Thursday 27 December 2018

My albums of the year!

I'm already looking ahead to albums from the likes of Maggie Rogers, Indoor Pets and Busted next year, but first, it's time to reflect on some of the wonderful music that I've been enjoying this year with a round-up of my favourite albums to be released in 2018. It's taken a lot of thinking (you hardly need me to tell you it's been a brilliant year for new music!) but I've whittled it down to a top five, which I'll follow up with some more albums I've really been loving this year. 

1. Rae Morris - Someone Out There

If you've seen my posts during the year, it's probably not all that surprising that Rae has secured the top spot and deservedly so. I've pretty much spent the entire year telling anyone who will listen that I completely adore this record, and seeing Rae perform twice towards the end of the year cemented my love for these tracks. At the time of release, lyrics on many of the tracks were incredibly relatable, meaning that I connected with the album in a way I'd never really experienced before. This is a very special album for me. Picking a favourite track is almost impossible as I genuinely love every second, but if I had to choose, it'd be Dip My Toe

2. Novo Amor - Birthplace

Until this year (to my shame) I hadn't even heard of Novo Amor before, but instantly fell for his beautiful falsetto vocals when I saw the Birthplace video over Summer. The video is a cinematic masterpiece in its own right, highlighting the issue of plastic pollution in our oceans. Finding that he had a page on his website detailing ways in which his album campaign and upcoming tour were going to be sustainable, I knew I'd stumbled across an artist I'd likely fall in love with, and I was right. The album may only be 33 minutes long, but those are 33 of the most stunning minutes of music I've heard this year and I absolutely can not wait to catch him headlining my favourite festival Bushstock next year! Favourite track: Repeat Until Death.

3. Mumford & Sons - Delta

Probably my most highly anticipated album of the year, my favourite chaps Mumford & Sons did not disappoint with Delta, their fourth studio album, though they did make us wait until November, and snuck into the top five at the last minute! The album has had a mixed reception from critics and fans alike, but I find that part of the joy of music is that it's totally subjective, and I personally love the record. The band themselves have expressed the belief that it's their best record yet, and I'm inclined to agree with them (but don't tell Sigh No More that... it'll always be a classic album for me!) Favourite track: Wild Heart.

4. Cosmo Sheldrake - The Much Much How How & I

I started listening to Cosmo at the end of last year, just in time for his debut record in April this year and he is absolutely one of my favourite recent musical discoveries. Cosmo is one of the most intelligent and fiercely creative people to grace my earphones this year, and his album is a collection of tracks that are bonkers and magical in equal measure. I love it. Birthday Suit sounds as if it has been taken directly from the soundtrack of an old Disney film, Wriggle provided one of my favourite remixes of the year from Mr. Jukes (listen to that here) and Come Along is one of my favourite standalone tracks of the year. But my absolute favourite on the record (currently) has to be the last tune, Hocking, it's five minutes of instrumental bliss (and simultaneous craziness.)

5. Idles - Joy As An Act Of Resistance

I'd challenge anyone who has listened to the Idles album this year to claim that it isn't one of their albums of the year. And to anyone that hasn't: listen to it, pronto, and add it to your list. I'm guilty of at first labelling the band and album as angry rock music, but delving deeper (and reading interviews such as this one with the BBC) has shown me that there is a lot more to this Bristol band than I initially realised. It's an incredibly socially conscious record, exploring issues such as Brexit and toxic masculinity, as well as real losses that singer Joe has endured in recent years. The album takes these negative subjects and turns them on their head, providing songs that celebrate difference and are full of hope and unity. Idles are the band I didn't know I needed in 2018. Favourite track: Danny Nedelko.

So that's my top five albums this year! There have been so many more that I have absolutely loved in 2018, so here's a list of some more (in release order) that I wholeheartedly recommend you checking out.

Django Django - Marble Skies
The Wombats - Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life
MGMT - Little Dark Age
Superorganism - Superorganism
Gengahr - Where Wildness Grows
Ady Suleiman - Memories
The Magic Gang - The Magic Gang
The Vaccines - Combat Sports
Christof van der Ven Empty Handed
Peace Kindness Is The New Rock And Roll
Ben Howard - Noonday Dream
Ghost - Prequelle
Boy Azooga - 1, 2, Kung Fu!
Dawes - Passwords
Panic! At The Disco - Pray For The Wicked
Florence & The Machine - High As Hope
Evergreen - Overseas
Dizzy - Baby Teeth
Jungle - For Ever
Low Island - Low Island & Friends 17-18

Friday 21 December 2018

VIDEO PREMIERE: The Cooling Pearls - 'Welsh Funeral'

I'm always slightly overwhelmed when an artist asks me to premiere something for them - it's an honour that any musician should want my little blog to be the first place that their fans can listen to their new music or see their new video. It's a small but growing list, so thanks to Little Brother Eli, Maiians, Hazey Jane, The Cooling Pearls and PĂȘtr AleksĂ€nder for endowing me so much trust over the last couple of years - here's to more features of this kind in 2019! For now, I'm rounding off 2019 with one last premiere, as Oxford's The Cooling Pearls are back for more with the video for their new (but actually, quite old) tune Welsh Funeral, filmed and edited by friend of the band, film-maker Gem de Silva 

The track is taken from the band's second album The Red Laugh which was released back in September, over eight years after their debut record. My favourite element of the track is that parts of the piano and violin you hear in the recording have been reversed, creating quite an eery soundscape. It's almost as if something is missing, or isn't quite right, but it's difficult to put your finger on it, which is pretty fitting for the track. The closing track and only piano-led tune of the record, it's a beautiful and incredibly personal track for vocalist and songwriter Aiden Canaday, so it feels only right to introduce the video with Aiden's own words... 

"The song is an old one that I wrote in 2007 after my Tadcu (Welsh for Grandad!) passed away. He was one of my best friends and I guess the first person close to me to die. I was brought up in South Wales surrounded by a loving, close family and since then the song has grown to reflect upon the passing of my mum and uncle. The lyrics are just how I feel about the whole situation I suppose - we are born, we all feel different emotions in between, we can see and believe what we want about it all and then we die.

Everyone grieves in different ways and I guess this song is part of the process. Playing it live every so often is part of that too and then in a way it never goes away but keeps the people involved close to me and in my thoughts. I suppose that's what I've tried to further with the video as well. Some of the lyrics - 'your clothes are on my back and your words are on my soul' - literally reflect that I have always worn some of my Tadcu's clothes (the jumper in the video for instance) and keep hold of loved one's belongings as a memento and it keeps them close to me. 

[Gem & I] both had ideas and locations in mind and tried to make something to reflect the emotions of the song without being too cheesy. We filmed the video in South Wales, initially on the beaches in Porthcawl and Port Talbot. To reflect the warped and sparse nature of the song Gem wanted it to be very bleached out in parts and so we were lucky with the weather that day. We filmed the piano parts in my mum's old front room on her piano with that portrait of her - she was a songwriter and my brother and I recorded her last ever recording right there in May 2015, so it's all linked in some way. We then went up into the hills around Ammanford where we spent a lot of time together as a family and where my mum and uncle's ashes were released - it's very bleak and beautiful up there and I always thought it would work well with imagery for Welsh Funeral.

It's all a homage to the people I love and miss - this song just keeps me thinking about them and thus they're still close in some way.

The rest of the album, although pretty melancholy, has multiple harmonies, layers of guitar, drums (our first album had no drums!), bass and many other extra musical finds which you can get lost in. People usually release tracks that capture the album, but with this I think this song has been with me so long and is very personal, it'd be nice to give it to others to delve in to."

Watch the video for Welsh Funeral below, listen to a brand new remix of the track by Message To Bears here and be sure to grab your copy of The Red Laugh on Bandcamp here.

Follow The Cooling Pearls - Facebook | Twitter.

Monday 17 December 2018

LISTEN: Evergreen - 'Foreigner' (Franc Moody remix)

How to improve one of my favourite tracks from this year's Evergreen record Overseas, you ask? Let Franc Moody loose on it. The London group have remixed The Foreigner and it makes for one of the best tracks I've heard all year. Up there with the best remix I've heard this year, alongside the Everything Everything reworking of Rae Morris album title track Someone Out There. If you like what you're hearing below, I implore you to listen to both Overseas (listen out for other favourites Gemini and Bloom) and the Franc Moody EP Dance Moves which is the ultimate bop from start to finish.

Follow Evergreen online - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Follow Franc Moody online - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Friday 14 December 2018

FESTIVAL NEWS: Bushstock line-up announcement!

This genuinely is some of the best music related news I've heard in a long time. My favourite festival Bushstock have announced the first few acts for the 2019 festival, including my favourite musical discovery of the year Novo Amor, who is the first headliner. Can. Not. Wait.

Bushstock is a one day multi-venue festival held in Shepherd's Bush and organised by the folks at Communion Music. Across my four years of attending I've caught the likes of Nick Mulvey, Matthew & The Atlas, Seramic, Amber Run, Ady Suleiman, The Staves, Tamino and Frances. They're my favourite label, working with some of my favourite artists, and it's always a wonderful day of music discovery - the worst part is deciding which artists to miss! Alongside Novo, they've also announced the equally brilliant MarthaGunn, as well as Apre, Olivia and Winnie Raeder with a lot more to be announced. Grab bargain early bird tickets for the festival, which takes place on June 15th 2019, here.

