This month marks the 10th anniversary of my arrival in Manchester, and it seems fitting that I’m introducing a new band tipped by Dan Parrott, one of the many unsung architects of the modern music scene here. We first crossed paths back when he was working as music producer on Channel M – a much missed local station that gave debut television broadcasts to the likes of Deerhunter and Laura Marling. His label Love & Disaster, released early tracks from Everything Everything, Dutch Uncles, Delphic and the criminally underrated Airship.
Now running Low Four; a multifaceted music project utilising a beautiful and iconic recording space in the old Granada Studios – Parrott is once again putting his energy into helping new artists. With a focus on music programming/online streaming, it’s undoubtedly going to help re-affirm Manchester’s international reputation, as well as give a home to some of the city’s brightest talents. Having already recorded a live session there on the basis of a handful of demos, synth pop act Koalas are one of the first to benefit.
Led by composer and vocalist Samuel Jones; it’s clear that Koalas songcraft has been patiently and lovingly honed, with debut track Home Heart immediately hitting all the right notes. Co-produced by Brendan Williams (Dutch Uncles/GoGo Penguin) the hidden complexities of the track slowly reveal themselves, fluttering between ideas and textures fluidly to create a reassuringly warm and nostalgia tinged sound. Influenced by Caribou and Boards of Canada; an appreciation for sonic experimentation is balanced delicately with the desire to tug at heartstrings with gorgeously subtle pop harmonies. Vocalist Rachel Waters hushed words merely tease at her true abilities.. but then a little bit of mystery only adds to the allure. In contrast Jones’s chorus swoons and shimmers, dancing nervously around, waiting for an opportunity to break free.
For some reason Manchester based Gorgeous Bully have never quite connected with me. It’s hard to explain why, I mean, I’ve listened to and enjoyed their music, but it’s just never set my heart on fire, or made me press repeat until my finger bleeds…until now that is.
Taken from ‘Smiling, Laughing’ a new collection of songs available via bandcamp, Misery Loves Company has changed everything… a breakthrough moment that will make me go back and discover what I’ve clearly been missing. Thomas Crang’s vocals hazily wandering through swoonsome guitar melodies, this is glorious pop music hidden underneath the disguise of lo-fi self-loathing. What’s not to love?
Stockholm’s Ji Nilsson stands out amongst the current flock of emerging female artists.. her music has a deliberate softness to it, a romanticism within her aesthetic. The production on her latest track Encore seems strongly influenced by early 2000’s r’n’b; a smoldering mid-tempo groove that would easily feel at home on a Nelly Furtado album, with it’s tribal beat and pop harmonies. There’s no attempt to hide herself behind effects and loops, no glossiness.. just faith in her own songwriting. Lyrically it deals with relationship conflict “When the song’s over, so are we”… “I’m not ready to let you go, not ready at all” and she’s an easy artist to show affinity with. There is an understated grace to what Ji Nilsson does, both vocally and emotionally.
I’ve admittedly been feeling fairly uninspired lately, and in turn my writing… and love of music has suffered. It often takes a special kind of band to bring me out of this spell, and I’m happy to say Faenimal Arm were able to do it. Based in Helsinki, this electronica duo consisting of Mia Ojapalo and Emil Järnefelt remind me a little of Manchester’s Bernard & Edith; experimental electronica but retaining a pop sensibility within their sound. Début track Industrial Sex (released via Vild Recordings) has this hypnotic and sensual rhythm that playfully dances around Emil’s shoegazer vocals. The video, created by artist Nick Tulinen, mirrors the feeling the song creates beautifully…
As I look back across my musical life, Vancouver’s The Organ became important to me around the time I first moved to Manchester and I started to engage with artists outside of the mainstream. Those initial experiences of flicking through the records in Piccadilly were the beginning of my love for discovery and I still cherish much of that period’s collection. The Organ released only one LP ‘Grab That Gun’, seemingly due to both label and touring pressure, but it’s fair to say their recorded output deeply ingrained itself on me. I heard from a friend a while back that after taking a break from music, guitarist Debora Cohen had started a new project and have been keeping an eye on things ever since…
Taking her name from the Lars Von Trier film Dancer In The Dark (probably one of the most depressing films I’ve ever seen) Cohen is displaying all the magic that made The Organ so special. It’s certainly clear she was one of the creative forces behind their ability to write great pop melodies, along with singer Katie Sketch whose vocal ability was a driving force, but All I Ever Wanted is evidence enough that Cohen is more than capable of holding her own. At times the subtle and arresting arrangements remind me of Interpol, guiding us to a breathtakingly beautiful and melancholy conclusion.
