Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Promise fulfilled

There's something about the band Pocketbooks that always makes me think of summer, it's probably the bright sound that lingers in the music, a lyrical hint of it here and there or maybe there's an association there with Indietracks, it could be a whole host of other things too.

What I do know is that it makes me very happy that Pocketbooks have a new free to download single called 'Promises, Promises', a single which is definitely in keeping with the summer ideal.

It's properly excellent. Building on the sound they had on their album Flight Paths, it sounds more mature. Not in a serious boring sense, but in a way that sees them building on the potential they've always had and creating something even better with it. Typically bittersweet lyrically, there's lovely melodies on it, some great violin and best of all a fab tune. It's great to have something new from them, and it's even better that it's as good as this is. The artwork is ace too. If this is anything to go by the new album is going to be something quite, quite special.

You can download the track for FREE (and you'd be daft not to) -

While your at it you can early order the album from the always excellent Odd Box records right now too. Go on!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Apple Eyes

Blimey it's been awhile again, hasn't it? I've been (in between bouts of doing nothing) playing gigs with the band I'm in and job hunting, oh and looking forward to the festival at the end of this month of course, speaking of which...

Me and my girlfriend were going through the list of bands playing Indietracks the other day to try and find out which ones we'd not heard before that we'd like to watch; she's not a massive indiepop fan so it's a little difficult. That said we were both interested in the description of Apples Eyes, and had a quick listen to some of their stuff and enjoyed it. Highly fortuitous then that a few days ago, said band got in touch with me to see if I wanted to tell you readers about them; and do you know what? I do.

The band began as the brainchild of Claire Hadidjenar and producer Matthew Walker, who together started putting together a whole bunch of instruments with a dash of electronics before topping it off with some vocal harmonies. They soon had interest from various places including BBC6 music's Tom Robinson (great taste that man has). It's not suprising he paid attention, they share music tastes as diverse as Phoenix, Flaming Lips, Cornelius, Bat for Lashes, Deerhoof and Elliott Smith.

The 2 have now gathered together a live band and are setting out on a tour in support of debut single 'Wild Beasts', which just happens to be released digitally this week, on the 14th to be precise. It's an excellent piece of music too. At it's most basic it's a bang on pop song, with a ace chorus. But there's much more to it then that, musically inventive, it doesn't keep still. It's bubbling with ideas, but they all combine to make a song that is as good as the sum of it's parts and then some? It's it electronic, yes but then it's folky too, and then there's that chorus. Whatever it's ace. You can have a listen to if you like :-

Wild Beasts by Apple Eyes

The other side of the release 'Lost Between The Lines' is just as good, which is a highly impressive feat.

As I say the single is out on the 14th as a download only release, so you'll be able to get that via Itunes and such outlets. You can check out stuff on Myspace too. They'll also be playing some gigs too:-

14th July with Pocketbooks and Wolventrix at The Wilmington Arms, London
16th July with Allo, Darlin' amongst others at The Haymakers in Cambridge.
31st July - INDIETRACKS - Indoor stage 13:45. See you there!

They'll also playing with some bands at Indietracks too in various capacities, but you'll have to find those out for yourself...

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Indietracks Compilation 2011

I tend to mention Indietracks quite a lot on this blog, but that's because it's a truly terrific thing; a festival that does it's own thing, promotes lesser known bands, supports the midland railway charity and puts smiles on peoples faces. Whats not to love?

If I wrote a book blog I'd spend most of it yelling about the 'Great Gatsby' or if I wrote a film blog it'd be full of my enjoyment of the works of Brian De Palma.

Anyway to get back to to that opening paragraph it's the line about supporting the Midland railway that's pertinent to this blog post as you'll find out shortly; you see every year Indietracks puts off a compilation of the band's that are going to be playing; a taster, a veritable smorgasbord of indiepop if you will. This year is no different in that respect. The album is download only, and it's a pay what you want affair with all proceeds going to the Midland Railway charity; which means of course that you can just give what you can afford, whilst helping the site which puts on the festival in the process. It's brilliant.

The compilation itself, as you might expect, is excellent. It's clearly been put together with a lot of love, it's sequenced really well. Like the best mixtape, the one that got worn out from being played so much. The kind of thing that's so good you expect to hear it from every bedroom window and every passing car, and can't believe that other people aren't aware of it. There's so much good stuff here (40 tracks worth), lots of it new to me, that it would be a futile excercise to try and write about every track but from the perfect indiepop of The Procters through the jangle of The Whatevers and giddy joy of Papa Topo it's all ace.

It's being released by Make Do And Mend Records and you can find, listen and download it from Bandcamp

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Cults - Cults

You may have heard of Cults, they're Ep which was on Bandcamp generated a fair bit of buzz; especially the song 'Go Outside' which was praised pretty damn highly. If you have heard the band then, you probably know what to expect from their debut album. If you haven't heard them (or heard of them) then think 60's inspired indie pop with ever so slight sinister undertones and you're pretty much there.

It's a half hour long triumph of an album, full of hooks and joy, and whilst it feels all joyous and happy and lovestruck, the reverb applied makes things feel just a little uneasy (coupled with spoken excerts from cult leader). Then there's the bitterness as well, 'Never Heal Myself' is a case in point with it's lyric "I can never heal myself, so fuck you'.

