Wednesday, December 31, 2014


To close off 2014, a list of records we're interested in for 2015. Some of these will be rubbish. We apologise in advance. Obviously the biggest date in the new year will be 29th April when STN turns ten years old, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Panda Bear - Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper (12th January)

Belle & Sebastian - Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance (19th January)
The Decemberists - What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World (19th January)
Diagrams - Chromatics (19th January)
Menace Beach - Ratworld (19th January)
Sleater-Kinney - No Cities To Love (19th January)

The Phantom Band - Fears Trending (26th January)

Darren Hayman - Chants For Socialists (2nd February)
Tigercats - Mysteries (2nd February)

Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear (9th February)
Trust Fund - No One's Coming For Us (9th February)

Marika Hackman - We Slept At Last (16th February)
The Wave Pictures - Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon (16th February)

Gang Of Four – What Happens Next (23rd February)
Public Service Broadcasting - The Race For Space (23rd February)

Modest Mouse - Strangers To Ourselves (2nd March)
of Montreal – Aureate Gloom (2nd March)

Evans The Death - Expect Delays (9th March)
Will Butler – Policy (9th March)

Manhattan Love Suicides - More Heat! More Panic! (16th March)
Twin Shadow - Eclipse (16th March)

Laura Marling - Short Movie (23rd March)

And So I Watch You From Afar
Emmy The Great
Everything Everything
Girls Names
The Go! Team
Haiku Salut
Joanna Gruesome
Kiran Leonard
Mammoth Penguins/Hayman Kupa Band
Nadine Shah
Rose Elinor Dougall

The Acorn
The Avalanches (yeah, right)
Band Of Horses
Bat For Lashes
Beach House
Beth Jeans Houghton
Black Rivers
Built To Spill
Cat Power
Heavy Petting Zoo
Holy Fuck
Jamie xx
Lone Wolf
Los Campesinos!
Napoleon IIIrd
Other Lives
School Of Seven Bells
Still Corners
Summer Camp
Teenage Fanclub
Wild Nothing
The Wrens

Monday, December 29, 2014

Bonus tracks

So that's the albums done - time for our usual overlong (125 this year) and unhelpful end of year wrap-up of the best of the rest - tracks from albums that didn't make it into the top 50 of the year, tracks from albums not yet out, singles, demos, you know the drill.

Archie Bronson Outfit - Two Doves On A Lake [YouTube]
AUTOBAHN - Ulcer [YouTube]
Autobodies - Tip-off [Bandcamp]
Beaty Heart - Banana Bread [YouTube]
Benjamin Shaw - You & Me [Soundcloud]
Big Joanie - Damaged (When The Homewrecker Moved In) [Bandcamp]
bis - Rulers And The States [Bandcamp]
Black Rivers - The Ship [YouTube]
Blessa - Unfurl [Soundcloud]
Bob Mould - The War [YouTube]
Blood Red Shoes - Don't Get Caught [YouTube]
Broken Records - Toska [Soundcloud]
C Duncan - For [Soundcloud]
Cast And Crew - Rory [Bandcamp]
Chrissy Barnacle - Fawn Heart [Bandcamp]
Cloud Boat - All Of My Years [YouTube]
Colourmusic - Horse Race [Soundcloud]
Dad Rocks! - Body Mass Index [Soundcloud]
Daphni & Owen Pallett - Tiberius [Soundcloud]
Death From Above 1979 - Right On, Frankenstein! [YouTube]
Dels - Fall Apart [Soundcloud]
The Drink - Microsleep [Soundcloud]
Echo Lake - This Year [Soundcloud]
Elbow - My Sad Captains [YouTube]
Emmy The Great - Swimming Pool [Soundcloud]
Empty Pools - Into Static [Bandcamp]
The Epicdemics - Nightlife On Mars [Soundcloud]
Eugene McGuinness - Amazing Grace
Fanfarlo - Cell Song [YouTube]
Farewell J.R - Skin Pieces [Soundcloud]
Fear Of Men - Tephra [YouTube]
Fickle Friends - Swim [Soundcloud]
Fire Island Pines - Bo Dep [Bandcamp]
Firestations - Never Closer [Soundcloud]
FKA Twigs - Numbers [YouTube]
Flowers - Joanna [YouTube]
Free Swim - Transatlantic Tumnus [Soundcloud]
Froth - When We Get In [Bandcamp]
FTSE - Nite Lite [YouTube]
Fujiya & Miyagi - Daggers [YouTube]
Grawlix - Atlas Bear
Gulp - Seasoned Sun [Soundcloud]
H Hawkline - Moons In My Mirror [Soundcloud]
Heavy Petting Zoo - Crash [Soundcloud]
The Hics - All We'll Know [Soundcloud]
The Hidden Cameras - Doom [YouTube]
Hilary Woods - Flames [Soundcloud]
The Hobbes Fanclub - Your Doubting Heart [Bandcamp]
Honeyblood - Fall Forever [YouTube]
Horse Party - Inbetween [Soundcloud]
H O R S E S - Kephyläu [Soundcloud]
HUGH - One Of These Days [Soundcloud]
Interpol - Ancient Ways [YouTube]
J Mascis - Me Again [YouTube]
J Xaverre - A Guess, Rewind [Bandcamp]
Jamie T - Limits Lie [YouTube]
Jarbird - More Bad Celebrity Poetry [Soundcloud]
Joanna Gruesome - Jerome (liar) [Soundcloud]
The John Steel Singers - Common Thread [Soundcloud]
Juce - Braindead [Soundcloud]
Jungle - Time [YouTube]
Kim Deal and Morgan Nagler - The Root [YouTube]
Let's Buy Happiness - Luck And Love [Bandcamp]
Let's Wrestle - Rain Ruins Revolution [Soundcloud]
Lonelady - Groove It Out [Soundcloud]
The Lucid Dream - The Emptiest Place [Soundcloud]
Marika Hackman - Deep Green [Soundcloud]
Martin Austwick - The Man Who Could Not Read Minds [Bandcamp]
Maximo Park - Leave This Island [YouTube]
Mega Emotion - City In Shapes [Bandcamp]
Menace Beach - Fortune Teller [Soundcloud]
Mogwai - Hexon Bogon [YouTube]
Morrissey - Istanbul [YouTube]
Nadine Shah - Stealing Cars [Soundcloud]
The New Pornographers - Brill Bruisers [YouTube]
No Ditching - Where You Off To? [Bandcamp]
Nudes - Crush [Soundcloud]
Owl & Mouse - Don't Read The Classics [Soundcloud]
Panda Bear - Mr Noah [YouTube]
Primetime - Tied Down [Soundcloud]
Radstewart - Insane Parties [Soundcloud]
Ravioli Me Away - Cat Call [Soundcloud]
Remember Remember - La Mayo [YouTube]
Rose Elinor Dougall - Take Yourself With You [Soundcloud]
Rumour Cubes - Hiyat [Soundcloud]
Run The Jewels - Blockbuster Night Part 1 [YouTube]
Sam Airey - Station Approach [Bandcamp]
The School - Just Let Me Be Here [Bandcamp]
Sean Rowe - Madman [Soundcloud]
September Girls - Black Oil [YouTube]
She Keeps Bees - Radiance [Soundcloud]
Shy And The Fight - Stop Motion [Bandcamp]
Sinkane - New Name [Soundcloud]
Sleater-Kinney - Surface Envy [Soundcloud]
Slow Skies - Ice Field [Soundcloud]
Slum Of Legs - Begin To Dissolve [Bandcamp]
SOAK - B a noBody [Soundcloud]
Son Lux ft. Lorde - Easy (Switch Screens) [Soundcloud]
Spearmint - Tony Wright [YouTube]
Stanley Brinks and The Wave Pictures - Orange Juice [Bandcamp]
Summer Camp - Beyond Clueless [Soundcloud]
Summer Ghost - Feel4Ever [Soundcloud]
Sun Machine - Tamaho Hitman pt. 1 [Soundcloud]
Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam - Auto [Soundcloud]
Sylvan Esso - Coffee [Soundcloud]
Telegram - Regatta [YouTube]
Tessera Skies - Droplet [Soundcloud]
Tigercats - Junior Champion [YouTube]
T.O.Y.S. - X-Static [Bandcamp]
TRAAMS - Selma [YouTube]
Trash Kit - Medicine [YouTube]
Trust Fund - Reading The Wrappers [Soundcloud]
Trwbador feat. Essa - Breakthrough [Soundcloud]
Virginia Wing - Estuary
Viscous Liquid - If I Go [Soundcloud]
Wakes - Sidewalk Cracks [Soundcloud]
Waking Aida - How To Build A Space Station [Soundcloud]
Warpaint - Love Is To Die [YouTube]
The Wave Pictures - Pea Green Coat [Soundcloud]
We Three And The Death Rattle - Inpatients [Soundcloud]
Weyes Blood - Some Winters [Soundcloud]
Wild Balbina - Stay Alive [Soundcloud]
Wyldest - Wanders [Soundcloud]
Yr Poetry - Bae Ruthie [Soundcloud]
Zola Blood - Meridian [Soundcloud]

