Song of the Day – The Ropes

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‘Sadness Is The Rich Man’s Drug’. Well, that’s quite a statement. And one that drives the leading track from The Ropes’ latest EP. The mysterious duo’s latest EP is all about minimalist textures, hand claps and lead singer Sharon Shy’s gloom-filled, but endearingly beautiful drawl. For any fans of dark, shoe-gazy minimalism and dark lyricism, you have come to the right place.

Have something you reckon The Music Shepherd would be interested in? Send it over – amelia.musicshepherd@gmail.co.uk

Track Premiere – Remi Miles ‘I Want You’

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The Music Shepherd is proud to premiere the pop-tastic new track from Brighton’s brightest new upstart – Remi Miles. ‘I Want You’ is fuelled by pop hooks, quirky synths and glistens in its full-on pop simplicity that ensures happiness. It’s literally impossible not to smile when you hear it. It tells the tale of a big night out on the town, full of lust, strobe lights, whiskey and late-night conversations. It’ll have you dancing like no one is watching in no time and will undoubtedly also get stuck in your head for the rest of the day (you have been warned.) 2015 is looking like a big one for Mr Miles, so keep your eyes peeled for more of his infectious music.

Catch Remi Miles live later this month:

Wednesday 12th November: King’s Sessions @ The King’s Head,London

Wednesday 19th November: Gold Dust @ Hoxton Bar & Kitchen, London

Sunday 23rd November: Ting Tings support @ The Haunt, Brighton

Friday 28th November: Live @ Also Known As, Banbury

Have something you reckon The Music Shepherd would be interested in? Send it over! amelia.musicshepherd@gmail.co.uk

Song of the Day – Kate Boy

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With a sound that echoes early tunes from The Knife, Kate Boy are the Swedish based trio that are capturing the attention and hearts of listeners across the globe. Signing to Fiction Records, the trio have spiced up a concoction of infectious and perfectly articulated beats and melodies and paired it with a pop flare. It’s catchy, clever and will leave you wanting more. They’ve got much more set up for 2015, but for now listen to ‘Open Fire’ and revel in the modern electronic pop marvellousness.

Have something you reckon The Music Shepherd would be interested in? Send it over! amelia.musicshepherd@gmail.co.uk

Song of the Day – MOURN

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You could probably guess that with a band named MOURN there was going to be much room for light and happiness. ‘Silver Gold’ is a heart-racing stampede of PJ Harvey-esque noise fuelled by the phrase ‘deliver me from heaven‘ that suddenly springs into a monster of crashing darkness. It’s hard to believe that such defined darkness could come from a band so young (the Catalonian foursome range from 15-18 years old) and that they would be able to create such a screeching and screaming smash-up of haunting doom and powerful guitar riffs that creep down your spine.

Early next year will see Captured Tracks release their debut album which is already available digitally.

Have something you reckon The Music Shepherd would be interested in? Send it over! amelia.musicshepherd@gmail.co.uk

Song of the Day – Juce

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’6th Floor’ is the brand new track released by the 90s loving girls that call themselves JUCE. The trio dress like they have just come out of a 90s romcom and have a sound that is packed with effortlessly cool grooves and lusty lyrics. Think Blood Orange bass lines, the catchiness of HAIM and Prince-style funked-up guitar riffs all injected into one song, and you’ll have something similar to the groove-ridden pop that JUCE have brought to this world. From the first listen, you are brought into the seductive 90s disco. And you’ll never want to leave.

The trio have just signed to Island Records and are set to release their excellently named ‘Taste the JUCE!’ EP on 3rd November.

Have something you reckon The Music Shepherd would be interested in? Send it over! amelia.musicshepherd@gmail.com

Pick of the Week – Hanni El Khatib

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Hanni El Khatib is back in town. After his Dan Auerbach-produced debut, he locked himself away in a studio in LA for a month and now he marks his return with ‘Moonlight’, a delectably haunting track and the first to be released from his upcoming album of the same name. If this track is anything to go by, we should be expecting more harrowing, but genre-jumping tracks from an artist who is able to experiment to his hearts content, but is still able to produce the goods. The way the track moves in with its pounding beat that creeps up behind Hanni’s cooler-than-thou drawl, whilst simultaneously exploring the limitations of life and death will have you on edge, but equally enthralled by its darkness. Epically dark, and perfectly executed, it leaves you on a cliff edge that will have you pining for the rest of the album, (which comes out 18th January, so thankfully, the wait won’t be too long!)

