Monday, 24 April 2017

New Music: Introducing - Josh Barry

Having been involved in the judging process of the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition for a number of years now I’m occasionally asked by artists and bands who have already developed their careers a little bit if I think they are too far advanced with what they are doing to enter the competition. 

The reason for this question is that there is a misapprehension that the Emerging Talent Competition is only for bedroom artists who have never released anything, never played a live show or already developed their careers in any way. Whilst the competition does have rules about who can and can’t enter (for example if you are signed to a major label, clearly the Emerging Talent Competition isn’t for you) there are many artists out there who may already have some experience, but are still considered emerging by the rules of the competition and could really benefit from not only the exposure and opportunity to play a main stage at one of the most famous festivals in the world, but also the £5,000 Talent Development Prize award from PRS, which can go a long way to helping the artist take their music to the next level. 

This weekend the live final of the Emerging Talent Competition took place and the winner was Josh Barry. Listening to his song Spirit Road it’s easy to understand why the final judging panel chose him unanimously as the winner. His voice is blessed with all the elements of a classic soul singer; that perfect mix of power and emotion with just a hint of rawness. Spirit Road is also a bloody good song.

With a vocal as good as Barry’s you have to wonder how he hasn’t already been discovered, but this is where my previous words about who can and can’t enter the competition come into play. For Barry isn’t a full-blown novice. He’s already been working within the music industry having performed with chart stars Gorgon City, has recorded with Friction (supplying vocals to the 2015 song Freak) and SG Lewis (Silence). Yet clearly Barry still felt the need to enter the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition and judging by the excitable pictures and words on his Facebook, it means the world to him to have won. 

Congratulations to Josh Barry, we’ll be looking forward to see where his musical journey takes him next. 

There's no Emerging Talent Competition next year (as Glastonbury itself takes a year off), but I'd recommend any self financing artist who considers they've got what it takes to play a main stage at Glastonbury to enter in 2019.

Josh Barry - Spirit Road

Friday, 21 April 2017

New Music: Kate Nash - Agenda

Look. This is how to do great pop music:

1. Be Inventive. Be Exciting. Be Bold. Be Fierce. Be Engaging.
2. Don’t just follow a formula.
3. Have something to say. 
4. Have a good beat. 
5. Make polite people go “Woah” and everyone else go “What the fuck.”

Kate Nash does all this and more on Agenda, one her most brilliant tunes she has ever released.

An (occasionally) sweary musical manifesto with hooks and punches galore. This is great pop music. No messing.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

New Music: All We Are - Human (Video)

There’s an energy, a passion and an intensity to Human, (not a Rag 'n' Bone Man cover) the new song from Liverpool’s All We Are, that gets you in the stomach. It grinds, kicks and thrashes around and it sounds gloriously alive. 

The video’s great as well. It features a sleepy rural neighbourhood known as Sunny Hill and a developer’s plan to ‘revolutionise access’ to the place and the angry reactions, drama and friction it creates within the local community. I particularly like the old ladies at cross stitch club: “Your cunting road can fuck the fuck off” they sew. This video is just part 1, so it’s worth subscribing to the band’s You Tube channel so that you don’t miss the other parts. 

Human is taken from the band’s second album Sunny Hills which is due June 9th. They're playing a variety of shows this summer including some big UK festival slots such as Glastonbury, Latitude and End of the Road.

All We Are - Human (Video)

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

New Music: Lana Del Rey - Lust For Life ft. The Weeknd

You know how Lana is always singing about putting on clothes and taking them off? 

"Watching me get undressed, take that body downtown." "I’ve got my red dress on tonight." "Blue jeans, white shirt." "White bikini off with my red nail polish." "Honey put on your party dress." Etc etc etc. It must be like a 24 hour changing room in Top Shop at her place.

Well, she’s at it again. This time with The Weeknd. In theory this lyrical obsession should be getting boring by now. But it isn’t. Mainly because the songs are still f*ckin’ great. 

All together now: “Take off take off take off all your clothes.” 

To be honest, I’m still waiting for her to sing about putting mismatching socks on. But this will more than do.

Lana Del Rey - Lust For Life ft. The Weekend

New Music: Introducing - St Jude The Obscure

There's probably quite a few people who would be surprised by this statement, but Jude The Obscure is my favourite Thomas Hardy novel. Maybe it's because it’s pretty grim and I’m generally quite a fan of heavy lingering darkness in both novels and movies. 

But I digress, this isn’t a literature blog. So let’s get back to the music.

In this case, it’s a band who were once called Feral Love and are now called St. Jude The Obscure and have, with Wonders Of Youth, put together a perfectly blissful and glistening piece of electronic pop. Think Goldfrapp with Kate Bush doing background chanting in a zero-gravity suit and you won’t be that far off the mark. It’s equal parts minimal and epic and also gets better as you burrow deeper even though it's pretty instant as well - always a good way to make a pop record. A second song, the more danceable Wreckage (which you can find by clicking here), is equally fine. 

Jude The Obscure = Grim. Wonders Of Youth by St Jude The Obscure = Beautiful. I love both.

St. Jude The Obscure - Wonders Of Youth

Monday, 17 April 2017

New Music: The Kite String Tangle - Selfish

Music bloggers. They’re terrible aren’t they? So bloody fickle. Only posting something if they can get the premiere / first play, quickly discarding artists they’ve championed to move onto something else.

There is of course some validity in these criticisms, not only of bloggers, but the way many music fans (as against casual listeners happy to listen to say Adele and Ed Sheeran on repeat) consume pop in general these days. With everything being so accessible, the tantalising lure of the undiscovered is always going to have power over sticking to one thing.

