Flies Are Spies… Grapple With Loss On Third Album, Final Quiet, Which Is Everything But Quiet

Throughout over a decade and a half’s of performing, two albums, three EPs, and a series of remixes, Flies Are Spies have held steady as a band of exhilarating ability and uplifting composition. A reputation they have backed up, and remains unblemished, which in that timeframe for any band, is near unheard of for a band of any stature and recognition. Hell, they even spearhead the Cheery Wave From Stranded Youngsters collective if you need some indicator of just how invigorating they are, as well as selflessly amplifying the voices of their peers in the process.

Generally speaking mind, any cheery wave would find it hard to cope in the here and now. Flies Are Spies From Hell have taken it pretty hard themselves. The darkening spiral of chaos that society finds itself seeped within, has bred despair, and in the case of Flies Are Spies…, they have suffered grief. While a band well-versed in the patterns of human emotion, and that fact being very well documented, their third opus stings with a salient vulnerability, even that they themselves have previously unexplored. The veil of bereavement hangs opaque over Final Quiet, six songs seemingly orchestrating a narrative of loss, the first half in the closing hours with an undisclosed relationship, which anyone could assimilate for someone beloved, and the second, coming to terms without that individual.

The opening of Final Quiet is Nearly Saw A Light, a bold nine and a half minutes of sombre waves that crash and recede quite spectacularly, and led by piano which even today in post rock canon, still feels like an anomaly. It is the piano however that carves the niche for Flies Are Spies… and rightfully elevates their standing in a genre amongst a seminal field of musicians. It lay beneath a melancholy umbrella for the intro, coupled with some very early tremolo work, inducing a state of high anxiety. The keys certainly speeding up and becoming more frantic hammers this home just as much. Sustaining this tone, along with a gentle rolling of drums, before settling into a mellow passage of solemn plucked notes and a slight rumble of bass, also plays on expected post-rock tropes slyly, slowing down instead of building to an explosive pay-off. Even that then quietens down to just a solo piano performance, layers of lachrymose fogging the ambience of the song and just one of many fine examples of how powerful a piano player Flies Are Spies… have within their midst. Bass gradually backs up the piano, the subtle stroking proving an effective counterpart to rising tension, as does sharp cymbal taps, keeping rhythm without being imposing as such. It’s worth mentioning that drums are wholly kept to a minimum throughout Final Quiet, deployed strictly to maximize the intensity of the music and its emotional output, and their presence or lack thereof, makes for a certifiably distinct listening experience. As the track’s crescendo steadily swells, cymbals grow louder, as do swift clatters of toms, tremolos amplified and morphing this wave of emotion into an all-consuming tsunami of sadness, one that finds itself genuinely moving. Much like the news that someone you love has just mere moments left to live. Or it’s already too late.

Flies Are Spies From Hell on Spotify

Ominous rumble brings in Last Hour, with some beautiful keys to accompany it, another show-stealer of a performance, and only two songs in. The rumble is eventually banished, taken place by some precision plucking of notes, later joined by a bass melody that tugs a heart string or two, and their tremendous interweaving of musical strands here exemplify that it’s often not about how many notes you play, but the right notes you play. For half the song’s duration, the instruments shape and cement the tone of sorrow in such a compelling manner, that drums needn’t be required. It evokes the image of being beside a hospital bed so strongly that tears almost seem obligatory at this stage. Drums explode in, that contemplative demeanour swept away with the accompanying sudden rush of truly electrifying, ferocious guitar, that feels more rooted deep in the throes of conflict than the flash flood of grief, all the while, the piano maintaining that edge of melancholy. You could score a war movie, as much as heartbreak, so succinctly in just these six minutes.

