Haim, The Wire


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If you haven’t heard of these girls yet, where have you been? Seriously?! The Haim sisters are cool, funny and incredibly talented… what’s not to love?

The Wire is their third single to date, not including unofficial releases and EPs. I wrote about their first single, Forever, just over a year ago (see that post here) – even then, I was very excited to see what else they had in store. They’ve since gone from strength to strength, releasing track after brilliant track, and receiving praise from pretty much everyone in the industry. You may well have seen them sharing the cover of NME with Palma Violets back in January, after having released just two singles.

The question that’s been on everyone’s lips since then is “when’s the album out?!” Thankfully, Haim have finally announced that we can expect their debut album, Days Are Gone, on September 30th. It seems The Wire will be released with the album on the same date.

All that there’s really left to say is that this single is just as fantastic, catchy, and punchy as the others… if not one of the strongest so far. And the video is bloody hilarious, so enjoy!

Lissie, Further Away (Romance Police)


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Further Away (Romance Police) is the third dose of new material that we’ve had from Lissie this year, following the release of her single Shameless back in April, and free EP Love in the City in June.

It’s good to hear that she’s not moved too far in the pop direction, which was a genuine fear of mine after Shameless. Okay, fear may be too strong a word – Shameless was a great track, it just had a little less “country” in it than Lissie fans were used to. In Futher Away (Romance Police), however, Lissie shows that she’s still very much the country-rock siren that we know and love. At the same time, her recent releases have just enough of an edge to promise that her next album won’t just be a reproduction of her first.

To be honest, with that wonderfully raw, powerful voice, complete with just the right amount of southern-American twang, Lissie could sing almost anything and make it sound good incredible. She even gave Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance a new lease of life when she covered the track back in 2010 (hear that cover here).

I’ll be eagerly awaiting the Lissie’s second album, Back to Forever, which is due for release on September 9th in the US/October 14th in the UK. Current single Further Away (Romance Police) is available to download now.

Jake Mattison, Golden Friend EP


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Jake Mattison Golden Friend EP

Last time I posted about Jake Mattison was way back in November, after having been lucky enough to catch him at Swn Festival (see that post here). Now, he’s back with a new EP entitled Golden Friend.

It’s a beautiful, slow-and-steady kind of EP. Mattison doesn’t need loads of instruments – he let’s his strong, clear voice do the talking, accompanied by a guitar and very little else. A slight echo on his voice also creates a wonderful illusion of space, giving the individual elements of the songs room to breathe. Title track Golden Friend is a prime example of this. An ode to the sun, you can almost hear the summer breeze.

Michigan and Idle Protest, the other songs on the EP, follow much in the same vein. The latter is the punchiest song on the album, with less of a relaxed vibe and more of Mattison’s American-country influences shining through.

I’ve had this EP on repeat since first-listen. It’s easy listening at it’s very best, without any of the dullness which that  usually denotes.

Jake Mattison’s Golden Friend EP will be available from July 15th. You can see the video for title track Golden Friend below.

The Courteeners, Anna – Album Review


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Stand-out tracks: ‘Are You In Love With A Notion?’, ‘Marquee’ and ‘When You Want Something You Can’t Have’

The Courteeners’ third album to date, ‘Anna’, won’t disappoint fans, but nor will it pull in much of a new audience. Whilst their signature big, anthemic choruses and catchy guitar riffs are still going strong, we’ve heard it all before – there’s nothing particularly new or revolutionary about ‘Anna’. That said, it still has everything we would expect from a good, solid indie record.

Opening track ‘Are You In Love With A Notion?’ is brilliant. Unfortunately, it’s not entirely a case of start as you mean to go on. Upon first listen, the rest of the songs all blur into one a bit, even current single ‘Lose Control’. But persevere; after a few more listens, the individual merits of a few great tracks start to shine through. ‘Marquee’, for instance, is a beautiful, self-indulgent kind of song – full of violins and pensive lyrics. The album closer ‘Here Come The Young Men’, on the other hand, has the kind of sing-along qualities that have prompted critics to call The Courteeners “a band for football fans” over the years. Whether you agree or disagree with that statement, it’s easy to picture a large crowd chanting the chorus to this particular tune.

The Drowners, Long Hair


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This song is completely addictive. At just under 2 minutes in length, when Long Hair is over I can’t help but hit replay. I’m just left wanting more.

The debut single from New York-based band The Drowners (named after the song by Suede), this is one of the most exciting new songs that I’ve heard in a long time. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but it’s probably something to do with the way the band’s classic Brit-pop influences and chilled American vibes (anyone else hear the surf-pop in there?) blend together so perfectly.

