I guess it irks me a little when I see those (now traditional) click-bait think pieces about the death or “stagnation of guitar music”. I mean, I appreciate the argument being made… the music industry does seem intent on championing the bland over the brave, but surely it’s up to us as music fans to dig a little deeper, to invest in the bands we love?
Living in Manchester, it’s hard to argue against a city that has produced MONEY, Everything Everything, PINS, Kult Country, Dutch Uncles, WU LYF… and that’s not even acknowledging our deep and rich history, or the wider underground scene as it is today. It would be pretty easy to critique each band individually, but what isn’t debatable is that guitar music is well and truly alive here, from the bedsits of Whalley Range to the bunkers of Salford.
I See Angels are one of my more recent Mancunian loves, having been transfixed by last year’s ‘Artificial Sunshine’ EP. Songwriter Paul Baird is clearly growing in confidence, capturing his hopes and fears so beautifully in each and every delicate strum. New track ‘Master Of The Sky’ glistens effortlessly in emotion. Baird’s vocals sound like a trembling Thom Yorke trying to find his way out of a dream… an almost disparate loneliness trapped inside a magical and cinematic landscape.
Just when you are beginning to think the Manchester talent pool is close to filling up, another name emerges and blows everyone out of the water. With a sound reminiscent of King Krule… and perhaps even GREAT WAVES at their most melancholy, Shea Hickling aka Coasst is about to announce himself as a serious contender.
I Guess U Lied is driven by a haunting, singular sound.. his world weary voice radiating above a lonesome electric guitar and some sparse drum beats… before breaking out into something more funked up. Clearly still experimenting and by no means representative of his future, it’s hard not to get excited by this understated and dreamwoven noise.
Coasst plays Night & Day this Thursday evening. Doors 8pm. Might be a good idea to go…
Gothenburg quartet School make upbeat and snappy dream-pop. There’s a welcomingly familiar quality about their tunes – a balanced combination of influence and inspiration. Despite having formed only recently, the sound they’ve developed is already well-honed and rich in texture. The musicianship stellar. The songwriting brimming with promise.
With its charging, frenetic drum patterns and Alice Botéus’s delicious, melodic vocals scaling the rafters, SoLong‘s infectious, bass-driven dream-pop hits the ground running. Guitars weave and chime, chipping away in harmony alongside a well-composed, robust Simon Raymonde-esque bass line. Clocking in at just under three minutes, the momentum of the track never dips. An engaging debut single that ought to turn heads.
For every MONEY and PINS; bands that have been deservedly hyped and elevated from Manchester’s music scene.. there are hundreds more artists here still waiting to be discovered. I See Angels are the kind of band people need to start waking up to, having already self-released two albums of great promise in ‘I See Angels (2011) and ‘Your Memories Are You’ (2013). Both albums contain a handful of gems… Embryo, After The Rain, Accelerated Love… these are songs you could easily become obsessive about. It feels like they’ve been learning their craft organically… content to slowly seep into people’s consciousness, rather than bang on any doors. Atoms (Breakdown) is a lost Manchester classic… it’s that special, revealing more emotion within it than most artists could ever hope to find.
Taken from the forthcoming ‘Artificial Sunshine’ EP, Wide Open is their finest composition so far, beautifully woven dream-pop with Radiohead-esque ambitions. Paul Baird’s broken-hearted vocals holding the track together before it drifts away into the distance like it never existed.
“He shrunk more and more from the realities of life and above all from the society of his day which he regarded with an ever growing horror.”
It was during a Bernard & Edith gig in a Whalley Range Church last year, that singer Paul Blake let me into his secret – Ship Of Fools. Even listening through the cheap set of earphones, I could tell something very special was in the midst of being created.
Ship Of Fools are new and… not new, having previously released material under the same name in the mid 90’s. I admire any band that can re-invent themselves, even more so years later… but you can hear the life experience in every note. I was amazed to discover Blake’s vocals are being used for the first time, because with his subtle Morrissey-esque tones, they are beautifully resplendent. I’ll See You On The Other Side is a vivid introduction, shimmering guitars dancing in full colour with more than a shade of Cocteau Twins. This is a song about loss and hope… each word carefully chosen, each nuance poignant and from the heart. Ship Of Fools is a complete vision both lyrically and musically – I can’t wait to hear more.
Poble is a bedroom producer from Cologne, Germany. The title track from his Amanecer EP is upbeat kaleidoscopic shoegaze with shades of Lush and Slowdive, sung in Spanish. This twist of Latino-flavoured exoticism makes for a strangely compelling take on a familiar sound. If your Spanish isn’t up to much, the melodies and hooks are memorable enough to rope you in.
Amanecer, meaning dawn or to dawn, creeps up on you slowly. It’s simultaneously soothing, uplifting and obscure – like artificial sunshine. The dreamy blend of processed male and female vocals is transfixing among the vibrant clatter of guitars and kitschy sounding keys. Programmed drums enhance the dynamics, bursting spectacularly into life halfway through the track with all the vividness of the rising sun. Charmingly crafted and blissfully warped.
If I’m honest, this week has been difficult; Sounds From The Other City was a huge success for all at Tru Luv and it’s been hard trying to refocus. One act that played the festival to great acclaim last year is Liverpool/Manchester based G R E A T W A V E S. Having seemingly been in hibernation these past few months, David Lacy’s dreampop project finally emerged with a beautiful new track in YOU. The production is cleaner this time round, more refined. It feels like the sun rising at the start of a new day, warmth scattered across the sky.
I took a *well deserved* holiday last week and annoyingly managed to miss the reveal of This Haze by Manchester’s Patterns. I’m as emotionally connected to Patterns as you can be, having watched them develop over the years into a band with identity, ideas and vastly improved songcraft. Its always felt to me that Manchester nurtures artists in a way that London never could, allowing them the freedom to exist without being surrounding in industry bullshit. Patterns now have a collection of songs to rival any band, with influences ranging from Animal Collective to the anthemic drone pop of Deerhunter, displayed so beautifully in Blood.
This Haze is more reflective than we’ve heard before, more refined in its intimacy. Ciaran McAuley’s vocals breaking through a shimmering kaleidoscopic skyline. Its been a long wait for debut album ‘Waking Lines’… and I’m kinda pleased about that. It means they’ve managed to traverse the hype and actually create something they are proud of, so kudos to Melodic for being patient. I know it won’t be anything other than a triumph.
I found WOOL via Zach Oden, former guitarist with Annuals. I should probably explain that Annuals were a definitive band in my musical timeline: When I first moved to Manchester I was a small town boy obsessed with Joy Division and whose only real access to music was HMV and NME. Now living in an environment with Piccadilly Records on my doorstep, music venues down every road, and access to the internet at home (myspace!) the discovery of new music was an everyday adventure. Comparable to early Arcade Fire, Annuals played Night & Day on a tour promoting debut album Be He Me and I went away transfixed with wonder.
WOOL is the vision of Raleigh (North Carolina) songwriter Troy Brian Hancock and along with the aforementioned Oden, bassist/keyboardist Johnny Hobbs and drummer Raymond Finn, they have created a full bodied sound that balances the playful vocal elements of dream-pop with the patient build of a post-rock outfit. Bulletin Air is beautifully crafted arrangement that brings to mind Explosions In The Sky fronted by Wild Nothing’s Jack Tatum. Its quite simply one of the best songs I’ve heard all year, with its finale soaring like a bird through a sun kissed sky.
Who are Silhouette Society? Memphis duo Todd Chappell and Tiffany Harmon have arrived out of seemingly nowhere with Obsessions For Saving Time, the opener to their self-titled debut EP, and for all their mystery it is just a little bit wonderful.
It shares similar aesthetics to the La Mer track we featured earlier this year; louche, minimal and delicate dream-pop. I say louche, perhaps that’s slightly unfair – it’s beautifully paced and very carefully arranged, sounds and words subsequently tugging at heartstrings all the way. Hopefully Silhoette Society aren’t destined to remain in the shadows for too much longer.