Friday, 18 September 2015

Tuff Love

There is no doubt that Tuff Love are one of scotland's most exciting new bands. Having played with the likes of Purfect Pussy, Joanna Gruesome, Paulo Nutini and even getting a personal invite to support Ride on their triumphant comback tour; it's already been a busy and very special year for the three-piece.

Now, as the days get shorter and the winter tours begin its time for some new material and new track 'Duke' effortlessly continues Tuff Love's fine form. Taken from the upcoming EP Dregs, released on November 5th via Lost Map Records, this shimmering guitar led track is all you need to get over that sore summer hangover. Lofi fuzz and dreamy vocals take you back to that sun drenched festival feild that always feels so far away in the early September drizzle.

In November the Glasgow trio will take their exciting new EP on tour and will definitely be worth checking out. Dates are as follows:

Nov 5 – Iceland Airwaves, Reykjav√≠k
Nov 7 - Limbo, Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh 
Nov 8 – Swn Festival, Cardiff 
Nov 9 – The Harley, Sheffield 
Nov 10 – The Musician, Leicester 
Nov 11 – The Hope & Ruin, Brighton 
Nov 12 – Dalston Victoria, London 

Nov 13 – Beacons Metro X DIY, Leeds 

Nov 14 – The Castle, Manchester 

Nov 15 – The Fulford Arms, York 

Nov 21 - Hug & Pint, Glasgow 

Monday, 31 August 2015

The Art Is Hard 5th Birthday Bash

Art Is Hard Records may only just be old enough to start primary school but they've had a pretty busy last five years. From humble beginnings releasing purely south west based bands to becoming one of the UK's most influential DIY record labels. It is no surprise then, that last Saturday's fifth birthday party, hosted over three stages at the Exchange and the Stag and Hound in Bristol, had everything.

The afternoon began in the cosy, and perhaps fittingly modest, bar of the Stag and Hound where Exeter's Skeleton Frames drenched the room in a spectacularly dark and dingy shoe gaze. After a quick nip round the corner to the Exchange it was time to see Caramel, a band I'd heard about but not listened to before the gig. Featuring members from the brilliant Joanna Gruesome, including Owen Williams (also of Grubs), the Cardiff and Bristol based band really impressed with their lively punk riffs and shouty vocals.

Sadly an awkward hotel check-in time meant we missed a few bands sets. Luckily however we were back in time for Manchester's brilliant Fruit Bomb. The four-piece treated the growing Exchange crowd to tracks like 'Normcore Girlfriend', released as part of Art Is Hard's Family Portrait compilation, and recent single 'Goin' Home'. 

Fruit Bomb where not the only Family Portrait artists to bring their rowdy sounds to the party. Abattoir Blues and Bruising also made appearances at the Exchange, the latter of whom proving just why they are one of the most talked about DIY bands around at the moment despite a slight delay due to new guitar troubles.

Grubs, who are set to release their debut album on September 11th, were next on. Despite some troubles remembering their own songs the band whistled through a set that had all the charm we've come to expect from the trio and which was finished off in style with a raucous rendition of 'Gym Shame'.

Soon afterwards we found ourselves upstairs in the Stag and Hound awaiting a second set from Roxy of Grubs this time however as her own project Two White Cranes. It was a set to remember as every song was met with what seemed like endless woops from friends and fans alike. The set contained great tracks from both her debut and recently released second album and was described as her "favourite ever set" on Two White Cranes' Facebook.

After a quick ear rest it was time for the noise to really start with a string of heavy bands all in quick succession. First Birdskulls unleashed their ever darkening sound on the Stag and Hound with tracks from their imminent debut Trickle. Soon after being involved in Birdskull's very rough and sweaty mosh, Bloody Knees exploded into action in the Exchange swamping the room with the sludgy pop punk sound that has made them favourites with the likes of the NME and DIY magazine.

In a day of amazing sets it was the next that would really take my breath away. Nai Harvest, the night's special guests began with an empty looking room as people slowly stumbled in from the pummelling of Bloody Knees. That soon changed. A set that featured tune after tune from debut album Hairball and a cover of Teenage Fanclub's 'Ain't That Enough' that even got me singing along; strong praise indeed I assure you. The mesmerising set ended with a rapturous singalong to 'Buttercups' before singer Ben Thompson leapt onto bandmate Lew Currie's bass drum, taking in the crowd's sticky excitment as he flung his guitar to the ground.

As the night drew to a close there was just one question on everyone's lips: Trust Fund or The Black Tambourines? We decided to compromise, Trust Fund first then catch the end of The Black Tambs'. 

A crowded Exchange eagerly awaited the much hyped Trust Fund and he didn't let his home crowd down. Shapes were thrown and lyrics were sung by a buzzing crowd. It seemed as though there was not a person in the room who wasn't loving the icon of Bristols DIY scene. A hypnotic rendition of 'Cut Me Out' glued us to the Exchange until the end of the set.

As the final bars echoed out we were on the run around the corner for The Black Tambourines. Total chaos awaited. Bodies flew around the small room. Feet swooped past heads. As the set came to an end a microphone disappeared into the crowd, then another before guitarist Josh Spencer-Fletcher was dragged above the crowd, still slashing at the strings of his guitar. The finale proved too much for bassist Jake Willbourne who found himself disappearing over the drum kit and onto the floor. And they say punk is dead!

From mellow beginnings to dazzling glory, the Art Is Hard 5th Birthday Party pretty much summed up the label's short history. It was brilliant.

Monday, 24 August 2015

It Must Be Grubs!

