Jess Bryant // Silvern // Album // Red Deer Club // 09.08.12

This article originally appeared on Never Enough Notes on 10 July 2012.

‘Dark cinematic folk’ is how Jess Bryant’s music is described on her Twitter page. Cinematic certainly is an apt description but it’s hard to pigeon hole the orchestral ‘Silvern’, which could be labelled as much with the broad brush of indie as with classical, folk and jazz in differing places.

Musically Bryant’s classical influences are clear and also a love of the glockenspiel, which appears nearly in every song. Apparently she is also influenced by writers like Paul Auster and Haruki Murakami who both focus on absurdism and surrealism…

Read the rest of the review here at Never Enough Notes.

First Aid Kit // Blue // 09.07.12 // Wichita

They sound like they’re from the deep South of America but Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Sӧderberg are in fact part of the wave of Scandi-indie bands that have been making their mark on music over the last few years. Aged just 21 and 19 both sisters have haunting and frighteningly mature voices, as good live as recorded.

Read the rest at Never Enough Notes.

Boat To Row // Grassmarket EP // 19.03.12 // istartedthefire Records

First appeared on Never Enough Notes on March 16 2012.

Summer is coming. It’s nearly time for sipping cider in pub gardens, going to festivals and wandering through fields. Boat To Row has made the perfect soundtrack to all those things with this re-released EP.

Having at one point done a tape-only release, with Crossroads in 2010, Boat To Row are obviously not afraid to do things the old-fashioned way, with a traditional sound of banjos, ukuleles and melodica combined with slick production.

Read more here at Never Enough Notes

Belleruche // Stormbird // 05.03.12 // Tru Thoughts

First appeared on Never Enough Notes on February 16 2012

Belleruche have seemingly joined the campaign to bring 1980s style electro back once and for all. But they don’t always play this way, with experimental, hip-hop and soul fusion being their usual shtick. The trio formed in London and have been knocking around since 2005 and have released three albums. Their LP ‘Rollerchain’ is due for release in May and will set the scene for this new, darker and broodier sound.

Latest single ‘Stormbird’, out on 5th March, starts with a rhythmic tempo, marching along in an eerie way with continuous whining keyboard and guitar in the background. Getting faster and faster towards the end, it is repetitive in a good way and sticks in the mind as does Kathrin deBoer’s voice. Sweet, sultry and smoky. Then all of a sudden, after less than three minutes, it’s over. And I want to listen to it again.


LIVE // Y Niwl // Buffalo Bar // Cardiff // 28.01.12

First appeared on Never Enough Notes on Monday January 30 2012

In the mountains of Snowdonia you can imagine that fog could be an issue, after all Wales is not exactly known for its dry weather. Out of these mountains, three years ago, emerged from the mist a somewhat unlikely event.

Y Niwl (The Fog in English) are a surf rock band more akin to the west coast of America than the damp mountains of North Wales. Tonight they have travelled down south to one of Cardiff’s coolest venues, Buffalo Bar, to give an excited audience a dose of Shadows-esque guitar and surfy sounds, North Walian style.

Being an instrumental band can sometimes leave audiences feeling a little bit awkward. They can’t sing along and have to remember songs by melody and not what the singer is saying. For some, including myself, that can be a tall order. But Y Niwl show they don’t need lyrics; the depth of their rich sound speaks for itself, even after a storming set from support H. Hawkline. Y Niwl does very little vocalising in general, including in between the tracks, but the audience stay engaged.

Their self titled album was released in late 2010 and was nominated for last year’s Welsh Music Prize. Gruff Rhys won for his album Hotel Shampoo. Rhys is a friend of the band and they have toured America with him: “While a Welsh band going to America to play surf rock might seem a bit like taking coals to Newcastle, everyone over there was genuinely welcoming towards us,” guitarist Alun Evans told the Western Mail. Maybe you can teach your grandma to suck eggs.

Y Niwl play a neat 30 minute set at Buffalo, followed by an encore, and politely everything is done by 9.45pm with room for some Saturday night partying after the gig…or an early night.


Sweetie Pie And The Guttermen // An Introduction to: Sweetie Pie And The Guttermen // Out Now

First appeared on Never Enough Notes on 14 September 2011

Sweetie Pie And The Guttermen look like a band capable of a good old knees up. Armed with tambourines, harmonicas, a good bass and everything else needed for a proper country folk shin dig, they also have the depth of sound you would expect from a six-piece band.

Located in London, Sweetie Pie And The Guttermen have been together about a year getting their name from a short story by Sylvia Plath. This EP is billed as an introduction to the band and it fits the purpose, keeping it short and to the point.

First song, Love And Gin is a swinging track with all the right components there, nice intro, nice singing, nice tune, it’s very nice. Forget What Did and its uplifting harmonies are subtly cheery, in a look to the bright future kind of way, and The Puppeteer has an amiable clip clop beat with a country edge.

The EP is pleasing to the ear and has all the right things in the right places – it’s just a bit flat. It’s relatively early days though and the band has been out on the festival circuit this year putting in the ground work to grow for the future.


The Pooh Sticks // 03/09/11 // Globe, Cardiff

First appeared on Never Enough Notes on September 6 2011.

This is Swansea band The Pooh Sticks’ last ever show in Wales. Probably. Buoyed by a successful comeback after 15 years at last year’s Indie Tracks, the band have decided to give gigging another go for a limited time only.

It’s clear, from this packed room of raucous and excitable indie pop fans to Pulp’s successful reformation and performances at this year’s Reading and Leeds, that there is still a place for old-school indie pop in 2011. And it seems The Pooh Sticks can be thanked for this continuing success as Pulp, The Cranberries and Cast all supported them back in the day. As singer Huw Williams told the “South Wales Echo”, ‘it was quite depressing, supporting The Pooh Sticks meant that you were going to be selling hundreds of thousands of records two years later’.

Huw went on to have a successful career behind the scenes in the music industry, and that was that.

Tonight they are back at Cardiff’s Globe, a venue which has the Cardiff rumour mill in overdrive as at closes, opens, closes and changes hands. It is well and truly open for business now though and security must be biting their tongues as The Pooh Sticks continue to be a band they should issue hard hats for on the door. An inflatable pink ball bounces overhead throughout the set, including hitting most band members in the face at least once. There are also low flying chocolate éclair sweets, and a number of cardboard placards lovingly crafted by the band bob among the crowd stating things like ‘Swansea Posh’ and ‘Indie Pop Extremist’.

Indie Pop Extremists is a good description for The Pooh Sticks as they storm through their set, selecting songs from their history including the ‘early funny ones’ (complete with cardboard placard), and their more mainstream power pop tracks like “The World Is Turning On” from their 1993 album “Million Seller”. Williams has just the right amount of bravado and sarcasm for a frontman and long-term guest vocalist Amelia Fletcher also gives a great performance, impressive as it‘s her second set of the night after supporting with her band Tender Trap.

With every band member having so many other projects on it’s hard to say when they will gig again and whether the threat of this being their last ever Welsh gig will be realised. But when the time and place is right there is always room for the placards and self aware indie songs to return.


CAS @ Bristol’s Start The Bus – International Women’s Day Highlight

First appeared at Ctrl.Alt.Shift on March 23 2011

March 8 2011 was the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. Amy Hall reports from Ctrl.Alt.Shift’s celebrations at Bristol’s Start The Bus…

The first International Women’s Day was established in 1911 when more than one million women and men attended rallies calling for women to have the right to vote, work and take an active part in public life.

Fast forward 100 years to 2011 and the day is still relevant; women are more likely to suffer lack of access to education, healthcare and employment. This is not just a problem in so called ‘developed’ countries; women in the UK are still under represented in parliament and more likely to be living in poverty.

Ctrl.Alt.Shift celebrated International Women’s Day in Bristol, collaborating with Bristol University Feminist Society to present a bill of inspiring female performers. The struggles of other women across the world is what inspires Sophie Bennett, the society’s president. “We really need to show solidarity with women all over the world”, she explained. “Its now more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in some areas of conflict so we really need to show support for those women as well as celebrating our collective achievements.”

Jonathan Godwin, 20, told us it was time to full recognise the achievements of women: “The heads of most companies, and even the head of the UN, are traditionally men. An obscenely high proportion of work and progress made in the world is made by women and not enough recognition is given to that.”

Start The Bus is slap bang in the middle of Bristol’s city centre, a dark and atmospheric venue with kitsch decorations and on March 8, it was packed with people ready to be inspired. There was a laid back, acoustic vibe to the night as 11 varied artists took to the stage; a healthy mix of originals and covers – songs by strong female artists like Tracy Chapman and Florence ad The Machine were big features, as well as insightful original tracks.

The intense and beautifully soulful voices of Rima Doal and Celestine, whose cover of Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit caught the attention of the audience, were juxtaposed with Charlene, a woman who despite being a lone dancer communicated a whole lot of expression. Folky, sweet stories with ukuleles and guitars also got a look in with Esther Taylor and Jenna Fentiman. DST changed the pace, with two MCs and a DJ rapping over some mixes of hip hop tracks with conscious, original lyrics.

Stand up comic Elf did a short set of funny anecdotes from her life as a former model and writer of (bad) erotic fiction as well as her relationships with family and friends. We caught up with her after her performance and she told us how important she thinks gender equality is. “As a female comedian I want to be known not as a female comedian but as a good comic, especially in a world that is very constrained by whether you happen to be a male or a female.”

Mirelle El Malgrissy and Angela Morgan stripped it back with acoustic guitars and powerful voices, as did Becca Sanders who could sing a dictionary and make it sound full of emotion and insight. Lionheart headed up the evening armed with a banjo and wistful stories including one about a man who she should have realised was bad news by the way he treated his books.

The night was buzzing and full of talent. Natasha Kendrick, 23, is a student at Bristol UWE: “International Women’s Day celebrates all the talents that women have and that’s really been highlighted tonight by all the fantastic performers we’ve heard. It would be fascinating to be here again in 100 years and see how many more achievements we have to celebrate.”

Soma Ansamble, The Yarns and Queen Street // Live // 01.02.11 // Underbelly

First appeared on Never Enough Notes on February 5 2011.

First to the stage on this incredibly-varied night from Dead or Alive are boys next door, Queen Street. When I say boys next door I mean the kind of boys that have formed a band and practice in their parents garage, with boisterous drums and singing proper indie rock. The neighbours exclaim: “My those two make a lot of noise for just two of them”, and they’d be right.

Although they operate at some pace, Queen Street still find time to slow it down with songs like U Don’t Talk So Nice… which slides through a tale of woe then BAM straight back into it again.

Frontman Jon Dodd certainly fancies himself as a bit of a showman and knows all the poses such as Up On Speaker and Out In Crowd.

The Yarns come next with brass inspired folk. Echoing The Kooks at times, and sometimes with a reggae or funk edge they bring the sunshine into the room.

Soma Ansamble finish the night with the most ferocious conga playing I have ever seen and a demonstration of just how versatile the saxophone can be. Although the instruments sound great, after a few tracks it still sounds like background music. And there is plenty in this venue for the wandering eye including patterned black and white ceilings and a massive gold framed mirror on the stage.

From incredibly sleepy jazz to upbeat funk and rock, the mainly instrumental Soma Ansamble, originally from ‘the Siberian tundra’, are at times surreal and when there is some voice, in No Tomorrow it consists of sax player Philip Filipiuk saying “love me like there’s no tomorrow, fuck me like there’s no tomorrow”, all I can think about is edging away slowly.




Beau and The Arrows // Fix // 04.04.11 // Happy Release Records

First appeared on Never Enough Notes on 4 February 2011

Beau and The Arrows have been knocking about since 2008 so like most bands worth their salt they have had to do some grafting to work up to this, their debut release. The band’s brand of atmospheric indie is nothing out of the ordinary but very palatable, its ambience and male and female harmonies sounding similar to bands like the xx.

“Fix” gets slightly hypnotic after a few listens, and as the band sing “I want you”, it does kind of make me want to follow them..somewhere. It would be intriguing to see if that atmosphere transfers to a live show.

Their album “Future Kicks” is scheduled for release in the summer and it will be interesting to see what more Beau and The Arrows have to offer.