Tag Archives: Olympians

Tracks Of My Teens: #13 – Olympians

24 Sep

Tracks Of My Teens

Welcome one and all to the latest in our occasional series of psyche-diving and memory rummaging. The latest willing volunteer to join in the Tracks of my Teens fun is one of Norwich’s own Olympians (we still count him as Norwich’s own btw, even though he now technically resides in London) and arch drone-miester, Daniel J Harvey.

Olympians Dan

Super Furry Animals – “Hermann Loves Pauline”

I remember first seeing the Super Furry Animals on a Jools Holland special where he announced the hot new music happening – ‘Brit Beat’ (so close, poor Jools) and SFA were playing “If You Don’t Want Me To Destroy You”. I remember being so impressed with the song (and the length of the title) that I got up extra early the next day and promptly did nothing about it whatsoever. A year or so later however something clicked and I bought their next record, Radiator, from the Norwich HMV (there was only one back then), and it instantly made everything else seem really boring. I’d never really gotten into dance stuff, so this was the first time I’d really heard weird synth sounds and horrible techno squawking. Tiny. Mind. Blown. It’s all pretty amazing, but this song, about Albert Einstein’s parents, was my favourite at the time, from the spoken ranting in the verses (‘Marie Curie was Polish born but French bred’), to the robotic Beach Boys breakdown.


Spiritualized – “Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space”

This record came out when I was 14 years old and my main interest at the time was sitting cross-legged on my bedroom floor and pushing the headphones as close to my ears as possible. Sometimes whilst listening to music. I can’t even remember why I bought this record, although the ‘music as drugs maaan’ pill packaging might have been something to do with it. It’s quite difficult to describe how ridiculous it sounded to ears brought up on standard guitar music. It’s just one simple idea, but repeated whilst more and more things are piled on top. The whole record is crushingly tragic, and this appealed to me as an overtly feelings-based adolescent. Apparently this song was supposed to start with a sample of Elvis singing “Can’t Help Falling In Love With You” but the sample was denied. When it was reissued years later reinstating the sample was the only thing Jason Pierce could find at fault to change about the whole record. I can’t decide whether that makes the record more amazing or him more of a dickhead. Probably both.


The Flaming Lips – “Race For The Prize”

Like all total losers, I used to endless read and re-read all the information in CD liner notes, so I came to the Flaming Lips after realising they were produced by the chap that had produced Mercury Rev’s Deserters Songs the previous year (which was alright, but spoiled by a slightly cloying Americana-vibe and some unforgivable sax solos). At first I remember hating how cold and detached this record sounded, and how amateurish and clattery the drums sounded, but then it slowly won me over and remains one of my total favourites. This song is all about scientists and the sacrifices they make for the human race, still one of the most simultaneously pleasant and practical sentiments in a song ever. It was a close tie between this one and “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate”, but this one is much more positive and the other is about how everybody is slowly dying.



Olympians’ latest EP, Adventure Gun is out now (review here) and available to buy here.

You can catch them live over the coming weeks at the following venues:

28 September – Brixton Windmill (all-dayer)
12 October – Northampton Labour Club w / Gunning For Tamar
16 October – Open Norwich w / Focus & The Lost Levels
18 October – Fighting Cocks, Kingston w / More Than Conquerors
19 October – Barely Regal Stage at Swn Festival, Cardiff


Stalk Olympians: Website / Twitter / Facebook / Tumblr

Review: Olympians – Adventure Gun EP

29 Apr

Olympians Adventure Gun

Some people see the world differently, some float from day to day letting life happen around them while others grab life with two hands and make things happen to them. Others over analyse and worry, they fret about that which hasn’t happened but others can manage to avoid worry altogether, even when their world is crumbling around them. With their latest EP, Adventure Gun, Norwich’s own Olympians prove once again that which we always knew, they see life and they understand it.

Different forms of existence are analysed as mundane and futilely hopeful dreams (“Filling My Heart”) are juxtaposed with isolation and a reluctance to open your eyes to the world (“Mountains”). They capture the banality of life in a beautiful sonic collage of melody and psychedelic vibes.

Over the course of their successful and ingenious Book Club releases last year, these Olympians showed an increasing maturity and confidence in their music and writing. Each of their four releases surpassed its predecessor in scope and quality. This run could have been under threat with the news that their drummer was leaving at the end of last year, but rather than cower away, the guys took a new approach while recruiting for a replacement. They chose to record as they went, building layer upon layer and the result is a collection of expertly crafted and intricate songs. Not all of them are new, but those that have been revisited from before sound fresh and vibrant alongside their younger siblings.