It's been a long and work filled summer but finally I have a moment to unleash my pent up musical excitement. It's been a while now since I eagerly awaited the brilliant Grubs as they prepared to play in Bristol's cosy Start The Bus bar. A year on and I am preparing again for the quick trip up to Bristol to see the band again, only this time there is an album on the way.

It Must Be Grubs will feature the bands only two previously released tracks 'Dec 15' and 'Gym Shame'. These quick bursts of youthful exuberance will be joined by recently streamed new track 'Windwaker'. Here we hear Roxy Brennan (of Joanna Gruesome and many, many more) provide both main and backing vocals along side band-mate Owen Williams (also of Joanna Gruesome, Caramel and more).

The album is released on September 11th via both Reeks of Effort and Tuff Enough Records. You can pre-order the record on its own or with a t-shirt. Oh yeah, and there's a cute dog on the cover. Get it here.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Big Catch Up 7 - Art Is Hard Have Been Busy!

Any regular readers of this blog will know that I adore Art Is Hard Records and by the looks of it that isn’t going to change any time soon! While we’ve all been slaving away they’ve continued to churn out more and more gold (in some cases literally).

A few years ago Art is Hard introduced four bands on a compilation titled ‘Family Portrait’. One of these bands, Joanna Gruesome, went on to win the Welsh Music Prize for their debut album, Weird Sister. Another, Playlounge, have gone on to become one of the key figures of UK DIY and have even hopped across the pond once or twice.

It is unsurprising then that the thought of a ‘Family Portrait Volume 2’ sent shivers of joy down my spine. Once again four bands came together for the compilation, which was for each of them their first physical release.

Kicking off are Canada’s Living Hour who provide a thick fog of shimmering shoegaze. Brighton’s rowdiest new boys Abattoir Blues follow with gangling guitars and farce vocals aplenty. The pair are joined by DIY band of the moment Bruising, who’ve exploded onto the scene receiving bucket loads of love from the likes of DIY magazine, and Fruit Bomb who share members with Nai Harvest and provide suitably up-beat indie riffs in tracks ‘Normcore Girlfriend’ and ‘Naked’.

In more recent Art Is Hard news, last week the label announced it’s latest release from Early Ghost. Single, ‘Now I Always Wander If I Like It Here’ is a laid back gem from the band who’ve been seen supporting Neutral Milk Hotel. Soft, questioning vocals lie fittingly over velvety guitar twangs and a tapped out drum beat. Released on a suitably gold cassette, this is just really, really good.

Lastly I don’t think I’ve had a chance to write about the new singles club, the Hand Cut Record Club. Following on from last years pizza club this provides a new hand cut 7’ every three weeks, of which just 50 will be made.

Falmouth’s surf punks The Red Cords where the proud makers of the first single in the form of ‘Scratch It Off’ and have been joined more recently by the likes of Double Denim and Dignan Porch. Totness’s Dog are behind the latest single and it really is something special. 'All Dressed Up Not Dancing' is only the second song the band has put out and mixes a continuous sharp keyboard poke with soft vocals. Fans of Happyness will adore this track and the bands other online material.

It’s perhaps fitting to end this catch up series with Dog, a band who I believe we will be seeing a lot more of. Definitely a band who are worth keeping an eye on.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Big Catch Up 6 - I Discovered Ought

I am one of those very lucky people who will be attending the End of the Road Festival later this year and I can’t wait. Mac Demarco, Alvvays, Future Islands and of course the Fat White Family, will all be there. However there is one band that I am perhaps even more excited to see.

Montreal’s Ought have been around for a while and their debut album came out last April so it’s fair to say I’ve been pretty slow here. I first saw a live video of them playing at Pitchfork music festival in Paris and it just blew me away. Exquisitely atmospheric their sound is timeless. Guitarist and Vocalist Tim Beeler Darcy’s punchy vocals sit charmingly above floating keyboards and winding bass lines as the band build up into exciting choruses to which you just have to sing along.

Debut album, More Than Any Other Day, is full to the brim with brilliant tracks of Ought’s hypnotic cross of post punk and indie. This really is the kind of album that you cannot stop listening to.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Big Catch Up 5 - Girlpool - Before The World Was Big

Girlpool’s debut EP, which I wrote about on this very blog, was snapped up in moments by none other than Wichita Recordings. Now they are back with a debut album in the form of Before The World Was Big. Cleo Tucker and Harmony Trividad prove that best friends can make simple but brilliant music together with ease.

Opener ‘Ideal World’ is driven gently by Trividad’s bass while the pair perfectly harmonize, a feature that is dominant throughout the ten tracks on the album. The title track sees the pair’s instruments coming together in a way that almost seems as though they are finishing each other’s senesces. This creates an enticing synergy that reflects their close friendship.

There is a gentle sweetness that makes this album about as loveable as you can get. Combined with the fascinatingly beautiful harmonies and intriguing simplicity of just a guitar and a bass, this makes Girlpool’s debut one of the best of the year so far.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Big Catch Up 4 - Birdskulls Have Made An Album

After a quick jaunt up to Leeds my catch up continues: 

On my list of reasons for being proud to live in Exeter, Birdskulls are right up there next to having a football team who once held Man U to a nil-nil draw. It’s no surprise then, that the announcement of their debut album, Trickle, which will be released on Brighton based label Dog Knights Productions, really got me through the darkest of those revision filled days.

To make things more exciting, we were also treated to a brand new single in the form of  ‘Good Enough’, which premiered, on Noisey. This is Birdskulls at their grungy best as guitarist and front man Jack Pulman, also of the brilliant Abattoir Blues, angrily shouts “I don’t wonna go to bed”. If the whole album is as good as this one track we are most definitely in for a treat.

Birdskulls are off on tour supporting Best Friends next month so look out for them and get there early to sample some top-notch grunge.