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By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 8th September 2016 at 12:00 pm
Art doesn’t happen in a vacuum, does it? And with respect to the most noble art form of them all (to us here at TGTF Towers, anyway), the statement is especially true when it comes to music. Over the last few weeks, there have been gentle burblings about some new electronic kids in town. Except they aren’t really new kids at all. Yet another band with an unGoogleable name, the disco-leaning Boredom comprises ex-Delphic singer and bassist James Cook and Melodic Records label manager Andy Moss.
As is becoming increasingly de rigueur in music, their new musical partnership was cemented by digital means. Emails passed back and forth between Cook’s current location Amsterdam and Moss’ Salford, as the pair realised they had “a shared love of Polish disco, ‘80s Japanese pop and Paradise garage mixes”. “We’ve been emailing each other tunes we liked for years”, explains Cook. “The common thread was always real musicianship woven into electronic, danceable tunes…that hint of a human being in there making mistakes that computers don’t.” An EP out next week represents their first foray into the electronic world as Boredom, and what’s been already revealed is anything but.
Title track and lead single ‘Geometry’ is icy in its precision instrumentally. This chilly air extends to the vocals, not coming into until well after the 2-and-a-half minute mark, harkening back to the disaffected vocals of Pet Shop Boys’ ‘West End Girls’. Except there’s a sinister sneering quality to the minor key, especially in the chorus, making it feel that much more dangerous: “it’s a sin, always a sin / to keep it in, so I feel it out”. With its glittering synths, ‘Turn Your Head’ is the more straightforward of the two original tracks, the funky as all heck bass line proving to be the true star of the show. While there’s been no talk of an album – yet – the next logical step for Boredom is to see what else they can come up with between the two of them. Watch this space.
The ‘Geometry’ EP by new Amsterdam / Salford act Boredom is scheduled for release on the 16th of September on Melodic Records. The 12” vinyl follows on the 30th of the month. For more information on the digital and physical versions of the EP, visit Melodic Records’ Web site.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 5th July 2016 at 12:00 pm
2015 was the year of XL Recordings rising stars and sisters Ibeyi. 2016 boasts a new sister act destined for greatness, and we have Rob Da Bank to thank in bringing them to our attention. Holly and Coco Chant, who are now better known under their whimsical act name Xylaroo, released their debut album ‘Sweetooth’ on Da Bank’s Sunday Best label. Prior to its release, they racked up support from Radio X’s John Kennedy on BBC 6 Music’s indie champion Steve Lamacq. No small feat indeed. One thing you should be aware of from the get-go with Xylaroo: prepare to be surprised.
But what made me stand up and notice the pair was an acoustic (dubbed ‘Home Sessions’) version they did of Arctic Monkeys’ ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’. The stripped-back approach Xylaroo took to one of the Sheffield band’s biggest hits added an unexpected fragility through their expressive voices. The sisters tapped into an entirely new facet to an otherwise one-dimensional, annoyingly frenetic tune I never warmed up to. It was a conversation starter, if there ever was one.
Their first single, ‘Sunshine’, may come as a shock after you learn about their globetrotting upbringing. The song features a quote from Dolly Parton, yet after being bounced around the world to follow the career of their civil engineer father, the sisters started gigging in Maidstone, Kent. They spent 10 of their nearly 25 years of life there, “around the Medway scene where all the bands were doing ska”. Not exactly where you’d imagine the beginning of a duo more aligned with the dulcet, harmonious tones of fellow sisters First Aid Kit than The Specials. The sisters are quick to point out that it was during their time living and going to school in Sri Lanka that they picked up a simpler way of performing, watching locals sing and play the guitar.
The sweet sound of ‘On My Way’ is jarred by the mention of black magic practitioner Aleister Crowley, drug use, a 2-day drinking binge and the gaily sung lyrics “I’m on my way to hell”. If this is the way to the River Styx, it couldn’t be any more enticing. Same goes for minor key masterpiece ‘Consume Me’, with its references to cannabis, coke and lust. The title of ‘Set Me on Fire and Send Me to Canada’ seems oddly prescient of the minds of some Remain voters post-Brexit, but it’s actually a saxophone-tinged, upbeat yet wistful number. If the Chant sisters were locked in a room with the Soderbergs, would they get along famously? Or would there be dead silence? Until that meeting happens, we’ll just delight in the wonderful melodies and harmonies Xylaroo have gifted us.
‘Sweetooth’, the debut album by Xylaroo, is available now from Sunday Best / PIAS.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 1st July 2016 at 12:00 pm
Words by Aine Cronin-McCartney
Forming in 2012, the Icelandic indie quartet Kaleo met after attending school together. Kaleo – which translates to ‘the sound’ in Hawaiian – quickly became a phenomenon in their own country. Releasing their music independently and building up a huge fan base, the band were quickly signed to Iceland’s biggest record label, Sena, in 2013. The band recorded their self-titled debut album in an incredible 6 weeks, scoring five number one singles and playing multiple festival slots across Europe. This included appearing at Culture Night, the biggest festival in their home country, where they played to 100,000 people and reached 90% of Iceland’s population via tv broadcast.
