Monday 29 February 2016

New Music: Host - All Night Every Night

Remember Host? No, I didn’t either. However, it seems that back in 2014 I wrote about them. The post didn’t really say much except that Heartbeats In The House, the track in question (and now removed from the web), was very dance floor friendly. Oh, and that the band was adopting the ‘mystery identity’ approach.

Since that time there’s been nothing from them until this new tune, All Night Every Night cropped up in my in-box. Once again it's highly danceable and once again I know very little about them, except that from the tiny bit of information I’ve received, they appear to be a duo called Ben and Tom. Hardly riveting information I’m sure you’ll agree, but at least there’s a picture, which confirms that yes, they are two men.

Of course it’s all about the music isn’t it? And this is where All Night Every Night wins. It’s a delightful dance pop tune that throbs in strobe lit ecstasy. I can imagine this one shaking the walls and floors of the Haçienda back in the late 80’s or early 90’s with its near-Balearic high speed fluidity that’s somewhere close to New Order circa Technique but with an unhurried and soothing vocal that’s similar to John Marsh of The Beloved. 

Let’s just hope they don’t leave it so long till next time.

Host - All Night Every Night

New Music: Xylaroo - Sunshine (Video)

At the end of January I hopped on a ferry from my home city of Portsmouth to a place which was one of Queen Victoria's favourites to visit; the weird and wonderful Isle of Wight. I was there for an evening of musical finery presented by Sunday Best Records at the Quay Arts Centre in Newport, with a celebratory DJ set of David Bowie tunes by Rob Da Bank, complete with colourful Bowie visuals. Plus there was live music from Alice Jemima (who has been long supported through this blog, first featuring in April 2011 and being named as One To Watch in 2012 - a little early perhaps?). Alice is now signed to Sunday Best so you can fully expect an LP this year. Heading up the bill was Xylaroo, another act that I named as Ones To Watch in 2016, so I thought I had better take my own advice and go and watch them.

Xylaroo was excellent. Wonderful sisterly harmonies backed by just one acoustic guitar and a very cool, almost casual, delivery. The obvious comparison remains First Aid Kit and I can imagine Xylaroo having spent a fair amount of time rifling through the same record collection as the Swedish sisters - the presence of the likes of Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and Rilo Kiley could all be heard in their heartwarming songs. 

With an album called Sweetooth due for release in June, the first single from it is Sunshine. It's a tune with a positive outlook on life, focusing on leaving life's negatives behind and absorbing those natural rays of hope. "If you want the rainbow, you've got to put up with the rain," they sing. Sunshine has a timeless appeal to it and the video, which streams below, is also full of a charming warmth. 

Xylaroo - Sunshine (Video)

Friday 26 February 2016

Fear Of Men & Champs Added To Portsmouth's Bargain All Dayer (Dials Days)

I’m interrupting the normal music posts for a short commercial advert break.

Some of you may have read about a successful new music festival I helped run in Portsmouth last year called Dials (here) or remember an earlier post (here) about a new event the team are running.

The new event is called Dials Days and it’s an all-day affair at Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms and its sister venue The Edge of the Wedge. I’ve had an input into booking a small handful of bands on the bill (regular readers will probably be able to tell which ones quite easily!).

You might also remember that I wrote about the fact that one of our headliners was due to be Viola Beach. Tragically the band members and manager were all killed in a car accident the day after we booked them. Following these terrible events the team has been working hard to secure new headliners whilst keeping within the festival’s concept of providing a full day of live music at a value price of just £10.

I’m now pleased to confirm that the two bands who will be topping the bill are Brighton’s Fear Of Men, their show at Dials Days being the final date of their new tour which includes a number of gigs at South By South West in Austin Texas. Joining them will be Champs, whose second album Vamala received rave reviews; the Guardian, Independent and Q Magazine all giving it 4 out of 5, with the Guardian calling it ‘highly effective pop’. These two groups complete a line-up that offers a full day of entertainment for around the same price as going to the cinema for a couple of hours. It's a bargain.

What more is there to say? Just grab a ticket quick from the link below. The prices will be more on the door. Come and be a Dials Dayer (and stay and dance into the night with the DJs after the bands finish till 2am)

Tickets are available from this link here.

Watch Fear of Men and Champs here:

Fear Of Men - Tephra

Champs - Desire

The full line up is: Fear Of Men, Champs, Estrons, Femme, Fake Laugh, Avec Sans, Dead Rabbits, Wyldest, Shallows, Thyla, The Boy I Used To Be, Is Bliss, Melt Dunes, Hey Charlie, Little Robyn, George Regan

Here's a Soundcloud playlist with all the acts except 1 below:

Ok that’s the commercial break over… back to the regular posts next!

New Music: Introducing - Abigail Blake

Welcome to today’s new genre. What do you get if you combine a harp, a sprinkling of delicate hop-scotch electronic beats and a rather pretty voice? The answer is Twinklestep. Silly? Yes - but Abigail Blake, who seems to have invented this fairy-dance sound, has turned the silliness into something rather refreshing. 

