As the world begins to stir, gently putting the gears back into production, and steadily adjusting weary eyes to the bright new horizon of 2019 (I mean, it probably won’t be that different, other than some cases of lingering hangovers, apparent nationwide incense about a vegan sausage roll, and more than likely international condemnation of whatever Donald Trump does next), we at least have a period longer to contemplate how good a year of music 2018 really did provide us with. However the longer it took to mull over how a good year of music it was, the more frustrating it became to whittle down and distil the ten best. It’s very safe to say EVERY album about to be mentioned was in contention for a top ten position. Tantrums happened and tears were nearly shed. An iron resolve and persistence eventually paid off, and in the settling dust, lay the final ten chosen to represent the best of 2018. Just one of them became the victor and declared ‘the undisputed favourite.’ Continue reading
The first month of the year always brings forth the time to look ahead to the next 11 months of what we all hope will be a monument in each of our lives, but it also serves as a stopping point to reflect on our previous rotation around the Sun and everything that happened in that particular snapshot of our lives. Safe to say, 2018 was not short on stellar musical performances and releases whatsoever, it may have been among the strongest years of this decade undoubtedly. While this site is often not bound by dates nor limitations, the strength of the music that bands and artists have produced this year was simply staggering, staggering to the degree that recognising and commending it as such had to be the course of action. So when it came to deciding which bands or musicians should be in contention for this accolade, this shortlist wasn’t so short. However, in terms of sheer hard graft, songwriting, endless energy on and off stage and their frankly indescribable success this year, none were more deserving than Glasgow’s finest wrecking crew, Lotus Eater.
For context, Lotus Eater entered 2018 with a handful of music videos detailing their ferocious, laser-tight, tech-metal onslaught, pining for violence and bloodlust, from their crushingly heavy debut EP. They enter 2019 with a record label, even more European show dates, countless festivals under their belt, Radio One Rock Show airplay, and with a reputation as one of the UK’s most nerve-shredding live bands. In the space of 12 months and with less than ten recorded songs. If you want the definition of meteoric rise, then this is it. Even side-by-side with their brothers in brutality Loathe, who’ve had a similar build in exponential growth this year, that is a truly astonishing feat.
Bathed from head to toe in green, these snarling, seething verses from the throats of real, pissed off, and disenfranchised youth is not a commodity. It’s an experience, an exhibition, an exercise of conveying unchained aggression and pure cathartic release, in one of the most devastating fashions likely to grace auditory nerves. Their guitars scream in the most vindictive and vengeful tones imaginable, yet while it becomes the sonic equivalent taking a breezeblock to the skull, their sense of groove twists this into some of the most unique and innovative hooks tech-metal has yet to produce. As musicians, their meddling with time signatures is surprisingly complex, given their vast emphasis on blunt force trauma, so their raw skill and ability should never be downplayed. Even in atmosphere and ambience, there is an unrelenting dread and malice that strays far from being overbearing and slots perfectly into this volatile formula. Not everything is rooted in vehemence, you get occasional clean vocals that may seem an oddity amongst such bleak and barbaric displays, it is but another tool they transform into a hook and sinks their stories even further into your brain.
Lotus Eater create music, that is as intense and personal as structured chaos gets. A band so relevant and immediate, that from the poverty-ridden streets of the UK’s third most populous city, understands despair, hardship, and disadvantage better than some take for granted, and expel their rage into mantras with more than a healthy fucking dose of reality behind it. Once this surfaces, why they have resonated with so many, so quickly becomes a no-brainer. Their desire and fervour to bring gloom worldwide, with a small but captivating and concise catalogue has to be applauded. Gloom is their home, and everyone is welcome.
Five essential Lotus Eater tracks:
All of Lotus Eater’s music can be found on Bandcamp and your reputable online retailers. You can grab all other merch and the likes from their Bigcartel page, but everything sells out fast, so act quickly on that front. They are currently signed to Hopeless Records, and chances are this will herald new music in 2019, so watch this space. They also begin a headline live run from January, and support dates that run into February. Find them all here, or hit up your local promoter to bring them to a venue near you.
All news and updates regarding these gentlemen can be found on their social media here:
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On the 11th March 2018, something short of ground-breaking was announced on the social media outlets of one of the world’s most renowned progressive metal groups. Tool had entered the studio to record what has become their now fabled follow-up to 2006’s 10,000 Days. While this news has become a revelation and an answer to many a collective prayer (or keyboard warrior whinging, depending on how you view it), Maynard himself put on record at Metal Hammer’s Golden Gods ceremony that the new Tool album will most likely see the light of day in 2019. Affirmation is one thing, and commitment another, and while 2019 is just around the corner, chances are that will be the absolute bare minimum Tool’s global cult following will have to wait for a new sonic masterpiece. One more year after the twelve of relentless internet hyperbole and immeasurable anticipation that proceeded it, is surely doable, right?
