Wolf Alice @ Oxford O2 Academy // 04.04.2015 // World domination is next

WABombastic but ultimately-empty rhetoric is the kind of thing that keeps part-time blaggers/bloggers like me going. It’s too easy to say nice things in the hope of scoring retweets to get my precious view count up. But here’s a thing that I believe with 100% sincerity (‘cos I’m a stats guy). Wolf Alice are Britain’s best live band right now.

Wolf Alice swung past Oxford 10 months ago before their second EP – ‘Creature Songs’ – was released. It was a show which pointed to a bright future for the band, but like a greedy kid at Christmas, I wanted more. There was an underlying hope of ‘how great can this band be with a bigger collection of thunderous post-grunge rock ‘n roll?’ And so 10 months on, with a first U.S. tour behind them, a debut album close to being released, extensive radio play and a ballooning fan base, what we got was Wolf Alice v2.0. Harder, better, faster, strobe lighting. They have played more shows this year already (by April 1st 2015) than compared to all of 2014 (told you I’m a stats guy/thanks Songkick). Like Jafar, Dr. Evil and Pinky & The Brain, they are ready to take over the world. Except Wolf Alice might actually pull it off.

Latest single ‘Giant Peach’ showed singer/guitarist Ellie Rowsell experimenting with her singing voice, throwing in chant-like bursts, yelps, and fun little low-octave moments. That experimentation has now become stitched into their live shows, such as on the show opener, ‘Fluffy’. Instead of a pretty-literal translation from record to real-life, the live version is made fresh with little nuanced changes like Ellie changing up the vocal tone and style of delivery. For a band that’s clearly destined to tour the dickens out of their music this year, that variety helps to spice things up.

The world will finally get studio versions of live staples ‘Your Love’s Whore’ and ‘You’re A Germ’ once the album arrives, but what they represent is what we expect Wolf Alice to be right now. The lightness of touch they show on ‘Your Love’s Whore’, building gradually from the rhythm section to an awesome cacophony of noise by the end. And on the flipside, a whole lot of fury on ‘You’re A Germ’ as the crowd screams back their 1 times tables in the chorus.

Even more exciting is the notion of experimentation, with the band not afraid to take a risk or two. An airing of forthcoming album track ‘Soapy Water’ sees drummer Theo using a drum pad for the first time, while Ellie channels a little of Lana Del Ray as she croons wistfully. Wolf Alice have done mid-tempo before, life started for them as a folk-pop two-piece. But ‘Soapy Water’ is something completely different.And that’s exciting.

However, main-set closer and latest single ‘Giant Peach’ is everything we’ve come to know and love: pure chaotic perfection. Somehow it sounds ten times heavier than anything else that’s come before as a gargantuan Muse/Led Zepp-in-their-heyday guitar riff floors the room. I’m told an encore happened afterwards but I was busy picking up pieces of my shattered skull from the floor.

Get ready to bow to your new overlords, Wolf Alice. And get ready for their debut album, ‘My Love Is Cool’, dropping on June 22nd through Dirty Hit.

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Delta Sleep – Lake Sprinkle Sprankle // Debut Album out May 25th

spinkleJesus Bill! Delta Sleep are back! I was a big fan of their EP which came out almost two years ago, so admittedly the band had faded from my thoughts recently. But clearly they’ve been beavering away on their debut album, named ‘Twin Galaxies’, due to be unleashed on May 25th on Big Scary Monsters.

Clash Music is hosting the premiere of the first cut from the album to be set free, entitled ‘Lake Sprinkle Sprankle’, and it’s a reminder of why I’m so fond of these guys. A little bit mathy and fierce initially, it skips into a more heartfelt  and open ending. Bring on the album we say. Listen to ‘Lake Sprinkle Sprankle’ on Clash Music.

The Go! Team – The Scene Between

go teamThe Go! Team’s Mercury Music Prize nominated debut, Thunder, Lightning, Strike! (2004) was an album that helped nudge me off-course from my typical teen oeuvre of pop-punk sensibilities. But come on, I was 16. Of course I was listening to a lot of Blink 182 and Sum 41, because that’s what everyone (or my friends at least) listened to. And that’s why Thunder, Lightning, Strike! was such a revelation for me. It was like nothing I’d heard before. It was weird and a little wacky. It ripped up and tied together all sorts of samples, from a Black Panther Party chant, to the theme from Ironside by Quincy Jones. But most importantly of all, it was interesting, full of depth and presented new layers on additional listens. It’s an album I owe a debt to for helping to expand my own horizons. To prove a point, last year I reviewed a psychedelic album by a band featuring the lead singer singing only in Cambodian (The Cambodian Space Project). Would this have happened without The Go! Team? Who knows. But maybe this blog would have been about my fandom for Mumford & Sons, Coldplay, and the colour beige, instead of what it is.

Jumping ahead 11 years from Thunder, Lightning, Strike!, The Scene Between is The Go! Team’s fourth full-length, and on paper alone sounds like a fascinating proposition. It sees ‘the band’ returning to their sample-loving roots somewhat, although now the band is just front man Ian Parton working solo, although not entirely. He set himself four rules with this record: Melody would guide the song, samples would be treated as an instrument rather than a basis for the song, the production would vary across the song like flipping the dial on a radio and the singers must all be people he’d never previously heard of.

We’re used to a range of different vocalists flitting across The Go! Team records, so the concept of having vocals from a bunch of mostly bedroom-DIY vocalists isn’t a stark change, but is a neat concept. An initial concern that this may come across as gimmicky doesn’t come to fruition, as none of the vocal styles sound out-of-place or shoehorned into a track where it doesn’t sit well.

Of Parton’s four rules (now he sounds like Descartes), the third rule brings me the most joy. The constant tectonic movements of production changes leaves you juggling and trying to grasp the percussion as it slips out of grip and metamorphosis’s into something else. On lead single ‘The Scene Between’ it’s at its most riotous, bringing a fuzzed-out ramshackle barrage of percussion instruments that shift and change during the chorus.

‘Walking The Jetstream’ is another highlight, with Parton’s four rules uniting perfectly. The verses build gradually to beguiling choruses, as a memorable melody combines with windswept drums producing a cacophony of noise.

Some tracks do tend to seep into each other as they struggle to be easily identifiable as unique amongst the album. This leads to a slight samey feeling at times, causing a craving for something a little more salty and sour to cut through the sweetness. Like a ‘The Power is On’, for example. But I should stop harping on about that debut album. There’s lots on The Scene Between to enjoy. The record as a whole is a saccharine-sweet bundle of fun, full of teeth-rottenly-good indie-pop noise.

Asylums – Wet Dream Fanzine [EP]

asyI have a decent pair of Sennheiser bucket headphones that spend the majority of their existence sat in the corner of my room, sad and alone, while I listen to music out of my tinny, crappy laptop speakers. Today I sat down, plugged them in, and decided to have a listen to all the music in my inbox. Fortunately / Luckily / It was meant to be that Asylums happened to be at the top of my inbox. I haven’t even got onto the second email yet. I’m stuck on this band.

Asylums hail from Southend, and release their first EP on February 23rd on their own label, Cool Things Records. Their DIY approach doesn’t stop there though. The whole EP is lyrically focused as an urgent attack on various forms of media, giving credence and authenticity to their entire approach. Plus, they make sock puppet music videos. So win-win.

Credo aside, they sound like something we’ve been waiting for without even realising we were missing them. Punk noise with no track lasting longer than 2 and a bit minutes, they come at you fast with some brutal rock and roll, but not forgetting for a second the need for a little melody. Like an angrier Young Knives, a poppier We Are The Physics…….these guys are going to huge, and I can’t wait.

King Krule – Easy Easy (Willow Freaking Smith Cover)

I’ve decided this week that now is the time for me to actually invest in Soundcloud. Put in the hours. Do the legwork. This isn’t me trying to expand the reach of this site, but quite simply, it’s too much of an amazing way to find new music to ignore it any longer. Spotify is handy, but music has to be officially released. It has to be licensed. Blah blah blah. And beyond surfing related artists and looking at new releases, it isn’t all that easy to find new music.

So a couple of days in, and what have I found. Fustratingly, at least one of Will Smith’s kids has got some serious talent. Willow, best known for that ‘Whip My Hair’ song a few years back has done a seriously mean cover of King Krule’s amazing ‘Easy Easy’. A few things are pretty striking. A) Her voice. Holy moly. It’s credible. It’s subtle. It’s got these little nuances that make it so listenable. B) A cover of King Krule? One way to get some nifty indie-cred for sure, but it works for her here. And finally, C) I notice she did a track with SZA (one of our favourites) not so long ago. SZA played a similar trick to Willow by loading an EP with cred-giving indie reference points, and that’s worked out for her pretty well.

So all hail Willow Smith, and all hail Soundcloud.

The Hood Internet: Tryout (Dej Loaf x Spoon)

When Spoon returned this year with their latest opus (and this site’s #8 album of the year), early singles were sharp and snappy affairs, bringing to mind Spoon’s best work. But eventually we got to hear ‘Inside Out’, a dreamy, ethereal warm glow of a track that wasn’t particularly like anything they’d done before. And boy was it good.

Now The Hood Internet have been dropping some of that magical mash-up dust on the aforementioned Spoon track, coupled with a track from Dej Loaf that my ignorant self hasn’t heard before. But the results are pretty sweet. Have a listen to the Soundcloud embed below.

Horses Playing Harps Top 10 Albums 2014

jocoThat strange gap between Christmas Day and New Years. Perfect for hibernating, returning to Netflix for another free month and watching so much Jonathan Creek you’re positive there’s a killer monkey hiding in the rafters. That and reflection of course. Granted, I haven’t looked at mine for quite some time as I’ve given up shaving and would rather avoid seeing just how bad my Celtic heritage is growing out of my chin.

So, a Top 10 album list. My favourite part about it is, despite best laid plans of mice and men, no matter how many predictions anyone can make about a forthcoming year, the majority of music that you fall for just comes from nowhere. And not just brand new bands with debut albums (Adult Jazz, Honeyblood, Thumpers), but also bands that have been around the block a few times (Spoon, DFA1979), or a second album that was my first exposure to them (James Vincent McMorrow), and a noughties rock band stalward going solo (Gerard Way).

I spend (probably too much) time thinking about why a debut album by a new band can be so much more impactful than a second or third album, and I think part of it is the allure and shinyness of all the new parts. A new vocal sound to wrap your head around. A fresh take on a genre. But much of my list this year is actually just disparate parts of things that have existed before becoming better. The two guys  in Thumpers have been a part of Friendly Fires previously. Gerard Way was of course the front man of My Chemical Romance. And interestingly, my number one album of the year – while offically speaking a debut – comes from the ashes of an older band.

Sorry #10-6, only #5-1 get a write up. Mainly because I’m getting a little hungry:

#10 – Cloud Nothings – Here And Nowhere Else
#9 – Thumpers – Galore
#8 – Spoon – They Want My Soul
#7 – Death From Above 1979 – Physical World
#6 – Gerard Way – Hesitant Alien


#5 – Superfood – Don’t Say That

hoSuperfood, a Birmingham-based four piece, and Britney Spears, that one who shaved her hair n’ that, are more similar than you might think. Britney Spears is currently some (too lazy to research) months into her Las Vegas residency (maybe it’s finished already, who knows). Superfood have spent the past 14 months or so playing a residency in Oxford. If memory serves, they played the Art Bar at the tail end of 2013, and in 2014, have played in support of Wolf Alice, in support of We Are Scientists, and headlined the NME New Breed Tour with #4 on this list), all at Oxford’s O2 Academy. So, practically a residency. I have the Superfood popping candy. I have the Superfood coasters. I’ve seen them more often in 2014 than most of my own family.

Nonetheless, when I saw them at the Wolf Alice show and the We Are Scientists show, I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of them. Their debut came out just before the NME New Breed Tour show in Oxford, and I fell for it. I wasn’t really expecting to either. I’d heard scraps and scrapes of singles online, but it wasn’t until I heard the whole thing that I really got it. It’s a happy-go-lucky kind of record, channeling the likes of Supergrass, with memorable hooks and hazy lyrics. Here’s hoping they come back to Oxford even just once more, they must be sick of us by now.


#4 – Honeyblood – Self Titled

skelI always read about a band’s history, almost as much as I always remember how I first got to listen to them. Sadly, and inexplicably, for Honeyblood, I cannot remember. I heard ‘Killer Bangs’ somewhere, I’m just completely lost as to where/why/how. What I can remember is seeing their debut self-titled LP was available to stream before its release on Pitchfork Advance, and I found myself listening to it several times a day for a week. The opening 20 seconds on the first track, ‘Fall Forever’, instantly told me that this was going to be something I was going to enjoy. Honeyblood are one of many two pieces that I have an affection for. In their case, with just a guitar and drums, they still contrived to create something so big, so noisy, and so smart. But more than that, it was probably the album whose lyrics I enjoyed the most out of the Top 10 I’ve put together. Replete with savage witticisms, snarking jilted exes, and wrapping it all up with a 90’s alt-rock gazing sound. I also had the enormous pleasure of seeing them play live, with their performance of ‘All Dragged Up’ a highlight, played at double speed with such energy.


#3 – James Vincent McMorrow – Post Tropical

postPoor James Vincent McMorrow. I came so close to forgetting to including this, not remembering that it came out all the way back in January 2014. But fortunately, somehow, I remembered. Despite January typically being the most depressing month of the year by quite some distance (for us Brits at least), this record helped. For whatever reason, I never heard his debut LP, but i caught ‘Cavalier’, the opening track on Post Tropical, on a ride home from work. Probably through pouring rain, grey skies, umbrellas. You know, how they usually portray England in the movies. Well, they are right, some of the time. Another lazy comparison ahoy-hoy, but I was quickly reminded of Bon Iver, one of my al time favourites. The falsetto voice, the brass channeling through the tail end of ‘Cavalier’, percussion leaping from timid to thrashing. The album plays a similar trick but is still completely captivating. I adore ‘Gold’ (the track below) for that melody in the chorus, as his vocal leaps several steps higher, all within two words. And now January 2015 is almost upon us, it’s probably a good a time as any to give it another listen.


#2 – Adult Jazz – Gist Is

gistMore than anything, I’m enjoying the dichotomy between my #1 and #2. But you’ll get to that soon. Adult Jazz are a Leeds based band who take ponderous indie-rock to the absolute edges of its possibilities. Every note, every vocal, every song structure just gets pulled apart like Stretch Armstrong. And that’s why I love it. We all want instant gratification these days, but the way they form a song, it makes it all the more worth the wait. Like that trade-off between taking a beer out of the fridge before it’s cold (yeah I’m thirsty, what of it). Some comparisons have been made to Alt-J, but these lot are a whole lot loopier. Somewhat indecipherable lyrics, coupled with coy little guitar lines which occasionally descend into marvellous off-kilter breakdowns. Like #1 in this list, it’s not a record I’d want to break down and divide, as it’s such an excellent listen as a whole. However, below is ‘Donne Tongue’, which spirals into its sticky end from about 3:20 onwards. All aided and abetted from that softly-softly-catchy-monkey opening.


#1 – Issues – Self-Titled

issuesIt’s a bit of a leftfield winner from me. I’ve spent the last year and a half expanding my knowledge of what might be called post-hardcore / metalcore / etc from my affection of Alexisonfire years ago. What they did so well was, even with all the noise and heft of their sound, they’d create such excellent melodies and hooks, blended with the clean and heavy vocals.

As for Issues, I have the wonderful Daniel P Carter of radio / a million bands / general rock god fame to thank for setting me onto them. I heard ‘Sad Ghost’ thanks to his radio show and was suckered in on that oh-so-soulful clean vocal hook in the chorus. As for the album itself, it’s still yet to grow old for me. It plays that neat trick of presenting you with a couple of songs you think are your favourites straight-up, but further listening changes your perspective. Sure it’s heavy, but it’s life-affirming stuff. A deserved number one.

Honeyblood – Live in Oxford

skelFor Honeyblood’s recent Halloween show in Glasgow on the NME New Breed Tour, singer/guitarist Stina Tweeddale and drummer Shona McVicar took to the stage dressed in full skeletal garb. Fast forward to a show taking place on Guy Fawkes night in Oxford, and a small part of our collective imaginations (or mine at least) was hoping for catherine wheels spinning perilously around the bass drum. Alas it was not to be, but perhaps this was for the best. Yes, because the building would inevitably have melted to the ground with headliners Superfood being forced to play their headline set atop a smouldering mass of rubble. But more importantly, Honeyblood came armed with one of the standout albums of the year and didn’t need to rely on any cheap tricks.

Surrounded on stage by both Superfood’s and their own gear, the show felt like it was taking place inside a rather large garage…with a well stocked bar, and some neighbours with fancy-indie haircuts. It lent itself to a more informal setting than usual, so when the opening riffs of ‘Fall Forever’ erupted, it felt like how a show should be, a little more DIY. While Honeyblood retain a certain lo-fi aesthetic from early recordings in their bathroom, airing these tracks live brings to the fore those hookwormy melodies. ‘Biro’ and ‘(I’d Rather Be) Anywhere But Here’ swoon across with a certain languid groove, channelling 90’s fem-pop like The Breeders and Throwing Muses, while bridging across to melodic contemporaries like Best Coast and Wolf Alice.

There’s an attitude to enjoy with this band too. Yes, there’s some savagery in the lyrics which shine through on the record, but the live setting shows something else. After a guitar change provides a whole host of fuzzy feedback and a struggle to get rid of it, Stina nonchalantly jumps into ‘No Spare Key’ saying we’re going to play loud enough that it won’t matter anyway. Then with ‘All Dragged Up’, which already features the highest BPM of any track they have, the duo thunder through it at what feels like double speed to celebrate self-anointed ‘Jive Wednesday’. So much jiving in fact that drummer Shona loses a shoe, an understandable casualty following her ferocious attack on her kit during the track.

And all this takes place before ending with the excellent ‘Super Rat’ and ‘Killer Bangs’. Forget about remembering Guy Fawkes once a year, if we can have a yearly tribute to Shona losing a shoe on Jive Wednesday as a result of going a little too hard on ‘All Dragged Up’, I can get behind that.

Charly Bliss – Love Me

Bubblegrunge, apparently. I stumbled across this rather tenously, due to listening to the excellent Alcopop! podcast, where reference was made to a Johnny Foreigner Twitter post raving about this track. But the more tenous way of discovering new music, the better.

So, Charly Bliss. What do we know. Not a whole lot really, and that makes life more fun. They hail from Brooklyn, have released a trilogy of singles collectively titled ‘Soft Serve’, and have three hilarious videos to accompany them. Love Me is the leadout track and is boistrously fun. Heavy riffs line the chorus, but twinned with that oh-so-sweet vocal which play together so well. The kids are calling it bubblegrunge, and I can see why. Super-excited to hear more from these guys.

Have a watch of the video below for ‘Love Me’, including a school bully who looks like Action Bronson’s long lost brother.

Moose Blood – I’ll Keep You In Mind From Time To Time

oosemoA year and a half ago, I ranted and raved about a debut EP that, for me at least, evoked the spirit of a seminal record – Brand New’s Deja Entendu. At the same time, I was railing against my own apathy towards listening to artists of a similar vein. Well, 18 months and one Spotify Premium subscription later means I am now au fait with everything considered part of the ‘emo revival’, (although I still think emo is a bit of a gross term). For example, Into It. Over It.? All over it! Touché Amoré? Oui Oui! Modern Baseball? More of a rounders man, but you get the picture.

So it’s with some excitement that I’ve been following Moose Blood – responsible for the aforementioned debut EP – and the news that they got picked up by No Sleep Records for their debut album. The label is a U.S. indie, home to a whole raft of excellent bands, including two of the three named above in my best efforts to be pun-tastic. The band flew out to the U.S. to lay it down, and returned with I’ll Keep You In Mind From Time To Time, an album that showcases everything that made so many people excited about their initial output.

While both a theoretical and literally name-checked reference point may be Brand New – with their dark and morose slant on life and death – this is, for the most part, an aspirational record. It easily evokes memories of young love, of times when you would invite someone round to “watch American Beauty” (on ‘Gum’), and “make you watch High Fidelity, on a Sunday, maybe someday” (on ‘Bukowski’).

So they are strong thematically, but this record goes beyond just what’s happening lyrically. For example, ‘Kelly Kapowski’ is more than just a retro name check. It presents a twitchy, over-caffeinated call for something approaching an unrequited crush, while channelling pop-punks finest guitar riffs. Closer ‘I Hope You’re Miserable’ sounds super-heavy, channelling the likes of Gnarwolves with its yelped vocals blurring into grunge-lined anthemia. Over the course of the record, they easily switch gears, and previous single/E.P. tracks like ‘Boston’ and ‘Bukowski’ sound somewhat more urgent and more focused in their latest guises.

Above all else, what keeps me coming back is how much of an honest and stark record it is, yet  a record that leaves you with hope. Allow me one final Brand New reference, but let me use it to explain why these guys are different to them. Brand New typically stick their bleak, emo-slow jams at the end of the record (‘Soco Ameretto Lime’, ‘Play Crack The Sky’), and so leave you feeling a little, well, emo at the end of a listen. Moose Blood front-load ‘I’ll Keep You In Mind From Time To Time’ with ‘Cherry’. It’s a dark way to start, particularly with a line like: “She’s not mine and it fucking kills me, she won’t look at me that way.” Following this opening, the album grows with moments of excitement, love, and happiness. By the end we’re finishing on an upbeat note, well, ish: “I guess I’m feeling better,” even if we’re now chanting for another’s misery on ‘I Hope You’re Miserable’.

This is a band worth getting excited about. It’s a mature and beguiling debut album by a band that, surely with 10 years more of records behind them can lead some lazy blogger somewhere comparing them over and over (three times I’ve counted?) to some new up-and-comers. Truly, it’s something many of us should be hopeful for.