Tuesday 31 December 2013

Setting Sun - Be Here When You Get There

Album review by soul1@thesoundofconfusion.com

It's been over a decade now since singer-songwriter Gary Levitt embarked on his Setting Sun project; a band led by his songcraft with a rotating line-up of musicians contributing to the tracks. In that time many contemporaries have come and gone, and even more bands have followed the particular musical route that Levitt and his changing compatriots have trodden. New album 'Be Here When You Get There' is rightly described as a "crossover between indie-rock, folk and chamber pop music". There is no defining characteristic (with the possible exception of the vocals that Levitt provides) and the ten tracks here wander smoothly through the musical landscapes described, always competent and good quality, but never quite outstanding.

This isn't to say that 'Be Here When You Get There' isn't a good album, it is. What is needed to take this to the next level are a couple of undisputed killer songs that will lodge in your cranium and remain there. There are times when Setting Sun come close: 'Week Long Nights' is a very fine indie-rock track with hushed vocals and just a hint of Dinosaur Jr without the rich guitar layers; 'Got It Made' is another song of note and also recalls the US alt-rock scene of the 1990s, as does the semi-acoustic rock of 'Idiot'. There's nothing here that would have been better left off the album, in fact none of these songs are anything less than good, but none are quite outstanding enough to break into the big time, although there's nothing to suggest that was ever part of the plan.

'Be Here When You Get There' will most certainly have its fans, but these will largely be made up of people who tend to stick to this particular form of US alt-rock; you suspect that widespread appeal will escape Setting Sun for now, and that's despite the certain level of diversity. 'Leave A Light On' for example, is upbeat, catchy and makes for decent single material, but you doubt that those who worship at the altars of Arcade Fire, The National or even the aforementioned Dinosaur Jr will be changing allegiances any time soon. Instead they're likely to hear the maudlin, string-laden 'Seasons', the pretty 'Dream Next Door' or the country-tinged 'Selfish Love' which mixes things up nicely, almost bringing to mind Neil Young at some points, and give a deserved nod of approval. An album to be investigated and enjoyed, but one that just falls short of being truly cherished.

Setting Sun's website

Stream the album in full

Buy the album

Catch them live:

WED 01 JAN Pete's Candy Store, Brooklyn, NY, US
WED 08 JAN Pete's Candy Store, Brooklyn, NY, US
WED 15 JAN Pete's Candy Store, Brooklyn, NY, US
WED 22 JAN Pete's Candy Store, Brooklyn, NY, US
WED 29 JAN Pete's Candy Store, Brooklyn, NY, US

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Northern Portrait - Ta!

Album review by soul1@thesoundofconfusion.com

Bringing non-album tracks together as a compilation can often lead to a fans-only patchwork of material that perhaps wasn't deemed strong enough for initial release; weak B-sides, acoustic versions or live and session recordings that don't stand up to the original, but there are plenty of exceptions to the rule. Many fans (and Brett Anderson himself) consider Suede's B-sides comp. 'Sci-Fi Lullabies' to be the band's finest album. You could also look to Belle & Sebastian's 'Push Barman To Open Old Wounds' or The Stone Roses' 'Turns Into Stone' for near-faultless examples of similar collections. Perhaps a more appropriate comparison for Danish indiepoppers Northern Portrait would be The Smiths' 'Hatful Of Hollow' compilation; the Manchester heroes are, and always have been a clear influence.

The cruel may say that Northern Portrait simply ram-raid The Smiths back catalogue in a Hummer and then stride off cockily with a few Mozzer/Marr B-sides, when in truth there are plenty of songs in their arsenal that pair of writers would have happily put their names to. As an album, 'Ta!' doesn't sound like a disjointed selection of tracks they've found down the back of a sofa or hidden on old demo tapes, it sounds like a complete collection of very well-written and recorded songs that easily matches their previous long-player: this is a set of songs the trio can rightly be proud of. They've never hidden their love of '80s guitar bands and nor do they do so here, but rather than pilfer bits and bobs as best they can and try and cash-in on those who wish for the days of old, they show their own talents as top-drawer songsmiths and repeatedly impress. This is aided by several of these tunes appearing in the past as singles in their own right, and also a little touching-up being done to a few early tracks, but from start to finish this is a record that has peaks, yet it doesn't have the troughs that so often go with them.

The opening bars of 'A Quiet Night In Copenhagen' may have you thinking of Morrissey (or maybe even Gene or The Incredible Flight Of Birdman or anyone else who's fallen foul of that tiresome comparison), however, it will also put an immediate smile on your face, as will early track 'I Give You Two Seconds To Entertain Me' which follows it. These are songs with a freshness and a heady rush that will delight anyone who's willing to let stuffy inhibitions go. The tunes keep flowing like Champagne at midnight on New Year's Eve. 'I Feel Even Better' has a wonderful jangle and melody; 'Waiting For A Chance' does even more so; recent single 'Happy Nice Day' still sounds cracking. This could be an indication that the band are getting even better as they get set to release their second studio album next year, and for confirmation of this you need only lend an ear to the most recent song of all: 'The Young and Hopefuls' which was featured on Matinee Recordings recent fifteenth anniversary album 'A Sunday Matinee'. It would be easy to praise each of the fifteen songs here, but the best option is to simply listen without prejudice. Like anyone else, Northern Portrait have their influences, but they also have their own songs and their own talents, and on 'Ta!' they take another step towards cementing that notion in the minds of even the most cynical of listeners.

Northern Portrait's website

Buy the album

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Monday 30 December 2013

PREMIERE: Half Loon - Reverie

Single review by soul1@thesoundofconfusion.com

We all know about the psych revival that is still showing absolutely no signs of waning as we enter the new year, especially as the much-hyped Temples have a hotly-anticipated debut album to spring upon us, but a slightly less studied revival has been taking place alongside this, and the two are often intertwined. This year has seen some bands looking to update the baggy sounds of twenty-odd years ago and this has resulted in notable albums from Sulk and Peace who both have borrowed sounds from that scene. When we first heard Half Loon a couple of months back it was in the form of the wonderfully chilled-out psychedelia of their single 'Swearword', but now they have something even better to share with us.

Now under the wing of RIP Records, the band are due to release their new single 'Reverie' at the start of February and have just unveiled the video on YouTube. With possibly an even stronger psych flavour with organ swirls and other classic effects, they pump the song up with a stronger groove that knocks any notions of a '60s recreation to one side and marks them out as a more modern proposition. Sure, influences from the golden age of the genre run deeply through this track, but so does the determination to carve their own niche in a crowded world - not an easy task but one that they succeed in, and do so with an incredibly strong track. This would have been possibly the most futuristic sound of the first summer of love in 1967, it would have ruled the second summer of love in 1989. We're due another one, and maybe Half Loon are brewing up some more concoctions in the studio to ensure that 2014 is that year.

Half Loon's website

Pre-order the single

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Law$uits - Future Failure

Album review by ethan@thesoundofconfusion.com

Law$uits has big guitars, is always heavy and at times discordant. I would describe the vocals as talk-yelling. Bassist Fred Marras says “we're really into stuff like The Jesus Lizard, Melvins, or The Cows. We're not really attempting to sound like any of them but we really respect their approach to making music: aggressive but also smart.” On their Facebook page the listed genre is “fuck you wave”. That all sounds right to me. They just released a full-length album, 'Future Failure' on December 26th.

It’s an angry, resentful, distraught kind of record. I guess you'd have to compare Law$uits to certain early alt-rockers and noise-rock acts of the eighties, but there are elements of hardcore and metal. What's more is their steadfast devotion to strangeness. This record's not really based on traditional rock melodies; it's more exploratory and complex. It is throughout, a bunch of songs with heavy grooves. The bass is very prominent and sinister sounding, really the sound is focused on grooves and lead guitar work. The guitar work on this record is far from standard run-of-the-mill, heavy-sounding stuff; lead guitarist James Browning really is an exceptional axe man.

'Saloon' starts as a slow, evil cowboy riff that becomes fast and wild and then seems to swoon into an ending. 'Pony Baloney' is catchy in a strange, very un-pop way of being catchy; a guitar riff driven song towards the end of the record with an incredibly tense rhythm section. But this record is not about singles, it's a cohesive record with a lot of thought to song order and the flow of one track into the next. The band knows its sounds extremely well and it's recorded just right for the style.

Law$uits' website

Stream or download the album

Catch them live:

Jan 4th at Don Pedros
Jan 18th at Cake Shop
Feb 18th at Death By Audio

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The Martha's Vineyard Ferries - Mass. Grave

Album review by soul1@thesoundofconfusion.com

Maybe it's my imagination, but there seems to have been an awful lot of collaborative projects and supergroups floating around of late. Most notable from our point of view are the superb Black Hearted Brother who produced one of the albums of the year. Moving away from dreamy space-rock and closer to classic US alt-rock, lo-fi and grunge sounds are The Martha's Vineyard Ferries who consist of Elisha Wiesner of the band Kahoots on guitar, Bob Weston who's featured in Shellac and Mission Of Burma amongst others on bass, and Chris Brokaw who's also a man who's played with several bands, perhaps most notably Codine, along with his solo work. All three have connections to Martha's Vineyard with Wiesner calling the island home, and their name is taken from the main means of transport to and from Massachusetts outpost. The gritty guitar blast of these seven songs lends itself to several comparisons, but they can be easily found by delving into the musical history of the three members; there's no plan here to take themselves totally off piste and subsequently 'Mass. Grave' could have been recorded at any point from the late 1980s until now. A lazy move or a trio simply doing what they do best? We'd have to say the latter. You'd be pretty disappointed if The Rolling Stones returned with a hip-hop album, plus this particular strain of rock music has been undergoing a revival (if it ever really went away) of late, so this album fits snugly into the current musical landscape and surpasses many of the new artists looking to follow a similar path.