Pre-order “Moonlight” here.

Have something you reckon The Music Shepherd would be interested in? Send it over! amelia.musicshepherd@gmail.com

A Few Words With… Mechanimal

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The world is in a bit of a mess at the moment: from the unrest in Syria to the spread of Ebola to protests in Hong Kong, the news is filled with tragic and disturbing stories from across the globe. Yet, there is only so much that the news can tell us, and all too often there are stories that are ignored. Greece is another country that has had a very difficult few years, from the riots against austerity measures in 2011 to the economic issues that are still continuing today, it is something that we only get to hear so much about from mainstream news sources, and something that Mechanimal are addressing head-on. They have created a sound and music that reflects the problematic reality that faces people everyday. The Music Shepherd caught up with the Greek band to get a deeper understanding of how they have curated their deep industrial sound and what has musically and politically inspired them as artists.

The story goes that “Giannis Papaioannou and Freddie Faulkenberry met at a magazine shooting”, but what was it that brought your minds together? How did the prospect of actively making music together come about?

GP: Apart from being a musician, I also enjoy writing, so Ι’ve been working as Editor in Chief for many Greek magazines. Part of this job was to plan fashion editorials. That’s how we met with Freddie: on a fashion shoot. I liked his deep voice and the way he was telling stories. It was around 2011, and I was about to release an EP under my techno alias ION, influenced by the massive demonstrations down in the centre of Athens. I asked Freddie if he would like to contribute the spoken voice part on one of the tracks, called “Low Land.”

During these sessions we listened to some other tracks that were never released yet, Freddie liked them, so I asked him if he’d like to work further on new music with a different approach to my techno productions. He got excited, we started recording more and more, I brought in a guitarist to shape a more organic sound, and we finally decided to make this an audio-visual project with the final addition of a video artist, Angelica Vrettou, who would dress our live performances with backing visuals. The name Mechanimal was taken from Angelica’s alias on Twitter.

When you began making music together as Mechanimal, was there a definitive message that you were trying to get across?

GP: I believe the main message was that “there is some kind of new and unique stuff being made in Athens”. We all liked the idea of building some kind of a mechanical beast, something that is driven by machinery in perfect balance with organic sounds, which should breed innovation in the Greek sonic palette.

FF: I found it challenging adding a vocal narrative to something that would create a moment, or even an image in someone’s mind; so far I had been telling stories by photographing, they were never necessarily mine, they were mostly about my subject, a story I borrowed briefly to say something that represented me as well. Adding collaborators, musicians and Giannis who would write lyrics and then let me channel stories through my voice and performance was an extra interesting challenge and approach to new avenues for me.

How did you decide on your sound, or did it come about organically?

GP: I believe the sound found us. Like I said, we had just finished the vocal takes on “Low Land” with Freddie, and we were sitting in my studio listening to other tracks, so then suddenly iTunes started to play some “hidden” tracks of mine. Freddie asked me “What’s this? That’s awesome, much better than what we just did!”. It all started from there, bringing up tracks that were lying secretly on a hard disk.

How would you describe your drone’n’roll sound to somebody who hasn’t heard your music before?

GP: Drone ‘n’ roll was an inside joke, mostly because our music is based on “big” sustained notes, played by simultaneously driven monophonic synths and massively e-bowed guitars, all running on vintage drum machine rhythms. I think the Mechanimal version of “Low Land”, the one we did for our first album, was the main reason for giving this term to our music. Sure, we have evolved since then, but you can still hear this approach on newer tracks such as “The Den” and “Song to the Sirens”.

FF: We love screwing around with names and we kept on being asked the same damn question in the beginning, about what exactly we played so we though it out as a joke at some interview and then everyone started label us that. It kinda works though.

Your music purposefully demonstrates a restless urban environment and paints pictures of dystopian industrial landscapes. There is evidently a strong political streak running through this. It seems that people have really latched on to your message and what Mechanimal stands for. How do you feel about that? Do you feel you have given people a voice?

GP: It feels good when people near us, our friends, our families, our audience, even the established Greek media forces, truly understand how we deal with social reality. We are not a gothic band dealing with dystopian darkness nor a straight forward political band. We may transmit the message from deserted schoolyards, we may speak about how people in Greece (or even globally) face a tempestuous future on account of the present social and economic crisis of capitalism, but this is what we see outside our studio. The dystopian concept is there, in front of our eyes. So, I often feel like staring at the sun creeping through the corners of an ancient city, then taking notes and then writing songs, when others tend to look down and act like mindless cattle, devoid of any individuality (or power of resistance) whatsoever. So, I’m feeling happy when people realise that there is no concept in Mechanimal that isn’t rooted in things that are already happening.

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What is it really like to live in Athens today? What kind of impact do you think the media has?

GP: Athens is facing a change of season. It may take longer than expected, but it’s actually happening. Of course, in all this recession, certain class prejudices make themselves evident. Now, objective reality makes its own demands, but the Greek media just scrolls the cursor on the surface of the crisis problem: where government promises false development and former “radicals” look upon the defeats of the working class in the 1970s and 1980s not as the outcome of the betrayals of their “socialist” leaders, but the fault of the masses themselves. So, extreme and mindless consumerism in the 1990s has brought us head on with  problems such as a collapsed education system, massive unemployment, sexual repression, racial discrimination. The depth of the present situation requires serious thought and feeling and artists are not exempt from treating the subject, in their own way, with true diligence.

In what ways is your new album Secret Science a development from your debut? Has the message changed in any way?

GP: If our first album was about the creation of a new kind of mechanical breed inside some obscure lab, this one is about letting the mechanical beast free to educate its spirit, in the environment outside the lab. It’s about its survival codes, dreams, hopes and fears.

FF: On my part it’s different melodically; it requires a whole different approach being melodic to express something sternly and firmly. Melody may have made things a bit more aggressive but it it’s also more familiar to people so it’s a bit more massive and easier to the ear.

What do you try to achieve in the live setting? How important are live performances to you?

GP: By keeping a balance between a wall of sound of pulsating synthesisers, complex techno rhythms, manic guitars and live drumming and the “preachiness” of Freddie’s voice. We’ve played our music live a lot in Greece and now we’re planning our first shows outside Greek borders. From the beginning we wanted to be able to perform anywhere: on the small stage of a punk club, or in the clinical environment of a gallery or in a perfect sound environment of a grand music hall. We have done all. And they were all important performances to the progress of the live band. For example, we started playing gigs with no drummer. Now, there’s a drummer in our shows and he’ll be a major force in the recordings of our new album.

What musical inspirations lie behind Mechanimal’s sound?

GP: Early industrial bands such as Cabaret Voltaire and Throbbing Gristle, symbolic names like Joy Division, Magazine and early Ultravox!, American bands like The Residents, Suicide, Chrome and Tuxedomoon.

FF: A bunch of old 4AD stuff, hip hop, I’m a huge Cure fan and a bunch of 80′s hardcore as well.

Are there any artists in particular that have had a profound effect on you throughout your lives?

GP: As a music fan I could state hundreds of artists that have had an effect on us, but from the beginning this project was carefully built to slowly form its own “live” character. The energy of this unit has often been compared (from just one show) to doom metal bands, hardcore punk ones, drone electronic explorers or even heavy industrial bands. This sounds confusing already, so I prefer to remain silent about our live comparisons and let our fans express what they get from us.

What’s next for Mechanimal?

GP: We are currently finishing a new track for a forthcoming Inner Ear compilation and then we hit the road for a Greek tour in December. After that we shall begin with our sessions for the new album, which hopefully will feature some new collaborations. In spring we’ll announce our first gigs abroad.

Have something you reckon The Music Shepherd would be interested in? Send it over! amelia.musicshepherd@gmail.com

 

Mercury Prize Countdown: Album Six

So we are now half way through out definitive guide to the Mercury Prize 2014, with all eyes on Kate Tempest‘s Everybody Down. Each day we will be looking at each nomination in turn and reviewing the album in its entirety and also analysing its chances of winning. The Mercury Prize 2014 will be announced on 29th October 2014 and broadcast live on Channel 4.

Kate Tempest – Everybody Down

7.5

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Kate Tempest has been heralded as the favourite for Mercury 2014. Her razor sharp delivery, intricate rhymes and social commentary bring this album alive until it is virtually jumping out of the speakers as a total beast of its own kind. As well as being nominated for the Mercury Prize, she was also listed in the Poetry Book Society’s list of Next Generation Poets; a prestigious list only announced once a decade, and the fact that she was the youngest figure in the list stands as a testament to her talent.

People have found it incredibly hard to pigeon-hole Tempest’s sound, as it is slathered with influences, probably most notably from Mike Skinner, as she shares his dead-pan, but poetic outlook on the life that goes on around her. Everybody Down is an impressive collection of poems/songs/raps that follow the story of a collection of characters, with the focus put on Becky and Harry. It’s a cleverly structured concept album that follows a path with these characters and explores feelings of alienation and despair, using its sharp social commentary to build a world of crappy, South London pubs and families that are falling apart. Although Tempest is frequently dealing with depressing scenes, with songs such as ‘Chicken’ (centred around a family dinner where the tension between Harry and his mum’s new boyfriend builds and builds) or ‘The Truth’, she superbly balances her cynicism with humour and moments of light.

Her understanding of words and characters is absolutely central to everything that happens in Everybody Down and the way it builds and expresses a number of emotions and relatable situations. Her delivery gives an incredible potency to the tracks, as she snarls and seems to become each character in turn, and it means that listening to Everybody Down is like reading a book, where each track works as a new chapter in the story. She is a literary talent that is bringing poetry strongly and firmly into the 21st century, and at only 27 years old, this is no mean feat.

In terms of winning the Mercury, she could very well take it, and there is no denying her superb talent with words. However, although lyrically she is incredible, musically other albums on the prestigious list far out-shine this album in their intricacy and brilliance. The music stands second to the words on this album, and that is where it runs into trouble.

Best Tracks 

Marshall Law – a stark and full-on force that kick-starts the album and introduces Harry and Becky to the story. It hits you right between the eyes and leaves you with images so vivid, you feel that you are living within the scenes themselves.

Chicken – depicts the awkward scene between a son and his mother’s new boyfriend. You can feel the friction and the tension in every syllable.

Stink – looks at a love gone wrong, and shows it in all its darkness and despair.

Have something you reckon The Music Shepherd would be interested in? Send it over! amelia.musicshepherd@gmail.com

 

Mercury Prize Countdown: Album Five

We are continuing our definitive guide to the Mercury Prize, today looking at the fantastic East India Youth. In the lead up to the award ceremony, we will be taking an in-depth look into every nomination, analysing the album in its entirety and seeing what its chances of winning are. The award will be announced on 29th October and broadcasted live on Channel 4.

East India Youth – Total Strife Forever

8.8

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William Doyle, better know as East India Youth is an experimental electronic musician from Bournemouth, England. His debut Total Strife Forever has received overwhelmingly positive reviews and rightly so. With only one album and a few EP’s under his belt there is certainly a lot more to come from East India Youth.

An “pop” album containing mostly instrumentals is brave but in this instance it works in its own favour. It makes the music more engaging and when we are surprised with vocals it’s an excellent contrast. With a plethora of obvious musical influences it’s impossible to put your finger on where East India Youth fits in the music world but perhaps this unconformity that Total Strife Forever offers is what makes it so irresistible. Layers of intricate music and sound displays that William Doyle simply cannot be described in any way other than a sonic polymath. The music is simply brilliant and very aware of its unsubtlety in the sense that you have no idea what’s going on half of the time but you somehow land on your feet at the end of it all.

Although this may be seen as something fairly cutting edge or avant-garde, ultimately, it seems that this is an album that William Doyle was, alone, unable to translate into a post/noise-rock context and instead has shaped something absolutely magical with the extensive use of electronics. The strangest part of this mostly instrumental album is the fact that Doyle is an exceptional songwriter which is apparent from the tracks ‘Dripping Down’ and ‘Heaven, How Long’, with beautiful lines such as “You may be moving at glacial paces/But you’re not melting” and “In light of all that is around me/There’s something clinical about me”. From this we know that despite it’s overall distant feel with the mass of instrumentals this is an incredibly personal and emotional record. Considering Doyle’s critical success it’s a complete miracle that his universe hasn’t exploded but perhaps the Mercury nomination is the nudge that both he and the world of music lovers need to discover and develop something glorious together.

Total Strife Forever is undeniably one of the most interesting records on the shortlist but whether it’s a favourite to win is uncertain. It wouldn’t be underserving if Total Strife Forever was to win but seeing as James Blake won last year it seems unlikely that we’ll have another alternative electro bedroom musician winning as to keep the Mercury Prize from appearing too selective. Having said that the Mercury Prize has never been entirely predictable with its winners so it definitely wouldn’t be impossible to see William Doyle collect the award this year.

Top Tracks:

‘Glitter Recession’ – A truly epic album opener; simple, cinematic and hypnotic. A definite album highlight.

‘Hinterland’ – Fast paced plipping and plopping synths make this track deliciously irresistible; reminiscent of the electro industrial arrangements in Craig Armstrong’s ‘Ruthless Gravity’ but with a jollier twist.

‘Dripping Down’ – One of the few “songs” on the album. Drenched in Thom Yorke-esque vocal arrangements the contrasting elements of soft vocal verses and energetic choruses alongside Doyle’s excellent lyrics make for a truly remarkable track.

Written by Joseph Murray

Have something you reckon The Music Shepherd would be interested in? Send it over! amelia.musicshepherd@gmail.co.uk

Mercury Prize Countdown: Album Four

It’s day four of our definitive Mercury Prize 2014 guide. Each day, The Music Shepherd will be looking at each of the 12 nominations and analysing its chances of winning, as well as providing an in-depth review of what we think of the album as a whole. So far, we have covered Polar Bear, FKA Twigs and Bombay Bicycle Club’s efforts, and today it’s Jungle’s turn…

Jungle – Jungle

5.6

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Based in London, Jungle are a product of a variety of classic influences. By giving funk and soul flavourings of psychedelica and hip hop they generate some really retro vibes however, with a twist of modern production their sound is brought back into the 21st century. Generally positive reviews suggest that this album is popular but scratch the surface and some cracks begin to show.

It seems fashionable at the moment to create an album that winks and nudges at the 70s and 80s but there is always a question of integrity and sincerity when recreating this kind of music. There’s no denying that Jungle is incredibly catchy and fairly enjoyable to listen to however, it’s very safe and almost too perfect. It neatly fits into any musical context (be it festivals, radio chart shows or the underground music scene) as it annoyingly ticks far too many boxes. It’s difficult to establish whether this is something that should be taken into consideration when listening but it’s very hard to ignore the odd mixture of chart hungry hooks, funk arrangements and pseudo “lo-fi” production.

Daft Punk’s most recent release Random Access Memories boasted overwhelming success as a revival for funk/soul music but the subtle and incredibly effective changes Daft Punk developed within this album makes it not only incredibly approachable but it maintains an air of tastefulness. Not to say that Jungle doesn’t do this but for such an exciting genre it’s ultimately rather underwhelming. There are some absolutely fantastic tracks on the album but some of the weaker tracks really don’t gel. ‘Busy Earnin’’ is great fun as are ‘The Heat’ and ‘Time’ but as for the other tracks it’s very hard to decipher what is actually going on as they’re all so similar in their messiness. ‘Smoking Pixels’ has a weird Ennio Morricone/Gorillaz vibe with a bit of slow and sexy funk thrown in for good measure which really sets it out from the rest as something exceptionally interesting but it’s only really an album interlude which is disappointing as it could have been one of the strongest tracks out of all the Mercury nominations if Jungle weren’t so cautious. Perhaps Jungle can take a page out of fellow nominee Damon Albarn’s book and shape their next release into something a bit more bold and unashamedly go wherever their influences take them without getting caught up too much in tradition; very much like the 2010 release Plastic Beach by Gorillaz.

Despite the criticisms the album is enjoyable enough, it just needs more substance. Perhaps being more patient with the release would have generated more interesting music overall yet it’s hard to determine whether more time would have helped or made things worse. Despite the heavy criticism Jungle is by no means a bad album; it’s just a little bland and overdone. Hopefully their second release will secure whether they’ve just been a little unlucky this time round.

As fun as some tracks from Jungle are the Mercury Prize isn’t about how good the singles are; it’s all about the album. Jungle had a lot of potential but it’s inconsistency and muddiness made the album slightly disappointing. Whether this is a contender to win the Mercury Prize is too difficult to say as it’s incredibly popular amongst its fan base however when looking at the other nominations you have to ask yourself, does it really compare?

Top Tracks:

‘Busy Earnin’ – Brass and bass that really gets you bouncing along. Infectious and toe-tappingly fun; does what classic funk/soul has done to us for years. 

‘Time’ – Drenched in falsetto, the mix of classic and modern synthesizer sounds is a real triumph.

‘Smoking Pixels’ – Upsettingly only a brief glimmer on the album but apart from this the potential alone that this track has is exciting enough to make you fall in love with it.

Written by Joseph Murray

Have something you reckon The Music Shepherd would be interested in? Send it over! amelia.musicshepherd@gmail.co.uk