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Monthly Archives: May 2013

cautionersepTITLE: Conditional Identity
BAND: Cautioners
LABEL: Scylla Records
RELEASED: June 10th 2013

Bristol indie trio Cautioners were brought to my attention this week, described as suitable for fans of Death Cab For Cutie and The Get Up Kids. Conditional Identity is their first EP and shockingly, they are yet to play a live show. Despite this, they have got themselves a great reputation in Bristol and the release of the EP is something that a lot of people have been eagerly anticipating.

They have already racked up a BBC Introducing appearance and a rave review from music site, Already Heard who said of them: “fantastic flag bearers for new music emerging in Bristol”. With all that praise, the record should be a winner.

cautioners-5Beginning with Staging Area which has a slow acoustic and drawling vocals. It is quite dirgey sounding but thankfully, it kicks up a little just before the two minute mark into a slightly alternative rock instrumental. A soft piano in the back is quite lullaby like and the repetitive backing plods on until the end with a violin thrown in. So many layers are at play and it really is an interesting track.

Moving on to The Build Up which has a strong funky drum beat and a gritty guitar with whispery vocals over the top. There is a definite indie theme instilled in the voice and the pop rhythm makes it a bit of a commercial, cool track. The most interesting part is definitely the drum which is quite unpredictable and you never know where it’s going to go next. Towards the end, the song gets more rock-based and the chimes at the end leave you with an eerie feeling.

My favourite track on the EP is Iteration V which is melodic indie pop with spooky monotones backing it up. The contrast in emotions makes for a lot of intrigue into what the band are trying to achieve with it. The vocals are very exposed until the drums and bass appear and it does take on a kind of emo tone. Off Piste comes next and it is the only track that uses electronica. It starts by mixing with a haunting organ which is joined by calming, swaying vocals. The instrumental is atmospheric and has to some pretty impressive riffs in it with the electronic spirals darting in between.

Perhaps the song that I think could be better is Man Of Science. I think it’s too long a song to be pretty much all on one level and it’s so repetitive. It reminded me of Hoobastank a little bit, (it’s that kind of emotional indie) but on the whole, it was the one that I wanted more from. The closing track Petrichor has a spacey intro mixed with a funky rhythm, which automatically makes it pretty cool. The vocals float through the drum-led backing and when it launches into an alternative instrumental, it changes into a great end track with an eerie piano at the end.

It is a great debut EP with a fair few elements to it. Not the most energetic or lively of records but it is good chill-out music with a lot to say for itself. No doubt their live shows will be huge successes due to the love they’ve already amassed.

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apachetearsepTITLE: Barricades
BAND: Apache Tears
LABEL: Unsigned
RELEASED: June 3rd 2013

Having already supported a number of successful acts including Blood Red Shoes, The Maccabees and Pete Doherty, Apache Tears have been doing their rounds of the live circuit for a while now. The Huddersfield band’s debut EP Barricades is a perfect mix of indie, folk and alternative rock with the odd pop fusion thrown in. Kasabian frontman Tom Meighan has said of the band: “There’s no air in this band! Tight as fuck!” Pretty impressive reviews, then!

The EP itself has a lot of genres on it and therefore it is one of those “everyone will love something on it” records. The title track begins with ringing calming riffs and a funky bass backed up for a drum. It’s melodic indie with a psychadelic element to it while the backing builds suspense. An atmospheric, repetitive instrumental ends it, which is a perfect introduction to what the rest of the EP is about.

apachetearsViolated is something quite different again. A strong alternative influence is detected in the intro and an American slant is put on the vocals. It has that classic rock sound seen in Bon Jovi and KISS complete with metallic riffs. An easy to pick up chorus means it’s certainly an amazing live track with the potential to really bring the venue down. Loud, energetic and fun-loving, it’s an awesome rock-out party track.

Contrast it with the slow and folksy Bear Trap and you see how diverse Apache Tears are. The backing has a constant sadness in it and the dreary, resonating Northern tones add to the whole downbeat atmosphere. The backing has a gentle swaying rhythm and has a lullaby quality to it, which makes it perfect chill-out music. The Bear Trap is a metaphor for an inescapable relationship and although it may sound pretty morbid, it’s an intriguing and pretty accurate description of a situation you can’t get away from.