It's unlikely they'll be winning awards, but it's unlikely that was the goal; by the sounds of things the aim of The Martha's Vineyard Ferries was to gather some like-minded souls and get some decent tunes laid down. With that being the case, 'Mass. Grave' is pretty difficult to pick holes in. The scuzz of bass and guitar starts the record with the opening bars of 'Wrist Full Of Holes' which then lays down some harmonies and near-psychedelic effects for the chorus. It's not a spectacular entry, but it's a mighty fine one nonetheless. It also sums up the album in a way: there's little here with an obvious "wow" factor, but likewise there's nothing that falls short, and with a couple of listens under your belt it all falls into place and reveals itself to be a stellar effort. The grungy 'Parachute' again piles on the distortion and gives off a constant warming hum with a top melody emerging as it progresses.

The unholy 'She's A Fucking Angel (From Fucking Heaven)' is catchy and lively, offering perhaps the most accessible moment despite lyrics such as "I had sex with the devil" and the obvious other aspects that would prevent widespread radio play. DJs looking for a safer way in should probably be directed to 'Ramon And Sage' which also has all the right hallmarks of an easily absorbed and fuzzily melodic alternative hit; the chugging 'Blonde On Blood' is also a satisfying track for those looking for some music with a little more meat on its bones. There's a definite nod to the early US punk scene when it comes to 'Look Up', a song that could have been a Ramones cover filtered through some speakers that don't quite have the capacity to deal with the volume of sound being thrust out of them. Naturally it comes in at under two minutes. The one and only slowie wraps up the album, but 'One White Swan' is no dull ballad or attempt at soppy reflection. You could perhaps call it a cousin to, say, 'Hotel lounge' by dEUS or other post-grunge anthems of a similar quality. 'Mass. Grave' is a mild flashback, but not one without roots in the present, and most importantly it's not a record that will let you down.

The Martha's Vineyard Ferries' website

Stream the album in full

Buy the album

Catch them live:

Thurs, Jan 9 Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts
Fri, Jan 10, The Plough and Stars, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Sat, Jan 11, Death By Audio, Brooklyn, New York

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Sunday 29 December 2013

Band To Check Out: The Virgin Tongues

Article by soul1@thesoundofconfusion.com

In the business of music you often need a bit of luck. Both good luck and bad luck have helped shape careers and make or break some of the greatest groups in history. Berlin-based band The Virgin Tongues have a story that contains luck, and depending on whether you view things from the point of view that the glass is half empty or half full may sway your opinion of their story so far. Fronted by Californian-born Duncan McKnight, The Virgin Tongues career trajectory was looking good. Their minimalist rock 'n roll/garage/punk/shoegaze hybrid had built them a fanbase and they retreated to Iceland to play some shows and record their album. The night they recorded the song 'Who Cares Right Now', Duncan "fell from a window approx. 10m (32 ft) and was admitted to the ICU. He sustained numerous injuries including a skull fracture, haemorrhage of the cerebellum (brain injury), broken ribs, collapsed lung, and damage to other internal organs". Bad luck that he had such a horrendous accident, but nevertheless, you could argue that he was lucky to survive an incident that many others wouldn't have.

After being told he wouldn't be able to perform or even walk again, Duncan had to relearn everything, from basic speech upwards. Remarkably he recovered enough to restart the band and take aim at finishing what they'd started. With momentum now depleted, the task had just become a lot more difficult, so reluctantly a crow-funding campaign was set up to raise funds that had been lost to medical bills and rehabilitation and get the band recording again. The music they make is fuzz-loaded garage-rock that ticks all the right boxes and will be one for fans of The Raveonettes, Crocodiles, Surf City and others of a similar ilk. The recordings available to stream online (including 'Who Cares Right Now' and the excellent 'Six feet Underground') show exactly why the group were on an upward trajectory and affirm the fact that their timeless sound still has a place and the power to inspire and excite. As with most crowd-funding campaigns, there are plenty of perks for those that donate to the cause, but if you take this project and listen to the music without knowing anything of the back-story, the tunes stand up for themselves and are enough to get us looking forward to what could be a terrific album when it finally sees the light of day. Look at The Virgin Tongues as a worthy cause, and if you like then do this because of the trauma and the fight the band have had, but equally look at it as the chance to help out a hugely promising group.

The Virgin Tongues' website

Donate to the campaign

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The Brooklyn What - Hot Wine

Album review by ethan@thesoundofconfusion.com

The Brooklyn What are all NYC natives, most have been friends since high school and have been hard at work on their band for quite a few years already. They have had other albums, but 'Hot Wine' is their first real serious studio effort and it's all their best material. The title-track 'Hot Wine' was written by their late guitarist. They are influenced by bands like The Replacements, E Street Band, The Clash, and The Stones, as well as indie-rockers like Dinosaur Jr and Guided By Voices.

