By Jon Milton
It’s been a while since I last posted a blog. There are a few things behind this, but one of the key reason’s has been a general lack of interest in new music that landed in 2023.
That’s not to say that there wasn’t a lot of good music released. On the contrary, I was taken aback by the quality as I compiled my Festive Fifty for the year. I’m guessing however that post-pandemic fatigue really set in and just sapped any enthusiasm for not only anything new, but also the old. And having started the blog and followed a lot of new bands since 2019, I’ve become acutely aware that quite a few of them have stopped making good music and are more concerned with chasing their moment in the sun.
Enough with the doom and gloom though! 2024 feels like it’s going to be a lot more promising…
Possibly one of the biggest highlights of 2023 was the rapid emergence of English Teacher. They kicked off the year with a single on Speedy Wunderground, signed for a major, released a slew of excellent tracks and even managed an appearance on Jool’s Holland’s ‘Later’.
The ‘Later’ performance of ‘World’s Biggest Paving Slab’ really was a joy to watch – the band seemed absolutely buzzing to be on the show.
2024 should see them release their debut album, and hopefully it will maintain the extremely high standard set by the singles so far.
My favourite discovery of 2023 was JJUUJJUU. With Wide Awake now established as a real festival staple, I make it a point of listening to all scheduled bands and was blown away by these guys.
Their 2018 ‘Zionic Mud’ is special, and they may have a second album (hopefully) on the way in 2024.
The pick of their recent singles is ‘Nowhere’ but Zionic Mud is probably the best starting point.
At the end of 2022 I saw Avalanche Party play a host of new material and had a chat with their bassist Joe, who suggested a new album would be out in May.
The excellent ‘Serious Dance Music’ arrived without any publicity in March, and there’s been nothing since then. Hopefully the album will be on its way soon.
2023 saw Speedy Wunderground celebrate 10 years at Village Underground, which included a performance from Moreish Idols, who released a sublime second EP on the label ‘Lock Eyes and Collide’.
The band toured extensively throughout the year, so hopefully another EP (or ideally an album could be on its way in the coming months.
The other major highlight from the label was the debut single from Hot Face, ‘Dura Dura’.
March 2024 will see Yard Act release their long awaited second album. Where some bands have either stood still or watered down their sound to try and widen their appeal, Yard Act continue to evolve and firmly set their own path.
Recent single ‘Petroleum’ has more than a touch of Beck about it and its predecessor ‘Dream Job’ has an 80’s funk theme going on, so what comes next is anyone’s guess. They are clearly a clever bunch who know their market, so you’d expect them to keep that bar high.
Other bands to look out for in 2024 will hopefully include:
- Eyesore and the Jinx: Their debut album comes out in February…
- Workfriends: such a good band, I just want to hear more from them!
- Porchlight: building on their excellent ‘Wives Tales & Hymns of the Earth’ EP
- Kill, the Icon, Gaylips, Human Interest, Splint, HAAL, Midlight, Keg, Wombo, Deadletter, Cowboyy,
Egyptian Blue, Last Tourist and anyone else I've missed – keep them coming!
By Jon Milton
There’s something deliciously gothy about ‘Glass City’, the third album from FEWS. The insistent guitar lines bathed in echo, the Steve Severin-like driving bass and the tribal drumming all combine devilishly to recall that unfairly maligned early 80’s movement.
Based in Sweden but comprised of Swedes, Americans and English, FEWS first emerged in 2015, but have been quiet for the last four years since their last album ‘Into Red’. Glass City was, by all accounts borne out of experimentation with producer Joakim Lindberg. Vocalist/Guitarist Fred Runquist says of the album:
‘‘Glass City’ is the rawest thing we’ve done so far. Unlike the previous album, we tried to make it as raw and alive as it is when playing live. We didn’t want to compromise with doing so many dubs and smoothen the rough edges. It’s a really exposing feeling, especially when its so close to the edge that you can almost feel it’s about to break’.
There are shades of many of bands in their early stages on this record, early Bauhaus, The Cure, The Cult, Siouxsie, Echo and the Bunnymen and Gene Loves Jezebel. Tracks like Massolit, Adore, Get Out and In Head romp along at a glorious pace. Elsewhere Yoga Instructor, Soon and Strafe evoke the early shoegaze of Slowdive and Ride and there’s a hint of early 90’s grunge on Fled.
And just Fred says, it is raw. Raw and incisive like it was their first album, not their third, and testament to a band that are at the top of their game.
What we've been listening to...Egyptian Blue, The Black Delta Movement, Neuroplacid, Low Hummer, Fake Turins, Bo Gritz, Geese, HAAL
By Jon Milton
After the long awaited return of Treeboy & Arc, Eyesore & the Jinx and Avalanche Party earlier this month, Egyptian Blue have emerged from hibernation with a fine new single in the form of ‘Geisha’. Geisha is a bit of an evolution for the band, sung rather than shouted and not sounding like Gang of Four. As we’ve come to expect of the band it’s incredibly well-crafted with lots of complexity, continuing the high standards set by the band on their earlier work. You’d think an album must surely be on the way soon, although given their ‘Spirit of Eden’ like perfectionism it still could be a way off…
The Black Delta Movement do have a new album on the way, and have just treated us to new single ‘Photograph’. Judging by this new track, ‘Zip-Tie’ and ‘Fourth Pass Over The Graveyard’ the new album is going to be pretty special. If you’re a fan of Little Barrie as I am, you should definitely check this band out, after which you’ll become a fan of theirs as it’s a match made in heaven.
It's been a few years since Massive Attack made any new music, but their spirit lives on in a new generation through fellow Bristolians HAAL. The band's new single 'Judy' carries more than a hint of Mezzanine about it, taking on that album's menacing and broody style but channeled into something new and equally compelling. The song was conceived via the band's fascination with themes explored in Twin Peaks, with vocalist Alfie Hay realising 'a gargantuan story of human emotion spanning decades and mediums to present a vision that is totally up for interpretation...a cautionary tale of the dangers of television which I wanted to encapsulate and re-contextualise using the medium of music'. There is space and there is foreboding in Judy, fittingly framed with the haunting line 'One day the sadness will end'.
A band right at the start of their career is Neuroplacid. I’ve seen a few clips of their gigs which look like highly enjoyable bedlam and have been eagerly anticipating a debut single which has just landed in the form of ‘Silly in the Mental’. There’s a bit of a Beastie Boys punk funk vibe going on here.
Another rather entertaining live band are Low Hummer, who’ve just released a new single in the form of Connected. I became a fan after seeing them play at Bedford Esquires excellent Ceremony all-dayer last year and this new track doesn’t disappoint either. I guess there may be more music on the way later this year as the band have a tour lined up for November.
Back in February I wrote about Fake Turins wonderful single ‘Yr Made of Gold’, taken from their farewell EP due out in May. The second track to be taken from the EP ‘Beatnik’ has just been released and its also rather sublime. I’ve been lucky enough to hear a preview of the EP too and it is rather wonderful.
Also on rotation at the moment is ‘3D Country’ by Geese and ‘Stored in The Sky’ by Bo Gritz. The former continues the Stones vibe that they displayed on the superb ‘Cowboy Nudes’ with their second album due to drop later this year. The latter also have an album on the way, with the sound here firmly in the industrial noise camp.
By Jon Milton
Maruja’s debut EP smoulders. A unique blend of Jazz and Post Punk, tellingly spawned from improvisation sessions, ‘Knocknarea’ is blistering, emotional and utterly captivating.
Added to the previously released singles (Thunder, Blind Spot and The Tinker) is new track ‘Kakistocracy’, a song literally about rule by the least able, where our leaders’ words and actions over the last ten years are decried.
It was your lies
that bought time
A battle cry, till the love dies
With your trade deals
And it’s more lies, I got more lies
Photo: Cal Moores
Clearly designed to take the listener on a journey, Knocknarea is an intense experience but also incredibly rewarding. There is anger and there is sadness in this music, but there is also much beauty and hope.
The band head out on tour in May with headline shows in London (The Windmill) and Manchester (Yes).
What we've been listening to...Treeboy & Arc, Avalanche Party, Cowboyy, Moreish Idols, Eyesore & the Jinx, Saloon Dion, Moonwalks
By Jon Milton
All is well this week in the world of new music. After a long hiatus, three bands have made a welcome return, two young turks have reaffirmed themselves as ones to watch and others continue to deliver the goods.
Eyesore and the Jinx last released new music in October 2020. Their general lack of activity (apart from the odd gig here) suggested that might be it, but no, back they’ve come this week with their new single ‘An Ideas Man’ and what a cracker it is. Produced by Gilla Band’s Daniel Fox it’s the first instalment of a seven-inch single due for release in May.
There was talk of a Treeboy and Arc album back in 2021 after their Life Preserver EP came out, but nothing other than a bunch of remixes of the EP emerged. That debut album is happening however in July via Clue Records, with lead single ‘Retirement’ just out. They are a quality act of course, further evidenced by this track.
Completing the trio of welcome returnees this week is Avalanche Party. Having seen them play a few new tunes last year I knew any new material was likely to be good, and that’s certainly the case with ‘Serious Dance Music’. I believe the contemporary terminology for a track like this is ‘a banger’ – two blissful minutes of all out post punk energy. The band mysteriously haven’t posted about this on their socials so there’s no indication of when their second album will land, but I was given the impression that it would be in May.
Brighton band Cowboyy announced themselves last year with their perky ‘Gmaps’ track, followed at the start of 2023 with the equally bright eyed and bushy tailed ‘Tennis’. Their debut EP ‘Epic, the Movie’ landed on Friday, adding three more tracks in the form of Algorithmic, Plastic and Nothing. The former of these continues the playful theme, poking fun at mullets, playlist algorithms and bands that want to be Black Midi (why would you want to?), while the latter show a more serious side to the band. There’s a lot to this band, and if they can avoid the momentary flashes of Brian May then they are definitely onto something special. This is a very good EP.
Moreish Idols released their brilliant first EP ‘Float’ last year and have certainly not rested on their laurels since then, with a new track ‘Between these Ears’ following from last month’s equally sublime ‘Nocturnal Creatures’. This is a band that are destined to make wonderful albums, and despite setting an extremely high bar last year, they seem to have improved on Float with these two new tracks. The band’s music is intricately crafted and subtly nuanced and just an absolute joy to listen to.
Other notable releases this week come from Saloon Dion and Moonwalks. Saloon Dion have been releasing a steady stream of impressive tracks with the latest being new single ‘Happiness’. Despite the title it’s not exactly jaunty but it is a top tune. Moonwalks were pretty new on me before their latest track ‘Heavy Tears’ launched, but this is the first track to be released from their third album, due out on Fuzz Club in May and it’s a rather enjoyable introduction to the band.