Well, that lovely feel-good glow we had during the Olympics soon disappeared didn’t it? Switching on the news these days is likely to plunge you into a state of depression. Hurricane destruction, myriad tales of racial abuse, childhood icons accused of unspeakable crimes (we’re half-expecting Mr Benn to implicated soon, and that will probably send us over the edge).
So it’s music we turn to salve our troubled soul. Music like the selected tracks below, for example.
TRACK OF THE WEEK: Fionn Regan – Salt & Cloves
There’s been a fair few Bob Dylan comparisons thrust at Fionn Regan. His first album was hushed acoustic folk, he “went electric” on his second album (Judas!), while his most recent record, last year’s 100 Hundreds Of Sycamore saw a return to the acoustic guitar.
If the Dylan comparisons still hold up, forthcoming album The Bunkhouse Vol. 1: Anchor Black Tattoo could be his Basement Tapes. Recorded live simply using a four-track and one microphone, this is about as lo-fi as it gets. Pretty gorgeous it is too, the simple, finger-picking melody barely holding up Regan’s heartbreakingly cracked voice.
It’s so light it nearly floats away, but it will also be the most refreshing thing you’ll hear all week.
Kate Nash – Fri-end?
There aren’t many people who’d choose to celebrate Halloween by putting on a gig in Hackney with Emmy The Great and performing cover versions from the musical episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. But, as the football chant would have it, she’s Kate Nash, she does what she wants.
Fri-End? (that hyphen and question mark is apparently all-important) is the first taste of an upcoming EP that Nash has recorded, and it continues her journey away from the cute bittersweet pop that she made her name with. Bubblegum grimy fuzz-pop is probably the best way to describe it, like the B-52s updated for a new generation.
And it’s rather brilliant. It would have been the easiest thing in the world for Nash to endlessly recreate Foundations, but she’s always had a maverick streak and strangely addictive little garage punk songs like this are far more interesting.
Street Party In Soho – Take Your Time
They’ve been described as “the most exciting 16 year old band in the UK”, although unless you hang round sixth form common rooms in your spare time (and if you do, you may wish to start thinking about the choices you’re making in life), you’re unlikely to be able to name many others.
Street Party In Soho do sound astonishingly mature however, and have even attracted the attention of Strokes producer Gordon Raphael, who will be producing their next single, which is pretty impressive for a quartet who only got together in March.
Take Your Time sits easily alongside the likes of Two Door Cinema Club, Bombay Bicycle Club and Delphic – listenable, danceable guitar pop that’s got enough of an edge to attract the hipsters. If they can handle the tsunami of hype that is inevitably going to hit them very soon, it seems a foregone conclusion that Street Party In Soho will be pretty massive this time next year. Ah. That’s just contributing to the said hype tsunami hasn’t it?
The Cast of Cheers – Trucks At Night
The Cast Of Cheers have a great name. It’s a name that conjures up images of John Ratzenberger, Ted Danson, Woody Harrelson and George Wendt jamming in a sweaty tiny club. And let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to see Norm and Cliff doing impressions of Mick’n’Keef?
Like Franz Ferdinand before them though, The Cast Of Cheers are slowly overtaking their namesakes in terms of name recognition, which means that more attention will fall on their music than their nomenclature – and luckily, their music is pretty good. Trucks At Night is an urgent, frantic slice of indie guitar rock that, one would imagine, would be a decent soundtrack to lots of pogoing up and down a lot.
They’re obviously very good at what they do – but so are lots of other bands at this kind of thing. At the risk of sounding harsh, it’s pretty much identikit indie, so if that’s your bag, jump right on in there.
Melody’s Echo Chamber – You Won’t Be Missing That Part Of Me
The Melody of Melody’s Echo Chamber is French musician Melody Prochet and one listen to You Won’t Be Missing That Part Of Me will make it very clear what her Echo Chamber is all about.
For Prochet drenches her vocals in echo and reverb, creating something fuzzy, blissed out and very beautiful. It’s gorgeously languid, and there’s more than an echo of fellow Gallic chill-out artists Stereolab, both in the instrumentation here and in Prochet’s sad sigh of a voice.
There’s also a hint of current ‘saveur du mois’ (that’s flavour of the month for all you non-French speakers out there) Tame Impala, which isn’t so surprising when you learn that lead singer Kevin Parker is on production and instrumentation duties here.
D/R/U/G/S – The Source Of Light
In the words of seemingly every character of Game Of Thrones: “Winter is coming”. It’s bleak and it’s depressing. We want to remember the summer.
Which is where D/R/U/G/S come in. Not those kind, obviously. We wouldn’t endorse that kind of behaviour. Instead, take a listen to Callum Wright’s project which specialises in the kind of music that makes you want to run up to the nearest rooftop and watch the sun going down after a blisteringly hot day.
The Source Of Light is six minutes of spacey, shimmering electro-euphoria that builds up subtly and majestically under a sole female vocal line of “you are not a machine”. It’s music that drifts you away to a more beautiful place. Stick it on repeat during your hibernation.
Villagers – Passing A Message
Conor O’Brien’s debut album was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize a couple of years ago, but lost out to The xx. Which may have been for the best, given that the consensus of Mercury winners seems to be “These are great…oh no, lots of other people like them now, I’m not too sure…oh no they’ve won an award, I hate them now”. Alt-J, beware.
It also meant that O’Brien could work on the follow-up to Becoming A Jackal with no pressure, and it’s a situation that’s paid dividends if Passing A Message is anything to go by. It take the template that O’Brien laid down with that debut and builds on it magnificently, adding some weirdly funky elements to the mix, but still maintaining a creepy, unsettling vibe, mainly thanks to O’Brien’s spooky delivery.
It may not catapult Villagers into Elbow levels of fame, but it will certainly consolidate O’Brien’s growing reputation as one of the most talented young songwriters around.
Little Nikki – Intro Intro
Her real name’s Nicole Shortland, she’s just turned 17 years old, and used to be in a girlband called Soundgirl, who were tipped for big things before releasing one flop single and splitting up. Someone obviously has tabbed Nicole for big things though, for she’s now a solo artist called Little Nikki, and has already supported Rita Ora.
Intro Intro is an aptly named track to introduce us to the girl already dubbed the UK’s answer to Rhianna. Although, thankfully given her age, she’s more interested in running around parks and drinking energy drinks than wearing not many clothes and hanging round with Chris Brown. It’s dubstep-pop, a frantic dance number with a half-rapped verse and even a name check for Tinie Tempah.
It will probably be pretty incomprehensible for anyone over about 30 years old, but you can’t deny the energy and fizz on display here. And given the fate of her previous group, let’s hope this is a hit or the fickle nature of pop may just rear its ugly head again.
Jade Hopcroft – Saint
Brighton’s The Great Escape festival is usually an excuse for a music industry piss-up under the guise of ‘networking’. Now and again though, the odd talent breaks through, and Jade Hopcroft seems to be one such talent. After an intimate acoustic gig at said festival, she’s graduated from playing local gigs around Hove to appearing at such venues as Ronnie Scott’s in London.
Saint is her debut single, and is remarkably accomplished for a first outing. Although there’s been whispers of comparisons to Laura Marling and First Aid Kit, this is far more radio-friendly pop than folk, although that’s no bad thing. It’s beautifully produced, with a strong chorus, and Hopcroft’s voice is impressively strong. Thankfully she also feels no need to perform any kind of vocal gymnastics as the song is strong enough to be carried on its own.
She’s trying to break into a pretty crowded marketplace, and it’s debatable whether there’s anything sufficiently different here to make Hopcroft stand out from the crowd. However, taken on its own merits, this is a fine debut from a singer well worth keeping your eye on.