Spotlight!: Floral Shop

floral shopSometimes 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

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Top Tracks: Bess Atwell – Harvested

They say that love is giving someone the power to destroy you and trusting them not to, and in some ways a similar principle can apply to friendships. Our friends are the ones that know us best, that we share a deep connection with. Those closest to us know all the buttons to push to bring us down as well as all the right words to say to lift us back up again. That’s the kind of friendship I picture from Bess Atwell’s new single ‘Harvested’, taken from her latest EP Big Blue. From the song’s dreamy atmosphere, thanks to Bess’ crystal clear vocals and the kind of warm, still vibe that presents the perfect soundtrack for the summer nights, I’d like to think that this is ultimately a friendship with a happy ending. One where the comfort of closeness outweighs the consequences. Even so, this is a song perfectly crafted to tug at your heartstrings. Give ‘Harvested’ the power to destroy you and it will do so gladly, and you’ll find yourself pressing play to surrender yourself to it all over again.

Top Tracks: Caleb Kopta – Foreign Language

My first listen of ‘Foreign Language’ was almost enough to make me do the auditory equivalent of a double take. We’ve been big fans of Caleb’s wanderlust inducing Americana, so this foray into synth driven territory marks an ambitious shift in sound. Altogether more lush and nuanced, it builds upon layered synths, expressive bass tones and atmospheric guitar textures to construct a song that feels very much like being a small figure in a big world. Walking the streets of a sprawling city aglow with neon lights in search of something real. Lyrically it seems fitting that it deals with our over-reliance on technology to form and maintain connections, almost like a nostalgic look back on his own work and the simple life of the open road. Caleb nails his new sound with real flair and conviction, but still carries with him a knack for potent hooks and addictive melodies.

Top Tracks: Mars Motel – Coming Up For Air

There are so many songs about love, or loss, or everyday life. It feels good every now and then to delve into a song like ‘Coming Up For Air’ that elects to break the mould and play around with different ideas and narratives. This first cut from Mars Motel’s debut album Passenger X tells the tale of an android longing to be human and trying to change to find acceptance. Whether you take the story at face value, or use it as a mirror for our own need to connect and be understood, it is a unique and fascinating foundation to build a song upon. The music built around the story offers up a great blend of retro 80s vibes, bright and airy indie soundscapes, and perfectly polished pop melodies. The winding bass line gives the track an inescapable energy, and it carries the kind of infectious hooks that stay with you all day.

Top Tracks: Jaz Ellington – Don’t Run

A great voice can easily steal the spotlight and be the highlight of a song. When it comes to ‘Don’t Run’ however, Jaz Ellington’s voice is the song. It is woven into the very soul of the track, feeling like a full band in itself rather than just a single element. Whether it is in the soothing softer tones that you can feel brush against your skin like fine silk, or in the resounding calls to the heavens that command your attention and seem to make the very ground tremble, Jaz pulls out all the stops on this latest single. I don’t know many songs that can both shatter you with an imposing wall of sound, and then nurse all the pieces back together with a gentle caress the way that ‘Don’t Run’ does. A voice is an instrument like any other and Jaz is clearly a master of his craft.

Top Tracks: Ben McKelvey – Wild Child

We all have to live with thoughts of “what could have been” in our lives. You can follow your dreams, and ultimately be on the right path, and still face regrets along the way. It’s just life in a nutshell. That’s the sentiment that comes across in this superb song from singer/songwriter Ben McKelvey. ‘Wild Child’ talks of music as a calling. It’s not always as glamorous as it seems, life on the road means missing out on a lot of opportunities and it can tear relationships apart, but that’s a sacrifice that has to be made sometimes. To do otherwise would mean denying a part of who you are. Some people are just born with music running through their veins and Ben certainly seems like one of them, especially considering how he plays every instrument on the track. Immediately reminiscent of The Gaslight Anthem and Frank Turner with its relentless energy and heart-on-sleeve lyricism, and afternoon spent listening to this on repeat is one thing that you won’t regret.