Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Falling stars

We know we've written about Falling & Laughing some time in our history because they quote us on their press release. The Birmingham duo of singer/guitarist Dunc, who's also in Lime Chalks of playing our last live night fame, and drummer Darryl write heartfelt songs then throw dynamics at them. You think it's going to be the Field Mice, then it turns up and turns into something less easy to follow. Their four track EP Bunnyhood is out on Odd Box next Monday.

Falling & Laughing - Roly-Poly

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Good set this week, with the much awaited and ambitiously fertile much awaited Everything Everything debut Man Alive, Gallops' inventive, soul moving EP and the long delayed (it's been on Spotify for a while) Admiral Radley album I Heart California, the best thing Jason Lytle's done since splitting Grandaddy. That's out of two things. But seeing as we made its constant promise of imminent release a running joke for a while, and moreover because it's a damn fine debut record that stretches the emotional depth while not sacrificing the subtlety of the writing, we're going to plump for an album named not after a bemoaning about the lack of Yoni Wolf in the author's life but a quote from 17th century mystical poet and Catholic hymn writer Angelus Silesius: "The rose is without why, it blooms because it blooms/It pays no attention to itself, asks not whether it is seen." Rose Elinor Dougall, conversely, is asked to be seen a lot, and will be even more when Mark Ronson's album comes out as she provides vocals on three tracks and will be in his live band. Beat the rush, get it this week. We did a thorough review for TLOBF; Just Played got a lengthy and insightful interview out of her.

A quiet week as everyone gets over Reading & Leeds and winds up for the resumption of the proper touring calendar. One band getting in early, even though their album isn't out until November, are the quiet-loud post-rock densely storm-tossed dramatists Her Name Is Calla. Their tour kicked off last night at one road less travelled, Berwick-upon-Tweed; Sunday they're at Glasgow The Captains Rest, Monday Manchester Night & Day, Tuesday Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff, Wednesday a homecoming of sorts at Leicester Firebug, Thursday London Luminaire and Friday Cambridge Portland Arms, wrapping up on Saturday 4th September at Pocklington Arts Centre in York. The Manchester to London dates are with The Monroe Transfer, with whom HNIC have been recording a collaborative album. One at a time, please. Elsewhere, Big Scary Monsters recording artists Hold Your Horse Is and Shoes And Socks Off embark from Wednesday on a month long tour.

Pete Green, who gets quoted or referred to here pretty much every week and you've still never, ever heard of, reckons The History Of Apple Pie - not a great name, is it - could be the next Standard Fare. Reputedly Peggy POBPAH is already a fan of the London duo, who say they sound like "eating mint choc chip ice cream in the sun with your best friend", and actually sound like Comet Gain and the Pastels toying with fuzzpop and reverb in an attempt to work out how Galaxie 500 do it. Yuck's younger, less showy siblings, in a way.

Here's baffling. Bingley Music Live is a one stage, £30 effort in West Yorkshire whose headliners are Buzzcocks, James and The Enemy. Also playing are a mixture of the entirely likely (Reef, Levellers, Dan le Sac vs Scroobius Pip), the cheap return pop of the day (Example, Professor Green) and the brave in the circumstances (Seasick Steve, Frightened Rabbit, Gaggle). Oh, and playing before James on the Saturday: Public Image Ltd, their only UK festival appearance in 2010. What? Maybe it's typical atypical Lydon behaviour, especially when out on the end of the Central Line is Offset for some of his spiritual children of all eras. Mystery Jets and Atari Teenage Riot are your peas in a pod headliners, Monotonix and Pulled Apart By Horses dare each other on to further onstage battery midway through Sunday, while elsewhere we see Art Brut, Liquid Liquid, Caribou, These New Puritans, Rolo Tomassi, Calories, 80s Matchbox B-Line Disaster, Thomas Tantrum, Male Bonding, Banjo Or Freakout, Telepathe, Lovvers, Cluster and Esben and the Witch. None of that nonsense over at the Moseley Folk Festival. Nothing's as wild and loose with the name as Saint Etienne headlining last year - it's The Divine Comedy, Donovan and, for the novelty in your life, The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain - though the High Llamas must stretch the definition a tad between Johnny Flynn, Beth Jeans Houghton, The Low Anthem, Erland and The Carnival, The Unthanks, Fyfe Dangerfield, Sparrow and the Workshop, Alasdair Roberts and Boat To Row. Plus, and we quote, 'Workshop - Rapper Dancing with Ryknild Rabble'. Round the back of the corn exchange?

Fractions Of One, another one of those online music magazines you hear so much about, has compiled a charity compilation to help the Pakistan flood appeal. Get Set, Go is a mere fiver, for which you get tracks by among others Tubelord, Internet Forever, Gallops, Three Trapped Tigers, Shoes And Socks Off, Shield Your Eyes, worriedaboutsatan and Adebisi Shank.

Half Man Half Biscuit popped in to see Marc Riley on 6 Music a couple of weeks ago, partly to say thanks for the whole Joy Division Oven Gloves shebang, partly to play three new songs on an album Nigel says should be ready by the end of the year. And here they are in Soundcloud form with cheeky download aperitif.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Playlist additions 28/8/10

  • A Classic Education - Gone To Sea [Myspace] [mp3 via The Fader] [Vimeo]
    "They have gathered praise and hype from some of the most respected music blogs and websites in the world such as The Torture Garden, Drowned In Sound, Sixeyes, Chromewaves, Music Slut, Song By Toad, Sweeping The Nation, 17 Seconds, The Daily Growl, MBV, Brooklyn Vegan etc." BEFORE BROOKLYN VEGAN! Have that, world! Erm... this is the free track from a new EP, less string-laden grandiose than previous singles, more immediately concerned with introducing Modest Mouse to British Sea Power to see if they get along. That same press release claims the band have "been going for just under two years", then a paragraph later mentions their appearance at Indietracks more than two years ago.

  • Beach House - White Moon [Soundcloud]
    The one new track from an iTunes session of reworkings that sounds much as Beach House do - twinkling keyboards, insistent drum machine effect, atmospheric guitar, drawing-in androgynous vocals

  • Broken Records - A Leaving Song [Myspace]
    The first band from the Edinburgh wave to hit our critical wall, Broken Records' second album is out in October with this track available for the price of an email address. It sounds grand, Jamie Sutherland emotes and it tackles big themes. Business as usual, then.

  • Esben And The Witch - Marching Song [Myspace] [YouTube]
    Matador's first British signing in six years, there's a gothic unwaveringness about their take on mythologically unsound crashing waves of guitar noise and electronic undertow, like Beach House gone badly to seed at the hands of Geoff Barrow.

  • Everything Everything - QWERTY Finger [Myspace] [live YouTube]
    From a monumentally ambitious album out in two days' time and currently streaming in full on Myspace, a rush of panicked harmonies, pulsing synths, racing rhythms and Jonathan Everything's wayward falsetto

  • Ice, Sea, Dead People - Grean Tee [Myspace] [YouTube]
    Now that two and a half minutes of splintering art-fuzz discord is worthwile enough, but get this; they're inviting you, yes, you, to add whatever background you like to the video via this handy competition.

  • King Post Kitsch - Walking On Eggshells [Myspace] [Vimeo] [Bandcamp free EP download]
    Glaswegian exile who plans to release an album on Song By Toad next year makes a good start with a lead track that sounds like Ray Davies fronting The Voluntary Butler Scheme, and then for the rest of the EP turns into Dean Wareham.

  • Rose Elinor Dougall - Third Attempt [Myspace] [live YouTube]
    Different to the version that's been freely available for download, the album's most successful merging of Broadcast airy keys, English folk stylings and lyrical insecurity. Again, the whole album is on Myspace if you're quick.

    ASIDE: This isn't the video for that, it's the clip for Carry On, which is chiefly worth highlighting because it appears to have cast Rose's brother as her love interest. If we'd caught that subtext our view of the album and its songs about obsessional desire and love going wrong would have been quite, quite different.

  • Spring Offensive - The First Of Many Dreams About Monsters [free download] [Myspace (part one only)] [Soundcloud]
    Less a song, more a five track EP in one go, thirteen minutes plus of expansively ambitious literate art-alt based on the grief cycle.

