Anna Calvi- Blackout (single)

WORDS: MELANIE McGOVERN

Anna Calvi’s position atop 2011′s pedestal for ‘breakout music’ was cemented at the end of last year when she won a BBC nomination for the ‘Sound of 2011′ poll. This hype has gone into overdrive in recent months with the much anticipated release of her debut eponymous recording from Domino Records.

With the assurances of none other than Brian Eno- who has described Calvi as “the biggest thing since Patti Smith“- studio work for Johnny Flynn and tours in support of Interpol, Arctic Monkeys and Grinderman, her press adoration seems entirely justified. Her’s is a style of music that really can’t be classified, inspired as much by Django Rheinhard as Jimi Hendrix, Nina Simone and Greek soprano Maria Callas; it is a dramatic, theatrical affair, with Buckley-esque guitars spinning webs of dark seduction around the listener.

An eclectic mix of seductive vocals and swirling powerful guitar riffs, her second single ‘Blackout’ (taken from the debut LP) delivers a near- perfect vocal performance. With its haunting beginning, Calvi’s voice finds the perfect balance between power and passion, projected against a colourful backdrop of evocative instrumental richness, subtle plays of percussion and intricate vocal nuances.

Calvi is undoubtledly an artist so assured with a voice so compelling that you just have to follow the hype.

Anna Calvi released ‘Blackout’ on Domino Records 21 March, 2011. Download it now.
RATING: 4/5
SOUNDS LIKE: Nina Simone, PJ Harvey, Jeff Buckley

Owen Pallett- The Great Elsewhere (music video)

Okay, so we’re huge fans of Canadian musician Owen Pallett (nee Final Fantasy)… This is the video for the latest single to be taken from his Heartlands album.



Directed by Yuula Benivolski and Geoffrey Pugen, ‘The Great Elsewhere’ features a beautiful yet barren wintry landscape over which Pallett’s vocals swoop and dart. The aesthetics of this video really bring the wind arrangements on this track to life and provide a dramatic grounding for the romanticism of Pallett’s vocal narrativism. 3:06 is where things start to get really interesting; we love the subtle blends of colour and the interesting camera angles that Benivolksi and Pugen employ to match the movement of the song. The pair provide a real visual treat and should be deservedly proud.


Heartlands is available to buy now on Domino Records.

Grandfather Birds- Higher Bridges (single)


New week, new music, and to kick it all off we’re featuring Newcastle four-piece the Grandfather Birds’ new single ‘Higher Bridges’.

The track is a perfect example of why these guys have been tipped as one of the best emerging artists on the north-east circuit at the moment, effortlessly blending folk-tinged guitar melodies with sharp drum beats and charismatic vocals. ‘Higher Bridges’ bursts into life with a lone guitar hook- reminiscent of Tears for Fears’ ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’.

Lead singer Matt produces the goods here with a confident mix of confessional verses and an optimistic and lively chorus that showcases his vocal range almost to its very limits. At points strained, his voice conveys the emotional bounce of the instrumental arrangement his vocals cut through, producing a convincing and catchy hook that’ll have you humming along- we particularly like the refrain. 

The understated rhythm that keeps the track upbeat even when the lyrics dip into darker places, achieved through the subtle drum beat that energizes the track and a plum bass line that puts in the leg work beneath the more elaborate guitar work.

Overall, we think it’s a top tune!

Pre-order it now, or download it on it’s release date of 2 May 2011 from the band’s website or off itunes. In the meantime, give it (and B’side ‘She Likes it on the Left’) a listen here.

SOUNDS LIKE: Jeff Buckley, Tears for Fears, Folk, Pop, Indie rock all shook up and presented with long hair and a stubble.
RATING: 4/5 Spring is here!

Cage the Elephant: Thankyou, Happy Birthday (album)

 

Image: PR

WORDS: Henry Wilkinson

In 2008, after relocating to London, Kentucky band Cage The Elephant released their self-titled debut album, an album that absorbed all the surrounding Indie scene influences and culminated with them touring in support of the Pigeon Detectives and subsequently hitting the mainstream consciousness with the single “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked”. Three years on and the much anticipated release of their second album Thank you, Happy Birthday is upon us, an album which sees them turn their back on UK influences and embark upon a sharper, more American punk-rock sound…

The opener “Always Something” sets a pace which the album rarely veers from;  a pulsing punk drum-beat is decorated with distorted guitar feedback that crackles over a thumping bass line. Singer Matthew Schultz  pitches in, breathlessly squalling out lyrics about alienation and paranoia. This formula is repeated for most of the album, the result being an exhaustingly predictable listen.

