23 For 2023 – Part 2

First Day Of Spring

Although now based out of London, it was in the Thames-estuary coastal city of Southend-on-Sea where Samuel Jones first dreamt up First Day Of Spring. Now expanded to a five-piece band, First Day Of Spring spent 2022 playing regularly across the capital, as well as sharing a pair of excellent singles. With a new EP, Fly Over Apple Blossom, due at the end of February, they’ve started 2023 with a bang, releasing their most intriguing track to date, Moon Boy, earlier this month.

Citing influences from Sparklehorse to Sonic Youth, First Day Of Spring’s music dips into the things Samuel knows, autobiographical reflections of creative “trying”, of being in your twenties and searching for both a sense of meaning and a moment of escapism. Their music feels both urgent and somehow still, as if stuck in the push and pull, rushing towards nowhere or ambling towards connection. Take Moon Boy, a reflection on the difficulty of living in the moment when your brain is constantly rushing forward or diving into the past, it starts with a dream-like recital of Charles Baudelaire’s poem Be Drunk, before the bass-drum picks up and the whole thing rushes by in a technicolour blur. With their EP set to arrive just in time for the thawing of winter, First Day Of Spring sound primed and ready to bloom.

Amy May Ellis

Photo by Alice Farrington

Music is often rooted in a sense of place, it can capture the buzz of a city, the wide-open expanse of a desert sky, or the isolation of the remotest of islands. For Amy May Ellis, Bristol may now be home, but her music is imbued with the isolation and wide-open expanse of the North York Moors where she was born and raised. Amy’s music invites you into her world, to learn her history, to see her culture, to experience the scenery and wildlife of the countryside that surrounded and shaped her as a child. It should perhaps be no surprise then that Amy is now teaming up with possibly the UK’s most remote record label, the Isle of Eigg-based Lost Map, who this May will release Amy’s latest record, a collection of, “nourishing nature songs” entitled, Over Ling and Bell.

Much of the inspiration for Over Ling And Bell, named for two types of heather that grow on the moors, came when Amy went for a walk with her uncle, “I’d always thought of the Moors as wild, but during that time I started to see how they had been tamed by everyone who had lived on them. From the miners, farmers and peat diggers to the Mesolithic hunters who settled on the hilltops”. That sense of taming nature, for better and for worse, came to imbue the entire record with questioning, as Amy puts it, “what we have lost with this taming“. For a record so inspired by the history of North Yorkshire, it was perhaps fitting that Over Ling And Bell was recorded in a remote farmhouse, Amy spending much of her time there alone, only occasionally with friends coming to add their talents to the inspiration she found out of the window. Amy recently previewed the record with its first single, Rain From The East, a song about “feeling unsteady and the weariness that comes with grief”, it’s a gorgeously muted affair, Amy’s luxurious vocal melodies adorned with the pulse of double bass and steady percussive drums, as it nods to the likes of Tiny Ruins or Laura Marling. For all the sense of nature and the wild on the record, Amy’s music also has a sense of humanity, of feeling lost within the world, and finding your way back, as Amy recalls, “I found solace in ideas around navigating rather than taming wildness, and became obsessed with maps“. Soothing sound in touch with the world around them, Over Ling And Bell is a soundtrack for anyone looking to reconnect with the wild, a portable countryside retreat for anyone with an open mind, from the busiest city to the most rural spot imaginable.

Spice World

No not a fairly questionable movie from the Cool Britannia era, this Spice World are a band formed on Whadjuk Noongar Boodja (Fremantle, WA) initially to play a one-off gig in early 2021. That gig went so well they decided to keep doing it, and over the Christmas period in 2021, they decided to formalise it somewhat by recording their live set in their living room. Despite not really knowing a lot about recording and having only five hours before their drummer got on a plane, they managed to crash out a ten-track album, There’s No I In Spice World. Equally impressively, they managed to record an album good enough that both Tenth Court and Meritorio Records liked it enough to release it, and last week they did just that.

There’s something deliciously DIY about Spice World, they sound like they’re having so much fun that you can’t help but want to be in the band, and more so, you feel like they’d probably let you. They’re scrappy and sometimes they’re silly but more than that they’re also capable of striking a real emotional chord. Spice World are the sort of band who know that life can be hard sometimes, and also know that one of the best ways to share that feeling is to pick up an instrument, crash out a playful punk song and spend some time with your friends. Take recent single Mountain Pony 20, it’s a bittersweet little belter about, “how the pitfalls of romance manifest and repeat themselves in day to day life”, that’s utterly perfect in its simplicity, “you said oh, do you believe in love? Because I’m not wasting all my time with you if you don’t, you said oh, do you believe in love? I said I don’t know”. It’s the little poignant moments that lift Spice World throughout the record, the way in The Goon Sax-like thrash of Useless Feeling they reprimand themselves for revelling in not being able to move on, or how on the beautifully understated What A Pity What A Shame they find themselves falling short even of the starting line as the potential of something is snuffed out even before it has even begun. It takes a whip-smart band to make a record that laughs through the darkness, and that’s exactly what There’s No I In Spice World achieves, heartache never sounded so fun.


Photo by Larisa Mangley

Crosslegged is the musical project of songwriter and producer, Keba Robinson. Her musical world was shaped during a childhood spent between her hometown of Norristown, Pennsylvania and California. She grew up in a Jamaican household, where music always filled the air, whether it was reggae or the singer-songwriters of the 60s and 70s like Carole King or The Mamas And Papas. First in Norristown, and now in her adopted home of New York, Crosslegged, while a solo project, has always been linked to the communities Keba keeps close at hand, as she arranged shows, ran arts organisations and helped foster the sort of accepting scene she wanted to be part of. Although Keba has been sharing her music for over a decade, 2023 is shaping up to be something of a rebirth for Crosslegged, with the upcoming release of her album Another Blue, coming after several years spent largely playing live without thinking about the digital realm.

Working with co-producer Carlos Hernandez, Another Blue is a record made on the move, Keba recalls how she heard the phrase, “you can’t push a river”, and took it as inspiration to let the record take its own time, “I didn’t ever really stop creating or thinking about it, but moments of deep activity happened when they wanted to”. Listening to her recent single Automatic, you can almost feel that sense of creative ebb and flow, across five minutes it flows between styles, from the rich urgency of the 60s-sounding intro into the hazy breakdown, where everything seems to grind to a swampy halt. Elsewhere, the fantastic Only In The gives things a more modern twist, as the melodic guitars entwine with the percussive quality of what sounds like a Kalimba and the rattling cut-and-paste drum rhythms, as Keba walks the line of romantic obsession and the independence of self-love. Her new EP might just be another blue, yet what an intriguing colour, what an array of shades it offers, inviting you to dive in and stay a while, and see just how much there is to discover.


They might be more of a missed standout of 2022 than something to lock forward to in 2023, yet EggS are more than worthy of a little limelight going their way. Back in November, the enigmatic French band teamed up with Prefect Records to release their debut album, A Glitter Year. It was the culmination of a many-yeared courting after Prefect Records set out to sign the band in 2019. They would spend three weeks talking to the wrong person, attempt to communicate through a friend who’d seen the guitarist in the street, only for the person to deny being the guitarist, and then finally an email offering a record deal to what they hoped might possibly be the right email, with a one-line response, “the answer is obviously yes”. So while Prefect Records still seem a little unsure about whether they’ve even signed the right band, they did, and thankfully A Glitter Year was worth the effort.

Born in lockdown, EggS recorded A Glitter Year across two rainy weekends in the Spring of 2022, the original four-piece expanded to six with the addition of Marguax and Camille from fellow Parisians En Atendant Ana, and they quickly put together twelve tracks of classic jangling indie-pop that would fit neatly into the back catalogues of Postcard Records or Flying Nun. Across the record they seem to skip neatly between styles, they offer world-weary acoustic numbers nodding to Neutral Milk Hotel, before they shift gears into the saxy-angularity of Still Life more akin to Orange Juice or the clattering yelps of Walking Down To The Cemetery Road, which sounds like the middle ground of The Fall and Half Man Half Biscuit. Secretive in the best way possible, you’ll want to discover EggS far more than they’ll want to be found, and who doesn’t love a band that plays hard to get?


Photo by Emma Howcroft

Nighttime has set their stall out early as one of 2023’s most exciting acts, with their excellent album Keeper Is The Heart already out now via the always fabulous Ba Da Bing Records. The project of songwriter Eva Louise Goodman, Nighttime have been around for the best part of a decade with a string of releases of her own, as well as a road-hardened veteran from years spent playing with Mutual Benefit. Despite already being well established, Eva’s third Nighttime album feels like something of a revelation, more than ever Eva took control, foregoing lo-fi in favour of a creative journey from writing to recording to mixing. The journey began while cat-sitting at a friend’s empty Brooklyn apartment, Eva had planned to start recording, but instead found herself listening to music and reading old journals in the overgrown garden, finding inspiration to do things differently, to embrace collaboration and expand her musical horizons.

Recorded in the upstate New York studio of recording engineer Rick Spataro, Eva set out to embrace spontaneity, recording one song a day, embracing the ‘automatic’ arts, “where things are created intuitively and without premeditation, from the subconscious”. The resultant record is one that feels like both an inward and outward journey, Eva diving deeper into her own sense of self, but also falling into a lineage of psych-folk musicians, a transatlantic cousin to the likes of Vashti Bunyan or Pentangle. Whether it’s The Fool, that swoops and dives like an Osprey catching fish, or the playful spring morning that is Garden of Delight, Nighttime’s music seems to dig into the soil, and the sky and embrace the great outdoors. Even when her music dives into the metaphysical such as the sombre When The Wind Is Blowing, as she sings, “when you imagine what could be, instead of the reality”, it still feels like she’s wanting greater connection with the magic of nature above anything traditionally human. Particularly wonderful are the closing two tracks, The Sea is like diving into a pool of warm, wistful melodies, while Across the Ocean of Time is as beautiful a send-off as you’ll hear all year, Eva’s vocals accompanied by a warm bed of synths and steady tumble of drums as she signs off with a burgeoning sense of self, “we’ll follow the fates across the great expanse of time, to the source of the light within our mind”. Looking inward, dreaming outward and finding your place in this ever-spinning globe, for Nighttime this is the right time to follow her instincts and go as far as her light will take her.

Dogs At Large

Photo by Andrew Marczak

Resplendent with a classic country twang, Dogs At Large are a Chicago-based project built around the songwriting of Sam Pirruccello and a rotating cast of musical friends. Across six albums, Dogs At Large have become something of a fixture on the Chicago scene sharing stages with everyone from Jenny Lewis to Kyle Craft. While a band’s seventh album might be an odd place to be tipping them for newfound success, yet with a first-ever vinyl release scheduled for their upcoming record, County Line, there’s a sense that Sam and his band are about to enter something of a golden period.

For County Line, Dogs At Large seem to be digging even further into their country roots, embracing the same slide-guitar-laden twang his father and uncle did in their country-rock band Ouray. This influence is particularly evident in the bar room squall of Tennessee, a song about a fictional break-up, where a “local rocker type of guy who has a tendency to drink and wants to “make it” in a rock band”, is left heartbroken after his girlfriend leaves him for a peaceful life in rural Appalachia. Elsewhere, their latest single, Feels Like This Is The End has a sashaying quality with Sam’s soaring vocals bringing to mind early My Morning Jacket, while I Don’t See You Anymore tackles the subject of losing a friend to online right-wing radicalisation to a backing of psych-leaning guitars like the middle ground of Local Natives and The Flaming Lips. As the old, probably incorrect saying goes, every dog must have his day, well after seven albums this day looks as good as any for Dogs At Large to make a real splash.

Alison Eales

Although a relatively new name as a solo artist, Alison Eales is by no means new to this music thing. Alison is a long-standing member of Butcher Boy, playing piano accordion and other keyboards as well as arranging for choir and brass across three albums, multiple EPs and shows supporting the likes of Belle and Sebastian, Scritti Politti and The Wedding Present. As well as that Alison is a member of the all-female choir, Glasgow Madrigirls, and has collaborated with the likes of The Just Joans and Featherfin. Her long-awaited solo debut Mox Nox was recorded with Paul Savage at Chem 19 studios and will be released this March via Fika Recordings.

The record was inspired by sundial mottos, and is fittingly a record about the passing of time, in particular, the moment when the day passes into night, inspiring a record of “all-nighters, anxiety, travel, frustration, and friendship”. Made with a variety of electronic and acoustic instruments, as well as environmental sounds, it is both creatively playful and delightfully melancholy. The record was recently previewed with the excellent single Fifty-Five North, a song deeply rooted in the city of Glasgow, the way the seasons change it and how a place can be simultaneously, “transformative and overwhelming”. With a rhythm track made from the sounds of the train doors closing and a melody from the pinging of the turnstiles of the city’s subway, it couldn’t be much more rooted in the buzz of Scotland’s largest city. Beautifully crafted, intricate music with the beating heart of a pop song lurking underneath, Alison Eales’ first solo steps might just be her most intriguing moment yet.

Check out the first 8 acts of my 23 For 2023 HERE, and the final seven HERE.

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