Fallen Arches – Pen to Paper

This is one waaaaay overdue blog. Little over three years ago I promised to meet up with West Coast of Scotland singer songwriter Colin Bell to talk about his album Pen to Paper. That never happened. I still don’t know why to this day but sitting here now listening to the album I am regretting my shoddy memory.

Colin plays under the name Fallen Arches and to date has this, his debut album and the Footprints EP under his belt. Pen to Paper was deservedly nominated for a SAY award at the time and listening now I can see why.

So, lets drop the virtual needle on this album.

The album opens on the delicately picked chords of ‘Burn Bright’. The light and shade on the instrumentation is so well layered. The chorus has this sheen of midi strings and pounding drum. What’s more immediate is Colins lyrics. He has the poetic leanings of a latter day Woomble with a delivery that would have made the late, great Scott Hutchison very proud indeed. It’s obvious we are in for an emotional ride.

The rhythmic strumming of ‘Lost at Sea’ eases us in before the timing is switched up, as if the song itself is having a panic attack. “I can’t help the way I feel, I’m inside out I’m lost at sea” implores Bell. Whilst the song is simplistic (two chords mostly) through manipulating the pace of the song our interest is held firm. This is from the heart stuff.

A Christmas song next. Really cheerful, jaunty chords strummed with attack ushers the song in. Bell is switching up the mood. That is until the end of verse one when the song spins on a penny and we hear about the hardship faced by so many at Christmas. This is so cleverly composed. It also speaks to Colin’s eye for a song fighting with his social conscience.

‘Foreign Noises’ grabs you immediately. Patently written about an experience in an hospital, losing someone, it’s so heartbreakingly relatable. By the time the chorus comes in on the low cello hum we are already emotionally invested. I actually can’t find the words to say how deeply this affected me. ‘Foreign Noises’ is a stunning piece of song writing.

The albums title track comes in at pace lifting the mood. This is a song straining at the leash, dying to stomp on the distortion pedal and rock out. Again, the dynamics make this song a really interesting listen. It also helps there is a killer hook for the chorus.

‘Eggshells’ is perhaps the most complex song on the album so far, musically speaking. From the simplistic opening of picked chords under Bell’s stream of consciousness delivery we double time into a darkly hewn chorus. Out of nowhere the drums suddenly double time again like we are running at speed from some unknown assailant. I would have loved this section to go on a bit longer, perhaps that was the intent.

Nostalgia is always the friend of the songwriter. That said it is incredibly difficult not to sound schmaltzy or to create that picture in the listeners head that you set out to when you first put pen to paper. Oh, that’s a bit meta. Moving on. In ’Seventeen’ Bell paints a vivid picture. He gently takes our hand and leads us through his memory. We walk through reminisces good and bad but no matter how bad that memory may be, he always leads us back to the light. “we were invincible, untouchable and no-one will ever take that away from us”. It is apparent that hope is important to Bell as it should be to us all.

Nowhere on the album is that more obvious than on the epic closing track ‘Let It All Out’. This is one special song. If you forced me to recommend one song to sum up what Fallen Arches is all about, it’s this one. A paean to looking after your mental health for the sake of yourself and those you love. It’s chock full of quotable lines like “Counting blessings and ignoring years, gaining inhibitions and losing friends”. That line floors me every time. It also has a chorus that will be spinning round and round your head for weeks. Isn’t that the sign of a great song?

In Pen to Paper Bell has created a portal into his reality, his existence. There is no filter and we take him as we find him. All these songs are intensely personal and we feel fortunate to have been allowed to visit and spend time there. What is left is an image of a humble man with an incredible talent for weaving these melodies from the threads of his own life.

Keep your eyes peeled for more music coming soon from Fallen Arches, I can exclusively reveal his new album Passing Disaster will be out later in the year with another album to follow this in 2022. Before lockdown Bell was one of Scotland’s hardest working musicians out gigging most weekends. Thankfully with things easing he will be back on stage in Glasgow at The Hug and Pint on November 7th 2021 with more gigs to be announced.

Meanwhile you can find Pen to Paper on his Bandcamp page as well as streaming in all the usual places.

Tennis System – Truth Hurts

As a huge fan, I was thrilled to receive the latest single from LA’s Tennis System.

San Francisco based label, Quiet Panic have picked the band up and are unveiling the new single and music video ‘Truth Hurts’, the first track off the forthcoming release Autophobia, scheduled for release in late-summer 2021.

