The Grubby Mitts – Come On Home For Christmas

The last time I went to Bedford was for a work-related meeting. I was told all about The Panacea Society. It was easy to chuckle about the unique, religious group founded by Mabel Barltrop in 1919 and inspired by the teachings of an 18th century Devonshire prophetess, Joanna Southcott.

Amidst the terraced houses on Albany Road, this 70-strong community maintained the end terrace (The Ark) as a residence for the Messiah after the second coming. At the peak of their influence, they collected 100,000 signatures and advertised in national newspapers in an attempt to persuade 24 Anglican bishops to open the sealed box of Joanna Southcott’s prophecies. They felt, if this was to happen, that the ills of the world would be cured.

In the eyes of the society, Bedford was the original site of the Garden Of Eden.

Yes, it’s easy to chuckle with cynicism at this crackpot collection of ideas and beliefs. But then you consider the growing stature of Farage and his freaks and realise that people can sometimes be plain stupid.

Another time that I went to Bedford I got horrendously drunk and accidentally gatecrashed a wedding party after missing a train. Sat by the wedding cake, I felt most proud of my adventurous aptitude until the mother of the bride suggested to me that I was ruining her daughters delightful day.

 

But Bedford is not just about crazed prophecy and pathetic craziness. For it is also where The Grubby Mitts are from. It feels completely and utterly right to me that this should be their birthplace. News that their ‘8 years in the making’ debut album, ‘What The World Wants Now’ is getting a release in March next year is warmly welcomed. I’ll look forward to giving it a proper listen and perhaps reviewing it fully on Sonic Breakfast. Lead single, ‘To A Friend’s House The Way Is Never Long’ is a very English artistic piece. The title is repeated, cut, spliced and warped by a range of spoken-word voices until it draws you in, the effect being that you’re almost hypnotised by the sound that builds.

 In celebration of Christmas, The Grubby Mitts have released a Christmas song for Tom Ravenscroft’s 6music show. Listening to this alongside ‘To A Friend’s House The Way is Never Long’ shows the versatility on offer here. Comfortable in writing tunes, confident in expressing ideas and conforming with as much intent as Mabel Barltrop.

Beautiful one Bedford!!

 

 

 

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New Hands – Strange Attractor

Christmas is coming and so I thought I’d post a new video that makes absolutely no reference to ‘that time’ at all. Bah Humbug. Predictably for this time of year, the weather outside is cold. Perhaps, not as icily cold as it’s been in previous years but it’s still cold. Some might say though that it’s actually freakishly mild.

People with brains much bigger than mine have spent considerable time and energy understanding theories of chaos and random patterns. In its mathematical context, the term ‘strange attractor’ refers to ‘a complex pattern of behaviour within a chaotic system’ – much like the weather.

New Hands are a Canadian band with some roots in West Yorkshire as well. They’ve just released an interesting video/art project to accompany their ‘Strange Attractor’ tune. This video uses a randomised sequence of over 900 GIF files, creating a different video with each single view. I’m drawn to the creativity involved. Brief, unconnected glimpses into the lives of strangers from another time and place.

There’s an industrial 80’s feel to the tune itself. Fans of Depeche Mode will recognise the tone and timbre. New Hands will be releasing their first album in 2015 and it’s one that’s on my list to watch out for.

 Having trouble embedding the video – maybe all of those GIFs are creating havoc and chaos so here it is by link instead..

 

The Sonic Breakfast Top Ten – Five To One

I’m hesitant to publish my Sonic Breakfast Top Ten Five To One. Charts such as this are pretty meaningless anyway. I’ll have good friends who are wondering why they’re not in this top five; others who’ve featured on Sonic Breakfast this year might compare themselves to those in the top ten and find it difficult to understand why they’ve been omitted over and above ‘x’…

And in many ways such a response is right. What’s the point of doing anything if you’re not incredibly proud and protective about your craft? I’ll reiterate though – there’s a reason why I’ve featured each and every one of the acts I have on Sonic Breakfast this year – and that’s because they EXCITE…..

Onwards to the top five….

5. Workers In Songs

One of the lovely and slightly scary things about writing pieces for ‘Sonic Breakfast’ is that you’re never quite sure if you’ve interpreted intent accurately – or if you’ve messed up big time. I was pretty sure that there was an uncomfortable edge to the video for ‘Crazy Without You’ from Workers In Songs frankly brilliant album, ‘That Glorious Masterpiece’. Morten Krogh from the band confirmed in E-mail afterwards that, “you really get many of the things that we try to get through to the listener! Good job and respect from here!” Phew – thank goodness for that. They’ve got a new video from the album that’s due for release soon but, as that’s not yet ready, here’s one from their back catalogue.

 

4. Ash Mammal 

Ash Mammal are THE most exciting band playing in Leicester at the moment. I was unable to make their headline show at the Musician just a couple of weeks ago but my Facebook timeline was littered with comment from people who have views I respect about how great a gig it was. They use a quote from my original piece as a strapline; ‘an exercise in punkish unpredictability‘. This makes me ever so slightly fuzzy. 2015 has got to be the year in which more people realise just how exceptional they are. I’m told by Beaumont Weed that their new material pushes them up to next steps. I cannot comprehend where that takes them too. They’ll still be like marmite – but give them a try if you haven’t to date.

 

3. Dylan Seeger – Claye

Not one that’s prone to make rash predictions, I’d put money on the fact that you won’t see Dylan Seeger’s album, Claye, featured in any other top ten lists of 2014. This is the biggest of crying shames. If you’ve got some time off between Christmas and the New Year, do yourself a massive favour and give it a proper listen. This is finely crafted art. It’s an album that continues to give well after the initial listen. Dylan seems resigned to the fact that his craft will remain ignored and under-valued.

 

2. Chemistry Lane – An Interview

You can tell a lot about a band by the way that they answer questions that are sent to them. It’s been one of my favourite ways to source articles this year, partly because the onus is placed upon the band to convey whatever they want in particular ways. Chemistry Lane are a team of perfectionists over their craft and their approach to answering questions was no different. It seemed that the Chester tourist board jumped upon this article with the content sparking all manner of debate. I’ve never been to Chester. Perhaps, I should go. Expect an album from the scintillating Chemistry Lane in 2015 (or 2017 – they are perfectionists after all).

 

1. The Watanabes

The second half of 2014 seems to have been a busy one for The Watanabes. The release of their EP, ‘Draw What You Like’, has yielded all sorts of praise-laden reviews. Over in Japan, the gigs appear to be getting bigger and the fan-base is growing.

There’s a school in Peterborough. At that school, a teacher has started to show her form group videos from Sonic Breakfast. I’m told that the one for ‘Yuriko, Yuriko’ had quite a calming impact on her class. Friends of mine also thanked me for highlighting the Watanabes to them. The Watanabes seem like perfect gents. And I’m sure that they’ll appreciate this. Making things better is a pretty fine outlook with which to approach another working day. 

 

I have loved producing Sonic Breakfast this year. I’ll resolve to write even more regularly in 2015 and discover another fine set of acts that I’ll have no option but to share..

The Sonic Breakfast Top Ten – 10 to 6

I’m relatively content with the way that Sonic Breakfast has gone this year. A few random conversations and, before I really knew what I was doing, it launched in March. Despite a Summer break when I was far too busy in festival fields, there’s still been 112 posts this year that have been read in 91 countries of the world.

I care about every single one of the acts that I feature on Sonic Breakfast. I write about them because something appeals to me about their music and attitude; it’s not and never will be genre specific; I’m too ancient to be chasing the next big thing – although that’s not to say that some of the acts I’ve featured this year might not strive to greatness in 2015.

I thought (because it seems to be all the rage) I’d do a ‘Sonic Breakfast’ top 10 of 2014. Ten discoveries for me this year; ten artists or tracks that I want to revisit; numbers ten to six will come today and then five to the coveted number one slot later this week.

This will look like no other end of year chart that you’ll see….

(10) Tapestry

It was quite a year for Tapestry. Bursting on to the Leicester scene, Elliot, Alex and Taylor precociously announced their presence by storming the Original Bands Showcase. A prominent slot at Simon Says where the eFestivals reviewer highlighted their set for praise by saying – “the very first band on the outdoor Hobgoblin stage that afternoon, the fresh-faced  three-piece Tapestry were perhaps the most experimental bunch of the entire weekend, doffing their saxes and synths to Alt-J and Goblin. ” Alex left the band due to musical differences in the late summer. It remains to be seen if Elliot and Taylor can continue to develop without their drummer. Still young and with their fingers in all sorts of musical pies, don’t bet against something special in 2015.

 

(9) Huskies – Sober

I was charmed when I first heard Huskies back in April by their brand of indie-pop. Since then, they’ve continued to get noticed in all the right places. A successful EP launch less than a month ago and well received gigs around the country marks these out as ones to watch. I saw them play at Y-Not when writing for eFestivals and said this about them:- “Their jingle jangle form of pop arguably sits in that hole between The Strokes, The Housemartins and Vampire Weekend. This correspondent predicts big things for these dogs.”

 

(8) Sean Grant & The WolfGang

It seems like an age ago when my friend, Val McCoy, played me Sean’s video on her mobile phone and suggested she’d try to get him along to an OBS unplugged night. Sean travelled up from Northampton and impressed all who saw him. Other Musician shows followed for him and his band as did a slot at Simon Says. Incredibly impressive inter-blog coverage since and a neat line in videos suggests he’s travelling a considered path. It couldn’t happen to a nicer bloke (and band). Tonight, they play a set at London’s Sebright Arms. This recently released video to ‘Fairground Fighter’ oozes class.

 

(7) Son Little – Your love will blow me away when my heart aches

Let’s not beat around the bush. This is one of my songs of the year. I was sat in my comfy armchair listening to new music on my headphones and this just left me quivering. I heard it being used by the BBC in one of their programme links a few weeks later and I was so happy that a wider audience might now question who was behind this incredible track. He’s played a few UK shows in the past month. Foolishly, I conspired to miss them. Follow up tracks to ‘Your Love’ have been well received… That voice….

 

(6) Elliot Moss – Slip

Finally for today we come to this gem of a track by Elliot Moss. This could be number one in my top ten and I’d be happy. Not only did I write about this but I also wrote about the remix by Hippie Sabotage. Writing about remixes isn’t something that comes easy to me! Elliot’s sheer act of generosity in sending his CD, at considerable cost, across the Atlantic Ocean still sticks with me. His is an album that deserves to get under more skin in 2015.

 

 

With such quality amidst numbers ten to six, I bet you can’t wait to see what’s in the Sonic Breakfast top five? 

David Bronson – Questions

On his third album, ‘Questions’, David Bronson is a man not afraid to ask deep, meaningful ones. I lose count of how many questions are littered within the lyrics of this gem, due for release in January 2015. But, where unanswered questions might cause anxiousness and doubt in some of our minds, Bronson’s are broadly coming from a place of insight and contentment. “This life is questions but the questions they are mine“, claims Bronson in album opener, ‘Songbird’. He’s taking control of his situation; he might not have all of the answers but he wants us to know that this is fine.

Musically, there are some obvious reference points. This is rooted in the soft, well produced, 1970’s soundscapes made famous by the likes of Bread, Al Stewart and Seals and Crofts. It’s a sound that’s still sometimes derided by those who want their guitars to fuzz more and their vocalists to scream but I maintain there’s a place for both. Without straying too far from this canvas, Bronson gives us a glimpse of gospel, a smack of soul and a flask of funk (on ‘Task’) to ensure our interest is maintained.

He might be a singer-songwriter but there’s little of the ‘woe is me’ that blights so many others also classed in that gang. These are songs that contain positive, subtle messages. Never preachy, they contain clues about how we might strive for something a bit better. In one of the highlights for me, ‘Push’, Bronson describes bumping into an old, close friend who appears a little down on his luck, so much so that it’s difficult to recognise him. “Sometimes, we all need a push“, he urges and you wish his friend well. In ‘Day By Day’, Bronson suggests that he’s a believer in a pint half full philosophy when he calls back the lyrical spirit of The Carpenters to say, “I know you think it’s over but it’s only just begun.” And, it’s all neatly wrapped up in the album’s closing track when Bronson advises that we should, “give yourself the benefit, give yourself the time, give yourself the needed talking to, because it’s only in our mind”.

This is an accomplished, mature album and there’s much within to reward repeated spins. It’s another that I’ve been listening to in my car whilst driving in recent weeks. Tunes that didn’t immediately grab are now embedded in my head; the lyrics will sometimes say little and sometimes say lots depending upon my state of mind that day.

Will I still be listening to ‘Questions’ in five years time? I think I know the answer to this. And I won’t be alone.