So today I’m posting a track that fights against these arguments. It’s a ‘new’ song, but has already been on line for a month. No first play here. It’s by an artist that I’ve featured on the blog before, but only once, in an introducing piece way back in 2013. 

For those needing a recap, Danny Harley is The Kite String Tangle. He makes the sort of immaculate high production value electronic dance pop that the blogosphere tends to love. Selfish is his first new jam for a couple of years. It has a very of the moment sound with crisp beats and hooky synth motifs but under all of that there’s still something resolutely old fashioned; a song. It’ll probably make you want to do all sorts of jerky uncoordinated dance moves.

The Kite String Tangle - Selfish

Sunday, 16 April 2017

New Music: Introducing - Slang

Remember when Ed Sheeran was really good? Sometime around 2011, before he turned musically beige, blanded-out and went all guitar strings blazing for lowest common denominator dollars and chart domination, he put out an EP called No.5 Collaborations, which found him engaging with the grime scene on a series of sensitive and dark tracks a long way from the dross of Galway Girl etc that he’s banging out now. Well, the debut tracks from this ‘new’ London artist remind me of that time.

Slang has just two tracks on line. Sweet Lies is a sobering and introspective mix of hazy acoustics, ghostly distant vocals and mellow rap that finds Slang dealing with some of his troubles: “Battling my demons and they’ve drowned me out again,” he sings, whilst YAY (You Alright, Yeah?) (listen here) hits home with mentions of addiction and jail, but still offers a hand of hope. Both songs are instantly memorable but are instantly affecting due to their heavily personal nature.

Slang may be a new name to many of you, but that doesn’t mean that you might not be familiar with some of his work; as under the name Dan Dare he’s been floating around the music industry for some time, working as a songwriter and producer, collaborating with the likes of Charli XCX, Marina & The Diamonds, Wiley, Chasing Grace, Professor Green and Becky Hill. Now he’s breaking out on his own with this impressive new project. Let’s just hope he doesn’t have a Galway Girl moment.

You can catch Slang live this Spring in the UK at Live At Leeds, Brighton’s Great Escape and Liverpool’s Sound City as well as a show at London’s Sebright Arms on 4th May. There’s a full EP coming next Friday.

Slang - Sweet Lies

Saturday, 15 April 2017

New Music: Introducing - Tom Adams

The world is a non-stop, take it all, hectic kind of place. Sometimes it feels like it’s all about to spin out of control. That’s why we need the music of artists like Tom Adams.

Cambridge born, but now residing in Germany, Adams’ music possesses the sort of tender beauty that might not only stop you in your tracks, but the whole world. Combining his gorgeous celestial vocals, melancholy piano chords and ambient electronics, these are songs that find a place alongside the likes of Nils Frahm and A Winged Victory For The Sullen for their breathless power and tranquillity, yet still have an accessibility that could comfortably sit alongside popular songs like Coldplay’s Fix You or Tom Odell’s Sense.

Having released his debut EP last year, Adams is due to release Silence, his long player on the 5th May via Kowloon Records. One of the songs that will feature on that LP is Come On, Dreamer, which not only should feature on every single Most Beautiful Songs In The World Ever playlist and compilation, but is accompanied by a stunning video that shows that below someone’s very straight appearance there might be a solitary yearning for something far more primitive and back to nature. 

Besides Come On, Dreamer Adams has released another song, Sparks, which over its six minutes will make you want to shut your eyes and just take it all in. 

Press pause on the world for a short time and listen to Tom Adams.

Tom will be playing live in the UK next month with a confirmed date at Brighton’s Great Escape Festival.

Tom Adams - Sparks

Tom Adams - Come On, Dreamer (Video)

Thursday, 13 April 2017

New Music: Introducing - Bloxx

New kids on the block, Bloxx are your latest new frothy guitar band and crush. With the briskly self-confident Your Boyfriend having already picked up plenty of plays on Spotify, today the Uxbridge four piece released a new one; it’s called You. With classic riff-raucous guitar work that ramps things up for the chorus, You sounds like the sort of candy-grunge mini-anthem that will go down a storm in dark sweaty indie clubs when it’s let loose live. “It’s all in my head you say,” goes the chorus. Well, this song is likely to get in your head as well.

Hailing from the rock n roll borderlines that is Uxbridge, Bloxx consist of Ophelia (guitar/vocals), Taz (guitar), Paul (bass guitar) and Moz (drums). Bloxx will be taking their sound to the sticky floored venues of Britain when they head out on tour with The Night Café in May. 

Bloxx - You

New Music: Hazel English - More Like You (Video)

5 thoughts that went through my head when watching and listening to the new Hazel English video:

1. This makes me want to go on a road trip. Although whereas Hazel’s is full of warm Californian sunshine, mine would probably be full of British grey skies and rain. 

2. In a world where chart based pop music is becoming ever more lame, indie music that exists on the periphery, the stuff that sounds swirling and dreamy and made for people who like art and fashion that also exist away from the mainstream, seems ever more important and ever more comforting. The sound of More Like You provides that comfort. 

3. More Like You is a little bit like reading the secret diaries of Hazel English. It’s thoughtful and contemplative: “It's so funny how you live your life; always trying on a new disguise. And you lie to yourself all of the time, you rely on the safety of denial.”

4. She'll get lots of views on this. Why? Because it has dogs in it. The internet loves dogs and cats doesn't it?

5. I fancy a cup of tea. (I’m pretty sure this had nothing to do with the video, but I don’t remember ever promising you that the thoughts would all be about the music, did I?)

Hazel English - More Like You (Video)

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

New Music: Pale Waves - There's A Honey (Video)

As a new band having the patronage of another successful group can have the possibility of being a double-edged sword. On the plus-side it can get you a lot of attention quickly, but on the negative if you can’t develop your own identity and fan base you’re likely to always be subordinate to the group who helped champion you in the first place.

Only time will tell if the association with The 1975 (which I wrote about in my introducing piece on the band back in February) will cause Manchester’s Pale Waves a problem in the longer term, but ultimately it will probably come down to their creative output. With only the one official song out there (ignoring the earlier demos under previous guises) it’s impossible to judge, but I stand by my previous statement that There’s A Honey is a piece of radiant pop that will make your day all the more better. 

Now with a video for the song it’s possible to get a bit of the band’s visual aesthetic and here they seem to be forging their own ground, sitting somewhere between The Cure and The XX with their dark goth look. The video itself is a simple performance piece which is given a slight feeling of claustrophobia (again very Cure-esque) by the band playing under some sheets of air supported fabric.

Pale Waves - There's A Honey (Video)

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

New Music: Fickle Friends - Hello Hello (Video)

It’s been a real pleasure to see Fickle Friends grow from being a blog sensation (Breaking More Waves was there right at the beginning) to connecting with people outside of the new music internet bubble and getting their songs played on the radio. Latest tune Hello Hello is arguably their biggest banger to date and even challenges the still stupidly hooky Swim for BFF* credentials. Lyrically the song deals with the idea of sticking with someone who has lost sight of who they are and what they’re worth and the video (released yesterday) finds the band taking part in some sort of random instruction audition. I particularly like the ‘he just threw a f*ckin’ chair at me’ moment.

Fickle Friends will be going on tour with The Kooks (a band I can never like because the lead singer once barged into me in a venue, knocking my drink out of my hand, and didn’t even stop to apologise as he strutted on his way) in May, before playing a whole bunch of summer festivals and their own headline show, their largest to date, at The Forum in London in October. 

*Best Fickle Friends

Fickle Friends - Hello Hello (Video)

Monday, 10 April 2017

New Music: Introducing - Lia Lia

In a post earlier today (here) I talked a little bit about defining the idea of ‘good music’ as something that is within my comfort zone and something that triggers memories of music from my past and how that's a concept that I feel a little uncomfortable with. I like change. I like challenge. Yet conversely I only like these things to a certain extent. Too much challenge is just overwhelming and nulls the senses. Sometimes I do want that warm familiarity.

If you asked a stranger who had spent some time reading posts on Breaking More Waves what sort of music they thought existed within my ‘it’s-good-because-there’s-an-association’ safety net the chances are they’d suggest electronic pop music with a female vocal. After all there’s been a fair amount of it over the years on Breaking More Waves, so that assumption wouldn't be a ridiculous one.

So today I’m keeping to form and introducing Lia Lia, a new Berlin based artist who, with her debut, approaches the world of pop with laconic synthy grooves and spoken word vocals on a song called Olymp. There’s a hint of Black Box Recorder’s Sarah Nixey in the detached delivery; everything about the song smacks of cool - especially when combined with a video that shows the beautiful arrogance of wasted youth. 

According to a small Q&A with Line of Best Fit today (here) Lia Lia stands for Live Impact Area Legacy Interface Adapter, which is either a glorious piss-take or something deep and artistic, but either way these rubbery electronics bounce just right.

Lia Lia - Olymp (Video)

New Music: Joshua Burnside - Blood Drive

As I’ve got older one of the eternal struggles I’ve had with music is thinking, probably over thinking, how I define what good music is. The problem for me is do I think (or feel) that something is great just because it reminds me of something else from the past that I also liked? Am I becoming too set in my ways? And if I am is there anything wrong with this? Possibly not, but then on the other hand, if a person just sticks to what they know and defines that as good, then as music changes and evolves, is there the potential to miss out on something incredible, simply because it doesn’t fit with a predefined definition of what is good?

If good music is something that can broadly be defined as something that moves me, is it possible to become less moved over time if I’m just listening to the same old same old over and over again? Is falling into a musical comfort zone a dangerous thing?

If it is, then today I’m happy to dwell in that comfort zone for Blood Drive, the new song from Northern Irish singer songwriter Joshua Burnside, reminds me of an awful lot of things I like. The song may take a soft folkish tone, but structurally it sounds an awful lot like something The National (makers of one of my favourite rock records of the last couple of decades) might make. There’s also comparisons to be made with the plucked melodies of Stornoway (another favourite), early Bon Iver (two albums that I cherish) or Jose Gonzalez. It’s a beautifully soothing and evocative piece of song craft and is taken from Burnside’s forthcoming album Ephrata, released on the 5th May via Quiet Arch Records. 

The album itself was written in just a few weeks whilst Burnside lived in northern Colombia with his cousin and finds him absorbing a wide range of musical references which include alt-folk, traditional Irish folk, South American and Eastern European influences and bands such as Sun Kil Moon, Dirty Three, Talking Heads and The Cure. 

Burnside plays a small handful of shows around the time of the album launch which include shows in Glasgow, London, Ballycastle, Derry and Dublin. 

Joshua Burnside - Blood Drive

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Preview: Are You Listening Festival 2017

Reading’s Are You Listening? is a music festival that encapsulates everything that a fan could want. 

It comes at a value price, with advance tickets retailing at £20 for the day. It has a great line up of national touring and local bands, which this year sees the likes of Anna Meredith, The Big Moon, Clock Opera and Spring King taking to its stages. By nature of its city centre location it’s convenient, easy to access and the weather isn’t a major player. Add in the fact that it’s a festival with a heart, donating every year to Reading Mencap (AYL has now raised over £34,000 for the charity since its birth in 2013) and you’ll probably understand why AYL is pretty much faultless in every respect.

