Saturday, 31 October 2009
The last two days we have posted about The XX and Florence and the Machine. So now it’s time to do a little musical mathematics. An equation of sorts. Where XX = FM rather than XY. Here’s that Florence video that we featured yesterday, but this time the beats are in - fresh from their support slots with Florence recently, The XX step up on the remix. It’s less of a remix and more of a cover really, with just a small vocal sample from Florence’s version. So that’s a remix cover of a cover. Now all we need to do is get Candi Staton to cover the XX, Florence and the Machine to remix it and it will be one very messy musical menage a trois. Now that would be something. It’s a good cover / remix though, with a loose dubstep vibe to it. Have a look and listen below.
Friday, 30 October 2009
On the 16th November Florence and the Machine release the next single from the album Lungs. You’ve Got The Love is Florence’s expansive take on the Candi Staton anthem, although when Staton recorded the tune its title was You Got The Love. The song has been part of Florence’s live set as long as we can remember. The first time we saw a growing Florence play she only had a handful of songs and filled her performance out with several covers, including this one. As other covers have been discarded You’ve Got The Love still remains, being the finishing stroke on the album.
Lungs is a fantastic album. Some critics and fans alike accused it of being too full of bluster, the production taking away the live energy of the songs, but we very much disagree with this. Its soaring crescendos and range needed to be broad and towering. The structured production brought a new dimension to Florence’s chaos which has subsequently helped alter and define her live shows and take them to higher levels. Which is what You’ve Got The Love also does. No wonder Friendly Fires have also used a sample of the Staton version of the song in their sound clash Your Love.
However as much as we cherish Florence And The Machine and You’ve Got The Love we can’t but help feel a little bit cheated. Cash in are the words on our lips. Christmas market also comes to mind. It’s time for the record company to wheel out the cover version to appeal to those who have yet to succumb to the relatively unique charms of Florence and the Machine. You’ve Got The Love seems to be aimed at the kind of person who buys just a couple of albums a year and only makes that purchase when the product is familiar and comfortable. If that kind of person buys Lungs we’re not quite sure what they’ll make of the rest of it, particularly songs like Girl With One Eye. That would be an interesting one in the Christmas stocking.
Tomorrow we're going to do some musical maths with this song, so come and see here then.
Thursday, 29 October 2009
Such is the growing popularity of The XX that their show in Brighton had already been upgraded from The Freebutt to the slightly larger Audio. With a capacity crowd in attendance there’s more than just suggestion that the wave they are currently riding could have taken them right down to Brighton’s seafront to the even bigger Concorde, where only a month or two ago they were the support act to Vampire Weekend (review here) It is no surprise that next time the band play Brighton in March 2010 they will be headlining the six hundred and fifty capacity Komedia.
Before the XX play, on a stage decorated with owl figurines, illuminated globes and lanterns, Brighton’s own Esben and the Witch entertain. This group seem to be the perennial support act in Brighton at the moment, but a billing with The XX is probably the bands most suited yet, in terms of an affiliated sound. Esben and the Witch are kindred spirits through their use of haunting female vocals, electronic drum patterns and moody soundscapes. They are however not as instantly loveable, their music being based less around melody. Instead Esben and the Witch concern themselves more with the dynamic of atmospherics, textures and clicking rhythms. Lead singer Rachel wears a Robert Smith Lullaby t shirt - and certainly Pornography and Disintegration era Cure seem to be reference points in their music, as is the possibility of an undead Portishead. It’s experimental music that is meticulously and selectively put together, the stuff of electric haunted houses and desolate landscapes. There are momentary blasts of Mogwai-esque dirty noise and fragile quiet moments that suffer from unwanted feedback interruptions, but overall the band provide more than enough justification for what they do. All three members of the group seem to immerse themselves fully into their sound, their guitarist almost violently so, and at the end he attempts to beat the life out of the single drum on stage before exiting out the back.
If there was a competition for cool, The XX would win hands down. They display a mix of studied intensity combined with a subtle and gentle nature that pushes them just to the periphery of distantness. With the whole band dressed in black, and plenty of jewellery chains on display, there’s a hint of urban goth to their self image. There is however something with this band that demonstrates that they have much more than just a fashion tag. There are the timid sweet thank you’s to the audience, the small smiles between vocalists Oliver (pictured) and Romy, the way their electronic drum pad player puts one hand in his pocket whilst playing - probably the most un rock n roll gesture ever, and of course let’s not forget the beautiful minimalist pop music that is played note perfectly. These are all reasons why The XX offer more, often through less, and achieve an unexpected coolness.
The cool factor is magnified by the fact that The XX are not the kind of band that are going to participate in high jinx tomfoolery, jumping or jiving around on stage. They line up at the front as a four piece; bordered by two glowing white X’s and deliver every song with a quiet confidence, including their now familiar cover of Teardrops by Womack and Womack. It’s songs such as VCR with its hypnotic exacting Cure (yes that band again) like guitar, and Shelter where Romy’s soulful downbeat deadpan voice ushers “Can I make it better, with the lights turned on,” that make you forget that you could just sit at home and listen to the album - such is the lack of the bands showmanship. It feels that standing in this virtually motionless crowd is something special, that you are watching songs being played that have depth - tunes that will last longer than whatever transient time period the bands coolness lasts for.
As the set comes to an end Oliver thanks Esben and the Witch for supporting, admitting that his band are “A little bit in love with them,” and thanks the audience for coming to watch their first ever headline tour. The applause is significant and the whole band look just a little bit bewildered at it. After they finish the call for an encore is long, but one is not forthcoming. Either The XX are humble enough to think they have not earned the right yet, or are just too composed for such gig clichés, but either way this was an impressive performance deserving of a return to the stage.
How the band will deal with larger venues remains to be seen. It may be that some other visual presence is needed in bigger halls where sometimes even the music alone isn’t enough. But for now the music was all that was needed.
Wednesday, 28 October 2009
“This is a song about a boy I met once but nothing much came of it,” starts Kate Walsh as she glides gracefully into her opening song The Baker. This sums up Walsh perfectly. Her sweet sounding tales of personal relationships that didn’t work out are painfully open and honest. Frankly if we were dating her it wouldn’t surprise us if she took out her notebook every now and then to jot something down about how she felt, saving it up for a later song.
The Brighton based singer songwriter’s formula of easy on the ear acoustic guitar and confiding lyrics such as “I left you for another man, and he doesn’t deserve me” seem to have found a place in the heart of her audience though. The Hanbury Ballroom crowd listens in perfect silence; the only noise to be heard is the clink of glasses from the bar at the back. The sound is crystalline in its delicacy but also warm and full, with the sounds of cello, glockenspiel and piano adding depth. Variation is also added to the set with Kate playing a cover version of Erasure’s Little Respect, the lyrics seeming to have a deeper poignancy when stripped of its synth pop edges, even if a blast of sudden feedback halfway through sends Walsh into a fit of giggles. Later on Kate takes to the piano again to perform a classical interlude of a Debussy piece with her cellist. It shows what a fine musician she is and the ovation at the end seems to last forever.
