The Week That Was #14

Ring, Ring the bells, for 2014 has arrived in a flurry of songs and a hailstorm of new music, threatening to overwhelm our flooded ears. Thankfully it’s winter, and sitting inside as the rain pounds down outside is pretty inviting. Here are 7 songs we have been listening to, and we promise to spare you from any more damp puns.

Monday saw the release of a number of highly anticipated new records, which have been spinning around our ears ever since. Halls Love to Give is a draw-dropping affair, both intensely personal and almost religiously communal. There is a transcendent potency in the delivery that cradles a profound truth. Album closer Body Eraser / Avalanche is charged with gravitas; haunting choral interludes intersperse lofty vocals like a beacon of light shining a spotlight through a dust-swirled atmosphere. 3 minutes in and the ground gives way, seemingly calling in the rapture. It is not easy to listen to, but then it’s not supposed to be. The thunderous post-rock esoteric builds like Vesuvius before raining feedback on your ears.

Brighton’s Rose Keeler-Schäffeler’s, or Keel Her to you and I, debut album has felt like a long time coming, if only because of her prolificacy of song writing. The self-titled album has been whittled down to 18 songs, some old, some new, some borrowed (from her own back catalogue), a few even blue. It’s an eclectic mix and a fascinating listen, as though she has personally made us all a mix tape, the type you’d receive from a friend, stick in your car, and play to death. Keeler-Schäffeler shows a deft hand working across genres and Riot Grrrl is, well, a case in point: slacker rock, surf pop and jangly west coast tones are all there in an uninhibited mash-up that passes in a blur of adrenaline and endorphins.

I’m constantly intrigued in how ones environment affects their art. And Maica Mia’s debut LP, Des Era seems to be bled into Canada’s northern soul. Sparse arrangements announce post-apocalpyse blues as different shades of grey are splashed over a barren fabric. It’s as if winter’s door is slowly closed on our souls. neH2ble is the highlight, a film score passing through the clouds to search over the decaying landscape below. It’s tender and haunting, and genuinely affecting. When the world ends, they should play this.

I’m not sure what the environs of Pesaro, Italy, are like, but with bands like Be Forest coming from there, I’d like to find out. Last week they released their sophomore effort, Earthbeat. By measure both dreamy and punchy it carries an irresistible air of mysticism grounded in fertile soil. On Airwaves angular guitars sear through the seams as the vocals float on a cloud of hazy indifference.

Nicely tagged as industrial pop there is something very personal about the vocals and lyrics to Londoners Joey Fourr‘s Born Slippery, taken from the soon to be released Art is Hard and Reeks of Effort uber compilation Art Reeks. This raw emotion contrasts and compliments the chugging guitars and coarse hook and sinks straight into the heart: Heartfelt and stirring Born Slippery is the moment butterflies flitter in the stomach, the moment the heart swoons and the moment when life stands still for a second.

Playlounge dropped Zero yesterday, the first track from their upcoming debut album, Pilot. And judging by this taster pencil in April 14th as Playlounge day. Zero contains the kind of disorientating fuzz you can usually only achieve by closing your eyes and spinning yourself around 10 times. On one leg. This 3 minutes is a lot more enjoyable and a lot less dangerous.

She’s Gone by PyPy is relentlessly boundless. A psychedelic scuzzy mess that spins your head round on the fast cycle complete with atmospheric yelps and vocals that have all the magnetic aura of Le Tigre. It’s addictive, as all the best things are.

Live Review // Moonface // Monday 27th January 2014 // Elgar Room, Royal Albert Hall // Londres

What opens with the singular closes with the plural

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As you walk up to the Royal Albert Hall it’s difficult not to take a sharp intake of breath. The regency buildings of Kensington glimmer in the floodlit night, wealth permeates from every pore and the ghosts of Victoria and Albert are laid thick in the air. Almost tucked away, the old building has a steady, knowing confidence like a rich treasure stowed away in a corner of affluence. When you enter refined grandeur strikes you, the history of all the masters who have graced the stage seep into your conscience and images of flag waving bombast stir in your heart. In short, it’s not a place to see just anyone.

Entering the Elgar Room you find a small stage, empty apart from a grand red piano standing in the spotlight. It is obvious who this stage belongs to. The stark loneliness of the piano finds a partner in Moonface’s heart-wrenchingly singular new album Julia With Blue Jeans On. For a love album it’s one seemingly to be enjoyed alone; it requires your undivided attention, with no distraction or sound apart from the awareness of your own heart beating. But without its partner the piano is little but an ornate object, full of beauty yet futile; a polished box of unrealised potential. Tonight the piano lives and breathes as Spencer Krug’s vocals dance around the dramatically poised suspense it weaves. His piano playing drips with gravitas as he hovers over the keys a cross between manic puppet and grand master. All the while his vocals soar, slightly tortured and charged with feeling, and his soul is laid to bare with emotion straining from every sinew and each delicate but pained movement.

Mixing literal with allegorical Krug creates his own narrative, referring back to personal reference points, so much that the long-term listener can hear themes revisited from previous vessels. It’s easy to hang off every word. Home is one constant theme on Julia With Blue Jeans On, alongside the uneasy self-reflection of the heart. Krug is too clever to fall into lazy clichés, but I feel like he’s telling me home is where the heart is.

Some of the best songwriters have a knack of tapping into our hopes and fears, of articulating human emotion in a way others can’t, of writing songs that speak to us on a deeply personal level. Tonight, Moonface does just that. Tonight is one of those rare moments when it feels like we are spoken to directly; we hold hands and feel like we have an audience with Spencer. Tonight is something different, tonight is something personal. There is a raw empathy in the minimal set-up and if you close your eyes it is just you, him and his piano. Except; for tonight stood next to me is a beautiful soul, intimately sharing this personal moment seemingly designed only for us. Without knowing it, we’d all but sold our souls to the day.

Julia with Blue Jeans On is an album of love songs. It is a concept album if the concept is love, and unashamedly so. If unabashed feeling is good enough for Moonface then it is certainly good enough for me: Tonight as we sway gently arm in arm, our cheeks touching, our eyes closed and our hearts beating – we don’t need our voices as Moonface articulates everything we need to say. We give him our mouths and when he comes up for air we kiss. Love does not discriminate, and tonight, we share it with Spencer and each other.

<3

7tracks – extended edition SUMMER GIGS

As I am getting ready to hop on plane to visit fellow AHDTR writer and overall lovely bearded person, I prepared a extended version of 7tracks. It’s a mix on all the cool gigs we got to see together in London and Brighton over the summer of 2013.  Because it was always our favourite dates. And we both crush on musicians, special affection to fucking rad guitarist Marnie Stern.

They are in chronological order because I am a freak in that way. And it all started with a Canadian band call Boats playing The Great Escape festival, two bottles of cider and me generously tipping the bartender because you know, I am Québécois <3 Ugh, summer.

The Week That Was #13

If Bevo is anything to go by it must have taken Manchester’s The Hipshakes all of three seconds to agree upon a name. A beeshive of a track and full of pent-up hyperactivity, it’s fidgety 50’s/60’s influenced garage rock is perfect to dance around to in your bedroom with gay abandon. Having teamed up with MJ from Hookworms and producer of two of AHDTR’s favourites from 2013, we’ll be keeping a close eye on The Hipshakes in 2014.

Fat Cat have just shared While We Let Go, a demo from London’s (by way of France and Italy) dds. Impressive in scale and full of warm rhythm, like a firefly around a candle it bristles with ambition and grace. Imagine the National drinking white wine instead of red, and you won’t be far off.

Dios Mio are another London band who deal primarily in majesty, as perfectly showcased in recent single Proto. Burning with sensation, the intro wastes no time exploding into life, warming our wintery souls in the process. As Helena Coan’s vocals are introduced to the mix and the guitars become a jagged edge of tension Proto takes a darker turn, bubbling along with imagery of decay while in turn floating, soaring and simmering.

Brighton’s The Magic Gang dropped Shallow on Wednesday and it does a lot to justify the recent hype (which included a spot in the NME’s 40 to watch for 2014). Combining just enough skewed weirdness with anthemic grandeur, Shallow is the kind of song that slowly creeps into your subconscious, makes itself a cup of tea and by the final refrain you belatedly realise it has moved in.

Black Gold Buffalo also appeared on the NME list. Their only song online is from 2012 – the gorgeously rich Magnets. Full of alluring reverb, vocals that shine through like a lighthouse, luscious beats and guitars strung so tight you feel like at any moment the song might go up in a puff of smoke, Magnets draws you in as it caresses your ears.

This recent trend of 90s retrospection has left me with mixed feelings: Joy at hearing sounds I grew up with, despair at realising I have got so old that I have hit my first cycle in life. Fortune Teller is Leeds based Menace Beach slightly scuzzy take on the less mainstream sounds from the 90’s, with keys that waltz around like old wurlitzers, deliciously fuzzed-up harmonies and a slightly experimental glam feel that isn’t a million miles removed from Mansun. Which is apt, because Paul Draper is an occasional addition to the line-up.

I saw Dublin’s Girl Band at the Green Door Store on Wednesday. It didn’t take long to realise we were witnessing something very special. The sound they managed to contort from three instruments was bewildering; bass that sounded like industrialised crunching guitars, guitar stuffed through the pedal shredder, machine gun drumming and vocals delivered in a captivating and utterly persuasive manner. It was abrasive, challenging and totally compelling: Girl Band had an irresistible intensity – so much that it felt like we were witnessing the start of something. Fuck it, whole scenes were created on less. Lawman is their new single, and it’s incendiary.

I want to end this weeks WTW by saying thank you to Benjamin Curtis for his music, both in School of Seven Bells and particularly for me – Secret Machines. Now Here is Nowhere is an album that is incredibly special to me, whenever I listen to it I’m returned to the days I found it and whenever I listen to it in the future I’ll say a silent thank you to Ben.

Our Favourite Albums of 2013 // Part 2

Our love for The National, Nick Cave and Arcade Fire is almost unconditional. Although some albums marked our hearts differently this year. Here are some more. All hail to musicians that rock for the fun of it.

AroarA – In the Pines

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In the Pines inspires nothing less than an enchanted journey through unknown pastures. All the elements of spellbounding are there; a myriad of charming strings, the sounds of dreamy electronica and heavy drums. The quietude, the exuberance, the soft and scabrous melodies, the highs and lows of skilled vocalists. Partners in marriage, Ariel Engle and Andrew Whiteman recorded a LP which will undoubtedly catch the attention if merely by its variances. Their rendition of Alice Notley‘s book of poems of the same name, shoots them up there with all the great Canadian story tellers, nothing less. But the technique of recording makes it all the more magical: All of the equipment used in the making dates before 1975.

The love and intensity they share on stage makes it not only one of the most beautifully crafted records of the year but one of the most interesting live performance. One that AHDTR writers were lucky enough to enjoy together.

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Eons – Arctic Radio

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Ever prolific Canadian musician Matt Cully took time away from collaborations with friends and being part of badass folk collective Bruce Peninsula to craft a collection of heartfelt country songs. An extensive LP that could make you rethink your love (or hate) affair with Canadian folk. They are songs seemingly trapped in a personal set true to a one-man-and-guitar act, true to traditional folk motifs.  While the songs of Arctic Radio are all his work, Matt joined forces with Bruce Peninsula bandmate Misha Bower to deliver them on record which warms up the icy cold feel of emotions exposed like we would do around a bonfire with friends. The passionate texts take you elsewhere; out of the body and solely into the mind where the reflection of the self is fed by their delicate voices. ”We are the young, we are not the world”.

Arctic Radio; yet another collection of tunes that have been first played to me live, in an intimate setting.

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Gianna Lauren – On Personhood

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 Being first introduced to Gianna Lauren’s music during a intimate live performance, in a tiny wooden attic  on a chilly spring night can only be a definitive moment. 2013 had started roughly on a personal level and what I found within On Personhood is a dose of comfort very much needed.

 They are songs attentively written; songs of self reflection, on dealing with one another, on emotions brought by others, on personhood. The LP, her third,  consists of indie rock tunes enriched with luxurious notes of electric guitar and extensively lyrical material. Semi heavy, semi soft. Gianna’s voice and lyrics act as a balm on wounds, a reminder that shitty things fucking happen, that feeling shitty is allowed, that it comes and goes and that you are not the only one. It charms, it opens to wonder, it almost commands the body to let go. So it became a regular listen.

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cousins / Construction & Destruction – Split

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Nothing beats winner sweet perks from a cool blog like Quick Before it Melts and raddest of rad label NoYes Records. Unless maybe the actual perk being this fantastically grunge mudge pudge of indie poppy garage songs mounted on a royal blue vinyl.  With this split, Nova Scotia based and coolest duos cousins and Construction & Destruction combined efforts to bring to the world a sheer example of what maritimers do best: rock to shreds. And they do it in similar ways; slightly obscure tone-setting intros, elephantine guitar lines, experiments with guitars and vocals that get you to close your eyes and willingly immerse. And it scratches and screeches and becomes heavier and heavier. It’s fucking cool.

Note: AHDTR writers had their first date at a cousins’ gig in Brighton UK. Swoon all over this fact.

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A Grave with No Name – Whirlpool

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2013 marked the release of Alex Shields third LP with his solo project A Grave With No Name. The album, being our favourite of his work so far, is a beautifully crafted experiment of the parts of pop music that we rarely see mixed together. Where Mountain Debris (2009) and Lower (2011) had more of a solitary feel to them, Whirlpool is a bundle of songs with hazy guitar riffs and lazy vocals; they are songs of boredom where collaborators share a huge part, proof that sharing boring times with friends makes boredom enjoyable. The LP opens with an line of raw sensibility, which stays present throughout the record. Aurora being the fist track, feature the vocals of Alanna McArdle(Ides, Joanna Gruesome) and shows how collaborations work well for Shields. But its wholeness is what makes this record a definitive piece for AGWNN; coming back to it over and over and listening to it in it’s entirety because it flows naturally.

Whirlpool shows sensibility and carelessness like a heart in the right place and just enough time for what really matters.

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Paula – Relaxed Fit

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Stalwart figure of Montreal-based label Arbutus Records, David Carriere followed the 2012 success he had with band TOPS to release Relaxed Fit, the debut effort of solo project Paula. The LP is heavy with electronic samples that seem straight out of the  catchiest tunes of the 70′s and 80′s, yet all the contemporary feel of poppy punk music is there. From speedy synth riffs to mellow drums, all ground of party pop is covered. His texts, while seemingly light hearted are unequivocally sincere. It had me turn up the volume and bust-a-move more than once. And wait for the cool 90s hip hop/dance pop mash duo with Cadence Weapon. Delectably sexy.

 It’s the ultimate party rocking (oh yeah) album of 2013. Period.

Our Favourite Albums of 2013 // Part 1

2013 has just finished so we thought it would be a good time to post about some of our favourite albums of the year. We haven’t got a clue about the ‘best’ but we can tell you the ones that mean the most to us. The only rules were they must have been from Canada or Britain, and released in 2013. Here are the first 6:

Traams – Grin

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Grin rattles and rolls along in an agitated, restless manner with an an irresistible urgency. The drums and bass are perfectly intertwined as one beating heart as the guitar swirls across them, with frontman Stu Hopkin’s vocals adding a muffled vitality. It’s the sound of a man locked in an airtight room, distant and desperate. And it works because although it might seem discordant it adds resonance to a sound that is anything but: It is a sound that has been studiously and perfectly crafted.

Within Traams master a number of styles, speed and feeling. Opening with the haunting Swimming Pool, an atmospheric nod to TV on The Radio, they lurch from the blistering Flowers to the emotionally fragile and heart-rending Hands while the closing track Klaus is a krautrock epic from the word go, capturing you in a groove and locking you in until long after the record stops spinning.

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Valleys – Are You Going To Stand There And Talk Weird All Night

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The opening bars of Micromoving tell us a lot about the shading to Are You Going To Stand There And Talk Weird All Night? There is a heavy gravitas in the slow, deliberate key changes, like a church organ firing up to pronounce life or death. In Mark St Louis’s baritone vocals there is a intoxicating richness and inebriated confusion. It is a sombre, stately opening that slowly lifts; Matilda Perks shade of light pierces through St Louis’s dark and the synths gracefully transform into blissful rapture. It is a logical culmination. Made to a backdrop of death and loss – two of the more powerful artistic aphrodisiacs, Valleys poignantly chart stages of grief onto a sonic map.

At it’s most euphoric the album encompasses dream pop mixed with fluffy electronica clouds, but a sense of unease always lurks behind the hazy reverie and thick atmospherics. It can be found in the lyrical content and haunting visions of melancholy that colour the melody. Album closer Undream a Year is one of our favourite tracks of the year; in equal parts uplifting, magical, confusing and heart meltingly simple, the chorus soars and makes us skip a beat.

https://soundcloud.com/kaninerecords/10-undream-a-year

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Boats – A Fairway Full Of Miners

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Superbly demented lo-fi fun, with trumpets, glockenspiels, harmonies and yelps, hooks so large they could catch a shark, vocals that lurch from high pitched hyperactivity to pagan chanting, and the kind of joyously eccentric exuberance that is probably illegal in 52 countries around the world: Boats are the kind of band who steal your heart and smile whilst doing it. Bands like Boats were the reason that I fell in love with music, albums like A Fairway Full of Miners are what get me through a year: their irresistible intensity brings a smile to your face and warmth to your heart.

Album highlight O Jumbotron crashes along at 100mph, a mash up of the sublime and the absurd, with anthemic yelps and probably the finest, most rousing interlude-cum-chorus-cum-instrumental-cum-thrashy mess I’ve heard all year. It’s life affirming stuff.

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We Are The City – Violent

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Vancouver’s We Are The City second LP, Violent, is an almost spiritual affair, stirring and emotive, and fraught with meaning. In Violent, We Are The City create a brand of experimental rock that never feels too experimental because they have an ear for melody and an eye for fleeting beauty. Each song feels like it has been tenderly crafted into an expansive, soulful sound with just the right amount of quirk. Cayne McKenzie’s vocals drip with significance and sagacity, pregnant pauses hint at an unspoken truth, and introspection rules throughout.

The album highlight, Friends Hurt, is another song that evokes the happiness of childhood memories and the sadness of age, but it’s strangely uplifting, and musically and lyrically combines to create a blissed out empathy that screams – ‘it’s all ok’.

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Joanna Gruesome – Weird Sister

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Weird Sister comes in at just under 30 minutes. 30 minutes of pure teenage summer adrenaline rush; a blur of emotion, feeling and vitality. At times caustic, it brims full of exuberance and melody, a roller-coaster of a ride on the immortality of youth. Musical sub-genres are screwed up and rammed down the throat, acerbic lyrics are coated in saccharine, their nascent talent scrapes in feedback and soothes in twee abandon. It’s an alluring mix. Joanna Gruesome wear their hearts on their musical sleeves, and in doing so they created possibly the most unrestrainedly enjoyable record of the year.

Secret Surprise is my favourite number, a pop-punk classic, with a deliciously sweet and affecting chorus. I love a band who can sing “I’ve been waiting to crush your fucking skull” as if butter wouldn’t melt.

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Public Service Broadcasting – Inform – Educate – Entertain

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PSB’s 2012 The War Room EP was something of an epiphany for me. So the eagerly anticipated debut LP Inform – Educate – Entertain was in some ways on a hiding to nothing. But with repeated listens a stunning cross genre masterpiece of style and substance emerges. J. Willgoose, Esq. has the wonderful knack of combining elements of his samples to the most uplifting and euphoric electronica. At it’s very core it’s a celebration of human-kind, a unique history and strangely moving as eras collide in a way Michael J Fox could only have dreamt of.

ROYGBIV encapsulates the art magnificently, the instruments mirror the colours of the rainbow, the samples gaze in wonderment at a technological advancement that we all take for granted, and as the song reaches it’s climax our rooms are indeed filled with an explosion of light, colour and optimism. Spiffing, one might say.

The 12 Days of Christmas // Label :: Reeks of Effort

Reeks of Effort

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Sometimes it is difficult not to be but a little disconcerted by how seemingly little others care about something you are passionate about. I mean to say, I appreciate my mum reading the articles I’ve posted on the blog, but sometimes I wouldn’t mind someone else doing so. I’m joking of course, my mum hates it, but sometimes it is hard for music and labels to find a voice when all the money in the world and all the attention is directed elsewhere. Sometimes it is hard for ventures to find a place in a world saturated in distraction and short attention span. But that is what they want us to believe: We know people care, if only because we do.

Reeks of Effort are a Cardiff (and elsewhere) collective that started out in 2010 as a music blog, ventured into putting on shows and finally took the plunge into becoming a fully fledged record label in 2012. If you visit any of their social media spaces you will see they describe themselves as a DIY record label battling monumental indifference. Although this is a lifted lyric bathed in gallows humour, there is a certain truth posturing against a brick wall of insouciance: Namely that nonchalance is cool, eagerness is not. Them’s the rules. However Reeks of Effort don’t care for rules, they do what they want, because they can and because they care. The word “collective” can be served up on a plate of platitudes, but with Reeks of Effort the collective avidity shines through, with the likes of members of Joanna Gruesome, Playlounge and King of Cats all digging in and helping out. It’s by the people, for the people stuff and as they put it when we spoke to them, “It’s just cool to occupy your free time with phat tunes and nice people, it beats most other things.” As mission statements go, we think that’s pretty fucking grand. As a result of this we get to hear lots of superbly lo-fi, joyfully thrashy and genuinely affecting music..

2013 has seen Reeks of Effort release music from the likes of Trust Fund, Ides, Beta Blocker and the Body Clock, Joey Fourr, Lone Omi, Birdskulls, YRRS, and of course, King of Cats and Playlounge as well as putting on shows and even holding their very own pool party.

Whilst musical trends can be subject to the whim of marketing executives, label politics and self satisfied taste-makers, people get together, form bands, write songs, play shows and all because in some way they have been touched by something that has gone before them. Or perhaps because it’s fucking fun and beats joining the real world. Whatever. It’s not necessarily the kind of music that will attain commercial success (although Joanna Gruesome are doing alright I’d say) but it does and will touch others. Here are a collection of songs released on Reeks of Effort this year that have touched us.

We asked for Reeks of Effort for their thoughts on 2013 and hopes for 2014 and here is what they had to say:

My favourite album of the year is probably Dean Blunt – The Redeemer. I just think he’s like the coolest dude and I’m also really into what he did with Hype Williams too. He also did a hushed release of an album that he recorded in a hotel room in Moscow called stone island which is really great.

Trust Fund is one to watch for 2014, we put out the Don’t Let Them Begin EP this year; he’s the nicest dude and is really dedicated to the DIY pop scene which is always something to admire in an artist. I’m not 100% sure what his plans for 2014 are, but whatever he does will rule.

The Playlounge and Plaids albums are also something to look out for next year. Laurie and Sam of Playlounge help out a lot with Reeks of Effort and are two of the most hard working and genuine guys. Basically; super cool guys, super cool band. Big riffs, bigger hearts. Plaids are another really hard working band (they run a DIY venue / recording space in notts called JT Soar) and Greenberg (Plaids Guitarist) writes some killer licks.

Amen