James Vincent McMorrow With Rob Bravery at Plug, Sheffield 10/02/2012

A young bearded man by the name of Rob Bravery took to the stage to a fairly packed room at Plug, with a guitarist and piano he gave a delicate and acoustic performance of his incredible debut ‘The Elusive Crux’. Despite well structured songs it is his unique and soft voice that grips you as it closely resembles Elliot Smith.  Rob Bravery’s downfall is that by playing acoustically there isn’t any upbeat moments to soften the intense set; however that is offset by his bravery to appear alone on the stage and deliver an incredible performance for a support act.

Starting with the faster paced Sparrow and the Wolf James Vincent McMorrow starts the show with a lively song which engages the now packed venue. It is when the slower more delicate offerings are performed that the gig notches up a gear, as his powerful falsetto voice captivates the audience and creates silence within it; this is particularly the case when the backing band left the stage for James Vincent McMorrow to perform We Are Ghosts and Higher Love acoustically. He was a timid character on stage, announcing that he was supposed to play a smaller venue but had been upgraded, he shyly bantered with audience members who shouted marriage proposals and love for his beard; however this shyness was not apparent when he was playing as his stage and voice presence was so large it consumed you as an audience member leaving behind goose bumps.

Spotlight: Daniel Pearson ‘Satellites’ Review

Bruce Springsteen, Ryan Adams, Elliott Smith; the comparisons are strong but in a saturated singer songwriter market Pearson manages to stand apart in his own light. The debut album ranges from strong upbeat moments to delicate acoustic offerings. For a debut it sounds mature with great production, something you wouldn’t necessarily expect. What makes Daniel Pearson a great talent is that the songs are delivered with a unique voice whilst the instrumentation offers depth and good structure, with the more upbeat songs being the stronger components of the album as they burst with melody and become instantly infectious, a prime example being ‘Black n Blue’. The downfall of the album is the lyrics themselves, they are emotionally driven but often lack focus and so the meaning becomes blurred and so lacks impact, for example “When the ranches are bare, chemicals hang in the air… I will be there when you need me, like the stars in the sky, sand on the beach and the waves in the sea… We are all waves in the sea”. This is a great album despite the lyric element; it is well polished and infectious.

Key Songs: Black n Blue, Waves in the Sea, Tracks and Wishing Well.

Availiable through iTunes or Daniel Pearson’s online store.

Howler with Man Made at Leeds Cockpit 3/2/2012

Stood alone on the stage with a guitar and a gold sparkly jacket the brave 19 year old played to a fairly packed audience. It is clear Nile Marr aka Man Made has inherited his father’s genes, the one and only Johnny Marr, but what makes him stand aside from his father is his emotive singing and striking song writing ability. It would have been interesting to hear the live performance with a full band as at times he was a little static; however at such a young age it was a fine performance of a wonderful EP. After Man Made’s set came to a close he quickly abandoned the jacket and donned a hat to become one of Howlers roadie’s showing how intimate the tour had become.

After supporting The Vaccines and releasing their debut album it was clear Howler were riding on a high, as they walked through the packed crowd to the stage. Technically the band played well, the Cockpit (as always) provided a great venue for both vibe and sound quality; the band also bantered well with the crowd from telling stories of how they offended the Scots to wearing audience members hats. However, Jordan Gatesmith was drunk and continued to drink from a whiskey bottle, he was swearing and spitting; this created a shambolic feeling to the gig as guitar strings were broken; the problem is it felt like a check list of how to be ‘rock n roll’ rather than coming naturally. However, it is refreshing to see a band embrace the image which perhaps hasn’t been seen since the early to middle noughties. Their set was enjoyable as the crowd lapped up performances such as Told You Once and Back of Your Neck, but just like their album it felt a little disappointing and unoriginal.

