Friday 25 December 2009

Happy Christmas

If you are reading this post on Christmas day then we thank you for your absolute dedication in coming here.

We wish you a very happy festive season and we'll be back in the new year for lots of new music, discussions and reviews. Now go and grab a glass of sherry and stop being such a humbug sitting at a computer or checking your mobile device. There's a world of real people out there you know.

Thursday 24 December 2009

Blogger Poll : British Albums Of The Decade

Phew, once more today we’ve broken our own rules and posted more than one blog. Here is our final one before Christmas as we get ready to close until January 1st.

The rather good Faded Glamour blog recently got twenty or so British bloggers together in a virtual way to vote for their favourite three British albums of the decade. Breaking More Waves cast its vote for three diverse recordings. We chose one from each of three of our favourite genres - Contemporary Rock, Folk and Pop. One of our choices came in 5th.

You can see the Blogger Poll: British Albums of the Decade top ten at Faded Glamour here and read commentaries by some of the bloggers, including ourselves. All of the bloggers choices with blurbs can be found here . We have a strong suspicion that one of our choices (from the pop world) will be met with snorts of derision, but we’ve hopefully provided a valid argument as to why it should be included as a choice. The argument has been edited on the Faded Glamour site due to space, so instead here is our full explanation that we wrote to Faded Glamour of why we chose Girls Aloud and Chemistry as one of our albums of the decade:

It seems to us that with the hundreds of end of decade lists that are currently floating around, pop music is getting short changed. Now of course there’s a reason for this. Pop music is very NOW (that’s why the Now That’s What I Call Music Compilations are so cleverly named) and ultimately its bubblegum stylings are meant to be disposable. It is for these reasons that serious rock critics don’t nominate pop acts for such lists. They are long since forgotten. Yet go to any wedding or a retro bar or club and the sounds you are likely to hear are not the sounds of the greatest albums of the decade, but pop music. Think Abba Dancing Queen or Kylie Minogue’s Can’t Get You Out Of My Head (one of the greatest singles of this decade). We think therefore it is important to remember the importance of pop music in our culture and celebrate its resonance to the masses.

The noughties have been the decade of reality TV. From Big Brother to X Factor you simply cannot get away from it. And near the start of the decade Popstars : The Rivals created Girls Aloud. Of course it is easy to mock Girls Aloud, but here’s a funny thing - Chemistry is actually a dizzyingly great pop album. It’s full of great electro pop production and big hooks, with lead single Biology having about ten of them. With Chemistry Girls Aloud did the unthinkable and produced something for those who were prepared to listen with open ears that was sassy, fun, sexy and packed full of brilliant tunes. It wasn’t meant for the dustbin.

The Middle East - Blood

It may only be December but heads are already turning to March 2010 and the South by Southwest Festival. One act who will be appearing there are the Australian band The Middle East who are due to release their debut UK EP through Chess Club later next month. The EP is already out in the USA and Canada under the title The Recordings of the Middle East and the song that is currently grabbing our attention is Blood. With soft vocals and finger-plucked guitar that travel in an unhurried flowing arrangement, the piece gradually grows as tributaries of piano, xylophone and a children’s choir naturally drift in before the track gently floats back to the ground like a soft billowing parachute. For those who possess Grizzy Bear, M.Ward, Fleet Foxes, and even Arcade Fire in their collection The Middle East could certainly be another band to investigate. Blood sits very comfortably in the alt.folk camp and builds an organic home there.

We’re not sure if the geographical name of the band hangs well with the title of the song, but maybe we are being just a little too sensitive, rather like BBC Radio 1 in the past when they banned the name Massive Attack and forced the group to become simply Massive for a while. Apparently The Middle East split up once, but we’re glad they saw sense and decided to continue. Here's the simply animated video for Blood.

Kylie Minogue - I Should Be So Lucky - Guilty Pleasure #2

“In my imagination there is no complication, I dream about you all the time.” So starts the words of one of the greatest pop songs of the late eighties - I Should Be So Lucky by Kylie Minogue

When we last wrote about a guilty pleasure (see here) we suggested that many such delights are one hit wonders. Far from it with Kylie Minogue. Not only has she had hit after hit but she went on to produce one of the greatest pop songs and videos of this decade in Can’t Get You Out Of My Head. We wrote about this song for another blog (here). Can’t Get You Out Of My Head was no guilty pleasure though. It was a classic piece of throbbing robot pop. I Should Be So Lucky however has a big whiff of mature cheddar about it that was served up with a musical toast by three pop waiters who dominated the charts in the back end of the eighties. Stock Aitken and Waterman allegedly wrote the song in forty minutes and then recorded it with Kylie an hour. It went on to be a worldwide hit, topping the charts in Australia, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Switzerland and the UK, where it was the third biggest selling single of the year.

Stock, Aitken and Waterman are one of the most successful song writing and producing teams of all time, having scored over one hundred UK top forty singles. It can also be argued that they have produced some of the greatest guilty pleasures known to man. Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astely, You Spin Me Round (Like A Record) by Dead Or Alive, Too Many Broken Hearts by Jason Donovan, and Venus by Bananarama were all conceived by these three pop dukes. Their template was simple - high energy dance synth pop that sounded good in mainstream clubs and on the radio, with a production line output. It worked time after time.

Stock Aitken and Waterman were the springboard for Kylie Minogue in the UK. Her first splash came with this song. Years later however, in a vastly different form, I Should Be So Lucky showed that it has longevity as a song, that Kylie Minogue is a performer of the highest order and that Kylie is a far far sexier performer than the firework nipple spouting Lady Ga Ga or the whoops I've just shown my minge Britney Spears. (See video below). Kylie we salute you. Hardly a guilty pleasure at all really.

Editors - You Don't Know Love

Back in October we called Editors third album In This Light And On This Evening a mixed bag. (Review here) It seems our opinion was higher than most, the album generally receiving lukewarm to poor reviews. The hard copy version of the NME listed it in their Top 10 worst albums of the year. However, out of the mixed bag we found there were three particularly good songs. The first Papillon has already been a single, the second In This Light And On This Morning is a great opener but not really radio friendly, and the third is You Don’t Know Love. It therefore comes as no surprise to see You Don’t Know Love released as the second single from the album, towards the end of January. Remixes of the track have been completed by Rob Da Bank, Tom Middleton and Caged Baby.

Formed around two repeated riffs, one from a synth and one from a guitar (yes the rumours of Editors going fully electronic are somewhat exaggerated) You Don’t Know Love finds lead Tom Smith bringing dark lyrics about running with the dead through cemeteries, but don’t expect any Michael Jackson thriller type dancing from the band. Instead the video, shot by Christopher Boyle, features what looks like a thinner Guy Garvey from Elbow look-a-like conjuring up acrobatic, twirling, whirling and hair unfurling fighting / dancing with a young goth lass, whilst the band play in a cupboard. There’s probably some great artistic statement behind it, but we’re damned if we can explain it.

