Sunday, 31 January 2016

HAWK - Once Told

Article by KevW

Although based in London, Julie Hawk is originally from Ireland, and the purpose of this new single is "to raise awareness about the archaic mindset" of her home country's abortion laws and issues around pregnancy. It's a weighty and controversial subject to tackle, but in a world of throwaway pop that's largely devoid of meaning, you have to applaud HAWK for speaking up for what they believe in. In the wrong hands, such an issue would be too heavy for their music to withstand, but not so here.

'Once Told' lays on the atmosphere from the outset, and even if you had no grasp of the English language you'd detect the passion and emotion. It's safe to say that HAWK aren't short of vocal ability, and with a big (yet lacking in pomposity) guitar riff and some crashing drums, the rest of the band follow suit. As well as whipping up a thunderous storm, there's an intricate side to the arrangement that adds even more depth. 'Once Told' is a very potent track from a group who have a great grasp of alt-rock dynamics.

HAWK's website

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Basia Bulat - Fool

Article by KevW

Toronto's Basia Bulat has steadily built her fanbase since her debut release in 2007, stealthily becoming a star of the alternative music world. The star looks set to continue rising with the release of new album 'GOOD ADVICE' on February 12th. Shes shared stages with the likes of St. Vincent, Arcade Fire and Sufjan Stevens, and maybe it's time she was mentioned in the same breath as them too. If you were to make an amalgamation of the music that those three artists create, then you might just end up with something that sounds like new single 'Fool'.

Bulat's powerful vocals are a strong focal point as ever, bringing to mind a country-flecked Florence and the Machine, and a similarly accessible alt-pop style is what we get musically. With hints of indie, soul and folk also thrown into the mix, it's not hard to imagine this song becoming a crossover hit. This is rich and quirky though, creating its own world rather than simply borrowing from others, and the break in the middle shows a deftness and lets us know that Basia Bulat has subtlety to go with the sometimes commanding style. Really, this deserves to be big.

Basia Bulat's website


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The Raveonettes - This World Is Empty (Without You)

Article by KevW

One of the charges levelled against Denmark's finest is that their music can bit a bit samey. It's not a criticism I'd particularly go along with, as every album has been different, perhaps most notable the technicolour pop blast of 'Pretty In Black'. That album did contain themes that have been fairly consistent in The Raveonettes' music though, and new single 'The World Is Empty (Without You)' fits in with their canon of work in that respect, but there is a change musically, and perhaps one that was hinted at with the more experimental sound of last album 'Pe'ahi'.

This year will see the pair release a new track each month as part of their 'RAVE-SOUND-OF-THE-MONTH' series, and each song is designed to be individual and separate from the others rather than part of an album (the term they're using is "anti-album"). January's offering sees a marked change sonically, with more of an '80s feel and, notably, a lack of guitars, as they state that they simply didn't work on this track. Instead we get retro synths and electronic beats to back the sultry vocals. It's an approach that works surprisingly well, and despite the different production style it's still unmistakably The Raveonettes. An energetic, pulsating dark pop song about despair and loss, 'This World Is Empty (Without You)' will satiate the appetite of existing fans, and maybe prove to a few doubters that these guys aren't as one-dimensional as they might think.


The Raveonettes' website

Buy: 'This World Is Empty (Without You)'

Catch them live:

10 Mar - Oval Space, London, UK
12 Mar - Cosmosis Festival, Manchester, UK

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Best of 2015 - Ukraine

Article by Wayoutwest

All eyes have been on one particular hotspot in Eastern Europe ever since mass revolts began there a few years back - this is Ukraine. It seems with the revolutionary spirit has come a higher level of activism on the part of indie musicians (maybe this also has something to do with the growing power of the internet) and an impressive outpouring of creativity, with some artists even making waves beyond their country's borders. Prior to this period of instability, this country was mainly known for such "stable" pop staples as Ruslana (winner of the 2004 Eurovision with 'Wild Dances') and comedic cross-dresser Vera Serduchka with his (her) rendition of 'Dancing Lasha Tumbai' (code for telling Russia where to go). Now what we are witnessing in Ukraine is a huge wave of enthusiastic dynamic and hungry underground musicians, unparalleled to any time previously. Maybe it's due to the high unemployment levels and massive devaluation of the local currency, but certainly must also be fueled by individuals' eagerness to try improve their situation through art. You can't live on air alone, of course, but when where is nothing to do in any case, you sing, play, sample and create. Let's check out some of our picks from among Ukrainian releases from the outgoing year. 

Ummagma - Frequency

While Ummagma as a duo may have been "born" in Moscow, it really took root in the remote town of Kremenets in western Ukraine. Along with Pinkshinyultrablast and Sounds of Sputnik, this duo has essentially broken the mold of what an indie band from the ex-USSR is capable of, combining indie pop, shoegaze, and ambient with incredible taste in a dreamy way reminiscent of output from 4AD's "golden age". Releasing this album through labels on both sides of the Atlantic now, this 8-track LP includes beautiful contributions by two outstanding music legends: Robin Guthrie of Cocteau Twins and Malcolm Holmes of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.

Ummagma's website

Stream or buy: 'Frequency'.

Omodada - Кімнати

Omodada is the sole project of Ternopil-based artist Lesik Drachuk, who is also known for his participation in such groups as Los Colorados and Echo Gardens, among others. While most of the album features a diverse indie / psychedelic feel throughout, the final track takes a beautiful tangent electronically. Tik Tu also features on the final track of this release, 'All My Gods', which is a masterpiece.

Omodada's website

Stream or buy: 'Кімнати'.

