Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Stuff and then some

Hello, what's up? In lieu of anything more exciting, here's some stuff I've discovered whilst I've been battling the post-Indietracks blues. It's almost a recognisible medical condition these days.

1. The new Thermals single/song is excellent. I saw it posted on yonder Hype Machine yesterday but apparently it's cropped up on other sites in recent weeks too. Anyway it's vintage Thermals and therefore properly awesome. You can find it lurking here.

2. Whilst googling Indietracks, as you do, I came upon this rather interesting little video nugget. For what ever reason the line "You should your tits to The Felt Tips" amuses me greatly.

3. The Rocky Nest have split up. I think the 'Nest probably weren't as well known as they should have been, but I saw them twice and both times they were highly enjoyable. I'm guessing it's slightly too late now, but if you've never heard them you should at least check out their Myspace and see what you might have been missing.

Finally after the sad news of the demise of The Rocky Nest I was thinking of other bands that I've enjoyed that have died or gone missing in action and I remembered (as I often do in these cases) the rather brilliant Tales Of Jenny. They've been quiet for far too long (and for admittedly a damn good reason) and are another band who are far less well known then they deserve too be, so what better reason then to tell you to head over to their still functioning website and listen to some of the songs on there. Both 'Other Boys' and 'Trotsky Of Our Time' are pop songs of geniune excellence.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Indietracks 2010

I suspect by now (if you have any real interest in indiepop anyway) you've already read a bunch of blogs/posts/facebook statuses about Indietracks, so forgive me for adding to the outpourings of high praise, but it's almost a law that you have to write about it if you've been.

I wasn't even going to go, I'd been every other year but this time I just couldn't really afford it but come Friday night when I was just moping around the house I was more or less ordered to turn up. I'm glad I did. The atmosphere there is just so special; it don't know if it's the Derbyshire air, the sight of steamtrains or the fact that it's full of great people and bands but the moment one steps off the train onto the platform the urge to dance, run and grin like a massive loon for an entire weekend takes over. It affects everyone from the smallest child to the gruffest, biggest man. It's a beautiful thing to see, and a testiment to the festival itself.

Anyway I got there just in time for Red Shoe Diaries who, as a Nottingham dweller, I've seen plenty, and who I've not seen recently as I thought I'd seen them enough. Turns out I forgot how great they actually are. They were on top form, and the new songs and old songs were equally greeted with joy by the crowd in general and especially by the hardcore fans down the front. A nice way to start off my Saturday.

I didn't see a lot of bands on the Saturday, or if I did I was a bit too drunk to remember (which seems likely) but I do remember seeing The Smittens. They've played 3 years in a row now, and each time they've been terrific. A band who seem absolutely made for the festival, not just for the music and how happy the crowd always are but because for much of the weekend wherever I looked there was a least one of them watching a band or wandering around with a big grin. It's nice to see.

I caught a bit of White Town in the church, where I heard 'Your Woman' and realised it's 13 years since I bought that single; which caused me a quick existential moment when I realised just how much time that actually is, before David Tattersall came on and I lost my train of thought. Despite the fact that the church was so hot, and he was pretty ill or had been (a story he told at great length and hilarity) he played a great set. I must confess the songs didn't instantly click with me like The Wave Pictures do but his songcraft and guitar playing are clearly high level and he had the crowd in raptures.

Sunday dawned with me waking up on the backseat of a car, and wandering round the campsite until everyone woke up. At some point I wandered into a great open field and dead silence, which was a marvellous moment. The quiet realisation that just 5 minutes away there was a whole festival going on and yet here were acres of lush green brought home again just how special the whole thing is. Then I went back down to the festival site to imbibe some more and maybe catch a band or two, bands like..

MJ Hibbett and The Validators. Remember when I mentioned a few moments ago how some bands are made for the festival, this lot definitely are. Mark and the band always look so comfortable up there. An unprecendented FOURTH year playing the festival and yet their enthusiasm for the whole thing only seems to grow. They played a storming set too, opening with the (at least for me) tearjerker of 'Billy Jones' to the mass audience participating frenzy of 'Easily Impressed' they filled every single moment of that set with joy. From encouraging mass tweeting of the word 'happiness' to getting the crowd to do the indiekid, every moment was memorable. So much so that a friend remarked to me straight after that "Mark Hibbett is the greatest man in the world" or words to that effect. The other stages only seemed to have about 15 people watching the band in them, they were that popular.

It got better though because then I saw The Specific Heats. Last year everyone who saw they're set in the church came away raveing about it. This year quite alot of people came to see them on the strength of that, and they were even better. Last time out they blew up an amp, but they're so thrilling they don't need to. Mat (and the bands) energy on stage, whirling like a dervish acts like a lightning conductor and whips the crowd into a total frenzy. I think everyone who saw them praised them as highly as possible when they finished. Brilliant.