Incidentally, if you can afford it and it is still available, may we recommend the bonus disc version of the Editors album with the additional CD Cuttings II - which in places is better than the main album - although maybe if the reviews got it right, that probably wasn’t that hard.

Editors - You Don't Know Love

EDITORS | MySpace Music Videos

X Factor vs. Rage + Chart Relevance

Well Christmas is upon us and we’re about to shut down the hatches on this blog until January 1st. But before that we thought we had better close with some sort of comment on the whole X Factor vs. Rage phenomenon, although we’ve been very reluctant to post on the issue, partly because we don’t have anything new to add to the heaps of internet debate that already exists, and partly because neither song particularly interests or excites us in any way. So we apologise, but this blog is very much a waffle about nothing in particular and loosely concerns itself with the whole campaign for The Climb, Killing In The Name Of, the pop charts and the relevance of these things in culture. It’s another one of our discursive blogs that probably sees our own selves asking questions of our own views without really giving the answers. Kind of.

So whilst neither of the two songs that fought for no.1 engages us on a personal level (we haven’t purchased any singles at all this week) what does interest us is that the Rage Against The Machine campaign has provided some justification to the argument that the UK Top 40 singles (and albums) chart is still relevant, even in the wired web world we live in. The chart has a few detractors - back in 2007 for example HMV declared that they would no longer sell singles based on the UK Top 40, as it wasn’t relevant to the way they sold music. But are the charts culturally still relevant ? Let us explain our thinking.

For sure, the singles and album charts may not be the defining beacon they once were, but it cannot be denied that people are once more talking about the charts and the importance of a number one single. At this moment, at this time, it still means something to a significant number in this country – sales figures show that more than 500,000 copies of the Rage single have been purchased following the campaign to stop the X Factor single getting to number one. In broad terms what people are buying is what is popular at that moment in time, and there is a strong argument for something that is both popular and crosses cultural boundaries being culturally relevant. The fact that the number one single and the charts are being discussed in all aspects of the media and by the public provides evidence of that crossing of boundaries and that relevance. People of all types, from fans of the blandness of X Factor to rock kids supporting Rage have reconnected with the charts - this ‘battle’ has spoken to a large number of people. Like it or not it’s engaged a significant proportion of the UK.

So let’s state this clearly now – as a fan of the pop charts from back in the eighties when all of our peer group would sit with a cassette recorder and record the whole of the Top 40 to listen again to during the week, skipping the songs we disliked (Spandau Ballet, Level 42, Rick Astley) and playing over and over our favourites (The Cure, OMD, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Human League) we’re excited that people are talking about the charts. Even if we couldn’t care for the songs they are talking about.

So if the charts are culturally relevant at this moment in time, are they relevant all the time? Are they are a barometer of what is truly connecting with people?

The rise of the internet has fogged the issue somewhat, but improved it in other ways. For example when an artist gives out a single for free download it doesn’t count for the charts. So, such a song may be hugely popular, even inspirational to people, but it will not register as a hit on the charts. Likewise the multitude of new ways that people consume music be it through Last FM, Spotify, illegal downloads or other means may lead to a song being highly listened to, engaging people, affecting lives, but not appearing in the UK Top 40.

However the internet has also improved the charts in terms of being an accurate representation of what people want to buy rather than what they are able to buy. Whereas previously singles and albums were only available to buy in a physical format, incurring costs in distribution, storage and production for retailers and producers, when sales began to drop record companies would delete the recording from its catalogue ensuring that once the product sold out, no more were available. With the internet however, as no costs are incurred, any album or single can remain available for purchase indefinitely. This can change the charts. For example The Kings Of Leon single Sex On Fire remained in the charts months and months after it was released. For better or worse the song has become a culturally popular landmark, gaining greater significance through long term chart position due to internet sales.

Of course when we talk about cultural relevance in relation to contemporary music, there is a school of thought that suggests that only youth culture creates and consumes the music that defines our age and connects. However, attempting to quantify the demographic range of those purchasing, consuming and engaging with music today is fraught with difficulties, and we need to be careful with generalisations. For instance this blog is not written by some hip young urbanite, but someone who has reached a middle age, yet we hope that at least some of the artists we have talked about are relevant to those who are much younger than its writer. If blogs are part of current music culture, does this blog become redundant by pure virtue of the age of the writer? We would suggest (or at least hope) not. It is more to do with if readers receive and connect with the content of the blog.

This year one of the albums that has engaged the country the most, like it or not is the debut from Susan Boyle. We have already talked about the power of the grey pound in terms of purchasing power here and why the older generation has significantly influenced the chart. Is Susan Boyle, a 48 year old singer who appeared on Britain’s Got Talent culturally relevant? Are Rage Against The Machine a band whose current number 1 single was first released 18 years ago culturally relevant in 2009? What about Jay-Z? Robbie Williams? The XX? Animal Collective? Diplo? Are these acts culturally relevant? We can argue yes or no until the cows come home, but the charts help us give some evidence.

Measuring the true popularity of a song is now virtually impossible. Measuring cultural relevance over anything but a snapshot of time is even harder. What is fashionable and popular today may seem resolutely irrelevant tomorrow. However the UK Top 40 charts remain one of the best tools we have to assist us in quantifying cultural relevance of the moment.

Ultimately if something is of cultural relevance is probably not important to us as individuals, most of us just like certain music, irrespective of its position in culture. Looking on a larger scale however, the cultural relevance of a song helps to form and shape our society now and in the future. Just like Bob Dylans The Times They Are Changin’ did in the 60’s or The Clash influenced in the 70’s, the Rage vs. X-Factor chart battle may have, in a small way, done exactly that at the end of the 00’s. This is why the charts are important.

Happy Christmas. See you next year. Here's one of our favourite Christmas tunes that always lifts us and energises us, with a belter of a vocal. Take it away Darlene.....

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Race Horses - New Waves @ Breaking More Waves

Welsh band Race Horses are an experimental guitar pop four piece that used to be called Radio Luxembourg, but have now settled with a new hoofed up name. They consist of Meilyr Jones, Alun Gaffet, Dylan Hughes and Gwion Llewelyn. Their Myspace page may describe their sound as ‘Bagpipes in the supermarket / Elvis on a comedown’ but the reality is that Race Horses sound like they’ve been sitting in an attic, smoking some slightly dodgy cigarettes and listening to classic psychedelic sixties garage pop bands. Wacky and off-beat in their nature, we hear influences of The Byrds, Syd Barrett and the Super Furry Animals in their music.

