Tag Archives: Of Monsters and Men

2012 Review – The Lists

17 Dec

2012 Review - The Lists

Last week we posted a series of lists that counted down our favourite tracks, EPs and albums of 2012. Don’t worry if you don’t fancy clicking back and looking for them all, we’ve posted all of them below with links to the full write-ups for your convenience.

Top 20 Tracks of 2012

20. Lovepark – “How Do I See?”
19. Dare Dukes – “Meet You On The Bus”
18. Eye Emma Jedi – “Sin”
17. Wall – “Magazine”
16. MS MR – “Hurricane”
15. She Makes War – “Minefields” (Alphabet Bands session)
14. Seasfire – “We Will Wake”
13. Of Monsters And Men – “Little Talks”
12. Public Service Broadcasting – “Waltz For George”
11. Superhumanoids – “Geri”
10. Arrange – “Caves”
9. Rhye – “The Fall”
8. Olympians – “It Was Words That Sunk Our Ship”
7. Vuvuvultures – “Ctrl Alt Mexicans”
6. Milly Hirst – “Rose”
5. Haim – “Don’t Save Me”
4. Nikki & the Dove – “Somebody”
3. 2forJoy – “Michaela”
2. Embers – “Hollow Cage (live performance)”
1. Spring Offensive – “Not Drowning But Waving”


Top 10 EPs of 2012

10. Haim – Forever
9. San Zhi – Ice Light
8. Alice Jemima – All The Boyfriends
7. MS MR – Candy Bar Creep Show
6. Ricky Eat Acid & Arrange – sketches
5. Milly Hirst – Milly Hirst
4. Paper Crows – Grey Skies
3. Solange – True
2. Vuvuvultures – VVV
1. Public Service Broadcasting – The War Room


Top 15 Albums of 2012

Numbers 15 – 11
15. Professor Penguin – Planes
14. Save The Clocktower – Through The Glass
13. Jack Robert Hardman – Jack Robert Hardman
12. The Penelopes – Never Live Another Yesterday
11. Adrian Younge – Something About April

Numbers 10 – 6
10. Conveyor – Conveyor
9. She Makes War – Little Battles
8. 2:54 – 2:54
7. Toy – Toy
6. Roman Ruins – Homebuilding

Numbers 5 – 1
5. Sameblod – Braided Memos
4. Nikki & the Dove – Instinct
3. Jessie Ware – Devotion
=1. Of Monsters And Men – My Head Is An Animal
=1. Arrange – New Memory



2012 Albums of the Year: Part Three #5 – #1

15 Dec

2012 Albums of the Year 5 to 1

Here we are then with the final part of our albums of the year countdown. We’ve already taken a look at the records we ranked from 15 – 6 and today we reveal who made it into the Top 5 and more importantly who it is who has taken the coveted number one spot.

Before we get to that, here are a few artists and albums who were just outside the Top 15 but still worthy of a mention.

Citizens! – Here We Are
Chairlift – Something
Chad Valley – Young Hunger
Tame Impala – Lonerism
Sharon Van Etten – Tramp

And a reminder of who has featured on the list so far.

Numbers 15 – 11
15. Professor Penguin – Planes
14. Save The Clocktower – Through The Glass
13. Jack Robert Hardman – Jack Robert Hardman
12. The Penelopes – Never Live Another Yesterday
11. Adrian Younge – Something About April

Numbers 10 – 6
10. Conveyor – Conveyor
9. She Makes War – Little Battles
8. 2:54 – 2:54
7. Toy – Toy
6. Roman Ruins – Homebuilding

On to the Top 5 but before we move on, a quick confession. We have got a joint number one at the top of the list. The two albums we have chosen have affected us in extremely disparate ways over the months and try as we might, we couldn’t say we loved one more than the other. One is a sing-along indie gem, the other a heartbreaking piece of ambiance and emotion. You’ll see what we mean when you get there.

