Tag Archives: Rag’N’Bone Man

2016 Tracks of the Year

1 Jan

tracks-of-the-year

Over the last few years we have shown complete disdain for the idea of consistency in how we approach end of year listing. We’ve done a brief synopsis of a collection of our favourites, single posts per entry and even a mega one year in review round-up post. So it should come as no surprise to learn that once again we are mixing it up, focusing just on our favourite tracks and albums, nothing more.

This post will list our nine (top tens are so passé) favourite tracks (in no particular order). These are the ones we’ve loved the most, played the most, sung along with, nodded our head to, air drummed to, inflicted on our friends and colleagues and generally embraced and indulged in the most over the last year.

We’ll be back later with our fave five albums and after that, it will be on with the new Alphabet and posts a-go-go as we set out to make 2017 our personal musical love slave. Or something.

We’ll stick to our top ten tracks of 2016 for now though.


The one that came out of nowhere to knock our socks off

HEZEN – “The Girl You Want”

There were a lot of tracks from acts old and new last year that were incredible but without doubt, the one that just completely blew us away was the formal debut from Sarah Hezen. Even now, listening again, it still hits us smack between the eyes with its intricate, entwining melody and rhythms. It is utterly, stunningly beautiful whilst at the same time viscerally dark and menacing. Her soft vocal is intoxicating as it envelops this sense of foreboding as a dark spirit wisps around its prey seductively.

We could go on and on, and we did when we wrote about “The Girl You Want’ previously. Trust us though, you’ll be hearing a lot more from HEZEN in the future, not least because we will be waxing lyrical about her again very shortly.



The one that reaffirmed the thought that this guy is incredible and deserves to be a huge success

Rag’N’Bone Man – “Human”

The release of “Human” felt like something of a watershed moment for Rag’N’Bone Man last year. He was already critically acclaimed, selling out shows here there and everywhere with a growing legion of fans and blog support – he has featured on ours and others pages many, many times. Yet it is “Human”, its video and the announcement of an album later this year that looks set to send him to the heights we all anticipated he’d be reaching.

The beat behooves movement, the lyrics demand crowd accompaniment and Rory’s vocal is as powerful as it has ever been. It’s no wonder that an appearance on Jools Holland came about, or that it was number one in Germany for weeks and weeks, or that it was chosen as a contestant’s song on The X Factor. In fact, the only surprise is that it didn’t quite grab the Christmas Number One slot, finishing second. With the critics choice Brit already been bagged and a top 5 slot in the BBC Sound of poll assured, “Human” will stand as the final piece in the puzzle for Rag’N’Bone Man. Global success is surely on the way now.


The one that makes you swear inappropriately loudly when singing along

The Weeknd feat. Daft Punk – “Starboy”

Confession time. Despite all the buzz and hype a few years back, The Weeknd was never really an artist we’d paid too much attention too. There is only so much time in the day after all and not everything gets listened too, no matter how much we’d like to. When a lot of our friends started going doolally over “Starboy” though we thought we should check it out. When we heard it was a collaboration with Daft Punk we resolved to get on it and soon enough we were telling everyone and anyone who would listen (and a fair few who wouldn’t) that we were a motherfuckin’ Starboy.

It’s been said elsewhere, and in more accomplished ways, but this does almost feel like a reanimation of a late 80’s MJ given a devilish electronic twist. Infectious doesn’t even begin to describe how ridiculously catchy this tune is, especially the chorus, and it has been a real job to not play this to total and utter death (or around the kids). Like organised crime, every time we think we are out, we hear it again and are pulled back in. It’s everything modern pop should be and it’s such a shame the rest of the album doesn’t really live up to it. Still, we’ll always be a motherfuckin’ Starboy.


The one with the incredible Nixon sample

TV Girl – “Taking What’s Not Yours”

We’ve said it a number of times, but we don’t think there will ever come a time when we don’t like TV Girl or get excited for new music from them. 2016 was the same with the release of Who Really Cares and the brilliant lead single, “Taking What’s Not Yours”.

We said it before, but it’s worth re-stating, ”“Taking What’s Not Yours” is everything we love about TV Girl. Deliciously, ridiculously infectious, it is bright and playful while dealing with a lesser spoken consequence of a failed relationship.


