Sunday 26 February 2017

The Sunday Surf #3

Late last year I put up a post explaining that there was likely to be a slow down in the frequency of posts whilst my partner underwent surgery and chemotherapy for cancer. Whilst things have dwindled a tiny bit, I’m pleased that I’ve managed to keep Breaking More Waves running with more efficiency than I thought possible. There were 30 posts in January and this is the 18th and final one in February. However, there has been a lot of music that I didn’t find the time to write about, so here’s a catch up with some of those missed tracks that surfaced this week.

Sunken – Recompose

Perfect for lazy Sunday afternoons, Recompose by brother sister duo Finn Billingham and sister Poppy Billingham aka Sunken perfectly captures the sound of South East London; all jazzy grooves, a hint of drum and bass and a mix of soft organic sounds together with something a little more urban. Add to that a vocal that has some similarity to Lily Allen, by way of its pleasing effortless quality and you’ve got a song that’s perfect to just kick back and enjoy.

Elaskia – Mine

Australian band Elaskia have been biding their time. Having uploaded two covers and an original about a year ago, there hasn’t been anything since, but now on the back of a recent Jagwar Ma support there’s a new song called Mine. Don’t be fooled by its mellow shadowy sound that falls somewhere between the likes of a darker London Grammar and Broods, for this is a passionate song and not for the faint hearted: “You’re a cannibal you eat my heart out,” sings vocalist Kelly Griffith at one point. Tasty.

Caroline Lazar – Nevermine

In the opening line of her debut song Caroline Lazar sings of being shown how to start a fire. It’s a good metaphor for this track, which starts from sparse musical kindling before it rages into a powerful inferno in under 3 minutes. Currently studying in Miami, Caroline will be releasing her debut EP on March 24th via My Little Empire.

Stormzy – Blinded By Your Grace, Part 2 (feat. MNEK)

The release of Stormzy’s album is a bit of a revelation. Those expecting an assault of non-stop foot to the floor grime bangers might be a little surprised, because Gang Signs & Prayer is much more than that. Rather like Breaking More Waves One to Watch for 2017 Dave, Stormzy’s debut is as much an introspective and reflective work as it is punchy outward hitting grime. It’s my personal stand-out record of the year so far. Take a listen to the gospel sounds of Blinded By Your Grace, Part 2, to see how there’s much more to Stormzy than just Shut Up.

Friday 24 February 2017

New Music: Alice Jemima - No Diggity (Video)

When Alice Jemima first started actively uploading music to the internet, alongside the plethora of original material, she would regularly record cover versions in her own style. Most (possibly all) of them featured on Breaking More Waves at some point. From Alt-J to Lana Del Rey to Raleigh Ritchie to lesser known bands like Strangers, Alice put her own unique stamp on them all. The biggest success both commercially and creatively of those covers was her take on No Diggity, which I believe she almost took down from the internet after its initial release because she had second thoughts about its quality.

Millions of streams later, it’s clear that in this particular case Alice was wrong, and the song will be featuring on her debut album, through Sunday Best, which is just around the corner. To remind us all that it's coming there's now an official video for the tune.

Watch some roller skating dudes do their thing to Alice’s sensual chilled recording – with a brief appearance by the lady herself at the end.

Alice Jemima hits the road for a short tour to promote her forthcoming album, starting at Glasgow’s Hug & Pint on the 3rd March and finishing at London’s Lexington on the 6th before she heads out to play some shows at SXSW in Austin Texas.

Alice Jemima - No Diggity (Video)

Wednesday 22 February 2017

New Music: Introducing - Pale Waves

Pop music’s a funny old thing, isn’t it?

Or at least pop music is a funny old thing when it comes down to defining yourself by the bands that really mean something to you and those that don’t.

Take The 1975. They’re a band that seem to mean an awful lot to an increasingly large number of people. They’re an oddity; as a group, they inspire the same sort of obsessive fan base that the likes of Bieber or pre-split Take That had and yet they also have the seal of approval of many critics, music bloggers and the like. Their pretentiously titled (and for the record, I don’t use the word pretentious as a criticism, I love pretentiousness in pop music, otherwise it would be boring) second album I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It was a commercial big hitter and found its way onto the Mercury Prize list. They sell out arena sized shows and get very good reviews for them. In an age when new bands are struggling to assert themselves over the deluge of solo artists, The 1975 are succeeding.

Yet they really don’t mean anything to me. They’re one of those acts that I just don’t get. Every music fan has a few of these. I’ve never really got Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin or more recently Rihanna. It’s not that I dislike any of these artists, they’re just a bit ‘shoulder shrug’ to me. I’ve even seen The 1975 live in the hope of understanding why people adore them, but they didn’t connect. Sure, Love Me, The Sound and Chocolate are all very good radio-friendly if somewhat unoriginal singles, but they don’t grab me in the heart as they clearly do for many. For me their latest album, whilst having moments of some interest, is way too long and becomes a snoozefest by the end. And although it doesn’t have anything to do with the music, I do find Matt Healy a tad annoying – although to be fair the lad does seem to realise it himself: “I’m surprised no one has ever punched me in the face,” he said once. "I am a bit of a knob," he told the Guardian in an interview last year.

So, when a couple of days ago I heard a new song that sounded remarkably like The 1975 with a female singer the alarm bells began to ring. Why? Because, I discovered that the track was produced by Matt Healy and George Daniel from the band. By rights I shouldn’t like it. But I did. More than that, I loved it. Maybe The 1975 were finally going to win me over, but from an alternative route than their own music. 

The group in question is Manchester reverb and glitter indie-pop quartet Pale Waves, who are Heather Baron-Gracie (vocals, guitar), Ciara Doran (drums), Hugo Silvani (guitar) and Charlie Wood (bass). They've been around for some time now, first under the name Creek before changing to their current moniker, with tracks like Heavenly, The Tide, Dangerous and Lust picking up some traction on blogs from as far back as 2014. Since that time, they’ve signed with Dirty Hit records (home of The 1975 and The Japanese House) deleted those old songs and this week release There’s A Honey as their first official single. It is 100% catchy. Once you’ve heard the “I would give you my body, but am I sure that you want me?” line once it will be lodged in your head all day. A piece of radiant pop that will make your day all the more better.

Pale Waves - There's A Honey

Tuesday 21 February 2017

New Music: Introducing - Polo

I’m not sure if Leeds based 3-piece Polo are named after the horseback sport, the Volkswagen car, the aftershave (which takes its name from the sport) or the classic British mint sweet with a hole in it, but what I do know is that their quirky and twitchy song Gold Horizons, taken from their debut EP Alice is an earworm.

Over pitter-patter beats, including what sounds like a dripping tap, and crisp tropical electronics it finds law student Kat McHugh singing of a bad choice; a devil on her shoulder that she keeps mistaking for an angel. There’s something devilish about the tune itself too as it sneaks gently up on you in its three minutes and forty seconds of oddball but delightfully enjoyable astute pop.

Released today, Soak, the second song from the EP gives a further dimension to the band’s sound. It’s both vulnerable in its lyrical delivery but fully robust and ergonomically designed in its detailed electronic soul pop delivery and adds a new dimension to their first release.

Take a listen to both songs below. The Alice EP is out on 10th March. The trio are currently playing a handful of dates across the country and will be at The Garage in London on 24th February.

Polo - Gold Horizons

Polo - Soak

New Music: HVOB and Winston Marshall - The Blame Game

Leave your preconceived ideas at the door for this one. If you saw the name Winston Marshall and thought ‘he’s in Mumford & Sons’ you’re right. What you’d be wrong about though was if you had assumed that this collaboration with Austrian electronic production duo HVOB was going to sound something akin to the vomit inducing techno-folk of Wake Me Up by Avicii. For The Blame Game, the first single from HVOB’s upcoming album Silk, is a thing of absolute beauty rather than something shameful, so we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

Taking you on a journey from sedately intimate XX-like reverb laden guitar chords to dark whirlpools of warped wavy techno this is a song that needs all of the six minutes it occupies to expand fully outwards whilst immersing you inwards. Yet those six minutes never feel long. In fact they seem to pass far too quickly.

The song came about simply because Marshall emailed HVOB telling them that he liked their music and that he’d like to work with them. The duo didn’t take the email seriously at first, believing it to be fake, but a year and a half later, this unusual meeting of minds has produced a stunning piece of music that deserves your attention, whatever your thoughts on Mumford & Sons.

HVOB and Winston Marshall - The Blame Game

Monday 20 February 2017

New Music: Sofi Tukker - Greed

Total banger alert!

Take one call and response chant, a pumping house backing, some crafty guitar licks and some smooth lyrics about keeping you up all night and there you have it. Ten imagine throwing in a dancefloor, darkness, strobes, dry ice and a whole bunch of people ready to go batshit mental and you’ve got yourself A MOMENT. 

Actually, you’ve got yourself A MOMENT even without the dry ice and strobes. Just turn this one up and add it to your best bangers in the worlds ever playlist.

There's a hint of Sleigh Bells with this one, as Sofi Tukker bring the noise. "This is one of the first times Sophie has ever screamed," say the duo. "Unfortunately there's a lot to scream about right now."

Sofi Tukker - Greed 

Sunday 19 February 2017

New Music: Introducing - Emma Jensen

With its liquid gold synths and soft beats, Closer, the debut song from Norway’s Emma Jensen, sounds a tiny bit like Grimes on downers.

A hypnotic ode to wanting to hold on to someone who is drifting out of your relationship, this tune has a relatively sparse musical simplicity that in lesser hands could just float away to nothingness. Jensen does better than that though – it’s as if she is wiggling her musical finger at you beckoning you to be drawn in, then once you’re there she adds a surprising bluesy guitar riff just to prove that this isn’t just electropop balladry by numbers.

A soft sounding yet musically strong start from Jensen, it's probably not surprising that over the last week or so Closer has been picked up by quite a few new music blogs, Certainly it's my favourite song to come from Norway since we last heard from Aurora - and that's pretty decent company to keep. 

Emma Jensen plays by:Larm festival in Oslo this March.

Emma Jensen - Closer

Saturday 18 February 2017

New Music: Lana Del Ray - Love

When it comes to end of decade best of lists, I’m afraid I won’t be taking any notice of yours in 2019 if it doesn’t contain Daft Punk’s Get Lucky and Lana Del Rey’s Video Games.

Thankfully, whilst Video Games made Lana a star she’s managed to sustain herself with a series of records that have kept a consistency both in terms of quality and style whilst influencing many wannabee Lanas along the way.

Now, after a series of posters appeared in L.A last week, with their photos cropping up all over social media feeds, she returns with a song simply called Love (surely this should have been released on Valentine's day? Her label missed a trick there) and it’s a right old fan pleaser.

“Look at you kids, you know, you know you’re the coolest. The world is yours and you can’t refuse it. Seen so much you could get the blues, but that don’t mean that you should abuse it,” she coos in that effortless languid tone of hers. It's a song that deals with the mixed emotions and confusions of youthful love; not knowing where the ride is going to take you, but you’ve got to go on that journey anyway. “Doesn’t matter if I’m not enough, for the future or the things to come, ‘cause I’m young and in love.” 

It's romantic, dreamy and perfectly Lana. 

Lana Del Rey - Love

Friday 17 February 2017

New Music: Pumarosa - Dragonfly

When I first featured Pumarosa on Breaking More Waves in 2015 (when the Puma and Rosa bits still had a gap in between them), I mentioned a track called Dragonfly. “A tune that wades in atmospherics, slowly drip feeding its meticulous indie sound in a way that suggests that Puma Rosa have been doing this for some time, which of course they have,” I wrote, referring to Ada, their previous guise. Now here we are in 2017 and what goes around comes around, because Dragonfly has been unleashed into the world again and although I’m relatively sure this is a new version of the song, it still ticks all the boxes that it did before.

Dragonfly is taken from Pumarosa’s forthcoming debut album which is called The Witch, a title which seems to perfectly capture the essence of their music – dark, spiritual, bleak and haunting. Other song titles on the record include Snake, Barefoot, Lions Den and of course Priestess, the brilliant debut single. The Witch will be released on the 19th May.

Pumarosa - Dragonfly

Tuesday 14 February 2017

New Music: Ider - Face On

At the risk of Breaking More Waves just becoming a musical Xerox machine, constrained to pump out posts about acts of certain genres, here’s a brand new piece of electronic sounding pop from London’s Ider. You may remember them from an introducing post I ran last year

Listening to Face On I imagine that Megan and Lily, who make up this duo, would have been the two kids at school who always sat at the back of class, were far too hip to talk to the likes of you and me and were already sneaking their way into nightclubs by the time they were 16. However, irrespective of my imagination of their cool misspent youth, Face On is a very neat piece of electronic pop blessed with dark ominous sounding verses and an airy hooky chorus, that gets the Breaking More Waves seal of approval, whatever that is is? Maybe a cheesy double thumbs-up? 

Face On comes from Ider’s debut EP which is due on the 31st March and have signed to Aesop (SOHN, TALA etc.) for its release. The band have already sold out their debut headline show at Bermondsey Social Club on the 6th April and have a variety of festival dates announced including Live At Leeds and End of the Road. 

Ider - Face On

Monday 13 February 2017

New Music: Bad Fit - In The City (Video)

What’s your view on lyric videos? Originally, I thought they were a little tacky, but as time has gone by I’ve come to like them quite a lot – they’re really just an internet enabled version of pulling the record out, putting the needle down, immersing yourself in the songs and reading the sleeve-notes and lyrics as the music plays. It seems a far more holistic experience and, for me, keeps my focus on listening.