First Aid Kit ‘The Lion’s Roar’ Review

The two Swedish sisters who became You Tube sensations drop their second album and is possibly one the better Americana albums produced in the last few years.  They have finally stepped out of Fleet Foxes shadow and moved to a more country orientated sound, highlighted beautifully by ‘Emmylou’. Perhaps due to the input of Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis the song writing has shifted from characters and folktales to self narrative and reflection “And I’m a God damn coward then again so are you”; however it is important to note that the self-reflection is used occasionally throughout a song so that it never feels gloomy or depressive but still has enough power to convey their story. The vocals have matured as well; they are now much easier to listen to, though it is a little heavy-handed on the reverb. The instrumentation has become lush and filled with confidence and charm. The only disappointment is the end song ‘King of the World’, it never  goes anywhere and just seems to go round in circles, whilst the warbling voice of Conor Oberst doesn’t sit well next to the two delicate sisters; this leaves a very dissatisfied finish to the album. Despite the final song this is a much bigger and braver album that places the Sodenberg sisters in their own light.

Key Songs: Emmylou, The Lion’s Roar and Blue

Tribes ‘Baby’ Review

Having gained a lot of attention during 2011 Tribes have finally released their debut album ‘Baby’ and it is certainly worth the hype. From songs such as ‘Sappho and ‘Whenever’ it is clear Tribes have a lot of imagination with strong songs but what is evident is their ability to absorb a wide range of influences from grunge, indie and glam rock to produce a refreshing sound for 2012. The song writing is very strong and inventive, such as ‘Corner of an English Field’ a song dedicated to Charlie Haddon of Ou Est Le Swimming Pool. The album is very consistent where each song has a similar theme or instrumentation which creates strong links to tie the album together. However, the most powerful aspect of the album is the strong energy the band produces, particularly through Johnny Lloyd’s vocals. This is certainly an excellent debut and a must own for 2012.

Key Tracks: We Were Children, Sappho, Nightdriving, When My Day Comes, Corner of An English Field

The Maccabees ‘Given To The Wild’ Review

The Maccabees return with their third album, their previous albums were perfection in indie with dark pop elements, but the third album sees the band mature and grow with confidence to an album that might be their defining sound and is certainly their masterpiece. The album itself is concise and consistent with each song blending beautifully into the next, there isn’t necessarily a standout song but it is an album which should be listened to as an album. The album also creates a rich and beautiful soundscape which conjures up imagery of landscapes and the wild, this makes the album title aptly named. Orlando Weeks voice is a beautiful falsetto which washes and blends effortlessly with the instrumentation. Whilst the album is as gentle as a summer stream, it does provide some upbeat moments such as the songs ‘Unknown’ and ‘Pelican’. Whilst The Maccabees previous albums were ‘perfection’ they now certainly feel like they were stepping stones to ‘Given To The Wild’, an album which shows maturity and a band brimming with confidence. A real gem.

Out Now!

Essential Tracks: Really must be listened to as an album

First Listen: Howler ‘America Give Up’ Review

Howler received a lot of attention and hype towards the end of last year and it is no surprise in a music industry littered with electronic outfits (this is not necessarily a bad thing), these five lads from Minneapolis daringly step out with fuzzy guitars which draws strong comparisons to The Strokes. Next week on the 16th the young band releases their debut album and here at NorthernRoom we are lucky enough to have heard it before its release. The boys release a strong album full of guitar hooks and noise which is very reminiscent of The Strokes. Each song is strong enough to stand alone, but place in a context of an album and it starts to feel like an 11 track compilation. The album isn’t original as well; it is like Julian Casablancas fronting The Vaccines or scraps from The Strokes debut, this could be down to the young age of the band and with time they might find their own sound (much like The Maccabees). The originality aspect isn’t a major hurdle that can’t be jumped because the songs are very catchy, and perhaps isn’t something the band themselves care about: “I keep hearing a lot of witch house stuff, chillwave, shoegazey keyboards with Casio drums. But not rock, so we wanted to make it dirty rock’n’roll” (Jordan Gatesmith); this is an album that does just that each song is punchy and mostly comes in under the 3 minute mark. This is a fine debut from a young band, but you just can’t help feeling slightly cheated by it.

The album is available for streaming at nme.com

Released: 16/01/2012

Essential Tracks: Told You Once, Beach Sluts & America

The Crookes Live At The Queens Social Club, Sheffield// 17/12/2011

So this review might be slightly late but since seeing the band I have not been able to access the world of the internet, until now…

It was clear how much Sheffield loves this band and it was equally clear how much the band loves Sheffield, their hometown. The band delighted the crowd by playing the foot stompers Bloodshot Days, Backstreet Lovers and Bright Young Things as well as treating us to a wonderful cover of Santa Baby (well it was Crookesmas). The band was energetic and George Waite excelled as front man, while his hair bounced along to the beat and for a moment I thought I was watching Michael McIntyre. The concert was excellent and it was clear the crowd and the band were enjoying themselves, however you couldn’t help feel the venue wasn’t equipped well enough in particular for sound quality, while I felt the stage was too small for the band.

The first support act: Silent Film Project were good but they were an average indie band; pleasant to listen to but lack that tune that sets them apart. The second support act was Sissy and The Blisters who were fantastic, they provided a fresh sound of garage rock similar to early Horrors and are definitely worth seeking out further. The Crookes gave a fantastic performance and it is hard to understand how these guys are not bigger. The band tells the crowd that it has been their “best ever gig” and was an “absolute pleasure to be home” but it is safe to say the pleasure was all ours. Thank you Crookes for a great Christmas present.

The Vaccines Live At The 02 Academy, Sheffield

The Vaccines are a rare bread in the music industry using and infusing chord progression and musical styles that we have heard before yet managing to place their own identity within the songs to create something very memorable. Another key element to their style and success is that the songs are short and snappy or anthemic. Thus seeing one of the most exciting bands of 2010 was something I could not pass up.

The academy was pretty full by the time the first support act Howler came on stage possibly one of the most suitable support acts for The Vaccines, considering they sound like a mix of The Strokes and The Vaccines. The band had a good stage presence with some good songs to accompany them. Whilst the second support act: Frankie & The Heartstrings were a disappointment, musically they were pretty average, however Hunger is a pretty darn fine song, but it was singer Frankie Francis who let the band down, he was far too much into himself rather than the crowd (who threw drinks at them) whilst attempting to channel Ian Curtis (of Joy Division) badly.

It was after 9.30 by the time The Vaccines had come on the stage with their immense song ‘Blow It Up’ and they were fantastic; but it was their second song ‘Wreckin Bar’ which saw both the crowd and band burst into energy, from then on out it was a monster of a show. The band was able to combine both upbeat garage rock whilst the slower songs (All In White, Wetsuit) resulted in a mass sing along. The band also previewed a new song which sounds like it could quite happily sit within the first album but it was bloody awesome.

The band technically sounded great better than their album in fact. Whilst the light show complimented the set really well. The band was enthusiastic and knew how to work the crowd, particularly on the slower more anthem songs.

With killer hooks, anthems and a bloody great live performances it’s not hard to see why The Vaccines rose so quickly from the underground scene; and there are few bands that deserve this success more.

Set List

  1. Blow It Up
  2. Wreckin Bar (Ra Ra Ra)
  3. Tiger Blood
  4. A Lack of Understanding
  5. Wetsuit
  6. (New Song)
  7. Post Break Up Sex
  8. All In White
  9. Under Your Thumb
  10. Wolf Pack
  11. If You Wanna
  12. Family Friend
  13. We’re Happening (Encore)
  14. Norgaard (Encore)

Kate Bush ’50 Words For Snow’ Album Review

Kate Bush releases her second album of the year: ’50 Words for Snow’ and it is a blend of cold and delicate melodies which might not be her most accessible work but it is the most focussed. The seasonal album has an overlying theme of snow and winter but search within this and you will find songs packed with innocence and distance mixed with life and love. This is something Bush does outstandingly well, taking a concept which would seem absurd but turns it into something rather beautiful, as in the case of ‘Misty’ the romance of a snowman. The instrumentation and matured vocals blends effortlessly with the underlying theme to create a very rich album which keeps rewarding the listener. This is a fantastic, intense album that reiterates just how talented Bush is.