Mixtape Mondays | Debut Albums

Monday, November 30, 2015 0 Comments A+ a-

There is something pretty special about debut albums which is undeniable. It's not by chance that songs such as Live Forever and All I Want To Do is Rock came out of Oasis' Definitely Maybe and Travis' Good Feeling. To date, these are still two of their most played songs. And what to say of Coldplay's Parachutes? With Shiver, Yellow and Trouble in one single album? *

George Ezra @ V Festival 2015 - Photo by Zaira

I find that some of the most authentic and raw material a band will ever produce is often in these so precious first releases. Perhaps it is because these are the result of many years of hard work or maybe, earlier on in their careers, they're not afraid of exposing themselves? I mean, it doesn't get more personal than Mumford's lyrics' "A white blank page and a swelling rage / You did not think when you sent me to the brink / You desired my attention but denied my affections", does it?

Over the last year and a bit some pretty amazing debut albums came out. Some of them so incredibly well put together that no wonder it's hard to believe a few of these artists haven't always been there - James Bay and Hozier are classics, right? Well, this week's mixtape is a compilation of 20 songs from some of my recent favourite debut albums... In no particular order:

Mixtape Mondays | Debut albums

Nothing But Thieves - Nothing But Thieves
First song of NBT I've ever listened to was Lover, Please Stay. I was so moved by it I went on searching for more and dragged 30 odd friends to their gig at Koko, in Camden, for my birthday last year. I could not wait for this release, so pleased for them and proud to say I am #270 fan (in-joke).

Chaos and the Calm - James Bay
There is nothing I can say about James Bay that haven't been said before, probably a thousand times. Brit Awards Critics' choice winner, sold out tour - jeez I know the pain it was to get tickets for his Brixton gig! - and a debut album which goes straight to number one in the UK charts. But truly what makes C&TC so incredible is his passion which can be felt in each chord throughout every single track.

Hozier - Hozier
After seeing Hozier at V Festival this year I had the impression he is a real perfectionist. How many times can you switch guitars in a festival gig? But when you hear the arrangements and how beautifully he executes them, it all comes together. This album to me is the result of pure craftsmanship and heart.

Dream Your Life Away - Vance Joy
I remember first time I listened to Vance Joy. After coming across Riptide, I went on checking the whole album. Played the first track, Winds of Change, and loved it. Then the second, Mess is Mine, loved it. Then the third, Wasted Time, and you can pretty much guess by now... It was so easy for me to connect with his melodies and lyrics.

Wanted on Voyage - George Ezra
First time I heard a George Ezra song was in a club. In my head, Blame it on Me was one of those summer songs you picture teenagers in Ibiza dancing to (my personal idea of hell, if you're wondering). But thankfully, drawn by the deepness in his voice, I went on checking his album once I found out he was also playing at V. And I am so pleased I did. There are so many layers to this album. I am still discovering it, little by little.

Islands - Bear's Den
I came across these guys fairly recently, despite hearing much about them for a while. This was my last addition to the "debut" list. I fell in love with their version of Sam Smith's Stay With Me - Better than the original I'd say. They are so easy to listen to, it is such a soothing sound, the kind I've been loving to listen to lying in bed with my headphones in, forgetting about the world outside.

Long Way Down - Tom Odell
This is probably the oldest of the releases in this playlist, from 2013! But you know when you rediscover an album? Tom pours his heart and soul on this album, it is deep, it is sad and it is raw. And I love it. His vocals are so intense and pure and the melancholy of his piano notes made me fall in love with his music.

If You Wait - London Grammar
This is another oldie I suppose, also from 2013. London Grammar reminds me a lot of The XX, but I'd dare say I prefer Hannah's vocal. It was only earlier this year when I got into them and I have to say, although this is a pretty good album, out of the 10, it is my least favourite. I am not too keen on the more electronic vibe tracks, but Strong is brilliant and Nightcall so eerie, that is definitely worth a mention.

The Balcony - Catfish and the Bottlemen
I am frustrated I didn't see these guys live last summer. This is such an upbeat album (pretty different from all the above). It reminds me very much of Arctic Monkey's first album (Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not) in the sense it is fresh and cheeky. Combining strong drums, well marked guitar riffs and straight forward lyrics. Love to dance to it I have to say.

Royal Blood - Royal Blood
This is definitely the heaviest of the 10 and not my usual thing, but this album is so so good, that it made impossible not to include it. Royal Blood stands out by its energy, it takes you over, impossible to stand still to Blood Hands or Little Monster. I haven't yet seen them life, but I've no doubt they're awesome.

* Afraid I may make some enemies, but with a handful of exceptions, we may very well forget everything else that came after that. 

New Faces | Seafret, Flyte, Dan Owen & Jack Watts

Saturday, November 28, 2015 2 Comments A+ a-

25th November 2015
@ St. Stephen's Church, London

Whoever walked past Stephen's Church last Wednesday evening would have noticed a queue. However, this was not made of the traditional worshipers. As the doors opened at 7.30, the crowd made sure to pick up a beer and a good spot. And who needs pews? The floor and the corners right next to the pulpit would very well do, as long as you could hear & see Jack Watts, Dan Owen, Flyte & Seafret from up close.

The venue, just around the corner from Shepherd's Bush Market, was stage for the New Faces 2015 tour, promoted by the label Communion (just to keep with the theme). After travelling through the UK - with gigs in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Oxford and Bristol - the 4 acts sold out the London evening before heading to Brighton for a closing gig at the Green Door Store.

And from Brighton is Jack Watts, the first one to perform. His vocal range is out of this world and he makes it look so so simple. Apart from an amazing vocalist, Jack is a very accomplished lyricist and he's not afraid of pouring his heart into his music. Perhaps it was the setting combined with the sadness of songs such as Push Blue, anticipated by the almost unrecognisable cover of Blind Faith - again, we were in a church - by Chase & Status, but Jack's performance had an eerie and visceral quality. The kind which would easily give you goosebumps. In a good way. Also in his set were two brilliant songs from his first EP, the title track Red Shortbread and We Lost it All. He definitely set the bar high.

Next to come was blues boy Dan Owen. The seemingly shy fellow wondering around the venue in a jumper took on the stage to make the audience fall in love at first track. Opening with the beautiful and breathtaking Fall Like a Feather, he had all of us hypnotised by his deep and raw voice in a matter of seconds. Next he played the opening track of his EP Bad For Me, Splinter, which he introduced with the sweetest childhood tale, about how splinters could travel all the way up to one's heart. If there was a single soul who had not yet become a fan, at this point he left us no choice. We were all clapping and cheering as we watched him brilliantly and so enthusiastically play the harmonica and guitar to Made, Parachutes and - one of my favourites - Riding Out the Storm. Luckily, if you missed New Faces, you can see him next month in Camden, at The Jazz Cafe, part of the Time Out Best of Rising Stars.

Dan had all of us in such a high after his set that surely wasn't easy for Flyte to follow. Apart from the obvious fact they are a full on band - with drums, electric guitars & bass - the London based quartet seemed at first the odd one out in the line up, sounding fairly different to the other 3 acts. But it didn't take long until Will Taylor (vocals, guitar) had us all laughing at his jokes - from Flyte transfer tattoos for sale to Sam Berridge's (keyboards) many talents - and singing along to the upbeats Eloise and We Are the Rain. Flyte stands out for being a pretty polished band, with nicely rounded up arrangements and strong backing vocals. The set included a couple of new songs, such as Faithless - again, whoever put this all together has an interesting sense of humour - and probably their most well known track, Light Me Up.

At 22.15 it was time for Jack Sedman and Harry Draper to hit the stage. The acoustic duo from Bridlington - I also had to look it on the map - aka Seafret are yet to release their first album. Tell Me It's Real comes out on January 29th. Their music is heartfelt and melancholic, but on stage they're warm and know how to bring the audience in. They've opened with Give Me Something, followed by the brand new single Wildfire (somehow people already knew the lyrics and Jack seemed well impressed). Amongst the non yet released tracks, Skimming Stones, Tell Me It's Real, Missing and There's a Light made the set. They're all very much in line with their known material, with impressive vocal performances and beautifully written melodies. Atlantis and Oceans had people singing along, eyes closed, feeling each word, whilst Be There, the last song of the night, made it pretty hard for one to stand still. If you're seeing Kodaline in London on the 15th or 16th December, make sure to arrive early, as they're one of the opening acts. Otherwise, you can get a ticket for the 100 Club performance, in Soho, February next year. In case you're wondering, I've already got mine.

* All above photos by Zaira. More at Postmodern Mixtape page on Facebook.

Mixtape Mondays | Awesome Covers

Monday, November 23, 2015 1 Comments A+ a-

This week's playlist is pretty self-explanatory. I've recently came across a series of covers on Spotify - a lot of it thanks to their amazing Discover Weekly - and every so often I caught myself saving them randomly. However, the super organised person in me eventually noticed there was enough material to compile a pretty awesome selection. Voilà!

Travis @ Islington Assembly Hall in 2013, Where You Stand Tour - Photo by Zaira

So far we're talking about 24 songs, but I plan to build up on this. I always found it so much fun when a favourite artist recorded something completely random. One of the first unexpected covers I can remember ever coming across, back in 2003, was Travis playing (Hit Me) ...Baby One More Time - which thanks to the joy of YouTube we can watch below. Priceless! I've also had a chance to see them performing I Kissed a Girl live in 2008 at the long gone Astoria Theatre, during the Ode to J Smith tour.

But back to this week's selection...

We open with Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox version of Creep, by Radiohead. I absolutely adore this version, so bluesy, vocals & piano give me goosebumps. If you like it I recommend checking their other covers & getting tickets to their London gig in March @ Roundhouse, Camden. First night's already sold out.

Mixtape Mondays | Awesome covers

Then a couple by Lily Allen, The Kook's Naive recorded for BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge (also a great source for pretty epic covers!) followed by Somewhere Only We Know. Carrying on with the Christmas theme, Ellie Goulding's version of Your Song.

Although she refuses to be on Spotify, this haven't stopped Imagine Dragons and Ryan Adams of recording a couple of Taylor Swift's songs: Blank Space (medley with Stand by Me) and Bad Blood, respectively. Another girly pop track you can find is Umbrella, this time in the unmistakable voice of James Dean Bradfield, from Manic Street Preachers.

From Spotify Sessions so far I've selected a couple of tracks: New York indie pop MisterWives' version of Riptide, originally by Australian musician Vance Joy (his debut album Dream Your Life Away is a must listen!) and, coincidentally duo Angus & Julia Stone, who are originally from Sydney, have recorded a very beautiful version of Sam Smith's Stay with Me.

As a bit of a fun fact for you and to finish this post full circle, Angus & Julia moved to London in 2006 when they've met Fran Healy, from Travis, who impressed with their material, apparently invited the siblings to his house where they recorded their second EP, Heart Full of Wine. In return, Julia is the voice you can hear in the backing vocals of Travis' album The Boy with No Name.

Mixtape Mondays | New Faces 2015 Tour

Monday, November 16, 2015 0 Comments A+ a-

This first Mixtape Mondays is a compilation of all the songs I found on Spotify by Seafret, Dan Owen, Jack Watts & Flyte, all of which will play at the New Faces gig next week, Wednesday 25th @ St. Stephens Church, in Shepherd's Bush.

V Festival 2015 @ The Arena - Photo by Zaira

I came across evening because of Seafret. Since I started listening to them, during the build up for V Festival this year, I fell in love with these guys. The combo of great melodies and the melancholy in their lyrics won me over. And yes, there is something of a theme going on with them... I don't think it is by chance their songs are called Oceans, Atlantis, Sinking Ship (this one a favourite) or why they decided to record a version of Drown, by Bring Me The Horizon.

Mixtape Mondays | New Faces 2015 Tour

With tickets to New Faces booked, I went on checking out the other artists in the line up. At that time, Dan Owen had only one song available on Spotify, Fall Like a Feather, the one you can watch below. I simply could not wait to see him live. It was love at first chord. I find this acoustic performance particularly mesmerising. He has since released his first EP, Bad For me, with this plus 3 more tracks. Don't miss checking Riding Out the Storm.

Jack Watts plays a really easy to listen sound. His vocals are his biggest strength. I don't connect with his songs as easily as with Seafret's ones. but am ready to sing along a few of them next week - Push Blue and Red Shortbread (also his 5 track EP title) being very beautiful tracks.

Unfortunately I haven't got much to say about Flyte. At least not just yet. Some of it reminds me vaguely of Two Door Cinema Club, but I am not really sure of what to make of it for now. I'd rather wait to see them live. Light me Up, however, is a really charming track, I can picture it being a crowd pleaser.

I hope you like this first playlist selection & run through. Any thoughts or suggestions please drop me a line, always happy to listen! :)