LIVE: Tom Walker, The Garage, London (29/11/17)

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Tom Walker, London, 29/11/17 (photo: Becca Cribb)

Manchester singer-songwriter Tom Walker‘s star has ascended extremely fast during 2017. The 25-year-old has rapidly built-up a strong reputation not only for his engaging, heartfelt songwriting, but his live performances have also wowed, with a voice that has a ‘sit-up-and-pay-attention’ affect that is reminiscent of the first time hearing Rag’n’Bone Man live for the first time.

Highlights of this London show included Karma, and latest single Leave a Light On, with the whole audience singing along to both songs and really ramping up the atmosphere. The stripped back Fly Away With Me slowed the pace down a little, uniting the audience in a flow of escapism. This was all perhaps topped by Heartland which, along with Blessings, is arguably among Walker’s signature tunes.

His live performance was a great combination of meaningful lyrics with raw and raspy vocals that accentuate his ability to capture the audience. There are even interesting influences of hip hop which make his sound quite unique.

He told the crowd that he had previously performed in every room in this London establishment, from the tiny back room, to the slightly larger space upstairs, and now the main stage itself. It tells the story of Walker’s growing profile, and suggests the stages he’ll be performing on in 2018 will be larger still.

He’ll be back on the road during March and April 2018 with a tour across the UK and Europe – tickets here.

Review & Photos: Rebecca Cribb

 

Goldsmoke – All Falls Down

New tune All Falls Down from London-based brothers Goldsmoke – Tom and Nick Shirm – is another soulful track that marks the pair out as hot property for 2018.

Continuing to gain valuable support from BBC Introducing, Goldsmoke maintain their take on future soul with their own, distinctly modern additions,  picking up comparisons with the likes of Honne or AlunaGeorge. About the track, the brothers said: “It’s almost a sequel to the last single, a hardened ballad about that inevitable break up fight. We wanted to show an emotional instability.”

Goldsmoke – All Falls Down

Skinny Lister – Christmas Calls

What’s this? Is Sync shrugging off its customary refusal to acknowledge the onset of Christmas until around the 24 December to embrace the festivities this early?! Well maybe, but don’t tell anyone. It’s just that we’re rather liking this piece of loveliness from Skinny Lister.

Christmas Calls will doubtless be on the setlist for the remaining shows on their current tour – in Cardiff (6 December), Southampton (7), Exeter (8), Bristol (9), and London (10) – tickets here. If they don’t play it then, well, pelting them with snowballs may be in order.

Skinny Lister – Christmas Calls

LIVE: Sonia Stein, Scala, London (30/12/17)

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Sonia Stein, London, 30/11/17 (photo: Martin Allen)

Every now and then, a voice comes along that just grabs the attention. You can’t necessarily put your finger on it, but it just connects on some frequency that manages to stir up emotion and feeling like nothing else.

This support slot for headliner Betsy was the second time we had caught London singer-songwriter Sonia Stein live, and on each occasion, her performance was enough to suggest that she will surely be much more widely known by this time next year.

Although fundamentally pop at heart, hers is a soulful, emotive sound, equally suited to the uptempo funky numbers as it is the hushed instrument-light ballads. Highlights of the set included Sixes & Sevens, Lotta U, and latest single Do You Love Me, although to be fair, the all-round strength of her material is clear for all to see and hear after what has been a busy year of working on and releasing new songs for Stein. Continue reading

LIVE: Pumarosa, Gorilla, Manchester (1/12/17)

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Isabel Munoz-Newsome, Pumarosa (photo: Martin Allen)

After seeing Pumarosa earlier this year at Manchester’s Soup Kitchen, I was somewhat surprised to see the band playing a venue as large as Gorilla seeing as they are still relatively under-the-radar. Their stunning debut album The Witch was released earlier this year via Fiction Records to widespread critical acclaim, so they have certainly earned their right to play a venue this big.

The band were delightfully warmed up by the completely bonkers VÏSTA, who burst onto the stage wearing a Christmas jumper, which he later removed to reveal a turquoise gilet. He then claimed that the stage was too dirty and coincidentally happened to have a broom with him to clean up. The pinnacle of his craziness was when he started a song by pressing the space bar on his laptop using a huge plank of wood. One of his songs, Whisper, featured the lyrics: “This bitch was Skyping me daily / stopping me from living my life / I want to do a Tom Daley / come out and do a 100ft dive”, which would sound equally at home on a grime track. He ended his set barefoot stood on top of a barstool… which is I’m sure is how many middle aged Mancunian revellers doing karaoke ended their night too!

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Isabel Munoz-Newsome, Pumarosa (photo: Martin Allen)

Then, the venue was rapidly filled with a thick fog of dry ice, before Isabel Munoz-Newsome and co. took to the stage. Pumarosa began their set with Dragonfly, one of my favourite tracks released this year, featuring her hugely underrated, iconic guitar beating (if you’ve ever seen Pumarosa live, you will know what I mean…)

They really are an effortlessly cool band, so it’s not difficult to see why Depeche Mode chose them as the support act for their European tour early next year, or why Interpol invited them to be their support act in Mexico. Honey sounded brain-pummelingly, mindbogglingly incredible in a live setting. Lyrically, it discusses climate change and the politically turbulent time we are living in and musically, it is so euphoric and genuinely gave me goosebumps because of its sheer intensity.

Barefoot showcased Munoz-Newsome’s unique, hauntingly beautiful vocals and during The Witch, she danced around the stage in a ritualistic, ceremonial fashion. I have never witnessed a band other than Pumarosa who can so perfectly make their music sound like the end of the world and to put it simply, I want to see them headline Brixton Academy and there is no reason they can’t reach that level of success. Their music is dark, euphoric, sexy, mysterious, industrial, post-apocalyptic and so much more… certainly the power of their music felt far too much for the four walls of Gorilla.

Tracks such as Red and Priestess encouraged everyone to dance and people were visibly getting really into it and moving uncontrollably. Snake sounded cosmic with a hint of 90s and funk influences. For the encore, things took a classic rock turn for My Gruesome Loving Friend. Sadly, the band chose not to play Cecile, but then again, Pumarosa don’t play by the rules. And I love them for it.

Review: Conor Giblin

GALLERY: The Kooks, First Direct Arena, Leeds (23/11/17)

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The Kooks, Leeds, 23/11/17 (photo: Dani Blakeley)

The Kooks took to the road for their anniversary tour, celebrating a decade of their distinctive indie sound. Their set included most of the tunes from the Inside In / Inside Out debut album that started their career on such solid foundations.

They’ve lost nothing of their energy and style over the years, merely adding a confident swagger to the raw musicality of their live performance. Halfway through the show, the rock was halted for an acoustic section designed to make this arena gig feel a little closer to the intimate nature of their early dates. It sort of worked, but really they’re at their best at full volume, and it feels like it is that which has maintained their longevity thus far.

Photos: Dani Blakeley

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LIVE: Mystic Peach, Heartbreakers, Southampton (31/10/17)

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Mystic Peach, Southampton, 31/10/17 (photo: Ant Penny)

Opening Spinning Coin‘s recent Southampton show were local three-piece band Mystic Peach. Their energetic live show really warmed the small but appreciative group of music lovers up for what was to come.

Hearing them here, for me for the first time, I was captivated by their tight musicianship, energy, and ‘wall of sound’. The basslines were thick and powerful; the beautiful jangly-reverby-guitar sound was Johhny Marr-esque and the drummer added to all of this with simple grooves when needed, and technical flourishes and big cymbal washes where appropriate too.

The highlight of their set was the song Downtown with its disco drum beat and off-beat syncopated guitar juxtaposed with the aforementioned ‘wall of sound’ choruses. The people at fledgling venue Heartbreakers really seemed to appreciate this song and many were dancing or nodding along. Definitely keep en eye and an ear open for what these guys do next!

Review: Mike Vaughan / Photos: Ant Penny

GALLERY: DMA’s, First Direct Arena, Leeds (23/11/17)

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DMA’s, Leeds, 23/11/17 (photo: Dani Blakeley)

Aussie indie-rock outfit DMA’s more than set the scene in their support slot for The Kooks in Leeds recently. The three-piece – comprising Johnny Took, Tommy O’Dell and Matt Mason – made quite the impression on this high-profile set of dates and look set to make plenty of waves during 2018.

Photos: Dani Blakeley

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LIVE: COIN, Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, London (21/11/17)

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COIN, London, 21/11/17 (photo: Tabetha Parrick)

Playing their first UK show as part of The Great Escape First Fifty, American indie band COIN prove that they are most certainly ones to watch.

After the release of their second album How Will You Know If You Never Try? earlier this year, the indie four-piece embarked on a lively tour across the US – but now they’ve ventured overseas for the first time ever. Tickets sold out quickly for the small show in Hoxton, some fans arriving hours before the event, desperate to get a good spot for this historic moment.

There was an undeniable atmosphere of anticipation and excitement before the show, only matched by the euphoria when the band came on stage – opening with electric song Feeling. They played songs mostly from their second album, with frontman Chase Lawrence exclaiming his amazement that their international fans already knew the words.

His strong presence on the stage was undeniable, alternating between dancing, playing the piano and interacting with the crowd. Similarly, bassist Zachary Dyke, guitarist Joe Memmel and drummer Ryan Winnen couldn’t be seen without smiles on their faces – it was hard to tell who was more excited to be there, the band or the crowd. Continue reading

Django Django – In Your Beat

Brand new from the mighty Django Django is the wonderfully trippy In Your Beat, taken from their forthcoming album Marble Skies, due out on 26 January 2018. The album – which will also include previous single Tic Tac Toe – will feature guest appearances from Metronomy’s Anna Prior, and Rebecca Taylor of Slow Club.

Django Django – In Your Beat

Happy Cat Jay – Underpants

The debut tune from producer Happy Cat Jay is the wonderfully silly Underpants.

Happy Cat Jay started to cut his teeth in 2015 as a multi-instrumentalist, producer and songwriter, working with the cult UK future-soul artist Alxndr London, as well as producing at mysterious label PC Music. With further remixes for the likes of Flamingods and Kinder under his belt, this year Happy Cat Jay decided to release music under his own moniker.

Underpants is without doubt a tongue-in-cheek statement, and yet it’s characterised by the kind of talent that you would expect of someone with his production credentials. The lyrics bring a smile to the face, but underneath this veneer of daft is a sleek and polished piece of work.

Happy Cat Jay – Underpants

IVI – Lay With Me

New from 22-year-old Brighton-based pop artist IVI, Lay With Me is a sleek pop tune with a light touch and sunny feel that makes you forget the cold weather outside.

Similarly, through a trippy ‘fly on the wall’-style bit of filming, the accompanying video takes you back to hazy, sky-blue summer festival days and the sweet scent of freshly cut grass. What’s more, IVI’s voice is rich, smooth, and mesmerising, making her one we’ll be keeping a watchful eye on!

IVI – Lay With Me

LIVE: PVRIS, o2 Academy, Birmingham (23/11/17)

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PVRIS, Birmingham, 23/11/17 (photo: Arta Gailuma)

US alt-rock outfit PVRIS played one of their biggest shows to date at the sold-out 3,000-capacity o2 Academy in Birmingham.

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PVRIS, Birmingham, 23/11/17 (photo: Arta Gailuma)

The three-piece – consisting of Lynn Gunn, Alex Babinski, and Brian MacDonald, from Lowell, Massachusetts – kicked off with their single Heaven to begin a set heavily-loaded with songs from their second album All We Know Of Heaven, All We need Of Hell.

The set also delved into some of their older material too, with some from their 2014 album White Noise. For songs both old and new,  fans were excited and energetic throughout, with a brief respite in the middle of the evening for the stripped back Same Soul.

The stage was set up with two drum sets; including one for Gunn, who added some drumming reinforcements at the end of Half, and also for the big finish for encore song No Mercy. It was a strong end to what had been a powerful and utterly compelling performance from a band whose cross-genre style has found a sizeable following and which has of late generated plenty of hype… the kind that in their case is absolutely warranted.

Photos: Arta Gailuma

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LIVE: JAWS, Engine Rooms, Southampton (18/11/17)

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JAWS, Southampton, 18/11/17 (photos: Phoebe Reeks)

Having released album Simplicity a year ago, JAWS took to the Engine Rooms in Southampton as part of their final touring cycle of this album. The Birmingham trio performed their dreamy indie-pop to a room packed with dedicated fans.

The moment the lights went out, letters spelling JAWS lit up, which got the crowd pumped. The band arrived on stage to rapturous applause, kicking the set off with Surround You, an energetic tune with catchy guitar riffs which got the crowd moving right from the off. Continue reading

Featurette – Upside Down

A beauty of an off-kilter track from Canadian electronic duo Featurette, Upside Down is an ode to the strangely mixed-up world we live in nowadays.

The Toronto-based pair of Lexie Jay and Jon Fedorsen create a richly-layed sound that is synth-heavy, slick and smooth, yet with an air of unpredictability that makes it a less than comfortable first listen but goes on to get well and truly stuck in your brain. In that sense, it’s a little Phantogram-esque… and that’s a very good thing.

Featurette – Upside Down