Musical Highlights of 2016

Below is my annual recollection of some music highlights of the year, for the good guys and gals at [sic] Magazine who introduce me to so much of it.

Although the twelve months of 2016 are likely to be remembered as much for who left us, as for what was left for us, (not to mention leave-ing) there were as always some great records, including Savages, Kiran Leonard, Ed Harcourt and Radiohead. Bowie‘s Blackstar – with the mystique surrounding the timing of its release – was a great record to start a year, and set the tone for tragedy-turn-triumph; the late Viola Beach were immortalised at Glastonbury, and also by achieving a number one album of their own (crucially, not a cash-in job), and there were countless events such as the ‘Glabstonbury’ all-day event I attended, which saw a host of bands and musicians generously coming together for a worthy cause. Here follow my ten highlights of the year. Continue reading

OFF Festival 2014

2014 was my third OFF Festival. The location, people, size, weather and of course quality of the music are all so favourable that I will probably go to many more. Plus the atmosphere (friendly, welcoming, not trying to rip me off from the moment I get there), festival size, food quality and beer price (£1.50!) are just to my taste.

Here are some photos from the festival. Click the image to view the gallery. Below are a few thoughts and memories of the three days and some of the acts I saw, a link to the official OFF Festival site, plus a playlist of the artists.

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The OFF line-up is diverse, with almost every genre covered, but there always seems to be someone good to watch, all day each day. And plenty of things to discover. There is a playlist at the bottom of the page. Here are some of the acts I saw.
Continue reading

Live Review – The Sunshine Underground

The Sunshine Underground, o2 Academy Liverpool, 7th December 2013. Review for (sic) Magazine.

The Sunshine Underground

For a band who built their careers around their punk-funk-party live shows and anthemic choruses, it could be slightly worrying to see a stage being prepared with as many drum machines and samplers as there are band members. Particularly as said band have spent nearly four years away writing their third album and have confirmed it marks a change in direction. Any anxieties may be increased further tonight when The Sunshine Undergroundtake to the stage; singer-and-guitarist Craig Wellington is clutching a pair of drumsticks, and there is a capo on the bass of Scott Edge.

Luckily, for fans of both the band and Happy Mondays (who TSU are here supporting), tonight is no Stonehenge-esque reincarnation, and this Leeds four-piece know exactly what they are doing. A new song opens the set, with Stuart Jones repeating rhythmic stabs on his guitar, soon joined by Matthew Gwilt‘s drum beat. When the bass arrives, there are echoes of, well, Echoes-era Rapture, before Wellington’s ever-powerful vocal supplies that unmistakable The Sunshine Underground quality.

“The harder we climb, the higher we go”, sings Wellington, in a chorus as strong as any of their career. Following their time away from the public gaze, it sounds like a statement of intent.

Recent single ‘It’s Only You’ is relatively slow-paced, gradually building from a guitar arpeggio into an emphatic chorus. It is destined to be sang joyously back to the stage by many a crowed. Tonight, it is enough to bring out the first maracas of the evening within the audience, long before Bez is due to appear.

The dancing continues throughout, as TSU build their songs on house-beat foundations, reinforcing where needed with pedal loops to the guitars and vocals, before subtly decorating with samples and synths to great effect for those sky-scraping choruses or instrumental breakdowns. Yet this remains very much a fun, live band, and the energy is relentless.

The set closes with ‘I Ain’t Losing Any Sleep’, taken from début album Raise The Alarm, which is itself awarded a new, electronic-edged coda, and is a ‘Man Don’t Give A Fuck’-like triumph. The Sunshine Underground have victoriously buoyed tonight’s crowd ahead of the headline act, sometimes a thankless task, but also hinted at the rewards awaiting them in 2014.

The new album can be pre-ordered at:

Pledge Music – The Sunshine Underground