Friday, 25 June 2010

Stornoway - Beachcombers Windowsill

An indie pop band from Oxford, no way, you have to be kidding, one of these is like a needle in a haystack right? Well, no, not really. After the independent success of Youthmovies, the more mainstream success of Foals and the global success of Radiohead, it would be daft to suggest anything other than Stowaway are a band that need to be watched from the outset.

This, their debut album, "Beachcomers Windowsill", is filled to the brim with melodic hooks that are not only poppy but folky and in places almost sea shanty-esque. The first single and first track on the album "Zorbing" is an upbeat affair with melodies that sit somewhere between The Coral, early Noah And The Whale and perhaps even Bombay Bicycle Club, with a simple melody underpinned by a beautiful use of vocal contrast, the lead vocals being carried by deep and warming backing vocals as the guitars and the further use of instruments such as trumpets get you tapping your feet and bouncing around, you just can't help yourself. "I Saw You Blink" their latest single to be released from this album continues with the positive lyrical themes of the record, with Briggs claiming that he missed his train because he was daydreaming about a girl that might just be the one. Lyrically, it often feels honest but tongue-in-cheek while musically, the style oozes a feel good summer of pop, something that we could expect from certain Beach Boys releases. It isn't all happiness though, "Boats And Trains" is the typical band commentary on the failure of long distance relationships and for once, it is actually nice to have diversity lyrically from an album. The album is at its best on the last track mind, "Long Distance Lullaby" starting with a bell chiming before Briggs recalls a story of being drunk and calling up his lover just to say that he misses them, while behind, the drums cut a steady shadow behind a bright and glossy guitar melody.

"Beachcomers Windowsill" is going to be my album of the year, it's only late June and I have already decided that nothing that arrives on my lap for the rest of the year will even remotely touch how great this album is, and just think, it's only their debut, so they can surely only get better?


Stornoway Myspace
Pete Roe - The Merry-Go-Round

How someone like Pete Roe can tour with the successful likes of Laura Marling, accompioning her as part of her live band aswell as being mentioned in the same breath as Mumford & Sons, and still, somehow find an ounce of time to write their own material is completely beyond me, but he has managed it with this, his second EP to date, "The Merry-Go-Round".

Firstly, of merit, is the artwork. Most are happy to settle for a square CD and a quickly made paper sleeve but not Roe, not at all. The CD case is so intricately designed, with such detail put in to its artwork, that the case alone would be a selling point for this EP. That aside, lets start talking about music, after all, that is what we all want to know about and I'm sure you all have the same thoughts as me. Roe has the tough task, having been name dropped aside his counter parts, of living up to the great expectations that fans of those artists have come to feel they deserve. Let me make it clear from the start, this isn't Mumford MK II or Marling MK II(perhaps the same thing currently), but more a different kettle of fish. Still acoustic but less, NME folk than his counterparts, Roe has a vocal tone much akin to The Decemberists' Colin Melroy and with a feel behind his music that is much more positive than a lot of distortion-less music doing the rounds currently. Opening track "Bellina" is a strong example of Roe's ability to be uplifting, the guitar melody sunny as the lyrics encourage you to put all your books away and take a trip on the ocean. "Oh Susannah" is a love song, with Roe pining for his perfect girl claiming that he will be hers between some beautiful vocal melodies. "Underneath The Apple Tree" is Roe possibly at his best, taking a stab at a Nick Drake Influence which works perfectly on the chorus as Roe sings, 'Where the path leads up their garden and the whole world is closing in, I am underneath the apple tree and I am waiting for something to begin'. The final track to the Ep is "The Merry-Go-Round", a slow contemplative way of ending the CD, taking away the sunshine of the previous three tracks and concentrating on Roes beautiful use of lyrics to create something that will give even the more cold hearted of music listeners a swift exchange of butterflies.

Every once in awhile a release comes along that really moves me, "The Merry-Go-Round" is that release, I highly recommend it!

4 / 5

Pete Roe Myspace
Wintersleep - New Interiors

I found Wintersleep in the strangest of fashions, having seen their album in HMV, I immediately downloaded "Welcome To The Night Sky" on the strength of its artwork alone and upon hearing "Dead Letter & The Infinite Yes" and "Astronaut", I immediately set upon buying the album and it continuously grew on me becoming one of my more favoured albums, not just of recent times, but of all time. Now being a rather big fan of the Canadian band, it was always going to be a huge task for them and their follow up "New Interiors".

"New Interiors" is an entirely new beast to "Welcome To The Night Sky", while "Welcome To The Night Sky" seemed intent on grabbing you in with honest and relateable abstract lyrics that stuck with you long after the album had finished, "New Interiors" seems more inclined on catchy poppy hooks and repeated chorus vocals in an attempt to gain access to a more mainstream audience and to some extent it does actually work. "Encyclopedia" has a dirty grittiness that seems to nod its head towards Queen Of The Stone Age before it folds back sounding more like a mix of Interpol and REM with Samuel repeatedly singing 'You're alive, but what's it worth'. Other standout tracks include "Blood Collection", a slow, brooding and haunting tune and also "Black Camera" which is an upbeat and rousing number complete with 'ahhhhh' backing melodies, which always helps to improve a song in my book.

The problem that "New Interiors" has is that, despite "Welcome To The Night Sky" sounding alike REM, it still had a sense of urgency and it had a huge feel of uniqueness within it, which is something I admired. "New Interiors" has reigned this in somewhat for a more polished and commerical feel, to an extent it feels like they are marketing themselves for a mainstream American rock chart and while it is still on the whole a good album, it trails off unsuccessfully midway through and you find yourself listening to it and checking what song number you have got to and how many more songs there are to go. "New Interiors" though, will still become one of my more favoured albums of this year, such is the price of a horrifically bad time for good albums in the industry, so please buy this album so Wintersleep get another stab at it.

3 / 5

Wintersleep Myspace