Tag Archives: Singles

2014 – A Personal Summary of the Year in Music

It’s been a strange year, definitely a good one but strange nonetheless. The strange part has been the personal side of it. I gave up my job at the end of 2013 to focus on sorting out my health issues after a lot of stress and anxiety troubles and I’ve worked really hard at that with good results. I’m miles better off now than I was this time last year. I think music plays a big part in the process of getting better. Listening to music I’ve loved for years, discovering new bands and, as a vinyl lover, getting my hands on some amazing records. I only started writing this blog a couple of months ago and that too was a deliberate part of the getting better process, it’s important to have something to concentrate on that you can really enjoy and writing about music / records has been great fun. I’m always amazed people actually read this stuff but they do. Admittedly I’ve not written as much here as I’d have liked because I’ve got involved with a great new music website called Overblown so much of my writing time has been dedicated to that recently. Please do go and check the site out, like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

Rather than any sort of definitive lists I thought I’d just write through a summary of 2014 and talk about my favourite albums, singles and festivals. It’ll probably be quite long so just read the bits you want to hear about and listen to some of the great music 2014 has brought us.

ALBUMS

Without doubt my favourite and most played album of 2014 was Here and Nowhere Else by Cloud Nothings. It’s a powerful record, just 8 songs and half an hour long but it never drops in intensity for a second. It’s loud, seriously loud, with layer over layer of distorted guitar and one of the most impressive screaming vocal performances I’ve heard in years. Just when you think it can’t rock any harder it does. Every second of this album is brilliant.

Somewhat predictably I loved the new bis album Data Panik etc which was released on gorgeous white vinyl for Record Store Day. The songs themselves weren’t new but they were unreleased and they’re so much fun. I’ve never come across another band anywhere that packs so much enthusiasm into their songwriting. Can’t wait to see them play again in early 2015.

I loved the chill and classic songwriting of Atlas by Real Estate along with the beautiful packaging from Domino. A really pleasant surprise was the return of Mary Timony with her new band Ex Hex and their fantastic debut album Rips, it’s so much fun. I surprised myself by loving Too True by Dum Dum Girls, at first listen I had pretty much dismissed this album but it’s pop somehow stuck in my brain and it’s been played many times now. Lost in the Dream by War on Drugs is seriously impressive and provided more great packaging, this time from Secretly Canadian.

I loved the rock of Annabelle Dream Reader, the debut album from The Wytches. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart‘s Abandon Days was a great indie pop record. The screaming punk of Say Yes to Love by Perfect Pussy was a highlight and in Meredith Graves they have the most amazing performer, her blog writings and interviews are always worth paying extra attention to. Other favourites are Glasgow’s own Paws Youth Culture Forever and the debut from HoneybloodParquet Courts Sunbathing Animal, Teeth Dreams by the Hold Steady and Burn Your Fire For No Witness by Angel Olsen. I’ve probably missed a few and there’ll be many others I haven’t got round to buying yet but hey, I can’t cover everything on my own…

SINGLES & EPs

I’ve bought so many great singles this year and heard so many others that it’s hard to know where to start. My opinion could change tomorrow but I’ll start with what feels like my favourite right at this moment.

‘Gustave’ by Post War Glamour Girls was released as part of the Too Pure monthly singles club. Lovely artwork, sweet coloured vinyl and a corking song. Quite different to what I’d usually listen to (I think) but this is a spectacularly good single. It’s the blistering vocal delivery that drew me in, imaginative storytelling lyrics and a great bass sound. Excellent.

Many of my favourite singles have already been written about on this blog so go have a look around for more in-depth thoughts. Joanna Gruesome released a couple of great singles but the biggest thrill from them came in discovering  the excellent Tyrannosaurus Dead and Trust Fund who they shared records with. I’m sure I’ll love the split Joanna Gruesome / Perfect Pussy single but as of writing I’m still waiting for it to drop through the letterbox.

Speedy Ortiz released the Real Hair EP, four great new songs, particularly ‘American Horror’. Mazzy Star did what Mazzy Star does best with the beautiful Record Store Day single ‘I’m Less Here’. The For the Feel 7″ by Bleached was a punk pop blast. Girl Band released a couple of great singles in ‘Lawman’ and ‘De Bom Bom’. They’re just signed to Rough Trade so it’ll be great to hear what they do next. I absolutely love The Death Set, what an incredible racket they make and they delivered the goods with their King Babies EP early this year. The charming indie pop of Deers made a great single with ‘Castigadas En El Garnero’. Menace Beach display endless promise on their Lowtalker EP and ‘Tennis Court’ 7″. Another great Record Store Day (that was clearly a good day) purchase was the Brightside 7″ by the Julie Ruin. Again, I’m only scratching the surface but suffice to say it was a great year for singles.