Both halves of Final Quiet are back-ended by two sub-three minute pieces, the first being Afloat Apart, a pause for breath and clarity, that a harmony of piano and guitar usher in ambience, serenity awash on an aural palette that serves as a flashback or a recollection to the greatest moments with whomever this individual was. Equally, you could call it an ascension if you are spiritually inclined to. Interpretations aside, it is an achingly beautiful piece of music. The second of these pieces is Lost By Morning, which realistically requires the context of the previous All The Smiles At Night, to make complete sense in the general overarching narrative. The piece, while seamless in transition from the previous track, focuses solely on piano and closes the album, now so overcome and bereft with sadness, that this deliberate ending performance reigns in the feeling of isolation like a brick to the head. A solo performance for a solitary life. If you made it through Final Quiet without crying to this point, grab yourself a Kleenex for this one. Soul-stirring simply doesn’t do it justice.

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Yet perhaps it is the two tracks that make up Final Quiet’s second half, Always Bereaved, and the aforementioned All The Smiles At Night, that sit so firmly in current reality, that they resonate the most strongly. Always Bereaved comes to terms with immediate loss, gloom creeping in at the inset, far slower in pace than anything before, and once again, crafting this dour mood so effortlessly, it becomes immersive. Despite an exquisite composition of guitar, piano, and bass, their carefully spaced playing of notes conjuring a drained and dare I say, dark and depressed atmosphere, it is the drums with precise cymbal taps that add the most important nuances of gravitas to this scene. The volume, as does the aggression in which the instruments seem to get played with, builds to a simmer, the patterns and execution growing faster, as does growing turmoil inside. Piano and guitar especially, seem to battle one another for absolute control over how powerful an emotional impact is made, and their syncopation almost makes it chaotic, a rising distress level waiting to boil over imminently. But half way in, a curious guitar lick, the most infectious of its kind on the album, causes everything to subside, and the instruments then use it as a cornerstone to build around. It is this build-up and resolution that is Final Quiet’s best, the outpouring of sound very much akin to an emotional or mental breakdown, and the harmony of guitar and piano here tightening the screws on your tear ducts to magnificent effect.

All The Smiles At Night then presents itself as the ongoing struggle with loneliness or wanderlust even, painting a picture to try and fixate on a normality, when this world has been thrown off its axis. Sparse at the beginning with only guitar opening, piano enters to an almost blues-like meditative state, perhaps Final Quiet’s only moment where vocals could, but not necessarily should, slot in perfectly. An ode to someone dearly treasured lends itself well to this passing breeze here. Enter the drums, which for the first time on this album, shifts to an upbeat, almost rousing pace. In practice, it almost brings in a jazz-like quality to the music, albeit one where you are the only stationary body in a lively, always moving environment. Perhaps the song title suggests trying to be amongst friends or in a public place, faced with tens, possibly hundreds of realities separate or absent from your own, and grief in that moment, makes you alone in a crowded room. The last few minutes certainly seem to suggest so, heavier slams of chords so out of character and verging into noise, detaching the listener from this state of immersion and back into our own reality. That deafening moment, drowning out all other distractions, to be left with your own thoughts.

Final Quiet is a masterpiece, a compelling, cinematic realm inside bereavement deemed essential listening for the musically courageous and any healing hearts. Flies Are Spies From Hell have proven yet again to be one of post rock’s stand out acts, their compositions still so strong and evocative after 16 years, that time hopefully never slow them down.

 

Final Quiet is out now on all good and respectable music retail outlets.

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20 Bands And Artists With New Music in 2019 You Should Keep An Eye On

By now, the hangover of 2018 should have long subsided, and 2019 should now begin to be as familiar to everyone as much as your work colleagues, classmates, or friends you go clubbing with, are. We’ve conversed, debated and voiced our collective opinions on what the best of the best of 2018 was, and ahead, we look into the eyes of 2019 longingly, yearning for continued musical excellence as this decade draws to a climax. So bearing that in mind, the site has put together 20 bands and artists bearing a variety of new musical fruit in 2019, that you should absolutely sample, and hopefully savour and find immense pleasure from.

