Following the release of 2 successful EPs during 2015, Oxfordshire 5 piece Little Brother Eli release their debut album Cold Tales kicking and screaming into the world.
I’m not sure of the musical heritage of Oxfordshire outside of Radiohead, but I suggest the amount of bluesy, garage rock bands can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Little Brother Eli make a great place to start. Think of a melding of Zeppelin riffs, Black Keys energy and chuck in a bit of Biffy, and you’ve got LBE sussed out. Oh, and do yourself a favour, listen with the sound turned up on a stereo rather than headphones, and open the windows for that authentic festival experience because that’s surely where this band are destined to belong.
Anthem opening track Oceans and the equally sing along Dreams are surely destined to be live favourites with the sweat soaked front rows singing back the lyrics to the band while they get on with the business of the downright dirty, filthy riffing.
Roll Away changes pace (slightly) with its lovely verse and chorus before again descending into damn heavy riffage, whilst keeping the mood laid back.
Gold starts with acoustic guitar and wouldn’t be out of place if you heard this on the back porch of a Louisiana homestead backing onto the Mississippi. Southern boogie, courtesy of the home counties.
Title track, and album closer Cold Tales showcases the fabulous vocal skills of Alex Grew. At just over 5 minutes, its the longest track on the album and seems to nicely sum up the collective 9 tracks that have passed previously. It acts as a Sunday morning hangover track, counterpointing the Saturday night adrenaline soaked previous cuts.
Where on earth the band get their inspiration from is irrelevant if they are making music this good. Who cares that they are from middle England, and not the Southern States. These guys already stand alongside much more experienced and established acts as those previously mentioned. They’ve got riffs, they’ve got balls, they’ve got attitude and most importantly, they have got some damn fine tunes. This is a band going places.
What do you get when you cross Tuung with Diagrams ? Or more specifically, Mike Lindsay from Tuung and Sam Genders from Diagrams ? The result is Throws which happens to be the output of a planned meeting and get together to chew the fat.
Now based in Reykjavik, Lindsay invited his old mate Genders over to catch up on life, and they decided the opportunity was too good to pass up and the result was the self titled debut album, released in the UK on the ever reliable Full Time Hobby.
So what does it sound like ? Well, obviously, there are Tuung influences of persuasive pulsing lo fi, and quirky upbeat electronica a la Diagrams, yet the sum of the parts is lively, fresh and appealing.....just like that Icelandic air.
The 2 voices harmonise perfectly - Lindsay with his earthy flat style, and Genders with his falsetto top end, over a mainly acoustic heart to the record. Iceland seemingly has influenced the recording extensively - check out the ethereal and downright beautiful Sun Gun which utilises the sting backing section of Sigur Ros who themselves go by the name Amiina. It’s difficult to not get the influence of Sigur Ros out of your head once you know when the recording took place, and indeed what you might imagine a meeting of Tuung and Diagrams might sound like, and that is certainly no bad thing.
Opening track The Harbour, starts rather unexpectedly with thumping bass drum and electric guitar set to echo mode, before the almost Floyd-like harmonies implore us to “please, won’t you stay, in the harbour”, then moving onto Bon Iver territory....This has been an ear worm for a couple of days now.
Punch Drunk Sober - the second track released ahead of the album, is a synth driven electronic vibe - think John Grant from his Pale Green Ghosts album, rather than Queen of Denmark.
Silence in Between changes direction again, with a simple acoustic guitar opening, and again some soaring string backing - a gorgeous 2 1/2 minutes.
The quite bonkers album closer is the 6 minute Under The Ice, which is partly narrated, and partly sung - seemingly about some sub aquatic encounter with a woman who then turns into an albatross.....maybe Lindsay distills his own Icelandic moonshine ?
This is an album that wears its influences very clearly, none more so than the country of Iceland itself. For me, a little more Tuung and a little less Diagrams influence would have been perfect, but you can’t argue this is a worthy addition to both artists' output. Quirky, energetic, at times sublime, and always interesting. Looking forward to catching up with them at End of the Road later in the year.
An album with a fire burning bright in it’s very soul is how best to describe the latest album fromToronto three piece Odonis Odonis called 'Post Plague' on the Felte record label.
Opening track ‘Fearless’ jumps out of the record, electronics blasting, and a Kasabain style vocal from across the water. ‘Needs’ the second track takes a different approach vocals wise, more urgent and menacing. This is NIN territory with no electric guitar in sight, played loud is the only option by the way! Each song is original, varied in style and powerful in presentation.
