Wednesday 30 November 2016

Playlist: Everything From November On Breaking More Waves

It does what it says in the title really. Virtually everything from the last month of the blog, including my selections of Ones to Watch for 2017. This playlist is updated once a month at the end of the month. If and when the blog picks up speed I might do it each week, but not yet. Some big names, some possible future stars and a handful of relative unknowns / newcomers. Feel free to follow on Spotify and then you never need read the blog again - although you'll miss out on all those pictures of musicians in the bath and 'context' which is basically me spouting the first thing that comes into my head. 

Tuesday 29 November 2016

New Music: Hollow Coves - Coastline

The general consensus amongst much of my peer group has been that 2016 has been a pretty crap year. From the deaths of Bowie, Prince and Viola Beach through to terror attacks, police shootings, Brexit and Trump, there’s a sense of sadness and despondency amongst many of those that I associate with. Whether this really is a bad year or just that we notice events that we perceive to be negative more easily due to our greater connectivity is something that’s open to debate - only history will be able to fully judge. However, irrespective of future looking back, right now there are certainly people in my world who feel that life is pretty crap. Another fairly common theme amongst them is that to counteract their mood they are turning to escapism. The need to get away from it all seems more apparent than ever.

If you feel a bit like that, this song might just do the trick. Coastline’s soft acoustic touches and glowing imagery are immediately seductive, as with a relaxed gait Brisbane’s Hollow Coves sing of moving far away to a warmer place. This is a song for dreamers, for those who need to take some of the harshness away, for those who want to drift and feel some comfort. Sometimes simple stuff like this can help for a few minutes.

Hollow Coves - Coastline

Monday 28 November 2016

Old Music: Astronaut - One In A Million / Just Can't Take It / Three / What You Gonna Do

Here's another one of those occasional posts where I delve into the past and unearth either some forgotten or unknown hidden treasure or popular classic that means (or did mean) a lot to me. Today is the turn of indie off kilter pop band Astronaut, who like Buzz Aldrin instigated the great Astronaut tradition of partial success.

I first came across Astronaut on what, if I remember correctly, was a Sunday afternoon in January at Dingwalls in Camden in 1998. Althought it might have been a Saturday. It was a long time ago and I didn't have a blog or social media then to look at, check back and remind me. However, I did have a fanzine, a proper old school paper one, stuck together and formed with scissors, glue, staples, an old photocopier and love...more of that towards the end of this piece. 

Anyway, back to Camden and Dingwalls. The NME was sponsoring an unsigned bands competition and I’d spent most of my time nursing a pint and becoming slowly irritable at the fact that every act playing was shockingly average. That was until Astronaut took to the stage. They were a cocky looking four piece who, within seconds, transformed a non-event into something worth being at. The lead singer (Alex Eckford) was a natural front man – that perfect blend of swagger, charm and good looks – and behind him was a bunch of lads who had the songs. 

Four cuts stood out immediately. A stomping energetic hook laden anthem called What You Gonna Do, the euphoric and relentlessly enjoyable Just Can’t Take It, a driving, sneering, lip curling repetitive brute called Three and best of all a perfect pop tune named One In A Million. “Yeah ‘cos I’m synesthetic and my teeth are magnetic, blind ambition and malnutrition will take me there,” Alex sang on this song, the chorus immediately lodging in my brain for not just the train journey home, but the next month. There was no doubt they were the best band of the day.

Having won the competition, I was pretty certain that Astronaut was bound for next big thing glory. If the BBC Sound of list had existed then, I would have been convinced they were a cert for that.

It didn’t happen. 

(I wrote and thought something very similar about the band Thrum, which you can see here)

A deal with indie label Fierce Panda and a John Peel Session was followed by the release of What You Gonna Do, which the NME unsurprisingly called 'a work of genius.' This was followed by another single Stone Cold Sober (which neither myself or the NME were as keen on) and a mini album called Preview all via Fierce Panda. And whilst these records had the tunes, something was lacking. For whatever reason the recordings didn’t have the full-bodied brilliance of the bands live performance. Further singles followed (Just Can’t Take It and Three, but sadly never One In A Million) and a full album The Curse Of in 2001, but by then it felt like it wasn’t going to happen for Astronaut.

In an interview with Rockbite website Alex explained: “We’ve decided to er... retire from live performance, bringing to a close what has essentially been a five year tour of Camden. We’re not splitting up, but now it’s time to do things a bit differently. Who knows, perhaps we’ll turn into a nine-piece clog-dancing outfit. Touring has always been a bit of an impossibility for us, as we all have jobs. Actually, considering the amount of weight we’ve put on, and how much our hairlines have receded, the less we appear in public, the better.” According to Liquisearch the band’s final show was at The Borderline in 2007.

Since the end of Astronaut (it's not clear exactly when the end was) it seems that three members of the band continued in another group called Slipside (who released their own albums) and Alex also has continued to produce music. In fact, he's done rather well with it - you'll have heard his work if you have ever watched award winning comedy Miranda, you can hear the Astronaut influence buried in there (watch and listen by clicking here). You can also hear his instrumental work on Soundcloud by clicking this link. Alex also works in VR design, cinema, photography and has worked with the likes of Sigur Ros on their 2016 world tour creating photogrammetry of 3D scenes and real-time integration of live data taken during the show. It’s certainly a long way from dingy clubs in Camden.

Take a listen to the songs that blew me away the first time I heard them live, even if these recordings don’t quite hit the mark as powerfully as, given the right production, they could have done and ponder why wasn’t One In A Million ever given a release as a single? “You already know, you’ve got what it takes….”

Oh and before you do, remember at the start of this piece I mentioned that I had a fanzine? It was called Breaking Waves (nice name huh?). I published it under the moniker 'The Ex Boy On The Boat' and it was subtitled 'Certainly Slough's Smallest Fanzine'. Issue 4 included an interview with the drummer from Idlewild, a big feature on a band called Agnes (who were a bit like Curve or Garbage) and also an interview with...guess who? Of course, Astronaut. The highlight was a huge essay by one of the band on his favourite albums and amongst its revealing facts contained the useful information that another member of the group , if he could be anywhere in the world, would like to be in his bath. Which just goes to show to regular readers of this blog that my theory on musicians in the bath (here) is long standing. Now...take a listen...

Astronaut - A 4 Song Playlist

The BBC Sound of 2017 Longlist

And so here we go again…. it's another game of crystal ball gazing.

Arguably the most well-known of all the new music tips lists, the annual BBC Sound of poll longlist was published a short while ago..

In case you don’t know how the list is formed, or what it's objectives are, essentially, it’s a list of new(ish) acts that a panel of impartial experts from the music industry voted for. The pundits do not pick from a predetermined list, they can vote for whoever they want, within a set of guidelines that the BBC sets out. The BBC asks the voters to nominate acts who they are personally most excited about. This is an important point - voters are not asked who they think will be big commercially, even though this is widely how the list gets reported, often even by BBC journalists themselves, The 15 acts with the most points after all the votes have been added up form the BBC Sound of 2017 longlist and the idea is that the list helps bring those acts some attention to their music. 

The Sound of website states that artists from any musical genre and any country are eligible, whether or not they’re signed. They must not have been the lead artist on a UK top 20 single or album by 30th October 2016. Featured guest vocalists are eligible. The BBC also states that the acts voted for must not already be widely known by the UK general public (e.g. member of a hit band going solo or soap star, a winner of a national talent search show such as X Factor or The Voice in the last 3 years (i.e. 2014 onwards). Pundits must not vote for their family or close friends, or any artists with whom they have any kind of commercial relationship.

This year, for the first time ever a number of international voters have been asked to participate. I don’t know the reasons for this, but certainly in past years the Sound of List has been very Brit heavy, and maybe this was an attempt to counteract this. Although if it is, as a Brit and with the BBC being a British organisation, I think that’s a bit of a shame. British new music is not breaking through to the rest of the world (or even in the UK) as it did in the past and it needs all the help it can get. 

Here at Breaking More Waves I’ve already published my own Ones to Watch list (you can see the full list of 10 by clicking here) and this year 3 of the 10 artists I selected are also on the BBC longlist (Maggie Rogers, Dave and Cabbage). I can also feel slightly smug about the fact that 2 of the 2017 list were originally on my Ones to Watch list from past years. (Rag 'N' Bone Man was selected as one of my Ones to Watch way back in 2014 for 2015 and I chose Declan McKenna a year ago as One to Watch for 2016.) 

This years list is unsurprisingly full of solo artists (it's been a trend for new music for some time) and artists that fall into the urban and grime categories make up a significant element of the list. 

Who do I think received the most votes this year and will eventually top the poll when the full results are announced in the New Year? I have absolutely no idea. Unlike the last few years when Jack Garratt, Years & Years and Sam Smith have been relatively easy bets, from my perspective it feels like there is no obvious buzz act surging ahead of the pack right now. 

Of course crystal ball gazing is total guess work. Which of this crop of 15 will still be around 5 or 10 years time and be making great work is impossible to predict. But good luck to all of these artists as their musical journeys progress. 

The BBC Sound of 2017 longlist is as follows: 

AJ Tracey
Anderson. Paak 
Declan McKenna 
Jorja Smith 
Maggie Rogers 
Nadia Rose
Rag 'n' Bone Man
Stefflon Don 
The Amazons
The Japanese House
Tom Grennan

Take a listen to one of my Ones to Watch tips, who has also made the Sound of 2017. Coming to destroy a town near you with their live mayhem. Here's Cabbage.

Cabbage - Terrorist Synthesizer

Sunday 27 November 2016

The Sunday Surf #3

This is the 3,000th post on Breaking More Waves. That’s an awful lot of writing. Probably around three quarters of a million words. There’s been rushed rants in my work lunch break, late night outpourings of love for songs written when most reasonable people are getting ready for bed, early morning keyboard bashing before breakfast and compositions knocked off on laptops whilst on long (and short) train and coach journeys. In that time I’ve also posted 37,500 tweets and 640 pictures on Instagram and still managed to have a full life outside of the world of the internet. 

