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By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 10th February 2016 at 6:00 pm
Things have definitely gotten…interesting in the Vampire Weekend camp as of late. Two weeks ago, founding member Rostam Batmanglij announced he was leaving the band, but he left the door open to future collaborations with his former bandmates, or at least one of them: “[Vampire Weekend frontman] Ezra [Koenig] and I will continue to collaborate on future projects and future VW”. Three days after the announcement, he revealed the track ‘Wood’. (The remaining band members – Koenig, drummer Chris Tomson and lead guitarist Chris Baio took to the Midwest last month to stump for Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, where they sung ‘This Land is Your Land’ with the presidential candidate.)
But this all is nothing new to Vampire Weekend’s lead guitarist Baio, who released his solo debut album ‘The Names’ last September. If his Facebook is to be believed, he’s left New York for London, and perhaps this may give us a clue on dance pop direction. Or so I’m guessing, anyway. While there’s definitely still a feeling of Vampire Weekend – see ‘Contra’ track ‘White Sky’, for one – the song is much more dancier than the NYC band went in for 2013’s ‘Modern Vampires of the City’, which seems to suggest Baio wasn’t ready to give up the dance groove and African rhythms just yet.
I was actually more amused by this video for album title track ‘The Names’ than I expected, with Baio and a skull hamming it up. I thought their unconventional “date” would be appropriate ahead of Valentine’s Day. Watch it below. ‘The Names’ the album is out now on Glassnote Records.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 10th February 2016 at 12:00 pm
Editor’s note: we’re making some exciting changes in the way we cover SXSW 2016 this year, especially in the way we preview all the bands that we want to introduce you to before the big event in Austin in March. Read all about our big plans here.
Lusts and Moats are a pair of up-and-coming indie rock acts from the UK, hailing from Leicester and Biggleswade, respectively. But a five-lettered, monosyllabic name isn’t the only thing they have in common. Both channel the spirit of the shoegaze era, as well as some of the giants of new wave.
Leicester duo Lusts, brothers Andy and James Stone, released their debut album ‘Illuminations’ in 2015. These siblings got the idea to start a band together following a trip to Paris, writing their entire album in their parents’ bedroom while playing films on a projector, to “see what ideas were conjured up”. The ‘Illuminations’ LP is a dreamy mix of new wave, psychedelia and indie rock: a fine example of what 21st century music has to offer. For those who worry that music isn’t as great now as it was in the good ol’ days, Lusts might just be the band to change your mind.
The first single to be released from their debut album and the one that caused quite a stir last year is ‘Temptation’, a hazy number with tantalising drum, bass, guitar, and synth rhythms that dance together across the track, and with vocals floating amongst the music like a ghostly spirit. Similar not only in title but also in style to New Order’s ‘Temptation’, both songs portray a melancholy dreariness, albeit with Lusts’ being faster-paced and glimmering with more of a shoegaze haze. Title track ‘Illuminations’ is reminiscent of early Vaccines, especially the vocal comparison to Justin Young’s smoky baritone. Musically, it’s comparable too, particularly at the beginning of the song when the jangly guitar breaks in. I can just picture it being the perfect soundtrack for an edgy independent film about an underdog or outsider.
The duo have been compared to Echo and The Bunnymen so often, they must be tempted to question their own creative originality. But these comparisons don’t stem from the media’s need to dilute Lusts’ captivating variety of gloom. It’s because Lusts transcend the time they’re in and have created a debut LP so put together and sure of itself. They sound like a band coming into the game with what they want to do already worked out, and it’s easy to imagine them following in the trajectory of the Vaccines, or even Arctic Monkeys, both bands whose debut albums were impressively put together and self-assured.
Moats (pictured at top) are a quartet from Biggleswade who, like Lusts, have a variety of new wave and post-punk influences. Their latest single ‘Hungry’ has been played on BBC Radio 1, and BBC Radio 6 and received attention on BBC Introducing’s markets in Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire. The band has also just announced that they will be touring with Brighton band Yonaka in March. Yonaka have an edgy pop-inspired sound that will tie in well with Moats’ gritty pop-esque indie rock.
