Spotlight!: Midnight Divide

midnight divideThough they probably have the least rock’n’roll origin story that I’ve ever heard, having all met via Craigslist, this LA based quartet prove that great music can come from the most humble of origins. With their latest EP Dichotomy, Midnight Divide prove to be a multifaceted marvel dabbling in a diverse range of influences. The mellow intro of ‘Fireline’ has the feel of some children’s music box before building into a fantastic melody driven hit. ‘Animal Eyes’ sees the band following a harder alt rock path, with frontman Austen Moret’s vocals in places reminding me of Franklin James Fisher from Belwood favourites Algiers. ‘Talking’ is a classic cut of bright indie rock, while the restless ‘Ketamine’ begins with a short section reminiscent of ‘Hocus Pocus’ by Focus, and displays some curious reggae influences in the latter half. while somehow linking it all together seamlessly. Any band that aims to blur the lines between genres with such reckless abandon gets a big tick in my book. With songs of this standard Midnight Divide have my utmost respect and my undivided attention, and I recommend you offer them the same.

Fans of Algiers, Everything Everything, Amber Run and Yeasayer should check out their new EP Dichotomy.

Spotlight!: Bella McKendree

bella mckendreeA first release is a daunting thing. It’s said that you can only make one first impression, and when it comes to music you need to give the world an idea of where you come from, what manner of person you are, and what path you intend to follow, all in just a few minutes. With her debut EP Waiting, singer/songwriter Bella McKendree makes a difficult task seem like the most natural thing in the world, which to me is the mark of a great artist. The title track builds from its sparse piano driven opening, with the expressive drum tones of the track’s closing moments proving to be the cherry on top of the carefully crafted atmosphere. There is no greater atmosphere however than that of ‘Grieve’; an expansive feel akin to Daughter or Lanterns on the Lake, given fresh urgency by the restless beat. ‘Don’t You Wanna Be Loved’ offers a more mature, bluesy sound, the kind you’d expect drifting from some exclusive jazz club in the heart of London. But it’s on the closing track ‘Baby Lets Fall’ that Bella’s vocals really take centre stage, proving to be nothing short of angelic. Sometimes first impressions are so good you wish you could hear them again for the first time.

Bella’s debut EP Waiting is out 18th August, and is perfect for fans of London Grammar, Daughter, The XX and Gabrielle Aplin.

Spotlight!: The Claxbys

the claxbysOne of the unwritten rules of being a music lover is to support your local scene. Not only out of principle, knowing that every great band started out at exactly the same point once upon a time, but also because you never know what gems might be hiding away just around the corner. In a world of polished and overproduced indie rock, it’s nice to find a local marvel like The Claxbys who aren’t afraid to go back to the genre’s roots and embrace a “rough around the edges” approach. ‘Just Another Day’ matches some superb bass tones with sharp riffs and skittering drum fills, while ‘Tomorrow Never Comes’ has built an indie anthem atop a subtle yet expansive atmosphere that makes the track stand out and worm its way under your skin. ‘Weezer Song (Photograph)’ shows the band at their most raw and features their most complex and emotive drum work, and ‘Alone in the City’ defies it’s lonesome lyricism by being the EP’s most buoyant and exuberant offering. The trouble with trios is that each member needs to meet the same standard, or the whole thing collapses. Thankfully here are three lads who are evenly matched and perfectly prepared to offer up some top-notch classic indie.

Fans of The Libertines, Razorlight, The Kooks and The Strokes should check out their debut EP Osnabruck.

Spotlight!: White Noise Radio

white noise radio band

Photo by Rob Marsden

In a world where we have unadventurous and one-dimensional music forced on us everywhere we turn, it sometimes seeps into your system. It can leave you too quick to dismiss, and all too often you can end up underestimating bands. If, like me, you dive into White Noise Radio expecting a run of the mill alternative rock band, you will find yourself confronted with something far more complex and compelling than you anticipated. Just from the intricate opening drums of ‘Siren’, immediately reminiscent of Tool, it’s clear this Bristol band have a lot to offer. The fierce riffs of ‘Gone Inside’ hint at the band’s darker, more aggressive side, channeling Mastodon in its heaviest moments. ‘Dawning’ alternates between feral alt rock energy and soulful atmospheric sections, while the trippy ‘Wires’ has clear hints of Porcupine Tree as it shifts from shimmering psychedelica into full-blown metal territory. Equally adept at sounding both raw and melodic, and with the right level of technical wizardry to appeal to both prog and alt rock fans, White Noise Radio are perfectly poised to conquer the underground scene.

Fans of Tool, Karnivool, Alter Bridge and Mastodon should check out their new EP Cosmos out 1st July.

Spotlight!: Chapel Row

Chapel RowHailing from Merthyr, South Wales, Chapel Row exhibit a kind of raw energy and pent-up frustration that defies expectations. Their gritty, no-nonsense rock is a sharp wake-up call from the mundanity of modern life, delivering the kind of passion that is all too often missing from the scene at the moment. Combining relatable teenage angst with musical talents beyond their years, these lads are on to a winner. ‘Lockdown’ is a hard-hitting rock masterclass that is sure to get your blood pumping. ‘She Knows’ with it’s big hooks reminds me of fellow Welsh band Catfish and the Bottlemen, while the intricate rhythm and anthemic chorus of ‘Cold’ makes for the perfect festival crowd-pleaser. Every so often you hear a band that ignites a fire in your heart and pumps pure electricity through your veins, and this is just such a band. Thoroughly intoxicating, and just the right level of rough around the edges, Chapel Row are one of the most thrilling bands in the UK right now, and with a bit of luck will have a big break on the cards in the near future.