Instead of preparing for what may end up becoming a mass exodus from the workplace on the day that album is released, and following the unexpected success of this article’s predecessor, The Soundshark has put together ten more bands from the underground, worthy of your time, until the musical gap has been bridged by the band themselves. To touch upon briefly from previous feedback, you won’t find Karnivool on this list, or any other list on this site themed similarly, as while not entirely known around the planet at present, they’ve had large enough worldwide success to be able to tour anywhere they see fit, which surely evolves beyond underground status.
Semantics aside, let’s begin:
I’ll be among the first to admit that 2017 is now a fading memory in long and short terms of immediate recollection. After all, we’ve reached a quarter of the year in already and only now do I find myself reflecting on and scrutinising the year past, since coming to terms with my current situation. Of which I feel is moving in a more positive direction. That said, while my own personal presence took a negative slant in the seventeenth year of the new millennium, musically, there was such a creative surge of magnificence which resulted in many, many excellent albums being released. Also one such reason for this list being delayed as it is. So, with ever-so-slightly wistful eyes, The Soundshark casts its spotlight on my ten favourite albums released in 2017, and for your listening indulgence:
The state of modern indie is certainly rather interesting nowadays. Although there have been past evaluations on when the last great era of modern indie was, ergo, when bands and artists last made an impact on the charts, where the genre stands in 2017, critically has never been better. Does having the adoration of critics and the music press outweigh greater commercial success? Maybe that’s a question to ask the Mercury Prize committee. While that is a debate for another time, the rise of a new wave of incredibly talented singer-songwriters have arguably become the heartbeat of indie, in this undeniably eclectic decade of music. Up-and-coming bands in the indie-rock vein are on their own battlefront, still rightfully rumbling the live music scenes across the world, and their time will come again. After all, it only seems that musical trends become cyclical, especially as this decade has progressed. As it stands right now, troubadours of a myriad of backgrounds and influences are among the most well-respected of artists, just trying to make music their entire lifestyle. And their emotional honesty, dedication and raw potential undeniably resonates with tastemakers, spheres of influence and those with a willing, listening ear, no matter how they choose to express their craft. Marcus Pike, a one-man indie-folk workhorse from the east end of London, citing the powerful vocal capacities of Bon Iver and Jeff Buckley, the melodic melancholia of Radiohead and the sublime minimalism of The xx as his inspirations, is another joining that order and hopefully soon to be more widely doted upon with his exquisite compositions.
Since his small beginnings, he has amassed over 150 live shows on the London circuit and released his debut EP Grand Piano, featuring the phenomenal gut-punch blues of The Flower And The Fox, earlier in February this year. Now with his as-of-yet to be titled sophomore EP lingering on the horizon, and with the mention of experimentation into the electronic realm, we look to his latest release Ark, as a promising glimmer of things to come. Seconds in, after a near microscopic level of acoustic build-up, we are gifted with Marcus’ heart-heavy, but soulful projection, carrying an extraordinary downbeat atmosphere that only thought possible with man-made instruments. Of course, with his acoustic companion in hand, and the deliberately slow pacing, a perfect balance of soothing and sadness is struck, making his recollection of a love lost and being unlucky in love all the more poignant. Both these elements in isolation cast a spell on the listener, the darkened ambience and pure vulnerability of Marcus’ narrative utterly mesmerising to behold, and that half of Ark elapses in such a sensational, yet sorrowful surrender exhibits the very best of what this young man is capable of. The second half is brought to life by a live band, the chill of soft reverb transforming guitar from acoustic to electric, and gentle percussion giving an added weight and movement to the pace already in progress. This new dimension of atmosphere will feel very familiar in post-rock circles, it lurks within the same haunting, moving chords that can trigger pleasure, placidity and pain in every stroke and heightens this dramatic shift as such. A set of female vocals join in unison with Marcus’ as the last refrain grants the duo freedom to drift away, and Ark gradually does, a subtle choral introduction playing out in the background and those emotive guitar chords escaping from their structure, as everything fades to silence. Lord knows where those four minutes disappear to, but it is among one of the most absorbing pieces of indie I’ve ever encountered. While it can be labeled as romantic, Marcus Pike imbues his soul to the darkness, conjuring a spellbindingly beautiful ambience and sense of sombre with little more than his voice and a guitar, and the impact and resolve of that delivery, clamours for recognition far beyond the London live scene. Inspirations accounted for, there feels much, much more exciting and diverse to come from this fantastic young solo artist.
