Timothy van Sas
Timothy van Sas

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Interview - The Orwells

There’s a disturbing amount of business minded bands in the recording industry at the moment. Emerging groups seem less likely to talk about “drinking, drugs and women” than they are about their “the next step in their career.”

Since when was making music “a career” and not a calling? 

Maybe that’s why The Orwells sound so refreshing. Here are five teenagers from the suburbs of Chicago, most of whom still attend high school and couldn’t give a shit about the business side of things. They don’t have a website to sell merch; only a sparsely populated Facebook page and a few You Tube videos. Instead choosing to split their days trying to avoid getting arrested for underage drinking and smoking. 

In August, Autumn Tone put out their debut LP, Remember When, and its ‘drink now, regret it never’ garage rock ‘n roll is sure to excite fans of FIDLAR and the sadly defunct Girls.

[edit] radio caught up with guitarist, Dominic Corso, (via e-mail) to fill in a few of the blanks surrounding one of 2013s bands to follow:

ER: You’re a relatively unknown band here in the UK, can you give me a quick summary of what the band is about?

DC: We’re a rock ‘n roll band from the quiet suburbs of Chicago that keeps it real, raunchy, honest and loud. 

ER: You’ve received positive reviews to your first album, Remember When, is that flattering? Or don’t you really care what critics say?

DC: It always feels good to know that at least someone out there digs your music. If they’re a critic, that’s fine,  but in no way will they ever play a part in how or why we make our music. So no, we don’t really care what they say.

ER: Some of those reviews have compared you the Cloud Nothings and Black Lips, who Mario mentioned as writing the greatest song in the world. What other acts have influenced your sound?

DC: We all share some mutual influences, but we mostly all listen to different stuff. I dig a lot of shit like My Morning Jacket or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and some jazz and swing, some electronic shit like Caravan Palace. Baby Chuck has recently had a classic Dylan and Elvis stint. Mario is mostly into Waka Flocka, female singers like Iggy Azalea, Minaj and all that. Grant’s a Joy Division/Hives kinda guy. Henry, I don’t know even know, man, he’s all over the place.

ER:  You recently asked on your twitter feed, OK Computer or In Rainbows? Are you guys big Radiohead fans? And which of the records do you prefer?

DC: I prefer OK Computer, but Baby Chuck always argues In Rainbows. It’s a big fight we have occasionally, so I asked twitter. But yeah I’m the biggest Radiohead fan in the band, Baby Chuck a little less, and the rest of the band doesn’t really listen to them. 

ER:  You guys have a track called 'Mallrats (La La La),' is the title to that song a reference to the Kevin Smith movie? And what other popular culture or art do you guys draw influences from?

DC: Yeah that song was an homage to Kevin Smith and his films we grew up on. Other films that influence our music would be like Psycho, selected Hitchcock films, and pretty much everything Tarantino has ever done. 

The ORWELLS - Mallrats (La La La) from Eddie O'KEEFE on Vimeo.

ER: I understand that most of you guys finish school in January, are you looking forward to graduating?

DC: Totally. High school’s been a trip but I’m not gonna miss it. Just my homies. 

ER: What’ll be the first thing you do after you graduate?

DC: Tour tour tour tour tour write write write write release tour tour tour tour, repeat till death. 

ER: Over the past few years in the UK, we’ve seen thousands of independent record stores go out of business. I understand that 'Remember When' is named after a record store that's closed, how do you feel about the decay of independent record stores?

DC: It’s a damn shame. Isn’t vinyl making a comeback though?

ER: Do you have a memory that you won’t forget from hanging out in that store?

Saturday morning hangovers cured with Taco Bell, chainsmoking, and two-dollar 7 inches. 

ER: In an interview with Consequence of Sound you mentioned that you started work on a new album in November 2011, is the new record beginning to come together?

DC: It’s looking pretty damn good. We’ve got a solid set of songs so far, but we’re constantly writing and recording and figuring out what we’re excited about, what we’re scrapping and all that. It’s a process, and we’re far from done, but it’s coming together pretty nicely. 

ER: In the same interview you mentioned that the first record was something that you made for high school friends. Does writing for new record feel different now that you’re a proper “band” ?

DC: Sure. But it’s not so much the realization of being an actual band that some people give a shit about, so much as the fact that we’re different people than when we wrote Remember When. We listen to different stuff, we’re at different parts of our lives, some good shit’s gone down and some bad, but we’re still the same even if you wanna call us 'proper' now or not. Yeah it’s different this time around, but we still and always will write the music we wanna write and when we get on stage we’re gonna play it the way we like to play it. 

ER: You guys are all still young, how do your parents feel about you leaving education so early?

You’d actually be surprised at how supportive our parents have been with the whole thing. If I’m in the same room as my mom and some strangers, she’ll proudly announce I’m in The Orwells like we’re some huge act everyone knows. It’s quite embarrassing, actually. 

ER: Now their is a little bit of buzz building about the band, how often do you guys like to vanity Google?

DC: If I said 'never,' I’d be a liar.

ER: You guys played a BrooklynVegan Day Party, is that a lifestyle choice that you’ve signed up to ? 

DC: Sorry, I have no idea what you mean. If you mean supporting BrooklynVegan, then hell yeah, they’re cool people. If you mean being a vegan, nah man, steak’s too juicy.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Interview - PEERS

A few weeks back, [edit] radio named Reading based indie rockers PEERS as our third Rising Talent to follow.

Last week we caught up with the Berkshire based quartet, about what they've been up to over the last couple of years,  what's it like being on the same management group as Alt-J and what fans can expect in 2013:

The first big break you guys had was to play the BBC introducing stage at 2010s Reading & Leeds Stage, what have you guys been up to since?

We were all pretty excited about playing Reading and Leeds and what would happen after, but realised the best option was to finish off our two years of college and sixth form. Use the time to develop without any pressure into the band we wanted to be, making music we were 100% happy with and playing the odd show in Reading. We didn’t want to rush into releasing anything and regretting it a couple of months down the line, it’s likely what you put on the internet stays there for a very long time.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Animal Collective @Manchester, Warehouse Project 8/11/12

The most essential material for any artist is a space in which they can work. Whether it be a blank sheet of paper, a roll of unused film or the silence of a room; all creation needs a fertile ground to prosper. For the Animal Collective, the dull concrete of the ‘Warehouse Project’ provides the perfect canvas.

The acclaimed quartet form Baltimore are in town touring their latest album, Centipede Hz, which has (by their standards) met a lukewarm critical reception. From the midst of a set of glowing teeth framing the stage, the group use an assorted collection of snyths, sequencers, drums, guitars and an epilepsy inducing light-show to paint the primary colours of their experimental pop onto the walls of the cavernous room. Indeed such amounts of equipment are rarely seen out of a recording studio and each member looks more like a scientist at work rather than a musician performing live. 

Busy opener ‘Rosie Oh’ sets the tone for the evening, groaning under the weight of the energetic sounds which make up it’s whole. Two songs pass by in a dizzying haze before genre bending summer single ‘Honeycomb’ is dropped. It’s warping bass and rhythms triggers a trance like state that carries over into the bouncy ‘Lion In A Coma’ and aggressive ‘Moonjock.’ 

Throughout, the foursome barely moving from their horseshoe shape stage set up. Normally this sort of performance, or lack thereof, is a turn off, but the complexity of music on offer requires concentration, timing and supreme skill and such musical virtuosity is all the entertainment that’s required. 

This juxtaposition of the bands energetic music against their lack of stage physicality results in an unresolved tension. Being slaves to pushing musical boundaries the band are tied to their workspace, effectively creating themselves a cage in which to perform. This tension carries over to the crowd, who in reverence for the artistry on show have remain reserved.

Animal Collective string this tension along until the finale of show, releasing the pressure which has built up in the very air with Beach Boy sounding ‘Brother Sport.’ Avery Tare and Deakin finally break free from their shackles, and dance center stage as if in signal everyone to join in. The release is shattering for mind and body. The anthemic ‘Peacebone’ follows, impossibly ratcheting up the sensory overload in layers of dense samples and cathartic release. Limbs convulse, breathing becomes shallow and sharp, as your eyes widen to a point of no return.

To draw such sensations and life out of the drab surround of the cold surround of warehouse is the province of truly great musicians. Something, least we not forget, Animal Collective have been for over a decade and will continue to be for as long as we’re lucky enough to have them.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

To see our names are written on the wreck of '86

Ellie Goulding - Anything Could Happen

When listening to Ellie Goulding’s music, there are two important steps you need to take to get yourself into the right frame of mind:

1.) Disengage brain - Just give yourself five minutes to not criticise, over think or worry if it’s OK to like something so uncool. Just treat Goulding’s dewy eyed pop like National Geographic. Well made, entertaining but ultimately throwaway.

2.) Regress to a the emotional state of a teenager - For those of you still in your teens you’re already there. For those of you born the wrong side of 1993 just remember how watching Ross and Rachel finally kissing in the second series of Friends made you punch the air with joy.

Done both? Then you’re ready to enjoy Goulding’s “Anything Could Happen.” As the standout track from her new album of the same name it’s packed full of sun soaked synths and giddying rhythms which rain down one of the choruses of 2012. One which washes you with wave after wave of ecstasy that allows you to escape the confines of day to day life. Something we all need to do from time to time.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Rising Talent #3 - Peers

Apart from it’s Festival, the town of Reading isn’t normally considered a hotbed for new music. It certainly is never mentioned in the same breath as it’s more illustrious neighbours of Oxford and London. However over the last decade a bands like Dry The River, Dan Le Sac, Pete and The Pirates and Does it Offend You Yeah! have broken through onto the national airwaves.

The next band which looks set to breakout of the local scene are indie rcokers, PEERS. The quartet, led by Matthew (guitars and vocals), have managed to garner a mass of local support, including high praise from BBC Introducing’s Linda Serck and are the darlings of legendary local promoter Sid Siddle. In 2010 despite all being aged less than 18 and only formed for 6 months, they were asked to play the introducing stage at Reading and Leeds.

Since then their sound has evolved and recent demos show significant promise. On ‘Guilt’ there’s more than a hint of the subtle song structures used by The Maccabees on their latest album, Given To The Wild. All that’s missing is the gut wrenching oomph that working with a full blown producer would add.

On ‘Midnight,’ the bands other major influence, Bombay Bicycle Club can be heard. Here PEERS marry the deftly sweet but never quite sickly pop of Steadman with a slightly more straightforward rock sound. With the catchy as all hell ‘Nightdriving’ (free download below) PEERS shoot straight for the airwaves of Radio 1, with an ear-worm of a chorus that fosters moments of involuntarily singing for days on end.

It’s probably a little too early to tell just how far they’ll go, but PEERS, who share managers with Alt-J, look to have the talent to become the next band to go nationwide from Berkshires famous festival town.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

At Least Harry Potter Has A Proper Story

Future Of The Left - Robocop 4 - Fuck Off Robocop

Andrew Falkous has always been a likable asshole. A Charles Bukowski of music, retaining an unhealthy distaste for everything and (nearly) everyone. Delivering compelling insights into the paradoxes of human nature, politics and opinions of the wider public.

On ‘Robocop 4 - Fuck Off Robocop,’ he’s at his vitriolic best, dissecting the cause of Hollywoods obsession with sequels. Like Bukowski, he puts forward an exaggerated character to his audience. A hyper macho lunkhead, full of vitriol but intelligent and engaging. A vessel through which he delivers visceral, darkly humorous and thought provoking lyrics.

The first half of the track is deliberately obtuse. Awkwardly lurching from verse to verse of anger directed at the movie going public, “Middle aged men on a movie date, committed to mortal shame, Hey! Relax! No-one died - in fact, they left improved! If Michael Bay wants a bigger house, let's help him.” In the hands of another songwriter, the subject matter would’ve ended in a four letter tirade at Hollywood movie for pandering to the masses, but that just isn’t Falkous style.

At the fulcrum of the track, Falkous highlights the real problem. Hitting out at those who complain about Hollywood only making sequels, but then perpetuate the problem by going to watch Taken 2, “1 becomes 2, 2 becomes 3.” Describing how our desire to seem interesting extends to lying (to ourselves) about the diminishing returns that most sequels offer. Then lampoons his own point by launching into absurd tirade about the potential plot for “Pirates of the Caribbean 47” that if distilled to a movie trailer would entice with it’s promises of entertainment.

Like any piece of effective social commentary, the track lifts the mirror on an ugly symmetry. That our actions as a collective consumer group are to blame to the state of Hollywoods output. It’s a disquieting thought, the sort that only a particular kind of bastard has the balls to articulate.

Future Of The Left - Robocop 4 (Fuck Off Robocop) by ....andeveryonesadj

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

You say that they’ve all left you all behind

Bat For Lashes - Laura

During a scene of his directorial debut film, Garden State, Zach Braff’s lead character, Largeman, describes how the meaning of “home” changes. Theorising that once you leave and enough time passes “home” becomes a fictionally positive memory of a place and people that no longer exist. That longing for it to be “the way it was” isn’t healthy and you have mould a new idea of home wherever you are. It’s an effecting scene, simple but disquietingly honest which cuts to the heart of why nostalgia can be a cause of a great damage to the present.

Bat For Lashes (AKA Natalie Khan) tackles nostalgia in a similar fashion for her latest single, Laura. Instead of Braff’s existential approach, Khan embodies her own youthful ideas of nostalgia using a protagonist of whom she sings about with a sorrowful admiration. Fondly remembering the effervescence and devil may care attitude of the hollow plaudits that she and her friends used to through around, “You’re more than a superstar.” Then admitting to a combination of Clockwork Orange esq nihilism “And in this old horror show,” and self loathing “Let’s sing along to that lonely song." Bundling this parable in a composition as simplistic as Braff’s scene, which after multiple listens become no less disquieting and even more haunting.

