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.
In popular cultural semiotics, the phrase ‘ the C-word,’ we all widely acknowledge refers to the often belligerent horrors of cancer. A word that strikes fear, dread and distress into the hearts of those directly and indirectly affected. The disease is now so commonplace, it is impossible to go through your lifetime without knowing someone who has been affected by it. Thankfully, due to the wonders of modern medical science, cancer is now no longer a death sentence, and more and more people everyday can say they are a survivor. Musicians especially seem to be having more and more luck winning their respective fights. Iain Gorrie, of Bristol emo brigade Our Nameless Boy, is among those battling back from life-threatening progression of the disease. Diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2015, and starting a lengthy chemotherapy cycle, alongside surgical procedures, Iain finally reached a stage where he felt well enough and strong enough to begin writing new music in earnest, the quartet announcing a new EP in Spring of this year, after several away. Titled ‘Tomorrow I’ll Be Scared Again,’ it plays not only into the ongoing worry of not knowing if you could wake up, but into the personal anxieties and adversities of the wider world we live in too. The single All It Is announced from the EP, serves as an intense aural and visual narrative of Iain’s recovery from his chemotherapy.
His vocals, sounding weary and with a degree of frailty, tell of how his treatment has caused a series of diversions in his life and how unwell it made him feel, whilst urgent, melodic alternate picking lay behind his tale’s opening. Short after we’re treated to a brief tease of drums and guitar in unison, those four snare pounds and fiery strums, lighting the fuse of anticipation towards its chorus, but not before all instruments make an entrance and tighten the pressure up that much more. A pause for breath proceeds what doesn’t come across as quite an explosion, but more an emphatic expulsion of energy, strings and skins colliding together, to add prominence to the show of positivity that Iain can conquer his cancer. With production stripped down to its barest bones, the chorus feels that much more heartfelt and encouraging for those still watching a loved one persevere in their own respective battle. Rapid snare taps keep pace and intensity in a high gear with the melodic picking returning to soundtrack the story, the tribulations of chemotherapy initially being somewhat lonesome, but allowing him to return to be the person he once was. This verse neatly ties into the track’s greatest display of strength; a bridge of unclean, near-screamed vocals backed by the punch of snares, and the occasional slam of chords, the rawness, and unbridled emotion of this moment acting as a switch, the pivotal event in Iain’s fight back and his wellbeing close to normal again. The time-lapse and series of photos past afterwards, synced to the music in the video only add to the gravitas of this bridge, with his hair returning in its duration, and watching a young boy grow up in a matter of seconds, a poignant device for anyone with lasting memories of their friends, or children. Our Nameless Boy have transformed a harrowing situation into a memorable message of strong inner resolve, and optimism in a time where hope can so quickly dwindle. Minimalist, melodic at the right times, and a masterstroke of art in a sonic and screen-based space, this Bristol quartet deserve a hero’s welcome back to the UK music scene.
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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
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:
On February 4, 2001 (though broadcasting events 1,000 years in the future), Commander Zapp Branningan of the starship Nimbus suggests piloting Le Palm d’Orbit, a floating restaurant in space that was evacuated moments before as a result of a disastrous karaoke session. Though believing he can commandeer any vessel built, he shortly crashes the restaurant afterwards onto a nearby planet. In the ensuing descent, he curses, ‘You win again, gravity!’ right as the restaurant enters the planet’s atmosphere. Stay with me here. On Halloween the following year, five young gentlemen from Ontario released their self-titled debut album, proclaiming their sound to be ‘Catholic girls in the middle of a knife fight.’ They went on to become one of the most influential voices in post-hardcore and are still often referred to as The Only Band Ever, despite uncertainty surrounding whether they will make new music together. Still following? Fast forward four years to Halloween of 2006, and Meshuggah re-release Nothing, completely remastered and re-recorded with 8-string guitars, of which its all-conquering polyrhythmic riff stagger and use of then recent technical innovations, arguably became the catalyst for the tech metal explosion towards the close of the decade. Understanding the link between a Futurama quote, Alexisonfire, and the advent of tech metal, is crucial to the raison d’être of these five gentlemen from Windsor, who share the same name of the aforementioned quote. And if the cohesion of sublime melodic hardcore and infallible metallic groove is anything to go by, then You Win Again Gravity are absolutely a band you need to be excited about.
Though happily being a presence on the UK live scene for a number of years, their work rate suddenly amped up with 2016’s three track EP What’s Left Of The Distance, which lends its laser-focused trio of punchy, nautically deep, progressive hardcore hits to the much larger Anonymity released late last year. Seamless is among the latest of the band’s studio output, refining their already killer formula, while lending more volume to some of their broader influences. First filtered through lo-fi radio, Seamless’ core hook broadcasts to the listener, drawing on those tech-metal leanings of theirs and playing a technically simple but astonishingly addictive pattern of notes that requires extra thick bleach to scrub free from. Not to mention a drum performance that is certainly a technical marvel. Bursting through into full stereo moments later, the third guitar produces a more ambient overtone that gracefully blankets atop an already captivating opening sequence and quite frankly, they could’ve still made as stellar a song staying within these boundaries. Yet the progressive dynamic of You Win Again Gravity turns everything they touch into an immersive musical narrative. That triumphant tone mellows, giving all guitars an ambient piece to play, and room for Jack Jennings’ entrancing vocal talents to perform poetry, on the everyday pantomime that is life and trying to find the one. Cleverly and carefully placed too, are soothing secondary vocal harmonies with Jack’s own melodic delivery that although subtle in execution, accentuate so much more passion and nuance in the meanings of every word. The chorus soon storms in, unifying all instruments in a steady headbang, complete with gang shouts and volatile potential to create chaos in a larger live environment, given the breathing space. Call it a breakdown if you will. In the truest of rollercoaster fashions, the mood continues to switch between a calming recital and a tidal wave of emotion, verging on fury at points, setting up for a far greater instrumental pummeling near the climax. Time signatures are thrown around with reckless abandon and vocals once harmonious, become hair-raising growls seemingly fuelled by bitter contempt, the combination of which comes off as the musical equivalent of a descent into madness. The bombardment of riffs comes to a crawl, tension soaring like invigorating light dispelling all previous negativity, and we find ourselves back at the opening sequence, as if it were all a lingering thought in our imaginations.
Make no mistake, You Win Again Gravity are a thinking man’s hardcore unit, but their finesse and songwriting ability are phenomenal, so much so that listener experience is mandatory to even grasp at how talented these guys are. Anonymity will get them on the track to success at last, as no doubt what else they have to offer the UK hardcore and metal scenes remains just as exciting a prospect. After all, they still have yet to release a full-length album, but in their wealth of EPs, lies one of the UK’s best unsigned bands hands down.
I once wrote a lot shorter exposé on these fine gentlemen if you want a TL;DR version of You Win Again Gravity. It might actually be better than this piece. Might. Anyway, I must insist you watch the video of Seamless, as it may be the funniest music video produced in years. They have all their material on Bandcamp, as well as all respectable music retailers, and they’re even on the bill of UK Tech Metal Fest this year, fancy that.
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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.
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