On The Wane - Sick

Consisting of Eugene Voitov (guitar), Anna Lyashok (drums, vocals), Daria Maksimova (bass, vocals), and Alexander Yarosevich (guitar, vocals), this band blows any out of the water for 2015 releases in terms of mixing power-driven genres like grunge, shoegaze and alternative rock. On this standout track 'Light', you can feel how Sonic Youth-esque vocals mix with the energetic ferver of Gang of Four or even The Damned during the 'Phantasmagoria' era. The band also released their debut LP in December of 2014, which is also definitely worth checking out.

On The Wane's website

Stream or buy: 'Sick'. 

DaKooka - Radha (2015)

DaKooka is a young singer, pianist, DJ and songwriter from Chernivtsi who, like many other solo acts, collaborates with various musicians to fill out her sound for live performances. This project combines a unique sound, unique vocals and poetry in English, Russian and Polish. Her vocal timbre and style call to mind Roisin Murphy and La Roux, as well as Kosheen and Florence & the Machine. Alexander Sokol, formerly of post-rock duo BeBoBul, is also one of the key musicians involved in this project.

DaKooka's website

Stream: 'Radha (2015)'.

Zapaska - Vikna Vidchynyty

Based in the mystically historic walled city of Kamenets Podolski, Zapaska is an experimental indie pop duo comprised of Iana Shpachynska and Pavlo Nechytaylo. These guys tour like all the time, mainly keeping closer to home in nearby countries like Poland and the Czech Republic, but for as long as I've been following them, they are always on tour or about to tour. It's amazing they have time for recording but when they do, wonders like this song 'Vikna Vidchynty' come out, letting you ride their wave even from afar.

Zapaska's website

Buy: 'Vikna Vidchynyty'

Okean Elzy - Not Your War

This list wouldn't be complete if we didn't mention the most achieved Ukrainian rock band of our time Okean Elzy. This single brings a powerful message that ought to be of interest to anybody interested in the turmoil and sticky situation that is happening in Ukraine, and it's all available for you in either Ukrainian (lyrics) or English (check out the subtitles in this video). The statement released by the band itself says the following: "For centuries, Ukrainians have been brainwashed with foreign ideas, forced to act in foreign interests and fight someone else's wars. Now we have to, finally, take responsibility for our actions and take charge."

Okean Elzy's website

Buy: 'Not Your War'.

Demian Feriy – Incredible Machines

Demian Feriy is an indie-pop, experimental, psychedelic, indietronica project. Demian Feriy's solo work, separate from the other projects he's been involved in previously. This EP seemingly came out of nowhere and landed itself in a fair number of 'Best of 2015' charts within Ukraine itself. Not surprisingly so. Very cool diverse and hi-energy dynamics here and original compositions all around.

Demian Feriy's website

Stream or buy: 'Incredible Machines'.

Mandarinaduck - GardenSouls

This band is a four-piece with guys hailing from the Zaporizhe region of Ukraine. Comprised of Anton Levich, Oleksandr Gurenko, Sergiy Levich and Dmitriy Unaby, their music sits on the verge of shoegaze and indie pop, reminiscent of Nightmare Air, Panda Riot, Ask For Joy and with massive math-rock-hints of Pinkshinyultrablast.

Mandarinaduck's website

Stream or buy: 'GardenSouls'.

Semmar - Riesling

'Riesling' is Semmar's third single, which was recorded in Ternopil 'Shpytal Records' studio (like the Omodada release covered above). It's being offered as a free download. Somehow this band makes Ukrainian sound funky, like a fundamental element of a train's rhythm while moving. I drew this conclusion even before reading the artist's commentary on this track, which reads: "The song is about how sometimes you change your course of direction. While someone continues to move, you yourself may end up staying home".

Semmar's website

Download: 'Riesling'.

Blooms Corda - Monodance (2015)

Based in Kyiv (Kiev), Blooms Corda seem to be a trio (three guys) with a penchant for lo-fi pseudo-acoustic sets. Released through the Derevo label in Ukraine, we really couldn't find much information on them in English, so we are kind of limited in what we can say about them really. Let the music speak for itself.

Blooms Corda's website

Stream or download: 'Moondance'.

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Get Me Free #161: Pleasant Grove - Disintegration (Consider Your Brother)

Article by KevW

This week will see the release of 'The Heart Contortionists', an album that's been almost a decade in the making for Texans Pleasant Grove. The delay wasn't due to idleness though, and a turbulent few years has seen the band split and reform, as well as personal battles with drink, writer's block and divorce, all preventing the project from being completed. Pleasant Grove are now in a better place and sounding as good, if not better, than ever before. If first single 'Lava' was an indication that they were back in a big way, then 'Disintegration (Consider Your Brother)' confirms it.

It was with a mixture of alt-rock, psych and folk that the band made their name, and the ensuing years haven't changed their aesthetic too much, with this track taking classic songwriting to give us an upbeat alt-country vibe to begin with, before ramping up the sound with a simple but gritty riff and a rock-solid beat. Eerie guitar effects linger in the background giving a psychedelic feel and also a more alternative edge. It's another fine song from what looks set to be an album that will impress, and surely leave fans hoping they don't leave it so long next time.

Pleasant Grove's website

Buy: 'The Heart Contortionists'

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Saturday, 30 January 2016

M.G. Boulter - With Wolves The Lamb Will Lie

Article by KevW

The second album from M.G. Boulter sees him relocating from his home on the shores of the Thames to Sheffield and surrounding himself with a cast of talented musicians. 'With Wolves The Lamb Will Lie' is clearly the work of a man who has a masterful way with lyrics as well as an ear for a tune, and comparisons to greats are never far away. You can detect echoes of Bob Dylan in the way that words seem to flow effortlessly, as well as in a slightly similar vocal twang on occasion. Certain Van Morrison tracks also come to mind. Musical ground is shared with The Waterboys at some points too, but maybe the name that springs to mind the most is Paul Simon.