Written and recorded entirely during the pandemic, Autophobia is the first new full-length since 2019’s Lovesick and marks a thrilling new chapter and a logical shift in sound for, the now solo project of, guitarist/vocalist Matty Taylor.

Though minimalism reigns on Autophobia, the chorus-heavy anthems Tennis System are known for bleed into the first single, ‘Truth Hurts,’ in which Taylor lays out an argument that being alone is not necessarily being weak.

The trademark Tennis System modulated glide guitar ushers in Taylors vocal. A vocal that has been given a more prominent role in the mix than any of his previous work, and it’s a revelation. This is by far the best performance I have heard from Taylor, poised and in control. the whole song hangs around it like a new suit.

Something else that is refreshing and new is the pace. It has been dialled down to a more sedate and leisurely stroll as opposed to the frenetic dash of the tracks on Lovesick. This gives Taylor room to explore his new sound. Synths now envelope his fuzzed-out riffs creating a beautiful glass like sheen to the overall sound. Something fans of the genre will fall for immediately.

It’s so great to have new material from Tennis System. I’ll be back with a full review of Autophobia nearer its release date. Meanwhile you can pre order your copy on the Quiet Panic Webstore in the US or if you are in the EU/U.K. you can grab a copy from Through Love Records.

Kali Ma and the Garland of Arms – Notions

I’m a huge fan of the comforting sounds of dreampop, the hypnotic drone of psych and the driving rhythm of space rock. Wouldn’t it be brilliant if I could find a band who deliver on all those points?

Enter Kali Ma and the Garland of Arms.  This amazing band hail from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and formed back in 2017. Their music encompasses elements of rhythmic, psychedelic minimalism as well as the swoon-some sounds of dream pop.

This week they released their latest single ‘Notions’ and I was immediately struck by the complexity of its composition. Building on a foundation of drums with a real swing and driving bass we have fuzzed guitar and soaring synths. Atop all of this leading the way with her stellar vocals is Jami Kali. Kali’s vocal style is hard to pin down. I think that’s why I took to the band so quickly. Fans have compared them to Cranes and Mira but I think they sound more like if Medicine met Tanya Donelly.

‘Notions’ is out now and you can check it out over on their Bandcamp page. In the meantime, here’s the video for the single.

Hadda Be – Wait in the Dark

Ahead of the April release of their debut album Brighton’s Hadda Be are back with an incendiary new single and video. Last month we looked at their ‘Another Life’ single which we loved. This track ratchets the tension and pace up another level.

‘Wait in the Dark’ really lives up to the title. It is a dark, frenetic rush of grunge laden adrenalin. Whilst their previous single touched on the more anthemic Brit Pop this one digs into that US Seattle sound. Guitar’s thrash and wail but it’s the sheer explosive nature of the drums that frame this whole song. There is a real anger in singer Amber Oliver’s delivery but at the same time you can hear she is having fun playing with spoken word delivery in the chorus.

This is post punk grunge with a twist in that it’s seriously hooky. You’ll find yourself singing the chorus to yourself for days after hearing it. I can just imagine this being played live and the whole place going off. It’s an anthem for the mosh pit for sure.

You can stream the single right now and pre order the album over at Last Night From Glasgow.

Metrosideros – var.EP

New Zealand has been doing a lot of things right recently and their music scene is equally as strong as their current leadership.

I had the good fortune to be sent the last EP from Wellingtons Metrosideros last August and it made me sit up and take notice immediately. Now they are back with the var. EP and it’s just as exciting and refreshing as the last.

Metrosideros is the project of Matt Dalzell who plays all the instruments and does all the programming on these six tracks.

The EP kicks off with ‘Blacksands’ with the stunning vocals of Alba Rose powering out the speakers. Like a calling card Dalzell creates this psychedelic trip hop ambience for the song to inhabit. It is reminiscent of the very best of the Bristol scene from the 90’s. It’s this sound that he has reimagined, reshaped into something all his own and it’s addictive.

‘Summerstorm Lullaby’ follows with its fuzzed-out guitars juxtaposing with the shiny production on the synths and piano. This is what we call a banger here in Scotland. This song has the catchiest chorus and the way the song lifts in the chorus gets you right in the feels.

Glitchy synths and drums introduce us to ‘Beyonder’. This is destined to fill dancefloors. Rose is back on vocal duties and delivers in buckets. Dalzell is magpie like in his production. I can hear some Bjork influence in the mix now. This EP truly is a joy to listen to. It’s like eating pick ‘n’ mix sweets. You never know what you are going to get next.