Fans of Spring King, Yak, Catfish and the Bottlemen and The Amazons should check out their debut EP Lockdown.

Spotlight!: 99 Trees

99treesThis Paris based indie pop pair have given a whole new dimension to pop music with their eclectic and intelligent songwriting. With the duo’s debut EP, Multi-instrumentalist Axel Concato and Danish born singer Pia Blixen find the perfect balance between innovation and accessibility. ’21st Century’ has all the flair and positive energy of 60s surf rock, while ‘Broken‘ combines psychedelic sounds and funky bass tones with big radio-friendly hooks. ‘It’s Only Love’ brings together bright and cheerful pop with quirky hints of Yoshimi era Flaming Lips, and ‘Solid Friend’ has Bowie influences just written all over it. 99 Trees really are the best of both worlds; big addictive hooks with diverse and interesting intstrumentation. This is what pop music should sound like! Somewhere along the way we lost track of the idea that pop can be both fun and intricate, but this delightful duo have shown the ideal path. There is great potential here for them to provide just the kind of big hits that we all want and need.

Fans of MGMT, Lorde, Halsey and new Tame Impala should check out their debut EP 21st Century out 23rd June.

Spotlight!: Retroject

retroject

Photo by Adapt Film Photography

Let it be said that you should always support your local music scene. Besides the fact that all great bands had to start somewhere, you simply never know when you might stumble across something great. After a chance encounter a few years back, it’s great to rediscover Doncaster band Retroject. It’s presents an opportunity to listen to their latest release, and reflect on the band with some fresh perspective. ‘Lesson Learned’ plays host to some bright and inviting indie riffs, while ‘Webster’s English’ captures the sound of the early noughties boom of bands such as Franz Ferdinand. ‘Hear You Say’ bears a few subtle hallmarks of funk influences, while tracks like ‘Leda’ can’t help but bright to mind fellow Yorkshire lads the Arctic Monkeys. Both bands rightly wear their origins like a badge of honour, which adds an honest charm to the vocals and lyrics, and creates a real sense of character and unique personality. Musically this is a band still finding their feet and discovering their sound, but when it comes to knowing who they are and performing with absolute integrity they could well show some big name acts a thing or two.

Fans of Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian, Franz Ferdinand and Reverend and the Makers should check out their latest release EP III.

Spotlight!: From Apes To Angels

from apes to angelsThe days of the dynamic duo are upon us, and this pair hailing from London and Sheffield respectively are a welcome new addition to the fold. With their debut EP, rising synthpop stars Millie Gaum and Andrew Brassleay have merged retro 80s synths, futuristic electronica and polished pop production to create a sound that is very much the ‘in’ thing and is sure to find legions of new fans in no time. ‘New Skin’ bears all the hallmarks of Chvrches with its crowd-pleasing melodies and big, bold percussion. The quirky ‘Gift Tag’, with its driving rhythm and infectious chorus, is reminiscent of Grimes. The intro of ‘Together’ sounds like the lovechild of Lana Del Rey and the Stranger Things soundtrack, while ‘Eternity’ sounds like some robotic lullaby from the distant future. From Apes To Angels have a synth sound that is up there with the best of them, and with this assured and accessible first release they seem set to go from strength to strength.

If you’re a fan of Chvrches, Grimes, LANY and Hurts, then their upcoming EP New Skin, out 24th July, is sure to be right up your street.

Spotlight!: Simon Baum

simon baumBeing a singer/songwriter and performing in very stripped back and intimate arrangements is all about creating a sense of honesty. Sharing with the audience something personal and meaningful, baring your soul for the world to see. London based artist Simon Baum understands this role better than most. With his new EP Better he has crafted four touchingly heartfelt songs that say a lot about his character. The title track speaks of being thankful for what you have and feeling confident in one’s self, and ‘It’s All For You’ is a moving declaration of love, complete with vivid lyrical imagery. ‘Firelight’ sees Simon’s voice at it’s most vulnerable and delicate, while the incredibly moving ‘Bridges‘ shares an important message of togetherness, and about how the only way we can make the world a better place is to celebrate the things we all have in common. Simon Baum gives a modern spin to the classic 70s singer/songwriter sound of artists such as James Taylor and Joni Mitchell, producing an intimate portrait of himself within his music, albeit one that we can all see some small part of ourselves within.

Fans of Seafret, Frances, Isaac Gracie and Billie Marten should check out his new EP Better.

Spotlight!: Ailbhe Reddy

ailbhe reddyThis Dublin born singer/songwriter, having already made waves in her native Ireland, seems set to carve out a path towards international acclaim. With her new upcoming EP, Ailbhe Reddy crafts a curious amalgamation of styles. Attach To Memory combines elements of folk, indie and electropop; all underpinned by her unique vocals, recalling everyone from Lianne La Havas and The Cranberries, to Daughter and Feist. Indie rocker ‘Fingertips’ takes a frank look at female sexuality and boasts a curiously addictive chorus, while the folky beginnings of ‘Never Loved’ conjure up an image of falling leaves in some picturesque city park. ‘Disconnect’ builds towards a climactic wall of sound and the genre-hopping ‘Loose’ sees Ailbhe’s voice at it’s very best, shifting from psychedelic soul to beat driven pop perfection. There are a thousand tiny elements within the music that I could trace back, but all together they create a sound that is truly one of a kind. Following on from the success of her first release Hollowed Out Sea, Ailbhe Reddy has kicked it up a few notches and seems sure to reach even greater heights with furture releases. The sky is the limit.

Fans of Feist, Daughter, Lanterns On The Lake and Lianne La Havas should check out her latest EP Attach To Memory out 24th May