Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The 'C' word

Well, it's been quite some time since I've been around this manor, hasn't it? I've no real excuses, blame the new Xbox, a few trips to the pub or sheer laziness if you must. Me, I blame Thatcher.

Anyway enough of that, I've popped in firstly to draw your attention to a little Christmas Comp that's available, at the moment. I suspect anyone who actually reads this aware of it, but if not the link to read about it follows : -


I've not heard it, I will be honest, but I'm going to get it as soon as possible, as should you, especially since it's a run of 500 copies. Also it's going to be great, I can't think it would be anything but given the list of bands on there.

I should get a copy for my mum too, anything to avoid the waking terror of Cliff Richard this year.

Secondly, may I draw your attention to yet another new gem from MJ Hibbett. It's called 'I Got You What You Want For Christmas', it's has that classic opening christmas sound. Hard to explain but I think you'll understand when you hear it. It's also got two splendid videos. You can see the videos yourself over at the Hibbett and Validators website which you can find HERE. Enjoy, but be warned it's intensely catchy.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Something wicked this way comes.

The last time I mentioned the band Dead Man's Bones was in this post. I'd not really heard much news from them of late, but knew their album was coming out this month. Well, I was just skimming Spotify earlier this week and discovered that the album is up there already (it came out yesterday) so I listened and enjoyed it enough to want to blog about here.

If you want the short version, it's really a very good record and worth your pennies, or at least a listen on Spotify (you'll have to search for Dead Man Bones, since spotify seems to have a grammatical disaster on the name), or Myspace; it's streaming on their page I believe. If you want the long version, read on.

How best to describe what they do? Well I came to the album armed with the knowledge that there's is an oscar nominated actor in the band, that the songs were originally slated for a 'horror' musical and that there was fair amount of singing from a children's choir. Pleasingly all these elements are there and they all fit really nicely, if in a rather weird way.

The record starts quite slowly, it has to be said. There's an spoken word intro followed by first song proper 'Dead Hearts'. The first line of which is 'I woke up whistling by your grave'. That kind of sets the mood nicely for the record, we aren't looking at the giddy joy of 'I'm From Barcelona' here. Anyway 'Dead Hearts' is a good mood setter, the beat in the background sounding indeed like a pumping heart, there's odd percussive crashes like breaking glass and a sound not dissimilar to The Arcade Fire. It's a good start, if for me, it drags on a little too long.

The next song 'In The Room Where You Sleep' has been available on Myspace as a demo for quite a long time. Here it sounds fairly similar, the creepy organ sound intact, but it's more polished and all the better for it. The rhythmic organ line and the repeated downbeat 'you'd better run' makes the song.

After that there's 'Buried In Water'. A slow burner, which becomes something special in the last minute of the track, when the Silverlake Children's Community Choir join in and raise it into the realms of the euphoric. Actually the children's choir are a great addition to the record. It could easily have been gimmicky, or even worse like a horror version of the Saint Winifred's Children's choir (youtube at your peril) The next track, 'My Body's a Zombie For You' being a case in point. It is the epitome of what the band are about I think. A tune that sounds like it plays endlessly on the calliope at Dr Death's Circus Of Disaster, Ryan Gosling's odd 50's vocal, and some "ooh ooh ooh" backing vocals are made even better by the giddy children calling "I'm a Z.O.M.B.I.E, ZOMBIE" at the end. It's infectious.

'Pa, Pa, Power' follows, again made lovely by the harmonious calls of the children's promise that "We won't destroy you". 'Young and Tragic' follows that and is one of the definite high points of the record for me. The sole track powered only by the childrens' choir, a rolling drum and a lovely tune make it a deeper song then the young voices might have you believed. After this comes 'Paper Ships'.

'Paper Ships' sounds like it was played in a haunted cafe some 60 years ago to zombie greasers and vampirella prom queens. It's period apeing is spot on, but it creates a little bit of magic all of it's own. The 6 tracks from 3 - 8 are so strong that the rest of the record can't quite stand up to them, which stops it being an all out outstanding record. Of the final few tracks though, the title track comes close, channelling the same well of darkness that Nick Cave has mined so successfully for so long.

