The high-flying boys whom will be making big impressions over the coming few months.
The new E.P. by Crystal Seagulls will be available in January.
Toetapper is available through
The unsigned four-piece are ending a year that has seen them play the Isle of Wight. It will not be long until a label snaps them up. Based on the evidence here, it is a long time overdue.
IT is once more back to the diatribe of today’s band market…
It has been a while since I have focused my thoughts on this subject. It is not one I enjoy revisiting for nefarious reasons; I just find it fascinating how the market seems to evolve and mutate- within the space of a few months. Just yesterday I featured a host of six different artists- four solo acts, and two very distinct and diverse bands. I was amazed by the range that the solo acts contained. From the soulful, sexiness and diversity of Chess, through to the intriguing and pulsating sounds of Nightwolf; there was a captivating anthem from Lydia Baylis and a gorgeous and devotional track from Elena Ramona. Each of the four acts have either an E.P. or L.P. our, or in the works. Being acts in their 20s, they are still in their infancy, yet have a hearts and heads filled with huge ambitions and plan-making. At various times I have reviewed each of the four solo stars, and am always taken aback by how determined and strong they are, with regards to fulfilling their goals. As a songwriter myself, I have always seem to been overcome by reality and the limitations and roadblocks that are thrown up- and how difficult it is record and write. The solo stars have to do everything on their own (well the majority of things anyway), yet seem to always make it work. Songs are recorded, E.P.s finished and live gigs are planned and hypothesised. I am keen to add my support and promote them as much as possible, as the solo market is one of the most tightly-packed and competitive ones there is. If you cast your mind to the current ‘mainstream’, there contains a mixture of established and recognisable stars- Lady Gaga, Tom Odell, Rhianna etc.- whom between them have their fans, but have a brevity of quality and guts. There is another more ‘underground’ sector of solo artists whom have a greater degree of quality and are much more hard-hitting and bold- the likes of Tom Waits and James Blake can be labelled in this food group. The third- and largest- sect is that of the up-and-coming newbies. For every nauseating twee-voiced waster you hear on John Lewis adverts (inevitably butchering a well-loved track), you have a large voice that are genuinely worthy of praise and further scrutiny and attention. It takes a lot of foresight, resolve and bravery to stay faithfully in love with your musical machinations: so many can fall at the first hurdle. If anything the smallest percentage of legendary and memorable albums are produced by your solo artists- certainly true in the current climate. I am not sure of the reasons, and whether this is because of the financial hardships, or the lack of collaborative creative input- it could be a number of things. I am pretty confident that the new lone artists I have recently featured will be huge successes regardless of market forces and limitations- they have the talent to be able to carve out long-running careers. Eyes and ears always seem to be more primed towards the band market. In terms of the classic albums of the ’60s and ’70s, it has usually been bands whom have produced the greatest works. This trend and track record was enforced and cemented during the 1990s, when the likes of Blur, Oasis and Supergrass were amongst a bulk of household names enlivening the music world. Over the past 15 years or so, there has been a distinct dip in overall quality. The heady rush of Britpop has long since subsided, and the brand new musical diversity that was fresh in the ’90s, has been recycled and misappropriated in the current day. There is less room for mobility; fewer opportunities exist to be genuinely pioneering, and most of what can be said (that is original) has already been said. With this in mind, I have been simultaneously depressed and excited by what I am hearing. Within my recent feature I concentrated on two bands: Issimo and Universal Thee. The former are a northern two-piece, containing the inter-gender splendours of Marc Otway and Abi Uttley. Marc is a multi-instrumental composer, whom has written a large chunk of the band’s material. His lyrics sway between tender-hearted romance, sharp insight and wit, and universal truths. I have been impressed and pleased by his songbook, which has shown so much quality and concision. As well as being a bold and stunning lyricist, his compositional qualities have made a huge impression. As a vocalist, he has an engaging and authentic croon: a rich tone that is warm and well as witty. His heroine and cohort is Abi Uttley. She is a gorgeous and sexy front woman, and someone is as warm and friendly as she is alluring. She is a modern-day pin-up and has won plaudits, awards and kudos as a musician. In addition to be a skilled actress, Abi has marked herself out as an original and stunning singer and writer. Her voice is a diverse mix of cheeky northern humour; captivating soulfulness and sex appeal; stunning power and fortitude; as well as being a versatile weapon. The duo make a perfect match, and have produced a string of wide-ranging and memorable tracks. Their song Things About You perfectly exemplified their majesty. It is a cheeky and humorous two-hander, that tells tales of vanity and a mismatched romance; the two trading barbs and jokes in a soulful and swinging track. This is a group whom are earmarked for huge things in 2014. The second band are a Scottish group, fronted by husband and wife team James and Lisa Russell. The banner of Universal Thee have been stamping modern anthems for a while now, and have been making a name for themselves within the quarters of their native homeland- receiving applause and attention from all across the U.K. In a sense they have the same sort of potency and thesis of U.S. legends Pixies: there is a similar punch and potency in their track Aranis Natas. I have not heard a band as immediate as them for many years, and their ear for a great hook has impressed me wildly. I know from speaking with Lisa, as well as James, that the business means a lot to them, and that success and recognition are vital to them- as well as acting as influential role models for upcoming bands. Too many critics, reviewers, fans and labels look towards southern climbs for the next ‘up-and-coming’ group: yet Universal Thee have cast eyes and attentions (much) farther north. The band are tight, focused and ambitious and the coming months will see new releases and gigs abound- which will see them taking their songs across the U.K. My abiding point is that between these two incredible acts, it has given me enough reason to regain faith in the band market.
