1966 was very much a turning point for pop music. Many acts that were considered beat groups had started to branch out and to think beyond live performance. With orchestral tracks like ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and ‘For No One’ Paul McCartney pushed forth the idea of baroque pop. John Lennon, meanwhile, was experimenting with tape loops and early forms of electronica. His ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, closing The Beatles’ 1966 masterpiece ‘Revolver’, is often considered to be at least partially responsible for the birth of true psychedelia. While it’s obvious Lennon’s sound collage took a massive leap towards the mind expanding sounds of ’67, many other bands were sowing the seeds for change a little earlier. As early as 1965, The Kinks pushed boundaries with their single ‘See My Friends’ – a mix of jangling sixties pop and raga music – while even the Dave Clarke Five had occasionally sounded a bit…out there for the era with an increased use of reverb. While the roots of psychedelia could be argued over almost indefinitely, The Yardbirds’ ‘Shapes of Things’ – a fuzzy mish-mash of beat-pop and soft druggy haze – pre-dates the release of ‘Revolver’ by several months and is very much in the mould that would come to be known as freakbeat. An important branch of the psychedelia family tree, freakbeat took the bones of the sixties sound, loaded it with fuzz and wasn’t shy in exploiting the left/right split for stereo head trips. In 1966, this was very much at the forefront of emerging alternative sounds.
With press materials that advertise the band members as fans lots of post-punk artists and whom make music that has “the soaring arpeggios of U2 to 90s distortion”, Young Harbor aren’t hedging their bets. That could cover quite a wide spectrum of rock-oriented music. They go on to claim their sound applies a “unique” approach to vocals (predictably, it doesn’t). On paper, they are a band that seems too keen to impress. [They also claim to be big fans of The Smiths, so perhaps not … At the time of this EP’s release, it might’ve been better to keep such things quiet.]
Moving on from their own hype, thankfully, the actual music on their 2019 EP is very strong all round. Right from the off, their love of angular post-punk is in place. During the lead track ‘The City Has A Charm’, the band channel little bits of Wire and Gang of Four into a more melodic structure, weaving a punchy bassline in and out of a chopping rhythm guitar, while a heavily treated vocal adds extra retro cool. Of course, by making such things more commercial, the core sound often sounds so much more like Franz Ferdinand than anything truly post-punk, but with a massive hook at play, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A brief guitar solo adds a high pitched soaring sound, almost as if inspired by U2’s The Edge circa 1983 but instead of using this as a huge feature, it’s more of an interlude; the band clearly understands the main melody and chorus hook are more important than any over-indulgence.
Calling all fans of sophisticated adult pop! Singer songwriter Hailey Beavis has a new EP scheduled for release before the end of January. The second release on independent label OK Pal Records – a label founded by Beavis with singer songwriter Faith Elliott – her new single ‘Stranger Inside’ fuses heavy keyboard sounds and a wistful vocal, hinting at a love of pop electronica.
Somewhere between the works of Martin Rossiter, Old House Playground, The Bad Seeds and…The Connells lies the music Morning Bells. Purveyors of the finest thoughtful indie pop/rock, this Raleigh based collective is perhaps a little restless on their ‘Fall From The Velvet Sky’ EP. The five featured tracks wander a fine line between the gothic and soulful, between the honest and mournful, before ending up somewhere unexpected. The band’s way of working on the hoof and creating music borne within a moment means that sometimes, stylistically speaking, there’s a huge variation in sound. However, whether tapping into sad sounds or something a little more lively, they often create interest from the beauty of their unease.
Recording a new album after almost twenty years could’ve been a daunting prospect, but for Jake Shillingford, it seemed to be a very natural thing. My Life Story’s big comeback ‘World Citizen’ has gained rave reviews from most of the people who’ve heard it.