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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.
Warwickshire singer/songwriter Lucy Rose has just announced a lengthy tour of the UK and Ireland for October and November in support of her upcoming second album ‘Work It Out’. The album is due for release on the 6th of July via Columbia Records and is being billed as a move away from Rose’s familiar folk sound, “creating a bold new context” for her singing voice and acoustic guitar. You can stream the audio for Rose’s latest single ‘Like An Arrow’ just below the tour date listing.
After her full summer schedule of festival appearances, which is set to include Bushstock, T in the Park, and Reading and Leeds, Rose will embark on the following list of headline dates, which go on sale tomorrow, Friday the 29th of May, at 10 AM. Our extensive previous coverage of Lucy Rose can be found right back here.
Monday 19th October 2015 – Manchester Academy 3
Tuesday 20th October 2015 – Bath Komedia
Wednesday 21st October 2015 – Cardiff Tramshed
Friday 23rd October 2015 – Norwich Waterfront
Saturday 24th October 2015 – Wrexham Central
Sunday 25th October 2015 – Carlisle Brickyard
Tuesday 27th October 2015 – Aberdeen Lemon Tree
Wednesday 28th October 2015 – Glasgow Oran Mor
Thursday 29th October 2015 – Belfast Empire
Friday 30th October 2015 – Dublin Button Factory
Sunday 1st November 2015 – Leeds University Union
Monday 2nd November – Exeter Phoenix
Tuesday 3rd November – Southend-on-Sea Chinnery’s
Saturday 7th November – Liverpool Academy 2
Sunday 8th November – Oxford Academy
Monday 9th November – Leicester Academy 2
Tuesday 10th November – Northampton Roadmender
Thursday 12th November – Newcastle Riverside
Friday 13th November – Warwick Arts Centre
Saturday 14th November – Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms
Sunday 15th November – Nottingham Rescue Rooms
Tuesday 17th November – Stoke-on-Trent Sugarmill
Wednesday 18th November – London Forum
Is there any city in the world that has shaped the content of popular culture more than Los Angeles? Sure, New York is more photogenic, London is cooler (in every sense), and Paris more romantic, but there’s something about the sprawling, palm-tree ambience of LA, where everywhere is 45 minutes by car away from everywhere else, that has made it the epicentre of the world’s film industry. Therefore how LA thinks is crucial to how we see the world – through the big screen at least.
It simply wouldn’t be possible for the city’s music scene to be as influential and lucrative as its films, but they’ve had a good go. From the country-rock days of The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, and The Eagles, through the ‘80s and ‘90s hard rock and hair metal phase, to today’s diverse offerings, whose alumni include Best Coast and Local Natives, there’s certainly a lot to commend LA’s music scene. There can be no doubt about the continent from which Northern American spring; we can add their name to the long list of LA hopefuls too.
Not that you’d really infer their city of origin from throwing on their début collection, ‘Modern Phenomena’. The first bars of opener ‘Feel Like Whatever’, with its baggyesque drumming, washy synths and trebly, languidly optimistic vocal, could have easily been recorded in Manchester any time between, say, 1992 and 2008. This most certainly is not the L.A. of sleaze and rock ‘n’ roll excess as screamingly documented by Axl Rose and Nikki Sixx. Where Northern American are concerned, Los Angeles sounds like dusty boulevards, tumbleweed, and thousand-yard-stares over the firmament into the mountains and deserts beyond. Guitars are used as watercolour backdrops rather than aggressively riffing their way into one’s skull.
As the instrumentation subtly changes throughout the set, from shimmering electric pianos to eclectic percussion, the one constant is Augusto Vega’s minimalist yet assertive bass playing. He manages to achieve the subtle trick of being solid yet melodic, creating a foundation yet pushing the music forward with admirable persistence, at times having the confidence to drop out completely for a few bars, making the impact of his reappearance all the more intense. Well done that man.
‘So Natural’ is the archetypal chilled-out ballad, complete with hazy vocal and a gently psychedelic instrumental break. The title track comes in at under 3 minutes despite its sweeping ambition: keening strings reinforce the main guitar riff, while the none-more-chilled voice can just about get it together to give a gently chiding commentary on the perils of conducting one’s life through the vector of silicon-based devices. Two minutes in there’s a big crescendo, when the band might even be breaking a sweat, but don’t worry, it’s not long before they can have a nice sit down.
As you might be guessing, if there’s one criticism to be levelled at this collection is that it’s almost too relaxed: certainly there’s nothing here that’s challenging or dangerous in a conventional sense, or that might give a more balanced documentary of the dubious virtues of their home town. Nevertheless, the side they have chosen to reflect, the hanging-out-by-the-pool-with-a-piña-Colada one, is amply and ably discharged here. For those of us lucky to have the opportunity to party in such style, there’s little more of an appropriate soundtrack than ‘Modern Phenomena’.
Northern American’s debut LP ‘Modern Phenomena’ is due for release on the 1st of June via Heist or Hit Records. Previous TGTF coverage of Northern American is right this way.
We at TGTF have featured several top-notch Swedish acts on our pages in recent months, including First Aid Kit, Amason, and Tove Styrke. We’ve also featured our share of female garage rock artists, including Aussie singer/songwriter Courtney Barnett, Manchester quartet PINS, and Scottish duo Honeyblood. So my ears might have been fatigued from overexposure to subdued female vocals juxtaposed against heavy, distorted guitar and bass lines when I had my first listen to latest Swedish sensation Pale Honey.
The Gothenburg-based duo, comprising Tuva Lodmark on guitar and vocals and Nelly Daltrey on drums, recently released their self-titled debut album, following on last year’s ‘Fiction’ EP. ‘Pale Honey’ is replete with serpentine guitar and bass lines, lightly chugging percussion, and the double-tracked echo of Lodmark’s restrained vocal delivery, which is by turns sullen and sultry, depending on the lyrical intent. Lodmark and Daltrey worked with producer Anders Lagerfors in locations ranging from Stockholm to Paris to create a emotionally distant lo-fi sound that switches between what the album’s press release calls “themes of disheartenment and melancholy, empowerment and strength”.
While the album occasionally feels monotonous and one-dimensional, its unpredictable dynamic and rhythmic shifts manage to keep it interesting, even when the songs don’t fully engage. The deep, resonant guitar line and mellow “do-do-do-do-do” melody in the opening verse of ‘Fish’ explodes without warning into a larger, more expansive dynamic. Recent single ‘Youth’ opens with a similar stripped-back texture before kicking into overdrive for the chorus “I feel fine when you’re not mine / I get around, no I’m not bound.”
The album loses traction with the slower, sultrier ‘Bandolier’, where the growling guitar riffs become a bit over-repetitive and the vocal line is overly subdued. While the guitar line takes on a noticeably brighter harmonic tone, the monotonous rhythm and relative lack of dynamic contrast make the song seem longer than its four and a half minutes. Likewise, ‘Lonesome’ maintains sonic interest with synthesized background effects, but its aloof vocal delivery and repetitive rhythmic ideas fail to make a solid connection.
‘Fiction’ sees the notable addition of brass and cowbell to the otherwise monochromatic instrumental palette, but further expansion of the synthesized effects in the second half of ‘Desert’ seem to appear from out of nowhere and don’t fit comfortably in the song’s overall texture. The laser-like sonic effects are more effective in the context of the dramatically reverberant guitars and dark harmonies of recent single ‘Tease’, which finds Lodmark experimenting very successfully with a richer, rougher vocal quality as she intones the memorable lyric “Baby, I like you better when you dress in black.”
It’s perhaps telling that ‘Pale Honey’ seems to alternate between repetitive monotony and wildly erratic shifts in mood and intensity. Pale Honey seem somewhat constrained by their own minimalist tendencies as well as by their two-woman lineup, which may have necessitated the overuse of synthesized production effects. But their sporadic forays into expanded texture and brighter harmonies are among the best moments on the album, and the potential for growth and refinement of their style is readily apparent.
‘Pale Honey’ is out now on Instant Records, but if you prefer to listen before you buy, the album is also streaming in full on Consequence of Sound. Pale Honey will play a one-off show at the London Islington on Wednesday the 20th of May.
Newcastle veterans Maximo Park will mark their 10th anniversary later this year with a short series of live shows in November. Celebrating 10 years since the release of their debut ‘A Certain Trigger’, the band plan to play that album in its entirety, along with a selection of single tracks and rarities from their lengthy career.
