Listening Post #1

by James Hitchings-Hales

A note from the Editor: Happy New Year to all. It’s the end of our first week back at University (or for the lucky few who didn’t have any exams, your first week is just beginning), and we’re just a fortnight into 2014. With a new year, comes a new article: The PearShaped Listening post is the brainchild of James Hitchings-Hales, who has a delightful new task of coming up with 5 tracks to recommend to you each fortnight. Here’s the first of many to come, we hope you enjoy.

A cheeky cigarette. Misdemeanors in the dark. Chocolate.

It’s New Year’s, which means a vast influx of pesky promises that we all desperately want to keep. Everybody seems to be giving something up, which begs the question, what can replace it all? Well, we have the answer. Prepare yourself for a New Year’s Revolution!

Let us give a fine, applause ridden welcome to the PearShaped Listening Post. Every fortnight of 2014, we will throw five tracks your way that will spice up your day. Mostly brand spanking new, and always relevant, each allowing you to show off your new founded hipsterdom to all your friends. Or keep it as a secret that’s all yours. It’s up to you! Here’s the picks of what I’ve been listening to over the past week.

1. Swim Deep - Sycamore

Christmas is over, which thankfully means the mothballing of Wham for another glorious ten-ish months. But this year, the brilliant Swim Deep gave us something to actually be cheery about. Posted as a free download just as Wizzard were getting back into their usual groove, the band that released their groundbreaking debut album this year got my December back on track. If only they could change the word “Christmas” to something less festive, so I could still listen to it without feeling guilty. [Presses play again]

2. Norma Jean Martine - No Gold

The New Year is all about starting afresh, and nobody understands that more than Norma Jean Martine, with a song about getting up and leaving her hometown with nothing but hope and a pop vocal to her name. You’re thrown into Martine’s teasing vocals immediately with this track, and it’s a sign of good things to come. With a piano-led vibe that feels like a slightly jazzier Black Keys record, this first effort from the London/New York hybridity is almost impossible to dislike. Last year she supported Tom Odell on tour, and in 2014 she sure has an exciting year ahead of her.

3. Bat And Ball - We Prefer It In The Dark

These guys are knocking on your window pane, and you should totally let them in. This song begins with a chilled walk-at-your-own-pace bass-line that quickly jogs into the best run you’ve had all year. It occasionally drops back to its gentler pace, but that doesn’t slow it down. Led by a strong female vocal with a guitar line and male backing vocal that sounds like something off of a The xx record, let yourself be taken in by a band that only has 904 likes on Facebook. It’s criminal, I know.

4. The Belle Game - River

I’m a big fan of the piercing, pulsating, give-me-more vocal that this Canada-based group throw out here. It’s top notch. They’ve already released a couple of EPs, and River is a single from their much delayed debut album entitled Ritual Tradition Habit, released midway through last year. The dazed, distorted guitar and twinkling piano sound has crept up once more, and it’s here to stay for 2014.

5. The Child Of Lov - Fly

Spare a thought for Cole Williams, the Belgium-born and Amsterdam-raised brainchild who created The Child of Lov. After releasing what was undoubtedly one of the most fascinating self-titled albums of last year, including collaborations with Damon Albarn and DOOM, the solo artist died two weeks before Christmas. It’s an awful shame, not just because of his youth (aged just 26), but because his music truly is one of the most interesting things I’ve heard recently. The most accurate way to describe it would be in the words of Williams himself, who tags his genre as “pop for thugs”. Take some ferociously understated bass, add a sexy harpsichord, and mix it up with some brass that could have accompanied Sylvester Stallone up the Rocky steps, and you’ve got yourself a record. If you like this, then try Call Me Up, Heal, and Give Me. They’ll all hit you very hard in different ways. In his own way, Williams bids us farewell, asserting that “this is time for goodbye”. If only we could hear what he might have done next.