SOHN – Tremors

Sohn-tremors

Finally it’s arrived. London-born, Vienna-based producer, singer and all-round-talented-musician Sohn released his debut album on Monday (7th April).  He’s produced for two of the most exciting new artists, Banks and Kwabs, and has released three singles to-date.

Artifice‘ is his most recent single and is currently playlisted on BBC Radio 1.  It’s a tuneful, well constructed song, and definitely the most likely “single” from the album.  The further 10 tracks bring quite an array of concepts.  Generally, the focus of the album is on the colourful mosaic of rhythms, but Sohn’s vocals shape the tracks to form eerie and refined gems.

‘Lights’ is one of my favourite tracks on the album.  Vocally it doesn’t stand out from the rest but the complex, synthesised rhythmic and string sections fascinate me.   It’s immersive and totally mesmeric.  Here’s a video of live session for his label 4AD (I’m not sure why he’s dressed as a nun):

You can download title track ‘Tremors’ for free as part of iTunes Single of the Week:

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/tremors-single/id853622938

 

Route 94 – Fly 4 Life

Route-94Route 94 (Rowan Jones) began as a relatively low-key, anonymous House DJ.  In 2012, rumours began stirring about his identity; most fans and producers assumed Route 94 was the new alias for an already-established Dubstep artist. As it turned out, it was an accurate guess. Dream, a native Londoner, was signed by our dear friend Skrillex, on his OWSLA label.  In 2012 it appears Dream had a change of genre-heart and decided to reinvent himself as a House producer.

Route 94 first appeared with ‘My Window’, a Deep House record which is unsurprisingly less mainstream than his most recent hit ‘My Love’.  Jones, still only 19 years old, remained quite under the chart-radar until ‘My Love’, a track which topped the UK singles chart in its debut week.  Apart from the obvious fact that it’s particularly catchy, there is a couple of other possible factors contributing to its success: Clean Bandit’s recent number 1 -’Rather Be’ which also featured Jess Glynne and the huge rise in popularity of Pop-House music in the last 18 months.

The ‘Fly 4 Life’ EP originally dropped in summertime last year, but was withdrawn for unknown reasons.  It’s now back on the circuit, conveniently only a week after the release of ‘My Love’.  ‘Tell You Why’ is the opening track on the EP and features R&B infused vocals and a funky bass.  Title track ‘Fly 4 Life’ is actually my least favourite track on the EP, there’s some slightly creepy vocals and a mildly irritating synthetic-organ sound. Track 3 is ‘In My Heart’, which takes a more four-to-the-floor vibe with low sampled vocals, often heard in Deep House music. ‘Walls Come Tumbling Down’ is reminiscent of early 90′s House, particularly in the vocals, but features a really groovy bass line (sorry I couldn’t think of another adjective!).  Out of the four tracks, ‘Tell You Why’ is definitely my favourite. I can’t see any of them being as successful as ‘My Love’, but I get the impression this EP wasn’t targeted at the charts anyway.

The EP is out on 31st March, but you can stream it from SoundCloud here:

London Grammar @ Troxy, London

london-grammarWith over 500 people in the queue in front of us, we arrived to the Troxy horrified we might miss the beginning of the show. Luckily we bumped in to some friends (of friends) and joined them at the front. The show started fashionably late at 9.30, so we had time to grab a beer before finding a spot.

London Grammar kicked off with ‘Hey Now’, which featured on their first official EP release back in February 2013, and one of the tracks that catapulted them in to fame. I don’t normally get emotional in these situations, but honestly if I’d been slightly sad about something I would have burst in to tears.

Their set was flawless, beginning to end.  Hannah’s mind-blowing vocals are even better live and evoked chills on multiple occasions. I was fascinated by Dot’s ability to switch between instruments (keys, drums, synths), and the delivery of each was seamless. Dan had some impeccable guitar riffs, particularly when Hannah was off ‘steaming her voice’ and changing her shoes!

They were filming their music video for future single ‘Sights’ – I’m looking forward to seeing the outcome as it was an epic performance.  Unfortunately we missed Dan Croll who was the support act, I’m gutted because I would’ve loved to have seen him. (My train was cancelled – due to “unsafe track”. Cheers FGW.)

