Monday 31 December 2012

PartyClub - Sparks

One of the jokes of 2012 has been how we just don't see or hear enough of Emeli Sande in the UK. The Olympics closing ceremony? Check.  X-Factor? Check.  HTC Beats Audio advert? Check. Constant radio playlisting? Check. Whoever she's got working for her has done a fantastic job. Just imagine if her team got hold of an artist that we (ie Breaking More Waves) actually loved. How fantastic could that possibly be? But whilst we imagine that dream happening let's remind ourselves that, just in case you'd forgotten, it’s New Years Eve / Hogmanay today, which means given half the chance Emeli will probably be about somewhere. After all last year she got a clip of her song Heaven on the London River Thames fireworks display before she was even that well known, so we’re guessing she’s banking on a slot on Jools Holland’s show tonight. 

For those of you who want something a little less well known to dance your arse off to before midnight, may we recommend York’s PartyClub?

PartyClub have become near regulars on Breaking More Waves, with Young & Free, Shake and Those Girls all lighting up the internet airwaves with a youthful sense of joy whilst racking up a significant number of plays on their Soundcloud in the process. Now they return with Sparks, an energised pop song that bubbles like it’s been overdosing on energy drinks. Put this on anywhere and we almost guarantee shapes being pulled the likes of which even Psy hasn’t thought of yet.

PartyClub - Sparks

Pretty Heart - New Waves

Pulp’s lead singer Jarvis Cocker once said something along the lines of being on the dole was the best thing ever for bands as it allowed them to have time whilst they were unsuccessful to be creative, experiment and create great art. In a way it’s similar for people writing music blogs. The best ones (be it in terms of the music they feature and curate, the writing, the engagement with their audience or anything else that you might consider to be important to be best) generally have a bit more time on their hands.

So we’re thankful for the time that Crack in the Road and Disco Naïveté found to bring this new artist to our attention. Hailing from Perrysburg, Ohio, Morgan Holliger aka Pretty Heart has been uploading her songs to her Bandcamp throughout 2012 and there’s over an album’s worth available for free download. It’s following the release of her new song Toy, just a couple of days ago, that Crack In the Road and Disco Naïveté got frothing. “It’s undoubtedly going to happen for her, and sooner rather than later,” said Josh at CITR. Jarri at Disco Naïveté was equally as excited, calling Pretty Heart a “talent extraordinaire.”

So with those superlatives, we’re jumping aboard the bandwagon, because, damn it, Pretty Heart is pretty good, in particular her most recent material; the sure sign of an artist who is still developing and may not yet have realised her full potential. Toy is delicious piece of electronic mysticism, like Bat For Lashes by moonlight. Then there’s O Heart! It’s a song of throbbing electronics and echo laden vocals that soundtracks a low budget video of splattered blood and unselfconscious non-choreographed graveyard dancing. Start with these two and then progress to some of her other work such as the dense and occasionally industrial mini album Half Asleep. It’s not all perfect but then what artist is? It’s the flaws that make them exciting. 

If artists like Glasser, iamamiwhoami, Zola Jesus and Bat For Lashes float your boat, soon you’ll be sailing dark and hard with Pretty Heart. We are.

Pretty Heart - Toy

Pretty Heart - O Heart! (Video)

Sunday 30 December 2012

Is Guitar Music the New Saviour of Radio 1? (Or its New Musical Enemy?)

According to certain sections of the media, guitar music is coming back into the UK mainstream. Radio 1’s head of music George Ergatoudis (pictured) has already predicted that guitar bands are set for a resurgence and Andy Roberts of Kiss FM agreed with him. Matching the mood of these important media playmakers, the first print copy of NME in 2013 (Meet the Stars of 2013) introduces 11 acts in its main features, 9 of which are guitar bands and 1 is Joey Bada$$’s rap collective Beast Coast ( the other is Jagwar Ma). To be fair to the NME, indie guitar music has been its staple diet for years, so we’d be very surprised if they had suddenly switched allegiances and stated that laptop electronica was the new punk and ditched their coverage of indie guitar bands (despite the magazines ever decreasing circulation figures). Mind you with its d-i-y ideals much laptop bedroom producer stuff is arguably closer to punk’s ethos than indie guitar music these days, but that’s another discussion to be had.

Yet guitar music hasn’t ever really gone away has it?

The Vaccines are playing the 20,000 capacity 02 Arena in London and The XX, Alt-J and Django Django (who all use guitars in interesting and idea crammed ways) have had critical and commercial success in 2012. Likewise at mid-level venues there are plenty of guitar bands playing to big crowds.

What we think Ergatoudis was alluding to was that at the moment the charts aren’t stuffed full of guitar music. Plus the station he works for, as well as other important players like Capital Radio, aren’t featuring lots of guitar bands during the daytime mainstream shows (this week approximately 33% of Radio 1’s A-listed records are guitar acts whilst virtually none of Capital’s playlist are). These radio stations daytime shows still have a huge influence on the purchasing and consuming public (outside of X-Factor type telly which we can’t envisage suddenly featuring lots of indie or rock guitar groups) and therefore it seems to us that effectively Ergatoudis is suggesting that Radio 1’s music content is likely to shift toward playing more guitar orientated acts in 2013.(Capital, as a commercially based station is less likely to shift until they see a drop in audience figures or more guitar music in the charts - so arguably the effect of Radio 1 is most important).

As head of music Ergatoudis can of course have major influence in making the station play more guitar music during the daytime, but if Radio 1 does this, it could find that guitar music is its enemy. Here’s why….

