Tuesday 26 January 2016

New Music: Introducing - Elle Watson

Right now marketing new pop music is a complicated old business. But if you look in the Rules of Pop 2016, (Hardcover) edition Chapter 8, section 2.3, you’ll see that not putting out your biggest song first is still one of the best ways to go. You need to get the ‘tastemakers’ with their latest iphones, Nutribullets and beautiful clothes on board. For these people their whole raison d'être is to be 'on it' earlier than everyone else, so that they can claim to be influential and bang up their Klout scores. The tastemakers can help the new artist by giving them credibility and that way the artist can build popularity gradually without early mainstream over exposure. Even better, if you're the 'tastemaker' that premieres the song on line then you can claim bigger bragging rights than all the other tastemakers in the war of the cool.

So what you do is let the tastemakers secretly hear a number of songs by the new artist, so that they are convinced that there is something worth backing. Then when the artist puts out the first song and it’s kind of OK, but not exactly going to set the world on fire, the tastemakers can all pretend they can hear potential and justify jumping on the track, because in reality they’ve already heard the better songs that are coming.

So here’s a new artist, with her first song. Her name is Elle Watson and the track is called Body. The blurb with the email that came accompanying the tune tells us that it was written in Stockholm and influenced by the novel You by Caroline Kepnes, with Elle singing from the perspective of being stalked and confined, only to fall in love with the captor. 

It’s actually a half decent song (honestly); it's a bit of a grower, taking a couple of listens to really sink in. Basically it's sort of thing that tastemakers might love. I can see some potential with this artist….

Elle Watson - Body

New Music: Wyldest - Stalking Moon

One of the problems with dream-pop is that sometimes, rather like a learner driver, it seems a little scared of putting its foot down and going above 2nd gear. Thankfully, after a cautious start, the latest tune from Wyldest rips off the L Plates and puts its foot to the floor. As a result Stalking Moon manages to combine the band’s shadowy softness, with something that holds a dynamic purpose and intent. It’s a tune that gets under the skin in more ways than just sonically too, with the lyrics questioning what secrets we hold. “Is there something more to you than this?” lead singer Zoe repeats. 

Press play and find a few minutes to lose yourself in their pretty melodies and hauntingly strong magic. You won't regret it.

Wyldest - Stalking Moon

Monday 25 January 2016

New Music: Oh Wonder - Lose It (Video)

From my favourite record of 2015 (read why by clicking here) comes a new video for the song Lose It. The concept is pretty simple - some dancers audition in front of the band. The twist is that the curtain behind the dancers hides a troop of dancers, ticker tape cannons and giant inflatable balls…..Surprise!!! 

As the curtain drops the audition participants are encouraged to carry on. The lyrics: “Move your feet and feel it in the space between, you gotta give yourself a moment, let your body be, we gotta lose it, we gotta lose it,” being given a very visual interpretation on the world wide web. The band have also made a point in saying that these dancers were actually auditioning, they're not actors – the reactions you see are genuine and, like everything Oh Wonder seem to do, rather lovely.

Away from the internet the Oh Wonder success story continues in the real world, with the band playing sold out shows across the US (unfortunately due to the heavy snow storms they’ve had to cancel their gig in Washington DC tonight, but it will be rescheduled). Then they return to their home country of the UK in March for what will almost inevitably be more full to capacity gigs. 

Oh Wonder - Lose It (Video)

Saturday 23 January 2016

New Music: Introducing - Betsy

If the vocal line on Fair, the debut song from Welsh newcomer Betsy, sounds like it’s taken from some big 90’s house tune, that’s probably not that surprising, after all she has already lent her mouth and lungs to tracks by Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard as well as Knife Party.

Yet dancing is the last thing you’d consider doing to Fair. This is a solitary sad moment, a beatless comedown, a piece of ambient soul music tempered with string flourishes from the handbook of Massive Attack. In fact Betsy’s magnificent vocals remind me a little of Shara Nelson’s work with the Bristol formed trip-hop collective. Listen to the way she sings “I know it ain’t right, I know it ain’t fair, to hold on to love, a love that’s no longer there,” right at the end of the song, her voice quivering softly with emotion against the sparse piano chords. It’s fantastic. Having a big voice is one thing, but using it to convey real emotion rather than something that is false, meaningless and doesn’t connect is another. Betsy gets it dead right with this great start. Oh, and impressive neckline bling in that photo as well.

Betsy - Fair

Thursday 21 January 2016

New Music: Wyldest - The Sun Always Shines On TV

If you ask a random selection of people to name the best A-Ha song I pretty much guarantee that the majority of them will say the Norwegian band’s first hit and Guilty Pleasures club night favourite Take On Me. They’re wrong of course. The Sun Always Shines On TV, their second single and only UK number 1 was way superior. 

Why? Because it demonstrated that the band was far more than just a group trading on Morten Harket’s chiselled cheekbones and piercing stare. The Sun Always Shines On TV was a hugely ambitious song that owed as much to progressive rock as it did boy band pop and lyrically it was pretty deep - albeit expressed in simple language - a sad troubled call for help. It should be in every one of those best songs of the 80’s lists.

Now Breaking More Waves favourites Wyldest have put their spin on it. There’s none of the tense crashing sonic dynamic of the original though, instead Wyldest filter the song through a kaleidoscope of sadness. Pulsing electronics and sinister guitars are the order of the day here and (probably) quite unintentionally the group even give a small nod to Duran Duran’s Wild Boys with some miniature drum clatters. That's fine though, they were great drum clatters and I'm very partial to a sadcore tune or two. 