Molly Beanland – not a name you’re likely to forget. Her sound is a cross pollination of US and European pop flavours, processed beats, keys and multi-layered vocals. Molly’s influenced by the likes of Kate Bush, as well as contemporary artists such as Lana Del Ray – you can hear it in her lyrics, vocal delivery and the nostalgic, retro-styled production.
With a solid grasp of pop song craft at work throughout, the anthemic Night Dreams sounds like an eighties movie soundtrack, all glitz and glamour, a subtle, slow building verse giving rise to a big, bombastic chorus. Notable for its clever use of mood and dynamics and minor to major key shifts, this track’s like a guilty pleasure – one you’ll revel in. It’s fun and catchy pop of the highest calibre – nothing self-conscious about it. Get ready to bust some moves in front of the mirror.
U.V are an exciting new electronic duo based in Manchester comprising of Zandra Klievens (formerly vocalist with NME starlets The ABC Club) and Jonjo Feather (having previously released music under his own name). It feels like this collaboration is a discovery for both, far removed from their work without each other, it’s beautiful to see how finding a little freedom and the right person to create with can pay dividends artistically.
Ribbons is a track of exceptional songcraft, combining the fuzzy romanticism of My Bloody Valentine with the pop sensuality of Goldfrapp. An eerie magic is on display here, synth sounds colliding with each other and falling dreamily down.
I swear, London’s Yerosha Sound may have dropped one of the most beautiful tracks I’ve heard all year. The production is clever, minimal and elegant – an emotive tapestry of sounds and textures that build slowly to showcase her soulful controlled vocals. If MKS (the original Sugababes) worked with Gold Panda you might get something like New Moon… honestly I’d be pretty amazed if A&R’s weren’t already sending her adoration. I will be.
I listen to a lot of new music every day. Because of this, even if I really like a song, I hardly ever find I’m singing it to myself inadvertently the next day. Why then, six months after hearing Take me to the Sea for the first time, does it still pop into my head unannounced?
Some people will say it’s because the chorus is ‘catchy’. It is. But that can’t be the whole story. To me, it sounds like Salt Cathedral have written a killer vocal melody and then been really clever with it; the song has very few vocal lines, it’s just a short verse, short chorus repeated one after the other. In spite of this repetition, you’re never in danger of switching off and losing interest because the Foals-esque backing underneath each vocal section is constantly changing in texture and rhythmic feel. This combination of familiarity and novelty of musical ideas means you have something easy to remember and you’re alert and interested enough to remember it. Add in Juliana Ronderos’ crystalline voice and you’re on to a guaranteed ‘stick-in-your-head’ pop song.
LVLS (Loveless) don’t really belong to any emerging guitar scene in Manchester. Far removed from the lo-fi revolution documented on the Manchester Standards Compilation (Only Joking Records) or the mythology being created by those at SWAYS… it seems LVLS are determined to make a name for themselves on their own terms.
A 5 piece consisting of Jay Gibb (Vocals/Guitar), Paul James (Guitar), Emily Jane Conlon (Guitar/Vocals), Charlotte Hughes (Bass/Vocals) and Gaylord Knott (Drums), LVLS recently unveiled It’s Only Love a glorious pop song with escalating atmospherics. The male/female vocals dance playfully together in the finale, beautifully understated, a simmering tension waiting to explode.