Monday 30 November 2020

LISTEN: bb sway - 'habits'

I first heard bb sway back in September with her single I Found Out When the Day Had Come (and the particularly joyous music video that came with it, dancing with cows included) but never got round to sharing it here. Attempting to rectify that with her new single habits, which I'm channelling towards your speakers & hearts now... in her trademark style, using bedroom pop to deliver relatable and heartfelt tunes, it's catchy but meaningful. Love this! 

On the track, she shares "I wrote habits to help me with my mental health. When depression hits (at the time, it was SAD in particular), I think it's important to stay active, and be proactive in doing things that keep the mind and body stimulated. Writing 'habits' (and listening to it) helped me stay positive and remember that sad periods don't last forever, and there are things I can do to help myself!" 

Follow bb sway - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Friday 27 November 2020

WATCH: MarthaGunn - 'Nowhere To Run'

It's no secret that I'm a big MarthaGunn fan and I'm loving their new track & video! From their debut single Heaven (which was recently re-released), early shows at Bushstock and Notting Hill Arts Club and even booking them to play a showcase at WOMAD Festival a couple of years back (madness!) I've loved watching them grow and discover their groove. The five-piece's friendship screams through the music, they're a really special group. Nowhere To Run is the follow-up to their recent EP Caught Up & Confused. 

Talking about the track, Abi shares "I am absolutely obsessed with all things love, it's just all I write about [...] it's beautiful and heartbreaking how lives can intertwine and fall apart. I think about lives as lines being drawn - sometimes you are parallel, and then you divert, maybe you crossover again, maybe you don't." 

"'I push you away then I get sad when you don't stay' - this lyric sums it up. Living far away from someone you love is not easy. I thought for a long time that it would be easier to ignore my feelings and hope that one day our paths would cross again. We live different lives, and I never wanted to get in the way of each other's dreams. But now I've realised, the only time we have is now, so if you love someone, just go and fucking tell them before you lose them forever."

Follow MarthaGunn - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Thursday 26 November 2020

LISTEN: Clara Mann - 'I Didn't Know You Were Leaving Today'

I've been utilising a week away from work on furlough, stuck at home, trying to be productive here... you might have noticed. Three two-post days in a row is probably a new record! I'm loving sharing so many new artists in particular - it's exciting to think this might be the first place that somebody hears an artist who goes on to become a favourite. Here's hoping! Another debut single for you today, this time from Bristolian singer-songwriter Clara Mann via Sad Club Records

Now, go with me here - listening to this track transported me to the feeling of a Sofar Sounds show. Not knowing much about the artist you're about to hear, but being confident that they're probably going to be superb. The intimacy and delicacy of the performance and the ensuing shock that something could truly be that beautiful. 

The track was produced by Benjamin Spike-Saunders and mastered by Alice Western. On the track, Clara plays piano, guitar and vocals, with additional instrumentation from Marika-Tyler Clark (fiddle) and Felix M-B (harmonium, guitar). Recorded and mixed remotely due to the virus, the home-grown sense seeps through the track, which came to life between Clara and Ben's respective bedrooms. On recording it, Clara comments "it was mostly just me and my mic at my desk, willing the neighbours to keep quiet through the takes. It was okay - just a bit lonely at times!" 

Follow Clara Mann - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Wednesday 25 November 2020

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

To be brutally honest... any Christmas music arriving in my inbox at the moment is, on the whole, going in the trash. (Sorry!) Except this. Favouritism is definitely at play here and I have absolutely no shame about it. My lovely faves Bear's Den have just shared new track Christmas, Hopefully - the title track of their upcoming EP, due on 1st December via Communion Records. They're no strangers to a festive release, 2016 single Berlin is one of their most streamed songs on Spotify (and the first live performance is my most viewed Youtube video... an equally exciting accolade for them). Last year they shared the Only Son of the Falling Snow EP and played a stunning charity gig in a church to celebrate the release. 

Alongside the beautiful title track, the new EP features Favourite Patient, a track written about Davie's fiancĂ©, a doctor who has, unsurprisingly, been affected dramatically by the events of the year (this also happens to be the first BD track that Davie has played piano on!) The final track is Berlin Pt II, a sequel to the original. Yesssss! More song sequels please!

