Friday 29 May 2020

LISTEN: Sunflower Thieves - 'Hide and Seek'

I've been vaguely aware of Sunflower Thieves for a year or so, as I kept seeing press photos posted online where they were wearing my favourite ethical clothing brand/item, dungarees from Lucy & Yak. My interest was peaked and I kept meaning to listen, and finally did once this track made its way into my inbox a couple of weeks ago. Hide and Seek is an ethereal, magical wonder. You can almost tangibly sense the sixteen years of friendship that the Leeds-based pair have had through those harmonies. Lovely tune - this is exactly the sort of song I need right now.

Follow Sunflower Thieves - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Thursday 28 May 2020

LISTEN: Winnie Raeder - ‘A Quiet Way'

"How is it that you remind me, of every memory I have? 

A treat for your Thursday afternoon... Winnie Raeder shared a gorgeous new track yesterday. A Quiet Way is her first release since Baby in February, and the second to be self-produced. With a couple of years worth of singles and an EP under her belt, the London based, Denmark-born artist seems to carry with her a confidence and skill that feels as if she's been doing this for far longer. She's something special, that's for sure.

Winnie describes that the new track is "really about the admiration and gratitude you can have for someone that's been a part of your life at some point. It's paying your respects to someone you hold a great amount of love for, without projecting any desires onto them. I guess it really came from the thought that some people will just have an everlasting impact on us somehow, even when they're not actively a part of our lives anymore. And I think that's lovely. It's connection without being connected somehow."

Follow Winnie Raeder - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Wednesday 27 May 2020

LISTEN: BE GOOD - Sickie (Piano Version)

You know, I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned how much I love BE GOOD here... alright, maybe once or twice.

One of my last few gigs for the foreseeable (boo) was the ever wonderful Willie J Healey at my favourite venue OMEARA back in November, with support from the BE GOOD guys. After years of adoring them, it was my first time seeing them live and they were as superb as expected, and meeting them was dreamy too, they're lovely chaps.

They've got some new (ish) music out, with a quarantine video showing vocalist Ash Cooke performing a piano version of 2019 single Sickie while bandmates Charlie, James and Patrick get on with some slightly less musical quarantine activities. Loving the cats, particularly.

There's a lovely recorded version up on Spotify and the like now too... you can hear it on the 2020 CMAT playlist, if you wish.

Follow BE GOOD - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Tuesday 26 May 2020

INTERVIEW: Pêtr Aleksänder (May 2020)

Really excited to share this! Pêtr Aleksänder just shared their Another World EP - which I wrote about on the blog here - and I caught up with one half of the project, the overwhelmingly talented Tom Hobden, to chat about the EP, a recent collaboration with RIDE and all things Pêtr! This interview has been in the works since the end of 2018, but various things got in the way of me ever getting around to writing questions, so enjoy!!!

Hello! First and foremost for those who are new to the project, who are Pêtr Aleksänder, and where does the name come from?  

Pêtr Aleksänder is an alternative modern classical band comprising of myself (Tom Hobden) and Eliot James. The name is the combination of our middle names, and a tip of the cap toward the composer-centric world of the modern classical genre. 

Sonically, you’re unlike anything else that I write about on the blog (but you do still hold the spot as the most viewed post on the site for the Bells video premiere.) How would you describe your sound?  

We mix a conventional piano quintet lineup, so piano, a couple of violins, viola and cello with electronic elements, and more recently I’ve been singing on some tracks too. Our previous output was all instrumental, which really challenges you to make the music speak on its own terms as opposed to a mood being set by a lyrical sentiment. Our first foray into song form was a song called Copy, Echo, Mirage which actually derived from an instrumental track of ours from our debut album called A Walk On The Seabed, so the progression feels very natural.

We’re here (on the internet) primarily to discuss your brand new EP Another World, which is a delight. It’s the first PA release to feature lyrics - sung, spoken and sampled, if I’m hearing correctly - and mostly taken from a C.S. Lewis passage. What’s the story behind that? 

Yea, so I was reading a book by C.S Lewis and one particular passage jumped out and hit me for six. It was the “If I find in myself a desire…” passage, and I immediately wanted to set it to music. Eliot and I worked it into Another World and the text became a trigger for other songs. 

Where did you record the EP, and, aside from the vocals, what else can we hear on it? 

We recorded the entirety of the EP at Eastcote Studios, which is where we work from and met many years ago when Eliot produced the first Noah and the Whale album there. We have a trusty crew of string players we’ve used on all Pêtr Aleksänder releases, so they were involved, alongside our modular synth rig, which bleeps and gurgles when we need it to, and that’s about it, not forgetting our creaky muted piano of course! 

You’ve also just released Clouds In The Mirror, a reimagined version of the RIDE album This Is Not A Safe Place. The response to the record has been (deservedly) really positive! How did that come about?  

So, in tandem with our own material, we’ve been releasing what we’ve called “reimaginings” of other artists’ songs: the idea is that we take just the vocal from a song and strip away everything else of the track, and build our own arrangements around the vocal melody, completely transforming the song into something quite unexpected in many cases! We’ve released our reimagines of songs by Interpol, Mumford and Sons, Banfi and Geowulf thus far. I think that the guys from RIDE discovered that was something we were doing and they got in touch, seeing if we would be interested in turning our hand to reimagining the entirety of their acclaimed 2019 album This Is Not A Safe Place. It was an exciting prospect, not least for the fact that we hadn’t given them any indication of what we were up to until the day they joined us in the studio for the string recording sessions! The first few bars of Future Love put all our minds at rest, I’m thankful to say, and now it’s been out for a couple of weeks it’s really great to see the response.

