By The Rivers

By the Rivers are about to embark on their acoustic tour. It was in their acoustic set up that I first unearthed By the Rivers. I stumbled across them on YouTube, where SB TV had caught them at Alexandra Palace. They performed an acoustic version of ‘Where You Gonna Go’ in an A64 session. I was hooked, a cliché I know but, I hadn’t heard anything like it. By the Rivers contemporary twist on Reggae cannot be ignored.  Members Nile Barrow and Jordan Birtles from Leicester formed the six piece in 2010 and have been friends since early childhood. Their catchy melodies and insightful lyrics echo issues that affect their youthful generation. ‘… when they’re coming after you? They don’t need evidence, they don’t need proof’, the social comment made parallels that of a favourite band of mine, super group Mongrel.  I couldn’t leave it there.

Immediately I wanted more, however my searches were running dry, the top result Boney M’s Rivers of Babylon.  With limited material available online – I needed to see this band live. When I finally got hold of a ticket I was rattled with excitement to what ‘new to me’ material I may hear.  It was a long wait but I got by on the One Word Single featured on Spotify which contained B-Side Take Control.

My first By the Rivers gig could not have been in a more perfect setting at a more perfect time. I’d just finished my A Levels, two years of slog, hard slog, over. I was lost I didn’t know what to do with time. DBE were hosting an End of Exam party across two venues. One of these being my favourite bar in the Midlands, The Orange Tree, it was here I completely shook off my two years of schooling. I’d never seen the Orange Tree more livelily – it was full to capacity. The energy and enthusiasm that By the Rivers bought to the town was like nothing before. The six piece filled the stage, the eye contact made between themselves and the audience was evidence that they couldn’t be enjoying their performance more.

Over the past two years Boney M’s hit has now been pushed to the bottom of the search page. YouTube is a now flood of By the Rivers singles, sessions and festival highlights and on Spotify you can stream their self-titled debut album. The band achieving success in reaching a top spot in BBC East Midlands Introducing’s ‘Countdown of Most Played Artists 2013’ and through recognition from reggae pioneer David Rodigan.

Their UK acoustic tour begins in Nottingham this February going on to Bristol, Hay on Wye, Loughborough, Norwich and Leicester. You can also catch them in Sheffield and Birmingham supporting The Selecter on their 35 year anniversary tour. Can’t wait till then? You can download the acoustic track ‘Board that Train’  for free now.

F.U.R.S

F.U.R.S is a London trio which features a brother and sister partnership within it. The small unit emblematises a lot of what the band stands for as, according to lead guitarist Liam Wade, the three-piece loves “short, sharp, direct music that you can sink your teeth into”. A short spell working in California with the local bands like Allah Las ingrained this ethos into the band and saw them embed the chilled sensibilities of the West coast into their music.

Added to this is a strong, female-centered theme in the band. While citing Blondie as one of F.U.R.S’ influences, Liam has described in interviews composing the bands current tracks whilst reading literature by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. Novels like ‘Venus in Furs’, from which the band derives its name, feature strong and liberated female characters.

Fresh of a tour supporting Johnny Marr I expect the band is working on a solid release to back up the strong image and thought behind F.U.R.S.

Check out the video for lead single STRIPTEASE and head to sound cloud for more!

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Discopolis

The Killers first demonstrated what a modern indie band could do with synths and a decent electronic setup; now it seems that Discopolis have fine-tuned that art-forn with their intricate song-craft.

Hailing from Edinburgh, the four-piece started out circa 2010 with an encouraging number of articles, high-profile gigs and radio sessions under their belt. Their rise to popularity occurred in a rather round-and-about way however with their first record being released in Japan. Discopolis is simply one of those bands who, because of the right Chinese whispers and local trends giving them the nod, found success in a place other than home.

A couple of storming video releases have been rectifying this problem though. ‘Falling (Committed to Sparkle Motion)’ treads the line between the pop emotionalism of acts like Owl City by retaining a detached indie sensibility. Soaring synths in the chorus accompany downbeat interludes to create a deeply melodic piece with enough heft to roll the beat on.A reference to Donnie Darko in the title does not hurt either!

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Just Handshakes

JUST HANDSHAKES emerged out of the Leeds University music scene and the band has been picking up pace with each of their releases. Despite the bands wide-ranging musical influences there is a all-around love of C86 which coems thorugh in their material.’

