Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Look what we've been entrusted with

An mp3 to call our own of...

Lucky Soul - Whoa Billy!

This is out as a single on May 4th - that packaging had better be spot on if they're distributing it this willy-nilly is all we can say - although the follow-up to STN's seventh favourite album of 2007 isn't due until October now. They play the Camden Barfly on 21st April and will be at Indietracks, but we think we've said that. This is what, bearing in mind they're playing in the open air in December like climatic hostages to pop, they do:

Monday, March 30, 2009

Caring and sharing

So here's what we've been doing instead of, you know, telling you stuff. One of our inspirations, we suppose, for doing this has been This Is Uncool: The 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk And Disco by Garry Mulholland, a personal, provocative but always well thought out list of the 500 greatest singles between Anarchy In The UK and the end of 1999. (See also Fear of Music: The Greatest 261 Albums Since Punk And Disco, even if he does go "...and now we have to listen to Coldplay!" too much)

So what we did was source a list of the 500, plug them all into Spotify and create a playlist. And we did well, 432 in total (we think), the omissions either fairly obviously not widely available - Huggy Bear, Cobra Killer, J. Walter Negro, Revolting Cocks, chrissake, Campag Velocet - or so unusual omissions that they're actively notable - pre-1983 Madness, Mercury Rev, Funkadelic, Don Henley, even Oasis*. Here's the link via Share My Playlists.

* The sum total of currently Spotified Oasis, presumably as they haven't negotiated with Big Brother as yet, being She's Electric on a Top Gear compilation and, marvellously, Wibbling Rivalry, the celebrated recording (which reached number 52!) of a Noel and Liam argument during an April 1994 NME interview conducted by John Harris. "You can stick your thousand pounds right up yer arse til it comes out yer fuckin' big toe!"

And while we have this resource open and available, and on the back of our being a quarter of the way through the year, here's eight of our favourite albums of 2009 released to date and available to stream:

- Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
- Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
- Grammatics – Grammatics
- Joe Gideon And The Shark - Harum Scarum
- Micachu & The Shapes - Jewellery
- The Phantom Band - Checkmate Savage
- Sky Larkin - The Golden Spike
- Telepathe - Dance Mother

And tomorrow later in the week we'll let you know if this one is worthy of joining them.
No, you say something.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Weekly Sweep

  • A Classic Education - Best Regards [Myspace]
  • The Acorn - Crooked Legs [YouTube]
  • Bearsuit - Muscle Belt [mp3 via Pitchfork]
  • Camera Obscura - French Navy [YouTube]
  • Dananananaykroyd - Black Wax [YouTube]
  • Doves - Kingdom Of Rust [YouTube]
  • Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal [YouTube]
  • Future Of The Left - The Hope That House Built [YouTube]
  • Graham Coxon - Sorrow's Army [live acoustic YouTube]
  • Grammatics - Relentless Fours [live YouTube]
  • Grizzly Bear - Cheerleader [mp3 from official site]
  • Joe Gideon & The Shark - Civilisation [Myspace]
  • Kill It Kid - Send Me An Angel Down [Myspace]
  • Mumford And Sons - The Cave [Myspace]
  • PJ Harvey & John Parish - Black Hearted Love [YouTube]
  • Rose Elinor Dougall - Start/Stop/Synchro [Myspace]
  • Slow Down Tallahassee - Angel Of Death [Myspace]
  • The Thermals - Now We Can See [Myspace]
  • Wake The President - Miss Tierney [Myspace]
  • The Week That Was - Scratch The Surface [Myspace]
  • Friday, March 27, 2009

    The damned United

    Luke Haines - Leeds United
    From Off My Rocker At The Art School Bop; includes a quote from David Peace's Red Riding Quartet for the full set

    Amanda Palmer - Leeds United
    From Who Killed Amanda Palmer?


    Ronnie Hilton - Leeds United Calypso
    From the fevered imaginings of someone who believes calypso and the thick West Yorkshire accent are natural bedfellows


    JJ Barrie & Brian Clough - You Can't Win 'Em All
    Go on, Sheen, do that one.

    Thursday, March 26, 2009

    The hot Spotify

    We might have had a good cataloguing go here and here, but trawls of Spotify will keep throwing up things which really make no sense in the Web 2.0 world...

    Klaxons - Accordeon Millenium

    Jamie Reynolds recently claimed his band had had their second album rejected on the grounds of it being too weird. On this evidence you can see what he means.

    Ah! There's a few bands on Spotify with namealikes - search out Los Campesinos or Broadcast, by all means let us know of more - and this is in fact The Klaxons (sorry, poetic licence up there), the brainchild of one Burt Blanca. Having founded The King Creole, regarded as Belgium's first true rock'n'roll band, he schlepped around the local scene for a while before forming this band with Jean-Marie Trois Fontaine and Roger Verbestel. That up there, The Clap Clap Sound, charted across Europe - number 45 in Britain - and if we're reading this Google translation correctly spent half a year atop in South Africa. It's also the last track on this album, which suggests they laugh in the face of frontloading albums. The whole thing really is instrumental accordion led shanties and hoedowns, sometimes with possibly synthesized horns (Divertida Mexicana - it's like you're in El Paso right now - and the steam train rockabilly of The Choo Choo Express), sometimes dangerous stylistic alterations (Youpiyo has some voices on; Mr Spikes and its sound effects is a particular winner), often superior lift muzak, quite often cashing in on the hit soundalikes. There's even a ballad.

    Toto Coelo - I Eat Cannibals

    Go on, La so-called Roux, adopt this.

    Quite a few people on YouTube seem convinced they were ripped off by the Spice Girls, fourteen years later, but then that's YouTube for you. What it is is an attempt to do new wave and siren-y synthpop at the same time, backwards, blindfolded. By name they were Anita Mahadervan, Lacey Bond, Lindsey Danvers, Ros Holness and Sheen Doran, and there was a point where everyone in Britain knew that one of them - go on, guess which one - was Bob Holness' daughter. This update's "album by one hit wonder" selection features the further adventures of the day-glo bin liner clad Fuzzbox of the Fairlight synth and Toni Basil chanting age. Dracula's Tango is exactly what a 1983 Ting Tings would sound like.

    Johnny Wakelin - Invincible

    Speaking of taking your main chance on, here's a wonderful example of such. Johnny Wakelin was a club singer from Brighton who scored a UK top ten single and a sizeable US hit with Black Superman, about Muhammed Ali, and then here at least an even bigger hit with In Zaire ("in Zai-ear!"), a tribute to the Rumble In The Jungle. Far be it for us to suggest he then decided to take his big idea and run with it throughout his career, but Invincible is a twelve track album on which every song is about a boxer. He's paid more attention to working into rhyming scheme and metre the biographies of Naseem Hamed, Sugar Ray Leonard ("stole the show, it's down on the record!"), Mike Tyson, Rocky Marciano, Frank Bruno and Lennox Lewis than not making the production sound instantly dated, especially when he discovers Italo-house just for Tyson's benefit. For Lennox Lewis, only white reggae and 1993 rave will do. In more sensible times here's In Zaire in the Top Of The Pops studio in August 1976, the Hairy Cornflake introducing Wakelin's number four sound, looking like a member of Dr Hook, at 2:40 between Dancing Queen ("I'll dedicate that one to David Hamilton, he loves that record") and a pensive Bryan Ferry video. He actually comes up with a third different pronunciation of the titular country.

    Best Of The Barron Knights
    The Barron Knights - Songs For Traffic Jams


    Let's just consider something here. Due to rights issues The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Metallica and AC/DC cannot be found on Spotify, which makes articles like the one in the new Q about how you don't need a record or mp3 collection any more with it less sustainable. On top of that there's a pile of excellent and influential artists whose work just hasn't been added yet.

    And yet, currently streaming on Spotify and added within the last week, are two Barron Knights albums.

    One of which was recorded in 2002.

    And the Best Of hasn't even got A Taste Of Aggro on.

    Or Live In Trouble.

    Or Food For Thought.

    Or Get Down Shep.

    The Barron Knights, for our younger readers, were a band formed FIFTY YEARS AGO who would parody recreate hits of the day in a montage form with, it says here, amusing new lyrics. One of them was called Duke D'Mond. They're still going too, although like the Sugababes they only have one original member. This Best Of does feature Call Up The Groups, Pop Go The Workers, Merry Gentle Pops and An Olympic Record (the latter with Reg Dwight sessioning on piano), then jumps from 1968 to 1992. Call Up The Groups '92 is about the Iraq War and includes an impression of Antoine de Caunes, and there's a song about Cilla Black losing her hat in the wind.

