Friday 29 January 2021

WATCH: Anna Leone - 'Once'

New Anna Leone, yes! Following from most recent single Wondering, new track Once is divine. It's produced by Paul Butler and is released via AllPoints/Half Awake. Anna is a self confessed video game & sci-fi obsessive, who loves escaping into other universes and found her love for storytelling through it. Though still battling debilitating stage fright, Anna has certainly moved on from acoustic covers in the privacy of her room - she originally picked up a guitar to perfect favourite tracks from the likes of Bon Iver and Laura Marling - and Once is the latest in a string of gorgeous tracks. 

On the track and video, Anna explains "the narrative loop comes from the idea of being stuck in your ways, going through the same patterns, but then choosing to break out of that and do things differently. Towards the end I reconcile with the past, symbolised by the little girl. I choose to embrace what once was in order to move forward. It was incredible getting to shoot the video in that beautiful environment. The weather was really unpredictable - we went through almost all four seasons in one day."

Follow Anna Leone - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Thursday 28 January 2021

ALBUM NEWS: Ben Howard - 'Collections From The Whiteout'

I got a hint of the arrival of this track early, and got to listen to it a day before it was premiered by Annie Mac on Radio 1. Felt a little smug. It's out in the world now, along with some very exciting news! Ben Howard releases his fourth studio album Collections From The Whiteout on 26th March. It's a record far removed from his debut, with the press release describing it as "songs written from headlines scanned, or news stories scrolled past. Ben has taken those snippets and let his curiosity take control, creating an aural scrapbook that reverberates with tape loops and guitar FXs." 

Produced alongside Aaron Dessner (The National, Sharon Van Etten, Taylor Swift) this is the first of Ben's records to have production from outside of Ben and his band. Aaron brought his extensive contact list along for the ride, and alongside longstanding guitarist of Ben's band Mickey Smith, the record features Yussef Dayes (one of the UK's most innovative young drummer/producer's), Kate Stables from This Is The Kit, James Krivchenia from Big Thief, Kyle Keegan from Hiss Golden Messenger, and Aaron himself. As well as Thomas Bartlett (St Vincent's go-to pianist) and Rob Moose (string arranger for Bon Iver and collaborator of Laura Marling, Blake Mills and Phoebe Bridgers). 

Talking about the video, which was shot in Bulgaria and directed by Cloe Bailly, Ben comments that "this was a nonsense idea loosely thrown together on the Old English rhyme, 'back to back they faced each other, drew their swords and shot each other' with a bit of animal hysteria thrown in. Cloe somehow transformed a basic countryside shoot 'em up into an amazing tale of delightful retribution. Cloe is a queen of dark comedy and I'm so grateful that as friends we got to work together on it. The eclectic Bulgarian cast and crew somehow managed to pull this off in strange times. It was all the more entertaining in a completely foreign language."  

Pre-order/pre-save the new record Collections From The Whiteout here.

Follow Ben Howard - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Wednesday 27 January 2021


"Why do I turn to you to tell me who I am?" 

What a treat! There's a brand new MICHELLE track out today. Really loving this project... with songwriting from Sofia D'Angelo, Julian Kaufman, Charlie Kilgore, Layla Ku, Emma Lee and Jamee Lockard and production from Kaufman and Kilgore, they're a group of born and bred New Yorkers making some of my favourite music at the moment. Recent singles UNBOUND and SUNRISE were two of the best tracks I heard last year. New single FYO is a powerful reflection on the four lead singers' experiences growing up with mixed race identities. It's all sorts of brilliant. Featuring the four singers, the video is directed by the band's own Layla Ku and Emma Lee (and it's also brilliant.) 

On the meaning behind the track, Jamee explains that "FYO is about belonging to different worlds, but feeling rejected by both. Growing up as a mixed-race minority in the US, my self concept was warped by other people telling me what I am and am not, pushing and pulling me between identities. Although my feelings of cultural dissonance still ebb and flow, now I have the vocabulary, support system, and perspective to unpack that inner conflict on my own terms. We should never give others the authority to define who we are." 