New Radio 1 controller Ben Cooper is under pressure to make the station appeal to a younger demographic via the BBC Trust. As we predicted in March, Chris Moyles has probably been the most high profile casualty of Cooper’s mission. But could this objective of reducing the age of Radio 1’s listeners be at odds with what Ergatoudis is suggesting? For example let’s take a band like Savages. They’ve made the BBC Sound of 2013 longlist, The Blog Sound of 2013 longlist, they are one of NME’s Meet the Stars of 2013 featured artists and we featured them on our own Ones to Watch 2013 back in November. There’s a consensus that Savages are one of the more ferociously exciting new bands out there. Yet when Breaking More Waves recently went to see them play in Brighton their audience was largely made up of men and women over 30 (with a significant portion over 40). Maybe this was a one-off. But there’s some evidence here to suggest that if Savages got played on daytime Radio 1 its audience age demographic may increase, not decrease.

Let’s look at some of the other bands the NME are tipping. Haim – they have lots of ‘classic’ influences from Fleetwood Mac to classic rock that could easily find a comfortable place with mums and dads. It is essentially music of past tradition just given a modern shine. Peace – stylistically they look a bit like Suede and The Manic Street Preachers and musically they’re not that dissimilar to many early Brit Pop peers. Temples – have a bit of a Byrds and Beatles psychedelic vibe about them. All stuff that people in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s will be entirely familiar with.

So if Radio 1 wants to decrease its age of listenership, playing more guitar music (which in general is now an art form that has reached middle age, being firmly rooted in its traditions of the past) may not help their objective. In fact they may find their audience demographic gets older. And an older audience means an unhappy BBC Trust. And who knows what may then happen? Of course the people in charge have other factors to play with (the format the show is delivered on, the choice of DJ’s and what they talk about for example) but there’s a possible conflict and danger here for Radio 1.

It will be interesting as 2013 pans out to see what happens. Will Ergatoudis be right / get his way? What will it mean for Radio 1 if he is / does? We'll be keeping an eye out on their playlist this year for sure, and no doubt the BBC Trust will be keeping an eye on the listening age demographic.

Saturday 29 December 2012

Hurts - The Road (Video)

Here is the new video from Hurts. After refuelling it marks their return into the journey of pop. The track is called The Road.  It’s been online for a week or so now. Here are our thoughts on their travels in music so far.

1. Some people who liked the very first Hurts song to be released (Wonderful Life) feel let down by the band. This divisive piece by Mike at The Recommender (read the comments section below as well for some opinions) is an example of how some people made a judgement about what the band were going to be and then when they didn’t meet that expectation got a bit narked by it.

2. A lot of those people in 1 above were from the early adopter crowd in the UK. (We include ourselves in this crowd, but we were most definitely not let down by what came next – Happiness ended up as our second favourite record of 2010).

3. Whilst some struggled with the concept of what the group were about and where their music sat in terms of a market / audience, Hurts just got on with the job of being bloody brilliant. Central and Eastern Europe in particular took them to their hearts. It explains why the band's new tour in March 2013 contains more dates in Germany than anywhere else and why those dates have already sold out.

4. The Road continues Hurts ability of being bloody brilliant. For nearly the first minute they do everything that their detractors would expect them to do. Words like ‘boy band’ ‘bland’ and ‘mid-market’ could be hurled at them again. Then BOOM. The Road explodes into a melee of dark noisy chaos. It even sounds a bit like Muse. Did we mention the words bloody brilliant? Well it bloody well is.

5. Whilst not sonically identical we see a strong parallel between Hurts and Depeche Mode. Depeche Mode was ridiculed in the UK at the start of their career in the 80’s by the indie / cool kids for being too pop. Yet the band went on to be huge in Europe and their sound became gradually darker. Whilst Depeche Mode’s transition took a number of albums, modern day music fans and the industry have such short attention spans that if, as it appears, Hurts are going down the ‘darker’ route, they will need to make that journey a little quicker – more like travelling down a motorway than a B Road. Basically their new album Exile probably needs to be their Black Celebration.

6. The Road gives us the shivers every time we watch the video. Our interest for Exile (out next year) has been duly raised. We’ll say it once more. Bloody brilliant.

Hurts - Exile (Video)

Friday 28 December 2012

Blackeye - New Waves

South-East London’s Blackeye have a thick, petulant energy to them. It’s an energy that can only really be created from that classic line up of bass, guitar and drums; but what Blackeye also have is the hooks, melodies and tunes to get inside your head. There are just two of them out there at the moment, but they’re both indie punk pop corkers. “I couldn’t give a f*ck if you asked me to, I know that you were drunk but that’s no excuse,” spits out lead vocalist Chloe Little on Growing Pains and immediately we’re recalling bands like the guitar snog of The Popguns , The Darling Buds, The Primitives, Kenickie and even a touch of Brit-Poppers Sleeper and Elastica. It’s jubilant high octane stuff that’s likely to find its place bouncing around the snakebite city floors of regional toilet venues.

At the start of the video for Spin there’s a number 08051989. We’re not sure if this is a member of the band's birth date or just a reference to Blackeye’s Tumblr page (where we can learn that Chloe once performed live to the nation on ITV’s Mad For It and survived the dungeon of gunge). Give Spin a couple of er….spins and you’ll probably find yourself turning it up stupidly loud and hollering along with the line “Spin spin I was seventeen, it cut so bad but it’s just a dream,” over and over, until your neighbours (or parents downstairs depending on your age and situation) start banging on the wall, yelling at you to turn it down.

