Monday 31 October 2016

Spotify Playlist : The Last Month On Breaking More Waves

It's the end of the month, which means it's time for a new playlist. 

The playlist does what it says on the tin. Every song here has been posted in the last month on the blog. Actually the tin lies because it's not quite everything, with one song that I posted not yet featuring on Spotify and another artist featuring more than once this month and I've kept it to one song per artist for the playlist.

21 songs for you to enjoy, a few from very well known artists and many from ones that are less so.

You can follow this playlist, which is updated monthly by clicking here.

New Music: Host - I Wanna Be Your Friend

Shall we have a dance then? Sorted.

Clocking in at over 7 minutes Host’s new track I Wanna Be Your Friend takes a lot longer to reach its conclusion than this blog post took to write. However, before you get there (and it takes nearly 2 minutes just for the vocals to kick in as the repetitive burbles and beats slowly morph between your ears) you’re transported to a world of baggy flared jeans, strobe light craziness and smiley face emoji t-shirts. Yes folks, welcome to the first autumn of love. Let Host take you on a trip, and it is a trip, to the world of acid house. 

A banger and then some.

Host - I Wanna Be Your Friend

Sunday 30 October 2016

The Sunday Surf #1

Back in 2011/12 I used to post a feature on Saturday called The Saturday Surf. “Some music bloggers are so time rich that they are able to sit at their laptops and see music drop into their inbox or other feed sources and post about it instantaneously. Breaking More Waves is not one of those. It’s why we post the Saturday Surf. It’s a chance for us and maybe you to catch up on a few musical beauties that would have otherwise slipped away,” I explained at the time.

The lack of time element has never changed – in fact one of the reasons I stopped doing The Saturday Surf was not having enough time to do it. But now, it’s back, except on a Sunday. Not every Sunday, but as and when I feel like it. 3 -5 songs, with just some very short text rather than my usual ramble and the important bit - the music. 

Also, I’ve recently started a ‘Breaking More Waves 2016 Latest’ playlist on Spotify, which captures the vast majority of tracks I’ve posted on the blog from the previous month – if you want to subscribe to that you can find it by clicking here, and the next update is due early next week.

Here’s this weeks’ Sunday Surf

Parcels – Gamesofluck

I absolutely adore this track, it’s probably my favourite thing I’ve heard this week and in all honesty it should have had its own individual post. Obviously not fans of spaces in between the words, Australia’s Parcels follow up to Myenemy mixes up all night disco grooves, with slabs of synths usually found on cold edged 80’s European synth pop records and vocals that have a cool laid-back quality similar to those of Jungle. With a debut EP out on Kitsune next year consider me won over already.

Lanikai – I’m Glad

Lanikai is Imaginary Cities lead singer Marti Sarbit’s new project and I’m Glad is the first song to be taken from the it. With a style that sounds like Flaming Lips when they’re at their least weird and most commercial, I’m Glad twinkles with an engaging and dreamy prettiness, full of brass, cascading keys and haunting vocals.

Charli XCX – After The Afterparty

Charli XCX knows how to write a pop hook doesn’t she? “Make sure u play it play it on repeat at ur halloween ragers, birthdays, funerals this weekend. it's a real spooky banger ;)”. She says. Not sure about playing it at a funeral, but each to their own. Probably the first song that has an association with London based producer Sophie that I like. This one by rights should be a big chart hit.

The Avalanches – Because I’m Me

My favourite video of the week, which despite its modern setting and dancing manages to hark back to the days of classic old musicals. Even although the Wildflower LP wasn't quite what I hoped (after 16 years I wanted them to evolve rather than just remaking their previous record) I can't deny that Because I'm Me, as a single, is a huge dollop of fun.

Friday 28 October 2016

New Music: Dream Wife - Fuu

Scary Spice? Pah. The Spice Girls might have been the entry point for the likes of Charli XCX and MØ to pop music, but they never sounded as venomous as this. Alice, Bella and Rakel, the trio who make up Dream Wife have been winning over a lot of fans recently during their support slots with Black Honey. It’s this song – a dirty, national anthem for the angry - that has in particular been doing the business. 

“I tell you what I want what I really really want, I wanna fuck you up” screams Rakel as the band go for the jugular. A loud, stormy assault on the senses, this one might be as brash as they come, but f*ck, it’s also a hell of a lot of fun.

