Ten British Bands To Keep An Ear On
Cover Photo: Big Spring Twitter
I lived in North America for seven months during 2016 as a foreign exchange student and was asked several times about the UK’s alternative music scene. Put on the spot, I could only conjure up names along the lines of Frank Turner and The 1975. Thinking about it now, I could’ve done much better, so consider this piece my attempt to do better. Here are ten (currently) ‘small’ British artists that you should be listening to - when you aren't listening to Frank Turner or The 1975, that is.
Earth Moves - Signed to the ever dependable Holy Roar Records, Brighton-based band Earth Moves recently released debut record The Truth In Our Bodies through the label, and in doing so established themselves as one of the UK's heaviest and hottest prospects. An emotional behemoth of an LP, The Truth, a tumultuous and weighted affair crushing in its intensity - both doom-laden and self-destructive.
Think Being as an Ocean clashing with Deafheaven in the middle of a monsoon. Lyrically poetic and instrumentally dynamic, Earth Moves are a visceral force to be reckoned with, elements of sludge, shoegaze and metal all combining for a listening experience which feels both unique and uncompromising. Quiet swells give way to gargantuan crescendos, and all the while vocalist Jordan Hill screams as if his very soul is being rent from his body. This is music with heart, a feast for the ears, and it's also one of 2017's most strikingly memorable records. Earth Moves are killer. FFO: The Elijah, *shels, Oathbreaker
Redwood - Ah, how to sum up my love for Redwood in one-hundred and fifty words? I caught these guys in late-March playing a small southern bar and, after catching the first 5 AM train east, downloaded their EP Blood Moon while still trying to suppress the goosebumps their set had stirred. Still half asleep from the day before, I lazed and let the record wash over me, it being the soundtrack for a transparent state of being.
Blood Moon is an engrossing twenty-minute listen - gorgeous while both quiet and loud in all the right places. It supplements a hazy, melancholic mood, subtly dynamic instrumentals alongside wistful vocals. Forming in 2016 and currently unsigned, Redwood describe themselves as a “dreamo band with a wild love for post rock,” and their latest offering is rooted in this bold, space-age state of mind. It's nothing short of sublime, immersive and atmospheric, and I plan on losing many more afternoons to the sort of mood it encourages. Jam Blood Moon below and try not fall for it. FFO: Foxing, American Football, Owen
Big Spring - Despite only having a handful of singles under their belt, London-based Big Spring have been making waves amidst the UK underground circuit - thanks in part to their stellar live shows. Hailed by BBC Radio One presenter and heavy music guru Daniel P Carter as “the best new band in Britain,” Big Spring is already hinting at big things. The band has the songs to back up the hype, and these songs drive with a grunge intensity, mixing cleaner vocals with huge riffs and giant choruses - they're a little like Every Time I Die but if Keith Buckley toned his vocals down somewhat.
Driven by a dirty, fuzzy dynamic, Big Spring stir comparisons to the likes of Tool and Soundgarden in that there's an interesting throwback to the sounds of yesteryear - updated for a 21st-century fracas. They haven't been around for long, and nor do they have much of a discography (yet), but Big Spring already seems here to stay. Singles “Buzzards Love The Bones,” “On A Bamboo Sleeping Mat” and “5th of July” are certainly sure to get things going for them. FFO: Foo Fighters, Dinosaur Pile-Up, Black Foxxes
Acres - If social media likes are a sign of popularity then Portsmouth post-hardcore lot Acres are the most popular band to make this list, currently sitting pretty with 23,000 followers on Facebook. I'm likely writing this with these guys on the verge of blowing up, seeing as they recently released excellent EP In Sickness and In Health through Dream Atlantic Records, following a slot supporting He Is Legend on their UK tour. Describing their music as “sad songs for sad dudes” the EP isn't necessarily an easy listen, but it's certainly a worthwhile one. Bold, emotive and highly cathartic, Acres' blend of fierce riffs, powerful vocals and poetic lyrics makes for songs that leave their mark long after they've drawn to a close. These are tracks to fully immerse yourself in, appreciating every small detail as part of something bigger, the sonic palette rousing and unrelenting. Emotionally invigorating and sonically crushing, Acres move through the motions in a way which is highly affecting, melodic guitars weaving around crooning vocals, always primed to explode - as is the case on the EPs title track. It's effective stuff, and the highs on show always hit hard. If Acres are on the peripherals of the UK music scene then they won't be for much longer; get there before they blow up. FFO: Devil Sold His Soul, Casey, Landscapes
Coast To Coast - Are you a fan of English accents? Do you like Lower Than Atlantis? If you answered yes to either of those questions, meet Birmingham punk outfit Coast To Coast, who recently released EP The Length of a Smile through Fox Records. The band's catchy, no nonsense approach is immediately likable, big hooks and memorable lyrics quickly making a mark.