In addition to the live shows, Maximo Park will share some of those rare tracks, one per week leading up to the anniversary date, on their official Web site. The band will also release re-mastered versions of ‘A Certain Trigger’ and a collection of b-sides and demos titled ‘Missing Songs’ on limited edition vinyl on the 30th of October. Below the tour date listing, you can stream the demo version of ‘Signal & Sign’.
Tickets for the following shows will go on sale this Friday, the 15th of May, at 9 AM. Previous coverage of Maximo Park on TGTF can be found here.
Tuesday 17th November 2015 – London Roundhouse
Wednesday 18th November 2015 – Manchester Albert Hall
Thursday 19th November 2015 – Newcastle City Hall
Friday 20th November 2015 – Glasgow Barrowland
Former punk musician PJ Bond has just released his second studio album ‘Where Were You?’ via Xtra Mile Recordings, home of fellow folk-punk crossover artists Frank Turner and Skinny Lister. Bond’s more recent Americana-folk style, which is infused with a just a hint of punk rock energy, fits in perfectly with the genre-bending mentality currently being nurtured at Xtra Mile, which we first heard described in an interview with labelmates Skinny Lister at SXSW 2015. Bond describes his own relationship with the record label in a positive way as well:
“Xtra Mile is one of the rare labels where it seems that they put out music that they truly believe in, and are not so much constrained by genre that they’ll question whether or not it is a ‘good idea’. This approach by clearly music-loving people is what drew me most to XMR, and was supported by everyone with whom I spoke about them. Honesty, respect, heart, these are the common threads. All in all, I think I’ve found a lovely home.”
That sense of contentment and belonging is at odds with the general mood of Bond’s songs on ‘Where Were You?’, which relate nostalgic tales of restlessness and regret. The album has a sentimental air of melancholy about it, each song’s reflective storyline playing out both in its lyrics and almost imperceptibly in the musical gestures between the lines. The real ingenuity in Bond’s songwriting is in the way he creates a mood, sets a scene, and then allows the stories to play out in his listeners’ imagination.
Musically, the album is centered around catchy guitar melodies and a warmly reverberant production style, which paired with Bond’s unadorned, passionate singing tone allow the lyrics to deliver their full impact. The uptempo tracks on the album, such as ’87 Broadcast’ and lead single ‘The Better Option’ gain energy from propulsive rhythms behind that lyrical and musical melodicism. Some of the slower, more pensive numbers, by contrast, tend to lose momentum, particularly mid-album track ‘Hellfire’, which, at nearly five minutes in length, stretches itself just a bit too thin.
Opening track ‘Everglades’ is the most immediate and captivating tracks on the album, with its lightly innocent guitar intro accompanying the foreboding first lyric “I came to town with nothing but a warning / everyone here hears everything”. Its lyrical narrative takes a dark turn into a dangerous tale of love, abuse and jealousy, asking “Do you think anyone would ask if he ended up missing?” before the final repeated fade-out “I could take him down into the Everglades…”
‘Calm in the Corner’ is one of the album’s more effective slow numbers, employing light percussion and ethereal backing vocals under its existential refrain: “there’s a calm in the corner, I don’t know what / but it’s staring straight at me, I can feel it in my guts”. It segues smoothly into ‘Seer’, a gentle examination of the potential risks involved with falling in love, and then into ‘Neighborhoods’, which wistfully observes the universal conflict between past and present.
The album title ‘Where Were You’ presumably refers to the initial poetic line in ‘For J.’, which is one of its most elusive and yet emotionally poignant tracks. ‘Lucknow to Birmingham’ is similarly obscure thematically, but its fuzzed out guitars give it a bit more traction leading into the gritty final track ‘We Were Just Kids’.
The overwhelming honesty and authenticity of Bond’s lyrics is certainly the most essential characteristic of ‘Where Were You’. While I might have liked to hear a bit more dynamic and emotional range in the instrumental arrangements, I was intrigued by Bond’s ability to create and convey stories that are by turns enticingly exotic and intimately relatable.
PJ Bond’s second full-length album ‘Where Were You?’ is out now on Xtra Mile Recordings.
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