Here is a Liverpool alt-folk five-piece with a soaring, atmospheric sound that is sure to get under your skin and settle. Dreamy and haunting, Cavalry are an exciting newcomer to the scene. Drawing comparisons to The National and Bon Iver, they have had two previous tracks released online -Leaves and Lament. These and a small number of live performances are all they have to show for their early success that has earned them fans at Radio 1, Radio 2 and 6 Music. Channeling an epic indie slant, their upcoming single An Understanding will be released on May 31st and here is the video.
I won an arc of this book in a Goodreads giveaway and I was pretty excited because I rarely win them. Techbitch is an adult contemporary chick-lit novel written by two journalists. It isn’t my normal taste and I possibly wouldn’t have picked it up had I not received a free copy but as an editorial assistant, it is about an industry that I know very well and as a result, reading a fiction book about it is very enjoyable. I guess you could call media industry-set chick-lit my guilty pleasure!
Techbitch follows editor-in-chief Imogen Tate who is at the helm of Glossy magazine, a leading New York fashion title. At least she was until she took time off to recover from breast cancer. When she returns, she is shocked to discover that her former assistant Eve Morton is back from Harvard business school and taken over the magazine. Worse than that, she has completely revamped Glossy into an app, which is something that Imogen has no idea about. Suddenly the years of experience and friendships with top designers doesn’t matter and Imogen feels out-of-place and very old amongst these social media addicted twenty-somethings. However, determined to get on board with the changing times, Imogen teaches herself to tweet and find the best Instagram filter to bring herself up to speed. Meanwhile, power seems to corrupt Eve and the girl who was once Imogen’s naive assistant becomes a work-obsessed superbitch with a secret much darker than Imogen could ever imagine.
Both authors have spent time on high-profile fashion magazines and that really shows when reading this book. It really gets to the dark truths of fashion journalism and you get a sense that the authors have based the characters on real people they know in the industry. Lucy Sykes is a London-born journalist who works in New York and says that she is currently learning new media -she IS Imogen! As a result of this real-life experience to draw on, the characters are very strong and realistic.
Imogen is a protagonist who you really root for. As well as a successful editor, she is also a down-to-earth mother and loyal wife and friend. Her marriage to lawyer Alex is very solid for a middle-aged married couple and the scenes with her children are heartwarming. When her daughter Annabel is having problems with cyberbullying, a darker subplot is planted. Unfortunately I guessed the ending of this subplot fairly early on in its development and therefore, I didn’t get the full impact of its climax. However, there is another plot thread with Aerin Chang, expert Instagrammer and CEO of upcoming shopping site Shoppit. I didn’t guess the outcome of this strand and I’m glad I didn’t because it’s what leads us into the happy ending.
The plot itself isn’t the most exciting I’ve ever read. It’s not a particularly fast-paced page-turner but it was easy reading. There was nothing that I desperately hated about the book except perhaps Eve. However, as I’m now used to the action-packed drama of YA fantasy, Techbitch did leave a bit to be desired. Chick-lit isn’t a big love of mine but I did feel an affinity with Imogen and could relate to a lot of the themes. It would be a great summer beach read for The Devil Wears Prada fans!
NB: Techbitch will be released as The Knockoff in the US
This Oxford four-piece certainly have a name you’ll remember. Apparently it came about when singer Dave Thompson was sitting on a rooftop and a Scottish guy uttered the words “Go on, do it, jump” and to drop a cliche, the rest is history! Gumtree is to answer for the formation of the band who all share a love for melodic rock with a touch of the sun to it. Therefore, their band was born in 2011.
A debut EP entitled Grace, Poise, Clarity followed a couple of years later to the band’s mantra of “play what we love and love what we play”. Supporting Klaxons and Catfish and the Bottlemen, Go On Do It Jump have earned themselves some fans in high places including Keira Knightley who once heard them soundcheck. January is a double EP that can be easily split into two -the first four songs dealing with the past and the second four with the future. Both halves comprise of the band’s upbeat pop-rock that formed the basis of their union.
January I begins with We Were A Somewhere, a chilled out summer background track. It begins with a fuzzy alternative rock intro and lapses into the clear deep indie vocal. Even the whining guitars blend into the melody and the strong drums in the instrumental really flesh it out. Nice lilting harmonies on the final vocal chunk end it on a high.
