Wednesday, 13 November 2019

LISTEN: Rayowa - 'Better Man'

I'm delighted to have been sent this track from Rayowa - they're a band made up of brothers Dan, Reece and Luke, who have translated their mutual love of soul, funk and pop into their debut single Better Man. Released on Mahogany, the track is perfect for fans of the likes of Jungle and Franc Moody, an irresistibly catchy disco tune, with tasty bass lines, falsetto vocals and live brass elevating it beyond expectations.

Exploring the lyrics of the track, the band say that it is "about being faced with a situation that you have no control over. It's about the fear of change and being forced to take the positives from a bad time which allows you to grow and become a better person." 

I'll certainly be keeping an ear out for more music from the trio - there's another track from their upcoming EP due in January!

Follow Rayowa - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

LIVE: Half Moon Run & Leif Vollebekk at Electric Brixton (7/11/19)

Last Thursday I had the utter joy of seeing Montreal indie rockers Half Moon Run headlining Electric Brixton at the London date of their tour supporting brand new album A Blemish in the Great Light. The album was released at the start of the month and I'm really enjoying it, with highlights for me being the single Favourite Boy, the quite intense and immense (over seven minutes long) Razorblade and the lyrically humorous Jello on my Mind.

Opening up for the band for the current run of European shows is fellow Canadian Leif Vollebekk , who created the perfect atmosphere for the show. It's a pretty positive sign when a support act can get some crowd participation going in the first track of their set. When not helping with harmonies or clapping/clicking, the crowd was mostly quiet for his set, respecting and clearly enjoying his music.  There was a really endearing effortlessness as he made up the setlist on the spot. Flitting between the piano and guitar, Leif's musicality was as compelling as his beautifully unique vocals which really captured my heart when I first heard his music through single Hot Tears a few months back. If you like the track below, he released his album New Ways on the same day as HMR - listen here.

Once Leif had finished up, it wasn't long until Half Moon Run took to the stage. I last saw them back in 2015 when they headlined the much smaller Oslo in Hackney, and I'd forgotten quite how impressive a live band they are. All multi-instrumentalists, they're each usually playing more than one instrument at once, or at least switching between one or two seamlessly within tracks. Drums and keys? No problem. Guitar, harmonica and keys? Easy. Slide guitar and guitar? Not an issue. All of this while coming together to create the sublime four part harmonies that the band are loved for. The result of these various additional instruments is that the band are able to create a much richer soundscape, with far more depth than you might expect from a four-piece band.

The setlist featured a mix of tracks from all three albums; the new record, their debut Dark Eyes and second album Sun Leads Me On. The newer tracks were received incredibly well and it seemed the crowd had already learned a lot of the lyrics, despite having had just under a week to do so! Favourites from the past two albums elicited a lot of singalongs, mainly on the likes of Call Me In The Afternoon and Full Circle, two of their best known songs from the debut. A highlight of the set was a stripped back performance of Sun Leads Me On at the front of the stage around one microphone, with the band showing that they can tackle the quieter tracks just as well.

There was a slightly overwhelming response from the crowd as the band took back to the stage for the encore, with unfailing clapping and cheering, which the band lapped up. Eventually, Dev asked for quiet for a "serious" song... cue Jello on my Mind. It was a really superb evening with two brilliant artists and a whole lot of talent on show. If you get the chance to see either of them live - be sure to take it. In fact, Communion have London shows coming up with both of them - Half Moon Run are at the Roundhouse on 12th March (tickets here) while Leif Vollebekk headlines Bush Hall on 28th April (tickets here.)

Follow Half Moon Run - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.
Follow Leif Vollebekk - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Monday, 11 November 2019

WATCH: Bad Sounds - 'Sympathetic Vibrations'

If you missed Bad Sounds' debut album Get Better when it was released last August, you'll first need to set aside 41 minutes to acquaint yourself with it. Then, when you've fallen for it, especially tunes like Avalanche and Evil Powers, get excited about the fact that they're back with new music and an upcoming London show! Brilliant news. Sympathetic Vibrations premiered on BBC Radio 1 recently, and musically I'm really enjoying it but mostly I can't get past how entirely mesmerised I am by the music video. Watch below... 

If you like what you're hearing, get yourself along to their first show in a while, an intimate night at Colours Hoxton on 28th November. Event here for more info/tickets.

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Friday, 8 November 2019

LISTEN: Winnie Raeder - 'She'

One of my favourite discoveries of the year, Winnie Raeder shared her debut track Don't You Dare back in Spring. The track became the opener of her From Here EP which was released in June - and Winnie is back with gorgeous new track She. It's hard to believe that the tracks she has released are still in single figures... there's a level of accomplishment and confidence which comes through the track, alongside vulnerable and exposed vocals.

A song that was written with her friends Josh Record and Jacob Attwooll, Winnie explains that "we started playing around with some chords and started with the title 'She' before we had written any of the rest of the lyrics. It felt really interesting to pair a traditional folk sound with a song written for and sung by a woman. We kept the language poetic and romantic and the song almost wrote itself." 

The track arrives amidst a UK support tour with a big favourite of mine, Charlie Cunningham. I can only imagine how sublime those shows will be! After a run of shows in the UK for the next week or so, she's also supporting Tamino (an equally sublime artist) in Antwerp, Berlin and London. In between shows she's also playing her third London headline of the year (following two sold out shows in 2019) at Courtyard Theatre on 27th November. Tickets for that one are here.

Follow Winnie Raeder - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

LISTEN: Rhys Lewis - 'Be Your Man'

While we've technically heard a stripped back version of this one before, Rhys Lewis has shared new (ish) track Be Your Man recently. I love it. It's got all the soulful vibes you'd expect from one of his tracks, with those gorgeously strong and raw vocals carrying an emotional story of unrequited love, and the feeling of being in a relationship with somebody who still carries feelings for an ex. Rhys is here to tug at your heartstrings again, and I wouldn't expect anything less.

Talking about the track, Rhys explains that it is "one of those songs that I'm still very much connected to emotionally, whenever I sing it live I get taken right back to the way I felt in the relationship at that time. It's horrible to feel like you're not enough for someone, that you're being compared to the person they were with before. I think if she'd wanted something new then we might have had something, but deep down she was looking for what she'd had with someone else. It's been great revising this song in the studio, the original acoustic version is quite tender and soft, so it's been really interesting discovering a darker tone within the song." 

Currently in the midst of a US support tour with Julia Michaels, Rhys embarks on his biggest UK tour later this month. Tickets available here.

20th: Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
21st: Deaf Institute, Manchester
22nd: Thekla, Bristol
23rd: O2 Institute 3, Birmingham
25th: EartH, London
26th: Komedia, Brighton
28th: O2 Academy 2, Oxford
30th: King Tuts Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow
1st Dec: Button Factory, Dublin

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LIVE: Dawes at Islington Assembly Hall (4/11/19)

It's been exactly three years since Dawes were last over in the UK, playing a trio of shows to promote fifth album We're All Gonna Die. I saw them at the Islington Assembly Hall at the time, and found out during the show that they were playing an acoustic set at Rough Trade the following afternoon. Cue a spontaneous decision to travel back to London the next day, obviously. I also found out about a Sofar Sounds show they were playing and somehow managed to get into that too, and it became a really dreamy couple of days following a band I love around London. I've spent much of the time since eagerly awaiting their return, particularly after they released Passwords last Summer. Fast forward three years and I find myself in the exact same venue, watching them exactly three years to the day - I approve of the synchronicity. I wasn't planning to review the show, and spent much of the evening in a combined state of sleepy (I'd travelled to the gig straight from work) and in awe, but considering the rarity of a London show for the band, a write-up feels deserved. 

With ten years as a band under their belts, what always excites me about seeing Dawes live is how much they are genuinely enjoying themselves up on the stage. You most certainly should not go to a Dawes gig if you're hoping to watch them play their albums exactly as they are on record. Instead, expect SO much more. Enigmatic and endearing frontman Taylor Goldsmith provides vocal variations to keep the audience on their toes, and a procession of wild guitar solos as he jams with bassist Wylie Gelber, drummer Griffin Goldsmith and Lee Pardini on keys. As somebody with very little musical skill myself, it's impossible not to be in awe of the band through these instrumental sections, skirting the line between it seeming completely effortless, and as if they are giving the performance every ounce of energy. 

Beyond the music itself, the lyrics of Dawes, mostly the work of frontman Taylor, are pieces of poetical wonder. He manages to blend sadness and humour beautifully, drawing from real life experiences, relatable scenarios and contemporary issues. While quite simple, one of the lyrical highlights for me is the closing track All Your Favorite Bands, where the crowd prove their worth with a powerful singalong. The title track to album four, it's a kind of romantic ode to a lover, a friend, anybody that you care about, exploring various ways in which you could tell them just that, and settling on "may all your favourite bands stay together." I absolutely adore the sentiment.

Elsewhere in the set, the crowd singalong throughout, but most fervently for the likes of When My Time Comes, Somewhere Along The Way and A Little Bit Of Everything. With six albums to choose from, the setlist (which changes between shows, offering the band the opportunity to cycle through rarely played tracks alongside the favourites) actually manages to touch fairly equally on all albums, giving fans a real snapshot of the progression of the last ten years. Even without my favourite track (I Can't Think About It Now - I simply adore the instrumental section in it, it's one of my favourite tracks ever because of it) it was probably my favourite Dawes set that I've seen. A completely magnificent return to London. Now, perhaps not a three year wait for the next one? Fingers crossed!

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Wednesday, 6 November 2019

LISTEN: BENEE - 'Monsta'

Coming about as close to feeling any Halloween vibes as I got, I'm digging Monsta,  the brand new track from New Zealander BENEE. Having shared her track Find An Island to the blog and playlist just a couple of week ago I think that I'm enjoying this one even more. With two million monthly listeners on Spotify and over 26 million streams on her breakthrough track Soaked, things are looking pretty sweet for the young NZ artist. Listen below...