They did the record at Continental Studios in Long Island City, Queens, which has been doing records for a lot of the more interesting bands in NYC. 'Hot Wine' is a very complete, cohesive record which explores sound while simultaneously revisiting classic rock n' roll tones and subject matter. It captures genuine emotionality, while to some degree making a study of what can be done musically in a classic five-piece rock band formation.

There's something friendly and wholesome about the band; they are welcoming, down-to-earth guys who just want to have a good time. They're not worried about dressing like rock stars or posturing, they just want to make good records. 'Hot Wine' has a mash-up of punk and indie-rock and soul, delivered by a driven and passionate frontman and backed by talented, thoughtful musicians. The BK What have an EP coming out soon that they are doing at Mama Coco's Funky Kitchen.

Download 'Punk Rock Loneliness' for free by heading here

The Brooklyn What's website

Stream the album in full

Buy the album

Catch them live:

Dec 29 KungFu Necktie, Philadelphia, PA  
Jan 03 The Gutter, Brooklyn, NY

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Saturday 28 December 2013

Odd Box Records - The 100 Club Series, Volume 1

Album review by tatjana@thesoundofconfusion.com

In a landscape where every possible track is available to download before the last drum beat has been mastered, it’s nice to mix it up a little with a bizarre concept known as the "limited release". 'The 100 Club Series' by Odd Box Records is a collection of 7” singles available via subscription only, thus creating an air of heightened anticipation in a world of accessibility and slick production values.

Flowers are not an early Icehouse covers band as one might expect (extra points at your next music trivia night) but a swirling Cocteau Twins flight of fancy. They are the most featured band on this compilation, showcasing twice as many tracks as the others. I may be hit in the head with your nearest effects pedal when I admit their sound didn't grab me; mostly because I prefer a dreamy female vocal with a little more gritty guitar to accompany it. I acknowledge that this is completely subjective however, and that for many of you Flowers will press all the right buttons. They certainly did for Suede's Bernard Butler who has helped record their debut since these earlier D.I.Y. home recordings (a fact that surprised me as there was nothing makeshift sounding about their production and singer Rachel's voice needs no tampering with).

Fever Dream were far more up my alley, they confirm our fine editor's prediction that 2014 will be awash in shoegaze fuzz. I wish I could invent a new term; it's becoming so ubiquitous a genre again. Doc Martens-stare? OK you find one ;) Their second track 'Teeth' is like slipping on an old Ned's Atomic Dustbin shirt. It's a comfortable dip into the less angsty parts of your teens, more a romantic vision of late afternoons by your mate's pool playing at being the depressed grown-ups with issues. Their vibe becomes appropriately frenetic where it needs to be; I was left wanting more than their two contributions - which I guess is precisely the point of a well thought-out compilation album.

Gum picked up nicely where they left however, with their track 'Sinking' taking a slower, more laid-back approach reminiscent of early Stone Roses. If this series were an essay then Gum would be that neat paragraph that ties it all together, incorporating the swirly synth of Flowers with a little of the darker parts of Fever Dream. Next single 'Over' shows all its cards quite early on, giving you all the fuzz, vocals and melody at the outset, stripping it back to its individual components as it lingers on. Incredibly atmospheric and large, I'm really looking forward to their debut full length in 2014. Martha remind me of Wombats, with a hint of Libertines swagger. Both tracks are fun with great hooks. Their accessible melancholy is wrapped in Buzzcocks harmonies and little-boy-lost charm. US group Cars Can Be Blue are like the Breeders meets '60s girl group meets country sweetness, even flirting with surf-punk on 'Going Sideways'.

The second 100 Club release is expected to drop early next year, with the 'Red Edition' due to showcase releases from Dog Legs, Bloomer, Sock Puppets, King of Cats and City Yelps. First offers for renewal will be given to past subscribers. We older folk might bitch about there being nothing new in music anymore; that everything is a little of what has gone before (OK, that might just be me on a regular basis at parties) but truly, if this is what the neighbour's kids are playing in their garages in 2014, bring it on.

Limited copies of Gum, Fever Dream and Cars Can Be Blue are available from the Odd Box Records website

All tracks can be streamed via Bandcamp

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Jakil - Look Like Gold

Single review by soul1@thesoundofconfusion.com

If 2014 is to be the year that the guitar-based music press look beyond the D.I.Y. indie and lo-fi bands they've concentrated on for so long now, and the charts are likely to be more welcoming to "bands" as opposed to the generic, synthetic ringtone pop that has saturated the airwaves for several years, then we're going to need some groups who've been within spitting distance of an actual studio and have the tunes to crossover and satisfy the masses who are seeking something a touch more authentic. It's a fine balancing act though; there's a fine line between credible and good indie-rock music and taking things a step too far towards polished dross. Just ask anyone who was a fan of Kings Of Leon's first couple of albums. They may have fallen foul of the perils of horrid stadium sheen, but commercial doesn't have to mean complete compromise in this way.

Perhaps Jakil could be one of the first to make inroads and open up the doorway to more conventional formats again. Single 'Look Like Gold' will divide opinion in some ways: this is simply too nicely produced for your average indie punter, but it's a strong track that takes traditional rock music and stirs a dollop of soul through it to add that bigger sound that's needed, but without going overboard on the pomp and ceremony. Avoiding this pomp may endear them to fans of less mainstream music, and providing songs that don't sound as though they were recorded on a Dictaphone in the cupboard under the stairs should make them more attractive to radio and the record downloading public. The jury's still out on whether they'll manage to keep a foothold in both worlds, but 'Look Like Gold' suggests they have the potential to make the transition. It's a track that should get them some attention, what else they have to come will ultimately decide their fate. Possibility of becoming huge is definitely amongst the options though.

Jakil's website

Buy the single

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Simian Ghost - A Million Shining Colours

Single review by soul1@thesoundofconfusion.com

How can you have a song called 'A Million Shining Colours' and not make it a beautifully sparkling and bright addictive aural delight? Those who've followed the career of Swedish trio Simian Ghost will be well aware that they're at home making a variety of musical styles, from electronic drones to the dreampop they're maybe most associated with. It's the dreamier end of the musical spectrum they take aim at for this new single, and it could fit the description of "dreampop", but there's more to it than that. Sure, this is swoonsome and lovely, but rather than soft pastel shades and ambient soundscapes that some bands within the genre create, the Stockholm trio have other influences they want to play with.

This may be a song with current-sounding production, but at its heart it's classic guitar-pop. There's the jangle of The Byrds, the harmonies of The Beach Boys and the same melodies that have run through generations of sweet songs from The Ronettes to Simon & Garfunkel to more modern types like The Tyde and The See See. The classic cliché would be "sunkissed", and it's one that fits with the same perfection that they've applied to the music. In the depths of winter, Simian Ghost have whipped up the spirit of summer and condensed it into three-and-a-half minutes of glorious technicolour sound, from the shimmering verses, the earworm of a chorus and the timeless wide-eyed wonder of discovering just how blooming brilliant life can be. It beats that new jumper you just got for Christmas for keeping you warm any day.

Simian Ghost's website

Catch them live:

Feb 10 Old Blue Last, London, United Kingdom

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Friday 27 December 2013

Walking Relic - Sojourn

EP review by soul1@thesoundofconfusion.com

The acts that bands and artists list as influences can make for interesting and sometimes puzzling reading. Amongst the big yet credible bands that Oklahoma trio Walking Relic cite (The Beatles, The National, Santigold) are a few bland mainstream indie acts (Athlete, Snow Patrol, The Killers), plus the odd surprise like Enya. What's more surprising is that this combination accurately paints a picture of their own music on new EP 'Sojourn', and what's most surprising of all is that the combination works. They have the big pop hooks of bands like The Killers, they have the indie sound that many of those bands suggest, yet they also show an experimental streak that may be inspired by Santigold and even Enya (they're female-fronted which helps this comparison), and they show an alt-rock credibility with it, one that The National and their like share.

On the evidence of these three tracks, Walking Relic do have a more commercial sound than some alternative music fans may be looking for, but they're not exactly mainstream. Crossover potential exists here, but it'll take a little work before those platinum discs start appearing. Not through lack of good songs, but through their style being just too left-field for the charts; the way they need to work it is to slowly build a fanbase rather than dive straight in at the deep end, but they have the ingredients to make it happen. Essentially this is a fairly familiar blend of indie-rock and electro-pop, so not exactly revolutionary, but they have the songs to carry it off. Plus, the belting vocals of 'Every Little Thing' and 'Galaxy Quest' don't pull any punches (it's perhaps telling that another influence is Florence and the Machine, although we'd add Beth Ditto to that list too). Sandwiched between these two songs is 'Burn', a tune made from the same building blocks and completing an EP that could easily have been split apart and released as three singles.

Walking Relic's website

Buy the EP

Catch them live:

Fri, Jan 10, Belle Isle Restaurant & Brew Pub, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

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Brightest Color - #2

EP review by soul1@thesoundofconfusion.com

It takes just the opening bars of first track 'Transatlantic' and all of a sudden we're back in 2008 and raving about the new brand of math-rock that Foals have just unleashed on the world with their debut album, while all the hipsters around us are pretending that Gang Of Four have always been their favourite band. Does it sound dated, then? No, not really; Brightest Color's combination of angular post-punk and noodly guitar lines is actually a welcome sound. It's a return to a scene that was over before it really got started and before hardly any of the music was created to a high enough standard to leave a lasting impression. The slightly accented vocals work well too; the band are based in Brooklyn but were formed by two Parisians, perhaps the reason for giving this lively opener its name. 

