Indie

Up and Coming – Carmody, ‘The Ways of Your Love’

Carmody-11

With the current rise of artists such as Loyle Carner and Tom Misch, frequent collaborator Carmody continues to release fantastically well-polished tracks, her most recent effort coming in the form of ‘The Ways of Your Love’.

Expertly treading the fine line between celestially haunting and comforting warmth, ‘The Ways of Your Love’ sounds as if it could be performed by a significantly sized orchestra, slowly building towards a crescendo with blooming strings and understated percussion providing the backdrop for an intense vocal delivery, finishing as it began, with softly plucked guitar. The instrumental has an odd juxtaposing effect on the listener, in that it is at once calming and enveloping whilst at the same time being slightly unsettling, reflecting the uncertainty of the South London artist when tackling their feelings towards the subject of the song – this gives way to the swelling finish to the song where emotions overcome and overpower.

The true strength of Carmody is her voice – the ballad is sung with a crystalline clarity and shows great range, even within singular verses and choruses, reaching passionate notes with apparent effortlessness, combining power with an emotional form of breathlessness.

A grand winter song indeed, and a strong end to an already strong year.

“I wanted to write about the electricity you can have with someone even though you have nothing in common… go where your body takes you, sometimes” – Carmody 

Listen to the track below, via Soundcloud

This article was written by Mo Hafeez – with thanks to Isobel Williams (WHITEBOARD)

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What we’re listening to (#22): ‘Midnight Snack’ by Homeshake

HOMESHAKE is the alias of Peter Sagar, best known as being the former touring guitarist of Mac DeMarco – he took time off from the touring life citing loneliness and detachment from friends and family to focus on his solo project, releasing The Homeshake TapeIn the Shower, and, most recently, Midnight Snack.

Comparisons to DeMarco will always come up – the jangly chorus effect guitar is still there, some wavy synths, some falsetto crooning, the ingredients to a DeMarco album are all there. But there’s something to Sagar’s music that’s a bit different. Where as his former bandmate’s Another One  is filled with charming love ballads topped with trademark goofiness, Midnight Snack is more RnB, more spacious, minimal with a twang of experimental,  and perfect for a midnight listen (who’d have thunk it?).

The introductory spoken word piece drops you seamlessly into the opener ‘Heat’ – a detuned synth  and a drum machine loop, a change from In the Shower‘s guitar led tracks, provide the backing for a catchy opening and chorus vocal melody, the subject matter definitely evoking the loneliness aforementioned – “All alone and got nothing to do
except lie awake and dream of you”

‘He’s Heating Up!’ follows, the guitar making its debut on the album, shaky and rapid riffs the core, a bass lumbering in the background – the chorus is the key to this song, the vocal melody is really catchy, the basketball analogy works well, and the manipulated-backing vocals aren’t too intruding that it takes away from the song. The song is so minimal, but it’s most definitely more than the sum of its part.

“Looks like I put up a brick again
I can feel it
(He’s heating up!)
Got stoned and then he jammed it in
I can see it
(He’s heating up!)
One lonely shot no good for two
But I need it
(He’s heating up!)
You wanna hold onto him too
(He’s on fire!)”

The vocal manipulation is much clearer on other tracks – ‘Give It To Me’ is perhaps the best track on the album. A trunk-shaking 808 is the heartbeat of the track, and whilst Sagar’s falsetto is on full display a pitched backing vocal picks up the rest of the weight. An extremely sensual guitar riff breaks the pattern in the chorus, windchimes ringing along for the ride. A cry for feeling and love, quintessential dream pop.

‘Under the Sheets’ continues the vocal manipulation, strongly so – drumless, synth stabs provide the percussion for the bass to follow, whilst airy and robotic vocals fly over the top. It’s probably the least pleasant listen on the album if I’m honest, and doesn’t quite fit the rest of the album’s more laid-back vibe. It’s up to you whether you want to applaud the imaginative production or not.