And the other annual treat: the Spotify playlist of the STN year, featuring where available a track from each of the top 50 albums and as many as can be found of those above.

Friday, December 26, 2014

STN Top 50 Albums Of 2014: 5-1

5 Martha - Courting Strong
Smart, unpretentious punk-pop with an indiepop bent. It's an old trick and quite a difficult one to pull off, especially when it's carried as superbly well as the residents of Pity Me manage on their debut. Melodies to spare, riffs that sound easy and probably aren't, and four vocalists harmonising, falling over each other, attempting to elbow in front of each other, all without bringing the edifice even down to the teetering stage. It's a youthful album with a funny, honest lyrical soul well beyond its years, a form of nostalgia laced with uncertain friendships and lost crushes, personal confusion and the loneliness of being left behind when everyone else goes off to develop. There's far more fascination going on here then their musical setting might suggest.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

4 Hookworms - The Hum
Strange thing to say about a second album a year after the first, but this was the album Hookworms had been threatening to make. It's where the many parts of their headspinning, intensifying stew – Spaceman 3 hazed psych-outs, Krautrock, shoegaze and drone, Nuggets and all full pelt garage rock since, Velvets-via-Modern Lovers and whatever MJ's often manaical, ultra-reverbed vocals and whirring organ which sounds like no other keyboard sound since Clinic emerged count as – have coalesced most effectively into songs that under the layers seem quite approachable even as they build towards the ecstatic codas. There's only six proper tracks on the album but they all hit home and leave a definite impression like little else this year.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

3 Wild Beasts - Present Tense
The fourth album (already) is a step sideways, taking in more overt electronic influences while still sounding both like themselves and a natural progression from Smother. In doing so they continue to scope out their own unique space, where carnality, menace and awkward reflection meet in fields dappled with retro-futuristic synths, the familiar arrhythmic drums and very little in the way of obvious guitars, almost experimental R&B production at times. Apparently a four-piece band can do sensuality properly. Their lyrics are still written in a way nobody else does, getting over themselves and their flesh-feast satires into a place of enchantment and actual romance. Yet again they've staked out an area that moves on and is purely their approach, their internal rules.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

2 Perfume Genius - Too Bright
Mike Hadreas has had enough of confessionals, turning his internalised wounds outwards to find out what everyone else makes of him. “No family is safe when I sashay” is the much quoted lyric, really acting as a trojan horse for a theme of being the one who stands out, who isn't like everyone else and has learnt to accept that and have fun with it. There are still stately, quavering piano ballads and Hadreas' lonely, bruised vocal style largely remains, but they're in the minority set against humming, twinkling Sakamoto synths, brooding guitars, pulsing electronic basslines and the odd shifted vocal just to make things sound creeper and more “other”. A curious, sad, confrontational, aching, powerful album that we'll be marking as a sleeper classic one day.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

1 St Vincent - St Vincent
You don't often hear the moment when an artist moves from decent to spectacular as it's happening, but the moment when Birth In Reverse transforms from odd and tentative into a rush of endorphins with just a slight change of rhythm, driven by Annie Clark's distorted guitar, is a fine example. Those vaulting, fuzzed-out guitar runs seem to step up a gear here, in a context that seems to have every important part filled while still seeming taut and fat-free, Clark having seemingly worked out what she wants to do and how best to get it over in leftfield pop shapes, proudly idiosyncratic and shifting styles subtly and with the smallest of visible fragments while still notably following her own muse throughout. It feels like The One, and that's why it's our favourite album of 2014.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