It's an album of the frustations then, but it never allows that to get in the way of it's Spectoresque musical tendancies or it's melodic joys. Sure there are moments when the album misses a little, and it could have done with a closer with a bit more oomph as 'Rave On' as great as it is, doesn't quite hit the mark. Still there are more than enough excellent songs here - 'Bumper', 'Abducted', 'Never Heal Myself', 'Go Outside' - to make this an album definitely worth getting or making sure you hear at any rate.

Cults have made a great summertime pop album here, taking it's cue from 50's/60's pop and surf and bringing it bang up to date and pointing towards an excellent future.

Here's the video for abducted :-

and here's the album on Spotify

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Indietracks announcement 3

So Indietracks has announced the next bunch of bands and, as suspected already, it really is shaping up to be a cracker. I know this isn't much of an inspired blog post considering I'm more or less just copying and pasting from the indietracks blog, but I think the bands speak for themselves; just look at them:-

Help Stamp Out Loneliness are being raved about across the net, Milky Wimpshake are always great value. Elsewhere there's local boys (the mighty) Horowitz and it's fantastic to see that they'll be back at the festival again. Then there's Haiku Salut, who although they contain former members of the Dierdres are really very different to that band, all beautiful instrumentation and swoonsomeness. It's varied further by the brilliantly named and riotiously entertaining Anguish Sandwich.

So, yeah, it's a varied and brilliant line up this year as you can see from the below plagiarism. So what are you waiting for you've only got another 3 weeks to get those early bird tickets. Snap to it! Announcement follows...

"Help Stamp Out Loneliness, whose Krautrock-inspired poptastic debut record is a clear contender for the album of the year.

Milky Wimpshake, Newcastle’s punk pop legends, with three ace albums and numerous fantastic singles under their belts.

Just Handshakes (We’re British), described by Rough Trade as “officially one of the best UK indie pop bands around”, and with a recent single on the legendary Elefant Records.

Band A Part, a charming Spanish indiepop duo, again continuing our festival’s Elefant Records connection.

Amor De Dias, amazing collaboration between The Clientele frontman Alasdair Maclean and Pipas’ Lupe Nunez-Fernandez.

They’re joined by bundles of other fantastic bands. The following have also been added to the main stages:

Guatafan (Spain), A Fine Day For Sailing, Sloppy Joe (Japan), The History of Apple Pie, Horowitz , Frankie Machine, Haiku Salut, Victoria & Jacob, World of Fox, Ace Bushy Striptease, Heroes of the Mexican Independence Movement, Moustache of Insanity, Anguish Sandwich, The Proctors.

And the following will be playing acoustically on the trains:

The Whatevers, Peru, Oxo Foxo, Graeme Elston (Love Parade/Pure/Slipside), Mat Patalano (The Specific Heats)(US), Remi Parson (Electrophonvintage/The Sunny Street).

Headliners already announced for this year’s Indietracks include Edwyn Collins, The Hidden Cameras, Jeffrey Lewis, Suburban Kids With Biblical Names, Jonny, Ringo Deathstarr and Math and Physics Club"

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

That's No Moon

I mentioned a couple of post back posts back that I was looking forward to seeing Ringo Deathstarr at Indietracks, but that was after only hearing a few songs and not the new album. Now that I've heard 'Colour Trip' (over and over) I can safely say that I'm seriously excited.

Like yesterdays blogstars The Midgetmen, Ringo Deathstarr also hail from Austin, Texas, and are also pretty loud. However where the former are primarily punk, Ringo Deathstarr are for the most part shoegaze. Some would say derivatively so (I've seen JAMC mentioned lots of times in reference to the band), and whilst it's fair to say that you can play a fair amount of spot the influence listening to the album it would be unfair to say that that's all there is to the band.

For example whilst opener 'Imagine Hearts' is straight forward shoegaze, the following track 'Do It Ever Time' comes off like Calvin Johnson fronting Yo La Tengo, and contains the couplet "we're falling apart again, she took my cardigan". It's brilliant.

That vibe sort of flows into the next track 'So High' whose giddy pop just makes me want to dance. It's the sort of song that could have been the other A-side to 'C Is The Heavenly Option'.

Other highlights include 'Kaleidoscope' ,which is a utterly beautiful fuzzy pop gem. The sort of song that if it was corporeal you'd hug it to your chest and never let go; 'Tambourine Girl' whose chainsaw guitar kicks into the most joyous melody, and the sweet and tender closer 'Other Things'. It's all great though.

So yeah, even in the course of that review you can see how easy it is to compare the band to those that have gone before (but surely it's that way for most bands) and yes you could play spot the influence or be all snotty and dismiss this as derivative but that would be missing the point; that Ringo Deathstarr have produced a record that is a joyful, heartlifting, humalong, jumpalong, gem of a POP record. More of this sort of thing please!

You can hear the album on Spotify now

Listen to some stuff on Last FM

Oh and maybe see them live at Indietracks

Monday, 18 April 2011

The Midgetmen - Loud Enough

There's a number of things I love about writing a blog, the chance to be (albeit mildly) creative, and the joy of realising that there are genuinely people reading this, are two of the main ones. Another one is getting to hear music from bands, I may not have done otherwise. A case in point is The Midgetmen.

