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New Music Monday: Gulp

new music monday gulp
GulpOptimism can be a hard quality to come by, especially in a world that seems to pride itself on cynicism and negativity. But that’s exactly why we need a band like Gulp in our lives. The lush Welsh/Scottish pop group is happy to consider itself an antidote to the creeping pessimism of modern life.

“It’s what comes out of us naturally,” says Gulp’s vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Lindsey Leven. “Everything that you’re writing from the heart is a reflection of what’s going on in your life.” Her husband and bandmate Guto Pryce agrees, “It’s even in times of adversity that we try to remain optimistic.”

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In 2014, Gulp has plenty to be enthused about! Pryce has a musical legacy to be proud of, having spent the past 20 years as a founding member of UK pop superstars Super Furry Animals. And Pryce and Leven are both glowing from the joy of writing and recording music together.

But even amid that, there could have been a turn towards more moody and desperate material. Instead, the pair, with bandmates Gid Goundrey (guitars) and Gwion Llewelyn (drums/vocals), came out with Season Sun, a fuzzy, buzzing upbeat ode to the changing seasons, watching plants grow, dancing, and as they sing on “Vast Space,” being willing to “open up your heart and let the love flood in.”

The “vast space” isn’t just the one within, either. The natural world played a key part in the creation of these songs, some written while Pryce and Leven were vacationing in the California desert, others while road tripping through the Scottish Highlands (you’ll find images of these adventures with the album art) .

There’s some connection to be found between these sounds and what Pryce accomplished as a member of the Furries – the two projects share a love of warm vintage synth sounds and a burnished brand of psychedelia. But Gulp expresses itself with almost throwback sentiments. Apart from a few moments, Season Sun could easily be mistaken this for a lost gem of the late ‘60s unearthed by a studious crate digger.

For as verdant as Gulp’s sound is, the core belongs the musical relationship between Pryce and Leven. When the project began back in 2012, their first efforts centered on just the couple and their trusty drum machine, a Roland 505 donated to them by Leven’s yoga teacher. And even amid the fine contributions of Goundrey and Llewelyn, the heart of each song is the harmonic interplay between Leven’s vocals and the warming synth and bass notes from her musical co-pilot.

Gulp’s humble beam of multicolored musical light has already made its way through the band’s native UK thanks to a well loved lead single “Game Love” and a tour supporting Django Django. The quartet is now looking to taking their message of optimism through the US with their first stop being this year’s SXSW Festival and hopefully some more touring to round out the rest of 2014.

Purchase Season Sun now on Amazon or iTunes!

Editors' Recommendations

Revisiting Classic Albums: Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited
revisiting classic albums bob dylan highway 61 revisited getty

I’m not sure there's a better opening track in all of music than in Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited. The record races out of the gates with “Like a Rolling Stone,” an anthemic piece of Americana that has become etched firmly into world music’s dense scrapbook.
Revisiting More Classic Albums

Revisiting Classic Albums: Nebraska by Bruce Springsteen
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Revisiting Classic Albums: Herbie Hancock's Head Hunters is Heady Jazz for the Masses

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Revisiting Classic Albums: Nebraska by Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen acoustic performance

If a hallmark trait of a great musician is the ability to do it all, Nebraska makes Bruce Springsteen one of the best. The album, released in 1982, was the sixth full-length by The Boss and offered a stark departure from the band-driven pop-rock he’d become famous for.
The album cover reads like a preface to the record itself. It shows a desolate road, disappearing into a horizon of grassy plains and gray skies. It’s shot from the dashboard of a car, with a thin layer of snow on the windshield. You can feel the chill, the lostness, the hopelessness, the rawness — all before the music even begins. For anybody who’s driven the backroads of the Cornhusker State, it’s hauntingly familiar. And the blood-red, all-caps font suggests big trouble ahead.
Recorded by Springsteen on a four-track as a demo, Nebraska was originally set to be fleshed out. The E Street band was to inject the tracks with its signature energy and arena-rock prowess but, as it turned out, the original recording proved too valuable on its own. The delicate nature of the album was so personal and poetic, Springsteen opted not to tour around it (something he’s only done twice, along with 2019 release Western Stars).

The band convened for a Nebraska recording session but in the end, it was just the singer-songwriter’s voice and instrumentation that made the cut (and so good was that session that it produced eight of the twelve tracks on Springsteen’s next and most popular album, Born in the U.S.A.). The Boss not only sang, but manned the guitar, mandolin, glockenspiel, harmonica, tambourine, organ, and synth. It’s a clinical lesson in overdubbing and layering as well as powerful testament to what the cleverest musicians can do with a mere three chords.
For a globally recognized musical force, retreating to the bedroom was atypical indeed. What’s more, the Boss’s blue-collar themes took a turn towards darker, more brooding territory. It’s still the working class, but the unsung, had-it-up-to-here, sometimes violent members of this category. Nebraska’s main characters were murderers and criminals, sentenced to death or a life of hardship.
The record opens with the woeful pangs of the harmonica in the title track, sounding something like a rusty screen door or the distant cry of a coyote. It’s a telling first impression that foreshadows dread, broken spirits, and the gut-punching sensation of being severely hard done by. The song is about Charles Starkweather, who killed eleven people in the late 1950s in Nebraska and Wyoming. And yet, in this song and the whole of the album, it’s less down-and-out than plain and brutally honest. Writers, especially, are captivated by the quiet confidence this record exudes.
Bruce Springsteen - Atlantic City
“Atlantic City” is a gorgeous piece of melodic folk, deeply affected by the dreamy mandolin. It beautifully articulates the many gambles of life and offers a little optimism in the form of going out on the town, for the sole sake of going out on the town. Springsteen layers his own vocals to haunting effect and some of the lines are impossibly good:
Everything dies, baby that’s a fact
But maybe everything that dies some day comes back
Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty
And meet me tonight in Atlantic City
The echoing plea of “State Trooper” is terribly moving (“please don’t stop me”), before the gentle bouncing of the acoustic guitar. It sounds like the rhythmic bumps of a beat-up open road at night, with Springsteen howling at the moon and an ominous feeling of profound guilt. Meanwhile, “Open All Night” presents a rare instance where Springsteen plugs in and plays a formative rock ‘n’ roll-style riff. It's a glance at the rearview mirror; an homage to the likes of Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. 
Nebraska is not only a heartfelt piece of singer-songwriter gold, it’s practically journalistic, revealing The Boss as an entrenched member of a troubled American landscape. The listener can feel the plight of the “bad guys,” thanks to Springsteen’s vocal charisma but also because of the lyrics, which often read like the work of a deft newspaper reporter. 
The record established Springsteen as a real troubadour, with Woody Guthrie’s observational skills, Dylan’s folky masterclass, and a grit that’s entirely his own. The reverberating twang of America was forever changed, made sobering and so real that it can be a little scary. If there was an intimate soundtrack to the underbelly of small-town American life, this is it.
Just about every album is better in solitude with your favorite pair of headphones but this one really resonates. Nebraska invites Springsteen into your living room to tell some truly stunning stories, to the tune of restrained and incredibly emotive heartland folk.

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Revisiting Classic Albums: Herbie Hancock’s Head Hunters is Heady Jazz for the Masses
the headhunters

The first time I heard Head Hunters in its entirety was in my sophomore year of college as part of a jazz history course. The concept of listening to a record from start to finish, without discussion, and getting credit in the process was intriguing enough. It was well before eight o’clock in the morning and the album still shredded my mind. I’ve been listening to it ever since and, like any good artistic composition, Head Hunters delivers something new with each and every spin.
Released in late 1973, the album was the 12th studio effort from the already established Hancock. The Chicago-born musician has just wrapped up a trio of albums (often called his "Mwandishi" era) that were especially improv-driven. He was looking to reground himself in music, leaving the spacier jazz sounds he’d become famous for in favor of something more grounded; primal even.

For context, this was the busy musical era of guitar gods and folk smiths. Of R&B powerhouses like Marvin Gaye and funk legends like Stevie Wonder and Sly & the Family Stone. Jazz was becoming even more far out, thanks to new effects and instrumentation as well as a collective mental desire to escape. After all, Nixon was showing obvious signs of villainy and a seemingly endless war in Vietnam waged on.
In San Francisco, Hancock assembled a supremely talented sextet for the album, bringing in several new faces. He elected to largely replace the guitar with the clavinet and plugged in a talented rhythm section. Hancock commands the synth keys throughout, taking the record’s four dynamic songs to places where entire concept albums of ten-plus tracks rarely ever go. The dialogue of his keys is articulate and on-point, from beginning to end. If a stage-owning lead vocalist ever assumed the shape and sound of an electric piano, this would be it.

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