Follow MICHELLE - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Tuesday 26 January 2021

WATCH: Home Counties - 'Modern Yuppies'

Genuinely shocked to find that I've never featured Home Counties on the blog... I've been really loving their Redevelopment EP released in September - the title track and Dad Bod are tunes! Listening back currently, I'm getting quite a Lucy Leave vibe from that EP. New track Modern Yuppies sees the band switch a guitar-laden vibe for a synth-driven sound, partly out of choice, and partly from not being able to reunite with their producer during lockdown. They bought a second-hand analogue synth and a drum machine and this is the first of two self-produced singles to be released via Alcopop! Records.

Vocalist Will Harrison notes on the shift in direction that "synths and drum machines were already something we were very keen to explore and 2020 provided us with an unexpected amount of free time to experiment. We dialled the disco influences up to the max and totally embraces that 70s-cop-drama vibe for this pair of stand-alone singles. It feels like a bold declaration of who we are and it definitely gives a clearer taste of where we're heading for our next EP." 

On the track's lyrics, he adds "the song is a comparison between the young urban professionals of the 1980s to those of today. It discusses the differences, the way that arrogance and conservatism have made way for self-doubt and socially 'liberal' political positions. Ultimately however, they are both plagued by the same condition - of constantly needing more." 

On the video, Will explains that "a zero budget video feels very fitting for Modern Yuppies. The song was written and recorded in the November lockdown when we found ourselves unable to go back to the studio. Stuck inside, we spent the month sending the stems back and forth. The plan was to emerge from lockdown and head straight to London for a photo and videoshoot in December but things did not go to plan and we soon found ourselves trapped again. We actually put this video together the day before the single release. I think you can see the isolation taking its toll on us. I spent my hour of daily exercise playing synth to some local sheep." 

Follow Home Counties - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Monday 25 January 2021

LISTEN: Clara Mann - 'Thoughtless'

Monday, again?! Hope you've all had a lovely (snowy?) weekend... I've been really getting into a spot of birdwatching and rediscovering my love for photography through wildlife recently, and spent much of the weekend staring at birds at my local nature reserve and through my window. Snowy weather guides me towards the sort of music that gives that same warm feeling you get sitting by a fire, and this new Clara Mann tune does just that. 

Thoughtless follows debut Spotify release (after some lo-fi Bandcamp demos) I Didn't Know You Were Leaving Today - in both we are utterly transported by Clara's intimate and unique vocals. For me, they offer up something that feels at once new while harking back to more traditional folk music. The track is taken from her upcoming debut EP, entitled Consolations, which is due on Feb 24th. The EP was recorded remotely in Clara's bedroom, with producer Benjamin Spike-Saunders mixing in his. It's hard not to make that connection with the homely, heartwarming feeling that the tracks bring. 

Speaking about the new track, Clara explains "I wrote this over a summer where I was totally adrift - it was quite a lonely time, and I felt that, in a bid for some kind of connection, I was making myself vulnerable to the wrong people. Thoughtless is a recognition of that unhealthy tendency in myself, as well as being about the way people can take too much of someone, without even realising." 

On the influence of water through the track, she writes "there's a lot about water in the song, about the sea, the waves. I grew up by a river in France, and I think have always felt most at home in landscapes with water nearby. It's a mixture of finding it comforting and familiar, but also being aware of he power of the current, the tide, or the swell, and feeling helpless and fragile next to them. The guitar part in Thoughtless unintentionally mimics the rise and fall of waves, and I like the way the melody floats above it. I remember finding it quite painful to write - it felt very raw. I was very into Sorolla's paintings at the time, and the way he paints light - I wanted to do that with music, with my words." 

Follow Clara Mann - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Friday 22 January 2021

WATCH: Ailsa Tully - 'Parasite'

"Wouldn't you love to control me?!" 

Happy Friday (we made it!) - in a week filled with a lovely selection of new tunes from the likes of The Staves, Anna Leone, Clara Mann, Memorial and so many more, here's one from one of my favourite new discoveries of last year. With her second single via Dalliance Recordings, it's Welsh songwriter Ailsa Tully, whose track Drive was one of my favourites of 2020. New track Parasite is an introspective, personal and passionate protest track of sorts, crying out against toxic relationships and gender power dynamics at play within the music industry.

