Given and Taken in Ink's mixes rarely have any thematic connection, other than genre and the time when most of the songs are released. So far the lone exception was our most popular mix on 8tracks, Sad Songs for Summer (2012). And while it wasn't quite intentional, The Beginning of Spring works in much the same way (albeit not sad, and not summer...but you get the picture).
Due to the whole birth-of-first-child thing, I haven't really had a chance to feature some of the big albums that were released in early 2013. We've seen new music from Yo La Tengo, Frightened Rabbit, Josh Ritter, Phosphorescent, and Local Natives, along with Kurt Vile's new album coming soon. But now you can find some of the best songs from those releases, all in the same place (yay Internet!).
But GTI hasn't entirely dropped the ball. We made a point of reviewing City Reign's great new album, along with featuring singles from Ryan Adams, Caveman, Stone Cold Fox, Rilo Kiley, and Ivan & Alyosha. They reprise their awesomeness here.
Finally, as always, releasing a new mix gives me a chance to share previews of some new indie rock stuff coming down the pike, namely Wildlife and the Travelling Band. Look for more in-depth posts on both bands soon.
Let me know if you like The Beginning of Spring by clicking the heart icon in the widget. Enjoy!
Here's the full playlist:
1. City Reign - Anchor
2. Wildlife - Born to Ruin
3. The Strokes - All the Time
4. Yo La Tengo - Ohm
5. Rilo Kiley - Let Me Back In
6. Ryan Adams - Shining Through the Dark
7. Frightened Rabbit - Backyard Skulls
8. Caveman - In The City
9. Stone Cold Fox - Seventeen
10. Local Natives - Breakers
11. Josh Ritter - Evil Eye
12. The Travelling Band - Hands Up
13. Phosphorescent - Song for Zula
14. Kurt Vile - Wakin on a Pretty Day
15. Ivan & Alyosha - Running for Cover
Spotify is missing "Hands Up," but here's the rest:
Over the past two years, City Reign has steadily continued to earn well-deserved buzz from its early demos and singles. Combining catchy, unapologetically guitar-driven melodies (a rarity in today's indie music scene) with a lead singer who can sound a good bit like Idlewild-frontmand Roddy Woomble, City Reign was poised to fill the void left by the breakup of the UK's finest rock band.
Still, a funny thing happened between the time we first heard City Reign's "Making Plans" and the release of Another Step, the band's full-length debut. Over the course of several singles, two EPs, and a handful of album teasers, City Reign began to sound a bit less like Idlewild and more like...well, City Reign. With the release of Another Step, City Reign has assumed its own identity as one of the most exciting indie rock bands to emerge in a long time.
While the stylistic similarities to British rock of the 90s and early 00s are certainly there, a less-obvious influence is that of Ryan Adams - whose song "City Rain, City Streets" served as the inspiration for the band's name. Co-writers Chris Bull and Michael Grice met at an Adams concert, and it seems his knack for songwriting has rubbed off on the pair. Like the best Adams songs, Another Step is a collection of upbeat melodies disguising sad tales of disappointment, regret, and love gone wrong, yet any of which could sit comfortably among the catchiest songs on the radio.
Still, the band moves bravely away from this tactic in "Retaliate." With the guitars turned down in favor of pretty string accompaniment, it's the most vulnerable and delicate recording in the band's young career.
The moment is fleeting, though, as City Reign immediately rips into a stunner of a track in "See What It's Worth." After having revealed most of Another Step in various demos and teasers leading up the album's release, it's clear that the band wanted to save some of its best stuff for last. Bull sounds almost menacing as he warns, "I really got a hook on you, don't you know?" His disdain for a mundane existence is apparent ("You get up every morning, and work hard for the things you don't love"), as the track's raucous guitars and drums burst into a spitfire of rage. This is how rock n' roll was meant to be played.
For those familiar with the band's progression, Another Step plays like an early greatest hits collection of the band's burgeoning career. But despite being written over a period of years, producer Sam Jones assured that these songs fit together as a cohesive whole. Any one of them deserve to be a radio hit, whether it's those great early singles ("Making Plans," "Out in the Cold," and "Daybreak"), the soaring "Ahead of Ideas," tender ballad "The Line," or my personal favorite, album-opener "Anchor."
At a time when radio stations have increasingly fallen under the same corporate umbrella, music fans have revolted. Album sales are in the toilet and nobody is happy with what they're hearing anymore. Yet in the monster outro of "Ahead of Ideas," with Grice dropping killer backup vocals amid a massive wave of swirling distorted guitars, Bull admits, "I think I found what I was looking for / It's not what I thought it was." I've said it before, but it is absolutely worth repeating: City Reign is the next great British rock band. Folks, this is what you've been looking for.
Another Step was released yesterday via Car Boot Records. Grab the CD at City Reign's bandcamp page, or digitally via the usual locations...
It's easy to get excited for City Reign's upcoming debut, Another Step, especially when they keep releasing great teasers in "Ahead of Ideas," "Retaliate," the new version of "Making Plans," and now "Anchor." Given and Taken in Ink featured the demo of "Anchor" back in August 2011, and it's nice to hear the song come to life in its official studio version. At this point, there's no excuse overlooking these guys anymore - City Reign is poised to become the next great British guitar rock band.
Check out the stream of "Anchor" from Steve Lamacq's BBC 6 Music show on January 28, 2012:
And for more Another Step info, check out the band's swanky rehearsal space as they discuss their favorite tracks from the album:
The aforementioned new version of "Making Plans" is playing in the background, which you can hear in full via Soundcloud:
Another Step, which is now available for preorder, is due for release on February 25 via Car Boot Records.
As City Reign approaches the release of its debut album, Another Step, the Manchester rock band has released an official video for "Making Plans." The original demo version was the band's very first single, and has now been re-recorded with producer Sam Jones for the full-length, due February 25. The video was recorded at Manchester's Night and Day, where City Reign played their first gig.
Over the last few years, I've spent a lot of time writing about City Reign, so it's immensely gratifying to see the band on the cusp of a well-deserved breakthrough.
Another Step is currently available for preorder.
Check out the video for "Making Plans":
Manchester indie rockers City Reign have released the second single from their upcoming debut full-length, Another Step. It's called "Retaliate," and it might be the most poignant, vulnerable song in the band's young career. Guitarist and co-songwriter Mike Grice took some time out of his busy pre-release schedule to speak with Given and Taken in Ink about the new single.
"It's just a song about youthful vulnerability and not always realising that the blame is usually your own," Grice explained.
Still, there's something immediately different about "Retaliate." City Reign's music has often explored themes of loneliness and uncertainty, but like the artist from whose song they took their band name (Ryan Adams' "City Rain, City Streets"), they often wrapped these sad tales in the guise of a catchy rocker. But for "Retaliate," the band pushed Bull's vocals forward, only supported by gentle acoustic guitars and strings.
"The strings came about in collaboration with Duncan [Bolton]'s flat mate Maya who he knows from Royal Northern College of Music," said Grice. "I did a demo of some strings on a keyboard and sent it to her. She turned up at the studio having scored 4 separate parts. They were recorded in two pairs, and as the layers were added we were all just listening in awe. It was just beautiful."
The band was less deliberate in the process of writing the song's lyrics, as well. "Chris [Bull] normally warbles any old crap with a melody and then spends 6 months re-writing it, but I loved the lyrics that came out on that first demo. I told him to leave it, and it's almost unchanged from there. I think it's got that stream of conscience feel which is different from the other lyrics he's written."
The band is offering a free MP3 download of "Retaliate":
Like many of City Reign's earlier singles, the band put together a video using old film scenes. They've been remarkably good at finding scenes that fit well with the music. (Watch the "Daybreak" video for another good example of this).
"From the opening lyric I had an idea of a couple dancing," Grice recalled. "I wanted it to be tasteful so searched for ballroom dancing on my reliable source, Internet Archive. That provided the footage of Fred [Astaire] and the dance floor moving around was too funny not to use. As for the woman with the balloon, I got lucky in finding that from a different film. It just seemed to fit to the music perfectly."
Finally, I asked Grice if he could give fans a preview of what to expect from the rest of Another Step, due for release in earl 2013:
"The album is the culmination of our development as musicians and people. We were conscious of making an album, not just a collection of songs. The recording process gave it a unity of sound that hasn't always been evident in our earlier EPs and demos. We just can't wait to get it out..."
By this point, it seems like fall (or autumn, depending on your preferred season-name) is a treasure trove of great new indie rock. Last year, some of the best albums of 2011 came out in September or later. (Wilco, Laura Marling, and Ryan Adams come to mind.) That pattern continues in 2012, with major releases in September and October, and we've got them all for you here on GTI's Fall 2012 mix: Jacket Weather.
So what have we got here, you ask? Indie rock darlings Grizzly Bear revealed a wonderful new album in Shields, with its captivating opener "Sleeping Ute." On the same day, Ben Folds Five triumphantly returned with their first new album in 13 years. Lord Huron was featured on the previous GTI mix (with "Time to Run"), but "I Will Be Back One Day" is one of the best songs on the newly-released Lonesome Dreams.
