Tag Archives: GEMS

GEMS – “Scars”

12 Jun

Gems Scars

We’re not sure about where you are, but right now here in Norwich it is a glorious day full of bright sunshine and beautiful blue skies. It’s the kind of day that makes you wish you were sat out on the grass, or walking along the beach, sunglasses and a ‘nothing can bother me today’ smile on your face. The kind of day that needs a soft and swoonsome soundtrack. The kind of day that needs a new song from GEMS.

Thankfully it is the kind of day that has just that as the Brooklyn pair today released the brand new and beautiful “Scars” to the world. Their first new tune since last year’s Medusa EP (one of our favourites of 2013), it is a typically sublime piece of gossamer soft melodies and Lindsay’s heavenly vocals. It ebbs like the tide and caresses like a gentle sea breeze, brushing your cheek with like a lovers hand. Gorgeous stuff from a gorgeous band on a gorgeous day. Just what the Doctor ordered.


Stalk GEMS: Website / Facebook / Twitter

2013 EPs of the Year: The Full List

15 Dec

EPs of 2013 - Full List

We know that some of you out there like to have everything in one place so, like we did with our 2014 Previews and Tracks of 2013, we’ve collated our EPs of the Year into one post as well. And there’s a lovely Soundcloud playlist of tracks from each EP at the end as well.

We hope you find something you like.


#10 Wooden Arms – Wooden Arms

”It’s full of gentle, ebbing melodies that drift and glide like birds on a breeze; this eponymous release is often balletic in feel. Ambient sounds; be they deep cello or light violin, music box light or portentous dark piano, ripple and flow like a mountain stream.”

#9 Sivu – I Lost Myself

”[It] is a wonderful collection of elegant, rousing songwriting, sublime melodies and deceptively intricate arrangements. We’ve said it before and will continue to do so until such time as his debut full length is released, we can’t wait for the album.”

#8 White Prism – White Prism

”Her eponymous debut EP is full of cool, futuristic electronica and melodious vocals that float along in a cool reverie of compulsive beats and 80’s inspired synths. It’s soft, subtle, delicate, sultry (in places) and gorgeous.”

#7 MYPET – Reflex

”It is exciting, vibrant and full of life. Sinewy electro noodles wind their way around grand, cacophonic beats as vocals rise up, like an arm bursting forth from the grave, seeking liberty from its earthen prison.”

#6 Garnets – Towns

”Ethereal vocals, barely there percussion, muted piano sounds, hushed and haunting murmurings and melodies are juxtaposed with vibrant and choppy waters of riff based pop and crashing rhythms. Almost as if they want to stir our body as well as our mind.”

#5 Annie – A&R

”The result is just fantastic pop, notably the outstandingly catchy and hook laden sounds of “Back Together” and “Ralph Macchio”. Her vocals sound as lovely and disarming as ever and the result is five tracks of brilliance. If she keeps making pop as good as this, we won’t mind the long waits between releases so much.”

#4 TV Girl – Lonely Women

”Lyrics are whimsical but real, observational, humorous but touching and the tunes are full of throwback indie-pop, lo-fi hip-hop beats and cascading piano melodies. The EP sounds fantastic and stands up to multiple and repeated listening, as have all TV Girl EPs so far, and they really are an act that are growing and improving with every release.”

#3 Us Baby Bear Bones – What Starts With a U Ends With an I

“The trick that they are so adept at pulling off is that in amongst the layers of sound, the spiralling electronic rhythms, the world of ice and the creeping shadows, damn fine pop songs are to be found. They are emotional and evocative as well as being catchy and very easy on the ear. They swirl like a galaxy, magnificent and seemingly infinite, growling and bursting with each note and vocal.

#2 Gems – Medusa

”This is a blissful listen of style, grace and soft focus dreaminess. Their tracks are like billowing lace curtains by an open window with gentle undulations reaching softly into the room, touching your ears like a kiss from a butterfly.”

#1 Brooke Annibale – Words In Your Eyes

”That folky, country background is apparent in her voice; her dreamy, dreamy voice. We could quite easily get lost in her vocals. At times light and breathy, such as on “Tragically Beautiful”, it skips along playfully. At other times it drops, the emotion it conveys is that much deeper, more heartfelt perhaps, but despite this strength of tone, it never loses its warmth or gentleness.

…One of the major elements within the whole EP is the orchestration, the gorgeous, sumptuous orchestration.

We’re suckers for a good string section and Brooke Annibale uses hers fabulously. From small, subtle inflections to big, dramatic emotions, the strings add so much to each of the six tracks on Words In Your Eyes. Violins soar, lifting the melodies high upon their wings while cellos rumble darkly underneath. The emotional resonance of her songs is enhanced exponentially as the strings glide alongside her vocals; undulating with the pitch of her voice and the sentiment of her lyrics.”



2013 EPs of the Year: #5 – 1

13 Dec

EPs of 2013 - 5-1

Our look back at the best releases of the year continues today with our favourite EPs of the last 12 months. As we mentioned yesterday, when revealing who made it to places 10-6 in our countdown, the standard of mini-releases this year has been exceptional and in all honesty, we could have chosen a completely different Top 10 and still been happy with our selection. That releases from the likes of Salt Cathedral, Empress Of, Marika Hackman and MØ didn’t quite make it into this list at all just goes to show that the quality really has been that good.

Here we go then with our Top 5 EPs of 2013.


#5 Annie – A&R

Annie A and R

At a time when the influence of the 80s is still prevalent (if not quite omnipotent) in synth based pop, the return of Annie with the A&R EP was a breath of fresh (if not new) air. Working once again with producer Richard X (A&R stands for Annie & Richard btw) she stopped her time machine short of the 80s and hopped off in the midst of early 90s dance-pop instead. The entire look, feel, sound and joy of the EP. Including cover art and fantastic The Chart Show homage-ing video, is steeped in that vibrant colour of a time that was shaking off the giant shoulder pads of the decade before and starting to get (a bit) more cool. The result is just fantastic pop, notably the outstandingly catchy and hook laden sounds of “Back Together” and “Ralph Macchio”. Her vocals sound as lovely and disarming as ever and the result is five tracks of brilliance. If she keeps making pop as good as this, we won’t mind the long waits between releases so much.


Buy it from: iTunes


#4 TV Girl – Lonely Women

TV Girl Lonely Women

Loneliness, depression and feelings of worthlessness feature heavily in TV Girl’s third EP, but rather than wallow in self pity and melodrama, Lonely Womenis full of wry wit and warmth, as well as some killer sounds. Lyrics are whimsical but real, observational, humorous but touching and the tunes are full of throwback indie-pop, lo-fi hip-hop beats and cascading piano melodies. The EP sounds fantastic and stands up to multiple and repeated listening, as have all TV Girl EPs so far, and they really are an act that are growing and improving with every release. With Lonely Women TV Girl has given us a gloriously sardonic and enjoyable look at the darker side of human emotion that they have deftly crafted with humanity, affection and great songs.


Buy it from: TV Girl


#3 Us Baby Bear Bones – What Starts With a U Ends With an I

Us Baby Bear Bones

Brighton based trio Us Baby Bear Bones are quite the special act and their debut EP, What Starts With a U Ends With an I is full of cool synths and electronica washing over compulsive beats, shadows, foreboding and ill portent. Puff and Daisy’s intertwining vocals and harmonies are ice sculptures atop a sonic glacier bathed in the eerie glow of the northern lights above. The trick that they are so adept at pulling off is that in amongst the layers of sound, the spiralling electronic rhythms, the world of ice and the creeping shadows, damn fine pop songs are to be found. They are emotional and evocative as well as being catchy and very easy on the ear. They swirl like a galaxy, magnificent and seemingly infinite, growling and bursting with each note and vocal.


Buy it from: Us Baby Bear Bones


#2 Gems – Medusa

Gems Medusa

Washington DC duo GEMS have featured in the site a fair bit over the year and especially in the last week or so as we have tipped big things for them in 2014. Their debut EP, Medusa, places the pair at the very top of the tree marked, ‘shimmery dream pop’. The vocals on the four tracks are goosebump making and the ice cool melodies are heart-meltingly gorgeous and ethereal. This is a blissful listen of style, grace and soft focus dreaminess. Their tracks are like billowing lace curtains by an open window with gentle undulations reaching softly into the room, touching your ears like a kiss from a butterfly.


Buy it from: iTunes


#1 Brooke Annibale – Words In Your Eyes

Brooke Annibale

Our number one EP this year is one that we have played more than any other and one that continues to offer something new, something we’d not heard or appreciated before with each listen. This is what we said about it earlier this year:

“Based in Nashville, Tennessee, Brooke Annibale is a singer songwriter of considerable talent. Her 2011 album, Silence Worth Breaking, was nominated for an Independent Music Award and won the people’s vote award in the Adult Contemporary category. Now she has returned with a new EP that showcases her propensity for perpetual musical motion and the evolving nature of her sound.

Words In Your Eyes supposedly represents a move away from the acoustic folk-pop styles which were evident on Annibale’s debut album, and while there is lot more on offer here, she hasn’t completely left it behind. Nor should she as it serves to add much to the other elements she has blended into these six tracks.

That folky, country background is apparent in her voice; her dreamy, dreamy voice. We could quite easily get lost in her vocals. At times light and breathy, such as on “Tragically Beautiful”, it skips along playfully. At other times it drops, the emotion it conveys is that much deeper, more heartfelt perhaps, but despite this strength of tone, it never loses its warmth or gentleness.

There are little reference points dotted all over, country, pop, ambient and folk all play a role, heck there is even minute elements of Led Zeppelin hidden within “Silence Worth Breaking”; the track her debut album was named after but didn’t feature. One of the major elements within the whole EP is the orchestration, the gorgeous, sumptuous orchestration.

We’re suckers for a good string section and Brooke Annibale uses hers fabulously. From small, subtle inflections to big, dramatic emotions, the strings add so much to each of the six tracks on Words In Your Eyes. Violins soar, lifting the melodies high upon their wings while cellos rumble darkly underneath. The emotional resonance of her songs is enhanced exponentially as the strings glide alongside her vocals; undulating with the pitch of her voice and the sentiment of her lyrics.

Never is this symbiosis better than on “You Don’t Know”, which is a stunning 3 and a half minutes of pop music. It brings to mind the high points of Morcheeba’s classic Big Calm and their use of strings, little embellishments here and there building and building to a great swirling denouement. Here they play amongst the guitars and drums before everything comes together in a tumultuous, shimmering ending.

Words In Your Eyes is a collection of delightful, pop songs, sung beautifully by an extremely talented young lady. This one will be on repeat for quite some time, of that we are certain.”


Buy it from: Brooke Annibale


2013 Tracks Of The Year – #20 – 16

9 Dec

Tracks of 2013 - 20-16

Here we go then with the second part of our Tracks of the Year countdown. After revealing the tracks that hit the spots marked 25 – 21 earlier today, it’s time to unveil the five songs that made it to the 20 – 16 places. But before we do, here’s a quick reminder of the random rules we have imposed upon ourselves.

The song doesn’t have to be an actual single and while that may seem a bit of a cheat, there’s a good reason behind it. We are looking at tracks that were released in one capacity or another over the last 12 months so that amazing album tracks will also be considered. We must note though, if a track was released online this year but will become a single next, then it won’t be included (“Anomaly” by Paper Crows fell foul of this rule for example). The only other arbitrary rule we have implemented is, one song per artist.

With that bit of admin out of the way, here are the songs we ranked from 20 – 16. Enjoy.


#20 Gems – “Medusa UN₡U₮”

We were originally going to put Gems’ “Medusa” here, but then, just a few days ago, they went and posted an uncut version of the track with an additional couple of minutes opening the track. Additional and different. The breathlessness is still there, the light as a feather monochrome beauty is still there but now the whole thing begins with something a bit more down to earth, a bit more base in tone. It’s still sparse but it doesn’t float, it is tethered to the ground, desperate to break free. These opening two minutes are like a walk through a long corridor in a stately home. Polished black and white tiles lead us to a great atrium where “Medusa” takes flight to the open sky above. It’s just wonderful.



#19 John Grant – “GMF”

He is the greatest motherfucker that we’re ever gonna meet (well, we hope to meet at least, it’s not happened yet) and on “GMF”, John Grant has no problem telling us. On an album that’s about as open and honest as it can get, “GMF” is one of many gorgeous and glorious highpoints. Introspective, self-depreciating, witty, angry, defiant, bombastic, broken, it runs a gamut of emotions while simultaneously sounding like one of the most sublime pieces of music around. The melody whispers and swirls like a solo waltz in the midst of shrapnel from a shattered and exploded relationship. Detritus lies all around, a memory here, a keepsake there, a heart still and cold discarded forlornly to one side as John stoically rises and falls through it all, bloodied but unbowed.



#18 Mononoke – “Alice”

Who Mononoke actually is, may remain a mystery for the time being but there’s nothing secretive about how sublime her debut track, “Alice” is. It’s a single tear of exquisite emotion with simple and stark chords alternating with finger clicks as the vocals caress the memories of a life that never was. It’s a beautifully haunting ballad that uses the imagery of Alice In Wonderland as a metaphor for something altogether more heart wrenching and bewitchingly beautiful.



#17 Mega Emotion – “Brains”

With their debut track, Mega Emotion announced themselves to the world with big seventies pop guitars and neo-disco basslines, brash, angular riffage and dark electro flashes. “Brains” is hyper addictive and bold, raw and powerful. The soft, cool (as the other side of the pillow) female vocals are superbly juxtaposed with the frenetic, non-stop energy of the track, and while you can’t get it out of your head, you still feel like it’s going to destroy you with its massive hooks and chaotically brilliant sound.



#16 Lorde – “Royals”

We came very late to the Lorde party this year, having somehow managed to not hear a damn thing by her until deep into autumn. We’d wondered what all the fuss was about and then, on hearing “Royals”, we got it. There have, evidently, been many arguments and discussions about her stance within the song (aspiration, envy, apathy etc) but all that is secondary to the quality of the music itself. For regardless of what else it may or may not be, or what people want it to be, it is a fantastic piece of pop. Lorde’s rich, soulful vocal resonates against the sparse beat and barely there tune. It’s bold and confident, yet restrained and understated. In fact, perfectly, it is the complete opposite of the brash in your face bombardment of the bling fuelled homogenised pop she is discussing in the song, and better than anything else that has come from those hit factories all year.



So that concludes the second part of our countdown, come back tomorrow for part three and the tracks we ranked 15 – 11.

2014 Preview – Listen Out For – The Full List, and a little extra…

7 Dec

2014 Previews The Full List

So, after a week and a half and 15 individual posts, our countdown of artists we think you should Listen Out For in 2014 is complete. Before we crack on (next week) with our end of year lists, for those amongst you who are lazy/busy/just like things all in one place (delete as applicable), we have collated the full selection of artists below with a handy soundcloud playlist of all 15 for your enjoyment. Should you wish to read more about each, just click on their name to see the full article.

AND, as if that wasn’t enough, we even have a little bonus below the playlist of the acts who almost made the 15 but who we felt were too good to leave off entirely. Some honourable mentions if you will.

#15 – Mega Emotion

”Full of big brash sounds, riffage and booming beats it also features soothing vocals and retro-sensibilities. It’s raw and powerful but calm and quiet too, like a circus muscle man cuddling a poodle or something.”

#14 – Mononoke

”What we do know is that she is blessed with quite a voice and, judging by her debut track “Alice”, song writing talent. With her tragically beautiful lament to a little girl trapped in a grown up world, a life of lost love, apathy and melancholy, she has set the bar very high.”

#13 – Port Isla

“As well as being super talented, they are the kind of lovely people that you just want to do well. They make such enthusiastic and warm music that you can’t help but like them.”

#12 – NONONO

”“Pumpin Blood” is the track that has broken out everywhere, with its ‘gets under your skin’ whistle. You may not know it, but you would probably recognise it. Big and brash, vibrant and frenetic, it’s the seven dwarves whistling while they work having dropped some acid and taken speed.”

#11 – Fractures

”…the gorgeous dreamy electro sounds of “Twisted”, complete with soft, soulful falsetto vocals that would stop a rhino’s heart, and the evocative crescendos of atmospheric folksiness on “Embers” were soon joined by the fabulous “Cadence” and “Tizer”.”

#10 – Embers

”They played two sets at The Great Escape, one in a grand high-ceilinged venue that allowed their music to spread and soar, the other in the cramped space of the Mesmerist pub where their sound exploded out at the audience, pummelling them with intensity and energy as veins bulged and sinews strained. It was one of the most intense, in your face performances we saw all year and we loved it.”

#9 –

”She is an artist that creates genuine excitement and a buzz of anticipation whenever she is about to perform. She even had the audacity to upstage the headlining AlunaGeorge on her recent UK tour and won many more fans in so doing.”

#8 – Pale

”It’s synth pop but ice cold, too cold even for Van Damme as it slides along stealthily like a glacier, taking you in its cool hand off to a world of desolate beauty. A world where the stark surroundings, the bleakness and desolation carry a majestic splendour, it’s not a world of disrepair but one that has been lovingly tended and cultured.”

#7 – Pawws

”Our love for the music of Pawws was immediate and full on, an infatuation. Her music is instantly accessible and enjoyable with influences from the likes of Robyn, Annie and Madonna and vocals that are beautifully sweet and heartfelt. She can do big vibrant rainbows of sound, all danceable and bright and she can do genteel and calm as well.”

#6 – Gems

”The vocals are sweet and breathless, a whispered caress on a smooth gossamer breeze of synths and electronic beats. Weightless and elegant, like moments of purity handed down from above, unsullied and unspoiled for us to enjoy and bathe in their beauty.”

#5 – Iyes

”They make pop music, but it’s not homogenised pre-packaged pop, it’s edgy and different but with enough accessibility to transcend the blogosphere and break the mainstream consciousness. Like Chvrches but without as many 80’s reference points and fewer lasers.”

#4 – Lyla Foy

”The songs are reflective and the arrangements offer an intimacy to the listener, a closeness brought from the instrumentation, the emotion and purity of the music and lyrics. It’s delicate, like the frayed edges of a heart whose thread could be pulled at any moment, and it’s utterly gorgeous.”

#3 – Avec Sans

”What they do so well, and what we absolutely adore, is make fantastically upbeat and danceable tunes. Electro sparkles and beats flash and pulse like a grand firework display against a night sky of synths and melody. Choruses are made to be sung along to while your feet tap and shuffle, heads nod, arms twist and bodies convulse in rhythmical movement; sprung into life by the infectious and compelling sounds.”

#2 – Empress Of

”Her music is addictive and tingle making, high art meets pop accessibility in the most gorgeous manner. Seductive tones, swirling melodies that draw you in and buffet you gently along as the beats take synths by the hand and swoon and sway along like cavorting partners, clinging to each other in the low light of a slow dance.”

#1 – Sivu

”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.”


Honourable Mentions…

Curxes

Curxes

If you’re wondering what that massive kaboom sound was just then, it was your senses under attack and your brain screaming out for more. Portsmouth/Brighton pair Curxes make blitz-pop and there’s no escape from its aural magnificence and energy. Last year they were one of the most blogged about artists in the UK (despite having no PR or representation) and while 2013 has been comparatively quiet, the new songs they played for us at Norwich Sound and Vision in October are sounding amazing and could take them to a whole new level in 2014.


Strangers

Strangers London Lights

We’ve been championing the case for this London trio for some time now and with their debut EP on the way, and a follow up scheduled for the new year it could well be that the breakthrough they’ve threatened for so long could be about to happen. Their dark hued electro pop is common cold level catchy but immensely enjoyable and danceable. And while you can get your groove on whilst sneezing your face inside out, we wouldn’t recommend it. Get down to some Strangers instead, it’s much more fun.


Jack Robert Hardman

jack_robert_hardman

Our main man Jack. As our ‘H’ artist we have been following the fortunes of Mr Hardman for a while now and we feel that bigger and better things are just around the corner. His debut album made our end of year list in 2012 and while this year has been more about remixing and a charming little video (below), 2014 should be all about JRH. There’s a new EP on the way, with guest vocalists and artists a-go-go and judging by the unfinished demos we heard a couple of months back, it’s going to be a beauty.


Abi Wade

Abi Wade

One woman, one cello, two foot pedals and an array of sound, melody, rhythms and innovation. Yes, she is a pair of cymbals between her knees away from full-on-market-square-one-man-band-status, but while that shark remains unjumped she is an incredible live performer and musician. She’s got the songs to back it up as well, beautiful and soothing but also full of drama and emotion when they need to be. She’s been writing recently so hopefully that means an album could be on the way in 2014.


Leon Else

Leon Else

Be it fantastical and mystical or very much down to earth and even carnal, Leon Else can and will deliver a tune and half with the deep but light rumbling vocal at its heart. He sees the world slightly differently from most of us but that just makes his music all the more interesting and captivating. With radio play from the likes of Radio 1 and Amazing Radio already under his belt, 2014 could well see his proclamation that the future is


Laura Welsh

Laura Welsh

Laura’s sophisticated, R&B infused pop has passed through our inbox on the odd occasion over the last few months and while we always very much enjoyed it, other commitments meant we never quite got round to writing about it (despite intending to). On seeing her supporting London Grammar recently, we were instantly filled with regret that said posts never made it out of our heads and onto the page. She was fantastic. Big danceable sounds were offset with a deceptively big and powerful vocal and softer, gentler moments were treated with care and affection. 2014 should be a big one for Laura and we won’t be making the mistake of not writing about her again, trust us.