Thursday, 30 September 2010

Why Music Bloggers Have A Role As Critics

About ten days ago we created a minor storm in a miniature tea cup. Having posted a blog that contained a gig review and critique of a new and upcoming pop singer, we concluded that she had good songs, a great voice but at this particular show didn’t quite get to our emotional core. The blog went on to suggest that this was like much modern pop music. We considered the piece to be a reasonably balanced, honest and fairly positive reflection of a satisfactorily and pleasing show but nothing more.

Soon after the blog was uploaded we received a number of somewhat hilarious insults from an anonymous fan on the comments section of the blog. This was followed by the manager of the artist tweeting “Blogs that don't have nice things to say don't say them at all. What is the point?” A little while later the artist herself put a quote from Jay Z on her blog. “I’m like, fuck critics, you can kiss my whole ass hole if you don’t like ma lyrics you can press fast forwarrrrd.” We’re not sure if these comments were aimed at this blog, but irrespective of our suspicion that they were, they raise an interesting question. First should music bloggers have a role as critics, and secondly what is the value of music criticism in general?

Our view is very much that in our new society bloggers do have a role to play. Amateur journalism may often have its downfalls – the lack of quality in the writing, the poor editing and production for example, but as in any medium, including professional journalism, there’s some great stuff, some okay stuff and some terrible stuff.

Some people (as typified by the “What’s the point,” question above) suggest that the music bloggers role is only to promote music that they like. There are many great (and some not so great) blogs out there that simply do just this. They are a valuable and vibrant resource for music fans around the world.

However there are good reasons why this blog does not fully adopt this approach. Although virtually all new songs we post (in streaming / download or video form) we love, we also attend many gigs and listen to many albums – we’re incredibly passionate these things. Because of our passion we like to communicate to our readership our thoughts, feelings and analysis of some of these shows and records. We spend a huge amount of cash on travelling to gigs, gig tickets, records and CD’s and the reality is that not every single show and not every single album purchased will be superb. Sometimes as a fan we can feel a little let down or just non-plussed.

A music critic or bloggers role is to act as a sieve – shaking the good out from the average, to make it easier for the public to make decisions about purchasing or consumption. Since the online revolution there is so much music to be discovered it’s easy to become lost. A trusted critic or blogger can guide you, pointing you in the direction of good stuff, warning you of the bad.

What is good and bad is a matter of taste – it’s always a difficult one to call. But if a blogger or critic has a depth knowledge of their subject, plenty of experience of it, is honest and is prepared to be as objective as they can (everyone will always have some degree of bias, no matter how hard they try to be objective) then their critiques can often be trusted. Of course some bloggers may be self-proclaimed experts and shouldn’t be making such claims, but the truth will out and respect and readership will soon be lost for such blogs.

Not many people like to receive or read negative feedback about themselves, but in any genre, from cinema, to art, to music, critics and bloggers are needed to help guide the public to what they believe to be positive or negative. We live in a country that values freedom of speech. If the point of blogs is only to say nice things, then that very right may as well be consigned to the dustbin.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Dems - Lioness

Dems is a one man musical project by one Dan Moss a 23 year old who has recently moved from Edinburgh to London to focus on making his d-i-y indie laptop extravaganza’s with samplers, guitars and oversized synths. His debut release Jarndyce vs Jarndyce released in May (which you can download for free from his Bandcamp here) was a twitchy piece of electronica that wormed its way into the brain, and he’s followed this up with a rather brilliant new track called Lioness which sets off down a similar path to Active Child with falsetto vocals gift wrapped with all sorts of electronic trickery. Where Dems differs from Active Child however is that his music is less smooth, less choral and has a certain sharpness to it. For anyone that has ever heard the more experimental output of Baby Bird, you may find some similarity.

Dems may only be at the embryonic stage at the moment - we understand that he has yet to play any live shows – but from what we’ve heard so far there’s some emergent talent here. Dems has a huge box full of musical ideas. We’re looking forward to opening it a little more.

You can get Lioness below, grab Jarndyce vs Jarndyce from his Bandcamp (he currently has no Myspace – but let’s face it for music fans it’s all about Bandcamp and Soundcloud these days) and get his remix of Mopp’s Dream About You from this blog, in our previous post.

Lioness by dems

Mopp - Dream About You (Dems Remix)

Today we’re joining musical dots and creating a trilogy of posts. The first was earlier this month when we featured Mopp and the bliss-ride of his balearic electronic hymn Dream About You, out October 18th. At the time we just streamed the song, but now there’s a video as well (below). But to ensure the links are complete we’re creating part two of the trilogy by adding a remix of Dream About You by the little known Dems. The mix doesn’t radically alter the original, instead chopping it up a little to create something that verges on the side of ambience. You can download the mix from the player below. Very soon, in fact later today, we’ll be completing the trilogy by fully introducing Dems himself and giving another demonstration of why not everything that spends time in Scotland becomes a pale dude with a guitar.

Breaking More Waves: Like the Lord of the Rings with synthesisers and other musical weaponry.