Laura is taken from Bat For Lashes forthcoming new Album, The Haunted Man which is out on October 15th

Friday, 29 June 2012

And I Live To See Your Face

Grizzly Bear - Sleeping Ute

Daniel Rosen’s distinctive guitar work and satisfyingly complex songs structures have always given Grizzly Bear’s subtly crafted music an holistic quality. Creating a metaphysical space in which the listener can explore the connection between all things; be they man made, natural, spiritual or imaginary. A sensation not unlike staring into the depths a clear lake. Where your eye’s can see all the way to the riverbed, able to focus on the individual depths of detail, without losing the sense of the whole. So when Grizzly Bears newest track, ‘Sleeping Ute,’ threatened to disturb this delicate ecosystem with an ambitiously loud and vibrant new direction, a feeling of great unease swept over me. 

The track opens in a bombast of Rosen's guitars, which expand and contract over dense percussion in beguiling fashion. The sound is bold but never overreaches, confidently replacing the vocal harmonies of classics like, ‘While You Wait For the Others’ or ‘Central and Remote,’ with all manner of layered instruments to elevate the soundscape. Whilst the change is initially jarring and will catch fans off guard, it's worth sticking with. As after repeated listens the beautiful mannerisms and charm of Grizzly Bears music reveal themselves to be unharmed and even more pronounced. Evolving to exciting new highs for a band who were already very easy to admire.

Listen to Sleeping Ute below:

Monday, 18 June 2012

Interview - Cloud Nothings

2012 has been a year of reinvention for Cloud Nothings. In January the Ohio quartet, led by Dylan Baldi, released Attack On Memory, their third album in 18 months. The record signaled a shift in direction, moving away from the comfort of indie-pop to a dark, uncompromising and at times ambitious punk sound. It was a bold move which paid dividends. Earning the album a string of high review scores and new army of fans.

Six months on, Cloud Nothings are still riding the wave of hype and are about to embark on a world tour. Before the last show of their UK tour, [edit] radio caught up with Baldi in the paint cracked dressing room of the Leeds based, Brudenell Social Club, to grab a chat about Attack on Memory, the Queens diamond jubilee and a Japanese cafe where you can pay to stroke cats.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Dot To Dot Festival - Manchester - 4/6/2012 Dot To Dot Festival - Manchester - 4/6/2012

As the summer months are upon us and festival season has begun in earnest, ticket holders for camping festivals like Reading or Leeds, all start following the weather forecasts with a little more frequency. Are they going to get fair skies to compliment the £200 worth of music they’ve shelled out for? Or should they prepare for a Bear Grylls survival weekend? Like with all things reliant on weather over the British summer, nothing is certain. 

Maybe thats why day long urban festivals like Dot to Dot have become so popular? They offer a great lineup of venues and rising stars at a fraction of the cost, (a ticket for Dot to Dot was only £20) without the risk of a wash out. Indeed the overcast conditions in Manchester didn’t affect the enjoyment to be had over the 14 hours of exceptional music that Dot to Dot offered it’s attendees.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Modern Masterworks #1 - Hot Chip "In Our Heads" Review

Relationships are tempestuous. In the space of days, (sometimes hours) the exuberance of a love you thought would last a lifetime, can be destroyed in an instant. Whether it’s your fault or theirs, (at the time it’s always theirs) you’ll end up secretly wishing that your ex-love would go and play ‘tag’ with onrushing traffic. As the days pass and loneliness sets in, you spiral into a self-destructive melancholy, where ‘letting go’ is not an option because deep down you’re still in love. Such emotion turmoil has been the inspiration for music (and soap opera plot lines) for countless years and is a theme spit chronologically along the 11 tracks of Hot Chip’s fifth studio LP, In Our Heads.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

These friends or ours, they soon pretend

Liars - No1. Against the Rush

The music Liars make isn’t the easiest to get into. The bands use of textures and rhythm has an obsessive-compulsive quality that makes them sound regularly irregular. As if to accentuate their peculiarity, with each new album Liars choose to completely reinvent their sound. This approach allows them to embark on new creative challenges and find new ways of expressing artistic themes, making their discography a genre hopping tour de force. On the evidence of No.1 Against The Rush, the first single from their new record WIXIW, the band show no sign of settling just yet.

In a recent interview the bands chief songwriters, Andrew Angus and Aaron Hemphill, admitted that WIXIW was emotionally fueled by the beginning and end of the two’s respective relationships. It’s a clever theme, as there is an undeniable duality between the two states of union. A duality in which uncertainty holds sway, where you’re kept awake a night wondering about what to do next. Where to go on the second date? What can I do to keep them from slipping away? It’s this sickly unease that No.1 Against The Rush deftly replicates.

By recording the new album using primarily modern electronic methods and eschewing the familiarity of the analogue instruments, Liars have engineered the perfect sonic palette to express this anxiety. For fans, this change is disarming, but in a good way, as it’s made Liars more accessible than ever. Initially, it may seem that this accessibility has come at the cost of the creativity for which they’re famed, but after multiple listens No.1 Against The Rush reveals it’s secrets. Taking little time for its meticulous arrangement of throbbing bass, sweeping synths and rotating blips to hit home with waves of unease that reverberate in the psyche. Proving that despite taking steps towards a more accessible sound, Liars remain one of the most challenging and exciting bands around.

The excellently creepy music video is below:

Friday, 18 May 2012

Blogs to Follow #1 - The Prescription

This is the start of a new feature here on the [edit] radio music blog where we promote OTHER BLOGS! Now lets get one thing straight, we're not advocating that you desert [edit] radio, just merely pointing you in the direction of some other music based blogs that we think you'll enjoy.

Our first blog is one that all independent musicians should read. It's called , "The Prescription" and is a must-have guide for artists who are embarking on a career in music, or established acts who want to stay abreast of the latest developments in the industry.

The guys over at Prescription PR have kindly agreed for me to repost Chris Singleton's excellent blog post about the pitfalls of Spotify for independent artists here on [edit] radio. - Kevin Lawson

Should you put your music on Spotify ? by Chris Singleton

I don’t buy CDs any more. And the reason why is simple: Spotify. Since deciding to part with £10 every month for the extraordinary privilege to be able to listen to vast chunks of rock history, or indeed new releases that tickle my fancy, the idea of hauling myself off the sofa to go down to a record store and spend moolah on a rotund lump of plastic just doesn’t really cut it for me anymore. It’s kind of sad, because I was the sort of kid who’d save up several weeks of pocket money just to buy one LP which I had ordered specifically, ten years in advance, from the local (and now-gone-bust) record shop. And besides which, I’m a musician – I’m meant to love limited-edition vinyl gatefold double albums made of gold bought from a hipster with a beard, man. In fact, I'm meant to be a hipster with a beard.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

How many times you say I'm through with this and you mull it over

Animal Collective - Honeycomb

Wake up, check phone, check Facebook, check emails, check Twitter, wait 10 minutes then check again. That’s the cyclic pattern of the omnipresent connectivity that we’ve allowed to take over our lives. An addiction to the instant gratification of having all our friends with us, all the time. It’s this structure of life played out in the virtual beehive that Animal Collective’s latest track Honeycomb embodies.

