Wednesday, 17 November 2010


"London's answer to Animal Collective" is not a title which is awarded lightly to just any band. Luckily, Beaty Heart, aren't just any band; they're one of the most exciting and dynamic bands to be found in our capital right now. Hailing from New Cross, South-East London and alumi of Goldsmiths (my endz), Beaty Heart are a four piece which make the most psychedelic, space-y, haunting tunes which make you see kaleidoscopes behind your eyelids. Basically, they will blow your mind. Combining tribal rhythms (three quarters of the band are drummers), hallucinogenic synths and dreamy, echoing vocals, the tag "experimental pop" just doesn't seem to do them justice.

You're transported to another universe in track "Cola", giving off an almost tropical vibe as the 4 minutes, 24 seconds dances between fast-paced percussion coupled with lush, synthy chords and the spiralling chaos of thumping drums and frantic, animal-like yelps. Personal favourite "Tonton" has a similar effect, conjuring up images of voodoo chanting around a roaring fire, lyrics indecipherable amongst hazy keys and an infectious beat. The band's otherwordly artwork and videos mimic this, especially for blissful, eerie "Get The Gurls" featuring shades of These New Puritans' more recent material.

The quartet are creating quite a buzz in the city, more accustomed to playing wild house parties (akin to how Oxford locals Foals started up in their hometown) than conventional venues and notorious for their emphasis on audience participation. However, that's not to say that the foursome have not and do not anticipate sharing stages with equally as brilliant up and coming bands. You can catch them unleashing their "experimental pop" at fellow-Londoners Fiction's single launch of "Big Things" on December 1st at The Macbeth. I'll see ya there ;)

- Written for The 405

Sunday, 7 November 2010


We've all been through this experience . You're raving about your new favourite band to a friend, fervently reeling off their discography and upcoming tour dates when they pop that all-important question: "What do they sound like?" Suddenly you're stumped and start mumbling new-found adjectives like "ambient" and "hazy", drawing faint comparisons with other bands that they are "sort of, like, ish but not really". Twin Sister are one of the bands that induce this the best way possible.

Originally hailing from Long Island in the US of A, this dreamy 5 piece make their own brand of indie pop from a diverse amalgamation of sugar-sweet melodies, eerie, discordant guitars and occasionally haunting vocals. Think Zola Jesus, Washed Out and Summer Camp all rolled into one. The band's defiance of genre is exactly what keeps their sound so fresh despite them having recently relocated to Brooklyn; a district of New York awash with musicians, all seeking to be branded as unique. However, the move to this highly creative environment (hometown to bands such as LCD Soundsystem and The Drums, amongst others) has benefited the quintet massively - "[Brooklyn's] great because there's hundreds of venues to play and tons of people just going to shows and supporting bands. Not too much of that on Long Island" said Eric in a recent interview with The Line of Best Fit. In fact, this year's "Color Your Life" EP was recorded there in its entirety and its six tracks serve to showcase the scope of the band's sound.

The EP's first track "The Other Side of Your Face" opens with a minimal drum beat, embellished with Animal Collective-esque echoing synths and honeyed guitar tones. However, it's Andrea Estella's delicate vocal that forms the backbone of this track, the listener almost straining to hear it amongst a lush backdrop of "oohs" and "aahs" reminiscent of Local Natives' 2009 debut. My personal favourite track, "All Around and Away We Go", sees the band exploring a funkier side to their repertoire, jazzy bassline driving the 4:34, offset perfectly with Andrea's soaring, breathy vocal. Another highlight is "Milk and Honey" which opens with sombre accordion and the signature vocal proving a combination akin to Beach House's more recent "Teen Dream" album (which can only be a good thing, right? RIGHT)

Having signed to the brilliant, independent record label Domino in the UK, home of artists such as Wild Beasts, Lightspeed Champion, Dirty Projectors and Eugene McGuinness, Twin Sister are gaining more and more attention outside of the Big Apple. The band will be crossing the pond this month to play a few UK dates, including London's own Lexington which I wouldn't miss for the world.

