The Hubbards – ‘Body Confident’ Single Review

When The Hubbards released ‘Just Touch‘, we thought we’d found our favourite single of 2017 and we weren’t the only ones. At the point of writing this, ‘Just Touch’ has been streamed close to 40,000 times on Spotify with their equally as addictive video having just over 13,000 views on YouTube.

Add to that their recent support slots for pop-giants The 1975 and Foals as well as a slot at Radio 1’s Big Weekend and suddenly The Hubbards are a band you wish you’d heard of sooner.

So when word spread that a new single was on the horizon, we knew that we’d be in for a very exciting ride.

‘Body Confident’ is The Hubbards on top of their game. A swirly misty curtain of guitars and bass forms the backdrop of the single, whilst vocalist Reuben Driver instantly welcomes you in with a simple “hey, how’ve you been?”. The song remains like a conversation between Driver and the listener, giving ‘Body Confident’ a casual overall feel that is just as moreish as the song itself.

At the chorus the guitars jump up a notch to lift the song even further, offering the signature Hubbards sound only with the slightest of twists. Driver’s vocals, now harmonised, pulse with the guitar melody they’re perched on, before dropping back down into the second verse and bubbling over into the following chorus.

The Hubbards have a knack for producing catchy earworm-type singles and ‘Body Confident’ is one of them. It oozes modern indie finesse with a confident attitude to go with it and their track history proves that this isn’t a fluke. The four-piece have grown with every release; from ‘Is It Me?’ to ‘Cold Cut’, ‘Born To Fly’ to ‘Just Touch’, their music has developed but the quintessential Hubbards sound has always (sort of) stayed the same.

How far will this band go? You’ll find the answer to that in their music.

E.

Advertisements

Fears Chella – ‘Lush’ Single Review

Although Fears Chella have only released two singles since the formation of the band over 12 months ago, they’ve somehow managed to create a whirling frenzy of excitement and anticipation, that can only be produced by a band who are destined for good things. This self-produced buzz can be felt like static, whether you’re watching them live on stage or listening to their brand new single ‘Lush’.

‘Lush’ is a sexy, sweaty, hazy, dream-like song, sticky with a thick coating of 100% free range Chella. It’s another step away from their debut hit ‘Cool’, a sideways lunge from previous release ‘Girlfriend’ and an altogether fresher version of the band, who’ve spent much of 2017 refining and defining their own branded sound.

Beginning much like ‘Girlfriend’, ‘Lush’ opens with a distant synthy hum, before diving straight into a gooey guitar riff that dances through the intro like waves on a shore. Before long you’re hit with the familiar sound of Andy Gannon’s vocals, that have become as much a part of the band as the members themselves. Gannon gives the band that extra edge within the emerging music scene; he sings with ease, effortlessly painting pictures of love and the fall that comes before it, like no other.

‘Lush’ continues to make you swoon. Even the chorus is perfect pop goodness, short and simple, with just enough words to have you singing along by the next time it comes around. And then there’s the interlocking guitar parts, the undercurrent bass that moves with the flow and the drums that carve out the winding path of the single. There are moments where I’m convinced I can hear The Cure in their ‘Disintegration’ days, although only for the briefest of seconds before I’m back in the ‘Lush’ bubble.

If there’s one thing that Fears Chella are good at, it’s creating some of the finest singles around. And although it may be true that the band could (and definitely should) release more music more frequently, there’s something about their drawn-out releases that have you climbing the walls for more, meaning that when they do finally give you those three minutes of aural bliss, you’re more than ready to accept them.

E.

We’re No Heroes – ‘Youth’ Single Review

Do you ever get that urge to stick on a funky record, turn up the volume enough to feel the bass line thumping through the floor boards and dance like no one is watching? If the answer to that question isn’t yes, you’re definitely lying. Whether it be a once in a lifetime thing or a weekly occurrence, we’ve all got a secret record stash of whatever it is that gets us groovin’ to help us dance our troubles away (even if we look more like drunk dads at a wedding than extras from Fame).

Luckily for us, Cardiff based trio We’re No Heroes know just what we need to do exactly that and their brand new single is ready and waiting to knock you sideways.