An underground staple in Toronto, the band broke out in 2011 with their debut, Hollandaze. They then began turning heads with their live shows and their follow up LP,' Hard Boiled Soft Boiled' was Polaris Prize nominated.
Now it’s time for the global step with, 'Post Plague' with it’s industrial, electronica and ear shattering stance. Dean Tzenos' vocals sit upfront, delivered with a intensity that is admirable, Denholm Whale's bass lays groundwork and Jarod Gibson delivers the core rhythms. I have always reckoned a 3 piece is the most powerful combination, here is another band to prove that point.
Speaking about the 'Vanta Black' track, lead singer Dean Tzenos said "The time for half measures has passed. We need to be bold to make the changes needed to ward off an impending doom. Enough of constant overanalysing and overthinking that has stopped progress. We need to look deep into the abyss and jump head first into the darkest substance ever known, vanta black."
It's time to check this band out
July Euro tour
15 Utrecht, NL @ TivoliVredenburg
16 Haarlem, NL @ Kliko Festival
17 The Hague, NL @ Grauzone Summer Festival
18 Antwerp BE @ Het Bos
19 Gent, BE @ Kinky Star (Gentse Feesten Festival)
20 London, UK @ The Waiting Room
22 Paris, FR @ Supersonic (free show)
23 Stuttgart DE @ Secret venue
In the congested world of singer songwriters, it takes something special to stand out and particularly to tread that careful fine line between genuinely heartstring tugging and James Blunt style foppishness.
The ever excellent Secretly Canadian label may just have found their man in Australian Ben Abraham.
The Melbourne based artist releases debut album Sirens and is the result of a 8 year process from writing his first song for a sick kid while working in a local hospital to touring with Emmylou Harris and finally getting quite some exposure from the likes of Zane Lowe.
The 13 track album is a ode to love, loss and growth, the usual singer songwriter tropes, but this is an enchanting listen and is a much more complex listen that other artists in this category. It’s not a case of one man and his acoustic guitar, but a much more coloured in album.
Lead single from the album You and Me, was debuted on Beats 1 radio, and is a perfect taster of what the album holds, ending as it does with some lush orchestration.
This is On Me is a track that starts with some simple piano, before Abraham goes on to describe a failed relationship where both parties are taking the blame for the breakup. Sara Bareilles plays the female part to gorgeous effect as the voices complement and intertwine with each other.
The album has many highlights so will be unfair to pick any out in particular, but again its a record to listen to as an entire piece of work on a good pair of headphones or speakers whilst not being distracted by anything else.
Abraham’s voice is beguiling and seductive, think somewhere between Peter Gabriel and Guy Garvey, and you won’t go far wrong. At it’s heart is an English folk album, but it’s much more than that which results is a gorgeous, calming listen. This guy should have a decent 2016.
Barry Hyde is the lead singer and guitarist of The Futureheads, and his debut solo album ‘Malody’ will be released on the 3rd June 2016 via Sirenspire Records.
Having lived with the album for a few days, it has really become something to admire. This is not a record that will fall into your lap in terms of appreciation, that is something that grows stronger with each listen.
Says Barry: “Those of you familiar with my work with The Futureheads may be expecting an album of new wave inspired, four-part harmony, guitar music. ‘Malody’couldn’t be further away from that. The album is based around my first instrument, the piano, and also features violin, cello, double bass, tenor and baritone sax, pedal steel and trumpet.”
Discussing the album’s themes, Barry explains: “What is ‘malody’? Malody is a word I have invented, derived from the words, melody and malady. A malody is a melody that expresses mental malaise, mental illness and deep sadness or its opposite, mania. I know about these things, as I am bipolar. This album is a musical representation of what it feels like to experience the extreme states of mind that characterise bipolar existence. Like many bipolar people, creativity is central to my life, central even, to my illness. This album is a bipolar album, it was written in the rare and exquisite moments of intense creativity that comes in an almost complimentary way with the highs and lows. It’s a deep, highly personal catharsis, a document of my experience.”
Side one of the album opens with the ‘Malody Suite’, which is sharply paced at some points, then deliver’s exquisite melodies at other points. ‘Theme’ is the opening segment and the opening lyrics; “How can I expect this madness to end, by staring at myself and tearing myself apart” aptly shows that this is someone letting you into his life, via his music.
Gentle and loud music, poignant and sad words, this is a sparkling solo debut and the fact that it’s the piano at the fore rather than, keyboards or electronics, this really gives the album the grandeur it deserves.
Barry Hyde ‘Malody’
04 Monster Again
05 Crazy Love
09 While We Were Sleeping
10 Sometimes It Snows In April
11 Thunder Song
‘Malody’ is available now on CD, vinyl and download