    Songs For Traffic Jams, perhaps the last album that should start by taking the piss out of ageing rock bands, gives modernity a shot. Po-faces is a Wonderwall parody, insomuch as it would be were Liam Gallagher a Scouser. We actually don't understand The Ballad of Jarvis & Michael, a song sung from the perspective of a Welsh teacher and featuring the groundbreaking revelation that "Cocker" and "rocker" rhyme. Three Little Maids is about Blind Date. At least three tracks have 'beats'. Don't Let The Germans Nick Your Sunbeds is as appealing as an Ibiza rave track about Germans and sunbeds presented to the Barron Knights sounds. Hall Of The Curry King is even more dubious. One track runs entirely on the notion that the word 'knickers' is still inherently amusing. It's like stepping into another musical world. That's because it is.

    Wednesday, March 25, 2009

    Field music

    Here's something we put quite a bit towards, The Line Of Best Fit Festival Guide - a handy one-page list of every festival worth the bother this year.

    Monday, March 23, 2009

    More Myspaces

    No doubt you're still working your way through last week's list, which is why for this selection of notable new names we're going to keep things briefer.

    Teenage Cool Kids: 90s quasi-slacker indie rock is coming back in a big way, and this Denton, Texas outfit are all over Slanted And Enchanted/Built To Spill collapsing alt-pop. You'll also hear the impassioned assault of The Thermals, the jagged sykyscraping urgency of Meneguar and Johnny Foreigner, and the lo-fi noise over technique of the garage.

    Standard Fare: latest graduates of Thee Sheffield Phonographic Corporation, their press release describes them as "somewhere between the Lemonheads and Los Campesinos". In fact like many an SPC band they belie their DIY qualities through the power of simple melodies, guileless vocals, scab picking lyrics and a great deal of joie de vivre.

    Motel Motel: on the bill for End Of The Road Festival and fresh from seven SXSW parties, so get some money down on a wider impact before much longer. The Brooklynites know their way round the Flying Burrito Brothers and the like but echo inside that the likes of Wilco, first album Gomez, Modest Mouse and a far less conceited Ryan Adams.

    Frankie & The Heartstrings: Sunderland natives and recent Futureheads and The Week That Was support, they may be the first band for whom The Yummy Fur can be invoked as a noticeable influence. Spindly, awkward, Fall-ish anti-pop that constantly threatens to fall completely apart while never doing so.

    Sicknote: We... just don't know. Sometimes you almost have to just post the nutsoid shouting-over-beats, generally as subtle as Alan Pardew being asked to comment on the Josef Fritzl case, and scarper before anyone asks you to expand on it.

    Sunday, March 22, 2009

    All those years ago

    The last time we did a retrospective chart it was as a warm-up for a post we'd invested a lot of faith in that was going up the following day. And what happened? The chart got linked on Largehearted Boy and the marque post was virtually ignored. We got the message.

    So, here goes for both overstretching and flippancy of a colossal scale - on 22nd March 1984 Lancashire's coal union declared they too were joining in the national miner's strike, taking the dispute right across the north of England. So... why are we doing this? Because it's there - here's the type of things they'd have been listening to on the way to the picket lines, the top 40 from this day twenty five years ago.

    40 Tina Turner - Help
    That Help, yes, but a soulful power ballad version. You can imagine how well that works.

    39 John Lennon - Borrowed Time
    As there is nothing left to say, and also nothing more worth saying, about Lennon, let's take this opportunity to mention some of the absolutely amazing stuff just outside the top 40. Like Cyndi Lauper's Time After Time at 69, which wouldn't peak until June. Like Dead Or Alive, on the way to their first top 40 single at 54 with a cover of That's The Way (I Like It) that sounds like a gay bar Heaven 17. And, most spectacularly, at 44 having already peaked at 33, the theme from Fraggle Rock. Those weeks of preview shows and acres of Look-In publicity really paid off. Here's the intro to the UK version, which is the same as everyone else's except with a different Fulton Mackay-cameoing film leading up to the discovery of the hole.

    38 The Special AKA - Nelson Mandela
    We're going to give the Specials a proper Illustrated Guide when the tour comes around, so for now only to note that, like Terry Hall before him, singer Stan Campbell walked out backstage at Top Of The Pops. Wisely, Jerry Dammers never went near Television Centre with a singer again. More by planned accident than design, but still the same. And the rump of the original line-up is on Jools in a couple of weeks.

    37 Queen - Radio Ga Ga
    Freddie puts the European central clock forward an hour for summer time.

    36 Simple Minds - Up On The Catwalk
    Jim and co give awkward synthpop one last wave, aware they've just had a hit with Waterfront and ostentatiousness is the way forward.

    35 The Style Council - My Ever Changing Moods
    Nobody's ever quite sure, we think, whether this period in Paul's career should be resuscitated or left well alone. Our serving suggestion is to carefully pick a choose - Long Hot Summer no, Walls Come Tumbling Down yes, this only when it gets off the cafe piano and gets going properly. Oh, wait.

    34 Matthew Wilder - Break My Stride
    Ex-Greenwich Village folkie, future producer of No Doubt's breakthrough album Tragic Kingdom and John Oates-agram gets dumped by someone actually telling him they're doing their laundry.

    33 Siouxsie And The Banshees - Swimming Horses
    Dear Prudence had been the previous single and their biggest hit, so being Siouxsie And The Banshees they released a hazy song full of start-stop keyboards and Ms Sioux down the bottom of a well. The record buyers took some convincing after that.

    32 Afrika Bambaataa And The Soul Sonic Force - The Renegades Of Funk
    Arthur Baker productions - ageing less well then you'd like to think.

    31 Matt Bianco - Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed
    Hit that double bass, boy.

    30 Madonna - Lucky Star
    Not actually her first UK hit - her first single first time around, true, but only a hit when reissued after Holiday was charted. It'd be Take A Bow in December 1994 until she failed to make the top ten again. No more Hacienda PAs for telly from this point on.

    29 Depeche Mode - People Are People
    Vince Clarke had long departed to start the masterplan that would see him become the most influential artist on 2009, so his old band took industrial clanging and Fairlight attacks into the top end of the charts. Bigger in Europe, you may be aware.

    28 UB40 - Cherry Oh Baby
    The brothers Campbell had only just turned their back on the dub political stance of their first few albums - seriously, search out Signing Off if you don't believe they ever did anything of worth - in favour of wine bar covers. It was successful, so they ran with it to this day, when there's virtually no original members left.

    27 Shannon - Let The Music Play

    26 The Thompson Twins - Doctor! Doctor!
    It's no We Are Detective. So let's post that instead.

    Alannah would never have spotted an Acme falling piano in time.

    25 Kajagoogoo - The Lion's Mouth

    24 Hot Chocolate - I Gave You My Heart (Didn't I)

    23 Tracey Ullman - My Guy
    Madness rewrite from Ullman's Stiff Records glory days, famous for its Neil Kinnock starring video, somewhat illogically absent from YouTube so we can't make all sorts of hay from it.

    22 Shakin' Stevens - A Love Worth Waiting For
    Scourge of Madeley and singer of several quadrillion hits throughout the decade with more amiable anachronistic rock'n'roll balladry. When it came down to it, he was merely a poor man's Adam Faith.

    21 Wang Chung - Dance Hall Days
    Nobody Wang Chung tonight. The singer was called Jack Hues, which might be pop's weakest pseudonym. He's also Jack Ryder's father.

    20 Slade - Run Runaway
    Got to number 7 but, Merry Xmas Everybody re-entries aside, this undignified hard rock was about it.

    19 Julia And Company - Breakin' Down (Sugar Samba)
    More wine bar soul, this one with the unfortunate side effect of having a name of supreme unresponsiveness, almost sounding like one of those eight year olds who would release a novelty records supported by That's Life at around this time. Claire And Friends, that sort of thing.

    18 Howard Jones - Hide And Seek

    17 Rockwell - Somebody's Watching Me
    Michael Jackson's name was absent, his backing vocals weren't, and mid-Thriller campaign you suspect that was why this sold for Berry Gordy's son.