Having supported the festival since its inception, this year Breaking More Waves will also be involved in the event as more than just a punter, as I DJ some of my favourite songs in between bands at Milk Bar, one of the festivals venues. The word DJ is used very loosely here – essentially it will involve cross-fading a few tunes off an iPad Spotify playlist or CDs with no mixing, no beat matching and no skill whatsoever. 

Like any festival that focuses on relatively new and emerging music, with 9 venues putting on shows and over 70 artists performing during the day, it can be a little bewildering to choose who to see, so below you’ll find 3 of Breaking More Waves recommendations to cut through the overload. None of these are headline acts. 

Are You Listening takes place on April 22nd in Reading City Centre. It’s also Record Store Day, so get there early, hit up The Sound Machine record shop, grab some lunch, then go and watch Radio 1's Huw Stephens in conversation with local heroes The Amazons at Sub 89 before the live music kicks off at 2pm into the night. Tickets are available by clicking here.

Temples Of Youth (16:00 – Public)

Winchester gloom-pop duo Temples of Youth are no strangers to the pages of Breaking More Waves. Having supported the likes of Sundara Karma, Declan McKenna and Laurel they also were also picked as part of the Glastonbury Emerging Talent 2017 competition long list. Expect cinematic electronics, mournful guitars and Joy Divison drum sounds. 

Saltwater Sun (17.45 – Purple Turtle)

I first came across Saltwater Sun at Are You Listening Festival in 2014 and since that time their music has gained plenty of exposure on line through websites and blogs with songs like Habit On My Mind and Now Or Never. With some potent indie rock sounds and the unique vocal talent of Jenn Stearne they’re worth your time.

Dream Wife (19.45 – Sub 89)

For anyone still pushing the ‘indie rock music is dead’ argument, I’d strongly go advise them to go and see Dream Wife, who show there’s a huge amount of energy left in the old dog yet. Vital, empowering and full of snarling two fingers up against the world attitude, they’re a beast of a band.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

New Music: Kate Nash - Call Me

When Kate Nash emerged around 10 years ago there were quite a few naysayers who didn’t really give her a chance and certainly wouldn’t have predicted that she would have still been making music and selling out shows now. But if there’s one thing that I’ve learnt about pop music, absorbing it over all these years, is that nobody can second guess the future – even those who think they can. Particularly ‘tastemakers’. Look back at your favourite new music guru website or blog and for every one hit they get right, they get about ten wrong. 

Nash’s new song Call Me (no not a cover of the Blondie tune) was released yesterday. Taken from her forthcoming Agenda EP, it demonstrates exactly what I’ve always said about her; she’s got an ability to pen a quirky, hooky, pop song, irrespective of what style she adopts. And on the subject of styles, wait till you hear the title track of the EP; if it’s anything like the version she’s been performing live it’s going to surprise some of you.

After this EP Kate is going to be revisiting her debut album with a tour this summer (tickets are available by clicking here) and is currently funding her fourth album through a Kickstarter project. She's already raised over $50,000 in less than a week, which is pretty impressive. If you’ve got a spare $5,000 you can even have Kate come and play a ‘punk as fuck’ show in your own house. If only I was a little richer..... although to be honest, I wouldn’t want to annoy the neighbours, so I’d probably ask her to play acoustically. Or at least invite the neighbours round as well.

You can sign up to the Kate Nash Kickstarter by clicking here and at the same time watch a video that explains how she is going to use the money Take a listen to Call Me below.

Kate Nash - Call Me

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

New Music: Introducing - Black Fly

Well this is f*cking marvellous. I have no idea who Black Fly is. The standard Google search reveals lots of references to two winged insects, a hip-hop artist from about 5 years ago and various other companies and brands, but nothing of this solo artist who I’m told makes music from his bedroom in the backwoods of Vermont. However, despite little context to find let me try and give you some. 

I Don’t Know is Black Fly’s debut song. As I said it’s f*cking marvellous. Why? Because it’s rather unique. There’s a lot of synth pop that flows through these pages, but most of it features vocals that are in some way glossy and crystal. Black Fly isn’t. His voice is huskily nodular, slightly slurred and sleepy, like a modern-day Pete Doherty of The Libertines or Richard Butler of The Psychedelic Furs, but with real soul and beauty. It’s as if an indie rock singer has stumbled into the wrong room and come out with a keyboard under his arm rather than a guitar. It’s a wonderful contrast.

You’ll find virtually all of the websites and blogs that have featured this song so far describing it as gothic. I’m not so sure about that as a categorisation. I don’t hear the eerie dark despair I would expect to find in something categorised as gothic, although the lyrics, which talk of ‘nasty things you do’, ‘violence’ and ‘cancer’ certainly don’t equate with partying all night long in da club. But what I hear musically is skin-prickling radiance and moments of tenderness, particularly when Black Fly sings “you can never take our memories” and the song bursts into a rainbow of 80’s styled tension building electronics. 

I Don't Know was mixed by David Tolomei (Beach House, Dirty Projectors and most tellingly Future Islands, who I can see some similarity with in terms of the unusual vocal / electronic mix). An intriguingly good debut.

Black Fly - I Don't Know

New Music: Introducing - Shaefri

Today I’m introducing Shaefri, creator of slick, unsettling, downbeat electronic pop music. Monster, the third track she’s released as part of what seems like a new start (there are some references to older seemingly unavailable recordings online) is the one that’s really grabbed me. Hinting at the demons within that “crawl into my head,” the song is a haunting piece of leftfield pop full of hovering pulses, subdued beats and dead of night darkness. It’s accompanied by a video that adds an added layer of nightmarishness, with a masked creature following Shaefri, until the disguise is revealed.