The song was exclusively recorded for a new compilation, Treacherous Tides Volume 2, from a label based in my home city of Portsmouth - Strong Island Recordings. I’ve been lucky enough to get to know Brad, the main man behind the label and his unstoppable commitment to promoting and supporting underground and independent music is incredible. Strong Island Recordings is a label that exists purely out of passion and therefore to ensure those enthusiasm levels remain we’d urge you to visit their Bandcamp (using this link) and grab a copy of this compilation, which also features another Breaking More Waves favourite (and Portsmouth’s most popular band right now) Kassassin Street. There's also plenty of psychedelic, shoegaze and stoner pop from the likes of Tasmanian quartet Violet Swells and Life Model from Glasgow. These bands are a long way from the clean cut sounds of A-Ha, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t and shouldn’t enjoy both. 

Wyldest - The Sun Always Shines On TV

Wednesday 20 January 2016

Old Music: Thrum - So Glad

As I suggested in this post here, whilst new music is at the heart of Breaking More Waves, this year I’m also drifting into other areas. Today, a piece about an old tune / band and why the internet is A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.

Recently on BBC 6 Music DJ Steve Lamacq has been running a feature where he plays records from the past that you never hear on the radio these days. It got me thinking about all the long lost ‘classics’ by bands from yesteryear that never made it. I use the word ‘classics’ with caution, because rather like some ex-partners you loved, or haircuts and clothes you sported whilst you were still finding yourself, as you get older and you revisit memories of those things, they’re not always as good as you thought the first time round. History teaches us that often the hipster of today can become tomorrow’s laughing stock and sometimes things that we thought were naff years ago end up being very cool and vice versa.

One such forgotten band that was very much on my radar in the early to mid-90’s was Scottish rockers Thrum. They formed in 1992 and split just three years later after one album. Now of course in pre-internet days once a group ended all you were left with was whatever they’d put out physically, be it CD’s, records, cassettes or video tapes and a bunch of memories. Then the internet changed everything. So  I don’t even need to describe to you how I first came across the band on Channel 4’s show The Word, because you can see it for yourself on You Tube, albeit a very poorly recorded version where the sound goes muffled for part of the stream (bear with it, it gets better after about 1.50).

Thrum - So Glad (From Channel 4's The Word)

What the internet doesn’t tell you is how I felt watching Thrum perform So Glad, although of course I could have left a comment on You Tube. 

I fell instantly in love with lead singer Monica Queen. Her voice was to die for – part Maria McKee (from American country rockers Lone Justice who went on to have a UK solo number one with Show Me Heaven from the film Days Of Thunder) and part Tammy Wynette, boy could she sing. I loved the way that as she belted out the words her faced seemed to beam. So Glad had a gritty explosive energy that made me feel alive. It became, for a short while, ‘my song'.  I probably wanted to marry Monica. OK, that's a bit stalker / scary, but sometimes, when you're young, songs make you fall into a weird sort of love with the singers. 

One thing I was absolutely sure of was that Thrum was going to be huge.

They never were.

However looking at the comments on the You Tube clip it seems that I wasn’t the only one;

“I saw them support Grant Lee Buffalo at the Leadmill in Sheffield. One of the best gigs I've ever been to. They should have been so much more successful.”

“Why weren't this band huge? When I was reading Espedair Street I imagined them sounding a bit like Thrum.”

“It was my dream band and I thought it would be everyone else's too...I wouldn’t have minded if the songs had been weaker, but they were also fantastic!”

A couple of years later, after Thrum had split, another Scottish band that I had fallen for, Belle and Sebastian (I'm sure you know them?) released their latest EP. And there on the sleeve were words that made my heart pound again. “Special guest vocalist…. Monica Queen.”

The song, Lazy Line Painter Jane, was a peach and to this day remains my favourite Belle And Sebastian tune. It needs a whole blog post on its own. Actually, it already has several, like this one (here). But frankly any pop song that contains the lyrics: “Tossing a coin to decide, whether you should tell your folks, about a dose of thrush, you got when licking railings,” gets my vote. Those lyrics are even quoted on Urban Dictionary if you look up licking railings. And Monica's vocal? Absolute goosebumps. Even now.

And that was it. I never heard of Monica Queen again. She seemed to vanish. Until recently, when the internet became my best friend. Again. Thrum’s entry on Wikipedia tells me that in 2011 the band reformed and not only that, released a second album. Monica has also put out some solo records. I was completely unaware of all of this until one simple Google search. Within seconds I was on Spotify, listening to that second Thrum album. Wow.

Imagine if the world wide web didn’t exist. I’d have never known any of this, and the chances of tracking down that second album would have probably been near impossible, even if I had known about it. If anything the internet makes things too easy, but in this case I'm er.....so glad.

And the good news? Monica’s voice is still wonderful. The second album (called Elettrorama) is mighty fine. Even better, So Glad is on Spotify (on a compilation called Fire Is Good rather than the first Thrum album) and despite, by today's standards, its poor recording quality, it still effervesces with spirit and soul. Sadly it has just over 1,000 plays. Go find it, I've linked to it below, take a listen and if you do fall in love, consider this blog your go to nostalgic dating site.

Monday 18 January 2016

New Music: Odesza - It's Only (Featuring Zyra)

Oh gosh. There are 3 major reasons why this new Odesza track has got me wanting to spew out loads of fire and love heart emojis on Twitter (in fact after I’ve posted this I might just do that).

They are:

1. The very obvious and simple reason that this is a wonderful piece of electronic music – it’s the sort of tune that any point you expect is going to explode with some clichéd EDM drop and do the whole 'arms-in-the-air-banger' thing, but it never does. It’s far more subtle and graceful than that, once again showing that electronic production can create things of utter radiant joy and beauty.

2. The vocals are by Zyra. Remember her? In all the hundreds of ones to watch / end of year tips lists I'm pretty sure I was one of the only people to tip her as one to watch for 2016 (yes I'm writing this with a smug face) see here and I see absolutely no reason to change my mind. The sweet clarity and melodic pop sensibility of her voice fits perfectly with this song, in a similar manner to the way that Megan from Purity Ring’s vocal enhances Purity Ring's music. Watch out for Zyra’s own debut EP coming soon - I'm very excited about that.

3.The video has everything you could ever want from a pop music video. Well almost. There isn't a giraffe. But it certainly has elephants, war scenes, trees being set on fire by lightning, modern day riots and lots of dry ice. 

January is meant to be a pretty quiet time for new music, but it really has got 2016 off to an incredible start. Roll on the rest of it.

Odesza - It's Only (Featuring Zyra)

ODESZA - It's Only (feat. Zyra) - Official Music Video from ODESZA on Vimeo.

Sunday 17 January 2016

New Music: Robyn Sherwell - My Hand

“Just put your hand in mine,” sings Robyn Sherwell – words of comfort at any time of life, be it for a lover, a friend or a small child - and comforting is exactly the tone of this song, Robyn’s voice providing a warm sanctuary that you can lose yourself in.

Back in April 2014 when I first wrote about Robyn I described her music as being blissed out, seductively ear-catching and with all the characteristics of a classic singer songwriter. That description remains highly apt, even now, as the restrained tender melodies of this song demonstrate.

My Hand has been kicking around for some time now, first making an appearance in a slightly more acoustic form back in 2012 before emerging again this week as a new fuller version. It heralds the arrival of her debut album on the 18th March which coincides with a tour that takes in Glasgow, Sheffield, Manchester, Liverpool, Brighton and London. I’m checking my diary right now….

Robyn Sherwell - My Hand

Saturday 16 January 2016

New Music: Flume - Never Be Like You featuring Kai

It must be great being an electronic producer like Flume; banging out immensely popular electronic bangers with millions and millions of plays worldwide and yet (probably, or at least in our country the UK) being able to push your trolley around your local Tesco supermarket without being recognised once. Mind you I pushed my trolley round Tesco the other day and nobody recognised me, so at least Flume and I have something in common. I just need to work on the bangers. Or he needs to work on developing his knowledge of Building Regulations.

So if you happen to see the man above in your local store, rush up to him and shout “You are Harley Edward Streten, better known as Australian super producer Flume and I recognise you from a picture on Breaking More Waves blog. Then shove a copy of the Building Regulations 2010 in his hand and run off yelling "read those sucker, your knowledge of fire precautions, structural engineering and much more is shocking." That’ll freak him out.

What will freak you out is his new tune, the first to be taken from his forthcoming album Skin coming out later this year. Never Be Like You is a shuddering, trembling piece of electronica, featuring a soul / pop vocal from Canadian singer Kai who sings about a relationship gone wrong and it’s all her fault: “I am only human can't you see, I made a mistake, please just look me in my face and tell me everything’s OK” she pleads before adding “now I’m fucked up and I miss you.” We 100% guarantee that this will be all over the blogs. Correction, having been out just 4 hours it is already all over the blogs. 

Take a listen below and then keep an eye out for Flume in your local grocery store. 

Flume - Never Be Like You featuring Kai

Thursday 14 January 2016

Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition 2016 - Details Announced

Have you ever fancied the chance of playing one of the main stages of the greatest music festival in the world? Well now you can.

For today Glastonbury has announced its 2016 Emerging Talent Competition.

New UK and Irish based acts can enter the competition, the winner of which is guaranteed a slot on one of the main stages of Glastonbury as well as a £5,000 Talent Development prize from PRS for Music Foundation. Two runners-up will also each be awarded a £2,500 PRS for Music Foundation Talent Development prize.

Entering is easy, acts will need to supply a link to one original song on Soundcloud, plus a link to a video of themselves performing live (even if it’s only recorded in a bedroom).

Once the entries are in (last year there were about 6,000) a panel of music writers (which includes myself at Breaking More Waves) will help compile a longlist of 120 acts. The longlist is then whittled down to a shortlist of 8 by a further panel which includes organisers Michael and Emily Eavis, before live finals at Pilton Working Men’s Club in April decide the winning act.

I’ve been involved in the judging process for a number of years now, and have attended the live final, which last year was won by Declan McKenna (one of Breaking More Waves Ones to Watch for 2016). Since the final Declan has signed a management deal with Q Prime, who also manage Metallica, Muse and Foals. It’s a process that I’m always incredibly excited to be involved in, new music being at the heart of what I do on Breaking More Waves. As Emily Eavis from the festival says “The Emerging Talent Competition has become an incredible way for us to discover - and help draw attention to - the very latest talent.”

Other acts that have entered the competition include BBC Sound of 2016 longlister and Brits Critics Choice nominee Izzy Bizu, who was runner up in 2015, together with the likes of Slaves, Marika Hackman, Stornoway, Fickle Friends, Josef Salvat, Nadine Shah and Circa Waves who have all featured on previous long / short lists giving them increased exposure and recognition which can all help with developing their careers.

The competition will be open to entries for a very limited time from next Monday morning (the 18th) at 9am and will close on the 25th January at 5pm. Keep an eye on Glastonbury Festival’s website for the entry form. I will also post a link on the Breaking More Waves Twitter next Monday once the competition is open.

New Music: Dancing Years - Learn To Kiss

Regular readers will know how much I love a musician in the bath. Not in any sort of perverted way - it's just the concept I find fascinating. So many of them are at it. I’ve posted about it a lot of times, and I’m still no closer to getting to the bottom of why they feel the need to do it.

Maybe I should start a ‘bloggers in the bath’ series and invite various music bloggers I know to be filmed sitting in the tub whilst giving their various musical tips for the months ahead. The options of fully clothed, semi clothed or stark naked would be left to them, as will the choice of water, bubbles or empty. Maybe then I could ask them how it feels and drill into their expertise of why musicians feel the need to do it.

