How Not to F*** Up a Festival

hope-and-gloryTo say that this year’s festival season has been a bit of a shambles would be a massive understatement. That’s like saying the Sahara Desert is “a bit warm”. Between Y Not being totally unprepared for rain (i.e. a normal British summer) to Hope and Glory being several thousand over capacity, it’s been one hell of a year for shamefully poor organisation… and the less said about the horror show that is Fyre Festival the better. All of them cut corners when it came to security and facilities, all of them showed utter disregard for their patron’s safety, enjoyment and well-being. Anyone who has been to a half decent festival will know that all these problems are easily avoided. Continue reading

Top Tracks: Up Down Go Machine – Gambler

There’s something special about a great gritty voice. It’s the sound of a misspent youth, of someone with wisdom beyond their years. The sound of a hard life on the road, living on just dust and whisky. Find someone with a voice like that and you can imbue a song with tremendous power, just as London based band Up Down Go Machine have done with their new single. The heavy folk stomp of ‘Gambler’ weaves a tale of a man who has lost his way, fighting a losing battle against his inner demons. Perfect for fans of Ray LaMontagne, Kaleo and Dan Owen, this epic slice of Americana sounds like it belongs as the soundtrack for some thrilling climax in the next series of Westworld. This is the kind of band that every idealistic vagabond needs in their life.

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.

Top Tracks: Kate Dineen – Flames

Sometimes a song leaves you with an enduring image or vibe that often has no obvious connection whatsoever. This new single from Dublin based singer/songwriter Kate Dineen, with its sparse folk arrangement and its raw and honest lyricism, leaves me picturing late nights and red wine. That’s a far cry however from the track’s striking music video, complete with overgrown ruins and molotov cocktails. Her first new track since last year’s acclaimed Great Escape EP, there’s something remarkably mature and refined about ‘Flames’ that defies what you’d expect of an artist still in the early stages of their career. There’s some indescribable quality to Kate Dineen’s music that is rare to find in up-and-coming artists, like there’s some sixth sense telling me that there’s something special just over the horizon.

Top Tracks: Brass Phantoms – City of Wolves

‘City of Wolves’ is the sound of a band ready and willing to carve out a name for themselves in a deeply competitive scene. This self-assured new indie hit from Dublin’s Brass Phantoms rivals some of the slickest hits, standing alongside some of the most well written music I’ve heard from Ireland this year. With bright and infectious riffs, stirring melodies and a palpable sense of a band striving to be the best that they can be, it’s a valuable addition for any indie playlist worth its salt. If Brass Phantoms keep this same drive and energy, and strive just a little further with each new track, they could soon become one of the hottest new bands on the scene.

Top Tracks: Red Kite – Take Care of Your Own

This expressive art-rock track from London’s Red Kite immediately makes a lasting impression; and not just because the video features the most disturbing teddy bear known to man. With a unique dynamic, boasting four guitarists and two drummers, ‘Take Care of Your Own’ displays a lush and expansive sound. The first half of the track is reminiscent of Funeral era Arcade Fire with its emphatic baroque pop flair, with the second half descending into a dark and menacing cacophony. Taken from the band’s upcoming second album, ‘Take Care of Your Own’ is one of the most rewarding singles I’ve heard thus far this year. If, like me, they have piqued your interest, I would add Red Kite to your list of “ones to watch”.

Interview: Bent Knee

bent knee interviewBoston’s Bent Knee have to be the most remarkable and unparalleled band to emerge this past decade. Their genre bending music defies all expectations and classifications like no other act I know, and their new record Land Animal takes their inventive art rock to new heights. Already set to be one of the finest albums of the year, I just had to talk to the band about their latest creation. I was lucky enough to chat to astonishing frontwoman Courtney Swain about the record:  Continue reading

Top Tracks: Hannah Featherstone – Solo

People say that there’s nothing new to be made in music, but even if this were the case, we can combine what is already out there in a myriad of unique and inventive combinations. A good case in point is the latest single from the wonderful Hannah Featherstone. Born in Britain but raised amongst the vibrant Parisian music scene, her new track ‘Solo’ combines classic jazz with contemporary electropop. With its off-kilter beat, it’s honest minimalist arrangement and a few little electronic flourishes, ‘Solo’ is one of the most distinctive and inimitable tracks I’ve heard this year. She is a curious artist, certainly someone to keep your eye on. With a new album due later this year, it will be interesting to see what other noteworthy creations Hannah has to offer.