R.I.P. Samoans

R.I.P. Samoans

There’s less than a week to go now before Samoans play their final ever show, and well, it’s also gonna feel like the end of an era for many of us outside of the band. The first time I saw them, my first Sŵn festival, the set featured all brand new songs from their (at that point unreleased) debut album but the singer had lost his voice, so I had little idea how it was meant to sound. The next was one of my favourite festival slots of all time, regular readers may well have heard this story before; but watching the songs from Rescue live in a marquee, with the sun setting behind at the end of a bright spring day, turned Gwdihŵ‘s car park into a miniature urban paradise. Samoans are also the last band I ever saw play in Four Bars before that was closed, as well as many more times over the years and in various places.

Despite the difficulties the band faced during the making of the first album, from having to take a year out due to injury to changing drummers during this time, they (with a newly-added second guitarist) seemed to have been pulled closer by experience. Since then though, cancelled shows and rumours of inter-band hostility have given a more fractured countenance, and second album Laika just didn’t have the same chemistry as its predecessor. So when the band announced they would be playing just two more shows before splitting up, it was disappointing but not entirely unexpected news. For a group who were once Cardiff’s future stars to call it a day is a loss to us all, and I for one look forward to hearing whatever musical projects each of them persues next, as well of course to one last party first.

The show takes place this coming Saturday (May 12th) at Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff, more details can be found here. Thanks for the good times, guys.

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Like An Island

Like An Island

I couldn’t tell you the last gig I went to where every song on the setlist was familiar to me. Ok, I mean before Wednesday last week, or I wouldn’t be mentioning it now. The down-side of finding ridiculous amounts of great new bands and artists is that, well, there are still only twenty-four hours in each day, and I still have to work, eat and sleep. I have so little time to pay attention to all the songs I’d like to, that I can rarely keep up – somehow with Bryde, I managed it.

Jumping on her bandwagon fairly early (thanks to Adam Walton’s radio show), I’ve caught everything from solo gigs to the evolution of the full band, recognised ‘new’ singles having already heard them live, and so by the Cardiff leg of debut album Like An Island‘s launch tour I’m fully knowledgeable. The record itself documents the change in line-up – a couple of songs have been included from previous singles and EPs, enough to give a nod to tried-and-tested favourites without retreading the same ground. The decision not to rework these with the full band says that this is still very much Sarah’s project; I hope later releases hold onto that as I have to confess, I’m personally biased towards the tracks that she’s clearly written alone. The depth of emotion and expression in her voice just hits harder when there’s less going on musically.

Hence I couldn’t believe that, back some years ago now when the band featured just Sarah and her electric guitar (I don’t remember if I was ever around quite early enough to have seen the acoustic), in a corner of the City Arms I had to shush two people chatting in front of me. There was no need for that last week at Clwb Ifor Bach; nothing but rapt silence through every poignant moment, as a packed room appreciated the winding journey that led to the creation of this wonderful record.

Track of the Day – ‘Cold Wash’ by Estrons

Track of the Day – ‘Cold Wash’ by Estrons

When a band generates a buzz of the level that’s surrounded Estrons for a while now, it’s quite easy to get distracted and start celebrating that, rather than the band themselves. Sometimes it can be necessary to take a step back, listen to the music rather than the hype, and remember what matters – that they just write damn good songs.

Cold Wash is the b-side to recent single Glasgow Kisses, and showcases exactly what it is that makes this bunch of former ‘strangers’ stand out from all the rest. Direct and passionate, the track captures the band’s untameable energy and autonomous spirit; that’s why I listen to them, not the amount of magazine coverage they get. And not that their being from Cardiff matters all that much, but it’s great to remember how damn lucky I am to have bands so important that I can consider local.

Speaking of which, if you’re around this area you can catch Estrons at their live best next month, as they play a hometown show with CHROMA and Palomino Party at Clwb Ifor Bach on December 9th.
 

Track of the Day – ’72 & Sunny’ by Wylderness

Track of the Day – ’72 & Sunny’ by Wylderness

I have to confess, by the time Wylderness got around to releasing their debut single, I was concerned it might be a little late in the year for a song titled 72 & Sunny. However while the temperature might not be quite there, October is proving today that it can still be pretty bright!

The name may be very slightly misleading anyway – while there’s no denying the prominence of hazy vocals and washed-out guitar, there’s also an underlying element of the garage rock of (previous project featuring most members of this band) KUTOSIS. This added bite actually asserts the track as fairly fitting for a crisp-but-clear autumn afternoon.

Track of the Day – ‘Elsewhere’ by Ysgol Sul

Track of the Day – ‘Elsewhere’ by Ysgol Sul

One day, I will get round to learning Welsh. In the meantime though, I just have to be grateful that Ysgol Sul have dumbed things down for the sake of monoglots like myself; the songs on their new EP are written in the English language. Due for release on September 30th, Eventide is characterised by a subtle capriciousness, that draws on and accentuates the most whimsical elements of classic indie.

Elsewhere acts as an anchor in the middle of this release, and is the obvious choice for a single, its gentle but propulsive rhythm driving the song decisively beneath hazy guitars and languid vocals. The rest of the EP floats around this point somewhat formlessly, fluctuating gradually so as to avoid jarring its listener from the lulling state that these songs evoke. Perfectly timed as autumn draws in, there’s an erratic element here that’s just a bit too unexpected for a summer daze, and a slight sullenness to the vocal that suits the fall of the year.

Stream: Samoans – Patience

Stream: Samoans – Patience

Well, where to start – it’s been a long couple years, boys. In the time Samoans have been away, Four Bars has shut; the venue where I both first, and most recently (nearly said ‘last’ there, but hopefully not!) saw them. Watched the band live, that is – as for the individual people involved, most of them tend to turn up fairly frequently around Cardiff, occasionally in my work which is cool if always a little awkward.

Rescue, the group’s debut album, has been spun half to death though I’m still sure I’ll never get bored of it. The split with Freeze The Atlantic in the interim was a fun little snack, but something more substantial is definitely overdue. And so we look forward to Laika. This second full-length record has been announced for release on September 29th via their own Apres Vous Records, and is preluded by the aerial Patience.

I half think this song reminds me of something else, or is it akin to that curiosity where you meet someone new who it feels like you’ve always known, fresh yet familiar at the same time? Alternatively, maybe I’ve just listened to the damn thing too many times already. You can’t really blame me for that, as from its sudden intro the track softens into a swirling, undulating dream which holds you in a trance you’ll never want to leave. Even after it finishes, when you find yourself hitting play again… If it’s not obvious by now, I’m loving this and pretty keen to hear the rest of the new album; I hope they’re as glad to be back as we are to have them.