Here’s a little clip of the set, and their dreamy performance of ‘If You Wait’:

The Hics

hicsThe only way I can describe The Hics is if you put Fat Freddy’s Drop, Submotion Orchestra, James Blake, Frank Ocean, London Grammar, The xx and Little Dragon in a bowl and blended them together. They have a fantastic sense of musicianship, particularly evident through the jazz-influenced saxophone sections and the unusual clash of emotions in the vocal harmonies.

The Hics are a London based electronic-soul sextet consisting of Roxane (vocals/guitar), Sam (vocals/synths), Matt (bass), Geordan (guitar/electronics), Jacob (drums) and David (sax).  Ranging from 17-24 years old, they met through Pimlico Academy, which has also produced the likes of Roots Manuva and Elly Jackson of La Roux. They released their sole record to date ‘Tangle – EP’ back in August 2013, and there’s rumours that they’ve got lots of new material to come.

They are playing at Oslo Hackney – London this coming Thursday (27th Feb).  There’s currently no tickets available, but I’m keeping my eye on the website as it seems there may be more released soon. I’m aware I’m a little behind the bandwagon with these guys, but for those of you yet to hear about them, keep your ears peeled.  We haven’t heard the best from them yet.  You can stream the whole Tangle – EP below:

Ones To Watch – 2014

In 2014 we’ll be seeing album releases from the likes of Frank Ocean, Little Dragon, Solange and Caribou; and on top of that, there are some really exciting artists coming out of the woodwork.  There is a continuous development of new genres and themes throughout the industry, and here are some of the new artists contributing to that.

Andreya Triana has been around for a few years.  She collaborated and toured with Bonobo in 2009, a tour I was lucky enough to catch in Leeds.  Her debut album ‘Lost Where I Belong’ came out in September 2010 via Ninja Tune.  But, after a successful collaboration on Breach’s ‘Everything You Never Had’ in November and a new album on the way, I think 2014 may be her year.

21 year-old, Icelandic singer-songwriter, Asgeir, released his debut album in his native language back in 2012, but last week released an English version, titled ‘In The Silence’.  His music is bone-tingling, falsetto-full acoustic folk with cleverly placed hints of electronica.

Elli Ingram’s fantastic debut ‘Sober EP’ came out in July, and we’re (impatiently) waiting on the release of her most recent single ‘When It Was Dark’.  Her music is jazzy and colourful, and her vocals are somewhat reminiscent of Amy Winehouse.

Kwabs is an unusual talent; his vocals totally consume me.  I have no doubt we’ll be hearing lots of him, not only in 2014 but for plenty of years to come. His debut EP is out on Tuesday, I have done the geeky thing and pre-ordered it (super fan).

Rosie Lowe’s music is a brilliant kind of alternative-soul, with some R&B vibes.

Rubee Rayne, Moko and Lulu James all hint at similar concepts, with smooth, soulful vocals.

Rubee Rayne

Moko

Lulu James

There is another common theme throughout this list, with artists such as Glass Animals, Solomon Grey, Oceaan, SOHN and Jungle.  These guys are all British-based producers who are pushing new kinds of electronic music; combining synth-driven, funky instrumentals and refined vocals.

Glass Animals

Solomon Grey

Oceaan

SOHN

Jungle

We should not forget the likes of MNEK, Laura Welsh, Banks, FKA Twigs, Marika Hackman etc., who are all well and truly on the route to success.  I could ramble on for hours about how great these all are, but I won’t bore you with that; have a listen for yourself.

 

Best of 2013

halfmoonrunJohnLondono2It has been a pretty good year for music.  We’ve had releases from some of the biggest stars, in the most unusual and ingenious ways (uh hem – Beyonce).   I’d started jotting down my favourite albums of 2013 and ended up with this; 30 albums that made my year:

Arctic Monkeys – AM
Blood Orange – Cupid
Bonobo – The North Borders
Chance The Rapper – Acid Rap
Darkside – Psychic
Daughter – If You Leave
Drake – Nothing Was The Same
Elvis Costello and The Roots – Wise Up Ghost
Fat Freddy’s Drop – Blackbird
Foals – Holy Fire
Haim – Days Are Gone
Half Moon Run – Dark Eyes
J Cole – Born Sinner
Jacob Banks – The Monologue
James Blake – Overgrown
Jhene Aiko – Sail Out
Joey Bada$$ – Summer Knights
John Hopkins – Immunity
John Legend – Love In The Future
Kelela – Cut 4 Me
London Grammar – If You Wait
Lorde – Pure Heroine
MSMR  – Secondhand Rapture
Nils Frahm – Spaces
Peace – In Love
Polica – Shulamith
The 1975 – The 1975
The Weeknd – Kissland
Tom Odell – Long Way Down
Wild Belle – Isles

Some of these will be fairly obvious: Arctic Monkeys, Foals, The 1975, London Grammar etc., all artists who have been hailed throughout the year for their successful albums.  Some, you may think, are missing: Disclosure, David Bowie, Laura Mvula, Daft Punk, all failed to live up to my expectations but are constantly in the media.  Disclosure released some good singles but the album didn’t wow me.  Laura Mvula’s Green Garden got me really excited for her debut album.  Unfortunately the rhythmic edge didn’t feature enough; instead it felt like a soundtrack to a stage show, disappointing to say the least.  I actually thought David Bowie and Daft Punk’s albums were uninspiring and frankly boring.  Sorry, back to the good stuff.

If you’re partial to contemporary piano work have a listen to Nils Frahm, a Berlin-based composer.  It’s impressive stuff, I think he’s my new hero.  Bonobo is always dependable but The North Borders is a well rounded album, including features from Erykah Badu and Szjerdene.  Darkside – aka Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington’s debut album, is an interesting progressive-dance collection.  I’ve been a big fan of Jaar’s solo work to date and this collaboration doesn’t disappoint. Wild Belle, Blood Orange, Polica – all great albums, I could go on for hours.

It was hard to choose a favourite but having looked at my iTunes play counts, it was fairly obvious.  Dark Eyes by Half Moon Run is a rhythmically complex, math-rock influenced album with lightly harmonised vocals and sophisticated guitar lines.  The Canadian, Indie band’s debut album hints at Radiohead but maintains solid individuality.  The first official single off the album was Full Circle, it was released in 2012 along with the album’s release in Canada.  We English-folk had to wait until June 2013 but it was well worth it.  The following track is one of my favourites, but I suggest you listen to the whole album, as this is only a taster:

BANKS

banks-waitinggame

No not Tyra or Azealia or Lloyd come to that, Jillian Banks, known simply as ‘Banks’, is a 25 year old Electronica/R&B singer from LA.  Her rise to fame was directly linked to my favourite BBC Radio 1 presenter, Zane Lowe, who discovered her music on a non-promoted SoundCloud account and broadcasted it to the nation.  The first spin of ‘Before I Ever Met You‘ was in January and ever since then Banks has been busy releasing track after impressive track.  She signed to the tiny, London-based independent label Good Years and joined The Weeknd on his North American tour in September.

For the last 10 years Banks has largely kept her music to herself.  After a difficult childhood she used music as an emotional outlet and found it too personal to share; luckily for us that’s no longer the case. Dubbed the female equivalent of Frank Ocean, her music radiates bassy goodness and dark, soulful vocals.  Banks is the kind of artist you want to put on constant repeat; particularly her newest release London – EP.  Her lyrics are moving and although her vocals aren’t faultless, they are delicate, intense and enthralling.

She’s is among 15 long-listed for the BBC Sound of 2014, and I’d be surprised if she didn’t make at least the shortlist which is announced on 6th January (the winner on the 10th January).  There’s a tough line up this year, with the likes of Sam Smith, MNEK, Sampha, Chance The Rapper etc. but I will cover that nearer the time.

In the earlier days of her career Banks left promoting via social networking to her manager, but actually broadcasted her personal phone number as a means of contacting her (I’m not joking: (323) 362-2658).   Making her details available to the public prompted producers and artists who were interested in collaborating to get in touch.  She’s since worked with some well-respected British producers, such as Jamie Woon, Sohn and Lil Silva (who is also signed by Good Years).   ‘This Is What It Feels Like’ is the title track off her London – EP and it’s got Jamie Woon written all over it.  It’s sultry and melancholic, and I love it.

Thank you Zane.