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American folk singer/songwriter Samantha Crain studied English literature at Oklahoma Baptist University before embarking on her songwriting career, so it should come as no surprise that her songs reveal a particular talent for interweaving sound and story. Crain’s Oklahoma roots are evident both in her musical style, which is firmly rooted in classic Americana, and in her lyrical references to character and place. Her third album and UK debut release ‘Kid Face’ opens with the striking lyric “This horse kicked me in the heart then asked me if I want another start” before taking off into the galloping rhythm of ‘Never Going Back’. Throughout the album, Crain’s singing voice is rich and intense, with just a hint of grit sneaking into its timbre here and there, and her delivery has a very natural rhythmic tendency, as evidenced in the sultry swing of ‘Taught to Lie’, and the slow shuffle of the album’s title track, featured in the live performance video below.
Crain has recently followed up on ‘Kid Face’ with a new track called ‘Outside the Pale’. Immediately distinctive with a prominent bowed string instrumentation over the usual percussion and guitar, the song is equally striking in the defiant perspective of its lyrics: “the underdogs of human thought within the infrared / you and I, we tell the stories the TV won’t release / they keep us in the wild, under branch and thorn and tree / outside the pale”. While Crain doesn’t specifically intend to write protest songs, she says that her stories “are told from the perspective of the underdog, the 99% of us that are working people. They might not be literal protest songs, but the lives of the people within these songs speak at the same volume if you listen.”
The aforementioned ‘Outside the Pale’ lyric also contains the title to Crain’s upcoming fourth album ‘Under Branch & Thorn & Tree’. The new album continues in the vein of ‘Kid Face’, with Crain once again enlisting John Vanderslice for production duties, but it takes a more dramatic musical tone, often diverging into jazz territory with its expansive instrumental arrangements and subtly nuanced rhythmic ideas. Standout track ‘Kathleen’ showcases the full expressive range of Crain’s singing voice, from her blissfully light upper register tones down to the velvety texture of her lower notes. By contrast, the steady chugging tempo of ‘Big Rock’ is rough around the edges, gaining traction in the rhythm section as Crain sings through the single-mindedly determined chorus. The full album ‘Under Branch & Thorn & Tree’ is due for release on the 17th of July via indie label Full Time Hobby, but you can stream ‘Outside the Pale’ just below, courtesy of Full Time Hobby’s Soundcloud.
Have you ever been sat at work daydreaming about what life would be like in a band? We’ve all been there. However, this dream became a reality for Clay, a four-piece band from Yorkshire. By day, they are your everyday builders and supermarket workers. By night, they tear up the stage with their unique sound that spans multiple genres.
Formed in October 2014, Clay is made up of four lads aged between 17 and 20: two brothers, Joe and Jack, and two friends, Rob and Danny. Heavily influenced by the likes of Jungle, The Charlatans and Primal Scream, the group brings together synths, guitars and drums to form an exuberant, indie funk mix.
Their debut single ‘Sun Dance’ received huge support from radio stations, including airplay from the likes of Zane Lowe and Huw Stephens on BBC Radio 1, as well as XFM. Since then, they have embarked on their first nationwide tour, which included a sold-out headline show at Oporto in Leeds, and appeared at The Great Escape and Dot to Dot Festival; quite the achievement for a band that have been together for less than nine months.
Riding off the success of their debut single, Clay have unveiled ‘Oxygen’, a highly infectious track that features crisp vocals and a throbbing beat. It’s the type of track that will make you want to turn the volume up loud and belt the chorus out at the top of your lungs. To coincide with the launch of the single, the four-piece are performing at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds on Monday 22 June.
Having got off to a flying start, there’s certainly a bright future for Clay. If they can keep the momentum going, they could very easily follow in the footsteps of fellow Yorkshire talent such as Kaiser Chiefs and The Pigeon Detectives. And, if it doesn’t work out, they always have their day jobs to fall back on.
Header photo from the BBC’s Jack Garratt archive at Reading and Leeds 2014
Amongst the British Music Embassy SXSW 2015 showcases in Austin, BBC Introducing and the PRS Foundation will be hosting a 22-year old already creating some serious waves.