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Tuesday, 5 November 2019

EP NEWS: Bear's Den - 'Only Son of the Falling Snow'

If the 2016 track Berlin is anything to go by, Bear's Den are the masters of creating beautifully cosy music for the cooler months. Which is good news, because they've just shared new track Only Son of the Falling Snow, alongside news of a three-track EP of the same name, due 6th December. Their first new music since the release of their album So that you might hear me back in April, Davie explains that creating an EP between albums offered the opportunity to "work on and explore something more musically sparse and lyrically reflective [...] a collection of songs united by a sense of what Winter means to us. In all its beauty, sadness, stillness and its ability to transform and bring things back to life." 

Talking about the title track of the EP, Davie continues to explain that it is "a very nostalgic and reflective song. It imagines someone looking back on their own life and walking into their old house, reliving some pivotal moments of their life and re-engaging with who they are as a person and where they're at now. I read Winter, the novel by Ali Smith, and it really inspired me to want to write songs specifically about Winter. I think it's an incredibly inspiring time of year and it was a really fun and collaborative process for Kev and I to work on these songs, flesh them out, and bring them to life: embracing piano ideas and more acoustic elements whilst still exploring electronic textures behind the more reflective lyrics and sparse arrangements."

Bear's Den have just kicked off another leg of touring for So that you might hear me, with shows in the UK until mid November preceding a string of European dates, before they return for a triumphant London headline at the Eventim Apollo on February 20th. Full dates and tickets here.

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Monday, 4 November 2019

INTERVIEW: Geowulf (October 2019)

Always excited to get to do an interview on here - time for another one, this time around with one of my favourite duos, the absolutely dreamy Geowulf, AKA Star Kendrick and Toma Banjanin. After releasing their debut album Great Big Blue at the start of last year, they recently shared the follow-up, My Resignation. Just before they head off on some US and UK tour dates (go!) I caught up with them for a few questions about the album, which you can (and most definitely should) listen to here.

(c) Tom Oxley

Hello! Happy release week! Firstly - who are Geowulf and how did the band come to be? 

Thank you! We’re old friends. Starting writing together for fun four years ago and voila ! 

We’re chatting (via email, it is 2019 after all) because your new album My Resignation was released on Friday. Congrats! How does it feel to have finally made it to release week?

Yeah pretty surreal. Super nice to have it out there. You spend such a long time writing, recording, mixing, marketing etc so just feel really ready to share it. 

As I’m listening to the record I’m hearing some relatable and heavy themes - loneliness, relationships, break-ups and generally trying to figure out the space that you occupy in the world. That’s my interpretation - how would you describe the themes/story behind the record?

Yeah I think you’re pretty bang on. Felt quite reflective I suppose. A lot of coming to terms with things and moving on and accepting things you can’t change. Important themes for life definitely. 

With that in mind, how did you approach the writing process for the album? Is writing a collaborative process? 

Yeah a few songs with different people this album. Justin ParkerBen Christopher and my good friend Jordan Purvis. Just felt nice to shake things up a bit and let other cooks in the kitchen. Nothing was written with any pressure. We were just real and honest in the moments and got some cool songs out of it. 

Where did the new album come to life, and how did recording differ to your debut record?

Australia! Which was really nice. Being able to record over the summer and with all our old friends around. It differed because we were able to record all at once. Hence probably giving it more continuity. First album was recorded over a period of time because I had a lot of trouble with visas etc.

I absolutely LOVE the PĂȘtr AleksĂ€nder rework of your breakthrough track ‘Saltwater’ with added strings. Hearing you both sing it live with the duo at their recent London show was a gorgeous surprise. If you could get them to rework a song from the new album, which would you choose? Anybody else you’d like to work with on a remix?

Um maybe Celebrate I reckon. It’s one of my favourite songs on the album. Remix ... hmmm dunno open haha. Hit me up. 

Now that everybody has hopefully fallen in love with the album, where can we see you perform it live in the coming months? 

Ah! US 7-15th November and UK 18-27th! (Tickets here.)

Finally - your chance to recommend us some music. Who is in your headphones at the moment?

The Walters, Flyte, John Myrtle, Aldous Harding, Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Follow Geowulf - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

LISTEN: Hailaker - 'Iridesce/Famous'

For a few months now I've been settling into a bit of a routine with the blog to fit around work commitments, sharing posts in the week, so it's been a while since I shared anything at the weekend but I really can't wait to share these two brand new Hailaker tracks with you. I absolutely adore this duo. Their debut self-titled album has a pretty high chance of featuring in my favourite albums of the year list (you heard it here first...) and these first new tracks since the release are a perfect Autumnal listen. First, here's Iridesce.

Discovering Novo Amor last year (you may well have seen me ramble about Ali and his music quite a bit here since...) was a complete joy for several reasons, one of which was that I discovered Hailaker off the back of that. Made up of British musicians Jemima Coulter and Ali's collaborator Ed Tullett, the duo enlist the help of various Novo Amor live members, and US-based artist Mike Roth to create something together which is really special and unique. There's a slight 'British Bon Iver' feel to the project, a community vibe. I'm really digging Famous, which is below...

Hailaker play a couple of UK shows this evening and tomorrow in Leeds and Manchester, in support of American Football. If you missed the debut album, give it a listen here - I hope you love it just as much as I do. 

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