Hydra Lerna – “HYDRA”

16 Jan

hydra-lerna

We’re big fans of musical evolution and reinvention here at Alphabet Bands and the debut of Hydra Lerna is a wonderful example of both as it is the new nom de plume for Norwich’s Abigail Blake. Her first song under her new moniker, “Hydra”, sees Blake move away from the twinklestep genre she showcased last year with the brilliant Birdcage EP, and even further away from the singer-songwriter sound that she emerged with on her debut EP, Etch.

The quality of her writing is as good as it has ever been and the pop leanings and production are in there as well, but this is something new, something wonderful. There were elements of Birdcage that dealt with a darker side to humanity, the duplicitous nature of friendships for one, but as Hydra Lerna, Blake is going deeper and darker than before.

Her vocal is as beautiful, smooth and innocent sounding as ever, there is a wonderful vulnerability to her voice. Now though her words are harder, making the point that they can do so much damage, striking with a deadly venom and no matter how strong you are, you cannot defend against it. Her electronics too delve into murkier waters but with an incredibly infectious pop sound that deftly walks the tightrope of mainstream accessibility (there are elements of Katy Perry in there amongst others) and a sophisticated left of centre sound.

As big fans of Abigail and bigs fans of darker leaning pop-electronica, Hydra Lerna is something we are looking forward to hearing a lot more of in the future.


Get to know Hydra Lerna: Website / Facebook / Twitter

Doing something different: Introducing – Morpheme Records (again)

12 Jan

A couple of years ago, having toyed with an idea for some time, we decided to give in to temptation and start a record label. The label was designed to be about artist development and support more than anything and as such the plan for our artists is to hopefully move quickly on to bigger and better things. We launched Morpheme Records at the start of 2015 with two incredibly talented artists, Harry Edwards and MK Grands, and sure enough it wasn’t long before Harry was snapped up and MK Grands was remixing and guesting for some pretty big and acclaimed acts.

It was always in the back of our mind to restart the label, but we wouldn’t do it just for the sake of it or just with any old artist. It had to be people we loved, were extremely talented and who would continue to get better and better. Enter blog favourite and one of our former “Artists to look out for…”

Treasureseason

treasureseason-press-shot

We first encountered Treasureseason completely by chance when 50% of their number, producer Dave (Powell) worked the door at our Sound & Vision Showcase. We’ve been fans ever since, regularly sharing their tracks and buying their EPs. When the other 50%, Jess (Bartlet) got in touch to ask if we’d be interested in working with them, we knew it was time and Morpheme was alive once more.

Their new EP, X/Y, is out on Thursday 19 January and the first track to be taken from it is “The Rush”.

Deliciously infectious, the pair are embarking on a new synthpop journey with a subtle, dark undercurrent. Intricate melodic lines skip along while Jess’ chilled vocal washes over it. It’s fantastic.

We’ll not go on about it too much as we’re sure you’re keen to get listening yourselves, but it has already had some great write-ups from the likes of The Line of Best Fit (song of the day no less) The Most Radicalist, Earmilk and I Heart Moosiq amongst many others.

”The Rush” is out now and available to buy from iTunes. Treasureseason’s new EP ‘X/Y” will be released on 19 January.


Get to know Treasureseason:Facebook / Twitter

‘H’ is for… HEZEN

6 Jan

hezen-1

Welcome to the first artist to feature in our newly rebooted Alphabet. While there are many superb new acts out there, just waiting to be profiled, in reality there was only ever going to be one artist we’d choose to start with. As we noted in our tracks of year countdown, the debut song from HEZEN came out of nowhere to knock our socks off. They’re still not on.

Flashes of her talent had been showcased on her previous work with Icicle and some solo tracks (that are now hard to find, though not impossible) but with “The Girl You Want”, London-based French producer and songwriter Sarah Hezen served notice that she is something special. There is danger and ominous portent dripping off the smouldering electronic melody; sultry and seductive it is an intoxicating concoction of dark magic.

There is more stillness and a softer sensuality to her follow up, “Oil Fire”, though the subject is equally dark and personal. Sarah’s voice is a shaft of light illuminating the marbled swirl of melodic despair, a beam of resilience against the inky black persecution.

Listening we find ourselves lost in this world of HEZEN, this near monochromatic underworld of lust, love and loss. There is a subtle power to her music, evocative and raw within the deft and fragile production. Her vocals twist against the undulating electronics, heady with emotion and buffeted by the quiet force of her rhythms. Snakelike they all slide and squeeze together, strong, dangerous, beautiful and mesmeric.

We’ve been lucky enough to hear some demos of future tracks and our excitement is reaching dangerous levels. “Smoke and Mirrors”, for example, is an eerie wisp of ethereal vocals, heartbeat rhythms, warped electronics, strings and a delicate horror-movie-esque piano line. It’s devilishly dark and delicious where “Try Me” opens with a Stranger Things style retro synth line before a battlefield bass drum brings the tension, a tension which mounts as the track progresses before easing against that gorgeous, icy voice.

HEZEN is due to release her debut EP later this year and it is already shaping up to be one of the must listens of the year. We couldn’t think of a better act to open the Class of 2017.



Get to know HEZEN: Facebook / Twitter

2016 Albums of the Year

2 Jan

albums-of-the-year

After listing our favourite tracks of 2016 yesterday logic dictates that today be the turn of our favourite albums. In all honesty, we’ve not listened to as many albums as we have done in past years and somehow we have always managed to have a(n unintentional) blindspot for those that usually feature on major publications end of year list. That said, our choices this year are probably more ‘on point’ than previously, while still being quite different.

Confused? So are we. Let’s get to it.

So, in Alphabetical order, here are our five favourite albums of 2016.


Avec Sans – Heartbreak Hi

heartbreak-hi

After years of waiting, years of promise and quality single after quality single, blog favourites Avec Sans finally released their debut album. We’ve written extensively of our love for the electro-pop duo and theirs was probably the album we were most looking forward to. That expectation also came with some trepidation though, what if after all that build up and wait, it wasn’t that good? Thankfully, it was everything we hoped it would be and then some.

Pop banger follows pop banger as Jack’s deliciously retro-futuristic electronics and Alice’s melting ice vocal create a light show of danceable, singable and oh-so enjoyable songs. Each one is single release worthy and the whole album is a repeat listen delight, and repeat listen we did. Possibly more than any other, this was the album that got played again and again and again.


Daughter – Not to Disappear

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A few listens in, not long after its release in January, we thought to ourselves ‘if Not to Disappear is not in our end of year list, it will have been an incredible year for music’. As it turned out, 2016 was a pretty decent year for new music releases but Daughter’s second album remained a high, and powerful, point.

“Doing the Right Thing” continues to provoke tears when listening. Its anguished take on dementia, told from a sufferer’s point of view, not so much tugging at heartstrings as wrenching them out by the handful while making you chop onions for hours. It is one of the saddest, most emotive tracks we’ve heard in years and its power does not diminish the more familiar you are with it.

By contrast “No Care” is powered by a visceral dissection of a less than pleasant sexual liaison. Here there is anger and disgust but the rawness and honesty remains. Indeed, Not to Disappear is startling in its openness, poignancy, accessibility and beauty. For our money it shows a real evolution and maturity from a band who have always sounded gorgeous, and now seem to have a lot more to say within it.


Let’s Eat Grandma – I, Gemini

i-gemini

That Let’s Eat Grandma’s debut album I, Gemini should feature on our favourites of the year list should come as no surprise to regular readers. We’ve been fans and supporters since way back when and their appearance on Jools Holland was one of our personal music highlights of 2016.

Their music isn’t for everyone but the best thing is, we really don’t think they care. In fact, we’d wager that all the critics, bloggers and armchair opinioners take it all a lot more seriously than Rosa and Jenny do. Their sound is inventive, imaginative and entirely different to pretty much anything else out there right now. They make music for themselves, please themselves and to entertain themselves. It’s not really commercial – it’s not pop by numbers, it’s not landfill indie, it’s not even punk (though some will say it is) – it is simply the imagination and musicality of two incredibly talented teenagers left to run wild, and the results are magnificent.

Many of the tunes are pretty much the same as they were a couple of years ago, before the industry was aware of them and before their debut Latitude appearance (on the tiny Inbetweeners stage) became a thing of legend. A tip of the hat to Transgressive then for letting the pair be themselves and not trying to add significant amounts of polish or control to a sound that is at its best when it is left to just be whatever the girls want it to be.


Shura – Nothing’s Real

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Rivalling Avec Sans for our most played album of the year was Shura’s debut, Nothing’s Real. Relentless in its catchiness, its warmth and its tenderness, each track is sing-a-long golddust. Like with Avec Sans, 80s influences are worn on the sleeve and like Avec Sans the results are pure pop delight.

It’s openness and empathy are a thing to behold. Unrequited love, relationships gone bad, the one that got away; we’ve all experienced it yet so often in pop music it becomes something melodramatic and unreal. Here Shura effectively opens her diary for us all to read and its charming, self-effacing and so incredibly danceable.

There’s not a weak track to be found and even the segues are sweet and delightful. It’s about as good a modern take on 80s pop as you will hear and one of the most relatable albums in years. Any by jingo you can sing the crap out of it as you drive.


Starwalker – Starwalker

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Chilled and dreamy electronica is entirely our thing and the full debut album from Starwalker served up both in abundance. A perfect soundtrack for a warm evening stargazing, the self-titled release from Air’s Jean-Benoit Dunckel and Bardi Johannsson of Bang Gang is as elegant as it is mellifluous as it is enchanting, yet still with a touch of drama and edge moulded within.

It is in part a vast expanse of cinematic electronica, a bit Moon Safari in places, a bit Virgin Suicides in others. It is not just a clever Air rehash mind you (though fans will love it) it is also close, intimate, warm and infectious. “Holiday”, for example, steps out of the cool and into the bright light of the summer sun, frivolous and warm, it skips along joyously.

Elsewhere, the likes of “Losers Can Win” and “Get Me” drift and melt glacially and the whole album is a gorgeously relaxed, cool breeze of sophisticated melodies and electronica.


2016 Tracks of the Year

1 Jan

tracks-of-the-year

Over the last few years we have shown complete disdain for the idea of consistency in how we approach end of year listing. We’ve done a brief synopsis of a collection of our favourites, single posts per entry and even a mega one year in review round-up post. So it should come as no surprise to learn that once again we are mixing it up, focusing just on our favourite tracks and albums, nothing more.

This post will list our nine (top tens are so passé) favourite tracks (in no particular order). These are the ones we’ve loved the most, played the most, sung along with, nodded our head to, air drummed to, inflicted on our friends and colleagues and generally embraced and indulged in the most over the last year.

We’ll be back later with our fave five albums and after that, it will be on with the new Alphabet and posts a-go-go as we set out to make 2017 our personal musical love slave. Or something.

We’ll stick to our top ten tracks of 2016 for now though.


The one that came out of nowhere to knock our socks off

HEZEN – “The Girl You Want”

There were a lot of tracks from acts old and new last year that were incredible but without doubt, the one that just completely blew us away was the formal debut from Sarah Hezen. Even now, listening again, it still hits us smack between the eyes with its intricate, entwining melody and rhythms. It is utterly, stunningly beautiful whilst at the same time viscerally dark and menacing. Her soft vocal is intoxicating as it envelops this sense of foreboding as a dark spirit wisps around its prey seductively.

We could go on and on, and we did when we wrote about “The Girl You Want’ previously. Trust us though, you’ll be hearing a lot more from HEZEN in the future, not least because we will be waxing lyrical about her again very shortly.



The one that reaffirmed the thought that this guy is incredible and deserves to be a huge success

Rag’N’Bone Man – “Human”

The release of “Human” felt like something of a watershed moment for Rag’N’Bone Man last year. He was already critically acclaimed, selling out shows here there and everywhere with a growing legion of fans and blog support – he has featured on ours and others pages many, many times. Yet it is “Human”, its video and the announcement of an album later this year that looks set to send him to the heights we all anticipated he’d be reaching.

The beat behooves movement, the lyrics demand crowd accompaniment and Rory’s vocal is as powerful as it has ever been. It’s no wonder that an appearance on Jools Holland came about, or that it was number one in Germany for weeks and weeks, or that it was chosen as a contestant’s song on The X Factor. In fact, the only surprise is that it didn’t quite grab the Christmas Number One slot, finishing second. With the critics choice Brit already been bagged and a top 5 slot in the BBC Sound of poll assured, “Human” will stand as the final piece in the puzzle for Rag’N’Bone Man. Global success is surely on the way now.


The one that makes you swear inappropriately loudly when singing along

The Weeknd feat. Daft Punk – “Starboy”

Confession time. Despite all the buzz and hype a few years back, The Weeknd was never really an artist we’d paid too much attention too. There is only so much time in the day after all and not everything gets listened too, no matter how much we’d like to. When a lot of our friends started going doolally over “Starboy” though we thought we should check it out. When we heard it was a collaboration with Daft Punk we resolved to get on it and soon enough we were telling everyone and anyone who would listen (and a fair few who wouldn’t) that we were a motherfuckin’ Starboy.

It’s been said elsewhere, and in more accomplished ways, but this does almost feel like a reanimation of a late 80’s MJ given a devilish electronic twist. Infectious doesn’t even begin to describe how ridiculously catchy this tune is, especially the chorus, and it has been a real job to not play this to total and utter death (or around the kids). Like organised crime, every time we think we are out, we hear it again and are pulled back in. It’s everything modern pop should be and it’s such a shame the rest of the album doesn’t really live up to it. Still, we’ll always be a motherfuckin’ Starboy.


The one with the incredible Nixon sample

TV Girl – “Taking What’s Not Yours”

We’ve said it a number of times, but we don’t think there will ever come a time when we don’t like TV Girl or get excited for new music from them. 2016 was the same with the release of Who Really Cares and the brilliant lead single, “Taking What’s Not Yours”.

We said it before, but it’s worth re-stating, ”“Taking What’s Not Yours” is everything we love about TV Girl. Deliciously, ridiculously infectious, it is bright and playful while dealing with a lesser spoken consequence of a failed relationship.


The whole track is just wonderful, there’s a Nixon sample in there that is so deft you might miss it but it is genius, trust us. It is lyrically dry, sardonic and clever. It is completely and utterly perfectly TV Girl.”


The one that could be an anthem for a teenage uprising

Transviolet – “New Bohemia”

Another act we’ve loved and predicted great things for since first hearing them is Transviolet. Technically “New Bohemia” was released in 2015 but the video came out in February and that is more than enough justification for us to include it in this list.

We still can’t hear the military drumbeat towards the end of the track without thinking of Les Mis, without imagining an uprising and revolution against the rising tide of hate and fearmongering, something we need more than ever.

It remains rousing and invigorating, a movement in song form. Conveying power, emotion, defiance and attitude. It is a superb piece of anthemic pop that still gets played to death at Alphabet Bands HQ.


The one that could be an anthem for teenage indestructibility and hedonism

Chløë Black – “Death Proof”

The flip side to “New Bohemia” came from the brilliant and effortlessly cool Chløë Black and “Death Proof”. Another piece of fabulous, socially aware and catchy as all hell, dark pop; it’s a teen anthem for the hedonistic, indestructible youth and their ‘give no fucks’ attitude.

It’s pounding beat is relentless, a reckless death march into the future while a warped guitar line grinds in the background. Chløë’s gorgeously intoxicating voice melts over the attitude and swagger of the melody making you love it even more.

It’s play it again and again and again fantastic and but for all the swears would surely have been everywhere in the late summer months. Seriously, someone give this woman a deal and get an album out pronto.


The one that gives us goosebumps AKA The one we wish they’d done on Jools Holland

Let’s Eat Grandma – “Rapunzel”

It doesn’t matter how many times we hear it, the opening piano line of “Rapunzel” always sends a shiver down our neck and brings goosebumps to our arm. That this moment of innocence, of purity and of calm beauty then gives way to a cold and dark lyrical reality only serves to make it even more poignant.

Based in part on a true story and in part on a well loved fairytale, “Rapunzel” is (for our money) the most remarkable track on an incredible debut album. It perfectly encapsulates everything about them, the creativity, the musicality, the marbling of reality and imagination and the intricate and intelligence of their composition and lyricism.

It is also surprisingly easy to sing along with, even if you do have some explaining to do when your kids randomly start singing it in public.


The one that we always sing along to and that makes us happy

Shura – “What’s It Gonna Be?”

Possibly the most earworm-tastic tune of the whole year, Shura’s “What’s It Gonna Be?” was superb 80s inspired pop fare – channelling her inner Madonna and mixing it with a dash of SAW era Kylie. Then the video came out.

It’s hard to say if it is the brilliance of the song that makes us love the video so much, or vice versa, but it is safe to say this combination of audio and visual is one of the best and most enjoyable seen in 2016. Certainly this track was one of the most played on our summer holiday in France and most sung along to by the kids as we drove around the countryside.

Sentimental, heartfelt, bittersweet and oh-so danceable and catchy, “What’s It Gonna Be?” is a dazzlingly warm and wonderful piece of retro-modern pop music.



The one that made us realise we’d been wrong all along

Birds of Hell – “Astronomy Programmes”

Back in April we held our hands up and said, yep, we were wrong. Birds of Hell had always been an act that we’ve just never got, and then he released “Astronomy Programmes” and our mind was changed. It is, as we said so eloquently at the time, ”quite frankly, fucking brilliant”.

A little more evocatively, we also said it is “A swirling, cosmic spirituality as well as a wonderful lyrical dexterity are on show. It is utterly charming and really rather beautiful. This electronic, galaxial mist of sound drifts and caresses while Pete Murdoch’s light gravelly voice bounces off the softer swoon of producer Iain Lowery’s backing vocal. The beat snaps and skips gently as shooting stars of melody sweep by above and the lyrics ponder the great unknowns and reminisce for a simpler time”.

It still sounds as swirlsomely gorgeous now.