10 More Welsh Songs You Should’ve Heard In 2016

10 More Welsh Songs You Should’ve Heard In 2016

 
ARTEFACT – The Morrigan
Re-recording of a track from their demo, this version features on forthcoming debut album Votive Offering out 1st February.

Beach Fatigue – Only You
Stand-alone single, released on cassette with bonus songs and live versions of some album tracks.

Birdcage – Premonition
From recent fourth EP, Let Me Think.

Bryde – Wouldn’t That Make You Feel Good?
Second single from EP 2.

Estrons – I’m Not Your Girl
Alright, if you follow new Welsh music you will have already heard EP She’s Here Now, but I could hardly leave this off.

GRAVVES – Tribes
Lead single from debut EP Rattle, which will be out 10th February.

Himalayas – Ecstasy
Title track from their debut EP, available now.

HODAD – Running
From 1001 Dads Per Second, also check out recent EP Surface.

Pale Angels – You Don’t Dance
Second album Daydreaming Blues out now.

Tibet – There Is A Place
Latest single, following double EP Above The Moon earlier in the year.

Album Review: Black Surf – Let’s Pretend It’s Summer / デラックスエディション

Album Review: Black Surf – Let’s Pretend It’s Summer / デラックスエディション

Ok so just to be clear, this isn’t technically an album; rather an extended version of Black Surf‘s debut EP Let’s Pretend It’s Summer. This longer edition collects some early singles and never-heard-before tracks, together with the four songs from the original release earlier this year. Putting out what is essentially a rarities compilation at the beginning of their career may seem an odd thing to do; but then this band haven’t exactly conformed to any usual route yet, forming via the wonders of technology across not just an ocean but the entire planet. Despite this, the album sounds like it could well have been bashed out in a garage in the band’s official hometown of Leeds. As you listen, grungy riffs jostle breezy fuzz-pop for the attention of your ears, both energising and soothing simultaneously.

The cherry on the top of this improbable mix are the interludes, which far from being anything I’ve heard on a record before comprise seemingly genuine voice messages from members of the public responding to adverts they’ve seen for “black surfers” – I do so hope they let 82-year-old Ethel Ethel join the band, as she wishes! Starting the record with one of these recordings sets the scene on Black Surf – they’re not in the practise of taking themselves too seriously. The passion in the music though is undoubtedly earnest; if the effort they’ve gone through to make this band happen doesn’t convince that they mean business then first track proper Rebel And The Saint will. Utilising their nineties influences’ grasp on dynamics to the full, it tears its own path into the audible car crash that is Vultures – oh, that’s a good thing yeah.

Get Up and Bastard Man are the first songs featured from the original EP, the latter probably the catchiest Black Surf have written (though there are definitely a few here in contention for that title), despite its lyrical darkness. The placement of these split across the album shows that, while there’s no doubt that the four tracks chosen for the initial release were the right ones, those leftover were of equally impressive quality and not so much different in style. Then just as you’re convinced you’ve got their indie-alt-rock sound pegged, Dive with its political-rant-rap proves you misled; while this band clearly know what they want to be, there’s still space to try something a bit different and whilst it means the seventeen tracks here don’t always have the smoothest sense of cohesion, that’s not the point of this release.

There’s A Way Hose sits towards the end of the record and its title sums up everything learned so far, in that while Let’s Pretend It’s Summer can stylistically be taken literally as this on the surface is fuzzy slacker rock, beneath that is a genuinely positive vibe of overcoming obstacles, that may relate to both the band’s less-than-simple formation and/or life in general. If you’re not a fan of the current wave of grunge-pop that seems to be emanating from Yorkshire in particular then this might pass you by, as certain sounds throughout this album, and even some of the lyrics seem to point to specific influences. To draw attention though to how the band wear these on their sleeve is futile because they are what they want to be, and have gone through too much effort to get here to worry whether that matters to you. And from the verses of yearning little ditty Baby Blue Washburn through hazy shoegaze à la Sink to the noisier garage rock of Screaming At The Sky, there’s variation enough here to keep not just the scenesters but potentially a mainstream audience interested, in a genre where’s it’s so easy to sound derivative.