All of the above can be detected on opening track 'Sean Or Patrick' which details the life of a man drinking himself to death after losing everything, as well as apparently claiming to be the reincarnation of Ernest Hemingway. It's not the last time we've introduced to a character who appears doomed, but this album is far from bleak, and the lyrical dexterity and vibrant alt-folk and folk-rock sounds ensure that such subject matter is engaging and fascinating. 'The Sight Of The Cellar' talks of someone who claims to be born to raise hell and start "a fire in the souls of men" but "misfired somehow and ended up here again", while 'His Name Is Jean' is about a doting father, chain-smoking and mourning the fact his son has moved away. 'Carmel Oakes' talks of a man addicted to medication to anesthetise the pain of a life that didn't turn out the way it should have. 'Lalita' is another song of loss, this time of a man looking back on his youth and a Colombian girl who is now nothing but a memory.

Each song is a story, told with a way that could put many literary figures to shame. There's enough here to write a lengthy study on each track, and digging into the lyrics can be quite an emotional affair, which is a testament to the writing. What makes this album such a success is that the music matches, blending traditional storytelling from both sides of the Atlantic with a mixture of British folk and American country. This hybrid is found on the upbeat 'The Last Song', but again the subject is less jolly, detailing someone writing a song that they fear they may never finish as they "feel so old". Outcasts, loners and deadbeats pepper these tracks, as does the sea, both in its cleansing power and its destructive force ("I feel the weight of the ocean" - 'The Defeatist's Hymn', "When those mighty waves come forth to carry me home" - 'Someday The Waves').

In a way, 'With Wolves The Lamb Will Lie' is an album of escapism, but not in the usual sense. It talks of different characters and different times, but in a very human way. Growing old, missed opportunities, treading water until your wasted or destroyed life finally comes to an end; this might not be sunshine and happiness, but it's incredibly affecting. There are rays of hope too, perhaps most notably 'Love Trees' which is a love song that uses metaphors of acorns growing into oaks to talk about a relationship building, and resting "awhile in the shade of the leaves". The album closes in a suitably introspective and reflective way, with 'Let Light In' lamenting the past but looking forward, aching to find hope amongst the rubble. "And let the surf spray up/And wash me clean/And I will learn/To let light in". M.G. Boulter deserves the plaudits that this collection of songs will surely bring, but more than that, this album deserves to be widely heard. Should it get lost in the shadows it would be a crying shame.

M.G. Boulter's website

Buy: 'With Wolves the Lamb will Lie'

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Friday, 29 January 2016

Get Me Free #160: Inspired & The Sleep - Die Slow

Article by KevW

I'm sure there's an awful lot of skill and time put into these Pixar-style computer-generated animation films (I wouldn't know where to start), but it always amazes me how much time and effort goes into making a stop-motion video) I would know where to start, but I'd never have the patience). The visuals for Inspired & The Sleep's track 'Die Slow' were a year in the making and feature over 3,700 frames, and there was no post video work. You have to take your hat off to director Robert Crispe who began the project in London and finished it in his native Australia.

Taken from their recent EP 'Eyelid Kid', which is a name-your-price download from Bandcamp, the song is a modern hybrid of alternative pop and indie, and feels surprisingly sunny for a track called 'Die Slow'. A playful flute brings in some melody and the San Diego duo add a similarly carefree vocal that feels particularly easy-going, especially as they casually knock out a catchy pop chorus. It's a fine listen without its accompanying video (we wouldn't be featuring it otherwise), but the pair combined show what great artistry there is to be found if you look in the right places.

Download 'Eyelid Kid' for free by heading here

Inspired & The Sleep's website

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Thursday, 28 January 2016

T-Shirt Weather - Pig Beach

Article by KevW

For reasons unknown to us, T-Shirt Weather state they would like to thank "the one and only Devin O'Leary". It was a name that meant nothing to me, but a quick internet search reveals that there's a student of medieval history from their hometown of Durham by that name, so we'll assume it's him. Well done Devin, you're currently enjoying your fifteen minutes of fame (or perhaps you'll become the new Lucy Worsley?) thanks to having the opening track of 'Pig Beach' named after you. It's a punky, no nonsense piece of indiepop that comes at you like a slightly less bookish Los Campesinos!, and brings in some strings and just a touch of brass towards the end, in an indication of what's to come.

Spiky riffs, hectic, snappy vocals and catchy melodies are very much the order of the day, but the horn sections used for 'Gum' and 'The Undersigned' make things a bit more interesting and aren't far away from Dexys Midnight Runners in sound, although the music in general is quite far removed, seemingly taking inspiration from the likes of Helen Love or something you might have heard John Peel playing in the mid '90s. It's difficult not to see a connection to the never ending punky indiepop scene in Glasgow too, and this comes through most of all on the scuzzed-up 'My Dad's Black Polo', especially in the vocals. It's really a song of two parts, changing towards the end to become a grungy rush with some soulful sax making an appearance as it breaks for a few moments.

Things get a bit more jaunty on the hooky 'Sometimes' which has some clever lyrics, before T-Shirt Weather drop the tempo for the downbeat 'Spaghetti Western (School Reunion Version)' which is a twangy and maudlin highlight and adds a different kind of atmosphere to the record, flirting with psychedelia at times. It's soon back to business as normal with the brass-flecked, shouty powerpop of 'When Your Heart' which brings in some Beach Boys harmonies later on, and they wrap things up with the crisp 'Losing You'. At around 25 minutes, 'Pig Beach' doesn't outstay its welcome and it contains some memorable tunes. Plus, it's heaps of fun, and that's never a bad thing.

T-Shirt Weather's website

Buy: 'Pig Beach'.