The claustrophobic intro to ‘It’s Just So’ feels like its sucking the air from all around you. Bringing the warmth back to the proceedings is the vocal talent of Coralie Martin. There’s something eerie and unsettling about this track. Its glacial mood is punctured by a low synth droning buzz over two notes. It’s really simple but so effective.

As if he is reading my mind ‘String and Bones’ opens on a lush, warm sequence as if to thaw us after the previous track. Rose returns on vocals and delivers another striking performance. There’s some lovely psyche influenced synth on this track. Mantra like they hypnotise you and pull you in.

Now Dalzell has us he drops some monster beats. The intro to closing track ‘Raptor’ is reminiscent of the Chemical Bros. or The Prodigy. Make no mistake, he means business. Acid squelches and break beats do battle with a killer guitar riff. This track is enormous and what a way to sign off.

What you have in the var.EP is the best parts of trip hop and drum ‘n’ bass blended with the soundscapes of shoegaze. Call it Post Gaze if you will. That’s how Metrosideros describe their sound and I couldn’t agree more.

The var.EP is available now via ShoreDive Records on Bandcamp or via Metrosideros own Bandcamp page.

The Stargazer Lilies – Purple Sunshine

Some bands create their own worlds. Caverns of sound where you wander aimlessly for hours in ecstatic joy, happy to be lost in their company. The Stargazer Lilies are that band for me. Their last full-length release Occabot redefined how I view dreampop with its multi-dimensional approach to song writing.

After releasing a recording of their stunning live performance at the Sherman Theatre in the bands home state of Pennsylvania, they return with a new single ‘Purple Sunshine’.

This track continues the heady, psychedelic vibe of tracks like ‘Magenta Sunrise’ and ‘Living Work of Art’. Whilst Jon Cep’s swirling guitars and the phased drums are leading us on this trip, Kim Field is singing the sweetest sixties baroque pop song. It makes me think of bands like The Association and The Turtles. It’s that juxtaposition that lends this track the magic to transport you away.

I can only hope that this is a taste of things to come and a new Stargazer Lilies album isn’t far away.

‘Purple Sunshine’ is available to buy now from Bandcamp. Keep a close eye on the band’s website for news of further releases.

Geography Of The Moon – Fake Flowers Never Die

This is a long overdue blog. I have been listening to this album almost daily since it flew into my orbit and I have been slowly formulating my plans to write a blog about it. Well no more waiting, here it is!

Fake Flowers Never Die is the sophomore album from Glasgow based duo Geography of the Moon. Formed in London, UK, in 2016, Geography Of The Moon is a collaboration between singer/pianist Virginia Bones and multi-instrumentalist /producer Andrea AKA Santa Pazienza. After touring for several years, they moved back to Glasgow where Andrea’s family is originally from. Largely influenced by bands from the 80s and the 90s, somewhere between psych rock, post punk, new wave and indie rock, they create their own brand of mashed up styles: Psychwave.

The album opens on the dark and brooding ‘Muse Prayer’. This is our first indication of how special this album is. Virginia’s lyrics flow like honey dripping from the flower while Andrea’s guitar sympathetically picks out a simple but powerful backing. The addition of strings makes this a strong opener and hooks the listener immediately.

Lifting the mood ‘1984’ picks the pace up with Virginia railing against suburban boredom against an urgent and insistent drumbeat. The claustrophobia and anxiety are palpable, “Every day your mind will find, all the ways to bring you down” jumps out at me among other lyrical gems.

Next up is my album highlight. The bands unique sound comes equally from Andrea’s blend of instrumentation and gloriously off kilter guitar against the sheer poetry of Virginias vocal delivery. ‘Deadbeat Poet’ displays both of these points at their absolute finest. I don’t know if it’s the simplicity of the song that appeals to me, it’s essentially two chords, or if its the reverb washed guitar against that programmed drumbeat. There’s a kinship to the band DEHD in this track. See what you think.

‘Ikaria’ is the band longing for the sun on their skin. Living in Scotland can have that effect on you. There is a nice trade off between the lustful, yearning of the verses and the on the nose, matter of fact delivery of the chorus. There’s a lot to identify with here.

‘Moonlight Tan’ entices us to “get together, there is a light on”. Andrea plays a blinder here building an ever more urgent backing for Virginia to weave her tapestry of words on. I love how the two guitar parts and drums play off each other on this track.

A theme continues to develop on ‘Fleeing Lights’. Illumination and avoidance of the darkness is picked up again in this song. The lyrics sound like they are about someone being gaslighted with a backing inspired by Joy Division.

‘3 Years 2 Days’ throws us a curveball with its 80’s synth groove. This is a stunning song and almost pipped ‘Deadbeat Poet’ for my album highlight. I love the space given to the vocals and the massive sound when the song really kicks in.

Andrea is channelling his inner Arthur Lee on ‘Insomnia’. The rhythm sounds like the intro to ‘My Little Red Book’ but warped into something else, something more. Virginia takes the opportunity to play about with her delivery. Much more playful and syncopated which really suits the song.

The album closer, ‘Wolves’ is a lament on our inner demons. The atmospheric guitars mimic a howling wolf at one point which for me is just brilliant. The minimalistic approach to this track just cements its impact and drives home the feeling of anxiety and longing for a way out.

Geography Of The Moon have crafted a cohesive collection of songs that scream out ‘this is who we are’. Everything is left in the grooves for you to bear witness to, no punches are pulled. This kind of lyrical honesty is the hallmark of a great lyricist and there is no doubt in my mind that Virginia Bones is an outstanding writer and poet. The musicianship on show is staggering, it’s hypnotic, jarring, thrilling and soothing all at the same time. That’s no mean feat. Andrea has been so thoughtful with his arrangements. All the songs have room to breathe and to be what they all need to be individually. That is the mark of a great musician.

Come the end of year I am positive we will be seeing this album riding high in a lot of end of year lists.

Fake Flowers Never Die is out now on TeenFreaks Music on vinyl and download on Bandcamp and in your favourite indie record shops.

Dead Rituals – When The Lights Are Out

Released in November last year the second EP from Italian dream pop / shoegaze project Dead Rituals spawned one of my favourite tracks of the winter.

Singer-songwriter Andrea Caccese created a world in a song. Beautifully picked acoustic guitar plays over a subtle synth and programmed drums. His hushed vocal seals the deal, drawing us in to this eerie and atmospheric piece.

Whilst Dead Rituals have managed to stay quite busy during these crazy times, releasing two EP’s and a handful of singles. What’s been missing, is some live music. The band have now shared an intimate acoustic take on this single. Recorded in a big stairwell in an old Brooklyn loft, the track features a lush natural reverb which lends itself to the soothing atmosphere of the piece.

To hear the original version and all their other music head on over to Dead Rituals Bandcamp page. Meanwhile enjoy the acoustic version here.

La Club Royale – Rise Up

By Jo Smith.

For their debut single, ‘Rise Up’ by La Club Royale is an accomplishment, one that they should be proud of. It showcases their unique blend of sound which should be welcomed and highly anticipated by the music scene in Scotland. The song shows originality and talent, giving the duo a promising start to their career.

La Club Royale consists of Connor Adam and Lyle Kennedy. Emerging from Ayrshire in the West of Scotland, they formed their band towards the end of 2020 and are perhaps one of the only good things to come of that woeful year. Starting as they mean to go on, the pair have chosen ‘Rise Up’ to make a first impression.

The song itself is a perfect marriage of genres, combining iconic features of ‘80s music with those of the modern indie scene. The beginning of a bassline guides listeners from a smooth, atmospheric introduction into a synth riff that would be well suited in the playlist of any John Hughes film. The decade is kept alive as the synths fade into the background during verses and return with full force after each chorus via punchy vocals that have to be compared to the iconic Simple Minds opening, which would have almost certainly triggered the classic shoulder-shuffle on many an ‘80s dancefloor.

Lyle’s unique voice reinforces the genre hybridity of the song whilst simultaneously propelling it around 40 years into the future, bringing to mind a combination of Marc Almond and Alex Turner. An agile voice modernises the song and shows the band’s enthusiasm for indie music; he harbours the vocal quality of Almond and the attitude of Turner, which creates a distinctive, intriguing sound.

A simple but nonetheless effective composition shows influence from bands such as New Order and The Naked and Famous. It creates an earworm which will have listeners nodding along to the beat and humming the chorus for quite some time after hearing the song. The stylistic opening creates an otherworldly atmosphere, with the smooth electronic phasing sounds conjuring a dream-like ambience that would send an infectious shiver down the spines of a room full of people. Once this is combined with the lyrics and main melody, the song becomes emotionally provoking; it is inspirational, fun and carries with it that youthful recklessness which always accompanies falling in love.