On the release, Davie writes - "it's been an incredibly strange and difficult year for all of us. What Christmas stands for couldn't be more at odds with the idea of lockdown or a tier system and the idea of potentially not being able to share that time with friends and family. Christmas can also be quite a challenging and difficult time of year for a lot of people even when there isn't a pandemic going on. I wanted to talk about my thought processes and feelings around this time of year and some of the difficulties and anxieties that I have experienced in the past and this year. The central lyric is 'I hope you find some peace of mind, this Christmas, hopefully' - I think that line pretty much sums the song up. Hopefully we can all be together this Christmas but if not hopefully we can find some happiness and hope in spite of all the shitty challenges this year continues to present." 

As a last note - I loved Davie's interview for GIGWISE which went live yesterday here - read it!

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

WATCH: Arlo Parks - 'Caroline'

If you're not on the Arlo Parks train yet, don't worry - there's still time. You've got a couple of months to catch up before her debut record Collapsed In Sunbeams releases on Transgressive Records on 29th January. She's been one of my favourite discoveries of the year and if I had a "ones to watch" list for next year, she'd top it. I am so so excited for the record and wishing away the days until it arrives. 

Premiering on Monday night as Annie Mac's Hottest Record on BBC Radio 1, new track Caroline gives another delectable taste of the record. On the track, Arlo comments "Caroline is an exercise in people watching and seeing situations unfold without context. It's an exploration of how something once full of healthy passion can dissolve in an instant." 

Follow Arlo Parks - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Tuesday 24 November 2020

LISTEN: Melin Melyn - 'Rebecca'

I've been anxious to share this one for a couple of weeks - Welsh four-piece Melin Melyn have just launched themselves, slightly raucously, with new single Rebecca. The energy that often only a live performance can deliver is in every second of this track, from the truly dance-able guitars and punchy keys to the rowdy vocals and even a saxophone! It'll leave you feeling invigorated. If you like this one - their debut single sees them singing in Welsh, check out Mwydrn here

Over to the band for an incredible story from history to explain the lyrical meaning, here's frontman Gruff - "I've always been fascinated by the tales of the Rebecca Riots. It was when local Welsh farmers in the 1800s took to smashing up the toll gates put up by rich landowners, whilst being dressed in women's clothes screaming the name Rebecca. That incredulity and rage still exists today, rising day by day due to the rich feeding off the poor... perhaps I should get my skirt..."

Follow Melin Melyn - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

LISTEN: Smoothboi Ezra - 'My Own Person'

"I wanna blend into the background, I wanna be nobody and never make a sound..." 

Painfully relatable song incoming from Smoothboi Ezra... the latest offering from the 18-year-old songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer from Greystones in Ireland is a perfectly contemporary look at struggling with your identity. Of their songwriting process, Ezra shares that "I don't know what a song means when I'm writing it. I don't make a plan. I find myself basically doing a brain dump [...] when I finish a song I let go of it, it's not mine anymore and I forget it. A lot of the time I'll have to teach myself the song again before a live show." With over two hundred thousand monthly listeners on Spotify off the back of completely independent releases, I'd say things are going pretty well...

On the new track, they explain that "I wrote this song when I was 16. I had one or two outfits I would interchange and I wore the same grubby pair of shoes every day. They were replicas of a previous grubby pair I wore when I was 14 and 15. The song is about not being happy but not being able to do anything about it."


Follow Smoothboi Ezra - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Monday 23 November 2020

LISTEN: Marie Bashiru - 'Joyride'

Time for a debut track, and a really lovely one at that. Marie Bashiru shared Joyride a couple of weeks back and it's been circling round my head a lot since. Released via Common Language, a new label established by songwriter/producer Steph Marziano, this is a truly impressive and stand-out debut. It's soulful, you can't help but feel warmed up inside on listening. I've got it on repeat currently, with that recurring "we'll be alright" injecting a little bit of hope. 

Marie explains "Joyride is a song written in the spirit and in homage to my West African background. It takes you on a journey of adventure, colour and new beginnings in the midst of challenge and uncertainty. Imagined with a backdrop of earthen and off-the-beaten paths, dry heat and low wide expansive skies, it challenges you to enjoy the ride and not forget the journey to the destination."

