The new line-up has been announced.
Another set of incredible acts have been announced for the seventh year of Bushstock including the likes of Spring King, Seafret and Benjamin Francis Leftwich. Further acts are still to be scheduled for the event this summer, which has been curated by Communion Presents.
The festival, which takes place annually at a variety of venues in the Shepherd's Bush area of London, was nominated last year for Best Independent Festival at the Aim Awards. If this year's line-up is anything to go by, they'll have a good chance at another nomination in 2017.
It's a pleasant surprise to hear new material from The Staves just fourteen months after their second full-length effort If I Was. That astonishing album informs the new three song EP Sleeping In A Car, but these songs certainly don't feel like cast off's from that project. In a little over ten minutes the Staveley-Taylor sisters push their sound forward ever so slightly giving a tantalising clue as to what their next album may shape up to be.
Most noticeably, although Justin Vernon is again involved here with some of the recording taking place at his April Base studio in Wisconsin, these songs sound far less indebted to his work with Bon Iver. Perhaps that's because some of the material was recorded at Urchin Studios in London whilst touring, and perhaps it's because The Staves sound has evolved again whilst on the road. You can tell Vernon was in the studio when you hear the reverb on the drums during 'Roses', but his contribution feels more subtle than during the If I Was sessions. Thankfully those signature three part harmonies, which have the power to raise the hairs on the back of your neck, are also present and correct during these new songs. The sisters have also continued to play with studio techniques to augment their vocal performances, the loop that's been created as the backbone of 'Outlaw' is mesmerising.
The band describes this EP as a reflection of the adventure and isolation of travelling, and in a nutshell that's the most accurate description. Despite the brief running time there's space for moments of triumphant choruses balanced with real contemplation. The title track, which curiously closes the EP, encompasses both gloriously with the piano driven melody perfectly conveying the feeling of perpetual motion that sleeping in a car brings.
Continue reading: The Staves - Sleeping In A Car EP Review
I doubt that 2015 will be remembered for being dominated by one particular musical genre. It seems the culture of digital downloads has made it more difficult for a movement to coalesce in a marketplace brimming with choice.
I'd argue though that the last twelve months has seen the strongest showing from female artists across the board for many years. Many acts would easily have made my year-end list on a different day, and many of them cantered on a strong female voice. Solo artists like Joanna Newsom, Laura Marling, and Lana Del Rey all presented strong albums. Even Florence Welch's third album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, which didn't quite live up to her previous efforts in my opinion, featured some glorious moments. I debated for a long time whether to include Courtney Barnett's Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit in my ten best records list. Ultimately it sits just outside for me, although her unique delivery and kitchen sink drama approach is wonderfully endearing. That Adele's 25 closed the year on a strong note, just underlined the trend that had been building all year. It's not just solo artists though; the likes of: Best Coast, Girlpool, Bully, and Wolf Alice, all demonstrated that women were back in the spotlight.
Other bands made welcome returns, Blur in particular were my live highlight of the year, thanks to Graham Coxon's master class on stage. Their album The Magic Whip didn't quite make the cut for my list in the end, compared to most other years it would have. Interestingly it was also a year where side projects came to fruition for well-known artists. Dan Auerbach's The Arcs produced their first studio material, as did Matt Berninger's El Vy. Both albums had their moments, but didn't quite feel fully realised in their own right. Elsewhere the likes of Lucero, Jason Isbell, and Ben Folds produced albums that matched their finest work. My love of bands from Philadelphia also continued thanks to Beach Slang's debut The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us and Hop Along's third album Painted Shut. If there were disappointment's I had, it was those records that were simply good and not as great as you'd hoped. The Decemberists, Frank Turner, Wilco, and Death Cab For Cutie's albums all fell into that category for me. By no means bad, the material on those albums struggled to compete with their high watermarks of previous years. I was especially curious about Ryan Adams' ambitious reinterpretation of the entirety of Taylor Swift's 1989, the result didn't quite live up to the promise it had on the drawing board though. It may have introduced a different audience to some excellent songs, but Adams managed to strip some of the fun out of the arrangements in the process. By the time there were Father John Misty covers of Adams' recordings on the Internet, it felt like the Swift fan club didn't need any more famous members.
Then there were the records you felt you should love, but for whatever reason they just didn't connect on a personal level. Drake and Father John Misty aka Josh Tillman produced records that despite the hype I just didn't manage to fall in love with. Tilman's 'Bored In The USA' was astute social commentary with it's tongue firmly in its cheek, but it didn't hook me into the album as a whole. Perhaps the biggest record in this category for me is Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly. It's technically brilliant, ambitious, has great rhymes, and straddles so many genres that it shouldn't be as cohesive as it is. The problem was, it left me cold. It almost felt as if Lamar wanted to prove he could produce something that ticked all the boxes he thought he should, rather than writing the record he wanted to. Perhaps with time I'll grow to love these albums, hindsight is a wonderful thing.
Continue reading: Jim Pusey's Top 10 Albums Of 2015
There was a distinctly religious feeling to proceedings when Watford based trio, The Staves, played at Bournemouth's Old Fire Station last weekend. It wasn't just that the Staveley-Taylor sisters were performing on a Sunday night ahead of a sold-out Roundhouse show in London. It was the hushed and reverent nature of the audience and the occasionally angelic voices enveloping them from the stage that gave the evening a heavenly feeling.
Those in attendance wondering whether The Staves could re-create the magic of their recent Justin Vernon produced album were not left disappointed. An impressive array of musicians accompanied The Staves throughout, and in a live setting the brass and synth flourishes packed a real punch. Showcasing their trademark harmonies early on, the band launched into a satisfyingly anthemic rendition of 'Black & White' during their opening salvo. The historic room was bathed in colour and the audience of around 500 people was illuminated for the guitar heavy track, which perfectly illustrates how far The Staves have progressed since their debut album in 2012.
Throwing in the odd quip and observation, there is a certain irony to the use of smoke machines in an old Fire Station, the trio swiftly rattled through a comprehensive selection from their recorded output. More obscure choices like 'America' were accompanied by a good chunk of recent album If I Was. Along the way there was also room for a hypnotic cover of Bombay Bicycle Club's 'Feel'. In truth the most impressive moment was during 'Let Me Down' in the middle of the set. The song builds to an aural avalanche of looped harmonies under the lead vocal. I was unsure that in a live setting their studio experimentation would have quite the same impact, but with the help of loop pedals the band demonstrated that they could rise to the challenge.
Ahead of their recent show at Bournemouth's Old Fire Station, Watford's The Staves sat down with Contactmusic's Jim Pusey to discuss working with Bon Iver's Justin Vernon, touring with Florence Welch, the best records of 2015, and bizarrely toothbrushes and tampons. Fresh from eating a Sunday lunch and accompanied by wine the Staveley-Taylor sisters; Jessica, Emily, and Camilla, seemed suitably relaxed to let their charm and humour shine through.
Contactmusic - You started in Watford playing in pubs. Did you have any idea that you'd be where you are now back then?
JS - Definitely not, no. It was very much for fun, obviously we're sisters, so we're close and enjoyed singing together. Our parents used to sing around the house, it was always something that was fun; I don't think we thought it would become a serious thing. It was a very slow process for it to become something more than just a hobby. Those first gigs in pubs in Watford were great. I think we learnt a lot from them, but it's been ten years since then, it took a long time for us to become a proper band.
CM - A lot of people when they are playing small venues like that never envisage taking it further. The success you've had will be an inspiration to some people, do you have advice for musicians that are just starting out?
CS - It's always hard to think of what you'd tell your younger self.
ES - You can only make the music that you think is really good, that's all you can do.
CS - Be as self-sufficient as you can. Carry on as if nothing is going to happen, but if you want to do that as your job, then try to work out how to do that with your best foot forward. Most importantly try to make music that you like, that's the biggest joy you can have as you move forward, and the joy can be sapped out sometimes.
ES - If you're left with music you weren't proud of, then what was the point in the first place.
Continue reading: The Staves - Interview
In the five years since the release of their debut EP, The Staveley-Taylor sisters, better known to the world as The Staves, have undergone a dramatic transformation. Their song writing, initially rooted solely in the tradition of English Folk, has now morphed effortlessly to place the sisters at the forefront of that movement, rather than just students of it. Let's be clear here, their second full-length album, 'If I Was', is not easily defined as just a Folk album. It has one foot firmly planted in Blues and Rock. It's like a more subtle and less confrontational version of Dylan plugging in.
Much has been made of producer Justin Vernon's involvement, and while it's true his fingerprints are all over this material, it doesn't feel as if he has guided the sisters to their ambitious new sound. Rather he has just facilitated that transformation. The key to The Staves success is their startling three-part harmonies. While they remain the focus of the songs, there are many instrumental embellishments of note (especially the distinct and accomplished percussion) as the sisters' musical palette has dramatically expanded. That again is very much to do with Vernon's contribution, as he has teamed the Staveley-Taylors with many of his Bon Iver collaborators at his April Base studio in Wisconsin.
The album opens with 'Blood I Bled', the title track of last Autumn's EP; it slowly unfolds into a brass and string soaked military march. It's a bold song that demonstrates just what 'If I Was' has to offer, but the most notable early moment is to be found on 'No Me, No You, No More'. The track opens on a processed vocal hum, which is soon joined by a second note. It's a re-invention of The Staves' trademark harmonies through the prism of Justin Vernon's imagination. The familiar three-part vocals soon soar in above the stark backing, which is only punctuated with brass. Within three minutes, the mesmerising song segues seamlessly into an acoustic guitar and an entirely different track. It's moments like this that make you realise this album really is something special.
Continue reading: The Staves - If I Was Album Review
After two years on the road, the Staveley-Taylor sisters return in October with their first studio offering since their well received debut, 'Dead & Born & Grown'. The 'Blood I Bled' EP is a tantalising sample of their second album, primarily as it's the first material they've unveiled that features Bon Iver's Justin Vernon on production duties. The resulting three songs are well worth the price of admission and point to a significant step forward for The Staves.
No longer just channelling their beloved English Folk roots, the Watford trio have embraced a more complicated sound that suits their mesmerising three-part harmonies. Vernon's fingerprints are unsurprisingly evident from the outset and, by carefully balancing his instrumental guidance with the vocals, The Staves have produced something rather special. The purpose of an EP release such as this is to build anticipation for a subsequent album, and in that regard it's job done.
'Open' slowly introduces the familiar harmonies with a melancholy mood ("You say we don't do much talking"), backed with a solitary acoustic guitar. However, before long a drum machine, strings and piano have joined the mix to great effect. It's a memorable combination that maintains its fundamental folk sensibility, but expands it into something rather unique. While it could be argued that perhaps The Staves are relying too heavily on Vernon's production (it's unmistakably reminiscent of Bon Iver), I'd actually argue that's a positive thing; it elevates the song beyond the rather niche sound that presided on much of the sisters' debut album.
Continue reading: The Staves - Blood I Bled EP Review
Beck's Song Reader might be a stroke of genius.
It is perhaps Beck's strangest album. Song Reader - the record made up entirely of sheet music - was played in full at London's Barbican Theatre on Sunday (July 7, 2013), with a huge cast of musicians including Jarvis Cocker, Franz Ferdinand and Beth Orton. This potentially had disaster written all over it, though reviews suggest the album was perfectly realised in the historic setting.
Song Reader contains twenty new songs, all publishing on song sheets. The tracks are scored for keys, guitar and voice though Beck's intention was for fans to elaborate and change the songs to their liking. As noted by the Financial Times' Ludovic Hunter-Tilney in his review, songwriter Ed Harcourt was given that job on the piano. He was accompanied by flugelhorns, ukuleles, drums and guitars. The veteran punk poet John Cooper Clarke read prose between songs while female vocal trio The Staves helped out on vocals.
David Smyth of the Evening Standard suggested the concert will have encouraged fans to have a go themselves, writing, "The songs Beck performed himself sounded the most predictable, with acoustic guitar to the fore, though a jazzy, catchy Do We, We Do would have stood out regardless of the singer. For those buying the book in the lobby, it was a case of do try this at home."
Continue reading: Song Reader: Beck Plays Album Of Sheet Music At London's Barbican
Having quickly established itself as the best metropolitan music festival in the UK, Live At Leeds returned over the warm bank holiday weekend to send a spark of excitement and energy fizzing through the city's streets. As ever with LAL - and most other festivals - line-up clashes were inevitable though it did little to dampen the atmosphere of what proved to be one of the best Live at Leeds offerings yet.
The thing to remember when wandering the streets with a crumpled programme trying to figure out if you can sprint from Brudenell Social Club to The Wardrobe in under 8 minutes is that you really don't need to. The whole point of Live at Leeds is that there's always someone playing, somewhere, and it makes for a far richer experience to circle a couple of your must-sees though pretty much go with the flow of the festival.
Incidentally - after a visit to the Holy Trinity Church to catch the end of the impressive Harry George Johns - the first real port of call was the horrendously busy Cockpit venue in the city centre, where queues snaked up and down the street with hundreds of fans desperate to gain access. Luckily, organisers had put together a pretty tasty schedule for the venue so waiting wristband holders were eventually treated to something worth queuing for.
Continue reading: Live at Leeds 2013 - Live Review
The Staves are a band you may or may not be familiar with. They seem to have been 'around' for a while, gradually working their way into our subconscious, yet you may be surprised to hear that Dead & Born & Grown is their debut album. Yes, they've featured on albums by Tom Jones and Fionn Regan, released 4 EPs, played SXSW and are (and have been) supporting Bon Iver on tour but this is their first independent album release.
The Stavely-Taylor sisters, Emily, Jessica and Camilla don't sound as though they are likely to be found playing Hard-Core or Death Metal which is fortuitous as they play rather nice folk music which has a particularly delightful Englishness about it. As fans of Joni Mitchell, you might expect a 70s shadow across their songs but they share a closer affinity to their kindred spirit Laura Marling. Ethan Johns (Co-producer with his father Glyn) may even have been drawn to the band after enjoying his time with Marling on her last two albums. The similarly impressive results would certainly suggest a strong musical chemistry exists between the band and their producers.
Dead & Born & Grown starts with an a cappella arrangement of flawless purity. 'Wisely & Slowly' showcases the 3 part vocal harmonies of the sisters perfectly. The angelic and choral tones are warm and comforting but tell a harrowing tale (Tell me all you need to tell. Why is it you whisper when you really need to yell?) only accented towards the end by the addition of instrumentation. The stirring and striking opener turns into a more gentle and laid back calm with the mellow vocals and jangly guitars of 'Gone Tomorrow'. 'The Motherlode', a Marling like composition, introduces an accordion and a beat that fair skips along to the beautifully balanced harmonies. A Country lilt pervades 'Pay Us No Mind' before the ukulele is brought out on 'Facing West'. As the initial individual higher pitched vocal sings out "Your voice is like silver" you can't help but agree. The simplest of accompaniments and lightest of arrangements are used to great effect here.
Continue reading: The Staves - Dead & Born & Grown Album Review