    16 Frankie Goes To Hollywood - Relax
    On a very slow fall from its Read-embarrassing huge hit status, reaching number 31 in May before, on the advent of Two Tribes, turning back round and being back at number two in July. Contrary to popular story it's not actually the Blockheads playing on it either, but a reconstruction of their recording by two of Trevor Horn's sessioning mates.

    15 Alexei Sayle - 'Ullo John! Gotta New Motor?
    Or, as Peel very deliberately read it on TOTP, Hello John, I Understand You Have Purchased A New Car.

    Which Ian Dury helped turn into this:

    Although in terms of adverts for Toshiba televisions it fell some way short of the later rewrite of Vivian Stanshall's Terry Keeps His Clips On:

    14 Culture Club - It's A Miracle
    Check out - in your own time - the very odd video, which appears to be based on some sort of industry edition of Monopoly. You can't tell if it's a boy or a girl these days.

    13 Richard Hartley And The Michael Reed Orchestra - The Music Of Torvill And Dean EP
    Bolero, Capriccio Espagnole, Opus 34 (Nos 4 and 5), Barnum On Ice, Discoskate. Discoskate?!

    12 Mel Brooks - To Be Or Not To Be (The Hitler Rap)
    From the film of the same name rather than the more logical The Producers. Can we say "of its time"?

    11 Billy Joel - An Innocent Man
    Joel's Ben E King song, apparently. No in-line mechanics, no chance.

    10 Van Halen - Jump
    Forever condemned to be played by American shock jocks whenever news breaks of a bloke threatening to throw himself off a bridge and holding up traffic.

    9 Sade - Your Love Is King
    "It was a great moment when the cover of The Face featured Robert Elms saying 'have you heard of this new music called jazz?'"

    8 Bananarama - Robert De Niro's Waiting
    About a rape victim, apparently. Overdue a critical renaissance, we reckon, the 'Nanas - obviously not the SAW stuff or the try too hard recent records, but this sort of perfectly fine synthpop, and lest we forget Fun Boy Three's position as their benefactors.

    7 Phil Fearon And Galaxy - What Do I Do
    Three top ten hits in the mid-80s and yet until compiling this we're not sure we'd ever heard him before. It wasn't a great learning experience.

    6 Nik Kershaw - Wouldn't It Be Good
    Snood on TOTP, white suit approximation in video.

    5 Weather Girls - It's Raining Men
    Oh god.

    4 Kool And The Gang - Joanna/Tonight
    They'd already been going for twenty years in various forms, and they still couldn't bring themselves to put the singer's name where it should go. Very few examples of this in pop, for fairly obvious reasons. Pete & The Pirates' singer is called Tom, but apart from that we're drawing a mental blank.

    3 Break Machine - Street Dance
    Lino wholesalers have never since known such business.

    2 Nena - 99 Red Balloons
    German in the mid-80s, which was a red rag to tabloid bulls in itself. Explaining the whole Cold War allegory and its orders to identify, to clarify and classify to them would probably have been a waste of time, not when there were armpit hairs to be pored over. Two years ago she co-founded a progressive school in Hamburg. And you thought Kim Wilde had made a brave career move.

    1 Lionel Richie - Hello
    She was blind! It was a clay model of him! He didn't sing into the phone! He looked a bit like Chris Kamara! Entire irony industries have been kept afloat by this one song.

    Saturday, March 21, 2009

    The Weekly Sweep

  • A Classic Education - Best Regards [Myspace]
  • The Acorn - Crooked Legs [YouTube]
  • Bat For Lashes - Moon And Moon [live YouTube]
  • Blue Roses - Cover Your Tracks
  • Camera Obscura - French Navy [YouTube]
  • Dananananaykroyd - Black Wax [YouTube]
  • The Decemberists - The Rake's Song [Myspace] (Not got Hazards Of Love yet. Review will come.)
  • Doves - Kingdom Of Rust [YouTube]
  • Future Of The Left - The Hope That House Built [YouTube]
  • Grammatics - Shadow Committee [YouTube]
  • Grizzly Bear - Cheerleader [mp3 from official site]
  • Ice, Sea, Dead People - My Twin Brother's A Brother [Myspace]
  • The Invisible - Monster's Waltz [Myspace]
  • Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard - To Be Objectified [YouTube]
  • Lucky Soul - Whoa Billy! [mp3 from Chromewaves]
  • The Maccabees - No Kind Words [YouTube]
  • Micachu & The Shapes - Curly Teeth
  • Mumford And Sons - The Cave [Myspace]
  • Super Furry Animals - Inaugural Trams [mp3]
  • Wake The President - Miss Tierney [Myspace]

    Big news in our little world - The Singles Jukebox is back, back, back, resuscitated after its service for the now year and a half defunct Stylus magazine. Yes, they're already giving high marks to records you have no desire to ever hear should you have ever heard of the artist before.
  • Friday, March 20, 2009

    A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

    Here's a quick meta-discussion point. We've recently taken to flicking through forums connected to major festivals. Don't know why, just to see how the other half live, suppose. That said, a couple of posts therein have made us think about things.

    The first came from eFestivals' T In The Park board. Of the big four festivals it's the one that's letting the most information out to date, which has led to this response, and we get to use block quoting here too:

    Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, WHO THE HELL ARE THEY?!

    Is it true that this band are headlinin' friday NME?

    I've never heard of them and they've been formed for 26 years apparently!

    There's a clue in the question, we suspect. Still, he has his sound reasons for suggesting this is a patently ludicrous proposition:

    Frattelli's would easily pull in a bigger crowd, and a considerably bigger one at that.

    Easily. FYI: the Fratellis' Here We Stand charted lower than Dig!! Lazarus Dig!!

    Still, respect for your elders did go out the window some time ago. There are untouchable names around this summer, though. Let's have a look at the official Isle Of Wight Festival board and see how its users are greeting the surprise news of Neil Young headlining, perhaps the first thing that's made a wider audience care about it since it was revived.

    We expect a grand finale and excitement to close the festival, and Neil Young is not it.

    It would be an embarrassment to Neil Young if he was booed off the stage or the majority of the audience left the main stage in protest to the organisers.

    By the way, the Glastonbury forum was full of weeping and wailing after IoW announced Young as a UK exclusive booking, which it turned out not to be. And yeah, there's a petition and a useless Facebook group and the rest of it. But surely the Pixies announcement would provide some solace? After all, you'd love to go to a festival and find Neil Young and Pixies headlining, wouldn't you?

    i thought that if he could some1 decent b4 ny some might stay 2 watch him..no hope now..rip iow festival..what a crap line up

    You wonder what gets these people excited.

    THE RIFLES..............GET IN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Sorry we asked. But this isn't just moaning about people who, were they to be presented with the Beatles reuniting with the animatronic resurrected John and George, would start a Facebook campaign to get them dropped in favour of Pendulum.

    The question, finally: Are we surprised, and are we right to be surpised, that there are people who don't know who Nick Cave or Neil Young are? We thought this was all our snobbish fault, but thinking about it, at least from our perspective, both are intrinsic in pop music culture as famous names, and you don't have to know about Buffalo Springfield or The Birthday Party, or even The Mercy Seat and After The Goldrush, to be aware that they're singers with a hold over an elevated status. In short, you never hear people having to describe who they are. And the same for Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen, Elvis Costello, Peter Gabriel, Aretha Franklin, Willie Nelson, Tammy Wynette, BB King, Jeff Buckley (obviously that one's tilted by recent events)... these are people with legends and, you'd think, widespread name recognition, that some others of similar genre stature like Bonnie Raitt, Solomon Burke, David Byrne or Randy Newman haven't achieved, where a new album is an event regardless of how it sounds. Are we being naive or idealistic?

    Thursday, March 19, 2009

    The shock of the new

    We have this massive ongoing list of Myspace addresses that every so often we like to dip into and see if anything genuinely excites us. More often than not we just end up wondering why on earth we ever thought to put that on the list. Oh, quite a few of them this pruning around. Here's some more new names, or at least they were new when we listed them, to conjure with.

    We thought we'd written about Penny Broadhurst before, but apparently not. Leeds based Broadhurst used to be, and sometimes still is, a performance poet and that tack-sharp social wryness and by turn darkness has been allied to a pop sensibility - not pop like we usually say about pop when it's vaguely melodic, although this is, but the newer songs here betray a far more sophisticated take on stuff that might sell in lesser forms. All over the place stylistically, though, which Polydor would immediately blanch at but works out just fine, from lilting country-tinged acoustic to laptop Xenomania-on-a-budget, especially now she's started gigging with a band, The Maffickers (including a guitarist on hire from those that used to be the Chiara L's and now, in a triumph of lexicography, are now The Kiara Elles) Recalling everyone from Billy Bragg to Bis, the only surprise is that the cult following isn't all encompassing already.

    Awkward trios hotwiring Fugazi, Shellac and/or McLusky get a fast track into our Myspace roundups, and so it is with Southend's Fashoda Crisis. These are very much the children of Falkous, what with their love of a cutting aphorism, opaque lyrics with politicised undertow, bass that'd power a village for a fortnight and wall of distortion guitar. Their currently available mini-album Mischief Of One Kind And Another spits its righteous fury from inside a seal-packed environment of their own.

    As are Triple School, except they're one fewer in number. There's a lot of two-pieces around at the moment but not so many that just pump the fuzz guitar up as far as it'll go and let the drums hammer away like they're banging on Valhalla's own door to SST via the Jesus Lizard. And they're giving away their debut EP for free. And we've not even mentioned yet that shouter Giles Bailey used to front Dananananaykroyd.

    Celebrity Chimp are also a duo, but one whose output is, if no less committed, somewhat calmer. Not much less odd, though, not least as Andy McKay, also of Song By Toad Records Appalachian folk outfit Nightjar, specialises in banjo, making them essentially bluegrass punk, with their driving rhythms, wry lyrics and, well, banjo hammering. They have a five tracker called Celebrity Is The New Royalty and a load of London live dates, and we reckon that would be a pretty decent night out.

    Something less immediately rollicking for a change of pace. With the whole Sonic Cathedral thing and return of dreampop - alright, shoegazing, then - to the scene hazy, droney soundscapes and half distinct vocals are the new black. Manchester's Young British Artists bring the whole thing - punchdrunk tremelo'd guitars, thick old basslines, claustrophobia to go - to the party, crossed with the odd Interpol/Chameleons flick and a Kyte-ish desire to plan out grandiose new soundscapes add up to impressively drowsy effect.

    Bath's Kill It Kid are certainly worth memorising if only for Chris Turpin's, um, distinctive voice, like Wild Beasts' Hayden Thorpe shrugging off laryngitis for a night down the old timey Americana club night. Already signed to One Little Indian and with John Parish producing their demo, they come across like a post-Sufjan take on Delta blues, with strings swirling round and pounding drums as the driving force. That they can go from the melodrama of Send Me An Angel Down (a future single, apparently) to the Carter Family country hoedown of My Lips Won't Be Kept Clean to the rootsy without being that primal rock'n'roll pervasiveness, like Mumford & Sons deprived of their banjo and attached to a Standard rocket. You'll definitely be hearing a great deal about them soon enough.

    Wednesday, March 18, 2009

    The great wanted

    We've said it before, but if you're not following our Twitter you're really missing out on a lot of good stuff. And a lot of facetious toss, obviously, but there's good stuff in there too.

    Case in point: Chromewaves have a new Lucky Soul track, the unrepossessingly titled Whoa Billy! Winehouse and her globe-straddling bleating about the Shangri-Las as funnelled into soap opera pretty much strangled the girl group revival as potential commercial giant at an infant age, but not only is the new Camera Obscura album amazing but these six men and woman of Greenwich and their sophisticated Motown heartbreak pop greatness has stood up very well to the rigours of second album syndrome, even with the Kelly Marie bloops at 2:15-2:22. Word is the album is pencilled in for June, again on their own Ruffa Lane and a month before they play Indietracks. Andrew Laidlaw has namedropped the Isley Brothers, Neil Young and Wichita Lineman in precising the album. He also revealed on their blog "This time we've tried to be a lot more direct, I've tried to write much better songs and everyone's playing has improved ten-fold." Well, it's as good a musical ambition as any.

    Case in point II: Grizzly Bear are giving away Cheerleader. Unlike the rest of the blogosphere we've not downloaded that Veckatimest (the clipboard's going to become very familiar with that name over the next twelve months - it's out 25th May) low quality leak yet because a) it's immoral and more importantly b) Grizzly Bear's music, with its layers and subtleties, is somewhat ill fitting with the notion of mp3 sound compression. Cheerleader is spectral, quietly impassioned, haunted, subtly glorifying and just generally TWO MONTHS AWAY???!-making. There's no way we're going to get on Warp's promo list, after all.


    For reasons that would require a book rather than a quick filler review piece on a music blog, the PR arm of the music business likes a female singer and songwriter (not a singer-songwriter, that's different) about whom they can spread the idea of a childhood spent in secret gardens, woodland glades and befriending chaffinches. You can't imagine a man getting away with the same, but the more idiosyncratically at one with nature the presentation of a female singer the more saleable that's seen to be to the big wide market. Kate Bush, for example, a folk reared literary minded piano prodigy with an interest in interpretive dance and a mutual friend with David Gilmour, was shaped and presented as an ethereal artistic presence (or a teenager in a gym slip, but that's a different matter). Bjork released her first album aged eleven, as every biography points out, but that came off the back of a cover of Tina Charles' I Love To Love and was years before her indoctrination into punk and ideology. Girls, essentially, are different.

    To such people, Natasha Khan turned out to be manna from heaven, away with the faeries if you wish. Although Khan is friends with Devendra Banhart, high priest of modern weird folk whose own emergence was greeted with some scorn despite supping from much the same well of wide-eyed lyricism, it feels like she's been given a different role altogether as Bat For Lashes. Tales of spiritual awakenings in Pakistan, all night free piano improvisations and art school design and performance litter her biography, suggesting that she is somehow not one like us, maybe exacerbated by her base in Brighton with all its image as a boho artistic enclave. You could equally pick out that she's squash legend Jahangir Khan's cousin (her father coached him), grew up in Rickmansworth and worked as a nursery school teacher, but that would make it sound prosaic. While she wore a gold glittery headband and requested audiences make wolf sounds, when we saw her she offset the headgear with regulation T-shirt and jeans rather than some sort of tribal business as you might have been led to expect and was clearly faintly embarrassed about the attention even as she asked for our vocal co-operation. It's the sort of dichotomy that might lead someone to be intercut looking bored in a car and then waving two orbs about in the middle of Jericho Tree National Park in a diaphonous sheet in the name of advertising. Which is funny, because...

    What set aside debut album Fur And Gold, though, was a certain tapping into dreamscapes - some of the songs openly inspired by just that - an array of instrumentation and an atmosphere of being lost in the woods overnight with only rustling and bird noises for company, an imagiantion-as-escapism storytelling that takes on something of a fantastical semi-naivety that comes from the stories of young children. Khan has quoted Jan Svankmajer and David Lynch as influences, citing an interest in not so much the surreal as the subconscious. (That she claims one of her musical awakenings was seeing Lift To Experience live, a band that like Khan had religiosity's signifiers bubbling away in the background, isn't surprising in context) In a field of 'commercial potential' homogenity, Khan struck out for individual style and flair.

    Plus, What's A Girl To Do? sounded like Sarah Nixey, which is always a winning influence to have.

    So which way will second album Two Suns, released on 6th April, go? On the single's evidence alone, a slightly more commercially potential one - Daniel sounds like Fleetwood Mac's Rhiannon taken down those noctural woods in an ex-boyfriend's car. Now, we've said before there's far too much of this post-Guilty Pleasures Nicksianism about and the synth stabs, multitracking and wipe clean production does little to make this not come across less like the outpourings of our fairy queen and more like Ladyhawke without the clubbing desire. Luckily, although it's not the only concession to I Love The MOR Eighties it's also not Empire Of The Sun (apart from Pearl's Dream, which sounds even more like Ladyhawke and will probably end up as the second single and put casual listeners completely off the rest of the album through its unrepresentativeness. Well, at least we've found the one person who believed the single version of Prescilla was the superior.) It still sounds like gothic music - not big-G Gothic but Wicker Man pagan poetry with an autoharp. Everyone has mentioned Khan's new alter ego, destructive blonde femme fatale (why important that she's blonde?) Pearl, revealed on this record, usually with reference to Beyonce's Sasha Fierce. Our advice: forget it. It's not important. You can get by without knowing about it. They're both into galatic chamber-romanticism.