London Bound’, the first single from their debut album ‘Say It’ which was released on the California-based label ‘Bleeding Gold’, sees the band shelve their previously rosy sound for a “darker and more angular approach”.

Early taste-makers such as Steve Lamacq, Tom Robinson and Gideon Coe have picked up on this special band and given them airplay. And with support slots with acts such as The Mystery Jets, Pete and the irates, The Shout Out Louds and Still Corners, a larger stage beckons for JUST HANDSHAKES.

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Eliza and the Bear

Eliza and the Bear consist of no lady called Eliza, and sadly no bear. But it does consist of five very talented young men from London. Eliza and the Bear are a folk pop group who bring something new to indie pop world, with their catchy and upbeat tunes and stage presents. What makes this band stand out is the close friendship these boys genuinely have. Paul Lester wrote in his Guardian feature of the band, that this band is “boisterous, cacophonous indie made by enthusiastic young men who want to communicate their excitement at being alive”.

Their popular song ‘Upon the North’ is one of my favourite songs, and it will no doubt put you in a happy summer dancing mood. Sounding similar to The Lumineers and their hit song Ho Hey, Eliza and the Bear share the similar husky folk vocals, great guitar and happy overall melody. They also share a similar sound to Dry the River, which is unsurprising as they have worked with the acclaimed music producer Peter Miles, who has worked with the likes of Dry the River, The King Blues, The Skints, We Are the Ocean and so many more. Eliza and the bears have just released their new song ‘Friends’, adding yet another great song to their musical repertoire. ‘Friends’ stays true to the music Eliza and the Bear create, being upbeat and jubilant. Yet again these boys have created another great summery happy tune, which will accompany your swaying body and your beating foot perfectly in the garden with a nice cold cider in your hand.

Make sure you catch this rising band at their September tour! For more info, head to:

http://elizaandthebear.com/

https://soundcloud.com/elizaandthebear

https://www.facebook.com/elizaandthebear

Now you have no excuse not to see these boys live.

Archie Smith

Beethoven started playing the piano aged four, Mozart at three. Even Chris Martin, frontman of legendary pop/rock band Coldplay, dipped his toe in the acoustic pool pre-puberty. So when Archie Smith tells me he was hitting the piano before he could speak, I know we are onto a winner.

Aged 20, from a rurality outside of Bath, Archie had somewhat of a classical beginning to his musical education. At school, he sung in choirs and in musical theatre most of the way through. Pop and rock soon followed, and he started his first band, ‘The Aviators’, aged 12. A slew of other groups, in different incarnations, came and went throughout school, until a year ago when Archie decided to go solo.

As is the case with most of the artists showcased as part of the ‘Born in Britain’ programme, Archie does all of his creative work alongside his studies. In just the past months, he has performed with the likes of Gabrielle Aplin (also on the Born in Britain site here), Lewis Watson, Luke Concannon, Josh Record, and many other talented, young musicians. He was also a part of the late BBC Introducing programme in Wiltshire, and has subsequently moved to BBC Introducing South. It’s amazing then, to weight these accomplishments along with all of the other commitments he has, but it’s done through hard graft and a natural flair.

His first CD, entitled ‘Out of the Ashes’, was recorded and released in 2012. After the physical editions sold out, Archie turned to his next project, which was to be the ‘I Will Love You’ EP. A magical and touching ballad (which I feel the music industry is hard pressed to come by nowadays) explores themes of love and loss. Taken as a piece on it’s own, it’s extremely easy listening, and receptive to the ideas of the writer. Accompanied by a short film, that Archie tells me really came about by a chance encounter whilst busking, the result is a deeply moving piece of musical cinema. Elrose Media have successfully conveyed the core meaning of the song through a plot that ebbs to an overwhelming conclusion.

What is clear is the artistry is at the core of Archie’s sound. Never one to rush his work, the writing process is always organic, and his inspiration comes from the heart of artistic endeavour. In true New-Romantic fashion, galleries and theatres hold much to be enjoyed, especially dance, for as Archie says ‘there isn’t much that is more captivating than watching people move to music’. Musically speaking, Coldplay is a tangible influence: mellow chords and robust lyrics melt together to create something of an echo. The protegee isn’t hollow though, bolstered by other contemporary classical notes to the tune of Eric Whitacre, The Beatles, Cat Stevens, and Andy Williams. The list is endless: but the sights are high.

In relying on classical tones, his contemporary sound is given a starting point from which age old concerns meld with those that are perhaps more modern. From his first CD ‘The First Days of Love’ is a standout track. Subtle and creative, it’s a gentle tune with a heartfelt message that most of us can associate with. Stripping back the angst of young adulthood, Archie gives us a refreshing taste of honest upset and, in turn, elation. A young Chris Martin? Perhaps – but Archie Smith will no doubt soon be a household name of it’s own.

www.archiesmithuk.com

Laurel (Laurel Arnell-Cullen)

Laurel, or Laurel Arnell-Cullen if we’re going to go with full names, is a beautiful young singer/songwriter.

Laurel is 19-years-old and she has been writing music since she was 12 (yes I did just say 12). Inspired by Laura Marling she learnt the guitar and began gigging in Southampton and Portsmouth winning the Portsmouth News’ ‘Best Solo Act’ in 2011.

After which, Laurel began working with ex Radio 1 house DJ, Dave Spoon, and later on, Nick Halkes, who co-founded the label XL. Since then, she has developed her sound and subsequently she has been attracting a lot of attention with some people dubbing her as the next Lana Del Rey.

To date, Laurel has played along side Lianne La Havas, Ed Sheeran, White Lies and Katy B.

I imagine we’ll be hearing a lot more from her in the future and if her latest demo, Blue Blood, is anything to go by, her debut album will be something pretty special.

If you want to find out more about Laurel, check out her Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud and Tumblr

 

Frances Szweda

“Clicking play on a screen does the job but there’s nothing like the anticipation of owning, opening and listening to music…” Who can argue with that? Milton Keynes’ Frances Szweda has conveyed her advocacy for the ‘survival of vinyl’ by creating this series of creative sleeves. Focusing on the Mercury Prize 2012 Nominess as a case study for the project, the London College of Communication Illustration student highlights the shift towards digital purchasing of audio, that relentlessly steers away from the traditional forms of tangible music packaging that arguably helped define the musics intentions in a visual format.

The beauty of album art can be lost in the blurry rush of increased download speeds and the general digitised lust for more music in ever-expanding quantities. Szweda strikes a more serious tone in an otherwise fruitful and humorous portfolio by challenging the vinyl format. Misconceived as archaic or lacking contemporary, her project, entitled ‘A Case For Vinyl’ aimed to utilize the Mercury prize’s popularity as an anchor to convey the “lost appeal of owning a physical object.”

In-keeping with the uplifting attitudes of institutions such as Rough Trade Records, Frances’ work reaffirms our shared attitudes towards keeping the colourful world of music spinning, and highlighting the desire for vinyl to continue with spinning with it.

 

 

 

The Audacious Art Experiment

“The Audacious Art Experiment is more than a record label, we’re a community mindset that yearns for something more than ‘nine to five’ and aim to take back our chosen social freedoms, artistic expressions and community spirit from the companies trying to sell them to us. Music is our voice and the records we make are the product of our beliefs, dreams and desires.”

The Audacious Art Experiment is a community arts collective firmly at the heart of Sheffield’s DIY scene. The group has suffered personal losses in their upward climb but since its inception TAAE has managed to secure a well-deserved level of success.

The group pools together resources and offers out their local rehearsal space in order to encourage “challenging” music which they can them promote through their channels.

As the group states themselves ‘they are more than just a record label” and the ‘Information Buffet’ at the side of their website attests to this. Poetry, visual arts, photography, events are all disciplines the group contributes to and gets behind.

The video features friends of the TAAE, Algiers, and the song below is by previous label signee Cowtown.

Ski School by COWTOWN

The Audacious Art Experiment

Blossomer

A rise out from the depths and a swift return back into them; Blossomer, a sleeping giant?

Blossomer is an enigma for any writer trying to figure them out at the moment; the Sheffield three-piece released a hazy and obscure video and single in January and, aside from a solitary debut show at ‘The Bowery’, there isn’t a whiff of the band. This is owing to the decision to hibernate into the studio and perfect a selection of tracks for a likely future release. The obscurity of the release works as an apt metaphor for the band itself who quickly rose out of the depths of obscurity and event more swiftly returned back into them.

There have been justified comparisons made to ‘Wild Beasts’ in the wake of the single ‘Brother’ with its ethereal backing croons and earthy pedalled guitar riff. But the main focus of this song is that vocal line which pierces through the hazy effects and rings with a certain clarity and precision which would make Hayden Thorpe proud.

From what I can see the band has been featured BBC Introducing Sheffield and on other site online. Though they are currently a fairly non-descript band, this is an exclusive well worth paying attention to.

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INKA

Olivia Rafferty spent seven years playing the French Horn and singing classically. Though she stresses that this is not the kind of music she plays anymore, traditional music techniques are very much apparent in the melodious tones of this Edinburgh based singer songwriter. Originally from Aberdeen, she is now studying for a degree in English Literature at Edinburgh University, and since arriving here four years ago, INKA has been born out of the vibrant creative scene that the city has to offer.

Musically speaking, she cites the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Prince, and Billy Joel as inspiration. Though she might not sound much like all or any of them, it’s their bottle she admires. ‘Melodic, real, and unashamedly catchy’ are the qualities she has taken and mastered from this slew of greats, but the fact that they are all men is noteworthy: this genre of acoustic pop has often been dominated by males, and INKA tells me that the contemporary Edinburgh music scene is no different. That’s not to mention the ‘Scottish folk’ tradition that pervades most of the sounds of these acoustic singers, but this is exactly what makes INKA such an exciting talent. As a female pop acoustic artist, she finds her niche quite neatly.

I for one find that there is much in her songs to empathise with. My favourite song, ‘Innocence’ speaks to me quite clearly about relationships I have been in. I know this to be true of all my friends also, be they male or female, Scot or not, and is this not the most obvious sign of a successful artist? There is absolutely something very universal about her lyrics, which she says often come to her at the most inconvenient of times. But often this is the way: genius strikes when you least expect it.

Rafferty graduates at the end of this academic year, and from there she hopes to go to Toronto. She is in the process of cultivating her first EP, but as she builds her fan base, gigging takes priority, but ‘putting one foot in front of the other’ moreso. Her gumption and drive will undoubtedly see her through – and I for one sincerely hope she continues to write, for her talent is enormous and very exciting.

inkamusicofficial@gmail.com

www.inkamusic.co.uk

Beauty and Soul Brought to London: One to Watch: Kenzie May

Boston-born, yet Britain-bred, Kenzie May is one of London’s young talented musicians using her experiences in the city as both her backdrop and inspiration. With admirable amounts of experience under her belt, Kenzie’s beats are organic in that they flow freely,  consisting of tongue-in-cheek wordplay and fluid, honest lyrics.

With songs such as the raw, moving “Say Nothing” which is almost reminiscent of ballads of the early nineties, to the upcoming single “Hide & Seek”, her word play based on love, with the twist of childhood games, memories, and nursery rhymes are honest and right on point for the more literary, thinking crowd.

Moved by  art and creativity, the mesmerising Kenzie May is both beautiful and talented. Her writing style and composition are one of the most relevant pieces of work for someone so in touch with our generation. The rawness in her synthesized and digital sounds  break the mold from the forgettable radio releases we hear constantly.

Having collaborated with favourites and pros, such as Sub Focus in their tune “Falling Down” ad well as BeatauCue “Slow Down” and Bastille & F Stokes “Bad Blood”, Kenzie May is hard working and experimental with different techniques.

Writing in a flow which makes the surface of your skin chill, as well as your body to rock form side to side, is a rare talent which Kenzie May possesses, as each song is haunting in a way to lead to an afterthought and reflection – pop music for the thinking set, if you will.

 Kenzie’s single “Hide & Seek” produced by Jocke Åhlund of Teddybears, is set to have its video release by the end of the month, done by De La Muerte Films.

For some pop with honesty and edge, check out more on https://soundcloud.com/kenziemay or check out her most recent collaboration with FTSE, “Float” on Soundcloud.

http://soundcloud.com/ftse-1/float-ft-kenzie-may

 Images via: http://kenziemay.com

Follow Kenzie May on Tumblr and Twitter:

http://kenziemay.tumblr.com 

@kenziemayb