Thursday, 28 March 2013

Blue Lip Feel - Hiring Mr Know


There has been much excitement on Twitter recently about the news that septuagenarian rock band The Rolling Stones are to lay off the cocoa for one night in order to headline this year's Glastonbury Festival. Even though it's been more than fifty years since they first crashed into the public consciousness, it's nice to see that their influence is still being felt on the next generation of young hopefuls looking to soar through the musical ranks.

This brings us on very nicely to Sheffield quartet Blue Lip Feel. They've been building up a following in recent months in both their hometown and in London, and are due to support Tribes on their upcoming UK tour in April. They've recently debuted a brand new song "Hiring Mr Know", which is available as a free download, and has a classic rock sound that is very much indebted to the archetypal sound of Jagger, Richards et al.

So are the young band really the devout disciples of a group three times their age, or did they just listen to Primal Scream's "Give Out But Don't Give Up" on repeat growing up? Either way, I'm sure there'll be much for them to enjoy if they head to Worthy Farm this June.



Photo of Blue Lip Feel is © Scott Hukins 

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Last Lynx - Luminous Blue


Lounge-y electro-pop is the order of the day for Stockholm based quintet Last Lynx. Their latest single, "Luminous Blue", is a great slice of laid-back heavy pop, featuring sweet boy/girl harmonies juxtaposed with distorted guitars and retro synths, coming off like a cross between Air and The Cardigans. Having recently signed to Universal, it's safe to say that Last Lynx are not quite endangered yet. 

The track is taken from their E.P "Ocean Reels", which is out on May 10th. 

Monday, 25 March 2013

A Plastic Rose - All You Know And Love Will Die


They've been favourites on the Belfast scene for many years, but in a few months alt-rockers A Plastic Rose will be relocating to England. They will be playing one last gig in Belfast as residents on 22nd April at The Speakeasy, with support from A Northern Light & The Late Twos before they traverse over the Irish Sea to their new base.

The band have also released the video for the first official single from their debut album "Camera.Shutter.Life", the cheerily titled "All You Know And Love Will Die", which acts as both a fitting swansong to the band's time in Belfast, as well as being a fitting introduction for those who may not have come across the band before now.

"All You Know..." is available to download now.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Northern Ireland Tunes - Round-up #13

It's very rare that the blog does two local round-ups within the space of a month, but there's a competition that is running on Northern Irish music website Chordblossom which has given the blog a chance to discover some rather nice new artists.

For the past month, Chordblossom has invited unsigned Northern Irish artists to submit their best song for consideration in their Kickstart competition, which is designed to give several local artists the push they need to have a career in the music industry. There's a smorgasbord of prizes on offer to the overall winner, which includes time in a recording studio, getting a single professionally printed and distributed, a slot at the annual Glasgowbury Festival, as well as getting the single played on Radio Foyle.

Given the overall value of the prize, as well as the fact that last year's winner SOAK was given a massive boost through it, there were over 130 entries to the competition, which has now been whittled down by the website to 20. There will be a public vote over a two week period to whittle those artists down to 10, after which a panel of music experts will decide the overall winner and runners up.

It's encouraging to see so many local names that have featured on this blog have made the final list. Favourites such as The Jepettos, Kept Under Glass, Pretty Child Backfire, Hologram, Those Ghosts & The Clameens are among the artists up for contention. However, it is even more encouraging  to see several artists that I hadn't come across before have made the longlist. Therefore, The Metaphorical Boat has picked out five of the most interesting artists that made the list that haven't appeared on the blog to date. I do however encourage you to listen to all the finalists before deciding on who will get your vote when the public vote opens on Monday 25th March:
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August - Counting Hearts

August is a Derry based musical trio fronted by Jonny Everett, who also fronts local alt-rockers Furlo (the same band that spun off another blog favourite - Ruairi & The Owls). Their debut single, "Counting Hearts", is a wonderful piece of otherworldly folk, which has already been picked up for use in an upcoming local film.