    Opener Glass picks up exactly where Fur And Gold needed to lead us, with an unspooling rhythmic cross-threaded beat, Khan all over her register and a real sense of air in the production the better to sound like voodoo pastoralism. Sleep Alone suggests Goldfrapp's recent retreat from full-on dance to woody folkisms but also reflects that warmer live presence through an insistent beat. Actually, it's possible now that Khan is at her most effective when the music is at its most spare. Moon And Moon makes itself the emotional centrepiece, basically the same as the version she debuted two years ago on The Culture Show...

    ...but with a distant organ and with the doo-wop backing stranded out some distance away. Final track The Big Sleep is the most Bushish thing here, as synths arpeggio and piano glistens and Khan makes allusions to the end of a show ("no more spotlights coming down from heaven"), calling and responding with Scott Walker - SCOTT BLOODY WALKER - to leave all bodily hairs standing to attention. Pearl meanwhile gets ready for her big nights of destructive blonde femme fatalism with some PJ Harvey: Peace Of Mind is reminiscent of White Chalk, almost Victoriana in its arrangement simplicity, redolent of big empty spaces even when the gospel choir chip in on BVs, Siren Song is a spectral To Bring You My Love until an absolute flurry of drums decides to wage war on the staccato piano and Khan's vocal yearnings. Good Love is not dissimilar, only it sends the whole thing off into space instead. David Kosten's production deserves a lot of credit, somehow managing to transmit more efficiently on first listen and layer its rewards with real depth so that every listen unravels the mysteries that little bit more. Already making bold steps two albums in without faltering, it's looking like in terms of an artistically solid and eventful body of work Khan could become one of a strictly guarded pantheon of properly artistic British ladies. And more power to her elbow.

    (Incidentally, if you're keen to follow this folk-starriness direction Caroline Weeks of the BFL live experience has a solo album out on the same day. Songs For Edna sees her put the words of 1920s/30s trailblazing American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay to delicate sparse guitar. See our TLOBF review nearer the time for a full elucidation)

    Much has been made of the preponderance of females emerging in the last three to six months but even then they've been easily compartmentalised as either eclecticists with pop potential (Florence & The Machine, VV Brown, Marina & The Diamonds) or Eighties-welcoming synth players who want to make something real, they want to make a Yaz record (Little Boots, La Roux). Frankly, you'd be forgiven for being sick of it all, if only because the best of them fall right through the middle. Emmy The Great's album arrived when people stopped bothering with nu-folk, and Peggy Sue look to be heading the same way just as they've decided what their metier is. Everyone else has given it high marks so we'd just seem like bandwagon jumpers now but Micachu & The Shapes' Jewellery is a remarkable record because it fits in with nobody around Mica Levi and her genre liquidisations, more like the brilliantly awkward half-planned rackets the likes of Rough Trade eulogised at the end of the 1970s. And there's Bat For Lashes' own influence spreading further than Top Shop girls in headbands. Whenever will Mechanical Bride make a full-length?

    Laura Groves' identity is stamped right across all this grouping. When the Bradford then-teenager, another to prominently namedrop The Blessed Kate, first emerged under her own name she played a sweet folky guitar, sang in a high register a bit like a northern Joanna Newsom and fitted right in with the then emergent Laura Marling brigade. At some point at the end of last year she had a mini epiphany, dropped her name in favour of the less restrictive strictures of a band name, Blue Roses (her surname appears nowhere in the press release), and wrote an almost entirely fresh set of songs for an eponymous debut album, released 27th April via XL. Not totally fresh - the Groves single I Am Leaving...

    ...is still here in its fingerpicked, swooningly sad glory, as is Coast, the other track of her previous incarnation you may know - but this self-produced record imbues in itself a feeling of freshness, a gloriously open melancholy. Joni Mitchell is the influence to chiefly keep in mind here, the same kind of open heartbreak over spare, deceptively complex guitar and piano. Groves' lyrics, almost too clear, deal in almost too personal emotions and allusions, weaving tales of lost love and the wider world it revolves around as if nobody had thought of anything so opaque before. Cover Your Tracks builds on delicate guitar, decorative piano and an ever growing phalanx of backing vocals to sound like something grand without sending the production - Groves' own, in fact - anywhere near over the top. Can't Sleep is an exercise in her own vocal abilities, almost lullaby to dramatic peaks, wrapped in regret and almost Bon Iver-like in its deceptive tranquility. I Wish I... uses those keening vocals against solitary dramatic piano to extend itself fully - we're reminded of Wind In The Wires Patrick Wolf, that same kind of airiness that knows when to hold back and when to fire every emotion forward. Single Doubtful Comforts uses thumb piano to sound like a mentally broken musical box ballerina given voice, backed by Groves' own multitracked wordless vocals. We've grouped it with Bat For Lashes because quite aside from both being upcoming releases by solo females working under band names, while there's not the same full moon fever here the two albums do share a certain smokiness and solitude, an eeriness that effortlessly captures your heart.

    Marling will be the glib comparison, but this doesn't feel tied in to English folk in the same way, but then it isn't really the American wing of indie folkiness either, neither New Weird Americana, anti-folk or Regina Spektor-like. Inventive in its simple strictures without being slippery, an album that'll break your heart and then mend it for you, the album creates an air of longing and an openness that can't help but win you over. And this is really a house clearing exercise - if Groves keeps up her development and advances on the raw emotions she might well be as able to make just as much her own distinct mark over a period of years to come as Bat For Lashes.

    Tuesday, March 17, 2009

    Project management

    Fairly quick one today - trust us, we've got a couple of album reviews to post tomorrow that'll make up for that - because we've found yet another newly minted Glasgow band to excite us greatly.

    Although frankly we should have known already. Project A-Ko are a trio comprising Fergus Lawrie and Elaine and Ian Graham, and if those names are ringing a bell it's because with Graham Kemp they made up Urusei Yatsura, who blew out of the even then fervent Scottish scene of the mid-90s with lo-fi ambitions and very loud guitars to incredibly exciting effect over three albums. Look, they did so here...

    ...and here...

    ...and here.

    Project A-Ko, like the parent band named after a hugely influential anime series, release debut album Yoyodyne on their own Milk Pie Records on 20th April. The guitars are still fuzzy, the songs still jumpy and awkward, but there's a Pavement and especially Dinosaur Jr semi-composure to the discordance. Ragged and raw but in control, that's what we want.

    Project A-Ko - Molten Hearts

    Monday, March 16, 2009

    Alexa ranking

    You know when you casually mention something to a group of people and they force your hand through will?

    Behold, the Alexa Chung Videography Paradox.

    (Look, it's only for one evening, we'll get back to bands you'll never hear of again tomorrow.)

    There are six videos known of in which the leggy, oddly eyed, probably too post-ironic for her own good New Look clothes horse, autocue reader and rare person who can stand Nick Grimshaw cameos, and in them she gets to play all the standard modern roles for a non-speaking role lass who scrubs up nicely and gets a significant role in a pop video. These are:

    - Cool bussed-in mate at swish apartment party:

    - Bikini'd lovely by pool:

    - Glammed up mysterious heroine:

    - Bi-curious half-arsed associate to FHM babe of the month:

    - Girl-about-town date of cool-as lothario with split personality issues:

    - Pretend bassist for post-hardcore noiseniks:

    Er, hang on. Alright, it's the earliest clip here, but isn't one of these things not like the other?

    Balance of Trade

    On Friday night BBC4 devoted two and a half hours to the history of Rough Trade Records in the form of an At The BBC compilation and chiefly a documentary (both links UK only, active until Friday night) 150 minutes? One of their artists managed it in less than two.

    Firstly, full credit for the Rough Trade At The BBC programme, which does its job admirably in seclusion, in that it reveals there was once a time when bands who sounded like Young Marble Giants, or the Raincoats, or Delta 5, or the Violent Femmes, or even Ivor Cutler, would get attention and live performance on TV exposure. We'd never even heard Weekend, Alison Statton's post-YMG project, before. The one caveat is that the Strokes performance is Last Nite on Top Of The Pops when the documentary features clips of New York City Cops, recorded on the same set but we're fairly certain never before shown on the BBC. Unlike, say, Australian television.

    The documentary opens with that totem of independent thought and the triumph of the will of DIY in music... Duffy. Managed by Geoff Travis' current assistant Jeannette Lee, but as an A&M/Polydor artist not actually part of this story. And this isn't some prime-time for terrestrial dumbing down either, people will have been attracted towards watching this for stories of the shop and the first incarnation of the label. Don't throw us a bone we'll reject. It also makes no sense as the narrative hurtles straight back to the dawn of punk and Marc Warren's voiceover talks of "radical idealists and maverick musicians". So there seems to be your tale - once Rough Trade was a home for the waifs and strays, then they saw sense and started working with musicians who would sell records to a predetermined gap in the mass market ("after three decades of defiant independence (they) finally made it to number one"), and we all lived happily ever after. (They pull the same extension of brand trick in both programmes with Polygram/Island's Pulp)

    Obviously it's not like that for the majority, but the story of Rough Trade doesn't have the linear storytelling quality of an Factory or even a Postcard - so many strands have to be pulled together and there's not a media friendly svengali at the back of it, just an idealist who initially got lucky, opening just before punk broke in the middle of the back streets and squats of Ladbroke Grove, although it does cover how the locale in the Jamaican community helped them bridge the gap between punk and reggae (although Don Letts might have something to say about the amount of crossover influence).

    Then the documentary lands on The Desperate Bicycles, Green Gartside shows up to refer to its anti-waiting for the man influence, and then some actual documentary footage of squat era Scritti Politti is edited in, and suddenly you feel on safer grounds.

    So we get onto the distribution arm and the way it spread the Rough Trade ethos across the country, and then took the leap to forming the label with an open ended, learning as they went along - "we weren't interested in building an empire" - attitude. Time may be against it, but the documentary does give it a good go trying to lump everything into some sort of coherent narrative, with good screen time for the Raincoats and Robert Wyatt discussing the political approach in the face of Thatcher's election, but when trying to uphold the idea of Rough Trade as being the little man against the big corporations it then flakes out and admits most of its artists went off to sign for majors anyway.

    The Scritti Politti thing proves to be something of a milestone, as Gartside explains the change from jerky post-punk collective to solitary soul boy and hence from home-made to slick studio. Commercial, then, that the RT collective saw as the great satan. Now we're fully conversant with our favourite bands being licenced to adverts and Skins, which makes the whole "selling out" debate that once raged freely seem distant, especially when the subject is "band on label makes different style of music that ordinary people might like." Richard Scott still calls it "a cancer". (And this, by the way, is about The Sweetest Girl, which as far as pop as commercialism in 1981 goes was hardly Prince Charming) David Thomas of Pere Ubu claims this was when the label were starting to look for hitmakers; Travis counters "I don't think I've ever gone looking for a hit" as Aztec Camera are introduced by Russell Harty. Er, when on a major label. As were Scritti Politti when they finally had proper hits. Their top forty breakthrough turns out to be Wyatt's Shipbuilding. This isn't exactly Creation Records 1996, but things looked different then.

    And they looked very different when the Smiths turned up. Things have already changed and there's clearly a lot of residual bitterness between Travis and Scott when the shop has to be sold and distribution and label fall out, third parties suggesting this is when it stops being a bit of fun. Did The Smiths really invent 'indie'? It's an opinion that could only have formed recently - they sold records and had guitars while seeming independent, see. (Bernard Butler states here that the Smiths arrived as an opposition to Wet Wet Wet, whose first hit came three months before Johnny Marr left) Success only breeds more contempt, albeit internal this time around, and Marr notes that the democratic model as it was couldn't survive what was happening with his band. Richard Scott notes with disenchantment that Travis thought that Morrissey could be another Boy George just before it's noted that Scott later secured the lease on a warehouse property that moved the label physically from its beginnings, let alone spiritually. That new structure led to all-out conflict between the two halves of the organisation, and carry on past the end of the Smiths' period on the label. Very unglamorously, the label falls apart due to straight up bad cashflow during a high point for the independent label spirit they commandeered. After managing Pulp to success, they decide to restart the label and go straight up for hitmakers. We finish, again, with Duffy and her "development deal", which is presented as a great achievement for RT despite being common practice for new artists on those dastardly major labels (Which she was actually on, of course.) She gets more screen time than anyone actually on the label since 1991. Although her not being on the label isn't mentioned, and neither is RT's long time position under the Sanctuary arm, it's almost a moral for the industry war written by the winners. Don't get big ideas about independence, kids, you'll fail.

    Mind you, this is a documentary that at one point suggests the Woodentops were commercial hitmakers.

    Sunday, March 15, 2009

    Spotify defy

    After the success of our first trawl through the darker corners of Spotify ("sort of like finding an old mouldy bag of tapes in your loft, plucking ten out at random and trying to make the most kick ass mixtape ever" - David Roy, Dananananaykroyd), here's a disappointingly rush released second selection:

    Mel Blanc - Greatest Hits
    "We make fudge and we play cribbage every day!" If Bernard Cribbins qualifies for this, then Mel Blanc certainly does, as Mark X helped us discover. The great voice artist of Warner Bros animation, right from when he's vocalising both sides of the Sylvester/Tweetie Pie conflict his talent is clearly exemplary. Even aside from the great character vocalising there's inspired madness at hand, The E.I.O. Song just a load of ridiculous rhyming, Somebody Stole My Gal warp speed piano, There's A Hole In The Iron Curtain dinner jazz meets Spike Jones (we'll get round to him eventually) meets Cold War propaganda at its lightest, and the four Christmas songs at the end really need saving for a more festive day. The only drawbacks are a) his natural voice appears to be nearest to Bugs Bunny's which makes the almost serious songs about why he can't get on with his wife sound awkward and surreal and b) Woody Woodpecker gets no less trying with time.

    Vince Guaraldi - The Charlie Brown Suite And Other Favourites
    And while we're on cartoons... Commissioned television music is big business among collectors and aficionados, from the pioneering work of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop recently lovingly compiled by Mute Records to the likes of Alan Hawkshaw and Keith Mansfield, here giving a rare live outing to one of the latter's masterworks:

    In fact, here's a Hawkshaw compilation featuring his Grange Hill and Dave Allen At Large themes plus some glorious library music and a track called Flapjack.

    But this is not about Alan Hawkshaw, it's about the San Franciscan jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi and a live recording with his Trio of his seven song Suite for Peanuts prosperity. Basically, it's forty minutes of orchestral playful light jazz to wonder what Woodstock was supposed to be to.

    Eilert Pilarm - Best Of Elvis
    Thommo pointed this out to us, and it's a gem. Pilarm, he tells us, "is said to have gone into a coma and woken up believing himself to be the Swedish reincarnation of Elvis Presley, despite not only looking and sounding nothing like him but also having little grasp of either English or musical convention". He's been given the production values his talents suggest. According to one source "in 1999 he went to London and appeared on the BBC where he was given the "Best Impersonation By A Swede Of The Past 1,000 Years" award from the hands of none other than John Peel." What?

    And this week's special feature:
    Cockerel Chorus - Nice One Cyril
    Again, this is going to have to take some setting up for the kids. In 1972 the undiplomatically named Wonderloaf bread outlet launched an advertising campaign, directed by Alan Parker and copywritten by future travel writer Peter Mayle, involving bakers determining who was responsible for each new loaf, to which the tagline was "nice one, Cyril". Tottenham fans picked up on this and applied it to their beloved left back Cyril Knowles in chant form, and eventually a group calling themselves the Cockerel Chorus recorded it and took it to number 14. Although some online sources reckon it was recorded by the team itself - after all, they would later prove their flair for self-reference with Ossie's Dream - the man behind it was in fact one Harold Spiro, a 1970s songwriter for hire whose biggest hit was Olivia Newton John's Long Live Love and also penned We're On The Ball, which Ant & Dec went and decimated for the official England song in 2002. Nice One Cyril, in fact, won an Ivor Novello award. In what category, we have no idea. Cheek, possibly.

    Anyway, the novelty football hit was had. Everyone, obviously, would sit back with some satisfaction of the cross-media purposes of having taken a song about a full-back into chart folklore.

