Tag Archives: Milly Hirst

Blogathon: Wooden Arms – “December” (Teaser)

31 Jan

Wooden Arms December

Ok, this is probably a bit of a cheat as we can’t actually share with you the entirety of the song we’ve just been listening to, but Norwich’s Wooden Arms make such damn gorgeous music we wanted to get you all excited in anticipate of their forthcoming release.

Following up their sublime eponymous EP was always going to be tricky but the guys and gals have cracked the ice at the top of the well and dipped down into the freezing water once more, aptly with a track called “December”. We can share a quick teaser of “December” below and the final, mastered version will be released on 13 February. We’ve heard the full single and can honestly say it is probably our favourite of their songs so far.

It ebbs and flows, picks up pace with a choir of strings soaring to the sky before slowing and resting. Delicate male/female vocals perch with precision above the most gliding of melodies before rising up once more. If you can imagine Polaroid 85 without the drum and bass influence you are on your way.

It’s the sort of sound you want in your ears as you walk across a snow covered field, the deep cold crunching under your feet and that wintery smell of burning in your nose.

We do only have a teaser to share right now, but you can pre-order “Tide” / “December” here and get an immediate download of “December”, so that’s got to be worth doing.

Wooden Arms also have a few gigs coming up to support the release of the Double A side single, here are some details.

13 February: Norwich
14 February: Cambridge
15 February: London

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Listen: Milly Hirst – “Heptonstall Old Church”

12 Nov

Milly Hirst Heptonstall Old Church

We’ve spoken before about the divine sounds of Milly Hirst and the bewitchingly delicate songs she sings. Such is the level of elegant beauty that she exudes, it’s worth talking about her some more, especially as she recently released a new song, “Heptonsall Old Church” which is as heavenly and soothing as anything she has done so far.

Based on the Ted Hughes poem of the same name, “Heptonstall…” is like a countryside walk at dusk. It’s as tranquil and beautiful as dwindling light flickering amongst the woodland while the noise of the city is a distant, forgotten sensation replaced instead with gentle guitar picks, graceful strings and backing vocals (courtesy of Jessica Wilson). Serenity abounds as the majestic sights of rolling fields and farmland unfurls before you, a line of trees on the horizon silhouetted by the faint amber glow of the sunset behind (making the artwork choice particularly apt). A warm fire and steaming mugs of tea or chocolate await but, like when listening to Milly sing, you can’t leave; you must stay and take in the beauty of the view one more time.

She remains the only person we have ever seen literally silence a room when singing, to hold a man so drunk he can’t stand in raptures as he listens, understandably muted by the mesmerising beauty of the sounds filling the room. Just like everyone else who hears her play then.

”Heptonstall Old Church” is available now on a pay what you like basis from Milly’s bandcamp page.

Stalk Milly Hirst: Bandcamp / Facebook / Twitter

In Session: Milly Hirst – “Book Or A Film”

7 Mar

Milly Hirst

Milly Hirst is a singer songwriter of prodigious talent and we are extremely excited to share something very special with you today. Blessed with a voice that could quieten the rowdiest of rooms and probably even soothe the most savage of beasts, Milly sings with delicate beauty and heartfelt emotion. Put simply, she is a bewitching artist and we love to sit back, close our eyes and just listen to her sing.

As you can imagine then, we were more than a little chuffed when she agreed to film a session for us. Watch the video below (which has once again been put together for us by the lovely folks at Sessions Productions), take a listen, fall in love, We have. Some of you lucky folk will also have the chance to see Milly enthral some rooms in person and she begins a mini-tour with label mates, Heart Of A Dog. Tour details are below, but for now sit back and enjoy this divine performance of “Book Or A Film” by Milly Hirst.

“Book Or A Film” features on Milly’s EP, Equator, which was recorded live and can be bought here. You can also buy the Milly Hirst EP, (review here) which was released by Bare Feet Records and is available on her Bandcamp page.