Next I see Standard Fare. Their's is an album that I've listened to more than any other this year I think, and when I saw them a few weeks ago in Nottingham they were the best band I've seen too. Here at Indietracks they were even better. I think sometimes they are so suprised to see so many people watching them, I don't know if that's because they just don't know how good they are but to see them smiling so much through their set made me very happy. What a set it was too, despite the fact that album hasn't been out for too long, a lot of the songs seem to have become Standards (ha!), Philadelphia especially has the crowd pogoing and yelling in equal measure, and Dancing does the same. The new songs sound brilliant, and they do a lovely cover of a One Happy Island song, whilst Brad of said band played the ukulele. There's always one moment of a festival that I look back on as the moment, and for me, jumping about in the rain whilst yelling "I don't wanna have to wait a year!" was that moment. I'm sure that particular lyric sums up people's attitudes about Indietracks too, I wish it was next year already

I was a bit drained after that, but I did enjoy watching Shrag jumping about, and especially the antics of The Loves; dancers and Jimmy Cairney (of the Bobby Mcgees) dressed as Jesus is the way to go for next year too I think. I enjoyed Slow Club too, who drew a decent crowd and really seemed to be enjoying themselves. I love the discrepancy between the lady singers voice and her none more Yorkshire speaking voice, but it works and it works well.

Finally The Pains come on and I get down the front and dance for a bit, before the legs give out and I have to wander away, but turning my head whilst stood at the side of the stage, and seeing people stood on the hill whilst the day slowly fades and 'This Love is Fucking Right' belts out is magical.

I've written loads, and probably far too much, but it's so hard to write succinctly about Indietracks when it's so much that makes it special, the bands, the venue, the fantastic food, the organisers and volunteers who do such a great job and the trains. But, and it's a cliche, I guess what really makes the festival each year is the people. Without people it's just a bunch of bands playing in a field, with people it's a vindication of everything that everyone who puts on gigs (or festivals) or puts out fanzines or runs a record label or posts on a forum believes in. It's a moment where turning around to see someone dancing behind you can lift your heart 'til you're feeling giddy or someone you haven't seen in forever gives you a hug, and suddenly you remember that, yes, this is what Indietracks is all about. Roll on next year.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Hexicon - The Blossom Sighs

I don't know why I haven't blogged about this Hexicon album, or Hexicon in general really, yet. I saw them a little while ago and they were a really good, fun, live band; I hadn't known what to expect from them but I came away really, really, impressed. So yeah it's about I gave them a bit of blog time.

Hexicon are Michael and Paul of Allo Darlin' and Tom (who has played horn with Hayman), plus a rotating drum tag team of Andy and Greg with Giles on bass. It's the sort of line up that you can't help but feel excited about. Add to that the fact that Elizabeth Morris (also of Allo Darlin' fame) turns up on the album to add a little help and you've got a release that I can't wait to hear.

It's called 'The Blossom Sighs' and it's out on Haircut records. It's got lovely cover art too, but the main thing of course is what it sounds like.

First track 'Well Done' kicks the album off in a hazy languid style; a fine vocal backed with touches of horn evoke a taste of summer. It has that easy feel that early Belle and Sebastian songs do. A fine beginning.

Second track 'Annie Oh' leads with a keyboard vamp and vocal with far more of a swing feeling, but that summer vibe is very much present, when the backing vocals join in and the whole thing swells it's a thing of joy.

The next couple of tracks change it up again, 'Something Strange Beneath The Stars' has some of the mystery and loveliness of mid-period Yo La Tengo, as has 'Dawn Comes To Save Us' though with a slightly rockier feel.

'Ireland' glitters and sparkles in equal measure, 'She Plays Games' has the same nostalgic and touching feeling to it that a some of the better Sarah Records bands did. Elsewhere 'Blood In Your Eyes' utilises soft slide guitar and lilting harmonies to make an absolute delghtful floating country sound.

The album heads to it's end in much the same way, crafting gorgeous melodies but retaining the it's soft easy going nature, and summery vibe.

At it's most basic then, this album is sublime dream pop. It's the kind of music you can put on and just float away to. It's lovely on first listen, and consecutive plays just draws the listener further in to their tangled web of lucious horn and harmony. If you want a record to soundtrack your sunbathing in the backyard or to drift you off to sleep this could be perfect for you; don't get me wrong though, this is far from background listening, there's a lot going on and plenty to keep drawing you in long after the first blissful hearing. You should see them live too.

You can listen to the album and buy the album on Bandcamp

You can visit the band HERE, and finally you can learn more about the band's label Haircut right HERE