Back in 2012, Moats released their debut LP ‘Singapore’ under a “name your price” scheme for the entire nine-track album. It was also recorded, mixed and produced independently, further showing their indie spirit. 2015 saw the album’s opening track ‘Toothache’ remastered and released on Spotify. The tune is an exciting blend of stuttering guitar rhythms, with a soothing indie pop beginning, leading to a heavier build towards the middle when the band’s Matt Duncan’s throaty growl erupts on the track. ‘Toothache’ has a similar sound to the xx, particularly with the addition of Asya Fairchild’s vocals. As the relatively under-the-radar singer/songwriter living in Brighton joins Duncan on the track, but she succeeds in acting as a gentle antidote to Duncan’s edgy drawl.
New single ‘Hungry’ begins gentle and mournful, with the soft, spooky pluck of a guitar riff teasing along the track over the gentle motion of a drumbeat. Then Duncan starts singing, his raw, sharp vocals standing out well against the melody. As the grandiose guitars break out about halfway through the track, before being fragmented by slower, quieter moments, instrumentally I’m reminded of Editors. Duncan’s lead vocals are filled with a gritty appetite, echoing a quote from a recent interview, in which the song is described as being about “craving something really badly and constantly working hard towards feeding that craving”. Imagine a dialled down Frank Carter.
Moats operate on the post-punk frequency that has done so much to shape contemporary music. Having said this, the combination of Moats’ music and Duncan’s intense, and oftentimes harrowing voice moves the band into the realm of the uncharted.
Both Lusts and Moats seem to be pushing at the edges of the genres that inspire them. The two bands have a number of dates lined up for the coming year, and both are scheduled to appear at SXSW 2016 in Austin.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 9th February 2016 at 6:00 pm
Django Django released their second album ‘Born Under Saturn’ in spring 2015, which is now available on Ribbon Music. They now have a new video out for album cut ‘Life We Know’. Looking like a craft shop class run amok and on steroids, the promo looks like collages being built up and covered over with photos from their own travels around the world as a touring band. Watch it below.
Catch more of our coverage here on TGTF on Django Django here.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 9th February 2016 at 12:00 pm
Banners, the stage name of Liverpudlian singer/songwriter Mike Nelson, is set to make waves at SXSW 2016 next month. (Read Rebecca’s introduction to Banners from last month here.) Why do I say this? Every once in a while, I get a weird feeling in my bones about a new artist after listening to their music and I just know that superstardom awaits them. (Full disclosure: while I haven’t been 100% accurate, my record is none too shabby, having correctly predicted the success of Two Door Cinema Club, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Kodaline and The 1975.) I got the same kind of feeling upon hearing the opening track of Banners’ self-titled EP released last month.
‘Start a Riot’ begins as reverential as might be expected in this era of pop fully embracing synths and effects: with the electronic echo of a choir that are recalled a couple of times throughout the track. It’s a sweeping tune reminiscent of early Coldplay, with the guitars being the most energetic part of the track. Despite the single’s combative title, Nelson’s own vocals are more emotional than argumentative, providing support to a loved one “when your world falls apart” and “if night falls in your heart / I’d light the fire / in the dark, when you sound the alarm / we’ll find each other’s arms / for your love”. ‘Ghosts’ later on in the EP is another Banners track done in a wistful, Chris Martin style.
This slower, contemplative mood doesn’t last. You go straight into ‘Shine a Light’ next, a Kodaline-esque number with plenty of sing-along moments, so much that you can easily imagine it having been penned and sung by Steve Garrigan. Nelson has explained “the song is about feeling lost at sea and desperately searching for a beacon of light. It’s about waiting for that one big wave to finally pull you under while clinging on to that one last ray of hope. It’s a song to the person in your life that offers salvation while the storm is raging around you.” Given that, the use of Nelson’s forlorn falsetto in the slower verses to provide contrast with the faster, bouncier rock chorus is done to great effect, as if to mimic the highs and lows, the ebb and flow of our lives.
EP standout ‘Gold Dust’ is another anthemic pop number with a driving beat. In it, Nelson maintains a positive, engaging stance, insisting that like an alchemist, “when the nights grow cold / and it’s all gone to rust / we can turn it into gold dust”, he came make things better with his love. The EP ends on an equally strong note, with ‘Back When We Had Nothing’. It’s a nostalgic, yet painfully melancholic look back at a simpler, more innocent time.“I feel my blood rushing / burning like a glory blaze / back when we had nothing / we had everything”, he sings, with the desire of wanting to recapture that feeling. Nelson’s strong vocals, bolstered by glittering synths: pop doesn’t get much better than this.