Until I recieved an email from the band asking if I'd be interested in reviewing their new album, I must confess I'd never heard of the band; and they're just about to celebrate their 9th anniversary. I do ;however; suspect I'm not alone in this, a suspicion backed up by the fact that a flyer which comes with the new record, Loud Enough, confirms. It reads "You've possibly and likely ignored our first three albums. It happens". They're right I have and it does, but I can tell you honestly that I wish I hadn't, because whilst Loud Enough is a truly accurate album title there's much more to this band then just noise.

I could write a bio of the band, but it would seem a little silly since I've admitted knowing fuck all about them, so I'll leave you to read the band doing that themselves on their website.

It opens with 'Beer's Gone'. A high energy opener, which probably proclaims that "when the beer's gone, we're gone". A sentiment I can happily agree with. This is followed by "Unforgettable" whose sing song lyrical melody is defiantly catchy in direct contrast to the title of the track. It's gloriously sloppy punk.

Third track 'King Kong' is the first here to demonstrate that the band are more than just another throwaway punk band here or indeed just "loud enough". Riding a punishing guitar line, it mainlines the same kind of sonic brilliance that the Pixies and more recently Titus Andronicus have peddled.

It contains in much the same excellent vein, 'Glue Factory' is a taut and wiry kick to the face, a less drunken, less Irish Dropkick Murphys. 'Race To The Bottom' is frenetic, 'Honus' will have you attempting to yelp along long before you know the words, 'Sword Fight' will take that even further. Try not to yell "SWORD FIGHT" whilst listening to it.

It doesn't stop there, 'Advice' is an earworm; 'Wheeling Downs' is touching and noisy, 'Sea Shanty' hits the kind of heights that the Replacements did at times, and 'Fly High Fly Low' pounds and shudders.

It comes to an end with 'The Dream' which is as an epic closer as you could ask for.

As I said at the beginning, it's a little sad to think that I've missed out on The Midgetmen until now, but at least I've finally heard them. Yes this record's title is accurate but beyond that the record is also big, fun, and very very good.

You can hear 'Kong' from the album on the band's site right now. You can buy it too and so you should.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Rip it up

Time flies, dunnit? Doesn't seem to long since I was at Indietracks; less time still since the first batch of bands were announced for this years, and now all of a sudden we have the second batch of announcements, and reet good ones they are too; let's have a look shall, we have (deep breath):-

Edwyn Collins, Jonny, Suburban Kids with Biblical Names (SKWBN), Butcher Boy, Withered Hand, Pocketbooks, Ringo Deathstarr, Chris T-T, A Little Orchestra, Dignan Porch, The Bumblebees, Papa Toco.

That's a nicely varied and this looks to be shaping to be a cracker. Edwyn played a fantastic set at End of the road last year, mixing up old Orange Juice stuff with new stuff, and the obligatory 'Girl Like You' he went down a storm and garnered excellent reviews. He'll be in his element at Indietracks and I would expect a rapturous crowd.

Jonny are Norman Blake, of former Indietracks headliners Teenage Fanclub, and Euros Childs (Gorky's Zygotic Mynci). They make music as beautiful and heart warming as you might expect given their track records. SKWBN's are a band who will get people up and dancing, Swedish indiepop at it's best and one of Labrador Records' finest bands, which is a pretty big deal when you consider their roster.

Elsewhere Pocketbooks return to Indietracks is bound to please a lot of people, their glorious take on indiepop always goes down well. Withered Hand will probably make you cry, but in a really good way.

Of the ones I've not heard or seen before, I'm really keen to see Ringo Deathstarr. I like their name, they are coming a long way and most importantly they promise to be excellent, fuzzy, melodic, shoegaze. What's not to like - check out 'So High' below - short sweet and excellent. A perfect pop tune in other words

As I've said several times now Indietracks is already looking like having one of the best line-ups it's ever had, and considering it's had some fantastic line ups you'd be mad to miss this one.

The festival takes place the last weekend of July and you can find out everything you need to know at their website. Tickets are available at an early bird price until May 7th.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011


Just a short post today.

WIAIYWA are currently offering Help Stamp Out Loneliness' (HSOL) track 'Record Shop' as a free download of the month, and boy is it a good one.

I've mentioned HSOL recently when I talked about the first 3 tracks from their forthcoming album being up on Bandcamp. I pegged 'Record Shop' as a favourite then and it remains so. A beautiful and catchy paean to stalking and there is definitely a lack of songs on that subject. It hits with a Fight clubesque (musical) hook to the ear and continues unrelentingly until the track finishes and you want to stick it back on again. It has that same instant classic feel that 'The Start Of Something' by Voxtrot had or Standard Fare's 'Philadelphia. By this time you should have already downloaded the track, it's free for goodness sake, but if not go back to the top and click the link.

Also as I mentioned above HSOL had the first 3 tracks of their album available on Bandcamp. Since I last checked, their are now 3 more. All of which are equally excellent. If this continues there is little doubt that 1) we have an album of the year on our hands, and 2) HSOL have the potential to be big. They've already had a mention in the Guardian Don't be suprised if you see them cropping up all over the place fairly soon.

You can pre-order the record from WIAIWYA as well, I suggest you do.

Friday, 1 April 2011

March playlist

Hello you lot,

Apologies for not updating the blog yesterday; sometimes it almost seems like I have too much time to do everything in and just don't get around to it. That may sound ridiculous, but if you've ever spent a weekend saying to yourself, "I'll do the washing up/painting/greco-roman wrestling practice in a bit, I've got all weekend", only to find that the weekend is suddenly gone and you've not done anything then you'll know what I mean.

Anyway, I do have a few things to review, but as I've not had much more than a cursory listen I'd rather not review them yet. Seems a little unfair to bands who put in time and effort on a release, only to have some cloth-eared blogger listen give it a perfunctory first listen and then cast it aside.

Instead then I've gone to the old fall-back staple and made another Spotify playlist, this time for the best (in my opinion) new stuff released in March. As always apologies if you don't have Spotify. Also the tracks aren't arranged in any real order so it might not flow to well, and of course this doesn't take into account albums released this month that aren't on Spotify. There's a lot of those, sadly.

The link is below anyway, it's not a very long playlist I'm afraid, but I hope you enjoy it and apologies for the lax post. Better things to come next week.

Best of March 2011

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Bourgeois Heroes - Olé/Hola

February Records are a label I've neglected of late; through no fault of their own I hasten to add, they've been consistently putting out great stuff. The latest in a long line of that great stuff is a new 7" single release by Bourgeois Heroes entitled "Ole/Hola"

The band comprises Eloise and Jason who formed the band on a road trip to Memphis, buying instruments when they reached Tennessee. They've released a few EPs up to this point, and currently pass their musical ideas between Austin and Northampton (the American one), this long distance way of working doesn't seem to have any detrimental effect on their music, it's great. Described as "60's inspired jangle pop" this turns out to be very true.

On one side of the single we have the title track 'Olé/Hola' which sounds classic from the off. It does have that 60's sound about it, definitely, but you could class it with more modern bands of the Elephant 6 camp too. I get Apples In Stereo or The Essex Green. It's pastoral/baroque pop and it's an excellent example of how that should sound. It's eminently hummable too, be warned.

The other side is 'When You're Dancing' which if anything is even better. I don't know why but I think the melody is slightly reminiscent of a Roy Orbison song. Again it could easily fit on an Essex Green album or Ladybug Transistor album or any band of that ilk, or going back a bunch of classic 60's records; but make no mistake Bourgeois Heroes have a sound all of their own.

This is a single that does everything you want a single to do. Two short sharp songs that are both excellent, and that as soon as they finish you want to put them right back on again. A vinyl single is made to be touched and loved, and played and played and played, and this one will be.

There's a nice video for Olé/Hola too, it looks a little bit like this:-

You can get the single from February records and I suggest you do so at once.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Cats For Peru - We had this problem last winter

Cats for Peru (much like last time's blog-stars Japanese Sleepers) are a band whose new EP 'We had this problem last winter' has just been released by Sheffield's Thee SPC. I must confess to not knowing too much about the band, I've seen their name in gig listings a couple of times and I know they have a reputation for being strong live. Beyond that I really am at a loss, so I'm going to do a terrible thing and point you in the direction of an old Sandman magazine article for a bit of background, whilst I get on to the meat of reviewing the actual record.

It opens with 'Open House' which buzzes and fizzes before breaking into a punchy chorus and a gleeful shout. It's catchy; it's very very catchy. It's also (mild muso alert) 'sonically interesting'. Typing that makes me wince, but it's the truth. There's a lot going on here musically, and it sounds great.

'Duck In The Oven' is next. It feels almost tribal when it begins, but it sweeps and soars and twinkles, rising majestically. There's magic all over this, hints of winsome Americana, but mingled with a much more modern sound.

Third track 'Sleeping On Tightropes' begins by sounding quite a bit like Radiohead (not a bad thing or an easy feat in many ways) but it goes above mere pastiche in the middle, rising and elevating itself to a plateau of excellence.

The EP rounds off with 'Fear Of Better Things' is a slowy which rides along on some beautiful vocal harmonies to create the kind of anthemic ballad that someone like Chris Martin or Guy Garvey would die for, it's a fine closer to the whole thing.

I don't know why I've ignored Cats For Peru for so long, it's nothing short of lunacy. This EP proves that. It's almost a record of two halves, the first two being poppy and more upbeat, the latter being more introspective and slightly slower. Each showcases the bands strengths wonderfully, and put together make something altogether brilliant. In a just world they'd be massive; given a bit of time and luck and they may well be anyway. http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif

The EP was released yesterday so do yourself a favour and get over to the main page of Thee SPC website and give it a listen, and then buy it.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Japanese Sleepers - Little Victories

Japanese Sleepers are a band who divide their members between Sheffield and Nottingham. They've been touring on and off for a good while now, and have quietly built up a following around the country; that Thee SPC have seen fit to issue their debut EP is a testament to the effort they've clearly put in.

This effort shows all over this EP too, it sits in it's own little niche; hard to categorise but easy to listen to and enjoy.