Dream Wife - Fuu

New Music: Alice Jemima - Electric

Alice Jemima has been in it for the long haul. From early demos first posted here back in 2011 through to March 2017 when she finally releases her debut album through Sunday Best Records (you can pre-order it by clicking here) Alice's has been no overnight journey. 

When she first started putting out music to the internet it felt like there was no strategy or timetable; it seemed that she’d just record a song, put it online and see what happened. At one point it felt like she was uploading a new track every few weeks and it was pretty exciting. Thankfully 2016 has seen a return to the old way of doing things, with a flurry of releases. With Dodged a Bullet still finding its way into people’s consciousness, thanks in particular to it some daytime Radio 1 airings through BBC Introducing and finding its way onto many a playlist (the song has now clocked up 888,000 plays on Spotify), she’s already followed it up with Electric, a song that’s been a regular in her live sets this year.

Electric has a low key, late night, lamplight, post-club feel to it, finding Alice singing of cities that don’t sleep and regrets in her silky unmistakable voice. If you’re a fan of The XX then the dark flashes of guitars here will be very much to your tastes.

One day there will probably come a time when Alice Jemima will release a new song and I won’t post it. Today is not that day though. This one cuts straight to the core.

Alice Jemima - Electric

Thursday 27 October 2016

New Music: Hazel English - Make It Better (Video)

Remember when Bon Iver took himself off to a cabin in the woods and created For Emma, Forever Ago? Well for the last few days I’ve done something similar, living out of a corrugated iron clad shed, formerly a World War 2 Land Girls’ House in Somerset, complete with an air raid shelter, a 1940’s kitchen, a fireplace and attic bedroom accessed via nothing much more than a ladder. It revisits another era, a trip in time that is pure nostalgia. It’s the kind of place that, from the very little I know about her, I imagine Hazel English would be smitten with. After all her sense of style is absolutely vintage / retro and as I’ve noted before on the blog her music pays much reference to the past - albeit a past when many an indie loving student in the UK danced to chiming guitar music like this in their Doctor Marten’s whilst swigging snakebite and black. 

But to pull it forward to the here and now, somebody on Twitter recently noted “Can we all agree that Hazel English is the indie darling of 2016?” I certainly wouldn’t disagree with that statement.

With that title under her belt, here’s another new song. Make It Better is the fifth and final release from her 5 track EP Never Going Home, and yes I’ve featured every single one of those songs on the blog. It’s a sweet and serene tune that has some similarity to The Sundays in terms of its sonics - if you haven’t heard Reading, Writing and Arithmetic please go and investigate it - but before you do so, press play on the video of Make It Better below, which features clips from some of Hazel’s old school films and TV shows whilst she sings of dilemmas, of the want to be seen, but invisible at the same time.

Hazel English - Make It Better (Video)

Wednesday 26 October 2016

New Music: Introducing - Molly Burch

With a debut full length coming in 2017 via Captured Tracks, it’s time to introduce Molly Burch to readers of Breaking More Waves. The first time I heard Downhearted, her debut for the label, I was instantly transported to some sophisticated and fashionable European city in the 60's, Paris or London perhaps. It therefore seems rather curious to report that Molly actually resides in Austin, Texas, but maybe, on second thoughts those country twangs are more at home there than by the Seine or Thames? 

What I do know though is that music is universal and that irrespective of where in the world something comes from, it’s when it finds a place in your heart that matters. Downhearted certainly does that; pulling strings in the same way that someone like Patsy Kline’s music does.

Maybe the wistful romantic beauty of I Adore You, the B side of Downhearted that really is too good to be called a B side, gives a better context to where Burch is at musically. A subdued country-soul affair, it just oozes loveliness. It makes a lot of sense that Molly, when asked to compare her music to a food, described it as hot chocolate: “Because it’s comforting and dreamy but could also make you think of past loves.” 

Hear both songs below and note her name down, because if the rest of her album is anything like these two songs, it’s going to be a must listen / buy.

Molly Burch - Downhearted (Video)

Molly Burch - I Adore You

Tuesday 25 October 2016

New Music: Majik - Real

Last year I named Majik in my annual Ones to Watch for 2016 list. Some people suggested that this was a bit too early, as Majik was still taking baby steps in the world of music. However, to a certain extent, that was my exact reason for naming them on that list. I felt it was worth keeping an eye (and ear) on those first tentative moves. 

Not that there’s anything tentative about new song Real. It comes fully formed, even if the lyrics are less sure of the world, questioning a relationship. “So can we turn this round or should we let this go?” 

Despite the mental turmoil, the music is a gorgeously smooth elixir of pop and blue eyed soul. It’s downbeat without ever sounding miserable. If songs were a season then Real would most definitely be autumn, moving into winter; it taps into the melancholy of that time. Captivating and beautiful.

Majik - Real

Monday 24 October 2016

New Music - Martin Green's Flit - The Suitcase

From the moment I first heard about Flit, a new project from Martin Green the accordionist and electronic experimenter with folk trio Lau, I was immediately intrigued. For not only was the subject material, that of social migration, something a little bit different from the norm, but the list of collaborators on the record included a number of people that at one point or other in my life have created music that has moved me in some way. 

These names include Adrian Utley of Portishead, a band that created two of my favourite studio albums of all time, as well as a fantastic live album and were responsible for one of my most memorable performances at Glastonbury Festival (which you can read about here). There’s also Becky Unthank, from folk sisters The Unthanks, whose records have cropped up regularly on my end of year lists including one at the very top (see here). Then there’s sometimes sordid Scottish wordsmith Aidan Moffat from Arab Strap, who besides creating The First Big Weekend (one of my favourite singles of 1996) and the rather excellent Philophobia LP) also once received a review by the NME of a gig at Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms which made reference to some tribal style dancing by a small section of the audience. I was one of those dancers. Add in the likes of Karine Polwart, Anaïs Mitchell and Mogwai’s Dominic Aitchison and you have a very interesting project.

With Green and Flit going on the road this week with their multi-media show (sadly I can’t make my local date in Brighton) it seems a good time to feature the song The Suitcase from the record. Starting with a spoken word piece by Aidan Moffat the track then moves into a darkly claustrophobic electronic soundtrack with Becky’s voice bringing a traditional purity and human beauty and Dominic Aitchison providing the lower sounds. It’s one of my favourite pieces on the album, which features songs that range from tragically sad to heart-warming.

'The Suitcase' from Martin Green's Flit ft. Becky Unthank and Adam Holmes from Lepus Productions on Vimeo.

Saturday 22 October 2016

New Music: Introducing - Cameron Jones

If you’re a musician and you’re sending out your music to blogs and websites, I have to be honest and say that these days the chances of me even opening the email are pretty damn low. There’s 101 reasons for this (OK slight exaggeration – there's about 4) but the main one is quite simply lack of time. However, last night I actually found myself with a whole spare two hours and decided to start wading my way through over 1000 emails that had arrived in the Breaking More Waves in box this week. To put some kind of filter on things I decided to only listen to submissions that were directly from artists themselves, rather than those through a record label, PR or management.

It took only half an hour to find this gem. Cameron Jones is a Herts born songwriter based in London and has spent the last year or so in-between working nights at a local blues bar, playing open mic nights and recording/writing songs in the bedroom. His song Rose is a sad meditative ballad, reflecting on how a relationship’s past happy memories make the present all the more difficult. It’s the kind of reflective and emotional tune that could equally find itself being played to a hushed crowd of seasoned music fans in a church venue by candlelight as it could covered by some wailing wannabe on X-Factor. 

Unlike X-Factor however, Jones seems to understand that there’s as much power in restraint as there is bombast and Rose holds itself back with aplomb. It seems I'm not the only one who is impressed either. Line of Best Fit website have already featured the song and this week Jones was featured on Spotify UK's new music Friday list, so he's getting some decent attention. 

A softly magnificent song.

Cameron Jones - Rose

Thursday 20 October 2016

New Music: Sølv - I'm Your Gun

Bang. There’s no hanging around with Sølv, despite her mellow unhurried sound. The UK south coast raised singer swept me away with the icy electronics of Losing My Mind just over a week ago and now she’s back with release number two already. If Losing My Mind was a classic Gin Martini, then I’m Your Gun is a smoking Maguey Sour sipped at a bar in a Quentin Tarantino movie with Lana Del Rey sat opposite as your drinking buddy. Throw in some twangy reverb laden guitars, Sølv’s narcotic and strangely familiar purr then underpin the whole thing with some menacing electronics and beats and you've got yourself something very fine indeed.

Losing My Mind might have been a good introduction, but I’m Your Gun takes things up several notches by virtue of its luxurious melodies and fascinating mix of modern production, combined with very old fashioned songcraft. This is first-class slow pop.

Sølv - I'm Your Gun

New Music: Clock Opera - Whippoorwill

It’s been a long time since Clock Opera featured on Breaking More Waves. Their last two songs In Memory and Changeling passed me by somewhat, but new cut Whippoorwill presses all the right buttons – and yet it’s very different from what the band have produced previously. Gone are the life affirming and supremely jubilant sounding pop songs that we heard on the debut album and instead there’s something that comes across as intimately sad. With it’s lyrics of a hole that ‘no fairground ride will fill’ and ‘a conversation scrubbed out on the page’, Whippoorwill is clearly about that most difficult of subjects that, as we get older, we all experience more and more; loss and the void of emptiness that follows.

This is the sort of song that, because no words will suffice, it makes you want to reach out and give the singer a hug. Yet out of the darkness, there is something positive - beautiful music to colour in the black.

Clock Opera are releasing their second album Venn via League of Imaginary Nations and !K7 on February 10th

Tuesday 18 October 2016

New Music: Maggie Rogers - Alaska (Video)

You know how in the retail sector Christmas seems to get earlier and earlier each year? Well there’s the potential for that to happen with Breaking More Waves Ones to Watch for 2017 list. Every year I seem to go through a cycle of growing excitement to see who tipster types are selecting as picks for the year ahead, then come the deluge of lists, and by the end of it all I’ve reached saturation to the point of boredom and annoyance. By January you’ll probably finding me stomping down the streets shouting “I really couldn’t give a sh*t about who you think I should be listening to this year.” But right now I’m pretty excited for it all. Bring on the BBC Sound of List and all the others I say. But before it all kicks off I’ll be bringing Breaking More Waves own tips for 2017 from around mid-November. I could actually publish it right now, but maybe that's too early?

Although I couldn’t possibly say who I’ll be featuring, Maggie Rogers has got to be a firm contender at this point. OK, she may only have one song out there right now on audio streaming services (ignoring her folky efforts that you can find on You Tube), but it’s one of my songs of the year. Alaska has soul, grace, restraint, beauty and melodies that seem to float in the air. OK, I think I have to correct myself; it isn’t just one of my songs of the year, but it is my song of the year.

Since I last wrote about Maggie she’s signed to a major record label (Polydor) and there’s an EP in the offing. But first there’s a long overdue video for Alaska. Don’t be put off by the first few seconds which find Maggie going for what looks like a rather dull walk in the countryside – there’s frolics in the forest and snogging to come. 

All the feelings and all the movement are present here.

Maggie Rogers - Alaska (Video)

Monday 17 October 2016

New Music: Sofi Tukker - Awoo (Video)

5 reasons why you should love Sofi Tukker and their video for Awoo:

1. Because pop songs with a silly word that you can shout out every time the band sing it are weirdly exhilarating. Do it. It will make you feel happy.

2. Because they’ve got swans in their swimming pool.

3. The video has cute chicks in it. And before the internet police have a go at me for the use of my language in the previous sentence, please consider the fact that sometimes you are too busy trying to fit things to your own narrative that you miss the obvious point at all. Watch the video before making judgements.

4. Because Sofi Tukker make doing dance routines cool again.

5. Because Sofi Tukker make pop fun again.

Sofi Tukker - Awoo (Video)

Sunday 16 October 2016

Have We All Become Too Safe With Our Music Listening Habits?

Is anyone actually listening to new artists anymore? Sure, there's a lot of people listening to Spotify's New Music Friday playlist, but as great as this can be, the last few weeks of that playlist has sounded, in the main, exceptionally stagnant. There's been very little variety. Has everyone, from new music makers, to people making playlists, to listeners become too conformist? It's a real shame if we have. You would think that, with streaming services opening up musical doors, enabling people to be able to listen to a much broader spectrum of music than ever before that we would be less conservative, more open to the new and wider influence, but it seems to me that almost the opposite is occurring.