Worship (In The Rosary) begins with an upbeat pop-rock melody that features a dark riff and ethereal vocals. Again, the classic rock tone is ingrained in the guitars and vocal delivery. It’s a funky alternative rock track with impressive solos, which allow the vocals to really develop. In fact, it’s on Worship that the lead vocals are shown off best, as the whole range is used. It is perhaps the most technically impressive song on the EP.

Butter Up Your Enemy is the most commercial song with a real catchy hook and a retro rock and roll backing. The vocals are delivered in a quirky, staccato style which oozes British indie to a catchy rhythm. Steady drums back up the classic alternative riffs and it is another track that you can imagine would get the party started at many small venues all over the world.

The combination of the Interlude which consists of a slow whining riff that screeches its way through a misty setting and the powerful ballad called Isolation Sleep is an interesting ending which again shows a different side to Apache Tears. Interlude has running drums and a murmuring bass before dying into a blurry fuzz while Isolation Sleep has a slight country feel to it and spaced-out melodic vocals. It is a very moving and effective ending that leaves you with a positive impression.

It is a great varied EP and as a first record, it is an awesome indie rock record. If you have an eclectic taste, then you’ll love the diversity displayed throughout Barricades. There’s no doubt that it’s trendy and could possibly be labelled as a hipster record. However, there isn’t any urgent feeling that you have to be cool to enjoy it, making it pretty accessible to just about everyone.

I have long been a fan of Jessie J’s voice, style and general sassyness, so when I heard she unveiled a new video today, I was very excited. Going back to her urban roots, Wild is the lead single from her upcoming second album with a video that is definitely her raunchiest yet. Unfortunately, it does feel like she is morphing into some sort of Rihanna figure and she has lost a bit of her individuality. I much prefer Jessie stripped back with just her vocal but no doubt Wild will be a big club smash this summer. Let’s hope there will be some pretty pop ballads on the new album.

thequickfiresepTITLE: Surprise, Surprise
BAND: The Quickfires
LABEL: Unsigned
RELEASED: May 15th 2013

Young Essex trio The Quickfires are a very new band who have an indie vibe nailed. Their quirky vocals, strong basslines and rhythmic drum solos blend together in a way that appears to have always meant to be. Influences include The Wombats and The Kooks and it’s this kind of upbeat, hipster sound that they’ve certainly managed to hone in their so far, very short career.

Surprise, Surprise comprises of four songs that are young, fresh and packed full of energy just like their writers. Currently gigging all over Essex, these are songs that you can imagine really get a small venue dancing and singing along. I can only guess that The Quickfires’ live set is one huge party.

Beginning with Rosanna, which perfectly introduces the quirky indie vocals that remain with us for the rest of the EP. A melodic pop-punk guitar strums along to the catchy pop rhythm provided by the deep bass and metallic drums. The instrumental just after the two minute mark is pretty simple but remarkably clever, as it draws your attention to the retro rock and roll-inspired flavour that continues to crop up.

thequickfiresNext up is Tell Me Twice, which begins with a funky bass and a strong drum intro which is joined by an alternative guitar. The indie vocals return and give us a catchy chorus while keeping the retro vibe. So much of classic British indie is instilled in this track but the impressive drum solo backed up by the growling guitar give it an edge that sets it apart from the others.

The anomaly is definitely Other Side. Bringing everything down a gear, the slow acoustic sets the tone for this melancholy ballad. Again, there is something that is inherently old-fashioned about it as the lyrics are delivered in a dark, brooding tone. A sad story of a guy trying to forget a lost love is something that is constantly depicted in music and you begin to think that it is just like any other break-up track but when the drums kick in at three and a half minutes, it suddenly climaxes into a power-pop song with a newfound passion in the vocals.

Ending on the title track, Surprise, Surprise is definitely the most catchy track on the EP. The upbeat riffs immediately grab you and as a result, it’s clear that this is the fun-loving live track. Again, it has a rock and roll vibe in the backing vocals that keep it fresh and summer-ready. Combined with a hell of an earworm for a chorus, it’s a trendy funky track that will no doubt be on your summer playlist.

All in all, it is a very impressive first effort from The Quickfires. There are a lot of indie bands who combine retro with the modern, so they’re not offering anything majorly new. It is a great, easy-to-listen-to record and there is still so much room for them to grow and find a niche, which they certainly have the talent to do.

muse2ndlawGIG: The 2nd Law
BANDS: Muse, Dizzee Rascal, Bastille
VENUE: Emirates Stadium, London
DATE: May 25th 2013

I finally have a gig to review! This is my first live review of 2013 and what a night to write up! I bought tickets to this gig as a treat to Dan and myself and I haven’t been to a gig in a long time, which I know is absolutely appalling as a music blogger. Muse have always been widely regarded as amazing showmen and due to that, I was expecting something pretty memorable and completely spellbinding.

bastille_642After getting over the beauty and pure spectacle of Arsenal football team’s home ground, we found a standing spot to the left of the stage and waited for things to start. Bastille took to the stage and played the best hits from their debut album Bad Blood, including Icarus, Flaws and The Weight Of Living. Unfortunately, the majority of the crowd didn’t react that much until Pompeii began and they received the applause and praise that they deserved. In fact, Bastille were the perfect support for Muse and I was still humming their songs long after the gig had finished. No doubt that after a few more singles, another awesome album, they’ll be selling out arenas too.

dizzeeDizzee Rascal seemed a bit of a random fixture on the bill to me and there were indeed a few crowd members who had no interest in him at all. However, for the most part he did really get the party started and was joined on stage by fellow grime artist Scope and singer Daniel Pearce to help perform Bassline Junkie, Dance Wiv Me, Holiday and of course, Bonkers. Dizzee did treat us to quite a few gems from his upcoming album Something Really Bad, which unfortunately didn’t go down too well with the crowd, who were desperate to hear his classics. He certainly made me smile with his foul mouth and cheeky grins though, so I did enjoy his performance.

The anticipation for Muse was so strong and everyone, despite the sore feet, was just willing the band they love to appear. When they did, the room was deafening. We were thrown into a sci-fi world of numbers, codes and technology from which first came their The 2nd Law opener Supremacy. Clad in dashing red trousers, Matt squealed his way through the track before beginning the next and stopping, swore as if he’d got the wrong song and restarted with Supermassive Black Hole.

mattbelWeirdness and proof of why a Muse gig is so amazing arrived around the time Panic Station began. Animations of the world leaders including Obama, Cameron, Merkel, Putin and Jinping bust out their best moves to the ultra funky, Queen-esque song, even causing Matt to smile when he caught sight of the screen behind him. The stage gimmicks kept happening, when “Muros” or fake money were shot out into the crowd on Animals.

As expected, the moshers really took it to town on the guitar heavy Knights Of Cydonia and began running frantically in circles as the band completely killed the song. Even Matt asked “Are you guys starting a fight club down there?” once the song was over. After the mayhem of the moshpit, Muse really needed to tone it down a little and what better way to do that than to get out the piano and have Matt slowly croon the beautiful United States Of Eurasia. His voice lilted out over the crowd and it really was such a relaxing listen.

The band then continued with the unexpected appearance of Dead Star, which was widely appreciated and their infamous cover of Feeling Good followed not long afterwards. Again, the stage antics were more than a little questionable on the latter song, when a blonde woman dressed in a business suit proceeded to drink “petrol” from a pump. All very bizarre and designed to shock and amaze.

A trio of The 2nd Law songs ensued beginning with Follow Me, then Liquid State and finally Madness -the latter of which completely mesmerized me. Matt donned a pair of glasses which projected the lyrics of Madness on the lenses while he sang. It was an awesome, chilled performance that completely silenced the crowd and we could just simply savour every soulful note. It was the calm before the storm of Time Is Running Out, which got everyone shouting the lyrics and jumping up and down before the intro to their cover of House Of The Rising Sun, linking to an animated roulette wheel which swayed between Stockholm Syndrome and New Born, before landing on the latter.

museThe band then reverted to the smaller stage at the other end of the aisle and during Blackout, a giant inflatable light bulb moved above the crowd before a ballerina came tumbling out of the bottom, spraying more Muros everywhere. She cartwheeled and floated elegantly above the awestruck spectators as Matt finished the song and drifted into Guiding Light. The stage tricks didn’t end there, when Charles the robot arrived on stage and remained throughout the glitchy Unsustainable, which also included bright lights and technical codes running behind.