STN Top 50 Albums Of 2014

50 School Of Language - Old Fears
49 Field Mouse - Hold Still Life
48 Talons - New Topographics
47 The Understudies - Let Desire Guide Your Hand
46 Steven James Adams - House Music
45 Hayley Bonar - Last War
44 Cheatahs - Cheatahs
43 Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks - Enter The Slasher House
42 Acollective - Pangaea
41 Martin Carr - The Breaks
40 Peggy Sue - Choir Of Echoes
39 Damon Albarn - Everyday Robots
38 Golden Fable - Ancient Blue
37 Lykke Li - I Never Learn
36 Adebisi Shank - This is the Third Album of a band called Adebisi Shank
35 Ace Bushy Striptease - Slurpt
34 Fashoda Crisis - Almost Everyone Is Entirely Average At Almost Everything
33 Cosines - Oscillations
32 Comet Gain - Paperback Ghosts
31 Elephant - Sky Swimming
30 Two White Cranes - twowhitecranes
29 The Wind-Up Birds - Poor Music
28 Maybeshewill - Fair Youth
27 White Lung - Deep Fantasy
26 Hello Saferide - The Fox, The Hunter And Hello Saferide
25 R.Seiliog - In Hz
24 Gruff Rhys - American Interior
23 Post War Glamour Girls - Pink Fur
22 Mowbird - Islander
21 Liars - MESS
20 Her Name Is Calla - Navigator
19 First Aid Kit - Stay Gold
18 Spoon - They Want My Soul
17 The Phantom Band - Strange Friend
16 Slow Club - Complete Surrender
15 Sharon Van Etten - Are We There
14 Bastard Mountain - Farewell, Bastard Mountain
13 TV On The Radio - Seeds
12 Christian Fitness - I Am Scared of Everything That Isn't Me
11 Caribou - Our Love
10 Allo Darlin' - We Come From The Same Place
9 Owen Pallett - In Conflict
8 tUnE-yArDs - Nikki Nack
7 David Thomas Broughton & Juice Vocal Ensemble - Sliding The Same Way
6 Johnny Foreigner - You Can Do Better
5 Martha - Courting Strong
4 Hookworms - The Hum
3 Wild Beasts - Present Tense
2 Perfume Genius - Too Bright
1 St Vincent - St Vincent

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

STN Top 50 Albums Of 2014: 10-6

10 Allo Darlin' - We Come From The Same Place
Elizabeth Morris' life has changed in the two years since last album Europe – she's now married and based in Florence - and there's been a certain growing process in these songs too. Still a romantic at heart, still able to paint a picture with one line and evoke the heartfelt on the next, that title suggests a familiarity that the songs carry through not so much in a lack of musical movement, still reminiscent of the Go-Betweens' heavy hearted subjects with a light touch as they are, but something that suggests the uncomplicated and then wrong-foots the listener with a painfully honest aphorism or a piece of undiluted romance and adventure.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

9 Owen Pallett - In Conflict
Pallett's extensive work in the field of uniting baroque arrangements and singer-songwriter curiosity is increasingly more filled out as time and experience goes on, still anchored by his violin and voice both swooping for prey. It's difficult to state for certainty that a certain set of lyrics are more personal but there's much less hiding behind obvious fantastical character studies and storylines here, but again it's not a confessional as much as a great list of ideas, bad memories, notions and neuroses spread thickly across wide vistas of orchestral effects, retro synths and a man failing steadfastly despite everything to give up.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

8 tUnE-yArDs - Nikki Nack
What a presence Merrill Garbus is turning into. Turning herself into a Greek chorus and a percussion army alike, her third album has reined in some of her more flailing habits while retaining what made those records so exciting, the cut-and-shut between hip hop and Afropop rhythms, carnival parades, manic laptop mix and matching, playground chants, electronic trickery and wordplay that by turns politicises, internalises and just takes the words that sound best together. Garbus' abstract sense of how melodies fit together is key to this unique standfirst, a sense of fun with a message of nonconformism underneath. This is her normality, and it's like nobody else's.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

7 David Thomas Broughton & Juice Vocal Ensemble - Sliding The Same Way
Recorded with minimal preparation between two largely unfamiliar parties, it's remarkable how Broughton's singularly distressing baritonal eccentricity and the experimental acapella vocal trio intersect as if they'd been working together for years. That is to say, they virtually work against each other as much as complementing, stretching around the fluid, picked out circular guitar melodies and harmonising in a method you couldn't really call angelic. Broughton, of course, has his own agenda as far as songwriting goes, where death and distress constantly lurk in almost out of time terms, laying out beautiful imagery and then undermining it with one line. The mix was also remarkable live, but you already knew that.
[iTunes] [Spotify]

6 Johnny Foreigner - You Can Do Better
Ah, the annual JoFo visit to the STN top ten. Their first album recorded as a four-piece contains a lot of the same invigorating turbo clatter, melodramatic crossthreaded shouting, observations of back streets from Alexei's diary and lines that start “So...” The ride is still the thrill, especially when it's as well done as this, but they can change it down effectively and inject spite and regret in equal measure into those wordy spews. It's almost them at their noisiest and scrappiest, racing with the energy of a band starting out given the extra confidence of their having mastered their particular craft. So what does the Johnny Foreigner album sound like? It sounds like Johnny Foreigner, and that's more than enough.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

Top five on Boxing Day

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

STN Top 50 Albums Of 2014: 15-11

15 Sharon Van Etten - Are We There
Van Etten's struggles against a seemingly constantly broken heart have proved fertile lyrical ground, but on this fourth album she seems at rock bottom at times, documenting an on-off relationship with her usual cut to the bone uncomforting honesty while musically extending the intimate Americana brief of yore into wider fields, country rock and billowing overtures mingling with stratospheric piano balladry and the darkest of US underground influence. It's seldom less than melodramatic but it feels like it's earned its heft, an enormous sound juxtaposed with the most nakedly intimate thoughts and feelings, ending with the awkward thought that she might need a lack of resolution to keep going in such style.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

14 Bastard Mountain - Farewell, Bastard Mountain
As longstanding admirers of Song, By Toad's folk subversions, a practical label supergroup was always going to prick up our ears. What we hadn't anticipated is the stillness and darkness in its atmospheric landscape. Shivering, discordant violins and droning low-pitched guitars are like the heavy fog across the lake which the likes of Neil Pennycook (ex-Meursault) and Jill O'Sullivan (Sparrow & The Workshop) along with occasional fingerpicked guitars attempt to float on in the dead of an unstill night. Drifting without dulling, their take on gothic country is rich in texture, serene without becoming one-paced, absolutely fascinating and goosepimple chilling.

