Wednesday 27 February 2019

ALBUM NEWS: Benedict Benjamin - 'Truant'

Exciting news! Benedict Benjamin has announced details of his second album Truant which is set for release on May 3rd, and has shared the first single from the record, Ain't Easy. After seeing him play at a couple of Sofar Sounds Oxford shows I was drawn in by his beautiful vocals, and absolutely adore his debut album Night Songs. It was a favourite to listen to while studying in the library at university - very peaceful!

Ben has turned to a more full band sound for the second album, with influences from the likes of Everly Brothers to The Velvet Underground and Tom Petty. The sound may have grown, but the poetic lyrics remain and I'm loving this first track! Speaking about it, Benedict explains "this song's about how much work you've got to put into anything in order to make it work. It's about how hard it sometimes is just to keep things afloat and not pack it all in. You go through good spells where everything is great and bad spells where everything feels crap and difficult. When you're in one of the latter you either persevere or you just give up, and this song's about the persevering."  

Perhaps more excitingly than the album news is the tour he has also announced, where he'll be co-headlining alongside Christof van der Ven and Emma Gatrill. A very very good line-up! Tickets for the shows in Leeds, Stroud, Brighton and London this March are available here.

Follow Benedict Benjamin - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Tuesday 26 February 2019

LISTEN: Saltwater Sun - 'Blood'

If you're a fan of the likes of Pale Waves and Swimming Girls, I'm pretty sure you're going to love Saltwater Sun. The Reading five-piece have released their first single of 2019 in the shape of Blood, taken from their forthcoming EP The Great Deceiver, which is due for release in April. Typically addictive, with explosive guitars and a just-right blend of shoegaze and indie, the track also explores a personal element of the band's songwriting.

Frontwoman Jen Stearnes explains that "since the death of my father, I've come to know joy as sorrow-tinged throughout each altering epoch and mundane happiness in my life [...] with age, I mourn less for my loss and more for his, and so endeavour to carry his memory so that he might live on through me. It's deeply personal, yet completely universal; Blood is about finding solace in the idea that we might transcend death through lineage." 

The band may just be starting out, but they've already been supported by the likes of NME, DIY and The Line Of Best Fit, BBC Radio 1 and 6 Music, and played capacity shows at last year's The Great Escape and Are You Listening? festivals. To celebrate the release of the EP, they're already booked in for Live At Leeds (4th May), Liverpool Sound City (5th May) and London's Close Up Festival (17th May) - with more dates to follow!

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Monday 25 February 2019

LISTEN: Rhys Lewis - 'Hold On To Happiness'

I'm loving this gorgeous new offering from Rhys Lewis, which also comes alongside news of a tour! I'm a big fan of Rhys' music - often stripped back and emotionally charged, he's released eight songs and an EP to date, and demand for his debut album is fairly high! Originally from Oxford, Rhys has gained live experience through support tours with the likes of Sigrid, Freya Ridings and JP Cooper over the past couple of years, as well as having heavy support from BBC Introducing.

Writing of the ideas behind the new track, Rhys explains that "I don't believe we need a lot to be happy, but we live in a complicated world now that seems to make us focus more on the things we don't have than the things we do. Social media makes people fall into that trap, and I've realised how damaging it is. Life just happens, and it'll pass you by if you let it. So, I'm trying to stay more in the present, to be truly there when the moment's golden, to make memories I'll reminisce not regret."

Rhys plays a European tour in May, which kicks off with a show at London's Omeara on May 1st. Check out the rest of the dates and grab tickets here.

Follow Rhys Lewis - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Sunday 24 February 2019

WATCH: Novo Amor - 'Sleepless' & 'Repeat Until Death'

I have been very much in love with Novo Amor since catching the video for his track Birthplace last Summer - it's a video tackling the issue of plastic in our oceans, and had me instantly hooked. The video went viral, receiving various awards and nominations including Best Independent Video at the AIM Awards - and deservedly so. His debut solo record of the same name was released in October and quickly became my second favourite album of the year (only missing out to the total star Rae Morris) and his show at Union Chapel was easily one of my favourite shows of the year. 

In some very exciting news, Novo (AKA Ali Lacey) has teamed up with producer-directors Jorik Dozy and Sil van der Woerd again for a stunning two-part video for tracks Sleepless and Repeat Until Death. His music is incredibly cinematic and lends itself to videos of this nature - the newest collaboration acts as a comment on climate change, in particular the very real impact of air pollution on humans.

The videos were filmed in Mongolia, whose capital Ulaanbaatar is one of the world's most polluted cities - during the winter months, temperatures drop below -35C, and residents rely on burning coal for heat, which leads to an intense period of air pollution which is in turn wreaking havoc on the city's residents. Additionally, the city's population is swelling as the changing climate weakens the habitat of reindeer and the nomadic people who herd them (The Tsaatan), causing them to migrate to the city to seek alternative employment. Only forty Tsaatan families currently remain. 

