Friday 30 October 2015

WATCH: Adam Barnes - 'Nebraska'

It's just over a month since Adam Barnes' latest EP, One Day We'll Be Fine, was released (read my review of the EP here), and he's just finished up a UK and Europe tour with his band and Chris Ayer supporting the EP. I can't recommend taking the chance to see Adam live if he plays near you, he's a stunning performer and this new EP is sounding better and better the more I listen to it. With the EP produced in a way that its true to the live performance, this live session, recorded by Adam's pianist James Walker, (who has his own vlog which you can find here), is pretty similar to the recording on the EP - which you can listen to and buy digitally or physically here on Adam's Bandcamp.

Thursday 29 October 2015

LIVE: Spector at O2 Academy Oxford (28/10/15)

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing Spector live for the first time, up the road at Oxford's O2 Academy. By way of support they had fun sets from local chaps Orange Vision and Bill Ryder-Jones (previously of The Coral). The band finished up their UK tour tonight in London, in support of their recently released second album, Moth Boys. If you don't know Spector by name, you might know this track, Celestine, from their first album Enjoy It While It Lasts.

With frontman Fred Macpherson only singing during the show (rather than the typical band dynamic of frontman playing guitar), I was blown away by his level of showmanship. He was incredibly energetic and constantly trying to involve the crowd - which, though I suspect not quite their usual pushy crowd (a good point from my perspective of the evening), seemed to be enjoying it as much as I did, and it was virtually impossible not to yell back the lyrics to the band's well known tracks such as Friday Night, Don't Ever Let It End and Chevy Thunder, as well as many of the newer tracks, which Fred encouraged the crowd early on to sing if they knew the words, and if they didn't) including the final track of the night, the opener of the second record, All The Sad Young Men. His interaction with the crowd being a particular highlight of the night, his joking anecdote about the track coincidentally being written about a Wednesday night gig in Oxford in green lighting, moments that remind us that "sadly, we're alive" was pretty amusing.

Meeting Fred after the show briefly, he seemed like a really down to earth, lovely chap, and told me he used to play in a band with King Charles (after I recalled a tweet from a year or so ago about them sending each other their new albums to listen to). I'd recommend going to see them play if they're near you, but sadly the tour is over now, however I'm sure it won't be long until they're out on the road again!

Sunday 25 October 2015

LIVE: Balloon Ascents at O2 Academy Oxford (24/10/15)

Though I've been feeling pretty sorry for myself for the past few days (probably due to being out in the cold at a few gigs last week, and lack of sleep), I decided to pop down the road to the O2 Academy Oxford on Friday night to see local guys Balloon Ascents play their single launch for Don't Look Down, with local supports Loud Mountains, Little Brother Eli, and Esther Joy Lane - turned out to be a pretty good decision!

Artwork for the new Balloon Ascents release.
Arriving a little late I missed some of Loud Mountains set, but I was intrigued to see them play as they'd pulled out of a show I went to a few weeks ago. Looking back at the notes on my phone that I made to remember what I'd thought of the set, I find simply 'nice harmonies' and 'folky', which is a pretty concise but decent (?) review. They set the precedent for the night, with all four acts being local bands and artists, friends and linked in various ways, with different musical styles but fitting together quite well - testament to the brilliant organisation of Tigmus.

Second to play were Little Brother Eli, whose music started to form a little more of a crowd than the scattering of people found up to that point. Another local band which I get the impression are fairly well loved, they entered the stage dressed to impress. The five piece band, who describe their genre as 'bluesy garage rock' put on a fun set with superb guitar solos and an enthusiastic and powerful performance from frontman Alex. 

Esther Joy Lane was up next - perhaps the most surprising act of the night and the only soloist on the bill, playing electronic music (with a hint of guitar in one track until it disconnected - a glitch which she very smoothly dealt with!) With her soft voice she made the electronic music fit well into the night, where in theory it seemed a confusing addition - and a crowd, cheering on the local talent started to form, awaiting the arrival of the headliners. A particular highlight of her set was the closing track, Poets, an ode to the late Robin Williams. The night was special for Esther too in that she released an EP yesterday, and had play on BBC Radio 6 Music as 'Recommendation of the day' a couple of days ago. Definitely one to watch on the local scene.

