Introducing Minor Victories, Yonaka and Jones

minor victoriesHere’s something a little unusual. We have a supergroup on our hands! I was slightly struggling to remember other supergroups, in fact, once I’d got beyond The Traveling Wilburys, but Wikipedia has a ton of them listed. You may (or may not) recall Duran Duran splitting in the mid 80’s for side projects The Power Station (John and Andy Taylor with Robert Palmer and Tony Thompson) and Arcadia (Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor – actually, 60% of Duran Duran without anyone else probably isn’t a supergroup). Then there were Mike and the Mechanics, Electronic… Supergroups seem to have stopped being the flavour of the year recently, but now we have the arrival of Minor Victories. The band consists of Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell, Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite and Editors’ Justin Lockey, along with Lockey’s brother James from Hand Held Cine Club.  Lead single ‘A Hundred Ropes’ is climbing the Heatseekers Chart, having jumped to No 10 last week. It’s perhaps not surprising that the band tell us that their sound is an amalgam of the music made by their ‘own’ bands, and in ‘A Hundred Ropes’  you can see the influences immediately, with Braithwaite’s choppy guitar intro, the hypnotic synths and Goswell’s floaty vocal acting as a striking counterpoint. I like the way that the vocals remain ethereal as the music hots up in the background.

Next up we have the latest band to emerge from the booming music scene in Brighton. Yonaka are a four piece – yonakaTheresa Jarvis on vocals, George Edwards on guitar, Alex Crosby on bass and Robert Mason on drums – and they make music described as ‘dark pop’. It’s actually rather better than that – the combination of chilling synths, layered with powerful guitars and Jarvis’ excellent vocals is potent and hypnotic. Yonaka means ‘the dead of night’ in Japanese, and it’s a pretty apposite name as the band’s music reflects the dark side of their otherwise rather sunny personalities. Their live show is winning plenty of followers, and when they produce music as strong as first cut ‘Run’ and current Heatseekers climber ‘Ignorance’ you will not be surprised about this. ‘Ignorance’ kicks off with quiet guitar before the gears kick up, the music soars and Jarvis displays a very impressive, powerful vocal range. What is it about rock bands led by female vocalists? They’re great, aren’t they?

jonesFinally, let’s say hello to East London’s Jones. Born Cherie Jones, she had already established a reputation for silky soul before her gorgeous current single ‘Hoops’ appeared. The song has tons of the things I most like in music, right to the quiet, almost hesitant start with gentle synth beats and some popping static. The music builds as Jones gives us a tale of unrequited love: “Stone cold landing, I’m still where you left me” she sings, adding “I’ve seen all your faces – it’s not love”. But she can’t let go… although she knows the whole thing is hopeless. “Even if I could be close to you – you never break the fall”. Her voice is beautifully melodic, and the song is beautifully sad and courageously sung. And the production from Josh Record is sublime. Jones could be a major star in the making.

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Teleman – Brilliant Sanity Album Review

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Europop is not cool. We all know this. Even good Europop isn’t cool – much of it is terribly tacky and the aspects of it that do work very much lean towards the EDM end of the scale. When you start considering music like Eiffel 65’s so-bad-it’s-good megahit ‘Blue (Da Ba Dee)’ – well, enough said. But now we know how to make Europop cool. You take a British band with indie leanings, merge their alternative base with Euro stylings, fully utilise their talents as musicians and bingo! You have Teleman’s ‘Brilliant Sanity’, out to conquer the continent.

OK, maybe this conclusion is all a bit lazy and entirely influenced by the fact that the album’s lead single is called ‘Dusseldorf’. But take a listen to this excellent song. The bouncy synthesised beat, the vocals which are reminiscent of a mid European singing in English – it’s all very evocative of the continent, at least to me. The band are even named after an 18th century German composer, Georg Philipp Telemann, after they saw an album of his music in a charity shop. This theme continues through the album. Teleman have a strong electro base to their music, led by the excellent synth work of Jonny Sanders, and the choppy, slightly staccato style of ‘Dusseldorf’ appears frequently on the subsequent tracks. ‘Superglue’ is another good example.