The Rest's SEESAW was released earlier this year, but just put out a wild video for new single "Hey! For Horses" (from which comes the screen shot above). Manchester rockers City Reign previewed "Ahead of Ideas," possibly their best single yet (and set for official release in November). And Jacob Butler's "Mind Waltz" recently won an award in an international songwriting competition.
As usual, this playlist also gives me an opportunity to feature some songs I haven't gotten a chance to post about. The Foreign Films recorded a great tune in "Sweet Sorrow," reminiscent of George Harrison's work with the Beatles. Knock Knock put out a fun, energetic single in "We Will Raise Your Child." And somehow Sea Wolf's new album flew under my radar, but "Old Friend" is the lead single from Old World Romance.
Finally, there's Glowbird, a Los Angeles-based band featuring an old high school friend of mine. Incidentally, I stumbled upon his band completely independent of that connection, and he actually has no idea I did. I probably should mention that at some point... Anyway, I dig "We Must Save Ourselves," so hopefully you do too.
Here's the entire playlist for Jacket Weather:
1. Grizzly Bear - Sleeping Ute
2. Lord Huron - I Will Be Back One Day
3. The Rest - Hey! For Horses
4. City Reign - Ahead of Ideas
5. Ben Folds Five - Michael Praytor, Five Years Later
6. Jacob Butler - Mind Waltz
7. The Foreign Films - Sweet Sorrow
8. Knock Knock - We Will Raise Your Child
9. Glowbird - We Must Save Ourselves
10. Sea Wolf - Old Friend
11. The Lumineers - Ho Hey
12. Jens Lekman - I Know What Love Isn't
13. Major Lazer - Get Free
14. Anderson East - Better
Spotify is missing a couple of these tracks, but here's what it has:
It's been almost a year since Manchester indie rockers City Reign released its impressive EP, Numbers for Street Names, in November 2011. As the band gears up for its debut full-length, Another Step, we've been given a taste of what's in store with lead single "Ahead of Ideas." Songwriting duo Michael Grice (lead guitar) and Chris Bull (lead vocals) first met at a Ryan Adams concert and have since built a strong catalog of catchy rock tunes, but the band throws a bit of a curveball with a brooding, slow-burning ballad in "Ahead of Ideas" that builds to an eventual burst of distortion and layered vocals.
I've often compared City Reign to Idlewild, usually due to the vocal similarities between Bull and Idlewild frontman Roddy Woomble. And while Idlewild fans hoping for another 100 Broken Windows (or hell, another new album at all!) should definitely give City Reign a listen, this promising young band is moving beyond its influences and carving out a space in the musical landscape that is all its own. Given and Taken in Ink will keep you posted as more details on Another Step emerge. But for now, here's "Ahead of Ideas":
And check out the video, directed by Louise Cowley, featuring the band at work recording Another Step:
Here are 50 songs that defined 2011 for me. This year, I only included one song per band, as I wanted to feature as many bands as possible.
Listen. Enjoy. Tell me what you think.
And yep, that's my ugly mug on the cover.
Here's the playlist:
1. Wilco - One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley's Boyfriend)
2. City Reign - Anywhere Anyway
3. The Mountain Goats - Never Quite Free
4. Zaac Pick - Whitewater
5. Yuck - Holing Out
6. The Tallest Man on Earth - Weather of a Killing Kind
7. Ryan Adams - Dirty Rain
8. Laura Marling - My Friends
9. The War on Drugs - Best Night
10. Bright Eyes - Shell Games
11. Radical Face - Always Gold
12. Beirut - East Harlem
13. Carter Tanton - Murderous Joy
14. Air Review - America's Son
15. Michael McGraw - Poorboy
16. The Middle East - Land Of The Bloody Unknown
17. The Antlers - Putting The Dog To Sleep
18. Megafaun - State / Meant
19. Bon Iver - Holocene
20. Robbers On High Street - Monkey
21. The Whiskey Saints - Curtains
22. The Far West - Bound to Lose
23. Dan Mangan - Oh Fortune
24. James Vincent McMorrow - Sparrow and the Wolf
25. James Blake - The Wilhelm Scream
26. Siskiyou - Twigs And Stones
27. Foo Fighters - Walk
28. The Black Keys - Lonely Boy
29. Iron & Wine - Walking Far From Home
30. Joshua Hyslop - If I Was a Better Man
31. J Mascis - Is It Done
32. Kurt Vile - Baby's Arms
33. Girls - Die
34. R.E.M. - It Happened Today
35. Fruit Bats - WACS (ft. J Mascis)
36. the august arrival - Through it all
37. Young Liars - Colours
38. Sporting Life - Immigrant
39. Alela Diane - To Begin
40. The Rest - The Last Day
41. William Fitzsimmons - The Tide Pulls From The Moon
42. The Rural Alberta Advantage - Stamp
43. Wye Oak - Civilian
44. Jim Ivins - House Of Three
45. Real Estate - It's Real
46. Snowmine - Curfews
47. David Thomas Broughton - Apologies
48. Creepoid - Old Tree
49. Cut Off Your Hands - You Should Do Better
50. The Dodos - When Will You Go
Aside from all the great full-length albums released in 2011, Given and Taken in Ink also featured several noteworthy EPs. Because of their shorter length (and the overall brevity of this list), the list below is in no particular order. Still, I had a great time featuring each of the releases; clicking a title will bring you to GTI's review from earlier in the year.