The whole track is just wonderful, there’s a Nixon sample in there that is so deft you might miss it but it is genius, trust us. It is lyrically dry, sardonic and clever. It is completely and utterly perfectly TV Girl.”


The one that could be an anthem for a teenage uprising

Transviolet – “New Bohemia”

Another act we’ve loved and predicted great things for since first hearing them is Transviolet. Technically “New Bohemia” was released in 2015 but the video came out in February and that is more than enough justification for us to include it in this list.

We still can’t hear the military drumbeat towards the end of the track without thinking of Les Mis, without imagining an uprising and revolution against the rising tide of hate and fearmongering, something we need more than ever.

It remains rousing and invigorating, a movement in song form. Conveying power, emotion, defiance and attitude. It is a superb piece of anthemic pop that still gets played to death at Alphabet Bands HQ.


The one that could be an anthem for teenage indestructibility and hedonism

Chløë Black – “Death Proof”

The flip side to “New Bohemia” came from the brilliant and effortlessly cool Chløë Black and “Death Proof”. Another piece of fabulous, socially aware and catchy as all hell, dark pop; it’s a teen anthem for the hedonistic, indestructible youth and their ‘give no fucks’ attitude.

It’s pounding beat is relentless, a reckless death march into the future while a warped guitar line grinds in the background. Chløë’s gorgeously intoxicating voice melts over the attitude and swagger of the melody making you love it even more.

It’s play it again and again and again fantastic and but for all the swears would surely have been everywhere in the late summer months. Seriously, someone give this woman a deal and get an album out pronto.


The one that gives us goosebumps AKA The one we wish they’d done on Jools Holland

Let’s Eat Grandma – “Rapunzel”

It doesn’t matter how many times we hear it, the opening piano line of “Rapunzel” always sends a shiver down our neck and brings goosebumps to our arm. That this moment of innocence, of purity and of calm beauty then gives way to a cold and dark lyrical reality only serves to make it even more poignant.

Based in part on a true story and in part on a well loved fairytale, “Rapunzel” is (for our money) the most remarkable track on an incredible debut album. It perfectly encapsulates everything about them, the creativity, the musicality, the marbling of reality and imagination and the intricate and intelligence of their composition and lyricism.

It is also surprisingly easy to sing along with, even if you do have some explaining to do when your kids randomly start singing it in public.


The one that we always sing along to and that makes us happy

Shura – “What’s It Gonna Be?”

Possibly the most earworm-tastic tune of the whole year, Shura’s “What’s It Gonna Be?” was superb 80s inspired pop fare – channelling her inner Madonna and mixing it with a dash of SAW era Kylie. Then the video came out.

It’s hard to say if it is the brilliance of the song that makes us love the video so much, or vice versa, but it is safe to say this combination of audio and visual is one of the best and most enjoyable seen in 2016. Certainly this track was one of the most played on our summer holiday in France and most sung along to by the kids as we drove around the countryside.

Sentimental, heartfelt, bittersweet and oh-so danceable and catchy, “What’s It Gonna Be?” is a dazzlingly warm and wonderful piece of retro-modern pop music.



The one that made us realise we’d been wrong all along

Birds of Hell – “Astronomy Programmes”

Back in April we held our hands up and said, yep, we were wrong. Birds of Hell had always been an act that we’ve just never got, and then he released “Astronomy Programmes” and our mind was changed. It is, as we said so eloquently at the time, ”quite frankly, fucking brilliant”.

A little more evocatively, we also said it is “A swirling, cosmic spirituality as well as a wonderful lyrical dexterity are on show. It is utterly charming and really rather beautiful. This electronic, galaxial mist of sound drifts and caresses while Pete Murdoch’s light gravelly voice bounces off the softer swoon of producer Iain Lowery’s backing vocal. The beat snaps and skips gently as shooting stars of melody sweep by above and the lyrics ponder the great unknowns and reminisce for a simpler time”.

It still sounds as swirlsomely gorgeous now.

2015 Review: EPs of the Year

4 Jan

Listen Out For... (1)


#1: Lyla Foy – UMi

Lyla Foy

We said when reviewing UMi that we expected it to feature in our end of year lists and so it has come to pass that the lady responsible for our favourite album of 2014, has delivered our favourite EP of 2015. To say we love Lyla Foy is something of an understatement but even we were pleasantly surprised by just how damn beautiful UMi is.

