After a week’s holiday, there were many albums for me to unravel and unpack upon my return not least Solange’s Seat At The Table, an album that takes the charged racial atmosphere of American in 2016 and produces a spiritual, political artistic statement on black lives, culture and family on an album teeming with music of black origin: R&B, soul, funk and gospel. Much of the music draws on restraint but an early highlight ‘Cranes In The Sky’ (See also the Sampha-featuring ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’, ‘Mad’ and ‘Junie’ for starters )
Banks – ‘Mind Games’
On her second album The Altar, Jillian Banks has really found her voice and projects it with a dominance that wasn’t present on her debut. Drawing on her emotions as strength, ‘Mind Games’ is indicative of her current more enjoyable phase, a more forceful, less-obvious superior alt R&B pop sound.
Nicolas Jaar – ‘Three Sides Of Nazareth’
Another surprise album release last week, Sirens, at 41 minutes and 6 tracks, is perhaps Nicolas Jaar’s most cohesive album. It finds him dabbling in new textures, like the ten-minute krautgrooving Suicide-esque motorik ‘Three Sides Of Nazareth’.
Tash Sultana – ‘Jungle’
A sprightly guitar pop hit from the land down under. With a history of busking, 21 year-old Melbourne artist Tash Sultana does it all herself on her new single ‘Jungle’, a refreshing bedroom pop number. Sultana has two singles out but Triple J support and buzz has lead her to sell out her six Melbourne and Sydney shows. One to watch and inbound for European dates too.
Amber Coffman – ‘All To Myself’
With new Dirty Projectors music out last month, Amber Coffman, the member who has demonstrated the most interest in collaborating elsewhere (Major Lazer, Frank Ocean, Snoop Dogg), Now she turns her attention to her solo album, coming on Columbia, called City of No Reply. ‘All To Myself’ is a warm and graceful intro to what’s to come.
Meltybrains? – Know My Name
Ireland’s finest ebullient experimentalists return with a diptych. Part one is an ambient dub track while part two is an electronic freakout that is reminiscent of the Super Furry Animals. Know their name. A new EP Kiss Yourself is out in November.
Bad Sea – Solid Air
Bad Sea’s two members, Ciara Thompson and Alan Farrell met on Tinder but quickly decided to pursue musical interests together over romantic ones. The band’s first single has elements of ’50s pop, indie and classic rock’n’roll. They claim its inspired by Angel Olsen and Carly Rae Jepsen and there is certainly some of the former’s vintage aesthetic in the air.
Danny Brown – ‘Ain’t It Funny’
Rapper Danny Brown’s third album Atrocity Exhibition is his most sonically polychromatic (fitting for a Warp Release) and features guests Kendrick, Petite Noir, Kelela, B-Real of Cypress Hill and Ab-Soul. ‘Ain’t It Funny’ six tracks in, is a blast of chase scene horns and Brown’s frenetic energy.
Midnight Magic – ‘I Gotta Feeling’
Nine-piece New York disco band Midnight Magic return with a sure-footed new single that falls somewhere between classic ’80s electro and disco. See? They are not only responsible for ‘Beam Me Up’. Wisely though, they asked the guy that made that song such a club hit – Jacques Renault to produce it.
Banks is back with a new album, the followup to the excellent Goddess on September 30th and ‘Fuck With Myself’ is our first taste, a a deeper, darker R&B style than we’re used to from her, imbued with convincing FKA Twigs-style atmosphere.
Chet Faker has released a new version of his Built On Glass album standout ‘1998’, which amps up the beats and brings in the sultry Banks for a duet on the track. It’s pretty fantastic and is out now on iTunes/ Apple Music.
Having been known for a harder-edged form of dance music, Lil Silva’s new EP, Mabel, will be a surprise to many as it eschews the sound he deployed on records for Night Slugs in favour of a gentle sonic space that is somewhere between R&B, pop and the xx-style indie dynamics.
24-year-old TJ Carter’s 2013 EP, Distance, also removed himself for the club with more chilled passages featuring Sampha and Rosie Lowe but the Mabel EP is almost completely devoid of regular club sounds (instrumental opener ‘First Mark’ has a grimey melody line), preferring a vocal and synth-lead action that’s closer to his previous collaborator Sampha. The sweet title track is about his grandmother.