The band have so far released three singles, Cake, the welsh language Glo Ac Oren and the Man In My Mind EP which Steve Lamacq picked up on BBC 6 Music under his New Favourite Band feature earlier this month. The lead track of the EP bundles over itself with chugging exubberant guitar based energy, arms aloft lad chanting and moments when the whole song appears to trip over and tumble into a forward roll down the stairs. The group have recorded an album called Goodbye Falkenburg which the band claim is loosely based on the memories of an imaginary German seaman who on his deathbed contemplates his life and the way the world will be in the future. It is of course wrong to stereo type bands just on the basis of their homeland but it does seem that these groovy Welsh boys share a kindred spirit with both Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci and the aforementioned Super Furry Animals in producing carefree out there ideas that are not influenced by the here and now. Here's Man In My Mind.

Tuesday 22 December 2009

Active Child - New Waves @ Breaking More Waves

Take some harps, washes of ethereal synth, falsetto vocals and out of it create some highly crafted pieces from the mellow pop idiom. This is what Active Child from Los Angeles does. It’s as if Bon Iver left his acoustic guitar in his log cabin and created a new wave electronic suite of chamber-like beauty that lays somewhere between the sonic architecture of Ultravox’s Vienna and OMD’s Joan Of Arc (Maid Of Orleans)

Active Child is one Pat Grossi and he has a body of songs that bubble through your brain and cleanse your life. Take the almost ethereal I’m In Your Church At Night (song below) which was inspired by a time when Pat and some friends crept into a ruined church in Perugia, Italy and found themselves surrounded by debris, dirt and sarcophagi. Then there’s When Your Love Is Safe which comes across like a mellow Passion Pit jam that slowly seeps around your brain caressing it with its slow electro handclap pulse. Our favourite is She Was A Vision, where Grossi forms his own ghostly choir and haunted lonely beauty out of a soft keyboard ambience. There’s a certain sprawling haziness to the work of Active Child that reminds us a little of Washed Out who we featured back in November here and it therefore comes as no surprise to find that both of these two acts are brought to you by Transparent. Connection made.

She Was A Vision will be released by Active Child in January as a single on pure white vinyl. You can pre-order it here.

Monday 21 December 2009

Best Albums Of 2009

Excuse us for breaking our own rules again, but we're sneaking in two blogs today, of which this is the second. Over the last ten days we have posted our top ten albums of the year. Some of these crop up on virtually every critics / publications / bloggers list ( The XX and Fuck Buttons in particular). Others seem to be pretty unique to us (Lucky Elephant, The Unthanks, Blue Roses). That’s personal taste for you.

Here’s a summary of those albums.

1. Blue Roses - Blue Roses
2. The XX - XX
3. The Antlers - Hospice
4. Florence and the Machine - Lungs
5. La Roux - La Roux
6. Mumford and Sons - Sigh No More
7. Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport
8. The Unthanks - Here’s The Tender Coming
9. Lucky Elephant - Starsign Trampoline
10. The Horrors - Primary Colours

You can read individual blogs on each record in the previous ten posts.

We've rather arrogantly called this list the Best Albums of 2009, but that of course is only our opinion. Maybe the list should have been described as Breaking More Waves Blog Favourite Albums Of The Year. This would have been more accurate. For who are we, or for that matter anyone, to say what really is the best ? We've noticed on a number of other albums of the year polls / threads / articles how passionate and often angry people are when a particular album doesn't make the Top 10 / 50 in a particular list. The number of comments we have read that are along the lines of "You are wrong because you didn't pick so and so, my favourite album, in your list." Or even worse "Call yourself a critic / journalist / blogger and you haven't picked my favourite album. You don't know what you're talking about and should be embarrassed for yourself."

Frankly we find these types of comments a little ridiculous. Music is a vast and wonderful thing, and there is always going to be someone who disagrees with a particular choice. To these people we say, lighten up and get over it. Just because someone has different tastes from you doesn't devalue or increase the value and listening pleasure of a particular album for you as the listener does it ? Our favourite Blue Roses by Blue Roses may not have appeared in any end of year lists (except The Fly who put it in their mid 30's) but for us it is still musical perfection. No end of year list will change our opinion on that, but we're not going to get angry that it didn't appear on any other lists. It would be like getting angry because not every man in the country fancies our girlfriend.

So we are done with lists till next year. We are suffering from list overload, so let’s get back to business as usual until Christmas with just a few more blogs, the first of which we will post tommorow at our standard time of just gone midnight.

Then once Christmas is here, we will take a short break and start reposting from January 1st. Next year is already shaping up to be a good one. Just in the first couple of months there are new releases from Midlake, Delphic, Los Campesinos, Vampire Weekend, First Aid Kit, Hot Chip, Yeasayer, The Tindersticks, The Dawn Chorus, Massive Attack, Marina and the Diamonds as well as gigs by a number of the acts we listed on our Ones To Watch list including Ellie Goulding, Delphic, Mirrors, Hurts, Stornoway and Beth Jeans Houghton.

See you down the front.

Blue Roses - Blue Roses - Album of the Year #1

It seems appropriate that on the 1st January 2009 we posted an article here at Breaking More Waves introducing the music of Blue Roses and by December we are naming the same act as our album of the year. Blue Roses has retained a significant presence on our stereo through the whole of 2009 since spring and will do so for many years to come, such is the timeless nature of the recording.

Laura Groves from Shipley, near Bradford, effectively is Blue Roses, although the project has encompassed a variety of other musicians to help her form this wonderfully layered piece. Recorded in living rooms, bedrooms, bathrooms and a piano shop after hours, it is an album of sublime musical depth that casts magical soft hued spells on its listener. With a sound that verges from classical piano on Greatest Thoughts to softly spun acoustic guitar on Can’t Sleep, it is a record that in a year that was lazily heralded as that of the synth pop girls, only shares a similarity in the tag that Laura is female. This is not an album of instant pop thrills, it does not contain colourful quirkiness and it certainly isn’t an in-fashion album. It is an album that comes from a very personal perspective, focussing on relationships, experiences and how Laura’s surroundings were linked to them. These themes are carried by Laura’s Kate Bush meets Joanna Newsom choir girl voice and natural organic musicianship.

We have often said that talent doesn’t necessarily concern us. What matters to us if is a song, a record or a performance has an emotional connection in some way. With Blue Roses there is undiluted talent and a huge connection. This album will never grace the top forty, nor will Blue Roses will ever be a household name. It is the antithesis of every X Factor / Britain’s Got Talent TV show that exists, and for that matter Rage Against The Machine as well, and is all the more delightful for it.

