Saturday, 31 December 2011

Music Liberation's Top 10 Albums of 2011

1. EMA - Past Life Martyred Saints // Reviewed 4th July by Moker
"Past Life Martyed Saints is an organic beast, seemingly fluid, changing with each listen. Anderson has gone headfirst into these songs and the results are so honest, so desperate, so vulnerable that by the time the superbly somber and well placed 'Red Star' unfolds as the closing track, you’ll feel dazed; plunged into Anderson’s crazy world and gently escorted out the other side once the storm is over, wondering what the hell just happened. And you know what’s weirdest of all? It feels brilliant." || EMA

2. Benjamin Francis Leftwich - Last Smoke Before The Snowstorm // Reviewed 13th July by Sarah Rayner
"Remnants of the night before still in your blood stream? No fear, Benjamin Francis Leftwich will soothe your throbbing head. A sound for every aching bone, melodies to flutter across voids and ease each injury inside and out. Here we have bare-bones acoustic, stripped back to the roots to pierce the silence in a set of heart-grabbing compositions." || Benjamin Francis Leftwich

3. Mazes - A Thousand Heys // Reviewed 18th April by Jon Sidwell
"Album opener 'Go Betweens' sets the tone of the record, with simple, pacey drums interspersed with scuzzy energetic guitars and playful yet punchy vocals from frontman Jack Cooper. 'Surf & Turf / Maths Tag' demonstrates the bands ear for tempo changes, where as 'Most Days' is them at their most ferocious. A Thousand Heys is a fun, chaotic, frenzied, emotional roller coaster of a debut record that will have you hitting the repeat button throughout the forthcoming Summer." || Mazes

4. Shapes - Monotony Chic // Reviewed 27th July by Clive Rozario
"This is an urgent and intense collection of songs worthy of your time. And time is something it may need, as ‘Monotony Chic’ does take a couple listens for the tunes to sink in. It may sound a little erratic and messy at first, but there is real precision here, and it may only be on the third listen that you begin to distinguish between riffs (and man are some of the riffs nice!), screams, and time signatures." || Shapes

5. Evidence - Cats and Dogs // Reviewed 21st November by Tom Nash
"With no trace of a radio-friendly single or a floor-filling club banger, Cats & Dogs may not win Evidence new fans, but after two decades in the business, it is clear that isn’t important to him. He knows his strengths and he plays to them. If you like whiplash-inducing beats and solid rhymes, you won’t go wrong with this LP." || Evidence

6. Hectic Zeniths - Hectic Zeniths // Reviewed 29th November by Tom Nash
"While never reaching their cinematic heights, Hectic Zeniths draws comparisons with Blue Sky Black Death or Emancipator, each known for creating rich and densely layered music. At eleven tracks long and clocking in at half an hour from beginning to end, some may feel it may be on the short side, but with each song containing so many elements, replay value will undoubtedly be high." || Hectic Zeniths

"Delivering a much needed and long overdue shot in the arm of a stagnant post-hardcore scene, Portsmouth’s Munroe Effect this week finally unveil their debut album ‘Ultraviolenceland’. Released through Dead Plant Records, and mastered by Alan Douche (Dillinger Escape Plan, Brand New) this record reveals a band who sound equally at home flailing chaotic guitars around, as they are laying down soaring melodies." || Munroe Effect

"Clocking in at a mere 27 minutes there no hanging around with this record, but then there’s enough diversity on offer to make it somehow seem longer than that. Having been recorded predominantly live in a converted stable there is a tendency for some sounds to get drowned out by others, however I feel this adds great texture and a sense of urgency. This debut record is raw and totally uncompromising, certainly not for the faint of heart, but well worth checking out." || Crooked Mountain, Crooked Sea

"Kicking off with 'High Brow, Low Brow, No Eye Brow' (possible reference to 'High Five, Swan Dive, Nose Dive' by Pulled Apart By Horses? meh...) the band launch into their mathy guitar driven noise, with yelpy stop start vocals from Ben Gregory, supported by driven yet understated drums. Instant comparisons can be drawn with Foals ('Antidotes' era), and contemporaries such as Future Of The Left and Les Savy Fav." || Everyone To The Anderson

