Spotlight!: In The Cards

in the cards

Photo by PurpleYam Productions

Though there are elements of both sides at work within most bands, I generally find that most alternative rock acts either veer towards raw, visceral aggression or soaring, majestic melodies. If like me you tend to favour the latter, then the debut EP Eyes Beyond Reflection from Stoke-on-Trent quartet In The Cards is hands down the best example you’re going to find this year. These tracks carry enough ferocity to get that addictive adrenaline flowing, but they never let their passion get in the way of crafting great hooks and exploring more musically intricate passages. ‘Maze’ features a fittingly elaborate breakdown, while ‘Beautiful Silence’ shows the band’s fiery side with its driving rhythm. Lead single ‘The Only Thing’ offers some of the biggest hooks of the EP, while ‘Hollow Hearts’ showcases some fantastic musicianship with the gentle opening guitar and the wonderfully expressive and dramatic drums providing some of the most enticing instrumental work. It’s ‘Careful Eyes’ though that stands out as the highlight here. The true magic of Eyes Beyond Reflection lies in Amy Colclough’s soaring vocals, and it’s on this track that they’re at their most arresting. In The Cards have shown that they have plenty of tricks up their sleeves, and you’ll be sure to see this EP make an appearance in my end-of-year list.

Fans of Dream State, Mallory Knox, Greywind and 30 Seconds To Mars should check out In The Cards debut EP Eyes Beyond Reflection out now.

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Top Tracks: Harrison Rimmer – Berlin

There’s a definite sense of the familiar within this latest single from Harrison Rimmer. Written thanks to a chance encounter while on tour in Germany and the ensuing sparks of attraction that followed, ‘Berlin’ is overflowing with radio-friendly pop melodies and skittering electronic beats. Marking a shift in style for this singer/songwriter, ‘Berlin’ has plenty in common with the kind of upbeat and immaculate earworms that populate any pop playlist worth its salt. Make no mistake though, there’s plenty here to make ‘Berlin’ stand out from the crowd. The most obvious of which is the simply astounding bass tone, as good as any you’re ever likely to hear, offering the track an accessible and irresistible groove. Looking beyond the rhythm, Harrison’s distinctive vocals have such a curious and indescribable quality to them here, which will leave you listening on repeat to try to unravel what makes his voice so unique. All considered, Harrison’s latest single offers his own intriguing personal twist on an infectious electropop sound.

Top Tracks: Pastis – On The Run

While we mostly focus on looking forwards and celebrating what’s new, we are still susceptible to moments where we long for the “good old days”. I for one miss the days of B sides, the days when bands would hide away some of their best tracks for only the most ardent of fans to find and make them into the music equivalent of cult classics. That spirit is alive and well with this brilliant new track from Helsinki based band Pastis. This particular B side is real A+ material. With ‘On The Run’ the band have channelled all their talents into a song that shows them at their very best. Combining the bright, bubbly melodies of mid-2000s indie with the scrappy, relentless energy and lo-fi philosophy of 70s punk, ‘On The Run’ manages to pack a wealth of great music into just a brief couple of minutes. This spirited little number is more than deserving of some time in the spotlight, as indeed are Pastis themselves.

Top Tracks: Cavern Company – Falling

I defy you to find a more upbeat and joyful track released this year than ‘Falling’. This latest single from Oklahoma based indie pop trio Cavern Company is like a radiant beacon of positive energy, abuzz with effervescent melodies and guilt-free pop sensibilities. The band citing Chic as their biggest influence goes a long way in explaining the potency of the infectious danceable groove, and the bright indie aesthetic at work on this track is sure to be a hit with fans of The 1975 and Clean Cut Kid. “Pop” music gets a bad rep, which is often self-inflicted, but it’s songs like this that remind you just how invigorating good pop music can be. Assuredly innocent and endearing as it captures the feeling of a new love blossoming, the distilled euphoria of ‘Falling’ makes it one of the most charming and accessible tracks of 2018.

Top Tracks: The Tin Pigeons – Always The Same

All you need is a few bright and upbeat guitar riffs and you pretty much have yourself an indie song. To make a great indie song though you need to throw a few other elements into the crucible in the hope of forming something that feels special. The Tin Pigeons have done just that on their new single ‘Always The Same’. The infectious groove that permeates the whole track, paired with the multitude of memorable hooks, just makes you feel ready to lose your inhibitions and let the music move through you. Speaking of a longing to break free and find some meaning and purpose, to which we can all relate, ‘Always The Same’ manages the rare feat of being a fun song with real meaning. The Tin Pigeons have imbued their own unique charm into this track, and this is one festival anthem that is sure to get crowds whipped up into a feel-good frenzy.

Top Tracks: .imp – Lifedreamer

‘Lifedreamer’ is a tale of two halves. This latest single from London-based artist James Hargreaves, aka .imp, opens with a bright and airy psychedelic sound that’s simply bursting with life and pulsates like some mystical aura. The hectic skittering drum beat may seem at odds with the otherwise dreamy atmosphere, but somehow the two elements really work well together. If you thought the opening of ‘Lifedreamer’ was vibrant then you’re in for a real treat when the triumphant horn sounds kick in. This uplifting section rings out like some hero’s welcome while ascending Olympus. The drums shift to keep pace, providing some of the best damn percussion I’ve heard all year, before the euphoric climax gives way to the final ethereal fade-out. It may have been written on morphine while recovering from surgery, but that’s nothing compared to the high that the song itself makes you feel.

Interview: Ash Johnson

ash johnson interviewWith his debut solo record The Mad Ship, consummate songwriter Ash Johnson offers a diverse range of lyrical viewpoints adorned with rich imagery and memorable hooks. With songs about everything from love and dearly departed friends, to dealing with change and trying to find light in dark corners of our lives, it’s proving to be one of the most engaging and relatable releases of the year thus far. I caught up with Ash to find out more about how the record came about:  Continue reading

Top Tracks: Natalie Shay – Perfume

One of the UK’s most promising new talents, the brilliant Natalie Shay is back with a brand new single. ‘Perfume’ sees the rising star embrace a bold new direction. Trading the bright indie riffs and bombastic drums of her debut single ‘This Feeling‘ for some dreamy synths and retro 80s vibes, this new track is an immaculate indie pop delight. With its flawless production and infectious melodies, it seems Natalie is on to a winner yet again. For all artists, new ones especially, it is a risky move to change-up your sound when you’ve already found a formula that works. The fact that Natalie has pulled it off so well with ‘Perfume’ just further shows why this exciting and eclectic artist will surely be a big name in the not too distant future. This stylish synthpop anthem is nothing like what I was expecting, which just makes me all the more eager to see what comes next.

Top Tracks: Persona – Indie Cowboy

You don’t get as many crossovers between indie and alternative rock as you might expect. While hardly polar opposites, the two styles do have enough differences to make finding the right balance a tricky task. Anyone hoping to walk that line should look no further than New York’s own Persona for inspiration. Their new single ‘Indie Cowboy’ seamlessly combines the bright riffs and melodic hooks of the indie scene, with the frenetic drums and raw, impassioned vocals that make alt rock so compelling. A potent reminder to look beyond the division and see the humanity in everyone, this latest single is a promising sign that the band are on to a winning formula. Persona know how to get you feeling fired up, giving you their all on this new track, and with that in mind it seems that their next EP will definitely be one to look out for.

Top Tracks: The Rareflowers – Shake

The more you listen to ‘Shake’ the more you start to uncover. This track from New Jersey based trio The Rareflowers, taken from their eponymous debut EP out 29th June, plays almost like a microcosm of American music. The opening few seconds of bass sound like the start of some melancholy alternative track from the 90s before the bright jangly guitar kicks in like some spark igniting. With hints of classic 60s surf rock, a mellow psychedelic breakdown, and plenty of that indescribable heartland charm, The Rareflowers are in full bloom with this sun-drenched new single. All across America you find different iconic sounds and unique musical heritages as you go. In ‘Shake’ there is a sense of the familiar. No matter where you may find yourself you can play this eclectic song and people will find something they can connect with. This is a taste of the many flavours of the States, bottled and ready to go.