  • Still Corners - Wish [Myspace] [Vimeo]
    Lots of very vague music, in the best sense of the term (there is one), around at the moment. Increasingly regular visitors to these pages, this is part of a new double A side, in its sub-two minute Mazzy Star floaty beauty.
  • Thursday, August 26, 2010

    Fight club

    A little extra something as we head into the last bank holiday weekend before Christmas, a track we commissioned for our fifth birthday hullaballoo (the tracks from which can still be streamed/downloaded from Soundcloud) but the band have only just managed to get together. Mascot Fight, who played one of our nights last year, are from Derby and play not uncatchy, wryly affecting indiepop somewhere in the Pavement realm. For our purposes they give the slacker-pop treatment to the XX's most minimal gem:

    Mascot Fight - Crystalised by Sweeping The Nation

    New Vic

    Here's a pleasant surprise we found while clearing out the inbox, a new song from Vic Godard. Going to need a quick history here, we think...

    Vic Godard was a nascent punk singer who, at Malcolm McLaren's suggestion, formed a band to play at the 100 Club Punk Festival in 1976, the watershed for the nascent scene (the Sex Pistols, Clash and a debuting improvisational Siouxsie and the Banshees were on that same bill, the Buzzcocks and Damned heading the second day). They supported the Clash on the White Riot tour and took Bernie Rhodes on as manager, who promptly fired the lot and re-mixed without Godard's knowledge their sole single, the properly great invention of post-punk before punk had taken hold that is Ambition:

    Godard reformed Subway Sect in 1980 and released a rockabilly and northern soul influenced album, What's The Matter Boy? (Shirley Lee of Spearmint wrote the sleevenotes for the twenty years on reissue, which instantly puts it on our radar) but after several other attempts and a spell as a Tin Pan Alley crooner retired and became a postman. In 1993, at the behest of Rough Trade's Geoff Travis, he returned with an album produced by fan Edwyn Collins released on the briefly resuscitated Postcard label, and has recorded on and off ever since. He's just played the 1-2-3-4 festival in Shoreditch and releases a new album, We Come As Aliens, on October 11th.

    Before then comes the Blackpool EP, only available via PayPal for £5 plus p&p from GNU inc Records (thegnu@hotmail.co.uk) Recorded with literate lowlife Londoners the Bitter Springs, it contains four tracks written with Irvine Welsh for a failed musical. The lead title track is proper uke-led end of the pier vaudeville:

    Vic Godard - Blackpool

    Wednesday, August 25, 2010

    Green days

    A few words, then, on Green Man 2010.


    Wet. There's one. Very wet. There were pretty much ten minutes' leeway at most at any one time from constant rain between being set up at about 1pm and the headliner finishing at 12.45am. Wellies were a given (unless you were particularly foolhardily brave in a very English festival way, as the groups of young men in just shorts proved), and even then didn't stop the odd slip. Parts became a trudge, seats were at a premium, covered areas even more so. In the shadow of hills, mountains and rolling fields as most of the landscape was, the low cloud cover was particularly resonant.

    At least some people were putting in the effort. Spencer McGarry Season had brought in the full thirteen piece ensemble to recreate the pocket Van Dyke Parks baroque pop of Episode 2, dressed up for the occasion too. That their fine efforts were greeted by an understandably muted turnout was a shame for all concerned. The rain only got heavier by the time The Wave Pictures came on, but a stroll through the back catalogue highlights proved a welcome distraction from the torrents. They were at least enjoying it enough to give Jonny Helm two lead vocals, Sleepy Eye accompanying the usual Now You Are Pregnant. In the Far Out tent, the only main arena with tent covering, O Children were the poor man's 80s Matchbox/first album Horrors.

    With Mountain Man apparently turning up late and Sweet Baboo attempting to fill time with his slower songs because he'd got pissed after being part of the Spencer McGarry Season ensemble, it turned out that over in the playfully themed Einstein's Garden The Sound Of The Ladies was playing on a solar-powered (ha!) stage for what we suppose counts as a semi-secret set given the running order wasn't listed on the website or in the running order lanyard. Small but appreciative, we'll label the audience for his lyrical entrancements, including a song from the perspective of the Voyager 2 probe.

    The first time we saw Erland And The Carnival their swirling psych-garage entranced us; this time, as on their album, it just seemed to sit there waiting for something to happen. So instead we wandered a good distance off to the literature tent where Stuart Maconie and David Quantick were holding excellently self-indulgent court, Maconie as interviewee despite not really knowing which book he was supposed to be promoting. Back on the main stage Fionn Regan, alone on stage sporting a natty headband, failed to hold attention much as his records don't to us. From earnest folk troubadour to earnestly loud stoner rock, Sleepy Sun in Far Out perhaps failed to find the same receptive atmospherics under canvas in a wet field than in a proper concert venue (or Butlins room).

    There are ways you can reassure people that despite being about to play a set heavy on your new solo album you know what they're really thinking of. Steve Mason starting with a solo Dr Baker, for example. Shame most people talked over it, but once that was out of the way his solo tracks were no slouches, even if he did 'start' with the two singles. Still, it was King Biscuit Time's I Walk The Earth that finally grabbed the whole tent's undivided joyful attention, some people still chanting back the chorus as it wound down, and just when everyone thought that was the end of the set he brought his drummer to the front, illustrated a bongo rhythm for him to continue, gave instructions to the guitarist (now with woodblock percussion) and bassist to follow, and warned the audience "I don't play this one often". At which he started Dry The Rain. The reaction was lustily enormous, a genuinely great moment.

    Somewhere we have an unopened promo of Beirut's The Flying Club Cup. We know (and no you can't, as it's apparently watermarked), but at the time they never grabbed us. The first song was good, the second wasn't, and at that we decamped to Smoke Fairies, who were in their own unassuming, quiet way really rather special. Two girls, two guitars and any number of delicate blues-folk songs with spot on trad-folk harmonies. Despite been around for a few years, feted by Jack White and Laura Marling, they've never been taken up by the wider world even in their own community, which is a shame but also means they can play stages of this size where intimacy is key.

    Intimacy would bloody hurt if Fuck Buttons played in that seeming close proximity. All noise, light and thumping both in bass and treble, it's implausible to think a band like this could overfill a Far Out tent like that. There was plenty of debate in advance about Doves headlining; in the end they're basically Doves, occasionally with the earlier songs chiming with their surroundings, more often getting bogged down. And that was a night.


    While the rain was less heavy and frequent for most of Saturday there was what seemed to be a cloudburst around 12.15, which on this part necessitated a sprint in the rain in what would turn into blister-rubbing wellies across gloopy fields towards the Far Out tent to catch the first band. As it was we arrived, knackered, halfway through their first song, but it was too late anyway as Mark Thomas had ceased wandering around whooping and was already back onstage.

    Somehow, all by chance of placement, this is the fifth time we've seen Islet, and while a lot of the moves are starting to seem well covered there's always a feeling of being in the now with them, that it teeters on the brink of falling apart even more than Kraut-tribal-garage-no wave usually would, and that's when members aren't haring off up to or over the barrier. And especially not when Mark is drumming on the front of the stage or waving a bass around inches or less from people's faces during Jasmine, or Alex Williams is slipping off the stage front with no apparent harm done (though how would anyone ever tell?) Mad. Brilliant. Invigorating. Whatever the hell it all added up to. Neil Campesinos!, standing nearby, is applauding as heartily as anyone. The Gentle Good, practically inaudible from halfway back in the Green Man Pub area, can't compete.

    Race Horses back on the main stage make a sporadically enthralling organ-led psych-pop noise, but it seems a touch one-paced over a full set. Not so in our only proper visit all festival to Chai Wallahs, a performance and scran tent that's all herbal shots, hookahs and some sort of juices with healing powers. When we wrote about Gabby Young & Other Animals the other week we had her down as a slow burning folkateer with interesting ideas. Turns out those ideas aren't wholly encompassed at all by slow burning folkishness, rather Kurt Weill cabaret pop, gypsy folk, circus swing, jazz blues, polka and all point in between, Young as your cut-glass accented revue master of ceremonies. It's quite the whirlwind trip.

