The Soundshark’s Top 20 Songs of 2015

Something somebody said recently struck me as it made an awful lot of sense. Exactly when do you stop saying, ‘Happy New Year,’ to one another? Or at least when does it become acceptable at the least. I honestly don’t know, but for now, I’m still considering it an appropriate time to talk about my favourite songs of last year. Seeming I’ve made a habit of it, and I finally have time to sit down and write about them.

2015 was a challenging year as it more or less marked my transition from degree student to having to fend for myself. Sometimes it sucked, sometimes it didn’t. But something that I didn’t previously have was a companion, somebody that I hold very dear to me and somebody I look forward to what the future holds for the both of us. As such, she has had an impact on deciding this list, just as much as the rollercoaster of emotions I’ve gone through in the past year has. Like I’ve said before, I do these lists for biographical reasons, to show where I’ve been and what’s happened in years gone by. Music and memory are powerful things.

So my rules for the list are as follows: I don’t always pick songs from this year to put on the list, it involves literally anything I’ve listened to in the past year that I’ve enjoyed frequently enough (that said, there are a lot of 2015 entries on this list which makes a change), but I try to avoid putting more than one song by the same artist in. Some of my past lists had more than one or two. You can find them on Spotify if you want to.

I would like to make an honourable mentions list, but there were far too many to include on this year’s list, so I’ll skip that formality this time. Just so many good moments or songs to include the entire list. And if you would like to listen to this list uninterrupted, commentary-free, then head on over to the Spotify playlist instead.

Righty then, on with the show…

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Bowie And Me

amplified-david-bowie-aladdin-sane-womens-white-vest-logo-web_1

Credit: Vanilla Underground/Amplified

To clarify from the outset, I never had the opportunity to meet David Bowie and I don’t think I could the handle the opportunity if I did. I probably would’ve melted in the presence of his aura. As long as somebody poured me into a glass so I could live the rest of my life in there, that would’ve been grand in that scenario. Or a fish bowl, so at least I’d have a little food. Anyway, this isn’t going to be an obituary or tribute of sorts, as plenty of people would’ve been doing that already and probably better than I would. And by all accounts, I’m not the biggest Bowie fan on the planet. But what I am is a fan of music, and a person who appreciates David Bowie’s music, the importance it had and his legacy.

Fun fact for you folks: 1 January 2015. I’m on the bill DJing a New Year’s Eve event in Quake Nightclub in Woking. The evening winds down rapidly at around 20 to two in the morning, and I’m the only DJ and person left in the entire nightclub. So to fill those twenty minutes before the place closes, what did I do? Played the greatest hits of the 80’s. I didn’t give a shit and nobody else did, because nobody was there. So I spin a couple of tracks, Blondie, The Clash I seem to remember, then I have one last song to play before I try and find someone to sort the mess out, and instinct only told me to play David Bowie’s Ashes To Ashes. It seemed more poignant that night, as Quake was only open for one more evening, and I had the pleasure of playing the last ever song in there. Well, I did, right until Quake posthumously reopened later that year and I lost that privilege. I’m still rather upset about that.

 

 

For me, Ashes To Ashes is quite possibly one of my favourite songs ever, period. To me, it epitomises what the perfect pop song sounds like, and balances being unforgettable and rapturous, just as well as being melancholic and haunting. I own David Bowie’s Low, which according to NME is a perfect album from beginning to end, and while I don’t agree with the vast majority of things I see or read from NME, they’re spot on with this. People point to Sound And Vision from that album, when in reality, there’s such a strong collection of songs to be found, it’s a pity that it gets overlooked so often, despite being part of the Berlin trilogy. Another fun fact: Joy Division were originally called Warsaw, after Warszawa from this album.

 

 

He has an incredible back catalogue of songs, my parents can certainly attest to that. Although they are no longer together, they are huge Bowie fans, and I know they haven’t taken his departure from this world to the next particularly well. In a sense, I have grown up with Bowie, kinda like a family pet that’s always been there. But now he’s gone, it feels like somebody has hoisted my soul from my body, trampled all over it and returned it to me afterwards. His loss, as a fan of music and a fan of his own work, to me, can only be described as spiritually devastating. This is going to sound very overdramatic, but had David Bowie not made music at all, my parents may have never had that mutual connection through his music. Of course there are many other factors involved here, but had a mutual love of Bowie not been part of that, there could have been a distant chance I may never could’ve been conceived, could never have been born and could never been alive.