The song creates a real sense of yearning with the opening lines, “I want nothing more than to see you”, capturing a transcendent, desperate moment which the singer wishes would “last forever”, even at the expense of his “mind, body and soul”. The chorus generates the image of a powerful, influential figure who is reinforced in the second verse which features lyrics about ‘angel wings’ and things that cannot be explained. The story of this song allows its listeners to indulge in the exact sense of escape that is suggested by the lyrics, and cleverly guides their mind and ears to a place of solace and hope: something that is much needed in today’s climate.

Having already gathered attention from industry professionals and being featured on BBC Introducing, which has previously brought fame to major artists such as Ed Sheeran and Catfish and the Bottlemen, the track seems to indicate a bright future for La Club Royale. They are already working on new material and collaborations with other artists; if these retain the band’s individual and compelling sound, the duo shouldn’t face much of a challenge in making a name for themselves.

‘Rise Up’ will be released on Friday 5th March via all online digital platforms. You can pre save the single here.

Photos – @michealma98


Tren Go! Sound System / Ornamental – Assessment

Since 2021 arrived I have been patiently waiting for word on the first release of the year from Dirty Filthy Records. After a stellar set of releases in 2020 I was a bit worried they may have peaked in quality. Thankfully, I needn’t have worried.

For their first release of the year Dirty Filthy Records have teamed up with German label Pink Tank Records to release Assessment by Tren Go! Sound System and Ornamental.

Pedro Pestana (Tren Go! Sound System) and Sidney Yendis (Ornamental) join forces to take us on a trip into another dimension.

Tren Go! Sound System is a guitar, loop and effects driven one-man-band. You may know Pestana from 10 000 Russos and Talea Jacta. Yendis has been producing and performing electronic music under his alter ego ′′ Ornamental ′′ since 2013. He is also a member of the psychedelic rock band Burn Pilot.

Assessment kicks of with the title track. All glitchy electronica erupts into a pounding surf rock sonic assault. Instead of visions of Hawaii Five O this song is firmly set in space. I imagine the silver surfer travelling at breakneck speed from galaxy to galaxy. The drums and bass anchor the song whilst the guitar riffs soar. What a start!

Next up is ‘Meio Com Meio Sem’ which Google Translate reliably informs me is Portuguese for ‘Half with Half Without’. After the adrenaline fuelled rush of the opener we are now drifting through the cosmos. This has a real K7 or Compost vibe to it as well as being out there psyche. Its like Kruder and Dorfmeister suddenly discovered a fuzz pedal. Utterly enthralling and chilled to the max.

‘Tuarengue Fever’ further subverts our expectations with tribal drums and a very African vibe. The bass and guitar mirror each other and then split off to build and create their own worlds within the structure the drums provide. Its hypnotic, eerie and further proof that this band are no one trick ponies.

The album closes with some good old fashioned space rock. ‘Space Race (Breaking the Atmosphere)’. This is my favourite track on here and it delivers in spades. It takes all the rhythms and textures from across the album and repurposes them. I particularly enjoyed the trilling guitars at the five-minute mark. Just beautiful and they evoke the moment of entering space perfectly.

Assessment is such a satisfying listen. It never sits around mimicking the previous song. Instead, it constantly explores and evolves as it goes. This is essential listening and a lesson on how to engage a listener and take them on a journey.

Assessment will be released on cream opaque coloured vinyl on 12th March 2021 via Dirty Filthy Records webstore and the Pink Tank Records webstore.

Hadda Be – Another Life

Regular readers will know I have a particular soft spot for the amazing Last Night From Glasgow label. Every year they shine a spotlight on some really amazing talent. One such act that blew my mind was Brighton’s Foundlings. Their self-titled 2019 EP is still a regular spin in my house.

They return to us anew in 2021 ready to release their debut album on an unsuspecting world. They have also decided to rename the band for this next stage in their journey. So was born Hadda Be.

Ahead of the album release we have been gifted a sneak peek through the release of the single ‘Another Life’. Angular indie rock at its finest it’s accompanied with a video filmed at each of the band members’ homes.

This is music designed for a big stage. I can see Hadda Be being the must-see band at future festivals. This song is built for the mosh pit. If this is any indicator then we are in for a treat with the upcoming release of their album also entitled Another Life.

If high energy, guitar driven indie pop is your thing. If you like a killer chorus then you Hadda Be checking this band out.

Another Life will be released by Last Night From Glasgow on 30th April 2021. Pre orders are now available from the label’s webstore.

