Tuesday 31 March 2020

Monthly Playlist - March 2020

Before Breaking More Waves temporarily rose from the dead to help keep me busy in the evenings during the current Coronavirus lockdown I was still posting a monthly Spotify playlist of new music.

So as it’s the end of the month, today’s post is very much business as usual - it's the new updated playlist. The modern day equivalent of a C90 compilation knocked up by your friend. (My golden rule with this is I'll never go over 90 minutes of music - anything longer is too much).

You can find the whole thing on Spotify (feel free to follow it and check in every month?).

Just click this link to access on Spotify.

Apparently streaming statistics are down since Coronavirus, so why not help get them up and listen to this? 

As normal my choices hop between a variety of genres, from indie-rock to pop to electronic dance to grime to ambient, because that’s how I listen to music. So the chances are you won’t like everything here, but maybe you’ll like something?

A few of the tracks I have featured on the blog in the last few days since I’ve started posting again.

I hope you enjoy all this amazing music as much as I do.

For those who don’t use Spotify, here’s a full list of the songs and a couple of choice tracks from the list via Soundcloud.

Dream Wife – Sports
Hallan – Yesterday (With Him)
International Teachers Of Pop – Don’t Diss The Disco
Holly Humberstone – Falling Asleep At The Wheel
Salt Ashes – Counting Crosses
Ashnikko – Tantrum
Azure Ryder – Wolves
Spoort – Self
Nego True and Teks Sinatra – Feelings
Zyra – Take Me Home
bdrmm – Happy (International Teachers Of Pop Remix)
Bicep – Atlas
Warriors of The Dyscotheque – Thou Shalt Not Follow
Home Counties – Redevelopment
Droves – Cannibals
Aurora – Into the Unknown
Maisie Peters – Daydreams
Scuti – Huh
Richard Fairlie - Fonda On The Roof
Red Moon – Slow Down
The Orb – Shape Shifters (In Two Parts) (Coffee & Ghost Train Mix)
Nils Frahm – Black Notes

Salt Ashes - Counting Crosses

Ashnikko - Tantrum

Monday 30 March 2020

Introducing: Home Counties

If this bunch of indie rock fellers look a little familiar to you it’s because they are formed, with a few tweaks, from the band formerly known as Haze. Not that Haze lasted very long or were particularly well known, but they did play the likes of Truck, Great Escape and Dials and released a handful of ramshackle tracks that turned a few heads.

But now they’re Home Counties and their debut single will have planning officers across the land getting all hot under the collar and getting out their policy guidance documents. For it’s called Redevelopment and it’s a jerky, quirky take on British indie rock and post-punk occupying a similar space to other new British bands such as Squid, Feet and Sports Team. Squid in Particular.

Redevelopment is the sort of track that could have been equally produced by a bunch of awkward socially inept middle-class art school students or a gang of grubby working-class lads with nothing better to do that let off some steam by forming a band. Either way it’s very of the moment (and therefore also of the moments such as the late 70’s / early 80’s when there was also a hell of a lot of music like this around) with it’s angular guitars and frenetic energy. Here the band present the debate around ‘concrete anonymity’ and the gentrification of our urban built environment and ‘unaffordable luxury apartments.’ (Note: Call a flat an apartment in the UK and it suddenly becomes posh and you can charge £50,000 more for it). 

It’s a good er....redevelopment under this new moniker and more accessible than the Haze output. 

Home Counties - Redevelopment 

Zyra - Take Me Home

Yesterday when I stepped out of Breaking More Waves HQ for my government approved 30 minutes of exercise (the one time that in the UK we’re currently permitted to venture outside of our houses - except for essential food shopping and work) I didn’t see one single human being. 

This might not seem that unusual if you live in the countryside, but living in a small but crowded city as I do (population of around 240,000 and the most densely populated in the UK) this is incredibly unusual. Ok, so it was incredibly late on a Sunday night, but to see no fellow human being after running several kilometers is unprecedented. It felt like I’d turned a wrong corner and entered the scene of a nightmarish post-apocalyptic movie. I half expected to see an overturned bus blocking the road or to be chased by a horde of flesh eating zombies.

To get back to normality, afterwards I blasted out some pop music. Big banging pop music. Because although in normal times pop can be and should be about fantasies, our pop stars acting as the dream-makers, right now pop music can serve a very necessary job of keeping things on the level – keeping us grounded so that we realise that isn’t the movies and is just real life. Pop exists and continues to do so. It's part of our core and our fabric of being alive. Pop is my constant. Have you heard Dua Lipa’s new album – there’s an example of how mainstream pop is still very much a thing.

One of the songs I played a little too loud a little too late (sorry neighbours) was the new single by Zyra. Remember her? No? OK, a quick recap. 

Zyra is one Alex Cheatle. She first appeared in an introducing piece on this blog in 2013 under her own name. Then having adopted the alias Zyra in 2014 she wrote and sang on Odesza’s Say My Name which became a big internet and crowd pleasing hit, particularly in the U.S. It ended up being nominated for a Grammy. I subsequently named Zyra as One To Watch for 2016 in my annual end of year tip list, but then it all went quiet. 

However just like waiting for a bus, now in quick succession we‘ve had 3 new tunes from her (as well as a bunch of demos and remixes on Soundcloud - check out F*ck You in particular). Talking of buses it appears that Zyra is not only driving the this one but she’s running her own bus company as well. 

It’s the third of these three songs released to the big streaming services, Take Me Home, that is my favourite. Released last week it’s a big hooky mid-tempo banger that makes the thought of Zombies on the street very distant; and thankfully with Zyra at the wheel that aforementioned overturned bus is nowhere to be seen.

Zyra - Take Me Home

Friday 27 March 2020

Maisie Peters - Daydreams

Maisie Peters, the self-confessed queen of ‘emo girl pop’ has been on an upward trajectory for some time now. Remember when Breaking More Waves named her as One to Watch back in 2017? No? Well that happened (here) and since then she’s released the Dressed Too Nice For A Jacket EP in 2018 and the It's Your Bed Babe, It's Your Funeral EP a year later, played a sold out show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London and garnered millions of streams on Spotify. Surely after all this well executed slow-build 2020 must see the release of an album? If it does, Daydreams sounds like it could easily be the penultimate track, before perhaps something a little more positive to finish with perhaps? Although the closing line of this song does offer some uplift so maybe it could even end after that?

A piano ballad, it has just the right levels of restraint and understatement, with Maisie’s ever-present talent for sad and young storytelling: “I was unattached, he was quite a catch, with a nose ring.” Then she reveals: “I can dress it up pretty, I can blame it on cities, but he doesn’t want me.” As Maisie revealed on social media the ‘moral of the story is always make melodramatic diary entries in your iPhone notes when you’re sad and drunk in Ubers as sometimes u get special songs out of them.’ A tip for all you budding songwriters out there.

Maisie Peters - Daydreams

Thursday 26 March 2020

Natalie McCool - Closure

“I put flowers on your grave, I wear a rainbow every day, all that I want is closure,” sings Liverpool’s Natalie McCool on her new song Closure. It’s a bona fide alt-pop banger with a big old sing-a-long chorus.

Goodbye songs can sometimes be the saddest ones but Closure sounds more like confetti, glitter and champagne exploding into the sky. Endings can be happy for sure. This works best really loud with you dancing with your hands above your head. (Fun fact: If you're a crap dancer, putting your hands in the air will always make you look better - it gives the air of confidence and that you are having a good time. This song will assist in that good time.)

Natalie’s been making some badges recently for those who have pre-saved this song. They read “I Buried My Ex”. Let’s hope that she only means in her head. They were due to be sent out recently but that may now have to wait due to the lockdown.

That’s not the only way Natalie has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic though. She was also due to play SXSW prior to its cancellation. Sadly the way things are going it looks like every festival this summer is going to be cancelled or postponed. I’m keeping everything crossed for our own Dials festival in Portsmouth in October (tickets are available here). Expect to see a number of Breaking More Waves approved artists there.

Natalie McCool - Closure

Tuesday 24 March 2020

Introducing: Lynks Afrikka

If, as Robbie Williams once sang, one of the main purposes of musicians is to entertain, then colourful, exuberant, bonkers pop music that puts a smile on your face has to be the order of the day. With the current state of affairs, the world probably needs it more than ever. Quite frankly, earnest boys with acoustic guitars crooning self-absorbedly about if you still love them feel very out of date. What we need is big Muhammad Ali sized punches of joy, laughter and most of all dancing.

Artists like Confidence Man and International Teachers of Pop are already raising spirits with uncoordinated hustling and bags of energy. Today’s new artist could well be the next one to join that carnival of mavericks in the club. 

Lynks Afrikka is the alter-ego of once Bristol now London based producer Elliot Brett and you only have to watch the crowd shot You Tube video of his heavy on the lettuce sandwich-based chant-a-long B.L.L.T * (Sample lyric: “I’m a toastie. The boys they never ghost me. Not all the time, but mostly) to understand that Lynks Afrikka is a riot. A raw and unpolished one, but all the better for his underground substance. Think Daphne & Celeste meets Toni Basil for reference points.

There’s a serious and thoughtful side to what Lynks Afrikka does as well, with Brett’s message focused on topics such as sexuality and gender, but making it accessible by the use of humour. His music might be raw and primitively basic in its sound, but it certainly isn’t dumb. Take for example Str8 Acting which looks at mainstream club culture and nights out in the form of an alt-lo-fi-electropop banger; a very distant cousin of Blur’s Girls & Boys. “It's just hot str8 boys, who like hot str8 girls, who like hot str8 boys, and that's the whole straight world.” 

Elsewhere he does dumb down a bit (ok a lot) with a track called How to Make a Bechamel Sauce in 10 Steps (With Pictures) which was featured on the Breaking More Waves Spotify monthly playlist recently, but let’s face it, this amalgamation of music and food is still way more usefully hilarious than whatever James Bay is up to these days.

Then there’s the mini-bass arcade game stomp of I Don’t Know What I Want which finds our hero listing out all the things he doesn’t want. Simple really: Money, fame, pleasure, pain, sex, a green smoothie.

This week Lynks Affrika has been uploading a serious of Self Isolation Tapes, sound tracking the Coronavirus pandemic (you can find them on Soundcloud or You Tube). In the not too distant-future he was due to perform at this year’s now virus-cancelled Great Escape festival in Brighton as well as supporting cousins-of-a-kind Confidence Man in Bristol in April. Hopefully someone will find a slot for his cheerleader-of-your-nightmares-or-dreams routine on the south coast when things revert to some sort of normality. Until then watch and listen below. 

Let him entertain you.

*Can someone give the Soundcloud version of B.L.L.T (below) a proper release please? It's about time we had something like this all over the radio and in our heads.

Lynks Afrikka - B.L.L.T (Live audience shot video)

Lynks Afrikka - Pandemic

Lynks Afrikka - B.L.L.T!

Monday 23 March 2020

Introducing: Holly Humberstone

This J.R.R Tolkien fan and 20-year-old singer songwriter from Grantham, Lincolnshire, UK seems to be poised to make a splash with her music that bridges the divide between pop and something a little more earthy and organic.

New artists are finding it harder and harder to break through, but if you are a betting person, you might be advised to have a little flutter on Holly Humberstone doing well. She certainly seems to be ticking all the right boxes. Last year her name cropped up on the bottom of the bill of a whole bunch of festivals including the BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury, despite never having released a single. Then she kicked off 2020 by supporting Lewis Capaldi on some of his big European shows. Clearly this isn’t all just the luck of an indie bedroom artist, the big guns are out firing; in fact she’s working with management and label team Closer, who also work with George Ezra, James Bay and JC Stewart.

There’s a good reason why Holly is getting these breaks; she’s very good. At the end of January she released her debut song Deep End: “Throw me in the deep end, I’m ready now to swim,” she sings, outlining perhaps her readiness to now embrace the fickle world of the music industry, although the song is actually a hymn of support to one her sisters who was going through a difficult time.

Musically Deep End’s sound is calmly downbeat and autumnal, the minimalist production throwing focus on Holly’s touching vocal. Holly has been reported as being inspired by Phoebe Bridgers and Damien Rice and you can hear these influences subtly seeping through on this track,

Her second song however contrasts nicely with Deep End. There’s undeniably a big Lorde sway in both the production and songwriting (so much so you might find yourself checking if the name Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O'Connor is listed on the credits – she isn’t) but a good song is a good song whatever its reference points and Falling Asleep At The Wheel is undeniably that.

So that’s 2 out of 2 so far for Holly Humberstone. One to watch.

Holly Humberstone - Deep End

Holly Humbersone - Falling Asleep At The Wheel

Saturday 21 March 2020

Introducing: Hallan

Today’s new band purvey a breed of socially aware intensity with guitars. They are arguably one of the best new groups to come from the south coast of the UK. Even better, for a change, they’re from Portsmouth rather than Brighton which seems to be the usual case of things.

Hallan are for fans of The Murder Capital and Shame. That is to say their music growls with a monstrous amount of atmosphere and punkish strut. The fact that the two songs they have on Spotify at the moment are released through a label called Scum Sludge probably says it all. Previous tune Habit bites with outsider observation: “Eyes roll when I enter this establishment, and I feel the gaze of a dozen loyal locals filled with rage, a dozen loyal locals who can’t stand change. When I went down to the loo, all I saw were three young adults, snorting lines off each other’s legs and bashing ceramic tiles on their heads.” Then Hallan ramp things up, repeating a line over and over. “Does your mum know about your habit?” Expect frenzied moshing to this.

New single Yesterday (With Him) released last Friday is even better. It spits with slow-burning menace from shadowy corners. In an age where the rules of pop say that every song needs to be a Spotify friendly 3 minutes long and go for the hook from the off, Hallan put two fingers up to that, clocking in at a gloriously full 5 minutes and 5 seconds. Like Habit there are more examinations on life that seem to come from the pub: “She’s almost as loud as you. Oh my god she’s spilled vomit on her one-hundred-pound tracksuit.” The lyrics are delivered in snarling disdain, with lead vocalist Conor commenting on the uselessness of modern society: “I don’t care what mascara you use from Boots. I don’t care if you watch Ru Paul’s Drag Race.’ It’s all rather f*cking brilliant. Put this on, turn it up loud and annoy your neighbours. 

Hallan - Yesterday (With Him)

Friday 20 March 2020

Introducing: Spoort

Nobody really knows what goes on behind closed doors, but I’d like to think that during these getting bleaker self-isolated times there are plenty of people dancing around in their bedrooms in just their underwear, safe in the knowledge that no one is watching. A bit like the debut video and song from brand new Midlands four-piece Spoort

According to the blurb I’ve been sent on them Spoort's primary influences are You Tube algorithms, US astronomer Carl Sagan and cult jazz man Bill Evans. If you want to hear how that odd collection of reference points actually sounds, it’s time to click play below. The answer is 'pretty damn good actually’. It’s got grit but it’s groovy. It’s laid back and lithe. It shows that white indie boys can still from time to time make music you can dance to.

Say hello to Spoort. This is Self.

Spoort - Self

Thursday 19 March 2020

The (Temporary) Return Of Breaking More Waves Blog

Well, here we are again. Anyone out there? Hi. How’ve you been doing?

I never thought I’d be writing this again in this form and style, but recent events have brought me back. 

Last September, after more than a decade I decided that it was time to dedicate my spare time to other pursuits and (almost) stop the blog. I say almost because I’ve kept the thing limping along like a battle-worn exhausted soldier with a monthly post about my new music playlist (follow it by clicking here) and a few end of year lists.

Finishing the blog did free up a significant amount of time – so much so that I’ve returned slowly to long distance running after a ten year hiatus. The emphasis is on the word slowly – my speeds are now a sluggish plod compared what they used to be – but considering that around a year and a half ago I was in intensive care after open heart surgery following the discovery of a congenital valve defect after a sudden and unexpected heart attack, I consider myself pretty lucky to be alive still and the running makes me feel even more alive. Possibly even more so than music.

Ironically, it’s because of that heart attack that today, for a while, I’m writing this blog again. I’m now categorised as ‘high risk’ due to my underlying health condition and I am working in isolation from home for the foreseeable future to reduce my risk of catching the Coronavirus, as I have more of a chance of being badly affected by it than a normal person. I'm the equivalent of an over 70 year old even though I'm no way near that.

So, during that isolation period I will have some more spare time. With no gigs, festivals, art galleries, theatres, restaurants or cinemas to go to or friends to see and catch up with when I’m not at work, I need to keep myself busy so that I keep sane. I've pondered if any developing / smaller artists would considering doing acoustic house gigs to very small audiences (perhaps just an audience of 3 or 4) that i could put on to get my new music fix and help support musicians; If you're one of those and interested, get in touch with me on Twitter @BMWavesBLOG or via email, I'd pay you all the money I'd usually spend on a months worth of gig going to experience that. 

However, the obvious solution (given that I like to feel productive rather than just binge watching Netflix) is revisiting the old Blogspot template. So I’m bringing Breaking More Waves back from the near dead for a while. A bit like what my body has gone through.

I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to be posting yet. New music obviously – that was the blog’s raison d'ĂȘtre after all, but I also may veer off tangent a little. We’ll see. As I’ve always said, this is my personal blog, not a proper professional website, so I can do the bloody well what I want.

I don’t want to dwell on Coronavirus, as I do want this to be a place for people to visit for enjoyment, but it’s really important to me that at this juncture I mention two of my favourite places in the world.

Southampton Joiners and Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms were two of the first music venues I went to when I moved to the south coast just over 20 years ago. They’ve experienced all sorts of storms and survived over that time period, but this time is the worst imaginable shit show for all sorts of culture and particularly venues like these. If you value these places (and I really do) please follow their social media and try and support them in whatever ways you can. These spaces are the lifeblood of emerging artists and are places where I have formed friendships that have lasted many years. Some of the developing artists I’ve seen at these 200 and 400 capacity venues include Coldplay, The Killers, Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party, Oh Wonder and The Libertines to name just a few. Many of them have gone on to headline huge festivals. But just as important as those artists are the ones that never made it big, that are now long forgotten, but who provided me with memorable experiences.

The Joiners has set up a crowdfunding page which you can click on here https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-us-survive-corona-virus. Money is a worry for a lot of people right now, but once we get through this, we need those venues. A city bereft of culture is a city with no soul. Please do whatever you can to support them.

OK, it’s time to get on with the music.

International Teachers of Pop are exactly the sort of band we all need. 

They provide exuberant fun, amateur dance routines that will make you sweat way more than a temperature of 37.8C and big old disco bangers that are as close to sex as pop music can be. Watch your hips, because they’re going to get thrusting. 

Imagine Confidence Man had gone to Sheffield and dosed up on Giorgio Moroder, Kraftwerk and Cabaret Voltaire. Yes they’re that f*cking brilliant. They’ve already put out a critically acclaimed album, and later this year will release their second. It’s called Pop Gossip and will be available in late May. Get ready to be oscillated (right round baby) with their new single. 

The band describe the track as follows: “This is a song for our kind of freaks and miscreants and the incessant snobbery faced by them for liking good pop music, good disco, genres that on the surface might not be deemed cool, but actually save souls...This is Don’t Diss The Disco.” Sounds like it’s my kind of tune.

International Teachers Of Pop - Don't Diss The Disco