Blackeye - Growing Pains

Blackeye - Spin (Video)

Indianna - Swim Good (Video)

Frank Ocean topped many album of the year polls in 2012 (delivering on many tipsters predictions at the end of 2011) but hasn’t connected with us here at Breaking More Waves. However, one Ocean song that has captured our imagination completely is Indiana’s cover of Swim Good

The Nottingham songstress turns this lyrically moving suicide tale of trying to ‘swim from something bigger than me’ into a captivating and still piece of emotive art. Whilst the cover has been floating around the internet on Soundcloud for six months now, Indiana only recently uploaded this dark and cinematic video of the song this month to bring the track to an even wider audience. Shot in the streets of her home city, it captures the brooding end of everything atmosphere perfectly. A case of cover better than the original perhaps ?

Indianna - Swim Good

Thursday 27 December 2012

Criticisms of the 2013 BBC and Blog Sound of Polls

By now you’re probably sick of ones to watch / tip lists, December being the month that traditionally anyone and everyone who thinks they’re the Mystic Meg / Nostradamus / Mother Shipton of music pitches in with their list of artists to keep an ear out for in the forthcoming year. We went very early (partly to avoid that sickness) publishing our own Ones to Watch 2013 in November, which included the likes of Haim, Chvrches, Tom Odell and Alice Jemima.

The big daddy of the tip lists, due to its high media exposure and heavyweight of voting pundits is the BBC Sound of 2013 poll, which in previous years has chosen the likes of Adele, Ellie Goulding , Lady Gaga, Florence & the Machine, Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand amongst its most voted for acts. However despite its status it doesn’t always get things right, with the likes of Kubb, Gemma Fox, Ghosts and Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong all being previous Sound of nominees. Last year’s list was a bit of an oddity, with two of the top five (Skrillex and Azealia Banks) not even releasing an album in 2012 (if albums are still are a marker of place and time for an artist that is– but maybe that’s an old fashioned view) and another (Nikki and the Dove) bombing commercially, their record not even going top 50.

For the last two years Breaking More Waves and a number of other music blogs have also cast their votes for the Blog Sound poll, whose long list of 15 was published a week before the BBC’s. In 2011 the two respective polls were markedly different with only two of the Blog Sound list also appearing on the BBC list, but this year there was greater parity with seven of the Blog Sound long list finding their way onto the BBC’s.
The BBC List (BBC Guide presented by Huw Stephens)

AlunaGeorge, A*M*E, Angel Haze, Arlissa, Chvrches, Haim, King Krule, Kodaline, Laura Mvula, Little Green Cars, Palma Violets, Peace, Savages, The Weeknd, Tom Odell

The Blog Sound List (Playlist of all artists below)

AlunaGeorge, Curxes, Chvrches, Daughter, Haim, Laura Mvula, Mo, Palma Violets, Pins, Randolph’s Leap, Rhye, Savages, Seasfire, The Neighbourhood, Tom Odell

There’s already been plenty of opinion offered on the lists and if they are ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Such opinion is usually based on if the list aligns with the commentators own taste and window of the world. We’re not going to offer any further commentary on this, it’s already been done to death, except to say that three of our five votes got onto the Blog Sound Poll namely Curxes, Chvrches and Haim. From our own 15 Ones to Watch 2013 list five got on the BBC Sound of list and six on the Blog Sound list.

Instead we’ve been observing some of the criticisms of both polls (some of which get rolled out every year) and offer our thoughts below, with some of the foundation of these thoughts being as one of the two co-ordinators of this years Blog Sound poll.

Criticism: The Blog Sound poll lacks any sort of balance when it comes to ethnicity.

Like any poll, the Blog Sound 2013 represents the demographic of its voters, who in the main are white males. That’s not to say that white males are inherently racist but there was a general preference towards both guitar based music and electronic pop music and less votes to hip-hop, soul and r ‘n’ b acts on the blog list. The BBC Sound of poll is more balanced, with its voting panel carefully chosen to select a range of diversity and this is reflected in the final longlist. It’s a question that we’ll be considering next year; should the Blog Sound poll try to represent diversity, or is it actually more interesting if it’s biased, giving lesser known more niche artists more of a chance to get on the list and gain greater publicity? After all what's the point of the Blog Sound poll if it ends up just being the same as the BBC poll ?

Criticism: These ‘tip’ lists tend to be dominated by major label artists.

For artists to get on ‘Ones to Watch’ type polls they need their music not only to be good but to be heard by the people voting on the polls in the first place. The Blog Sound of 2013 poll had over 170 different artists receive votes. The vast majority of these artists were indie or D-I-Y artists and received just 1 or 2 votes – not enough to get them near the longlist. This could be because their music doesn’t meet the tastes of those involved in the poll, but we believe from some of the comments we’ve seen from voting bloggers that it’s just as likely that the voters themselves haven’t heard the artists songs. People criticise these lists as being dominated by major label artists, but that’s likely to always be a reality as the majors have more resources to get their artists heard by more people than indie or D-I-Y acts. It’s interesting to see bands like Randolph’s Leap and Pins crop up on the Blog Sound List, both of whom are on independent labels but they’ve still managed to get enough attention to get noticed and even more so Curxes who are a totally unsigned d-i-y band with no PR or money behind them at all. In a nutshell, these lists are nearly always going to be dominated by major label acts unless indie or D-I-Y labels can find a way to get more people listening or the list excludes major labels, which is neither lists intention.

Criticism: These lists become self-fulfilling prophecies with the voters supporting the artists they’ve voted for during the course of the year to prove they were right.

