Come to Long Division and see Wakefield’s special DIY ethic at work, says festival organiser Dean Freeman

As the festival season dawns upon us once more, what better time to take a look around at what the UK has to offer?

Long Division is a music and DIY arts festival spawned by the Rhubarb Bomb fanzine based in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. Now in its third year, it’s gathering more and more momentum with growing popularity and Arts Council funding. The Fall and breakout talent Ghostpoet will be headlining a day of music on Saturday 8th June, with Yorkshire writer Simon Armitage (and his band, The Scaremongers) leading an arts-fuelled Sunday for the Long Division Fringe.

Dean Freeman, the mind behind the festival, discusses the highlights of this year’s event and what exactly makes Wakefield so special.

Long Division runs from 7th – 9th June, tickets are available for £20. Fringe events are free or priced individually.

New Desert Blues @ Lennon’s, Southampton (27/04/2013)

New Desert BluesPhoto: William Fuller

I don’t understand music fans that turn up just for a gig’s headliner. You never know what support-act riches you’re going to stumble upon, and Saturday’s line-up was a goldmine.

Farnham four-piece The Venus Lyx kicked off proceedings. Churning out some standard, yet pleasing, guitar-heavy tracks to start with, it was when the vocals started to get bluesy that their set got interesting. By getting raw and rocking some fun guitar licks, the guys took it up by several notches before their time was up.

Ever heard of London outfit LSA? No? Me neither before Saturday. Causing a stir as the unnanounced second support act, the revelation that it was their live debut was clearly met with surprise. As far as first gigs go, this was a blinder. The band were tight and held a truly engaging rapport with the crowd. If there were any jitters on stage, they weren’t visible throughout the impressive set. Seemingly flawless both instrumentally and vocally, this new discovery was the highlight of the entire evening. Unfortunately I can’t find them online, but definitely keep an ear out for these guys as I sense great things to come.

Venue regulars New Desert Blues never fail to disappoint. Looking dapper, as ever, and brimming with unassuming confidence, the guys’ soothing americana vibes went down a treat. Their growing popularity across the Southern music scene was evident as revelling punters sang and chanted along, especially to firm favourite ‘Daniel’. If their recent show supporting folk-pop darlings Slow Club and live session for BBC Introducing is anything to go by, the future’s bright for New Desert Blues, and Saturday’s gig was just another step on their road to success.

Squeeze’s Pop Up Shop CDs let you relive their gig

Ever longed to experience the live set from your favourite gig once again?

Well, now you can. At least if you’re a fan of Squeeze anyway.

On every date of their current tour, Chris Difford, Glenn Tilbrook and co.’s performance will be recorded and made available immediately as part of a three CD set, which also includes their Packet Of 4 EP.

Some of the more cynical among us might see this as a desperate attempt to boost merchandise sales; a gimmick for punters to buy into. However, I think it’s a nifty idea.

Most of us would love to relive our favourite performances. More often than not, a desperate attempt to see if anyone has captured the moment and uploaded it to YouTube only leads to disappointment. Bootlegs are rare and typically the quality of such a recording leaves a lot to be desired – whereas these CDs will be mixed via the sound desk throughout the gig.

In a similar vein to rockers 3 Doors Down, who produced USB wristbands with MP3s of live tracks at their shows earlier this year, it’s another example of bands trying to keep up with the technology era. Truly making the most of the digital age by creating unique releases night after night.

The thing that makes Squeeze’s Pop Up Shop CDs stand out from previous attempts to meet the desires of the keen gig-goer, is the form of the product. The effort to physically publish these sets, track by track, at the scene of the event cannot go unnoticed. Fans who can’t make the shows can even pre-order a copy from the night of their choice, leaving the tracklist to chance.

Here’s a taster of what to expect:

So if you had the opportunity to get your hands on a CD copy of your favourite gig, which would it be?

Sufjan Stevens’ latest music video is an undead insight into upcoming Christmas release

Not long ago the rumours of a new Sufjan Stevens album buzzed across my social media feeds like a drunk wasp on a waltzer. So when the video for ‘Mr Frosty Man’ was unleashed onto the internet, before the eyes of expectant indie enthusiasts and Christmas fans alike, I was delighted to see for myself these hopeful whispers bear fruition.

Normally I’m hesitant to discuss anything relating to the Yuletide period outside of December, but in this case, what with Halloween having descended upon us last week, this visual masterpiece is quite an apt way to wave off the spookiest day of the autumn season and ring in the winter months.

Reminiscent of a more gruesome Nightmare Before Christmas, the video might not win any marathons (lasting just 2:01 minutes, a brief sneeze of time) but it certainly packs an undead punch . Without spoiling the climax for anyone, ‘Mr Frosty Man’ tells the tale of a snowman who comes to life in an attempt so save his creator from a nuclear zombie attack. The usual, you’re probably thinking? Well no, of course not, but let’s remember that Stevens can be fairly unpredictable and according to director/master of claymation  Lee Hardcastle, his creations ‘are not for children’.

As a fan of the vast majority of Stevens’ back catalogue, I believe I won’t be alone in saying that ‘Mr Frosty Man’ is hardly a mind-blowing addition to his oeuvre. However, it’s still a welcome return to the forefront from the Detroit-born multi-instrumentalist. If this video is anything to go by, a lot more adventure is hopefully in store on this upcoming release, which ties into what is more traditionally a time of peace. I welcome any seasonal shake up Stevens has to offer.

Silver & Gold: Songs for Christmas, Vols. 6-10 is a five-EP box set of Christmas-related songs and carols recorded by Stevens between 2006 and 2012. It serves as a follow up to Songs for Christmas, released six years ago and will be available on November 13th.

Highlights from Bestival 2012

Oh dear, readers. It would seem I’ve been neglecting you for the past couple of weeks. That’s what happens when you leave the creation of an elaborate bird costume to the last minute! Excuses aside, this weekend’s wildlife themed Bestival was a scorching success, and not just because of the glorious sunshine.

Situated deep in the Isle of Wight countryside, Bestival has been running since 2004 as an offshoot of DJ and record producer Rob da Bank’s Sunday Best record label and club night. Always a colourful and exotic affair, it has a different fancy dress theme each year to allow festival goers to get their creative juices flowing and dress as outlandish as they please. This year wildlife was the motif, which lead the way for a stampede of spots, stripes, feathers and even shells.

However, it’s not all about the attire, of course, and Bestival 2012 boasted a very impressive and eclectic line-up. So who came top of the festival food chain this weekend? Here’s a list of highlights for you lovely people.

Adam Ant & The Good, The Mad and The Lovely Posse

As a girl brought up listening to Adam Ant‘s back catalogue, I was excited yet apprehensive about the dandy highwayman’s set on Friday. From the chat around the campsites it was clear that I was not alone. Would he be performing his hits? Would he be kitted up in military clothing like his glory days? And would he be able to hold his own on the main stage, potentially performing to thousands of onlookers? I’m very happy to say he did not disappoint. Every bit the showman, he commanded the audience’s attention with minimal effort, dancing around the stage, dressed up to the nines. Great vocals and obvious spirit has left me keen to hear his upcoming new studio album, the first to be released in 17 years.

Stevie Wonder

After a spellbinding performance at Glastonbury 2010, the living musical legend that is Stevie Wonder graced the UK festival scene once again, headlining the last night of Bestival. The astonishing two hour set was packed with recognisable hits and encapsulated the joyous atmosphere of the entire weekend. Alongside timeless classics such as ‘Superstition’, ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’ and ‘For Once In My Life’, the Motown star covered tracks by Michael Jackson, John Lennon and The Beatles. Full of life, full of soul — Stevie Wonder was a majestic climax to the festival.

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs

Orlando Higginbottom aka TEED is a young lad from Oxford who, after dabbling in the classical music realm, is becoming an increasingly prominent figure on the UK electronic scene. His debut album Trouble garnered positive reviews across the board upon its release in June and it’s no surprise that this great collection of tracks translates well to a live setting. Every beat was perfectly timed, as were the backing dancers who were appropiately dressed as animals. Being restricted to his decks didn’t stop TEED putting on a phenomenally fun festival show.

Michael Kiwanuka

After winning the BBC’s Sound of 2012 poll back in January, Michael Kiwanuka lived up to the reputation that preceded him by delivering the ideal soundtrack to the last day of Bestival. The British soul singer was consistantly on-key and his laidback rhythms went down as smooth as a chilled fruit cocktail in the sunshine. A quick glance around the Big Top tent revealed that the crowd were having a constant head-nodding session with transfixed smiles. It was a real treat to hear a Jimi Hendrix cover inbetween a collections of songs taken from his Mercury Prize nominated album, Home Again.

First Aid Kit

Swedish duo First Aid Kit are clearly influenced by the likes of Emmylou Harris and Johnny Cash. It’s so clear in fact that, upon watching their set on Friday, it was almost like being transported back in time to the heyday of contempory folk music. They showcased truly beautiful, seemingly classic songs with soaring vocals and a hint of youthful inncence. Whilst one sister stood boldy and stoicly behind a microphone and guitar, the other danced, relatively childlike, behind a keyboard. Their album The Lion’s Roar, produced by Bright Eyes’ Mike Mogis, is one of this year’s best releases, go and give it a listen.

Honorable mentions go to Justice, Two Door Cinema Club and Alabama Shakes who were also fantastic this weekend. A nod also goes to comedian Eric Lampaert who, whilst dressed as a lizard, made a baby called Albert do stand up.

H. Hawkline: Black Domino Box EP Launch @ The Social, London (21/08/2012)

hawkline

This week saw the release of up-and-coming Welsh musician H.Hawkline’s latest EP, Black Domino Box. On the second night of his mini-tour of the UK to promote the launch, London hot spot The Social played host to an incredibly intimate and delightful raucus set.

Support came in the form of R.Seiliog, an unassuming character hidden behind a laptop and guitar whose music, despite a vague sense of repetition, was an interesting combination of electronic and ethereal. Almost otherwordly, it felt like the most suitable soundtrack to the space pursuits mirrored outside of the gig (NASA’s Curiosity rover currently exploring Mars).

Showcasing a barrage of charming wit, H. Hawkline’s stage presence is second to none. This brought to light even more by the contrast to R. Seiliog, who also joined the headliner on drums. A performer who so effortlessly maintains an audience’s attention and adolation for an entire gig is very rare indeed. H. Hawkline hooks people in with as many punchlines as there are riffs.

Despite strained vocals, the show was unsurprisingly faultless. Every track on the Black Domino Box EP has it’s own individual allure andto hear them live only accentuated their appeal. The set constantly flipped between, and sometimes miraculously combined, raucausness and delicacy. Crowd favourite ‘You Say You Love Me’, taken from The Strange Uses of  Ox Gall album, was also a pleasurable addition to the track list. And although Hawkline himself readily admits he is tired of what is his undoubtedly most popular song, he delivered it with great aplomb.

You can listen to H. Hawkline’s Black Domino Box EP here.

Top five music tips for: Beacons Festival

Beacons Festival takes place in Skipton amidst the stunning Yorkshire Dales this weekend (17th – 19th August) and is one the most exciting events of the season. In former years it was known as The Moor Music Festival but 2011 saw the festival rebrand itself with a new site and a new name.  The buzz surrounding Beacons has been palpable, with tickets completely selling out.

With what I would argue is the best festival line-up the UK has to offer this summer, it was incredibly hard to pick out just five tips for you. Nevertheless, here they are:

1. King Krule

King Krule is a teenage British songsmith that you need to keep your eye out for. Having put his time in at the famous Brit school, Archy Marshall, who previously worked under the moniker Zoo Kid, is touring the festival circuit with his gutsy, stripped-back version of rock and roll. Channelling a rockabilly vibe and a sense of torment normally reserved for those with a few more birthdays under their belt, King Krule is set to take the UK music scene by storm and has already been championed by the likes of Billy Bragg. Watch his set this weekend, it may well be something you reflect upon smugly in years to come.

2. Imp

One of the most renowned bands on the West Yorkshire scene for the past couple of years. Imp is a singular example of the great acts to come from the vibrant city of Wakefield that are currently boasted by the local Philophobia Music label. They describe their sound as scuzzy riff-pop and their live sets draw you in and leave you begging for more. Let them be your new favourite band.

3. Japandroids

Seeing Japandroids live is like witnessing  a demonstration in organised chaos. The Canadian duo know how to rock without losing control of their set. Every strum is a work of angry art, every bead of sweat well-earned. Celebration Rock, their second album, received critical accaim upon its release in June of this year. All tracks were recorded live as the band wanted to seriously consider their audience, which just goes to show the amount of work and attention they put into each performance.

4. Toots and The Maytals

I’m not entirely sure this tip needs an explanation. If you really are in the dark, allow me to enlighten you.  Jamaican legends The Maytals have been around for decades acting as one of the most seminal acts to arise within the ska and reggae genre. Fronted by Frederick ‘Toots’ Hibbert, their back catalogue is full to the brim with passionate tracks such as ‘Pressure Drop’ and ’54-46 Was My Number’. For those unfamiliar with the band, they featured fairly heavily on the This Is England film and series soundtracks. The fact is you have to see Toots and The Maytals this weekend, you just have to.

5. Best Friends

Hailing from Sheffield, Best Friends are South Yorkshire’s hot new thing. It’s garage rock with a hint of surf and that is always an enjoyable mix, in this case it’s addictive too. So whether you want to lie back and soak up the countryside atmosphere or you want to down a few bottles of lager and dance like your life depends on it, Best Friends are the perfect soundtrack to the weekend.

Beck’s sheet music album is a wake-up call

It’s been revealed this week that slacker-turned-seminal musician Beck will be releasing a brand new album this December. Great news you’re thinking? Well it is, but mainly for those with the ability to read sheet music.

Song Reader, the name of this new release, will comprise of 20 booklets, one for each individual song. These will include lyrics and music notations for a variety of instruments, all of which will be handily presented in a hard-cover carrying case detailed with designs from over a dozen artists.

Beck claims that Song Reader is a way of delving into ‘what an album can be at the end of 2012’. Renditions interpreted by fans and select musicians of these previously unreleased and, more importantly, unrecorded tracks will be featured online via publisher McSweeney’s website.

Now this kind of thing could be easily perceived as hipster nonsense, harping back to the gramophone era in the middle of the digital takeover. Certainly I think there may well be an element of profiting from false nostalgia, releasing an entirely new project in a retro format, albeit incidental or otherwise. However, there’s more to this venture than that.

At face value it’s a musical experiment, and a lavish one at that. Moreover, it’s also a pretty bold statement – a two-fingered salute to illegal downloads, intentional leaks and the dominance of online music sales compared to physical purchases. Song Reader is an intervention for those that have fallen into the habit of passively adding releases to their collection at the click of a finger. It calls for enthusiasm, participation and the realisation that although YouTube and iTunes clearly have their uses, there is more to music than an MP3.

What Beck has created is a wake-up call. Music is a craft not just a commodity.

Who will provide the winning soundtrack to London 2012?

This Friday sees the grand opening of the 2012 Olympic Games hosted by the city of London. Alongside the official ceremony curated by none other than Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle, the London Live Celebration concert on the 27th will act as a  musical buffer and alternative to any torch action. In an attempt to showcase the best of British, BT have lined up acts which they feel represent different corners of the UK; such as Stereophonics (Wales), Duran Duran (England) and Paolo Nutini (Scotland). A nice albeit simple idea, regardless of whether you’re a fan of these musicians or not.

But that’s not where the music ends for London 2012.

The main anthem from the Rock the Games playlist is ‘Survival’ by rock wizards Muse. Sir Elton John and Australian dance duo Pnau, Dizzee Rascal, The Chemical Brothers and Delphic have also created official tracks especially for this summer’s extended sports day and will resound at all Olympic venues.

So of these five efforts, who takes home the gold?

Bronze Medal

When I first saw the list of five bands asked to contribute music the Games, I was slightly taken aback when scanning Delphic‘s name. This is not to say that their past work isn’t any good, merely that in comparison to the other household names in the line up their presence was fairly unexpected. Nevertheless, they have certainly delivered. It’s a great track in its own right and has bundles of energy which is an ideal tone to set for London 2012. Any athlete hearing this track would feel pumped, let’s just hope they don’t dance too much during the archery…

Silver Medal

I’ve always had a soft spot for Pnau. Their self-titled album released in 2007  was a deliciously spiky affair with plenty of electronic cheer, so it’s fantastic to see them working with living pop legend Sir Elton John. ‘Good Morning To The Night’ is an undeniably toe-tapping hybrid of two very different genres that complement each other wonderfully. This is possibly the most renowned track linked to the Oympic Games as a result of  being taken from the collaborative album of the same name, which reached number one in the UK album chart this week. Certainly a crowd-pleaser and set to keep spectator spirits high over the summer.

Gold Medal

The Chemical Brothers simply have to take away the gold medal with their London 2012 soundtrack effort. It may not win any awards for depth or variety, but it truly commits itself to the Olympic Games. ‘Theme For Velodrome’ seems to be one part bicycle, two parts Tron. It’s impossible to listen this without picturing hordes of cyclists powering round the track with focused faces and legs pedaling so fast that everything’s become a blur. Admittedly this is not the best stand-alone release, but there’s no mistaking how perfect it is for the job at hand, bringing the Olympics to life through music.

Top five music tips for: Truck Festival

Apparently summer has hit the UK and festival frenzy is sweeping the nation. With so many opportunities out there to lose a weekend to live music, rolling fields and questionable takeaway food, how do you know which festival is right for you? Well there’s something for everyone out there and I’m here to give you my top five music tips for upcoming events, starting with this weekend’s Truck Festival.

You’ve bought your ticket and now you’re struggling with the overwhelming array of acts to choose from. Don’t worry, here’s a helping hand to point you in the direction of your pop priorities.

About Truck Festival

Set up in 1998, Truck Festival is the brainchild of Robin and Joe Bennett, former members of the band Goldrush. After finding festivals such as Glastonbury too mainstream and commercial, its birth was an act of rebellion and its initial success spawned the Truck Records label based in Oxfordshire. Now under the management of Y Not Festival, it’s set to be a cracking weekend.

So who should you be listening to during the Friday and Saturday festivities?

1. Man Like Me

Insanely energetic London outfit Man Like Me are a treat for the eyes and ears. If their set at The Great Escape Festival was anything to go by, you best be wearing your dancing shoes (or wellies) when they take to the stage. Known for their highly infectious pop tracks and a cameo in the advert for a very popular Scandinavian store, Man Like Me are a must-see at this year’s Truck Festival. The Camden duo are signed to Mike Skinner’s record label, The Beats, and their latest single ‘Squeeze’ is a summer anthem if ever there was one. Vibrant, synthesized and with bravado by the bucket load, you need to get involved.

2. Villagers

Following the critical success of their 2010 album debut Becoming A Jackal, Villagers have spent the past few months in the studio rustling up their next offering. Now ready to unleash themselves unto the world once more, the band, who hail from Dublin, are sure to sooth the soul. Front man Conor J. O’Brien offers delicate yet powerful vocals, particularly haunting during live renditions of ‘Memoirs’; a track he originally penned for Charlotte Gainsbourg who released it as a limited edition single for Record Store Day 2011. It’s a rare yet spectacular band that can deliver songs which leave you feeling raw and exposed, cushioned in-between bouts of quick Irish wit. Villagers are not to be missed.

3. Lucy Rose

Fresh from touring with Bombay Bicycle Club and Noah and The Whale over in the US, Lucy Rose is now descending upon Truck Festival. Steadily infiltrating the popular consciousness, her latest single ‘Lines’ has received plenty of airplay and praise. All of which stands her in good stead for her debut album which is due to drop in September. If soaring melodies and folk influences are your cup of tea (an ironic turn of phrase as Rose created her own blend named ‘Builder Grey’), then make time to catch her set this weekend.

4. Frightened Rabbit

Frightened Rabbit offer indie rock with Celtic charm. It’s been nearly a decade since the band first formed and their A Frightened Rabbit EP released in 2011 exudes growth. The guys are currently working on another EP, speculated to be made available in September, and their fourth studio album, due out next year. Take this opportunity to get lost in their toe-tapping rhythms and elegant poetic lyricism. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

5. King Charles

Charles Costa aka King Charles is a natural showman. He counts Mumford & Sons and Laura Marling as pals, the former of which can be heard on Costa’s current single, ‘The Brightest Lights’, currently doing the rounds on BBC 6 Music. Loveblood, his debut album, was released back in May on Island Records and demonstrates a catchy blend of dreamy surf rock and addictive pop. His back catalogue is full of songs assured to get your earworms wriggling and to put a smile on your face.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.