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FESTIVAL PREVIEW: Live At Leeds 2018

With the impending return of one of the region’s finest metropolitan festivals, we decided to throw out a few names for you to narrow down your journey through a frankly baffling array of artists. So with that in mind, here’s your super fast, low-calorie, one stop revision-cram-session-cheat-sheet to give you the lowdown, the hidden gems, and the heavy hitters for this year’s Live At Leeds 2018.

Superorganism – Stylus (The Independent Stage) – 2.45PM

Perhaps one of the industry’s biggest talking points right now, Superorganism with their glitchy soundscapes and quirky arrangements have captured the imagination of both musicians and fans alike. In many ways, they’re a band for the internet age. Appearing seemingly out of nowhere and quickly going viral with hits about internet fame culture and attention deficit, their lyrics skim across a variety of catch-all terms and buzz words, whilst the music vamps up a modern, frenetic psychedelia that uses everything from your more traditional spoken word samples to carrots crunching between teeth. On top of this, we get the monotoned, oddly unexpressive vocals of their lead singer Orono Noguchi, which provides an odd contrast that only makes the sound that bit more unique. However, whilst the band’s vast sonic palette makes The Flaming Lips look tame, there’s also plenty of enticing hooks to get you involved. I don’t doubt though, that some people will find them incredibly annoying; they’re one of those acts you either worship or think is style over substance (I’m certain that there’s a condiment that summarizes this dichotomy but the brand escapes me). Personally I fall in the middle, so I urge you to do what I plan to do: see them live, as they’re bound to bring a colourful lively show with plenty in the way of surprises to this year’s proceedings. Who knows, it might blow your M.I.N.D.

Rae Morris – Belgrave Music Hall – 11.00PM

If you’re a fan of Regina Spektor, you ought to check out Rae Morris, who has a more pop-oriented take on the niche of spacey singer-songwriter types. She’s an artist who embraces a great deal of textures and energy levels, all whilst delivering rich, emotional vocals that are really the focal point of any given moment. Maybe not an act for those who ask more of their pop music, but there’s more than enough power and subtlety to go round, and Morris’s writing certainly tugs at the heartstrings and fires up the muscles, so you can be sure to get a show of great contrasts at Live at Leeds this year.

The Howl & The Hum – Brudenell Social Club (DIY Stage) – 6.00PM

Intriguing, tense, and full of slow builds, there’s a lot to be liked about this self described ‘misery disco’ band from York. Combining growly bass guitars with eerie synths and floaty, James Blake via Alt J style vocals, The Howl & The Hum have a rare ear for refined, cinematic compositions that can sink and swell from calming to frantic at any given moment. Portrait I is a great example. Initially reserved, with an almost nursery rhyme melody, its lackadaisical nature conceals brooding, forlorn lyrics, that inspire images of Romantic era artwork with its imagery of wings and shadows. However, teamed with this artistry is a taste for big fiery riffs, which although usually tame sounding on record, will undoubtedly explode in a live setting. They’re perhaps the most exciting young up and coming band on display at the festival this year, so definitely check them out before they get too big and too out of reach.

Caro – Oporto (BBC Introducing West Yorkshire Stage) – 1.00PM

Adding to the continuing list of softly-spoken indie bands on this year’s lineup, Caro will undoubtedly satisfy a hunger for percussive, groovy music with a mild cheekiness. Their fusion of tribal rhythms and fierce, spry guitar hooks makes them winningly unpredictable, skipping from angular riffs to creamy legato vocals in a heartbeat. Think Thundercat, think Spoon, think Lewis Del Mar, think James Blake; there really is that variety of timbres. What’s more, the aforementioned cheekiness really comes across well through the lyrics as well as the wryness of the tunes. ‘Dirty socks’ and pissing in cups are just two of the oddball visual occurrences we get in Closet Lunatic, so pay attention to hear a few new thematic ideas. Undoubtedly a very exciting act, and great to see more young artists trying to push traditional rock staples in a new direction.