‘Youth’ is a funky feel-good single that not only perfectly introduces you to the band (if, like us, this is your first meeting), but it slots in amongst their previous releases with ease. Quite noticeably the band’s biggest influence is disco pioneer and music legend Nile Rodgers, although ‘Youth’ is slightly less Saturday Night Fever and a little more indie groove.

The general feel of the track is derived from a straight drum beat coupled with a bubbling bass and clean guitar riff, that run over each other like mercury. All of this leads into the chorus, which you discover like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Complete with heavenly harmonies and hand claps (hand claps!), the chorus, made up of one line repeated twice, shimmies its way so far into your mind that you have no choice but to let it do its thing.

We’re No Heroes know exactly what to do and when to do it in order to create irresistible music. Previous releases ‘Voodoo’ and ‘Stay Weird’, which wouldn’t be out of place on a Duran Duran album, not only give proof of this, but they capture what it means to be in this band and the passion that pumps through their veins.

Listening to ‘Youth’ makes you want to get up and dance, no matter where you are and what you’re doing. It makes you want to do something spontaneous, like go for a long drive with no destination in mind, or tell someone you love them. ‘Youth’ should come with a label: 100% satisfaction guaranteed.

E.

Psyence – ‘Black Hole’ Single Review

When Psyence released their EP, the band appeared to be kings of the world. After a build up like no other, a teaser track that didn’t even feature on the finished record and shows across the country, ‘A New Dawn’ was a truly astonishing coming together of tracks. It was trippy, psychedelic rock, with a modern and sometimes slightly indie twist to it. The riffs were immense, the bass lines and chocolatey synth accompaniments seemed to last forever and the drums smashed holes through your speakers. Whatever followed ‘A New Dawn’ had a lot to live up to.

So when Psyence contacted me with a preview of their brand new single, I stopped what I was doing and pressed play almost immediately.

‘Black Hole’ is beastly. It floods my headphones with every kind of sound and almost immediately I’m sky-high, floating in the abyss. There’s a million and one levels to it and they’re hard to truly appreciate with just one listen, but I’ll attempt to describe a handful of them here.

The first is a synth soaked fast paced opener, with Stephen Pye’s drawn out vocals cushioned by the reverberating guitars that rev hastily in the background. As you enter the second level the whole track picks up pace, like a Ford Mustang on an open road. A silky smooth guitar riff weaves its way through the middle of the mush, occasionally overlapping with Pye’s vocals and often dampening their velocity. As you begin to run out of road the song veers right, causing you to free fall for the briefest of moments, before crashing into the chorus at full speed and continuing on.

The whole thing is filthy; the guitars, the synth solo, Pye’s vocals that seem to go on and on, the abrupt and unexpected ending and the way that Psyence can release so much heart-racing hair-raising music in the space of 12 months.

If you want to escape your world for a short while (and let’s face it, who doesn’t sometimes?), ‘Black Hole’ is your key to the door.

E.

 

 

Merrym’n – ‘Life, on VHS’ Album Review

It’s been two years since Merrym’n last released an album and although he’s produced a number of singles and EP’s in the meantime, the full length record is the thing we’ve all been secretly craving. Well, I know I have.

So it’s lucky then that after home recording, layering, editing, mixing and mastering and then painfully redoing each track, as you tend to do when you’re a do-it-yourself-sort-of-musician, that Merrym’n has finally delivered unto us an eleven track album of musical greatness – and that’s not even an exaggeration.

‘Life, on VHS’ is a local masterpiece, penned by Stoke-on-Trent based musician and life observer Bob Moston. Opening with ‘Ay Up, Ow At, Orate?’, the lead single from the album, ‘Life, on VHS’ starts as it means to go on. ‘Ay Up, Ow At, Orate?’ is a local anthem, full of local dialect, local places and accompanied by a video jam-packed with local people. It’s a song that speaks for a city that has long been the butt of many jokes, a city that is defined not by its past, but by the people, places and opportunities that are alive and well within it.