Quite frankly, if David Bowie didn’t make music, then there may have been a remote chance I wouldn’t exist.

Like I said, overdramatic, but in a weird way, that’s sort of the thanks I can give to David Bowie. Thanks for helping me to exist. I’m sure there’s a generation of young people such as myself who could say the same thing if they wanted to, but that would largely depend on whether they work on an abstract and undeniably bizarre level of thinking. Or the thought doesn’t freak them out or anything. You know what I mean. The kinda thinking that makes you want to go get an Aladdin Sane thunderbolt tattooed somewhere because his death actually has more importance than you realised. Not on my face obviously, somewhere sensible.

Bowie always thought to challenge others with his art and his music, and that’s one of the reasons why he is revered as such.

Farewell David Bowie. Artist. Chameleon. Pioneer. Genius. Icon.

I’ll leave you with a song I’m not seeing often enough in the Bowie media flurry. This isn’t a reflection of how I feel, but perhaps how others may feel and perhaps how the planet should feel without him.

 

 

If you enjoyed these words or whatever on earth this was supposed to be, then head on over to my social media and tell me so! Or don’t, your move.

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Track Of The Week: Sophie’s Earthquake – Zero Distance

Human nature is an unusual and difficult thing to predict at the best of times. It sees the worst in humanity, being driven to inflict pain, misery and suffering upon one another or even to be as cruel as to end another’s life, for whatever goal or reason that consumes you. But it can also bring out the best in our species, to love, cherish and show compassion to another, to share an experience or a memory that leaves an everlasting impact on the recipients, that can last for the rest of your days.

I had already made the joke at Sophie’s Earthquake’ expense regarding a girl creating an earthquake that ultimately costs the lives of our fellow man. Only to have that theory shot down not long after, once the band contacted me themselves saying the name was actually derived from having the rehearsal space underneath the drummer’s house, whom wife is called Sophie. Least I seem to recall that’s where the name came from. The story’s all here anyway. But this goes hand in hand with what’s already been said about human kindness. After the original article focusing on their EP, they were incredibly generous enough to offer me an exclusive listen to an unmastered demo, taken from their forthcoming album, the demo now known as Fatima and Flood respectively. I had never been given such a moment of privilege in my entire life, and was truly humbled by this experience and will continue to be forever grateful for.

Four to five months later, Sophie’s Earthquake’s debut album was released on Christmas Eve just gone. Titled The Flood, it carries on their psychedelic- meets-grunge approach, but in the gap between their EP and the album, the band have truly blossomed and evolved their sound into some musically jaw-dropping compositions. Although Fatima and Flood were conjoined upon my first listen, they were separated for the album’s release but still retain that sense of awe and excitement I felt upon that twelve minute extravaganza of smoky ambience and blazing guitar work in full instrumental glory. Despite being released very late last year, for fans of music with a chasm-like depth of atmosphere and scale, you need to listen to this album.

My pick from The Flood, personally has to be Zero Distance. The Alice In Chains-style tone has morphed into a more ominous, urgent sounding presence, lying in the shadows. It certainly sounds far more abrasive and threatening than any moment of their previous work, likely down to the distortion on the guitar.  The beat of the war drum drum hasn’t changed however, but it didn’t need to. It was already a gratifying percussive force and complimented the swirling atmosphere beautifully. Here, against the tone of an oncoming storm, each thump of the skins is another footstep closer to something landscape-changing. Upon the beat becoming regular and that snare serving as warning shots, you can feel something electric building up further and further into time. Throughout you also get the warm rumblings of bass, providing an additional layer of groove or thickening the overall atmosphere, just when chaos seems around the corner. Echoes of a voice wailing in the distance lead in the blues-soaked vocal chords, that do undeniably have a resemblance to the late Layne Staley. While we given the impression the band were unsure at first whether to include vocals in the bulk of their songs, the decision and startling confidence behind the delivery speaks volumes.

Switching from sinister whispers, to a soulful, whiskey-coated croon, to a melancholic but empowered bellow to make you tremble where you stand, the vocal projection has been elevated to another level from past material. And transferring such passion into a darker, brooding progressive journey, only enhances the experience. The moving cries of lead guitar harmonise with groove of the bassline, giving one last moment of calm and stability in the sonic landscape, before the inevitable gear switch, triggered by the sudden emphasis on bass driving the tempo. It becomes a manner of waiting. Power chords are left to wail and ring into the night, while drums intensify and diminish just as quickly, teasing that pay-off. It is left down to an almighty yell, for all the instruments to unite in one hurricane-force gust and unleash the unstoppable psychedelic force they possess. In tone, the atmosphere sits more in a dark and stormy night than a haze-infused trip, so the moment doesn’t explode as such, but it doesn’t make the guitar soloing any more stellar and spectacular. Bass plays a crucial part in making this a real special moment, the prominent deep grinding away, adding more than a substantial yin to the guitar’s yang, while drums keep pounding hard and inject some subtle rhythmic nuances to the pace. Towards the final furlong, this truly is a moment of pure rapture and a moment to lose yourself within. One tremendous drum performance, the continual bass siege and one last blues-touched anti-war slogan, we come to a close.

Aside from being some of the absolute nicest gentlemen I’ve ever had the opportunity to reach out to, Sophie’s Earthquake are killer musicians and deserving of a higher pedestal to put their music on. The Flood is a fantastic debut album, taking what made them a fascinating prospect and fleshing it out above and beyond what was thought they were capable of. Far darker in mood and tone than could be anticipated, but full of intoxicatingly good musicianship and songs, that are enjoyably progressive but can keep you guessing too.

 

The Flood and their debut EP are only available to purchase on their Bandcamp page, for very reasonable prices might I add, while physical copies are currently in the planning stages. Their website is also under maintenance. as of the time of writing. Sophie’s Earthquake will no doubt also be touring shortly, so keep an eye on their social media.

Which you can do so by clicking this link here and giving them a great big thumbs up:

https://www.facebook.com/Sophies-Earthquake-833196446731760/?fref=ts

And if you feel like giving me a thumbs up at all for this post, you can give me a like, a follow of subscribe to the blog, if you want to of course:

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L’aléatoire

I have never claimed to be a journalist of any description, even if I am covering new and up-coming bands, or writing music-based reviews and such. But then again, I’ve never considered myself a detective, but I do a lot of research into subject matters I have a large interest in. Like you’re supposed to do for a degree, but you don’t get awarded a degree for being a detective in media studies. I think it’d be a better title personally. I bring this up because for a new and emerging band, I could gather all the necessary information I desire to write an informed piece by asking for a press release, like a journalist would. But instead, I am belaying that in favour of doing my own research and bringing you my findings via this piece I present to you right now, perhaps in the spirit of playing detective. It makes far more sense in the context of L’aléatoire, despite collaborating together for three years, have only starting making music together in the last year or so. Very little information about them is publicly available right now, so this is what I can tell you from research. L’aléatoire, French for random or uncertain depending on conversational use, are a two-man electro-metal project residing in London, whom appear to have an interest in occult imagery, judging by a hooded youth as a centaur I came across, but seem have taken their image in a new direction more towards that of 19th century illustrations of sharp objects and tools, which coupled with their technologically enhanced style of music, actually makes for a far more fearsome identity. Their debut single The Untreated has only been in the public domain over 24 hours at the time of writing, so it retains all the satisfaction of finding literal brand new music. And when I talk about satisfying, it certainly satisfies an itch or two. Our introduction to this song almost feels like it begins in a medical facility, the quickness and tension in those opening synth notes bringing an immediate sense of peril or threat, like being under the knife if it were. The programming brings rapid cymbal taps into the mix and a deep, warm, throbbing synth joins in underneath, starting to piece together a fuller atmosphere as unease starts to set in. Kicks and snares are next to enter, as does the occasional sample of a sitar, which actually fits into the jigsaw incredibly well, adding a slight unique, exotic twist to an otherwise cold overtone. Right up until that saw-sharp guitar tone cuts through the electronics like a… well, you know. The beat starts to form around this guitar interjection, as do the synths and ambience, morphing into a far more dangerous beast than you could have anticipated. The encounter is brief however, falling just under the three minute mark and even though the composition isn’t entirely complex, it remains absolutely gripping, purely through surgically precise production. It certainly sits as an intriguing teaser if anything, and judging by their prowess to produce live industrial mixes, there is a huge amount of promise and possibility to come soon. Illustrations aside, they have all the tools they need to make it happen.

The Untreated is available for a free download here, ahead of a debut EP release, scheduled for sometime in Spring. They’ve just released a video for the track which can be found right here on YouTube, but you can enjoy their industrial live mix right here in the mean time on their Soundcloud if this has tickled your fancy.

They’ve just started making moves with their social media, so go give them your support to get the machine up-and-running:

https://www.facebook.com/laleatoiremusic/?fref=ts
https://twitter.com/LaleatoireMusic

And if you feel like helping my social media machine at all, entirely at your choice, you can like, follow or subscribe to the blog right here:

https://www.facebook.com/IAmTheSoundshark/?fref=ts
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Who Is Louis

I’ve often looked at band names and wondering if there is a market for bands whose names are questions. In a romantic sense, a fictional band in my favourite film ever is called Where’s Fluffy? A band I wish existed due to how obsessed I actually am with that film, so I could find out how awesome their music is/was. They wrote a song called Black Carnage. Do the math. On the other hand, and on a point I may expand upon at a later date, when you name your band something along the lines of Sarah Where Is My Tea or Did You Mean Australia?… yeah, those bands have broken up now. One of my favourite bands ever are Does It Offend You, Yeah?, responsible for one of my favourite albums ever, but sadly they too will be calling it a day this year. Maybe it’s just the irony of having their band name as a question that gets far too much for them. Pure speculation there. So just who exactly is Who Is Louis? And can people count on them to break this unfortunate curse? The answer seems more positive. Who Is Louis are a Danish electronic-pop troupe with a delicately sassy female vocalist and an ear for hypnotic rhythms and chilling, euphoric atmosphere. Singles of theirs currently float around on the internet if you go in pursuit of them, but they’re looking to the immediate future and to the imminent release of their debut album, which has seen more than its fair share of adversity to reach the surface. They have every right to be excited for the future. First single Fancy Me is a shape-shifting head phase of a track, skilfully blending pseudo-EDM hooks with the cool breeze of mellowed guitar ambience. I’m not intentionally writing a drinks commercial here, but it is like asking for a refreshing cocktail and piling on the ice. Synth with an analogue touch, backs the echoes of a femme fatale in the making, all paced by the gentle plucking of bass underneath to lead the track in. Icy, reverb-soaked synth stabs later replace the moderately warmer pads, like ghosts leaving the body of their hosts and give an air of tension and build-up to proceedings. The drums certainly imply as such too. But what happens as you expect the first club hit of 2016 to drop in, is something far more breathtaking. A wave of guitar brushes past, while its synth counterpart elevates the mood to being within a distant but fond, happy memory. Wandering through a realm of the serene if it were. It certainly livens up the track, as synths become far more grander and confident in their presentation in what follows and drums get rowdier, but just enough without becoming overpowering. Vocals are given more freedom and the stabs from before are allowed back into the mix as an extra hook into the skin, to ensure you don’t forget this track in a hurry. It all culminates in a luscious, surprisingly complex and layered, atmospheric pop showcase that displays the talent of three hungry and compelling musicians. So just who are Who Is Louis? A name you need to be paying attention to. The potential for a tantalising world woven together with an inventive twist on electronic pop music is only moments away.

Who Is Louis’ debut album is expected to be released sometime in January/February 2016, with Fancy Me being officially available at the end of this month. In the mean time, occupy yourself with their Alive EP which can be found on most respectable music retailers. It’s full of good music.

Tell them their music is wonderful by going here:

https://www.facebook.com/GretaLouis/?fref=ts
https://twitter.com/_whoislouis

And if you feel telling me I’m wonderful at all, be it through a like, a follow or subscribing to the blog, you can do so here, but at your complete discretion:

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20 Bands With New Music In 2016 You Should Keep An Eye On

Well, 2015 has reached its close, December slowly fading off into the distance as we leave behind a year of fantastic music and a year of fantastic bands, in the public knowledge and waiting to be discovered. What awaits us into the next calendar leap year? Hopefully more of the same and whatever craze next to infect the minds of the impressionable as it cracks the charts. I’m pretty sure 2015 was the year of big room house, or bass house, or whatever. I didn’t care enough to pay attention. But what I did care about, and what I very much care about, is hearing the rumblings or public declarations in some aspects of 20 under-the-radar, underrated, unsigned and underground bands making music in the new year that I’m excited about, and hopefully I can make you excited about too. After all, this is what I want to do for life. If I can’t make you excited about emerging or unearthed music, then I may as well quit here and now.

I’ll give it my best shot. So, in no particular order, 20 bands with new material in 2016, you might want to pay attention to:

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