13 TV On The Radio - Seeds
After the flat Nine Types Of Light and the loss of Gerard Smith you might have forgiven TVOTR for drifting a little. Instead they found a third way, at once becoming more accessible while tightening up the values that had threatened to drift somewhat. In truth it's a straightforward pop album put through their unique filters, R&B, synthpop, soul and commerciality put through loops, nameless dread and assorted wringers, pushing against those elastic boundaries with endless not-too-careful layers of noise intervals, dry funkiness and a certain layer of glossy lustrousness, or as much as can be provided when juxtaposted with Tunde Adebimpe's still remarkable soulfulness as existential guilt of a voice.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

12 Christian Fitness - I Am Scared of Everything That Isn't Me
As is the way with these things, Andrew Falkous is insistent that just because he's pretty much the only musician on the record that doesn't mean Christian Fitness makes him a solo artist. Well, that's as maybe. What differentiates this from Future Of The Left is the necessarily more lo-fi and slightly less geared towards endlessly quotable lyrics, highlighting in place Albiniesque guitars set to kill, part of a leaner and meaner sound that still retains the rolling threat of the main band. It's a messier record, angry and paranoid against a sound that doesn't so much set teeth on edge as threaten them with a claw hammer.

11 Caribou - Our Love
How did this become a top ten album? The sense of surprise on Dan Snaith's chartbreaking achievement is based on how odd this seems for a breakthrough, following the previous flirtations with broken electronic rhythms by once more taking apart contemporary club music, here dubstep and the less bro-friendly bits of EDM, just to see how it works, and then rewiring it wrongly, just because. Moments of euphoria and tension mix with almost uncomfortable elements, swirl in and out of the foreground mix, clash with synths that recall the first wave of house, and go generally to make it sound like a very odd, warm and yet welcoming excursion.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

Monday, December 22, 2014

STN Top 50 Albums Of 2014: 20-16

20 Her Name Is Calla - Navigator
Turning their back on the post-rock easy trappings they fell under for a while, Navigator is an album that lays bare some pretty tough emotions in more intriguing settings. Just in the first three tracks with vocals they traverse rustic folk, darkwave synths and rolling, agitated skyscraping piano balladry. That it all still feels like the same band is testament to their command of such intensity, rolling into storm-tossed sections or string-led peacefulness with the same flair for quiet, stately grace and outright soaring dramatics, held together by Tom Morris picking at scabs and working through his dark nights of the uneven soul.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

19 First Aid Kit - Stay Gold
You'll recognise Mike Mogis' production a mile off if you know what you're looking for, but you wouldn't confuse the Soderberg sisters for your standard harmonic west coast folk outfit. Not with those gossamer harmonies, not with a very Scandinavian sense of strength in misery, and not with as punchy a set of hooks as these, washing across desert lands to try and find a sign of humanity but finding only the remains. They sound convincing in their poetic attempts to come to terms with their new way of life, the melodramatic string section and country shuffle backing adding the natural grit and the idea of personal transcendence.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

18 Spoon - They Want My Soul
Oh, Spoon. Always different, always similar, soul-infused angularity in a crisp, concise, Costello-influenced vein. And that's what this album sounds much like, with maybe a little more of an eye on the mainstream. The devil is in the detail, the production carefully overseen and micro-managed in the way little found sounds and keyboard runs come in to take the ear away from the natural progression or how sometimes the guitars don't quite sound like they should. Underneath all the tricks, however, are just taut indie-rock songs of the old school from a group of people who know intrinsically how to write, arrange and play such things.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

17 The Phantom Band - Strange Friend
Just when you thought they were done they drag you back in. The Phantom Band's third album was more approachable than the first two but still perambulated around the edges of the Kraut-electro-indie-riffrock-acid-folk they've been extending to breaking point with only Rick Anthony's rich baritone to tie it all down. Shifting gears, diving from chugging tension verses into big wordless choruses and only after that launching into something bigger, it's an album that joyfully skips from swirling organs to washes of obtuse guitar sounds, a multicolour kosmiche charge that pays little heed to notional rules when the real joy lies in putting elements of various sources together in case they lead to a cohesive whole.
[iTunes] [Amazon]

16 Slow Club - Complete Surrender
This is not the whole Slow Club you used to know. The ramshackle alt-folk revue are now a self-sufficient soul duo for the lovers, or at least those who were once lovers. Things were really always heading this way in retrospect, and for all the swing and triumphant horns there's enough of a through-line – Rebecca Taylor's skyscraping vocals, the shuffling rhythms, the harmonies – to make it seem like an obvious step. The vocal intertwining remains the key to their appeal, Taylor an embodiment of heartbreak at times, Charles Watson a bruised, tender foil, that combination turning what could have been a stylistic exercise into something you can easily believe in from two pasty Sheffielders.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas stories part III

Grandaddy & Band Of Horses - Hang An Ornament

The latter are currently recording a new album with Jason Lytle producing, so they knocked out an expectedly grandiose and merging into left-field track with plenty of heart to it.

David Thomas Broughton - Good King Wenceslas

It's David Thomas Broughton covering Good King Wenceslas. What's not to get excited about? Buy from here, proceeds to charity.

Seazoo - Happily Taking Advice From An Imaginary Sergeant Eddie Stone Late December

Recorded for BBC Wales' Horizons project, a melodically jaunty number that is surely the first festive song to evoke the drill sergeant from SAS: Are You Tough Enough?

Dan Michaelson - Another Messy Christmas

You can rely on Michaelson and his sozzled croak to do something different with a Christmas song. This one is from the perspective of Mrs Christmas, spending another festive season alone while Santa goes off travelling.

John MOuse - When A Child Is Born

Those who came across his gleeful reconstruction of On Ilkla Moor Baht 'at will have guessed that the quixotic Welshman and band haven't strictly produced a faithful reworking of Johnny Mathis' 1976 Christmas number one.

Friday, December 19, 2014

STN Top 50 Albums Of 2014: 25-21

25 R.Seiliog - In Hz
Repetition in the music and he's never gonna lose it, as someone once said about something else. Robin Edwards' take on kosmiche is built on loops, micro and otherwise, building cyclical rhythms and pulses around which densely circulate eddying synth drones, found sounds, minimalism constructions and surges, which somehow emerge out the other end as in some sort of spaced-out hock to both 303-heavy acid house and psychedelic “happenings”. In Hz is as dense a work as you'll find this year, the layers not so much peeling back as submerging and seeing which set of electronic effects and rhythmic notions emerge this time.
[iTunes] [Amazon]

24 Gruff Rhys - American Interior
The concept – John Evans, Patagonian Welsh, all that – carried along the tale and made a fine book and documentary, but as a standalone work the album dips into something he and the Super Furrys made their own, taking FM and soft rock tropes and turning them inside out, littering the remnants with prog-pop, motorik and the general sense of something really not being right here. Exploring relations with the modern world from a supposed outsider's perspective, the nature of failure and the hopes of travel and mythology there's some typically broad themes hidden behind a deadpan veneer, and as ever some neatly odd melodies.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