If we have become closed in our musical mindsets, a band like Xylaroo don't stand that much of a chance do they? Their new single, Danger has at the time of writing been on line for a couple of days but has picked up less than 100 plays on Soundcloud. Of course there is no one central reason for this, and there’s a discussion to be had about Soundcloud’s declining position, but there's a grim reality that it's getting harder and harder to break new acts. Earlier this month the UK Official Charts Company revealed The Biggest Selling Albums of 2016 so far and it didn’t make pretty reading for new artists. With the likes of David Bowie, ELO, Adele, Coldplay and Justin Bieber all present, there were hardly any debut records in the 40, and worryingly for my own country there weren’t any debut records by UK acts. Ironically Bowie's final album was anything from conformist, so maybe there is hope that we are listening to interesting and challenging music still. But the trouble is Bowie is no longer alive. He won't be making any more records. That's why new artists need to be heard.

Maybe the lack of engagement with new artists is best summed up by a comment I heard from a teenage girl walking past the BBC Introducing Tent at this year's Glastonbury Festival: "BBC Introducing? Is that where... like....they introduce new bands? That's weird. Why would anyone want to go in there and watch something you know nothing about when you can go and see acts that you've already heard?'

Perhaps that's why for the last few weeks Spotify's New Music Friday playlist feels so safe and risk averse. And perhaps that’s why new artists simply aren’t breaking through the way they used to. Is it that most people only want to hear things that sound familiar to them?

Xylaroo - Danger

Friday 14 October 2016

New Music: George Cosby - Glamour

Imagine a drunken Friday night in the rainy big city, where following a flickering neon sign that states ‘Club’, you and your loved one stumble down a chipped concrete stair, throwing your £5 at the doorman – anything to find a place to take shelter from the storm. The velvet lined basement you enter is almost tropical, the wetness evaporating into the close air of the small room. Everywhere you can see is full of glitter; drapes, tinsel, even on the small crowd that has gathered. The room is half full, with a low small stage to one side. On it stands an ageing troubadour, his clothing gothic, his demeanour melancholy. Glamour by George Cosby is the song that, in my imagination, he would sing.

Glamour is taken from his EP A Savage Kiss, out today on Yucatan Records.

George Cosby - Glamour

Thursday 13 October 2016

Old Music: Saint Etienne - Sally Space

Saint Etienne, to a greater or lesser extent, always got pop right. No more so than on their debut record Foxbase Alpha, which if I ever sat down and wrote one of those 100 Albums You Should Listen To Before You Die lists would guaranteed to be featured. Why? Because Foxbase Alpha did that rare thing that so few pop albums manage to achieve - it sounded effortlessly cool, it sounded classy and it clearly demonstrated that it was made by people that really understood and loved pop in the widest sense. Saint Etienne made me want to join their club.

Incredibly it's now 25 years since the release of that record (shit I feel old) and to celebrate there's a big bumper package of a re-release coming.

From October 28th a limited edition triple-vinyl box set will be available to pre-order for delivery / release on January 13th  2017. This includes the original album cut over two discs at 45rpm plus a bonus album (at 33rpm) of associated recordings from the era - most of which is appearing on vinyl for the first time.  There will also be a special one sided 7” single featuring a previously unreleased demo of Moria Lambert (vocalist for Only Love Can Break Your Heart) singing over a radically different version of Kiss And Make Up, plus a 32 page book and assorted inserts - including band photos, original press releases and Foxbase trading cards to complete the package. For non vinyl heads there will also be a double CD version featuring the original album plus the bonus album of associated recordings.

Talking about the album recently, Bob Stanley said:

“I'd say the turn of the 90s was the biggest boom time for UK DIY music, even moreso than the late 70s. For a start, these records were having a direct effect on the singles chart. Also, it felt like a lot of the characters who had been around in the post-punk era were now part of the rave era (I love the fact that Acid House DJ Colin Faver had worked at the Small Wonder shop and signed the Cure and Bauhaus!). 

 Anyway, me and Pete were working on a budget made up of our savings. Heavenly was in similar straits. I think it cost about £4,000 in the end, but that was about a year's worth of recordings. Ian Catt's studio was in a prefab on a council estate in Mitcham. We were really influenced by Joe Meek at the time, and so was Ian. Making the biggest noise possible in the smallest room. 

 I can still feel and hear the enjoyment we got from messing about with samples, playing old synths, splicing tapes, trying to get every idea in our heads - Derrick May, the Beach Boys, bits of quiz shows and ad jingles - onto one record. Because obviously we thought we'd never make another. I'm envious of my younger self - it did seem like we wrote a new song every day for about six months."