So now I'm at 3,000 I'd just like to say a quick thank you to every single person that has ever visited this blog, even if you only came here because of a Google image search for a popstar in the bath. I could say it's because of you that this blog keeps going, but that's a lie. It's because of me that this blog keeps going. I bloody write the thing. 

Now without further ado, here is this week’s Sunday Surf. 3 songs that you may or may not have heard – but hopefully you’ll find something here of merit.

Emily Burns – Take It Or Leave It

Over the course of 3,000 posts I've featured 4 different singers named Emily. Emily & The Woods, Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo, Emilie Nicolas and this one. Emily Burns first surfaced here in 2013. Take It Or Leave It shows her musical progression with a beautiful piece of modern chiming electronic pop that finds Emily standing at a relationship crossroads. Is it going to be just friends or is it time to become lovers? Either way, it’s delightfully pretty sounding and Breaking More Waves definitely takes this one.

Sad Palace – Breeze

A band that labels their music as supernatural groove rock was clearly born in the wrong decade. Images of big flares, long leopard print coats, long hair, bad beards and moustaches and prolific use of the words “cool man” and “vibey” are instantly brought to mind. Sad Palace also state that they’re from the ‘south coast’ which hints that they are probably not from Brighton; because it often seems that many a band from outside of that particular seaside city seems embarrassed of its location. Having said that, this very blog tags itself as being from ‘south-central’ so maybe I have something in common with Sad Palace. Certainly an earlier model of Sad Palace, with a different name, featured on Breaking More Waves, way back in 2011 and subsequently did OK on blog aggregator Hype Machine. You’d have to call in the cavalry before I could bear to tell you the name of that previous version though. 

With just two tracks on line, newbie Breeze is a bit all over the place, but in a good way. Like free-jazz gone indie. So, let’s call it free-indie. So, that’s south coast free indie supernatural groove rock. Yeah man. Breaking More Waves digs this.

The XX – On Hold

By now you’ve surely heard this? But just in case you haven’t, here we find The XX returning with a piece of pure magic. Incorporating a pitch shifted sample of Hall and Oates I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do), Jamie, Oliver and Romy manage to create something that is clearly the work of The XX but also shows a subtle development in their sound. Even though the words might be sad: “When are where did we grow cold/” the song sounds positively uplifting. The finest of comebacks.

Friday 18 November 2016

Ones to Watch #10 - Liv Dawson

On May 16th of this year I posted Liv Dawson’s elegant ‘debut’ Tapestry and wrote this: “File under one to watch.” Now it’s November and I’m following my own instructions.

Of course, the word debut is used very loosely because Liv actually released a song Here’s That Rainy Day independently about 4 years ago. Since then she’s been slowly developing her music until Tapestry and she followed it up with the Open Your Eyes EP, which featured the songs Open Your Eyes, Reflection and Still. Support slots this year with the likes of Frances and Honne have exposed her unadulterated voice to an audience as have key playlist slots from the likes of Apple and Spotify.

There’s no question that Liv, who hails from Shepperton, Surrey has a faultless voice and that the first songs she’s put out are perfectly formed in all the right places. What remains to be seen is if her music connects with people beyond playlisters, bloggers, radio producers and music industry representatives. And like any of the other acts in this Ones to Watch for 2017 series, that’s something that even the music ‘experts’ can’t guarantee. That’s down to you…..

Liv Dawson - Still

Thursday 17 November 2016

Ones to Watch 2017 #9 - Cabbage

The text has been reading the same for a number of years now, it goes something like this....

Guitar music is in a rut, indie as people used to know it is creatively and commercially dead. Blah blah blah blah.

Whilst having given those headline grabbing statements lots of consideration over the last few years, I've come to the conclusion that I don’t 100% agree. However, I do think there’s a strong case to be argued that the vast majority of new guitar based music has reached middle age even before its stopped being a child. There’s an awful lot of stuff out there that sounds bereft of originality, repeating the same ideas over and over. But hold on. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing. As I’ve stated before, not all art can be visionary. Some of it will just be people expressing themselves; and as human beings, feelings and emotions of the same sorts run from generation to generation, so it's no surprise that some forms of music won't change that much.

However, one feeling that seems to have got a little lost somewhere along the way in most guitar and pop music is anger. The world is a pretty divided and uncertain place right now, but there seem to be very few artists expressing their feelings about it in their songs, unlike genres such as hip-hop and grime.

Which is why I’ve picked the terribly named Cabbage as Ones to Watch for 2017 - and despite what regular readers think, it has nothing to do with the promo pic above, which is yet another addition to the musicians in the bath catalogue of which if you are a regular reader you will know I have a warped obsession with.

Lee Broadbent (Vocals), Joe Martin (vocals, guitar), Eoghan Clifford (guitar), Stephen Evans (bass), and Asa Morley (drums) are Cabbage and come from Mossley, just east of Manchester. They make the sort of energetic racket that will send bodies and beer pints flying in sweaty club environments. It’s hardly the stuff of originality, but they’re a bunch of rude dudes who at least seem to have plenty to say. With song titles like Uber Capitalist Death Trade and Grim Up North Korea you can immediately guess that at least they’re trying to throw a firework in the pot of self-centred apathy that seems to consume a lot of musicians these days. Let’s face it, you’re hardly likely to find Dua Lipa (as talented as she is) singing about having a wank in a quiche on public school class war onslaught that is Dinner Lady.

Then there's Cabbage’s live shows - events that have had new found fans shouting about their love for the band and their scruffy, badly behaved, madness and chaos. Energy, attitude and bravado are higher up the ranks in terms of output than necessarily great pop songs yet - but it's early days. These scallywags might write a killer anthem and gain a cult following or they might end up exploding and falling down to the gutter in less than a year. Either way, let’s go with them on the ride.

Cabbage - Dinner Lady (Video)

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Ones to Watch 2017 #8 - Jerry Williams

Although many of the Breaking More Waves Ones to Watch choices are signed to record labels, most years there’s normally at least one unsigned artist on the list. This year I’m delighted to choose an act that hails from my own home town, and her name is Jerry Williams.

Jerry first came to my attention a number of years ago when I received a text from a friend telling me that he’d just seen a new young artist play a gig and he thought she would be ‘just your thing’. He was right. Since then I’ve watched Jerry Williams develop her music to the point where, despite not operating with a label, she’s played sold out shows both in her home city and London as well as releasing a number of engaging EPs: A Hairdressers Called Sids, Cold Beer and Let’s Just Forget It. The most recent of those was awarded Best Produced EP at this year’s Unsigned Music Awards. The songs on those EPs have all performed rather well, clocking up over 3 million song plays on Spotify.

So what is it that makes Jerry Williams one to watch for 2017? In essence it's the same things that I highlighted when I first posted about her back in 2015, only now they are developed further and better. First, it’s her voice, which has a sprightful youthfulness that on certain songs reminds me a tiny bit of Harriet Wheeler from The Sundays. Second it’s her songs. Documenting her life and loves with a straight-up pop sensibility but with an indie edge they’re instantly likeable, even when they’re actually a bit sad. And third it’s her live gigs. Each show I’ve seen Jerry play has been better than the last, her confidence and class growing with age and experience – it probably also explains why she can pull off some pretty extreme clashes in the fashion department (she's a wearer of the outlandish trouser) and make them look cool. 

Jerry Williams has certainly put in the ground work. What 2017 holds for her remains to be seen – but let’s keep an eye and ear out for her shall we?

Jerry Williams - Let's Just Forget It 

Jerry Williams - Mother

Tuesday 15 November 2016

Ones to Watch 2017 #7 - Sofi Tukker

The story of how New York’s Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern met goes something along the lines of this: Tucker was looking to become a basketball player but following a long-term virus he changed his plans and turned to learning how to DJ and produce. Sophie was playing acoustic bossa nova music at an art gallery gig one day where Tucker was the DJ for the event. They met, Tucker remixed one of Sophie’s songs on the spot and Sofi Tukker was formed.

Pan forward and now Sofi Tukker are a fully formed duo, delighting audiences with their cool-party vibe shows and a versatile debut EP called Soft Animals; a number of tracks from which have featured on Breaking More Waves. 

If there’s one word to describe the music of Sofi Tukker it would simply be FUN. Fusing worldwide influences (check out Sophie’s near chanted delivery of the lyrics of Drinkee, a poem by the Brazilian poet Chacal for example, that found its way onto an Apple Watch advert), with elements of house and pop, Sofi Tukker create a carnival of sound that works equally well on home headphones or banging out of a huge soundsystem. They’re clearly two people that despite having very different personal tastes meet in the middle to create to something a little bit unique. 

For 2017 go and see them live if you get the chance (warning: there may be dance routines) and hope for further releases to match the big grin pleasure of their debut EP. 

Sofi Tukker - Drinkee (Video)

Sofi Tukker - Matadora

Monday 14 November 2016

Ones to Watch 2017 #6 - Dave

If like me you’re based in the UK and have even the slightest passing interest in modern pop music, then the increasing mass appeal of grime will be very much apparent to you. You might have even found yourself being slowly sucked in, listening to more and more of what it has to offer. What's particularly interesting about grime is that even with the genre's resurgence it has remained reasonably DIY, many of its leading artists preferring to work without labels and the traditional trappings of the music industry whilst achieving commercial success. With the likes of Skepta winning the Mercury prize and Stormzy drawing huge crowds at many of this year’s summer festivals, opportunity knocks for other new grime stars, to come through irrespective of if they are on a label or not.

Breaking More Waves rarely covers grime or hip-hop, with just the occasional foray into its world. However, I felt it would be churlish to completely ignore it in this Ones to Watch for 2017 list, given the excitement and energy it is currently bringing to the UK music scene. So my sixth choice in this list is an 18 year old from Streatham called Dave. Yep, just Dave. I think whatever genre he worked in I’d want him on this list, just for having such an unassuming pop star moniker. He does also go by the names of Santan Dave or Dave Santan, but mainly people just know him as good old fashioned Dave.

Dave’s doing rather well for himself. Thiago Silva has already clocked up over 1.5 million plays on Spotify, Drake has remixed and appeared on another one of his tracks (I Wanna Know) which narrowly edged into the UK top 75 singles charts and his Fire In The Booth and SBTV videos have been accumulating the hits with impressive force. He’s also recently been out on tour recently with Bugzy Malone. 

