Cavan Moran

Forever on the Road/Forever at Home
Celebration Days Records

Opening with a harmonica blast straight out of a Bob Dylan tune, Cavan Moran holds no bars in announcing himself as Manchester’s 21st century premier troubadour. Previously of the folk band These Eyes Are Cameras, his solo work has lost none of the zeal with which they packed out bars the world over, as shown by a tour around Europe in promotion of this album, as well as a successful launch of the album last month in his home city.

Although the opening track, ‘The Wheel of Rhyme’, will undoubtedly draw comparisons to Mumford and Sons, it much more closely resembles fellow Mancunian indie-folk peddlers The Travelling Band, having the same subtle melancholy which makes their music so moving when sung out loud in an intimate venue. The indie-folk sound can get quite stale after a while, but ‘The Ballad of Gare De L’est’, stripped back in terms of instruments but not vocal prowess, makes for a rabble-rousing foot stomper more familiar to the English folk of old. It’s interesting that it’s the name of a Parisian train station then.

There’s also touches of gospel in ‘Lord When She Comes (How She Goes)’ - and not just because of the title - which freshens things up and places the man in the category of a roaming preacher, travelling the country with a guitar and suitcase full of tales.

With a style that does often suffer from similarity, it’s difficult to make an indie-folk album stand out in the post-Mumford and Sons world. But with Forever on the Road/Forever at Home and its insistence on making subtle changes track by track, Cavan Moran shows this needn’t be the case. With a little ingenuity, be it the addition or removal of an instrument, or a small change in vocal delivery, he succeeds in creating an album that, although undeniably in the vein of the genre, is by no means completely defined by it.

David Ewing

Background image by Andy Cropper.

Altar Flowers

i.d.s.t.
Self-released

While one half of Manchester’s scene rests on its laurels, forever trying to recreate the city’s halcyon heyday by being ‘mad fer it’, popping pingers well into its forties and belting out poor renditions of ‘Wonderwall’ at every opportune moment, the other half shirks away from that. Instead, acting out its own ultra-hip, Nathan Barley-esque fantasy from within the Northern Quarter. Altar Flowers subscribe to neither of those camps, occupying not so much a murky middle-ground, but an autonomous, technicolour bubble of their own creation.

i.d.s.t., the band’s debut album, draws from a wealth of 80s influences - elements of The Cocteau Twins, Tears for Fears and The Cure all make an appearance, creating a sonic tapestry that’s both wistful and at times utterly uplifting, often within the same song.













Far from being predicated on nostalgia alone, i.d.s.t. juxtaposes the decade’s pop pomp against its more brooding moments, allowing Altar Flowers to effortlessly create their own brand of gothic glam, relishing in the macabre and the mournful, but always remembering its lipstick.

The result is a strange one. A rare marriage in which the overt optimism of one offsets the rampant melancholy of the other, creating a dichotomy both entrenched in its influences and fresh enough to feel contemporary. Like Pretty in Pink being recast with the characters from Donnie Darko, i.d.s.t. is a love letter to both the decade, and the teenage angst and uncertainty that backbones each film.

Dave Beech

Foxtales

Foxtales EP
Self-released

Despite its modest three-track runtime, Manchester's Foxtales' self-titled debut EP is a record steeped in subtle nuance and backboned by a moody undercurrent that runs through the heart of the EP like lifeblood. A five-piece that bridge the gap between folk-rock and psychedelia, Foxtales manage to feel both timeless and timely.

Opening track 'Bad Luck Women' throbs with a tribal-like menace, a brooding bass providing the ominous backline that carries the track towards its conclusion. It's not without melody. A trio of vocals offset the darkness in what's something of a Foxtales trope.

With not one but two mandolins at their disposal, the band change the mood of the EP effortlessly and on a whim. Closing track 'Spider' is a far cry from the opener. Understated and semi-acoustic, it’s at the opposite end of the Foxtales spectrum. Layered with melody, it’s arguably the strongest track on offer here.













Having already earned favour with journalists and music fans alike, it's obvious that Foxtales have the potential to go far, and though there are occasions where the EP feels a little loose, such potential outweighs any fleeting moments of scrappiness. Foxtales are a band to keep an eye out for.

Dave Beech

Fakear

Animal
Counter Records

Fakear, or Théo Le Vigoreux as he’s known to his friends, is the latest in a long line of exciting, European electronic musicians to grace these shores. Being described as an amalgamation of the likes of Jamie XX, Bonobo and Daft Punk, expectations for his first album proper, Animal, were high. And he delivers.

With a sound that straddles house, electronica and soul, the comparisons to Bonobo are clear, with echoes of The North Borders in several tracks, not least ‘Light Bullet’ which features vocals from Bonobo collaborator Andreya Triana. Although there are similarities, the album never strays into tribute territory, and the lively, off-kilter percussion - the surname Vigoreux being remarkably apt - that permeates a lot of the album keeps things fresh.

Although hailing from over the channel, tracks like ‘Sheer-Khan’, which somehow manages to mix echoes of Hindi vocals alongside hip hop drum kicks and snares, showcases the global scale of influences on this young producer’s sound. Most impressive is the way the songs are simultaneously for your headphones and the dancefloor. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the titular track, an undeniable highlight of the album, where the squelchy synth and slow beat make for both a perfect mid-set shoulder-roller and yet also music you wouldn’t mind sitting and grooving to on the bus.

Animal doesn’t sound rushed. It’s a fully developed album of four EPs and a world of travelling in the making. This time was clearly well spent figuring out what works and what doesn’t, resulting in a highly accomplished piece of work that pays testament to the maturity of the artist. Fakear is pronounced ‘fake-ear’, but there’s nothing false about the sumptuous, warm sound of this album, and clearly I’m not the only person who thinks so. He’s gaining plaudits as wide-ranging as M.I.A., AlunaGeorge and Annie Mac. This is just the start, and with it being such a strong one I don’t foresee anything stopping this man from emulating this success in the future.

David Ewing