Black Honey – “Hello Today”

22 Sep


One fuzzy twang of guitar, a gentle crashing of drums and a surprisingly Madchestery bassline that makes you want to shuffle forwards and backwards in glee, is all it takes for Black Honey to remind you why they are one of the most talked about and exciting new acts around.

I’ve been writing about the Brighton foursome since they debuted in the heady days of late summer 2014. Back then all the world knew about them came from a mysterious mobile number and their willingness to provide cryptic text answers to unusual questions. Throughout that time they have never failed to delight with their raucous, catchy and genre-defying garage-surfer-indie-rock-pop. Their live show is a stupendous hedonistic mess of noise and energy and they just keep getting better and better.

“Hello Today” continues the Black Honey trend of sounding more confident and polished, whilst simultaneously sounding more hazy and distressed (the clothing meaning) than before. Izzy’s stone washed vocals blur into the guitar lines as melody and rhythm entwine symbiotically. It’s a damn fine song. One that had me grooving in my chair at work and annoying everyone with semi-fervent foot-tapping. That bassline has a subtle grooviness to it that is addictive and infectious, at the very least you’ll be shoulder dancing to it, if not full on bouncing and dancing like an idiot.

It’s brilliant but then again, everything Black Honey have done so far has been brilliant and their reputation is thoroughly deserved

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Moonheart – “Blow”

15 Sep


Earlier this year, January in fact, a few tracks popped up on my Soundcoud feed. All by the same artist and all sounding lovely. As I listened I realised I didn’t recognise the name of the band but the lady pictured and the vocal sounded familiar.

A little digging and some more aural prompting and I realised that the vocals were those of Kim Mayo, who I’ve featured a couple of times previously, though now she was going by the name of Moonheart. Then, as quickly as they had appeared, the new tracks disappeared. So I sent myself an email to remind me to contact Kim and ask her about Moonheart.

And then the email got buried in the inbox and I forgot about it.

And now, nine months later, the first of those Moonheart tracks I heard fleetingly in the New Year has appeared again, all official and as part of a forthcoming EP. There are also a few details about Moonheart itself as well, courtesy of a Line of Best Fit premiere. From this I learned that Kim has been joined by Michael Sachs and this is indeed their debut track (though their online presence suggests they have been around since at least the middle of last year).

So, with some confusion cleared up, “Blow” is the debut track from Moonheart and also the title track of their debut EP.

The most important thing to know, is that it is rather gorgeous.

A little reminiscent of Salt Cathedral, it is intricate, delicate and beautiful. The gentle electronics skip and float with the vocals as heartbreak leaks out. Kim’s voice is simultaneously playful and mournful, light in sound yet heavy of heart. It’s a wonderfully evocative and dextrous sound, disarmingly innocent yet laden with the weariness and wisdom of a broken soul. There are moments of solemnity, wispy, ethereal and beautiful; and there are moments of frivolity almost, as the chorus in particular almost laughs (gently, and with warmth).

It’s a lovely debut and well worth waiting the nine months or so to hear properly. Thankfully we don’t have to wait as long to hear more.

”Blow” is taken from the debut Moonheart EP from the same name, which is due for release on 1 October.

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Explorers – “Strangers”

14 Sep


Like seemingly most of the world, I’ve been engrossed by the incredible Stranger Things. The show is just superb and the nostalgic element adds a wonderful layer that people of a certain age (me) can really relate to and enjoy.

I mention this because listening to Explorers gives the same kind of buzz. Not the tense and fearing for your life kind of feeling, the warm nostalgic glow and enjoyment of something new yet so familiar. I’ve been a big fan of the musical outpourings from Jeremy Dennis and Robert Bannister for some years now and each time they release something new I am never left feeling anything less than delighted.

Since they were last featured a couple of years ago they have released “Numbers” (streaming below and sounding deliciously new-wave) and more recently “Strangers”.

Now, it might just be that I have only recently watched Stranger Things that is leading this cognitive connection between song and tv show, and of course there is that whole word association thing going on as well. But I could imagine a fairly awesome Stranger Things music video being soundtracked by “Strangers”. Lots of shots of the kids biking through the woods, chase scenes, close ups of our protagonists looking worried and the like. It could just be me.

Taken from their oft-trailed forthcoming debut album, “Strangers” is brilliantly Explorers. Retro synths dance and jump along with the digital crash of drums as it explodes into colourful, blurred round the edges, neon life. There are elements of Chvrches in there as the lights flicker, controlled by Will from the Upside Down no doubt (sorry, I’ll stop) and the tempo quickens into this bright, full-of-life-summer-dance-banger.

It’s hands in the air frivolity that just keeps bouncing. Now, about that album…

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Chløë Black – “Death Proof”

13 Sep

Chloe Black Death Proof

Having had something of a mid-blog crisis and posting about my crossroads moment yesterday (the devil never appeared to ask for my soul btw) some very wonderful people have been in touch with some lovely comments. The general consensus is that Alphabet Bands means more to people than I had appreciated and that I should keep on writing and sharing music. Overwhelmingly people have told me to just do whatever I want.

So I will. And what I want to do is listen to and talk about Chløë Black. Always.

In my five years of writing Alphabet Bands and the years I spent at 411 Mania before that, never have I encountered an artist who is as damn cool as Chløë. Not only that, she has the talent to back it up. Not only that, but she writes songs that mean something, that have a message about society and that can make you think and stroke your beard contemplatively, all whilst dancing and losing your shit to how good her tunes are. Not only that, but it is all wrapped up in this incredible pop-culture referencing, cult loving package of sheer brilliance.

Not gonna lie, I have a massive musical crush on Chløë Black.

Her latest track is yet another piece of fabulous, socially aware and catchy as fuck dark pop. It’s a teen anthem for the hedonistic and indestructible youth. Like Transviolet’s “New Bohemia” but more sinister. Like The Lost Boys is to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It is the Upside Down version.

Infectious from the off with a warped guitar line that, unintentionally but brilliantly, evokes Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” (my musical mind works differently to others so please don’t look at me too funny if you don’t think so) “Death Proof” kicks into gear like James Dean on a motorcycle with nothing but open road ahead of him. The beat thumps and pounds like feet marching, marching recklessly into whatever the future holds, nothing phasing it or even scratching it as Chløë sings. Her gorgeously intoxicating voice melting over the attitude and swagger of the melody.

It is, of course, superb. With so many incredible tunes behind her and so many more to come, the only surprise left about Chløë Black is that she is not already a massive star. Surely that can’t be far off.

Photo by Nadia Lee Cohen

Stalk Chløë Black: Facebook / Twitter

Five years on; so what now?

12 Sep


Five years ago, to this very day, the already named but somewhat silent Alphabet Bands was born and began to take its first steps to becoming the website that it is today. A largely silent blog.

Yes, it is somewhat ironic that while we celebrate five years of blogging, it comes after our most extended period of non-writing in that whole time. The length of our silence was not intentional, we knew there would be holidays where we wouldn’t write and that the Euro football tournament would distract us. We hadn’t appreciated that the distractions would continue though, that so many TV shows and evening activities would get in the way, that trying to improve our overall health and fitness (yes, really) would take time and so much energy that we would lack the motivation to put fingers to keyboard.

There was plenty of music we enjoyed and loved in that period, yet we still didn’t write. So we find ourselves at something of a crossroads. What do we do now?

We don’t want to end the site. Listening to and sharing music is still fun, talking about it and getting all hyperbolic and metaphorical is still rewarding and the buzz we get when bands get in touch to thank us and tell us how much it has helped is still incredible. Writing this blog has opened so many doors for us we still find it hard to believe. The number and the brilliance of the people we have met across all aspects of the industry has been amazing. The opportunities to meet, spend time with, speak to and even (to a degree) influence artists we love is one we are forever grateful for.

We have been able to film intimate acoustic sessions with some wonderful artists and we’ve managed to put on a couple of gigs – bringing some of our absolute favourites out to the wilds of Norwich to perform. We’ve even, sort of, got a record label (and people who want to work with us on it), something that could never have happened without Alphabet Bands. Most importantly, we were able to use the site, with our good buddy Breaking More Waves to raise over £1,500 for Cancer Research.

Yet we are at this crossroads. What happens next?

We’ve considered writing less (yes, we know, we’re writing nothing at all at the mo, how can we do less?) and trying to focus more on the quality than the quantity. Yet all that has done has effectively given us an excuse not to write at all.

We’ve thought about expanding out to other forms of media as well. Maybe doing long recorded interviews with artists, really getting into who they are, what and why they do what they do and finding out what makes them tick. If we did though, how should that be presented? Every man, woman and their dog has a podcast these days, do we want to just add to the noise there? Would people even want to listen?

Should we just keep doing what we have been doing? Tracks, videos and the occasional album review thrown in? Maybe try and record more sessions again? Write long-form interviews? More random features on people or labels? Random thoughts on older music, music that means something to us for various reasons perhaps?

We’re open to ideas. What do people want from a music blog these days? And when I say we, I mean me. Adam H. Should I even just start writing in the first person again? I’ve always thought that there was something more professional in using the royal we, distancing myself slightly and speaking with (hopefully) a more authoritative voice. Does that work? Do people care?

All suggestions are welcome. As I said, five years on and Alphabet Bands stands at something of a crossroads.

Which path do we take?

Here’s a wonderful tune from Penny Bridges to listen to while you think and hopefully comment with suggestions.

Thank you.