Army Of Sheep and Lights Out precede Let’s Pretend It’s Summer but have their place here too, maybe a little more straightforward, but the band are clearly still proud of these early songs and deservedly so. Both will undoubtedly be fan favourites for years to come, and it’s this future that Black Surf are clearly looking towards. Releasing an album of bits and pieces so soon comes across as a statement of intent – this is what they’ve created up to this point, and it definitely builds excitement for the next stage of their already-global journey.

News: Meilyr Jones Wins Welsh Music Prize

News: Meilyr Jones Wins Welsh Music Prize

wmp

Congratulations go to Meilyr Jones today following his being awarded this year’s Welsh Music Prize, for his debut solo album 2013. The self-described “anthology, a collection of my songs and of what happened to me in that year” was released back in March through Moshi Moshi Records. If you’ve not heard it yet, you can listen here.

“2013 manages the seemingly impossible task of being both proudly high brow and flamboyantly pop” – Drowned In Sound

“…a panorama of musical depth that’s held together by Jones wonderfully impassioned voice.” – The Line Of Best Fit

“A fascinating introduction to a 21st century Renaissance man.” – London In Stereo

The eleven other records he transcended to take the prize included HMV-tipped The Anchoress’ Confessions Of A Romance Novelist, as well as 9Bach – Anian, Alun Gaffey – s/t, Cate Le Bon – Crab Day, Climbing Trees – Borders, Datblygu – Porwr Trallod, Plu – Tir A Golau, Right Hand Left Hand – s/t, Simon Love – It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time, Skindred – Volume and Swnami – s/t. The ceremony on this occasion was not open to the public, as it took place without its usual accompanying concert, due to noise complaints about recent events at the venue.

EP Review: Birdcage – Let Me Think

EP Review: Birdcage – Let Me Think

I’ve relived this story many times, and probably told it a few too; if you’d like to get straight to my thoughts on the release, you can skip the rest of this first paragraph, your choice. Anyway, it’s the Oxjam Cardiff takeover in November 2014, and despite the offer of free alcohol if I remain in Clwb Ifor Bach, I’ve instead left and headed for Undertone to watch a band I’ve never even heard of before. Why would I do that, you ask. Good question, but since the drink is a promise I can (and will) redeem before the end of that year, whereas the band… Well, if you don’t take a chance, you’ll never know what the outcome might have been. So alone I descend the permanently dark steps into my favourite basement, purchase my own beverage, and wait. There weren’t so many people there on that occasion as I recall, but I don’t know, festival days are a blur and the drink does nothing to aid my already terrible memory. The music starts late, or maybe I was early, or perhaps it actually began shortly after I arrived there. Regardless of the time, the band play, and despite not having an idea what I was expecting I’m somehow surprised – maybe more that I’ve somehow manage to avoid awareness of them for this long than anything else. During the set they advertise their new EP, and after it ends I approach one of them to buy a copy – this is a much bigger deal than it should be, remember I’m still at the stage of mostly needing to be blackmailed with drink offers to even speak to bands.

Two years, many more Birdcage shows and some further interaction (most of it admittedly digital) later, I’m sat here listening to ‘Let Me Think’. This is the fourth EP from the band, who are far from alone in favouring regular (in their case, pretty much yearly) short releases over trying to find the time to record a full length album. I hope they do eventually though, because at this point they really sound ready for it. Setting the vibe from the beginning of ‘Paint Your Face’ with rasping vocals and fuzzy guitars, the grunge influence that underpins their sound (and caught my attention in the beginning) is balanced out later in the track by a sudden softer passage, picking up again after in that don’t-fix-what-isn’t-broken alt-rock way. ‘You, My Heavy Star’ follows, it’s the lead single from the release and rightly so; being the catchiest track on here with an earworm chorus that seems unassuming at first, but after a couple of listens you just yearn to sing along with at the top of your lungs (as I often have been, usually at six in the morning whilst setting up in work). ‘Premonition’ starts off gently, gradually building into the noisiest point of the EP by the end of the song, as effect-heavy guitars squeal feedback and the pace increases until the track blows itself out. Closer ‘Stolen Photographs’ provides a dreamy comedown, crescendo-ing in places but at a calmer rate and with more space to breathe, fading out into a conclusion that leaves this release feeling complete, despite its modest length. Available from 11th November, ‘Let Me Think’ doesn’t break new ground, because it doesn’t need to. In bringing all their influences together and showing that they can make these work seemingly effortlessly combined, Birdcage have created something both beautiful and powerful, demanding and captivating attention in equal measure.

Event Preview: Sŵn Festival 2016

Event Preview: Sŵn Festival 2016

I walk to the door of the pub, get ID’d. Show my wristband, the festival is over 18s only, that has to be quicker than digging around to find any actual identification on this rainy late October night. The security guard realises what I’m looking for and points me to a different door, up the stairs he says, that’s where the bands are. I’ve lost count already of how many acts I’ve seen tonight, but the first in this particular venue; I follow his instructions round the corner and finally inside, up to the live room. As I gingerly push open the door to a fairly crowded space, I’m hit by a wall of heat and sound, the music has already started and reverb hits me physically before I have time to scrabble for my earplugs. When next I see Chain Of Flowers (which is to happen innumerable times over the coming years) I’ll be more prepared; for now I take a deep breath and push my way through the audience to get a better view.

This moment came to be the most lasting memory of my inaugural venture to Sŵn festival back in 2013. Something about the contrast of unavoidably disgusting late October Welsh weather against the bright room packed with warm bodies and noise more alluring that I’d known existed in the city a month previously, sum up the reason I’ve been to every weekender and one-day DimSŵn event since. Tomorrow sees the festival begin to celebrate its 10th year with Crows, Pumarosa, Sandinistas and Estrons (last minute stand-ins for Sprink King) and Meilyr Jones in Tramshed before expanding to a dozen venues for the rest of the weekend. As usual my schedule is jam-packed with options that I’m just going to have to choose between based on my mood at the time, but here are a few acts that I’ll definitely (hopefully!) not be missing:

Saturday
Soul Structure – 2:45-3:15 Fuel
Lovers Open Fire – 3:15-4:00 The Big Top
Superglu – 4:30-5:15 Four Bars
FALLS – 4:45-5:30 The Big Top
Bryde – 5:45-6:30 Clwb Ifor Bach (downstairs)
Silent Forum – 6:15-7:00 The Big Top
Estrons – 6:45-7:30 The Moon Club
Broken Hands – 8:00-8:45 Clwb Ifor Bach (upstairs)
Sports Team – 9:15-10:00 Four Bars
McClusky* – 9:45-10:30 The Moon Club
Tibet – 11:00-11:30 O’Neills

Sunday
Shame – 1:30-2:00 Clwb Ifor Bach (upstairs)
Adverse Camber – 2:00-2:30 O’Neills
Wolf Girl – 3:30-4:00 The Moon Club
Fehm – 5:15-5:45 Fuel
Bad Breeding 6:15-7:00 Gwdihŵ
Dingus Khan – 7:45-8:30 Gwdihŵ
Dream Wife – 9:45-10:30 Clwb Ifor Bach (downstairs)
My Name Is Ian – 11:00-11:45 Four Bars

Below you’ll find a playlist of as many of these acts as I was able to locate on soundcloud, the others I guess you’ll just have to check out on faith. Or maybe don’t, as you can find the full schedule here and loads more info over at Sŵn’s website to help you make your own decisions who to see.

If you’re not sure yet whether this festival will be worth your time, just think about how much you like music. (If you don’t I have to question why you’re even reading this, unless you’re my little sister, in which case thanks for the support Jojo!). If it’s death metal or acid house that you’re into then there are other events throughout the yeah which cater to those, maybe not so much this one. However if alt folk/weird pop/indie rock and post-punk interest you, it’s definitely worth popping along to wander between venues and stumble across your new favourite artist. Whether it’s a local band who’ve been under your nose all along and you just didn’t know where to look, or an obscure act from some far-flung corner of the UK who you’d likely never have had a chance to hear otherwise, there will be someone who you end up begging Sŵn to bring back next year. And even if that doesn’t work, you’ll be there again anyway to find yet more new music to fall in love with, because you know it will happen, it always does.