Friday, 24 March 2017
Sometimes in pop music it’s easy to forget that if the basics are good then your music will find an audience. I’d be very surprised if London’s Jesse Elvis doesn’t find that audience.
First take his voice; warm, soulful and with some range. Then there’s the song. After putting out a number of mash ups and covers on You Tube, this debut proper is impeccable. Paint The Picture has the blues, the groove and a sense of smooth calm that gets under the skin.
Then there’s the video. I must have watched it fifty times today. The concept is so simple, but it works. A one take, slow motion, reversed piece set in an old industrial yard with fireworks, coloured smoke and paint, it’s bewitching in its simplicity.
Signed to Radio 1/1Xtra DJ, Charlie Sloth’s label, Grimey Limey, Jesse has been making music from a young age, sucking up influences such as Little Richard, Elvis, Notorious B.I.G, DMX and Aaliyah and is also influenced by jungle, grime and garage.
This is pretty special. Time to take notice of Jesse Elvis.
Jesse Elvis - Paint The Picture (Video)
Wednesday, 22 March 2017
Here we go again.
It’s another potential pop star in the bath. I don’t know about you, but they’re actually starting to make me angry. Do these people really think they’re being original and quirky? Have they not seen how many other pop stars are doing it? Or is it something that to join the musicians’ union you have to do to get your card? Can someone please explain? (Note: I have actually found someone who can explain, but I'm keeping that for another day. Soon.)
OK…breathe deeply…..count to 10…..
At least this guy has taken a different slant on the bath thing. He’s posing with a half-eaten burger and his is full of sweets. He’s almost beaten Mariah Carey to the award of most bonkers bath promo shot ever. Not quite, he’s a runner up, but that’s pretty good for someone just out of the box.
And….here’s the important bit. His debut single Her Heart Isn’t Beating For Me is an odd masterpiece of a pop song which when I hear it makes me think of Mika, Ben Folds Five, bright rainbows painted by a child, too many shots in a bar, Andy Warhol, lost romances and the idea that music can be so much more than your standard Spotify playlist by numbers tune written by committee.
Yes, Her Heart Isn’t Beating For Me is a trashily deranged piece of pop brilliance. His name's good as well. Semi-Attractive Boy. It's half arrogant, half bashful. I like that.
He is also known as Baker Wallis. He's from Los Angeles. Apparently, he was diagnosed with Tourette’s at the age of nine, which got him thrown out of church. That’s probably the fact that every blog that writes about him will tell you. Most of them will ignore the bath pic though, maybe because every musician is doing it.
Semi-Attractive Boy - Her Heart Isn't Beating For Me
Tuesday, 21 March 2017
Once again Glastonbury Festival asked me to act as one of the judges for the first round of their Emerging Talent Competition as I have done every year since 2011. The judging panel consists of music writers from across the UK and their job is to whittle the thousands of entries down to a manageable long list of artists who are put forward to a further round of judging which is carried out by a different panel, including the festival organisers.
The long list always throws up a lot of good quality and today that list has been announced. You can find the artists the judges have selected by clicking through to the website here.
8 of these acts will make it onto the shortlist and will be asked to compete in a live final in April, the winning artist or band getting a slot on a main stage at the festival and £5,000 from PRS to help develop their music and take it to the next level. Two runners-up will also each be awarded a £2,500 PRS Foundation Talent Development prize. For the last few years all 8 finalists have been invited to play a slot at the festival.
Previous finalists have included Izzy Bizu, Declan McKenna, Stornoway, The Subways and the 2016 winners She Drew The Gun. Looking at previous longlists acts like Marika Hackman, Circa Waves, Slaves and Fickle Friends have all made the final 120 whilst unsigned, even though they didn’t get to the last 8.
