- We don't often lead on a reissue but back out this week, apparently just because Try Harder records had run out of stock, is Jonquil's glorious Lions, one of the most widely underrated albums of the last year. If you missed our countdown of the best albums of 2007, we placed it a possibly too low sixteenth and wrote it up thus. If you missed our countdown and are too bone idle to find out how to open a link in a new browser, it's an English pastoral psych-folk record which aims straight past daytime radio's clutches, a heartwarmingly expansive touch from a gloriously solitary figure in the Oxfordshire countryside, full of sonic detail and adventurousness (the opening track sounds like an Akron/Family sea shanty) topped by Hugo Manuel's bravura croon. Some, including Foals, are tipping them for big things, and while it may not sell a lot plenty need to become acquainted with it. And those people may get the chance as they're heading right across the country throughout June, are 'doing' Latitude and have already got the follow-up EP ready in the wings. It's their time alright.
- Reviewing Johnny Flynn at End Of The Road last year we labelled him a star of "the British nu-folk scene, as some arse will eventually christen it so it might as well be us". And whaddaya know, the NME has started in the last couple of months to refer to this whole Marlingised phalanx as the British nu-folk scene. Arses. Anyway, Flynn stands well aside of most of his contemporaries and indeed virtually all of current British music's CV - attended Bedales and Winchester College, hung around the anti-folkers of New York, was a member of the all-male touring Shakespearian acting collective Propeller under whose auspices he acted at the Old Vic and afterwards dragged Kevin Spacey to a gig, and Jerome Flynn is his half-brother. With the exception of housewife's choice versions of Unchained Melody all this kind of informs A Larum, a record in which characters from all walks of life find their voices, stop off around the world and take on a heady mix of Alan Lomax blues, traditional and otherwise English folk, hoedowns, ragas and sea shanties - Flynn has mentioned in an interview taking inspiration from how Fairport Convention heard The Band's Music From Big Pink and realised they could do the same for British folk traditions, lyrics at once intentionally dated and somehow contemporary. The Sussex Wit are still around, by the way, but their name seems to have dropped back off joint billing.
- It's easy to forget that News And Tributes, now a routine pinata on which to hang everything around the Futureheads from 679 departure to current 'embarrassing the record industry' call to arms, reached number 12, one place lower than the self-titled debut, and is by no means a bad album. A little uncertain at times, sure, but it works through ideas and hangs together in a way that would embarrass many a more lauded album. Now on their own Nul Records, conversely they're enjoying the biggest fruits in terms of press and radio in their history since leaving the major label. No, This Is Not The World is no hark back to the glorious debut album, if anything more one-paced and stinting on the barbershop harmonies so as to come across like a 1979 new wave band with an understandable right cob on throughout. They're still committed and energetic, though, and that's what forces its way through the morass once more.
- While we're talking melodically inclined fast paced indie stalwarts, The Wedding Present have gone down in the annals of rock's wider world as a meat and potatoes style band, singing love songs over jangly guitars. There's an element of truth in there. Of course there is. The Beatles, by the same reasoning, were a fun little band of jovial Scousers with their two and a half minute songs about liking girls. The Weddoes crashed into Peel playlists and 12" racks with warp speed jangles and David Gedge not getting the girl 23 years ago now, during which time they were recorded by Steve Albini, covered Pavement, went Balkan and had big theories about singles when all of these were deeply unfashionable or just unknown. They're back with Albini for the first time since 1991's Seamonsters for album eight El Rey. Gedge calls it his Californian album, perhaps with tongue deeply embedded in cheek, but some of the old vituperativeness is there, although as with the Cinerama time-out Gedge can still do restrained when he wants. He's still got it.
- Stroud-via-Brighton's Drift Collective is a little psych-folk colony we've got a lot of time for, especially if they keep pulling things out of the hat like Matt Eaton's Finish Your Chips. Great title, if nothing else. According to the label Eaton "holds a special place in British music, not only as a songwriter, but also as manager, tour manager, session guitarist, runner of venues and booker", which doesn't sound that special to us considering. He's marginally better known as leader of long serving Brighton power poppers Actress Hands but here devolves into West Coast-ish acoustic country folk, the sort of thing that restores Americana's good name. Johny Lamb and Sally Megee of Drift's foremost members Thirty Pounds Of Bone pop by, as does Rose Elinor Dougall of being blogged about the other day fame, but this is very much his melancholy worldview at work. Have a listen for yourselves with the ungrammatical Everyone’s Got To Fallen Into Line.
- They used to call bands like Slow Down Tallahassee pure pop, before the marketing people got their hands on the words. They say: "Thunder and gasoline. An explosion of harmony and handclaps at times, sparse and elegant at others." We say: classic post-C86 bubblegum indie - fizzing guitars fill one half of the spectrum, analogue synths the other, and up front two female singers harmonise on what seem to be featherbeds of vocals but lyrically go a much darker place full of panic, direct appeals and heavy foreboding. The Beautiful Light wouldn't be half as good as it is without.
- You'll have no money for singles after that lot, but regardless they keep coming out: Vampire Weekend's Oxford Comma, Foals' Red Socks Pugie and the Long Blondes' Guilt were dealt with at album time. Conversely Blue Hands, the second Hot Puppies album first previewed late last summer, is slowly attaining a very miniscule type of mythical status. Following months of label issues Becky Newman has recently announced her pregnancy, expecting on Hallowe'en, and with Somewhere only on a single deal with Bristol club-based label Purr (home of the celebrated Panther Girls) we wouldn't put a pre-order in yet.
COMING SOON: There was a story in the local press this week that the Liberty of Norton Folgate, a 19th century independent borough status for the North London area that now links Bishopsgate and Shoreditch, may never have actually been rescinded. By no doubt sheer coincidence, North Londoners Madness release an album tenatively scheduled on June 30th called The Liberty Of Norton Folgate. Funny, that. It's said to be in the Kinks/music hall/reminiscence style of their Rise & Fall album, a semi-concept album telling "a tale of a city born in blood, mud and immigrant, which grew through adventure, betrayal and treason – fought to breathe the dirt, muck and scum of survival – raged through the pains of passion – threw thee before greed and bankruptcy of emotion and thought, struggled for freedom, rights and the welfare of all, danced, skanked and bogled for the cause of man and woman’s need to be – and express happiness – we give you the working man’s mozart – a bright shining virus of joy therapy for the masses and a belter of a good night." Mmm. The title track bears that out anyway. They're introducing the album with two dates at the Hackney Empire on 24th and 25th June.
MYSPACE INVADERS: We really think we've got out of our system our insistence on promoting bands on the basis Los Campesinos! like them. No, now it's promoting bands Johnny Foreigner like. Study their current press photos and note that upon Kelly's upper body is the merchandise of Brummie compatriots Sunset Cinema Club. Yes, JoFo's noise and confusion is a good pointer - and why, here's the gents and lady covering SCC - but file these under melodic post-hardcore, sharing the stop-start tautness of Fugazi, the fat-free funk fuckups of the Minutemen and the funk-punk of Jetplane Landing's Backlash Cop album of last year (you remember it, we went on about it enough). EP available through mail order now, album in autumn, apparently. Seeing Hot Club De Paris over the next couple of weeks? Get there early. Especially if it's one of the dates where the previously featured Copy Haho are also supporting.
VISUAL AID: Adam Buxton has recently uploaded an overliteral fan video for Spoon's Don't Make Me A Target, intended for a BBC3 pilot. Buxton is a huge fan of the band and last year filmed Britt Daniel performing Black Like Me solo, but others do Spoon, we're here to dig out Adam & Joe clips. Course, back in the Channel 4 days putting clips to their own songs was second nature, but how harder it is to get something out of actual pop stars, especially when taking it upon themselves to enter their property and rifle through their records in the name of Vinyl Justice, whether the recipient be as intriguing as Gary Numan or as potentially violent as Mark E Smith. Another victim was "king of shouting" Frank Black, who seemed to like what he got himself into so much he invited the pair to direct the video for little remembered 1998 single Dog Gone, starring Nigel Buxton AKA BaaadDad. That itself followed Gorky's Zygotic Mynci's Sweet Johnny (Chart Show clip!) in the style of the Toymovies. More recently Buxton got involved with Radiohead's Thumbs Down webcast, our favourite bit being the somehow still on YouTube Se7en reworking. And when he wasn't doing that, he was fronting sketches about NWA for easily forgotten BBC3 pilots. Why was that last bit written in the plural?
* If you've been keeping an eye on the south-east's ska-punk-pop supremos SixNationState's online doings recently you might have seen a lot of videos popping up over the last couple of months. The sum total of such work is a video album, available from their official site as of tomorrow, a series of low budget band-directed clips for every track on last year's self-titled debut album
* Never ones to do things the straightforward way, folk-stadium rock satirists the Indelicates have put a load of bonus material online relating to their American Demo album, chiefly an alternative version of New Art For The People featuring Eddie Argos and a load of other people, an album commentary track, a cover of Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty's country song title email circular favourite You're The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly, alternate versions, remixes and "a MOST HAUNTED INDELICATES SPECIAL with Simon as DEREK ACORAH and Julia as YVETTE FIELDING" which is so low budget they've not even bothered with wigs and costumes. The instructions are on their website. Go the long way round. We dare you.
* Seems a while since we heard much from Leeds power trio Sky Larkin; in fact last week they flew out to Seattle to record their album with John Goodmanson, whose CV includes two Sleater-Kinney albums, Bikini Kill, Blonde Redhead and The Blood Brothers. So, pretty much safe hands for a band with their ambitions. As is the way of modern communications, they're documenting their time away on Flickr. Not many of the band so far, though.
* You're right, this last bit wasn't here before, but just up over at Keep Hope Inside we've helped it celebrate its second birthday by writing about Hold On Now, Youngster...