23 Post War Glamour Girls - Pink Fur
There's been quite a bit of small-g gothic around this year, rarely better exemplified by the murder ballads and danger under cover of darkness art-rock creeping of Leeds' PWGG. James Smith makes quite the wild-eyed moral arbiter, his baritone preaching looming over music that lurches around slithering guitars, rattling bass and aggressive shifting between moods that in emotiveness states don't ever seem to let up, occasionally theatrical and idiosyncratic, getting deliberately lost in the haze or hammering against the walls of the place you least want to be at that moment. We're all going to hell, essentially, and these are the vulgar boatmen.
[iTunes] [Bandcamp] [Spotify]

22 Mowbird - Islander
Rough and ready Nuggets-influenced garage rock is ten a penny these days but only really seems to grab the wider attention when coming out of America. Mowbird, from Wrexham, might therefore be stuffed. That's no excuse not to get taken in by a short (25 minutes), sharp set of stabs of distorted post-slacker rock that gets from A to B with economy, vigour and with off-kilter melodies that still make absolute sense. If it sounds like it might fall apart at any time, that's part of the appeal, riding along on its own crest of a wave with no thought to cool quotients, just the excitement of scrappy guitar pop.
[iTunes] [Bandcamp] [Spotify]

21 Liars - MESS
So, where are they heading this time? Having switched from apocalyptic garage rock to skeletal electronica last time out, this time the sequencers are worked to the limit and the layers underneath filled out greater. There's callbacks to the rhythmic attack of Drum's Not Dead or Sisterworld's flick-knife menace, this time by way of Cabaret Voltaire-style distorted DIY synths, all juddering keys and rhythms that seem to be built on Slinkys. It is, of course, heavily dystopian, Angus Andrew in fine brimstone preacher form and occasionally lapsing into robotic dance-punk as played on overheated Korgs. Liars don't have a comfort zone, and that's a very good thing.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

Thursday, December 18, 2014

STN Top 50 Albums Of 2014: 30-26

30 Two White Cranes - twowhitecranes
Two White Cranes is the medium through which Bristol's Roxy Brennan puts her innermost thoughts to spare guitar and the occasional bit of drumming. Riddled with heartbreak and self-doubt, reverberating with a human pulse with bursts of louder guitar almost like resonance of her heart leaping, Brennan's voice can be either strident and willing to push everything in the way of her path aside or bruised to the touch, lyrics of gorgeous imagery and tenderness backed by simple hooks and sudden surges, things of quiet beauty and joy in the detail and of love in cold climates.

29 The Wind-Up Birds - Poor Music
Chief Wind-Up Bird Kroyd has pretty much had enough now. Over a luxurious seventeen tracks he narrates a country gone socio-politically wrong from the bar, not in a ranting overtly political sense but as a series of post-Half Man Half Biscuit/Art Brut observations of characters dissatisfied, overcurious or just lost in situations along class lines. It's the energy of the band that make it, though, charging through a very Northern charge, echoes of prime Fall in the background, often as keen to poke and prod the listener as the lyrical sentiments. It's defiance refracted as indie, just like it used to be done.
[iTunes] [Bandcamp] [Spotify]

28 Maybeshewill - Fair Youth
No instrumental band quite does optimism within grandiosity in the way Maybeshewill do it. Their fourth album refines their sound further, the laptop glitchery sneaking back in to augment the high emotive content, beauty and drama suggested by the major key piano flourishes and guitars that swap the metal riffola of previous records for something more layered and considered, backed by drifting strings and ice floe textures where others would construct all-out sonic cathedrals. The way everything fits together works just right for purpose, gliding never too serenly, never settling into a holding pattern.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

27 White Lung - Deep Fantasy
You almost don't need to explain albums like this, you set them off and let them strip the paint from the walls. Ten electrifying tracks in 22 minutes, illuminated by the righteous, urgently and proudly politicised/feminist screeds of Mish Way and backed by guitars that take off like rockets, leaving feedback sparkles and enormous wreckage in their wake, with precious little in the way of deliberate let-up. Sometimes it reminds of Motorhead, sometimes of Black Flag, always it sounds entirely vital and the sort of album that you know what to expect from but it still pins you to the wall by force of internalised belief alone.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

26 Hello Saferide - The Fox, The Hunter And Hello Saferide
Annika Norlin's first English language album in six years peels away most extraneous elements until all that's left is delicacy against Norlin's aching lyrics. She's always excelled at using imagery to cut quicker to the ultimate truth and here applies the light and shade approach to personal themes – ageing and maturing, dependency on others, nostalgia and misunderstanding – until the intimacy either becomes all too well sketched out or becomes a consideration of how we all fit into the world. Norlin might talk, unexpectedly in context, of “a darkness trying to get out” but there's equally as many light, curious touches to fill in the humanity aspect of her character self-study.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

STN Top 50 Albums Of 2014: 35-31

35 Ace Bushy Striptease - Slurpt
And it's goodbye from them, as the prolific pint-sized-piece punk-pop perennials went their separate ways straight after this sixth album. A shame, really, as having reined most of their more shambolic traits they became the sort of band who could have picked up a proper widespread cult following. In other words: not as much shouting and/or thrashing, definitely more instant melodies, without sacrificing the vocal interchanging, the ability to all clatter full throttle towards the same goal, a very good trick to pull off if you can. A bundle of smarter than they'd let on energy, we might never see their like again.

34 Fashoda Crisis - Almost Everyone Is Entirely Average At Almost Everything
Yes! Angry, politicised, thrashy post-hardcore! Fashoda Crisis' first proper full-length (even though they made last year's list – it's a long story) comes on like an ever more muscular juggernaut, Jawbreaker via Future Of The Left to the power of Pixies at their most full-on, Sim Ralph baiting right wingers, little Englanders and the narrow-minded in general, more pinpoint precision than the previous one-remove wryness. It's an album that sounds entirely like a sledgehammer, and in confident hands such as these that's a very good thing.
[Bandcamp] [Spotify]

33 Cosines - Oscillations
The “mathematical pop” Cosines claim for themselves has its roots in the early electronic bands, introducing Joe Meek's studio to new wave smarts by way of motorik rhythms and scrappy indiepop. So far so Stereolab, but their lyrical interest is more bedsit than nouvelle vague, Alice Hubley addressing the significant other who broke her heart. Space disco and glam beats get mixed in with synthpop swells, feeling overall like the sort of base level from which a lot more interesting things are bound to emerge.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

32 Comet Gain - Paperback Ghosts
This time around, Comet Gain are for the lovers. They've always been romantics but there's more of an emphasis on countrified melancholia this time around, a Go-Betweens striped sunlight sound relocated to a north London park in autumnal tints. Measured and matured without ever quite seeming adult as such. They can sound like a great lost Britpop-era band, or a ye-ye 45, or even lo-fi psych-pop, without sounding like a compilation album made flesh. The heart remains consistent throughout, and twenty years on that's why they're increasingly cherishable.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

31 Elephant - Sky Swimming
The duo's long gestating debut is a bright pop album about utter heartbreak. As synths glacially force the pace, the melancholia comes from classic girl group settings, the aching sway perfect for Amelia Rivas' twilit, fundamentally affecting assertions. It could easily become maudlin over the course of a full record, and that it doesn't is testament to the careful hand at the tiller that arranges swaying backdrops, moments that sound second hand but may not be, and the sort of luxuriant Instagram-filtered shared memory everyone thought Lana Del Rey was going to provide. Instead it's come from a London back room and a £10 Casio. Ah, pop's unpredictability.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

STN Top 50 Albums Of 2014: 40-36

40 Peggy Sue - Choir Of Echoes
Katy and Rosa have never attained the regular mainstream credentials many of their ilk have managed, despite the spot-on dulcet pinched harmonies and the arrangements that take nu-folk standards down shady woodland alleys. Their sound expanded again here, taking in ragged rhythm and blues and blues sourness, chiming guitars and choral pop manoeuvres with an unsure darkness underneath. Clattering rhythmic stutters, gospel-influenced vocal arrangements, treated guitars creating foreboding atmospheres – this is not an album that settles for the acoustic harmony safe ground. If it ultimately feels like just another Peggy Sue album, albeit a less outgoing effort, at least it demonstrates they have full command of their sound.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

39 Damon Albarn - Everyday Robots
Hazy nostalgia fills in the cracks in Albarn's first proper solo album, a record that exudes soul without delving too deeply. It drifts attractively at least, finding a heart in a certain bleakness reflective of Damon's past, the years on the road and living it up at a mid-90s height, while located in isolation from modern life through the medium of technological alienation, the idea of a man who believes in the world as communicative tool trying to make sense of social media's rate of change. Not having to fill arenas or work his worldview into cartoon character shapes suits him for once.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

38 Golden Fable - Ancient Blue
Golden Fable's most notable, and best carried through, USP is Rebecca Palin's quasi-operatic, highly ethereal vocal style. On their second album the music has come back a little to meet it, bringing in new little nuances that complement the extra thrust found elsewhere and bring something new out of the mix with every listen. Treating rough terrain with utmost delicacy, it makes fuzzy guitar sounds and ambient minimalist backings feel like obvious bedfellows when what's in front of them are that gorgeous a voice and an awareness of subtlety that feels as if but for the occasional louder groundings these gossamer songs might take off and float into the stratosphere.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

37 Lykke Li - I Never Learn
Li's third album still has its Spectoresque widescreen moments but never feels like maximum production, mining her freshly broken heart in a frame that values closeness, poignancy and minimalism – a delicate acoustic guitar, a reverberating piano sound, a shuffling beat pointing the way towards what seems like personal darkness for as far as the heart's eye can see. Lykke's naturally pained vocal makes these tales sound like they're constantly mining fresh wounds, ballads washed afresh in tears, ready to tell the world just to get the emotions out of herself.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

36 Adebisi Shank - This Is The Third Album Of A Band Called Adebisi Shank
And the final album of a band called Adebisi Shank, it turned out. But at least they went out with heads high, their bombastic sound as difficult to place as ever outside basic 'instrumental' parameters - Don Caballero in a particle accelerator recreating FM rock riffs, perhaps – as electronics and full throttle post-rock tricksiness heads full pelt towards each other. Dancing round itself endlessly, sending 16-bit arrangements towards the stadium or fighting each other with laser guns amid implausible riffs, springing effects and computer voices, it's unlikely we'll see quite their like again.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Late arrivals: Mowbird, Evans The Death, September Girls

Mowbird feat. Sweet Baboo - Lady Lion

In which the Wrexham wonders re-record a track from their 2011 EP with Stephen Black on vocals and turn it into a JT from Islet-produced distorto-monster with a chantalong chorus in waiting. Bodes well for next year's second album.

Evans The Death - Don't Laugh At My Angry Face

It's been a while since they were last around - they were playing new songs at our Alldayer in earlyish 2013 - but a second album, Expect Delays, is due in March, something really quite a step on lurching into life with a classic overdriven organ sound and a song that stumbles around and falls over itself quite often before turning unexpectedly into a classic rock breakdown.

September Girls - Black Oil

And for the hat-trick of roughed up dark garage rock that features an organ put through an apparent hatful of effects, a sharp turn for the acclaimed Irish fuzzpop outfit foregrounding a creepy monologue and an unforgiving gothic pulse from a new EP, Veneer.

STN Top 50 Albums Of 2014: 45-41

45 Hayley Bonar - Last War
Canadian Bonar's been around for more than a decade but on her fifth album she let her alt-country roots go to tatters in favour of a sound that takes on the jagged directness that hasn't really been fertile in this genre since Tanya Donelly and Kristin Hersh were in their mid-90s band pomps, with post-punk wariness underpinning the ventures and by way of Rilo Kiley-esque darkly hookish power-pop. Charging not entirely blindly into the face of failure and indifference, Bonar's heart is firmly on her sleeve and the hope where there might currently be none fits her newish, much grimier surroundings.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

44 Cheatahs - Cheatahs
Yeah, shoegazing revivalism has kind of been done by now, but Cheatahs' approach feels freshest even as vocals disappear behind squalls. Sonic Youth would be another touchstone here for the way they could strangulate poppish melodies and bend them to their own will, guitar runs coursing round the instrumental bits with a certain malevolent grace and something always going on in the background like Teenage Fanclub circa Bandwagonesque with flanges set to full. It's not full-on revivalism in the turn up and play through pedals sense but a band using those influences to slow-burn up something more altogether aggressive.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

43 Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks - Enter The Slasher House
It might be Animal Collective's own fault for putting out so much material between them but Avey's side project seemed to pass by barely noticed, which is a shame as it posited that band's spaced-out search for new nooks and crannies to poke about in as a rough and ready garagey trio attempting to concisely handle chopped up psych-pop. The oddball abandon remains largely in place, something creepy remaining within sight no matter how playful what's going on with the topline gets, disappearing further as we go along into alternate universe wormholes and down the rabbit hole the horroriffic band name suggests.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

