With a gestation period equal to the pregnancy of a small animal here are my Tips for 2014, some are on the basis of one track others on the basis of an entire album. But they are all artists I am enjoying and who I expect will produce good things in the year ahead. Podcast featuring all of these artists to follow.
1. Heavy Petting Zoo – Broken Bone
Swansea’s Heavy Petting Zoo have been carving somewhat of a name for themselves accross live stages in South Wales. With a urgent female fronted garage band sound that throbs with the menace of a Horror-Movie soundtrack, and a kinetic live show that incorporates their dancer John. HPZ are ones to clap your ears upon in 2014, as their recent Charlie Francis(REM, Sweet Babboo et al) produced single ‘Broken Bone’ will attest with its pummeling rhythm section that dances on your bones, early Yeah Yeah Yeahs esque allure through Amy’s instant vocal sneer, you better not ignore them or else! As Simon from Sweeping the Nation blog put it so aptly “If Heavy Petting Zoo were from east London rather than Swansea you’d have heard far too much about them by now.”
2. EightRoundsRapid- Channel Swimmer
EIGHTROUNDSRAPIDWith a support slot on Wilko Johnson‘s farewell tour last year daubing them as ones to watch emerging Southend four piece EightRoundsRapid are the incendiary missing link between the oft over looked era of pub rock of the likes of Dr. Feelgood the protest punk of the likes of the UK Subs or Sham 69 and the razor sharp angular sound of Wire. Providing a sneering modern social commentary by way of caustic, knowing vocals and a rhythmic kick in the arse for a music scene that’s too often in awe of timid music that is the aural equivalent of NHS waiting room wall paper.EightRoundsRapid hooked the attention of BBC DJs after the release of there début EP, Dostoyevsky in March 2013. They first caught my ear with the wonderful ‘Channel Swimmer’ video below, that’s brutal serrated punk-rhythm and observational polemic is brilliant, the chanted chorus lines ‘come what may for everyone that stays another will find a way!’ possess violent nihilistic undertones.Their last single ‘Writeabout’ sinewy guitar lines, and caustic rhythmic jolts are foraged through by the twisted vocals of David Alexander that are positively spat out and into the face of tabloid culture. Alexander weaves murky stories of urban underlie songs such as Kix, Eight Rounds Rapid firebrand refrains and melodic hooks are impossible to ignore! Hopefully EightRoundsRapid will be delivering their own form of vehement artillery to a long player in the next twelve months!
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/EightRoundsRapid
3. San Fermin – Sonsick
San Fermin is the work of Brooklyn composer and songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone. Rather like Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene and other group works Ludwig-Lone gathered a group of collaborators around him and holed up in a studio in the mountain border between Alberta and British Columbia to craft an deliciously eclectic album although rooted in quality songwriting and embellished by contributions from the ever evolving collective. Tackling universal themes like youth, nostalgia, anxiety, unrequited love – and tied these vast themes to different characters through vocal contributions from longtime friend Allen Tate, as well as Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius.The entire longplayer was masterminded by Ludwig-Leone who composed all of the album’s arrangements and lyrics in full prior to collaborating and recording, noting that “writing for a large group of unknown musicians infused the writing process with a kind of operatic scope.”
The awesome first track released from the album, “Sonsick,” tackles many of these larger themes head-on, in a soulful strut that explodes into an exultant joyous horn dappled chorus that rivals any pop record I heard last year. ”It’s like a panic attack disguised as a birthday party,” Ludwig-Leone says. ”I realized that the most intense moments are the ones in which conflicting emotional worlds exist inside you, equally, at once.”
The eight-member live San Fermin outfit is comprised of Allen Tate and Rae Cassidy, lead vocals; Rebekah Durham, vocals/violin; Stephen Chen, saxophone; John Brandon, trumpet; Mike Hanf, drums; Tyler McDiarmid, guitar; and Ellis Ludwig-Leone, keyboard.
4. TeenCanteen – HONEY
Edinburgh’s All girl group Teen Canteen have been enjoying heavy rotation on Mark Riley’s show of late and little wonder. Their self styled brand of “Sunshine pop” winds five-way harmonies around bittersweet doo wop 50s inspired melodies, no more is it more fruitful than on their delightful debut single ‘Honey’ is an absolute pop masterstroke, that undulates with heartbreak, ‘not fitting in’ and unexpected joy:
5. Desperate Journalist – Organ
Desperate Journalist are two boys and two girls who live in North London. They consist of Jo Bevan (vocals), Simon Drowner (bass), Rob Hardy (guitar) and Caz Hellbent (drums). Lured together by fate and a fierce sense of what makes alternative music actually really bloody alternative they started their journey to the local Negative Creep grunge club night in Finsbury Park on February 23rd 2013 and have barely looked back since.
