Merry Listmas one and all! It’s the end of the year, a time to look back on all that the past twelve months had to offer. For us, that means reflecting on the music that most defined our 2019. Before we get into the sounds of the year however, we want to take a moment to appreciate the sights. There have been some stunning album covers this year, from the simple and understated to the wild and imaginative, so here are our favourites. Continue reading
This is the time of year when everyone is winding down for the holidays. This is especially true when it comes to the music industry. Most folks have already shared their highlights of the year, and so releasing new music in December is a bit of a kiss of death unless you pull out all the stops and deliver something to rouse people from their advent autopilot. ‘Lady’ is just the track to not only make you sit up and pay attention, but also dispel your winter blues with its irresistible feel-good energy. With a fiercely funky groove, stacks of electronic flourishes, more than enough psychedelic splashes of wah pedal to constitute a rigorous ankle workout, and one of the best guitar solos of the year, Brooklyn duo LUVRS have really thrown everything they’ve got at their debut single. A real gem to end 2019 on a high.
I often find myself turning away from new music for being too simple. Songs that could do so much more; add some more instruments into the equation, add a bit more variation into the arrangement, and just generally make a more engaging listening experience by being more ambitious. That said, when simple songs work, they really work. They’re the kind of songs that take your breath away and make the world stand still. Songs like ‘Clean & Fair’, composed solely of elegant piano and crystalline vocals, fall upon your ears like whispered words of comfort from someone you hold dear. This latest graceful single from Lindsay Kay is a shining example of “less is more”. The accompanying video only further adds to the feeling of serenity and reflection, not only in the gorgeous natural splendour it touches upon, but also in how in finds beauty in the mundane and everyday. Songs like this seem too pure and rare for this world, which is all the more reason to cherish them.
For many of us a fresh start means forgetting. It means sweeping the past under the rug, clearing it from your mind, and turning your focus instead to the path ahead. Sometimes this works, but often the past still finds its way out of the shadows. The more difficult, but far more rewarding course of action would be to face it. What are mistakes for if not for us to learn from and become better people. What is suffering for if not so that we better appreciate the joy in life. With his debut single ‘The Western Shore’, Canadian born artist Louderman takes a moment to accept his failings and scars before looking to the future. The gorgeous strings carry the sorrow of facing up to the darkest parts of ourselves, but also the undercurrent of hope that tells of something brighter waiting on the other side. His poignant lyricism holds a world-weary wisdom yearning to be passed on. All said its the kind of song to quell even the fiercest of tempests that rage within.
It seems odd to think that in a busy year for gigs, this was perhaps the one I was the least excited about leading up to it. I’ve been a big National fan for years now but due to various misfortunes and twists of fate I kept missing out on seeing them live. Then, when I finally get my hands on a ticket, they go ahead and release the deeply disappointing I Am Easy To Find, and in a flash much of my enthusiasm died away. In breaking their winning streak of great albums I felt certain that the quality of their live shows would similarly suffer. I grabbed a spot front and centre at Leeds arena hoping to be proven wrong. Continue reading
A great writer once said that we fall in love much the same way as we fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once. It’s a sensation that feels all too familiar when listening to the debut single from dreamy Americana outfit Proper Youth. The wistful opening reminiscent of Springsteen’s ‘I’m On Fire’ is the first spark that leads you to believe you’ve found something special. The bright harmonies and the warm embrace of synths and steel guitar feel so welcoming and familiar, like meeting someone new who you can talk to like you’ve known them your whole life. When the sax solo drops you’ve hit the point of no return, that rush of dopamine akin to looking into someone’s eyes and seeing everything you could wish for, and by the time the chorus kicks in again you find you’ve fallen deep without even realising it. Though ‘Off My Mind’ deals with trying to shake off those feelings and deny what the heart truly feels, I have no reservations about declaring my love for this song. I haven’t been this impressed by a debut single in a long time, and it leaves me hopeful for whatever 2020 has in store.
When reviewing new music I try to avoid comparisons where possible. Partly as it feels lazy, and partly because it can sometimes feel disrespectful to an artist’s hard work by condensing it down into something so simple. Sometimes it’s unavoidable however, it’s the great big musical elephant in the room. So when I say that London based artist Ollie Trevers is the most compelling candidate for a spiritual successor to Jeff Buckley that I have perhaps ever heard, understand it is a high honour for me to bestow. Grace is one of the finest albums ever made, and I hear so much of what made me fall in love with it in Ollie’s work.
His vocals have such astonishing versatility, turning on a sixpence from the soft caress of gossamer upon your skin to the howling wind in a summer storm. Like the superb light and shade in ‘Can’t Make It Up’ between the gentle verses and fierce chorus. Imperfections are often far more enrapturing that the pursuit of perfection, and the passionate voice break in the final chorus as he gives his all to the song is such a brilliant moment. I love the scope of his ambitions and the range of influences that he draws from. Tracks like ‘Stage Of Fools’ and ‘I Need Someone’ bear the mark of everything from folk, soul and blues, to prog and alt rock. I admire his ability to draw light from where there seemingly is none on ‘Lost Alone’, how the dark lyricism about pain, heartbreak and isolation can give rise to the most uplifting melodies on the record and have them feel perfectly at home. If he keeps all this up then maybe one day he’ll be the kind of artist that others hope one day to be compared to.
Fans of Haunt The Woods, Nothing But Thieves and, funnily enough, Jeff Buckley, should check out Ollie’s new EP Cordelia
One of the marks of a great artist is versatility. That needn’t mean being well versed in vastly different styles, it can also mean being able to express certain emotions or conjure up different imagery. The new song from Canadian born singer/songwriter Jenny Kern shows her taking an assured step towards expanding her sound in this way. While tracks from her debut EP were grounded more in folk, with warm and simple arrangements that used empty space to their advantage, new offering ‘Satellite’ takes a turn towards indie pop territory. The dreamy synths, animated electronic beats and overall more eclectic arrangement found here feels like a whole other world. It feels like an oasis of quiet self reflection in the middle of a crazy hectic existence. While her earlier singles were like a still night in a country cottage before a crackling fire, this latest effort feels more like walking through the city searching for answers as the streetlights shimmer on the rain-drenched streets.
The Lumineers are a band that have consistently surprised me. I wrote them off as a Mumford clone and they came back with a brilliant second album. I wondered whether they may have bitten off more than they could chew by releasing a hard hitting concept album, only for it to be one of the stand out releases of 2019. Last time I saw The Lumineers it was in a much smaller venue, but this latest tour in support of III finds them setting their sights on arena crowds. The old me might have questioned this big leap and had doubts about whether they were really arena material. If I’ve learnt anything these past few years however it’s that you should never sell this band short, and this gig only served to prove that point further. Continue reading
You never appreciate what you have until it is gone. When you’re young there’s nothing you long for more than being older. To have new doors open to you, to travel far and wide and see everything there is to see, to have the chance to achieve great things and make the world a better place. When we get there however, the first thing we wish for is to turn back the clock to a simpler time. It’s not that all those things aren’t possible, it’s just that our spirit gets slowly eroded along the way, and optimism falls away in the face of a harsh reality. We stop seeing the world through the same youthful lens of wonder and ambition. While ‘Young Again’, the new single from husband and wife duo The Bergamot, mourns the loss of that youthful mindset as we enter a bleaker world than anticipated, it also serves as a hopeful warning. A message that if a few of us can just cling on to those ideas of youth, the hope, the determination, the love and optimism, then maybe we can build a world that’s less inclined to break us down. Make an adulthood worth growing up for.