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The new track ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’ from Wolf Alice rings with energy. This four piece outfit hailing from London has captured the attention of many, garnering Radio 1 airplay with their crushing guitars yet surprisingly delicate vocals from lead singer Ellie Rowsell.
Starting with a deceptive acoustic line, ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’ changes 10 seconds in with a crashing assault on the ear. The simple acoustic line is carried through the noise and cleverly lifts the entire song with its melody keeping a lightness to it, despite the dark lyrics and heavy overlay of noisy guitars on top. They pack an exciting bit of unknown into that explosive 2 and a half minutes. The soft start of this tune that then opens into a nice hard edge on the interior coupled with the non sequitur, oft indecipherable lyrics harken back to my particular favourite, old style Biffy Clyro. If this is the direction the band choses to follow, they will continue to have a great champion in me.
The new Wolf Alice EP ‘Creature Songs’ will be with us on the 26th of May from Dirty Hit Records. Wolf Alice is on tour throughout the UK now, check out their tour dates here. Below is a video released earlier this month of the band performing the song live in session.
A new song from singer/songwriter James Bay has hit our desk and it’s another one to make the girls weak in the knees. I have really been taken with the soulful, mysterious, bluesy offerings of guys like Hozier and Foy Vance, and Mr. James Bay fits this mold quite nicely. ‘Running’ has both the musical chops to make your breast swell and the lyrics to bring a tear to your eye. Lines like “wherever we go” repeat and build like a call to action until you know you will likewise go running to follow this guy anywhere too.
Making a name for himself on the festival circuit, with 2014’s Liverpool Sound City and the Great Escape coming up next, he’s looking to melt hearts across the country. His influence from old school American folk masters the likes of Bob Dylan and James Taylor can be clearly felt. Starting with deep breathy vocals, the escalating intensity with the emotion of the song mimics the fight to be with the one he loves. A perfect blend of keyboard and acoustic guitar prevents it from being labelled as primarily either and the vocal stands out as the primary instrument.
If you are at either Liverpool Sound City or the Great Escape over the next 2 weekends, I highly recommend you checking out this chap.
James Bay’s new EP ‘Let It Go’ is out on 13 May on Republic Records. Listen to ‘Running’ below.
New Zealander-turned-New Yorker Liam Finn has just announced his second studio album, ‘The Nihilist’, with the online release of ‘Burn Up The Road,’ an anxiously energetic guitar-driven track inspired by late night bike rides through the streets of New York. The album itself was made during a series of late night recording sessions, and ‘Burn Up The Road’ certainly has that frenetic, restless feeling of insomnia about it. Its feverish momentum and slightly unsettling vocal delivery is tempered by contemplative lyrics such as, “It’s rough now but I need you girl / I’m miserable when on my own / Is it worth it if you’re mourning?”
Despite the wailing guitars and frenzied rhythms of its instrumental sections, “Burn Up the Road’ doesn’t completely abandon melody, especially on the vocal hook, “In this town of beautiful girls / I look at the menu and always eat at home”. The song’s inherent melodicism and foundational bass groove keep it from descending into a raucous wash of unintelligible noise. Instead, the strident guitar jams take on an agitated feeling of their own, an all-but-unhinged sense of frustrated self-examination to match the song’s nervously neurotic lyrics.
‘The Nihilist’ is due out on the 5th of May on Yep Roc Records. Watch a live video of ‘Burn Up the Road’ below.
Header photo by Rich Gilligan
Side projects and collaborations seem to be all the rage among established musicians these days, and Bell X1 frontman Paul Noonan has recently jumped into the mix with a venture called Printer Clips. The project consists of a series of duets written by Noonan and performed with female singers including previous duet partner Lisa Hannigan, Martha Wainwright, and Julia Stone, then recorded in spontaneous and unstructured settings.
The first release from the project, ‘Apparatchik’, features the somewhat predictable combination of Noonan and Hannigan, whose voices blend together in harmony as beautifully here as on their version of ‘Some Surprise,’ from the 2006 project The Cake Sale. ‘Apparatchik’ is a very pretty, melodic little tune, which I found myself humming back after only one brief listen, but as usual with Noonan’s songwriting, there’s more to it than what’s on the surface. Lyrically, it has moments of downright ugliness, especially in the lines, “These are the punches that we roll with / This is the shit / But it’s so much easier to stomach it / When I’m downwind of you.” The juxtaposition of that obnoxiously unpleasant line with its elegantly lilting melodic phrasing is jarring, I suspect deliberately so.
The song’s title, ‘Apparatchik’, is an old Russian term for a professional member of the Communist party, now often used in a disparaging way to describe members of any large political organization as parts of a self-perpetuating machine. I almost wonder if Noonan might have been referring to his own role in Bell X1 there, but overall the song seems like a larger rumination on life, especially in its final repeated line, which I believe is quoted from a stencil by street artist Banksy, “Laugh now, but one day we’ll be in charge”.
‘Apparatchik’ is the first release from Printer Clips’ upcoming EP ‘The Left Sleeve’, which is due for digital-only release on the 25th of April. A second digital EP, ‘The Right Sleeve’, is scheduled for release on Bone China Records on the 16th of May, followed by a physical and digital release of the full self-titled LP on the 23rd of May. This curious schedule reminds me of the idea Noonan discussed for Bell X1 album ‘Chop Chop’ in my interview with him last year, and it’s interesting to see that design come to fruition, albeit in a slightly different context.
In the end, as always, the interpretation lies with the listener; you can form your own opinion after taking a listen to ‘Apparatchik’ below. Printer Clips will perform a live premiere on the 24th of May at The National Concert Hall, Dublin.
The Horrors have always been synonymous with an urban aesthetic of neon punctured gloom; of gothic, monotone fashion under bulging bouffants. It’s an image that requires two opposing characteristics – a strong sense of self-identity, and a dynamism capable of keeping pace with the zeitgeist. Some would say that the purest blend the five boys from Southend-on-Sea have achieved so far was on 2011’s ‘Skying’, but all the right signs we’re there with the first single from the band’s upcoming album ‘Luminous’, starting with the 7 minute 30 second epic single ‘I See You’. Their follow up, ‘So Now You Know’ – out now on XL Recordings – doesn’t go quite so far. And, here’s why.
A ponderous opening from the rhythm section of drummer Joe Spurgen and bassist Rhys Webb forms a familiar scaffold from which the rest of the song is hung. The droning guitar and clipped choral notes (half-buried in the mix), complete a desolate scene that is immediately dispelled by the upbeat cyclic riff of the verse. The vocals are lofty and tuneful, but singer Faris Badwan reverts to type as a moody, almost spoken chorus with a sound akin to arty ’80s pop ala Simple Minds. It’s a typically Horrors combo, which might have seemed progressive on one of their earlier offerings, but with not much else other than the odd techy guitar squiggle to note, this is a track that would slip under the radar of more avid indie aficionados.
What they have produced here is a kind of dot-to-dot effort that would doubtlessly be overshadowed by other East End trendies trying to forge a reputation by starting as an uncertified homage to The Horrors. The opening single suggested something fresh and altogether more intriguing, but all is not lost for ‘Luminous’ – scheduled for release May 5 on XL Recordings- as there were signs within the production (such as the guitar solo, that sounded like it was emanating from a nuclear silo) that more variety might be on the way. And, if all else fails, dream pop’s resurgence means they could just cheer up a bit, allow the synths to take over and give CHVRCHES a run for their money.
Single ‘So Now You Know’ is out now on XL Recordings. The Horrors’ fourth album ‘Luminous’ will be released on the 5th of May.
By Mary Chang
on Friday, 7th March 2014 at 12:00 pm
The meteorological start of spring is only 2 weeks off now, but Sheffield indie band High Hazels are already looking much further ahead. To summer. Last Friday, the group revealed new song ‘Summer Rain’, to feature on an upcoming EP with Heist or Hit Records, whom they signed with last summer.
Like previous single ‘Hearts Are Breaking’ (review here, video here), this new one features what might just become High Hazels’ trademark, guitars sounding echoey – and therefore plaintive in their loneliness – accompanied by frontman James Leesley’s melancholy yet surprising bright vocals. Yet the overall feel is noticeably softer. The lyrics this time were penned by bass guitarist Paul Barlow, and reading the words out as if poetry are as powerful as hearing them in the song. The refrain of “I was sleeping while you were letting our love slide / I was sleeping and I dreamt of you with another” comes across strong with Leesley’s buoyant vocal, yet the actual lyrics suggest the abject helplessness as the only outcome when your imagination runs wild with the thought of the one you love(d) belonging to someone else.
Imagination is a good word to use in describing ‘Summer Rain’, as the imagery Barlow takes you through is quite gorgeous despite the very real pain of the protagonist. The summer rain falls on a window pane, seemingly uncaring about the love that has “waned”, as the voice of the song is in disbelief, “love has waned / I never thought I’d see it change”. He imagines his lover swimming in a stream with another man, then recalls what how their love (or quite possibly also the woman herself) was so beautiful, “jewels are scattered all around / I’ve forgot just how they shined”, but he’s tortured by this faceless man who has taken his place.
The nail in the coffin? “I was sleeping and you walked away turned your back, lover.” So sad. How did our protagonist get here? I’m not entirely sure and I think that’s a question for Barlow in person one day, but getting here is a beautiful, beautiful journey.
The new release from Sheffield’s High Hazels, the ‘In the Half Light’ EP, will be released on the 7th of April on Heist or Hit Records and will be available on limited edition 10″ and also digitally. The group will be supporting The Crookes on their April UK tour and also at their homecoming show on the 31st of May.
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