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.

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