At times they exhilarate, as the band’s energy and enthusiasm rubs off, especially on tracks “Aberdeen”- which sounds like it belongs on a Pixies’ record with it’s brilliantly cathartic chorus- and “2024”, an anthem for angst filled teenage romance. Unfortunately these are the high points of an otherwise average album. 

The influences of Pixies and Modest Mouse are clear, especially in Schultz’s vocal-style which mirrors the idiosyncrasies of both Frank Black and Isaac Brock a little too closely at times. This ‘mirroring’ begins to grate somewhat, especially on the single “Shake Me Down” and almost as a by-product of this ‘homage’ process the album’s style sounds forced, as if the deviation from the sound of their debut album was a conscious effort rather than a natural progression. This is especially true in “Indy Kidz”, an attempted satire on the pretension and perceived trendiness of the indie music scene which backfires, sounding instead like an adolescent attempt at individuality and rebellion. It brings to mind Pavement’s “Cut Your Hair”, a critique of the music industry and the importance it places on image and style ahead of substance, not least for the line “get the right haircut”. However, where Pavement succeeded, Cage The Elephant fail, and unfortunately Thank you, Happy Birthday doesn’t show enough originality or maturity to give it any chance of longevity. 

RATING: 2/5
BEST TRACKS: Aberdeen, 2024
SOUNDS LIKE: Pixies, Modest Mouse, OK Go

Sea Of Bees- Songs for the Ravens

Julie Vermeille - Gnomes
+ Enlarge Image
WORDS: ANDY HAYWARD

Julie Baenziger’s unusual voice started to take shape in her mid-teens. Whilst at church with her sister, Julie found herself a love interest- not in God as you might expect from a ‘good-Christian girl’-  but in a girl- or more precisely a girl with a fantastic voice. Too hesitant to share her true feelings, she set about trying to emulate the wonderful sound she had heard- the teen locked herself away and taught herself how to sing…

Julie Baenziger/Julie Ann Bee- or just plain old Jules to her friends- began playing bass in a band where she was spotted by publisher and producer, John Baccigaluppi. With Baccigaluppi’s help Jules developed from the shy young girl singing in her bedroom into the mature female artist that has emerged from the colony of unsigned folk musicians as the band Sea of Bees.

Now, the Sea Of Bees line-up is a very simple concept…It’s just Jules.  Whether it be writing the songs, singing the words or playing the notes she’s the one doing it- and she does it extremely well on her debut album Songs for the Ravens.

Julie Vermeille - Gnomes
+ Enlarge Image

Songs for the Ravens kicks off with the track ‘Gnomes’, a fantastic blend of Nancy Sinatra-styled vocals with a regimented Johnny Cash style guitar rhythm that creating a genre coined by the phrase ‘old-style’ new-folk.  Drawing from the past, Baenziger manages to create a sound that is both original, and that manages to assert its own stamp on the world- her own brand of musical honey. The two styles are blended to to perfection, making Songs for the Ravens nearer an equal of the two music giants of Sinatra and Cash over a poorly executed parody.

As Songs for the Ravens progresses, every album track seems just as seemless as its predecessor- and each one  is just as unique as the last. Another masterpiece we loved is ‘Skinnybone’; as harmonious as ‘Gnomes’, ‘Skinnybone’ commands a more percussion-inspired instrumental that demands uncontrollable movement from your feet. This is happy music for sure.

No doubt big things lie ahead for Sea Of Bees. Jules has a truly beautiful voice, a head buzzing with ideas, and an ability to combine elements to create and musically convey a vast array of emotions. Who knows where the future will take her… We hope it’s far.

RATING: 4/5
BEST TRACK/S: Skinnybone, Gnomes, Wizbot
SOUNDS LIKE: Lykke Li, Nancy Sinatra, Bat For Lashes, I Blame Coco, Robyn

Jules is currently touring the U.K supporting John Grant. They play Shepherd’s Bush Empire on 27 March 2011. The album Songs For The Ravens is available now on Heavenly Recordings.

ILLUSTRATIONS: JULIE VERMEILLE

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