By Jon Milton
Some bands in my mind will be forever associated with lockdown. Yard Act and TV Priest both released their excellent debut singles just after lockdown began, and Home Counties had their debut single ‘Redevelopment’ out just before. All of them incorporate smart social commentary into their lyrics, with their thoughts becoming ever more resonant in these times of immense social and political change. Less politically charged but with tracks like ‘Emergency Song’ focusing on how lockdown affected them, Midlight also emerged out of this period too, but similarly to the others continue to maintain an upward trajectory. But what are their plans for 2022?
What a time to be alive for Yard Act. Last year they signed with Universal, recorded their debut album, and headed out on tour to rave reviews. They even got the nod of approval from Elton John. The rave reviews of the live performances were all justified too IMHO. It's very rare to see a frontman command the audience in the way that James Smith does with his banter and when its done well it can completely transform the gig experience, as I found out when I saw the band play last year at the Lexington. 2022 sees Yard Act release their debut album ‘The Overload’ with the signs being that its going to be a bit of a doozy. Each of the singles on the album released so far avoid following a standard formula, which suggests that they are aware of their limitations and work that bit harder to counter them.
The band had a few gigs lined up as part of a DIY magazine tour this month but have postponed them for now amidst the accelerating level of omicron infections. They were also keen to ensure that anyone attending their gigs last year was able to show vaccination and test status as a condition of entry so its obviously a real concern for them and I guess may affect future gigs too. Those other gigs start early next month across Europe before the band begin their sold-out UK tour in London on the 17th. The band then head stateside in late March and into April, before returning for another UK tour beginning in Liverpool on 30th April. Then there’s the festivals and more European and UK gigs later in the year. One wonders when James will get the time to tend to his cauliflower. I also wonder how they will evolve their music too, because I’m pretty sure that they will.
See https://yardactors.com/ for tour dates and other stuff
What a time to be alive for TV Priest too. 2021 saw them release their cracking debut album ‘Uppers’ and tour for the first time. Their gig at London’s Oslo in July was only their second ever, and whilst they were good that night, the difference in confidence and performance three months later on their tour was palpable. They also appear to be a lovely, grounded bunch of people who just seem to be enjoying the position that they’re in.
When we spoke to them this time last year (just before Uppers came out) they suggested that their second album could get its release in 2021, but in the end their single ‘Lifesize’ was the only other recording to emerge. They do tell me that there is more new music on the way very shortly however, and they hope to have that second album out in this Summer. The band play Yes in Manchester on January 29th before heading out to the states with A Place to Bury Strangers in February. After that they’re back to Manchester in April and they appear at the Wide Eyed Festival and expect to have more dates lined up for later in the year.
See https://www.songkick.com/artists/10135351-tv-priest/calendar for tour dates.
This time last year Home Counties were on the front foot with a new single ‘Modern Yuppies’, which gave a glimpse of the new direction that the band had hinted at in their interview with us the year before. ‘White Shirt/Clean Shirt’ followed a couple of months later, and then the band found themselves extensively gigging before releasing ‘The Home Counties’ single in late October. The Home Counties is also the lead track from their forthcoming EP ‘In A Middle English Town’ which comes out next month on Alcopop Records.
Ahead of the EP coming out there will be another track ‘Village Spirit’ released at the end of this month, and the band begin their first headline tour on the 16th February in Oxford, moving on to Manchester, Leeds, Bristol, Southampton and Brighton before their biggest show so far at the Lexington on the 24th. The also play at the Wide Eyed Festival in Leicester in April.
See https://www.songkick.com/artists/10126739-home-counties/calendar for tour dates.
Midlight also head out on tour in March and find themselves headlining The Lexington as part of a run that also includes Newcastle, Manchester, Brighton, and Dublin. The band have steadily released a string of quality tunes over the last 18 months or so, the most recent of which being ‘Consume Me’ last month. The band plan to take things up a notch too when they release their debut EP which they hope to have out in Spring.
If you're not too familiar with the band, have a read of our interview with them from last year.
For tour dates and other stuff, go to https://www.midlighthq.com/live.
By Jon Milton
Music in the UK continues to flourish and there’s lots to look forward to in 2022. 2021 saw some particularly impressive new bands emerge, others returned after either brief interludes or long hiatuses, and we expect 2022 to be a similar picture.
In this series of articles, we profile our picks of those artists, starting with those bands that blew our socks off when they released their first music last year, and we take a look at what they’re up to in 2022.
Undoubtedly the most ubiquitous (and obvious) of new artists appearing in 2021 was Wet Leg, with debut single ‘Chaise Longue’ rightfully earning many plaudits and lots of airplay. Before you could say ‘one hit wonder’ however, they followed up that cracking debut with ‘Wet Dream’ and ‘Too Late Now’ and ‘Oh No’ further underlining their credentials. 2022 is looking busy for them so far too, with their eponymous debut album produced by Speedy Wunderground's Dan Carey and out in April on Domino, and gigs spanning the UK, Europe, North America, Canada and Mexico taking up every month of the year up until July so far. It’s unlikely that they will escape your attention in 2022, so if you haven’t heard them yet make sure you do.
Click here for tour dates and their website.
Another new act snapped up by a well-established label (Partisan) progressing their careers rather swiftly last year were Brooklyn band Geese. Their first single, the rather epic ‘Disco’ emerged in June and was swiftly followed by ‘Low Era’ and ‘Projector’ before their album, also called Projector surfaced in late October. A string of London gigs happened in November and I was lucky enough to catch them one of them at the Sebright Arms where they put on a great performance. January sees them play a couple of gigs in the states and then they return to the UK (including Manchester, Bristol, Leeds and London) in February before heading back stateside to tour extensively in March and April. As seems to be the case with Wet Leg they’re properly on the treadmill now so expect more new music later this year too.
Click here for live dates and their website.
The wonderfully eclectic Keg released their debut EP ‘Assembly’ on Alcopop records in October last year, drawing comparisons with the likes of Squid and Black Country, New Road whilst apparently managing to eclipse both on stage with their lively performances. I’m looking forward to finding out for myself in a couple of weeks in Hitchin of all places, part of their National Lottery tour that also takes in Winchester, Bath, Guildford, Colchester and Ramsgate. They’re also playing alongside the excellent English Teacher at the Old Blue Last in London on the 18th for DIY magazine and then Colours Hoxton the week after with Courting, with festival dates also slated for the summer.
Click here for tour dates
Brighton based Porchlight came to our attention in July with their debut single ‘Drywall’ which also found its way into the top ten of our Festive Fifty (which has tracks from all the artists featured in this article). Frenetic follow up single ‘Country Manor’ could easily have made it in there too but for our limit on having just one track from each band. At the moment they just have an appearance at The Hope and Ruin in Brighton lined up for the 29th, but if last year was anything to go by, it’s worth keeping your eye out for their socials as lots of their gigs seem to appear relatively close to the night.
Belfast based Irish noise punks Enola Gay actually released their first single in 2020, but came to prominence last year with the blistering string of singles that would eventually make up their debut ‘Gransha’ EP. Aside from the EP their highlights for 2021 involved Iggy Pop playing two of their tracks in one sitting of his radio show and their debut London show at the 100 Club selling out. 2022 sees them touring extensively in March and April across the UK, beginning in Glasgow on March 4th and ending in London at Brixton’s Windmill on April 6th. They’ve packed in 28 dates in all (including Bedford Esquires on a Friday night which is where I’ll catch them!) for the headline dates and after that you’ll find them at the Wide Eyed Festival in Leicester (that’s some line up there), followed by an appearance at the Truck Festival in July. No doubt there’ll be more dates later in the year too. They have new music recorded too, but with no firm release dates at this stage.
Click here for tour dates.
By Jon Milton
At the turn of the century when they released their debut album 'Parachutes' I considered myself a fan of the band Coldplay. By the time of their second album I had my doubts and after that, I found myself embarrassed to admit I had one of their albums.
Now if that second Coldplay album had continued in the bright vein of the first, it might have sounded like London based Midlight, who've just released their latest single 'Consume Me'. Lead singer George shares that honeyed tone that Chris Martin has, and his band-mates embody that mellifluous alternative rock sound that went so well on Parachutes on Consume Me, but with added invention. There's a touch of bossa nova here and a bit of dub there, with the song effortlessly incorporating such diverse touches whilst staying true to its alt rock roots. Consume Me is clever, smooth and classy. The band say of the song:
'We played with unpredictable song structures, repetitive lyric phrases and recordings of the world around us to create a track that reflects some of our feelings on the claustrophobic digital world we find ourselves in'.
Consume Me has existed in demo recordings and live sets since late 2019, having been one of the first songs that the band wrote and recorded in their own studio space in Brixton. It has been an ongoing project for them, giving the canvas for experimenting with their production and recording techniques as they develop as a band. It's also further evidence of their growing maturity and ability to make great music.
Consume Me is out now. The band are now preparing for their first UK & Ireland headline tour in March 2022 alongside the launch of their debut EP.
By Jon Milton
After laying low for most of 2021, Springfield Elementary released their stonking new ep 'Ne + Ultra' earlier this month on York label Safe Suburban Home. The EP shows the swift evolution of the band in a short space of time, with this latest music further infusing psychedelic and krautrock influences to the garage-punk blasts of their early releases. I caught up with the band to find out more about the EP...
How are you all? How has 2021 treated you?
It's been a strange year much like the one before it but there’s plenty of positives for us too. We were lucky and our practice room stayed open throughout the lockdowns so we were able to keep playing music together & write new songs.
Your new EP Ne + Ultra is out – tell us about it?
We recorded this at Airtight Studios at the start of the year so it feels good to finally release it! We felt that we were able to experiment more throughout the EP and start bringing in more of our external influences from across the globe. Safe Suburban Homes Records were kind enough to help us release it and we have some cassettes of the EP available on Bandcamp.
The EP feels like you’re starting to expand your garage-rock sound, the shoe gaze influence on ‘On a cloud’, the motorik beat on ‘Keep on Moving’, a bit of the Coral maybe on Barracuda King’ – how has that come about?
We all enjoy a wide variety of music and our road trips usually consist of weird and wonderful playlists so I think as we’ve grown as a band, we’ve figured out a way to start bringing these influences together a bit more. We don’t really think about it when we’re writing songs, we usually just have a jam and see what happens.
Barracuda King is about an interesting night, care to elaborate?
It’s probably more of a concoction of many strange nights I’ve had over the years to be fair. Moments in the after sesh where you go a bit nuts and your mind isn’t in this world. It’s kind of half anecdotal and half tripping guide!
Keep on Moving – do you think that people are more and more getting sick of social media?
Who knows? I think people hate to love it. There’s a fine line between a harmless bit of scrolling and getting completely Zuckerberged, so we’re just here to voice our opinion on it. Hopefully society does become less reliant on it though…
What’s next for the band?
We have plenty of songs ready to record so the plan is to get into the studio. Our next gig is at The Castle supporting Acid Child on Wednesday November 24th.
What we've been listening to...stores, Keg, Yard Act, Egyptian Blue, Beija Flo, TV Priest, Enola Gay, Pip Blom, Home Counties, Anorak Patch, Melts
By Jon Milton
Last month saw three of 2021’s brightest newcomers Geese, Porchlight and Wet Leg further add to their impressive debuts, and this month sees another do the same, in the shape of stores. ‘blue sunday’ makes the art of well-crafted song writing seem so effortless, seamlessly switching from breezy jazz to noisily insistent garage rock in the blink of an eye. A full EP is on its way next month by all accounts.
Keg also make it into our best newcomers list but are slightly further down the line release-wise on the artists mentioned above having just dropped their debut EP ‘Assembly’ via Alcopop! Records. If you, like I, have had your attention grabbed by their frantic, intricate, and eloquent singles ‘Presidential Walk’ and ‘Heyshaw’ then you’ll be pleased to know that the other three tracks that make up the EP are of equal high quality. Their self-proclaimed building site anthem ‘Breaking Rocks’ fusing early 80’s new wave and more contemporary post-punk, ‘Farmhands" offering up a "lovestory to St James Street [in Brighton] and its many erratic personalities and the eternal clash of oat flat whites and heroin poos". Closing track 'Kilham' further emphasises the bands’ ability to effortlessly shift gears between different musical styles, this time jazz, new-wave, and post rock. As with bands like Squid it feels like Keg have a lot more hiding in their locker, thus making the thought of their debut album a mouth-watering prospect.
Talking of albums, isn’t it about time we got to hear one from Egyptian Blue? After what seems like an eternity the band have given us a glimpse of what could be in store with their new single ‘Salt’ and doesn’t it sound good? I stuck on ‘Collateral’ the other day and was taken by how fresh it sounded, and you get the same feeling with this new track. Salt seems to have a bit more body too it, less trebly and the vocals more controlled. They’ve been in the studio recording with Theo Verney so we wait with baited breath for more.
Yard Act’s album drops in January and they’ve just released the second taster in ‘Land of the Blind’. It feels like a new take on the Special’s ‘Ghost Town’ with its brooding bass line and lyrical disdain for Modern Britain. Where Ghost Town addressed themes of urban decay, deindustrialisation, unemployment and violence in inner cities, Land of the Blind seems to bemoan the lies that our Politician’s tell and the great British public’s unnerving ability to be firstly suckered in and then just go with it. The band’s press release dances around the subject matter presumably due to keeping record label Universal happy, but the Brexit broken promise and pandemic mismanagement narrative seems pretty clear:
‘We all get a commemorative fifty pence piece each for the peace treaties breached, and the palms greased, that are never on the ends of the elbows digging the graves of the recently deceased, Please have a seat, I’m going to show you all a magic trick but its sort of a surprise, so if you just lend me that fifty pence piece in your hand and then close your eyes, I’m going to make me, and this fifty pence piece disappear’.
The spirit of Tom Waits looms over the song too, both in the song title and the Marc Ribot style guitar, and the bababadaba’s also seem to doff their cap to another piece of 80’s social commentary, the Jam’s ‘Town Called Malice’. Very clever indeed, and another reminder of how the band manage to elevate themselves from their contemporaries.
The latest from Pip Blom and TV Priest see both artists showing their reflective sides, with ‘Different Tune’ a further taster from the formers forthcoming second album and ‘All Thing’ the other side of their singles club ‘Lifesize’ release from Sub Pop. ‘All Thing’ combines a brooding bassline, terrace style percussion, guitar stabs and gently sung vocals beautifully to create a hypnotic piece that will have you wistfully staring into space in deep contemplation, showing a side to the band that isn’t afraid to explore new avenues. ‘Different tune’ is less immediate but nevertheless enjoyable.
If its noise and aggression you’re after, look no further than Belfast’s Enola Gay. Sitting somewhere between Girl Band and the Murder Capital, debut EP ‘Gransha’ boasts four scorching tracks that really knock you off your feet. ‘Sofa Surfing’, the majestic ‘Scrappers’ and ‘…Through Men’s Eyes’ are brutally uncompromising in the same way that Idles are and Salt is the kind of track that could go toe to toe with any of Red Hot Chilli Peppers back catalogue and leave the Americans in pain on the floor. That subverted Thatcher speech at the start of it is a bit of a chilling reminder of another type of onslaught though. The band tour extensively across the UK in March and April and should be well worth catching.
Elsewhere on the new release front are tracks from Beija Flo and Home Counties which we featured here and here earlier this week, and a couple of cracking new tracks from Melts and Anorak Patch. ‘Maelstrorm’ by the former is reminiscent of David Holmes’s ‘I Heard Wonders’ but heavier on the krautrock (always a good thing that), and ‘Delilah’ by the latter is another quality tune from the band.