MOPP - Dream About You (Dems remix) by jenanderson

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Gil Scott-Heron - New York Is Killing Me (Chris Cunningham)

Earlier this year we were lucky enough to attend a live audio visual show by cult director Chris Cunningham. We had mixed views about the 'performance' which veered between depraved brilliance and rhythmic monotony. Although much of the video material shown wasn’t particularly new (it was ‘remixed’ live) one new piece of work which was displayed was Cunningham’s video for New York Is Killing Me by Gil Scott-Heron. Don’t believe Pitchfork when they say that it was debuted at the Museum of Modern Art in New York last night – we saw it months ago, although at that stage it may have been a work in progress. Compared to his classic videos for Come To Daddy, Windowlicker and Rubber Johnny all soundtracked by Aphex Twin and All Is Full Of Love by Bjork, we have to admit this piece is a little disappointing, but Scott Heron’s voice makes up for that.

Kate Walsh - A Little Respect

Earlier we posted the first of two tracks we’re streaming from today that consist of nothing but a female vocal, a piano and something quite moving created out of simplicity. Here’s the second.

Until very recently, when we were invited to DJ at parties or the occasional festival we nearly always brought along a big box of cheese. We were the gorgonzola of DJ’s. Nothing was untouchable – from The Nolans I’m In The Mood For Dancing to Mmm Bop by Hanson, we cut large slices and made people chew on it. However, as any dietician will tell you, consuming too much cheese is not good for you and so a process of metamorphosis was required before we became lactose intolerant. Now, there’s just a small grating of parmesan left on top of our choices of tunes – but when we do drop an 80’s synth ‘classic’ we find that A Little Respect by Erasure always gets a huge reaction – and we don’t mean emptying the dance floor. The reason why A Little Respect connects with people is quite simply it’s a great song.

Kate Walsh, the only unsigned artist to have an I Tunes no.1 album in the US and the UK knows this - it’s one of the songs that she has decided to record for her new album - Peppermint Radio, a collection of cover versions. Kate has chosen a remarkable set of songs - not always ‘classics’ but ones which have meaning for Kate herself. Tracks such as Monochrome by The Sundays and Subterranean Homesick Alien by Radiohead sit alongside Move Any Mountain by pop-ravers The Shamen and Unbelievable by Forest of Dean indie dance gang EMF. It’s quite an assortment, but they are all in their own way quite brilliant tracks.

For A Little Respect, Kate delivers a poignantly touching and intimate version of the Erasure hit. It’s time to take a couple of minutes away from life and enjoy its autumnal feel.

Kate Walsh is out on tour in the UK this November, and we thoroughly recommend that you catch this lovely songstress and enjoy her confessional moments of beauty.

KATE WALSH::Single -A Little Respect by GoodSeedPR

Essie Jain - Lay Down

Here is something for which the word beauty was invented. It’s a song called Lay Down by the Brit born, New York residing, singer songwriter Essie Jain.

Following her two previously well received albums Essie found unlikely inspiration for her third body of recorded work - on which Lay Down features. Essie has explained that “Over the last few years, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to perform all over the world. The thing that struck me the most during my travels, was how often people told me that they felt soothed, calmed and comforted when I sang to them.” As Essie’s friends and family members began to have children it became apparent to her that “They were always looking for new music to soothe their babies at nap and bedtime, and as a result of hearing the same CD for the hundredth time, they were quietly going crazy listening to songs that were working for their little ones, but certainly didn’t do it for them.”

And so Essie began writing a record for parents and babies.

Most music written for babies is normally womb-sounding and cringe worthy. Or even worse it’s designed as an album that the non-parent can buy as a gift to raise a laugh and therefore not feel fully excluded from the onslaught of conversations about nappies, feeding and sleep patterns. CD’s such as Punk Rock Baby or Ibiza Baby probably seem hilarious for a couple of hours.

Lay Down by Essie Jain falls into neither of those categories. A gorgeously minimal piece of work, it’s sensual, captivating and ultimately incredibly calming. Put it on before you go to bed, whatever your age.

The album Light of Morning is out now and you can purchase it here. We’ll be bringing a review of it in October.

Essie Jain - Lay Down by Breaking More Waves

Monday, 27 September 2010

Bright Light Bright Light - Love Part II

Our recent post about a band who are currently surfing the buzz wave – The Vaccines – suggested that the journey to commercial success is like heading north from the south coast on a dirty bus but then switching to a train halfway. Sometimes artists and bands have to jump the bus and get on that groovy train. Remember White Lies ? Case in point. Rod Thomas has done just that and the results are excellent. Bright Light Bright Light is his new project and Love Part II is the debut release on the Virgin funded Popjustice Hi-Fi label. Even the song is about giving things another go – another attempt at love as it were.