There’s a feathery lightness to her song Liar that is both charming and alluring - even if the subject matter is somewhat heavier - the lyrics deal with the subject of people she thought she could rely on turning their backs on her when she was struggling with severe depression. 

It isn’t the first tune from this 21 year old lass from Norwich, but her previous efforts have all been way more acoustic. Liar is an impressive development; the skittering beats suit her well. It’s a fascinating start to Abigail Blake's new chapter.

Abigail Blake - Liar

Thursday 25 February 2016

New Music: Nao - Fool To Love

Nao absolutely nails it on Fool To Love, another slice of slick future driven funk, with more bounce to the bassline than a 1970’s spacehopper. The production is pristine and the tune sugar sweet, even if Nao is singing about THE END: “I was a fool to love you, we could have had it all.”

The question now is can Nao crossover to be a mainstream pop star? There’s no certainty on that one, her music at this stage may still possess a bit too much groovy OOOOMPH for the singles charts, but there’s no doubt this one will cement her fan base. And if the music career doesn't work out? Well I think she should get a job scrutinising public spending for the UK parliament. Her name would fit in well (see here)

Nice shade of orange on that promo pic as well – did the shoot take place in an Easy Hotel? It’s very much of that colour. 

Fool To Love is released via Little Tokyo Recordings / RCA with an 'impact date' (that makes it sound like she's going to explode into tiny pieces doesn't it?) of 8th April. She hits the road for some solo UK dates in April and then jets off to America for a bunch of shows with Mura Masa. Of course the highlight of both these artists careers so far is surely being named 1 and 2 on Breaking More Waves own Ones to Watch? Surely? 

Nao - Fool To Love

Old Music: Massive Attack - Protection

There’s a school of thought (which I partly subscribe to) that the ‘be the first to post / premiere a song or album then immediately move on to something else’ culture of new music blogging actually devalues music. Not just in financial terms, but in a wider sense. The argument is that if a website is constantly creating mini-events out of each of its multitude of premieres, telling you that every track it features is the greatest or most special thing you’ll hear this day, week or month, then all it achieves is reducing the concept of being great or special to something that is pretty empty. We end up with hundreds of mini-greats rather than a few giant ones.

Maybe that’s how things are these days, but I’m not sure if it’s a good idea. How do you think your girlfriend / boyfriend / husband or wife would feel if you told them that they were just one of many wonderful / great people you loved? I like to think of my relationship with music as being the same - that there are just a small handful of truly great records - and probably a lot of good, very good or average ones.

But the trouble is that, as both a fan and a blogger, I get excited about a lot of music. I can’t help it. I hear something new and it hits me. POW! My first thoughts are this is …..wait for it……great! And then I post it on this blog and sometimes (OK, quite often) get over excited about it. It’s like the first rush of romance all over again.

But, now and then when I look back at past posts I wonder to myself "what on earth was I thinking?" Although to be fair most of the time I still think the music I've featured has merit. OK maybe not always great, but at least very good.

And this is the other point. I go back to this stuff. Sometimes as a blogger it becomes too easy to just listen to the latest shiny new thing and not spend time with that which we already love. It’s one of the reasons why I’ve started doing the occasional post about old music. I think it’s important to highlight those really important long-termers. It might just draw someone’s attention to something that they hadn’t heard before and that’s certainly one of the main reasons why most music bloggers write.

So here’s something I want you to listen to - especially if you've never heard it before. This song is like my girlfriend. A very important constant in my life. A song I return to without sometimes even realising it’s importance. It is in my opinion, truly great. 

Massive Attack - Protection

Tuesday 23 February 2016

New Music: Introducing - Wildes

The press release that accompanied this song by West London lass Ella Walker, who goes by the artist name of Wildes, suggested that Bare, her first official release (a bit of digging online will find various other bits and bobs, including Ella participating in a very Staves like cover version of Mumford and Sons song Timshel) would probably draw some comparisons to Elena Tonra of Daughter fame. It wasn’t wrong. Let’s face it, the guitars paint virtually the same atmospheric soundscape and even the title of the song sounds like something that Daughter might have come up with.

So apologies if you’re looking for something groundbreaking and original. Bare isn’t it. Go and ask Thom Yorke to fart into a can, put a distorted beat over it and call it Bz23 + Norsk45 = tieduplittlepiggy if you want that. But if like me you’re happy to wallow in something that’s raw, sensitive and supremely lovely, whatever the similarities, then press play.

Wildes - Bare

Monday 22 February 2016

New Music: Emma Pollock - Alabaster

Even the most ardent and knowledgeable music fan cannot keep up with every song and record released – it’s a physical impossibility. But thanks to the likes of streaming services it’s certainly possible to dip your toe into far more musical pools than it was ever possible to in the past. In 2016 it has never been easier for someone to educate themselves both in musical history and the current day. Never listened to The Beatles? Nirvana? Madonna? Then just open up Spotify or the like and dive right in. Type the album name on Google and read up on its history and gain some context. No idea who new artists like FKA Twigs, Lapsley or Young Fathers are, but heard their names? Well there's no need to spend all day trawling record shops trying to find out. Just press play straight away. It’s all just so beautifully easy. Maybe too easy? 

It was in this simple way that I came across Emma Pollock’s new LP In Search of Harperfield. Having been a fan of The Delgados (Emma’s first band) and their albums Peloton and The Great Eastern, I took particular interest when I saw a number of tweets praising Emma’s new solo record, her first in five and a half years. Skipping the reviews (discuss: are music critics of any relevance or importance in today’s digital climate?) I went straight to Spotify and dived in to find a wonderful collection of music that is both immediate and immensely rewarding. Maybe that easiness is a good thing after all?

In Search of Harperfield was at least partly inspired by the decline and death of Emma’s mother after a long illness and sees Pollock connecting memories and joining the dots of her parents past. It’s a beautiful and often plaintive body of work and opening song Cannot Keep A Secret is probably one of the most assured and complete songs I’ve heard so far in 2016. 

Whilst in terms of the internet and its rapid turnover the heading above of ‘New Music’ is probably somewhat incorrect. In Search of Harperfield has been out for nearly a month. Maybe it should have been 'New-ish music?' Yet the fact that most of the songs on Spotify have had less than 10,000 plays and Alabaster (another gem from a collection of them) has only just over 5,000 plays on Soundcloud, suggests that this body of work will still be very new to many people. It comes highly recommended, please take a listen. You can find it on Spotify using this link.

Emma Pollock - Alabaster

New Music: Go Swim - Surrender

Unsigned Northern Irish 5 piece Go Swim featured on Breaking More Waves back in 2014, and now they're back after what they describe as a 'transitional 2015' with a new song. Surrender certainly gives a nod to the likes of early Foals with its nervy and twitchy guitars, but if anything it's more immediate and accessible. If Cassius was indie pop but with indie taking 80% of the share then Surrender gets closer to a 50-50 split. Basically if you're the sort of indie fan that prefers music that sounds like it's five seconds away from destruction then Surrender probably won't be for you, as this is a tune with a sense of purpose, even if that purpose is just to make you dance and enjoy life.

The song comes complete with an accompanying 'I'm on my holidays and I've got a selfie stick' video (which you can see via this link here) and is released via iTunes, Amazon, Spotify etc on the 5th May, but you can stream it now from Soundcloud below.

Go Swim - Surrender

Sunday 21 February 2016

New Music: XYLØ - Bang Bang

You’re a music fan right? Of course you are. After all you wouldn’t be reading a music blog if you weren’t. 

So as you’re a fan, I’m going to ask you the million and one dollar question…

What kind of music do you like?

It’s the question I really hate being asked. I consider myself a HUGE music fan. I buy a lot of records, I go and see a lot of gigs, I spend nearly all of my free time when I’m not asleep or at work listening to music. Yet when I’m asked this question, I give the lamest answer: “I like all sorts really.”

It’s such a weak response, but it’s true. 

There are some music fans that have specific tastes and like to stick well within their comfort zones. At the extreme level these fans decree anything that doesn’t fall within their narrow frame of reference as being rubbish. 

But I pretty much like a bit of everything – I can be excited and surprised by anything from hip-hop to pop, from folk to techno. But if you want an explanation of why I like so many different sounds and what it is that grabs me about any particular piece of music to make me really adore it, I struggle to find a concise answer. In fact if I try to self-analyse and pigeon hole what it actually is, it probably would ruin my enjoyment. 

But one thing that I do know is that I love the element of surprise. And whilst I'm sure there are many who like the safety of a musical comfort blanket, I'm sure there are plenty of people out there like me. It’s why artists like Bowie or Queen were able to have such long successful careers – they managed to constantly surprise their fans with changes in direction whilst keeping the quality high. And conversely a band like Oasis became a model of ever decreasing returns as they set off on a downhill trajectory of more of the same with each album they released.

Which brings me to XYLØ

It’s one of the inevitabilities of pop that when something is successful there will be influence and imitation and certainly there are plenty of acts trying to break through at the moment that sound ‘a little bit Lana’. When I first featured XYLØ in 2015 that’s exactly how I described them. After a small number of releases I thought (like many a music blogger) I had their sound sussed. But now XYLØ  have thrown in a curve ball.

And curve is the operative word here. For new song Bang Bang, which clocks in at just over 2 minutes, reminds me a little of a modern day version of early 90’s alt-rockers Curve. You want some other reference points? Ok. Try Death In Vegas, The Go Team and a softer Sleigh Bells for starters. Bang Bang is grittier, dirtier, trashier and punchier than anything the brother sister duo have produced to date. This one’s the musical equivalent of kick boxing – with some very fast solid punches thrown in for good measure.

