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Friday, 31 January 2014

#243: Cat Bear Tree - Spaces in Between (single review)


Cat Bear Tree

Spaces In Between

February 3rd 2013 (self-release)

8/10



London's Cat Bear Tree are an interesting band. Last year's EP Let's Share Hearts was a fantastic example of how the merging together of genres can not only create something completely unique, but also something completely brilliant as well. Six months later, the trio are still going strong and are set to release their first first official single 'Spaces in Between' on the third of February. And while said EP reflected a far poppier side to the band, albeit with a liberal dose of DIY mentality and a smattering of post-punk moodiness, 'Spaces in Between' sees a more mature sounding band, and one which exudes far more confidence than anything they've released prior.

Pulling their influence from bands such as Bikini Kill right down to more contemporary acts like Bloc Party, there's an inherent sincerity about 'Spaces in Between', brought on by Zoe Konez's wispy vocals throughout the understated verses, before a subtle math-rock tinged breakdown morphs the track in to something more frenetic, something less straightforward. Whereas previous songs such as 'Crayons' upheld a differing sense of freneticism, none seem as sombre, nor as fully released, as their latest release, which relishes in a smoother kind of energy that permeates the glossy exterior of the track, hinting at the punk tenancies that reside beneath the silky surface.

  
To hear the band transcend their initial, rough and ready sound, in to something such as 'Spaces in Between' is fantastic. While they've certainly polished their edges, they've also matured as musicians, whilst never losing the DIY appeal that first struck me. They're a band with energy, with passion, with ethos and ideas; ideas that aren't preached, but planted. And while the sound these girls make doesn't lend itself too heavily to commercial success, one can't help but thing such arbitrary things don't matter Cat Bear Tree, there's more important things in life. And they're right, and as long as they keep producing music that's as strong as 'Spaces in Between', I'll keep supporting them.

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Monday, 27 January 2014

#241: Welcome to Manchester - A Guide to Some of the City's Best Bands


As a city, Manchester’s musical heritage arguably far outweighs any other of its exports. Over the last 50 years, the city has given rise to an inordinate number of acts that have gone on to become household names; from the vocal harmonies of The Hollies and The Bee Gees, to the colloquial twang of The Brothers Gallagher; the dissonant poetry of John Cooper Clarke to the euphoric, almost angelic sounds of contemporary acts such as MONEY to the euphoric for very different reasons, funk of The Happy Mondays. The point I’m making is that every generation, every decade, has given us another musical legend and no matter how you personally feel about them as a band or solo artist, it can’t be argued differently.
Even now, with the buzz surrounding the reformation of the Inspiral CarpetsThe Stone Roses - and the aforementioned Happy Mondays – finally dissipating, one can’t help but think that despite what some people say, Manchester’s music scene never really went away and such musical royalty reforming isn’t the pinnacle of our city’s scene. It’s far from it, and in fact it’s a result of it. There’s a slew of bands and artists coming up that keep the crowds flocking back to such eclectic venues as the Night & Day, The Deaf Institute, and The Ruby Lounge, supporting a scene that in itself seems completely oblivious to the pressures of the wider industry, ignorant of generic convention and seemingly living by the time-old axiom of “Fuck you, this is Manchester, we do what want”. And in a sense they do. While, yes, there are those bands that adhere to the cultural stereotyping of being bandLADS, there are far more acts doing something more than that, something on a more intellectual level than your average Fred Perry sporting philistine, recanting his amorous antics with all the colloquial verbosity of a Lancashire hotpot. From hardcore inspired garage rockers, to atmospheric and haunting producers and even reggae bands, there really is something for everybody in Manchester, no matter what your musical persuasion. Below is just a handful of acts that we think will be making waves in 2014 and beyond.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

#240: Augustines - Augustines


Augustines

Augustines

February 3 2014 (Caroline)

8.5/10

Brooklyn-based Augustines (formerly We Are Augustines – presumably enough people now know who they are for them to drop the affirmation) are a band who, despite being born from turbulent circumstances, lace their music with an infectious optimism that bleeds through, even in to their live sets. Their 2012 debut 'Rise Ye Sunken Ships' served not only to address singer Billy McCarthy's personal issues within it's lyricism, but to relay a universal message, that things can actually get better. Now, just shy of two years since it's release, Augustines are gearing up to release their self-titled sophomore effort, which sees the band heading in a more mature, and far more ambitious, direction than their debut, whilst still maintaining their inherent sense of optimism.



This review was originally written for Little Indie Blogs. Click here to read in full.

Friday, 24 January 2014

#239: The New Ages - Piper Man (EP review)


Despite having only been a fully-realised band since the formative days of last year, Birmingham-based alt-funk outfit The New Ages have been slowly gathering momentum over the course of the last twelve months, culminating in the release of their debut EP Piper Man which earned them such praise as “...as if Flea and co. found themselves in a room jamming with Arctic Monkeys”. Not bad going for a band who, at the time, had been together less than a year.



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This review was orignally written for Listen Up Manchester. Click here to read in full.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

#238: Ummagma - Rotation/Live and Let Die (single review)

Ummagma

Rotation/Live and Let Die

December 9 2013 (Emerald and Doreen Records)

8.5/10



Pop will eat itself, or so the time old axiom goes. And it's true; these days especially it seems we're rarely graced by anything completely original. Anything too leftfield, and an artist is dismissed as being experimental for experimental's sake, anything familiar sounding by comparisons, and it's disregarded as unoriginal. Fortunately, however, Canadian/Ukrainian duo Ummagma are managing to avoid such labels. The brainchild of Shauna McLaron and her partner Alexx Kretov, Ummagma's trademarked sound can be pretty much be summarised as dream-gaze, or should that be shoe-pop? And while some of you may well groan at the prospect of more of the same (there has been an awful lot doing the rounds at the moment), the band are doing more than enough to make them stand out amidst the multitude of dream-pop/shoegaze bands on offer.



This review was orignally written for Little Indie Blogs. Click here to read in full.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

#236: Drowners - Drowners


With a named derived from the first Suede single and a sound somewhat akin to the bastard spawn of The Strokes and The Libertines, not to mention their recent tarring with the “britpop revival” brush, you would be forgiven for thinking that indie-pop four-piece Drowners were from London. As it happens, however (with the exception of frontman Matt Hitt – who hails from South Wales) all the members of the band are from the States, New York to be exact. Something hardly surprising when you hear Hitt’s occasional Casablancas vocals, or clock the CBGB leather jackets.

This review was originally written for Far Out Magazine. Click here to read in full.

Friday, 17 January 2014

#235: Abe - Heave Ho (EP review)



Abe

Heave-Ho

December 2 2013 (self-release)

8/10


So named after one of the original Playstation's most flatulent, yet otherwise charming mascots, Sheffield-based trio Abe have, in December at least, released their first “real” EP in the form of 'Heave Ho'. The culmination of several years' effort from the band, 'Heave Ho' is five tracks of ambitious melodies, off-kilter instrumentation and vocals wrought with emotion that, all in turn, beg the question, why haven't we heard of them yet?

Monday, 13 January 2014

#234: The Bedroom Hour - Themes (EP review)


The Bedroom Hour

Themes

May 17, 2014 (self-release)

8/10

So often these days, when a band finds itself surrounded by a buzz, they rush to release their first EP, or even album, eager to appease hungry press and even hungrier record labels. There are those bands, however, that rather than bay to the obvious pressures they're under, choose not to rush out their material in hopes of being the 'Next Big Thing', but rather wait, hone their trade, cut their teeth, however you want to phrase it, and the fact of the matter is that most bands benefit from their patience far more than those who would rather ride the hype train.

One such band, it seems, are London-based five-piece The Bedroom Hour who, despite having been a band for quite some time now, are set to release their debut EP Themes, on May 17th. Having been following this band for around a year now it's clear that, as the buzz around them has grown, their ambitions and their energy have grown with it. With a steady stream of tracks making their way on to the band's social media pages, each track feeling more accomplished than the last, it was only a matter of time before the inevitable first EP; and it's an EP that sets the bar inordinately high.

Beginning with 'Shadow Boxer', it's clear that the time that the band has spent honing their skills hasn't been in vain. Huge U2-inspired verses suggests an overt penchant for anthemics, whilst an understated bass suggests a firm understanding of spacial awareness within their music that belies the band's relatively young age.

Coming during the latter half of the record, 'Midnight Game' is a particular highlight, and one which brings to mind current Manchester buzz band MONEY. Slow and impactive, and packing far more candour than your average indie band is capable of, 'Midnight Game' once again suggests a maturity within the band, something which is further cemented by closing track 'Slow Motion Cinema' and the almost-tangible emotion that goes with it.


It's rare for a band such as The Bedroom Hour to exhibit the kind of musical maturity that they do, but their savviness towards the industry, and their almost endless supply of patience has enabled them to create one of the strongest d├ębut releases I've ever heard. From the rousing vocal harmonies to the elegant guitar work, nothing featured on Themes seems out of place or forced, and it's this kind of release that will surely get those who have had their head buried in the sand for the last 12 months, well and truly excited.

This review was written originally for Listen Up Manchester. Click here to check out their site.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

#233: Forever Cult - Suntrap (single review)


Forever Cult

'Suntrap'

January 27, 2014 (Clue Records)

9/10


Seemingly able to bridge the gap between Seattle circa '92 and Camden circa 2012, Huddersfield-based 3-piece Forever Cult look well and truly set to make 2014 their year. Armed with a sound that's just as suited to red plaid as to trilbies and skinny jeans, their debut EP Fuxx was met with generally favourable response when they unveiled it's grungey cynicism last October. Now, a little of three months since it's release, Forever Cult are back with new single and free download, 'Suntrap', and, whilst the cynicism is still present, the music itself reveals a far more melodious, even tender side to the band's writing that comes across as the first step in a maturing process.

A hazy track that's far less frenetic than the heavier numbers on their EP, 'Suntrap' is not without it's own demons. Described as a “dark and brooding grunge confession” the track exhibits a discernible sense of introspection, with Kieran Clarke's transatlantic vocal serving to uphold a sense of universality that transcends the band's West Yorkshire roots, appealing to fans of alternative indie on both sides of the pond. Once more, not only are the band releasing 'Suntrap' as a free download, but it's release as part of this year's Independent Venue Week (an admirable venture, much like International Record Store Day on a smaller scale) means Forever Cult have been chosen as the headliners for the Leeds leg of the event, along with fellow up-and-comers allusondrugs.


Quite often, these days it seems many bands are brimming with interesting ideas, have thoughts on amalgamations of sounds or aesthetics which in turn, inevitably leads to the lines of genre becoming increasingly blurred. The problem with this experimentation, is that many of the bands are falling victim to over-ambition, running before they can walk. Thankfully, however, that isn't the case with Forever Cult, who have expertly walked a fine line on the border of indie and grunge, never once falling too heavy on either side, creating the perfect balance of the nostalgic and the contemporary and coming across all the better for it. And while the two genres have certainly met before (most recently with bands such as the ill-fated Tribes), rarely do they harbour the same cynical charm as Forever Cult. Like the twenty-somethings they probably are, poised between youthful innocence and cynical adulthood, Forever Cult, as a band, seem the embodiment of quarter-life crises, and my god, do they do it well. 

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#232: Triolian - In Your Head


Triolian

In Your Head

January 30 2014

7/10

These days, thanks to the internet, it seems bands need very little in the way of label support before they can begin to make a name for themselves. Indeed, for similar reasons, a band could easily find itself with a modest yet devout following before ever even taking to a stage. One such band, who have only been together a matter of months, is London's indie-pop duo Triolian, who release their debut EP 'In Your Head' on January 30.



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Friday, 10 January 2014

#231: Introducing...Holy Milk


So named after one of this year’s most beguiling – yet somewhat worrying – news stories, London four-piece Holy Milk are currently joining the slew of ambient groove-laden pop acts to come out of the city this year. Following in the footsteps of the likes of London Grammar or the ill-fated Mt Wolf, the band’s own take on their respective sound sees a darker, more minimalist approach than other acts, as such providing them with a much needed edge within a genre that’s at risk of becoming saturated.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

#230: Introducing...Titanics


As a band, Albany based two-piece Titanics have managed to distil the lazy summers of their  up-state home-town into crisp and atmospheric pop gems that bristle and glisten with a new wave warmth that’s impossible not to sit up and take notice of. Whilst the music of Mark Lombardo and Derek Rodgers won’t grab you by the balls (it’s in fact far less forward than that) it will put it’s arm around your shoulders and gently coax you in with it’s feel good vibes and almost euphoric instrumentation.


#229: Cat Bear Tree to Host Single Launch Party - Feb 1st



Cat Bear Tree to host launch party for new single
‘Spaces In Between’ on 1st February 2014 


To celebrate the release of their first single ‘Spaces In Between’, 
Cat Bear Tree will be hosting a FREE entry night featuring some of 
their favourite grrrl-filled acts from around the country, on Saturday 
1st February at The Finsbury in North London. 


Veering somewhere between DIY punk and indie-pop, South East London export
Cat Bear Tree pull varied influence from the likes of Sleater-Kinney, Bloc Party, Bikini Kill and 
Electrelane. Writing and recording together since 2011, Zoe Konez (Guitar and Vocals),
Claudia Mansaray (Bass and Vocals) and Sarah Smith (Drums and Vocals) have been busy 
building a dedicated following, whilst cementing their place in the list of new generation, 
all-female bands to look out for. 

Drawn together by their shared love and passion for music; this intriguing band has built up a 
reputation for being one of the most exciting live bands of the moment and have won the hearts 
of tastemakers at the likes of Amazing Radio and BBC 6Music. Their no-nonsense raw live 
shows are bursting with energy, showcasing an intriguing layer cake of breathtaking three-part 
vocal harmonies, post punk flavoured musicianship and evident chemistry between band