Sil & Jorik spent almost three weeks filming landscapes rarely seen in mainstream western media, creating videos which "tell the tale of a young Mongolian girl battling the health effects of air pollution, and her journey of recovery from modern life in the city to a lifestyle in the countryside that is more in-keeping with nature." Filming in such conditions was not without its difficulties, with the low temperatures causing issues for both the crew and their filming equipment. 

For context on the issues explored in the video, the World Health Organisation released data in May 2018 showing that...

  • 9 in 10 people globally breathe air containing high levels of pollutants;
  • More than 90% of air pollution-related deaths occur in low and middle income countries, mainly in Asia and Africa;
  • Around 3 billion people (>40% of the world's population) do not have access to clean cooking fuels and technologies in their homes, the main source of household air pollution;
  • Air pollution is a critical risk factor for noncommunicable diseases, causing an estimated 24% of all adult deaths from heart disease, 25% from stroke, 43% from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 29% from lung cancer.

Novo Amor is out on an international tour across March, April & May and returns to London to headline my favourite festival (this is genuinely a dream) Bushstock Festival on 15th June. Check out the full tour dates on his site here.

Follow Novo Amor - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Friday 22 February 2019

LISTEN: Seramic - 'Keep On Breaking My Heart'

If you've been following the blog for a couple of years, you'll be aware that I'm pretty much in love with Seramic. The project of Marcus Foster and a surrounding group of artists, it is a gloriously funky, gorgeous outlet for some really unique tracks. The last couple of years have given us the I Got You and Found EPs - guaranteed to get you on your feet, much is the effect of a Seramic live show too. They're back with a new single, showing us a more reserved and delicate side of the project, in particular the slightly mind-blowing vocals of frontman Marcus. It's a sad one, but completely stunning - get listening!

Follow Seramic online - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Monday 18 February 2019

LISTEN: BE GOOD - 'Moving Staircase'

Firstly I wanted to say a big thank you to everybody who's read my previous post on my current situation, losing my job at HMV and campaigning to get our store re-opened. All the support I received off the back of that was incredible - it very quickly became my second most viewed post on the blog, and meant I had the most views I've ever had in a day by quite a margin. Pretty crazy. We've since been interviewed for our local BBC News programme (which was terrifying) and set up a petition that has reached 1000 signatures in a few days among all sorts of other brilliant things including a really sweet share from my faves Public Service Broadcasting. It's all rather overwhelming but we're crossing our fingers!

Here's a bit of brilliant news within all of the craziness - Oxford's BE GOOD are back! I've loved these guys since they released Not Waking Up, and It's Cool But It Ain't You was one of my absolute favourite releases of 2017. They're by far one of my favourite bands in Oxford, flying the flag for what is an absolutely glorious music scene that I miss terribly.

The band deliver another slice of indie pop goodness with Ash Cooke's lead vocals as dreamy as ever.  In a piece in DIY mag, Ash details that the song is "in some way about acceptance [...] It's exploring a feeling that I was having that it was okay to not be the only person in someone's life, as long as I could feel like I was the most important one. It was an attempt at stoicism that was inevitably laced with typical human selfishness." Get listening!

If you're on Spotify - the track is featuring on the 2019: cool music and things playlist there which you should most certainly follow for my favourite tracks through the year!

Follow BE GOOD - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Monday 11 February 2019

Signing off from HMV Peterborough 246.

Hi. Meg here. If you don’t already follow me or this blog online - all you really need to know is I’m a big music fan and generally a bit of a nerd. As such, HMV has been my favourite store for as long as I can remember. I discovered and explored a lot of my current musical loves through it.

Last week was simultaneously one of the best and worst weeks of my life. 

I lost my job on Tuesday. 

First, the good: I absolutely adore live music and on Wednesday evening I somehow managed to see Mumford & Sons play an acoustic set to 150 people in a pub in North London. It was last minute and an incredibly well timed piece of live music therapy. A couple of days later, Friday brought what I’m sure will be one of my gigs of the year in the shape of The Vaccines at The Roundhouse. Both nights were brilliant.

The bad: these incredible gigs have been massively overshadowed by some of the worst news I’ve had to hear in recent years. 

I’ve worked for my local HMV store in Peterborough since September 2017, during which time I’ve met some of the most wonderful, knowledgeable and crazy colleagues. We’re like a little family and I love them. I have loved this company - particularly my local store - and admired its staff for many years and getting the job was genuinely a bit of a dream come true. I’d been applying to other stores in the area for a few weeks after graduating and was making very little progress when suddenly HMV were hiring - commence frantic application writing! The interview with my soon to be manager turned from a scheduled fifteen minutes to us losing track of time and discussing our favourite musicians and actors for an hour and I could already tell I would love it there if the rest of the staff were this lovely. And they were. 

