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Joe Astley

Joe Astley sings the everyman blues in his world-class single, Suburbia

Joe Astley

Drawing parallels between Bitter Sweet Symphony, sans the bitterness, Joe Astley’s orchestral feat of folkish rock, Suburbia, taken from his forthcoming debut album, is for anyone who has ever felt the gravity of their hometown dragging them down more insidiously than anywhere else.

The opening lyric, “this city’s got it in for me, there’s a thousand other places that I wish to be”, delivered through harmonic lines that soak the record with sepia-tinged lament as they resound over the rugged acoustic guitar chords, orchestral strings and soaring electric guitar notes as they wind old school Americana into the release starts the single on a sombre note.

The profoundly uplifting release seamlessly progresses into a defiantly strident score through the refusal to fade away into the misery that soaks the streets of working-class towns and cities across the UK. The Wigan-based professional singer-songwriter and instrumentalist sonically attested to the bleakness scribed in Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier while simultaneously pulling beauty from the destitution that his accoladed career is pulling him from.

As some artists bemoan the current climate of the music industry, Joe Astley is thriving as definitive proof that with the right balance of tenacious songwriting, insurmountable talent and effortless charisma that immerses you into the emotional states he orchestrates, success is still in the sightline.

Between his residency at the Cavern Club, SKY TV streaming the live run-through of Suburbia, his debut EP on the shelves in HMV, and all his singles charting in the iTunes top ten, it’s impossible not to feel giddy when anticipating his next move.

The launch of his debut album, Twenty-First Century Times, on January 20th, 2023 will undoubtedly open up even more roads for Astley as he takes his boy-next-door resonance wherever he goes.

Purchase Suburbia on Apple Music or add it to your Spotify playlists.

Follow Joe Astley on Facebook & Instagram.

Review by Amelia Vandergast

5 Of the Best New Indie Music Bands to Look Out For

Discovering new independent artists that blow your mind but still fly under most people’s radars is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you are left with that giddy new-sonic-experience feeling; on the other hand, you’re frustrated that the world remains blind to such talent while they bemoan the bands on the radio.

The variety of indie music means that even the staunchest of fans who proclaim to know EVERY band worth knowing won’t get to explore every corner. We’ve rounded up five of the best independent artists who have left an ever-lasting impression on us at the outset of their careers, during a pandemic, nonetheless. We waited for the great art that would follow times of great suffering; the five artists listed below delivered.

1. Emma Hunter

The ineffably sensational Oxford, UK-based alternative artist Emma Hunter appeared on our radar with her conceptually compassionate music video for her single, Here I Go, in January 2021.

Her debut single explores domestic violence with profound grace by creating a protagonist gripped with indecision on when to leave an abusive relationship; the sense of trepidation creeps right through the smoky art noir release. Through her 50s flamenco and surf rock influences, she allowed the past to draw parallels against very contemporary problems, alluding to the lack of novelty in domestic violence.

We were left mesmerised by her shimmering guitars, Tom Bruce’s unique percussive flair and her vocals which could turn any soundscape cinematic. Her ability to touch upon subjects so sore with unflinching passion without rubbing salt in the wound is phenomenal, to say the least. Any time spent listening to Emma Hunter’s expressive conceptuality affirms that she has exactly what it takes to become the next Anna Calvi, St Vincent or Nadine Shah.

Here I Go is the title track from the Here I Go EP, released on August 14th, 2021. The 4-track EP is now available to stream and purchase via Bandcamp.

Social Media Links: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

2. Joe Astley

With his infectious persona and singles which vary in the way that they hit hard, there was no forgetting Joe Astley after being introduced via his haunting indie folk-rock single, Revolution Postponed, in February 2020.

His seminal release with the Wallgate Band, Television Fantasy, is a vibrant indie-rock extension of what John Carpenter warned us about in They Live with plenty of sticky-sweet raucous punched pulled for good measure. There are just enough rock n roll stripes to take the guilt out of the equation when enjoying this endlessly energetic track. If you can imagine what it would sound like if Def Leppard poured some sugar on Bruce Springsteen, you will get an idea of the all-consumingly sweet sound Astley offers.

Now a resident artist at Liverpool’s iconic Cavern Club and with the backing of the likes of Clint Boon, Robert Carlyle and the BBC, it is only a matter of time before Joe Astley sheds his status as an independent artist.

Grab yourself a limited-edition vinyl copy of his 4-track debut EP here. Or check out the EP on Spotify.

Social Media Links: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

3. Damn Jackals

The proto-punk artists responsible for the stickiest earworm of the year easily earned a spot on our top 5 indie artists list. If any track is going to leave you disco dancing in your bedroom, it is the raucously romantic indie garage rock hit, Lovely Nuthin’ by Damn Jackals, which was released this summer.

From the indie punk-rock hit, expect swoon-worthy vocals with reminiscence to the Strokes, vintage guitars and plenty of doo-wop nostalgia from the slicker than slick Brooklyn, New York-based 5-piece. Since making their debut, Damn Jackals have garnered plenty of attention for their tendency to explore between genres instead of within them. How they haven’t already reached the same heights as Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and the Black Keys is beyond us.

Lovely Nuthin’ is now available to stream and purchase on Bandcamp.

Social Media Links: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

4. The Maitlands

The Manchester-based indie post-punk outfit The Maitlands have plenty in their aural arsenal to easily distinguish themselves from the stiff geological competition.

They released the timeliest single of 2020 with their seminal release, Where Did it All Go Wrong, which offers a far more vocally vulnerable swagger to most post-punk crooners paired that certain brand of euphoria that can only spill from thrashing angular indie guitars.

Where Did it All Go Wrong was subsequently followed by the stormer of a single, When it Rains, it Pours; the vocals act an anchor in the tumultuous chaos brewing between the grungy basslines, scorching hot guitars and frenetic percussion. Rarely can I say that an emerging artist is as good live as they are on record, but their enigmatic energy is a refreshing exception.

Check out The Maitlands on Spotify, Bandcamp and YouTube.

Social Media Links: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

5. Yellow Brain

The ensnaring atmosphere of Yellow Brain’s indie electronica sound first gripped me when I caught them live at the O2 Ritz in Manchester when some of Manchester’s finest artists came out in support of John Hall’s new charity for grassroots music on August 1st, 2021.

The Mossley, UK-based duo’s standout single, Fast Talk, is as dreamy as any Suicide single and as moody as any Echo and the Bunnymen release. While other releases, such as Glistener, douse you in solemnly dark tones that spill from the guitars while the solid danceable beats encase the shoegazey discord. Within the vocals, you’ll find the same provocative appeal as offered by artists such as Alex Cameron and She Wants Revenge, yet, there’s almost a Lynchian feel to Yellow Brain adding yet another facet to their enticingly dynamic sound.

Catch them at one of their upcoming tour dates; until then, get acquainted on Spotify and Bandcamp.

Social Media Links: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

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Joe Astley and The Wallgate Band – Television Fantasy

If you’re going to pose for your website promo photos sporting a Pelham Blue Gibson 335 and record your early demos at the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis, then you’d better have some serious rock n’ roll chops to back up your chutzpah. Thankfully for Wigan’s Joe Astley, he’s got them in spades. And then some.

Astley’s debut solo single, ‘Revolution Postponed’, draw Dylan and Billy Joel comparisons, and the follow-up ‘Anthem For The North’ made #1 on the Indie Countdown of 2020, garnering praise from luminaries such as John McClure, Clint Boon, and Robert Carlyle along the way. Now back with the debut for his newly-formed ten-piece rock’n’roll backers ‘The Wallgate Band’, Astley’s new track ‘Television Fantasy’ has a lot to live up to. And it does, admirably.

Opening with some deep, twanging Bigsby-driven guitar shimmers and Astley’s easy, charismatic vocals, underscored by some thunderous rolling bass, ‘Television Fantasy’ teases with sensual little horn stabs on the lift before suddenly kicking in with one of the catchiest, poppiest indie-rock choruses you’re going to hear all 2021, all thumping snare drum, jangly guitar, and singalong hook – complete with a bunch of ‘woah oh oh’s that are guaranteed to stick in your head for several hours after the final dextrous little guitar solo has faded out.

Make no mistake, this is a proper little mash-up of rock, indie, and old-school rock ‘n’ roll, part Reverend and the Makers, part Cramps, part Eddie Cochrane, with a side helping of Bryan Adams and the pop sensibilities of Robbie Williams thrown in for good measure. As a first glimpse of the forthcoming debut EP, it’s an absolute triumph.

You can hear ‘Television Fantasy’ on Spotify now. Follow Joe Astley and the Wallgate Band and pre-order a copy of the forthcoming EP here.

Review by Alex Holmes

Joe Astley’s latest release Anthem For The North – a feeling of belonging

“I will fight for you. I will fight for the North,” were the words of Daenerys Targaryen to John Snow (remember the scene?), and it’s apparently what Joe Astley is trying to achieve in his latest release Anthem For The North.

From Wigan, Greater Manchester, Joe Astley is a professional musician, singer-songwriter multi-instrumentalist and radio presenter, who demonstrates great pride in being a northerner in this cheerful tune rooted in folk music. Starting with a lively piano melody, a crunch guitar fills the sound to the likes of Oasis but with a more contemporary style that gifts folk music with a pleasing pop undertone.

His lyrics describe the charm of the North and its people – their power, their charisma, their strength – and how amazing it can feel to belong.

Thanks for this Anthem, Joe Astley! Just like the Starks used to say, I’m sure that the North will remember.

Give Anthem For The North a go on Youtube.

Review by Jim Esposito.