Follow Marie Bashiru - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

LISTEN: HANYA - 'Monochrome'

As I sit down to type this, I'm trying to hear over the sound of pieces of our kitchen ceiling falling to the ground.... intentionally, that is, thanks to some noisy workmen. The chaos has pointed me towards dreamy soundscapes for a bit of peace, and this new HANYA track Monochrome is doing the trick. They're a shoegaze-y quartet from Brighton with a couple of EPs under their belts which I'm just having a deep dive into and digging. Frontwoman Heather Sheret's vocals are dreamy on this new tune, I feel somewhat transported by it...

Talking on the track, the band share that "with a break from live shows, each of us had a chance to reinvigorate our songwriting. It's difficult when you're always rehearsing for the next show to really mess around and make music with no real direction. 'Monochrome' started off this way, a hazy-pop ballad written on a midi-keyboard. Now we're all back together, we fleshed out the chaos together and developed the track's full dream-pop potential. It's a song about re-connection with what makes you happy, taking pleasure from the little things." 

Follow HANYA - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Friday 20 November 2020

EP NEWS: Lizzie Reid - 'Cubicle'

About a month after sharing her last single Seamless (which has been circulating through my headphones and my heart ever since) I'm delighted to share news from Lizzie Reid. She's just announced her debut EP Cubicle, set for release via 7476 on January 22nd, with new single Always Else. It's gorgeous. If there's a Laura Marling esque gap in your life/speakers, the intimacy and beauty of Lizzie's music, touching on themes of love, loss and heartbreak, can certainly fill it and then some. 

Speaking about the new track Lizzie explains that "this song is about insecurity. Feeling like you're not quite up to it. It's about obsessing with the idea of perfection and worth - whether that be about your physical appearance, your personality or social identity."

Managing to squeeze in the recording before lockdown hit, Lizzie created the EP with producer Oli Barton-Wood at her Glasgow home back in March. He travelled to Scotland with a case of recording equipment and they finished the EP just in time. Of the collection of tracks, Lizzie shares that "it is really important to me that I got to make something with people I care about and that we created something amazing and genuine." 

Follow Lizzie Reid - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Thursday 19 November 2020

WATCH: Premium Leisure - 'Ready For Forever'

A couple of months back, Oxford's Premium Leisure called on us to "do whatever makes you feel good" with Remedies, his first new track in a couple of years. Luckily, listening to Premium Leisure makes me feel good... and there was a brand new tune out a couple of days ago. PL is the project of Chris Barker, guitarist with Willie J Healey, and the new track features WJH drummer Mike Monaghan, bassist Harry Deacon and BE GOOD frontman Ash Cooke. I'm really excited by this project and label and can't wait for more. Those guitars... yes. 

On the new track, Chris explains "the song describes characters drifting about without any burdens or liability; asking me to give up the guilty conscience and loosen up."

Grab your digital copy of Ready for Forever on Bandcamp here.

Follow Premium Leisure - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Wednesday 18 November 2020

WATCH: Banji - 'Listen'

If it's a juicy ear-worm you're after, then look no further than Dutch 4-piece Banji and their debut single Listen. Gloriously named because you should most certainly do just that. Oh to be at a gig enjoying this one live.... They're making waves in their native Netherlands, with a slot supporting Belgian icons Balthazar and a Vampire Weekend after-part set under their belts. Rightly so - I'm loving this and can't wait to hear more. 

The track's video, created by Pasqual Amade, makes it clear that the band don't take themselves too seriously, treading the line between 'bratty and endearing' carefully amidst the food fights and family arguments. As the band explain... "the instrumental to this track felt very lively and energetic. There are a lot of little elements hidden in the music, almost as if they're constantly trying to talk through each other. I took that concept and pictured a couple sitting at a dinner table. 'Listen' ended up being a song about favouring child-like stubbornness over maturity. The inability to filter thoughts, and instead, trying to talk your way out. It's basically me saying to myself 'things would be a lot easier if you just listened'."

Follow Banji - Facebook | Instagram.

Tuesday 17 November 2020

EP NEWS: Francis of Delirium - 'Wading'

Loving this. Francis of Delirium burst into the world with Quit Fucking Around earlier this year, releasing their debut EP All Change to much acclaim. The duo, made up of 19 year-old Jana Bahrich and collaborator Chris Hewett, who are Canadian-American in origin and Luxembourg-based, have just announced their second EP, Wading, due in February. Their debut EP saw Jana searching for identity and finding it in the relationships with her friends and family and her passion in connecting with strangers through performance. The follow-up continues this exploration - what happens when these connections aren't available to us? Very much a 2020 problem. 

On lead single Lakes, Jana comments "the main idea in Lakes is that we are all fed by other people (or other "rivers") to eventually form who we are, one large lake fed by other water streams, one community. Left emptied and lost, you begin to lose your sense of self. Your anchor was the people around you, and now you're tied to nothing, floating around in a space alone." 

Following from being songwriter, videographer and artwork creator on All Change, the new EP sees Jana add co-producer to that list. Influences on production included the recent albums from Bon IverDua Lipa and Caroline Polachek, with Jana waking up early to listen to an album on her balcony each day (I admire the ability and commitment to do this!)

Follow Francis of Delirium - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Monday 16 November 2020

WATCH: Maja Lena - 'Avalanche'

Feeling like you've stumbled across a beautiful song almost by accident is always a joy, right? I saw a couple of posts about this track early last week, namely from Emma Gatrill who had played clarinet on it. She's brilliant so I decided to give it a quick listen, it'd be rude not to, surely? Correct, it's a stunner. Avalanche is the debut solo track from Maja Lena, but by no means her first venture out into the musical world. Maja is the solo moniker and Swedish name of Marianne Parrish, formerly of alt-folk band Low Chimes. Recorded alongside and produced by former bandmate Rob Pemberton at his home studio in Stroud, this track sets Marianne along her way, solo but in comfortable surroundings. 

In the track, the metaphor of an unsuccessful mountain expedition is used to reflect an era in life coming to an end. Marianne details: "Avalanche tells a short albeit arduous tale of expectations vs reality. A long life lesson in this is mirrored in a failed hike up a mountain in the Lake District which inspired the song, involving a giant knee-deep bog and a thunderstorm. It is also about learning to accept things how they've turned out and having to let go of our mind pictures." Directed by Tom Jacob, the music video (below) follows Marianne's journey towards the peak, showing the vast landscape interspersed with super-8 shots from Marianne's own point of view.

Follow Maja Lena - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Friday 13 November 2020

LISTEN: Dizzy - 'Basement Covers'

It's new Dizzy day! Kind of. Almost. Really excited to share their superb new Basement Covers EP. Following on from their sophomore record The Sun and Her Scorch which was released earlier this year, they're back with an EP of covers recorded through quarantine. With covers of tracks by The National, Talking Heads and Sylvan Esso already out in the world, the four-track EP is today completed with its crowning glory, their cover of Britney Spears' Lucky.  

I absolutely adore Dizzy frontwoman Katie's quote on choosing a Britney track to cover - "we chose to cover Lucky by Britney because it's a great song, the same way I think all of the other cover songs we chose are great. I hate when music snobs stick their noses up at mainstream pop that is largely embraced by young girls. I always think like what if some old white rock dude released Lucky? Some writer would eat that shit up. Listening to music with a preconceived lens will make up your mind about a song before you even get to the first chorus. Good songs are good songs. Oh yeah and girls rule. End quote." 

Listen to the Basement Covers EP here 

Follow Dizzy - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Thursday 12 November 2020

LISTEN: Leif Vollebekk - 'Long Blue Light' & '29 #Strafford APTS'

Without wanting to understate his acclaim, I'd posit that for a lot of you, Leif Vollebekk is one of the best singer-songwriters that you haven't heard of. I hadn't until last year, when I started to receive press for his record New Ways. It was released just over a year ago, while he was touring with fellow Canadians Half Moon Run. I caught them both playing in London and Leif's set was frankly incredible. Utterly compelling. I adore the record, and can't get enough of Blood Brother. So much love for it. 

Following on from the release of the Rest EP earlier this year, Leif is celebrating the one-year anniversary of the record with another two-track release which has me all sorts of excited. Audible gasp upon finding out that one track was a Bon Iver cover. Heavenly. He explains that Long Blue Light is a brand new track which was recorded "during the sessions for New Ways, live with just myself and a drummer, Homer Steinweiss. I had all but abandoned it but this year I kept coming back to it. I added some overdubs and had Cindy Cashdollar finish it off with a gorgeous dobro part. It was supposed to fade out but I rather liked how it just falls apart at the end." 

Talking about the Bon Iver cover (hold onto your hats, folks) Leif explains his fascination of the record: "when that Bon Iver album, 22, A Million, came out, it put something of a spell on me. It acted on me the way records of my youth did. I could take a walk in that record and see things. I still do. I started playing around with this song some December evening way up north, when the light of dusk lasts hours and hours and everything goes blue. The snow, the faces, the houses. The two songs are a bit wrapped up together."

Follow Leif Vollebekk - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Wednesday 11 November 2020

LISTEN: Matilda Mann - 'Japan'

New Matilda Mann is always a treat, right? She's one of the best discoveries of the year in my opinion, and has a brand new EP arriving next Friday (20th.) Recent singles As It Is, Robbed and Happy Anniversary, Stranger are joined by brand new track Japan. It's short but most certainly sweet, lyrically romanticising a break-up and longing for escapism. Aren't we all?! 

Talking on the new track, Matilda shares "over lockdown I binge-watched a TV show called 'Gossip Girl'. (It's basically about very rich teenagers living in NYC) and whenever they were heartbroken, they would always fly off to Paris or do something extravagant and I thought, if I was 17 and heartbroken (and rich), I'd fly to Japan to cry and distract myself til I got over them." 

Follow Matilda Mann - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Monday 9 November 2020

ALBUM NEWS: Tender Central - 'The Garden'

A hectic week last week for various reasons meant that the blog's submissions got away from me a little... PR folk, I'll work through them soon, promise (hooray for a week off work!) Though it had been sat in my inbox for a couple of days, finding this track belatedly on my Release Radar playlist on Friday morning was a lovely surprise. Tender Central, AKA India Bourne, long-term friend and bandmate of Ben Howard, has released a stirring duo with Matthew Hegarty (of Matthew and The Atlas), entitled Ashes. The single arrives alongside the announcement of her record The Garden, due for release via Hello Friendly Recordings on 22nd January and made alongside producer Jakwob

I'm a little surprised to realise that this is her debut album. It's certainly long-awaited. A classically trained cellist, her ear for arrangement is brought to the fore in the record, with electronica and folk blending to create something that feels refreshingly modern. Having spent a lot of time on the road with Ben over the last... decade, almost? (blimey!) the notion of 'home' is a bit of a blurry concept for India, and this translates into the themes of the record. Belonging and feeling unsettled sit alongside things such as womanhood, family crisis, and learning to love and accept ourselves.

Talking about this, she describes that "underneath all of it I see my journey from anxiety to peace, from hardship to kindness and compassion, from discomfort to understanding and resting in the unknown". The title (and title track) come from the peace found whilst digging outside her old London flat - "digging in the earth is where I find immense peace and stability. It grounds me. It was a revelation in a time I felt so lost. I found peace in the outdoors and I finally slowed down to appreciate it all. In that space I was also able to realise that peace is always there but that it's 'hard to learn', it requires practice and time. A life's work perhaps." 

The new single is somewhat based on a quote from Clarissa Pinkola Estes' book Women Who Run With The Wolves, which reads:

deep in the wintry parts of our minds, we know that there is no such things as a work-free transformation. We know that we will have to burn to the ground in one way or another, and then sit right in the ashes of who we once thought we were and go on from there. 

Talking about finding the quote, India explains "I was experiencing big change in my life during the time of writing and life felt unsettling. Often in these times I want to control everything and make sure that any step forward is done 'perfectly' but I know really, that perfection doesn't exist. I realised by letting go of who we feel we 'should' be rather than who we are, is a much better way of living and allows for more space, creativity and joy to come in."  

Follow Tender Central - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Friday 6 November 2020

LISTEN: Novo Amor - 'Cannot Be, Whatsoever'

Whilst I fear that my words won't be able to do it justice - especially as I'm trying to write this the day after the announcement of a second lockdown in England, and amidst the uncertainty of, well, everything - it's a huge honour to have been entrusted with an early stream of the new record by Novo Amor. In a way it couldn't be arriving at a better time, for me or the world. Both Ali (the Welsh singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist behind the moniker) and you, the 'reader', will know how much I adore his music. I think I say that a lot (and it's always true) but sometimes an artist comes along and their music pulls the rug out from under you, transporting you, bringing out those verging-on-obsessive tendencies. For me, Novo Amor is absolutely that artist.

When his debut solo record Birthplace arrived in late 2018, I don't think that I had fallen for a record so hard in a while. I loved others just as much, but for an artist who I had only discovered perhaps weeks previously, the love I had for the record immediately was overwhelming. It became an instant favourite, a bit of a life-raft, an album that I would constantly turn to if I needed some musical comfort, and I still do. I was therefore delighted to be offered the chance by Ali to listen to the new record early. To put it simply, I sit here in my living room writing nice things about the music I enjoy, essentially for a bit of fun, and for that to lead to opportunities like this frankly blows my mind. Even more so when I glance at Ali's Spotify account, where he has over three million (!) monthly listeners currently. Mind-boggling.

In a year where I've only been able to get to a couple of gigs (back in February - Bear's Den and The Hoosiers) I've spent a lot of time feeling super nostalgic towards memories of previous shows. Last June, I volunteered at Bushstock Festival, in the gorgeous church that Ali and his band headlined. To get to watch one of my favourite artists headline at my favourite festival would've been enough, but to meet and look after the band was the icing on the cake. Unsurprisingly, they're the sweetest bunch and made me feel really welcome, before playing an absolutely cracking set. 

Fast forward a year, and Novo Amor returned in June with two brand new tracks, Decimal and Halloween. The stage was set... something was happening. A record? Fans online certainly hoped so. A little bit of teasing ensued and Cannot Be, Whatsoever was announced a few weeks later with the release of Opaline. All three of the singles are sublime. Each unique. They hinted at something sonically a little different to the previous record, as Ali elaborated on in videos shared online... 

You kind of ask, what am I trying to achieve, what is this album about, why am I bothering? And those are questions which you don't ask yourself in the start. It definitely felt like a new era of Novo Amor for me, because it was so different. This new album is just another chapter in the progression of my life, of these moments. As I started making the new album, I kind of remembered why I make music, remembered why I like doing it. It was really exciting. 

This record features the same set of players and influences and that trademark falsetto remains, but the sound and the narrative have progressed naturally, growing alongside Ali. I think that a really formative and important moment in the life of a music fan is when you realise that you don't need to feel really precious about the music that somebody you admire makes. When a band return with a new track and it's a little different, it's often treated as a bad thing, even when the track is great. The latest Mumford & Sons record, for instance, is far from the banjo frenzy that is their debut, but that doesn't take anything away from either. I frankly adore both Novo Amor records, and I bet that this was far more fun to make than heading to the drawing board with Birthplace #2 would've been.

I enjoy the whole thing, I enjoy the challenge, because I keep on going because I want the end result of the album, this body of work that I'm happy with, but as you get more and more audience of course you kind of get a bit more freaked out about what people are gonna think about it, which you can't help [...] people say they make music for themselves but it's hard to kind of have that mindset when you know people are gonna hear it.

It's not always easy to make sense of these thoughts or know how far your reach will extend. Sounds and ideas become scatterings of shapes and patterns that need to be grasped, pulled closer and nurtured, the process can feel like a mess. But I think it's good to allow these things to clutter, to become the mess that you then have to work to refine. The thought that you can create things that affect people so fiercely out of thin air can really overwhelm.  

While Ali's lyrics are usually left to our interpretation and I don't have a press release, or indeed any technical musical knowledge with which to throw fancy words at you, I can do what I always do - try to spread love for the music that I love. This records falls into that category entirely. After receiving it a couple of months ago, it sat in my inbox for a couple of weeks before I had the chance to sit and take my first proper listen. I knew that I would need the time to take it in properly. Since then I've smugly listened, over and over, finding new parts to marvel at on every listen. A new lyric which stops me in my tracks, a stunning violin part. There is so much intricate detail to unpick, and a whole lot to love. 

I love (and I'm not sure I've used that word enough yet... are you starting to get the gist?) the track Halloween. The lyric "I miss my friends that I pretend I don't need, but I could've done with them this week" gets me every time. With another lockdown looming this is such a relatable sentiment. From the title at least, No Plans also feels particularly topical at the moment. It's my favourite track from the record, I think. But don't tell the others. The 'drop' a couple of minutes in was such a surprise on my first listen, but a really really superb one. The vocal and the sudden cacophony of instrumentation in this track feel like a sudden unleashing of energy, of raw emotion. It fills me with fire for those few minutes, before immediately contrasting with the much more delicate Birdcage and Keep Me, two really tender tracks. The record has a lot of contrast at its heart, which I think reflects some of the process of making it, detailed in Ali's recent social post, with some admirably honest thinking: 

months down the line the record grew this backbone of indecision, jumping from feelings of self-affirmation to self-pity, from joy and celebration to feelings of boredom and anxiety. It's not something I really wanted, but those feelings naturally manifested themselves within what I was creating. I think that spectrum of emotion appropriately mirrors how it feels to make an album, at least for me anyway. It's a mess and can cause a lot of grief. It gives you life, then drags it back out of you. It gives you happiness, the best days, the worst days, and makes you question your purpose and abilities. These words feel unnecessarily dramatic when describing nine months of just making music, but hey, that's how it feels.  

I could likely ramble more, but you should probably just go and listen to the record. It means an awful lot to me and I'm so excited for everybody to hear it. I know that it will come to mean a lot to those millions of listeners around the world, and to those who are yet to discover Ali's music. You've got a lot to look forward to if that's you. A teeny bit envious. 

If the world has fixed a little by then, Ali is touring all over the place from next April, with some UK shows including London's Barbican. Huge! Tickets and dates for it all, and for something exciting to put into your calendar beyond the weekly grocery trip, are here.

Check out the new record on streaming services/Ali's store here.

Follow Novo Amor - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Wednesday 4 November 2020

LISTEN: Christof van der Ven - 'Reworks' EP

There seems to be a little trend for reworked or reimagined tracks at the moment (at least, among artists I listen to) and I am here for it as long as tracks I love keep on getting new leases of life. Christof van der Ven has just shared his new EP, entitled Reworks, which features four tracks from across his musical career so far, stripped back and set to piano. The EP was recorded over lockdown in Christof's flat, and mixed by Scott Humphries. Add in some vocals from Camilla Staveley-Taylor (The Staves) and Jed Parsons, string arrangements from Rob & Verity Simmons, and synth wizardly from very clever human Marcus Hamblett (of far too many cool bands to list) and you have something genuinely really special. 

Already released in the world were gorgeous versions of You Left It Too Long and Coat. Saving the best until last, arguably, we now have new versions of Big Men At Heart, one of my favourite tunes of Christof's taken from last year's Beneath the Ordinary Load EP and the absolute treat for the ears, first album title track Empty Handed. On first listen to this a few weeks ago, the duet with Camilla gave me actual shivers. Those harmonies. Yes. (Did I mention The Staves are bringing out a new record and I'm really really excited for it?!) 

Follow Christof van der Ven - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Tuesday 3 November 2020

WATCH: Ailsa Tully - 'Drive'

Time for another Stay Loose gem, arriving on Dalliance Recordings (making an equally brilliant name for themselves with the likes of Gia Margaret, Wilsen and Francis of Delirium on their roster) - here's Ailsa Tully. After the weekend's announcement (you know the one) soothing music is where it's at currently, right? This fits the bill, that's for sure. Bringing to the fore her experience of singing in a church choir in Wales, Ailsa begins each track on the bass guitar, blending that dreamy vocal in to make something really lovely. Even better, there's another new track arriving early next year. 

Talking on this track in particular, she explains that it "is about searching to free yourself from the mundanity of everyday life. It was inspired by a time when my brain was festering in a boring job. I needed an escape." The video reflects this, a really simple POV shot from a windscreen, journeying out of the city and into the countryside. Having not left my hometown in what feels like forever (and not being able to drive) even watching the video feels like a lovely bit of escapism. Much needed!


Follow Ailsa Tully - Facebook | Instagram.

Monday 2 November 2020

WATCH: Dizzy - 'Light Years' (The National cover)

Ah, uncertainty, my old friend. Trying to write some posts for the coming week but somewhat distracted by this evening's announcement (I'm typing this on Saturday evening...) While I wait for more words to arrive, this feels like exactly the sort of thing that I want to share. Dizzy are one of my absolute favourite bands and I adore their upcoming Basement Covers EP (due on November 13th). They've just shared another taste of it, their cover of the The National tune Light Years, and it's a dream. Three minutes to feel carefree. No press release or anything jazzy to say about this, just that I really love this band and hope you enjoy the track. If you do, you can grab their latest album The Sun and Her Scorch here.

Follow Dizzy - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.