While there has been a definite evolution in the writing and recording process, the distinctive Olympians sound remains infused within. Not least in the vocal arrangements which we love so much. Harmonies are built and entwined, the vocals sounding soft and warm, even when the lyrics are anything but. Only Olympians could make lines like “We sure did make a fucking mess”; “I work a horrible job every day and I believe/music is truth or things like that/what a stupid asshole”; ”Vomiting, I’m vomiting, vomiting over my head” and “You spend your whole life inside watching shit nature documentaries on TV” sound so endearing. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Adventure Gun is another example of Olympians growing maturity and confidence as both songwriters and musicians. By rights it should both continue their ascent into the public’s consciousness and should feature heavily in end of year lists across the blog world.

The ‘Adventure Gun’ EP is out now on Barely Regal Records and available digitally as well as on limited edition, handmade CD.


Stalk Olympians: Website / Twitter / Facebook / Tumblr

What’s In The Box? #1

6 Apr

Whats In The Box

Happy Saturday everyone and welcome to something a little bit different.

Like every other blog, we are inundated with emails from bands and PR companies on a daily basis, asking us to feature their music in some form or another. While this is great and we love hearing as much as we can of what comes in, we just don’t have enough time to feature everything. No matter how late we stay up writing (and believe us, it can get quite late).

We’ve been thinking for some time about how we can cover more of the music we like on a weekly basis and have finally settled on this, a weekly feature showcasing no more than ten tracks and/or videos that we have enjoyed in the past seven days. Most of it, but not all, will have come directly from the inbox and while we won’t be as verbose in our descriptions of each one, we figured some words were better than none. At least this way you get to hear them too right? And that’s the main thing.

So sit back, relax, get your ears ready and enjoy ten of the best as we rummage around and find out ‘What’s In The Box?’ for this week.


The Deer Tracks – “Lazarus”

Seeing as this is a new feature, we wanted to start with something pretty darn good and, thanks to Swedish duo The Deer Tracks, we think we have. No doubt we could make a joke or two about posting a track named after a guy who was raised from the dead less than a week after Easter, but we don’t have the time, there’s music to discuss.

“Lazarus” is a full of life (sorry) electro-pop song that has that distinctly Scandinavian feeling about it we have come to know and love from the likes of Nikki and the Dove, Lykke Li and others. It is both danceable and a tad melancholic at the same time, an understated banger perhaps. We’d certainly be inclined to get up and get down should it come on in a club and we happened to be there, despite never going to clubs…

Regardless, it’s a cracking tune and a great way to kick off the weekend, oh and it’s even a free download. We can’t say fairer than that.

The Deer Tracks new album, The Archer Trilogy Pt. 3 will be released in the UK on 27 May, via The Control Group.



No Joy – “Hare Tarot Lies”

This has had a lot of blog love in the last few days and with good reason. “Here Tarot Lies” drifts along in a state of hazy bliss, all woozy guitars and beats with the quintessential ethereal vocal swirling softly through the heady mess. It’s a brain befuddling, dreamy piece of wavy wonderfulness that, you can buy it digitally, right now, from Mexican Summer. We recommend you do as it is cheaper than getting drunk and gives you the same feeling, result.

Their new album, Wait to Pleasure comes out on 22 April, also on Mexican Summer.



Vandana Jain – “Ecstatic”

Something wicked this way comes. Brooklyn-based graphic designer turned performance artist Vandana Jain to be exact. Here be darkness and we can’t help but be drawn in. Sounding a little like one of our teenage loves, Curve, “Ecstatic” begins in shadows. Foreboding, slithering and skittery electronics twitch and shudder under Jain’s soft but mildly intimidating vocals before climbing above ground to the dystopian city above. It is more neon and bright, but still somewhat twisted and sordid, like a hidden corner of the Blade Runner world, an alleyway we catch a glimpse of but really, really want to see more of.

“Ecstatic” is the first single from Vandana Jain’s forthcoming debut album, Anti Venus.



Minute Taker – “Heart” (Pet Shop Boys cover)

This is brilliant, Minute Taker, aka Manchester-based alternative songwriter/producer Ben McGarvey has gone loop pedal crazy for this cover of the Pet Shop Boys classic, “Heart”.

Evidently he told The 405 that he chose this track to cover as he’s always been a big 80’s fan. “When all my school classmates were listening to Blur and Oasis I was listening to Erasure, Pet Shop Boys and Alison Moyet”. We were almost the same, but we listened to Blur and Oasis as well. Still we loved the Pet Shop Boys (still do) and can recall singing along to “Heart” in our primary school days, mistakenly thinking it was called “Everytime” because that was the word they sung the most. Ahh, youthful innocence. Anyway, take a watch of this innovative piece of glory.



Spring Offensive – “No Assets” – Olympians Remix

Two of our favourites collide in this next track. Norwich’s own Olympians have provided a special and vibed up remix of Spring Offensive’s latest beauty, “No Assets” (the video for which has to be seen to be believed). What’s more, you can even download it for free as well. God bless Olympians!



Louis Brennan – “Clean Break”
We’d not heard of Louis Brennan before his latest track, “Clean Break” dropped into the inbox this week but evidently he has been referred to as being ‘Future Folk’ by others. We’re not entirely sure what that means but we do know that “Clean Break” is a fairly dark and glitchy piece of electronica that, along with his Gabriel Bruce-esque baritone, sent a shiver down our spine. It’s brooding and kinda creepy and really good. It’s also free to download below.

His debut album, The Reductive Power of a Coastal Town, is due out in May.



Cold Mailman – “My Recurring Dream”

Confession time, while we do like this track and its boy/girl harmonies, we are more in love with the video. Directed by André Chocron, it is conceptually quite simple, we follow a single camera as it moves forward through a sequence of strange worlds from within the unseen protagonist’s subconscious, but the execution is exquisite. Transitions are almost seamless with the move from one scenario to the next almost feeling logical, despite them often being completely unconnected. There is so much going on in each one as well, so much detail to take in and admire it is worth several repeated viewings. We won’t spoil how it ends but let’s just say, it’s not called “My Recurring Dream” for nothing.

My Recurring Dream from André Chocron // Frokost Film on Vimeo.


Julia Biel – “Watch The Stars”

Something a little bit more jazz-infused now as we let Julia Biel’s new track wash over us. “Watch The Stars” is a smooth piece of swirly, trip-hopish jazz folk. We’ll let that sink in for a minute. Her voice is silken and soft, the kind that would lure sailors to their doom in legends of old, and soars up to the stars she is watching, swooping across the night sky. “Watch the Stars” is the first single from her forthcoming new album and you can download it for free from Julia’s website.



Fear of Fiction – Record Store Day CD sampler

We finish up with a couple of nods to the forthcoming Record Store Day (20 April people, mark your calendar). First up is a little audio visual preview of their RSD release from Fear of Fiction records. Their limited to 100 copies CD release features six tracks from six different artists of varying styles, including the very excellent Salt Cathedral who we have featured on the site before.

The track listing is below and if you like what you hear (and why wouldn’t you?) you can pre-order the CD direct from Fear of Fiction.

Track Listing:
1. Death Rattle – The Blows
2. Salt Cathedral – Take Me To The Sea
3. Kitchenettes – I Still Talk To Your Mother
4. Casimir – The Entire History Of You
5. Bare Pale – Shame
6. Idles – Introduction & Two Tone (Live)



Dutch Uncles – “Slave To The Atypical Rhythm”

Finally this week we have another brilliant cover version for your ears to fall in love with. This time from Dutch Uncles who have taken Grace Jones, dialled down the outlandish and scary, and come up with this brilliantly soft and soulful version of “Slave To The Rhythm”, which will be released on 12” vinyl exclusively for Record Store Day.



BONUS GOODNESS!

Prince & 3rd Eye Girl – “Let’s Go Crazy (2013 Rework)”

Ok, we know we said finally before but we just had to share this as when we heard it our immediate reaction was, ‘Ho-leeeeeeeee shit’.

Just listen to that fuzzier than Robin William’s back guitar as it drips all over this grinding, bluesy rework of the Prince syntho-classic, “Let’s Go Crazy”. We love Prince, you know we love Prince, we make no excuses for it and when he drops shit as awesome as this, we really don’t have to. Enjoy!


See you next week for more inbox related aural pleasure.

A Bit of Festive Fun

20 Dec

Christmas

We are gearing up for the festive period here at Alphabet Bands and what better way to do so than with a few holiday bangers from some of our favourite artists. So sit back, grab a mince pie, some dodgy knitwear and enjoy this mix of new songs and old songs made new.

Alice Jemima – “Driving Home For Christmas” (Chris Rea Cover)(Free Download)

Strangers – “This Year” (Free Download)

The Good Natured and Colette Carr – “Christmas Wrapping” (Waitresses Cover)

Port Isla – “Tower Breakers”

Gabriel Bruce – “Silent Night” (free download)

Daniel J Harvey of Olympians – “Hah, bumhug” (Free download)

Come back tomorrow for our last posts of the year which will include a very special new Christmas video from Lisa Redford.

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.