The release of their single ‘Pretty Girls’, inspired by the beautiful nature and mood of the beautiful summers of Iceland caught people’s attention. The song showcases singer Jökull Júlíusson, who has a delicate tenderness to his voice and is very reminiscent of Bon Iver throughout the track. After signing to Atlantic Records in early 2015, the band decided to leave their island home, relocating to Austin, Texas, where they have since been making waves across America, including getting mainstream radio airplay. Since then, the single has been included in a multitude of advertisements, tv programmes and video games, as well as topping the American Billboard chart with their singles.
Their newest album ‘A/B’ was released on the 10th of June. The first half of the album is distinctly different to the second half, created to emulate the format of a vinyl record. Songs such as ‘Way Down We Go’ help bring their own brand of Icelandic folk and blues to a mainstream audience, with the sombre narrative of Júlíusson’s vocals hauntingly woven throughout. The band also appropriately performed the song ‘Way Down We Go’ live inside the depths of Iceland’s Þríhnúkagígur volcano located outside of Reykjavik, captured stunningly on video.
The album begins with the track ‘No Good’, which was also featured in the recent music-themed HBO series Vinyl and contains crushing riffs from guitarist Rubin Pollock. Accompanied by a grittier vocal from Júlíusson, the band deliver the perfect, hard-hitting blues rock song. The blues and soul vibe is evident throughout the album, from the thick percussion on ‘Glass House’, to the introspective and brutally honest lyrics of ‘Save Yourself’. What has made Kaleo truly unique? They have used their remote upbringing, against the backdrop of breath taking landscapes, as inspiration to help craft and create their own sound.
Kaleo are scheduled to play a sold out show on the 12th of July at London Dingwalls. The gig was moved from the Lexington after it sold out within 5 minutes. They will return in November to play a short string of dates in the UK and Ireland.
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 27th June 2016 at 12:00 pm
Words by Adam McCourt
Luke Reilly, Conor Wynne, David Anthony and Rob Summons make up the vibrant Dublin four-piece Otherkin, who have had quite the ride in the past 18 months. They began as four lads from Dublin, dressed in oversized jumpers, beanie hats and Vans shoes, who started a band for fun. Following a makeover, taking on Doc Martens, black leather and denim jackets, and half unbuttoned shirts, they’re now a well-oiled unit of vigorous rock striving to make it in the industry.
They signed to top Irish indie label Rubyworks in early 2015 after they self-released the rambunctious track ‘Ay, Ay’. By October, they released their debut EP ‘The 201’, and before they knew it, they went from playing the local Dublin live scene to being added to the bill of top Irish and UK festivals including Latitude andLongitude, Reading and Leeds, The Great Escape and Live at Leeds, as well as an extensive 23-date UK and Ireland tour at the end of 2015. You can read a review of their live set as part of Becky’s Live at Leeds 2016 Roundup here.
Throughout 2015 and into 2016, the momentum these Dublin lads were garnering only grew, receiving praise and support from the BBC’s top radio DJs Annie Mac, Huw Stephens and Phil Taggart, as well as having both singles from ‘The 201’, ‘Ay, Ay’ and ‘Feel It’, added to MTV Rocks’ video playlist.
Otherkin have just released their second EP ‘The New Vice’ and what a record it is! Building on their previous works, the new release carries the attitude of early ‘70’s British punk, the humility of their native Irish pop rock, and the charisma of American stadium rock. It is a quartet of pure energy that matches their live shows with in your face thumpers. Perfectly executed singles ‘I Was Born’ and ‘Yeah, I Know’ will leave you quivering in their wake.
Their songs are filled to the brim with a wall of guitars, with underlying Queens of the Stone Age-like riffs. Add a layer of raunchy, distorted bass lines and pounding, fast-paced drums that resonate through your chest (think Eagles of Death Metal’s ‘I Want You So Hard’). Finally, top it with a vocal projection on par with Damon Albarn of Blur and lyrical hooks reminiscent to The Ramones’ classic ‘The Blitzkrieg Bop’, and it’s clear to see why Otherkin are off to a rocketing start with no signs of stopping!
‘The New Vice’ is out now on Rubyworks. Be sure to catch Otherkin at one of their many live appearances this summer, including next on 2nd of July at Eurockéennes Festival in France. Other stops this festival season include both Latitude and Longitude, Indiependence, Lowlands in Holland, and Reading and Leeds at the end of August.
Dutch-born singer Annelotte de Graaf, who goes by the stage moniker Amber Arcades, has recently announced her signing to Heavenly Recordings. She has already revealed two singles, ‘Turning Light’ and ‘Right Now’, ahead of her debut album release. The unusual yet cohesive blend of shimmering folk and subtle synthpop is brought together on both singles, and both are a taste of the singer’s debut LP ‘Fading Lines’, which will be out in June. De Graaf’s unorthodox sound is only one aspect of her appeal: her non-music exploits are equally interesting. When she isn’t writing and recording music, De Graaf can be found pursuing humanitarian work, including working with the UN to aid people who have fled Syria. De Graaf began writing back in 2010 and released her first EP in 2012. For her debut LP, she teamed up with producer Ben Greenberg (who has worked with Brooklyn-based Beach Fossils and The Men, among other acts), flying out to New York last year to record with Greenberg in Brooklyn’s Strange Weather studio.
Amber Arcades’ sound is fresh and iridescent, with an elegant and unassuming style that has a lasting impact and will be stuck in your head long after you hear the tracks. While Amber Arcades is De Graaf’s alias as a solo artist, she recorded her debut with a band, comprising of Shane Butler and Keven Lareau of Quilt, and Jackson Pollis of Real Estate on guitar, bass and drums respectively. This collaboration, along with Greenberg’s production, has resulted in an ethereal and lofty couple of tracks, which have set a precedent for one highly anticipated LP.
Both previously unveiled songs ‘Turning Light’ and ‘Right Now’ are tantalising, pairing De Graaf’s gentle, dreamy vocals with hypnotising rhythms. Each track offers something different, yet taps into the unique signature sound that Amber Arcades embodies. ‘Turning Light’ is a mesmerising track, layered with a harmony of otherworldly sounds. The lyrics “when all is quiet / I’m inside turning light” show the simple yet introspective nature of the song. There’s a gentle, dreaminess to the track, which makes sense, considering it was dreamed up in the early hours of the morning. The steady thump of the drumbeat along with De Graaf’s serene voice creates a ghostliness amplified by the subtle synth static and trippy guitars that accompany it.
‘Right Now’ opens boldly with the crisp jangling of a guitar, which sounds at first like it might be better suited to a country number, or at the beginning of a Magnetic Fields song. The folky riff, playing off of the refined, ethereal nature of De Graaf’s vocals, as well as the steady beat of drums, all draw together to make something that sounds like it probably shouldn’t work but really does. The chorus is as catchy as it is poignant: there’s a beautiful simplicity to the song, sounding like it’s been forged out of pure sunlight. De Graaf has created a sound that is a mixture of subtle melancholy and glittering energy.
Amber Arcades’ debut album ‘Fading Lines’ is scheduled for release on Heavenly Recordings on the 3rd of June. She appeared at SXSW 2016 last month in Austin. She has a number of upcoming dates scheduled around the UK and Europe, including The Great Escape in Brighton, Green Man Festival in Wales, and Amsterdam Woods Festival.
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.
At just 22 years of age, Frances already has two heady honours under her belt, having been shortlisted for both the 2016 BRITs’ Critics Choice Award and the BBC Sound of 2016 (both of which ultimately went to Jack Garratt). In 2015, the Oxford singer/songwriter released three singles in 2015: ‘Grow’, ‘Let It Out’ and ‘Borrowed Time’. This past week, she followed these with the release of ‘Don’t Worry About Me’ on Capitol Records.
‘Grow’, Frances’ debut single, is a confidently understated track. It’s just Frances and her piano, accompanied by a symphony of vocals at times, before returning to the gentle lull of piano and voice. Despite her relatively short career, she’s also been cowriting with some fairly big names already. Most recently, Frances has been working with Greg Kurstin, who collaborated with Adele on her mammoth comeback hit ‘Hello’. ‘Borrowed Time’ was cowritten with Howard Lawrence of Disclosure and is thus a synthpop number . However, the song still puts focus on her incredible vocal range.
Newest Frances single ‘Don’t Worry About Me’ starts gently and softly, with emphasis placed on the strength of Frances’ crystal-clear vocals, before the piano and layered vocals join in, allowing the track to swell with a choral intensity. Frances’ vocals sound like a blend between Birdy and Lorde: her voice has the power and gravity of Lorde’s tones, paired with the stripped-back nature of Birdy, also matching Birdy’s purity and clarity of tone. Judging by the successes that she has achieved so far less than 2 years after the release of her debut single, she seems set to follow in both Birdy and Lorde’s footsteps and we can expect to hear a lot more from her over the coming year.
Frances has a number of upcoming festival dates set for the coming year, including SXSW this week (her appearances in Austin includes a slot at the BBC Introducing and PRS for Music Foundation showcase Wednesday night at the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30), Coachella, Blissfields and Frequency. She is also scheduled to join James Bay on a number of his performances at the Hammersmith Apollo in London this month.
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