I've never been happy about personalising a blog like this, which is why I always refer to myself as 'we' despite the name at the bottom always being the same, but I've just found out that Mathew AKA Tree, an old cyberfriend and contributor to my football site It's Up For Grabs Now around the turn of the decade, died last night aged 35. We never actually met face to face beyond many times spent facing off across the ether, but as well as his sense of humour, sense of the absurd, endless creativity - in the early days of STN I advertised a shortlived DJ venture he had set up - willingness to speak the truth and sense of principle-driven kindness, he was also tremendously enthusiastic about music, leading me to seek out the likes of Mew (pre-Frengers), David Ackles, Stina Nordenstam, Blonde Redhead, Emiliana Torrini, Jason Molina, the Notwist etc. etc. In fact, although we hadn't made contact for a while I kept meaning to mention End Of The Road to him knowing his love of Molina, Mark Kozelek and Akron/Family (although it's since turned out he knew about it anyway) but never got round to it. RIP Mathew.
- Back at Indietracks, Gordon McIntyre pondered on how he's often asked rhetorically why his band ballboy (that's how you properly put it) are tiny while Coldplay are huge, surmising that you merely get what you're dealt in life. But then, taking the assumption that most people reading this know a lot about music, we're all aware of a songwriter who hasn't been anywhere near as handsomely rewarded by fate and/or sales as their abilities would suggest. The fifth ballboy album I Worked On The Ships is by and large reflective of the first four, mixing haunting melancholy with upbeat indiepop whimsy and allegory, all lyrically buffed to a shine if more on the reflective side and playing with structures this time around. This early on we're not sure it's as strong as their standout The Royal Theatre, but the lyrical twists still have the capacity to take the listener aback and, being ballboy, there's still a slew of great song titles (Songs For Kylie, Disney's Ice Parade, We Can Leap Buildings And Rivers But Really We Just Wanna Fly, Godzilla Vs The Island Of Manhattan (With You And I Somewhere In-Between))
- There's a bit being written at the moment about how Manchester is on the upswing again, but they tend to go on at length about post-Oasis knuckle draggers like the Courteeners and Twisted Wheel. Inevitably that's the very thin end of a creative wedge at the fatter end of which sit Cats In Paris. Courtcase 2000 is what you'd hoped the Ting Tings sounded like before you heard them, only smashed to pieces and reassembled by a madman - disconnected lyrics, structure all over the place, moments of gorgeousness next to complete breakdowns, psych-prog-pop easily distracted and falling apart at the seams through overpacking. It might give you a migraine, but the moments before it will be bafflingly fun.
- And also: Mechanical Bride has been touted for a good two years now without ever threatening to get the extra push that would take her icy electrofolk (not folktronica, that's different) to a wider audience already softened up by Laura Marling. Her EPs, including a stripped back cover of Umbrella, are gathered on Part II EPs. At the other end of the career spectrum Squeeze reach a Complete BBC Sessions, which doesn't answer the question of where the promised Difford and Tilbrook solo albums supposedly out this year have got to. The songs therein stretch from Peel 1977 through Kid Jensen, Richard Skinner, Nicky Campbell and, wow, Emma Freud to Simon Mayo 1994.
- Singles: we didn't mention the album at the time, but The Chap's Mega Breakfast is a bloody strange postmodern electropop proposition that's sure to figure in our end of year list if nobody else's. The single Proper Rock is out on 7", and the band descrube it thus: "a very camp-sounding fire fighter's choir fronting some kind of fierce sci-fi indie rock combo, demanding “Proper songs about girls and clubbing”" Plus there's a minimalist cover of What's Love Got To Do With It? on the B-side wherein they forget the words. You'd never catch the Mystery Jets doing that on record, not with their friends round, Half In Love With Elizabeth's six track EP coming with a Disco Version featuring Kate Nash, Flakes with Florence of And The Machine fame on vocals and a sumptuous strings-driven version of Two Doors Down from that den of musical iniquity, the Radio 1 Live Lounge. Having no truck with flashy extras, Fujiya & Miyagi do their surrealist mumbling over motorik schtick - it's much better than that, we assure you - on first single off new album Knickerbocker.
- New Video Works nearly blows it with the press release, which starts "As mainstream pop music drifts further into antiseptic, programmed posturing, a new generation of DIY anti-heroes have kept busy in their hives" Yeah, alright, you're not Keane, we get the picture. What this is is a two hour DVD full of live footage of assorted LA experimentalists, rickety indie rock types and ne'er do wells, starring BARR, No Age (Dean Spunt's video label is releasing it), Xiu Xiu, Mika Miko, Deerhunter, Abe Vigoda, Erase Errata, High Places and hundreds of other scene bands whose T-shirts Gareth Campesinos is doubtless saving up for even now.
MYSPACE INVADERS: Were they British, Native would have to be from Oxford. There's no two ways about it - there's Youthmovies interplay and tempo changes and This Town Needs Guns tapping plus switches into pure hardcore like a math Meet Me In St Louis. Big Scary Monsters are already across them, which figures. They're actually from Indiana and are great believers in just getting in the van and Doing It, and if they get spotted by the right people doing that the following could really take off.
VISUAL AID: After last week's blowout we'll keep it quick and simple this week. Ever seen Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson duetting on Folsom Prison Blues?
* Hello, Poindexter! is a spectacular example of taking music blogging down hitherto unknowable side roads. Heather d'Angelo is one third of lissom keyboard botherers Au Revoir Simone; she's also into science and astronomy and is, it says here, "gradually laboring on an Astrophysics degree from Columbia University at the assiduous pace of one semester every two years, which incidentally, correlates with our album cycles". So yes, it's a blog which combines the disciplines of being in an internationally recognised indie band and the intersection between art and the sciences.
* This doesn't comfortably follow on from that in honesty, but it feels right coming next. When we interviewed Dave Tattersall not long ago he said the Wave Pictures were already deep into their next two albums, and on top of that they've just announced the recording of a new EP for digital release on 6th October. What makes this noteworthy is they're trying to make it the lowest carbon footprinted release ever, taking place in a solar powered studio this week and with no CDs, paper press releases. Band and engineer will even walk to the studio.
* This isn't a new link at all - posted in January 2007, in fact - but we only saw it this week and it's about a subject we're greatly interested in and through posting it hope you will be too, the extraordinary pop art-inspired sleeve designs for, among others, Elvis Costello, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, the Damned and Hawkwind of Barney Bubbles, as compiled by another artist/sleeve designer, John Coulthart. Image intensive, as you'd imagine. A book of his work, Reasons To Be Cheerful, is published in November. (And according to his Wiki and backed up by the Music Video Database he directed the famous Specials Ghost Town video)
* Big Scary Monsters records get their second mention in this Weekender as they're giving away a Summer Collection digital label sampler, featuring This Town Needs Guns, Secondsmile, Blakfish (with Jeremy Kyle Is A Marked Man), Pennines and Mimas.
* And finally, returning to our occasional series of carefully curated Myspaces for largely forgotten late 90s bands - Gel!