What impresses me most about Dave is not his rising commercial success but his thoughtful words. His recent EP Six Paths, a must listen, conveys messages of defining your own future and repelling certain lifestyle choices “I was risking my freedom for what? 2-2 kicks and a name brand top. And now I think back was it worth it, all for a chain and a watch?” 

Like all the best rappers, Dave draws on his young life and experiences and turns them into compelling stories. That is why he is Breaking More Waves sixth One to Watch for 2017.

Dave - Six Paths (Video)

Dave - JKYL + HYD

Sunday 13 November 2016

Ones to Watch 2017 #5 - Seramic

If gritty, funky, soulful Prince like jams with a touch of gospel fronted by a man that once recorded more traditional singer-songwriter fare under his real name sounds like your sort of thing, then Breaking More Waves 5th choice of Ones to Watch for 2017 will be right up your groovy street.

The first British act on this year’s list, Seramic, impressed virtually all the cool of-the-moment-early-adopter blogs with the debut release People Say, which was sneaked out at the very end of 2015, but my eureka moment was in a packed basement club at Brighton’s Great Escape Festival in May, where Marcus Foster (for he is the man behind this project) rolled out a raw and commanding set that referenced the aforementioned Prince, Stevie Wonder and Jimi Hendrix (well, if you’re going to take influence, take it from the greats) and created the equivalent of a sonic earthquake. 

It surprises me that so many of the pop tastemaker blogs went for Seramic - to my ears at least his sound doesn't sound particularly hip or young - its more suited to Radio 2 than Radio 1 or Beats - but then what goes around comes around again - waves break and rise once more, such is the cyclical nature of pop. However, whatever crowd the music of Seramic finds, it's undeniably good and that's what counts.

If you’re seeing Jack Garratt on tour this month, get there early and get a blast of Seramic: “Music that lubricates the parts other songs fail to reach” was how I previously described him. One to Watch (and feel) for 2017.

Seramic - Found (Live)

Seramic - People Say

Saturday 12 November 2016

Ones To Watch 2017 #4 - Hazel English

To give you an idea of how long it can take for a new artist to develop their profile, it was as long ago as April 2015 when Hazel English first cropped up on Breaking More Waves. Since that time a series of blog approved songs have led to Hazel signing with Marathon Artists (Jagwar Ma, Childhood), release her first EP and has some forthcoming shows outside of her own country, including the UK lined up.

When she first appeared on the blog I suggested that words like summery, hazy, wistful, dreamy and nostalgic were probably going to crop up a fair amount and that prediction proved to be very accurate. Her blend of indie pop like your dad used to listen to when he was a floppy fringed student and thoughtful pretty melodies are a world away from the charts or mainstream radio, but they’re engaging all the same. That’s why every song Hazel has released so far has found its way onto Breaking More Waves and why as we go into 2017 she’s on the One to Watch list.

Hazel English - It's Not Real

Friday 11 November 2016

Ones to Watch 2017 #3 - LANY

The third choice of a One to Watch for 2017 is a bit of an odd one. For LANY has been around since they cropped up on line with virtually no information about them available in 2014. Since that time they’ve amassed a stack of songs out there for you to listen to. Of all of these choices of Ones to Watch they’re certainly the most established.

So why pick them? They seem a bit beyond a new music blog tip list for the year ahead.

The reason is simple, this is one band that I can guarantee that there will be a debut album from in 2017 (the band have tweeted the fact, so confidence is high). Sometimes on our previous Ones to Watch lists I’ve chosen acts that for one reason or another haven’t got that much further than the odd single the next year, if that. Others have taken a year or two to really get going after I’ve tipped them (for example Marina & The Diamonds was on the BBC Sound of List one year after my Ones to Watch selection, and Alice Jemima who I picked as One to Watch for 2013 will be releasing her debut album next year). So with LANY I’m playing safe.

Just in case you haven’t heard of them before today (and I’m assuming that being new music fans most of you will have and will be scratching your heads at my selection, suggesting perhaps that they should have been Ones to Watch for 2015 or even 16) here’s some basic facts: LANY are a trio consisting of Paul Jason Klein, Les Priest and Jake Goss, they hail from Los Angeles and they make the sort of subtle electropop that fits very easily amongst a lot of what I post on Breaking More Waves. Having supported Ellie Goulding earlier this year in the UK, some of their return shows in September had to be upgraded due to popular demand. With that album I mentioned forthcoming I can only see them connecting with even more people. But this isn’t just a Ones to Watch tip because of their potential popular appeal. This is also because of their songs. Take a listen to yea, babe, no way below, which in amongst its dreamy summery electronic warmth finds singer Paul Klein tumbling with that ‘I miss you, but it didn’t work out, should I call I can’t’ dilemma. 

Watch out for that 2017 album. It might just soundtrack your summer.

LANY - yea, babe, no way

Thursday 10 November 2016

Ones to Watch 2017 #2 - Skott

Breaking More Waves second One to Watch is Swedish singer Skott. Having wowed the blogs (including this one) this summer with her debut release Wolf she’s followed it up with small number of songs, each one receiving plaudits for their sharp icy electronic pop prowess.

The one obvious comparison to Skott would be Norwegian star Aurora who took elements of traditional acoustic song writing and brought them into a largely computerised environment but maintained the power and humanity of the songs. One of the differences between the two though is that whilst Aurora’s live performances have been full of her own unstopping emotional wonderment and warmth, Skott’s handful of live gigs (I caught one in London a few months back) have possessed a different sense of drama – one of composed coolness. That’s not to say that Skott is aloof or not engaging, more that it seemed that she was already ready to own the stage. There were some serious vocal chops as well. 

It’s this combination of factors; great songs with the occasional twist or surprise in them, combined with a more than solid live performance, that suggest that Skott will be One to Watch in 2017.

Skott - Lack Of Emotion

Wednesday 9 November 2016

Ones to Watch 2017 #1 - Maggie Rogers

The first One to Watch for 2017 on Breaking More Waves is Maggie Rogers. 2016 has been a year when there’s been a whole host of new music that has had fantastic production, but much of it has been somewhat lacking in substance in the song department – all that old-fashioned stuff like great melodies, hooks and tunes to draw you in. 

Maggie Rogers' Alaska has all that stuff. It’s a beautifully produced piece of work, but there’s a real quality to the song as well. Not only that, but alongside the delightful airiness and purity of the vocals, there’s a real soul there. Alaska sounds like the work of someone who is really in love with music. It is, without question, my single of 2016.

A quick recap for those of you who still haven’t heard of Maggie. Her breakthrough moment came when Pharrell Williams attended a masterclass at New York’s Clive Davis Institute and met Maggie, who played him Alaska. He was immediately blown away, being moved virtually to tears, calling the song and her talent ‘singular’. The video of that moment (which is really rather powerful – seeing a major star being so humbled) subsequently went viral and a few months further on, Maggie had signed a deal with a major record label. You can see the video here if you missed it the first time round.

Since that video the big question has been can Maggie live up to the hype that Alaska has created? The answer came very recently when she released her second song Dog Years. Inevitably it couldn’t quite match the radiance of Alaska, but what it did demonstrate was that Maggie Rogers has definite talent. This second release, a warmly mellow pop tune about trusting the universe, being a good friend and never having enough time is just rather lovely and so on the basis of these two songs, she has to be one of Breaking More Waves Ones to Watch for 2017.

Maggie Rogers - Alaska (Video)

Maggie Rogers - Dog Years

Ones to Watch 2017

As we progress into December the music media will undoubtedly be churning out their ‘Sound of / Ones to Watch’ lists for 2017. I have a mixed relationship with these lists. On one hand they appeal to the geeky trainspotter element of my personality in the same way that the music charts and football league tables do (more than the football itself – which I’m really not that interested in), but on the other hand after they’ve all been published I have a ‘So what?’ feeling. However, when all is said and done, if I was to go on Mastermind or any other quiz show I think the BBC Sound of Poll would certainly be in contention as my specialist subject. I find not only the lists, but the process and people’s understanding and reaction to them fascinating.

And so it is that every year on Breaking More Waves I publish my own Ones to Watch list and this year is no exception.

Want to know who I have selected in the past? Here’s the full list - some big hitters, some medium ones and some who you probably can’t even remember. But be careful, because sometimes the ones that get away reappear in places you wouldn’t expect. For example, 2008’s tip Skint & Demoralised recently cropped up on peak time TV Nationwide Building Society TV advert (here) reciting one of his poems. He actually did become one to watch, just not in the form I expected. That’s the fun of crystal ball glazing. 

The Full List - Previous Breaking More Waves Ones to Watch 2008-2016

La Roux, Little Boots, Passion Pit, Yes Giantess, White Lies, Skint & Demoralised, Alessi’s Ark, Florence & The Machine, Mumford & Sons, Marina & The Diamonds, Ellie Goulding, Hurts, Beth Jeans Houghton, Unicorn Kid, Delphic, Clare Maguire, Stornoway, Mirrors, Holly Miranda, Clock Opera, James Blake, Misty Miller, The Vaccines, Starsmith, Let’s Buy Happiness, The Milk, D/R/U/G/S, Visions Of Trees, Spark, Lucy Rose, Spector, Alabama Shakes, Foxes, Dot Rotten, Lianne La Havas, Lana Del Rey, Willy Moon, Michael Kiwanuka, Queen Of Hearts, The Staves, Ren Harvieu, Outfit, Charli XCX, Rachel Sermanni, Chvrches, Haim, Gabrielle Aplin, Savages, Chasing Grace, Tom Odell, Sons & Lovers, Avec Sans, Laura Mvula, Curxes, Matt Corby, The Night VI, Luke Sital-Singh, Valerie June, Alice Jemima, Wolf Alice, Chloe Howl, Sophie Jamieson, Jungle, Flyte, Mononoke, George Ezra, Banks, Eva Stone, Iyes, Laura Doggett, Seinabo Sey, Rag ‘N’ Bone Man, Coasts, Lapsley, The Shires, Ryn Weaver, Jospeh Salvat, Chloe Black, Elderbrook, Nao, Mura Masa, Declan McKenna, Zyra, Billie Marten, Loyle Carner, Pumarosa, Aurora, Majik, Xylaroo

My choices are not ones that I necessarily think are going to be commercially successful, but as I have relatively commercial tastes there’s a possibility that some of them may go on to be so. Having said that, in 2016, going into 2017 it’s harder than ever for new artists to break through and develop a long lasting career. For example, this year’s current Top 40 selling albums in my home country of the UK doesn’t include one debut album from a UK artist. Then there's the issue of the closure of so many small to mid-size venues – the breeding ground for new musicians, the place to get that first experience and step up the ladder a little. 

