This is the compelling new EP from Birmingham singer/songwriter/instrumentalist Graywave, (the performing name of Jess Webberley) following a string of creative singles released since 2019.
1.Dreaming. With a relaxed introduction the vocal soon sails in, with the guitars then extracting every ounce from the gliding swoop between the two chords that most of the song is built around. The vocal is luxuriant and elated and the final minute coda when the band let loose is an extra gift.
2.Swallow. Deeper and darker from the outset, but resolving into the insistent and memorable chorus lines.
3.Planetary Shift. Dreamy, haunting centrepiece of the collection with the vocal washing up on the seashore of atmospheric guitar, white noise and piano. The song remains fluid and changing, coalescing into firmer structures then back into an amorphous mix. Probably my favourite track on the EP.
4.Like Heaven. Multiple layers of sound are wrenched from the decibel dense guitar as the drums languidly punctuate the pace. Jess’s vocal soars through the mix; deliberately not escaping but melding into the whole.
5.Before. This addresses the subject of anxiety in the lyric while musically building on a mysterious, echoing cyclical countermelody. This blends with a percussive pattern that starts and stops like an expiring heartbeat. The final minute is a rich explosion of sound; this track crams volumes of emotion and highly charged dynamics into its short run time.
Olive Beardmore is a multi-talented singer/songwriter from Birmingham, who started releasing music in 2017. Earlier tracks were untreated indiepop gems, especially the collision of words and staccato guitars on ‘Sirens’. There was the wistful six minute balladry of ‘Jumpers For Goalposts’, before the dreamier territory of ‘Fiesta’ in 2020 featuring a video full of disconnection, ambiguous glances and hazy backgrounds. This impressively frames this fine song to great effect, with the restrained verses and big waterfall of guitar that engulfs the choruses.
Now ‘With The Heavens On Your Side (You)’, Oliver has stayed in that partial dream world, this time upping the pace and creating a rich production that shimmers and echoes, giving the track a bright and crisp veneer, including a surprise guitar solo.
The vocal delivery is a winner, blending fully into the spectrum of the other instruments but always leading the track. Resolving into the key lines ‘…because its you and I always knew…’ the chorus sounds genuine and celebratory, a bit reminiscent of some of the popgold moments of early Keane singles.
A new EP of indie light and shade from talented London trio Gold Baby, following on from a creative string of singles over the last couple of years.
1.Bodie Serene, shimmering guitar drives this track as the vocal from songwriter Siân cajoles and soars. The overall feeling seems to be one of alienation and disappointment but it is all beautifully done.
2. 2041 The quiet, agitated introduction and verses make you want to decode what is going on in this track ‘…there’s a man screaming in the hallway…and I can’t hear myself think…’ but when it gives way to a very noisy chorus you are carried along anyway.
3. Betty Previously released as a single this is a strange mixture of fantasy imagery with a sinister undertone ‘….let me tell you what happened…somebody ate my mother’s lipstick…somebody tried to read my palm….somebody called me….Cinderella so I hit the fire alarm….’. Musically the song structure pulls you in with its dramatic flourishes and winning melody lines.
4. Captain Dorego My favourite track on the collection, lyrical dreams to escape into ‘….carp fishing maybe bass…out of the stream ourselves at last…as idyllic as it seems….’ sit alongside darker thoughts ‘….can I sing in the small church choir…..fill it up with gasoline….light a match and wait for you to scream…’. It is a delicate treat, the words floats above gentle guitar with bass and drums that handle the poly-rhythmic backing perfectly. The song has its own dance too (see video link below)….
Packed full of ideas lyrically and musically, UK singer songwriter Hannah Rose Kessler releases her new EP.
‘Don’t Worry’ starts with an acoustic loosening up then bursts into a pulsing chord rhythm over sparse drums. The opening line is like it is from a novel that you know you will keep reading ‘…my hands they melt away into the background…I follow you into the trees…‘ As expressive guitar patterns come and go the double vocal of Hannah leads us along a sinister path lyrically ‘….don’t worry my dear there’s no need to have fear…’.
‘I’m Alive’ keeps up the intensity and creativity, this time with strident keyboards to the fore. After the strenuous dazzle of the two openers, ‘Before The Fall’ presents evocative imagery in a looser song structure ‘….stuck in this entropy…we plunge into waves and rest on the shore…‘
There is much more; previously released single ‘Come Feel Me’ is reviewed here, spoken word song ‘Your Female Rage’ is full of hard-hitting points before finale ‘A Thousand Cuts’ features big, industrial slices of sound-gothic.
For the listener, the variation of genre, style and content is satisfyingly rich and unpredictable and Hannah is in absolute command of it all.
With their first LP since ‘Healing Centre’ in 2015, Model Village storm the citadel of sharp but polite pop on this ten song collection.
The distinctive guitar introduction of opener ‘Insufferable’ and immediate lyrical touchstones, ‘….drinking Pinot Noir….embracing failure….what will we do?…’ show that the Village are back with a bang. Lead singer Lily sounds optimistic yet full of regret while the rest of the band add harmonies and a complex musical backing. ‘Oslo’ is a likeable up-tempo jaunt that transposes the action of a relationship to Scandinavia to add to the feeling of uncertainty ‘…..if I dare to speak the language I’d be lost in translation… ‘. It creates an atmosphere a bit like an arthouse film where not much happens, but there is still a winning resolution in the final reel ‘….you know I’ll be coming back for you today…’.
‘Roll It Over’ is driven by the strong melody to give another pacey song with many musical nuances and a dominant vocal performance. A surprise middle-eight makes a welcome appearance near the end. The momentum continues with ‘Otters’, a light, jazzy and summery confection featuring an enigmatic title, imagery and trademark retro electric piano.
A highlight for me is ‘Roles’ – I am very partial to this type of slow blues track and this is a fine example. Over the six minutes there is loads of time to develop the lyrical ideas, ‘….are you smoking to impress me cause that would just depress me my dear…’. Instrumentally the band have a great time, with plenty going on around the guitar arpeggios including a demented solo, roving basslines and the drums only just staying restrained. I like the way that extra syllables are pushed into the main melody to keep up an atmosphere of doubt ‘….its not that easy to throw yourself into a role that you don’t believe in…’.
The band continue to move through different genres and styles; on ‘Sunburn’ a long experimental introduction evolves into a pensive and thoughtful song, ‘Popular Band’ is a wry self-referential resume of the band’s 12 year career while the hypnotic ‘Variety Box’ is another take on the blues and showcases the best vocal performance on the album.
The album closes with the big ballad ‘Miseryguts’, as the strong melody is boosted by extravagant 70s Carpenters style backing vocals. There is more too, on a very satisfying mix of timeless indie-pop from this artful Cambridge-based collective.
The new LP from Texas-based singer/songwriter Katy Kirby is refreshing, lyrically challenging and hints of summers to come in its music.
The short and sparse ‘Eyelids’ sets the dreamlike tone for the collection; acoustic guitar and piano complementing the beguiling vocal. With music and words that seem not quite aligned but very much in a good way ‘Juniper’ has one of those chord sequences that sounds like it is constantly catching up with itself and instantly lodges in your brain. A relaxed voice effortlessly flows above the uncluttered backing, sometimes giving way to just a lone guitar. The imagery of the lyrics ‘…you don’t need a gardener to know…which way the blossoms going to float….’ meshes seamlessly with the instrumentation, with extra nuances through the two and a half minutes running time. According to Katy “This is a song about motherhood, mostly...’.
The jumpier rhythm and hesitations of ‘Peppermint’ is followed by the delicate and playfully addictive ‘Traffic!’. Previously released as a single this gorgeous dancing melody is a winner, with a hook to immerse yourself in. A guitar solo, heavenly choir and electronic voice treatments all add to the mix.
The LP is packed full of treats, including the quiet piano ballad of ‘Portals’ and probably best of all the leisurely musings, big chorus and grand finale of title track ‘Cool Dry Place’ followed by the enigmatic low-key bookend of ‘Fireman’.
At the intersection of indie pop, lo-fi folk and perfectly crafted song writing this is a gorgeous debut album.
Straight in with the blistering ‘Count Your Blessings’, Leeds three-piece Nervous Twitch deliver a collection of roughly-cut pop diamonds on their excellent fourth album. Definitely a formidable live band; their recordings distil the essence of the energy from a stage performance.
I especially like the casual indifference of ‘Tongue Tied’, ‘….I’ve always got so much to say but I can’t always use it….’, tempered by the classic punk chorus. ‘A Bag For Life’ builds a chanting song around single line bass and guitar (reminding me of the spiky dance sounds of Shopping), then ‘Not Everyone’s Out To Get Me’ is a fuzzy and effervescent anthem.
A tasty synth riff joins the party for previously released ‘Keeping Faith In Something’, featuring one of Erin’s best vocals and ‘Alright Lads’ is a compact and sharply structured Ramones homage, readily acknowledged by the trio as a great influence. The calculated lyrical dismissal of ‘Boredom and Dissatisfaction’ hangs around a reassuring set of chord changes as does the darker anti-vocal of ‘The Way That I Feel’.
‘Fickle You’ ends the LP with a garage tune that is the constant in an ever changing musical battleground, demonstrating perfectly how after four albums Erin, Jay and Ashley have honed their addictive sound to cut this fine set of twelve tracks.
On this debut album from Canadian singer/songwriter Madisyn Whajne the first track ‘Summer Love ‘ is a supreme slice of dreampop with an edge, as a hypnotic drum pattern is a platform for a sublime voice and all over hypnotic effect.
Then ‘Killing Desire’ maintains the momentum as a seventies style glam rock piano figure drives a minimally chorded epic into pure pop heaven.
‘One Shot’ is in rockier territory, where the band battles with the vocal to great effect. Madisyn drives the vocal straight through the middle of the musical mayhem.
This opening triumphant triumvirate of tracks is followed by the duet ‘So In Love’, where Madisyn and James Grey deliver a neat ballad, before the chiming vocal glories of ‘Sweet Talk’ and the punchy pulses and descending scale of ‘Don’t Walk Away’. ‘When Morning Comes’ echoes the ambience of dreamy pop titans Alvvays and ‘Never Give In’ is reflective and relaxed.
The last two tracks showcase the contrasting sides of Madisyn Whajne; the up tempo airiness of ‘Fire’ and the looser, bleaker threads of the title track finale bring this superb collection to an end.
The debut EP from Edinburgh quartet Yellow Helen is a varied and rich mix….
1: I Know. The most immediate track on the EP, a confident swagger of 60s pop influences, retro guitars, echoing backing voices and an interplay between verse and chorus that interlocks perfectly.
2: Frills and Lace. A sinister waltz with acoustic guitar and organ as a platform for a complex and surreal lyric, ‘…..circumnavigate once you’re caught in the jaws of a grizzly bear….’, before an edgy guitar solo joins in the end build-up. An ambitious track, and on repeated listens very much an addictive treat.
3: Spooky. Never quite sure where this EP leads to next, this is a built around a lingering descending guitar figure, languid electric piano chords and another set of strange words. This could easily accompany a pastoral interlude in a 70s psychological thriller.
4: Honeymoon Suite. With a wide ranging bass line to the fore the title track is another mini-movie, with wordplay ‘….please concierge….don’t give me the urge to leave a hateful review….’ and a nice relaxed feel to the instrumentation. Reminding me of the eccentricities of current indie stylists Tugboat Captain and back to the acidic reflections of The Divine Comedy, this is a fine conclusion to this excellent EP.
This is the third single from London four-piece RAMES; a likeable blend of jangly guitar pop tempered with US influenced rock and a determination to lift the mood.
Their debut track ‘Easy For You’ with its joyous Cure/Byrds introduction was a fine welcome to the band, with an intense vocal, roving bass line, room for the guitars to breathe and a winning chorus. Follow-up ‘She’s Gold’ was more densely layered and driven by a recurring instrumental top line and pulsing drums duelling with the echoing vocal.
Now their new release ‘Won’t Be Long’ shows a band building confidence in their sound. This is also evident in the accompanying video showcasing the quartet visiting a variety of London sights, playing celebratory football and setting up to perform in the shadow of some railway arches. It is a punchy, catchy pop song with all the elements of their sound firmly in place, featuring a neat middle eight and bold chorus. In the strange unpredictable music future it would make it strong opener to their live performances…