Crystal Seagulls are a band in search of a label at the moment, and will not have too long to wait. It is probably true that this year has been exemplified and personified by great bands making great albums. To my mind the best and most impressive work has been stamped by established U.S. acts- most notably The National and Queens of the Stone Age. Those American boys have produced two distinctly stunning L.P.s. The National boys’ brand of downfall humour and intelligent lyrics have been a dominant facet in the music industry for several years now. Trouble Will Find Me was a gilded collection of anthems for scorned lovers, downcast dreamers as well as everyone in between. The Q.O.T.S.A lads album …Like Clockwork catapulted them back into the critical black. From the rather lukewarm reception to Era Vulgaris (which I maintain had at least five or six classic Queens’ numbers on it), there was a universal vibe of positive that received their current album. Homme and his crew notched up a remarkable achievement of slow-burning crepuscular gems; a few classic hard-hitting anthems, as well as some soulful and slinky numbers. It is an album that I have on repeat, and boldly claim to be the best album of this year. The U.K. has produced a few great albums, yet it has been the U.S. counterparts that have made the biggest noise. New bands such as Crystal Seagulls are making strides to changing the established order. In this country, we are producing the bulk of hungry and potentially-giant new bands: all of whom have their unique sound and sensation. Crystal Seagulls are a quarter of north London boys, whom have been climbing the music ladder with very little ego. Although members Jim, John, Elz and Ben hail from the landscapes of Birmingham, London, Cheshire and Hertfordshire, it is within the capital that they now reside. I have given a lot of recent attention to bands located within Scotland as well as the north of England. There have been few from closer to home that have really spiked my attention and sharpened my thoughts, yet our endeavouring four-piece have made me rethink things. A couple of singles have been released, and they have played a prestigious set at the Isle of Wight. In addition, their music has been spun on over 30 different radio stations (at home and abroad), including BBC6. It seems that a lot of bands of the moment- especially in Manchester and Liverpool- are influenced by current heavyweights such as Arctic Monkeys. In fact, a great deal of bands seem to counterfeit and mimic these bands, under the impression that a vicarious replication will see residual profitability enforce their own music. Modern sounds have perhaps overtaken historical genius, when it comes to influencing new bands. Crystal Seagulls are amongst a small group, still indebted to, and in awe of, the great past masters. In addition to some modern influence (Oasis), our heroes are inspired by the likes of The Jam and Bob Dylan, and you can hear that mix of anthemic punch and melodic beauty in their back catalogue. The next year is one that promises some treasure and profitability. Off of the back of the plaudits of 2013, the quartet are finishing off their new E.P. There is a bit of mystery and intrigue as to what will be contained within, yet two tracks in the ether will feature on that set.
