Tuesday 25 June 2019

New Music: Celeste - Coco Blood

One of my absolute highlights of Brighton's Great Escape Festival 2019 was the short set performed by Celeste (no not of Daphne & Celeste / Ooh Stick You / Reading festival bottling fame) underneath the chandeliers in the Old Ship Hotel's Paganini Ballroom as part of a Radio 1Extra showcase. She may have looked slightly uncomfortable and awkward, standing frozen to the spot, giving the impression of being very self aware of herself, but as soon as she opened her mouth she took the audience to another place. Jazzy, theatrical and elegant it took about five seconds to fall in love with her voice and songs. As Celeste finished each number the applause seemed to go on forever – always a good sign that the artist has really connected with her audience.

This week Celeste has released her latest tune, albeit one she wrote a couple of years ago. Coco Blood is the sort of cinematic track that I’d expect to hear at someone’s swanky floor to ceiling windowed loft apartment in New York or London whilst drinking an expensive red wine or cocktail. It's definitely not a pint of lager and packet of crisps down the Dog & Duck. Go on, lift a glass, take a sip and let Celeste, the trumpets and the strings seduce you. A timeless beauty.

Celeste - Coco Blood

Sunday 23 June 2019

Breaking More Waves Is Eleven Years Old Today

Today Breaking More waves is 11 years old. That’s a pretty long time to do anything. But here I am, still doing it. 

So far 2019 has seen me post far less than any previous year. There are a number of reasons for this but the main one is simply that I’ve been freeing up more of my spare time to do other things. Some of you may remember that in November 2018 I underwent open heart surgery due to a congenital defect and since then I have been getting my physical health back on track, which takes time. And as writing a music blog also takes time (not a huge amount of time, but still, it’s not written instantaneously) so the posts have decreased.

However, I still am absolutely determined that Breaking More Waves will continue. This has been very much a slow-down rather than a complete halt. A huge amount of new music blogs have fallen by the wayside over the last few years as ‘discovery’ becomes dominated by streaming services, and some bloggers shift to try and monetise their love of music in other ways; working for record companies, artists or shifting to print formats seem to be the most popular. 

However, everything I do in relation to music has always been and always will remain a hobby. 

Internet traffic and hits are nice if only to show that someone is visiting the site, but they’re not essential to me continuing: although ironically despite blogs apparently no longer being popular, the visitor numbers to this blog has increased over the last few months.

So that’s where I sit with Breaking More Waves. The rest of 2019 will continue to be more of the same. New music that I like. 

I have toyed with the idea of doing a little more than just this though.

Instead of bringing back the ‘think pieces’ (which I used to write but tired of) I am thinking about writing reviews of gigs and concerts I go to. After all, the very first edition of Breaking Waves paper fanzine (the precursor to this site) was simply one gigantic review of Glastonbury Festival written in diary style. And when the blog started I did write the occasional gig write up. Some were quite popular. One journalist even copied and pasted my review of an early Ellie Goulding show onto their site and passed it off as their own. Tut tut. 

Far too often these days I read live reviews on other sites and find myself incredibly bored with them. Dull descriptions of what the music sounded like and what songs the band played might be very factual, but they send me to sleep. There seems to be a lack of emotion, passion, context or humour in a lot of writing now and I keep wondering if I could write something better. If this is something you’d like me to do, please let me know. 

Mind you, the reality would probably this: 

‘It was raining so I got the number 2 bus down to the venue rather than walk. I bumped into John and Lucy at the bar. They had already had a couple of pints and were in a jovial mood, their faces flushed with cider. The support band was dull. The main band was better but the woman in front of me kept flicking her hair around as she danced and it ended up in both my pint and mouth. It didn’t taste pleasant although there was a slight scent of apples to it, which weirdly I liked. I went home as soon a the encore finished It had stopped raining, which was pleasing, as I didn’t have enough money for a return.” 

Pitchfork / NME eat your heart out.

Anyway, happy birthday my blog. 11 years of spouting this rubbish. It’s just as well it’s not my job – I’d have been sacked a long time ago.

