Friday, 31 January 2014

LISTEN/WATCH: Shivum Sharma, Orthy, Menace Beach, Madeline Mondrala

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (29/1/14 - 31/1/14)

Returning with a new version of his stunning bedroom demo, 18-year-old London soloist Shivum Sharma shares the unforgettable, “Flicker”.

A predominant composition of piano and voice, “Flicker” hears keys ponder, muted beats and Sharma’s falsetto crystallising upon its own breath. The demo that caused quite a stir last year has now been re-touched with lonely sax trails and bolder percussion at the close, making for a much more confident creation overall.

“Flicker’s” minimalism is charming, its melodies are cutting and it’s our Song Of The Day.

Menace Beach - "Fortune Teller"

Following the release of their debut EP earlier this month, Leeds fuzz-rock duo Menace Beach unveil the new video for “Fortune Teller”, premiering today on Best Fit.

Brimming with psychedelic imagery – from spinning aliens to neon flower flashes – the video is faultlessly suited to the track’s alluring, slacker-rock sentimentality. Dissonant guitars melt into one another and Ryan Needham and Liza Violet’s distorted vocals clash over languid drum pumps. We’re really quite mesmerised by it.

The band’s EP, Lowtalker, was released in January on Memphis Industries

Orthy - "Oasis"

Continuing the melodic makeup of “Night Touch”, Texan electronic five-piece Orthy present “Oasis”, premiering today on Best Fit. 

Taken from E.M.I.L.Y. EP, out now on NYC imprint Dither Down, the track is another nod to frontman Ian Orth’s love of multifarious tones and quintessentially bouncy house beats. It’s one blissed-out haze of grumbling bass, balmy vocals, shimmering synth and plucky guitars – welcome respite from January’s sharp bite.

Madeline Mondrala - "Busy"

Arts school student and New York soloist Madeline Mondrala reveals the video for her playful new track, “Busy”, premiering today on Best Fit.

Prancing ballerina-like in a vine-hugged abandoned space, Mondrala behaves like a true performer, matching her classical-meets-pop creation with smart visual poise. Solid piano notes bed themselves beneath Mondrala’s playful and erratic vocals, which in turn chase fleeting stringed instruments. The song brings to mind the kind of pop music Regina Specktor makes, but by all means Mondrala sounds like a popstar herself.

“Busy” is taken from Madeline Mondrala ’s debut CLOUD EP, which is streaming in full now and is available as a free download on Bandcamp for a limited time.

LIVE: Warpaint - Oxford O2 Academy 25/1/14

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (27/1/14)

Warpaint’s new self-titled album has received more contentious reception than their 2010 debut, The Fool, despite it debuting at number 9 in the UK charts this week. As is the case with many bands who don’t quite fit the norm, there’s an almost cult-like loyalty amongst fans that perhaps answers the record’s early success – you either “get them” or you don’t. Some say their brand of dark, atmospheric music simply washes over them.

But what is so special about the LA four piece is precisely that. They make music to swallow you whole, to nestle on the back of your brain, cradle you as you drift off to sleep. Their music has never been about huge pop hooks, it’s about the mood it manifests and the almost otherworldly spiritual connection it brings. Warpaint’s latest effort more than rewards patient ears.

This takes us to the band’s eagerly-awaited set at Oxford’s O2 Academy on Saturday, full to the brim with devoted followers – from Colin Greenwood of Radiohead to twenty-somethings who know every word to The Fool. Like every Warpaint gig personally attended to date, the same thing happens; the first two or three songs are muddied by misjudged sound levels. This allows Jenny Lee Lindberg’s bold bass and Stella Mozgawa’s powerhouse drums to completely drown any intricate melodies fashioned by Theresa Wayman and Emily Kokal’s trio of guitars, vocals and synth. Thankfully, “Hi” – a trippy, lounged-out track from the new album – marks the start of recovery, Wayman creeping witchlike about the stage with warm tones flooding the room.

Bathed in a pink hue, the fourpiece really start to come together on “Composure”. With its transient basslines, gaunt guitar notes and Kokal’s sharp, emotive husk, it’s so tight it sounds like it’s been plucked straight from the studio. Like the rewards offered from patient listening, this is a glorious payoff for a tedious start.

After being treated to an upbeat new song, the girls proffer the brooding lead single of the new album, “Love Is To Die”. A song that sounds impossibly better live than on record, the chorus hits everyone square on, its melodic bass line and audacious key changes cutting straight through the crowd. Again, it’s Wayman who connects most with the audience, flanking the edge of the stage as Kokal and Lindberg’s hazy harmonies waft. A signature Warpaint improv also begins to bite at its heels.

It has to be said that Mozgawa is a force of nature behind her kit, binding all the band’s disparate tonal elements together. Never will you see a drummer more elated – from her brattish blasts on “Disco//very” to the smooth, slo-mo brushes of “Biggy”.

With its minimalist backbone, ethereal synth and subtle vocal camaraderie, “Drive” is the undisputable dark horse of the new record and a killer live. It’s the track that just keeps on giving, Kokal’s dreamy “Into the eye, into the storm” resounding across the O2′s shallow roofing. It pulls every listener into its wake.

“Undertow” is a explosive number at the encore with little room for zip-lipped punters; every audience member is in their element singing along to its haunting melodies, meandering bass and jagged guitars. The song’s magnetic effect is still remarkable four years on.

Set closer “Elephants” is the crux of the evening. Militant drums, warped vocals and fluttery guitars burst forth with energy, before being taken down to a whisper. Just as the confused crowd think it’s all over, the girls hoist all the components upwards, playing expertly with texture and tempo. It’s like peering in on a private jam session, watching four talented and unswerving musicians at work, and is the perfect ending to a night full of immersive music. Yet again, you’ll thank your patience.

FEATURE: Tracks of the Week - 26/1/14

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (26/1/14)

What a quick week it’s been, and with it came a whole host of great new music. Here’s our pick of the best tunes from the past seven days.

Mysterious Parish bunch ANTHEMS brought breezy pan pipes, golden synths and daydream vocals to take us a million miles away from Blue Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, heck, all week. Doused in tropical sounds, “Up In Mine” is musical escapism at its finest.

Swapping the exotic for the chilly climes of Norway, new ambient/electronic soloist Sea Change presented the breathtaking “Let’s Dance” and we fell instantly in love. Beats creep, synths shatter and Ellen Sunde’s husky vocal cuts through lush, downbeat layers. Last year’s debut “Bursting” was a welcome introduction to Ms Sunde’s writing, but “Let’s Dance” is Sea Change, well, changing and growing in sound.

In sharp juxtaposition, Danish songstress repudiated any suggestion of flailing one’s limbs in new pop killer, “Don’t Wanna Dance”. Admittedly, it lacks the edge of previous tracks like “XXX 88″, but it shows MØ’s determination in hitting the mainstream via bright and creative pop music.

Funk lines, cloudy harmonies and glassy synths combined to impress us on Fever Kids' new track, “Holding Grass”. Hailing from the Greece capital, the pair known only as Σtella and Alex seem to have a firm grip on how to pen tunes with groove and melody. Surely that’s the best kind.

Finally, London’s Years & Years dished out their latest ode to electro-soul, handled by rising produced Lxury (of affiliated Disclosure fame). Replete with a soaring chorus, audacious bass throbs, solid vocals and vivacious percussion, “Real” is ready to hit radio speakers.

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


*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (17/1/14)

“We want our music to be universal, something people can be in the mood for at any point in time”. 

A personal, spiritual connection to a piece of music is a difficult bond to break. A shared one is something else. For the hundreds piled into Brixton’s O2 Academy in October, many were reminded of Warpaint’s effortless ability to spark numinosity, stimulated by their brand of dark, atmospheric music. The LA quartet’s writing has always been about creating a mood – albeit an indefinable one – but one that swallows you whole and makes you feel connected to anyone else similarly wired into their music. The air floating amongst Brixton’s high ceilings that autumn night hung heavy with an unusual, spiritual feeling of shared emotion.

“That was a really big moment for us”, says Warpaint bassist/vocalist Jenny Lee Lindberg down the phone. “We were excited to play our new songs and I was so shocked by the reaction. I felt a strange sense of comfort which was the opposite of what I expected.”

