FYI our fearless editor Mary is currently on holiday (sort of, she says, since she'll be working on blog-y things for most of it) in Britain and the site won't be as updated as frequently until she returns stateside after the 23rd of May. Don't worry though, we'll be busy this month going to festivals (Liverpool Sound City, the Great Escape) and loads of great content is on its way!
Oh my God, I really wanted to like this album from Dublin’s Little Green Cars. Early single ‘The John Wayne’ was absolutely stupendous, and thankfully that song appears on the album release. Starting off with an appealing deep drum beat, the vocals soar over the top and repeat just enough to make it feel familiar instantly. The EP ‘Harper Lee’ continued to set expectations high for Little Green Cars. Luckily again, the title track from the EP is on the album and is terrific. But the rest of the album gives me pause. I feel like the album is all over the place. Maybe I am missing something and this is a treatise on the collapse of both society as a whole, or the music industry specifically, but as an ‘album’ I don’t think they quite pulled it off.
The trading off of vocals seems to be a thing now. At first I was quite enamoured of it. I’ve heard brilliant treatments of this style (see Milo Greene, Of Monsters and Men) but I am getting a little tired of it. Multiple-vocal fatigue, maybe? Perhaps it is part in parcel with alt-folk fatigue. Stevie Appleby’s voice is so dissimilar from Faye O’Rourke’s that it makes tracks where they take lead individually quite at odds with one another. I don’t dispute that when blended together the sound is quite lovely. But when an album is filled with three distinct ‘sounds’ (O’Rourke alone, Appleby on lead or a harmonised lead), it just doesn’t flow. My problem with the album is not that there aren’t good songs on it, there are. I love ‘Them’, ‘The Kitchen Floor’ and the earlier releases. My problem is with the lack of cohesion on the release.
‘My Love Took Me Down to the River to Silence Me’ seems modeled after Florence and the Machine. O’Rourke sounds very Flo-like here and the storyline of the song is also reminiscent of ‘What the Water Gave Me’. However, voice is even more enjoyable to listen to, it can be both delicate and earthy. ‘The Kitchen Floor’ shows this off spectacularly. Organ-heavy song ‘Red and Blue’ didn’t set well with me because of all the vocal manipulation. It didn’t go with anything else on the disc and muddied their usually clear voices and harmonies. However, see my review here of them playing in Washington DC to read how they brilliantly transformed this song live.
Let me be clear, I did get an opportunity to see Little Green Cars play live before the release of the album and I really enjoyed the gig. Perhaps they are one of those bands whose live performance outshines their recorded work. On repeated listens, the album did grow on me. But my main beef remains. Is the album format dead? Are artists reduced to stringing songs they individually like together so they can release an album? I sure hope not.
‘Absolute Zero’ will be out on the 13th May through Island Records. Watch the promo video for ‘Harper Lee’ below. For a listing of their live dates, go here.
The new album by Phildel ‘The Disappearance of the Girl’ might be more accurately described as a reappearance, or better yet, a re-emergence. According to an interview with The Guardian, Phildel Ng was brought up in a household where music was actively disallowed. Somehow, despite that major obstacle, she has managed to hone her organic talent into commercial music success, largely on the merits of her own ingenuity and determination.
Phildel’s sound is a fragile mix of Enya and Tori Amos, with ambiguous lyrics and lavish, soaring instrumental arrangements. Her singing voice is pure and crystal clear, unaffected by the current female vocal fashion (think Adele, then forget about her). Harmonically and rhythmically, Phildel’s music is a bit square, but it does create a certain ambience, perfect for setting a mood, even if it then seems to fade into the background.
The ‘The Disappearance of the Girl’ album by Phildel is available now from Decca. Watch the promo video for ‘Storm Song’ below; if you like it, you can get the mp3 for free by signing up for her mailing list here.
These are all comments left by fans on the Soundcloud page of the up and coming Liverpudlian folktronica singer/songwriter Dan Croll. I’m aware that an elongated “nice” from a random stranger on the Internet is not the most reliable of endorsements, but with Paul McCartney and numerous Radio1 DJs also behind him, he’s definitely one to watch in 2013. And that includes his appearances this week at SXSW 2013.
A breath of fresh air yet remaining vaguely familiar, the Scouse singer fits snuggly in your iTunes library perched between Metronomy and Vampire Weekend. He utilises his Ben Howard-esque pipes with actual pan-pipes and it works. Imagine if Howard went on a spiritual journey through Africa and returned re-awakened. That’s Dan Croll.
Croll’s angle is a refreshing one: he blends beautiful folk melodies with a busload of instruments to create a chaotic blend that’s very easy to get lost in. Released at the beginning of April, ‘Compliment Your Soul’ (stream it below) is the perfect example of this. It features a huge chorus backed by African folk beats, it’s unbelievably catchy. If this is the man’s second single, then I am incredibly excited for his future.
Probably the most exciting release from a Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts graduate since Liam Lynch’s United States of Whatever’ (remember that?), Dan Croll is looking to have a very successful 2013.
The “return of the Great British guitar band” is the most overused cliché in music journalism. But when describing The Virginmarys, this appears the best way to describe them is as, well, a throwback to the Great British guitar bands of yonder year. I’m talking The Who, Oasis, etc.
The Macclesfield band’s debut album ‘King of Conflict’, available now from DoubleCross Records (Cooking Vinyl’s new rock imprint), is as raw as a Tesco horse/beef burger and comes at you through your speakers as a wall of hook-laden sound that is just impossible to ignore. It’s proper head banging stuff and the exact kind of stuff you can just imagine thousands of people going mental too and jumping their willies off at a festival too.
Seemingly out of nowhere, a bespectacled and impressively-bearded man from Richmond, Virginia, named Matthew E. White has released a rather fine album by the name of ‘Big Inner’. Despite many end-of-year accolades for the work, it has only just been released worldwide on Domino Records, previously having been only available by special import from the USA on the Hometapes/Spacebomb imprint. Thus Mr. White is currently a name unfamiliar to all but the most ardent fans of the American underground scene – though perhaps for not much longer.
The triumph is, of course, that ‘Big Inner’ is thoroughly deserving of wider release. In its seven songs, there’s a superficial sheen of big-band psychedelia, a heartbeat of pure Motown soul, overlaid with White’s zen-like chestnut vocal. Band duties are discharged by Spacebomb, a 35-strong collective of musicians curated by White himself; a house band for the new millenium, for whose talents the songs were specifically written and arranged. This symbiotic relationship has yielded a piece of work which would not be out of place in the oeuvre of many a grizzled practitioner of contemporary Americana.
Whilst comparisons may appear churlish and superficial, for the purposes of description some must be drawn. Prior to their current lengthy miserablist period, Lambchop were making these kind of uplifting, soulful, downtempo yarns, run through with a streak of melancholia. In the thudding drums of ‘Steady Pace’, beautifully-faceted brass and vocal arrangements and dual-tracked lead voice lives the ghost of 10CC. And more recent psychedelic big bands like The Polyphonic Spree and even Spiritualized are in good company here.
The collection climaxes with the 10-minute masterpiece ‘Brazos’ (listen below). From opening brass fanfare, via an enormous massed chorus and all manner of percussive and vocal ephemera, the song builds to a religious fervour worthy of the most enthusiastic Southern Baptist Easter Sunday service – shouts of “Hallelujah!” and fainting in the aisles wouldn’t be out of place. Ladies and gentlemen, follow a star to the East Coast, where a bearded man is here to preach the sin from your tortured souls. The future is all White.
By Mary Chang on Wednesday, 19th December 2012 at 12:00 pm
Words by Josh Francis
Eyeshine are an unsigned band utilising every tool at their disposable to get themselves out there and have a member with a powerful background. (One of their members was a freakin’ Mighty Morphin Power Ranger but we’ll cover that later…)
Drummer Maurice Salmin explained what he thought the band had that was different to what else is out there, bar the whole Power Ranger thing. “We’d describe ourselves as edge rock. It’s in the vein of Jimmy Eat World, Taking Back Sunday and Dashboard Confessional. We call ourselves ‘edge rock’ because we asked friends, family and friends, what we sounded like and we got so many responses we thought we were pretty on the edge of something new.”
The band will play anywhere, already have globetrotted to New Zealand, Australia and Hawaii. Lead singer Johnny Yong Bosch talks about the highs and lows of the being in the band: “What was crazy good for us was going to Australia and New Zealand to play. It was fun because we got to go out of the country.
“Crazy bad would have been some gigs we played in Texas and Ohio, where there were zero to five people to play in front of. We’d scour the internet for competitions and shows and I found some work at conventions I go to. Also fans email us with gigs to go [play] to.”
If Johnny’s name sounds familiar, it probably means you watched an awful lot of kids’ TV show Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and he played Adam Park who was the black and green ranger. If you happened to block out those colourful heroes of the 90s, you may recognise his vocals from popular anime like Bleach, where he played fiery-tempered ginger Ichigo Kurosaki.
Johnny was written out of the Power Rangers’ franchise after starring in 3 seasons. Which leads right into how the band got started. Salmin says, “Johnny was in bad funk after he left Power Rangers. He had nothing but two garbage bags full of clothes, a broken cot and a guitar, and we staying with friends and was moving place to place. He decided he wanted to make music and he met me in church, learned how to play the guitar and we found other bands members and went from there.”
The current band consists of Johnny who is the lead singer, Maurice on drums, Polo (Mastaka Yazaki) on guitar and Ginny Eck on bass. But the band has been through a lot of changes: “As an unsigned band we’ve been through a lot together. We also have a documentary show on YouTube which [shows] the life of the unsigned band. Since it’s started though, we’ve lost three members.”
The band are also interested in playing in the UK after a huge response from their fans. “We got a lot of fans requesting us to come out there, but it’s just so difficult because it’s super expensive,” Johnny mentions. Maybe this Bands to Watch piece will change that?