The three acts I chose for the longlist this year were Cardiff based brassy and funky hip-hop collective Afro Cluster (who actually made the longlist in 2013 and have already played the BBC Introducing Stage at the Festival, but they’re so good that it would be a crime not to give them another chance based on their entry submission this year), the idiosyncratic Irish pop duo Æ MAK and Manchester indie band AFFAIRS. Take a listen to all three below. I'm also really pleased to see quite a few unsigned acts that I've written about on the blog make their way through to the longlist including acts local to me such as Temples of Youth and Minque as well as ones further afield such as Bokito, Paradisia and Joy Crookes.
AFFAIRS - Life Of Leisure
A post in which I waffle about some of my experiences of taking my kids to music festivals from when they were babies to now almost adults and why I think it’s been worth it…....
There’s already a multitude of articles about going to festivals with kids and tips for ‘surviving’ the experience, as well as a few about why festivals are no place for children (this one from the Guardian particularly makes me laugh – the author seems mainly concerned about her own lack of sleep).
Let’s be clear about this. I’m all for taking kids to certain music festivals; but which ones depends upon the age of the children. I wouldn’t take a 6-year-old to Reading, but I would a 16-year-old. Although in reality a 16-year-old would much rather go with their friends than their parents – hanging around with mum and dad at Reading would just be so uncool.
I also believe that not all children should be taken to a music festival. As a parent, you know your kids and how they behave. You also know yourself and how as a family you all deal with situations that are potentially outside of your comfort zones. You are therefore best judged to make the decision if going to a music festival is a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ thing to do. Nobody else can make that judgement better – just you.
I went to my first festival (Isle of Wight 1970) when I was 1 year old. Yes, it was the 70’s and yes my parents were hippies. I have a photo of me sitting in my pram looking out over the crowds. Apparently I cried when Jimi Hendrix played. It's OK, it hasn’t mentally scarred me.
My kids went to their first festival when they were 2 and a half and four months old respectively. It was Guilfest – a relatively small to medium sized family friendly affair in a well to do part of Surrey, with a decent size kids area, clean toilets and the benefit of a lido and park next door to the site if it all get a too much. Both myself and my partner were also relatively experienced festival goers – our eldest child went to Glastonbury in the mud whilst in the womb and we’d already taken the kids camping before the festival, so we were reasonably confident about what we were doing.
However, things got off to a bit of an unpredictable start. Having arrived at the site and pitched our tent (the kids slept through all of that) I went to change our eldest’s nappy, only to discover a bunch of odd spots on her belly – chickenpox! Thankfully one of the reasons we’d chosen Guilfest was that the grandparents lived 25 miles away and had agreed to be ‘back up babysitters’ if it all went wrong. So, with one ill child deposited with them, my partner and I guiltily enjoyed Guilfest with the youngest sleeping her way through the vast majority of it in a baby carrier.
Since that time my kids have grown up with festivals. What we’ve chosen to attend as a family has changed over the years as the children have grown up and want different things. Before they could walk or talk it made very little difference what event they went to. So, at any early age we took them to Glastonbury.
Isobel, my eldest, has only a memory of getting her face painted as a rabbit in the Kids Field, whilst her sister Connie has some vague recollections of a dancing sun on stage during The Flaming Lips set. She was 15 when she saw the mighty Lips again in our home city of Portsmouth, where they brought huge balloons stating 'Fuck Yeah Portsmouth' onto stage. Probably not particularly 'family friendly' language, but it's nothing worse than what she hears in the playground every day. Back to Glastonbury though and my own striking memory is leaving on Monday morning at 3am as it started to rain, managing to take the tent down in the dark with the children still asleep, and transporting them back to the car without them being aware of what was happening. Oh yeah, I saw Radiohead, REM and Bodger and Badger as well. That was good.
We also did Blissfields when it was 400 capacity, Wychwood with just dad and the kids whilst mum stayed at home for a rest and Leicester’s Summer Sundae (RIP) which had a fantastically quiet family campsite, with super nice stewards and virtually queue free showers plus the benefit of an indoor venue with comfy seats upstairs on the balcony which the kids could have a nap on when they got tired -and so did mum once – to the amusement of the children. Comfort becomes more important as you get older.
