WOMAN'S HOUR- Her Ghost
Woman's Hour's first release of 2014 via Secretly Canadian records is the hypnotic ‘Her Ghost’, a gorgeous chiming languorous heart-fluttering slice of otherworldly loveliness.
The graceful, evocative uncluttered soundscapes the band craft in no way diminish the emotional power of their songs. Subtly is a much underrated attribute and Fiona Burgess’ beautifully fragile vocal conveys emotion of great depth, in a far more real and meaningful way than the egregious caterwauling employed by your Mariahs and your Xtinas.
Woman’s Hour realise nuanced restraint is far more potent then bellowing like a freshly gelded bull (i.e. /Tom Jones, forever to our ears, the Brian Blessed of UK music.) Wonderful stuff, their best yet. But perhaps from a band who originally hails from Kendal “the gateway to the lakes” you’d expect it to be mint.
PISCES - Winter Horse
Sarah Negahdari has her elegant fingers in many creative pies. She fronts the life affirming LA trio The Happy Hollows, (whose album ‘Amethyst’ was one of the best albums of 2013) she spent much of last year touring as guest bassist for The Silver Sun Picks, is undoubtedly a songwriter of great depth and talent, a guitar shredder extraordinaire and still somehow manages to find the time for a solo side project called Pisces.
She’d previously told me this musical venture is “a more feminine, lo-fi acoustic side project “ and it’s been described as “pyschfolk” however, on the evidence of her latest single ‘Winter Horse’ there’s a distinct shoegazy vibe replete with dreamy yearning celestial vocals not dissimilar to early Lush.
LEWIS IDLE - The Night We Almost Fell In Love
Lewis Idle, the mysterious enigmatic balladeer with the blood red ‘Risus sardonicus’ is back having ditched the glam-stomp- gutter- grime of his ridiculously good debut single ‘Hair and Perfume.’ Proving himself something of a musical chameleon, his latest offering ‘The Night We Almost Fell In Love' sees him staggering back from the prom, armed with a tune that sounds like the result of Sune Rose Wagner / Joey Ramone collaboration. As the tale of lust, regret, sexual politics, and the crucial “what if….” unfold, Mr Idle proves himself to be a compelling storyteller and one we suspect would be more often than not found lying in a whiskey soaked gutter looking at the (dead) stars.
But who is the devil is he? His label Trashmouth Records are strangely reticent on the subject, one could say almost nervous. They do however reveal they first chanced across Lewis on a moonlit evening “where his opening song involved a cymbal, a glass eye, and a double bass with one string…” and when pressed – “Hailing, as far as we can gather, from Hastings via somewhere yet unknown, Lewis Idle is something of a night-time enigma. All material arrives at the label via post on C-60 cassette tape and comes with hand drawn artwork.”
So there you go. Clear as mud. Nevertheless, when the songs are this good, the music rather speaks for itself.
HONEYBLOOD - Choker
One of my tips for 2014, Glaswegian duo Honeyblood unveil the first track from their self-titled début album which is due for release later in the year. It finds the duo in belligerent riot girrl mode, almost erasing any notion of ‘honey’ from their name in favour of a raw blood and guts sonic attack in which a compelling Gothic narrative unfolds. Of course it’s not just their sound that's bloodied and visceral, the song, ‘Choker‘ is based on Angela Carter’s short story ‘The Bloody Chamber’ which explored themes suggested by European fairy tales and examined their violent, sexual nature - in doing so Carter created something radically new which still retains the power to shock and prompt you to re-evaluate societal attitudes.
The Choker which is given to Carter’s narrator as a wedding gift by her husband who may or may not be The Marquis De Sade is described in the story as a “choker of rubies, two inches wide, like an extraordinarily precious slit throat…bright as arterial blood” and when you understand this you realise the song's lyrics are a little deeper than being simply about a bloke who’s a bit of a tit and can’t be trusted. The thing is, this chap kills his wives and keeps their corpses in a secret chamber, one mentioned in the song languished inside an Iron Maiden run through with “a hundred spikes” - (“in a chamber so hollow/ apart from a maiden full of holes.”) Let’s face it this guy was bat-shit crazy and had HUGE issues!
It’s a fabulous tune delivered with passion, righteous anger and one feels in this mood, if Honeyblood's Shona and Stina marched on Downing Street and demanded that an Independent Scotland be allowed to keep the pound David Cameron would promptly shit his pants and agree.
LVLS - Echoes
For a band who apparently met at a funeral, Manchester band LVLS (pronounced Loveless) certainly sound full of life. This track is from their new EP ‘Teenage’ and demands your ears from the get go. It’s actually nice to hear a band singing with genuine passion and gusto instead of fey Guardian endorsed whimpering set to a backdrop of samples and loops from their Macbooks. It seems LVLS have arrived with a mission to stop “indie” from being a dirty word with passionate, melodic, and frankly big bollocked tunes of ambition and heart. They are currently unsigned, which is a f*cking ridiculous state of affairs, although indicative of the current woeful condition the music industry is in, a place in which having cloth ears and soul the size of pine nut seems to be viewed as something of a virtue.
ELOISE KEATING - Be My Ghost
She may be just seventeen but it's apparent that Eloise Keating is blessed with a fabulous voice and a sophisticated songwriting style that belies her youth. ‘Be My Ghost (The Green Light)’ is inspired The Great Gatsby, which is not my favourite novel I must confess, let’s have more songs inspired by Emile Zola’s epic Les Rougon-Macquart series I say.
However although I may not have bonded with F.Scott Fitzgerald’s idealistic anti hero or the fist bitingly annoying, vapid Daisy Buchanan this certainly didn’t stop me enjoying Eloise's voice or appropriately enough given subject matter, the sense of doomed grandeur she manages to convey. ‘Be My Ghost’ shows great promise and is imbued with a languid grace, that conjures up a Lana Del Rey meets Daughter meets Lucy Rose kind of vibe. She is currently unsigned, although I'm sure it's only a matter of time before A and R Departments are readying Faustian pacts. She is undoubtedly one to keep your ears out for this year.
THE CASKET GIRLS - Same Side
If you've yet to be seduced by the eerie spectral allure of The Casket Girls latest album True Love Kills the Fairy Tale yet, I'd suggest you remedy the situation forthwith.
Hopefully this track ' Same Side’ will pique your interest it'sfrom the aforementioned album anddemonstrates the dreamlike beauty of The Casket Girls oeuvre. Like the Shirelles on a post-chemical high, this is elegiac pristine pop noir of the highest order as sisters Phaedra and Elsa Greene’s beguiling vocals float over musical collaborator Ryan Graveface’s pulverising driving synth action.
Whilst Warpaint’s excellent if not somewhat languid shoegazy pop picks up the critical acclaim, it’s The Casket Girls who are proving to be a much more interesting proposition and if there is such a thing as ‘pop genius’ then The Casket Girls clearly have it in spades.