The irony of this album being listed as our favourite of the year comes from the Blue Roses website. Here her biography states “Instant praise is neither expected nor sought; Blue Roses is not the stuff of lists, tip offs or hollow press recommendations.” Well, this is certainly no hollow recommendation, although it is at the top of a list, albeit from the ones we have seen, only ours. Blue Roses by Blue Roses is our album of the year. Quite simply an evocative and perfect recording - the sound of beauty.

Sunday 20 December 2009

The XX - XX - Album of the Year #2

Here are some words that describe the debut album from The XX. Beautiful, minimalist, understated, restrained, downbeat. It must be something that they put in the water at Elliot School comprehensive in Putney, because The XX step out from the same place of education as did Burial. Now of course Burial released the mighty Untrue, another record that was beautiful, minimalist, understated, restrained and downbeat. Yet The XX’s template is much more pop. In fact if the songs on this album weren’t so gorgeously lackadaisical we could imagine a group like the Sugababes or Girls Aloud covering one of them and having a big hit.

XX is a cohesive and sparse record that demonstrates that it is still possible to take something unique and hazily wonderful from the genre that is known as indie. The album is constructed from touches of darker new wave bands such as The Cure in the ghostly guitar sounds, electronic beats that avoid elaboration and the unembellished sultry tones of dual boy girl vocalists Romy and Oliver. The two of them claim they are not a couple, but sound perfectly matched for each other, trading lyrics concerning relationships making up and breaking up throughout the album in sultry, dulcet tones.

But despite the unique laid back atmosphere of this album, where the space between the notes matters as much as the notes themselves, what stands out are the songs. Gorgeous, sensual songs that make no grandiose attempt to grab the attention with big riffs and epic choruses. Instead The XX softly sneak into your bedroom, lift the covers and climb in without you even noticing until their arm is around you.

If you haven’t yet been seduced by The XX, do yourself a favour with any cash you receive this Christmas and buy this album.

Our original review is here.

Saturday 19 December 2009

The Antlers - Hospice - Album of the Year #3

In our original review of The Antlers Hospice (read it here) in September we said that it was “an extraordinary album that demands to be physically owned and consumed with your ears from start to finish.” At year end we find ourselves fully agreeing with what we said back then. Hospice is a profound and sonically dynamic album that gets better and better with every listen.

Hospice is by no means an easy listen musically or lyrically. It has central themes of death, abuse, attempted suicide, ghosts and hospital machinery combined with a dense often all consuming musical structure that is as harrowing as the lyrics. The moment when lead singer Peter Silberman screams “Sylvia, get your head out of the oven,” as a barrage of white guitar noise crashes and storms the ears is as euphoric as it is depressingly sad. This is why Hospice works - it’s an album that in weaker hands would have sounded trite and schoolboy sixth form, but under Silberman’s guidance is mighty, intense and full of heavy dark weight.

It is never clear if the lyrical narrative of Hospice is fictional or based on real events, loosely the record deals with the relationship between a patient and another, heading into memories of abuse before death, but ultimately its extent of truth doesn’t matter. The test of any album is in the listening experience and Hospice succeeds as a squalling, shimmering, wrenching, exploding thing of dramatic beauty.

The video below is not an official video but a collection of photos meticulously pieced together by fan Dan Sully. The content of the photos is absolutely stunning and capture the music perfectly. Take five minutes out of your daily life to soak up this beautiful piece of art and music.

Friday 18 December 2009

Florence And The Machine - Lungs - Album of the Year #4

When we put Florence and the Machine in our ones to watch list last year we complimented her crazed stage presence and bluesy shriek of a vocal, but suggested that she may be just a little too oddball for the mainstream. It seems that she wasn’t. Her debut album Lungs produced by Paul Epworth, James Ford and Steve Mackay managed to achieve both significant critical acclaim and commercial success, only being held off the top of the UK charts by the death of a certain Michael Jackson. Lungs is an album of exuberant dramatic songs delivered by an huge production that took elements of show stopping female singers such as Annie Lennox, Kate Bush and PJ Harvey and added Florences’s own pagan, tribal, mystical and slightly off beat personality to tracks such as Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) and Cosmic Love.

In 2009 Florence Welch has become a proper pop star and this is partly because of the fearless songs that feature on Lungs. From the raw indie punk and clattering crashing rhythms of Kiss With A Fist to the joyous gut punching vocal, handclaps and skipping piano of Between Two Lungs, we are talking massive here. Lungs is a cloudbursting album of harps, choirs and bells for which the word celestial was designed. It’s an exhaustingly extravagent recording that is not afraid to shout from the mountaintops how great it is. Thank you Florence, we’re glad you shouted and that people heard. It’s one of our albums of the year.

Thursday 17 December 2009

La Roux - La Roux - Album of the Year #5

It’s incredibly easy to be dismissive of La Roux . With Elly Jackson’s shrill voice, her fixation with 80’s synth sounds, her petulant frown, her sometimes naive and aggressive comments in interviews ( but surely better to have pop stars with personality rather than those who have had their personality sucked out of them by media training ?) and that haircut ( we can only assume Jedward were taking notes) La Roux were in danger of being considered a novelty act.

Yet at the end of 2009 the debut La Roux album is our favourite pop record of the year, beating all other contenders (Lady Ga Ga, Lily Allen, Little Boots) by a mile. The reason ? For exactly the same reason as we chose Mumford and Sons Sigh No More at number 6 in our list yesterday. Great songs. The evidence ? In For The Kill - a number 2 hit. Bulletproof - a number 1 hit. Sometimes the public get it right. Furthermore this success was achieved without a high profile X Factor campaign or a TV advert to sell the tunes. In For The Kill slowly climbed the charts over a number of weeks as the public heard the song, loved it and purchased it. Such slow burners don’t happen very often in these days where radio plays the singles weeks before release or campaigns push songs to the top straight away.

Of course two songs don’t make an album. But this is where La Roux conquers - the album is packed full of songs that could easily have been hit singles. Fascination with its driving synth riff and ridiculously hooky chorus. Tigerlily with its quirky synth harpsicord sound and punching tightly cut beats. As If By Magic with its softer early Depeche / Yazoo pop sound. The album may have been very narrow in its musical vision - every track referencing the Vince Clarke / Blancmange revival template, but the great songs tunnelled it through. Where La Roux goes next will be interesting to see. We’re pretty sure there will have to be some musical departures to keep the public interested - a second album of the same will purge this 80’s sound of any remaining audience affection, but in 2009 La Roux by La Roux stands atop our pop throne.


LA ROUX | MySpace Music Videos

Wednesday 16 December 2009

Mumford and Sons - Sigh No More - Album of the Year #6

October saw the release of two albums that have both made it into our year end top ten. Tarot Sport (see yesterday) was one and Sigh No More by Mumford and Sons is the other. Mumford and Sons are also the first of three artists that last year we named in our ones to watch for 2009 list who have produced debut recordings that feature in our album of the year list.

