Thursday 31 December 2020

albums of the year (more ramblings... part 4)

(more) albums of the year... part 4: in case you missed it, I'm sharing my favourite records of 2020 (main post here) this week. Seven albums a day across the week, in release order. Enjoy!

Siv Jakobsen A Temporary Soothing (buy/stream)

I had a copy of this in my inbox sent by my favourite PR in late 2019, but, as often happens, didn't immediately check it out. So little time, so many emails, etc. The release was delayed a few months due to ~everything~ and Siv had tours cancelled. Once I finally took a listen I was overwhelmed by how stunning it was, experiencing a wave of... woah, why didn't I listen to this sooner?! Living in Norway, Siv's content is often dreamily set against snowy backdrops, it can't really get any better. Favourite tracks here include Island, Anywhere Else and Fear The Fear. More of my thoughts on the record here.

The Magic Gang Death Of The Party (buy/stream)

The band's debut (and self-titled) album dropped in 2018, around the time that I saw them playing live on the last night of The Great Escape. The Brighton four-piece are masters of catchy sunshine-fuelled indie tunes, and this new record is no different - Think, Take Back The Track, Just A Minute, What Have You Got To Lose - so many tunes. The only sad thing is that they haven't been able to play the tracks live yet! 

Declan McKenna Zeros (buy/stream)

Like a few more on the list, I hadn't listened to Declan's debut record but immediately fell in love with The Key to Life on Earth. That's easily one of the best tracks of the year and the album deserves to be on the list for that track alone. It's a superb record, arriving in between The Magic Gang and Everything Everything... what a brill couple of weeks for indie music?! Other favourite tunes here include Rapture, Beautiful Faces and Emily

Everything Everything Re-Animator (store / Spotify)

One of my favourite moments of 2020 was in the run-up to the release of this record, when frontman Jonathan Higgs called in to BBC Radio 1 with Annie Mac to premiere a new track. He'd lost track of time and was at a supermarket when his phone started to ring. Cue running through the shop (with a bag of shopping from a different store) and answering the call, and then some muffled talking... before he returned to explain to Annie that a security guard had chased him out of the shop, assuming that he'd been shoplifting. Absolute favourite live radio moment of the year. Now, to the record: I LOVE this band and this is one of my favourite records of theirs. The last two are all-time faves, but they manage to up their game on each record. Nobody does lyrics like EE. So! Good! They bring me so much joy and I only wish that I'd been able to see tracks from the record performed live this year. (But on that note - they have been pretty creative, embracing technology, and even played a live show in VR...) Fave tracks here Planets, Arch Enemy, Black Hyena and Violent Sun

Cosmo Sheldrake Wake Up Calls (Bandcamp)

This record is like nothing else on the list, or that you'll have listened to this year. I adore Cosmo's work and this is so so special. As with a couple of the other records on the list, I received this to review, completely out of the blue, a week or two before release. Apart from Cuckoo Song, the record is entirely without vocals, instead putting the songs of endangered British Birds at the forefront, blending them into a glorious chorus. It's a soothing listen from one of my favourite creators - a musical genius. Calming though it is, the record throws up important issues and puts these beautiful birds into the spotlight. It's hard to choose favourites, but I love this performance of Cuckoo Song live in the woods - playing birdsong back into nature. Magical!

Bear's Den & Paul Frith Fragments (store / Spotify)

It's no secret that Bear's Den are a big favourite of mine, and I've been loving this since it was released a few months ago. A few years back, the band played a series of live shows where the genius Paul Frith reimagined BD tracks with a live orchestra (which I'm not at all bitter or distraught about missing out on....) Fragments is a collection of these orchestrated versions, with a selection of tracks from their three studio albums, and some brand new orchestral interludes. Generally a really lovely listen, but a particular dream of an album for a Bear's Den fan! Napoleon, Isaac and When You Break are live favourites of mine, and these versions are ace.

Fenne Lily Breach (Bandcamp)

Fenne's debut record On Hold (2018) was (and is) a brilliant record and this is a superb follow-up. As with Brooke Bentham earlier in the week, this one is certainly for fans of the likes of Marika Hackman, Phoebe Bridgers, Billie Marten, and artists in that vein. I've written a bit this year about trying to actively seek out more music by women, on noticing my listening habits were orientated towards male artists. For anybody who still holds the opinion that men get more festival slots (etc) simply because they're making better music - you need to listen to these incredibly talented artists. Fenne's record is stunning. Line of Best Fit put it better than I could, commenting that the record is "a raw, cathartic, but incredibly gentle record." It fits so well. Favourite tunes here are AlapathyBirthday and Solipsism. Look out for another familiar face in the video... 

Last set of seven records tomorrow...

Wednesday 30 December 2020

albums of the year (more ramblings... part 3)

(more) albums of the year... part 3: in case you missed it, I'm sharing my favourite records of 2020 (main post here) this week. Seven albums a day across the week, in release order. Enjoy!

HAIM Women In Music Pt. III (buy/stream)

New Haim?! Yes, oh, so much yes. On this record, the sisters' confidence in themselves and their music shines through. Right down to the ever glorious videos. They know they're good at what they do and I think this is their best record yet. That confidence allows them to dance between genres, exploring sonically more than they have in the past, and the results are ace. They've spoken openly about individual struggles that have influenced the writing of these tracks, some of their most personal yet - with specific experiences feeding into the lyrics. A fab record to kick off today's list... favourite tracks of mine include Don't Wanna, I Know Alone, The Steps and Summer Girl (technically a bonus track, but it counts.)

Dream Wife So When You Gonna... (store)

I hadn't listened to Dream Wife before (but had been meaning to) when Sports! was released as the first taste of their new record. I was intrigued and immediately listened to the self-titled debut, loved it, and began to wait patiently for the new record. It's seriously good. On release, the record was the only one in the UK Top 20 chart that wasn't backed by a major label, and the only one produced entirely by womxn. They managed to take the 2nd and 3rd places respectively in the Indie and Vinyl charts, an exciting (and huge) achievement for a band not on a major label, and so deserved. There's some really tender moments through the album, and some kind of bonkers moments, and the mixture of the two is sublime. Favourite tracks include RH RN, Hasta La Vista and Temporary

Samantha Crain A Small Death (buy/stream)

I don't have too much to say about this one because, frankly, you should stop reading and just go and give it a listen. But seeing as you're here... Samantha is a few records deep, but this was the first to catch my eye, as it was the first release on Lucy Rose's new label, an imprint of Communion. Having toured with Samantha, Lucy tells of listening to demos and feeling an urge to help release them into the world. After a series of car accidents following the release of her previous record in 2017, Samantha lost the use of her hands, and was left with the worry that she might never hold a guitar again. This record charts that experience, and a return to doing something she loves, so it's filled with a lot of emotion. It's lovely. Favourite tracks might actually be the opening three: An Echo, Pastime and Holding To The Edge Of Night

Stornoway The Farewell Show (Bandcamp)

I have so much love for this, the only live album on the list. My pal Tom (who played trumpet in Stornoway) sent me the audio files of the record back in January. Naturally I sat through them and had a happy nostalgic cry for one of my favourite shows that I've ever been to. Back in March 2017, I was working for Tom's (and Oli, bassist in Storno) company Tigmus, and we promoted the hometown farewell gig. I spent the day at the venue, watching soundcheck, the show itself, taking photos of fans with the band at the merch table afterwards and rubbing shoulders (remember that?!) with the best of Oxford's music scene at the afterparty. This is a brilliant recording of a superb and emotional farewell gig. It was a lovely surprise to find that a photo I took at soundcheck is printed in the CD case, a sweet touch. While not strictly a recording from the gig, as there aren't any music videos as such, I'm embedding this fab video from lockdown. Fave tracks from the album include... November Song, The Coldharbour Road and I Saw You Blink (but... all of it.) 

Haux Violence in a Quiet Mind (Bandcamp)

This one is stunning - a Stay Loose PR discovery, which are most often beautiful. A record that finds the artist processing tragedy and substance abuse across three generations of his family, describing it as "about honesty after hiding for so many years." Guided therapy for Haux becomes a soothing and soulful listen for us, and one that he hopes will help others. Seriously beautiful. Favourite tracks: Salt, Eight (with Rosie Carney) and Heavy

Lianne La Havas Lianne La Havas (buy/stream)

For one reason or another I'd never really given a proper listen to Lianne's music. The singles from this record were coming out and I was falling in love with them one after the other. The full record makes for a gorgeous listen. It's the creative result of a breakup and moving back to London from the US, about leaving a person and a place behind. Despite these themes, or because of them, the record exudes confidence. Personal growth is reflected in the confidence of that self-title, three records in. Favourite tunes for me are Read My Mind, Can't Fight and Please Don't Make Me Cry. 

Willie J Healey Twin Heavy (buy/stream)

Hear me out - I think this is even better than WJH's debut?! Like Richard Walters of yesterday's post, listening to Willie's music makes me feel such a strong connection to Oxford, and I love that. Having followed his music since just a couple of months into uni back in 2014, it's been such a joy to see how widely this record has been appreciated. Yala have done such a good job with their campaign. His show at Omeara last year is one of my last gigs (with fellow Oxford dreamboats BE GOOD opening) and it was brill! Favourite tracks are hard to choose as there are SO many tunes but Fashun kicks off the album in glorious style and Heavy Traffic, Twin Heavy and Why You Gotta Do It are solid tunes. 

Thanks for reading/listening! Seven more tomorrow... 

Tuesday 29 December 2020

albums of the year (more ramblings... part 2)

(more) albums of the year... part 2: in case you missed it, I'm sharing my favourite records of 2020 (main post here) this week. Seven albums a day across the week, in release order. Enjoy!

The Strokes The New Abnormal (buy/stream)

It feels like an absolute lifetime since this came out - a couple of weeks into lockdown here in the UK, back in April, at which point I was reading and listening to music, and doing little else. A brand new record from The Strokes... sign me up?! Seven (!) years since Comedown Machine, I feel like most fans probably approached this new record with a little trepidation, but it's a genuine delight. Most aptly named record on the list too, probably. 

Hailaker - Holding (Bandcamp)

As far as surprise EP releases/album announcements go - I was pretty chuffed when, back in April, Hailaker surfaced with a four track EP. A week later, a second EP, and a week after that, we had the entire record. A short and sweet release cycle and the best surprise. I loved their self-titled debut last year and adore this follow-up. They're a really special bunch. Favourite tunes for me include Labradors, Caffeine Rivers, Attica and Wild (hey... all of it.)

Jack Garratt Love, Death & Dancing (buy/stream)

Jack's return has been a musical highlight of the year. Following his critically acclaimed debut Phase in 2016 and extensive touring to support it, he'd been a little quiet on the music front. In February this year, he returned to BBC Radio 1 to premiere the first track from his upcoming record, and spoke very openly about his experiences of anxiety since the first record, and the reasons behind the space of time between the two. The track, Time, was (and is) brilliant, and part of Vol. 1 of the new record. Better, from the second volume (I think?) is probably my favourite track from the record. The video (below) is incredible, part of a series with incredible visuals, lighting and choreography, filmed earlier this year. 

Gia Margaret Mia Gargaret (Bandcamp)

If you're not familiar... Gia released her gorgeous debut There's Always Glimmer in 2018. Mia Gargaret arrived this June, but isn't quite the follow-up that she'd intended. In 2019, Gia found herself unable to sing through illness. Losing the use of her main instrument, she experimented with synths, and this album is the result of that process. She comments that "these compositions helped me hold onto my identity as a music maker. At times this music helped soothe my anxiety more than therapy or anything else could." A sort of self-therapy for Gia, and a lovely treat for us. Knowing the story behind the record makes it feel all the more special, something not so great turning into something beautiful... creativity prevails. 

Richard Walters - Golden Veins (store / Spotify)

Listening to Richard takes me back to Oxford (which is always a win) - I discovered his music and met him while living there, catching a few shows in the city, including when I ran the door and sold merch at the launch of his previous record A.M. He's a furiously talented and creative individual and this record proves no exception. Big Joy is a (big) tune and Marks is seriously stunning.

Phoebe Bridgers - Punisher (Bandcamp)

Well, do I really need to tell you why the new Phoebe Bridgers record is worth a listen? You've probably already put it at the top of your own AOTY list. Kyoto is certainly one of the best songs of the year. I hadn't listened to her debut when this was released (not for lack of people raving about it and telling me that I should...) I saw Phoebe *in real life* last year, in the foyer after a Dawes show, while I waited to say a quick hello to the frontman Taylor, as he quickly said bye to her. On telling the friend who was waiting for me outside that I'd just seen Phoebe Bridgers (like, the actual one) her reaction told me as much as I needed to know: people love Phoebe. Too right, Punisher is superb. Get your ears on it, now.

AJIMAL As It Grows Dark/Light (Bandcamp)

There was no doubt that this should be on my list of favourite records this year. Helped along by White Tail Falls (again!) who connected with AJIMAL for an Instagram Live many many months ago, I gave the record a listen and have been adoring it all year. This record demands your attention. There is so much depth and power within the tracks - I'd love to see them performed live with strings etc. I think that How Could You Disappear? is my favourite track from the record, but also love Above All Else, Be Kind, the video for which features a lot of familiar faces...

Seven more tomorrow... happy listening!

Monday 28 December 2020

albums of the year (more ramblings... part 1)

Hope you've all had a lovely few days celebrating (or not) Christmas! Before resuming *proper* posting for the new year, I'm back at it with some follow-ups to my albums of the year feature last week (read that here) where, in addition to a top five, I shared 35 records I've loved this year. I'm planning to share 7 records a day across the next few days, all in release order - each one of them is brill and I hope you enjoy! 

The Big Moon Walking Like We Do (buy/stream)

Way back in January this year, this was the first record to be released that I'd been looking forward to, so it's been a favourite for a while, and listening recently I was reminded how brilliant it is! Your Light is one of the best pop songs of the year in my opinion... so good!! Barcelona and Why are also faves. Love their harmonies, and the fried chicken lyric in Dog Eat Dog ("round here they say it's dog eat dog but / it's more like pigeon eat fried chicken on the street") is GENIUS. They also deserve an AOTY mention for the fact their album release coincided with the moon being reaaaaal big. Clever.

Bombay Bicycle Club Everything Else Has Gone Wrong (buy/stream)

Probably the coolest advance stream that I've ever had and absolutely HAS to be on this list! Listening to this on my commute before it was released made me feel very cool. Following their previous record in 2014 this was long awaited and it could so easily have fallen a little flat, but it is completely glorious - there isn't a note or lyric out of place. Favourite tracks include Is It Real, Racing Stripes and the title track Everything Else Has Gone Wrong. Seeing them live last year was a treat. Huge soft spot for Eat, Sleep, Wake (Nothing But You) below - the tongue-in-cheek video touching on their return. Also - I love their recent Live at Brixton album! Read my write-up of Everything Else... here.

Gengahr Sanctuary (buy/stream)

I think this might be the only album that I've bought in a physical record store this year... since our HMV closed we don't have stores locally, and while I've bought a bunch of LPs from Banquet and Resident online through the year, I bought this one on a day out back in Feb. So I guess it holds a special place for being the only things that I've dug out in the vinyl racks this year - with quite a lot of glee at finding it! It's a quality follow up to Where Wildness Grows which I adore. So many favourite tracks - Heavenly Maybe, Atlas Please and Icarus are certainly up there.

Brooke Bentham Everyday Nothing (store / Spotify)

This is Brooke's debut album and it's superb. One of those artists whose tracks I get sent to review, realise that I've enjoyed all of the singles, give the record a try and... woah. Love it. I struggled to pick between this and Sunday Self, the acoustic version of the record that Brooke brought out a few months later. Fave tracks include Control and All My Friends Are Drunk. This is for the Fenne Lily, Phoebe Bridgers, Marika Hackman etc fans (which you all should be...) 

Franc Moody Dream In Colour (buy/stream)

The award for the funkiest record on the AOTY list goes to.... damn. SO funky. I loved seeing them open for Friendly Fires a couple of years back, loved the EP they brought out at the time and was eagerly awaiting their debut record. I listened back to this recently on a bus journey but would advise listening somewhere where you're able to dance like nobody is watching. Get me to a live Franc Moody set soon, please, world. Favourite tracks include Skin on Skin, She's Too Good For Me, and the title track, Dream In Colour. So much to love here.

Halloweens - Morning Kiss at the Acropolis (Bandcamp)

A side project of The Vaccines' frontman Justin Young and keys player Timothy Lanham (that's T Truman, to you and I) Halloweens have been the gift that just keeps on giving in 2020. Right from the first single, Hannah You're Amazing, in late 2019, I was hooked. Things have just got better and better ever since, and their debut record is a dream. They also released the Maserati Anxiety Designed EP recently, somehow finding time amidst making the new Vaccines record (!!!) and Timothy working on his solo project. A lot of love for the productivity when they keeps releasing such cracking tunes as these. Favourite tunes include My Baby Looks Good With Another, Lady and Ur Kinda Man

NNAMDÏ BRAT (buy/stream)

I was first put onto this record by this year's AOTY... winner (?! is that a thing) White Tail Falls, when he recommended a few records that were circulating his earphones in our interview earlier in the year - on NNAMDÏ's BRAT he shared that it was blowing my mind. I wanted in on the action and took myself for a listen... which I think turned into two or three consecutive listens. Written, recorded and performed by Nnamdï himself, the record belies genre categorisation. There's a bit of everything going on. Styles which on paper, probably shouldn't work together, and that I might not usually choose to listen to, but I love this. It's OK, Really Don't and Perfect In My Mind are highlights for me - but it is best appreciated as the full piece of work. 

Thanks if you've made it this far - I'll be back to share the next seven records tomorrow!! Happy listening... 

Thursday 24 December 2020

My albums of the year (2020)

It's that time of year... arriving just in time for Christmas (hey, did you really think that I'd forgotten you?!) my gift to you all is this list of my favourite records of the year. (You're SO welcome. Seriously. Don't mention it.) It's been quite the year and music has really had our backs through it all. While the world outside remains all sorts of bonkers, music is proving to be the salvation that it always is. There have been lots of incredible records released this year, and I've spent the last few weeks reminding myself of those that I've enjoyed. Rediscovering their delights, revelling in their joys, crying along to them and figuring out, a little self-indulgently, my favourites of the year. 

In keeping with the personal style of the blog, a CMAT albums of the year post is essentially just a bunch of albums that I love. Set aside any expectations of technical chat, and instead, strap yourselves in for some soppy ramblings about the records which have mattered most to me this year, those that have shone a bright light on a gloomy year. Debuts from exciting new artists, some long-awaited returns, and new records from a whole bunch of talented artists - there is quite a mix of records and artists here, and I hope there's a little bit of something for everyone. 

In a year where artists have had the rug pulled from under them in terms of live shows being paused and a real lack of government support, it's more important than ever to show your support for your favourites. Stream the hell out of their music, by all means - but grab a download or an LP on their site or through Bandcamp if you're able to. I decided that I wanted to share the love for more albums this year. So - the list has grown a bit, to 40 in total, up from 30 last year. And, instead of just writing about my five favourite records and listing some others that I love (as I did last year) I'm going to do things a little differently this year...

This is the first in a series of six (yikes) AOTY posts. Here, I'm sharing my top five (they're numbered, but in all honesty I adore every one of them a lot) and a list of 35 more records I've picked out that have meant the world to me this year (in release order because ordering them all would be an impossible task.) Then (after Christmas, just as soon as I write them...) I'll share five more posts, with seven records featured on each, writing a little about each of them. This year it felt like name-checking the longer list wasn't enough, I want to shower these records and artists with love, and I do have a lot of extra time on my hands thanks to furlough... again. 

So, without further ado... my albums of the year!!!!! Don't they look pretty?! 

1. White Tail Falls - Age of Entitlement (buy/stream)

Well, it's hardly surprising, is it? If you know me, or you follow the blog, you'll have heard/read me raving about this record a lot this year. In all honesty, there's been very little doubt in my mind as to which record was getting the top spot since this was released into the world. The rest of the top five certainly come close, but nothing has had such an impact on me this year as this piece of work. It's vulnerable, it's collaborative, it's experimental, and it provides an absolute rollercoaster of emotion. Simply put: it helped drag me through this year, and I love it. 

A CMAT album of the year should be the record which has meant the most to me on a personal level, and this ticks so many boxes in that respect. If you've been living under a rock (well, ten points for social distancing) White Tail Falls is the solo moniker of all-round musical legend Irwin Sparkes, frontman of The Hoosiers. They've been (and still are) my favourite band since their debut album came out in 2007. My love for them was cemented at age 14 when I saw them live, and met them, for the first time in 2011, and I've been following them around the country (and all over the internet) ever since. I can't think of many other things that I've poured so much love into for so long. 

I genuinely believe that the love I have for music, and my desire to set up a blog recommending new music, can be sourced back to the love I had for TH when I was younger. Irwin in particular has always been really supportive of the blog, which means the world. This year, a trio of crazy things happened - I premiered a video for the track Disintegrate (here) back in Feb, Irwin recorded an exclusive performance for the blog's fifth birthday in May, and I interviewed him about the new record in June (read that here.) Without getting *too* soppy those things are essentially teen Meg's dreams coming true. Being a little part, through the blog, in helping to spread the word about this superb record, has been a treat and it is such a joy to name it my album of the year. 

Favourite tracks: DisintegrateBody WeightDevout & Rome's Already Fallen. (Alright, all of it.) 

2. Fleet Foxes Shore (Bandcamp)

You know, I'm still a little in shock that this record exists. Album campaigns seem, on the whole, to exist on somewhat of a spectrum. Ideally, a few tracks will be released as singles, enticing you in, building anticipation. At the other end of the scale, a couple of records this year (which I won't name, but if you know... you know) have released almost the entire record (seriously, no exaggeration) as singles beforehand, to the extent that the excitement I had for those records was almost completely lost. At some extreme point of the spectrum, with the most unexpected record of the year, arrive Fleet Foxes

One day, they're putting mysterious posters up (in France, I think?) implying that something was happening in a couple of days. Speculation began to build for a new single, and, lo and behold, we learn that an ENTIRE RECORD is due to drop?! What now??!!?! No time to prepare, to ready myself by obsessing over the back catalogue. No singles to obsess over. An entire 15-track, 54-minute record dropping onto streaming services, just like that. And it is GLORIOUS in every way possible. Arriving when it did, the record instantly became a soundtrack for my commute to work. Working in retail this year (when not furloughed) has been stressful, and taking that time to just sink into new favourites was a huge relief. In a strange year, the record has captured the feeling of hope and bottled it up beautifully. It is calming, it feels like a warm hug from a friend, it brought peace. Shore is certainly good enough to be in the top spot, but that crown is firmly in White Tail Falls' hands this year. Robin and the gang will just have to bring out another record, pronto... 

Favourite tracks: Can I Believe You, Sunblind, Featherweight

3. Laura Marling Song For Our Daughter (buy/stream)

I have been a fan of Laura and her music for a while now, but I've never really connected with a record of her's as much as I have with Song For Our Daughter. I think that I feel as if I came to her music late, when she was already at least a few records in, and her extensive back catalogue is a little daunting. When this record arrived earlier than intended on streaming services (Laura's choice, to give fans something of a treat while we were all on lockdown) I had exactly the time and the headspace to give it the attention that it required.

This record is a genuine work of art, one of the most beautiful records on the list. So many records in, there is no doubting that Laura knows what she is doing and that you can feel safe in her musical hands. Yet, nothing on the record feels like you're hearing something that she's done before. It feels fresh, mature and empowered. A gorgeous blend of vulnerability and strength come through the music and lyrics. It's something special. I must also give a quick mention to the stunning acoustic EP The Lockdown Sessions which Laura brought out earlier this month, with acoustic versions of tracks from the record. 

Favourite tracks: Song For Our DaughterHeld Down, Strange Girl

4. Novo Amor Cannot Be, Whatsoever (buy/stream)

Another record which could easily have taken the top spot here. SO much love for this. It's still utterly ridiculous to me that I was given the opportunity to listen to this record, long-awaited by myself and literally tens of thousands of listeners around the world, around two months before it was released, by Ali himself! A teeny humble-brag, sure, but it really does blow my mind that me sitting at home and typing away about the music that I love results in that sort of thing. Feeling pretty lucky. 

After loving Ali's debut LP Birthplace in 2018 so much there was a lot of pressure on this record to live up to it. (Spoiler: it does.) Coming from different places in Ali's life, both in terms of time, and geography, the records are less like siblings, and more like musical cousins. "If Birthplace is the countryside, then Cannot Be, Whatsoever is the city: it's not where I'm from, but it's where I've been for a long time now", Ali told me in our recent interview about the record. There's a lovely short film about the makings of the record here too. I only wish that I was able to see tracks from the album performed live this year - soon, I hope. If you like this one, head back in time to Birthplace, and Ali's collaborative record with Ed Tullett, Heiress, as both are equally stunning. 

Favourite tracks: Decimal, No Plans, Halloween Birdcage

5. Dizzy - The Sun And Her Scorch (buy/stream)

It blows my mind a little that Dizzy aren't known by more people. They're superstars in my eyes. So here I am, imploring you to listen to them. Their debut was such a gorgeous discovery - a friend took me along to their set at The Great Escape a few years back, and their debut record came out a little while after. I played it at HMV when I worked there, and a few colleagues started to really get into it too. For a while, barely a shift went by where we didn't listen to it a couple of times. I remember experiencing the absolute joy of working in a music store, having a customer ask what was playing and if they could buy it. Yes!

Dizzy are like a joyous ray of light in the dark, and their new record, released a few months back, is exactly that. It's a brilliant follow-up to their debut, and one of the most relatable records (for me, at least) on the list, offering up a look at the claustrophobia of suburban living, and figuring out life after your late teens, all the while trying your best not to compare yourself with your friends. As I wrote in a post about the album announcement: "lyrically, it all sounds a little sad, but those reflective and pensive lyrics are always paired with the band's sunny melodies, courtesy of the trio of brothers Alex, Mackenzie and Charlie Spencer - it's what makes the band's music so loveable."

Favourite tracks: Roman Candles, Sunflower, Good And Right & Beatrice

So there you have it... my top five records of the year. I love them all and hope that you'll love them too if you get the chance to check them out. Below are 35 more records, in release order, that have meant the world to me this year. I'll be sharing a few more posts explaining why I love these ones so much ~soon~ (I have to write them first). So watch out for those, and a little end of year ramble soon too. Much love!

The Big Moon - Walking Like We Do
Bombay Bicycle Club - Everything Else Has Gone Wrong
Gengahr - Sanctuary
Brooke Bentham - Everyday Nothing
Franc Moody - Dream In Colour 
Halloweens - Morning Kiss at the Acropolis 
The Strokes - The New Abnormal
Hailaker - Holding 
Jack Garratt - Love, Death & Dancing
Gia Margaret - Mia Gargaret
Richard Walters - Golden Veins 
Phoebe Bridgers - Punisher
AJIMAL - As It Grows Dark/Light
HAIM - Women In Music Pt. III 
Dream Wife - So When You Gonna... 
Samantha Crain - A Small Death
Stornoway - The Farewell Show 
Haux - Violence in a Quiet Mind
Lianne La Havas - Lianne La Havas
Willie J Healey - Twin Heavy 
Siv Jakobsen - A Temporary Soothing 
The Magic Gang - Death Of The Party 
Declan McKenna - Zeros 
Everything Everything - Re-Animator 
Cosmo Sheldrake - Wake Up Calls 
Bear's Den & Paul Frith - Fragments 
Fenne Lily - Breach
IDLES - Ultra Mono 
Tempesst - Must Be A Dream 
Dawes - Good Luck With Whatever
Deep Sea Diver - Impossible Weight
Laura Fell - Safe From Me 
Ed The Dog - Untitled.crashed.crashed.crashed
Maggie Rogers - Notes from the Archive: Recordings 2011-2016 

If you made it this far, and like what I do here on cool music and things, a little friendly reminder that I have a Ko-fi page here where you can show the blog some monetary support. (Thanks!)

Monday 21 December 2020

WATCH: Catgod - 'Sometimes I Care for You'

I often ramble on about how much I miss my dear Oxford and all of the gorgeous (both inside and out) music pals that I have there. Even more this year. Included in that group are Catgod - siblings Robin and Cat were like a little second family to me while I lived in the city. Between shows, I helped them out with some PR when I should probably have been writing essays, and more importantly, spent many an evening in G&Ds consuming brownie sundaes and pizza bagels with them. Robin and Cat front the Oxford-based collective, alongside Patrick Bolton on piano, George Purnell on drums and Casper Miles on bass and electric guitar. A veritable group of local music superstars if ever I heard of one. 

I was delighted to receive an email from the group recently, sharing news of their brand new track Sometimes I Care For You. It's out in the world now, and they've just released a lovely music video too, made by Paddy during lockdown, which you can watch below. Bit of soothing for the soul, I think. It is "an ode to the isolation we feel when we cannot say how we feel or express ourselves and the heartache which comes from not knowing where you stand with your lover." Cat takes the lead on this one, with Robin's own vocals blending in perfectly. Brilliant vocalists individually, something near-heavenly happens when their vocals combine. Perhaps it's a sibling thing. Soothing orchestration takes nothing away from the vocals here, they're almost lulling you in with this one. 

The track is the first of three singles to be taken from their new album Born Again, due in spring 2021. It was recorded in Foel Studios in Wales and produced by another Oxford legend, Tim Turan, who has worked with the like of RIDE and Supergrass. Album details soon! 

Follow Catgod - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Friday 18 December 2020

LISTEN: Ed Nash & Liz Lawrence - 'Mad World'

I should most certainly be asleep by now - a few days back at work (Christmas in retail, send help!) and every muscle in my body aches permanently. Turns out spending most of the day at work dramatically reduces time to listen to submissions and write posts so here I am, far too late in the day, as I haven't scheduled anything for Friday. It's a hasty post (so less rambling, sort of) but a really lovely track from Ed Nash (of Bombay Bicycle Club). The latest offering of his new solo project, this time, featuring his Bombay touring pal Liz Lawrence. They've partnered up for a cover of Mad World and it's really really lovely. A joyous pairing. Happy listening!!! And a quote from Ed...

Me and good pal Liz Lawrence have recorded a cover of our favourite Christmas number one Mad World... actually the only Christmas number one it seemed fitting to cover after the year that we've all been through. 

We’ve made the song a pay-what-you-want download on my Bandcamp and we've included a donation link on Spotify, with all the proceeds going to the Samaritans, a charity that provides emotional support to anyone struggling to cope. It's been a hard year for everyone and this organisation seems more vital now than ever. 

Hoping that everyone is staying safe and happy, whatever your situation this festive season. More to come in the new year but until then I hope this can bring even a tiny bit of joy.

Follow Ed Nash - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Follow Liz Lawrence Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Thursday 17 December 2020

WATCH: Fleet Foxes - 'Can I Believe You' (Live)

Not going to lie, I've been full on losing my mind over this performance for a few days now. It might be the church setting, but I am full on transcending over this one. The ever gorgeous Fleet Foxes, who released their record Shore earlier in the year (and a beautiful record it is) took to St Ann & The Holy Trinity in NYC to record a live performance of Can I Believe You for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. With the Resistance Revival Chorus offering choral back-up in the pews, it's a stunning performance all over. Heavenly, even. 

Sharing the performance online, the band wrote: "Special thanks to the Resistance Revival Chorus, Homer Steinweiss, Sean Pecknold, Beatriz Artola, Mark Yoshizumi and Katie, Kate Jackson Mendel, James Fideler, Eli Cane, Aja Pecknold, Elia Lyssy, Marcin Kapron, Geideon Fideler, Austin Williams, Anna Caradeuc, Andie Neff, Erin Boyd, ANTI- Records, as well as Lauren Bakoian and everyone else at St. Ann & The Holy Trinity for helping make the performance happen in these very strange circumstances! Was really fun. Please wear masks and get the vaccine so we don’t have to wear masks or film ourselves with iPhones in 2021."

Follow Fleet Foxes - Facebook | Instagram.

Wednesday 16 December 2020

WATCH: Dust In The Sunlight - 'Hard To Explain'

It feels as if it's really been a year for covers - with recent albums and EPs of covers from the likes of James Blake, Patricia Lalor, Dizzy, Marika Hackman and Rosie Carney either circulating my speakers or waiting eagerly to be listened to. It's also been pretty exciting to have a new The Strokes record this year (about a billion days ago back in... April?) Combine the two, and you get this brand new offering from London duo Dust In The Sunlight, a dreamy slow-jam of a Hard To Explain cover, from the debut Strokes record. 

Initially demoed in lockdown, the duo teamed up with Essex-based producer Tom Donovan on this one, layering their vocals with a rich tapestry of sounds to create that dreamy atmosphere. The music video, created as a collaboration between animator Mindless Omission and photographer Lauren Luxenberg, features super 8 footage of the band interspersed through retro shots of NYC, offering that same nostalgic atmosphere. There's something exciting about hearing a fresh version of a song you hold dearly - loving this. 

Follow Dust In The Sunlight - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Tuesday 15 December 2020

WATCH: Fil Bo Riva - 'Cold Mine'

I'd somehow missed the teasers posted online and it was a total joy to find a brand new Fil Bo Riva tune on my release radar a couple of Fridays ago. He's long been a favourite of mine (and by extension, the blog) and released his brill debut album Beautiful Sadness early last year. If you haven't listened to that, and the incredible If You're Right, It's Alright EP (which was released way back in 2016!) then get on that, pronto. New track Cold Mine follows in the sonic footsteps that the record set down, and started life late last year. I love Fil, and new music is such a treat!

Sharing the track online, Fil wrote "I started to write Cold Mine last winter but really finished it off a few months back. I've been writing and recording full time over the last year, it's something I haven't done since the start of the project and I noticed how good it feels again - just being creative, focusing on my music and on producing."

"During this period I was struggling with a good bit of things, probably like a lot of people during these times. I've felt loneliness live I never did before but that somehow helped me with the songs, as the sadness always does. I was thinking about what to do next, what music to release, how to do it and if I should do it. Finally I decided to bring out this track to end this year with something that makes me feel good - maybe also to close off chapter and open a new one. I really hope you love the song the way I do. I hope you can feel something in it and make it yours." 

Follow Fil Bo Riva - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Monday 14 December 2020

ALBUM NEWS: Alice Phoebe Lou - 'Glow'

Quick! Grab your calendars/diaries, it's album news time. I'm loving lining up all these releases in my diary - there's a lot to look forward to. After new Tender Central, Arlo Parks, The Staves and Django Django, we'll get this treasure - Glow from Alice Phoebe Lou, on 19th March. It's her third studio-album, and, inspired by a little musical exploration through the year, it's her first that has been recorded, mixed and mastered entirely analogue, with producer David Parry (of Loving) at Castle Studios in East Germany. 

Her first single of the year was my first real taste of Alice's music - it seems impossible to believe that Witches was released this year, in March, just before the first restrictions started. It feels a lifetime ago. I love that track! Dusk is the first taste of the new record, and there's a homemade and self-directed video below. 

On the year that unfurled after the release of Witches, and on Dusk, Alice shares "I spent more time alone than I ever had. I shaved my head. Had an ego death. Fell in love. Had my heart broken. I was a raw little mess. And that was what I wrote about [...] Dusk is an ode to friendship and feeling the deepest sense of intimacy & care for another person. the kind of friendship that is uncompetitive, based in mutual respect & admiration. full of adventure & possibilities." 

Follow Alice Phoebe Lou - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Friday 11 December 2020

WATCH: Youth Sector - 'Teeth'

If you're looking for a song which manages to somehow make every element of itself really REALLY catchy, you're in the right place. This bassline!!!!!!!!! The synths! The guitar!!!! I think I can even hear some castanets... In love with all of this. Brighton art-rock quintet Youth Sector are following up their brill EP Mundanity, released earlier in the year, with the very catchy (did I mention that yet?) tune Teeth. Soooo good. 

The band's frontman Nick Tompkins shares that "we're drawn to the balance between making something sound interesting and exciting while keeping it melodic and catchy [...] 'Teeth' sees us continue to push into more rhythmic territory and embrace the influence of funk bands Parliament and Tower Of Power, with its constant danceable groove punctuated by wonky guitars throughout. Lyrically the single explores the sinister magnetism of untrustworthy people and the way they can enter the lives of those vulnerable to their charms."

Follow Youth Sector - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Thursday 10 December 2020

LISTEN: Zarif - 'Click'

Debut single time.... sort of. London-based grunge/alt-pop newcomer Zarif has shared lead single Click from her upcoming Square One EP, due for release on 29th Jan. The EP title is symbolic for Zarif - who has previously released a pop-soul record on a major label, through which she garnered lots of press attention and even supported Beyoncé on tour. She describes how "when you're signed to a major label, everything is a compromise. An album that started out quite raw and rocky ended up being turned into a glossier, poppier end product that I didn't even recognise when it came out." 

This time around things are very different, she recorded independently"in many a messy bedroom in South London" and, crucially, kept hold of that creative freedom. The result is an exciting first taste of the new EP - I can't wait to hear more. 

About the track, she explains that it "is about having the rug pulled from under you, being in uncharted territory, finding yourself lost. It's about getting into survival mode and fight or flight kicking in, all the while trying to find yourself, clicking your heels hoping to find your way back to whatever you call home." 

Follow Zarif - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Wednesday 9 December 2020

LISTEN: Jeremy Tuplin - 'Night & Day'

"Monday? Mundane, more like..." 

There's only one lyricist whose dry wit that opening line could be from... Jeremy Tuplin is sharing his new EP Happiness this Friday and lead single Night & Day is out now! The EP follows his highly acclaimed third LP Violet Waves and acts as a companion piece to the album which was released earlier this year. In the video (below) we see footage of Jeremy and his band The Ultimate Power Assembly touring across Europe last year. Is it worth saying how much I miss gigs and how much I love videos like this?!

On the new track, Jeremy explains "this song is sort of a tribute to the mundane, the humdrum of everyday life, particularly relatable to lockdown life though I actually wrote it sometime last year. It's got plenty of cultural references thrown in from Bojack Horseman to Garth Marenghi's Darkplace to Chewits." 

Follow Jeremy Tuplin - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Tuesday 8 December 2020

EP NEWS: Beach Bunny - 'Blame Game'

Got a little distracted trying to write this... can more bands release online video games to go alongside a new song? Treat yourself to a little browse of the Beach Bunny site here for a racing game (the soundtrack is an 8bit version of the new track, which you'll win a download of if you're quick enough in the game.) Back to the music - their new EP Blame Game is due on 15th January via Mom+Pop Music. It follows their debut LP Honeymoon, and where that one centred on 'the highs and lows of new love', the new EP 'takes aim at toxic masculinity, sexism and the emotional labour of unreliable relationships.' 

The first taste of the EP is Good Girls (Don't Get Used) for which the brill video is below - in both track and video the band's frontperson Lili Trifilio is fighting back, reclaiming her power over romantic partners that try to play her. The tracks were written in quarantine and recorded in Chicago over a week in August, with Joe Reinhart on producing duties. 

