The biggest downside of spending so much time doing this blog is I often neglect bands whom with more hours in the day I'd absolutely love, The Jezabels are definitely one such example. I've followed for band for about five years now and have seen them three times but I've probably only listened to last years LP The Brink a handful of times. It deserves more. Perhaps I'll give it that now the band are back on my mind thanks to the dramatic introduction to their third album Synthia, due for release on February 12th and available with a combination of ticket/physical packages here.
"Come Alive" is the track, dark, jagged and brooding it finds the Australian quartet at their most intense, with murky synths and Hayley's ever incredible, theatrical vocal climaxing with the gargantuan squeal of guitars and forthright drums. Synthia promises to be the bands most adventurous and rewarding yet.
The Jezabels play London's Tufnell Park Dome on March 10th. If you fancy tickets, I wouldn't hang around too long.
I've not featured The Jezabels here for a quite some time (two years). As a sold-out show at London's Scala last night will testify, they've been doing well enough without me,gaining popularity on both sides of the Atlantic amongst already lofty heights in their native Australia. The announcement of the quartet's new album The Brink (due to be released 17th February worldwide and a little earlier back home) gives me sufficient reason to post the newly released video to recent single "The End" and break my duck.
"The End" is quite simply everything I've come to expect from The Jezabels (and I mean that in the kindest possible way). An exhilarating rush of kinetic energy propelled by blistering drums, melodic keys and guitars that combine to pack quite the punch around sweeping crescendos and the dynamite vocals of Hayley Mary. It's a voice you're probably familiar with now (if not, prepare to have your socks blown off) but my it's still capable of bringing goosebumps, in seemingly perfect control of her super-charged delivery, one moment it's all sweetly beautiful and the next soaring into a different stratosphere - 2014 has another album on the 'to buy' list already.
The Jezabels release their debut album in the UK March next year (it's already out and reached the dizzy heights of number two in the Australian chart), in preparation they've shared the second single from it as a free download (below), "Try Colour" follows the wonderful "Endless Summer", led by a powerful rhythmic drums, echoey guitars and dark ambient keys it's got everything I've come to expect (and love) about what is probably Australia's strongest current act, sweeping cinematic indie rock that's confident, strong and sure to propel the four piece on their way to arenas befitting their huge sound.
The band play a one-off London date at Heaven on the 29th (tickets) on the way home from their current state-side tour. I went to their last show at XOYO and it was enormous. Hayley's powerhouse vocals literally bouncing off the walls, their sound thunderous and intense at time and then also delicate, beautiful. This spectrum of light and dark is what I like about them so much and with three EP's and tracks from the forthcoming album too, they've enough material to make an hour fly by.
After a trio of self-released EP's, Australian four piece The Jezabels have announced the first single off their forthcoming debut album (well it's not due until Spring 2012, so not that forthcoming), "Endless Summer" will be released in the UK on September 5th, the first release via their new label, Play It Again Sam Recordings (PIAS).
The Jezabels have trademarked their own anthemic sound and "Endless Summer" follows suit perfectly. Built around a thunderous, menacing momentum, sweeping keys, crescendos of intense percussion and swirling guitar create a sound that is euphoric, emotional and for want of a better word, epic.
It's impossible to mention The Jezabels and not talk of the incredible power wielded by Hayley Mary with her voice, capable of blaring powerhouse fury and a delicate sweet falsetto, flickering between the two at will, her voice is simply incredible.
The Jezabels will make their second appearance in the UK (after their May dates) in September, ending with a date at XOYO, London on September 13th. Full European tour dates here. I'm looking forward to seeing them again, I commented in May that the sound was a little overbearing at times in an afternoon show in a little Brighton venue, I'm expecting to be blown away, perhaps literally, at XOYO.
Day two of my The Great Escape 2011 review (Thursday here)
Friday lunchtime started as Thursday had, with a trip to Above Audio, whilst it's certainly not my favourite venue as the main standing area is by the exit door and close to the bar the stage is quite well positioned for views. First on were Norwegian troop Team Me who were pleasing enough, a rich typically Scandinavian guitar based indie-pop sound laced with electro and abundance of percussion played by six(?) multi-instrumentalists who put their all into the show, the venue was packed and I didn't see many leave which speaks for itself.
Next are a band I was definitely interested in seeing, The Jezabels. Almost immediately we were treated to the enormous vocal of Hayley Mary, if you took a look at her slender frame you would never believe her capable of such a powerful performance as she pranced around the small stage. On tracks such as "Hurt M2" and "Mace Spray", the piano-led emotive, cinematic trademark of the group really shines. Overall there is no doubt the Aussie four piece are pretty impressive, my criticism could be down to the sheer size of the venue, their sound is meant for halls not a converted pub but on occasions there's perhaps too much going on, the drummer is incredible but in places with the sheer volume is a little overbearing, saying that I wouldn't hesitate to see them again given chance.
