Bird, the third LP from Bangers truly captures the hyperactive determined energy that the band show during their live show on record more so than on their previous albums. Their first release recorded in a ‘proper’ studio, it seems that it has enhanced and enabled the band to reach new heights of punk-rock fun. Whilst the band have made a name for themselves by keeping the ideas surrounding their releases fresh, such as Mysterious Ways, which was written, recorded and released within 48 hours, it is the fantastic musicianship and song writing that is the most noteworthy thing to take away from this album. The whole record screams defiance, with ‘No!’ giving the listener a punch in the face to kick off the record from vocalist Roo Pescod, who laments a life led acting like everything is okay with one simple word. Songs like ‘I Don’t Feel Like I’ll Ever Be Clean Again’ boast Weezer-sized stadium choruses, whilst ‘Mannequin’ tells the humorous tale of Satan becoming despondent with his cartoon-like representation on Earth. Bangers are a band that love to keep their fans guessing, and with each release they seem to grow stronger and stronger, and I for one cannot wait to hear what the band have up their sleeve for 2016.
Pop Quiz begins all guns blazing, running full force at the listener with a catchy guitar riff and an easy-to-participate-in vocal hook. Black Thistles have captured that classic indie-rock sound which must have their audiences jumping and dancing all night. ‘Rich Kids’ has an obvious Arctic Monkeys feel with heavier guitar lines and crashing cymbals. Even the singer’s accent has turned slightly more Sheffield than Exmouth as he croons about hanging out at a Wetherspoons on the weekend (most probably the Imperial). Slower than the first track on the EP, which is more suited to playing loudly in a fast car with the windows down, ‘Rich Kids’ is perfect if you need to walk somewhere with a purpose in a dramatic montage. The third track ‘Forget Me Not Factory’ brings the tempo up again, and you can imagine Black Thistles killing it in Cavern. I’m torn between whether Black Thistles are more like Arctic Monkeys or The Kooks, but by mixing the two together they’ve created their own sound that fans of both should get excited about.
For those opening seconds of Bloom’s debut track, we’re a bit lost at sea. It’s pretty exciting, though. Even more so when a beat kicks in and we’re speeding along on clear waters. Released in April, the melody of ‘Oceans’ is smooth and satisfying, with just the right amount of tortured soul in the vocals. The track has a rolling momentum that pulls us through quieter moments and gives us power in all the right places. Those moments of force hit you like waves. It’s the kind of music you’ll have on while something really profound and creative is happening, or on a Skins episode during some moment of emotional awakening. ‘Oceans’ is a deliciously angsty backdrop to higher things – but their second single ‘Voices’ demands our attention in its own right. Released in November, this second single sees Bloom present us with a cleaner sound, a faster pace and a seductively intricate blend of beats and harmonies. Somewhere between the feverish vocals and the crazy-dancing-at-a-festival tempo, the track gives us a healthy dose of euphoria – and a sneaking suspicion that we’ve still not heard everything Bloom has to offer. This Exeter four-piece promise us psychedelic pop – and that’s certainly what they’ve delivered this year. As for 2016? I guess we’ll have to “sit and wait, and watch the sparks fly.”
Words on Chiyoda Ku’s brief Bandcamp biography read “We can’t make you like us through words, hence writing instrumental music.” The sentiment encapsulate the appeal of the group well. The highly-rated three-piece, although still young, have toured Europe, shared stages with well-known bands and released numerous EPs. An impressive CV for a rapidly rising outfit. Their sound and approach is hugely interesting. The influences of Queens of the Stone Age is evident, although they need no comparisons. Each song has a unique and eclectic performance. The musicianship of each member is highly impressive, and although instrumental, the exciting sound of the trio has no need for a vocalist. The wide-ranging, highly skilled guitar of Charlie Barnes, the high-energy bass of Callum Oak, all brilliantly brought together by the impressive drumming Toby Green is an intriguing recipe for a band who certainly have a bright future ahead of them.
