterior motive, just a desire to express those opinions. Its up to the reader to then decide if those opinions are valid or not.

These are some of the reasons why Breaking More Waves believes that blogs are important, and why opinionated blogs matter. Positive or negative in their outlook, they can entertain, be culturally relevant, help bands gain publicity, and act as a catalyst for debate. Just don’t disagree with anything we’ve written here or we’ll sulk and ask you for a fight.

Now, lets get back to talking about the music....but first....

Here’s film director Kevin Smith discussing opinions and the internet, he talks about some of the issues we have discussed here. It's worth taking ten minutes out to hear what he says.