Follow Novo Amor - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Thursday 13 December 2018

TOUR NEWS: Ferris & Sylvester (Feb 2019)

They've just finished up a support tour with Jade Bird, and Ferris & Sylvester have signed off by doing what any artist who loves playing music live would do... they've announced their first ever headline tour! They'll be heading out on the road in February, taking in shows across the UK including Leeds, Glasgow, Brighton and Dublin, as well as a show at The Lexington in London. They're a formidably talented duo and a brilliant live act - their set at The Great Escape in Brighton kicked off the festival for me back in May and I loved it! Check out their recent video for London's Blues below...

Tickets for the tour are on sale here, with full dates as follows: Oporto, Leeds (4th Feb); Poetry Club, Glasgow (5th); Eagle Inn, Manchester (6th); Cuban Embassy, Birmingham (7th); Cavern, Exeter (9th); The Lexington, London (11th); The Prince Albert, Brighton (12th); Joiners, Southampton (13th); Sound House, Dublin (14th).

Follow Ferris & Sylvester - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Wednesday 12 December 2018

LISTEN: Margot - 'Coffee Stained Smiles'

I am always up for a bit of dream-pop... I've really enjoyed discovering Honey Moon this year, and loved Willie J Healey's 666 Kill EP. The latest in gloriously smooth dream-pop comes in the form of Coffee Stained Smiles from London quintet Margot. It's the first in a series of three singles, each tackling the topic of mental health. This first track is inspired by a scene in the recent film Lady Bird, where the central character's mother only gets time to herself, time for contemplation, on her drive between work and home. As a retail worker (particularly over the festive period) this is pretty relatable - there's a constant pressure to be visible and welcoming to customers, who, particularly at this time of year, might not always show the same courtesy in return.

The track's inspiration is translated to an imagined middle-aged man's rainy drive, focusing upon his partner's concern for his mental health, with the repeated lyric "oh it's all so hard to tell, if he's up or down I can't tell." While the situation is imagined, it's all too common, as vocalist Alex Hannaway explains - "I've had experience with adults of that age stoically withholding information in regards to their mental health and I've seen how this can affect friends and family. It's desperation, it's unconditional love, and a hope that things can turn around." Listen to the track below and keep an eye out for the upcoming singles.
I’ve had experience with adults of that age stoically withholding information in regards to
their mental health and I’ve seen how this can affect friends and family. It’s desperation, it’s unconditional love, and a
hope that things can turn around.
I’ve had experience with adults of that age stoically withholding information in regards to
their mental health and I’ve seen how this can affect friends and family. It’s desperation, it’s unconditional love, and a
hope that things can turn around.
I’ve had experience with adults of that age stoically withholding information in regards to
their mental health and I’ve seen how this can affect friends and family. It’s desperation, it’s unconditional love, and a
hope that things can turn around.

Follow Margot - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Monday 10 December 2018

LISTEN: Fil Bo Riva - 'Lo'ver'

Probably one of my most highly anticipated releases of 2019, I'm eagerly awaiting the debut Fil Bo Riva record Beautiful Sadness, which is due in Spring. Following up recent single Go Rilla, we've been treated to another taster of the album in the form of slow burning L'over. The quiet opening provides the perfect backdrop to highlight singer Filippo Bonamici's trademark vocals and shows us that the band are capable of scoring something beautiful with more than just punchy indie pop - though when they do that, they do it very well! Take Head Sonata (Love Control) as a perfect example.

The new track, Fil explains, is a "song [that] is trying to celebrate this weird twist of feelings - it's pretty much an homage to the little ups and downs that come with every liaison, a song inspired by that incredible strange feeling that we call jealousy." 

Follow Fil Bo Riva - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Friday 7 December 2018

LISTEN: Saint Raymond - 'Echo'

I've been tidying up my submissions inbox over the last couple of days and was reminded of this track which I couldn't let slip through the net - it's been on repeat a lot since I first heard it a month or so ago! Following the success of his debut album in 2015, Nottingham singer-songwriter Saint Raymond has recently signed a deal with Cooking Vinyl for his second record. Echo is his first release with the label, a track "about how opposites in a relationship are sometimes what makes it work." Talking of his new deal he explains that "I cannot wait to work with them on my second album, which feels like it has been a long time coming. The chance to go ahead and fulfil that is amazing. I'm so happy with the songs I've been writing and very excited about what is to come." Listen to Echo below...

Follow Saint Raymond - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Thursday 6 December 2018

WATCH: Maggie Rogers - 'Light On'

I saw my favourite guys Mumford & Sons play live last week, performing on the tour for their latest studio album Delta. They were brilliant (of which there was no doubt) but I was almost equally excited for the support set from American singer-songwriter Maggie Rogers, who I've been hearing a lot of positive things about for a couple of years now. She took complete control of the arena crowd, delivering a set full of tracks from her upcoming debut album Heard It In A Past Life, due 18th Jan. I'll take a punt - it'll probably be an early entry for one of the best albums of the year (you heard it here...) Pre-order the record here.