XYLØ - Bang Bang

New Music: Chvrches - Clearest Blue (Video)

One of the internal conflicts of writing a music blog like this is the devotion to all things fresh and musically young blooded versus the desire to feature stuff that really doesn’t need support from tiny websites anymore. Take for example the latest Chvrches video. When I first wrote about the Scottish trio they had just a few hundred plays on their Soundcloud and had yet to change the ‘u’ to a ‘v’. Blog support was important to them then, in fact they made a point in a number of interviews of saying that if it wasn’t for blogs they probably wouldn’t have got the opportunities that they now have.

Yet now, with a new video for THE BANGER in the live set (and best song on the album) clocking up thousands of plays in the first 24 hours, it feels relatively pointless posting it here unless there’s some other culturally significant comment / deeply thought out argument / new context / hilarious comedy joke to be made about it.

But in this case I don’t have one.

Except to say that basically the first 2 and a half minutes of this song are really just one big long build to the eargasm moment aren’t they? And I'm pretty sure someone, somewhere has already said that far more eloquently than I have.

So just enjoy the ride. What a song.

Chvrches - Clearest Blue (Video)

Tuesday 16 February 2016

New Music: Introducing - Haarm

Sometimes on Breaking More Waves I write about an artist once or twice and then for one reason or another never cover them again. Occasionally it’s because I don’t like the material they release next, but more often than not it’s just because Breaking More Waves is a one man D-I-Y 'hobby' project and I simply don’t have the resources to write about everything I’d like to or because of the sheer volume of new music out there, things slip off my radar. 

Such is the case with Jennifer Davies, who I featured back in 2014 with some ‘imaginative, British, kick-ass pop.' Then I seemed to lose track of what she was doing, until now, when she has re-entered the Breaking More Waves zone. 

For Jennifer is a member of new Liverpool based collective Haarm, and their debut effort Foxglove is a murderously good piece of big beat pop. Taking a lesson from Oh Wonder, Haarm put boy-girl vocals side by side, both singers mouthing every word of the lyrics right to the very final “the ship that you are sailing is going down.” Yet where Oh Wonder’s songs are full of tenderness, soft piano and sparse beats, Foxglove finds the drummer getting wicked and the bass getting dirty. It’s the sort of intelligent pop music that the likes of St Etienne made in their prime, that is to say it’s classy but still has a scissor sharp edge to it. The kind of pop that people who don't normally like pop will admit to liking. 

It’s an excellent start. I’m hoping this time to keep Jennifer Davies (and the three other members of this grouping - yes three, even though only two of the others are pictured - there's a mystery man lurking around somewhere) on the radar.

Haarm - Foxglove

Monday 15 February 2016

Dials Days 2016 Portsmouth - Initial Line Up Announced

Last year I was involved in the curation and organisation of a self-funded, multi-venue, new music festival in Portsmouth called Dials. It was pretty successful as far as first events go and the team behind it, including myself, decided that in 2016 we’d like to run and organise some more live music events. Today I’m pleased to announce some of the line-up for Dials Days, an all-dayer running at Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms and its sister venue The Edge of The Wedge on 23rd April 2016. 

Dials Days will follow a similar ethos to the 2015 festival bringing national touring bands together with the cream of local talent to provide an exciting day of new music and discovery at a value price, more typical of a single gig. Unfortunately at this stage I can’t announce the headliners, and if you have heard the sad news about the tragic deaths of the band Viola Beach (see my previous post here) you will understand partly why.

However, there’s still plenty of musical goodness on offer, including a number of Breaking More Waves favourites.

Among the acts so far confirmed are Welsh alt-rockers Estrons, who will bring an unbridled energy to the event following a forthcoming slot for BBC Introducing at this year’s SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. Also playing and adding energy of a different kind will be the sassy all-dancing Femme, who recently toured with Charli XCX in the States and is due to release her debut album later this year. Dials Days is also pleased to bring back ethereal rock trio Wyldest to Portsmouth who wowed the previous festival with their ethereal guitar sounds.

The bill will also include electronic bangers from London’s Avec Sans, wonky guitar pop from Fake Laugh, indie-rockers Hey Charlie, new dream pop upstarts Thyla from Brighton and the spacey psychedelic noisesmiths Dead Rabbits from Southampton, plus a number of other artists (full list below).

After the bands finish, following their exhilarating 60’s party DJ set at Dials Festival, the mighty Fuzz Tones DJs will be returning, this time to the main room of the Wedgewood Rooms plus Dead Rabbits and Damaged Goods will be keeping the spirits high in the Edge of the Wedge into the small hours. 

Tickets can be purchased now from Music Glue (via this link) or The Wedgewood Rooms (this link) at a bargain price of £10. 

I'd urge you to purchase one in order for us to create further events in the future - this isn't about making money, it's about bringing new, exciting acts to Portsmouth and working within a spirit of collaboration. If we made a profit we could use that profit to re-invest in bringing more expensive acts to Portsmouth. However this can only be done if we actually sell some tickets. This full afternoon and night of entertainment costs about the same as a cinema ticket or a round of drinks.