Describing herself as “London-born, Irish/Egyptian-bred,” which makes her sound more like an animal than a human being, but who knows, maybe there are places in the world where they specifically breed musicians, Shaefri will be releasing her EP Cracks on 7th April.

She also plays a live show to launch it this on the 6th April at Notting Hill Arts Club, London.

Shaefri - Monster (Video)

Monday, 3 April 2017

New Music: Rosie Carney - Awake Me (Acoustic)

“A couple of months ago on a dark, cold day in January, we moved all the furniture out of my living room and pushed the piano to the middle of the room. So happy to bring to you the acoustic version of Awake Me, recorded in my home in Donegal. Thank you to Charlie Doherty and Orri McBrearty for helping to bring it to life,” says Rosie Carney of this beautiful recording of a song that featured in its original form on Breaking More Waves in January. 

This new take of Awake Me, played on just piano, has a beautifully still intimacy to it, but perhaps more surprising is with that intimacy comes an even greater power. Keep an eye out for an unscheduled appearance of a cat in the video as well.

Rosie Carney will be playing the Great Escape Festival in Brighton May and will also be out on tour with Saint Sister in the UK between 30th May and 3rd June. 

Rosie Carney - Awake Me (Acoustic)

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Pop Stars In The Bath - A Conclusion Of Sorts

Over the last few years, if you’ve visited Breaking More Waves with any frequency or have kept up to date with my Twitter feed (here), you will undoubtedly be aware of the ongoing obsession I have with pop stars in the bath. Or rather, I’m intrigued by the number of photos musicians take of themselves in various baths to help promote their music; sometimes clothed, sometimes unclothed, sometimes in water, sometimes without.

The obsession all boils down to two fundamental questions.

First, why do they do this? Besides musicians I can’t think of any other profession that promotes its product / art by pictures of its manufacturer / creator in the bath. Not even bath manufacturers.

Then my second question is why, when music writers are presented with a promotional picture of a musician in the bath for the article they are writing do so many choose to ignore any sort of commentary about the picture? Yes, there’ll be realms of text about dreamy guitar riffs and haunting vocals, but nothing about the fact that this person or persons is/are sitting in the bath to promote their music, which let’s face it is abnormal behaviour.

So finally, today I’m very pleased to bring about some conclusions to this weird phenomenon and get some answers, from someone who knows what they’re talking about. Or at least to the first of my questions. The second remains unsolved.

Professor Apo Hillfort (BA) is a lecturer in Psychology at the University of Bath (where else?) and has been following me on Twitter for a number of years. He got in contact with me after reading a number of my blog posts. “You want answers to your pop star in the bath concern? DM me,” he wrote and so began a dialogue on this washroom weirdness.

Professor Hillfort specialises in the psychology of celebrities. He researches how celebrity affects people who become them and how our own personal psychology and behaviour is affected by the tag of those who are seen as celebrities. But more than that, professor Hillfort has studied in detail the behaviour of pop stars. In fact, when he was studying, his original degree thesis was called The Behavioural Impact Of Promotional Regimes In Pop Music Culture On Musicians. It turns out, this guy knows all about pop stars in the bath!

“Essentially, what you have to remember is that musicians are creatives. They hate to be constrained by corporate rules, regulations or to be told how they should or shouldn’t do things. The bath is the ultimate visual metaphor for that ideology.” he explains.

“In dream analysis, the bath can symbolise the cleansing of the soul, healing and that positive change is underfoot. In day to day life, the bath represents similar things. To see someone in the bath it is virtually impossible to think negative thoughts. We see that person as breaking out of their shell, cleansing themselves and being in a good place."

 "Studies have shown that musicians, particularly those in pop music, are psychological egoists and sensation seekers. Being photographed in the bath, for pop stars, explores areas that appeal to them, namely curiosity, exploration and aesthetic preferences. But in addition to this it creates constructs of arousal in the viewer. It is therefore a clever marketing technique to photograph yourself in the bath. The viewer will only be able to think positive thoughts of the person or persons pictured and as it has been shown that there are strong correlations between visual and audible cues. Therefore there is an increased chance of the viewer liking the music if they are pleased, humoured or aroused by the picture.”

So it seems that musicians are basically attention seeking, manipulative, creative dudes then?

“Yes, I’m afraid that’s pretty much it – as far as I have been able to conclude from my studies. I’ve have even tried some experimental research here at the University, although alas it had to be abandoned.”

Tell me more…

“As you are aware, Mariah Carey is very fond of a pop star in the bath promo pic, and after much persuasion Mariah agreed to participate in some research I was carrying out. The research, which we undertook here in Bath when Mariah was last on tour in the UK in April 2012 involved Mariah getting in her bath for a new photo shoot whilst we monitored her brain activity and thought patterns. Unfortunately, we had to declare the results null and void because the readings we got all pointed to just one thought.”

And that was?

“Christmas. I was a bloody fool to think she’s be thinking anything else. Even in April.”

Friday, 31 March 2017

New Music: Oh Wonder - Ultralife

Today is the last day of the month, which means it’s the day when I update the Breaking More Waves monthly Spotify playlist with all of the songs featured in March's posts. You can find the new one by clicking here

It’s also the day when Oh Wonder release a new single. Hold on, what’s that? Earthquakes shake, volcanoes erupt and the world tilts on its axis, because this isn’t meant to be is it? Sure, it’s great to have new Oh Wonder material (more of which in a moment), but we all know that Anthony and Josephine, for their debut album, released a single every month at the beginning of the month. Now they’ve turned everything on its head. Are they 24 hours early, or 31 days late? This a game changer.

OK, I’m probably going a little (ok, a lot) over the top here. The reality is probably more to do with the fact that today is Friday, which is new release day across the world, and with Oh Wonder now an established band, they’re playing by a few of the established rules of the music industry. 

So what’s new single Ultralife (which they’ve been teasing the title of on Instagram for the last few days) like? We all know Oh Wonder can write a good tune. There’s 15 of them on their debut album (my favourite record of 2015). So the fact that Ultralife would be anything but was hardly in doubt. The question is more what sort of tune is it? It isn’t another Chet Faker influenced electronic pop ballad for sure. But neither is it such a radical shift that it’s unrecognisable as Oh Wonder. The trademark boy-girl vocals (although Josephine dominates, singing some on her own), keyboards and strong songcraft are all present and correct, but Ultralife has a fluttering higher energy to it than you might expect. It sounds like a carnival – the musical version of glitter, confetti canons shooting for the sky and glorious summer warmth. “I’m young forever in the sun,” Josephine coos as she sings of finding someone and emptiness turning to hope. It’s a classic feel good-pop song.

Oh Wonder have done it again. They turn the gloom into gold. 

Oh Wonder - Ultralife

Thursday, 30 March 2017

New Music: Introducing - Mulàn

How do you like your funk? If you like it served on a seismic plate of Jai-Paul like electronic steaminess with a big whack of Prince in the vocal delivery, then relative newcomers Mulàn are going to get you very hot, not just under the collar, but everywhere. After listening to this a couple of times even my knees were sweating. Debut track Night released last year and newbie Done, released today, are pull up to the bumper grinders. You have been warned.

So what else can I tell you about Mulàn? Pretty much nothing. The blurb sent accompanying their music was simply a statement from the band (I’m assuming they are a band as that is what I’ve been told): "We know it’s been a while, I've been waiting for the right time to say this. We’re done, I'm done.” And then there’s a reference to 199.3 fm. It’s a while since we’ve had a ‘mystery act’ on the blog. I thought that idea had died a death. But I’m letting Mulàn off the hook because Done really is off the hook.

Mulàn - Done

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

New Music: Hazel English - Fix (Video)

I’ve already featured the Hazel English song Fix on the blog back in 2015 where I called it ‘a melancholy anthem for every teenager sat in their bedroom.’ I should, at the risk of having come across as archly elitist, also explain that it’s absolutely perfect for anyone to listen to this tune, whoever or wherever they are. Middle aged moms and dads with three kids down at the supermarket? Yep, come on in. Old aged pensioners having tea and biscuits? Join the crew. Young graffiti dudes down and the skate park? You're invited as well. Someone working in a car manufacturing plant in Asia? Most certainly. 

Let’s not ever forget that music is one of the most universal languages we have. It doesn’t matter that Hazel is based in Oaklands, California. She speaks to me in Southsea, Portsmouth, UK. As Hazel herself has said of her music: “Something I made had an impact on somebody else – that blows my mind. Actually having a conversation with someone who loves my music, that means a lot to me. Suddenly it’s not just a number, it’s a physical person standing in front of me that’s getting something out of this.” 

I get this completely. It’s one thing discovering an artist via the internet, but another thing watching them play live. Luckily, I got that opportunity last year when Hazel came to the UK. If you missed her then, there are some more opportunities coming up as she plays Brighton’s Great Escape Festival as well as dates in Birmingham, London, Manchester and Bristol in May. Go see her, connect not just with her, but other people in the audience. It's this real life interaction that makes the world a better place. (Did I suggest this in the last post I wrote? Forgive me if I'm repeating myself. It's important.)

But before that there’s a new video for the song, which is as irresistibly romantic as you could hope for. It's to help promote her forthcoming release which will compile her debut EP alongside six new songs to create her first full length LP release.

However, a word of warning, we’ve talked about our concerns for Hazel’s lack of health and safety before in this blog post (here). Now she’s at it again; right from the get go she has us worried. Reading whilst walking up a staircase? Hurtling along in shopping trolley with seemingly no risk assessment or protective clothing? Playing with guns? (Watch the video to see her lethal weapon of choice). But at least she has the decency to wear a crash helmet on a motorbike. That’s a start.

So, in summary. Hazel English. A+ for the music. D- for the health and safety. There’s a quote her press agent won’t be using.

Hazel English - Fix (Video)

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

New Music: Introducing - Kwaye

Here are 5 reasons why newcomer Kwaye could be a pop star in the making.

1. The guy is clearly a dude. I mean look at him. There’s not many people than get away with a pose like that, whilst wearing red, dancing amongst the concrete tower blocks of London and still look cool. 

2. Talking of cool, his ‘debut’ tune is called Cool Kids. Which is the sort of title Saint Etienne would come up with, and Saint Etienne know their pop. (Ok, yes I realise that Bob, Pete and Sarah have more or less used that title with their song Cool Kids Of Death – so no need to tweet me about it, thanks). Oh, and it has this lyric: “We don’t need to sit at the back of the bus, if we decide what’s cool,” which he sings in a slightly echoing vocal tone that reminds me of 80’s synth pop star Howard Jones (go ask your dad kids - he's the dude who made a song called What Is Love? that's better than the Haddaway one). 

3. Quite often a pop star in the making has already done a lot of the 'making' bit before they become a pop star, and since Kwaye first appeared on a bunch of blogs 2 years ago with a version of this song (not this one though, it’s not cool enough) the suggestion has to be that since that time there’s been a lot more ‘making’ and now he’s ready to deliver, or ‘impact’ or whatever it is the music industry calls it these days.

4. He’s got a fun back storey. Every pop star needs one of those. Apparently he got signed to LA’s Mind of Genius (Gallant, Zhu) after he got chatting to a taxi driver who asked him to play one of his songs. Then subsequently the driver introduced him to the founder of Mind of Genius who gave him the opportunity to release his music through his label. Although I am slightly confused that the reference to not sitting at the back of the bus in the song actually means don't use buses at all - use a taxi. But irrespective of this, it shows you what can happen if you talk to strangers rather than just staring at your phone all day.

5. Then there’s the music itself. That’s important as well, right? OK. Well, Cool Kids has an appealing soft-pop funkiness. File under soul, boogie and groove. It's a fine start.

Kwaye - Cool Kids (Video)

Friday, 24 March 2017

New Music: Introducing - Jesse Elvis

Sometimes in pop music it’s easy to forget that if the basics are good then your music will find an audience. I’d be very surprised if London’s Jesse Elvis doesn’t find that audience. 

First take his voice; warm, soulful and with some range. Then there’s the song. After putting out a number of mash ups and covers on You Tube, this debut proper is impeccable. Paint The Picture has the blues, the groove and a sense of smooth calm that gets under the skin. 

Then there’s the video. I must have watched it fifty times today. The concept is so simple, but it works. A one take, slow motion, reversed piece set in an old industrial yard with fireworks, coloured smoke and paint, it’s bewitching in its simplicity.

Signed to Radio 1/1Xtra DJ, Charlie Sloth’s label, Grimey Limey, Jesse has been making music from a young age, sucking up influences such as Little Richard, Elvis, Notorious B.I.G, DMX and Aaliyah and is also influenced by jungle, grime and garage. 

This is pretty special. Time to take notice of Jesse Elvis.

Jesse Elvis - Paint The Picture (Video)

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

New Music: Introducing - Semi-Attractive Boy

Here we go again.

It’s another potential pop star in the bath. I don’t know about you, but they’re actually starting to make me angry. Do these people really think they’re being original and quirky? Have they not seen how many other pop stars are doing it? Or is it something that to join the musicians’ union you have to do to get your card? Can someone please explain? (Note: I have actually found someone who can explain, but I'm keeping that for another day. Soon.)

OK…breathe deeply…..count to 10…..

At least this guy has taken a different slant on the bath thing. He’s posing with a half-eaten burger and his is full of sweets. He’s almost beaten Mariah Carey to the award of most bonkers bath promo shot ever. Not quite, he’s a runner up, but that’s pretty good for someone just out of the box.

And….here’s the important bit. His debut single Her Heart Isn’t Beating For Me is an odd masterpiece of a pop song which when I hear it makes me think of Mika, Ben Folds Five, bright rainbows painted by a child, too many shots in a bar, Andy Warhol, lost romances and the idea that music can be so much more than your standard Spotify playlist by numbers tune written by committee. 

Yes, Her Heart Isn’t Beating For Me is a trashily deranged piece of pop brilliance. His name's good as well. Semi-Attractive Boy. It's half arrogant, half bashful. I like that.

He is also known as Baker Wallis. He's from Los Angeles. Apparently, he was diagnosed with Tourette’s at the age of nine, which got him thrown out of church. That’s probably the fact that every blog that writes about him will tell you. Most of them will ignore the bath pic though, maybe because every musician is doing it.

Semi-Attractive Boy - Her Heart Isn't Beating For Me

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition 2017 Longlist Announced

Once again Glastonbury Festival asked me to act as one of the judges for the first round of their Emerging Talent Competition as I have done every year since 2011. The judging panel consists of music writers from across the UK and their job is to whittle the thousands of entries down to a manageable long list of artists who are put forward to a further round of judging which is carried out by a different panel, including the festival organisers. 

The long list always throws up a lot of good quality and today that list has been announced. You can find the artists the judges have selected by clicking through to the website here

8 of these acts will make it onto the shortlist and will be asked to compete in a live final in April, the winning artist or band getting a slot on a main stage at the festival and £5,000 from PRS to help develop their music and take it to the next level. Two runners-up will also each be awarded a £2,500 PRS Foundation Talent Development prize. For the last few years all 8 finalists have been invited to play a slot at the festival. 

Previous finalists have included Izzy Bizu, Declan McKenna, Stornoway, The Subways and the 2016 winners She Drew The Gun. Looking at previous longlists acts like Marika Hackman, Circa Waves, Slaves and Fickle Friends have all made the final 120 whilst unsigned, even though they didn’t get to the last 8. 

The three acts I chose for the longlist this year were Cardiff based brassy and funky hip-hop collective Afro Cluster (who actually made the longlist in 2013 and have already played the BBC Introducing Stage at the Festival, but they’re so good that it would be a crime not to give them another chance based on their entry submission this year), the idiosyncratic Irish pop duo Æ MAK and Manchester indie band AFFAIRS. Take a listen to all three below. I'm also really pleased to see quite a few unsigned acts that I've written about on the blog make their way through to the longlist including acts local to me such as Temples of Youth and Minque as well as ones further afield such as Bokito, Paradisia and Joy Crookes.

Afro Cluster


AFFAIRS - Life Of Leisure

Being A 'Music Parent' - Part 2 - Festivals With Kids

A post in which I waffle about some of my experiences of taking my kids to music festivals from when they were babies to now almost adults and why I think it’s been worth it…....

There’s already a multitude of articles about going to festivals with kids and tips for ‘surviving’ the experience, as well as a few about why festivals are no place for children (this one from the Guardian particularly makes me laugh – the author seems mainly concerned about her own lack of sleep).

Let’s be clear about this. I’m all for taking kids to certain music festivals; but which ones depends upon the age of the children. I wouldn’t take a 6-year-old to Reading, but I would a 16-year-old. Although in reality a 16-year-old would much rather go with their friends than their parents – hanging around with mum and dad at Reading would just be so uncool.

I also believe that not all children should be taken to a music festival. As a parent, you know your kids and how they behave. You also know yourself and how as a family you all deal with situations that are potentially outside of your comfort zones. You are therefore best judged to make the decision if going to a music festival is a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ thing to do. Nobody else can make that judgement better – just you.

I went to my first festival (Isle of Wight 1970) when I was 1 year old. Yes, it was the 70’s and yes my parents were hippies. I have a photo of me sitting in my pram looking out over the crowds. Apparently I cried when Jimi Hendrix played. It's OK, it hasn’t mentally scarred me. 

My kids went to their first festival when they were 2 and a half and four months old respectively. It was Guilfest – a relatively small to medium sized family friendly affair in a well to do part of Surrey, with a decent size kids area, clean toilets and the benefit of a lido and park next door to the site if it all get a too much. Both myself and my partner were also relatively experienced festival goers – our eldest child went to Glastonbury in the mud whilst in the womb and we’d already taken the kids camping before the festival, so we were reasonably confident about what we were doing.

However, things got off to a bit of an unpredictable start. Having arrived at the site and pitched our tent (the kids slept through all of that) I went to change our eldest’s nappy, only to discover a bunch of odd spots on her belly – chickenpox! Thankfully one of the reasons we’d chosen Guilfest was that the grandparents lived 25 miles away and had agreed to be ‘back up babysitters’ if it all went wrong. So, with one ill child deposited with them, my partner and I guiltily enjoyed Guilfest with the youngest sleeping her way through the vast majority of it in a baby carrier. 

Since that time my kids have grown up with festivals. What we’ve chosen to attend as a family has changed over the years as the children have grown up and want different things. Before they could walk or talk it made very little difference what event they went to. So, at any early age we took them to Glastonbury. 

Isobel, my eldest, has only a memory of getting her face painted as a rabbit in the Kids Field, whilst her sister Connie has some vague recollections of a dancing sun on stage during The Flaming Lips set. She was 15 when she saw the mighty Lips again in our home city of Portsmouth, where they brought huge balloons stating 'Fuck Yeah Portsmouth' onto stage. Probably not particularly 'family friendly' language, but it's nothing worse than what she hears in the playground every day. Back to Glastonbury though and my own striking memory is leaving on Monday morning at 3am as it started to rain, managing to take the tent down in the dark with the children still asleep, and transporting them back to the car without them being aware of what was happening. Oh yeah, I saw Radiohead, REM and Bodger and Badger as well. That was good. 

We also did Blissfields when it was 400 capacity, Wychwood with just dad and the kids whilst mum stayed at home for a rest and Leicester’s Summer Sundae (RIP) which had a fantastically quiet family campsite, with super nice stewards and virtually queue free showers plus the benefit of an indoor venue with comfy seats upstairs on the balcony which the kids could have a nap on when they got tired -and so did mum once – to the amusement of the children. Comfort becomes more important as you get older.

As they became toddlers and then primary school age, small intimate events with some activities for children worked best. As they got older, festivals like Camp Bestival with its huge wonderland of a kids area and the likes of Dick & Dom on the main stages in addition to the music provided something that worked for all of us, but eventually they began to outgrow the truly ‘family friendly’ events. The term ‘family friendly’ is often a misused one, implying that families are only such if you have kids under 12. Curiously I’d like to go back to Camp Bestival without the kids, just to experience it from a non-family perspective. Maybe next year? 

Now at 16 and 18 both daughters really want to see the music more than anything else and this year we’re hitting Latitude as a family; with the eldest having already been twice just with dad, which in 2015 she described as ‘the best festival I’ve ever been to’. I have to agree. It was something pretty special for me as well, to experience what was a mind-blowing weekend with one of the 3 favourite people in my world. 

Isobel (now 18) has been to over 30 festivals in her young life and last year went to her first without mum and dad (Reading). This year she's going to Truck Festival with friends. With all the experience we’ve given her over the years I was confident that she was well equipped with whatever it threw at her. She knew what to do in an emergency and I knew that the most important thing was for her to just get on with it and enjoy herself and as a group, look after each other. She came back relatively intact compared to some of her mates. I felt a bit of pride at that – I’m very much of the ‘make it up as you go along’ school of parenting, but that felt like a success. 

For us, our family festivals are just another part of our lives. One that brings excitement, magic, fun and a time for us all to be together away from the pressures of the modern world. This year with one daughter doing GCSE’s, the other A Levels, my partner just finishing from chemotherapy to treat her cancer and my day job being subject to a period of change that I don’t fully support it feels that these moments of escapism are more important than ever.

Of course, having attended so many festivals (I’ve been to over 80) there are always going to be a few lows. Thankfully apart from the chicken pox incident any other dramas I’ve experienced at festivals have been non-child related: receiving a phone call saying that my partners mother had died whilst we were at Camp Bestival, being taken ill through food poisoning at Bestival and losing my car keys at Latitude are all memorable festival f*ck up moments. But apart from those isolated bad times they’ve generally been full of glorious highs and with my children now reaching adulthood, I’m confident that they wouldn’t have changed the way we’ve done things. 

Whenever I’ve asked them if they’d like to go to another festival, they’ve always said yes. I think that shows, that given the right attitude and choosing the right events, taking kids to festivals is a very positive thing to do - our family thrives on them.

Part 1 of Being A 'Music Parent' deals with the assumption that your music taste turns into a mess when you become a mum or dad and can be found by clicking this link here.