Strata Florida – Achilles

The record label 4AD has sound tracked most of my life. From bands such as Pixies, Cocteau Twins and Lush I learned there was so much more to music than the dross in the Top 10. It was from this stable that Swallow emerged releasing their landmark album Blow to wide critical acclaim in 1992. I played that album until it wore out my CD player.

Louise Trehy was once half of Swallow. After two exceptional albums together, Swallow broke up in 1994. Trehy walked away from music and left London for a self-sufficient life in rural Wales.

She returned to music after 20 years after meeting Peter Pavli (High Tide, Robert Calvert, Third Ear Band, Annette Peacock) at their local choir. They started to work together and over the next few years released two stunning albums.

In 2019 Mike Mason, the other half of Swallow, and Louise were in contact to sort out publishing permissions for a Swallow sample to be used by The Avalanches for a song to appear on their 2020 album We Will Always Love You. The song never appeared on that album but the relationship between Mike and Louise that had ended back in 1994 was mended.

Mike recorded and produced Strata Florida’s new music at his studio in mid-Wales, and also contributed by playing keyboards and programming the drums.

The two tracks from those sessions are now out in the form of ‘Achilles’ and ‘Ghost’.

‘Achilles’ is a song based around that signature gaze bass sound we all know and love. Louise sings of times ancient and forgotten. Hearing that voice again. Hearing that voice in this song. It’s really very special indeed. The song ebbs and flows and builds to a really satisfying finish. If you aren’t reaching for the play button to listen again, I’ll eat my jumper.

Much like ‘Achilles’ the second track ‘Ghost’ centres around the dancing bassline conjured by Pavli. There something comforting and familiar in his playing style which immediately made me warm to the track. That only compounds when Trehy’s trademark breathy vocals kick in. Love lost and the aftermath is the theme here but, all in all, the feeling you are left with is one of euphoria.

These tracks are available now on the groups Bandcamp in digital format as well as a now sold out, limited-edition box art cassette created by Louise herself.

Dreamback – After Before

I’m a huge post rock fan and find myself wallowing in fifteen-minute-long instrumental tracks and loving every minute. What I really enjoy though is when post rock merges with other genres to create something new and exciting. This is exactly what the debut EP from Staffordshire-based producer/musician Jamie Duddy has achieved with his musical project Dreamback.

Drawing on influences including My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Slowdive, Japanese Breakfast and Tame Impala; Dreamback combines lush, dreamy reverberation, fuzzy distortion and shimmering acoustic guitar to create layered soundscapes. Jamie has been sound tracking his dreams since August 2020 then self-releasing the After Before EP in October 2020.

The EP opens on ‘Before’ a wonderfully light song. It floats along on a picked acoustic theme, echoing Nick Drake in parts. In other parts you feel like you are listening to a lost Massive Attack song. A confident and assured way to open any EP.

‘Daze again utilises that acoustic base to build from. This time however Jamie strikes a marked contrast with a fuzzed-out guitar playing a wonderful glide part. Definitely drawing on his inner Kevin Shields. This song showcases Jamie’s understanding of dynamics and scale in a song. Superb.

After the pair of large open sounding songs, we have just heard, ‘Pressure’ turns the whole EP on a penny. We are now in a claustrophobic, eerie sounding place. Everything sounds distant from the drums to the main guitar line. I loved losing myself in this track.

The EP closes on the aptly titled ‘After’. There is something very final, something that’s says ‘this is the end’ about ‘After’. The layered guitar parts that escalate in the verse sections to the steady and sure-footed drums it’s a beautiful conclusion to this EP.

This is a stunning debut and I cannot wait to hear the upcoming album scheduled for release in Spring this year.

After Before is available now via the Dreamback Bandcamp page.

Last Tourist – Public Service

I have to admit to being a sucker for a cool seven inch single. There’s something about the format that makes the listening experience that bit more personal and immediate. I was absolutely buzzing when I received my copy of Public Service from Leeds based outfit Last Tourist.

Last Tourist conjures the sound of creeping down dark corridors and wandering through deserted spaces, all set to a moody and rhythmic danceable beat.

Drawing firmly from post-punk ideals, this darkwave, shoegaze, synth-infused four piece formed in 2017 and now feature John Wellby (guitar, vocals, programming) and Adam Simpson (synths, programming, backing vocals), Jason Booth (bass guitar, bass synth) and Andrea Parra (drums, backing vocals).

They cite influences by such as Joy Division, Interpol, Suicide, Diiv and The Jesus & Mary Chain.

.This first single is a double A side seven inch featuring the tracks “Public Service / Are We Just Algorithms?” and was released back in November last year.

“Public Service” is a darkly glorious synthwave meets shoegaze blend. Shimmering synths fight with 10-foot-tall guitars for your attention. Powerful bass lines, entwined with moody vocals and rhythmic danceable drums complete this heady concoction.

‘”Are We Just Algorithms?” has all the swagger of early Gary Numan but instead of that cold, robotic feel his work has, here, there is a human heart. The line “at least we’re still alive” has that hopeful counter to the title. The song is driven by the bass and drums sitting beneath wailing guitars and a catchy synth hook.

The single features a hidden track, consisting of an original Commodore 64 BASIC program written by Last Tourist, to accompany the single “Are We Just Algorithms?” A copy of this program file is hidden within the vinyl and cassette versions. Each record also contains a private QR code linking to a demonstration video.

The single is available to buy now, on vinyl or digital, from Bandcamp.

The Churchill Garden – Fade Away

It only seems like minutes since I was writing here about the last single from The Churchill Garden, ‘Reality’. Now here we are with the latest track from the collective mind of Andy Jossi and Krissy Vanderwoude.

Where ‘Reality’ was a real mover. with their latest single, ‘Fade Away’, the pace is more sedate. This slower tempo really plays to both their strengths. Andy has an uncanny ability to convey emotion through the dynamics of his music. As the song progresses we rise and fall, start and stop all leading to a stunning crescendo at the climax of the song.

Krissy, as usual, is pulling her lyrics straight from her heart. Layering heavenly harmonies over a stunning lead vocal. This is the summery hit we all need right now in these cold winter months.

If you haven’t listened to any of The Churchill Gardens previous work I would highly recommend their Heart & Soul album. As well as being an exquisite collection of songs it’s also one of the most beautifully designed records I have in my collection.

‘Fade Away’ is available now, digitally on The Churchill Garden Bandcamp page.

Mystery Rose – Stability

In a strange curve ball for me I received this out and out pop track this week. Normally I tend to lean to the alternative or indie artists however this artist seems to be ploughing a furrow all of her own.

Mystery Rose is a seventeen-year-old artist who has grown up in Los Angeles. Epicentre of the “look at me” culture. Rather than buying into all of that she has decided to eschew it, in favour of letting her music speak for her. Her style is familiar It has the indie pop of Amy McDonald with the acoustic strums and the teenage snarl of Avril Lavigne.

To date she has released five singles and now is back with new single ahead of her album release later this year.

‘Stability’ is a catchy number which will earn her a lot of fans. The tale is familiar. A failed teenage relationship that our singer is reflecting on.

“Lyrically, it’s about relationships. Whether you leave someone or you get left, you still feel vulnerable, like someone took away your stability — not just with them, but for future beaus! Break-ups have a lasting effect on everyone, no matter which side they are on.”

Whilst the songs lyrics have that naivety of youth, the melody is more fleshed out, especially in the chorus. Chiming guitars over a pounding drum beat lend a real credibility which I think an acoustic version of this song would lack.

 Mystery Rose has a great attitude to her music and how it is performed.

 “My interest is really in creating the song. Not so much who sings it, but who listens to it and how that audience is impacted or affected by the poignancy. If other artists use my material, or if ordinary listeners are singing in the mirror, that’s cool for me. I get a kick out of being the creator, not necessarily the only performer. I hope my work is universal in its appeal and that many will want to perform it.”

‘Stability’ is out now and you can access it on your chosen platform here.

White Flowers – Within a Dream EP

After two exquisitely crafted single releases in ‘Night Drive’ and ‘Day by Day’, Preston’s White Flowers return with their new EP Within a Dream. Recorded at home and in the studio back in 2020 during the various lockdowns the songs on the EP explore themes of isolation, dissociation and self-reflection in this troubling time.

White Flowers is made up of Katie Drew and Joey Cobb who together weave the most wonderful soundscapes blending post-punk, goth, dreampop and shoegaze in their own unique way.

The EP kicks off with the title track. It slowly appears, as if from the dark, with Katy’s whispered vocal over a cascading synth. An ominous bassline looms large until the chorus blooms with the most joyous melody. It’s a surefooted opening and retains the White Flowers aesthetic from their previous releases.

‘Blue May’ follows, a more chilled affair. Laid back vocals and reverb-soaked guitar. It has all the intent of a 1950’s ballad couched in the most modern of delivery and production. The swirling outro is pleasantly discombobulating and a great way to finish the song.

Over on Side B we find ‘You Caught Me’ a dynamic and enthralling mix of goth and dreampop. The balance struck between the dark bass and synth parts against Katy’s beautiful voice and the glistening guitar is spot on.

After the three originals which explore the outer edges of post-punk, dreampop and shoegaze in increasingly alien ways comes a beguiling cover version of Mama Cass’s ‘Didn’t Want to Have to Do It’. As with their version of Red House Painters’ ‘Katy Song’ from the Day-by-Day single it provides another example of how defined White Flowers’ aesthetic has become, as they’re effortlessly able to shape the music of others to their own vision.

This gorgeous four song collection is out now via Tough Love. Alongside digital formats, it will be pressed to 12″ transparent vinyl in an edition of 300 which you can order via their Bandcamp page, Tough Love or a selection of indie retailers.

You, Nothing – Reflectie

Italy is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever visited. There is a fine tradition of world class music emanating from their shores. Continuing that tradition is You, Nothing, an up-and-coming shoegaze/dreampop band based out of Verona. Formed in 2019 the band consists of Gioia Podestà (vocals and guitar); Federico Costanzi (guitar and keyboards); Giulia Cinquetti (bass) and Nicola Poiana (drums and drum machine).

Back in October 2020 the band released their dreamy first single “Waves” and its video which you can check out below.

Their music mainly recalls the shoegaze scene of the early 90s, made up of reverberated and distorted sounds, vocals sometimes ethereal, sometimes punchier with the addition of post-punk rhythms.

Now they are back to release their second single “Reflectie” and a homemade video, edited by the guitarist, filmed and directed by the band. The song is exquisite with Gioia’s voice complementing the chiming guitar and crystalline synth perfectly. The chorus is massive. I can see this playing well in big venues one day. This is a band with ambition and the skill and passion to deliver.

Last summer they recorded their debut album which I can reveal will be called “Lonely // Lovely”. There is no release date set as yet but as soon as I know about it, I’ll be back to give you a track-by-track breakdown.

“Reflectie” is out now via Flippy Dischi and you can access it here.

The Empty Sleeps ‘PANTHERS’

This last year has been a tough one for all of us, for so many reasons. As we headed into 2021 my hope was for another great year of music to help us all escape the stress and chaos of life today. Music to lift us up and envelope us in its warm embrace.

It was with absolute joy that I received the new EP from Australian gazers The Empty Sleeps who are Nic Datson (formerly of No Through Road / Alpha Beta Fox) and Tristan Hennig (formerly of Little Ice Age / Bye Bye Mountain). After stirring up quite the buzz on the international shoegaze scene with their first release ‘Good Place’, this Adelaide two-piece dreamgaze outfit return with ‘PANTHERS’.

As soon as this song begins you immediately exhale and smile. It feels like a wave of joy just washing over you. It almost feels orchestral in places. The guitar riff loops around and each time another layer is added. A guitar lick here, a vocal line there. All adding up to an exultant, joyous four minutes.

The title track is then remixed by Blush Response, Tim Koch, Lone Kite, Deep Sea Data and Dental Jams/Ezroh. What is really interesting is how each remix retains that jubilant heartbeat that drives and powers the song whilst adding their own unique take.  I would draw the listeners ear to the Blush Response remix in particular. It is just stunning.

What a fantastic way to begin the year. ‘PANTHERS’ is being released on CD, download and a limited edition 10” vinyl available now from The Empty Sleeps Bandcamp page.

The Rosie Varela Project – Low

The EEP singer is back with her own solo outing with The Rosie Varela Project. ‘Low’ is the first single from Rosie who says she created this outlet for herself so she could stay productive and sane between her monthly virtual EEP recording sessions. This will also let her record her back catalogue of songs leading to an album in 2022.

The song kicks of with a shimmering wall of guitars supported by pounding drums. Immediately you can tell this is going to be altogether different to her work with EEP.

Dreamy, woozy and overlapping vocal lines keep the listener off balance whilst the crystalline guitars chime over everything like sunlight on a lake. The song climaxes with a sixties style psychedelic jam with Rosie channelling her inner Grace Slick.

‘Low’ will be released February 5th on Rosie’s Bandcamp page. For a sneak peek head over to The Rosie Varela Project Facebook page.