Music is about more than just the notes you play. Sometimes music is as much about the notes that you don’t play. It works in much the same way that it does in film. How a moment of silence can build tension or drama, or draw you in to focus attentively on a specific scene. There have been plenty of great show-stealing vocal performances this year, but none are offered up as confidently as those found on Winnie Raeder’s debut EP From Here. The record plays out like a movie scene, an emotional climax wherein this leading lady bares her soul and ensures that you’re invested in her story.
From Here‘s bare bones arrangements pull off the all too rare feat of making it feel as though the whole world falls still to listen with you. Musically each track forms a simple frame of soft acoustic guitar and delicate piano, at the centre of which lies Winnie’s transcendent vocals. From the soulful pleas of ‘Don’t You Dare’ and the electronic tinged harmonies of ‘Still’, to the powerful chorus of ‘I Wear A Ghost’ and the endlessly heartbreaking ‘Are You Waiting?’ with its calls of “is heaven half as beautiful as you?”. This Danish born singer/songwriter has a one in a million voice. Winnie’s take on heartbreak is as articulate as it is passionate, a true display of an artist pouring their very soul into their work.
Winnie’s debut EP From Here is out now and is perfect for fans of Sampha, Joni Mitchell and the softer side of Jeff Buckley.
Different forms of media are better suited at evoking certain emotions. Sometimes a particular indescribable sensation arises that is almost complete unique to a specific art form. Cinema has an uncanny way of capturing these obscure emotions that we can’t quite put our fingers on, one of which is the melding of bliss and sorrow. Moments that break you and bring a tear to your eye every time, yet also so beautiful and fulfilling that it keeps bringing you back for more. Pixar are the masters at this; like saying goodbye to fading friends in Inside Out, or the remembering of lost loved ones at the end of Coco. Though it’s a phenomenon best suited to cinema, there are some rare moments where music alone can capture the same feeling, and few examples come closer than White Seasons.
Though the new EP from LA based duo Night Market is drenched in heartwarming melodies, there’s an underlying sadness that surreptitiously seeps its way through like subliminal messaging. Listening to this EP is like remembering the good times you had with someone that’s no longer a part of your life, finding joy in the sadness and sadness in the joy. A big part of its power lies in the guitar work, which is some of the finest you’ll find this year. Not by being flashy or complex, but by just hitting the right tone that resonates with you deep down. Whether its in the lush Americana of the title track, the bright folk of ‘All Eyes’, or the jaunty ‘Rome’ with its bluesy solo, Night Market really know how to strike a chord with you with this latest release.
Fans of Death Cab for Cutie, Wild Pink and Sufjan Stevens should check out Night Market’s new EP White Seasons, out now.
Sometimes the greatest artistic endeavours can come from self restraint. Instead of endless ambition where anything goes, rather challenge yourself by setting boundaries and push them to their absolute limit. That’s the impression I take away from Parasols, the debut EP from Germany’s Floral Shop. As charming as the synthpop aesthetic is, it doesn’t leave much scope to experiment. That hasn’t stopped this quartet from tackling the idea as well as, if not better, than any other examples I’ve heard. They have their own unique way of reaching outside their stylistic circle for inspiration without fully stepping over the threshold.
The eerie introduction to opening track ‘Out of Touch’ soon gives way to reveal this release’s secret weapon; the most groovy and expressive bass you will hear all year. It underpins the whole EP but is at its most potent and prominent right here. ‘Around’ stands out thanks to it’s bright riffs which manage to cut through the synths without losing their light and airy feel, contrasted sharply by the downcast tone of ‘Float’ accentuated by its skittering electronic beat and sombre vocals. There are hints of In Rainbows in ‘ISO’, but it;s closing track ‘Anyplace’ that truly steals the show. The spiralling synths, electronic beats and droning guitar feel like you’re aimlessly whirling through space, before the purposeful post punk rhythm section shifts into focus to deliver a powerful climax.
Fans of Tame Impala, Gunship, M83 and modern day Muse should check out Floral Shop’s debut EP Parasols out 7th June
Time was that an artist would (understandably) try to make their mark on the world with their debut album. These days however things are a bit different. A first album is something that artists now build towards. It comes after building a buzz and a following with a series of singles and EPs. Now artists try and make their mark with their first EP, which can present much more of a challenge. Instead of summing up who you are, what you do, and what you’re capable of across a dozen tracks, they’re now forced to do the same with only a handful at their disposal.
This doesn’t seem to present an issue however for Canadian singer/songwriter J.K. Matthews. On his debut EP Youth he manages to encapsulate a broad scope of influences, to bottle his multifaceted talents into just a handful of songs. ‘Thick Skin’ and ‘The Blue’ are anthemic indie tracks, bubbling with positive energy and bright melodies. ‘Fool Outta Me’ is a heavy foot-stomping blues powerhouse, the lo-fi ‘Workman’s Blues’ has all the heart of classic country, while the nostalgia driven title track reels you in with its airy take on Americana. With Youth Matthews has succinctly summed up exactly why he’s one to watch. He’s shown that no matter what path he chooses to follow it can lead to something great.
Fans of City and Colour and John Mayer should check out J.K. Matthews debut EP Youth.
These days folk just seems synonymous with “acoustic”. Often all that links various folk acts is the use of a simplified, stripped-back arrangement. Not to say that’s a bad thing, we love modern folk, but at the same time it could be so much more. It could connect with its roots, in tales and tunes passed down through generations, or it could look forward and push the genre into more exploratory forms. Barcelona born singer-songwriter Jane Silver manages to do a bit of both on her debut EP Wooden Fortress.
The aptly titled ‘Medieval Song’ draws from deep-rooted English folk traditions and feels like an age-old song given new life. Meanwhile, ‘The More You Say It The Less I Believe It’ feels like a vision of folk from the future. Reminiscent of Led Zeppelin’s third record, it takes a more progressive turn with its faint Eastern vibes and off kilter rhythms, but still manages to draw you in with some ethereal vocals and bright mandolin. ‘The Woman With Flowers’ and ‘Invisible Spiders’ (the latter being literally my worst nightmare) carry a mystical feel as though they’re long forgotten Grimm’s fairy tales put to song. The EP’s title track is the most upbeat and conventional track found here, which just makes it stand out and let its beauty radiate all the more. Aglow with childlike innocence and nostalgia, the imaginative lyricism is this release’s crowning glory.
Fans of Joni Mitchell, and the folky side of Led Zeppelin and Hozier, should check out Jane Silver’s new EP Wooden Fortress.
EPs are the weapon of choice for bands looking to put their name out there and make people sit up and pay attention, and for the ideal example of one done right look no further than I Can Fool Anybody in This Town. LIILY have not only made a real front-runner for our EP of the year, but it’s also one of the most convincing mission statements from a new band that you’re ever likely to hear. With their first EP this group of teenagers from LA have struck the perfect balance between passion and precision. It’s wild and fierce, yet never misses the mark, the musical equivalent of an apex predator.
You can hear them draw influence from all the right places, hints of Queens of the Stone Age in ‘The Weather’, a dash of ‘Royal Blood’ in the chorus of ‘Sold’, even a bit of Arcade Fire in the funky groove of ‘Sepulveda Basin’, but at the same time they manage to put their own stamp on it. What really makes LIILY stand out is the rhythm section. Sure, you have great riffs on the likes of ‘Toro’, but they don’t hog the spotlight as is the case with so many other bands in the scene. The drums very much take the lead on the EP’s title track, with some stunning fills on ‘Sold’ too, while the bass on ‘Nine’ is simply outstanding throughout. With this new release LIILY seem set to be one of the most exciting discoveries of 2019.
LIILY’s debut EP I Can Fool Anybody in This Town is out 8th March and is perfect for fans of Royal Blood, Foals and Nothing But Thieves.
One of the things that makes a good album is when it feels like a collection of songs that belong together. They each serve a purpose and come together to tell a story or take a snapshot of a certain space and time. It’s rare that you get this with EPs, they are usually just a few singles thrown together, which is one of the reasons that MAVICA’s debut EP stood out. Gone, while not expressly telling the story of the singer/songwriter moving to London from her hometown in Spain, does a great job at capturing the feeling of leaving your life behind. ‘Friethers’ is sure to resonate with anyone feeling lost and alone, and boasts the record’s most expressive percussion and synth work, while the melancholic guitar and wistful vocals of ‘Fire’ recalls a mix of Snail Mail and Isaac Gracie. ‘Plastic Heart’ is MAVICA’s most overtly pop affair with a fabulous hook that will stay with you all day, while ‘To Lie Alone’ is the record’s most complete package. Its soothing folk drifts by like a summer breeze, building to a powerful emotional climax, before settling back to where it began. It’s like watching the sunrise when the whole world is still, then having the day rush by in front of your eyes, only to watch the sun set again as the calm returns.
Fans of Ben Howard, Sufjan Stevens, Sophie Morgan and Billie Marten should check out MAVICA’s debut EP Gone
Any music fan will tell you that nothing compares to the feeling of hearing a song that just stops you in your tracks. Being so enthralled by a piece of music that your only thought is “what is this and where can I find more?”. That was the process I went through upon hearing the debut single from New York duo Guns For Gold, and I get the feeling their debut EP will evoke the same reaction from many more people. Electronic producer Alex Siesse and singer/songwriter Wes Hutchinson may have once been a part of very different musical circles, but you would never have guessed so from the way that all the different elements fit together perfectly like the cogs of some grand golden machine. ‘Loaded’ lurks within an understated ambience and periodically bursts forth with its triumphant chorus, before disappearing back beneath the surface to leave calm waters once more. ‘So Natural’ offers up some great piano driven pop melodies, while mixing things up with some interesting percussion. And of course the slow-burning powerhouse that is ‘Unravelled‘, which found its way into our top songs of 2018, rounds out the record in style.
Fans of The National, Daughter and Manchester Orchestra should check out the eponymous debut EP from Guns For Gold out 1st March.
Photo by Stephen Marva
One of the biggest draws of indie music is the DIY element of it. The fact that someone spent hours just experimenting with sound, embracing a creative drive to try new things, just completely absorbed by their own love of music. That same inquisitive and inventive side is self-evident within a matter of seconds when listening to the debut EP from Cathedral Bells. What is less obvious is the fact that what you are hearing is nearly all the work of one man. The playful bass line of ‘A Passing Phase’, the quirky throwback synths of ‘Homebody’, the airy haze of ‘Ethereal Shadow’, the brooding post punk vibes of ‘Memory Loss’. All of these tracks, which pull influences from across various decades into an amalgamation that’s entirely its own creation, they were all made at home, built up piece by piece. You don’t need to venture much further than the opening track ‘Cemetery Surf’ and the way it packs so much content into less than two minutes to see that Cathedral Bells is a project that pushes our expectations of what just one man can do. Blending dream pop, synthpop and post punk, this is a release that will tick plenty of boxes for indie fans looking for new music to get excited about.
Fans of The Cure, The War On Drugs, The Smiths and The Paper Kites should check out Cathedral Bells’ eponymous EP out 1st February.
In trying to be cool you just succeed in getting further away from it. Some of the coolest people I’ve met probably have no idea that they’re cool. It’s not about copying someone else’s example, it’s about soaking up their influence and doing it your way. It’s not about trying to tick boxes, you just need to be confident about doing your own thing. London’s Cocoa Futures do just that with their latest EP Recovery. There are plenty of elements within that capture the zeitgeist of the indie and pop scenes in recent years, but at no point does it feel forced or insincere in doing so. The effervescent bass line and punchy percussion of ‘Sink In The Water’ cuts through the otherwise downcast feel of the synth and vocals, like the one person content to stroll along and admire the city lights on a rainy night when everyone else is rushing around with their head down. The demented funk of the title track is reminiscent of St Vincent at her best and feels like a glimpse into an alternate reality where disco still rules supreme. Closing track Big Time starts with a stripped back indie pop feel before a slick solo cuts through the calm to end the record on a high.
Fans of James Vincent McMorrow, Rationale and St Vincent should check out Cocoa Futures’ new EP Recovery.