Black Foxxes: I'm Not Well - Album Review (Sort of)

Black Foxxes New Album I'm Not Well

We're at a very exciting stage of the Black Foxxes story right now. They have just released one hell of an album (I feel like I've said that too soon into the review...ah well) and the hype machine is steadily hitting into higher and higher gears.



The album entitled I'm Not Well is twelve tracks of arena sized emo. With flashes of Manchester Orchestra, Brand New and Against Me! partnered alongside passionate performances translated perfectly from their live shows to the record. This is an album that is engrossing from start to finish. It's a great listen, but here's where things get really interesting.

Black Foxxes are officially rock music's worst kept secret.

They feel like a top UK act in the making. The record industry knows of course, they've been snapped up by Spinefarm Records who are a subsidiary of the Universal Music Group. And the critics know, everyone from Kerrang! to Drowned in Sound have been heaping on the praise for the UK three piece and the premiere album stream was picked up by The Independent.

The mainstream rock audience is yet to fully take hold, but aren't far behind. Of course, these things take time, and the beauty with rock fans is, they're always on the look out for the newest act to melt their faces off.

The benefits for fans quick on the uptake is opportunity. A cursory glance at their upcoming tour boasts a treasure trove of opportunities for new devoted fans to catch this band in intimate surroundings. 500-1000 cap venues galore, if that!



So how big could they be?

Well let's think about that. This album isn't a pop record. There are no Cary Rae Jepson (remember her?) ear worms to propel them onto the Radio 1 A-list, and rock music, no matter how epic, has to take a backseat to the shenanigans of the hit parade when it comes to national airplay.

But whereas pop acts, appear then disappear in a matter of months, rock acts have a more elongated process ahead of them. I mean it took Biffy Clyro four albums to get the recognition they deserved, and with The Maccabees calling it a day before having the chance to headline one of the top top festivals in the world (which they most thoroughly deserved to do) it just goes to show this business is a marathon not a sprint.

The sky's the limit, but it may take time.

But Black Foxxes are onto something here, and if I've learned anything whilst writing about music, it's that good music always gets the audience it deserves. Tracks such as River, Bronte and Pines are all cult classics in the making (if not already) but cult status is not what awaits this band.

Black Foxxes have arrived. Say hello to your new favourite band.


Introducing: A Grave With No Name

A Grave With No Name - Interview

Allow me to introduce you to A Grave With No Name, the moniker of singer-songwriter Alexander Shields. He crafts dark, art-rock folk sounds and is releasing his latest album Wooden Mask this Friday (August 12th).

Recorded over a winter at London’s Holy Mountain Studios, Wooden Mask is a skeletal collection of songs, stripped and left bare. He carefully crafts voice, ambient noise, thoughtful acoustics and field recordings to create a sound that is at times both distant and intensely intimate.

The latest track to be released from the forthcoming album is Pirouette a delicate two minute affair formed around an acoustic arpeggio and a string accompaniment both of which combine effectively to create a dark yet peaceful atmosphere. In the artists own words...

"It’s a ballad for the invisible sways and whirls we perform; the theatre we divine.”

The man behind the music kindly agreed to answer the now infamous introducing questionnaire, revealing his childhood love for WWE, a hate for Jay-Z's latest effort and how a performance at a Bar Mitzvah started his musical journey.

1. What is your favourite album and why?


I have a couple, but The Glow Pt.2 by The Microphones is always a constant. I bought the CD around 10 years ago knowing very little about it, but as soon as I pressed play, my whole conception of what an album could be, and sound like, altered

2. What is your least favourite album and why?

Without hesitation, Magna Carta: Holy Grail by Jay-Z. I had always been a big fan of Jay-Z, and respected his ability to put out artistic records like American Gangster at the times when people least expected it and had written him off, but Magna: Carta Holy Grail and everything it stands for is just bullshit.

3. If you had to describe your music in three words, what would they be?

Observe and report.