The Sound Of Confusion on Twitter and Facebook

Get Me Free #159: Scary Little Friends - Made Up My Mind

Article by KevW

If the first track from their new EP, 'In This Lifetime', was a hint that San Francisco's Scary Little Friends had their sights set on being more than just some niche indie band that knocks around for a couple of albums before vanishing again, then 'Made Up My Mind' affirms that. The EP, 'Silent Revolution', is released this week, but it's misleading in its title, as any revolution involving this powerpop/rock trio is unlikely to be a quiet one. Earlier this month the band played the Great American Music Hall, a venue that's played host to heavyweights such as The Grateful Dead and Journey. Could these guys ever reach that level?

Of course it's too early to make predictions like that, especially in the current musical landscape, but they're in with a shot at least. 'Made Up My Mind' treads closer to traditional rock music than the independent scene, but it doesn't feel too overblown, instead ranking alongside some of North America's alt-rock heroes. Rather than using power chords or a high tempo to create energy and force, this is brooding and moody with a thunderous, solid beat and it doesn't let up. Gently crunching guitars give the track an edge and it all conspires to make a song that uses less mainstream techniques to forge an all-conquering sound. Don't too surprised if you hear a lot more from these guys.

Free download: 'Made Up My Mind'
(Right click, save as)

Scary Little Friends' website

Buy: 'Silent Revolution'

The Sound Of Confusion on Twitter and Facebook

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Windmill - Wanderlust

Article by KevW

They say that the best things come to those who wait, and I'm sure Windmill founder Mick Dolan will agree. Having started the project with a band name and a few ideas some time ago, it wasn't until 2014 that debut single 'Birdman' was released after he and David T Palmer hooked up with singer Dawn Williams. Bonding over a love of similar music, the pieces began to fall into place, with the current line-up of Dolan, Williams, Palmer and vocalists Louise Rodriquez and Jennifer Airey being established shortly after.

It seems fitting, then, that it's 'Birdman' that opens up debut album 'Wanderlust'. Not just because it was the starting point for Windmill as we know them, but also because it encapsulates the sound of the group. Pure vocals, gently booming percussion, eerie acoustic guitar and an ominous tone combine to become the epitome of hauntingly beautiful, a phrase that it's difficult not to think of when hearing these songs. Single 'Where Are We Now' is sonically a close cousin to 'Birdman' but lyrically it tackles the bigger picture of how consumerism and a world where anything is “all just a click away” is creating problems that are often forgotten or brushed aside: “and all you want today is made by children far away”. On paper, modern technological and political commentary might seem at odds with the style of music that Windmill make, but it's really quite powerful and fitting.

The sadder, poignant tones of 'Blind' dip into traditional British folk music but bring in twinkling guitar and a dreamy edge that permeates 'Wanderlust'. Gorgeous harmonies abound on 'How Many Times' which again has a sadness that at times recalls a less affected Mazzy Star. It's wonderfully arranged. Rich harmonies can also be found on the soothing 'Clouds', and 'Sunflowers' again channels folk music from both sides of the Atlantic and adds carefully considered instrumentation that's never too much and never too little. 'Jenny's Gone' is the sole male lead vocal on the album, and thanks to a soft Liverpudlian twang, it brings to mind mid-period Shack, which is surely a compliment. Another change comes with 'Rest', a track that doesn't deviate in terms of production, but feels somehow lighter and perhaps more folky. If you can imagine a more pastoral and haunted version of The Sundays then you're half way there.

Maybe the best example of the beautifully clear yet powerfully affecting sounds that Windmill have perfected comes on 'Wake Up You're Dreaming', where guitars gently bob and weave and strings embellish the track, but never to much, giving a naturally expansive quality that would be lost if the pudding was over-egged. In a way it's an exercise in restraint, but equally a masterclass in augmentation that brings the very best out of a song without the need for histrionics of superfluous effects. The very same could be a description of 'Wanderlust' as a whole, and as we reach pretty, choral closer 'Follow You Home', you can't help but be impressed by the way that Windmill have carefully built this record to feel engaging as well as timeless. "We'll never grow old" they sing in unison as the curtain comes down. They might just be right.

Windmill's website

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Get Me Free #158: Thom Byles - In Your Blood

Article by KevW

Whether it's near record snow in parts of the US, plunging temperatures in the Far East or torrential rain sweeping across the UK, a large proportion of the northern hemisphere has been bearing the brunt of the weather that January's brought. The wintry vista that serves as the artwork for this latest track by Thom Byles seems particularly fitting, and also shows a very calming side of this season. Likewise does the music, as 'In Your 'Blood' feels made for this time of year and is the aural equivalent of wrapping yourself in a blanket and snuggling up beside a log fire.

With a tender voice and softly plucked guitar, 'In Your Blood' appears to channel early Fleet Foxes in the way it taps into folk and country but applies more modern songcraft and Laurel Canyon vibes. As the beat arrives thing pick up, bringing to mind some of Junip's work. The production is warming and gives the song room to breath rather than smothering it or overdoing things. A gentle echo is all that's needed and means that 'In Your Blood' retains and intimate and pure quality. A lovely song that brings the magic back to the colder part of the year.

Thom Byles' website

Buy: 'In Your Blood'.

The Sound Of Confusion on Twitter and Facebook

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Get Me Free #157: Bernays Propaganda - Laži me, laži me

Article by KevW

Given that this is sung in a language that's totally alien to me, the vocal essentially becomes another instrument more than anything else (there is an English translation on Bandcamp, but to be honest I'm not really any the wiser...), but that doesn't matter a jot. Macedonia's Bernays Propaganda release their new album 'Politika' via Slovenia's Moonlee Records on March 14, and 'Laži me, laži me' serves as a tasty introduction to the first of the release from them that we've covered since 2013's 'Zabraneta Planeta' album, and it matches anything on that album.

