It’s been a fantastic 12 months for Northamptonshire’s music scene, with the county in the national and international press more than it maybe ever has been. We’ve had the return of Bauhaus who reunited for trio of gigs in LA and who have now announced a London show, slowthai who has been taking over the world, Billy Lockett repping NN on The Late Late Show in the US – all while Temples have been circling the globe again. Amid all this, we’ve had dozens of other musicians playing great shows and releasing inspiring music.
In fact, it’s hard to imagine a year with more musical focus on Northamptonshire than this one. And that’s something to be rightly proud of.
So, without further-ado, here’s the second annual New Boots round up of the last 12-months, bought to you by site founders Phil Moore and David Jackson.
SONG OF THE YEAR
We decided this year to hand this one over to you and 900 of you voted over seven days. We were watching the voting unfold in the background and are hugely grateful to everyone who took part. The lead and top five changed hands several times. Here the top five based on the final count:
1. King Purple ‘Warning Signs’
2. Sarpa Salpa ‘Before It Goes Dark’
3. Kenneth J Nash ‘The Explorer’
4. Krysthla ‘Zero Sum Game’
5. The Barratts ‘Lights Out in London’
In the end it was King Purple who took the top spot with their psychedelic, slow-burning single ‘Warning Signs’. Congratulations guys. We told frontman Callum Connachie and he said: “It feels great to win. We would like to thank every single soul that voted for ‘Warning Signs’, it means a lot. We will be back in 2020 with even bigger and better tunes.”
What did we think? Phil also went for ‘Warning Signs’, with Dave opting for ‘01604Ever’ by Blood Visions.
ALBUMS OF THE YEAR
slowthai – Nothing Great About Britain
Krysthla – Worldwide Negative
Thee Telepaths – The Velvet Night
Nina Harries – Nina Harries
Dave: “There’s two albums which stood out for me this year, without doubt clocking up the most hours on Spotify for me were slowthai’s Nothing Great About Britain and Krysthla’s Worldwide Negative. Although some of my favourite slowthai songs are the likes of ‘T N Biscuits’ and ‘Drug Dealer’ [which aren’t really considered proper LP tracks] the record is incredible and absolutely worthy of the critical acclaim it received. There’s obvious comparisons to Mike Skinner but 17 years on from his debut, I think this record stands shoulder to shoulder with it. There’s an excellent mix of grime and punk-influenced music peppered with a great sense of humour and story-telling throughout it.
Phil: “I’ve listened to Nothing Great About Britain a lot and really enjoyed it – it’s totally deserving of the praise. It’s an album which has really redefined a lot of people’s relationship with modern hip-hop and grime and made people think about Northampton in a different way – both positive and negative. Seeing a guy brought up in Lings become this international superstar is just so heart-warming.”
Dave: “Last year we talked about an absence of metal on our lists, and I think Krysthla totally delivered on third record. They took their sound in a few different directions but it’s an album full of brutal riffs and great songs and a reminder of what a great band they are. They deservedly got to open the main stage at Bloodstock Festival this year and I’m sure it was in part down to the strength in this LP.”
Phil: “For sure – you know Krysthla are a band which can stand tall against any band at any festival. One of the albums for me was The Velvet Night by Thee Telepaths. It came out at the beginning of the year and it’s an incredible piece of art really. There’s only three tracks spread out over twelve different ‘parts’, but it takes you on a real krautrock/psychedelic/drone/noise journey. It’s got so much going on and even after several plays I’m still finding something new buried within. Second to meniton is an album, which probably hasn’t really had much impact locally I’m afraid to say, is the self-titled effort by Nina Harries. Her debut album is something just so unique. She plays double bass and sings and she gets her brother and her dad and a couple of friends to play on the album. It’s very haunting and ethereal, just beautiful and really feels very like she’s opened herself up to get the best piece of art she can. I don’t think people here know enough about, and absolutely it’s worth checking out.”
Dave: “I also want to quickly want to mention Hot Motion by Temples. Indie-psych isn’t my ‘go to’, but Temples have rediscovered their guitars on this record and there’s just some really great songs on it.
BEST LIVE BANDS
The Big Dirty
Phil: Here’s two very different ones from me. Firstly, it’s The Big Dirty. The last time I saw them I remembered why they’re now bringing fans to their Northampton shows from all over the country. They’re such a fun and powerful and energetic live act, with the ability to get everybody to hone in on what they’re doing. They’re one of these bands you just can’t take your eyes off. They’re working hard now to get to the next level, they’ve got management for example, and are doing really well going into the new year.”
Dave: “The Big Dirty are just great fun and deservedly were taken by BBC Introducing in Northampton to the BBC’s Maida Vale studios to record a session, and those tracks have recently been aired. They’re just undeniably, unapologetic fun. Great rock – how it’s meant to be. And they look kinda fantastically ridiculous.”
Phil: “If there’s a Trousers of the Year competition, all four of them would win in.”
Dave: “I don’t think they’ve got their own boxer shorts yet, though?”
Phil: “Secondly I must mention George Hammond aka Nailbreaker. It’s “digital hardcore”; he’s manipulating sounds with his laptop and stalks around venues and screams a lot, basically. It’s one of the greatest things you’ll ever see.”
Dave: “He’s joined Sharkteeth Grinder, right? They opened for ACODA in Corby and adding George into Sharkeeth has given that band another dimension, which you didn’t even know they needed. Without a doubt, two of the most exciting bands to watch live, so seeing them sort of combine has been great.
EVENTS OF THE YEAR
slowthai – LP launch at The Garibaldi Hotel
The New Boots stage at the Northampton Music Festival
Local acts in the Roadmender’s main room
Dave: “This is a simple one, slowthai’s album launch at The Garibaldi. From seeing fans queue up in the morning at Spun Out Records to get a wristband, to Skepta walking in at the end for ‘Inglorious’ – it was amazing. The place was absolutely rammed and it just felt an amazing celebration of the album. One of the hottest gigs ever. Ty spent most the gig aloft a speaker stack, or among the audience. Within minutes he was just down to his pants and socks and the venue was full of family and friends. It just felt a really special occasion. You just get the impression it’s going to be one of those gigs people talk about for years to come and about 10 times the number claim they were at.”
Phil: “Ty – you absolutely smashed that one from all accounts. I wasn’t there [I was working, what a tool!]. I want to talk about two events. The first one is slightly self-congratulatory. The New Boots stage at the Northampton Music Festival was a new thing we did for the first time, and I didn’t know how it was going to go. However I’m pleased to say it went really well, and I’m really grateful to everyone involved and everyone who came. We’re going to have another stage in 2020 it looks like. Things will be slightly different this year, you’ll find out early in the new year. I’d like to think we got to show what original music in Northampton sounds like, and stuck it on a stage.”
Dave: “I don’t think it’s a secret there’s been some criticism of the direction of NMF in recent years with some people thinking it’s not for them. The New Boots stage hopefully reminded people it is and will be in the future. It’s always going to be serving a lot of people, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be for you.”
Phil: “Also, we have some local bands that are so popular now they can play the main room at the Roadmender. In recent years you’ve had a lot of local bands playing the smaller room and that’s been an “aim”, to be at that level. And then four bands this year took it a step further! Sarpa Salpa, King Purple, Stormbringer and The Barratts all did it, they all played to hundreds of people. The general thing in the music press these days is that guitar bands are not interesting anymore. “No one cares about guitar bands – people only care about hip-hop, singer-songwriters and pop music”. This year showed guitar music can bring big numbers, and long may that ring true.”
BEST TOURING ACTS TO COME TO NORTHANTS
Red Rum Club
Dave: “The two for me are actually bands who have headlined here before, Enter Shikari and Sleaford Mods – both at the Roadmender. Enter Shikari are always great live and didn’t disappoint. I wasn’t really a big fan of their last album, but I think they’ve evolved amazingly over the years and they’re always such an assault on the senses and amazing to see live. They’re also a band which can play arenas, but open talk about the importance of playing towns like Northampton. Additionally, much like Gary Numan, they’re a band who’ll cram as many lights on stage as possible. Then, the other end of the visual spectrum, we have Sleaford Mods. They released one of my favourite albums this year so to see them come back was great. They feel like a very important band right now.”
Phil: “I’m going to mention three gigs of different sizes. Madness at Franklin’s Gardens – it was incredible to see so many people having a fantastic time and skanking away to great pop hits. Sleaford Mods at the Roadmender again – Eton Alive was such a statement record to lose yourself in. And I must mention Red Rum Club at The Black Prince. That was a superb live show – a six-piece band with trumpet. Loads of energy, great tunes and lovely lads to boot. They played to 1400 people in Liverpool the week before, so to come to play to 150 in Northampton and be really pleased to be here was great. Three gigs of very different sizes – but all great nights out.”
ACT OF THE YEAR
Dave: “It’s difficult to not make this this the New Boots slowthai awards. However, he’s had an amazing year and that’s gotta be recognised. He’s had some iconic moments: watching him in front of so many people at Glastonbury, selling out Brixton Academy, and two tours. He was by far the most entertaining person on the red carpet at the Mercury Music Prize, and he’s always looks like he’s having so much fun. Holding the severed head of Boris Johnson is one of the defining music images of the year.”
Phil: “I love the story that’s being woven with him, and hope we’ll be talking about him for years to come. I agree, it’s been a huge year for slowthai and it’s hard to look beyond him. I’ve seen him three times, he’s been on the front of magazines and newspapers everywhere. Just incredible. I do also want to mention Izzie Gibbs. He had some health issues at the start of the year, and in fact he hasn’t played any shows this year, but what he has done is put out five singles and they’re all banging pieces of work. He’s got an audience now that love him and I think that perhaps in the slipstream of slowthai he could do great things in 2020. I hope he’s got a masterplan. I hope it all comes to fruition for him, he deserves it.”
FLYING THE FLAG FOR NN AROUND THE WORLD
David: “There’s a few to mention here. Ty, again for all the reasons we’ve discussed. We’ve had no one who has had the national and international impact which he has. Then, there’s the return of Bauhaus who have finally hopefully realised they have a legacy to claim.”
Phil: “No-one saw this coming, Peter Murphy had a heart attack in the summer, there was the big tour with David J in 2018, but out of the blue we had those LA shows with all four of Bauhaus. Their last live show was 2006 so it’s been a while, and I don’t think anyone ever expected it to happen again. If you remember how acrimonious the previous reformation was in the end – no one suspected anything else at this point. I’m so glad they’re back on it, even if it is only for a short while.”
Dave: “Billy, on The Late Late Show with James Corden was another huge moment.”
Phil: “If you’re going to take on America, what a great start. He’s moved back to Northampton. The move to London really helped him, but he said it was time to come home. And what has he done? He immediately records four tracks, puts them out and now he’s playing one on James Corden in America to millions! Also, Temples have gone around the world on the ‘Hot Motion’ tour, it’s great to see them back on it.”
Dave: “Temples went away after that second album, wrote a great third album, gold-plated a load of equipment and toured the world. Good work lads.”
ONES TO WATCH IN 2020
Dave: “Tragic. I don’t know a lot about them and haven’t managed to see them yet but they’ve released a great debut EP which features the singles ‘Walking’ and ‘Sammy Set His Bed On Fire’. I know they’re young guys but hopefully they’re going to carry on doing good things next year.
Phil: “I’m going to mention three other artists I’m really buzzing for. Baby Lung put a stunning single out at the start of the year, ‘Casualty’, and are about to release the ‘ShoeTown Blues’ EP. They’ve played a bunch of shows locally, and are like nothing else around really. They’re an indie-lounge-jazz thing, with songs to get the pulse racing. It’s good to see them slow everything down a bit, and up the drama. I also want to mention Caliburn. I don’t know a lot about them, but they put this EP out and they have such a ‘pinned against the wall’ sound, we couldn’t ignore them.
Dave: “I’d like to get a mention in for Wishing Wolf. With a lot of bands concentrating on singles and EPs it was great they put out their debut album out, which sounded incredible. It’d be great to see them take that leap forward next year.”
Phil: “Finally from me Mali Mae. She’s a singer songwriter from south Northamptonshire. She’s put an album out called Personal and I was just blown away at how a 20-year-old could write such amazing, affecting songs.
I just think people should keep an eye out on all that’s going on round these parts. Generally I think there’s been a lot of seeds planted this year. We’ve talked about it been very good nationally and internationally, but I hope we all can build on that and help bring some more of these acts up to the next level in 2020.”