The video for the track shows parasitic plants winding around vines, taking control. The visuals mirror Ailsa's journey through the lyrics of the track - on lines such as "I am naive, I make this so easy" we see her as this person perceives her, a feminine product to be shaped without much opposition. Always maintaining both composure and fragility through the vocals, the situation reverses as Ailsa sings "I could break you down, you parasite" on the chorus. 

She shares that "Parasite is a confrontational song written for a controlling and manipulative person. It explores the insidious manner in which sexism takes form, particularly within the inner workings of the music industry."  

Follow Ailsa Tully - Facebook | Instagram.

Thursday 21 January 2021

ALBUM NEWS: Low Island - 'If You Could Have It All Again'

Some glorious news for your Thursday which I've been desperate to share for a few days now. A new track from the Low Island chaps alongside news of their debut album. Ahhhhhhh!!!!! Feel Young Again is taken from If You Could Have It All Again, due on 16th April. It's a typically DIY affair from the quartet who manage their creative output, self-producing and self-releasing via their own label Emotional Interference. There's something kind of heartwarming about that - knowing that the music sounds exactly how the artist wants it to. In this case, it sounds brilliant, as always. These guys know how to tug on the heartstrings through endlessly danceable indie-pop. 

In the new track, a song which repeats the vocal "I will set you free" you lose yourself amidst the gorgeous and oh-so-Low-Island soundscape. This is a special one. I am itching to hear the record! Talking on the single, Carlos explains that "Feel Young Again is about a toxic relationship; not with a person, but with a part of yourself that you need to let go of. A part of yourself that is doing you harm but because of familiarity and a fear of change, you can't give it up. It's about taking that thing, feeling or frame of mind for one last dance before finally letting it go."

Pre-order/pre-save the debut album here (!!!)

Follow Low Island online - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Wednesday 20 January 2021

WATCH: BE GOOD - 'Young Strangers'

Kicking off the year gloriously, my loves BE GOOD sprung an EP on us last week. Tis glorious. Obviously. Everything's Alright In The Evening is easily my most listened to ~thing~ of the year so far. It features a couple of certified tunes that were already out in the world - Cathy, Sickie and Dark Glasses - alongside Torch Song which they shared a demo version of on a Divine Schism compilation last year. Divine indeed. Brand new tracks Pink Sky (Can I Tell You Something) and Young Strangers are both superb, and they've just shared a video for the latter, the opening track of the EP, which you can watch below. 

Filmed in the Oxford suburbs, the video is directed by Joe Vozza and was worked on by the band and a bunch of their pals from the area. Lovely stuff! You probably already know this if you're on the blog/follow me online but I adore this band and their output, and this is no exception. Sending all of the positive BE GOOD vibes into your lives & your speakers. 

Stream or grab a copy of the new EP here (bandcamp, bandcamp, bandcamp!) 

Follow BE GOOD - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Tuesday 19 January 2021

WATCH: Tender Central - 'Galloper' (Live)

Just a few days to wait for The Garden, the debut record from Tender Central, releasing via Hello Friendly Recordings. Recent single Galloper is brill and has been elevated with a new live session recorded at Sorting Room Studios with a talented ensemble featuring Aaron GrahamMickey Smith, Nat Watson, Elise Yuill Cohen and Greta Vaughan. The track refers to India's racing heart and the physical symptoms that anxiety and panic attacks can bring, with the 'galloper' being a metaphor for anxiety feeling like hooves thundering through your body. It's upbeat and danceable nature reflects the subject of the track and it's another really exciting taster from the upcoming record. 

On the process of creating the record, India reflects on another creation... "I toured throughout early pregnancy playing with 'A Blaze of Feather'. I was playing two shows a night as I was also opening the stage as Tender Central. At 8 months pregnant with my son I finished recording the bulk of this album feeling him kick the cello and guitar through my belly as I played. And now, launching this album three years later I am pregnant with my second child. It seems that birthing an album and birthing a child goes hand in hand with me! It's been a musical start for this little one too."

Follow Tender Central - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Monday 18 January 2021

WATCH: coupdekat - 'ur only'

Debut single time (sound the alarms!) I loved the PR description of this one and ever since, it's been floating round my head for days, keeping new William the Conqueror, Beach Bunny and BE GOOD company. ur only is bedroom pop at its finest from coupdekat, AKA 18 year-old singer-songwriter Kat Reilly. She's inspired by 80s female indie artists (think Blondie, Mazzy Star and The Slits) and mixes modern beats with melancholy vocals, tackling contemporary subjects like mental health, love, social media and loneliness. The new track is a catchy one, but it's kind of sad too (the best kind?!) I'm excited for what comes next!

Follow coupdekat Twitter | Instagram.

ALBUM NEWS: William the Conqueror - 'Maverick Thinker'

I feel a bit like the proverbial kid in a sweetshop at the moment, desperate to write posts and to share something but instead staring at a list of ideas, which, just a couple of weeks into the year, is already full with so many brilliant new releases. This one keeps coming back to me though. Quiet Life, the latest single from trio William the Conqueror, lifted from their upcoming record Maverick Thinker, due via Chrysalis Records on 5th March. The new record was writte in the English countryside and recorded in LA alongside producer Joseph Longe at the legendary Sound City Studios, ahead of March's lockdown last year. 

I've been following the band, and frontman Ruarri Joseph's solo music, admiring from afar, for a few years now. I saw the trio playing a brill show for us in Oxford a few years back. This one is maybe my favourite so far. A reflective, blues-y, rock-n-roll conversation as song, made for pub basements and festival stages alike. On the single, Ruarri explains "with Quiet Life we wanted to step outside the sound of the trio and build some walls, add some layers for this one. It's a trippy, fuzzy wander down someone else's memory lane, so we went cinematic." If the song-writing here entices you - check out the William The Conqueror podcast (on... podcast places) - it's essentially an audiobook, a reading of a fictional account of an 18 year old musician, written and narrated by Ruarri himself. 

Pre-order the new record Maverick Thinker here.

Follow William the Conqueror - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Friday 15 January 2021

WATCH: Lokoy ft Emilie Østebø - 'a mistake'

Forgive the slight time travel, but as I was glancing through my (always growing) list of things that I want to share here, I rediscovered this absolute tune which was released back in November. It's taken from Norwegian artist and producer Lokoy's debut album Badminton, which is due a week today (22nd.) The record sounds as if it'll an eclectic exploration of pop bringing together a bunch of fresh Norwegian talent (the likes of Nils Bech, Moyka and Safario) and on this tune, Oslo-based 20-year old Emilie Østebø is blowing my mind a note at a time. 

Originally one of Emilie's own demos, she took it to Lokoy's home studio where they recorded the track with assistance from Sløtface guitarist Tor-Arne Vikingstad. Speaking about how the collaboration came to be, Lokoy said "I first met Emilie when she was playing support for Sløtface a few years back and I remember all of us thought she was the greatest support band we've ever had. Earlier this year we met in my studio together with Tor-Arne and just kept cooking on Emilie's demo. We added a ton of guitars, and some dirty bass-synths and drum machines and BOOM. It just fell together nicely."

Emilie herself shares on the lyrics that "it's nothing too complicated; it deals with the relationship between two people, the dynamic between them. Often I feel like songs are a parody of yourself. The chorus of 'a mistake' is sort of a parody of the self-indulgent things you imagine saying to a person you've just had a fight with. I wrote the melody of the post-chorus on guitar, but Lasse had the idea to sing it instead. The childish and sarcastic tone of that melody when sung perfectly communicates the petulance of the lyrics." 

Follow Lokoy - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Follow Emilie Østebø - Facebook | Instagram.

Thursday 14 January 2021

LISTEN: Lizzie Reid - 'Been Thinking About You'

Happy Thursday, folks! Feeling in a bit of a rut (aren't we all?) while things around me and further afield are all so chaotic, so apologies for not posting so much at the moment. Trying my best to fall back into the rhythm. It'll happen. Searching through my submissions, a favourite showed up in the form of the latest track from Glaswegian songwriter Lizzie Reid. Her recent singles brought me some gorgeously delicate yet self-assured Laura Marling-esque vibes towards the end of 2020, and I'm loving this extra taste of her upcoming debut EP Cubicle, which is due out on February 10th via Seven Four Seven Six

While the previous tracks were mostly Lizzie and her guitar (the EP was recorded entirely in her house with producer Oli Barton-Wood, just before the first lockdown kicked in back in March last year) this new track is a little more raucous, and it's more collaborative, too. The guitar-led outro harks back to her past life playing in bands across Glasgow - as many as seven at once at one point!

On the track, she shares: "this is almost an appreciation song for a friend of mine. He was such a support for me at a time I wasn't feeling my best. I was going through quite a confusing time and felt guilty that I couldn't support him in the same way he supported me."

Follow Lizzie Reid - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Monday 11 January 2021

LISTEN: Ella Grace - 'Unfree'

Here's something that I wanted to share before the festive break (sort of break?) kicked in and never got around to... so it's not brand new but more than worth your time if you haven't had the pleasure yet. Unfree is the latest single to be taken from Ella Grace's upcoming debut album Reverence, due on 20th April. It's described in the press release as an "endlessly playable anthem" and I can't agree more, having just listened on repeat several times while writing this post - previous single I Wonder is also a bit of a bop. In Unfree we're encouraged to embrace ourselves, to explore, to express, to grow.

On the new track she explains that it is "about my experience of throwing out the rulebook of what it means to be a woman in society and instead just following my own primal yearning for life and letting it lead me. This has often been met with judgement from people around me, especially in my younger years, no one was really doing things differently, there wasn't anything 'cool' about expressing yourself and there was such little support for it. I've gotten myself to the place I am today by breaking the rules of 'should' and trusting my heart's desires above those of anybody else." 

On the upcoming record, Ella shares "this album represents the end of pretending, it's a liberation for me, a becoming. Last year I fell in love with a woman and realised I'd been pretending to be someone I wasn't. In place of that pretending rushed in these very real, raw parts of me. The album tells that story, of falling in love with a woman, discovering myself again, and the surrender that comes with heartbreak." 

Follow Ella Grace - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Thursday 7 January 2021

ALBUM NEWS: Valley Maker - 'When The Day Leaves'

First *proper* post of the year alert....! This one comes courtesy of the first release of the year that made me want to tap away at the keyboard, with some really exciting album news from US artist Valley Maker (AKA Austin Crane). When The Day Leaves arrives via Frenchkiss Records on 19th February, and first single No One Is Missing is live now. Video below! 

Talking about the track and video Austin shares "The video for 'No One Is Missing' was filmed on Edisto Island in South Carolina's low country by dustoftheground. It's a lush, isolated place. The beach where we filmed is only accessible at low tide and is full of dead trees. I felt like that tidal flow, combined with the generally surreal and outside-of-time quality of the landscape, provided a spatial and visual connection with where 'No One Is Missing' is coming from as a song." 

"I wrote the track as a way of grappling with the partiality and temporality of how we connect with one another, I guess as an attempt to collect and reflect on recent experiences of loss, love, leaving, returning, missing, etc. On that theme, while recent months of social distancing have often felt isolating, I'm continually grateful for how music and the natural world can remind us we're not alone." 

The record came about is pretty much exactly the way you might imagine after listening to this track, in a studio in the woods. After working out arrangements and harmonies in Portland and Seattle, Austin stayed in the loft of producer Trevor Spencer's Way Out Studio, creating the record together over three-weeks in the woods outside of Woodinville, near Seattle. The resulting 46-minute record offers a reflective look at our world through the eyes of uncertainty, anxiety, hope and fear, a mixture of feelings that so many of us are used to living through. I can't wait to hear & share more!

Pre-order/pre-save the new record here.

Follow Valley Maker - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

Saturday 2 January 2021

end of year reflections (hello 2021!)

Happy New Year, folks! I had intended to write and share this as a sort of 'end of year' reflection for the blog, but time ran away before I finished it... so it's a little late, but time is relative, right? I find myself furloughed (again) and with a lot of extra time on my hands, so I wanted to write a post celebrating some of the not-so-bad points of 2020. 

This blog has been a glorious escape for me this year. I'm not sure how I'd have filled all of the extra time at home without it! I love the artists that I feature here and my heart has been breaking for those who are struggling because of the mess that the past year has brought. Before indulging in some self-praise (forgive me) let me encourage you, if you're able, to support your favourite artists. Grab something from their merch stores, download their album via Bandcamp (Bandcamp Fridays are sticking around for the first half of 2021!) and stream their music to your heart's content. Go go go!

Now for some slightly self-indulgent reflections, mind-boggling stats and the like… 

In Feburary 2019, I lost my job when our HMV store closed. I wrote about it here. I had a lot of spare time thrust upon me and yet, it felt strange not to use that time to apply for new jobs and I struggled to be productive when it came to the blog. It's always been a hobby, a not-particularly-lucrative side-hustle that takes up the majority of my spare time. When all of your time is suddenly spared, it's hard to know how to use it... 

At a similar time in 2020, offering up an unwanted dose of déjà vu, I was put on furlough for the first time as the bookstore I work in closed for three weeks. Well... almost. Three months later, having barely left the house except to walk around our local nature reserve, I felt incredibly anxious about returning to the shop, and felt something akin to grief about the idea of leaving the blog behind. While the situation was far from ideal, I had known that my job was waiting for me once it was safe to return, and I've been able to spend some guilt-free time working on the site exclusively. It's always existed alongside jobs or my degree, so to have so much time for it was sort of inspiring.

At the time, I wrote on the blog - 

“With retail stores looking set to reopen in a few days in England, it looks as if all the extra time I’ve had for the blog will soon reduce dramatically [...] I’ve never had so much time for the blog and it’s been a genuinely lovely thing to see the blog grow more in the last month than it has in years. In a time where connection is so precious, the blog and the people who support it have come to mean even more than before.” 

I returned to work for a few months, fitting in the blog on days off and in the evenings, as I always have, then got placed back onto furlough in November. Through a period of about five weeks I went from annual leave, to furlough, to two weeks of isolation with a positive test in our house. We stayed put, and the blog, and music more generally, wrapped me in its warm embrace once more. I spent as much time as I could over those few weeks (well... not so much in the mornings) working on it. Particularly when we were isolating, it felt great to have something productive to do. Or to berate myself for not doing. 

In May, the blog celebrated an anniversary. While I originally started writing under the name coolmusicandthings on Tumblr back in 2012, the first real commitment to blogging came when I got myself the URL and moved everything onto the site you're on today, in May 2015. Five years! Five years of spending so much of my time writing posts promoting the artists and music that I love, new and old, with genuinely heartfelt personal recommendations. I wrote about this more at the time here but it felt wild to reach this anniversary. The blog is like a diary of my personal musical discovery. I scroll through it occasionally and years later I'm still a little like... wait, I wrote all this?! From a young age I wanted to write (I think fiction back in primary school, and later some kind of local journalism) and I've created a place to do just that. If people read it or not is sort of secondary.... yet, they do. 

You do. I think. I hope? Well, that, or the stats are lying to me. With all of those spare hours on my hands, the blog has been more active on social media and things have grown far more than in previous years. It recently hit 200,000 all-time page views, and had just short of double the views in 2020 than in 2019. For me that's huge. After the recent isolation, Twitter analytics (I love stats!) showed that profile visits were up around 700% vs the previous 28 days. It's gratifying to know that time put into the blog reflects back as growth, and I feel invigorated to achieve even more growth this year. Recent milestones online included 600 Facebook likes, 550 Instagram followers and 650 Twitter followers. The insta following doubled in the last year?! For a while, these accounts were just full of friends and family that I'd invited/begged to follow them, and it seems more and more that actual strangers are here for the ride too now. Hello!

More followers means more submissions, and there seem to be a LOT of people wanting a slice of the action now, and it's constantly growing. Weekly submissions almost doubled this year, from around 120 when I checked at the start of the year and around 210 recently. Considering that the blog is just me and that I (usually) have a full time job and aim to post about 5 times a week, 200 weekly submissions is kind of crazy. 

For the 'anniversary' I'd started to make big plans (in my head, mostly) - I was hoping to organise some kind of charity gig, with a line-up of a few of my favourite artists, in one of my favourite venues. Luckily, nothing was planned so nothing had to be cancelled, but I hope that I'm able to organise something along those lines in the future. Club nights, anybody? I still wanted to recognise the anniversary and asked a bunch of my favourite artists and friends of the blog if they might want to record a little session for a new Youtube channel I was thinking of setting up for the blog. To my utter amazement, many obliged. A few videos never materialised but I had no desire to put pressure on anybody while so much was going on in the world. I ended up sharing 6 magnificent videos from a bunch of talented souls. 

A month later, one of my genuine favourite human beings, Sam Beeton, sent in a video. He was one of the first people that I saw playing live; in fact, the opening act at the first gig that I'd actively chosen to go to and travelled out of my city for, and I haven't seen him play since late 2013. He didn't just send in a video, but he'd created an entire short film, with a new track (his first 'release' in years) performed within it. Take the blog away and I am essentially just a fangirl at heart, trying to support artists whose music brings me joy. This was a highlight of the year. Tears were indeed shed. 

Another of the artists to send in a video (no short film... but he's forgiven) is White Tail Falls (AKA The Hoosiers' frontman Irwin Sparkes). It would be remiss not to ramble (I do little else) about Irwin in a round-up of my musical year. At the start of 2020 (before... stuff) he asked if I would like to premiere the video for his solo track Disintegrate. A billion times yes! In June, we did an interview which (no bias at all) is probably my favourite on the blog, ever. The detail and honesty with which he approached it blew me away. Irwin has always been really supportive of the blog, and this year, with the release of his debut solo record, felt like the pinnacle of that. I've spent much of the year falling in love with Age of Entitlement, so much so that I recently named it my album of the year

I also shared interviews with Hailaker and Pêtr Aleksänder back in May, and most recently, with Novo Amor. I love sharing them but have never braved anything but an email interview (sending a bunch of questions, receiving answers, and posting them.) Maybe 2021 will bring with it a little bit of courage to jump on a phone call (or... Zoom?) with some artists? I certainly want to share some more interviews this year, they're always some of my favourite features. 

I've been re-furloughed as of a few days before Christmas. It's a strange time. I have a baby niece who I haven't been able to meet yet because of the restrictions. We've had a kitchen installation drag out over almost a year and have had the contents of our kitchen scattered in boxes across the house (and no wallpaper, flooring, or, most recently, ceiling, in there.) I didn't feel particularly festive this year and it's been a weird couple of weeks. Being furloughed three times and our store having been closed so long, knowing how treacherous a time it is for all retailers at the moment (unless you're Bezos, obviously) isn't a particularly cheering feeling. And yet, with the blog, I feel a sense of... calm? 

I really love this site. And I love the community of people that I've managed to grow around it. Things have escalated a bit this year. I've been forced into having more time for it, and while I couldn't get to shows and interact with fans and artists in person, I feel like I've connected with more people through the blog than ever before. Running the blog at some points this year has felt like a full time job in itself (entirely pressure that I load onto myself) yet it's really just quite a demanding hobby. I feel privileged to have an audience of sorts, though. As we pass into the new year, I feel inspired and determined to keep up with the blog, to keep it growing, and to find new and exciting opportunities within the industry. Helping out with PR, on social media, with data entry, writing for other sites, maybe? At the moment, everything depends on spare time around my job but with furlough, who knows... 

Here's to a year of brilliant music, of reaching more milestones, more rambling, more interviews, of wearing-a-god-damn-mask, of vaccines, of The Vaccines (!) and of new opportunities. We got this. 

Friday 1 January 2021

albums of the year (more ramblings... part 5)

(more) albums of the year... part 5: in case you missed it, I'm sharing my favourite records of 2020 (main post here) this week. Seven albums a day across the week, in release order. Enjoy!

IDLES - Ultra Mono (store / Spotify)

Their last record - very much a breakthrough record for the band - was in my top five in 2018. I didn't connect with this one quite so much but still really enjoyed it. Listening to Model Village while travelling through my own village on a bus to work is a really vivid memory of my first proper listen. As always, on the surface it feels full of angst, but dig deeper and you'll find endless important discussions taking place, rather poetically, in the lyrics. Alongside powerful instrumentation, of course. I can only imagine how keen they are to get back to the stage to share this record with audiences - their live show is certainly something to behold. Favourites alongside Model Village for me are Grounds, Kill Them With Kindness and Carcinogenic

Tempesst Must Be A Dream (store / Spotify)

It's been a while coming, having listened to Tempesst since 2016, and this year finally brought us their debut album. Worth the wait! As I wrote in late September... "as the days (and night, and, well, all of the time) start to suddenly get chilly, a record which appears audibly sun-drenched is exactly what we need, right?" It's so well put together - the combination of brilliant lyrics, their 60s influences, psychedelic tendencies, and those harmonies! With A Woman, Age of the Bored and Walk on the Water are favourites here. More thoughts in my write-up of the album here.

Dawes Good Luck With Whatever (buy/stream)

Well, there's absolutely no surprise that Dawes make it onto my AOTY list, is there?! I adore pretty much everything they do and love this, their seventh (!) studio album. Taylor Goldsmith is without a doubt one of the best songwriters (and guitarists, while we're here) of our generation. They're one of the best and this is a dream of a record, and not one that I'd expected this year! While I couldn't watch them live (timezones, boo!) Taylor's livestreams with his wife Mandy Moore through the first lockdown were such a treat. Favourites here Who Do You Think You're Talking To, St. Augustine At Night and the title track, Good Luck With Whatever. Damn, I really love Dawes. I hope you will too... 

Deep Sea Diver Impossible Weight (buy/stream)

This was one of those magical discoveries - I had never even heard of this artist (despite a couple of previous records) when I found a track from the new album in the blog's inbox. It was the title track of this record, which I really enjoyed at the time, shouted about it a bit online and moved on. Once the record was released I decided to give it a listen and loved it so much that I've revisited it a few times since. I really really dig it. Eyes Are Red (Don't Be Afraid), Lightning Bolts and Lights Out are favourites but the title track, featuring Sharon Van Etten, remains one of my favourite tracks of the year. Such a brill record!

Laura Fell - Safe From Me (Bandcamp)

A new artist sent through by my favourite PR company, but not only that, Paddy from Stay Loose was releasing the record on his own label, a new project for his blog Balloon Machine. The first release on Balloon Machine Records, a momentous occasion and an exciting milestone. I had high hopes from the first single and they were certainly reached. A unique vocal, superb songwriting and masterful delivery make for a really worthy spot on any AOTY list. Bone of Contention, Cold and Every Time remain favourites!

Ed The Dog Untitled.crashed.crashed.crashed (buy/stream)

I don't think that I've listened to Ed's previous record, but how could anybody not like a record with tracks like Thank You Buddy and Everybody, I Love You on it? I adored it on first listen, but found my favourite track right at the end in the form of I'm Gonna Change That. The exact track that I needed to hear towards the end of the year, passing into a new year, feeling desperate for some kind of change. I'm glad that I'm far too slow with AOTY plans to get my list out as early as many others do, otherwise it would be missing last minute records like this! 

Maggie Rogers Notes from the Archive: Recordings 2011-2016 (buy/stream)

An even more last minute addition to the list comes from last year's AOTY artist, queen Maggie Rogers. I LOVE Maggie so much, and I am so desperate for new music. While this isn't quite *new* a lot of it is unheard, and I've been loving it. Having been quickly thrown into the spotlight with last year's record and the events that preceded it, Maggie spoke of wanting to get out her archive material before moving on to new music. It's an archive record, split into four parts, with tracks from two independent records and a couple of other projects Maggie was part of before the current iteration of her career came about. Laid out in reverse chronological order, you hear her getting younger. It's a really lovely collection of tracks - even better if you have time to listen to the version with commentary here. Love opening track Celadon & Gold and James is a lovely tune too.

Thanks for reading/listening!