It's a song they struggle to match in (no pun intended) brightness, but that kind of sparkle is difficult to capture and what follows is hardly substandard. Tightness and complexity are clearly two goals for the quintet, and the musicianship is faultless yet not to the point of being sanitised. The chanting chorus of 'Providence' also takes your mind back to the indie-dance crossover scene of just a few years ago, although due to its quality this likeness isn't a problem in the slightest as it rings out its final notes. Similar in style with a mildly more exotic flavour is the appropriately-titled 'Hindsight', a word that summarises this EP; taking these recent sounds and using the benefit of time to assess just what worked best and what to discard. Including more thoughtful lyrics for example, is a wise move that prevents accusations of style over content. 'Rapture' also isn't a track that's short of depth and also sees them take a more electronic-sounding approach for much of the song, before those glistening, fluttering guitars leap in for the chorus. A glance back a the recent past maybe, but one that's worth a look.

Brightest Color's website

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Thursday 26 December 2013

Albums & Tracks Of 2013 - Jay's Lists

Article by jay@thesoundofconfusion.com

ALBUMS OF THE YEAR (in no particular order):

Bite the Buffalo - Blue Lips

Perhaps the best live band in the country now with an album to back it up. 'Blue Lips' is irresistible and consistently rewarding.

Bite The Buffalo's website

Buy the album

Pearl Jam - Lightning Bolt

It was a long wait but worth it. Maybe their best album for a decade. It just keeps giving, with a clutch of songs that are amongst the best they have ever recorded.

Pearl Jam's website

Buy the album

The Fauns - Lights

A wondrous journey into sound that is mesmerising and entrancing.

The Fauns' website

Buy the album

Shawn Smith - Kid Bakersfield

The ridiculously prolific Mr. Smith keeps sneaking out albums for free on his Bandcamp site. 'Kid Bakersfield' is up there with the best of his cannon including 'Brad and Satchel'. And that voice never looses its ability to move and inspire you.

Shawn Smith's website

Buy the album

Wooden Shijps - Back to Land

One of their most accessible albums, but no less outstanding. There is a lightness and touch of euphoria mixed in here that simply shines through you.

Wooden Shjips' website

Buy the album

David Bowie - The Next Day

No one knew it was coming. No one knew it was going to be this good. The most welcome return of the year.

David Bowie's website

Buy the album

Black Joe Lewis - Electric Slave

The sound of your best night out turned up to 11.

Black Joe Lewis' website

Buy the album

Foals - Holy Fire

Simply stunning. It perfectly encapsulates the now while being an album that you will keep returning to in the years to come.

Foals' website

Buy the album

Jonathan Wilson - Fanfare

Still wrapped in the dappled light of Laurel Canyon but now with a stronger, less ethereal edge, that gives 'Fanfare' a strength and core that was lost at times on debut 'Gentle Spirit'.

Jonathan Wilson's website

Buy the album

Civil Protection - Stolen Fire

Dark, intense, at times spellbinding, but never less than enthralling. 'Stolen Fire' is a post-rock monolith that marks Civil Protection as ones to watch rise and rise.

Civil Protection's website

Buy the album

Steering By Stars - The Cold Embrace

An album that I keep coming back to and revelling in its stature and breathtaking scope. If you are looking for a hit the same as 'Holy Fire' then you have to listen to this.

Steering By Stars' website

Buy the album

Ned and The Dirt - Giants

An expertly crafted album honed out of the a bedrock so strong that it will have you swaggering, swooning and stomping like Keith Richards on PCP.

Ned And The Dirt's website

Buy the album

Thousands - Dream Isle

Quietly mesmerising and enchanting. After a couple of plays you will have fallen totally for 'Dream Isle's magical charms.

Thousands' website

Buy the album

TRACKS OF THE YEAR (in no particular order):

Drenge - Bloodsports

2.33 of blood-soaked riffage and a groove so deep you could hide the Titanic in it.

Drenge's website

Buy the track

Carousels & Limousines - Alive

Only a demo, yet so good that every time I play it it still sends shivers down my spine. Already the anticipation for the second album is sky high. Hurry up boys!

Carousels & Limousines' website

Download the track by clicking the bottom right of the stream above

Kid Wave - Shelley

The soundtrack to summer. And in the depths of winter it is no less enriching, flooding you with sunlight.

Kid Wave's website

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Girl Band - Second One

One of the most perfectly formed songs of year. Yet they hid it away, and themselves, please come out and play with us very soon...

Girl Band's website

Download the track free from the player above

The Diamond Lights - Secret Hell

The most exquisitely fuzzed-up guitar and the best break to slide over and dance your hairy ass off to in years.

The Diamond Lights' website

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Bright Young People - Liberties

A street walkin' cheetah coated in napalm. Consume its essence and you will get laid.

Bright Young People's website

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Whales in Cubicles - Nowhere Flag

Mesmerising, pounding, beautiful, with one of the videos of the year.

Whales In Cubicles' website

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Affair - To Get

Sublime, beguiling, '80s-tinged masterful electro-pop.

Affair's website

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Foxy Shazam - I Like It

It may not have come out this year. I don't care. A guilty pleasure.... fuck it, just a sheer indulgent ROCK orgiastic pleasure.

Foxy Shazam's website

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Volcano Choir - Bygone

Near aural perfection. Like catching the perfect wave in the warmest waters.

Volcano Choir's website

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Lone Doe - Leon, Leon

Quietly magnificent and full of awe.

Lone Doe's website

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Pharoahe Monch - Stand Your Ground

A blistering, frenetic blast of funkified glory.

Pharoahe Monch's website

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Slim Wray - Bear

Drink up them whiskeys, order shots, dance like a brudda wanting to mate with a mutha... "c'mon girl". Nuff said. Listen loud and listen proud.

Slim Wray's website

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Tracks Of 2013 - Andy's List

Article by andy@thesoundofconfusion.com

                             Will this track make the list?? No, no it wont.

Good Morning Ladies; Gentleman; Martians; High-end bespoke robots; and Cartoon Characters!

May I warmly welcome you all to the 5th annual, ‘Sound Of Confusion Scotland Correspondent Picks His 25 Tracks Of The Year’ post! *applause please*. Over the course of its online maturation, The Sound Of Confusion has grown significantly in both its appeal and influence and this is an upward trend that permeates right through each article that is posted on the site...everything that is except my list, which has seen interest levels plummet from its heady heyday!

Yes back in the glory year of 2009 there were at least three actual people who expressed a passing indifference toward my scintillating selection, however for reasons unknown (probably the credit crunch!) to this correspondent that figure has steadily dwindled to a point that this post already now appears to be attracting a view count of negative five!! None the less, well aware that it gives me a welcome break from trying to build elastic band balls, Kev has thoughtfully insisted we continue with tradition and publish my picks of the best tunes that have graced my gramophone* in the last twelve months.

Same stipulation as ever, just one track per band or artist. On we roll..

*I don't really have a gramophone, I wouldn't know how to work it.



1) Dive - Dumb: The Midlands is booming with bands unafraid to let their guitars do the talking, and as introductions go, none spoke more purposefully than this slice of British indie rock at its exhilarating best.

Dumb Website

2) Summertime In My Heart - The Electric Soft Parade: Still criminally underappreciated, the brothers White showcased once again that no one does wide eyed, sunshine filled, melody better, on a perfect anthem for summer.

The Electric Soft Parade Website

3) Picture Show – Lanterns On The Lake: It’s tough up north so the saying goes - well let’s keep it that way if it’s going to inspire breathy, beguiling, piano ballads of this ilk.

Lanterns On The Lake Website

4) Real Love – Memory Tapes: Never bereft of imagination or a willingness to push tunes off at a tangent, this year it was one of Dayve Hawke’s more straight forward compositions that shone, with a funky mix of light and dark moods recalling the club records that ushered in the 1990’s.

Memory Tapes Facebook

5) LNOE – The High Wire: Let’s not shy away from it, yes this track probably owes a sizable debt to a couple of tracks from Mercury Rev’s ‘Deserter Songs’, but so what because it’s great! If this really was the last night on earth, I’d be happy to bow out with this booming from the stereo.

The High Wire Facebook

6) One Of These Days – Gaz Coombes Presents: He of synonymous with sideburns fame, does a super job of grassing up his innermost thoughts and emotions, over a Lennon-esque, delicately orchestral, slow burner.

Gaz Coombes Website

7) Carry Me – Bombay Bicycle Club: It’s one of life’s intrinsic truisms that I just don’t like Bombay Bicycle Club’s music! I think that arrangement suits all parties well, easy peasy...so why did they have to go and screw up everything by making murky percussive electro that’s right up my street. Don’t do it again or we might fall out!

Bombay Bicycle Club Website

8) Telephone – Alpaca Sports: Log on to Facebook and you’ll doubtless find a picture of a fluffy kitten, peeping out from under a furry rug, while wearing a pink bow and hugging a hamster – this jangle meets indie-pop three minute jaunt is even more gentle and twee than that image...and all the better for it! *pats the song*

Alpaca Sports Website

9) Jade Vine – LACED: Back to Birmingham we go for another debut single, that though difficult to pin falls somewhere in the territory between shoegaze and grunge, Regardless of the label you want to use this is brooding, powerful and immensely promising.

LACED Facebook

10) The Lovers’ Suicide – The Bilinda Butchers: A top 10 just wouldn’t feel right anymore without an entry from the San Francisco dream pop duo would it! They make the grade for the third year running, with this hazy and chiming guitar anthem inspired by the contents of a fine piece of Japanese poetry.

The Bilinda Butchers Website


11) Sun Kissed Bliss - Splashh
12) Paper Heart – Chloe Howl
13) Milk and Black Spiders - Foals
14) Gold - JAWS
15) Desired Affect – Atom Tree
16) Seafood – Beaty Heart
17) I Had A Vision Last Night – Storms
18) Brain – Black Onassis
19) Winter – Daughter
20) Free Your Mind – Cut Copy
21) S.O.S in Bel Air – Phoenix
22) Canoe – Small Black
23) Fireside – Arctic Monkeys
24) Ineptitude, Dude! – Love Dance
25) Confusion – Little Boots


Done for another year. Thank you for reading team, and may you each have a great 2014, filled with plenty of top notch music. All the best.

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The Year That Was…Tatjana's Thoughts & Predictions

Article by tatjana@thesoundofconfusion.com

Year-specific album lists are tough for me. I have a sudden brainwave only to find that it was released a month before the allotted window of time, or find my mind overrun with songs from my youth that I have on high rotation that week, just because. Take right now; I'm listening to Mazzy Star's 'Fade Into You' which was preceded by Robert Forster's solo record 'The Evangelist', which then made me nostalgic for The Go Betweens which reminded me of that music festival where I also saw The Chemical Brothers.

I’ll get off the digress train for a minute and try to get back to The List.

If it's based on how often I listened to the album, how deeply it absorbed into my subconscious and how often I transferred the physical CD from house to car and back again (yes, yes I'm a fogey with an outdated car stereo and a sporadic understanding of convergent technology) then these are the top five.

Adalita - All Day Venus

This was a surprise discovery for me, but then her talents and career have always been wildly underrated. As Magic Dirt remains on an indefinite hiatus its enigmatic frontwoman hasn't hung around moping, and if she did she channelled it into a very catchy set of tunes that even my six year-old digs. I saw her perform this album live and she was fantastic; strong, self assured with a lot of heart. There are at least four tracks that deserve hit single status, well worth a listen.

Adalita's website

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Forest Swords - Engravings

Hello electronica with an indie-rock heart - where have you been all my life? Possible hiding in an Unkle record but that had discernible structure and lyrics. You with your soundscape storytelling and your dark longing that never gets old as I rediscover more with every listen. As atmospheric as a candle-lit bath as it is in my headphones at school pick-up, I worship at the altar of your autonomous mixing genius.

Forest Swords' website

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Tim Hecker - Virgins

Speaking of dark electronic, Hecker is a veteran. It was my first time with him (see what I did there?) and he didn't disappoint, but it may have been over too soon. Urban decay meets classical beauty. A great piece of street art hidden behind a dumpster in a seedy alleyway. Fragmented and warped, it's not a comfortable listen but that isn't the point.

Tim Hecker's website

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Big Scary - Not Art

A couple of hipster kids with a quietly brilliant plan for world domination. It's fun and melancholy yet never tries too hard. A really accomplished second album that hints at much much more to come. See full review.

Big Scary's website

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Daughter - If You Leave

Well if he was silly enough to leave you he left us with an amazing soundtrack. I was lucky enough to discover this UK trio's debut in the most optimal of listening conditions - the solo road trip. I listened to the whole thing through three times and so began my aural love affair with its expansive resonance and sweeping beauty. 'Smother', 'Youth' and 'Lifeforms' are utterly gorgeous. Seriously great and my number one for the year.

Daughter's website

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Other notables:

Best comeback records - Primal Scream's 'More Light' and David Bowie's 'The Next Day' (special mention for Bowie's subversive play on his iconic 'Heroes' album cover)

Best third album (indicative of proper career longevity)  Foals - Holy Fire

Ones to watch in 2014:

Cracked Actor

Their 2011 EP 'Solar Driftwood' suggests that upcoming 2014 full-length debut 'Iconoclast' will be quite magical. That's if you like Radiohead in their quietly menacing moments. Which you should if we are to remain friends.

Cracked Actor's website

The War On Drugs

They have also released a teaser, 'Red Eyes', from upcoming album 'Lost in the Dream' that I can’t stop playing.

The War On Drugs' website

D.D Dumbo

The single 'Tropical Oceans' is indicative of reams of crossover talent much like Gotye or Boy and Bear.

D.D Dumbo's website

Also enjoyed Hailer's 'Another Way', Pins' 'Girls Like Us', Crooked Fiddle Band's 'Moving Pieces Of The Sea'.

Best live acts were Einsturzende Neubauten for their exquisitely executed chaos, Crime and the City Solution for their sexy Berlin club recreation and The Breeders for reminding us to never stop believing in the power of soul-lifting alternative music not made by chart greedy drones.

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