ep review ~ serotonin ~ 'gestures'

by 09:51

In a rock and roll landscape as varied and eclectic as Belfast’s, it’s incredibly rare for a style or genre not to have been explored, embraced and ultimately adopted by the musicians that make it exactly that. However for too long, this country has lacked a band with the attitude and melodic hooks that America seems to never cease in producing. Bidding to change that come Serotonin, a young five piece from Belfast whose dynamic live performances, energetic conviction and carefully crafted alt-rock has seen their profiles rise from rebellious upstarts to genuine contenders for the crown of this country’s most exciting new band.

Opening with the full frontal assault of ‘Cleanse Me’, a grunge tinged explosion of big hitting riffs and atmospheric vocals. Serotonin open their recording debut with the simple instruction of “Don’t be alarmed…”, an acerbic message to the indie kids of the 21st century, devoid of the angst driven rock bands like A Plastic Rose left us with before their move across the water. Front-woman Lucy Loane’s tone is unfaltering, as she belts out every note of this electric opener, nearly screaming the final lines with the head banging passion of a live performance, a difficult skill to master during any recording process. Every bit as cynical as the title suggests, Serotonin show their emersion in the melancholic throughout, as the menacing aggression of their wall of sound engulfs a fine start to the EP.

This is followed by the quite brilliant ‘Cold Coffee’, which has quite rightfully been deemed the bands trump card since its subtle introduction to their setlists months ago.  A ‘Cure’ styled build up of melodic dual guitars provide the back drop to a song bursting with heart and though it may not be their style, the kind of pop hooks bands of bigger stature often fail to capture. A rare and exciting amalgamation, which goes some way to highlight Serotonin’s appeal beyond that of their target demographic, IE those felt let down by the consistent stream of classic rock or sparkling indie that seems on offer. Drummer Mark McDaid’s steady rhythms and occasional bursts of grandeur allow the rest of the group to fully express themselves, whilst Loane’s vocals continue to impress, the passion and belief evident in every lyric. It’s evident from the opening hypnotic riff to the big hitting chorus, that ‘Cold Coffee’ is a special track. Shimmering with feeling and building to that empowering finale, it’s the signature song which may prove very significant in the long run. You can imagine a room full of clenched fists, rising as one as Serotonin emerge back to the stage for an encore. Is this thinking too far ahead for a band still in it’s infancy? Perhaps, but with lyrics like;

“Turn over pages progressively,
Broken palms shiver, the same to me,
You are so idle so trapped confined,
Cold coffee scratches away the time”

This sort of dreaming is well and truly justified.

Emerging next from the bands repertoire comes ‘Daytime TV’, a track which based on title alone could easily be regarded as a Radiohead B-Side. What we are given here is another foreboding effort, this time building in a darker, yet more soulful sequence. The additional overlaid guitars shine a melodic light onto the dark canvas of Ben Bryson’s slow bass riffs. If ‘Cold Coffee’ is the mainstream potential ‘hit’ from the EP, then ‘Daytime TV’ is one for the more dedicated fans, emerging synths and beautifully integrated notes produce a song of immense creativity. It may also be Loane’s best vocal performance yet, particularly on the perfectly executed falsetto of ‘a mind built on reruns of Daytime TV’. The sparse soundscapes and delicate vocals sweep and swoon like a darker ‘The 1975’. An unexpected and welcome addition.

Final track ‘Idle Hands’ returns Serotonin to their alt-rock roots, a Paramore styled introduction which would not look out of place on ‘All We Know Is Falling’ providing an engaging opening. As the bridge then bursts into life the emergence of resplendently grunge guitar creates a fascinating contrast to the pristine verses, resulting in an almost orchestral fusion, the backbone provided by the ever solid McDaid. In a final chorus worthy of a debut of this quality, ‘Idle Hands’ ascends to a breakdown of noisy ambiance, an ‘OK Computer’ inspired guitar solo leading to the abrupt ending of a band that have no need to overcomplicate matters.

Starting their musical journeys on the outskirts of the mainstream, the release of ‘Gestures’ is Serotonin’s bid to push themselves to the forefront of a scene who have been crying out for brand new saviours for too long.

Taylor Johnson

If you like ~ No Doubt | Paramore | DIIVE ~ You’ll Love Serotonin

Keep up to date with all official Serotonin news on the links below...

peace & love ~ a story of 'bloom' (so far)

by 10:02

If you've been in and around Belfast's beloved 'Oh Yeah Centre' in recent months you may be vaguely aware of what is surly the early tides of a new wave in Northern Irish music. Like a butterfly emerging from it's rock and roll chrysalis come 'BLOOM' a rare and exciting breed of psychedelic blues, funk and rock destined to capture the indie music scene and turn it on it's head.

Despite being a band still in their embryonic stage, BLOOM have already attracted an intrigued and excited following online, releasing three captivating tracks (one, 'Tour - De - Boudoir' lasting a mesmerising 26 minutes) steeped in hypnotic grooves and unusual rhythms. Perhaps the reason for such a hype surrounding this brand new outfit is their sheer originality. Perhaps it's down to their 60's inspired, love and peace driven image. Or perhaps it's simply meant to be. You have the feeling 'BLOOM' would believe the latter, their peace of mind and love of all things inspiring suggesting this is a band who don't care what anyone may think, and are instead just happy to be here. It's also worth mentioning that this doesn't simply refer to their beautifully free flowing music, with 'BLOOM' it feels like so much more. They seem a band happy to be alive, happy to be existing and happy to bring their lovingly developed stream of consciousness to anybody who'll listen. You have a feeling that BLOOM are more than just a band. They could well be the pioneers of a new movement. We've seen what can be achieved already through this, bands like The Late Twos, Echo Raptors and The Remedy leading the line for the 90's revival. Can BLOOM go a step further and resurrect the swinging 60's? Only time will tell. Based on this evidence however, it seems only a matter of time.

Like a waterfall cascading through a desolate wasteland, BLOOM may have been brought together to remind us all just how liberating the art of music can be. Despite their youth and lack of experience (when compared to local bands, years into creating their early visions), you have a feeling there is something a little bit special about this experimental four piece, and that could well be all they need.

My advice? Get into BLOOM now, before it's cool.

Fight the power.

Taylor Johnson

If you like ~ The Doors | The Beatles | Temples ~ You'll love BLOOM.

Keep up to date with all official BLOOM news on the links below.


ep review ~ carriages ~ 'carriages'

by 10:30

Emerging from the experimental folk scene pioneered by artists like Joshua Burnside, Dublin's 'Carriages' is the brainchild of producer Harry Bookless and singer-songwriter Aaron Page. The two pieces unique and ambient ambiguity is created through Bookless's unusual technique of weaving the sounds of nature through simmering  soundscapes, creating a harmonious backdrop for Page's songwriting. Despite releasing this debut EP last year, the anticipation of follow up releases have rekindled our appreciation of the bands exciting alternative sounds.

Opener 'Iron and Fire' sparkles with the acoustic prowess of a Bon Ivor track, a shimmering guitar underlay paving the way for Page's flowing vocal work. The electronic percussion adds a surprisingly tribal element to a new wave melody which never forgets it's roots. In some ways, it's what electronic-pop weavers 'Bastille' could have become, had they decided against making the synthetic leap into mainstream production. A relaxing opener.

Follow up 'Warm In Winter' treads similar water, though the introduction of a prominent synth line gives an 80's edge to proceedings. Rarely moving from their initial melody, it creates an intoxicating repetition which never threatens to grate, resulting in a soothing finish.

The 80's inspiration is then given further prominence in 'Good Hearts Don't Get Forgotten' in some of Bookless's most impressive production to date. You'd be forgiven for thinking this was an avant-garde remix of Arcade Fire's 'Sprawl ii (Mountains Beyond Mountains)', which is no bad thing. Despite the introductions shimmering charms, it does seem to go on a bit long, the track really bursting into life around the 1:40 mark. This, however, is what is to be expected from Carriages. You have the feeling that if they wished for their music to be danced to by the mainstream, they could do so easily. Their commitment to their art, though not to everyone's taste, is a testament to their self belief, something that comes across brilliantly in this instrumental beauty.

Carriages choose to end their eponymous EP with a track perhaps straying the most from their unique formula. Here Page's songwriting seems to be given it's most freedom, as 'Up In The Blue's' gentles odes to reassuring kisses and dreams of flight is guided a simple and sweeping acoustic guitar. Listen close and you can actually hear the subtle underlay of singing birds in a track destined to soundtrack sunny afternoons filled with reminiscing and close friends. A gentle end, to a forbearing EP.

Taylor Johnson
If you like ~ Noah and the Whale | Bon Ivor | Arcade Fire ~ You'll love Carriages.

Keep up to date with all official Carriages news on the links below.


rapid review ~ robb murphy

by 14:49

Tonight Encore NI shines a light on one of Northern Ireland's most interesting and original songwriters, Belfast's Robb Murphy. Beginning his musical journey through the difficult art of producing, Robb's talent for balladry and naturally distinctive vocal soon proved too big a virtue to ignore. Two EP's and one album later and Mr Murphy is now considered a most exciting talent indeed. Here's what to look out for when you next see the acclaimed solo artist.


With the soft, gentle croon of a young Fran Healy, Robb take's the trademark lone guitar-swinging songwriters template and sprinkles it with electronic ambiance. Add to this a knack for big hitting chorus's to counter balance delicate verses and you have a body of work certain to leave an impression.


As we've already mentioned, Murphy's soft resonating voice at times echoes that of the Travis frontman, though songwriting wise he may look to the likes of Damien Rice, with even the occasional hint of a matured Newton Faulkner. An intriguing and ultimately relaxing combination.


Robb's debut album 'Take A Stand' is certainly worth a listen (for it's lingering production alone it's a compelling listen), though we suggest the free flowing 'Love in Abundance', 'What Do I Say?' and debut EP track 'Never Letting You Go'.

Upcoming Gigs?

You can catch Robb live at the Portstewart Songwriters Festival on Friday, 28th of March at the Anchor Bar.

Potential Hit?

The local press certainly seem to think so. He's gained praise from everyone from Hotpress to Radio Ulster and is already a well known name on the local circuit. It may take the County Down native one more album and subsequent tour before the rest of the UK catch up to what we've now known for a few years. Robb Murphy is a talent indeed and may be one elusive hit away from making the next step in what has been an exciting career.

Keep up to date with all official Robb Murphy news on the links below.


Taylor Johnson

encore mix tape ~ volume one ~ heartbreak

by 07:22

Today Encore NI launches a new feature named simply 'Mixtape', where we bring you different playlists of songs, (both from these shores and abroad) to ease you through the trials and tribulations of modern life.

This feature is purely to broaden the mind and shine a light to music of all genres that can help in different periods of existence. Volume One takes a look at the inevitable heart shattering pain of the heart and the soundtrack that may give you some comfort in getting through it.

Suggestions for new themes and songs to fill them are always welcome!

Volume One | Heartbreak. 

Phase 1 | Denial.

No one ever wants to admit the end of a relationship (unless of course, you've ended it yourself). How could something so wonderful and pure ever end? It's inconceivable. It's wrong. It hurts. It's surly not real and so the mind will struggle to comprehend the information. Scientific research proves that after the death of a loved one, the brain begins to semi-shut down, in a self defense mechanism to avoid going insane. When this mechanism fails, it leads to feelings of desolation, melancholy and overwhelming emptiness - it is widely accepted that a similar thing occurs after the end of a relationship. 

1. Snow Patrol ~ 'How To Be Dead' 

An anthem for loss from our very own wordsmith Mr Gary Lightbody, 'How To Be Dead' feels like the sound of the very fabric of everything you loved falling around you. A desperate plea from one lover to another, 'please don't go crazy if I tell you the truth', it's as heart rending as imaginable and conjures a scene of serenity in a moment of turmoil. Like the calm before the storm, the opener from Snow Patrols third studio album is the sound of loneliness on a sun-set spring evening.

2. Morrissey ~ 'You Have Killed Me'

No stranger to tales of the melancholic, it's impossible to create a list like this without a word from the former Smiths frontman, who's own admission of 'Going to a club on your own, leaving on your own, crying and wanting to die' touched the lives of millions of 'outsiders'. Here, Morrissey tells of how the breakdown of one relationship left him dead, even as he lives and breathes. It's a poetic sentiment we can all relate to, as the heart leaves us as ghosts - though we walk around...somehow.

3.Damien Rice ~ 'Rootless Tree'

Cascading like a waterfall of pure pain, Damien Rice's stunning 'Rootless Tree' captures the very essence of inner turmoil in this tragic masterpiece. The chorus must surly be one of the most touching pieces ever composed on the subject. The shouted 'Fuck you! Fuck you, fuck you and all we've been through" as haunting, as it is touching. What may bring goosebumps to the skin is the soul destroying subtle lyric change in the final screamed chorus - 'Fuck you! Fuck you! I love you and all we've been through". If you're not listening attentively, you'll miss it. Though believe me, if you need to hear this song, you'll cling to every lyric. 

4. Tired Pony ~ 'Blood'

Another beauty from our Gary, this time with his merry band of Tired Pony's. The driving drums of 'Blood' will have you grasping on to the foundations of your old relationship for all it's worth. "It's alright, it's alright, a love like ours is easy found...Is it fuck! Is it fuck I chopped through blood and bone for you!". Though you may not have literally chopped through blood and bone for your former relationship, the sentiment is the same. It's a plea doomed before a word has been uttered. Yet that doesn't stop you from trying and try you might. 

Phase 2 | Pain

Sadly inevitable. You're wondering mind, most likely sleep deprived, dazed and confused, will soon begin to feel the emotional scars left behind by you're former flame. Side effects may include crying, constant visualizations of 'what might of been', fighting the urge to call them, crying, an inability to discuss anything other than the void in your soul and crying.  

5. Say Anything ~ 'A Walk Through Hell'

A fictional trip through a metaphorical landscape of horrible beasts, perilous mountains and generally bad things. In reality, it's a clever love song, hidden within this playful world that perfectly encapsulates the lengths love will lead one person to go for another. "And I'd hold you, in my weak arms and remind you who you are" being particularly potent. Despite the fact Say Anything most likely wrote this in a positive, romantic fashion, I've only ever heard it in a tragic context, and as such the overwhelming feelings of desire and utter devotion remain prevalent. Being honest with yourself, you'd still walk through hell for them.

6. A Day To Remember ~ 'You Had Me At Hello'

A complete spanner in the works from a band known for their screaming and heavy riffs than love soaked balladry, yet this is exactly what A Day To Remember perfected with 'You Had Me At Hello'. The acoustic guitars are jangling with sadness, while lyrically it's brutally honest enough to leave you on the edge of nothing. For anyone who doesn't believe in love, that feel it's a miserable lie or perhaps have forgotten the ecstasy of a held hand, this song may seem false and cliched. For the romantics amongst us this is a testament to defy everything.

7. Smashing Pumpkins ~ 'Today'

Apparently written in a void of near suicidal darkness, 'Today' is one of those songs to let yourself go and scream to the heavens at. Filled with enough darkness to feed your injured spirit, but sparkling with enough delicacy to allude to previous joy, 'Today' will not be the greatest day you've ever known, but rest assured, nor was it Billy Corgans when he wrote it. For the first time, you may have a feeling you're not alone. 

Phase 3 | Recovery +

As difficult as it is to imagine at the earliest stages, soon time and the support of loved ones will lead to the final stage ~ Recovery. As you're mind slowly adapts to it's new surroundings you'll soon find yourself distracted by things that didn't seem all that important a few months ago. Be it school work, a job or something as simple as exercising, you'll begin to want to better yourself and your mood will lighten as a result. You'll soon want to venture into the big bad world again and leave the confines of a tear stained pillow. The importance of this stage is vital and the music even more so. Though you may continue to feel fragile for a long time afterwards, you will be a stronger person for it. As mentioned by the ever lovable Dave  McLean (from the film 'Hot Rod' ~ a must see) "He who is resistant to change, is destined to perish". Once you begin to embrace it, you will finally begin to feel better.

8. Oasis ~ 'Stop Crying Your Heart Out'

Is this piece of utter genius from the Manchester legends the most comforting song ever written? It has to be up there. From the orchestral backing, to Liam's emotive screech behind the microphone, 'Stop Crying Your Heart Out' is there to give hope and love back to a world in desperate need of it. "Take what you need and be on your way and stop crying your heart out". This song may remind you to start living again.

9. The Streets ~ 'The Escapist'

Lyrically, Mike Skinner wrote a masterpiece with the closing track on his penultimate bow as The Streets in 'Everything Is Borrowed'. It's a gentle reminder to whoever will listen that nothing is real and anything is possible, because what are the chances of anything happening at all? This is Mike's admission that we are all part of something much bigger than ourselves and though we may not know what that is, we have to make the most of it while we're here. 'I blink my eyes, this is reminding me, life flies in the blink of an eye'. Listen to this song and fall into natures arms. You'll begin to see the world for what it's not and that, is a beautiful thing indeed. 

10. A Plastic Rose ~ 'Build From The Ground Up'

Just as the title suggests, the final stage to any emotional recovery is to "salvage what you can and build from the ground up again". The explosive sound from the adopted Belfast lads will fill you with the desire to not only recover, but better yourself. It's one final, pain induced scream to the heavens. It's not allowing yourself to be beaten and it's starting from ground zero. It's about giving yourself the desire to carry on and the strength to do so. It could be the pick up, you so desperately need.

Taylor Johnson

single review ~ soak ~ 'blud'

by 04:59
(The 'Blud EP' is out now)
The rise of crystal voiced, acoustic guitar swinging teenager 'SOAK' (real name Bridie Monds-Watson) has been nothing short of miraculous. The seventeen year old, who's admirers stretch as far as The Observer newspaper to Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody, has went from the confines of her make shift recording studio in her own bedroom to lighting up stages across Europe. Having been invited on tours with the likes of Bombay Bicycle Club, George Ezra and electronic pop maestros Chvrches to name but a few, it should be no surprise that this young lady has such a commanding grasp of her craft. Yet, sometimes it requires the release of some new material to remind the nation just why they elevated the artist to such heights in the first place. In Soaks case, this comes in the shape of new single 'BLUD'. Nearly two years on from the track that first launched her into main stream consciousness, (the compelling 'Sea Creatures') can 'BLUD' maintain the momentum she's gathered to a debut album rolling? Taylor Johnson had a listen...

At times it's important to take a step back to appreciate the age and maturity of young artists in an ever increasingly youthful business, when reviewing a new track or compilation. The occasional over indulgence in a costly production or juvenile lyric can be forgiven, but not so with Londonderry/Derry's Soak. This is because her class and wisdom rarely, if ever, falls into these or any other unfortunate category's and we are left instead with a body of work that can easily compare to the carefully constructed EP's and albums of artists far older than the teenager. 'Blud' keeps this exceptional record in tact, her delicate melodies and gentle acoustic guitar producing a song of ethereal beauty. Haunting backing vocals caress a melancholic chorus, "You're in my blood" washing over the minimalist set-up with fragility and genuine emotion. As delicately poised as the chorus is, it's the final subtle refrain that elevates it to a new level. With one, gentle admission, Soak hits the kind of emotional boundary only truly exploited by the lamenting verse of Stephen Patrick Morrissey. "Let's just forget...". It's simplistic, despondent and yet heartrendingly honest enough to be identified with by any broken romantic. These are feelings perhaps not even considered during the writing process and yet effortlessly brilliant.

Vocally, it's a now classically delicate effort, as soothing and captivating as her earlier work, with protruding improvements rising to the surface. The falsettos are ever so slightly more assured, the pitch has widened further again and the passion is as evident as ever.

Based on this, the Soak bandwagon is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, the songstress may soon have to wave goodbye to whats left of her suburban life when her debut album finally arrives. Big things are on the way.

Taylor Johnson

If you like ~ Kate Bush | Fleet Foxes | And The Giraffe ~ You'll love Soak

Keep up to date with all official Soak news on the links below.

Official Website
(Listen to a live version of the official single above)

a plastic homecoming ~ belfasts adopted sons return to headline major festival

by 06:02

As Spectrum Festival 2014 nears ever closer (Saturday, 7th June), here at Encore NI we thought it would be useful to give a run down of each act playing at the beloved festival and why this year's line-up is well worth the £12 entry price. (£10's for students!)

Here, Taylor Johnson gives his analysis...

(Homecoming Heroes - A Plastic Rose)
Fresh from their hugely successful stint on Radio 1, Belfast's own A Plastic Rose will return to these shores once more, headlining this years fantastic second ever Spectrum Festival. Having gained consistent airplay on Britains most popular radio show, as well as a slot on the upcoming Vukovi tour, it's fair to say the APRmy have had no troubles in signing recruits across the water. The release of (the sublime) new single 'Someones Daughter' has also whetted the appetite for album number two, building on the success of their stunning debut 'Camera.Shutter.Life' and highlighting the drive, work ethic and determination that saw them head bang their way into the people of Belfast's hearts.

(Mojo Fury)
Playing alongside the returning conquerors are Mojo Fury, the Lisburn alt-rockers who's edgy riffs, rough vocals and subtle electronic elements (see the awesome 'We Should Just Run Away') have saw them build their own dedicated fan base over their ten year life span. To add to the sentimental vibes from this years joint headliners, a sold out Limelight was recently the venue for the bands tenth anniversary celebration - a testament to the love and admiration Belfast has for their very own.

(Kasper Rosa)
For the slightly more aggressive gig going punter, prog-rockers Kasper Rosa will also be taking to the stage. Know for their big hitting sound, the band have recently began to embrace vocals (an element deemed unnecessary in much of their earlier work) and with it has came the double A-Side 'Icebreaker', a swirling, ambient mass of complex riffs and ghost like vocals. Expect a wave of swaying bodies when this lot take to the stage.

(New Ancestors)
Times have not always been so good for folk duo 'New Ancestors', but thankfully for the Belfast born, adopted Glaswegians they certainly seem to be now. After building a respected and beloved reputation under original guise 'The 1930's' the two piece took the brave decision to change their name, perhaps on the back of the similarly titled 'The 1975's' unexpected chart success. Despite the initial problems of changing such an established name, the newly christened New Ancestors went about their regeneration project with class and humility. Now boasting the swooning 'Dagger' and 'Rose' (which includes the awesome Mumoford and Son's-esque 'If You Let Me') double A-Sides, the two piece are enjoying the sort of  freedom that only a re-branding can really ever give a band.

(The Late Twos)
Also on the bill are the indie pop stylings of 'The Late Twos', a band commanding a huge following as one of the leading lights in Belfast's 'Indie Revolution'. With the back catalog of a band way beyond their years, their debut self titled EP  has won them cult status, with a legion of young mods following the bands every move. Armed with arguably the most charismatic front-man in the local music scene today in Matty Legge, it speaks volumes that the Belfast boys consider a gig without a stage invasion 'a bad day at the office'.

Following in the footsteps of local giants such as Ed Zealous, the brilliantly named 'Affleck' use synths, electronic bass lines and the haunting vocals of Aidan Kelly to gently craft a Muse styled soundscape of the weird and wonderful, culminating in a sound quite unlike anything you're likely to hear in Belfast. 

On shortly before Affleck come the increasingly exciting indie guitars of 'Hurdles', most recently being shortlisted for the incredible chance to play this years Glastonbury Festival! (Yes, that Glastonbury Festival) The four piece's vibrant, upbeat sound and dynamic live performances have drawn comparisons to The Strokes and The Libertines amongst others, but it's fair to say their brilliant original material has (despite their young age) an authentic and original style. A difficult task to master for any new band, yet one Hurdles have embraced with maturity and confidence. A hectic gigging schedule show's these lads aren't scared of the hard work which comes with being one of the countries most exciting prospects.

(Go Swim)
Finally, opening proceedings come 'Go Swim'. Equally filled with indie-pop optimism, this 5 piece play heavily off the fantastic vocal harmonies between guitarist Julianne Shawe and front man Steven Smith. Songs such as new single 'Call Sign' emphasis their potential and dance evoking rhythms. No doubt, a band willing to kick proceedings off with vigor and energy, you'll want to come down early for this one.

With such a varied and explosive line-up, you'd be a fool to miss out on 2014's Spectrum Festival. Like Little Solidarity before it, this could be the festival that pushes some of these bands to the national radio heights of it's returning headliners. For that alone, you'll want to be able to say you were there.

Taylor Johnson.

8 Artists - 1 Venue - 1 Night

Spectrum Festival 2014
Speakeasy, Belfast
Doors - 6:30pm
Saturday, 7th June, 2014

live ep review ~ team rkt ~ acoustic session

by 13:31

If further proof was needed that those long, Winter (and being honest, Summer, Spring and Autumn) nights spent in the glow of a gameboy colour were a chance to allow a child's mind to explore the furthest reaches of the imagination, then TeamRKT (Pronounced 'Rocket' - for those not familiar with the Pokemon villains) is indeed that proof. One of a growing faction of bands emerging with their childhood influences painted proudly on their faces (A movement pioneered by The Wonder Villains and their references to shiny Pokemon© cards), the Portstewart two piece's electronic edge and playful personas have won them many new fans since their formation in 2011. Following up from their well received single 'This Is Not The End', they recorded a live acoustic session, an interesting proposition for a band relying heavily on the art of electronic soundscapes. Here we took a look at their session, on the night they performed yet another live session, this time live on BBC Radio Ulster's 'Across The Line'.

Opening their session with the charming 'Above The Clouds', Team RKT quickly dispel any myths that they rely solely on the melodic quirks of a computer synth, a fast paced acoustic guitar interweaving perfectly with the electronica they've built their songs around. Front man Rory Powers vocals are as swooning as the, surprisingly emotional, song commands, any pauses for breath only enhancing the sweetness of a track that bounces with melody and affirming delicacy. Lyrically, it's littered with the idealist imagery that only real day dreamers can seemingly convey. 'Above The Clouds' is as warm and affectionate as the title suggests and a fine introduction for any first time Team RKT listeners.

The mood is shifted slightly as the follow up shows Team RKT's intriguing take on chart hit 'Hot and Cold' by Katy Perry, an unusual choice that by the third or forth listen eventually begins to grow on the listener. Although the repetitive synth bass is a necessary inclusion, it does slightly grate, although the overlaying video game styled melodies do add a certain dynamism the original lacked, despite it's chart success. An intriguing, yet thoroughly enjoyable effort.

Final track 'Watch It Grow' focus's much more on vocal melody, as Powers voice is for the first time allowed to take centre stage. Kit Gier's backing vocals also given their first prominent feature. Although not stepping too far away from the Team RKT formula that has served them so well thus far (requests to 'throw away your silver, cause we're going for the gold' remain ever prevalent), it is by far the most open the two piece have allowed themselves, as their classic 'Chiptune' style is relegated to sit behind the bands vocal dynamic. As the track goes on, it continues to gather momentum, particularly Powers croons of 'You're the water, I'm the sunlight' which may seem contrived from the overdriven amps of a modern day indie outfit, yet manages to remain heartfelt from the synths of what is a very promising young band indeed.

Fun, light hearted and beautifully bright, these live sessions are a fine testament to Team RKT's journey so far and you imagine they will only continue to get better.

Taylor Johnson

If you like ~ Chameleon Circuit | Darwin Deez | Owl City ~ You'll love Team RKT

Keep up to date with all official Team RKT news on the links below:


single review ~ the vals ~ "quiet part of town"

by 06:40

The world of rock and roll has not an easy one for singer/songwriter Paul Doherty. After years in the rock and pop wilderness, he finally set into motion what would become The Vals in late 2004, the first official line-up arriving the following year. Years of gigging and writing followed, as The Vals began to catch the eye of various musical big-wigs, even playing a live session for BBC Radio 1 in 2008. Their own brand of 60's inspired pop hooks and focus on melody gained them an almost cult status in the capital city and as the floodgate of media spotlight opened, as too did the interest from watching record companies. Eventually, The Vals (despite several line-up changes) signed to Electrique Mud records, releasing debut album 'Sticks and Stones' soon after a successful recording stint in Germany. As airplay continued to flow seamlessly for the Belfast boys and festival appearances alongside the likes of Ocean Colour Scene continued to add to their impressive CV, one thing remained a struggle for Doherty and his growing back catalog of  songs. The Vals couldn't seem to nail down a solid line-up. Bassists, drummers and keyboardists came and went, yet somehow he managed to keep what remained of his band on the road for as long as possible. Their last major project, a collaboration with Wings guitarist Henry McCullough on upbeat single 'Look To The One', acted as a reminder to the power and depth of Doherty's songwriting, as well as the potential a band like The Vals still maintained several years after their first gigs in the back bars of Belfast. Now, armed with yet another newly established line-up, new material and a brand new tour to promote it, The Vals 'mark two' are ready to take on the world once more, with front man and chief song writer Paul Doherty still at the centre of it all. Some things never change...

Bursting into life in the grand manner of American folk-cult hero's Neutral Milk Hotel, 'Quiet Part Of Town' has all the hall marks of a Vals classic on a bigger scale. The first track from their upcoming album 'Wildflower Way', (due for release September 2014) is a worthy opener, the fast paced, major key acoustic guitar still forming the key element of the track, with a psychedelic Beatles-esque production adding a captivating swoon to the Richard Ashcroft inspired melody. Everything from the subtle orchestral overlays, to the George Harrison styled guitar riffs scream Summer festival freedom and carefree abandon. You get the feeling that this is a real Summer record and as such, seems to mark a real turning point for the band. It's still classic Vals, yet there's a recklessness and shimmering quality that suggests a band free from the pressures of a major label release and instead, simply enjoying making music. Be that down to the newest line-up or not, it's hard to say, but the results are as enjoyable as the group have produced in years. The fast paced drumming give the track it's energy, while front man Paul Doherty's swooning vocals add a dream-like element, that you imagine would be elevated further through the gentle crackle of a freshly pressed vinyl. For some, this reviewer included, this is The Vals strong point. They are a band living in the wrong decade. Their gentle croon and classic melodic craft, seems destined for the 60's. For others, this may be their downfall, a band with soul in their hearts, destined to be overlooked by the mainstream for the resurrection of a golden age largely ignored by new generations of teenagers. Whichever way you look at it, it's unlikely The Vals will care. As long as they continue to produce songs of this quality, there will always be a willing audience at the ready. The mainstream is unlikely to give Paul Doherty sleepless nights anytime soon.

Taylor Johnson.

If you like ~ Beady Eye | The Verve | James ~ You'll love The Vals.

Keep up to date with all official Vals news on the links below...

Vals Official Website

& Listen to the new single here...
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