Full line up so far: 

Avec Sans, Dead Rabbits, Estrons, Fake Laugh, Femme, George Regan, Hey Charlie, Is Bliss, Little Robyn, Melt Dunes, Shallows, The Boy I Used To Be, Thyla, Wyldest + Very Special Guest Still To Be Announced

A Soundcloud playlist of the majority of the acts so far confirmed can be found below.

Here are 4 artists on the bill that Breaking More Waves is particularly excited about at Dials Days – they’ve all been featured on the blog before.

Femme - Expect dance routines, banging beats and pom poms. Portsmouth probably hasn't seen anything like Femme in its history.

Thyla - Recently introduced on the blog, my latest new favourite thing from Brighton.

Avec Sans - Long term blog favourites, and another act on the bill (alongside Estrons and Femme) who are playing this year's SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas. Expect a lot of electronic kit and some very cool pop songs.

Wyldest - They've played a fair few gigs in Portsmouth already and are beginning to develop a decent fanbase. Of course Breaking More Waves was the first blog in the world to post about them (when they went under their previous name Wildest Dreams) so we're always happy to have them back again.

Social Media: 

Twitter @dialsfestival

Sunday 14 February 2016

Some Words About Viola Beach (R.I.P)

As a few of you may know, due writing this music blog last year I got involved in running a new independent music festival in Portsmouth named Dials, which was set up to replace the long running Southsea Fest, which was taking a year out. 

As part of the team I helped bring the likes of Black Honey, Alice Jemima and Chloe Black (all Breaking More Waves favourites) to the event. The festival itself ran incredibly smoothly, with no hitches and lots of very positive comments from punters about the quality of the music, the good value, the friendliness of the staff and the number of female musicians (not just lead singers) that featured on the bill – something for which many other festivals have been criticised for over the last year or so. Dials also managed to operate on a broadly break-even basis, which we were very pleased with being fully independent and having nobody finance the event except our own pockets. (You can read more about our experiences of running the event here).

Due to the success of Dials, some of the team, including myself, decided we wanted to continue further even with Southsea Fest likely to return, and so it was agreed that we would put on a series of events under the banner Dials Days / Dials Nights. Dials Days would be an all-day 2 stage event in Portsmouth’s most famous venue – the mighty Wedgewood Rooms – whilst Dials Nights would be regular evening gigs. We started planning and booking Dials Days for this April.

Like any other event putting on a number of bands, from small scale all-dayers like Dials Days to huge outdoor festivals, quality curation of the line-up is essential, as are the headliners. For Dials Days I make no apology for saying that until very recently we were struggling for a headliner that the whole team could agree on, that was available and wanted to play within our relatively limited price range. In fact the team had become a little despondent that with just over 2 months before the event was due to take place, with a decent supporting line up confirmed, we’d not been able to book a headliner.

Then last Friday the mood turned from concern to jubilation as news came through that we had 3 bands who were at various stages of being close to, if not fully confirmed, that we all agreed on. Talk turned to having a co-headline billing. Suddenly the line up of Dials Days looked superb.

One of those bands and in fact the one who had fully confirmed subject to some minor I’s and T’s being dotted and crossed was Warrington’s Viola Beach. We were all very excited about this. Viola Beach was a perfect fit for the festival and what we were trying to do. They were new, fresh, talented, exciting and definitely on the way up. They had support from BBC Introducing and were due to play for them at this year’s SXSW Festival. They’d been played a lot on Radio 1 and Radio X as well. They fitted the mould of many of those classic indie rock bands that came out of the north. Arctic Monkeys had been mentioned several times. They were the kind of band that we felt would go down very well in Portsmouth and would shift tickets. Their music had a certain swagger and energy to it, but a definite tunefulness as well. It was easy to see why they were being tipped as ones to watch for the future.

Last Saturday one of our team emailed to finalise the booking and we were waiting for the deal memo to come through. Now we realise that it never will.

My excitement at bringing one of the most exciting new indie rock bands in the UK to Portsmouth was shattered this morning and in its place a feeling of shock and sadness has taken hold which I'm still unable to shake off whilst I write this.

As you have probably read on line or heard on the radio, all 4 members of Viola Beach and their manager were tragically killed after their car fell of a bridge into a canal in Sweden. They were there to perform at the Where’s The Music Festival in Norrkoping, their first show outside of the UK and were then due to travel back to the UK to play with Blossoms at Guildford’s Boiler Room venue last night - a show which quite rightly was cancelled, (A full news report of the tragic events can be found here)

When any young life is lost it is always sad, but when those lives were full of such promise, bringing with them the ability to fill other people’s hearts with joy and happiness through their creative talents and ability to make music, for me as a music fan it seems even more awful.