Having seen Balloon Ascents a couple of times before including in the same venue a few months ago - I thought I knew what to expect, but the band felt like it had been invigorated. Frontman Thomas had gained another level of charisma (I'd be interested to see if he's been taking tips from other performers), jumping around the stage and belting out the lyrics to some of the band's well known tracks - for a relatively small local band this seems a strange thing to say, but the crowd, who loved every minute, were hanging on each word and recognising tracks from their opening chords. The band seemed to be having an equally great time, feeding off of one another's energy and excitement for the show.

The newly released tracks went down well, as well as a completely new track which Thomas invited the audience to "listen for the mistakes" in as it hadn't been played live before - but the band were tight as ever, having played together for around 5 years - no mean feat when they're all around 18 years old now. Showcasing their diversity as a band they took it down a notch to play the slightly more stripped back No - see a performance of the track from a Sofar Sounds show in Reading earlier in the year here. Another highlight of the set for me was the opening track, their take on William Blake's poem London which they created for a Sofar Sounds Oxford show earlier in the year. Take a watch below to see a snippet of Cutout, another recent single from the band. 

Overall a fun night (if spent mostly coughing at the back of the room) seeing four fairly different but each credible and talented local acts who are all doing well, and have great things ahead of them. You can stream and buy Don't Look Down/Someone on the Balloon Ascents bandcamp here, and see them live at The Bullingdon in Oxford on 29th November as part of Oxford City Festival.

Friday 23 October 2015

WATCH: Dawes 'All Your Favourite Bands' for Sofar Sounds

The video from Dawes' performance at a London Sofar Sounds show last month has just gone online -  their appearance at the show was announced just after I'd seen them live at Oslo Hackney. I was naturally on quite a Dawes buzz following the show and gutted to not manage to get tickets as I knew seeing them in the setting of a Sofar Sounds show would be incredible, and I love this video of the title track from their latest (and fantastic) record, All Your Favourite Bands. Quite ironically sad in it's own way for the fact that since these shows, the band have announced that long time pianist in the band, Tay Strathairn, has parted ways with the band. Sad news but, as another of the track's on the new album goes... Things Happen!

Thursday 22 October 2015

LIVE: Jack Savoretti at O2 Academy Oxford (21/10/15)

Last night I went to my 50th show of the year, seeing the absolutely phenomenal Jack Savoretti and his equally talented band (Pedro Vito on guitar, Jesper Lind on drums, John Bird Jr. on bass and Henry Bowers-Broadbent on piano) down the road at Oxford's O2 Academy. The set showcased much of Jack's record Written In Scars, which was released earlier in the year (check out my post about his brilliant instore at HMV Oxford St back in Feb), alongside tracks from his third album, Before The Storm and a few other tracks, including new songs from the re-release of his latest record - the heartbreaking Catapult and incredibly catchy Back Where I Belong.

Though not necessarily playing a set to 'warm up' the crowd, support Max Jury showcased his talent and set the tone of the evening, with his chilling vocals and carefully crafted lyrics. Considering how disrespectful the crowd were (typical of this kind of gig and venue) talking over him, I think he played a great set!

Playing for around 90 minutes, Jack and his band blew my socks off - it was the first time I'd seen him play a proper show and my hopes were well and truly surpassed! Highlights of the set for me were one of my favourite tracks of his, The Other Side Of Love (video above), and a solo performance of his stunning cover of a relatively unknown Bob Dylan track, Nobody 'Cept You. After perusing the merch stand (and parting with some of my student loan... shh) I decided to wait outside to try and meet Jack, and when he came out, he was such a gent, remembering me from when we'd met before and saying how great it was to see me again. I'm not lying when I say he's one of the most talented people I've had the pleasure of seeing live - if you get the chance to see him live (sadly his UK tour finished tonight), definitely take it up, but for now take a listen to the re-released version of his latest record, Written In Scars.

Saturday 17 October 2015

LISTEN: The Hoosiers - 'The Secret Service'

As someone without musical talents, I feel far more comfortable writing posts that I can refer to as recommendations, as I feel I've little right to explicitly review and criticise music. I mostly write about the music I have discovered myself and as such my posts are usually particularly personal, perhaps none more so than this, about a band who I am particularly passionate about!

Last night I had the fantastic opportunity to see The Hoosiers play a small, free show in Banbury, just a £4 return train trip away from Oxford! Train delays on the way there and the fact that the set was a pretty late one (so I had to rush to catch the last train after) aside, I had such a great night (and can't wait to see them again tomorrow night in Southampton at Engine Rooms.)