In closing then, as I said at the beginning it's a damn fine record. It's understandable if you've read through that review, and alarm bells are ringing in your head whilst your brain shouts "gimmick" but it's really not. Yeah, a children's choir and songs which were intended for some horroresque musical performed by an actor sounds like a gimmick, but the songs stand up for themselves. Is a gimmick needed when they could probably shift records on the strength of Ryan Gosling's name alone, I don't think so. It comes down to this. Fill a cauldron with some 50's doo wop, a pinch of Arcade Fire, a large dash of Langley Schools Music Project, elements of Beck, Beirut, and a whole dollop of weirdness, bring to the boil and then filter through a cone of evil and you might just get this record.

It's catchy, it's strange, it shouldn't really work, and yet somehow Dead Man's Bones have managed to make one of the best records I think I've heard this year. If it sounds like your kind of thing, you should definitely make time to hear it.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Guided By Voices

There seems to be a fair bit of excitement (read, slight hysteria) building up around these forthcoming Pavement shows on the internet at the moment. It's fair enough I suppose, I enjoy most of their stuff myself and I'd probably go and see them given the chance, but I found myself thinking about who else I'd like to see reform and realised that I'd much much rather see Guided By Voices (with Tobin Sprout, of course) then I'd ever want to see Pavement. It's unlikely to happen, though Robert Pollard has never ruled it out, but one can dream.

Then I got to thinking that there's probably still a lot of people who've never heard GBV before, and so I decided to try to put together a little Guided By Voices 101. It's not easy, for a start they did a lot of records (how many other bands have a top 100 songs, dedicated solely to them?) and the first thing a lot of people find out with GBV is that even on the best of their records there can be a fair bit of filler. That said most of their records are over 20 songs long and there are a lot of them, so even if only half of the songs on every album are great that's still be a pretty big hit ratio, lucky it turns out to be more than that. All I'm trying to get over from that sentence really is that it can be hard for the uninitiated to know where to start with the band; it's like dipping your hand into a newly opened box of Cadbury's Roses having never had any before. Everyone tells you they are lovely, but you end up getting a chocolate one for your first try. It'd be enough to put you off for life.

I could do a whole potted history of the band, but it would take up too much space, I'd miss things, I'd get things wrong, so I'm keeping it simple. The bands website will tell you all you need to know anyway. It includes mp3's, setlists and chords too (if you are musically inclined in that way). It's here

So I thought I'd try and help along by making a spotify playlist of some of their best stuff. It's a thankless task in all honesty. Being a band with so many songs, there's always going to be disagreement on what deserves inclusion and what doesn't. There's also stuff that isn't on Spotify, like 'Bee Thousand'. In fact go and find a copy of 'Gold Star For Robot Boy' off that record now, and hear the strength of things that couldn't be included. There's more too.

If you want to buy GBV records though, the best place to start is definitely 'Human Amusements At Hourly Rates'. It's a collection put together by Robert Pollard himself. There's not really a bad song out of the 32, so it's well worth a listen. It's on Spotify too, which probably makes things easier. As are a whole bunch of other albums.

Or if you want a DVD then 'Guided By Voices, The Electrifying Conclusion' is for you. Capturing them at their last ever show, all 4 hours of it.

Anyway I've written more than I'd planned to so without further ado, here's the playlist link

P.s if you like the whole spotify playlist thing, then check out indiefy, they do this kind of thing, but better.

Friday, 18 September 2009

It's the End Of The Road as we know it.

That my friends is an exceptionally terrible 'pun' of a title, isn't it? Sadly I couldn't think of anything better. If you haven't guessed yet the title is referring to the festival of the same name, one I visited last weekend and if you'll permit me a blog entry of self-indulgence I'll tell you all about it (there may even be some pictures, albeit poor ones).

So anyway, we get to the festival at around 12 in the afternoon on the Friday and I'm immediately struck by the beauty of the place. It's very impressive. There are woods (lit up in parts by fairy lights at night) which contain a piano and a library tree; it's got shelves on it and books to read if you feel the need to chill out. There's a light up disco floor in there as well, and some games. Elsewhere there's peacocks wondering round, oh and peahens, and even a baby peacock (peachick?) I wasn't sure I'd ever see one of them.

Anyway needless to say it's idyllic, even the main stage (the garden stage) is set in lovely surroundings. It is a garden stage after all. Anyway I could ramble about the settings for ages, the main things about the festival are these, it's a small capacity, it's in beautiful surroundings and it's got some great, great food stalls. Oh yeah, and bands of course.

So, yeah, bands.

Friday I start with Ohbijou, they're in the big top stage (it's a marquee) and they're a pretty good way to start, nice and soft and pretty. I catch a bit of Mumford and Sons after that, not much, but enough to hear some startling harmonies, it's really very touching.

Later I catch David Thomas Broughton, he's been brilliant the last couple of times I've seen him, but that's been in small venues where he's able to move around the audience playing tunes on whatever is avaliable, or sticking his microphone into his shirt and looking like a scarecrow. This time he's on a big stage and I'm worried if it will work. For the most part it does, his voice is excellent and the backing band are great. It's just sad it's not quite so intimate. There's a nice moment when he brings out some children to play with him, only to (mildly) appear to berate them a bit later for playing too long.

After that I see Shearwater and I'm completely underwhelmed, followed by Dirty Projectors who've been pretty hyped this year, but who again fall sadly flat for me. Maybe I'm just not in the mood? The headliners of the day are Explosions In The Sky, I hear them from the woods and they sound very good, but I'm happy where I am. I later catch Herman Dune, who are quite good, but I'm tired by now and it's tentwards rather quickly.

Saturday dawns and I'm up bright and early because for some reason it's really bloody hot. I rush off to the main stage to catch a bit of The Leisure Society who are quite good. There's a nice cover of 'Something' by The Beatles to end their set. I always think it's a Beatles song I really don't like, but for some reason it sounds great.

Following that there's Darren Hayman. He's terrific. He's got a full band with him (including Nik from Moustache of Insanity, I believe). There's Secondary Modern Stuff, and some Hefner B'sides. There's witty banter, rock shapes pulled by Darren and great tunes. Darren is running a battle with a wasp who insists on flying near his mouth everytime he sings, but he wins. It's a really fantastic set. I turn to my side at one point to find M.J Hibbett, who is clearly enjoying it. He tells me he's never seen Hayman before, which is almost unthinkable! Also surely Hayman should be on later than 2nd on the main stage, a fact he eludes to himself. I think he says something about indie hasbeens. Anyway, the set is great, and Darren mentions he's playing a 'secret' set later on at 1am.

After him there's The Low Anthem who I don't really click with, followed by The Broken Family Band who I just don't get. I liked the first album (and I've admittedly none of the others) but they don't play much off it, and the set leaves me a bit cold to be honest. Shame. After I catch Dent May and his Magnificent Ukelele, who sounds pretty good and Malcolm Middleton who is really quite boring. Another disappointment.

Bit of a gap and then I catch Alela Diane. She's good, very good. She reminds me of Kate Rusby a bit, a fair bit like Beth Orton in the vocal. She has her Dad playing in the band, which I like, and a pretty insane looking bassist who I can't stop watching. Following her are Okkervil River. I've heard a few of their songs on record and always had them down as semi-boring alt country, so my hopes aren't that high, but I've heard good things about them live, so I go along.

I'm glad I did, they're amazing. Suprisingly they play like a stadium rock band, and really know how to work a crowd. I love all of it. It's sometimes hard for me to totally enjoy a gig when I don't know most of the songs, but it doesn't matter this time, a sure sign of something special. Fleet Foxes are the headliner, but we just can't be bothered; it's a good thing. Apparently they aren't as good as expected and also, apparently, the main stage security stops letting people in to see them as it's too busy! Told you it was a small festival. Instead we wander round for a bit only to be stopped by the arresting sounds of what sounds like Nick Cave coming from a big top. It's not, it's Josh T Pearson. He used to be in Lift To Experience, he's a last minute addition, and he's a revelation. He stands on stage like some backwoods preacher in a black cowboy hat and seems to be completely unaware of the crowd, staring at the canopy full of stars at the top of the marquee like it's the heavens and he almost certainly appears to be undergoing a religious experience. It's the most otherwordly thing I've seen in a long time. Tremendous.

After that I rush to the 'Tipi Tent' to see Hayman and am hugely disappointed. It's 'L' shaped, so there's a sort of funnel which means that there's only a few people at the front of the tent who can see, whilst everyone one stands around talking loudly. It's not helped that there's only one entrance (of which it appears to be one in one out) or that everyone who comes in is caught in a bottleneck and seems intent on pushing through to the front. There's a keep clear sign on the floor, but it's ignored. It's a shame really because the bit I heard of the set was nice. Wu Tang Clan was played and the Greedy Ugly People. The latter replete with Darren climbing on something (I couldn't see what) to conduct the crowd from on high through the coda.

The final day arrives and I think I'm most excited about this one. The first person I see is T.Model Ford. T.Model is an 88 (though some sources differ) year old blues man from Greenville Mississippi. He has a walking stick and needs to be helped onto stage by his drummer, I'm worried he's too frail to play. He's not. He's brilliant, his eyes twinkle as he announces that he's "T-Model Ford't the ladies man" before proceeding to make eyes at every women photographer and audience member. Besides that his music is pure blues and I feel honored to see him. He's great not because his music is 'authentic' but just because it's so good.

Following him is Sweden's Tallest Man On Earth. No that's not a circus act. He's not actually very tall but he is damned good. Sounding like a cross between M.Ward and Bob Dylan he plays a great set to a big crowd, all his songs catchy and delightful in equal measure. He has a new album out this year apparently, I'm looking forward to it. The first two acts have been so good I'm already thinking they can't be topped but I didn't count on Bob Log III.

Bob Log is mad. He comes on stage in suit and space helmet, and ends up in a skin hugging gold number. He plays incredible guitar whilst banging drums with his feet (like some odd one man band), sings about wanting people to shit on his leg or put their boob in his scotch, and is just a very funny and consummate showman. That sounds crap in the description but I can assure you it isn't. It's just the most amazing performance.

Following him is Dan Sartain. Dan Sartain is pure 50's rockabilly action. He's got vintage amps and a vintage mic and a massive quiff. Oh and cheekbones you could cut your fingers on. In fact he looks a wee bit like a young Johnny Cash. He's full of delirious energy too, although he looks slightly unwell. This could be the reason his set is cut short by a disappointing 15 minutes, but the other 30 are some of the weekend's best.

I miss Magnolia Electric Company and only catch a bit of Steve Earle, which is sad but there's eating to be done. Eventually Neko Case comes on. I love her new album but not some of her other stuff, so I'm not sure how this one will go. I needn't worry, the new songs are really rocky live, and the older stuff is beautiful. It's helped that she has a full band and that her other female vocalist is a bit of a live wire. There's fine banter too, which more or less involves Neko taking the piss out of oncoming headliners The Hold Steady for much of the set. They have Louis Vitton bags apparently.

Finally the aforementioned Hold Steady come on. I've been really looking forward to this, I like they're music and they are supposed to be great live. Except, for some reason, they aren't. The band are great, but Craig Finn leaves me a bit cold. It's not the vocal delivery really (i know from records that he's a bit of a mumbler) it's more the dancing like a dad at a disco stage moves. Or pointing at the crowd and mouthing stuff. I can't quite explain, it feels like someone has made a list of 'rock moves' but not explained how to use them properly. The sound is fairly disappointing too. It's a great, great shame because the festival ends on a slightly flat note.

Despite that it has been huge fun though, some great performances, and I've come away with another list of favourite new bands. The atmosphere was wonderful (on a lovely with Indietracks I think), the food, ale and general facilities were all awesome, and even the weather held out. If they keep the low capacity (and the organisers seem adamant that they will) then I for one will be making the long trek down to Dorset again next year.

*the photo of David Thomas Broughton is by a user called Rollinstone on the End Of The Road forum.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Slow news day

xHmm, a bit slow with this I guess but seeing as we are over three quarters of the way through the year now (more or less) I thought I'd do a bit of a retrospective and list what I think are my albums of the year so far.

Well I thought I'd do that, but then I realised that it would be a boring way to end the week and writing a list is never as fun as I think it's going to be so I did something else instead. I've picked favourite songs from favourite albums of the year and put them into a spotify playlist.

I know that there's probably things I've missed and there's definitely albums I couldn't use due to them not being on spotify (The Pains, Grizzly Bear) but hopefully you'll enjoy listening to the little thing I've put together. Oh yes, also I've not really paid attention to tracklisting here so don't know how it runs in terms of listening, hopefully it'll be ok.

Linkage HERE.

Sorry about the short post today, normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Acting up

Being a actor/actress and being in a band should usually be mutually exclusive things. I once had the misfortune of seeing Keanu Reeves' band 'Dogstar' at Glastonbury. It was long, long 35 or so minutes, punctuated by a few moments of brightness when the crowd preceeding to throw various pieces of fruit, I will never get that time back. There are other, greater, offenders (bruce willis for one or the truly terrifying '30 odd foot of grunts') but that's a whole article for another day. I want to talk about the brighter side of actor/band relationships, in this case Ryan Gosling and Dead Man's Bones.

You may know Ryan Gosling from his acting work, he's very good. Both 'Half Nelson' and 'Lars and The Real Girl' are well worth watching if you get the chance. Especially Lars. You might not know that he and another actor Zach Shields have a band called Dead Man's Bones and that in recent months they've signed to eclectic record label Anti, whose roster includes such luminaries as Os Mutantes, Tom Waits and Nick Cave.

The band actually started as a sort of play about monsters and the like (which is unsuprising for thespians) but expenses caused the project to be shelved, but having the songs already, they decided to continue. I've heard three of the songs now; there's a new (or recent) one on their myspace which prompted me to write this, and they are all great. Ryan Gosling sings in a crooner sort of style, it's rather 50's. The music that goes along with it is sometimes a bit doo wop, I guess. Certainly on 'Your Name In Stone'. Add the fact that they recorded with The Silverlake Conservatory Children's Choir and that all the songs are monster based and you get a kind of 50's b movie type album crossed with The Langley Schools Music Project and what's not to like about that? To top it off the band are using local choirs for all american dates, and having a battle of the bands type thing in each city to decide their opening act. Hopefully growing a sense of community along the way. I've seen this called gimmicky, but really I don't think a hollywood actor really needs a gimmick to sell records.

Anyway the bands music can be found here, and here is the video for 'Name In Stone' too. I think this is their best song, and it might not even be on the record.

What else?

Oh yeah, I really like the band 'Boat' They're quite hard to google because of the name, so it's sometimes hard to find info on them. Anyway Boat are great. Their last album 'Songs You May Not Like' was a bit of an overlooked gem. If they were being classified I suppose they could be lumped in alongside Tullycraft in terms of where their sound is coming from, but there's a bit of Pavement in there too perhaps, and there's elements of 'The Soft Wonder' by A.C newman in there too. The whole of the last Boat record is available to listen to on Last FM right here if you have a chance to listen, it's worth your while.

To get back on track though, I was searching for Boat, when I stumbled across a blog called 'You Ain't No Picasso' which has a new Boat song called 'Name Tossers' available to listen to. The song is great, they sound a bit more fleshed out on it, if anything, but with no loss of melody. I suggest going to the aforementioned blog and listening to it. Here's the link you need.

Finally, and quite excitingly, Slumberland have finally, finally released 'Dream On Daisy' by the sorely missed Parallelograms. If you've never heard the Parallelograms, and I envy you the delight of discovery, think The Rosehips, Talulah Gosh, the best bits of C86 and Subway records, girl vocals and more than a touch of charm. You can listen to some stuff on their myspace, but you should probably rush over to cloudberry and buy it right now. Who knows it might be worth a fortune one day. Even if it's not, if the band sell enough of them, they might be able to pay Markie's airfare and get him to come back. You know it makes sense.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Summer in the city

There's certain kinds of music that evoke time periods or memories or times of the year, and I always seem to associate psychedelia (especially 60's psych) with summer, perhaps it's because the whole 'summer of love' thing is far too imprinted my conciousness thanks to horrible tv adverts; I prefer to think it's more to do with the bright, sunny sounds myself.

You're probably already wondering where this lenghty preamble is going, well I was just listening to Viva Voce and decided to have a quick look at their official web page where Kevin from the band has been more than lovely enough to offer a summer mix tape for your listening pleasure. I have since been to listening to it, and it's exactly the kind of summery psychedelia I mentioned only a moment ago, imagine that! Anyway I would heartily recommend giving it a listen, it's a perfect sunny afternoon mix, and if, like me, you don't know that much about this kind of music outside of 'Tomorrow Never Knows' it's a great way to start. You can download the mixtape direct from this linky. Oh yes, and listen to Viva Voce too, because they are also well worthy of your time.

Thinking of psych makes me thing of garage, which is no suprise since the terms seem to be juxtaposed together quite often, it's also useful because I want to mention a garage alldayer I went to on Sunday.

It was called Weirdapalooza, and was held at The Bodega Social in Nottingham. It's a weird little place to hold a garage alldayer really, it's never very big (up or downstairs) and feels quite cramped whether it's massive busy or not. Thankfully (and perhaps rather selfishly) for me it wasn't that busy at all, so it was easy to watch the bands (of which there were 7) in comfort. I don't want to go into detail of all the bands, but I do want to single out The Hipshakes for praise. I was told before hand that they were going to be good, and they really were. They sound like other garage bands (a lot of garage does) but not in as derivative sense as some of the other bands who played on Sunday. On top of that they have masses of energy, a fantastic rhythm section and great tunes. After the set both Trev from oddbox and Ian Horowitz were full of praise, with Trev telling me that the band didn't even have their proper bassist and that their set didn't even contain their best tunes. I definitely want to see the band again. You can hear The Hipshakes here.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009


For the last few days I've been listening (when I've got the chance) to a band called Horse Shoes. You've probably heard of them but I must admit, beyond the fact that they're from America and have a record coming out on Shelflife and played POP!Mayhem in Florida at the weekend, I don't know anything about the band at all. Sometimes though, that's a good thing. If nothing else it stops me weighing this blog down with lengthy descriptions when all you really need to do is listen to the band. They cite their influences as New Order and spent their formative years listening to lots of The Smiths, which does inform the sound slightly. There's more than a hint of Sarah Records about them though, a whiff of Labrador (the Legends, Club8) and I think I detect just a hint of My Raining Stars about them too.
If any of that sounds like your thing (I hope it does) then a couple of the songs are streaming over at shelflife or you can listen to some songs on the bands myspace page.

Aside from Horse Shoes, another animal related band I've been enjoying this week are Denim Owl. Denim Owl are a duo from Melbourne (Janita Foley and Aleks Bryant or Denim Owl and Brain Cobra if you prefer), they have a song called Kitten Gloves (with a kitten sample at the beginning) and a penchant for melodica, but let's not tag them with any disparaging genre labels here. At heart, they make keyboard driven pop with some loops and effects. Oh and they do a superb version of Springsteens' 'I'm On Fire' so I was always going to love them. If you're inclined to listen to them you can do so here. They're playing a gig in Melbourne on 2nd September, with the Motifs (who were great when I saw them in Nottingham last year) so if you live anywhere near there, it should be well worth a look.

Finally if you're in the sort of person who likes to wallow in a bit of list making/nostalgia then you'll probably enjoy Pitchfork this week. Their counting down their top 500 records of this decade, with a few articles as well. Even if you don't like Pitchfork it'll at least provoke a "how the hell did that get in there" from you at some point, which isn't a bad thing.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Mini Round-Up

Ok, so it's been a while since I've updated this. It's not for want of trying, I can promise you. It just seems that lately every time I sit down at the keyboard and ready my fingers, some distraction gets in the way. Recently this has been ukulele/guitar related as I try desperately to gain some talent before playing at a 'not really bands' night, very soon. That's another story. Anyway, I thought I'd use today's entry as a bit of an update on some of the music I've been listening to/been made aware of recently.

Firstly to Slumberland. Slumberland records have already put out some great music this year, Leichtenstein's 'Survival Strategies In A Modern World' is already being hailed in some parts as a record of the year. Then there's Summer Cats' 'Song For Tuesdays' which is also garnering high praise. There's an ace review of that over at Afogofideas, which you should definitely read. Not content what that, Slumberland have also put out 'Blue Genes' which is the infectious, ramalama, fuzzy pop debut from The Champagne Socialists. There's a very fine interview with the music makers themselves over at Alayerofchips, that's also recommended reading, by the way.

That's a great trio of bands to listen to and love right there, but that's not enough for Slumberland. They've just released the next two volumes of the 'Searching For The Now' single series; volumes 5 and 6. Volume 5 is a Swedish affair, featuring Liechtenstein and The Faintest Ideas. I've only head the Leichtenstein half, but it's as good as anything on the new record, which means of course you should definitely check it out. Volume 6 veers a little further from home and has Washington Brown (former Kenickie man, Johnny X) on one side, and The School, on the other. The School's song is a cover of 'And Suddenly' by The Left Banke. It's great too, all keyboard drive and sweet vocals. I cannot wait for their debut album.

If any of that has peaked your interest then you should rush over to Slumberland now to read proper descriptions of the bands, and hopefully buy everything they have. You could do a lot worse then checking out this thread on Anorak, too.

I've already mentioned AfogofIdeas and Alayerofchips, but there's been exciting news coming from their twin camps this month too. In short, they've announced the 2nd annual Nottingham Indiepop alldayer (exciting title isn't it) for November. The line up is predictably great, with Standard Fare, The School, Mascot Fight, The Just Joans, Tender Trap and The Red Shoe Diaries all confirmed. I've been privy to news of other bands who've been approached, and I can tell you there's some very exciting announcements on the horizon. Last year's Alldayer was exceptional fun and this one looks to be even better, so you should put the date in your diary - it's the 15th of November - and start getting excited already. You can read about the alldayer here, and there's a last fm event for it here.

I've also been listening to 'In The Dream Of The Sea Life' by Candy Claws. It's coming out on recently fledged, Dublin based label Indiecater records. It's a lovely record too. Soft dreamy electronica with blissful vocals and samples of the sea. The samples of the sea work beautifully, and it doesn't sound like a CD you might buy for £2 in a New Age shop in Glastonbury. It's well worth checking out, and the label are currently streaming the entire thing for free, so you have no reason not to really.

Finally, one of my favourite bands; The Mountain Goats, have put a new song on their website called Genesis 3.23. It's typically Mountain Goats, a great guitar riff, John Darnielle's distinct vocal, and a terrifically catchy melody. You can listen to it here. The idea behind the album sounds great too, you can read about that on their website. John Darnielle is also doing a solo tour in October, which includes dates in Manchester and London, I'd highly recommend going.

That about wraps it up.

Monday, 3 August 2009

June is in the water.

I often feel like I've missed the boat on a lot of bands, occasionally it's missing the boat by a few seconds, just in time to watch it sail into the distant whilst I stand on the shore and lament being a little too slow. Other times, (and this is far more often the case) and to labour the metaphor a little more, I'm so slow that the boat has been around the world a few times; retiring from service before I've even heard that it was sailing.

This last happened to me with The Passmore Sisters. I was stumbling wide eyed around the world wide web one slow morning last christmas when I decided to take a look at Takethepills, a fantastic, fantastic blog. Taking a quick look through the archives, I stumbled across this entry and was suitably intrigued to find out more, so I downloaded the album to give it a listen. I'm glad I did because it's a terrific record. They've got that sort of mid 80's jangle that belonged to a whole bunch of bands from the same period, but if that was all there was to them, I wouldn't have been that bothered; there's more depth than that. The lyrics are strong, a piece in point is 'June In The Water' a song that belies it's poppy sensibilities by being about pushing someone in the water and watching them drown. Whether it's intentional or not is never fully clear (the target of the pushing laughs as she falls in), it's just how the song manages to be so uplifting whilst bleak that makes it so special. They were political too, see 'Red Star, Blue Heart' which sounds quite a bit like The Housemartins, with (dare I say it) a slight touch of Morrissey around the chorus vocal.

Beyond that album I don't really now much about them, I know they were from Bradford, that they've often been compared (as I just did) with The Housemartins. Whilst writing this I've just been reading a piece about them on Foxdude Records which sums them up a lot more succintly then I just have.

Anyway, if that slightly poor description hasn't put you off, you can download the album from the Takethepills link I mentioned earlier, or if that isn't your thing then Last FM has a fair few recordings or even better if you do want to download the album but fear ripping off the band then it's available for FREE download through The Passmore Sisters myspace, which is HERE.

So that would be the end of a slightly pointless wallow in the well of nostalgia if it wasn't for the fact that the other day I was googling The Passmore Sisters, and discovered that the members of the band now record under the name of Fever Hut. I was so pleased not only to find that they were still recording, but more importantly that they still sound great. I like it when bands reform and can still perform brilliantly (see Friends and Mighty Mighty from this years Indietracks) but it's somehow even nicer to find that a band can do something new and still sound great. I'm not the only one who thinks so either. They did a single for Cloudberry at one point (052).