Today my teenage daughter woke up and came downstairs with her college iPad in hand. “Hey daddy, have you seen the news?” she questioned softly holding out the device with a picture of Viola Beach on it. “That band that you were playing in the car yesterday….”

On Valentine’s day, a day of love, it made me stop and realise that you need to tell those around you, how much you love them very often, as you never know when they may be taken from you - even the youngest and brightest.

RIP Viola Beach. My thoughts are with their family, loved ones and friends. I’m truly sorry I never got to saw them play live. They were taken before we all got the chance to see what they could have become.

Viola Beach - Boys That Sing

Wednesday 10 February 2016

New Music: Grace Sarah - Underwater

Dance music doesn't always lend itself to being described as pretty, often concerning itself with banging basslines and going for the drop in quite vulgar ways, but this new song from Grace Sarah is far removed from that. It's a dreamboat of a track that manages to convey much of the singer's first name in its delivery and then some. In fact it's probably wrong to describe Underwater as dance music at all, for although there are beats, it owes as much to pop and ambient music as it does the rave or club. It's light, airy and floats with a sunset beauty that will probably make you want to tell everyone you know that you love them.

Without doubt Grace's finest song to date, and if she continues at this rate it wouldn't surprise me at all if record labels start paying some attention.

Grace Sarah - Underwater

Tuesday 9 February 2016

New Music: Let's Eat Grandma - Deep Six Textbook

As a father of two teenage girls I can fully appreciate the term ‘wasted youth’. What worries me is that my own wasted youth (listening to far too much pop music, gorging on movies and sampling the delights of alcohol with friends) seems to have drifted into adulthood without much change. If my daughters follow suit then expect conversations with their future partners to mainly revolve around cute cats and dogs they’ve seen on Instagram and The Hunger Games.

Thankfully it seems that not every teenage girl spends her life clicking ‘favourite’ on Jifpom videos. For example take Rosa and Jenny from Norwich, aged 16 and 17 respectively. They’ve spent the last few years occupying a very different world that they call Let’s Eat Grandma. You might remember that I introduced the duo back in August last year, describing their music as ‘idiosyncratic, scrappy, kooky, eerie yet charming out there multi-instrumental pop music with a sense of its own identity and originality.’

Let's Eat Grandma have until today seemed like a special left of centre secret that just music obsessives like me have known about. Now that’s all changed, with news that the band signed to Transgressive Records and have released their debut video proper for the song Deep Six Textbook (streaming below). It’s available on iTunes and will be released on limited edition coloured 7” vinyl on March 18th (pre-order it here). Also, quite bizarrely and brilliantly, the band’s name started trending on Twitter this afternoon, albeit half the tweets seemed to be simply asking ‘why are the words Let’s Eat Grandma trending?’

Hopefully, some of those asking the question went on to find out why and discovered the band for the first time. What they will have heard is a heavily downbeat pop song, cast from the shadows of both the schoolyard playground and the haunt filled spaces between this world and the next. For those who want their pop music instant and throwaway, this won’t be your thing. However, for those who are prepared to let things sink in a little, prepared to get addicted.

Let’s Eat Grandma’s debut album will be released this summer.

Let's Eat Grandma - Deep Six Textbook (Video)

New Music: Dua Lipa - Last Dance

If you like pop music and unless you’ve been hiding in a dark cave for the last few months you cannot have failed to have noticed Dua Lipa. She’s one of those artists who has been carefully seeded by her label / PR people with all of the tastemaker types and as a result found herself on the BBC Sound of 2016 longlist. I’ve not featured her on the blog before, because whilst her releases so far have been good enough (particularly online hit Be The One) they haven’t to my mind stood out way above the multitude of commercial sounding pop music that comes my way. However, that’s not to say I’m not intrigued by Dua Lipa, if only for the fact that she’s originally from Kosovo and her name actually is Dua Lipa and means ‘love’ in Albanian. 

So having got to step one on the ladder of pop the question was (and still is) can she climb higher? I decided the only way to make some sort of informed decision on this was to go and see her live. So off I trekked to The Hope & Ruin in Brighton, where a dark room above the pub, probably more suited to sweaty, unwashed indie bands in skinny jeans and leather jackets, provided the location for one of her shows. Let’s not forget though, that I once saw some lass called Adele play in the same room (when it was half the size it is now, following a revamp) for £5 and she did OK didn’t she?

What I learnt at that gig was several simple things. First, that Dua Lipa can do it live. She can sing, she can move and she’s got enough confidence to know that she doesn’t have to over try. Girls love her and so do the boys. The second thing I discovered was that she’s got a bundle of songs waiting to go that are better than Be The One. If she gets the radio play with them (and given her BBC Sound of vote, there’s an increased chance of that) they could actually be bona fide hits. 

First out of the blocks of those potential hits is Last Dance, which finds Dua Lipa singing of grabbing the moment: “We could burn and crash, we could take a chance, holding nothing back, like it’s our last dance” she sings as the world explodes in a firework of pop glory. This one will make you oo and ah in exhileration. Embrace it.

Dua Lipa - Last Dance

Monday 8 February 2016

New Music: Introducing - RHAIN

Before I even get to the music there's a couple of points that need to be addressed in connection with RHAIN (real name Rhian Teasdale). First I'm not exactly sure where she's from. A recent feature on Drowned In Sound suggests Bristol, but her Soundcloud states the Isle of Wight. However, as The Stone Roses once suggested, it's not where you're from, but where you're at and Rhain is certainly at a good place musically.

Secondly, I have to mention the bathtub. If you've spent any time on Breaking More Waves you'll know that I've spent a lot (some would say too much) time pondering why it is that so many musicians have a desire to promote their music by having a photograph of themselves in the bath (for example this post here is just one of many). The only conclusion I've come to so far is that it's because they're bonkers, but I suspect there's some deeper underlying psychological issues going on here. RHAIN has very sensibly gone for the taking her clothes off option (important if you really do want to get clean) but alas has forgotten to put any water in, as well as the fact that the bath is outside and therefore somewhat exposed, both visually and in terms of the cold windy weather. It seems that musicians like getting in the tub but very few of them understand the concept of bathing.

So now to the music. It's good. Very good even. Humdrum Drivel is the first song on her Soundcloud. It's an otherworldly piano ballad that falls somewhere between Regina Spektor and Joanna Newsom in terms of its crisp idiosyncratic vocal delivery, sung with every word perfectly formed and enunciated. It's pretty special and benefits from its sparseness and haunting oddity. You can see why she's already caught the attention of a variety of gig promoters, having picked up support slots alongside fellow Isle of Wight boys Champs, tUnE-yArDS and Olof Arnaulds to name just a few.

RHAIN - Humdrum Drivel

Old Music: The Cure - Disintegration

It probably surprises some people when I tell them that The Cure’s Disintegration is one of my favourite albums of all time. After all, this dense, dark, often self-pitying and claustrophobic record is hardly the stuff of buoyant pop music that many people would probably associate me with. Yet pop has a huge part to play here. Because it was through pop that I found The Cure.

The memories are distant now, but I have hazy recollections of first hearing the The Lovecats one summer on a friends Walkman on a summer school coach trip to Guildford Lido. I also remember being transfixed by the Close To Me video on Saturday morning kids TV where the whole band appeared to be shoved in a wardrobe and pushed off a cliff. Both of these tunes are very much pop songs, albeit wonky slightly left of centre pop songs. Yet pop nonetheless.

However, the first time The Cure came to really mean something to me wasn’t until 1987 when they released their album Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me. The happy thrills of the blaring horns on Why Can’t I Be You and the bouncing bass of Just Like Heaven, a song that even now has the potential to get alt-kids flailing around the indie disco dancefloor, may have drawn me in, but it was the darker, sludgier stuff such as the writhing uncomfortable Snakepit and the album’s title track that kept me coming back for more. “Kiss me kiss me kiss me, your tongue is like poison, so swollen it fills up my mouth,” sang Smith on that one, a lyric that was both vulgar, sexual and comical all at the same time.

It was that darkness that was about to envelop Robert Smith for his next record, and despite 1989 being a time in my life full of joy, excitement and endless possibilities, Disintegration’s self-loathing  and intense sense of loss found a huge place in my heart and still does to this day, even though I'm a reasonably upbeat and positive thinking person. 

Written against a backdrop of Smith being about to turn 30 as well as the tension and decline of friendship between him and band member Lol Tolhurst (“I was determined to involve everybody but Lol’s various addictions were really taking their toll,” Smith has been quoted as saying of the recordings) Disintegration certainly isn’t what you’d normally define as a pop record. Yet it became the band’s most popular record, hitting number 3 in the UK charts, going double platinum in America and spawned The Cure’s biggest hit singles in both the UK and the States (with Lullaby and Love Song respectively).

And there lies an important factor, something that is often missed about this incredible long-player. Despite Disintegration being an album that sounds not only as if it was born out of despair, but is despair itself, there is still within it a heart of pop. Not everyone could see that though, particularly The Cure’s label, who were less than enthusiastic. “I was confident that, although the overall mood of the album was pretty downbeat, there was so much strong immediate melody and interplay in songs like Pictures Of You, Lullaby and Love Song the record company couldn’t help but recognise Disintegration as a perfect Cure album, it was a bit of a shock to find they didn’t” Smith recalled on the inside cover of the remastered deluxe version of the album.

Smith was of course proved right. His label might not have got it, but fans did. The Cure was connecting and growing their audience. “We weren’t attracting or maintaining someone else’s mainstream crowd, we were creating and nurturing our own,” Smith explained. It’s something The Cure has continued to do to this day. When the Guardian recently criticised Smith for playing huge long sprawling sets, fans were quick to point out how the reviewer just didn’t understand what The Cure was about.

So what is the attraction of Disintegration? For me it’s because it’s what every great album should be - a complete body of work, with every track sitting perfectly in the right place. But more than that, if you’ve experienced love, from its heady joys, to the pain of breaking apart, you’ll be able to connect with this record. It’s as sad, intimate, plaintive and beautiful as any long-player I’ve ever experienced.

Writing about individual songs feels wrong, such is the completeness of it, but if I had to pick three defining tracks then the first would be Plainsong, the opening number. It’s not just a song but an event in itself. Starting quietly with soft chimes it leads you (as the original accompanying sleeve notes suggested) to turn up the volume, before booming in with gothic synths, tumbling drums and despondent guitars, setting a majestic tone for what is to come. ”I think it’s dark and it looks like rain you said, and the wind is blowing like it’s the end of the world you said,” Smith sings, his words echoing around the space in an almost dreamlike state.

My second choice would be The Same Deep Water As You. A sombre nine and a half minute soundtrack featuring the sound of a storm and Smith singing of kissing goodbye before he sleeps, it’s both gorgeous and unbelievably sad. It’s easy and lazy to stereotype this song as being one for teenage goths to listen to in their bedrooms, but it’s so much more than that. It can be interpreted in so many different ways lyrically, but however you read it, the music is something to lose yourself in.

The third song I would choose is the title track, where the newly married Smith dives in with a wail of torment and cold-heartedness: "I never said I would stay to the end, I knew I would leave you with babies and everything.” It ends with him repeating the flat-out heartbreaking line of “both of us knew, how the end always is.” A barrel of laughs this song most certainly isn’t. There’s no chorus as such, no happy ending and it clocks in at over eight minutes. You can understand why Smith’s label didn’t get it.

What’s remarkable about Disintegration though is that as it gets closer to its thirty year anniversary it still sounds remarkably fresh, still gloomily intense and importantly is still a record I can listen to from start to finish and feel raw emotion from. It’s for that reason that I feel certain that the word masterpiece sticks.

Later this year Robert Smith and his cohorts will play Bestival for the second time. It will be the seventh time I’ve seen them live. If they play anything from Disintegration there will inevitably be goosebumps on my part, maybe even more.

The Cure - Pictures Of You (From Disintegration)

Sunday 7 February 2016

New Music: Arthur Beatrice - Real Life

A simple question (that probably doesn't have a simple answer):

Why aren't Arthur Beatrice massive? Or at least bigger than they are? Oh and I don't mean massive as in 'who ate all the pies?'. They look a reasonably slender bunch in that respect. I imagine them to be more of a salad than burger and chips band.

New song Real Life provides a reason for me to ask this (not the pie question, the musically massive question), as it blows up with a killer chorus. Think Florence & The Machine meets Blue Lines era Massive Attack but with a gospel tinged beauty and elegance.

May 20th (the release date of their second album which will be called Keeping The Peace) can't come quickly enough.

Arthur Beatrice - Real Life

Friday 5 February 2016

New Music: Introducing - Joy Crookes

You can always tell when a contemporary artist has got it right and managed to carve out their own unique space within the crowded online world of pop music when they get name checked against the latest new kid on the block wanting their own bit of space. Lana Del Rey is undoubtedly one such artist and the latest fresh faced upstart to draw out the comparisons is Joy Crookes.

On the evidence of her official debut single this seventeen year old South Londoner is making music that sounds deeply nostalgic. For New Manhattan wallows in sumptuous smoky strings and Wild West guitars; you can almost feel the heat haze emanating from the music. If David Lynch wanted a soundtrack for his Twin Peaks reboot, and Lana wasn't available (probably because she's still too busy putting on that red dress) this could well be it. A wonderful torch song. 

Joy Crookes - New Manhattan

Monday 1 February 2016

New Music: Introducing - Thyla

It’s no wonder that Europe’s leading new music festival, the Great Escape, locates itself in Brighton. There seems to be some sort of creative energy that emanates from the place, giving the south coast central town a strong argument for being, outside of London, one of the hottest locations for emerging talent. 

Its latest export is Thyla, a four piece consisting of Millie on vocals and guitar, Elis on electric guitar, Danny on drums and Dan on bass. And the name? Well according to our good old friend Google (where would we be without it?) the word Thyla can be found in the fictitious language of Vulcan, although none of the band lay any claim to being Trekkies or sourcing the name from that.

Thyla’s sound has occasion to aim for the stars though, being both both ethereal and big riffing; there’s reference points to dream pop, 80’s and 90’s alt-rock and even a hint of Sonya Madden from Echobelly in the vocal delivery. New single Car Crash, streaming below, is a slice of guitar heavy indie from the chamber of atmospherics that ducks and dives to ensure you’re never quite sure what it’s going to do next. Millie’s yowl is both savage and beautiful and the guitars full bloodied and stomach churning, in a good way. Alongside previous tune Us And Them it puts down a promising start for Thyla. Another point to Brighton.

Thyla - Car Crash