We’re not sure if this is really a criticism or just a statement of belief. But if it is a criticism is it really that bad in all cases? If a voter believes in an artist and the artist justifies the belief by continuing to deliver great music as the year goes on, is there really anything wrong with that voter continuing to support that artist? We’re not sure if the criticism is entirely correct either. For example the support for the previously mentioned Kubb, Gemma Fox, Ghosts and Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong soon died off when it was realised that they weren’t going to deliver on what was thought of as early promise.

Criticism: Voters vote for who they think will be big, not who they like.

We can only give a view on the poll we’ve been involved with - the Blog Sound Poll -but we saw very little evidence of this. The voters were expressly asked to vote for artists they believed represented the best in emerging music, not who would be big. As previously stated, over 170 acts were chosen by 49 bloggers. Only the top two acts received a significant number of votes, with the rest being spread far and wide. Surely if voters were just voting for artists that they thought would be successful the spread of votes would be narrower?

Criticism: Some of the voters on the poll are too close to some of the artists they nominated.

In respect of the Blog Sound poll the voting rules made it clear that you could not vote for any artist that you had any financial interest in or were directly related to. We carried out checks to ensure that this rule was applied strictly.

The rules of the BBC poll are virtually identical stating ‘pundits could not nominate any act or individual if they had either a close personal (immediate family & friends) or financial/commercial relationship with them e.g. PR, label, managing, promoting.’

Inevitably some voters will know the artists they are voting for – if you are part of the music industry / scene (even if it only is as a small scale music blog) you’re likely to come in contact with the bands you’re dealing with. However there’s a big difference between having some sort of relationship as a fan / supporter of an artist and one which is financial or family.

Criticism: Some of the bands on these long lists are too bland / mainstream.

Depending on your perspective this may be true (but really we suggest you listen to the likes of Pins and Curxes on the Blog Sound list or even Savages on both lists, they’re hardly Katy Perry are they?).  Yet any list formed out of multiple vote aggregation is likely to give this end result. For example arguably last year’s Blog Sound list was edgier but it had a smaller number of voters allowing niche artists to pick up just a few nominations and get on the list. With an increase in the size of the electorate / panel of up to nearly 50 this year it was harder for niche artists to do so.

The winner of both polls will be announced in January. Blog Sound Winner Jan 3rd BBC Winner Jan 4th. Will both be the same? Only time will tell.

Saturday 22 December 2012

A Message From Noddy Holder (Guest Post)

IT’S CHRISTMAS !!!!! (Well nearly)

Hey kids, are you hanging up a stocking on your wall ? Because it's the time that every Santa has a ball. So here it is merry Christmas, and it’s a very merry one for me because the royalties for THAT song have started rolling in again. Thanks iTunes, I don’t even have to get out of bed these days to earn some extra cash in December. Look to the future now, it’s only just begun, every yuletide from now till as far as I can see is just a load of old Christmas songs being repurchased again and again and my pockets sounding like jingle bells with all the coins in them. Remember when I sang about granny always telling ya that the old songs are the best? I was right you see. So was granny. Now we're laughing all the way to the bank. So here for your listening pleasure are some old songs for Christmas revamped by new artists. They’ll slay ya.

First we’ve got Foe. She’s not really got into the tinsel and mulled wine spirit like I do with Xmas Break Up. But still, not everyone can be as Christmassy and perky as me. Come on everyone, shout it out - IT’S CHRISTMAS !!!!

Next up is a track that Breaking More Waves posted earlier this month, but it’s so beautiful I wanted to give it the Noddy Holder nod of approval. It’s Curxes and their festive take on Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas complete with Corononation Street samples. Apparently they were the 11th most blogged band this year by UK hype machine listed bloggers - you can see the full list of most blogged bands here. Time for another mince pie I think. You can get this song for free just by going here.

Finally, to wrap up Noddy’s Christmas gift selection, whilst you’re waiting for the family to arrive, here’s THE BEST CHRISTMAS SONG EVER, or rather a cover version of it. This one’s actually from last year, but still, it’s tradition, it’s Christmas, so sing along everyone. “So here it is merry Christmas, everybody’s having fun…” Thanks Carosel (even though you split up in November)

*Footnote - Noddy's** guest post is our final post on Breaking More Waves until after Christmas. To all our regular readers and subscribers have a cool yule, we'll be back real soon with the winners of the Blog Sound of 2013, commentary on the BBC Sound of 2013,  Sweeping The Nation's UK blogger favourite album survey and then finally get round to posting about some new music - we have a huge backlog of stuff that we've been listening to waiting for you to hear in the new year.

**This may not have actually been Noddy posting. It may have all been a disgraceful sham.

Foe - Xmas Break Up

Curxes - Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Carosel - Merry Christmas Everyone

Friday 21 December 2012

A Message From Santa (Guest Post)

Ho ho ho kidz. Santa here. Come an' sit on ma lap and make an old man very happy. Don’t worry about the smell of sherry, dear old Santy-pops haz been getting himself a bit pissed ready to get through the winter with a few drinks to warm himself up. I’m looking forward to sliding down your chimney and unloading my sack all over your stockinggz. Don’t forget, none of that leaving me milk and mince pie shite. Just a big old glass of sherry OK? Or even better, just leave the bottle. 

Yule ‘ave to excooze the odd spelling miztake on this here blog post, but the normal musical elves have shat of out of the building and left me here on ma todd, sat in me ‘comedy’ Christmas y-fronts at this laptop, trying to work out what this bogging iz all about.