From this new release take a listen to one of the bonus tracks below. Sally Space is quintessential early 90's Saint Etienne and could have easily made it on to Foxbase Alpha, from the loose feel of the drumming to the druggy reverb added to Sarah Cracknell's vocal. 

Saint Etienne - Sally Space

Wednesday 12 October 2016

New Music: Liv - Wings Of Love (Video)

Scandi pop supergroup alert! Liv consists of Lykke Li, producer Jeff Bhasker (Li's boyfriend), Andrew Wyatt and Pontus Winnberg of Miike Snow, plus Björn Yttling of Peter Bjorn and John. Not a bad ensemble I’m sure you’ll agree. With Lykke Li and Jeff Bhasker having become parents earlier this year they’ve wasted no time in getting back to the day jobs and creating some music. Wings of Love is as organic as they come - a psychedelic flowers in the hair folk-pop tune full of harmonies, melody and sentiment. It definitely feels more like a late 60’s / early 70s summer of love anthem than a tune for our times, but maybe in a world full of political aggression and internet anger we need songs like this to take us to a better place? 

Wings of Love is exactly the sort of song that I could imagine people taking their clothes off to and running naked, wild and free through the forest - which is exactly what happens in the video.

Liv - Wings Of Love (Video)

New Music: Introducing - Sølv

You’d be forgiven for making the assumption that with a name like Sølv this singer was about to follow in the footsteps of MØ or Oh Land, bringing Danish pop to the masses. After all Sølv is the Danish word for silver. (Note - for any aspiring pop types who want to go one better, the word Guld is still available as a name). However, the reality is that Sølv originally hails from the UK – or to be more precise, the Portsmouth area – where of course Breaking More Waves is based.

Sølv’s modus operandi is slow burning electropop, full of mood and atmosphere. You can hear it on the first song to be released from her Black Ink EP. It's called Losing My Mind. However, don’t be fooled by the sonics - the restrained chills are counterbalanced with a near obsessional let it all out approach in the lyrics: “Going crazy I don’t know what to do, but I think you know what I’m going through,” she coos with a soothing voice full of purity. 

If Losing My Mind was a cocktail it would be a classic gin martini – elegant, sophisticated and stylish. 

 Sølv - Losing My Mind

Sunday 9 October 2016

New Music: Kate Tempest - Ketamine For Breakfast

A record I’ve been listening to a lot over the last few days is Kate Tempest’s second solo album Let Them Eat Chaos. Whereas Kate’s debut solo album Everybody Down told a story revolving around a small number of inter connected characters, Let Them Eat Chaos takes a different approach. Starting with a view of the earth, Kate zooms in to London and one street at 4.18am where she shines a light on seven dissatisfied individuals who live there, awake at a time when most of us are asleep. She voices their fears, loneliness, isolation and worries but combines those thoughts with views on bigger picture politics; from housing to the environment to work. This album reminds me a tiny bit of John McGregor's book If Nobody Speaks Of Remarkable Things in so far as the words take us behind closed doors into parts of people's lives that we wouldn't normally see, until one event brings the characters together.

Like her previous record, it’s not an easy listen; there’s almost too much to take in. But each journey through the album (I’m only 3 days in so far) gives more and more. Lyrical narcissism is so prominent in pop music these days that it's wonderfully refreshing to come across someone not only writing absorbing lyrics full of dexterity, but ones which aren't afraid to say something that bit more thoughtful about the world at large. Let Them Eat Chaos deserves your time.

Taken from that record is Ketamine for Breakfast, which apparently has an ‘impact date’ of December 9th. Don’t wait till then though. Let it impact on you now and introduce you to Jemma who lives in a flat “up the stairs, rickety,loaded with history,” and her thoughts of her past, present and revisiting that past. 

Kate Tempest - Ketamine For Breakfast

Friday 7 October 2016

New Music: Honeyblood - Babes Never Die

As you grow older death is something that slowly creeps into your mindset as a growing inevitability, as does, for a lot of people, indifference and the idea that sometimes it’s better just to accept things, even if they’re wrong, because you can’t fight everything forever – life is too short to be angry all the time.

