“Indie-rock? What band are you in, like?” – An interview with Field Music

It’s Friday afternoon in Manchester and upstairs at Northern Quarter venue Soup Kitchen, Field Music are finishing up a meal ahead of our interview. The majority of Field Music anyway – live guitarist Kevin Dosdale is elsewhere, whilst Peter Brewis is nowhere to be found. His brother David suggests he’s snubbed the food on offer at the venue in favour of chips around the corner (Peter would later refer to mushy peas as the “British dahl”, a depressing prediction for post Brexit Britain…)

It turns out that Peter is merely downstairs, sound checking drums all by himself ahead of their early stage time. That evening they would play their second ‘in-store’ of the week for a number of lucky punters, having played at Phase One in Liverpool the night before. Liverpool may have had them a day early, but their latest release ‘Making A New World’ came out good and proper whilst they were in Manchester, reliably produced on wax by their devoted label Memphis Industries.

The release date also tied in nicely with the 100 year anniversary of the Treaty of Versailles becoming effective, the very Treaty that ended the state of war between Germany and the Allied Powers.

Timed to perfection.” Says David with a smile when we finally get sat. The past 12 months and beyond have been First World War centric for the Brewis Brothers (save for mid-year when David looked at current events with his School of Language album ‘45’, themed around the presidency of he who shall not be named), given ‘Making A New World’ explores themes surrounding the after-effects of WWI across its 19 tracks.

I think mostly people seemed to have got what we were going for, which we weren’t sure would be the case.” Says David of how it’s been received.

Photo Credit: Imperial War Museum)

I think the reception seems to have been better than our own reception” Adds Peter, creasing up David in the process. “It was kind of different for us to do this sort of thing. I think we were a bit sort of like – what do we even make of this? What do other people make of it?” He continues. “Quite often we’ll go from making an album, you know, reviews will come out and I basically don’t care what anyone says about it. I think it’s good, it’s what I intended to do. I couldn’t give… You know, it’s better when they are nice reviews. So this one, I was very much ready to get some bad reviews…

David chuckles again as Peter ponders their decision. “…and to say – yeah, you’re probably right. It probably is a bit all over the shop. We probably have bitten off more than we could chew. Writing songs kind of about the end of the First World War and the hundred years afterwards, that’s probably quite a touchy subject for a lot of people…

We tried to be true to the kind of things that we could tackle.” Says David. “It would not have made sense for us to have made an album about the horrors of war, ‘cus we have no experiences that could possibly be a parallel to that. It would’ve been trite and it probably would’ve been bullshit. We try to avoid that if we can.

Peel off the cellophane from the new record and you’ll no doubt relish in its double gatefold glory. Colour coded song titles on the back cover and its overall presentation confirm that – yes, it’s officially a ‘concept album’. Having been accused of being a prog band for the longest time, is now the time for Field Music to officially embrace prog and concept albums?

It’s absolutely a concept album. There is a concept.” Adds David with a laugh.

…It’s kind of funny that we’ve done one now. There’s no getting away from it.” Adds Peter. “I think once we realised we were gonna do it, in my mind it was like – yeah, let’s have a gatefold sleeve with the explanations of all the songs. Let’s do colour coordination…

Field Music: Imperial War Museum North

Work on the album began when Field Music were commissioned for two special performances at both Imperial War Museum locations in Salford and London, closing out their First World War Centenary programming. The ‘Making a New World’ season explored how the First World War changed and continues to shape society, with Field Music originally asked for a performance rather than to create a new batch of songs. Once work began however, the brothers Brewis soon realised they were onto a winner with the production of new music set around the theme.

…We realised – actually, these songs are good, these songs are as good as normal Field Music songs – maybe this should be a record.” Says David. “I don’t think we were ready to start writing a normal Field Music album. I don’t think we were ready to write songs about ourselves at that point.

Nar. Would’ve been too dark…” Deadpans Peter.

Bringing audiences ‘a night of sound, song and animation set against the dramatic backdrop of galleries representing over a century of human conflict’, the event at Imperial War Museum North did just that – a unique environment for a gig, allowing one to observe giant tanks one minute and a live musical performance the next, with projections playing behind the band and surrounding the audience.

It was a really perfect setting in Salford.” Says David. “We wanted to do something which was gonna fit in that space and I think that worked. I think it became a proper audio, visual, sensory experience. In London it was a little bit more like a gig in an unusual setting, but yeah – playing right underneath the nose of a Harrier Jump Jet, it still has that aura. It was quite strange.