Where this all works best, the staccato synths are gradually accompanied by layers of guitars – Jonny’s brother (and vocalist) Thomas on lead and Peter Cattermoul on bass. ‘Fall In Time’, due out as the next single follows this theme, as does the impressive ‘English Architecture’. The synths continually play little tricks, with slight wavering on the notes and odd effects floating in the background. ‘Melrose’ gives us a punchier track nearer to true indie, while the guitars take on a grungy feel on ‘Tangerine’. Best of all though is ‘Drop Out’. This is one of those songs that you immediately connect with on a first listen because the band and the producer Dan Carey have done exactly the right thing with it – those synths have now taken on a menacing air, so after Thomas’s initial vocals we then get an excellent instrumental break as the low fi guitars perfectly add to the sinister mood before a closing vocal section. It’s a beautifully constructed song.

This is a strong album. Teleman have worked out a really impressive blend of the good side of European electropop music with the power of British indie. The result is a collection of songs likely to appeal just as much in Berlin as they will in Bethnal Green. The band enjoy touring in Germany, I understand. On this evidence they will get plenty more chances to appear there.

***½

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Dave’s Singles Chart Update

It’s major congratulations to The Jezabels, who have grabbed the No 1 spot with ‘Come Alive’ in only their second week on the chart, an almost unheard of feat. You know that no song has ever entered the chart at No 1 – well, I can only remember two songs previously that made it to No 1 on their second week on the chart. Band Aid’s ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ went 9-1 in 1984, while last year Stina Nordenstam’s ‘Murder In Mairyland Park’ entered the chart at 24 before enjoying an unprecedented leap to No 1 the following week. ‘Come Alive’ ends the massively impressive 9 week run at No 1 of ‘Through The Cellar Door’ – I am wondering if Lanterns On The Lake are planning to release anything else off ‘Beings’ as a single. It would be seriously odd not to follow up a 9 week No 1, wouldn’t it? Anyway, ‘Cellar Door’ drops to No 4, so we have climbs to No 2 for Gnash and Olivia O’Brien (I’m pleased to see that ‘I Hate U I Love U’ has entered the Billboard Hot 100 this week) and to No 3 for Daya’s ‘Hide Away’. Both are very strong songs, but it’s rather hard to see ‘Come Alive’ being dislodged any time soon. If anything is going to rival ‘Come Alive’ in the next few weeks, then Laurel’s ‘Life Worth Living’ might be the one – a jump from No 28 to No 14 is pretty impressive. Then we have the two highest new entries – The Slow Show’s ‘Breaks Today’ and Phoria’s ‘Evolve’ are both Top 10 bound I reckon, at the very least.

A couple of decent climbers that I’ve not mentioned before now. Firstly Alan Walker’s world wide EDM smash ‘Faded’ has posted this week’s biggest climb, jumping from No 74 to No 39. Walker was born in Northampton, but has lived in Norway since the age of 2. He has now reached the grand old age of 18… I don’t think I’d achieved anything at all at 18, let alone written and produced a world wide smash hit. One of the song’s major selling points is the excellent vocal by uncredited Iselin Solheim: she also has a UK connection having attended the Institute of Performing Arts in Liverpool some years ago. Meanwhile the bouncy Europop style single ‘Dusseldorf’ from Teleman has climbed from No 71 to No 46. Teleman are actually from London – the band consist of brothers Thomas and Jonny Sanders, Pete Cattermoul and Hiro Amamiya. Their new album ‘Brilliant Sanity’ is out this week – we’ll take a look at it tomorrow.