    After watching David Quantick talk about his career for a bit for extra stylistic advice, we hit the first serious stage time clash of the festival - Fanfarlo or Summer Camp? (Extra ironic, of course, being as Jeremy Warmsley has previously toured with Fanfarlo as an additional member) We decided that, as Summer Camp had a 45 minute slot, if we saw just over half of Fanfarlo, who given their various Summer Sundae excuses we'd never seen, we should at least catch Ghost Train. Fanfarlo were slightly underpowered but the core of the songs came through, especially a rousing Fire Escape. Over in Far Out, we were just in time to catch the first chorus of Ghost Train. Well, there you go. Just Jeremy and Elizabeth with samples this time, plus a backing slideshow of photos from the period they shamelessly evoke. Still sounds... interesting.

    Johnny Flynn back on the main stage, wearing a Dead Kennedys T-shirt and attracting vocal pockets of girly screams from some sort of pre-Mumford contingent, has the ease of someone who could knock out a set of such spare folk ballads and hoedowns on command, but it's undeniable that it's still the first album songs that make the greater connection. Back to Far Out, where after their traditional overlong line check and delaying sound issues These New Puritans have another go at translating their far-reaching opus Hidden into live format with woodwind section and a multitude of samplers. Jack Barnett still isn't the most subtle of vocalists, TNPs in this mood remain far easier to admire than actively like and Barnett's habit of referring to each offering as a 'piece of music' gets on the nerves ('song' will do), but We Want War's battleground of horns, huge drums, dancehall beats, electronic effects and sub-bass shudder whips people up even if nothing else can stand up as effusively in the mystic digital clearing.

    And now, an hour in the company of a man and his electric guitar, Billy Bragg. Well, not an hour, as there's a horrible clash here too which means we see the first twenty minutes and last three songs, fairly confident that it'll broadly be the same set we saw him do at the Big Session festival last year. And it is, bar a new song about bankers that's even clumsier than Neil Hannon's. Preceding it with Greeting To The New Brunette only gets goodwill so far. That ending, by the by: I Keep Faith, There Is Power In A Union (only just reinstated to the set last year) and the usual community singing of A New England, which a good half of the audience join in on and as ever cheer on the addendum "shall we sing a verse for Kirsty Maccoll?" The reason for wandering off was Far Out headliner Wild Beasts, pretty much the set they've been trawling around all year but it seems not to matter given they're unerringly turning into one of Britain's great current live bands, a tight as you like patchwork of intricacy with both Hayden and Tom capable of rousing their crowd with a fist aloft.

    Down in the village, our old friend the Sonic Manipulator has turned up. Fantastic!

    There is no sightline back at the top of the hill leading down to the main stage for our headliners the Flaming Lips. The whole introduction, with its orgy of video screen graphics and lights culminating in Wayne Coyne emerging in his plastic bubble to roll around the crowd, has to be viewed through rapid fire photo taking above the crowd of heads at the top. Once we've found some space down the side where we can see everything in full it's apparent the Lips are going to make us work for our enjoyment ploughing through Embryonic, a decent album but not one filled with headline set party classics. Much enjoyment is therefore derived from the massive balloons, and more accurately watching very young children make off with balloons at least twice as big as they are. That never happens in concert halls. Coyne, who looks more bedraggled with every passing year, suggests we incant for the moon to fully appear to some success, delivers Silver Trembling Bells from atop the shoulders of a bear (or maybe a man in a bear costume), dons huge Kenny Everett at the Tory conference-style hands that shoot out lasers, claims it's the best festival they've played in ten years and right at the end makes grown men discover the field is suddenly very dusty around their eyes with a monumental Do You Realise? There's a school of thought that says once you've seen the Flaming Lips show once you've seen it enough, which is understandable given the balloons and exultations aren't going to wildly change, but a Flaming Lips show is like nothing else in the rock and roll sphere whatever the circumstances.


    An unusual climate - sunshine, warmth, that sort of thing - greeted the start of the last day, and indeed kept going for some time. It's just a shame, then, that the first band we saw, on the Green Man Pub stage, are more suited to hushed darkened rooms. Felix give it a go after a delay which sees the drumkit being built well after the listed stage time, but in the open air Chris Summerlin's subtle guitar tones are occasionally inaudible and Lucinda Chua's streams of consciousness are too floaty and enveloped to really work as festival fare, for all the want of trying to translate their fine album. No, what you need is just loads of people playing everything, hence Sons Of Noel And Adrian, even if they're in the cinema tent playing in front of some oblique visuals created by friends, thrive on the churning choral death folk brassiness of their arrangements. Norway's Je Suis Animal by comparison feel too light, not confident enough to be the inventive indiepop it desires nor explore the usually Stereolab-scented outer edges.

    It takes Lone Wolf to really get the day into gear, the expertly moustachioed Paul Marshall backed by a band of local-to-him-in-Leeds allstars involving utility Leodensian Lindsay Wilson, two of Duels and James 'Napoleon IIIrd' Mabbett, who we'll come back to. Dramatic, shifting, dark songwriting filled out by a more than capable band, one so up for it that the drummer plays the second song so fast Marshall's hand still hurts three songs later from trying to keep up, it seems to make an impression on plenty, even with the cover of Scott Walker's The Old Man's Back Again which Marshall forgets the words to halfway through.

    There comes a point during Field Music's set when you begin to wonder if the Green Man organisers have some issue with the Brewises. Already with loads of kids playing football to the side of the main stage, seemingly completely oblivious to it all, a procession with fully costumed dancers, shamen and New Orleans-style jazz band progresses through the side of the arena, then a group of men in hunting costumes chase a man dressed as a fox through part of the crowd. Meanwhile Field Music seem to have mid-loaded their decent enough set, finishing with the slow, considerate ones having already played what quantifies for them as hits halfway through, including Peter Brewis forgetting the words to Them That Do Nothing.

    A pop-up (or 'tent', as we used to call them) Rough Trade shop has been on site all weekend with signings and instores, and Smoke Fairies turned up to play a few songs and with little advertising pack the thing out. They seem little the worse for two days' festival experience. Their former tourmate Laura Marling never seems to really settle into the festival frame of mind, not unsurprising given most of her songs, especially once past the opening of I Speak Because I Can, are delicate character pieces that don't translate to big open spaces and attendant crowds, and Laura herself is quite reserved. Also the whistling solo in the solo version of Night Terror would work better if she didn't precede it by emphasising how great she is at whistling. Sparrow And The Workshop's countrified drama might be expected to work out better in the smaller Pub, but that doesn't take hold either.

    "Welcome to the acoustic tent!" Napoleon IIIrd greets Rough Trade shop dwellers. He does this from behind a bank of keyboards, boxes, knobs and the trusty reel to reel player (which goes untouched). Showcasing four tracks from November's second album Christiania while watched by John Brainlove and filmed by Pagan Wanderer Lu in a gang's-all-here style, it's a more rough hewn electronica set of loops, drones and textures he's cutting through, raising fascination levels for said LP's imminence all the more. In contrast, back in the Pub Lonelady's clipped, sharp guitar playing, terse vocal style and all-action drummer, even when only playing 4/4, comes across as coolly spare in the proper art-pop tradition.

    Much as the idea of them following Mumford & Sons (who, surprise surprise, reputedly drew the biggest crowd of the weekend, and after they'd finished hordes of people trouped through the Pub area on the way out) was amusingly odd to the point of flippancy, not to mention spawning quite niche jokes about what might happen if the two bands swapped singers, an overcast, drizzly Sunday night seemed about right for the pessimistic gloom of Tindersticks, even if at one point much of the crowd was distracted by a sky lantern crashlanding sideways on fire into a group of people, to the point of ripples of applause when it was extinguished. Stuart Staples' vocals remain the acquired taste - we like them, someone chose to tell us "what a voice that man has", but, y'know - but the more pressing concern was the reliance on Falling Down A Mountain. A qualified pass. The rapt attention received to headliner Joanna Newsom was quite something, but if we aren't going to get her now we never will and the rain had returned with a proper vengeance so we bailed out after a while, thinking of how Green Man seems to be one of those festivals that gets by on atmosphere as much as bands, where even in a sodden weekend such as this (yeah, heavy rain in the southern Welsh valleys, who'd have ever known) it remains a fun, diverse and necessary experience of a festival.

    All the photos fit to print. Which isn't that many, all told.

    Tuesday, August 24, 2010

    ...and we're back

    Flood, fire or act of God may not stop us, but broadband line failure apparently can. Just to say we can receive emails at the moment but not send any, so we're not being rude by keeping schtum. It's also wrecked our plans for all sorts of forthcoming stuff, but we'll see what the ISP can do.

    The last post was number 2000, by the way. Well done us.

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010

    Summer Sundae 2010: Sunday

    Two things changed on Sunday. The weather was the most welcome, instantly hardening almost all the ground and bringing out the tradition of people seated all the way up De Montfort Hall Gardens' natural amphitheatre. The second was that, while all weekend tickets had been sold in advance, it was the only day where the day tickets had likewise all been snapped up. The areas that got crowded, especially the walk through the village to the Rising tent and campsite, got even more crowded, but there didn't seem to be great problems getting in anywhere. And in any case, most were there for our headliners, a spectacular early gambit by the organisers given what's happened to their profile in the last two or three months...

    These Furrows
    As we say, Leicester seems to be overrun with post-hardcore bands these days. While not strictly our favourites there's a deal of hope of some sort of wider acceptance around their twisted riffola, a more Brit-rock sided take on Tubelord's intricate broken down angularities which nods at math structure and more full-on anthemry put through a grater. Not entirely sure what the saxophone on two songs added, and the new single seemed to be the weakest song in the set, but much promise is afoot from a band not overawed at position or time.

    Red Shoe Diaries
    Good, this, having seen two songs of theirs at Indietracks before having to catch a train. They're quite a bit more Belle & Sebastian than we recalled - we recalled them being quite a bit Hefner-like - but these songs of hidden hope and ease seem to chime with the conditions and the atmosphere.

    Pete Molinari
    Retro rock'n'roll taking place somewhere in the background, leaving little trace.

    Summer Camp
    Into the hall for the first time on this day, curated by Drowned In Sound for their own impending tenth birthday, to catch a lovely moment during the soundcheck when Jeremy Warmsley observed that Perfume Genius on the PA went well with the keyboard line test. On demo/record Summer Camp come across as very sleek and shiny, indebted to the imagined sound of 80s high school films and synths therein. The live incarnation - Warmsley on guitar and keys, Elizabeth Sankey already an easygoing frontwoman, two other people on synths and bass - is a little more roughed up, still sepia tinted and electronically enabled but not quite as sweetly lovesick. Still sounds like enigmatic parallel universe pop (and not chillwave), though, a distorted post-Abba. Call us cynical, though, but we're not sure Sankey really is waiting for her A-level results as claimed.

    Johnny Flynn & The Sussex Wit
    It's quite good for the festival that the weather behaved on this Sunday, really. A modern folk leaning crowd, reflected broadly in the post-These Furrows main stage bill, was always going to be out in some force for a fellow traveller, so Flynn gets a great reception for his weatherbeaten morality tales in a set that leans interestingly heavy on first album A Larum. At once his songs fit the mood and reveal something darker and more literate while remaining on the surface perfectly good tunes to either chill or awkwardly dance to. Most people take the former option.

    The Besnard Lakes
    Never got into the Besnards, it has to be said, their melding of shimmering swells and classic rock power chordage never quite convincing. Aren't there better ways without the histrionics of producing soaring grandeur? Well, yes, clearly.

    Soaring grandeur has never been Jose Gonzalez's thing, but he keeps getting main stage invites from Summer Sundae. Having failed to translate in the wide open arena twice before he does little better with his band project, essentially Jose Gonzalez songs with a steady rhythmic drummer and some synths somewhere in the background, making it sound even more like background painting.

    The Crookes
    Fervent supporter Steve Lamacq is in the crowd for the Sheffield outfit whose star is affixed to the slow revival of proper jangle-pop, very much of a Housemartins hue with lyrical ideals of romance and small town stories. Like a lower-fi Frankie & The Heartstrings they're a rock'n'roll band transplanted out of time, only juddering to a halt on the realisation that George Waite has picked up the same vocal phrasing as the central wave of landfill indie irritants from Borrell to Lean.

    Live electronics, eh? When done wrongly they're actively offputting. When done correctly they're usually Errors. At times during this stupendous, uniquely almost fitting set their punishing, throbbing pulse feels like it may never give up, pitching into offbeat electronic grooves, washes of acid pop melody and something rhythmically beyond mere instrumental sequenced synth-pop into irresistable music for heart as much as feet, finishing with two noise freakouts. Another stormer, even if people didn't seem that keen to move to it.

    The Low Anthem
    Last End Of The Road the Low Anthem played a main stage set so quiet you couldn't hear it from the top of the arena. The problem with a band most of whose songs are built on still, hymnal beauty and concentration is if you put them in the open air - as EOTR have done again this year, we note - the slightest wisp threatens to carry it away. It's good to admire what they do, but utilising it properly so people under clear skies will watch you for an hour in rapt attention is another thing.

    Los Campesinos!
    There's a story to be told here. Entertainingly, if tellingly, Gareth's vocal check included his singing Little Lion Man, to which the gaggle of teenage girls in floaty fairy dresses next to us joined in. Then he tried Song For Whoever, and they looked on nonplussed. As regular readers will know critical faculties somewhat elude us when it comes to LC!, but even by their standards it's a spectacular effort. For one thing, they start with In Medias Res, only the second or third time they've played it. The live set (of which this was the setlist), full blast and more involved than the records ever hint at, is a fearsome beast, ecstatic and involved even as half the monitors briefly go down. And then...

    Well, you might have heard what happened next. Those who've seen LC! live over the last couple of years will know Gareth often makes a gesture to clear a pathway through the centre of the crowd before leaping in and delivering a verse and chorus or so from among the throng. Here he had a barrier to contend with but a mini-speaker stack for extra height. From where we were, a couple of people between us and him, he got ready, made the leap, went down to much gasping, remained down while the band played on in a little disarray and Kim attempted to pick up the vocals, then recovered during the chorus, somewhat groggily at first, then on being helped back to the stage picked up where he left off with his full array of dance move (singular) and the traditional all-together ending.

    Now, less than an hour later the whole band were hanging around on the punter side of the artist enclosure with Gareth glad-handing any number of wellwishers and Facebook photo requesters. In his words, it was a jump he thought he could make if he aimed to put one foot on the barrier and let momentum carry him in, but just as he got his foot on the metal someone grabbed his ankle and over he went left side of face first. Copious cans of Red Stripe seemed to be acting as a temporary pain reliever, but he was indicating he'd had stitches above his eye (there was a definite cut there when he deigned to turn back to the front on returning to the stage) and looked generally beaten but unbowed. After Monotonix last year, the hall is proving quite the place for crowd leaping.

    Local Natives
    This always seemed a strange piece of scheduling - a band with a little label muscle behind them but little true crossover second to last on the main stage on Sunday? They're hardly a band for big last night singalongs, even if they do have some potential in that area. There's no question they put on a dynamic show, the dual drummers and Fleet Foxes harmonic vocals chiming with the times. It's just that, having seen them storm the Sunrise Arena at Latitude last year, something didn't quite translate in this space and time to make it a marquee event.

    El Pussycat
    Semi-stalking members of Los Campesinos! meant we missed most of the regularly Musician-filling ska collective, doubly unfortunate as we've since learned Neville Staples from the Specials joined them for a few songs from his back catalogue. Still, getting there for the encore means we get to see the joyous sight of an entire tent skanking (we were just standing outside it, obviously. And deliberately)

    Mumford & Sons
    How much do the headliners appeal to their new young constituency? The trumpet soundcheck gets a huge cheer. When the band emerge for their first headline set it's like a refined Party In The Park, the four part harmonies multiplied by a good thousand or so. You just had to watch for the sheer size of the thing that has been created here.

    The Futureheads
    Although obviously you could actually end the festival watching someone else, like the headliner inside the hall. They perform creditably for audience, filling downstairs if leaving great swathes of empty seats upstairs, and in terms of sound they're revved up and ready to flatten everything in their path. As much as their last two albums have kept to one breakneck punk thrash pace, and when too many of those songs are put together mid-set it shows, they're still an engaging live band, pulling out Area and Barry Hyde suggesting the "bouncey bounce" dance to Skip To The End. People do. And then of course Hounds Of Love, with the traditional splitting the audience into two to join in with the opening call and response, and following that with a forceful Man Ray with extra long gap they're home and hosed. As, indeed, is Summer Sundae. Ten more years!