Thankfully Honeyblood are still full of youthful venom with the rallying-cry of Babes Never Die, the title track from their second album due out 4th November via Fat Cat. The first time I experienced this song was just over a year ago at Somersault Festival in Devon and even at that point it lodged so firmly in the head that by the time I heard it a second time, at Guildford’s Boileroom last week, it felt like a riled up old friend. Both times it sounded like a single, and now here it is; a punchy kick-ass anthem and then some. Warning: this one’s an earworm.

Honeyblood - Babes Never Die

Wednesday 5 October 2016

New Music: Hazel English - Control (Video)

I’m pretty sure Hazel English was born in the wrong decade. You’ll certainly find words like ‘nostalgic’ lobbed around a fair bit in connection with her tunes – and that’s not a bad thing. Control is a song that sounds like it would fit perfectly in any record collection that contains works by Joy Division, The Cure and The Cocteau Twins (that will be mine then). And although, at a stretch, you could suggest that there are small elements of new goth in her music (certainly it could be argued that on this one the synth sounds a little gloomy), Control is far too indie-pop, far too pretty, far too uplifting in its musicality to ever spend too much time rubbing up against the darkness.

“What are you searching for?” sings Hazel in the video as she seemingly sets off on some sort of journey away from working in a café. There don’t appear to be any clear answers or conclusions in the film, but with its hazy summer skies and scenery it’s lovely to watch (and listen to) anyway.

Having picked up plenty of blog support over the last 18 months (including from this one) Hazel’s debut EP Never Going Home is finally out this Friday and in November she hits UK shores for dates in Glasgow, Leeds and London. I’ve booked to go already. So should you.

Hazel English - Control (Video)

Tuesday 4 October 2016

New Music: Haarm - In The Wild

In The Wild, the second song to be released by Liverpool’s Haarm is just over six minutes long. It certainly doesn’t seem like it. There really are so many things to love here. From the ‘repeated ah ah ah’ vocal snatch, to the drums that sound a little like Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy raging like a beast, to the moment where after about three minutes and thirty seconds, the vocals and beats drop, the song coasts gently down the musical runway and then takes flight. This is the sort of pop that, to continue the plane references, wouldn’t be boarding in Economy, but would be somewhere in Executive Class, sipping champagne and being invited onto the flight deck to meet the captain.

This is what music is about – a song that makes the world seem alive.

Haarm - In The Wild

Monday 3 October 2016

The Culture Of Free In The Music Industry - And Why It Needs To Change

My day job, far away from music, involves working for two Local Authorities. Don't worry though, this isn't an essay on Building Regulations, (what I specialise in) although if anyone wants me to write one for them I can - feel free to get in contact to discuss.

When I want to go for a swim in one of my employers leisure centres I pay an entry fee the same as anyone else. When the bin men collect my rubbish, they do it because it’s funded through the Council Tax I pay, just like everyone else. I don’t ask the Council to collect it for free just because I work for the same Council. My employers pays me fairly and reasonably. I’m valued as an employee to do good professional work of a certain quality.

Now let’s take a look at the music industry. Compared with the sort of professional environment I work in it is frankly a bit of a disaster. There’s a certain culture of entitlement ingrained within the industry that expects certain things for free. And for those who want to sustain a career in the music industry, that’s not healthy or helpful.

Here’s just a couple of examples of where I believe a change of mindset is required:

The Guest List

I recently spoke to someone from a record label who told me that she only ever went to gigs that she was on the guest list for. She hadn’t purchased a ticket for years. What was worse, she seemed proud of this fact, telling me that she wouldn’t go to a show if she had to pay because she couldn’t afford it.  It would be like me turning up to my local swimming pool and insisting that I got in for free just because I worked for the same organisation. Unsurprisingly, if that actually happened the outcome would be that the pool would have to put its prices up to subsidise all the freeloading employees. Of course guest lists for most gigs are relatively small, but it has an impact on ticket prices for others which isn't good for business.

Edit: 18.25pm 3/10/2016 Following a number of comments on Twitter, some private emails and one below in the comments section I would like to make it clear that I am not against the guest list 100%. What I am against is people gaining free entry to something because of some loose connection they have to it. I wrote about this issue in the past when I helped run a small independent festival (see here) where a significant number of people tried to blag their way in for nothing purely because they claimed to know the band. If you are working during the gig (writing a review, you are the band's manager etc) then yes of course you should be able to have the opportunity to arrange (in advance) to attend the gig for free. But if you just happen to work in the music industry and know somebody who knows the band, that's not really a good reason to be on the guest list. 

