Artists at a glance
THE HOWL & THE HUM
JAMES M CARSON
TOKYO TEA ROOM
ARROWS OF LOVE – Signal
If you like thump-rock this is the band for you. Arrows of Love are Marilyn Manson quintupled.
Their track Signal, is like the kind of bizarre nightmare one has after a night of imbibing several hundred multi-coloured cocktails, washed down with a gallon of Mister Muscle while gargling a few dog ends. “Let the lunatics run the asylum” screams an Orc! Well guess what mate, your luck is in! “Six little bullets is all I’ve got” he thunders. One will do dude; now stand still!
As you might detect, it’s not my poison; bit Carry on Sex Pistols in Transylvania without the sex. However, if it’s your thing, then Arrows of Love are based in London (you have been warned), and are Cleopatra, King Harold, Boudica, Ragnar Lothbrok and King Tut. They sound like the Brit version of Lordi. If you want to know more, check out their websites below.
THE CANDLE THIEVES – Into Forever
Into Forever is an inoffensive little acoustic track the simplicity of which belies the pertinence of its lyrics. It has a lovely line in melody, a beguiling softness of tone, and the kind of blurry dreaminess that can transfix a tired soul whilst pouring a sense of calm over their Orc infested and troubled mind. The track is structured like a mille feuille; layer upon delicate layer of sensitive vocal, gossamer harmonies, and tightly packed guitar sequences are neatly stacked and artfully arranged to form an uplifting pop dainty.
The Candle Thieves, who met while still at school in Peterborough, is made up of Scott McEwan and ‘The Glock’. I guess that kind of makes him The Stig of the Cambridge Music scene, in an ‘all Glock and no spiel’ sort of way. They remind me of China Crisis; I have no idea why, they just do!
There’s a rather hard-hitting socio-political visual commentary to accompany the track, which you’ll find on YouTube here. Be warned though, if like me you’re inclined to gag at the sight of bloody carcasses, this video might not be for you! The band also have a mini-album, entitled Details, out on iTunes at the mo if you fancy a spend.
HARLEQUIIN – Melt in Olive
Melt in Olive is experimental electronic jazzy weirdness overlaid with R&B style vocals, in a way I’ve never heard done before. It starts off sparsely enough but bit by bit, more and more plugins, add-ons, noises and electro-squiggles are added to the central percussive backbeat. By the end there’s a hell of a lot going on including skyscraping-falsetto guest vocals from Elliot Cole and some seriously addictive clicks and beats.
And during all that jazz-hued electro-clangour the infectious vocal of Harlequiin aka Rory Simmons strides on, faultless in its delivery. His voice, warmer than single malt and twice as addictive, is possibly one of the best on this week’s playlist. Nuanced, strong, clear and alluring, it is the voice of a singer confident in their abilities.
Don’t be put off by the quirky minimalism of the intro, Melt in Olive is a grower. Having just now hopped into Simmons’ website, I can see there is indeed a background in jazz, with the musician/producer citing Jamie Callum and David Gray as well as Jason Derulo as some of his live/studio credits.
There’s obviously a good pedigree here and a hell of a lot of talent. Harlequiin is an artist whose music needs to be further explored. His latest single, Sharpest Knife, is out now and it’s a peach.
THE HOWL & THE HUM – Manea
The Howl & The Hum are from York, so they probably know a few of our Mods from the local Yorkie scene. Their name takes its inspiration from the famous Ginsberg poem, Howl, which you can read through the link, if you are so inclined.
They describe themselves as a four-faced hydra and who am I to disagree? Track Manea is all a bit Bladerunner goes American rock with its dystopian brood set in the landscape of Beck and Green Day (there are hints of both) with whom they share a distorted world view. They sing about ‘a beautiful day’ set against the darkest and murkiest of instrumental backdrops, so much so, that one can almost feel the grimace on the lead singers face; he doesn’t sing the lyrics so much as bleed them.
Guitars groan and wail through a series of chainsaw through black smoke sequences that are peppered by louche basslines, spacious drumming and reps of high hat. Vocals veer somewhere in the direction of early Radiohead. Those who like their guitars loud, the speakers big and their universe all brimstone and treacle will love this. Manea is on release now and available via the usual platforms.
JAMES M CARSON – Calico
James M Carson hails from Bolton and is “no good in a fight”, which are not words you’d expect to hear from a Lancashire lad! One wonders if it’s purely coincidental that this song is called Calico given Bolton’s history of textile production? I know right, I know some really weird trivia!
Anyway, ‘useless in a fight’ James is really rather useful with a guitar, of which there is plenty in this folk-pop-rock creation. Funny thing though, there are a few bars in here that sound just like a few bars in this – six degrees of separation, or none, between Bolton and Stockholm, eh? Odd how riffs like that just stick in your head like wellingtons in mud.
Beyond dispute is the fact Carson gives good guitar. He also does a nice line in vocal. Instrumentally and melodically he leans towards the American deltas, with more than a touch of folky-Americana in the mould of The Lumineers, Don Mc Clean and Fleet Foxes around the edges of his melodies. A clean, strong sound and a nice melodic vocal with enough gear changes to keep it interesting, Calico is really rather good, in its field. It’s out now on Bandcamp etc. James has lots of gigs lined up – go check out the socials below.
LUCA LUCIANO – Divertimento #13
I was automatically drawn to this like a magnet to metal, mainly because it reminded me not just of sequences in some of Tchaikovsky’s ballets, but also of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, which I adore.
Filled with free expression, mischievousness and playfulness, Divertimento #13 is an absolute joy. Simply but perfectly architected and arranged, it is as bright and colourful as a warm Summer’s day. If the laughter of children could be turned into music, this 2m30s of sheer unadulterated bliss would perfectly encapsulate it. And that folks, is about the best I can possibly say about a classical-jazz clarinet composition given my lack of qualification to expound upon the subject.
Luca Luciano is one of Europe’s leading clarinetists and luckily for the UK, he now resides in London having moved there some years ago from his native Naples. He has has just released an album entitled Poeta, for which there are lots of upcoming promotional live dates in his event calendar (see his FB page)
“Luciano is one of Europe’s leading exponent of jazz clarinet” (BBC Radio) Says it all really!
LUNABLIND – I Want You
The drums on the intro of this track remind me of the Mick Fleetwood’s awesomeness in Big Love, or the thumpety percussion at the top of Kate Bush’s Running up that Hill. That’s a good start then.
Lunablind are a relatively new band having only formed in 2016. A three-piece indie outfit, they hail from Leeds, whose football team I followed very briefly when a certain player transferred there from Man U. But that was long ago and this is now… they cite Two Door Cinema Club and All Tvvins as influences which of course is most pleasing to hear, what with them being Oirish and all. They also cite Bombay Bicycle Club but we all have our problems don’t we?
I Want You is their latest single, and it’s a pretty nifty indie-pop track, that explores the world of unrequited love and so on. There’s some seriously good drumming going on behind blistering waves of guitar and tight, heady melodies. The vocal is strong and conveys the intensity of the protagonist’s emotion in a Joe Jackson sort of way. Catchy, hooky, lively, energetic, quick, brief and to the point. Nice work guys.
I Want You is out now. Lunablind want you. Thing is, do you want them?
STRANGEWAVES – Teenage Nights
First impressions? A Britney Spears prototype singing under a sky of twinkly stars surrounded by a sea of spiralling and billowing synths. As pop songs go, this is average. Vocals are easy on the ear but there’s very little going on in the instrumental department other than a healthy sprinkling of synths, faux string sounds and continuous waves of electronica. If there’s guitar in there I apologise but it’s not connecting with these ears.
Strangewaves are bit Kim Wilde meets Selena Gomez, and Teenage Nights falls into that style of radio-friendly, tweenage pop that sells by the bucket load and gets the likes of Peter Robinson all hot under the collar. With hints of mid-80s Edam served with a side of Eurovision, this is the type of shiny, neon pink pop that went down well in places like Montreux when they used to host their happy, clappy annual pop festival.
A quick scout of the relatively new, barely there, uninformative socials would indicate a band only recently formed/put together? No comment, no about, two songs and no photos other than a blacked-out image of four kids on motorbikes. Why any band starting out would choose to do so from the comfort of their own anonymity is beyond me.
STRESS DOLLS – Pills
This really isn’t going well is it..? “I take my pills to keep me sane” – Have you got any to spare love?
I think all the long haired moshers of the Metallica or Whitesnake tee-shirt variety must have invaded the Listening Post this week. Shame none of mods who so love a good head-bang weren’t down for reviews innit.
Anyway – American rock cum punk riot grrl sounds, this time in the style of Sleater Kinney or Bikini Kill. Sure enough when I check out the profile, it transpires that Stress Dolls hail from Buffalo NY – which is no surprise really given the heavily accented vocal and musical inclination. What is a surprise though is that Stress Dolls (pl) is actually Chelsea O’Donnell (sing). Impressive that just one person can make that much musical noise!
Not for the faint-hearted, this is the kind of music that The Devil’s Tuna adores; if the two of you don’t already know each other, someone should broker an introduction asap.
TOKYO TEA ROOM – Sunset Exit
Sunset Exit is like a long, meditative exhalation and a deep inhale of dreamy loveliness. Soft, emotive vocals gently dance Geisha-like through a blaze of guitar fuzz and drone to create the type of psych-shoegaze confection that I adore. Shimmering melodies and breathy vocals are finely balanced against just the right amount of grit and grrr, which is why Tokyo Tea Room remind me of Norwegian band Drape when they still had Hanne Olsen Solem and their rock-gaze sensibilities.
Singer Beth Plumb’s vocal has shades of Amber Arcades, and its cloudlike gauziness offsets the sharper instrumental furnishings of what is altogether a standout piece of dreampop with a spike of psych.
Tokyo Tea Room are a five-piece from Canterbury. Due to release their second EP entitled Another Place later in August, they have several live dates in the diary, the next of which is Rock the Bay on Saturday 8th July. Full details of gigs, releases and so on over at their FB page.
PS from TR: If you’ve submitted a track that hasn’t been picked for the Listening Post, our team has definitely listened to it and there’s no need to send it again: feel free to send us an even stronger track another week. The same goes if you were picked for the Listening Post but didn’t feature in our Fresh Faves.
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 other deserving artists… For more info see Robinson Has A Good Old Moan.