Staying with the reimagined tracks, you’ve worked with tracks from a few different artists in the past - is there anyone in particular whose work you’d love to work on? Looking through my playlists, I’m looking at the likes of Dizzy and Martha Gunn, and thinking that something with Cosmo Sheldrake, for instance, could be completely bonkers.  

I know Eliot’s been doing some work with MarthaGunn recently so that could be a channel in to something, who knows? I’ve come across Cosmo through reading your blog actually(!) and he makes really original, exciting stuff - with bassoon in it. Could be a fit. 

Lastly, what are you listening to at the moment? Anything new that you’re really excited about, or old favourites that you’re revisiting? 

I’ve been soaking up my friend Blake Mills' new record Mutable Set. It’s next-level beautiful. Also looking forward to LA Priest’s record Gene, think that comes out pretty soon. Love What Moves and Beginning.

Follow Pêtr AleksänderTwitter | Facebook | Soundcloud | Instagram.


Having only first picked up a guitar while living in university halls, what started as an emotional outlet for a student has become the long-term dream for DREUW. Taking inspiration and finding comparisons with artists such as Bon Iver and RY X, he has played shows alongside the likes of Adam Barnes and Archie Faulks, and recently moved to Leeds to further pursue a career in music. Heavy is the first new release since the move, and a beautiful tune it is.

The track was written from the viewpoint of an individual supporting the mental health of his partner, to the detriment of his own. The subject matter feels reminiscent of Bear's Den tune Hiding Bottles, which looks at the affects of addiction on those close to the person. Writing about Heavy, DREUW posits that "the attentiveness shown from society on those who suffer with mental health is hugely important, as it should be, yet we sometimes forget to consider the weight that it can place onto those closest to them. I guess it's a feeling of isolation and helplessness that is consuming the romantic partner in this instance. They're yearning for a sign that the love once there is not lost." The track feels like a timely reminder to not only care for the wellbeing of those around us, but to look out for ourselves and seek help if we need it.

Follow DREUW - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Monday 25 May 2020

WATCH: Siv Jakobsen - 'Anywhere Else'

You know when an artist or song completely floors you? I'm currently mesmerised by the latest single from Siv Jakobsen, taken from the upcoming record A Temporary Soothing (an early listen is in my inbox and I can't wait to find a moment to listen...) Siv found herself in the midst of a pre-release tour when quarantine hit, and now finds herself home with her boyfriend and her dog, with much less to do, and a delayed album release. Having inadvertently written an album perfect for the situation we find ourselves in, offering 'a temporary soothing' against stress, anxiety and feelings of isolation, the record has taken on a new context, and the latest single is a particularly poignant and timely release.

Siv explains that the track "is about anxiety. Not the panicky, all-consuming kind that often results in a severe physical reaction, but a smoldering and quiet sort of anxiety, a sort of uncomfortable buzzing in the body that never quite leaves you be. It took me many years to understand that this also is a form of anxiety. It can be relatively quiet, but it's there - always." 

"This has had me in a soft grip for a long while, and I wrote Anywhere Else before I understood what it really was that I was experiencing. I thought it was normal to feel a bubbling sense of fear almost all the time. It can make me have a hard time deciding seemingly small things like what I'm going to eat, where I'm going to go on a walk, what coffee shop I'm going to go to, what I should wear, what I should do with my day, etc." 

The new LP features work from producer Chris Bond (Ben Howard, Nick Mulvey) and mixing engineer Zach Hanson (Bon Iver, Tallest Man on Earth) - it has been rescheduled for release on August 21st, pre-order here (the merch looks lovely!!)

Follow Siv Jakobsen - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Friday 22 May 2020

LISTEN: Pêtr Aleksänder - 'Another World'

"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world." - C.S. Lewis.

I was about to open this post by remarking that, upon listening to this EP for the first time, I considered Pêtr Aleksänder to be truly, well, something else. Then I realised that the opening track is called The Something Else and that my brain was probably being led down that path, but the point still stands. This is a sublime piece of work. Consistently overwhelmed by these guys.

The Another World EP is their first release since their 2019 record Closer, Still but they have certainly been busy elsewhere. While Tom is busy playing live with Mumford & Sons and Gang of Youths, Eliot has produced the Banfi record (out today!) and they've been continuing their run of 'reimagined' tracks, which they've worked on in the past for the likes of Banfi, Geowulf and Interpol. Not content with reimagining a track, this time, they've released an entire record. Clouds In The Mirror, released a couple of weeks ago, is a reimagined version of This Is Not A Safe Place by Oxford's RIDE. And magnificent it is too.

The new EP features previously released singles The Something Else, a true to form instrumental piece of art which eases you in with piano, strings and electronics, and Copy, Echo, Mirage. The latter was the first track from the duo to feature vocals from Tom Hobden, which is a treat. It's a pulsing and powerful track, drawing you in further, before the strings at the tail end of The Real Thing really push you, mind and soul, over the edge. If you're me, at least. I adore strings. On this and closing (and title) track Another World, words from a passage of the C.S. Lewis book Mere Christianity sit atop the beautifully unique sound that the pair have created.

Follow Pêtr AleksänderTwitter | Facebook | Soundcloud | Instagram.

Thursday 21 May 2020

WATCH: Jeremy Tuplin - 'Space Magic'

Loving this! New from Jeremy Tuplin, Space Magic creeps up on you with its chilled out (psychedelic, even?) vibes before blowing your socks off with some wild guitar solo action. It's light and dreamy on the surface but listen closer and it's an intricate wonder and has me transported somewhere.... well, magical. 

