Sunday, 18 December 2016

LWM AWARDS 2016

Listen with Monger - 2016 Honour Roll

This is the second year of this list and I’ve been looking forward to compiling it all year (seriously, I have, it’s all very sad). Now, we can all agree that 2016 has been a universally shit year and, more than ever, I have sought solace in music as the world goes mad and cancer decided to take hold in my groin. As always, music has come through though, with endless emails of great tunes and inspiring artists creating new and exciting sounds so here is my take on the best. The only rule is that an artist has to have been reviewed on Listen with Monger to qualify. Let the rejoicing begin.

BERRIES
Best Band: NARCS / Berries

There’s a very definite north south divide and a clear gender split between the two bands tied for first place this year. As with all things, ladies first: London all female trio Berries burst on to the scene this year with a series of incendiary performances and some excellent single releases culminating in a fantastic EP and a whole lot of promise for 2017. NARCS, on the other hand, are a Leeds quartet who managed to conquer that perennial 2nd album problem with ease as well as crowbarring in a whole load of political commentary and the kind of anger that the world has been crying out for right now.

Honourable mentions: Bleeker / DMA’s / Wildwood Kin




JAKE MORLEY
Best Solo Artist (Male): Jake Morley
Hands down this one belongs to Mr Morley in 2016. His album ‘The Manual’ had more ideas and invention than most bands come up with in a year but these all came out of one man’s troubled head which is, frankly, remarkable. Throw in some live shows which were, by all accounts, wondrous events and I don’t think any single man came close to Jake Morley in 2016.










Best Solo Artist (Female): Joanna Cooke / Lulu James 
LULU JAMES
A really difficult category this year as there have been many and varied female artists ploughing their own furrow in beautiful and unique ways. So, in my own indecisive way, I’m going to split the award between Joanna Cooke and Lulu James. On the one hand, you have a soulful Westcountry singer songwriter who can turn her hand to most styles and make something original out of her own compositions or the work of others, that’s Joanna for you. On the other hand, South Shields lass Lulu is creating soul infused alternative electro with tribal influences and a real sense of purpose and passion behind it. Two hugely talented artists operating at opposite ends of the UK but equally impressive, nonetheless.

Honourable Mention: Hilary Woods / Angie / Soffia Bjorg / Elle Exxe

MOWBECK
Best Single: Mowbeck ‘Vaseline’ / Childcare ‘Cinema Club’
Surely the hardest category to contest with single reviews making up a huge proportion of the content on Listen with Monger, and there have been some absolute crackers this year. To make my decision, I had to go with the tunes that I’ve gone back to for my own listening pleasure and that has left me at two doors. Back in early November, I suggested that London outfit Childcare’s single ‘Film Club’ was a late contender for single of the year and it turns out I was right. The dark spirited indie romp was part of the reason that Bastille took them on tour with them and there is surely more to come. The co-winners of this award also came in November but from Nottingham quartet Mowbeck and their superbly infectious but super-bleak single ‘Vaseline’. A slick, stylish video and some aggressive but melodic song writing has made this one song I just can’t help going back to, time and time again.

Honourable Mentions: Velcro Hooks ‘Chinchilla Woman’/ Pattern Pusher ‘Layla and Madman’ / Hilary Woods ‘Bathing’ / NARCS ‘Bullingdon Boys’ / The Picturebooks ‘The Rabbit & The Wolf’ / Angie ‘Housewife Spliffin’’ / Bleeker ‘Where’s Your Money?’

BARE HUNTER
Best EP: Bare Hunter ‘Dry Rot EP’ / Joanna Cooke ‘Wound Up EP’
The second toughest category for me this year after countless excellent Eps so, once again, I’m splitting the award between the excellent Joanna Cooke and London reprobates Bare Hunter. Cooke gets a nod for her ‘Wound Up’ EP which has rarely left my CD player since I got my greasy mitts on the four tracks that mix blues, soul, jazz and pop to create a wonderfully original sound with an edge that’s hard to place. Bare Hunter, on the other hand, are a raucous, rowdy trio of London gents with a knack for filthy, dirty blues rock with swagger and purpose which makes their debut ‘Dry Rot EP’ an absolute joy to behold.



Honourable Mentions: Alissia ‘Back to the Funkture EP’ / The Watanabes ‘Spoiled & Nostalgic EP’ / Berries ‘Those Funny Things’ / Kobadelta ‘The Metaphysical EP’

Best Album: Jake Morley ‘The Manual’ / NARCS ‘A Thinking Animal’ 
NARCS
It has been amazing how many excellent albums there have been this year and the vast majority of them were self-financed. In fact, it’s been such a good year that I need to split the award for two very different albums. First up, Jake Morley’s ‘The Manual’ is an album all about introspection with some incredibly creative song writing and the only song I’ve ever heard featuring a duet between a man and his conscience. At the other end of the scale are Leeds lads NARCS with their long player ‘A Thinking Animal’ which takes a swipe at almost every authority figure and was the perfect antidote to a year where hate was given free reign and the best of the best seem to shuffle off their mortal coil with alarming regularity. Anger and introspection are the themes across these two albums – it’s been that kind of a year. 