 

FESTIVALS

It’s May, it’s Barcelona, it must be the annual pilgrimage to Primavera Sound. This years PS was definitely one of the best yet. It’s an amazing festival. Every year without fail they have the best line up. It’s always a great mix of bands I already love, bands I’m already interested in and dozens of other bands to go and discover. It’s an endurance test trying to squeeze as many shows as possible in but it’s so worth it.

This year we saw Arcade Fire, Buzzcocks, Cloud Nothings, Real Estate, Girl Band, Dum Dum Girls, The National, Neutral Milk Hotel, Speedy Ortiz, Courtney Barnett, Twilight Sad, Helen Love, The Pixies, Queens of the Stone Age and  Slowdive among others. There are loads of bands I’m gutted I missed but it’s impossible to catch everything. Just about ever set we watched was excellent but my personal highlight was dancing like mad to Helen Love‘s crazy pogo punk set. Her crowd were so happy and friendly and completely determined to have a brilliant time. Tickets are already bought for PS 15.

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From massive to absolutely tiny. The Iona Village Hall Music Festival was one of those perfect summer weekends. Iona is a tiny island off the west coast of Mull and this festival was put together by Idlewild (Roddy lives on Iona) and featured many Idlewild related artists as well as some guests such as King Creosote and Alexi Murdoch. It’s the most beautiful setting, amazing beaches, wild landscapes and  two ferries just to get there. Add in friends (old and new), sunshine, drinks and great music and you can imagine the rest. The music was great. An acoustic set from Idlewild is always lovely (I’ve seen a lot of them) but my personal highlight was a great set in the village hall from the elusive Alexi Murdoch whose bittersweet personal music is perfect in this setting. If you’re unfamiliar start with his soundtrack to the film Away We Go. The weekend finished off with a ceilidh. The pitch black stagger back to the campsite through all the sheep was pretty unforgettable. We didn’t want to leave Iona. No idea if this festival will be a one off but hopefully not, we’d love to do it all over again.

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Third and last festival of this year was Beacons near Skipton in the Yorkshire Dales. Kimberly and I need very little excuse for a fancy dress party so off we went with tents and penguin costumes in tow (Fancy dress theme was Empires and yes, we thought we were clever). We were attracted to Beacons because of it’s great line up for guitar bands, most of whom we’d already seen this year but we can’t get enough. Beacons has a seriously impressive electronic / dance line up too if that’s more your thing.

The festival was great fun. It’s a lovely setting, a nice size and there’s loads of arty tents, stalls, great food and stuff happening all the time. A hilarious dance-off kick started the fun, some dancers were seriously impressive, some seriously funny but the star of the show was the toddler who wandered into the action and tried to copy everyone’s moves.

Music wise we saw great sets from Post War Glamour Girls, Menace Beach, Girl Band, Speedy Ortiz, Daughter, The Wytches, Metz, Cheatahs, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, DZ Deathrays, Action Bronson and Joanna Gruesome. We danced to Optimo (yeah, all the way from Glasgow to dance in a field to Optimo), hung out in the Belgrave Tent, drank a lot of Kopperberg and generally had a brilliant time. We somehow managed to miss Hookworms and Eagulls. Oh well. Horrendous weather on the final day meant we headed home a bit earlier than planned but it didn’t spoil the weekend.  Hopefully Beacons can come up with another killer line-up in 2015.

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And Moving On…

2015 is already shaping up very nicely. January will get off to a great start as we’re off to see bis in Glasgow and Leeds. Other gigs already lined up include Ex Hex, Idlewild and Sleater-Kinney. I’m particularly excited about seeing Sleater-Kinney again and can’t wait to hear their new album. The two songs they’ve shared so far are as brilliant as you’d expect. There’s a lot of new music to look forward to. Menace Beach release their debut album, Trust Fund sound very exciting and their album is out in February. I’m hoping there’ll be new stuff from Metz, Speedy Ortiz and Deers amongst many many others. Kimberly and I will be in Barcelona for Primavera Sound again (The Strokes and Ride already announced) and hopefully we’ll be able to fit one or two other festivals in as well. We’ll just wait and see where the mood takes us.

What is guaranteed is that I’ll be buying plenty more records and writing about them here and hopefully I’ll keep on writing for Overblown too, it’ll be fun to see that site grow as we get more and more great content on there.

Have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone. Happy listening!!

 

 

Tyrannosaurus Dead / Joanna Gruesome Split 7″

This excellent split single on Odd Box Records is the first time I’ve come across Tyrannosaurus Dead (excellent name) but definitely not the first time I’ve come across the wonderful Joanna Gruesome (Will post a review of their new split 12″ with Trust Fund soon).

Post Holiday Dead Song is the offering from Tyrannosaurus Dead here and I’m instantly hooked. We’ve got great fuzzy double guitar attack right from the outset. Upbeat, bright and sharp sounding. Very reminiscent of 90s American indie rock, particularly Dinosaur Jr who I know a lot of bands get compared to but that can’t be a bad thing.

Particularly pleasing is the cutting back and forth between the male / female vocals. The two voices are actually fairly similar and complement each other really well, especially when singing together. This is not the bands first single so there’s plenty else for me to go and discover. As good timing has it their debut album will be released on Odd Box Records on 11th November. If it’s a strong as this single i can sense a lot of listens ahead.

The Joanna Gruesome track here is Anti-Parent Cowboy Killers, the song that opens their brilliant album Weird Sister. It scorches through it’s two-and-a-half minutes and is a perfect introduction to this band. We’ve got the pop hooks crossed with crushing indie-rock and  the switch from singing in verses to yelling and great boy/girl vocals in the chorus. Joanna Gruesome have tunes all over the place and the music should please anyone who loves a bit of melody twisted with some ferociousness. If you get a chance to go see JG play live don’t miss it.

Well Played to Odd Box Records for giving each band one side of the cover for the sleeve of this single. That doesn’t happen enough on split singles for my liking but it’s great when it does!

Girl Band – De Bom Bom 7″

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Girl Band are astonishingly impressive to see live. I’ve been lucky enough to catch them twice in 2014, first in Barcelona and then somewhere in a field in Yorkshire. Even more impressively they seem completely capable of transferring the controlled chaos of their live performances onto record.

De Bom Bom is the latest in a series of singles from Girl Band on Any Other City records. It’s the only one I’ve actually been able to get my hands on (their Record Store Day single Cha Cha Cha only had 100 copies pressed) and I’m so pleased I did. It’s not that their music is hard to get hold of, their singles are available as free downloads from their bandcamp page so go get ’em.

De Bom Bom fizzes and crackles like an electric shock. The drums pulse along keeping a frantic dizzying beat whilst the guitars and bass sound like they’re winning a fight with a chainsaw. There’s no hook here like the catch of the bass line from their earlier Lawman single. Just power and electrical energy crackling and pounding through disintegrating speakers. The vocals range from polite, if slightly lazy sounding charm to maniacal screaming and yelling. It doesn’t feel like it all fits together in one place, how can any of this be planned? It does fit though, perfectly.

Side B is a cover of I Love You by Beat Happening. I’ll not pretend to know the original but we’re treated to more noise over a hypnotic bass line and what occasionally sounds like a broken lawnmower plugged into an amp. I’ll need to go and check out the original to see how much of the Girl Band treatment this has been given, I suspect a lot. Either way it doesn’t really matter. It’s excellent.

The single comes in a really simple white sleeve with De Bom Bom stamped on it and it’s hand numbered on the back (mine is number 32). The white sleeve is wrapped in card, again with the band name simply stamped on and the song titles stamped on the back. Pleasingly the vinyl is also hand numbered. It’s all straightforward to look at and feels like a really special package, very much DIY.

Deers – Barn 7″

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Having heard this on the radio a couple of times recently I was delighted to pick up a copy of the 7″ single. I wasn’t so delighted to discover that this isn’t the first single by Deers meaning I’ve missed the boat to get my hands on the Demo 7″ that they released earlier in the year. Ah well, can’t get them all, I’ll go download it soon no doubt.

The Barns single has two tracks. First up on Side-A is Castigadas en el Granero (apparently this loosely translates as “Grounded in the Barn” if that helps at all – probably not). This is such a friendly track, not in a polite shake-your-hand way but in an instant let’s-be-best-friends-right-now excitable way. It’s rough and ready and happy to please. This is indie pop having a good time. The band sound extremely enthusiastic and I’m guessing when they play live they’ll probably be having just as much fun as the audience.

On the flip-side is Between Cans, a little bit slower paced than the a-side but equally infectious. The guitar intro strongly reminds me of Beach House minus the dreamy sound and production. Similarities end there though, the vocals kick in and it’s sounding more like a 60s girl group. It’s pop all over. The voices sound great together (Spanish accents always sound so good) whether singing or almost shouting (but shouting in tune of course).

