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.

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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.

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.