The past year and a half have been great. I love my job. The people I work with are wonderful. I’ve never been particularly confident or outgoing but my time at HMV has really helped with that. I’ve found that it’s easy to build a rapport with customers when they’re passionate about something. Even if it’s not something I’m a fan of personally I love seeing customers react to finding products that relate to something they love and expressing their fandom. Most recently there have been lots and lots of BTS fans in our shop! 

I bought my first 12” album (Modern Vampires Of The City by Vampire Weekend) from the store back in 2013 when the vinyl section was about an eighth of the size it is now. I fondly remember dragging friends into the store to browse through all of the vinyl every time I was in town. I’ve been looking after the vinyl department for several months now and genuinely love seeing customers browse it, hunting for their favourite bands or for something new to listen to. Granted, Spotify has its bonuses, but it doesn’t give you the same impact of a 12” album sleeve and the buzz a great album cover can give you in the physical form. There’s something very special about vinyl and it felt great to be in some way on the forefront of its revival, seeing a really wide range of customers collecting it. I love that department.

A couple of days after Christmas, the company announced they were calling in the administrators for the second time in six years. I heard the news through messages from friends and family. What followed was a stressful and uncertain month for us all. My colleagues and I mostly received immense support from our loyal customers, but also had to shield almost constant questions from customers hoping for a closing down sale, and the anger of customers who weren’t pleased about our amended returns policy and other matters that were entirely out of our hands. All this while we were worrying about the security of our jobs. 

I’ve spent a month telling customers that as far as I knew at the time, the store wasn’t closing down and that we were hopeful it would be saved. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel like I’d almost let them down. 

Last Tuesday I awoke to the news that the company had been bought out by Doug Putman, a Canadian businessman and self-professed vinyl nerd who runs Canada’s Sunrise Records. Amazing news. I was quickly told that not all stores were part of the deal. My colleagues were informed, via a conference call at 9am, that our store hadn’t been saved and was to close immediately. That was it. Suddenly 14 of us were jobless, the store was closed and we couldn’t even tell those customers who are in the store every single day. The regulars. 

It was my day off and time suddenly got a bit blurred (and has stayed that way since… I don’t think I’m alone in losing track of what day or time it is several times this week.) A couple of hours had passed as I sat scrolling through Twitter, chatting to colleagues and trying and failing to register what had just happened. I broke the news to a couple of friends that they’d lost their job. And I cried, a lot. Have I said that I really love my job?! I took a bus into town - everything seemed strangely normal. The news hadn’t broke locally that our store was closing yet. I headed to the store to rescue the belongings from my locker (you can take my job - but not my TARDIS mug.) We were asked to leave the store, and shoppers stared as we emerged from the shutters. It was incredibly surreal. My colleagues and I headed to the pub to gather our thoughts. It felt like somebody had died. The hours flew by, and after saying an emotional goodbye I headed home, and cried the whole way. What was I supposed to do now? 

I hadn’t intended to be at the store for the long term - I have dreams of finding my way into the music industry and perhaps this is my opportunity to get out there, but…. have I said I really love my job?! I live at home and thankfully, losing my job doesn’t put me in too terrible a financial position, I can take my time to find something new. But I’m lucky. I have colleagues who live in their own place and have rent or mortgages to find the money for, children to provide for - and I can not comprehend how much stress they must be feeling. Some of my colleagues have been working for the company for almost as long as I’ve been alive - I cannot for a second comprehend how it must feel to have that taken away from you suddenly, and to all of a sudden need to consider the prospect of a job interview for the first time in two decades. None of my colleagues deserve this. They’re wonderful people and I hate that this is happening to us. 

It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster week. A trip to the centre on Friday and seeing our wonderful shop - with the stock still in it - submerged in darkness with the shutters down was a bit hard to bear. Sitting down to update my CV on Thursday essentially started and ended with me adding an end date to my employment with HMV. Genuinely heartbreaking. I’ve been in touch with my colleagues, hearing how they can’t sleep or eat, how this is affecting their families. It hurts to know how they’re all feeling and to feel so helpless. 

It’s taken me a few days to gather my thoughts, but I really wanted to share something here about the situation and my wonderful colleagues at HMV 246. I genuinely believe that the closure of our store is a great loss for the city - I recently saw an article about Peterborough vying for the title of ‘City of Culture’ in 2020. For me, particularly having spent a few years living and studying in the beautiful city of Oxford - I consider music as a hugely important part of culture, and what good is a city with no record store in its centre? 