Singing in their native tongue is always going to limit their appeal to a certain extent, but this track could go some way to seeing them broaden their horizons and enjoy similar levels of success abroad as they do at home. A driving new-wave track with plenty of melody and a vocal that's surprisingly addictive, Bernays Propaganda pepper 'Laži me, laži me' with electronics that lurk in the background for the most part, coming to the fore when the vocal breaks and leapfrogging the guitar to become the centre of attention. With hints of krautrock, post-punk and more, this covers a few genres too, all of which act to make it even more appealing.

Download 'Laži me, laži me' for free by heading here

Bernays Propaganda's website

The Sound Of Confusion on Twitter and Facebook

Monday, 25 January 2016

Crosa Rosa - Little Leper

Article by KevW

From blogland to the BBC, 2015 was a year of hype for Nottingham's Crosa Rosa, and landed them a well received slot a Reading and Leeds. EP 'Pantophobia' also lived up to expectations, and it's from that release that 'Little Leper' is taken. With a trippy video made up from grainy retro footage that's both psychedelic and a little freaky, they certainly do appear to be the complete package, and it's perhaps surprising that they're not better known than they are.

Taking '60s garage and psychedelia and fusing them with '90s grunge and fuzz-rock, 'Little Leper' sees Crosa Rosa at their most instant and accessible and it's no wonder they've been likened to seminal bands from the early '90s in that respect. Warped effects and crisp vocals are placed on top of guitars that switch from psych wavering to scuzzy blasts. It's a song that captures the very essence of several genres that have seen a revival of late. Wrapped up into a neat package like this they're irresistible.

Crosa Rosa's website

Buy: 'Pantophobia'.

The Sound Of Confusion on Twitter and Facebook

Tuff Love - Resort

Article by Del Chaney

Amalgamating three EPs, calling it 'Resort' and releasing it as a monster 15 track chronological compilation is a stroke of genius by Glaswegian guitar-pop duo Tuff Love. 'Resort' gets its official release on January 29th 2016 via Lost Map Records and it brings together both of the now sold-out and for the foreseeable future digitally deleted two EPs 'Junk' and 'Dross', and the more recent, sonically brilliant 'Dregs' with a view to introducing Tuff Love's brand of dreamy, grunge-tinged, guitar-pop to those who haven't previously heard the band before. The only missing piece on this epic collection of tracks was the previously released and equally fuzzed-out Record Store Day 7" single 'Groucho'. Having spent the summer of 2015 accompanying reformed shoegazing stalwarts Ride on their UK tour, and also sharing the stage with Perfect Pussy, PAWS, Real Estate and Joanna Gruesome along the way, Tuff Love's DIY approach to home recording and producing has carried them in good stead. The band are made up of Julie Eisenstein - guitar and vocals, Suse Bear - bass and vocals plus live drummer Iain Stewart (also a member of The Phantom Band).

'Resort' opens up with the jangling tones of 'Sweet Content'. Sublime reverb-laced vocals straddle a simple beat until we're treated to a fuzzed-out explosive thrill ride to its finale. Up next, 'Flamingo' begins with a melodic guitar line but quickly rolls out into a brilliant slice of fuzzy, grunge-tinged guitar-pop. 'Copper' brings a fuzzed-out plodding drum pattern intertwined with that immense vocal and an utterly addictive guitar line. 'Poncho' is steeped in early '90s fuzzed-out grunge, but just like track five, 'Penguin', it vocally has a melodic splattering reminiscent of early 4AD stabled bands such as the recently reformed UK based band Lush. The menacing intro of 'Slammer' begins and it continues to build and build until it explodes to a melodic and colourful ending, leading the way for track seven, the charging 'That's Right', and again we're treated to another melodically fuzzed-out sonic journey. 'Sebastian' brings us back to the heady early Britpop days and is particularly reminiscent of  UK band Elastica with its repetitive plodding guitars and melodic vocal lines, whilst 'Doberman' is sun-bleached and full of melody as it builds and erupts into its fuzzy chorus parts.

Full-on jangling guitar-pop leads the charge with the impressive 'Cum' and again I'm impressed with just how much melody and structure Tuff Love manages to cram into a three and a half minute song. Really cool actually. The fast paced 'Duke' enters the frame and fans of early 4AD records stuff will instantly fall in love with its explosive chord structures and duel vocal harmonies. 'Crocodile', the bands latest single, is more of the same, all be it for that '60s psych-pop-like guitar line that breaks the monotony every now and again, and that synth line towards the end. 'Threads' is by far my favourite track on this whole release. It has a very post shoegaze-era Ride sound with their album 'Carnival Of Light' coming to mind. I think it's all down to the charging tempo, jangling guitars and affected vocal lines. Either way, it ticks all of the sonic boxes for me. We've slowed the tempo considerably for the opening salvos of  'Amphibian' and we're treated to some fuzzed-out shimmering psych-pop with impressive vocals and a sweet bassline. The album's closer, titled 'Carbon', swims in jangling, reverberating guitars and beautifully golden vocal harmonies.

'Resort' is a chronological snap shot of work created by Tuff Love from 2012 to 2015. Old and new fans alike will love what this band have to offer as they skip through grunge-tinged, jangling guitar-pop and shimmering psych-pop with aplomb.

Tuff Love's website

Buy: 'Resort'

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Demolition Means Progress - Put It All Behind Me

Article by KevW

The second album from Minnesota's Demolition Means Progress is due at the start of February,and looks set to see them taking the vintage sounds of '80s and '90s US indie bands and carrying the torch for a new generation. Previous single 'Stars' brought to mind Camper Van Beethoven and early REM, along with some of the crunchier groups that came about a few years later, and new single 'Put It All Behind Me' does similar but is perhaps even more effective.

There's a scuzzy jangle that borrows from C86 and the UK scene, but vocally this is more in line with someone like They Might Be Giants and is generally pretty jaunty and sharp. There's an energetic shuffle and a sharpness that prevents the song from sounding dated though, so while it may borrow from the past it's by no means musty or stale. 'Lovesongs For Saboteurs' is shaping up to be a nice collection of songs for those who like classic guitar-pop.

