Over the last few weeks the ‘UK indie guitar music is dead’ argument has been cropping up in various places on the web again. Right here, right now, I’d like to suggest that this argument itself is dead. It’s like music journalists have run out of ideas to discuss so they’re just recirculating the ones that we all talked about 8 or 9 years ago. When we have bands like Wolf Alice striding boldly forward with a highly accomplished, often adventurous and never dull second album, together with exciting new bands like Pink Kink (featured earlier today) appearing with regularity, the only thing I can imagine is that the people writing these articles have lost their way with music. Maybe guitar based music isn’t lighting up the singles charts in the UK, but ignoring the excitement, creativity and energy that exists out in the pubs and clubs of live music venues across the country where indie bands are playing is to ignore a lot of great stuff. So, here’s another very good indie guitar band. Stereo Honey’sThe Bay starts with some moody synths and glam rock drums (dare I mention Gary Glitter’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Part 1 – it feels wrong to reference him given his crimes, but the musical similarity is there) but it’s when the chiming guitars kick in that things really take off. Add in lead singer Peter Restrick’s absolutely gorgeous falsetto, where he sings of a love storey formed from tragedy and death and what you have is a band creating atmospheric arching guitar pop that sounds, to my ears at least, wonderfully alive, despite what certain journalists say. Stereo Honey - The Bay
A name that I’ve seen generating a lot of interest with music fans out of the Liverpool area over the last year or so is Pink Kink. If memory serves me correctly I first found out about them via Andy from the VPME, but until now the excitement has all been about the groups somewhat deranged and all over the place gigs, with no recordings being available. Now it’s all systems go with the short sharp punch of Bubblebutt, a song that takes on the issue of being able to dress the way you want without receiving sexist comments. Clocking in at less than two fiery minutes I love the shouty gothabilly punk stylings of this song complete with its barbed twangy guitars and garage noir keyboards. Imagine Scottish kandy-pop kids Bis covering The Cramps and you might be getting somewhere close to what this trashy and cartoonish punch of power sounds like. However, let’s not be too hasty in slotting this band under one label yet. From the reports I’ve seen they are in some ways a similar proposition to the much hyped HMLTD, in that they have a range of different styles and tempos leading to several 'WTF' moments in audiences, possibly born out of the fact that they all originally hail from very different places; Germany, Spain, Norway, America and the UK. As more music gets released we’ll probably all see the bigger picture – but this is a fine start that strikes close to the bullseye. Pink Kink are out on tour soon with Dead Pretties and play the discovery day at Swn Festival in Cardiff. Pink Kink - Bubblebutt
Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and the memory is failing (yes, I have used Shazam to identify songs only to then realise the reason I like the song is because it’s on a record I already own…am I the only person to do this or is it a common thing?), or maybe it’s just that there’s so much new music out there that it’s impossible to keep up. But either way liv is a name that I should have remembered.
Either way, Hurts to Liv, a personal tribute to deceased parents, is a beautiful, restful and sad sounding piece of work. Lykke Li has always been the princess of sad-pop and now this song elevates her to queen. You can imagine the band playing this in some half empty downtown bar in the mid-west of America, as a few folk pass the time staring out of the window as the sun goes down.