All hope may not entirely be lost… an article was published in The Guardian a couple of days ago, including quotes from the new owner of HMV. It stated that he was “in talks with landlords on the rest of the 27 outlets which closed down earlier this week” and was “relishing the fight to save all the stores”. The historic (and original) Fopp store in Glasgow’s West End was re-opened on Saturday after members of the public and bands such as Mogwai created an online campaign to show their love for the store. I can’t pretend to understand exactly why our store closed but I do understand that word of mouth, and social media buzz can clearly make all the difference - and spreading the love for our wonderful store can surely do no harm at this point! 

We’ve set up a group on Facebook here to spread the word and show the love there is for the store locally. We’re also tweeting with the hashtag #SaveHMVPeterborough & have already had support from the likes of Neil Gaiman (!!), The Hoosiers88 Films, Transgressive RecordsGengahr & Cassidy Little. Any help you can give would mean the world.

If you have time to get in touch with Sunrise Records & HMV via email too that would be incredible. 

Signing off from HMV Peterborough 246.

Wednesday 6 February 2019

LISTEN: Banfi - 'The furniture song'

New Banfi! I've missed these guys - somehow it's been over a year since I last caught them playing a show, and I can't wait for the next time as they've since released tons of brilliant new music. The latest is new single The furniture song, produced by the legendary Eliot James (of PĂȘtr AleksĂ€nder fame) and part of an upcoming EP which is due for release next month.

Writing of the track, the band ask "Have you ever been to a party and felt like the sofa is your best friend? Ever been caught staring at a lamp whist others chat about how interesting their breakfast was? Have you ever felt like dancing but were too embarassed to whack out that sweet worm you've been working on? [....] Well if any of these are true, then this song is for you!"

Follow Banfi Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Monday 4 February 2019

WATCH: Emilie Kahn - 'Will You?'

"Will you take care of me when I'm dying? Drown in my salt water when I'm crying?"

Here's something a little unique for your Monday morning... with a harp! Who doesn't love a harp?! Montreal's Emilie Kahn is back with new single Will You?, the second to be taken from her upcoming album Outro, due for release via Secret City Records on February 22nd. The record is the follow up to her debut album 10 000, which was released under the moniker Emilie & Ogden in 2015 - "a record of folk-inspired indie ballads soaked in the pains of youth." 

Her debut gained Emilie widespread acclaim as she explored her talents as a songwriter, going on to perform headline shows around the world, at festivals, and supporting the likes of fellow Canadians (and one of my favourite bands) Half Moon Run on tour. Fast forward to 2019 and she's back, but not quite as you've come to expect. Perhaps indicating a new found confidence since (and owing to) the debut record, she's dropped the moniker and is leaving behind any sense of impersonation - while the first record felt youthful, this upcoming follow-up is "teeming with adulthood's melancholy [...] a record that stings as much as it soothes." If this track and recent single Island are anything to go by - it's going to be a pretty superb record. 

Check out the video for Will You? below, directed by Aaliyeh Afshar and Max Taeushel, who explain that they "wanted to highlight Emilie's performance while exploring the dark but tender feeling of the song [...] playing with the mirror, blinds and faux walls, we wanted to delve into the liminal divide between life and death in a physical way."

Follow Emilie Kahn - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Saturday 2 February 2019

LISTEN: Low Island - 'In Person'

Very excited about this one! For me, Low Island are one of the most exciting bands on the scene - as well as being some of the nicest guys I've had the pleasure of meeting. They've been figuring out their sound as a band over the past couple of years, releasing singles, EPs and most recently Low Island & Friends 17-18, a collection of their tracks from the past couple of years showcasing just how much brilliant music they've been putting out. I'm constantly eagerly anticipating what they're about to do next and love this new track!

With a run of shows coming up in March, the band just shared their first new music of the year in the shape of single In Person. Instant tune. The track was recorded back in October with Miles James, when the band headed to Echozoostudios in Eastbourne for a couple of days "recording stuff onto tape, using a load of 70s analogue gear, synths, sequencers and generally messing around and having fun."

As a recent (ish) graduate, I find myself losing touch with both secondary school and university friends as life seems to get in the way, and the track is therefore pretty relatable with lyrics like "recently we just love to cancel, put it off and watch seasons change" and the refrain "I want to see you, see you in person." In the band's own words, "it's a tune about losing touch with people as you get older, even though it's so easy not to nowadays." 

You can (and 100% should) catch Low Island (in person) on the In Person tour this March & April across the UK, full dates: Boileroom, Guildford (12th March); Joiners, Southampton (13th); Cookie, Leicester (14th); Phase One, Liverpool (15th); Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds (16th); Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham (20th); Green Door Store, Brighton (21st); Thekla, Bristol (26th); Soup Kitchen, Manchester (27th); Bodega, Nottingham (28th); South Street Art Centre, Reading (29th); Broadcast, Glasgow (3rd April); Think Tank, Newcastle (4th). Tickets available here.

Follow Low Island - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.