In The City is a slice dreamy indie pop of the melancholy variety from Northern Ireland’s Bad Fit and comes with one such lyric video; but there’s a bit more to it than just being a vehicle to convey the words. Being on your own in a big city can, for some, make you feel more alone than being in an empty place, and the scenes of space portrayed in this film convey that very idea; sometimes people need to get away from everything to find comfort. Take a listen to In The City below, soak up its pretty melodies and chiming guitars whilst you let your worries float away.

Bad Fit - In The City (Video)

Sunday 12 February 2017

New Music: Glass - Vulnerable

The last time I saw London based duo Glass they had ditched the keyboards and were making a mainly guitar based racket, with lead singer Jessica Winter prowling and pouting the stage as if she was possessed by the very spirit of rock ‘n’ roll. So, it comes as some surprise to see that new single Vulnerable sounds like the marching anthem of the lonely alt-pop kids, with a big killer chorus: “Oh she’s vulnerable, really shouldn’t be alone, someone should take care of her, she doesn’t have a home.” Whether the song is dealing with physical or emotional vulnerability isn’t really clear, nor if Jessica is sneering with disagreement at the idea of a woman alone is vulnerable, or if it’s a straight-laced commentary, but either way singing this one out loud is a strength-giver.

Produced by Dan Grech, who has worked with artists such as The Vaccines, Lana Del Rey and Circa Waves and Keane, Vulnerable is out now via Supernatural records and comes with a karaoke styled video (which you can find by clicking here). As is the way with the internet these days, the duo’s previous releases have mysteriously disappeared from Soundcloud, although you’ll still find them on other streaming services like Spotify. Glass play Camden Assembly, London on the 9th March.

Glass - Vulnerable

New Music: The Staves - Tired As Fuck (Video)

I’ve always liked the fact that despite the musical beauty of The Staves, their language is occasionally potty mouthed on stage in between songs and now, in the song itself. Tired As Fuck was written during the course of a relationship breakdown and deals with how, as with the rest of the crap life tends to throw at you, sometimes you just have to carry on irrespective of the lack of help. It's a classic British problem in particular. When someone asks you how you are, we tend to answer with "I'm fine," even if we're not. 

The unedited video that promotes the song was inspired by Andy Warhol’s work and a series of moving portraits.

The Staves - Tired As Fuck

Sunday 5 February 2017

New Music: Embers - Signs (Video)

Whilst in no way does this blog encourage the use of excessive alcohol whilst listening to music, undoubtedly many songs can be enhanced with the odd glass / can / bottle or two. Take for example The Nolans and I’m In The Mood For Dancing. Put that on after everyone’s had a few vodka based cocktails and you’ll be surprised who is suddenly up on the dancefloor flinging their arms and hips around with abandon. 

Mentioning The Nolans in the same breath as Manchester based epic-rock cacophonists Embers isn’t probably something that you would imagine comes naturally, but as I’m reliably informed by the band that new song Signs (their first in an absolute age) is probably listened to best after a bottle and a half of red wine, or at least enough so that you don’t mind the neighbour’s complaints, there is some synergy with the Anglo-Irish singing pop sisters.

Actually, I don’t think my neighbours would complain about this. After all, there’s very little to dislike, and yes, it really is best played very loud. In fact, it’s music that’s best to feel as well as hear, so turn it right up to get the floors and walls vibrating.

Signs is one half of a double A sided release due on 13th March. They also support Clock Opera in Manchester at the Night & Day Café on March 1st, a show that also features recently covered Diving Station.  What a gig that will be - so if you're in the vicinity, get down early.

Embers - Signs (Video)

New Music: Introducing - Kolars

What’s not to like about a band who describe their music as desert disco, glam-a-billy, space blues and r&beyond? Then throw in a tap dancing drummer, get the two members of the band to marry each other and hey presto, you’ve got Kolars.

The first song I heard from this unusual U.S duo was the husky anti-career chasing anthem One More Thrill. It channels the spirit of The Strokes through the ghost of Johnny Cash with a blast of confetti canon thrown in for good measure before it ends with a satisfying thud. It’s cool as f*ck and struts like it knows it is.

Previously members of glam-folk band He's My Brother She's My Sister, Kolars consists of Rob who sings and riffs the guitar with some aplomb and Lauren who drums, whilst tap dancing on the kit itself. They’re probably the first group I’ve come across to fully implement tap in their music since Northumbrian folkies The Unthanks.

Take a listen to One More Thrill below and find a couple more of their songs (Bullet on the Run, Beyond The World Of Man) on streaming services. The band are out on tour in the US at the moment and will be crossing over to Europe this Spring. They're guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Kolars - One More Thrill

Friday 3 February 2017

New Music: Sälen - Heartbreak Diet

Pop music is awash with songs about break-ups, love, infatuation and sex – it’s the core diet of the thing - but nobody is writing about it quite like Sälen. “I used to dream of dying so you would cry at my funeral,” sings Ellie Kamio. What is going on in her mind I wonder? One of for the psychologists to explain perhaps? They’d probably give some explanation that related her words to her parental upbringing, for which Ellie gives some clues in the song: “My mama always told me to break five hearts every day.” Ouch. Don't mess with Mama Ellie is my advice.

Like previous tracks Diseasey (which I featured here) and Copper Kiss, Heartbreak Diet is brilliantly odd lyrically, but is 100% accessible due to its melodies and tune. In the game of good pop bad pop, Sälen are winning.

Sälen - Heartbreak Diet

New Music: Bad Sounds - Meat On My Bones

Bad Sounds last single Wages managed to channel the spirit of a couple of long lost but hopefully not forgotten pop classics, namely Len’s Steal My Sunshine and The Soup Dragons baggy big hitter I’m Free. It was brassy, groovy, fuzzy and managed to name check John Travolta – always something to aim for in a pop song. 

Now they’re back with Meat On My Bones, which takes a loose old-school hip hop beat and throws all sorts over the top of it. It’s a tech savvy bundle of interesting sounds (I particularly like the sexy sixties organ and the chimes) and easily hits the big gold quirky pop button that everyone can enjoying pressing now and again. It even manages to put the words oesophagus and rhinoceros in one sentence. For that alone it needs to be celebrated. Bad Sounds? Nah. Good good sounds.

Bad Sounds - Meat On My Bones

Wednesday 1 February 2017

New Music: London Grammar - Big Picture (Video)

I almost didn’t post this new song by London Grammar. Why? Not because it’s poor (it isn’t), but because having been released earlier today, the speed at which the internet works probably means that almost every one of you has already listened to it. Then I realised that if like me, you worked for close to fourteen hours non-stop with only one ten minute break, you might have got home from work and not have heard it yet. Or maybe you are in another part of the world from me and are only just waking up? Then I also had to remind myself that this blog isn’t about hits or being the most well-known. In many ways one of its purposes is to be a personal timestamp for me – a musical and personal diary of sorts – that reminds me of what my views and opinions of things were at a particular time.

A few days ago, someone criticised me online about something that I wrote on my blog a few years back. It was a reference to an ‘all female band’ and their argument was that I didn’t need to make a point about their sex especially as I didn’t write about ‘all male bands’, I understood their criticism; infact it was something I had slightly changed my viewpoint on some time ago, long before they raised it. So I replied to them on this basis explaining that I had thought about this in the past, and whilst the issue was complicated (I had been trying to celebrate the fact that there were women out there forming bands, as sadly even at grass roots level there are more male artists in my in box compared with female ones – in fact back in 2015 Leigh from Just Music I Like music blog did a survey that found that 78% of all submissions to his blog were of male artists and only 22% female – click here for more detail), I had concluded after giving it some thought that whilst equal opportunities was important to me, there was something a little sexist and wrong in only mentioning 'all-female bands'. Better to just get on with writing about the music - the sex was unimportant.

But my writing is a timestamp. It was my view of the world at that moment. As we continue through life, our experiences, thoughts and the way we do things are influenced and may change, for the better or worse. I  worry for people who are so fixed in their opinions that they are never able to consider another viewpoint – something that the internet bubble of Twitter seems to help foster. There are so many people shouting their opinion in 140 characters and then arguing the toss and not enough people trying to understand why someone might see things differently to them. 

So right now, I positively love this London Grammar song. Maybe in a month, a year, or five years I won’t feel exactly the same. Our relationships with music, just like people, don’t have to remain consistent – views of things alter. It’s why people who thought they were in love get divorced. It's why I'm a 'floating voter' and have voted for more than one political party in my life time. It’s why now I don’t write ‘all female band’ just as I don’t write ‘all male band’. It’s why when I listen back to The Kooks I think ‘how on earth did I ever like this lot?” 

But for now, if you’ve made it this far through this waffle, and haven’t heard it, take a listen to this gorgeous song. If you don't agree - give it time. It's a grower. Maybe eventually you'll change your mind.

London Grammar - Big Picture (Video)