Sunday 30 April 2017

New Music: Black Fly - Sign 2 (Video)

I’ve always been a sucker for a music video with some silly dancing in it and the second track from the enigmatic Black Fly ticks all those boxes. Add in his unusual slightly slurred vocal, which I previously compared to Richard Butler of the Psychedelic Furs and Pete Doherty but would also now like to compare to Hamilton Leithauser of The Walkmen, plus a frenzy of dark 80’s referencing robot synth sounds and you’ve got another one of those glorious singles for people that prefer their music to try to stand out rather than fit in. Let’s face it there are a lot of pop stars both new and old trying to fit in rather too hard right now - and that makes the pop landscape very boring.

Two songs in (listen to his first I Don’t Know here) and Black Fly is like an excellent courier of pop music, delivering all the goods. 

Black Fly - Sign 2 (Video)

Friday 28 April 2017

New Music: Lauran Hibberd - Favourite Shade Of Blue

I’ve always had a bit of a love affair with the Isle of Wight. It was the place my parents went on honeymoon to and adored so much that they immediately quit their jobs in Bedfordshire and made it home. But I love it for far more than that. I love and have loved Blackgang Chine, The Devil’s Chimney, Osbourne House beach, Brading Waxworks (RIP), Bestival (also RIP on the Island), the walk from Sandown to Ventnor, the wide open spaces of West Wight, the haunted houses, it’s step back in time feel, it’s odd little café’s, Shanklin Chine, Rylstone Gardens and its old fashioned crazy golf course, the hovercraft ride from Southsea, Monkey Haven, Quay Arts Centre and so much more. 

Now to that list I’m adding the music of Lauran Hibberd.

No stranger to Breaking More Waves (I’ve featured her previously here and here) Lauran returns with my favourite song of her's yet, the title track to her forthcoming 5 track EP. Starting from simple acoustic beginnings Favourite Shade of Blue soon blossoms into something far more vast and wide screen. It’s a song that White Van Man could blast out of his open window as he’s driving home rather than his overplayed Coldplay CD, but it’s also suitable for the sensitive bearded folk dude who spends a lot of time listening to Laura Marling, Lucy Rose and The Staves. Essentially it wraps up personal intimacy on a grandiose scale.

Of the song Lauran says ‘Favourite Shade Of Blue celebrates the simplicity of youth, and the naivety that comes with young relationships. It treats blue as an emotion, before conveying it as a colour and proves the merit in both. For me, along with the rest of the EP it highlights the happiness that comes with sadness.’

Listen to Favourite Shade of Blue below and you’ll understand why, in just over three minutes, I think Lauran Hibberd is on her way to becoming essential. Three cheers for the Isle of Wight.

Lauran Hibberd - Favourite Shade Of Blue

Thursday 27 April 2017

New Music: Haim - Right Now (Video)

The ways that bands chose to represent and present themselves, especially when returning after a hiatus from public exposure is probably a more interesting dilemma than ever before; simply because there are so many possibilities. Haim have chosen to do it in the same way that London Grammar did earlier this year; a simple performance piece. No thrills, no big budget flash video, no deep conceptual idea, just a reminder of the reason why these guys were successful in the first place – namely all the simple stuff – the songs, the talent and the ability to (at their best) be an invigorating live experience.

“This is where we start…live in the studio. There’s more to come, but this is it right now,” the band tweeted. 

Right Now is more understated than the band’s first album material. It’s not a huge pop hit banger and the phrasing in the first vocal section feels a little out of place, but as the songs builds (and you just know that it’s going to, as soon as the first rough guitar chords sound out) it soon becomes clear that this is a very fine return from Haim. 

As the voice says at the end: “That’s how ya fuckin’ do it.” 

Haim - Right Now

New Music: Temples Of Youth - Amber

The 80’s often gets a bad name in music history. The bad haircuts, the shoulder pads and some truly tacky songs didn’t help, but it was also responsible for some great underground pop from genres such as new wave and goth. Amber, the new single from Winchester’s Temples of Youth, certainly channels that sound; the pulsing electronics are suitably gloomy and some of the electronic drums have the same dead-zone heaviness that you might find on a Joy Division record. However, it’s not all Armageddon despondency as the chiming guitars have a hint of The Cure in one of Robert Smith’s more let’s get happy moments and there is an airy ambience to some of the synths that sounds more optimistic than it does down. Music to lift you, albeit in a gracious and considerate way. And not a shoulder pad in sight.

Temples Of Youth are slowly beginning to grab some attention for their music, having featured on the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition longlist, being played on BBC Introducing and last weekend they played Reading's Are You Listening Festival alongside the likes of The Big Moon, Anna Meredith and Spring King.