And the band themselves? Well, look at them, they’re just achingly cool. In their oh-so-rock-and-roll video, lead singer (and model) Matt Hitt and co seem to switch from one drinking spot to the next – accompanied by a few famous pals (hey there, Alexa Chung). Oh, and Hitt is originally from Wales. I don’t know why that’s important, but I feel like it makes the band appeal even more to me.

Long Hair is due to be release on February 4th on the band’s debut EP, Between Us Girls.

Palma Violets, Step Up For The Cool Cats


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Step Up For The Cool Cats was played for the first time earlier this evening on Radio One as Zane Lowe’s “Hottest Record in the World”. It’s only their third single to date, but that’s enough to have made Palma Violets one of the most exciting bands in the UK at the moment.

And what is there not to love about this song? It has the same wonderfully summery vibe that the band’s previous two singles, Best Of Friends and Last Of The Summer Wine,  had. It’s got plenty of nostalgia, with faded vocals and wistful lyrics like “you got me dancing in the sun”. This, along with all the cries and hollers thrown in,  almost makes it feel like we’re listening to them at a festival. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty much sick of winter and more than ready for a festival, so I might just close my eyes, stick this on repeat and pretend I’m lying in a muddy field! That’s almost the same thing, right?

I was lucky enough to interview the brilliant Palma Violets for CUTV back in October, you can see the whole thing here!

Palma Violet’s debut album, 180, is out 25th February, and will feature Step Up For The Cool Cats as well as previous singles Best Of Friends and Last Of The Summer Wine.

Stornoway, Knock Me On The Head


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Knock Me On The Head is alternative-folk band Stornoway’s first release since their  2010 album Beachcomber’s Windowsill. It sounds a bit more polished than anything we’ve heard from them before, but with singer Brian Brigg’s distinctive voice and the band’s characteristic harmonies, it still has that unmistakable Stornoway sound.

This is the first single from the band’s forthcoming second album, Tales From Terra Firma, which is due to be released in March. It seems Stornoway’s fascination with the maritime will be a continuing theme in this album, which is a good thing – it sort of gives a sense of identity and a consistency to their music.

As well as being one of the first bands to emerge during the current revival of the folk scene, I think Stornoway are still one of the most exciting. They may not have kicked up as much as a storm as have contemporaries like Mumford and Sons, or Noah and the Whale, but their music is certainly on a par with these bands. I can’t wait to hear what the rest of the new album sounds like!

Miles Kane, Give Up


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This explosive new single from Miles Kane was unveiled on Radio One, XFM and online this morning. It’s been a while since Kane released any new material (his last single was First Of My Kind, back in April), and Give Up was certainly worth the wait. It’s as if of his previous singles have clubbed together and multiplied to create something even catchier and bigger than ever before.
Give Up is due to be released on February 24th. Speaking to Huw Stephens, Kane said the next album is “on the way”, so watch this space!

Top 10 Albums of 2012


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Happy new year! It’s also exactly a year since I started this blog, so happy birthday Headphones & Downloads!

About a year ago, I posted my top 10 albums of 2011, so I thought I’d do the same for 2012. I’ll spare you the X Factor-esque spiel about how horribly difficult it has been to pick my favourites (although it really has, there have just been so many fantastic albums!) So, without further ado, here’s my top 10, in reverse order:

2012 album covers

10. Given To The Wild, The Maccabees
9. Come Of Age, The Vaccines
8. My Head Is An Animal, Of Monsters And Men
7. An Awesome Wave, Alt J
6. All The Crooked Scenes, Ellen And The Escapades
5. Jake Bugg, Jake Bugg
4. Dead & Born & Grown, The Staves
3. Love Blood, King Charles
2. Babel, Mumford & Sons

And finally, my #1 album of the year…

Like I Used To, Lucy Rose
I was expecting Lucy Rose’s debut album to be good, but I didn’t anticipate just how brilliant it would be. Lucy’s voice is so beautiful and smooth that it gives me goosebumps, particularly on Shiver. Other highlights are Be Alright and Gamble, then ofcourse there are the singles Lines, Bikes and Middle Of The Bed. Running through the whole album is a theme of pure, genuine lyrics – Lucy has a real knack for creating very emotive songs.

Merry Christmas! & Free Frank Turner Download


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Xtra Mile Recordings and Frank Turner are celebrating Christmas by giving us a free download of Turner’s new track, Four Simple Words, plus b-side Cowboy Chords (demo). Just click here to go to the Xtra Mile Recordings website and follow the instructions for the download.

Turner’s new tunes are brilliant, as always. So enjoy!
And have a fantastic Christmas!