Top Tracks: MARBL – I Think I Saw You On The Street

Writing a song is all about telling a story in some form or another. The trouble is in making it stand out, while also ensuring that it connects with people. This new song from MARBL delivers on both counts with its unique and heartfelt message. The understated folk pop of ‘I Think I Saw You On The Street’ tells the tale of seeing a past love many years down the line. The inevitable thoughts of what could have been had things turned out differently, and the acceptance that there are some things we can’t change. Even if we could there’s no way to know the outcome. With it superb storytelling and endearing video, it’s a reminder not to dwell on the times our own path crossed with another, but to look out on the path ahead. To be open to future encounters and cherish the journey itself.

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Top Tracks: Harker Moon – Muma Says

Fans of Tom Grennan and Rag’N’Bone Man may have just found a new favourite band in London quintet Harker Moon. The gritty soul of ‘Muma Says’, which shares words of wisdom reminding you to cherish the one you love, isn’t the kind of song that takes you on a journey, rather it leaves you sat engrossed in the song as the scenery changes around you. It opens with a mournful piano feel that paints a picture of a quiet London jazz club on a rainy night. Soon the song kicks up a notch with all the warmth and vibrance of a classic Motown act living it up in a luxurious ballroom, before crashing to a conclusion complete with wailing guitar tones that would sound right at home in a bustling underground club serving up raw and real indie acts. Slick and soulful, but with just the right amount of rough around the edges, there is an awful lot to like here.

Top Tracks: Guns For Gold – Unravelled

As much as I want to describe this song as ‘cinematic’ it would feel like a disservice. The fact of the matter is that seldom few films can claim to have as much drama, as much emotion, as much growth and progression and concise storytelling. ‘Unravelled’ is cinematic in the sense that it’s what cinema should aspire to. Opening with a bittersweet piano melody and downcast vocals that are perfect for fans of The National, it gradually adds electronic flourishes, a swell of strings and fierce tortured guitar tones to leave you with a different beast altogether by the end. At it’s stirring climax the vocals take on a more gritty and soulful feel, reminding me of Paolo Nutini’s ‘Iron Sky’, as the cherry on top of this slow-burning powerhouse. ‘Unravelled’, contrary to its name, wraps itself around you layer by layer and simply refuses to let go.

Top Tracks: Ciircus Street – Broken

Pop music frequently gets a hard time, but often for a good reason. While it does big hooks and infectious melodies exceptionally well, what it often lacks is authenticity, the feeling of genuine emotion and meaning behind the song. That’s what makes this new break-up anthem from up and coming duo Ciircus Street so refreshing. ‘Broken’ has plenty of pop hallmarks in its harmonies and its slick and polished instrumentation, but it details coming to terms with breaking up, and how the right decision can still hurt as though it’s the wrong decision, in such a heartfelt and thought-provoking way. The raw and gritty inflection in the vocals injects such passion into the track, and its imperfections give it a sense of humanity and character that is so often missing in the genre. “Pop” needn’t be a dirty word if only we had more songs like this.

Top Tracks: Lokki – High

Following the success of his debut EP Cirrhi earlier this year, Lokki (aka Drew MacFarlane of Glass Animals) is back with a brand new track. Reminiscent in places of The Last Shadow Puppets, ‘High’ details the feeling of taking a step back from your life to take a look at the bigger picture. It carries the same lush vibe that made his EP so compelling, but what really sets this track apart is the stunning stop motion video. Made from thousands of photographs strung together (along with added illustrations, as if it wasn’t complicated enough to make already!) by animator Tayo Kopfer, it is a mightily impressive work in its own right and adds a deeper layer of charm to and already charming song.

Live Review: First Aid Kit, O2 Academy Leeds, 8th Nov 2018

FAK

Photo by Darren Hughes

Some things in life seem like a match made in heaven. A perfect pairing, greater together than the sum of their parts. I’ve always maintained that First Aid Kit and The Staves would be just such a combination if they ever got together. On paper it just makes so much sense; two groups of sisters famed for their flawless harmonies. In practice however I’d long since dismissed the idea as wishful thinking, a kind of “ultimate supergroup” daydream. So when First Aid Kit announced the tour accompanying their latest record Ruins with The Staves as their support act, it took me all of ten milliseconds to decide that I needed to be a part of it. Continue reading

Spotlight!: Keeva

keevaI like fancy production and impressive musicianship as much as the next person, but they aren’t necessary to make a great song. One of the best measures of what makes a song great is whether it moves you, whether you can connect with it, and for that all you need is a message to share and to sing it out with all your heart. London based artist Keeva does just that with her debut EP. Carrying all the charm and soul of classic Motown, with all the excess stripped away to leave something more delicate and vulnerable, this wonderfully understated release is about as honest and authentic as they come. While most records are like oil paintings, building up layer by layer, this is more like a watercolour, needing only a tiny drop of colour to fill the blank space. From the sparse piano of ‘Pieces’, to the gentle fingerpicking of ‘How Do I Tell You’, the music provides the barest framework for Keeva’s soulful and sorrowful vocals. Her voice is one of the best you’ll hear in 2018, and it is given plenty of chance to shine. The EP carries a timeless feel, a break-up record for the ages, proving that sometimes less is more.

Fans of Isaac Gracie, Joni Mitchell and Amy Winehouse should check out Keeva’s debut EP Four Sad Songs and a Ballad

Live Review: Caligula’s Horse, Star & Garter Manchester, 5th Nov 2018

Caligula's horseThough Bonfire Night is traditionally celebrated with fireworks, I spent mine with something just as exciting and vibrant, albeit even louder; the brilliant Caligula’s Horse on their first headline European tour. Though I was a bit late to the game regarding their latest record, 2017’s In Contact, it has quickly become one of my favourite releases of recent years and has been one of my main go-to albums. So naturally I wasn’t going to miss out on seeing them, along with a few of their friends from back home, for an all out Australian invasion on the penultimate stop of their tour. After all, if anyone knows how to have a good time it’s the Aussies.  Continue reading

Top Tracks: Hanford Reach – Winston Smith

I can’t help but respect a band that can pack a lot of great ideas into just a few short minutes, and Brooklyn based duo Hanford Reach do just that on their delightfully dystopian new single. ‘Winston Smith’, named after the protagonist of the ever relevant 1984, is a curious little psychedelica cocktail. It has some great trippy guitar work  and some simply fantastic percussion but also brings something else to the table, some hard to define aura. It starts with the kind of light and airy vibes you’d expect from a psychedelic song, but as it progresses the bleak lyrical content seems to sow seeds of darkness within the music itself. Even then, it seems too bright and vibrant a track to depict a world so sombre, but that’s how it fits so well with 1984. You’re shown this cheerful veneer but you can’t escape this primal feeling, this tingle across your skin, that there’s something lurking beneath it all.

Top Tracks: Cavey – About To Start

God, they don’t make them like this anymore. That is, “they” being everyone other than London based quartet Cavey. An absolute masterclass in old-school soul and blues, ‘About To Start’ details the less glamorous side to life as a musician. At its climax the track shifts from a timeless blues solo, to an energising rush of brass, before bringing the whole thing down with softly spoken vocals and gentle jazzy piano. It’s like going from wowing the main stage to serenading some private VIP lounge in the span of a few seconds. This is the kind of song that just transports you somewhere else, mind, body and soul. Press play, close your eyes, and suddenly you can feel the warmth of some crowded jazz club, smell rising smoke from cigarettes and candlelight, and picture the band onstage putting on one hell of a show.