The opening track 'Whistler's Breath' is all shimmering synths and ethereal vocal. It works beautiful, there's the slightest feeling of 'Trembling Blue Stars' about the track, perhaps down to a feeling of melancholic treading in the songs wake.

Next track 'Celebrate' is a far more upbeat affair, propelled on by synths, and a machine gun, staccato beat drum. The pulse raised further by a joyous bit which encourages shouting along.

'These Are Our End Times' slows the pace again, it's probably the prettiest piece on here, with it's violin and glock carrying the song along. It builds beautiful too, it's probably the most accomplished track on the EP. There is (at least for this reviewer) elements of post rock about it. That's in a no way a damning comment, you can't make this kind of music without a large amount of skill.
There then follows a short interlude (a coda if you will) before final track 'Song For A Satellite Town' kicks in. Though I said the previous track was the most accomplished (and it is) this is probably the highlight. The nostalgic/melanchic tinge to the music, beautifully backs and matches the lyrics, whilst the call and response of the vocal lends the song a rare power.

For a debut this really is an impressive EP, musically strong, it's merging of synths and folk, may be a little unusual bit it works tremendously well. If life is a string of battles then this EP represents more than a little victory for Japanese Sleepers. It's one to return to again and again.

Little Victories is released on Thee SPC on 28th March. You can listen to the record and purchase it here

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Indietracks 2011

I recognise that I've been a bit lax on the blogging front of late, (life, band practice and government red tape gets in the way) but if there's anything guaranteed to get the fingers jumping in frenzied arcs of excitement it's an Indietracks announcement.

Indietracks for those readers who are unaware of it's magnificence (and I doubt there's too many of you)is an indiepop festival set in the beautiful surrounds of the Derbyshire countryside. It's an unbelievably joyous festival, well run, friendly, fun, with trains and over far too soon; it would be considered lightning in a bottle if not for the fact that it continues to be so amazing year on year, and in it's fifth year it shows no signs of stopping. It's line ups are always a fine blend of the leading lights and lesser known (but just as good) bands of the indiepop scene (as evidenced here) and this year it's no different.

First headliner 'The Hidden Cameras' are as joyous a band as you could hope for. They play irrepressibly bouncy and fun music, and live they do it in almost theatrically. They will most likely create a frenzy of pinwheeling arms, maelstroming legs and motorway length grins. In short they'll be an utterly perfect fit, not just in terms of the music demands of the festival, but also in keeping with the feel of the thing, and if you've never been to Indietracks that's something you will notice almost immediately when you do, the atmosphere (camaderie etc) is as important as any of the bands themselves.

Second headliner Jeffrey Lewis may seem like less of a fit due to his background in the anti-folk movement, but in actual fact he's a superb choice and will also fit perfectly. Firstly because although there is a folk element to the music there's also a large amount of jangly, singalong pop in there too. Something that 'Broken Broken Broken Heart' from his most recent album will happily attest too, and there's a whole load more besides that. Aside from the music however it's also Jeff's aesthetic that fits indietracks, comic book creator (he turns them into 'movies', see below) made a record of Crass covers, and has a DIY ethic that matches Indietracks own. He's great live too.

Aside from those two, other acts announced are equally promising from the full steam ahead pop of 'Math and Physics Club' through shoutyness of 'The Wendy Darlings' by way of the delicate ire and sparkly jangle of 'The Sweet Nothings'

Indietracks, as I've stated countless times in the past has an atmosphere about that no other festival can replicate. In fact in a festival market that is becoming increasingly clogged up by chancers, it's nice to see one festival that remains true to it's roots and continues to book bands that fit in with what it and it's core audience wants rather than reaching out with corporate tendrils. This years lineup is a testament to that, and frankly you'd be a fool to miss this.

Earlybird tickets are on sale now, go and snap one up, it'll be the best purchase you make this year.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Let's Whisper - The Shortest Days

Let's Whisper are Dana and Colin who also play with The Smittens. You may have heard of them. This is a whole other project though, not a side project and something they've been doing together since 2003. You might have even been lucky enough to catch them at Indietracks in a small train carriage. They have a their first record coming out in April - it's called The Shortest Days

This record finds the two of them trading songs, and vocals, ideas and words. It works tremendously well too( more of that in a moment). It's being released by Weepop, one of the few records labels that you can place utter trust in, in the knowledge that even if you buy something from them without ever hearing it it will be brilliant; oh and lovingly packaged. It's not just the band's first album, this is Weepop's first ever full-length album release too, and it's a cracker.

The album opens with 'California Girls', a song that may be familiar to some of you. It's immediately accessible. Jangly, with fine harmonies on the chorus and a nod to the Beach Boys for extra points. Fine opener.

'All Happy Endings' follows that - Colin sings and it's slightly faster. Again there's lovely harmonies but I won't need to keep telling you that, it's something that's there on everything. There's a definite dreamy element to it too, especially on the bit that quotes Willow by the field mice. It's instantly hummable and happy; the lyrics "Feel so happy I should be dancing" emphasising that.

Evy and Sarah drifts by with a "do, do, do" refrain, wrapped in melancholy. Whilst Heart On My Mirror carries the slight feel of melancholia through accompanied by a gorgeous guitar line.

It continues in this vein, 'Jackpot' is soft and tender, 'Meet Me On The Dancefloor' sounds like a future crowd pleaser. '2 hours' is beautiful, 'Let's Pretend' is endearingly touching.

Later there's 'Shortest Days' which sounds (to me at least) like The Sundays; certainly in the guitar lines. A splendid instrumental 'when the snow falls' and, of course, 'Let's Whisper' which is just fantastic.

This is such a pleasurable album, it really is. Dana and Colin manage to combine to create something lovely. Dana (it says here) is responsible for the tender, raw songs and Colin for the more upbeat ones, but they work together in such a fantastic way. It's varied enough to keep you listening over and over. It's melancholic, but in an endearing and optimistic way, it's upbeat but with a just a pinch of sadness. The best thing of all though is that it feels right instantly. It sounds like a record you've always owned and loved. Instantly familiar, touching and warming; and that really is a splendid thing.

You can pre-order the record from Weepop here . You really should, it's ace and their packaging and love is always evident in the physical release. Plus if you order one of the first 50 you can get an exclusive poster too.

You can also stream a couple of tracks from the album too (or right click and save as to download):-

California Girls

Shortest Days

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Fishboy - Classic Creeps

The new (well forthcoming) album by Fishboy, Classic Creeps, is awesome. It's as simple as that.

It's a concept album in the fact that there are a bunch of songs each pertaining to a different character (whose name begins with A), and that over the course of the album the disapparate strands of each characters stories are interwoven to produce an over arching narrative. It's an interesting idea. I can't think of too many similar ideas, I suppose Saint Etienne's 'Tales From Turnpike House' had some similar conceits, but that was more about invidual tales from people living in the same complex, whereas this ties all the stories together.

If that was the extent of the album though, simply it's cleverness then it would be nothing more than a slight distraction, something to mention to a friend in an "oh that's interesting" way and then forget about. The thing however is that it's also a fantastic pop/powerpop/indie pop record. It bounces, it jangles. It has french horn smeared all over and yet with a liberal touch. 'Alberto Simmons' alone is one of the best pop songs I've heard in years, but the whole record is crammed to the vinyl grooves with singalong, smile along, tunes.

The record is being released by Happy Happy Birthday to me records, who are doing some pretty interesting packages for this.

If that wasn't enough (and I should think that the offer of 9 seperate badges, a poster and a vinyl what satisfy even the biggest music and memorabilia and nice things glutton) there's a whole comic, included in the record too I think, telling the story of the record. You can find that on the Classic Creeps website

Oh and of course the important bit, you can stream the record on bandcamp.

Fishboy really should be applauded for the time and efford they've put in, to produce something which is both and intelligent and well though out piece of work which is also a brilliant and downright enjoyable album.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

No birds just bees

Slow to the party on this perhaps, but I just wanted to post quickly about the new(or newish at least) songs by Help Stamp Out Loneliness up on Bandcamp; a website which is quickly becoming a must-go to.

I liked the Language Of Flowers (the band some of HSOL) were in before, and I liked the little I'd heard from them before, but the 3 songs presented on Bandcamp from the upcoming album are all kinds of excellence. I could easily wax lyrical about all of them, but I think I'd pick track 3 'Record Shop' as a personal favourite.

It's all good though, harmonies, jangling and quite a large element of motorik thrown in for good measure. I don't really need to say more than that, except that if the whole album is as good as the first 3 songs presented there, then we're in for something special indeed. Oh and loving that artwork. See back at the top.

Oh yeah, this is the band camp link

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Sensation In The Dark


I've been listening to the new Gruff Rhys album this morning; it's very good. A lot closer to his previous effort 'Candylion' then to the Super Furry Animals. Or at least the more proggy, psychedelic SFA offerings. It keeps that same melodic, laid back groove as Candylion did and it's all the better for it.

What moved me to make this post though is the excellent single off of the record, 'Sensations In The Dark' It's so good, check out those horns! It's got to be one of the best singles I've heard so far this year. Loving it. You can see the video below.

Sorry about the shortness of the post, I'll try and post again later.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

A little plea

In lieu of a post about a band today, I'd like to alert you to a worthy cause.

Phil Wilson, formerly of The June Brides and maker of fine solo records - you should go here is trying to raise a bit of cash to take him and his band to America.

It's always sad to see someone having to sell some great records, and it's somehow even sadder when it's to take a band to America when by rights they should be having it paid by some major label. Phil has given the world some awesome music, so it'd be nice to give something back. Just have a look at his ebay list if nothing else, there's some really nice stuff on there.


Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Let England Shake.

The new PJ Harvey album, 'Let England Shake', is streaming at the moment on NPR (who have had some great first listen albums recently). It's an angry, politicised album aimed at England but with one doomy eye gazing at the rest of the world too. It's all PJ but there's hints of Joanna Newsome here and Kate Bush there. Though to be fair I might just be causally relating Bush and Harvey there because of PJ's 'England' and Kate's 'Oh England My Lionheart', but there's a definite atmospheric feel about this record that recalls some of Kate Bush's finer work.

The music itself sounds as good as anything I've heard from Polly Harvey in ages, the brass works really well, there's a couple of samples dotted about, the whole thing hangs together extremely well. It's full of autoharp and it's definitely pervaded (as said) by an atmosphere, a sense of old Englishness which fits the theme of the record well.

I'm loathe to say more about it until I've listened to it properly, but a preliminary listen makes me think this is going to be one of those records that gets raved about in the press. It does sound excellent on a first run through. We shall see.

You can listen to the record streaming now on NPR. Also Harvey is doing a video for every track on the album. So far there's two

The Words That Maketh Murder

The Last Living Rose

Monday, 7 February 2011

Best of the month.

Ok I've just made a new spotify playlist I thought I'd share with you lot, it's only short (8 songs) but it's just some of the tracks I've enjoyed from (what I would consider) the best records of the last month, up to and including today as represented by the Cut Copy song. Like I say it's not long but I think 8 really good records in a month is actually pretty good going and they're varied too, from the garage rock of The Parting Gifts through to the dreampop of Minks. There's no rhyme or reason to the running order I've just whacked things on there. The link is below.

Playlist best of Jan - Feb '11

Apologies if you don't have spotify I tried to find links to all these songs elsewhere online but couldn't but if you want to try and at least listen to some of them I've put the tracklisting below.

1. Understand It All - Cloud Nothings
2. Pharoahs and Pyramids - Cut Copy
3. Rabbit Will Run - Iron & Wine
4. Sleepwalking After Midnight - Wooden Wand
5. January Hymn - The Decemberists
6. Cemetary Rain - Minks
7. You Girls Smoke Cigarettes? - No Joy
8. Keep Walking - The Parting Gifts

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Sucky Tart

I suspect most of the readers of this blog are familiar with the work of the mighty Hefner, and if not you really should be, but maybe so much with the work of Jack Hayter, Hefner's multi instrumentalist. I wasn't I must admit. Though I was aware that he was in a band called Dollboy I hadn't realised he'd released anything solo (I'm a bit slow), which in a roundabout way leads me to tell you about 'Sucky Tart' the new EP.

At it's heart it's folk music, first track 'I stole the cutty sark' unsuprisingly is as close to sea shanty as you're going to get without running around with an eye patch and a bottle of rum. Hayter's voice might take a little getting used to (I never thought he could sing and maybe he can't, but here he sounds like a possessed beaten down old pirate captain and it works), but once he (and the song) get going it's a very enjoyable slab of maritimey goodness. It clearly doesn't take itself too seriously and it's all the better for it. It's catchy too.

Of the other tracks 'Dolls House' is slightly rendolent of the Pogues, slightly keeling but not quite crashing and falling apart, whilst 'A Simple Song' is woozy in the best possible way.

Last track 'Jacquie I won't mind' rounds the whole thing off nicely, it's lovely. It has a whimsical, sad and touching feel to it that once again reminds me of the more introspective moments of The Pogues, but perhaps Tom Waits too (around Rain Dogs).

What we have here really is an excellent piece of work. Because of the qualities of Jack Hayter's voice this collection has a real downtrodden, world weary feel to it; it washes over in the most melancholic way, and yet does it without ever feeling to sad. Heart and melody. What more do you want?

You can listen to the entire thing on Bandcamp
or you can download it for quite ridiculous price of £1.79. Alternatively buy the CD for £3.99. Or do both.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Iron and Wine - Kiss Each Other Clean.

Sam Beam, the big bearded troubadour that is Iron and Wine has come a long way since 'The Creek Drank The Candle', that lo-fi, hushed whispered sound had evolved into something far more produced by the time 2007's excellent 'The Shepherd's Dog' reared it's shaggy head. 'Kiss Each Other Clean' the fourth studio proper from Iron and Wine represents another sonic leap forwards.

Lets get something straight from the off though, you might have heard doomy mentions of horns and funk (more of this later), but lets say that musical evolution is a good thing, it certainly is here, and "more produced" doesn't necessarily equate to not as good or a loss of musical intregity. Again sometimes it can but not here. This sounds like the record that Beam has been deliberately working his way towards, not just on record but in a live setting too, becoming more band orientated as time has gone on (though he is still better live on his own)

Make no mistake this is still Sam Beam, the sometimes impenetrable lyrics are still present, a tender evocative way with melody and that voice are present too , but the singing is better and the melodies far stronger. A case in point being opening track 'Walking Far From Home', which juxtaposes beautiful and distressing lyrical imagery whilst being backed by soothing vocal melody, it's a strong message of intent, but you'd be forgiven on first hearing this to imagine that beyond the production values not much has changed. You'd be wrong. There's so much going on underneath it's hard to take it in on first listen.

Second track 'Me and Lazarus' makes that clear, it is, if I may be admitted to use such a term' unrepentantly funky. Some of the vocal melody sounds like 'Islands In The Stream', there's all kinds of strange noises chittering away in the background too, and a sax, but it works. That's the thing, it WORKS and it works well. It's not just here either (there's synth everywhere!) 'Rabbit Will Run' the standout is jazzy. It's full of thumb piano, weird runs, mysterious burblings. It's inventive, it's exciting. Elsewhere 'Tree By The River' is pure joy with a smidgen of Paul Simon. There's 'Monkeys Up Town' with it's strange laid back groove or the straightforward beauty of 'Godless Brother In Love'.

It's a daring, daring record and there really is so much going on underneath that it's hard to get a handle on it. 4 listens in and I'm just hearing how it all works, it's symphonically wonderful, a real real achievement. A shame then that it's slightly let down by 'Big Burned Hand' following the song it does it's a terribly choice. A big sax cuts it and it sounds like a cheesy offcut from an even cheesier porn movie and is such a sore thumb that for a brief period after the song starts it threatens to derail the record. It doesn't though, the song settles down a bit and everything continues as before, and album closer 'Your Fake Name Is Good Enough for Me' shows that sax can work enormously well with the music Iron and Wine is doing right here.

So it's not perfect but it's close enough. The bottom line here is that Sam Beam has evolved and changed, he's not been afraid to bring in new ideas, production values and instruments. It could have been awful, that instead it is a sonic marvel whilst retaining all the quality, melody, beauty and brilliance that Iron and Wine have always had is some kind of genius.

Oh and PS, the lovely folks over at Team Coco are streaming the whole album at the moment.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

White Wishes - Today E.P

Shelflife are a record company I admire greatly (as you'll know if you have read this blog on previous occasions), I like the bands they have and I like the fact that quite often they give you something free to download and listen to at your leisure. At the moment you can download the Today E.P by a band called White Wishes.

White Wishes is mostly the work of one man who currently resides in Russia under the name Nikita Pavlov, a couple of people helped him flesh the sound out but ostensibly it's just him. Unsuprisingly perhaps given the location of the recordings, and the cover art (dead trees against a snowy white background) this is a wintry set of recordings.

Wintry though in a warm log fire and glass of wine sense rather then freezing cold hands and dying in a freezing lake kind of winter. In a way this EP shares a fair bit with yesterdays blog stars Minks. There's a similar sort of shoegaze bent to this, the same sort of glacial beauty. Here though it's less buried, and each track glistens much like the snow of the cover. 'Not Today' the 2nd track on this is probably the most straight forward, in the opening sounds there are hints of My Raining Stars, but the vocal is definitely reminiscent of some of the janglier bands of the 1980's. It's good stuff, very good stuff. 'Drops' the 3rd track is sonically much more interesting, hushed vocals and stabbing instruments against a sparse drum beat mean that it's this track that the most rendolent of the winter vibe. The final track is a pretty and touching acoustic piece, a nice way to close off.

White Wishes has produced here 4 fine pieces of music, which work together really well, but standalone just as easily. There's never any excess not to download free music, and there's even less when it's as lovely as this is. Go to the link below and do your duty, oh and while you're there why not shop the website too.

White Wishes - Today E.P

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Minks - By The Hedge

Minks record label describes them as "Like if Robert Smith gave birth to a baby, and the baby was actually a cassette of Cure demos that had a lot more staying power than actual Cure demos", elsewhere I've seen them describes as "gothic pop"; their album has songs called Funeral Song and Cemetary Rain on it. You know what to expect now, right?

Except perhaps not, because if Minks share anything with the Cure it's the 6 string jangle that permeates the album, certainly there's nothing as dark and gloomy as comparisons to the Cure might draw (and yes I know the Cure didn't just do gothy) and the vocal is not really Robert Smith either. Yeah there is darkness here, but it flits in the corners, kept at bay by the warmth of the music. To draw a poorly defined metaphor, the music is akin to the weak light after a rain shower, rather then the promise of rain itself. Beyond that if comparisons can be drawn to bands of the past it's more likely to be New Order or My Bloody Valentine. There are echoes of Shields sonic cathedral here (but more a sonic cottage perhaps), elements of shoegaze and shimmer give the songs a rare beauty.

Yet there's more than that, the band have been called indiepop too, and yeah you can draw a line between Minks and their label mates Wild Nothing, but in the fuzz and brittle jangle there's the sound of The Pains At Being Pure at Heart too; cf 'Cemetary Rain'. You might want to mention The Clientele when drawing comparisons too. For me though, the sound they make is akin to Sarah records indiepop, in the jangle and the spaces between songs you can hear The Fieldmice or Another Sunny Day, not in terms of lyrics, but in terms of FEEL, the best Sarah records were evocative, rendolent of a moment, a thought, a soft hand on a cold evening. Minks have that, it's one of the things that makes them special.

By now perhaps, you get the sense that Minks are hard to pin down, that or they're just an amalgamation of influences and nothing more; not true. They take these elements and twist them, knowing when to sound like one thing, when another, and yet create something new from the bare bones. Perhaps it's by design, perhaps it's luck, but by creating a record that sounds like it could have been made 20 years ago and that also fits in with the music scene right now, Minks have managed to make an album that at once sounds timeless. It's an impressive thing to pull off with a debut record.

It's impossible really to convey the record through words (as it is with almost any piece of music) so I'd encourage you to listen to the record. It's on spotify if you have the capabilities to listen there. Otherwise you can give them a listen on their myspace page Or there's some links below.

Minks - Funeral Song

Minks - Cemetary Rain

Minks - Ophelia