Tag Archives: The Japanese House

2015 Review: Acts of the Year

6 Jan

Acts of the Year


#1 – Oh Wonder

Oh Wonder

This is the first year we’ve ever annointed an ‘act of the year’ and we thought it was high time we did so. Like many of our choices this past few days, the answer seemed pretty obvious to us as soon as we started to think about it. Oh Wonder have just had an absolutely incredible 12 months and really, to us, they feel like the only choice.

Certainly, as we mentioned when announcing their debut record as being our favourite album of 2015, they are the band we have listened to more than any other and their live show was just fantastic. That is all the more incredible when you consider that they hadn’t played a live show as a band before the autumn. Now though they are selling out shows around the world and further enhancing their reputation as lovely people and a wonderful band.

This time last year the Oh Wonder juggernaut was just starting to pick up speed. Their early tracks were racking up the plays and regularly looking down on everyone else from the Hype Machine summit. They played a session for Radio One and then the album came out and their stratospheric trajectory spiked even higher.

Oh Wonder reached 26 in the UK charts and their music was heard by 6million listeners on Spotify in 2015 and, according to Hype Machine, they were the third most blogged about band in the UK. Not bad for a pair who started out just writing some tunes together to see what happened.

Unquestionably, 2015 belonged to Oh Wonder.


#2 – Black Honey

Black Honey

Another band to have an absolutely storming 12 months was blog favourite, Black Honey. Like Oh Wonder they have done nothing but enhance their reputation and gain a legion of fans in 2015.

We love everything they have done and seemingly, so do a hell of a lot of other people. Their music was played by 750,000 listeners on Spotify and they were the most blogged about band in the UK. They are an incredibly exciting young band with a raw, passionate energy in their music that sets them apart from other bands of a similar ilk.

They are exciting and people are excited by them. We finally got to see them play live at the Norwich Sound and Vision festival and in the lead up to the gig, Black Honey was the name on everyone’s lips. They were the band most people were talking about, the one they most wanted to see and the one that everyone knew. Those of us who were lucky enough to squeeze into the Mash Tun for their show were not disappointed as they let fly with an incendiary set that damn near took the roof off.

2015 was an amazing year for them and, if there is an album on the way, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Black Honey dominate 2016.


#3 – The Japanese House

THEJAPANESEHOUSE

This time last year no-one had heard of The Japanese House. Yet by the time the calendar page ticked over to 2016, Amber Bain was one of the most talked about new artists around. In just a few short months she debuted with a Zane Lowe premiere, a place on the Dirty Hit roster and The 1975 on production duties, and left with two highly acclaimed EPs, Pools to Bathe In and Clean, under her belt.

Her music is magical and multi layered with melodies and her beguiling androgynous vocal enchanting and entrancing. She was second on the Blog Sound of 2016 poll as well as on the Tipping Point’s Tips of the Year and if weren’t for the likelihood of an album being released next year, we’d expect her to be on the BBC Sound of 2017 poll.


UK Blog Sound of 2016: The Winner

5 Jan

Blog Sound 2016

The blog hive mind has spoken and the views of 58 of us have been distilled down, the votes have been counted and the results are in. For the first time ever the Blog Sound Of poll has a male winner, congratulations to Mura Masa.

The producer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has had a lot of blog support recently with his tracks “Firefly” and “Lovesick Fuck” getting millions of plays on Soundcloud and racing up the Hype Machine Chart.

Mura Masa

It’s been quite a week for 19 year old Alex Crossan who yesterday placed joint 5th on the BBC Sound of 2016 poll.

Speaking of Top Fives, here is the full top five from the Blog Sound Of 2016 poll.

1st Mura Masa
2nd The Japanese House
3rd Aurora
4th Aquilo
5th Loyle Carner

Obviously as well as being pleased for Mura Masa (who, in the interest of full disclosure we are really just starting to enjoy having not heard much of his last year) we are also delighted for longtime blog faves, Aquillo and The Japanese House (who was on our own longlist) and Loyle Carner (who was our number one vote).


We won’t bore you with the background or the rationale of the poll at this stage, as we’ve covered it before (click here if you’d like to know more, and to see the longlist). Instead we shall leave you with a couple of tunes from the winner and offer our congratulations once more to Mura Masa.




The Participating Blogs

A Pocket Full Of Seeds, A World Of Music And Madness, Across The Kitchen Table, Alphabet Bands, Beat Surrender, Bratfaced LDN, Breaking More Waves, Brighton Music Blog, Buzz Unlimited, Cruel Rhythm, Chord Blossom, Daisy Digital, Dive, Details Of My Life, Dots And Dashes, Drunken Werewolf, Digital Shuffle, Echoes And Dust, Electronic Rumors, Encore Northern Island, Even The Stars, Faded Glamour, Get Into This, Get Some, God Is In The TV, I Love Pie, Just Music I Like, Kemptation, Killing Moon, Little Indie Blogs, Love Music: Love Life, Metaphorical Boat, Monkey Boxing, Music Liberation, Music Like Dirt, Music Umpire, Neon Filler, Not Many Experts, Popped Music, Pursuit Of Sound, Rave Child, Record Rewind Play, Scientists Of Sound, Some Of It Is True, Spectral Nights, Sweeping The Nation, Synth Glasgow, The Blue Walrus, The Devil Has The Best Tuna, The Electricity Club, The Evening’s Empire, The Mad Mackerel, The VPME, This Must Be Pop, Thoughts On Music, Too Many Blogs, What If I Had A Music Blog, When The Gramophone Rings

2016 Preview: Artists to Listen out for Part Four

11 Dec

Listen Out For... (3)

We continue our look ahead to next year with three more acts we are particularly excited to hear more from in 2016. This part of the countdown actually includes a couple of acts we’ve got all excited about before, but then they went and hid for a year or so, so with new music just released or on the horizon, we’ve allowed ourselves a little indulgence and a lot of giddiness in writing about them again.

Don’t forget, you can also look back and see who else is getting us hot under the musical collar for next year in the previous parts of our 2016 Preview.

Part One (here)
Part Two (here)
Part Three (here)


#6 – Avec Sans

Avec Sans

After a storming and highly enjoyable 2013, Avec Sans found their way onto our 2014 preview. At the time we, and Popjustice, were jumping up and down on the bed in anticipation of their debut album. Sadly the album didn’t arrive but the pair have been in the studio recently so we are allowing our hopes to get up for 2016.

The reason we are so excited, as we pointed out back then (and it still holds true now) is because we absolutely adore their fantastically upbeat and danceable tunes. Electro sparkles and beats flash and pulse like a grand firework display against a night sky of synths and melody. Choruses are made to be sung along to while your feet tap and shuffle, heads nod, arms twist and bodies convulse in rhythmical movement; sprung into life by the infectious and compelling sounds.

Stalk Avec Sans: Facebook / Twitter


#5 – Embers

embers_1

Another band we included on our 2014 preview list was Manchester based Embers. They too had a great 2013 after bursting on the scene in explosive fashion at the end of 2012 with the remarkable “Hollow Cage”. They released a couple more tunes, played some incredible live shows (including one we saw at The Great Escape that nearly melted our face off) and then, with the world waiting with baited breath for them to own 2014, they vanished.

While that was disappointing for all us fans, the good news is that they are back, once again bursting into life as the year ends with a fantastic new tune (“The Bitten Tongue) and this time there is the promise of much more. Tunes have been written and, we hope, are ready to go. Expectation levels are high once again but we’re sure these guys can more than meet them. It might be a couple of years later than we thought, but this could be the year of Embers.


Stalk Embers: Website / Facebook / Twitter


#4 – The Japanese House

THEJAPANESEHOUSE

With a Zane Lowe premiered debut track a place on the Dirty Hit roster and The 1975 on production duties, The Japanese House appeared in 2015 feeling fully formed and sounding beautiful. Her two highly acclaimed EPs, Pools to Bathe In and Clean took us on magical journeys of gorgeous emotional highs and lows, all set to wondrously intricate electronic compositions.

Amber Bain dazzled us with her multi layered melodies and beguiling androgynous vocal. Icy production freezes crisp digital beats and hearts before melting away in the warmth of the synth lines and those near distorted harmonies. It is utterly gorgeous stuff and no wonder that she has appeared on many a list this year, including the Blog Sound of 2016.

Expect to see her on more before the year is out and with rumours of an album to come next year, expect to find her on many a Best Of… list in 12 months time as well.

Stalk The Japanese House: Facebook / Twitter

UK Blog Sound of 2016 Longlist Revealed

3 Dec

Blog Sound 2016

2015 has been a pretty good year for music, especially for new and emerging artists breaking onto the scene and getting people very excited. As is customary at this time of year, music publications and British institutions alike start to look ahead and think about who of those new acts could do incredible things next year. The BBC recently revealed their choices and while ours are more about our favourite acts than surefire industry megahits, the UK Blogging community today reveals our own Sound of 2016 Longlist.

As always, the poll is conducted and adjudicated by the esteemed Robin Seamer of Breaking More Waves and this year, 58 UK based blogs took part. Each voted for their three favourite acts and the top 15 of those acts comprise the Blog Sound of 2016 Longlist. To qualify for a vote any act chosen must not have had a UK top 20 single or album, either in their own right or as a named collaborator prior to 6th November 2015.

The longlist is below and after it you will find a playlist of all the artists, some voting data from Robin, some thoughts from us and a more general point about the BBC poll and the continued importance of blogging. So stick around for that.

But first the longlist.

*drumroll*

The Blog Sound of 2016 Longlist

AQUILO

AURORA

BILLIE MARTEN

GEORGE COSBY

HAELOS

LISS

LOYLE CARNER

MABEL

MURA MASA

MT WOLF

NAO

PLEASURE BEACH

THE BIG MOON

THE JAPANESE HOUSE

YAK


Having been very much off the pace as far as writing and listening to new music this year is concerned, there are plenty of artists there we are not overly familiar with. Which is a good thing as last year we felt the list was too obvious and safe. This year sees much more diversity in musical style which is also, we believe, a fantastic thing. There are artists on there we are massive fans of, Aquillo, The Japanese House and Loyle Carner for example, yet only one of our votes made it onto the list.

While there is a reasonable amount of crossover with the BBC poll, five acts appear on both lists, most notable is the artist that doesn’t appear on the blog sound but who looks favourite to win the BBC poll. Jack Garratt has already been crowned BBC Introducing artist of the year and picked up the Brit’s Critic’s Choice award yet not one blog voted for him. In fact he wasn’t on the longlist last year either, having just narrowly missed out on a place in the final 15. Depending on your point of view, this could mean a number of different things.

  • The BBC Poll is much more commercially skewed than the Blog Sound and as such will always favour bigger artists where blogs like niche acts.
  • The Blog Sound Poll is ahead of the game and while we all still love Jack, we feel his is already established and no longer ‘new’.
  • The BBC judging panel don’t know what they are talking about.
  • The Blog Sound voters don’t know what they are talking about.
  • It’s probably no surprise to learn that we lean towards the second position, with a little of the first thrown in. This isn’t just some biased “Blogs are great” spiel though, there is merit in the argument as well as some statistical evidence to back it up. For example, in recent years the blog sound has featured Wolf Alice the year before the BBC poll, and the likes of Alt-J and Bastille who didn’t feature on the BBC poll at all.

    Blogs are quick to give support to artists and are often very loyal to those acts they particularly love. With the sheer volume of new music available for us to consume, we can also be very quick to find a new ‘new’ act and as such our sense of what is new is different to the majority of rest of the population. Take Aurora for example. She’s been featured on blogs a fair bit in this last year, bothered the Hype Machine chart and racked up the soundcloud plays. Yet when she was revealed as the artist on this year’s John Lewis advert the overwhelming reaction was ‘who she?’.

    We live in a little bubble. A bubble of new music, of social media and of like minded people getting excited about similar things. Robin has spoken before of the difference between internet fame and real fame and he is spot on. Being a big deal on the internet (soundcloud plays, hype machine posts, twitter frenzies etc) doesn’t always equate to being a big deal as far as records and gig tickets sold. The Blog Sound Of poll, to an extent, operates within the ‘big deal on the internet’ bubble while the BBC has a more ‘is becoming a big deal in the outside world’ feel about it. Hence us occasionally featuring artists before the BBC or, in the case of (the excellent) Jack Garratt, not at all. These artists are already a big deal for us and we want them to go on and become a big deal for everyone else as well.

    For the record, we fully expect to see Aurora on the BBC list next year and possibly The Japanese House as well.


    Interesting stats and exciting data from the voting

  • This year 142 acts received at least 1 vote from the 174 total votes cast, showing that the UK music blog scene has a wide range of taste.
  • This year’s voting was the closest and broadest ever – the winning act only received votes from 8.5% of the 58 voters.
  • The vast majority of acts chosen were UK based even though the bloggers could choose acts from any part of the world. There are no American acts on the list, although there are acts from other European countries.
  • One of the acts on this year’s longlist (Mt Wolf) already featured on the Blog Sound of 2014 poll, but then promptly split up. Now reformed, they find themselves once again on the Blog Sound of 2016 list.
  • 5 of the acts on the BBC Sound of 2016 also appear on the Blog Sound Of poll, namely Billie Marten, Loyle Carner, Mabel, Mura Masa and Nao.
  • The Tunes

    The Participating Blogs

    A Pocket Full Of Seeds, A World Of Music And Madness, Across The Kitchen Table, Alphabet Bands, Beat Surrender, Bratfaced LDN, Breaking More Waves, Brighton Music Blog, Buzz Unlimited, Cruel Rhythm, Chord Blossom, Daisy Digital, Dive, Details Of My Life, Dots And Dashes, Drunken Werewolf, Digital Shuffle, Echoes And Dust, Electronic Rumors, Encore Northern Island, Even The Stars, Faded Glamour, Get Into This, Get Some, God Is In The TV, I Love Pie, Just Music I Like, Kemptation, Killing Moon, Little Indie Blogs, Love Music: Love Life, Metaphorical Boat, Monkey Boxing, Music Liberation, Music Like Dirt, Music Umpire, Neon Filler, Not Many Experts, Popped Music, Pursuit Of Sound, Rave Child, Record Rewind Play, Scientists Of Sound, Some Of It Is True, Spectral Nights, Sweeping The Nation, Synth Glasgow, The Blue Walrus, The Devil Has The Best Tuna, The Electricity Club, The Evening’s Empire, The Mad Mackerel, The VPME, This Must Be Pop, Thoughts On Music, Too Many Blogs, What If I Had A Music Blog, When The Gramophone Rings

    What’s In The Box ? – #13

    11 Apr

    What's In The Box

    It’s been a while since we last shared a 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. As ever the last seven (or so) days have been rammed with quality music and not enough hours in the day to get to them all.

    Here then is a quick, eight-track, What’s In The Box? chock full of tunes from a number of genres, each of which is fantastic and we’re sure you’ll find something you’ll enjoy. We sure did.


    Kloë – “Feel”

    Let’s kick things off this week with an absolute stormer from new Scottish pop superstar-to-be Kloë. “Feel” is a dark, simmering cauldron of electropop brilliance with synths that slither and glide ominously along as the vocal arrangement evokes “Blue Jeans” era Lana. It’s powerful, vibrant and exciting and surely heralds the arrival of a future star.


    The Japanese House – “Teeth”

    As The Japanese House, 19 year old Amber Bain has been creating quite the proverbial buzz of excitement recently. Each of her previous two releases have been met with near universal acclaim and adulation and her latest, “Teeth”, carries on that trend. It’s a slow moving cloud of electronics, melody and genderless vocals that is punctuated with fantastically discordant guitar wails and pitter patter beats.

    The Japanese House release their debut EP, Pools To Bathe In on 27 April and it is available to pre-order here.



    Racing Glaciers – “What I Saw”

    It’s been a fair few months since we last heard from Racing Glaciers but the quintet have returned from self-imposed exile (to a barn in Glastonbury for some of it) to share the first track from their forthcoming debut album. “What I Saw” is less bombastic than their previous efforts. It’s a lighters-(camera phones)-in-the-air rock ballad that’s slow burning, broodingly emotive and very, very anthemic.



    Mt. Wolf – “VIII feat. Alexa Harley”

    The demise of Mt. Wolf at the end of 2013, the day after they were announced as being part of the Blog Sound Poll longlist, was as surprising as it was disappointing. Thankfully a year later and two thirds of the band were back making music together, fast forward another few months and we have the smokey and gorgeous “VIII” to get lost in. Featuring the soft and alluring vocals of Alexa Harley, it’s a stunningly elegant and dreamy tune.



    Fascinator – “Showin’ Off”

    This has been out for a few months now but when we heard Fascinator’s “Showin’ Off” we knew we had to share it. We love the blend of the orchestral and hip-hop. The strings and the beat play off one another superbly and the addition of the woodwind section serves to ramp up the ambition and quality. It’s a LSD loving Beatles infused mash of pop sensibilities, folk guitar licks and breaks that we just adore.



    Silences – “The Sea”

    After all that rambunctiousness we thought it best to calm things down a little and the new track from Silences affords us the perfect way to do just that. Here the Northern Irish quintet is getting a little bit Coldplay, a little bit Kodaline and a lotta bit great. “The Sea” is a very radio-friendly slice of emotional, brooding indie-pop; all dark skies over the cliffs and pensive looks out across the ocean.



    Alphaduka – “Vision”

    Hailing from South London, three piece Alphaduka claim to be part band, part bowling team and while we can’t attest to their pin clattering ability, debut song “Vision” is really rather lovely. There’s lots of ebbing, swooning guitars and vocals melding in a soft autumnal haze, all warm and orangey, that ultimately collapse into a laguid mushroomy trip of 60s psychedelica.



    Vanbot – “Seven”

    Finally this week we have a fantastic dance-pop blast from Sweden’s Vanbot. Given the style, sound and subject matter of “Seven”, comparisons with Robyn are inevitable and unavoidable. Rather than being seen as lazy journalism however, they should be viewed as the massive compliment they are as it would be right at home as part of Robyn’s classic and magnificent Body Talk series.

    “Seven” will feature on Vanbot’s new album Perfect Storm which is due for release in May.



    We hope you enjoyed that quick whizz through the inbox and beyond. Join us on Monday for more blog goodness and some pretty special tunes and new artists in the week as well.