Watch/Review: NRVS LVRS – City Lights

Like the city lights that NRVS LVRS’ Wendy Brents sings about, this song is pretty freaky. Not in a Frankenstein way, but in more of a cool super-freak kinda way. This is no Rick James funk, though, and is actually Frankenstein in its setup, laying everything out, then mashing it together to create a beautiful monster of a track. Eerie 80s-style organs back the track from start to finish, but rousing drumbeats, flooding finger snaps and handclaps carry the song away from the morose. Wendy’s under-exaggerated voice is reminiscent of the vocals of Purity Ring’s Megan James, and perfectly encapsulates the headiness of large-city living, in this case the band’s native San Francisco. Living in a big city can be intimidating for young people, and this song highlights that – “Seeing Those City Lights, Freaks Me Out… I Hope They Don't Knock Me Down” – but when the song kicks in with its spacey xylophone, it reminds you how exciting it can be, and how you “Have to Keep Moving” to make sure you can actually feel that. Towards the end, a strange key change makes the song feel as if it’s going in a weird direction, but it redeems itself by combining everything at once for a fantastic end. NRVS LVRS are not a band to be nervous about and, if forthcoming LP ‘The Golden West’ is anything like this first offering, there’ll be nothing to be afraid of.

The Golden West is out on 16 March on Hz Castle Records
Words by Matthew Doyle. Follow @mmmmdoyle on Twitter

Watch/Review: Nubiyan Twist – Work House

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Leeds/London ensemble Nubiyan Twist comprise a dozen members, and while that might be a nightmare when it comes to cramming into the Ford Orion to get to the gig, each player seems so attuned to the other on ‘Work House’ that there’s no treading on toes, at least in a musical sense, as individual indulgence is tempered for the good of the neo-soul whole. This results in a spacious loping groove peppered with tasteful brass interjections, slippery bass runs and temperate electric keys locked into a funky pulse, where fills are meticulously synced. Singer Nubiya Brandon is given plenty of room to shine and, after a first verse where she carries some subtle spoken-wordplay, the full sensuality of her vocal unfolds when the chorus rides in on a blast of gritty horns. Taken from the band’s self-titled debut album, out at the end of the month, ‘Work House’ (which has a sound-of-the-underground video, below, starring Suren Seneviratne AKA My Panda Shall Fly), excels as a recruiter for the band’s live shows, where their authoritative and supercool concordance is sure to be in its multi-limbed element.

Nubiyan Twist is out on 30 March on Wormfood Records.
See Nubiyan Twist live: 7 March: Leeds The Wardrobe 14 March: London Brixton Jamm 26 March: Manchester Band On The Wall 27 March: Liverpool Threshold Festival
Words by Nick Mee. Follow @Nickjmee on Twitter

Listen/Review: MARINE – EP1

MARINE’s debut EP is a work that seamlessly juxtaposes intimate and epic soundscapes. This four-piece, comprising Ruby Jack, Cara Sebastian, Kaja Magsam and Beth Dariti, have been touring independently in Germany and England, packed into a small car with their CDs to sell. This determination and focus is felt in this release. The band have recorded four intricately crafted tracks with instrumental and vocal explorations on personal themes. The guitar is clean and reverby throughout, with melancholy arpeggiated patterns. The rhythm section steers the listener through quiet moments of alienation, crescendoing with tribal drums to mammoth proportions in the choruses. Three of the tracks are in 3/4 or 6/8 time signatures, and they conjure visions of a bizarre medieval waltz, demonstrating a brief glimmer of the band’s folk roots. In the foreground are the remarkable voices of Ruby and Cara. Displaying differing timbres, their vocal lines melt together in a glorious combination. One has a warmer quality and sings the lines pretty straight-up. The other has a slightly more piercing tone, with the warbly vocal inflections that are massive for our generation – a style pioneered by the likes of PJ Harvey or Antony and the Johnsons. Their atypical harmonies interweave like threads in a tapestry, exploring the dark moods with dreamy tones against a stark instrumental background, and soaring over the grand choruses. Producing single-worded, abstractly titled songs – ‘Kraken’ (listen below), ‘Selkie', ‘Anima’ and ‘Werewolf’ – the band fit the zeitgeist of technological detachment and social disillusionment, expressed elsewhere by Alt-J, The xx and London Grammar. Right down to the logo on their website, featuring that bleak Wes Anderson font that is used by so many of their contemporaries, MARINE are a band unafraid to engage in the trending topics of 2015.

EP1 is launched tonight (25 February) at The Macbeth, Hoxton, London.
Words by Charlie Hannah. Read more by Charlie at The Dentist

Watch/Review: Victor & The Rain Dog – Anchor & Hope

The mesmerising video for ‘Anchor & Hope’ is the latest triumph for Victor & The Rain Dog. Directed by Jamie Jones, it is a perfect collaboration between two creative forces. French-born singer Victor Marichal leads The Rain Dog on this minor-key, sea shanty/junkyard stomp, the style of which seems like a homage to Victor’s hero, Tom Waits, and sounds like a special nod to the pirate songs of his 1985 ‘Rain Dogs’ album – songs such as ‘Singapore’ and ‘Cemetery Polka’. Victor grabs the viewer’s attention with a theatrical performance, creeping about, sneering, lying flat on the floor, thumping his chest and gesticulating expressively. Where his vaudevillian antics capture the viewer, the strength of his Buckley-esque vocal enraptures the listener. His voice jeers and yells, whispers and winds its way up and down the minor scale of the verses. The arty stage setting for Victor’s performance is complemented by the sad, grey parochial English seaside imagery. The heavy black clouds, empty beaches, disused amusement parks, abandoned arcades and the strange and vacant faces of the local characters combine to produce a video that is arresting and compelling.

Words by Charlie Hannah. Read more by Charlie at The Dentist

Watch/Review: Horse Party – Out Of Sight

If Jason Loewenstein from Sebadoh picked up PJ Harvey in his beaten-up Dodge van on a first date, you might expect the soundtrack to be something along the lines of the new Horse Party single ‘Out Of Sight’ – visceral, emphatic and stimulating just about every sense an alt-rock fan would desire. After attention from BBC 6Music and an appearance at Latitude Festival last summer, Horse Party have already staked their claim as one of the most exciting British bands out there at the moment and this new offering doesn’t disappoint.  
The trio hail from Bury St Edmunds (Rock City), a standout destination that prides itself on having a unique solidarity between bands, promoters and punters. This camaraderie makes it a hive for creativity and new talent, with the regular ‘Washing Machine’ gig nights worth travelling to. 
With no bass player, guitarist Seymour Quigley (imagine the scene in Bill & Ted when the two Neanderthals run into each other at the parking lot to create Death, but in Seymour’s case replace it with a collision between Jonny Greenwood and Graham Coxon) adds enough grit and low end on his Tele to complement perfectly the vocals of Ellie Langley. The unquestionable break of “Dead in the Water” is a mantra that resonates as strongly as anything released this year and makes Horse Party one of the nation’s must-see new bands.

Out of Sight/Receiver single is out now (limited 7”) on Repeat Records.

 See Horse Party live: 

Friday 27 February, The Steamboat Tavern, Ipswich
; Friday 27 March, Relentless Garage, London
; Friday 15 May, Cambridge Junction, Cambridge
; Saturday 23 May, The Unorthodox Paradox, Lake Windermere; Saturday 13 June, OPEN Live Music, Norwich
  Words by Ali Waite. Follow @Alister_88 on Twitter

Listen/Review: Jet Setter – Forget About It

Such is the melodic efficiency of the initial two minutes of Jet Setter’s ‘Forget About It’ that the band can afford to close the tune with an outro loose enough to turn Whiplash’s Terence Fletcher an unholy shade of borscht. Prior to this passage, the Dublin four-piece convey such a pleasing grasp of fretboard sweet-spots and warm overdrive settings, as well as a knack for effortlessly pretty vocal harmonies, that even Fletcher would be inclined cut the band some slack for their subsequent slack. The retro production, especially apparent in the beat-group clip of the bass-sound, makes the song come on like Pavement meeting the The Dave Clark Five with J Mascis adding guitar overdubs. A terrific jangle of nonchalant indie rock, ‘Forget About It’ is the lead track from Jet Setter’s debut EP, ‘Never Had It So Good’, landing in April.

‘Never Had It So Good’ is out on 13 April on Any Other City Records
Words by Nick Mee Follow @Nickjmee on Twitter

Listen/Review: C Duncan – Say

C Duncan shot 2 You know what? This song makes you feel like you're flying over a city and that’s nice. That’s the feel it seems C Duncan, full name Christopher, is going for, especially as his single is illustrated with an aerial shot of his hometown, Glasgow. An accomplished artist, having exhibited all over Scotland, C Duncan created that cover too. ‘Say’ is an impressive listen, filled with ethereal vocals, elegantly brushed drum beats and a choral, dream-pop feel that evokes a vision of Sunday church mass. Except, at this church, everyone’s dancing and swaying. Probably while smiling and closing their eyes. What makes it more impressive is that Chris recorded and played all the instruments himself, all in his bedroom studio in lovely Glasgow. He describes the track as one of “being consumed by the bustle of city life [and] wanting to run away from it”. Or, in this author’s mind, fly away from it. ‘Say’ recalls influences such as Fleet Foxes, with its foresty sound and echoey vocals, but C’s classical background also rings clear in the harmonies and arrangement he so eloquently creates. If these first two singles are anything to go by (listen to ‘For’ here), the forthcoming album, due to drop this summer, should be one heady and layered, yet relaxingly exciting listen.
Say is out on 16 February. Words by Matthew Doyle. Follow @mmmmdoyle on Twitter.