As they became toddlers and then primary school age, small intimate events with some activities for children worked best. As they got older, festivals like Camp Bestival with its huge wonderland of a kids area and the likes of Dick & Dom on the main stages in addition to the music provided something that worked for all of us, but eventually they began to outgrow the truly ‘family friendly’ events. The term ‘family friendly’ is often a misused one, implying that families are only such if you have kids under 12. Curiously I’d like to go back to Camp Bestival without the kids, just to experience it from a non-family perspective. Maybe next year?
Now at 16 and 18 both daughters really want to see the music more than anything else and this year we’re hitting Latitude as a family; with the eldest having already been twice just with dad, which in 2015 she described as ‘the best festival I’ve ever been to’. I have to agree. It was something pretty special for me as well, to experience what was a mind-blowing weekend with one of the 3 favourite people in my world.
Isobel (now 18) has been to over 30 festivals in her young life and last year went to her first without mum and dad (Reading). This year she's going to Truck Festival with friends. With all the experience we’ve given her over the years I was confident that she was well equipped with whatever it threw at her. She knew what to do in an emergency and I knew that the most important thing was for her to just get on with it and enjoy herself and as a group, look after each other. She came back relatively intact compared to some of her mates. I felt a bit of pride at that – I’m very much of the ‘make it up as you go along’ school of parenting, but that felt like a success.
For us, our family festivals are just another part of our lives. One that brings excitement, magic, fun and a time for us all to be together away from the pressures of the modern world. This year with one daughter doing GCSE’s, the other A Levels, my partner just finishing from chemotherapy to treat her cancer and my day job being subject to a period of change that I don’t fully support it feels that these moments of escapism are more important than ever.
Of course, having attended so many festivals (I’ve been to over 80) there are always going to be a few lows. Thankfully apart from the chicken pox incident any other dramas I’ve experienced at festivals have been non-child related: receiving a phone call saying that my partners mother had died whilst we were at Camp Bestival, being taken ill through food poisoning at Bestival and losing my car keys at Latitude are all memorable festival f*ck up moments. But apart from those isolated bad times they’ve generally been full of glorious highs and with my children now reaching adulthood, I’m confident that they wouldn’t have changed the way we’ve done things.
Whenever I’ve asked them if they’d like to go to another festival, they’ve always said yes. I think that shows, that given the right attitude and choosing the right events, taking kids to festivals is a very positive thing to do - our family thrives on them.
Part 1 of Being A 'Music Parent' deals with the assumption that your music taste turns into a mess when you become a mum or dad and can be found by clicking this link here.
The devastation of someone leaving you can lead to loneliness, confusion and even anger. Trigger, the second release from Miami based singer Caroline Lazar captures all of those emotions in under three potent minutes. From the mounting passion of the music to the crushing thought that ‘I could be enough to make you stay, but you left me,’ Trigger is a powerful bruise of a song. When Caroline sings ‘I hope you’re doing well in Idaho,’ it sounds like a double-edged kiss-off, making the whole thing even sadder. Physical and emotional, this one is for the dark nights.
Trigger is taken from Caroline Lazar’s debut EP which is due on March 24th. You can pre-order it by clicking here.
Caroline Lazar - Trigger
Sunday, 19 March 2017
Streaming is changing the musical landscape in many ways. The old rules simply don’t apply any more. Or do they? If one of the new rules is to keep musical narrative constantly moving, not fading away, to keep pushing out new releases / content as quickly as possible and that constant flow of storey will help drive your streaming statistics upwards, then Australian duo Vallis Alps aren’t playing by those rules.
