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Villagers, Village Underground, London

Although still pivoted around Connor O’Brien’s distinctive voice and song writing, this year’s stellar {Awayland} was a huge leap forward in sonic ambition for Villagers – a move which has been met with widespread critical acclaim, but also one which threatened to put the band in a rock-and-a-hard-place situation when it came to their stage show, opening a potential fissure between the material of the two LPs.

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Shockwaves NME Awards Tour 2013 w/ Django Django, Miles Kane, Palma Violets & Peace, Cardiff University

Given my recent history of attending small, local gigs and/or occasionally just listening to my cat’s melodic purr whilst crying into a bowl of cereal, alone – the Shockwaves NME Awards Tour 2013 was a welcome change, to say the least. Despite being cumbersome, the sponsor-filled title of this annual event is in fact wholly appropriate for such a showbiz spectacle - which is evidently pumped fulla dolla and whose acts’ reception on the night is directly correlated with their ability to provide fitting music for a hair gel advert.

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Dan Deacon, Village Underground, London

It sets the bar pretty high when you open a show by blaring ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ in its entirety, set to pulsating strobe lights. And it should undercut any anticipation you might have created when, upon finally taking the stage, you set things into motion with a near ten minute monologue, guiding the audience through a cultish repeat-after-me exercise, while we’re all on our knees, with our eyes closed, pointing at randomly selected would-be loved ones (because it is, after all, Valentine’s Day). But this is Dan Deacon, a man who, for all the fuss made of his ‘move to the stage’ after gaining his reputation as master of goofy anarchy by performing as a member of his own audiences, still puts on one of the most genuinely eccentric stage shows touring today.

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Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Cargo, London

As far as album titles go, II is a pretty open admission that you’re not shaking the formula up too much with your second album. Playing tonight on the very day of their new record’s UK release, Unknown Mortal Orchestra showcase some of the material which forms their strong second album, one which continues to mine psychedelic, sixties-rock wig-outs without any shred of wry knowingness or irony. Unsurprisingly, the material of the two albums coheres into a seamless whole tonight, but the set also successfully spotlights the newer material as being significantly more assured and well crafted, in spite of its deceptively looser and freewheeling feel, played alongside the songs of the debut.

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METZ, Birthdays, London

The Canadian trio, known for their raucous and tumultuous live shows, are arguably Toronto’s best kept secret. Exploding onto the scene last year with their self-titled Sub Pop Records debut, the band quickly became known for their outrageous velocity and extreme performances.  For many (including myself) tonight would be the first time they would experience these notorious shows, and see if METZ could successfully transcend the energy of their album onto the live stage.

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