Temples Of Youth - Amber

Wednesday 26 April 2017

Review: Are You Listening? Festival 2017

Reading is the largest town in the UK, with a population of over 230,000 and yet despite its size is not classified as a city. In that respect it has often felt like a bit of an under achiever. Of course, there’s always been the Reading Festival, but despite its 90,000 capacity it does little for the local music scene, its infrastructure, or really giving back to the city. This is where Are You Listening? steps in. 

2017 marked the fifth birthday of AYL festival and found it occupying 8 venues (one with two stages) in and around the town centre, with its biggest and best line up to date. There was a mix of national touring acts that included the likes of Anna Meredith, Spring King and Tom Williams as well as the cream of local up and coming talent. It’s this support of local artists that is one of the key ingredients of Are You Listening – giving them the opportunity and exposure to play at a bigger event, to people who may not have seen them before. Its other beneficiary is Reading Mencap, Are You Listening’s official charity partner since the first event, with the festival raising an incredible £34,000 before this year for Mencap.

What impresses most about AYL is its sheer value and organisation. I purchased a super early bird ticket for £10 last year and for that saw 8 full sets at a leisurely stroll, with breaks for food, plus received a programme and tote bag for the price. There were no over-capacity problems, no queues to get in venues, all the soundsystems sounded great, everything ran pretty much bang on time and everyone involved in the event from the wristband collection point to venue stewards seemed very friendly.

Two local bands that have played AYL in previous years who have gone on to have national recognition were Sundara Karma and The Amazons, and it was The Amazons who opened this year’s festival, not with music, but doing an interview with Radio 1’s Huw Stephens in Sub89 nightclub. It was quite amusing to see three of their number and Huw on stage on stools looking like the rock version of Boyzone, but the interview was a good way of drawing punters in early with something a little different. 

For anyone with even the slightest interest in the music industry it was a good session, even if you don't like the band, with the group explaining how The Amazons got to where they are, from their small beginnings as teenagers in their previous group Peers through to playing on Later With Jools Holland this coming week. The band stressed how important playing the local scene, uploading music to BBC Introducing and being honest (they never pretended they were from London) was. It was also interesting to learn that before they even engaged a manager they took on a lawyer – possibly something not every band would think of – but this seems to have helped them make the right decisions.

Over in the wonderfully named Purple Turtle, Reading based No Feathers offered the first music of the day and it was something of a challenge - with a slightly more left of centre experimental edge. There was an essence of something akin to what Alt-J do in terms of their throw it all in and see what comes out approach, even if they sound nothing like them. Their songbook might still be developing, but at least it was an interesting one with an arty mix of indie, rock and electronics.

Milk, a cosy loft space bar found above a café down a side street was the next port of call, mainly because Breaking More Waves goes from blogger to DJ. Yes, I spun some tunes in between a couple of acts (poet Becci Louise and acoustic guitarist and singer Matt Turner), the first time I’ve done so for a couple of years since rocking out the Big Top at Bestival as part of the Sunday Best Forum Allstars a few years back. It’s probably the only time that Are You Listening will ever have a DJ play Nicola Roberts from Girls Aloud and Popcorn by Hot Butter amongst their set, but I also managed to squeeze in some LCD Soundsystem, MIA and Grimes to keep the cool kids happy.

After DJing it was back to Sub89 which was packed for The Big Moon, who delivered a headliner worthy show. They were raucous, powerful and dirtily loud but despite this, their boisterous indie rock was jammed full of big sing-a-long anthems. With buckets of summer powered ‘Oo-ee-oo’ harmonies, bouncy grunge meets Brit Pop songs and a punk rock cover of Madonna’s Beautiful Stranger The Big Moon put on a cracking show. Although there was a large crowd to see them, it felt as if they could and will play to even bigger.

Following on from The Big Moon was a tall ask and despite a slightly reduced in size audience Dream Wife were fully up for the challenge. Having started out as a ‘fake girl band’ art project for a gallery exhibition, things have now turned full circle and Dream Wife have become the real thing, gigging, releasing music and generally tearing up wherever they go. Lead singer Rakel bounded around the stage with a petulant energy, a mocking mix of devil child and innocent but knowing angel in an Adidas top whilst Alice and Bella chugged out aggressive riffs and bass with equal amounts of snarl. Highlight of the set was the gloriously animated F.U.U, it’s mix of nursery rhyme hooks, Spice Girls steal, non-radio friendly “gonna fuck you up, gonna cut you up,” lyrics and pure aggression sounding as invigorating as five expressos downed in one.

After that something calmer was in order and it was found at South Street Arts Centre, where in the MacDevitts Studio Emily Underhill, who goes by the name of Tusks played a set of room silencing beauty. This was downtempo ambient pop at its finest – from ghostly digitals to understated guitar slow-jams. With shades of The XX and Daughter, Tusks was just the ticket.

“I played here 2 years ago when this room didn’t have the nice laminate floor. My songs were a bit shit then, I think they’re better now,” Matt Maltese told the room after Tusks. With just a voice and a piano Maltese could at face value be just another middle of the road singer songwriter. But when the songs are about the downfall of England, kissing someone else’s girlfriend and Theresa May and Donald Trump having an orgy whilst the world blows up, you know there’s something a bit more going on. Maltese might be a traditional songwriter, but there was an appealing oddness about him and his velvety loungecore songs.

And so it was left to Flamingods to finish things up in the boozed up Oakford Social Club. The intoxicated atmosphere worked for the bands brand of global psychedelia – a kaleidoscopic mix of shamanic vocals, trippy instrumental wig outs and experimentalism that enabled those at the front to lose themselves in both a musical and alcohol induced haze. A fine and fitting end to a day full of highs with absolutely no lows.

Are You Listening? is a small gem of a music festival with a huge sparkle. Next time you’re standing in a muddy field watching bands from half a mile back that you’ve paid £200 quid for and begin to think ‘what am I doing here?’ maybe it’s time to consider something else. Are You Listening? could be your answer.

Super Early Bird Pre-Sale tickets are available for the 2018 edition of Are You Listening? for just £10 by clicking here for a limited time.

Monday 24 April 2017

New Music: Introducing - Josh Barry

Having been involved in the judging process of the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition for a number of years now I’m occasionally asked by artists and bands who have already developed their careers a little bit if I think they are too far advanced with what they are doing to enter the competition. 

The reason for this question is that there is a misapprehension that the Emerging Talent Competition is only for bedroom artists who have never released anything, never played a live show or already developed their careers in any way. Whilst the competition does have rules about who can and can’t enter (for example if you are signed to a major label, clearly the Emerging Talent Competition isn’t for you) there are many artists out there who may already have some experience, but are still considered emerging by the rules of the competition and could really benefit from not only the exposure and opportunity to play a main stage at one of the most famous festivals in the world, but also the £5,000 Talent Development Prize award from PRS, which can go a long way to helping the artist take their music to the next level. 

This weekend the live final of the Emerging Talent Competition took place and the winner was Josh Barry. Listening to his song Spirit Road it’s easy to understand why the final judging panel chose him unanimously as the winner. His voice is blessed with all the elements of a classic soul singer; that perfect mix of power and emotion with just a hint of rawness. Spirit Road is also a bloody good song.

With a vocal as good as Barry’s you have to wonder how he hasn’t already been discovered, but this is where my previous words about who can and can’t enter the competition come into play. For Barry isn’t a full-blown novice. He’s already been working within the music industry having performed with chart stars Gorgon City, has recorded with Friction (supplying vocals to the 2015 song Freak) and SG Lewis (Silence). Yet clearly Barry still felt the need to enter the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition and judging by the excitable pictures and words on his Facebook, it means the world to him to have won. 

Congratulations to Josh Barry, we’ll be looking forward to see where his musical journey takes him next. 

There's no Emerging Talent Competition next year (as Glastonbury itself takes a year off), but I'd recommend any self financing artist who considers they've got what it takes to play a main stage at Glastonbury to enter in 2019.

Josh Barry - Spirit Road

Friday 21 April 2017

New Music: Kate Nash - Agenda

Look. This is how to do great pop music:

1. Be Inventive. Be Exciting. Be Bold. Be Fierce. Be Engaging.
2. Don’t just follow a formula.
3. Have something to say. 
4. Have a good beat. 
5. Make polite people go “Woah” and everyone else go “What the fuck.”

Kate Nash does all this and more on Agenda, one her most brilliant tunes she has ever released.

An (occasionally) sweary musical manifesto with hooks and punches galore. This is great pop music. No messing.

Thursday 20 April 2017

New Music: All We Are - Human (Video)

There’s an energy, a passion and an intensity to Human, (not a Rag 'n' Bone Man cover) the new song from Liverpool’s All We Are, that gets you in the stomach. It grinds, kicks and thrashes around and it sounds gloriously alive. 

The video’s great as well. It features a sleepy rural neighbourhood known as Sunny Hill and a developer’s plan to ‘revolutionise access’ to the place and the angry reactions, drama and friction it creates within the local community. I particularly like the old ladies at cross stitch club: “Your cunting road can fuck the fuck off” they sew. This video is just part 1, so it’s worth subscribing to the band’s You Tube channel so that you don’t miss the other parts. 

Human is taken from the band’s second album Sunny Hills which is due June 9th. They're playing a variety of shows this summer including some big UK festival slots such as Glastonbury, Latitude and End of the Road.

All We Are - Human (Video)

Wednesday 19 April 2017

New Music: Lana Del Rey - Lust For Life ft. The Weeknd

You know how Lana is always singing about putting on clothes and taking them off? 

"Watching me get undressed, take that body downtown." "I’ve got my red dress on tonight." "Blue jeans, white shirt." "White bikini off with my red nail polish." "Honey put on your party dress." Etc etc etc. It must be like a 24 hour changing room in Top Shop at her place.

Well, she’s at it again. This time with The Weeknd. In theory this lyrical obsession should be getting boring by now. But it isn’t. Mainly because the songs are still f*ckin’ great. 

All together now: “Take off take off take off all your clothes.” 

To be honest, I’m still waiting for her to sing about putting mismatching socks on. But this will more than do.

Lana Del Rey - Lust For Life ft. The Weekend

New Music: Introducing - St Jude The Obscure

There's probably quite a few people who would be surprised by this statement, but Jude The Obscure is my favourite Thomas Hardy novel. Maybe it's because it’s pretty grim and I’m generally quite a fan of heavy lingering darkness in both novels and movies. 

But I digress, this isn’t a literature blog. So let’s get back to the music.

In this case, it’s a band who were once called Feral Love and are now called St. Jude The Obscure and have, with Wonders Of Youth, put together a perfectly blissful and glistening piece of electronic pop. Think Goldfrapp with Kate Bush doing background chanting in a zero-gravity suit and you won’t be that far off the mark. It’s equal parts minimal and epic and also gets better as you burrow deeper even though it's pretty instant as well - always a good way to make a pop record. A second song, the more danceable Wreckage (which you can find by clicking here), is equally fine. 

Jude The Obscure = Grim. Wonders Of Youth by St Jude The Obscure = Beautiful. I love both.

St. Jude The Obscure - Wonders Of Youth

Monday 17 April 2017

New Music: The Kite String Tangle - Selfish

Music bloggers. They’re terrible aren’t they? So bloody fickle. Only posting something if they can get the premiere / first play, quickly discarding artists they’ve championed to move onto something else.

There is of course some validity in these criticisms, not only of bloggers, but the way many music fans (as against casual listeners happy to listen to say Adele and Ed Sheeran on repeat) consume pop in general these days. With everything being so accessible, the tantalising lure of the undiscovered is always going to have power over sticking to one thing.

So today I’m posting a track that fights against these arguments. It’s a ‘new’ song, but has already been on line for a month. No first play here. It’s by an artist that I’ve featured on the blog before, but only once, in an introducing piece way back in 2013. 

For those needing a recap, Danny Harley is The Kite String Tangle. He makes the sort of immaculate high production value electronic dance pop that the blogosphere tends to love. Selfish is his first new jam for a couple of years. It has a very of the moment sound with crisp beats and hooky synth motifs but under all of that there’s still something resolutely old fashioned; a song. It’ll probably make you want to do all sorts of jerky uncoordinated dance moves.

The Kite String Tangle - Selfish

Sunday 16 April 2017

New Music: Introducing - Slang

Remember when Ed Sheeran was really good? Sometime around 2011, before he turned musically beige, blanded-out and went all guitar strings blazing for lowest common denominator dollars and chart domination, he put out an EP called No.5 Collaborations, which found him engaging with the grime scene on a series of sensitive and dark tracks a long way from the dross of Galway Girl etc that he’s banging out now. Well, the debut tracks from this ‘new’ London artist remind me of that time.

Slang has just two tracks on line. Sweet Lies is a sobering and introspective mix of hazy acoustics, ghostly distant vocals and mellow rap that finds Slang dealing with some of his troubles: “Battling my demons and they’ve drowned me out again,” he sings, whilst YAY (You Alright, Yeah?) (listen here) hits home with mentions of addiction and jail, but still offers a hand of hope. Both songs are instantly memorable but are instantly affecting due to their heavily personal nature.

Slang may be a new name to many of you, but that doesn’t mean that you might not be familiar with some of his work; as under the name Dan Dare he’s been floating around the music industry for some time, working as a songwriter and producer, collaborating with the likes of Charli XCX, Marina & The Diamonds, Wiley, Chasing Grace, Professor Green and Becky Hill. Now he’s breaking out on his own with this impressive new project. Let’s just hope he doesn’t have a Galway Girl moment.

You can catch Slang live this Spring in the UK at Live At Leeds, Brighton’s Great Escape and Liverpool’s Sound City as well as a show at London’s Sebright Arms on 4th May. There’s a full EP coming next Friday.

Slang - Sweet Lies

Saturday 15 April 2017

New Music: Introducing - Tom Adams

The world is a non-stop, take it all, hectic kind of place. Sometimes it feels like it’s all about to spin out of control. That’s why we need the music of artists like Tom Adams.

Cambridge born, but now residing in Germany, Adams’ music possesses the sort of tender beauty that might not only stop you in your tracks, but the whole world. Combining his gorgeous celestial vocals, melancholy piano chords and ambient electronics, these are songs that find a place alongside the likes of Nils Frahm and A Winged Victory For The Sullen for their breathless power and tranquillity, yet still have an accessibility that could comfortably sit alongside popular songs like Coldplay’s Fix You or Tom Odell’s Sense.

Having released his debut EP last year, Adams is due to release Silence, his long player on the 5th May via Kowloon Records. One of the songs that will feature on that LP is Come On, Dreamer, which not only should feature on every single Most Beautiful Songs In The World Ever playlist and compilation, but is accompanied by a stunning video that shows that below someone’s very straight appearance there might be a solitary yearning for something far more primitive and back to nature. 

Besides Come On, Dreamer Adams has released another song, Sparks, which over its six minutes will make you want to shut your eyes and just take it all in. 

Press pause on the world for a short time and listen to Tom Adams.

Tom will be playing live in the UK next month with a confirmed date at Brighton’s Great Escape Festival.

Tom Adams - Sparks

Tom Adams - Come On, Dreamer (Video)

Thursday 13 April 2017

New Music: Introducing - Bloxx

New kids on the block, Bloxx are your latest new frothy guitar band and crush. With the briskly self-confident Your Boyfriend having already picked up plenty of plays on Spotify, today the Uxbridge four piece released a new one; it’s called You. With classic riff-raucous guitar work that ramps things up for the chorus, You sounds like the sort of candy-grunge mini-anthem that will go down a storm in dark sweaty indie clubs when it’s let loose live. “It’s all in my head you say,” goes the chorus. Well, this song is likely to get in your head as well.

Hailing from the rock n roll borderlines that is Uxbridge, Bloxx consist of Ophelia (guitar/vocals), Taz (guitar), Paul (bass guitar) and Moz (drums). Bloxx will be taking their sound to the sticky floored venues of Britain when they head out on tour with The Night Café in May. 

Bloxx - You

New Music: Hazel English - More Like You (Video)

5 thoughts that went through my head when watching and listening to the new Hazel English video:

1. This makes me want to go on a road trip. Although whereas Hazel’s is full of warm Californian sunshine, mine would probably be full of British grey skies and rain. 

2. In a world where chart based pop music is becoming ever more lame, indie music that exists on the periphery, the stuff that sounds swirling and dreamy and made for people who like art and fashion that also exist away from the mainstream, seems ever more important and ever more comforting. The sound of More Like You provides that comfort. 

3. More Like You is a little bit like reading the secret diaries of Hazel English. It’s thoughtful and contemplative: “It's so funny how you live your life; always trying on a new disguise. And you lie to yourself all of the time, you rely on the safety of denial.”

4. She'll get lots of views on this. Why? Because it has dogs in it. The internet loves dogs and cats doesn't it?

5. I fancy a cup of tea. (I’m pretty sure this had nothing to do with the video, but I don’t remember ever promising you that the thoughts would all be about the music, did I?)

Hazel English - More Like You (Video)

Wednesday 12 April 2017

New Music: Pale Waves - There's A Honey (Video)

As a new band having the patronage of another successful group can have the possibility of being a double-edged sword. On the plus-side it can get you a lot of attention quickly, but on the negative if you can’t develop your own identity and fan base you’re likely to always be subordinate to the group who helped champion you in the first place.

Only time will tell if the association with The 1975 (which I wrote about in my introducing piece on the band back in February) will cause Manchester’s Pale Waves a problem in the longer term, but ultimately it will probably come down to their creative output. With only the one official song out there (ignoring the earlier demos under previous guises) it’s impossible to judge, but I stand by my previous statement that There’s A Honey is a piece of radiant pop that will make your day all the more better. 

Now with a video for the song it’s possible to get a bit of the band’s visual aesthetic and here they seem to be forging their own ground, sitting somewhere between The Cure and The XX with their dark goth look. The video itself is a simple performance piece which is given a slight feeling of claustrophobia (again very Cure-esque) by the band playing under some sheets of air supported fabric.

Pale Waves - There's A Honey (Video)

Tuesday 11 April 2017

New Music: Fickle Friends - Hello Hello (Video)

It’s been a real pleasure to see Fickle Friends grow from being a blog sensation (Breaking More Waves was there right at the beginning) to connecting with people outside of the new music internet bubble and getting their songs played on the radio. Latest tune Hello Hello is arguably their biggest banger to date and even challenges the still stupidly hooky Swim for BFF* credentials. Lyrically the song deals with the idea of sticking with someone who has lost sight of who they are and what they’re worth and the video (released yesterday) finds the band taking part in some sort of random instruction audition. I particularly like the ‘he just threw a f*ckin’ chair at me’ moment.

Fickle Friends will be going on tour with The Kooks (a band I can never like because the lead singer once barged into me in a venue, knocking my drink out of my hand, and didn’t even stop to apologise as he strutted on his way) in May, before playing a whole bunch of summer festivals and their own headline show, their largest to date, at The Forum in London in October. 

*Best Fickle Friends

Fickle Friends - Hello Hello (Video)

Monday 10 April 2017

New Music: Introducing - Lia Lia

In a post earlier today (here) I talked a little bit about defining the idea of ‘good music’ as something that is within my comfort zone and something that triggers memories of music from my past and how that's a concept that I feel a little uncomfortable with. I like change. I like challenge. Yet conversely I only like these things to a certain extent. Too much challenge is just overwhelming and nulls the senses. Sometimes I do want that warm familiarity.

If you asked a stranger who had spent some time reading posts on Breaking More Waves what sort of music they thought existed within my ‘it’s-good-because-there’s-an-association’ safety net the chances are they’d suggest electronic pop music with a female vocal. After all there’s been a fair amount of it over the years on Breaking More Waves, so that assumption wouldn't be a ridiculous one.

So today I’m keeping to form and introducing Lia Lia, a new Berlin based artist who, with her debut, approaches the world of pop with laconic synthy grooves and spoken word vocals on a song called Olymp. There’s a hint of Black Box Recorder’s Sarah Nixey in the detached delivery; everything about the song smacks of cool - especially when combined with a video that shows the beautiful arrogance of wasted youth. 

According to a small Q&A with Line of Best Fit today (here) Lia Lia stands for Live Impact Area Legacy Interface Adapter, which is either a glorious piss-take or something deep and artistic, but either way these rubbery electronics bounce just right.

Lia Lia - Olymp (Video)

New Music: Joshua Burnside - Blood Drive

As I’ve got older one of the eternal struggles I’ve had with music is thinking, probably over thinking, how I define what good music is. The problem for me is do I think (or feel) that something is great just because it reminds me of something else from the past that I also liked? Am I becoming too set in my ways? And if I am is there anything wrong with this? Possibly not, but then on the other hand, if a person just sticks to what they know and defines that as good, then as music changes and evolves, is there the potential to miss out on something incredible, simply because it doesn’t fit with a predefined definition of what is good?

If good music is something that can broadly be defined as something that moves me, is it possible to become less moved over time if I’m just listening to the same old same old over and over again? Is falling into a musical comfort zone a dangerous thing?

If it is, then today I’m happy to dwell in that comfort zone for Blood Drive, the new song from Northern Irish singer songwriter Joshua Burnside, reminds me of an awful lot of things I like. The song may take a soft folkish tone, but structurally it sounds an awful lot like something The National (makers of one of my favourite rock records of the last couple of decades) might make. There’s also comparisons to be made with the plucked melodies of Stornoway (another favourite), early Bon Iver (two albums that I cherish) or Jose Gonzalez. It’s a beautifully soothing and evocative piece of song craft and is taken from Burnside’s forthcoming album Ephrata, released on the 5th May via Quiet Arch Records. 

The album itself was written in just a few weeks whilst Burnside lived in northern Colombia with his cousin and finds him absorbing a wide range of musical references which include alt-folk, traditional Irish folk, South American and Eastern European influences and bands such as Sun Kil Moon, Dirty Three, Talking Heads and The Cure. 

Burnside plays a small handful of shows around the time of the album launch which include shows in Glasgow, London, Ballycastle, Derry and Dublin. 

Joshua Burnside - Blood Drive

Sunday 9 April 2017

Preview: Are You Listening Festival 2017

Reading’s Are You Listening? is a music festival that encapsulates everything that a fan could want. 

It comes at a value price, with advance tickets retailing at £20 for the day. It has a great line up of national touring and local bands, which this year sees the likes of Anna Meredith, The Big Moon, Clock Opera and Spring King taking to its stages. By nature of its city centre location it’s convenient, easy to access and the weather isn’t a major player. Add in the fact that it’s a festival with a heart, donating every year to Reading Mencap (AYL has now raised over £34,000 for the charity since its birth in 2013) and you’ll probably understand why AYL is pretty much faultless in every respect.

Having supported the festival since its inception, this year Breaking More Waves will also be involved in the event as more than just a punter, as I DJ some of my favourite songs in between bands at Milk Bar, one of the festivals venues. The word DJ is used very loosely here – essentially it will involve cross-fading a few tunes off an iPad Spotify playlist or CDs with no mixing, no beat matching and no skill whatsoever. 

Like any festival that focuses on relatively new and emerging music, with 9 venues putting on shows and over 70 artists performing during the day, it can be a little bewildering to choose who to see, so below you’ll find 3 of Breaking More Waves recommendations to cut through the overload. None of these are headline acts. 

Are You Listening takes place on April 22nd in Reading City Centre. It’s also Record Store Day, so get there early, hit up The Sound Machine record shop, grab some lunch, then go and watch Radio 1's Huw Stephens in conversation with local heroes The Amazons at Sub 89 before the live music kicks off at 2pm into the night. Tickets are available by clicking here.

