Thursday, July 30, 2009

Indietracks 2009: Sunday

Back on site not quick/aware enough to catch the mesmerising promise of twenty minute set noiseniks The Manhattan Love Suicides playing acoustically on the train. In fact it transpires nobody does, as two of them turn up to confirm their split and play songs from their already formed new band. Meanwhile the main stage starts with Cola Jet Set, beginning a day heavy at least in its early part on 60s revivalism with early Beach Boys bubblegum surf pop and plenty of perkiness unbecoming the time of day. They finish with a spirited debut performance in English.

There's some question, which to be fair they help make apparent, as to whether Cardiff's swoon-pop machine The School are hungover. Indeed, there's some question as to whether they're just still drunk. While not yet at "if it's Liz Hunt and your granny on bongos" levels, the band's membership turnover is alarming, with the guitarist less than a week in the job and Simon from The Loves recruited to seemingly do whatever he fancies, which often seems to be an attempt to make Liz giggle. Still, everyone keeps their composure for long enough to play some songs from the debut album due in October and fine confections they are too, more confident as live performers than when we last saw them a little over a year ago, not too far from the charmingly smart wall of sound heartbreak exhibited thus far but no less poor for that. And just when you think they're going to have to do the set without either All I Wanna Do or Let It Slip, they play both together to finish.

The School clashed with MJ Hibbett, which caused some pain allayed by the fact we'd seen his warm-up gig for this, but it later turned out that demand to see his solo set on the train was such that there was a second overspill carriage called into action and Hibbett himself nearly didn't make it on. Plenty of people have since referred to it as a highlight of the weekend, and for pretty much the whole festival you couldn't walk into or out of the shed without seeing him deep in discussion with another group of admirers regardless of the weather. Well, there you go.

And still the Swedes come with their worn Smiths back catalogues. As with Cats On Fire, Northern Portrait frontman Stefan Larsen has Morrissey's croon and stage moves on rental while around him is the sort of louche Rickenbacker jangle that marked out the Smiths' first flowerings, their first flowerings, all Byrds-flavoured sophistication and knowingly lovelorn croon.

Did we mention the weather? Having granted a good Saturday, the rains finally came at about 4pm and stayed in various torrents right through to the death, which threatened to put a crimp on the day and at first put a dampener on the numbers out to see Lucky Soul. Such is the draw, though, that after an opening salvo of Woah Billy!, Lips Are Unhappy, Add Your Light To Mine and Ain't Never Been Cool the onlooking, sometimes dancing numbers gradually grew despite the horizontal downfall. They seem ready for prime time, tight and looking the part, the boys besuited, Ali Howard in aquamarine shimmying for all she's worth and deploying a tambourine with Steven Tyler-esque ribbons attached. That'd be a good visual in a stronger wind. There's four new songs - album set for January now, we understand - which while still identifiably Lucky Soul seems to be the next logical step on, all big Motown/Northern Soul/Dusty In Memphis grooves. Get Outta Town! in the circumstances is understandably triumphant as a closer.

Then something really interesting happens. Why is there such a sudden interest in the merchandise tent? Who's that in the corner being surrounded? It's Amelia Fletcher, Eithne Farry and Rob Pursey, just a Peter Momtchiloff (and obviously Matthew Fletcher) short of Talulah Gosh, and they're doing an acoustic five song set of Talulah Gosh songs, on a properly electric guitar at that. Their eponymous song, being sung along to from all sides (Liz from The School is trying to find a spare table to get onto behind us), might get the biggest reaction of the whole event.

Pocketbooks, some of whom are involved with the Indietracks set-up, have become big shots in this world, sounding like the kind of kids who would have bonded on indie dancefloors over Tigermilk. There's a fair wodge of Housemartins in here, kitchen sink social commentary dressed in cardigans and given a jangling guitar and nifty keyboard line to hold on to the melody with. They seem genuinely proud to be amongst all this, and their charm, effervescence and uplifting facade is rewarded fully by their public. That same public, largely corralled into the shed by the force of the rain (which means we miss BMX Bandits, Duglas T Stewart seemingly having come dressed as Vivian Stanshall, and Stereo Total, who provoke a stage invasion), aren't really sure what to make of New Zealand's Disasteradio. Which is fair enough on their part, as in this situation his semi-crazed broken 8-bit electro is as much about fitting in as Napalm Death would be.

Even in this weather the queue outside the church for The Pete Green Corporate Juggernaut, the band incarnation of Sheffield's "sparkly pop" singer-songwriter of note, is ridiculous, so it's to Help Stamp Out Loneliness, featuring members of the briefly lauded mid-00s outift Language Of Flowers. They're a band we can't make our mind up about on first showing - musically it's decent enough if not outstanding, a little Blondie, a little jangly (again, yeah, except these have actually had fifth Smith Craig Gannon playing with them), a little Stereolab, a little early 80s. The deal breaker, though, is singer D. Lucille Campbell, glamorous beyond reproach in a glorious metallic effect dress and a general air of Weimar cabaret/Dietrich era, with all the hip-shaking moves, plus a voice like a more nuanced Nico. Her presence, both aurally and stageworthy, provides a really interesting, distinctive element that stands out unfortunately mostly for the fact that it doesn't really go with the music, the band not anchoring it down with due gravitas - not in a dirtied up way, but in that it tries to be buffed to a shine when it'd work together better in a Broadcast or Au Pairs direction. Maybe, given they're two singles down, it'll hopefully come with time.