Of all of our favourite albums of this year Sigh No More is probably the most straightforward. It’s a collection of well crafted songs formed from a mix of bluegrass, folk, gospel and mainstream rock. It’s a strong and instant enough collection to appeal to those who own Kings Of Leon and Scouting For Girls CD’s, yet powerful and deep enough to appeal to those whose musical horizons stretch a little further than the mainstream. Mumford and Sons have put together a recording of majestic melodies that soar into peoples affections with ease. Each song on Sigh No More is neither fussy or complicated, but every one has elegant force. Such force is achieved through moments of lyrical tenderness, down-on-the-farm fireside warm gravel vocals and musical euphoric swells that are ably assisted by the production of Arcade Fire producer Markus Dravs. The mood is often painted with downbeat, reflective segments, but these are tempered with thumping banjo hoedowns and foot down on the accelerator rabble rousing stomps, albeit these stomps are always kept under a leash so as to never take over and destroy the atmosphere set.

If Sigh No More, through its significant airing of the singles Little Lion Man and Winter Winds on the radio has engaged new fans to this genre of music, then the world is a better place. If it hasn’t, then the world is still a better place for its existence. You just can’t keep a good song down.

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Fuck Buttons - Tarot Sport - Album of the Year #7

This is the scene. A dark nightclub basement of the future, strobe lights pulsing. The kids are wired. Sweat is dripping from the low black ceiling. Having it.

Then this tune begins. A twitching, soaring avant-garde piece of gibbering electronica that builds and builds into a colossal wall of sound. It’s a spontaneous audio orgasm, crashing, menacing and utterly delirious. Now everybody is off their faces. Strangers are having sex with each other. Men with women. Boys with girls. Boys with boys. Girls with girls. Everywhere. Wherever you look everyone has blissed out smiles on their ecstatic faces. This is Surf Solar. This is Fuck Buttons

Surf Solar is the lead track from Fuck Buttons second album Tarot Sport. It is worth buying the album purely for this ten minutes and thirty three seconds of cacophonous layered electronica. It’s the sound of the robot armageddon on acid. But this is an album of the year list and Tarot Sport by Fuck Buttons deserves its place at number seven not just because of one track.

Tarot Sport is an album that pushes musical boundaries a little. Whilst there are elements of shoe gaze, electronica, ambient and dance in what Fuck Buttons have produced, it forms a head trip genre all of its own. Tarot Sport is mind-bendingly out there. Every track is constructed to deliver you on a hypnotic, trance like journey. Be ready to immerse yourself.

An electronic post-rock masterpiece? Almost and very nearly. Let's go have sex.

Read our original review here.

Monday 14 December 2009

The Unthanks - Here's The Tender Coming - Album of the Year #8

With line up changes and sister Becky Unthank committing full time to the Northumbrian group, Rachel Unthank and the Winterset changed their name to just The Unthanks for their third album Here’s The Tender Coming. The follow up to their Mercury Prize nominated album The Bairns, Here’s The Tender Coming represents a warmer calmer feel compared to The Bairns, but is equally as good, and often as sad. As with previous recordings The Unthanks continued to tap into their local areas traditions, taking Northumbrian folk songs and tales passed down from previous generations, adding their own mark on the tunes.

The voices of Becky and Rachel remain the centrepiece of the music. Becky with a deeper breathy intonation, Rachel with a more girlish lighter pitch, their tones matching perfectly. The musicianship on every song is also exemplary, a rewarding mix of strings, piano, and guitars. The tunes the group have chosen for this album are fascinating. For example, the lyrics to The Testimony Of Patience Kershaw are the real words spoken by a 17 year old girl to the Royal Commission on Children’s Employment in 1842; the girl worked in the mines. The songs may initially not have the immediacy of the standout tracks from The Bairns, but as their steady sadness envelopes you they draw you back time and time again. One suspects this will be an album that we still listen to in twenty years time.

The Unthanks may be a relatively young band, but because of their traditional roots have not found themselves grouped in with the currently fashionable sounds of the new folk scene with groups such as Mumford and Sons, Noah and the Whale or Laura Marling. Having now recorded three albums of the highest quality The Unthanks can be proud to have created music that exists outside of any type of fashion. Here’s The Tender Coming is a timeless and captivating recording and deserves to hold a place in any folk music fans collection, old or young.

Sunday 13 December 2009

Lucky Elephant - Starsign Trampoline - Album of the Year #9

It is an inevitable fact that end of the year album lists will invariably be somewhat homogenous. If an artist has put out a great album it gives us faith in human ears if as a species we are collectively able to detect this greatness. The evidence is end of year lists showing some degree of consistency with each other. However our different make ups will mean that understandably some albums that are enthused about by some will be less loved by others.

Sometimes however wonderful albums just don’t quite get the exposure they deserve and are not therefore placed up for consideration at the end of the year. Starsign Trampoline by Lucky Elephant is one such album.

A beautiful treasure trove of organic, vintage sounds created from wurlitzers, melodicas, pianos, acoustic guitar, glockenspiel, and organs all topped off with the romantic sound of lead singer Manu’s wonderfully French accented nasal tones, Starsign Trampoline deserves a bigger audience than it has obtained. Every song on it is perfectly and tenderly crafted with real attention to detail. On this album you will find songs such as the melancholic The Pier where Manu laments the coming of the commercial tide to his seaside town and the destruction of its identity. Further on the dusky glowing chimes of the environmental Call It The End (The Beginning) sound sweetly sagacious as Manu sings “The iceberg is our ageing dreams, and if you let go don’t fight the windmills.” Starsign Trampoline also features a number of superb instrumentals - the cartoon like self titled Lucky Elephant, the laid back Burn Down The Acres and the restful and comforting When You Fall To Earth. These instrumentals are not mere filler, but key tracks in the albums construction.

Starsign Trampoline is an utterly charming album that earlier this year we compared to a summer evening. It works equally as well in the winter, such is its timeless quality. It’s our little secret, but we don’t mind if you tell the rest of the world.

Our original write up was here

Saturday 12 December 2009

The Horrors - Primary Colours - Album of the Year #10

The Horrors sophomore album saw the band cast away from their major record label deal into the garbage bin. But amongst the refuse were discarded vinyl copies of albums by My Bloody Valentine, Bauhaus, shoe gaze bands and post-punk art school rock. It was these reference points that were the bands escape from being taken to the incinerator. It gave The Horrors a new stimulating direction without being a step too far away from their debut recording Strange House. Primary Colours is a psychedelic, dirty and fuzzy mix of noise that whilst obviously referencing the past became a darkly glorious listen in the present. By the end of the year it had received a nomination for the Mercury music prize and was the NME's album of the year. It is self assured, exciting and sonically rewarding in its monochromatic haze.