However, the staple diet of Kate Walsh is soft acoustic guitar lullabies of the broken heart. Songs such as Tonight, about one night stands and tracks such as The Greatest Love and June Last Year from her new album Light and Dark are absorbing and beautiful, the kind of thing that given the right setting can almost move you to tears, particularly when her vocals are accompanied by guest vocals from Turin Brakes for two songs. If introspective girlish acoustic singer songwriters are your thing, then Kate Walsh comes highly recommended.
Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Last week saw the release of 5: Five Years of Hyperdub, a compilation from the London dubstep label of the same name. Amongst the tracks on the compilation you will find the first new material from Burial since his collaboration with Four Tet. Since Will Bevan was nominated for the Mercury Prize with Untrue, the name Burial has been keeping a distinctly low profile; Fostercare represents the first head above the parapet.
For those expecting a radical departure from the Untrue pattern book, you will be sorely disappointed. Fostercare knits together the same strands that made Untrue such a work of art. Impassive beats, ghostly bass, floating pitch shifted vocals that glide in and out of the mix and down beat post club atmospherics stitch and pearl in a mix that will be familiar to those who love Burial. Fostercare is mesmerising, trippy and sinisterly evocative. The soundtrack to the end of the night continues.
Monday, 26 October 2009
Despite the fact that we are now supposedly a global community, connected by the wired up and wireless world that we live in through the internet, there are many musicians that are highly acclaimed in their own country yet are very much unknowns in other parts of the developed world. Dan Mangan is one such artist. An award winning singer songwriter in his native Canada, in the UK he is still very much off the radar for the majority. In May of this year we witnessed Mangan play at the Great Escape in Brighton to a small crowd (review here ). His beautiful humble observant songs reminded us a little of Damien Rice and Badly Drawn Boy, with a vocal gruffness that is warming like a good bottle of red wine. His performance was one of several highlights of the festival.
In November Mangan is set to return to Brighton as one of several shows he plays in the green and pleasant land including London, Bristol and Edinburgh. Since we first saw this heart-warming singer songwriter play, he has put out his second album Nice Nice Very Nice in Canada to critical and commercial success. Whilst the record is not yet available in the UK we very much hope that at some point a release opportunity will be secured. From what we can gather we understand his uplifting song Robots will be released as a single around the time of the shows. Before this however, here is the video for another one of his acoustic gems The Indie Queens Are Waiting. The tune features wonderful vocal interplay with fellow Canadian Veda Hille. Take a listen, and be smitten with it’s subtle pauses, lyrics about coffee shops, record stores and questioning “Are we cool now?” We haven’t misjudged when we say that the sublime music of Dan Mangan deserves much more exposure in the UK.
Sunday, 25 October 2009
Here’s an admission. This year we have had the name Ellie Goulding set as one of our Google alerts. The last few weeks have seen that alert get very busy indeed. So based on a very unscientific study of clicking on the links sent by the alerts, here is our guide on how to write a blog post about Ellie Goulding. Follow these simple instructions and your post will look like virtually every other trendy young things new music blog on the internet.
1. Show how ‘hip’ and ‘on the case’ you are by stating that you first wrote about Ellie ages ago. The earlier the better really, because this shows how ‘in touch’ you are with new music.
2. Write a couple of abstract meaningless sentences that say very little except she has a good voice, some beats, an acoustic guitar, is working with Starsmith and is likely to be a star herself.
3. Post an MP3 that you’ve stolen from another blog, most likely the Neon Gold site. Gain extra credibility by mentioning Neon Gold in your blog.
4. Post up and voila, you can now consider yourself now part of the hip elite.
If these instructions seem a little cynical, then you’re reading it in the right way. The irony is we could easily be accused of doing 1,2 and 4 ourselves. However, we have no desire to be hip or on the case, as such coolness is transient, often lacks integrity and doesn’t last. If we happen to write about a new artist that is flavour of the month with hipsters, it is because we genuinely like the song and want others to know about it. Simple. We turned off our cool radar a long time ago. It’s all about the music for us.
Which is why we are writing about Ellie Goulding’s debut single Under The Sheets. We like it a lot. But we want to delve a little deeper.
Before we get caught up in a wave of bandwagon jumping herd behaviour with the hip blogs, we think it is time to inject a little bit of caution in respect of Ms Goulding. In some respects this caution is our way to counter the levels of expectation that seem to be flooding towards her. Read our blog here on the expectations surrounding Little Boots this year to get an idea of where we are coming from. Ellie Goulding is very good and has plenty of talent, both as a performer and a songwriter. We’ve seen her live twice now and so feel authorised to be quite categoric about this. See our review posts here and here. However when at some point next year she releases an album, will it be one to treasure? There are a couple of possible indicators that despite the talent we shouldn’t get too over excited yet.
First, her live sound shows little variation in the songs she is producing. The acoustic electro formula is a great formula, but without variation it can become wearing over an albums worth of songs. This is why we loved another folktronic singer James Yuill’s debut so much, as he mixed in gentle acoustic ballads on some songs with his heavier beats on others.
Second, whilst Goulding has a distinctive voice, rather like La Roux it may have a marmite effect, becoming painfully annoying for some listeners over the course of an album. The singles may stand out, but for an album to have tenaciousness, a sweet almost childlike quivering vocal such as Goulding’s, as good as it is, may not stick for the course of ten to twelve songs unless there is the variation we mentioned earlier.
These are the cautious notes we throw out there. Catch them if you want and make your own musical judgements. Let’s not get hysterical. Internet hype can work against artists as well as for them.
For the record we think Under The Sheets by Ellie Goulding is a storming, passionate piece of pop music that is instantly memorable and infectious. It takes a step on from her other songs available on the internet such as Starry Eyed and Guns and Horses by adding crashing live drum sounds to her electronic pop. Decide yourselves. Ellie Goulding - Sound of 2010 ? Here’s the video.
Saturday, 24 October 2009
Let’s get the obvious out of the way right at the start. For their third album In This Light and on This Evening, Editors have by and large dropped the electric guitars and replaced them with synthesisers. It has divided some fans and critics alike and opened up the arguments about bands evolving. Is it a good or bad thing? And should that evolution be a natural subconscious one over a gradual period of time, or a very deliberate and immediate conscious choice? For Editors this change appears to have been strikingly deliberate.
It seems to Breaking More Waves that the band were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t. Another album with same sonic construction as The Back Room and An End Has a Start would have most likely led to a slowly diminishing fan base. Many followers would lose interest, uninspired by more of the same, although the loyalty of those that remained may have become more passionate. Take a band like Oasis for such a model. More importantly though it may have had a detrimental effect on the artistic ability of the group. The regurgitation of more of the same may have dulled Editors creative nuance, ultimately leading to a paler imitation of their previous work. Again Oasis is very much the model here. A conscious change, however great the risk of polarising fans has the benefit of potentially rejuvenating flagging creative brain cells. It’s that old cliché that a change is as good as a rest.
Following these arguments it is therefore necessary to forget that the band have changed their style and simply ask, is the album any good. If this was a debut album the critics comparisons with their previous work would not and could not exist. So let’s criticise purely on the basis of what we hear.
What we hear is a mixed bag. In The Light and on This Evening is not an immediately obvious album. Besides the lofty industrial dance of first single Papillon with its massive Depeche Mode / Gary Numan keyboard riff - the sound of black steel demolishing the palace, there is nothing else here that jumps out as particularly radio friendly. However repeated listens show an album with some subtle depths and a cinematic electronic sound. When the band get it right works really well. Occasionally it does fail, but there are still some redeeming features in the weaker songs.
The opening title track of In This Light and on This Evening is superb. Starting with a repetitive pulsing gothic synth, lead singer Tom Smith intones darkly in the style of Andrew Eldritch lyrics about the earth inhaling and spitting rain before concluding “London’s become the most beautiful thing I’ve seen.” The mantra is repeated over and over as layers of widescreen string synth sound are gradually added before dirty experimental fuzzy noises, retro free jazz rock keyboards and drums smash apocalyptically in, the whole track working and wigging out to the stars. This is one example of the band getting it exactly right.
On the other hand, The Big Exit is one of the songs that doesn’t quite cut it, the song being a little too experimental, an unsettling mechanical groove underpinning a track that loops its way to the finish, without ever really finding a song. Likewise The Boxer is a maudlin piece that brings the imagery of “This place is our prison, it’s cells are the bars,” to describe a walk through a city full drunken violence - the dark side of drink culture Britain. Unfortunately the song kicks around the gutter rather than a golden highway, never finding a quality melody or the sounds to wrench you in. In both songs however Smiths singing is wonderfully mournful and the vocals clear enabling the lyrics to be easily heard.
But by and large In This Light and on This Evening is a bold album with a dramatic film like quality to it. Its sound is dark without being black, but has enough warmth in its calculated glacial synth sound to demand the attention. It is unlikely to propel The Editors further into the mainstream, but to answer our original question, is the album any good ? For the most part yes, as long as you listen with an open mind and take your time.
Friday, 23 October 2009
This gig was partly about looking back over the last year but also about the future. Eleven months ago we first saw Little Boots play at the ICA in London. At that moment she was the buzzing new queen of synth, bringing the pop machine bang up to date. A year is a long time in pop music though. Now there is a new contender to the throne. That contender is Ellie Goulding another pint sized troubadour who uses electronic stuttering chop pop disco sounds, but this time mixes it up with the traditional singer songwriters weapon of acoustic guitar. Having reported on Ms Goulding’s first ever live show with her band here , it’s round two in Brighton.
There’s a look of nervousness on the face of Ellie, or maybe its just concentration. Possibly Goulding isn’t yet used to being a support act and expects something more, and for a while despite her note perfect singing, she doesn’t look particularly happy. A blissed electro folk version of Wish I Stayed with its lyrics of "the crafty smoke that made us choke," is highly accomplished and she even throws in a Midlake cover version to display her indie folk rock credentials, but still she looks less than pleased. Halfway through she directs the crowd “Everyone move a bit, ‘cos I’m moving, you have to move too.” Thankfully for her slowly people do and by the time Starry Eyed closes the set complete with Goulding vigorously beating hell out of an adjacent drum there are even a few people with hands in the air bouncing at the front and Goulding smiles. Job done.
The songs Goulding sings may be blessed with a sweet tone and have a polished synth dance vibe, but there’s passion and grit lurking beneath. As every new music blog keeps saying, she’s likely to have bigger success next year.
In the past we have been critical of Little Boots losing some of what endeared us to her in the first place, namely the indie geekiness which faded to a purer pop sensibility. Tonight Victoria Hesketh reigns some of that back in. There are spacey costumes made from triangular mirrors that reflect the stage lighting, to golden bat wings, sequins, sparkles and hotpants. Her keyboard players are dressed as skeletons. She demonstrates a Casio SK5 keyboard that was purchased from the Aladdin’s cave of second hand shops Snoopers Paradise in Brighton. It plays dog and laser sound samples and makes the audience laugh. She wields a big eighties styled keytar as if she was Howard Jones or Jean Michel Jarre. Then there is her now famous tenori-on and almost inaudible stylophone played during Meddle to complete the set of odd electronic instrumentation. With all this technology there is always a danger that something could go wrong, but tonight it doesn’t Victoria proclaiming Brighton to be “The lucky gig where everything works.”
If all these gadgets sound a little too gimmicky, Little Boots also demonstrates that she can strip it right back, encoring with three songs at the piano. She plays Hands, a new track called Echoes before ending with Stuck on Repeat which switches from piano to the full pulsing Moroder sound that brought Little Boots to public attention in the first place.
Heskeths’ voice throughout is tuneful without ever being exceptional, and when free from her keyboards has enough stage presence to keep the attention for her hour long set. Although the album Hands may not have quite done the business that many pop fans would have liked, and this set does nothing more than be an entertaining evening out, there is still enough here to suggest that should Little Boots be given the chance to develop further, she could become a very interesting proposition in the future.
That my friends, concludes our week of blogs concerning Little Boots. We've got a lot of catching up to do now on other musical matters...
Thursday, 22 October 2009
Day four of Little Boots Week. Today we challenge the question sometimes put forward that electronic music is not as valid or real as other forms of instrumentation. To answer this question, and it being Little Boots Week at Breaking More Waves, we are of course going to use Little Boots as part of our argument.
Let’s take the purists view. Such a purist (or shall we say music snob) will argue that electronic music isn’t ‘real’, that the very fact that synths derive their name from the word synthetic says it all. But what do they mean by that ? We guess that they mean that the sounds aren’t natural, that they are created from computers rather than humans. Yet paradoxically these are often the same snobs who will see nothing wrong with putting a guitar sound through an effects pedal, which surely is not a human instrument in this context? And what exactly is natural and who decided that a guitar is any more natural than a synth? Answers on a postcard (or the comments box below) please.
Second they will argue that synths lack authenticity that can only be obtained from so called ‘real’ instruments, as described above. We would argue that the majority of those who listen to music don’t care about authenticity, they just want a tune or song that appeals to them and that moves them in some way. This year for the first time in our lives we witnessed Kraftwerk play at Bestival. Their incredible performance was intensely potent, far more so than virtually any guitar band we have seen play this year. Last year Little Boots played one of our favourite shows at the ICA in London, we left the show texting many of our friends with the message “I love Little Boots.” At the time they probably thought that there was some kind of strange midnight fetish going on in the Breaking More Waves household, but the reality was that we had witnessed a concert by an electronic artist who had left us feeling exhilarated and alive to the wonders of modern electronic music.
The fans of so called ‘real’ music will also argue that in the live arena much of synthesised music is pre-programmed and not played truly live. That it is just someone pressing a few buttons, and that doesn’t take any talent. Now in this case we would agree with the argument, but if you take our experiences of Kraftwerk at Bestival, in essence it was just some old men standing still at some laptops pressing a few buttons, but it was still deliriously good and exciting. It was even better when robots were doing it. Talent doesn’t always matter in the live arena. Otherwise everyone would like the ‘talent’ that the X Factor knocks out every year. Coming back to Little Boots, when she auditioned for X Factor, she didn’t even get past the first round of production auditions, yet we know who we would prefer to listen to if it came to a choice between her and John and Edward.
Finally, music snobs will argue that synth artists are lazy, simply pressing a few buttons to create a hit song. This unfortunately is far from the truth. Hit songs, whatever the form, are created out of hard graft and creativity. If you don’t believe us go and ask Victoria Hesketh how much work she has put in to secure the degree of success she has had this year.
Music snobs be gone. Synths are as valid an instrument as any other. This is why Breaking More Waves draws no distinction between any instrument.
Tomorrow, in our final article in Little Boots Week we bring you a review of the electro pop girl herself, live from a headlining show in Brighton, but for now here’s a short feature showing Little Boots live synth pop sounding top notch.
Wednesday, 21 October 2009
Day three of Little Boots Week. Katy Brand came up with this parody of New In Town by Little Boots a month or so ago. As Victoria Hesketh herself once said “Fun is the new cool,” so today let’s poke that fun. It may not be hugely laugh aloud, but there are a few good lines in the piece. “My current boyfriends a rubik’s cube,” is a favourite of ours. Admittedly there have been far better popular culture parodies such as those by the Not The Nine O’Clock News team and Weird Al Yankovic, but this still gets our thumbs up.
Tuesday, 20 October 2009
At the start of the year Little Boots was nominated in first position on the BBC Sound of 2009 list. Breaking More Waves asks, is being picked on this list a poisoned chalice ?
At first sight being chosen as one of the artists on this list appears to be a massive head start for any new artist. After all it virtually guarantees significant media exposure and an opportunity for the public at large to hear your music. This guarantee comes by virtue that the list is picked by over one hundred critics, broadcasters and editors working within the music industry. Many of those involved in voting on the list will have a vested interest in wanting the artists they chose to go on and have commercial success. They won’t want to look like idiots in the selections they picked, so once the artists have been selected, the industry who voted for them will begin to promote, cover and broadcast these acts. Effectively the list becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. However irrespective of heightened exposure, the fact remains that ultimately it’s the public who decide if an artist will have success. The BBC list may be a good jump ahead of the pack, but it’s a marathon not a sprint. This may explain why previous years winners of the list have included The Bravery, Corrine Bailey Rae and Keane. All these artists had high levels of commercial sales initially but have faded away since.
Last year Adele was the number one selection on the list, and so far so good for her, but the music industry and the public can be a fickle old beast, so when her second album is released who knows what will happen ?
So what of Little Boots? From what we understand from an interview on Popjustice with Little Boots, the number one nomination took her record company a little bit by surprise. So much so that any momentum the nomination gave her in terms of marketing was not capitalised on. By the time New In Town was released five months later, it seemed like a missed opportunity, irrespective of the fact that the song was one of her weakest. Things picked up later in the year with Remedy which went top ten and stayed there for a number of weeks, but as the year comes to a close there’s still a feeling that whilst Little Boots has done OK, she’s hardly been ‘The Sound Of 2009’. But then lets look back at the full list of winners of this list in the past. 50 Cent, Keane, The Bravery, Corinne Bailey Rae, Mika and Adele. None of those artists could be said to truly represent the sound of their particular year, although arguably 50 Cent and Adele did do very well commercially. That is not to say we should discount the list entirely. In 2004 Scissor Sisters had the biggest selling album in the UK and they were nominated seventh on that years list. Likewise Duffy was second on the 2008 list and went on to be the years biggest seller. Also in its selection of Little Boots, the BBC Sound of List did correctly predict the return of the synth pop movement to the charts. In the list at number five was La Roux and there is no doubt that In For The Kill was one of the genuine pop successes of 2009, slowly ascending the charts week by week in a way not seen for a long time. It was like being back in the eighties in more way than one.
So, back to the poison chalice we mentioned at the start of this article. Whilst the BBC Sound of List may give exposure to artists, if that exposure doesn’t lead to large commercial success, media expectation can turn against the artist very quickly. For the media, egg on the face is often quickly wiped off and the tissue dumped in the bin. How many of those who voted for The Bravery four years ago are still championing them we wonder ? And who now plays or writes of Gemma Fox, Marcos Hernandez or even last years Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong, all of whom have appeared on the list. It’s a warning for marketing people within record companies everywhere. If your artist gets a nomination on the BBC Sound of 2010 list you need to work very carefully to ensure that the nomination doesn’t backfire.
Ultimately this post is as much about the 'build them up knock them down' media culture we have in the UK and the danger of any sort of over exposure combined with the expectation that rises. The Sound of List is just one example of possible over exposure.
And talking of lists, Breaking More Waves is currently readying its ‘Ones To Watch’ list for 2010, due at the end of this year. It’s not necessarily a list of artists that we think will have commercial success, although some may do - last year six of our list were on the BBC list. Our list is simply a list of artists that we will be watching with interest as we believe they all have the potential to put out something of worth next year. But more of that in November. For now, here’s the BBC Sound of 2009 number one and Breaking More Waves One To Watch 2009 number two - Little Boots, covering Cyndi Lauper.
Monday, 19 October 2009
One of the artists we’ve blogged about most this year is Little Boots. So in celebration of this fact, this week is 'Little Boots Week'. One blog every day concerning 'The Boots' or a subject related in some vague way to her and then that's it for the year. It's a promise. No more Little Boots on Breaking More Waves this year - not even in our Top Ten Albums of the year list which follows in December. There have been some highs - her ICA show last year (here), the out and out synth fizz of Remedy (here) and some lows New In Town (here). The album was good fun, as an example of shiny well produced pop, but wasn’t perfect. We believe there were a couple of duds built in the machinery and not enough of the initial stylophone, tenori-on disco girl geekiness that endeared us to Little Boots in the first place.
Earthquake is not one of those duds. It’s the obvious follow up to Remedy, being another catchy, science lab explosion of synth pop with Victoria getting into your head with the chorus “Every little earthquake, every little heartbreak going unheard, every little landslide, caught it in my hand I won’t say a word.” Thankfully the video director hasn’t forced Little Boots into some terrible dance routine, instead there’s a retro futurist sky-space theme which links neatly to the cover art of the album, whilst Little Boots occupies herself by having a little stab at her Casio whilst she star gazes reflectively and planets explode. There's also a great remix of the track by Breaking More Waves favourites Yes Giantess that you can grab here.
Whilst for Little Boots pop career Earthquake may be a continuation from Remedy, it certainly isn’t any great progression. When the campaign for Hands finishes and it is time to come up with something new we hope that Victoria will turn her back from obvious modern pop and embrace her true inner geek. She’s talked about her love of Kraftwerk and has added Jean Michel Jarre as one of her favourite videos on You Tube; and it is the path of these synth gods that we would like Little Boots to follow. Rather than Greg Kurstin produced polished radio hits, how fantastic would it be for Little Boots to wheel out some big analogue synths and produce a soundscape of lush, sequenced, spaced out pulsing minimalist electronica to a pop audience ? There has yet to be a female solo performer who has taken such a sound to the masses, boffin like wizardry being for the most part left to men. Of course this is just a fantasy, but if it ever became a reality our marriage proposal would be winging its way to Little Boots.
Sunday, 18 October 2009
For those under the age of about thirty the name Howard Jones will probably mean very little, even though he is an artist who has sold over eight million records; way back between 1983 and 1987, this man was a regular in the UK and US Charts.
To this day Howard Jones continues to write and record music, releasing it through his own record label and website to a small but dedicated group of fans. On October 26th Jones will release a new single Soon You’ll Go. It’s a simple and direct ballad sung from the perspective of a parent about their child flying the nest and leaving home. Musically it has just a hint of Gary Barlow about it and could find a comfortable slot on late night BBC Radio 2. The song also features wonderful backing vocals by the Morriston Orpheus Choir, recorded in the Cwm Chapel in Swansea, Wales. The song is a long way from Jones' chirpy eighties synth pop of old. Instead Soon You’ll Go reflects a man who, like his audience, has matured. An album Ordinary Heroes follows in November. Soon You'll Go may not be the usual kind of song Breaking More Waves features, but in our strange warped world an artist such as Jones is not that far removed from some of the bands we have blogged this year, particularly when he hoists out his electronic wizardry and gets all synthtopic. As someone once sang, we enjoy “Challenging preconceived ideas,” and that is why we're posting about Jones new single. Normal service with modern acts will be resumed tomorrow, in a week long 'special' but for now, here’s Howard.
We also hear of a campaign starting over at one of Breaking More Waves favourite family friendly festivals, Camp Bestival to get Jones booked to play there next year. Who could be behind that we wonder ? Have a look as the campaign gets underway here
Howard Jones - Soon You`ll Go on MUZU.
Friday, 16 October 2009
Nme Radar Tour (Part 2) - Yes Giantess + Local Natives + Marina And The Diamonds + Golden Silvers @ Brighton Concorde
Here we go again. Just a few days after the NME Radar tour hit Portsmouth (reviewed here ) we are experiencing a palpable sense of deja vu at Brighton Concorde. Same bands, same tour, same corporate branding. Tonight though there is an overall younger audience, stage invasions a plenty, some rather large London formed hangovers from the previous night and a no longer sick Marina from Marina and the Diamonds.
For Yes Giantess (pictured) this gig represents things coming full circle, their first two UK shows being in Brighton (reviewed here ). The band is quick to acknowledge this from stage, saying that the town is special to them. For most of the audience Yes Giantess are a new band, but for Breaking More Waves they are no longer the new kids on the block, their cogent synth grooves combined with punch hard live drumming has been hanging tough around our ears since the back end of last year. However even in the few months since the group last played Brighton, Yes Giantess show that they have grown in confidence, coaxing the crowd to the front barrier. Despite the early door time a heady first fifteen minutes of their set gets the three rows at the front bouncing. Jan Rosenfeld in particular is becoming quite the front man, strutting feverish funky moves during the hard hitting Demons before finally jumping off stage to high five the audience on closer Tuff N Stuff. Who said synth bands couldn’t rock?
Fellow American five piece Local Natives describe this last show as bittersweet, having made many friends with the other bands on the tour. We suspect they’ve also found a large number of new fans for their tribally rhythmic blend of smoke signal indie folk rock. Forthcoming album opener Wide Eyes and Breaking More Waves favourite Airplanes with its lyrical call to the heavens have a warm vibrant immediacy, the songs shifting in tempo without ever losing a well thought out structure. Sun Hands finishes the set in much the same way it did at Portsmouth, Yes Giantess piling back on stage to whack drums hard with involved grins on their faces. The two bands may be musically very different from each other but there is a sense of respect and camaraderie that emanates from the stage.
The venue fills up significantly before Marina and the Diamonds arrive. Marina is sheepish tonight in several respects. First she is dressed in a strange ovine cloak complete with lambs head hoody. Second she announces “I thought it was a great idea to wear a cat-suit, now I’m shy,” as the sheep garment is removed and she covers her exposed flesh with her hands. Yet despite this shyness, Marina still prances theatrically around, pulling shapes and eyeing the crowd in a way that make you think she’s staring directly at you. Her strong vocal provides a pic and mix of everything from Toyah, Bat for Lashes, Lene Lovich, Siouxsie Sioux to Regina Spektor over her power pop romps and subtler ballads. The cuckoo call at the start of Mowgli’s Road could soon become the new catchphrase for a certain type of indie pop girl, whilst the stomping eighties Euro poprock of Shampain still sounds to our ears like a hit single in waiting. “You sound like you’re doing great,” Marina says to the crowd. Likewise gal, likewise.
It’s left to Golden Silvers to finish things off. In Portsmouth we found the band to be a little flat, but tonight they are triptasticly more enjoyable. Their wash of sixties psychedelic sounds and eighties camp is much more effective second time round, the set slowly manoeuvring itself into a position where feet begin to twitch, heads nod and then shake. New song Bone Breaker has a shimmering groove that is easy to pick up on, whilst True Romance with its elongated almost rave like intro and deadpan vocal works wonders on the hips. All credit to a band who still use the triangle as an integral part of one of their songs, and a lead singer who wears a top so hideous (a mix of clashing orange, black and white zebra crossing patterns, and pictures of Buckingham Palace guards) that you have to accept that they are pretty unique. As Golden Silvers bliss out at the end with Arrows of Eros, there is a further stage invasion by various group members and crew, one last hurrah as such. It’s a celebratory end and leaves a smile on the face. The tour is over - bittersweet symphony for all the bands involved.
Here's a couple of short interviews with Yes Giantess and Marina from the tour.
Thursday, 15 October 2009
A few days ago we posted about people talking at gigs here . We concluded by asking the question what could be done about the problem ? Or is it a problem at all ?
First let’s examine the second question. Is it a problem at all ? Well it certainly is for some people judging by comments on the first part of this blog as well as some emails received by Breaking More Waves. But not everyone considers this issue a problem. For many going to a gig is a social event, a way to spend a few hours with friends, and over the band chatter is part of the evening. Yet such chatter can be a spoiler for others. In many ways the argument has similarities to arguments about passive smoking a few years back, before the smoking ban in indoor public spaces and workplaces was introduced.
So if for some it is a problem, what can be done about it ?
One distinction that needs to be drawn is the type of gig we are talking about. At a loud rock gig, talking is less of an issue. At such concerts we believe that atmosphere can be added when people are singing along or celebrating noisily, you only have to witness the number of stadium and arena shows where bands actively encourage the audience to join in. At such shows, if someone is chatting it has less impact on those around them, because of the sound levels. Then if you take a band like Iron Maiden or My Bloody Valentine, chatting becomes an impossibility as the volume gets turned up to absurdly loud ear crunching levels.
So the type of gig where chatter is a potential problem is the quieter or acoustic gig. Such gigs demand the full attention of the audience and any talk can be disruptive for everyone in the room. It is a wonderful experience to watch a gig where the audience is respectful, giving themselves the chance to immerse themselves fully in the music.
Now we revert back to the first question. What can be done about the problem ? Let’s focus on quiet gigs here. In terms of behavioural change gig goers can be encouraged to alter their ways through positive actions or a more heavy handed enforcing type role can be implemented to help people to reconsider their chattering. It’s the carrot or the stick argument. At one local venue in our home town of Portsmouth in the UK the promoter of quieter gigs takes to the stage before the gig starts and asks people to keep chat to a minimum during performances, and those that don’t will be asked to leave. This may seem a little officiously controlling but it works and provides a good evening for both audience and artist. There’s still plenty of time for chat in between bands. Other venues in other towns have signs up on the walls requesting quiet, but these are sometimes ignored unless there is a penalty to pay such as eviction from the venue. Of course potentially the most powerful person to encourage is the artist themselves. Yet only very rarely have we actually seen an artist at an acoustic show ask for quiet. Is this because an artist accepts that people may chat, or is it because they don’t want to upset their ‘audience’ ? Of course if someone in the audience is talking too much, as an audience member you can politely ask them to quieten down, but this runs an increased risk of aggravating the situation as one of our readers commented on part one of this blog.
Certainly from experiences we have had at quieter gigs the carrot with a small threat of a stick achieves the objective of a quiet venue the best, although there may be the odd disgruntled punter. For noisier and bigger gigs the solutions are less easy, especially as everyone going to these types of gig will have different expectations of acceptable behaviour.
Wednesday, 14 October 2009
Photograph copyright of Maxwell Anderson.
Every now and then you hear a piece of music that comes to you with no reference points, no baggage, no history, just as a fully formed hymn that makes you stop everything you are doing. Diamonds On A Boat by Samuel and the Dragon is one such piece of music. Formed out of a brooding, haunting late night electronic landscape, a film reel rolling in the background and a plaintive soulful male vocal, it’s a minimally beautiful piece of work. There are hints of Goldfrapp, Portishead and Massive Attack in this highly moody modern sound.
We know virtually nothing of this act except that it consists of the mysterious Samuel, who certainly looks like he has the potential to be a flamboyantly brilliant star and a collaborator called James ( is he the dragon ?) The duo are currently playing a few limited gigs in London including Hoxton Bar and Kitchen on the 25th November and 93 Feet East on the 12th December. Diamonds On A Boat will be released on Moshi Moshi in November.
Tuesday, 13 October 2009
It’s all about layers. Adding or stripping away layers of techno, shoe gaze, ambient, weird electronica and dance. This is what Fuck Buttons do on Tarot Sport. Creating a gyrating structure out of a stratum of sound. This is an album for the music connoisseur who gets dance thrills from Orbital but also likes the monumental brooding beauty of Mogwai. For Tarot Sport is built in a way where almost every track grows through singular minimal progression, leading to its final climax. The title of Fuck Buttons couldn’t be more accurate, as this is the creation of people slowly and making love with their studio trickery until they bring it to sonic clitoral orgasm.
For their second album, Andrew Hung and Benjamin John Power have enlisted Lord Sabre himself - Andrew Weatherall, on production duties and it is a musical coupling that works well. Opening track Surf Solar sets the scene. It’s the twisted yet beautiful sound of Jean Michel Jarre in a loony bin, off his head on drugs. A deep bassy beat pummels his brain, whilst nervous twitching electronic samples jerk and jitter all over the place. It may be ten minutes long, but it needs that ten minutes to gradually evolve and change. It works so much better than the edit version (See below). This is important, because in any good session of copulation, length is fundamental. And so it is on Tarot Sport; five of the seven tracks present are over eight minutes long. Just the giant lolloping beats of Rough Steez and the manic mix of crashes, squelches, buzzes and fizzes on Phantom Limb clock in under five minutes. Only The Lisbon Maru feels over extended, clocking in at just over nine minutes it seems like a marathon. And talking of marathons, the next long distance piece is called Olympians. It starts as a shimmering haze of bubbling electronica before beats grow out of nothing. It’s the sound of a dark room, filled with blissed up trance heads slowly sliding off their chairs. Closing track Flight Of The Feathered Serpent is another stand out track, evoking the spirit of Orbital with swathes of searing electronic noise over the top, it prolongs the beats and pumping rhythms on a plateau of unadulterated joy not unlike the extended version of Born Slippy by Underworld. This is proper reach to the sky stuff for those who think trance means something very different from Ferry Corsten or Robert Miles.
If you believe the word fuck is a vulgar thing, then Fuck Buttons have created an album of self disciplined wonder that will make you reconsider. You could get lost in this stuff. Try it.
Monday, 12 October 2009
“The most important band of the decade,” was how someone described Mumford and Sons to Breaking More Waves a year or so back. That excitable individual was clearly suffering from a severe dose of hyperboleitis, a disease that impassioned music fans and critics can sometimes suffer from when describing an artist that they love dearly. We would argue with conviction that such a title should rest with Radiohead, and although Mumford & Sons are many leagues down in terms of musical importance, having released several well received EP’s and regularly turning in some spell binding, rabble rousing live shows, the London four piece are a without doubt a very decent band indeed. It seems that they also have an ability to invoke over the top partisanship from their most ardent fans; the kind of love you expect from metal and rock fans, but not from a folk band. Good reviews of their live shows, including by this author, back this up. Clearly Mumford and Sons have something special going on
It therefore came as some surprise to read the reviews of the bands debut album Sigh No More a couple of weeks ago. Drowned in Sound described it as limp, the Independent suggested the band were nothing more than posh kids who have discovered that folk music is quite good and the Guardian called the record generic, giving it three out of five. We wondered what had gone wrong. Had, as sometimes does, the studio environment sucked the soul out of the band, leaving nothing but a bland over produced album? The disparaging reviews seemed to suggest so.
Well, after numerous listens to Sigh No More we can only conclude that the established critics were listening to a different album to the one we have. Yes, we would agree that Sigh No More is not a classic, but it is certainly an album that is engaging, infectious and in places magnificent. We suspect that Sigh No More is one of those albums that many critics will dislike yet the public will embrace. Evidence of that can be seen by the album entering the UK Top 20 yesterday at number 11, an unusual achievement for a band who favour the banjo, bluegrass and launched the record with a party in a barn. To put this in perspective other artists surrounding them in the charts include Muse and Mika and it was a higher entry than new releases from Kiss, Air, Tiesto and Deadmau5. The public like Mumford and Sons for the simple old fashioned virtues of well written songs that are performed by talented musicians. These are tunes which pack a fair degree of dark lyrical emotion but combine it with a musical up-swelling of euphoria, similar to a band such as Arcade Fire.
The sound of Mumford and Sons could be described as an English version of Fleet Foxes, but with a musical sentiment that is likely to cause you to burst into a spontaneous jig at various points. Hoe-down is the key word here. Roll Away Your Stone may start with a lilting medieval sound, and simple acoustic guitars backing the stone sharp swashbuckling vocal of Marcus Mumford, but things really get going when the thumping rhythm and banjo kick in. Radio One favourite Little Lion Man works on a similar basis, replicating their raw ebullient live sound well. At their best the songs of Mumford and Sons soar, climaxing with big choir like vocals that elevate the soul. There are just a couple of songs where the band don’t quite succeed. Winter Winds has hints of Fanfarlo, The Pogues and dare we say it - Del Amitri , in a swaying, sing-a-long kind of way that is just too cloyingly old school traditional folk for its own good; although we could see it being an unlikely contender for a Christmas number one. The quiet acoustic closer After The Storm is also a little rambling, plain and forgettable after some of the other glorious songs on the rest of the album. With these exceptions however Sigh No More is a passionate, well crafted folk / pop / rock album that achieves what many of their fans have been saying for some time; that the band have the songs and ability to take their sound beyond the fringes of the new folk underground and into the mainstream.
Maybe the critics would have liked something a little more dangerous, but the lack of experimentation doesn’t mean that this is a poor album. Sigh No More is a very good, sometimes great debut that will satisfy fans and bring new listeners into their arms as well. The established critics were wrong.
Saturday, 10 October 2009
This is a bit of a cheat. Normally New Waves @ Breaking More Waves means a new artist who is toothpaste fresh to this blog. Yet Gold Panda sneaked in early, serving up a starter in August here. So now let's break the rules and make it time for main course; something that's waywardly DIY in its approach.
Gold Panda splices up old school crackling samples and adds beats in much the same way that hip hop artists do. Yet his sound is much more reminiscent of warped techno wizard Aphex Twin - agitated dance music that people don’t really dance to. Gold Panda takes a fragment of an idea and mashes it up to create something new. His anthem, all two minutes of it, is Quitters Raga, a bizarre cartoon mix of chopped up vocals, sitar samples, vinyl crackles and disjointed beats. It’s one of those tracks that on first listen makes you feel confused and bewildered but leaves you wanting to hear it again and again. Gold Panda has also released a six track mini album entitled Before which is available as a limited edition (three hundred copies) CD exclusively through Pure Groove. Apparently he used to work for the Pure Groove gang and turned up every day at the store with fifty new tunes. We‘re not sure if this was before or after a stint in HMV where he was allegedly fired for calling his boss a cock, but certainly creating his peculiar electronic tunes suits him far more than standing behind a record store counter. Highlight on the mini album is the electric shock haphazard Wan-San Western, with its lo-fi drum and bass sound high fiving Richard D James and his Girl/Boy song at playtime. It’s definitely not, as another of his tracks is named, a bad day loop.
Gold Panda has also been responsible for a number of remixes after being picked up through Myspace by Wichita and asked to remix Bloc Party. Subsequently he’s made a buck or two by giving Little Boots, Telepathe, Simian Mobile Disco and Your Twenties his treatment. Once you’ve heard his own material, some of his remixes are so evidently his you wonder what he has left of the original. You can find Gold Panda twiddling knobs and staring at a laptop throughout October on tour with Simian Mobile Disco, with a further special release due before the end of the year. We'll be looking for more precious metal transmissions from this bear.
Friday, 9 October 2009
NME Radar Tour (Part 1) - Yes Giantess + Local Natives + Marina And The Diamonds + Golden Silvers @ Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms
The NME Radar tour, formerly known as the New Noise tour, is the little sister to its bigger prominently forceful big brother that lunges round the country every January and February. Bands that have appeared on recent Radar tours include White Lies, La Roux, Friendly Fires, The Cribs and The Automatic. This time round the NME has booked what one could argue is their bravest or most stupid line up choice so far, depending on your view of the commerciality and artistic merits of the bands on offer. Golden Silvers are the headline act. They would probably have difficulty in selling out a venue half the size of the Wedgewood Rooms, whilst the three acts below them on the bill have each released either one or two singles on very small independent labels, and are not typical NME type bands. Is this the influence of the new NME editor, an attempt by the magazine to show that it is pushing boundaries and promoting something different ? Or just a reflection of the way that music fashion is changing right now? Is the NME leading or following ? Or is this discussion even relevant, and should we not just accept the line up for what it is and forget the NME branding?
What is clear is that none of the other three bands are likely to bring in the crowds yet. But it is still somewhat surprising considering the marketing power of the NME brand that venue isn't any busier than half full. Not that we mind at all with Yes Giantess, Local Natives and Marina And The Diamonds all being Breaking More Waves favourites, two of whom we named in our Ones To Watch list last year ( here and here ) and all three of which we have written about a number of times.
What is also noticeable is the demographic of the audience. Whereas previous NME sponsored tours have brought in plenty of hyperactive teenagers who look like they are auditioning for a part in Skins, tonight at least half the audience are in their 30’s to 40’s, with a few older than this. Also conspicuous by their absence are early to mid 20’s skinny jeans wearing lads supping beer and sporting carefully thought out shaggy indie haircuts. Yes there are still quite a few teenagers, but not as many as one may have expected given the NME branding. This half full room and audience mix gives the nights proceedings a rather strange ambience which continues into the performances for both Yes Giantess and Marina And The Diamonds.
Jan Rosenfeld, the lead singer of Yes Giantess is unaccustomed to performing without the protective shield of his synthesiser. But with his keyboard dying at sound check he has to make do with a maraca and a tambourine for company. It’s his first time ever being just a singer and he admits it’s like being naked on stage. The rest of the band have to perform a live electronic experiment, coping with missing parts of their sound. Despite this odd situation for the group, they pull it off. Can’t Help It brings the spirit of Michael Jackson to the room with its squealing, twirling funk and Rosenfeld’s salacious voice, whilst new song Sparks is wiggly danceable. Our favourite remains When The Sun Gets Low with its talk of "It's not an ordinary night tonight, with a baby by my side." We never knew synths could sound so hot-blooded. By the time the four piece finish with Tuff N Stuff, a song which if it were an Olympic sport would surely be weightlifting - heavy, thrusting and arms aloft powerful, heads are nodding, bodies wiggling and Yes Giantess have made a few new friends on the south coast of England.
Local Natives may be from the United States but for one of their number, Ryan, this is a sort of homecoming, having been born in Portsmouth. The band celebrate by bringing a dry humping tribal beat and glorious passion filled harmonies to reach humanly highs. “Let’s hear it for physical touching,” the group announce at one point , not in celebration of amorousness, but for the fact that today was the day that they felt hard copies of their soon to be released album Gorilla Manor for the first time. If Local Natives were a venn diagram the circles would contain the words Fleet Foxes, Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend, and the title of the diagram would be ‘Really Very Good’. From the clattering falsetto led Airplanes with lyrics about a grandparent who has passed away to a rather agreeable version of Warning Sign by Talking Heads, the bands semi folkish indie acoustic rhythmic sound is warm and hugely enjoyable. They finish with debut UK single Sun Hands which ends as huge drum orgy, and leave having fully justified the buzz about the band that came from SXSW earlier this year.
For the first two songs of Marina And The Diamonds (pictured) set everything seems perfectly fine. Marina prances and strides like she has been practicing in front of her bedroom mirror her whole life, her voice is deep, operatic and strong. Then before the band start I Am Not A Robot Marina announces “I haven’t been very well today, and I don’t want you to think I am crap.” As she says the words tears fall from her eyes, and suddenly things feel uncomfortable. Then as she regains composure the band start playing. However all is not well and Marina begins sobbing again and quickly leaves the stage. There are shouts for “C’mon Marina,” but that is it. There are mutterings in the audience of “What a bloody diva,” as she is spotted being escorted out the rear exit by two security men. However Breaking More Waves manages to establish from one of the other bands that Marina has been genuinely quite ill and was physically sick during sound check, but had decided the show must go on. Several fans leave disappointed, and the next day it transpires that Marina has had to pull the next gig in Bristol due to her illness.
Suddenly after the great start from Yes Giantess and Local Natives the evening feels as damp as the puddle filled pavements outside. It’s left to Golden Silvers to ignite the fires once more. Unfortunately the band are too stationary, self indulgent and slow to do that. To their credit they are not you’re average indie band; their sound hints at the otherworldly and vaudeville with an unconventional poppy weirdness, but lacks the energy that is now required to pick the crowd up again. With lead singer and keyboardist Gwilym standing side on dressed in a tight denim jacket, and bassist Ben sporting a slightly vacant bored look, it’s sometimes difficult to tell if they are enjoying themselves or not. With a trippy vintage end of the pier sound the music floats around without ever really hitting home except on the singles True No.9 Blues and the stabby synths and London geezer vocal harmonies of Arrows Of Eros. Golden Silvers have that same mellow vibey feel as band like Super Furry Animals which given the right moment can be astounding, but tonight it seemed just a little too flat.
Thursday, 8 October 2009
Today we’re going all self promotional. Breaking More Waves has been very kindly asked by our local radio station Express FM and their show The Guestlist to partner with them on a small radio feature every other week based on our New Waves @ Breaking More Waves blogs. The show is usually hosted by local music bastion Chris Stoneham and focuses on new, local, unsigned and up and coming music. The idea of the feature is simple - we will be bringing the music of a new artist that we are passionate about into the studio and giving it a little bit of local exposure to the stations broadcast area - Portsmouth and surrounding South East Hampshire. We hope to be talking about artists that we are currently featuring on the blog, with some 'exclusives' for the show.
The first of these features went out just a few hours ago by the magic of technology because we’re embarrassed to say that our ‘live’ radio broadcast was actually pre-recorded. At the time The Guestlist played out we were actually watching Yes Giantess, Local Natives, Marina And The Diamonds and Golden Silvers on the NME Radar tour at Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms, a review of which will follow later this week. Earlier that day the station broadcast in the studio live sets by Kate Walsh and the above mentioned Local Natives, so it was very disappointing not to be around.
After being interviewed about the blog we introduced our first ‘New Wave’ as Ellie Goulding , who we have so far written about here and here before playing her song Starry Eyed. You can listen to exactly what we said about the blog and Ellie using the players below.
We will be back on The Guestlist on 21st October and then bi-weekly after that. Express FM broadcasts in the Portsmouth area on 93.7FM. If you live elsewhere in the world you can listen live by using this link and then clicking on 'listen live' which is on the top right of the screen.
Introduction Part Of 'New Waves' Feature Click 'Play' Below
Ellie Goulding 'New Waves' Feature Click 'Play' Below
Wednesday, 7 October 2009
On a grey, damp miserable evening in October the vintage décor of patterned wallpaper, lampshades and silver mirrors at Brighton’s The Hanbury Ballroom hosts not one, but two acts, that have each released superlatively unusual and inventive albums this year. If nothing else there’s value for money to be had at only eight pounds fifty a ticket.
Our musical love affair with Blue Roses goes back to 2007 when Laura Groves released her debut single I Am Leaving under her own name. At the time we listed Laura as 'One To Watch' in our annual list on the predecessor to Breaking More Waves. Forward on two years and her self titled debut has found a very special place in our hearts, high in our list of favourites.
Barefooted and in a flowing purple dress Laura and her accompanying violinist take to the stage amongst the usual chattering of an audience waiting for the main band. But as soon as she opens her mouth, the audience is silenced; utterly and completely. We can roll out those clichés – haunting, ethereal, beautiful, mesmerising, and angelic – the music of Blue Roses is all of these things without ever being a cliché itself. From the ghostly footsteps of the thumb piano on Doubtful Comforts to the dull thud of drums and minimalist guitars on Rebecca, every song Blue Roses perform is exquisite. Laura’s voice is the sound of crystal, heavenly high and powerful, the music experimental, emotive and adventurous. We cannot help but put Blue Roses on the same kind of pedestal as Joanna Newsom and Kate Bush with who she shares a certain sonic similarity to. Groves plays piano with an impressive mix of subtle passion, tenderness and classicism on songs such as Greatest Thoughts and I Wish I, whilst on I Am Leaving she conjures nimble wistfulness from her acoustic guitar. Previously we have seen Blue Roses play in record stores and cafes, but with a bigger, potent sound system Laura Groves stacks emotional resonance sky high. Afterwards we hear the woman standing behind us gasp “Wow, absolutely incredible.” We couldn’t have summed it up better ourselves. Can the best gig we have seen this year come from a support act? We think so.
We first saw Wild Beasts a year or two back and found them frustrating. Full of experimental and unstructured camp arch seriousness they were too difficult to love. However the bands so called difficult second album has proved a more engaging affair, without ever being easy. Much of this lack of easiness is because of the vocal histrionics of lead vocalist Hayden Thorpe. The male falsetto has always been one to divide and sometimes conquer. Recently there has been the annoying (Mika), the earnest (Thom Yorke), the childlike (Michael Angelakos) and the haunting (Justin Vernon) to name a few emotions. Thorpe manages to invoke practically all of these moods and more, particularly in the live arena. Luckily however these operatic Sparks like vocal acrobatics are tempered with a deeper more masculine sound, with co vocalist Tom Fleming adding a wider dynamic to the mix with his tenor.
Whilst Thorpe’s Antony and the Johnsons sucking in helium pomp may set the band apart, tonight it is songs such as Two Dancers (i) that pay real results; without any high pitched bluster. Starting as a dramatically mellow funeral tune that grows with elegiac percussion into a heavy lonely groove, it’s the bastard child of a flagellating threesome between The XX. White Lies and U2, but we doubt if any of those bands would include a lyric such as “His hairy hands, his flailing fists, his dancing cock by his knees.” Elsewhere Hooting & Howling is catchy and hooky enough to almost appeal to the mainstream, but for the most part Wild Beasts are still very much a leftfield band, although one gradually moving to the middle. Their set is clever, challenging and deliberately different; the band even apologise at one point for acting like rock stars. It is pleasing to know that after the synth kids have stoned landfill indie to death, guitar bands can still produce something with imagination that holds artistic merit. Wild Beasts produce such music with their mix of non-conformist indie rock courting music hall and groove. It may as yet not be fully captivating live, being occasionally too irregular, inaccessible and clever for its own good, but the band are certainly on their way. Critics seem to love them, and with a little more refining and development, album number three and the accompanying live shows should be corkers.
Tuesday, 6 October 2009
You Forget So Easily is the new release from Exlovers out now on 10” vinyl and download. The song is probably the finest thing they have released to date. Acoustic guitars create a dreamy strum through the end of summer, projecting a vague similarity to The Lemonheads or The Cure at their most poppy, whilst youthfully sad lyrics proclaim “I know the future doesn’t favour me.” Chin up Pete it will get better we’re sure. The easy criticism of the song would be that it is just a little bit limp sounding. Exlovers certainly aren’t going to appeal to chest beating ape men who want to fight in the street after six pints of lager. Instead You Forget So Easily will be loved by bookish and gentle indie boys and girls. It’s a song for creatures who appreciate a delicate song that rolls around with one line of melody repeated over and over, never finding a chorus or variation, but through subtlety manages to become parasitically lodged in the brain.
The video features stuffed animals, lots of foliage, lampshades and dresses hanging from coat hangers giving the band a slightly haughty air of ‘we’re a little odd, but not that odd’. We particularly like the way that Laurel gently bobs around, staring vacantly wide eyed into the camera in an offhanded slightly sultry verging on sexy way. She’ll probably give a few quiet indie geeks happy dreams. Pete meanwhile seems to give the appearance of someone with the same first name as himself - a folky version of Mr Doherty, which may do something for a certain breed of growing up Libertines fan, if that look still does something for you. It should all be about the music though not what the band look like shouldn't it ? Yeah right.