So here’s another one. I say just another one, it’s way more than that. After listening to a deluge of new music last night and finding myself quite disappointed with the averageness of so much of it, I was saved by Learn To Kiss. It’s been floating around for a couple of months now, and has taken a while to sail onto my radar, but it's really worth pressing play on. It’s from Dancing Years, and it’s just sublime. And of course, there’s a man singing in what we can only assume is the bath. 

Pretty much perfect in every way.

Dancing Years - Learn To Kiss (Video)

Wednesday 13 January 2016

New Music: Violet Skies - One Day, Three Autumns

The last two times I came across Violet Skies were: 

1. When she was belting out some impressive sultry pop tunes in a so newly refurbished bar in Brighton that you could still smell the wet paint on the walls. 

2. Finding her peering through one way glazing at PJ Harvey as Polly recorded her new album as part of her Somerset House Recording In Progress project / installation. 

This time however Violet has a recording of her own to present and guess what? It’s f*cking fantastic.

One Day, Three Autumns is like one of the Walkers in The Walking Dead. That is to say, it’s heart ripping. After a starting sample from the now out of copyright film Farewell To Arms, big electronics swoop up and grab your insides as Violet sings of wondering, waiting and the heartache of ‘knowing that you are still so far away’. It’s a passionate pop-scape painted from the gut and a very strong argument against those who argue that electronically produced music isn’t ‘real’ because it has no heart, soul, honesty or conviction. As I said; f*cking fantastic.

Violet Skies - One Day Three Autumns

New Music: Rat Boy - Move

Somewhere back in the late 90’s in the UK if you happened along Brighton beach sometime around about 9pm, the chances are you’d find a queue of die-hard indie and dance kids readying themselves for a night of slamming block busting tunes formed around heavy breakbeats, samples and loops. The queue was for the Concorde, the club was The Big Beat Boutique and it was there that records from the likes of Fatboy Slim, The Chemical Brothers and Bentley Rhythm Ace (and many that nobody knew) created what seemed to be the future sound of music. For a short while the Concorde was to Brighton what the Hacienda was to Manchester. Regrettably I never went; at the time I was living on a houseboat on the River Thames and was having too much fun in London. But the Big Beat sound still managed to soundtrack part of my life around that time. I even had my first few shoddy attempts at DJing because of it.

But as we drifted into a new decade Big Beat slowly died and its sound was largely forgotten except by those of a certain age and musical persuasion; it has relatively small influence on the music of today.

Then yesterday I pressed play on the new song by Rat Boy. Now let’s get one thing absolutely straight here - up until now Rat Boy and his music has been of no interest to me whatsoever. Sure, he’s on the BBC Sound of 2016 list and he’s been supported by Radio 1, but to my ears he sounds too much like a grubby but possibly more commercial take on Jamie T and frankly one Jamie T is enough round these parts.

But wait… new song Move is nothing like Jamie T! Instead it heads straight down to the ghost of the Big Beat Boutique and throws the Beastie Boys (particularly Body Movin’ – the Fatboy Slim remix of course) onto the decks. OK, still no marks for originality and it will be totally forgotten in a year, but I’m giving this one the cheesy Breaking More Waves thumbs up for sheer unadulterated fun. Come on, let’s dance.

Rat Boy - Move

Tuesday 12 January 2016

New Music: D/C - Bad Man

One of two new tunes that he’s uploaded to Soundcloud today, wonderboy D/C (real name Daniel Caplen) gets confessional with Bad Man, a song about his past wrong doings and how he wants to make things better in the future. The other song (which you can find using this link) is called All My Sins, so there’s a theme of repentance going on here. Bad Man combines gospel, a gritty soul and a delightful pop sensibility with some blunt honest words. “I went to church but it made me feel worse,” he sings regretfully before admitting later he found some solace in another sort of heaven: “I used the bottle to sink all my trouble and hope that I don’t recollect.” Out of trouble comes some good though; I like it a lot. I hope you do as well.

D/C - Bad Man

Monday 11 January 2016

Old Music: David Bowie - Little Wonder

To put in context my level of ‘fandom’ with Bowie: I own just 6 of his albums. I’ve seen him live once (more of that in a while). I’ve listened to the majority but not all of his material thanks to streaming services (I even made it all the way through the frankly terrible late 80's Tin Machine LP once, although never again). Blackstar was the first new album of 2016 I listened to (last Friday on Spotify). So I’m not by any means a huge devotee, but there’s no doubt I have massive admiration for him as an artist. Bowie was unarguably one of the most important musicians (and fashion icons) the world of rock and pop has ever seen. As a music fan it's impossible not to appreciate his significance as both a creator and an inspiration to others and if you're unable to do that then there are frankly huge gaps in your musical education.

When an important musician dies, fans will often discuss their favourite work of that artist. I wonder how many people have waxed lyrical about their most loved Bowie record or song today? So here’s mine. 

No it’s not Space Oddity, Starman, Heroes, Ashes To Ashes, Sound & Vision or even one of the songs where Bowie got a new hairdo, put on a pastel coloured suit and became a stadium rock star (Modern Love, Let’s Dance or China Girl). Instead it’s a song that references and names the seven dwarves in Snow White, blasts you with the frenetic beats of old-school drum n bass (but with a very melancholy vocal delivery), features a load of modified synthed up guitar sounds and had a video that found aliens, giant eyeballs and (at the end) Bowie doing what all great pop stars need to do (see here for an explanation) - getting in the bath, albeit standing up fully clothed. It was also the song that introduced the album Earthling (complete with Bowie’s iconic Alexander McQueen designed Union Jack coat).

I saw Bowie perform Little Wonder at the now defunct Phoenix Festival near Stratford-upon-Avon in the 90’s, on a bill that also included superb performances from Bjork, Massive Attack and The Manic Street Preachers. He started with one of the most understated headline festival walk-ons I’ve ever seen; strolling out on stage with no music or build up whilst a member of his crew, who was unaware of the superstar’s entrance, was still checking the microphone. Bowie gave his technician a gentle tap on the shoulder to a huge cheer - the signal that maybe it was time for him to get off stage. And then he started.

And whilst Bowie perfomed some of his classics at that show, the thing I remember most is twitching madly as if I'd had electro-shock therapy to Little Wonder, whilst many older fans looked on somewhat confused – probably just like their dads had when Bowie had first performed Starman in 1972 in a multi-coloured jumpsuit on Top of the Pops  with his arm curled around Mick Ronson’s shoulder. 

For me this song defines Bowie. Some saw Little Wonder as an ageing rock star’s desperate attempt to jump on a bandwagon to remain relevant. But for me it was simply Bowie continuing to be inspired by everything around him, as truly creative people do. Most importantly it followed the rules of pop on how to make brilliant songs; that is to say it was utterly bonkers, both lyrically and musically.

In 2103 I attended the fantastic David Bowie ‘Is’ exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, with Roberta, the lead singer of ‘blitz-pop’ band Curxes. What I took away from that exhibition, more than anything else, was exactly what I thought about Little Wonder – that Bowie was the master of eclectic remaking. At heart he was always looking to the future. 

Music, fashion and culture will be a lesser place without his future seeking multi-faceted vision. RIP David Bowie.

David Bowie - Little Wonder (Video)

Saturday 9 January 2016

New Music: Sunflower Bean - Easier Said

If like me you spent (or are spending ) your formative years wearing Doctor Marten boots*, a baggy black jumper and danced with a style something that is more akin to a shuffle or sway than a booty shaking grind, to records by bands like the Cocteau Twins, The Smiths and The Cure, then Easier Said by New York three piece Sunflower Bean is probably the latest song that you should be adding to your collection. 

A gorgeous wash of shimmering, swirling, jangly indie guitars and sugar coated female vocals, it’s indie dream-pop like they used to make. Sure, it’s not breaking any new ground, but f*ck it, that's not a reason to consider it no good, it’s still gorgeous. I’m really not sure about the drummer’s hipster moustache though, so there’s still some work to be done there, but at least in years to come it will give his kids something to laugh at.

Easier Said is taken from the band’s album Human Ceremony, which is released next month. They’re also playing a number of shows in the UK and Europe at the same time.

Sunflower Bean - Easier Said

*There are some things you never grow out of. My DM boots are one of those things.

New Music: Introducing - Fours

I try as much as possible not to have a defined idea of what is good music and bad music, other than it’s something that engages me. After listening to Everything I Never Said, the debut EP from new band Fours, consider me fully engaged.

Released last September (yes I’m playing catch up here, thanks in no small way to some recent tweets from blog friends and lovers Disco Naïveté and What If I Had A Music Blog) the Fours EP possesses hip-shaking snappy guitar riffs a-plenty, not that dissimilar to Breaking More Waves favourites Fickle Friends. If E4’s teen drama show Skins was still running I’d be pretty sure that Fours would be cropping up there to soundtrack a sweaty, sexy disco party.  

There are inevitably four people in the band (come on, it wouldn’t work otherwise would it?) and whopping out the vocals up front is Edith Violet who has already had a few Florence Welch comparisons thrown her way, albeit Edith’s vocal is a little less try hard. I’m also impressed that on the band’s Facebook page Edith is titled as being a Level 1 Barista, which I assume means that she can make a half decent cappuccino when she’s not belting out killer pop tunes. Take a listen to Damage from the EP below, which throws in a few lovely soft focus synths alongside the “stronger without me” hooks  and find the rest of it on Spotify (here).

Fours - Damage

Thursday 7 January 2016

Going To Festivals Alone

The above picture is of me at Glastonbury in 2014.

Sometimes, for all sorts of reasons, people end up going to gigs on their own. Not necessarily because they’re Mr or Mrs anti-social-billy-no-mates.  It could be that their friends have different music tastes, aren’t into it, can’t afford it, or have other commitments the night of the gig, or it could be that they have young children and can’t get a babysitter so their other half says he / she is happy not to go. Or sometimes the person going to the gig just wants to fly solo because they’re comfortable in their own skin and don’t feel the need to have to be with someone.

I’ve done plenty of gigs on my own for all of the above reasons. If you’re like me and love music, especially live music and go to a lot of gigs, there’s a strong possibility you’ll have been to at least one on your own.

But have you ever considered going to a music festival alone? I’ve done it a number of times, maybe 10 of the 70 odd festivals I’ve been to. For some people it might just be too intimidating, but for me, it’s not. Here’s some of my experiences and basic thoughts.

My first ever solo festival was the big one – Glastonbury. In 1995. I’d split up with my partner earlier that year (we’d been to the festival together in 1994 and it was that weekend that marked the beginning of the end of our relationship for me) and I already had my ticket. ‘Sod you, I’m not letting you ruin my life,‘ I thought, so off I trooped to a field in Somerset. 

It would be an understatement to say I had a brilliant time – it was unbelievably good. A textbook Glastonbury. Jarvis from Pulp became everyone’s new alt-pop leader, I fell in love with PJ Harvey and her pink catsuit, danced with a bunch of crazy out of it loons to Orbital as the sun set and met a beautiful hippy girl (who was actually wearing flowers in her hair) who for a few hours on the final night of the festival seemed to embody every ideal of Glastonbury. 

