Thursday, 10 June 2021

Take A Seat EP by Nia Wyn

Come Home To You has a massive pop hook, an irresistible groove, all softly punching horns and group soul harmonies. If Mark Ronson had been in the studio, you'd have heard this at least a thousand times and people would be saying 'the new Amy Winehouse'.

You should have heard it a hundred times at least from open windows, shop radios and passing cars. It's that sort of immediate big party tune. Not sure why that hasn't happened yet, but we live in strange times.

I've had this record a month or two and played it more than any other 2021 release. That doesn't mean it's the best - although, come on, if you've know of a better one, give it to me - but it does mean there's more going on in these 8 songs than in other records.

There's skinny guitars (Imma Be Honest sounds like a great lost TLC track), Frank Ocean neo soul (Muzzle), Labi Siffre folk-flecked soul (Who Asked You) and political anger about the NHS (Such A Shame). Take A Seat is a mod record - or, if you like, a distillation of Paul Weller's aims and ambitions, merging the old and the new, creating something very special of her own.

You can still say the new Amy Winehouse if you like, even though she's as much as common with Michael Kiwanuka. On this evidence Nia Wyn easily has enough talent to go where she likes on her own terms. We'll be seeing her name in lights soon enough.

Monday, 7 June 2021


The sub-genre 'bands who sound like Teenage Fanclub' doesn't have that many candidates raising their hands up to say 'actually, we're just as good and there's a bit more to us as well'. So welcome Norway's Rider, who unsurprisingly number one of I Was A King, whose Norman Bleik points to where Rider have hitched their (band)wagon.

Smell The Floor is the hit - classic sunny powerpop, a lazy groove, effortlessly catchy. There are also two songs under a minute, one of which they surely turned to the producer and said 'make it shitgaze'. Assuming they had a producer, of course. This ep is very DIY and sounds all the better for it.

And then there's Tape Bounce, where they answer the question 'that weird bit in C.T.A. 102 by The Byrds is good but what would it sound like if the whole song was like that but only weirder still?' Great, in case you wondered.

There were 50 copies of this on 7". They've just pressed 100 more. Now's your chance.

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Blue Ocean

There are two types of shoegaze. Type 1: bands with enigmatic melodies caught in gales of feedback, disembodied vocals, adventurous rhythms and bent notes. Type 2: bands with an fx pedal to hide their lack of imagination, a vocalist who mumbles and complete ignorance of basic hairdressing.

Blue Ocean are type 1 shoegaze. The type worth bothering about. A band who listened to Isn't Anything and rather than thinking 'right, what did My Bloody Valentine do next?' thought instead about where they could go next. That MBV's sonic adventure wasn't a blueprint to imitate, but an invitation to explore uncharted territory.

Blue Ocean, like Weekend and Weed Hounds and Wildhoney before them, find new places in the map to plant flags in. Consequently they sound like one of the most vital bands currently operating.

Saturday, 3 April 2021

Los Yesterdays - Nobody's Clown/Give Me One More Chance

You'll know from their first two 45s that Los Yesterdays are pretty good. Well, they just turned up the heat and are now great - their new double sider is a double knockout.

Nobody's Clown is a big city soul ballad. It's 1963 (the band name should give you a clue where their heads are at), Be My Baby is on the radio but you need something deeper. You've dropped from love's euphoria to dumpsville, population you, and this is the only song answering your call.

Give Me One More Chance is better still. A trip through Spanish Harlem, stealthy guitars with a Chicano strut, the post-midnight sound where club soul smoke meets rhythmic punch.

Sunday, 28 February 2021

Trevor Beld Jimenez - I Like It Here

Straight up country pop, no freak folk additives, no weird beard transgressions, and no fucking "alt". I Like It Here is country and it's pop, and it was obviously recorded in California - close your eyes and hear the Pacific Ocean surf crashing quietly, see the sun setting over Laurel Canyon.

Even more obviously, this was written by someone who grew up with the radio dial set on AM, where every day you heard The Carpenters, Merle Haggard, Carole King, Bob Dylan and Townes Van Zandt. It sounds like it was recorded in Gold Star Studios with a crack set of session musicians - maybe stars that never were but ones with such quality they'll never have to park cars and pump gas - who are having a particularly good day at the office.

In fact, it was produced by Jonny Nieman and Brent Rademaker of GospelbeacH (and many more, you know the score). This is the best record of its type since Honest Life by Courtney Marie Andrews.

Sunday, 31 January 2021

Second Hand - Heart Shaped

The sound of young Belfast via Texas is pretty damn special. It's nothing you haven't heard before - Kendall Bousquet's nom de band isn't an accident - but when you hear it done this well, you've got to take notice.

It's Waxahatchee campfire sonic burn-out and Dinosaur Jr listless melancholy that's so insistent it eventually grabs you by the throat and shakes your head until you see stars.

You remember when Teenage Fanclub shook off the grunge baggage with Bandwagonesque? Well, that, only if they'd be on K Records instead of Creation.

Amazingly, Kendall recorded these songs in the first eight months of learning to play guitar and self-record. On this trajectory, the next batch will be solid gold classics. This debut is close enough to that standard now:

Wednesday, 30 December 2020

2020: 20 songs by 20 new acts

What a year! Generally, sure, but for music 2020’s been quite a vintage. What have we learned? Well, San Francisco is setting the scene, but ignore Gothenburg, France, Australia and all points in between at your peril.

A list without Star Feminine Band, deathcrash and Sally Anne Morgan is evidence that this overview doesn’t have all the hits, but suggests that there’s so many new sounds on offer to widen our musical imaginations.

Very few 7” singles this year - the vinyl revival for new releases is about limited albums on heavy splattered vinyl. Luckily, my OnlyFans account is quite lucrative but for those without money-spinning sidelines, bandcamp remains the place to go.

No predictions for 2021, although maybe Slumberland will open their chequebook, sign every Bay Area band and become a billion dollar media conglomerate. Even more excitingly, periods of economic stagnation and social inertia ignite the most combustible music scenes. So until rebellious adolescents react defiantly, this is what some of 2020 sounded like.