The music itself took influence from a rare document in the Imperial War Museum collection – a 1919 publication on munitions by the US War Department, which captures the end of WWI when “the guns fell silent“. The pair have previously noted that their own research into these matters was fairly amateurish, with more fruitful findings to be had if one had more time and experience. Due to time constraints, whilst a wealth of information was available to them via museum archives and online resources, most fact-finding missions started with good old Wikipedia and Google.

It was like doing A Level history.” Adds Peter.

‘Only In A Man’s World is, in short, a song about sanitary pads, particularly in how little has changed in the past hundred years when it comes to marketing. Research developed with the discovery that the highly-absorbent material used in sanitary towels was originally intended for use as surgical dressing on the battlefield. American company Kimberley-Clark realised that nurses at the frontline were also using these materials for personal hygiene reasons and developed the first modern sanitary towel, branded ‘Kotex’ (for ‘cotton texture’).

Elsewhere stories deal in the uncertainty of returning home following the perils of war (‘Coffee or Wine’), ‘Best Kept Garden’ competitions and the Dada movement and extreme performance art of the 60s and 70s (‘A Shot To The Arm). Advancements in medicine were prominent during the war, revolutionising practises at the time to reflect the demands of the wounded. Throughout their research, David and Peter encountered numerous tales of interest stemming from these advancements, most notable that of Dr Harold Gillies and his pioneering work on skin grafts for injured servicemen. This work led to Dr Gillies performing the first female to male gender reassignment procedure on British physician Michael Dillon in the 40’s.

The story of Michael Dillon is really interesting,” Says David. “–That was the person who went from female to male and in doing so, arguably legally became the heir to his family’s inheritance.

As a woman, he wasn’t entitled to the inheritance…” Adds Peter, whose research led him to discover a newspaper article that gave them the song’s title ‘A Change of Heir’, on how Michael Dillon was soon entitled to this fortune following lots of legal ramifications and scandal.

That’s an amazing story and to have that very, very clear link to the First World War, because the surgery was performed by Harold Gillies.” Adds David. “The thing about reparations as well. The final debt repayment on reparations was made in 2010. As soon as you see that, you think – what? Why? How? Again, it obviously has an absolutely direct link to the First World War, but it’s right now. It’s fascinating to think of all the repercussions of that.

Well, the Second World War being one of them.” Says Peter, with David quick to agree.

Yeah – Hitler’s rise to power, absolutely predicated on the injustice of those reparations and what it did to the German economy, already kind of destroyed after the First World War.

The mind-boggling reveal of the final debt repayment and the lack of advancements in marketing sanitary towels brings it home that whilst things have moved on dramatically since the First World War, some things don’t seem too different. Speaking of the album previously, Field Music have stated it’s about consequences and how the consequences of the war remain with us. It’s hard not to draw comparisons between events unfolding back then and the hardships being experienced today by those quick to forget.

I’ve tried not to think explicitly about the parallels with current events.” Says David. “I was trying to write stories within the constraints we’d already done, but I just think it was impossible for those parallels not to be there. I think that’s how our opinions have gone into the record. It’s like the choice of things we’ve written about. You write about a new housing estate and it has that immediate parallel to the current housing crisis in the UK. You write about gender reassignment surgery because we’re now at a point where society is having to confront transgender rights. You write about Tiananmen Square because of the oppression that is still happening in the Far East, in Hong Kong, across that region. You write about sanitary towels because it was just a year before where the tampon tax was being blamed on the EU…

He laughs. “It wasn’t explicit to do that, but I think that’s how our own personal interests and concerns made there way into the record, even though we weren’t writing about ourselves for the most part.

It likely won’t shock you that the Brewis brothers have priors for this type of thing. In 2016 they helped commemorate the Battle of the Somme by producing the soundtrack for the Esther Johnson film Asunder. Whilst the film was soundtracked by Field Music, the pair tell me that the project itself was a bigger collaboration with many contributors and as such, they don’t feel much ownership of the music.

It doesn’t sound like Field Music to me, for lots of reasons,” Admits Peter. “Whereas this – we weren’t going to make an album out of it until we’d done the second gig. We know how to play this now, so what’s everyone doing next weekend?” He laughs. “What was it, a Friday?

Our usual Friday rehearsal slot.” Beams David in response.

At our usual Friday rehearsal slot, Dave set up all the microphones. We’d not done that much recording in the new studio and we basically just pressed record and went through the whole thing twice.” Confirms Peter. “Twice?

Once and two halves in actual fact, given a computer glitch halfway through the second take required a halt to proceedings. All parts combined capture the “sound of the Field Music band”, with their new album being the first since 2007’s ‘Tones of Town’ to not be produced entirely by Peter and David. Whilst the pair normally produce all the instrumentation themselves (with finishing touches added by a supporting cast), this time around they enlisted the help of their live band – Liz Corney (keyboards), Kevin Dosdale (guitar) and Andrew Lowther (bass).

It was nice to start rehearsing the songs before we’d finished the arrangements.” Says David. “Again, usually we finish the record, then we learn how to play it as a band. With this it was like – I’m nearly finished, these are the chords, that’s the tune, probably some backing vocals there? Right let’s play it, ‘cus we’ve got a gig in like six weeks time!

Guitarist Dosdale also had a hand in the visual production of the album concept, weaving together the audio with accompanying visuals projected on the night. The visuals were a nod to the 1919 publication on munitions and how it was made using ‘sound ranging’, a technique utilising an array of transducers to capture the vibrations of gunfire at the frontline. These vibrations were then displayed on a graph (similar to a seismograph), where the distances between peaks on different lines could be used to pinpoint the location of enemy armaments.

As highlighted in promotional videos and our review at the time (“the six strands bounced into life, individually twanging like the strings of a guitar on each beat, moving continuously throughout the performance”), these visuals were something the band wouldn’t have with them during the run of ‘in-stores’. They were also without the backing track that helped form a vital part of the two performances back in January 2019.

We’ve had to learn how to play them without that stuff, which has been strange.” Says David, commenting that once this initial run has finished, the follow up tour beginning in February will require the band to learn how to play the album in full, in order (“Slightly slower…”)

Peter winces at the thought of relearning in time with the backing track and its clicks and clacks, but soon chirps up considering Liverpool the night before. “We were sort of all over the place. For us we were quite loose, but I had a good laugh, mainly at my own expense.” He laughs.

Proved to ourselves we can play these songs…” Says David with a smile, one which his brother doesn’t share.

Really? Is that what you thought?

I’ve seen documentary evidence of us playing one of the hardest songs quite well.” Counters David, which Peter puts down to “Fake news.

Outside of new material, Field Music recently took to Twitter to compile a list of highlights from the past decade. Other than the many references to Ian Black of Slug (“Pfft, too much” – Peter), one of the many stand out highlights came down to their 2012 Mercury Prize nomination. Whilst they didn’t end up grabbing the top spot on the night (“Came joint last” – Peter), it did give them a number of tales, particularly the £400 seating option should they have wanted to attend the gala event with guests.

It’s ludicrous isn’t it?” Says Peter. “Here’s me trying to save money by not buying a soup upstairs…

Whilst there’s no doubt ‘Making A New World’ might still have a chance to join the short-list for the 2020 Mercury’s, David is not so sure. “I have a horrible feeling we’re never gonna get on that list again and quite often it seems like our public pronouncements make it even less likely we’ll ever get on that list again.” He says. “But you know, I hope we keep making good records people appreciate – whether they’re in the Mercury judging panel or not”.

The Mercury nod came following the release of ‘Plumb’, the fourth studio album from the duo. Seven years prior to that Field Music released their self-titled debut album, recorded in 8 Music, a studio built into an old building on what used to be Monkwearmouth Colliery in Sunderland. Part of an arts cooperative, it also paved the way for Tyne and Wear bands like The Futureheads and Maxïmo Park.

Community and collaboration runs deep through Field Music, the pair even recently joining up with Manchester based music charity Brighter Sounds for a five-day studio residency, collaborating with 10 emerging musicians and writers (including friend of BCFB, Dan Wild-Beesley of Cleft). Closer to home, there’s of course the likes of Slug and The Cornshed Sisters who have had fruitful partnerships with Field Music.

Even though we’re quite control freak-y in a way, it’s good to see that other people have been involved and done other things off the back of being a part of Field Music.” Says Peter.

It is kind of like a genuine cottage industry type thing, whereby doing what we’ve done, we’ve been able to help other people we think are good do what they need to do, who have in turn done the same again.” Adds David. “I think that’s what we always hoped for, for music in the North East. Sometimes it felt like we haven’t done it very well, but looking back across that period – this year it’s fifteen years since our first album – across that period us and lots of people we know or have worked with have done a lot of stuff. It feels worthwhile, as far as making indie-rock records can be.

Indie-rock? What band are you in, like?” Asks Peter, pulling a face. “Prog-funk. Post-everything. Post-nowt.

Read our review of ‘Making A New World’ here

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Gallery: Black Country, New Road at YES in Manchester 22 January 2020

(Photo Credit: Callum Barks-Moores)

(Photo Credit: Callum Barks-Moores)

(Photo Credit: Callum Barks-Moores)

(Photo Credit: Callum Barks-Moores)

(Photo Credit: Callum Barks-Moores)

(Photo Credit: Callum Barks-Moores)

(Photo Credit: Callum Barks-Moores)

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Hey, have you heard about…The Homesick

Words: Andy Hughes
(Photo credit: Sarah Cass)

New year, new us, eh? Halfway through the month and I was starting to worry that my personal new music radar was wearing thin. New musical discoveries drying up were a concern as nothing massive had grabbed me and on a personal level, this has been the driest January for going to live shows experienced in a while (though we were chuffed to have caught Field Music launch their wunderbar new album Making A New World earlier this month in Manchester). Thankfully this idea was soon nixed via the discovery of Dutch trio The Homesick.

Freshly signed to legendary tastemakers Sub Pop, The HomesickJaap van der Velde, Erik Woudwijk and Elias Elgersma – hail from the Frisian municipality of Dokkum in the Netherlands. New album ‘The Big Exercise‘ – with its title taken from a passage in the Scott Walker biography ‘Deep Shade Of Blue’ – follows on from 2017 debut ‘Youth Hunt‘ and is out early next month.

Three singles are up and out there as we speak – from the driving earworm that is ‘Celebrate My Fantasy’ to the up-tempo jovial boost of ‘Kaïn‘ and the one that got us hooked on the three piece, ‘Male Bonding‘. Raging post-punk flourishes mingle with pop sensibilities and throat-shredding shouts for the most delectable of combinations that make their latest single one of our favourites released this year.

I consider The Homesick a pop band first and foremost.” The band say of their sound. “If you’d introduce a late-era Scott Walker-record to a layman, it would likely fall on flat ears. But put it in the right scene of a good movie, and that person may finally understand its potential.”

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Album Release Rundown – Higher Power, Caspian and Andy Shauf

I was thinking of giving myself a week off due to the sheer amount of records forthcoming next month, but a few more records dropped on me lap and I just couldn’t say no to giving them a spin! So here we are, third week in a row with another album rundown. If you’re not completely broke yet or have a few crimbo vouchers lying about, get down to your local record store and check ’em out.

Higher Power – ‘27 Miles Underwater’
(Roadrunner)

This Leeds based mob have quickly climbed their way up the UKHC ladder over the past five years, thanks to their blistering blend of skate punk, hardcore and grunge. For their second record they’ve only gone and signed to iconic metal label Road Runner and as expected, have risen to the challenge of making a long lasting statement.

The 90’s grunge sound was a big ingredient in the band’s debut record and although there’s still plenty of it here, the main flavour is that of an early 00’s post hardcore vibe. ‘Seamless‘ isn’t just the album opener, it’s also a sure fire pit opener with a heavy ass riff that shares the same sharpness but melodic prowess of early Deftones and Glassjaw. It seems like Higher Power have found a parallel line to those bands, coming from a hardcore background but still being able to deliver big fuck off melodies. This is very much how this album is delivered, it doesn’t forget its routes but confidently pushes forward.

On the hook front, the band work hard to make them stand out, ready to be sung back at shows. I’ve had the choruses of ‘Shedding Skin‘ and ‘Low Season‘ in my head for days now and I like how they can go from full on hardcore intensity to these huge, dreamy melodies that demand to be received with hands firmly in the air. Like all good sophomore records, the band also tread newer territory, with semi-acoustic ballad ‘In The Meantime‘ offering a Smashing Pumpkins inspired slice of reflection later in the track-listing. Higher Power have always seemed keen to evolve in sound, so it’s cool to hear them make strides in their songwriting.

7 Miles Underwater‘ is a forward moving hardcore record with a well balanced nod to nostalgia. Early 00’s post hardcore fans are gonna love this while the hardcore kids are still gonna find plenty to rage with!

Caspian – ‘On Circles’
(Triple Crown)

Beverly based sextet Caspian have become a vital part of the post rock scene since their formation in 2004, a time where the genre was really starting to come into its own. 2020 sees the band break a five year silence on the album release front with album number five. Recorded with producer of the moment Will Yip in Pennsylvania, ‘On Circles‘ sees the band at their most instinctive with an album that gleams with visceral impact.

It’s doesn’t really hold back at all, with Caspian throwing it all in the pot. Lethal Weapon style Saxophones wale through the opening of ‘Wildblood‘, then you’ve got the aptly titled ‘Collapser‘ that caves your head in with a super dramatic, riff-heavy break down. You could argue that this is the band at their most eclectic and it doesn’t stop there. Two tracks feature vocals, a previously unheard texture for this primarily instrumental act. I have to say, this is something that Caspian should definitely think about incorporating more in the future, especially thanks to guitarist Philip Jamieson finding his voice. Pianos Become The Teeth vocalist Kyle Durfey adds his dulcet tones to shimmering post rock piece ‘Nostalgist‘, but it’s Jamieson that steals the show with album closer ‘Circles On Circles‘. This is an acoustically driven track that reminds me of City and Colour’s quieter moments and is heart achingly beautiful, displaying an honest and frankly stunning vocal performance.

‘On Circles’ shows that Caspian can still bring new, worthwhile ideas to the table. It might stray off into standard post rock territory at times but there’s enough experimentation and variation that will keep you engaged. If anything, Caspian have given us a glimpse into a potential diversion to a more vocal driven direction, which is an exciting notion indeed.

Andy Shauf – ‘The Neon Skyline’
(ANTI-)

Following on from his critically acclaimed 2016 album ‘The Party‘, Canadian born songwriter Andy Shauf returns with his long awaited sixth LP. What made his previous effort such a hit was its well constructed narrative that followed the events and characters of a night at a house party. Shauf keeps up his brilliant story telling skills as ‘The Neon Skyline‘ tells the tale of a male character as we track his movements and thoughts during a night back in his sleepy hometown.

With the writing process of this piece, a lot of the songs were conceived with Andy sat on the sofa with a guitar in hand. Naturally, these songs feel intimate, often starting stripped back but then ascending into these lovely lounge pop compositions. You get that the character being taken on is of a thoughtful nature, as we walk alongside him and discover his ex is back in town. I’ll let you hear the story unfold for yourself, but I did find myself very suckered in as the character delivers an inner monologue discussing relationships with friends and his ex partner as they frequent local bars, observing other locals.

Even though the narrative is so well crafted and does encourage you to listen in order, the songs individually are well written tales in their own right. ‘Fire Truck‘ revisits old feelings over a peppy groove and ‘Things I Do‘ is a harmony drenched 70’s pop tune that details the breakdown of what was once a loving relationship. Andy has taken his time to write this record and it’s clear to see why as its works both as a collection of superbly written songs and as an engaging, well told story. ‘The Neon Skyline’ solidifies Andy’s reputation as a true songwriting and story telling talent, continuing a hot streak of faultless records.

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a/s/l: Moaning

Remember the days of the old schoolyard? Remember when Myspace was a thing? Remember those time-wasting, laborious quizzes that everyone used to love so much? Birthday Cake For Breakfast is bringing them back! 

Every couple of weeks, an unsuspecting band will be subject to the same old questions about dead bodies, Hitler, crying and crushes.  

This Week: LA trio Moaning, who’ve just announced details of their second album!

Words: Andy Hughes
(Photo Credit: Michael Schmelling)

a/s/l?
28/male/Los Angeles.

Have you ever seen a dead body?
No.

Who is your favourite Simpsons character?
Lisa because she’s a smart and sensitive musician.

What T-Shirt are you wearing?
Don’t be a pervert.

What did your last text message say?
I promise I won’t tell anyone about the dead body.

What’s the last song you listened to?
‘Ego’ by Moaning.

How did you meet the people in your band?
Fate.

What’s the first record you bought?
Probably Smash Mouth.

What was your favourite VHS growing up?
Goofy Movie.

When was the last time you cried?
Christmas. I hate the holidays.

Have you ever kissed someone & regretted it?
Yeah gross germs.

Best Physical Feature?
Belly button.

Worst physical feature?
Nah. Body positivity. Get with the program!

Reasonably ok/not bad feature that you’re not fussed about?
Are you ok?

Do you have any pets?
Mr. Maggie.

Ever picked up any injuries on tour?
I get cuts and scrapes on my knees the most.

What did you do for your last birthday?
Stayed home (aka house party).

Name something you CANNOT wait for?
Our new album to come out!

Do you have a crush on someone?
Bernie Sanders.

What’s the shittest experience you’ve had as a musician?
I lost my passport the day before I had to fly out to Europe.

If you could go back in time, how far would you go?
The 80s?

How do you want to die?
I don’t.

What’s your favourite thing about pizza?
That they deliver it to your house.

What are you craving right now?
Sparkling water and gummy bears.

Have you ever been on a horse?
Yes. Everyone in America rides horses and carries around guns.

What did you dream about last night?
I didn’t sleep last night.

If you could go back in time and kill the baby Hitler, would you?
Of course.

Do you like Chinese food?
Yes.

Have you ever been on TV?
Yes. Everyone in Los Angeles has been on TV.

Ever meet someone famous?
See above.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
Happy, healthy, and hot.

Moaning have got a NEW album out this March! ‘Uneasy Laughter‘ is coming out via Sub Pop and further details can be found here!

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Album Release Rundown – Bombay Bicycle Club, Pinegrove, Algiers and Whyte Horses

Words: Ben Forrester
(Photo Credit: Christian Högstedt)

And another! Who knows if we’ll stick to this being a weekly thang but with the amount of new releases currently, it looks like the BCFB album rundown is here to stay. We have four anticipated comeback records on review this week, yours to own physically or digitally, whatever your vibe may be. However if it is the former, please head to your local record store and support the scene!

ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Bombay Bicycle Club – ‘Everything Else Has Gone Wrong’
(Mmm… Records)

In regards to the late naughties indie scene, I always felt that Bombay Bicycle Club were ahead of the pack. Not ones to focus on being ‘cool’ or ‘on trend’, they wrote with care and thought, bringing in influences from all over to make up their indie pop kaleidoscope. I was slightly worried we’d not hear from them again when they announced their hiatus back in 2015, but it turns out the wait wasn’t too long at all as they kick off 2020 with a brand new record!!!!

Get Up’ is a brilliant opener, not only because it sets the scene for the rest of the album but because it’s a perfect amalgamation of what this band can do. It opens with a chopped up jazz sample before building to a swell of subs, candid but catchy vocals, crashing drums and a razor sharp bass line. It feels modern and forward thinking but still has the same air of unpredictability that made their debut album so incredibly exciting. In my mind this takes off from the lush pop tones of previous album ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’ but keeps in the earnest yet impassioned indie pulse that informed their first two records.

The album continues to bring us beautifully crafted pop songs that excel in groove (‘Everything Else Has Gone Wrong’), hooks (‘Eat Sleep Wake’) and pure prettiness (‘Racing Stripes’). Guitarist and vocalist Jack has always acted as musical director of the band but whilst on a break, bassist Ed released a solo record which gave him the confidence to turn in a few tracks here. ‘Good Day’ is a particular favourite, with Ed taking lead in the chorus that makes for a really pretty and earnest little pop tune.

Everything Else Has Gone Wrong‘ is another great Bombay Bicycle Club record. Naturally this is a wiser band that we hear, but there are still glints to their past which are really nicely referenced. Forever charming and more full of hope than the album title lets on, this is a glorious return!!

Pinegrove – ‘Marigold’
(Rough Trade)

In 2016, New Jersey outfit Pinegrove broke out with charming sophomore album ‘Cardinal‘. The band’s following rocketed from that point onward leading them through the release of 2018’s easygoing ‘Skylight‘ record. Album four ‘Marigold‘ is very much a continuation of its predecessor, providing another set of slow cooked alt country.

Sumptuous choruses awash with beautiful harmonies dominate with opening track ‘Dotted Line’, making a solid opening statement for this. For me it’s the vocal work that really shines through, whether it’s the uplifting swell of ‘Moment‘ or understated lushness of ‘No Drugs‘, they know how to draw you in with all their richness. This is a record very much built on atmosphere and although it might not quite reach the indie rock rush of earlier material, I get the sense that Pinegrove have really matured into their sound, striving to write songs with an even stronger emotional core.

I feel as if Pinegrove’s followers have grown and matured with the band, so I know that this more considered approach will definitely resonate with them. I think it’s fair to say we all need something wholesome and warming in our ears and ‘Marigold‘ definitely delivers the band’s mission statement of thinking about how to be better humans and humanists. But I have to say that I do find this record a little too slow burning. Some of the songs focus too much on building an atmosphere, which can move away from the staying power of their melody. Of course when they get that balance right, it speaks volumes and this is peppered with some really lovely moments. It’s an album that could only really have been made at this point of their career and I do think there’s enough warmth and care to keep their camp fire burning bright.

Algiers – ‘There Is No Year’
(Matador)

It’s been five years since Algiers knocked everyone’s socks off with their debut self titled album. Since then we’ve had another long player which saw the Atlanta formed outfit continue their unique industrial punk meets gospel soul mix. With a sound so fresh, there’s a lot Algiers can explore on a full length, which is why their third album is another expansive and powerful sonic journey.

Although this is still rooted in dark electronics and brooding art rock melodies, there does seem to be a push to accessibility, with the gospel base of the band really coming forward. Franklin James Fisher has such an empowering vocal and the one two opening punch of the title track and single ‘Dispossession’ may me edgier, but sure have real cross over potential. Bustling percussion from former Bloc Party drummer Matt Tong and a thumping piano melody gives the latter a guttural punch of power that I see being sprawled all over the trailers of gritty TV dramas.

There’s a lot to take in and this isn’t an easy going listen, but it fills you more with a sense of power than it does with dread. Franklin’s lyrics are more thoughtful than ranted, the goth meets dub vibe of ‘We Can’t Be Found’ is a real highlight, with its atmospheric build into oblivion. I am completely sucked in by how gut wrenching the vocals get and with the instrumentation bouncing around from post punk urgency to soulful passion, this is an album that really wants to dig into you. It might take a few listens to digest the richness ‘There Is No Year’ holds but once you’ve got it, you’ll be eager to consume it again and again.

Whyte Horses – ‘Hard Times’
(CRC Records)

Dom Thomas strikes me as someone that doesn’t like to sit still, as a record label boss, DJ, Graphic Designer and leader of Manchester based collective Whyte Horses. For his latest project, Dom gets into the DJ mindset to create somewhat of a dream playlist. ‘Hard Times’ is a re-imagined collection of some of his favourite tunes with an impressive selection of guests to achieve this fantasy.

We’ve got the likes of La Roux adding her power pop prowess to Bee Gees smasher ‘Mr Natural‘ and David Lynch’s mate Chrysta Bell keeps it sultry taking on Nancy Sinatra classic ‘Bang Bang‘, to name but a few. These two tracks in particular show the level of thought that Dom puts in his vocal choices, to not only suit the song but also bring out new nuances that you might not have realised before. Both vocalists bring out a strong soul to the tracks which pumps up the beating pop heart of ‘Mr Natural‘ and levels up the drama that surrounds ‘Bang Bang‘. Although they play a big part, it’s not just the collaborations that make this record, with Whyte Horses book ending the album with some perhaps lesser known tunes. The psych pop lushness of 70’s tune ‘Red Lady‘ opens up the record like a ray of sunshine while lost 00’s indie track ‘Want You To Know‘ is the dynamic indie rock closer that closes the album with a light hearted wig out.

A big feeling I get from this record is a genuine sense of fun in both the reconstruction and subsequent playing of these tracks. Later on we get fellow Manc Badly Drawn Boy having a crack at Lou Reed’s ‘Satellite of Love which gives a breezy indie rock performance that sounds like it was bashed out in a northern quarter practice room after a few pints. In my mind ‘Hard Times’ is about forgetting the doom and gloom that its title might suggest and having a nice old time with some good pals. Musically, this is a peppy collection of great covers performed with some true singing talents played with love and happiness.

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Exclusive: Put It Away! Grotbags tackle unsolicited sexual photographs on ‘Tinder Surprise’

Come on, don’t be daft – you’ve heard ‘The Greatest Band in the World‘ by now, right?

In case you missed it, back in November we helped reveal the news that Manchester locals Grotbags had an album in the works, set for release through our friends at Dipped In Gold Recordings.

Now that we’re in the new year, the singles are coming fast and following ‘Big Baby (one of our Top 50 songs of 2019), they’ve moved on from over indulgence at a young age to “Unsolicited sexual photographs” from a right scruff. To that Grotbags quite rightly shout in return “Put it away!

The album comes out just in time for Valentine’s Day, with the band putting on a launch show at local Manchester venue YES! Bag yourself a ticket here and check out ‘Tinder Surprise‘ below:

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