Filled with electronic handclaps and euphoric firework synths that whoosh, sparkle and wriggle around in the sky, Love Part II is a hooky belter. From what we’ve heard of the other Bright Light Bright Light material it’s all equally as loveable, displaying a big nod to 90’s mainstream dance pop culture. One tracked indie kids will vomit in their pints of cider, rock fans will turn their headphones blasting Sepultura up even louder – but those who believe, as we do, that the basic construct of good pop music is made from a great tune that connects and stimulates the mind to leave a feeling of exhilaration will embrace Bright Light Bright Light. Love Part II is out today. If you like it please don’t grab it illegally, do the artist a favour and buy it.

Bright Light Bright Light - Love Part II by UniversalMusicPublishing

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Clare Maguire - Ain't Nobody (Breakage Remix)

We don’t make a habit of posting blogs on Saturday, but today we’re making a huge exception. Because we’ve just received a remix that has been getting a fair few people very hot under the collar. It’s the Breakage remix of Breaking More Waves new(ish) favourite lady Clare Maguire and her debut single Ain't Nobody, and it's available for download and streaming below (downloads limited to first 100)

Heavily spacious and full of headphone blowing power this remix does what all great remixes should do – it takes the song to a very different place and a very different audience. But irrespective of the remix, let’s not forget why we first fell in love with Maguire back in January 2009. It was because of her remarkable voice. We still don’t think we’ve given a sufficient explanation of Maguire’s vocal prowess, but may we suggest that she reminds us a little of Annie Lennox – a singer blessed with a set of lungs that sounded soulful and moving whatever style of music she turned to.

Having been lucky enough to catch Maguire play her only live show so far this year (here) we’ll also be reporting back from one of her forthcoming support slots on Hurts UK tour next month. It’s quite possibly our idea of musical pop paradise - two of this blogs favourite artists in one room together for one night. Anything could happen.

*Update - Sorry but within 24 hours of posting we'd reached our maximum download limit on this track, so now the remix is for streaming only.

Clare Maguire - Ain't Nobody (Breakage Remix) by Breaking More Waves

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Still Corners @ London ICA

Still Corners are an effortlessly cool band. They appear with an air of aloofness on stage, plug in and play – a hazy ebb and flow of rippling guitars with the deftest kiss of bass. Lead singer Tessa looks like something out of a dreamy soft focus movie, her blonde hair trailing over one eye, her sixties styled attire suiting the ambience perfectly. She spends most of her time clasping the microphone stand with both hands, but now and then lazily taps a tambourine against her leg. “You’ve probably noticed I don’t talk very much. That’s because I think the music’s more important,” she says later. She’s right, it is, and it’s wonderful.

Songs titles are almost irrelevant. This is as much about atmosphere as it is about individual tunes, much like a film soundtrack – abstract visuals at the back of the stage compound the sense of this even more so. The art-house / exhibition space of the ICA was made for this band. A fuzzy distant warmth washes over the attentive audience - it's a sonic landscape full of haunting melodies and sounds. If titles must be named then Endless Summer is probably the perfect example of what the band do – a downbeat spectral lullaby constructed of foggy beauty. There’s a sense of calm to Still Corners – their performance has a druggy tranquilizing effect, you can’t help but just stare wide eyed - even when at the end they wrench the last ounce of noise from their guitars. Still Corners are channelling something out of the ordinary from somewhere. Wherever they’re getting it from it must be a blissful place to be. Unspeakably good.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

The Vaccines - If You Wanna

Fancy some rock ‘n’ roll? London outfit The Vaccines (not to be confused with the bar room punk outfit from Seattle) could be your new saviours. Locking away his acoustic guitar, this is the band that romantic country / folk troubadour Jay Jay Pistolet has re-invented himself with. It seems to be a common route to creative and / or commercial success these days. Make a bit of low-key buzz for yourself within the music industry, then ditch that project, undergo musical transformation and come back with a new name. Then use the contacts you have to develop initial exposure and voila, soon you’ll be on the route to new found fame and glory.

There is of course another big factor at play. The music must be good. And right now, with just one track, the incendiary garage sound of If You Wanna by The Vaccines is kicking up a bit of a dirty storm. The group are starting off in the right direction, no question. Pounding like The Modern Age by The Strokes played by a vibey Phil Spector produced Ramones gone lo-fi, If You Wanna is bold and exciting enough to leave us wanting to hear more.

In some quarters the band are already being dissed as ‘over-hyped’, but certainly on the basis of this song we think The Vaccines retro hooks are worthy of attention. You can get more of them when they go out on tour throughout October and November in the UK. See you down the front?

If You Wanna by The Vaccines

Too Young To Love - New Waves @ Breaking More Waves

They’ve composed music for a London catwalk show and been featured in Italian Vogue, yet it seems at the moment Italian modulated future pop band Too Young To Love are keeping things fairly low key. With two previous singles, the limited edition 200 copies 7” of Vault of Heaven / Down To Infinity through Discipline Records and the follow up Frozen Fields through Keep It Yours Records the band have yet to make a huge song and dance about their output, but they’ve picked up coverage from both Artrocker and Dazed & Confused, thus cementing themselves in the higher echelons of cool category.