The band are a few dates into a UK tour in support of their recently released fourth album, The Secret Service. Featuring four tracks already released through recent EPs, the album is in my opinion a huge triumph. It showcases a really refreshing and broad range of tracks, from the fun The Wheels Fell Off and The Most Peculiar Day Of Your Life, the chilling Dancers In The Dark and (Don't Make) Eye Contact, to a particular favourite of mine, the incredibly catchy I Will Be King

Album art for The Secret Service
Starting with a fairly upbeat track reflective of their hit singles, Pristine, the album contrastingly finishes with a beautiful acoustic song (My) Secret Service, with drummer Alphonso Sharland on some cracking lead vocals. Much of the record reflects this stripped back track, as a lot of the album was recorded live. Unlike so many albums that you hear, where you can't help but be skeptical of how far the production process has taken the track, and whether the band could ever reach that level of perfection in a live performance - these songs feel authentic and this gives them quite passionate, heartfelt roots, which also comes across in the lyrics.

Releasing the record independently allowed the band creative freedom to produce music that they enjoy writing and performing - which comes across in the tracks, but also as a fan is reaffirming in that they'll carry on playing while they're enjoying it! Often the pressures that come in hand with a major record deal to produce commercial music can hinder the creative process and, I imagine, make it far less fun! 

Personally I'm really proud of the band for this record, it feels fairly grown up (they've even, funnily, got an explicit track on the record) whilst simultaneously sticking with the fun and catchy nature of the tracks that shot the band to fame all those years ago (the likes of Worried About Ray and Goodbye Mr. A). I'd hugely recommend giving it a listen! You can find out more about the record and order a copy on CD/Vinyl (releasing 30th October), and look at the band's remaining tour dates including London's The Borderline this Wednesday 21st October (sadly a gig clash for me but very much looking forward to seeing Jack Savoretti that evening!) here on the band's website.

Thursday 15 October 2015

LIVE: Little Mammoths at The Borderline (14/10/15)

Last night I trekked across to London to see Little Mammoths, a rock band fronted by Matt Owens (bassist of Noah & The Whale). Though I've seen Matt playing shows to support his solo record a lot over the past year I'd never seen them before and wasn't really sure what to expect. After a nightmare travelling to Oxford St due to a couple of road closures, I actually arrived just as the first support band came on stage.

Tom Figgins and his band were up next and put on a great show as usual, contending with a pretty talkative crowd but giving it their all nonetheless. With recent support from BBC Radio 2 and Chris Evans, Tom seems to finally be breaking through and I'd really recommend checking out his latest single, Giants Played In Woods Like These (official video) with which he closed the set - a great performance.

Tom Figgins 
Performing as an eight piece band (that to my surprise actually managed to all fit on stage) comprising of Matt and Tom on guitars, George Leigh on slide guitar, Oliver Cox on bass, James Besley on drums, Fred Abbott on keys and Nick Etwell and Dave Williamson (who play trumpet and trombone for Mumford & Sons), the show represented the first time that everyone who played on the upcoming Little Mammoths record played a show together under the moniker. They brought their unique style of rock and it was clear that the band was having as great a time as the packed out audience, ignoring the set times a little to play a couple of extra songs (who cares that there's a DJ set afterwards?!) as the crowd were left wanting more! Their set comprised of a lot of tracks from the upcoming record which is likely to be finished in 4 weeks or so - look out for a review once its ready! I really enjoyed the set and, reflective of Matt's solo record, the tracks all felt really personal in their lyrics, a highlight was one that I think was called 'Hometown', which was particularly poignant for the band having just finished a Scottish tour and returning to the London crowd, full of friends and family of the band.

Little Mammoths

Tuesday 13 October 2015

WATCH: The Hoosiers 'Up To No Good for SPG TV

October is looking fairly busy for me and this week is no exception with 4 or 5 gigs in the pipeline. Two of those are my favourite band The Hoosiers (of Goodbye Mr A fame) at a local Oxfordshire show in Banbury on Friday and Southampton on Sunday. The band just released their latest album, The Secret Service, on Friday, following the release of two EPs which featured a few of the album tracks. A particular favourite track of mine is the title track of the second EP, Up To No Good, which in my opinion is one of the band's best tracks - loving this new acoustic session of the track for Student Pocket Guide

The Hoosiers have just started their UK tour, dates and tickets here including a show at London's intimate The Borderline.

Monday 12 October 2015

LIVE: My week in gigs (5th - 11th October)

Last week saw my gig tally for the year reach 45 as I took in three shows, first Oxford Sofar Sounds, then Festifeel, and Everything Everything at Under The Bridge.

Always a pleasure to attend and to photograph, this month's Sofar Sounds show in Oxford was a wonderful evening of live music and brilliant company. Held in a primary school hall just out of central Oxford that the team managed to make feel really special - we had Lail Arad, Hattie Briggs and √íkina, alongside Adam Barnes (the first act I've seen at a Sofar show that I've been a fan of beforehand - really loved getting to see him play again, he and his band are incredible artists) and Chris Ayer, who has been playing alongside Adam on his UK tour. Some of my shots from the evening are in the Flickr album below - take a look!

If you're interested in attending a Sofar Sounds show in Oxford (or closer to you - they're held in around 160 cities) get more information and sign up to be informed of shows here, they're really special nights and I'd definitely recommend it!

Sofar Sounds Oxford - 8/10/15

The second gig of the weekend was Festifeel, a festival curated by Fearne Cotton and in aid of CoppaFeel! (info), a breast cancer awareness charity which has a focus upon encouraging young girls to check their breasts regularly, promoting early detection of the cancer. The festival was held at House Of Vans in London, where I spent a fairly chilled out afternoon with one of my flatmates watching a documentary about the charity's founder, Kris, who discovered she had breast cancer too late and set up the charity to promote awareness - seeing her around on the day was pretty inspiring. We also saw some live comedy and watched some other festival attendees learning to skate, before getting into the midst of the crowd and catching sets from Lucy Rose, Slaves and Everything Everything. Whilst the crowd was quite the opposite of the seated and captive audience of Thursday's Sofar show, and minutes in I was soaked with beer, and being shoved around during Slaves set (hadn't listened to them before but was impressed and knew to expect a rough crowd..) it was a fun evening and Everything Everything blew me away, cue some terrible quality phone photos..

Lucy Rose
Everything Everything
On Sunday evening I was lucky enough to see Everything Everything again at an intimate and free show for Q Awards at Under The Bridge, a really lovely venue with great sound snuck away under  Chelsea's Stamford Bridge. Playing a slightly longer set than Saturday night's festival set, and even coming out for an unplanned encore of first album track My Kz, Ur Bf - it was clear that the band were having as great a time as the audience, all beaming with pride to hear the audience singing back tracks from all three of their albums (no mean feat as their lyrics are inherently difficult to grasp.) I've been listening to them for a couple of years now and loved their second record, Arc, but I believe their latest record Get To Heaven is probably one of the top five albums I've ever heard. You can vote for it in the Q Awards category for best album here

Up close and personal with Everything Everything last night.
Overall a really fun week of shows, looking forward to seeing The Hoosiers twice this week as well as (as long as I don't get inundated with university work..) Little Mammoths, Frances and Oxjam in Reading or Oxford on Saturday!

Friday 9 October 2015

LISTEN: Foreign Affairs 'You Said To Me' for Breast Cancer Care

As a small blog submissions aren't regular but it is always great to get music sent to listen to via email, and this new track from Foreign Affairs is no exception. The band is a trio with two brothers,  Adam and Lawrence Purnell, and bassist Ben Sweeney. My path crossed with Adam a few years ago when he was playing shows alongside Sam Beeton A talented artist in his own right, Adam and his brother started the folk-rock band in 2012, and have recently released their debut album, The First.

The band's new track, entitled You Said To Me, is great musically, but more-so, its heart-wrenching lyrics take the fore, inspired by the brother's experiences, here explained by Adam:
"Just over four years ago our mum was diagnosed with breast cancer, which came as a huge shock to our family; we'd always heard of stories but never really thought it would happen to our mum. After a mastectomy and numerous rounds of chemotherapy, the strength and determination that our mum showed and still shows on a daily basis to fight the disease inspired us to write a song about our family's experience."
Hear a little more from the band in this interview, in which you can hear the track in the background, too.

The band's bassist has shockingly had a similar experience, with his mother also being previously diagnosed with breast cancer. Though the track was written by Lawrence predominantly for his mother, the track has now taken on a life of its own - the band contacted Breast Cancer Care and the track has just been released through the charity as part of its campaign for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. As the leading charity for the support of women with breast cancer, the charity does great work and the proceeds from sales of the track will all go towards the charity, helping them to continue with this work. 

You can download the track here, and find out more about the charity on its website here.

Thursday 8 October 2015

WATCH: Jack Savoretti - 'Back Where I Belong'

I'm loving this new video from Jack Savoretti for his recent single Back Where I Belong, taken from the recent re-release of his album Written In Scars. The video shows footage of Jack and his band from over summer, at various festivals and shows around the world. He's just started a UK tour which sees him play The Roundhouse in London a week today on the 15th October - I can't wait to see him playing at the O2 Academy Oxford.

For more info on the new edition of the record, go to his website here, and tour dates/tickets for the remaining shows are here (get in quick as many are sold out!) 

Wednesday 7 October 2015

LISTEN: Half Moon Run - 'I Can't Figure Out What's Going On'

With their album coming out in just over two weeks, Half Moon Run have premiered the studio version of another track from it, following Trust, Turn Your Love and Hands In The Garden. This new track is I Can't Figure Out What's Going On (handily shortened to 'Figure Out' on the setlist from a recent show I saw them at in London. I recall this being a highlight of the set at the show - and alongside the other new tracks, it is giving me pretty high hopes of the upcoming record Sun Leads Me On, the follow up to their stunning debut record, Dark Eyes.

The album is out 23rd October, more info on the band's site here

Monday 5 October 2015

ALBUM NEWS: King Charles - 'Gamble For A Rose'

Stop what you're doing because Monday just got pretty exciting... King Charles has this morning announced details of his second album, entitled Gamble For A Rose. It's going to be released through Buffalo Gang, via Kobalt, on 22nd January 2016, just under four years since his first record, LoveBlood, was released.

With a great track listing featuring a number of old and updated tracks, including a new version of Lady Of The River that I'm particularly excited to hear a studio recording of, the album looks set to be a stunning collection of music and worth the long wait since Charles' first record. You can listen to the first track from the album, Loose Change for the Boatman, above, and download it for FREE here. Having heard the track live a few times this year I'm personally loving the studio version, and particularly loving the prominence of the strings in the track, which, along with the rest of the record, was produced by Mumford & Son's Marcus Mumford. As a first single from the record, the track is really strong and gives a good indication of what to expect from the rest of the record!

Album artwork for King Charles' new album, source:

The track listing for Gamble For A Rose is as follows:

Loose Change for the Boatman
Animal Desires
Gamble for a Rose
Lady of the River
St Peter's Gate
Tomorrow's Fool
New Orleans
Carry Me Away
Bright Thing
In Silhoutte
Coco Chitty

For more info and for links to pre-order the album on signed CD, signed vinyl or iTunes, go here.

Friday 2 October 2015

LIVE: Adam Barnes at Arts at the Old Fire Station (1/10/15)

Yesterday I went to my 41st (!) gig of the year, Adam Barnes at Arts at the Old Fire Station in Oxford, a hometown, sold out show to mark the start of his UK tour with American soloist Chris Ayer supporting. The tour is to promote Adam's recently released EP One Day We'll Be Fine, which I recently wrote a post on - read that here and you can listen to the EP via iTunes, Spotfiy etc as well as physical CD's on Adam's website.

Adam Barnes at The Old Fire Station
The show last night, in a theatre setting, was a really cosy evening of beautiful live music, set up perfectly by Chris Ayer's support set, which was extended as the local support had to pull out of the show. Setting the tone for the evening, Chris' tracks were mostly pretty emotional - but who doesn't enjoy a bit of depressing acoustic music? 

A particular highlight of the show (for many, probably) was the crowd, who were really respectful and quiet throughout both sets, getting to sing along to Adam's cover of Britney Spears' Hit Me Baby One More Time. Video, complete with cheesy lighting and high pitched singing-along here. The video below is the lead single of the new EP, I Can't Love You Anymore. What was great about the performance was that it sounded really true to the EP, which is so well produced as to keep Adam's vocals as the main focus - which, in an intimate theatre venue with a quiet crowd, was the case for the performance. Overall a night of wonderful company, beautiful harmonies from Adam and his band, and some really talented artists.

Adam plays Norwich tonight - the rest of the UK tour dates and ticket links for the shows, including a show at London's The Social on Wednesday (which unfortunately clashes with the Bake Off final!) are here