Art Brut live reviews are increasingly less straight up accounts and more just a list of things Eddie Argos said and did, which is fair enough as quite often the lyrical content of the songs is a moveable feast. Tonight he's going to throw us a curveball, though, starting with Bad Weekend "to make it edgy", around which he extemporises the suggestion to "be less twee! Stop sharing your sweets!" (receiving a mini-shower of Haribo for his trouble) before declaring we should all form punkier bands to play at his mooted festival at Bovington Tank Museum in October. A few songs later, realising that he's done a song about how great buses are (The Passenger), a song about mixtapes (Nag Nag Nag Nag) and has incorporated into My Little Brother a namecheck for Milky Wimshake, Argos concedes that he might be quite twee after all. Then he seals the deal spectacularly with a newly rewritten version of Modern Art dedicated to DC Comics "written one afternoon, drunk", in the middle of which he descends into what can properly be called a throng - if aided by the inclemency outside, for the first time the shed is full from barrier to doors - to detail his recent visit to the DC Comics head offices before launching back into the amended chorus to a huge pit. He could have coasted from there, but still to come was a dedication of Slap Dash For No Cash to MJ Hibbett and a bit in the middle of that song where he steps out and slowly repeats the lines "my sex is on fire" and "are we human or are we dancer?", carefully, repeatedly, in the style of Stewart Lee for greater emphasis. And then the big rock ending, during which Mikey Breyer, attempting a stunt drumroll, falls backwards off the stage. And of course they have to come back and do Formed A Band. Eddie seems as pleased to be playing to us hardy lot as many a much smaller band on the bill. And rightfully so, given his band had just torn it completely up.

Which, sending us all back into the gloaming, might have proved a problem. See, one thing about Teenage Fanclub, our headliners, is that for everything they do do, they won't go into all that business, more's the pity. What they will do is sunkissed melodic wonderment, and even if it serves to remind us of the Byrdsian rut they got stuck in for a little while, as a comedown from what had gone before it more than served its purpose. There's a couple of new songs (another album out in January) that could have come direct from Grand Prix, and when they lift - The Concept, Star Sign, About You - they really lift, not least when finishing the main set with Verisimilitude, Sparky's Dream and a genuinely coruscating extended Everything Flows, and finishing properly with a chiming take on The Bevis Frond's He'd Be A Diamond and Neil Jung. That's the other way to close a festival.

We're never quite sure what to conclude about Indietracks bar the obvious, namely that the work of Stuart Mackay and his volunteers cannot be underestimated. Whether it's the location, the populace or the sheer joy of pretty much all those who play, no matter what their prior experience, Indietracks does something to people that leaves them grinning, gibbering loons. See you at the carriage for more of the same next year? Good.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Latitude 2009 review

is here, give or take watching Robin Ince reading a Horrid Henry book to a group of five year olds and orchestrating audience participation.


Indietracks Sunday will follow tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Indietracks 2009: Saturday

Downdime seem like the sort of band who would almost be hidden away to open proceedings on on the first full day of a festival like this. They're not actively bad, but then they're not immensely memorable, a flattened out jangle that in the end reminds us of nobody so much as Cajun Dance Party, as well as the impulse that it's too warm to stay with this for too long.

Little My are something entirely different. A collective made up of members of assorted Cardiff bands primarily including Silence At Sea, who played a fine set here last year, stretching to the lurking spectre of Gareth from the very un-twee Gindrinker, twelve strong today even before Liz from The School joins for a song, and all in varying degrees of animal costume from plastic ears to full suit. The numbers are filled out by all manner of keyboards, glocks, violin, shaky things direct from the classroom box and what may well be a bowed saw at the back. There's a heart to their impacted songs, though, never just sounding like a bull in a toy shop department. They've covered the Shins on one of their self-released EPs and it's their sunshine pop moments to which Little My aspire.

Strange thing, this Indietracks. Inside the famed corrugated iron church - for one of the few times all weekend, it getting crowded so quickly - is Ray Rumours & The No Eyed Dears, the current project of Ros Murray, formerly bassist in Electrelane. When she turns up behind the merch table later on in the day you're tempted to ask whether the days since that band went on hiatus aren't feeling a little longer. That, though, would be to overlook the captivatingly personal nature of her solo songs, deceptively simple lo-fi singer-songwriter constructions influenced by ramshackle folk. So ramshackle, in fact, that Murray apologises for the band not having properly rehearsed the songs, which accounts for the long pauses between them. Even so, the floating atmosphere they create allows their uplifting nature to wash over you.

Elefant's bill for the main stage starts, belatedly, with Japanese duo Sucrette, who sound like you might imagine J-Pop sounds like - kitschily playful keyboards, soft voiced singer (in Japanese, reading English language announcements off a piece of paper), sugar sweet like featherbed Europop. It passes the time in a gainful way. Tender Trap, not to be confused with any similarly named Australian electro zeitgeist jumpers, were always going to be part of the Indietracks constituency fronted as they are by Amelia Fletcher of Talulah Gosh, who pretty much trademarked a lot of all this, and later Heavenly and Marine Research (any other takers for the latter being her best band?) The patterned dress and tambourine, plus stand-up drummer at the back, scream jangle pop, but Fletcher and long time musical associate Rob Pursey know this stuff inside out. Not all that demanding on a mid-afternoon audience lazing in the sun, full of melodies and thoughtful lyrics on love, and with Fletcher's daughter Dora giving out stickers during the set. Can't say fairer. We will return to Fletcher later in the retelling.

