Exuding intoxicating charm, woozy emotion, and a dose of witty humour. Be prepared to swoon over latest EP Madhouse from Matt Maltese. Dreary everyday notions and nostalgic thoughts combine to create the most exquisite music, when paired with the sombre song-writing capabilities of this enchanting musician. Oozing an array of delectably smooth tracks, Madhouse hones notes of jazz, indie and Maltese’s classic bedroom DIY style.
From the dizzying romantic highs of Queen Bee to the agonising lows of Sad Dream. Maltese remains the reigning king of hearts, and if this recent vocal rendezvous is anything to go by, his reign is unlikely to end anytime soon. With eclectic yearn, Madhouse culminates to linger amongst late-night lovers and that sultry summer moonlight.
Breathing a new lease of life into music reminiscent of the past. Maltese’s modern musings schmooze against slinky piano keys and lo-fi tones, with fizzes of seventies pop for good measure. Vocals are crisp and effortless, and from a purposefully lounging lacklustre delivery emerges nothing shy of perfection, within these soft yet stirring songs. Met with the warmth of backing vocals from Asha Lorenz(Sorry) and guitars by Brian D’Addario(The Lemon Twigs).
This album was released on Christmas Day. Before this, it was kept a total secret. There were none of the usual pre-album single releases, or marketing strategies to prepare us. We weren’t aware this was happening, until the tweet came through on the bands page and the album was available to stream online. What a present it was.
The surprise element sent fans into melt down, and there was no denying the buzz around this album. So many questions teemed about it from not only fans, but names in the music industry too I’m sure. The release was a completely wonderful surprise. As it was Christmas Day though, I struggled to find a moments peace to listen to the album in full. On Boxing Day morning, I seized my chance. I listened to the album in its entirety, twice for good measure. My first impression? Honestly, it’s just stunning.
This new album has stripped Blaenavon back to their roots entirely. Recorded mainly just using a piano and an acoustic guitar. It consists of pure, raw, emotional lyrics that encapsulate singer Ben’s struggle with anxiety and depression. The album speaks of pain and hurt, but also of recovery and redemption. It’s a stunning vocal outlet of emotion and feeling, gift wrapped in gorgeous piano playing and acoustic melodies.
Stand out favourites for me are ‘Michael’, ‘slow down, cyclist’ and ‘write it down’. I just love how real and simply recorded these songs are. I don’t think I can gush about this album more. The way they’ve left dialogue in from where they’ve conducted the recording session, the emotional conversations, the odd bursts of laughter. It doesn’t appear to me that there were any forced retakes, any attempts at utter perfection. This album is perfect simply as it is. Blaenavon. Ben. Honestly this album is a masterpiece, and you should be very, very proud of it.
The songs are extremely touching and truthful. Whether there is intense meaning behind them, or whether they are simply the produce of a recording whim on the spot. The fact they leave the listener guessing and to draw on their own conclusions is magical in itself. For me, this album isn’t one that necessary needs to be understood and dissected lyric for lyric, as I have seen people calling for. It just needs to be listened to. It’s beautiful.
“What happens when you listen to one version of something so much that when it’s properly recorded it’s difficult to accept.”
Well Christmas is almost upon us, and the end of the year is in sight. The festive season is often a period of reflection for many of us. For me, this means an opportunity to look back on all of the amazing gigs I’ve had the pleasure of attending in 2019. Live music is a big part of my life. A couple of years ago I made a promise with myself not to miss out on gigs I wanted to go to. I started going to more gigs in local venues, and it has honestly been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I’ve gotten to know so many new bands, and discovered some incredible music, along with meeting the loveliest people.
I thought I’d share with you, 5 of my favourite gigs from the past year.
Peter Doherty & The Puta Madres – Sin City, Swansea, February 2019.
Peter Doherty and The Puta Madres are a fantastically talented band of musicians, that perform blissfully well together. They really are a must-see. Their origins as a band derive from playing together during a string of festivals. At which time they whipped up a frenzy with fresh, exciting music, and firmly squashed rumours that they were merely a side project for Peter Doherty.
In February of this year, I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to see them for myself. In typical fashion, the gig was running late, door staff had informed me. Peter was out walking his dogs along the Swansea coastline at sunset, and who could blame him? It is beautiful. Once we were allowed in, I remember being puzzled for a second, as the band were already on stage. It took a moment for me to realise what was going on, and then I noticed Peter moving amps around and Jack tuning his guitar – it was soundcheck. They’d let us walk in on soundcheck. It was such an amazing experience. You could see the band were enjoying the unexpected early attention. With the gig being in the heart of Swansea, it gave Trampolene front man (AKA Puta Madres guitarist) Jack Jones, the opportunity to play up to a home crowd, reciting one of his most popular poems ‘Pound Land’. Pete also treated us to a few chords from beloved Libertines tunes, that really got the crowd going. There was no doubt in my mind then that this was going to be something extraordinary.
When the band came back on for their main performance, it was wonderful to see how chaotically perfect they were together. Resembling a gypsy punk-band, The Puta Madres are a spectacular sight to behold. As their debut single ‘Who’s Been Having You Over’ blared out to the crowd. Keyboard player Katia was a stunning free-spirit on stage. Drummer Rafa was the best kind of crazy. Needless to say, if you have read my previous posts you will know the adoration I have for guitarist Jack. Violinist Miki was kind and gentle amongst the madness. Bass player Miggles was more sensible on stage, but was wonderfully close to them all. I got the impression The Puta Madres are a band of friends, a band of lovers even. They have an adoring relationship with each other, and this is reflected beautifully in their stage performance.
The band sang and laughed, engaging with the boisterous crowd throughout the night. To hold on to my barrier position was hard, but by God there was no way I was giving that up. They introduced us to new single ‘Paradise is Under Your Nose’ and other soon to be album tracks. As well as performing hits from The Libertines and Babyshambles. As a treat for Jack’s birthday, Pete also gave him a moment on the microphone where he performed a stunning song ‘Lighter than Paper’, that is still yet to be released.
Honestly, I cannot explain to you just how much I enjoyed this gig. It was different, it was wild. I cannot recommend The Puta Madres enough.
This is The Kit – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff, August 2019.
This gig was a real standout for me, because believe it or not, before that night I’d never heard a single song of theirs. I went to see This is The Kit with someone who adores them, in Cardiff’s Clwb Ifor Bach, and I decided to treat myself to the rare experience of hearing a band for the first time on stage. No spotify binging desperately trying to learn lyrics, no frantic searches for past set-lists. I just wanted to enjoy seeing them fresh in front of my eyes.
Honestly, the performance was sublime. Kate Stables, singer and founder of the band has an exquisite voice that really shone under the spotlight the night I saw them. Speaking openly, I’d say I was transfixed for most of that evening. Without questioning her vocal talent, she is also a wonderfully gifted songwriter. The lyrics in her songs are beautiful, and work stunningly well when placed against her voice, and the soft soothing playing of her instruments, whether it be the guitar or banjo. I remember being lost in songs such as ‘Bullet Proof’ and ‘Solid Grease’. I was frantically asking the person next to me as soon as they would finish, “What is this song called?” I went into the gig with an open mind, and it was sublimely rewarding. I was met with a beautiful band, in which all members are gloriously talented. Aside from Kate Stables, other band members such as Rozi Plain, are vocally talented in their own rights. Rozi has a growing solo-career ahead of her too, having recently played Cardiff’s Sŵn festival, amongst other locations.
You can clearly see during a This is The Kit gig, how in love with them their fans are. They have a niche cult following, that I’d guess they have acquired from dedicated festival going. This band can silence a room with their purely gorgeous soft songs, and in the next breath make them dance and sing with fan favourites such as ‘Moonshine Freeze’. All of which I had the glory of beholding for the first time. I watched how adored they were by those that knew them, and I too was captivated.
Now, I cannot even begin to tell you how desperate I am to see this band again.
This is The Kit are a gem certainly not to be missed.
The Amazons – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff, February 2019.
Before I begin, I just have to say that this gig really was something special. I’d only managed to find out about it a few days before. The Amazons weren’t playing at many venues and had kept their announcements rather low-key. Probably because they were channelling much of their energy into the new album, but being as dedicated to music as they are, of course they wanted to treat us to a ‘little something’ before the release. I remember frantically searching to see if any tickets were still available, and to my relief, thankfully there were. I was so excited. Especially as I knew the venue was smaller, which makes all the difference. Although, of course I do go and see bands in larger venues, I much prefer a smaller gig, as the band are not lost on the stage and lighting. They are there, right in front of you. No huge barrier gap, no security guards in your way. It’s just you and the band. I think that was what I enjoyed most about that night. The atmosphere was just so intimate. To have the honour of seeing a successful band like The Amazons on a stage at my level, not high in the sky. It was fantastic. Honestly, if you go and see any band you love in Clwb, trust me when I say you will not be disappointed, but The Amazons really took the roof off the place!
I remember the night vividly, the room was awash with dedicated fans, all eagerly waiting for the band to take the stage. On a cold February night, the turnout was brilliant, and it was so great to see. It had been a couple of years since the release of their debut self-entitled album, and at this point in time, us fans had only been graced with new album Future Dust’s first single ‘Mother’. With the new album due in May, anticipation lingered strongly amongst the crowd. We were all anxiously waiting, desperate to hear any new material, and of course the classic tunes that we all knew and loved. The Amazon’s certainly obliged our request, by scattering new songs amongst our favourites. Us fans rejoiced. Any Amazon’s gig would be fantastic, but it really felt exclusive to see them playing in the small but mighty venue that is Clwb. We hung off every word that fell from Matthew’s mouth. Lyrics were sang adoringly back to the band, and they revelled in it. The room was alive, Clwb was alive.
Everyone was there for one reason, to witness the sheer amazing power of The Amazons.
They certainly delivered this, and more.
I remember the ending of this gig was phenomenal. Having kept us waiting, craving throughout the entire setlist. We were hit with it. ‘Junkfood Forever’. Mine, and I’m sure many others, favourite Amazons song. It was fantastic. The room completely blew up, and I’d say going to this gig was worth it just for this song if nothing else. That’s how good it was.
The All-Dayer (Headlined by Matt Maltese) – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff, November 2019.
This all day gig was a real treat. Starting earlier than usual, it was a jam-packed line up born from a collaboration between Council Records and So Young Magazine. Bands including Rosehip Teahouse, Drug Store Romeos, Talk Show and Happyness took to the stage. Headlining last but not least of course was the king of wounded lovers, Matt Maltese.
The first band I saw that evening, Rosehip Teahouse, are a wonder to behold on stage, their performances are beautiful every time, and this gig was certainly no different. Personally, I find them so endearing as a fresh, new band that I’ve written about them in more depth in my post on 10 Emerging Welsh Bands.
Drug Store Romeos were a new band on me, but their sound was so unique and different to anything I had heard before. To put it simply, they were nothing short of mesmerising. Lead single ‘Now You’re Moving’ was stunning, and Sarah was fascinating to watch perform, with her ability to sing and play piano, all whilst dancing and engaging with the crowd at the same time.
Despite this gig having a lengthy line-up, the intervals between each band were kept short and concise. I think this is what made everything run so smoothly, the gig was constantly moving, and there was never a point at which the evening lost momentum. In the intervals where bands were not on stage, I could see it was a fantastic opportunity for networking. Event organisers and representatives from the magazine and label mingled in with the crowd of fans, and band members who were also watching each others’ set. People were chatting, and getting to know each other. It really seemed as though there was a community spirit here, and that this was something more than a gig. Something rather special, I’d say.
The next band to take the stage were Talk Show. The lights were completely dimmed, and it was at that moment I felt the atmosphere change. I could see lead singer Harrison limbering himself up to take to the microphone, as if preparing for an exorcism. Holy hell did the devil take hold. Trust me when I say, I was blown away. Talk Show switched the night up in seconds, turning it into an eery, energy-filled punk show. Honestly, this band ripped my heart out of chest and stuffed it back in again with their music. Possessing a real “hold on for your life” feeling. They dominated that stage, and their performance. Talk Show hail from South London, and are similar in style to Slaves or Idles, but with more of a frightening twist to their lyrics and sound, that makes them so much better.
I wasn’t sure where the night was going to go after this, as Talk Show were so different to what I was expecting, given the style of previous bands and the subsequent headliner to come, Matt Maltese. I think that was the reason why, unfortunately the next band Happyness didn’t do it for me after that. I can understand how the mood needed to be changed, due to the complete contrast between Talk Show and Matt Maltese, but for me Happyness just didn’t work here. I hate to review anything negatively, and this is not a reflection on them as a band at all, as I could see how their sound was fun, and catchy, but it was just not right for this segment of the line-up I’m afraid. This is just my personal taste though; the crowd seemed to love them.
Last in the line-up was Matt Maltese. I absolutely adore this man and his music. I discovered him following the release of his single ‘Greatest Comedian’. Matt’s album ‘Bad Contestant’, dominated my summer last year and was mostly all I listened to for the remainder of 2018 if I’m being honest. On vinyl, it is an absolute masterpiece. Matt was at the top of my lists for artists I needed to see, so I was beyond delighted when I realised he was coming to headline this all-day gig in Cardiff.
Matt’s music is very close to my heart, so to say I was excited would be a sincere understatement. His music means so much to me, to describe how I felt waiting for him to come on stage, well I’d say I felt emotional more than anything else. I’d played his vinyl over and over, I’d cried, I’d laughed. Matt felt like more of a companion to me than a musician. So, to be faced with the fact that any moment now he was going to be performing the songs I adored so much, merely inches away from me, it was completely overwhelming but utterly blissful. It is an unreal sensation, which I’m sure you’re all familiar with, when you know you’re going to be in the same room with someone whose music honesty means that much to you. It could have accompanied you through the happiest or the saddest times in your life. I think this highlights why I feel so passionately about the live music scene. These artists are there for us when we could be completely alone, and to then be able to see them and treasure their songs and the memories attached to them in our own lives, is stunningly beautiful. This is what musicians need to hold on to and cherish about their fanbases.
Matt’s setlist that night was utterly gorgeous. To be able to watch him play piano and sing, so closely. Honestly it took my breath away. Matt played songs from ‘Bad Contestant’ including the incredible ‘Like a Fish’, and mixed in songs from his newly released album ‘Krystal’, which is of course a triumph, and I’d argue more emotional in its content than its predecessor ‘Bad Contestant’. My favourite from this album is the track bearing the same name, which I was also lucky enough to hear him perform live that night.
Matt even made time to run his own merch table, and greet fans after the show. Of course I went bounding over, and introduced myself. How could I not? I really felt as though Matt went the extra mile in this gig, not only with his stunning performance, but all by how approachable and personable he was. It really made me smile, ironic really, with lyrics so heart-breaking.
Massive Wagons – Patti Pavilion, Swansea, October 2019
I just had to choose this gig as one of my favourites! I love a good rock show, and Massive Wagons made sure I experienced one in all its glory. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this band a couple of times now. The first gig was on a whim, as we had booked tickets for a Saturday night out. A few drinks and some good music. The added bonus was that I got to see this amazing band! Their live music was great, and during the days that followed I listened to their albums and I was hooked. I had to wait a few months to be able to stream the other songs I’d heard live, as they were touring prior to the release of their next album ‘Full Nelson’. It was this album that really cemented my love for Massive Wagons.
When their next headline show was announced a year later, there was no way I was going to miss out! Although I’ll admit I did have some difficulty getting hold of my tickets due to a local disgruntled ticket supplier, but I was determined not to let anything dampen my spirits! Massive Wagons were coming back to Swansea, and I was so looking forward to it. The Lancashire rockers put on an incredible show, as I knew all too well from when I last saw them. This time though, I loved the songs, I knew the lyrics and I couldn’t wait to be down at the front.
Billed as an evening of rock and roll, there were several bands performing before Massive Wagons took to the stage. Ryders Creed, Scarlet Rebels and Ravenbreed got the crowd ready for what was to come. The room wasn’t packed, but it was a Sunday night and to be honest we were having a such a good time. Who needs a boring Sunday in, when you can go to a rock show?
Massive Wagons stormed the stage. Baz’s hat introduced them, by making a perfect landing on the coat stand, which made all of us laugh and cheer even louder! One thing I will say that makes Massive Wagons so great, is how fun they are as a band! So many rock bands take themselves way too seriously, but Massive Wagons are a real down to earth and friendly band. You can see within seconds of them being on stage, that they love being there and they work extremely hard for it too. Baz, lead singer of the band, recently wrote a very touching piece on their Facebook page, explaining just how much dedication it has taken to keep the band going. For me this makes going to their gigs a million times more worthwhile. This band absolutely love what they do, and for the price of a ticket to go and see not only a rock band that care, but a rock band that put on one of the best performances I’ve seen. It is worth so much more, and it keeps the dream alive for not only them but us as fans too.
Massive Wagons have a mixed following of all ages, and this could be seen that night in Swansea. They’re the type of band that I love, and my whole family could love. Their reach spreads far and wide, and this is fantastic. Their music consists of classic rock and roll, punchy guitar solos, and one hell of a voice. Massive Wagons are brilliant, and really make you want to get up and get involved. If you want a taste of how great they are, just listen to ‘Hate Me’ or ‘Ratio’, and then come back and tell me what you think. I promise, you won’t be disappointed. Better yet, if they’re coming to your hometown any time soon – go. You’ll see one of the best rock shows around.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this, I hope you enjoyed hearing all about my favourite gigs of this past year. Of course there were so many more I enjoyed, and I wish I could write about them all. If you would specifically like to hear about any other gig that I went to, please feel free to get in touch! Alternatively, if there were any gigs you loved in 2019, please share them with me! It would be lovely to hear from you!
I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, and I wish you lots of love, music and happiness in 2020.