When you’re listening to this album, throw any connection to Mac DeMarco away – there are some things Sagar does better than DeMarco, and there are things DeMarco does better than Sagar, but they’re two different musicians. The first half of the album is stronger than the second, and whilst the drum machine use does tend itself towards repetitiveness, it’s easy to get lost in the airy and spacious nature of the album so it’s really a minor drawback.  So, what are you waiting for, grab yourself a snack and give this album a listen.

This article was written by Mo Hafeez 

What we’re listening to (#21): ‘Submarine – EP’ by Alex Turner

Submarine, a 2010 film directed by Richard Ayoade of IT Crowd fame (who has directed some past Arctic Monkeys’ music videos, notably ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ and ‘Cornerstone’), was about story of Oliver Tate and his comically strange and awkward coming-of-age. Visually it’s slightly washed out, a faint sepia colour correction a feature of most scenes, some Super-8 footage thrown in to boot. It really is a great film overall, quirky yet cool, and not too far on either side of the scale, topped off by a phenomenal soundtrack as written by Alex Turner.

He ditches his typical rock style that he’s been known for a long time and instead opts to pick up his acoustic guitar to provide at the time five (and a half) new songs – it’s soft, ballad-like, and there’s not too much going on that it detracts from itself as well as the film. If you’re watching the film, the tracks are more of a secondary focus, and so Turner doesn’t pull all the tricks from out of his sleeve lyrically and musically, instead restraining himself. The result is an album that on the surface, especially when combined with the content of the film, perfectly reflects the uncertainties of adolescence whilst showing the growth of Turner as a musician separate from the Arctic Monkeys, his at times snarky yet retaining tenderness.

 

 

‘Stuck on the Puzzle’, fairly barebones with simple percussion providing backing a slowly picked chordal-background, a solid bass riff, and a watery organ synth that comes to the fore at the end, is perhaps, audibly speaking, one of the more catchier songs on the album. Turner croons away about the stubbornness of a teenager’s emotions and the perceived eventual change in view that comes with age, and a realisation at the end that he just ends up in the same place he started, confused as ever:

“I tried to swim to the side
But my feet got caught in the middle
And I thought I’d seen the light
But oh, no
I was just stuck on the puzzle
Stuck on the puzzle”

‘Piledriver Waltz’, later reworked into a more upbeat and rocky version on the Arctic Monkeys’ Suck It and See, is also notable, it’s crescendo building up perfectly, a breathy delivery of the words ‘Piledriver’ bringing in the organ synth that lays in the background for the whole song to play a fantastic melody – lyrically though it’s not quite there, and Turner only just manages to make the hotel metaphor of the chorus work, the line “If you’re going to try and walk on water make sure you wear your comfortable shoes” wrapping it up nicely. It’s a great way to close the EP, the time-signature changes a great highlight.

 

The other three tracks feature less instrumentation but provide better imagery via the more classic Turner-lyricism on display, and there’s so many lines that can be pointed too. Personal favourites include “And I will play the coconut shy//and win a prize even if it’s rigged//I won’t know when to stop//And you can leave off my lid, and I won’t even lose my fizz//I’ll be the polka dots type” (on ‘Hiding Tonight’), and “It’s like you’re trying to get to heaven in a hurry//And the queue was shorter than you thought it would be//And the doorman says “you need to get a wristband”” (on ‘It’s Hard to Get Around the Wind). The latter evokes almost Bob Dylan/Simon and Garfunkel-esque vibes with its fingerpicking, strings extremely delicately placed beneath, the former’s electronic notes almost equally as unobtrusive. ‘Glass in the Park’ features some fantastic secondary-lead guitar for a bit extra melodic weight.

The album does sound quite samey throughout, but that’s what was trying to be achieved, a soundtrack that could be followed with the progression of the film, with the progression of the character of Oliver Tate, and in fact shows very well the progression of Alex Turner as an artist.

This article was written by Mo Hafeez

Album Review – ‘Honeymoon’ by Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey, the created alias of Elizabeth Grant, comes from the exact moment where the demure and formal side of 1960s gave way to the drug abundant days of mafia-men and gangsters. Honeymoon explores the her usual themes of unhappiness, the unwanted melancholiness garnered from fame, loving dangerous people, and indeed loneliness. The execution, however, combining a few elements from her previous albums Born to Die and Ultraviolence, is different.

