It’s been a cracking 12 months for the Northants music scene, with musicians flying the flag for our county on a local, national, and international level.
To celebrate, we’ve had a run though of some of our favourite things this year. Before we get going, a quick caveat. We love all the acts we write about, but we can’t include everyone and talk about everything. If you or your favourite are not in there, just remember; there’s always next year…
So, without further ado here’s the ramblings of New Boots editors Phil Moore and David Jackson. Merry Christmas, and a prosperous New Year to all. [most photos by David Jackson]
SONG OF THE YEAR
Phil: “For me it’s Tom Grennan and ‘Barbed Wire’. Yes, Tom’s from Bedford but his backing band includes Northants musicians Danny Connors and Adam Gammage. Danny is a long-time local songwriter and musician and he co-wrote the single with Tom. I think it’s the best thing on his debut album Lighting Matches that came out earlier this year.”
Dave: “For me, it’s ‘The Modern Man’ by Ginger Snaps. Jay Brook has been putting out great records for years in Gingers Snaps, and with previous bands. I think ‘The Modern Man’ was an almost a perfect mix of what Ginger Snaps is about: great beats, scratching and guitar hook all rolled into one.”
Phil: “I also want to mention The Barratts‘ second comeback single from this year ‘The Garrison’. The band came back after a break from recording and that tune still has the essence of The Barratts but it’s moved the sound on with a bit of a harder edge. Luckily they’ve still got a brilliant way with a chorus.”
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Phil: “This is a much harder category because we’ve had fewer albums out than singles, but the quality of those I’ve heard has been excellent. Three stood out most for me. Firstly Domino Blitz by Tim Muddiman & The Strange. It is a serious piece of art which he clearly put his heart and soul into. “It has a sort of Nick Cave / Tom Waits dark blues/noir rock feel, and has some great arrangements.
“Secondly Venus Fly Trap and Icon. This is possibly the best album they’ve done, which was a bit of a surprise. “It’s a diverse record with lots of memorable hooks, both guitar parts and vocal lines.
“It’s also worth mentioning P -Hex, who have been together for almost 30 years now and finally put out nan album, Quantum Funkanics, this year. I think they have previously not bothered to do an album because they thought they were predominantly a live act, but I’m glad they did because it is brilliant.”
Dave: “There’s not much I can add to what you’ve said, but the album I’ve probably listened to the most has also been Domino Blitz. I really enjoyed Tim’s previous record Paradise Runs Deeper so was looking forward to this one and it really didn’t disappoint. As you said, a great, dark bluesy record which I really rate. It was great to have him here this year playing some of those songs as well.”
BEST LIVE ACT
Dave: “Sharkteeth Grinder were one of the highlights at the Rocked Up Hootennany this summer, and one of the best local live bands I’ve seen this year. They were probably a band I saw photos of before hearing them live and knew they were someone I’d love.
“There’s a fantastic controlled chaos about them, and even with the disconnect of a main stage and barrier at the Hootenanny, Bobbo was out in the crowd, screaming his heart out putting everything into that performance. They’re just fantastic to watch live.”
Phil: “They refer to their performances as exhibitions and yes, they’re very passionate and seriously and in love what they do. They’ll play anywhere to anyone wherever there’s an audience. They’re one of the sincerest bands I’ve ever spoken to. If you like hardcore they’re absolutely a band for you.
“I’d also like to mention Karl Phillips and The Rejects. I’ve only seen Karl and krew a couple of times this year, but they are very tight and very entertaining. Karl has tons of personality, and the band went on a massive tour this year, which takes guts in this day and age. Each venue that books them seems to fall in love with them and want them back.
“More new songs in 2019 please Karl.”
EVENT OF THE YEAR
Dave: “I’ve just mentioned it, but the Rocked Up Hootenanny was amazing and without doubt one of my highlights of the year. What Marc Collins and the Rocked Up team and other promoters involved achieved in 2018 was fantastic.
“The Hootenanny has been growing year by year and the ambition to create something on that scale has to be massively applauded.
“There was a fantastic mix of local and national touring acts and to get the final full show by Arcane Roots was as huge coup.
“Yeah, it was a bit windy, but it was a great day and the organisers did a great job of pulling together a really diverse day of music with rock, alternative and hip-hop across three stages. Hopefully, despite his pending move to Hamburg, Marc and the team will be back next year with another Hootenanny.”
Phil: “The event of the year for me has to be the return of Bauhaus – if only under the name of Peter Murphy and David J. “The pair hadn’t played Bauhaus material together in this town for 36 years and that in itself was a huge moment for Northampton – and they played two shows!
“I went to the first and it was fantastic tour de force. Their music, which was always visceral and revolutionary, sounded great and I feel it was a moment you had to revel in.”
Dave: “We also have to mention Twinfest, as each year it goes from strength to strength.
“It opened for the first time on the Thursday in the Guildhall’s Great Hall, which felt really special. It was a great opening night, and I hope they’re able to do something similar again next year.”
Phil: “The organisers were very on it this year, and utilised each of the venues really well. It’s a very small-scale organisation working on a small budget and they are maximising the results. All power to them for achieving that – I hope they can keep it up in the future.”
BEST TOURING ACT TO COME TO NORTHANTS
David: “I think it’s been another strong year for bands coming to the county, and for me a couple stick out. It was great to see post-hardcore legend and former Far frontman Jonah Matranga play all of Water & Solutions at the White Hart in Corby.
“Jonah seems to be over in the UK every couple of years and besides being one of the nicest guys his work rate is incredible. It was the first time I’d seen Jonah play with a band as he normally just tours acoustically. Rob Reeves from Run Your Tongue also deserves a ‘thanks’ for making that gig happen.