42 Acollective - Pangaea
In a good way, it's difficult to see what Israel's sprawling Acollective are pinned down to. Rattling digitised soft rock sits next to grandiose piano-led marches of a Hope Of The States stripe next to radio-ready rock shapes. Warping psych-prog and windswept folk are treated as two sides of the same coin in a way that makes such stylistic leaps seem to make sense. It feels like their next album, the one where everything forms one whole, will be The One, but in the meantime allow this one to internally grow until its sense of adventurous purpose coalesces.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

41 Martin Carr - The Breaks
After years exploring the periphery of his songwriting credo Carr has turned for home in his most straightforward set of songs since Wake Up! Not to say they're straightforward by most standards, evoking Nilsson, west coast country, soul, folk, new wave and psychedelia in a set of songs that don't attempt for any sort of zeitgeist but suggest a man finally at peace with himself while still betraying a certain fragility and lack of wider comfort for all the wistfulness at home. Witty, jarring at times, it's an adult record but not one that rests on its laurels.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

Monday, December 15, 2014

STN Top 50 Albums Of 2014: 50-46

50 School Of Language - Old Fears
A fascination with funk rhythms has crept into the last couple of Field Music albums. Old Fears dives right in with an approach pitched between a home studio version of Prince-style funkified electronic production tricks and David Bowie’s Young Americans ‘plastic funk’ era, on top of which comes hefty doses of 1980s keyboard and David Sylvian production effects. You can't dance to it, but it's stuffed with arrangements that have so much going on but you hardly notice once they’re set and turning inwards on themselves.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

49 Field Mouse - Hold Still Life
Brooklyn's Field Mouse got left behind a little in the shoegaze stakes this year, perhaps because their core ingredients – too-cool female vocals, pedal abuse, shimmer and roar alike – seem well done. Delve deeper, though, and you'll find its heart is as much in another early 90s staple, the brutally bruised Throwing Muses/Juliana Hatfield/Veruca Salt school. They can handle a sugary pop melody as much as much as dragging the listener along by volume alone, while the slower moments come on like distant illuminations.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

48 Talons - New Topographics
The wall of droning violins that make up the lengthy intro to the opening track give Lincoln's Talons a modern-classical edge and a sense of scale rarely really poked at by 'glacial', 'full-on' post-rock outfits. Refining their previous everything-all-the-time approach, the eight tracks pass by like movements where stately string-led sections give way to metallic riffage, unspooling with an urgency that sits intriguingly alongside the GY!BE-style fragile connecting passages into an enthralling dynamism where the dual violinists add drama amid the headlong surges around. You have to put the work in, but sometimes that's the point.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

47 The Understudies - Let Desire Guide Your Hand
Bands evoking the spirit of Orange Juice never quite get it, that it's supposed to be as much about soul, in both musical and spiritual forms, as much as strummy angular guitars. The Understudies feel like they studied in the same art school classes and saw the same French films as their Glaswegian bretheren and completely understand the fragile romanticism that underpins the best indiepop, sparsely used strings giving tracks the requisite noir. It's an album for the joys of spring and the dark of the night, light enough in its understanding of serious affairs of the heart.

46 Steven James Adams - House Music
Adams has struggled for a consistent path since the Broken Family Band split; on this first album under his proper first name he found a profitable route by stepping backwards a little into that band's very English wry version of drink-sodden, melancholic country-rock, lyrically cutting down to the emotional core on tales of hopelessness, heartbreak and the generally pervasive air of lives being lived by others alone.
[iTunes] [Amazon] [Spotify]

Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmas stories part II

Broken Records - My Beer Drunk Soul Is Sadder Than All The Dead Christmas Trees In The World

Now that's a title. They're on livelier, less sodden and saddened form than Weights & Pulleys, channelling Frightened Rabbit to an extent on a brass-enlivened full-on celebration of whiskey-soaked turning in on yourself at festive season.

Smoke Fairies - 3 Kings

Given the isolation and iciness that often exists within Smoke Fairies songs a Christmas album might seem a natural progression. So, of course, this track from Wild Winter, out this week, doesn't sound much like Smoke Fairies as we've come to know them, setting the crystalline harmonies against a backing that seems to be trying to cut and shut a pop melody and distorted effects.

Simon Love - Walking In A Winter Wonderland

The festive standard in the style of the Jesus & Mary Chain. But of course.

Kate Canaveral - Merry Christmas Everyone

Kate Canaveral is, well, Kate from Kid Canaveral, covering Shaky with space synths.

MJ Hibbett & The Validators - Easy Christmas

Hibbett's annual festive tradition, a fulsome skiffle tribute to not doing much. It namechecks Dylan's Must Be Santa.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Seazoo - Panda Pains

Been a while since the Wrexham outfit have sent some verge-of-collapse odd-pop our way, but now esconsed on Label Fandango this is out 19th January, a rush of cheap-sounding keyboards and power-pop shapes encompassing a killer melody that's all done in two and a half economical minutes.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Rose Elinor Dougall - Take Yourself With You

Just as the year looked to be passing without Dougall's promised second album, a track and news of said long-player (Stellular, out in spring) emerge. It feels more laidback and smooth than before, maybe adult even, largely picking up where last year's Future Vanishes EP left off, but the key elements - Stereolab and the Sundays by way of subtle electronics and folkishness, broken-heartedness and soaring vocals - remain intact.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Mega Emotion - Uncomfortable

After a couple of teaser demos of high quality Norwich's own post-punk electropop trio get to their first single, out January 15th on Post/Pop Records, who have previously released cassette tracks by Everything Everything, Johnny Foreigner, Pulled Apart By Horses, Ash and We Are Scientists. Their idea of retro-synth is Heaven 17 or early Depeche Mode, in love with pop melody and hooks played on stark keyboards while wanting to strip it back and make it seem paranoid. The B-side is a cover of Madonna's La Isla Bonita, because of course.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

The Ten: Creation Records obscurities

For this we turn to writer, general pop-cultural historian and friend of STN Tim Worthington, whose fine new book Higher Than The Sun tells the story of four albums released by Creation Records in late 1991 - Screamadelica, Loveless, Bandwagonesque and Foxbase Alpha - that overturned notions of what indie could be. To mark its release he chose ten lesser heard works (well, one was on Heavenly, but they had Creation connections) from McGee's vaults...

Primal Scream - Come Together (Hypnotone Brain Machine Mix)
When Primal Scream started messing around with dance music, they really didn't know what they were doing - which, let's face it, is how and why it ended up working so well - and that all-important follow-up to Loaded took several attempts to nail. Most readers will know the Andrew Weatherall version of Come Together that ended up on Screamadelica, which takes the song on a journey through the furthest reaches of space with The Reverend Jesse Jackson at the controls. Others will be familiar with the Terry Farley-helmed single version, locked neatly into a more traditional post-Madchester groove. But how many have heard the little-remembered third try at perfecting the problematic ditty, wherein dance duo Hypnotone - later to assume production duties for some tracks on Screamadelica - sped it up into a brain-frazzling rave-friendly sonic assault with alarming blasts of sampling from the Pearl & Dean jingle? Not something you hear on 6Music's 'listener mixtape' shows too often.

My Bloody Valentine - Sugar
Hailing from the brief period between Isn't Anything and Loveless, and originally only released on an obscure Creation promo single, Sugar is perhaps the most appropriately-named number in the entire My Bloody Valentine back catalogue, with tooth-corrodingly trebly high frequencies that probably would have damaged old-skool tape decks, and the overall feeling of being caught in a sandstorm of Tate & Lyle. Staggeringly, it was apparently written and recorded in a day too. We can only assume Kevin was on a bit of a sugar rush himself at the time.

Saint Etienne - Fake 88
Originally intended as the closing track of Foxbase Alpha, this moody sound collage contrasts with the 'up with vintage and modern pop!' mindset of the rest of the album by nailing what was wrong with the period between the two, featuring Stephen Duffy listing some of the eighties cultural phenomena that Pete, Bob and Sarah were more than happy to see the back of, from Thatcher and Chernenko to Toto Coelo, Transformers, Phil Redmond, Bratpack Films and, erm, Stephen 'TinTin' Duffy. That it shares its name with a certain Alexander O'Neal hit is probably no coincidence when you consider the lyrics of People Get Real...

Flowered Up - Enough's Enough
One of the B-sides of the original pulled 12" of Weekender, and frustratingly never officially issued anywhere (in fact, if anyone's reading who's in a position to do something, Flowered Up are in dire need of the deluxe 2CD treatment), this jaunty pisstake about naughty bedroom antics is how Laid by James would have sounded if it had been written by anyone with anything resembling a sense of humour. It's probably supposed to represent what someone else was getting up to while Weekender was off his face and being chased by a giant record player or something. And it's probably safer not to ask.

Teenage Fanclub - Like A Virgin
From the little-heard mini-album recorded at the end of the Bandwagonesque sessions The King, where it came surrounded by terrifying outbursts of scuzzy guitar and wailing police sirens, this tongue-in-cheek chug through a song that Madonna and Stephen Bray probably didn't write with four feedback-crazed Big Star devotees in mind is actually surprisingly effective. Though it's no Slow And Fast (The Ballad Of Bow Evil).

Ride - Blue
Ride's masterwork Going Blank Again was originally presented to Creation as a double-album, but was cut down to a single disc when their cost-conscious American record company started hyperventilating on the freeway or something. Which probably made for a stronger album if we're being honest about it. Some of the excised tracks ended up as fondly-remembered B-sides; others, including this nattily subdued number featuring a rare lead vocal from drummer Loz Colbert, ended up sitting puzzlingly on the shelf for years.

Super Furry Animals - nO.K.
The B-side of The International Language Of Screaming, and something that might sound on first listen like a cheap and lazy attempt at filling space on a single by getting someone to recite the alphabet over the A-side's backing track. But have a closer listen. Notice any letters missing? And can you think of any bands from around that time that might have made prominent use of said letter, and indeed that Super Furry Animals might well have felt inclined to take a subtle swipe at?

Sugar - If I Can't Change Your Mind (Evening Session Version)
Given how effectively they were wiped off the musical map by the rise of Oasis (and, admittedly, by their own miserable third album), it's easy to forget just what a short but intense media sensation Bob Mould's tuneful noisecore trio caused in the early nineties. If you want evidence of this, look no futher than the blistering tracks recorded for Mark Goodier's Radio 1 show that appeared spread across various singles (and now on the deluxe edition of Copper Blue), especially this exhiliarating rattle through their biggest hit single.

The Creation & Ride - How Does It Feel To Feel?
It has to be said that most of Alan McGee's post-Oasis 'great ideas' in the latter years of Creation are not worth even remembering in the first place, let alone dwelling on. One of his more inspired thoughts, however, was persuading the sixties mod-psych band that gave the label its name to reform for Creation's tenth anniversary concert (and later to record a brand new album), for which they teamed up with Ride for a barnstorming rendition of one of their more unhinged erstwhile hits. Put a sock in it, Noel.

The Boo Radleys - Zoom
Fat Larry's Band's squiggly synth-festooned bit of eighties sickliness falls into the hands of Mop-Haired Martin's Band, who transform it into something resembling Gabriel The Toad trying to bag a Peel Session some time circa August 1991. If you're going to do cover versions, do them as bafflingly unrecognisably as this.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Christmas stories part I

Los Campesinos - When Christmas Comes

"Audition for ass end of horse in village pantomime/Just to hear your voice calling from the back “it’s behind you!”" A Los Campesinos! Christmas seems like a fairly curious idea but they're nothing if not keen on throwing in something from leftfield. Six tracks, two previously released, one a cover of Lonely This Christmas (but of course), previewed by a track which sees swirling violin and glockenspiel making a brief comeback, angst and musical depth present as ever. They're out on a mini-tour with the mighty Trust Fund supporting from Thursday, taking in Manchester, Leeds, Norwich (we'll be there) and London's Village Underground.

Uncle Luc - Christmas 1994

Luke Barham's post-Stagecoach alt-country solo project brings this out on a double A-side 7" on the 15th, the great BJ Cole pedal steel adding weight to a wryly personal account that recalls the Broken Family Band. Tasmin Archer is referenced.

Pulled Apart By Horses - Merry Christmas Everybody

Lonely This Christmas seems to be the new post-ironic choice of festive cover for rock bands (why does nobody ever have a go at I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day?), as DZ Deathrays have had a shot at it revisaged as a shouty power ballad on a double A side as part of Too Pure's Singles Club. PABH as Slade is the flip, which rollicks along with a few key lyric changes and of *course* they pull off the shout as screamo.

H Hawkline - Moons In My Mirror

Huw Evans, for Hawkline is he, is right out of the Euros Childs/Gruff Rhys Principality school of doing twisted things with pop shapes. Now signed to Heavenly, his first proper album In The Pink Of Condition is out February 2nd, produced by Cate Le Bon and trailed by this ace piece of askew indiepop shuffle in which earpricking melodies fall over themselves.