    No, of course they didn't. They recorded a whole album of contemporary songs in the same style, that being lots of pro-am shouting men (fronted by Spiro) against a studio band with one of those jovial brass sections plus piccolo that seemed to come free with breakfast cereal during that decade to hire. In a song that's supposed to come directly from the hearts of the terraces, it works. On Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree, a personal declaration of the hope of ongoing love, less so. Neither Dawn nor Tony Orlando stood a chance, and this is for a song with a long history of abuse:

    And so it continues in the same shouting London choral vein. Power To All Our Friends is trampled underfoot. Part Of The Union kind of works in a 'men against The Man' sense, but it's still hamstrung by the fact the lead singer has a vocal style approaching latter day Mark E Smith. The Chorus' version of Long Haired Lover From Liverpool invents post-modern irony. A couple of tracks are, like the single, led by a pretend opera singer. And now, a kindly suggestion. Stop reading this now and load up Butterfly. It's a delicate folk song originally recorded by country singer Jim Ed Brown here given the treatment of said group of MEN getting their north London accents out. You will never, ever forget it. Or forgive it. Even before the mass whistling outro.

    As before, kindly leave any suggestions for lesser regarded oddities we may feature in future - because believe us there's a couple more updates in this just from what we already know about - in comments or inbox.

    Saturday, March 14, 2009

    The Weekly Sweep

  • A Classic Education - Best Regards [Myspace] (This is going to be a 7" single on Bailiwick Records, the label that put out the Gossamer Albatross vinyl last year, and we're fairly sure this is one of the tracks they had Jeremy Warmsley produce for them. Honestly, why don't we change our name to the New Warmsley Express and be done with it? They've also recorded a new semi-cover, which Song, By Toad got to post before us)
  • The Acorn - Crooked Legs [YouTube]
  • And So I Watch You From Afar - Set Guitars To Kill [YouTube]
  • Bat For Lashes - Daniel [Myspace video]
  • Broken Records - If Eilert Loevborg Wrote A Song It Would Sound Like This [Myspace] (Album version - Until The Earth Begins To Part is out on June 1st)
  • Camera Obscura - My Maudlin Career [Myspace]
  • Cryptacize - Blue Tears [mp3 from Gorilla vs Bear] (Asthmatic Kitty Records band featuring an ex-Deerhoofer, from an album called Mythomania, out in April and getting some good word of mouth. They blog too, posting their own odd mixes)
  • Dananananaykroyd - Black Wax [YouTube]
  • Doves - Kingdom Of Rust [YouTube]
  • Everything Everything - Photoshop Handsome [YouTube]
  • Future Of The Left - The Hope That House Built [YouTube]
  • Grammatics - Shadow Committee [YouTube]
  • Ice, Sea, Dead People - My Twin Brother's A Brother [Myspace]
  • Jack Penate - Tonight's Today [Myspace] (Yes, cerrazy legged ex-rockabilly tidy bearded goon/git Jack Penate, the same. Split opinion when we canvassed our Twitterers - split opinion when we canvassed ourselves, to be honest - but it's about time someone started taking full and frank influence advantage from Remain In Light.)
  • The Maccabees - No Kind Words [YouTube]
  • Madness – The Liberty Of Norton Folgate [live YouTube]
  • Mumford And Sons - The Cave [Myspace]
  • Papercuts - Future Primitive [Myspace]
  • Sad Day For Puppets - Marble Gods [Myspace]
  • Wake The President - Miss Tierney [Myspace]

    Site discovery of the week is Ivy League Sessions, which is adjacent to Cardiff central Kruger Magazine and has visiting bands round to record three live songs apiece. Inevitably Mr Warmsley's there, as are Messrs Harkin, Adams and Matthews. Then there are more recent passing acquaintances of ours: Mr Mumford and his special friends, Miss Dougall, Mr McGuinness, Mr Jones (er, that's Rob Jones AKA The Voluntary Butler Scheme). Bec & Beth Hot Puppies, Pulled Apart By Horses (touring from April with Rolo Tomassi and Grammatics in a bill high up the not-to-be-missed scale), Threatmantics and Peggy Sue too.

    Meanwhile the Ian Stewart, or perhaps Frank Farian, of STN Thommo's Two Of The Beatles Have Died project is coming to fruition. You may remember we mentioned this compilation of people covering, responding to and variously reworking the viral video minor hit when he did a Discourse 2000; news reaches us this week that Brainlove Records have got involved and are releasing it in May to raise money for the British Lung Foundation, with contributions from The Cuban Boys, MJ Hibbett, Alan MX, Paul Hawkins & Thee Awkward Silences, Applicants, Tracy Is Hot And The Clap (reformed for the occasion!) and Keith Top Of The Pops And His Minor UK Indie Celebrity Allstar Backing Band (as far as we can make out, the titular, various Art Bruts, key Indelicates plus several quadrillion people who were drunk enough) The whole shebang has a Myspace.

    Item three! AWESOME PALS appears to be increasing in size and scope all the time. And, y'know, we're suckers for injokes between bands being played out in public. Look out in the comments boxes for our taking on two of Danana at once, something which we're not overly proud about. Soz. Can we have an album promo now?
  • Friday, March 13, 2009

    The Music That Made... Wake The President

    Since chancing across them a couple of Indietracks back we've been intrigued by Glasgow's Wake The President, a process that reaches a crucial staging post with the release this week of debut album You Can't Change That Boy on Electric Honey (the label run by Stow College, also home to Tigermilk and debut singles by Snow Patrol and Biffy Clyro). While openly indebted to the razor sharp riffs of Orange Juice and the Sound Of Young Scotland alumni, at its best it's a properly exciting collection of confident driving hooks and charging jangling riffs, the subliminal cheerful summery outlook of which is undermined comprehensively by singer Erik Sandberg's lyrical tales of lives and loves passing their occupants by, melancholic losers and documentation of people too full of themselves to care. Sounding as if they've chanced across a new approach to breezy guitar pop even if aware of its storied history, it's as if the class of Edwyn Collins, Paul Haig and Davey Henderson have found their star juniors.

    So there's the album in precis: here's guitarist (and Erik's twin brother) Bjorn Sandberg to reveal where it originated from.

    First single bought: Oh dear... Bon Jovi, Always. In first year at school I fancied this bird... So I sent her an anonymous Valentine's card complete with the lyrics to this song. All I can recall about her is that she was my first kiss and she had a peculiarly big chin.
    First album bought: Fuck me this is getting worse. It was, again, Bon Jovi, Crossroads. I vividly remember walking into Fopp on Byres Road and at the time (1994 I believe) my big brother Lars Sandberg was the manager. I remember the look of digust on his face as I approached the counter. Bear in mind this was when Detroit acid house was the thing to be into in Glasgow; Lars was the tastemaker in the west end hipping all these cool techno records to the kids in Fopp. And there was his little brother. Buying Bon Jovi.
    First gig voluntarily attended: Ocean Colour Scene at Stirling Castle August 1997. I was 14 and stoned. Erik was drunk and got his wallet stolen.
    The record that most made you want to get into music: Simple. Sgt Pepper by The Beatles. Up till that point I had worshipped Oasis. But it was the arse end of Britpop and even at 14 I was starting to see through the shite like Hurricane #1, The Bluetones, Menswear and post-Morning Glory Oasis. It was one of those moments in your youth, when you knew things would never quite be the same again. I remember it vividly. 14th December 1997. Erik and I went into Fopp on Byres Road (by which point Lars had left Fopp off on his own musical odyssey as techno DJ Funk D'Void) and we chipped in our pocket money to pay for it together. I remember hearing the opening guitar line to Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds and instantly falling in love. A month later we both bought acoustic guitars and the rest as they say is history.
    The three headliners at a festival you were curating: Felt, Orange Juice (circa 81) and The Smiths in Botanic Gardens, Glasgow.
    A song not enough people know about but everyone should hear: Paris by Andrea Marini. Glasgow boy in the vein of Scott Walker and Leonard Cohen. Heartbreakingly beautiful.
    A song you'd play to get people dancing: Chic - I Want Your Love
    The last great thing you heard: I came home to my mum's tonight and it was great to hear the dog when I was walking up the close. I've missed him (Harry).
    Your key non-musical influences: Maybe one for Erik but... women, love, Glasgow, hate, emotional destruction, sexual confusion.
    Your favourite new artist: I'm really looking forward to the debut album from Zoey van Goey. They are a great bunch too. Also I've just signed an all girl trio from Glasgow to my Say Dirty label called Peter Parker. I'm looking forward to working with them.