Coast To Coast kicked off their 2017 with a slot supporting Seaway, and from there have built themselves a steady momentum, The Length of a Smile set to continue their already-excellent year. Energetic, anthemic, and with a good amount of kick, Coast To Coast might well be your new favourite band. Give “Ajax” a spin and try not to crack a grin when vocalist Kieran Hyland sings 'fuck the five year plan.' Five years from now, Coast To Coast could easily be every bit as big as their aspirations. FFO: Lower Than Atlantis, Neck Deep, Knuckle Puck
Middle Distance - Hailing from Buckinghamshire, and currently unsigned, Middle Distance play a compelling brand of bittersweet alternative-rock, evoking emotions while refusing to let proceedings dwell for too long on melancholic moods. Listed in UK label / distro Big Scary Monsters' 'Bands to Watch in 2017' list following sweetly upbeat debut EP Dahlia, Middle Distance are primed to emerge from the UK's bustling underground scene and into some sort of spotlight. Dahlia was heart-felt and likable while positive and cathartic, always hinting at bigger things, and in listening to it I was reminded of Moose Blood's debut EP Moving Home. Middle Distance are onto something similar, and there's no reason they can't emulate the success of their UK contemporaries going forwards. Check out Dahlia for yourself and tell me I'm not wrong. FFO: Bear Cavalry, Canterbury, Deaf Havana
Rain - British shoegaze has been enjoying a certain level of resurgence in recent years, with more and more up-and-coming bands finding a home in the genre. Swindon shoegaze upstarts Rain do it better than most, perfectly capturing the melodic shimmer which lends itself so well to the genre. Signed to Close To Home Records, the band have set the scene astir in the early stages of 2017, building on a series of promising singles. “Solis,” one such single, is an excellent starting point for the new listener, merging classic shoegaze elements with shades of nineties grunge. The song is upbeat and punchy, nostalgic and wistful, happily churning along in good spirits. It's the epitome of 'cool,' an immediately enjoyable track - as are others that make up the band's five-song discography. With summer quickly approaching, Rain are a band waiting for a spot on your seasonal Spotify playlist. FFO: Dressmaker, Nai Harvest, Gleemer
Elasea - Moving into heavier territory with Elasea now, an independent band from Reading whose take on the traditional post-hardcore formula makes for a compelling listen. After forming in 2015, the band has been honing their craft over the last two years and, following a line-up change have found their feet on sophomore EP Lesson Learnt. Heavy-hitting, and with a good amount of depth, the EP is the sound of a band on the verge of taking the next step; where it may lead is entirely up to Elasea. With their second outing the band have built themselves a solid foundation, towering choruses and layered melodies taking influence from the likes of Bring Me The Horizon - a source of inspiration for the band when sculpting their songs. It all works very well, and fans of Bring Me's post-2014 material will find a great deal to enjoy in the music of Elasea. Here's to more of the same. FFO: You Me At Six, Young Guns, Bring Me The Horizon
Sleepwalker - This Portsmouth five-piece was recommended to me by a girl I was very much into, and I'll admit that I listened to them a great deal because I figured it would win me some points. It did for a little while, but after things didn't work out I stuck with Sleepwalker anyhow - because they're a great band. They also might well just be the next heavy-hitters to contribute to an already-strong south coast metalcore scene. Fusing elements of djent, hardcore and electronic music, the band’s sole outing - debut EP Family. Faith. Cult. - is a twenty-minute kick to the teeth, both furious and unrelenting. Aggressive and insatiable, the EP churns its way from breakdown to breakdown, snarling vocals providing additional bite. It rips hard, and continues to rip, a snapped wrist of an introductory handshake. If Sleepwalker can build on their debut EP, then these guys may well be the future of British metalcore. You can familiarise yourself with their ferocity below. FFO: Bury Tomorrow, While She Sleeps, Lamb Of God
Holding Absence - This Cardiff five-piece have only been around for a year, and have already signed to Sharptone Records - home to the likes of Miss May I, We Came As Romans and Don Broco. Add to that the fact that they've played with Being As An Ocean since their inception, and the bands first year certainly hasn't been a bad one. Holding Absence put an emphasis on sincere and honest music, pairing larger than life choruses with thoughtful, pensive lyrics. It's a dynamic that makes them an engaging and exhilarating listen, and they have the technical ability to deliver with each song. Recent single “Dream Of Me” is a mature record to mark the band’s Sharptone signing; it's an emotive powerhouse set to propel Holding Absence onwards to bigger things. I've had its huge chorus stuck in my head for the past week, and it shows no signs of dissipating just yet. The band will be playing Camden Rocks over the Summer, and they're certainly worth checking out. FFO: Crooks, The Used, Blood Youth