Monday, 30 December 2013

LISTEN: BROODS - Never Gonna Change

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (30/12/13)

Packing enough pop punch to force anyone to revise their ones to watch lists, NZ siblings BROODS return with another stellar creation in 'Never Gonna Change'. 

October’s 'Bridges' was a breakthrough for the duo who have since signed to Polydor (UK) and Capitol (USA). It was hard to imagine another track that could so quickly shoot you in the heart.

But 'Never Gonna Change' is equally as gripping, showing off the act’s darker side with brooding (geddit?) synths, scuttling percussion and fleshy vocal blushes. Georgia Nott whips her souffléd vocals into a thicker syrup, complemented by heavy harmonies and coarse guitar solos. It’s quite startling and is only the second song they’ve ever written. Ever.

Expect big things for BROODS in 2014, who have Lorde producer Joel Little in tow and support from, basically, the whole internet.

LISTEN: Painted Palms - Here It Comes

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (30/12/13)

San Francisco/Louisiana duo Painted Palms have got us all caught up in their swirling, 60s-indebted psych pop with new track, “Here It Comes”.

Light-hearted synths are tightly wound and released over crackling beats, jingle bells and layers of muddy vocal. There’s something creative and childlike about the song with its densely looped melodies, simple keys and heavy bass plods, like if Animal Collective were to soundtrack the Rugrats (now, wouldn’t that be something)?

“Forever” got blogs talking but “Here It Comes” is just as much a conversation starter. The duo release their self-titled debut album in January 2014.

FEATURE: Laura Welsh - Ones to Watch 2014

*Originally published for The Tipping Point (11/12/13)

Seemingly arriving from nowhere with the Dev Hynes-produced ‘Unravel’ in March, London-based singer Laura Welsh was in fact giving her musical career another push. 

Previously heading up acts Laura And The Tears in 2010 and Hey Laura, the songstress had taken a hiatus to reset her ideas and “write songs for myself”. She later moved on to work with the likes of Rhye and Emile Haynie (Kanye West, Lana Del Rey). “It felt like a sort of period in time where I had a lot of freedom to just build on what I wanted to do”, she said.

That freedom is duly encapsulated in her music, particularly the candid lyricism of ‘Unravel’ – “I’ll give you all my love/ just take what I don’t need”. All the components are exposed to the elements, from bare piano notes to breathy vocal hums and hushes, allowing Ms Welsh to stand with the take-me-as-I am spirit of neo soul peers Jessie Ware and Laura Mvula.

In October, Radio 1 added her latest single ‘Undiscovered’ to the In New Music We Trust playlist and a flurry of famous producers have since jumped to remix her work.

Now putting the final touches to her debut LP due early 2014, it seems Laura has set herself up well for what we think will be her busiest year to date. A holiday does wonders for the soul.

WATCH: Hella Better Dancer - Sleeptalking [Premiere]

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (9/12/13)

Lo-fi London quartet Hella Better Dancer present their magical new video for 'Sleeptalking', premièring today on Best Fit. 

Directed by Billy Boyd Cape, the video sees actors and bandmembers caught in a starry daze, dancing with eyes closed in a blue and red hue. It’s well-suited to the track’s dreamy harmonies, powerhouse rhythms and ricochet guitars, hypnotising you with it’s clever slow-mo camera twists and turns.

'Sleeptalking' is available as a free download here. The band play Roundhouse Rising on 23 February 2014

FEATURE: Tracks of the Week - 6/12/13

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (6/12/13)

December – where did that come from? This week’s new music certainly doesn’t sound like it’s the end of the year.

Laura Bettinson was formerly the brains behind afrobeat group Dimbleby & Capper, currently heads up Ultraísta and has now has a new guise as FEMME. October’s 'Fever Boy' was instantly recognisable as one of her own with its clap-happy beats, cutting vocals and undulating grooves. The track’s now been washed with Canadian rapper Cadence Weapon’s heaving chants and dirty drops, and squares up well to the original cut.

Eugene Quell’s debut offering 'Weird Purr' was too hard to ignore with its soft grunge snarls and fuzzy layers. He’s no stranger to this sound though, having played in bands since the early 90s. The track makes a bed in your head with drowsy snare snaps and chatty vocals. It might be laid back, but it’s deceptively bright and confident, psyching us up for future releases.