Milly Hirst and Heart Of A Dog Tour Dates – March 2013
Thu 7th / Cafe ORT / Birmingham – details
Sat 9th / The Poly / Falmouth – details
Sun 10th / Fusion Arts Centre / Oxford – details
Mon 11th / The Latest / Brighton – details
Tue 12th / The Bicycle Shop / Norwich – details
Thu 14th / Number 16 / Ipswich – details
Sat 16th / The Sebright / London – details

Stalk Milly Hirst: Bandcamp / Facebook / Twitter

2012 EPs of the Year

11 Dec

2012 EPs of the Year

Yesterday we started the big 2012 review-a-thon with a look at our 20 favourite tracks of the year, and if you thought that was an eclectic bunch of unexpected delights, wait until you see the album list later in the week!

For now though, enjoy this list of our favourite EPs from the last 12 months. You may or not agree, but here at Alphabet Bands HQ we feel that 2012 was particularly strong for EPs with a number of new and established artists choosing to release some amazing music this way rather than as part of a full album. It’s not stopped yet either, just this week the likes of Katy B and Bastille have released new EPs to rave reviews, so we’ll be checking those out in due course.

Quite a few of our choices have been featured on the site in one form or another recently so they may not surprise you as much as the tracks list, but that doesn’t mean they are not great EPs, far from it, each of them are excellent. It might be worth noting at this time that no science was harmed in the creation of this list, it is all opinion based on nothing more on how much we enjoyed the music.

10. Haim – Forever


Like an awful lot of the blogging world, we love Haim, and with good reason. They make us want to dance, and we never dance! Their fusion of classic rock, modern R’n’B and pop is infectious and prompts uncontrollable bouts of 80’s style side-to-side dance shuffling. The Forever EP is a blast of smilerific tuneage, all funky and fun.

Buy it from: Amazon

9. San Zhi – Ice Light

San Zhi

Ice is not just limited to the title of this debut EP from boy/girl duo, San Zhi. The four tracks, two original and two amazing covers, are cooler than the arctic wastelands. Ice Light is all faraway, wistful vocals and dreamy, hazy melodies. It may be seen as a cop out, choosing an EP that only actually contains two original songs, but their minimalist covers of dance classic, “Show Me Love” and Lauryn Hill’s crestfallen lament to love, “Ex-Factor” are stunning and worthy of recognition on their own.

Buy it from: San Zhi or on ltd 10” vinyl from Rough Trade

8. Alice Jemima – All The Boyfriends

Alice Jemima

All The Boyfriends is an EP of charm, grace and cuteness in abundance. Each of the four songs are enchanting, embracing a simple but effective elegance that is easy to fall for. She is quite the rare talent, singing with a sweetness and sincerity that is utterly bewitching and managing to convey a youthful innocence and optimism in her gentle pop music yet without any feeling of naiveté.

Buy it from: Amazon or on CD directly from Alice.

7. MS MR – Candy Bar Creep Show

MS MR Candy Bar Creep Show

In Candy Bar Creep Show, MS MR carry us off to a macabre world of glitchy electronics, incessant rhythms, swirling strings and deliciously gloomy vocal harmonies. Yet despite the sometimes ghoulish and sinister subject matter, this is not an EP of sparse, plodding despair. Rather it is a vibrant, energetic concoction of dark and light that can be sung along with just as readily as it can be listened to by the light of a single candle. Tracks are vast, voluminous affairs, with layer upon layer of sound crafting aches, pains and heartbreak within their ample arrangements.

Buy it from: Amazon

6. Ricky Eat Acid & Arrange – sketches


Originally intended as an album, the collaboration on sketches between Sam Ray (Ricky Eat Acid) and Malcolm Lacey (Arrange) has given us four tracks of ambient melancholy are simply breathtaking.

Lacey’s otherworldly vocals skilfully combine with the often glacial synths and percussion that somehow manages to be both fragile and sharp at once. The result is an EP that is consistently wonderful, haunting at times, but always beautiful. If you ever needed an antidote to the hustle and bustle of everyday life, this is it. It’s ‘close your eyes and let the sounds take you places’ music. Music you don’t just listen to but experience, let it float around you like a dream and carry you off into your imagination, you may never want to come back.