4. What made you start making music?

Although I had never picked up an instrument in my life, a friend asked me to write a song to play at his Bar Mitzvah party when I was 12 years old, and it just continued from there. The performance was probably the most humiliating experience of my life, and may explain why I don’t enjoy playing live to this day.

5. Favourite swear word?


Tuchas.

6. If you could create a band from musicians, living or dead who would you choose?

I think pushing musicians incongruously together rarely produces good music, but personally I would enjoy the opportunity to work in the studio with Dave Pajo, or Phil Elverum.

7. Obvious musical skills aside, do any of you have any secret talents?

I can guess the time accurately to the nearest couple of minutes without referring to a clock no matter what time of day it is.

8. What is your favourite childhood TV programme?

I am not big into nostalgia, so I don’t really think back fondly to the programmes I watched as a kid, but I was seriously into wrestling when I was younger.

9. If you weren't in a band, what profession would you like to attempt and why?

I enjoy helping people out who have had difficult upbringings and I pursue that now, so I guess that would come into focus more if there was space left by not being a musician.

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

“Alexander Shields? I’ve been waiting to see you. I just wanted to say I thought your performance at Joseph Synett’s Bar mitzvah ruled man. Come on in!”

A Grave With No Name's new album 'Wooden Mask' is out August 12th via Forged Artifacts


FIB (Benicassim) Festival 2016 - Review

Kendrick Lamar FIB 2016

Spain really is spoilt when it comes to weather.

"What's the forecast look like today Marco?"

"What?"

"The weather forecast"

"..."

"Marco?"

"It's sunny. It's always sunny. It's been sunny for the last 300,000 years".

"Oh yeah!"

There's a reason Spanish television brushes over the weather in it's news bulletins (I mean, I'm guessing here...but why would you bother?). Of course, this almost guaranteed sunshine present in Espana means that it is the perfect location for a festival. So that's why I ventured a few weeks back to Benicassim Festival or FIB.

Located just over an hour away from Valencia, the festival sits on the Costa Azahar and puts the UK festivals to shame in terms of pure landscape beauty. As well as this landscape, they always manage to shape a line up that can stand toe to toe with the best of them in Europe, with headliners that would entice any music lover away from the shores of Blighty.

The first headliner (or co-headliner) up was Biffy Clyro. With a brand spanking new album behind them, the band were eager to dust off a few of the new tracks they'd been working on for the past few years, and flew into Wolves of Winter before diving head first into a hit-heavy set list.

Biffy Clyro FIB 2016
Excuse the arm...
Seven albums in, and with just over an hour to play, the band had to work hard to tick every box on the festival agenda and only managed to do so by neglecting to play anything from their first trilogy of albums. A bit of a shame, but a storming performance none the less.

Elsewhere, Band of Skulls were busy converting new fans with their blend of fuzzed up blues whilst The Soft Moon briefly transformed the sunny environment into an underground dive bar with their heavy industrial stylings laying waste to all who were lucky enough to bare witness.

The 1975 demonstrated their future headlining status, bringing with them an army of devotees as well as an arsenal of hit songs and The Maccabees rocked the main stage laying claim to the title of "worlds biggest cult band". Seriously, they deserve more!

Snakehips brought trap music to the festival, and kept the party going well into the early hours (a highlight for sure) and The Coral brought their brand of Brit Pop to proceedings, unleashing a barrel load of hits to an appreciative audience.

FIB 2016

When you think of rock festivals in 2016, you think of one band. Muse. The trio from Teignmouth have grown to such a size now, that not even stadiums can host their glam-prog stylings. But with that popularity comes the weight of expectation.

Matt Bellamy and co always deliver, that's just what they do. But you couldn't shake the feeling that  this had become a bit routine for them? Apart from perhaps Bliss, there were no real surprises in the setlist. It was single heavy and whilst those singles are predominately all showstoppers, I would've liked to see a few more rarities thrown in.



Perhaps I'm asking for too much. Perhaps I'm a bit of a "Muse snob". One thing is for sure, despite what I say, they were the majority of the festivals performance of the weekend.

My performance of the weekend prize however, goes to Kendrick Lamar. The Compton born rapper brought To Pimp a Butterfly to Benicassim and delivered a powerful performance.

It's a strange experience seeing a festival crowd silenced by an artist. These people had been drinking all weekend, and yet there was not one person in my vicinity who could take their eyes of the stage when Kendrick performed. Tracks such as Alright and Institutionalized juggled their heavy subject matter and danceable rhythms perfectly, whilst M.A.A.D City and Swimming Pools established themselves as outright hip hop anthems, each one bringing the house down respectively.

All in all an amazing weekend of music in an amazing environment. Who could ask for more?

Why You Should Be Watching...Speed Runs

Sonic The Hedgehog Speed Run

I'm a fan of video games. Having said that, I wouldn't say I dedicate any discernible amount of time towards playing them. They're a way of getting out of my head, a distraction from whatever silly problems I may have running through my brain box that day.

That's not to say I haven't got caught up in a few titles in the past. I'm a fan of the Fallout franchise, and as a kid was a bit obsessive over a few of the Final Fantasy titles (7,8 and 9). Barring those, I'm very much a casual gamer, at the very most, the step up from that... a smart-casual gamer perhaps?

Despite my laissez faire attitude towards games, a few days ago I found myself watching play throughs of old titles. It's a bit of a thing on Youtube. Personalities such as PewDiePie have made big money by playing and uploading footage of themselves playing games.



That's all very well and good, and if you can get away with playing games for a living, I say go for it.

However, it wasn't these standard (or "Let's Play" videos) that grabbed my attention. No, the videos I was fascinated by, were specifically categorised as "Speed Runs".

This type of video features a gamer sitting down and attempting to finish a title in the fastest time possible. Forget the plot, the characters, in some cases even the core mechanics. The name of the game is speed.

It really is something to behold. The people doing this have dedicated an enormous amount of time and energy into playing and perfecting these games, with the hope of manipulating every frame of a games being, so that it is optimised for speed.

Expect lots of shortcuts, glitches and game breaking hacks. Of course, sometimes it's just a case of knowing the game back to front (check out the THPS run through below).

It's hypnotising. And it's not just a couple of people doing it. A group called "Games Done Quick" recently held a Summer charity event and raised over $1.3 million for Doctors Without Borders!

By now you've either decided I've gone mad and disappeared, or you're thinking, "go on then, show us what's so bloody good about these videos."

As you wish.

Below are a few videos I've watched which made me think "oh snap". Check em out, and if you want to see more, pop over to the Games Done Quick Youtube channel where there are literally hundreds of videos.

Enjoy.

Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 (Start at 1:50)



Pokemon Yellow (Start at 1:27)



Super Mario Bros (Start at 3:11)



PAWS: No Grace - Album Review

PAWS No Grace Album Art

There's not a lot you can do in 26 minutes. A quick Google search prior to this write up reveals you could take a NASA power nap (what separates this from your regular power nap we'll never know), or if you're the Indian Space Research Organisation, you could launch 20 satellites into space at one time.

Annoyingly, that is actually quite impressive. I doff my cap to you India.

The point I'm trying to make (very poorly) is, you won't be able to spend 26 minutes much better than giving the new PAWS record No Grace a spin. It's a short, sharp burst of punk energy in which every second counts.

The bands third record, it not only adds a noticeable sheen of studio gloss to proceedings (helped in no short part by producer Mark Hoppus) but manages to keep the fire and ferocity in the delivery which made their first two releases such essential listens.

 The guitars are as fuzz filled as ever and the drumming has been given an injection of pace, with almost every track played at break neck speed. The choruses aren't bad either, there are pop hooks anthemic sing along opportunities and more than enough pure rock out moments to keep the old faithful satisfied.



Stand out tracks are the poppy Gone So Long, the rousing Complete Contempt and the Dinosaur Jr sounding N/A. But again, at 26 minutes just listen to the entire thing.

