Tuesday, 7 April 2015

REVIEW: Circa Waves - Young Chasers

With a warm pint of cider in my hand and a grubby lanyard swinging from my neck, my first encounter with Circa Waves was a happy one. I was at Leeds Festival 2014, it was the festival republic tent and as the audience swelled with every song, I knew it wouldn't be long before this Liverpudlian gang started making a name for themselves.

Several radio one-endorsed singles later, and it appears my premonition was right. With The Wombats trying and failing to make a comeback, Two Door Cinema Club fast resigned to the freshers week memory box and Phoenix in between albums, the timing of Circa Waves debut record couldn't have been better placed - every so often Britain just needs a band who know how to do a great uncomplicated single.

From a band who are just two years old, Circa Waves are something of an indie anomaly, and not just for their lighthearted approach to songwriting. In a world where 'authenticity' is a buzzword and there's a constant snobbishness that suggests a band isn't worthy unless they've eaten out of the bins on shoreditch high street or spent eight years cobbling together pennies to record their first single, they're a refreshing change in how quickly they've grown to prominence relatively quickly. While their backstory as a band is fairly organic (lads meet at their local festival, lads decide to form band), there's been very little toilet gigging, not unless you count some pretty massive support slots for The Libertines and The 1975.

Rather than smirking at the back or rolling your eyes about being in the right place at the right time, the bands growing popularity is actually rather humbling, proof that three chords and a way around a melody are sometimes all you need. Where Circa Waves really excel is when they keep it short and to-the-point: title track 'Young Chasers' is just two minutes and ten seconds long, but gives us the exact same theme-park thrills as when we first heard 'Wreckin' Bar' by The Vaccines.  'T-Shirt Weather' is only a minute longer but just as endearing, with a chorus that will speak to every kid who grew up on Haven holidays and gleeful fights with their siblings -

'I remember T-shirt weather/I remember some days/We were singing our lungs out in the backseat together/And the seatbelts were burning our fingers'

Viewing nostalgia through rosey spectacles, 'Young Chasers' is an assured debut, fed on a diet of summer loves and growing pains that work just as well at a festival as they do at an indie disco. It wears it's influences on it's sleeve - 'Good For Me' is heavily indebted to Julian Casablancas vocal style, while 'My Love' has something of the Richard Ashcroft about it. In fact, quite a lot of the record sounds a little early-noughties, the glory days where Limewire was king and lyrics were cryptic codes aimed at the hot boy/girl you fancied on MSN Messenger.

When so many bands are trying so hard to appear grown up, Circa Waves are still quite happy on their hands and knees, trading pokemon cards and going round to their friends house to ask if they're allowed to play out. With summer on the horizon and such a distinct lack of pretence in the air, it's a rewarding listen to know there's still value in a catchy chorus.

For limited edition 'Young Chasers' downloads and bundles, visit http://circawaves.com/


Friday, 20 March 2015

Heavy Rotation - Five Hip-Hop Tracks I've Had On Repeat

While I have no intention of turning SIS into a serious hip-hop blog, there is no denying that it is my favourite genre of late. Working from home, it's almost comforting to feel as if someone is 'talking' to you...even if they are dropping N-bombs like it's going out of fashion.

With issues of race and stereotyping weighing heavy on my mind (see here for my thinkpiece on Kanye and THAT Brits performance), here are five tracks I can't stop whacking the 'loop' button on.

1) Kanye West - All Day
It's always a bit of a cop out to call something 'big-sounding', but after the middle-of-the-road sentimentality of 'Four Five Seconds' and 'Only One', 'All Day' has a certain arena-sized Watch The Throne whiff about it. As Kanye's flow grows steadily more urgent, we're reminded of the glory days where he was fierce, angry and yes, oh so egotistical.

2) Kendrick Lamar - The Blacker The Berry
It's clear from just one listen that Kendrick's 'To Pimp A Butterfly' is an incredible listen, constantly on the edge of being uncomfortable but always pulling it back with a variety of samples taken from the illustrious history of black music. However, it's lead single 'The Blacker The Berry' that is truly jaw-dropping, hitting it's subject matter at full speed. 

3) Drake - You & The 6
Oh Drizzy, how I adore you. A man who can bring tears to my eyes with a simple melancholy chord, it was pretty difficult picking a favourite from his recent mixtape 'If You Read This, It's Probably Too Late'. However, as someone currently experiencing the sobering 'you're truly an adult now' process of watching their parents sell up their family house, 'You & The 6' has been especially touching, drawing back that curtain of fame and revealing the relationship between one very famous son and his doting mother. 

4) Big Sean - Blessings (featuring Drake and Kanye West)
Ever since his feature on Drake's 'Nothing Was The Same', I've been a big fan of Big Sean's super lazy, drawling style of rap... there's something oddly hypnotic about it. I'm yet to be entirely convinced by his preference for a very 'bitches and hoes' subject matter, but 'Blessings' is definitely a catchy one, made all the better by that Drake hook.

5) ILoveMakkonen - Tuesday (featuring Drake)
Our Drake has been getting around on the old features recently hasn't he? There's no getting away from the success of 'Tuesday' recently, but it's still as fresh-sounding as when I first heard it. Favouring a lethargic, trippy approach, it's beautifully reminiscent of that 3am club feeling when everything's got a little too much but you're still pretending to have an amazing time. 

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

LIVE: The Maccabees, Sheffield Leadmill, 21.02.2015

When you love a band - I mean, really love a band - it can become difficult to be objective. Conversations down the pub about which album is best threaten to break out into actual violence, missing a tour date becomes an inconceivable prospect and any missteps in their career are dismissed as them 'going through a transitional period'. 

The Maccabees are a band I really love, and so it goes without saying that I would defend their brilliance to the hilt. However, one of the many reasons I love them is their consistency, and their desire to make sure their music is absolutely perfect before showing it to their fans. Almost two years in the making, their impending fourth album has been long awaited and shrouded in relative secrecy, save for a short stretch of shows with Kasabian at the back end of last year. It's why tonight feels so special, so exciting. Indeed, The Maccabees are ready to give their new material to the wilds.

Before all that though, the sparsely populated room is treated to the sonic stylings of LSA, a band who's name throws up results ranging from the Liverpool School of Architecture all the way to the Late Stone Age if you put it into Google. Search a little deeper, and you'll find that their name actually stands for 'Love Stays Alive', a reaction against the superficial judgement made against new bands starting out. But do LSA pass the flash in the pan test? While the nepotism of being Maccabees members Hugo and Felix's brother will probably not be lost on lead singer Will White, they are a captivating little outfit, laid-back yet somehow earnest on the likes of 'Can't Be Trusted' and 'More Or Less Equal' a song that sounds like the poster anthem for the 2007 'Best Midlands' movement despite LSA's London postcode. Without succumbing to the normal mundane 'how you doing Sheffield?!' schtick, they come across self-assured and ultimately, very promising. 

With chants of 'MAC..A..BEEEEEEES' increasing in volume at the same steady level as the room's sweaty temperature, tonight's headliner take to the stage in traditionally unassuming fashion. 'Wall Of Arms' is a fitting opener, an ode to the camaraderie between fan and band that has sustained them for so many years. As the track reaches it's peak the crowd surge forward, and the spell is broken - just like bumping into an old friend, the recognition of a song loaded with memories makes it feel like they never went away.

Mingling with such classics as 'Precious Time', 'William Powers' and a deliciously rare outing of 'Latchmere', there of course are new songs. In spades. All five of them, delivered with the confidence of a first album track. 

While it's always difficult to get a measure on a track from only one listen, it's near on impossible not to feel immediately satisfied with the quality of what is offered over tonight. When they were describing to NME 'both the fastest and slowest music [they've] ever done', it's clear they were referring at least in part to 'Marks To Prove It', a track that carries the same wide-eyed euphoria of 'pelican' but with even more pace. Any record label with any sense would declare it the first single on the spot. 

In direct comparison, the coconut-stomp of 'WW1 Portraits' constantly feels on the cusp of something bigger, so much so that when that inevitable drop comes, it floods the room with palpable, intoxicating relief. Tension has always been something The Maccabees have been great at, and it's clear that the new record will be loaded with it, dripping in emotion. 

Rounded out by Given To The Wild's magical closer 'Grew Up At Midnight', tonight's show has been a masterclass in the comeback. Showing tangible evidence of progression with the same old charm, The Maccabees stand once more as proof that the nice guy doesn't always finish last. Prepare your stereos.