    Summer Sundae 2010: Saturday

    What was a brown gloop yesterday turned into properly slippery, adhesive stuff on the Saturday, as a series of early afternoon light showers - three seperate outbreaks in fifteen minutes at one stage - turned just after 5 into one heavy passing storm. What that also meant was a headache for De Montfort Hall's cleaners, with mud up the stairs, in the hall and a particularly slippery patch on the carpet at the egress between garden and bar.

    Therefore, starting the main stage with a band carrying a large standard reading "this is merely a distraction from the inevitable" seemed rather too prescient. What actually seemed out of place was starting the main stage with a band like Gaggle, the 22 strong (and thus shattering Danny & The Champions Of The World's all-comers most people on the main stage record) multi-coloured tribal choir of Hades plus drummer and laptop with Deborah Coughlin 'conducting' things out front. There's definitely something about the confrontational unlikeliness of the venture that draws us in, not that, oddly enough, everyone is entirely keen on a be-robed glitch choir channelling the Slits being the ideal festival crowd-pleaser. But we're intrigued, and that's what matters here.

    Dog Is Dead
    Unbridled hype alert. Having seen the Nottingham teenagers fill downstairs at the Rescue Rooms at Dot To Dot in April we knew that their local cult potential is unbound. What we now see from catching a whole set is they're genuinely one of Britain's most exciting prospects, galvanised with energy, sometimes misleading joy and invention. There's certainly a pop-mathematical equation you could put together to describe them - Vampire Weekend high fret guitars, first album Futureheads multi-part close harmonies (five part, in fact) over twisty post-punk jerkiness, the stop-start-rush guitars of endless American bands - but it feels entirely of their own doing rather than reflective of their influences. They have a saxophonist and don't sound at all cheesy. That takes some doing. We shy away from claiming anyone is going to be huge because we've been burnt too many times like that, that everyone doesn't sing along to the choral breakdown of Glockenspiel Song is a state of affairs that needs rectifying.

    Over the border, Leicester doesn't seem capable of launching a proper inventive alternative band. What that city deals in is a steady stream of post-hardcore leaning towards math/post-rock bands, of which more on Sunday, or synth-aided guitar pop like Autohype (there's also the steady wave of youngsters for whom landfill indie never died but let's pretend they'll grow out of that). There's not much wrong with Autohype in truth, and there's very little wrong with Seb Twigden as showman when he's spending most of the set in front of the monitors, clambering all over the place and eventually over the barrier and onto someone's shoulders some way back while keeping the singing going.

    We Show Up On Radar
    Somewhat less engaging, you can't help feel others have already done the sort of winsome hushed acoustic folk twee pop WSUOR specialise in much better.

    Liam Frost
    Playing one of his last gigs before jacking it in to form a band, Frost for the second time at the festival has brought a coterie of fervent fans with him as he plays solo, the better to let his dark honesty shine through. Closing The Mourners Of St Paul's gets the understandable biggest reaction.

    The Moulettes
    Parlayed onto the bill after a star turn at the Big Session folk roots festival in June, but in a muddy garden this is not the time or place for their theatrical, rangy Balkanised bassoon-featuring trad folk. Most people, in truth, seem to be looking on nonplussed.

    The Leisure Society
    We thought it would prove an error to stick a twice Novello nominated band with some wider interest in the smallest tent at 3.30, and so the full tent proved. They were at least treated to a standout set from the now ten-strong outfit, one which didn't so much as suffer for the lack of The Last Of The Melting Snow. While Christian Hardy dealt with the banter side, rehearsing synchronised single clapping for the last song, Nick Hemming and co's live arrangements, adding meat and an upbeat warmth to the very carefully arranged nature of their records, so that something like Save It For Someone Who Cares sounds almost like an anthem. And then they pull out their woodwind enabled slow crawl cover of Gary Numan's Cars and all bets are off. Perhaps the quiet surprise set of the weekend.

    Diana Vickers
    Yeah, right.

    Turin Brakes
    No sooner do they appear on stage then the rain returns with a proper vengeance. It doesn't do much for their power acousticity, let alone their crowd numbers.

    It had dried out by the time they came on, but Stornoway are a band we cannot get into at all, much less when the devil in their detail gets overpowered on the big stages.

    Indoors, on the other hand, where it can get dark and enveloping despite the size (at least downstairs), the four piece live incarnation of Dan Snaith's evolving beast thrived. Packed into a much smaller space in centre stage than the room available would suggest, the pulsing acid electro that never quite makes it to disco made more sense live, pulsating and rhythmically undulating as Dan Snaith sets off another glitched loop or takes to the second drumkit the better to add the motorik element reaching back to the Manitoba days, organically building to a psychedelically inclined peak. Odessa in particular takes off like nobody's business. The crowd seem slow to get into it, but the projective enthusiasm gets through eventually.

    The Go! Team
    Their first UK gig in two years, they claim (not true, they played Wickerman a couple of weeks ago as late replacements), there's a couple of new songs that sound much like versions of the old songs, but by and large it's as much a hits set as the Go! Team can ever claim to. Ninja, now sporting a tremendous afro, bounds about and commands as MC with boundless energy, while behind her the usual electro-hip hop/sample/cop show theme/Sonic Youth guitar/double drumming primary coloured explosion takes place. They're back alright.

    Frankie & The Heartstrings
    F&TH's early press releases called them a "brand new old fashioned pop band", and you really don't need cogent criticism when that nails it so readily. We tweeted at the time that they're a post-millennial Orange Juice, in that they know the original primal instinct of rock'n'roll and latter day guitar hooks but clearly infuse a lot of other music. They could just as easily be a commercially minded Yummy Fur. What they also have is Frankie Francis, a compelling frontman of the type you don't see a lot of these days with all the moves who never loses eye contact with the front rows, up on the monitors, backwards into the crowd in the full Musician tent at one stage. Not every song works, but given people are joining in on Hunger already there's something going on here.

    The Fall
    Tinchy Stryder was headlining outside, but the action was never going to be there. Having never seen the Fall live but read a lot about it we were pleased that, fighting and walking off early apart, everything we expected to happen happened - Mark E Smith twiddling with the amps, wandering with vague purpose around the stage, singing with his back to the audience, getting out his scraps of A4 for lyric advice, having a go at Eleni's keyboard during Blindness before slinging one of the four mikes he tried out (sound engineering the Fall must be a high pressured job in itself) into the front row. Oh, and also that the current Fall are a shit-hot proposition, garage Krautrock with menace, tight as you like and blessed with great sound helping them thunder through. Of course the hardcore filled the first few rows and the sixteen year old girls decided on unilateral early exits, and of course there were no Fall originals from before the last ten years (Frankie & the Heartstrings had played a snatch of How I Wrote Elastic Man between songs after Frankie told how one of them had bumped into Mark E), but you wouldn't have it any other way.

    Summer Sundae 2010: Friday

    Summer Sundae turned ten this year, sealing its place as the most delightful of the small scale festivals. At the risk of going over ground long covered after STN's annual visits, with its wonky booking policy, bijou existence, often likeable family friendly atmosphere, handy indoor stage and reasonable prices its foibles are almost strengths and its strengths are what makes it so unmissable year on year.

    Now, as previously stated, the desire not to spend hours looking blankly at the document without further ideas forming leads on to another piecemeal capsule festival review. We'll try and sling daily reviews up for ease of use this time. So...

    About halfway through their set, just as their soaring, glacial cover of Peter Gabriel's Solsbury Hill gets underway, Nick Moon captures the thoughts of the small but keen early day audience with two well chosen words: "oh shit!" It's begun raining, see. Heavy showers will be the order of most of the day, with one sustained downpour later on, turning parts of the ground into unpleasant stickiness by nightfall. None of the subsequent running for cover is to Kyte's detriment, although the moments when they lurch towards Temper Trap-esque electro anthemry are. Much more of the time, though, they harness the electronic retrogressive suggestions towards something stratospheric and overpowering, demonstrating that even in these conditions they fit the wide expanse with no little ease. Just one thing - Kyte were everyone's idea of next big things two to three years ago. What are they doing getting on the bill only via a local radio contest?

    Spotlight Kid
    There's a lot of shoegazing around these days, but it seems few bands take to it with the attention to detail of Nottingham's Spotlight Kid. One of their guitarists even employs the same same technique as Kevin Shields with the permanently gripped whammy bar, and one song delves into a mini-Holocaust section. For all that the three guitar wall of sound is unbreakable, Katty Heath's vocals sweetly somewhere in the mix as everything else swirls around with buried melodies in the best tradition of the sound.

    The Megaphonic Thrift
    From one band whose influences aren't so much not hidden as pasted front and centre to another. This time it's Sonic Youth - the feedback, the leading bassline throb, the extraordinary guitar throttling noises (and tunings), the songs that seem to be progressing in a linear path until swerving off full throttle into a hedge, even a frontman who does the guitar above head then swooping across ground level thing that Thurston does. Again, for all that a band capable of taking on that prominent but difficult an influence and putting their own stamp on it leaves a lasting impression. In the same way that staring into a strobe light would, perhaps.

    Charlie & The Martyrs
    And then we step back out of the world of pedals and into a soggy field becoming increasingly so to watch a jaunty pop band whose bass amp dies immediately as they take the stage. These probably aren't the right circumstances for cogent critical thought.

    And it still hadn't recovered by the time Nottingham's sometime most wanted took to the indoor stage, because apart from that they didn't seem anywhere near as impressive as their recorded output we can't remember anything about them worth writing in a blog review.

    Erland & The Carnival
    One of the year's great disappointments was seeing their cracker of a support set to Wild Beasts in March and then finding their album comparatively underpowered. At the second time of live asking they seemed equally sluggish, far from the initial impressions of whirling psych-folk greatness. So near and all that.

    Peggy Sue
    The woodland reared (possibly) blues-folk duo were on fine form in the Musician tent, though, entwined in their spectral harmonies and brittle, dark awry craftsmanship. Shame that most people just chose to talk over them instead, as in better circumstances they would have soared.

    Just to take a moment to explain a time gap here - Fanfarlo were due to be next on the main stage. This was pleasing to us, as as well as being fans of theirs, evidently, they'd pulled out late last year due to swine flu and were, in truth, probably the one real must-see of the day that we hadn't already seen. And yet... wandering over to the Hall for Swimming we noticed a single notice up on the noticeboard of gig posters announcing, with no elucidation, that Fionn Regan had been moved from indoors to take their place on the main stage. Several things flashed through our mind at this point. The first was, obviously, THE BASTARDS. (It subsequently turned out they'd somehow got stuck on the M1 and with gigs in Belgium over the weekend had decided they couldn't make it) The next was that they'd pulled out last year with days to go as one of them had swine flu, and they'd withdrawn from this year's Indietracks too. And hadn't they briefly listed a gig in Leicester some time last year, or were we feverishly making that up? Anyway, what with the Wave Pictures pulling out through illness the previous day we weren't best pleased with fate, or with the offhand way that the information seemed to be got out - we know people who hadn't heard until Regan came on, or who were in the hall waiting for Regan.

    We therefore decided to make use of the city centre down the road.

    Danny & The Champions of the World
    Back to the Musician tent, and a sadly cut down to eight travelling show for Danny George Wilson and friends, compared to the fourteen on stage two years ago. Well, there is a recession on. They still sound like a perennial Last Waltz, giving off the air of communal joy as much as the songs are carefully crafted, slipping effortlessly into My Girl at one point.

    Teenage Fanclub
    Imagine what this would have been like under the last remnants of a blazing sun. Under leaden skies it still worked out pretty well, though, only a couple of representations from the current album slipping into a set spanning most of their career full of glorious melody and harmonies that don't seem quite as sharp as they used to be but still sound like the most natural development. And just when it all starts sounding a little samey for a bit, the keyboardist straps on a rhythm guitar and we're off into a politely raging Star Sign. The only disappointment is missing a cracking final three of Everything Flows, Sparky's Dream and The Concept because the set slightly overlaps with...

    Slow Club
    Their last gig before they lock themselves away in a room to write and record. Promisingly, for all their talk about needing to broaden out their sound the new songs sound like they fit effortlessly into the set and easily fill the space in the big hall. The old songs work well enough too, the ballads heartaching, the faster songs provoking sporadic outbreaks of movement. After the slightly ramshackle nature of the Indietracks appearance and Rebecca's tweeted disenchantment after a bad gig the night before, it was a triumph and a tremendous recovery for temporary send-off.

    Steve Mason
    Some sacrifice had to be made to catch Slow Club, but rushing straight over to the Rising tent at the far end of the grounds meant we arrived just in time for his closer. And if you're going to extemporise with extended grooves and a percussive bit over anything, it might as well be the still glorious I Walk The Earth from his King Biscuit Time incarnation. Wish we'd seen more.

    Seasick Steve
    Coming on early just for the hell of it, it's pretty much undeniable that Steve Wold is a tremendous slide/bottleneck blues man who can hold a rapt audience at hand. What seems to be a puzzling sideline is the rapture people feed off from him. His changes of guitar get roars of approval. When he embarks on some glad handling of the front row it's like a red carpet premiere. Earlier, wandering upfield, he's stopped every couple of strides by people brandishing cameraphones. How we arrived at this juncture would take more than a few lines on a blog to explain.

    Roots Manuva
    See, here's the pop at cross purposes idea of Summer Sundae in excelsis. While all that's filling the field outside, in the hall Roots was firing out dedications between each song to "Leicester city!" to Pavlovian response. Backed by a female singer and band - bass, drums, decks, synth, Macbook - while some of the usual gripes about live hip hop presentation remained (yeah, we've come to see you, not your hypeman) the energy levels were high, the sub-bass quaking, the live sound spot on, and when Witness (1 Hope) hit plenty of the balcony was joining in the exultant collective movement. A great finish to day one.

    Sunday, August 15, 2010


    Don't. Save up, there's some very busy weeks ahead (hello, w/b 13th September). If we must fill this with something that catches the eye, Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan have a third volume of their protracted hawk-like encircling each other (it's even called Hawk) out, but those have been variable quality so far.

    "The last four and a half years have been a tumultuous ride to say the least; we've both eclipsed our early expectations and had to face a seemingly infinite series of difficult setbacks. It's been both fun and utterly maddening, inspiring and crushing. We now finally face a set of circumstances that are truly impossible to overcome and realise that the only logical way to continue to move forward with our lives is to put Grammatics to rest." And there goes one of Britain's most intriguing and promising (if that isn't too shallow a word for a band who've long had an album out, but the sense was they could have gone much further into their particular darkness) bands. They have a final EP coming out soon but are currently on a farewell tour, tonight at the Manchester Deaf Institute. This week they then head through Glasgow Captain's Rest on Monday, York Stereo Tuesday and Barnsley Walkabout on Thursday before they go very ungently into that good night at home in Leeds at the Brudenell on Friday, with Blue Roses and These Monsters supporting.

    Plantagenet 3 - there's one, sometimes two, of them - refer to him/themselves on Facebook as "post-surf: hopefully the most ridiculous genre name you'll hear this year." Hypnagogic pop proves that wrong but not the whole surf-but-something-other approach, sounding like a Labradford windy minimalism/Chicago scene style post-rock outfit attempting to reconfigure the Ventures at their own speed, minimal drumming against half speed reverberating guitars. The influences list mentions Morricone, which seems about fair, though for an umbrella we'd go with 'tonight, playing live, Dick Dale is John McEntire'. Go and buy their single, should you so wish.

    While 4Music and its coterie of failed Hollyoaks actors takes in the surface venality of V, us snobs are off to Green Man. We've never been before and are worried that, unlike most festivals, they haven't sent any maps, opening details or parking arrangements with the ticket. Once there, though, much is on offer: Joanna Newsom, the Flaming Lips and Doves are your headliners in reverse chronology, with other names standing out including Billy Bragg, Laura Marling, Tindersticks, Mumford & Sons (might get a bit of peace around the rest of the site while they're on, judging by Latitude), Field Music, Fuck Buttons, Wild Beasts, Beirut, Islet, The Wave Pictures, Felix, Johnny Flynn, Fanfarlo, Steve Mason, These New Puritans, DJ Yoda, First Aid Kit and Summer Camp. Throw in nicely booked comedy (Josie Long, Milton Jones, Robin Ince), literature (John Cooper Clarke, Stuart Maconie, David Quantick) and film (Nuts In May, Ponyo, 200 Motels), plus an on-site competition in which Bella Union invoke Kit Williams' Masquerade, tents and that just about all seems worth the hassle of not knowing where anything is in advance. Elsewhere, Beautiful Days is run by the Levellers with all that implies and is one of British Sea Power's stop-offs on their way to playing every single festival that ever wanted them. This a band who played not only Zoo Thousand but were also billed for celebrated non-starters Red List Live (in the same location as Zoo8) and Indie Guitar Festival. The Wailers, Billy Bragg, Fairport Convention, Wilko Johnson, Thomas White, Thomas Truax and John Cooper Clarke also show up amid your New Model Armys and Shoogleniftys. For substantially less, by which we mean free, Morton Stanley Festival is a weekend event at, um, Morton Stanley Park in Redditch, attracting Hot Club De Paris, Tubelord, the only fitfully active nowadays Sunset Cinema Club, Shapes, Youves, Boat To Row and those all-important "others". Or, y'know, there's always 80s Rewind Festival (near Henley on Thames, £100 the weekend) with Boy George and, we quote verbatim, 'Tony Hadley with ABC and Go West' headlining. Mother! The Weather Girls, Imagination and Johnny Hates Jazz together, in 2010! Oh, by the way, organisers, 10cc, Odyssey and Chesney Hawkes don't count as 80s acts, and booking Bjorn Again is just silly.

    Indietracks, as you'll be aware by now, takes place amid the restored engines, abandoned stock and pastoral workshop of the Midland Railway Museum in Butterley, Derbyshire. The effort all concerned put in to make it such an evocative weekend is genuinely tremendous, so now the festival is corralling people to give something back to them after a year in which the famed llama petting zoo had to be closed for financial reasons. The Swanwick station building, where people enter the site from the main museum hub via steam train, has been a work in building progress since the first event in 2007, and while nearly complete they need an extra push to finish the internal and external building and furnishing. Contributions are sought before September 10th.

    Saturday, August 14, 2010

    Playlist additions 14/8/10

  • !!! - The Most Certain Sure [YouTube] [Soundcloud]
    Another one of those sprawling long-form tracks !!! do where it starts as post-modern retro-futurist percussive funk, very Berlin in execution, then turns into something decidedly darker, here bringing in the dub and electronics for a spin before sending Nic Offer into a cage of reverb. New album Strange Weather, Isn't It? is out a week on Monday.

  • Clinic - I'm Aware [YouTube] [Soundcloud]
    Well, this isn't the Clinic sound we've come to know off by heart over the last twelve years. In fact it's quite leisurely with its strings and and Zombies-like psychedelic, fitting Pete 'Super Furries animalistic man' Fowler's video treatment.

  • Dog Is Dead - Young [Myspace]
    The phrase 'British Vampire Weekend' has, according to Google, been scattergraphed across new bands over the last year or two regardless of true accuracy (Bombay Bicycle Club, Swanton Bombs, Little Comets, the Crookes, even Foals according to the Independent). On their second single the hi-fret guitars, sax breaks and offbeat drumming suggests Dog Is Dead are aiming for it more than most, but equally there's multi-part harmonies switching on and off and odd new wave-y stuff Andy Partridge would recognise.

  • Foals - Spanish Sahara [Myspace] [YouTube] [Spotify]
    Arctic speed burning centrepiece of Total Life Forever and the first thing anyone outside the band's coterie heard of it, a demonstration that they intended being around and being flexible for a while yet.

  • Gabby Young And Other Animals - We're All In This Together [Myspace] [YouTube] [Spotify]
    Young definitely sounds a lot like someone we can't place. We know that's a bit open ended, but you'll hear what we mean - any suggestions? As for the song, it's a tenderised slow burner that snuggles under your folky skin at the earliest opportunity.

  • I Am Kloot - Proof [Myspace] [YouTube] [Spotify]
    The new single, a re-recorded version of an old single for the new album, featuring the old video re-edited with the new version. Although ditching the Christopher Eccleston one-shot video that was nearly more famous than the band at the time would have been a folly, true.

  • No Age — Glitter [mp3 via P4K] [Soundcloud]
    First sighting of Dean and Randy's new works, from third album Everything In Between, starts with a glam beat, devolves into as pop a melody as they've ever come up with, and then slathers it liberally in feedback. Good work.

  • Paul Hawkins & Thee Awkward Silences - I'm In Love With A Hospital Receptionist [Myspace] [Soundcloud] [Spotify]
    Can't sleep, mum, raspy man's going to get me. Love in the time of hypochondria, out as a single on Monday for free download from http://outsiderpop.com/

  • Shoes And Socks Off - Throwing Opinions At Walls [YouTube]
    We mentioned the other week that videos had been made for all the tracks from Tobias' new album Robin Hood Waiter Champion Have-Not. This at the moment is our favourite of the set, directed by lush violins, leavened by bruised anger and videotracked by The Young Ones.

  • Summer Camp - Jake Ryan [Soundcloud]
    Britain's premiere Johnhugheswave duo - hell, this song's named after, and possibly a tribute to, the main male character in Sixteen Candles - bliss out and lay on the synthesised handclaps and possibly the year's most unlikely placed distorted guitar solo. It's off the Young EP, the best of what they've been up to so far, out September 6th. Oh, and here's the Round The Moon video. We doubt that was specially shot.

  • Wap Wap Wow - The Round [Myspace] [mp3 via Pinglewood]
    When we enthused about them a couple of weeks ago we didn't have any mp3s to hand. We have now, and this one's a looped belter.

  • White Russia - Charmless State [Myspace] [YouTube] [Soundcloud]
    Can't work out whether it's more swimming under the influence of Natasha Khan or Jesca Hoop, but it's definitely in that ballpark marked 'other, mild quirk'. Then the malfunctioning laptop fuzz enters and things get really fascinating.

    Well, it's obvious what Previously Playlisted Video Of The Week will be, isn't it? Caution: NSFW. Also pretty NSFH.

  • Wednesday, August 11, 2010

    Captain peaky

    Quick giveaway to tide over the mid-festival season gaps, and it's another Birmingham artist. Captain Polaroid is giving away a couple of EPs, with a third pending, of fuzzy, opinionated lo-fi. Home recording is living music.

    Captain Polaroid - When the Controversial Artist Became a Middle Class Commodity

    Monday, August 09, 2010

    Things we've done over the weekend to put off other work

    1) Started a Tumblr for video clips and various other things that wouldn't support a blog post on their own - sweepthenation.tumblr.com

    2) Opened a Soundcloud account, should you wish to add to our backlog of new band tracks in an entirely fresh way. In return, we've properly uploaded the tracks made exclusively for us of people we like covering other people we like for STN's fifth birthday:

    Sweeping The Nation's Fifth Birthday Presents by Sweeping The Nation

    Join and participate in both, why don't you.

    Sunday, August 08, 2010


    Sky Larkin, then. Not just Leodensian men and woman of the world, but "used to describe something that is new but has already earned a right to be considered experienced, talented, etc. --- A NOOB THAT IS NOT A NOOB. 'that chick is totally sky larkin in the pool room.'". It's not even a rhyme with anything relevant, come on. Kaleide got our seal of approval on TLOBF, even if Any Decent Music registered it as a 6/10. Pah. The stream is still active if you want full quality reassurance. The album launch is this afternoon from 1pm at the Strongrooms in East London, with the band on from 4. Also the Harkinator, as nobody has ever called her, has an ideas blog of her own which is very much worth a glance if you were hitherto unaware of it.

    Plenty of options in London this week, because the rest of the country doesn't matter. Chief among these is the sterling work of Pic'n'mixx, who first take on Hoxton Bar & Kitchen on Tuesday with our now foremost purveyors of retro girly pop (that sounds condescending but it's the only thing we could think of that'd fit both), Lucky Soul and The School, with The Lodger opening and Pocketbooks and How Does It Feel? residents DJing. Come Saturday the Buffalo Bar welcomes a man and his million pedals, Stairs To Korea, plus unpromisingly named East Londoners Spaghetti Anywhere and renaissance man o'indie Darren Hayman DJing whatever he feels like playing. Plus the latter event holds open the famed Pic'n'mixx mix CD swap box, where you're encouraged to bring along a CDR of appropriate playlisted qualities and exchange it for someone else's, possibly that of someone semi-famous in such field. Meanwhile out in Peckham Upset The Rhythm are putting on Yes Way from 13th-15th at the Auto-Italia space, bringing along Islet, Fair Ohs, Male Bonding, Veronica Falls, Gentle Friendly, Munch Munch, Lovvers, Cold Pumas, Slowcoaches and loads of people you've never heard of unless you live in an N1 squat for art reasons.

