As the countdown to the end of the year approaches we take a personal look back on our familiar names, features and musicians’ top releases of the past 12 months.
This year has stood out for incredible releases and even more so for uncovering exceptional talent; most of which discovered, promoted and featured right on this site.
Continuing our Rad Releases feature is the full on alluring large spirited, vibrant melodic fun math pop rock Birmingham based 4 piece Conquistadors or Conks for short.
Made up of Adam Jaremko- Guitar, Andy Palmer- Drums, Oz Powles- Bass, Vocals and James Sharp- Guitar, Vocals, this band have grown to become both a familiar name to the site and good friends.
This year has been a successful one for the band which has seen their various live performances gain a solid fanbase; releasing their 7 track EP ‘On Tape’ of which the release was previously stated as highlighting more maturity following previous releases; priding itself on catchy verses, stop start riffs, punchy guitars, enticing basslines, bold beats and overall a diverse collection of harmonious hits.
As well as this- two of Conks went on to create a new Birmingham Based Promotions found in Stone Cold Jane Austen. Their combined efforts made for an incredible launch night featuring Tera Melos/Tangled Hair/Shapes/&U&I/Conquistadors back in June.
A band we know we have so much more to hear from in the future. And one we need to see live again as soon as possible.
We were lucky enough to speak to the band to find out their top releases of the year.
Conquistadors top 5 albums this year:
So I haven’t really heard much new music this year due to checking out old bands but the few I have heard are belters.
&U&I – Light Bearer – A neat, well produced record from scruffy under produced friends of mine. Check it out NOW.
Blood Orange – Coastal Grooves – I don’t know what it is about this album but it struck a chord with me immediately. Was it it’s theme of New York Transvestites, probably not. A brilliant pop record that masters songwriting and makes you want to smile and dance.
Battles – Gloss Drop –
A split decision in the Conks camp but I really like this record. It feels like three guys who are having fun with it and really doing what they want to do musically. You also get the balance of ‘Ice-Cream’, probably the best song of the year and Gary Numan’s guest vocals on ‘My Machines’ -Please see amazing video –
That is all.
I’ve only heard a handful of things that have been released this year so can’t add much here. &U&I and Shapes are the only albums I’ve heard/bought that have been released this year, the EP that God Damn were giving out at Oxjam really impressed me as well.
This was really hard and made me realise how amazing last year was for music as it was almost impossible to narrow it down to five (1. tera melos – patagonian rats, 2. daughters – s/t, 3. fang island – s/t, 4. maps & atlases – perch patchwork, 5. adebisi shank – this is the second album… – if you’re interested).
1. Mariachi El Bronx – Mariachi El Bronx (II) – I MUCH prefer the Mariachi side of The Bronx and wish they’d do it full time. Also, 48 Roses may be one of my all time favourite songs of all time. Fact.
2. Shapes – Monotony Chic – I feel like I know this album inside out as I listened to it endlessly when it came out and regularly since. It’s really interesting to chart the considerable progression of Shapes across their previous releases to this album. This release just exudes confidence and the combination of big, sleazy riffs and the buttery croon of Rich Buckley is one designed to be stuck in your head forever. If you’ve not seen them before, you are missing out.
3. &U&I – Light Bearer – Light Bearer is everything a good album should be. It’s resplendent with linked themes and ideas (although not strictly a concept album), full of big riffs and clever, catchy chant-along lyrics – not to mention how beautifully melodic it can be at times. It’s a bit of a tour de force and therefore hard to do justice with a few words.
4. Zechs Marquise – Getting Paid – If you think it sounds like The Mars Volta, it’s because Omar Rodriguez Lopez’s three younger brothers are in the band. However, TMV is a very easy and lazy comparison to make. This album is full of amazing jazz, latin, prog and spacey sounds but all tied together with a seemingly effortless groove.
5. Cake – Showroom of Compassion – I first bought a Cake cd back in 1996 and somehow this album manages to sound just like that cd and every other Cake release since, whilst at the same time sounding completely different. It’s a formula that works, but they have successfully improved on it to create a really diverse album.
In no particular order:
1. Shapes, Monotony Chic – Heavy, sleazy, queasy, catchy riffs – easiest way to sum it up. Also got handed a free copy by a (probably) drunk Buckley at a show they played in Leeds which was nice. Good memories.
2. Rosa Valle, Holy Bermuda – About as solid as a debut EP can get. Has some really cool influences in there – definite hints of (good) Fall of Troy and Oceansize – and some ludicrously named songs (like ‘Irrelephant’).
3. Hymns, Cardinal Sins/Contrary Virtues – Strictly speaking it’s not yet released released, but it’s on Spotify so I’m including it. I love the stripped down vibe juxtaposed against some pretty heavy lyrical and musical content – it’s a real testament to the quality of the songwriting how well it works.
4. Big Success, Big Success – Catchy like Weezer. There is nothing not to like.
5. The Beach Boys, Smile – Some may argue this only came out in 2011 due to a technicality, but anyone who denies me the opportunity to include The Beach Boys in any list for anything had better come out fighting.
Best gig we have played this year (and why):
Ad – Rochester – It was an old man pub with some amps and a kit stuck at the back of the room. I say back of the room, we were blocking the toilets; we were a hazard. It was a good gig because we were all sober and played really well considering there were no monitors. I hit a guy with my guitar by accident as we entered, we were nearly in a fight when we left, in the middle of the other bands set they had a dog run around and 3 girls under fourteen come try and sing x-factor songs. Good fun though.
Andy – The best performance-wise was easily Rochester, but the best all-around night was the Stone Cold Jane Austen night in June (Conquistadors, Shapes, &U&I, Tangled Hair, Tera Melos).
Oz – Rochester was a good laugh but playing on the same bill as Tera Melos in June was a dream come true. Nick Reinhart said he really liked our set afterwards and I’m pretty sure that I giggled and blushed in response, but I may have just frozen.
James – I really enjoyed the Oxjam show at the Flapper. Friends of ours got married the day before so we were all hungover to shit, but there was such a great vibe around the venue and everyone was really into it, so we could just forget about the stresses of playing hungover and just have a good time. All the bands were great, audience were really cool and the guys putting on the show were really laid back and awesome, plus we were doing it for a good cause. I left feeling really chilled out that night on the way to a birthday party.
Best gig you have attended this year (and why):
Ad – Probably Bon Iver at the Birmingham Academy. Crowd bellends aside (first time I’ve used that term) it was a great show. Hadn’t really heard much from him/them beforehand and was blow away by how powerful the 9 piece band were. I Can’t remember the last gig I’d been to where the bass fucks you in the chest.
Andy – Tera Melos @ SCJA because I had never fully got into them before that gig, but they were so ridiculously good I instantly hated myself for not ‘getting’ them – nice guys as well; or DD/MM/YYYY @ Off The Cuff as I had never heard of them before that day and they absolutely blew me away. They’ve broken up now unfortunately but I feel strangely satisfied that I was there for a show that a complete assault on all the senses in the best possible way.
Oz –Difficult to choose really. I’m going to pick Adebisi Shank/Shapes/&U&I over Tera Melos/Tangled Hair/&U&I/Shapes/Conquistadors because I didn’t have to worry about playing and could just enjoy a belter of a gig!
James – Adebisi Shank, &U&I, Shapes @ The Brudenell in Leeds – Amazing line-up, and Adebisi really are one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen. It was Oz’s first experience seeing them play, and literally as soon as they started he turned to me mouth agape at the scale and perfection of their onstage sound. Incredible.
2012 band plans:
Ad – Balls out, plug in, play hard, have a hot drink, sleep.
Andy – Make it to 2013 alive.
Oz – Watch Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story another 40 times.
James – Make that documentary everyone’s been waiting for.
Thank You so much to all of Conks! Its been a total pleasure not only featuring all you do but also for the support and friendship. We can only wish you our support and good luck for next year where no doubt we will cross paths shortly.