While 2016 has been something of a tumultuous twelve months in the realms of politics and death, it has been quite celebratory when it comes to sounds. Our resident brummy takes a look at the surge of sensational music from a slew of local Birmingham bands. Here are some of the stellar tracks from the Second City.
The Cosmics, ‘Johnny’: The scuzzy three-piece, led by the crystalline vocals of tousled bassist Erin Curran, blend Stiff Records-era garage rock with a reverb-drenched modern bent. ‘Johnny’ doesn’t even hit the two-minute mark, but leaves a lasting imprint with its jagged, jiggery chorus.
Semantics, ‘My Detainer’: Propelled by post-punk riffs and Josh Rochelle-Bates’ brooding basslines, ‘My Detainer’ was the little song that could – the four-piece had almost resigned it to B-side duty before it became a sleeper hit, not least due to its moody Cure-esque outro.
HANKKS, ‘Love Shy’: Something of a Second City staple, HANKKS signify the bacchanalian badinage of a party run amok. ‘Love Shy’ soars with its contemplative chorus, before it settles back down into a hubris-fuelled howl of love gone warped.
Afterbloom, ‘Duh’: The original B-Town sounds of 2012/13 linger on in ‘Duh’, albeit channelled through a grungier, introspective funnel that shrugs its way into a blistering chorus of jaded defiance.
Gleam, ‘Believe’: Big-hearted anthem from one of Birmingham’s premier bands. Support slots with everyone from The Magic Gang to The Pains of Being Pure at Heart show the five-piece’s knack for eclectic, but excellent, indie heartache.
Handwaxx, ‘In My Mind’: Live, you can always be guaranteed two things from Handwaxx – echo-laden fuzz rock and Ryan Baynham’s brilliant stage banter. ‘In My Mind’ may miss the latter, but its propulsive, fuzzy pomp has the reverb and the riffs to stay deep inside your cranium.
Jaded, ‘Nettles’: Jaded deal in melodic shards – music that will lacerate as well as love, and ‘Nettles’ is no exception. Lonely, longing but full of hope, ‘Nettles’ stings and soars with its yearning lyrics and slightly skewed guitar riffs.
Paper Buoys, ‘Sharp as Razors’: Paper Buoys aren’t afraid to voice their concerns for the big issues, and ‘Sharp as Razors’ has the polemic, politicised bite that sums up the rage of the working-class circa 2016. It also has a deliciously satirical video.
The Lizards, ‘Houdini’: In order to move forwards, The Lizards have been looking backwards – taking the hazy harmonies and smoke-filled segues of the 1960s, ‘Houdini’ is a paisley-patterned jangle that is fuelled by lovingly lop-sided guitars.
Field Harmonics, ‘Girls’: Lush and polished pop from Rob Glover and Bryony Williams, who have carved out a strong reputation for tracks that blend glacial beauty with a radio-friendly sheen. ‘Girls’ is the standout track from their stunning record Corners.
Wood and Nails, ‘Sorrow’: Paul Beaumont is one of Birmingham’s finest songwriters, with a sandpaper howl of a vocal that elevates his songs of emo-tinged self-reflection. ‘Sorrow’, the latest single from his outfit Wood and Nails, extends his palette but keeps his pedigree.
Grain Death, ‘Springfield’: With a heartfelt guitar motif straight from mid-‘90s Boston, ‘Springfield’ surges with wonky wonderment and a chorus that is lovingly lo-fi. Imagine Galaxie 500, Pavement and Built to Spill got together at a mixer and decided to bash out a jam.
Robert Craig Oulton, ‘April Showers’: Oulton and his band don’t like standing still, that’s why one moment you’ll be greeted to a Death Cab-esque brand of lilting wistfulness and the next your ears will be destroyed in a blast of unforgiving distortion. ‘April Showers’ offers the former.
Byron Hare, ‘Twisted Sister’: Beginning with a gently striking, ’60s-inflected drum motif and sultry, yet stand-offish, boy/girl vocals, the song changes tack with each verse – as it progresses, the swirling organs grow in stature, the haunting vocals gain prominence and the distortion’s crunch develops a more menacing, urgent blast.