Spotlight!: The Rareflowers

the rareflowers

Photo by HoJun Yu

The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all, and it was from the ashes of their former bands that the seeds of this new indie trio were sown. Hailing from New Jersey, The Rareflowers make a great first impression with their assured and eclectic eponymous EP. ‘Trip into the Sun’ uses hints of harmonica and some western style riffs to give an Americana-tinged twist on this melody rich indie track, while the EPs closing song ‘Shake‘ flits seamlessly between styles with the best of them. The combination of bright jangly 60s pop and funky bass tones makes the appropriately titled ‘June’ simply exude summery vibes with every note, while the airy soundscape of ‘New Generation’ is reminiscent in places of The War On Drugs. The Rareflowers have managed to cultivate a diverse sound while still maintaining their own clear identity, which is no mean feat. The band still have a lot of potential to grow, but this first EP shows a lot of promise and offers the firm foundation they need to be able to explore further.

Fans of The War On Drugs, Ryan Adams and Teenage Fanclub should check out The Rareflowers’ eponymous debut EP

 

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Top Tracks: Deep.Sleep – Orange English Sun

We hear a lot about musical trends, but not so much about lyrical trends. I certainly feel however that there’s been a rise in nostalgia driven songs that recall the adventures, and misadventures, of youth. Most of these however deal with a longing for those days gone by, and lament at how soon things seem to change around us. The new single from Newcastle based indie pop quartet Deep.Sleep bucks the curve by simply revelling in the good times. Instead of bemoaning the fact that these happy memories are stuck in the past, ‘Orange English Sun’ carries the simple yet potent message that we should take heart in having been fortunate enough to have those experiences in the first place. The endearing and innocent lyricism, paired with the effervescent riffs and skittering drums, makes this love letter to youth the perfect summer anthem for anyone still young at heart.

Top Tracks: Scott Lloyd – Looking Out To Sea

Manchester based singer/songwriter Scott Lloyd is back, this time with his first release as a signed artist. His first new song since last year’s self-released EP In The Garden, ‘Looking Out To See’ feels like it distils much of what made his previous release great into just this one song.  Steeped in nostalgia, the rich imagery at work here details Scott’s cherished memories of youth and the part they played in the long road that leads to the here and now, as well as to those memories that are still yet to be made. Scott’s vocals are at their most mature and assured yet, and the gorgeous rise and fall of the track carries with it an air of carefree romanticism. The euphoric brass of the track’s climax is a welcome surprise, and I look forward to hearing more of this elegant expanded sound. This promising artist has taken a big step forward and I’m interested to see where this road will lead next.

Spotlight!: In The Cards

in the cards

Photo by PurpleYam Productions

Though there are elements of both sides at work within most bands, I generally find that most alternative rock acts either veer towards raw, visceral aggression or soaring, majestic melodies. If like me you tend to favour the latter, then the debut EP Eyes Beyond Reflection from Stoke-on-Trent quartet In The Cards is hands down the best example you’re going to find this year. These tracks carry enough ferocity to get that addictive adrenaline flowing, but they never let their passion get in the way of crafting great hooks and exploring more musically intricate passages. ‘Maze’ features a fittingly elaborate breakdown, while ‘Beautiful Silence’ shows the band’s fiery side with its driving rhythm. Lead single ‘The Only Thing’ offers some of the biggest hooks of the EP, while ‘Hollow Hearts’ showcases some fantastic musicianship with the gentle opening guitar and the wonderfully expressive and dramatic drums providing some of the most enticing instrumental work. It’s ‘Careful Eyes’ though that stands out as the highlight here. The true magic of Eyes Beyond Reflection lies in Amy Colclough’s soaring vocals, and it’s on this track that they’re at their most arresting. In The Cards have shown that they have plenty of tricks up their sleeves, and you’ll be sure to see this EP make an appearance in my end-of-year list.

Fans of Dream State, Mallory Knox, Greywind and 30 Seconds To Mars should check out In The Cards debut EP Eyes Beyond Reflection out now.

