ep review ~ 'www.com pc world' ~ abandcalledboy

by 05:42

When Belfast's abandcalledboy first burst on to the Belfast music scene, it was their raw power and stage presence which seemed to capture the hearts and minds of the city. What their last three releases have proved without a shadow of a doubt, is that this band had so much more to offer. Latest single 'L.A Dick' was a masterclass in pop-infused garage fuzz, with singer Ryan Burrowes settling into the role of frontman with real ease; no easy task after years behind the drum kit. The brilliantly named 'www.com PC World' (they're quite good with names) takes this alternative formula a step further, resulting in this newly christened four piece's best record to date.

Opener 'Pure Nostalgia' is a roaring pop-song, smothered in abandcalledboy's trademark grunge, an element they've rather appropriately kept with them from their past. There's pieces of Nirvana, Girl Band and the muffled vocals of Deerhunter's Bradford Cox all thrown in there, with things moving at a gentler, though no less noisy, pace.

The sonic boundaries of a bandcalledboy's young, three piece beginnings must now seem like a lifetime ago, as they move into tracks like 'Renaissance Man' almost without trying. We hear spoken word, reminiscent of bands like 'Meanwhile, Back In Communist Russia', fresh guitar tones and boundless energy entwined with great melody. The songs here have a bigger sound, bolder than ever before. Grand finale 'Choke' is the best of the lot.

Coming in at an explosive four minutes, there's very little points of reference here; a credit to a band who have really found their sound. In alternative music terms for 2015, 'Choke' is right up their with R51's 'Pillow Talk'. It's the loud, abrasive pop-hooks we've came to love from abandcalledboy, but with a greater feeling, a deeper warmth. 'Choke' sounds like a band really enjoying themselves.

You suspect they must be. We can't wait to hear more.

Taylor Johnson

track of the week ~ 'inside out' ~ cloane

by 09:46

As the frontman of Serotonin, Charlie Loane's distinctive vocals came to help represent the punk resurgence of Belfast's music scene over the past three or so years. Bands like Sister Ghost, SALAD BOYZ and The Sea, Close By would all emerge in their wake, helping to shape a now thriving indie-punk scene in the capital.

Though hinted at through Loane's brief run of solo gigs under the name 'Sticky Shadows' before his move to London last month, Serotonin's farewell show for most came to represent the last time we'd hear those powerful vocals for a while. Fortunately the surprise release of three stripped back demo's on a new Soundcloud page has proved that not only is he still very much writing music, but also that the punk-tinged tone of Sertonin's hey-day has a soulful alternative; particularly in our track of the week, 'Inside Out'.

Channeling classic blues with 70's beat-poetry cool, 'Inside Out' is an instantly lovable piece of heartfelt soul. Charlie Loane sounds better than ever, allowing his huge vocal range the space it needs to riff off the chilled guitar beneath it. It feels familiar from the opening line few lines, and with lyrics like 'I would not be who I am, without those nights' the nostalgic possibilities of this song just get better after every listen.

 An unexpected move in the Charlie Loane story, but with results as good as this may the plot twists continue!

Taylor Johnson

single review ~ 'boyfriend' ~ halfmoon bay

by 01:11
New Ep "I'll meet you at the wall." is out now!
Name: Halfmoon Bay
Genre: Low-fi
For Fans Of: Aaron Shanley, Elliot Smith, Sparklehorse
Location: Coleraine

As the frontman, songwriter and face of Coleraine's premier emo-alternative rock band The Bayonettes, it's fair to say Danny McClelland is a man with very little spare time; with this in mind, it makes the creation of 'Halfmoon Bay', his solo project, even more remarkable.

An intimate affair in more ways than one, Halfmoon Bay marries McClelland's trademark emotional tones with a softer, gentler sound. Those familiar with the North Coast songwriter's work to date will no doubt see Halfmoon Bay as a natural progression, with songs like 'Two Miles For Me Is 1000 For You' starting life as a Halfmoon Bay style acoustic affair, before bringing in the electric guitars and thundering drums (well worth a quick Soundcloud search!). Here we see those electric guitars not quite erased completely, but instead molded into the Robert Smith, 'Disintegration' era blueprint.

Florescent, guitar work carries McClelland's vocals throughout this floating track. As low-fi fuzz goes, it's the type of touching realism that made Aaron Shanley such a cult hero in Belfast.

"I'm more of a slow dancer and a hopeless romancer"

Already sounding fully formed, no doubt Halfmoon Bay will continue to tug the heartstrings of it's creator for a long time. Whether or not that will ever see it take priority over The Bayonettes remains to be seen ~ for now, let's just enjoy them both, eh?

Taylor Johnson

encore introducing/track of the week ~ 'animals' ~ norma jean martine

by 15:13

Name: Norma Jean  Martine
Genre: Indie-Pop
For Fans Of: Haim, Lana Del Rey, Paloma Faith
Location: London

If there's one place on Earth which captures the wild nature of human existence to a tee, it is of course, New York City. Given the choice of one fast emerging young pop star to carry that tag, you'd be wise to choose Norma Jean Martine; a dreamer, a Yankee and one of the best performers in the UK today.

Carving a name for herself primarily as a songwriter, Martine launched her own pop career around September 2011 after moving to London. A rigorous gigging schedule and constant writing sessions soon lead to her being picked up by Universal Records, and on latest single 'Animals' you really understand why.

The dark track (from an upcoming EP of the same name) feels like Adele dueting with Calafornian sisters Haim ~ swaggering, indie pop wrapped within Martine's unmistakable smokey vocal. There's pop hooks galore on show here, treading the line between radio sheen and cool party atmosphere perfectly. It's a cool track, Urban Outfitters/Topshop cool, a difficult bracket to break into.

Having written pure-pop for the likes of Pussycat Doll's Ashley Roberts in the past (see here), a genre she does so well, Martine's decision to release 'Animals' puts her ahead of her songwriting contemporaries quite considerably. An 80's inspired, alternative pop song, 'Animals' chugging electric guitars and honest lyrics are a beautiful reminder that keeping the dream alive will always be worth it in the long run.

Taylor Johnson 

ep review ~ 'vokxen' ~ vokxen

by 05:05

Art-pop affectionados Vokxen's rise across the capital has been swift and clinical. The four girls with a love of melody, synths and all things shimmering emerged last year, dancing onto Cool FM's airwaves and top line-ups across Belfast with such ease you'd wonder if they'd planned it for years. Hey, maybe they have. It would certainly explain the flowing synchronicity of their self titled debut EP, long awaited in fickle pop terms, but in reality released very early into this bands short time together.

Floating opener 'The Dark Side' is the atmospheric curve ball which draws you into the crazy world Vokxen occupy. Slowly building, it shows off the band's tight harmonies with menacing ease, as reverb-laden guitars combine to create a haunting contrast to frontwoman Claire McCartney's sweet vocals. Unsurprisingly, debut single 'Somebody' still sounds great here. Synth and melody heavy, it's Vokxen at their electronic best and a fine addition to the EP.

'Pages' then returns Vokxen back to that darker undertow, with flickerings of Muse thrown into this 80's influenced pop song. It's a dance worthy chorus, interwoven with clever vocal melodies and some fine drum work from Jayne Harkness. 'Hoping' too, plays off the bands awesome harmonies, though with it's bright verses and light keyboard work it's distinctly more 90's than it's predecessors.

Undoubtedly fighting for the right to be the band's debut single, 'Captivated' is a startlingly beautiful piano ballad and a fitting closer to this record. Building to a crescendo of fierce guitar and military drum beats, it's a massive song, walking the tightrope between alt-pop and alt-rock closer than ever before for Vokxen.

Now armed with a record of fine pop tunes, this is Vokxen's chance to really push on. Choosing to launch their EP on the Belfast Barge would seem a strange choice for most bands, but with Vokxen, you feel they'll be able to pull it off ~ and in some style.

Taylor Johnson

single review ~ 'little belfry' ~ the mad dalton

by 04:55

The Mad Dalton is a curious character indeed. The Scottish native eventually ended up in Belfast via Canada and England, but this troubadour's story is in fact much more interesting than that.

Real name,  Peter GW Sumadh, he takes his pseudonym from a nickname given to his maternal Grandmother's family and indeed, family life seems to be at the core of this songwriters being. From studying Sitar with a Trinidadian icon, to befriending the man who smoked The Beatles their first joint, it's been a long, strange journey for Sumadh; and it's this experience which really shimmers on 'Little Belfry', the title track from his latest EP.

Adopting a sort of Badly Drawn Boy approach, 'Little Belfry' feels like a travelling song, one born out of experience and tireless craft. A gentle, swooning verse builds to an almost drunken lullaby, as if 'Little Belfry' was already a timeless Pogues tune. In fact, if you were to swap The Mad Dalton's Dylan-esque delivery for Shane MacGowan's snarl, this could easily have come straight out of the Dublin legends locker.

The beautiful acoustic interplay merges effortlessly with the brass section, resulting in a song made for Winter nights, an open fire and more than a few bottles of wine.

Taylor Johnson

track of the week ~ 'ghoul' ~ dillon templeton

by 04:37

Name: Dillon Templeton
Genre: Indie-Acoustic
For Fans Of: The 1975, Modern Baseball
Location: The North Coast

When he's not ripping up stages across the country with his melodic guitar playing in Little Arcadia, North Coast native Dillon Templeton is plying his trade with a collection of emotional, ambient acoustic anthems. Each baring the trademark of their author's emotional style, 'Ghoul' (a song still in demo form, we might add!) stands out for it's sparse arrangements and gently overlapping lead guitar. There's no string section here, no unnecessary production. Just Templeton, his guitars and the flowing piano which gives this track such a heartrending edge.

A truly gifted lyricist, part of what gives Templeton and indeed his band such a connection to their audience is the truth they pour into their songs.

"And I'm afraid I'll become a Father 
with nothing to offer

and I think about my mother
and not because I love her..I saw a ghost last night and it was wearing your coat"

Taylor Johnson

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