Jan 31 2016

Cougar Microbes Writer Picks 2015: Jabes


1. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Just Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit

Full review here

2. The Weeknd – Beauty Behind the Madness

Full review here

3. Leon Bridges – Comin Home

With the capabilities computers have brought to the overproduction of today’s music, it’s a sigh of relief to come across the sincere raw talent of Leon Bridges. Sultry vocals over 60’s soul guitar chords, audiences are catapulted back in time with a 60s style early r&b. ‘Comin Home‘ makes you wanna hold your lover close and just sway. With solid foundations blatantly rooted in the Temptations, even Bridges‘ backup doowop vocals are on point for the era of music he emanates.

4. Jamie Xx – In Colour

Full review here

5. Purity Ring – Another Eternity

Purity Ring returned to the scene with their sophomore album, another eternity, bringing bigger beats but the same tone and timbre delivered on their first album Shrines. The melancholic childlike vocals of Megan James dance playfully over the electropop sound in dreamlike wonder. Their subtle poetry over a stronger bass allows for much more movement on this beautiful compilation. With catchier standouts like “push pull,” and “bodyache,” this indie electronica duo is inching closer into the limelight with their unique sound.

6. Major Lazer – Peace is the Mission

After a year of being the busiest go-to producer for mainstream artists, and essentially reviving The Biebs’ career, Diplo reunited with Switch for another bass-thumping album as Major Lazer. Peace is the Mission is a solid round of reggaeton beats, unique featured artists, and that trademark Major Lazer sound that can only be described as an auto-tuned baby’s cry. The ubiquitous lead single “Lean On” featuring MØ is (and was) the perfect summer jam. With Elliphant on “Too Original,” their dance beats plaited together in dancehall harmony. Diplo and Switch continue to show off their talent, and as long as Major Lazer continues to have the time of their lives playing with friends, we will too.

7. Foals – What Went Down

Full review here

8. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

Full review here

9. Justin Bieber – Purpose

I caught Biebs fever this year – not even a guilty pleasure. wtf.

10. Miley Cyrus – Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz

Um, this is hands down the weirdest fucking album I’ve ever heard. And Her Dead Petz are The Flaming Lips of course.




Jan 31 2016

CM Top Albums of 2015: Foals – What Went Down


Foals never seem to run out of creative ideas. Their last three albums have been nothing short of brilliant; bolder, dirtier and stronger. ‘What Went Down’ seems to have trimmed the fat on the intrinsic layers that make up Foals songs to concentrate more and more on quality songwriting. ‘Lonely Hunter‘ is sexy, addictive and loud as hell. What Went Down is one climax after another sloshed down with that fire that makes this band so brilliant.

Jabes labelled it “a damn good rock album, and you know we don’t get a lot of those anymore”

Sam was quick to add: “returning larger than ever, this album reaffirms Foals as a band to conquer world tours and headline major festivals”.



Jul 12 2013

Reading Festival 2013 Preview


Some forty years from it’s original inception Reading Festival remains one of the major highlights of the glorious British Summer Festival season. The 2013 edition promises to be no different offering one of the festival’s most eclectic line-ups in years.

Eminem‘s scheduled performance on Saturday 25th will see the legend’s return to the stage he last filled back in 2001. Billed as the rapper’s sole UK performance this summer, this is one show fans (and haters) will not want to miss. The other two headliners will  be everyoung pop-punk kings Green Day on the Friday as well as Scottish stadium rockers Biffy Clyro closing events on the Sunday.

For the full lineup, head over to the official site and head here for tickets to the Reading festival. You won’t’ have to look far to find some other fine Cougar approved acts on the main stage including Earlwolf (that is Earl Sweatshirt and Tyler, The Creator doing their thing), FoalsDeftones and Editors not to mention Nine Inch Nails.

Elsewhere the lineup is littered with top talent proving that the festival organisers have really gone for quality and variety. Which means you will be able to catch A$AP Rocky, Frightened Rabbit, Alt-J, Jake Bugg and Darwin Deez doing their thing on the Radio 1 Stage. All that without even mentioning the glorious return of Phoenix, the runaway success of Disclosure or the soothing pop of Haim.

Fans looking for something to get their teeth into will be happy to see legends such as Alkaline Trio and Quicksand added to this year’s edition of the Lock Up Stage.