When the unmistakeable riff of Plug In Baby rang out, the entire crowd cheered and the stage came alive with pyrotechnics and explosions. Their Olympic anthem Survival followed suit with animated suited men chanting and marching behind on the screen, helping create the militant vibe of the song that has become synonymous with Britain’s triumphs of last summer. Continuing the military theme with Uprising, which saw Matt don a red jacket and see himself multiplied twelve-fold on the screens. Naturally, the room was once again jumping and screaming the lyrics back to him creating such an atmosphere of camaraderie. Ending on Starlight, which is arguably one of their most commercially popular tracks was a great choice and left us with an awesome lasting impression of them.

I definitely went home thinking I’d seen a great show as well as had a good time listening to the music. I love how so much thought is put into the actual show as a whole and it’s not just a simple concert of their songs. Naturally, the band were flawless and completely wowed everyone. They are definitely a band that everyone should see at least once.

Recently, I was contacted by a band informing me of the release of their new video. That band happened to be London pop-rock trio The Bora and after listening to the new single Only One, I felt that I had to share it with you lovely readers. Catchy and upbeat with a lot of quirky charm, the new single follows the band’s ¬†EP Midnight which was released last year. You can’t deny that this is a tune for your summer playlist, so just watch this space -The Bora could be the next radio-smash.

shootingstansfieldepTITLE: We Know Not What We Do
BAND: Shooting Stansfield
LABEL: Unsigned
RELEASED: June 7th 2013

Indie bands are simply everywhere at the moment thanks to their current surge of popularity and as a result, I am constantly hearing of unsigned bands trying to hone their own niche in a genre that is over-saturated with music that frankly all sounds the same. Although I may say it a lot on this blog, this is a band that has a definite something extra. Meet Shooting Stansfield, an Edinburgh quartet with rave reviews of their brand new EP, We Know Not What We Do.

Praise comes from Scottish music blogs Favourite Son, who said of their previous EP Endeavour: “littered with tracks that stick in your head” and Peenko: “Fans of Frightened Rabbit would be urged to check out this up and coming act”. Having been compared to obscure indie acts such as Bright Eyes and The National, Shooting Stansfield are now branching out with their new release.

It begins with Blue Turns Black, which is melodic indie with summer riffs and the classic festival, folksy feel. So far, you may think I’m describing simply another dull, indie record but the thick Scottish lilt in the vocals is unmistakeable. This is a continuing motif and it really causes them to stand out from the usual fake-accented indie that we’ve unfortunately become so used to. A catchy “we know not what we do” hook really hammers home the name and message of the EP right from the get-go.

shootingstansfieldChanging into Greater Or Lesser, the guitar begins by slowly whining its way through the intro. It has a kind of campfire, story-teller vibe to it which I love. The drums arrive and it picks up a little, merging layers together as it retains the casual rhythm. Ultimately, it’s the perfect lazy summer track and its catchy hook carries on through till the end. It drifts into Sign Of The Times, which is another slow acoustic number. Again, the Scottish accent is there and it really is so refreshing to here something so raw and real from an indie band. Sign Of The Times is a soothing, relaxing tune despite it being a little monotone. It is however, a beautiful love story.

Perhaps the stand-out track on the EP for me is Satellites. I love the spacey feel to the backing music as the strums seem to resonate and go on forever. The floaty indie rhythm oozes slowly out and you’re left with a laid-back, slightly haunting sensation. Backing harmonies only add to the ethereal, gently lulling you into chill-out mode. The feeling of uncertainty that is clearly depicted in the lyrics suggests hanging between things like a satellite and simply not knowing what to do. Trying to stay relaxed while making a difficult choice is perhaps what the band are trying to convey through the contrast of emotions created.

There Are No Greater Truths has simple guitar strums, a slowely introduced drum layer and a focus on the dreamy vocals. The folksy theme is back again and it simply strolls through a flat track with no rise and fall at all. It’s not one of the EP’s stronger songs and I feel it could have done with more power in the closing instrumental, whereas instead the drums just peter out. It becomes the final, short burst that is State Of Mind, which sees the guitars really take centre-stage as the vocals simply whisper behind the ringing sirens that are produced from the strings -certainly a pretty effective way to end a show.

All in all, I feel that the EP could have had a little more energy at times but I do appreciate it for what it is -a kick-back-and-chill-out record. I love that Shooting Stansfield have well and truly stuck to who they are and it’s great to hear indie vocals that are distinctive with no frills or pretence. Hats off, guys!