Tuesday, 30 June 2009

King Charles - New Waves @ Breaking More Waves

King Charles is something else. Looking like a regal Russell Brand with a beard and the most monumental mop of hair you have ever seen, he brings philosophy, psychedelic guitar riffage, a middle violin breakdown and punch the air backing woops to Time Of Eternity, his debut single.

With claims that he once rescued a baby giraffe from the jaws of a jackal and was soaked in the venom of a spitting cobra, King Charles now talks of a rebellion. This is no rebellion that involves violence and anger though, but instead a more purist rebellion of behaviour and thought. “Let us not be known throughout the world for drunkenness, loneliness, broken marriages, teenage pregnancies, greed, drug habits, gang culture, and everything else that makes us look like people who are lost. But let us be renowned and respected for our wisdom, our restraint, our passion, our honour, our joy, our fulfilment, our trustworthiness and most importantly let us be known as a nation who loves each other.” With sentiments like that we can’t imagine that King Charles has been hanging out with Peter Doherty or the Pigeon Detectives. We’d go as far to say that King Charles is something of a romantic. On Love Lust he sings “Beauty comes and goes, but love stays until the end,” and on the earthy rootsy Beating Hearts “I am with you through eternity until my blood stops pumping.” Bless him, that’s the way to win girls hearts.

It’s taken some time for King Charles to finally release a single, having been kicking around the block for some time now with the likes of Noah And The Whale and Laura Marling. Yes he’s part of the scene that used to be known as new folk, and although some of the chanted vocals and wonky violin share a similar spirit, Time Of Eternity distances itself with a much more ferocious guitar looping sound and a hint of Jamie T. Also watch out for the King Charles updating of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire with new lyrics that reference to Kate Moss, 50 Cent, David Beckham, New Rave, President Obama, X Factor, Facebook, and the aforementioned Miss Marling. The king of pop may now be dead, but here’s a new king for the streets.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Regina Spektor - Far

Far by Regina Spektor is the follow up to Begin To Hope, an album that saw Regina take a more mainstream radio friendly direction to her quirky blend of vocal acrobatics and piano based pop. The new album is a further extension of this approach that sometimes creates moments of loveliness, but for the majority sacrifices Regina’s wide eyed magical wonder at the expense of middle of the road predictability; it therefore doesn’t quite live up to the expectations created by her previous work.

With four different producers on board, Far has ended up as a collection of mid tempo coffee table arrangements. It’s easy to imagine it being played as the background to a middle class thirty something dinner party, as the hosts try to create a statement of how they are still hip, happening and just a little bit leftfield. “Oh yes darling, this is the new album by Regina - haven’t you heard it yet ? She’s simply divine!” Tracks like Human Of The Year with its understated strings and “Hallelujah hallelujah,” chorus will sit very neatly with a bottle of Chardonnay and wood-roasted squid stuffed with chilli.

There are just a few songs on Far that force us out of the dinner party security net and next door to where artists are stripping naked, covering each other with glossy paint and chasing after rainbows. The charmingly alluring and twitchy Dance Anthem Of The 80’s where Regina sings about a tasteless disco (the meat market) where boys and girls go to cop off with each other over a skippy little beat and minimal synth sounds puts her firmly back in the quirky field. It’s sweetly odd and intriguing and draws you in, even if it is somewhat reminiscent of her earlier material. Elsewhere Eet is tenderly intimate. “You’re using your headphones to drown out your mind,” sings Regina over swooping grandiose chords.

These songs are in the minority though. For the majority of Far, from the opening pedestrian plodding piano of The Calculation to the gentle drifting closing cascade of Man Of A Thousand Faces the songs just don’t have the power to draw in the listener in the same way that her previous work has done.

Like a flameless middle aged relationship that has settled into a safe pattern of cosiness, Far is perfectly comfortable, but lacks burn and spark. There is not one particularly bad song on this album, but neither are there songs to become passionate about. This is an album that sees Regina shift even further towards the centre. There are plenty of pretty melodies and vocals, but sadly Far is a diluted version of what we have seen before.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Marina And The Diamonds - I Am Not A Robot Video

In our review of the Crown Jewels EP by Marina and the Diamonds we admitted that we were a little belated posting, as the single had been released the week before. However it seems that lack of timeliness is the name of the game with Marina right now though, with the video for I Am Not A Robot from the EP only being released now.

Amidst a mass of superhero styling, sparkling red lipstick, wind machines and twinkling night sky blackness Marina finds herself immersed in a world of colourful body painting. The video was directed by Rankin and Chris who have previously worked with Robyn, Kate Moss and Elle McPherson. Now there’s a team who work with all the best ladies; and now they’ve added Marina to their collection.

Friday, 26 June 2009

The Future Of The NME

Following the announcement that Conor McNicholas is to step down as editor of the NME, questions will no doubt be asked about the future of the magazine. In their press statement IPC magazines state “Conor has made a great contribution to the ongoing development of the NME. Over the last seven years he and his talented team have garnered plaudits and awards in equal measure, consistently creating the most innovative and compelling new music magazine on the news stand today. We wish him all the very best after he leaves us.” However, what we think is more revealing than the usual “Good luck didn’t he do well,” rhetoric is a paragraph further down in the press statement which states “Last year NME won the coveted PPA Consumer Media Brand of the Year award. The judges were impressed with NME’s approach to brand development, setting the template for how a modern magazine brand can extend its reach and influence in a variety of ways and across a variety of mediums”. It's all about the brand you see.