Releasing the alluring debut single ‘Organ’ on Label Fandango/Fierce Panda at the tail end of 2013, it’s an urgent slice of rippling post punk that’s explosive chorus’ and blade flashing guitars are augmented by Jo Bevan’s anxious howl, comparisons to Savages are too easy these guys and gals have more in common with the female fronted suss of The Organ or the dark menace of mid period Cure.The devlish Organ makes us hungry to hear what they come up with next!
6.Shhh…Apes! – Painkiller
Cardiff based band Shhh…Apes!, are helmed by South Wales music veteran Mark Foley(Vito, Strange News From Another Star, Martin Carr’s post-Boo Radleys project Bravecaptain).Recalling the adventurous cut up song structures built by likes of Low, Portishead and Mazzy Star, their looping percussive assaults, quivering instrumentals, and intertwined vocals are like a vast puzzle you have to fit together to fully complete. The wonderful opening track ‘Painkiller’ is a case in point a bricolage of twitching beats, shivering to release guitars, clambering accross the landscape beat of hooves and sensuous trombone and glock notes, it’s all anchored by Mark’s magnetic vocal like a lighthouse throwing out a guiding light in a choppy sea and helped along by Lianne Francis’s support.
Shhh…Apes magisterial debut EP ‘The Shape Of Apes To Come’ came out via their own Music Box record label last year and was a teasing taste of their oceanic potential.
7. Blisseyes – Hold
Blisseyes are a London/Cambridge four piece who rather mysteriously describe themselves as a “Post-Punk/Art Pop quartet from the UK.” Which doesn’t really do the two tracks they’ve uploaded online so far justice! ‘Hold’ is striking, a booming baritone yearningly thumps its fist through a rhythm that sways then scampers off into the distance through a waterfall of ambient-gaze. It’s the conflicted sound of frantically trying to hold onto someone you care about who has fucked you over a few times(‘I won’t forget what you did to me’), which is a restless business for all concerned.It’s the sound of longing given a widescreen canvass….‘
Manson’ meanwhile initially shows a tenderness before exploding into a crushing declaration of affection: it’s tumbling drum and insistent basselines: brings to mind the post punk angularity of early Interpol and the ornate fatalistic lyrical couplets are redolent of the shadowy- epicness of early Simple Minds, the final repeated refrains ‘nobodies coming to save you’ are like the externalising of every doubt in your head. It’s quite simply superb! Blisseyes clearly have huge potential…
8. The Bright Ones – Your Words Don’t Bother Me But The Killing Hurts
The Bright Ones are a relatively new outfit from East Sussex.Forming about a year ago. Consisting of Christian on vocals, Danny Curtis – guitar, Stewart Brown – Bass, Carl Hayden- drums. The propulsive violent glamour of their recent single ‘Your Words Don’t Bother Me But The Killing Hurts’ made us sit up and take notice, the buzzing sneer of early period Suede colliding with the muscular prog-punk of Ultrasound in some far off galaxy, makes it the urgent equivalent of a nuclear missile heading into your ears. Singer Christian told us why The Bright Ones formed “It was frustration really. We live in Brighton, where bands (although probably full of nice people) are becoming increasingly dull and twee. I don’t like cardigans. Or fake glasses. I just felt like I was being musically devoured by tedious Vaselines-lite pisspuff, and the overused reverb can’t hide the slight, pedestrian melodies. So we formed Bright Ones. That’s what the name means… Bright Ones amongst the muck, see. Although I don’t like slagging people off – and self-aggrandising statements aren’t my thing- I’m AWARE I sound like a twat saying that, but it’s true. there are LOADS of amazing bands around at the moment, but none of them play in my town. So now ONE of them does. We just thought there was no loudness and drama.”
Harking back to a time when bands weren’t afraid to be dangerous the Bright Ones cite bands of the 80s and early 90s as their inspiration, Christian continues: “Our favourite sorts of bands are probably Echo & the Bunnymen, The Cult, Early Suede, stuff like that. Stuff with power and drama. I feel thats been somewhat missing, in my face at least.”
“I write the tunes and the band play them.” He continues delving into the songwriting process whithin the band “But its more than that though… I do a childs sketch of a ship and they build it. If it weren’t for them I’d just be some lunatic wandering round showing his ship drawings to people in the pub. The boys are integral, though I’m seeking to expand. I want some string players and some brass, and a percussionist. I have visions of an almost Ennio Morricone like thing I want to do in the next few months. So yeah, we got together and after one show this guy wanted to sign us to his label. Its a pretty small operation – its just this one fella. So we agreed and he put out our single. It’s called “Your Words Don’t Bother Me But The Killing Hurts.” I love it. I listen to it all the time. Some say its weird to listen to your own music for your enjoyment but thats the point of writing songs isn’t it? they should be your favourite songs that don’t already exist. Why bother writing something you wouldn’t listen to yourself? Never do a painting you wouldn’t put up. Pointless.”
The Bright Ones new single is out now on iTunes.
9. Making Marks – Barricades
Norwegian indie-pop-beat combo Making Marks’ new album ‘A Thousand Half Truths’ is released on the Fika label this February. A wonderful album of gorgeously sunlit reverb heavy pop tunes that are threaded with wonder and regret. Their shifting rhythms and world weary girl/boy melodies are deliciously redolent of Belle and Sebastian while their subtle pristine guitar lines bring to mind the best works of The Whitest Boy Alive, this is a real long playing treat for the ears!Listen to the whole album below.
10. East India Youth- Dripping Down
East India Youth, aka William Doyle, recently released his superb debut album ‘Total Strife Forever’ on Stolen Recordings, based around a three parted sound scape piece that reveals an imagination, bravery and adventurousness that when pieces together with the vocal tracks provides 2014 with one of it’s most exciting and daring musical talents. A series of quality singles last year built up to this point, and the album’s center piece ‘Dripping Down’ replete with it’s Wurlitzer of electronic bleeps and effects all commanded by Doyle’s enigmatic vocal performance that expertly places his soul at the centre of the on coming storm, is a wonderful taste of what he is capable of.
11. PAWWS – Time To Say Goodbye
12. Yuppies – Hitchin’ A Ride
Yuppies are a Omaha punk outfit who were signed to Parquet Courts’s label Dull Tools, in my opinion they out strip PC. With a sound that delightfully collapses in on itself and spits out fractured post punk and rail roading lyrics that veer from scuzzy deadpan subconsciousness sprawl to unmitigated howl, Hitchin a Ride is the fine example of their abrasive frantically brilliant sound lifted from their self titled album of last year. For fans of early Television, The Dead Kennedys and The Fall…
13. Chain Of Flowers – Spit
Cardiff’s Chain Of Flowers are only a year old, but are already proving themselves to be a substantial proposition. Releasing a series of menacing yet enticing free download eps through their facebook and soundcloud pages. Their sound captures a pitch black mid point between the swirling insistent gaze of Ride and the gothic flecked post-punk of Sisters of Mercy, with a dramatic frontman who has been compared to Morrissey live. They could be the lovechild of something Factory/Creation Records and Dischord would’ve released and has already seen them play shows with Eagulls, Islet, Pure Love, Iceage, Merchandise, Purling Hiss and more.
“Chain Of Flowers are set to release their grittiest and most intense offering to date; a limited edition tape of 200 copies entitled the ‘Arches Session’ 20th January 2014 via their own Swine Language label. Recorded live in their space beneath the main railway lines of Cardiff train station by J Thomas (Islet) and mixed by Ben Greenberg (The Men). The cassette features two songs – ‘Death’s Got A Hold On Me’ is an original track whilst the second is a cover of Spectrum’s ‘How You Satisfy Me'”
14. Lois & The Love – WAR
Londoners Lois & The Love and forged it the hard way on the road and in the studio. Brave, bold and swaggering: WAR is an unstoppable buzzing rhythmic pulse, threaded with stinging licks, and Lois’s stunning vocals that rattle menacing like a force ten gale through this personal slamming into political psych-pop monster. It’s unequivocally their standout moment so far. Following a run of spectacular singles we stand braced for more brilliance from Lois and her Loves this year!
To listen via SoundCloud and for more information, please click here: http://camouflagerecordings.com/promo-lois-war
15. Skinny Dream- Alloa
Southend born five piece Skinny Dream only formed at the start of 2013, and in short order, this week they release their debut EP ‘Crushing’. Carving a niche for themselves with their widescreen gaze sound rippling with epic, longing melodies that pierce these majestic smoke covered soundscapes that burn in the sun of the mid-distance reminding one favourably of the Catherine wheels of emotion characterized by Ride or the emotive layers of mid-period My Bloody Valentine.
Opener ‘Bliss’ guitars crash, serve and entwine with soundtrack like beauty, while the tender vocal refrains whisper dreamily before collapsing to their knees in devotion with their heart on their sleeve. ‘Crush’ has more than a nod to the serrating buzz saw gaze of one Kevin Shields, but it’s the twitching breakdowns and ghostly yearning couplets that vividly paint pictures of heartbreak. Perhaps the biggest stand-out is ‘Alloa’ a weaving earworm, possessing a lullaby quality that rides squalling waves of picked apart distortion and tumbling drum patterns, when the noise clears the solitary echoed lines open up to reveal a introspective gem. With the craft and humanity to back up their undoubted ear for a noisy melody this could just be the start of special things to come from Skinny Dream.
16. Samantha Crain – For the Miner
Samantha Crain released her debut UK-released album ‘Kid Face’ on Full Time Hobby next week. The album’s title is a nickname she closely identifies with, as she is regularly mistaken for a 16 year old and treated accordingly. ‘It gives me a great insight into people’s character’ Crain says, ‘and plenty of material as a songwriter’.“Although initially inspired by the sounds of her father’s record collection, including Bob Dylan and Neil Young, an adolescent Crain took even greater solace in the music of her home state, from the Americana of Woody Guthrie to the sonic experiments of the Flaming Lips.”Based in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and of Choctaw heritage its been a long time in the coming for Crain a prodigious talent who has been beating the road across the US for the past few years, including Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit who took her out on tour last year and have been long time supporters of her music.Her new works show a maturity forged in recording studios, hotel rooms, the backs of pick up trucks on tour, on stage carefully surfing the frayed lines between country, blues and folk, it’s a poise typified by For The Minor a trembling gem, that’s subtle shift in rhythm and world worn melody mark Crain out as one to watch in 2014, and not just for fans of Americana but those who love great songwriting…The UK release will include a bonus EP. The song ‘For The Miner’ , taken from the album, is available to download and stream here: www.samanthacrain.com
17. Hail The Planes – Telescoping
Cardiff’s Hail! The Planes have been on our radar for quite a few years coming to our attention with the sumptously world weary “Brother” replete with sighing vocals and shifting instrumentation, so much so that we put them on supporting Her name is Calla in Clwb. After a silence that lasted too long in our estimation they returned At the tail end of last year they return with a new EP on Shape recordings home to Islet.
A dynamic six-piece that create emotional swells with a sound that breaks apart the confines of post rock and post folk, delivering the kind of emotional poignancy through heart melting vocals, intricate percussion and mournful trumpets. ‘Send A Signal To Me, Love’ was recorded in Cardiff’s Music Box Studios with the help of Charlie Francis and was mixed by JT from Islet. Holly ’s fragile, affecting vocals are threaded through these subtle, enveloping pieces that are at one moment impossibly intimate and the next vast, cavernous and atmospheric the sound of . Oscillating somewhere between Portishead, Talk Talk, Make Say Think and Low but managing to carve out their own nice, stand in reverence To Hail! The Planes a Cardiff band that deserve to soundtrack your cold haunted evenings.
“This is an EP about communication, the struggle of it – silences between people, unsayable things, longings. Sometimes music does it so much better – it reaches”Holly Müller, Hail! The Planes
18. Sukh – Clear Horizon
Sukhdeep Krishan – or Sukh to his friends, is a Manchester songwriter and Doctor, still in his 20s with a classic song palette and a heart on his sleeve style that conjures up the sounds of everyone from Cat Stevens to Sufjan Stevens.His debut album of last year ‘Kings’ is a superlative, eclectic piece of work showcasing quality songwriting and heartfelt melodies, the grandeur of the song ‘Clear Horizon’ is heartstoppingly brilliant, draped in stately pianos and with a bruised melody that weaves its way into your soul and won’t let go, reflecting a transcendental anthemic quality that buries it’s way into your chest through sky scraping melodies and the refrains (‘we are particles you and I’) that encapsulate the feeling of it being you and the one you love against the world.If there was any justice in the world this would be a hit, right this minute!