Next I head to Shipwrights yard to catch The Smoke Fairies who are running late, Katherine later explains it was due to some traffic which means their set is cut short but what we do get is a wonderfully crafted brooding folk music, the girls are exceptional musicians, their intricate guitar work and tightly woven harmonies are utterly captivating, it's such a shame the set was so short (three songs). The fizzy vimto was to-die-for though, hadn't had one in years and it comes highly recommended.
I had a gap in my agenda so I took a chance and went to see Rebeka purely because I was in the mood for some 'dirty synths' as the programme notes called it (along with a more bizarre claim of Chinese Techno) and I was more than pleasantly surprised as the Polish duo were quite exhilarating in a highly enjoyable half hour set. Combining beat-heavy disco electronica with those raw, dirty synths previously mentioned, add in a couple of tracks with some crunching guitar and an energetic vocal and it adds up to a pulsating show, it sure had the mixed crowd at Horatio's dancing about, even at 3pm with the sound of the funfair a distant buzz. I'll certainly be checking out their music once I get the chance.
Four hours drinking yet again took its toll and I retire for a rest before kicking off my evening session at Above Audio for Canadian youngsters (I hadn't previously realised how young) Modern Superstitions who are thoroughly enjoyable in a half hour set led by the energetic lead of singer Nyssa. Her spunky performance and Chrissie Hynde howl vocal is certainly the highlight, overall it's charismatic, entertaining and damn-right fun, the punky guitar lines and catchy tracks were a more than pleasant way to kick off the evening.
I had so many options of bands to see next but I decided to stick to my pre-festival agreement with myself to see bands I'd never caught before ahead of ones I had so I reluctantly missed Still Corners (thankfully they've two London shows next month) and head to the Prince Albert to see Rachel Sermanni.
Now I'm not really convinced this was the ideal setting for her, the Albert is a dark, dingy room on top of a quite decent pub (it sells Birra Moretti on tap after all) though once the young Scottish folkstress steps onto the stage the setting is soon forgotten, you are transferred to a much more serene place as her captivating, well crafted and incredibly beautiful music calms you with a blissful ease, literally causing goosebumps with its spellbinding quality. As she stepped onto the stage she came across as a little shy so it was really alluring to find that Rachel is really witty and funny, in-between tracks she talks with ease and confidence with some amusing stories and song introductions. Soon a potentially tricky venue where you could easily expect to hear the clunking of beer glasses at the bar is quickly transformed to a silent theatre, with an attentive crowd eager to hear every word from Rachel. Her guitar work was also exemplary, some traditional folk strumming along side more slightly aggressive up-tempo turns too, she sometimes plays with a backing group, on this performance I don't see the need.
I really shouldn't say things like this given most music I think should be household is reserved for small clubs whilst mundane and mediocre artists rule the charts, but if this young and talented lady doesn't find herself with an army of devoted fans before long, then the world really is in need of some help.
She teased us with mention of future releases, I hope that one isn't too far away, I'm eager to hear more.
Next up are one of my favourite acts Let's Buy Happiness, I'd first seen them at TGE last year and in the interim year I'd fallen for them time and time again on record and become increasingly encouraged by their developing live sound, the good news is that they are still finding room for improvement. There are some great new tracks in the set, my memory is shocking but "Dirty Legs" was one title, you can tell they are increasingly confident and comfortable on stage as the expand on their dynamic shimmering guitar soundscapes. A reworking of "Works Better on Paper" especially wonderful, alongside singles "Fast Fast" and "Six Wolves" and a favourite of mine "Clean Mistake". Sarah is as charming and immediate as ever, her beautiful vocal is certainly one of my favourites in the business, though, just where is "Devil's Show"?!
There was only one place I heading next, to the Pavillion Theatre to catch Josh T. Pearson. I arrived in plenty of time (thankfully as the venue was soon to be packed with both Josh and Villagers fans) and begin waiting a little while for Josh to arrive, when he does he is taller than I anticipated carrying a cable for his amp in a couple of Rough Trade bags. He starts dead on time, perhaps a little early and immediately showcases a dry sense of humour as he jokes about his age, tiredness and not knowing what day of the week it is. He then kicks into the first of his "ten minute chart smashes", "Sweetheart I Ain't Your Christ" which (as you'd
expect if you've heard his extraordinary album 'Last Of The Country Gentlemen') is a dark, morose and lengthy track of stark, honest Americana.
"Woman, When I've Rasied Hell" follows in similar fashion, equally heart-wrenching and hauntingly beautiful, the audience remains silent throughout. It's completely captivating, his achingly painful and honest words, a face that shows signs of a thousand heartaches, every single second is absolutely commanding, all this whilst he flawlessly strums at his acoustic guitar with nonchalant ease.
