Indie/Indie Rock Reviews

Looking Back: Submarine EP

10 years ago, Alex Turner’s ‘Submarine’ EP released, featuring songs written for the film of the same name. If you’ve seen Richard Ayoade’s Submarine, then you’ll know how perfect a match Turner’s songwriting was for that film, the jaded atmosphere of Oliver Tate’s empty and almost stunted world, as he goes through the struggles of his parents dwindling marriage and his own love spell with a girl at school.

The matched reverb riddled and stripped-back approach to Turner’s songwriting makes for such an interesting experience with the context of the Arctic Monkeys’ albums that sandwich the EP. Relinquished from the deep desert production of Humbug, and far from the polished production of Suck It And See, Submarine acts as a transition period between the two like a palette cleanse. In fact track ‘Piledriver Waltz’ getting a rework on Suck It And See, with even lyrical references spilled over the album, it’s clear the intrinsic connection between the two records.

Is it any coincidence that Turner’s songs here make you feel desolate and floaty? Like you’re drifting through the sea in a Submarine? I don’t think so. Whether you’re entranced by the opener, ‘Stuck On The Puzzle – Intro’, or whipped away by the deeper cuts of ‘It’s Hard To Get Around In The Wind’, ‘Hiding Tonight’ or ‘Glass In The Park’, you immediately get a feel for what this story is about.

Turner set out to write songs for Oliver Tate, love songs, and how the simple bliss of those feelings especially as a teenager can feel so strong, where tunnel vision makes the rest of the world seem irrelevant for the time being. Submarine really enhances those feelings and makes for such an intimate listening experience, in an almost bittersweet way depending on how you the listener perceive his words.

Although the whole EP is filled with magic through its 6 songs, it’s clear to all that its two ‘singles’ are the ones most favoured and listened to. Of course, I’m talking about the previously mentioned ‘Piledriver Waltz’ and ‘Stuck On The Puzzle’.

I’m not the kind of fool who’s gonna sit and sing to you about stars, girl / but last night I looked up into the dark half of the blue, and they’d gone backwards

Turner really pours his heart out here. And I don’t think it matters whether he’s talking from his heart, or through the character of Oliver Tate. He clearly understood Tate to the point where he could construct such a symphonic tone to serenade the film’s story so perfectly, and 10 years later that film and that soundtrack, are still being spoken about today.

If you haven’t come across the film Submarine yet then you really absolutely must, it’s a brilliant motion picture and the best way to experience Turner’s music for the first time. Trust me when I say it’s an experience you really won’t forget.

Indie/Indie Rock Punk/Rock Why We Love

Why We Love: Airways

Five years ago, upon being gutted on missing out on a ticket to see Muse and then Nothing But Thieves, I decided to check out who’d be supporting the latter on their tour and check out the band that I’d now be missing out on. I found myself one gloomy morning on my way to college checking out that very band, Airways, and from the moment that first chorus dropped I was hooked. The song in question was One Foot, a track that blends sounds from such indie rock icons such as Oasis, Arctic Monkeys and Gorillaz, but in a very modern way a’la YUNGBLUD or RAT BOY, taking indie and punk right into the heart of the 21st century. Discovering this band as the support act of the support act of my favourite band at the time, it can’t be said anymore but, man never skip out on the opening band.

Later I managed to encourage my mates to listen to Airways because they just so happened to release a smash hit that made it onto Spotify’s ‘Walk Like A Badass’ playlist, Reckless Tongue. A song that combines the classic style of 2007 Arctic Monkeys with the indie and hip hop modernity of 2017. Just a menacing tune that makes you want to headbang in the middle of the street, shop or wherever you may be when you find yourself listening to their EP Starting To Spin. Alongside One Foot and Reckless Tongue, this EP boasted White Noise Boys a track that sparks some lowkey ska vibes, not the most conventional vibes but enough that you can hear a band like Madness or The Specials perform it. But the classic indie rock sound wasn’t all they had to offer, scratching the surface of some electronic sounds with the title track.

So fast forward a year and the Airway boys settle for Nothing But Thieves‘ guitarist Dominic Craik to do some producing work for them, which splashed a cavern of depth so visceral in the form of Blue Gasoline. God you can just taste the talent Airways have to offer here on out, it’s a dick tease the fact they’ve not released an album at this point. Combining synths to reverb-drenched guitars in a dreamy journey that makes you want the clouds to just swallow you up.

Fast forward a year yet again and we’re gifted the double single Trampoline / The End. The latter gets overshadowed by Trampoline a bit so I want to gloss over The End which is a beast of a track. What do you do when you’ve done the whole indie rock thing and the ethereal soundscape? Combine them in the most monstrous way possible. Fans of Twenty One Pilots seem to take a liking to this track in particular, so if that stuff is up your alley, make it a point to check out this one.

But then switching stuff up once again, going back to a more indie realm, Airways dropped their latest single, Out Of Luck in 2019. Which is a little while ago so I am praying this means we’re all the more closer to a debut album. Back to a faster pace upbeat style, but taking guitar inspiration from the likes of Johnny Marr but perhaps with a more disciplined surrounding, but then kicking off into another classic headbanger in the chorus.

Imma leave you guys with Alien. A song about the bands rejected US Visa’s leaving them unable to play at SXSW. Lyrically it’s actually more of a funny story, I mean I’m sure not for them the amount of money they probably lost in that application was probably no joke, but hey it made for a good song and hopefully, in a few years time they’ll be playing it to huge crowds on a headline tour through the very country that said “nah mate, not today”. I’m paraphrasing here but you get me bro.

Listen to Airways on Spotify before they blow up so you can tell your mates “I told you so”.

Indie/Indie Rock Reviews Uncategorized

Looking Back: Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

Today marks the fifteenth anniversary of Arctic Monkeys’ Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, and the monumental bang it punches has certainly stood the test of time. It’s undeniable that this is one of their most defining records, and even the album art alone has become an icon in the UK music scene. 

Being that I was just six years old when the album released (I know, I know….), I was a few years late to the party. I first found Arctic Monkeys when I was about eleven after randomly seeing their video for “Fluorescent Adolescent” pop up on YouTube. I was immediately hooked, and I absolutely needed to hear more; thus began my deep-dive into their discography of the time. 

Now, don’t get me wrong—every record of theirs is nothing short of a masterpiece. There’s something special about WPSIATWIN, though, and I frequently find myself being pulled towards it the most and listening to it in full every time. With such a mint tracklist, how could you even think about pressing skip on any song?

The record opens up with fast-paced, intoxicating energy through “The View From The Afternoon.” It serves as an incredible introduction for the rest of the album and provides listeners with a good idea of what’s to come. It’s playful, it’s loud, and it’s boisterous, and that sort of vivacity definitely doesn’t end there as “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” follows it up. To this day, it remains one of my favourite Arctic Monkeys songs of all time, and I know I’m not alone when I say that this is a legendary one. I mean, have you seen the way crowds react when they hear this song? There is no way in hell you could ever sit still while it plays, and if you somehow can, I don’t think I can trust you. End of. 

Next up is “Fake Tales Of San Francisco,” which happens to be one that gets stuck in my head quite easily, but I’m definitely not complaining. The catchy guitar riffs, the comedic lyrics, the explosion that erupts from the band after the lyric “So all that’s left / Is the proof that love’s not only blind but deaf…” 

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. 

The next three songs that follow are perfectly placed, in my opinion. You’ve got “Dancing Shoes,” which practically begs you to get up, stop paying any mind to what others may think or say, and just have fun. “You Probably Couldn’t See For The Lights But You Were Staring Straight At Me” is another personal favourite of mine (criminally underrated, might I add), and it’s such an addictive track. It does a fantastic job at keeping the energy high, which then leads into the snarky, boyish track “Still Take You Home” flawlessly. 

Oh, “Riot Van,” how I love you so. It’s an absolute dream of a song; I love the story that is told within the lyrics, and the overall feel of the track is drastically more chilled out than the rest of the album. “Red Light Indicates Doors Are Secured” snaps listeners out of that trance, though, and my god, does it do an amazing job at getting people back up on their feet. Just below, you will find my favourite verse in that song; the delivery will never fail to give me chills.

Well calm down, temper, temper

You shouldn’t get so annoyed

Well, you’re acting like a silly little boy

And they wanted to be men

And do some fighting in the street

They said, “No surrender

No chance of retreat”

It goes without saying that “Mardy Bum” is a staple in Arctic Monkeys’ discography. Despite the lyrics describing a rather rocky relationship, it has such a youthful charm that can make anybody’s eyes light up just by hearing the first few chords. It’s the essence of perfection summed up in under three minutes. Need I say more?

Alright, my favourite, favourite song off of the record is up next. “Perhaps Vampires Is A Bit Strong But…” is an absolute mind-blower. I’ve loyally stood by this one as my personal top pick for ages now, and I definitely don’t see it changing anytime soon. I’m just genuinely in love with every single aspect of this song; I love the dirty tone of the guitars, the aggression within the lyrics, and the killer jam session that fills up the remainder of the track. Plus, who doesn’t love hearing Alex Turner shout, “All you people are vampires!” towards the end? 

Like “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” and “Mardy Bum,” “When The Sun Goes Down” is another quintessential Arctic Monkeys song. I still haven’t been able to catch an Arctic Monkeys show, but whenever I do, I would be willing to make a deal with the devil to guarantee that this would be on the setlist. It is both a desperate want and need to hear this live, and in case you need any further evidence as to why that is, look no further.

Now we’re down to the final two tracks: “From The Ritz To The Rubble” and “A Certain Romance.” What a way to draw the record to a close, huh? Both songs are exhilarating and successfully encapsulate the general feel of the entire album, and before you know it, you’re back to “The View From The Afternoon” to give it another well-deserved listen. 

Can you tell I absolutely adore this record? Since I found it at such a young age, it’s safe to say that it played a massive role in shaping my taste in music. I hold it near and dear to my heart, and I’m confident that this will be an album people still talk about in decades to come. Happy 15th, you powerhouse, you.

Jazz/Blues Soul/R&B Why We Love

Why We Love: Richard Hawley

A former member of era-defining bands Longpigs and Pulp, is it any surprise that the solo work of guitar hero Richard Hawley would be any less than pure magic? But don’t just take our word for it, find out for yourself the reasons why Jarvis Cocker, Alex Turner and Paul Weller are lifelong fans of his music too.

A young boy from Sheffield with a guitar on his back and a dream to become the next Elvis Presley ends up shaping music forever. Richard Hawley has surely woven his genius throughout not only the songs of various legendary bands but even more so through his work as a standalone artist. Moving on from his days as a Britpop legend, Richard Hawley’s later work takes on a very different turn. His songs have found a beautifully touching power all of their own. With tracks full of feeling and wonder, love and heartbreak, listen as Richard Hawley takes you away to another world in a way you never before thought possible.

Richard Hawley is very much the Johnny Marr of lush, orchestrated ballads. To be able to craft so many human emotions into his songs truly makes you feel part of something big and wonderful. I’d go so far as to say Richard Hawley is the Johnny Cash of his generation.

His debut album Coles Corner, our favourite of his many spectacular records, is pure bliss from start to finish.

Any die-hard fans of the Arctic Monkeys out there may remember the band’s side project/alias name, ‘The Death Ramps’, who invited Hawley to record with them in 2012, releasing their collaborative song ‘You and I’ as a B-side to the single Black Treacle the same year.

Arctic Monkeys frontman, Alex Turner, makes no secret of his admiration for Richard Hawley’s music for very good reason.

To play us out, Richard Hawley’s early song ‘Valentine’ from his Mercury prize nominated album Standing at the Sky’s Edge. Press play, lie back and be transported.

Indie/Indie Rock Jazz/Blues Pop/Indie Pop Uncategorized Why We Love

Why We Love: Alexandra Savior

Gifted with a velvet voice that will make you swoon, lyricism to rival great literature and a ‘Mystery Girl’ aura that helplessly lures you in, Alexandra Savior is an enigmatic force to be reckoned with.

Not only a talented creative musically, she utilises her artistic capabilities to the full, bringing a personal touch to all elements of her work. Each of her aesthetic music videos that perfectly accompany her chilling tracks is self-directed and she even designs her own album covers and merchandise. Overall, she creates a coherent experience and is certainly proving that she really is a ‘Savior’ to modern female rock.

Born and raised in Portland Oregon as Alexandra Savior McDermott the 25-year-old immediately showed musical promise and received her first wave of attention at the age of just 17 when Courtney Love proclaimed “This girl is gonna be huge!”. Love clearly wasn’t the only one who thought highly of her as the following year a bidding war between labels started; with Columbia Records eventually snapping her up. Upon the deal, Savior moved out to Los Angeles and although she admits that she didn’t feel fully prepared at the time she evidently came into her own as this doesn’t show in her precise work produced out there. 

This flourishing development was partly thanks to Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner because fortunately, rather than someone pushing her in the direction of ‘Katy Perry’ like many labels intended she had the modern-day rock icon around to keep her on the right track. A huge supporter from the get-go, Turner first suggested she drop her last name and go by her middle instead, doubling the impact after initially giving the stage name Alexandra Semitone a shot.

In addition to helping her settle on a pseudonym, he also brought his well-known wit and wordplay to the table as a co-writer, as well as joining forces with his frequent collaborator James Ford to produce Savior’s debut record ‘Belladonna of Sadness’. Make no mistake though; this isn’t Alexandra Turner. Savior is one hundred per cent her own artist and had Alex collaborated with anyone other than the rising star an album couldn’t possibly come close.

Dark and brooding, Savior’s first LP was released in 2018 and chills you to your ‘Bones’ with rich, murderous tones but also has a ‘Girlie’ touch from its sweeter melodic notes. Thanks to elements such as her stand-out smokey voice; even backed with faint screams and wicked laughs on tracks like M.T.M.E to spooky organs, thudding drum beats and shredding guitars she creates an eerie cinematic aesthetic reminiscent of glamorous old Hollywood with a desert twist.

Influences she cites seep their way into tracks, with a prominent example being the late great Amy Winehouse whose characteristics are not only present in the soul Savior sings with but also her strong stance and powerful attitude on songs like Shades, as well as Jack White whose essence is felt in the American ‘Rock n Roll’ grit of the bluesy instrumentals. She also takes inspiration from outside the realm of music with comedy legend and filmmaker Terry Gilliam being a creative influence that not only reveals itself in her artsy music videos but also in the lyrical magic delivered by her haunting vocals.

Proving that she can paint a picture in more ways than one, vivid imagery is evoked in all songs with lyrics like ‘Dress me like the front of a casino, push me down another rabbit hole, touch me like I’m gonna turn to gold’ standing out in opening track Mirage. Alongside Turner, she projected her own feelings onto stories and characters, displayed beautifully in Girlie; the analysis of females trying to make it in the industry featuring lines like ‘Until her eyeballs start to bleed, she don’t wanna go to sleep’ and in Mystery Girl’s tale of infidelity singing ‘Hush now, don’t explain. Wound up with a heavier heart, from waiting in the rain’.

Belladonna of Sadness truly provides listeners with a whole world. Even songs that didn’t make the cut such as ‘Miracle Aligner’ now best known for being recorded by Turner and Miles Kane as The Last Shadow Puppets are packed with a punch but the perfect tracks were chosen; all piecing together to create a dark dream that you’ll never want to awaken from. 

At the beginning of this year, Savior followed up ‘Belladonna’ with the release of sophomore album ‘The Archer’ and although she found such a distinctive style with her first album, it was exciting to hear that she didn’t play it safe and stick to the same recipe (despite it being devoured by many). Instead, she delivers a heart-break fantasy that hypnotises you into floating along on her fresh journey, with the darker side only creeping in rather than being at the forefront.

An even more personal endeavour that her first, Savior was truly left to her own devices for this record after being dropped from Columbia, her manager quitting and receiving no aid from Alex Turner. None of this held her back though and only resulted in an album that’s soaked in assertive independence and is every bit her own.

Opening with a melancholic piano solo and heartfelt words she embraces the title of the track ‘Soft Currents’ throughout, delivering more vulnerable emotion in songs like this and The Archer. As a whole, it feels more of a woozy, gentle daydream in comparison to the dangerous vibes radiated previously but as mentioned, the darkness lurks. Harkening back to the ‘Belladonna of Sadness’ days are the thick riffs and thumping rhythm of Saving Grace and the suave single Howl with its strong synth and delivery. In addition to this, she further boasts her range by delivering a tune made for the likes of Mad Men with Send Her Back featuring a wonderful big brass intro and even takes you to the seaside with the beach swept Can’t Help Myself.

Although the overall direction is a departure, the key elements that make a Savior track remain. She doesn’t disappoint on effortlessly cool sounds, oozing vocals and of course those lyrics such as ‘The wilted edge of a lonesome mattress, I lay my head there until the feeling passes. It’s sinking in just as time relapses’ that I ‘Can’t Help Myself’ from quoting.

Although she might seem like an impossible ‘Mirage’, Alexandra Savior is as real as ever. So, if you’re looking for some dreamy desert rock, the perfect revenge soundtrack or spooky psychedelic pop then she really is the ‘Saving Grace’ that you’re looking for.

Listen to Alexandra Savior on Spotify now.

Indie/Indie Rock New Wave Why We Love

Why We Love: Working Men’s Club

If you’re currently missing proper, atmosphere-filled nights out (and let’s be honest, who isn’t given the current state of the world?) then fear not as I’ve found the perfect antidote and their name is Working Men’s Club.

I recently read The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club by Peter Hook and thanks to the part-owner/bassists amusing accounts and vivid imagery, craved nothing more than to experience the iconic venue back in the day. However, I reluctantly came to terms with the fact that that was never going to happen and so decided to seek out the next best thing- some top acid tunes. 

I listened to everything that I could find from the time but having grown up in the home of the club it was all quite familiar so didn’t fully satisfy this newfound buzz; I needed something fresh and exciting that still contained the original heart. This was harder to come across than I’d first anticipated but finally had a Hallelujah moment at the beginning of this month when Working Men’s Club released their self-titled debut album and answered all of my prayers.

I was hooked (pardon the pun) from the second that opening track Valley’s first kicked off but at the 1.50 mark (0.30 in the video should check out below) something really special happened when the pounding bass cuts for a synth riff just before the lyrics kick in. In that moment I felt the closest that I believe I ever will to first experiencing the height of the movement back in the 90s and from then on I was in a trance for the rest of the record; treated to further squelching acid infusions as well as many more musical delights…

Falling Somewhere between the two bands that helped to fund the legendary ‘Hac’, Working Men’s Club clearly have a post-punk edge (just give Cook a Coffee a listen) but despite having a natural ability for creating this sound they didn’t play it easy and simply follow the classic Joy Division route; instead incorporating synth and electro to give things a New Order-esque spin. 

It would be a crime to only liken these guys to other bands though (no matter how great) as they seem to be exploring everything on the spectrum in between and actually credit the Detroit house scene as major influences. The result is their own new sound that can leave you charged and ready to dance one minute then lost and daydreaming the next.

Encapsulating the sounds that I grew up with but bringing something from my generation into the mix, I felt a kindred spirit in the band. There was something in the name and listening to their first few tracks that gave me the feeling that they were fellow Northerners (and once I saw that their third was titled John Cooper Clarke I had absolutely no doubt about it). I figured that this might have also contributed to that close connection because despite being from Yorkshire rather the home of the punk-poet and FAC51, things growing up in Todmorden feel just as small and grey (but equally hopeful). 

Like all great bands from the North, you can really hear this in their sound; the bleakness and claustrophobia in lead singer Sydney Minsky-Sargeant’s lyrics; being ‘trapped inside a town’ ‘running out of time’ but also the sense of working pride and excitement that there’s something beyond, in the sounds that they’re backed by. 

Minsky-Sergeant is now the only original band member left standing but at the fresh age of just 19, commanding you to watch him in his SOCIALISM print t-shirt he’s definitely not backing down any time soon. Originally joined by guitarist Giulia Bonometti and drummer Jake Bogacki the first line-up released debut single Bad Blood in 2019 which gained comparisons to the Totally Wired band The Fall and flows into B-Side Suburban Heights, a song filled with a jangly Smith’s-like sound. The tracks were greeted with great acclaim but success didn’t mean that Syd was ready to settle and he eagerly continued to explore and develop.

The fired-up front-man gravitated towards a new electronic noise however, this wasn’t for everyone and led to the departure of Bogacki, whilst Bonometti also moved on to focus on a solo career rather than the evolution of WMC. This, in turn, forced him to change things up even more than anticipated; sequentially swapping out the drum kit for a machine and expanding the club’s membership to three new musicians in the form of bassist Liam Ogburn, Mairead O’Connor on keys, guitar and vocals and Rob Graham joining Syd on guitar and synth.

Together they took on this new angle drawing them in; each member boldly bringing their own flourish and when combined with production from Ross Orton- the same Yorkshireman behind tracks from the Arctic Monkeys (and rather ironically The Fall), bedroom-recorded demos were transformed into a well-polished LP.

Wise beyond their years, you can already hear that the band know what music they want to make and have a great skill for executing it. The tracks on their album come together to create a cohesive experience but each is individually fresh with a mix of elements.

There’s the Stand out Acid House infusion on the likes of Tomorrow and plenty of upbeat rhythm in White Rooms and People. In addition to this optimistic sound, you’ll also find balance in a darker side; where they channel the grit that’s sung about on Teeth in its grunge guitar and evoke doom in the striking beats of Be My Guest

Also incorporated is a touch of afrobeat, funk and even indie on Outside where they sing about reminiscing in the sunshine, delivering lyrics about a ‘technicolour daydream’ whilst hardly needing any words at all on the pulsating A.A.A.A…That isn’t all either, as just when you think they’ve proven their capability they top things off with Angel, a 12-minute journey filled with swooping psychedelic sounds that creates a deservingly epic finale.

Speaking the honest truth and producing music that’s simultaneously nostalgic and now, they’re only one album in and hard not to love. Although they might have captured the sound of the North and named themselves after the places they originally strived to play in, Working Men’s Club look well and truly set to take on the wider world.

Check out Working Men’s Club on Spotify