By Jon Milton
A few months ago, I received what looked like a pizza menu through the post, which on closer inspection turned out to be the track list for Yard Act’s album, The Overload. A very clever, eye-catching start to what has been an unrelenting PR campaign to promote their debut, followed on by more stuff in the post and daily social media messages to remind one that, just in case you weren’t aware, they have an album on the way, and ‘did you know its available in lots of shiny formats?’.
Fortunately, the self-generated (and media venerated) hype has turned out to be worth it in the end, as The Overload is a fine body of work. Inevitably the largely spoken, acerbic northern vocal and songs written around basslines draws comparisons with the Fall, but the key difference here is that the words make sense and offer poignant social commentary throughout. There’s despair over our Island folk’s xenophobia on ‘Dead Horse’ and ambulance chasing on ‘Witness (Can I get A?)’, disdain for politicians and the whole Brexit process on ‘Land of The Blind’, contempt for capitalism on ‘Rich’ and lots more. All very sharp, and very much welcome in our current climate of enduring political and social malaise.
Out on the same day and to far less heralding, trumpeting and formatting was ‘Archive Material’ the second album from Silverbacks. It’s great too, sitting somewhere Echo and the Bunnymen, Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band and the Velvet Underground in terms of genre with wonderfully inventive flourishes all the way through. I’ve been really impressed with all of the band’s singles from the album (Archive Material, A Job Worth Something, Wear My Medals and Rolodex City) but reminded myself that the bands first album Fad also had good singles but overall wasn’t that memorable. Archive Material is however extremely memorable from start to finish, and the band seem to play with such effortless freedom.
On the singles front this week English Teacher released another excellent tune from their forthcoming EP Polyawkward in ‘A55’ and their cousins Eades released the impressive ‘Delusion Spree’ ahead of their debut album which launches in March. Another with an album on the way are PARK, which looks like it’s a collaboration between Lysistrata and Francois & the Atlas Mountains. Unfortunately, everything I’ve read about them is in French, and my French is pretty limited, but nevertheless the lead single from the album ‘Reveil heureux’ (Happy Awakening) sounds wonderful.
Overall, this month has been pretty impressive for new music, and as this is our first round up of the year, I thought I’d list out some of the highlights so far:
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.