Building on the game-changing RnB that’s dominated this year is the latest track from Ben Khan. 'Savage' is buoyant, energetic and a quick shot in the heart with its funk guitars, klaxon synths and rich singing. We think he might have chucked older hooks into the mix here, clogging up its thick layers with sprightly guitar lines. 

London duo Kaleida dropped the second track from their debut EP and our synthpop hearts exploded. Like 'Eden', 'Tropea'‘s synths glint inside dark chasms of ghostly vocals and gallant rhythms. It’s promising music: self-assured and wholly accessible.

As far as debuts go, few can stretch minds as well as Adult Jazz’ first effort. 'Springful'‘s art school, chop-pop textures recall much of Dirty Projectors’ back catalogue and yet sound completely new. The Leeds fourpiece are trying to push boundaries. They can do this as much as they like.

Listen to our selection of the week’s best tracks below:

FEATURE: Empress Of - Ones To Watch 2014

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (6/12/13)

The honest pursuit of innovation has stood proud over the last 12 months of music, from “future-garage” to “PBR&B”, or any other suitable names critics will feed internet minds looking for a quick-fix musical education.

With such a crowded market comes some inevitable shirking of genres: 90s revivalism and the death of nu-folk (thank god for the latter). That’s not to say guitar music is dead, however. Far from it. It’s simply evolving, blurring the line between electronics and acoustics, between producer and artist, swirling a multitude of influences in its bottomless glass.

For now, this creativity is very exciting. Any self-respecting music geek would have spent more than a few unhealthy hours dreaming up unlikely genre pairings (who knew era-hopping could sound as good this)? But the future of music is always fearsome because it is unknown. To know how to deal with it when you’re in it – when you’re in the zeitgeist – is just as disconcerting, with a sharp bite of rhetoric.

After much drooling over Empress Of’s Cocteau Twins-indebted Colourmusic project (2012) and Systems EP (2013), we thought we had a pretty good idea of what the experimental Brooklynite would bring next. But October’s 'Realize You' was the jittery, bold club-banger that scoffed at any scribbles of dreamy synthpop.

“I want to have constant change”, says Lorely Rodriguez (AKA Empress Of). I get frustrated when an artist I like is regurgitating the same thing.

“I’m in denial. I recently played in an opera house at [Iceland] Airwaves festival. It was a seated venue and people starting to dance and stuff to 'Realize You'. I was like, 'this is not good', but my manager thought it was great. I’m not sure…

“I mean, I wrote that song about a relationship", she sighs on the phone from USA.  "I was emotional and mad. It’s like I was moving on the inside and my music was moving on the outside. Making dreamy music was just not reflecting what I felt.”

She adds that her influences are “really all over the place”, ranging from Nirvana to James Holden and AlunaGeorge.

“This year has actually been a constant year of listening to music. I really appreciate when someone tries to do something different. Like Kanye West. I’ve looked up to him this year. Yeezus sounds like so many things and not like anything, also.”

Lorely’s answers are dichotomous, often flitting between a yes/no. “I’m just figuring out what I want to do with my music” is heard a few times down the crackly phoneline.

Perhaps this uncertainty is healthy for modern music, for the smorgasbord of sounds we now hear today – the perfect tonic for developing her sound?

“I’m a songwriter and I love interesting melodies. My earlier stuff was really romantic and had complicated rhythms. I think this year will be more simple, more consistent like a heartbeat. The melodies will be quirkier. I want to challenge myself.”

That’s her most definite answer yet.

NEWS/LIVE: Boxed In plays debut London headline show

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (3/12/13)

An in-demand producer and musician Oli Bayston of Boxed In has helped pen songs for the likes of Lily Allen but the release of his debut single, 'All Your Love Is Gone' in November pushed him into a new limelight. An excitable crowd gathered at London’s The Waiting Room last night to hear what all the fuss is about.

The wood plated walls of the Stoke Newington venue were a mirror to Boxed In’s snugly packed structures and melodies. Better still, the room burst at the seams with fans and friends all eager to be a part of his headline show.

Every song was as tightly performed as the former – be it the strict motorik rhythms on 'All Your Love Is Gone' or 'Subtle Knife'‘s house music inflections. For many a fervent fan out there the performance gave them a strong taste of what’s to come: from smart dance music to upbeat, jazz-inflected pop.

Foot Of The Hill
Subtle Knife
Run Quicker
No Joke
All Your Love Is Gone
False Alarm – The Melody (Carl Craig cover)

FEATURE: Tracks of the Week - 1/12/13

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (1/12/13)

It’s been another whirlwind week of new music. This is what we got excited about. 

London-based artists Sivu and Marika Hackman paired up for 'I Hold' and it was a match made in quirk-pop heaven. Billowing flutes, glitchy electronics and frail vocals lean on each other for support in world full of dreamy desire and chants of “I wanna be yours”.

We were astounded by Welsh vocalist Violet Skies’ debut track, 'How Mighty'. Opening and closing as a spindling piano ballad, bold electronics soon flood the space with oscillating bass throbs and synths akin to electro-soul goddess, Jessie Ware. What an impressive start.

Rising Norwegian star Cashmere Cat’s latest track sounds like a million ideas rolled into one. 'With Me' is a bewildering experiment of contrasts between the heavy and the gentle: dirty synths fight with tender xylophone pops and airy vocals quick-foot snappy beats. New release, The Wedding Bells, is out in the new year.

With an influx of inventive synth music in recent years, especially from the Nordic lands, it’s refreshing to hear such rooted folk-pop perfection from Swedish duo, Solander. 'All Opportunities' teems with grave strings, rumbling percussion and gorgeous vocals, making it far too easy to become part of its thriving lifeblood.

Finally, London artist Dornik did what we wanted him to do. He released a track that deftly builds on his debut single, 'Something About You', with the glistening, upbeat RnB of 'Rebound'. Colourful vocals cling to a danceable, metronomic rhythm that is fully complimented by playful bass and starry synths. Infectious stuff.

Listen to our selection of the week’s best tracks below:

NEWS/LIVE: Wild Beasts play new material in Oxford

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (29/11/13)

Wild Beasts last unleashed their emotive, off-kilter pop songs on Smother more than two years ago. Last night, a loyal crowd in Oxford got the taste of new material on their tongues.

It was the third show of the Kendal four-piece’s intimate UK tour, but the apprehension onstage at Oxford’s O2 Academy 2 could have convinced anyone it was their first. Not that the band lacked any professionalism; there stood four musicians effortlessly swapping instruments or playing such acute attention to songs that it was like pressing play. Merely, the bandmembers’ boundless thanks and delighted faces proved that their new material – including 'Sweet Spot' and 'Pregnant Pause' – were more than well received. Relief swamped the stage.

As expected, old favourites 'Hooting & Howling' and 'All The King’s Men' were the sparks that lit the fuse in the close space. The floor might have quivered underfoot for these performances, but the new songs had everyone enchanted.

Reach A Bit Further
We Still Got The Taste Dancin’ On Our Tongues
Sweet Spot
The Devil’s Crayon
The Fun Powder Plot
Pregnant Pause
Hooting & Howling
A Dog’s Life
Loop The Loop
Bed Of Nails
This Is Our Lot
All The King’s Men
Lion’s Share

LISTEN: Conner Youngblood - Aqua Regia/Amelia

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (27/11/13)

Conner Youngblood returns with his most immersive and beat-heavy music yet in 'Aqua Regia/Amelia'.

The Texan’s latest work is testament to his multi-instrumentalist talent. On 'Amelia', we are thrown into a world full of spooled guitars, marching drums, jewelled keys and faraway falsettos.

Second track, 'Aqua Regia', hears lethargic hip-hop rhythms and demonised vocals float about with what sounds like Appalachian zither instruments. Mr Youngblood certainly isn’t one to restrict himself.

It’s stirring, original stuff that’ll to get you tangled in unbounded layers. We’re excited to see what’s next.

LISTEN: Rainer - Hope [Woman's Hour Remix]

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (22/11/13)

A pairing between some of our favourite new acts this year, Rainer’s 'Hope' is given the eerie once-over by Kendal/Manchester electronic pop lot, Woman’s Hour

Where the original picks up its dancing feet, Woman’s Hour’s remix draws out every inch of the stems with yearning synths, drugged-out beats and sparse, choral hums. There’s no room for dancing here, just a beautiful cacophony of sounds.

The fact that the remix is instantly recognisable as the four piece’s own is a great sign of the band starting to make their mark.

'Hope [Woman's Hour Remix]' is our Song of the Day. Listen now below.