That time was pre-internet, so unlike today where you can go on festival forums or social media and find others who are going solo and arrange to meet up, I arrived 100% on my own with no expectation of meeting anyone . There were some brief chats with strangers during the weekend, but apart from the hippy girl I certainly didn’t make a bunch of new weekend friends. And it was fine. Better than fine. I could really immerse myself in things. There were no compromises to be made; I could stand where I wanted to watch performers, eat what and when I wanted, got to bed early or stupidly late if I wanted,  wander off-piste if I wanted, I got to see way more music than if I’d been in a big group, and could take whatever risks I wanted to without being accountable to anyone else. I came back knowing that I would want to do it again.

If you look online you’ll see a number of articles about going to festivals and virtually all of them give advice that says something along the line of ‘be sociable, talk to strangers, make new friends.’ I’d disagree with this advice as blanket advice. Sure, it’s good guidance if you’re the sort of person who needs the company of others or otherwise you’ll be miserable. But my suggestion would be do what feels best for you. If you want to talk to strangers and make new friends, do so. But if you’re happy just existing in your own space and thoughts, that’s fine as well.

Since that first time I’ve done tiny festivals, in between ones and huge festivals solo. I’ve been to many camping festivals but also urban multi venue festivals which give the benefit and convenience and comfort of finishing the night in a cosy bed in a hotel – something which at my age is immensely appealing. At one of my favourite festivals (Bestival) between 2006 and 2012 I became one of a small group who started up and promoted via the internet (and with the support of the festival organisers) a ‘Forum Campsite’ which welcomed solo festival goers with somewhere to meet and camp with people in a similar position. Through the Forum Campsite I met a number of people who have now become friends, more than just people who I meet up with once a year for the festival. Also through running this blog and its Twitter page I’ve developed quite a few friends and acquaintances who go to festivals – so if I was lonely (which is rare) I know there are other people I can meet up with. Of course it's also good to go with my regular friends or my family, but it's not the only way of doing things.

Going to a festival on your own is not without its risks though. What if something went wrong? For example what if you were taken ill? Or what if you were the victim of a crime or lost your money? And what if the weather is shitty? Being cold, wet and muddy might seem funny in a group but it can be a pretty soul destroying experience if you have no one to laugh about it with. When you’re with a group of friends there would be someone to look after you, but that can’t be guaranteed on your own. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve always tried to introduce myself to people I’m camping near (I usually try to camp near a bunch of people who seem relatively responsible) and always do a daily check in with someone not at the festival via phone. My general lack of excess when it comes to drinking / drugs etc at festivals also helps – it lowers the risk of mucking things up and keeps the brain positive and happy – there are no comedowns.

Another precaution I always take at festivals is to take something with me to do during downtime. At bigger festivals like Glastonbury that run for virtually 24 hours non stop there’s nearly always something to do, and if there isn’t there are usually new nooks and crannies to explore, but at smaller events there may be times when it’s possible to be at a loose end and a chat with a friend would fill the time. That’s why I always take a good book. If there is an hour or two to kill, I bury my head in that.

So my advice if you’re thinking of going to a festival on your own? If the thought is there then I’d say try it. If you really hate it you can always pack up and go home and put it down to experience. Chances are though, if you’re thinking about it, you won’t hate it. You might even come away feeling more self-confident, more sure of yourself and having seen way more of both festival itself and the musicians performing than if you’d gone in a big group. I certainly don't regret the decision to head off to Glastonbury all those years ago on my own.

Wednesday 6 January 2016

New Music: Kiiara - Say Anymore

So here’s the latest tune from Kiiara, the lady that I always get muddled up with a famous concentrated soft drink brand that probably wasn’t named after sometimes quite annoying UK pop singer Rita Ora. You may remember Kiiara from when I first wrote about her last June.

There’s a case for this song, and a case against. Before deciding if I liked it or not, I weighed up my decision by careful thought, detailed analysis and expert musical appraisal. I also had a couple of glasses of red wine, to let the sounds flow a little smoother.

The case for

1. It’s infectiously and weirdly hooky – and when talking pop music that’s a good thing.

2. It sounds like the sort of song that Nicola Roberts could have sung – and when talking pop music that’s a very VERY good thing.

3. It sounds like it could have been knocked up in about 20 minutes. This isn’t a criticism it's praise. Overthought songs and recordings are generally crap.

4. Like a good steak, it’s not overdone. In fact it’s almost minimal. 

5. Also like a good steak it's even better with a decent red wine.

6. The instrumental riff shares a warped similarity to the guitar riff from Run To The Hills by heavy metal dudes Iron Maiden. Well, it does to my ears anyway.

The case against

1. It could become very annoying played on repeat.

2. The synthetic vocal production could be argued as being absolutely horrible and suggests that actually Kiiara can’t sing at all.

3. The lyrics: “From the nightclub to the bedroom floor, I’ve never felt quite like this before,” aren’t exactly deeply insightful are they? 

4. It’s not really a song at all – just a hook repeated over and over again.

So that’s 6 for vs 4 against, so the votes ‘For’ win.

So grab a glass of wine or two and make your own mind up by pressing play below. But please drink responsibly. Thanks.

Kiiara - Say Anymore

Tuesday 5 January 2016

The Blog Sound of 2016 - Top 5 Revealed

Cast your mind back to the beginning of December and you may remember a post about the Blog Sound of 2016. It's an annual poll of a selection of UK music bloggers that asks each blog to select their 3 favourite emerging acts, ranked in order, with their favourite scoring three points, then two and one.

From that poll a longlist of 15 artists was produced, each of the 15 being those that received the most points.

Today the top 5 acts that received the most votes have been revealed and they are:

1st Mura Masa

2nd The Japanese House

3rd Aurora

4th Aquilo

5th Loyle Carner

Mura Masa is the first male solo artist to top the Blog Sound poll and follows in the footsteps of Lapsley, Banks, Marika Hackman, Haim and Friends all of whom garnered the most points in previous years.

