The phrase ‘the future of’ is an idea that gets thrown about a lot when it comes to new music nowadays. Be it indie music or hip-hop, there always seems to be a constant stream of acts that get labelled as the future of their respective genre. However most of the time these artists never reach their once promised heights and are forgotten about when the next ‘the future of’ brigade rolls around.
Well here at The Black Wax, we’re going to use said cliché term and say that Liss are the future of pop music. But before we start, we’re not referring to pop as in you’ll see them in the Top 40 in the next couple of weeks. We’re grouping them in the side of pop where artists like Grimes reside. It’s the music we should be hearing when Marvin Humes introduces the Top 40 on Heart Radio, but sadly probably never will.
But first, who actually are Liss? Hailing from Denmark, Liss are signed to XL Recordings. Currently based in Aarhus, the four piece consists of Søren Holm (Vocalist), Vilhelm Strange (Guitarist), Villads Tyrrestrup (Bassist) and Tobias Laust (Drummer). Revealed in the NME, their parents raised them listening to Stevie Wonder, Björk, Hendrix and Massive Attack. These influences certainly feed into their music, with their first two released tracks Try and Always being packed with lavish instrumentation and production.
Liss themselves know they have something special about them. When performing live, they have an aura that you can’t help but feel and tap into. They play like a band that have been doing it for over 10 years, yet they’ve only been around since 2015. They’ve even got Jamie xx’s endorsement, who was recently spotted at one of their gigs in Copenhagen.
Since the release of their debut tracks, Liss have gone even further to bolster their pop prowess. This year they released their debut EP, titled First. Here they explored their sound even more, with the four track project outshining their already stunning material.
Single Sorry leads the EP, whilst follow up track Good Enough funks its way into your consciousness. Stand out track Miles Apart is easily one of this year’s best tracks and really shows how Liss can make a truly infectious pop hit. Finishing on Without Me, this slow jam ends the EP with stellar execution.
That fact of the matter is, there is nobody making pop music as good as Liss right now. So by the time the next batch of ‘the future of music’ comes around, Liss won’t have been forgotten about and no doubt will be even better than they are now.
Everyone loves a good surprise, and surprises don’t get much better than in the form of a new PJ Harvey song. What’s not a surprise however, is just how brilliant the new release is.
“Guilty” arrives off the back of PJ Harvey’s latest LP, “The Hope Six Demolition Project”, released only 3 months ago. Recorded at the same time as the album, during PJ Harvey’s month-long ‘Recording in Progress’ residency at Somerset House in January of last year, it’s no surprise the song bares the same politically-charged observations heard on the album.
A riveting, almost tribal tom-tom drum beat kicks things off and marches incessantly throughout the song, becoming a wonderfully catchy motif in it’s own right, echoing over PJ’s hollering of ‘What’s he doing with that stick?/Which one is guilty?’ in the equally as arresting chorus. PJ Harvey tackles the topic of war by condemning world leaders on their choice to make such hasty decisions when innocent lives are at stake and how they ignore the disapproval of millions of others, lamenting the western world’s methods of war: ‘Drones that come/ Come in the thousands/ But nobody asked us/ If we wanted them.’ A rebuke of such poignancy, especially in the global climate of the world today.
“Guilty” is a striking gem that will resonate with so many sharing the same feeling of despair and hopelessness in the wake of events continuously happening all around us today. The cowardly politicians are guilty of getting blood on their hands, and if PJ Harvey is guilty of any crime, it’s only one tiny thing: not including this brilliant song on “The Hope Six Demolition Project”.
Despite heavy hints that his short run of September 2015 gigs would be his last UK shows ever (or at least until he secures a recording deal), Morrissey has announced a huge homecoming show at Manchester Arena on August 20th. In honour of this occasion, The Black Wax evaluates the best of his (solo) live releases to date.
Live in Dallas (1992)
Recorded during Morrissey’s first solo tour in 1991, one which broke box-office records across America, Live in Dallas is a rough and ready document which perfectly conveys the atmosphere of these rowdy early gigs. Morrissey was reportedly charmed by the footage, which was taken from the venue’s security cameras and not originally intended for release. The setlist is made up of songs from his first two studio albums (Viva Hate and Kill Uncle), the compilation Bona Drag and carefully chosen covers, including The Jam’s That’s Entertainment. The band, Morrissey’s first touring group since leaving The Smiths, infuse the material with a rockabilly flavour, meaning the renditions here are often superior to the original songs (especially the Kill Uncle material). That being said, Morrissey’s voice is often wildly out of tune, or absent completely due to stage invasions, which culminate in the band having to flee the stage part-way during an encore performance of Everyday is Like Sunday, due to fears for their safety.