Primary Colours is an empowered piece of rock music that celebrates the fact that not every over hyped indie band will fall at the second hurdle. Better than we could have ever had expected, Primary Colours brings the goth crown to our albums of the year list. Our original review can be found here.

Friday 11 December 2009

Albums of the Year 2009

With our Ones To Watch for 2010 complete, Breaking More Waves is about to take a Christmas break. We just have one more feature to roll, a look back at our top ten albums of the year, with one album published each day as we count down to our absolute favourite and number one. The concept of producing an albums of the year list and grading them in order of brilliance is somewhat ludicrous. After all how can one subjectively order ten great albums in a linear comparative ranking? The fact is we could have easily have chosen any of our Top 4 albums as our number 1, but to satisfy those who possess almost autistic tendencies, an ordered list is what we present. Unlike our ones to watch list which was simply a group of ten, this is a group of ten with a winner. Expect some obvious choices and a couple that you probably haven't seen on any other best albums of 2010 list.

Then after that expect just the odd blog until you see us back in January for more of the same. It’s been a good year musically and we’ve been energised by the nice comments we’ve had about the blog, the way our readership and subscription has grown, how we have been asked to guest write for other blogs, make the odd local radio appearance and were chosen to be one of the 'music tastemakers' voting in the BBC Sound of 2010 poll. Thank you for everyone who has taken the time out to read Breaking More Waves. There’s no point in writing it if nobody is reading.

This year we feel we’ve really firmed up our vision for what the blog is about, and to a greater extent what it isn't about. If you want free MP3’s then we suggest you look elsewhere, there are plenty of blogs that cater for you. If you want just one style of music then this also isn’t the blog for you. If you want a blog to name check and be one of the hip indie kids then this certainly isn’t the blog to check. If you like a blog that looks cool and isn’t just a standard Blogspot template this isn’t the blog for you. If you want a blog that simply posts up all the press releases, news ad reviews of freebies it receives with no real vision about what it stands for, then this isn't the blog for you. If you want artfully clever literate journalism then this isn’t the blog for you.

But if like us, you like reading all types of blogs and think that the variety of such internet publications is what makes the music blogosphere an exciting place - a place free from editorial and commercial demands - and just love music music music, then Breaking More Waves may be one of the blogs for you. To use a cliche, it really is all about the music.

Next year we’ll be bringing more live reviews, debating music related issues, writing about new acts that we believe are worth you giving some time to, reviewing albums and singles and expanding our new guilty pleasures series. We hope you visit often. Right, we will stop blowing our own trumpet now, and start giving the fanfare to those who in our opinion really deserve it.

It’s time to ready our albums of the year list. In reverse order, our favourite works of 2009. There's a fair deal of variation in this list, but what binds each of these recordings together is that they are all complete bodies of work created by artists that have excited us immensely in 2009. Get ready. Here from tomorrow come our albums of the year. Let us know what yours are.

Thursday 10 December 2009

BBC Sound Of 2010

This year Breaking More Waves blog was invited by the BBC to vote on the BBC Sound Of 2010 list, which was published earlier this week. Considering that the blog in this format has only been seriously operating for just over a year, this was a pretty big honour, effectively the BBC recognising Breaking More Waves as having some degree of expertise in new music. Of course when it comes to views on music, opinions are always going to be subjective, but it's nice to see that someone appreciates your views. It seems that this year the BBC asked a greater number of music blogs to participate in the voting, recognising the ever increasing value of the format in identifying and promoting new music. Of the blogs that voted, I can recommend every one of them, do check them out. The full list of voters is here.

One of the misconceptions about the BBC Sound Of list is that the voters are asked to pick who they think will be ‘the next big thing’ in the future year. Articles such as this written by the editor of Drowned In Sound, who is on the voting panel, bolster the misconception. Yet instructions issued to those who are entitled to vote from the BBC are very clear. They ask voters to vote for three new acts who they consider to be the best and most exciting new act, irrespective of record deal or marketing campaign. One also cannot vote for X Factor type contestants, soap stars, friends or relatives.

In fact there are many misconceptions about the BBC Sound of List. One only has to read some of the comments placed on the BBC’s ‘Have Your Say’ section of their website here since the publication of this years list to see this. The number of negative comments are startling, ranging from the totally blinkered to the uninformed. However amongst them it is good to see the odd ray of positivity such as Andy from Romsey who says "I must say I am astonished at the level of hostility on this board. Well OK, I did expect it from the any-music-since-1980-is-awful brigade, but all the criticism of the BBC and the record industry for "telling us what to think" seems ridiculous to me. No one forces you to look at the list!I for one greatly enjoy these lists each year, picked by people who know the industry inside-out, and find that I am introduced to some great new artists that I hadn't previously heard of. Well done BBC." Well said Andy.

Ultimately the BBC Sound Of list intends to promote what music ‘tastemakers’ (and we use the word tastemakers reservedly as we are not so egotistical to think that this blog forms peoples tastes, but hopefully it does push them onwards to explore some of the bands we feature) consider to be the best new music out there, irrespective of if it is the next big thing or not. If it fulfils that ideal is somewhat arguable. As Sean Adams of Drowned in Sound correctly identifies in his article we linked above, the list is nearly always full of acts who have major label backing, despite the request to consider artists irrespective of record deal. However look carefully at this years list and there a few artists who have not got such backing in the bag.

Of course the irony is that the artists who come top of the list, when the short list is published in the new year, are then more likely to become the ‘next big thing’, even if they weren’t before the list is published. However is that such a bad thing if a collective of individuals, who are considered supposed experts in their field have voted for the artists they really believe are the best. Maybe this is a good thing for great new music ? Well, that’s the theory anyway, and given that in the current climate where unless you’ve appeared on X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent your chance of gaining mainstream exposure is very limited, any chance to get your music heard has to be of some value. Doesn’t it ? Well possibly. For a relatively small indie act such as Everything Everything, getting a nomination on the list probably provides more exposure than they have ever had, and will lead to further bookings for shows and festivals for example. Of course over exposure can also lead to dangerous levels of expectation and cynicism. We have written before here about the dangers of expectation that the BBC Sound Of list can possibly create. However throwing cynicism aside, we would rather hear the likes of Stornoway and Marina and The Diamonds, both on this years long list on the radio than Jedward or Susan Boyle thank you very much. The BBC Sound Of list may not be perfect, but ultimately it is a good way of showcasing new acts to the public.

So having been asked to cast three votes, how did Breaking More Waves cast them? Our difficulty was there was almost too much choice. We could easily pick any of the acts on our Ones To Watch list and several others beside who didn’t qualify for our own list (such as the aforementioned Marina and the Diamonds) or acts that weren’t named in our Ones To Watch but were considered (Run Toto Run and The Cordelier Club for example).

But here’s the problem. If we chose a new unsigned act that we particularly like, unless that act has a chance of being voted for by others, then the Breaking More Waves vote is effectively wasted. It’s rather like voting for a minority party in the general election. You may be sticking to your principles, but if you are the only person to vote for that person then those principles will not choose the winner. This is where exposure becomes important, again. For an artist to stand a chance of being placed onto the BBC Sound of List and gain more visibility, they already need to have had significant exposure to the 100+ so called music tastemakers.

So, to ensure our vote wasn’t wasted we first considered artists who we like who we believed had a chance of getting on the list. So artists who have been building profiles through the media, have record deals in place, have been gigging constantly to build an audience, have created a buzz in the blogosphere or have already had success in other countries are all likely contenders. Any of these methods of increasing profile could put the artist in with a shout.

From this list we then chose two of our favourite acts that we thought could possibly get on the list, but would need every vote they could get to help them on. Effectively these were the acts that we considered to be the ‘borderline’ acts in terms of possible vote numbers. Using the election analogy if a particular seat was likely to be a close run thing between two political parties we voted for the party that were running the second in the polls. It may just help tip the balance. For our third choice we decided to take a different approach and choose an act that we believe represented the blogosphere and particularly the new music blogosphere, with significant blog buzz pushing them forward. It was an easy choice, particularly as it was an act that we fully expected to be on the Sound of 2010 list. It was a case of backing a favourite that we loved and hopefully cementing what we fully expected anyway. Of the three acts we chose, one is signed to a major label, whilst the other two were as far as we were aware at the time of voting unsigned, but very close to getting deals.

And then the long list was revealed. Of our three choices, two had made it. The favourite was of course there, as to our delight was one of the other artists we had voted for. Of the fifteen acts that appear on the BBC Sound of 2010 list, four of them also feature on our own Ones To Watch List. So who did we vote for ? Ah we seem to have forgotten to mention that. Well, if you read our own Ones To Watch list, you should be able to hazard a pretty good guess ! Our choices were Ellie Goulding (the favourite), Stornoway (the dark horse who made it on) and Unicorn Kid (who didn't make it ).

Since the list has been announced Ellie Goulding has now gone on to be announced as the winner of this years Brits Critics Award as well, so expect to hear plenty of Ellie on the radio next year. Of course there's always the chance of backlash against artists such as Ellie Goulding as the UK's passion for cynicism creeps in, but as lovers of new music such cynicism is largely not part of our agenda. It takes only a few easy minutes to write some harsh negative words on the internet, but it takes artistic skill and months or years of hard work to get the exposure the artists on the BBC Sound Of 2010 list get. We celebrate this and look forward to seeing how the Sound Of 2010 develop as the year progresses. Certainly this years list is pretty diverse, and with no overarching style or obvious star leaping out unlike 2009 where Florence, La Roux, Little Boots and Lady Gaga dominated the nominations, it looks like it could be an interesting year for new music.

The Magic Of Christmas

Today we are breaking all of our own self imposed rules. At Breaking More Waves we adhere to a strict one blog a day policy, ensuring that we do not over deluge those who subscribe to our humble interweb publication.

However if you are a subscriber you may have noticed that right now things have changed. There have already been two blogs, this is the third and there is one more to come. The reason ? Quite simply, we have a lot to cram in this side of Christmas and it isn’t all going to fit unless we break the rules. So apologies, but we think it’s worth it.

And talking of Christmas, it’s about time we brought some festive cheer. So here is our favourite Christmas tune of the year, no question. Any song that starts with the line “Daddy, what’s this ? It’s a Christmas song. But it sounds just like any other Christmas song. Well, that’s the magic of Christmas,” is going to be our Christmas number one. Featuring an all star line up of your favourite indie pop pin ups from James Yuill (Shouldn’t he be James Yule for this?) to an ill Rebecca from Slow Club, The Magic Of Christmas is like a twee Band Aid for the kids in the know. We’re just loving the Christmas jumpers. Fantastic. There’s even a website for you.

Watch this and then go and kiss someone under the mistletoe. Christmas starts here.

We’ll be back again in another six hours with our final blog of the day, concerning the BBC Sound of 2010 list and our involvement in it, before we gear ourselves up for our big run down of our albums of the year.

Happy (early) Christmas from Breaking More Waves.

Ones To Watch 2010 - A Word Of Caution

A word of caution.

Over the last ten days we’ve published our ones to watch. If you've missed them have a look back over the last ten posts on the blog. Some of them we think are viable commercial propositions, others aren’t but we believe are worthy of your attention.

But here’s the caution. It is getting harder and harder for new artists. For a major record label in this digital age there is so much ambiguity around the return on investment on a new artist that companies are signing less and less new acts. With a few notable exceptions (Florence and the Machine, Lady Gaga) a safer bet is to exploit the market with existing records from established bands and performers. The grey pound is still being spent.

Today’s younger generation have a growing expectation to be able to access music for free, whereas those of an older generation are still purchasing physical copies of albums. The evidence? Barbara Steisand’s 63rd album went to number 1 this year, last year Neil Diamond topped the charts for the first time in decades, Shirley Bassey has found herself back in the UK album best sellers as did The Carpenters, Rod Stewart and the 92 year old Vera Lynn became the oldest living artist to top the UK charts.

Increasingly major record labels are playing it safe. Why spend thousands of pounds trying to establish an act when less can be spent on an established older act to earn more? Of course in the long term it is short sighted, because where are the big artists of tomorrow going to come from? Or will the record industry just keep recycling Beatles albums forever and a day?

This is the caution. Unless something fundamentally changes the record industry could die out in a generation. Maybe you don’t think that is important. If that’s the case then have a read of a previous blog we wrote here which explains why we believe record labels and the industry they come from still have a fundamental role to play.

The chances for any new artist to earn a living through their art are becoming slimmer and slimmer. Something has to change. The question is, how?

Clock Opera - Ones To Watch 2010 #10

Our final addition to our ones to watch list is Clock Opera. Currently unsigned, Clock Opera are one of the most inventive bands doing the rounds. Formed from the song writing nuance of one Guy Connelly they have already created the most wondrous and joyous Once And For All, an electronically spliced, arms wide open, laptop symphony that is one of Breaking More Waves most played songs of the last sixth months. It just screams out to be released as a single.

