Tag Archives: music

Set Fire To The Night

15 Mar

Hello!

I’m sorry I’ve not been around much. Between the music, novel, and various other things I’ve not been able to write much by way of blog posts.

But, here’s a quick update. The novel is going incredibly well, and I’ve had some excellent feedback on what I have so far. There will be more on that in the future. I’m also recording an acoustic album this summer, which I am incredibly excited about.

Most importantly, though, is this. Titans & Kings, my rock band, has just released a music video. You can see it, exclusive from OurZone, here.

The song is called Set Fire To The Night. It’s set for release on the 24th March from all good online distributors, and we’re very, very excited about it. Give it a listen, and get ready to have a bit of a dance. It’s the musical equivalent of an 80s movie montage and you’re going to love it.

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Rob the Music Snob: Viva Machine

24 Jan

A little hyperbole to start this off: the fact that Viva Machine isn’t a household name is one of the great injustices in recent music history. The Welsh rockers had it all. Great riffs, smart lyrics, soaring vocal harmonies and extremely interesting song structures. Imagine Biffy Clyro doing their best Beach Boys impression with Josh Homme noodling away in the background. I’m the proud owner of an EP and album – but even prouder of supporting them in Exeter back in 2008.

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Because you know what? Time for an extremely uncool admission. I’ve seen a vast number of the so-called best live bands, and Viva Machine were better live than any of them. The Muse live experience can go suck an egg. I’d rather hear “Death Star Trucker” live than “Supermassive Black Hole”.

I fell in love with them because of the live sound, actually – at a packed Cavern Club on a Saturday night. I had heard from a friend that they were great, and they blew the audience away with an air of professionalism that was rare on those nights; most of the acts were essentially there as a warm-up for the resident DJ. All of us were excited to hear what a full-length album had to offer.

We had to wait a while, mind – until 2009, actually – but by god it was great. From the punchy, sci-fi opener “Robot Bodyrox”, to the sprawling epics of “Futuristic Dracula” and “Mental State”, the self-titled album is, surprisingly for a debut effort, a filler-less, lean, mean, rocking machine. Dirty synth, beefy guitars, and a perfect level of quirk without feeling pretentious. I happily have “Viva Machine” in my list of favourite albums of all time.

So what happened? Well, Viva Machine were a young band, and apparently university studies took over, with the band going on hiatus in September of 2009, only a couple of months after the release of their album. A shame – an immensely talented band that I would have loved to have heard more of.

So, there’s Viva Machine. Go give them a listen, and if anyone knows where they guys are now, let them know that there’s still one person carrying a torch for ‘em.

Come Hear Me Wail: A New Project

21 Jan

Hello all!

This is just a brief update to let you know about a project I am doing in 2014.

Every fortnight, I will do a new acoustic cover version. Here’s my first one:

 

 

Hope you enjoy it!

 

It means that 2014 is going to be a bumper year for creative things. My podcast One Hour Stories is still going strong, and we’re looking to release an e-book when we have a suitable number of stories under our belts. Titans & Kings, the rock band where I am allowed to play bass, has a new single and music video out in March.

I’m writing about some of my favourite, lesser-known bands and will continue to write more fiction and blogs along the way, and there are rumblings of work starting on a larger writing project. Something novel-shaped which undoubtedly will take me ages to finish…

Anyway, for now enjoy my silly wailing and butchery of other people’s works.

‘Til next time!

Rob The Music Snob: Lovage

17 Jan

We all love a good bizarre side project, and we all have our favourites. Grunge king Mark Lanegan’s team-up with Belle and Sebastian singer Isobel Campbell, or maybe Robert Plant going all bluegrass with Alison Kraus. How about Probot, Dave Grohl’s love letter to classic rock?

One man, though, likes to go above and beyond when it comes to new ventures. Mike Patton is best known for his work with Faith No More, but has had enough projects to fill a record label. The most well-known of the lot is Mr Bungle, but that’s doing a disservice to the likes of Fantômas, Tomahawk and Peeping Tom. My favourite of the lot, though, is Lovage.

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Get this. Patton teams up with Jennifer Charles, singer of the goth-favourite dark-rock act Elysian Fields. Dan The Automator heads it all up and throws Kid Koala into the mix, and together they make one of the most delightfully sleazy albums ever made. Their only release, called Music To Make Love To Your Old Lady By, pairs up Patton’s low growl and Charles’ throaty breath-slurs, all over smooth beats and laid-back grooves, a neo-noir love-making story. Hell, it’s the only album I’ve ever heard that attempts to make truck stops into a sexual innuendo, and god damn it, it nearly pulls it off.

But it’s more than just a novelty. It’s a genuinely fantastic album. The backing tracks are excellent, sampling old recordings and films, giving Lovage an almost Portishead-esque vibe. It’s the kind of album you can just listen to and lose yourself in. Don’t believe me? Well, give this a listen – the frickin’ marvellous Stroker Ace:

Unfortunately it was just a one-off: Jennifer Charles went back to Elysian Fields, Mike Patton continued being bloody brilliant and most recently composed the soundtrack to The Place Beyond The Pines. But we’ll always have this one great moment, a tongue-in-cheek masterpiece, proving that great things can come out of unlikely musical team-ups.

Rob The Music Snob: Sol Seppy

10 Jan

When I was in my late teens, I suffered badly from insomnia. Where possible, I tried to use this time effectively – by writing, reading, or finding new music. MTV2 was a goldmine. Late at night it would play tracks from a variety of unheard, independent-label artists. One of these was Sol Seppy, and I was immediately in love.

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Sol Seppy is Sophie Michalitsianos, a classically-trained pianist and cellist better known for her work with the sadly-missed Mark Linkous in Sparklehorse. There are a lot of similarities between the two – the ethereal element, a large but intimate sound, breathtaking lyrics and a deep sense of emotional empathy. The first album, The Bells Of 1 2, is one of my favourites of all time, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

The Bells Of 1 2 is wonderful. Cohesive yet at the same time full of variety, it manages to bring out incredible levels of depth from a very minimal setup. The opener 1 2 relies almost entirely on piano, as does Enter One, Sol Seppy’s most recognisable track. It’s recognised for a reason. It’s absolutely beautiful.

But there’s more than that on show. Slo Fuzz was the first song I heard, pushed forward through – as the name suggests – fuzzy bass lines with floating synth work and excellent quiet/loud dynamics. Move features noisy, shoegaze-esque distortion and a discordant feel. Come Running is upbeat with a brilliantly catchy chorus.

It’s one of those albums that seems to never stray far from my grasp, never accumulating dust. Michalitsianos gave us a new EP last year, continuing the level of quality, and a promise of an album in 2014. I have high hopes, even after the seven year wait. Bring it on.

Rob’s Obligatory Top Ten Albums of 2013

20 Dec

Yep, it’s that time of the year! Here are my favourite albums of 2013. Music lovers have had a bumper crop this year, and it was hard to cut it down to just ten. But here they are, in no particular order.

 

Cloud Cult – Love

This was the first album of 2013 that I actually fell in love with. The Minneapolis collective – currently an eight-piece – released their tenth studio album in March of this year and it was a fantastic, poignant ride. Lush layering, heartfelt lyrics, and wonderful harmonies all helped to create what could be their magnum opus.

 

Kavinsky – OutRun

Love wasn’t the first album to be really, really darn good though. That falls to Kavinsky. Most well known for the use of Nightcall in the soundtrack to Ryan Gosling flick Drive, the French electronic artist released his debut album in February. It may lack emotional impact, but it more than makes up for it in songs that practically drip with 80s movie nostalgia.

 

I The Mighty – Satori

2013 was a great year for rock music, though, nearly making up for the damp squib of 2012. One of the best offerings was served up by San Francisco’s I The Mighty. Their debut, Satori, has it all. Great musicianship, varied and truly poetic lyrical content, and choruses that you’ll be singing for weeks – or months, in my case. This is a strong a debut as you’re going to get.

 

Houses – A Quiet Darkness

Speaking of strong lyrical content, A Quiet Darkness was ahead of the pack. Houses delivered a concept album with a wonderful, heart-wrenching story – two lovers, separated by a nuclear holocaust, trying to reunite with one another. It captures the post-apocalyptic tone perfectly, and the catalyst is not only the dreamy ambience of the music but the sparse, yet graceful, lyrics, which work beautifully with the dual vocals of Dexter Tortoriello and Megan Messina.

 

Enemies – Embark, Embrace

I’m not sure how, but Enemies have managed to do something very unique with Math Rock. Normally the sole haven of musicians and technical music enthusiasts, Embark, Embrace swaps the often discordant noodling with uplifting, soaring melodies without losing any of the complexity that keeps music snobs (such as me) hooked. It’s great, both for pretentious folk like me and for casual listeners.

 

Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks

2013 also saw the triumphant return of a few of music’s heavyweights. One of the standouts was Hesitation Marks. Trent Reznor had a busy year, also releasing the impressive How To Destroy Angels debut album, and the signs were good that another Nine Inch Nails album would impress. But it surpassed even fan estimations, with not only that unique Nine Inch Nails feel, but with a true progression on show.

 

Lanterns on the Lake – Until the Colours Run

There’s nothing not to love about Until the Colours Run: a huge sound, vibrant guitar work, the beautiful strings, and wonderful vocals from Hazel Wilde. Almost every song sounds absolutely massive, and when it doesn’t – such as one of the standout tracks, the ballad Green and Gold – it only serves to further augment the impact. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a little emotional.

The First – Take Courage

Enough of that teary-eyed, twee stuff though. The First’s sophomore effort, Take Courage, is a beast of a rock album. Huge riffs, thumping choruses, and a rhythm section you could set your goddamn watch to all come together to form one of the most exciting albums of the year. Listen to this, and you’ll wake up the next morning covered in tattoos next to an empty bottle of whiskey. It’s that hardcore.

 

Jon Hopkins – Immunity

Immunity has been included in a large number of ‘Albums of the Year’ lists, and with good reason. The Mercury-nominated album, Hopkins’ fourth, shows the progression of an artist truly doing what he wants to do. Building on the unique sound of 2009’s Insides, Hopkins creates breathtaking, diverse soundscapes that just happen to be some of the best electronica to have been released in years. Immunity is great. Go buy it.

 

Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork

You know what? I’m just going to say it. This is Queens of the Stone Age’s best album. Rated R has the bizarre, Songs for the Deaf has the heavy riffs, but neither compares to the variety on show here. From the slacker drawl of I Sat by the Ocean, through the psychedelic Kalopsia and the Prince-esque Smooth Sailing, to the delicate piano of the title track, it’s a journey of an album, with every song expertly balanced. A masterpiece.

 

So there we go. A little rundown of what’s been keeping me sane this year. Have a Merry Christmas and a ruddy great New Year!

Looking Back On Our Debut Tour

31 Oct

Back in 2008, I was playing in a band in Exeter. We played the scene a fair amount, ticked off all the small venues in the city. We got to know a fair few of the other bands. One of them was called Ignorance of a Rival, and we played together several times. These gents repeatedly said to us “let’s go on tour together.” It never happened.

Well, until five years later. See, that band turned into Titans & Kings. Through a bit of luck, I happened to take up bass for them. Funny how life turns out.

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I’ve wanted to go on tour since I was fourteen years old. Playing music every day, a new place, new faces every night. It’s an ideal that every teenage musician has, the wandering entertainer, nothing to worry about other than putting on good shows, making sure the audience leaves the venue happy. I’ve grown older and wiser since then (well, older, anyway). But you know what?

The last week has been fucking wonderful.

London, Manchester, Nottingham, Birmingham. Three of those cities we had never played until last week. Thank God for Speaking in Shadows for asking us to tour with them. Thank God for Autumn Ruin, simply for being fan-fucking-tastic. We were lucky to have such a fine pair of bands to play alongside, not only excellent musicians and songwriters, but amazing people to boot.

I’ve always thought that bands should work together, to help each other not only through promotion but through offering genuine criticism and feedback to make sure that talented artists not only get the recognition they deserve, but become leaner, meaner rock’n’roll machines. Too many bands buy into the promoter ideology of band vs. band, of solely monetary goals, of petty rivalries that are really nothing more than fights over which petulant child has the biggest ego. In Speaking in Shadows and Autumn Ruin, there are two groups who put the music, the art, the entertainment first.

And quality merch to boot.

And quality merch to boot.

And that’s without even mentioning the other bands, the local support and out-of-town bands that played every night. Every single one of them was fantastic, every one adding a new variety of rock that complemented all the other acts. The soaring vocals of AvaGrace, the balls-to-the-wall anthems of Munkinpure, the absolute technique of Jar of Dirt, the wonderful hooks of Letters From Grace, the sheer pop-punk joy of Hello Tomorrow, the driving, whiskey-soaked rhythms of I’m A Model Baby, the deep, atmospheric rock of A Mouth Full of Matches, the intense energy of Bullets in Bowties. It’s not often you get one gig where all the acts are so damn fantastic, let alone four in a row.

Anyway, I’m rambling. It was an amazing four days. Some all-time favourite moments. Crowdsurfers and slow-dancers at the Barfly. Story time with Nicky Stixxx. Realising that I have a secondary career as a contortionist given how we were all able to fit in a Polo with all our equipment. Autumn Ruin absolutely destroying Dry Live with one of the tightest, most powerful sets I’ve ever seen. Spending an almost obsessive amount of time in Dawsons drooling over their left-handed Telecaster. Seeing the end of a rainbow on the drive to Nottingham. Going in to the Bodega not knowing what to expect from a gig with no home headline act, only to come across one of the most passionate crowds we’ve ever played for. Hitting the town with the Autumn Ruin lads, finding a glorious rock bar and hip-shaking-sexy-robot dancing to Slipknot surrounded by people dressed in Halloween garb. Singing a lament to doner meat at three in the morning. Getting given a personal bracelet for the band from Georgia and Teresa, being so touched that I lost almost all of my remaining rock’n’roll points. Playing the Flapper, dressed in onesies, sweating out our bodyweight. Fat Lip with Speaking in Shadows and Autumn Ruin. Speaking in Shadows then absolutely beasting it. Joining them onstage for Sweet Gemini. Lots and lots of sweaty hugs.

There were some bad moments, too. One-way systems, Pizza Hut queues, the unfortunate lack of a queue for Buffet Hut (my insides still hurt), probably being dehydrated because of wearing a frickin’ onesie onstage, getting back at one in the morning after a train ride being nattered at by a drunk woman (rightly?) questioning our rock credentials and (correctly) comparing Nick to a young Bryan Adams. Going in to work from 9AM to 10:30PM on three hours’ sleep the next day.

But was it all worth it? Damn right it was.

And personally, it’s been an achievement. It’s been a tough couple of years, and I still worry about the chronic fatigue that put me out of action, forced me to effectively restart my life. I was terrified about this tour, about whether my body could cope, over whether I could do it again. And I could. If it was possible, I’d do it again right now.

In fact, I think we should start planning the next tour, lads. There are too many cities we haven’t hit, and I think it’s time we showed them what our trio can do.

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