So from now till I go off and creep into youngsters bedroomz and give ‘em what they want I’m gonna give you sum some moosical goodness. Starting today with this lot. There’s The Good Natured, who iz some hot young fillie wiv a bit of a dark side. She’s covered that Christmas Wrapping song. Cor, I’d like to have a go at unwrapping her one day. She’d be thankful for the present I gave her. Then there’s Pins doing Kiss Me Quickly (It’s Christmas). Ho ho ho, now that’s the sort of offer I like. Forget the mistletoe and just get straight down to it. After all Christmas and Santa only come once a year so we’d better make it worfwhile. Well done Pins you seem like dear old Santa’s sort of gurlz. Finally there’s Gabriel Bruce doin’ Silent Night. Now I fink I got a bit confused here becoz I thought old Gabriel was that bird thatz done that John Lewis advert thing and I was quite ready to slip her The Power of Love if you know what I mean, but it seems this Gabriel is a man! A man! Oh well, beggarz can’t be choozerz, and Santa’s quite a randy old sod when he’s had a few drinks. I’ll take anything. Come on Gabriel Bruce, over ‘ere, its time to make it a not so silent night. Gabriel, come back…..

Oh and if anyone sees Rudolph tell him he lookz a c*nt with that shiny red nose. An absolute one. Here’s the tunez. Happy f*ckin’ Christmas one and all.

The Good Natured ft Collette Carr - Christmas Wrapping

Pins - Kiss Me Quickly (It's Christmas)

Gabriel Bruce - Silent Night

Thursday 20 December 2012

Albums of the Year 2012 - #1 Lana Del Rey - Born To Die

After the hype, gossip, and sensationalist 4-real authenticity debate that greeted Lizzy Grant aka Lana Del Rey as she emerged into the spotlight, this collection of sumptuous and rich songs received a critical slapping in the U.S. “It’s the album of a faked orgasm– a collection of torch songs with no fire,” said Pitchfork. “Given her chic image, it’s a surprise how dull, dreary and pop-starved Born to Die is,” said Rolling Stone.

Yet Born to Die is Breaking More Waves favourite album of 2012. If the orgasm is fake we’d take this wonderful piece of acting over some half-hearted whimper of a real one from a half asleep housewife who just wants her buttons pushed as quick as possible so that she can go to sleep. And if being pop-starved means producing a record that’s capable of getting in the charts without sounding like another Poundland Rihanna wannabe then we’re more than happy to listen.

Thankfully our homeland’s press largely agreed with us. “A delicious hybrid of Portishead and Nancy Sinatra,” suggested The Independent on Sunday, whilst the likes of the BBC, Mojo, Q, NME, Telegraph and The Fly all gave Born to Die positive reviews. There seemed to be a wide division between UK music critics and American ones, even though Del Rey herself is American. 

Let’s not beat around the bush here, Born to Die is our most played album of 2012. It has soundtracked our spring, summer, autumn and winter. It’s the record that’s moved us the most. The one that we’ve connected with more than any other. The one that has turned us into a besotted fan. The only one where we’ve found ourselves learning every lyric without even trying.

Born to Die is a pop record, but a fascinating and absorbing pop record. It’s distinctive, full of melody and strong choruses, but more than that it’s an album that smoulders with intelligence and dare we say it, concept. It’s a very cinematic album, both in terms of its lush arrangements but also its lyrical themes and Hollywood symbolism where Del Rey takes the role of the femme fatale, the trailer trash girl and tragic lounge singer. It’s an album about submission, co-dependency and drips with woozy downbeat sadness.

When we first featured Lana Del Rey in May 2011 we had no idea about the tsunami of internet chatter that was about to follow her. However, she rode this wave incredibly well and delivered an album that we've fallen in love with. Born to Die is our favourite album of 2012 by a country mile. 

Lana Del Rey - Born To Die (Video)

Lana Del Rey - National Anthem (Video)

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Albums of the Year 2012 - #2 Grimes - Visions

Visions is one of those albums that it’s very easy to approach with a hefty degree of cynicism. As the record was released the music media (and in particular music blogs) seemed to go into overdrive with enthusiasm. Yet this was genuine enthusiasm rather than some sort of sheep like, PR generated hype. For Visions is no featherweight buzz release that by the end of the year nobody actually remembers. Visions is one of the defining records of 2012.

It’s a record that manages to be pop and yet possess depth, originality and moments of weird-out groovy confusion. It’s a record you can dance to, listen to or f*ck to, but however you decide to enjoy it, enjoy it you will.

From Circumambient which takes wonky Orbital like computerisations and adds a clatter of rhythm, to the seductive six minute ethereal sexiness of Skin, to Genesis -  a tune so brilliant it takes Kraftwerk on at their own game of icy coolness and wins, this is a record that’s chock full of ideas. It’s a huge step on from Halfaxa her previous record, which brought Grimes to our attention back in April 2011 when we first featured her on the blog and establishes her as pretty much the perfect pop artist; making music that is edgy, a little oddball but still accessible. The indecipherable falsetto baby doll vocals, futuristic beats and playful captivating bleepy electronic sounds that make up Visions form that rare breed of a record; one that is unpredictable, constantly engaging and draws you further in with its looping exploratory layers. One of 2012’s complete listening experiences. 

Grimes - Genesis (Video)

Grimes - Oblivion

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Albums of the Year 2012 - #3 First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar

When Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg first came on the radar of music fans with their You Tube cover version of Fleet Foxes Tiger Mountain Pleasant Song aged just 18 and 15 and followed it up with the Drunken Trees EP in 2008 and The Big Black And The Blue album in 2009 the journalistic cliché of “a maturity beyond their years,” was rolled out over and over again. Yet it’s with The Lion’s Roar that First Aid Kit really come of age.