While Marcus’ sophomore release is yet to have a certified release date, you can purchase Ark, and his previous EP Grand Piano from his Bandcamp page, as well as all other respectable music retailers. As a stalwart of the circuit, you’ll no doubt be able to find Marcus at a London show, at a time to suit you, so keep an eye out for when you can catch him live on his social media.
Speaking of social media, here are a few places where you can tell him, you love him:
And if you wish to tell me that you love me too, then consider leaving me a like, a follow, or by subscribing to the site (totally free by the by), by clicking the link that appears somewhere on this page:
Without wanting to cast bull-china shop aspersions off the bat, dealing with emotional abuse is more often than not, a difficult ordeal for those affected, but it’s a far more common place subject matter in music than most realise. Arguably the most famous song on the premise, Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, a classic, near four minute disco romp, detailing the breakdown of an abusive relationship an unknown female character found herself in before finding the strength within herself to leave the perpetrator, is considered timeless as no doubt its chorus will be forever etched on the walls of the musical Pantheon. Its optimistic tones and grandeur made this such an uplifting listen, that in some respects, it could be considered easy to forget the subject matter entirely. Just as famous an example, widely acknowledged to be one of the most misinterpreted songs ever, is The Police’s Every Breath You Take, a portrayal of a stalker-type obsessive whom claims ownership over their past lover, never allowing them to move on. The calm, soothing demeanour of its music, along with the misconstrued lyrics of Sting’s impassioned croon has oft been taken as to be a love song for decades, before being publicly debunked by the Police frontman himself. In that respect, thank goodness for pop artists of the new millennium, such as Ke$ha, whose titanic but transparent ballad Praying released this year, brought to life the torment and nightmares faced under her captive producer, after arduous legal proceedings and years in the media spotlight for this reason alone. While currently building a loyal following of his own, Montreal pop sensation Randay is taking the same page from his contemporaries and making the message loud and clear, as well as highlighting another tale of emotional abuse in the process.
Putting aside the lyrical content for just a moment, Manipulation serves as an impeccably produced electronic pop number that teases crossovers into the EDM and electronic house forays, all to give his sultry charm room to soar. Repeatedly plucked guitar chords, with a very marginal overdub of synth open up the song, give it a cooling ambience, a calm mood and a steady tempo, as we then phase shift into the song’s main body. Enter a realm of pounding bass pulse, dampened hand claps and understated but beautifully layered synth harmonies that bulk out an otherwise minimalist atmosphere, that all lend themselves to Randay’s honeyed tone marvellously. There’s a small touch of hi-hat added to the mix as the verse progresses and a slight delay on the vocals, on which the echo sounds particularly effective against the beat, utilising the less-is-more approach well on a primarily vocal-heavy song. However it is at the chorus where Manipulation is at its strongest. Where once Randay had a lot of vocal processing on previous tracks, stripping the first chorus down to almost entirely vocals, bar delay and some minor ambient synth, has really given his voice a chance to shine on its own merits and it makes the chorus and its hook all the more memorable for it. Quickly building up the drop underneath the vocals, slyly introducing an acoustic guitar amongst the claps and keys, brings a short rush of excitement as you feel a gear shift about to transpire. But while the music doesn’t quite burst with the bombast you would expect from a modern dancefloor filler, the subdued nature of the drop actually fits really well with the overall tone of the song, whilst still having a beat and a bassline for even the most casual of club goers to move to. Throughout, there are little tweaks, production effects and instrumental additions so subtle, you’ll barely notice them at first, that make the song feel all the more complete, and there are more moments along the way where Randay’s vocal talents are isolated but ultimately accentuated as a result of intentional songwriting. Manipulation’s climax brings that memorable chorus hook against the beats, and Randay delivers it with such authority and empowerment, perhaps channeling an inner Gloria of his own, that you begin to realise the potential star power once the music retracts and his voice is left once more on its own, besides the thumping of bass and a melancholic but deeply fulfilling piano chime to close.
Sadly, I was informed that shortly after this song was written, Randay found himself on the receiving end of his own words, and I do extend my sincerest best wishes to him, and hope that he has found peace and closure from such terrible circumstances. But let that take nothing away from what he is capable of vocally, and his ear for piecing together pop music with a punch. Randay has all the tools necessary to become a breakout star and the blossoming process is well under way with the advent of Manipulation; a smartly produced, electronic dancefloor curiosity. with equal parts passion to attitude and a rightful claim for a spotlight to call his own.
Randay is soon to release a brand new track in the coming weeks, having just entered the studio to record vocals for Manipulation’s follow-up. A second album is also due to be announced at some stage in the near future. For everything else currently out including his first album Renaissance and recent remixes of Manipulation, you can find them all at most respectable music retailers.
Can’t get enough of him? Then here’s some social media links to follow for you:
And if you can’t get enough of what I do either, then you can give me a like, a follow or subscribe to the site using the link below, always appreciated:
And one more thing, if you do feel you are in a place where you feel like there is no escape or nobody to talk to, and you can’t channel your inner Gloria Gaynor, then I urge you to call whomever your local crime line, victim support or mental health charity is. Be brave. The Soundshark has faith in you. You can do it. You can get through this.
Normally, any piece highlighting new and emerging musical talents on this site begins with a tale, an anecdote or even a little music history, eventually tying the two subject matters together in a philosophical or whimsical manner. Such may not ring so true this time round. Instead, this begins with honesty. Truth is, this site has been out of sync, almost out of touch, with the pulse of brand new, underground, independent, and unsigned music for some time now, that what little reputation has been building has dissipated from existence. To put it simply, and to quote Jesse Lacey of Brand New – life is a test, and I get that much, so much so that all motivation and production of content stood frozen solid in time. Whether it would ever thaw again, remained a worry for the best portion of four months. But something that kept the tiniest of embers ablaze, was the genuine warmth of kindness. Despite absolute silence, PR companies and musicians alike continued to reach out to the site. I rarely contact artists or their correspondents preemptively, so to have a one-way overflowing direction of content without ever asking for it, goes beyond words and has kept the gears in a functional state in lieu of their dormancy. The ember truly came to life however once Nicole Gibson of the titular Montreal duo came into contact. Her authenticity and heartfelt words, with regard to what this site has accomplished so far, were a moving read and most certainly a reflection on her songwriting partnership with Chris Kelly. Hell, they’ve just been nominated for Best Adult Alternative Song by the Hollywood Songwriting Contest if that’s any indicator.
The pair have an incredible work rate, releasing weekly covers of recent music chart entries on YouTube, but their own songwriting endeavours, of which their debut EP is due for release in the coming months, captures their chemistry, versatility and sheer talent better than someone else’s words can. Their most recent single, Ghost of You shows the upbeat, poppier side of their capabilities, both Chris and Nicole’s contrasting, reverb-touched vocals, in a realm of grumbling bass, understated percussion and airy electronics, delivered so refreshingly, and with a hook so catchy, you wonder how it is yet to crack the airwaves. Arguably however, it is Out of The Dark’s moodier, minimalist soundscape that has a far greater impact and establishes exactly why the pair have a songwriting nomination in tow. Immediately, Nicole’s dulcet tone welcomes you in, as does the slight melancholy of piano keys and programmed but subdued kicks and snares. There is a marginal breeze of ambience ever-present also, but it all culminates in a formidable emotive vehicle, for the lyrical premise of never giving up hope. The tale is not complex, but it doesn’t need to be. They are simply the right words for the greatest effect. Their voices unite for the chorus, emanating true passion and belief in their message, with Chris’ solo bellow between each line sounding almost pained, but powerful nonetheless. Piano also gently builds behind them, furthering the big, emotional right hook of a chorus; it’s ultimately a subtle touch but again contributes massively to tone and overall delivery. Chris takes the lead for the second verse, showing his softer, soulful voice, with the now more prominent piano accompanying him, right up to a second chorus where after we are treated to a wailing guitar bridge, adding an extra ambient dimension without being intrusive. The song closes on its chorus, yet there is a refrain with only vocals and piano just before, that may rank among the most tear-jerking 15 seconds you’re likely to hear all year. No doubt Chris Kelly & Nicole Gibson have a prosperous career ahead of them both, with their attention to detail transforming the insignificant into the extraordinary. But it is their authenticity and emotional resonance in their music, that will make them stars. To borrow a quote from the duo:
‘In order to never quit, you have to see hope, and in order to see hope, you have to never quit.’
Thank you, Chris. Thank you, Nicole. It’s taken some time, but it feels like the site can come out of its own dark. And this masterpiece has been instrumental in guiding it through.
Chris Kelly & Nicole Gibson have a fabulous YouTube channel which houses all of their various covers so you can see how wonderful they are as musicians. They’ve also just launched their own website, in case there is any other content your heart desires you wish to view. As already mentioned, their debut EP is due for release really soon. Keep your eyes peeled.
In the mean time, give them a like or a follow on their social media right here:
And if you feel like doing the same for myself, then you can do so by giving me a like, a follow, or by subscribing to the site using the button below, and we can give each other a virtual hug: