If you were to list the features of a great alternative rock song, one aspect would certainly feature a gaping chasm of dissonance between the moods of the music and lyrics. Cardiff’s Lunar Bird put a massive tick in that particular box with ‘Swallow Man Aviary’, their latest single. Sonically, this track puts the ‘dream’ into dream pop – you could almost be lulled to sleep by the hazy melodies…if your imagination could avoid the imagery conjured in the lyrics. A repeated chorus of “Children hurting bees with sewing needles” seems at odds with the vibe of this song, but Lunar Bird seem to be a band who revel in the unexpected.
The group describes themselves as ‘space pop’, and they live up to this mantle effortlessly here; this really does sound like a familiar tune, filtered through the glow of another planet. A delightfully bubbly, yet decidedly weird piece of indie-pop.
Sheffield trio Art Club’s latest single ‘Moody Fantasy 9’, taken from the EP of the same name, swirls into action with an intro that combines a melancholic guitar line with an airy beat that sounds almost like a chilled-out sample. The tone is set; this track is to be a bashful flirtation with different eras of indie.
While not displaying anything really groundbreaking, this is a strong enough debut for the newcomers. Multi-layered guitars weave and pulse around the syncopated rhythm with a big enough sonic toolkit to keep the song from being too predictable. Lyrically and in terms of vocal delivery, there is more than a hint of Morrissey – but that is no bad thing, adding a post-punk melodramatic flare to the already dark-edged track. ‘Moody Fantasy 9’ certainly lives up to its name as a pure fit of shadowy indie rock; it’s a deliciously atmospheric tune that will leave fans of indie-through-the-ages satisfied.
It’s time for a deep-dive into all things gloriously gothic, with Manchester-based King Venus’s ‘Inhumite’. An ambitious debut in terms of presentation, this song is referred to by the artist as “Act I, Scene I” of their work, and comes packaged with a 12-page booklet. Unsurprisingly, the music that accompanies the concept is several shades of doom and noise, with occult flares all round.
Fans of the darker side of rock will find ‘Inhumite’ a wonderfully interesting prospect. The track is a melting pot of influences from across the spectrum of heavy music; the verses and riffs carry a nu-metal edge without succumbing to the genre’s clichés, while the reverb-drenched guitars add a flavour of 80s post-punk to what is otherwise an occultist, noise-rock vibe. The intensity builds furiously through the chorus, where chant-like vocals swirl around the singer’s gothic theatrics. There will be a definite spark here for listeners who enjoy intense, noise-laden atmospherics – but listeners with an aversion to such doom may not be too thrilled by what lies within.
East London rock ‘n’ roll duo Apple Shakers may come from a different genre than the big two-piece outfits of modern rock, but new single ‘Ambition Condition’ sounds a little too much like standard fare for such a setup. A 1-2 drum beat and prominent bass assault are too recognisable behind the indie swagger, although the guitar is wrapped in hints of psychedelic rock that could do well to stand out a little more.
Musically, ‘Ambition Condition’ is perfectly catchy, but the “modern life is rubbish” attitude of the lyrics comes off as a little superficial. It’s a clear attempt to follow in the footsteps of the great indie preachers, but unfortunately, the band is saying absolutely nothing new beneath the bravado.
There is a nice touch of sixties sounds going on production-wise, which gives a hint of something more three-dimensional under the surface; sadly, however, there is a lack of bite to the overall sound of this track. Despite the swagger, ‘Ambition Condition’ does not pack the punch it is aiming to throw.
When was the last time you heard an indie band deliver a bona-fide doo-wop crooner? ‘Beautiful’, the latest release from Uzbekistan’s NEEDSHES, is a time-machine take on early sixties pop, filtered through modern production values and with a curious lo-fi twist.
This single could pass for a simple love ballad on first listen; the band themselves charmingly describe it as “a love song that a caveman could sing to his beloved”. However, this is clearly the product of a unique creative bent. In an industry where so many acts play it safe in the hopes of a spot on local radio, it is genuinely refreshing to hear an independent act playing with the concept of genre and clearly having so much fun with it. On its own terms and all genre analysis aside, ‘Beautiful’ is a really sweet slice of pop balladry. The B-side – a surf-tinged, rockabilly “party version” – adds a further upbeat twist, if you’re in the mood for a rendition you can dance to. Top marks for creativity.