Posts Tagged ‘Indie’

26th February 2021

It seems only fitting that lo-fi indie duo Videostore should return to the roots that inspired their vaguely nostalgic moniker and the theme for their debut album Vincent’s Picks for their latest lockdown single release with a song which Nathan says was inspired by ‘sitting around watching superhero movies.’

Certainly, inspiration for a lot of art has been coming from closer to home this last year, and most life has been lived vicariously for many of us. Movies provide a much-needed escape when the limits of your life are just four walls, and this punchy, guitar-driven single is exemplary of Videostore’s resourcefulness. Written and recorded just a week ago, accompanied by self-filed footage (mostly shot at home or in local parks in a single day) and assembled by Dave Meyer, it’s once again a strong sell for the DIY methodology that facilitates not only full artistic control but a greatly reduced time-lag between conception and release, ‘Superhero Movies’ celebrates its uncomplicated evolution – Nathan sitting on the sofa with one of his many guitars, parked in front of a laptop, the pair supping wine.

‘This is not my movie’ Lorna sings, increasingly frenzied, as she spirals and spins around, beshaded, in a park somewhere as the guitars fizz and the bass thumps against an insistent drum machine.

And while this is ostensibly an indie tune, the tumultuous distortion of the buzzsaw guitar and the overall production is actually reminiscent of Big Black – in particular their cover of Wire’s ‘Heartbeat’. It’s not entirely pretty, and it’s better for it: ‘Superhero Movies’ packs all the energy, and delivers it with a raw immediacy that really hits the spot.

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12th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Coventry quartet SENSES have had a stuttering journey to bring them here, with the release of ‘Drop Your Arms’ as a taster for their impending debit album – which has been a long time in coming. There is a classic tale of burgeoning progress being stalled and creativity stifled by label wranglings. Throw in a global pandemic and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a stalled career. It’s almost as if some labels are more concerned with contractual constrictions than the nurturing and promotion of creativity and new music.

But you can’t keep a good band down forever, and regrouping after a hiatus to embark in a multi-media project designed to take their music to the masses and to the next level, and ‘Drop Your Arms’ is the opening gambit that prefaces the debut album Little Pictures Without Sound.

Yes, it’s indie at heat, but it’s also so much more: it’s also big, bold and anthemic – and swings between the throbbing anthemic stylings of Doves with the darker post-punk currents of early Editors (whose producer Gavin Monaghan was involved in the early recording work) – I’m specifically thinking ‘Bullets’ here, particularly when it ratchets up around the mid-point. Then again, I’m equally reminded of The Psychedelic Furs’ debut album and their ‘wall of noise’ that really hit hard.

There’s a darkness and a seriousness about ‘Drop Your Arms’, a track that drives and bounces with an effervescence and energy that’s as infectious as it is undeniable. In short, it’s a cracking single, and if the rest of the album is half as good, it’ll be a corker.

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12th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Released digitally last autumn, Para Lia’s Gone With The Flow gets a ‘proper’ physical release this month. The second album from the German duo, consisting of René and Cindy Methner, has already drawn comparisons to Dinosaur Jr, Arcade Fire, and The Mission, as well as referencing in the press release – the hearteningly specific – ‘early Editors’.

It all makes sense with the blistering opener, ‘My Muse’ – a post-punk influenced adrenaline shot that showcases some wild soloing that somehow manages not to sound wanky. See, I’m not one for guitar solos myself, but find that J Mascis’ best efforts are enough to reduce me to tears. ‘Kassandra’ hits that spot: it’s a cutty post-punk revival effort that’s got the pomp of The Mission, complete with the wordless backing vocals Julianne Reagan delivered to absolute perfection on songs like ‘Severina’, and topped with an absolutely melting solo that twists, turns and weeps all over it. I should probably be tired of this by now, but when presented with just the right blend of nostalgia and quality

They don’t always pull it off: ‘Riders on the Dike’ is more ramshackle punk-folk with a ragged vocal delivery reminiscent of Shane Macgowan that simply doesn’t quite sit, and ‘Time and Again’ follows a folksier bent that grates a shade, feeling slightly forces and off-track despite some soaring harmonies from Cindy.

But it’s more hit than miss, as the slow-burning ‘Fools’ brings swathes of mournful strings to the post-rock tempest that swells as the song progresses, and the tense jangle of ‘Fire’ evokes the spirit of 1985, not just instrumentally but with its thick production, where the bass and guitar clump together, cut through by a sharp-topped snare sound.

‘Kaleidoscope’ is every bit as shimmeringly layered as the title suggests, and notes of New Model Army and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry are present as they drive a forward trajectory with an insistent rhythm section and some choppy guitars pinned back in the mix. Last track, ‘No Time for Butterflies’ combines psych-hued 60s pop, folk, and 90s alternative to forge a pleasant and exhilarating finale, and if there’s little about Gone With The Flow that’s overtly ‘new’, it’s a unique combination of older forms rendered with real style and some solid songs.

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29th January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

My wife detests The Twilight Sad. I love The Twilight Sad, and am prone to crying at their gigs. I’ve also been called a cunt online for suggesting the intensity of their shows may be akin to witnessing Joy Division at their peak (a suggestion I still stand by: James Graham is capable of conveying a rare emotional intensity in his performances that’s compelling, and at times, borders on the disturbing). They’re a band that are divisive beyond Marmite, but elicit a level of devotion from their fans that’s truly fervent.

When it comes to covering a band that inspire such passion, it’s a big, big challenge, and a huge risk – one of those moves that could be absolute fucking suicide, or inspire career-defining awe.

The last time I wrote about National Service, a four-piece band consisting of Fintan Campbell (vocals/guitar), Daniel Hipkin (bass/vocals), Iain Kelly (guitar/vocals) and Matthew Alston (drums) back in November on the release of ‘Caving’, I actually compared them to The Twilight Sad, so this feels like a much a test of my skills as theirs – and it’s perhaps worth noting that this is the last in a series of cover releases from Fierce Panda, which has also featured Moon Panda, Desperate Journalist, and China |Bears.

Now, you should never mess with perfection, but with their glacial, stripped-back, minimalist take on the song, National Service really capture the wintery melancholy of the original. The dark beauty of the lyrics, which blend sadness with a certain distanced, twisted psychopathy is conveyed with a sincerity that transcends the ethereal atmosphere.

The absence of the soaring finale may come as something of an anticlimax, but this is a well-conceived and magnificently-executed cover, and the distinctive, even slightly unusual vocals delivery, with a certain twang on the higher notes, are well-suited to the song, stamping a unique marker on it while accentuating the multifaceted layers embedded within the song’s dark spirit.

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12th February 2021

You sometimes feel like the world spins faster for some than others. That’s certainly the case for Weekend Recovery: it doesn’t feel so long ago since the emerging alt-rock act from Kent were turning up at a basement bar in Leeds to play their Paramore-influenced radio-friendly rock with fingers crossed the local support would bring some punters. They’ve toured nonstop since their inception in 2017, and it’s worked well for them in terms of amassing a fervent fanbase, and relocation to Leeds, if anything, has helped set them apart from the sameness of the scene of female-fronted alternative rock bands in and around the capital right now.

So fast forward not that very long, but add a debut album, even more extensive touring including some high-profile festival slots, as well as a change of lineup, into the busy timeline, and Weekend Recovery 2021 slams in hard with a new album. With ten tracks clocking in at twenty-nine minutes, you get the idea: this is concise, punchy, and with no fat left untrimmed. Weekend Recovery have always penned focussed songs, but they’ve really nailed it right here.

‘Radiator’ opens it up – and bleeds – with a nagging guitar motif, before the band plunge into megalithic hard rock territory, coming on more like Black Moth or Cold In Berlin than their usual selves. And it’s good: where there was a simmering tension to their songs, which cut jagged and raw on Get What You Came For, you feel like False Company is the album they always wanted to make but couldn’t, for various reasons. That, or it’s the album that shows what life experience can do: while they certainly weren’t afraid to crank it up and let rip previously, False Company is harder, heavier, and altogether darker.

That isn’t to say they’ve lost their pop edge one iota, and there’s a keen ear for melody on display throughout. And it may well be down to the melody, but ‘Can’t Let Go’ sounds like a glam/metal reworking of ‘These Boots Were Made for Walking’. It’s fitting, as it’s a proper stomper, and whereas the energy on previous releases stemmed from a combination of froth and bounce alongside the fizzing guitars and turns of pace, on False Company it’s more centres – the sound is denser and more-up front somehow.

Single cut ‘Going Nowhere’ – a reflection on stasis that’s specifically about relationships but could equally be a metaphor for the last 12 months – stands out as a furious post-punk pop banger with the spiky angst of Siouxsie and Skeletal Family, not to mention hints of X-Ray Spex melted into a song with massive accessible appeal. ‘It Doesn’t Seem Right’ is the ferociously fiery alt-rock corker they’ve always threatened.

‘Surprise’ is the quintessential album slowie, and sounds suspiciously like a power ballad to my ears. Single cut ‘There’s a Sense’ provides a dash of levity, an airy pop tune that harks back to ‘Why Don’t You Love Me?’ from the previous album and it does feel a shade throwaway in context, a tune dispensed at pace to grab the ear. Likewise, ‘You Know Why’: on its own sounds a bit like a hook with not so much meat, the ‘na-na-na’ refrain sounding like it’s leaning on My Chemical Romance just a bit too hard to be cool, but in context of the album its bubblegum buoyance feels more tempered, and in fairness, it’s a full-tilt punk blast with hints of X-Ray Spex.

Elsewhere, ‘Yeah?!’ has large elements of Nymphs in the mix, capturing that blend of grunge and classic rock and spinning it with a strong hook, and finally, in its juxtaposition of guitar lines and vocal melody, plus aaaaallll the dynamics, closer ‘Zealot’ feels like their most evolved and sophisticated song to date.

In terms of the ‘difficult second album’, the machinations behind the scenes – not to mention timing – may have made its coming together a major challenge, and the cover art speaks volumes – it was a mountain to climb, an endless staircase to where? But none of this is evident from the finished product: instead, False Company is darker, harder, stronger, denser, more assured-sounding and more evolved, and every aspect is a step up from its predecessor: Weekend Recovery have really upped their game and expanded their range, delivering an album that really is something special.

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31st December 2020

London-based alt-rock quartet Ben Wood & The Bad Ideas have certainly been keeping busy, and ‘Soho’, released on new years’ eve, is their twelfth – and understandably final – single release of 2020.

There have seen various debates as to the sagacity of releasing a single a month over an album with attendant singles, not least of all around the logistics of promotion (with many suggesting it’s easier to promote an ‘event’ like an album release and building up said release and marketing it with singles rather than the singles being the event in themselves, but 2020 has undoubtedly seen a shift in how music is consumed.

Attentions spans are different and while everyone needs something to look forward, the future always seems to be a distant horizon: in this context, a monthly delivery and a more frequent level of engagement feels ‘right’ somehow, fostering a much-needed sense of community and sustained contact.

With Wood and co inviting comparisons from across a broad range of touchstones spanning The Gaslight Anthem and Arctic Monkeys to Elvis Costello & The Attractions and The Associates, ‘Soho’ is a quintessential indie tune with jangling guitars pinned to a tight rhythm section. It’s not just a Smiths meets Wedding Present throwback stylistically, but a song that captures the essence of classic indie rock tunes of yesteryear, merging boy-meets-girl with kitchen sink drama while throwing in appreciative references to Marianne Faithful. It does very much call to mind the time when Morrissey was someone who wrote relatable songs, before he became quite explicitly an embarrassing racist bellend who rendered is entire back-catalogue unlistenable. More than we hate it when our friends become successful, we hate it when our heroes reveal themselves to be vile, obnoxious pricks.

Ben shows no such indications, thankfully, and ‘Soho’ is an accessible, melodic slice of clean indie pop. It’s accompanied by a video that sees Ben wandering the streets of London, and seeing them bereft of people is strange, unreal almost. There is traffic, busses and bicycles, but benches are empty and the Eye is static.

This, of course, is the world in which we find ourselves, and in counterpointing a song which very much centres around the ordinary, the everyday, with the extraordinary times of the now, Ben Wood presents a striking statement that’s very much a summary of 2020.

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11th of December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Lifted from their Codependency D.S.T. EP, ‘The Causeway’ for no obvious or specific reason evokes the experience of reading Lee Rourke’s debut novel, Vulgar Things, which is set on Canvey Island in Essex. It may be in the Thames estuary, but it’s not connected to the mainland by a causeway – at least not since 1931. Although inspired by the street on which a pub in London frontman Ted Joyce stumbled upon and had been about to frequent before discovering it was boarded up due to COVID restrictions, ‘The Causeway’ in some way reminds us of the ways in which we’re all cut off and isolated, and how we’re all subject to – and dictated to – by the ebbs and flows not just of tides, or time, but of life, and of moods, ours and those of others.

The lyrics are a stream of consciousness unfolding, the tune is a colossal hybrid of indie, alt-rock, post-punk and funk. The fat, strolling bass is the focal point and bounces a groove that owes a debt to The Cure in their poppier moments (and coupled with the buoyant lead line in the bridge, if they weren’t listening to ‘Hot, Hot, Hot!!!’ around the time of writing, then it only goes to prove that influence is transmitted through the ether and spreads like a rhizome in the subconscious) before cutting hard left into a driving chorus that’s got indie anthem stamped all over it.

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1st January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Surt Skum’ is a sweet Swedish treat and translates to ‘sour foam’ – at least according to the missive that accompanies the latest release from psych rockers Cave Suns and their missive from Tier 3 Newcastle, who report that they ‘entered their lysergic bubble of a practice room, to escape the impending mask strewn, gig parched landscape of the North East’.

Emerging from a series of improvisations, this EP offers some solid – if ragged – grooves and a fuckload of energy – not to mention some wild wah-wah action.

The title track kicks things off in a suitably raw but dynamic style: propelled by motoric drumming and a throbbing, repetitive bass that provides the backdrop to a sprawling, wah-laden lead, it’s a dense rush of heavy kraut-infused psych played rough ‘n’ ready, and this sounds lie a one-take live in the studio affair, and the up-front drum thump that clatters and crashes through ‘Sleep Never Rusts’ isn’t so much underproduced as unproduced – but the sounds very like Joy Division’s ‘Dead Souls’, and the nagging bassline isn’t the only factor in this epic builder.

Six-and-a-half-minute finale ‘Sloop John Dee’ brings goth-tinged Celtic guitars as if played by Hendrix to a heavy stoner riff that’s welded – albeit loosely – to a stomping tribal beat that’s pure new wave.

It all adds up to a pretty intense experience, and a cracking release.

Libertino Records – 11th December 2020

James Wells

Debut singles are interesting things: a statement of intent, perhaps but equally likely to be a mere taste of an artist’s capabilities, and not necessarily direction. It all depends on the career-stage of the release, of course: an emerging act releasing a single in that initial rush of enthusiasm may regret it, or, if not, will rapidly transform into something quite different.

Gwir’s debut, pitched as ‘a perfect marriage of both of their influences… With its 90s baggy groove and Flaming Lips twisted popness’, and it’s certainly a solid introduction, and an indication of a band with no small degree of talent.

I can’t say I get so much of a baggy vibe from the swirling, layered sound of the tune, but it’s definitely deeply steeped in eras past. It trickles in on a slow-rippling, shimmering haze, a flickering psychedelic-tinged trip that’s a glorious twisted hybrid of shoegazey / neo psych with a slightly trippy / folksy vocal delivery, and while it may not fully convey ‘the uncertainty and emotional vulnerability of the lyrics’ which aren’t so readily decipherable, ‘Gwir’ builds eddying currents that transport the listener into the clouds. One to pay over, and over, and get lost in.

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4th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Christmas singles are divisive, to say the least. Probably because the majority of them are cack. People get funny about Christmas: sane, rational individuals turn to slushy pulp, pontificating about family and the kids. Yeah, we always do it for the kids. Enduring long hours of pent-up tension spent in stuffy, overheated rooms, feeling uncomfortable with overindulgence and a burning sensation that may be indigestion or just the slow-burning desire to escape.

Often, you will hear people saying that we should remember the less fortunate at Christmas, to spare a thought for them and maybe even a few pence, and we’ll assuage our guilt by donating some mince pies to the food bank or a pair of last year’s unwanted Christmas socks to a charity collecting for third world children or whatever. We do it, and it eases our conscience, and allows us to forget about it all while we plunge back into our own microcosms of manufactured joy, real or falsified. And no, this isn’t a guilt-trip, because I’m certainly by no means exempt here. It’s human nature. How many of us sit and feel sad for those less fortunate, those who aren’t able to spend time with loved ones or feel the comfort of a safe home environment when picking up another pig in a blanket, another slice of meat, another roastie, another splash of gravy?

West London trio Queensmen – who don’t seem to be an intentional response to The Kingsmen, famous for their 1963 version of ‘Louise Louie’ – have released ‘Shine A Light’ in an attempt to raise attention to the plight of the homeless, and to raise money for Crisis.

Where ‘Shine a Light’ stands apart from so many other songs of its ilk is that it takes the viewpoint from someone who’s bereft, and there’s something powerful and moving in the first-person plea of ‘Don’t abandon me / I’m cold as stone / Come and rescue me / Now that I am all alone’.

There’s nothing elevated or preachy about this, and the human impact on an individual level is brought into relief here.

It would be a wrong step to criticise this for being a jangly emo/indie pop rush that musically doesn’t really reflect the gravity of the lyrics, because it’s better to deliver a message in a format that will appeal to a wider audience, and they’re not going to register any better with some dour, po-faced effort. ‘Shine a Light’ has energy and hooks, and while it really would represent an optimal achievement if everyone wo heard this would pause and reflect, spending a few pence on a download because you like the tune would be ok, y’know.

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