Vortex Town – Vortex Town EP

Sheffield’s Vortex Town are visceral, raw and loud. Guitarist Ben Hodge’s amps get turned up to nosebleed levels, bassist Tim Davis ensures sure his sound is deep enough to rattle skulls, drummer Andy Purves wallops his skins at breakneck speed and vocalist Cassie Durance conjures her vigorously soulful voice up from the very deepest depths of her lungs.

The self-titled debut EP, also referred to as ‘1’, is a tunefully heavy sum of these pieces. Most parts grunge, some parts metal, all parts entirely rock. They do big, grimy, dysfunctional blues rhapsodies with cathedral sized choruses, like first track ‘Deeper’ and the monumental ‘Sugar’, as if Skunk Anansie studied at the university of Royal Blood. Lusciously named ‘Vigour of Vultures’ summons Placebo at their full throttle best, ‘On My Skin’ is the closest the group come to a power ballad and even that is shot through with humongous riffs and longing, “and when daylight surrounds me I’ll be hiding from the sun, I wanna be the trigger to your gun, I just want to impress you with all the things you like, I’ll spend my days pretending, if only you would notice me”.

‘Digital Fumes’ is a mesmerising epic, traversing dark styles and moods, exploring Pearl Jam levels of Seattle inspired grunge, Durance’s voice becoming an intimidatingly tetherless growl as she screams “Why don’t you touch me? Why don’t you love me?”. And after hearing the emotion poured into that one composition we’re certain that Cassie’s elusive beau won’t stay spinelessly distant for long.

Vortex Town are currently unsigned. The self-titled EP was produced by Electric Bear Productions, Mansfield and is out on all streaming platforms now. Hit here to listen on Spotify.

Check out the video for Sugar below:

Shame – Baldur’s Gate

Shame have come out with a nearly anti-Christmas single. The ingredients are there for a heart warming Yuletide ditty, albeit one performed by South London post-punks – jingle bells, a light melody with twinkling guitar and keys, gently coo-ing vocals. You can almost hear snow falling on pavement as the narrator trudges through wintry streets, pledging to lay everything down at a sovereign’s feet, in the words of the song: “fuck it, a Christmas story”.

Only the sovereign here isn’t baby Jesus, it’s an ex-partner, and rather than bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, Shame recite “If I could rip off all my skin/ and parcel it inside a tin/ I’d write my name in biro/ on the ribbons/ like decoration”. Not sure if Mary and Joseph or God himself would have appreciated that for their hay-smothered, donkey-fragranced kid.

You shouldn’t hold your breath hoping to see this festive smash on Top of the Pops (although that would be ace), but it still works as an ideal soundtrack to wrapping up crimbo presents with a mug of hot cocoa.

Baldur’s Gate is out now on all streaming services via Dead Oceans.

Windshake – Waking Moment

The psychedelics in Windshake’s veins flow strong. For debut album ‘Waking Moment’, the Welsh Bristolian four piece give their listeners space for an hour long trip out of mind. Dare I mention the ‘H’ word? Taking their inspirations into account I’m sure Windshake wouldn’t mind… the album has real hippy vibrations, you wouldn’t be surprised to hear it emanating from an incense and pagan gift shop in Glastonbury town.

One constant is singer, guitarist and main songwriter Sam Elliot’s vocals that resemble Oasis frontman Noel Gallagher, yet the songwriting and musicianship behind the voice bares more familiarity with the classics – The Beatles, Neil Young, Yes.

Opening with an unsettling Max-Headroom aping sample requesting “Let’s all just laugh” and descending into madcap laughter, the tone is set for some far out weirdness, and ‘Saving The Cherry’ becomes an acoustic song blasphemously asking “Is Mary is still saving her cherry for me?”. The lyrical subject matter visits new age themes, ‘Independent Stones‘ comparing humans and their relationships to the distance between ancient standing stones like Stonehenge and Avebury, the ego loss and freedom of the ‘Old Man Of The Desert‘, an “old man hanging naked and free”, the title track centrepiece ‘Waking Moment’ a kundalini experience in and of itself, 9 minutes replete with hypnotic opening verses and transcendent guitar solo.

