Swedish duo Victorian Tin began making music several years ago and now have renewed recording, beginning with ‘Silver and Perfume’, included on a compilation and reviewed on this site as ‘….strangely addictive, with shades of 80s cult popsters Japan as it features roving bass slidings and a world-weary vocal….’.
The newly reworked single ‘Chagall’ is named after the twentieth century Russian-French artist, famous for his colourful, dreamlike imagery. His reproductions have featured in many carefully planned living spaces ever since his death in 1985. While superficially of the mainstream, the images still have an unnerving quality and their otherworldliness is also reflected in the name of the band and this track, especially the slightly dissonant string quartet introduction.
The pace picks up as the rest of the instruments push the the song along, driven by the rhythm of an acoustic guitar. The lyric describes an encounter with a painting (‘Over The Town’) depicting ‘….a man and a woman flying or escaping in the sky and she is blue he is green…’ then the musings become more sinister ‘…and you slept here in my grave…when was it…in another time?….’. An echoing piano joins the mysterious party as the narrator becomes lost in his world of the picture.
It is an attractive and enigmatic track, a prelude to a four track EP due later this year…
This is a new version of La Yarará by Malena Zavala; it was the title track on her second album released earlier this year but this is an as-live studio recording cut at the legendary Abbey Road studios. The singer is based in London but draws on her Argentinian roots, she describes herself as being influenced by many sub genres; Cumbia, Afro-Cuban, Afro-funk, Andean folk, Argentine folk, bolero-son, and for this track, ‘reggaeton’ which is a music style originating in Puerto Rico during the late 1990s.
From the mysterious ascending keyboard in the introduction before the full band effortlessly join in the party it is a sinous, flowing track which evokes the image of the serpent of the title. As well as Malena’s sparkling voice the percussion and unadorned drums are crucial to the essence of the song and a spectacular trumpet solo appears from nowhere and nearly steals the show at the end as it duels with the graceful electric guitar lines.
I saw Malena and her band at the Blue Moon in Cambridge last year (see review below) so this is a reminder for me of an excellent show which has stayed in my memory…
‘Hide and Seek’, is the excellent new song from Leeds Indie folk duo Sunflower Thieves.
Debut single ‘Two Halves’ was a mellow introduction to their work, with a meditative verse giving way to the catchy chorus featuring their spot-on harmony vocals. Follow-up ‘Heavy Weight’ had a distinct melancholy threading through the descending chord sequence and carefully crafted melody and meditative lyrics ‘….what would you do if all the streetlights burned out?…’ resolving into ‘….restlessly waiting for a train….to take away your heavy weight…’.
The band perform live with just acoustic guitar and their luminous vocals but this new track allows other instruments and extra voices to drift in and out, adding subtle multi-layers to the mix. The overall effect is laid back, atmospheric and as summery a sound as you could want. It is a warm and comfortable lyric, evoking reminiscence of younger, less complicated days ‘…..falling asleep in the back of your car… hoping you’ll carry me up to my room…’ , feelings so good that ‘….I don’t want this to end…’.
It is definitely a track to fully immerse yourself in.
This is their third single and you can find other high-quality tracks on YouTube and various radio shows too if you do some searching…
There are hidden gems in the back catalogue of West Midlands based singer/songwriter and guitarist Graywave, the performing name of the multi-talented Jess Webberley.
On ‘Fluid’ from 2019 the poignant guitar and disconnected voice evolves into a huge doom-laden noisewall. The track then moves seamlessly and impressively back into almost a soothing instrumental and multivocals. ‘Afternoon Escapism’ is an evocative title for a languid guitar-line led pop musing. I also really like the dreamlike excursion of ‘Rain’, bringing to mind the best of Canadian indie outfit Alvvays.
Now new single ‘With Me’ takes the music in another direction, featuring a softer edged sound but with more dissonance, looseness of structure and otherworldliness in the music. The vocals have been absorbed into the textures of guitars and insistent drum pulse.
As the bassline descends gracefully and the guitar sparkles and fills the space above, the lyrical mantra ‘…always searching…always yearning…’ speaks of timelessness and longing.
Graywave describes the enigmatic cover artwork as ‘…depicts my bedroom with the addition of a portal leading elsewhere, tying in with the mood of the song….’.
This atmospheric track is released on June 18th, with more music to follow and hopefully some live shows with her band.
A new single from highly creative troubadour Jeremy Tuplin, a precursor to new album ‘Violet Waves’, due later this year.
In 2019 he released ‘Pink Mirror’, an LP absolutely crammed with musical and lyrical ideas. It embraced love, mythology, social comment along with detailed musings on the grand and mundane (see review below). With his understated vocal delivery and either a simple and elegant guitar accompaniment for ‘The Beast’ or the progressive band excursions of ‘Pandora’s Box’ the sounds always complemented the direction of the words.
‘Space Magic’ is a track featuring his band The Ultimate Power Assembly, contributing a mellow lounge-jazz bossa nova groove perfect for heady summer days. The guitar dances around the main chord sequence, ringing out and playing around with the main tune. The words are a spaced-out road trip of surreal and imaginative astronomical references, ‘…the Saturn moon Enceladus – supposedly nice this time of year….’ or ‘…let’s dance, Cassiopeia’s second chance….’, inviting us to join him for the ride and ‘….take a chance…at the black hole dance…’ which may feature ‘…Capital Gold Motown Classics…’.
This journey culminates in what sounds like the heaven of ‘….intergalactic truth love-manic wreaking havoc in the most beautiful manner….’.
An electric guitar solo flows seamlessly into the mix and then fades out as this evocative song floats off into the ether.
Ward Thomas – Hold Space
‘Hold Space’ is a new song from UK country-pop duo Ward Thomas, building on the reputation of their acclaimed 2019 ‘Restless Minds’ album and it will be included on a forthcoming EP.
It is a well balanced union of a melody that holds the song without over-elaborate instrumentation and of course features the sisters’ sparkling harmonies. A straightforward lyric makes the point very effectively as it describes how to be there for someone who may be struggling emotionally. They recently supported James Blunt on his UK Arena Tour which probably opened up a whole new audience but I think I preferred seeing them headlining a stunning sellout show in the intimate setting of the Cambridge Junction last March.
The duo have now rescheduled their acoustic tour for September this year.
NZCA Lines – Real Good Time
NZCA Lines is a London based electronic duo who I first heard when they released a lush bit of synth-pop and nearly hit called ‘Two Hearts’ in 2015. As I often do I was initially attracted by the band name, inspired by the giant animal patterns in the Peruvian desert only visible from the air. This new track ‘Real Good Time’ features on an album ‘Pure Luxury’ due in July; this time the keyboards and beat have been simultaneously pumped up then unravelled as well as featuring unpredictability in the vocal sounds. The influence of some of the looser party-groove tracks by Prince weaves its way through too; it is a winning combination of out-there funk and elegant electrics.
Molly & The Moon – Rise
‘Rise’ is another super single from folk-country four-piece Molly & The Moon, a follow-up to heartbreaking ballad ‘Cold Is The Night’.
This song is very much an anthem of positivity, probably it would be perfectly placed as a finale to a live set (when those days come again…). Driven throughout by a pulsing rhythm guitar over a recurring and reassuring bass the lyrics refer to the inevitable passing of time ‘….can’t stop the sun from falling over the edge of the horizon…‘ but counteracted by the optimism ‘…as the sun will rise once more…‘. With extra band harmonies, the rich tones of keyboard and the continuing subtle but complex percussion pattern ‘Rise’ builds nicely to the grand final chorus – showing that there is plenty going on instrumentally in this song to add to Molly’s excellent vocal performance.
Lucy Gaffney – ‘Can’t Escape’
‘Can’t Escape’ is the debut solo single by Lucy Gaffney, a singer songwriter from Belfast, now based in Liverpool. She has been in other bands including a duo called MMODE with her brother and she has worked with The Coral. This is a smooth piece of dream pop, with one of those ‘War On Drugs’ type verses – a sort of two chord road movie sound and then goes into a biggish chorus which sticks in your head. The voice sounds full and rich and yet blends and blurs into the mix of this perfectly structured pop song.
Smoke Fairies – ‘No Matter How This Goes, Just Make Sure That You’re Kind’
Smoke Fairies are excellent live performers and they manage to transfer the dark atmospheres of their songs onto recordings too. I can highly recommend their last album ‘Darkness Brings the Wonders home’ and this track ‘No Matter How This Goes’, Just Make Sure That You’re Kind’ was recorded at the same time, and given its high quality and prescience perhaps surprisingly left off the LP, but the band have since explained that they didn’t think it suited the mood of the rest of the tracks.
They are essentially a duo, this quote from Pitchfork magazine describes them as follows ‘…..Blamire and Davies don’t trade vocal duties so much as appear to sing from the same body, their voices nearly indistinguishable, shifting between smoky moans and toe-curling trills…’.
I’m not so sure; I think the two voices subtly differ and contrast but the harmonies are definitely from another world. Look out for their home online performances, most recently raising money for the RSPCA.
Moscoman feat.Tom Sanders – What Do We Care
This is three mixes of ‘What Do We Care’ by Moscoman, who is a producer and DJ specialising in ‘raw and rugged machine disco, acid, melodic techno, wonky house and dark disco’. He also crosses over into some surprising alternative territories and has his second album released on UK indie label Moshi Moshi later this year. After the sparse 80s keys of the introduction, this song features distinctive vocals from Tom Sanders of Teleman, one of my favourite live and studio bands that I have reviewed many times before. The track is probably a bit more clinically electronic and detached than Teleman’s more organic work but it is definitely worth several listens.
Combining elements of art and math rock the debut single from indie supergroup GodNo! (featuring members of Grawl!x, Pet Crow, Cable, Merrick’s Tusk) was the dissonant ‘Unholy Water’ with its tight, spiky anger loping between a main riff of two chords underneath a sinister double vocal describing the psychoactive effects of alcohol. The satisfying total onslaught sounded like it could fit into an electric version of Brecht/Weill’s ahead-of-their times 1930s theatre songs.
The new track ‘Hulk’ begins slightly lighter, with just drums and sparse guitar before a raw bass joins the party. This instrumental power frames an excellent disconnected vocal from Shelley Jane, with a gradually building level of intensity and tension ‘…. when what I get is the minimum that I expect….’ soon exploding into the searing guitar-led sensational chorus ‘…and being nice won’t save you….my strength is growing all the time…‘.
There are a couple of short instrumental bars but the rhythm guitar continues unrelentingly as the vocal phrases become more dominant, brittle and in the end unhinged ‘…I don’t say sorry for what I do…. I could be nice this is the choice….’ before a final link into the dark but catchy chorus.
This duo of blistering singles should be joined by more releases later this year…
An excellent new single from powerpunk quartet Fightmilk, a preview of their much-anticipated second album, currently being recorded for release later this year on eclectic popsters haven Reckless Yes Records.
As on lead singer Lily’s recent solo EP (as ‘Captain Handsome’) there is a melancholy weaving through the lyric ‘…you said one day you’d fly me to the moon…these days you just make sad songs in your room…’.
Like many of the Fightmilk tracks there are cultural references to mull over and enjoy ‘….watching Interstellar didn’t make it better….reading Carl Sagan, looking kind of vacant….’ as well as a rare namecheck for ‘background radiation’ in a pop song.
The space theme is an apt metaphor for regret and disappointment (see Billy Bragg’s ‘The Space Race is Over’, ‘Jupiter Crash’ by the Cure, ‘Rocketman’ etc etc) but this new track manages to simultaneously embrace those feelings and take a different direction, as well as including a title that is possibly the longest in the history of this genre (beating Klaatu/The Carpenters ‘Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft’….).
It is a thoughtful but sharp lyric, well-delivered by Lily over rich ever-changing music with otherworldly guitar shimmers and a thumping bass and drums in the chorus. A short instrumental break has an ascending wall of distortion like Apollo 11 taking off, before the music calms down and celestial harmony is restored…
Relocating from Brescia in Italy to Manchester, Julia Bardo has absorbed musical influences and developed her cross-genre styling to great effect. I wrote a review of track 2, one of the taster singles from this EP for http://www.indiemidlands.co.uk, now the finished package has been released….
1. Into Your Eyes Gentle sound effects lure us into this classy opener. Julia’s voice is right at the front of the mix, expressive but somehow otherworldly as the guitar layers are gradually added to. Unhurried and melancholy, it is an outstanding track with a sound reminiscent of Canadian indie dream-poppers Alvvays at their echoing best.
2. Please Don’t Tell Me With a disconnected feeling in the music and lyrics, this starts with a distant vocal floating across an alt-country soundscape. This soon bridges into a catchier chorus ‘….. please don’t tell me who I am…please don’t tell me who you are…’ as a guitar figure sounds subtly jarring and dissonant, then goes into a short instrumental link.
And all of this in the first half of the song. There is plenty of musical activity in less than four minutes; add in the video too with the red and blue coloured versions of Julia’s conscience, the possibly deserted performance venue and the old portable TV and this is a rich, rewarding and thought-provoking track.
3. Lonely Morning A faster rhythm-driven song, with percussion and a spiky electric guitar setting the pace. With the sentiment of the lyrics never quite certain the chorus ‘….and when you wake in the morning lights are gone and you’re lonely….’ settles nicely in your consciousness and won’t leave.
4. I Wanna Feel Love This is a hybrid of 60s multi-layer torch song and moody dream-pop, complete with Italian spoken word section and retro instrumentation. The yearning and heartache in the vocals stays with you as this excellent EP reaches its end.