Recorded in Nebraska with Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, Alessi’s Ark, M.Ward) The Lion’s Roar is an album of country tinged pop songs with perfectly balanced harmonies of the type that only two sisters can produce.  It’s a bigger, more confident record than either of their previous releases, but most importantly the wonderful songs contained therein are always gorgeous. Flecked with sadness and despair in the lyrics, the music is so charming that it never weighs the record down to the extent that it becomes over-heavy, in fact it’s almost the opposite, The Lion’s Roar sounds quite delightful. Add in some latino trumpets and Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes to help out with some guest vocals on the toe tapping and jubilant King Of The World plus the finest homage to country music stars to ever grace a stereo with Emmylou and what you have is a record that equals its older peer group in quality.

Over the last year a number of singing sisters (The Unthanks, The Staves) have taken traditional forms of music (folk, country) and delighted us by putting a youthful beauty to it, but it’s First Aid Kit who top the family pile with this delightful album in 2012.

First Aid Kit - Blue (Video)

First Aid Kit - Emmylou

Monday 17 December 2012

Albums of the Year 2012 - #4 Girls Aloud - Ten

“Those who think that Ten shouldn’t count in end of year best of lists because it’s a greatest hits and pop music can f*ck right off. How can any album that has the likes of Biology, Love Machine, Call The Shots, Sound of the Underground and The Promise not be one of the best albums of the year? To deny it shows that you’re some sort of smug intellectual who doesn’t understand pop music.” Those were our somewhat angry and animated words a few months ago and we’re standing by them. OK, maybe we’ll take the bits about smug intellectual back and the bit about understanding pop music as well, but as any fan of any band will know, sometimes being a fan means losing objectivity.

So why Girls Aloud? Why Ten? Because Girls Aloud are the antithesis of everything that so called ‘real’ and ‘non-manufactured’ artists like Jake Bugg stand for. It’s very easy to criticise manufactured pop music, but the reality is that every piece of music that is recorded in a studio is manufactured in some way unless it’s recorded in one take and the sounds are not altered in any way beyond their natural form. Got a fuzzy guitar pedal? Put some reverb on the vocals? Oh hello, you’ve just manufactured your music. The manufactured brigade are often the same gang who also have issues with ‘authenticity’ - another concept that our ears couldn't give a flying fig for – all we want is a good song, irrespective of if it’s been created by a robot in a studio or three bearded men playing acoustic guitars in a cider house. And this is what Girls Aloud have – not cider or beards – but great songs. Forget their celebrity / tabloid coverage, forget their start as puppets in a TV Talent Show, forget their lame solo careers (except for N-Robz who produced one of the most exciting pop records of last year) and focus on the tunes.

Ten is stuffed full of the things; hooks, melodies, killer-choruses, big-pop-bangers, beats to dance round your handbag to and just enough edge and sassiness to set them apart from the banal dirge that masquerades as chart pop in the UK in 2012. “You better watch you’re back, we’re the leaders of the pack,” they chant on Something New, the fierce single used to promote the album. Yes, Girls Aloud know they’re good and they’re right.

Ten is at four in Breaking More Waves Albums of the Year 2012 series. Now that’s something kinda ooooh.

Girls Aloud - Biology

Sunday 16 December 2012

Albums of the Year 2012 - #5 The XX - Coexist

The XX’s debut self-titled record was our no.2 album of 2009 and so expectation was very high for Coexist, their second release.  Like its predecessor Coexist doesn’t exactly smack you in the face. In fact there’s a big danger with this record of giving it a couple of listens, deciding it’s just more of the same and moving on. Yet whilst there’s no doubt that Coexist is more a consolidation than a leap into unknown territories, that doesn’t mean to say it isn’t worthwhile spending a lot of time with it. If anything the production is even more graceful in its beauty, the songs more soulful, and like any really worthwhile album it slowly unfurls itself like a flower in spring to reveal its wonders.

Highlights include the breath-taking Angels the first track on the record. A simple love song, here The XX strip away everything except Romy’s plaintive vocal, chiming guitars and add just the most minimal beats. It’s the sort of tune that must surely have been designed for intimate rooms and spaces yet when the band bravely opened their only UK festival dateof the year at Bestival in front of thousands of people it took on a new life. There’s something always incredibly powerful about a field full of people singing the lyrics alongside the band and as thousands sang “they would be as in love with you as I am,” even the hardest soul would have felt a little tingle down his or her spine. Other highlights include Reunion which evokes long desolate journeys at night with its subtly driving musical soundscape of electronics, Burial like beats and steel drums that slowly morph themselves into something more danceable. Missing, the absolute standout track sounds as dark as the bottom of a well shaft but is carried by Oliver Sim’s unique quietly restrained voice. “Tell me how did this come to be?” he pleads. It really is exceptional.

Coexist sounds like an album where everything has been painstakingly put in exactly the right place, with nothing more than is required, but nothing less either. It’s this attention to perfecting the detail that enables Coexist to ultimately be a quiet triumph.

The XX - Angels

Saturday 15 December 2012

Albums of the Year 2012 - #6 Crybaby - Crybaby

If there’s a common theme running through Breaking More Waves albums of 2012 it’s that a number of the records we’ve chosen in the series are flat out nostalgic. Yesterday’s choice Through The Night by Ren Harvieu was one such sepia tinged past-referencing record and today’s selection, the eponymous debut album from Crybaby is another. 

It’s easy to criticise these retromantic records but there’s a couple of clear distinctions to be made between recordings that simply imitate and those which are made with a real love and craftsmanship. To criticise great art simply because something similar has been done before is to lose sight of two facts. First, human beings through time have always experienced the same emotions - love, loss, pain, worry, happiness - and that certain ideas will always resonate with those emotions. It's why many of us like tradition. Second that great talent or skill is not easily possessed and should therefore be applauded for its rarity. A lot of innovation is just an excuse for being rubbish.

Crybaby is a perfectly crafted, sometimes melancholy sounding album. Created by Danny Coughlan, a balding, bespectacled Bristol based singer - certainly not the sort of man who looks like he was capable of greatness - it’s a record that manages to pay tribute to the likes of Roy Orbison, Morrissey, Richard Hawley and Phil Spector with its soothing, crooning, majesty. The reason that it hits the spot so well is not because of these reference points though, but quite simply because of the songs. Yes, they may sound eerily familiar, but the melodies, the brooding vocal tones and the never over-indulgent instrumentation makes for a wonderful listen both musically and lyrically. Oh, and I Cherish The Heartbreak More Than The Love That I Lost is our favourite title for a song this year.

“With Crybaby Danny Coughlan has created something utterly flawless. It’s hovering around album of the year territory,” we said back in April. It’s stayed in that land all year and so now it find itself here, in sixth place, on Breaking More Waves albums of the year list.

Crybaby - I Cherish The Heartbreak More Than The Love That I Lost (Video)

Crybaby - We're Supposed To Be In Love

Friday 14 December 2012

Albums of the Year 2012 - #7 Ren Harvieu - Through The Night

Released in the spring of 2012 Through The Night is a lush, orchestrated album of nostalgic torch songs and classic retro-pop tunes that acts as a showcase for Ren Harvieu’s seductive voice. Every word is beautifully sung, recalling the likes of Dusty Springfield, Karen Carpenter, Shirley Bassey and James Bond soundtracks. The trick with Harvieu is that she can do subtle and understated. She never has to bellow or shriek or warble and because of that she can convey both strength and vulnerability at the same time. Every contestant of the X-Factor and Jessie J wannabe should be forced to listen to this album over and over until they get it.

Whilst the singles such as Open Up Your Arms and album title track Through The Night failed to make much of a dent on the pop charts, this was never a record designed for the majority of young teenagers. It’s Radio 2 rather than Radio 1, an album to luxuriate in, to feel, to drift away from the world to. Like a fine red wine Through The Night is rich, warm and full of elegance.

Despite being a twenty-something herself, Harvieu and her songs seem to come from a different era. They are all the better for it. 

Ren Harvieu - Open Up Your Arms

Ren Harvieu - Through The Night

Thursday 13 December 2012

Albums of the Year 2012 - #8 Alt-J - An Awesome Wave

When we first wrote about Alt-J back in October 2011 we said that they were “one of the most interesting bands we’ve heard in a while.” Over a year later that statement holds very true. The band have gone from being a Blog Sound of 2012 longlisted act last December to one of the breakthrough bands of the year and to cap it off, winners of the Mercury Prize.

An Awesome Wave deserves all the accolades it’s received. A genre-melting mix of folk, wonky pop, weird monastic chanting, dubstep and electronica combined with lyrical references that include cowboy and western films, the seedier side of Southampton, the film Leon, your mum coaxing you to sleep, shapes used as metaphors for spooning girlfriends, twentieth century war photographers and er… sex with cleaning implements. “In your snatch fits pleasure, a broomstick pleasure,” is probably one of the oddest and most disturbing lyrics you’ll hear all year.

An Awesome Wave stands out, because in a decade where pop music seems bereft of original ideas any more, Alt-J have grabbed as many as they possibly could, thrown them all into the cauldron, whizzed them around and come up with something that is a little bit surprising, entertaining and unique. 

Alt J - Breezeblocks (Video)

Alt-J - Intro

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Albums of the Year 2012 - #9 The Unthanks - Diversions Vol 3 Songs from the Shipyards

This time twelve months ago The Unthanks record Last was declared Breaking More Waves favourite album of the year. Since then the band has defied the industry norm and released three more LP’s and toured with different shows. They’ve managed all of this despite singer Rachel having a baby with pianist and husband Adrian McNally. This is a group that have a massively strong work ethic; and it’s work, or rather industry, that our ninth favourite album of 2012 deals with.

Diversions Vol.3 Songs from the Shipyards contains songs The Unthanks were commissioned to create and perform as a live soundtrack to the film of the same name by Richard Fenwick. It’s a moving and emotionally complex work that manages to beautifully capture the spirit and human side of a dying but once colossal industry.

Like anything The Unthanks do, the haunting voices of Rachel and Becky Unthank elegantly shine through as they sing of jetties, dirty swearing welders, riggers, coppersmiths, metal workers and big ships carrying their loads against wonderfully sparse music arranged by McNally combining with the evocative sounds of the shipyards themselves.

Considering this album is only a ‘diversion’ we can only imagine what The Unthanks will accomplish next time when they’re less distracted, but ‘diversion’ or not, Songs from the Shipyards is still a record the band can be immensely proud of.

The Unthanks - A Great Norther River (Video)

The Unthanks - Great Northern River from Mocha on Vimeo.

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Albums of the Year 2012 - #10 Clock Opera - Ways To Forget

“If indie carries on likes this, we’re gonna need a bigger landfill,” said Simon Price of the Independent of Clock Opera’s Ways To Forget. “Predictable arrangements…. middle-of-the-road sentimentalism and lack of killer tunes,” said Drowned In Sound in their 4/10 review. The NME went even further in its 2/10 review:  “If you’re vapid enough to buy into anything this pointless waste of a beard meows into his distortion pedal, you should probably never watch the film Up as you might find it a bit much.”

Yet to the ears of Breaking More Waves we hear something very different. This is a collection of songs that bristle and explode with euphoric climaxes over and over again. Maybe it’s the abundance of crescendos that grated with some reviewers, maybe it’s the way the record is carefully structured in an almost scientific way from spliced loops and live musicianship, or maybe it’s just that the NME reviewer had just been dumped by a man with some facial hair when they wrote the review.

Whatever it is that made some critics shake their head in despair we perceive as rather glorious. From the questioning lyrics that seem to deal with change, relationships and being yourself to the dots, dashes, chimes, beeps and circling notes of songs that drive relentlessly until they lift-off under the guidance of sonic lab-technician Guy Connelly, we find Ways To Forget a life affirming air punching listen.

This album may have been some time in gestation, Clock Opera first appearing on the blog in 2009 and being named as one of our Ones to Watch for 2010 but the wait was worth it. This is a tsunami of record. The critics don’t always get it right.

Clock Opera - The Lost Buoys

Clock Opera - Once & For All

Monday 10 December 2012

Albums of the Year 2012

Just like every year in this blog’s life we will, from tomorrow, be revealing our ten favourite albums of the year.

Last year we wrote an over long explanation of how we decided on our top ten albums. That post still holds true for 2012. So we’re going to repeat it for this year, in a slightly (but not that slightly) summarised form.

Here are the key points

1. We haven’t listened to every album that has been released this year. That’s impossible. So we’re pretty sure we’ve missed some good ones off our top ten. To hear a lot of albums you either have to be time rich or paid to listen, neither of which we are. So don’t criticise us if your favourite album doesn’t appear on our list. We may not even have heard it.

 2. Many of these end of year lists are often the result of a democratic committee vote. This leads to the quirks of the individual being ruled out. Our list is a fan list. This means not only is it from a single viewpoint, but our prejudices can run excitingly rife. It’s why last year an album by Northumbrian folk miserablists The Unthanks was number 1 in the Breaking More Waves list despite hardly featuring on any other lists out there and Girls Aloud member Nicola Roberts was number 3. ‘Teamwork’ in this case buffs down the rough diamonds and that’s not necessarily a good thing in pop music.

3. Our list been calculated using a spreadsheet and some musical maths. We’re all for a bit of qualitative analysis “that’s good,” “this is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G,” “that is a stinking dog turd of a record” but we quite like the Pitchfork idea of giving an album 7.3 out of 10 as well. So we’ve decided our albums of the year by using some numeric criteria, some of which are derived from qualitative data. If this appears somewhat geeky, we make no apologies. Albums of the Year lists are a science unto themselves. Here are the criteria.

Musical quality For that you could just read 'taste' because we have no qualification or evidence to suggest we’re a better judge of quality than anyone else.

Emotional connection to us as a listener Extra points are earned for making us blub uncontrollably, feel really horny, make us thoughtful / melancholy, makes us feel alive, make us want to dance and snog strangers.

Number of times we’ve played the album This is then divided by number of months since first listening. We’ve used a combination of Last FM and a tally we’ve been keeping of CD plays during the year. The theory is if we’ve played it a lot we must like it.

A fan factor This represents our prejudices. For example if the album contains members of Girls Aloud the fan factor is increased threefold before we’ve even heard the album.If the Pigeon Detectives feature at all it is immediately banned from the list no matter how good everyone else says it is.  

We’re not going to bother you with the complexities of the formula but in its simplest terms it involves (Quality + Emotional Connection + Times Played) x (Fan Factor)

So there you have it. We’ll be starting our countdown tomorrow. Until then let’s remind ourselves of our previous albums of the year.

2008 Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago

2009 Blue Roses – Blue Roses

2010 The National – High Violet

2011 The Unthanks – Last

The spreadsheet has done its job. 2012 has a clear winner. We’re ready to countdown the top 10. Starting tomorrow.

In the meantime, in case you're wondering where our 2009 album of the year winner has been, here's Laura Groves aka Blue Roses in a new guise as a member of trio called Nautic who also comprise producer Bullion and someone called Tic who we know very little about with a gently bubbling song called Fresh Eyes.

Nautic - Fresh Eyes

Thursday 6 December 2012

The B of the Bang - In The Bleak Midwinter

The third and final free Christmas download that we’re featuring on Breaking More Waves comes from The B of the Bang. Having been locked away in the studio for some time recording their second album Tremors & Nosebleeds: The Melodies of a Malady the group quietly uploaded new material in the form of Wander (Through The Night) to You Tube just over a month ago. (Video here)

Today we’re featuring their take on In The Bleak Midwinter, a song that has been tackled by everyone from Annie Lennox to Chas & Dave. It’s a weirdly spectral version of the evocative carol, like a lost tune from Twin Peaks with twangy and detuned guitars and a languidly sad cold-turkey voice. This is as dimly-lit and depressingly meditative as you can probably get and will make you remember that not everything about Christmas is about tinsel, Slade and granny getting a bit tipsy whilst making suggestive comments at your boyfriend / girlfriend.

If you like In The Bleak Midwinter you can download it for free until the download limit is reached. If you do so, why not go to The B of the Bang Facebook page and give them a like or when the track appears on Hype Machine show it some love. 

The B of the Bang return to the live front on December 15th at a special Christmas gig for fans of pie and records. More details here.

This represents the end of what we’ve called Christmas Waves Volume 1. You can listen to (and download) all the songs from this online EP here just the ticket for people who like Christmas and free stuff really. Thank you to all the participating artists – Curxes, Alice Jemima and The B of the Bang, who agreed to record and give away these songs for Breaking More Waves. 

We’re taking a short break from the blog tomorrow and over the weekend but will be back on December 10th with a series of posts running down our ten favourite albums of the year.

The B of the Bang - In The Bleak Midwinter