According to their Myspace (give them a listen it's worth your time) it seems that they've already released an album and have another one coming, so I've not quite arrived right at the beginning, but this time I'm going to make sure I'm on the deck looking back at the harbour and not the other way around.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring

Today I've mostly been sitting in front of the window, reading blogs and watching the rain fall, like so many watery arrows, to earth. Well, I was doing that until I listened to a large proportion of the debut album from'Their Hearts Were Full Of Spring'. I think it's out in early August.

I must confess I first heard the band maybe a year and a half ago, and then missed them at Indietracks 2008 and sadly since then I've criminally ignored them, which is pretty unacceptable of me really because they are genuinely a very good indiepop band indeed.

Just listening to this record has raised me out of weather induced doldrums and lit a little musical spark in my heart again. I suppose it's the sort of feeling you get when you eat a nice hearty bowl of soup on a cold autumn day, or when the bad news you've just been given ebbs away the instant you step into the pub and your friends are sat their waiting for you, to give you a hug, buy you a pint and chase the day away. It's that kind of heartwarmer, melodic and warm, slow and languid but summery and lazy too.

Sadly I couldn't find the music anywhere but myspace, but if you're inclined to give it a listen, and you really should, then go here post haste.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

DIY Gigs

I've been following this thread with interest on Anorak today.

I know nothing about putting gigs, or at least nothing beyond the minimum of book a band, pay a band, sort a venue, get equipment sorted etc, etc. It sounds like a whole bunch of hard work though and the people I know who put on gigs always seemed to be knackered by the end of it and so stressed at the start of it that even though I've thought about doing gigs it puts me off. It shouldn't but it does and it makes me sad.

You see, the latter part of that thread seems to be centred around slight disillusionment with putting gigs on and I can understand it especially if no-one is turning up to gigs, or it's 5 people, or it's just two bands and not much more (ala hibbett), it hardly seems worth it. It must be gutting struggling to pay bands, feeling guilty because they've come a long way for not very much, or just wondering why hardly anyone wants to come and watch music you love.

Aha, but there in lies the crux of it I think. I love it when I go to gigs and people are there because they're there for the music, and you know that someone has travelled all the way from London to Nottingham (or Sheffield or Glasgow) just to see a band they love, even if it's only one song they love. That point where you look around the crowd and you see everyone smiling or just one person swooning and it fills you with joy because they're feeling exactly what you're feeling. Or you know that the promoter has put that gig on not really to make money (although I'm sure it would be nice) but to spread the word of a band around, to get likeminded people in one place and to see a band that no-one else has put on, so they've got to do it, otherwise they'd never see them.

It's a total labour of love, and it's DIY and it's brilliant. The effort people put in, so that someone else has a brief moment of joy. I hope that no matter what little gigs like this keep on happening. It's a salute to the efforts of Afogofideas, alayerofchips, DSFAR, Spiral Scratch, HDIF, Half My Heart Beats, The Autumn Store, and all those other people who make sure the boom we've experienced in the renaissance of the music we love won't go bust anytime soon.

Indietracks 2009

Well first of all, why bands and beer? Why not? I suppose it's what a large majority of my life is about. They kind of go hand in hand as well. Anyway that's pretty much what this blog will be about, with a few other things thrown in as and when I feel like it.

This weekend I went to Indietracks. I've been for the last 3 years, no doubt if you're reading this then you're probably familiar with the whole thing, but if not then you should have a look here.

I've said on other parts of the internet just how great the bands were, The Specific Heats for a start or watching a man in a white helmet make a whole crowd go crazy, so I won't really do that again.

All I really want to say is that now the weather has turned to shit and the world is crowding back in after being kept at bay for the weekend, my lasting thoughts aren't just about the music but at just how well run the festival was this year. The atmosphere too was amazing, it's been said before, but really what other festival can you go to, stand at the front of the bar, turn away to talk to a friend for a few minutes; turn back and still no one has pushed in front. Or, as we did, how many places do you go where you meet someone for five minutes, then the next thing you know you're on a steam train chatting away like old friends. Later on I see the lady again, mention we're seeing Pete Green and drag her along. It turns out this is one of her favourite perfomances of the weekend. Again, indietracks is like that. One more, where else do you see a litter-picker on the day after the festival, actually smiling. Nowhere, that's where. The staff deserve all the congratulations, as do the organisers, and so do the fans. Yeah it's a music festival, but if it weren't for the people involved and the people who go, the whole thing would be a lot, lot, different.

I think everyone of the people who was there came back with a piece of derbyshire in their heart.