Special mention must go to the one and only Action Bronson who will be lighting up the BBC 1Extra stage but perhaps the artist I’m most looking forward to is lethal mc Angel Haze, particularly as her nemesis Azealia Banks is also due at the festival (albeit on a different day)

All in all kudos must go out to the festival organisers for putting together such a diverse lineup. Come rain or shine there really will be something for everyone on display and hopefully lot of great new music will be discovered.



Jun 5 2013

Trophy Wife/French Soul Party, sadly missed

Trophy Wife

It is one of life’s great sources of excitement to find a band from obscurity, having had and interest sparked from the bedroom demos and first singles and EPs all brimming with a talent yearning for more ears to listen to their tracks. It is then a privilege to watch the fire kindle the interest of more and more fans until a break allows them to explode into the hearts of many. It is however crushing to see such bands flicker out of existence as they begin suffocating due to a lack exposure to a wider audience they so richly deserved.

For far too many bands, this is the unfortunate fate they face and it is particularly sad to see two of the bands I had so much expectation for bow out in the same month.

Trophy Wife were first recognised by many back in late 2010 when the release of their first single “Macrolite” revealed subtly technical loops over swelling ambience accompanying morose reflective lyrics. Some fine EPs were released from the Oxford boys, including some produced by FoalsYannis, a favour returned when they remixed “My Number” into a scintillating ball of energy full of the characteristic traits of the Oxford collective Blessing Force. Solid tour performances consistently impressed the fans that turned up yet the big break never seemed to come and frustrations grew.

The bittersweet news then arrived on May 20th when they announced the release of their first début album ‘Trophy Wife’, available as a pay-what-you–like on Bandcamp would coincide with the news that they would be following their own creative paths and ‘putting Trophy Wife to rest’. Understatedly elegant yet powerful, the album exudes the delicacies of earlier releases yet also has more assertive moments such as in the potent synth lines of new single “Glue”.

French Soul party

150 miles further north in Yorkshire, the members of French Soul Party were beginning to accept the daunting realisation that their time left together was also limited. Playing their career spanning set, consisting mainly of songs written when they were just over 15, it is a shame to know that many of these songs are now confined to memories, as very few songs were ever recorded. “French Kissing” justified its right to be recorded as it made its way all the Radio 1 playlist and a wider audience was drawn towards the punching synth, interweaving guitars and tight drumming. Having many influences who mixed in the circles of Blessing Force, French Soul Party penned songs which were able to take their sound to increasingly further reaching places whilst they worked on the dreamy dance pop of their last single “Tropical Haze”. As thoughts turned towards the impending futures taking them to opposite ends of the country and beyond, the boys, some yet to turn 18, reluctantly decided to call a day on this adventure.

For these bands, and many others in similar situations, this may seem like the end. But all these young musicians have not given up music, their talents have just been turned to a different avenue, and there will still be plenty of good tracks coming from them all. So whilst the immediate future feels like closure to the end of an era, another age is just waiting to be built and it will be just as exciting as the last, so keep going to gigs, keep buying music and keep your ears out for that next wave of progression, because it’s already happening.


Post by Sam




May 23 2013

SXSW 2013 Day 1 (feat. Blondfire, Bonaparte, Sizarr, Hands, Japandroids, Local Natives & John Talabot)

SXSW 2013

This year we sent some of our finest writers to witness SXSW first hand and mingle.  there was also a lot of music to see. 

Blondfire at SXSW

Blondfire | Clive Bar (Mood Media Day Party)

Blondfire kicked off our collective SXSW acting as a perfect soundtrack to a typically sunny Austin afternoon. Brother/sister duo Erica and Bruce Driscoll are just the right side of pop without neglecting their alt rock leanings coming across like a younger (hungrier?) Metric.

Bonaparte live at SXSW

Bonaparte | Icenhauer’s (Reeperbahn Festival Stage)

We caught Tobias Jundt, AKA the leader of over the top Berlin based rock collective Bonaparte, playing a warm up show for what proved to be a scintillating group performance the following day at the Belmont. Despite being orphaned from the rest of the circus he usually performs with Mr Bonaparte didn’t hold anything back rolling around the floor, getting in his audiences face and spitting his highly entertaining lyrical word plays for all to hear.