“My second choice would probably be Gary Numan at the Roadmender. When you look at the size of shows Numan is playing it was a real coup for Northampton to get a show. He’s still writing fantastic songs and his last couple of albums I think have been among the best of his career. Another mention must go to Tim Muddiman representing Northampton on bass for Numan.”
Phil: “It was a big, big deal for him to come and play a show that size and we’re lucky. I’m sure Tim helped make that happen.
“I’d like to pick Don Broco. They’ve had a massive year with their album Technology, and they’re playing to packed audiences. The Roadmender gig sold out almost immediately and they’re from the region so a big shout out must go to them for their amazing efforts and great live show.
“Also, The Lovely Eggs. One of my favourite DIY bands, who also came to the Roadmender. They’ve been growing year by year and are releasing quality albums and playing quality shows. The atmosphere at their gigs is always extremely friendly, and you feel like you’re part of their family. Which is apt, as they also bring their kid on tour as well!”
ACT OF THE YEAR
Dave: “I think there’s two we need to talk about here: Sarpa Salpa and slowthai.
“The Sarpa lads put in an incredible amount of work this year. They played more than 20 festivals, countless regular shows and supported some big acts along the way, while also headlining the MaNo-Musikfestival in Germany, playing to about 2,000 people.
“They’ve released a couple of great singles and filled venues across the region.”
Phil: “They’ve had a fantastic year and are the whole package really. “They’ve gigged their asses off and are a great representation of what you can achieve. We love them and will continue to support them as much as we can.
“Next for them, I think, is start to get getting more national press/radio exposure, and then we can expect big things beyond conquering the east Midlands.”
Dave: “Onto slowthai – who currently is gracing the cover of numerous major publications while featuring in a lot of ‘2019 hype’ lists.
Phil: “While he’s not been working the local scene as such, he is very much a product of Northampton and is heading for the stars as we speak.
“2018 has been a phenomenal rise and breakthrough year for him. He’s put out a succession of riotous singles, and the snowball just keeps getting bigger and bigger. We may not see him locally much more, but he’s a guy with bucket loads of charm and we should all love him.”
FLYING THE FLAG – REPPING NORTHANTS AROUND THE GLOBE
Dave: “Billy Lockett. He’s had a hell of a year, hasn’t he. Seeing the ELO tour poster with his name on, playing every major stadium in the UK and Europe was great.
“I went to one of the London O2 Arena shows and it was incredible to see Billy’s name in lights either side of the stage, and the reaction he was getting from fans. It was only a few years ago it seems he was still trying to work out exactly who he wanted to be, trying different line-ups and formats and it all seems to have clicked this year for him.
“He’s released some cracking songs along the way as well.”
Phil: “This year was a real moment for him. I think you could tell how much it meant to him to come and fill the Royal back in May I really think now the sky is the limit for him.”
Dave: “We must also mention Alistair Wilkinson who has been playing drums with him as well.”
Phil: “Yeah, he’s a great guy with a lot of talent. He’s very in demand as a session drummer and I hope they continue to work together because it will really feel like a Northampton band then.”
Phil: “We’ve already mentioned Adam Gammage and Danny Connors playing with Tom Grennan, and it’s worth pointing out guys have been rehearsing at Stalkers Rehearsal Studio in Northampton. It’s amazing when you think we have top ten artists on our doorstep like that.
“Greg Coulson is now playing keyboards in Spiritualized, which is fantastic for him, and you have to continually mention Ben Gordelier and Andy Crofts recording and playing with Paul Weller.
“Weller released his best album in years in 2018 with True Meanings, and they played some fantastic gigs. I’m looking forward to hearing more from them two next year with the return of The Moons.”
Dave: “There’s then also people we’ve previously discussed like Tim Muddiman touring across the world with Gary Numan.”
ONES TO WATCH IN 2019
Dave: “Two bands I’ve been really impressed with this year have been King Purple and The Keepers.
“It’s an interesting one, because both kinda occupy genres which aren’t my immediate ‘go to’. ‘Stuck In The Rough’ is a cracking tune and I know King Purple have been gaining a lot of traction. I’ve seen them a few times and every time they’ve really impressed.
“They’re clearly really talented guys and I hope they going to have a good 2019.
Phil: “I think their sound is very ‘now’ and a mixture of American and English influences and that always translates and travels quite well in this day and age.
Dave: “I met up with The Keepers recently and was very impressed with frontman Jordan’s drive and determination. He clearly knows exactly where he wants to take the band, and how he wants to achieve it.
“I just think with that drive and work ethic, they’re halfway there. They’ve got a good live show and are writing some good music.”
Phil: “I can see them getting better and better and I hope they get the support they deserve locally. They mix a few genres; there’s a bit of indie, psych and mod in there, and there’s enough going on in the pot there to satisfy anyone really.”
Phil: “I want to mention Weirdoe and That Joe Payne. “Weirdoe is a local rapper who seems to be a great character, and has built an impressive YouTube following. Aaron’s got some mad rhyming skills and his flow is always on point. His music is truthful, with some gallows humour, which inevitably brings [healthy] comparisons to Eminem.
“With Joe Payne – I think you are obligated to say ‘Joe Payne, former vocalist of The Enid‘ to give him some context! He left The Enid a couple of years ago now though. He already has fans and the press on his side from those times, he has a great voice and great piano skills. He’s got enough self-awareness to take everything with a pinch of salt, and that’s really important in this industry.
“Joe, and everyone else, New Boots hopes you have a kick-ass 2019.”