Here are GTI's picks for the top EPs of 2011:
Right on cue (if you believe that culture repeats itself every 20 years), 2011 saw the emergence of several bands playing an updated version of 90s garage rock. Two British bands in particular caught my attention this year. The first was Yuck, drawing from the American indie rock scene of the 1990s - Dinosaur Jr and Sonic Youth, in particular. The other was City Reign. Combining the frantic energy of Idlewild with the arena-sized sound of Oasis, City Reign's influences are much more British in origin. Their guitar-driven rock songs are filled with big, melodic hooks and wistful vocals. "Making Plans," the band's fantastic single from 2010, makes a reappearance here, as do several songs from their previous singles. But despite the band's knack for writing catchy rock anthems, the real gem here is "Anywhere Anyway." With its shimmery acoustic guitars and pretty background vocals, the song is pure magic. As someone who grew up on 90s rock, I was excited for a band like City Reign and its focus on that sound; but "Anywhere Anyway" shows that this band has the potential for so very much more.
Joshua Hyslop is destined to be a tour-de-force in the realm of indie folk/pop. Combining his warm vocals with impressive songwriting depth and musicianship, Hyslop is poised to break out in the near future. He's got the tenderness of Damien Rice or Sam Beam (Iron and Wine) and the knack for throwing interesting, genre-defying curveballs, like the Spanish jazz of "If I Was a Better Man."
The title track of Zaac Pick's Whitewater was one of my favorite songs of the year. As I said in my review, "Whitewater shows off Pick's knack for melody, pairing his warm, expressive voice with layers of guitar, piano, strings, and percussion. Each of these four songs seem to revolve around central theme of time, either in adapting to its impermanence or in appreciating the things that endure in spite of it. The title track, a cautionary tale about the unpredictability of life, opens with just vocals and finger-picked guitar before slowly adding layers of percussion, mandolin, and violin. The video for 'Whitewater' is absolutely brilliant, too. With cardboard sailboats for characters, it's charming and heartbreaking in a way few music videos even attempt anymore." Whitewater was a wonderful little surprise to close out the year.
My review for Late Night Drive was probably my favorite write-up of the year. Jim let me pick his brain with a bunch of questions, something I normally don't do, and the result was a great insight into his mindset and writing process for this EP. As I said in my review, my favorite track from this release was "House of Three," a heartbreaking tribute to Ivins' mother, who passed away in 2010. The entire EP engages the listener in a very personal way as it progresses toward this final cathartic release of all the emotional tension built over the previous tracks.
I spend a lot of time goofing off on this blog, but my review for skyline goodbyes was probably the silliest of the year. Hopefully that didn't obscure the message, that skyline goodbyes was an extremely impressive debut for this emerging Canadian folk band. Lead singer Sara MacDonald's voice is absolutely haunting. The august arrival's future is very bright, and I look forward to hearing a lot more from them.
An expanded version of Given and Taken in Ink's October mix is now up on 8tracks:
Most of these songs are from autumn 2011, but I slipped a few older tracks in there (like last year's fantastic "Change of Time," by Josh Ritter):
Here's the entire playlist:
1. Radical Face - Always Gold
2. Josh Ritter - Change of Time
3. Wilco - Born Alone
4. William Fitzsimmons - The Tide Pulls From The Moon
5. The Rest - The Last Day
6. The Whiskey Saints - Karianne
7. Cut Off Your Hands - You Should Do Better
8. Fanfarlo - Replicate
9. City Reign - Anywhere Anyway
10. Crooked Fingers - Typhoon
11. Radical Face - A Pound of Flesh
12. Air Review - America's Son
13. Caveman - Decide
14. Real Estate - It's Real
15. The Far West - Bound to Lose
16. Girls - Die
17. ARMS - Fleeced
18. Cut Off Your Hands - You Still Love Me
19. Sonny Pete - Chrysanthemum Blues
20. Small Sur - Prettyboy
21. The Whiskey Saints - Curtains