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Dave’s Heatseekers Chart Update

The Slow Show celebrate their last week on the Heatseekers Chart as ‘Breaks Today’ moves up to No 1, taking over the spot vacated by ‘Come Alive’ last week. Most of the rest of the Heatseekers Top 10 are also entering the Singles Chart next week, with the exceptions of Daughter’s excellent new single ‘How’ (almost certain to follow ‘Numbers’ and ‘Doing The Right Thing’ into the Top 10) and Lucy Rose’s very appealing ballad ‘Nebraska’. I don’t quite remember hearing this song when I listened to Lucy Rose’s album ‘Work It Out’ last year – maybe one of the curses of being a blogger and reviewer who is so busy with everything else that most albums get one listen, and that’s it. “I’m walking on thin ice – to find out who I am”… actually, it’s a great song, with a real feel of the challenge of growing up running through it. Though I’m not quite sure why a girl from Frimley is singing about Nebraska.

It’s a big welcome back to a couple of major stars from a few years back this week. Firstly Tom Odell has returned with his single ‘Magnetised’, from his forthcoming album ‘Wrong Crowd’, due out in June. Odell had a massive No 1 on my chart in 2013 with his signature tune ‘Another Love’ – he’s not quite managed anything of the same standard since, but ‘Magnetised’ is a similarly excellent song, driven by powerful piano and with a similarly bittersweet theme. “Yeah, it’s not right – I’m magnetised to somebody that don’t feel it”. To continue a topic of a few months ago, Odell has sneakily announced a tour without telling me about it, so we have missed out on tickets. But I bet not many of you have seen him play live at a show dedicated to the design and styling of the Rolls Royce, have you?

Another band you seriously must see live is The Temper Trap. Their third album ‘Thick As Thieves’ is also due out in June, and the first cut from the album, ‘Fall Together’ is a bit of a cracker actually. This is the band’s first release without guitarist Lorenzo Sillitto, who left the band in late 2013. I recall Sillitto being key to their live show when we saw them at Indigo a few years back (although their charismatic lead singer Dougy Mandagi is the focal point of their act). The Temper Trap are of course best known for the colossal single ‘Sweet Disposition’ from 2009 – it is most famous in our house for me taking forever to decide that I liked it, while my wife was a big fan from the start. I saw sense in the end.

There are a couple of interesting new bands in the chart in Minor Victories and Yonaka, and I’ll talk about them later in the week. This week also sees a new entry for Drake’s collaboration with Wizkid and Kyla, ‘One Dance’ – which is far from the best track he has released, and it’s a bit baffling as to why it has become his first UK No 1 as lead artist. But I’ve long given up trying to understand the UK Charts, frankly. For example, have Phoria ever had a UK Top 100 hit? Well, no, even though the bottom end of the UK Top 1oo is so uncompetitive that million year old songs can keep on re-entering ad infinitum (hello, Mr Brightside). This week Phoria’s new song ‘Everything Beta’ joins No 2 Heatseeker ‘Evolve’ in the chart: as I have mentioned before, they have already had three Top 10 singles in my chart with ‘Emanate’, ‘Melatonin’ and ‘Saving Us A Riot’. They are rapidly becoming one of my favourite bands, and their very distinctive sound continues to give them huge promise for the future.

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PJ Harvey – The Hope Six Demolition Project Album Review

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So, this is going to be a difficult review to write. I am a massive admirer of Polly Harvey. Since the release of ‘To Bring You My Love’, which remains one of my favourite albums ever, Harvey has steadily become something of a national treasure. She remains the only artist to win two Mercury Music Prizes, for ‘Stories From The City Stories From The Sea’ and her last album, ‘Let England Shake’, and she is widely regarded as one of the greatest English musicians of the last twenty years. ‘Let England Shake’ received exceptional reviews, as Harvey studied the history of England and her involvement in war, from Gallipoli to Iraq.
 
Her ninth studio album, ‘The Hope Six Demolition Project’ feels like a companion piece to ‘Let England Shake’. Harvey’s focus this time is on the fallout of war – the attendant destruction of family and community and the resulting poverty in the affected countries, and a comparison with similar poverty in the purveyor of war, the United States. To gather information and stories for the album Harvey spent time travelling in the US, Kosovo and Afghanistan with photojournalist Seamus Murphy. The resulting collection of songs tell of harrowing sights, wasted lives, a shocking human cost. It’s exceptionally worthy. But it’s just not very good.
 
I appear to be out on a limb here. The critics in general love ‘The Hope Six Demolition Project’, and you have to be delighted that after so many years of outstanding music, Harvey has finally achieved a UK No 1 album in today’s Official Chart. But somewhere between her experiences with Murphy, her writing of the lyrics and the release of the album, Harvey has lost her musical muse. There are hints of classic Harvey here – the bluesy guitar, the easily recognisable backing vocals from her long term collaborators John Parish, Mick Harvey and producer Flood – but the power, the potency, the force of so many of her great songs is missing from the music here.
 
There are good songs, don’t get me wrong. In fact the album as a whole starts very promisingly with current single ‘The Community Of Hope’ and ‘The Ministry Of Defence’. Both take a similar stance as Harvey is escorted round a neighbourhood – in ‘The Community Of Hope’ Harvey is in Washington DC, whereas ‘The Ministry Of Defence’ takes place in Afghanistan. “There’s the bus depot to the right – levelled like a building site” intones guest vocalist Linton Kwesi Johnson to a pounding backbeat. It’s the next two songs where things start to go wrong. They should actually be the focal point of the album. ‘A Line In The Sand’ expresses a view that mankind needs to get a grip. “If we’ve not learned by now, we’re a sham” sings Harvey in a curiously high pitched vocal which rather detracts from the message. ‘Chain Of Keys’ is even more disappointing. Harvey tells a heart wrenching story, of an old woman in Kosovo who keeps the house keys of her 15 neighbours on a chain in the hope that one day they will return. But they never do – “Fifteen gardens overgrown – fifteen houses falling down”. The music is swampy but there’s no punch to it, and the lyrics float away without making the impact they should produce.
 
And that is the story of ‘The Hope Six Demolition Project’. ‘Near The Memorials To Vietnam And Lincoln’ is dull and repetitive. ‘Medicinals’ starts promisingly but is too short. ‘The Ministry Of Social Affairs’ has an intriguing intro but fizzles out. Harvey turns her attention back to the States in ‘The Wheel’, the refrain of which (“Hey little children don’t disappear – I heard it was 28,000) appears to relate to the numbers of gun related deaths of children in the US. She’s clearly very upset about the curious symmetry she has seen between the States and the war torn countries she has visited –  but that anger is nowhere to be seen in her music. It feels as if there is no conviction here – with one exception. The sinister backing to the story of the pollution affecting the subject of ‘River Anacostia’ is a hidden diamond in the rough.
 
I thought after listening to the album that Harvey might be better off expressing her experiences and feelings in pure poetry – and it turns out that she has, a book entitled ‘The Hollow Of The Hand’ which has been illustrated by Murphy. I need to check it out, I think. Does she have more to offer with the written word? Her imagery is powerful and her experiences have clearly been affecting, but we all know the world is crap sometimes, and we all know that people in the developed world get a raw deal too. I’m not sure we need to be told. How do we fix it? I have no solutions, and despite everything she has seen, the evidence of ‘The Hope Six Demolition Project’ suggests that Harvey doesn’t either. Perhaps that’s the biggest disappointment of all.
 

**½

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Augustines – Electric Ballroom Camden Gig Review

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You get a real range of experiences when you go to a gig. There are the acts who simply stand on stage and play their songs, without really talking to each other or to the audience. That can be great, as long as the music can carry the show. I mean, you know I love them to bits, but Lanterns on the Lake’s Hackney gig in February was memorable because of the songs, not the performance. Sometimes bands pitch up and you kind of wonder afterwards whether you should have just listened to the record. When you get really big and famous, it appears that you can treat your fans like shit, come on stage hours late and play until they’ve missed the last bus / train home. Luckily that’s never happened to us.

