At the beginning of 2016, Wakefield’s Climbing Alice sounded like a force to be reckoned with on their ‘Melt Yourself Up‘ EP. Mixing alt-rock, goth and shoegaze noises, the four piece band created a great listen via a wealth of influences. There wasn’t so much in the way of immediate hooks or catchy melodies, but if it were a riff or six you craved, the EP – and band – came up winning pretty much every time.
Saint Raymond isn’t a band but the professional name of singer-songwriter Callum Burrows. He’s previously shared stages with indie pop press darlings Haim. He’s also shared a stage with the muchly over exposed Ed Sheeran, but you probably shouldn’t necessarily let that put you off. Saint Raymond’s 2015 release ‘Young Blood’ gained support from Radio 1’s Huw Stevens and even led to Burrows recording a session at the prestigious Maida Vale studio. With those credentials, there were high hopes for a second release and although only an EP, 2017’s ‘A Light That Blinds’ gives a good taster of more solid pop-rock.
It may have been snobbery due to Marijne van der Vlugt’s previous career as an MTV VJ, but the critics weren’t always so kind to Salad back in the 90s. Those who liked them, however – whether from a journalistic perspective or merely a fan – genuinely loved them. Between 1993-97, the band released a string of enjoyable EPs and two albums, but it was in the live setting where the band really shone, as anyone who saw them on a couple of Carter USM tours in 1994-95 will attest.
A singer songwriter from Rhode Island, Kate Mick loves the banjo. In fact, she loves it so much, it’s the only instrument featured on her 2016 full length ‘Undertow’. The idea of voice and banjo alone has probably sent a few people running for the hills, but given time to adjust, there’s actually something about such a simple concept that works: not only is Mick adept with her chosen instrument, but she’s a fine songwriter. Recorded live in an otherwise empty theatre on one night, this album’s ten songs take a voyage into a land of extremely haunting Americanaville; a land populated by broken shacks, gas lamps and a real focus on introspection. It should be a much tougher listen than it actually is, but Kate has one of those voices that just lifts everything…a voice that’s steeped in sadness and yet still has the ability to woo.
Billy Bragg has never been shy of voicing a political opinion. However, the collection of songs that makes up the 2017 EP ‘Bridges Not Walls’ might just find the singer-songwriter at his most consistently outspoken since 1988’s ‘Worker’s Playtime’. His overtly political stance isn’t without good reason, of course; following his album and tour with US folk musician Joe Henry, the world took a huge turn for the worse. In June 2016, the UK held a referendum on our position within the European Union. With the result favouring those who wanted to leave, the outcome seemed to be the ultimate gesture in cutting off the country’s nose to save face. A few months later, America voted in a new President – a man with absolutely no prior political experience – and the country slowly and painfully began to disintegrate. Both of these subjects colour these five songs to a great extent, and with Billy – often the voice of a questioning contempt – it’s a very interesting listen.