5. Sameblod – Braided Memos

sameblod_braidedmemos

Asked to describe their sound, Frederick Rundqvist and Mikael Mattisson classified it as ”hopeful-electronic-mellow-pop with a lot of different influences”, they pretty much nailed it. The album is full of confidence, of sanguinity, even in its darker moments there is an underlying sense of hope. Like the pea beneath the mattress of synthesiser sounds upon mattress after mattress of synthesiser sounds, try as you like, you will still be able to feel it there. “UR Road”, for example, is carefree, joyously whistling away, happy and content with life. It’s flamboyant, animated and uplifting with a smile that is infectious. Similarly, “Always”, which follows it, is the bright sun shining on young, happy-go-lucky people laughing and joking as they travel and jape together across European fields, mountain paths, beaches. All those places beautiful people go in music videos. Not all the tracks are as overtly uplifting but there is a wistful tenderness to almost all, “The Hardest Choice”, which features fellow Swede and purveyor of delightfully warm dream-pop in his own right, Summer Heart, begins and ends with birdsong. Rather than sounding twee, it completely fits the summery feel and transports you to the countryside.


Buy it from: Amazon

4. Niki & the Dove – Instinct

Niki_And_The_Dove_Instinct

It was a long time coming and almost all of the songs had been given away for free in one form or another before it even came out, but Instinct was an absolutely amazing piece of pop music. On their debut, Malin Dahlstrom and Gustaf Karlof and showed that pop can be dark and light, pop can exist and flourish in the corner of your mind, probing and stimulating, and pop can still quicken your heart without the need to mainline sugar first. Tune follows big tune as they take the best elements of pop’s history and explode them across the dancefloor. The whole thing is undeniably infectious and in places utterly discolicious. “DJ, Ease My Mind” may start slowly but is soon a mass of compulsive percussion and hands in the air euphoria while “Somebody” makes you wonder what might have been if Prince still wrote like he did in his pomp. Instinct is just an utter pop joy.


Buy it from: Amazon

3. Jessie Ware – Devotion

Jessie Ware Devotion

Blessed with a velvet soft voice that just melts your heart, Jessie Ware broke out big style in 2012 with people falling over themselves to praise her, including a Mercury nomination, and with good reason. We were buying whatever she was selling which was exquisitely executed, soft and emotional pop music laced with R’n’B, electronics and soulful vocals. Devotion is a classy affair reminiscent of the sultry elegance of Sadé or the emotion of Whitney. “Running” is a glorious account of falling in love again while “Night Light” offers moments of simmering, dramatic intensity. Gentle melodies drip over subtle beats; down-tempo in style it may be but it still excites and moves the listener.


Buy it from: iTunes

=1. Of Monsters And Men – My Head Is An Animal

Of Monsters And Men>

From the moment we first heard “Little Talks” we knew there was something special about Of Monsters And Men. A spectacular show at London’s Lexington confirmed it and when we finally got hold of an import copy of My Head Is An Animal it didn’t leave the car stereo for months. It’s an album of rich indie-folk sounds overflowing with charm and whimsy. Largely fantastical in content, the listener is drawn in by its storybook feel. The songs evoke childhood memories, of fairytales, extraordinary adventures across Tolkien-esque landscapes and mythical beasts. All of which is presented by big, full sounds enriched by brass and accordion.

They don’t only do imagination and wonder though; emotion and human nature also play their part. In “Love Love Love” for example which adds fragility and a sense of susceptibility by eschewing percussion. Once you realise the drums are missing, the effect is disarming and the song immediately feels exposed and vulnerable. It is a lovely contrast to the strong and confident early sounds of the album, “Dirt Paws”, “Mountain Sound” and “Little Talks” are bold tales, laden with hey’s and la la la’s. Ready made for an audience to latch on to and sing along with, even if they have never heard the songs before.


Buy it from: Amazon

=1. Arrange – New Memory

arrange_New Memory

It’s hard to believe that Malcolm Lacey is only 19, such is the maturity and emotional depth of New Memory. He’s prolific as well; this was his seventh release as Arrange in two years. Such rapid productivity has not diminished the quality of his output and New Memory is an evocative and heart wrenching piece of haunting ambient sounds and whisper light vocals. Unlike so many artists who use music to convey tales of love won, lost and won again, Lacey’s lyrics recount an abusive childhood. Musically it plays like smoke on the wind, swirling gently it is poignant and ethereal. Lyrically there is such depth of emotion; it is hard not to shed a tear. Listening to “Where I Go At Night” in particular is like having your heart shattered into tiny pieces as he sings to his mother “I’ve been searching for years, and all I’ve got to hear you say is how you hurt so much, and that you blame yourself, but I hurt some too, and I know that you need help. If I could take it all, if I could lift your burden off of you, I would, if I could”. Everything about this record is achingly beautiful; ignore the lyrics and you have some of the most wondrous floating sounds to enjoy, listen to the very real pain in Lacey’s words and you have the most emotionally charged and moving piece of music you will hear in a long long time.


Buy it from: Arrange

So there you have it, our albums of the year list for 2012. It was another great year for music and choosing which albums we wanted to include was surprisingly difficult. Now it’s your turn, which albums did you love this year and what did you think of our list? Over to you.

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.

Competition: Win a signed Of Monsters and Men album

2 Oct

It’s competition time at Alphabet Bands, and its been so long since we offered you any goodies for free we thought we’d break out something pretty cool.

The Of Monsters And Men debut album is unquestionably one of our favourites of the year and for one lucky reader, we have a free copy of the album on CD, with an inlay signed by the band.

To be in with a chance of winning this fabulous prize, just answer this simple question:

Which country do Of Monsters And Men come from?

Send your answer to alphabetbands@gmail.com with the subject line Of Monsters And Men Competition.

The competition closes at 23:59 GMT, Tuesday 9 October. The winner will be drawn at random and announced here on 11 October and notified by email.

One entry only per person allowed. Good luck!

UPDATE: The correct answer was Iceland

Congratulations to Andrew Bowen who wins the signed CD.

Keep your eyes open for more contests in the future!

In Review: Of Monsters and Men – My Head Is An Animal

24 Sep

It’s always a wonderful feeling when you find music that you enjoy so much, that you immediately go on the hunt for more from the same artist. That was exactly where we found ourselves a few months ago when, whilst contributing to another website, we heard “Little Talks”. The lead single from Iceland’s Of Monsters and Men, along with its spectacular video was already attracting some serious attention in the States and the band was selling out venues wherever they went.

One such venue was The Lexington in London where a packed crowd of curious music lovers were swept away on a wondrous journey. A crowd that, for the most part, was not familiar with much more than the aforementioned “Little Talks” yet by the end of the show, felt like they knew each song intimately. It is this immediacy and accessibility of their music that serves the debut album so well, that allows the audience to connect with it so readily.

Only released in the UK within the last month, My Head Is An Animal was originally released in Iceland in 2011 and in the US and other countries earlier this year. What the rest of the world have been able to enjoy for so long and that we are just now catching up with, is an album of rich indie-folk sounds overflowing with charm and whimsy. Largely fantastical in content, the listener is drawn in by its storybook feel. The songs evoke childhood memories, of fairytales, extraordinary adventures across Tolkien-esque landscapes and mythical beasts. All of which is presented by big, full sounds enriched by brass and accordion.

They don’t only do imagination and wonder though; emotion and human nature also play their part. In “Love Love Love” for example which adds fragility and a sense of susceptibility by eschewing percussion. Once you realise the drums are missing, the effect is disarming and the song immediately feels exposed and vulnerable. It is a lovely contrast to the strong and confident early sounds of the album, “Dirt Paws”, “Mountain Sound” and “Little Talks” are bold tales, laden with hey’s and la la la’s. Ready made for an audience to latch on to and sing along with, even if they have never heard the songs before. It’s magnificent and quite probably our favourite album of the year so far. Nothing has even come close to the amount of airtime this has received (thanks to the import copy we picked up some months ago) and it is never far from the stereo. Go get it, you won’t be disappointed.



My Head Is An Animal is out now and can be bought directly from the band. Look out for our competition later this week for your chance to win a signed CD of the album.