A new voices appears twice, one of Lil Silva’s most prominent muse, Banks. Their partnerships started with the EP track ‘Work’ and has continued Banks’ debut album where Lil Silva provided the shuddering backdrop for the title track and is the album’s main producer.
On the EP, ‘Right For You’ sticks closer to the early Banks template with the pair duetting, while ‘Don’t You Love’, a sweet melodic hypnotic turn with jagged edges sounding the most well-rounded and complete vision of the pair working together on Silva’s terms.
At this point, we’ve now heard 8 of the 14 songs on the regular version of Banks’ Goddess‘ album and it’s not out til 5th of September.
At Longitude, the main stage, when compared to the last time I caught her was too big for a three-piece band (last time the band numbered five or six) but she equipped herself well and kept the crowd’s attention, looking like the kind of woman who walks around with an umbrella in LA, using past relationships injustices as fuel for performance and song.
‘Beggin For Thread’ is Banks’ new single so it’s afforded video status. The song lets in a bit more light than a lot of the other tracks on the album but the video sticks to monochrome shade.”
Longitude Festival is fast approaching this weekend in Marlay Park and while you already probably know the big draws you’re going to see whether it’s Haim, Disclosure, Ben Howard, Massive Attack, Rudimental, Hozier or Chvrches, like last year, here are my recommendations for five acts per day to see that are lesser known but equally worthy of making your festival.
When not rocking some sweet electronic funk with his partner in Ships, Simon Cullen delves headlong into elongated gilded space-disco. Last year’s Drift album collated his cosmic grooves into one place and live, recently at Body & Soul, Cullen had pushed the shapes of the songs into more hypnotic synth-laden structures.
Monochrome is one of my favourite albums of the last five years and that’s reason enough to recommend the Dublin pair. Ross Turner and Cian Murphy’s moody disco is infused with the brittle beauty of warm synthesizers of the past. Live, they expand, with members Rian Trench and Glen Keating into a propulsive and sophisticated live electronic band.
The Irish-born Manchester based DJ and producer has moved from electronic disco into deeper dancefloor weapons on his own label Cold Tonic in recent months and the sound really suits him, particularly when a tune as epic as ‘Squad’ is in his record bag. I would go for this song alone.
The Catalan producer’s 2012 album fin brought him international acclaim but he’s mostly spent the last two years DJing around the world since then with the exception of a handful of live shows. Listen to his three-hour set from the Button Factory last December for an idea.
I’m obsessed with this Banks song at the moment. Not much happening in the video other than Ms. Banks looking sultry and sartorial in front of a hall of mirrors but this track clearly has me in its clutches.
You know when there’s such a long build up to a debut album and you’ve heard most of it already, love the singles so kind of wouldn’t be surprised if the album didn’t have any more great songs on it, because, let’s face it, if like Banks, you had the following songs on your album: ‘Waiting Game’, ‘Brain’, ‘This Is What It Feels Like’, ‘Goddess’ and ‘Warm Water’, then that’s already five great songs.
Room for another? ‘Drowning’ is Banks’ new single, produced by Al Shux, and is another stellar single (out July 7th) with Jillian Banks channeling prior relationship difficulties, from the album Goddess out September 8th on Good Years/Harvest Records.
3. Waiting Game
5. This Is What It Feels Like
6. You Should Know Where I’m Coming From
8. Fuck Em Only We Know
10. Beggin For Thread
12. Someone New
13. Warm Water
14. Under The Table
As the buzz from SXSW subsides, Banks has lined up a U.S. tour for May before hitting Europe for much of the summer. Her debut album Goddess is due after all that and today Banks has posted the title track from the album due in September on Good Years / Harvest Records (US).
The album promises nine new tracks as well as her glut of great tunes we already know ‘This Is What It Feels Like’, ‘Waiting Game’, ”Brain’, ‘Change’ and ‘Warm Water’.
3. Waiting Game
5. This Is What It Feels Like
6. You Should Know Where I’m Coming From
8. Fuck Em Only We Know
10. Beggin For Thread
12. Someone New
13. Warm Water
14. Under The Table
If you weren’t already aware of the significance of South By SouthWest (SXSW), the shorthand goes like this: thousands of bands and artists at all levels in their careers come to Austin, Texas for a week in March after the tech industry has done its business the week before. They come to SXSW to be seen, to make deals, to spread the word about their music and to further their career.
In some cases, larger acts like Jay-Z, Kanye and Lady Gaga pick up the big cheques (sorry, checks, we are in America after all) and while there were a lot of mid-to-top level artists like St. Vincent, Damon Albarn, Cee Lo Green, Kendrick Lamar and err, Spandau Ballet in Austin last week, my focus, as it has been for the last six South Bys is on new music. Seeing an upcoming artist playing live for the first time is one of the main reasons I come here.
A bit of housekeeping: You can find out how the Irish got in with two pieces in print just published: Heathers and The Strypes at SXSW in Irish Independent’s Day and Night Mag last Friday. My interview with Hozier was in the Sunday Times Culture. He was blowing up at SXSW last week. Finally, there is a ton of daily updates from me to be found at Red Bull Ireland too.
Here are the 15 best sets I enjoyed in a sensory-overloading fatiguing but ultimately supremely rewarding SXSW.
American indie music’s best kept secret for the last ten odd years will be familiar to Irish audiences due to Foggy Notions bringing them to Dublin for a few times over that period. A timely reminder of the band’s live prowess was provided by the Baltimore band’s appearance on Late Night With Letterman a few weeks ago where singer Samuel T. Herring put in a towering magnetising PERFORMANCE of realness that included teary-eyed facial contortions, air-punching stage delivery, a voice that went from yearning wedding singer to a growling gutteral metal band craw, crab-like meme-friendly dancing and in ‘Seasons (Waiting On You)’, one of their most anthemic songs yet.
Their synth-pop music, especially new album Singles is pleasing, a career-best release from a live band at their best. In Cheer Up Charlie’s (formerly Club Deville) for the 4AD Showcase, the band codify all of these things into a lightning set.
Herring encourages crowd surfing and gives as much as he gets in terms of compliments. The set was such a feelgood masterclass, I hope performers were taking notes. A masterclass in music and showmanship.
2. Glass Animals
Some bands leave such a good impression you have to see them again. Of all the artists at SXSW, Oxford’s Glass Animals sound like the band most in waiting to hit a bigger level of popularity. They might be English but their alternative R&B music has a definite American swagger to it. Alt-J R&B, the journo part of my brain kept thinking.
Crucially, they already have songs that sound like people just need to hear to get on board with – ‘Gooey’, ‘Black Mambo’ and ‘Psylla” in particular. The two shows I caught, the band were meticulously prepared and their music intricately played. Their Harvest Records showcase set suffered from poor sound (as did everyone that night with the PA cutting out for every artist) but their last set of SXSW in Holy Mountain was a precursor of larger things to come.
Firstly, Sophie is a guy from the UK, not a girl at all. But there were other diverting things happening on stage during the Sophie set at The Hype Machine’s Hype Hotel that set my brain off the wall and my feet off the floor. Sophie’s electronic music is as modern as you can get: a unique tapestry that takes in threads of Rustie-style hyperactivity, zippy electro synthesizer lines, high-pitched female vocals and rap samples. Where Saint Pepsi and Cashmere Cat throw all of their influences in the mix, Sophie’s creates a symphonic digital experience that bounces off the walls in its own language. It’s a divisive sound that’s like listening to a kids TV theme song derailed by amphetamines.
The only long queue outside a venue during SXSW for me, occurred outside the Empire Automotive Garage, an actual car garage that had a reduced capacity that leant itself to such occurences. In the case of Kelela though, the line was warranted, the LA singer has teamed up with some of the most sonically inventive future music producers including Nguzunguzu, Jam City, Kingdom and Bok Bok.
Kelela’s voice on her own is honey-dripped, akin to Janet Jackson in tone. Those outsourced productions create stuttering bass-rattling synth jams for her voice to ride and it results in an atmospheric club music that transcends the plain surrounds. The music was suspended above our heads and encased us in laser-guided sonic comforts.
Jillian Banks’ performance at Haven for the Harvest Records showcase was one of the first of the week at South By. A series of excellent alternative R&B pop singles had already established Banks as one of the most exciting new artists around.
Like Kelela, she has outsourced beats from TEED, Sohn and Shlohmo. All the songs so far share a monochromatic sombre feel. Banks uses that vibe as a starting point to emote in full colour with her bellowing and sometimes wailing voice.
Most obvious from her set, was that Banks’ performance style has endearing. The nerves were clear but she was steely-eyed and gutsy in her delivery. There are relieving smiles after the first few songs as if a large hurdle has been crossed.
In songs like ‘Warm Water’, ‘Brain, ‘Waiting Game” and ‘Fall Over’, she has an embarrassment of great songs that people were already singing back at her and a new song from the forthcoming debut album was of the same calibre.
Photo: James Goulden.
So, as an Irish music person who goes to gigs regularly, I’ve seen Hozier four times since his ascension into a global concern (read my interview with him in the Sunday Times from March 23rd). It’s been a startlingly rapid rise and one that has knocked lesser musicians into career oblivion.
The answer to whether Hozier’s move into mainstream acceptance was too soon was plain to see in at the Communion Records showcase in St David’s Historic Sanctuary. Mr Hozier-Byrne has stepped up his live game significantly. Before he was shy and gangly looking, in Austin he was commanding and charming. He lead his seven-piece band where he had fronted them before, and when the song required a solo performance he was able to keep focus.
The new songs reveal a deeper connection to Delta and Chicago blues with bottleneck swamp guitar and a “howling at your door” outlook. Hozier played six or so shows in Austin and was on the tip of many tongues. Local radio was playing Take Me To Church and there was a deserved buzz around him.
There’s a glimpse of what may come in St. David’s Historic Sanctuary as the seated crowd hung on every sweetly sung Bill Withers-esque syllable.
Last night was the first official night of SXSW Music and Capitol subsidiary Harvest Records put on an impressive night of their artist roster including Young & Sick, Arthur Beatrice, Glass Animals and The Preatures. Most of the crowd present were there for Jillian Banks’ and her brooding atmospheric R&B.
Her set was damn impressive. Banks managed to convey the intensity of her songs. You believe her performance, which was her first festival set ever. So you can feel her nervousness, her resolve, her belief, her relief when people react as she hopes and her growing strength and comfort as the set continued. Aside from ‘Warm Water’, the clear crowd favourite last night, ‘Brain’, the recent Shlohmo-produced single has a gut-punching wailing soulful force to it live. I’m excited for this girl’s future and debut album after last night.
The new names are : Massive Attack , Rudimental, The 1975, Banks, Parquet Courts, Krystal Klear, O Emperor, Eagulls, Ry X, Say Lou Lou, Son Lux, Josef Salvat and Samaris.
That adds to the existing lineup which features: like Disclosure, , Haim, Bombay Bicycle Club, First Aid Kit , Icona Pop, James Vincent McMorrow, John Talabot, Bastille, Chvrches, Hozier, Sam Smith, Bonobo, Julio Bashmore, Cyril Hahn, Le Galaxie, Bondax and Roosevelt.
Longitude day by day Breakdown – so far
Friday:Ben Howard, Bastille, Bombay Bicycle Club, Icona Pop and George Ezra
Saturday: Disclosure, Haim, Chvrches, The 1975, Sam Smith and Hozier
Sunday: Massive Attack, James Vincent McMorrow, Rudimental, First Aid Kit and Banks
It takes place from Friday 18th July to Sunday 20th July in Marlay Park and tickets are on sale now. They are priced at €149.50 for Weekend tickets and Day tickets are €59.50, both plus fees.
I’ve fallen utterly in love with Banks‘ music in the last few months. For such a new artist her music has embedded itself deep: ‘Fall Over’, ‘This Is What It Feels Like’ and ‘Warm Water’ in particular.
Her new song, ‘Brain’, continues her run of working with electronic producers. Previous tracks featured collaborations with Lil Silva and Jamie Woon, SOHN and TEED but Shlohmo provides the slow-moving ambiance for a big vocal from the LA singer on her new track. It’s on iTunes right now.