Bostonians One Happy Island are, if anything, even more gleeful and infectious. Like their fellow American joyful indiepop exponents The Smittens, who were all over the place despite oru not getting to see their proper set this year, bittersweetness is something that occurred to them briefly and is hinted at lyrically but the music is so ridiculously likeable, with kazoos, electric ukulele and harmonicas to go with the furious clip of the drumming, the shared out lead vocals and the odd shot at harmony that the weaknesses are camouflaged in a coating of just going with it.

We're not quite sure what to make of the multihanded Fitness Forever, a rush of almost cartoonish in delivery summery lounge-Italo-pop, featuring members in judo gear and a captain's hat, that's virtually too much to take in. What, then, of The Frank And Walters? A band who, while never having actually split up, seem to exist in that pre-Britpop hinterland where bands like Kingmaker had big hits, it doesn't start well when the PA blows roughly three seconds in. Luckily it's a mere power cut that lasts five minutes rather than something terminal, at least it came before any momentum had been built up, and most importantly they'd brought a football with them. When power is restored, as much as their banter sounds like someone imagining what Frank And Walters banter might be like and the songs not from their commercial heyday pass most people by, and even some of those now come across with a James-like stadium ambition that seems out of place in this company, people are going mad for After All and This Is Not A Song, and that's the least you can ask. It does mean, though, that we miss the Specific Heats in the church, a set many go on to talk about not least for their reverb machine literally blowing up on the first chord. It's still hot in there, clearly.

Butcher Boy are, along with Pocketbooks, pretty much at the forefront of the UK leg of this whole indiepop 'thing' at the moment, at least in being those with the greatest capacity to break out. Fronted by John Blain Hunt, who ran Glasgow’s genre defining National Pop League club night for seven years, they Stuart Murdoch’s studied sophistication - maybe a little too close in truth, with the lush arrangements and Motown nods suggesting that If You're Feeling Sinister period - and add a dash of post-Arcade Fire headlong march for a result packed with drama and poetry. Hunt almost has a missionary zeal, and there's plenty who'd go along with him.

Here's an exercise in mixed aggregates. On Elefant's stage Speedmarket Avenue, peppy on record, are dragging horribly. In the church, The Lovely Eggs are nuts. In the nicest possible way, obviously, but just in case the songs about olives as part of the cosmos, carving insults into melons and the not at all self-explanatory Have You Ever Heard A Digital Accordion? weren't signposts that this may not be the most hinged band ever, Holly Ross' wide eyed enthusiasm bordering on quasi-insanity settles it. Songs are based around playgroundish non-sequiturs before devolving from gentle sing-song to noise freakout, all with singalong bits and actual hooks somewhere in the stew. They cover the song from Mike Leigh's Nuts In May, Ross wanders into the packed audience to relay Oh The Stars and then tells us how to differentiate between differently sexed peppers. It's a bit like the Moldy Peaches, yes, but only if relocated to Lancaster and dumped in a vat of children's books about animals with spiked drinks and only Metal Machine Music to listen to. In a very, very odd way, it's fabulous.

A hog roast! And they're stripping the whole sodding thing in front of you! It's like some sort of Viking offering.

Suddenly, there is soul dancing afoot. Cats On Fire's first album saw them, if in thrall to the Smiths and Belle & Sebastian, only such in a hugely likeable and danceable way. Their second earlier this year leant too heavily on the Smiths and was somewhat ropey as a result. None of that seems to matter here, partly because of what we saw the set was heavy on The Province Complains anyway, and partly because it's so joyous, both in a giving and receiving sense. At their best - I Am The White Manteled King, Higher Grounds - they just have it, and people are responding in kind. Singer Mattais Björkas dresses smartly, looks slightly foppish and has the full whack of Morrissey expressions, but then you kind of expect that. And then they go and cover Your Woman by White Town, whose Jyoti Mishra is here and has been a long term supporter of suchlike. An absolute highlight and proof that one bad turn can in no way derail an entire career.

If anything, Camera Obscura seem understandably more in their element watched by a crowd willing them on to greater things. They repay in kind, simultaneously looser and more confident than in recent showings - Tracyanne Campbell cracks a smile on a couple of occasions - and given the leeway to do a couple of slow ones for gentle swaying purposes mid-set, the payoff for the big numbers, Lloyd I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken followed by If Looks Could Kill a particular winner, is well worth the effort. Coming just as the sun starts setting behind the stage, it disproves this theory that they're a lacklustre live band while peaking with a kind of gorgeous epiphany.

Although an overrun briefly threatened and then avoided an awkward clash between all three, the church was too full for Wake The President, and attempting to listen through the wall, while successful to some extent in relaying their current confidence, was a mug's game ultimately. Oddly, though, even though the stage time had already been put back half an hour to accommodate Camera Obscura, the line check for Emmy The Great didn't start until after everyone had piled into the tramshed expectantly. By the time she comes on it's not quite right either - rumoured to have had a car breakdown en route Emma-Lee seems not to be in the right frame of mind and isn't getting into the spirit of things, the band are a keyboard player down and the wait, plus the fact she's technically following two defining sets of the weekend, means she's lost the vast majority of the crowd already. She doesn't seem to be sparking musically either, which might be partly because of how far back we end up but means we come away for the second successive weekend disappointed, albeit for different reasons, with expectations dashed. We don't bother stopping for La Caza Azul, but apparently it was a riot of very un-Indietracks music. Still, a day left.