Festivals That Don’t Pay Performers / Websites That Don’t Pay Writers

In giving this example I exclude any not for profit events and charity festivals.

Earlier this year in my home city of Portsmouth 100,000 punters were reported to have attended the ever growing Victorious Festival over two days. It was a fantastic show -a bargain as well. And that’s part of the problem.

Early bird tickets were just £20 a day to see the likes of Noel Gallagher, Manic Street Preachers, Public Service Broadcasting, Annie Mac and Mark Ronson performing. Also on the bill were over 100 local acts. The information I have is that virtually none of them were offered payment other than a ticket for both days of the festival.

Of course playing the festival meant that the bands get exposure for their work (the lazy argument now used by anyone trying to get somebody to do something for nothing and then benefitting themselves), an ego boost by saying they were playing a big festival, and each act did get free tickets for both days of the festival, not just the one they were playing. But there’s a huge invisible downside. In Portsmouth many local venues not associated with the festival are struggling. The Cellars, a small intimate space that put on early shows by the likes of Mumford & Sons and Gabrielle Aplin fairly recently closed its doors for the final time. The Wedgewood Rooms – Portsmouth’s most established and loved venue, a place that saw early shows by the likes of Oasis, The Stokes and The Killers  faces a constant battle. Of course there are lots of reasons for this, and not all of them can be attributed to a big festival that runs for one weekend of the year; but when you have a large festival on a venue’s doorstep charging not much more than the price of a typical gig ticket for a national touring band at the venue, it doesn’t take a mathematician to guess where the punter is more likely to spend their money. Of course you can argue ‘well that’s business’, but it’s a short sighted business that devalues the local music economy.

If venues shut because of poor ticket sales and part of that reason is that punters would rather attend one cheap festival than a number of smaller gigs, the impact will be huge. Where will the bands who grow to be future festival headliners cut their teeth and get the opportunity to get better and better at playing live than in professionally run music venues like The Wedgewood Rooms and The Cellars?

A flourishing local music scene will benefit everyone in the supply chain – right up to the big festivals – who will need new fresh headliners for the future. But unless those musicians are paid properly – which will enable them to invest that money into recording time, promotion, travel, equipment etc they won’t be able to develop their music. A bargain ticket might look great for the punter, but it’s a potentially short sighted concept.

Simple solution? Increase ticket prices. Pay all performers. Invest money back into the local gig economy and the quality will improve throughout – which is better for the punter's overall experience of live music.

Of course its not only musicians. A number of times I’ve been approached by website owners and music publications  and have been asked to write something for them. 90% of the time my response is ‘no’. Why? Because if what I am doing is work, then I should be paid fairly. Now of course there are many ‘hobby’ websites that don’t earn money and for those sites I will take a different approach. It’s like being asked to referee an amateur 5 a side football match. I wouldn’t expect to be paid for that. But if a professional team asked me to referee, then payment should be on the table. And if a professional puts forward the argument they can’t afford to pay  but it would be great experience / exposure for me to work for them, then I’d politely suggest that they need to revisit how they are financing and running their operation, because if they don’t value the people who work for them, then I don’t want to be part of what they do. Of course payment doesn't always have to be money - there are other ways to pay someone - but doing work for 'exposure' isn't one of them. There's already way too many people swimming in the sea of exposure and most of them are drowning without even a lifeguard to spot them.

The Rider (Edited 18:37 3/10/2016)

This piece has been removed following discussion with a number of industry professionals on Twitter and by email today. This article is titled 'The Culture Of Free In The Music Industry And Why It Needs To Change.' My original rather muddled discussion on riders therefore did not really fit into a discussion on the culture of free and so I have deleted it to be revisited at some further point. 

Further Edit (22:35 3/10/2016)

I'm still getting a lot of traffic to this post, so for anyone just discovering it may I also recommend a read of this fiery piece from Andy Inglis on The Quietus which is in connection with saving independent venues but has lots of relevance to this article (especially guest lists) which he describes as "a malignant tumour on the lactating breast of live music." Thanks to Roberta from the band Curxes from pointing me towards the piece. Read the article here