Demolition Means Progress' website

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Ben Pearce (feat. Nate Brown) - EP

Article by KevW

It was sad to hear that the band Windham Flat were no more, especially as it was geography rather than "musical differences" or any kind of falling out that was the cause of their split, but every cloud has a silver lining, and in this case it comes in the form of the debut EP from Ben Pearce who's joined by his Windham Flat compatriot, drummer Nate Brown. This new venture isn't a retread of what his former band were doing, with a more eclectic range of sounds and a different production style showing that Pearce is looking to the future more than seeking to relive former glories, and it's an approach that's paid dividends.

First single 'Say Hello' is lighter, perhaps a little poppier, and certainly more exotic. As an introduction to the album it's very fitting and points the way to a new sound that takes in surf, early Marc Bolan, alternative pop and even a hint of calypso. These are all blended together to form a fresh new style and a catchy tune. That tropical influence filters through onto the Latin-tinged alt-rock of 'Bloodlines' which is similarly stripped-down but somehow doesn't appear that way, perhaps due to heavy percussion and trebly effects. The fact that these songs work so well without thick instrumentation or complicated arrangements is a testament to the strength of the writing.

The classic sounds of slowie 'Pretender' are particularly affecting, journeying through '60s pop, shoegaze and acoustic singer-songwriter fare and coming out with a kind of sad indie lullaby. Vintage garage rock is tempered down and given a strange and eerie twist on 'Daisy Diamonds', which also touches on the warped psychedelia of Syd Barrett. The gorgeously ambient and ghostly 'Stockholm' provides a real highlight, with gentle washes of sound and soft vocals painting an ethereal picture that fans of dreampop will adore, and closer 'Last Lullaby' continues this vibe, acting as a woozy goodbye. In a short space of time this album moves from quirky indie-pop to sad and wistful beauty, but never dips in quality. A great set of songs that Pearce can be truly proud of.

Ben Pearce's website

Buy: 'EP'.

The Sound Of Confusion on Twitter and Facebook

Get Me Free #158: Crow's Feet - Alarm Clock Bones

Article by KevW

The idea behind Lewis Tollan's Crow's Feet project is to make sure that each song is different, and what's created will depend on those he's collaborating with at the time. With just one song online so far, judging the success of that plan is impossible but, boy, what a song it is. For debut release 'Alarm Clock Blues' the multi-instrumentalist brings in a string section and the vocals are provided by Callum Stewart of noise-rock band The Clock, but the end product is slow and majestic rather than filled with loud guitars or feedback.

Simple chords are the base on which a gloriously swelling track is built. Those vocals introduce a power almost instantly and that alone is enough to make you sit up and listen, but as this steady and slow number builds it becomes even more impressive. The strings add a stately and expansive sound that seems to give extra potency to the pained lyrics and voice, although deciphering exactly what the subject matter is isn't easy. As debut singles go, this is one of the strongest we've heard for a while, and if this standard is maintained then we're in for some amazing music.

Crow's Feet's website

Buy: 'Alarm Clock Bones'.

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Sunday, 24 January 2016

Meilyr Jones - How To Recognise A Work Of Art

Article by KevW

For the easily confused, it should be pointed out that Adele's '25' isn't actually her 25th album, and Taylor Swift's '1989' wasn't actually recorded many years ago. Meilyr Jones' upcoming album '2013' isn't a reissue, but it does chronicle events that happened to him over the course of that year. It's also quite anticipated, and Jones already has some festival slots booked for later in the year. Indications are that any hype will be lived up to, and it's not just current single 'How To Recognise A Work Of Art' that backs that up, because the song it shares a piece of vinyl with, 'All Is Equal In Love', is perhaps even better, so if songs like that can be knocked out as B-sides then the omens are very good.

With a triumphant brass section and an upbeat indiepop stomp that recalls Belle & Sebastian when they dip into northern soul, 'How To Recognise A Work Of Art' is a cracking alt-pop song with some quirky lyrics and hooks that make it stick instantly like velcro. A more maudlin vibe is created for 'All Is Equal In Love' thanks to a string section and vocals that are closer to baritone. It brings to mind latter day Gorky's in the way it takes indie and folk and applies an understated grandeur. These songs show two sides to Meilyr Jones, both of which aren't difficult to fall in love with. There's no confusion when it comes to this music, and while we're no art experts, this release is surely a thing of beauty.

Meilyr Jones' website

Buy: 'How To Recognise A Work Of Art'

Catch him live:

Friday 12th February – CARDIFF – From Now On Festival (with Julia Holter)
Tuesday 26th April – LONDON – Moth Club
Saturday 14th May - WREXHAM Focus Wales Festival
Saturday 11th June - LONDON - Field Day

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Matt Kivel - Violets

Article by KevW

To record his third album 'Janus' which is due on February 5th, Los Angeles-based songwriter Matt Kivel returned to his hometown of Glasgow to work with producer Alasdair Roberts and an accompanying cast of local musicians who helped to augment the songs that Kivel brought with him. With around a dozen contributors, the record is shaping up to be Kivel's best work to date if its three singles so far are anything to go by. The record is described as being difficult to make despite the relatively laid-back approach, and contains what are lyrically some of his darkest songs yet.

You can hear that aspect in the vocals, which sound slightly pained and emotive, but musically 'Violets' is a song that sparkles. With Americana and alt-folk as a foundation, this is a track that's built on tradition but arranged and produced in such a manner that it contains contemporary sounds and the layered textures that some of the world's most revered alt-rock bands have become known for. Along with the vocal, it's the winding guitar line that's the main focal point, adding a lightness that balances any darkness found in the lyrics. An impressive piece for sure, and a great advertisement for the full-length.

Matt Kivel's website

Buy: 'Violets'

The Sound Of Confusion on Twitter and Facebook

Frankie Cosmos - Korean Food

Article by KevW

Prolific New Yorker Greta Kline released her latest EP as Frankie Cosmos late last year, and lifted from 'Fit Me In' is 'Korean Food' which is now accompanied by a visuals that Frankie describes as being her version of a pop video: "boat, pool, beach lipstick, alcohol... but my way - camcorder, sunscreen, goggles, hummus". The music could be described as being a lo-fi take on chilled synth-pop with a tropical vibe, and likewise the video is a similarly low-budget version of those expensive and often ridiculous '80s clips that major labels spent a fortune on to secure heavy rotation on MTV.

'Korean Food' has a beat that sounds like the default programming on one of the cheap keyboards we had for school music lessons, and the waves of synth are also nothing that would have musos getting jealous of, but combined they paint a wonderfully woozy and sunny picture that's the perfect backdrop from her wistful and lovelorn sounding vocals. A few chimes and a plodding bassline top off what might be a simple production but is more effective than many plush and grandiose arrangements. 'Korean Food' is a charming and slightly ethereal song with a video to match. It's no wonder Frankie Cosmos continues to reel in great reviews.

Frankie Cosmos' website

Buy: 'Fit Me In'

The Sound Of Confusion on Twitter and Facebook

The Chemistry Set - The Endless More & More

Article by Jeff Haight

London psychedelic rockers and cult favorites The Chemistry Set are back with a full-length release, building upon their 2015 EP 'Elapsed Memories'. The new record 'The Endless More & More' is a twelve song set filled with a dizzying array of effortless melodies, memorable sing-along choruses and an amazing mix of psychedelic sonic treats for the ears. The first track, 'The Fountains of Neptune', sets the tone immediately with jangly electric phased guitars, and a driving tom tom beat. This song is four minutes of pure '60s garage rock bliss complete with an organ and a fuzzy blanket of guitars, easily destined to become your new favorite song to sing along with. The Chemistry Set don't let up on layering beautiful pop melodies as the horn hook of 'The Splendor of the Universe' arrives with up front punchy drums, tambourine and acoustic guitar. This band really layers their arrangements and instrumentation masterfully as the songs progress through this album. Each chorus contains soaring lead vocals and harmonies that are truly uplifting or wondrous.

It was difficult not to imagine grabbing your friends to get out and go see this band in a live setting as you listen to these tracks. The energy is undeniable, even on a mid-tempo spacey track like 'Time to Breathe' that contains some really beautifully delayed slide guitar passages, breathless harmonies and a fantastic mix of psychedelic effects as the song approaches the outro fade-out. Fans of the Super Furry Animals, R.E.M. and Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd should immediately rush out and grab a copy of this record. One of my favorite tracks, 'Albert Hoffman', starts with a great kaleidoscope of carnival sounds only to drip away into hazy tremolo guitars and a quirky pop melody filled with swirling effects that happily float you away. The open hit hats and guitar scrapes of 'A Cure For the Inflicted Afflicted' sound like the start of a band kicking off a great energetic live set. Attention-grabbing riffs fill this song with a bit more edge than some of the other tracks and I dare you to try not to jam along with the outro solo complete with a wailing harmonica. It is bordering on the impossible.

Another highlight, 'Canyon of the Crescent Moon' showcases how well this band can write a gorgeous pop melody that sounds effortless but carries a lot of emotional weight. This is another track that is hard not to sing along with, and has a great unique mood at this point in the record. The almost ragtime-like walking bass piano riffs that fill 'Crawling Back to You' are perfectly matched with acoustic slide guitar twang. It shuffles along like a McCartney-penned Beatles tune from 'The White Album'. The last track, 'The Open Window' slows the pace down for an entrancing ethereal sonic journey filled with organs, sitars, tablas and heavily affected vocals to close the record. This is definitely a sunny record filled with 55 minutes of '60s pop hooks, modern recording magic and quality songwriting. Perfect motivation for starting out your day with some rocking positive vibes.

The Chemistry Set's website

'The Endless More & More' will be available through Fruits de Mer Records.

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Get Me Free #157: A Beacon School - Ashes As Intro

Article by Tony Young

After their charming and engaging 2012 self-titled EP, there's been a disparity of new music from A Beacon School to say the least. Nonetheless, it's made for an exciting week finding 'Follow (demo)' on the band's SoundCloud only to followed up by 'Ashes as Intro' the next day. Here's hoping the EP or LP is set to drop sometime in 2016!

A Beacon School is from New York City and are in the thick of that dreamy, hazy guitar-driven alternative rock (you know, like DIIV or Real Estate). It doesn't quite bite, but it's guitar-driven and the dry vocals might even remind you of Alex Trimble on Tourist History when they come through. 'Ashes as Intro' fades in softly and lures you in as the guitars cycle through their respective sleepy melodies. They intertwine and take their time moving at a normal breathing pace. By the time the vocals slide in so seamlessly, the layered depth loses you to a sea of thought (it might remind you of the end to Bombay Bicycle Club's 'Magnet'). "Could there be another way to think of all of this / Trying to make it fair".

Keep your eyes peeled for subsequent releases and get their previous EP on their Bandcamp, name-your-price.

A Beacon School's website

Buy: 'Ashes as Intro'.

The Sound Of Confusion on Twitter and Facebook

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Rostam - EOS

Article by Tony Young

Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend has debuted a new track titled 'EOS', accompanied by a music video. The video, based on a 25-second exposure photograph taken during a trip to desert dunes outside Jaisalmer, India, was directed by Rostam and features animation by Jon Race.

"Lo and behold you were here know you're gone". It's an awesome use of gang vocals in an intensely intimate recording, and almost acts like soul food in its own respect. At the root of it, it's as reassuring of the disposition as it is reminiscent of the situation. 'EOS' is Rostam's third solo song, following 'Don't Let It Get To You' and 'Wood' and is available now via XL digitally and on 7" in February.

Rostam's website

Buy: 'EOS'

The Sound Of Confusion on Twitter and Facebook

Get Me Free #156: Space Shark - Now Is We

Article by KevW

I've come to the conclusion that to be allowed to live in Portland, Oregon, it's imperative that you're in a band. In fact, it's probably illegal not to be. The city has eclipsed pretty much anywhere else in world when it comes to music we've covered in the past few years (Brooklyn and Melbourne are giving it a run for its money though), and it's also home to Space Shark, a quintet who formed in 2012 but have only recently come to our attention. 'Now Is We' is the lead single from their new EP 'Ghosts' which was released earlier this month.

Crafting indie-rock with a dreamy feel and a psychedelic edge, Space Shark definitely incorporate the first word of their name into this track. Big, reverberating guitar chords open things up and are soon joined by a shuffling beat and a half asleep (in a good way) vocal that will conjure up bright and spectacular images. The lyrics even mention floating, sun and sleep, mirroring the music (or is it the other way round?) which means a very complete picture is painted. There's something about 'Now Is We' that seems to soar without the need to become overly spectacular or utilise excessive effects. Perfect for drifting away to on a Saturday morning.

Space Shark's website

Buy: 'Ghosts'

The Sound Of Confusion on Twitter and Facebook

Friday, 22 January 2016

Sauropod - Roaring At The Storm

Article by KevW

Sauropod's music has been described as grunge-punk, but it's not quite as simple as that. While the Norwegian trio may not exactly be testing new waters with their debut album 'Roaring At The Storm', pinning their sound down to a specific tag isn't all that easy. Sure, these songs are all fuzzy blasts of guitar music with nothing passing the four-minute mark, but they seem intent on not using the exact same trick twice, and that makes this a thoroughly enjoyable listen. At just under half an hour long, there's not really time to get bored anyway, but because they mix things up it becomes even less likely that will happen.

The palpable energy of 'You And Me Should Leave Together Tonight' gets things underway with some melodic, scuzzy indiepop that gives way to a grittier chorus that sticks in your head. This punchy attitude doesn't dissipate for the almost entire record. It's there in the frenetic flurry of 'Hausmania', a close cousin to 'You And Me...', the primitive punk blast of '(I've Been) Bad On Emma', the surging female fronted new-wave that is 'Headphones' (and is something of a standout) and 'Fugue' flits between grunge, gravel-throated hard-rock and lighter pop-punk, seemingly without thinking twice about it. 'Winter Song' is perhaps closest to pure grunge with its buzzsaw riff and growled chorus, but the verses are a touch lighter, and the yin to that song title's yang is 'Sunny Day' which is closer to powerpop, neatly including some trebly twangs that bring to mind early surf music.

Changes abound on the comparatively chilled 'Running Song' where a '60s pop vibe is brought in, marking this tune out as something of an oddity, although it does still manage to fit in well. Another oddity is the ridiculously joyous 'Edge Of A Cloud' which is bundles of fun and contains a sunny melody that comes a quite a surprise, but a very pleasant one, as this is gorgeous fuzz-pop. The brief, cinematic soundscape of the title-track is something else that you didn't see coming on this album of twists and turns. Fittingly, they finish with the unexpected and nicely arranged dark pop song 'On The Hill' which even hints at The Beatles at some points, and twinkles and sparkles at other times. You never know quite where Sauropod are going to take you next, but rather than sounding splintered, it's this that makes 'Roaring At The Storm' such an interesting and enjoyable set of songs.

Sauropod's website

Buy: 'Roaring at the Storm'

The Sound Of Confusion on Twitter and Facebook

Public Memory - Ringleader

Article by KevW

Robert Toher was previously in the group ERAAS, nut is now making music under the guise of Public Memory. Although based in Brooklyn, he recorded his debut album while spending a year living in LA, and 'Ringleader' is the second track to be taken from it. Due out on March 18th, 'Wuthering Drum' looks set to be an album that transcends several styles and potentially become a hit with fans of a variety of alternative music styles, especially those with a penchant for less summery and more experimental sounds.

'Ringleader' could be described many ways, as it takes a trip-hop blueprint and brings in cold-wave stylings and spooky affected vocals. The buzzing electronics that hover ominously in the background prevent the track from being to minimal, adding to a fuller sound. There's a certain dystopian feel, and an aura that feels lonely in a surreal kind of way. The big beats incessantly underpin the whole thing and seem designed to rattle the most powerful speakers you can find. It's a heady brew for sure, but an also a very intriguing one.

Public Memory's website

Pre-order: 'Wuthering Drum'

The Sound Of Confusion on Twitter and Facebook

Trudy - Baby I'm Blue

Article by KevW

The third single from trash-pop group Trudy sees them being slightly less trashy but still taking the sounds of '50s pop and twisting them into a modern guitar tune. Previous single 'Behave' was perhaps a touch more warped and catchy with its glorious twangs and vintage melody, but 'Baby I'm Blue' comes from a similar place. While it may not be as immediate, it's another that will win you over after a few spins thanks to the unique vocal style and scratchy, retro, trebly guitar.

Sitting somewhere around the point where doo-wop meets garage-rock, 'Baby I'm Blue' spans both decades and genres. As it's title suggests, this song is about missing your love (weren't most '50s pop songs?) but the unusual intonation and muffled singing style makes it more odd than emotional, and it's an effect that actually works really well. Eventually building to be as strong as its predecessor, this could be the sound of a band who are gearing up for a very fine debut album. When that will be we don't know, but we're looking forward to it.

Trudy's website

Buy: 'Baby I'm Blue'

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