Buy it from: Bandcamp for as little or as much as you like.

5. Milly Hirst – Milly Hirst

milly hirst ep

Blessed with a voice that is rich and emotive, Milly Hirst has the capacity to melt hearts with her beguiling folk songs. The minimalist nature of the arrangements belies their complex musical dexterity, complementing the tone and content of each song. On “Tides” the backing vocals murmur and hum like the sea caressing the beach and gently fading away once more. Each track has been considered, crafted with real care and attention so each brush on a drum, pluck of guitar string or draw of bow on violin is done so to add meaning and emotion.

Buy it from: Milly Hirst

4. Paper Crows – Grey Skies

Paper Crows EP

The music of this London based duo is dark and ominous, Choruses are immense affairs, cathedral like in their grandiose, gothic sensibilities. The haunting vocals of Emma Panas intertwine and merge with the deeper new-romantic styling’s of Duncan McDougall to create vast, tumultuous soundscapes.

Grey Skies captures the fantastical fragility of Kate Bush and Bjork, the wit and eloquence of Tori Amos, the dense layers of Massive Attack and particularly the sense of grand occasion so embraced by Hurts and Florence. All of which is perfectly blended with precision electronics, sharp beats and the overwhelming feeling that this is pop music at its brooding best.

Buy it from: Paper Crows, for free!

3. Solange – True


It only came out a couple of weeks ago but the debut EP from soon-to-be-huge Solange is fantastic. Her symbiotic relationship with the exceptionally talented Dev Hynes (who, lest we forget, came within a torn leather jacket sleeve of hitting top spot on our album list last year) has brought about seven tracks that take his seedy, low-fi Blood Orange sounds and build them up with great pop and R’n’B sounds. There are elements of Madonna in her 80’s pomp seep through from Solange’s dextrous vocals, along with Aaliyah and even Mariah Carey. The tracks saunter along, soft and soulful yet still with enough grooveabiilty to make you want to sway, bop and sing along. It’s quite brilliant.

Buy it from: iTunes

2. Vuvuvultures – VVV


Suffering from acute Schizophrenia, “Ctrl Alt Mexicans” sets the tone for the multi-stylistic VVVEP from the amazing Vuvuvulturesperfectly. Guitars fuzz, wail and scuttle about while the beat pounds, pounds, pounds relentlessly underneath and the bassline growls. It has one of the most compulsive pop hooks we’ve heard this year and kicks things off brilliantly. The schizophrenic feeling remains constant and contradiction is once again embraced with “Pills Week”, a hyperactive, psychotic synth heavy, indie anthem and closer “I’ll Cut You”, a slow burning, grinding howl of a song. In just four songs VVV manages to cram in more ideas and styles than most full lengths releases these days.

Buy it from: Vuvuvultures

1. Public Service Broadcasting – The War Room

Public Service Broadcasting

We said at the time of its release that The War Room by Public Service Broadcasting could well end up atop our EP of the year list, and so it has.

Aside from the fantastic music on show, what really sets The War Room apart from other releases is the strength and depth of its narrative and the range of emotions it manages to convey. It is stoic, defiant, optimistic, euphoric, heartbreaking and poignant. The EP tells the full story of war, never losing sight of its true horror and the price that must be paid, even when in its most upbeat and danceable moments. It is a complete and comprehensive piece of work that stands shoulder to shoulder with the best albums of the year, let alone other EPs.

Buy it from: Public Service Broadcasting or on vinyl from Rough Trade

So that’s the EPs of the year, well done to Public Service Broadcasting for topping the list. Now it is your turn, what were your favourites?

2012 Tracks of the Year

10 Dec

2012 Tracks of the Year

Over the last three weeks we had a look ahead at 15 artists we recommend you Listen Out For in 2013. This week it is time to look back a bit as 2012 fast draws to a close. Over the next few days we will countdown our EPs and Albums of the year but today we start with our 20 favourite tracks.

We have purposefully used quite a loose definition of ‘tracks’. We are not looking at singles only but tracks that were released in one capacity or another over the last 12 months. These are the tracks that stood out and stayed with us across the year, we hope you like them and hopefully even find some you hadn’t heard before.

20. Lovepark – “How Do I See?”
The debut release from Brighton based Lovepark was a perfect track for late summer evening listening, and despite the onset of winter, it still sounds as lovely as ever. The warm, dreamy sounds gently nudge and probe into your subconscious, simultaneously relaxing you while stirring something from within. Not bad for four skater boys who met on the ramps of Burgess Hill.

19. Dare Dukes – “Meet You On The Bus”
Dare Dukes is blessed with the ability to perfectly encapsulate the minutiae of everyday life in the most charming and endearing manner. Of “Meet You On The Bus” he said, “I was trying to capture the great American leaving-on-a-jet-plane narrative the comes up again and again in popular music, and I was trying to run it through the brains of modern-day Romeos and Juliettes looking for escape from all the things that Romeos and Juliettes get fed up with”. Which is a good thing, because it is exactly what he achieved in such a sweet and catchy way.

18. Eye Emma Jedi – “Sin”
There is something slightly antipodean about the opening guitar lines of “Sin” which we just love and the rest of the track is damn fine too. It’s frenetic indie-pop a-go-go with full on festival bounceability that blasts along at breakneck speed revving up the guitars as it goes. Brilliant stuff from a brilliantly named band.

17. Wall – “Magazine”
Utterly enchanting, Wall’s voice is as soft and refreshing as the cool side of the pillow and as fragile as crystal, perched delicately and perfectly atop her sparse, muted soundscapes. It’s no wonder her debut single, “Magazine” was snapped up for release by the label arm of Black Cab Sessions in double quick time.

16. MS MR – “Hurricane”
Introspective without wallowing in self-pity or melodrama, “Hurricane” is a fantastic twist on the classic pop of yesteryear. It deals with the emotion of a breaking or broken relationship but via self-analysis rather than by proclaiming remorse and undying love for the other party. The production too is stunning, it’s about as clean as we have heard all year and is the kind that could make almost any system sound amazing.

15. She Makes War – “Minefields” (Alphabet Bands session)
A little bit of a cheat we admit, but as much as we love the original version of “Minefields”, this stripped back acoustic version that She Makes War recorded for us earlier in the year is just stunning. It is just gorgeous and we fell more than a little bit in love with it, it being our first ever session just made it even more special.

14. Seasfire – “We Will Wake”
We weren’t the only people to love “We Will Wake”. It didn’t take long for it to burn up the Hype Machine chart and hit the top spot. It takes their trademark haunting melodies and glitchy sounds and adds in a huge, anthemic Hurts-style pop hook that just builds and builds. The gentle darkness that has been ever present in their sound thus far has been cracked by a ray of light pop breaking through, it sounds fantastic.

13. Of Monsters And Men – “Little Talks”
“Little Talks” is a great pop song, when you first hear it you have to sit up and take notice. We love the boy/girl duet, and it’s so vibrant and colourful. This was the first track we heard from Of Monsters And Men and it made us stop what we were doing and go and find everything else we could of theirs and ultimately resulted in their album being imported from Iceland.

12. Public Service Broadcasting – “Waltz For George”
“Waltz For George” consistently knocks us sideways with its haunting and harrowing elegance. Other tracks on The War Room may get more recognition and plaudits, but as great as they are, they lack the emotional resonance of “Waltz For George”, which highlights the realities of warfare and the price that must be paid even in victory.

11. Superhumanoids – “Geri”
“Geri” is one of those tracks that just goes round and round in your head on a never ending loop. It’s so damn catchy and infectious. The melody, the light electronica, the beat, the vocal counterpoint of the male and female duet (which gets us every time) is all rather special.

10. Arrange – “Caves”
Listening to “Caves” is akin to catching the faint scent of something from your past on the breeze as you stride along. Without realising why, memories and emotions have been stirred within you and you just have to stop for a moment to take it all in and compose yourself. The soft, haziness of Malcolm Lacey’s vocals waft around while ambient beats and electronics move deliberately below. It’s music for an early morning walk in the autumn, just as the sun rises and the dew drops glisten. Haunting and melodic it is absolutely beautiful.

9. Rhye – “The Fall”
“The Fall” is a velvet smooth recounting of a relationship that is crumbling and the ache to feel just one moment more of tenderness; “My love, make love to me one more time before you go away” is the lament. It is awash with a mid-life crisis feel, the element of looking across at grass that is greener and wondering how you ended up here, all delivered in a rich and beguiling package.

8. Olympians – “It Was Words That Sunk Our Ship”
Full of rousing harmonies and popping rhythms layered over intricate guitar and synth lines, “It Was Words That Sunk Our Ship” just edged out “The Dictionary” as our favourite Olympians track of the year. Arriving as part three of their acclaimed Book Club project “It Was Words” further illustrated the bands rapid growth and their ability to create intricate and intelligent sounds.

7. Vuvuvultures – “Ctrl Alt Mexicans”
Vibrant, fractious guitars jump over pulsating, relentless beats and skittering electronics. Named after one of the samples used within in, “Ctrl Alt Mexicans” is a fantastic track of pulsating and edgy darkness. It whips along at pace, taking you with it as it rocks out and jumps around.

6. Milly Hirst – “Rose”
Taken from Milly Hirst’s eponymous debut EP, “Rose” is just sublime, a track of real beauty. As delicate as its subject, wistful and heartfelt it leads you, floating to meet this Rose, to see her and understand her. Its porcelain fragility is divine and makes you want to just close your eyes and drift away on her voice.

5. Haim – “Don’t Save Me”
“Don’t Save Me” is so infectious that people could well die from it. Hear it and you want to dance, preferably in a not-quite-groovy-but-still-really-fun 80’s way, like Springsteen when he dances with Courtney Cox in the “Dancing In The Dark” video. It is just a great pop track that will have you up from your seat and grooving like a loon.

4. Niki & the Dove – “Somebody”

Speaking of great pop tracks, with “Somebody” Niki & the Dove has leant over and drawn from the well once reserved for Prince, and the result is an absolute gem. There is so much crammed into less than 3 minutes, it’s like they have taken the best elements of every great pop song of the last 30 years and crammed them together, taken a giant hit and blown out a perfect smoke ring of utter pop magnificence.

3. 2forJoy – “Michaela”
2forJoy’s Ruth Ivo has one of the most enchanting and heartbreaking voices we have heard in a long time. On “Michaela” it is soft and gentle, exciting but somehow distant; tinged with an overwhelming melancholy as she sings of a lost friend. Intermittent electronics and percussion build a perfectly brooding, wistful atmosphere for the vocals to melt into. It’s a wonderful piece of low-key, haunting pop music and one that we absolutely adore.

2. Embers – “Hollow Cage (live performance)”
In just the last couple of weeks, Manchester based Embers have exploded across the internet, taking no prisoners on a path of unrelenting critical acclaim. It is entirely justified as well as on “Hollow Cage” they build sound like a cinematic narrative. Layers are added and woven in as the song progresses and evolves. Recorded in a monastery, the acoustics help add to the scale of the sound, which seems to expand and contract at will. Vocals and strings escalate, rising up to the top of the vast ceilings and filling every nook and cranny above and crypt and cellar below. There is drama and intensity on a grand scale, emotional and honest. Had they released this just a month before, the Blog Sound of 2013 longlist would probably have looked a bit different.

1. Spring Offensive – “Not Drowning But Waving”
We said at the time of release that Spring Offensive’s epic “Not Drowning But Waving” could well end up as our track of the year, and so it has. Its anger, fear and guilt all flow like the tide that plays so central a role in the song’s narrative. From the understated tick-tocking of a clock at the start, through the soft remorseful recounting of the situation, the intense rousing worry of the denouement and onto the resigned coda of culpability and consequence; everything is exquisitely crafted and considered. “Not Drowning But Waving” is a stirring and emotional tidal wave that pulls at your heart and threatens to suffocate your soul. It is a magnificent track and one truly deserving of its place as our favourite of the year.