Honourable mentions: Son of Simon ‘Rivers/Pastures’ / A Band On Hope ‘A Band On Hope’ / Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer ‘There’s a Rumpus Going On’

Michelle O Faith
Best Video: Michelle O Faith ‘Lemonade’
The visual element has been strong this year and this has been a difficult choice but the classily shot and superbly performed video to ‘Lemonade’ is an intimate yet painful experience. Michelle O Faith is an up and coming performer from South London and on the basis of ‘Lemonade’ she has a huge future as a singer, a songwriter, a performer or all three.




Honourable Mentions: Angie ‘Housewife Spliffin’’ / Pistols At Dawn ‘Please Report Anything Auspicious To A Member Of Staff’ / Lulu James ‘Colours’

Most Viewed Review of 2016: Wildwood Kin (967 views and counting)
The Devon trio proved popular with you lot when I reviewed their stunning BBC Introducing show at the Exeter Phoenix back in May. Who says words can’t recreate a moment in time? Not I. A stunning show and obviously a stunning review to match, if I do say so myself.

YES BABEZ!
Best Band Name: Taco Hell / Queen of Jeans / Yes Babez! 
It’s a three way tie between London popsters Yes Babez! (I’m a sucker for punctuation in a band name), the Nottingham punk crew Taco Hell who have a penchant for American fast food and Philadelphia indie-chill babes Queen of Jeans. You can pick your favourite from that lot, why should I do all the work?











Best Debut: Berries ‘Siren’ 
Those London ladies again with their single ‘Siren’ that turned my head within seconds and as a starting off point for a career there isn’t much better. They always say to start your set with your best song to grab an audience’s attention well Berries have kicked off their rock star lives with a corker but there’s already more quality emerging from the power trio.

Honourable Mention: W.H. Lung ‘Inspriration’

Best YearWildwood Kin 
WILDWOOD KIN
If, at the beginning of 2016, you had told Exeter trio Wildwood Kin that they would have toured nationally with the prince of folk, Seth Lakeman, gained critical acclaim for virtually every note played and finished up the year with a sell-out headline show in their home town in a freaking Cathedral, well, I think they would have been quietly pleased. The two sisters and cousin three-piece have had a phenomenal rise this year and they’re showing no signs of stopping now.







Best PR: Wilful PR
At just 3 years old, London based Wilful PR is barely out of nappies but, despite occasionally soiling themselves in public, they have developed a canny eye for talent and diversity. The five talent scouts, marshalled by head honcho William Luff, have brought us the likes of Angie, Wildwood Kin, Bloom Twins, Bleeker, Elle Exxe, Hotei, Malka, Prophets of Rage, Reigning Days, Stealth, Rooney, Thea Gilmore and Wolfmother. Sure, they’ve developed a bit of a ‘thing’ for female Swedish pop singers of late but we’ve all been through a phase like that, right?

Honourable Mentions: Lost in The Manor PR / Gouldzilla PR / Pluggin’ Baby

Best Label: SuperFan 99
A small but perfectly formed label (their words, not mine, I just happen to agree) from London town who have a real knack for picking up oddballs and outsiders and giving them a leg up to something greater. The likes of Queen Of Jeans, Alessi, Dante Elephante and Uncle Luc have all benefited from the work of SuperFan 99 and we have benefited from the music so we should all be grateful.

Honourable Mentions: Clue Records / Lost In The Manor / Foof Records / My Little Empire

JOANNA COOKE
Best Southwest Artist: Joanna Cooke / Wildwood Kin
Pleasingly, the Southwest music has been picking up pace this year and even more pleasingly the quantity of new artists is matched only by the quality. However, for the second year in a row, the women of Devon dominate this award even though it is split between to artists. Plymouth based Joanna Cooke has impressed with an excellent EP release and a relentless gigging ethos in the region which will surely see her picked for more national success in 2017. Exeter's family affair Wildwood Kin have had a phenomenal year so it's hard to avoid voting them in as joint winners in this category as they've made that difficult transition from Westcountry favourites to national darlyings. Come on the lads for 2017, the bar is set high. 

Honorouble Mentions: Pattern Pusher / Hypophora / Chay Snowdon / The Malthusian Trap / Reigning Days / Jamie Yost

Best non-UK Artist: The Watanabes
Another toughie of a category this but my ears and heart divined me towards Japan’s native and adopted sons, The Watanabes. Two brothers once of Norfolk are now ensconced among the cherry blossom and rich cultural history of Japan making sweet indie-pop with their local friends and bloody good at it they are too. For those who haven’t had a listen yet could do an awful lot worse than giving them a listen.

Honourable Mentions: Queen of Jeans / Alissia / Angie / Bleeker/DMA’s

Best Live Performance: LWM @ Blogtober feat. Berries, Pattern Pusher, Seaker, Jamie Yost
JAMIE YOST
& Rosa Belle
Sure, it’s easy to pick my own gig as best live performance of the year but when you get to pick five of your favourite artists and then watch them live surrounded by your mates then it’s hard to knock it. Berries rocked hard, Pattern Pusher were masterful beyond their years, Seaker had us spell bound, Jamie Yost is a soul singer trapped in the body of an indie kid and Rosa Belle has a beautifully innocent by polished voice.


Honourable mention goes to Wille & The Bandits @ Looe Festival / Reef @ Plymouth Hub / Mae & The Midnight Fairground @ The Inn On the Shore, Downderry/ Wildwood Kin @ The Phoenix, Exeter

Monday, 12 December 2016

SOFFIA BJORG – SINGLE REVIEW

Soffia Bjorg – The Road 
Soffia Bjorg - The Road


Release Date: Out Now

Iceland, on the whole, have had a pretty good year this year. They did well in the football, introduced a whole range of beers to the rest of the world, set out a political agenda that the rest of the world could learn from and then, well, then there’s Soffia Bjorg. The singer-songwriter’s new single ‘The Road’ is as deliciously brooding, swaggering and dark as her previous efforts with the obvious PJ Harvey and Florence Welch influences shining through. However, there are elements of First Aid Kit in the country tinged vocal melodies and baritone guitars and no lack of steeliness in our heroine’s determination. I would hope that those advising and supporting Bjorg are planning a tour and as many festivals as possible as I think she is ready to take her steely eyed yet sumptuous music to the masses.



DMA’S – SINGLE REVIEW

DMA’s – Play It Out 
DMA's - Play It Out


Release Date: Out Now

Aussie trio DMA’s have been one of the surprise packages of 2016 and even more surprising is the fact that ‘Play It Out’ represents the band’s first video release…like, ever. The song itself is a scuzzy acoustic fuelled indie romp that wouldn’t be out of place on a Britpop meets lad rock compilation with its hints of Oasis, Smaller, the Lightning Seeds, the La’s and the Stone Roses. The video doesn’t do much to shake this pigeon hole off either as the home-video style footage that looks like a time capsule from the end of the last millennium. This isn’t the band’s best song to do but I’d put money on there being better to come in 2017, especially now that they’ve popped their video cherry.



Live Dates:

28th December – Falls Festival, Lorne
29th December – Falls Festival, Marion Bay
31st December – Falls Festival, Byron Bay
7th January – Kings Square, Fremantle
30th January – Albert Park Precinct, Auckland

17th February – Mountain Sounds Festival, Central Coast

PISTOLS AT DAWN – SINGLE REVIEW

Pistols at Dawn – Please Report Anything Auspicious to a Member of Staff 
Pistols at Dawn - Please Report Anything Auspicious to a Member Staff


Release Date: Out Now

London combo Pistols at Dawn have seemingly managed the impossible in making watching an animated film of Nigel Farage more than bearable for around five minutes. This new single, ‘Please Report Anything Auspicious to a Member of Staff’, is a dirty slice of post math-rock indie that talks of the dark, looming shadow of neo-nationalism that is currently spreading across our supposedly connected globe. As Farage is joined by Trump, Putin and Le Pen in his romp through an increasingly bleak landscape, Pistols at Dawn channel the likes of the Catherine Wheel and Peter Gabriel in his political pomp and the song builds to a cacophonous and increasingly uncomfortable crescendo. I’ve been waiting for the musical revolution to kick in to fight back and give a disaffected generation a voice so let’s this is the tip of the iceberg, the revolutionary iceberg.



Live Dates:

13th December – The Good Ship, Kilburn w/Foxfield + R51 + Grounds + Shockpowder

25th January – Servants Jazz Quarters, London 

Thursday, 8 December 2016

LISTEN WITH MONGER'S FESTIVE ROUND UP

Christmas single reviews

It’s something of a tradition now that every December a slew of Christmas singles appear with a healthy smattering of original attempts as well as some reworkings, all hoping to get that John Lewis contract for next year or at least a stab at the top 40. Rather than cherry pick these I thought I’d just review them all in one go – kinda like demolishing a tin Quality Street in one sitting without any shame. So here goes:

First up we have Corvus with ‘Can You Hear The Sleigh Bells Ringing?’ and it’s a strong start if you like McFly-esque indie-pop lifting melodic elements directly from the Jam’s ‘Going Underground’. It’s an extremely polished piece of music with a definite festive edge (sleigh bells and a slightly creepy attempt at a children’s choir) but there’s something lacking that I like in a Christmas song and that’s the sense of slightly chaos that you expect from an office Christmas party. If you heard this in the background in a Beefeater at Christmas you wouldn’t bat an eyelid but I’m not convinced this is a future classic.

More information: http://www.corvusuniverse.com/

Peterborough’s The Strawheads are next with ‘But Hey, It’s Christmas’ and now we’ve moved in to slightly depressed socio-political commentary territory a la John Lennon and Gary Jules. There are sleigh bells again (naturally) and a slightly earnest acoustic chug in the style of Crowded House as they sing of war, drug abuse and famine (“the third world crop is failing”) and basically make you feel guilty for eating After Eights for breakfast. Not a bad song but we’ve already got Band Aid to make us feel guilty at Christmas so I’m not sure we need this.




For the only reworking of the night we must turn to Ciaran Lavery as the Irishman takes on the classic ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’ with a delicate touch and a rich, haunting vocal. The plodding acoustic plucks are soon augmented by some gloriously rich strings and Lavery’s vocals do the lyrics more than a little justice. There’s a nice little animated video too which works with the live recording to give this song just enough energy to trudge home from the pub on Christmas Eve just as the clock hand passes 12 and the slow flakes start to swirl in the light of a flickering street lamp. 


Changing pace and style completely, it’s time to give Swedish duo Rebecca & Fiona a listen with their blissed out stoner-pop effort, ‘Cold As X-Mas’. Much like compatriot Angie, Rebecca & Fiona like slowing things right down and wearing very little but that doesn’t stop them feeling festive. Their Scandinavian tones do give this a certain festive authenticity and they manage to squeeze “sitting all alone under the mistletoe” in as a lyric while processed church bells chime in the background which is pretty damn Christmassy. The only problem here is that this would be almost impossible for a choir to sing what with all the vocoder effects and backwards sampled vocals.





Now, The Senti-Mentals have plumped for a track called ‘You Show Me Yours At Christmas’ and it’s a little bit lively. There a sleigh bells and chimes, for sure, but then a ska-polka kicks in and the band are off on a mile a minute romp based around the age old chat up line of showing women your genitalia in the hope that they will return the favour. There’s a slightly disturbing video of a badly animated reveller getting repeatedly kicked in the nuts, vomiting all over himself and then getting shat on by a reindeer. Spirited, for sure, but is it festive spirit?


Loop Line's effort, by the name of 'Christmas in July (in December)', is a sweeping Beach Boys-esque piece of loveliness that takes in the likes of Best Coast and Tennis with it's perky guitars and summery vocals. The Minneapolis duo sing of Santa arriving on a boat pulled by dolphins and wearing shorts during the festive season which, while novel, is just plain wrong so although this tune is musically gorgeous, I can't approve on a lyrical basis.

More information: https://www.facebook.com/looplinemusic/

There’s a deep, Eurovision style message from Nita Nielsen on her song ‘One World Together’ which actually has a sense of hope and joy about it that is hard to ignore. More sleigh bells, chimes and a choir lots of mentions of wishing upon stars, silent nights and general feelings of love and generosity. Strangely, Nita spends most of the video hanging around down at the docks in Copenhagen whilst clicking her fingers or singing with a choir of waiters from Prezzo but that doesn’t stop this being a perky, optimistic tune that it’s hard to hate – a bit like your bonkers aunt/uncle who always buys you a weird present but is a right laugh when they’ve had a few.


The simply named ‘Father Christmas’ is the effort from singer-songwriter Jon McDevitt and it has a pleasingly shuffling country-skiffle rhythm that embodies a British high street in the days running up to Christmas. McDevitt employs a Jona Lewie vocal style (i.e. miserable as sin) but there are sleigh bells, a perky fiddle and even a children’s choir singing “I’m Father Christmas, I’ll have a whisky, I’m Father Christmas, will you miss me?” giving the impression that this is some sort of suicide note left to cause some poor child years of therapy and possibly end Christmas for good.


Charles Cave doesn’t sit on the fence when it comes to Christmas as his song ‘This Fucking Time Of Year’ tells you all you need to know about his views on the festive season. That said, the melody is pure 80s pop joy in the vein of Simple Minds or Deacon Blue with a simple keyboard stab and breathy, airy vocals. There’s a gorgeously wonky home video that accompanies this one and the distaste in the lyrics is easy to ignore if you focus on the icicle cool synths.



Finally, we have Homesick Mick with his festive ditty ‘Prisoner To The Past’. The almost a cappella opening is more than a little depressing but when the folky rhythms kick in things do perk up a bit. There is a lyric video which is useful but it’s all a bit preachy and gloomy for my tastes so I’m going 
to pour myself another port and gorge on cheesy footballs until they taste like copper coins.


This year’s crop is a bit like a gift bag from your nan, then, some rubbish, some stuff you’ll use and some things that will be in the bin before Christmas dinner is over. Charles Cave and Ciaran Lavery can share the wish bone and let’s all go loosen our belts to Dr Who.


Wednesday, 7 December 2016

CHRIS HURN – SINGLE REVIEW

Chris Hurn – If I Were You (Monkey Records) 
Chris Hurn - If I Were You


Release Date: Out Now

There is no doubting or mistaking that New Zealander Chris Hurn is a composer for film and computer games as well as a regular musician in his own right. ‘If I Were You’ romps and bounds like an excitable teen in a suburban slice of life movie featuring tortuous pregnant pauses and the kind of sexual tension that only teenagers can have. Perky bass licks and guitar flicks bounce around while those smooth vocals coast over like ice cream melting on warm chocolate cake. Hurn sings “Here’s the thing, I’m not stupid, I’m just optimistic” and that’s the very core of this song – unbridled optimism. The video deserves special mention as well in all its Wes Anderson meets Flight of Conchords glory. Quite the package then, Mr Hurn.



JAKE ALDER – SINGLE REVIEW

Jake Alder feat. Eliza – Horizon 
Jake Alder feat. Eliza - Horizon


Release Date: Out Now

Every now and again you come across a polished, finished article of a tune that could be gracing any top 40 rundown or Now compilation and this new track from producer Jake Alder is one of those occasions. ‘Horizon’ is a slick piece of dance pop that, with the help of vocalist Eliza, creates a twilight anthem to get your summer party off to a classy start. Tight guitar notes roll and flux with pulsing beats and synths weaving in to fill in the gaps in between. Eliza’s smooth, sweet vocal is the perfect fit for a tune with this energy that speaks to the part of the brain that just wants to run away from it all and have some fun in the sun. Keep this one on the back burner until next summer.


THE VELVETEINS – SINGLE REVIEW

The Velveteins – Don’t Yah Feel Better? (Fierce Panda Canada) 
The Velveteins - Don't Yah Feel Better?


Release Date: Out Now

More talent from Canada on its way for your listening pleasure now, in the shape of three piece of The Velveteins. New track ‘Don’t Yah Feel Better?’ has a distinctly British flavour about it with the likes of the Zutons, the Coral, Jake Bugg and the Magic Numbers being evoked by the jangling guitars and sunny chord progressions all nudged along by the shuffling beat. This is a delightful two and a half minutes of indie pop with an emphasis on melody and the only problem I have with it is that it’s almost too summery to be coming out in December – especially in Canada for the love of Santa.


Tuesday, 6 December 2016

LULU JAMES – SINGLE REVIEW

Lulu James – Colours 
Lulu James - Colours


Release Date: Out Now

South Shields talent Lulu James has been one of the revelations of 2016 and this new single and video don’t disappoint. ‘Colours’ is a glorious combination of soulful vocals, sparse beats and rich piano tones that all blend together perfectly. Sure there are comparisons to Laura Mvula but there are also elements of Kimbra, The XX, Portishead and a mainstream pop flavour that jars beautifully with edgy, artistic video which sees James exploring the different sides of herself and all the parts that make up what she is now as well as what is to become in the future. This is real, hugely appealing and the kind of tune that has an international market just waiting to lap it up if we can only give it the air time it deserves.



THE SHAKERS – SINGLE REVIEW

The Shakers – Brixton Kiss 
The Shakers - Brixton Kiss (Photo: Jonjo Roony)


Release Date: Out Now

London quintet The Shakers are pretty much bookending the year on Listen With Monger which is no bad thing as so many bands have that have fallen by the way side in 2016 – never mind legends. The bands new single, ‘Brixton Kiss’, is simultaneously skittish and relaxed with the guitars lurching and swaying around while the drums keep things tight and funky like a Bruno Mars chart smasher. I can just imagine a club full of indie kids losing their collective nut to this song as long as they keep just the right side of that white-boy funk line which they just about achieve by the skin of their skinny jeans.

More information: https://www.facebook.com/theshakersss

Listen Here: 

Live Dates:

22nd December – OTC Bar @ Off The Cuff, London

12th January – The Half Moon, Putney

STELLA RIO – SINGLE REVIEW

Stella Rio – Don’t Go Away 
Stella Rio - Don't Go Away


Release Date: Out Now

There is a slew of singers, performers, artists (call them what you will) who are great at interpreting the songs of others these days but they don’t tend to worry themselves with song writing as an art form. Now, normally I would be raging at this slacktivity but what this does mean is that there is a group of unsung heroes (pun intended) in the background writing the songs and biding their time until the limelight is theirs for the taking. Toronto native Stella Rio is one such heroine who has paid her dues (and her rent) writing for the likes of Little Mix and DVBBS but now, with ‘Don’t Go Away’, it is her time to shine. The hypnotic, circular piano riff is gorgeous in its own right but then you’ve got the muted industrial beat and Stella Rio’s stunningly soft vocal that creeps in through the sea mist and winds unnoticed around your legs, your heart, your senses until you’re completely enveloped in it. I’m sure her song writing talents will continue to be in high demand but with a voice like this I’m betting Stella Rio is ready to fly solo and boy is she gonna soar.



BARE HUNTER – SINGLE REVIEW

Bare Hunter – Cash Money 
Bare Hunter - Cash Money


Release Date: Out Now

There’s something wonderful about crossing paths with a musician at a random gig, falling in love with the EP they send you, being promised a T-shirt (still waiting, gents) and then getting a very early look at their swanky new video. London trio Bare Hunter have given me exactly that experience which goes down as a 2016 highlight as does this superb release. ‘Cash Money’ is just the most gloriously infectious and immediate song I’ve heard in a long while as forces the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion in to a keg of whiskey, ties up to Royal Blood and then lights the touch paper. The screaming harmonica, the expansive drums and snarling guitar are all just flames licking at the moustachioed vocals and diamante cowboy-boot stomp. All this and there is a social comment to the lyrics too – the perfect Christmas gift.



Monday, 5 December 2016

THE FRANKLYS – SINGLE REVIEW

The Franklys – Castaway 
The Franklys - Castaway


Release Date: Out Now

All female quartet the Franklys really are one of the fiercest, most vital bands around these days and that has nothing to do with their gender. You see, new single ‘Castaway’ comes out of the blocks at 100 miles per hour with razor sharp guitars and drums that are in a hurry to get somewhere. Throw in the vocals that switch from a slacker tone in the verse to a garage squall in the chorus and you couldn’t ask for much more energy, intention or intensity. The ‘live’ video just adds to the energy and when they start to build for the crescendo you can’t help but feel that these guys are perfectly balanced between Siouxsie & The Banshees and the bands of the 90s like The Breeders, Veruca Salt and Throwing Muses. The Franklys are a vital band and, whilst they are a lot of fun, they need to be taken seriously as a force to be reckoned with. Woe betide those who don’t heed my words.



PATAWAWA – SINGLE REVIEW

Patawawa – Could Be Love (Soundplate Records) 
Patawawa - Could Be Love


Release Date: Out Now

Superb Matlock trio Patawawa are back with another single, called ‘Could Be Love’ this time, and their consistency is matched only by their funkiness. The click-clack rhythm and early morning bird song is soon embellished by a Daft Punk featuring Nile Rodgers funk tune that should get the most sedentary amongst you up and dancing. There’s a lightness, an airiness to this tune that somehow jars with the British autumn and its heavy grey skies but if you can’t enjoy the pulsing bass line and twitchy guitars all wrapped in the sweet twin male-female vocals then I give up on you. Patawawa have West Coast cool wrapped up with English style to create a slick and instantly infectious piece of ‘fall in love’ club dance music with a brain and no shortage of soul. Isn’t it time you got some Patawawa in your life?


Wednesday, 30 November 2016

SPENCER KILPATRICK – EP REVIEW

Spencer Kilpatrick – Rhonda EP 
Spencer Kilpatrick - Rhonda EP


Release Date: Out Now

Regular readers of this little blog will know that US band Failure Machine have found a special place in my heart and my T-Shirt drawer. Apart from being some of the nicest guys I’ve never met, they are also hugely adept and rocking out with soul which is a rare thing these days. So, being given the opportunity to get an early listen of the new solo material of FM main man Spencer Kilpatrick was too good to pass up. These five tunes are bundled together under the title ‘Rhonda’ and open up with ‘San Jose’, a bluesy, rattling good tune played out on acoustic guitar with some drunken horns in the background as Kilpatrick gives a Big Lebowski style chat up line to an old flame. On ‘Two Long Nights’ the blues are back with a more midnight hour vibe as the whisky smell and smoke seeps through every note and that low horn blows in the corner to give this a New Orleans funereal vibe.

The four count in to ‘Running Back’ is almost reticent as Kilpatrick’s heartbreak is there for everyone to hear with nothing but the rich, rasping, Joe Cocker-esque voice with a deep south twang played out with a simple guitar strum and tambourine tap. ‘Precious, Precious’ is the missing track from the Blues Brothers soundtrack as the rich horns beef out some bottleneck guitar and the woozy stagger home from a late night bar suddenly has a soundtrack. Final track ‘Plastic Jesus’ is a Ray LaMontagne strum played out sat on the ledge of a broken window looking out at lazy trees swaying in time to the chords that could be a modern blues classic given time. The scariest and most impressive thing about this humble EP is that these are songs Kilpatrick wrote in another lifetime before Failure Machine even existed. That means there is more, so much more, still to come and I can’t wait for it.

More information: https://www.facebook.com/failuremachine/?fref=ts

TOM PRIOR – SINGLE REVIEW

Tom Prior – Don’t Worry 
Tom Prior - Don't Worry



Release Date: Out Now

One thing I like about a lot of emerging artists these days is their willingness to see past genres or pigeon holes when it comes to choosing their influences. Enfield lad Tom Prior is no different as he cites the Kinks, Coldplay and Kanye West among the artists that have inspired him. Prior’s new single, ‘Don’t Worry’, is a mix of influences and experiences that create a tender, Ed Sheeran-esque tune that is delivered like a Cockney Eminem before the chorus shows off the singer’s more soulful tones. Melodically this is simple and honest stuff with real heart and the ability to pull at the heart strings so when you start to listen to the lyrics that tell of a father’s guilt of not being around for his kid, well, there must be something in my eye. I really like this tune but I don’t think this will be the one to break Tom Prior in to the mainstream – he’s not far off though and this will be a useful tune to have in his arsenal for showing off his more tender side.



Live Dates:


30th November – Sebright Arms, London

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

BARRICADES – DEMO REVIEW

Barricades – Demo 
Barricades - Demo


Release Date: Out Now

Time for three fresh tracks from two lads making one whole lotta racket. London based duo Barricades (great name by the way) are a no-nonsense garage-punk outfit and opening track ‘England’s Eyes’ hits you straight between the eyes like walking through the wrong door in the pub and finding yourself in the middle of a UKIP rally. Fierce, piercing guitars are met with crashing drums and it’s all referred by a punk yelp that reminds me of Cassels or early Subways, especially when they ask “Are you fucking high?”.

‘Pipe Down’ is no less visceral but there’s more of a post-punk effort going on here with elements of At The Drive-In and Pixies sneaking in to the snarling, meandering guitars and flailing drums before a Lou Reed-esque drawl creeps in – I just read that back; Pixies, At The Drive-In and Lou Reed referenced in one song ain’t bad is it? The final track on this collection ‘Know, See, Want, Need’ find Nick and Jordan in swaggering mood and this, for me, is the highlight track here as the duo step in the sliver in the Venn diagram between Royal Blood and the Black Keys for a blues fuelled jam that gets the juices flowing with its choppy guitars and rolling drums that sound like a four-minute solo. Two men, three tunes and one hell of an exciting prospect – these guys are right at the beginning, somebody pick ‘em up, quick.


Monday, 28 November 2016

IZZY FLYNN – SINGLE REVIEW

Izzy Flynn – Faith 
Izzy Flynn - Faith


Release Date: Out Now

Now, I know what you’re thinking and, no, this is not a cover of the George Michael classic. No, instead, this consummate musician is stepping out from the backing bands and the shadows to make a name for herself and ‘Faith’ is a hell of a way in. Izzy Flynn’s vocals have that slightly cracked beauty that worked so well for Portishead or Everything but The Girl but there’s an added elegance here as her voice floats and weaves like a humming bird rising up above the dark storm below. The electronic melodies and pulsing beats layer up to create the kind of classy climax that La Roux used to employ and you know that you’re listening to a special talent. I expect Flynn has a couple of extra gears to move through in terms of energy but this is a darkly classy electro ballad with a beautiful video to match. Well played Ms Flynn.



MICHELLE O FAITH – SINGLE REVIEW

Michelle O Faith – Lemonade 
Michelle O Faith - Lemonade


Release Date: Out Now

Well, here’s a striking talent making a late bid for a place in the 2016 record books. The singers new single, ‘Lemonade’, and its stunning accompanying video are things of beauty from the get go. The skittish, tribal beats and almost Gregorian chant that forms all there is of a melody are stop-you-in-your-tracks beautiful while our heroines voice is somewhere between rap and opera but with pitch and poise perfect delivery. “Can’t make Lemonade out of this, you left me only pips and I choke cos you’re with her, with her, with her and I’m bitter, bitter, bitter” she sings utterly uniquely as the very real pain of a breakup comes across with a very real rawness. The only comparison I can draw to any other artist in both audio and visual style is Kate Bush, Michelle O Faith is simply that big a talent.


Watch The Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AD9G9TUObgk

Sunday, 27 November 2016

NATIVES – SINGLE REVIEW

Natives – Passion 
Natives - Passion


Release Date: Out Now

I may have said this before but anyone describing themselves as a tribal pop band from the New Forest would normally need a slap and good hard think about what they’d done. Natives, however, manage to swerve such retribution as new single ‘Passion’ is a joyful slice of indie-pop sprinkled with the kind of perky energy that Coldplay and Years & Years have employed so successfully in recent times. Melodically, this about as uplifting as things can get with layers of synths stacked up on top of a beat that should be prescribed on the NHS for anyone having a tough time. This is a song designed for the happy ending of the next Richard Curtis film as friends overcome adversity and differences to triumph on a work away weekend in the New Forest…..oh bollocks.


Live Dates:

28th November – Joiners, Southampton

29th November – Borderline, London w/Farro 

W.H. LUNG – SINGLE REVIEW

W.H. Lung – Inspiration (Hed Glo Inc.) 
W.H. Lung - Inspiration


Release Dates: Out Now

It is bold, to say the least, to begin one’s career with a near eight-minute psych-meander accompanied by some artwork depicting a yellow double decker bus that looks like a prop from a Chuckle Brothers episode. Some would say fool-hardy but I’m sticking with bold. Nevertheless, Manchester trio W.H. Lung are introduction themselves to polite society with seven minutes and forty-two seconds ‘Inspiration’ which is quite something. Building from a throbbing base, a disco beat soon gets things moving but the anticipation is only pricked at around the minute mark as swagger guitars join in. Then the Django Django meets Mark E. Smith vocals make things a little more ‘arty’ and you start to picture the sweat dripping from the walls of an underground Mancunian nightclub as these three jerk and reel about the stage. Manc classics like Joy Division and the Stone Roses seep out through the weaving guitars and erratic vocals mixed in with urgent, unrelenting drums. This is definitely bold, I’m standing by that statement, but I would also say this bold move is entirely justified by an electrifying debut.

More information: https://www.facebook.com/whlungmusic

Friday, 25 November 2016

GALLOWS GHOST – SINGLE REVIEW

Gallows Ghost – Lick Your Wounds 
Gallows Ghost - Lick Your Wounds


Release Date: 30th November 2016

London eccentrics Gallows Ghost have a single out by the name of ‘Lick Your Wounds’ and it’s a little bit special. A loose beat and a growling bass open things up before the velvety, sultry tones of singe Kate Young seep in through the cracks in the floorboards and the walls like an insidious smoke. Comparisons with Florence + The Machine, Tori Amos or PJ Harvey are inevitable but there’s also a dance edge here which is more akin to Above & Beyond, Bjork or Moloko in their pomp. Gallows Ghost are one of those acts that are ready made to be huge on both the commercial and critical stages just as soon as they get a single that gets enough attention – this could just be that single.


Live Dates:


30th November – Video Launch @ The Courtyard Theatre, Hoxton

YES BABEZ! – SINGLE REVIEW

Yes Babez! – Round Around 
Yez Babez! - Round Around


Release Date: Out Now

The perky London pair Yes Babez! are back with their exclamation mark and their ability to write infectiously upbeat pop tunes. ‘Round Around’ is a wonderfully country infused little number with a little bit of banjo and rattling hobo drums classing with a pop beat and the saccharine sweet twin vocals of Mick and Lily. There’s a hand clap breakdown and the kind of lyrics that 12 year olds can learn because of the catchy melody. Now, the only problem I have with this song is that if Olly Murs or some other X Factor muppet was singing this with a manic grin and a trilby I’d probably hate it but coming from these guys I kinda like it. Why is that a problem? Because that makes me feel like a bit of a snob but I don’t care, I just don’t like Olly Murs.


SAINT AGNES – SINGLE REVIEW

Saint Agnes – Merry Mother of God Go Round (Death or Glory Gang Records) 
Saint Agnes - Merry Mother of God Go Round


Release Date: 8th December 2016

London leather clad rockers Saint Agnes have been building up a steady stream of excellent rock’n’roll singles and ‘Merry Mother of God Go Round’ is the latest which is just as fine as all the others. A squall of dirty (nay, filthy) guitars come rolling in like Royal Blood being egged on by Jon Spencer and sewn together with a distorted harmonica that sounds like sex would sound if it had a voice. The twin, male vs female vocal is both aggressive and laced with sexual energy but then there is the mellower mid-section that lulls you back in to the bedroom before your body is slammed up against the wall in a way that is both exciting and terrifying. The ending to this song is as brutal and heavy as anything I’ve heard this year but damn it’s good. So very good.


Live Dates:


8th December – Oslo, Hackney w/ Electric Child House

Thursday, 24 November 2016

ANGIE – SINGLE REVIEW

Angie – Housewife Spliffin’
Angie - Housewife Spliffin'


Release Date: Out Now

Sweden’s queen of moral outrage Angie is back with another fantastic slice of blissed out chill pop that surprisingly has the tabloids queuing up to praise her. I say surprisingly because ‘Housewife Spliffin’’ is essentially a song about hanging around the house all day smoking weed and maybe squeezing in the odd half arsed chore. The darkly beautiful star sings a lazy chorus atop a bare beat and some sparse keys, “Oh bae, I call it housewife spliffin’, just without a man and no housework mission”. The brilliance here is not only that Angie has created a supremely catchy pop tune from the most meagre of instrumentation but also that she doesn’t even seem to be trying that hard. If she can write a song this good with a few ‘do do dos’ and high as a kite, then 2017 might just want to watch the hell out.



PIP HALL – SINGLE REVIEW

Pip Hall – Devil You Don’t (My Little Empire Records) 
Pip Hall - Devil You Don't


Release Date: Out Now

Kids, eh? Hanging around on their own, absorbed in their smart phones and disengaged with the world. Terrible. Except that’s not true, is it? There is a constant flow of talent young musicians coming my way at the moment and the latest is Pip Hall, an extremely hotly tipped 16-year-old from Preston. New single ‘Devil You Don’t’ is a slow burner to begin with as a low synth rumble creeps in from the horizon before Hall’s soft, smoky vocals drift in breathily a beat kicks in. We’re in Lady Hawke meets Kimbra meets Lorde meets Seaker territory here but with some scuzzy guitars thrown in and the kind of energy that would get you out of bed at sunrise with a determined smile. There’s a maturity far beyond her meagre years here and the kind of potential that gets a lot of people very excited and for good reason. More in 2017 for sure, assuming she’s got her GCSEs sorted.


JUNKYARD CHOIR – SINGLE REVIEW

Junkyard Choir – Blue Moonshine Lady 
Junkyard Choir - Blue Moonshine Lady


Release Dates: Out Now

Brighton duo Junkyard Choir are neither a choir nor do they live in a junk yard but they sure can rock and they sure can wear a flannel shirt with a hint of beard. New single ‘Blue Moonshine Lady’ is a bluesy, country inspired romp that grew up on the same swamp as Bruce Springsteen and Grinderman with its accomplished but gritty swagger and gravelly vocals. For two guys they make a hell of a racket and the gloriousness of their near gospel sound is only topped by a music video that features some moments of dogs-eye-view footage and finishes up with a bearded man on a porch with a huge cigar and a bottle of jack. This is one for the good times.