Temples Of Youth (16:00 – Public)

Winchester gloom-pop duo Temples of Youth are no strangers to the pages of Breaking More Waves. Having supported the likes of Sundara Karma, Declan McKenna and Laurel they also were also picked as part of the Glastonbury Emerging Talent 2017 competition long list. Expect cinematic electronics, mournful guitars and Joy Divison drum sounds. 

Saltwater Sun (17.45 – Purple Turtle)

I first came across Saltwater Sun at Are You Listening Festival in 2014 and since that time their music has gained plenty of exposure on line through websites and blogs with songs like Habit On My Mind and Now Or Never. With some potent indie rock sounds and the unique vocal talent of Jenn Stearne they’re worth your time.

Dream Wife (19.45 – Sub 89)

For anyone still pushing the ‘indie rock music is dead’ argument, I’d strongly go advise them to go and see Dream Wife, who show there’s a huge amount of energy left in the old dog yet. Vital, empowering and full of snarling two fingers up against the world attitude, they’re a beast of a band.

Saturday 8 April 2017

New Music: Kate Nash - Call Me

When Kate Nash emerged around 10 years ago there were quite a few naysayers who didn’t really give her a chance and certainly wouldn’t have predicted that she would have still been making music and selling out shows now. But if there’s one thing that I’ve learnt about pop music, absorbing it over all these years, is that nobody can second guess the future – even those who think they can. Particularly ‘tastemakers’. Look back at your favourite new music guru website or blog and for every one hit they get right, they get about ten wrong. 

Nash’s new song Call Me (no not a cover of the Blondie tune) was released yesterday. Taken from her forthcoming Agenda EP, it demonstrates exactly what I’ve always said about her; she’s got an ability to pen a quirky, hooky, pop song, irrespective of what style she adopts. And on the subject of styles, wait till you hear the title track of the EP; if it’s anything like the version she’s been performing live it’s going to surprise some of you.

After this EP Kate is going to be revisiting her debut album with a tour this summer (tickets are available by clicking here) and is currently funding her fourth album through a Kickstarter project. She's already raised over $50,000 in less than a week, which is pretty impressive. If you’ve got a spare $5,000 you can even have Kate come and play a ‘punk as fuck’ show in your own house. If only I was a little richer..... although to be honest, I wouldn’t want to annoy the neighbours, so I’d probably ask her to play acoustically. Or at least invite the neighbours round as well.

You can sign up to the Kate Nash Kickstarter by clicking here and at the same time watch a video that explains how she is going to use the money Take a listen to Call Me below.

Kate Nash - Call Me

Tuesday 4 April 2017

New Music: Introducing - Black Fly

Well this is f*cking marvellous. I have no idea who Black Fly is. The standard Google search reveals lots of references to two winged insects, a hip-hop artist from about 5 years ago and various other companies and brands, but nothing of this solo artist who I’m told makes music from his bedroom in the backwoods of Vermont. However, despite little context to find let me try and give you some. 

I Don’t Know is Black Fly’s debut song. As I said it’s f*cking marvellous. Why? Because it’s rather unique. There’s a lot of synth pop that flows through these pages, but most of it features vocals that are in some way glossy and crystal. Black Fly isn’t. His voice is huskily nodular, slightly slurred and sleepy, like a modern-day Pete Doherty of The Libertines or Richard Butler of The Psychedelic Furs, but with real soul and beauty. It’s as if an indie rock singer has stumbled into the wrong room and come out with a keyboard under his arm rather than a guitar. It’s a wonderful contrast.

You’ll find virtually all of the websites and blogs that have featured this song so far describing it as gothic. I’m not so sure about that as a categorisation. I don’t hear the eerie dark despair I would expect to find in something categorised as gothic, although the lyrics, which talk of ‘nasty things you do’, ‘violence’ and ‘cancer’ certainly don’t equate with partying all night long in da club. But what I hear musically is skin-prickling radiance and moments of tenderness, particularly when Black Fly sings “you can never take our memories” and the song bursts into a rainbow of 80’s styled tension building electronics. 

I Don't Know was mixed by David Tolomei (Beach House, Dirty Projectors and most tellingly Future Islands, who I can see some similarity with in terms of the unusual vocal / electronic mix). An intriguingly good debut.

Black Fly - I Don't Know

New Music: Introducing - Shaefri

Today I’m introducing Shaefri, creator of slick, unsettling, downbeat electronic pop music. Monster, the third track she’s released as part of what seems like a new start (there are some references to older seemingly unavailable recordings online) is the one that’s really grabbed me. Hinting at the demons within that “crawl into my head,” the song is a haunting piece of leftfield pop full of hovering pulses, subdued beats and dead of night darkness. It’s accompanied by a video that adds an added layer of nightmarishness, with a masked creature following Shaefri, until the disguise is revealed.

Describing herself as “London-born, Irish/Egyptian-bred,” which makes her sound more like an animal than a human being, but who knows, maybe there are places in the world where they specifically breed musicians, Shaefri will be releasing her EP Cracks on 7th April.

She also plays a live show to launch it this on the 6th April at Notting Hill Arts Club, London.

Shaefri - Monster (Video)

Monday 3 April 2017

New Music: Rosie Carney - Awake Me (Acoustic)

“A couple of months ago on a dark, cold day in January, we moved all the furniture out of my living room and pushed the piano to the middle of the room. So happy to bring to you the acoustic version of Awake Me, recorded in my home in Donegal. Thank you to Charlie Doherty and Orri McBrearty for helping to bring it to life,” says Rosie Carney of this beautiful recording of a song that featured in its original form on Breaking More Waves in January. 

This new take of Awake Me, played on just piano, has a beautifully still intimacy to it, but perhaps more surprising is with that intimacy comes an even greater power. Keep an eye out for an unscheduled appearance of a cat in the video as well.

Rosie Carney will be playing the Great Escape Festival in Brighton May and will also be out on tour with Saint Sister in the UK between 30th May and 3rd June. 

Rosie Carney - Awake Me (Acoustic)

Saturday 1 April 2017

Pop Stars In The Bath - A Conclusion Of Sorts

Over the last few years, if you’ve visited Breaking More Waves with any frequency or have kept up to date with my Twitter feed (here), you will undoubtedly be aware of the ongoing obsession I have with pop stars in the bath. Or rather, I’m intrigued by the number of photos musicians take of themselves in various baths to help promote their music; sometimes clothed, sometimes unclothed, sometimes in water, sometimes without.

The obsession all boils down to two fundamental questions.

First, why do they do this? Besides musicians I can’t think of any other profession that promotes its product / art by pictures of its manufacturer / creator in the bath. Not even bath manufacturers.

Then my second question is why, when music writers are presented with a promotional picture of a musician in the bath for the article they are writing do so many choose to ignore any sort of commentary about the picture? Yes, there’ll be realms of text about dreamy guitar riffs and haunting vocals, but nothing about the fact that this person or persons is/are sitting in the bath to promote their music, which let’s face it is abnormal behaviour.

So finally, today I’m very pleased to bring about some conclusions to this weird phenomenon and get some answers, from someone who knows what they’re talking about. Or at least to the first of my questions. The second remains unsolved.

Professor Apo Hillfort (BA) is a lecturer in Psychology at the University of Bath (where else?) and has been following me on Twitter for a number of years. He got in contact with me after reading a number of my blog posts. “You want answers to your pop star in the bath concern? DM me,” he wrote and so began a dialogue on this washroom weirdness.

Professor Hillfort specialises in the psychology of celebrities. He researches how celebrity affects people who become them and how our own personal psychology and behaviour is affected by the tag of those who are seen as celebrities. But more than that, professor Hillfort has studied in detail the behaviour of pop stars. In fact, when he was studying, his original degree thesis was called The Behavioural Impact Of Promotional Regimes In Pop Music Culture On Musicians. It turns out, this guy knows all about pop stars in the bath!

“Essentially, what you have to remember is that musicians are creatives. They hate to be constrained by corporate rules, regulations or to be told how they should or shouldn’t do things. The bath is the ultimate visual metaphor for that ideology.” he explains.

“In dream analysis, the bath can symbolise the cleansing of the soul, healing and that positive change is underfoot. In day to day life, the bath represents similar things. To see someone in the bath it is virtually impossible to think negative thoughts. We see that person as breaking out of their shell, cleansing themselves and being in a good place."

 "Studies have shown that musicians, particularly those in pop music, are psychological egoists and sensation seekers. Being photographed in the bath, for pop stars, explores areas that appeal to them, namely curiosity, exploration and aesthetic preferences. But in addition to this it creates constructs of arousal in the viewer. It is therefore a clever marketing technique to photograph yourself in the bath. The viewer will only be able to think positive thoughts of the person or persons pictured and as it has been shown that there are strong correlations between visual and audible cues. Therefore there is an increased chance of the viewer liking the music if they are pleased, humoured or aroused by the picture.”

So it seems that musicians are basically attention seeking, manipulative, creative dudes then?

“Yes, I’m afraid that’s pretty much it – as far as I have been able to conclude from my studies. I’ve have even tried some experimental research here at the University, although alas it had to be abandoned.”

Tell me more…

“As you are aware, Mariah Carey is very fond of a pop star in the bath promo pic, and after much persuasion Mariah agreed to participate in some research I was carrying out. The research, which we undertook here in Bath when Mariah was last on tour in the UK in April 2012 involved Mariah getting in her bath for a new photo shoot whilst we monitored her brain activity and thought patterns. Unfortunately, we had to declare the results null and void because the readings we got all pointed to just one thought.”

And that was?

“Christmas. I was a bloody fool to think she’s be thinking anything else. Even in April.”