Talking about the first track Lili explains... "as a veteran of engaging with emotionally unavailable people, I wanted to create a sassy song that calls out players by talking down to them as if they were children, showing that poor communication skills and mind games are immature. It shifts the blame to the person that was acting disrespectful, instead of myself. The song also hammers home the point that I know my worth; I'm not afraid to call out players on their stupid behaviour and I'm not going to tolerate being thrown around emotionally." 

Pre-order & pre-save Blame Game here.

Follow Beach Bunny - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Monday 7 December 2020

WATCH: Flyte - 'Never Get To Heaven' (Acoustic)

Aren't Flyte just really really special human beings?! I should be used to them stopping me in my tracks with their beautiful tunes by now and yet, every new song brings with it an element of surprise. Their latest tune was released last week, and they've shared a gorgeous 'campfire rendition' for you to sink your teeth (and eyes and ears) into. Go go go! Never Get To Heaven was written by Will when he was just 14 (!) "in an attempt to be post modern and rewrite an old scout chant of the same name", the band share. - "hence, here we are, so many years later, bringing it back to the campfire." 

Follow Flyte - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

WATCH: Declan McKenna - 'Rapture'

Absolutely loving this!! Declan McKenna recently shared a video for Rapture, one of my favourite tracks from his second record Zeros, which was released a few months back. In typical form for Declan it's a little bit bonkers and brings some much needed fun in this crazy year. The video is directed by Jocelyn Anquitil and Declan has this to say about the track and video.... 

"Rapture - though it seems to touch on the current state of the world - was born early last year, and reflects some of my thoughts on the end of the word and the threats that humanity will face in the future, and on common fears for the future. The problem we face now seems to be that for each common fear there is a contrasting view that at least appears to have wide support, I guess my worry now is how such huge numbers of people can move forward without unity under immediate threat. The new music video isn't the most serious in concept, for a song based around the end of the world in times so hard for not just myself but all those involved in making it, we had to seek some joy and humour... and we had to shoot outside in the cold." 

Restrictions permitting, Declan will be performing a short run of in-stores in February, before a tour across the UK and Europe in Spring. 

Follow Declan McKenna - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Friday 4 December 2020

WATCH: The Staves - 'Satisfied'

New The Staves yes yes yesssss!! God, I love these ladies. Satisfied is the third track to be taken from their upcoming record Good Woman (listen to the title track - it's a dream) which is due for release on 5th Feb 2021. Kicking off the year as we mean to go on with a brilliant record. Each single is excelling the last and I am super excited (could you tell?!) The harmonies!!! And the live video below, recorded at Sunbeam Studios and directed by Olivia Eames with their touring band is a total feast for the senses.

On the new track, the band explain "This started out with an acoustic guitar. The song asking its subject - will they ever be satisfied with what they have? Is it ever enough? But also urging them not to give up on themselves, and love. The song really came to life when we added the band, and gave strength and a backbone to the whole sentiment of the song (as well as a great groove!) Hope you enjoy..."

Follow The Staves - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Thursday 3 December 2020

ALBUM NEWS: MF Tomlinson - 'Strange Time'

Brilliant news incoming, folks... MF Tomlinson is back with a new tune. Aptly named, Strange Time is the title track of his debut album, due for release in 2021. With a  psychedelic video courtesy of visual artist Tomas Jefanovas, the track is his attempt to reflect the experiences of us all this year. Written in the middle of the year at his newly set up stripped-back home studio, Michael describes how "lots of things started to click [...] it was a time of immense growth as a writer. I felt a new level of freedom in the music I was making." 

"My solo project is definitely a group effort. I'm incredibly lucky to collaborate with a wide network of creatives - I like to call them the MF's because they're all insanely talented mother fuckers. They come from all over the world - Turkey, Japan, Finland, New Zealand as well as of course the UK. The recording process for this release basically involved sending out a demo, having a chat on the phone and waiting to see what came back. I was never disappointed - god bless the internet." 

On the new track in particular, he shares..."Strange Time is the phrase that you can't escape these days - it'll come up in almost every conversation you have. It's a purely autobiographical song, in a world so bizarre that it almost feels like writing in character. I was driven, almost to an unhealthy extent, to get this song out. As things shut down I felt I was sinking into a sleep, anxious, twilight world that these languorous chords seemed to capture. I just had to find the right words."

Follow MF Tomlinson - Facebook | Instagram.

INTERVIEW: Novo Amor (Dec 2020)

Happy day-after-Spotify-wrapped-day... while the streaming model certainly has all kinds of flaws for artists, it can clearly be a superb tool for music discovery. I was pleased to find that my top five artists are ones whose album I've bought this year - if you find something you like, buy the CD, the vinyl, a gig ticket (one day!) or get yourself some merch! Tell your friends if you think they'd like the music too. Follow them on social media. Your appreciation in those ways is worth far more than a stream - but stream away too, you'll find some of your favourite new artists there! 

No surprises for me to find that Novo Amor was right there at the top of my wrapped (again) - my top artist, top song, and 17 of the top 100 songs (including a bunch from his brand new record Cannot Be, Whatsoever.) I'm nothing if not a little bit predictable. With that in mind, it's really exciting to finally be sharing this interview today. Ali was kind enough to agree to answer some questions about his previous record at the start of 2019 and I finally got round to sending some over a couple of weeks back... better late than never? 

Yesterday, he premiered Please Don't Stand Up When Room Is In Motion, a documentary created by his director pal Josh Bennett, which serves as a timestamp of his musical career up to now. It's a lovely watch for fans but also just a really interesting insight into the process of making a new record (and it's put together beautifully) and expands on a lot of the things touched on here - I've embedded it a little further down, but if you can't wait that long, it's here.

Hello! Firstly, for those who haven’t seen the hundreds (almost) of posts that I’ve written about your music in the last couple of years, who is Novo Amor, and why the moniker?

Novo Amor is the artist name I gave myself back in 2012. I never wanted to put myself out there using my own name; I wanted something/someone to hide behind and something that could be ambiguous - a music project that could be adaptable as a I release more and more music, allowing myself to sit somewhere between a solo artist and a band, flowing from the sound of one to another.

Discovering you via the Birthplace video in 2018, I felt a little late to the party and as if I had some catching up to do (I think I’ve managed it..) It was clear online and at one of your Union Chapel gigs that you had a really loyal and global following. I’m intrigued to know how things started… were there any earlier iterations of the project, and had you always wanted to make music?

I’ve made music for a long time, since I was 12, when I got a game called Music 2000 on Playstation. In the years between 12 and 20 I was playing drums in bands and just producing as much music as I could. A lot of music discoveries happened in those years and it inspired me to flow between making electronic music, cinematic pieces, orchestral scores, rock and metal and the folky alternative stuff that became Novo Amor

Through my time at university I was an aspiring film score composer, scoring small films and passion projects when I could. It wasn’t until I stopped studying that, I guess, I found my voice and started to put a name to what I had been working on: a catalogue of music that was inspired by my previous year in upstate New York. 

We’re talking (via the internet) as you’ve just released your second record Cannot Be, Whatsoever into the world. Congrats! After loving Birthplace so much and spending so much time with your music over the past two years, this record still managed to surprise me and I love that. How does it feel to have the record out, particularly in such a strange time for the world and for music?

No surprise that it feels strange, as the times are. It was a very long lead into the release, sharing half the record before it was out, so it feels like it’s taken up a lot of my year and been given the attention that it needed. Sitting here in November 2020, looking back at what my year was meant to be like, is quite saddening. I’ve been very bored this year. I like to travel and accomplish things. 

Touring the Birthplace album was almost like a way of putting the record behind me, closure to move onto something else. I played about seventy shows around that album. By the time we hit the final show, it felt like a big moment, a real accomplishment for me and my touring friends to be proud of. I’m worried that I’m not going to get that from this album. It’s a shame, but I’m okay with it.

What was the recording process like? The when, the who, the how… feel free to get as musically nerdy as you’d like (the more, the better!) How did it vary from with Birthplace?

Both albums were self-produced and recorded in the same place, here in my studio in Cardiff, but they feel very different to me. Birthplace, my debut album, felt like closing a chapter on a lot of my past. The album really focused around the era where I started writing music as Novo Amor, back in 2012. Whereas Cannot Be, Whatsoever feels more focused on the present. If Birthplace is the countryside, then Cannot Be, Whatsoever is the city: it’s not where I’m from, but it’s where I’ve been for a long time now. 

The process of recording was a bit more collaborative, with more of the sounds and parts coming from other people than before, mainly my collaborator Ed Tullett who co-wrote a lot of the music with me. Making music alone, which is all I used to do, can get old pretty fast. It’s nice to share the experience with somebody else and accept other people's ideas. It definitely makes for a better outcome. The majority of the recording was still just me at home on my own, layering ideas, deleting ideas, working through the mistakes and taking it one day at a time.

On this record (and across your music more generally) are there any notable influences, musical or otherwise? As a nature-loving bookseller, I’d love to hear about any natural or literary influences…

The last time I finished a book was about five years ago. To be honest, pretty much all the influences in songwriting come from personal experience, a mental digestion of my surroundings or view of my past from my present. Growing up in deep Mid-Wales, surrounded by nature, has probably had some sort of an impact on the music I make. I’m definitely drawn to relaxing and calm music, I love ambience and texture and sounds that feel as though they could represent natural landscape and stillness. 

I think nature became a bigger visual influence than anything else. A lot of my videos are based around bodies of water and set in remote, almost otherworldly natural environments. The Birthplace video was all shot in the ocean, Terraform was shot on a volcano, Holland and Anchor were shot against the sea, From Gold - on a lake, Alps was shot on a snowy mountain in Scotland, Repeat Until Death was shot in the snowy hills of Mongolia with a tribe that live amongst reindeer. etc etc...

You know that I have a particular soft spot for No Plans (that drop… damn) but do you have a favourite track on the record? Is there one that you’re particularly excited to play live with the band, when you’re allowed to?

No Plans is definitely one that will feel great to play live. It brings me back to my rock music roots. I think Decimal or Halloween are my favourites. Decimal is one of the best songs on the record and Halloween is just a song I feel a strong personal connection to.

On that note (sort of) it’s no secret that I love how conscious you are of the environmental impact that you have as an artist. I guess I’d like to ask how important that is to you? Personally, I think you go far beyond the majority of artists - recycled and sustainable merch, less emissions when touring, reusable bottles, only asking for what you actually need on the rider, etc. With so much emphasis (rightly) on climate change and finding environmentally friendly ways of doing things, I’m finding myself drawn towards artists (and by extension, venues and festivals) who I can see making a tangible effort in this way.

Even though my choices are only making a small direct impact on the environment, I think it’s the message that’s carrying. It’s important for people to understand that there are, for most things, more than one option. The more we lean into the sustainable and ethical options, the more feasible they become for the rest of the world.

Finally, something I like to ask everybody - what are you listening to at the moment? Any new artists that you’re really excited by, or old favourites you can’t get enough of?

I’ve been listening to Magic Oneohtrix Point Never the new album by Oneohtrix Point Never. It’s the guy who scored the film Uncut Gems. Also been loving Great Grandpa, Holly Humberstone and Christian Lee Hutson.

You can (and should!) buy the new album Cannot Be, Whatsoever here

Follow Novo Amor - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Wednesday 2 December 2020

LISTEN: Karima Francis - 'Carelessness Causes Fire'

If you need something a little soothing (who doesn't right now?) then let me introduce you to the new track from Karima Francis. I'm genuinely shocked to find that I've never featured her on the blog before, but have long been distantly appreciative of her work. Loving this - Carelessness Causes Fire is her second track of the year, following up Orange Rose and last year's Shelf Life. It was written earlier in the year and recorded remotely between Karima's London base and producer Tim Carr's LA studio. Did I mention that it's really lovely? 

"The song is about working through past traumas and how this has affected my life and confidence as an artist to date. It also has a global message... When the pressure is too much an explosive eruption can happen, which can be dangerous and destructive." 

Follow Karima Francis - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

LISTEN: Bear's Den - 'Christmas, Hopefully' EP

In a flash, the new (festive) Bear's Den EP is here! While the taster, title track Christmas, Hopefully, was a little upbeat, these two tracks will wrench your heart out in the way that only BD, and Davie's songwriting and vocal delivery can do. Weeping at 1am when I realised this had been released and took a first listen? Me? Never. Berlin pt II is a direct sequel to fan favourite Berlin, a festive release back in 2016, while Favourite Patient is written about Davie's fiancée, as he explains below...

"I wrote this song about my fiancée, she's a junior doctor. The last couple of years her training has involved working everywhere from A&E to Psychiatry Wards. I wrote this song one night after she told me that her favourite patient she'd been looking after for a while had passed away while at work that day. How it affected her, really got me thinking about the emotional toll that doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals all go through every day, how crucially important they are and how this year has highlighted how much we rely on them. Given that the NHS is criminally underfunded by this Conservative Government - we as a band wanted to show our solidarity, gratitude and support especially with the cases rising going into the Winter months. All proceeds from pre-orders of the EP will be going to the fantastic NHS Charities Together who are helping to support NHS staff and volunteers during the Covid-19 Crisis." 

They've also released a limited run of EP bundles, with a potato-stamped copy of the EP, a hoodie designed by Studio Juice and a limited edition scarf made in collaboration with UK fashion brand Gresham Blake. They hope to raise over £10,000 for NHS Charities Together from the profits of the bundle sales.

Follow Bear's Den - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.