Song of the Day – SYKES

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SYKES are bringing back infectious electro-pop with their latest release ‘Anybody Out There’. Back in 2009 we saw La Roux’s self entitled album revived the retro electro scene and SYKES are doing just that with a modern twist. With incredibly catchy vocal melodies and minimalist guitar lines they utilise the space in their tracks very effectively generating music that’s not only really memorable but also really fun to listen to. Reminiscent of a gentler and more melodic Yeah Yeah Yeahs with hints of The Naked and Famous, I’m eager to see where they take their music. For an unsigned band they’re generating some excellent tracks and I’m sure they’ll be making their mark on the electro-pop scene very soon.

‘Anybody Out There’ is currently available on Spotify and for purchase on iTunes.

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Alt-J – This Is All Yours Review

alt-J play it safe with their new release but manage to produce something satisfying and overall enjoyable.

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7.5/10                                Released: 22 September 2014 (Infectious)
Written by Joseph Murray

There have been instances of a band having an explosive debut and being unable to meet the hype for the next release but This Is All Yours is proof that alt-J have a lot to offer to the alternative music scene. The albums sound is incredibly familiar with almost identical instrumental arrangements to their first album An Awesome Wave however, they have managed to keep it fairly fresh by developing their mix of lo-fi guitar and electronic soundscapes to a new level.

Normally a band releasing what is effectively a part two to a debut album is tiring but it’s refreshing to see that alt-J are focused on their sound and are getting a lot out of it. Their contrast between bone dry tracks to super spacious tracks is, as always, really effective and this time round the electronic aspect seems a lot more refined and it really works in their favour. Hopefully we’ll see something equally epic for their third release but it would be good to see them branch out a little further and get a little weirder. An example of this is their vocal arrangements that feel a little safe in places but perhaps this not to detract from their complexity of sounds.

Whilst not entirely hit and miss the albums strong points are incredibly good with tracks such as ‘Intro’, ‘Every Other Freckle’ and the super seductive ‘Bloodflood pt.II.’ The weaker tracks aren’t so much bad they’re just slightly out of place and irrelevant, particularly the ‘Garden of England’ interlude and ‘Pusher’. Aside from the single releases (‘Hunger Of The Pine’ and ‘Left Hand Free’) other mentionable tracks are the beautifully haunting bonus track ‘Lovely Day’ and the slightly confusing but very pretty ‘Warm Foothills’. The undoubtable highlight has to be the Nara trilogy which encompasses all of the albums elements and translates them into three outstanding tracks (‘Arrival in Nara’, ‘Nara’ and ‘Leaving Nara’) which are supremely epic.

I have no doubt that there is a lot more to come from alt-J in the future I just sincerely hope that they really push themselves for their next release and aim to generate something a bit more ambitious. Playing it safe isn’t entirely a bad thing as can be heard with ‘This Is All Yours’ but ambitious musical movements means that we don’t have Radiohead or Bombay Bicycle Club releasing the same record year after year. For a band that caused a lot of fuss back in 2012 I feel like they can definitely shake things up a little more than they have this time round and only time will tell, upon their third release, if they are indeed a one trick pony.

I feel that an important note on this album is that it shouldn’t be viewed as anything massively innovative because there is clearly no intention of this. I think that this kind of hype overshadowed their debut when really it was simply just quirky and interesting indie rock. Getting too bogged down with the idea that alt-J are the “new Radiohead” is quite crass and convoluted. Sure they’re definitely influenced by them but find me a rock band over the past two decades that aren’t. This Is All Yours is raw, menacing and layered with brooding intensity and deserves to be viewed in its own right.

Despite my minor frustrations and nitpicking, overall this album is excellent and probably one of the best of this year. alt-J were put in an impossible position for their second release with all the hype surrounding the band and I certainly believe that they have done as well as they could have given the time they’ve had. As an incredibly exciting live band I look forward to seeing them back at festivals next summer and seeing what they do with their new material on stage.

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Pick of the Week – Killing Moons: New Moons Volume II

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If there’s one thing you need to give your ears some pleasure this week, it’s Killing Moon‘s latest compilation. Made in partnership with Ally McCrae from Radio 1, New Moons: Volume II highlights a whole host of artists who deserve some attention. It features 26 tracks that span the musical horizons, with John J Presley‘s awesome hard hitting blues rock to the deep-seated electronic grooves of One Bit and then the heartfelt big chorus from Clubs, there’s something to suit every taste.

The standout feature of this compilation is how you can hear how much everything has been thought out and lovingly laid out. Each track is quality and unique. No space-fillers will be found here. No sir, not at all. It’s literally crammed to the rafters with amazing music and is demonstrative of Killing Moon‘s ethos. Killing Moon is a record label that has signed some great artists in the last few years and is dedicated to bringing the best in new talent to the forefront.

The release of the album is also running alongside Killing Moon Vs Club NME this Friday 19 September at London Koko and you can get tickets here .

The album is available from 15th September on iTunes, Amazon, Deezer, and Spotify and there will be 100 limited edition commemorative CD tins released through the label.

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Song of the Day – Gianna Lauren

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Having a stressful day? Feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all? Take a deep breath, relax, and listen to the lush and simply beautiful voice of Canadian songstress Gianna Lauren. You may be thinking that there are quite enough female singer/songwriters out there at the moment- do we really need another? But it is no understatement to say that Gianna Lauren’s music stands out from the crowd. Her voice is like silk, her melodies are divine and the overall production of her songs is simply breathtaking. It’s lovely stuff that sounds unique and effortlessly charming.

‘Anchor Down’ is the latest track to be taken from her On Personhood EP and its release comes alongside her UK tour later this month. Also check out Dreamsploitations’ remix of 2010’s ’19 minutes’.

September 24 – Truro, UK – Speakeasy
September 25 – Southampton, UK – The Art House
September 26 - London, UK – Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen
September 27 – Cardiff, UK – Four Bars
September 28 Bristol, UK -The Canteen

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Song of the Day – Cloud Castle Lake

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It would be difficult to find a band that hasn’t taken some influence from Radiohead over the years but Cloud Castle Lake have managed to do it effortlessly and organically creating something truly unique.

With tasteful nods to both post rock and art pop ‘Sync’ is incredibly approachable and really keeps you guessing every step of the way. There is an odd sense of familiarity in their sound with the obvious influences from Radiohead’s releases In Rainbows and The King of Limbs however, their addition of cinematic horn arrangements and fresh psychedelic sounds means that they’re certainly a band to look out for. The track is introduced with emotive horns and haunting falsetto reminiscent of Jeff Buckley and Sigur Rós only to be interrupted by an intimate and timbrally exciting percussion arrangement. Despite it being very alternative to most modern indie pop there is an inconceivable dance factor to it which really gets you wiggling along. With only two track releases under their belt there’s a lot more to come from Cloud Castle Lake and if their debut release ‘Sync’ is anything to go by we can look forward to some very exciting releases in the future.

Their debut 4 track EP ‘Dandelion’ is due for release on September 19th 2014 in Ireland and September 22nd 2014 across the rest of the UK in both digital and 12” vinyl format.

Written by Joseph Murray

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Song of the Day – Menace Beach

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 10.23.11Check out the new song from Menace Beach, taken from the much anticipated new album which should be on the horizon very soon. It’s a song that begins with deceptively sweet vocals, but quickly bursts into an energetic track of chaotic, yet catchy, choruses, and becomes a dramatic package of carnage and excitement. With a little bit of help from members of Pulled Apart By Horses and Joanna Gruesome, the band have managed bring their grainy demos to life and have create a truly unique sound that gets the heart racing and makes you want to strut and pretend you are cooler than you are.

The new single is out this week on Memphis Industries.

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Song of the Day – ATTU

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Hello, hello, and hello again.  Today’s best new song comes from London electro-pop outfit ATTU. ‘Hibernate’ is the excellent new track to be taken from their upcoming debut EP entitled We Are Ordinary People. It is fittingly relaxing with its ambient harmonies and Stefan and Michelle Antoinette’s vocals beautifully complimenting one another, but also retains an undercurrent of electro melodies that build the pace and the atmosphere. Guaranteed to drive its way into your consciousness and remain there for the rest of the day, this catchy little song makes the build up to the EP ever more exciting, and builds the anticipation of what is to come in the future.

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Song of the Day – Avi Buffalo

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Today’s Song of the Day is the first track to be taken from Avi Buffalo‘s highly anticipated second album At Best Cuckold released 8th September 2014. ‘So What’ is a sun-tinged, soul-warming song, fuelled by catchy choruses, harmonies ridden with ‘aaaahh’s and delicate guitar riffs. Paired with its beautifully filmed video, its effect is stunning and tender in equal measures. It’s the perfect soundtrack for the heatwave and for carefree days lazing around catching some rays. Easy on the ear and pleasurable for the soul, it’s a delightful track that will leave you wanting more.

At Best Cuckold is now available for pre-order through Sub Pop MegamartiTunes and Amazon.

Catch Avi Buffalo on tour this Autumn:

Sep. 23 – Gothenburg, SE – Pustervik
Sep. 24 – Stockholm, SE – Kagelbanan
Sep. 25 – Oslo, NO – John Dee
Sep. 26 – Lund, SE – Mejeret
Sep. 28 – Copenhagen, DK – Vega / Ideal Bar
Sep. 29 – Hamburg, DE – Prinzenbar
Oct. 01 – Paris, FR – Le Divan du Monde
Oct. 03 – Manchester, UK – Deaf Institute
Oct. 05 – Dublin, IE – Whelan’s
Oct. 06 – Glasgow, UK – Broadcast
Oct. 08 – Bristol, UK – Thekla
Oct. 10 – London, UK – Islington Assembly Hall
Oct. 14 – Amsterdam, NL – Tolshuistuin
Oct. 15 – Brussels, BE – Botanique / Witloof Bar
Oct. 16 – Koln, DE – Luxor
Oct. 17 – Berlin, DE – Privatclub

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A Few Words With… Jake Evans

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Want to listen to something that is positively uplifting, catchy and full of powerful guitar riffs? Well, look no further. Jake Evans is the man you are looking for. You may recognise him, either from his work with Bernard Sumner in Bar Lieutenant or spotted him playing alongside Jimi Goodwin at this year’s Glastonbury Festival or as the support act on Goodwin‘s tour. He has now spread his wings and his making his way on his own. Equipped with a collection of anthems and songs that warm your soul, take the magnificent ‘Easy On My Soul’ or the latest single ‘This Is Life’, the future is looking bright, so get listening and be ahead of the game and you will be similarly mesmerised by Evans’ songwriting style.

The Music Shepherd was fortunate enough to get hold of the talented fella and ask him about what it’s like working with the big names and where he sees himself in the future.

  • You’ve worked with a lot of influential people in the last few years – in particular New Order’s Bernard Sumner in Bad Lieutenant – do you ever find it a daunting experience?

I did find it a little daunting at first, I’d only met Bernard once or twice briefly, but based upon what he’d heard of my stuff, he suggested getting a new band together. Of course, I accepted the invitation! The next thing I knew we were in Alex James’s house setting up and demoing some stuff with him in the earliest incarnation of Bad Lieutenant. I did think ‘how have I got here all of a sudden?’. I mean, the guy hasn’t just been in one extremely influential band, but two! Having said that, it doesn’t take long before you have to start working on a level with one another just so you can function as writers and as a band, so I settled into it naturally with time.

  • What’s it like going solo? Do you prefer it?

It’s just different, really. It feels as though this is the right time for making my own record, and I’ve really enjoyed it. It can feel a little more daunting going solo logistically, as, when I started making the album there was no possibility of a label or any funding, meaning that I did everything myself pretty much. That means there’s more responsibility put upon you, but actually, that’s also quite liberating and exciting too.

  • Is there anyone you would particularly like to work with in the future?
I was/am a huge fan of Doves before I started working with Jimi Goodwin, so that’s one ambition realised so far! I’m still waiting on that call from Bob Dylan, but I don’t think he got my email. Apart from that, I saw Courtney Barnett at Glastonbury whilst playing with Jimi, she’s really cool. I’d love to write a track with her.
  • ‘This Is Life’ is your new single, what’s the story behind it?
I originally wrote that song with Bernard in mind on the chorus. It soon dawned on me that if I wanted to tour it, it wasn’t gonna be possible with his schedule, so I sang it all. but there’s an alternate version on the album that he sings. It’s a song about some sort of struggle, but the necessity of that struggle to appreciate what follows.
  • What does the songwriting process involve for you?
I try not to overthink it, it can start from anything really. I often feel as though I trick myself into it by catching myself off guard, be it with a loop of some kind, a line, or a chord progression or something. It generally starts with a feeling that’s gotta come out. Sometimes it’s a case of turning that starter motor until it fires up and starts ticking over. Sometimes it just happens by itself.
  • Who or what has been your biggest musical influence?

There are seriously too many musical influences to mention, and probably no-one singularly more influential than any other. In my formative years especially it depended on what month you asked me, when there was a whole world opening up to my ears. Through my teens when I really started getting stuck in, it was my parent’s records and all the 60’s greats – Beatles, Dylan, Hendrix The Stones – They really got me going. Other than that it’s life, observations and people I hold dear.

  • You’ve just been on tour with Jimi Goodwin from Doves –  how did that pan out? Any stories to share?

It was brilliant! To be playing with that guy in his band is a real privilege. He’s a great writer, musician, and all round top bloke. We’re still touring actually. We just played Glastonbury on the Park Stage and we had a really good time there. We supported Elbow throughout April in all of the UK megadomes, and even ended our support tour with them with the obligatory Who-esque cliché rock and roll bow on the final night at the 02 in London. Elbow are a great band and they really looked after Jimi and all of us.

Following the April tour we did a full UK tour in May – for which my own band supported on some dates to promote the new single. I did unfortunately break my finger with 10 dates left to go, after trapping it in a door, but with the power of Co-Codamol, I made it through. I wouldn’t have minded, had I been skydiving, but I was just getting out of a taxi! Following the tour and supports with Jimi, I did more of my own UK dates in June, which were really enjoyable too.
  • Where is your favourite place in the country to play?
Scottish crowds have been ace, and so was Southern Ireland on this tour. They made us feel really special. All of the shows were fantastic though.
  • What’s the aim for the future? Where do you hope to be in the next few years?
My immediate plan is for the next single, followed by the album towards the end of the year, and more dates to follow. As far as the next few years go, I want to be making music I believe in, and hoping that music connects with more and more people as time goes on.
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Song of the Day – Haley Bonar

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Meet Haley Bonar. She’s the talented college dropout who was determined to make it with her music. Today, she debuts ‘Heaven’s Made For Two’, the first track to be taken from her new album, Last War, released this September. The song is a tasty mixture of crunching guitars, whimsical vocals and dreamy floating melodies that build into a big climax of explosive riot-ridden energy. In the past she has worked with the likes of Andrew Bird, Justin Vernon and Jeremy Hanson, and is now set to make a name for herself.

She’s also coming to the UK this Autumn, but in the meantime, get listening to this totally glorious new track.

27 Oct – Brighton, Green Door (Free show)
28 Oct – Bristol, Start The Bus  (Free Show)
29 Oct – London, The Lexington
30 Oct – Manchester, Gullivers
31 Oct – Glasgow, Nice N Sleazy
01 Nov – Liverpool, Liverpool Music Week

Have something you reckon The Music Shepherd would want to hear? Send it over!