From Breaking More Waves perspective I’m pleased with these results as all of these artists have been featured on the blog over the last couple of years, and three of them (Mura Masa, Aurora and Loyle Carner) were in my own Ones to Watch list. In fact of those 3, I chose 2 of them for my own 3 votes for this poll. 

To see Breaking More Waves own 10 Ones To Watch click here.

To see all of the main UK tips lists combined into 1 to see who most people are tipping have a look at this post on Music Ally here.

Sunday 3 January 2016

New Music: Tender - Afternoon

Last year a whole bunch of blogs picked up on a new London two-piece called Tender but for one reason or another (mainly real life) I never got round to listening to their debut EP until today, when the first song from their second release appeared on line. Just one play of Afternoon was enough to send me scuttling off to see what I had been missing. The answer was something akin to a heavily blissed-out version of Jungle, with songs rich in spacey smoothness and chilled to the max beats and grooves. This music that sounds like it comes straight from the bedroom, it’s that dreamy and languid. Forget Netflix and chill, now it’s going to be going round for some Tender. 

According to the duo’s short bio Tender make sweet music in their basement, are called Dan and James and are lifelong friends. Enjoy the ear seduction-shoegaze-synthsex of Afternoon below and then take a listen to their debut EP which is streaming on the likes of Spotify.

Tender - Afternoon

What Song To Choose As Our First Dance At Our Non-Existent Wedding?

“If we got married, what would our first dance be?”

It’s a complicated question, with a complicated answer and probably not the best to even ask whilst you’re consumed in the domestic drudgery of washing up after lunch. But it’s a question I had to ask, not because either of us have any intention of getting married right now - after something like 18 years and 2 kids it seems almost pointless, but because for (probably) all sorts of deep psychological reasons, that I don't understand, I’m fascinated with what song we would choose. 

“I have no idea,” she said. “You’d be too afraid of selecting something cheesy.”

She was right of course. 

Music, just like a long term relationship, is complicated.

I definitely have songs, or even bands, that remind me of certain people, especially from when I was younger. Whenever I think of my first true love I’ll think of obscure Fleet based indie-pop-ska-skiffle group Jim Jiminee (see this link for more of that story). Then if I ever hear She's A Star by Manchester band James I’ll instantly be taken to thoughts of the one that got away (see link here). Then there’s David Gray and Please Forgive Me, a song that I share with a too often too distant wonderful friend (here). But for the two of us, despite a whole host of memories, there is no one song. We're not sure what the first song we ever danced together to was, but there's a nagging suspicion it was a Daft Punk tune. Would that work at a wedding? Probably not.

Maybe there's no one song because when you’re young and full of turbulent emotions music doesn’t just light a spark, but sets off a fire that burns bright into the heart? The songs seem more important then than anything else in the world. My girlfriend says that the band Crowded House take her back to a holiday with friends in New Zealand, and Under The Bridge by Red Hot Chilli Peppers reminds her of a time working one summer in America. I remember hearing James Blunt's You're Beautiful so many times on one particular holiday we had together on the Balearic Islands that I wanted to punch the man in the face very hard, so much did I detest it. So that one probably wouldn't work as 'our song' would it?

But as you get older and life becomes more of a blur, your emotions level out a little and especially if you’re like me, surrounded by music so much of the time, it becomes difficult to define life by a soundtrack, even more so by one song. Whereas in the past I wanted to divide my life by musical moments, now that idea is too simple – how can a pop song capture not only the black and whites of life, but the tangled shades of grey?

It’s possibly why the question I hate more than any other is the ‘what’s your favourite band?’ Or worse, the ‘what’s your favourite album / song of all time?’ I find that impossible to answer. I simply don’t have one. There are too many songs, too many bands that make up my complex relationship with music. Maybe human relationships are like that as well? Or rather long term ones - they’re not simple or easy. It’s not all just flowers, chocolates, fun nights out, raging passionate sex and romance. Life isn’t an Ed Sheeran song (apparently his song Thinking Out Loud was one of 2015’s most popular first dances), as I've said before, it's complicated.

Maybe if we ever did get married we’d just choose Radiohead’s Punch Up At A Wedding and be done with it. At least it might get a laugh. Or maybe we would just use our combined inability to choose ‘our song’ as an excuse for continuing to live unmarried. 

Saturday 2 January 2016

New Music: Gabrielle Aplin - In Your Arms

One of my favourite things about the Christmas and New Year holiday break is the spare time that it gives to revisit records that may have slipped by the wayside a little and give them some further attention. One such album that I’ve found myself returning to in this manner is Gabrielle Aplin’s second album Light Up The Dark

For this release Aplin progressed her sound significantly, from breathy acoustic singer-songwriter with a knack for a pop melody to something more akin to Sheryl Crow or KT Tunstall. Light Up The Dark is a bolder, punchier, rockier record that manages to retain an emotional core; there’s a fair few songs about being isolated and lonely, although they're not necessarily sung from her own perspective - they could be other's stories. Through its re-appraisal I’ve discovered it’s a body of work that gets better on every listen - there’s some really strong songs and musicianship on it. Maybe if I’d run my albums of the year list at the start of January 2016 rather than midway through December it might have even sneaked on to the lower reaches of the top 10. It certainly would have been close. For arguments sake I’ll put it at number 11.

But whilst I was getting reacquainted with Gabrielle, with a glass of iced Baileys in hand, she gave us a little Christmas treat, uploading a demo version of a piano based ballad called In Your Arms to You Tube and subsequently yesterday onto Soundcloud. Written with Foy Vance and Luke Potashnick it’s a track that didn’t make it onto her album. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a good tune though, far from it, it’s absolutely lovely, but we can see how it might not have quite been the right fit for Light Up The Dark. Take a listen below and then if you haven't done so already give Light Up The Dark a try - even if you haven't been a fan of Aplin before, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Gabrielle Aplin - In Your Arms (Demo)

Friday 1 January 2016

New Music: Glass - Broken Bones (Video)

I first met Jessica Winter a number of years ago when she was putting on gigs in a small pub in Portsmouth. I’m not sure if at the time she was even old enough to be there, but if she wasn’t, it certainly showed her commitment to music. Even at that stage it was clear she stood out; a warped version of Kate Bush playing what could broadly be described as pop songs but with some strong classical influence from Hungarian composer and piano virtuoso Franz Liszt.

A few years further on and she had become the front woman of sepia tinged psychedelic pop band The Hall of Mirrors, who made some small headway into the public consciousness with a number of well received gigs in London, festival slots and a feature in The Guardian’s New Band of the Day (now New Band of the Week) before dissolving.

But it’s Winter’s latest project, Glass, that’s turned the dial marked excitement up to the max, especially with their second song Broken Bones. With an accompanying video that is surreal, glamorous and puzzling, the tune sounds a little bit like Luke Haines’ Black Box Recorder fed through a filter marked noir-tinged and trippy. It’s a mesmerising piece that deals with what appears to be the near loss of Jessica’s brother. “Leaving 50 years early, don’t just be a memory to me,” she sings with a sad melancholy tone. Add to that the fact that her brother stars in the video and it makes the whole thing that little bit more unsettling, but it's certainly a beautifully realised piece of leftfield pop music. 

Glass play a small handful of shows in Bristol, Manchester and London in March.

Glass - Broken Bones (Video)

Breaking More Waves - The 2016 Edition

2016. It’s arrived. Or at least it has in the UK. Everything is different and yet everything is also the same. Breaking More Waves is a bit like that – it’s still the good old basic no frills or thrills blog template with a chatty rather than journalistic style, but it's different as well. If you don’t know about the changes I'm making, I posted about them over the Christmas period and you can catch up on that using this link

If you can’t be bothered reading that post, then in essence, the changes are that I’m now writing in the first person singular, because Breaking More Waves is becoming a bit more personal in some of the material I publish. Breaking More Waves is also no longer going to be just a new music blog, although there will still be a good proportion of the brand new; but there will be other (music) stuff as well. Finally I won’t be posting quite as regularly as the past.

As I have for the last couple of years, my first post for 2016 is a few thoughts and wishes about what I'd like to happen in the ever changing landscape of pop music / the internet / social media as we go through the next 12 months together.

But before we get down to that, here’s something a little weird / uncanny that I’ve just noticed about the blog.

Jan 1st 2013: I introduced a new artist called Layla with her song New Year. Layla was a new solo project by Josephine from the as yet formed Oh Wonder.

Jan 1st 2015: I introduced a new band called Oh Wonder. 2 years on from the day from Layla first appeared on the blog. By the end of the year I named the Oh Wonder album as my favourite of 2015.

It’s a bit of evidence to suggest that it would be wrong to call all music bloggers fickle! 

So here they are:  

10 things that I’d like to see happen to music and the internet in 2016.

1. The tired format of X-Factor will be scrapped in the UK. OK I asked for this in 2014, but it feels we’re getting closer doesn’t it?

2. Also asked for in 2014: There will be a second Nicola Roberts solo album and it will be more than good. Still really hoping for that one.

3. Also asked for in 2014: There will be some Nicola Roberts live shows and they will be A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. But let's have the album first.

4. The music industry will accept that different people might like to use and enjoy different or even multiple music formats (CD, streaming, vinyl, downloads) and works to find a solution that suits everyone based on this idea, rather than simply trying to destroy certain formats as they have done in the past. 

5. That songwriters will become more adventurous lyrically. There’s so much more to write about than just being 'in da club' and 'doing what you want'. Wouldn’t it be fun if say someone wrote a song about the mystical adviser in the court of Czar Nicholas II of Russia, or based their lyrics on the book Wuthering Heights? These things happened in the past and we’d like to see some acts embracing a more literary and wide reaching approach to what they sing about.

6. Where music bloggers are working for an artist (management / PR / label) that they are more open about their position and manage their conflicting roles properly. For example posting about the artist on your independent blog without declaring your role is a pretty poor show. It's as bad as last years fiasco of PR companies writing about their own acts for Hype Machine listed music blogs and therefore giving their acts an unfair advantage on the Hype Machine charts (see more about this on Hype Machine here)

7. That people will suddenly realise that going to see a band in a local 100 / 200 / 400 capacity venue is actually something worth doing. I’ve noticed a worrying decline in the number of people going to smaller gigs in the last few years. Further small venue closures would be a disaster for music. I know it’s a clichéd argument, but if artists can’t learn their craft in these places then where are the 10,000 seat arena fillers of the future going to come from?

8. That music industry people (including bloggers) focus less on social media statistics and more on the quality of the music. 

9. That people will spend less time on social media (particularly twitter) ‘calling people out’ when their actions or words aren’t the same as what they believe is acceptable behaviour and more time trying to understand why the person chose to act that way. It’s only through understanding that real solutions can be found. Aggression just breeds aggression both ways.

10. That the UK government ensures that Radio 1, Radio 2 and BBC 6 Music remain for the nation to enjoy. For all their faults they have a purpose that could never be filled by the commercial sector and without them the UK’s music scene and industry would be a far poorer place. Even better though, would be if after scrapping X-Factor (item 1) the UK could get a decent eclectic live music mainstream TV show - imagine something like TFI Friday but without all the 'humour' in between. 

Ok, that’s my wish list. Let’s get on with the show.... Oh, and happy bloody New Year to you. Thumbs up / firework emoji etc.