Though the nature of the band’s signature erratic sound can be unnerving, Warpaint’s songs are frequently comforted by walls of warm ambience, the latter thread that bound their 2010 debut, The Fool, so well together. Of course, this unity between songs has the potential to soothe many a heart and ear, perhaps a “universal” sound Lindberg so desires. ”If [our music] evokes any kind of emotion that people enjoy, then I’m happy”, she says.

But Warpaint’s beautifully perplexing musical dichotomy of repulsion and attraction will always lend itself to healthy discussion. The nub of everything, actually, is: what is it that makes them so special? Perhaps it’s their own worldly-wise understanding of who they are, how they sound and how they work together as a group. As Lindberg explains, it’s not like they care too much about what people think.

“I do not read reviews, there’s nothing you can do change what you’ve done. I don’t want to care, though obviously I do a bit, because I’m human. But really we just want to make our art.” Indeed, Warpaint just want to get on with it.

This strength of conviction can in part be attributed to the band’s longevity in the face of adversity. Formed in LA in 2004 after Lindberg’s sister, actress/drummer Shannon Sossamon, invited childhood friends Emily Kokal (guitarist/vocalist) and Theresa Wayman (guitarist/vocalist) to start a new band, it took just a few line-up jumps to delay their first album by half a decade. After various drummer changes following Sossamon’s departure for her acting career, the stars at last aligned when Australian drummer Stella Mozgawa stepped-in for The Fool in 2009.

These ambitions, meetings and uprootings to LA were a blessing, particularly for Lindberg who had left home in Nevada with little idea of what to do next.

“I was 19 when I moved to LA. My sister was modelling and acting there and then I did a bit of modelling too. I just dabbled. I had a lot of energy when I was growing up – I had ADD. My mom would say ‘try something new’ and I would and most things just did not resonate with me. I’d never thought about playing bass before.

“I definitely listened to music by myself a lot, though. I’d sit in my room, write my journal and listen to bands like The Cure, Smashing Pumpkins, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails and Kate Bush.”

Just before The Fool came out, the girls worked in cafes or on artistic projects. Lindberg worked at a vegan cafe and as a vintage clothes buyer/maker. Kokal worked in cafes and babysat. Theresa made and sold raw chocolate, as well as helping her boyfriend with his clothing designs.

Since their debut release (produced by John Frusciante, who was dating Kokal at the time), Warpaint have become the cream of the critics’ crop, thanks to their inventive songwriting and mesmerising live shows. In March 2012, they paired-up with celebrated producer Flood and long-term Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich, swapped the city for the stunning landscapes of California’s Joshua Tree and recorded Warpaint in a month. Never has the band’s confidence and empathy been more apparent than on their long-awaited follow-up.

“The biggest difference between this album and the last is the simplicity of the music and everyone integrating with each other”, Lindberg says. “For the first time we actually have songs within the record that were written by one person.”

There are certainly changes: from instrument-hopping (Lindberg clarifies that it’s her who plays the guitar on “Feeling Alright”, with Wayman on bass), to each member having a much more assertive role. To name but a few examples: Mozgawa penned “Feeling Alright” and “Go In”, Lindberg wrote “CC” and “Son” is Wayman’s baby, completed by Mozgawa’s drum composition.

“It can be tough being in a band with your best friends”, Jenny adds. “It takes work and it needs nurturing and it needs love, kindness and compassion. Doing your favourite thing with some of your favourite people in the world is amazing, but mixing business with pleasure can also get pretty heady. The most important thing is compassion.”

That understanding of each other’s individual creativity is what allows the band to remain open to new ideas, which is more so the case than ever on Warpaint.

On the menu this time round is trippy lounge (“Hi”), dreamy synthpop (“Biggy”), piano balladry (“Son”) and even some off-the-wall alt hip-hop (“Disco//Very”). Guitars are less the bedrock, the songs are more wholesome and vocals loom larger at the fore. However, amid what sounds like a big change, isn’t a big change. Somehow, just somehow, the record carries all the band’s original juxtapositions: their mismatched coherence, their knack for pulling you in and spitting you out. Ultimately it’s the stuff that makes Warpaint, well, Warpaint.