Like most Animal Collective tracks, it defies simple genre definition. Its warped yet geometric rhythms, melting bass lines and mixture of samples with other techniques too numerous to mention, only reveals its delights with multiple listens. Floating above this order masquerading as chaos are Avey Tare’s vocals, which find that sweet yet modern Beach Boy sound that has become the hallmark of Animal Collectives recordings. His simple repetition of “How many times you say” with it’s variant endings give the listener a framework in which to process the tracks complexities, a thread that they can confidently identify, helping them to process a recording which can at times overwhelm. It’s a skill Animal Collective have mastered and one which puts them amongst a select group of musicians. Those who make music thats equally stimulating and entertaining.

In full flow the track is an addictive delight that's suffused with a claustrophobia inducing quality; and it’s this duality that brings to mind the modern hyper connected life. A synthetic world which we willingly submit to for its ease, entertainment and comforting qualities. Knowing that every new friend request, follow and message erodes our privacy. Maybe it’s this reason that we all take liberties with the truth on the net? We’re busy painting over the grey truths of a mundane life in technicolour. Resulting in a hive of memories and friendships of how we’d like to be seen, rather than who we really are.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Music Festivals of 2012 #2 - Dot To Dot Festival

Over the last few years there has been an explosion of the early summer “pop up” festivals dotted around the urban centres of the country; but few manage to capture the imagination in the same way as Dot to Dot. The festival, which started in Nottingham in 2005, was one of the first crop of these modern urban festivals and is still showing the competition how it’s done. The festival takes place in Bristol, Nottingham and Manchester across this years Jubilee bank holiday weekend.

It’s line up is a music lovers dream, with artists being selected based on talent rather than fame, meaning that it’s 5 stages are not filled with 'has beens' and 'also rans.' Instead festival organiser, Anton Lockwood, gives festival goers the chance to see the futures headlining stars: “Dot To Dot 2012 sees us welcome some of the most hotly tipped new acts in the world, including some stars of SXSW. This is what Dot To Dot is all about!”

For once, there is more than hyperbole to his claim as over the course of the weekend you’ll get the chance to see [edit] radio favourites like Pulled Apart By Horses, The Drums, Wavves, Willis Earl Beal and Neon Indian (Manchester only). The best part is that you can see all of these bands for the recession busting price of £20! which is insane value for money.

[edit] radio will be heading along to Manchester to check out the festival and all it has to offer, we suggest that you do too. It’ll be the best thing you do all Bank Holiday.

Buy your own ticket from Alt-Tickets or for more information about the festivals venues head over to the Dot to Dot Website

Monday, 30 April 2012

Rising Talent #2 - Purity Ring

It was January last year when Purity Ring first wowed the blogosphere with their debut “7, Ungirthed. On the release, the bands sound was still very much in its embryonic phase; exciting but a little heavy handed and searching for a sweet spot. The Canadian duo’s mix of Corin Roddick’s production of throbbing synths, jittery Hip Hop percussion and washed out vocal samples provided an unlikely canvas for Megan James sweet but never sickly voice. The temptation to cash in on the modicum of attention that had come their way must have been intense. Indeed the normal response of bands and labels these days is to prematurely release an album. Purity Ring didn’t and it’s to their lasting credit.

Over the following seven months they dropped off the radar and apart from a few remixes very little was heard of the band. Then in September, they unleashed Belispeak on a spilt single with dream poppers Braids. This time round, Roddick’s production sounded more confident; bolder in its use of vocal samples and imparted James sugary tones with a sinister edge normally associated with Swedish electronica champions The Knife. The blogosphere went equally nuts, the buzz grew surely an album was just around the corner?

It’s taken another six months and finally Purity Ring are prepping the release of their debut album, Shrines, on July 24 via 4AD and Last Gand Records. The albums lead single, Obedear, shows that the duos incremental improvements have continued. With Roddick continuing to pair back any superfluous production, making them sound agile, lean and even more menacing than before. In taking that year to tinker instead of rushing their debut, Purity Ring’s patience has given them the chance to create an edgy pop sound, that’s equally ready for radio play and the critics pens. A combination which gives them a shot of lasting in an industry famous for eating it’s young. 

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Music Festivals of 2012 #1 - Beacon’s Festival

Rising out of the wreckage of 2011’s flooding cancellation, Beacon’s Festival is back and this time bigger, better and most importantly more water resistant than ever! Having moved the site to an even more picturesque location and away from flood areas, the festival will see thousands of discerning music fans descend on the town of Carleton (near Skipton) to enjoy three days and four nights of some of the most groundbreaking musicians around.

The line up is incredible! Including [edit] radio favourites, Wild Beasts and Real Estate, who had the dubious honour of featuring in our 2011 albums of the year run down, and other artists we’ve supported such as King Krule, Willis Earl Beal and Cloud Nothings to name just a few. You can see the full line up here.

Whats even better is that this line up is available for the recession busting price of £74.50 for weekend tickets, with additional discounts available for students and for parents bringing along their children too.

To give you a flavour of the festival, which runs from 17th-19th August we’ve created a Beacon’s Spotify playlist for you to enjoy!

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Tell Em All To Go To Hell

Japandroids - The House That Heaven Built

To the untrained ear, Japandroid’s brand of highly distorted power punk is the perfect excuse to label them as one of the those “wanky bands,” that music critics purr over and hipsters say they love. In most preconceptions there is normally an element of truth, but forming your opinion of Japandroid’s before you’ve listened past the hype would be foolhardy; because this Vancouver duo write some of the most life affirming music around.

Their newest track, ‘The House That Heaven Built,’ is no different and is a sign that their soon to be released sophomore album, Celebration Rock, has built upon the sturdy foundations laid by ‘2010s excellent single ‘Younger Us.’ Whilst sonically, they’re still working within the same palette, this time every fuzzy guitar hook, vocal snarl and drum thud finds the perfect balance between sounding crisp without losing any of the lo-fi power that make all their records so vital. The track is unceasing from its opening bar and screams for your attention. Making obedient soldiers out of the hairs on the back of your neck, in the same way as the iconic folk punk anthems of Frank Turner.

Lyrically it manages keeps apace, capturing the sense of defiance you feel as you try to move on from a past love. When vocalist, Brian King, growls the end of the chorus “If they try to slow you down, tell em all to go to hell” you can feel his sentiment gathering strength with each repetition. This builds to the songs only moment of respite, when King delivers the devastating coup de grĂ¢ce, “It’s a lifeless life, with no fixed address to give, but you’re not mine to die for anymore, so I must live.” Each line is delivered with a draining commitment that never sounds contrived or anything less than utterly honest. Which is gloriously ironic for a band so easily accused of pandering to the tonal artifice of the hipster elite.

The House That Heaven Built is out on Polyvinyl Records May 15, Pre Order Here

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Nothing’s Making Sense In My Brain

Hot Chip - Flutes

Alexis Taylor’s voice has consistently been an under utilised weapon in the Hot Chip arsenal. The cool detachment and lonely quality of his delivery is often at odds with the bands uptempo songs, requiring extensive tailoring before the musical fit becomes perfect. On their new track, “Flutes,” Taylor and the rest of Hot Chip have finally found the confidence to build a dance floor hit around his tonal qualities.

The 7 minute track builds its foundation upon a masterful use of repetition and layered sound, which represent more than just a set of highly danceable textures. From the outset, the tracks indecipherable yet rhythmic chanting symbolises a mind searching for a higher meaning and answers to the fear inducing, existential questions that can never be resolved. A set of neurotic half thoughts, where you lose faith in lovers, in friends or worse still, life as a whole. Where each layer of throbbing synth and samples begins to hypnotise and encircle the listener with these worries, eventually forcing an acknowledgement that some things are out of your hands.

It’s as if Taylor and co have figured out how to apply Derren Brown’s, neuro linguistic programming to dance music. Where the beats provide the a consistent backdrop as the lyrics alter your thought patterns, until a moment of critical mass is reached and you just let all your worries go. The resulting emotional release hits with a physicality that the loudest Skrillex bass line could only dream of. Leaving behind a feeling of empowerment and a realisation, that even though the beat of life's fears will always be the same, the way in which you dance is entirely up to you.

“Flutes” is taken from Hot Chips fifth album, In Our Heads, which drops into UK stores on June, 11.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Real Estate - Leeds live at Brudenell 19th Feb

As two time winners of Bitchforks Best New Music’s award, (something which seems to carry more kudos than a Mercury, Grammy and Brit rolled into one) New Jersey’s Real Estate don’t need to do a whole lot on stage to curry favour with the hipsters who attend their shows. In a strange way thats a good thing, as tonight’s easy-going performance is the perfect reflection of their carefree sound. Under normal circumstances I would chastise a band for such inertia on stage, but if Real Estate were to perform in any other way it just wouldn’t fit.

If you’ve never heard Real Estate, a quick listen to any part of their discography would validate my view point. Their sound is heavily influenced by New Jersey forebears, the Feelies and is suffused with the warmth of a sunny afternoon. Where guitars hooks gently drift on the faintest wisps of air and hazy vocals recount stories of suburban life in America. In the context of Brudenell’s working man club furnishings they should sound alien, but instead the band offer tonights equally mellow crowd escapism from the last throws of a bitter winter. In return they applaud generously, reserving the bulk of their cheers for singles ‘Easy’ and ‘Green Aisles’ taken from the excellent new album Days.

Taking a closer look, it becomes obvious just how hard the band works to appear so carefree. The brunt of the heavy lifting is done by the bands rhythm section. Where Jackson Pollis beats the drums like a ginger step child and Alex Bleeker relentlessly nods like a dashboard mounted Elvis as he thumbs out the baselines. The two provide enough bounce to the hazy melodies, holding your attention without intruding on the relaxed atmosphere. This allows the interplay of singer/guitarist, Martin Courtney and guitarist, Matthew Mondanile to sound like the equivalent of two slackers having a contest to see who can look more contented whilst spread eagled on a sun lounger. The effect is extremely pleasant and had me recalling my own fondest memories of summer which on a cold Sunday night in Leeds is no mean feat.

You can download more of my pictures of here.

Monday, 20 February 2012

KNOW YOUR NME (Or why do the so-called music press never learn?)

By Lawrence Piddock

I’ve been away for a little while. I’ve not been idle, but plans have gone awry. My idea for a CSS tribute band involving kazoos, bassoons and a ukulele didn’t quite work out. Neither did my quick fire game show featuring twelve hosts and a couple of schizophrenic contestants called Who Said That? Which has bizarrely not been picked up by any of the TV stations I pitched it to, not even Bravo or Nuts TV...

Also it doesn’t help when you send pieces to somebody and they don’t read them (a little clue, his first name’s Kevin...*).

Anyway, last time I wrote I was having a pop at festivals and this leads on a tad conveniently. A piece in the pre-Glastonbury NME excelled itself when it declared that if people were willing to protest against U2 for dodging taxes in Eire, then why aren’t people were willing to protest against Beyonce taking a princely sum for performing a private gig for the Gadaffi family a couple of years back.I’d like to make it clear that I had very little time for the not-so-dearly-departed Gadaffi and his ilk, but there was more chance of the Daleks turning up on the Pyramid Stage during Coldplay’s set and exterminating Chris Martin than any anti-Beyonce protest ever happening.

And the NME know it...

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Right Now, If You Believe

Willis Earl Beal - Take Me Away

During a recent seminar, a lecturer asked “who are your modern day soul and blues voices?” For a minute the group sat in silence before our brains sparked into life and names like Erykah Badu, Macy Gray and even Amy Winehouse were mentioned. Our reticence to answer is understandable because apart from Badu, the soul and blues genres are devoid of credible voices that have found their way into the mainstream psyche. The selection of soul artist Michael Kiwanuka as BBC’s “sound of 2012” would suggest that the industries taste makers recognise this void and are trying to fill it. Predictably they’ve backed the wrong horse.

Step forward Chicago’s 27 year old, Willis Earl Beal who on the evidence of “Take Me Away” is about to invoke the spirit of 1920‘s blues acts like Robert Johnson. The home recording is primal and rhythmic, distorting the thumping sound of a rudimentary diddley bow to striking effect. Vocally Earl Beal is equally powerful and
from the opening line of “Oh lord! Take me away” he sounds like a snarling Isaac Hayes lost in a gospel trance. Given it’s near 90 year old inspiration, it’s strange that Willis Earl Beal sounds so fresh when his contemporary, Kiwanuka, sounds so hackneyed. The harsh truth is that when it comes to blues and soul, genuine emotion is everything and unlike Kiwanuka’s coffee table version, Earl Beal really means it.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Living off the last hurrah is killing me

Burning Hotels - Days Are Gone

A while back, a friend of mine introduced me to Burning Hotels, an ‘80s inspired indie pop quartet from Texas. Their sound, is a delicious mixture of The Cure, The Smiths and modern electronic trends. “Days Are Gone” is the best example of how they blend these influences into a cohesive whole. Taken from last years self titled EP, the synths throb and swell melodically over the Marr inspired guitar riff’s, making for a disarming soundscape that gets people dancing. Hidden amongst this rousing music are bleak lyrics that sentimentally dwell on a past rather than hope for a better future. This sort of musical juxtaposition always draws me in, a track overtly melancholy but with the power to liberate any set of feet from a stationary position.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Resolutions Are Only Dreams

King Krule - Bleak Bake

For me, talent schools are a contentious issue. Does an artist gain or lose merit by attending? What does it mean for their authenticity? Does it even matter? It’s a minefield that shouldn’t have any relevance to what I think about the music, but apparently it does. In King Krule’s case I’m willing to make an exception because despite his Brit School background (the same talent school as Jessie J and Adele) his music is blessed with a mediative quality that appeals to my introverted nature and tugs on the same emotional strings as The XX or Burial. Like both of those artists, Krule’s music is nocturnal and urban in tone, resonating more when walking on dimly lit streets. His style of vocal morphing sounds a little like drunken slurring and will be a barrier for enjoyment for some, to others (and me) he’ll sound intoxicating, there really isn’t any middle ground. 