Top Tracks: Harrison Rimmer – Berlin

There’s a definite sense of the familiar within this latest single from Harrison Rimmer. Written thanks to a chance encounter while on tour in Germany and the ensuing sparks of attraction that followed, ‘Berlin’ is overflowing with radio-friendly pop melodies and skittering electronic beats. Marking a shift in style for this singer/songwriter, ‘Berlin’ has plenty in common with the kind of upbeat and immaculate earworms that populate any pop playlist worth its salt. Make no mistake though, there’s plenty here to make ‘Berlin’ stand out from the crowd. The most obvious of which is the simply astounding bass tone, as good as any you’re ever likely to hear, offering the track an accessible and irresistible groove. Looking beyond the rhythm, Harrison’s distinctive vocals have such a curious and indescribable quality to them here, which will leave you listening on repeat to try to unravel what makes his voice so unique. All considered, Harrison’s latest single offers his own intriguing personal twist on an infectious electropop sound.

Top Tracks: Pastis – On The Run

While we mostly focus on looking forwards and celebrating what’s new, we are still susceptible to moments where we long for the “good old days”. I for one miss the days of B sides, the days when bands would hide away some of their best tracks for only the most ardent of fans to find and make them into the music equivalent of cult classics. That spirit is alive and well with this brilliant new track from Helsinki based band Pastis. This particular B side is real A+ material. With ‘On The Run’ the band have channelled all their talents into a song that shows them at their very best. Combining the bright, bubbly melodies of mid-2000s indie with the scrappy, relentless energy and lo-fi philosophy of 70s punk, ‘On The Run’ manages to pack a wealth of great music into just a brief couple of minutes. This spirited little number is more than deserving of some time in the spotlight, as indeed are Pastis themselves.

Top Tracks: Cavern Company – Falling

I defy you to find a more upbeat and joyful track released this year than ‘Falling’. This latest single from Oklahoma based indie pop trio Cavern Company is like a radiant beacon of positive energy, abuzz with effervescent melodies and guilt-free pop sensibilities. The band citing Chic as their biggest influence goes a long way in explaining the potency of the infectious danceable groove, and the bright indie aesthetic at work on this track is sure to be a hit with fans of The 1975 and Clean Cut Kid. “Pop” music gets a bad rep, which is often self-inflicted, but it’s songs like this that remind you just how invigorating good pop music can be. Assuredly innocent and endearing as it captures the feeling of a new love blossoming, the distilled euphoria of ‘Falling’ makes it one of the most charming and accessible tracks of 2018.

Top Tracks: The Tin Pigeons – Always The Same

All you need is a few bright and upbeat guitar riffs and you pretty much have yourself an indie song. To make a great indie song though you need to throw a few other elements into the crucible in the hope of forming something that feels special. The Tin Pigeons have done just that on their new single ‘Always The Same’. The infectious groove that permeates the whole track, paired with the multitude of memorable hooks, just makes you feel ready to lose your inhibitions and let the music move through you. Speaking of a longing to break free and find some meaning and purpose, to which we can all relate, ‘Always The Same’ manages the rare feat of being a fun song with real meaning. The Tin Pigeons have imbued their own unique charm into this track, and this is one festival anthem that is sure to get crowds whipped up into a feel-good frenzy.

Top Tracks: .imp – Lifedreamer

‘Lifedreamer’ is a tale of two halves. This latest single from London-based artist James Hargreaves, aka .imp, opens with a bright and airy psychedelic sound that’s simply bursting with life and pulsates like some mystical aura. The hectic skittering drum beat may seem at odds with the otherwise dreamy atmosphere, but somehow the two elements really work well together. If you thought the opening of ‘Lifedreamer’ was vibrant then you’re in for a real treat when the triumphant horn sounds kick in. This uplifting section rings out like some hero’s welcome while ascending Olympus. The drums shift to keep pace, providing some of the best damn percussion I’ve heard all year, before the euphoric climax gives way to the final ethereal fade-out. It may have been written on morphine while recovering from surgery, but that’s nothing compared to the high that the song itself makes you feel.

Interview: Ash Johnson

ash johnson interviewWith his debut solo record The Mad Ship, consummate songwriter Ash Johnson offers a diverse range of lyrical viewpoints adorned with rich imagery and memorable hooks. With songs about everything from love and dearly departed friends, to dealing with change and trying to find light in dark corners of our lives, it’s proving to be one of the most engaging and relatable releases of the year thus far. I caught up with Ash to find out more about how the record came about:  Continue reading