Listening Post #4

by James Hitchings-Hales

Hello fond readers! It’s been a while. Last time, the column was taken over by PearShaped President, Jack Reid, and it featured some sterling inclusions. Adoration in particular must be paid to the brilliant summer glory of Thumpers and to the bodacious broodiness of Banks. But now I’m back, and we’ve got a lot of catching up to do!

Without deliberately wanting to open on an apology, it pains me that to praise the five best new tracks around this week, so many others forgo mention. So commiserations to Arthur Beatrice, The Acid, Holychild, and The Orwells, who have all just released epic new material that you should definitely go check out. Any track from Sun Structures, the debut album from Temples, could have made the cut too - but alas, it was not meant to be. Hopefully their disappointment at missing out on this week’s Listening Post will be eased with a Mercury Prize nomination. Too early to start throwing such claims about? Most definitely not.

But I digress. If you do just one thing this week, listen to the these records. I suppose that makes five things, but go with it.

1. Ages and Ages - Divisionary (Do The Right Thing)

So last week I lost the election battle to become the next Exeter Guild President. By the skin of everybody’s teeth, I hasten to add. It’s fine, I’m over it. What followed was a series of empty days where I watched New Girl obsessively and drank the politics away. That is until Ages and Ages, voted the best band in Portland, came and strummed my blues away. To maintain the trend of politics, Barack Obama nicked one of their songs from their debut album, Alright You Restless, on his 2012 campaign trail. I imagine that’s because their positive indie folk-rock vibes put the American people in a happy enough mood to stop them eating, which prompted sufficient optimism to get them voting. Clever old Barack.

The track opens with an infectious vocal hook resonating quietly over simple rhythm guitar. It’s not long however, before everyone starts joining the party. Cue a queue of backing vocalists and instrumentalists waiting to throw their sound into the mixing pot, until we reach a crescendo of choral pop that is just about great enough to pull you out of bed and throw those curtains open. Clap along, heed their advice, and check out their album Divisionary when it’s released in just over a month. As I write this, they are just leaving the UK to continue their European tour. Here’s hoping they come back soon.

2. American Authors - Trouble

You may notice a certain leaning towards feel good indie-folk anthems in today’s selections. If you’re looking for a soundtrack to the weather, then this is not the track for you. In all likelihood you’ve heard the debut single from American Authors, Best Day Of My Life, without even realising it. It was launched to the big time on a SuperBowl commercial, and has snuck its way onto a Hyundai advert too. What we have here is the follow up, with a top notch folky chorus and the answer to that ubiquitous question: “Where have Mumford and Sons put their banjo?”

This record comes with a bold warning on the packaging. Good people of PearShaped, it looks like we have a hit on our hands. Rush to your social media platforms whilst you still can, so that you can claim to have discovered it first. It surely can’t be too long before American Authors and their reliable banjo start dominating the Western charts.

3. Honeyblood - Choker

If you cast your mind back to the Best Unheard Singles Of 2013 feature from the end of last year, you might recognise the name Honeyblood. Whilst Royal Blood are rocking the double-act look over in Brighton, this duo from Glasgow are representing the girls with their own blend of succulent, in-your-face indie rock. They’ve been kind enough to schedule their self-entitled debut album for release on my birthday (May 19th if you want to kickstart a MoonPig order), and I’m beyond excited. Based in Scotland, it’s unlikely they will be making the trip down to Exeter anytime soon. It’s a shame, because big things are to come from Honeyblood. However, they did go all the way to Connecticut to record their album, so there is hope for us yet.

In Choker, a song barely three days old at time of writing, the girls are obviously pissed about a guy that for some reason isn’t treating them right. What a nutter. But as the record unfolds, it becomes scarily gothic, until it resembles a horror story akin to Blackbeard murdering his wives and hiding them behind locked doors. Don’t write this record off as a girl-versus-boy recounting of an untrusting relationship. What we have here is something distinctly historical, social, and rooted firmly in the dark past of storytelling. Give it the attention it deserves.

4. Circa Waves - Stuck In My My Teeth

Circa Waves gave us a lovely early Christmas present with their Get Away/Good For Me release last December, and Stuck In My Teeth is their brand new offering. No word on an immediate album release in the future just yet, but if they keep singing “I’m a little too young with not enough time”, then surely an announcement can’t be too far away. Quite obviously born in a generation that glorified The Strokes, they’re one of the best things to come out of Liverpool in a long time. Dan Croll is right up there too, but it’s worth noting that they’re playing wildly different ball games.

Stuck In My Teeth is their second single to be picked up by Zane Lowe as his Hottest Record In The World. Not that it really means much, but it proves that they are certainly getting noticed. Huw Stephens is a fan as well, and has invited them in for a Radio 1 live session next week. They’re just about to shoot off on the NME Awards 2014 Awards Tour too, alongside the brilliant Interpol, Temples, and Royal Blood. Circa Waves are on the right track to success, and judging by the records they’ve released, they deserve every groupie they can get their hands on.

5. Hozier - From Eden

Sometimes the Divine Creator, whoever he is, doesn’t distribute the gifts of humanity fairly. Some people are incredibly attractive, but think that Jersey Shore has academic value. Others can rid the world of cancer, yet are incapable of ditching their virginity. Annoyingly, in the case of Andrew Hozier-Bryne, he’s been given some unfair advantages. Let’s be honest, he’s a very good looking man. And his voice. Oh, his voice!

Why does nobody ever write a song like this for me? Hozier is old fashioned, and that’s reflected in his soulful voice and succulent blues-y acoustic guitar led sound. Kind of like meeting in the middle between George Ezra and Alabama Shakes, this Irishman is more than just a charmer. You might recognise Take Me To Church released at the business end of last year. We wanted more of the same, and he’s dutifully provided. Check out his new From Eden EP released at the end of March, from which this song is the title track. With any luck it will be more “Shut my eyes and pretend he’s singing to me” kind of stuff. March 31st: save the date!