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Track of The Week: The Burial Choir – Till Death Do Us Part

If ever asked to define a burial choir, you could assume by matter of association, that it is the voices of those in hymns or prayers, at the site of loved ones that have departed this world. The voices of mourning, grief, and heartbreak. Downtrodden and united in sorrow. Turning to Robert Scott, songwriter for 25 years, the singular voice, and sole member of Wisconsin’s The Burial Choir, does he fulfil the namesake and imagery conjured around such a vivid, macabre concept? Well, not exactly.

Granted on his 2017 self-titled debut EP, the ominous toll of a church bell proceeds and concludes the three tracks in between: a mass of swirling mist and melancholy that touches on Type O Negative territory, but has far more in common with the urgent dissonance of post-punk, and the spacial ambience of post-rock and post-metal. Similarities cease there however. Digging deeper, riffs and resoundingly impressive groove form the solid backbone to Robert Scott’s pained wail, closer to a downbeat Queens of The Stone Age. Like if Josh Homme was thrown down a well so to speak.

So mere days into the new year, what does 2019’s Relics herald on the continuation of The Burial Choir saga? Another four more tracks that further tap into Scott’s wider web of influences, introducing shoegaze and more substantial psychedelia into what was already a distinct fusion of styles and sounds. Arguably the best of the bunch is the EP’s second odyssey, Til Death Do Us Part. Seeped in cavernous reverb, a distorted buzzsaw of guitar groove wastes little time in pace-setting, with the tease of short, sharp snare and cymbal shots building anticipation as Scott affirms that ‘This is where it all starts.’ The drums burst forth, the distance between itself, and guitar vocals sounding huge, but working to great effect with the subtlest undercurrent of bass, accenting every beat, as you can slowly feel hips start to sway, losing control to this primitive but mesmerising rhythm. He knows when to throw the hammer down also, launching into a rousing rock ‘n’ roll shuffle between verses, that certainly stokes those Queens of the Stone Age comparisons. Heavier still, is a sludgy, verging on doom-esque breakdown around midway with terrifying guttural roars that sound like abyssal calls from realms far beyond our own. Positioned in the middle of the allusion to a child’s trauma between warring parents, makes it all the more poignant and dramatic, maintaining that consistent tone of melancholia and feeding on very real, raw personal scarring for many, despite an upbeat tempo. Followed by an emotionally charged, melodic guitar solo, which is sure to chill many a spine, and solitary vocals, complete with hand claps you can just visualise any respectable venue participating with, and it tops off what is an early highlight of the very beginning of this year’s new musical calendar. The Burial Choir certainly continues to shapeshift and elude iron-clad genre constraints, instead manifesting itself as one man’s creative playground of smoke and sadness that the world should be dying to hear more of.

Relics is out now on 3ZERO4 Records, only on Bandcamp.

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Another 10 Great Bands To Listen To While You Wait For The New Tool Album

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:

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The Soundshark’s Top Ten Albums of 2017

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:

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20 Bands And Artists You Should Listen To In 2017

It seems very few people utter a breath about 2016 any more. Probably for good reason, it seemed very much like a culling of revered figures and idols of popular culture, let alone a universal gasp of disbelief at what idiocy we may have unleashed on the world. 2017 isn’t really fairing any marginally better in that department, by a hair strand at best. But whisper it: The music is fantastic. If you want to invest in it of course. Admittedly, this list was compiled at the inset of 2017, but as the halfway stage of this year rapidly approaches, it still holds as an all-star ensemble of killer bands you may have overlooked, some yet to release their brand new material and some you may never have heard of. It seems like a solid enough foundation for this article to still exist, while maintaining some resemblance of relevance. That, and you may be reading this, looking for some new music to listen over the summer. Let’s get started, shall we?