23rd - The Prince Albert, Brighton
24th - Brudnell Social Club, Leeds
25th - The Lexington, London

- Written for The 405

Saturday, 6 November 2010

LIVE REVIEW: Egyptian Hip Hop w/ Fiction & Connan Mockasin @ XOYO, 4th November

Something of a stranger to gigging alone, even my failure to find an enthusiastic friend amongst my phonebook couldn't keep me away from Shoreditch this evening. The opportunity to see Egyptian Hip Hop for the fourth time with two equally as exciting bands in support trumped the prospect of awkwardly cradling a cider in the corner between songs and a lonely tube ride home. Having chosen the correct exit of Old Street's six thousand, in a stroke of luck, I arrive at XOYO, beating Google's ETA (mental air punch for me) I buy one of the most expensive bottles of cider known to man at £3.80 and make a mental note to make it last. It's my first time at the new venue, nestled down an East London side street, deceptively cavenous, bathed in dry ice, band merch gaffa taped to the black walls. Like most large venues, it only really comes into its own once its filled up and it starts to do so once first support act and London locals, Fiction, take to the stage.

I missed Fiction supporting Maps and Atlases at nearby Cargo a few weeks ago (blame TFL), so having abused their Myspace player ever since, it is with considerable anticipation that I cling at the barrier like my 14 (16) year old self at my first McFly gig (don't judge me). Three quarters of the band dressed in customary suits of black, their faces illuminated only by the lights lining the circumference of the drums dividing the stage in two; their stage presence is formidable. The quartet are fast to unleash their jerky, tribal pop on the unsuspecting audience with set opener "Simulacrum". Pounding drums and chiming guitars juxtaposed against catchy "ooh aah"s and playful refrain "maybe I will get a tattoo, a badly drawn picture of you." Personal highlight is vaguely wacky number "Phyllis" when Mike and James take again to the drums, thrashing at them mercilessly until a proggy hook kicks in, even featuring a cheeky wub wub towards the end. It's difficult to draw any substantial comparisons with their contemporaries; the guitars are almost Foals-esque math-rock and the vocalist is a poor man's Brian Ferry (atleast according to my Mum who I ran this review past). But, vastly speaking, they genuinely do have a sound of their own.

The same can be said of second support act, Connan Mockasin, whom I will openly admit, I was not overly familiar with before this evening. A favourite of Erol Alkan whose label released his latest single "Please Turn Me Into The Snat", lead singer (you guessed it) Connan is not, contrary to popular rumour, a classically trained jazz musician or part-Kiwi, part-Londoner, but he is a total dude. Even minus this intriguing back story you're still left with the most psychedelic slow jams known to man that this man produces and he makes for a captivating live act. Baby-faced, platinum-mopped Connan takes to the stage with drummer and bassist in tow, opening with debut album track "It's Choade My Dear". The audience quickly fall under his spell as his striking falsetto whispers "please, take it off" and I see a few of the front row visibly swoon. Connan's sultry funk is, unfortunately, at the mercy of the sound system and he is victim of some harsh feedback during the course of his set. The distraction away from his general guitar-god-ness is minimal thankfully and the audience are suitably spellbound by the time he humbly bows his head and makes an exit.

By the time tonight's headliners take to the stage come 10:15, XOYO is almost full to the rafters and the four piece are greeted to warm applause (and even the rouge "woop") as they take up their instruments. As aforementioned, this is the fourth time I've seen them live and I won't lie and say that they are a flawless live act. They're not. They are still a little chaotic, there are a couple of bum notes here and there, they occasionally slip out of time. However, they are a young band (it's alright, I'm 18, I can say that without being patronising) with heaps of potential and they've gotten progressively better each time I've seen them. Tonight is no different. The quartet open their set with a storm of noise before breaking into slow number "Snakeboarding", prog-rock influences worn on their torn sleeves, throbbing bass line felt in the chest of anyone standing within 100 metres of the stage (everyone). These long, drawn out jams almost work better and feel more natural to the band than the more structured songs in their repertoire. "Middle Name Period" and "Floppy Ghost" are particular highlights, both driven by frisky rhythms and dreamy, layered synths. Crowd pleasers include disco spectacular "Moon Crooner", Alex Hewett's vocal delivered in his signature husky drawl (one particularly persistent fan screams for a repeat throughout the set) and set-closer "Wild Human Child", poppy melodies and heavy bassline again driving the track. Between-song banter is at a minimum, Alex only occasionally leering at the microphone to lazily introduce a song or to sign off at the end of their set with, "errr, t-shirts are over there". This is unimportant though when their music speaks such volumes. These boys will go far.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

REVIEW: Best Coast - Crazy For You

With the recent successes of self-proclaimed "surf pop" bands such as Surfer Blood and The Drums, Bethany Cosentino aka Best Coast joins a genre already teeming with potential. However, with their debut album comes the impression that this is a duo quite apart from the rest. Free from wacky haircuts and Brooklyn swagger, Best Coast's music has a raw, DIY honesty that makes it feel like a couple of friends jamming in your garage on a sunny afternoon, dealing with topics from love to weed to, err, talking cats.

This is obvious from album opener and ready-made summer anthem "Boyfriend" in which Bethany laments a friend which she wishes was more (haven't we all?). The lyrics are straightforward and the instrumental has an endearing simplicity to match. The Beach Boy-esque "oohs" and "aahs" provide the sugar-sweet backdrop which allows the vocal to dominate. It is much the same on the following track "Crazy For You" during which the lyrics gain a dose of quirky, sharp humour when Bethany admits "I want to kill you but then I'd miss you". The vocal is delivered in a style similar to Camera Obscura's Tracyanne Campbell with their signature, punchy brass exchanged for The Pains of Being Pure at Heart-inspired grungey guitar riffs.

Slow(er) jam "Our Deal" features dreamy, calypso chorus "that's not your deal, that's not my deal", laid over feather-light harmonies, Bethany's tale of heartbreak taking centre-stage. The pair get their angst awn in my personal favourite track "Bratty B" with the guitar adding extra weight and the drawl delivered with an air of a don't-give-a-shit attitude - "Pick up the phone, I wanna talk about my day, it really sucked." Stoner-anthem "Goodbye" is also a highlight, Bethany's vocal at its most ferocious - "Well I don't love you but I don't hate you, I don't know how I feel." The tempo gathers speed in similarly punky number "Happy" at just 1:45. This is a trend with the record's longest track clocking in at just 3:01; each song a short, sharp burst of energy, captivating their audience for just the right duration and proving the puuuuurfect summer soundtrack!

REVIEW: Tall Ships EP

Tall Ships are an intriguing trio from Falmouth, Cornwall and the latest band on the lips and fingertips of every blogger and blogger-ette in the know.

Having cosied up to the likes of the oh-so-brilliant Tubelord on a host of UK tour dates; this, their debut EP, was sold out before being released as a pre-order. Despair not however; a spangly second batch are on their way "hand printed, hand cut, hand assembled, hand everything...into the ether for general consumption." Prepare to pounce sooner than you can say "collectors item" because these vinyls will be gold-dust by the time these guys hit up global main stages.

The EP itself is an eclectic mix of songs, representative of Tall Ships' varied repertoire. 'Books' provides the opener of the self-titled EP with a subdued synth line, akin to the whimsical specialities of I Was A Cub Scout (R.I.P) before breaking into a dancier Delphic-esque rhythm. This intensity swells to its peak about 1:50 before crumbling away to the barebones of a delicate vocal with synth-y undertones maintaining the pace. "Ty-ee-ey-ee-ey-ee-ey-ime, ty-ee-ime is precious" coos Tall Ships’ lead singer, as skin-tight percussion whips the choruses into frenzied highs.

'Words Are Pegs Upon Which We Hang Ideas' (a close contender for the best song name evah) begins at a similarly mellow pace before picking up around 1:40 with a riff, tinted with shades of Blakfish and Tellison. A math-rocky hue also features at this point with Foals-approved brass and energetic guitar line reinforcing this. Despite the absence of lyrics, the strength of the instrumental holds it’s feisty own for the 4:17 duration.

This maths-pop/rock vibe extends into the third track of the EP, "Beanieandodger", with two shrill guitars competing with each other yet creating a harmonious pairing. This delicacy is offset with a beastlier riff kicking in around 1:15; before retreating to the same precision, enhanced by the glockenspiel accompaniment. The track dissolves to its finish, the guitar and percussion both gradually plodding to a halt.

EP closer "Vessels" begins with a similarly serene acoustic/synth duo, complimented by Bon-Iver-esque warbling. The tempo is escalated by a grand guitar interlude followed by a sea-shanty organ. This fittingly nautical instrumental is married to a similarly sailor-like chant - "Our vessel that carried you and me, now sits at the bottom, the bottom of the sea." With the organ gradually fading, the rowdy chorus and percussion live on until the final clash of a cymbal. And the rest is silence.

All I can say is that if Tall Ships continue to make music to this standard, it’s plain sailing from hereon in.

REVIEW: Los Campesinos! - Romance is Boring

I have been a Los Campesinos! fan since the early days of "Sticking Fingers Into Sockets EP", although this time around with "Romance is Boring", the charming ditties ("there's red stains all over the place, but they're not blood, they're Cherry-ade") are exchanged for lyrics with more of a bite ("you could never kiss a Tory boy without wanting to cut off your tongue again.")

This latest offering (said to be a record "about the death and decay of the human body, lost love, mental breakdown, and football") sees the Cardiff-based band not patronisingly "all grown up", but rather fully realised. Such a vast spectrum of subject matter and Los Camp!'s hyperactive tendencies make for one helluva (at the risk of quoting Ronan Keating's 2000 hit) emotional rollercoaster. By the end of all 15 tracks you are left with a vaguely sore-but-satisfied heart. The record offers overwhelming depth of lyrical emotion and when the record leaked in its entirety, frontman Gareth himself proclaimed: "I put so much of myself into these songs and lyrics and it's nobody's right to take what little power we have over them, away from us. It really feels like ripping something out of my chest." "Romance is Boring" is also characterised by broad musical experimentation which spans well beyond previous efforts of "Hold On Now, Youngster" and "We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed". However, despite this evolutionary move, the quirks that first endeared Los Campesinos! to their loyal following are not lost, with their trademark glockenspiel solos still thriving alongside harsher guitars and broader brass sections.

Album opener "Media Res" eases listeners in with a deceivingly mellow acoustic guitar, soothing violin, serene synth and our-old-friend Mr. Glockenspiel. The opening line - "Let's talk about you for a minute" - makes way for intensely relatable lyrics of that night we've all experienced when we were "far too fucked to drive, were the words that you imparted". Our reminiscing is cut short, however, when an ominous drumbeat kicks in following the mandatory glock-solo; accompanied by reverb-drenched vocals and sinister strings, Gareth's drawl leering "I'm leaving my body to science...drag my corpse to the airport." The instrument seems to erupt into chaos with the dust after the storm settled by rousing trumpets which would not be out of place on an Arcade Fire record.

This vibe-setter of an opening track leads into the first single off of the record, "There Are Listed Buildings". Here, the band unashamedly showcases their ultimately pop credentials with a wonderfully indulgent chorus of "ba ba ba ba", more akin to earlier "You! Me! Dancing!" and "My Year in Lists". Frantic bass-lines coupled with messy synths make for the perfect pick-me-up in the wretched winds of January. The title track of the record - "Romance is Boring" - shows the band drawing on grungier influences with filthy opening riff, making way for aptly angst-y cries of the chorus - "We're proving to each other that ROMANCE IS BOOOR-ING!" in a brilliantly bratty line that you will be humming all week long. Gareth's razor-sharp bluntness is at its best when confronting the subject of young love; when he admits "we are two ships that pass in the night, you and I, we are nothing alike", before the track literally screeches to a halt with an exasperated pant. I can empathise; my lungs are beginning to burn just writing this, as Los Campesinos! move at a magnificently merciless rate of knots, like a hurricane sweeping through small-town America.

True evidence of the band having been shredded at the edges comes in the form of "Plan A" which sees the septet at their rawest and most terrifying. Gareth and recently-departed Aleks Campesinos! urgently shriek their way though the majority of the 2:03 duration. This supposedly harebrained track, however, is grounded by the richness of the brass accompaniment which almost gives you the impression of a silent movie soundtrack. A steam trail hurtling towards a defenceless maiden, bound to the tracks. This is the defining feature of Los Campesinos!; their ability to conjure up an entire storyline and potent, palpable emotions from a few bars of music. Riffs and chords, verses and choruses.

The seven-piece do not prove themselves to be entirely sadistic, however. Track "200-102-Los Campesinos!" provides a temporary lull featuring vaguely haunting chimes juxtaposed with a tranquil, country strum of an acoustic guitar. Although these 54 seconds are not to be cherished as listeners are again swept off their feet wth "Straight In At 101". This is an implicit ode to the awkwardness of teenage sexuality as Gareth amusingly professes "feels like the build up takes forever, but you never touch my cock", nestled amongst kooky harmonies and cutesy handclaps. Another one of these benevolent interludes comes in the form of later "Heart Swells/101-1" comprising 46 seconds and offering an almost sci-fi vibe complete with spooky, echoing vocal. This calm is (you guessed it) short-lived as the next track explodes into the full-throttle madness of "I Just Sighed. I Just Sighed, Just So You Know."

My personal favourite track from the album is "The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future", the first of their new material to surface on their blog, marking a decisive shift in style. The backbone here is formed with the suave murmur of a cello and the exceptional crash of guitar and glockenspiel during the climactic chorus. These dramatic choruses seem to mimic the undulating cadence of the sea itself. The lyrics thesmelves tell a heartbreaking tale of an unfortunate young girl, her desperation epitomised by Gareth's yell "she said one day to leave her, sand up to her shoulders, waiting for the tide to drag her to the ocean, to another sea' shore."

As the record draws to a close, a droll irony is found in the authority of the lyric "can we all please just calm the fuck down!" in "This Is A Flag. There Is No Wind." The record presently obeys as "Coda: A Burn Scar In The Shape Of The Sooner State" rolls around, with Gareth and Aleks' stark vocal - "I can't believe you chose the mountains every time that I chose the sea" - mixes with the seemingly harmonic instrumental, gradually spiralling into delightful dischord.

This second, chaotic LP from Los Campesinos! is one that you are sure to fall in love with, time and time again.

REVIEW: Them Crooked Vultures - Self-titled

On paper, Them Crooked Vultures have got all the right ingredients for your ultimate rock band super-group, with a salivating line-up: Dave Grohl (the musical prodigy behind godfathers-of-rock Nirvana and Foo Fighters), Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age and Eagles of Death Metal mastermind, as well as ginger icon in a world of Mick Hucknall's) and John Paul Jones (former bassist of legendary Led Zeppelin). Signed to the record-label giant Sony, the UK leg of their upcoming tour sold out in 12 minutes and they've been hugely hyped by the likes of Zane Lowe. However, it is not until now with the release of their self-titled debut that they have been able to justify the flurry of excitement currently surrounding the trio.

It is during album opener "No One Loves Me & Neither Do I" that you are first hit with the realisation that this band is not merely a mash-up of previous projects but an entirely new beast (or rather, bird). And an ambitious beast at that. That is not to say that the member's back catalogue has been abandoned altogether, which would be an absurd thing to do considering their huge commercial success and general kick-ass-ness. Their extensive repertoire is echoed throughout the record. There is no denying that this is an album of epic proportions. This is refelected in its length of 13 tracks, of which only 3 are under 3 minutes, and also in the sheer musicianship that you'd expect from these three muskateers. They are determined to prove that they are not one-trick-ponies. Homme's raw vocal spans throughout the record from the sultry warblings of the first track through to the punk punch on track "New Fang" via the Kid-A-esque haunting of "Interlude with Ludes".

The album opener sees the band warning that their going to "lose control" and you can't help but stand back when you're hit with "huh!" and the irresistible hook, reminiscent of Rage circa "How I Could Just Kill a Man". "Mind Eraser, No Chaser" offers more of the same vicious shredding layered with a harmonised vocal. This is one of the intricacies of TCV that separates them from beign just another rock band; drawing a parallel with early Kasabian (we're talking L.S.F (Lost Souls Forever) here, pre-Fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiire, before you accuse me of blasphemy). However, following this hardcore guitar action our moshing is cut short roughly 60 seconds from the end of the track to be greeted with a bizarre organ outro that I can only describe as possessing the ability to transport me back to family holidays in Devon by the seaside.

The flourish seems to me to be an ode to individuality and quirkiness; but instead of the desired reaction of "ooh, kooky", it just leaves the listener with something of a furrowed brow. In striving to mark themselves out from the rest they admittedly sometimes miss the bulls-eye, such as in track "Interlude with Ludes" in which they attempt to tear a leaf out of Thom Yorke's book. However, the confusing mesh of echoing percussion, background howling and the sense of a vague chorus falls flat; it seems strangely out of place nestled amongst the potential quintessential rock anthems of "Dead End Friends", "Reptiles" and "Elephants". In fact, somewhat ironically, TCV are at their best when they're stepping outside of their comfort zone of heavy guitars and thrashing and into a groovier arena. This is demonstrated in Queens of the Stone Age-coated "Scumbag Blues" in which the throbbing base line, Homme's crooning falsetto and funky organ undertones tie the track together to razor-blade greatness. The same can be said for "Caligulove" whose tight rhythm and structure into tribal dischord with a Muse-dreneched riff that carries the track as if on the shoulders of sweaty moshpit victims. This is the case up until, say, 60 seconds from the end. "Caligulove" bites the dust. Another victim of the Queer Organ Outro which just seems as if Grohl and Co. have run out of juice and whacked any old sample on the end.

It's a shame given the vast majority of the tracks are gold dust but let down by either the Queer Organ Outro (or Q.O.O for short), intentionally "quirky" flourishes or just the sheer length of the tracks. "Warsaw Or The First Breath You Take After You Give Up" clocks in at a monster 7:50. This length, although presumably intended to reinforce the feeling of grandiose epic, is nothing short of tiring (at least for my attention span). It is possibly at the expense of the impressive vocal line as seen in "Elephants" which may as well be an instrumental with Homme's tones providing nothing more than embellishment. The long solos also begin to grate as more self-indulgent than entertaing by the end of all 13 tracks on the debut.

Believe the hype, they're definitely worth a listen.