So this isn’t a list of ‘artists that will be big’. It is just exactly what the title says – new artists I recommend that you watch and listen out for next year (and beyond).

So without further ado, the next 10 posts will feature my choices. Many of them will come as no surprise if you read the blog regularly, as most of them have featured before, although there will be some brand new selections as well - maybe even a surprise or two with selections you might not expect to see on this blog.

I’m going very early with this, mainly because by the end of December, if you follow much music press and media you will probably have had ‘Ones to Watch’ list overload, so I’d rather thrust my choices in your face before you become exhausted. I also like to publish before the big industry lists such as the BBC Sound of Poll come out, so we can then compare my autocratic list with Aunty Beebs democratic one.

I’ll be posting my first One to Watch in about an hour from now (around 10am GMT), then every day for a further 9 days at 9am, including Saturday and Sunday. Until then, here's one of my 2016 choices, who this year became the only artist ever to make one member of my family cry with emotion at a gig, her performance was that beautiful.

Aurora - Conqueror

Sunday 6 November 2016

The Sunday Surf #2

This is the Sunday Surf. A weekly round-up of a few songs that got away during the week, with just a very brief summary attached to each one.

Whilst the blog is on a relative slow down for the next couple of months (for the reasons why see the previous post here), the Sunday Surf, as a new feature, will remain largely regular.

Pets – Falling Blind

By rights Pets should be a huge hit on the internet – after all the place is swarming with pictures of cats and dogs. For me photos of pets are like pictures of other people’s children – sure they’re cute, but really I’m not that interested. I’m more interested in the musical kind – like this band. Pets new song Falling Blind, is either a pop song with a rock heart or a rock song with a pop head, I’m not sure which, maybe both, but either way it’s a tune that has an emphatically epic and measured structure that builds towards an impressive finale.

Rhain – Pavlova

I had a raspberry pavlova for my pudding on Friday. It was very nice. It was from Tesco – one of their Finest range. However, as nice as the pavlova was, I’m also interested in the musical variety. Pavolva is the follow up to previous song Jospehine. It has a similar musical path with stripped back piano, Rhain’s edgy somewhat eerie vocal and not a raspberry in site. 

Julia Jacklin – Don’t Let The Kids Win

Julia’s Jacklin’s debut album is a slow burning beauty and from it comes a gorgeously shot video for the contemplative title track. Of the song Julia says “I think it sums up the theme of the record nicely and where I was in my life at the time. Doubting everything but a bit too tired to let it get to me too much. Just kind of going well… yeah I’m freaking out about getting older and running out of time but so is everyone! So just sing about it, move on and keep working.”

Friday 4 November 2016

A Personal Note From Me (Robin) About The Blog And What's Happening...

I'm not really a fan of putting selfies of me or my family on the internet, but today feels appropriate...

Dear lovely readers of Breaking More Waves (well I guess some of you may be lovely, certainly the ones of you that I have met are, some of you may be totally horrible as well, but beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to readers on the internet)......

This is a short post to let you know that over the next couple of months the number of posts I will be publishing will be decreasing dramatically. Normally this signals the beginning of the end for a blog – for one reason or another the author has found that his or her available time to write posts is less that it used to be previously, or they've just lost motivation to do it anymore. Blogs are often start when the author is a student or has more free time and then as full time work, relationships and then children take hold, that time is a lot less available. I’ve always said that kids are the biggest killer of music blogs – I’ve seen many a high flying blog call it a day after the onset of children. I’ve been pretty fortunate to be able to continue doing Breaking More Waves with 2 kids, mainly through sheer determination, focus, a willingness to accept that there will always be many better blogs than mine because their authors have more resource (in particular time), the ability to survive on very little sleep and being relatively well organised.

However, for the next couple of months I do need to take some time out. My partner was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and next week will be undergoing surgery. This will be followed by a programme of treatment. As I’m sure you’ll understand, I need to spend extra time to help support her and my family through what is a relatively difficult time for us. However we are optimistic that she will beat the illness and will soon be back firing on all cylinders.

This doesn’t however mean that the blog will stop completely. Writing the blog is, for me, a bit of fun and escapism from the real world and a chance to be self-indulgent. I still need that. But I will be doing a little less of it for a while. 

Over November and December I will still be running a few new music posts and my annual Ones to Watch (in November) and Albums of the Year (in December) posts will go ahead full steam like every other year. But whilst I try to balance supporting my partner with her illness, my busy day job, refurbishing a property that I purchased last year and looking after my family, the blog will be taking a back seat. In the big scheme of things Breaking More Waves is not that important. However, I am determined to keep Breaking More Waves running, if only for my sanity – sometimes, with all the stresses and strains there are in the world, we need a bit of fun, and I get that from posting stupid pictures of musicians in the bath on Twitter (follow me here for that) and writing poorly thought out bollocks about pop music on the internet.

So excuse the relative quietness but do keep visiting when I do post something - knowing some stranger in New York, Sydney or Inverness is reading the crap I spout for my own amusement keeps me motivated.

Robin – The bloke who writes every single one of these (now nearly 3,000) posts on Breaking More Waves. xx

Thursday 3 November 2016

New Music: Fickle Friends - Brooklyn

It seems a little weird to me that Fickle Friends are still, to most people, considered a new band, but then most people aren't new music obsessives like me (and hopefully you) are they? Mind you it was December 2013 when they first cropped up on Breaking More Waves with the slightly scrappy but charming I Want / You Want - a fair old time ago.  Since then they’ve polished up, conquered the blogs and got signed by a major label. 

Next on their step by step journey comes new song Brooklyn, which certainly doesn’t break the mould in terms of their brand of upbeat danceable indie pop – it’s utterly recognisable as Fickle Friends right from the word go. Yet despite the effervescence of the music, the subject matter is much more serious, with Natti singing about her anxiety - an issue that seems to be being talked about increasingly more, particularly on social media and by musicians and artists. In fact, a fairly recent survey showed that 60% of musicians have had some sort of mental illness (see here) and one of the latest musicians to talk specifically about anxiety is James Arthur (see here).

 “The whole song is metaphorical and kind of talks about anxiety as someone you don’t understand or recognise,” says Natti.  “It’s probably the song that means the most to me because 1 year on I look back at how panicked I was by it all and now, although it’s something that affects me most days, I feel like I’ve got more of a handle on what’s going on in my head.”

Fickle Friends are on tour in the UK later this month, finishing off on the 1st December at Heaven in London.

Fickle Friends - Brooklyn

Wednesday 2 November 2016

New Music: Liv Dawson - Open Your Eyes

Here are a few of my golden rules of gig going: 

1. If you have long hair and intend on dancing or swaying your head around, tie your hair back - ideally into a bun or low ponytail. The person standing behind you doesn't want a mouthful of your locks in their face, mouth or drink. Unless they have a weird hair fetish of course, but I think there's special clubs for that.

2. Music is about sound. Therefore when the band are playing, shut the fuck up with your conversation so that everyone around you can hear the sound properly. 

3. Busy gigs can mean a lot of people crammed into an area. It's likely that your zone of personal space is going to be invaded. You need to accept this. However, whilst we are all invading each other's comfort zones we need to be accommodating and aware of each other. If someone slips or falls, help them up. If someone is unwell, get the attention of a venue staff member and medical assistance. If you are pushed or bump into someone apologise. Don't even think about groping anyone that hasn't given their consent. Act like a decent human being. 

4. Always get to the gig early and watch the support bands. You might regret it if you don't when 5 years later they are headlining arenas at £50 a ticket.

Last weekend I went to see Honne. The support act (who I was there to see as much as Honne - following rule 4 above) was Liv Dawson. Ironically, when I first wrote about Liv on the blog in May I started the piece by writing about rule 4 then, so what goes around, comes around.

Her set was very short, but one thing was immediately apparent - the purity of her voice. Every song was pitch perfect, delivered with the accuracy of a gold winning Olympic shooter, without ever being bombastic. My ears were instantly charmed.

Of course it's early days for Liv and so maybe her stage confidence still needs to grow a little, but given the opportunity that will surely come, but for now her voice is plenty enough to make someone's day better. Here's another example of her gorgeous tones, on new electronic crooner Open Your Eyes, which was produced by Guy Lawrence of Disclosure and finds Liv singing to someone that she'll never be what they want her to be.

According to Radio 1 Extra they are 'premiering' the tune tonight at 7.45pm GMT. But considering it's already on Spotify and Soundcloud, I thought I'd give you the 'preview premiere'.

Liv Dawson - Open Your Eyes

New Music: Lauran Hibberd - I Don't Like It When You Smile

For anyone impatient for a third album from singer Lucy Rose, then the Isle of Wight’s Lauran Hibberd should be a very welcome distraction. I Don’t Like It When You Smile, Lauran’s second release, has a sound that is immediately recognisable; an agreeable mix of indie, pop and folk all brushed with Lauran’s absorbingly lovely vocal. There are lots of subtle touches on the song that layer themselves to provide something that grows upwards and outwards; a pitter patter rhythm here, the bass that slowly introduces itself before bursting in with a flashlight moment there. And despite the rather negative sounding title the music only has the feel good factor.

“This track reveals a true insight into my over imaginative mind, it’s about so many different things, incorporating so many different people in my life. I love how open to interpretation it is for the listener, it’s my most unsheltered song to date,” say Lauran of the tune, which is released on the 25th November.

Lauran Hibberd - I Don't Like It When You Smile