Friday, 29 January 2010

My Secret Favourite

Once upon a time there was a brilliant, but rather undiscovered, band from Long Island called My Favourite. They released some absolutely fantastic record and a bunch of great singles, combining nostalgia with a rose tinted view of the world. Just watch the video below and revel in the brilliance. Or listen to 17 Berlin.

They were wonderful, and when they finally called it a day it was a sad one. That could have been the end of it, if not for the fact that Michael (the main lynch pin) from the band started another group called 'The Secret History', who've been quietly gathering praise and fans for a little while now, they played NYC popfest last year, and are doing so again this year. I've been enjoying their 'Desolation Town' EP for a little while now, particular the song 'The Haunted Hearts' fervently awaiting the advent of new material. Thankfully that wait is over because they've just put up a new song called Johnny Anorak over here on their Myspace. It's predictably great, when the chorus comes in it's as swoonsome a song as I've heard this short year. Even better they've announced a new album for March. You can download the song and read about more on this blog. I'm really excited. I think 'The Secret History' are going to get a lot bigger this year. I've got my fingers crossed for them to play Indietracks. I suggested them on Anorak but like most of my post, it got ignored. Maybe they've already got them. Here's hoping.

Oh yes, If you want to listen to their 'Desolation Town' EP, then click below.

The Secret History – Desolation Town

Thursday, 28 January 2010


Often I think that my musical life (or at least this blog) can be likened to a man stumbling around in a darkened room until his hand alights on an object which can illuminate the darkness, except in my case it's music not objects.

One such band who've managed to permeate the deep dark of my musical ignorance this week are The July Days. I've never heard of them before, though I guess and hope that they're named for the events that occured one July in Russia over 90 years ago. Anyway, I know a little bit more now thanks to their Myspace. They are from Birmingham and have supported The Lovely Eggs and My Sad Captain as well as winning a Battle Of the Bands at Birmingham University. See what I mean about stumbling in the dark? This lot should have been on my radar ages ok, still I'm just glad I found them. Hopefully you will be too. I think one listen to 'I Said, You Said' should be enough to convince you. I can't quite explain why, but that song makes me giddy and tells my feet they want to dance, and only the best songs can do that. Give 'em a listen over here.

The other thing I've been listening to today is the new Charlotte Gainsbourg record. Charlotte of course is the daughter of the legendary Serge, in fact her first musical outing came on a Serge single. She's an actress as well as a musician and such a fine pedigree comes over on the record. Her current release IRM, is written, arranged, produced and parly played by oddball Beck.

In places it has elements of Beck's slightly darker pieces mixed with a chanteuses touch of the sublime. It's arranged beautiful, and Charlottes voice, although not perfect fits the music very well indeed. It's a lovely, fragile, thing to listen to, and I'd encourage you to do so if you get the chance.

Charlotte Gainsbourg – IRM

Monday, 25 January 2010

Transmittens recieved

Hello. First up I'd like to introduce you to a band I've been listening to a fair bit today. They're called 'The Devil, My Pocket'. I don't know much about them (for much, read nothing), there was a brief mention on The Icicles homepage and so I thought I'd check them out. I liked what I heard too, there's a certain element of Will Oldham/Smog to them, especially on the song 'While The House Burned' As is obligatory there are songs to hear on their Myspace, as well as a 4 song demo thing on the website, here. You should go listen.

In other exciting news I've just noticed that Weepop are going to put out the new Transmittens mini album (though 10 tracks feels like an album to me) on the 29th January, though they have it up for pre-order now. You probably know Weepop through such other great bands as 'The Smittens' and 'The Just Joans', the label has a high pedigree. So do the 'Transmittens'. Weepop released there last record 'Our Dreams' as well, and it was a cracker. Ignore the cuddly name, you won't find anything too overly twee or cutesy here. I say the band are more of the vein of The Magnetic Fields, or maybe Mates Of State. I have little doubt that this record is going to be superb, the first track (and the track available to listen to HERE on the weepop website) Marfa Texas is splendid and the second track 'The Sea At Night' is also great and on their Myspace. I can't wait to listen to the whole thing. So what now? You go to Weepop and pre-order the record that's what. It's ridiculously cheap and will almost definitely sell out. I've just ordered mine.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Upcoming stuffs.

So not much in the way of news from me today, I was going to review the 'Women's Basketball' album, but looks like Alayerofchips got there first. Go have read.

Speaking of the aforementioned blog, Sam from Alayerofchips is putting on another gig soon, and it looks likely to be another great one. I know that most of the people who read this blog probably read that one too, but it's worth a re-post, and if you haven't heard about this yet then you really should read on.

Look at that poster to the left there, isn't it lovely? The bands playing are just as lovely. Withered hand have been garnering praise from all quarters of late, obstensibly one man from Edinburgh he creates beautiful folky music to die for. There's a nice video up on the website here. Go and listen.

Elsewhere on the bill, The Pete Green Corporate Juggernaut keep rolling on (see what I did there), they're always great value, songs with heart, played with joy and viveur and returned in kind from every audience I've seen them play too. Go here for loads more fun. The other band on the bill are Red Shoe Diaries, from right here in Notts. They sometimes sound like Hefner, they have the same soulful, emotional feel as Belle and Sebastian and they're playing all over the place at the moment.

So if you've not already seen or heard of the gig, are in Nottingham or the surrounding area and like what you hear/read, then definitely go to the show, you won't regret it.

If you again look to your left, you can see a poster for another gig. This time a tribute to the ever wonderful Darren Hayman and Hefner. This also promises to be another good one. We Show Up On Radar are just about to release a new single and know all about writing songs which are emotional and fragile yet witty and warm, much like Darren really. Elsewhere Vom Vorton, or Tom from Lardpony and latterly of Of Mice And Mental Arithmetic has previous form having contributed a fantastic version of 'The Sad Witch' to an 'Alayerofchips' compilation a fair old time ago.

Anyway it promises to be a good old night and it's on February 5th. Did I mention it's for charity, will it is, Battersea dogs and cats home and the DEC Haiti earthquake appeal to be precise. What more reason could you need?

I realise of course that these two events are both Nottingham based, but I'm local so perhaps it's to be expected. That said I want to do a weekly UK gig listing thing, hopefully starting this Friday. So keep a look out for that, and if you have a gig you'd like to be added onto it then let me know.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Make It Kinetic.

Morning! Yesterday morning I stupidly banged my little toe on a doorframe and managed to break it. As a result I'm currently in a painkiller induced fugue, and not up to concentrating too much on writing the blog. Hopefully then, you'll forgive me today for falling back on an old staple; the classic album. This may well be number 1 of an indefinite series.

Note I said classic album, not forgotten classic. Most albums that get classified as forgotten or 'lost' really aren't, they're just languishing outside of the mainstream. I mean if I was to mention 'Snowball' by The Field Mice to the majority of people on the street they'd not know what I was talking about (and their loss really) but if I talk about The Field Mice on anorak or any other indie pop type forum, then pretty much everyone will know what I mean. It's not a lost or forgotten record, it's found a niche. So yes, which pontification brings me nicely to my own little post on a classic album today. I've chosen Thunder Up, by The Sound.

The Sound were active between 1979 - 89 musically they're more often then not pegged as post-punk which in terms of when the band were active - if not completely in regards to their, ahem, sound - is pretty accurate. The band shared a record label with Echo and The Bunnymen and played with, Sheffield's mostly forgotten men, The Comsat Angels.

The Sound released 5 record between 1980 and 1987, most of which met with plaudits and wide critical acclaim, but the band never seemed to make the leap into the public conciousness, the way other bands of the time like Joy Division and The Bunnymen did. I mention those two in particular, because they were the most similar in musical style to The Sound yet managed to break out of the niche I mentioned earlier, whilst The Sound didn't. I don't know why.

There is much to The Sound's story I've not mentioned here but I would advise reading up on them if you listen to the record after I've yammered on about it and enjoy it. As I've mentioned The Sound released 5 records, they are all different. 'From The Lion's Mouth' is the best known one, it's the album that should have made them huge, and didn't. I've decided to focus on Thunder Up, because it's probably the most accessible. It's also my favourite.

It opens with 'Accleration Group' a rowdy, fast paced song which lives up to it's name and should grab you within seconds. Followed by torch aloft ballad, 'Hand Of Love' it's a sternum breaking one - two punch of an opener. Elsewhere the yell of "make it kinetic" on 'Kinetic' will worm it's way into the internal jukebox, as will the upbeat and lively horns of 'Iron Years'.

It is a really uplifting album, despite it's sometimes darker lyrics. It's got a nostalgic tinge to it, but the overall feel is one of searching for, and reaching for joy. Nowhere is this better exemplified then in lyric to Iron Years. "I'm on your side, a friend deep inside. Like the times we were so close to joy, we were so close....... I know you will be there soon"

I could go on and on about this record. But I think it's best to just leave you with a spotify link and the ability to make up your own minds. See you tomorrow.

The Sound – Thunder Up

Friday, 15 January 2010

Non-Atrocity Exhibition

One of the joys of being a blog writer, apart from the obvious one of pure narcissism, is that from time to time, people/bands/record labels will send you demos/tracks to listen to. This doesn't often happen to me so it's always a nice suprise when it does. Even more so when the tracks in question are really worth listening too.

One such arrived from Of National Importance Records recently in regards to a band called 'The Exhibition' and their new 4 track demo EP. I'm very pleased they asked me to review it, because it's really very good indeed.

The First Track is - 'The Boy And The Tearaway' The title has the slight ring of Morrissey about it, and so does the vocal on immediate listen, but once the pounding drums, swirling shoegazey guitar and impassioned vocals all start to gel, you get the sense that this isn't going to be a copy cat band, The Exhibition have a sound in their one right.

Second track - 'Things That Hide In The Dark' starts with a guitar line that reminds of 'The Rapture or maybe Factory records circa '81/82. It's tremendously catchy too, whilst retaining a dark sound that's pretty prevalent throughout the whole EP.

'Reaction' is the third track and to these ears sounds a bit like The Cribs. This is no bad thing in itself, but the band then take that as a starting point and dart off in entirely different directions. Again the strong drum sound propels this on to great things.

Final track - 'Bright New Worlds' is probably my pick of the bunch, mainly because it's anthemically catchy, a bit brighter, and perhaps slightly more rounded, but there's not much between the tracks to be honest.

All in all this is a really impressive release for a band who are still in the early days of their career, especially since it's tagged as a demo. The instrumention throughout is uniformly great as are the quality of the vocals. Yes it's possible to play spot the influence here and there, but what the band do and do well is to take those influences and mould them into something different and new. There's no reason why The Exhibition can't build on what they've done here and go onto even better things. Definitely a band to look out for in the future.

If you want to listen yourself, and you should, then you can find the EP on Last.FM here and on Myspace here

Thursday, 14 January 2010

R.I.P Jay Reatard

I had my blog post all lined up for today, but I was having a gander over at Pitchfork and some messageboards and found the very sad news that Jay Reatard is dead at 29.

I only came to Jay Reatard last year, so I can't eulogise or wax lyrical about how much I knew him, or tell you anything about his personal life. Beyond the fact that he was known as a hell raiser I have no idea what he was like. It doesn't matter, what does matter is how great his music is or was, however you want to put it.

Just before we were due to travel down to the End Of The Road festival last year I put together a mix-tape. One of the songs on it was 'Screaming Hand'. The instant it came on I was tapping my foot and singing, me and Kerry just exchanging glances and clearly both thinking "wow this is amazing". Since then I've discovered that most of his music is like that; fast, frenetic, giddy and gloriously bright. He reminded me sometimes of Guided By Voices, they have that same way with a catchy melody and a short simple tune. Both were also massively prolific.

Actually that's the saddest thing for me, apart from how young Jay was; it's that he was so prolific. 'Blood Visions' in 2006, two singles collections spanning the years '06 - 08 and then 'Watch Me Fall' from last year. That he was so prolific whilst retaining musical quality only leads me to believe that there was a lot more to come.

It's always sad when a clearly great talent is cut short before reaching full potential, but he left some amazing music, (and mentioned above great memories with it) which I'll always be grateful for.

R.I.P Jay Reatard, you will be sadly missed.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

I smell winter

Where does the time go? Despite my best intentions, my computer happily informs me that it's been 5 weeks since I last updated this blog. I blame christmas.

Anyway in the spirit of New Year's resolutions (and only about 12 days late on that, hurray!) I'm going to try and post something on here every single day. I can't promise it'll be anything special; maybe just a track I like, but at least it will be something.

From where I'm sitting I can see how cold it looks outside. I know that in other parts of the world it snows all the time, and it must seem odd to some just how much complaining England is doing about snow at the moment, but when it's like this all I want to do is curl up with a cup of tea and listen to something bright and happy. Thank goodness then for the new 'Ruby Suns' song.

I really like this band, I've got both of their previous records (presuming they have done two and I've not missed something), with 2008's 'Sea Lion' just shading it. I'm not necessarily sure how to describe the band, the last record had quite an african instrumental feel to it, but themed with electronica and symphonic pop. This new single, to these ears at least, sounds like Grizzly Bear or Animal Collective, and yet not quite. That's a terrible description isn't it? It's a great song though and everything I want this morning. It's over here on their myspace.

In a different but equally warming way, I've enjoyed the new 'Burning Hearts' single this morning too. It's called 'Night Animal' and it's being released by, the always excellent, Shelflife Records on 26th January. The song itself has a bit of a Saint Etienne feel to it, I think, which is obviously never a bad thing. You'd do well to hear it for yourself though, and you can do so by heading over to Shelflife now.