 “Bleak Bake” is the best example of these musical traits to date. Emotive lyrics like “I’m pretty sure my mind ran down this line again, only last week,” recall how easy it is to drift off into your own little world whilst commuting during a packed rush hour. Krule backdrops his lyrics with an expert use of repetitive violin modulations. These sharp pockets of sound represent a moment of mind paralysis caused by a combination of commuter induced claustrophobia and too many strands of thought forming at once. It’s something most commuters can relate to and hearing this type of internalisation represented so skilfully is rare indeed. Making any of my own doubts about the dubious authenticity of Krule’s talent school roots ill-founded.

Monday, 30 January 2012

I Give You My Flesh

King Charles - Loveblood released on the 20th February

Back in 2007 King Charles looked set to breakthrough into the indie pop mainstream. Having dropped out of Durham University, he embarked on successful tours with Laura Marling and Noah and the Whale, then spent the following year writing his debut album. Towards the end of 2008 his burgeoning career was stopped in its tracks, as he suffered a near fatal skiing accident. Despite a lengthy recovery process Charles refused to give up and in 2010 he reignited his career by becoming the first Brit to win Nashville’s prestigious International Songwriting Competition. This accolade prompted Island Records to sign him and helped secure a US tour with Mumford and Sons. King Charles remained relatively quiet until late last year, when he returned to the airwaves with an excellent new single called “BAM BAM” and completing his comeback from the almost dead.

“Loveblood” is Charles newest single and the next step in building momentum for the spring release of his debut album. The track is an interesting slice of throwaway indie pop that borrows heavily from Vampire Weekends Afro guitar rhythms and the songwriting style of Marc Bolan. Whilst in theory this is a marriage made in heaven, on “Loveblood” the marriage isn’t wholly successful. The problem is that whilst the track is easy to enjoy, it’s also easy to ignore and therefore forget. There’s nothing quite catchy or iconic enough on “Loveblood” to make it stick in the mind and I think on this occasion King Charles might struggle to find his way into the upper echelons of the charts. Yet he is a talented artist full of promise, whose quirky pop persona make him well worth your attention and whose brush with death, might just be the source of inspiration required to propel him to stardom.

King Charles will be performing in Huddersfield at Tokyo, 24th of February, with support from We Were Evergreen, auditCONTROL and Tokyo Corner. Tickets are available at www.wegottickets.com

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Take My Earthly Life

Back in 2009 I stumbled onto “Mary,” a home recorded demo, by Alex Schaaf, who performs under the moniker of Yellow Ostrich and was immediately spellbound. Schaaf’s creative use of layered, haze heavy vocals gave texture and rhythm to an otherwise sparse composition, marking him as a talent worth following. The track eventually made it onto his first album, The Mistress, which got picked up by Barsuk Records and was released last year.

Schaaf obviously doesn’t believe in wasting time and is readying the release of his second LP, Strange Land by giving away the lead single “Marathon Runner.” The track shows that Schaaf has managed the move from home recording to full studio without losing the lo-fi charm of his early works. Retaining the fuzzed out vocals, but this time against a denser production to create a sound that sit’s snugly between the upbeat moments of Bombay Bicycle Club’s, A Different Kind Of Fix and college rock stalwarts, The Mountain Goats. A marriage which is very pleasing to the ear indeed.

Strange Land is released via Barsuk Records on March 6.

Monday, 23 January 2012

The City Is My Church

M83 - Leeds Stylus 20th Jan

I’m not a religious man, I don’t go to church and I don’t believe in a higher power, however during M83’s virtuosic performance of “We Own The Sky,” I had a spiritual awakening. As sound waves crashed against me, my note taking ceased, the aches of my body were replaced with a tide of euphoria. I was mesmerised, entranced like a stooge touched by a faith healer who had instantly cured all of my ill’s and for the briefest of moments, life was perfect.

In truth the sceptic in me was expecting something far less impressive. I thought I’d be watching in disappointment as M83 front man, Anthony Gonzalez, pissed around with sequencers and twiddled knobs in a vain attempt to replicate the soaring soundscapes of his albums. I was wrong, so very, very wrong. From the moment that Gonzalez and his cohorts arrived on stage to the very last note they played, M83 were nothing short of breathtaking.

When they opened on a pitch perfect rendition of “Intro” from new album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, the bar was set high and it just continued to raise. Gonzalez delivered every track with supreme, but never misplaced confidence. I watched on in utter awe as Gonzalez entered a musical trance to deliver a performance, where “Midnight City” thundered overhead and show closer “Couleurs” almost descended into the maddening haze of Daft Punk’s “Derezzed.” A performance where no track felt like it would ever be played the same way again. Where each diversion from the original recordings took songs which already sounded gigantic and made them gargantuan.

Not once did they play with anything other than total dedication to their art, transcending the confines of the dimly lit room and dragging me along with them. It was the same sort of experience as watching a congregation sing in praise to a God they have total faith in and for an hour I ascended to the ‘80s inspired worlds of Gonzalez’s creation. If escapism was a religion it’d be called M83, Gonzalez would be the messiah and I’d be a believer.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Aglow in the dark?

The Shins – Simple Song

It’s been 5 years since The Shins last album Wincing The Night Away and I think I can speak for the majority of alternative music lovers out there in saying, "they’ve been missed." Even though I enjoyed James Mercer’s side project, Broken Bells (with Danger Mouse), the results of that partnership where at best, mixed. On “Simple Song” Mercer has applied the lessons he learnt from Broken Bells to beef up The Shins sound to terrific effect. Moving the band into stadium pop territory without leaving behind the delicacy of their previous work, in fact everything on "Simple Song" is quintessentially 'Shinsy (and yes that's a descriptive word). When you consider the increase in popularity they've enjoyed during their hiatus, these sonic tweaks are smart. As they're likely to find themselves closer to the headline slot at festivals, where a few weightier songs won't go amiss. Hopefully I'll get the chance to watch them live soon.

The new album Port Of Morrow is released on the 20th March

Monday, 16 January 2012

Rising Talent #1 - Cloud Nothings

On last January’s self titled album, Cloud Nothings Dylan Baladi created an album full of catchy Lo-Fi indie rock, that was high on memorable guitar hooks but lacked a little character to really stand out. What a difference a year makes. Since November, Baladi has drip fed three cuts from his new album, Attack The Memory and each track oozes confidence.

The first, “No Future/No Past” is the least immediate of the three. Baladi builds on an initially sparse piano, gradually adding layers of growling vocals, drums and guitars. Allowing the whole thing to reach a simmer until it finally boils over, letting loose a barrage of dirty riffs and snarls that will keep you coming back. It’s a massive change in direction and recalls some of the sound of Lo-Fi legends Archers Of Loaf.

The 'Loafs influence is more pronounced on the other two tracks, especially on “No Sentiment” which doesn’t quite match the glorious idiosyncrasies found in the ‘Loafs songwriting but is suitably moody and no less potent. On the last cut, “Stay Useless” Baladi fuses his Strokes like knack for writing a toe tapping chorus and hook with the ‘Loafs sound that to produces a genuine indie crowd pleaser. It’s only been 3 years since Baladi left collage to pursue a career in music, it’s starting to sound like he made the right decision.