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Sara Crockett - Hide & Seek

Many moons ago, Sara Crockett was the lead singer of the Paramore-esque Goodbye Pluto, who sadly split up before they had the chance to make a mark. Sara is now recording under her own name, and having provided guest vocals on a trance track last year, she has now re-established herself as a country-pop singer . The first song to come out of this is "Hide & Seek", a charming, well polished tune, one which sounds as if it's been ripped straight from the soundtrack of an Ally McBeal compilation album.

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Team RKT - Good Morning

To protect the world from devastation,
To unite all peoples within our nation.

To think there's a generation of kids who won't know Jesse & James' epic poem off by heart, given that they didn't watch Pokémon every afternoon at 4pm on ITV1. They don't know what they're missing. Sigh.

But anyway, one duo keeping their legacy alive is Portstewart based Team RKT (letters presumably removed for legal reasons). Self-describing themselves as "chiptune rock", the band sound like a mix between the most tolerable aspects of Owl City and 3OH!3. A new E.P is forthcoming, but for now enjoy the self-produced "Good Morning", which was released last summer.

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Andrew Martin - Outside These Harbour Walls

Now on to the other 'Port', with Portrush based Andrew Martin. "Outside These Harbour Walls" is taken from his nautical themed debut E.P "The Lighthouse Sessions", and is a great modern interpretation of 'classic' folk, underpinned by his great vocals, which showcase such depth and maturity that it seems hard to believe that the person providing them is only eighteen.


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Novo Rapids - Curiosity

Finally, some straight-up rock from Belfast's Novo Rapids. "Curiosity" is a great track because it strips rock music right down to its core. There's no 3 minute guitar solos, no gimmicky guitar effects and no vocal aerobics. It's just an honest-to-goodness riff-led rock track which should be savoured for its simplicity.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Gavin James - Carolina


This blog first became acquainted with Dublin based singer-songwriter Gavin James last year, after he played a short three song support slot in The Empire, Belfast for Duke Special. Despite being a virtual unknown, he charmed the crowd immensely, and even managing to get them singing along to his self-penned songs by the end. Since then, he has built up a great reputation in Ireland, gaining support slots with Ingrid Michelson and even winning the Meteor Choice Song of the Year award for "Say Hello".

Having won over his home country, Gavin James has set his sights of the United Kingdom, and with an upcoming tour as the main support for breakthrough Irish artist of the moment Kodaline, he should be able to delivery on his early promise. To mark the tour, he has released his first track to introduce him to the wider world, "Carolina."

Comparisons to Ed Sheeran are particular apt, given that both artists share a similar image and have a familiar sound. Gavin James has a much more powerful voice though, one which calls to mind some of Damien Rice's songs. "Carolina" has build upon the singer's early promise, and hopefully should pave the way for greater things yet to come.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Night Engine - Young & Carefree


It's been a whirlwind few months for London based group Night Engine. Since debuting at the end of last year with "I'll Make It Worth Your While", the band have received positive reviews for that song and subsequent single "Seventeen", toured with The Joy Formidable, and sold out several headline shows.

The band are now building on their success with the release of their second official single, "Young and Carefree". The track sees Night Engine doing what they do best - taking the best bits of post-punk and 80s   pop and wrapping it up in an uber-distorted, bass orientated package. There's elements of Gary Numan, Chic and David Bowie in the song's DNA, as well little bits of Wild Beasts & British Sea Power thrown in for good measure. Like their other tracks, it exemplifies what is so good about the band - it might sound like other musicians you've heard before, but it has that specific stamp which means it could only come from Night Engine.

"Young & Carefree" will be released as a single on May 27th.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Susie-Blue - Boston Eyes


I think that everyone in Northern Ireland is glad to see that our very own SOAK is well on her way to musical super-stardom. One of the great things about this is that it should give the local music scene a lift, and help to shine a spotlight on other musicians coming from the area.