    Wake The President play a Rough Trade instore next Monday, then for the next two or three month gigs around Aberdeen and Glasgow plus one in Middlesbrough. They're also coming back to Indietracks this year, which hasn't been officially announced yet but they've put it on their Myspace so there you go. A couple of embeds to explain further - this is the title track:

    And this is how forthcoming single (6th April on a split 7" with Je Suis Animal) Miss Tierney sounds live:

    Thursday, March 12, 2009

    The downloadables

    A few more from the pile, then.

    San Francisco's Papercuts, essentially Casiotone For The Painfully Alone associate Jason Quever plus assorted hired hands partly drawn from the extended Beach House family, got an 8.3 from Pitchfork for their last album Can't Go Back, so we're clearly not dealing with the usual parade of lo-fi homemade chancers here. Their third album You Can Have What You Want has been picked up by reliable old Memphis Industries for UK release on 13th April - in America he/they are on Gnomosong, run by Devendra Banhart and Vetiver's Andy Cabic. Heavy on the reverb and fragile Wayne Coyne-esque vocals it's more dreampop than nu-gaze, reminiscent of a less electronic Maps, a more strident (and masculine) Mazzy Star or the simmering noisescapes of early 90s 4AD via the Paisley Underground and 1968 psychedelia, heavy on the swirling organ and Mercury Rev fogginess. Chalk another one up for haziness. This is pretty much as poppy as it gets.

    Papercuts - A Dictator's Lament

    As well as that one, MI are giving away Future Primitive.

    Moscow Youth Cult is what Jon Dix does when he's not mangling wiry guitars in the name of longtime STN favourites Love Ends Disaster! (long promised album finally approaching, apparently). An eclectic effort, the Colours Seep Out EP/mini-album (see, that old thing again) settles on the ambient side of things, whether the fuzzy built-up dreamscapes of Boards Of Canada, Warp Records messed up electronics, spooked film soundtracks like Fridge might make such, Broadcast's modern command of early psychedelic synths, the omnipresent Postal Service's command of indie-glitch or, as on our choice of track, shoegaze-informed electro soundscapes a la M83. Download the whole thing from their online label or try before you, um, buy.

    Moscow Youth Cult - Philosophique

    Do you remember Coltrane Motion? We wrote about the Chicago duo a few times in mid-2007 when their Songs About Music album made a brief pebble splash on the blogs. "Noisy retro-futurist psychedelic synths being deliberately overheated by the ghost of shoegazing", we called it, as we're always wont to. They're back with a new double A-side 7", one of which is reproduced below, and while the synths are still there there's more of a ghostly wall of sound around it, or as they label it "a Phil Spector shoegaze laptop record out of drum breaks, drone and broken synthesizers". Good songwriting around it too, which is trickier to pull off with this sort of thing than you'd think.

    Coltrane Motion - Maya Blue

    Nicholas Stevenson, originally from Cambridge, now resident in Hereford, has Iron & Wine and Elliott Smith among his suggested influences which is a very good place to start, but we're also detecting Daniel Johnston fragility, Andrew Bird's obtuse storytelling and a certain gothic folkiness at times that could if developed, especially now he has a band around him, lead into very interesting places. This is exactly what we wrote about him in January but it still stands up word for word now he's put most of his recordings to date together as a free album called Dearest Monstrous.

    Nicholas Stevenson - Tip Toes

    Wednesday, March 11, 2009

    Blog It Doe Eyes

    A Los Campesinos blog, you suspect, was always bound to happen.

    One question arising, though - what's going on here?

    The Italian jobs

    Loads of new music has been sent to us recently, so apologies if we haven't got back to you before now. We'll try to surmise the best of it over the next couple of weeks, but we had to bring two to your attention first because, while one is new to us and one from a longstanding STN favourite, as well as both being very interesting small scale releases they're both based in Bologna, Italy. Now, while the Sunday Times ran a piece on Italy's new rock bands last July their wider alternative contribution has remained very much in the shadows to date and isn't particularly well reflected even online as yet, which if they've got bands of this quality hanging around suggests an untapped resource. As for Bologna's debt to it all musically, one online tourist guide limits itself to "Bologna’s live music scene is well-known for its jazz venues, which often crowd quickly with people eager to hear some great live jazz". Just in case you thought they went for the zydeco evenings, that last bit.

    Like A Classic Education, Magpie Wedding have an interesting sideways approach to indie-folk and an English language exile for a frontperson. Grace - just Grace - is in fact a Londoner and sings a queasy take on the trad English folk revival, although she can faultlessly switch to something more wracked and almost threatening. Around her and collaborator Paolo's fragile acoustic guitar lays sometimes post-Arcade Fire violin and accordion slow build, sometimes jarring distortion, sometimes all-out folk-rock. If the mark of a properly promising talent is you can't pin their work to date down to one influence then Magpie Wedding are well in the hay - our notes range from post-rock guitars to Modest Mouse to Anne Briggs to Scout Niblett to Shearwater to the Indelicates to Asthmatic Kitty records in general. Their first release is an EP called Torches, named after "a loose lyrical thread that traces the uneasy serenity felt by those who still carry torches but who can no longer bring themselves to fully burn", and the lyrics betray all sorts of emotional turmoil and pensive hope. For a first release, it's one of those occasions when you feel from a new band they've already found their milieu to mark themselves out well away from the pack. It's a properly great record, in other words. Torches is self-released next Monday and is available from their gigs, which unless you live in Italy isn't much use, or from their website.

    Magpie Wedding - September Song

    Like A Classic Education, His Clancyness are fronted by Canadian emigrant Jonathan Clancy. Wait, we should have thought this bit through first. Clancy, who's on his way to SXSW as you read this and you may have spotted getting a couple of quotes in that Sunday Times piece through his other band Settlefish, is releasing a roughly twelve minute, eight track... EP? Mini-album? Release, then, called Hissometer Cassette, a very limited edition through cassette label Secret Furry Hole, all woozy acoustic pop like half-formed melodic dreams with the aid of reverb, drum machines and mandolin. It doesn't really fit in, which is doubtless the point.

    His Clancyness - Dover

    Samples of new records by people not from Bologna tomorrow.

    Tuesday, March 10, 2009

    The Music That Made... Ice, Sea, Dead People

    We're trying in this feature to mix up people you might have heard of with really good new bands, and in the post-hardcore world there's not many more superior young British bands around then Ice, Sea, Dead People. A Bedford trio whose second single My Twin Brother's A Brother is released on 7" next Monday, they're supping deep from the well of splintered art-punk, all knife edge riffs, staccato shouts and malfunctioned rhythms. Can you guess, given that criteria, which resting Washington DC band get more than one namecheck from singer/guitarist Craig Sharp?

    First single bought: Jennifer Paige - Crush (I was getting into girls at the time and was a major sucker for the chorus. I must've been like... 8 or 9.)
    First album bought: Deftones - White Pony. I still like Deftones. Never a fan of Chino's socks though. I had the option of buying it with this red case thing. I said no. WHY?!
    First gig voluntarily attended: Fugazi - London, Kentish Town Forum - 4th November, 2002. Fugazi's last gig before they announced their unbroken hiatus. My dad was with me, I felt like we were the oldest and youngest members of the audience. He still says it's one of the best gigs he's ever been to and that Guy Picciotto was performing like no-one he'd ever seen before. He IS a big fan of Peter Cox though.
    The record that most made you want to get into music: Fugazi - Repeater. It's not my favourite by them but it made me rethink a lot of things and generally get stupidly excited by guitars and feedback, haha.
    The three headliners at a festival you were curating: Fugazi (somehow), ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead (circa 2001), Sonic Youth.
    A song not enough people know about but everyone should hear: Jarcrew - Sad French Death Metal. It's freakishly awesome.
    A song you'd play to get people dancing: Q And Not U - End The Washington Monument (Blinks) Goodnight. Ideally I'd play guitar for this so I could pick the guitar behind the nut and fingertap at the sametime and look so fucking cool!
    The last great thing you heard: Perhaps Mi Ami (ex-Black Eyes)'s new album and the These Are Powers new album (All Aboard Future). Amazing ending track.
    Your key non-musical influences: Visceral energy, colours, graphic design, fine art.
    Your favourite new artist: DIVORCE from Glasgow. They've only got live videos up but "fucking hell".

    The first single was Hence: Elvis -