Peakes – Oporto (BBC Introducing West Yorkshire Stage) – 3.00PM

Airy, spacious and relaxing, the music of Peakes will come as a welcome respite amidst the franticness of a day’s worth of music. A band who dares to cover Kate Bush is brave to say the least, but they pull off a nice variation, and their music has a smooth, warm feel too that it gels nicely with the occasional intensity of their drum arrangements. Vocals that put you in mind of Lianna La Havas, and laid back to the point of bliss, there’ll no doubt be plenty of fun to be had for this band, playing in their hometown.

Stereo Honey – The Church (Dork Stage) – 4.30PM

Londoners Stereo Honey will be gracing Live At Leeds with their own form of glossy dream pop. Like many of this list’s choices, they embody a proficiency to swoon, to bring the gloom, but also bring in uplifting elements that callback to bands like U2 and The Cure. In the case of these guys, there’s an emphasis on elongated grooves with watery synths twinkling in the upper registers, whilst the reverb-soaked guitars stab and flutter about under the heartfelt vocals. Always ready to bring the power, Stereo Honey should make for a good set if you get the time.

British Sea Power – Leeds Beckett Main Stage – 10.15PM

One of the big acts for this year’s proceedings, and frankly a welcome addition, British Sea Power consistently bring a big show with them wherever they play. You can expect to hear anthemic songs reminiscent of Arcade Fire and Radiohead from across their career, and if the photos from their current tour are anything to be believed, plenty of audience participation, be it singalongs, props, or the occasional person in a bear costume (no I’m not joking). There’s sure to be a buzz around this show, and it’s a great example of a band doing their own vision of artistry exceedingly well, and still going strong after a great number of years, and a vast amount of stylistic iterations.

FLING – Leeds Beckett Main Stage – 5.00PM

Bitter Sweet Symphonies favorites FLING will be making an appearance at Live At Leeds this year, and you can bet your bottom dollar they’ll put up a fight for your favorite artist of the contenders. They very recently put out a video that riffs on the Monty Python milkman sketch with an albeit kinkier twist, and if that sentence alone doesn’t make you want to go see what kind of shit you’re getting yourself into then I pity you for your lack of adventurous spirit (the song is That’s Nice, if you want to do a bit of prep). They’re a band that aren’t afraid to have a bit, no actually, a LOT of fun with their music, their visuals, their attitudes, from their dirty guitars to their old-school happy-go-lucky vibe. Did I also mention the music’s great too? Very catchy, bordering on anthemic, and it has that British tongue-in-cheek nature that sadly is vanishing from the ultra serious artistic landscape of rock music. Hell, Fling are what their name suggests, they’re flippant fun, maybe temporary for some, but here’s hoping they stick around, and here’s hoping you embrace your wild side and stick around for their performance.

Whenyoung – Brudenell Social Club (DIY Stage) – 4.00PM

An upbeat musical combination of Paramore and The Smiths, this band knows how to craft danceable grunge-infused pop tunes with a modern sensibility. There’s a youthfulness to the sound, and yes that’s a predictably trite pun to make, but it’s true. Perhaps it’s the sweet, thin and direct voice of Aoife Power combined with the lush harmonies and growl of the instrumental that keeps the sound so fresh, regardless, they’re a fine new act that shouldn’t be missed.

Gaffa Tape Sandy – Oporto (BBC Introducing West Yorkshire Stage) – 4.00PM

Representing the Cambridge music scene, a band I’ve actually had the good fortune to perform alongside some years ago, Gaffa Tape Sandy. Fresh off having played the Introducing stage at Glastonbury, the trio are bringing their southern flair up north, with speedy, natural tunes that evoke all the energy of youth, and all the charm of the early 2000s indie rock scene. Their latest single Beehive is a snappy mission statement, laden with cowbell, flippant ‘la de dah’ backing vocals and an enticing blend of influences, from Yeah Yeah Yeahs to early Kaiser Chiefs. Cambridge is a severely overlooked music scene; it’s great to see this scrappy young band gaining some footing.

This year’s Live At Leeds takes place on Saturday 5th May, get your tickets and check out the full lineup at: www.liveatleeds.com

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