All Over Again, All Over Again
Delmer Darion is an Exeter and Bath-based electronica duo, and much like other duos under the broad umbrella of the genre they’re a fusion of two very different styles. Nowhere can this be seen more than on track ‘Paris Street’, where the rising voice of Emily Burns is underlined by crushing, glitchy synths. It’s a mixture of beauty and discord which recalls the smashed-together tape hiss and bright drones of Stars of the Lid at its best. And this liminality is where Delmer Darion works best; the rising complexity of ‘Monaco/Korea’ is suddenly broken by a repetition first few notes and – cliché inbound – the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. Or a track like ‘Disrobe’, where the twinkling sound of childhood is layered over obscure vocal samples straight out of a lost MF DOOM album and suddenly crushed by vicious bass. I’m not intimately familiar with the genre as a whole, but to me this album is front-to-back fantastic. It is the latest and best card to pull out of your sleeve to prove that Exeter’s music scene is alive and kicking.
The Emperor of Ice Cream
Tom Lenton, a local Exeter lad and his partner in crime, Oliver Jack, from Bath make Delmer Darion. The duo have been busy this year producing two releases: the faultless debut All Over Again, All Over Again and this – the second – The Emperor of Ice Cream, an album of original productions, B-sides and remixes. There are altered covers of songs ingrained in popular culture, but you would not have heard ‘Can’t Stop’ by Red Hot Chilli Peppers or ‘Maps’ by Yeah Yeah Yeahs sound anything like this before. Like its sister release, all the tracks flow seamlessly together, in careful relation to one another. This unity manifests itself in more than musicality, with tracks such as ‘Sitting Along the Bed’s Edge’ featuring an evoking sample from the eponymous blockbuster speech in Jerry Maguire, “You had me at hello”. In the background, the song’s haunting beat continues, hypnotically submerging an iconic film sample so that it seems made for the song. The sophomore release is seeped in originality, yet this post-modern electronica is grounded in strong bass and moments of pure poignancy and, at times, it’s best just to sit on this bed’s edge and be amazed.
Keep Us Sane
Light-hearted but by no means shallow, Emily Howard’s latest release ‘Keep Us Sane’ is one of those records that needs to be listened more than once to be fully appreciated. On her Facebook page, the Exeter based indie artist defines her own music as ‘Acoustic Soul’, but at times, especially in the first track ‘Never Mind’, a reggae touch can be spotted. Emily Howard’s soft and deep voice, the arrangements and the meaningful lyrics, all play their part in making ‘Keep Us Sane’ an enjoyable record. The range of themes explored is wide: love, loneliness (‘Number One’), unrequited love (‘Can’t Fall in Love’), but all songs share the same cheerful attitude and ironic twist. ‘No Blood for Oil’ attacks war, consumerism and that mainstream music which little has to do with art, without losing the carefree and optimistic touch. The spirit of ‘Keep Us Sane’ is perfectly synthesised in the colourful CD case, designed by Sissy Lange.
Two Songs is the third digital release by Alex Hall and Jake Griffiths, also known as Honey Pot. Hall is possibly familiar to Exeter music-lovers for being behind the No Seatbelt DIY nights at Cavern that showcase punk rock and grunge bands. The duo’s own effort, consisting of the tracks ‘Diary Pt. 1’ and ‘Wilt’, is a little more subdued. Both songs open with a simple but sweet riff played on acoustic guitar that contrasts with Hall’s signature punk-esque diction. The use of two, slightly out of sync vocals lift the track, with both voices blending well together to create a soothing sound. The highlight is the use of the acoustic guitar, particularly in ‘Wilt’, where it is played simply but adds subtle sense of the track building. If you’re a fan of acoustic songs with simple, mellow vocals but a little more musical interest, then Two Songs will be right up your street. And as the tracks are available on the band’s website for free – or can be bought at a cost of your choosing – it’s certainly worth a listen.
Hailing from Bristol, University of Exeter student Liam Monsell, under the pseudonym ‘Item’, is the man responsible for this collection of Exonian Electronica. An elegant excursion through a trippy beat-ridden landscape, Stammer is a fine piece of work, with intelligent and introspective ambience lushly contrasting with sampled vocals and subterranean drum machines, which fills the EP with a haunting and esoteric atmosphere. Nevertheless, despite a continuous atmosphere, the variety of beats and sound-fonts in Item’s arsenal means that new ideas are always around the corner, ensuring that enough of a variety is maintained to let each new track stand on its own. In addition, subtly placed samples allow the songs to expand to reach new heights as they progress, a tactic which helps to ensure that one is kept hooked throughout the duration of the songs, a fine strategy, and one that can often be exceptionally immersive. As such, what we have here is another fine compilation of darkly introspective Drum & Bass from a rather excellent source. Here’s to another year, and another release.
Devon-based five-piece Lipstick Jumpsuit describe themselves to be a psych/ garage rock band “residing in a shed in suburban Exeter… Trying to do something a little different.” The entirety of July’s EP Wonky Eyes doesn’t take one step away from the anthemic path. Vocal lines hark back to new wave electronica, raspily dancing around the likes of Gary Numan through a defiant Tubeway Army lens. The backdrop hollows out its own jangling route through the chaos of Ought and ambience of Mogwai. Opening tracks ‘TV Dinner’ and ‘I’m in Trouble’ splurge beatific lyrics punctuated by the songs’ titles. Heavy riffs and basslines continue; standout track ‘In Your Head’ dedicates an outro to chanting “That girl will hypnotize your mind but by the end of the night it’s safe to say, you’ll feel the same way.” There’s no filler – Wonky Eyes has the urgency of an early Stooges output, making nods to Lou Reed, and it certainly – as Pete Greenway said – sounds a world away from Exeter.
Times of Need
Times of Need was released during what was literally a time of need for Lukas Drinkwater – the Cornish artist wanted to be able to continue touring and this EP became his plea for funds. Is this EP enough to save him? Indeed, the EP is full of interesting twists and turns. It begins with two covers that he makes truly his own; ‘Straightjacket’ is mellow and intriguing, while his cover of ‘Blue Mountain Ridge’ is wonderful. Lukas’s guitar proficiency adds an intensity that the original by Fleet Foxes lacks, and although it lacks the dreaminess of Fleet Foxes, his partnering with other local legend Tobias Ben Jacob makes it captivating in its own unique way. Similarly, Lukas’s cover of Neil Young’s ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’ has a melancholic sweetness to it, seamlessly carrying on the acoustic vibes. From here, Lukas makes a sudden jump from acoustic folk to neo-jazz showcasing what a varied and multi-talented musician he really is. You could say choose, push the boat out and jazz it up or stick to the safe acoustic covers – but if Lukas has the ability to perfect both, then why not?
Named with homage to the Black Sabbath song, National Acrobats are a relatively new band to the Exeter music scene. Vocalist Tom Greener and guitarist George Harry met last September, intent in taking part in the infamous Battle of the Bands in Cavern – an exciting prospect to any new band. The duo recruited, through what vocalist Tom describes as “a period of intense Facebook stalking”, their current bass player Adam Savage, and since reaching the final of Battle of the Bands, drummer Tom Brown. The Demo releases had me listening intently almost immediately. ‘Figures’, the first song of the release, has a distinctly upbeat and jumpy feel – an appeal that has drawn indie-band Foals so much success. The exciting drumming of Brown on the track ‘Jericho’ holds the group together with ease. My personal favourite out of the three, ‘These Days’, introduces the impressive bass of Savage. Throughout, the bold vocals of Greener and the high tempo guitar playing of Harry overlie the music perfectly, with the potential of propelling the band to the greater heights which they deserve.
Image 27 EP
The Image 27 EP by Peacock Affect is meditative, haunting and beautiful – the perfect soundtrack to winter. This would be an excellent companion for a January stroll along the Quayside, or a reflective wander by the Cathedral. Simple guitar and piano parts provide an ideal base for showcasing George Holman’s mournful vocals and meaningful lyrics. There are bursts of creativity such as the refreshing spoken word aspect of ‘Painting Pictures of a Never Ending Mess’ and ‘Sky Blue’ which also have particularly intriguing lyrics. Despite his quiet style, Peacock Affect keeps the listener captivated by occasionally building up the sound into something stronger. He does this with an expert touch in a Marilyn Manson cover ‘The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles’. He also alters his pitch and tone, switching between smooth sounds and an almost guttural growl in ‘The Drowning’. All of the tracks are incredibly well produced with a professional quality that could be likened to Richard Hawley. This is definitely an artist to watch in 2016.
Red Skies EP
Released in September, Red Skies is the second EP from current Exeter University student Sam England – it is an enchanting release filled with delicate folk songs that showcase England’s aptitude for the guitar. The EP’s opening and title track ‘Red Skies’ is reminiscent of early Ben Howard, with the England’s acoustic guitar being the principle instrument, mixed with Bombay Bicycle Club with whom England shares his breathy baritone. Christie Gardner of Lilo’s Wall also features as a female backing singer, and is a strong addition, to England what Lucy Rose is to the aforementioned Bicycle Club. The EP collates a strong start, and the following don’t do it an injustice; England’s professional production and intricate guitar lines lends an authentic folksiness to his sound, while the raw anxieties of love and loss presented in his lyrics captivates the listener and is thought-provoking, intellectual, and that’s to say nothing on what it does to the emotions. There is no denying that Red Skies is an unwaveringly slow-paced, melancholic EP, but this pace fits the style and mood like a finely crafted glove.
Selfish Son’s debut EP offers a confident mixture of genres, pertinent lyrical content and smooth vocal harmonies. Grunge heavy and dark but filled with indie pop bounce, this record is sure to appeal to a wide audience. Vocalist Samuel Bedford’s gruff and strained techniques in stark contrast to bassist Lande Hekt’s delicate backing vocals nicely accentuate this. Selfish Son’s debut promises increasing growth, as this opening statement skirts with well-balanced guitar riffs and pop choruses. Highlights of the EP include ‘Blood In My Mouth’ which wouldn’t feel out of place on daytime Radio 1, and ‘Shade’ which accentuates Bedford’s fuzz-heavy, guitar tone in driving grunge. Lyrically the record is mature, more so than most debuts. This in conjunction with the band’s live energy gives promise of an exciting future for this young band.
Everybody Freeze, Everybody Get Down
When I announced that I would be going to study at Exeter, the three most common responses I got were: “Oh, Exeter is lovely”; “Bit hilly, isn’t it?” and “I’ve always wanted to retire to that part of the country”. It’s a problem that Devon has always had to face, with little diversity, and lots of old people. With that in mind, it was refreshing to stumble across The Sherpas: a vibrant indie five-piece hailing from Exeter, kicking a bit of life back into our music scene. There’s nothing particularly show-stopping about them, it’s just refreshingly good fun. Hallmarked by the ping-pong basslines and flittering guitar riffs reflecting off of each other, they give off a youthfulness akin to Bombay Bicycle Club’s first album, the kind of band born to kick off a Saturday night at Cavern. They’ve just finished their first big UK tour and released their debut EP, Everybody Freeze, Everybody Get Down, a bold mix of tracks ranging from playful indie (‘Wilderness’; ‘E F E G D’) to slow-burning anthems (‘Zero’). It’s a bit like early Maccabees, only with fewer garish guitars and a twinge of slick funk. Perhaps they’ll be one of the resident artists on Cavern’s playlist in a few years, who knows?
Shit Present, who feature current and former members of Great Cynics, OK Pilot, Gnarwolves and The Computers, to name a few, have created a significant buzz in the DIY punk scene nationwide since they started playing their first shows earlier this year, and with good reason. The band started as a solo project of singer-guitarist Iona Cairns, before evolving into a full band and releasing this debut EP, which features a catchy set of indie-punk songs which highlight the excellence of Cairns’ skills as a songwriter and vocalist. Opening track ‘Anxious Type’ deals with issues of anxiety with defiance and one of the best hooks of the year, whilst the more mellow and introspective ‘Melbourne’ is in my top five songs of the year, with its fantastic lyrical story-telling and melody. This EP will leave you wanting more material, and with the band playing several new songs at their recent Cavern show, it should be anticipated sooner rather than later, and I for one can’t wait.
Sound of the Sirens
All We Have Is Time
When Sound of the Sirens formed, it must have been difficult to imagine that they would be playing at Glastonbury and on TFI Friday, as well as featuring on Chris Evans’ BBC Radio 2, all in 2015. As their following grows, this local Exeter duo may be left reeling at the attention their talent is drawing in. The Sirens, as they call themselves, formed of young musicians Abbe and Hannah, are upbeat, folksy and edgy, everything that’s needed in the cookie-cutter mainstream music charts. Independently, Abbe and Hannah sing their own melodies and weave their own stories, but their voices meld fluidly into a harmonious, riveting tune. Even the most reticent of listeners won’t be able to resist foot tapping or head bopping to the various instruments and witty lyrics. They truly are a flawless meeting of two talented individuals, creating magic in their music. Whilst folk music might not be everyone’s cup of Earl Grey, these women astound and beguile with their seamless musical charisma and are most certainly worth listening to, regardless of usual preference of genre.
Splitsville’s debut EP Blackouts definitely announces the band’s arrival on the Exeter music scene with a bang. All four songs achieve a nice balance between upbeat punk melodies, catchy guitar riffs and emotive grunge lyrics. The title track is lyrically the most emo track on the release (“I’m like a child with a deadly disease, I don’t plan on growing old”), but its fast tempo stops it from being too discouraging, and the punchy guitar riffs at the beginning are balanced out with slower, more chilled instrumental motifs towards the end. ‘Grayscale’ continues in a similar vein, with just a little more scream from characterful frontman Jordan White. Then, the standout track ‘I’ll Be Fine’ reminds of a grungier ‘Mr Brightside’. ‘Inadequacy’ is one to listen to when you’re feeling a bit angry; it has a brilliant introductory section of muttered spoken word and rap, then gradually builds in intensity until the drums and guitar fall silent and the repeated phrase “I was never enough” is half croaked, half screamed. Splitsville are getting a great deal of attention in Exeter’s underground live scene, and Blackouts is the perfect debut to add to their burgeoning reputation.
Upon immediate listening to the first track ‘JungFrau’ on their new Neon Traces EP (roughly translated as “virgin forever”), one would think Stella Martyr are a German Christian pop group. However, the Exeter based electro/guitar band stick to their roots by rarely leaving Devon: and they’ve no need, when they’ve bagged supporting slots for the huge Everything Everything and Public Service Broadcasting in Exeter Phoenix since their formation in 2012. Stella Martyr have found their sound and stuck with it for ‘JungFrau’ and ‘Concrete Kisses’, which both encompass soft synths and twinkling guitars, along with all the usual sounds you’d expect a guitar pop band to hold, including sharp vocals by leading man David Myers. ‘Running Rabbits’ brings an unexpected twist with a soft but incredibly tight drum track, delicate synths, and a staccato guitar pattern. The ill-fitting vocals sing of fear and dystopias, but are joined on the shuffled and piano heavy ‘Immortals’ by a pretty female backing voice making for easier listening. ‘Sugar’ treats listeners to a calming lullaby of picked guitars and sustained strings, coating the ending of Stella Martyr’s debut with sweetness.
Souvenirs EP of veteran student Takao, creates a chilled ambience which could perhaps be put down to the making of the EP, while Takao enjoyed a year abroad in Nantes – those warm French evenings being the perfect backdrop for such layered, yet laidback, techno vibes. Souvenirs opens with the hypnotic ‘Humis’, which draws the listener in for ‘Souvenirs’, the title track and gem of the EP. ‘Souvenirs’ has been named as one of the top tracks of the year for BBC Introducing Devon, and it is easy to see why. In many ways, the multiple layers in this track make it more enticing than the rather obvious hypnotic sample featured on ‘Humis’, and when the beat drops the impact this has on the mood of the track is surprising. The tracks build and blend seamlessly creating an EP that is very easy to listen to, and this trait is never more true than between ‘Souvenirs’ and the final track ‘Shame for You’, which builds in intensity to create an urgency that encourages dancing. However, this isn’t necessarily house to dance to, rather more those chilled, spacey moments when you want to get lost in something special.
Tobias Ben Jacob / Lukas Drinkwater
The Burning Low EP
Collaborations have treated the world of music in 2015. Ghostface Killah read his hip-hop over the smooth Canadian jazz lilts of BADBADNOTGOOD; El Vy was born from The National and Ramona Falls; Thom Yorke popped into a Portishead live set; Flying Lotus closed Glastonbury with funk legend George Clinton, only hours after Patti Smith sang Happy Birthday to the Dalai Lama. The collaborative spirit made its way to Devon, too, with an acoustic/folk powerhouse of Tobias ben Jacob and Lukas Drinkwater for the Burning Low EP. The project was initially started through PledgeMusic, amid undulations of potential record label deals and summer festivals. The title track is faultless, a grounding for the EP with airtime on BBC Radio 2 and 6Music. Live favourite ‘The Devil & Tobias ben Jacob’ sits in two movements; one, brought to a hushed whisper, the other, the potential younger cousin of Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Cecelia’. Rounded up by ‘We Are the First Ones Now’ with additional vocals from Wildwood Kin, this EP one of the finest examples of Exeter folk; there’s life in the old genre yet.
Scoop Out the Good Stuff
So “Henry and Jon have this friend named Greg. They only get to see him on the weekend. So, our band is called Weekend Greg.” Makes sense, right? Let me introduce you to the wildcard on Exeposé Music’s local list, for they’re based in sunny Exeter, New Hampshire (the promised, mirrored and subverted Exeter beneath our own Devonshire bubble). That’s not local, you say? Well, when semantics and geography go for tea, nobody pays any attention. And neither will we. Scoop Out The Good Stuff has that stuff in buckets – it enacts the silent friendship of Mac DeMarco and the Beach Boys, from the funk riff of ‘Jon’s Jam’ to the playful key interlude and lead blues solo in ‘Ragged’, and jazzed vocal discord of ‘New York’. Alongside jittering saxophone appearances, the eleven track debut LP closes with ‘Lucky Last’ and ‘Jiggly Dump’, textured with as much good sense as instrumentation. There may be over 5000km between us and them, but let’s not turn it into “us” and “them”, let’s just be friends, especially on the weekend.
Salt of the Earth EP
Folk music flourishes in Devon, and the rolling hills and stunning architecture have certainly inspired Wildwood Kin, a female band from Exeter. Wildwood Kin, composed of sisters Beth and Emillie and cousin Meghan, use their unique vocal talents to breathe life into their beautiful lyrics and create music which is pleasant to listen to, regardless of your usual preference in genre. Wildwood’s latest EP, Salt of the Earth, combines gentle melodies with the more upbeat title track, featuring an acoustic arrangement and intriguing lyrics written by the musicians themselves. Whilst usually indie music and americana don’t always mix well, the textured percussion of Wildwood’s sound layers the two distinctive genres into one hybrid which exceeds expectations. Accompanying Seth Lakeman on his most recent tour and currently performing in France, their distinctive sound reaches out past the Devon boundaries and into the stratosphere of international acclaim. Wildwood Kin is certainly a band which Exeter should be proud of. In 2016, Wildwood Kin will be releasing their next EP and are scheduled to play in London and Cornwall.
Zuri Aura may be from the rain-soaked South West, but they are channelling a far more exotic sound. Their chilled-out three track EP, Luminous Shift, released earlier this year, transports you far away from the anti-climactic drizzle of an Exeter winter, to a steamy, tropical island, where January is just a distant memory… If you are forced to return to the real world and start some revision, Zuri Aura has created the perfect background music with Aduja’s rhythmic crooning lulling you into a calming stupor whilst an off-beat guitar melodically beats time. Soul and reggae are underrepresented in Exeter’s local music scene, but you can see how Zuri Aura could make some headway. ‘Momental Errors’ has a particularly simple melody, sticking in your mind long after the track has finished, with its metronomic tempo echoed throughout Luminous Shift. It’s not a ground-breaking record, yet Zuri Aura provide just enough of a ska twist to stand out within the Exeter scene.