The band claim that they’re “giving the mainstream new shapes,” and whilst we wouldn’t quite agree that they are hugely original, their constructions beckon you in, like the sinister looking butler standing at the door of a gothic mansion. Doomy dungeon sounds from the Fever Ray camp combined with blasts of pattering, clattering drum beats that remind us a little of some of the tracks from Propaganda’s classic debut A Secret Wish make sure that Down To Infinity fits the gloom pop genre neatly. Frozen Fields (streaming below) is all Jean Michel Jarre lush pop-synths and Pet Shop Boys styled vocal intonation liberated and modernised with an obvious MGMT-ness to it. Whilst we’re throwing references around so liberally we might as well throw in Depeche Mode as well – for just like Basildon’s finest, dark pop electronica is what Too Young To Love do.

Too Young To Love cropped up at Offset festival a few weeks back, and their next live scheduled show is at the music industry shebang that is In The City in Manchester. They're also working with Nick Littlemore (Empire Of The Sun) and will be playing plenty more dates next year.

Too Young To Love - Frozen Fields by OracleMusic Mgmt

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Sleigh Bells - Infinity Guitars

If we were a hip young cool American music blog we’d probably describe Sleigh Bells as ‘awesome’, ‘rad’, or ‘next level sh*t’. But we’re not. So instead let’s just categorically state that we really don’t care about the hype, that by next year there’s a good chance we’ll be sick of it, but since we first got our hands on a copy of the Sleigh Bells album Treats back in June it has never been far from our I-Tunes playlist / CD player. It never fails to get the pulses racing, and although Crown On The Ground is still our favourite track, Infinity Guitars isn’t far behind it – and now there’s a new video for the song.

This is one heavy mother*cker.

Oops. We meant, anyone for a cup of tea and a slice of cake ? Three cheers for Sleigh Bells. Hurrah !

Sleigh Bells "Infinity Guitars" from Phil Pinto on Vimeo.

Run Toto Run - The Low Blow

The Times Are A-Changin' Bob Dylan once hollered, and so they continue to do so. From the D-Ream of Things Can Only Get Better New Labour to The ConDem-olition of public services, the UK continues to twist and turn.

So do Manchester three-piece Run Toto Run. Out of breezy sunshine folk through to darker rubbery electronic pop masterpieces of crisp bleeps and studio experimentation, the group have been on an epic musical journey over the last year or so. It seems that change is something that propels the band – and today we’re exclusively hosting a new song The Low Blow which also hints at change in life – "Exchange it all for something new, something not yet proven, turn and walk away, like it’s what you do," begins lead singer Rachael over sad minimal synth pulses, until a distant throbbing beat steers the track slowly upwards before the whole thing jet-spouts like the grooviest whale at the disco. The Low Blow downloads for free – and exclusively – just by clicking the arrow below. Improve your life, embrace the change and keep an eye out for more new material from the Run Toto Run camp, as they have an albums worth of tunes recorded.

You can also catch Run Toto Run gigging all over the place, and if we weren’t so far down south there’s a particularly attractive show on the 8th of October where the band play with another Breaking More Waves favourite Visions of Trees and the previously blogged Mount Kimbie in Sheffield. Should be a corker - a bit like this piece of delicious electronica. Hit it.

Run Toto Run - The Low Blow by Breaking More Waves

Monday, 20 September 2010

The Good Natured - Prisoner

If you search the internet for The Good Natured, the chances are that you may well come across “Juice that doesn’t cost the earth.” This Costa Rican environmental liquid freshness may be rather thirst quenching, but it certainly wouldn’t be what we were looking for. The Good Natured we’re talking about is one Sarah McIntosh who, since we first posted about her back in March 2009, has slowly been developing her songs and her image – a blend of reasonably accessible electronic pop with gothic / fetish undertones. In a world that seems to be dominated by big voiced female singers, it’s rather refreshing to hear Sarah’s slightly one key couldn’t care less vocals – it’s like suddenly realising that you’ve been hanging out with the same bunch of friends for too long and have forgotten that anyone else exists.

The Good Natured will soon to be releasing a new single, entitled Be My Animal. “I am searching for you, I’m following,” Sarah begins, displaying slightly stalker like tendencies before delivering the sprightly hook line “Wo-oh-oh be my animal.” Her vocal reminds us very much of another Sarah – one Sarah Blackwood from mid-90’s electronic pop group Dubstar.

The song is backed by an even better tune Prisoner. In an about face move The Good Natured are releasing a video for this song rather than the lead track, although a video for Be My Animal will surface very soon. Girls, if you watch the Prisoner video, which was directed by Lorenzo Ricciarelli, this really is a lesson in how not to do your make up. It was inspired by the film Tie Me Up Tie Me Down by Pedro Almodovar.
Lyrically Prisoner touches on dark ideas of a trapped relationship and the physical and emotional powers lovers have within it. “How I love it when you put me in a place that’s out of sight, I never see the day, never see the light.” On the basis of these words we certainly wouldn’t want Sarah as our girlfriend – she seems a little scary on record at least, but we’ll quite happily have her music.

You can grab Prisoner below for free download by clicking on the arrow and also see the video.

The Good Natured - Prisoner by partisanpr

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Southsea Fest 2010 - Review

When you list famous musical cities it’s unlikely that the words Portsmouth or Southsea will crop up. Too close to London and lacking the artistic bond of Brighton, Portsmouth has always been the UK’s south-central second rate cousin in terms of music. Portsmouth may possess a small but thriving grassroots scene, the hub of which is Southsea’s Albert Road area, but the size of the place, the lack of quality small music venues (the Wedgewood Rooms excepted), combined with the lack of vision and entrepreneurial foresight of many (but not all) local bands and promoters means that Portsmouth often exists in its own little pond, where even the smallest fish can seem like a shark.

Yet last Saturday Portsmouth put itself a little more on the musical map, with the annual event that is Southsea Fest. It’s a multi-gig, multi-venue one day festival where one wristband allows access to everything. It enabled Portsmouth to look outwards as well as inwards, showcasing a significant number of up and coming national bands as well as the talent that lurks within.

There was a slow burning buzz of anticipation for Southsea Fest 2010, more so than similar events in other towns, particularly since the addition of Pulled Apart by Horses who by all accounts played a sweaty and messily fun gig at the tiny café sized Edge of The Wedge. This was a case of Portsmouth’s musical backwater status working in its favour – many of those attending were proud that Portsmouth was putting on such an event – there was no resigned ‘seen it all before attitude’ and good weather helped build the upbeat vibe. Southsea Fest had a d-i-y feel to it, staff mainly being volunteers - which led to a few venues running behind schedule - but nobody seemed to mind.

“Do you ever wake yourself up shouting at yourself?” asked Ollie from Oxford three piece
Ute, beginning their lunch time slot in the Edge of the Wedge. Ute were the perfect wakeup call – complex arrangements and intricate rhythms that veered from shouty acoustic thrashes to desolate pastoral pop. Add in Ollie’s comical sense of storytelling – at one point he explained his ‘Pin-up’ labelled belt was purchased yesterday after his old one broke whilst eating pizza – and Southsea Fest delivered a pleasing start to the day.

The Edwardian elegance of the Kings Theatre, with its Italian Renaissance décor and high ceilings played host to four bands who dealt in similar sonic architecture – tunes that filled the space with their expansiveness and occasional bombast. Three of these gropus hailed from Portsmouth and its environs – but it was Londoners Revere who really excelled.

The words “All roads lead south,” sung by
The Dawn Chorus seemed highly relevant for the festival. Their mix of acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin, accordion, keys, drums and a trumpet player who at one point blasted out his sound from the balcony had moments of tenderness, passion and melancholy. With a drummer who provided a rabble rousing impersonation of Frank Turner on the uplifting Carnivalesque, The Dawn Chorus filled the space of the Kings Theatre with that good old fashioned virtue of excellent musicianship.

Revere raised the stakes even higher. With their chartered accountant attire of black waistcoats and smart clothes this eight piece played incredible widescreen sculptures that built to huge crescendos like Sigur Ros with more guitars or Mogwai with more strings. Backed by projections of grey landscapes and balloons floating skywards, their music also aimed for the stars, full of sweeping strings and transcendent noise. Words such as euphoric, cinematic and majestic came to mind. This was a band who really knew how to fill the tall space, the power of The Escape Artist virtually lifting the roof off as the projections flashed up the words “Fade out of sight, step out of the light.” Powerful and masterful Revere were utterly incredible.

B of the Bang had a virtually impossible act to follow. Thwarted by a technical hitch where a spilt bottle shorted out some equipment, the band struggled bravely on, but their sound seemed low-key after Revere. They finally hit their stride with a new song The Forest, the result being a bassy grunge-funk groove that seemed to merge 70’s Starsky & Hutch rhythms and Eye of the Tiger by Survivor into something new. Requests from the audience for the missing Alaska led to boos when it couldn’t be played because of the gremlins in the machine. “Just because we’re in a theatre doesn’t mean this is panto,” responded lead singer Chris Whitear before managing to get the electronics working so that the song could be played out.

There’s a military, chest banging, call to arms exuberance to
The Strange Death of Liberal England, and this was taken one step further in the Kings Theatre, with an orchestra, marching soldier drummers parading down the aisles and air raid sirens played from the balconies. It was big, a little ridiculous and visually entertaining. Lead singer Adam Woolway’s parrot screech of a vocal was neatly juxtaposed against the bigger orchestral moments – his passionate rasp fighting solo against the orchestra on A Day Another Day, but it didn’t sit comfortably with everyone in the audience, the back rows of the stalls slowly emptying as the bands performance continued.

From the opulence of the Kings Theatre, over the road at The Loft – a grubby worn out pub, Manchester’s
Cats In Paris did their very best to confound the indie kids with a set of genre bending oddness. Keyboards that sounded like rock guitars, violins thrown in from nowhere, jittery song structures and a lead singer that could do a good job as a Huw Stephens double act. Schizo-pop strangeness of the craziest order.

Run Toto Run continued the Manchester assault, although in this case it was full of darker jerky synth stabs, breathy feminine vocals and quirky but loveable song structures. Occasionally it appeared the boy-girl-boy three piece wanted to step out and make a big commercial dance-pop song, but are just a little bit more comfortable in their own non-conformity to do so. Run Toto Run are a band who have fully made the transition from sunshine folk tweeness to dark electronic pop eccentricity – the smooth sultry sounds of Out of Order and other new tracks banishing their old singles to the trash can. It will be interesting to see where they go next.

Fresh from their first ever London gig the night before Newcastle’s
Let’s Buy Happiness played to a fairly small Southsea crowd. Lead singer Sarah Hall beckoned for the audience to come closer and the band won punters over with their utterly beguiling beauty. Spacious layered guitars formed soaring soundscapes with Sarah’s delicate Cocteau Twins referencing vocals caressing the ears. Let’s Buy Happiness made a compelling case for being your new favourite band with the songs Dead Legs, Six Wolves and Works Better On Paper all confirming their ability to create indie music that is graceful and elegantly ethereal.

From chiming indie to 90’s influenced synth pop, Swansea’s
Bright Light Bright Light showed exactly why they’ve recently been signed to the new Virgin funded Popjustice Hi-Fi Label. Gracious melodies, gorgeous smooth vocals and hooky as hell choruses that got drunken girls dancing; they provided an exciting and welcome respite for those who found the likes of Pulled Apart by Horses just a little bit too intensely masculine. Ten out of ten for the way lead singer / keyboard player Rod Thomas assertively but politely replied to one drunk girls question of “Do you do cover versions?” He really doesn’t need to do covers when he’s got a case full of glitzy high-fiving pop monsters of his own such as Love Part II which shimmied to the dance-floor with its jubilant call of “I’m in love again.”

In a bizarre, but quite possibly brilliant piece of programming the act to follow Bright Light Bright Light was Cardiff’s
Islet. With not one ounce of melody Islet charged straight into the audience with a rhythmic based core of yelping, growling, screaming and unhinged racket. How a band can be quite so rubbish and yet terrifyingly brilliant is perplexing. They really are exporters of the avant-garde and the extraordinary. Taking instruments off stage into the crowd, straining war cries off microphone, using the walls and implements of the venue as percussion to hit plus on the spot jogging, Islet blistered with energy, challenging ideas of what entertainment, art and performance are about. Who cares what the songs sound like? This is a band to experience, not sit at home and listen to.

With Islet having provided one of the most fascinating performances of the day, Southsea Fest 2010 had provided a rich tapestry of eclectic new music for a bargain price.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Unicorn Kid - Wild Life

Breaking More Waves favourite hyperactive wonder boy, the superhero of the Atari-chiptune-casiomental revolution is back. It’s time to get acquainted with Unicorn Kid again. Whereas previous release Dream Catcher took the Unicorn Kid sound to uncharted territories of immense proportions Wild Life is more similar to his earlier work - that is to say it's a fried up energy bomb of fun. Already labelled as “A theme tune to something futuristic about a robot dog that cleans up its own poo or something,” by Radio 1’s Rob da Bank, it’s another track that will make music snobs vomit over their alphabetically filed Radiohead back catalogue (“that’s not real music” they’ll growl with disdain) whilst the rest of us can start bouncing the dance floor until we collapse in a joyous sweaty mass.

Like taking a bottle of cola and dropping a pack of mentos in it, with Wild Life Unicorn Kid explodes with fizzy abandon. Proof that computer games can be good for you.

The track is streamed from the You Tube video below and there's also a floor rolling drum and bass remix by Nu:Tone for all the jungle dogs who need their beats

Unicorn Kid - Wild Life (Nu:Tone Remix) by Ministry of Sound

Friday, 17 September 2010

Spark @ London Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen

There’s a strong argument that pop music is cyclical. Stylistic change is inevitable in order for the products survival. Yes, we use the word product deliberately - forget the idea of music as a pure art form, once it’s offered up for sale it’s a product as much as cans of baked beans are.

The latest fashionable sound ‘goes out’ rather than ‘wears out.’ It’s why recently you may have noticed an opinion shift in the media and some blogs whom in the past have gurgled with dizzying excitement about the emerging waves of colourful female pop stars, but now offer a weary yawn for the next girl-wave hitting our headphones. After Florence, La Roux, Lady Gaga, Lily Allen, Ellie Goulding and Marina & The Diamonds, there’s a sense of ‘not another one,’ every time another new potential lady pop starlet is unleashed on the world – a sign of one stage of the cycle beginning to end perhaps? Of course female is a sex not a genre, but in a very male dominated industry, females are often marketed and treated as a genre, leading much of the non-thinking public to define these acts by the same generalisations.

So whilst the cynics huff and puff every time a new act – be it Florrie, Sunday Girl or MNDR – arrives on the scene, the music industry continues to push female pop girls from the perspective of what it sees as a ‘genre’, because just like the skinny jeaned boys with guitars a few years back, major labels can still have commercial success with these artists – even if there’s a distinct possibility that it’s a law of diminishing returns, creatively at least. Witness the transition from The Strokes, to The Libertines, to The Pigeon Detectives. Over saturation of the market and the requirement for change will find that at some point the tide turns for the pop girls, with only the most creative - those willing to embrace the change - able to survive.

Which brings us to Walthamstow’s Spark - real name Jess Morgan. She’s another brave pop wannabe who we’ve featured a number of times on Breaking More Waves since back in June. If pop music is cyclical then certainly Spark is evidence in point. With initial releases on small boutique pop labels (single Revolving is due on Neon Gold in November) before a major release on 679 records, her route to mainstream accessibility is taking the same strategy as label mate Marina & The Diamonds last year. It wouldn’t surprise us if we see a fair build up in publicity leading into 2011 for Spark – the BBC Sound of List could well be a target.

But for all of this talk of marketing strategies, product survival and lazy genre definitions, the most important thing – the one thing that matters above all else – is the answer to the questions - “Is the music any good? Does Spark engage with people? Does she have the talent and the songs?”

Stepping on to stage at Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen dressed all in white Spark looks like a street-girl painter and decorator ready to answer our question. Yes she is talented, yes she can sing, and yes she’s got a bunch of songs that can deliver her some mainstream success if things go her way. What she doesn’t have yet though is any core emotional resonance. This is well drilled polished pop music, with a hint of soul and drama, but there’s no huge passion, nothing that fully pulls at the heartstrings. Of course the same could be said of much music in the charts. It doesn’t have to be life changing and deep, sometimes to entertain is good enough. From her innocent marionette jerky poses during the infectious schoolgirl Paloma Faithisms of Revolving, to the opening Blondie-esque pump of Shut Out The Moon, to the lovely melodies and quasi-operatic “Oo-oo-oo,” hook on Damage Done, there’s certainly enough here to give pleasure.

With these songs Spark is hardly likely to change the world, but she might just make someone’s day a little brighter. That will do for now.

Let's Buy Happiness - Six Wolves (Video)

Yesterday we posted the new single for Let’s Buy Happiness and their song Six Wolves. Now it’s time to bring you the video for the track – full of evocative imagery it’s a rather wonderful piece of art and was directed by Sarah, the lead singer of the band.

If you’re in London this evening Let’s Buy Happiness play their first ever show in the city at the Brixton Windmill and then follow it over the weekend with two south coast dates, one at Portsmouth’s Southsea Fest where the band will be bringing their heavenly etherealness to the (likely) sweltering heat of The Loft at around 7.45pm (time to be fully confirmed) and then on Sunday upstairs at The Prince Albert in Brighton. In October they will be playing Manchester's In The City event.

Starsmith - Give Me A Break

Even if you’ve never heard of Starsmith (and if you haven’t, where the hell have you been ?) you will have most certainly heard his work. With remix credits to the likes of Marina & the Diamonds, Lady Gaga and Robyn to his name, he is probably best known for co-writing five of the songs on the debut Ellie Goulding album – and at Ellie’s early gigs he was also part of her band.

Now it’s time for Starsmith (real name Finlay Dow-Smith) to make the transition from geeky bubblegum studio whizz-kid to fully fledged front man with his debut single Give Me A Break. For those expecting his signature loaded up synth extravaganza, you’re in for a surprise, because with Give Me A Break Starsmith veers away from being just an Ellie Goulding / Little Boots / Marina & the Diamonds remix copycat and instead works up a sweat with a Ritchie Family sampling full on boogie-woogie disco stomper that is club and radio friendly. He’s one of the tallest men in pop music both physically and commercially and Give Me A Break keeps reaching those highs.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Alice Gold - Orbiter (Visions of Trees Remix)

Having seen Alice Gold play live a couple of times now, we have come to the conclusion that we don’t particularly care for her gutsily huge echoing vocals and considerably middle of the road sound. However, we adore the floaty rhythms of London boy girl duo Visions of Trees, who are conjuring up some very special music of their own and were one of highlights of this year’s Bestival. Investigate Alice Gold further if you desire, but for now why not stream or download this Visions of Trees remix of her single Orbiter, which sweeps along gently with rippling pulses of electronica that head for the fourth dimension of outer space.

Visions of Trees have a few live dates lined up this autumn including a number of select slots supporting Everything Everything, where although the two bands produce very different styles of music they both display a kindred spirit in their wilful experimentation.

Alice Gold - Orbiter (Visions of Trees remix)

Let's Buy Happiness - Six Wolves / Woodrings

Since we first featured Let’s Buy Happiness on the blog back in February 2010 the band have had an exciting few months, recording a BBC Maida Vale session before a studio audience on BBC 6 Music, playing the John Peel stage at Glastonbury and gearing up for the release of their new single Six Wolves which is released on the 18th October through Ghost Arc Records.

Six Wolves is not as instant as previous songs such as Devil Show and Works Better On Paper, but you will be immediately drawn to the intoxicating voice of Sarah Hall, who seems to be the missing link between Harriet Wheeler of The Sundays and the Cocteau Twins. Given further listens you will find yourself being gradually drawn in to the building and gliding guitar sounds that interlock to create something quite beguiling. Even more exciting is the fact that the second track on the single - Woodrings is just as good.

Let’s Buy Happiness teach a lesson in beautiful music - the kind of charming indie sounds that lost identity to the brashness of Brit Pop in the early 90’s. We’re very pleased that Let’s Buy Happiness are creating that type of music again. It’s to be cherished. As any wise man will tell you, happiness cannot normally be purchased, only achieved through state of mind, but in this case the wise man is wrong. You can purchase your own slice of happiness and order the single, which is limited to 500 copies here.

Bestival 2010 - Review (Part 4)

The weary and the hungover were greeted with welcoming sun on the final day of Bestival. The mud began to dry up and once more the madness, mayhem and music began.

At Sailor Jerry’s Ink City - a bar, tattoo parlour and music venue all in one Laura J Martin enchanted with her crazy flute and mandolin looping, puppet on a string dancing and Kate Bush styled vocal mannerisms. A bizarre cover version of Chaka Demus & Pliers Tease Me and the beautifully odd Hangman Tree with additional melodica ensured that Martin captured a few new fans.

Mystery dance pop group Monarchy arrived on stage in the Rock and Roll tent still trying to keep their identities covered. With matching buttoned up white shirts, suits, cheekbones and calculated composure the obvious visual reference was Hurts, although Monarchy kept their faces partly obscured by masks. Their music - a mix of 80’s styled synth pop and French disco was incredibly well polished - so much so that it seems a shame they haven’t had chart success. Maybe if they’d played a few more shows to build a fan base and buzz than their largely online / secret identity campaign they may have achieved that success.

“What’s up Bestival,” yelled a geeky looking girl in a black jacket and a Fuck the Clock T-Shirt. “My names MNDR and today’s my birthday,” she informed everyone, leading to a spontaneous rendition of Happy Birthday from the crowd. You can’t get much more hipster than MNDR, and the number of soldiers of style and big plastic sunglasses in the audience suggested that the race to the finish line of cool will have her judging the winner. Pressing a few buttons and giving a goofy smile MNDR was ready to show than she’s more than just a load of hype overload only loved by style magazines and uber cool blogs. Unfortunately her twitchy minimalistic electro-pop came across as little more than karaoke for those in the know, fifty percent irresistibly hooky and fifty percent irritating scenester rubbish.

At the opposite end of the spectrum Mercury nominated Villagers played a short but well received set in the Rock N Roll tent. Conor O’Brien’s carefully crafted folk-rock had a poignant and sensitive side to it, but was also filled with enough gusto to not be considered lightweight. The clichéd phrase mature beyond his years immediately sprang to mind.

Maturity is probably not something that Charli XCX has yet to be accused of. With legs akimbo over the monitors on the Spider stage there were moments when XCX’s flirty rock / porn star poses almost became a bit too much, but having announced that she would convert the small audience, she proved herself correct. Because once you get over the idea that Charli XCX is just a young girl pretending to be a pop star, you realise that she could actually be a very good pop star indeed. Full of attitude - beckoning saucily to the stage security and embarrassing them, dropping to her knees to belt out the songs and with enough hyperactivity to fuel an army of battery operated toys, she threw herself passionately into a bunch of tunes that as XCX described herself are “killer.” There was something of merit here. End of the World with its skittering secondary drum patterns and apocalyptic electro synth sound was a very grown up pop song - and Do It Well was moody and sultry enough to seduce.

With billowing dry ice, classical music blasting out and the biggest hair at the festival, King Charles certainly made an impressive entrance. Big is the word to use here. Big hair. Big sound. Big songs. With Hendrix riffs, rattling folk pop moments and revelatory tunes such as the urgent Love Lust and a re-working of Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire that name checked Tracey Emin, David Beckham and Tom Cruise before referencing the days headliners The Prodigy with the words “are you fire starters ?” King Charles was a riotous heap of fun.

Musical eclecticism continued with Caribou who used techno, house, disco, slow-rave and electronica to draw the audience in with an adventurous and accessible blend of experimental sonic textures, before the festivals closing firework display and bonfire - where a specially built castle on a raised platform was burnt to the ground.

Finally it was back to the Big Top for Fever Ray - the side project of The Knife’s lead singer Karin Andersson - who presented their eerie, shadowy electronic sound of spookiness. With the stage lit only by pulsing intermittent lampshades and limited overhead lighting it was difficult from the back to make out anything more than shadowy figures through the fog of dry ice. Like Kraftwerk making a horror film soundtrack the music of Fever Ray was as unsettling as it was glorious. Andersson’s vocals were deep and monstrously distorted - pitch-shifted and almost inhuman - the music claustrophobic and icy. Sinister and imaginative it was a dark but impressive finish to Bestival 2010, which musically was our favourite festival of the summer.