Gruff Rhys – Silver Lining (Lead Balloons)

Inarguably one of modern Welsh music’s foremost icons, Gruff Rhys has a less-than-earnest warning for his long-serving listeners on latest single ‘Silver Lining (Lead Balloons)’, the second track to be taken from his forthcoming 25th LP. And what warning is that, we hear you ask, above the symphonic piano and scrumptious strings? Well, we’re not exactly certain, but it’s somewhere between the eccentric poetical sentiments of, and we quote: “There’s no use lining all your dreams with silver/For silver lined clouds look much like lead balloons” and “I left my dreams in a rental car/Live for now and dream afar”.

The beautiful, orchestral sounds, created almost entirely with only wooden acoustic instruments, were recorded live in a 19th-century building on the outskirts of Paris during March 2022 with the ex-Super Furry Animals frontman on vocals, Kliph Scurlock, formerly of Flaming Lips, on drums, Osian Gwynedd on piano, Huw V Williams on double bass and an overdubbed string quartet arranged by Gruff Ab Arwel, only breaking the timber-based rule to include some utterly euphoric brass from Gavin Fitzjohn. Replete with gold like this and previous single ‘Celestial Candyfloss’, Gruff Rhys’s quarter-centuplicate handiwork looks set to be one of his finest and most idyllic yet.

‘Silver Lining (Lead Balloons)’ is the second single to come off of Gruff Rhys’s forthcoming record ‘Sadness Sets Me Free’, due to be released on 26th January 2024 via Rough Trade Records and available to pre-order now. The full track list is below:

1 – Sadness Sets Me Free
2 – Bad Friend
3 – Celestial Candyfloss
4 – Silver Lining (Lead Balloons)
5 – On The Far Side Of The Dollar
6 – They Sold My Home To Build A Skyscraper
7 – Peace Signs
8 – Cover Up The Cover Up
9 – I Tendered My Resignation
10 – I’ll Keep Singing

‘Silver Lining (Lead Balloons)’ was released on 7th November 2023 and you can watch it on Youtube below:

iest – Lizard Skin Chic

Enigmatic singing songwriting newcomer iest has a magnificently cool blooded, blissed out space waltz in the bag for his third single, ‘Lizard Skin Chic’, putting his brittle, ambrosial vocals and washed out, lilting guitars up against obscured lyrics and a general dreamy feeling, all produced by South Welsh independent music maestro, Minas, and visually adorned with ancient arcane Sumerian reptilian statue artwork.

Angling indistinctly at illuminati cover stars, equally at aimless inner-city drives and romantic wanderings in the rain, the record meanders gracefully around various juxtaposed nomadic subjects before the slow dance shifts up a gear, briefly, with all of the surf guitars and jazz drums summoned up into a rapture of other-worldly bleeps and squalls and then adroitly released back to a hazy, revelatory calm.

iest is in the process of piecing together his debut ep ‘Everything You Know’, due for release on 18th November, which we are of the understanding will also contain prior singles ‘Disappear’ and ‘Go Slow’. There’s an essential sounding EP Launch at Rothfink Industries HQ in Bedwas on release day, as per the funky graphic above.

‘Lizard Skin Chic’ was released on 4th November and you should take a listen on the Spotify link below:

Half Happy – Say This Twice

Cardiff woozy indie-popsters Half Happy’s latest single ‘Say This Twice’ is part spoken word, part radiant melody and entirely a sublime record about irrecoverably lost love. Rose’s cool vocals give a disappointed but eloquent account of sorrowfully bored domestication alongside Pete’s lustrous, dramatic, Tame Impala-like guitars.

Having heaps in common with alt-rock contemporaries Pit Pony, Sprints and past tour-mates English Teacher, the bittersweet quartet use dreamy, heavenly sounds to communicate the mournful atmosphere of bright-eyed romance turned stale, while managing to pack in a gorgeously lilting chorus and all.

‘Say This Twice’ was released on 25th October 2023, available on all of the streaming platforms everywhere and you can watch the record’s video on Youtube below. Spoiler: it sees the band looking confusedly at a platter of spaghetti bolognese and performing to a field of sunflowers:

Megan Wyn – Familiar Faces

Photo: Sam Crowston

Megan Wyn’s second single, ‘Familiar Faces’, is as forceful and powerful as indie rock tunes come. The Welsh girl’s voice is at it’s husky finest and, along with co-songwriter Alex Quinn (The Royston Club, Lottery Winners), she’s managed to successfully forge an intensively driving alt-anthem to raging heartbreak.

Photo: Sam Crowston

As she casts off the track’s soaring chorus, Wyn resignedly warns “The devil hides in familiar faces”, finding herself cruelly torn between jealousy and rejection, over energized drums and stirring guitars that we reckon must translate excellently to being performed live, as we’re sure her many rabid legions of live show attendees would gladly attest.

You can catch Megan on tour currently (we’re not sure she ever stops touring, actually) at the following dates:

02/11/2023 – Band On The Wall, Manchester – supporting the brilliant Andrew Cushin
03/11/2023 – Kazimier Stockroom, Liverpool – headline gig
18/11/2023 – Empire, Middlesbrough – supporting Komparrison
15/12/2023 – Colours, London – supporting The Motive
17/02/2024 – Coast Festival, North Shields

‘Familiar Faces’ was released on 13th October 2023 and you can take a listen to it below on Spotify:

Silent Forum – Here’s The Email

In small, atomised, spare bedrooms all across the land, lone office workers log in to check their emails, dripping milk from a bowl of Cheerios all over their duvet, soaking papers on their desk with Tassimo Costa macchiattos as they bustle to show active on Teams by 9am. With post-punk shades of Idles, Sports Team and Talking Heads, on ‘Here’s The Email’ Silent Forum peer over the shoulder of those home-workers and read their nugatory laptop screens out loud: “Here’s the email – hope you’re safe and well, in these troubling times, hope your family’s well, hope your dog is well”.

Getting together from as far afield as Cardiff, Bristol, London and Barcelona, the quartet’s latest single taken from forthcoming second album ‘Domestic Majestic’ uses barbed, intersecting rhythms, pop-punk peppy guitars, nimble drums and wry, slice of life confessional lyrics to cheekily question the value of resilience and strength in adversity when the height of your day is pushing products, papers and sending out tasters.

‘Here’s The Email’ was released on 24th October 2023. Check out the video below that sees the band sat in chairs in the middle of the road, an act that caused a police van containing 6 officers to rock up and make sure a pesky protest wasn’t going on (no arrests were made and everyone was allowed to carry on nicely with their business):

Picture Parlour – Judgement Day

Photo: Em Cole

Sweeping theatrics are the order of the day on Picture Parlour’s second single ‘Judgement Day’. Liverpudlian frontwoman Katherine Parlour weaves together words with all the witty ingenuity of Alex Turner and the four piece’s dramatic instrumentation has more than a little in common with latter day Arctic Monkeys wide screen vision, or better still Father John Misty – but English and northern.

Photo: Teja Lisjak

Verbosely declaring the religious extent to which she has been bowled by love, the singer’s commanding Patti Smith grade growl fills the orchestral space between bundles of cinematic surf guitars and reverberating drums, with an altogether grander sound than their already excellent debut track ‘Norwegian Wood’.

Picture Parlour are coming up at just the same time as their spellbinding tour-mates, the excellent The Last Dinner Party, so we’re pretty confident that, between them, there’s something big happening here.

‘Judgement Day’ was released on 17th October 2023 and you can watch the single’s brilliant video below:

Shallowhalo – Decision of a Flower

NY duo Shallowhalo’s latest track is a succinct crystal glass electro gem. Energized with all the dancefloor dominating prowess of CSS, Ladytron and the electroclash masters, on ‘Decision of a Flower’ producers Allyson Camitta and Ezra Tenenbaum create two tasty minutes of synth-loaded, sludgy beat smothered, worked up excellence.

Transposing the act of plucking petals off flowers to coolly suss out the object of her heart’s desire’s affection into a digitized party soundtrack essential, Camitta’s sacchariferous tones work euphoric magic over the record’s rapturously regimented rhythms to create a work of the finest glacial, immaculate pop at it’s most untarnished. Almost like a Crystal Castles that won’t give you a brain hemorrhage.

‘Decision of a Flower’, the first track for Shallowhalo’s forthcoming EP, was released on 13th October 2023, along with the gloriously arty promo video that we have linked you to below:

The Libertines – Run, Run, Run

Our absolute favourite troubadour poet debauchees have made a grand return with their catchiest, most immediate single to date. Lead by co-frontman Carl Barat and peppered with background yells from other co-frontman Peter Doherty, ‘Run Run Run’ sees The Libertines achieve what they’ve only managed twice before in their two decade history – a straightforward radio smash (the other tracks being ‘Don’t Look Back Into The Sun’ and ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’, obviously).

Surreptitiously appropriating a Velvet Underground song title, the rascally foursome sing their way through a succinct candid assessment of their current standing – “It’s a life long project of a life on the lash, I’ve forgotten how to care but I’ll remember for cash”, the trademark chiming skiffle punk guitars and stop-start drumming acknowledging their intention of outpacing their past bloody rock’n’roll soap opera turmoil and making a right old arcadian knees up out of the present – “You’d better run, run, run, boy, faster than the past, through the looking glass, if you want the night to last”.

‘Run, Run Run’ is the first single to be taken from The Libertines first album release in nine years – ‘All Quiet On The Eastern Esplanade’, due out on 8th March 2024. The track listing is below:

1 – Run, Run, Run
2 – Mustang
3 – Have A Friend
4 – Merry Old England
5 – Man With The Melody
6 – Oh Shit
7 – Night Of The Hunter
8 – Baron’s Claw
9 – Shiver
10 – Be Young
11 – Songs They Never Play On The Radio

The record can be pre-ordered now in various dazzling bundles of coloured vinyl, CDs, cassettes, t-shirts and lyric prints. And if you were to literally buy it tonight, you’ll get pre-sale access to a weekend of Libertines live shows in Margate on 9th and 10th December (pre-sale going live on Wednesday 18th October 2023).

There’s a video for the track coming soon, but it’s not out yet. For now, we’ve included a Spotify link so you can take a listen below:

PARCS – Wait!

Airy synths and carefree beats galore are abundantly on offer from Newport sad-popsters PARCS and their latest single ‘Wait!’. The husband and wife fronted four piece have gotten crafting danceable rhythms and snappy melodies down to a fine art, their latest track boasting all the glitz of Chvrches or Bis when they went full on electro-pop (‘Return to Central’, not ‘Eurodisco’).

Vocalists Elly and Kristy’s starry-eyed and craving phrases get spread across a sprightly sonic environment creating a record that’s two-thirds disco-banger and one-third daydreamily wistful. What we mean is, ‘Wait!’ could be equally loved whilst sat listening through headphones on a rainy Sunday afternoon or being broadcast through the speakers whilst having a dance at your local indie club.

‘Wait!’ was released on 13th September through the pretty excellent Phwoar & Peace records. It’s available to stream all over the place right now or you can find it to buy over on their bandcamp. We’ve put the Spotify link below here for you:

Andrew Cushin – Waiting For The Rain

Andrew Cushin’s ascendency has been hard won. Since releasing his first music at the start of 2020 and receiving kudos from the elder Gallagher brother early doors, the Newcastle singer-songwriter went on to get a further leg-up from Peter Doherty, signing to his Strap Originals label. Although that may all sound star-studded and plain sailing, Cushin spent the whole three year period slogging it through the small venue circuit the length and breadth of the British Isles, notching his discography up with single after single. Although the larger venues eventually came calling through Peter Doherty support slots and a further bolster from Louis Tomlinson with a succession of US and worldwide tour dates, no-one can say the boy hasn’t earned his stripes.

‘Waiting For The Rain’ is the culmination of all of this groundwork, whilst precisely capturing what the northern musician is all about. See, it’s not easy to place or categorise him. All of his songs are guitar based and self-written, glancing at the writing credits there’s not even the whiff of a co-write, yet there’s an aspect, possibly in the note-perfect, sonorously expressive vocals or polished instrumentation, that ekes aesthetically close to the Ed Sheerens and Lewis Capaldis of the world. Yet thankfully, what Andrew Cushin has that the rest of his young solo artist fraternity don’t have, is an indefinable indie rock edge that ultimately places his tunes alongside the Noels and Paul Wellers of the world.

Rootsy opener ‘Let Me Give It To You’ maintains that rock’n’roll is at the record’s core, ‘Comedown’ has a deliciously dirty bassline and ‘Wor Flags’ goes full jaunty merseybeat, so through and through the album has solid alternative rock sympathies, but the most satisfying songs are when the emotions flow without restraint, as on ‘Just Like You’d Want Me To’, ‘Broken Love Song’, ‘I Want You To Be There’ and the lushly reworked title track. For a 23 year old, Cushin’s experiences communicated through the harrowing ‘4.5%’, of coping with the death of his father through alcoholism, could be the experiences of someone twice his age.

It would be worth checking whether Oasis left ‘Dream For A Moment’ lying around somewhere as it’s good enough by itself to fit on either of their early LPs but the biggest praise is reserved for final track ‘The End’ which sees the artist at his most lyrically profound against rolling drums and cathartic keyboards, a choir of kids joining in the contemplative, liberating chorus “Cause in the end, when the sun goes down, and our kids they stand to put me in the ground, it’s the end of everything, and I didn’t mean a thing”.

His ascendency has been hard fought for, but ‘Waiting For The Rain’ is Andrew Cushin’s victory lap and he’s entirely deserving of whatever trophies it’s gonna bring his way.

‘Waiting For The Rain’ was released via Strap Originals on 29th September 2023 and is available wherever you normally find your music. You can give it a stream, buy it on itunes, or get hold of the physical release. We’ve included a link to the record on Spotify below: