Tuvaband - Everything We Do Is Wrong

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Tuvaband were another of the acts I saw twice ay By:Larm, take a listen to "Unknown" and you'll pretty quickly learn why.

A half British / half Norwegian duo (they played live as a trio) who have to date shared a couple of elegant and spacious tracks that sparkle around a strikingly beautiful vocal and sparse yet absorbing melody. Less is certainly sometimes more. 

Unnveig Aas #4 - What Hurts The Most (Is Knowing You Want To Leave)

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I cannot believe it is already almost two weeks ago that I was very happy to find myself in attendance of an off:larm showcase (a few additional shows put on as part of By:Larm) and catching a superb set by Oslo's very own Unnveig Aas (I caught her as part of the main festival in 2016 too).

She kicked the set off with the brilliantly titled "What Hurts The Most (Is Knowing You Want To Leave)", a classic country ballad filled with pedal steel, chiming guitars and perfectly placed percussion amongst heartfelt, storytelling lyrics. It pulls you in from the start and you can feel the anguish in Unnveig's velvety voice.

I love the video too, with the arms movements and the piercing stares straight out of the live set.

"What Hurts The Most..."  is taken from Unnveig Aas' forthcoming debut album, Old Soul, due March 31st via Playground Music. (Order here). If the rest of the set was anything to go by, you won't be disappointed. 

Pikekyss - Tåke

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Pikekyss achieved one of those very rare things at By:Larm (for me at least), produced a set I absolutely loved (and went back for a second helping of during the festival) without me having a bloody clue what they were saying! I find out after that these two shows were the bands first with a new vocalist, so consider me further impressed.

It was all there, tight harmonies, controlled and energetic percussion and shimmering guitars, the lead guitarist is perhaps the star but that takes nothing away from the gorgeous vocals, I just cannot understand a word of what they sing. As I leave both Mono and Herr Nilsen where the band play I cannot help but think this Is melodic pop made for the bigger musical audience of the UK, call me a philistine but I really hope the band translate or produce some English language track soon.  Earlier EP called Tåke contains a couple of tracks I remember fondly from the shows and provides a great taster to the band "Hjemlengsel" and "Hjertebank" (complete with plenty of singalong ooh's and aah's). Think all your favourite indie pop moments (just in Noreweign).  

Ponette - I'm Alone

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I only caught 2/3's of Ponette's set at BLÅ because I was rushing over from Mono after seeing Julia Jacklin, I was certainly left wanting more (so if you are free to pop over to the UK any time soon that would be great) after a set that was different than I was expecting after listening to their debut EP I'm Alone earlier that day but at the same time was exhilirating and left me with a massive smile on my face. 

On record Ponette sound pure and gorgeous, take "Relief" and "I'm Alone" as examples, spacious, restrained electro-pop filled with a melancholic and dreamy atmosphere that's perfect for the Nordic winter, icy and somewhat dreamy but filled with more than a hint of darkness. It's this later sound that comes alive during the show, morphing into a thrilling beast where apocalyptic sounding percussion collides with soaring guitars and punchy pop choruses that come somewhere between shoegaze and Paramore. I love it. 

Amazing photo by @magnordstrand.

Strange Hellos – We Are Trouble

Another band discovered at By:Larm (I cannot believe it was a week ago already) is Strange Hellos, a Norwegian super group of sorts (all the artists have other bands they'd call home) whom are gearing up to release an album later this year and arrive to me new and unheard at Sentrum Scene last week, I was more than happy with what I discovered thereafter (so much so that I went to see them again at their second set the next day).

Recent single "Monumental" sums up Stange Hello's sound well, a band that seem to have perfected the knack of writing gorgeous pop songs with more than a penchant for a romantic, wistful melody all wrapped in a wash of fuzz. "We Are Trouble" is even more addictive, filled with beautifully hazy vocals and a lovely, warm nostalgic guitar sound. It's the sort of thing we've all been listening to for years (and will do for years to come). 

Pom Poko - It's A Trap

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Hello there.

I returned from Oslo on Sunday after my second By:Larm festival, the 2017 renewal didn't quite have the familiarity of the 2016 festival for me (indeed, I'd only really heard and seen Julia Jacklin beforehand from the entire festival line-up of some 100+ artists). Over four nights though I discovered a good handful of wonderful artists in-between drinking the expensive beer (ranging between £7.50 and £9.60 a pint!) , the first of which I'm featuring here I saw twice, the wonderfully frenzied freakout that is Pom Poko (and any band that references Studio Ghibli in their title is a winner with me).

The band seemingly have picked up a bit of press prior to the weekend, with Best Fit writing about them a few times and most recently last month but the band seemingly won some festival prize and I'm sure more support is soon to follow. After seeing their live performance I know it will. With a few earlier tracks seemingly removed from the Internet for now it leaves "It's a Trap" as the sole Pom Poko track available, it serves as a fine introduction in itself. An intriguing blend of pop-punk noise, where kaleidoscopic guitar riffs and cascading vocals grab your attention from the get-go and refuse to let go.  

The entire set followed suit, a chaotic mixture of chunky riffs, boundless enthiasm and brilliant tracks. I've included a live video from one of the shows I was at, not taken by me to give you more of an idea... (the curious 80's attire was worn both nights). 

P.S. I want some merch here in the UK.

Courtney Marie Andrews - Honest Life

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My entry point to Courtney Marie Andrews is the sort of thing I used to do all the time in my university days (far too long ago now), walk into a record shop (this time it was Resident Records during a recent trip to Brighton) and randomly pick (and buy) an album purely based on the cover art, the track list names and the record shop blurb (heart on the sleeve country ballads was more than enough to part me with my hard earned). In this case, and many others down the years, the excitement of getting that record home and pressing play for the first time and taking that step into the unknown yielded exquisite results (and of course some utter horrors). It's a joy that the ease of streaming services and the Internet (and blogs like this) denies many. 

I picked Honest Life, my introduction to the Los Angeles basedsongwriter but actually her third LP (official, I believe there are a few that pre-date the three left on streaming services) and my instinct was spot on, the album is a treasure from start to last, filled with intimate and sparse ballads coupled with pure toned vocals and striking simplicity.

I could pick a number of other tracks to focus on throughout Honest Life, the heart melting title track, the beautifully plaintive "Table For One" or the equally subtle power of "Let the Good One Go" but it's the 'biggest sounding' pairing of "How Quickly Your Heart Mends" and "Put The Fire Out" that hit me hardest, reminding me of the sorely missed (and soon to return, I hope, Caitlin Rose) with strong, empowered vocals and devastatingly honest words. 

It's one of two essential releases of 2017 already (I'll write about the other one very shortly).

Albums of 2016 - The Holy - More Escher and Random Notes

Albums of 2016 - The Holy - More Escher and Random Notes

I've lavished praise on The Holy here countless times, slowly but surely people are starting to listen. The Helsinki quintet do not fuck around, leaving everything on the table at the end of their songs and treating you to these beautiful yet humungous soundscapes filled with soaring guitars and pummelling beats, their debut EP More Escher and Random Notes sums that up in more over five quite glorious tracks. 

"This Will Be the Day That I Die" was the track that started it for me a good while ago now, a huge, sweeping epic filled with darkly hued atmosphere. it's edgy, it's gorgeous and it's tense and it's even buoyant. Opener "Can't Remember Your Name" is another slow burning beauty that's just the right mixture of brooding and beauty, the percussive melody slowly rises in intensity amongst different, but always darkened textures, add in cascading synths and brooding guitars and soon it will command your complete attention up to its unsettling conclusion.

There's lots of drums throughout (there are two drummers in the band) and "Airport for Lovers" rushes along like Springsteen on acid with pulsating rhythms and soaring guitars duelling for attention. I can't pick a favourite but perhaps it is "Ramses The Evil Brother", similarly brimming with ideas, darkened in colour and majestic in delivery, rushing through at breakneck speed and triumphant in its fuzzy, dramatic conclusion, a truly glorious listen it is too.

More Escher and Random Notes is quite simply the best thing that passed through my ears in 2016 (closely followed by Blackstar - I'm not going to bother reviewing that one at the end of January - I'm sure you've heard it).