In a previous life, Jack Garratt might have been considered a ‘one-man band’. The term following him around at the moment tends to be ‘multi-instrumentalist’ or ‘bedroom producer’ however; both terms which go far beyond underselling him. With James Blake and The xx comparisons already being drawn, his electronic influences have gathered many new fans since he served up an impressive debut EP, ‘Remnants’, and a breathtaking Reading and Leeds set, during 2014.
The bearded songsmith has been hitting all the aural sweet spots on this rise. Take the soft backbeats of his early track ‘Worry’; 9 months on since its Soundcloud debut and the slick beats, bluesy vocals and angular synths have been streamed over 1 million times. On his other early material (try ‘Water’), his ambitious use of sound and texture is also evident, the shimmering electro-bass hooks justifiably seizing your attention, along with the sharp chimes of jazz keys.
Garratt has already spent his time refining and developing this sound mind you, and is just as capable at experimenting away from these catchier, radio-friendly moments. He meshes his soulfulness with a chilling atmosphere on ‘The Love You’re Given’, as warm r&b influences and his mesmerising vocals come together with refreshing ease on the slow-burning ballad. For all the heartfelt beauty this produces, his production skills come to the fore with the howling energy that the closing chorus hits you with, as a colourful and contrasting blur of synths dramatically engulfing you.
On what will be one of his first trips to America, Garratt is likely be humbled by any crowd who turn out for him at SXSW. The truth is that really, if you miss him and his talented live expose in building up songs from single beats to the potent waves of energy that his music culminates in, you’ll be missing a truly game-changing young artist who’s headed for stages in front of thousands in the very near future.
Jack Garratt appears as part of the BBC Introducing and PRS Showcase on Wednesday the 18th of March at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30; read more about the night in Mary’s preview here. Catch him at the following appearances:
Wednesday 18/3 – British Music Embassy / BBC Introducing and PRS for Music Foundation @ Latitude 30, 11 PM
Thursday 19/3 – New Shapes @ Red Eyed Fly, 4:45 PM
Friday 20/3 – Communion @ St. David’s Historic Sanctuary, 12:45 AM
Folk / punk / rock outfit Skinny Lister surely rank as one of the must-see bands at SXSW 2015. Their songs are the populist, crowd-pleasing singalong type that you might expect to hear from their Xtra Mile label mate Frank Turner, but with six members in the band, they are able to create an even bolder and more expansive sonic ethos. As with so many bands these days, they break through genre barriers to combine the traditional instrumentation of folk music with the spirit and energy of rock and roll, and they throw a hint of punk attitude into the mix for added flair.
Band members Daniel Heptinstall, siblings Lorna and Maxwell Thomas, Michael Camino, Thom Mills and Sam Brace hail from different parts of England, but they share a common background in folk music that remains at the heart of their sound. Skinny Lister’s first album ‘Forge & Flagon’ was unmistakably rooted in that tradition, drawing the inevitable comparison to Mumford and Sons when it was released in the summer of 2012. But with their upcoming album ‘Down on Deptford Broadway’, they have expanded their stylistic repertoire beyond waltzes and sea shantys, at least as far as the first teaser tracks are concerned.
Current single ‘Cathy’ is described on Skinny Lister’s Web page as “one of several songs about a scarlet lady, someone that you’ve fallen for that you shouldn’t have fallen for”. The accompanying video includes a presumably metaphorical biology lesson about jellied eels; read into that what you will as you watch below.
Judging from the two live gig videos we’ve previously featured (‘This Is War’ and ‘Trouble on Oxford Street’), Skinny Lister’s raucous energy and infectious vocal harmonies are enough to steal the spotlight at any showcase they might play. And, as an added bonus, they feature an accordion and an upright bass in their guitar-driven instrumental arrangements. Who doesn’t love a well-played accordion?
If you aren’t making the trek to Austin this year, you can get your Skinny Lister fix later this spring. The band’s new album ‘Down on Deptford Broadway’ is due for release on the 20th of April via Xtra Mile Recordings. Just following the release, Skinny Lister will play a run of live dates back in the UK. Previous TGTF coverage of Skinny Lister can be found here.
Oklahoma-based garage punk band Broncho are set to take SXSW 2015 by storm later this month after spending February on tour with punk icon Billy Idol. Their current support slot for The Growlers‘ 5-day residency at Brooklyn’s Baby’s All Right runs through the first week of March, then the group will head to Austin before setting out on their own American West Coast headline dates.
Broncho’s current LP ‘Just Enough Hip To Be Woman’ was released in September 2014 on Dine Alone Records. Its opening track ‘What’ is characteristic of the album as a whole, heavy on chugging guitars and sullen vocals. Each of its 11 comprising tracks is concise and to the point; the album clocks in at just over 30 minutes total.
The current single from the album is called ‘NC-17’, referring to the movie rating that signifies adult content. While the accompanying video for the song doesn’t merit that rating (you can watch it below to see for yourself), its lo-fi home movie quality reflects Broncho’s garage band sound to a tee.
My early pick for Best Earworm of SXSW 2015 goes to ‘Class Historian’, whose trippy “do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do” refrain will likely take up residence in the ears and minds of Austin punters for months to come. Aside from that pervasive melody, the song’s tempo is driven by the persistent drum rhythm and the deep reverb of the guitar lines. Just below, watch a live performance video of ‘Class Historian’ recorded at Austin’s KUTX studios back in November.
‘Just Enough Hip to Be Woman’ is slightly more refined than Broncho’s previous album, 2013’s ‘Can’t Get Past The Lips’. Their early brash punk style played out there in the album track ‘Try Me Out Sometime’, which has a grittier instrumental sound behind the anxious energy of its insistently repetitive lyrics.
If you’re not yet convinced about Broncho, you can stream ‘Just Enough Hip To Be Woman’ in full on their Soundcloud. The band are scheduled to play several official showcases at SXSW 2015, including the Dine Alone Records tenth anniversary show on the 18th of March at the Bungalow.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 27th February 2015 at 12:00 pm
SXSW 2015 will be a special time, as Music Wales will be presenting a nighttime showcase on the first night of the official SXSW Music festivities, on Tuesday the 17th of March. It’s just the beginning of an amazing week of evening (and afternoon) programming on tap for festival punters at the British Music Embassy, back at its usual home of Latitude 30 on San Jacinto Boulevard. The People the Poet from South Wales will open the Music Wales night and definitely start the UK contingent’s programming off with a bang. The band were bestowed the honour of being just one of 12 acts chosen out of over 450 who applied for Horizons, the BBC Cymru Wales and Arts Council of Wales project committed to supporting the independent music being made in Wales and helping them with their careers.
Formerly known under the moniker Tiger Please, the little bit folk, little bit pop, little bit rock band released 2009’s ‘They Don’t Change Under Moonlight’ and 2010’s ‘Seasons’ EP, both critically acclaimed. At the end of 2013, they released their long awaited debut album ‘The Narrator’, under their new name The People the Poet. The hard graft of the five-piece over the last 7 years plus paid off, with the self-released LP reaching #38 on the iTunes Rock Albums chart on release day without management or major label backing and it receiving a nomination for the Welsh Music Prize. Tyla Campbell of the band told me they had previously applied for a SXSW shout twice and without success, so third time’s absolutely a charm for them this year, as they make their maiden voyage to Austin next month.
We’re not sure where the band’s current name came from, but the juxtaposition of the two images their name conjures up – the passionate proletariat masses represented by “The People” contrasting with the calm, brooding and introspective “Poet” – describes their sound quite well. ‘Nobody Else Like You’, inspired by the loss of a parent, features guest vocals from legendary ex-It Bites frontman Francis Dunnery, his voice lending a bit more heft to The People half of their enterprise. In its sweeping grandeur whilst describing the life-changing event of fatherhood, track ‘Stabilisers (I Will Be)’ from ‘The Narrator’ will remind you of Coldplay and Keane at their most anthemic.
Lyrical content for the tunes on their debut album was all crowd sourced, with The People The Poet humbly asking their fans to send in true stories about their lives. This allowed the band to engage their fans in an incredibly personal way that I don’t think had ever been done before, so I have no reason to believe they won’t be able to get the crowd at Latitude 30 eating out of their hand and backing them in quick order either. Get in to see them in reasonably sized venues while you still can.
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