This is where Susan Donaghy, who records under the name Susie-Blue comes in. She will soon be supporting SOAK on two upcoming gigs in Dublin next month (both of which are sold out, incidentally). There are quite a few parallels between the two singer-songwriters - both are from Derry, both have a stripped-down musical aesthetic, and they share a similar plaintive vocal style. What differentiates Susie-Blue however is that her music and lyrics are slightly rougher around the edges, particularly if her latest track, the wonderful "Boston Eyes", is anything to go by. It's a lovely track, and one which should help her to build a buzz towards future releases.

"Boston Eyes" is taken from the "Bits and Buttons E.P", which is out on March 30th.

Biggles Flys Again - Friends


Biggles Flys Again is the brainchild of Dublin based singer/songwriter Conor Deasy, which aims at creating enjoyable three minute pop gems. The first single taken from the album, "Friends", is a great example of this approach. The song is a piano-pop ditty about the value of friendship despite its various foibles and mishaps. It's a tune devoid of pretension and naval-gazing, yet filled with great charm and wit, which makes it such a joy to listen to.

"Friends" is taken from the album "Remember Saturday", which is released on March 30th, and is available as a free download.


Saturday, 16 March 2013

Ed Zealous - Medicines


After falling off the radar for what seemed like years, Belfast based dance-rock group Ed Zealous made a triumphant return last year with the brilliant "Diamonds For Eyes", and followed it up with a remix package featuring some of the finest musicians from Northern Ireland, including Kowalski, Not Squares and And So I Watch You From Afar. The group have been preparing their much anticipated debut album for some time, but for the moment, the focus is on their latest single "Medicines", which will be released through Label Fandango next month.

And if you haven't taken notice of Ed Zealous before now, then this song will give you more than enough reasons to do so. "Medicines" is a big, dirty slice of scuzzy electronic rock with a great pop hook at its heart. It sounds like a heady mix between "Tongue Tied" by Grouplove "We Are Rockstars" by Does It Offend You, Yeah, which isn't unsurprising seeing that Eliot James, who produced the latter, is also involved with this one.

"Medicines" will be released on 8th April.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Album Review: Suede - Bloodsports

(Warner)

The story of Suede has been recounted on many occasions, but here's a quick summary of how they got to where they are now - the band first achieved attention in 1992 when the graced the cover of Melody Maker before they'd even released a single, and released two critically acclaimed albums before the departure of guitarist and co-songwriter Bernard Butler during the recording of "Dog Man Star". They replaced him with a 17-year-old guitarist and a keyboardist and released three more albums under this line-up, before splitting up in 2003 following the release of the much maligned yet underrated "A New Morning". The band members went on to different project before the post-1994 line-up reunited for a charity gig in 2010, turning it into a full reunion the next year.

Now, Suede have released their sixth studio album "Bloodsports", their first studio album in 11 years, and their first album with Ed Buller producing since "Coming Up" in 1996. With such a stellar back catalogue of hits juxtaposed with the long gap between releases, the question is whether the band will be happy to tread on past sounds, or whether they have progressed their material beyond what they have already recorded.

At first, the answer appears to have been a little bit of both. The opening track "Barriers" is unmistakably a Suede song, containing the guitar riffs and synth flourishes that mark some of their best songs, yet it also feels like a logical progression from lead singer Brett Anderson's most recent solo album. Likewise, "It Starts and Ends With You" is up there with some of the best pop moments of the band's career, yet has a remarkably original structure - depending on what way you approach the song, it is either entirely chorus-less  or contains nothing but choruses. Plus it has one of the strongest guitar outros the band has ever committed to tape. 

On the less pop-orientated end,"What Are You Not Telling Me" is a percussion-less conspiracy ballad, dominated by multi-tracked vocals which reach a paranoid conclusion. It does bear some sonic resemblance to their song "Daddy's Speeding", and it underpins a key flaws with the record.

It is incredibly familiar.

