Tag Archives: Chvrches

Prides – “Cold Blooded”

27 Feb

Prides

Glasgow has, in recent years, been shedding its reputation as a rough and dangerous place to live in or visit. The stereotypical hard-nut Scot who’d give that special type of intimate affection that was more forehead than tongue has been consigned to the annals of history and lazy caricatures, instead Glasgow is forging a new path and new reputation, one that could well be as the most synthy of all synth-pop cities.

Their brethren, Chvrches, have already stepped out and stepped up to take the world by storm and now Glasgow’s Prides stand ready for their shot. Having only formed last year they already have some fairly heavyweight support as well as they are signed to Island Records and co-managed by Radio 1’s Ally McCrae. The trio of Stewart, Callum and Lewis has recently released an EP The Seeds You Sow, from which the fantastically vast “Cold Blooded” is taken.

Ok, so we have been a little disingenuous to Prides, yes they are from Glasgow and yes they make synth-pop music, but there are not Chvrches wannabes nor are they riding the coattails of their neighbours. Yes they both wear their 80s influences clearly on their sleeves, but Prides make music that is much more anthemic, more expansive and festival friendly. “Cold Blooded” in particular is ready made for a field of people to bounce up and down in the sun while enthusiastically bellowing the words back at the guys on stage.

It’s exuberant and bold; if John Hughes made music, it would probably go something a bit like this. It’s an aural brat pack ensemble where guitars, drums and synths fling off their jeans jackets and dance on tables while flashing dazzling white smiles and winking at the girls below. It’s hookalicious and while those John Hughes girls will be going week at the knees, it’s masculine enough to have the guys loving it at the back of the room as well.

Prides ‘The Seeds You Sow’ EP is out now and available from iTunes.


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2013 Albums of the Year: The Full List, and a little extra…

21 Dec

2013 Albums of the Year The Full List

Just as we did with our other lists this month, EPs of the Year and Tracks of the Year, we have decided to put all ten of our favourite albums of 2013 into one easy to read list. And, as with our 2014 Preview series, we have also added some honourable mentions of albums that we loved but didn’t quite make it into our final ten.

Every year when we sit down to work out our albums of the year, we always end up surprising ourselves in some way or other. This year was no different and one thing that caught our attention, though probably means very little, was the geographical make up of the list, with seven of the ten albums coming from the USA and only three from the UK, and how many (eight) were debut albums. Evidently we like new things from overseas very much.

Anyway, here you go, all in one place, our favourite albums of the year. Just click on the album title to be taken to the original post and to read more about each one.

Enjoy and see you next week for some regular blog posts and festive fun as well.


#10: Superhumanoids – Exhibitionists

”All throughout Exhibitionists, melodies swoop and swoon, flying to the sun and melting into considered and analytical lyrics. Light and dark meet, mix and leave hand-in-hand, carried off on the marbled tide of heady and vibrant synth-pop and more downtempo and icy soundscapes. The Los Angeles based band has created sounds that dance, sway and float in equal measure and the result is an absolute delight.”

#9: Valerie June – Pushin’ Against A Stone

”Her vocals, so distinctive and unlike almost anything else you’ve ever heard, slip seamlessly from style to style. Warmth and frost, steel like determination and vulnerable insecurity, world weary wisdom and wide-eyed naivety; all feature and all feel entirely natural. She has paid her dues, taken her licks and learnt her lessons. This education, her talent and the fact that she probably bleeds music and Memphis has all come together in a glorious whole and the result is a fantastically varied and captivating album.”

#8: Caveman – Caveman

”Like a sprawling desert, Caveman is broad and spread out as far as the eye can see. Blissfully dreamy guitars wash away the world on lullabies of shimmering heat haze reverb, while the vocals of Matthew Iwanusa float wistfully through your mind and off to the distant horizon.”

#7: Rhye – Woman

”The songs are rich and smooth like a vintage red wine in the company of good friends. Robin Hannibal’s arrangements are deft, delicate and subtle, awash with a languid sophistication, offering glimpses into the intimacy of love, be it full and joyous or pained, private and profound.”

#6: London Grammar – If You Wait

”It is a groundswell of emotion, rising up to the sky and stirring the soul, sending shivers down spines and ripples of Goosebumps across arms. Particularly during moments of quiet, haunting breaths, like those that give way to a compelling, crashing rhythm on “Stay Awake”, or the simple piano intro to “Sights”.”

#5: Day Joy – Go To Sleep, Mess

” Songs trickle gently along, rippling before they unexpectedly swell and rise; lifting you high and carrying you away on a beautiful tide of delicate emotion. Their spectral melodies create a sense of blurriness, like the world seen through rain speckled glasses. Your mind is distorted and made fuzzy by the echoing, swirling sounds and vocals as they shimmer and float on the breeze.”

#4: Young Hunting – Hazel

”There is no urgency to Hazel, it is staid, serene like a lake with not a ripple on its surface but amongst the gorgeous and woozy instrumentals, there is darkness. It is dream-pop but laced with foreboding, a feeling that something is about to upset this idyllic scenario. This sense of unease is perhaps best represented by “Baby’s First Steps”, a track that sounds like a late drive along a 1950’s mountain road, loved one in the passenger seat after a pleasant evening with friends. The night is clear and the road is empty, but the audience knows all is not right.”

#3: Public Service Broadcasting – Inform – Educate – Entertain

”It is far too easy to get lost in the perceived gimmick of Public Service Broadcasting and to our mind that misses the point. The samples are critical of course, but the beauty and enjoyment comes from how they are used and woven into complimentary sounds to convey a narrative, emotion, excitement and energy.”

#2: Chvrches – The Bones Of What You Believe

” Chvrches are exciting. Martin Doherty and Iain Cook wield sonic weapons like a pair of skittish electro-ninjas; flipping, kicking and letting loose shurikens of rapid beats and synth lines with deadly precision while Lauren Mayberry’s sweet emotive vocals rise up above them as if summoned by some mystical enchantress.”

#1: John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts

”Here Grant plays with genres more than before as well. Stark electronic melodies and rough synths are juxtaposed with soft, mellifluous harmonies with the guesting (and understated wonderfulness of) Sinead O’Connor and his floating, winsome vocals. But this variety of styles embraced within the album could be seen as representation of the tumultuous variety of emotions and mood swings one undergoes when experiencing and coming to terms with heartbreak. For this is undeniably a break-up album. An album of a man who has been knifed in the heart by a shattered relationship and is coming to terms with the anger, depression, desire and love that remains in his soul.”


Honourable Mentions…

Vuvuvultures – Push / Pull

VVV-Strikethrough

There is a sense of foreboding, of death and of something much bigger than us, of something beyond our comprehension that is prevalent throughout. Be it the portentous, doom laden drum beats and bass sounds that awake “The Professional” or the foot-stomping bluesy sleaze of “Your Thoughts Are A Plague”, cataclysmic events are only moments away. Vuvuvultures have brought the end of this world with them and its noise is addictive.

Guitars shudder and grind, basslines throb and groove, drumbeats pound and scatter and above it all, vocals soar and caress. And within, sometimes buried, sometimes bursting forth beyond these instruments are the electronics, the ghosts in the machine that are desperate to break out. Little glitchy moments here, synthy wails there, digital flourishes that embellish and enhance. On “Tell No One” especially, the machines are coming and the electronics give it an extra feeling of danger, of despair and of impending menace.

Peppered within the album too are fleeting moments where they have taken over entirely, the A.I finding a way to circumvent its masters and the machines talk to one another. They appear at the end of the “Whatever You Will” and the slower undulations of the snake like “Empurrar/Puxar” (Push/Pull in Portuguese) which close the album give way to a minute or so of digital whirring and twitching, calling out to its brothers and signalling perhaps the next stage of Vuvuvultures evolution.

“Push/Pull” is on Energy Snake Records / Cadiz and can be ordered here.



Ms Mr – Secondhand Rapture

MS MR Secondhand Rapture

MS MR resides in a world of the macabre, a world of glitchy electronics, incessant rhythms, swirling strings and deliciously gloomy vocal harmonies. ”We really get off and thrive on a certain level of uneasiness and suspense” Lizzy told us, and that is apparent throughout Secondhand Rapture. Be it the upbeat, clap-happy fun of “Salty Sweet” or the slower melancholy of “Twenty Seven” and “This Isn’t Control”, there is always a sense of disquiet and drama within. It’s just how pop should be, full of big, majestic melodies and hooks big enough to catch a whale. The brilliantly brooding “BTSK” even contains a synth line that is oddly reminiscent of some unnecessarily successful 90s euro-dance, it sounds amazing.

There are so many highlights within; it is almost like a greatest hit compilation. Picking the next single is more taxing than trying a Rubik’s cube while drunk but our money would be on “No Trace”. It’s a beautiful and brutally theatrical piece of noir-pop, full of attitude and sass as well as trademark MS MR rhythms and striking film score-esque strings that urgently harry and batter the listener into sublime submission.

MS MR have been hitting home runs since they came out swinging last year and after the success and acclaim of their previous singles, videos and EP, with Secondhand Rapture they may well have just hit a grand slam.

Secondhand Rapture is available digitally from iTunes.



Little Tybee – For Distant Viewing

Little Tybee

After opening with some delightful, occasional tropical sounding, jazzy folk sounds, we are treated to four minutes of swooshing instrumentalism, laced with gentle prog-rock sensibilities on “Fantastic Planet”. “Herman” drips with aquatic, almost sonar style elements that complement the rich string orchestration before, seemingly out of no-where, dropping in a surprising moment of grinding reverb. It is as unexpected as it is perfect, but it remains the only fleeting moment of rough with the otherwise very smooth.

For Distant Viewing inculcates a care free attitude in its listener. Soothing, heavenly strings entwine with Brock Scott’s rich and slightly sweet vocals as they lick flame like around the rat-a-tat of percussion and the light twang of guitar. It feels fresh at every listen, as if it has just been conceived, improvised, jammed. It is an album that will make you smile, make you sway and hell, maybe even kick off your shoes and have a little shuffle.

Named after an island off the coast of Savannah, Georgia, the music of Little Tybee has a sun kissed feel, not bleached out and surf swept, but bright and breezy. Part Vampire Weekend, part Simon and Garfunkel, perhaps even part Juan Zelada (for they have his charm in their song writing), it is like a glorious summer’s day, it is to be revelled in.

’For Distant Viewing’ is out on Paper Garden Records and can be ordered here.



Cherokee Red – Cherokee Red

Cheroke Red

When you start swaying softly as soon as you start listening to an album, you know you are in for a treat, and so it is with the eponymous debut album of Pennsylvania’s Cherokee Red. It begins with the mellifluous gorgeousness of “Veya Con Dios” and closes with the so-soft-and-delicate-it-could-actually-be-a-lullaby “Blissful Blows”. In between are 9 more tracks of wistful and swoonsome beauty.

“Veya Con Dios” for example, is so pretty you could stick a crown on it and it would win pageants. It’s so beautiful you could frame it and hang it in the Louvre; it’s so … you get the idea, it’s gorgeous. The guitar strums softly as the melody floats like the proverbial wave lapping against the shore; there’s not a cloud in the sky as the sun glistens above you on this deserted beach. It is pure calm and relaxation, Christiana Bartolini’s vocals, from the opening ‘do do, do-do-do-do-do-do-do’, massages away your cares and worries. It’s dreamy, but not in a dreampop way, more a teenage girl describing the High School hunk kind of way.

Bartolini’s vocals are a spoonful of sugar that could make the worst news in the world seem utterly delightful and the arrangements are elegant and divine. Even “Heavy Soul”, with its momentary seconds of comparative angularity and wobbliness, is a tender piece of melody that culminates in the sounds of crickets chirping, preparing the quiet night time for the aforementioned lullaby of “Blissful Blows” which follows.

It caresses the brain and brings about a state of tranquillity in the listener. So laid back and luxuriantly relaxing is it that you may find yourself drifting off into a blissful slumber as you listen. It is the musical equivalent of The Little Book of Calm, except it actually works.

Cherokee Red is available to buy here.



2013 Albums of the Year #2: Chvrches – The Bones Of What You Believe

20 Dec

CHVRCHES - TBOWYB

As we near the end of our countdown of our favourite albums of 2013, we reach number two and an album that has probably had more consecutive plays in our car than any other. Our love of synth-pop is well documented and Chvrches are quite probably the best exponents of the genre around at the moment.

Eight of our Top 10 albums of the year have been debuts and The Bones Of What You Believe is perhaps the most accomplished of the lot. Chvrches make music to dance to, to sing along to and to enjoy on both a superficial and deeper level. It has mainstream appeal, of course it does it’s pop music, but it has enough of an edge to keep those of a more discerning sensibility interested and excited. Lyrically it is dark and at times raw, like Prince (who the band love and draw inspiration from) in his pomp, The Bones Of What You Believe can sing to you about fairly brutal subject matters without you even noticing as you groove along to the laser guided electonica and crashing digital beats.

Chvrches are exciting. Martin Doherty and Iain Cook wield sonic weapons like a pair of skittish electro-ninjas; flipping, kicking and letting loose shurikens of rapid beats and synth lines with deadly precision while Lauren Mayberry’s sweet emotive vocals rise up above them as if summoned by some mystical enchantress.

Picking a favourite song from the album is impossible, we had a crack at it for our Tracks of the Year post but even then we said it was like trying to choose which superpower you’d have. They are all superb and immensely enjoyable. And that’s the key thing about The Bones Of What You Believe, it’s probably not the ‘best’ (whatever that means) album of the year, but is the most fun, the most energetic and entertaining on a full on, turn it up and blast it out level.

They take you on a journey of kaleidoscopic colour and shapes cascading into one another. Listening to The Bones Of What You Believe is a bit like taking a souped up dragster on a joyride through Katy Perry’s candyland universe, slowing down only to take out the gummi bears and nauseating niceness of it all in a series of ruthless drive-by’s. Deadly synths are fired from the side of the car as we race past delirious and euphoric, leaving the carnage behind in a soundtrack of killer pop music that is as equally moving as it is energetic and fun.

Chvrches have delivered an album that is, as they say, all killer and no filler, which is why it’s right up there almost at the very peak of our list, only something truly special could have beaten Chrvches to the top spot this year and in reality, they were a whisker away from taking the crown

Buy The Bones Of What You Believe


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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?

What’s In the Box? – #3 – Album Review Special

26 Oct

Whats In The Box Album Review Special

The last few weeks at Alphabet Towers have been pretty much relentless. With much of our focus and energies being diverted to a hugely successful Norwich Sound and Vision Festival, our intended writings didn’t quite pan out as we meant them to.

There were loads of amazing albums released in September and October that we wanted to cover but time never allowed us to get round to. But we still wanted to say something about them so we happened upon a great idea (so we think anyway), why not break open the occasional What’s In The Box feature, and post a series of mini-reviews? To make things harder for ourselves (because where’s the fun in easy right?) we gave ourselves a word limit for each one.

So we have, and here it is, one post containing five 100 word reviews of albums we have enjoyed over the last few weeks, starting with an absolute cracker…


ChvrchesThe Bones Of What You Believe

CHVRCHES - TBOWYB

Standing toe to toe with anything we’ve heard in the last 12 months, The Bones Of What You Believe is one of the most accomplished debut albums of recent years. Martin Doherty and Iain Cook wield sonic weapons like a pair of skittish electro-ninjas; flipping, kicking and letting loose shurikens of rapid beats and synth lines with deadly precision while Lauren Mayberry’s sweet emotive vocals rise up above them as if summoned by some mystical enchantress. As equally moving as it is energetic and fun, Chvrches have delivered an album that is, as they say, all killer and no filler.


Buy The Bones Of What You Believe

Stalk Chvrches: Website / Facebook / Twitter


HaimDays Are Gone

Haim Days Gone By

With Days Are Gone, BBC and Blog Sound of 2013 poll winners Haim easily maintained the high standards set by each preceding single. It’s a gleaming broach encrusted with gems of musical genres gone by. Highly polished stones of 90’s R&B, 80’s guitar bands and 70’s pop sparkle alongside one another. Given the amount of work that has clearly gone into making it, Days Are Gone sounds remarkably effortless and light, tracks dance along gleefully, not least the Jessie Ware penned title track which is one of many highlights, and everyone is welcome to jump on board and join in.


Buy Days Are Gone

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Summer CampSummer Camp

summer-camp summer-camp

Sophomore albums are supposed to be tricky and potentially career threatening. As they drive away from Condale, Summer Camp has plotted a route that avoids any pitfalls or hazards and has instead taken a picturesque journey to success. Filled with delicious indie-pop songs, emotional and entertaining tales of love and life, this is a showcase of increased confidence within the duo as they widen their already colourful palette. There is greater variety in musical style while never sacrificing the charm or infectiousness of their debut. Melodious, danceable, warm and fantastic; Summer Camp proves second albums don’t have to be difficult.


Buy Summer Camp

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MorcheebaHead Up High

Morcheeba Head Up High

They may not be hitting the heights of the sublime Big Calm these days, but their second album since the return of vocalist Skye Edwards sees Morcheeba embrace a willingness to experiment. The mainstream friendly darlings of the 90’s trip-hop scene, the trio have spread their wings and flown to new worlds in their latest release, Head Up High. Collaborations and disparate musical genres flow through the 12 tracks like rivers coming together to join the sea. Chali 2na, Rizzle Kicks and White Denim’s James Petralli are amongst the guests on a solid offering that long term fans will enjoy.


Buy Head Up High

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Children Of PopFiesta/Drift

Children of Pop Fiesta Drift

Music consumption has changed dramatically with the Skynet-like rise of the digital format meaning listeners often focus only on a single track rather than a body of work. It’s reassuring to know that there are still people out there making music the old fashioned way and with the liquid psychedelica of Fiesta/Drift, Houston’s Children Of Pop have done just that. Comprised of two distinct sides (one energetic and vibrant, one languid and restful) this long awaited debut swirls with melodies of marbled colours and smoke like vocals, but also jumps with groovy guitar lines and funked up beats, it’s fantastic.


Buy Fiesta/Drift

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