But Clock Opera’s self titled ‘chop pop’, which Guy describes as “Record something quickly. Guitar or piano or whatever‘s lying around. Don‘t stress about quality. Chop into tiny pieces. Reconstruct. Hit whatever is near. Wail nonsense. Write words. Re-write words. Trim. Mix. Play,” has more to offer than just one song. Debut single White Noise and another song Man Made demonstrate that quite clearly, although we need to be careful with the bands use of the word ’pop’. For Clock Opera are probably not the sort of band that are going to be storming the singles charts, they are too experimental for that. They do have the potential however to create inspiring sublime tunes that could provide long term satisfaction rather than a quick fix sensation.

Clock Opera are still very much in their infancy in terms of live performance, having only played a handful of gigs, although Connelly himself has a history, having been in the band The Fallout Trust who then became The Corrections. Connelly has also composed music for the Rambert Dance Company using strings samplers and bits of metal and also the Tangled Feet Theatre Company. Clock Opera have also been working with Graham Stewart who has worked with Radiohead on mixes of some of their songs .

They are our final one to watch for 2010.

Later today, after celebrating this bunch for the last ten days, we add a chilly note of caution to the air before revealing our ten favourite albums of the year.

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Holly Miranda - Ones To Watch 2010 #9

Holly Miranda is a New York based singer and musician who has recently signed with XL Recordings, a label who continue to bring a diverse but high quality range of artists to the airwaves. Her debut self released EP Sleep On Fire attracted significant attention, being in places brooding, tense and beautiful although not necessarily perfect. It acted as a perfect teaser for the way forward. Her debut single proper, Forest Green Oh Forest Green was released in November, and Holly is due to release her debut album early in 2010. In the build up to the release of the album Holly has been supporting Breaking More Waves favourites The Antlers and The XX in the United States.

Miranda has been compared with Cat Power, Norah Jones and Feist. She was formerly in a band called The Jealous Girlfriends and for her solo work Dave Sitek of TV On The Radio has been involved with production duties. Her dreamily atmospheric guitar based songs are certainly not the kind of tunes that are going to infiltrate the pop charts, but provide for a smouldering and sleepy listening experience that could potentially provide long term satisfaction.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Mirrors - Ones To Watch 2010 #8

The dense ambient pulse-pop of the Mirrors reflects the sounds of early OMD, Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode, continuing the electronic revival that invaded the charts like knotweed in 2009.

However unlike many of this years synth gang, the garden that Mirrors have grown in is matted in darker, woven textures. This makes the Brighton four piece a less obviously commercial proposition but none the less an interesting one. The bands live shows are rapidly becoming a talking point, their measured performances featuring minimalist abstract video projections with the suited band displaying an air of haughty high-brow coolness behind keyboards and electronic drum kit.

Mirrors were formed by two previous members of the indie band Mumm-Ra, but their sound is very different from that previous incarnation. There have already been criticisms that the group are just blatant plagiarists, taking reference points that are all too obvious, but then the same could be said of White Lies this year, who the band remixed A Place Too Hide for. Such criticisms certainly didn’t affect White Lies commercial popularity.

Mirrors have been slowly growing their sombre electronic profile in 2009, having played sets at Latitude Festival, Loop Festival and The Great Escape reviewed here They have also released two singles, the self funded Look At Me and Into The Heart on Moshi Moshi and in November started their own club Un Autre Monde. Early next year they will be out playing some support slots with another one of our ones to watch Delphic.

Fear Of Drowning

MIRRORS | MySpace Video

Monday 7 December 2009

Stornoway - Ones To Watch 2010 #7

Do you remember the first time you fell in love ? The giddying butterflies and excitement of that romantic high ? Today’s choice of a band to watch in 2010 produces that seem feeling. Stornoway bring an adoring nature loving ideal to your ears, that could easily make a number of people swoon and gush with warm affection, in much the same way that this year Mumford and Sons found people ooh-ing, ah-ing and generally salivating at their gorgeous songs.

Stornoway are a five piece pastoral folk pop band from Oxford. We’ve already written about them several times on this blog. The band have released two self funded singles in 2009, Zorbing (reviewed here) and Unfaithful (here) both of which are tender and absorbingly beautiful.

What we can say about Stornoway with absolute certainty is that these two singles are just the tip of the iceberg. Lead singer Brian may look like an intense rabbit in the headlights when he performs, but his band possess bulging suitcases full of the most perfect melodies. When he stops singing Brian possesses the educated intelligence to pull off some of the most bizarre but charming on stage banter. For example, at Wychwood Festival earlier this year he talked to the crowd about how beavers were returning to Scotland. We really can’t imagine your average rock band engaging in such knowledge.

2009 was topped off for Stornoway by being the first band in history to play the Christopher Wren designed Sheldonian Theatre in their home town, normally reserved for recitals of ‘serious’ music and an appearance on Later With Jools on BBC2. 2010 looks set to get even better and the band will be stepping out on tour again in February. At this moment they remain unsigned. Catch them if you can.

Sunday 6 December 2009

Clare Maguire - Ones To Watch 2010 #6

Way back in January 2009 we first posted an article about Clare Maguire, an artist that we had seriously considered putting on last years ones to watch list, but eventually decided it was just too early - Maguire having played a handful of shows and only just signed a record deal. You can read the article here . Instead we put Marina and the Diamonds on the 2009 list, which in retrospect was also a little bit early.

Since that article there has been absolute silence from Clare Maguire. Her Twitter has yet to twitter. Her Myspace has no songs on it to listen to. There is no You Tube footage to view. A Google search reveals very little at all about her that we didn’t know in January. To our knowledge she has played just the one show this year - a support slot in Glasgow back in January, but since then absolutely zilch.

There are however a few rumours. We’ve heard that she has been working with uber pop producer Richard X as well as ex-Longpig Crispin Hunt, but at this moment in time this is just idle gossip and certainly does not come with any certainty.

Then in October, two days before we were about to publish an article entitled Whatever Happened to Clare Maguire, Paul Lester from the Guardian jumped up and wrote a piece about her on the Guardian web site, which suggested that although her record label, management and PR company were keeping very tight lipped about her, 2010 would finally see a release from the reclusive lady.

So let us remind ourselves why we fell head over heels for Maguire in the first place. It took us just one listen to the demo’s that we heard at the start of the year to realise that Maguire has a simply staggering voice. It is huge and gutsy, full of powerful Celtic soul, blues and jazz influences that puts her right in line with big singers such as Amy Winehouse and Adele. Not bad for a former shop checkout worker from Birmingham. Throughout the year we have often returned to those demo’s and each time we listen the songs of Burn, Strangest Thing and Butcher Boy we are astonished at how punch in the stomach incredible they are.

If a 2010 release from Clare Maguire arrives and it comes anywhere near the quality of those demos, we predict she could win a lot of fans. She has to be one to watch.