With their debut EP released in January 2015, it’s taken nearly 28 months before a second EP is ready. Fable will be out on 31st March and from it comes East, an opulent electronic pop jam that will have you playing air-synth to the max. Of course, I’m pretty certain the band haven’t just been sitting round on their arses all that time basking in the internet success of their debut. For a start, they’ve been playing some sell out shows all over the world (I was lucky enough to catch one of their slots at Brighton’s Great Escape Festival last year) and they’re out touring again right now, bringing their beautiful crystalline pop to the US, Canada and Australia. Sadly, no UK shows yet, so those of us in that part of the world will have to continue to hope. In the meantime listen to the ravishing computerisations of East.
Update: A UK show at London's Omeara has now been confirmed for 30 Aug 2017.
Vallis Alps - East
Vallis Alps - East
It’s impossible to tell from afar who the bands and artists that have stormed this year’s SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, are, but certainly one name that has cropped up on my Twitter stream a number of times in the last few hours is a mob from the UK City of Culture for 2017- Hull. They’re a four-piece who go by the name of Life and their enraged turbulent post-punk sound is thrilling. Having already supported Slaves and with an album that bullishly carries the title Popular Music due in late May, the band are racking up the attention, and now Breaking More Waves is adding its two pennies worth.
So what is Life?
Life is the sound of a fight that never stops. Life is a raucous sneering melee. Life is fierce. Life is uncompromising. Life is a bullet from a guitar. Life is aware. Life is noise. Life is holler along passion, forced up against your face. Life is a cigarette inhaled with gusto. Life is Jarvis Cocker camp dancing. Life is DIY. Life is Mez, Loz, Mick and Stew. Life is go hard stay hard pop with a shout. Life is Euromillions, rare boots, in your hands. Life most definitely isn’t fake news. Life rails against mediocrity. Life shit on all the crap. That is all you need to know. Choose Life.
Life - In Your Hands
Life - Euromillions (Video)
Saturday, 18 March 2017
With a touch of early Marina & The Diamonds, Regina Spektor and a hint of Sia in her sound, relative newcomer Emma Dewing pushes all the right buttons on er….Buttons. Mixing vaudeville piano theatricality and pop hooks it’s not the Californian’s debut tune, but the first one that’s connected with me. (You can listen to her cover of Don’t Cry by Guns N Roses and another song Beautiful Mess over on her Soundcloud by clicking here).
Having started as a professional ballerina Emma made the transition to choreography and teaching after a bad injury ruined her career at an early age. Clearly multi-talented (she also teaches yoga as well as making music and the dancing), Emma’s probably the only musician I’ve featured on Breaking More Waves that can easily stand on her toes and also raise one leg above her head whilst standing on the other. To see more of Emma’s impressive flexible body skills, have a look at her Instagram, whilst listening to Buttons below.
Emma Dewing - Buttons
A few years ago, a group email was sent around my office: “For sale – 2 Westlife Tickets. Would make ideal Mother’s Day present.”
Now assuming (as you are reading this blog) you’d agree with me that Westlife were the biggest pile of living sh*te musically since time began, then you’d probably also wonder why 2 tickets to see them would make an ideal Mother’s Day present. Do you really hate your mother that much? The assumption here seems to be that once you become a parent, any good taste you had before goes out of the window.
Well, bollocks to that. I’ve been a parent for 18 years now and in that time, I’ve never lost my taste and passion for music. I've certainly never decided to just add Westlife as a favourite on Spotify. There seems to be a misconception that somehow once you either pop out a little bundle of joy into the world or are involved in the creation and caring of such a bundle, the hard wiring in your brain suddenly turns into a jellified mess and you are only capable of enjoying a certain sort of bland and safe music.
Well if that is the case, I missed the memo. As did many of the other parents that I go to gigs with or meet at shows. Yes, I like Adele, and I enjoy the first Ed Sheeran album. But I also like Aphex Twin, Cabbage, Stormzy, PJ Harvey, Bon Iver, Sofi Tukker, Dream Wife and thousands more artists from a wide range of genres. Some are pretty mainstream. Some aren’t. It was the same when I was 17. 30 years on nothing has changed.
Of course, once you become a parent the time available that you have to yourself (and therefore to listen to music) is less. It's certainly the time when most music bloggers really struggle to continue their blogs. But that doesn’t mean that becoming a mum or dad has to alter what you like. “Music your mum would like,” is such a derogatory term.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be publishing a number of short blog posts about my relationship with music as a parent. I’ll be looking at going to festivals with kids, how my passion for music has influenced and impacted on how and what my children think about music as they reach and approach adulthood, how it’s possible for parents to like modern music rather than just nostalgic listening and the etiquette of attending a gig with your teenage child.
But with Mother’s Day approaching, kids please remember if you’re considering buying that Westlife CD as a present, it’s never too late for adoption. Love Mum and Dad.
Thursday, 16 March 2017
I like Cabbage. If only for the reason that they’re one of those British bands that annoy a certain sort of ‘serious music fan’. ('Serious music fans' are almost inevitably the worst sort of music fans – they’re blinkered to the point of only ever being able to see things from their perspective. They're possibly only beaten by the 'fans of real music' although often the two are the same - 'real music' fans are usually detected using words like 'honest' and 'authentic' and 'guitar' quite a bit. )
Why do they annoy the serious music fan? First of all there’s the name. Serious music fans can never take a band called Cabbage seriously, because of the name. But that’s kind of the point of the name isn’t it? Most band names are, when you really think about it, a ridiculous concept. Cabbage make that point by their own monicker.
Then there is the music and the videos. Because there’s some humour within. And humour is generally a no-go area for the serious music fan – for music is art and art can only be considered worthy if deep and meaningful and er.....serious.
Finally, there’s the bath. Cabbage have already done the ‘promo pic in the bath’. They wasted no time. Serious music fans tend to think such promo is juvenile and delinquent.
Here’s the new video from Cabbage for their song Gibraltar Ape. It features a beer drinking cigarette smoking monkey, Cabbage giving their verdict on The Sun newspaper (who they have previously slated online), a nice horse and a punch to the face by the urinals. Gibraltar Ape is also a weirdly infectious whine of a song. Serious music fans look away now. The rest of us, let's get along with embracing all sorts of music, ideas and concepts and have some fun.
Cabbage - Gibraltar Ape (Video)
Monday, 13 March 2017
Kings probably isn’t the easiest band name to Google (but fair play to these guys for at least not calling themselves Kiingz or some equally preposterous search engine optimised name) so I don’t have a lot to tell you about this four-piece from Guernsey, except that they’re consist of Eli Crossan on vocals, Jamie Wickenden on drums, Liam Inder on bass and Casey-Joe Rumenson on guitar and that they describe their music as pop songs wearing Doc Martens.
As a big advocate of both pop songs and DM boots they already had me with just those words, but that description is surprisingly accurate. For Drowning, their debut independently released single is an odd but delightful mix of ambient boy band pop song and 1980’s teen movie power chord rocker. Think The 1975 at their most mellow getting into a boxing ring with Queen’s Brian May. Yes, the big reach the sky guitar solo is in full effect here. Add in a very slickly produced black and white video which is way better than some of the half-arsed output from major labels these days and you’ve got a lesson in how to put out a debut single. An impressive start. Check out Drowning below.
Kings - Drowning
Thursday, 9 March 2017
If you like your pop music colourful, cartoonish and hyperactive then this new Australian four-piece will be right up your funky street. What’s not to like about a band with a lead singer called Janet Planet (the best pop star name I’ve heard in a long time) and some dudes called Sugar Bones, Reggie Goodchild and Clarence McGuffie? Even before you’ve heard the music you just know that you’ve got yourself a group that ooze the good stuff. And they do. In fact they don't just ooze it, they spout it like one huge hip quivering fountain. Confidence Man’s music is sassy, sexy and a hell of a lot of fun. I dare you to listen and not want to shake your ass. You want reference points? OK, I’d suggest Gorillaz, Deee-Lite, Miami Sound Machine, The Go Team, Milkshake by Kelis and Tom Tom Club for starters. This is music for the sunshine. This is pop music doing what pop should do – making you feel f*ckin’ alive and wanting to dance your socks off.
Get ready to get down. Prepare for Confidence Man to wrap you round their finger. Don’t you wish you had some Bubblegum? You've got it now.
Confidence Man - Bubblegum
Confidence Man - Boyfriend (Repeat)
Wednesday, 8 March 2017
Some bands are a bit like football teams, aren’t they? It’s a case of one in, one out, but the name continues anyway. Alas it doesn’t go far as the full transfer market, although this might be quite a fun idea. If Coldplay think that Chris Martin has lost it a bit, maybe they could sell him to say, Muse, and bring in Ed Sheeran instead. Or perhaps The 1975 could take a risk and sell Matt Healy to The Rolling Stones (as Mick Jagger can’t have that long in his career to go) and take on the singer of a younger newer indie band like Sundara Karma or Spring King perhaps? If artists kept doing this then pop and rock groups would never need to end. The Rolling Stones could go on touring forever even when all members of the original band were six feet under. S Club 7 tried this to a certain extent (with S Club Juniors following them up) although admittedly that’s not quite the same.
Talking of S Club Juniors, founding member of dream pop three piece Wyldest Zoe Meads once auditioned for S Club Juniors (who then renamed themselves S Club 8) and got down to the final 30, but it wasn’t to be. A shame really, I’d have quite liked to have heard Wyldest’s take on One Step Closer. Wyldest themselves haven’t sold any of their members on (or not as far as I know) but recently original member Holly Mullineaux has left the band, replaced by Mariin Kallikorm. Now all we need is vocalist Zoe Mead to leave and there will be none of the founding members of the group (when they were just a duo) left, a bit like The Sugababes - who incidentally released their 2002 comeback single on the day that S Club Juniors released One Step Closer. There you are pop fans, you don’t get this sort of waffle on Pitchfork or their many imitators, do you?
So, with that bit of pop history over and done with, you may be wondering what Wyldest version 2.0 sounds like? The answer is not that different to Wyldest version 1.0 – perhaps it’s more Wyldest 1.1 than 2.0? There’s still plenty of dreamy hypnotic guitar sounds ready to snake into your head, some misty 80’s sounding synths and a bunch of appealing melodies. If anything The Poet is the most accessible thing Wyldest has made to date. Fans of bands like Warpaint will probably appreciate this one. Mind you, it’s no Reach For The Stars or Push The Button, which depending on your perspective could be a good or bad thing.
Wyldest - The Poet
Monday, 6 March 2017
With modern pop music ever increasingly written to a safe commercial formula (Ed Sheeran being the latest culprit) we need bands like alt-J more than ever. Returning from exile the now three piece have today released 3WW (which stands for three worn words rather than world wide web) and it sounds like nothing else that any contemporary indie, pop or rock band is doing.
Floating in at 5 minutes long and with Ellie Rowsell from Wolf Alice helping out with vocals, 3WW’s slow spliffy beat reminds me a little of Massive Attack’s Teardrops, overlain with a country sigh and a hint of the trippy ambience of The Doors. It’s pastoral dark folk music with a certain rawness. And what are the three worn words? I’m guessing they’re 'I love you': “I just want to love you in my own language,” the band sing at a number of points through the song.
This is a wonderful low-key and tender return. 3WW is the sound of a band not compromising, challenging themselves and creating something of real value, irrespective of its commercial appeal.
The song is taken from the band’s third album Relaxer, which was recorded in London with producer Charlie Andrew at the helm again. The album will be released on 9th June. The band play the O2 Arena in London on 16th June and a whole string of festival dates through the summer.
alt-J - 3WW
Sunday, 5 March 2017
There’s a first time for everything and this is undoubtedly the first time that Breaking More Waves has featured black metal combined with delta blues slave music on the blog. Yes you read that right. Black metal + delta blues slave music.
The creator of this unusual mix is one Manuel Gagneux, who goes by the name of Zeal & Ardor and to give you an idea of how this unusual combination of two disparate styles of music sounds, I think it’s best to simply quote the text stated on Manuel's Bandcamp page: “Imagine this: Django sacrifices a goat on stage while intimidating slave chants roar and screeching guitar riffs burn in the background. Then the rhythmic chain rattling evoking a satanic summoning makes way for the eerily familiar melodies of Norwegian black metal.” Yep, this is something different – but you really need to hear it.
Zeal & Ardor is one, in fact probably the only, act that I’ve ever featured on Breaking More Waves that I wholeheartedly dislike in many parts. Gagneux’s album, Devil Is Fine, which clocks in at just under half an hour is for me, in places, unlistenable; a horrendous cacophony of screaming, noise and drums hit at such speed that I’m surprised nobody had a heart attack whilst recording them. It’s music spawned from beyond hell. Yet amongst the flaming demonic extremes of this disturbing stuff, if you stick with it, you’ll find experimental electronica, blues, gospel chants, retro jazz and vocals that sound like they’ve been sampled from 1930’s recordings, but are actually just Gagneux singing very loudly into a poor-quality microphone. It’s a record like no other I’ve heard for some time, possibly ever, and whilst some of it is way too extreme for my tastes, it’s a fascinating and unusual piece of work. It's also one that at its best, where the pedal is mainly kept off the metal, as on the title track below, will give you goosebumps.
Zeal & Ardor, as a full band rather than just Gagneux, will play their first ever UK show at Camden Underworld on 20th April 2017 and then will return for The Great Escape Festival in Brighton in May.
Zeal & Ardor - Devil Is Fine
Saturday, 4 March 2017
Breaking More Waves doesn’t review albums. When the blog started I did run a few critiques of certain long players but quickly came to the conclusion that I didn’t want to spend my spare time being a naysayer about other people’s work - I'd rather be positive and champion things I love; and negativity would always be the danger in writing opinion reviews. I prefer to leave that to the paid critics.
However, that’s not to say that occasionally I won’t mention in a post a particular album that I rate or at the end of the year summarise my favourite long players in expanded list form.
Up until a week or so ago I was struggling to find any albums released in 2017 that really struck a chord with me in a big way. Then along came Stormzy’s Gang Signs & Prayer and it clicked. Then a week later it was the turn of Alice Jemima to release her first album.
Anyone who has spent a little time on Breaking More Waves will know that I’ve been championing Alice's journey from fully unsigned bedroom artist through till now with some persistence. Therefore, the arrival of her fully formed debut was an exciting although slightly nervous time. Although I was confident Alice was going to deliver a great pop record, until I’d actually played all 12 songs, I couldn’t be sure.
Any remaining doubts were quashed on first play. The eponymous long player is an alluring and quietly confident record that wrestles with being in love, falling out of love and the way Alice lives her life. It’s a record that with Alice’s soft vocal tones and subtle production sounds perfect to wake up to but also sounds perfect in the dead black of night. It’s a record that, at its core, focusses on traditional song writing but is blessed with modern contemporary production. It’s a record that fully justifies everything I’ve ever said about Alice Jemima.
There, that’s a mini review for you in 83 words. Treat yourself this weekend. Go to your local record store and buy it. There really isn’t a weak track on it.
From the album here’s the sublime When You Dance. Being one of the older tracks on the record it’s one I’ve seen slowly morph from minimalist guitar ballad into its current more upbeat form. Dealing with that beautiful second when you’re lost in a dancefloor moment with someone to the exclusion of everything else it’s as sweetly tender as a song about banging bass and beats could ever be.
Alice Jemima the LP is out on Sunday Best now. She's out on tour right now. Catch her in Manchester tonight, Bristol tomorrow and London on Monday. She'll also be playing showcases at SXSW in Texas for the BBC and Sunday Best Records.
Alice Jemima - When You Dance
Friday, 3 March 2017
I heard a rumour a while ago that Lucy Rose had thought about giving up music. Thankfully, if it was true, she hasn’t. Floral Dresses, a new song, is one of her most reflective and melancholy moments to date and it’s also one of her most beautiful. It’s a hymn to being yourself, despite what people think, no matter who they are. Against a simple strummed acoustic guitar Lucy sings of how she didn’t want to be like the person she’s addressing (her mother perhaps?) wearing floral dresses, painting her lips and wearing diamond necklaces and the disapproving looks she received because of it, before explaining that even now, as she’s got older, she’s still the same person, even if the person she’s singing to might have thought she’d change. Add in The Staves to soothe you further with their tones and what you have is Lucy Rose at her plaintive best.
Lucy Rose (ft. The Staves) - Floral Dresses (Video)
Thursday, 2 March 2017
If you have even the most passing interest in pop music you’ll have probably heard Green Light, the new Lorde song, the first from her second (not bloody sophomore if you’re from the UK please) album. But just in case you haven’t or you want to compare your opinion with mine, which often these days is what reviews of well known artists songs are for, this post is especially for you.
First things first. It’s a banger. A big pop banger with proper house pianos that heads directly for the dancefloor. It’s surprisingly mainstream sounding, insofar as whilst Lorde’s first album was hugely popular, it had her own USP lyrically, musically and vocally. This, in theory, could be a song that a whole bunch of pop stars could have sung whereas the likes of Royals could only have been Lorde.
But here’s the important point. If Lorde had just come back with another version of Royals it would have started to get a bit boring. It would have been like hanging around lazily in her back yard all summer and then when autumn came around you were still there; it would still be fun, but not as fun as it was. And a bit colder. If you were still there by winter you’d be grabbing your coat and heading home. You might not be back again. Green Light however is Lorde saying ‘f*ck this, it’s boring, let’s do some shots and go out all night clubbing, right now.’ Which is good, because it takes the relationship in a different direction and keeps things interesting. If you ever want an example of an artist or band just staying in the backyard forever, listen to each Oasis album in order of release and see if you can make it to the end.
So it’s Lorde. But it’s not old Lorde. It’s new Lorde. Which is good Lorde.
I reckon she'd be a lot of fun to go clubbing with.
Lorde - Green Light (Video)
Wednesday, 1 March 2017
Back in 2008 when it seemed that indie guitar music had ran out of steam and pairs of skinny jeans, Vampire Weekend was a shining light, mixing afro-pop with more traditional indie sounds to create something effervescent, exciting and engaging. They brought a freshness to a dated scene.
Now, nearly 10 years on from the cardigan wearing Ivy League graduates debut, here’s a band from London fronted by a bearded man named Moses Moorhouse from Ireland, who come from a similar musical place. They have a very simple statement on their Facebook page: “We’ll make you dance”.
On their song, Better At Getting Worse, the only track on their Soundcloud, they definitely have the recipe to make that mission statement a possibility. Part of the ingredients is that same chirpy afro-pop jitter that Vampire Weekend used, but added to that are plenty of retro organ sounds and Moorhouse’s unusual vocal which reminds me a little of Jonathan Higgs of Everything Everything with a more rasping tone. Apparently he's quite a mover on stage as well.
Put all those musical components together and what have you got? A potential party in waiting, that's what. And all of this from a band that appear to be named after a famous gorilla. You can catch them at this year's Great Escape Festival in Brighton in May.
Bokito - Better At Getting Worse