FEATURE: Top 5 North East alt. releases of 2017 | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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This year I’ve found myself listening to new releases from local alt./noisy artists much more than any ‘mainstream’ band, and that’s because there’s been some absolute bangers. Local releases tend to go under the radar, but amongst the endless, anxiety-inducing ‘best of 2017’ lists, these gems deserve to be shouted about, and easily stand up alongside any of the year’s bigger releases.

So, in no particular order…

Okay Champ – I Don’t Like This Anymore
An irresistible skin-crawler of an EP, Okay Champ got tongues wagging this year when they snuck out from nowhere at the end of February with their debut I Don’t Like This Anymore. An Ouseburn supergroup of sorts, featuring members of Nately’s Whore’s Kid Sister, Eat Fast and Let’s Buy Happiness, Okay Champ harness the same sludgy, dread-inducing sound of Nately’s with added post-punk paranoia. Biting riffs, John Edgar’s reverb-drenched vocals and lurching choruses make for a visceral listening experience. Final track Pet is the stand-out – a lethargic, doom-inflected epic that builds into a claustrophobic cacophony – Okay Champ make music to wallow in.

Cauls – Recherché
The North East’s very own Chinese Democracy, Recherché from progressive quintet Cauls had been years in the making before its release in 2017. A magnificent opus of meticulous technical wizardry, it was absolutely worth the wait. It’s an incredibly ambitious effort with all manner of sonic diversity: crunching riffs, meandering time-signatures and complex polyrhythms, not to mention Michael Marwood’s mesmerising vocals. Peace Paean, the track which I have found myself playing on repeat, is an absolute masterpiece. There’s something intoxicating and otherworldly about it, which can be said about most of the tracks on Recherché.

Future Horizons – Neptune and Triton/Brittle Versita
Future Horizons have had a stormer of a year, working with London-based indie label Glass House Records, releasing two incredible singles and touring the country, with their triumphs culminating in a slot at ArcTanGent festival (which was unreal). With their two singles Brittle Versita and Neptune and Triton, Future Horizons have begun to push themselves even further sonically. They’ve always embraced progressive structures and technical riffing, but these two new tracks are particularly mind-blowing, and I can’t wait to hear what they’re working on for 2018. One of the best things about Future Horizons is that they create a sound that is both crushingly heavy, yet has an irresistible groove: special shout-out to frontman Will Rayment’s moves during their live performances.

Mongeese – The Shores Breathe
Perhaps the mellowest of all the tracks mentioned here, but no less dynamic, The Shores Breathe was released back in March by Newcastle quartet Mongeese. They’ve been around for a while, but The Shores Breathe was an exquisite example of how the band have been quietly honing their sound. While they’ve often been classed as math rock, experimenting with off-kilter time signatures and jazz chords, this track is more soaring alt. pop, with reverb-soaked, soporific guitars exploding into driving rhythms. The mathy elements are still there, but it’s poppier and more accessible than their previous offerings. Currently working on new material, Mongeese are one of the North East’s most promising bands.

ThreadBear – Poland Spring
One of the bands helping to keep emo alive in the local music scene, ThreadBear demonstrated a much more self-assured, dynamic sound with their second EP Poland Spring. Inspired by a visit to Boston and their love of both old and new emo bands from The Get Up Kids to Tiny Moving Parts, Poland Spring opens with the twinkling, optimistic chords of intro Boot Shirt before diving straight into Ridgefield, which twists and turns in tempo from rolling and laid-back to urgent and heartfelt. A personal favourite is third track Pollen, which has more depth than any other, driven by vocalist Sam Riseborough’s frustrated, impassioned cries. Ending with the hooky pop-punk of Sad Adams Summer, it’s evident ThreadBear have put a lot of effort into developing their sound.


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