Thursday, 28 February 2013

New Artist Alert: Shout Out Louds - 'Walking In Your Footsteps'

Announcing! Shout Out Louds, indie-rockers from Stockholm, are gearing up for the release of their latest album Optica, which dropped only yesterday. Having racked up a career of ten years in the industry, and a whistle-stop tour of plenty of sounds within that time, the quintet have settled on their most ambitious sound to date with Optica, which is finally released after over a year and a half in the making.

Walking In Your Footsteps is taken from Optica, and has a great indie feel with a little dance/electronic pop dusted over it for good measure. And any track that sets the tone with pan-pipes and a vibraslap is fine by me!

The video for the track, which is available below, takes us on a journey through light and dark; colour and shade, with a real dream-like quality that suits the song perfectly in its ambient, feel-good state. Staccato piano chords and choked cymbals raise the curtain, before classic indie-feel vocals settle the listener into the track.  A delicate female-harmony brightens the mix as the song progresses, whilst the chorus shyly sidles in unannounced; it's gentle and doesn't lift the song much but this works to the artist's credit as the listener ebbs along pleasantly. In short, it's simple but effective on the surface, yet hidden beneath are layers and layers of snatches of ideas and phrases, that all build subconsciously, taking the listener on a whimsical musical journey before placing them gently, and with two, steady hands, back on the ground.

Shout Out Louds have a US-tour planned for the Spring and, though I don't know when they'll be across the pond, be sure to keep up to date with the band via their official website. And of course, if you do live in the UK, at the very least you can get your hands on a copy of Optica, which is available through Merge Records. Enjoy :)

Monday, 18 February 2013

New Artist Alert: XSARA

When We Were Beautiful is proud to introduce XSARA, a singer/songwriter who is based in London and draws from her wealth of worldy experience and heritage to create a fabulous and funky fusion of pop, blues, and cabaret sounds. XSARA, of Egyptian and Swedish descent, grew up in Mississippi and draws heavily on a childhood richly soaked in the blues when performing with her 7-piece that is all about the experience rather than just the music.

XSARA is enjoying critical acclaim thanks to performances on BBC Introducing, who describe the act as "distinctive and gutsy", and has also featured on Emerging Icons and Q radio. You can view the live video for 'The Scriptwriter' which is a progressive and quirky jazz-riddled pop song that is only fully justified when enjoyed visually as well as audibly. XSARA showcases her great vocal range before brass swells and a soloing-harmonica bring the track to life, atop a grooving rhythm section. It's a real top-tapper and one I'm sure is just as suited in a dark and dingy jazz-cellar as it would be in a bright, sassy burlesque club.

The new album 'Are There Dragons in your Heart?' is set for release on the 22nd May, so be sure to keep up to date with XSARA on Facebook or her official website so you don't miss details of the launch. In the meantime, if your appetite is whetted, you can head over to iTunes and get yourself a copy of 6-track EP 'Are You Living in a Paradox?' which features The Scriptwriter. Enjoy :)

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

New Artist Alert: D8 Dimension

D8 Dimension are only too happy to pick up the rock-flag where Ravenous left off, and fly it high for the metal scene. Industrial/alternative rockers D8 Dimension are from Livorno, Italy where they began life in 2009, releasing their debut EP the following year. Since then, the band have concentrated on developing their sound and performing live across Italy before knuckling down to write the 7-track mini-album 'Octocrura' last year.

Octocrura kicks off with opener Vrock, an industrial rocker with whirring electronic undertones. Squealing guitars develop the intro before the strong vocals drop and help to carry the track along, with a heavy, pulsing rhythm section underneath. The music is tight and the production on the track sounds great; the band are keen to showcase their musicality throughout with extended instrumental sections, though I feel the choruses could carry a little more melody - it's there in the mix, but I think the guitar chords could ring out some more just to add an extra layer to the piece.

I couldn't resist having a listen to Poisoned Hamster, which is rather discerning with it's quick-paced vocals and half-time feel that develops into more melodious vocal phrases as the track builds and builds, gradually thickening throughout. The dual-layered octave split on the vocals is effective and effectively adds to the uncertainty created, whilst the guitars do their bit in winding, free-falling phrases. The track is greatly progressive and is easy to get lost - a great touch by the band which I'm sure audiences, live ones especially, lap up.

S.O.M.E. closes the album, which starts with some reverse-guitar and some rather unnerving piano. There's a feeling of being dragged through a timewarp, as the listener is pulled along with unsettling audio samples washing about in the mix before some slap-bass and a driving groove helps me find my feet. The track really showcases the band's song-writing abilities as they attempt to fuse genres of industrial, nu, and alternative metals, acting as a whistle-stop tour through half-time and double-time feels, easing off texturally before heavy, crunching guitars uneasily wrap up the track. The arrangement is complex but effectively so; it's busy but suits the genre well and rounds off a great-sounding album well.

Octocrura is out on 15th February, and you can keep up to date with D8D on Facebook where Vrock, among some older material, is available to listen to.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

New Artist Alert: Ravenous

It's all been a little quiet on the rock front round here lately but no matter, Ravenous have landed and are well and truly flying the flag for thrash-metal proudly and (extremely) loudly. Ravenous are a four-piece thrash/groove-metal band from Southampton, UK and have been performing under the name since 2008. The group started life as a covers band but, after a realisation that originals was the way to go, Ravenous returned to its rawer roots and lyrical structure. With 'an increasing appetite for anthemic and meaningful composition', the band have released their debut album 'We Are Become Death', for which you can hear an audio mash-up below.

The first single, Easter Island (We Are Become Death), is accompanied by the band's debut video which ties a bow (or perhaps chain is more apt?) around this extremely professional looking and sounding package. There's no mistaking who the band are with the extended slow-paced intro full of guitar-picked arpeggios and cymbal washes but once things finally kick in at the 1.18 mark, you know Ravenous have landed. The track is pounding and thrashes along packed full with powerful vocals, crunching guitars, a sloshy open-hats groove, and some double-pedal rolls for good measure. It's definitely a lot friendlier than the real screamo-metal stuff I sometimes find it hard to say nice things about; there's a real 'musical' feel to the music that you just can't help but nod along. It certainly packs an anthemic punch as promised, before sliding into the half-time feel of the intro and allowing the listener some thinking time. It isn't long though before we're dragged kicking and screaming as the band riles up again and takes us on a textured journey through the heart of the song, passing an extended-musical section that still has my foot tapping. Plenty of axe-wielding and some more tempo-stretching later, I felt like I've listened to the entire album rather than the first-single; at almost seven minutes long it's a beast of a track but I've loved every minute of it.

Ravenous perform regularly around the South of England, so be sure to check out the band's Facebook to keep up to date. You can listen to the album mash-up here, and the video for Easter Island is below. We Are Become Death will be released online on 16th Feb under Coffee Jingle Records.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

New Artist Alert: Sarah D

Every so often, it's nice to refresh the ears and the blog-content and offer up a little something different. Last week's feature of Mary at Midnight offered some respite, and Sarah D is only to happy to bring a little dance-pop to the table and continue to stir things up a bit. Though When We Were Beautiful tends to focus on the rock end of the musical spectrum, my main reasons for starting and pursuing the blog, which is heading for its 4th year, is to provide independent artists with some free exposure, with a little of my own opinions thrown in for good measure. So, here goes...

Residing in LA, Sarah D's dance-pop sound and hardy DIY attitude has ensured a great reception to 'Over You', her newest EP of which she cites influences from Kelly Clarkson, Jessie J, and Maroon 5's later sound.

Over You, the title-track taken from the EP, is available for a free download from Sarah D's Soundcloud page which I urge you to take advantage of. Who doesn't like free music and, who knows, you just might like it. Then you tell your friends, and they tell their friends, and before long you've helped contribute to the rise of a hard-working indie artist.

Over You certainly has a Kelly Clarkson feel with its dance-pop flavours and radio-friendly choruses. There's loads going on in the mix, in thanks partly to producer Andres Torres and the analog synths used to create the track.

Be sure to download a copy for yourself, and head on over to her Facebook page whilst you're at it to keep in touch with all things Sarah D. Enjoy!