Light On is Maggie's most recent single, which, at the show, she described as being all about the last two years of her life and career, which have been a bit of a whirlwind. In a press release for the track, she details that "this song is a letter to my fans about the last two years of my life. There was so much change that happened so fast, I wasn't always sure how to make all this stuff feel like me. I was really overwhelmed for a while, and scared too - my life became so public so fast and there were times I wasn't sure that this was all for me. But I never had doubts about the music. And every night I got on stage and was reminded why I love doing this. This is the most vulnerable I've felt in a song and it's me saying thank you for all the light my fans brought me when I couldn't find it for myself. I love music more than anything else in the whole world and I always have. This song is me actively choosing this life - in my way and in my time." 

Follow Maggie Rogers - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Wednesday 5 December 2018

LIVE: Cosmo Sheldrake at EartH (29/11/18)

If you take a quick glance through the posts I've shared this year it's probably not much of a surprise that Cosmo Sheldrake is likely to feature in my albums of the year post (coming soon... when I get time to write it!) I was therefore VERY excited to catch the London date of his The Much Much How How & I tour last week, as I've been eagerly awaiting a full live set since catching him supporting Johnny Flynn at The Roundhouse last October. Describe the show in a short sentence...? Complete and utter genius.

The gig took place in newly launched venue EartH in Hackney, which has instantly become one of my new favourite London venues. Formerly known as Hackney Arts Centre, the venue (full title Evolutionary Arts Hackney) is a "progressive and essential multi-arts space for the 21st century". They aim to be inclusive to all and to provide a broad spectrum of arts to live audiences. The space itself is the site of the Savoy Cinema, which opened back in the 1930s. After the show I took myself to Google and did a little research, finding this article from the Hackney Citizen about 'long lost cinemas' in Hackney which explains that there have been over 60 cinemas in the area, with around 30 operating simultaneously between 1920 and 1950. While the majority of the sites have been redeveloped into flats, supermarkets and buildings of similar purpose, it is particularly heartwarming to see the Savoy being used as a cultural hub once more. It's a unique space and I hope that it thrives!

Gigging alone and having travelled down to London straight from a shift at work, I took myself down to the front of the venue, settled down with a book, and waited for the first set. Finnegan Tui took to the stage with his guitar, but any expectations I had for just-another-solo-male-artist-with-an-acoustic-guitar were quickly torn away. At just 18, his talent is pretty mind-blowing and his style incredibly difficult to pigeonhole. He very quickly informed us that Cosmo was one of his favourite musicians and an inspiration for him and it was easy to hear this in elements of his performance, but he was particularly individual, at one point using a drum pad to play a solo with samples of an oboe. I'll certainly be keeping an ear out for Finn in the future!

Next up, tour support I See Rivers took to the stage. Often at gigs it can feel as if you're willing time to pass quickly for the support sets so that you can watch the artist you came along to see, but during their set I was very quickly struck with the thought that I'd happily have gone along to see both supports playing their own show (a similar thought occurred to me when I first saw Cosmo play, in fact!) They're a Norwegian trio playing folk music with an infectiously positive stage presence and beautiful harmonies, and they warmed the crowd up wonderfully.

With a lot of anticipation in the air, Cosmo finally took to the stage, and opened his set with my favourite track The Moss. Things could only get better from here... right?! Right. We were treated to the likes of Hocking and Pliocene from his record, but highlights of the set came in the form of improvisations, which cemented my pre-existing view that Cosmo is an absolute genius. It was a treat, and almost intimidating to witness him creating quality music on the spot, in front of a sold out crowd. Two examples of creative craziness came in the shape of gargling some water and looping it, and looping the noise of a desk-fan brushing against the microphone.

I'd anticipated dancing, and a previously relaxed crowd couldn't hold it in once Cosmo played the utter tune Come Along. Fans flocked down to the front of the auditorium and didn't stop dancing for the rest of the show, which featured a collaboration with I See Rivers on Rich, a sunflower dance troupe (no, seriously) for Wriggle and a brass band for Hocking, which I would place as one of the best tracks I've heard this year. An explosion of sound, and what feels like an insight into the inner workings of Cosmo's mind, it is truly something to experience live. Here's a video from his last London show...

To sum up - from what I've seen of Cosmo on stage and online, he seems to completely adore what he does, giving it his all to create the best work he possibly can. He is an incredibly talented and intelligent human being (in the best way possible, a Cosmo Sheldrake gig feels like attending a science lesson) and he is creating music that sounds like nothing I have ever heard before. To watch his live show is genuinely a privilege. I implore you to listen to his record and catch him live if you get the chance!

Follow Cosmo Sheldrake - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.