Tag Archives: Better Man Than He

2013 Tracks Of The Year – #5 – 1

11 Dec

Tracks of 2013 - 5-1

It’s the final countdown, as some wise men once sang, as today we reach the Top 5, and therefore the pinnacle, of our Tracks of the Year feature. When we started the list on Monday, we noted that ” These then are the tracks that really stood out and stayed with us across the year, and we mean the whole year, many of these tracks have been out a number of months and we keep coming back to them time and time again, that’s how good they are”, and you’ll see from the list below that we weren’t joking. All five tracks were released in the first half of the year and three of them before March was over.

Often tracks from the beginning of a year can get forgotten, overtaken by newer, shinier songs that are fresh in the mind and ears. But these five have remained fresh in our ears because their quality is so high, we haven’t really stopped listening to them since they came out.

Before we tell you what they are, here’s a quick link-a-thon to the other Tracks of the Year posts and the previous 20 of our favourite songs of 2013.

Part One – Tracks #25 – 21
Part Two – Tracks #20 – 16
Part Three – Tracks #15 – 11
Part Four – Tracks #10 – 6

Now then, here we go with our Top 5 favourite tracks of 2013. Enjoy.

#5 Sivu – “Better Man Than He”

The debut track of our number one artist to Listen Out For in 2014, Sivu’s “Better Man Than He” probably resonates and touches us more now, nearly a whole year after it was released, than it did when we first heard it. Brimming with elegance and sophistication, it is blessed with the kind of understated beauty that can take your breath away. It sounds so simple but the sounds have been deftly woven by a skilled craftsman to disguise their intricacy as well as their intimacy. It was written for a friend who was battling depression, offering them hope and a light ahead in the form of delicate and enchanting melodies, and it is this poignancy and heartfelt emotion that helps set it apart even from his most recent and spectacular tunes.

#4 Young Hunting – “Annabelle”

One of the greatest pieces of musical storytelling we heard all year came from Los Angeles quintet, Young Hunting. The standout track of a wondrously understated and gorgeous debut album, “Annabelle” might just be one of the most heartwrenchingly beautiful things we’ve ever heard. There are no extraneous flourishes; no flamboyances and each detail augments the narrative of the lyrics and aural caresses of the musical arrangements. The drumbeat acts as harbinger of the woe to come, a slowed down take on the drums that would precede an execution, and the trumpets which join as denouement is reached are a mournful lament for the loss experienced. It sounds divine, gentle melodies and almost imperceptible nuances within that stir your soul and send your heartstrings reverberating like crazy.

#3 Chvrches – “Gun”

Choosing our favourite Chvrches track is a bit like trying to choose which superpower you would have. They are all so damn good and exciting that one just isn’t enough. But, we made the rule of one track per artist so here we are, having to make Lauren’s choice. We’ve gone for the uplifting and kaleidoscopic “Gun”, not least because we’ve choreographed a pretty amazing firework display to it in our head. The beat crashes and explodes with 808 style drums, cymbals and handclaps splashing like aforementioned fireworks. The synths shoot across the night sky entwined with Lauren’s so-sweet, sometimes breathy and occasionally almost demure vocals, dancing into the drums before the track quietens down as the display looks to be ending, only to fire off one last great crescendo of light and sound.

#2 Curxes – “Further Still”

Despite having a relatively quiet 2013, over the last 12 months Curxes have become one of our favourite young bands around. So much so that we invited them to play on our stage at Norwich Sound and Vision this year. Much of this love was stirred when they released the amazingly dark and refined sounds of “Further Still”. Beginning with some sinister and uneasy sounding operatics, the kind you’d have coming out over the PA during morning exercise at a Stepford holiday camp, all pastel shades and rictus grins, “Further Still” soon steps into an eerily still backroom. Roberta’s vocals take over and blend with the suddenly more liquid sound of Curxes before that too starts to evolve and solidify into head-nod-making beats. Dark, emotional and subtle, it whispers where you might expect a roar, even as the drama is ramped up it tip-toes through the sterile rooms behind the bright primary colours of the camp outside, scalpel in hand as it comes to slice into our ears and implant itself there for evermore.

#1 Nicole Atkins – “Red Ropes”

We knew when we first heard “Red Ropes” that it was something special and we knew it would most likely feature in the upper echelons of our end of year list. Then we played it again and again and again. We played it when we went on Amazing Radio for the first time, we played it to anyone who would listen and we loved it more and more each time we did. It’s a slow burning track, full of gentle drama at first before taking on an altogether more dense and powerful conclusion with the addition of choral backing vocals as Nicole Atkins‘ soft vocals reach up with increasing force. It is cinematic in feel, Lynchian almost (but less confusing) with that sort of retro-noir style to it that Tarantino can do so well too. Sun-bleached images of a damsel not in distress but with a will of iron and capable of outwitting all around her are evoked as it swells and soars. The influence of her co-writer, Mr. Jim Sclavunos (Grinderman/The Bad Seeds) is apparent in its darkness, its rawness, honesty and power. We adore it and as we began to put this list together, with all the jostling and re-positioning that went on as we considered all the tracks (and others), not once did it move from the top spot.

So there you have it, our favourite tracks of the year.
We’ll post a full list at the weekend with a playlist of all the tracks for your delectation but tell us what you think. What did we miss and what would make your list?

2014 Preview: Listen Out For #1 – Sivu

6 Dec

Sivu Over And Over

So here we are, our number one artist to Listen Out for in 2014. He made the UK Blog Sound Longlist earlier this week (where he was referred to as being ‘idosyncratic’) and while we have no idea if he will make the top 3 of that poll, we are sure that 2014 holds even greater things for him than 2013 already has.

The year began with a unique introduction to Sivu and the different way he sees the world with the completely hypnotic and incredible video for “Better Man Than He”. His debut track, which has pulled on our heartstrings like no other this year – especially when performed live in a tent in the woods at Latitude) came with the visual accompaniment of Sivu singing inside an MRI Scanner. If you haven’t seen it, you should (now and here) as it is properly amazing and the tongue is mesmeric. Trust us.

But that was just the start, since then he has toured seemingly incessantly on a grand supportslotapalooza, heading around the country with a variety of acts (London Grammar, Stornoway, The Staves for example) taking his tunes out to the people. The year is culminating in a co-headline tour with the also amazing Marika Hackman and a joint release with her as well.

His music is a heady mix of instantly accessible, light sounding folk popness, and dark themes born out of heartache and despair. “Better Man Than He” was written for a friend who was suffering from depression and “I Lose Myself” was inspired (if that’s the right word in these circumstances) by the drugs culture he was exposed to on first moving to London and “the idea of getting bogged down by life, and wanting to go and destroy yourself”. It’s hardly the stuff of sunshine and rainbows but the chorus of “I Lose Myself” in particular, the arrangement and production is actually quite uplifting and optimistic.

He is a beguiling artist, telling tales born in the shadows of anguish, or inspired by theology in a rousing and heartswelling manner. Acoustic sounds marble with electronic embellishments, strings ebb and flow with the tide and all the while, introspections and observations pour out like nectar for our soul. It is entirely possible, ironically, to lose yourself in his lightly rasping voice and warm melodies. Even when singing “Coldhands” is like a walk across a warm yellow corn field on a calm day, fingers running over the tops of the long stems as they are rustled by a gentle breeze.

It’s been a remarkable rise in the last few months but given his talent and the quality and depth of the music he is currently making, it’s not a surprising one. With an album slated for 2014, it should just be the start.

Stalk Sivu: Website / Facebook / Twitter

Listen: Sivu – “I Lost Myself”

7 Oct

Sivu I Lost Myself

We often talk about artists going from strength to strength, improving with each release and seeing their sound develop, evolve and get better and better. The thing is, there are an awful lot of artists out there doing this, making fantastic music that just sounds great each time you hear it and that is then surpassed with their next release.

Sivu is an artist engaging in this kind of musical advancement right now. Much has been made already about how his latest tune, “I Lost Myself”, is his most accomplished and rich sounding yet. Because it is. When you consider that he started out with the sublime and heartwrenching ”Better Man Than He” and has a number of subtly brilliant releases since then, you know that the benchmark has been set pretty darn high. Yet here he is, once again proving that he is a real musical force and one that will no doubt be cropping up on a lot of year-end and new-year-preview lists in the coming months (yes, it really is almost that time of year again).

‘Write what you know’ is the old adage and for one so relatively young (mid-twenties is still considered young yeah?) he has certainly been exposed to quite a lot of darkness and pain already. Of “I Lost Myself”, he says it is inspired by the drug and alcohol culture he became exposed to when he moved to London and “the idea of getting bogged down by life, and wanting to go and destroy yourself”.

That comes through in abundance, the need to dig oneself out of a hole, a rut and make something of your life runs through it like a solitary stream across a desert. There’s something almost aboriginal about “I Lost Myself”, aural Uluru, a kind of Ayres Rock-music if you will. It’s hot, lonely and a little bit wild with light tribal percussion entangled with music-box piano lines. Not to mention the spirituality about having to find yourself; taking a walk into the (metaphorical) outback leaving your day-to-day self behind and letting your inner voice call out, set you on your path.

That’s what Sivu appears to have done and his path appears quite clear at the moment, all roads point to critical acclaim and a burgeoning reputation as being a genuinely exciting new talent.

The ”I Lost Myself” EP is due out on 3 November and can be pre-ordered here and you can catch Sivu on tour around the country and beyond with London Grammar and then Stornoway as well as playing a show at Norwich Sound and Vision this weekend, details below.

See Sivu on tour:

October 12 Norwich Sound and Vision Festival
October 20 Cardiff Swn Festival
October 21 London Servant’s Jazz Quarters
October 22 Nottingham Rescue Rooms (with London Grammar)
October 23 Birmingham O2 Academy (with London Grammar)
October 23 Rotterdam Songbird Festival
October 24 Leeds The Cockpit (with London Grammar)
October 26 Manchester Sound Control (with London Grammar)
October 27 Glasgow Oran Mor (with London Grammar)
October 28 Newcastle Northumbria University (with London Grammar)
November 7 Caen Les InRocks
November 8 Paris Les InRocks
November 9 France Festival Les Inrocks
November 24 Birmingham The Institute (with Stornoway)
November 25 Nottingham Rock City (with Stornoway)
November 27 Manchester The Ritz (with Stornoway)
November 28 London Electric Brixton (with London Grammar)
November 29 Glasgow ABC (with Stornoway)
December 1 Cambridge The Junction (with Stornoway)
December 3 Dublin Button Factor (with Stornoway)
December 4 Belfast Black Box (with Stornoway)
December 6 Cardiff The Globe (with Stornoway)
December 8 London Barbican (with Stornoway)

Stalk Sivu: Website / Facebook / Twitter / SoundCloud

Listen: Sivu – “Over And Over”

26 Aug

Sivu Over And Over

Since Sivu burst, tongue first, into our collective consciousness with the hypnotic and heart-wrenching ”Better Man Than He” in January, we have been increasingly captivated by each one of his releases. Despite playing Norwich on a couple of occasions this year, both while we were away, we thought we’d never get to see him live. Thankfully that was put right at Latitude where we saw him play a fantastic set in a packed tent, set back amongst the woods. We won’t lie, seeing “Better Man Than He” performed live caused a greater twang of our heartstrings then even before.

Having enjoyed his set so much you can imagine how delighted we were to learn that he will be coming to Norwich again as just one of a bevy of amazing acts performing in our Fine City for this year’s Norwich Sound and Vision Festival (much more to come on that in the coming weeks, we promise).

Before then, we have his latest track, “Over And Over”, to keep us going, and yet again it is a fantastically understated and beautiful piece of music.

The rhythm sits softly underneath the chest of the song, a heartbeat gently beating and pulsing, pumping life around the body of melody and vocal. The arrangement is simple, the odd pick of a string and some harmonies, a delicate and fleeting moment creating an oasis of instrumentalism to a wide desert of emotion. As with his previous work, the real delight is in the voice. The way Sivu sings is haunting, there’s ache in the vocal, a tremor of fragility and emotion that gets into your soul. We could listen to it for hours.

”Over And Over” is available as a free download from Sivu’s website.

Stalk Sivu: Website / Facebook / Twitter / SoundCloud

Watch: Sivu – “Better Man Than He”

29 Jan


After a relatively slow start, January awoke from its hibernation last week and started to kick some serious music arse. In just a matter of a couple of days we had amazing new songs from Gabriel Bruce, Vuvuvultures and MS MR. Thwack! Pow! and Kazam! Take that January.

Also released online last week, but with much less fanfare, was the debut single from Sivu, a 24 year old who currently works in a call centre in Waterloo. Not for much longer we imagine if the rest of his tracks are anywhere near as good as “Better Man Than Me”.

Brimming with elegance and sophistication, it is blessed with the kind of understated beauty that can take your breath away. It sounds so simple but the sounds have been deftly woven by a skilled craftsman to disguise their intricacy as well as their intimacy. It was written for a friend who was battling depression, offering them hope and a light ahead in the form of delicate and enchanting melodies.

It is a captivating track whose aural beauty has been matched by the hypnotic visuals that accompany it. The video, which you can see below, was inspired by research into improving operating techniques for children born with a cleft lip and palate, was shot live in Barts hospital, and features Sivu performing from within an MRI scanner. Like we said, it is hypnotic (especially the tongue) and it is simply stunning.

Remember the name as we think you’ll be hearing a lot more from Sivu in the future.

“Better Man Than He” will be released as a 7″ and digital single via ASL Records on 25 February in the UK and on a limited edition, hand-stamped 7” from No Recordings, exclusive to North America.

Stalk Sivu: Website / Facebook / Twitter / SoundCloud