‘The Rag n’ Bone Man’ would have been well placed on Merrym’n’s previous album ‘Black Over Bill’s Mother’s’, through the return of Moston’s trusty harmonica and signature emotive lyrics. Moston adds a romantic storytelling twist to a character who is viewed by many to be just a scrap collector, ensuring that you never look at your local rag and bone man in the same way ever again.

If ever there was a musician who’d write a song about the A500, a topic of many heated conversations, it would have to be Merrym’n. ‘A500 Everyday’ is that very song, breaking up the album after the upbeat introduction, with a sombre moving piece about one of the busiest roads in Staffordshire. It’s the sort of song you’ve come to expect from Bob Moston, as is ‘North Wales Expressway’, although only in the lyrical sense. ‘North Wales Expressway’ is the sort of song you’d find in an indie film, with a football stadium filling finale complete with brass accompaniment, giving the song a rather grand fade out.

‘The Old Vic’ is a fine slice of nostalgia, taking football fans everywhere back to the days of the previous home of Stoke City football club, The Victoria Ground. Although demolished in the late 90’s, Moston manages to take you back through the power of his lyrics and the genius inclusion of vintage football commentary sampling. The melodic plodding of this track makes it hard not to feel emotional, as it seems that ‘The Old Vic’ is more about the disappearance of the things we once loved so much, rather than just a reflection on a demolished football ground.

At halfway through the album you’re struck by ’14 Thatcham Green’, a jazzy swinging number that could easily be mistaken for an unused Bugsy Malone track, thanks to the twanging piano and plodding bass line. Moston paints a picture of simpler times gone by, turning the relatively normal estate into something of a dream world. As does ‘Cable Cars In Festival Park’, a song that does exactly what it says on the tin. As you look back through rose-tinted glasses, soundtracked by the beautiful simplicity of the track, you see all of the things that have long since been forgotten. The combination of the locally renowned Trent Vale Poet, a collaboration that has been patiently waiting to happen for some time, as well as Moston’s stripped back accompaniment, makes for a rather fitting piece of musical excellence and poetic genius and is one of my favourite tracks of the album.

 

tumblr_owa40olcCC1t0naaoo1_1280.png
‘Life, on VHS’ album launch gig

 

‘Onwards and Upwards’ is the only track that is sung from Moston’s point of view, rather than a narration of someone else’s life. Whether it’s a personal track or not is up for debate, but one thing that is sure is that ‘Onwards and Upwards’ is one of the finest examples of the detailed lyrical brilliance that Merrym’n has become so well-known for.

Both humoring and heartbreaking, ‘He Built A Cinema’ is yet another of my favourite pieces of Merrym’n’s work. Based on a true story of a man who fulfilled his life long ambition, of building a replica ABC cinema (in his back garden), ‘He Built A Cinema’ demonstrates the love and determination of the people, as they desperately cling on to the things they love, refusing to accept their demise. ‘My Kingdom For A Horse’ is a further example of Merrym’n’s adventurous side. Breaking away from the musical themes that encompass his music, Moston has produced a song that would be perfect for a long drive in the country. It’s a track that will have you foot-stomping and hand-clapping the moment the beat kicks in and maybe even air guitaring too – something you’d never expect to be doing on a Merrym’n song.

Bringing the album to a close is ‘2021’, a track that is guaranteed to pull on the heartstrings of anyone who listens to it. Moston questions the future of towns and cities such as Stoke-on-Trent, as he notes the closing of shops, demolishing of towns and the sad end of British pubs. He makes a bold statement as he paints a very grey image of what’s to come, adding to the running album theme of nostalgia coupled with a slither of sadness in the things we no longer have. Ending his album in this way could be seen as bleak, but it’s a wake up call and it ensures that you go away thinking long and hard about your life.

‘Life, on VHS’ is, as every Merrym’n record always has been, a trip down memory lane. It’ll have you laughing and crying in equal amounts, tapping your foot, nodding your head and bringing out the photo albums of times gone by. Merrym’n is to the local music scene, what oatcakes are to Stoke – traditional, iconic and treasured by the local folk.

E.

Cassia @ The Exchange, Stoke 25/08/17

The last time I saw Cassia, they were sat behind a merch table with a long line of adoring fans waiting to meet them. This was back in May at Gorilla in Manchester, after they’d played a show-stopping set supporting Leeds based four-piece Clay. But it seems that in those three months, a lot has happened in the land of Cassia.

All of it was written across their faces the moment that they stepped into The Exchange in Stoke: tired eyes but beaming smiles, bold enough to light up any room. And although it was a disappointing turn out for the band (in terms of crowd size), Cassia were on cloud nine.

The Lounge Act and Stu Whiston opened up the night, two contrasting bands with contrasting levels of experience. The Lounge Act were extremely tight, their version of The 1975’s ‘Sex’ was proof of that. As was the colourful spectrum of originals that were included in their set, that offered those that stood watching a diverse bunch of feelings and emotions. As tight and as entertaining as they were however, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of interaction with the audience that remained throughout. Maybe it’s part of the image they’re aspiring to have, but it’s important to remember that it’s not just the quality of live performance that leaves an audience talking.

Stu Whiston on the other hand was very vocal, his driving indie rock sound powering through the venue. Original tracks such as ‘Silver’, ‘There Was A Time’ and the anthemic finale that was ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Show’ that rose and then fell so effortlessly, were all huge talking points of the band’s set. Whiston had the crowd moving, even if his crowd were smaller than he really should have deserved, but such is the attitude towards “not local enough” headliners i.e. Cassia. Just as The Lounge Act did, Whiston and his band made it work and neither bands seemed particularly fazed by their dwindling crowd.

It was disappointing to see a band of Cassia’s size perform to a half empty venue, something I feel can only be blamed by the amount of local music supporters, who’re often too afraid to take a chance on a band they’ve never heard before. But with a busy weekend of performances at both Reading and Leeds festival ahead of them, Cassia were far from sharing my disappointment.

 

IMG_6830.JPG
Cassia – a band that will change the world, one bongo beat at a time.

 

They played, just as they had done at Gorilla to a room packed full of excitable teenagers, to an exceptional standard and it was quite clear to everyone present that this band are the next big thing. Their signature tropi-pop sound made it virtually impossible to stand still, with tracks such as ‘Moana’, ‘Get Up Tight’ and ‘Weekender’ gaining them new fans with every strum. Rob Ellis, Jacob Leff and Lou Cotterill were comfortable on stage, something that has naturally grown from their love of performing together. Leff in particular appeared to be in his own world and the band couldn’t help but bob up and down to the music they were making.

But that night was significant for the band in more ways than one. Not only was this the first time the Macclesfield based three-piece had performed in Stoke, it was also the release day of their brand new single ‘Sink’. Scroll through their Twitter account (@wearecassia) and you’ll find an overwhelming feeling of love and support for this new track and quite literally all of their exciting musical endeavours. ‘Sink’ is taken from their brand new EP ‘Movers & Shapers’ that will follow their 2016 self-titled three-track release. ‘Sink’ is a natural progression for the band and one that is evident in their live performances.

Cassia concluded the evening with ‘100 Times Over’, their most popular track to date. Ellis’s clean guitar, Cotterill’s smooth bass line and Leff’s caribbean inspired drum beat, the three most important aspects of every song they make, slithered cooly out of the speakers and wrapped themselves around the room. For a moment the world seemed to stop and ‘100 Times Over’ seemed like it could last forever. So much so that when it came to an end, you were left wishing you could replay their entire set all over again.

Cassia have a gigantic few months ahead of them, with a potentially life changing few years in touching distance. But this is a band who are making music for the love of it, a band who befriend everyone they speak to and one that deserve every ounce of the attention they’re receiving.

E.

 

Larkins @ Band On The Wall, Manchester 18/08/17

Four piece conquer Manchester with hometown show

Manchester will forever be known as the musical capital of the country. Not only is the thriving music scene one of the liveliest and most prolific, it’s also home to some of the biggest names in our country’s musical history, the most obvious being Oasis and The Smiths.

But away from the distant hum of the champagne supernovas and the light that never goes out, a revolution is taking place and it’s only getting louder.

Deep inside the small independent venues of Manchester’s Northern Quarter, are a plethora of acts all chasing the same dream. Behind every door, a different band or soloist is taking to the stage, with a fire in their heart and music on their mind. How many actually achieve that dream is unknown, but if there’s one band who stand a good a chance of taking it all the way to the top, it has to be Larkins.