Space Magic, Jeremy explains, "is about finding the fascinating in the everyday. I guess I use the term 'magic' loosely in a scientific way, and mostly focus on the very grandiose 'Space Magic', but through nature and anything from planet formation to the human mind, your neighbour's overhanging wild rose or that piece of toast you're eating for breakfast, it's all pretty magical." 

The track is the first from Jeremy's upcoming record Violet Waves, the follow-up to last year's Pink Mirror. The record is a collection of twelve tracks exploring "love, the ensuing apocalypse of our habitat and all that exists beyond" - quite a narrow subject matter then, right? 

Follow Jeremy Tuplin - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Wednesday 20 May 2020

ALBUM NEWS: Stornoway - 'The Farewell Show'

Last week saw the announcement of a live album to get excited about. To help celebrate the 10 year anniversary of their debut record Beachcomber's Windowsill this month, Stornoway are releasing The Farewell Show - recorded live at the final show of their 2017 farewell tour at Oxford's New Theatre. Being somewhat in the know (shh!) I've known about the record for a little while, and had a copy sent across a few months back. On the first opportunity I had to listen, I cried through most of it, and loved every second.

As the band wrote in an online statement "whether you missed out on this show, or were one of the lucky few who joined us on the night [...] we've handpicked a track-list that reimagines the night from soundcheck through to stage invasion." It's a beautiful combination of tracks from all three records, and captures the band's fun and energetic side alongside the quieter, unplugged tracks - really impressive in an 1800 capacity venue. The album was recorded and mixed by Oli Jacobs from the world-renowned Real World Studios, there on the night to capture the tracks and atmosphere.

The first taste of the record is Fuel Up - with the band sharing that "we hope its message will provide some comfort during this strange time." It's a stunning track, and a gorgeous performance, and a hint at the end to some of those unplugged tracks... which you'll have to wait a little longer for. (Worth the wait!)

The live album is a really special release for me. While I wasn't aware of the band from the start, I met the bassist Oli Steadman through the Oxford music scene shortly after moving there to study. I discovered the band and just how much love there was for them locally was made obvious as I squeezed into the doorway of Truck Store to 'watch' their live set for Record Store Day, shortly after Bonxie had been released. Later that year, I took photos of them playing an 'unplucked' show in a local church, and again, the love in the room was palpable.

While studying, I started to work with Oli and the band's trumpet extraordinaire Tom Hodgson (both of whom I love massively, lovely humans) at Tigmus, running things online and at shows in Oxford, and one of the major highs was us promoting this Stornoway show. In my review at the time, I wrote that "I was incredibly lucky to get to be at the venue from the afternoon, sorting out guest lists, meeting the rest of the band, watching them soundcheck from the stage and hanging around backstage. It's worth pointing out that the entire band and crew are some of the kindest, friendliest people I've had the pleasure of meeting [...] once the performance finished I witnessed the moments after the band came off stage into the green room. Emotions (and champagne) were flowing and it was such a beautiful moment to share with the band."

The Farewell Show is set for release via Cooking Vinyl on July 17th - pre-order a download copy or CD (with signed setlist) here.

Follow Stornoway - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

WATCH: JONES - 'Giving It Up'

Rewind to late 2016, when I was spending most of my university life at gigs, I caught JONES twice supporting Jack Savoretti in Southampton and London. I was struck by her impressive vocals in the live setting, and enjoyed her debut album New Skin which had just been released. Three and a half years later, she's back with the first taste of new music (with more to come across the next few months) in the shape of certified pop anthem Giving It Up.

Recorded with Mike Spencer (Rudimental, Zara Larsson) and artist/producer Fyfe (whose own debut Control soundtracked some of my time at university after I saw him performing at a Communion showcase), the track is a feel good pop tune, with JONES' vocals oozing effortlessness and confidence as always. She explains that the track "is a chocolate addiction confessional turned audio diary entry about a story where I found love in a very unexpected person... it also feels like the start of summer." Perfect listening for lounging in your garden.

The video, directed by the Bosnian-Canadian filmmaker and musician Nina Ljeti and edited by Vern Moen, places shots of JONES looking stylish as ever on a beachfront location among shots that a nature documentary would envy. Escape into it for 3 and a half minutes...

Follow JONES - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Tuesday 19 May 2020

LISTEN: Lucy Rose - 'White Car' & 'Question It All'

New music from Lucy Rose is always a reason to celebrate and she's just shared two brand new tracks, hooray!! Question It All and White Car arrive as stand-alone tracks, the first new music since the 2019 record No Words Left, which was a highlight of the year for me, musically. While the record was sonically a very delicate release, focusing on Lucy's vocals, guitar, piano and strings, the new tracks have... drums! And for the first time, Lucy played them herself - seen in the video for Question It All (more on that later...)

Having recorded both tracks in late 2019, Lucy describes that "at the time something didn't feel quite right about releasing them [...] I worried that because the songs lyrically didn't spell out exactly how I was feeling; they were more vague, almost disguising my feelings, that meant they weren't good. I was in an intense period of time musically singing the songs from the last album that sort of punched me in the stomach when I heard and played them and these two songs didn't make me feel the same."

Wanting to help fans in the current situation, but not wanting to add personal pressure and stress with a live stream, the release of the tracks is a perfect compromise. Lucy explains "I revisited these two new songs and I heard them in a completely different way [...] the abstract quality of the music really helped me escape my own thoughts and I enjoyed them as pieces of music [...] it's almost like a whole different meaning came to life." 

Question It All arrives with a lovely video collage with footage of Lucy's fans around the world - a really heartwarming look into the activities that are getting people through lockdown, and I think a nice reminder that wherever we are, we're far more similar and connected than we're sometimes led to believe. 

Lucy explains that "I thought that it would be good to pair the song with something that was uplifting in this strange time and hopefully made some people happy. I put out a post asking my fans to send me a video of something that is helping them through this time and bring them joy. Every video I have received has made me smile so much, they are so heart-warming and together have made a video that’s really meaningful to me. Making it has brought me a lot of happiness and I hope for those who are in it and watch it feel the same too.”

Follow Lucy Rose - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Monday 18 May 2020

WATCH: Flyte - 'Easy Tiger'

If you've been tuning into frontman Will's online streams (or were lucky to see them on tour last year) then you might already know the track Easy Tiger, which Flyte have just released. It's a really emotionally fraught, honest and personal track from one of the best songwriters out there at the moment, arriving in response to a painful break-up. The track started life as a 20-minute voice-note that Will recorded for himself to "buckle up and get ready for a really shit time" and was recorded over a few days in LA with producer Justin Raisen and mixed by Ali Chant

The music video for the track was directed by BAFTA-winning British director Mark Jenkin of Bullion Productions. Will explains that "when I wrote Easy Tiger I was exorcising shame, heartbreak, jealousy; almost impossible emotions to process, I almost regretted writing it. There's a darkness and an emotional brashness to Mark's work that suited the song perfectly. It would have been hard to trust anyone else with it." They worked on the video during quarantine, with Mark's use of hand-process and physically edited film working perfectly amid the current limitations on film making. 

Mark describes that "the challenge was to make something that felt amorphous - to create something that has a tactile feel to it, is a single artefact, something that feels like a found film and something that is timeless, abstract and unidentifiable in some ways."  

If you like the new track - be sure to head to the Flyte Youtube channel. While touring the US with Jade Bird last year, they hatched a plan to cover an artist from each gig location. Their cover of Helplessness Blues (Fleet Foxes) is heavenly. 

Follow Flyte - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Friday 15 May 2020

WATCH: White Tail Falls - Fake News (#5YearsOfCMAT)

It's been a bit of a crazy (but good) week.... since my post about the blog turning five, the love has been pouring in. Blogging can be quite solitary, as I sit typing away at posts about the music I love, unsure if anybody will actually read them (and I think, importantly, not really minding if they don't) so to have so much love reflected back at the blog - and by extension, my writing - is the best kind of overwhelming.

Since sharing the idea I'd had to share session style home-recorded videos from some of the blog's favourite artists a week ago, I've shared the first three videos from MF TomlinsonChristof van der Ven and China Bears on YouTube. All three are superb - watch them!! You can check out the channel and subscribe here.

Some of that love for the blog has come from Irwin Sparkes, an artist that I admire, one of my absolute favourite musical beings. About to surely blow the world away with his debut solo album, Age Of Entitlement, due out two weeks today (!!) under the moniker White Tail Falls, you might know Irwin from a couple of other bands... The Sea & I and The Hoosiers. (Me? I've never heard of them.) Between those projects, he's the artist I've seen live on stage most, and has given me so much music to enjoy over the years. When I asked if he wanted to be involved, he agreed (needing very little persuasion) and somehow found time amidst album promotion, a busy streaming schedule and baby raising duties. He's been genuinely supportive of the blog since the beginning and that - and this video - means more than I can properly express here without becoming *too* soppy.

Without more rambling.... here's the video:

The White Tail Falls track that he's performing here is Fake News, from the upcoming record. In his words it "was written about four years ago and was inspired by shock and awe at how people draw their conclusions; betting the farm on such little evidence. All the while I'm reminded of how cripplingly indecisive I can be." It's on the Fake News EP which you can listen to here.

The upcoming record is hugely personal and the process of creating it acted as a kind of complimentary therapy for Irwin, and I can't wait to hear it in full. He shared a long social media post/open letter about the record and the process recently which is worth a read.

You can (and most certainly should) pre-order the record here in all its clear vinyl, CD and download glory. There's also some copies on Rough Trade

I've been sharing the videos as I'd wanted to organise a gig to celebrate the blog's birthday. I was moved by seeing lots of grassroots venues campaigning for help on the back of the Music Venue Trust #SaveOurVenues campaign. With a barely existent local musical scene in my hometown, I've 'adopted' OMEARA and shown them some love, and I'm encouraging people to do the same, to OMEARA or their own local venue, if they're asking for support.

P.S. As I wrote this post, the blog has just passed 150000 all-time page views, which is another very crazy thing. Aaaaaaahhhhh!!!  

Follow White Tail Falls - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

LISTEN: Moscow Apartment - 'Halfway'

This is really wholesome. Excited to share a new track from the Canadian duo Moscow Apartment, who I featured way back in November 2018 with their single Orange. Mostly I was overwhelmed at how talented Bridghid and Pascale were, at just 15 and 16. Now 17 and 18, and just as talented (more?) they're sharing Halfway, produced with Guillermo Subauste and mixed by Scotty Hard

The track is quite a grown-up response to a teenage falling out between the pair, who are both best friends and a musical partnership. They explain that "our deep friendship developed as the band formed, so there were some growing pains in the first year as we figured out how to process stress, anxiety and disagreements. One day we had a big fight and Pascale wrote the beginning of our new single, as a way to ask Brighid for forgiveness. Brighid wrote the second verse and worked on the chorus, giving birth to this song." 

They go on to explain that while the situation seemed hopeless, with the added stress of needing time apart while needing to work together musically, they were "given the opportunity to play a walk-on role in Stars' play, Together, and see the intensity and deep love that a band who've been together for two decades has [...] we had to remember that we really care about each other and have each other's best interests at heart." 

The duo will be releasing more music from the upcoming Better Daughter EP soon.