Friday 21 June 2019

New Music: Stormzy - Crown

2 slightly different takes on Crown, the new single by Stormzy:

Take One

When Stormzy released his debut album Gang Signs & Prayer the one track that grabbed attention more than any other was the gospel tinged beauty Blinded By Your Grace Part 2. It was a song so full of soul it found people who didn’t normally like grime proclaiming their love for it. Now with album two on its way and Stormzy’s forthcoming potentially career defining Glastonbury headline performance on the horizon, it’s really important for him to release something that’s up there with Blinded By Your Grace Part 2. So throw in some more gospel, a topical reference to Boris Johnson and Stormzy saying that he struggles to find the words to describe how important the song is to him and Crown immediately is cast with a sense of gravitas and authenticity that define Stormzy as an important artist ready to sell a massive load of records. The fact that it’s a track that deals with the pressures that have come with his success make it all the more appealing as it certainly isn't going to slow with this one. 

Take Two

Crown is a bloody good track. Great personal lyrics. Great Tune. Forget everything else and just listen to the music. Anybody that says he’s not worthy of a Glastonbury headline slot clearly doesn’t understand contemporary pop music and culture in the UK. I’m confident he’s going to smash it.

Stormzy - Crown

Monday 17 June 2019

Introducing: The Goa Express

There are plenty of UK based bands right now making a right old ear pleasing racket. Here’s another one. 

The Goa Express (which if they’re not named after an Indian restaurant will be most displeasing) is James Douglas Clarke on vocals and guitar, Joey Stein on guitar, Naham Muzaffar who plays bass, Joe Clarke at the keyboards and Sam Launder on drums. Their latest tune The Day bounds along with the sort of scruffy ramshackle energy that suggests that they just stumbled out of bed, downed four Vodka and Red Bulls and got straight down to gritty business. It’s rough, ready and slightly retro sounding and at just over two minutes long isn’t going to waste too much of your day if you’re not really into it. But you should be. 

The Goa Express could easily hail from New York with a sound like this, but in fact they’re based in the Manchester area. They worked with Fat White Family keyboardist Nathan Saoudi on this track, and if you want more you can find an EP they released in 2018 titled Use Your Brain in all the regular places. But start with The Day, which is about moving to university and getting in a bit of trouble as well as the idea of fake society - where everyone is pretending to be friends when they're really not. It's out on all the major streaming platforms on the 5th July.

The Goa Express - The Day

Sunday 16 June 2019

New Music: Arlo Parks - george

When I first featured Arlo Parks, the coolest wearer of the headband since 1970's Swedish tennis superstar / underwear designer Bjorn Borg, I mentioned the groove. I think it’s necessary to do so again with her new track george, because the groove here is essentially the musical equivalent of a cool but surly teenager, head down, hands in pockets, sauntering along the street, but with a fluidity rather than awkwardness that you might normally equate with someone that age. It will probably rather appeal to those of us who have reached a certain age where we don't have quite as much energy as we used to. It's a head bobber rather than a hip twister.

Yet Parks certainly isn't of the age I am; she's just a teenager. like many 18 year olds in England and Wales she's just finished off her A-Levels – including English Literature. That education is paying off, because she’s using it in her songs, even if they clearly haven’t taught her that names have a capital letter at the start of them. Because george is a reference to the flamboyant poet and politician Lord Byron, with Parks taking the idea that Byron was a pretty terrible heartbreaker and narcissist and constructing the lyrics around the idea of someone like that: ‘Leaving a bit of blood in every room.’

george is smooth and perfect as a rolled bowling green. Which is a terrible simile. I'd probably get an E in my A Level.

If like me you're off to Glastonbury you can catch her 4 times over the weekend. A couple of slots are on the official timetable but she's also cropping up at places like the Crow's Nest. Check her Facebook for all the details.

Arlo Parks - george

Sunday 9 June 2019

Introducing: Megan Lara Mae

Today I’m introducing a Brighton based artist who is playing this year’s Glastonbury festival and also has a song on Spotify that is approaching 60,000 streams; yet the chances are most readers won’t have heard of her, such is the sheer volume of new music out there.

So, here’s my first tiny attempt to get the name Megan Lara Mae embedded with you. 

The second will come on October 5th when Megan plays alongside The Blinders, Another Sky, Talk Show and fellow Brighton residents Johanna Bramli and Arxx at Dials festival in Portsmouth (many more still to be announced). Dials is a multi-venue new music discovery event I help curate and book. It's the world's easiest festival as all the venues are on 1 street - you can walk between them all in about 5 minutes. You’ll see Megan’s name amongst the next wave of artists that are being announced for the festival in the not too distant future - but consider this a sneak preview. If you fancy grabbing yourself a ticket for Dials they’re £20 and available by clicking through to the website here.

On her Soundcloud Megan lists some of her inspirations as Rae Morris, Sigrid, Lorde, BANKS and Aurora so it was perhaps inevitable that she would get the Breaking More Waves seal of approval – all of those artists being ones I have featured here in their early stages of their careers on the blog. However, liking a certain style or genre is easy. Liking good songs, whatever the genre is even more my cup of tea. If Megan’s brand of creative electronic pop didn’t have the tunes, I wouldn’t be writing about her here. But she does. 

Take her song of strength Caribou for example, with its thundering slabs of synth, its percussive shouts of ‘Hey’ and its positive lyrics: ‘Standing tall, getting drenched in the rain, but I’m not giving up on what I’ve gained from this pain.’ It’s a spot-on pop tune. If a marketing person heard Caribou they’d probably wet their pants and start shouting from the rooftops that it was ‘empowering’ but as that’s currently the most over used word in pop this year, we’re not going there Ok? 

Another example of her contribution to being a good thing for pop music comes in the form of the curious From The Ashes. Its an idiosyncratic piece that combines Vince Clarke Erasure / Yazoo electronics with something far more swirling and cinematic. Megan’s vocal delivery is impressive as well – strong but never overstated even when the track aims for the heavens.

There’s some clear talent in Megan Lara Mae. That’s why I’ve booked her for Dials Festival. Oh and that Glastonbury slot? No, it’s not the Pyramid stage (obviously), but you’ll find her playing a slot on a bandstand near the Croissant Neuf tent (the tent where Ed Sheeran made his Glastonbury debut in 2011) before the bigger stages open, so if you’re going this year try and get along to see her and support some new music as well as the bigger stars.

Glastonbury likes her. Dials likes her. Now it’s your turn.

Megan Lara Mae - Caribou

Wednesday 5 June 2019

Introducing: Maude Latour

Let’s get this out of the way right at the beginning, shall we? (And for anyone who has just come across this blog you have a lot of catching up to do re: musicians and baths). Yes, this is a relatively new pop musician. And guess what? She’s leapt straight in and done a promo picture with a bath. Except she hasn’t leapt in, because she’s sitting outside it. If she was aware of the long history of pop musicians and bath promo shots, she’d probably realise that this was something a little bit different. Not edgy as such - but certainly different. Maybe she is aware? Maybe she reads this blog and took influence from all the other musicians in the bath out there. There’s certainly a lot of them. I still don't anyone has beaten Mariah Carey for sheer ridiculousness though.

So, to the music and the musician. (Do you really want to read about that when you can just press play and decide yourself? Ok, I’ll keep this short.)

This is Maude Latour. She does pop music that sounds a little bit like Lorde once it gets going. 

I’m told she’s lived in London, Stockholm and Hong Kong and is fluent in both Dutch and Mandarin. She's currently a freshman at Columbia University studying philosophy and political science and plans to be the first president to perform at her own inauguration. She’s 19 years old. Which makes me look back at my 19-year-old self and think I was pretty rubbish back then. I was probably sitting in a pub drinking cider talking about record shopping and that was about it.

She has 2 tracks on her Soundcloud: Superfruit (which has elements of the aforementioned Lorde and also Marina) and unusually in these days of co-writes with big teams it was written by Maude and Maude only. The second track is Plans which starts like a pretty twinkling electronic fairytale before heading into those Lorde-a-like territories as Maude sings of the start of a new love and wanting to cancel all of her plans to be alone with that person. According to the press release in front of me the song has some ‘phantasmagoric digital flourishes.’ See if you can spot them. Whatever or wherever they are, I like the sound of them. Let's have more phantasmagoric digital flourishes in life generally please.

There are some other songs on Maude’s Spotify that she released last year as a mini album called High School High. The internet tells me this was a high school final project – which makes some sense as it’s Plans and Superfruit that really hit the spot for me, as it has done with a number of blogs over the last week or so.

She’s done the bath thing, she’s released a couple of blog loved pop songs, so she’s off to a fine start. 

Let’s keep our eyes and ears out for what Maude Latour releases next.

Maude Latour - Plans

Monday 3 June 2019

Introducing: King Hannah

“It’s not shite, I promise.” Those were the opening words of Hannah Merrick of the band King Hannah when describing their debut song Crème Brûlée to me. It’s certainly a better take on things than the usual ‘*Insert name of trendy music website* premiered this yesterday’, which somehow in the world of music promotion is meant to make me desperate to listen. "It's not shite," doesn't raise too many expectations at least.

Hannah's right. It's not shite.

Crème Brûlée is if nothing else an interesting title for a song. It's probably a bit more sophisticated sounding than Apple Crumble and Custard or Sticky Toffee Pudding. But what is actually about? “Crème Brûlée is about Crème Brûlée and my love for it. Essentially, I'm singing about a pudding,” says Hannah. So there you have it. It's not shite and it's about pudding. Maybe. If music be the food of love then play on.

If Hannah really is singing about the custard and hardened caramalised sugar dessert, then it's a little worrying, as she really is obsessed by it: “I need you so bad….. I think I like you too much…..” she confesses with an unruffled world-weary tone whilst the music recalls the evocative atmosphere of Mazzy Star, Howling Bells or perhaps Portishead without the electronics. Ok, not only is it not shite, but it's rather good. 

There’s something else on Crème Brûlée that you don’t hear so often these days as well – a big old power-chord guitar solo that rolls on and on till the end. There's none of that 'designed for Spotify / short attention spans' songwriting going on here. Which I'm fully in favour of. Let's have more long intros, even longer outros and 10 minute sonically expansive journeys please. I can just imagine scrunched rapturous faces on air guitar players all over the world when listening to this.

Based in Liverpool King Hannah are Craig Whittle, Dylan Gorman, Hannah Merrick and Jake Lipiec. Crème Brûlée is available for streaming now and in many good restaurants. Both are very tasty, delicious etc etc.

King Hannah - Crème Brûlée

Sunday 2 June 2019

Introducing: Walt Disco

Here at Breaking More Waves Towers I have an imaginary box where I file away many of the new artists that I hear, ready to post about them at some point in the future. However, this box is always stuffed full and a lot of music gets lost in the crush. So, this week I’m emptying it out, writing about some of my favourites, then starting afresh with an empty one. This means a series of Introducing posts for the next few days; apologies if you’re an avid new music fan, most of these acts may already be known to you, some have been sitting in the box for a while.

First out from the pile are five sharp glitzy boys from Scotland called James, Dave, Lewis, Calum and Finlay and they create a brutal beautiful indie punk sound under the name Walt Disco.

Having met at university Walt Disco have been gradually putting out tracks and picking up the praise for their vitally raw and energetic songs, marked in particular by a flamboyant vocal croon that many people have already compared to Billy Mackenzie from the Associates - I don't disagree. In amongst the dark melee of their edgy art-pop you might be able to hear early 80’s new romanticism, punk and even the blackest of styles – goth.

Current single Strange To Know Nothing has hints of early Simple Minds, Talking Heads, Orange Juice, Duran Duran and Franz Ferdinand all fired up with extra spice and these references continue through to the wonderfully titled My Pop Sensibilities, a song for all the people who feel like they don’t quite fit; it’s about being yourself and not having to be 'normal'. The slower Dream Girl #2 meanwhile is the sound of three glasses of red wine and a staggering waltz around a velvet lined cabaret club with the opening line “Like a Disney Princess, I’ll sing every ballad to you, it doesn’t matter how short your hair, I’ll act all shy coy and unaware.”

Walt Disco’s songs are sometimes (but not always) raw, almost angry sounding, but like the title of one of their tracks, there is a pop sensibility in there as well. You can hear it on the frantic Drowning In Your Velvet Bed. It’s a storming, flailing brilliant grunt of a tune, but just when it seems like it’s all getting a little too intense, on the recorded version, the band throw in a smooth come to bed saxophone as if we really are back in the 80’s. It’s moments like this that make Walt Disco stand out amongst the current crop of angular new indie punk bands, of which there are many. They seem to have more than one idea up their sleeve. Let's hope they continue to reveal more of that as time goes on.

Walt Disco has already been out on tour with Sports Team, played the Great Escape and Live At Leeds this year and you can expect to see more of their impetuous glamour and action as 2019 progresses. 

Get involved with Walt Disco now, if you haven't done so already.

Walt Disco - My Pop Sensibilities

Walt Disco - Dream Girl #2 (Video)

Walt Disco - Drowning In Your Velvet Bed (Live)