“I think it’s a sexier record and has more groove. The grooves are more meditative and transient than on The Fool. The (writing/recording) period was really easy and pretty fluid, moving at a faster pace than The Fool which took us a couple more years. This time we had been touring for two or three years, so when we were on the road I did a little bit of writing. We were all ready to write and play new stuff. I remember there was a new line that Emily would play over and over on tour, the one for “Keep It Healthy”. That kept going around and we would get all excited and groove around to it.”

When the time felt right to record, the band “wrote every day” in a Geodesic dome in the California desert. Their creative movements were filmed by Lindberg’s husband and British visionary director, Chris Cunningham, who started popping his head in after working on other projects nearby. The result is Love Is To Die, to be released later this year.

Lindberg adds: “It never felt like we were being filmed, it was really organic. (Chris) wasn’t in our face and, you know, when the sun went down, the pot came out…it was fun.”

The new year now sees the band releasing the record, trying to “perfect” their live show and utilising the down time they have in between schedules. “I just want to keep gathering content all the time, keep on top of writing”, Lindberg concludes.

And so while we’re still trying to get to the heart of what makes the four-piece so unique, it seems Warpaint have got themselves all sussed-out. Musically and individually, they are free, unbounded, if only to bind listeners together through art. But as a group, they are firmly rooted, if only by their immovable friendship. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Warpaint is out now on Rough Trade.

[Photography by India Whiley-Morton].

LISTEN/WATCH: Sea Change, Pillar Point, Dustin Tebbutt

Sea Change - "Let's Dance"

Dreamy Nordic electropop artist Sea Change has unveiled her new single, the brooding and delicate, “Let’s Dance”. 

It’s another cold chill down the back of your neck. Building upon debut single “Bursting”‘s icy electronica, “Let’s Dance” already embodies a maturer sound from Ellen Sunde, who moved from Norway to Berlin to help develop her music. Whilst there’s a hint of wider influences, there’s still something intrinsically Scandinavian in its sound with spacious synths, tip-toeing beats and Sunde’s crisp husk.

The track builds slowly with the added appearance of gentle piano taps and forlorn synths, coming to a head in a thousand layers. Stunning.

 “Let’s Dance” is available as a limited 7” vinyl or can be sourced digitally via her website.

Pillar Point - "Cherry"

Shedding the skin of alt-pop act Throw Me The Statue, San Francisco’s Scott Reitherman returns under the guise of Pillar Point – this time armed with the shimmering “Cherry”. 

Set against a backdrop of scuffling beats, Krautrock bleeps and sunshine synths, “Cherry” has all the right ingredients for an assured summer hit. But Reitherman’s mournful, nostalgic vocal bites against any inferences of a joyful sound, resulting in an unnerving and attractive type of dozy electronica that’s oddly fitting for this time of year.

Following on from 2013’s “Eyeballs”, “Cherry” is the second track taken from Pillar Point’s self-titled debut full-length, released on 3 March via Polyvinyl Records.

Dustin Tebbutt - "White Lines"

Taken from his debut EP release, Australian artist Dustin Tebbutt premieres the hypnotic new video for “White Lines” on Best Fit. 

Two years ago, Tebbutt crossed the seas from down under to Scandinavia to write music. The results are four comforting, emotive songs best suited to warm colder months – more so the case than ever on “White Lines”.

The brainchild of Tebbutt and video editor Marcus Coblyn, “White Lines” sees minimalist stop-motion images loop just behind the track’s tender beating heart and aching synths, working to lull you into a rhythmic trap. It perfectly accompanies the audio – patterned melodies that slowly climb atop each other – if only to bed itself amongst these sounds than divert attention away from them. 

The Breach is out now and Tebbutt plays Servant Jazz Quarters, London on 25 February.

FEATURE: Tracks of the Week - 17.01.14

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (17/1/14)

2014 continues to bring us new musical goodies. Here’s our pick of the best music from the past seven days. 

First up, we premiered the lush electronic pulses of “Night Touch”, the new single by Texan outfit, Orthy. Wood blocks chatter and thick melodies waft around layers of house synths and beats, whilst heady vocal harmonies escape from a Beach Boys blueprint. A track to get lost in and lost to.

Norwegian singer/songwriter Kari Jahnsen, who goes under the pseudonym of Farao, yanked once again at the heartstrings on, “The Hours.” Ms Jahnsen pens deeply calm, emotional music; the type that makes you avert a stranger’s glance for the sheer embarrassment of welling up in public. This track is yet another impressive piece, with pump organs, frilly guitars and Janhsen’s unparalleled vocal beating at the core.

At the other end of the spectrum was the latest cut by rising Chicago songstress, Jean Deaux. Pulling BBC Sound Poll man Sampha onto the boards and co-vocals, Deaux delicately pours her soulful voice over layers of fidgety RnB. It’s an upbeat affair that in some ways sounds more like a pure Sampha creation, save for Deaux’s gorgeous chants of “I’ve gotta find you”.

Portland band Rare Monk let us reveal their new single, “Splice”. Its measured percussion and piles of hazy vocal make for slow-burner soon turned on its head by colossal tom rolls and sonic reverberations.

Finally, Liberian/Nigerian/Scottish trio Young Fathers unleashed the mighty, “GET UP”. Preceding the release of their new album, DEAD, “GET UP” knocks itself around jabs of dissonance and consonance, replete with warm afrobeat rhythms, rap barks and vehement foghorn blasts. Just try to get your head around it.

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

REVIEW: I Break Horses - Chiaroscuro

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (17/1/14)

“My last year and this year was really a roller coaster emotionally for me,” said Maria Lindén of I Break Horses in late 2013. “I got so tired of myself being this sad person all the time…When writing music, I use it a lot as therapy.”

With its ominous song titles (“Cancer”, “I Kill Your Love, Baby”) and arresting walls of melancholic electrogaze, the outfit’s 2011 debut Hearts was a certain surrender to the pressures of being human. Created after the pairing of Lindén and Fredrik Balck – two hypochondriacs who met on an online medical forum before a chance meeting in person – Hearts was a gem in a sea of the year’s many mediocre releases. Though the album’s themes dwelt on the inevitability of death, its creative and emotional depth made it eternal.

But darkness can only weigh heavy for so long. The band’s follow-up, Chiaroscuro, sees Lindén and co. perforate shadows of self-doubt with bursts of light, heeding to the album’s definition: ‘the treatment of light and shade in drawing and painting'.

The astonishing confidence of “You Burn” is thus a welcome and brave start to the record. Pentatonic piano chords clutch onto Linden’s cold breath, which amongst icy synth snaps and meddling percussion is the clearest vocal we’ve heard to date. It’s seductively simple and a perfect precursor to the ever-more-startling “Faith”; the latter’s menacing synth lines, insightful lyrics and addictive dance foundations inducing repeated listens.

By the time “Weigh True Words” and “Ascension” are digested, it’s obvious I Break Horses were never going to write another Hearts. Here, the outfit have shed their skin of heady electronic drone in favour of more immediate synthpop; the tracks boasting anthemic pop choruses and sunny conversations of beats and bleeps.

Perhaps an aspect of writing music that is overlooked by the casual listener, but lends itself to the most heated in-studio debate, is the structuring of an album. Rather shrewdly, the band have sandwiched the record’s weaker points (the tiresome balladry of “Denial” and the disengaging, slow-mo techno-pop of “Medicine Brush”) between mesmerising songs, as if to leave you wide-eyed at the start and the end. “Disclosure” is one of those later delights, pulled forward by sensual guitar lines and driving, multifarious rhythms. The hope evoked by the track’s burgeoning melody and bright pulse is cleverly contrasted by Lindén vocals, which always lie just out of reach. Once again, the contrast of light and dark rears its head.

Album closer “Heart To Know”‘ is at once devastating to the ear and limitless in its beauty. “It’s heart to know, babe / It’s hard to know babe / It hurts to know, babe” Lindén cries out (or so it sounds) from the swathes of rattle breaths and decomposing synths. The song firmly places its hand on your chest, as if to force you to live in the moment. It doesn’t want you to dwell on the past or worry about the future; this is you dealing with your emotions in the present.

Lindén has spoken about not feeling “at peace” with anything she does and yet, with her bandmates in tow, she has made some of the most strangely comforting and life-affirming music of the past few years. Rest assured, young worrier, Chiaroscuro is triumphant.


LISTEN/WATCH: Orthy, Pixel Fix, Lion Bark, Young Fathers, We Are Shining

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (13/1/14 - 16/1/14)

Orthy - "Night Touch"

Texan electronic outfit Orthy give us a taste of what’s to come on their new EP via the warm, melodic house sentiments of “Night Touch”.

Sounding like the opening to a Wild Beasts song with its sharp wood blocks snaps and rumbling percussion, “Night Call” soon finds itself lost in high energy harmonies, relentless beats and swirling, hallucinogenic layers.

The five-piece, headed up by bedroom musician Ian Orth, count The Beach Boys amongst their influences and that love of rich vocal alliances sits tight at the track’s centre.

It’s immersive stuff, so just sit back and let its lush layers wash over you.

E.M.I.L.Y. EP is out now via Dither Down, with an album to follow.


Pixel Fix - "Fall"

Oxford fourpiece Pixel Fix return with “Fall” and prove that guitars and electronics still make a healthy pairing. 

On last year’s releases “Rosa” and “Rome”, the band seemed to be testing the waters of this fusion, consistently marrying the two musical families with a film of ambience. On “Fall”, the band have picked up from where they left off, but this time radiate a brighter, poppier sound. Funk guitars intelligently nit-pick at rewound samples and buoyant rhythms, and soft vocals sit nice and tight in the mix.

Live, the band exude an energy that swerves towards the old math-rock leanings of fellow Oxfordians Foals, but on this song there’s a strange, active calmness that’s simply a pleasure to hear. Fall EP is out on 24 February.

Lion Bark - "Longhorns"

Brighton quintet Lion Bark have pricked up tastemakers’ ears with their perfumed dream-pop. Now they unveil the new video for “Longhorns”, premiering today on Best Fit. 

The visuals explore a young man’s paranoia seemingly imposed through self-exile, set amid cascading guitars, breezy percussion and gorgeous off-kilter croons.

Director Ben Pender explains: “Longhorns is a song about coping and coming to terms with absence. This void can quickly lead to you shutting yourself off from the outside world, seeking comfort only in mundane activities, instead of confronting your problems head on. “The result is a sequence of nightmarish reactions from a gritty and somewhat surreal reality, which leads Guy to find strength in accepting the reality he faces, and then acting upon it – knowing this perception is temporary."

“Longhorns” precedes an EP release this year.

Young Fathers - "GET UP"

Ahead of the release of their next album, DEAD, Liberian/Nigerian/Scottish trio Young Fathers drop meteoric new track, “GET UP”. 

Hitting you square on with dissonant foghorn blasts, giant beats and spits of “I’m the catalyst for the revolution”, “GET UP” knows no bounds in its impact. The trio almost refuse to be pigeonholed – yes, on the rap sections there are clear parallels with Massive Attack – but there’s something much more alternative here with smatterings of afrobeat and upfront pop. Though the track’s dissonance can unsettle you upon the first listen, you’ll soon be pushing repeat.

DEAD is out on Anticon/Big Dada on 3 February.

We Are Shining - "Killing" (feat. Eliza Doolittle)

Previously releasing tracks on Young Turks under the guise of The Shining, new London duo We Are Shining have now flipped record labels, penned chunks of their debut LP and hoisted Brit songstress Eliza Doolittle aboard for new single, “Killing”.

It’s thus a fresh start for established DJ/producer Acyde and Morgan Zarate of Hyperdub, and "Killing” sounds like they’re ready to take on the world.

Following their startling debut, “Wheel” late last year, this new track is just as impressive and eclectic; afrobeats tug at an ostinato bass line and Ms Doolittle’s bright vocals bounce along syncopated rhythms.

Brass interjections are heard amongst watery guitars at the close – notably the only big change in the song’s loop-lush character – boldy reminding you why they can’t be ignored. Much like Young Fathers who we featured yesterday, We Are Shining style a world music of their own.

 “Killing” is taken from the duo’s new mixtape.

FEATURE: Tracks of the Week - 10/1/14

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (10/1/14)

Well, 2014, you’ve already delivered on the music front. Here’s our pick of the best new music from the past seven days. 

London crooner Kwabs teamed up once more with Vienna-based producer SOHN and the results were startling. Where the earthy vocal gushes of “Last Stand” were a welcome listen for fans of either, “Wrong or Right” has the potential to reach a much wider audience. SOHN’s impossibly crisp production nicely heats up Kwabs’ vocals, allowing them to soar above the track’s huge digital flames.

This week also saw the return of Watford songstress Kyla La Grange and arguably her most assured track to date. “Cut Your Teeth” hears dubby bass throbs and cold harmonies cut through ghostly wah-oohs and synths, suggesting a new direction for the artist who’s set to release her second album this spring.

Whilst Kwabs and La Grange made their sweet returns, London newcomer Molly Beanland dropped her stunning debut track. We were lucky enough to premiere the 80s dream-pop-indebted, “Night Dreams” – three minutes of sparkle synths, echoing guitars and Ms Beanland’s sumptuous vocal. Fan of Cocteau Twins? Tune in.

Liverpool artist Lapsley’s minimalist, pitch-dropped track “Station” was one of the most powerfully understated tracks we’d heard in months. Contemplative, beautiful and very original. Amazing to think she’s just 17, too.

Last up, Dublin quintet Girl Band unveiled their incredible ode to noise, “Lawman”. An “anti-single” bursting at the seams with industrial beats, nasty guitars and other noises we dare not decipher, “Lawman” is brave, ballsy and utterly brilliant.

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

LISTEN/WATCH: Girl Band, DENA, LOLO, Cheerleader & Rare Monk

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (6/1/14 - 10/1/14)

Girl Band - "Lawman" 

Dublin noise quartet Girl Band unleash a sprawling, six-minute beast of a song in “Lawman”. Oh, and they’re not girls. 

In early 2013, the band’s barmy-but-brilliant cover of Blawan’s “What You Do With What You Have” chomped down on the original’s techno beats and spat it out as a new creation. The band’s new “anti single” has the same beating heart at its core, paired with industrial stomp and dissonant guitars that meet in a dirty cacophony of sound.

The track builds slowly amid schoolboy vocals (“I used to be good-looking”) and bolstering high-hats. It’s anyone’s guess what effects are used or where the boys draw their inspiration from, but they clearly value channelling energy into every available nook. By its nature “Lawman” will likely split opinion, and that’s part of its charm.

DENA - "Bad Timing" [Video Teaser]

Berlin-based artist DENA builds excitement towards her debut album with a smouldering video teaser for “Bad Timing”. 

Set against a backdrop of distant city lights, Denitza Torodrova (DENA) glows in UV as if to seek her lover out amidst the frantic pace of urban life. “When you think about it what we’ve got/ is bad timing”, she chirps in the full song (listen here) whilst sleepy hip-hop beats and sharp hand-claps loop. Vocals tumble on top of each other, shedding themselves of the urgency heard on upbeat offerings “Thin Rope” and “Games”.

The teaser works exactly as it should by getting us a bit too excited for her debut, “Flash”, released on 3 March (via Normal Surround).

LOLO - "Gangsters" (feat. Giggs)

Tennessee via Brooklyn popstress LOLO returns with her most soulful song to date. 

Recalling Amy Winehouse’s revival of 60s soul with its no bones vocal, tottering rhythms and blasts of brass, “Gangsters” is one polished slab of pop music. Accessible without lacking imagination (save for the superfluous mid-section rap by Giggs), it’s clear to see why she is joining the likes of pop newcomer John Newman on his upcoming UK tour.

Cheerleader - "New Daze"

Philadelphia-based quintet Cheerleader unveiled their indie-pop track “New Daze” last summer. Now they’ve released the accompanying video, created at the hands of Vondelpark filmmaker Ciaran Wood. 

In truth, you’d be pushed to find a more suited video for Cheerleader’s gorgeous lo-fi sound. With its nostalgic home-video makeup and slow-mo scenes of summer driving, the visuals pair up all too nicely with the track’s dozy vocals and shuffle-pop sentiments . Hypnotic, cyclical imagery works to keep you watching right until the end.

Rare Monk - "Splice"

Portland band Rare Monk kick off 2014 with a limited release of “Splice” and show us a thing or two about crafting near-perfect indie rock.

Armed with zippy guitars and steady percussion, “Splice” at first travels slowly, lifted by dreamy vocal harmonies and subtle electronic hues. This melodic slow-burn could carry on quietly, but the troupe decide it’s not enough and abandon all expectations for one unabashed, thunderous blow-out. Their sonic sound only leaves the heart yearning for more.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

FEATURE: 14 for 14: The Records We’re Most Excited About in 2014

Warpaint - Warpaint (20 January, Rough Trade)

It was 2010 when we first heard the free-flowing structures and dark ambience of Warpaint’s debut album, The Fool. Very few records at the time felt as organic, as unbounded – you merely the fly on the wall of their improvisational sounds. The LA quartet quickly became everyone’s favourite new band and that loyalty has puffed its chest for the last three years.

In October, the band released a video album teaser featuring clips of new single 'Love Is To Die', directed by visionary photographer/filmmaker Chris Cunningham following two-years documenting the band’s every creative move. It was everything we wanted to hear and more; those familiar phaser-licked guitars and playful bass lines, superseded by abrupt key changes and deranged rhythms.

The self-titled follow up strikes a healthy balance between the expected and the unexpected, this time weighed with more electronics. It will no doubt get repeated spins during 2014.

Grimes - TBC (Expected 2014)

Let’s get this out of the way: Visions was nigh on the best album of 2012. Boundary-pushing, intoxicating and good fun. Claire Boucher of Grimes invited you into her new age world of glitchy bleeps, ambient washes and sugared vocals, constantly treading the line between leftfield territory and upfront pop.

Though her self-produced third album was well-received, she was criticised about the quality of the production and bit back any offers of guidance (“I’m tired of men who aren’t professional or even accomplished musicians continually offering to ‘help me out [...]‘ as if the fact that I’m a woman makes me incapable of using technology”).

In April, she announced that her new, more “experimental” album was underway – “two fifths” done in fact – but has since gone quiet. Please don’t keep it away from us for too long.

I Break Horses - Chiaroscuro (20 January, Bella Union)

Sweden’s I Break Horses have the pleasure of reaching many tastemakers’ ears whilst retaining a devoted, almost cult-like following. 2011′s Hearts - though shrouded in cloudy electrogaze - shone bright amongst the year’s memorably mediocre releases. It became a life-affirming soundtrack for long train journeys and late night strolls.

So, what to do next? Aside from write one of the best songs of the year, the band’s latest work points towards more immediate electropop sound on singles like 'Denial'. Chiaroscuro may well garner them the attention they deserve.

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (2/1/13)


*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (2/1/13)

Mysterious LA trio DESSERT dish up genre-hopping track “Lovelink” and keep us guessing their every move.

There’s no easy genre-tagging here; “Loveink” is an absolutely baffling musical journey that makes harsh cuts between subtle piano pop, glitchy electronica and modern RnB. The bolshy bass at the 50-second mark is the grimiest drop we’ve heard in months and makes a welcome return amid glassy police sirens and languid vocals.

The band’s internet bio is exceptionally sparse, but for now we’re happy to let the music do the talking.

LISTEN: Daniel Wilson - Will You

*Originally published for The Line of Best Fit (2/1/14)

Proving that simple compositions often make the most arresting pieces of music, enter 'Will You' by Michigan soloist, Daniel Wilson.

The track hits you like a ton of bricks with its impossibly clear falsetto and contagious vocal hooks, all buoyed by footstep piano notes and ecclesial harmonies. Although the track landed on Wilson’s soundcloud just a few days before Christmas, it’s already racked up 15,000 + listens, suggesting his balladry is as impressionable to us as the next music fan.

Daniel Wilson’s new EP is due out in March via Zap Records.