Follow Moscow Apartment - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Thursday 14 May 2020

WATCH: AURORA - 'Exist For Love'

Occasionally, and increasingly so at the moment (a good sign I think) I get moments of imposter syndrome via the blog. I keep finding unreleased tracks and videos from some fairly well loved artists, and the idea of getting to listen to them before the majority of people is a little overwhelming... so, with over a million followers online between her Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts you could say that AURORA fits the bill there. I found her brand new track and video Exist For Love in my inbox yesterday and was blown away a little. Having started the year on the Oscars stage performing her hit Into the Unknown from Frozen and now being cocooned in isolation she is back, opening the third 'chapter' of her music with her first ever long song.

In a self-directed video (which is aesthetically gorgeous) we see AURORA undergoing an awakening, blossoming into a woman touched by love. She explains that "I thought I didn't have a love song within me, until one day a few years ago, when I realised what a heavenly thing love is. Yes, it makes us human, but it also makes us divine. What you're using that love for. Or who. The touch of it will leave a print in us. It may be newborn love, it might be grief. But still we dare to love. Again and again. And when we get to experience that love, I think we understand why we exist. We exist for love." 

Also worth mentioning... my interest in the track was initially very much peaked in finding out that on the track, AURORA's dreamy vocals sit atop a string arrangement from award winning composer Isobel Waller-Bridge (Fleabag, Emma). Iso is a legend and the track is stunning. Having collaborated on the track in isolation, Aurora writes that "Isobel understood and respected the spirit of the song. I'm very grateful to have her as another mother to the project." 

Follow AURORA - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Wednesday 13 May 2020

WATCH: Cj Pandit - 'Talk Talk Talk!'

I fell a little in love with Digital Love from Cj Pandit a couple of months back. It's more relevant than ever now and I'm not entirely over the lyric "I'm an 8-bit version of myself." Properly genius that. I'm delighted that he's back with a brand new track and a perfectly simple but effective video (complete with dancing!) Talk Talk Talk! has been stuck in my head constantly for days and I've headed towards it every time I've opened Spotify recently. Really digging this one.

Talking about the track, he explains that "it's me trying to understand what it means to feel alone in a group of people, when everything gets a little overwhelming, and the idea that it's ok to just disappear into the night. Also it's got a big piano solo that I'd hope Bruce Hornsby would be proud of." 

Follow Cj Pandit - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Monday 11 May 2020

INTERVIEW: Hailaker (May 2020)

Over the moon to be sharing this!! The lovely Hailaker shared their second record Holding a couple of weeks back via Lowswimmer, the somewhat surprise (but a very welcome surprise) follow-up to the self-titled record they released last year. They're one of my favourite discoveries of the last couple of years and very kindly agreed to answer some questions about the project and album for me. The results of an email chat with Jemima are below... happy reading!

Also: you should most definitely get the new album (and the debut) via Bandcamp here.

Hello! Before we go on, for those who are new to the project (and have lots of exciting music to discover, once they’ve finished reading this interview) we should introduce you! Who exactly are Hailaker? Or perhaps more accurately, what is Hailaker? 

Hailaker is a project that makes music! We’re mostly Ed Tullett and Jemima Coulter, but sometimes Ali Lacey and Dave Huntriss too... and also whoever we can get our hands on to play instruments and sing backing vocals. All our artwork is done by Mike Roth who lives in Portland, he’s been with us since the beginning so he’s an important part of the project as well.

Where do we find you isolating? And (most important question of all, I think) do you have any pets with you? Definitely not asking that because I haven’t got any pets and have to settle for staring longingly at my neighbours' dogs over the garden fence… 

I’m (Jemima) in Bristol and Ed’s in Cardiff. Nope no pets... yet - I think we’re getting a cat next week? And there’s slugs eating the lettuces- don’t forget the little guys!

After first hearing some of your music playing in between sets at a Novo Amor show towards the end of 2018, Hailaker was one of my favourite discoveries of 2019 and the self-titled album firmly earned itself a spot in my albums of the year list. How have you found the response to the record, and how was getting to play some shows for it? 

Everyone’s said really lovely things about it! I’ve been blown away by people and their messages on Instagram. I don’t really know how it compares to what happens when anyone else releases music, but I guess that’s not the point. It’s been amazing. The shows were great! I think we were a bit unsure about how it would translate live (especially with all the ‘bits’ in the first record) but it really worked, was great to play to people, who nearly all hadn’t heard our music before, great to spend loads of time in the car together, of course. Kind of dreamy to play with American Football as well, made us very excited for the future and hopefully playing bigger venues.

The reason we’re here (on the internet, where we all live now) is that you’ve just, with only a couple of weeks warning, released your second album Holding into the world. Was the release planned for now or an isolation treat for fans? It’s certainly a huge treat either way! 

It was planned for now! It just so happened that isolation kicked in a month before.

In press for the first record, you described it as “the narrative of mine and Ed’s friendship first and foremost, since it meant we went from being strangers to spending weeks writing together.” Where does the new record find you, in the narrative of the project, and thematically? 

That’s a good question. I think it found us (we started writing these songs end of 2017 ? ) wanting to explore songwriting… writing real songy-songs, that you could pretty much just sing into the air and they’d hold their own. That was what we were interested in doing. Thematically its a bit more earthy than the previous record, we talk about things that are a bit more tangible and that was exciting for us as well, finding a new lyrical voice I guess. And we talk about people moving away and apart, finding places to live, feeling mediocre compared to friends... for me it almost systematically goes through all of the things that you encounter when you fall out of education/structure and suddenly realise that you’re supposed to be an adult but don’t really know how, so you just look around you to see what everyone else is doing and hope that no one notices that you’re very much out of your depth.

Yours is a largely collaborative project and one that is free from self-imposed restrictions on genre and style, and I love that. With that in mind, what is the creative process like on a Hailaker record? Where did Holding come into being? 

We started writing it a few months after we’d finished the writing for Hailaker but I think we were still producing and mixing it. We’d write ideas when we were together and needing a break from finishing the first record. Then we took all these ideas to a little house in Swanage and wrote lyrics and some more songs and hung out. And then in September 2018 we went and stayed at Ali’s for 3 weeks and recorded everything. So that’s really where Holding came into being.

I think because we don’t feel too concerned about being consistent, at least not over albums anyway, we just write with the ideas that we have at the time. If it’s an idea that we both like but we don’t feel like it fits with what we’re working on at the moment, we put it away and say ‘oh maybe this can be for the third record, or for that pop EP that we might do, or that minimalist piano project that we were talking about’. But I think it’s important to say that Ed and I are both pretty particular about stuff, if one of us doesn’t like something then it’s unlikely we’ll back down until it’s changed, so that’s really where the honing in of ideas comes. Finding ideas that we both really really like is when we know that we’ve got something good.

Were there any particular influences - musical or otherwise on this record? 

Not intentionally I don’t think… we both love the band Pinegrove and their sound had a big impact, but also the song By the Time was kind of modelled on the sound of the The Beach Boys, so a whole mix. We were just thinking about how to make something that could be played as a four-piece band. 

Finally… aside from the gorgeous new ambient tunes from your touring pal Gia Margaret, what is in your headphones at the moment? Anything new and exciting that you’re listening to, or old favourites that are getting you through? 

Ah Gia’s ambient stuff is so so good! For me it’s mostly podcasts at the moment, I’m not very good at listening to music when I’m working on music. But if I do - Great Grandpa’s album Four of Arrows is great, Squirrel Flower always and Happyness. There’s this website called Radio Garden where you can tune into radio all over the world, which I recommend if you feel like a switch up.

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Saturday 9 May 2020

WATCH: The Academic - 'Anything Could Happen'

This one has been sitting in my inbox for a few weeks now (blog perks) and I'm really excited that it's finally out in the world! Scoring a last minute premiere on BBC Radio 1 from Annie Mac a couple of nights ago, the track is Anything Could Happen from The Academic. They've shared a video for the track expertly directed by Hope Kemp and Ronan Corrigan - with the lockdown putting a spanner in the works of a self-proclaimed 'really fancy' music video, they turned to fans (specifically couples) in lockdown across the globe, together and apart, and the result is overwhelmingly cute.

The indie four-piece have already made a huge impact in their home country of Ireland, scoring a Number 1 album over there with Tales From The Backseat. Not content with riding the airwaves at home, they're beginning to really make an impression further afield, appeasing an ever present desire for good guitar music, which finds itself somewhere between inspirations Franz Ferdinand, The Strokes and Vampire Weekend. A sold out Scala show under their belts, they've got Electric Ballroom pencilled in just as soon as they can play it. The impression I get is that, locally, there's a real buzz and excitement around the band, the pride that a homegrown group are on the verge of exploding into the mainstream elsewhere. Deservedly so.

Talking of blog perks, I've just snuck a listen to the next track from the upcoming EP and it's pretty good... you'll want to keep track of these guys.

Follow The Academic - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Thursday 7 May 2020

Five years of cool music and things...

Five years!

This little blog of mine has existed for five years today. I'd hoped to arrange a gig or something to come together to celebrate but the world had other ideas. A birthday in lockdown wasn't quite what I had in mind for the blog but I'm trying to make the best of it. If you don't have time to read this whole post (more rambling from me... surely not?!) the short version is that if you've read anything that I've written over the years, or listened to any of my recommendations, you're great and you've got my endless gratitude. I've honestly surprised myself sticking at it for this long, I sort of fell into blogging accidentally and I still don't entirely believe that all of the page views aren't somehow spambots.

So if you're a real person and you really read the blog: thanks!

If you're a spambot, welcome, and thanks: you make my view count look great!

(Skip to the end for an exciting thing...!)

I should probably first explain... if you're reading this and you glance across to the post archive, you might notice that there are posts dating back to late 2012.

The blog is kind of like royalty with two birthdays. Back then, a very basic version of the site you're on today existed over on Tumblr. I had a personal Tumblr account (for sharing Doctor Who and Sherlock content, mostly) and made a page where I could share music that I enjoyed. I'd realised I was getting a kick out of recommending music to my school friends, and was spending a lot of time online - it made sense to combine the two! I think the URL on Tumblr cycled through some song lyrics and something like 'just good tunes' before I settled on coolmusicandthings. I'm not sure if somebody suggested it, of if I (very unimaginatively) came up with it. And I'm not entirely sure what the 'things' are, still. I've often thought about rebranding and renaming the blog over the years but every time I do, I've found that I can't bring myself to. Most music blog names don't make complete sense, right? And I'd started to build an identity and community around the name and it didn't feel worth the hassle of changing it.

With my Tumblr page, I'm pretty sure that I felt like I was the absolute zenith of music news. In reality, I was just sharing new music videos and sessions from the artists that I loved and there was very little writing involved. The music did the talking. But I'd started something, and started myself along the path of becoming... less a music reviewer, more a professional music fan. And sometime fangirl.