In terms of very cool pop music, Scandinavia has always done very well, but arguably Sweden has been leading the way for a very long time. However, now it seems that Norway has fully thrown off its infamous ‘nil points’ tag from a few years ago and is showing that it has far more to offer than just A-Ha. What with Aurora, Sigrid, Dagny and Anna Of The North leading the charge, there’s quite a few more just behind them. One of those just behind the leading pack is Emma Jensen, who grabbed attention in February with a song called Closer, which I described as sounding a tiny bit like Grimes on downers. This week Emma released her second song. Make You Mine adopts a similar template to Closer; it’s a slow sleek electronic jam formed from melodic minimalism and Emma’s near childlike vocal which bears a lot of similarity to Megan James of Purity Ring. It’s maybe not quite as instant as Closer, but sits in the same grounds of internet-ready-pop rather than a radio hit. Make You Mine is all about subtle intimacies; it’s the sort of music that sounds like it’s isolated itself in a quiet space, content with what it is, never wishing to be anything more. Lyrically though it isn’t perhaps as content, dealing with ideas of relationships and not making a move or saying what you want at the time. File this one under the category ‘a grower’. Emma Jensen - Make You Mine
It’s amazing how far one moment and one song can take you. Since Maggie Rogers was thrust into the limelight with that Pharrell discovery video and her song Alaska, it has been pretty non-stop. At the end of 2016 she was on many a tip list (including my own Ones to Watch list) and has followed it through with an excellent EP, sold out headline shows and plenty of festival slots. Although I’ll never tire of listening to the EP, there does come a point where there has to be something else new and it comes today in the form of live favourite Split Stones. The two things I particularly love about this song are the unusual looped beats mixed with the sound of heavy breath (the sort of patterns and ideas someone like Bjork would adopt) and the way the song rises to form exultant crescendos, leaving you feeling high, as Maggie sings of grabbing life and moving ‘like you had something to lose’. Together with Split Stones Maggie has put a letter on line (here) that talks of the track representing a parting gift, which at first seems odd given her limited recorded output so far, but the letter goes further: “This is me saying goodbye for a little while. Here’s to the end of the beginning and the start of everything else.” I translate this as “I am going to go and complete a full album now.” Let’s hope so. Maggie Rogers - Split Stones
When you’re just starting out in the world of music, it doesn’t do any harm to get a leg up or two from those who have already had success and certainly when One Direction lad Niall Horan puts one of your songs on his Spotify Chilled Hits playlist, it’s not going to do any harm. Nor is it going to hurt in terms of exposure when Flux Pavilion and Yellow Claw collaborate with you so that you get to sing on a rampant dancefloor banger. However, even with these favours it’s not going to sustain you long term unless you can offer something special on your own terms. Thankfully newcomer Naaz does exactly that. Naaz (full name Naaz Salahaddin Ali Mohammad) is a 19-year-old singer, songwriter and producer from Holland. The back story that you’ll read on virtually every article written about her is that she was raised in a highly conservative Kurdish household and may have not ever pursued music until her parents were finally convinced that Naaz’s talents were too special to constrain. With a debut EP (Bits of Naaz) coming soon Naas has just a small handful of songs online; 2016’s Sadboy, and the two tracks from earlier this year that really show what she’s about. Words is a tender and ever so pretty pop song, one of those tunes that, if you are in love, will make you immediately want to play it to your partner and if you’re not, will probably make you decide that maybe it’s time to be so. “But yet it feels like I've never lived before, anything that's less turned into more,” she sings in her beautiful melody kissed voice and the world and life just seems a better place. Like Words, her other 2017 song Can’t clocks in at less than three minutes and with its warm soft synths and reflective tone also hits the spot. It’s no wonder that Naaz has already picked up lots of streams on Spotify and You Tube. She is certainly Holland’s finest new music export. Streams are one thing, but as any live music fan will know, you can clock up hundreds of thousands of plays on line, but it doesn't necessarily translate to a real life fan base. Playing live can help that and Naaz is now starting down that route. She plays the The Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg, Germany this Thursday and will be coming to the UK (my country) in November to play in London at the Old Blue Last alongside another Breaking More Waves favourite Joy Crookes. Naaz - Words
Over the last week or so I have been compiling one of those dreaded ‘my favourite 100 albums of all time’ lists for something that isn’t related to Breaking More Waves at all. What has been interesting to note is the handful of artists that have more than just one album on the list, and one of those is Bjork. The Icelandic musician has produced, since 1992, a solo body of work that is extraordinary in its forward-thinking inventiveness, but more than that, even her older records still sound fresh, exciting and boldly modern after all of these years. They’re records that I come back to again and again, not weeks or months after release, but years. And yet, I don't think I've ever featured her on Breaking More Waves. Despite the back catalogue Bjork also continues to release incredible new work and today she revealed her mesmerising video for new song The Gate, made in collaboration with Gucci’s Alessandro Michele and artist Andrew Thomas Huang. Bjork has described The Gate as a transcendent love song, the lyrics portraying the healing process after the heartbreak of being pulled apart when a long term relationship ends. The video is a shiny, magical and enchanting thing - everything you would expect of Bjork. Bjork - The Gate (Video)
I’ve always been a fan of the 'no messing jump straight in with the hook' school of songwriting and Murder, the new one from Slang, does exactly that. There’s no long drawn out instrumental into and no rambling verse; it takes just eight seconds before the ear grabbing is complete. With this song title any reference to Slang ‘killing it’ is probably right. With a gritty old school gangland production Murder seems to take a myriad of different reference points from hip-hop to pop to 90’s baggy grooves but manages to hone them all down to something that keeps everything on point and accessible. Get ready to be slayed. Slang has a new mix tape release called fwENDZ out soon. Slang - Murder
Fitter, faster, stronger… Since Australian four-piece Confidence Man first appeared on Breaking More Waves things have been going pretty well for the band in the UK. They were one of the most talked about acts at this year’s Great Escape Festival in Brighton (don’t say I didn’t warn you) and they achieved the virtually unthinkable for a new band at Glastonbury and packed out the Williams Green stage at a pre-lunch time slot and got everyone dancing. Now they’re upping the game again with the zestful Better Sit Down Boy, a tune which is guaranteed to make you want to throw on your leotard, sweat bands and disco shorts and bounce it, pump it and thrust it like you’re just one gym session away from total ecstasy. Coming on strong like a long lost Fatboy Slim / Big Beat track from the mid-90’s Better Sit Down Boy is pure too many beats per minute joy. Accompanied by a video which finds Janet Planet, Sugar Bones and the others as well as variety of body builder types working out it reminds me that a Confidence Man gig is an experience in keep fit and exercise itself – by the end of it you’ll be a sweaty but happy mess. This is outstanding hyper-pop. Extra marks for the “Oh you speak French? Oh man that’s neat” line as well. Confidence Man - Better Sit Down Boy (Video)
Fresh out of the box, or maybe quickest off the blocks, on this blog, is the new song from Bloxx. (Sorry… I just couldn’t help myself). A good old fashioned indie rocker that’s essentially a bunch of kids plugging in their guitars, making some noise, hitting some drums hard and singing a rather pleasant tune over the top of it. Originally released through Bandcamp over a year ago, Coke is now out there streaming on all amazing music websites. And this one. What I like about the handful of songs I’ve heard so far from Bloxx is that their songs don’t sound too try hard – they sound like they’re just doing what they want to do without a sh*te about if it’s cool or on-point. In that way they remind me a little of early Wolf Alice. There is, dare I say it, an honesty about Bloxx that I like. Bloxx will be out on tour this autumn with dates supporting Sundara Karma and INHEAVEN, so if you’re going to see either, get there early. Bloxx - Coke
Oh, here we go again. Another dirty and cartoon-like tune from Sofi Tukker. Right now these kids seem to be able to do no wrong. It’s why their name keeps appearing on Breaking More Waves.
“You are my best friend and we’ve got some shit to shoot,” the new song announces before a brassy sample kicks in and a low hip grinding bass does the rest. It got me on first listen. It probably will do the same to you. None of that 'it's a grower' crap. It just dives straight into the pool and then keeps swimming. A celebration of friendship and love, Sofi Tukker say about this about the tune: “To the friends we have had long before Sofi Tukker, the friends we have met along the way, and the friends we have not even met yet, you all make our lives so much better: this song is dedicated to all of you.” Featuring NERVO, The Knocks and Alisa Ueno, Best Friend is chock full of guests and chock full of the good stuff. This one needs to be played loud. Apparently he song features on the advert for the new iPhone X, so that will be some good exposure for the duo. Sofi Tukker play some headline shows in Europe at the end of September and beginning of October (including one at London's Oslo on 1st October) before they set off on a mammoth North American tour supporting Odesza up till nearly Christmas. Sofi Tukker - Best Friend (Featuring NERVO, The Knocks & Alisa Ueno)