Take "Snowblind" for example. It's a good song, that's for sure, but it does sound quite similar to "Starcrazy". "For The Strangers" has lyrical nods towards one of their early b-sides, "To The Birds", and ends in a similar fashion to "By The Sea". "Hit Me" sounds like it has been pieced together from the best bits of "She", "Beautiful Ones" & "Electricity" to create a wonderful Suede collage. And it's hard to listen to "Sometimes I Feel Like I'll Float Away" without hearing "My Insatiable One" playing in the back of your head. Of course, there's nothing wrong with revisiting sounds as long as the end product is better than the original songs, it is just unfortunate that this is not always the case on "Bloodsports".

And even the unfamiliar has the potential to be disappointing. The slow-burning "Always" doesn't have a direct reference point amongst other Suede material (pun unintentional), but is the weakest song on the album. Listen carefully to the last few seconds of that song. It sounds like a Brett Anderson has been temporarily replaced by a Dalek. And on certain tracks (step forward "Sabotage" and "For the Strangers"), some of the guitar lines sound unmistakably U2-esque. For a band that has great pride in being regarded as outsiders, it is rather unsettling to hear them sound like the most commercial rock band in the world. 

Don't get me wrong, "Bloodsports" is a good album. In parts, it is even fantastic. Brett Anderson hasn't sounded this good on record for at least fifteen years, and it contains songs that any other band starting out in 2013 would kill to have written. It is a much better album than "A New Morning", and is on a par, and possibly even better than "Head Music". The problem is that when you've released three albums as iconic and faultless as "Suede", "Dog Man Star" & "Coming Up", even a very good album is going to feel like an anticlimax. "Bloodsports" is great, yet it doesn't sound like the classic album that it had the potential to be. 

Released: 18th March 2013

Highlights: "It Starts and Ends With You", "Barriers", "Hit Me". 

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Northern Ireland Tunes - Round-Up #12

What's that? You want your monthly dose of Northern Irish artists currently floating The Metaphorical Boat? Well, who am I to turn down your humble request?
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Cub Koala - Falling Apart

Cub Koala is the synth-pop project of Lou Price, who's perhaps better known around these parts as the lead singer of local scene stalwarts Kowalski. Their debut single, "Falling Apart", is available as a complimentary download, and is a nice slice of AutoTune inflected, Owl City/Passion Pit inspired electro loveliness.


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The Clameens - #Follow

Derry band The Clameens tread the same road that rock lynchpins Reverend & The Makers have taken by naming their latest single after a Twitter hashtag. This of course means that in ten years time, when Twitter has followed Myspace and Bebo into the great social network in the sky, and when the internet is obsessed with the latest social media outlet, Mumbleblag, their song title will seem quite dated. Until that day comes however, it's best to enjoy "#Follow" for what it is - a great Kings of Leon inspired track from a group of guys looking to stand out from their Derry peers during its reign as City of Culture.


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Those Ghosts - Evelyn

There's already been some chatter on the interwebs about Strabane's Those Ghosts in the past few days, despite the fact that they've only been around for a few months and haven't even played live yet. But when their debut release comes out apparently fully formed and polished, it's not too hard to see what the fuss is about. "Evelyn", which is available as a free download, is a rather decent rock tune which calls to mind the some of the earlier songs by Foo Fighters, in particular "Money Wrench" and "Learn to Fly".


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The Late Twos - The Late Twos 

And finishing us off this month is the latest release from Belfast group The Late Twos. Their debut self-titled E.P was released last month, and taken from that is the song "The Late Twos", a track that takes Libertines inspired indie-rock and adds a ska-based twist in the verses. The band have released a video for the track in coincide with its release, and with 5,000 hits to date, it's fair to say that it's more popular than the average local music video.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

The Dancers - For Something in Your Eyes


This year's Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition shortlist has been something of a miniature treasure trove of musical loveliness. I've mentioned before that blog favourites Port Isla are already in the running for a chance to play at this year's festival. Now our attention turns to The Dancers, another group who are hoping to win the chance to play the biggest gig of their lives.

The Dancers are a French born, Brighton based trio who mix African-inspired rhythms with an overwhelming pop aesthetic, underpinned by boy/girl dual vocals. In this way, they share similarities with fellow French blog favourite We Were Evergreen, although if that band are like "Phoenix taking their instrumental cues from kindergarten children," then The Dancers are that same group going through the difficult transition from child to adult, if their stunning single "For Something In Your Eyes" is anything to go by.

"For Something In Your Eyes" will be released on March 18th.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Port Isla - Adventurers


Things have got rather well for Norwich based quartet Port Isla. Their debut single, "Sinking Ship", has met with great enthusiasm, riding high on the Hype Machine and getting coverage from at least 20 music blogs. On top of that, the band are one of the finalists for the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition, which will gift them a slot at this year's festival if they win. 

And most excitingly of all, the group have released their 2nd single, "Adventurers". Whilst the song doesn't have the same immediacy of their debut single, it is a slow burning track that gets increasingly under your skin the more you listen to it. If you're a fan of Fleet Foxes and Mumford & Sons (and even if you are not), then there will be much to like in this song.

"Adventurers" is available to download for free.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Alana Henderson - Wax & Wane E.P


The humble cello is a much underrated and maligned instrument in the world of non-classical music. Not as sweeping as the violin, nor able to conjurer up the smoky atmosphere of the double bass, the cello  is the string section's lost child in are far as popular music is concerned. It's probably the reason why Luke Haines never refers to The Auteurs' cellist by name in his wonderful autobiography Bad Vibes (instead referring him simply as "The Cellist").

But there are some great musicians out there who are looking to give the instrument the respect it deserves, like Belfast's Alana Henderson. Her debut E.P, "Wax & Wane", puts the cello firmly at the heart of the music. The E.P is one that is deeply rooted in transatlantic folk tradition, and one that is an absolute joy to listen to. Henderson has a voice that is so natural and filled with emotion that is somewhat hard to believe that this her first release. On top of that, her faultless cello playing adds a degree of variety to the sounds, be it the Laura Marling-esque musings of the title track, or the jazzy feel of the E.P's highlight "The Tower".

"Wax & Wane" is a wonderful debut release from Alana Henderson, and one which should lift her, and the cello, out of the shadows.



Thursday, 7 March 2013

Kept Under Glass - Silver


Carryduff based power trio Kept Under Glass first popped into my periphery vision back in January after been enamored by their debut single "I Don't Even Like Clubs", a spiky anti-ode to nights out. That single has seen pick up a bit of airplay on Radio Ulster as well as a few other stations. In order to keep up the momentum that "Clubs" has given them, the band have put out a new single in anticipation of a few Belfast gigs they're holding this month.

Unlike the distinctive punk style of their debut single, "Silver" sees the band entering more poppy territory. The song calls to mind the piano based tunes from American groups from the mid 00s like Train and Augustana, as well as having a chorus that wouldn't sound out of place on a Savage Garden song. If the music supervisors of One Tree Hill are looking for a tune to soundtrack the final scene of one of their episodes when one of their unrealistically attractive leading guy makes a dramatic emotional breakthrough and realises how much that he has matured, then they probably could do a whole lot worse that this track.

"Silver" is available as a free download, and will feature on the band's upcoming E.P, which is released on March 18th.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Beaty Heart - Seafood


London based band/video arts group Beaty Heart describe their sound as either 'psychedelic drum pop' or 'funfair-punk'. A much more honest, accurate description would probably be 'a version of Animal Collective that is actually worth listening to.'

Their latest single, "Seafood", is a rhythm driven tune that features tropical-inspired percussion, an incredibly infectious whistled hook, and the ability to give a two-syllable word nine. The band have also released a video to coincide with the release, which features some imaginative, yet stomach-turning culinary compositions.

"Seafood" is released as a limited edition cassette on April 8th.



Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Dumb - Dive


Did you get the telegram that Radio 1 boss George Ergatoudis sent out at the start of the year? Well to summarize, the mythical, long lost instrument, known colloquially in the dark old days as the "guitar", has been unearthed from a deep, dark country known as "The Interwebs", and their luxurious tones will soon be heard on a best-sellers list near you (preferable one which is aired between 4 and 7 p.m on a popular national radio station). Groovy.

 It's under these conditions that a band such as Birmingham's Dumb can thrive. Their website boasts a backroom team that would put Lady Gaga to shame, including two PRs and a blog czar, and they've already notched up some airtime on the aforementioned radio station of the yoof. This is despite the fact that according to their Facebook page, they've only been a going concern for two months (although a quick internet sweep reveals that some of the members were in a group called The Carpels. No, me neither).

Although I'll try not to be too dismissive of them. After all, their first single, "Dive", is actually pretty good. The song mixes the moody indie-rock that worked so well for Chapel Club on their debut album with the scuzzy, youthful sound of Yuck. It's a strong debut from a group who are well on their way to honing their sound. Just don't be surprised if they end up signed to a major and hogging the airwaves of Radio 1 by the end of the year.

"Dive" will be released on March 31st on newly formed One Beat Records.

Aquilo - Calling Me


I'm going to take a wild stab in the dark and assume Lancaster based four-piece Aquilo are well versed in ancient languages, given that they take their name from the Latin translation for the god of the north wind (as apposed to aquila, the Latin word for eagle).

The group's debut single, "Calling Me", has been greeted by a flurry of excitement among several blogs over the past few days, including Breaking More Waves, Disco Naivet√© and many more. The song is a rather chilled electronic affair, somewhat akin to a less live-y version of fellow blog favourites Seasfire. It's perhaps too early to cast judgement on a group with just one song to their name, but given how much excitement it's provoked in just 48 hours, perhaps they might just be worth keeping a watchful eye on.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Album Review - Ciaran Lavery - Not Nearly Dark

(Self-released)

Aghagallon-born Ciaran Lavery has been drifting about the Northern Irish scene for a few years now, firstly under his Captain Kennedy moniker and now under his legal name. The culmination of this work is is debut album, "Not Nearly Dark", an album which rather appropriately drops just as the days are beginning to get much longer. 

The central sound of "Not Nearly Dark" is rather paradoxical. On the one hand, it sounds like it is a very intimate affair, as if Ciaran Lavery alone is in the room with you. Yet the album is largely a band-orientated one, with Mr Lavery being augmented by a traditional line-up, as well as strings and brass. This format is best exemplified by the opening and best track of the album "Little More Time", a folksy little number that whilst expansive, is underpinned by the gentle strum of the acoustic guitar.

The majority of the album follows this format, with a couple of exceptions. "Awful Love" starts with a simple kick drum/guitar combo which slowly builds up throughout the song, as if it's about to erupt into a cataclysmic anthemic climax. Instead, Lavery pulls the rug from under the listener's feet and allows the song to segue into the short organ interlude "Rest", before tapering out altogether. Normally allowing a song to end with a whimper rather than a bang would be somewhat unwelcome, yet on an album as vulnerable as "Not Nearly Dark" this seems to be somewhat appropriate.

The voice that carries the album is one that seems to match the instrumentation of the album. Ciaran Lavery has a voice that sounds somewhere in between E from Eels and Tom Waits, the sort of impure, rugged  voice that could only come about from a life of emotional fragility. It is on tracks like the closing moments of "Follow You Down" that this really comes to the forefront.

"Not Nearly Dark" is an album that could best be described as dependable. If you like your songs folk-flavoured, expansive whilst lo-fi, and with emotions at the front and centre, then you will find a lot to like in Ciaran Lavery's debut album. And with similar offerings by artists like Ben Howard riding high in the charts, there couldn't be a better time for it to be released.

Released: 4th March 2013

Highlights: "Little More Time", "Awful Love".