Towards the end of my first year at university in Oxford, just a few weeks after the inimitable Noah and the Whale had announced that they were parting ways, I took myself to see a show in Camden headlined by Matt Owens and the Delusional Vanity Project, Matt being the bassist of NATW. It was essentially a club night, their set was quite late and it was really rowdy, and I was out of my depth. Having only ever seen NATW playing a support set in an arena I was suddenly a few metres from three members of the band, as Tom Hobden and Michael Petulla, the band's violinist and drummer, were part of Matt's band. Being quite a relaxed show I found the opportunity to introduce myself to the guys outside. Getting a little caught up in the moment, I casually informed Matt that I had a music blog and he handed me a copy of his solo album to review.

In the film adaptation of the history of the blog, this is the point where time would stop and the narrator points out that this was the precise moment that kickstarted me into turning the blog into the site that it is today. I remember very vividly deciding that if people might be interested in my writing, I should make a go of it. So the next day in my flat in Oxford, I started plotting a relaunch of the blog. Maybe I was in it for the free CDs.

I spent a few days setting up my account on Blogger, which I'd used a little in the past for school projects, designed a layout and purchased a URL so that I might seem a little bit professional. I decided to copy across all of my existing posts (about 100) from Tumblr and backdated them all (hence the posts going back to 2012 on this site). The older posts aren't great, but they were part of the story, where it had all started, and it was a little less daunting then starting entirely from scratch.

Once the site was ready, I headed to my Facebook page on 7th May 2015 and announced... 

EXCITING NEWS! I've decided to relaunch my music blog 'cool music and things' over on blogger (bought a domain and everything).
I originally set up the blog a couple of years ago as I found myself constantly recommending music to everyone I know and it allowed me to do this on a bigger scale. I've moved across most of the old posts, and will be trying to update it regularly with recommendations, reviews and the like.  
I really want to make something of this, to grow my audience and mostly to share the music that I love with as many people as I can.
After that first gig, I saw Matt and the other NATW guys at a few small-ish shows for various projects they were working on. They were always super welcoming, letting me hang out with them as I was usually at the shows alone. I probably didn't realise at the time that the blog had essentially been my way in, a foot in the door to hanging out with some of my favourite musicians as if that was something I was completely used to. (It happens more and more and is still crazy.) To have those guys be early 'fans' of the blog and encouraging me to write more was an honour and made me feel like it was something that I should carry on with. They were proper music people, after all.

It took about ten months to reach the first real milestone on the site. Ten thousand page views. I remember that completely blowing my mind. It's such a big number?! A few months later, the page reached twenty thousand. Things were growing. As I write this post, the view count is gradually trickling towards one hundred and fifty thousand. I've come to realise that statistics are probably skewed quite a bit, I'll probably never understand how, but either that or I'm particularly famous in the Middle East. It's still a really big number though, so I'm taking the win.

I set up social media accounts so that I could share the posts once I'd written them, and started to forge a little community around the site. Again, I try not to worry too much about followers and likes (to be honest - most of the likes on the Facebook page are friends who have probably forgotten me begging them to like it in the early days) but it's lovely to have a little patch of the internet where I can talk to likeminded people and ramble about how great music is.

I made an email address for the blog early on so that people could submit music for me to write about. Currently, I get somewhere around 120 submissions a week. I listen to everything (albeit sometimes not for very long) and it's a genuinely a privilege to hear so much new music. Even if it is massively overwhelming most of the time. With just me writing posts and only a handful of posts each week, the majority of submissions don't make it onto the blog - so you've got to conclude that those that do have made it through some tough competition. I've made some really exciting discoveries in that inbox - BE GOOD and Fil Bo Riva are examples of a couple of artists I first found through press releases and completely adore now. The blog remains as much a discovery tool for myself as anything.

It's essentially all an elaborate attempt for me to find new music to listen to, and I've been lucky to have been sent lots of exciting streams over the years of unreleased albums. Sneak previews of albums from Bombay Bicycle Club, Public Service Broadcasting, Jack Savoretti, Geowulf, Benedict Benjamin and lots more. The best perks. Big imposter syndrome kicks in when I get to listen to those. Without doubt, one of the most exciting albums to find its way into my inbox was last February, when the new Bear's Den record arrived around two months before it was due to be released. Usually, an album will sit in my inbox and I'll procrastinate listening and reviewing, but this was different.

The band are a huge favourite of mine, and the album arrived into my inbox when I was going through a difficult time. If you know me personally or followed the blog then, you'll probably know that around that time, I lost a job I loved when the HMV store I worked at closed suddenly. It was a really crap time, suddenly losing the day-to-day companionship of my colleagues and wanting desperately to help them. It felt like a period of grief. I was fighting to get the decision overturned, suddenly finding myself as some kind of spokesperson for my colleagues as I spoke to local news outlets. Music helped, as it so often does. I wasn't writing much on the blog at the time as all my energy was going into applying for jobs and campaigning, but the new Bear's Den album arrived and I listened a lot, and it helped. As much as I wanted to thank the band for that, it was also testament to one of my favourite (shhh!) PR agencies, Stay Loose. Knowing what had happened, Ellie offered me guest list to any of their upcoming shows, knowing how much I loved escaping to gigs.

I don't think I'd ever anticipated making friends through the blog when I first started rambling on Tumblr, but I really have, between all the PR people, artists, labels and fellow music fans. The blog is far cooler than I am and that helps.

Another of the perks of running the blog is getting offered tickets to some pretty cool shows and festivals in exchange for a post rambling about them. The idea of being on the guest list for a show at  the actual Royal Albert Hall a couple of years back (Nick Mulvey - dreamy) is a little bewildering. Getting asked "which publication are you with?" at Citadel Festival last year and having to offer up the name of my little 'publication' will forever go down as a highlight of blogging.

Alright. I've probably rambled far more than enough! Essentially, I consider this blog to be my little corner of the internet where I can attempt to put my English degree to good use and spread the word, and a lot of love, for my favourite artists.

With so many submissions, I've been asked about other people writing for the blog at times - one of my favourite things is when PR emails refer to "the team" or an artist replies to a social media post with "thanks guys!" I like the idea that this seems such a well oiled machine that it must be a group of people. While it would probably help get more content out, I selfishly want to keep hold of the blog. With every bit of content being written by me, I've got the freedom to make everything personal. Posts will usually reference where I discovered the artists or a gig that I've seen them at. I like to think that its a kind of USP, a bit of personality shining through the writing. The blog essentially reads as a stream of consciousness thread about my favourite music. It's basically my diary.

Aaaaaand. Thing incoming! Before all of this, as I mentioned above, I'd started dreaming up a gig to celebrate the blog's birthday. I'd pretty much already been to the gig in my head... some of my favourite artists in one of my favourite venues, raising money for charity. Obviously those plans were scuppered but I'm still hopeful that after all of this is over I might get to organise something. CMAT club nights, anybody... watch this space? But for now! If you're on Youtube, you probably want to subscribe to this channel

It's still a slight work in progress as most of this is new to me, but I decided that I still wanted to do something to celebrate the blog's anniversary and to bring together some of the artists that I love - and blog about - most. A few of my favourite musicians kindly agreed to help (all wildly overwhelming if I'm honest) and over the next week or two (or more, like I said - work in progress) I'll be uploading exclusive content to the channel, mostly in the form of home recordings. I'll be uploading the first video later today - it's superb and I'm really excited to share it with you!

In exchange for the videos, it would mean the world if I could draw your attention and your support to the #SaveOurVenues campaign from the Music Venue Trust. Without sufficient support, hundreds of grassroots venues in the UK, many of which already faced pressures before the pandemic, face the risk of never re-opening. The MVT has set up a nationwide campaign offering support to these venues. Look to your local venues (MVT has a handy map on their site) and offer them a helping hand if you can.

Personally, I'm pinning all the love and support I can muster (and asking for you to do the same, if you can) onto Omeara. Opening in 2016, it's a reasonably new venue, part of a lovely community in London Bridge with adjoining eateries and a gallery area adjacent to the gig space. It's quickly become one of my favourite places to see live music, a really gorgeous room which is intimate without feeling too small. It's hosted debut London shows from the likes of Maggie Rogers, Dermot Kennedy and Sam Fender.

Founder Ben Lovett (keyboardist of Mumford & Sons and co-founder of the Communion Music label - which I sometimes feel like this blog is essentially a fan blog for as I adore so much of their output) says on their fundraising page:

Your donations will be used to help us take care of people. For us, people are everything - it's people on the stage singing their hearts out, it's people in the pit singing back to them, it's people at the door keeping you safe and it's people behind the bar keeping you refreshed. We are grateful for the support from the government but the current schemes are contributive rather than wholesale in their support and we are burning through cash reserves at an alarming rate. 
Depending on when we can reopen, currently slated as June, and whether we can prevent the closure of our venue, everything above the amount we need will be donated to the Music Venue Trust GMV Crisis Fund to protect other venues just like ours, right across the country. There will be no surplus or profit retained by Omeara and we believe in supporting all venues as much as we possibly can. It's more people looking after people hoping to give people an amazing experience again one day. 
We all thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the support.

You can support OMEARA here and it'll mean the world to me if you do. Consider it your birthday gift to the blog.

Check out the Music Venue Trust site here to view their main fundraiser and find a venue local to you - I'd love it if you let me know on Twitter if you donate to a venue!

Well: here's to 5 more years of blogging!!

Thanks a million for all the support. Means the world.

Meg x

Wednesday 6 May 2020

ALBUM NEWS: Gia Margaret - 'Mia Gargaret'

Album news today (well, it's over a week old but who is counting!) from Chicago singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Gia Margaret. She released her stunning debut record There's Always Glimmer back in 2018, earning herself a loyal following in the process. Touring around the world, a couple of tracks with Novo Amor and a couple of years later, she's back with the follow-up. It's not quite what you might expect. Mia Gargaret (isn't that a brill name?!) is due on June 12th, and is the result of Gia finding herself suddenly without the use of her primary instrument, her voice.

She explains that "after having to cancel tours because of illness, I was unable to sing for nearly half of the year. This left me feeling like a shell of myself, so I turned to my synthesiser for comfort. 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." The resulting tracks are a really timely reminder to find a bit of light in the darkness, of the healing power of music - and first listens apathy and body are superb. As you might notice when listening, apathy includes an excerpt from Gia's actual vocal therapy exercises, while body samples a lecture from Alan Watts, the British philosopher. 

Follow Gia Margaret - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Tuesday 5 May 2020

LISTEN: Anna Leone - 'Wondering'

Tuesday treats for you in the form of the first new music from Anna Leone since her gorgeous debut EP Wandered Away. I caught Anna opening for Novo Amor a few months after it was released in 2018 and was a little blown away. New track Wondering is produced by Paul Butler and released via AllPoints/Half Awake. The track follows Anna's recent win at the 2020 Music Moves Talent Awards

Speaking about the track, Anna says "I’ve been going back and forth recently trying to decide whether I should start releasing new songs. My music is very much about isolation and being disconnected, and I’ve been kind of questioning if that‘s the energy I should put out into the world right now. I think ultimately though, the songs are about isolation but they’re also about healing, and I can only hope that that’s what people take away from them. I’ve been dealing with depression and anxiety for a long time and this album is sort of the culmination of all those feelings. I still can’t listen to it all the way through without crying, which is painful but also a good thing, I think. It feels cathartic."

Follow Anna Leone - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.