Walk Before explodes in your ear with a piercing ringing riff which is joined by a chilled drum and bassline. The guitars are the stars of the show on this track as they really drown out the vocals. Once again, the band show that they can do many facets of rock with the alternative instrumental accompanied by pop-rock vocal. It’s followed by Sonder, which has that laid-back summer sound that transports you a few months to festival season. A bouncing rhythm contrasts the whiny guitar spurts.
The first half of the EP ends on Where The Lighthouse Stands, a swaying ballad with an atmospheric vocal. Full of memories and lyrical imagery, it’s a pretty and stirring soundscape that is shadowed by a growling riff. The vocal is exposed in some parts which gives it a warmer, more wholesome feel which is really nice when rounding off a piece about things gone past.
On to the future in the second half of the record, we end up in Manhattanhenge, wherever that is. Starting with an Americana riff and building instruments, it’s another chilled pop-rock number. The British indie is still instilled in the sound and it ends being a great live track with an ear-splitting guitar solo and ethereal backing vocals towards the end.
Spin is perhaps my favourite of the eight songs. It’s a catchy festival track with a killer chorus and atmospheric soaring vocals. The dark riff and drum at the start prevail in the background and it’s the first time that the vocals really move. We are not just listening to a limited amount of vocal notes anymore but across Dave’s whole range.
Short but sweet, The Grip Of Things Past strips the vocals bare again. A very soft riff and drum sound in the background but the pretty catchy melody belongs to the vocal. Again, there are elements of festival indie which is starting to become the soundtrack to many listeners’ summers as the guitars sing it out.
Ending on the dreamy pop-rock of I Woke Up, Go On Do It Jump are bringing together all they’ve given us. The guitar ripples, melodic bare vocal with an indie slant and steady drum running in the back make up who they are and it’s great that they’ve left us with this. It has a summer haze to it that has been descending the whole time and now that it’s finally there, it has consumed this big-hit chorus. May the summer party continue!
January is one to remember for the coming months. There are some tracks that will add a touch of quirk to any summer playlist and are sure to get you in the festival spirit. Go On Do It Jump are great additions to the summer pop-rock genre and their sound sits nicely amongst festival giants.
Merge the dark Northern drawl of Arctic Monkeys with the smooth rhythms of a 60s blues club and the new single by The Seagulls is close. Girl You Must Be Dreaming showcases the Leeds’ band’s chilled guitar and easy rock ‘n’ roll vibe. Dubbed “tropical pop” by their fans, The Seagulls are creating their own brand of music and slowly bringing it to the masses. Their live performances are reportedly something not to miss and they are embarking on a mini UK tour next month starting in their home city at The Brewdog on May 3rd. They are then heading to Newcastle on May 10th as they play Head of Steam before bringing their laid-back sound to London on May 16th, where you can catch them at The Islington. Their album is due to drop this summer. Watch the video for the new single now!
All Time Low are a band who I’ve loved since I was a teenager and I’ve followed their career ever since. Dear Maria, Count Me In and Six Feet Under The Stars both from their album So Wrong, It’s Right in 2007 were big anthems of my late teens and because of that, they will always be a special band to me.
Their new album Future Hearts is the Baltimore pop-punks’ sixth album and follows 2012’s Don’t Panic, which I reviewed back then. Don’t Panic featured the empowering rock monster that was The Reckless and the Brave and the new offering is in a similar vein. A mix of their classic pop-rock style that they’ve always had but with a new electronic dimension that we haven’t seen before.
Something’s Gotta Give was the first single to be released from Future Hearts in January. It has a summer vibe and an explosive chorus with alternative edge. It’s a chilled song with Alex’s melodic vocals set to a swaying rhythm with crashing drums bulking up the back. This is the song that hinted at what was to come but it’s a little misleading to take it as a real taste of what the rest of the record holds. The second single Kids In The Dark was released last month and it shows the new electronic layer. It’s based on a synth background with an alternative rock chorus. It’s a youthful emo song with powerful lyrics that unites against being kept in the dark.
Classic All Time Low is evident on Kicking And Screaming, a high energy pop-punk track with an upbeat melody created by metallic riffs and an angsty hook. It’s there again on Cinderblock Garden with its soaring chorus and tinny guitars. The background chanting “uh-uh-ohs” are another signature pop-punk trope that they haven’t let go of. Don’t You Go is a quirky cheeky track with an American teen movie vibe. It has an offbeat style that makes it stand out on the album.
Future Hearts isn’t without high-profile guest stars. Tidal Waves features Blink’s Mark Hoppus contributing to a soaring ballad with poetic lyrics and beautiful imagery. The deep guitar ripples and kooky electronic tones make it laid-back but the words tell a dark story about being lied about and let down. Bail Me Out introduces Good Charlotte frontman Joel Madden. This retro pop-rock song has a catchy chorus and a quirky summer rhythm. It’s upbeat and cheerful with an acoustic foundation.
Two songs that are very different from classic All Time Low are Runaways and Missing You, particularly the latter. Both songs begin with pretty chimes and have a whimsical atmosphere. Runaways is about escaping pain and heartbreak and is something that a lot of listeners will relate to. A chorus that encourages us to ignore our tormentors pushes through strong drums and tinkling guitars. Missing You has a slight country slant to it and is undeniably American. Climbing harmonies on the chorus contrast the soft melody and sit next to the folksy vibe. Another song of note is Dancing With A Wolf. The beginning has an old movie feel with strong dark drums and riffs. It’s fast-paced with a prowling rhythm and an ominous atmosphere. Dark and mysterious, it’s a loud live track that really sticks in your mind.
Ending on Old Scars/Future Hearts, the album ends on a song that incorporates everything on the album -electronic spurts, growling riffs and angsty lyrics. It’s not the strongest song on the album, which is why I’m not sure it was the best to end on. However, it has got some high energy moments and a tension between the verses and chorus. It’s a crowd-pleaser which makes it a great live track and the line “We got scars on our future hearts but we never looked back” is a mantra that we can all take away from the record.
Future Hearts is a mixed album. I prefer All Time Low’s earlier work but I’m not sure if that’s because of the nostalgia attached to it or whether they’re actually better at the pure angsty emo/pop-punk. There are some great lyrics on this album but I don’t know whether the synths suit their style. However, there are still enough of the tinny guitars and cheeky energetic pop-punk to make it an enjoyable album.
Last year, I reviewed Vladimir’s single Come Over and now they’re back with a new one. The alternative band from Dundee have announced new single In My Head ahead of their London date with The Fall on April 24th.
Despite still being in their late teens, Vladimir have racked up an impressive live CV already sharing stages with Pulled Apart By Horses and The View. They aren’t for the listener who loves their quirky, upbeat indie or pop. These boys have a lot of grit and a darkness that haunts their power-driven rock. Q magazine described their music as “addictive melodies that smack you in the face like a belligerent drunk at a funeral”. In My Head is their latest down-and-out offering.
Opening with dark instruments and a dreary mature vocal, In My Head is a solid alternative track. There is no denying that Vladimir don’t sound their age and their moody tone is what gives them their appeal. Although they are bleak and dismal, they don’t sound like a group of stroppy teens. The noisy instruments frame the repetitive hook and monotone melody reminding us of their signature angsty edge.
They’ve got a reputation for being loud and energetic and In My Head is straight from the smoky bars of underground Dundee. However, that doesn’t mean it belongs there. They’ve got an Arctic Monkeys quality to their riffs crossed with Kaiser Chiefs-esque rhythms. Although they are the blacker side of indie, they’ve still got an innate slant towards the quirky.
Listen to In My Head below and fall in love with a young band who still have a lot more to give.
When I rebooted this blog and stated that I only wanted to review certain genres of music, I did worry that it might become a bit static and one-dimensional. However, when I was sent a press release for Chili and the Whalekillers, I realised that it’s unlikely to happen due to the huge scope that my chosen genres have. Indie is such a diverse area and this Icelandic-Austrian band are yet another face of it.
Merging an authentic 60s sound with modern arty indie-pop, the five-piece have created retro music for the millenials. They released their first album The Tragic Tale of Julie and the Crying Clown in 2011 to critical acclaim in Austria, where they are best known. Since then, they have gone on to win the European Youth Forum’s Emerging Band contest and their single Turn reached number three in the Icelandic charts. That song and the album of the same name is set to be released in the UK on May 11th.
Turn is a laid-back affair with that rich old-fashioned vibe featuring mellow guitars and a jaunty melody. A sweet chorus and layers of harmonies top it off. It also has a pretty cute video which you can watch below!
Chili and the Whalekillers are also touring the UK next month. The full list of dates are:
May 14th- The Great Escape Festival, Brighton
May 15th- The Hop, Wakefield
May 16th- Riverside Live, Sheffield
May 17th- Gillespie Crescent, Edinburgh
May 18th- The Griffin, Glasgow
May 19th- Jenny Blyth Fine Art at ART Jericho, Oxford
May 20th- The Old Blue Last, London
May 22nd- Sound City Festival, Liverpool
Keep up with Chili and the Whalekillers on Facebook.