Beethoven Was Deaf (1993)
Morrissey and his band put in a much stronger performance two years after Dallas on this superbly titled live album, culled from shows in Paris and London. The rockabilly stylings of Dallas are toned down in favour of a glam rock assault, in line with Your Arsenal, the Mick Ronson-produced studio album which Beethoven Was Deaf is associated with. The former album makes up the bulk of the songs performed here, although earlier tracks such as Suedehead are also given a run out. Morrissey’s voice here is dynamic and versatile, ranging from yelps and growls to heartfelt crooning. Although now out of print, Beethoven Was Deaf is worth hunting down, if only for the fantastic rendition of the fan-favourite B-side, Jack the Ripper, generally considered to be the definitive version.
Who put the ‘M’ in Manchester / Live at Earls Court (2004)
2004 was Morrissey’s annus mirabilis. After returning from the wilderness with the superb You Are the Quarry, Moz capitalised on his renewed popularity with a live DVD and CD from his tours that year. Who Put the ‘M’… is the souvenir of Morrissey’s 45th birthday homecoming concert, an emotional performance in front of a rabid Manchester crowd. Songs from both Moz’s solo career and Smiths days are aired here, with highlights including a gorgeous encore performance of There Is a Light That Never Goes Out. Live at Earls Court is less of a retrospective, wheeling out Quarry tracks and B-sides, as well as a cover of Patti Smith’s Redondo Beach, a sweet tribute to one of Morrissey’s heroes. Both of these releases benefit from the fact that by 2004, Moz’s live vocals had improved dramatically compared to a decade earlier and the fact that his band now included a keyboard player, allowing faithful renditions of songs such as A Rush and a Push and the Land is Ours to be performed.
Live at the Hollywood Bowl (unreleased)
The scheduled release of the recording of this 2007 show was cancelled, but Live at the Hollywood Bowl is arguably more comprehensive than any of Morrissey’s official live releases and deserves to be mentioned alongside them. Opening with the ferocious one-two punch of The Queen is Dead and The Last of the Famous International Playboys, Morrissey and his band thoroughly explore his vast catalogue, tearing through singles, B-sides, then-unreleased material and Smiths numbers. Moz himself is in fine voice and fettle, prowling the stage in a white suit and whipping his microphone cord with abandon. His band tastefully complement his performance with their best arrangements to date – see the crashing crescendo of Life is a Pigsty for the best evidence of this.
Morrissey: 25 Live (2013)
Much more intimate than either Who Put the ‘M’… or Live at the Hollywood Bowl, 25 Live gained mixed reviews upon release, mostly because of the fact that despite Morrissey’s performance is almost flawless, this is a release which is geared towards hardcore Moz devotees. 25 Live can at times be cringe-inducing, such as when front-row fans are handed the microphone in order to heap praise upon their idol. It can also be touching – a very young fan is crowdsurfed to the stage during the encore, then picked up and held by Moz himself. The cinematography is somewhat standard for a concert film, but catches Moz at his designer shirted, matinee-idol best, his every gesture and facial expression recorded for posterity. Although 25 Live would benefit from giving more of an insight into the man himself, it succeeds in its aim of showing Morrissey as one of the best live performers of his generation. As he states during the show: ‘the microphone is [his] tombstone’.
‘You throw the sticks up in the air and they come down in a different pattern’. This quote from Third Mynd, the final track on Beyond the Wizard Sleeve’s debut LP, The Soft Bounce (which features famed journalist Jon Savage reading period descriptions of acid trips) sums up the approach BTWS have taken towards this long awaited album. Comprised of DJ and promoter, Erol Alkan and acid house pioneer/The Grid member, Richard Norris, this ‘sonic brotherhood’ came together through a mutual love of 60s psychedelic rock and gained acclaim for their daring ‘re-animations’ of songs by Simian Mobile Disco et al., putting an idiosyncratic psych slant on the source material.
Rather than treating psychedelic music like a museum piece, as many revivalists are wont to do, BTWS dissect it and infuse it with krautrock, Balearic synths, space rock and most notably, acid house, with the end result being a very 21st century version of psychedelia. The sunny pastiche, Door to Tomorrow showcases this arrangement: Beatleseque string arrangements and lyrics about the ubiquitous 60s musem ‘Emily’ are tempered and modernised by a hip-hop influenced drum loop. Vocals on the latter are ably handled by Euros Childs, one of several guest stars roped in for the project, including Blaine Harrison of Mystery Jets and the aforementioned Jon Savage.
Despite the amalgam of influences and ideas scattered across the album, The Soft Bounce is surprisingly cohesive, with 70s inspired rockers (‘Iron Age’) rubbing shoulders with bossa nova grooves (‘Creation’) without seeming strikingly incongruous. This is a testament to the deft production of Alkan and Norris, who have parleyed their passion and years of experience, both together and apart, into a rich, diverse first album, one which rewards, nay, demands repeated listens. 2016 certainly isn’t shaping up to be another Summer of Love in the vein of 1967 or even 1988, but The Soft Bounce provides a gentle transportation to less angsty and doom-laden days.
Listen to ‘Diagram Girl’ below