Spotlight!: Spielbergs

spielbergsI can’t remember the last time I stumbled across an EP as good as the debut release from this Oslo-based trio… if ever? With Distant Star, Spielbergs have captured more brilliance in just five tracks than many bands could manage across five whole albums. There’s a curious conflict at work here. This is a release that has emerged fully formed, all the insecurities that new bands usually face seem to have been cast aside, as they offer up nothing but the best for that all important first impression. Yet at the same time, you have a sense of where there’s room to grow, of how this stunning first release is just the steadfast foundation for something even greater.

The cheerfully titled ‘We Are All Going To Die’ is utterly relentless with its machine gun percussion, while the effervescent ‘Daisy! It’s the New Me’ bounds around with all the energy of a rabbit on a can of Red Bull. The expansive eight minute ‘Ghost Boy’ showcases the band’s more expressive and experimental side, while the calming closing track ‘Setting Sun’ feels like a more mature and heartfelt new direction. It’s the title track however that stands as the highlight. Capturing that universal desire of youth to break free with its sublime bass lines and spirited riffs, before concluding with retro 80s synths bursting straight out of the soundtrack to a John Hughes film. This feels like the start of something special.

Fans of Pixies, Titus Andronicus, Sonic Youth, Beach Slang and Black Foxxes should check out Spielbergs new EP Distant Star.

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Spotlight!: Delta Jackson

delta jacksonAmericana is a curious one. It’s a difficult genre to put into words, yet you know it instantly when you hear it, as though it’s naturally ingrained in your spirit. Even more curious is the fact that much of the best Americana doesn’t even come from the states, it’s something you find the world over. Stray just over the border into Canada for instance and you’ll find incredible artists like Delta Jackson who offer heartwarming heartland vibes that are up there with the best of them. The wanderlust inducing ‘Willin’ sounds like it was pulled straight from The Last Waltz, while ‘Rise & Fall’ showcases the timeless beauty of Delta’s voice. The chilled out ‘Gimme One More’ is like the soundtrack to a summer daydream, ‘Blue Ink’ recalls the likes of Joni Mitchell, while ‘It Comes Down’ offers a more contemporary twist in the vein of Ryan Adams. Songs like this, that capture the Americana sound so keenly, have an ageless feel. They could have been big hits 40 years ago, and 40 years from now they will be just as potent and heartwarming as they ever were.

Delta Jackson’s eponymous debut EP is out now and is perfect for fans of Emmylou Harris, Joni Mitchell, Ryan Adams and Neil Young.

Spotlight!: Andy Cook

andy cook“What’s a man, anyway?” The question posed, and in some ways answered, by the new release from Minneapolis-based artist Andy Cook. Steeped in all the heartwarming hallmarks of classic Americana, and adorned with hints of 60s psychedelica and 90s dream pop, the EP provides an attentive yet accessible look into the human condition. It’s easy to make music about the dark underbelly of our new digital world and how it divides us, it’s much harder to look past all those distractions and focus on the things that we have in common and make us who we are; here, Cook manages both. The wanderlust inducing ‘Swirl’ whirls by like a summer breeze, ‘Red Lights’ boasts bright riffs and expressive drums, while the melancholy verses of ‘Run’ remind me of Isaac Gracie. The lumbering, other-worldly bass tones of ‘Nothing Changes’ really stand out, while the soft beat and soothing steel guitar of ‘Places We’ll Go’ just makes you want to lie back and watch the world roll by. With this new release you can either delve into the meaning behind it all, or retreat into yourself, the choice is yours.

Fans of The War On Drugs, Angel Olsen and Kurt Vile should check out Andy Cook’s new EP Modern Man out 13th April.

Spotlight!: Flicker Rate

flicker rateI can be rather selective when it comes to instrumental music. It needs to feel complete, as though adding vocals into the mix would take something away rather than add in something that feels missing. There are two ways to do this: the first is to pack in so much complex and unique instrumentation that there’s just no room left for vocals, the second is to make something so calming and chilled out that vocals would just disturb the delicate atmosphere. Flicker Rate, aka Irish multi-instrumentalist Spencer Bassett, somehow manages to achieve both of these sounds at once with his third and final EP Skylight. It makes for the perfect background music, but under closer scrutiny all the fantastic little details become clear as day. The title track shows his work at its most mellow and melodic, ‘Shimmer’ factors in electronic elements, and while the guitar generally takes centre stage there’a a lot to be said for captivating drum work on ‘Cloud Drop’.

Fans of Plini, Polyphia, Anathema and Intervals should check out Flicker Rate’s latest EP Skylight.

Spotlight!: Lokki

lokkiIf there was any music trend that particularly stood out for me in 2017 it was that of members from established bands branching out and releasing solo work every bit as engaging, and sometimes even more so, than their previous work within the band. The debut release from Lokki seems a sure sign of that trend continuing well into 2018. This new project from Drew McFarlane of Glass Animals fame sees him exploring new horizons with the debut EP Cirrhi. The title track has a mystical feel to it, and you can just imagine the tune being carried through a forest on the mist, daring you to delve deeper. The timeless elegance of ‘Breathe A Breath Of Me’ has a few hints of The Beatles and is fleshed out beautifully by the addition of a choir, and the sweet and simple style of ‘I Catch You’ is reminiscent of the golden age of singer/songwriters, recalling the likes of James Taylor and Carole King. The androgynous inflections found in closing track ‘The Night’ really serves to showcase Drew’s range and versatility, and supplements his piano work with a smooth swell of strings. Even down to the artwork, everything points to Lokki being a project that is here to delight us for a long while to come.

Fans of Sampha, The Last Dinosaur, Flyte and London Grammar should check out Lokki’s debut EP Cirrhi

Spotlight!: TALMA

TALMAGreat things rarely happen all at once, often it’s down to a multitude of little inconsequential factors that gather over time and end up knitting together perfectly. TALMA’s music grabs you in much the same way, all those little elements gel together to create something greater than the sum of its parts. With their second EP Out To Sea, this London based outfit offer a mature and elegant sound. ‘In Circles’ dabbles just enough in both retro and futuristic sounds to create a timeless feel, the bright dancing guitar tones on ‘Starless Skies’ imbue a sense of childlike innocence and nostalgia, while the hook heavy ‘Lifeline’ feels like a blend of Joy Division and Spandau Ballet with its pulsing post punk rhythms and soaring new wave vocals. It’s on the title track however where everything really comes together. The guitars wind a path through bluesy licks and indie riffs to reach a majestic climax, the bass line carries the very lifeblood of the song, and Henry Adams’ exceptional crooning vocals somehow steal the spotlight even more than usual. These artful alt rockers stand on the precipice of greatness with their refined and debonair approach.

TALMA’s new EP Out To Sea is out 23rd February and is ideal for fans of The National, Marlon Williams, The Smiths and Isaac Gracie

Spotlight!: Cameron Jones

cameron jonesGreat art need not come in the form of some grand sweeping gesture. Sometimes the most humble and unassuming creations can have the most profound effect on us, providing that they come from the heart. In the case of Cameron Jones, he just seems to radiate beautiful melodies as though with all the effortless ease of breathing. Crafting mature and refined songs that exude elegance and encompass you like the morning mist, and with a voice as pure as some faultless crystal, Cameron is one of the most gifted new singer/songwriters on the scene. ‘Let Me In’ builds up layers of atmospheric synths, dreamy guitar tones and expressive percussion to form a chilled out indie vibe reminiscent of The Paper Kites. The driving beat and simple yet illuminating riffs of ‘Love You Save Me’ pull you in deeper and deeper as the song progresses, while the stripped back piano balladry of ‘Warning’ gives Cameron’s vocals a chance to shine. Cameron Jones is yet to disappoint, and should that continue then we may have something deeply special from him in the near future.

Fans of Holy Holy, Lorne, The Paper Kites and Meadowlark should check out his latest EP Warning.

Spotlight!: Lorne

lorneMaybe I just read too much into things, but sometimes you find an artist beyond their years, reflected in their songs. Sometimes you hear a voice that sounds as though it has regaled a thousand stories down the years, sharing words that show the wisdom of one who has an intimate knowledge of the world, and it simply doesn’t match up with the artist in question. With his debut EP Maze, Berkshire born singer/songwriter Lorne sounds as though he’s been releasing music all his life. The striking ‘Bread Alone’ shares a message of seizing the day and living life to the fullest, and feels like a ray of sunlight parting the clouds. The subtle electronics on ‘Cocoon’ supplement the elegant piano beautifully, recalling acts ranging from Benjamin Clementine to Bastille. ‘Oil and Water’ and ‘Navigate’ move closer into pop territory, but still maintain the mature and refined vibe that makes Lorne stand out from the crowd. Drawing inspiration from such artists as Peter Gabriel and Damien Rice, this classically trained pianist combines airy atmospheres and pop sensibilities, with his own elegant and sophisticated artistry.

Fans of Birdy, Five For Fighting, Bon Iver and Tom Odell should check out his debut EP Maze

Spotlight!: Lightscape

lightscapeContrary to the old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover”, I often find album artworks can make a very important first impression. With even just a passing glance at the cover of their new EP Circles, you can’t help but be drawn to Lightscape’s latest work. An entire world in miniature standing over you, imposing and awe-inspiring, is the perfect metaphor for the music contained within. With fierce riffs, emphatic drum work, and even faint little electronic flourishes, all crowned by Will Overton’s towering melodic vocals, this alt rock quintet from Norwich have crafted an impressive sound. The slow build of ‘By Design’ kicks off the EP in fantastic form, while the anthemic ‘More To Life’ searches for a greater meaning and purpose as it winds its way through some of the record’s heaviest moments. The hard-hitting break-up track ‘Press Rewind’ delivers some passionate vocals, the relatively stripped back slow burner ‘Haven’t Got The Time’ makes a nice change of pace, while the epic ‘Live In Fear’ ends the EP on a high, showing great light and shade and standing out as Lightscape’s best work yet. These lads are on fine form, showing the rest of the country’s alternative scene how it’s done and leaving you wanting more.

Fans of Lonely The Brave, 30 Seconds to Mars and Nothing But Thieves should check out their latest EP Circles out 1st December.

Spotlight!: Peco

pecoWith so many singer/songwriters on the circuit it can be hard to stand out from the crowd. There’s one sure way however to give your music a warm glow of charm, integrity and individuality, something that Irish artist Peco McLoughin has down already; be true to yourself as an artist. Even just a cursory listen to his music shows someone naturally channeling his influences into his own distinct style. The galloping beat and disjointed verses of ‘Self Help – A Beginner’s Guide’ make it a perfect example of Peco’s unique character, while the blues stomp of ‘Harbour Master’ shows him crafting a narrative rich with imagery. ‘Safe Haven’ is a suitably serene folk number, the understated instrumentation of ‘After The Wake’ reminds me of Van Morrison, while ‘Grace Isn’t Easy’ show’s Peco’s ability to turn a phrase at it’s very best. Relatable lines such as “I may not be the best guy to explain to you the way I really feel, but it’s hard for me to separate what’s in my head from what is real” really connect and stay with you, which all singer/songwriters should aspire to do. Peco’s debut EP offers an insightful snapshot of this assured and talented songwriter.

Fans of Bob Dylan, Ryan Adams, Neil Young and Laura Marling should check out his debut EP And So I Arrived At The Start out now.