Monthly Archives: March 2013

Moose Blood – Moving Home EP

bnDeja Entendu by Brand New is likely the defining record of my short 25 years on this planet. That or Infinity Land by Biffy Clyro. Or maybe Spoon’s Girls Can Tell, and of course Ted Leo and The Pharmacist’s Shake The Sheets. But before I wander off into naming my favourite 100 records of all time (something I absolutely want to do now), I want to return to Deja Entendu. Both musically and lyrically, it was unlike anything I had come into contact with before. Melodic hooks, fiercely personal lyrics, it was full of ups and downs. I formed such a connection with it, and it’s a record I come back to so often. It feels so complete, without a wasted moment.  Not for a second would I ever categorise myself as being anything remotely emo, but that was the brush that Deja Entendu was often broadly painted with. Either way, I just love that record.

The odd thing is, I never really branched out from that record and that band into listening to their peers and contemporaries. There’s no simple reason, and no logical explanation – but looking at the similar artists on Spotify for Brand New – Taking Back Sunday, Dashboard Confessional, Finch, Thrice – I couldn’t name any of their tracks. OK, Manchester Orchestra are the exception to that rule, and of course I’m a huge fanboy of every other record that Brand New have made, both before and after Deja Entendu.

mbSo I’m excited to have stumbled across Canterbury’s own Moose Blood, and their debut EP, Moving Back Home (Fist In The Air / Day By Day Records). It certainly channels that Brand New spirit, but there’s way more to them than just that.First up, they know that lyrics are just one part of the jigsaw, shown by an instrumental track called ‘My Own Boat’ that opens the EP. This, along with the fact they like to eschew traditional songs structures here and there by reaching a chorus and stripping out vocals again, like on ‘Carbis Bay’. And on ‘Drive’, we don’t even get a chorus as the track just cruises along for just over two minutes.

Thematically the EP covers interesting and varied ground: love (plenty), god (a Brand New favourite), coffee, Dashboard Confessional (one of those peers I haven’t given a chance), and cultural influences, such as High Fidelity and Bukowski (my favourite author by a country mile right now). They also play the trick that Brand New would often reserve for the odd chorus here and there – that of two vocals harmonising, with one tracking along a fair bit higher, but Moose Blood do this almost all the time.

And then besides all the deeper meaning that we could spend forever analysing, they just sound good. Nothing overly complex or unique, but guitars, bass and drums working together like they should. The final track ‘Bukowski’ is probably my favourite as the drums snap and bite during the verse to spike the guitars lying over the top.

It’s an arresting debut record that I’ve been playing over and over for a while now, and it makes me excited to hear more. If not only for the reason that a Google search will turn up more results for the band instead of images of moose carcasses.  Have a listen to Bukowski below, and you can buy the EP for £1.99 on their Bandcamp page.

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Horses Playing Harps – March 2013 Playlist

The usual collection of claptrap nonsense that I’ve been enjoying listening to in the last month or so has been thrown together haphazardly in a Spotify playlist for your pleasure. I’m particularly proud of my segue from the timidness of Daughter trailing into the ferociousness of Bring Me The Horizon.

Also included is a little trail of music that leads into new releases I’m excited for the world, and myself to hear. I’ve already heard the Peace album and think it’ll be a sticky in the brain-er, if that’s such a thing. Plus an EP from Axes is forthcoming, and a new Cold War Kids long length! Woop!

Dude York – And Andrew Too

A new find for me, for you, and for your friends too. Dude York make scraggly, fuzzy rock n’ roll that just sounds so good. ‘And Andrew Too’ is a track that sounds like it’s been filtered through a thick woolen pair of socks, but instead of filtering the sound, in this weird universe I inhabit, it makes it sound thick and fluffy.

So what’s fuzzy about it? Nye on everything. Jerky vocals, wiry guitars, we barely even get percussion but for the shake of a well-timed tambourine and a drum beat low in the mix. But I love it. And the video for this track has been up since last summer, and only has 750 views. What is wrong with you internet???!!! ‘And Andrew Too’ comes from their ‘Escape From Dude York’ EP, and is well worth a listen. Have a listen to ‘And Andrew Too’ below.

Gunning For Tamar – Interview

rrGunning For Tamar are out on tour! Right now! (Dates below). Before heading out, I caught up with Joe and D’Arcy from the band on a grey old night in Oxford.

Dave: Twenty twelve was a good year for Gunning For Tamar, what was the best thing that happened?

Joe: Europe was cool, and the last tour that we did was some of the best shows that we’ve played, and 2000 Trees. It was the first tour that we did where I saw people singing the words of the songs. It’s just little things like that, to get that response. At one show we were opening and asked if the crowd were looking forward to seeing the other bands, but these six or seven guys in the front row screamed “No! We’ve come to see you!” And they were shouting for an encore. And of course we couldn’t because we were opening! But you can’t underestimate how it adds to the drive when other people believe in what you do.

D’Arcy: One show we played in Belgium, it was the most boisterous show we’ve ever done, and then to play at 2000 Trees on a stage that is bigger than my house….

Joe: Yeah, 2000 Trees was the first time stage people were there to help carry our stuff, and we just very politely said “Oh yeah, no, don’t worry about it.”

D’Arcy: And I felt really guilty as well, because a really pretty French girl started carrying my equipment and I just started thinking “Oh no, don’t do that! I’ll do that!”

Joe: So I guess making a bit of a dent was the highlight. I want us to be a massive band. Not like Red Hot Chili Peppers, who make an album, and people buy it because they like the songs, but nothing else. I want it to matter to people. The bands that I like, their fans, the bands mean so, so much to them.

I guess plans for 2013 are building that audience and connection. You’ve got a new EP on the way, Camera Lucida due out on Alcopop! Records on April 1st. Where did that name come from?

Joe: A book that Dan (guitarist/keys) was reading inspired a lot of the songs and lyrics. It’s partly based on the concept where you look at a picture, and you relate a memory to it, but that’s based on what you see in the picture, and not necessarily a real memory.

D’Arcy: In the book it goes so vivid that it says you remember smells, and actual senses, and you actually create this image in your head from the picture. It has a real focus on the relationship between the conscious and sub conscious.

Joe: There’s one song which came from when I was having these obscene night terrors for six months. They were uncontrollable and horrific, and it was certain things that were happening during the day that was creating these things within my subconscious. I’d sit up in bed and start saying things at night, and my girlfriend wrote down what I was saying to show me in the morning, and we ended up using the lyrics in song, just batshit crazy things I was saying.

D’Arcy: I should probably tell you that I break into your house when you sleep and whisper terrible things into your ears.

What’s the story behind the Camera Lucida album artwork? As a band you’ve got form after the Deaf Cow Motel EP and ‘Dark Sky Tourism’ single artwork for some unusual imagery.

Joe: It’s a fine line from keeping it interesting and abstract, and being pretentious. Even song titles or lyrics, it’s not done to be pretentious, it’s because we think it’s interesting. There’s nothing pretentious about our band at all, we’re not trying to be above people’s heads.

D’Arcy: We work with a lot of really artistic people as well. We give them the songs and say right, what do you get from this? We don’t tell them what to do at all.

Joe: The artwork for the new EP came from when I was drunk and at a party, and a girl showed me this picture.

D’Arcy: That story starts off so bad.

Joe: She showed me this picture of her from when she was younger that looked really odd and creepy, and I said yeah, that’s really unbelievable, and I said to her, that could be our next EP artwork. I asked her if we could use it and she’s been really kind and said yes. And it really ties in with the whole Camera Lucida thing, because it has got a really eerie feel to it, and you can create your own ideas of what’s going on.

After the incredible Lewes Herriot designed poster that came with the ‘Dark Sky Tourism’ single, are there any plans to do anything similar with the new EP?

Joe: I think we’re going to be really boring and release it on a CD.

D’Arcy: Perhaps we’re being a bit more grown up.

Joe: We had fun releasing the watch (for the Time Trophies EP), and we had fun releasing the poster, but you have to be careful that you don’t fall into releasing things in funny formats as a gimmick. I’m not saying it has, but I think it can take away from what you’re trying to push. If you make it so fucking crazy, people are going to think, this is zany, and think more about that side of it. We all think that these songs we’ve written are the best we’ve ever made, and we want that to be the gimmick.

Do you think that added value with releases is important for the indie music industry? As obviously, you’d love to get the band to a point where you could make a living out of it.

Joe: You release music on a watch, because you think it’s really cool. And that’s what Alcopop! Records and Big Scary Monsters are so good at doing, they are so interesting with what they do with their releases, but they have to be. They do have the freedom to do that, because they are indie labels.

D’Arcy: I don’t poo-poo it at all, I think we’ve just hit that point where we’ve worked really hard over our EP, and we want the attention to be on that.

What are your thoughts around a possible Gunning For Tamar album?

Joe: It’s nice to develop over an EP, or two, or three. There are very few lucky bands that come into being, and know what their sound is straight away. It has taken us time to develop into something that we want to push on with now.

It’s nice hearing you say that these songs you’ve written are the best you’ve done, and it shows the value in waiting.

Joe: Impatience is probably the biggest curse of bands. The primary concern has to be, “I have to love this song.” Whether you get a major label deal out of it is irrelevant. You have to be able to look back at it in X amount of years, and be able to say that I’ve loved every song I’ve written.

D’Arcy: You have to be proud of your own work. We write the music that we write because we love it, and if anyone else likes it, that’s a bonus on top. The new stuff, we’re so proud of it, as rubbish as that sounds, and as non-indie as that sounds.

Joe: There’s no overruling. There’s no dictator in our band. If we’re working on something, and someone says they’re not feeling it, we’ll put it to the side. It might not be the straightest route to being the biggest band in the world…

Is that the goal?

Joe: Of course! Every band… unless you’re well punk, which…. we’re not. You start a band because you want as many people to enjoy it. The moment you start worrying about not being picked up or whatever, you lose focus of why you’re doing it.

D’Arcy: You start a band to play that piece of work that you are so proud of to people. If they like it, that’s a bonus.

Joe: It’s kind of more fun when they don’t like it. It makes shows more fun if you play to crowds who don’t like you. But sometimes you win people over.

UK tour starting on 16th March – EP ‘Camera Lucida’ out on April 1st on Alcopop! Records.

Catch them live:

MARCH
16 – OXFORD Academy
18 – MANCHESTER The Castle
19 – LINCOLN SCY
20 – LEEDS Nation of Shopkeepers
21 – YORK Stereo
22 – NEWCASTLE Head of Steam
23 – LIVERPOOL The Shipping Forecast
25 – LEICESTER The Cookie Jar
26 – LONDON Power Lunches
27 – BIRMINGHAM The Flapper
28 – DERBY Ryans Bar
29 – BRISTOL The Exchange
30 – NOTTINGHAM JT Soar

APRIL
01 – SOUTHAMPTON Avondales
02 – BRIGHTON The Green Door Store
03 – CARDIFF Clwb Ifor Bach
04 – KINGSTON New Slang
05 – PORTSMOUTH Edge of The Wedge
11 – BATH Moles

Ra Ra Riot – Beta Love

rarariot300x300Ra Ra Riot is a band well versed in change. Their front man left within a year of the band’s formation, the original drummer died in 2007 from circumstances that are still being investigated, and after 2011’s critically acclaimed 2nd LP The Orchard, cellist Alexandra Lawn announced that she would be leaving the band. This makes Ra Ra Riot sound a lot more Spinal Tap than chamber pop, but with their 3rd LP, Beta Love (Barsuk Records), a change in sound is the big talking point.

Gone are the preppy and charming arrangements of previous records, with the delicate and neatly arranged interplay between classic rock instruments and the cello and violin. However, the change in sound isn’t due to as simple a reason as a formation change. The record is said to have been inspired by the works of cyberpunk novelist William Gibson and futurist Ray Kurzweil. In Kurzweil’s book The Singularity Is Near, he describes his law of accelerating returns which predicts an exponential increase in technologies. He says this will lead to a technological singularity in the year 2045, a point where progress is so rapid it outstrips humans’ ability to comprehend it. Beta Love sounds like a record that has arrived in a time machine from 2045, complete with Back To The Future II clothing and an air of rambunctiousness. Unfortunately, as with the aforementioned near-miss of a sequel, it doesn’t exactly hit the spot.

Out with the old and in with the synths, the record is heavy with the syrupy end of the instrument’s scale. On tracks like ‘Binary Mind’ and ‘Beta Love’, it works. ‘Binary Mind’ bursts with electro handclap beats and a hooky chorus that sticks in your mind like chewing gum on your shoes. ‘Beta Love’ ratchets up the sugar levels by 100% of one’s RDA, but with the strings of the violin being a little more prevalent than on other tracks, they help cut through the verses acerbically. Lyrically we’re wired back to the futuristic theme with references to prototypes and robot hearts, but it gets a little lost at times in the frothing of noise surrounding it.

The high key of the chorus in ‘Beta Love’ is an indication of what’s to come. Initially it’s enjoyable, but as the record continues, so much of it takes place at this heightened level and becomes a little jarring. On ‘Angel Please’, there’s a key change in the final lyric of the bridge before each chorus that becomes an awkward moment on repeated listens, causing an involuntary clench before its arrival. ‘That Much’ is exciting for the return of non-electro drumbeats, but eventually descends into feeding guitar lines through the inside of a 56k dial-up internet connection, leaving them sounding pixelated and scattered, and all together a bit more 1996 than 2045.

‘Is It Too Much’ shows an enjoyably lighter touch with the employment of a gentle industrial fuzz buzzing through the chorus. As vocalist Wes Miles lilts: “I know I never had much to say,” and speaks of “so little motion here,” this slowdown in speed is a welcome breather from the franticness of what surrounds it. As a whole, the record is a challenge to swallow in one sitting, but offers up enjoyable moments.

Dev Hynes working with Mutya Keisha Siobhan (Original Sugababes)

Good pop music! The people demand good pop music! It’s nothing to be ashamed of, or embarrassed about. You can hear the strains of classic 90’s/noughties pop in some many forms these days, from the unpredictable strains of Everything Everything, to the R ‘n B seeped grooves of AlunaGeorge.

I once told an ex of my fondness for the original Sugababes, and it was something that caused much hilarity. As a blogger / music obsessed person, normally it’s my job to go around saying ridiculous things like: “Have you heard of that band from Slovakia, they all play harps, and the frontman is a goat.” So saying that you liked the Sugababes is something people like to latch on to. But it shouldn’t be! I interviewed Gunning For Tamar – a discordant post-rock band with strains of early Biffy Clyro back in January for another website, and lead singer Joe Wallis was open in describing his love for big pop songs. We all do. Let’s not pretend that we don’t.

So, early Sugababes. Overload. Soul Sound. And if we count the time when Siobhan had left (and made some good music on her  own, how good is Overrated?) and Heidi joined – Freak Like Me! Shape! Round Round! Now it’s all a little out of control, with an entirely different threesome hiding under the umbrella of the old name. Like if Man United players were to grow a conscience, move to FC United, and then Man United sign up any man walking past capable of kicking a ball ten yards. A laboured analogy, yes, but it suits the laboured output that’s been shoved out of the Sugababes name as of late.

But due to the slightly peculiar state of  play, the original three – Mutya, Keisha and Siobhan, are back together! And they’ve called themselves…..wait for it…..Hitler’s Tennis Coach. No, not really. They’ve just called themselves, themselves. Mutya Keisha Siobhan. Just to help avoid any confusion.

The point to this rambling diatribe is something that I saw on Twitter last week that got me excited about this whole shebang. I’ve rambled on about Dev Hynes on these pages before – thanks to his ridiculous career arc, and my fondness for Test Icicles and Blood Orange. But last week, I saw on Twitter that Dev Hynes has been working with the reformed threesome. This can only be good news. So high hopes all round. Now, we just have to wait, both for new music, and for me to be shunned by my too-cool-for-school music geekery chums. In the meantime, have a listen to Overload below (+ check out the MKS name change in the video title!) Screw that, here is the first piece of music to come from Dev Hynes + MKS, using Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Swimming Pools (Drank)’. How good is this?!

Deptford Goth – Union

Spring is nearly here. At last! So what we need now is some uplifting, summer-filled noise. Right? Wrong. Here’s Deptford Goth! Described by Last.fm as downbeat electronica, but don’t let that fall you for a second. There’s a sneaky warmth in the melodies and fuzz that make up the noise.

Deptford Goth is a one man machine from London, and his debut album is dropping in March. All I’ve heard so far is ‘Union’, but that’s enough to get me excited. It’s an understated, woozy track that just finds a way of charming the listener. Have a listen to ‘Union’ below.