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Our Record Store: Rough Trade

I had the privilege of visiting one of the many great independent purveyors of great music today – Rough Trade.

Located across four stretches of UK life in Bristol, London, Nottingham – and even a managing to branch itself across the pond in NYC – Rough Trade has been an integral staple in the discovery of modern music mania here on our doorstep in the UK and in the US.

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A somewhat fanciful term for such a warehouse-etiquette but, their ‘headquarters’ are situated in the west of London. They first opened in 1976, right on the doorstep of punk. Now, in their 45th year of trading, they have become a global constituency in the world of music and its industry. Still to this day – as they did in the 70s strife with the punk mania that came before it – they’re celebrating the most exciting new music.

Situated in the most stylistic and cultural pockets of stark cities, their chosen locations were by no means accidental. Diving off main roads into kernels of art graffiti, tapestry and masterful architecture to independent bistro bars, awash with international food stalls and eventually into the crowds who are ready to spring into the new groove of life. Often situated in the most vibrant, culturally contrasting communities in the UK – as well as in the US – they are flagships to the strength of the accompanying cities’ music scenes.

From Portobello Road, Old Truman Brewery to Rockefeller Center itself, it really paints a story.

“As far as we’re concerned, our stores are where the magic happens. 

Sure, we sell great music, but the bigger picture is bringing together artists and audiences within a celebratory, inspiring environment, one that welcomes all ages and taste under one roof.”

Oldest and most iconic, Rough Trade East (of London)

It’s important to note that they are not merely just record stores, oh no no no. They have also become some of the most celebrated music venues, playing host to some iconic acts in past years that put on simply fantastic, immersive and illusory performances surrounded by an arching wave of artist vinyls and band merchandise.

For me today, I was able to notch off another on the list of all four venues as I visited Nottingham’s store in the area of Hockley. With only one UK venue to go in Bristol, (as well as the obvious one in NYC) I’m holding out hope that I can provide myself an opportunity to visit this one too.

With these being such iconic stores within our music retail, purchasing and general perusers of music, I just had to buy something.

With its fitting home of a tote bag to take home in, I managed to pick up The Cinematic Orchestra’s beautiful story of Ma Fleur, pressed on a clear vinyl with a rarity of exclusive art work present – it was certainly one of the more fitting vinyls to purchase.

Fantastic day.

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Let’s Talk: What makes an artist SUCCESSFUL?

For your Sunday evening, here’s a deep dive into the talks of all things music.

In your humble opinion, what makes a music artist successful? Is it the sheer social media numbers and radio plays? Or is it something far more personal with their musicality and story as a songwriter? It seems to depend on whom you ask, but the varying degrees of success is often weighed up when discussing an artists’ music.

For me, I think it’s whatever makes the artist happy. Playing to a group of ten people in a small dimmed bar, to getting that perfect song out that shows you as the perfect songwriter, I think measures success.

Popularity and successive streams are certainly extras that come after for me. Now, that’s just my opinion to this one, what’s yours?

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Song of the Day: The Lumineers – “BRIGHTSIDE”

The sorrowful beauty of indie folk lovers of The Lumineers are back in a new ambient space with their single, BRIGHTSIDE.

From their return from 2019’s III album, The Lumineers are back and heralded with their vibrancy once more. This comes off the back of their fourth album set to release next January in 2022 – and is sparkling excitement in the folklore of folk music.

Ever since their eclectic Hey Ho from their debut, they have gained emphatic status and recognition for the music efforts. Eclipsed by their 2016 album, Cleopatra, BRIGHTSIDE is the coming of age and their fourth instalment in the saga.

You can have a listen to the song below:

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Latitude Festival: First Major Festival since ‘Freedom Day’

Campers for Latitude festival are set to prep camp and arrive today at Henham Park in sweet anticipation for Latitude Festival this weekend (22nd to 24th July) – the first major festival in the UK to go ahead since ‘Freedom Day’ on Monday for COVID restrictions.

Announced as the Government’s Event Research Programme, the 35,000-capacity is set to go ahead this weekend, as thousands flock in droves to see the likes of Bastille, Bombay Bicycle Club and The Chemical Brothers headlining.

In order to gain entry to the festival, which runs until Sunday (July 25), ticket-holders will be asked for proof of a negative lateral flow test taken within 48 hours of arrival at the festival, or proof of full vaccination with the second dose having been received at least 14 days prior to the first day of attending the festival. As a test event – it can go ahead with no social distancing requirements.

With this, where many are unsure and doubtful of such festivals going ahead in such vast quantities, many people are loathing at the prospect of missing out, and seeing live music come back in such large volumes again.

What a test event means for COVID:

<a class="wp-block-button__link" href="<!– wp:paragraph –> <p>What a test event means for COVID: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-suffolk-57895625</p&gt; !!RETURN OF LATITUDE!!

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Hopefully, this is the first of many (test) events that will help provide ample funds to the music industry that so desperately needs recovering from the swollen pit it has fallen itself into.

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Alt-J: The World of Experimental Sound

Subtle eccentrics of indie rock with complacent sound-experiments, bring Alt-J into the spotlight as critically acclaimed and award-winning.

An Awesome Wave

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Alt-J: a name raised from the delta symbol that is made when hitting Alt and J on a Mac keyboard, their smoothie blend of folky dub-pop became their signatory work and was first brought to attention in such singles, Matilda and Fitzpleasure in 2012.

Oddly arranged in structure and the ample choosing of percussion, we were pleasantly surprised to find out they had done a full-length debut album using those same sounds.

An Awesome Wave was released in the same year of 2012, and amassed a worthy following instantly –

including myself.

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Being one of the first to purchase the album via iTunes … trailing through the Earth’s atmosphere or merely jumping amongst cityscapes with your earbuds in … is how I would describe Alt-J’s music tellings.

Musically, it’s simple but it’s genuinely clever.

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Doing something that hadn’t really been done anything on this scale before – certainly not from an original quartet of artists – An Awesome Wave allowed them to earn their first prestigious Mercury Prize in the world of music – not to mention three nominations from the The Brit Awards.

With a 14-piece artwork that does not require a single skip – favourites including Something Good and Dissolve Me – it has soon become a staple of this pleasurable folk-indie vibe sort of music.

Its such a rarity to explore experimental sounds, odd in structure and percussion to deliver such an album that resonated with so many people. I think the sheer simplicity of it and the ever-so-present relaxing setting you get in there music has been there from day one. Wherever the band manages to end up on their next work, their art of morbid curiosity is a sight to behold.

This is All Yours

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Despite the temperament changing in the Alt-J camp after the bassist of Gwil Sainsbury’s departing in 2013, they remained true to their colours and followed up with their second, This is All Yours, in 2014.

Rhythm and space were their desired bread and butter – and that certainly didn’t change or deter at all with this follow-up.

Whilst This is All Yours did not share the same involvement concerning numbers or critical acclaim compared to that of the first, it just so happened to feature elements of extended beauty in songs that stretched for more minutes, which left the band to experiment more, without the worry of having to hold back to suit the status quo with the dreaded second album. It hinted at moments from their debut, with playful Left Hand Free and Every Other Freckle

… but also hinted at a changing landscape for the band, a maturity to their music, almost. Elluring two-parter, Arrival in Nara and Nara, which draws up a playing time of 9 minutes, allowed the band to create conceptual moments that translated well in a far deeper song structure. Overall, This is All Yours had an 8-minute longer playing time than An Awesome Wave, but you could say had a deeper meaning behind it.

Relaxer

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In early 2017, they soon departed ways with their vibrant colours and approached their third studio album with a somewhat darker presence, with the release of the trio 3WW, In Cold Blood and Adeline in 2017. Same year, in June? Enter, Relaxer.

Although short in a track listing of just eight, it certainly makes up for its playtime of 38 minutes. Although not doing as successful as the prior two, Relaxer is a diluted version of their sounds – but nonetheless equally ambitious. House of the Rising Sun and Deadcrush are beautiful moments that I will always wish were longer, despite them being long enough as they are.

It may also feature future sounds that we may expect to hear from their potential fourth studio album? Last Year and Pleader delves into far more traditional sounds of other orchestral instruments – including the uproar of a choir during the lasting moments in Pleaser – and even has a female vocalist adding elements into the fold that we hadn’t really heard of before.

Whatever they have in store for us in the coming year or so, I’m sure it’s set to be a delight for all of us.

Equally delightful in sound and presentation, Alt-J are a folk-inflected, indie-smooth topping that is perfect for any casual music listener.

Give their track-load a listen below.