Indietracks 2009: Friday

In just its third year, Indietracks has found a great big niche right at the heart of what we must by law refer to as the crowded festival summer. This year it's the same weekend as Truck, Camp Bestival, Secret Garden Party and any number of potential competitors, yet the fact the attendance numbers are exponentially growing is testament to many things: the idea, the reputation of its clientele, the fortunes of the music it covers at base level, and above all else the experience. Far away from 'boutique' labels, Skins kids or fashionista column inches, Indietracks exists in and of itself, so much so you almost don't want to give the game away.

So here's the first of three lengthy, detailed blog posts about it.

Truth be told, there was some foreboding on arrival at the Ripley end of the Midland Railway Museum. Indietracks, running as it does on a whole lot of communal spirit and togetherness, has always seen warm weather before, but the Friday had seen showers in the East Midlands, and indeed a couple of small rain flurries hit before the music - commencing half an hour after advertised without explanation, as would become a pattern with the stage throughout the weekend - coincided with things drying out. Still, any fears were allayed with some recce of the site, as while attendance numbers were understandably much smaller than the rest of the weekend there were still people catching up, exploring the site, band members taking in their surroundings etc. The indiepop community, clearly, won't let inclement conditions come between them and comradeship in the name of indiepop's extending tentacles. As we would see.

Elefant Records, in the year of its twentieth anniversary, had been invited to curate the main stage, moved to the bigger/proper outdoor area, and they'd decided the three band Friday was for showing off their more electronically minded catalogue. Or, in the case of Argentina's Modular, echoing the kitsch lounge music the presumably Elefant-sourced DJ played between bands for most of the first two days. The duo's parping keyboards, synthesized vocal interjections and callbacks to Jean-Jacques Perrey's experiments in musique concrète and Walter/Wendy Carlos' electrifying the classics are reminiscent of Stereolab's space age bachelor pad era, an easy listening retro-futurism that put here in a wide open festival setting doesn't really go anywhere but works as easy listening background. Which sounds like a bit of a wasted trip, coming all that way to provide mood music, but it fits somehow.

Not so long ago Rose Elinor Dougall was in a band who could play big shows in New York and Tokyo and sell out Shepherd's Bush Empire sized UK venues. Pleasingly, she doesn't seem bothered that her post-Pipettes career sees her pretty much starting from scratch, commenting "it's like I've been miniaturised into a toy railway set" as she surveys the rolling stock and steam train lines. While the coquettish glances and endearingly shabby dancing that made her the people's favourite in the band remain - you'll go a long way to find someone who looks cooler at handclaps - her music has moved away from the knowingly kitsch end. While still pop music of a sort, taking Stereolab's awkward retro-melodic nous and Broadcast's kaleidoscopic drone as a starter, you can also hear Sundays-esque wracked sunshine pop, Cocteau Twins textures and the darker end of the Smiths. The key extra ingredient is Dougall's voice, one that in this context seems unsuited to three-part girl group harmony; very English, deep and lushly powerful but also melancholically reflective in tone a la Siouxsie or Bridget St John. Her band the Distractions add something almost akin to turned down shoegazing textures (and special mention to bassist Georgia Lee for rocking a leopardprint all-in-one), but there's something at these songs' wistful, self-doubting heart that suggests relatively big things ahead.

Dougall's top Myspace friend is the night's headliners Au Revoir Simone, and it's easy to see the musical connection. The three Brooklynites don't have a great deal of stagecraft bar Annie Hart, who gets into some spectacular headshaking at times and takes to the drumkit for one song but encourages us to clap along so that she can keep the rhythm as much as our lending a percussive hand; what they do have is a way of humanising the ethereal elements of their sound. Current album Still Night, Still Light is almost skeletal in its vintage drum machine plus keyboard drone plus airy harmony template, more so than the more flesh and blood-cushioned The Bird Of Music, and while they don't really deviate in the live sound - Erika Forster brings out a bass for a couple of songs, Hart has to change the battery on one of her keyboards after the first song having forgotten during the line check, there's what seems a genuine appeal to invite them back next year at the end (you can't imagine many American bands play this sort of location) and that's about it for interaction - and some songs drift by on the breeze, there are equally moments, Sad Song of particular note, when the various keyboard sounds mesh together and envelop all in enchantment. And every so often they get to crank up a disco beat or throbbing pulse rhythm for some particularly awkward shape throwing. It doesn't all work in an outdoor environment, but it works much better than you'd expect.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

In case you're wondering

we're not sure what to do with the extensive Latitude review, as we've just done the TLOBF version which hopefully will be up in the coming days and will have Indietracks to write up next week. What do you think?

Regardless, you can have a look at our photos.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Gig news

We're doing a gig in a couple of weeks, you remember? Right.

Anyway, unfortunately Project Notion have had to pull out, but we're pleased to say we've been able to replace them with Death, No Less. They're a guitar/drums duo for whom this will be their third gig, the first two supporting the Bellrays and Shonen Knife. They cite as influences Shellac, Archie Bronson Outfit, Led Zep and PJ Harvey, and we're assured they're very, very good. And they're on with Love Ends Disaster! and Pagan Wanderer Lu, and full details are here.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The annual STN Predicts The Mercury Prize Nominees post

Hello there. Still at Latitude, but with recovery and review writing/posting we might not get time to keep up this futile but filling diversion otherwise. On Tuesday at midday or so we decree these artists will be declared in the running:

Bat For Lashes
The Bug
Camera Obscura
Florence And The Machine
Friendly Fires
The Horrors
Jack Penate
Led Bib
Micachu & The Shapes
The Phantom Band
White Lies

You'll see we're right.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Weekly Sweep

  • Camera Obscura - Honey In The Sun [YouTube]
  • Charlotte Hatherley - White [YouTube]
  • Dananananaykroyd - Some Dresses [Bebo?!]
  • Emmy The Great - Edward Is Dedward [Myspace]
  • Kill It Kid - Burst Its Banks [Myspace]
  • Lion O'Brien - This Life [Myspace]
  • Loqui - Hermes Pan [Myspace]
  • Mission Of Burma - 1, 2 ,3, Partyy! [mp3 from Matador Records itself]
  • Noah And The Whale - Blue Skies [Myspace]
  • Not Cool - Wonderful Beasts [Myspace]
  • The Pastels/Tenniscoats - About You [Myspace]
  • Randan Discotheque - Daily Record 18th May 1983 [Myspace] (This week's "um..." entry - a song entirely based around stories in the titular back issue)
  • Smoke Fairies - Frozen Heart [Myspace]
  • Sons Of Noel And Adrian - Black Side Of The River
  • Terry de Castro - East St O'Neill [Myspace] (Wedding Present bassist covers Animals That Swim. You're right, this isn't Thrash Hits)
  • The Victorian English Gentlemens Club - Parrot [YouTube]
  • Why? - This Blackest Purse [mp3 from Pitchfork]
  • Wild Beasts - Hooting & Howling [YouTube]
  • Thursday, July 16, 2009


    So we're off imminently to Latitude Festival for the weekend, which due to the magic of scheduled posting you won't really notice until early next week when Latitude Festival reviews start being posted. You've got the rest of today to tell us anything we should be aware of or any little things that could make our experience the more amenable. (Not who to see, we think we can cover that bit for ourselves)

    What this does leave us time to do is plug our gig directly for the first time in a couple of days. If you're within range on 6th August it's a three line whip of attendance. In fact, even if you're not in direct range we'll be expecting you. Even those readers in Australia. Especially those readers in Australia. (And, to extend the hand of plugging friendship, if you can't make it that Thursday to Leicester, try the following Thursday, 13th August, for the Summer Sundae Fringe8 Thursday warm-up parties for the festival, nine simultaneous gigs across the city centre for £4. In fact our gig is part of two weeks' worth of special events, as outlined via that last link)

    And next weekend, Indietracks. Summer here, kids!

    Wednesday, July 15, 2009

    Invites ridicule - the latest collection of Spotify oddities

    100 Greatest Sports Moments

    'Sports' rather than 'Sporting', so already you know it's an American product. There's a few newsreel based albums we could go into over time, but this one is set out by its mix of radio commentaries and a wayward musical showreel. Nobody needs a percussively double time remix of Ballroom Blitz, especially when flanked by two clips from at least a decade earlier, or Quiet Riot re-recording their cover of Cum On Feel The Noize, not least as those aren't actually sports moments no matter where you plan the line to be drawn. For a compilation deeming itself the arbiter of sports' greatest moments, moreover, we're not sure the 1972 Olympic terrorist tragedy, Dale Earnhardt's death, Olympic boycotts, baseball strikes, steroid trials or - and we're not making this up, although we suspect it's in to make up the numbers - David Beckham resigning as England captain quite counts. Also, nobody ever needs to hear a cover of Let's Get It Started.

    Superhits prasentiert vom Palast Orchester mit seinem sanger Max Raabe

    "Max Raabe is a German singer and band leader of the Palast Orchester. He and his orchestra specialise in recreating the sound of German dance and film music of the 1920s and 1930s, especially by performing songs of the Comedian Harmonists." So yeah, it's a post-ironic covers album, but crucially done by a German so you're never quite sure how much comedy is intended, with the result We Will Rock You just sounds uncomfortably odd, Eiffel 65's Blue (Da Ba Dee) has some sort of King's Singers arrangement that hopes you don't notice the copout dance beats behind - they should speak to Mike Flowers, he ended up teaming up with Stock Aitken Waterman and somehow forgetting the point of his act - and we're not sure replacing Kiss' guitar with a banjo under the treacle-thick carousing of the very un-Prince vocal is entirely in the spirit of reversioning. They also have a crack at Manu Chao's already fairly odd King Of The Bongo, and that'll blow your sinuses clear away.

    Sounds Of London

    Recorded in 1961, exactly what it says it is. What situation would you play this in, even if you were a subscriber? Even a day pass purchaser. We're not sure the arguments about atheism and war on the track recorded at Speaker's Corner would unduly tax Richard Dawkins or George Galloway.

    Funny In The Head - The Best Of The Barron Knights

    And when all else fails, the late Duke D'Mond and colleagues will always come up with the goods. We've already had a Barron Knights compilation in one of these round-ups, but this one is more contemporary - where the hell is that audience? - and features entirely different tracks throughout. What that means is up for streaming is their surprise number 3 single of Christmas 1978 A Taste Of Aggro, relocating Rivers Of Babylon and The Smurf Song in dental and criminal situations. The fun never starts stops after that for eighteen further tracks of country laments to Shep and Barbara Woodhouse, an impression of Lene Lovich, Supertramp versus the three day week and songs called Heavin' On A Jet Plane and Little White Bum. Farewell To Punk ("welcome new wave!") certainly opens up old arguments.

    Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    Did we mention this at all?

    Behold the weapons grade charm of our gig poster

    The Voluntary Butler Scheme gig is Twesta's rather than ours but we'd recommend that one too, as Actionforce are a hugely promising live band (and LED! worked on their recordings) and Silent Devices are favourites of Bethan Elfyn.

    Monday, July 13, 2009

    Monday's Newcomers II

    When Loqui's press release dropped into the STN cubbyhole it declared them as "hailing from Leeds but a million miles away from the indie-rock plodders who have put that city on the map", which for a blog that's often hailed the great stuff coming out of that city in the last couple of years seemed a little forward. Still, we assumed they meant the Kaisers and Pigeons and pressed on, which was fortunate as they're one of those bands who seemed to have listened to a lot of uncool influences and sometimes threaten to resemble them but have a spark of genius/madness that sends them well away from the wrong targets. They mention the Cardiacs in their PR and share some of that jazzy, awkward sense that they themselves only have a vague idea of how to get from A to B and certainly aren't going to do so with the minimum of fuss. Then again, you can hear a certain theatricality in them, not so much West End or Brechtian but the low rent glamour of early B-52s and Sparks, and the odd slip into ska-punk mode. No, stay with us. They have a limited edition 7" called Hermes Pan out today on Sturdy Records.

    We're having a summer, aren't we? Welcome, then, Bermondsey's Lion O'Brien, who make the kind of sunkissed, optimistic pop that's infectious to a fault with just the merest hint of jangle, sounding like a cut down Fanfarlo or a less West Coast harmony indebted Magic Numbers. Their forthcoming EP is called Raincloud Vs Sunshine, which sounds about right, and is out July 20th. Side note: they're a trio of two men and a woman, who drums. Guess who's furthest forward in their promo picture.

    More music made for either lying back in the grass or pulling inappropriate shapes in public are provided by Apples - terrible band name, by the way - who are from Hereford, which seems to be delivering some interesting stuff on the quiet with old STN favourites Gossamer Albatross and the recently signed to Big Scary Monsters instrumental hardcore outfit Talons. The Apples aren't orchestral or math at all. In fact, they sound like Haircut 100, on one track sax and all. Luckily this is the Mystery Jets end of 80s references rather than the Ladyhawke end, and they've got a degree of punk-funk latitude about them too, and a hint of that Afrobeat indie thing you hear so much about. Second download single Theo is out this week.

    Sunday, July 12, 2009

    Maybe I should get a proper hobby

    Hello. Do you like those books and written outlets that attempt to explain why a certain number of songs are so great (Pitchfork 500, This Is Uncool, Popular)? Reckon you could contribute to something in that style, but online? Contact us if so.

    Saturday, July 11, 2009

    The Weekly Sweep

  • Adam Donen - It's Over Now [Vimeo] (The third different project we've featured of his, technically. Choice quote, laden with heavy irony from those who know his back catalogue: "none of it is in any way morose, weighty or apocalyptic. At all.")
  • Animal Collective – Summertime Clothes [YouTube]
  • Army Navy - Saints [Vimeo]
  • Arthur & Martha - Music For Hairproducts [YouTube]
  • Camera Obscura - Honey In The Sun [YouTube]
  • Charlotte Hatherley - White [YouTube]
  • Emmy The Great - Edward Is Dedward [Myspace]
  • Kill It Kid - Burst Its Banks [Myspace]
  • The Low Anthem - To Ohio [Myspace]
  • The Maccabees - Can You Give It [YouTube]
  • Mew - Repeaterbeater [mp3 via Spinner]
  • Meursault - Nothing Broke [mp3 from Song, By Toad]
  • Noah And The Whale - Blue Skies [Myspace]
  • Pagan Wanderer Lu - 2.0///The Bridge Of Sighs [YouTube]
  • The Pastels/Tenniscoats - About You [Myspace] (Scottish post-jangle quasi-legends, Japanese psych-folkies have collaborated on a whole album)
  • Portugal. The Man - People Say [Myspace]
  • Sons Of Noel And Adrian - Black Side Of The River
  • The Victorian English Gentlemens Club - Parrot [YouTube]
  • Wild Beasts - Hooting & Howling [YouTube]
  • Young British Artists - Bring The Sun [Myspace (live version only)]
  • Thursday, July 09, 2009

    The Music That Made... Slow Club

    You know Slow Club, right? Bloke and girl from Sheffield, not quite folk, not quite twee, all really rather engaging and joyous in a vaguely piecemeal way. Yes? Well, Yeah, So?, out now on Moshi Moshi, is even better than that, as this fine chap reinforces. Masculine half Charles Taylor gives us a few minutes:

    First single bought: Cher - Believe - it was a present for my sister
    First album bought: I think it might have been Rated R by Queens Of The Stone Age.
    First gig voluntarily attended: Bowling For Soup at the Leadmill, Sheffield
    The record that most made you want to get into music: I don't know about getting into music. I can't really put that down to one album. The Shins' first two records played a large part in getting Slow Club off the ground.
    The three headliners at a festival you were curating: Phillip Glass conducting Koyaanisqatsi score/Yann Tiersen/Grinderman
    A song not enough people know about but everyone should hear: Clank Clank by Saffron Set
    A song you'd play to get people dancing: A Postcard To Nina by Jens Lekman
    The last great thing you heard: Neil Young at Glastonbury
    Your key non-musical influences: Rob Ryan, Guy J Jackson
    Your favourite new artist: Viking Moses

    Wednesday, July 08, 2009

    Girls at their worst

    You'd think it'd be a difficult time for a chart watcher, what with the swathe of Jacksoneria clogging up space in both top tens at the moment. In fact, no, over these last two or three weeks it's been the very opposite. Even right at the top, where we saw the benefit of the late sales run - in the singles chart Man In The Mirror (and why that song in particular? The BBC News site gave explanation a go but seemed to get no further elucidation than "well, just because". "It wasn't a hit first time round so it feels fresh"? Well, where's Liberian Girl or Cry gone?) held an 8,000 sales lead over Cascada in midweek but went backwards, actually only holding off La Roux for number two by, sir, one single copy. Oddly, it was the other way round in the album chart, Ellie and her imaginary friend actually losing a lead of 12,800 copies to one of three best ofs. Somehow, and it can't merely be a promotional change or new stock arriving, The Essential Michael Jackson sold 34k on Friday and Saturday to La Roux's 18.6k. Curiouser and curiouser.

    Incidentally, Ellie Jackson explains Ben Langmaid's complete absence from all forms of La Roux-based communication - unwise, frankly, given some of the head-slapping quotes she's given recently - by comparing it to how Will Gregory is an invisible hand behind Alison Goldfrapp so you might never know Goldfrapp is a duo.

    Anonymous, publicity shy invisible band member Will Gregory with the winner of this year's Nina Persson As Off-Duty Burlesque Boho Lookalike Contest

    Anyway, this isn't a post about La Roux. In fact, the crux of it is to point up two albums that have done interesting things in the chart of late.

    Three weeks ago two albums that had entered in the previous week's top ten fell a great distance. Placebo's Battle For The Sun slipped from 8 to 41, but you expect that - at this stage Placebo are a fan-only proposition and they know nobody is going to be introduced to this hot new talent through new record means. The other fell from 5 to 40. It was Little Boots' Hands.

    Let's think about this. Little Boots is not being aimed at a specific audience in any way. She's been given a good amount of crossover radio play, there's been significant poster coverage, she's been in every bit of press that'd have her. In fact, that may be the problem - after winning the BBC Sound Of 2009 poll she was given the cover of Guardian Weekend and a significant amount of space in the Times in the second week of January, five months before the frankly Natasha Bedingfield-esque (listen to that chorus again) New In Town single. As such we already know her parameters, a shot at 'sophisticated', 'DIY' (she has her own YouTube channel, see) post-Kylie POP!!! practitioner with a Tenori-On (market price: £919. Dead Disco surely didn't recoup that much) It's almost nostalgia for 1990s pop, and even in our accelerating culture that seems a rough pill to swallow. You can't help wondering how much of that single, which itself peaked at number 13, is the dead hand of Greg Kurstin not quite getting what 679 wanted. It may pick up, and indeed is only just under the top 40 two weeks later with next single Remedy's promotion starting very early, but it'll have to go some to match up to what was openly expected of it.

    You could imagine it's some sort of general backlash against the Girls With Synths thing, because only the music industry and its PR handmaidens could engender a backlash against a whole sex, but Florence is midweek number one and La Roux we've just dealt with. That said, it's a female front and centre of the other major new album news piece, one so little remarked upon that you'd think there was some sort of conspiracy. Which, in a way, there may have been.

    Gossip's Music For Men entered at number 18 and then fell to 53. Take out the Jacksii and it's still 14 to 45.

    Brace Paine recently commented that they thought about marketing T-shirts reading 'Gossip Is A Group', after the famed 'Blondie Is A Band' merchandise. Too late, we suspect. Beth Ditto actually seems to exist outside Gossip, as if the cult of celebrity has overtaken them to such an extent that there's Beth The Fashion Icon Of Our Times and they have to mention the band through some sort of imagined honour system. Why else would the TV advert start like this?

    Maybe it's just that Ditto hasn't taken well to suddenly being this fashionista avatar when in America she's still the singer with a cult concern. All their press runs "fat naked Deep South squirrels lesbian Top Shop Kate Moss, oh, and she's in a band", and you begin to wonder why you bother when such a complexity is reduced to a trailer trash Beryl Cook painting. And while again the campaign opened weakly with the nondescript Heavy Cross - peaking at 37! - everyone seems to agree that that's as good as the album gets. But hey, why have album sales when Gordon Smart runs your picture.

    Monday, July 06, 2009

    Embassy number one

    Sweden isn't just about mildly fey Smithsian indiepop. The Göteborg scene is of a more pastel-coloured digital hue, housing the critically acclaimed Tough Alliance, Studio and Air France. Leaders of said scene are The Embassy, a duo whose debut album, 2005's Futile Crimes, was named the third best of the century so far in a localised poll and whose recent single was released in a limited edition 12". That's a limited edition of... three. It's somewhat Mediterranean in feel, like a Balearic non-Cracknell Saint Etienne meets Service labelmate Jens Lekman and an odd dash of Laid Back, the Danish outfit whose mid 80s near-hit Bakerman, the skydiving video (directed by Lars von Trier!) for which was on the Chart Show every week for what seemed like months. They call it "underclass disco". The press release compares it to "ecstasy-fuelled jewel stealing on the Riviera." Oh, now you say it...

    The Embassy - You Tend To Forget

    Sunday, July 05, 2009

    Visual aid

    Filler embeds, we're afraid. We do try and keep a steady hand on the tiller via the Sweep when it comes to STN-approved videos, but just recently labels and artists have been issuing clips for songs long released. Let's use this opportunity to rein some of that back in.

    Dirty Projectors, for instance. How to approach the avant-something collective's throwing together of Amber Coffman's Mariah vocal cadences, one of those mad productions Aaliyah and Brandy used to get, and half a Talking Heads mix played backwards and looped? With Dave Longstreth herding a llama and the girls in jumpsuits exerting some hidden memory of a collective dance step. Obviously.

    Owner of a place in the Sweep for about six straight years with this single, Rose Elinor Dougall sings of loneliness in the face of other people's love, of being the third and hence unwanted wheel in a once loving relationship. The director of her video pitches her a long, unspoken walk to the beach and images of bearing up or otherwise to a new singularity. She brings the rest of her band along to the shoot. Don't quite understand that logic.

    It's all (well, two out of three so far) newly solo'd artists this week. Lord Cut-Glass is Alun Woodward, formerly the grit to Emma Pollock's half of this doomed simile in the Delgados. What we've heard of his same-titled debut on his own is highly interesting quirkpop fest. Somewhere in here is the dark heart that complemented Pollock's piano reveries.

    Incidentally, there's a good number of Delgados videos on ver 'Tube. Even this one, which we didn't even know was a single.

    What else? Well, this lot have a new video and it's not made it to 200 views in its first nine days up so...

    Saturday, July 04, 2009

    The Weekly Sweep

  • Allo, Darlin' - Henry Rollins Don't Dance [Myspace] (Supporting the Lucksmiths at their last London gig next week, along with Daniel Kitson. That's a fairly unmissable bill)
  • Animal Collective – Summertime Clothes [YouTube]
  • Camera Obscura - Honey In The Sun [YouTube]
  • Dinosaur Jr - Over It [YouTube]
  • Dinosaur Pile-Up - Summer Hit Song [Myspace]
  • Emmy The Great - Edward Is Dedward [Myspace] (Remember how when First Love came out we talked about how she had an album's worth of eked-out songs not on it? Well, she's gone and put some of them on an EP out at the end of the month, around which she and they will be stalking us around most of our festival summer)
  • Full English Breakfast - Song For A Nut [YouTube]
  • Kill It Kid - Burst Its Banks [Myspace]
  • King Charles - Time Of Eternity [Myspace]
  • Let's Wrestle - My Arms Don't Bend That Way, Damn It! [Myspace]
  • The Low Anthem - To Ohio [Myspace]
  • The Maccabees - Can You Give It [YouTube]
  • Mew - Repeaterbeater [mp3 via Spinner]
  • Pagan Wanderer Lu - 2.0///The Bridge Of Sighs [YouTube]
  • Slow Club – Giving Up On Love
  • The Victorian English Gentlemens Club - Parrot [YouTube]
  • The Voluntary Butler Scheme – Tabasco Sole [YouTube]
  • We Were Promised Jetpacks - Roll Up Your Sleeves [YouTube]
  • Wild Beasts - Hooting & Howling [YouTube]
  • The XX - Basic Space
  • Thursday, July 02, 2009

    Young lovers

    It's too warm for lots of typing, so a quick heads up for The Young Playthings. Those with long memories may recall they released one of our favourite under the radar albums of 2007, Who Invented Love? At the time we described them as "a Weezer/Superchunk-esque power-pop outfit reimagining a David Lynch soundtrack". Their new album Back To The Future is definitely their Pinkerton in that case, less of the power end of the spectrum, darker and more lyrically poetically awkward, grown up and trying to work out the work-life balance if still imbued with the electric (and a couple on acoustic) sound of joy. It sounds like they've been listening to a lot of modern R&B for one thing, judging by a couple of tracks; at other times you'll think of Modest Mouse or a hungover Replacements. The press release calls it "a pop album with a punk rock heart". Yeah, that'll do.

    The Young Playthings - Kiss Yr Voice

    Wednesday, July 01, 2009

    The minor form

    Quick heads-up for Spotify users that two new releases of great import have sneaked on in the last couple of days. Mew's monumentally titled new album is being previewed by the, erm, uneven No More Stories EP, while Spoon have surprised everyone with a digital only three tracker, Got Nuffin'. Really worthwhile, that second track, thanks everyone.

    In more aerated climes, you might have missed this in yesterday's massive update - Spotify seemed to, certainly - but lurking among the huge intake from CDBaby was a 2004 Welsh language three track eponymous EP by Aimee Duffy. Yep, the self same. Curiosity only, let's say.