Since youth culture existed the NME has for many teenagers and young twenties been a bible. Back when Breaking More Waves started reading the NME in the eighties it was a hotbed of anger, pretension and politics where hip young gunslingers of journalists mouthed off with exciting arrogant prose that really made you think about not just the bands it featured, but your whole life. It took a week to consume and every Wednesday was an exciting day trooping down to the local newsagent to pick up the latest copy of the rag that left ink on your hands. These days however NME has dumbed down. Much of the writing is not much better than your average blog, with the articles being soundbites of information that most on the case kids already knew anyway. It on average takes no more than half an hour to consume. Much of that is due to McNicholas, who has fundamentally changed the NME. These days the printed form is rather like an indie kids / Skins viewers version of the now defunct Smash Hits magazine but without the humour. (Popjustice have captured that niche.) And yet NME survives where Melody Maker and Sounds before it didn’t, even if it is not the beast it once was.

Laying aside the criticism of dumbing down, one of the reasons that NME has until now survived is because of McNicholas’s vision of developing a brand. In the wired up, instant, mass media world we live in, it is difficult for a magazine to sell enough copies on its own to survive. So the NME has modified and changed to become a globally identifiable brand. Now youth culture can buy into that brand, attend Club NME, buy tickets from the NME ticket shop, and listen to NME radio, all ways that NME can generate additional income. It is no longer just a publication. The magazine is simply a flagship for the brand.

But what if following the departure of McNicholas that flagship sinks? Could the NME brand continue without McNicholas? Time will tell what the future holds.

Despite our criticism of the poor quality of the magazine that the NME now is, it would be a sad day if it folded. It is still one of the only high street magazines that highlights new and unsigned bands, often giving them their first mass circulation exposure. That’s why we continue to subscribe to it, 25 years after first picking up a copy. Of course these days the speed of the internet means that the NME is always going to be lagging a little. Two weeks ago it featured Yes Giantess in its new bands Radar feature, a band that we first featured seven months ago, when they were known just as Giantess. This is not Breaking More Waves trying to get one up one the NME, but the context is that this is a blog written by an unhip, balding, middle aged man with a busy job and family to look after. It doesn't seem right that the NME can be so behind. Yet despite this NME currently remains as an essential stepping stone to radio play and more mainstream coverage. However with so many other media avenues for new bands to gain exposure, including the blogosphere, NME is fighting in a corner.

Whoever replaces McNicholas, we wish you all the luck. We suspect you will need boxing gloves.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Jack Penate - Everything Is New

When we first heard that Jack Penate had ‘gone in a dance direction’ for his second album Everything Is New, we had visions of blatant career led bandwagon jumping and Penate corruptly marching in with a bunch of distasteful synths tucked up under his arm, declaring that his new best friends were La Roux, Little Boots and Hot Chip. Thankfully, this hasn’t turned out to be the case and instead Everything Is New sees Penate progress from his much critically panned but reasonably commercially successful debut Matinee with some new influences and different production values, whilst retaining enough characteristics of his chirpy guitar pop to please his fans.

With hints of the Caribbean, Philly soul, and even gospel, Everything Is New is the sound of Jack Penate strapping on his guitar, going on holiday and drinking lots of mango juice and rum. Producer Paul Epworth has coated the album with just enough summery touches, without them ever becoming overbearing. These touches can be heard on title track Everything Is New where carnival rhythms, handclaps and funky bass lines propel the song forward. Tropical vibes continue on the cocktail shaking, limbo dancing Let’s All Die where even death cannot get Jack down “Let’s wave goodbye to black parades, no silent sobbing at the mouth of my grave,” he sings gleefully as we watch him samba off into the sunset. Be The One is the obvious single on the album; a mix of Screamadelica styled dance vibes and brassy soul which groove along until the whole track musically collapses down the stairs, picks itself up again and throws its hands in the air euphorically. Not everything on the album sees Jack in his surf shorts standing in the waves sipping a strawberry daiquiri though. Songs such as Body Down with its harshly abrupt ending of crashing cymbals and layered noise and Every Glance with its chiming guitars and “Take your hands from my shoulders and let me stand, I’ve been trying my hardest to be a man,” show a deeper reflective maturity.

Lyrically themes of moving on, walking away, travel and taking risks are prevalent. On Pull My Heart Away Jack sings of a need to take himself away, throw himself out of a plane and just see where he lands. Of course there are some detractors who wish that Jack would do just that; without a parachute. But these detractors tend to be the sneering, self important individuals who don’t understand the thrill of pop music. Pop music is allowed to be happy. It’s allowed to be flash in the pan. Its allowed to be enthusiastic. We listen to pop, love it and then move on. No naval gazing required. And without doubt Everything Is New is still very much a pop album; but a pop album that begins to open doors and suggest that Penate could now go off in whatever direction he likes. For those who were ready to write Jack Penate off, you'll have to wait a while longer.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Mirrors - Look At Me

Back in April we first posted about a new Brighton band named Mirrors, who rather like the Fear Of Flying to White Lies transformation, had a direct connection with the band previously known as Mumm-Ra. Mirrors are of course a very different proposition from Mumm-Ra, with a live show that is artily sophisticated and based on a strong visual aesthetic. This sensibility seems to extend to every aspect of the bands presentation, even their press releases. The release for Mirrors forthcoming single Look At Me simply reads “Mirrors follow the straightest of lines. Mirrors are attentive to minutiae. Mirrors are parallel to everything and equal to nothing. Mirrors are a vehicle for refraction. Mirrors are black and / or white. Mirrors are minimally over the top. Mirrors are the practical and aesthetical application of all things mirrors. Mirrors are a pattern for imitation. Mirrors are pop noir.” It reminds us a little of other releases from bands such as Dexy’s Midnight Runners and the KLF / K Foundation who tried to communicate a vision or message a little different from the norm. Pretentious ? Yes. But as long as the music has merit then such sloganeering has its place in pop music.

Since their Great Escape performance Mirrors have already been labelled by certain sectors of the media as a ‘buzz’ band, with all the negative connotations that such a label holds. The danger for Mirrors is that perceptions may be altered before anyone has even heard a note. So for the record, Look At Me is about as eighties as you can get. Full of downbeat vocals, UFO sounds, retro keyboard melodies and hints of early Depeche Mode and OMD. Reflect on the video and draw your own conclusions, but we think its splendid. Look At Me is just the right kind of song for mooching miserably in the corner at the disco to. The single will be released exclusively through Pure Groove records on the bands own label on 7” vinyl and can be ordered here . Mirrors play just a handful of shows this summer including Latitude and Loop Festivals.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Winterwell 2009 @ Secret Location

Winterwell Festival is a small independent festival held in a secret location in the rolling hills of the Gloucestershire countryside. Promoted through word of mouth and via use of a website that you can only access through the use of a password, it may on first impressions sound a little elitist. However Winterwell is far from that. If anything it breaks down barriers between people, with a friendly atmosphere more akin to a big party in someone’s back garden than your typical festival. With virtually no backstage area, no artists wristbands, laid back security, and full on space themed fancy dress on the Saturday afternoon, Winterwell presents an eclectic mix of live bands and DJ’s that make you wish that every festival was like this. Add in a vintage clothes stall, an old fashioned 1920’s glamour cup cake shop and tea room, a restaurant with a roof terrace serving Sunday roasts, big white letters up on the hill spelling out the festivals name Hollywood style and free hot showers, and you are all set for a fine weekend.

Like any other good festival the backbone of Winterwell is fine music, with both Moshi Moshi Records and the Electroacoustic Club helping to curate the line up. Then early on Saturday evening legendary DJ Norman Jay lands in the field dressed as a space hopper to bring big cosmic party tunes and sun to the assembled aliens, storm troopers and intergalactic groovers (video clip from the back of the site below - planets courtesy of Breaking More Waves ) following a well received saucy burlesque routine from Agent Lynch , who from being dressed as an astronaut quickly stripped down to her saucy space boots, showed us the moon and some strategically placed silver stars.

“It’s lovely to be in this secret location that only the military know about,” jokes Brain Briggs, lead singer of Stornoway, referencing the military jets passing by during their set. The planes are not the only things flying though. Stornoway positively soar into the air with their pitch perfect pastoral pop. Every song they play is economically endearing, from the tranquil Fuel Up to the groovy bass of I Saw You Blink. Mixing acoustic agility with trumpets, cello and the occasional banjo on We Are The Battery Human, Stornoway have no weak link whatsoever.

Breaking More Waves has gushed excessively elsewhere on this blog about Slow Club , and at Winterwell whilst musically they are effective with their twangy tweeness they seem a little non-plussed with the whole affair. It's almost as if the band are keener to get off stage than stay on it, asking how long they have left with twenty minutes still to go. However, Wild Blue Milk is beguiling and tender with its call of “Come take me home,” and It Doesn’t Have To Be Beautiful is the kind of song that in an alternate raw country pop world would be number one for three months.

Fanfarlo arrive late, but soon catch up with a big broad sound encompassing sweeping trumpets, swaying fiddles and regal double drumming. Their brand of noble indie folk pop is rich and full, occasionally hinting of Arcade Fire without the bombast. Later, over in the Sizzle Suite yurt UFO’s fly overhead whilst John Crampton brings stomping tequila soaked blues from steel guitar and harmonica to a totally up for it crowd. It’s one of those moments when performer and audience feed off each other, every song a sweaty and a hollerin’ vein busting swagger to the stars. For something of a less tense nature Shona Foster sings with a mature, elegant and warm vocal, like a more earthy Beth Gibbons from Portishead with added soul. She plays dark jazzy quirky and enchanting songs with a very English feel against a backdrop of precise vaudeville circus instrumentation and wins several hearts.

Earlier in the day for those who like a more mainstream guitar band, Animal Kingdom satisfy neatly adding a vocal somewhere between Mercury Rev and Keane to set them apart from some of their peer group, although for Breaking More Waves it is only their Sigur Ros meets Snow Patrol song Chalk Stars that moves. It could be their Run or Hoppipolla. We wonder how long it will be before the tune is picked up on a TV advert or suchlike and played to death until it becomes intensely annoying.

One of the many beauties of Winterwell is its musical diversity. For example, from folk, blues, rock and soul we move on to rebellious lap top ravers Teeth !!! with their space ball crushing sound. The're a band who are bound to divide opinion and many make a quick exit as they start, but amongst those who remain there are several who dance like mentalists on an electrocuted dance floor. They are a riot of spazzy energy, with lead singer / shouter Veronica spending as much time spinning herself round in dizzying circles in the audience as on stage. Despite being a complete mess, we like them. A lot.

Winterwell also has its fair share of dance action that continues late in to the night. We were disappointed with Metronomy a few weeks ago at the Great Escape Festival and not keen on their new line up, but after the sun has set, fairly lights twinkle and a hedonistic sliver space suited crowd jerks and stutters like raving chickens. There's still life in these dance dudes. Don't beam them up yet. Late night party thrills are also provided by the Moshi Moshi crew bringing all manner of tunes and vibes to the mix for a full on disco in the Bar-Barella tent. Further crazy shake your hips madness is witnessed when Smerins Anti Social Club play the outdoor stage and create brass-a-plenty chaos, mixing it with a collection of festival friendly vibes from ska to funk to drum and bass. Bodies are seen flying all over the place with big smiles cushioning the flailing limbs. Phew.

Based on an ethos of like minded people coming together to share a great weekend, Winterwell succeeds as a true secret independent boutique festival. It is the opposite of the mass media influenced corporate beasts that thousands of punters will attend this year, and is all the better for it. Shhh, just don’t tell anybody else. Ok ?

Friday, 19 June 2009

Tesla Boy - New Waves @ Breaking More Waves

Despite the name, Tesla Boy are not an OMD tribute band, but there is no doubt that they are another group who have opened the cupboard that has been padlocked for a long time; since the eighties to be exact. With song titles like Neon Love and Electric Lady it’s not hard to imagine the sound they make, but we’ll give you a big clue - it doesn’t involve lots of feedback laden guitars or angry shouting.

Tesla Boy are from Moscow, and consist of Anton Sevidov (Vocals), Dima Midborn (Bass) and the rather unfortunately named Boris Lifshits (Drums). With a Russian directness Anton sings “I wanna make love with you all night,” on the aforementioned Electric Lady and “I am so gone, I want your love,” on Neon Love; these boys know what they want for sure. There’s a pulsing camp pop tone to Tesla Boy, the kind of thing Popjustice would love. In fact they already do, having made Electric Lady their song of the day a few months back. Listening to Tesla Boy we can hear hints of European synth bands such as Kraftwerk, The Human League, Pet Shop Boys and Depeche Mode but without the austere coolness, as well as the ambience of eighties American films such as Footloose and The Breakfast Club.

Tesla Boy are very now, but they are also very then. Retro futurist is a term that fits perfectly. They may be too derivative for most, but their mix of interweaving nostalgic synthpop disco sounds and neat melodies could delight the dance floor.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Regina Spektor - Laughing With

Russian born singer songwriter Regina Spektor returns with a new album Far released on the 22nd June. Regina has often structured her songs in unpredictable ways, producing pieces that are eclectic and unique. Her style has won her an army of fans, and her influence can be heard in contemporary female singers such as Kate Nash (her songs Habanera and Little Red are very obviously influenced by Regina) and Marina and the Diamonds, even although in the UK she has never crossed over to the mainstream.

Laughing With is the debut single from the album, a downbeat tune where Regina tackles the heavy topic of faith. It’s a difficult one to pull off, and not a subject that many writers would dare tackle at risk of being criticised. However Regina has gained enough artistic respect that she can sing “No one laughs at God when the cops knock on their door and they say we’ve got some bad news sir,” and be taken seriously. Unfortunately the sentiment of the song is pretty simple; that people don’t appreciate god until they are faced with traumatic events. Musically Laughing With may not have the quirkiness or eccentricity of some of her older material, with her vocal in particular far more subdued than past glories, but the song manages to nag away through its repetition and still get under the skin.

It seems that although the record company have decided to lead with this somewhat ‘risky’ single, to mitigate any potential damage they have also released two further videos of other songs from the album, to show fans that not everything is as sad and maudlin as Laughing With. The first of these is Dance Anthem of the 80’s which sees Regina on more familiar territory; quirky, cute, rhythmic and sweetly adorable, whilst the second Eet comes complete with a Gone With The Wind styled video and a tune that could have easily sat on her previous album Begin To Hope.

Here are the three songs. Dance Anthem is Breaking More Waves current favourite, what's yours ?

Monday, 15 June 2009

Animal Kingdom - Tin Man

It seems that everything is going a little bit Wizard of Oz here at Breaking More Waves at the moment. Yesterday we brought you a review of Manchester band Run Toto Run, and now more Emerald City inspiration comes from Tin Man, the new single from Animal Kingdom. For fans of brooding guitars that sweep and soar in equal measure, Animal Kingdom deliver auditory pleasure. The London four piece have been compared with Death Cab For Cutie and Band Of Horses, which gives a reasonable sonic picture of where the group are coming from. The band have an ability to write atmospheric guitar songs that combined with Richard Sauberlich’s fragile high pitched singing has potential to appeal to the masses. Tin Man may not be breaking any new ground, but this is still a very competent song.

The bands forthcoming album was recorded in Seattle under production duties of Phil Ek, who is probably best known for his work with Fleet Foxes. The band are out on tour soon with Silversun Pickups. Here’s the video of Tin Man, so you can judge for yourselves.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Run Toto Run + The B Of The Bang @ Portsmouth Fat Fox

Imagine an evening where men dressed in Miami Vice themed suits play exquisitely dark and raw rock and folk music whilst holding a meat raffle, drop in a bit of Belinda Carlisle’s Heaven On Earth and jump off stage to play fully unplugged. Then as if this wasn’t enough four fairytale like creatures appear to bring Indian head dress, flower patterned xylophones, toy bubble machines and a keyboard called Dave to create a sound like the cute offspring of Hot Chip with added fiddles.

Except this wasn’t imagination. This was true.

The B Of The Bang celebrate the release of their debut album Beginning Middle End by sporting bad eighties ‘taches, aviator shades, ponytails and slicked back hair whilst playing the record in order in its entirety. And although some of the clothing may be Don Johnson’s idea of pastel heaven, the music definitely isn’t. Struggling with technical difficulties the bands set starts sore and angry, Alaska is almost croaking, shat up like a pearl from the aphotic zone with singer Whitear rasping the words in the audience rather than on stage. Lung meanwhile is potent and gratifyingly loud, layered with indecent guitar and puncturing noise. As the set continues the band seem to relax a little and appear to be enjoying themselves. “I don’t know how they managed to wear suit jackets in the eighties,” announces Whitear as things begin to heat up. Doing the sensible thing he finally discards it as his group join up with Jellymaid Music label-mates The Dawn Chorus to perform Last Day On Earth fully unplugged on the floor of the venue. The stage itself is like a revolving door, constantly delivering and spitting out different band members. During the crowd pleasing Delores its breathing space only, rammed full of musicians and equipment whilst on the haunting and fragile Desire Lines Whitear plays solo. Seeds finds the band in double drumming glory, sounding huge and stirring, even in a grotty pub venue. Towards the end the shift is towards a more folkish sound, with the appearance of an accordion for set closer New Road, which ends the fiery set. Its a long way from the world of Crocket and Tubbs, but then there are only heroes here and no villains to pursue.

Its not often that electronic music is described as beautiful, organic or natural but that is exactly the sound of Run Toto Run. Lead singer Rachael Kichenside has a flower like velvet soft voice that weakens knees, whilst the rest of band add almost minimalist folktronica, with accomplished acoustic guitar and fiddle. It’s charmingly twee but faultlessly modern. Run Toto Run look as if they’re waiting for the firing line lined up at the front of the stage, but they are going to charm their way out of it. Thanking everyone from the promoters Hong Kong Gardeners who rescued the doomed gig following its cancellation with another promoter, the B of the Bang and even this very blog, Run Toto Run are incredibly endearing. Single Your Face has been beefed up from its delicate twinkling acoustic form, showing the bands progression from pastoral schoolyard folk into the world of synthtopia, whereas the circus oompa of Full Stop sees the band leaning over and stealing a sneaky stab of each others keyboard in comic effect. Catch My Breath is the moment where the fairy folk discover samplers and create a breed of twitchy stuttering electronica. Despite the cuteness there are moments when it feels like Run Toto Run are going to pull the skin from their faces and reveal that the animal masks they sported on Sleepyhead are real, kicking into a tirade of hard full on dirty beats that Aphex Twin would be proud of. It never actually happens, but it’s easy too imagine it could. Instead they finish with their cover of Sleepyhead, taking the song to a new paradise. Run Toto Run are bewitchingly lovely, masks just divert from that fact.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Slow Club - It Doesn't Have To Be Beautiful

OK. This one seals the deal. We are officially in love with Slow Club. It’s been a gradually burning romance. We started off as friends, we always thought they were nice, but now there’s something else. It’s been burning away inside, a nagging fire and with It Doesn’t Have To Be Beautiful it finally flames up. With a dizzying champagne bottle rush of rough and ready, rock n rollin’, country hoe down pop Charles and Rebecca are about to release one of our singles of the year on the ever consistent Moshi Moshi label. It Doesn’t Have To Be Beautiful reminds us of a warmer, cuter Hotel Yorba by the White Stripes romping its way headfirst into summer. It’s utterly glorious.

What’s more is that in the same way that virtually every classic pop song from Motown to Country provides jubilant music set to the saddest of lyrics, Slow Club do the same. With their twanging jangling guitar work and frantic drumming they sing “Baby I know it’s over, tell me till you’re sober.” Although it should bring a tear to the eye, one can’t but help but smile the biggest smile.

With It Doesn’t Have To Beautiful Slow Club have provided our perfect musical marriage. We’ll see you at the church. Here’s the video.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Lisa Mitchell + Animal Kingdom @ London Water Rats Theatre

“You may know this song, it’s been on the TV for a Surf advert,” explains Australian Lisa Mitchell (pictured) before she launches into Neopolitan Dreams. It’s a simple acoustic ditty with an addictive “Ba ba ba ba,” chorus, happy clapperisms, and twinkle toes step xylophone sound. It makes us want to run into the kitchen and kiss a washing machine. Mitchell was a finalist in Australian Idol, but don’t hold that against her. Her music is better than that. A tall, skinny, slightly geeky looking girl with an oversized bow in her head, she is charmingly cute, like Laura Marling having swallowed a bunch of happy pills, erratically twitching and cooing. “Thanks for coming down, especially if this was a special occasion,” she smiles, before confirming that “I have no idea what I’m talking about.” Then she’s gone, probably whisked away by the fairies.

Depending on your perspective, Animal Kingdom have possibly written one of the most perfect songs you will hear all year or one of the most annoyingly drippy. It’s called Chalk Stars. The song is either a thing of infinite beauty or a deep puddle with mouldy cheese floating on the top. It’s a slow motion, melancholy cinematic piece that hints at Sigur Ross and Snow Patrol. It could easily find itself on the ending of some schmaltzy American film or TV drama where a couple fall into each others arms and walk off into the sunset, and everyone will have a ‘moment‘. It is no surprise the band end their set with it, the song has such an enormous impact. It doesn’t just reach for the stars, but asteroids, black holes and the edge of the universe as well. Their other material is also suitably grandiose, sometimes being reminiscent of early Coldplay, with Richard Sauberlich’s dreamy high pitched vocal floating over the songs. Not every number they perform has the emotive power of Chalk Stars, and the band suffer a little from losing the crowds attention at certain points of the set, but future single Tin Man has enough fire to keep ears warm with its soaring chorus of “Tell me if it’s love, ’cos baby I’m a tin man.”

Animal Kingdom will be one mans wet dream, but for another they will just be wet.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Little Boots - Hands

At the start of the year Little Boots aka Victoria Hesketh was the subject of immense media publicity with everyone, including Breaking More Waves, tipping her for the top. A stripped back appearance on Later With Jools and the most downloaded free I Tunes track ever consolidated the opinion that Little Boots was going places. Then came New In Town; after all the anticipation, it was a bit of a let down, particularly as Victoria had made it clear that she wanted to connect with as many people as possible. The resulting Top 20 chart position rather than Top 10 reflected our opinion that New In Town was just disappointingly average. With cool keyboard pop having something of a renaissance it became virtually impossible not to compare the commercial success of the single with that of that other synth wielding disco belle La Roux. In For The Kill by La Roux had sneaked in and throttled the charts, a gargantuan pop hit released at the end of March and still sitting pretty in the Top 10 come the end of May.

So with the release of Hands it feels like Little Boots has been caught on the back foot and has some work to do. Of course Victoria claims that she isn’t gutted about the La Roux commercial success and as Popjustice recently pointed out in a slightly different context, the last thing that UK pop music needs is another pointless chart battle invented by the media between two connected artists, so instead, let’s focus on the album. We ask the simple question; irrespective of chart positions and sales, is the album any good ?

Hands is not the perfect pop album. There is a small amount of filler, some of the songs are flawed and the glossy mainstream production has a habit of sucking the soul from the recordings. However despite these reservations, Hands is also in for the kill, in a smoothly triumphant way, packed with catchy hooks and smart electronic melodies that will set you off on a journey of pop danceteria. After all it would have been too much to expect a one hundred percent perfect synth pop album from a debut, but Victoria Hesketh has a good shot.

When she seductively straddles the line between Kylie and something with an icier electro cool feel Little Boots has the capability to create auditory orgasms. The three tracks where Joe Goddard of Hot Chip had a helping hand all manage to do this; from the pulsing moroderishness of Stuck On Repeat, to the clanking quirkiness of Meddle and the plink plonk handbag aloofness of Mathematics. They are perfect examples of wonky pop; a little different yet accessible. Other victories include the snazzy chorus of Earthquake; hear it once and spend the whole day humming it and the pulsing slow motion of Click, which shows that despite the number of co-written songs on the album, Hesketh can pen a tune on her own. Future single Remedy is very of the moment, with big dirty synth sounds in the verse which echo Lady Gaga’s Poker Face and a celebratory radio friendly chorus about music and dancing amongst a hailstorm of “Oh, oh, oh’s.” The retro futurist grower Symmetry will please those of a certain age (Breaking More Waves included) bringing Phil Oakey from the Human League to a new audience, his vision of pop being similar to Hesketh’s; one part arch coolness, two parts unreservedly disco dancing. Then there’s Tune Into My Heart which sounds like St Etienne without any of the over the shoulder cleverness. All of these songs rise and conquer in a way that reminds us of The Pet Shop Boys, a band obsessed with the notion of pop, but who somehow differentiate themselves with a lack of naffness often associated with the genre.

There are a few blunders though. Lead single New In Town still fails to deliver despite repeated listens. We really think the record company made a mistake with this one. Even worse is Ghost, a lame song made worse by too much oddness and out of place tinny military drumming. However over thirteen songs (including the simple piano ballad hidden track) the target is hit more often than missed and it's often a bullseye or at least a double top.

We know pop is meant to be fun, but seriously this is pretty good.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Stornoway - Zorbing

We first introduced the band Stornoway to regular readers here last month, and then gushed at their zoological performance at Wychwood Festival just a couple of weeks later. Now we’re writing about them again, because the Oxford based band have just released one of the most heartfelt acoustic pop songs of the year. It's concise innocence will make you swoon.

Zorbing by Stornoway appears to have absolutely nothing to do with extreme sports mentalists in huge plastic balls rolling down hills, even though the cover of the single depicts one. Instead the reference comes from the lyric “I’ve been singing you this song inside a bubble,” as check shirted lead singer Brian Briggs wistfully describes and rejoices the simple beautiful pleasures of love, his physical surroundings, conkers shining on the ground and breaking storms. Listen to the way he softly enunciates the word cooler into something that sounds like “Coolah” and smile knowing that for three minutes and thirty seconds everything in the world is OK. Reminiscent of early James, Belle And Sebastian and a less glum Noah And The Whale, Zorbing is a life affirming song, that will make adults fling open doors, skip down the road and hug the nearest stranger.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Marina And The Diamonds - The Crown Jewels EP

We’re a bit late with this one but last week Marina And The Diamonds, one of our Ones To Watch 2009 released her second single The Crown Jewels EP through Neon Gold before she goes all major label. The EP is the follow up to the gorgeous Obsessions and gives us one thousand and one opportunities to write lots of sparkling clichéd puns about gems of songs, Marina being a shining star and references to her crowning glory. But that would be just too damn obvious, wouldn’t it ? Or did we just do that anyway?

Two of the songs on this EP, namely Seventeen and Simplify were first found on Marinas early demo CD. Each song has been beefed up, but certainly not over produced. This means that the essence of what makes Marina good in the first place, the mix of power and vulnerability, is never lost. This contrast of strength and fragility is developed lyrically on I Am Not A Robot where Marina comes on a little bit Regina Spektor (more of Regina soon) as she sings “You’ve been acting awful tough lately, smoking a lot of cigarettes lately, but inside you’re just a little baby, oh it’s ok to say you’ve got a weak spot, you don‘t always have to be on top.” Naming the EP The Crown Jewels seems entirely appropriate, as the music on this song is stately and majestic, even luxurious in its sound. Seventeen is the other strong track on the EP, more upbeat and poppy. Currently there is no official video, so check out her live performance of Seventeen at Pure Groove records in London below.

Marina is playing a huge number of festivals this summer and has also been writing an entertaining, lively and passionate blog full of debate which you can read here.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Fight Like Apes - Something Global

In our instant access, have everything, take everything, capture everything age, going to a gig no longer just involves dancing / standing / sitting at a venue and watching the band. These days the live experience will be digitally documented by its audience and posted up on You Tube before you can say “If a pictures worth a thousand words, what’s a talking picture worth.” The days of venue security searching you for a camera on entry are long gone, with virtually every mobile phone carrying a reasonably decent facility to capture the moment, making such a task impossible and pointless.

So Eoghan Kidney has taken this concept one step further for the video for Fight Like Apes Something Global. Fans were invited to film the band playing a gig on a variety of hand held camera media, the footage was then edited and collated with the results put out for the world to see. Add in suited kabuki men in masks, padded arrows, wedding confetti and the bands unique lyrical style and voila the new Fight Like Apes video is born. The irony is that many of the fans involved in the shoot have also posted their own individual videos up on the net, so You Tube and other video hosts are awash with videos for Something Global. So here it is, as well as a short documentary about the shoot.

Fight Like Apes - Something Global from ξοgΙιαη κιdηεγ on Vimeo.

And this is the making of. Can someone explain the Rocky 3 analogy please ?

Saturday, 6 June 2009

The Horrors @ Brighton Concorde

The Horrors take to the stage at Brighton Concorde to the sound of excited screaming girls. Within seconds those screams are strangled by a barrage of dense keyboard sounds and a howling wall of guitar. This sound proclaims the bands resurrection, stepping out of the grave marked ‘over hyped garage goth punks’ into a dark world where their ghoulish sound twists, turns and shouts to create something more expansive.

Like many bands that inspire devoted fan loyalty, The Horrors look like a gang. It’s something that the audience can buy into, and it can be witnessed throughout the room. Big hair, jackets and black clothes are the order of the day. In the same way that Robert Smith of The Cure inspired many an awkward soul to creep out of the bedroom in a riot of hairspray and smudged lipstick, so The Horrors are forging a similar relationship with their fans.

Concentrating on material from the Breaking More Waves approved second album Primary Colours, the songs have muscle and weight formed through a sound that is often hypnotic, primitive and sometimes darkly sexual, rather like Frankenstein’s monster humping against a gravestone. Battered organs, wrathful guitars and driving fuzzy bass compete for space whilst beneath the strobes singer Farris outstretches his arms to the crowd like the return of the messiah. His vocals are virtually unintelligible, all muffled and echoing, but this doesn’t seem to matter. It’s almost as if his rasping voice is just another instrument to create the bands menacing sound. Who Can Say is a typical example, sounding like a deserted buzz saw seaside funfair ride, angry at being left alone.

After forty minutes the band close their set with the psychedelic drone of Sea Within A Sea, where Farris chants a mournful mantra of following your own path alone before a pulsating delirious electronic loop kicks in. The band should finish there, no encore required, but return to kick up the spittle and bile of the first album with some selected tracks such as Sheena Is A Parasite. In comparison to the new songs these tracks seem to lack soul and depth; a teen punk stomp through a vintage record collection that’s fun whilst it lasts but is quickly forgotten. We may have thought that this was to be the case with this band as well, but it seems that with the progression they have made they may stick in our memories longer than we thought.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Florence And The Machine @ Brighton Concorde

“I went to the pier today – I felt like jumping off,” giggles Florence Welch. This is typical of Florence the person and the music that Florence And The Machine create. There’s a sense of childlike wonder and almost chaotic madness to what Florence does; it makes you think that if her powerful voice belted out the songs any harder, she might just be able to fly.

Amongst bunting, birdcages and fog blue brightness, electronic whispering gives way to a single slapped drum beat as Florence appears. Her robes blow in the breeze like a flame haired goddess, her arms lifted to the heavens. With a lighting design that she describes as “Gothic – but I like it,” there is a real sense of shrouded pagan atmosphere to the set, all shadowy and mysterious, which suits songs such as new single Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up). In its live incarnation the song starts strangely subdued until halfway through a slowed down Italian house piano groove kicks in and the audiences hands rise up in the air like some long lost summer of love rave. Cosmic Love is breathtaking in its power, Girl With One Eye is bluesy and raw, and her closing cover of You’ve Got The Love is profoundly colossal. Suddenly it seems as if everything has fallen into place.

At Brighton Concorde, Florence soars sky high. This is an artist who has taken massive steps in terms of performance and musical weight in the last year or so. Florence is no longer just a kooky, raw, slightly hyperactive young woman who doesn’t quite know what to do with herself onstage. Now she is a fully fledged star, composed and assured, still full of energy, but managing to contain it until just the right moments in her set when the music explodes.

As she picks up a strobe light and raises it above her head Florence seems to become some kind of alternative version of the Statue of Liberty. Florence’s lamp may not yet be as well known as her Nightingale namesake, but it is beginning to shine even brighter than we hoped. Stunning.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

The B Of The Bang - Beginning Middle End

In the same way that Bon Iver is just Justin Vernon, and Blue Roses is Laura Groves, Portsmouth’s Christopher Whitear is The B Of The Bang. Against a backdrop of seaside living, dreary jobs and grotty pub gigs he has gathered together an assortment of musicians to create his debut album Beginning Middle End released on the 8th June through Jellymaid Music

Describing The B of the Bang as “A lo fi, electronic-tinged, anti-folk cake with a gothic, grunge icing,” Whitear gets near the mark. However beneath the enjoyably gloomy sounds and wealth of instrumentation that sees appearances from banjo, guitar, violin, cello, keyboard, glockenspiel, loops, pianos and more, Beginning Middle End often follows a template based on traditional rock structures. For instance, at least four of the songs on this album, Alaska, Lung, Little Bean and A New Road invoke a dynamic of a quiet start, gradually building to reach a climax; yet due to the variety of instrumentation, each song sounds distinctly different. The reference points are many but can be broadly categorised into bands that have an earnest and serious sound; Editors and Radiohead being two obvious influences. However there are lighter touches with the almost chirpy Delores, the vaudeville jazz folk of Alfred Light The Fires and the acoustic medieval campfire balladry of Desire Lines, where rather disconcertingly the band appear to have left a kettle boiling in the background.

Tying these different styles together is Whitear’s baritone vocal, which has a slight warble towards the end of certain notes and occasional over enunciation in the style of a very English gentleman. His voice is at its best when it doesn‘t try too hard to emulate other deep noted singers which he is obviously a fan of. Take (We Used To Draw) Treasure Maps, one of the newer songs on the album. A misty, mystical, folkish song with military drumming and a beautiful backing vocal from Tallie Kane. Here Whitear is brooding with restraint and sounds all the more powerful for it. The addition of elegiac strings gives the song a meaty resonance despite its subtlety. It is worth buying the album for this track alone. Likewise Alaska, with its ships fog horn synth, ghostly asthmatic atmospherics and simple pounding electronic beat works because of its lack of over complication. Pared down to just one line repeated over and over Whitear sings “It only happens once, you won’t believe it when it does,” in a relaxed and hopeful way.

Ultimately Beginning Middle End is a collection of well crafted songs that are often the sum of their influences. It is when Whitear rises above these influences, through simple subtle song writing and not trying too hard that The B of the Bang really finds beauty amongst the shadows.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Wychwood 2009

What makes a good music festival? Not an easy question to answer, but for Breaking More Waves some of the essential ingredients include great weather, well structured organisation, good infrastructure and a relaxed and happy vibe where a true sense of community comes through. Add in some good music, other enjoyable non music related activities and a spot of uniqueness and the event can be verging on greatness. With the best weather in the UK for the year so far, Wychwood 2009 achieved all of our requirements.

This is a festival for those who like convenience. How many music festivals do you know where you can pull up in your car, choose your spot to pitch your tent, off-load your equipment and set up and only then return your car to the car park ? It certainly beats those long sweaty journeys lugging camping gear miles across a site. Toilets are nearly always an issue at festivals, but not at Wychwood. The festival portaloos are kept remarkably clean and fragrant, and if you don’t fancy them, as the event is set in the grounds of Cheltenham racecourse you can use the venues permanent toilets. And as you wander towards the music, tarmac pathways meander through the site, giving a civilised, very un-dirty feel to the occasion.

Wychwood is also a culturally enriched and diverse festival, with a laid back feel, where children and adults combine in an area known simply as ‘The Green’. Here you will find workshops, performances, poetry, cinema, demonstrations and other events taking place, giving a true sense of community. From the new Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy reading and performing a selection of her work with musician John Sampson to a mixed crowd of all ages, to a magical fire show late at night where choreographed performers battle with flaming torches and thrill with burning skipping ropes, whilst green fingered lasers dance in the darkness. Wychwood provides excitement for all ages. During the day we enjoy a huge number of activities taking place, from circus skills (where Breaking More Waves shows significant talent in hula hooping) to the Roald Dahl Museum giving a fascinating and insightful audio visual presentation on the life of the author.

And then of course there is the music. We were having such a good time elsewhere, we almost forgot.

Headliners Super Furry Animals play to a crowd showered with bubbles, encouraging the audience by holding up signs saying Woah, Applause, and Danke. After wading through material from their new album Dark Days / Light Years they finally deliver some crowd pleasers such as The Man Don’t Give A F*@k. The bands longevity is a testament to their creative nuance, however for Breaking More Waves even when they add a bassy groove and clattering percussion to the wonderfully named The Very Best Of Neil Diamond, they fail to really move or engage, rather to be admired from afar.

On Saturday the Breaking More Waves approved Bjork goes fairytale orchestrated pop of The Mummers is just right for a crowd basking in the sun. Wonderland is well, wonderful, the bands cover version of Passion Pits Sleepyhead is dizzying and mystical. Then there is closing song This Is Heaven which is a string laden piece of godliness. The Mummers are another one of those bands who could be in contention for a Mercury nomination.

Goldheart Assembly are slightly ramshackle and beardy in a musical sense. With autoharp and acoustic guitar combining with organic harmonies one can hear hints of something American, breezy and melodious in their tunes which please the small relaxed crowd in the darkness of the Big Top.

Later in the day Little Boots (pictured) brings her blend of synth pop to the masses. With all the attention that she has received over the last few months following her No.1 slot in the BBC Sound of 2009, it is easy to be cynical about her. However the facts are that Victoria Hesketh is a confident, sassy and ever so slightly sexy performer, a UK Kylie with keyboards if you want. Stuck On Repeat, Mathematics and the stylophone strangeness of Meddle mark the point where pop, disco and electronica merge to great effect, quirky enough to be cool, danceable enough to make you want to work up a sweat. However those tunes were the first that brought our attention to Little Boots last winter, and some of the newer tracks played today such as current Top 20 single New In Town and future single Remedy lack the pulsing uniqueness to be anything more than just another tune rolled out by the pop machine.

In the evening a host of bands play in the Old Hooky Bar as part of Tom Robinsons 6 Music Fresh on the Net sessions, a chance for new and unsigned talents to display their wares. The highlight is the comedy chap hop of Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer. Armed with a banjo and a beatbox Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer is “Straight out of Surrey,” wearing a pin striped suit and delivering raps in an upper class accent. “Tim Westwood it’s time to own up, and say how do you do, rather than yo what’s up,” he raps before asking the audience to join in and to conjugate a chorus in Latin. Wiping his sweating face on a toilet tissue he announces “There goes my last chance of having a poo.” Comedy, dare we say it, genius moment of the weekend.

We wrote about Stornoway very recently here and on Sunday it’s their chance to play in the Old Hooky Bar. Despite a few technical hitches and the wide eyed and intense staring singer Brian Briggs looking as nervous as a small boy on his first day of school, Stornoway produce a set of beautifully judged folk pop. Tightly focussed on producing clear and concise melodies, their set is short and sweet as a sugar cube. Stornoway are probably the only band that you will ever hear say “Some good news, beavers have returned to Scotland for the first time in four hundred years,” and genuinely mean the good news, before adding “Did you know that beavers have internal testicles?” Later the zoological references continue when the band state that the banjo led We Are The Battery Humans is about “Acknowledging your inner monkey.” This is no ape like tom foolery though, each tune that Stornoway play is ecologically haunting and uplifting. Stornoways songs are warm and gentle, and the moment when the trumpet kicks in on Zorbing takes the song to a whole new level. It’s the best trumpet middle section since Belle And Sebastians Judy And The Dream Of Horses, which it shares a certain musical marriage with. It’s official, Stornoway are our new favourite pastoral indie folk pop band.

With all of the attributes that we look for in such an event, Wychwood 2009 marked a magical start for Breaking More Waves festival season. Let’s hope it continues.