It really is refreshing to see a band hammer out a selection of songs that are at such a high standard. There are no misses, no moments that don't hold your attention. It's all killer and no filler, and yes, that is a faded Sum 41 expression. Deal with it.

All in all, if you're a fan of straight up rock n roll, the likes of which there just isn't enough of these days, this is the record for you. It's one of the best of 2016.

Listen to PAWS. You won't regret it.



FIB (BENICASSIM) FESTIVAL 2016 - PREVIEW

Benicassim 2016 Friday

We are slap bang in the middle of festival season, and what better way of celebrating that fact than packing up your shit and heading off to sunnier shores for yet more musical goodness. If that sounds like your cup of tea then get yourself over to Benicassim this weekend.

Based around an hour from Valenica in the small town of (who would have guessed) Benicassim, the festival otherwise known as FIB mixes the best parts of the festival experience and a beach holiday all into one.

This years line up is pretty outstanding, with British heavyweights mixing it up alongside the US and Europe's best.

Benicassim 2016 Saturday

The headliners are fierce; Muse, Kendrick Lamar and The Chemical Brothers top the bill with one of the best bands touring right now Biffy Clyro also appearing, ready to steal the show with new album Ellipsis in tow.

Of course I'm jumping ahead slightly. Thursday boasts not only the king of Grime Skepta, but one of the biggest DJ acts around Major Lazer, proving this truly is a four day music bonanza. Add Mr Oizo and Soulwax to proceedings, and you've got four acts that could go head to head with any four on the festival circuit right now.

Move on to Friday and you've got house music icon Jamie XX, indie rockers The Vaccines and the up and coming Rat Boy. Of course the main event is Biffy Clyro followed by The Chemical Brothers. Both acts can put on a hell of a show.

Benicassim 2016 Sunday

Saturday continues the rock onslaught with the biggest band in the world Muse headlining. Their seventh album Drones was a return to the hard rock stylings of earlier efforts, whilst also maintaining the grandiose sound they've perfected across their career. It's going to be an explosive show.

Disclosure and Bloc Party are in charge of warming up the crowd (as if that's necessary in this heat).

Festivities end on the Sunday with the amazing Kendrick Lamar. His performance could very well be the stand out moment of this years event, his socially conscious raps and infectious beats have rocketed him to the top of critics and fan lists alike.


Four days of music, eight days of camping. If you need a holiday and love music, this might just be the ideal destination. For more information on the lineup and information on tickets visit www.fiberfib.com.
Let's talk about...Euro 2016

Euro 2016 Logo
You may have noticed over the past few weeks, that this blog has virtually stood untouched. No new articles, no new interviews, no nothing! There is a very simple explanation as to why this has happened...Euro 2016.

Otherwise known as the European football championships, this tournament has effectively taken over my life. It's becoming a problem. Social gatherings are to be planned around matches, conversations are almost exclusively football based, and the amount of new music I've been listening to has decreased significantly.

Instead of sitting down with the most hyped album of the week, I'll flick on a group match between Albania and Switzerland. It doesn't even matter if it's likely to be a boring game, it's going to be watched.

This obsession isn't helped by the fact Wales are doing incredibly well. I'm half Welsh and had the pleasure of travelling to Toulouse to watch Russia Vs Wales a few weeks back. We won 3-0 and it was glorious.



Wales find themselves in the semi-finals, injecting some much needed happiness to what can only be described as a bit of downer of a year so far (come on 2016, I think you've had your fill of dead celebrities now).

The whole thing comes to an end Sunday July 10, so normal service will resume then. For now however, I can only do my best to try and produce some more articles in between all of the football. No promises though, I'm well and truly addicted.

At this point I'm not even sure a pirates ransom would get me writing faster.

Now, if you'll excuse me I'll pass you over to Rhys Ifans for an amazing inspirational speech before getting back to all the football.



Cymru am byth!