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Rad Releases 20 – TJ Roberts

December 15, 2020

Rad Releases 20 – TJ Roberts

It’s that time once again, as the countdown to the end of 2020 rapidly approaches and we quickly want to move away from this year- we take a personal look back on familiar names, labels, promoters, and musicians’ best releases of the past 12 months. In what has been a challenging year for all, the one constant has been how artists and their labels have adapted and produced some of the best records of our time and it’s those releases that have the audience has depended on to get them through the year.

This year the Rad Releases special celebrates 10 years, to mark the decade-long feature we let our favorites take over the site to tell us the records that have kept them going throughout this trying year. Telling us how they’ve adapted, if they’ve returned to a loved record and what we can look forward to from them next year.

Our next take-over comes from an outfit that have been on repeat in our office! Earlier this month Cardiff quartet TJ Roberts celebrated the release of their sophomore album Love, Loss & Other Useless Things, which was released on 8th December 2020 via Rose Parade Recording Co. Following a single release in the summer, news of the album filled us with excitement. TJ Roberts craft vital rock rhythms and manage to effortlessly capture their standout energy within their instrumentations and their album is a work of art. We handover to Tom (Vocals/Guitar) to tell us more about their year in music….

Top 5 Releases of the Year – In no particular order

Willie J Healey – Twin Heavy

This record has probably had the most rotation on our mutual turntables this year. Everything from the song writing to the production is so well honed and is delivered with a confidence in the final sound that’s incredibly endearing. It’s something truly special when an artist can evoke some much from a particular sound and era and yet still make something unique.

Soccer Mommy – Color Theory

Color Theory was my soundtrack to lockdown 1.0 and I like to think it kept me a bit sane with its nostalgia for early 00’s teen soundtracks. The production was super unique in my listening catalogue at the time it was released and the filtering on the drums and guitars is just incredible. So, it’s no surprise that this has since been adopted by other artists (*clears throat*, I’m looking at you beabadoobee). What keeps me coming back to this record is the depth of the songs and lyrical content and the run-on singing style that Sophie Allison has, which seems completely and utterly effortless.

Fenne Lily – Breach

If Color Theory was the soundtrack to lockdown 1.0, then Breach was the soundtrack to lockdown 2.0. An unbelievably delicate album that still manages to punctuate hard in well timed bursts. The vocal delivery is so above anything else I’ve heard this year and the mix of piano, guitars and occasionally strings makes it really stand as a unique triumph. And to top it off she has written easily the best lyrical content this year too. I honestly can’t believe we aren’t talking about Fenne Lily in the same way we talk about Phoebe Bridges. Hopefully in time, that injustice will be righted.

Kelly Lee Owens – Inner Song

Absolutely stunning album from start to finish that re-ignited my interest in electronic music. The mix of single-style releases like ‘L.I.N.E’ and the more esoteric tracks like ‘Flow’ are really well balanced to the extent that the album never feels like it settles in one groove. The simplicity of the arrangements is also hugely impressive as there are rarely more than 4 sounds playing at once, but yet each track is a fully formed world of sound. But I do really hope KLO does a whole album of spoken word with John Cale for the next one… just saying, that would be probably the best thing Wales has ever produced.

Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard – The Non-Stop EP

Without seeming too contrived by shamelessly promoting your mates, The Non-Stop EP is a really important release for Cardiff and TJ Roberts this year. Seeing tracks that have been so inspirational to us over the past couple of years get the release they deserve is always such a morale boost. The songs are as hard-working as the band is and I’m sure it’s just the first step to world domination. Nobody should release a ten-track EP; but BBB did. Pure audacity and I love it. I’m also really glad Tom shot the cover nude and in turn took that idea off the table for our next release.

Best Show This Year

We were unbelievably fortunate to get a show in Rough Trade East at the start of March, just before everything stopped. We opened for our pals Adwaith and Rosehip Teahouse to a sold-out room of Welsh ex-pats and London folk. Feels like a lifetime ago, but it was a really important boost for our confidence at the time, realising that we could take our music outside our city and have a blast with a receptive audience. More recently during lockdown we were fortunate to be invited to the CULTVR space (Cardiff) for an amazing multi-cam, dome-projection livestream show, on steroids. We got to play a bunch of new music and be in the same room together playing after months apart. I can’t thank everyone involved enough for giving us that opportunity!

Record that got us through the year

In our house (Tom & Heather) you can always rely on ‘So hot your Hurting My Feelings’ by Caroline Polachek to raise spirits and encourage some spontaneous dancing. It’s definitely become the fifth emergency service when lockdown has become just a bit overwhelming. I’ve also been singing it wrong for the past 8 months, thinking that the middle-8 was ‘Show me the Banana’, which has been amusing the child in me this entire time.

Adapted to Releases

This year has been all change in our camp as we started our own label, Rose Parade Recording Company. We were awarded some funding from the organisation BBC Horizons for a PR campaign, which we used as the initial investment and got a little carried away. We now have three artists on the label and more artists in the pipeline for distribution and publishing, so we definitely have our work cut out. I know it’s something we are all really excited by and are already really proud of our achievements.

Best Discovery This Year

Really hard to pin down just one release as there has been so many this year. I think in particular the electronic music scene in Wales is really interesting and vibrant right now and we are lucky to get to work with one of the best, Shreddies. His upcoming EP that Rose Parade is releasing, is such an amazing body of work, as well as his back catalogue that keeps growing on a monthly basis. We also discovered the amazing Luna Lie Lot, whose song ‘Don’t hang onto me’ is an incredible mix of glitch textures and pop sensibilities. Absolutely one to watch in the near future.

As this is our 10th year of Rad Releases, we want to look back on your 10 years- has there been on standout moment/standout record of the past 10 years?

I think one of the most important albums for me from the past 10 years is the one and only Purple Mountains record. David Berman is my favourite lyricist and this album is so deeply relatable, comically bleak and retrospectively heart breaking considering the circumstances of his death. This album should be held up as an absolute triumph in marrying song and verse and is the pinnacle of what I aim for in my own work. It’s a constant reminder to stay grounded and real.

Artist/Band to watch for in 2021

Rose Parade will be working with Sam Barnes (Boy Azooga, Shoebox Orchestra) to release his first solo LP in 2021. I don’t think it’s an overestimation to state that Sam is the best kept secret in Welsh music and this record is going to blow a fair few minds

Plans for the New Year

Outside of the label, we are going to be working hard trying to get back to gigging as and when is possible. If things remain delayed, I’m sure it’ll mean more music sooner. We’ve not really taken a break from writing, so perhaps this time next year we may be looking at another release….

Thank you Tom and TJ Roberts, can only wish you the best for 2021

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