Album review: Baby Queens ‘Baby Queens’ – “Their greatest strength is their ability to break down walls between genre and time”

Published on AfterDark (06 Nov 2016) – CLICK HERE to view

Dean Hodge reviews the eponymous debut album by Cardiff R’n’B fusion band Baby Queens (released through Strangetown Records on 28 October 2016).

Tracklisting: Tired Of Love/Melodi/Had My Heart/Hear Me/You And I/By The River/It Feels Like/Forever/Spiritualize/Unite/Red Light/Samsara

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Having followed them for a lengthy period of time and thrown around the lofty words ‘long-awaited album’ in much of my previous reviews, it comes as a massive relief to be able to finally review an actual album by Cardiff’s Baby Queensthe female five-piece who serve up a hypnotic and harmonious aural cocktail that is shaken and stirred with R’n’B-infused pop melodies and garage rock-imbued hooks.

The Welsh quintet can pose a two-edged sword to any music journalist or press figure. On one hand, you would need a list longer than your arm for the myriad of genres the band could justifiably fit into with petite ease. But it poses something of a quandary on how exactly to articulate or market their sound within one genre or within a single tagline. Additionally, it is just as much of a challenge in how to thread together the numerous stitches of the band’s sound into a cohesive whole, and capture the raw energy of their live sound onto record. This is perhaps an obvious factor as to the why the wait for a debut album has dragged on for what seems like an infinite amount of time. At least it has so in the eyes of many of their fans – or their ‘New-Jack Army’ if that could be considered a suitable royalty-inspired nickname for their fan club – who have been licking their lips over the prospect of a full-length album by the five-piece.

Not content with just putting out sub-standard recordings of the music that they have been pouring their heart and soul into writing while balancing day-to-day jobs, the band take a decidedly more meticulous approach. For them, the production should be just as important, and just as emotionally ambitious, as the songs themselves. Additionally, so much can happen within the realms of life and love in the space of a couple of years, that can only serve to enlighten and enrich the creative nous. Continue reading

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Review: DimSŵn 2016 – ‘A premature serving of Sŵn’s 10th birthday cake, with just as much rich sonic filling’

Published on AfterDark (14 April 2016) [click here to view]

Dean Hodge reviews some of the acts from this year’s DimSŵn Festival in Cardiff , 9 April. (Photography by Nick Evans)

Anelog (Copyright Nick Evans)

Anelog, The Moon Club (Photo: Nick Evans)

If its older sibling Sŵn is the headline act of the festival season, then the younger DimSŵn is the inaugural support whetting aural appetites for the soundtrack to our year ahead. With the tenth year of Sŵn approaching, DimSŵn was in some ways a premature nine-and-a-half old birthday celebration – a mere slice of the Sŵn birthday cake full of the rich sonic filling and rare flavours-of-the-month that this defiantly Welsh institution never fails to mix up.

As is often the case at Sŵn, it falls on the slim guitar-adorned shoulders of a singer-songwriter act to open proceedings. So DimSŵn 2016 gets under way in Undertone with Merthyr Tydfil chanteuse Bryony Sierthe first in a line of acts representing the Forte Project stage. She manages to inject a unique edge into the country and folk genre with a voice that sounds more Memphis than Merthyr, and melodies cut straight from the heart. Continue reading

Single review: Baby Queens ‘Melodi/Had My Heart’ – “Crafting intoxicating harmonies that stick in your head for days is what they do best”

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge reviews the new single by Baby Queens (released on 13 November 2015).

Copyright Baby Queens.The new double A-side single by Cardiff quintet Baby Queens – released on Cardiff’s Strangetown Records label – succeeds on two fronts. On one hand, it reaffirms them as the next big band you need right now in your life and in your record collection – or streaming playlist in a more modern context. On the other, it paints them as the atypical nightmare of the average marketing-brained music journalist who find themselves in a quandary as to what exactly to label them as.

For one, Baby Queens model themselves as, or at least on the forefront give the first impression of being, a girlband. But musically speaking, they are far removed from any connotations to the label, not least because they actually play their own instruments and write their own tunes. Then there is the music behind the faces. On first listen, it’s R’n’B – influenced pop but imbued with garage rock guitars. Or it’s indie-rock with a dash of reggae. Or it’s hip-hop laced with doo-wop harmonies. The countless musical threads are enough to send your head in a spin faster than the script of a Quentin Tarantino film – and aptly their music would be a suitable soundtrack to one too. Continue reading

Review: Green Man Festival 2015 – ‘A musical melting pot opening doors to a universal corridor of song’

Green Man 1 - Main pic

Published on AfterDark (27 Aug 2015)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge gives his verdict on this year’s Green Man Festival (with photography from Gareth Bull).

For many, Green Man Festival is a highlight of the festival calendar, and ones which offers the best of both worlds – blending major artists with the more obscure gems of the music world, and evolving into a major platform while still maintaining a maverick, essentially ‘indie’ core. In short, it very much has a festival ‘feel’ without the festival ‘stress’.

With the exception of a few, many of the artists in this year’s line-up I am only just discovering for the first time and some I have instantly become enamoured with. There is such a diversity of music to select from, and as if that isn’t enough, there is plenty of locally sourced food, ales, and other festivities to keep your tastebuds, as well as earbuds, occupied. As myself and photographer Gareth Bull arrive on the site on a drizzly Thursday night, the welcoming vibe that greets us instantly offsets the dread of camping out in a damp field in the Welsh mountains for three days. Continue reading

Review: Some Kind Of Leader ‘The Flake’ – The band test the musical waters once more with a propulsive acid-tinged hook’

 Some Kind Of Leader 1

Published on AfterDark (18 Aug 2015)

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge reviews the new single by Some Kind Of Leader.

Tracklisting: The Flake/My Lord/Two Pair (feat. Cara Elise)

Following the technicolour indie rock of their debut album Dog Club released last year, Cardiff rock revivalists Some Kind Of Leader make a welcome return with newest single The Flake (released on Broken Yoke Records).

Produced by Cian Ciarán (of Super Furry Animals and Zefur Wolves fame) at Strangetown Studios in Cardiff, The Flake sees the band testing the musical waters once more with a propulsive acid-tinged hook anchored in late 80’s jangly guitar-pop and the early 90’s indie-rave scene. The track opens on a surging riff which glides along a spiral of hypnotic techno-adorned synths plucked straight from the heydays of the Hacienda. The influence of Mr Ciarán from the other side of the production board seeps through here, with his leftfield approach adding a further dosage of 90’s dust to the track. Continue reading

Review: Super Furry Animals, Cardiff University Great Hall, 3 May 2015 – ‘A welcome reminder and a literal jolt to the senses of how much we’ve missed them’

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge reviews the third and final leg of Super Furry Animals’ 3-date gig in Cardiff last weekend.

Super Furry Animals

Published on AfterDark (8 May 2015) – CLICK HERE to read article

As far as mammoth comebacks goes, this particularly breed of mammoth is as big, as brash, as colourful and particularly as ‘furry’ as they come. In some ways, Welsh sonic meddlers Super Furry Animals – returning for their first gigs in Cardiff in six years at the Cardiff University Great Hall – never really went away in the first place.

All five members of the group – Gruff Rhys, Guto Pryce, Huw ‘Bunf’ Bunford, plus brothers Dafydd Ieuan and Cian Ciarán (see AfterDark’s interview with him here) – have been working on their own various solo projects, while their music continues to be an eternal soundtrack for indie raves everywhere. However, their return to action was a welcome reminder and at times a literal jolt to the senses of just how much we missed them. Furthermore, it testified how much their inbred, technicolour-infused brand of rock ‘n’ roll – delivered in a mystical Welsh lilt – is needed in both in these grey, election-dominated times and the bland chart music-dominated landscape. Continue reading

AfterDark’s Dean Hodge Talks With Super Furry Animals’ Cian Ciarán – ‘The shows have sold really well so the pressure is on to deliver’

Cian Ciaran

Published on Cardiff AfterDark (30 Apr 2015)

This coming Friday in Cardiff marks the comeback of arguably one of its most revered exports – as 90’s psych-indie kings Super Furry Animals grace the Cardiff University Great Hall on May 1.

With a sell-out crowd awaiting the return of the Welsh rock icons, not an ounce of the huge sense of anticipation is lost over SFA member/synth maestro Cian Ciarán. Yet he shrugs off any nerves in his imitable laid-back, unassuming manner.

As if returning to duties as the synth wizard of SFA for their first UK tour in six years wasn’t enough to keep him busy, he has many other things to keep him occupied – he is currently touring with his new band Zefur Wolves (with his partner Estelle Ios among the line-up) in promotion of their self-titled debut album released earlier this month, and a solo album coinciding with the general election is set for release this summer. Continue reading