We have been lucky enough to see little known acts whose live shows have really sparked an interest in them. A few weeks ago we saw Liverpool three piece Elevant in Bethnal Green – a band whose raw and unpolished sound on record turns into a wildly entertaining and hilarious live experience. Plenty of acts do put on a really good show: Wolf Alice, Halsey, Alessia Cara among our recent gigs. But for a band whose sheer intoxicating pleasure at playing live electrifies their audience with the same feelings, there is nobody to touch Augustines.

This didn’t feel like a live show as much as it did a bunch of friends getting together again for some music and some craic after a bit of a break. “How many of you have I shared a kebab with after a show?” asked Billy McCarthy towards the end of the set. Numerous hands flew up in the air, and you kind of thought that they weren’t kidding either. I spotted drummer Rob Allen heading out into the audience at the end of the show too. The band have recently finished a tour supporting Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, ironically enough in view of my comments of a couple of days ago. “He’s a nice bloke – he likes crosswords” confided McCarthy. “And Arsenal” added Eric Sanderson.

You kind of wonder about the ordering of the musical firmament sometimes, because there is no way this band should be supporting anyone. Their music is fantastic, and the set list is brilliantly conceived. They have a string of probably lesser known songs to kick off the show – ‘Chapel Song’, ‘Augustine’, ‘Juarez’ are all major crowd pleasers, and ‘Philadelphia (City Of Brotherly Love) is the night’s first major singalong. Current single “Are We Alive” is a rip-roaring tune and kicks the crowd up several gears before McCarthy gives us all a bit of audience participation tuition and we are into a brilliant version of the first of their four major hits from their self-titled second album, ‘Cruel City’. These are epic, emotional, sweeping, majestic songs. “Ballad Of A Patient Man” is a wondrous blue collar love song. “Honey I know you’re tired of losing, it’s a million to one, I know. Put your lily hand in mine – this is the ballad of a patient man” sings McCarthy in deeply heartfelt fashion. This rumbustiously grizzled man puts so much passion into his music. Sanderson is no less critical to the band’s sound, mixing up guitar and synths with complete style and aplomb.

The real highlight comes when McCarthy “tells us a story”, coming to the front of the stage to sing ‘Landmine’ alone with acoustic guitar. He is then joined by Sanderson and Allen for a perfectly stripped back version of ‘Now You Are Free’. They could be three mates busking, except that buskers aren’t watched by a thousand rapturous people. ‘Weary Eyes’ finishes the main set, but we still have a terrific encore to go – McCarthy, now armed with a whisky looks completely overcome with the whole thing, but after ‘Walkabout’ and a pause for some photos we launch into an epic version of the band’s best song, “Nothing To Lose But Your Head”.  It’s a dream of a way to finish a show. A rock band from the Gods – and they might just have played the best gig I have ever seen.

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A Tribute to Prince

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This is a seriously bad year. It’s been dreadful generally for deaths among the famous anyway, but in music we have lost David Bowie and Colin Vearncombe already. Now comes the shocking news of the death of Prince Rogers Nelson. Like Bowie, he transcended mere musical popularity and transformed the business completely. I suppose along with many music fans of my era, he will be remembered best for his string of stunning singles and albums in the 80’s. His first major hit single ‘I Wanna Be Your Lover’ cracked its way into the American Top 20 in 1979 – a ridiculously long time ago now. He was already attracting attention for his tiny size, and for his flamboyant dress sense and flair. The music press was a bit sniffy at first, but the successes of ‘1999’ and particularly ‘Little Red Corvette’ from the ‘1999’ album paved the way for his major breakthrough.

With ‘Purple Rain’ Prince became a bona fide superstar. The album spawned the colossal smashes ‘When Doves Cry’ with its stark, bassline less backing track and ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ with its ludicrously over the top preacher intro and kitchen sink finale. Both made No 1 in my singles chart, and ‘When Doves Cry’ was the No 1 song of 1984. The follow up ‘Around The World In A Day’ was chock full of hits, including ‘Raspberry Beret’, and 1986’s ‘Parade’ contained another great Prince standard, ‘Kiss’. He was an exceptionally prolific songwriter and numerous acts in the 80’s benefited from his music. Everyone knows about ‘Manic Monday’, the first major hit for The Bangles, and of course Sinead O’Connor’s No 1 ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’, but other songs I remember well include ‘The Glamorous Life’ and ‘The Belle Of St Mark’, hits for backing band member Sheila E, and the single that transformed Sheena Easton into a pouting sex bomb in the States, the extremely rude ‘Sugar Walls’. Easton also had a major smash on her duet with Prince, ‘U Got The Look’. Never afraid to tackle the more risque side of life, Prince frequently got the moral majority in the States into a hilarious tailspin, never more than with his most notorious track ‘Darling Nikki’. Rihanna covered this song on her 2011 ‘Loud’ world tour – Prince and his music seemed to find a particular affinity with female singers.

The massive hits continued throughout the late 80’s and early 90’s. ‘I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man’ is a favourite of mine, a cut many of you may not remember from ‘Sign O’ The Times’, but his collaborations with the New Power Generation on ‘Diamonds and Pearls’ and ‘Symbol’ produced massively memorable hits such as ‘Gett Off’, ‘My Name Is Prince’ (a distinctly ironic song when he had changed his name to the famous symbol in the midst of his contract dispute with Warner Bros) and ‘Sexy MF’. By now he was releasing albums at a frenetic pace, partly to divest himself of his responsibilities to Warner Bros, and as my interest turned more and more to Britpop and the indie revolution Prince rather faded from my view. ‘The Most Beautiful Girl In The World’, never a song I liked that much and done to death by Capital was the watershed moment, I think. But he continued to record music at an almost unheard of rate. His final album, last year’s ‘HITnRUN Phase Two’ was his 39th studio album release.

Prince was the biggest artist in the world in the mid 80’s, and his influence has spread far and wide. Nobody doubts that he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the true visionaries of popular music – alongside Bowie and Hendrix, Dylan and Marley, Led Zep and Nirvana. My own favourite Prince songs? I think his best song is ‘Sign O’ The Times’, but I also have a soft spot for the ballad ‘Sometimes It Snows In April’ from ‘Parade’, a song recorded in one take in so raw a fashion that the squeaking of the guitar strings and the bar stools on which Prince and his backing singers Wendy & Lisa are sitting are easily audible. And of course ‘When Doves Cry’ – as fine a signature song as you could ever hear.

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Black Peaks – Statues Album Review

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‘Statues’ is the debut album from Brighton four piece Black Peaks. The band have been together since 2013 after vocalist Will Gardner joined instrumental three piece Shrine – guitarist Joe Gosney, bassist Andrew Gosden and drummer Liam Kearley – and have established a ferocious live reputation alongside promising single releases in ‘Saviour’ and current Heatseekers entry ‘Glass Built Castles’. Their music combines elements of indie, metal and post hardcore, and is a blistering cacophony highlighted by Gosney’s outstanding guitar riffing and Gardner’s roaring vocal.

Black Peaks write imaginative songs, and are not afraid to spin out a track – several of the cuts on ‘Statues’ clock in at five minutes plus. ‘Glass Built Castles’ is a fine example of the band at their best – with striking variations of pace and Gardner swinging from ear shattering screams to a death growl with everything else in between. Indeed the band’s tendency to hurl everything at pretty much every track is both a strength and a weakness.