Josh was due to play 30 minutes but the enormous reception he received meant neither Josh nor the crowd wanted it to end so we were treated to some more jokes (most not so good!) and "Thou Art Loosed", the audience response at the end was probably the loudest reception I heard all weekend, I think it reached Josh too and he appears not to want to leave before a Villagers roadie finally asks him to finish his majestic set.
I've been to a few gigs in my times (275 according to Songkick) and this 45 minute set ranks amongst one of the most jaw dropping things I have ever seen, he plays London in November, don't miss it.
The night ends with disappointment, a trip up to the Green Door Store to see Planningtorock ends before it has started, an earlier blown up PA system led to ptr not playing, certainly a shame for the queuing crowds, though I'll get a chance to see her next week and after the Josh T. Pearson show perhaps it's fitting that I hear no more live music, I have a couple of reflective beers instead, Friday you were pretty spectacular.
I'm going to do this for every festival I go to this year, a list of 'ones to see', starting with The Great Escape in Brighton which kicks off next Thursday 12th May (that's exactly one week away!), it'll be my fourth visit and I think this year is probably it's best line-up to date (scratch that, it definitely is).
If you don't know what The Great Escape (TGE) is, take a peek here - 3 days, 30 venues, 300+ artists and without a doubt the best new band festival in the UK if not Europe, at time of writing weekend tickets were in short supply but not sold-out.
Robin over at Breaking More Waves has done a better do's and dont's post than I could attempt, so head over and read his here - basically if you want to see a band that filled a two page spread in the nme the week before at a 200 capacity venue don't roll up ten minutes before they are due to start and expect to get in, let alone get to the bar beforehand. As with any festival common sense and a sensible schedule is important, Horatio's is a good walk down the pier, you aren't getting from it to Concorde 2 in five minutes. Basically use your head but more importantly have fun and try and uncover a couple of new gems, my general school of thought is to see new acts ahead of ones that I've already seen - though we'll see how that plays out next week!
Straight onto my ones to see live, I'll split this into two posts, firstly this part which will cover ten non-UK acts (based - there are a couple of UK born artists that now live abroad here), the second part containing ten UK based acts comes tomorrow. In alphabetical order:
Komedia (upstairs), Saturday 14th May 15:15 Horatios, Saturday 14th May 19:45
A band I'm very much looking forward to seeing for the first time, Canadian four piece Braids released one of the best LP's of January with 'Native Speaker', experimental multi-layered melodies which ebb and flow with fizzing guitars, bubbling electronics and the glorious voice of Raphaelle Standell-Preston, which like the music moves around with equal parts ethereal grace and energetic bounce. "Glass Deers" built around looping synths and beautiful vocal harmonies whilst "Lemonade" their most commercial track has earned them some high praise in nme, expect their shows to be packed and a bit bloody good too.
Shipwrights Yard, Saturday 14th May 16:00 Horatios, Saturday 14th May 20:30
Another artist I'll be seeing live for the first time will be EMA (Erika M Anderson) who came onto my agenda in early April (I've since discovered her first band Gowns). I've had her debut LP 'Past Life Martyred Saints' on repeat for the past couple of weeks or she is very high up on my "must see" list. The album is heartfelt, dirty and raw with variable structures and incredible guitar playing throughout. Listen to opener, "The Grey Ship" - The first half is like sailing in a melancholic, tranquil ocean that suddenly crashes in a thunderstorm with throbbing bass, over-amped guitar, crazed violin and thumping drums. Absolutely stunning, just like the whole album. A sure fire end of year list favourite. If you aren't in Brighton, EMA play a free show in London 11th May.
The Loft, Thursday 12th May (Alternative Escape) 20:30
Emika's sound is seductive and spooky dubstep / minimal electronica, I blogged her just this week so read that post for more information on her and to listen to three tracks. Let's just leave it as I'm pretty smitten for the what I've heard and will certainly hope to get to see her at The Loft as part of the Alternative Escape on a night hosted by her label (free to wristband holders and available to non-festival attendees too). I'm surprised she isn't on the main line-up to be honest.
Above Audio, Friday 13th May 13:15 Queens Hotel, Friday 13th May 20:30 Digital Saturday, 14th May 15:20 The Loft Saturday, 14th May 00:30
A prolific number of shows will help my clash-centric weekend veiwing for sure, I discovered The Jezabels researching this very festival and here is what I wrote in March, I think it's pretty accurate: Epic and confident indie-pop anthems built upon layer-upon-layer of beautiful sweeping soundscapes, melodramatic soaring guitars all driven by emphatic galloping drums though, the real jewel in the crown has to be the absolute powerhouse vocal of lead singer Hayley Mary, her falsetto is insanely grandiose, ranging from haunting beauty to delicate sweet in a matter of seconds. If that sounds your thing then take your pick from the shows above, I reckon I'll find myself at two of these.
