Tag Archives: Honeyblood

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.

Honeyblood – Killer Bangs

Scotland, please don’t secede. We want to have the super-rad Honeyblood as one of our great new British bands. They are a two-piece hailing from Glasgow, with just the odd couple of singles here and there to date, but their newish track ‘Killer Bangs’ has sucked me in. The track features reverby / lo-fi vocals like early Surfer Blood, and a hooky guitar line that makes me think of Wolf Alice’s ‘Nosedive’. Stina Tweeddale (vocals, guitar), and Shona McVicar (vocals, drums) are the duo responsible for this funtime party of noise. The pair are currently on tour with the brilliant Courtney Barnett and are playing at the Dot to Dot festivals this summer, so be sure to check them out!