Musically, the tracks definitely feel solitary, production personnel numbering only three (one being Del Rey herself) – look at the context of the album too, with its extremely low-key press release, and it all circles round to reminding us how little we truly know about the Del Rey or indeed Grant.

The title-track opens up the album, and indeed sets the structure for most of the songs on the album – dreamy-strings throw tense and sultry images into your mind, piano and bass providing barely-there backing, and the multi-layered backing vocals of the chorus, sighing “Our honeymoon”, really sends a chill up the spine. It’s cinematic, filmic, dripping Bond-esque qualities everywhere.

“We both know the history of violence that surrounds you
But I’m not scared, there’s nothing to lose now that I’ve found you”

Changes of pace come in tracks like ‘High by the Beach’ and ‘Freak’ – a trap hip-hop beat underlies the former, a different motif than the tracks that preceded it, and it’s somewhat jarring to those who aren’t expecting the throwback to Del Rey’s second album Born to Die. The trademark despondent lyrics are there, evoking despair as she sings “It’s so surreal, I can’t survive, if this is all that’s real”. The latter brings in a much more prominent bass than we hear on the rest of the tracks, though the California themes resonate with others like the haunting ‘God Knows I Tried’.

What was also slightly out of place was the interlude, ‘Burnt Norton’, an etheral telling of the T.S Eliot poem which doesn’t quite work due to Del Rey’s very clean voice.

Honeymoon is definitely not a bad album, but it’s not “very different” (as was billed) from Lana Del Rey’s previous records; indeed, it’s hard to call her original – but, at the same time, you can’t really compare her to any other artist around today. Those who are already fans of her’s will most definitely welcome her intoxicating and relaxed vocals, evoking smoke-filled bars of decades past – for some, the persona might be starting to get old, but for others such as myself, Del Rey pulls off what she does with such conviction that sometimes you wonder if Elizabeth Grant feels bored and blue too.

This article was written by Mo Hafeez

Album Review – ‘What Went Down’ by Foals

In September 2015 Foals released their fourth album, What Went Down.

The band kick off the record in fantastic fashion, the title track a belter that steps right off from their previous album Inhaler, released in 2013. Reportedly this album was first recorded in a fit of creativity just one month after their performance at ‘Bestival’ in 2014, and with this Foals could easily have been in danger of not moving forward musically with this album, and though they largely avoided this, the sound is unmistakably Foals-like especially with the use of synth sounds that are strongly reminiscent of Inhaler.

There is a feeling of a wider spectrum of genres on this album. Songs such as ‘Albatross’ and ‘London Thunder’ are more pop-orientated than previously whilst ‘What Went Down’ sees an increase in the use of heavier guitars. For me, ‘London Thunder’ is the standout track of the album. The stripped back piano and organic guitar give a haunting beauty to the vocals that adds great suspense to the slow build up of the song.

Overall the album is a strong follow up to the previous album, and there’s a greater range and subtlety to this piece of work. Inhaler  catapulted them to so much success, and it was always going to be a hard act to follow. I can’t help but feel that whilst this album is good as a whole, and will no doubt please greatly existing fans, it lacks enough songs of single quality to move the band on commercially. They are preaching well to those already converted, but new converts may be thin on the ground.

This article was written by Sam Brunt.

Album Review – ‘Another One’ by Mac DeMarco

There is one main criticism you can point out on all Mac DeMarco records: the songs always sound kind of samey. A very watery stoner-rock like guitar tone, fuzzy lo-fi production values, and the mumbling vocals which kind of remind you of John Lennon but also kind of don’t.

All these things are true on Another One, and in fact sometimes I felt all the songs on the record had the exact same tempo. Some will say DeMarco is branching out with this album, but to be honest he doesn’t leave his comfort zone at all. He employs tricks we heard on past albums, and this time the centerpiece is this organ that’s barely there. In many ways, the album reflects his attitude – laid back and slightly nonchalant, not thinking that he has to push any boundaries after his breakthrough and it’s subsequent follow up Salad Days.

