Listening Post #7

by Emily Pratten

My sincerest apologies to any avid followers of this Listening Post, for the very large delay that has accompanied this fortnight’s installment. New music never sleeps, neither do essay deadlines, and as a result, more recently, neither do I. Excuses aside and apologies hopefully accepted, the beginning of December has been an absolute joy, musically and otherwise, in terms of new releases, new discoveries, and a huge installment of twinkling glittering Christmas-ness. Is that a word? It can be now. If you have time between mince pies and Shakin’ Stevens, these tracks are so good that some of them are worthy of the ‘Best Of 2014’ title, despite only surfacing towards its end.

1. Little Deed - Storm In My Cup

I’m going to take some liberties with this one and write a little more than normal, because this is nothing other than a celebration. She’s done it. She has returned from the war. The extent of my narrative regarding this song is nothing other than a reflection of just how strongly this song resonates with me and with many in new music circles. Sydney-based Little Deed featured on the first Listening Post I ever wrote with her debut track, Neon, which caused a veritable storm within me, as any of my close friends will happily, or unhappily, tell you. Four months on, with hope that she would return waning, our faith was rewarded. Within half an hour of this song being posted online I had four messages from four different people across four different social networking platforms alerting me that the time had come.

But down to the song. It starts off slowly, much like Neon, and it’s moody and stormy, like the name suggests. With some piano chords and a triggering staccato bass, Little Deed’s voice comes in and she is joined by what sounds like strings. After a few bars, the percussion begins to echo the rhythm started by the bass. The slow build is a burning joy, and the vocal performance throughout the track is simply remarkable. There have been previous comparisons to London Grammar’s Hannah Reid and Florence Welch, and while those comparisons are still valid, as soon as I heard this track my gut response was ‘it’s definitely Little Deed’. The vocal is soft but strong, it is not drowned out by the intricate and extensive production work on the song, but instead carries it. It’s velvety and hangs over the track beautifully. It’s emotionally charged and sincere.

Storm In My Cup is certainly anything other than a storm in a teacup; I cannot exaggerate enough how impressed both myself and my other musically inclined friends and colleagues have been with this second creative wonder from Little Deed. Once again, it is lyrically stunning, and this combined with the beautifully crafted production of the song and the powerful voice means that it is certainly a captivating experience. There’s a lot more going on than in previous release, Neon, which will forever hold a special place in my heart. “Black and blue, don’t make me wait for you” opens the chorus. But we would. We would wait for Little Deed. In the first Listening Post I boldly stated that I would ‘follow Little Deed into battle’, and nothing has changed here. I can only hope that when she finally comes to the UK she will allow me to buy her a drink to commend what can only be described as a wholly organic and natural talent for songwriting. Cheers to you, my dear.

2. Kwabs - Walk

London boy, Kwabs, is featured on the BBC Sound Of 2015 list along with a few of my other staple favourites, such as Years & Years and Rae Morris. In celebration of this, I’m putting my favourite track of his, Walk, on the column. Despite the song not being ‘new’, it’s from a very new and exciting artist, so it’s allowed. Walk is arguably Kwab’s most successful creative venture of the year commercially, featuring on the Fifa soundtrack and reaching a huge number of hits on YouTube. His soulful vocal is simply beautiful on this song; it’s smooth and honey-like and washes over very easily. The song itself is bouncy without being peppy or annoying. It’s strong and pulsating, it’s rhythmic and punchy. The percussion throughout is persistent and strong, and is definitely the foundation running through the track. It’s so catchy as well. Infectiously so.

3. Låpsley - Painter (Valentine)

Another installment here from a Sound Of 2015 contender, an older one from Liverpool’s Låpsley. This one is a much slower and calmer track than the previous two. It’s as though James Blake and Bon Iver and The xx all came together and wanted to write a delicate and intricate master-track. The vocal performance is husky and gentle, and lazily drifts over beautiful chord progressions and occasional xylophone riffs that almost make it sound like a lullaby. I really adore this one, though it’s difficult to talk about. It’s textured and moving and atmospheric. Listen to it.

4. Bastille - The Driver

Speaking of atmospheric, that’s probably the word I would use to describe this track by Bastille. From Part III of the creative effort that is Other People’s Heartache comes this song, written for the rework of the Drive Soundtrack. Possibly the reason for the name of the song. Possibly.

It starts with a sole guitar, picking out individual notes in a basic and simplistic moody opening. Dan’s signature vocal comes in, singing “Shout out from the bottom of your lungs, a plague on both your houses”. The Shakespeare reference strikes here immediately; it’s perhaps even a little melodramatic, but it’s haunting. His voice is great and you feel like something is building up to something so that you’re going to let it go. Almost out of nowhere, the pitch changes and Smith is singing “Big boys don’t cry” along to a loud - and even more dramatic - guitar part. Percussion and heavy bass comes in and on first listen it may even appear a little jarring. But it’s really very good. It drops back out of the chorus into the sole guitar that scores the verses and you’re now waiting for the drop to come back in again, which it does, very suddenly.

I think this song is perfect for the Drive Soundtrack and it is certainly one of the best from the new EP. It’s dark and slow-burning and a pleasant turn away from the upbeat high tempo summer anthems, like Pompeii. This is the Bastille that longstanding fans of the band will truly enjoy. It’s slightly epic in places.

5. Purity Ring - Push Pull

Purity Ring’s debut album was released two years ago, so they are less of a new artist on this column. Yet they are still very deserving of a feature due to new track, Push Pull, that dropped online a week or so ago. Considering it’s their first new song in two years, I imagine die-hard fans were very happy with this venture. It’s electronic and dreamy and floaty, another example of an intricate and almost magical soundscape featuring moments of deep and powerful synth along with much lighter phases that almost sound like hovering silences. It’s vibrant and chirpy and certainly causes stirs of excitement about a sophomore album.