There are spates of melodic storytelling, ‘Orange Raincoat‘ tells a darkly humorous story “Why did you have to go and shoot yourself in the face, I invited you over, the respect I got was blood in my face?”, spending most time criticising the shooter’s brightly coloured mackintosh overcoat, with strong hints of The Beatles and Primal Scream. ‘Perform Like Rain‘ has jaunty Paul McCartney elements and a Kinks edge, asking “Maybe I should stop living cos it’s living that gets me down” with upbeat organ backing.

Former single ‘Receive Me‘ is a toned down Starman by Bowie with talk of metaphorically receiving messages from a spaceship, unexpectedly merging with a gospel choir. ‘The Big Wheel’ ends with a big, dramatic prog-rock moment, like Yes at their grandest with the world spinning like “the big wheel rolls on and on”.

There are pianos, there are strings, there are big progressive rock moments and there are quiet acoustic ruminations. Amongst it all you can feel the band nudging you on and hoping you’ll have a spiritual awakening of your own.

‘Waking Moment’ was released on 10th December. To hear the album head over to bandcamp or have a listen on Spotify.

The K’s – Picture

One of the perils of 21st Century living, when you’re casually, nonchalantly scrolling through the instagram account of an old partner and, horror of horrors, your clumsy sausage fingers tap the screen on a picture from 36 weeks ago. You try to tap again to undo it but, in the fluster, end up sending over a second heart alert.

It’s such a painful scenario that The K’s have turned it into a hi-octane, dancefloor indie smash, part Panic! At The Disco, part Editors. Singer and rhythm guitarist Jamie Boyle tries to shrug off the whole debacle, hoping it’ll just make the girl smile, but in the next breathe confesses that it’s stopped him sleeping so really, Jamie, your aloofness isn’t fooling anyone!

You can listen to The K’s latest stadium-sized indie anthem on Spotify, below, and if you want you can catch them on tour they have a string of appearances through the rest of this year and into the start of next. Visit The K’s website for more details.

The Mysterines – The Bad Thing

The Mysterines keep hitting higher and higher heights of lowdown dark and gritty garage rock. In ‘The Bad Thing’, the Liverpool four-piece plumb their deepest depths yet. Frontwoman Lia Metcalfe, in a jaded, baying serenade, imagines digging up a long-dead lover from the grave in order to commit some nefarious deed. A slow burning single starting with slow distorted, echoey guitars, the song accelerates in the style of Patti Smith’s Gloria, eventually evolving into a churning rock’n’roll ball of riffs, heavy bass and frantic drums as Metcalfe wonders incredulously “Who in their right mind/ would do the shit you’re asking?”, seemingly now becoming disturbed by her own crooked fantasy.

‘Reeling’, the debut album from The Mysterines, will be released on 11th March 2022 via Fiction Records.

The Bug Club – Pure Particles

The most delectable thing about ‘Pure Particles’ is it sounds as if The Bug Club have recorded their album with a cheap microphone and cassette machine, so lo-fi that it has been designed to sound best played through an old transistor radio. The second most delectable thing is the entire 9 song mini album is dusted and done in under 20 minutes, no drawn out and long guitar wankery here, ‘Pure Particles’ made up of pure, short and snappy pop songs, not unlike Moldy Peaches if they came from Caldicott, Monmouthshire instead of NYC.

Guitarist Sam Willmet and bassist Tilly Harris provide the garage rock duets and pepper their music with quick-witted accounts of daily humdrum life. Within those short 20 minutes, along with drummer Dan Matthew, they bring us a Velvet Underground inspired ‘My Baby Loves Rock’n’Roll Music’ (i.e the song. Possibly the genre too, but specifically the song), the only track to ever quote M-People’s ‘Proud’ alongside a skiffle solo in ‘Vegetable Garden’, a mix of raw speed-paced deadpan-punk in ‘The Fixer’ and light-hearted existentialism in ‘Pure Particles’, ‘If My Mother Thinks I’m Happy’ is an immense impression of Jonathan Richmond having a go at playing Squeeze and ‘A Love Song’ takes the time to mock Bob Dylan while also answering the question “How many times can you say fuck in a love song?” – you’ll have to give them a listen to get the answer. To bring the listener back down after a few minutes of high adrenaline, The Bug Club are wise enough to bring the LP to it’s terminus with a lullaby instrumental of the album’s title track.

‘Pure Particles’ has been out since 12th November 2021 on Bingo Records. The Bug Club have played a couple sessions with Marc Riley on BBC 6 Music and are going to be touring loads in the new year. Head over to their bandcamp now to find out all you need to know about them and if you want to buy some stuff I’m sure they’d be chuffed.

Point A – Cross Me

Point A is alluringly mysterious. After her debut single ‘Cross Me’ appeared online at the far end of October a buzz set alight across certain reaches of the blogosphere and social media, fascinated with the composition’s strutting, self-assured confidence and determination – Point A’s own fusion of spoken word, rap and song articulating her ruthless certainty of large-scale success over modern day pop tune beats.

To add fuel to the fire of intrigue, the singer/songwriter has now put out a video to soundtrack her debut track, largely comprising footage of her carrying out day-to-day tasks in a humdrum semi-detached house before heading off to explore a curious old turret in some unspecified park, all while wearing a plague doctor’s beaked mask, her visage remaining obscured.

Point A’s new promo is being exclusively hosted over at The Songbird. Click the link to go and watch. You can also hear ‘Cross Me’ on Spotify, below.

Black Country, New Road – Concorde

The ascent to lofty heights of indie success for Black Country, New Road has been swift. Since forming in 2019 as part of the Brixton Windmill scene, they have already received massive acclaim from all and sundry and put out a highly revered eight track debut album ‘For The First Time’. A few short months later, the seven-person strong troupe has returned with a selection of songs from their next record, ‘Ants From Up There’, the latest of which is ‘Concorde’.

For BC, NR, known for their clash of classically trained musicianship, meandering jazz and alternative guitar, ‘Concorde’ is, believe it or not, a restrained, orthodox song. Singer Isaac Wood’s voice hits somewhere between The National’s Matt Berninger and Conor Oberst, his words contemplating grief, the song careening between quiet verse and loud chorus, with saxophone flitting in and out of the mix.

When, for other bands, the song might have ended at the 3 minute 20 mark, there’s a short lull and a delicate mandolin break as Wood has some tender, confessional words for the object of the song’s attention before, in more familiar BC, NR style, the track builds to a grand, orchestral end.

If you like what you hear, new LP ‘Ants From Up There’ comes out on 4th February 2022.
Before that date comes you may be able to catch them live, as they’re currently touring.
For more information on the album’s release and to try to find a tour date that’s not yet sold out, head over to Black Country, New Road’s website – click here.

Spector – I’m Not Crying You’re Crying

Spector’s third studio album, the appropriately titled ‘Now or Whenever’, has been delayed for months after its original October release date, with blame laid firmly at the door of the current vinyl shortage, but to keep us attentive the London lads have been drip feeding us a stream of classic singles.

Keyboard led ‘I’m Not Crying You’re Crying’ is the latest instalment, a sense of foreboding hangs about as the group adopt a Tame Impala flair. Fred Macpherson’s singing approaches Flaming Lips vocalist Mark Coyne pitch during the levitating chorus, as the lyricist considers the end of a seemingly doomed relationship in the haunting couplet “I’ve been having nightmares/ wishing they’d come true”.

The brilliant video for the track is a happy leap from the song’s solemn sound with Macpherson and synth/guitarist Jed Cullen appearing with puppet doppelgängers (created by Evelinka Puppets) in scenarios and tourist spots about the capital, including eating an eggs benedict and iced coffee breakfast, travelling about on an open top bus and getting squiffy on bottles of Asahi.

You can find the video below and, hopefully, ‘Now or Whenever’ will be released on 7th January 2022 via their own label, Moth Noise. If you want to pre-order a copy in a range of formats, bundles and a host of other merch you should definitely click here.

Horsegirl – Billy

Chicago noise-pop trio Horsegirl make shoegaze indiepop music like Kevin Shields writing songs for Belle & Sebastian. Billy is a largely uncomplicated record with rolling drums, a fuzzy, repeating guitar chime and Penelope Lowenstein’s simple, lazy backing vocals. Yet Nora Cheng’s deliciously impassive vocals flip the track into a filmic dimension when she tells us about a day in the life of a misanthropic character named Billy, a story that the band, who have an age range between 17-19 years and are fanatics of underground 1980s and 1990s alternative music, have said is “a love letter to past music scenes we wish we could have witnessed”.

Photo Credit: Todd Fisher

Billy is Horsegirl’s first release on new label Matador records and only the fourth song of their gradually expanding collection. Watch the single’s homemade video below: