Friday, June 30, 2006

We're still here

But even by our standards there's been nothing worth posting about this week, really. Rest assured that in the next couple of weeks or so you'll get... a commemoration of an intriguing pop anniversary, possibly a new Friendly Chat or two, possibly a new Illustrated Guide and the usual set of bored ponderings you're now used to. Now, go out and sit in the sun. Or, become our friend and/or read our TOTP thoughts on the shadow blog.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Weekender : we'll get the sidebar sorted later, it's alright

CHART OF DARKNESS: Nelly Furtado's still number one, Shakira, who appears to be playing constantly 24 hours a day on some music video channel or other, climbing to 2. Muse's death disco is at 4, with Sergio Mendes and the Black Eyed Peas at 6. Oddly, Mendes, hardly a household name to be fair, has been getting quite a bit of TV advertising for his new revisits album, which debuts at 27. You write one song that's quick and easy for VT editors to stick over Brazilian football footage, and look what happens. Lostprophets, a band whose own video we've often had to restrain ourselves from shouting 'but you're not moody LA emo, you're Welsh!' at the television from, are at 8, with the quietly popular in the way the Charlatans used to be Zutons at 9, with the album up 14 at 8. The Pussycat Dolls, who aren't even pretending to be much they're not any more, are at 11, Kooks have a download entry with a right wet lettuce of a song at, oh good god, 14 while Naive is back up at 26, All American Rejects pretend they're nu-emo too (what happened to emo that meant Rites Of Spring, Promise Ring and Sunny Day Real Estate?) at 18, Ne-Yo slips under everyone's radar again with a download entry at 21, the really good Lupe Fiasco is at 27, the Young Knives don't quite chart high enough to carry out the 'promise' of getting The House Of Lords to play TOTP in his pants at 38 and Editors see the folly of their re-releasing ways as Blood slips in at 39. Remember how Jamie Foxx was going to be the biggest multimedia star in ever? Even a Kanye co-credit can't help his single above 43. Continuing our earlier theme about how different the charts look now there's nowhere for such bands to promote their singles Liberty X are at 47 with this week's next big thing of British soul Keisha White at 48. Mind you, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs can only manage 53, one ahead of Ricky's late effort at a World Cup song. There's still some of those down for release next week!
Keane hang on in the albums with Fatboy Slim's best of at 2 and, proving we're turning into the American chart model where one hit single can catapult an album well above its station, the Automatic at 3. The Dixie Chicks climb into the top ten while Shakira and even Dannii Minogue manage to outdo Madonna's first ever live album. What's the point of that, then? The Divine Comedy and Hope Of The States chart between 41 and 50 but let's concentrate instead on Triniti, who are seemingly a kind of Dublin girl band Clannad and really repay that supposed five million euro record deal at 32. Where's your power now, Wogan?

FREE MUSIC: If there's one thing leftfield singer-songwriterism doesn't need it's another one who claims their first name only to be M. Following M Craft and M Doughty, then comes M Ward. Hailing from the town where every single inhabitant must by now be in a literate indie project, Portland, Oregon, he's clearly a man in tune with the alt-country set texts and the disturbing neighbour ethos of Tom Waits, Conor Oberst, Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous, Giant Sand's Howe Gelb and the great underrated Americana voyeur Vic Chesnutt. Post-War is his fifth album, released in August 22nd in the States. If you've taken all that in, you'll know which ballpark you'll find To Go Home, a Daniel Johnson cover with Neko Case on backing vocals, in.

HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: We should by rights be making great big pyres of early 80s Orange Juicealikes by now, but what saves Bricolage from the discard pile is how they've taken what you might term the other primary Collins/Kirk influence, the desire to make a modern soul groove from jangly guitars rather than just the jackhammering element. We also note with indie kid glee that their first single will be on Creeping Bent, station alpha for this kind of thing a good ten years ago.

VISUAL REPRESENTATION: In the week Andy Warhol's wig sold for $10,800 we might as well look at it in action in Curiosity Killed The Cat's Misfit video, but that's not what we're all here for. Instead, for the six weeks it has left let's see what Top Of The Pops ephemera we can find online, starting with Public Image Ltd doing Death Disco in 1979. What must the dads have made of it?

FALLING OFF A BLOG: We deliberate for ages over what to link to and write in this section every week when clearly all the encouragment you actually need is the basics of what it does, more often than not some interesting writing accompanying interesting mp3s. Like Let's Kiss And Make Up, for instance.

EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: Following last week's homage to John Cooper Clarke, you'll hopefully be in the mood to hear the assorted offcuts from his official site audio page - a VH1 1998 session, his Independent radio adverts, The Massed John Cooper Clarkes Of Carnaby Street from the NME C81 tape and some rare live recordings.

IN OTHER NEWS: Let's not forget the people who ensure we labour under this title - Spearmint have a new album on the way, and here's the first single's video.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

In shops tomorrow: 26/6


Radio 1 playlisting and sepulchral Top Of The Popsness notwithstanding, Guillemots' Made Up Love Song #43 doesn't seem the most obvious candidate for summer anthem status, what with its jazz leanings, clashing time signatures and kitchen sink of a production - live aficionados will recognise MC Lord Magrao getting the power drill out at the end. It's still a great, passionate, mad but it might just work and it has song, and we can report the album treads the same obtuse path to the same effect. As you'll see from the sidebar, wherever it's gone, we were interested in Fyfe when he was nothing, so buying this would make us feel very slightly smug. Just along the fractured pop greatness scale we find Green Gartside, still as honeyed as ever but scaled down to semi-minimal DIY production. Of course, when you sound like Green Gartside all DIY motives are relative, which is why The Boom Boom Bap finds him in as affecting a mode as when he was having hits. The kids, of course, prefer their shambolically wry Londoners these days, but even here we're dealt well with the sub-150 second indiepop cyncicism of Larrikin Love's Downing Street Kindling. As with a couple of other recent cases, though, we can't help but feel that this should really be their chance to leap over the popularity parapet rather than languish in occasional radio play as it seems to be doing. Unlinkable 7"s, finally, and while Broken Social Scene find not that much single potential on their current album so go for what's best and stick out Fire Eye'd Boy (video, not for those who don't like talking over the song) ruffled Medway scene singer-songwriter Kid Harpoon debuts on Brikabrak Records, also home of Sunny Day Sets Fire and thus a label we've got to watch, with The River, The Ocean, The Pearl EP. Lead track Riverside has a video. You may notice the female lead, who appears first about 50 seconds in, bears a striking resemblance to a well known if not that loved BBC youth presenter. There's a good reason for that.


After a slow first few months of 2006 the really, really great albums are coming thick and fast now. iLiKETRAiNS' Progress Reform is admittedly technically a seven track mini-album, but it's astonishing. Think Sigur Ros in their louder moments after a few hours in the library reference section and with an even more baritone Nick Cave on vocals, except such reaching for connections does little justice to the scope, majesty and thinking behind the record. Go and watch the video for A Rook House For Bobby to complement the one somewhere below for Terra Nova to see what we mean. Otherwise your poison for the week is all over the place. There's the Norwegian post-shoegazing glide of Serena Maneesh's self-titled debut, the oddball scatlogies of Kool Keith's The Return Of Dr Octagon - it's said this is an unofficial release of a scrapped album, but then when did you last trust Kool Keith's line of thinking - the continuation of fighting the good Scottish indie fight with the BMX Bandits' fourteenth album My Chain and the Norwegian Americana of William Hut's Days To Remember. Ian Dury and the Blockheads' New Boots And Panties!! should be in every collection, especially now it's half price. We've not had a themed Rough Trade compilation for a while, so good to see Singer Songwriter Vol.1 - none of them ever go to volume 2, do they? - and good to see they've stuck with the knowing mixed bag that typifies this series, featuring Elvis Costello's monumental I Want You, PJ Harvey's raging Dress, Tom Waits, Cat Power, Nick Cave, Robert Wyatt, Elliott Smith, Bright Eyes, Richard Thompson, Antony & The Johnsons, Nick Lowe, Mark Eitzel, Daniel Johnson, Kristin Hersh, Richard Hawley, Vic Chesnutt, Lou Barlow, Plush, James Yorkston and that.

The Weekly Sweep

Johnny Boy - You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve
Pipettes - Pull Shapes
Peter, Bjorn & John - Young Folks
TV On The Radio - Wolf Like Me
Metric - Monster Hospital
Goodbooks - You Can't Fool Me Dennis (Mystery Jets 'remix' B-side)
Guillemots - Never Went To Church (Streets 'remix' B-side)
Lucky Soul - Lips Are Unhappy
Jeremy Warmsley - I Promise
Art Brut & Friends - Top Of The Pops

Friday, June 23, 2006

A Friendly Chat With... Andrew Dost of Anathallo

Since recommending Mount Pleasant, Michigan septet Anathallo on here a couple of months ago we've had no end of people thanking us for the tip-off. And we're thankful we've been able to spread the word, as Floating World is an extraordinary album, melding Sufjan delicacy (he's a fan, we hear), Arcade Fire/Broken Social Scene expansiveness, a community tip's worth of metallic waste - anything that makes a decent noise is on the record, essentially - and an overall elegant take on the college indie sound. Andrew Dost plays piano, flugelhorn and adds choral vocals.

For those of us just discovering Anathallo, how would you summarise the band's history up to now?
We've been around for about six years. When the band started, all members except one were still in high school. Since then, we've made a recording about every year, gone through two vans (we're on our third), most have graduated from college, and we're somehow still all friends. We've (hopefully) grown up a lot over that period of time, which is (again, hopefully) reflected in the music. We've gone from touring during spring breaks and Christmas vacations to doing it full-time, which is a terrifying and thrilling idea.

Is it fair to assume a multi-instrumental, fairly experimentally charged outfit like yourselves evolves rather than starts out as such? If so, how much?
Absolutely. The first recordings, while they had some of the same elements (horns, odd time signatures, auxiliary percussion etc) definitely reflected a less focused approach to composition. Hopefully now we're starting to think of things in more of a narrative way, and have songs that reflect themes more consistently throughout. I think our songwriting process works in a few different ways. Some songs are more experimental in structure than others. Overall though, I think a general awareness of that sort of thing has grown, along with ideologies within the band about what music should be and how we should go about writing it. I think in that way the music has definitely changed with the more we read, hear and learn. It's fun to go back and listen to how different the early recordings sound.

Is it difficult to write collectively for seven multi-instrumentalists?
Yes and no. With so many people in the band capable of many instruments, we can really think about what a song needs, rather than what we have easily at our disposal. For example, if a part calls for lighter percussion than a drum set, we can all use smaller percussion to get the textures we want. And having a few people capable of playing the piano is helpful, as there are a few distinct styles within the band, so it can vary from song to song who's doing what. It's difficult in that way too, though, because sometimes it leads to us having absolutely no idea what to do! Which then leads to us all sitting around, staring at each other, and hoping someone will have an idea. Sometimes having too much freedom can be pretty scary, but overall, it's good. Hopefully someday soon we'll be able to have string players, which hopefully will free up the creative process more. It'd be nice to have access to hearing those sounds while writing.

Why base part of the album on the Hanasakajijii Japanese folk tale?
It's a story that really resonated with us, and fit well with our ideas of what we wanted the record to be. There are so many interesting parallels to the story and the themes we had in mind for the album. They seemed to fit together in interesting ways, and also opened the door for a lot of the visually-oriented things we do (both on stage and with album artwork), so it really unified things and focused the writing of the album.

As a heavy touring band, do you see an importance in developing the live sound away from how the songs were recorded?
Yes, for sure. As a band that has evolved primarily as a live group, we tend to write with live performances in mind. So actually, that comes first, then we think about how to record it. For the next album, though, the writing has been happening more with an emphasis on how the recording will sound. I think the new philosophy is that we want to make the recording the primary form of the composition, then figure out how to pull it off live, rather than to prepare for a live show, then try to capture it on record. Live performances and recordings are two completely different worlds, and we didn't really realise that until recently! The songs sometimes have to take a few different shapes to work in different contexts. It's been fun trying to figure out what should happen in different places.

What did you grow up listening to, and what have you been liking recently?
Most of us grew up on punk, ska, classic rock, musical theatre, classical music, and jazz. Personally I grew up with The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Weezer, Ozma, Claude Debussy, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Ben Folds, things like that. I typically still enjoy more melody-oriented things. Lately I've been listening to a lot of Art Garfunkel's solo stuff, particularly "Fate for Breakfast".

What are your immediate future plans? Any news of a full UK release or tour?
We'll be touring with The Format, Rainer Maria and Street to Nowhere for the next couple months. We'll be playing Lollapalooza and Austin City Limits Festival later in the summer, and hopefully making it to the UK. We're not entirely sure yet when that would be, but we're hoping it happens before the end of the year.

Many thanks to Andrew. Floating World is available on import only in the UK or through Anathallo's website. Their Myspace provides all the sound evidence you'll need. The photo is stolen from their Myspace and taken by Patrick Rutherford.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Weekly Sweep Special: STN Videos Of The Moment

Now we've worked out how to do it (we think - proof of the pudding, and that) and on the day Pitchfork list 100 Awesome Music Videos, a YouTube playlist's worth of some of the finest things we've heard in the last few weeks or so. Provided we're sufficiently arsed/slow, this may become a semi-regular feature. We start with:

Lucky Soul - Lips Are Unhappy
iLiKETRAiNS - Terra Nova
Camera Obscura - Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken
Anathallo - Hanasakajijii (four: a great wind, more ash)/Hanasakajijii (one: the angry neighbor) (live)
Tapes 'N Tapes - Insistor

Monday, June 19, 2006

Weekender : all we ever wanted to do was play chess with you

CHART OF DARKNESS: The major detail this week is, due to the same rules that ensures Angels and I Predict A Riot aren't still in the top 40, Crazy has exited the entire chart from number 5. Someone needs to keep an eye on those downloads just to see how slowly it would have properly left our field of chart vision. No change in the top two, Shakira enters at three, Bon Jovi had challenged in the midweeks but dropped back to 5 - seriously, who cares any more? - Embrace fall to 8 but still head a train of Three Lions, Hurry Up England (gnh) and Is This The Way To The World Cup (quadruple gnh), Armand Van Helden gives My My My another go at 12, something called Solu Music which probably involves pretend singers in bikinis is at 18, the Fratellis and their smug top hat are at 19 and Dannii Minogue, who managed to outdo herself at her greatest hits launch and in one go sum up the problem she's had throughout her career, is at 20. That TI stuck at 22 is reassuring, as is Tonedef Allstars cutting the download price to a single penny and consequently falling 14 to 27. The Black Eyed Peas rapping and 'la-la-la'ing - we're sure Fergie used to do some other things in the band - over Mas Que Nada at 29 on downloads, less so. We're very pleased to see the nadir of 80s dance reappropriations, John Parr vs Tommyknockers, has stalled at 43, while Neil Hannon can be quietly pleased that the Divine Comedy, despite a declining profile, can still manage 52. Clea? Are they still alive? Apparently so, and at 55, five ahead of Battle, who as far as we can tell followed top 40 success with Tendency with next to no publicity and very little airplay at all for Children. Sort it out, Transgressive. The only reason we're pleased India Arie's I Am Not My Hair is down at 65 is we can't imagine what JK & Joel would have done with it.
Keane were outselling Sandi Thom by 5 to 1 at one stage in the week, and while it's apparently not ended that high at least it gets her off number one. Nelly Furtado enters at 5 while that obvious Father's Day present The Eagles' Complete Greatest Hits climbs 19 to 9. The Dixie Chicks, who some of you may recall were once a country act with little UK profile, are now a faux-country act to all intents and purposes and manage number 12. Three other top 20 entries for Paul Weller's millionth live collection, Busta Rhymes off the advert and... Level 42's Definitive Collection? We've been going the aftershave and smart shirts route all these years, never realising it was slap bass dads really want. The no less smug but somewhat more unlikely gift The Very Best Of The Stranglers is at 28 - yes, it's got Duchess on it, and Hanging Around, and the All Day And All Of The Night cover by which time Jean-Jacques Burnel was a ringer for Paul Merton, and nothing from the Paul Roberts era. It must be the season, as there's a Dusty Springfield re-compilation at 31 and the latest Lightning Seeds best of at 33. Duncan James, who barely seems bothered with his old pop constituency, slumbers at 55. Simon Webbe must be pissing himself.

FREE MUSIC: On reflection maybe 19 was too low in the STN album list of 2005 for Okkervil River's still powerful and astonishing Black Sheep Boy album, only recently made properly available in the UK. Much the same descriptive words could be used for Will Sheff's side project Shearwater, on which he helps out singer and multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Meiburg. Seventy Four/Seventy Five (not to be confused with odd mid-90s radio hit '74/'75 by the Connells) pours the same amount of bleak emotion in as Sheff does in the day job but rounds it out with hammering piano in the foreground. It reminds us of plenty of things, from Talk Talk to the Arcade Fire, but seems mostly to exist in its own haunted but potentially explosive vacuum.

HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: Is it always a bad thing when you can list primary influences on a band? Norwich's The Neutrinos sound superficially so indebted to PJ Harvey - vocal cadences, blues inflections, crashing guitars - that it can't be ignored, but they still need the vocalist to carry it off and Karen Reilly has a voice and range that can't be ignored. You'll also think of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but their new stuff wishes it was as committed and thought out as this. Bet they're a hell of a live band.

VISUAL REPRESENTATION: If you ever see that version of Transmission Joy Division did for the BBC's Something Else in 1979 you may notice the very start and end usually gets cut off. As it's one of our favourite ever TV performances here's the whole thing - watch for the immobile student types in front of Ian Curtis, and just watch Stephen Morris go - complete with the reason for that edit, John Cooper Clarke's self-edited rendition of his own Chicken Town on an escalator. And, as we love the bard of Salford, here's Health Fanatic. Also: it's Tummy Time! And here's here's the original version to download. Whose idea was it to take off Tiswas with a punk poet fronting the campaign as late as 1988?

FALLING OFF A BLOG: The Sad Pandas - Good News For People Who Love Bad Music has a cumbersome title and a very uncumbersome way with mp3s and general musical goodness. Full album downloads, sample mp3s, live bootlegs, Myspace lead-ons, string quartet band tribute albums, the works.

EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: Stokesound sounds on the face of it an unlikely candidate for potential national acclaim, but we're suckers for a website full of mp3s of interviews, and when subjects include ¡Forward, Russia!, Young Knives, We Are Scientists, Brakes, Spinto Band, Howling Bells, Infadels, Hundred Reasons, MC Lars, Robots In Disguise, Jim Noir, the Blood Arm and so on (oh, and the Automatic) you have to at least feign interest. Which we're not doing.

IN OTHER NEWS: No! Stop all that! Remember we mentioned right at the start of the year that the godlike genius Andy Falkous, latterly of McLusky, was forming a band with Jack off of McLusky and one or more of Jarcrew? Turns out they're called Future Of The Left and they're up and running! Er, tell us what they're like, we've not got time today. Ooh, he's growing his hair too.

IN OTHER OTHER NEWS: Should it ever come up in a pub quiz or something, you might want to memorise the original of Simian's Never Be Alone (AKA We Are Your Friends)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

In shops tomorrow: 19/6


What is it we've been saying all along about the Summer Of Spector? Well, the summer of 60s hit factory-esque updated girl group moves at least, which now it's blazingly hot outside is nigh-on perfect. So we've dealt already with Camera Obscura's album, Sweden's El Perro Del Mar have/has crept up on the outside with the girlpop album Sarah Cracknell should have made when she briefly went solo about ten years ago, and of course their/her Memphis Industries stablemates will soon be renting the skies asunder with white on blue polka dots (Radio 2 B-list!) And even after all that, gloriously, come Lucky Soul, the Deptford fivesome bringing the Motown classicism and the icy Dusty-meets-Nina Persson vocals of Ali Howard. It's incredible to think the gorgeous, joyous pop of Lips Are Unhappy is being issued on what appears to be their own Ruffa Lane label, as this is yet another of those records that logically should be pumping out of daytime radio all the time. And at night, what should they put on? Why, Atlantis To Interzone by Klaxons, which we're actually a week late on and was limited edition 7" anyway but never mind, it needs a proper write-up as a track that, for all the hype ('new rave'? Begone with you) starts like a rocket and forgets to ever let up. The thought that this is just what Pop Will Eat Itself would sound like if they emerged now does cross your mind, but when it completely changes pace and key and re-emerges with a monstrous riff and a shoutalong chorus to make Test-Icicles cry, then changes back with even more energy than before, who can deny it? Also out this week: the Young Knives pick their weakest single to date but still retain that certain something on She's Attracted To, Radio 4, long though eaten alive by James Murphy after the post-Gotham! letdowns, pick out the one salvageable track on their new album and it's title track Enemies Like This, and here's another Editors re-release. Blood, if you must know.


As Lucky Soul and Klaxons know, to know your future you have to know your past, and there's two hugely influential pasts being put on display this week. Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era came out as a four CD box set in 1998, rather bizarrely for its CD debut, but here it is trimmed back down to how Lenny Kaye and Jac Holzman envisaged it in 1972. This is the album that arguably did as much for New York punk as Raw Power and the New York Dolls' eponymous debut. Many of these tracks had actually been small scale hits but had been forgotten by the prevailing cleaned-up sound influences of the day, meaning the likes of the Electric Prunes, Standells, Seeds, Count Five and 13th Floor Elevators really did sound like nothing else. At about the time its word was spreading the British music scene was receiving its own jolts back into life, and Paul Morley has finally found a way to make himself useful again by compiling North By North West: Liverpool & Manchester from Punk to Post-Punk & Beyond 1976-1983. One disc each for both towns and nothing hugely surprising, unless you count the Liverpool CD ending with Relax and the eventual reappropriation of the Lotus Eaters, but it's as good a starter pack as you're going to get, and the Wah! track isn't Story Of The Blues which we should be grateful for. In the pile marked New In you'll find two wordsmiths of differing strips, Frank Black's fifth album in six years (and it's a double) Fastman Raiderman finds him working with the same Memphis session legends as the last one, Honeycomb, plus other local luminaries to go further down that album's skewed almost countrified route - check the Myspace - while Neil Hannon is settling back into a world that no longer buys his Divine Comedy records in great bulk but appreciates his approach all the more, whimsical orchestrated pop album number nine being Victory For The Comic Muse.


We're always suspicious of DVDs about major influential bands that arrive with no ceremony because we're mindful of that key phrase 'this DVD features no original music by the band'. However word is that The Kinks: The Live Broadcasts, a US TV compilation, and The Clash: London's Calling, featuring Don Letts and rare live footage, might actually be more substantial. What does Letts have on his passport under occupation? If he's not contributing to documentaries about the Roxy and its inhabitants he's putting his name to DJ compilations. Meanwhile two of America's foremost musical events commit their 2005 showings to MPEG-2, Coachella featuring the Arcade Fire, Belle & Sebastian, Bjork, Bright Eyes, the Chemical Brothers, the Flaming Lips, Iggy & The Stooges, Kool Keith, The Mars Volta, Morrissey, Oasis, Pixies, the Polyphonic Spree, Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Saul Williams, Spearhead, Squarepusher, the White Stripes and Zero 7 plus appearances from Beck and Josh Homme and extensive interviews, while Austin City Limits manages Thievery Corporation, the Black Keys, Kasabian, Bloc Party, the Frames, Kaiser Chiefs, Ambulance LTD, the Decemberists, Jason Mraz, Mike Doughty, Steve Earle and the Dukes, and assorted mini-documentaries.

The Weekly Sweep

iLiKETRAiNS - A Rook House For Bobby
Klaxons - Atlantis To Interzone
Mission Of Burma - Spider's Web
Midlake - Young Bride
Archie Bronson Outfit - Dead Funny
Tapes 'N Tapes - Insistor
Replacements - I Will Dare
Anathallo - Dokkoise House (with face covered)
Kid Harpoon - Riverside
Larrikin Love - Downing St Kindling

Friday, June 16, 2006

Heavenly Vs. Temping

A random thought for a Friday night - ironically for perhaps the quintessential turn of the 90s UK indie band, are Heavenly the greatest life achievers in music history?

Just Amelia Fletcher on her own trumps the field, as while she continues with the Tender Trap her day job is as director of economic and statistical advice and financial analysis - chief economist, basically - at the Office of Fair Trading, getting a press release just for her when she joined in 2001, and if you don't believe us here's her photo in an official press release PDF document; her late brother Matthew worked for the OED and was apparently proud of having got the word 'motherfucker' in; guitarist Peter Momtchiloff is a senior commissioning editor for the Oxford University Press specialising in philosophy; bassist Rob Pursey is a respected TV producer and Cathy Rogers fronted and produced Scrapheap Challenge and later Robot Wars ripoff Full Metal Challenge, which in perhaps the greatest musical mismatch of all she co-fronted with Henry Rollins. She then got promoted to become Creative Director at RDF Media in LA, where she oversaw the US versions of Faking It and Wife Swap, and now runs an olive tree adoption scheme in Italy.

From jangling guitars to the jangle of the change in your pockets:
Talulah Gosh - Talulah Gosh
Heavenly - Space Manatee

Monday, June 12, 2006

Weekender : counting them all back again

CHART OF DARKNESS: Maybe we're getting old and pissed off, but Nelly Furtado's Maneater reminds us of one of those singles Missy Elliott throws out and hopes nobody notices. Gossip Folks, much like that. Furtado says her stylistic about turn was inspired by MIA's Galang, which peaked at number 76. What must Maya do? Old fashioned new entries are also at 3 for Embrace, which was inevitable, and The Automatic at 4. Now, where has this come from? The Automatic were a month ago a run of the mill modern-interpretation-of-indie confection that knew a couple of post-punk riffs, had a way with a cheap keyboard effect and seemed doomed to headline Frog every three months with reviews that suggest that, no, really, they're not just a bargain basement Kaiser Chiefs. Now, top five. Assorted depressingly bad football songs abound, notably Three Lions at 10. Morrissey and Depeche Mode had singles out this week, it says here - well, obviously they did, they're at 14 and 18 respectively, pushing the New Dry Your Eyes that is Never Went To Church down to 20. Lordi discover how far we're willing to take them at 25 - and they appear to have made Fearne Cotton a Europewide heroine into the bargain - Mariah sneaks it at 27 and it's this week we really see the effect of the pop TV drought as the Sugababes get to 32, Duncan James 35 and Fightstar 47. None of these, unless of course you know differently, are on download. Sugababes 32! Hope Of The States aren't doing all that well either, Sing It Out at 39. Weren't they Mogwai With Vocals once? The Fratellis make a surprise and unwelcome top 75 download entry while the Dixie Chicks' attempt at sexing up (higher hemlines, less fiddles) gets them to 70. They should apologise for Tony Blair at a gig in Texas.
Five new entries in the album top five - Sandi Thom (!), The Feeling (what is that hand on a chain on the cover meant to represent?), Ronan (again, did you know this was coming so soon?), Paul Simon and Primal Scream. Leann Rimes' attempt at sexing up (babydoll dress and big boots on the cover like a Christina Aguilera who had a late change of heart, 'Wanna' in title, more bombast) gets her to 15. Manfred Mann's much advertised compilation - who needs the Manfreds in their lives in 2006? - is at 24. Mind you, that harmonica on 5-4-3-2-1... It certainly outranks Paul Oakenfold, who's at 57. The Jam's All Mod Cons makes a deluxe edition reappearance at 62, two ahead of a pleasing Sonic Youth position and seven up on Gomez. That big comeback into the national conscious is taking its time.

FREE MUSIC: The Delgados remain one of our great underrated bands, and in the week their Complete BBC Sessions compilation is released we've been alerted to the first fruits of Emma Pollock's solo work set for release next year on 4AD. Fortune is a cracked piano ballad produced by Victor Van Vugt and bodes very well.

HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: Track one on Shimura Curves starts in pretty much the same way as Just Like Honey. Our critical faculties were not set high by this. Eventually their sound reveals itself a knowing girly (four of 'em) harmonic laptop low-key electro-pop like the Shortwave Set impersonating one of those legion of Europop duos. They've got a blog too. Just like that Lily Allen.

VISUAL REPRESENTATION: Because we're indie, we love early REM, and thus we love early REM TV appearances. Here's a couple from 1983, Carnival Of Sorts on Nickelodeon's Livewire TV - note Stipe previewing the way Mike Mills looks now - and Radio Free Europe on Letterman.

FALLING OFF A BLOG: After we speculated about that French compilation the other week that was brought to our attention by the same source, the ever excellent Indie mp3 is actually compiling C06. Design the cover and you could win a June Brides 7".

EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: Almost inevitably (and thanks to Parallax View for pointing this up - at least, we think it's thanks), we turn here to Help Me Get Random With Lady Sovereign, wherein a San Franciscan gentleman who, fortunately, has probably never heard of Chantelle, hoodies or the word 'chav', and thus has the best deal, attempted to raise $10,000 for the reward of taking said S-O-V out for the night after her local gig.

IN OTHER NEWS: Weird Al Yankovic 'does' You're Beautiful. Much as expected.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

In shops tomorrow: 12/6


We'll keep this short this week, which comes as some relief after last week's sprawling list. The still undervalued Battle go epic on Children and Norwegian Velvets-via-MBV in goth's clothing Serena-Maneesh release Drain Cosmetics on, apparently, PlayLouderecordings.


Slim pickings here too, although for housekeeping purposes we should mention Final Fantasy's He Poos Clouds got moved back a week at short notice to tomorrow. Elsewhere the Delgados bring the shutters down in as good a way as you're going to get, with The Complete BBC Sessions, adding 17 tracks to 2000's perfunctory collection including all the covers and rearrangements that made their Peel sets dates for the diary. Joan As Police Woman is actually technically a three piece but Real Life is all about Joan Wasser's voice and the sweeping arrangements she's surrounded it with. And that's it.

The Weekly Sweep

Futureheads - Cope
The 1900s - Bring The Good Boys Home
Lucky Soul - Lips Are Unhappy
Auteurs - Lenny Valentino
Jeremy Warmsley - I Promise
Sky Larkin - Keepsakes
Pipettes - Pull Shapes
Gwenno - Lime Chordial
Guillemots - Made Up Love Song #43
Sonic Youth - Incinerate

Friday, June 09, 2006

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Monday, June 05, 2006

Weekender : delicious hot, disgusting cold

CHART OF DARKNESS: Oh, good god. Batten down the hatches, everyone, as Sandi Thom's paen to times she doesn't seem to understand the function of, or indeed the idea behind - note the digs at corporate record labels and the Internet age - has gone to number one. Only Sk8er Boi-style literal readings of the lyrics on blogs can save us now. Everybody's picked up on the PR angle, but let us remind you that this got to number 55 last October on a tiny Scottish label the old fashioned way, ie Johnnie Walker played it to death on Radio 2. All the same, we must ask again who's actually playing it this time round, as it was only this week that it entered the airplay top twenty. Keane stall at 3, Pink's undistinguished R&B-rock bad crossover is at 5, Ronan Keating drags arch folk traditionalist Kate Rusby down with him at 6, Paul Oakenfold forgets how many different dance movements he's been at the forefront of and churns out a slab of soulless Deep Dish/Bodyrockers-cribbing 'rock'-house with Brittany Murphy autotuned as far down as possible at 7 and Nelly Furtado's Little And Large-style attempt at post-Aguilera hard R&B is at 8 on downloads. And here come the German-baiters! Is This The Way To The World Cup, which doesn't make sense, is at 11 - give it a rest, Tony - and god knows who bought Stan Boardman's World Cup record to take it to 19. The Germans bombed his local chip shop, we hear. That one line of act has sustained him for more than thirty years, ladies and gentlemen. Leann Rimes' 'sexy makeover' which looks oddly like her last makeover can only take her to 22, the baffling popularity of the Automatic will have to be examined in full detail for next week as they're on downloads at 23 and we suspect Loleatta Holloway's probably not aware Love Sensation's been remixed and taken back to 37 yet. That model who pretended to sing it with Black Box will want royalties. Corinne Bailey Rae establishes herself as this year's Snow Patrol as Trouble Sleeping only makes it to 40, Lordi and Prince at 59 and 60 is a fun juxtaposition given the latter reputedly dumped his Black Album fearing satanic overtomes, and Gomez really boost that Summer Sundae headline slot with a number 66 single. Why is Jamiroquai's Space Cowboy at 71?
Orson have the number one album. Orson. Were we alone in thinking they were destined to be New Radicals/Andreas Johnson-style one hit wonders, given there's hardly been a rush of people taking to the streets to proclaim this album's vitality? Nina Simone is back in the top ten for reasons beyond us, the Futureheads don't confuse enough people with their new direction and land at 12, AFI, who are now essentially Fall Out Boy with less knowing haircuts, are at 16, the Upper Room continue to worm their way into the nation's conscious by osmosis alone at 50 and Breaks Co-Op underachieve again at 55. Never mind Zane Lowe, that bloke self consciously grooving in his own mind while wearing headphones on TOTP probably did for their image.

FREE MUSIC: We've mentioned Piano Magic on here before, the This Mortal Coil-style shifting band behind which Glen Johnson pens minutely observed music and darker observations, minimal indie buffed to a shine and then dirtied up again. Except on their last album Disaffected they took a turn for the more melodic, or at least relatively so, Love & Music (64kbps, we know, but you'll live) sounding like a close relative of Talk Talk before being gatecrashed by Slint.

HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE: James Chant, leader of Cardiff's Swipe, seems to have been busy recently playing bass with James Dean Bradfield and teching on Art Brut's colonisation of the rest of the world, but somewhere along the line he's found time to produced some rather lovingly intense electronically enhanced but still properly constructed songs, what looks like a recently added set of demos up there now. You can't help thinking this is what the much-vaunted Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly should ideally sound like given his press, if that's not damning with faint praise.
HEY YOU GET OFFA MYSPACE EXTRA: Oh, and in between all that he's been collaborating with Cardiff-via-Brighton songstrel Gwenno. Yes, the same Cardiff-via-Brighton songstrel Gwenno whose day job is as one of The Trio We Seem To Mention On Every Weekender These Days. This nascent side project is very much worth the effort, though, being as one of the two downloadable tracks sounds like Múm remixed by the Postal Service and the other resembles Annie covering Sweet Like Chocolate.

VISUAL REPRESENTATION: Those who saw the Saturday apologetic posting over on our Myspace will know that we're stoked, as our young friends say, about November's Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band tour. This follows January's 40th anniversary gig now available on DVD (nuts trailer here) and gives us the perfect excuse to stripmine YouTube for I'm The Urban Spaceman on Beat Club, Canyons Of Your Mind on Colour Me Pop, Look Out There's A Monster Coming on Do Not Adjust Your Set, Hunting Tigers Out In 'Indiah' from same, Little Sir Echo on something or other of variable quality and an even rarer Mr Apollo of even worse quality, plus Vivian Stanshall's Ruddles advert.

FALLING OFF A BLOG: Another very promising recently launched blog comes in the shape of Keep Hope Inside, which has just finished a Great Escape review and also talks up Jamie T, The National and Artrocker's compilations.

EVERYBODY GET RANDOM: It's just an audio montage of John Peel introducing the Fall, really

IN OTHER NEWS: We mentioned yesterday how great Mission Of Burma's The Obliterati is, and the album website, as well as the usual streams and that have created a Wiki to pull together the band's history. It's not the most fleshed out or coherent thing you've ever read but represents something of a way forward for band-user interaction. And we bet they don't put 'The Band With Their Own Wiki Pages' on a sticker on the front of the CD either.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Weekly Sweep

Mission Of Burma - 2wice
iLiKETRAiNS - Terra Nova
Midlake - Young Bride
Archie Bronson Outfit - Dead Funny
Ikara Colt - Sink Venice
Larrikin Love - Downing St Kindling
Klaxons - Atlantis To Interzone
Camera Obscura - Lloyd, I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken
Anathallo - Hanasakajijii (four: a great wind, more ash)
Tapes'N Tapes - Insistor

In shops tomorrow: 5/6


The release schedule is absolutely packed out this week, and that's without the deluge of useless football records (and the 5678s' Woo Hoo, which featured in Channel 4's One Hit Wonders countdown the other week despite charting in the same position as or lower than the follow-up singles of two other featured acts). Where to start? How about Morrissey, whose presence seems to be being taken for granted again judging by the lack of buzz around The Youngest Was The Most Loved, one of the best received tracks on Ringleader Of The Tormentors but now almost flung out as an afterthought. We've just realised north easterners The Motorettes are exactly the same as Mos Eisley, who perked ears up three years back with a Peel-fancied, 6 Music-colonising EP of quirky angularities before all that became fashionable. No mention of that in their biog, obviously, around buzzsaw Buzzcocks single You Gotta Look The Parts. Like them, Infadels have always been a better live proposition than on CD, which accounts for their ever growing fanbase in the face of radio shutout, but Love Like Semtex gives their hooligan dance-punk a good going over. The guitarist's hat isn't getting much better, unfortunately. Just across the capital the Fallout Trust is a name that seems to have been around the ether for a while, and despite the unpromising emo-esque name When We Are Gone is a quiet gem, throwing together and building disparate glitchy elements into something that sounds like a collision between Blur's eponymous album, Guillemots' stratospheric moments and Eno's early experiments in pop. Manchester's Liam Frost and the Slowdown Family have also been the subject of plenty of talk, The Mourners Of St Paul's placing him on the good wing of the male confessional singer-songwriter bandwagon. Bits of vinyl to seek out include two 10" Nouvelle Vague EPs ahead of their second album at the end of the month and a limited edition 7" from a band we have to admit we've only just 'got', iLiKETRAiNS. Maybe it was the name, yes, but Terra Nova, the latest in their series of historically based post-rock charges (video here), is an extraordinarily intense work that fulfils most of the claims made for them. Perhaps not the claims made in yesterday's Times news section, however. There are many bands in Britain who seem set for "chart-topping success", and with the best will in the world we're not sure they're among them.


Over here, meanwhile, nothing in particular to report, apart from three real contenders for our year end top 20 albums of 2006 list. In alphabetical order we'll start with Camera Obscura's Let's Get Out Of This Country, which starts with the still extraordinary summer break-up anthem Lloyd, I'm Ready to Be Heartbroken and continues in much the same vein, pitching itself in the gap between the first Concretes album and the original Wall Of Sound without losing touch with its Glasgow scene credentials or the always simmering Jimmy Webb/country elements. Traceyanne Campbell has never been in better voice and it's all pitched at blue skies ahead. Second: can you really produce an album of breadth and consistent high quality called He Poos Clouds? Owen Pallett, AKA Final Fantasy (good name, that), can, and it should do for his singular violin-driven vision what Wind In The Wires did for Patrick Wolf last year, turning him from one-off curio to cult hero. Written for a string quartet with chamber accompaniment and loosely based on the eight schools of magic in Dungeons & Dragons - no, keep reading - its dramatic settings and inventive arrangements accompany intriguing lyricism. Even better, just when the concept looked about as popular an idea as cholera, it works as a whole, as a sit-down-and-listen-in-one-go album. There won't be much sitting down required during Mission Of Burma's The Obliterati, their fourth album and second since reforming four years ago. If 2004's OnOFFOn was the work of men half their age, this is the work of men who've realised that men half their age now want to sound like AFI and have decided to do their work for them. It's an astonishingly intense album in places, roaring right out of the blocks, darting this way and that with a manic focus on the red hot core of the US underground post-punk sound they originally did so much to map a path through, only still finding room for the odd harmony, tempo shift and Bob Weston's tape manipulations. Extraordinary, frankly, and at this stage of their career only Sonic Youth among their US contemporaries could manage such a feat. They've got an album out this week too, and a proper one, not a 67 minute improvised piece for prepared piano and Black & Decker Workbench. It's called Rather Ripped, which we've heard one track from but are sufficiently excited by on that basis alone, throwing back to a more controlled version of the Goo/Daydream Nation days of grace. We haven't half finished the rundown yet, as we've also got to give props to Texas eclectics Midlake finding a mean point between Grandaddy and Badfinger on The Trials Of Van Occupanther, Gomez finding nobody's really that bothered at home any more but pressing on from the blues influences of yore to power pop and something akin to AOR on How We Operate, the Talulah Gosh/Heavenly/Marine Research rock family tree moves on with Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey's second album of harmonic modernist tweepop as the Tender Trap, 6 Billion People, and angry laptop proto-emo great white hope Sam 'Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly' Duckworth quietly sticks out an indie label mini-album ahead of his not very good debut release on Atlantic. The Guinness Book Of British Hit Singles came out last week and for god knows what reason a series of compilations are being put out to coincide. Not just your Super Hits Of The 80s (14 Weeks On Chart), though, as they've put some thought into it. So... One Hit Wonders ignores Carl Douglas and Baccara in favour of Wild Cherry, the Hooters and Ram Jam (this is not to be confused with The Original One Hit Wonders Album, also out this week and thinking laterally rather than literally with White Town, Mink DeVille, Martha And The Muffins and Sly Fox), Ultimate Instrumental Hits starts with Duelling Banjos, Apache and Rockit while proving not even football chanting can sully Papa's Got A Brand New Pigbag, The Hits That Never Were is a clever concept of radio staples that never made the top 75 - Drift Away, Brown Eyed Girl, Ring Of Fire, Ain't No Sunshine, Pink Panther Theme, Don't Be Cruel - and the expected is subverted in Ultimate No. 2 Hits Of The 70s and Ultimate No. 2 Hits Of The 80s. And after all that, there's still some high quality re-releases on shelves, most notably a load of Elvis Costello remasters, not the double disc sets of the last few years but mid-price efforts that stick to the original tracklistings. One day we'll do an Illustrated Guide to Costello, but for the time being This Year's Model is the Attractions in excelsis, Armed Forces has Oliver's Army and Accidents Will Happen, the hugely ambitious Imperial Bedroom is the best thing he ever did and Blood And Chocolate proves he never gave up the fire inside. We have no idea what double albums The Jam Story and The Squeeze Story are in aid of as there's already hundreds of Best Ofs out for both and the former isn't as complete as the recently reissued Compact Snap! The latter is about as good a selection of Difford and Tilbrook's timeless songsmithery as you'll find, though.