However, the fact that Mac DeMarco sounds so different from pretty much every other artist in the indie scene stops Another One from becoming just a completely generic break-up album. You can’t help feeling it’s a something bit more. The opener is way too bouncy for your standard issue break-up album, but honestly it isn’t too exciting until DeMarco decides to yelp and let out a nice little solo which just about covers up the just-average lyrical content:

How’s your heart been beating? How’s your skin been keeping? How’s the dream been going since you’ve come back home this time?

A lot of the songs are like that – kind of boring until he pulls something out from his sleeve to make a bit better. 4 of the tracks on this 8 track album follow the same light-hearted vibe of ‘The Way You’d Love Her’, whilst the rest are have a kind of balladic sentimentality. ‘No Other Heart’ opens with a nice bluesy riff that is just gentle enough to make it sound almost child-like, the teenage innocence and lovesick vibes coming through clearly in the lyrics as he croons “I’ll put the sparkle right back in your eyes, what could you lose?”.

DeMarco closes out the record with an instrumental, which opens aptly with sounds of flowing water – the music takes on a decidedly different, more dark tone from the rest of the album, but the end of the track is what most people are talking. Mac leaves his address for people to stop by at, where he promises a cup of coffee. That probably shows as good as anything why people like Mac DeMarco; he (appears) down to earth, he appears to not care, at least not enough to worry about some psycho fans coming to his house. This persona might have worn some fans out, but you have to admire his commitment.

So, yes, he doesn’t try anything new, but it’s most definitely a polished album, considering he wrote all the songs in a week or so – so as you listen to at least one of these tracks on repeat, just keep Mac DeMarco’s gap-toothed smirk in your mind.

This article was written by Mo Hafeez

What we’re listening to (#17): ‘Veneer’ by José Gonzalez

Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I’m a supporter of Swedish singer-songwriter José Gonzalez and his stripped down album Veneer, the only two personnel on the record being himself and Stefan Sporson (who appears on only one track, ‘Broken Arrows’).

Not only is Gonzalez a very talented guitarist, but he also has a knack for bringing somewhat-classically styled playing to a larger audience in the format of indie-folk tunes. In fact, he’s so talented that it kind of takes away from his lyrical prowess, which when you look at on paper, is nothing to go crazy over, with much repetition being used throughout – however, when you combine the two together, along with his low almost mumbling voice which are double tracked to great effect at various points on tracks, it creates a very ethereal atmosphere.

The only time he picks up the energy (only very slightly) is in ‘Hints’, centered around a fairly complex riff when combined with the fact he’s singing over it – his lyrics are more forcefully delivered, the guitar more tense, the only percussion present being Gonzalez’s fingers move up and down the fretboard, his use of non-standard tunings creating an interesting chordal basis for the track.

Other originals like ‘Crosses’ and ‘Remain’ continue to showcase talent, particularly his unique strumming and picking patterns,  but perhaps the repetitive lyrics might throw some listeners off. The latter’s riff stuck in my head long after my first listen, and the very well built up ending is another instance where Gonzalez goes a bit more upbeat, with Bonfa-esque jazz vibes.

The song that most people know from this album is ‘Heartbeats’, a cover of a song by the Swedish band the Knife – perhaps most remember the Sony Bravia television shot in San Francisco advert more. Even though it’s not his own song, he makes enough changes to it to keep it original, to keep you listening, and whilst he was that, he also crafted a melody that many aspiring guitarists took their time to learn (including myself). The lyrics, whilst not his, are poignant and are sung poignantly:

“And you, you knew the hands of the devil
And you, kept us awake with wolf teeth
Sharing different heartbeats
In one night”

This album has the power to put you asleep, and I mean this in a good way – Gonzalez’s voice has a certain quality that is difficult to place your finger on.

If you’re craving for something different, pick up this album.

This article was written by Mo Hafeez