Streaming services are a music fan’s dream. Imagine 20 years ago being told that with just a couple of clicks and presses you’d be able to access more music than you could possibly imagine. Not only the latest new sounds but those from the past as well. They are an affordable and beautifully simple route to a huge journey of musical discovery. But there’s a problem as well. Spotify and the others are helping kill pop music’s originality and creativity. Never before has mainstream pop sounded so identical, so lazy and so uninspiring. Pop music has always been about formulas that get hits, but now the formula has been over simplified to get on as many of the all important playlists as possible. Want to get on the Spotify New Music Friday list? Sure, just copy and paste the formula, add a new vocalist and away you go. It seems like the wonkier stuff is getting pushed further and further to the fringes. In fact it's in danger of being pushed off the edge completely. Of course, there’s an argument that mainstream pop has always been bland and unoriginal. But there were always kinks, rough edges and quirks to be found even in the music for the masses. Which is why we need songs like Superorganism’sSomething For Your M.I.N.D. Originally released near the start of the year and picking up lots of love online, it’s getting a well-deserved re-release and a trippy new video. Something For Your M.I.N.D is simple, inventive, hooky and lackadaisically cool. If you didn’t hear it first time round, it’s time to get acquainted with it now. It's like The Moldy Peaches mixing it up with Gorillaz. It's not like The Chainsmokers. I'm sure you will agree this is a good thing. If you don't, you're in the wrong place. Add in the fact that the band aren’t just your regular bunch of faceless and boring producers but an eight piece from around the globe who all live together in a big house in London and are fronted by a Japanese teenager called Orono and you’ve got yourself an interesting pop proposition. Put this one at the top of your playlist and maybe Spotify will take note. Superorganism - Something For Your M.I.N.D
There’s a ferocity to Morphology, the new track from Brighton’s AK/DK that’s strong enough to stimulate even the weariest of listeners. Going full pelt from almost the off this is the sound of a pier-end electronic organ finding itself in a 1960’s garage rock club with two hundred cool kids on the dancefloor losing their shit on too many experimental drugs. It is in other words, brilliant. Put it on loud, clear all loose items out of the way and prepare to flail around madly for the next three minutes. Morphology is taken from the band’s forthcoming album, released October 20th, called Patterns / Harmonics. You can pre-order from their Bandcamp now. AK/DK - Morphology
If you’re a fan of underground electronic pop music you might remember the south coast two-piece that then became a three-piece known as Curxes. The band featured numerous times on Breaking More Waves, as they released a series of often loud, clanking and industrial sounding songs between 2011 and 2015 with one full length and one mini album, before announcing their parting of ways. At the time lead singer Roberta Fidora made it clear that this wasn’t the end of Curxes, but merely time for pause, reconfiguration and reflection – an artist’s equivalent of a university gap year or two. During that quiet interval the name Curxes did crop up once more on this blog when I wrote about how I’d become friends with Roberta and why we went all the way to Estonia together for a cocktail (here). Now the pause button has been released, with Curxes relocated to the Isle of Wight (joining an ever-impressive list of acts from the garden isle that includes Champs, Lauran Hibberd, Nakamarra and Plastic Mermaids) and the musical journey recommences again; but this time Roberta is travelling more or less solo. Having teased the release of a new album Gilded Cage a month or so ago with a rather creepy trailer video and an instrumental that sat somewhere between The Exorcist and Stranger Things soundtracks (click here to view), now the first song proper has been released. It’s called In Your Neighbourhood. ‘Bleak and oblique choral post-pop songs’ is how Roberta has described the new material – which is an accurate description. In Your Neighbourhood is far gentler and less incensed sounding than much of Curxes’ past material, straddling the boundaries between experimentation and pop, with Roberta’s soft downbeat vocal being gorgeously soothing and haunting. I once described Curxes as being the sound of two robots f*cking. If that was the case then In Your Neighbourhood is very much the sound of something far more human and post-coital. There are gentle pulses, the aforementioned drifting choral backing, a neat chord change and some catchy little electronic riffs that make the return of Curxes a very welcome one. The song was co written with Andrew Wright, formerly of indie-art / post rock band The Strange Death Of Liberal England. Watch the video, which features a bunch of retro televisions and a puppet band below. Curxes will be supporting Blancmange on a number of their forthcoming UK shows. In Your Neighbourhood will be available on other formats besides You Tube from 6th October. Curxes - In Your Neighbourhood (Video)