And still we go on! It's not for us to say that bands' careers are running ever faster these days, but here comes Maximo Park: Found On Film, where one decent-selling album spawns a DVD. Still, you do get two live performances, one at home in Newcastle, one on the last night of the NME tour, plus an AOL live session, documentary and accompanying radio sessions CD including an unreleased rarity and a Natalie Imbruglia cover. Nobody will ever confuse Hayseed Dixie for a band who take themselves too seriously (not that Maximo Park do, we're just struggling for a link), and No Sleep Til Liverpool brings the 'rockgrass' to an appreciative audience who presumably know that they're prolific Nashville session men, two of whose father wrote Duelling Banjos, and not really confused hillbillies from Deer Lick Holler, Appalachia but will run with it anyway. Again, no easy connective text here, so let's just go to The Smiths: Under Review, the first in a series of Under Review documentary DVDs. Caution advised here around the whiff of cash-in independent documentary, except the blurb promises rare versions of a decent number of classics and interviewees include Craig Gannon, Tony Wilson, Stephen Street, John Porter, Paul Morley, early fan David Jensen and assorted other movers and shakers in their story. And finally we manage to bring this week's shopping list round full circle.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

A Friendly Chat With... Gareth Parton

According to his website, one of Gareth Parton's early jobs was as recording engineer on Fat Les' Naughty Christmas (Goblin In The Office). Well, quite. Luckily he's improved his clientele since, having produced, engineered or recorded the Beta Band, Spearmint (engineering the very song this blog is named in honour of), the Cribs, Ikara Colt, Piano Magic, the Cherubs and most famously co-producing brother Ian's Go! Team's Thunder, Lightning, Strike. He's recently been working on a couple of albums we've been anticipating, which we'll come back to. Sounds like the CV of someone we need to know more about...

How did you get into studio work?
I got into studio work via being in a band during the 90s. I'd just finished uni and fancied doing something different. Did a sound engineering course and started freelance assisting in some of London's big studios (Strongroom, The Church, Livingston) and then became inhouse at a studio called The Greenhouse (I went there cos I knew Steve Albini liked it but by the time I got a job there Albini preferred Abbey Road...) The Greenhouse is now called The Fortress and I still like to work there.

As laymen we're pretty much across the producer's role, but how would you sum up what the engineer adds to the mix?
I think a good producer needs a good engineer. The engineer will get the sounds that the producer is imagining. It's kind of making his vision a reality. The producer can talk in wishy-washy terms and the engineer will, if he has a good relationship and understanding with him, turn that into something tangible. I like to both produce and engineer most of the projects I work on these days.

At heart Thunder Lightning Strike is a ridiculously involved work - how much of it is sampled and how much freshly added?
There's a surprising amount of played stuff on that record. Ian builds a song and chord structure and fits suitable samples into it. Then he played drums, bass, guitar, banjo, recorder, melodica, percussion, piano and keyboards on top of the track. He's a clever little fucker. The only stuff that wasn't played by Parton junior was the extra horns and strings we added in the remake version of the album...

Would it actually have been possible to clear everything intended for the album? How much of it had to be ripped out and replaced for the second version?
Well, a few people said no to clearing samples. Some were cleared and a lot were recreated. The whole process was a bit gutting cos we were happy with the original but on reflection I think the new version stands up on its own (apart from Junior Kickstart which could have been better...)

With bands now making a selling point out of having recorded to analogue tape, is ProTools a blessing or a curse?
Tape and Protools are both ace in different ways. It's always great to get the inital takes onto analogue tape cos drums and bass sound so much better with a bit of analogue tape compression. But then 99% of the time I'll transfer into Protools for the flexibility of editing. There is no way a record like the Go! Team could be made without Protools.

We Are The Pipettes will be the next big release you've been involved with - how was it to produce in terms of replicating the aura of the original girl group sound?
The aura of the 50s/60s girl group era is pretty fundamental in their songs. I felt my job was to ensure it wasn't done in a straightforward way. The songs are intrinsically sweet. If you do a sweet song in a sweet way it can be pretty inpalatable so my approach was to smash things up a bit. Joe Meek and Phil Spector were no strangers to distortion so we cranked things up a bit. Andy Dragazis, the co-producer, arranged some superb strings and horns which helped with the Spector-esqe wall of sound illusion.

Who did you grow up listening to, and what have you liked recently?
My formative years were spent listening to noisy guitary shit. I happily bypassed metal and went straight for Sonic Youth, The Jesus Lizard, Big Black, Rapeman, Loop, Pixies, Spacemen 3, The Telescopes, My Bloody Valentine and stuff like that. Now I've completely mellowed. Twee indie/folky/pop shite. Architecture in Helsinki are pretty ace.

We're looking forward to the Victorian English Gentlemens Club album - what can you tell us about it? Anything else you can tell us about that's coming up?
The Victorian English Gentlemen's Club (or the Victorians for short) are a quirky three piece from Cardiff. 2 girls, one guy. Former artschool oiks who make a wonky cross between The Breeders and The Fall. They're more of an album band rather than a radio-friendly singles outfit but I hope this doesn't stop them being noticed. I really like them and hope they do well. The next big thing I'm working on will be more Go! Team stuff. We made a start on a new single last week - should be good...

Many thanks to Gareth, who has his own website and Myspace (the last friend comment as we type being from Gwenno Pipette - now there's swish.) We Are The Pipettes is released on 17th July, TVEGC's debut following on 14th August.

Wishful thinking in action

"Only two albums in the Top 20 were released in the last five years, so the voters have clearly thought long and hard about their decision."

Hot Fuss, 21? What's going on?