On Friday night at Band On The Wall, Larkins dominated the night. It was evident from the moment you walked through the door, that this wasn’t going to be just any old gig. With an exciting string of gigs and festivals behind them (as well as a sneaky ¬†play on ITV’s This Morning), the four piece were back on home soil and ready to prove why they’re one of the most exciting bands in town.

The night began with Matter Of Mind, a young rock band from Stockport with energy comparable to that of a tightly coiled spring. They performed original tracks ‘Sanity’, ‘It’s Obvious’ and ‘Far Too Long’, as proud family members and a gaggle of excitable followers looked on. Like many aspiring bands, Matter Of Mind have a short way to go to reach their full potential and their mish-mashed and slightly off centre sound reflects that. However Matter Of Mind have the foundations of an exciting band and I’m sure that with a little more time and experience, we’ll see them truly flourish.

Next up were tropical pop Scots Indigo Velvet. We’ve featured their music in previous playlists, but it’s only when you see them live that you can really appreciate just how infectious their music is. Opening with hair-raising harmonies and a laid back carefree attitude, Indigo Velvet put on a spectacular show. Their set included ‘Mona’, ‘Easy Love’ and ‘Rugrats’, a song built around the popular children’s TV show theme tune.

Their strong Scottish accents bled through their music, weaving its way into each song and giving their set a large helping of personality. It felt as though they’d been plucked directly from Paradise and dropped into the venue, as the crowd bobbed and swayed as the music took hold. Indigo Velvet are all kinds of heaven and just in case we weren’t fans before, we most definitely are now.

But we weren’t just there to be given a tropi-pop fix. We were there to catch Larkins in action, as they stole the night away from Manchester’s firm grip.

Excitement built quickly after Indigo Velvet left the stage and the sold out Band On The Wall, now filled with sweaty bodies, seemed to be alive with electricity and anticipation. Eventually the lights dimmed and the sound of Larkins’ walk on music began to seep from the speakers, until gradually, as though being called to battle, all four members were ready to wage war.

The band ignited the night almost instantly, with incredible live renditions of their current single ‘Sugar Sweet’, ‘The Tale of Cassandra’ and ‘Velvet’. Frontman Josh Noble was particularly fiery, basking in the attention from his hometown crowd and the noticeably large amount of teenage girls, all pining for a piece of him. The rest of the band were¬†driven by this attention too and their confidence levels and quality of live performance were sky high. ‘Wasted Years’ was a definite set highlight as it demonstrated just how together Larkins really are, both on a musical and physical level. When you’re building your footing as a band, gigging constantly and writing and recording new music, this togetherness is vital and is something that Larkins are not short of.

IMG_6743

“Manchester, we’re going to pretend it’s our last song…” announced Noble. “If you’ve got lights, now’s the time to put them up” he added, an order that the whole room obeyed instantly. Noble continued to control the crowd like puppets on strings, as he instructed them all to “get down low” until nearly the first few rows were sat on the floor before him. Larkins performed ‘Sapphire’, taken from their ‘Don’t Leave The Light On’ EP, before exiting the stage for the first time to the pleading audience, who just wanted one more song.

When a solo Noble returned to the mic carrying an acoustic guitar, the crowd erupted once more. A breathtaking acoustic version of ‘Let Your Hair Down’ ensued and it was at that very moment, whilst observing the hundreds of people singing back at the top of their lungs, that the power of this band really hit home.

Larkins are more than just a phase, in fact they’re far from that level now. Yes, they’re following in the footsteps of many bands that have gone before them; some who’ve succeeded and some who’ve failed. But they’re at the forefront of this musical revolution, overthrowing the overplayed and over rated sounds of the UK Top 40, giving young adults everywhere a soundtrack to cut loose to and, more importantly, they’re proving that music always wins.

After the band played out their final track, the stadium sized ‘Hit and Run’, and everybody began to pile out of the room, the weight of what we’d all just observed still hung heavy in the air. Larkins would leave Manchester like gods, knowing with almost certainty that Manchester was their kingdom.

E.