Hey, have you heard about…Roxy Girls

What a week it’s been, eh? Sunderland’s The Futureheads announced their return and in the blink of an eye, plans for a new record and a run of UK dates!

When the news broke, I was instantly transported back to 2004-2005, days I remember fondly. I was working in a fast-food establishment at the time (not that part) and earning the required funds to purchase the newest albums, to be played on a giant CD Walkman (where you could listen to just the one CD at a time – one which might be stuck on there depending how much space you had in your bag…) From Bloc Party’sSilent Alarm’ to ‘Lullabies To Paralyze‘, with the S/T Futureheads debut being a constant.

Whilst they were away, there’s been another bunch of young Mackems who’ve caught my attention, bringing to mind those heady days in the early noughties and discovering that other quartet of noisy young Mackems. With a vocal very reminiscent of Barry Hyde and with a nod to that frantic, jangly off-beat post-punk approach, let’s introduce you to Roxy Girls – well worth your time.

Their first EP came out early last year and they’re currently putting together their next release. David Brewis – he of Field Music fame – is putting the new record together as we speak! Keeping it all in the (Sunderland) family!

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Exclusive: Stream ‘Music for Synthesizer and Drums’ – The debut album from William Covert

This is weird music made for weird people.

After a decade of playing drums in various genre-hopping bands – from math-rock to punk and a variety of genres prefixed by ‘post-‘ – Chicago based musician William Covert has decided to set up shop as a solo performer. His debut full-length ‘Music for Synthesizer and Drums‘ is out this Friday on Coup sur Coup Records. 

We first discovered William through intergalactic math-rock weirdos Space Blood (“…easily the weirdest band I’d ever played in” he tells us), but since hanging up the mask, he’s been on the hunt for a new project. Having incorporated synths and electronic drums into his drumming over the years, it made sense to him that he should commit to exploring this further. This would end up being the crux of Music for Synthesizer and Drums’ – writing, arranging, and performing a solo album from a drummers perspective, incorporating synths and electronic drums mixed with acoustic drums to make music with no specific genre in mind.

I recorded the album with the intent of being able to perform all the music live myself without the need of additional musicians, samplers, pre-recorded loops, etc. The music on the album was influenced by more synth based bands, composers, and artists like Ben Frost, Watter, Robert Fripp, Grails, Greg Fox, and Adam Betts. There are dark parts on the album, but in tone akin to sounding more like King Crimson, John Carpenter soundtracks, and Twin Peaks/David Lynch soundtracks rather than the noisy and heavy elements found in bands I drum in like Space Blood and Droughts.

In the same ballpark as Adam Betts and Battles, ahead of its release this Friday – available in all the usual spots – we’re stoked to present the whole thing below!

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Live Review: Field Music at Imperial War Museum North 24 January 2019

2019 – the year of live performances in unfamiliar settings. Having warmed up for the year with a live screening of England valiantly crashing out of last year’s World Cup right before Californian speed-freaks OH SEES played on the very same stage, I’ve already pencilled in NYC post-punk darlings BODEGA in a Northern library this March. This past week kicked it off proper though, with the turn of Sunderland’s own Field Music and a specially commissioned live performance at the Imperial War Museum North.

As part of the Imperial War Museum’s ‘Making a New World’ season (exploring how the First World War has shaped society), the performance drew inspiration from a rare document in IWM’s extensive collection – an image taken from a 1919 publication on munitions by the United States War Department. Created using a technique called ‘sound ranging’, utilising an array of transducers to capture vibrations of gunfire, the image highlights the minute leading up to 11am on 11 November 1918 and the minute immediately after, when the guns fell silent.

With this as a starting point, the Brewis brothers (Peter and David) then created a show through imagining the six parallel strands of the image continuing throughout the next hundred years, resonating and vibrating across the globe in the shadow of the First World War. From the programme on the night:

In writing these songs, we felt we were pulling the war towards us – out of remembrance and into the everyday – into the now.

(Photo Credit: Imperial War Museum)

As far as venues go, leading up the evening it sounded like we were in for a real treat. IWM North is quite the spectacle, with tanks at every turn and old clobber lining the walls. But what could be expected of the evening and its musical performance? David Brewis to arrive on one of their many tanks? Peter Brewis via fighter plane?

As a hush fell amongst the gathered crowd, the Brewis brothers arrived on foot with a number of familiar faces from Field Music live shows – keys player Liz Corney, bassist Andrew Lowther and Kevin Dosdale. Guitarist Dosdale it would turn out had gone above and beyond for the evening’s performance, not only learning an entirely new set of Field Music songs within a short space of time, but seamlessly weaving together the audio with accompanying visuals that were projected behind the band, linking up pivotal points across the six strands as above.

As the band kicked into gear, led by David behind the kit with his swell vocal, the six strands bounced into life, individually twanging like the strings of a guitar on each beat, moving continuously throughout the performance to reflect the document of 1919. Chosen blips in the timeline came thick and fast with the arrival of each new song, with stories of Supreme Allied Commander Marshal Foch, the first Housing and Town Planning Act, ‘Best Kept Garden’ competitions and rebuilding following WWI.

(Photo Credit: Imperial War Museum)

In terms of the music, outside of tonight’s setting these are confined for the time being to a few BBC 6 Music sessions and their forthcoming IWM London performance. But what I can tell you is that each track is groovy as you like, typical of the exquisite Field Music brand and very much in the style of 2016’s ‘Commontime‘ LP. There are lots of little tinkerings and extra percussive sounds throughout, small elements that really add to the overall sound and give a sense for the setting.

A daunting, heavy bassline permeates ‘I Thought You Were Something Else’, a song on the deadly influenza pandemic, whilst ‘If The Wind Blows Towards The Hospital’, inspired by the advent of mustard gas, features a particularly strong passage that I find myself completely lost in. ‘Only In A Man’s World’ is an incredibly funky Prince-esque sprint about the development of the first modern sanitary towel from Kimberley-Clark.

This is one of the great aspects of the evening – each song being ridiculously good in its own right, backed by intriguing stories from the past century. From developments in ultrasound technology (‘From A Dream, Into My Arms’) to pioneering reassignment surgery (‘A Change Of Heir’), the development of the Ondes Martenot, one of the first electronic musical instruments (‘A Common Language’) to the staggering reparation bill dealt to Germany by the Treaty of Versailles in 1921 (‘Money Is A Memory’) – not paid in full until 2010!

Not long after Donald Trump’s name appears on the timeline (‘An Independent State’, based on the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – considered a major blow to the Peace Process), the six strands disappear one by one until there’s just one remaining, its pulsing becoming ever fainter until it just stops. Silence.

There’s no encore – we’re told that it wouldn’t really make sense given the circumstances. But it ends on a high, the band offered much applause given not only was the evening a learning experience, but it came with an entirely new Field Music set! It’s suggested that on the journey home we may think of that lonely person downstairs in the German Treasury department, still organising the payment of reparation debts almost a century on from the First World War – its impact still casting a shadow today.

Read our review of ‘Open Here’ from Field Music!

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Album Release Rundown – A.A. Williams, Blood Red Shoes and The Yacht Club

It’s been an unbelievably strong start to 2019 on the new music front and the final week of January does not disappoint. Here is our rundown of the best records released this week – January 25th. These three picks are all released through amazing independent labels that you can find on the web and in selected stores. Please support your local record store or pick up a copy online!

Blood Red Shoes – ‘Get Tragic’ (Jazz Life)

Having spent well over a decade pushing the boundaries of a two-piece rock band, Blood Red Shoes needed a break. On their return, the Brighton formed duo decided to approach the band from a new angle. Their fifth album ‘Get Tragic‘ has all the blueprints that make BRS such a treasured rock act, but this time they’re covered it in an electro-pop sheen. Synth bass seductiveness and sassed out vocals lead the way as the duo bring the groove, ramp up the hooks and sound like they’re having the most fun doing it.

With massive pop bangers like ‘Mexican Dress‘ and ‘Howl‘ bringing a new sense of swagger into their step, glittery electro ballad ‘Find My Own Remorse‘ flips everything you know about this band upside down in a totally stunning way. Self reflection and doubt are weaved into the fabric of ‘Get Tragic‘ and understandably so as this is a story of discovery and reinvention. But ultimately, triumph and defiance win the battle to create a massive FUCK YEAH of a comeback!

The Yacht Club – ‘The Last Words That You Said To Me Have Kept Me Here and Safe’ (Beth Shalom Records)

Following a few well received EP releases, London based quartet The Yacht Club are ready to reveal their debut album. Although this band have always written very honestly and personally, this is an album that deals directly with grieving and dark mental health issues, but with it they inject a lot of fond reflection and hope. The vocal work is brimming with conviction, from finely tuned vocal leads, soaring three part harmonies and of course, the chest-swelling gang vocals that scream out the title of closing track ‘Be Happy and Love‘.

Musically it combines a shed load of twiddly guitars, math style time changes and super strength indie pop sensibilities. Although it reminds me a lot of the current American Emo and Indie Rock crop, there is something very British about The Yacht Club, which is why fans of bands like TTNG and itoldyouiwouldeatyou will be well into this. All in all, this is a well put together debut full of sharp musicianship and heart warming songs.

A.A. Williams – S/T EP (Holy Roar)

A.A. Williams is a brand new artist for 2019. Having released teaser tracks late last year, the London based singer/songwriter is here to unveil her debut release. Opening track ‘Cold‘ sets the tone for the EP, with a bewildering blend of folk and post-rock that sounds like Mogwai jamming to an early Cat Power record. The other tracks follow suit, with haunting yet warming vocal melodies and soaring guitar work that create an atmosphere that is both tense and beautiful.

Although there is a consistency throughout the EP, final track ‘Belong‘ really steals the show. Bringing a huge crescendo of crashing drums, massive guitar sounds soaked in reverb and of course these really affecting vocal harmonies, this is definitely the sound of an artist with a fully realised sound. This is an extremely accomplished debut and will act as the most perfect winter soundtrack.

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Live Review: International Teachers of Pop at The Trades Club in Hebden Bridge 18 January 2019

It’s been a busy couple of days at the Hebden Trades Club. Thursday night saw the opening of an exhibition by twitter-famous dystopian photomontage artist ‘Cold War Steve. After a couple of months at The Social (London), the residents of ‘Calderfornia’ rejoiced as his fantastic artwork would travel northward for an exclusive arrangement at the UK’s best music venue. Anyone else plucking up the courage to travel from further afield on this cold, snowy Friday had the added pleasure of perusing his take on ‘Where’s Wally – Brexit Britain Edition’ whilst waiting for a pint of Jaipur to be pulled from the bar.

I saw the International Teachers of Pop play Salford in October 2018, which included some great discoveries in support of the headliners (namely Los Bitchos, who then landed a Marc Riley session the following week, oh – the power of social media). I’d heard that they’d made great efforts to choose interesting and varied support acts, championing both new artists and female bands. It works out that tonight would be no exception.

As I chatted to my friend on the door about timings, the first band were due on imminently and from hearing the soundcheck they were reported as being “a bit proggy”. All girl band Sister Wives quietly arrive on stage. Given how little I can find online (other than a handful of gigs they’ve played around Sheffield), I’m assuming that they are recently formed. A very enjoyable set ensued, prompting me to recall influences of Trembling Bells, Goat and Gwenno (mainly as some songs were in Welsh, in addition to the ethereal vocals and synth led melodies). An attentive and growing crowd agreed, a great start as first band of three tonight.

Up next is Beija Flo, a Liverpool based artist originally from Essex. Dressed in a red leotard and knee-high boots, my initial assessment was that we would soon observe a cabaret type performance. This was partially dispelled as Beija triggered the backing tracks on her laptop, which accompany her powerful and lush vocals. Gaps near the front soon fill up, with Beija’s set seeing her hit high and low notes in a pop operatic style, whilst disclosing some rather personal tales. Near the end of the set, she shares an extremely intimate moment, a song written about her own experiences with a disorder called MRKH. The specifics of what this means are explained in a very humorous way (to a mainly male dominated crowd), but a serious point is made regarding her objective in raising awareness. This is a very brave step to take, especially in a room full of strangers! The increasingly involved audience give her much deserved applause as she concludes her set, asking a member of the audience to throw her back some fake flowers she had planted on stage.

The lights dim and we see the shimmering glitter curtain adorning the back wall. The familiar line-up takes to the stage – Dean and Adrian on synths, Rich on drums and frontwomen Katie and Leonore, both dressed in some fabulous matching outfits (possibly tartan rain macs). The immediate energy created by the dancers as they start wacky alt-disco routines remains totally infectious, notwithstanding the genuinely blistering vocals they belt out whilst resembling two teenagers dancing on the bed.

As they blast through the set, the crowd respond well to familiar standouts ‘After Dark’, ‘Age of the Train’ and even for those new to class, a thoroughly enjoyable reboot of ‘Another Brick in the Wall, which goes down a treat. A vigorous rendition of new single ‘The Ballad of Remedy Nilsson’ is one of my personal favourites of the night, its fast-paced beats reminding me of current Hot Chip, amongst other favourable (and obvious) electronic influences.

The girls never tire, beaming smiles as conductors of the nerd disco they have lovingly crafted. They hand out party poppers to the front rows, ready for synchronised release on their command. This livens up a few folks who maybe need a lesson (or encouragement) to move their feet. Sadly, it ends.

This band are the type of tonic people need right now, the closest we have to the wonderful Confidence Man. They clearly share their antipodean friends’ aspiration in becoming an antidote, a distraction, somewhere people can clearly lose themselves to dance. I’m hoping further gigs and festival appearances will follow. I’m really hoping to see the entire class dancing, lost in music, even those at the back.

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Live Review: Adrianne Lenker at YES in Manchester 17 January 2019

Adrianne Lenker is a relatively new name to me. It was the release of her latest solo record ‘Abysskiss‘ in October last year that completely stopped me in my tracks in all its beautifully understated glory. But for many, Adrianne is a New York based singer songwriter that has stolen their hearts for many years both as a solo artist and fronting lo-fi indie pop band Big Thief.

Needless to say tonight is a sell out, as I enter the doors of new Manchester venue YES for the first time. I’m upstairs in the vibrantly decorated ‘Pink Room‘, ripping off several layers as I go from the chilly city streets to a toasty little room full of excitable but calm Lenker fans.

As expected, the crowd tonight are super polite throughout the hour long set, with the only heckle of the evening being “You are brilliant, please don’t stop“. There’s another moment where Adrianne takes a little longer to tune her guitar into one of many different tunings, the crowd therefore beginning to chat, getting louder and louder. But as soon as she strikes the first chord, there is immediate silence and poise, which makes me realise that she has the room in the palm of her hands as they hang on every word and every note.

It’s not hard to see why though as the set tonight is full of incredibly well crafted songs, her voice full of grace and beauty, with her guitar playing wonderfully intricate and accomplished. It’s one thing being good at playing but it’s another backing that up with great songs and Adrianne has this in abundance, weaving between songs from her two solo records as well as treating us to some brand new songs. There is such a sense of focus as she plays, her head always nodding and her voice seemingly effortless but gracefully powerful.

Thank you for coming out tonight, it means a lot, it would suck if you weren’t here“; one of Adrianne’s charming in between quips we hear this evening, cementing tonight’s set as just a lovely, humbling swing into the head of a genuine songwriting talent. She is brilliant, I hope she doesn’t stop.

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Album Review: The Twilight Sad – IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME

The Twilight Sad have always worn their hearts on their sleeves, but it’s how this Scottish outfit take their influences and weave them into something unique that makes them such a treasured act. It was only a matter of time before things started ramping up, thanks to alt icons The Cure, Editors and Mogwai taking them out on the road to play the bigger rooms they so deserved to be heard in. Naturally, it’s this change in pace that informs the energy and vigour that cuts through ‘IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME‘. Don’t get it twisted, they’re still the kings of gloom and this fifth album is deliciously goth-y, it’s just been dialled up a few notches.

The singles that have been released in the run up to the albums release have all shown a sharper focus in the melody department and the rest of the record definitely follows by example. The goth pop anthems come out swinging here, shrouded in melancholia but matched with a strong feeling of euphoria. I could probably argue that every track fits this description, but ‘I/m Not Here‘, ‘Auge Maschine‘ and ‘Keep It All To Myself‘ are highlights, all different in tone but all hit that sweet indie rock rush.

Guitarist Andy MacFarlane has always acted as musical director for the band and here he wistfully combines ice cool 80’s synths and noisy 90’s guitars with a post-punk spirit and industrial intensity. This is something we’ve seen the band touch on in previous releases, but everything here is in bold with an apparent sense of urgency. ‘Shooting Dennis Hopper Shooting‘ and ‘Girl Chewing Gum‘ especially see the band pushing their sonic envelope whilst smashing out absolutely huge choruses. It feels like they’ve found out what works best for their sound and gone three sheets to the wind with it.

And of course we have to talk about the band’s fearless vocalist James Graham, who has always provided the cherry on top with his enigmatic and impassioned vocal style. But here, as is the theme of the record, it takes a step up as he gives some of his most affecting and gutsy performances yet; opening track ‘10 Good Reasons For Modern Drugs‘ displays his range in full force and sets the bar ridiculously high for the rest for the record. As you can imagine, he totally fucking delivers.

Ultimately, the songwriting is just incredible, melodically solid with some truly spellbinding performances. It holds the euphoric edginess of their last two records, but mixes the grand atmospherics that runs through their earlier material. It feels like The Twilight Sad have spent their career trying to find their definitive sound and they have totally nailed it on ‘IT WON/T BE LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME’.

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