Fence Is Dead! Long Live Fence Mk II?

It was with a cry of despair that I saw the terrible subject line in my inbox this morning: “Farewell To Fence‏”. With so many of my most valued cultural sources stumbling to a halt in this modern age – Word magazine, Google Reader, practically every record shop I’ve ever been to – it came as little surprise to learn that one of my all-time favourite record labels was set to shut up shop. Living, as I do, at the other end of the country, the Fife-based ‘collective’ that was Fence Records always seemed like a shining hub of magical creativity and invention. It inspired me to set up not one but two independent labels of my own, and more importantly provided me with some of the best music of the last decade.

fence_logoMercifully all is not as bad I first feared; the label hasn’t gone bust, all the current artists are still making music, it’s just that the situation has changed. Since founder Kenny Anderson – better known to EBM readers as King Creosote – left Fence to focus on his own music-making efforts, the label has been run by Johnny Lynch – better know to EBM readers as The Pictish Trail. Johnny has lately been based in the Hebridean island of Eigg, and in his own words:

“All of a sudden there wasn’t much Fife in Fence, or much Fence in Fife.”

So they’re having a ‘re-brand’ (as Johnny doesn’t want to call it), and the fantastic records will continue to flow (we hope). The new venture has yet to be named, and will apparently be christened at the last-ever Fence Records showcase at the Green Man Festival on Friday. So the news is not as bleak as it at first seemed, but the passing of a musical icon should still be marked with some well-earned solemnity.

Who will win the Brit Awards?

Brit Awards LogoWell the nominations are out, and while I don’t normally go in for this kind of prediction I figured I may as well take a stab at guessing who the eventual winners will be.

In short, I think Alt-J will sweep the board, pipping bookies-favourite Emeli Sandé to the coveted Best Album gong. That said, Jessie Ware might beat them to Best Breakthrough. Their latest LP Babel bored me to tears, but I’d never bet against the Mumford’s in a live setting, and while I’m loath to overlook The Boss, I think Gotye might beat both him and Jack White for International Male.

We’ll find out if I’m anywhere near the mark when the winners are announced on the 20th February’s ceremony at the O2, hosted by James Corden and featuring live performances by Muse, Robbie Williams, Emeli Sandé, Mumford & Sons, Ben Howard and One Direction (oh, the unbridled joy!). It’s usually a train-wreck of broadcast, so well worth watching just for the sheer schadenfreude of it all.

Best British Group

My guess = Alt-J. Other nominees = Mumford and Sons, The xx, Muse, One Direction

Best British Album

My guess = Alt-J. Other nominees = Emeli Sandé, Plan B, Paloma Faith, Mumford & Sons

Best British Female (solo)

My guess = Paloma Faith. Other nominees = Amy Winehouse, Bat For Lashes, Jessie Ware, Emeli Sandé

Best British Male (solo)

My guess = Ben Howard. Other nominees = Calvin Harris, Plan B, Richard Hawley, Olly Murs

British Breakthrough

My guess = Alt-J. Other nominees = Jake Bugg, Jessie Ware, Ben Howard, Rita Ora

Best British Live Act

My guess = Mumford and Sons. Other nominees = Coldplay, Muse, The Vaccines, The Rolling Stones

Best International Group

My guess = The Black Keys. Other nominees = The Script, Alabama Shakes, Fun., The Killers

Best International Male (solo)

My guess = Gotye. Other nominees = Jack White, Michael Bublé, Frank Ocean, Bruce Springsteen

Best International Female (solo)

My guess = Lana Del Ray. Other nominees = Rihanna, Alicia Keys, Cat Power, Taylor Swift

Best British Single

My guess = Adele (Skyfall). Other nominees = Alex Clare (Too Close), Emeli Sandé (Next To Me), Coldplay (Princess Of China w/Rihanna), James Arthur (Impossible), Labrinth (Beneath Your Beautiful, w/Emeli Sande), Olly Murs (Troublemaker), Rita Ora (RIP, Hot Right Now), Florence + The Machine (Spectrum), Robbie Williams (Candy), Jessie J (Domino), Rizzle Kicks (Mama Do The Hump), Rudimental (Feel The Love), Stooshe (Black Heart)

British Producer (in association with the MPG Awards)

My guess = Paul Epworth. Other nominees = Damon Albarn, Jake Gosling

8 Albums To Preorder For Early 2013

I’ve been trawling through all the lists of imminent record releases, and here’s the pick of the litter. If your tastes are anything like mine, then you’d do well to put these dates in your diary.

Everything Everything – Arc

Released on 14-01-13. Sweeping the Nation summed up EE rather succinctly when they said they “have more ideas then they really know what to do with and more time than they think to get them all in.”

Villagers – Awayland

Released on 15-01-13. On 2010’s Becoming a Jackal it felt like Conor O’Brien was picking up where Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst had left off. That’s no bad thing in my book, so it’ll be interesting to see if that trend continues.

Pictish Trail – Secret Soundz Vol. 2

Released on 21-01. Vol. 1 is a firm favourite, so be sure not to miss this new installment of the Pictish Trail’s madcap adventures.

Eels – Wonderful, Glorious

Released on 05-02. You never know quite what you’re going to get with a new Eels album. All you can tell for sure is that it will be well worth a listen.

Frightened Rabbit – Pedestrian Verse

Released on 05-02. My love for all things FR is well documented, so it goes without saying this is the record I’ll be most looking forward to in 2013.

Foals – Holy Fire

Released on 11-02. I’ve yet to really fall in love with Foals, but both their past records have had elements that really excited me. Perhaps this is the year they tie it all together?

Shout Out Louds – Optica

Released on 26-02. SOL caused a stir before Christmas with their gimmicky record made out of ice, but will the actual LP be of any worth? Based on past performances, it probably will be.

Deptford Goth – After Defo

Released on 18-03. This has only recently turned up on my radar and it strays a little from my usual area of experience, but if the single Union is anything to go by, this record is going to be special.

No date for these ones yet, but we can count on LPs from all these chaps in 2013 as well: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The National, eagleowl, Arcade Fire, Laura Marling, Editors.

Finally, I’ve yet to hear anything concrete about a new Withered Hand LP, but we can but hope…

Blog Sound 2013 Result

Here it is folks, the top five acts that UK bloggers think will define the musical landscape in 2013.

Blog Sound of 2013 LogoRespect is due to Robin and Andy for running this poll, which I imagine was quite a challenge. A total of 170 acts were voted for by 49 bloggers, and such is the disparate nature of the blogosphere at the moment I’m guessing the majority of those nominated only received one vote. This, I’m assuming, explains why I wasn’t too excited about the longlist, as the more leftfield acts I was hoping to see weren’t able to generate the critical mass of both awareness and popularity to make the cut.

5. The Neighbourhood

There’s nothing about The Neighbourhood I like. Well, I guess they know how to spell neighourhood properly at least.

3=. Pins

Pins are a little too sixties-lo-fi for my taste, but they’re not actively terrible, which given the state of the longlist I guess counts as a win.

3=. Savages

I dislike some of the other acts in this list on genre grounds, but I ought to like Savages. I really don’t, though.

2. Chvrches

I’ve probably said enough about Chvrches on this blog already. I quite like them, but they’ve been getting so much coverage here that there’s a danger that people might miss out the ‘quite’ at the start of this sentence. They’re okay, and certainly the best of the top five, but I won’t go further than that.

1. Haim

I didn’t think people manufactured family soft-rock bands anymore, but apparently they still do. Haim sound like they’ve stepped right out of nineties American drive-time radio. In a bad way.

Honestly, while I wish all the bands in the top five well, I really don’t want this selection to define the music of 2013. The beauty of new bands, thankfully, is that they’re new, so the acts that will most likely shape the next twelve months haven’t been heard by anyone yet. If they sound like this, though, then it might be a pretty grim year.

Here’s the full list of all the bloggers who voted in the poll:

A New Band A DayA Pocket Full Of SeedsAll NoiseAlphabet Bands,Both Bars OnBrapscallionsBreaking More WavesBrighton Music BlogDetails Of My Life So FarDon’t Watch Me DancingDots And DashesDrunken Werewolf, Eaten By Monsters, Electronic Rumors,Faded GlamourFolly Of YouthFlying With AnnaGod Is In The TV,Harder Blogger FasterHowlIn Love Not LimboJust Music That I LikeKilling MoonKowalskiy,  Love Music : Love Life,  MudkissMusic Broke My BonesMusic Fans MicMusic LiberationMusic Like DirtMy Bands Better Than Your BandNot Many ExpertsPeenkoReal HorrorshowScottish FictionSkeletory,  Song By ToadSounds Good To Me TooStorm’s BrewingSweeping The NationThe Blue Walrus,The Electricity ClubThe Mad MackerelThe Metaphorical BoatThe Music HoarderThe RecommenderThis Must Be PopVon Pip Musical Express17 Seconds

BBC Sound of 2013: Longlist

Little Green Cars liveToday the BBC announced the longlist for their annual ‘Sound Of…’ poll of critics and tastemakers. As expected, there’s little difference between this 15 and the Blog Sound of 2013 announced last week. Mercifully for all concerned, there are at least a couple of differences; mercifully for the Blog Sound list because if they were both exactly the same then the Blog list would be rendered redundant, and mercifully for us music fans because this list is a little better.

I say a little better, mind. The vast majority of both lists is in my considered opinion utter dross, but at least that has the effect of highlighting the bands that actually are good. The Blog list had Randolph’s Leap, and while they’re sadly missing from the Beeb’s list, Auntie has redeemed herself a little with the inclusion of the frankly excellent Little Green Cars. There not a band I’ve heard of before today, but their track John Wayne is pure indie-pop perfection.

Elsewhere on the list, things aren’t looking so good, but while I can’t say I like King Krule or Kodaline or Peace or Palma Violets, at least they’re real bands. I’m not at all keen on the music the make, but unlike the majority of this list (and all but 3 of the Blogs’ list) I don’t hate their music (well, maybe a case could be made for Palma Violets being hateful, but that’s a whole other post).

What is immediately apparent, though, is that in terms of catchy songs and attitude and sheer slickness of presentation, Chvrches are head and shoulders above the rest of the pack. Their aesthetic is a little out of my comfort zone, and the fella’s voice isn’t as slick as the girls, but they certainly know what they’re doing when it comes to managing their PR and I reckon they’re going to be absolutely massive in 2013.

Little Green Cars – John Wayne

Chvrches – We Sink (live from Maida Vale)

You can see the live video of that Chvrches performance on the BBC website. I had embedded it here, but it turned out the Beeb’s video player insisted on autoplaying, and was summarily deleted.

Blog Sound of 2013: Long List Results

Blog Sound of 2013 LogoWoohoo! Finally it’s here! In all honesty I’ve been looking forward to ‘list season’ since January. My own yearly top 10 lists will make an appearance in the coming days, but before that here’s a more collaborative effort that looks to the future rather than the past. Spurred on by the ever-increasing irrelevance of the BBC’s annual “Sound Of…”  poll, Andy from the Von Pip Musical Express decided to start his own. This is the second year it’s run, and once again I’m proud to have been a part of it.

It’s an interesting project. Of last years recommendations, most sank without trace as so often happens when critics try to predict rather than react, but there were some exceptions. Crucially, the ‘Blog Sound’ list contained the now-world-conquering Alt J (or ∆ if  you prefer) who won this year’s Mercury Prize and weren’t featured on the Beeb’s list at all. Who knows what 2013 will bring, but some of us think it might contain some, all, or none of the acts on this years Blog Sound of 2013 Long List:

AlunaGeorge

Curxes

Chvrches

Daughter

Haim

Laura Mvula

Palma Violets

Pins

Randolph’s Leap

Rhye

Savages

Seasfire

The Neighbourhood

Tom Odell

I’m ashamed to say that none of those were my picks. Chvrches are obviously going places, and Randolph’s Leap are rather good, but there’s nothing else on the list that really excites me. Daughter was on last years BS list, and her track Medicine isn’t too offensive, but it’s going to be really interesting to compare this list with the Beeb’s own efforts.

Part of me is disappointed that my tastes don’t align with my peers, but equally I can take solace in the fact that I’m still cutting my own path through the new-music firmament. If I was only rehashing what other people thought then there’d be no point in my blogging at all. Interestingly, after all 49 contributors to this poll had cast their votes, over 170 acts received just one vote, so I guess the majority of bloggers are in a similar situation to me. While the top 15 may not meet with my personal approval, this poll does suggest that the blogosphere in general is a rather healthy place at the moment.

The top five of this poll will be announced on the 3rd January, and I’ll post a piece on my own picks for 2013 around that time too. But that’s looking to far ahead; we’ve got List Season to get through first!



And here’s the full list of all the bloggers who voted in the poll:

A New Band A DayA Pocket Full Of SeedsAll NoiseAlphabet Bands,Both Bars OnBrapscallionsBreaking More WavesBrighton Music BlogDetails Of My Life So FarDon’t Watch Me DancingDots And DashesDrunken WerewolfEaten By Monsters, Electronic Rumors,Faded GlamourFolly Of YouthFlying With AnnaGod Is In The TV,Harder Blogger FasterHowlIn Love Not LimboJust Music That I LikeKilling MoonKowalskiy,  Love Music : Love Life,  MudkissMusic Broke My BonesMusic Fans MicMusic LiberationMusic Like DirtMy Bands Better Than Your BandNot Many ExpertsPeenkoReal HorrorshowScottish FictionSkeletory,  Song By ToadSounds Good To Me TooStorm’s BrewingSweeping The NationThe Blue Walrus,The Electricity ClubThe Mad MackerelThe Metaphorical BoatThe Music HoarderThe RecommenderThis Must Be PopVon Pip Musical Express17 Seconds

Good Boy: Town Hall

Town Hall, who impressed me recently with their Sticky Notes & Paper Scraps EP, have a new single out in support of their upcoming album. The track is called Good Boy, and will released as a free download on the their Bandcamp page soon, but for now you can get your kicks from the music video they’ve made for the song (another sterling Mason Jar Music production).

It’s great to see a band that can so consistently keep up such high standards – I often find little videos like the one that alerted me to Town Hall’s existence, but rarely does my further exploration reveal more stuff of a similar quality, let alone better stuff, as is the case here.  The Town Hall album, Roots and Bells, comes out on the 15th of this month, and now I’m even more eager to hear it than I already was.

Blog Sound of 2012 Short List

As promised, here’s the shortlist for the Blog Sound of 2012.  While the BBC’s poll, which inspired this alternative list, will be announced by a suspense-inducing day-by-day countdown, us humble bloggers are releasing our top five all in one go.  In the interests of full disclosure, I should say now that none of these five acts were voted for by me, and I hadn’t even heard of Daughter or Theme Park before the longlist announcement.  Nevertheless, I have been doing my homework on behalf of the blog – tirelessly and giving no quarter – and shall be reporting back soon with posts on all the best acts from the longlist.  Until then, here’s the Blog Sound of 2012 shortlist:

5.Daughter

4.French Wives

3.Beth Jeans Houghton

2.Theme Park

1.Friends

Thanks go again to Andy, Robin, and Simon for conceiving this alternative poll.

Blog Sound of 2012: Long List Results

With the new year fast approaching, those amongst you who are regular readers of music blogs will be well aware that we’re on the cusp of list season; that time when every one and his dog compile ‘best of the year just gone’ and ‘ones to watch for the year upcoming’ lists.  Part of me feels somewhat silly for getting involved in the list mania that sweeps the blogosphere as January looms on the horizon, but there other parts of me that just love it.

This is partly for purely pragmatic reasons; lists are a great way to generate traffic, and my hits-per-day always grow considerably when I post my end-of-year lists.  The two I normally write – Top 10 Albums of the Year and Top 10 Songs of the Year – are usually my most popular posts of the year, and it’s always nice to see my circulation expand.  I also must confess that I really enjoy compiling these lists; staying up late making mix tapes was such a large part of my childhood that I can’t help getting somewhat obsessive when it comes to making these digital equivalents.

This year there’s something extra for me to get excited about: I shall be running an extra list! (huzzah!) Mid-January usually finds me picking apart the BBC’s Sound of… Poll, but this year I’ll be supporting an alternative to the Sound of 2012 list.  The Beeb’s poll has been growing ever more irrelevant in recent years, and the appalling nature of the Sound of 2011 results seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back for many in the music blogosphere.  Some of those spurred into action were Andy VonPip, from the Von Pip Musical Express, Robin from Breaking More Waves, and Simon from Sweeping The Nation:

It was forensically dissected and we expressed both pleasure and horror at some of the artists long listed – but the question that kept coming back was this – did they really reflect the zeitgeist?  I mean seriously, is Jessie J the sound of anything other than a badger going through a mincer.

Rather than just sitting around and doing nothing, however, the enterprising trio decided to set up an alternative poll, and proceeded to conduct (it their words, I might add) “a poll of the UK’s best music blogs” to ask the bloggers down at the musical coalface which acts they thought would break in 2012.  I dutifully gave them my picks (it’s worth repeating here that they only asked “the UK’s best music blogs”) and having received a list of five picks from all the best blogs (did I mention that they only asked the ‘best’?) they’ve compiled a long-list to coincide with the Beeb’s own (released today here), and here it is – the blogosphere’s picks for 2012:

Houdini Dax

Lianne De Haves

Theme Park

French Wives

The Good Natured

Alt J

The Jezabels

Lucy Rose

Bastille

Washington

Friends

Meursault

Daughter

Beth Jeans Houghton

Outfit

There’s a couple of names on the list that are new to me, and only one of them has been featured on these pages before (Meursault, for those of you who hadn’t guessed) so expect the critical eye of EbM to be focusing on some of these acts in the coming weeks, and once I’ve had time to chew over the Beeb’s long list I’ll most likely make my thoughts known here too.

Meursault – A Few Kind Words