Watch/Review: The Unthanks – Flutter

OK, so we’re hardly laying claim to an exclusive here, you’ll have heard the soothing strains of The Unthanks’ ‘Flutter’ if you’ve been locked on 6Music these past few weeks, but given that the band’s new album ‘Mount The Air’ is out next week, and by virtue of the tune being the most beautiful thing to have landed on Lost In The Manor’s virtual doormat of late, we see no reason to refrain from sharing it further. Pulsing across a peppering of electric piano, a shuffle of percussive brush strokes and a swoon of dusky strings, ‘Flutter’ finds the Northumberland folk outfit at their most ambient. The Unthank sisters’ voices are easeful and mellifluous, of course, but, like all the most effective chillers, there is a sadness here too, a reflective melancholy that seeps through the flawless orchestration and vocal. The lyric ‘Life’s A Flutter’ is pronounced so wistfully that to listen almost seems intrusive. But listen you should. Click on the classy monochrome promo below.

Mount The Air is out on 9 February on RabbleRouser Music
Words by Nick Mee Follow @Nickjmee on Twitter

Watch/Review: The Garden – Surprise

It would be opportune to dismiss teenage Cali-twins The Garden as mere chic-cheeked fashion fodder – they’ve already paced the catwalk for YSL – if they weren’t coming up with such intensely diverting tunes. The bass’n’drums duo’s latest piece of skeletal garage-rock, ‘Surprise’, is all done and dusted in less time than it takes the relatively orally hygienic to brush their teeth of a morning. A zippy snippet of stripped-back psychobilly, it features a symmetrical guttural bassline and rumbling beat, ascending and descending in a similar manner to the call-and-response vogue of the gothic vocal. The appropriately nocturnal video sees the Shears boys gambling with the boatman on a River Styx-style crossing; providing they survived the voyage, souls intact, The Garden will be touring the UK in March, as support to Warpaint, before returning to play Brighton's Great Escape festival in May.

See The Garden live: March 20 – Birmingham, The Institute March 22 – Manchester, The Albert Hall March 24 – Glasgow, ABC March 25 – Gateshead, The Sage March 26th – London, Hammersmith Apollo

Listen/Review: The Grubby Mitts – Worm of Eternal Return

Andy Holden, Roger Illingworth, Johnny Parry, John Blamey and James MacDowell have been playing together in various line-ups since they were 12 years old. Seven solo albums, one book and numerous art exhibitions later, they became The Grubby Mitts. From the band’s upcoming album, ‘What The World Needs Now Is The Grubby Mitts’ is ‘Worm of Eternal Return’. All a bit at odds with itself, it is a seamless piano-driven pop song of sadness and longing, which begins with a clunky glockenspiel and is composed of lines like: “The Reindeer of Arrogance” and “The Polecat of Clarity”, but this all works together to the song's advantage. Playing among the piano are a jumble of various percussive and robotic sound effects that give a more experimental, DIY finish to what is otherwise a perfectly safe and simple song. The noise of someone playing on empty tin cans is like the sound of wriggling cartoon caterpillars, though it could be anything from “The Octopus of Generosity” to “The Chaffinch of Deceit”. The chorus’ repeated refrain, “Whatever Else I Am/I Am Not In Your Arms”, is so evocative it can fill you with a strange and sudden nostalgia for a love you’d long forgotten. Calling the song 'Worm of Eternal Return', then, makes poetically perfect sense.

What The World Needs Now Is The Grubby Mitts is out on 9 March on Lost Toys Records
Words by Holly Warren. Read more of Holly’s writing here

Listen/Review: Diagrams – Gentle Morning Song

Diagrams’ Sam Genders, former member of Tunng, returns with ‘Gentle Morning Song’, taken from Diagrams' new album ‘Chromatics’, out in the UK now.  The song’s charming, honeyed electronica lends itself to comparisons to The Shins and is probably closer to what you expected from Belle and Sebastian’s new single than the song Belle and Sebastian actually released. In the verses, Sam Genders’ distinctly accented voice sounds as if it’s running across a landscape inhabited solely by Stuart Murdoch, and, as with every offering from Diagrams, the chorus is an endless jug of joy. Its soft, lilting melodies, guitar and strong drum line are strewn with psychedelic sci-fi sounds, which, when combined, create a song that’s both spacey and grounded, like floating just above a city. The lyrics capture this in the line “Im in a safe but frightening dream again”. It ends with a fade into the sounds of a busy street and morning birds, like you’re being carefully landed back to the ground.

'Chromatics' is out now on Full Time Hobby
Words by Holly Warren. Read more of Holly’s writing here

Watch: Generationals – Reviver

Follow the example of the jovial spectators in Generationals’ speedway-centric new video and you'll find plenty to cheer in the band’s typically upbeat new release, taken from their latest album, ‘Alix’. ‘Reviver’ is a synth-led work of quirky disco-pop, whose brightly textured tones, like a squeak-free MGMT, are embellished by a reverb-steeped vocal melody sounding not unlike War On Drugs, were they taking Prozac. There’s much aesthetic joy in the technicolour promo too, encompassing desert landscapes, cheerleaders in slo-mo and the momentum of man and machine as the New Orleans duo ride off into the sunset. Good times indeed.

Alix is out now on Polyvinyl.
Words by Nick Mee Follow @Nickjmee on Twitter