The ‘Banners’ EP is out now on Island Records. If you’re lucky enough to live in North America, you’re in luck. Do yourself a favour and get yourself to one of the many club gigs Banners has scheduled before and after SXSW 2016. He also will be appearing at the Great Escape 2016 in Brighton in May.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 9th February 2016 at 11:00 am
What has now become an annual highlight of the week at SXSW is the BBC Introducing and PRS for Music Foundation’s evening showcase at Latitude 30, the home of the British Music Embassy in Austin during the event. Last week, Steve Lamacq announced the six artists that will be gracing the BME’s stage the night of Wednesday the 16th of March, and we can’t wait to introduce them to you. Impressively, nearly every region of the UK is well represented on this list, except for Northern Ireland (which will be putting on their own afternoon showcase on St. Patrick’s Day, when else?) and Scotland (who we hope will have their own showcase as well).
Hailing from the North East of England, Billie Marten is a young female singer/songwriter from Ripon, North Yorkshire. Even 2 years ago when she still sported braces on her teeth, her musical talent was picked up by Burberry Acoustic. Fast forward 2 years, and the young Marten’s delicate, yet smoky vocals have further matured; check out her evocative single ‘Bird’ below. With over 13,000 Facebook likes even before setting foot in America, something tells us mainstream success is just around the corner for this lass.
With a name sounding like they should be a variant of Transformers than a band, Cardiff-based trio Estrons will be representing Wales at the BBC Introducing night. It’s no surprise their fresh and frenetic music has already received backing from BBC Radio 1’s Huw Stephens and Annie Mac. Fronted by Canadian-Swede Taliesyn Kallström who appear to be channelling the spirit of riot grrls like Siouxsie, Courtney Love and MayKay of Fight Like Apes for her vocal delivery, they’ll definitely be bringing unbridled energy to the evening.
If it hasn’t happened already, Newbury, Berkshire born singer/songwriter Frances will be on the lips of the world’s music pundits before the month is out. Despite having only one EP to her name – ‘Grow’, released last summer via Communion Records – she’s already nominated for a BRIT, the 2016 Critic’s Choice Award. She’s been compared to Florence Welch and Ellie Goulding, but except for the ginger colour of her hair and the length of it, I don’t see much of a comparison. Frances is her own woman.
Isaac Gracie first gained prominence on BBC Introducing Norfolk, but it appears he’s decamped now to the West London area of Ealing. He’s already sold out a who in London, garnered attention from NME, and been anointed with a Zane Lowe World Record on Beats 1. For brokenhearted fans of the late Jeff Buckley, to devotees of Johnny Flynn and the Sussex Wit, you’ll definitely take to Gracie’s style of rough, dusty, contemplative songwriting, as exemplified in his track ‘Last Words’.
Lammo loves the Crookes. A lot. So I was gobsmacked he’d found another Sheffield band to put his weight behind. The lucky recipients? The Sherlocks, who our own Rebecca has been aware of since her schooldays some years ago in South Yorkshire when they first started knocking around the Steel City. More like the Arctic Monkeys when they began than the Monkeys sound these days, their sound is one of brash guitars and cool rock ‘n’ roll. Have a listen to their debut single ‘Live for the Moment’.
Staying in the North but heading due west, we reach Warrington, whose most famous musical son up to this point has been Ian Brown of the Stone Roses. This is all about to change when Viola Beach (pictured at top) will bring their sunny and terribly infectious indie pop / rock to the BBC Introducing night in Austin. Will they follow in the footsteps of BBC Introducing 2015 night alums Blossoms to bring acclaim to another town outside of Manchester? Definitely. ‘Get to Dancing’ below.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 8th February 2016 at 6:00 pm
Liverpool’s Clean Cut Kid have unveiled the promo video for their single ‘Pick Me Up’. In it, we follow a young man who is doing a pretty mundane task – cleaning a massive house – and is getting through it by losing himself in the world that’s afforded to him by the music coming through the headphones he’s wearing. Who here can’t relate to that? The band themselves appear all over the house, as if cheering our young protagonist along. What a great concept for a video!
Clean Cut Kid will be appearing at SXSW 2016 next month in Austin. Read Rebecca’s introduction of them and their touring bandmates this month, Brighton’s Fickle Friends, in this SXSW 2016 flavoured Bands to Watch post.
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