Monthly Archives: October 2011

Local Artist Of The Whenever #11: Endangered Species

Endangered Species - Sad Face EP

Have you ever been broken-hearted? I’d hazard a guess that Endangered Species certainly has. Endangered Species is the alter ego of York-based singer-songwriter Oli Grabowski, and the music he makes is the sound of one man, his heartache, and positively cavernous amounts of reverb. His debut release, the Sad Face EP, was recorded and released by fledgling York label Bad Paintings – you can find their website here, and listen to/download the EP itself below.

The huge, melancholy sound created by the guitars on EP-opener ‘Leave’ is only matched by the depths of despair that the track’s lyrics conjure up. “Will you still love me tomorrow/with all the pain that you borrow?” sings Grabowski, his words almost lost in the expansiveness of his own creation. ‘I Remember Now’ is equally heart-wrenching, with its simple but arresting sentiment – “I want you to know/it hurts every day/that you don’t come back/you never come back.” Final track ‘Never Let Me Go’ lightens the mood a little with its upbeat guitar riffs, but its unabashed longing feels almost bittersweet, as much an admission of loneliness as it is declaration of desire.

If you’re in York and fancy seeing Endangered Species play live, then head down to the Folk/Acoustic Extravaganza at The Basement on the 8th November. Also on the bill are Me & My Friends, Alisia Casper, Brian Stafford, and Travels By Telephone – full details of that event can be found here.

Overall, the Sad Face EP is an excellent first insight into the world of Endangered Species. Despite just being the product of one man and a guitar, these are songs that carry both musical and emotional weight – as such, they feel remarkably complete and cohesive.

Find Endangered Species on Facebook here.

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Let’s Get Cynical’s October-So-Far Roundup

Another one of those posts where I cover a variety of different, not-really-related things – let us waste no more time and get on with it, shall we?

Esben And The Witch

Following on from their excellent debut full-length Violet Cries, Esben And The Witch have announced they’ll be releasing a new EP before the end of the year. It’s entitled Hexagons, as are all six tracks on it – you may recall ‘Hexagons IV’ from the album, which appears here alongside five new songs. You can stream and download one of them, ‘Hexagons II (The Flight)’, right here. The track begins with panicked synths with pulsating drums, before a melancholy guitar line cuts through the track with a singular clarity. Vocalist Rachel Davies is on typically mesmerising form, her fearful cries of “So wild, so wide, so wild their eyes” piercing through the encroaching haze of guitars as the track builds to its climax. On the strength of this new track, Hexagons is a tantalising prospect.

Hexagons EP is released on 7th November on Matador Records.

Stalking Horse

Leeds-based Stalking Horse is the brainchild of ex-This Et Al frontman Wu, and his new single ‘Waterhole’ packs a satisfying punch, with relentless beats, crunching guitars and an arresting vocal turn. It reminds me a little of Grammatics, so it’s probably no surprise that Wu has got that band’s ex-frontman playing in the live incarnation of Stalking Horse… speaking of which, they’re one of many bands playing Constellations Festival on the 12th November at Leeds University, so if you want to see them live, there’s your chance.

‘Waterhole’ is released on 7th November.

The Horrors

The Horrors recently recorded a cover of Beyoncé’s ‘Best Thing I Never Had’, which in my opinion shits all over the original (but then again, I wasn’t really a fan of it in the first place). Have a listen to it below, courtesy of Abeano.

The Horrors – ‘Best Thing I Never Had’ (Beyonce Cover)

If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a new video for ‘I Can See Through You’, the second single to be taken from the band’s latest record Skying. Well worth a listen, as is the album itself.

Skying is out now on XL Recordings

Los Campesinos!

Here’s another new Los Campesinos! track for your ears, the title track from their forthcoming album Hello Sadness – a galloping tale of heartbreak that sees Gareth’s lyricism at its most devastatingly raw. “It’s only hope that springs eternal/and that’s the reason why/this dripping from my broken heart is never running dry.”

Los Campesinos! – ‘Hello Sadness’

It’s also worth reminding you that today is the last day you can get your hands on the album pre-order bundles, so if you haven’t sorted yours out yet then get to it.

Hello Sadness is released on 14th November on Wichita Recordings 

Johnny Foreigner

Finally, Johnny Foreigner have released another teaser from their third album Johnny Foreigner vs. Everything, and it’s got an awesome stop-motion video to go with it. Check out the twinkly, Kelly-sung ‘200x’ below.

Even more importantly however, is the fact that pre-orders for the album are now available, including sweet t-shirt bundles and a 20-page comic/art book with the first 400 copies – so if you want a copy, don’t hang around. Get all the details over on JoFo’s blog, or head straight over to the Alcopop shop to see what’s on offer.

Johnny Foreigner Vs. Everything is released on 7th November on Alcopop records.

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Local Artist Of The Whenever #10: Justine

Justine

In terms of solo artists in the York area, Justine is a little different – instead of favouring the more usual guitar, she accompanies herself with a piano. Now, given the national popularity of the likes of Birdy and the all-pervasive Adele, that might seem like an odd thing to say – but as far as I can tell, there aren’t that many people doing similar things on a local level. Fortunately, Justine feels like a much more interesting proposition, thanks to a frank and honest lyrical streak that’s more akin to the likes of Kate Nash. ‘Trying’ is an open, genuine account of the trials and tribulations of being young and heartbroken – Justine doesn’t do anything too fancy with the piano, but that only serves to highlight her bright, effortlessly pretty vocals.

Justine – ‘Trying’ (Demo)

She also manages to infuse the covers she does with the same honesty as her own material, and her beautifully simple take on The Beatles’ ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ is the perfect example.

Justine – ‘Hold Your Hand’

If you’re in York and want to see her live (which I’d recommend), you can catch her at The Basement on the 27th October, and at Stereo on the 29th November – she’s supporting Ellen And The Escapades on that latter date, which should be pretty sweet.

Justine is an artist I’d really like to hear more original songs from – while she does some great covers, I think she has the potential to become better known for her own music. All it’ll take is a bit of confidence in her self-penned material – and based on what she’s written so far, she should absolutely believe in her ability to come up with more.

Also, I did an interview with Justine for BBC Introducing In York And North Yorkshire a little while back, and that should be going out this Saturday 15th October between 6-7 pm on BBC Radio York. So if you want to find out more about Justine, have a listen (I’ll stick the iPlayer link here after the broadcast).

Find Justine on Facebook here.

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Local Artist Of The Whenever #9: Honeytone Cody

Honeytone Cody - Witch Hunt EP

It’s fair to say that Honeytone Cody are both undeniably talented and rather tricky to pin down, refusing to be pigeonholed or confined by notions of genre. The band comprises of Elle Nelson (Vocals/Bass), Elliot Nelson (Guitars/Drums) and Martell James, and together they make dynamic, atmospheric rock music that’s beguiling in its sinister feel. The group will shortly be releasing a new EP entitled Witch Hunt, and today they’ve unveiled the first track from it – it’s called ‘White Queen’, and you can listen to it below:

Honeytone Cody – ‘White Queen’

Beginning with a thrum of noise, the track effortlessly flits between different guitar sounds – first buzzing and humming with menace, then echoing spaciously, before whipping up a chaotic squall in the chorus. The track is underpinned by relentless, propulsive drumming, while Elle’s captivating vocals float over the track like a distant siren song.

If you like the sound of that, then the EP is out on the 17th October on the band’s own label, Tiki Voodoo records. However, if you’re in York and wish to get your hands on a copy a few days early, I’d recommend you attend the EP launch party at The Basement on the 14th October, where the band will have 50 copies of the EP available for sale. Not only that, but they’ll be playing a headline set, with support being more than ably provided by Fawn Spots, Sombre and Undersex. More details on that event right here. They’re also supporting Three Trapped Tigers at Stereo on the 13th November, which will be another great show.

In all honesty, Honeytone Cody are the kind of unique, intriguing act that deserves an audience far beyond the city walls of York. By arming themselves with songs as good as this, there’s every chance 2012 could be a breakout year for them – and if there’s any justice, it’ll be theirs for the taking.

Visit Honeytone Cody’s website here, or find them on Facebook here.

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Local Artist Of The Whenever #8: By Toutatis

By Toutatis

I’ll admit I’m rather stretching the definition of ‘local’ with this next band – but well, at least one of them lives in York, and that’s good enough for me. By Toutatis are a quartet of self-described ‘post-folk racketeers’, formed from the ashes of Middlesbrough-based history-rock sextet Idiot Savant – the band comprises of ex-Savants Daniel Cochran (Vocals/Wind Organ/Guitar), Robbie Major (Violin/Synth) and Francois B. Muriel (Drums/Organ/Vocals), along with Ben Hopkinson (Guitar/Piano/Vocals). The band have already released an EP entitled Three More Nights Of The Rough Musick via their Bandcamp page, and you can listen to (and download it) it via the player below:

If you needed any confirmation that the historical leanings of Idiot Savant are still very much alive and well, you only need listen to ‘High Gallows Tree’, a suitably sombre, slow-burning arrangement of a traditional hangman’s song. The band’s original material is equally engaging – ‘Sailors’ Church’ contrasts its upbeat drums with sweeping, mournful violins and melancholy vocals, while ‘Old Songs’ has the feel of a funereal sea shanty. Closing out the EP is ‘The Good Lies’, a beautifully dynamic piece which swells from its understated beginning into a crescendo of military drumming, driving piano chords and haunting backing vocals – as well as providing a showcase for Cochran’s arresting baritone.

Unfortunately, the band haven’t got any shows planned in York at the moment – but they’re playing in Halifax, Middlesbrough and Hartlepool before the end of the year, so check out their Facebook page for the dates. Hopefully they’ll get round to visiting soon – wilfully different and with talent to spare, By Toutatis are the kind of distinctive band that needs to be celebrated more often.

Find By Toutatis on Facebook here, and on Tumblr here.

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Is Velociraptor! Lacking In Bite? Thoughts On Kasabian’s New Album.

Kasabian - Velociraptor!

If you happen to bring up Kasabian in conversation, the reaction you get will no doubt vary wildly depending on who you’re talking to – you may be disowned for even mentioning them, receive an admission that they’re a guilty pleasure, or be met with an over-enthusiastic reaction along the lines of “FUCKIN’ ‘AVIN IT MAAAATE!”

However, the lager-lad brigade may not find much to connect with on new album Velociraptor!, as it’s not quite as excitable as the exclamation mark in its title may suggest. Sure, there’s the ‘Immigrant Song’-aping swagger of ‘Days Are Forgotten’ and the taut, brutish menace of ‘Switchblade Smiles’ (which also seems to riff on the very same song, oddly enough), but beyond that there isn’t much in the way of the stadium-ready anthems that the band are best known for.

There certainly isn’t a lack of ambition on this record – the problem is that it fails to come to fruition more often than not. ‘Lets Roll Just Like We Used To’ begins the record with the sound of a booming gong, before revealing that it actually wants to be a late-period Beatles track – it’s competent enough but struggles to leave a lasting impression. Worse is ‘Acid Turkish Bath (Shelter From The Storm)’, which falls into the same trap as a few tracks from the band’s previous record – it’s all bombast and pretensions at being “epic”, but lacks any sort of aim or focus. Even the more straightforward electro-rock stomp of ‘Rewired’ feels like an off-cut from a previous record.

At other times, the record actually manages to make Kasabian sound boring, which, for all their faults, is something you’d struggle to have accused them of in the past. ‘Goodbye Kiss’ is a fairly pedestrian attempt at being romantic and bittersweet, while ‘La Fee Verte’ is the least interesting song about absinthe that you’re ever likely to hear. The most criminal moment on the record, however, is ‘Man Of Simple Pleasures’ – a song whose lethargic swagger couldn’t be more Oasis-aping if it tried.

To be fair, it’s not all completely terrible. Despite its wilfully oddball lyrics, the record’s title track at least has some pace about it, and the plodding ‘I Hear Voices’ just about gets a pass because it sounds a bit like something from one of the Streets Of Rage games. The record’s best attempt at balladry also comes at its close, with ‘Neon Noon’ at least having the good grace to pinch some synth sounds from the band’s debut in order to make things at least a little interesting.

Regardless of any misgivings I (or anyone else) may have, the album’s commercial success was all but assured – and sure enough, it went straight to number one in the UK charts on the week of its release. More surprising, however, is that critical reaction to the record has also been largely positive – it currently stands at a respectable average of 80 on Metacritic, with only Drowned In Sound and The Observer giving it less than 6/10. Personally, I’d be inclined to agree with these low-scoring exceptions – and also this scathing missive from Chris Nosnibor over at Whisperin’ And Hollerin’. Go ahead and decide for yourself though – you can listen to the album yourself courtesy of this stream (via NME.com).

Velociraptor! is out now on Columbia records.

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