Sizarr live at SXSW.jpg

Sizarr | Icenhauer’s (Reeperbahn Festival Stage)

One of the authentic surprises of this year’s SXSW hailed from the small town of Landau in Southwest Germany of all places. The young three-piece Sizarr offered a multifaceted performance delivering just the right amount guitar melodies and electronic samples. At a time when bands like Alt-J and M83 are arguably reinvigorating rock music Sizarr fit in nicely representing a middle line between the sonic offering of these 2 acts.

Hands live at SXSW

Hands | Parkside (White Iris Records Party)

Kicked off the evening at Parkside restaurant, where the upstairs had been converted to host the White Iris Records‘ party. The venue was slightly underwhelming, but a small crowd enjoyed the good vibes put out by Hands. If Foals had formed in the West Coast they might just sound like this Los Angeles based outfit and their performance proved to be contagious.

Japandroids at SXSW.jpg

Japandroids | Viceland (Jansport Bonfire Session)

Getting to hear Japandroids play “The House That Heaven Built” live once and for all was the only saving grace of this disastrous testament to the failures of corporate sponsorships. Despite Brian King and David Prowse valiant effort to reinvigorate the crowd with their usual high energy performance, including an attempted USA vs Canada chant war, the show was marred by pushy security, long lines and crappy sound; allegedly the result of a last-minute request by the sponsors to move all the indoor concerts to the outdoor stage — because backpacks are an outside thing.

local natives live at sxsw

Local Natives | Mohawk (Pitchfork Party)

After the big disappointment of the aforementioned Japandroids show our team reconvened for what was fortunately a radically different aural experience. Local Natives performed the midnight show at what came to be one of my favorite venues, Mohawk , offering stellar energy and a spot on performance. The set closed with a riveting version of “Sun Hands“, so good it gave me chills.

John Talabot live at SXSW.jpg

John Talabot |Mohawk (Pitchfork Party)

No better way to end the night than hanging around Mohawk for a radical sonic change thanks to house producer John Talabot– another favorite of the trip — who had the whole place grooving. The Barcelonian‘s polished set wove soulful vocals with dance-worthy electro making the crowd happy to be on their feet even after a long day.


Feb 20 2013

Foals ‘Holy Fire’ album review


For a band infamous for the unpredictability of the sound their constantly changing tastes will convene on, or even the songs that would be included in their album, it was with great certainty that, regardless of these vital details, the album would be of incredible quality and would yet again redefine the boundaries of their ever expanding collection.

Having already been introduced to “Inhaler”, with its powerful riffs, and raw voice-box-shredding vocals, many prepared for a heavier direction for Foals to take, yet everyone’s hypotheses were evaded when the unashamed pop of “My Number” became their next single. Its fluttering guitars and bongos proved infectiously catchy and it was one of the most welcomed songs in the set when they played in November, inducing a carnival atmosphere in a crowd.

Crucially these singles have managed to infiltrate the mainstream radio stations and allowed Foals to appeal to a broader audience. The singles have kindled and interest, but now ‘Holy Fire’ must ignite fans past, present and future with the burning spirit of the album.

Prelude” acts as a whitewash, entertaining the possibilities of a repeat of ‘Antidotes’ yet ultimately moving beyond such safe ground onto grittier guitar work which severs the potential to compare the two, creating distance from preconceptions and leaving Foals with a blank canvas from which to embark on their own personal holy campaign. The two early singles follow in quick succession settling nerves whilst summoning a thirst for more new material.

Bad Habit” begins with a dark Muse-y bass synth line then flourishes into an uplifting ballad full of heavy subject matter and emotional angst before a refreshing staccato solo rides in to elevate the song to a strong statement of Foals’s new direction.

For brief moments, ‘Holy Fire’ has the angular, immediacy of ‘Antidotes’ but they are rarely sustained, often passing as soon as you were getting up to dance, and in other moments there is as cinematic a feel to it as ‘Total Life Forever’, yet it is when the band embrace a brand new area such as in “Late Night” when they seem at their freshest and most exciting. It begins as a slow burner with a piano chord sequence just begging to be built upon and thanks in part to the guitar work giving more licks than an excited puppy dog, it does indeed tower into an excellent bluesy groove whilst the lyrics ‘Stay With Me’ heighten the anticipation for an epic Yannis solo to close the track.

As a whole the album has a very organic feel to it and this may be down to the fact that the band made a conscious decision to bring plants and shrubs into the recording studio so that they could grow and mature just as the album did.

Providence” fades into your ears with the lyrics “I know I cannot be true, I’m an animal just like you Oh I bleed just a little bit too I bleed just like you”, what follows then forms into overwhelming wild animal of noise tangled in too many ideas causing it to appear to be bleeding to death. However four succinct beats from drummer Jack Bevan simultaneously resuscitates and tames the animal into a ferocious dancing coherence of all the ideas, creating carnage when they played this live late last year. Many of the lyrics in ‘Holy Fire’ have imagery of blood and whether consciously or subconsciously, this creates a strong message that this work has come straight from the beating hearts of Foals now and onto their metaphorical sleeves.

The primordial percussive backbone in “Stepson” nods towards the works of Alan Lomax, most notably his field recordings, whilst the aching voice of Yannis bemoans the fate of having to “Fall into the blue”. In the final track, lightly touched piano keys ripple through a pool of ambience reflecting the moon, bringing both a tranquillity and acceptance to the end but also an exquisite, delicate closure to an excellent third album.

In a strange way ‘Holy Fire’ was exactly what we all expected: to be left overwhelmed and confused, desperately trying to process what just happened. It is too early to rationalise, but just as ‘Total Life Forever’ took a while to adjust to, so ‘Holy Fire’ will require time to understand. But when it does click, the epiphany will make us all realise what a clever little band the continually morphing Foals are, and how engrossed we can be with their incredible feats of escapology from any box anyone tries to fit them into.


Post by Sam



Holy Fire - Foals


Dec 3 2012

Weekend Videos: Foals – Inhaler

Last November the touch paper was lit. What followed sent sparks flying out the speakers of all who listened and ignited a frenzy in the expectant public. Foals were back, and back with a bang.

Inhaler” is the first single from Foals’ new album ‘Holy Fire’ out in February and the band have taken a new direction for their new album, away from the hi hat, four-on-the floor, dancy ‘Antidotes’ and the brooding ‘Total Life Forever’ to create an album with ‘swampy, stinky grooves’.

Frontman Yannis Philippakis has admitted that Inhaler is the heaviest track on the forthcoming 11 song album but that shouldn’t come as a surprise if you’ve heard the frontman’s voice as he growls about how he, ‘Can’t get enough space’ over a furious riff. Yes that’s right, Foals now play riffs. Of course there are still the trademark staccato rhythms expertly crafted into hypnotic, swaying, oriental loops but you get the sense that the band are much less restrained than they were on their previous album and are ready to unleash something fierce in the next album.

People got a glimpse into the album when Foals embarked on their small November tour, for which some venues sold out in 3 minutes and it was these developments which hint at the biggest challenge Foals will face. With the band becoming increasingly popular it is becoming apparent that the small venues, and indeed house parties, which made this band will not be able to accommodate the masses of people who now want to see them.

My biggest hope is that Foals manage to strike the right balance between their signature style, albeit in a new direction, with a sound that can fill a much larger venue, whilst keeping the immediacy of their fresh music.

Otherwise, there’ll be thousands of people all cramming into venues to keep their fire burning and Yannis certainly wouldn’t get enough space, and we wouldn’t want that, would we?


Post by Sam




Aug 22 2012

Maps & Atlases – ‘Beware and be Grateful’ reviewed

Forgive me. I really ought to have cottoned on to ‘Beware and be Grateful‘, the sophomore full-length by Maps & Atlases, sooner.

The Chicago four-piece have been doing the rounds since 2006, after all. Appearances at SXSW, a highly rated previous album and various tours with prominent acts including Foals, Minus the Bear and So Many Dynamos plus a great interview on these pages ought to have alerted me to their brilliance.

Fear not. I have seen the light.

Despite being both current and timeless, it is hard to put a finger on exactly what genre ‘Beware and Be Grateful‘ fits into. That is exactly why it is such an excellent record – experimental, accessible and majestically paced.

This album veers from effortless pop bliss – see track two, “Fever” – to angular rock perfection on Winter and, a little later, onto the quasi Billy Idol-esque “Vampires“. And there’s plenty more to sink your fangs into.

Opener “Old & Grey” draws you into the album patiently, maturely and incredibly melodically. There’s even room for an old school slowy – in a good way – on “Remote & Dark Years“.

This one has ‘album of the year‘ written all over it.


Post by Kenny/ @Kennywastell



Beware and Be Grateful - Maps & Atlases