Attack The Memory is due out on January 24th via Carpark.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Heard you say suicide in your sleep, just get on with it

Sleigh Bells - Born To Lose

Just before Christmas, Sleigh Bells unleashed the first track from their second album Reign Of Terror and initially I felt a little disappointed. Not because the track sounded bad but because I had unfeasibly high hopes that they’d be crafting an album full of pop tracks like “Rill Rill.” Unlike that standout, “Born To Lose” follows the blueprint established in the rest of their debut album Treats. Using massive guitar riffs, call and response vocal shouts with machine gun like electronic beats but here they’ve added a little more polish. As time wore on my disappointment faded, realising that despite a two year wait they still sound intoxicatingly bold and that no other band has come close to replicating their template for melodic brutality. So regardless of my ongoing hopes for the rest of the second album (this after all is only the first taster), “Born to Lose” is still a treat for musical thrill seekers. One that has all the heady release that attracts listeners of ‘bro step’ but with a cool, shoegaze detachment that’s adored by indie hipsters. Suggesting that Sleigh Bells adrenaline fuelled music will find a far more receptive audience this time round.

Sleigh Bells - Born To Lose by Mom + Pop

With you by my side, Everything will be all right

The XX’s self titled debut was a nocturnal album, best listened to in the comfort of a dimly lit room at stupid o’clock at night. At first listen Open Eyes, a taster demo of their second LP, is more of the same. The recording is sparse with a whisper of speaker hiss in the background making it more intimate sounding than their previous recordings. Croft’s vocals fit perfectly, sung with in a breathless hush that warms and shimmers like flecks of dust given shape by rays of sunlight. Each listen evokes memories of mornings spent in bed with lovers and the comforting feeling of waking up next to someone you know cares for you. Essentially it’s still the XX as you’ve always known them, but this time it’s morning after the night before, and it’s every bit as beautiful.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

I’ve Always Had A Thing For Dangerous Women

Sow Mare Bitch Vixen - Fionn Regan

Just before I started my Christmas vacation I watched Shane Meadows excellent TV mini series, This Is England ’88. It’s soundtrack alerted me to a new album by Fionn Regan, an artist that I had not completely forgotten, but had neglected to check for a while. Since then, I’ve been catching up on Regan’s latest album, 100 Acres of Sycamore and whilst it still doesn’t match up to his unforgettable folk debut, The End Of History a couple of it’s songs are well worth a listen. “Sow Mare Bitch Vixon” is one, it’s sparse sounds of delicately picked acoustic guitars and whispered violins are held together by Regan’s beautifully resonant voice. What’s really surprising are the lyric’s, Regan, who tends to overuse metaphors, has shown uncharacteristic restraint and kept them simple. This gives the song elegance, which in the face of the bratty verses being pumped out by Ed Sheeran, is a timely reminder of how haunting one man and his guitar can sound.

Friday, 6 January 2012

[edit] radio’s top ten albums of 2011

At the beginning of December my brain entered into a contract with my ears. The deal was that at the end of a months worth of procrastination I’d have come up with a top 10 albums for the year. A month later I decided on two things, that a) 2011 was a year that lacking in truly great albums and b) I really fucking hate making these lists.

Initially I struggled to find 5 albums that I’d be prepared to put [edit] radio's name to but eventually ended up with about 14 that merited a mention without being truly great. I also had to discount two records that I couldn’t be objective about, due to them being made by two of my best friends (Sorry Ben and Barry). Until finally, I’ve reached my decisions (at the expense of my own sleeping patterns) and these are [edit] radio music blog’s top ten albums of the year:

10. Balam Acab - Wander / Wonder

If I had an award for meditative album of the year, Balam Acab (AKA Alec Koone) would have to win. The 20 year olds debut LP has been the soundtrack to all the novels I’ve read since its release. It’s 8 tracks are a work of subtle beauty, that whisper and haunt the ears with delicate ‘witch house’ melodies that were in such vogue last year. A musical fad which has reached a graceful coda on Koone's Wander / Wonder.

MP3 - Oh Why

9. M83 - Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

It's been three years since M83 (AKA Anthony Gonzalez) released his last album, Saturdays = Youth, and by the sound of Hurry Up We’re Dreaming that time hasn't been wasted. Across this double LP he delivers some of the years most epic soundscapes, which like the rest of Gonzalez’s music is inspired by eighties popular culture.

So far, so great right? Well, yes and no, whilst there is no doubt that the album has its share of dizzying heights like ‘Midnight City,’ (probably the best song of the year) ‘New Map’ and ‘Steve McQueen.’ It also has a fair share of songs which act as the foundations of these musical set pieces and are just too subtle and indifferent to stand out. It’s an album that will probably continue to grow on me over the next year and will improve in its standing as it does so. For now despite the albums surprising accessibility and obvious ambition, it has left me cold and wishing Gonzalez had condensed the best parts of two good disc’s onto a single great one.

MP3 - New Map

8. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake

Let England Shake is the result of a seismic change in PJ Harvey’s approach to music and a landmark album in an already incredible body of work. Whereas her previous records were passionate and introverted, Let England Shake saw Harvey painstakingly research Britain’s history in war until the album ended up as a form of musical documentary. The record still sounds distinctly like Harvey, but this new academic approach shows she is ready and capable of turning her considerable talents to the wider issues of politics, society and religion. Providing her music with a new mine of inspiration for the coming years, which is an exciting prospect for fans and critics alike. In the case of Let England Shake the bleak subject matter makes the record worthy of it’s art with a capital ‘A’ label, but also difficult to endure in it’s entirety. Maybe that was exactly Harvey's point?

MP3 - Written on Forehead

7. Panda Bear - Tomboy

Panda Bear’s (AKA Noah Lennox) previous album, Person Pitch (2007), was one of the best albums of the last decade. It’s sprawling ten minute plus songs owed as much to the repetitive nature of dance music as they did to the melodic charms of the Beach Boys. So it was difficult to see how anyone, even a musician as prodigiously talented as Lennox, could follow up that masterpiece. This year he delivered his best shot and came close to repeating the act with Tomboy. Those expecting more of the same may be left slightly disappointed, but when you’ve created an album that perfectly captures your artistic intent, why try to do the same thing again? On Tomboy, Lennox unsurprisingly goes for something new, simplifying his song structures to a more conventional runtime of four minutes whilst keeping his sonic palette as fresh and avant-garde as ever. This give’s Tomboy one quality that Person Pitch didn’t really have, accessibility, which isn’t something you usually associate with music this challenging.

MP3 - Last Night At The Jetty

6. Gauntlet Hair - Gauntlet Hair

Last year I was seriously taken by Gauntlet Hair’s debut single, “Out Don’t,” a gloriously raucous, reverb soaked, fist pumper. It was an artsy, Lo-Fi take on the stadium rock-pop served up by chart topping behemoths like Coldplay or U2. It had a catchy as hell melody, lyrics that are nearly indecipherable (in a different way to Coldplay’s generic tales of nothing), but still delivered an emotional punch. All these qualities could be found in abundance on their self titled debut LP, which seemed to underwhelm the musical blogosphere upon it’s release, but captured my attention. Sure the album is only 9 tracks long and each track sounds similar to the last, but what's important is that each is delivered with a gusto and thrust sorely lacking amongst most of their contemporaries. If they can find a way to pair back the reverb, make better use of silence and sharpen the vocal elements without losing the energy that makes them sound so vital, they’ll win themselves many more admirers.

MP3 - My Christ

5. EMA - Past Life Martyred Saints

The highest placed debut album on our list, comes from South Dakota’s EMA (AKA, Erika M. Anderson) and is probably the most emotionally wrought debut LP since Elliott Smith’s, Roman Candle. Anderson’s violently bold songs are often uncomfortable to listen to, but constantly captivating because of her extraordinarily skilful arrangements and songwriting. Whereas most modern contemporaries like Lana Del Rey or Feist give their music another dimension by sounding cooly indifferent, Anderson’s sounds like she’s ready to take a razor blade to her arteries and bleed herself dry. This makes Past Life Martyred Saints sound like a form of creative therapy, used by Anderson to expel her own demons. The track ‘Marked’ which we previously blogged is a disturbing highlight on an album that will leave scars on anyone who dares to listen.

MP3 - Marked

4. Real Estate - Days

This record wasn’t originally in [edit] radio's top 10 albums of the year at all. For various reasons I’d overlooked it’s beach bum inspired melodic charms and it wasn’t until I listened to it whilst on a train did I began to revere it’s qualities. Sometimes context is everything. It has since revealed itself as one of the finest albums to travel to that I ever heard. The record has a warm and calming quality that when listened to on the move, make even the most mundane of commutes dream like.

Musically the guitars are the highlight, shimmering and swaying on a warm summer breeze, covering up what is a somewhat average rhythm section. In amongst this interplay of guitars are some deliciously hazy vocals, that provide some of the sweetest choruses that you’re ever likely to hear. The track ‘Easy’ is the best example of this and is my favourite track on a record full of highlights. The record is not without fault, as although the vocals are sweet they lack personality, which is something that lead singer, Martin Courtney, will have to work on if they are to realise their obvious potential and make a truly great album.

MP3 - Easy

3. Wild Beasts - Smother

The trouble with making ‘art rock’ is whilst your music is easy to admire, it’s not always easy to enjoy. The same troubles plagued Wild Beasts debut album, the baroque inspired Panto Limbo. Which was thematically brilliant, but polarised listeners in the same way marmite does toast eaters, due to Hayden Thorpe’s falsetto shrieks. On their follow up, the funk infused Two Dancers, Thorpe toned back on the glass shattering vocal’s and the band began to sparingly use bassist/keyboardist Tom Fleming’s sultry northern baritone as a counterpoint. It was a large step forward, and tracks like 'This Is Our Lot' and 'Hooting & Howling' filtered across into the indie mainstream.

On this years record the band have made another step forward, with the minimalist sounding but sexually active Smother. Sonically the album draws as much from the compositions of Steve Reich, as it does the pop sensibilities of the brilliant Talk Talk and there’s a far greater delegation of vocal duties from Thorpe to Fleming. By making the best of each vocal quality, Wild Beasts, spin ten sensual tales of late night sex, lust, and above all vulnerability. Tracks like 'Plaything' prove their commitment to sharing their darkest fears and intimate desires on record. It's this willingness to be at the mercy of their listeners that resonates to dazzling effect and set the band apart from the norm. Given their rate of improvement it's not hard to imagine that someday, Smother may eventually be seen as one of Wild Beasts lesser albums,which is an exciting prospect indeed.

MP3 - Albatross

2. Bon Iver - Bon Iver

In 2008 I fell in love, not with a women but with a record. A record which whispered introverted tales of loneliness, guilt and heartbreak, that took hold of my inner emo and still hasn't let go. That record was Bon Iver’s (AKA Justin Vernon) debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago, which has the kind of back story that sends music journalists into a trouser wetting frenzy. At the time of it’s recording Vernon had acrimoniously broken up with his band (and girlfriend), was sick with mono and decided to retreat from the world to a secluded cabin in the wild. He emerged with one of the most memorable debut records of the last decade and begun a whirlwind three years that would see him win a legion of fans, tour the world, collaborate with superstars like Kanye West, start a side project and put out another well received EP.

With this in mind it’s fair to say that the last three years of Vernon’s professional life has been a resounding success, so I have one question, why does he still sound so fucking miserable? Why do all the song’s on his second album, Bon Iver still sound like he’s ready to drink himself to death on whisky? The answer I’ve come to is, I don’t know, and to be quite frank I don’t care. I don’t care that some of the romanticism of his music has been lost because he didn’t record it on vintage music equipment in a cabin that was so basic, he had to risk frostbite by taking bare cheeked craps in the snow. All I care about is how his new music sounds and on his new album, the self titled Bon Iver, he has made exceptional use of a full studio to create a record which is sonically superior to his debut. This is exemplified on the elegant choral pop of ‘Calgary’ which exhibits the misty eyed synths and deft pacing that makes the entire record such a joy. Despite this newly rendered production, it’s Vernon’s voice that still remains his most affecting instrument. Throughout Vernon sings like he’s rubbing his eye’s in wonder and disbelief at the praise that has come his way since emerging from the dark solitude of his cabin. A disbelief that’s washed away in a haze of synths and horns on album closer ‘Beth/Rest,’ as it dawns on Vernon that he’s talented enough to deserve it.

MP3 - Calgary

Throughout my month of procrastination, one record that never once slipped from the reckoning for the top spot, was Pete & The Pirates One Thousand Pictures. A record that took over 3 years to make, where you can hear how every month, day, hour and second has been spent in crafting the best album to grace the record stores this year.

Their debut album Little Death was an indie pop gem that has some of the catchiest songs you’re ever likely to hear. Tracks like ‘Come On Feet’ and ‘Mr Understanding’ are danceable, feel good, crowd pleasing treats. On One Thousand Pictures they've trumped that album entirely and created an enthralling set of songs that are menacingly sinister, yet wonderfully playful, which have greater sophistication of sound, composition and songwriting. After just one listen you’ll involuntarily sing along to the warped melodies and phasing guitars of ‘Come To The Bar,' or to the angular rhythms of ‘United’ and after extended listening you'll realise that the tracks which make up this very british sounding album, are something much more than throwaway indie pop.

The truly impressive thing about the record is how distinct it sounds within such a populist genre. There aren’t many (if any) bands or acts that can vocally harmonize as well as Thomas Sanders and Pete Hefferan, even fewer that know how to write the sort of melodies and choruses that make the best use of this talent. By focusing and improving the qualities that made them stand out in the first place, they've become even more distinct. Which is a rare commodity in an industry that seems hellbent on throwing up so much faceless sounding bile.

They should be applauded for their steadfast insistence that the record would only come out when they were 100% happy with it. Too many bands think short term when it comes to their musical output, rushing to release a second album to the ruin of their own reputation. It was something that Pete & the Pirates weren't prepared to do. The result of their self imposed standards of quality has produced a record that reveals more of itself with each listen and is the only record worthy of being described as ‘great’ this year.