 

Back Cover - nice intro to the band
Back Cover – nice intro to the band

The recording and production on both tracks is rough to say the least. It sounds like we’re sitting in a room above their Madrid practice space listening to the band playing live below. It suits the songs perfectly and sounds all the more charming for it. Really looking forward to hearing more from Deers, debut album out in 2015 so i’ll be keeping an eye out for that. I’m also hoping to catch them playing Glasgow at the end of November.

  • Label – Lucky Number  http://www.luckynumbermusic.com (and Mom + Pop Records in USA)
  • Format – 7″ Single on black vinyl (Limited to 500 copies) available at
  • Released 3rd Nov 2014

Owl & Mouse – Somewhere To Go EP

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It’s not everyday you discover a band by watching them play a gig on a moving steam train. That’s the wonderful Indietracks Festival for you and that’s where I first came across Owl & Mouse in 2013. It was hot and seriously sweaty on that packed train carriage, I couldn’t really see the band but could hear them, if only just. Just was enough though and I sought out their CD at the merchandise tent which came complete with a hand drawn cover. I also got given a 7″ picture disc of this band for free (I tried to pay for it but they wouldn’t take any money) which I believe was the only “official” Owl & Mouse release before the Somewhere To Go EP.

The hand-drawn CD Cover
The hand-drawn CD Cover

Owl & Mouse seem to be the perfect fit for a label like Fika Recordings with their love on indie pop and all things nice. Owl & Mouse are 100% nice so if nice isn’t your thing then look away now. Me? I like nice. It’s nice to be nice.

The Somewhere To Go EP offers four songs (aren’t EPs just great?) and the formula is very simple. This is heart-felt folky pop, usually just a ukelele strumming a gentle chord pattern at a gentle pace. Hannah Botting’s singing melts across the songs. Her tone is beautiful, it’s like a voice that’s kept wrapped up in a blanket and only let out for special occasions.

Opening song Don & Anna starts with the lyric “You made my day before it started, I thought of you ’til dawn” and we’re off to a warm start. This is where Owl & Mouse songs get intriguing. The music and the vocals are dreamy, sweet and almost always sombre. However, the lyrics can be surprising. Often pleasant, often sad and almost always very personal. Don’t Read the Classics, the 3rd track on this record, is the perfect example with lyrics so personal you can feel the hurt and heartbreak so much it can be uncomfortable. It’s devastating and powerful stuff but yet it couldn’t possibly be any softer on the ears.

Track 2, Western Skies, offers a bit of a change with a male voice but other than that it’s all exactly what you’d expect from this band. These 4 songs do present a bit of a development from some of the bands earlier songs with additional instrumentation and vocals. It definitely feels like a bit more of a band rather than a girl and her songs. It’s bittersweet from start to finish and it sounds perfect when lying in the dark if you need or want to relax.

The record itself is very well presented by Fika Recordings. There’s the label’s trademark brown cardboard sleeve and nice hand-drawn artwork (by Paul Rains of Allo Darlin I believe) with one simple colour. It looks as good as it sounds. The record itself is pressed on blue vinyl to match the colour on the sleeve.

  • Label – Fika Recordings http://fikarecordings.com
  • Format – 7″ blue vinyl Limited to 300 copies (still a few left i believe, go buy one)
  • Released – May 2014 (roughly!)

Bleached – For The Feel EP

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Front Cover

So it’s late October in Glasgow and it’s been unseasonably warm of late but all of a sudden today it’s freezing. Let’s face it, we’ll be freezing here until at least April. As soon as this record starts it’s summer again and you’re dancing with friends at a festival just as the sun sets to end a warm day.

Bleached’s For the Feel 7″ EP on Dead Oceans Records has 3 tracks. The title song is on side-A and side-B contains two cover versions, Poison Ivy by The Coasters and Born To Kill by The Damned. This EP follows on from the bands’ excellent 2013 album Ride Your Heart. Originally released as a download in July 2015 the EP was put into a physical format just recently.

Lead track For The Feel bubbles with optimism. This is straightforward rock n’roll punk being played and sung with a smile and it’s catchy as hell. The guitars jangle through their three chords backed up by a bass line that adds the roll to the rock. The vocal harmonies at the chorus add some more sunshine. This is fun from start to finish.

There’s a real vintage feel to the Poison Ivy cover. The main guitar part surfs along, the vocals catch that doo-wop spirit of the original artist and it all adds up to Bleached sounding like they’re loving making this great song their own.

back cover
back cover

Born to Kill is the noisiest and fastest of this 3 song collection and that’s no surprise given it’s a song by The Damned. This is more punk sounding than most Bleached songs I’ve known previously and it’s a sound that suits the band really well. This punk aspect is what makes this my favourite song of these 3. It’s just as much fun as the other two tracks but deserves to have the  volume notched that wee bit higher.

If you love your music to be fast, fun, uplifting and carefree go and check out Bleached.

  • Label – Dead Oceans http://www.scdistribution.com/release.html?catalog=DOC094
  • Format – 7″ Limited Edition (I’ve no idea how many copies it’s limited to)
  • Released – September 2014

Speedy Ortiz & Chris Weisman 7″

Split Singles. Double Joy! This is number 14 in the LAMC series of split 7″s from Famous Class records, a series in loving memory of Ariel Panero (for more info go to http://www.famousclass.com/lamc-series/ ). The series has featured bands and artists like Ty Segall, White Fence, Lower Dens and Parquet Courts. The premise being they ask a band to supply an unreleased song for the A-side and also ask the band to pick their favourite emerging artist for the B-side.

From cover by Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz
From cover by Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz

I picked this single up because of the presence of Speedy Ortiz who’s previous records I’ve loved. Side A features a new Speedy Ortiz song called Doomsday, a gloomy title and a slightly gloomy song with Sadie’s voice acting as a sweetener over slow churning guitar parts. The pace of this song is a lot slower than the majority of their debut Album Major Arcana and lacks the fizz and spark of their recent Real Hair EP. There’s still plenty of fuzz on the guitars and they offset the bittersweet vocals perfectly creating a feeling of foreboding but a sense that it’s all gonna end ok (can Doomsday end ok?). I suspect live this will become a much heavier song but on this 7″ it’s beautiful.

Purple Vinyl Edition of 300
Purple Vinyl Edition of 300

Chris Weisman is a new name to me and I knew within ten seconds of the needle landing that this song was right up my street. I Took it of a Record is perfectly gentle. The guitar strums and flows along and Chris sings softly like he’s scared of waking up whoever is asleep in the same room. It’s over before you know it and the final refrain of “I took it off a record, or at least I tried” suggests the singer is never quite certain he achieved what he was trying to but he was perfectly content trying anyway. Perfectly content sums this song up nicely.

  • Label – Famous Class
  • Released – 7th Oct 2014
  • 7″ Available in 3 editions (200 x Purple and Yellow Splatter vinyl, 300 x Purple vinyl and Standar Black vinyl)
  • Available as a name your price download over at https://famousclass.bandcamp.com/album/lamc-14
  • Proceeds go to the Ariel Panero Memorial Fund at VH1 Save the Music
  • Famous Class say “We do the special coloured vinyl for fun’s sake and it’s no fun to see it on ebay for $50”

Sleater-Kinney – Bury Our Friends 7″

7" signed on side A
7″ signed on side A

Perhaps it’s cheating to write about this 7″ on it’s own? It is part of the “Stay Together 1994-2006″ box set    released by Sub Pop on 20th Oct 2014 (more on that particular treasure chest in another post) so it’s not like you could pick this single up on it’s own for a few quid. However, it’s a special one and of all the music in that retrospective collection this was the only new song.   This 7″ was a surprise addition to the Stay Together box set. Pressed on white vinyl and completely untitled other than the date 01/20/2015 it sparked a bit of a social media frenzy regarding whether this meant Sleater Kinney were coming back after so many years. Of course we now know the answer to that and that this 7” was a clever way of marketing the re-launch of the band. It’s a single sided record with the song Bury Our Friends on A and the signatures of the band etched onto side B.Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 16.54.43 Somewhat excitingly according to a Sub-Pop tweet 500 random copies of this single were autographed by the band. Looks like I was one of the lucky ones!

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Side B with etched signatures

As for the song itself I admit to much trepidation when first playing this. Hearing new music from one of your all time favourite bands after such a long time can be a big let down. No such worries here. Immediate relief turns very quickly to hyper excitement as Sleater-Kinney flow straight back into form. The guitars are jerky and angular. The music slows during the verses but the pace is maintained by a determined self-assured vocal sung almost in a staccato style. The chorus stomps, pounds and grins with defiance. “We’re wild and weary but we won’t give in” sums up the tone of this song. It’s a departure from their last album “The Woods” but that album was a bit of a departure from the bands previous style. Bury Our Friends is brash, confident and marks a very exciting return. There’s absolutely no sign that Sleater-Kinney have lost any of the spark that they always displayed all those years ago.

  • Label – Sub Pop
  • Edition of 3,000 7″ Singles on White Vinyl in paper sleeve (500 copies signed by band)
  • Released on 19th October 2014 (UK) as part of Sleater-Kinney Start-Together // 1994-2006 box set
  • At time of writing this song is available as a free download at http://www.sleater-kinney.com
  • Sleater-Kinney’s album No Cities To Love will be released on 19th Jan 2015 on Sub Pop