10. We'll Go Machete - Strong Drunk Hands // Reviewed 30th September by Clive Rozario
"‘Strong Drunk Hands’ is the debut album from the Texan quartet, and it consists of 10 tracks of the aforementioned kind of post-hardcore. To clarify, this is punk-infused post-rock – aggressive enough to be punk rock, but too melodic to be considered straight hardcore. The guitars wrap layers of experimental spiking and noodling around raw and erratic punk riffs. The drums are solidly mid-paced. The bass is heavy and fuzzy." || We'll Go Machete

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Music Liberation's Top 5 EPs of 2011

1. Daughter - The Wild Youth // Reviewed 9th December by Jon Sidwell
"Elena and Igor have an ear to create space within their music, moments where their instruments can breath and the listener can fully appreciate the beauty that is being played out before them. The poignant combination of Elena's lingering vocals and the delicate acoustic/electric guitars demonstrate how simplicity in music is something to be applauded." || Daughter

2. Kids  - Summer Frights // Reviewed 3rd August by Jon Sidwell
"San Diego's Kids have delivered one of the most refreshing records I have come across so far this year in the shape of their debut EP 'Summer Frights'. What makes this even more delightful and impressive is that the 5-piece (Nature, Cory, Blake, Ben, and Matt) all between the ages of just 17 and 19. Kids, appropriately titled then." || Kids

3. Sea Oleena - Sleeplessness // Reviewed 15th December by Moker
"Standing at seven tracks in length, Sea Oleena’s new release 'Sleeplessness' could be considered more mini-album than EP, but that still wouldn’t justify the enormity of the music recorded by MontrĂ©al multi-instrumentalist Charlotte Loseth. The record is a beautiful warm blanket of songs, each one an epic cacophony of layered sounds, reverb and haunting female vocals delivered with the unassuming charm of a girl humming a song in her bedroom." || Sea Oleena

4. Lightguides - Samba Samba Samba // Reviewed 4th October by Jon Sidwell
"Samba Samba Samba is a record that will put a smile on your face when you're feeling down, get you in the mood to go out and party, or even for those times when you need to reflect. It's an all encompassing album from a band who clearly have the talents and the mindset to reach as many heads and hearts as they please." || Lightguides

"A big feature of Gunning For Tamar’s post-hardcore that sets them apart from the competition is the epic and emotive vocals – containing both gentle vulnerability and commanding strength. These (scream-free) vocals, together with the general intricate nature of the layered guitars, recall the intelligent emo of Funeral For A Friend’sMemory And Humanity.’ And just like FFAF, Gunning For Tamar are able to sound both progressive and accessible through their soaring melodies." || Gunning For Tamar

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Music Liberation's Top 5 Tracks of 2011

We begin our round up of this year with our top 5 tracks that we reviewed in 2011. This will be followed later this week by our top 5 EPs, Music Liberation writers picks of the year, and finally our top 10 albums of the year...

1. Cloud Nothings - No Future / No Past // Reviewed November 18th by Jon Sidwell
"Beginning in a haunting fashion with distant piano and slow methodical bass and drums, front man Dylan Baldi croaks in an ever demanding voice as the music slowly builds and builds. And keep it keeps building until the wheels start to fall off, but the band keep going, with Baldi’s call to arm shouts of “No future, no past” surrounded by crashing drums and flailing guitars." || Cloud Nothings

2. Dead Red Sun - Facility // Reviewed 1st February by Jon Sidwell
"Opening with a recorded voice sample, things quickly move into instrumental territory as Mike Guppy's guitar, Ollie Bremner's bass, and Tom Murphy's drums all collide with pin point precision. The pace is fast and unnerving, making the listener acutely aware that a full on crescendo is about to occur, and it dutifully does just over halfway through the track." || Dead Red Sun

"The Bullitts are making musical masterpieces and Jaymes isn’t just satisfied with the soundtrack, he wants you to picture the inspiration behind the production. With 'Run and Hide' he has combined French cinema production, with a soulful and simple backing vocal, to which Jay Elec’ adds the finishing touch to what makes this track an absolute smash."|| The Bullitts

4. Netherlands - Something Or Nothing // Reviewed 5th September by Jon Sidwell (NB: Netherlands now renamed Pale Seas)
"Starting with some fluttering wind chimes & muted guitars, the track gently floats into pop/folk motion with the vocals of Jacob Scotts. His voice is delicate & vulnerable and fits the tender music perfectly. If you don't end up swaying along to this one then you've got serious balance issues. The harmonies are infectious, & repeated listens only further the addiction to this band and their sound."

5. Acrylics - Molly's Vertigo // Reviewed 15th August by Moker
"Take it with a pinch of British salt when I say the new single from Brooklyn based Acrylics is so good, I knew it had to originate from across the water. Whether or not I might be culturally bias towards the Americans doesn’t stop ‘Molly’s Vertigo’ from being an atmospheric, 80s tinged pop ballad of perfection."|| Acrylics

Friday, 23 December 2011

EP Review : Likes Lions - Future Colour

Likes Lions are an alternative rock quintet from Sheffield, UK. They are not the indie band In Like Lions, nor are they the electro-pop band Live Like Lions. And they are certainly not the hardcore punk band Like Lions from New York. Ever heard of SEO boys?

This Likes Lions formed in 2009, and 'Future Colour' - released in October 2011 - is their debut EP. They take the more accessible aspects of math-rock and post-rock, and fuse them together to produce a heavier, Foals-esque, indie sound. For some reason (perhaps due to the massive success of the aforementioned Foals), I have ended up reviewing a few too many math-indie-rock EPs this year. However, Likes Lions melody-conscious take on the genre made this a somewhat enjoyable experience for me.

'Author, Dreamweaver, Visionary' is a fantastic choice to open the EP - with a captivating 40 seconds of prog-rock synth and guitar noodlings building up momentum to the crashing punk-rock drums and spiky alt-rock riffs that make up the bulk of the track. It's an energetic introduction to the band, with some fine instrumentation, but lacks the vocal hooks of the rest of the EP. 'All on Red' is a mid-paced song, with softer guitar lines and a ballad-like vocal delivery. Although it may sound a little emo for some, it's the first time we are able to hear just how strong Rich Bristow's vocals are - his soulful delivery isn't common place for math-rock singers (who normally like to yelp - sometimes incomprehensibly).

'Welcome to Seaworld' sounds the closest to what Foals produce - with a dancey drumbeat and layers of atmospheric guitar lines overshadowing a simple indie riff. Their most immediate song is 'Futures', which contains a pop-punk sensibility built up around a massive chorus - very, very memorable. Closer 'Badminton' contains the most irregular time-signature, with a math-drum line propelling inventive dual guitar-work and soaring vocal melodies - all backed by some understated violin and cello. Just when you think the song has drawn to a quiet conclusion, up jumps an up-tempo, Biffy Clyro-esque stabbing riff, in unison with stabbing strings. A thrilling end to the EP.

The reason I find Likes Lions so appealing is because they don't try to shove the irregularity of their riffs, beats and structures down your throat - like a lot of alternative math-rock bands (I think it makes them feel progressive). Instead, they use their experimental instrumentation as a unique backdrop to the kinds of pop-rock hooks that can stay with you for the rest of the day. Can't wait to see what they'll come up with next. 

For fans of Tellison (and, of course, Foals). || Download 'Future Colour' EP // Likes Lions

Monday, 19 December 2011

EP Review : FaltyDL - Atlantis

Released earlier last month, 'Atlantis' is the new EP from FaltyDL. Known to his friends as Drew Lustman, FaltyDL has steadily been making a name for himself stateside as 'one of the hottest names in electronic music'. He has an impressive work rate, putting out two albums, an EP, and three singles all since 2008. Now the New York based artist is ready to release another in the shape of this four-track EP, which is his first record for Ninja Tune.

'Atlantis' is an album which pays homage to Lustman's musical knowledge and history, as well as demonstrating his ears desire to take his sounds to a new level. The title track has an almost inaudibly low bass droning throughout as a rhythmic beat commands you to move. Whilst obvious comparisons can be drawn with Fourtet on the opening track, FaltyDL opens things up on 'Can't Stop The Prophet', as the pace is slowed right down and a weird synth and strings combination proceeds to put you into a dream like state, before it all goes drum and bassy near the end. 'My Light, My Love' carries on in similar vain, with chilled but off kilter beats seemingly lulling you into a strange vortex where you can't escape. Final track 'The Sale Ends' is a more conventional minimal track, perfect for that 4am vibe. 

Whilst his high productivity may lead to some questioning the continued quality of his work, FaltyDL shows that variation is the key here. This four track record shows that he has plenty of interesting ideas floating around his head, and to put a marker on that creativity would be disastrous for both him and us.

Atlantis is out now through Ninja Tune // FaltyDL

FaltyDL - 'Atlantis' by Ninja Tune

Thursday, 15 December 2011

EP Review : Sea Oleena - Sleeplessness

Standing at seven tracks in length, Sea Oleena’s new release 'Sleeplessness' could be considered more mini-album than EP, but that still wouldn’t justify the enormity of the music recorded by MontrĂ©al multi-instrumentalist Charlotte Loseth. The record is a beautiful warm blanket of songs, each one an epic cacophony of layered sounds, reverb and haunting female vocals delivered with the unassuming charm of a girl humming a song in her bedroom.

Each hushed swirl of a song bleeds into the next, joined together by the rumbling and eerie ambient sounds throughout. For what on first listen could be dismissed as the twee ramblings of yet another coy female artist, scratch the surface of Loseth’s musical landscape and it’s like walking into Narnia. There’s wonder at every turn.

Vocals sounding like mere ethereal whispers hide beautiful poetry: “Invisible physicians, lawyers, and magicians / an instant of existence at the table in the kitchen” she wails as the opening lines of this record. “This is what he wrote in the ripped-up note: / I've become something even less than a ghost. / Even more of a though, I've become a mirage. / I'm the shaky air encircling the flickering flame. / I'm the white wall swallowing the window frame. hall” she hisses over ‘Insomnia Plague’.

Instrumentation is orthodox but they’re whipped into yearning swirls of something more exquisite. Plucked acoustic guitars, pianos and echoy bass drums lay the foundations for Loseth’s, numerous but never overdone multiple vocal lines.

Perhaps if criticism could be levelled it’s that there are no standout tracks to be found on this record; no big choruses or sing along lyrics, just a body of delicate spacey folk that’s presented as a single entity. This of course is the point.

The magical world of Sleeplessness is intoxicating. It feels like Loseth creates such music for the purpose of sharing with the listener something greater than herself. This organic and ever shifting waterfall of a record demands and deserves our attention.

All songs and lyrics are available on the Sea Oleena bandcamp page, whilst the cassette version of this album (including her first self titled EP) can be purchased via Bridgetown Records. // Sea Oleena

Sea Oleena – Southbound by netlabelism

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

EP Review : Alphabet Backwards - British Explorer

Recently released through Highline Records, 'British Explorer' is a new three track EP from Oxford's Alphabet Backwards. With apparent support from the likes of Huw Stephens, Tom Robinson, and Steve Lamacq, the band have been making steady inroads during 2011, with their simple mission statement being to 'champion the noble art of pop music, dancing all the way'. 

Opening track 'Big Top' brings up a clear comparison with Cardiff's Los Campesinos! with the dual combination of male and female vocals being a striking one, however some clever synths help to widen the gap between the bands' style, and Alphabet Backwards ear for a catchy melody is hard to ignore. 'Tonight' carries on in a similar vein, with an interesting mix up of acoustic guitars put against the synths, as well as a clear appreciation of space within the song, which helps to broaden the bands' appeal. 

The final track of this short record is 'Taller', which is also the leading single to be taken from it. An obvious choice too after hearing the opening few bars, as some frankly irresistible vocals from frontman James Hitchman are played out over yet more guitar/synth based pop music. I think what helps make Alphabet Backwards stand out over their pop loving piers is that they do keep things simple, not being afraid to let their music and lyrics stand up for themselves, as opposed to other acts who throw everything into it hoping something will stick.

The 'British Explorer' EP is available now through Highline Records // Alphabet Backwards

Taller by alphabet backwards

Friday, 9 December 2011

EP Review : Daughter - The Wild Youth

Daughter are Elena Tonra and Igor Haefeli, a double act that have swept through 2011 with numerous gigs across the UK, put out an EP titled 'His Young Heart', and they end the year with another record, 'The Wild Youth', which is out through Communion Records.

Personally I first discovered Daughter whilst they were supporting Benjamin Francis Leftwich during his Autumn tour, catching their intimate and spell-bounding show at the Union Chapel in Islington, where their exquisite performance equalled if not better that of the headliner.

'The Wild Youth' begins with 'Home', a track which showcases what makes Daughter so utterly brilliant. Elena and Igor have an ear to create space within their music, moments where their instruments can breath and the listener can fully appreciate the beauty that is being played out before them. The poignant combination of Elena's lingering vocals and the delicate acoustic/electric guitars demonstrate how simplicity in music is something to be applauded.

'Medicine' is built upon simple piano chords, with the focus put upon the beautiful words and vocals, as is 'Love', with Elena's mystical vocals driving the song along as drums and guitars slowly build to a gentle crescendo. My favourite track on the record is 'Youth', with the thought provoking lyrics having the perfect backdrop of drawn-out music to stand out and be counted.

It's testament to Daughter's belief and confidence in their own ideas that they give their music almost a license to bask and shine in its simplicity, and how grateful we must be for that. Music Liberation eagerly awaits a full length release in 2012...

You can buy 'The Wild Youth' EP now // Daughter // Communion Records

Daughter - 'Home' (Taken from 'The Wild Youth' EP) by ohDaughter

Daughter - 'Medicine' (Taken from 'The Wild Youth' EP) by ohDaughter

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

New Video : Gabrielle Aplin - Home

We first caught up with Gabrielle Aplin back in August 2010, when we carried out a quick-fire interview with her, learning lots of interesting things like discovering her favourite sandwich is "Brie, Grape, and Cranberry". Since that momentous occasion she has released a couple of EPs alongside some constant touring up and down the UK, as well as playing at this years Glastonbury Festival. 2012 see's the release of her third EP titled 'Home' through Never Fade Records, of which the title track we have the video for.

It's a beautiful song, showcasing Gabrielle's delicate and ethereal voice, as well as a songwriting ability beyond her tender years. The video is also quite special, directed by Joshua Sanger it features some stunning shots of Gabrielle and the English countryside.

You can pre-order 'Home' ahead of the January 9th release date. // Gabrielle Aplin

Lying To The Mirror by Gabrielle Aplin

Monday, 5 December 2011

The Blog Sound of 2012

As some of you may or may not know, the BBC have a yearly 'Sound Of ...' list, whereby they feature a longlist of 15 artists they think will have a successful year ahead. This initial longlist gets whittled down to a top 5, with eventually an overall winner being chosen. 2011 saw Jessie J being picked, 2010 was Ellie Goulding, 2009 was Little Boots, and so on. The lists are compiled by a team of 'experts', ranging from music critics, editors, broadcasters, and bloggers.

Well in an attempt to try something a bit different, three of the most esteemed bloggers out there (Andy VonPip from The Von Pip Musical Express, Robin from Breaking More Waves, and Simon from Sweeping The Nation) decided it would be an interesting experiment to run a similar type of poll, with the votes coming solely from music bloggers. They say:-

"We mooted the idea of conducting a poll of the UK’s best music blogs & asking them who they thought would be the “Sound Of 2012.” We hoped by having an ‘alternative’ it may throw up some interesting results which we could contrast and compare to the Beebs ‘official’ one . It was felt that an alternative music “Bloggers Sound of ...” list could highlight what’s really been going on musically, down at the coalface so to speak."

So without further ado here are the top 15 artists that us music bloggers chose! (Music Liberation's choices will be revealed in early January!)

The blogs involved in compiling this rather exciting list were :-

The top 5 and subsequent winner of The Blog Sound of 2012 will be announced alongside that of the BBC's in January.

We would love to know what you think of the Blog Sound of 2012 list, so let us know! Here's some of our early faves to get you started... (And here is the official BBC list so you can compare with that if you like too!)

Daughter - Love (taken from 'The Wild Youth EP') by ohDaughter

Lucy Rose - Scar by Lucy Rose

Friends - Friend Crush by LuckyNumberMusic

Vehicles by OUTFIT

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Cutting Noise Podcast 002 (November 2011)

The new Cutting Noise podcast is now available to stream and download. Running in association with Music Liberation the monthly podcasts aim to deliver 10 new tracks discovered during the past month.

You can follow Cutting Noise on twitter, facebook, and tumblr.

As well as listening to all the previous podcasts on soundcloud.

CUTTING NOISE PODCAST 002 (November 2011) by cuttingnoise

1. Hysterical Injury - Maths
2. Lucy Rose - Middle Of The Bed
3. Alphabet Backwards - Taller
4. Likes Lions - Author, Dreamweaver, Visionary
5. Katie Malco - Laadeedaa
6. Hectic Zeniths - I Might Drown
7. Therapist - Extreme Fever
8. Sea Oleena - Insomnia Plague
9. Cloud Nothings - No Future / No Past
10. Daughter - Love