I have previously reviewed their single Time (https://musicmusingsandsuch.wordpress.com/2013/06/29/crystal-seagulls-time-track-review/). During that review, I expounded the virtue of the unique motif, stating that that (Time): “As the pleasing and light-hearted composition announces and twirls in the background, up front there are words of apprehension and exhaustion“. That track impressed me, as the lyrics were sharp and memorable (“Attention craved/Intent forgot”) and displayed a tormented and eventful backstory. If this is an indicator as to what the E.P. contains, then it will be a splendid set. The band have a multitude of confidence and vigour, and have shown themselves to be bold contenders for mass public attention. As well as Time, I have been listening a lot to Toetapper. This track will feature alongside Time on the E.P.- in addition to two brand-new songs. The title (Toetapper) certainty seems apt, given the fiery intro. that leads the track off. With some punk flavours, elements of The Jam as well as smidges of The White Stripes and Supergrass, it is a pogo-bouncing, fist-pumping and smile-inducing beginning. In the sense that one can identify small threads from other bands, the abiding sensation is of the London streets, and a fresh and vibrant coda from an endeavouring young band. The song wastes no time in getting off to the races and infuses a sense of intrigue and invigoration into the opening seconds. The sensualised marriage of late-’90s U.S. garage, paired with mid-late-’90s U.K. rock sends your senses on a wild voyage. Feet are certainly tapping as you await the song’s initial words. When the dark guitar rumblings and hard-hitting percussive slam subside, tales to “swell the brain” to “ease the pain” are unfolded by John- there is an immediate sense of atmosphere and vivacity as the band paint some very detailed imagery. The boys are a tight-knit and focused band, and the track has no gaps or holes: it is a tight and concentrated anthem. In the midst of the rambunctiousness and sway there is a flavour, perhaps, of early-Arctic Monkeys as well. Perhaps in the riff and percussive slam detections can be made, yet the vocal is altogether a lot stronger and lighter. Turner tends to be heavy-voiced with a slight drawl, where as our heroes are a lot clearer and emotive. Our protagonist has clearly seen a lot and endured some heartache, as he paints pictures of fallout and recrimination, as well as introspection and examination. The boys have a handy clarity when it comes to their words, and treat listeners with respect. A lot of bands tend to write too personally; they never let the fans in. Within Toetapper there is a desire to pull you into the scenes and avenues that the band paint. The song is constantly moving and exciting and is a tune that the band have performed extensively- including at the Isle of Wight. It is a track that you could well imagine being a lead-off single as it invites repeated listens- as well as an ambitious music video. The mark of a great song is one that can compel, intrigue and seduce, yet appeals to the visual thinker: those that formulate multiple music video ideas, inspiring as they are by the words and sounds. The four-piece play their parts wonderful, injecting as much force and potency into the track. The percussion is rapid-fire and strong; the bass and guitar infuse danger, heartache and energy into every second, as the vocal sends clear and sharp messages out: “Well you/What did you say?”. It is unclear whom the unnamed beau is that has got our hero so enlivened, yet it is clear that notable impressions and shadows have been left. Around the 1:30 mark there is a lovely little sustained buzz that reminded me a bit of No One Knows by Queens of the Stone Age. It arrives after a carnival of emotion and prophesising and acts as a reprieve and rest bite. The listener is able to draw breath and imagine what is to come next, having absorbed the previous 90 seconds of storytelling. After a brief drumroll and guitar build-up, the sojourn of rest is over, and our protagonist steps back onto the mic.- presumingly having had enough time to wipe the sweat from his busy brow. Speaking of a need not the surrender and deceptive sweethearts, our Seagull boys once again ramp up the tension. Tales of clichés “behind the bikeshed” and final thoughts of past events, our quartet go in for a final fling. Guitars strike and punch; the percussion continues its pummelling; bass bounces and contains as our frontman’s repetition of “Well you/What did you say?” ramps up the anxiety, finger-pointing and anger. The subject of the song should probably think again if she were ever to upset or interrupt our hero, as she is laid bare and put to rights. As an infectious closing coda ends the song, Toetapper is laid to rest, and a great burden weight is lifted and buried. As they did with Time, Crystal Seagulls have managed to whip up a firestorm of memorable music in a short time frame. Clocking in at 2:15, Toetapper is a concise and measured track, and one that will burrow into your brain- and not shift for a good long time indeed. It is unsure if it will be in the first or second half of the (forthcoming) E.P., yet it is likely to be a prominent fixture of future gigs. As I mentioned, it has featured highly in their sets over the past few months, and is a song that they have a clearly affinity for, and identity with. The boys will not have to wait too long until a wave of anticipation is build up…
I have had the pleasure of reviewing the chaps twice (Yours For As Long As You Keep Me available at: https://musicmusingsandsuch.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/crystal-seagulls-yours-for-as-long-as-you-keep-me-track-review/). Both times I have been inspired by their focus and emotional range. They manage to mix humour and fun with emotional honesty and directness. I am excited by what might be contained within the E.P., as the band have proven themselves to be a huge force. I know how important it is for the boys to be influential as well as respected. They have put a lot of hard graft and time into crafting their sound, and their spot at illustrious gigs is no accident: it is the reward for the effort they have put in. They are similarly a group that deserve a lot more attention than they have been getting. At the time of this review (01/12/’13, 15:00) the lads have 1,724 ‘followers’ on Twitter; a band of 889 ‘likes’ on Facebook- as well as a loyal following outside of social media channels. I feel that the past few months have been important to the guys, and they have managed to attract new fans with their incredible live performances. Over the past few days they have been performing in London, and gathering acclaim and adulation. I suspect that they will be getting requests from venues through the U.K. very soon, as well as international calling. It has been nice to revisit Crystal Seagulls, and distract my mind. Life is a funny thing, when it comes to music. Me? Well I am probably a compendium of musician-in-waiting clichés: clinical depression with suicidality, anxieties, a horrid home life; insomnia, possible M.S., unrequited love; loneliness and financial problems: I am seemingly every tormented troubadour there has been from the past 40 years. As much as the thoughts on my brain and the girl in my thoughts, it is new musicians that are keeping me focused (to an extent). The likes of Issimo and Universal Thee have been providing me with salivating glimpses into the band market, where as my solo stars have been giving me food for thought. In spite of everything, be it large or small, I have been burying my head in music and lyrics. I always look to take something from every act I review- as well as the bands I am fondly in love with. The main advantage of reviewing and assessing new acts has its big advantages. I get to hear the splendour and ambitions of the acts- sometimes long before anyone else. It is always refreshing and interesting to see what each of the acts can come up with, and where they want to be heading. From speaking with musician friends, I have got a great sense of what the realities of being a musician involve. Whether you make an E.P. (or album) through crowd-funding or by your own personal finances, it is always a hard and arduous struggle. I have seen in the pages of social media the plight that the artists face. It is an unfortunate reality that you have to suffer a depressing day job to fund what you really want to do. Personal relationships take a back seat, and the strains of modern life are emphasised and duplicate. There is always a focus and drive amongst the acts, though. The end goal is to make the E.P./L.P. that they have in mind- whatever toll it takes or what it costs. I have always been full of admiration as it is frustrating and tiring to be in that situation. Music has that odd distinction I guess. You can be in a ‘regular’ job and not have to suffer to get ‘personal fulfilment’; yet something that is more enriching and vital comes with debilitating obstacles. It is strange that it should be so oppressive, although the open-door policy that the music world promotes can be the explanation behind this. In an industry where everyone is welcome, it is harder now- in 2013- than at any other time to really make a mark. Fickleness and changing fashions can bury or elevate a band with nary a thought for consistency or fairness. I live in hope that we may live to witness the same sort of quality and diversity that arrives between 1988-2001. The birth of Britpop, the Grunge movements as well as incredible dance music provided the music fan all the tantalisation they could handle. It seems that it is unlikely that we will ever revisit the giddy heights witnessed then, yet with bands like Crystal Seagulls emerging, there can be a valiant attempt made. I have reviewed the likes of Second Hand Poet, Issimo, Universal Thee, Nightwolf, Chess, Elena Ramona, Lydia Baylis, as well as scores of international and home-grown acts alike. It is probably going to take a while for the resurgence to take place, yet I am seeing enough to suggest that a sea change is afoot. Hopefully the days of cloying boy bands and irritating reality T.V. acts will be short in numbers, and it is encouraging that so much ambition lies within new music. Our London-based heroes are in their infant stages, yet have all the hunger needed to succeed in a cut-throat and overcrowded market. Their clinical and tight songs have already captured a fair few fans, and I am sure that their fanbase will rise sharply as they prepare their E.P. If they are still looking for a label, I hope that they will not have to search for too much longer. Too many musicians get too much (undeserved) attention and respect, so it would be great to see a deserving act get their just recognition. The next year will see some great new acts come through the barriers, and I hope that they fight hard to win votes and compete with the established guard. Toetapper and Time have given a glimpse into what Crystal Seagulls are plotting, and the next few weeks will see the realisation of their fully-fledged ambitions. Until then, enjoy what the boys are offering and become immersed in their tales of love, life and pretty much anything in-between. Become initiated and familiar now, as 2014 will see the four-piece transcend from bedroom idols into fully-fledged stars. If labels are looking for a great group sure to set the scene alight, then look no further…
The lads are primed and ready to dominate!
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