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Rusted Doors

In our darkest hours, when we feel we have little left to turn to, music has become a light in which we can take our solace in, and a source of hope when our knees bear heavy the burden of what humanity has in store for us. Without diverting too far from the subject in question, these are troubled times we live in, no matter what walk of life you’re from. The world feels on the brink of a new political and economic Ice Age, and whatever transpires in the months to come, global census on the matter seems right to be worried that the timer to doomsday is quickly counting down. The Mayans would be only five years out with their prediction, should it come down to that. The Middle East, with Iran (or the Islamic Republic of Iran) fixed in the centre, has never really been known for its musical endeavours, at least sparsely in the Western world and if you were to speak of rock music, a positive response may need to be heard behind closed doors. And one such positive response can be heard behind closed doors, of a certain rusted variety. Despite being near the epicentre of turmoil troubling the region, Tehran’s Rusted Doors (formerly Rusted Doors of Heaven) base their music not on the surrounding conflict claiming so many lives, but on a different, more human conflict that can be just as fatal. The conflict inside the body. Physically and emotionally. This conceptual basis lends itself to some of the most incredibly evocative and stirring instrumental compositions post rock has spawned in recent years.

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Their album Tale of a Departure scores the story of a character simply known as ‘Nobody’ and chronicles his struggle with depression and illness before succumbing to death, leaving his spirit to observe the suffering and sorrow of his loved ones left behind, unable to protect them. There’s no two ways about it; this is a bleak, haunting depiction of a scarily real scenario that happens every single day, which makes what music accompanies it that much more absorbing and affecting. Something else that makes Rusted Doors’ music that much more fascinating a listen, is their cultural interpretation of a widely renowned genre of rock and its most notable instance, is in their most recent single Huntington. Named after the titular disease that degrades the brain’s cells, it is an unraveling of nine and a half minutes of melancholy, simmering to a boil through the means of funk-driven bass, soft reverb-kissed strums and skins bashed in such a manner that pace and tone matches neither celebration nor ceremony. Around two minutes in, an aggressive fuzz swamps the guitar tone and the drums begin to make headway, bass kicks leading the charge to where you feel the journey will take flight. But quick as speed picks up and volume skyrockets, it’s silenced just as fast. A wave of ambience hushes the beat to a simpler meter, while what previous warmth the music was building is subjected to a sudden chill and into more ethereal territory. The guitar slowly starts to bring abrasion back to the forefront and the drums creep back to tribal levels of complexity in this new found realm of frost. But as duration stretches to seven minutes, fragile tension is finally broken and a flood of emotion explodes forth, sorrowful in its timbre but startling in its execution. All phases of this song illustrate what a roller coaster fighting illness can be to your very last breath and the effect on those closest to you, right up until the final note. It gives perspective to how others cope with this situation. Rusted Doors chose to write a song about it. You may go for a walk or a quiet drive to help you reflect or distance yourself. But whatever life’s challenges throw your way, music will be always be a tool to give people reassurance, comfort and hope in those moments where there seems to be none, and Rusted Doors are a prime example in both a world similar and dissimilar from our own.

 

The album Tales From A Departure and Huntington can be found on Rusted Doors’ Bandcamp page on a very kind pay-what-you-want basis, although please give generously if you feel this is tremendous music as much as I do. The band is hoping to play live more into the New Year and looking into potential festival appearances if possible, but your best source to find out for certain is on their social media.

If you have enjoyed what you have heard of this talented group of musicians, please let them know via the following channels:

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Useless Cities

Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on this one, but it seems as if British indie has stumbled into a bit of a rut of late. Since arguably the last golden era of indie bands this country has produced, which by my estimates was around the mid-00’s, the amount of them has shrunk considerably since the turn of the decade. Some bands no doubt were able to consistently duplicate their success upon each album release, most notably the Arctic Monkeys, before they decided to turn American, and more recently Foals who seemingly been able to evolve critically from strength to strength. There are several bands hanging in there and have been for several years, like your Ashes, your Fratellis, your Cribs, your Subways for example, many bands whose glory days seem long gone but persistently release music to a loyal, adoring fan base, who continue to turn out to shows and keep motivation and spirits high to look forward to the future. Sadly, as the nature of technology and commercial success in the industry shifts so frequently, there are several bands who’ve become causalities in the musical landslide, as sustaining a career stretches further and further out of reach for those previously thrust in the spotlight and airwaves. These are dark days for British guitar music for sure, but under the surface, what you could classify as an underground resistance is currently producing some of the best indie you’ll have encountered in years. Useless Cities, hailing from the nation’s capital, are among that resistance with an ache in their hearts expressed exquisitely through a mournful touch of the piano and a melancholic pounding of the guitar.

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Though their emotions are not exclusively wired to wallow in sorrow, there is an ethereal and transcendent nature to Useless Cities’ music that melancholy brings the best out of. Their Stay EP though only three tracks long, is a wave of sonically cold but breathtaking musical splendour, combining unforgettable melodies seeped in calm composure, with an unexpected fury that riles their initial breeze into a hurricane of heartbreak. No track illustrates this exclamation point better than Follow. While Stay is a gorgeous piano-driven stroll through arctic plains and To Be Ruined, a far more spirited tumble through dreams that take a turbulent turn, it’s Follow that finely balances the band’s strengths perfectly. Delay-drenched guitar leads Follow in, with the booming of a near-tribal tom pattern from the drums, and the lightest touch of low end entering not long after, painting the scene for solemn reflection. Vocals wander in, listing things to do to an unspecified character, with his settled bellow against the melody of the guitar a strangely hypnotising presence throughout the song’s course. A bright shimmer of keys layer atop the instruments, sending a chill down the spine of the listener but adding light to this arguably greying atmosphere. This brings in the cymbals and snare of the drums, gradually shifting the tone into the subtlest of build-ups, masked well by the vocals and instruments while the grace and beauty of the piano becomes more prominent as the song progresses. Then in the song’s twilight, the guitar bursts into life with an eye-opening intensity and drums are beaten hard into submission, serving as a backdrop for the male and female chanting in harmony and the piano trying to restore a sense of tranquillity to this sudden gale of musical force. And the piano gets its wish, closing out Follow in the manner it began, a series of notes against the echo of the guitar, jerking the strings of your heart as the final note fades into the distance. What Useless Cities offer more so than a collection of songs, is an aural palette to paint your own stories from the emotionally stirring compositions they lay before you. How it affects you is left to your own semiotics, but know that they are exploring rarely traversed ground in indie and their own bittersweet twist on the sound we’ve known to grow and love, ranks among the best and most unique bands the indie scene has to offer.

 

 

Useless Cities’ Stay EP is out now at all respectable music retailers. Any more information you wish to know about them can be located on the band’s website. The band are also playing frequent live dates in and around the capital right now so keep your eyes peeled for a date near you, or bring them to your doorstep and book them for your own show.

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Track of The Week: Tiny Giant – Joely/How

A few months ago, a statement was issued on this site about the creative force behind Tiny Giant and that they are likely to be one of the most exciting acts to keep an eye on in 2016. That was solely based on two tracks on Soundcloud, with no prior release date, nor word of a forthcoming release, EP or album. Their forte is the melding of a mesmerising dream-pop haze à la Goldfrapp and a titanic progressive rock crunch; a near-unique pairing in a musical climate so vast and so adverse to standing out, that those tuned in, numbers growing daily, have awaited some form of release with bated breath. For those personnel, that wait has come to an end and if you are just joining us on the official maiden voyage of Tiny Giant, your timing couldn’t have been more impeccable.

Since the beginning of this year, the impression was given that Seeing Everything As Though It Is Real and Heavy Love may have been first for a public release, as the very first introductory tracks to this terrific musical partnership and as they have been now circulating Soundcloud for the best part of half a year. Come this month, that plan has changed as two brand new tracks have surfaced and continue to raise the bar for what is to come from the London duo. While Joely has been pushed as the headline act of the single, both sides Joely and How are equally important and enrapturing when it comes to distilling down the essence of Tiny Giant, and thus focus will be placed upon both of them.

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Where Seeing Everything… invoked that initial Goldfrapp comparison, Joely certainly completes it. Starting with what sounds like kick drums submerged under the ocean, a continual bright chord of synth keys raises the beat to the surface, igniting a glorious burst of synth, a near angelic level of vocals and if you listen carefully, a terrifyingly distorted wall of guitar that somehow slots perfectly in place into this seemingly innocent pop presentation. The burst is soon hushed to just the beat, the warm buzz of the keys and vocals, which although gentile and soothing, have a confidence worthy of the grandiose of the music backing it. Honestly, there is a grace to Chloe’s voice that not only exposes her own musical merits, but the merits of the compositions she brings to life. There are still traces of a trance-like state these verses can bring, but is not as potent as either of its predecessors were in doing so. Instead, that seems swapped for an overall feeling of bliss and rapture that the tone of the track brings together. As verses progress, additional cymbals and beats are added to the percussion and the guitar is allowed a full force bellow, highlighting the greater depth of their songwriting arsenal. No doubt, Joely is a beautifully composed, premier standard of pop music, more than worthy of radio rotation and again, brings attention to the incredible talents of Chloe Alper and Mat Collis. But it is perhaps flipside How, that elevates Tiny Giant from a mere airplay curiosity to a full-blown stereo juggernaut.

Ask yourself. Have you ever heard the vocal talents of any female artist front a post-rock style band, or track at a push? This isn’t of course a mutually exclusive event, but Chloe may be the very first I’ve encountered. Wailing guitars supersede the triumphant synth we saw beforehand, shifting the tone to a more melodic, but certifiably more melancholic one. Drums gather pace, the clattering of the snare injecting an urgency into the music the complete opposite to Joely’s sky-gazing demeanour while vocals take a siren’s approach to luring you into listening. The passage of Chloe’s notes held is utterly gorgeous, making that contrast between her and the drums crashing from behind a deeply satisfying experience. An underlay of those same notes sit below the verse as vocals weave their tale, drums refusing to let up which both adds a layer of the fantastical and the ominous in the build up to the chorus. The pay-off in which is something truly spectacular. An effects-loaded tremolo is nothing new in post-rock, but it’s the accompaniment of drums being pounded into the ground and the echoes of a serene female songstress that make the magnitude of this moment far greater than words can paint a picture of. As How progresses further, bass enters in an enormous fashion, giving the track an unexpected groove and swagger you could give a fan club and a jacket to, as well as meddling with the time signature a tad, something previously undisclosed from the duo’s output so far. It all lends itself to the track’s climax; a titanic thrashing of guitar, bass and drums, all with the refrain of ‘How do you do it?’ cried over the volume and density of the final sound attack.

There is a lot that goes on in the three and a half minutes of How to cover completely and absolutely, but to stand side by side with Joely, it makes this marvel of single that more compelling to onlookers. This demonstrates Tiny Giant’s agenda perfectly, granted in two distinct flavours, the ability to transition from a immaculately produced soul-charged pop single with atmospheric undertones, to a behemoth of guitar-fronted brute strength backed by beats that could pulverise your bones into dust. Perhaps the correct summation of their namesake really. I implore you. Keep Tiny Giant under careful watch. Their talent alone is worth its weight in gold, but with twists and turns rapidly emerging from the song library they are crafting, you need not another reason to believe why they are becoming one of the most exciting bands of 2016.

Joely/How is available now at all good respectable music retailers, as word on an upcoming full-length release or EP is still rather hush-hush. For now. All other songs, while not yet available, can be located on the Tiny Giant Soundcloud page for your listening pleasure. They are also tentatively playing live dates at the moment, but go book them so they get greater exposure and all that jazz.

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