Artists at a glance
SEATTLE YACHT CLUB
Thanks to everyone who came by and gave their time at the weekend to listen through to the handpicked selection of tracks on Listening Post 101 and tell us which ones they liked best. Here, in alphabetical order, are your ten favourites, which you can also hear all together in their own playlist on our Soundcloud page.
10TIGERS – Owned
This tune grabbed me on first hearing last week in our inbox. Straight in with motoring bass, drums, acoustic guitar and a teeth-gritted seriousness of intent that declares These People Are Not Messing About. It’s interesting how so many artists marshall their amped-up fuzzball guitar attack with widescren epic drums and a screaming vocal snatched from the jaws of hell – without coming anywhere close to the conviction of 10Tigers. This atmospheric landscape frequently blooms with fresh textures along the way, while adhering to my own deeply held conviction that The Groove’s The Thing. Whatever bells and whistles you use (literally or figuratively) to make music shine in the studio you should never, ever mess with The Groove. This is fine writing and great production. Not the buffed and reassuringly expensive sheen you get from a five figure spend at Abbey Road, but the work of a person with serious musical intelligence and a working pair of ears. Whoever the hell that might be. How To Write A Band Biog.
AK/DK – Battersea
A tune to put a smile on your face with its ADHD energy, this cheerfully head-battering chiptune riffage is exactly the kind of noise for which the term “wonky pop” must first have been coined. AK/DK‘s near-indecipherable vocoder vocals are a reproach to every soul-seraching lyricist who ever agonised over a rhyme. Just as on Louie Louie – arguably the greatest pop record ever made – you can’t make out a word of Battersea and IT DOESN’T EVEN MATTER. This dollop of upbeat sunshine fun is instantly likeable because, while carefully made, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Music this repetitive and bleepy could easily do your head in, yet it all somehow works because of the wonderful acoustic drum track. It’s either a masterpiece of programming that makes the playing sound human, or else a masterpiece of human playing that make the programming come to life. Either way, a triumph.
BI:LINGUAL – Spiderwebs
For two hours of great tunes and a wonderfully engaging weekly lesson in the history of music. you could do worse that tune in to The Iggy Pop Radio Show every Sunday afternoon from 4-6pm on 6 Music. Bi:Lingual are A Proper Band and share Iggy’s grasp of the timeless primal power of rock, rap and roll. It has nothing to do with how many fancy chords you can cram in, how many fancy licks you can play, or how many fancy paradiddles you can play with double pedals on your kick drum. It’s partly a question of whether you can dig in, lock together and get on with it, which Bi:Lingual certainly do. But ultimately it’s about the vocalist – The Stooges without Iggy were just another bunch of West Coast garage musicians, one band among many. The Doors without Jim, the Stones without Mick. The reason why our readers voted for Spiderwebs in droves is that from the moment the vocal comes in, its declaiming sardonic rap jeremiad on the state of the record industry grabs us by the lug holes and refuses to let go. Wonderful flow, genuine bile and a band that sounds pretty much guaranteed to tear your head off live.
CORONATION BALL – God Be Careful
Canny songwriting, and another great arrangement that lunges straight for the jugular with no messing. The arresting hookline “God be careful!” could means so many things to so many people – and Coronation Ball tease us by almost saying it, yet not saying it, right from the outset. Again, an outstanding vocal performance – this time underpinned by lush, intelligent instrumentation, and turbocharged – as in the previous three tracks – by an outstanding drummer. One of the frustrations of championing under-the-radar artists is that their biggest obstacle to mass sales is not lack of talent, but lack of attention. In my opinion if this record was serviced to the media as Keane’s new single it would be acclaimed as a major return to form and go straight to Number One.
GLASS CAVES – Out Of Control
Glass Caves featured on our fresh Faves back in February 2013 with their song Muscle and as Fresh On The Net’s James Robins wrote at the time “Glass Caves aren’t giving away masses about themselves online” which is something of an understatement. Biog? Nada. About Us? Zilch. Despite this Billboard Magazine has apparently described them as one of the “fastest growing new acts on the internet” and certainly the figures would seem to speak for themselves: 7,000+ likes on Facebook and 2,500 plays on Souncloud for this track alone in the last 24 days. It’s the title track of their upcoming second EP, produced and mixed by Richard Turvey at Parr Street Studios, Liverpool. Although the band don’t tell you any of this themselves, according to Mind Equals Blown they’ve made their way from busking on the streets of UK cities to the BBC Radio One playlist and Leeds/Reading Festivals in a matter of months. They will be playing in London this Thursday April 3rd appearing alongside The Traps at the Black Heart, Camden as part of Music Week Rising.
HUIAS – Dealer
It takes a sure hand to leave your production as empty as this and Dealer is that rare combination of loyalty to its own wayward artistic vision and a perfect three minute length for radio. The Spanish duo Huias – aka Alejandro Santana and haunting vocalist María Lastra – don’t make this spooky, otherworldly music with a view to getting rich, but because it’s clearly their life’s work. And for truly visionary artists the route to major popularity paradoxically lies in a directon opposite to the mainstream – think tUnE-yArDs or Burial for instance. Accordingly, without any hype, industry bombast or obvious promotion at all in the six days its been on Soundcloud this gossamer-light gem has already racked up 7,000 plays. That’s more than A THOUSAND LISTENS A DAY – ten times the rate of even our friends Glass Caves. And yes, since you ask, Huias do seem to have given us a pretty comprehensive biog on their Facebook page which you can peruse here. So long as you can read Spanish.
JESS McALLISTER – Take A Walk
As a manifesto of intent – from an artist of selfevident passion and integrity – the following takes some beating. “I do not sing, write or play to impress or astound” wrtes Jess McAllister. “I am readily aware that there is nothing I can do that someone else can’t do better… What I can offer is a little piece of myself: songs written in times of happiness, anguish or irritation, about real people.” And Take A Walk makes good on that offer with a vengeance. Jess’s beautifully understated production and writing effortlessly transcend the standard singer-songwriter-at-grand-piano cliché – with no shortage of harmonic and textural surprises along the way. As the music weaves its spell and draws you in along the way – with arresting drops and pauses – Jess then delivers her startlingly fresh-minted narrative. Heartbreakingly gorgeous string arrangements run like sinews through the whole body of the song as an integral part of the whole. Plentiful evidence of a ferocious emotional and musical intelligence at work. Find of the week, no contest.
KING SINGH – I’ve Said Words
This is Alexander McIntyre Singh’s third appearance – by the popular demand of our moderators and readers – here in our Fresh Faves. However I’ve been enjoying his composition and production skills for much longer than that: we first played his instrumental classic Hijamumpa on 6 Music back in 2009, and subsequently enjoyed the wonderful live band that he formed with fellow Redditch songwriter Thomas Rees – Pandas and People. It’s always good to hear new music from King Singh, and with I’ve Said Words he’s back on fine form. As a matter of fact this tune already made my personal Extra Gems playlist on Soundcloud last week.
SAM GRIFFITHS – A Noise Such As You
To misappropriate Dr Samuel Johnson’s famous pronouncement on patriotism, labelling oneself “a singer-songwriter” is all too often the last refuge of the scoundrel. Think about it – Prince, David Bowie and Beyoncé all sing and write songs, yet we’d never dream of applying the label in their case. Plenty of honourable exceptions of course, yet all too many lazy chancers still use the umbrella term “Singer-Songwriter” to shelter their feeble cliché-ridden noodlings from the harsher critical scrutiny applied to actual “Bands” and proper “Solo Artists”. But I digress. The point is that a song is a song is a song, and all songs should be judged by the same standards – does it connect and do the business – or does it miss the mark?
Sam Griffiths describes himself as “a York-based singer-songwriter” yet – given that A Noise Such As You hit a bullseye with our readers over the last three days – I’d say he definitely qualifies as a fully fledged Solo Artist. I’d never knowingly come across Sam’s work before this weekend, yet this understated and hypnotic tune draws us effortlessly into his world. It’s a beguiling combination of wildly original production with a delicate vocal performance of enormous poise, and quite delicious. My only reservation is there’s ever so slightly too much of it. After all – smoked salmon with black pepper and a zest of lemon is pretty tasty too: but you wouldn’t expect the waiter to heap a kilogram of the stuff on your plate. Once we passed the three minute mark without any substantial build or change of texture, there was just the teensiest sense of this excellent track outstaying its welcome. An extremely minor niggle that a judicious radio edit could fix in an instant.
SEATTLE YACHT CLUB – Dreaming
I’m a big fan of Seattle Yacht Club: indeed, with Same Old Questions, Fall Deep and Feeling The Sunshine, they’ve made some of my favourite tunes of the past twelve months. Between them Tom Dale and Denis Brice possess a more outrageous amount of talent than any pair of individuals could reasonably expect. Dreaming sounds to my ears as if some manager or record label had taken the band in hand and said “right lads, it’s time to up your game and start producing tunes with a wider commercial appeal”. It’s certainly panned out that way: the gleaming express-train production – littered with catchy hooks – garnered easily the highest number of votes on our Listenig Post this weekend. I very much hope the song will carry them on to the bigger audiences and serious sales volumes they so richly deserve. But I also hope that in due course they’ll find a way to reincorporate the leftfield quirky charm that has always made Seattle Yacht Club such a unique and appealing band.
PS from TR: If you’ve submitted a track that hasn’t made the Listening Post you’re welcome to re-submit it another week. If your music has appeared on the Listening Post but not in our Fresh Faves, feel free to send us an even stronger track another week.
But if we’ve recently featured you in our Fresh Faves – or on my BBC Introducing Mixtape – please wait three months before sending us another track, so we have space to help to other new artists… For more info see Robinson Has A Good Old Moan.