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.