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My Top 20

Sailing Sound  proudly presents Kate Ross, a great new talent in the world of music journalism. Check out Kate's Top 20 for May 2011 for Sailing Sound. Every month  Sailing Sound chooses 20 up-and-coming artists, currently working the live circuit for its Top 20. " For me, going to gigs is by far the best thing about music, so it gives me great pleasure to be able to recognise their tenacity and talent through the features below and to encourage as many people as possible to go and hear them play live" Kate Ross. If you want to know more what these artists are up to, just hit  MORE.


 

 
 
 

The Palace of Justice

It’s a rare thing indeed when a three-piece indie rock outfit manage to set a venue alight and win over entire crowds with their impressive musicianship, stunning lyrics and vocal refrains and sheer on-stage charisma. I’m lucky enough to have seen it happen many times recently, and band responsible is The Palace of Justice. Combining gypsy-folk melodies and Spanish guitar strumming with military-tight drumming and heartbeat bass-lines, The Palace of Justice bury their songs in a compelling poeticism of painful, lost love that sounds totally sincere and without melodrama despite their young years. Highly recommended.  

 
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Bubblegum Screw

I first glimpsed Bubblegum Screw skulking around the basement of the Royal George pub off of Charing Cross Road. Tarted up to the nines in snakeskin jeans and glittery scarves, they oozed a charisma that was perfectly reflected in their set of decadent and dirty rock n roll. The Stooges, New York Dolls, Dead Boys and Ramones are all clear influences, dragged by their sequin-studded heels into the twenty-first century and executed with swagger and showmanship. Easily one of the best live bands in London right now, check out debut album, ‘Screwphoria!’, available to download now at http://bubblegumscrew1.bandcamp.com/      

 
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Healthy Junkies

Healthy Junkies are the newest project fostered by Altercation’s Nina Courson and Phil Honey Jones of Hiroshamour and combines their respective styles and influences into an exciting pop-grunge mix. Throw into the mix the powerful drumming of Steve Nightmare and TJay Tarantino’s punchy bass-work and the Junkies prove to be just as intriguing as their name suggests. The guitar hammers home irresistible, growling riffs showcasing incredible skill and the on-stage chemistry of the band members makes for an exciting dynamic. Healthy or junky - either way, I’m hooked. Following several single releases last year, debut album ‘Sicknote’ is due out very soon.  

 
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The Loose Lips

The Loose Lips are a five-piece rock n roll act in the truest sense whose music recalls the Stones, Faces and Black Crowes with confidence, style and effortless skill. From the up-tempo shuffle of ‘Nothin’ Special’ to the blues-rock ballad, ‘Funny?’, the Loose Lips’ live sets demonstrate great versatility and certainly aren’t lacking excitement. The interweaving, almost competitive nature of the twin guitars makes the songs swing, driven forwards by funk bass-lines and enigmatic vocals. In fact, contrary to their name, the Lips run a tight ship with one of the most impressive rhythm sections around.

 
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(They are) One

One is gradually gaining a reputation for being a great live band, wherein all the respective elements coalesce to make an impressive indie-rock mix. Indeed, along with the effortless vocals of singer and guitarist Redvers, the twirling guitars in One’s music arguably take centre stage, their overlapping quality on tracks like ‘Liar Liar’ emulating indie standards like the Libertines, whilst at the same time aiming at a delivery that’s far more polished. Notable also is the introduction to ‘To The Moon’, which is strangely reminiscent of Jeff Buckley’s swirling psychedelic guitar on ‘Last Goodbye’.      

 
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Salwa

The simplicity of Salwa’s compositions is deceptively stark, but at the same time, provides the perfect platform for the presentation of her richly sweet vocals and gifted musicianship. Ethereal vocals and skeletal ukulele strumming lend Salwa’s songs a mythical folkloric quality, and ballad ‘Poseidon Sea’ in particular is an atmospheric composition of tempestuous longing, recalling themes not unlike those touched on by Kate Bush. Similarly, the overlaying of vocal tracks over an elegantly simple piano melody in ‘Fifteen’ similarly recall Imogen Heap’s spectral delivery, and the tracks feel pure and unembellished and made all the better for it.  

 
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The Hyenas

One of the most guttural and unashamedly raucous rock bands I’ve seen in recent months, The Hyenas make a hell of a lot of noise for a three-piece. ‘Dirty Little Love Song’ is sleazy and sordid and perfectly showcases frontman Paul Marks’ snarling vocals and is powered by the shredding guitar that lies at the heart of The Hyenas’ sound. Live favourite, ‘Chelsea Boots’ is an exhausting and energetic whirlwind of two-minute punk of which the Ramones would be proud. In short, this is a fantastic garage-punk band that always delivers live.      

 
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Van Howling

Van Howling has been described as ‘ghost swamp rock meets country tunes’, and this should be taken as a positive appraisal, since Van Howling’s unique brand of darkly gothic funk and Nick Cave-style theatrics are definitely something special. The psychedelic guitar unravels atop pulsating bass-lines and staunch drumming. Gems like ‘Show Yourself’, ‘Five’ and ‘Orpheus’ speak of macabre tales of woe and frustration, lending the songs a dramatic quality, presided over by earnestly enigmatic front-man Gabriel Balfe. Understandably, this demonstrates itself wonderfully live, when the songs are allowed freedom to move and are presented with admirable self-assurance and narrative conviction.  

 
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Th'Sheridans

I can honestly say that there’s absolutely nothing around at the moment that even vaguely resembles Th’Sheridans. Though the line-up fluctuates in adjoining members, the core, highly talented duo is that of Adam Sherif on guitar and Julia Oertli, with whom he shares vocal duties and who operates the drum machine and plays violin. On some songs Adam plays solo, accompanied only by his biting observations of London life and on others the male-female vocals and ticky-tacky drum machine add energy and quirky vibrancy to songs like ‘Guilty of Mercy’ and a particularly magnificent version of Le Tigre’s ‘Deceptacon’.

 
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The Bon Vivants

Demonstrating articulately beautiful and sensitive song-writing and real performance prowess, quartet The Bon Vivants originally formed around the duo of Zachery Stephenson and Daniel Fell (of Special Needs and the Argonauts respectively), to collaborate their talents to create melodic indie-rock of real quality. Fusing wistfully romantic, and at times, genuinely emotive, sensibilities (‘Shelter’ and ‘Champagne and Grenadine’) and electric indie-style rockabilly, as evident in the insanely catchy ‘Oh No Way!’, the Bon Vivants are obviously capable of producing confident indie-rock with heart, substance and authenticity. What’s more, having recently featured on BBC Introducing and X-fm, now’s the time to catch them live!  

 
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Altercation

It is difficult to identify a suitable band to which you can justifiably compare Altercation. Though their set-up is clearly influenced by grunge standards like Nirvana and Hole, at times it is also possible to get the slightest hint of Blondie and, at times, the dreamy quality of Nina Courson’s gorgeous vocals almost sound like The Primitives’ vocalist, Tracy Tracy or maybe even Stevie Nicks. The band’s latest EP release, ‘Dress Up’ unites these contrasting elements, and the title track in particular is a rather beautiful rock ballad that leaves a lasting impression.    

 
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HIROSHAMOUR

Hiroshamour is just as compelling as their name makes out, producing darkly psychedelic rock harnessing all the self-awareness of goth with a supreme understanding of industrial metal. The outcome is a hybrid of the ambient guitar-craft associated with bands like Pink Floyd with the apocalyptic onslaught of heavy metal. The guitar spirals skittishly in tracks like ‘Fever’, a relentless debacle with the sound effects used, which amplify the swirling layers of gothic noise. Phil Honey Jones’ banshee vocals arguably operate as another instrument in this set-up, adding to the ambient mystique which lies at the heart of Hiroshamour. This, and the explosive, staccato drumming teamed with a powerhouse of a bass player manage to execute a surprisingly elegant result.  

 
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Thee Vicars

One of the most bona fide garage bands you’re likely to hear this side of the twenty-first century, Thee Vicars is a four-piece nostalgia trip for any enthusiast of the likes of The Sonics or the 13th Floor Elevators. Even their records sound as though they’re analogue-recorded. The tight guitar sounds at times can reflect a mod-type clarity, but then the pace suddenly picks up and the bawling vocals rush in to dispel any notions of Thee Vicars as simply a tribute to late 1960s beat rock n roll. The album, ‘Psychotic Beat’ is out now on Dirty Water Records.    

 
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The MooN

If you want to see a band that truly embodies the immediacy and vitality of live music, look no further than the total sensory onslaught that is garage punk rockers The MooN. At times, the guitar sounds like it’s chuckling, the perfect counterpart to the incendiary behaviour of Man in The MooN, Joe Moon, whose role in the band is ‘Vocals and floor cleaning, audience biting’, a fairly accurate description of his feral stage-play, a strangely mesmerising collision of Nick Cave and Iggy Pop with Raw Power and gritty vocals to match. The buzz-saw rhythms and swinging bass-lines on ‘Something’s Name Is Joe’ propel everything towards a riotous self-destruction that luckily leaves every band member in tact. Highly flammable material!

 
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We Are Tokyo

We Are Tokyo is an exciting Bristol-based band indie-electro outfit whose blend of energetic electro and accomplished song-writing yields some highly sophisticated results. The band’s use of synthesizers gives the songs a dance quality which is anchored down by catchy riffs, a true testament to the current 80s revival. The vocals too are especially memorable, the lyrics speaking of lost love and romance, and though comparisons can be made with the likes of Foals and Bloc Party, We Are Tokyo sounds far more elegant than either. ‘The newest single release from this impressive young band is called ‘Bullets’ and is available now as a free download.’  

 
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Tan Hauser Gate

Tan Hauser Gate are a great example of modern and, at times, starkly electronic indie with prog-rock undertones, articulate vocals and oscillating melodies that rise and fall with the narrative in the lyrics. Stand-out track, ‘A Little Piece of You’ is accompanied by a stylish film-noir type video which is well worth a watch. ‘School’, however, sounds like a track by the Kaiser Chiefs of Blur, and uses its ‘Learn your lessons well’ refrain very effectively to create an interesting and catchy observation on the 9 to 5 day. A tight and accomplished live act .     

 
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Tough Love

I’m inclined to agree with a Guardian review made of pop outfit Tough Love, citing them ‘the Afrobeat Scissor Sisters’, since both bands produce stylised yet radio-friendly pop. However, Tough Love’s tribal drumming, chanting and Eastern-inspired rhythms, evident on tracks like ‘Stress’ and ‘Film of My Life’, as well as the wonderful glam-Victorian costumes set it apart as something different altogether. This theatrical self-presentation doesn’t exactly compliment Tough Love’s music so much exaggerate its eclecticism, since whilst the tribal influence is clearly a dominant force, the subjectivity is very much within the realms of pop, making it a compelling listen.    

 
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Rescue Cat

Producing fun electro-pop with cool Human League-style female backing vocals and soaring synths, Rescue Cat is a stylish and interesting project. Commenting on anything from social networking (‘Tom is My Only Friend’) to drug addiction (‘£10 Bag’), the combination of elements brought together by Rescue Cat is best experienced live. The backing-vocals are sultry and soulful and ‘Rescue Cat’ himself, frontman Robin, is charismatic and likeable. What’s more, the driving 80s synthesizers and keyboards propel the songs and give them great momentum, making Rescue Cat a pretty unique feline indeed. Catch the Cat at The Water Rats on 29th April.

 
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S.C.U.M

S.C.U.M is without a doubt one of the most hypnotic bands I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing live. Taking their name from would-be Warhol assassin Valerie Solanas’ 1968 manifesto, Society for Cutting Up Men, S.C.U.M is suitably androgynous, mysterious and wildly feral. The fact that Industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle is looking to collaborate with S.C.U.M should tell you something about how intense and dystopian this band is. Though associations have been made with the recent Dark Rock scene centred around East London, mere seconds into ‘Visions Arise’ or one of their ‘Signals’ as the band calls them (‘Warsaw’ and ‘Berlin’) it becomes clear that S.C.U.M is looking to confuse easy classification rather than fit into it.  

 
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The Furbelows

The Furbelows seem to occupy the grey area between serious song-writing and unashamed melodrama and with song titles like ‘Chill Out, Baby (It’s Only the End of the World)’ and ‘Freak Tornado Blues’, you can’t help but be curious. Luckily this translates brilliantly live and the whole outfit oozes a British silliness which is actually both confident but incredibly competent. Imagine what Monty Python might sound like crossed with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and add a pinch of Talking Heads and you might be on the right lines. ‘Pleasure Machine’ is a wonderful song and one of the best things I’ve heard all year. 

 
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