Must See Acts at Reading and Leeds 2015

The end of the British Summer is approaching, and that means only one thing. An array of British festivals have come and gone, each with their own highs and lows. Glastonbury’s controversial Kanye West headline slot, T in the Park’s boisterous Scottish crowds, the more relaxed Latitude and Bestival featured headline sets from the likes of Alt J.

But now it’s time for Reading and Leeds. If you’re heading up this weekend these are the acts I urge you not to miss!

RAT BOY

Chaotic. Youthful. Rebellious. RAT BOY aka 18 year old troublemaker Jordan Cardy from Essex is a singer songwriter who has recently emerged on to the scene. Sharp, relatable lyrics about growing up, fights, late night takeaways and being sacked from McDonalds accompany a distinctive sound. He records and produces his own music generating a rough DIY feel which doesn’t differ from his shambolic live sets which embrace an air of uncertainty, as though anything could go wrong at any minute. His recent shows feature a level of intimacy and break the barrier between the artists and the fans. London gigs have prompted stage invasions, seen multiple amps being broken and ambulances left right and centre which I was lucky enough to witness first hand. His Reading and Leeds sets are not ones to miss even if they mean waking up before 3 in the afternoon.

What to Expect: A brash, disorderly set with hints of brilliance.

For fans of: Jamie T, The Streets, Damon Albarn’s mockney swagger circa 1994.

Jamie XX

Best known for his work in the XX, Jamie Smith has broken free from that past and established himself as an independent artist by releasing his highly anticipated debut album In Colour this year. The tracks are upbeat summer anthems, the standout track sampling Good Times by The Persuasions. This set will be great for anyone who wants a break from the multiple guitar bands and anyone who enjoys anything from soul to house.

What to Expect: Little crowd interaction, a smooth flowing set, head bobbing.

For fans of: Jungle, Gil Scott Heron, The XX.

Jamie T

Jamie T has had an immense couple of years. Seemingly rising from the dead to releasing a 12 track album, winning multiple NME awards, selling out two nights at Alexandra Palace, and now cementing his place as a must see artist by attracting huge crowds at both Glastonbury and T in the Park. The cocksure, troubadour always puts on a good live show, bouncing around the stage energetically and encouraging the crowd to ‘go mental’ give or take a few expletives. His sets have a perfect blend of all the old crowd favourites as well as new tracks that showcase his progressions as a songwriter. His surprise comeback set at Reading last year was voted the NME best music moment of the year, his attempt to better that on the main stage this year will definitely be a spectacle.

What to Expect: Mosh pits (organised by the man himself) and beer swilling lads on shoulders.

For fans of: The Streets, Joe Strummer, Jamie T (obviously).

Catfish and the Bottlemen

The Bottlemen have also had a phenomenal year going from strength to strength. They’ve proved to be festival favourites, drawing gigantic crowds at both Glastonbury and T in the Park where their guitar anthems went down a treat.  The animated frontman Van Mccann is a natural performer and brings charm and energy to their live sets, often smashing up a guitar or two. Their meat and two veg approach to writing songs isn’t particularly original or innovative but it’s a winning formula and wins over huge crowds.

What to Expect: Crowd surfing, screaming girls, arena style choruses.

For fans of: Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, gobby frontmen.

Slaves

The Kent Punk duo has a formidable live reputation due to gigging on the pub circuit for almost 3 years before making a name for themselves. They clearly don’t take themselves too seriously and they demonstrate this through making fun of their own songs and the like .Despite being made up of only a standing drum kit and a guitar they are a force to be reckoned with, loud, aggressive and raw. The band exerts so much energy between the two of them that it’s exhausting just watching, if you want to release your pent up anger over the weekend then be in that tent.

What to expect: A seething mass of sweaty bodies.

For fans of: Oi!, hearing loss, colossal riffs, tattoos.

The Libertines

The return of the Likely Lads to the main stage at Reading following their triumphant reunion that took place there in 2010. The Libertines are back with a bang! They’ve signed a new record deal with EMI as well as releasing a new single for the first time since 2004. Their sold out show at Hyde Park last summer as well as 2 nights at Alexandra Palace demonstrate that people are still eager to see the group live. This summer they performed a surprise set at Glastonbury and headlined T in the Park so they have experience of playing their new songs under their belt. They’re far from being a refined, polished live band but many iconic bands never were – The Clash for example. It almost adds to the magic, it wouldn’t be a Libertines performance without a number of mishaps. At Glastonbury Pete’s mic stopped working forcing him to share a microphone and bump heads with Carl Barat which was reminiscent of their old ramshackle gigs in their living rooms with limited equipment. This headline slot is a perfect opportunity for the band to give people a glimpse of the upcoming album and their usual anthems will inevitably be well received on the last night of a festival.

What to expect: An emotional performance, new and old songs, bromance.

For fans of: Albion, the noughties, references to obscure poets.

Mac DeMarco: Another One Album Review – Shrugging Off His Woe

Mac Demarco, Another One
Mac Demarco, Another One

Mac DeMarco’s new mini-album (it can’t be an EP or a full LP), woeful as it may be, rarely lets its own lamenting, weepy nature get in the way of being a dazy delight to listen to. Opening with the contrastingly jumpy The Way You’d Love Her and ending with contemplative My House By The Water (not sure precisely what he was going for there but I’m sure it’s very deep), it is 7 songs of quite a serene and lovely disposition.

He hasn’t lost his lyrical charm, or indeed that of his weird, annoyingly lazy persona (I say annoying because, fundamentally lazy though he may be, he’s damn good at what he does), wandering around not sure what do with himself. There’s still the tired, exhaustive nature that gave Salad Days its weight but in this case instead of being a staple for the album, it is a lot more abstract, more conceptual. You feel the weariness simply by listening to the album and not its lyrics, most of which address heartbreak in that same shrugging way that we found so endearing on the previous album.

Perhaps its only flaw is that it may be a tad too short, despite containing one track that isn’t really anything (My House By The Water) and one song which is meandering and unfocussed, sloppily rather than blissfully (A Heart Like Hers). Ultimately it’s not really to do with the lyrics, although they do add an unassuming hang-dog feel to the whole thing. Instead it is about hearing Mac DeMarco do his thing, listening to this person who almost seems like a character on a TV show, a weird, laid-back caricature who doesn’t seem to care about anything, as though the music just kind of happens, without a second thought. Maybe he knows how good he is but, honestly, he doesn’t really care.

8/10

LISTEN – Kurt Vile reveals new track Pretty Pimpin’, along with album details

Kurt Vile

Vile, the former War on Drugs member, has sprung back onto the scene with slow, dark alt-country rocker Pretty Pimpin’. Accompanied by a wonderfully beige and dull video, the song has a constant and overbearing sense of weariness about it, with Vile’s locks and hang-dog look a perfect fit with the song’s sauntering groove. “I couldn’t tell you what the hell it was supposed to mean but it was a monday, no tuesday, no wednesday, thursday, friday, then saturday came around”, he laments, suggesting his world-weary stance and his endless travelling. The video has a distinctly Adam Granduciel-esque vibe to it but the music is grounded and earthy, as opposed to dreamlike and echoey. The video can be seen below.

Citadel_KurtVile_DSC0644edit-Matt-Richardson

Vile has also revealed details about his new album b’lieve I’m goin down…, due September 25:

Tracklist for b’lieve I’m goin down:

  1. Pretty Pimpin’
  2. I’m An Outlaw
  3. Dust Bunnies
  4. That’s Life, tho (almost hate to say)
  5. Wheelhouse
  6. Life Like This
  7. All in a Daze Work
  8. Lost My Head there
  9. Stand Inside
  10. Bad Omens
  11. Kidding Around
  12. Wild Imagination

b’lieve I’m goin down… is due September 25 on Matador Records.

LISTEN – Foals reveal “Mountain at my Gates” from upcoming album “What Went Down”

11011215_10152920292068531_4646804326719161549_oWith anticipation mounting for the follow-up to their major breakthrough, Holy Fire, becoming more and more intense as the weeks tire on, Foals have decided to give us another taste of the rabid, free, heavy rock of What Went Down in Mountain at my Gates, premiered this evening on Annie Mac’s Radio 1 show this evening as the Hottest Record.

What is interesting about the progression of the singles so far is that Holy Fire followed much the same suit, with a heavy, bombastic first single leading the way to a second, more pop-tinged single. The difference is that the variations in the tracks are much more subtle this time around. Whereas My Number followed Inhaler’s metallic stomp with an incredibly contrasting, frilled, danceable tune, in this case it is simply a matter of rhythm. What Went Down is fast, aggressive, unchained, whereas Mountain at my Gates is groovy and bopping, funkier and just a little more restrained, until the final few moments when everything explodes into a hardcore beat and the track ends.

What both tracks tell us about the album is that it sounds a lot less like indie rock infused with pop and instead almost like a new form of indie rock, progressive garage, garage music that keeps a fuzzy, free aesthetic but with musical, structural and technical complexity not found in, say, The Strokes. At this point the only thing that slightly worries me about this album is the more restrained production from seasoned Brit-indie veteran James Ford but, as with many things, we can’t really be certain at this point. Whether the evolution will pay off for the band is uncertain at this point but one thing’s for sure: the anticipation for What Went Down will just keep on building.

Listen here:

What Went Down is out on Transgressive and Warner Bros. Records on August 28.

LISTEN – Albert Hammond Jr. Premiers new track “Side Boob”

Momentary masters

Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. has premiered the third single, Side Boob, from his forthcoming album Momentary Masters. The fast-paced song is reminiscent of tracks from past Strokes albums (2003’s This Room Is On Fire and 2011’s Angles).

 

 

 

Stream the track here:

Momentary Masters will be released July 31 through Vagrant and Cult Records.

Tame Impala: Currents Album Review – A lush, serene listening experience

CurrentsTame Impala’s new album is singular, original and completely individual.

Kevin Parker’s evolution throughout his career as Tame Impala has been fascinating to follow: on the self-titled EP, he delivered stoned-out garage rock, which was turned into dizzying atmospheric psychedelia by being heaped and layered with pedals and effects on Innerspeaker. But the big guns would come out on the follow-up: Lonerism, with its vintage synthesisers and trippy riffs, Parker was able to create a bubble around the listener, putting them in the beautiful isolation that he had felt for so long and delivered a focussed, concentrated masterpiece for the ages. And so, after the numerous end-of-year lists, accolades and almost messianic praise, how do you follow up a masterpiece? The answer, as it turns out, is staring right at you.

Parker’s influence on modern rock, although he might not acknowledge it (or even know it exists), has been massive: a large amount of music released in the years following Innerspeaker has been based around, or had influence from, the psych sound that Parker brought back in 2010, like Temples, Childhood, The Wytches, King Gizzard and the Wizard Lizard, Pond, Mini Mansions, Mac DeMarco, Arctic Monkeys, you name it. However, it’s clear from this record that he hadn’t been working as the figurehead of a neo-psychedelia movement as we first thought: he had simply been working alongside it, the genre going one way and him going the other. It’s almost as though he hasn’t acknowledged the fact that there is an entire genre coming back into rock music that he was a part of, particularly since Currents sounds like nothing else around at the moment.

Parker’s blueprint for the album, on paper, is simple: mesh disco, synthpop and psychedelic pop together and see what happens, and what happens is compelling, sometimes bizarre, and utterly original, but, like his previous efforts, still showing respect for the artists he owes a debt to; The Less I Know The Better clearly takes a lot from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack and I doubt you’ll find anyone who won’t readily admit that The Moment sounds like a stoner’s version of Everybody Wants To Rule The World by Tears For Fears. And yet, there are times, like on opening synth jam Let It Happen, when it’s not entirely clear where Parker is drawing influence from. The bombastic opening moments on Eventually gives just the same

impression: where did those synths come from? Is there anyone else who would be daring enough to use that kind of sound on a disco track? And what about that bizarre, deep-voiced robotic monologue on Past Life, or the radio effect on Disciples, or even just the opening synth of Nangs which, and I cannot stress this enough, is arguably my favourite moment on the album.

All this seems to point to Parker’s desire to be an artist on his own, an isolated genius who can weave lush, dense arrangements together and make something that, while clearly a different beast from its predecessor, shares the same intention of creating music that is an absolute dream to listen to while also being compelling and creatively rich. In fact, Currents actually does a job of elevating Lonerism to even higher heights than it had already reached because it suddenly makes us realise that Parker was not actually operating on the same level as the psychedelic rock happening around him, or even, in some sense, the psych rock that had come before, but instead as an individual creative mind, one who meditates on structure and obsesses over making each and every thing that he does as creative and densely packed as possible. Currents is merely a continuation of that, the first solid proof we have of Parker’s intention to be of a single mind, of his magnificent and unstoppable ambition. Many people have said that Parker’s intention is to push psychedelia in a new direction with Currents but I don’t think that is the intention at all: the self-absorption of the album and the lack of indication that he gave on previous releases of his desire to be among the other psych acts in the world both suggest to me that he instead has the intention of leaving everyone else behind and separate himself from everyone and everything.

The only major flaw I can attribute to this album is how it stands up to its predecessor: very few lyrical, Kevin Parkermusical or conceptual moments in Currents are nearly as hard hitting as those on Lonerism: there is no gut-wrenching emotional sucker punch as Parker resigns himself to being a loner forever like on Why Won’t They Talk To Me? or a roof-tearing drop like on Apocalypse Dreams or a jaw-dropping moment of meta-existentialism like on Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control and Keep On Lying. But then, maybe that’s the point. I suppose Parker’s resolution now is “why look back unless there’s something you can take forward with you?”

Currents, as stated by Parker himself, was made with the hope of making music to be played in clubs and for people to dance to, due to Parker’s supposed love for communal listening. And yet, somehow, it doesn’t feel as though he has made this music for anyone except himself. The album is endlessly creative, and exhibits Parker’s work as a singer, arranger, producer, and modern creative mind. While I can safely say that it is not nearly as earth-shattering as Lonerism, Currents may not be Tame Impala’s best album but it is arguably the most important to Parker’s merits in the past and his ambitions for the future; it is the moment when Parker is revealed to be not just the premiere psych act in the world but one of the most original and singular creative minds in music right now. Lord knows what he will do next.

Verdict: A lush, serene listening experience that deliberately distances itself from Parker’s previous works, and yet fits in perfectly as the next step in Tame Impala’s increasingly fruitful evolution.

9/10