‘Hang ‘Em High’ is a classic example of what both works and doesn’t work on ‘Statues’ – a straightforward heavy rock launch, seamlessly flowing from previous track ‘Say You Will’ and very appropriate for a track with this title then switches about half way through to some unexpectedly quiet, introspective, echoing guitar. But just when you think the song is really going somewhere, back come the riffs and the screams and Black Peaks are veering dangerously close to what Q hilariously described many years ago as ‘shouty old rubbish’. It goes on for 7 minutes, which is probably a minute at least too long. But then they get it right too – ‘Saviour’ is another example of a well constructed, strongly paced track, and the measured ‘Say You Will’ fits in very effectively after the straightforward rock blast of ‘Crooks’.

At times the noise does get a bit much, and there’s not a great deal to enthuse about in either ‘Set In Stone’ or ‘Statues Of Shame’. There is a really impressive finish to the album though. You have an inkling that Black Peaks are already edging in the direction of the kind of preposterously brilliant prolonged epic in which bands like Iron Maiden specialise, and the five and a half minutes of ‘White Eyes’ is an excellent example of the type of music I expect we will see much more of in the future. It highlights their desire to bring contrast and shades into the mix for the album perfectly. They are also brave enough to throw in an unexpectedly ideal counterpoint in the quiet, 90 second instrumental ‘For Those That Sleep For A Thousand Years Shall Soon Wake’. It’s an intelligent and thoughtful conclusion to a promising debut collection.

***

 

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Dave’s Chart Update

The Jezabels have failed by a whisker to make history and become the first act ever to have a song debut at No 1 on Dave’s Singles Chart as ‘Come Alive’ enters the chart this week at No 2. Lanterns On The Lake’s ‘Through The Cellar Door’ has hung onto the top spot for a ninth consecutive week. The Jezabels will just have to settle for the knowledge that ‘Come Alive’ is the highest new entry ever on the Singles Chart. And it should overtake ‘Cellar Door’ next week, although there is a major challenger right on their heels as Gnash and Olivia O’Brien rocket from No 16 to No 3 with ‘I Hate U I Love U’. I have been predicting massive things for this song since its time on the Heatseekers Chart and after a slow couple of weeks it has finally fulfilled its potential. Gnash has another appealing love song moving up the Heatseekers Chart in ‘Fragile’, his collaboration with LA based singer Wrenn. She is originally from Athens, Georgia, home of REM of course – there is no truth in the rumour that she took her stage name from my secondary school by the way.

The other song to make a major move this week towards the top is Skyes’ ‘Quarks’, which jumps from No 22 to No 14. Only two of the songs between ‘Quarks’ and the Top 3 are moving up with a bullet and my suspicion is that both ‘Atlantis’ at No 8 and ‘Foreign Fields’ at No 10 might just about have peaked, so a further big move next week looks entirely possible. There is little doubt that Laurel’s ‘Life Worth Living’ will accelerate again next week after a quiet move to No 28, and Augustines’ ‘Are We Alive’ has also predictably jumped significantly the day before we see them at the Electric Ballroom in Camden. Review to come later this week. The two songs looking likely to become surprise major hits are Pvris’ ‘You And I’, which has reached No 30 on its 4th week on the chart and Eyre Llew’s ‘Fero’, an even more impressive No 33 after only 3 weeks on the chart. Pvris have enjoyed major hits in the last year with ‘My House’ and ‘St Patrick’, while this is Eyre Llew’s debut hit. Both songs may make the Top 10.

There is some good stuff arriving at the bottom end of the chart – and the strength of the songs is indicated by the fact that potential Top 10 hits like Alessia Cara’s ‘I’m Yours’ have to make do with a new entry at No 97. Which admittedly is better than PJ Harvey, whose controversial ‘The Community Of Hope’ has just missed the Top 100 this week, instead arriving as the No 1 on the Bubbling Under chart. This lists the next 25 highest placed songs outside the Top 100 which have not been on the chart at any stage incidentally. Most of you will know the story of this song, where Polly appears to diss a reclamation project in Washington with classic lines such as “Here’s the highway to death and destruction” and “The school just looks like a shithole”. There’s a few of both of them in South East London. It has transpired that Harvey wasn’t giving her view, but merely quoting from Washington Post reporter Paul Schwartzmann, who gave her a guided tour of the area without actually knowing who she was. The whole thing remains slightly puzzling, but I am assuming it will all make sense when I take a listen to Harvey’s new album ‘The Hope Six Demolition Project’, out this week.

And this week’s ‘Favourite Song’ quiz is… name my favourite PJ Harvey song. Clue – it’s from a little while ago. Another clue? “Mmm-hm”. And the answer to last week’s Pet Shop Boys quiz – my favourite song from Neil and Chris remains ‘This Must Be The Place I Waited Years To Leave’ from their finest album, 1990’s ‘Behaviour’. Not by much, admittedly – ‘Being Boring’, ‘Kings Cross’, ‘It Couldn’t Happen Here’, ‘Dreaming Of The Queen’… they’ve been bloody fantastic, haven’t they?

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Introducing… The Slow Show, Mt Wolf and The Joy Formidable

One of the great joys of music is to unexpectedly discover a band through one song – and then be surprised that they have been around for ages, but yet seem to have gone completely under the radar. Such is the case with Manchester’s The Slow Show, named after a song by The National and whose melancholy epic ‘Breaks Today’ has reached No 4 this week on the Heatseekers’ Chart. The Slow Show have been around since 2010, and have developed a wonderful line in gentle, reflective, at times heartrending music, highlighted by vocalist Rob Goodwin’s measured baritone. There is something reminscent of Tindersticks here, but with something extra – their use of colliery brass bands in the backing is pretty unique. ‘Breaks Today’ is a fine example of their music, as the song quietly builds behind lyrics that verge on the harrowing. “You broke my heart today – to see how you would feel” starts Goodwin, and it gets sadder and sadder. It’s pretty gorgeous too. Check out ‘Dresden’ and ‘Bloodline’ for more examples of their art.

Mt Wolf are rather better known, but in their original incarnation as a four piece. The band broke up in late 2013 after a couple of well regarded EP’s, citing the famous ‘artistic differences’ as vocalist Kate Sproule went off on her way. At some point subsequently the remaining trio – Bassi Fox, Stevie McMinn and Al Mitchell decided to keep going as a trio, having discovered that Fox could deliver a pretty good vocal himself. The band re-emerged with acclaimed EP ‘Red’ last year, and have now taken a shot at the stratosphere with the outstanding ‘Hex’. Fox’s eerie falsetto counterpoints the layers of echoing synths over six minutes of desolate glory. The lyrics are a killer: “Our love grown old…Pick up your skin from mine, it will be hard to break for me”. Mt Wolf are playing at Oslo Hackney next month with Meadowlark in support, and we will be there, so more on them after that.

After all of that tearfulness, let’s liven things up with Wales’ The Joy Formidable. Just to show how dismal my musical experience has been up to the last couple of years, this band have been around since 2007 and their new single ‘The Last Thing On My Mind’ is my first encounter with them. The three piece, Rhiannon ‘Ritzy’ Bryan, Rhydian Davies and Matthew Thomas have released two previous albums, 2011’s ‘The Big Roar’ and 2013’s ‘Wolf’s Law’, and now follow up with ‘Hitch’. This album appeared two weeks ago but mysteriously seems to be missing from the vaults of Spotify… we really must talk about that soon. Anyway, ‘The Last Thing On My Mind’ is a bouncy, bass driven, brass backed slice of indie which kicks off with about 30 seconds of banter between the band members – something else I like are records that start in a slightly off the wall way. ‘Doubled Up’, the last track on Heather Nova’s 1996 magnum opus ‘Oyster’ kicks off in similar style. The video for the track has lots of scantily clad men on it incidentally, which according to Bryan is a comment on how boring it is that the media constantly objectify women. Odd then that the band’s 2013 ‘Silent Treatment’ EP has a slightly objectified picture of a bare shouldered Bryan on the cover… ‘The Last Thing On My Mind’ is a great song anyway, and I will review the album too once I get to hear it.

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