For fans of (this is tough) The Killers (before they went shite?) / Shakespeare's Sister
Josh T. Pearson
Pavilion Theatre, Friday 13th May 22:45
A man and an acoustic guitar, Josh T. Pearson spent many years in the wilderness, he returned this year with 'Last of the Country Gentlemen', a truly magnificent album, sparse and gentle arrangements, seven epic tracks (most track lengths are over eight minutes long) full of desperately sad songs weaving along a contemplative and sorrowful journey, one that is equally heart-wrenching and hauntingly beautiful. This show could be just spectacular, an acquired taste for sure, the Texan isn't all too accessible for your general Vaccines fan, but for the mature and cultured ear his appearance at this years Great Escape will be one to saviour.
Kitten have been on my radar since they blew me away at the Camden Barfly last Halloween, "Kill The Light" is simply on of the best indie-rock tracks of last year and it beggars belief that Chloe is just (now) 16 years old. These dates mark the groups first return to the UK since then and I'm pretty excited about their return, if you are looking for an act to see and like indie-rock music with a singer with an incredible stage presence then Kitten are well worth your time, "Kitten With A Whip" was a favourite at that Barfly date, utterly insane. I hope they add another date somewhere too as I'll be needing to do a quick dash from elsewhere to see them on time (hint - run a little late please!).
For me Modern Superstitions were a surprise (a very good one) addition to The Great Escape line-up, I've been enjoying their EP for a while now and didn't really expect to see the Canadian group heading to the UK anytime soon, now they are I'll be sure to make sure I'm in attendance to see them play their first European shows, like Kitten above, Modern Superstitions are a indie-rock built around an absolute knock-out female lead singer, in this case Nyssa Rosaleen who on the live videos I posted here commands the stage and your attention, can't wait to see it for myself. There are some London shows before and after TGE too.
There is only once place to finish your Friday night - Bolton born but now settled in Berlin, Janine Rostron aka Planningtorock is ready to blow us away with her new album 'W' (out 16th May) and this show just a few days earlier will potentially be the biggest and most flamboyant of the whole festival, PTR's distorted vocals over layered electronic synth. "Doorway" is utterly mesmerising, combining threatening atmospherics and general nonsensical experimental soundscapes to spectacular effect. Do not miss this.
Luis Vasquez the creative force behind The Soft Moon who released his debut LP in the UK early this year, it's a masterpiece of desolate, dark, moody and damn right sinister gloom in which Vasquez has successfully created his own distinct sound despite clear trademarks of late 80's post-punk sound. If that sounds right up your street then Audio is the place to be on Thursday at 8pm, I'm interested to see how his album is transformed into a live show.
To end this part of bands to watch is a rather obvious choice but it'd be wrong not to include them. I've seen Warpaint rise from playing The Lexington to selling out Shepherd's Bush Empire since the time I first saw them at Horatio's during The Great Escape 2010, it's great to have them return a year later and play (the much larger) Corn Exchange. If you haven't heard of the Los Angeles based four piece by now you've clearly been living under a rock, let's just say that live the girls are arguably the most hypnotic and seductive band I've ever seen and boy does Stella know how to hit those drums. Must see.
For fans of Warpaint
If you made it here from an external link you might want to see the second part, which is here.
So I've started doing some research for The Great Escape and will naturally be passing on some recommendations, the first are Australia's The Jezabels who judging by their facebook likes (17000) and play count on last.fm (almost half a million) are already pretty established in their homeland... but to be honest I've not really heard of them in a UK sense before, that will no doubt be changing in May when they hit our shores.
The five tracks on their third EP 'Dark Storm' (aptly titled!) contain some pretty epic and confident indie-pop anthems built upon layer upon layer of beautiful sweeping soundscapes, melodramatic soaring guitars and pianos. Driven by galloping drums, though the real jewel in the crown has to be the absolute powerhouse vocal of lead singer Hayley Mary, her falsetto throughout is insanely grandiose, ranging from haunting beauty to delicate sweet in a matter of seconds, it is a true highlight throughout.
"Sahara Mahala" the centrepiece track on the EP is a perfect starting point with it's reverb heavy guitar solo and powerful piano building up to a breathtaking crashing crescendo of emotion, truly wonderful. As are the rich arrangements and lyrical imagery on title track "Dark Storm" and "Mace Spray", a sinister pop chart hit if you've ever heard one.
Now I don't generally like bands who are made for stadiums but I can honestly see this music being played into some huge arenas, the sound is absolutely massive. And amazingly impressive. Listen below, then you can stream all three EP's from the bands Soundcloud: