Friday, 30 January 2015

Two White Cranes

2014 was over flowing with great music from the acclaimed punk growl of Eagulls to the weird but captivating debut from Happyness. However while teenagers excitedly gave their ears up to Iceage and journalists heaped frantic praise all over Damon Albarn, one of the years most beautiful and understated albums was slipping through the radar. September 6 saw the release of the eponymous debut album from the super hardworking Two White Cranes.

Roxy Brennan is perhaps the busiest woman in music right now juggling spots in Grubs, Trust Fund and playing on King of Cats recently recorded second album. Despite this hectic timetable, the Bristol based musician managed to perfectly select eleven beautiful tracks about the wonders of being in love which she can be proud to put her own name to.

twowhitecranes began life in 2011 when Roxy wrote the album's final track 'skeleton' while living with her mum. Roxy's wandering fingers navigate the fret board with supreme confidence, periodically drifting into gentle strums. The tracks sweet tenderness delicately places the song on the soft velvet pillow of your mind.

Before we treated to a mouthwatering desert 'skeleton' Roxy has already taken us on a journey around her love-struck mind. Opener 'walls' begins with jumpy guitars slowly hopping into the occasional lively jig with the drum of Trust Fund's Ellis which meanders excitedly in and out of the entire album. Ellis is clearly as overjoyed to be on this journey as the rest of us. 'acraman's road' builds preparing us for what we expect to be an animated chorus before mischievously diving into a slow paced interlude. The build up once again takes hold and this time we are not left hanging as front-woman Roxy calls out "Baby you where born to run".

 Roxy's doubts about selling her tales of love to people in a palpable form for physical money mean the digital album is available to download for as much money as you wish to part with. It may be easy to overlook Two White Cranes, there is no excuse for not owning possibly the most beautifully mesmerising DIY album of 2014.


Download the album here.



Sunday, 25 January 2015

Yak

Just a few nights ago I was lucky enough to witness the fantastic Peace live in all their indie glory! I've still not quite come to terms with the excitement of it all. However while Peace where unbelievable, it was their support who really caught my eye. London trio Yak where only supporting Peace on four dates of their on going mega-tour, so perhaps it was fate that it should be them who graced the stage last Friday night at the Fleece in Bristol.


Frontman Oli Burslem, who if the music doesn't work out could easily fall back on a career as a Mick Jagger look-a-like, filled in for Peace's Doug a few years ago on a North American tour when fatherhood came calling. Since then Burslem has accumulated two bandmates to form Yak in the form of Andy Jones and Elliot Rawson.

What really struck me as I watched the sweat drenched trio fill The Fleece with fuzzy riffs was their infectious energy. Although the night was young, feet where moving and heads where bobbing. As the set clambered up to a new level of rowdy Burslem, in an explosion of rock and roll absurdity, began to grind his guitar against the venus nearest stanchion creating a wave of noise which almost blew the glitter off of the more sparkley members of the crowd.

Debut single 'Hungry Heart' was performed with the same intensity that ran throughout the short but sweet set. A beautifully furious chugging bassline met squealing feedback while Burslem howled "Again. Again. Again", one had firmly gripped around his microphone as the other wildly swiped at his guitar strings. 'Plastic People', the first of the band's two songs to appear online, brought the set to an epic conclusion. As the track came to it's mind tingling finale, local hero Big Jeff (a regular gig goer in Bristol) took to the stage at first viciously stroking the strings of Burslem's guitar before collapsing to the floor for a slow keyboard outro.

As Yak absorbed the crowds excitable applause and payed tribute to their fluffy haired new bandmate, Burslem, in all his Jagger-like glory, stood arms out like the future musical masire that he will surely become. Yak may be a band in their infancy but with a rapidly growing live reputation and an epic first single out soon on Fat Possum, I firmly believe they are a group we will grow old with.





Sunday, 18 January 2015

An Interview With... The Black Tambourines

It's impossible to deny that the South West is home to some great bands, none greater than The Black Tambourines. Their blistering garage rock sound has made the four piece the poster-boys of Falmouth's thriving music scene. It's crazy to think that their self titled debut album was released as long ago as 2013 as one of Art Is Hard Records first LP releases. I spoke to the band about the fantastic west country scene of which they are an integral part.


Who makes up The Black Tambourines? How did you meet and what made you want to start the band?


The Black Tambourines are a small group of musicians from cornwall. we met at truro college and took it from there. 

Do you think being in the South west has influenced you as a band?

I think the southwest doesn't influence us at all which makes it easier to do your own thing. Being around barely any bands at the start of our career made it easy to do exactly what we wanted to. 

Are there any bands from the South west who you are particularly into at the moment?

We love the Red Cords and Lost Dawn. They're our main bros, but theres a few more sweet bands emerging, like the Golden Dregs, Holiday Ghosts. Were pretty much in all of these bands tho. Spankees. Spankees.

Why do you think Falmouth has suddenly become one of the UK's best places for music?

Is that what people think? Thats really awesome. I'm not sure, theres a lot of good bands here, and a lot of Arty students around to appreciate them. Among locals. 

Do you think outside of Bristol there is a lack of really good venues to attract bands to the area?

Anywhere can be a venue, and people need to realise this and start putting on more shows in random places. 

Could you sum up the South west's music scene in one sentence?

A big family of Rock.



Wednesday, 14 January 2015

We wrote a mag!

Myself and some other wonderful young journalists have made a youth arts magazine. Its called Freefall and the next issue should be out later in the year! My feature has made it onto the cover (a pleasant surprise) and takes the form of a whistle stop tour of the South West's amazing current music scene. It then dives into some interviews with a selection of the scene's most exciting bands.

Its not all about me of course, there are loads of other great features including a review of Eagulls'  epicly sweaty gig at the Cavern in Exeter, fashion features fit for the catwalk, Marvel-lous film reviews and insightful political opinion pieces.

The whole magazine is available to view online here.

Monday, 12 January 2015

An Interview With... The Voyeurs

2014 saw the rapturous return of The Voyeurs. The London five-piece's second album Rhubarb Rhubarb was easily one of my favourite albums of the year and made it into a number of end of year lists (including my top five albums of 2014). I asked frontman Charlie Boyer about the record and what the future holds for The Voyeurs.

Could you give me some background about how you all met and discovered you'd make a great band?


I put the band together almost as a backing band to play a few songs I had written beforehand. That was the original idea, but it quickly grew into a real band in that we write together and fight together and all of that. 

You wrote Clarietta very quickly, did you carry on the same rapid writing style for Rhubarb Rhubarb?

We took a bit longer.. About 8 or 9 months of writing and demoing. We built a little studio in a room on cable street and pretty much lived there through last winter. 

Lyrically Rhubarb Rhubarb is great, is there any particular way that you write songs or does it just come naturally?

A lot of the songs are stories with characters, I like doing it that way. You can think up characters that you don't necessarily agree with or you love or you can use... or you can just do a study of a person. A few of the songs are a little stranger.. Some natural and unnatural things were involved. 

Do you think being in London influences your music in any way? Is it a good place for a musician like yourself?

It's an awful place for anyone.. But if you know a few places, a few people and a few tricks then it can be an interesting place.. I think we have very little to do with what London represents. We all walk to our friends homes and our studio, we could be anywhere really... I'm sitting on a packed train at the moment, thats a thing I don't do often. I don't live in that sort of a London. The important thing is you can do anything here.

Are there any tracks on the album that you are particularly fond of?

I really like 'May, will you stop'.. I like how it has warm and cold moments. And is a very quiet story song. The taciturn songs seem to be very exciting in the size venues we play.. Small ones.. something is unspeakable. 

If you could sit and listen to Rhubarb Rhubarb with anyone (dead or alive) who would you choose?

Syd Barrett is always my answer to this... Or this racing driver called Fran├žois Cevert. 

What should we expect from you and your fellow voyeurs in the future?

This year we plan to tour in the UK, Europe and America.. And start work on our 3rd album. We have a two great videos coming too, alongside our next 2 singles. One by Douglas Hart and another by Peggy sue. And a 'record store day' limited 7" remix by Rhys and josh of the horrors called 'Rhubarb and Custard'



Monday, 5 January 2015

Girlpool - Girlpool EP

It wasn't long after LA duo Girlpool released their debut EP on Bandcamp that they where snapped up by Witchita Records. It is clear when you listen to the EP why the label (that has given us great music from the likes of The Cribs and Fidlar over the years) were so interested in the Californians.

Opener 'Blah Blah Blah' envelops you with it's alluring  bassline which is soon joined by a pacing guitar. The track jumps into life as it reaches its punchy chorus with an explosion of guitar strums. The first half of 'Paint Me Colors' consists of gentle guitar and basslines which weave together to form a sound almost reminiscent of the more chilled out parts Happyness' awesome debut album Weird Little Birthday. However Girlpool pack a little more punk punch, the second half of the track obliterates the song's slowly built groundwork as the pair echo each others vocals over a rowdy set of guitars.

'Plants And Worms' is definitely a grower, if you'll pardon the pun. Harmonised vocals hover gently over the beautifully simple sounding guitars giving the song a freshness that is becoming one of the band's main appeals. The EP's final track 'American Beauty' is dominated by guitar chords out of which a rumbling bass occasionally peeps it's charming head. "I'm feelin' fine" the pair call out before the track fades into the distance, if this debut EP is anything to go by, 2015 is going to be far more than fine for LA's Girlpool.



Sunday, 4 January 2015

New? Musical Express

It was just fifteen months ago that the NME had a bit of a shakeup, a makeover of sorts. The magazine got smaller but promised big things, "more new music; more reviews; about %#@!£ time!" was the the October 2013 issue's bold and exciting claim. Fast forward to the first week of 2015 just days after the year's first issue was released and its an entirely different story.

The NME usually contains a section named the 'Radar' in which a selection of lesser known and new bands are featured (all be it briefly) to tick the "more new music" box set out just over a year ago. This week however the segment was gone, banished to make way for a list of the "greatest albums of the decade so far" - a largely uninspiring collection topped by (surprise surprise) the Arctic Monkeys. The absence of the radar wounds me. Shouldn't the 'New' Musical Express's job primarily be to support new bands?

What makes the lack of new music more painful is that the bands are out there! Fantastic new bands like Grubs (who are currently recording their debut album) and Exeter's The Fairweather Band are just a small part of the UK's extensive cobweb of musical talent. Thankfully, 'On Repeat' the magazine's double page spread of twenty new tracks maintained it's place and gives a very welcome mention to Girlpool and Menace Beach. However, 'On Repeat' it doesn't do as much to embrace new bands as the 'Radar'.

2015's opening issue doesn't fair much better on the "more reviews" side of things. Album reviews cover just one page and feature just five bands, I suppose this is better than nothing but it is less than the average issue. Once again its not as though there haven't been albums to review, King of Cats' debut album Working Out was streamed on NME.com but has not received a review in the magazine since it's release. To be fair to the NME live reviews do far better with eight gigs featured covering a range of genres and sizes of bands.

I must admit I'm quite confused by this issue because it seems as though there is less new music, fewer reviews and features than in a normal issue. It is becoming clear why the sales of the magazine which will celebrate its 63rd birthday this year have dropped below 20,000, the once iconic music magazine is failing to deliver what it has promised. Perhaps now the question simply is how many more birthdays will they be celebrating at NME HQ?