We said at the time that ”listening to Lyla is like looking at a fine piece of art or a stained glass window. You are instantly struck by the beauty and brilliance but you can come to it time and time again and still get lost, still find new details to enchant and enthrall. Here, as well as the details, the six tracks of UMi melt into one great swirling soundscape, all majestic and magnificent like a cosmic wilderness of stars, nebulae and galaxies”.

The whole thing is just divine, completely hypnotically beautiful with its melancholy, its heart and its gooey caramel loveliness. We’ve talked of Lyla’s crystalline vocal countless times before but hers is a voice we never tire of hearing as it drifts out, fragile and delightful at the same time over these wondrous creations of hers.

If you haven’t heard it already, we heartily recommend picking up UMi and letting it wash over you one cold winter’s eve.

Buy Umi from: Lyla’s Bandcamp page.


#2: Rag’N’Bone Man – Disfigured

RagNBone Man

Another voice we could listen to for hours on end belongs to Rory Graham, aka Rag’N’Bone Man. His remarkably rich and raw vocals, that are steeped in soul, hip-hop and gospel influences is just so evocative and emotional that you can’t help but get swept away by it.

His second EP, Disfigured, had an almost evangelical quality to it, heartfelt and emotional, strident and rousing, thought provoking and considered. Yet it is also dark in places, brooding and sullen without ever losing its emotional heart and without ever sounding anything less than superb. His deep, powerful vocal taking you by the hand, leading on to glory one minute and conveying the kind of gravitas and emotion that brings tears to eyes and touches the soul the next. We bloody love it.

Buy Disfigured from: iTunes


#3: Vallis Alps – Vallis Alps

Valis Alps

Almost a year ago to the day, the Australia-America duo of Vallis Alps appeared out of nowhere and blew the blog world away with their debut, self-titled EP. One year on and we are still utterly in love with their gorgeous blend of cool electronics and warm vocals. The wispy melodies swirl delicately over sparse, sometimes kaleidoscopic synth lines and beats as the four tracks entrance and enchant. It’s subtly infectious (“Oh” will have you nodding your head without you even realising) and sublime in its intricate, intelligent and beautiful majesty.

Buy Vallis Alps from: Vallis Alps


Others We’ve Loved

In no particular order…

FKA Twigs – M3LL155X
Grace Mitchell – Raceday
Lyza Jane – Milk Teeth
Transviolet – Transviolet
The Japanese House – Clean
The Japanese House – Pools To Bathe In
Blonde Maze – Oceans
Bea – Songs of 2K11

Listen Out For – 2015 Previews Round Up

7 Dec

2015 Previews Round Up

The calendar has clicked round to December and children across the world are excited about finding small bits of chocolate behind little cardboard doors. Like many other blogs, we are getting excited about end of year list-o-mania (and small bits of chocolate behind little cardboard doors).

As is our wont we will start with previews of artists we are looking forward to hearing from more next year. But, as is also our wont, we will preface this with a look back at the tips we made last year to see how they did and by association, how well we did. In all honesty it was, outwardly, a pretty quiet year for most of our featured acts with only one album and a couple of EPs released between them (but they were all great).


#15 – Let’s Eat Grandma

We said at the time that Rosa and Jenny are two stupefyingly imaginative and creative 15 year old girls who play a multitude of instruments in a multitude of different ways at a multitude of different times within a single song. The only thing that has changed is that they are now 16. The girls are still remarkable and their talents are being recognised by a larger audience thanks to performances at Latitude and Festival No. 6 as well as features in NME and sessions on 6Music. The album is still in the works so expect to hear a lot more them both in the coming 12-18 months.

#14 – Treasureseason

It’s been a quiet year for the Norwich-London duo but fingers crossed we hear more from them soon as we are big fans of their soft synthy loveliness.

#13 – Chløë Black

It took just one song from Chløë Black to win our hearts, minds and blog love. Since then we’ve seen her play live, been treated to a number of fantastic videos and are even more convinced that big things await.

#12 – Saint Agnes

Another act for whom 2015 was relatively quiet, at least as far as new music is concerned. There were gigs a-plenty though which further enhanced their reputation as an act to get excited about.

#11 – Waterbed

It’s almost becoming a running theme but 2015 was pretty quiet with little in the way of new tunes to get excited about for Waterbed. Here’s hoping for more next year.

#10 – Daisy Victoria

Compared to the dual EP output of the year before, 2015 was fairly quiet release wise. There was a ramping up of radio coverage though, as well as headline shows and a burgeoning reputation across the blog world. There was also the stupendous “Pain of Dancer” which for our money, is the best thing Daisy has done so far.

#9 – Jagaara

Again, beyond festivals and gigs (most recently supporting Kyla la Grange) 2015 was a quiet one for the three sisters. Mind you, we saw them live in 2014 and they were superb so gigging across the country is a good thing for us as fans, hopefully there will be some more tunes to get our ears around in the coming months as well as well some shows in the New Year.

#8 – Black Honey

At last, a band for whom 2015 certainly wasn’t quiet, especially if their incendiary rawkus performance at Norwich Sound and Vision in October was anything to go by. Black Honey released new tunes, won new fans and wowed us and thousands of others with their explosive and energetic live sets.

#7 – Osca

After a couple of tunes earlier in the year, it’s been quiet since the spring. Hopefully they have been squirreled away, busily writing and recording ready for the New Year. Right guys? Guys..?

#6 – Wooden Arms

2015 was big for Wooden Arms. Not only did they follow up 2014’s gorgeous EP with their debut album, they also played a live session for Lauren Laverne on 6 Music. The collective have also been playing bigger and bigger shows across Europe and are currently working on their next full length, and we can’t wait to hear it.

#5 – Vérité

One of the few artists on our list to put some tunes out this year, Vérité put out the fantastic Sentiment EP as well as playing many shows. Some of which were in the UK, though none were in Norwich. No doubt that’s on her list for next year.

#4 – Yumi Zouma

2015 was an interesting year for Yumi Zouma. It started with some properly fantastic videos and a second superb EP which met with deserved rave reviews. After that though there was a low key departure and replacement of Kim Pflaum (so low key in fact that some publications had no idea they weren’t talking to Kim when featuring the band) but still lots of very successful shows and plaudits. As yet there has been no proper ‘post-Kim’ tunes so we can’t speak to what comes next but we’ll certainly be keeping a close eye on developments.

#3 – Rag’N’Bone Man

One of the few on our list to put out some music this year, Rory Graham released the superb Disfigured EP, saw his music synced all over the place and produced one of the best gigs we saw all year. Seriously, if you have the chance to see him live, take it. All that and he is now curating his own gig nights as well.

#2 – Laurel

Having closed out last year with an EP release, it’s probably not a surprise that 2015 was fairly quiet. There was a slot at Radio One’s Big Weekend though and hopefully there will be more gorgeously evocative sounds from her in 2016.

#1 – Fickle Friends

They released an EP and wowed Norwich at Radio One’s Big Weekend (and a small pre-show the night before). In fact, so wowed were Norwich that they are coming back in 2016 (see you there) as part of their super huge mega UK tour (which we hope will coincide with an album release but we don’t know). They have also been playlisted on Radio One and put out some pretty rad videos so everything is looking set for them to build on a good 2015 to have a great 2016.

Rag’N’Bone Man – “Disfigured”

25 Feb

RagNBone Man

When we included Rag’N’Bone Man in our artists to listen out for in 2015, we had no idea that by the end of February he would have already released two superb new tunes and be just days away from the release of a new EP. Yet here we are and we are thoroughly enjoying it.

We say enjoy, given that “Disfigured” is perhaps his most overtly sombre and sullen track yet, ‘enjoy’ might not be the right word. But it is a fantastically brooding and dark song, more downtempo and grave than his previous work, more entrenched in Gospel influences perhaps but still superb.

When we featured his last track “Bitter End” just a few days ago, we noted that we could easily see him atop a pulpit, singing out to his congregation of like-minded disciples, and that rings even more true with “Disfigured”. With the choral backing especially we can see him stood arms stretched wide, his gown draped over his shoulders as the congregation sway and nod in respectful recognition and empathy.

For this is not a happy clappy, halleluiah-praise-be-to-the-skies sermon he is preaching, this is a heartfelt down to earth, full of reality and heartache tale. “Along with all those lies / You tell yourself / You’ll be alright / There’s no kiss goodbye / Only the end / And only the night” he sings, his deep, gruff vocal conveying the kind of gravitas and emotion that brings tears to eyes and touches the soul.

”Disfigured” is the title track from Rag’N’Bone Man’s forthcoming EP, due 8 March, and is available to download instantly when you pre-order.


Stalk Rag’N’Bone Man: Website / Facebook / Twitter

What’s In The Box? – #12

21 Feb

What's In The Box

Welcome to another Saturday round up of tunes from the Alphabet Bands inbox and beyond that we loved, but just didn’t have time to get to properly this week. It is, we are afraid, another shortened (five tracks) What’s In The Box? this week but we can guarantee each tune is absolutely huge and incredible in its own way. Trust us, this is one of those weeks where it is unquestionably all killer and no filler.

Don’t believe us? Take a listen below and we’ll accept your apology in the comments.


Robyn Sherwell – “Tightropes”

When we featured Robyn Sherwell’s ”Pale Lung” recently, we commented that it was so beautiful, it hurt. Now she has returned with “Tightropes”, a song that is so beautiful because it hurts. Dealing with the heartache of a broken relationship, “Tightropes” is a moment of refined musical elegance. Taking the less is more approach we are treated to little more than hushed chimes, a soft swirl of atmospherics and the gentle caress of Sherwell’s tear-stained vocals. It is a song that will resonate with many and which will be (and deserves to be) absorbed in respectful and rapt silence by all who have the pleasure of hearing it performed live.



Jack Garratt – “Chemical”

Coming in from the complete opposite direction to Robyn Sherwell is the remarkable Jack Garratt who just keeps getting better and keeps on hopping genres. Having wowed us with the glacial electronica of his debut “I Couldn’t Want You Anyway”, Jack has continued to evolve his sound and experiment. A recent performance at The Roundhouse hinted at a hidden urgency and freneticism that was fighting from within and which he was struggling to contain. Now it is loose and careering through “Chemical” like an ADD suffering toddler on a sugar rush, hopping from sound to sound, from style to style, slowing momentarily to assess its surroundings before whipping off once more in a clatter of digital beats, synths, electronics, guitars and vocals.

”Chemical’ will feature on Jack’s new EP, ‘The Synesthesiac’, which is due 12 April on Island Records.



Absofacto – “Dissolve”

Prior to the email we received from Jonathan Visger this week, we were not familiar with his solo project, Absofacto. More fool us judging by his latest offering, “Dissolve”, which is a smooth and funked up electro jam that has an undercurrent of the abstract or avant garde about it. It has the feeling of a psychedelic collaboration between All We Are and Broken Bells with a French producer, there is definitely something wonderfully and perhaps unintentionally gallic about it, but we love it.



Rag ‘N’ Bone Man – “Bitter End”

Having been blown away by the (still) remarkable “Hell Yeah” last year, we have since become devotees to the church of Rag’N’Bone Man. With his soul, hip-hop and gospel influences, and his remarkably rich and raw vocals, there is something almost evangelistic about listening to Rory Graham. We could easily see him atop a pulpit, singing “Bitter End” out to his congregation of like-minded disciples. Like all good sermons, it is heartfelt and emotional, strident and rousing, thought provoking and considered. Unlike all sermons (good and bad) it sounds superb with a beat and melody that serve to hold Graham’s vocals aloft like a crowdsurfing messiah. Bet you don’t get that at Mass these days…

”Bitter End” is taken from the forthcoming ‘Disfigured’ EP, due 8 March, and is available to download instantly when you pre-order.



Pawws – “Turnaround”

We’re not sure if it is coincidence but on her Kitsuné compilation featuring “Turnaround”, Lucy Taylor aka Pawws is sounding more chic than ever before. With it’s soft retro beat and murmuring electronics beneath her wistful and honeyed vocals, “Turnaround” has a mid 80s synthpop meets early 90s Saint Etienne vibe to it and it sounds, as she always does, divine.



See? We did tell you each of the five tracks this week were amazing and we do not lie. There’s plenty more where that came from too. Join us on Monday for more blog goodness and some pretty special tunes and new artists in the week as well.