    Oxfordshire trio Dead Jerichos should on paper be the sort of band snobs like us buy bargepoles for specifically so we can refuse to touch them. They share DNA with The Jam and Arctic Monkeys, two bands we barely need more adherents of. Their singer has that sort of lad-rock accent. Their pull quotes include "Fred Perried lad garage" and "saving the new wave from shoegazing wank", a phrase that hasn't endeared anyone to a potential audience since These Animal Men. And yet Bob Harris had them play Truck at his invitation, and he knows a thing or two about music. All 17 years old, there's an intensity, an invigorating tightness, a direct ball association with stories of small town ennui and a suggested willingness to learn a way out of the landfill site that makes them quite captivating in their own way. They clearly know the Cure, Buzzcocks (hints of Magazine too) and the Skids, and have half an ear for their local scene's yen for math-dance guitars. If they can stay comfortably this side of The Enemy interesting things may well occur.

    Our third weekend away of the year is next weekend, and it's not away at all as it's our home town soiree Summer Sundae. Into its tenth year of being in a smaller area than you'd imagine, this year's innovations include an actual repurposed beach. Wonderful, sand redistributed all over the place by dusk Friday. Musically it's done pretty well for itself in our insular terms. Seasick Steve, Mumford & Sons and, erm, Tinchy Stryder headline; elsewhere you've got Los Campesinos!, The Fall, Teenage Fanclub, The Wave Pictures, The Go! Team, Slow Club, Frankie & The Heartstrings, The Futureheads, Fanfarlo, Roots Manuva, Johnny Flynn, Local Natives, Steve Mason, The Invisible, Summer Camp, The Low Anthem, The Leisure Society, Dog Is Dead, Gaggle, Swimming, Red Shoe Diaries, Erland and The Carnival, Peggy Sue, Danny & The Champions of the World and the great Peter Wyeth at, ladies and gentlemen, 10am on Sunday. Get there early, beat the eager lively crowds. If you're not around for that maybe pop by LeeFest in Bromley, a one dayer on Saturday that started in someone's back garden in 2007 and is now in a proper field, which is how it counts as a festival and Yes Way doesn't by our rules, with proper bands: Johnny Foreigner, the Futureheads, Hot Club de Paris, Does It Offend You Yeah? and King Charles are all around.

    Another idea from the restless creative hub of 4 Or 5 Magicians' Dan Ormsby. Following last year's tribute to Our Band Could Be Your Life, this year's themed all-dayer celebrates the 1992 Reading festival of Nirvana infamy. It's at the Brixton Windmill on August Bank Holiday Saturday, the 28th, and the headline act will be Ormsby and co as Nirvana, but with vocals supplied by twenty different people. Some will be minor indie celebrities (we know Laura Internet Forever will be one), the rest will come from the willing. If you can be there, can sing a bit, know a song from this setlist and have the aptitude to get up on stage, contact the band at fourorfivemagicians[at]hotmail[dot]co[dot]uk with your Kurt reasoning and song preferences.

    Saturday, August 07, 2010

    Playlist additions 7/8/10

  • Calories - FFWD [Myspace] [Vimeo] [Soundcloud]
    Tremendous first single from the Brummie trio what used to be Distophia's second album, heading their blazen power trio dynamics down quite a Cap'n Jazz/Hot Club de Paris route, which is very fine by us

  • The Corin Tucker Band - Doubt [mp3 via P4K]
    Never would have thought when Sleater-Kinney split that Corin would beat Carrie to the next musical project, but here we are. The interplay of ver Kinney is swapped for bar band bludgeon guitar riffola, but the driving righteousness is purest Tucker.

  • Darren Hayman - Nothing You Can Do About It [YouTube]
    We had a video for a track from Essex Arms the other week but this is the first proper single, sounding like classic Hayman acoustic songwriting - there's an oboe in there somewhere, apparently - with inventively homespun lyrics.

  • Edwyn Collins - Losing Sleep [mp3 via nme.com] [Soundcloud]
    Maybe the hyperbolic "best Edwyn album ever" notices his new album are receiving this early on are overheated - hit aside he was ploughing this exact Northern Soul with regrets furrow through the mid-90s - but you can't argue it's not great, and hugely relieving, to have him around. Co-written by the Drums, FWIW.

  • Entrepreneurs - Bubblegunk [Myspace] [Soundcloud]
    From new EP Uv Been Robbed, (Joking, But Not) - no, that's actually what it's called, pay what you like on Bandcamp - an object lesson in taking influence from some of the same things properly popular and successful people are mining but doing it all wrong, deliberately, for a laugh. Turns out behind all this is Adam Crisp, former leader of noisy beggars of the mid-00s Elle Milano, not that it's immediately evident in this recreation of James Murphy being locked in a VHS hall of mirrors.

  • Honeytrap - To America [Myspace] [YouTube]
    With Silvery back with a new album this week it seems we're about ready for an odd art-pop revival, and a proper un-daytime radio one this time. And now with added klezmer. And what's more, it's free!

  • Los Campesinos! - Letters From Me To Charlotte (RSVP) [YouTube] [Spotify]
    Representing from the new acoustic reinterpretations EP All's Well That Ends. That'll be our first proper hearing on record of Kim on initial vocals, even though she seems not to share her brother's accent.

  • Mazes - Cenetaph [Myspace] [Soundcloud]
    That's how they've spelt it, don't complain to us. Much as the lo-fi edge got them blogging attention to begin with, that they've got a song called Go-Betweens on their Myspace, if not entirely accurate, does let slip they'd rather be part of the Dunedin sound than Manchester's.

  • Pulled Apart by Horses - High Five, Swan Dive, Nose Dive [Myspace] [live YouTube] [Spotify]
    Next single (6th September) from the A&E-friendly Leodensians comes on intent on corroding every living electron of your flesh. Or something like that. They recently put out an appeal for "musical instruments to smash to tiny pieces" for the as yet unreleased video. It fits.

  • PVT - Window [Myspace] [YouTube] [Soundcloud]
    You may have come across the Australian trio when they traded as Pivot; what you may find intriguing is the circular varispeed electronic chant tribalism.

  • Seeland - Local Park [Soundcloud]
    Usually part of the analogue and hauntology-friendly Birmingham retro-futurist scene, they welcome summer with something pretty Ray Davies-like. As reinterpreted by mid 70s Brian Eno or mid 80s Julian Cope, admittedly, but the Kinks influence is strong. Free download from that Soundcloud link, by the way.

  • Sky Larkin - Year Dot [Soundcloud]
    They've played around with keyboards on occasion - Somersault, Keepsakes - but this is probably the best they've been able to feed them into a non-linear Sky Larkin sound. Songs about apocalyptic death never sounded so optimistic.

  • The Specific Heats - End Of An Error [Myspace]
    Given we seem to be into a summer of surf-rock, surely it's time these Brooklynites got a mention. Not enough weed braggage, maybe. Anyway, this is from their new album Curses! and chimes, sways, harmonises and reverbs in all the right places.

  • Wavves - Take On The World [YouTube] [Soundcloud] [Spotify]
    Better than Best Coast's album - official! Nathan Williams attempts to define himself in the first line, and then with a gloriously summer guitar pop cut disproves a lot of it.

    The Chap's We Work In Bars came out while we were holding off from bringing this format back, but now it has a video...

    The Chap - We work in bars from Harry Rambaut on Vimeo.

  • Monday, August 02, 2010

    Ladies' day

    A note about a tremendous album we've slept on for far too long for general backlog/event/laziness reasons, and one available at an always useful charge of whatever you want. The Sound Of The Ladies is the misleading name behind which lurks Martin Austwick, who we did think we'd discovered as a hitherto obscure songwriting semi-genius but turns out to be Martin the Sound Man off the Answer Me This! podcast and a sometime sideman to Robin Ince and Josie Long, all of which presumably means he never wants to see the inside of a charity book shop ever again.

    Anyway. His album is called We Went To The Bottom Of The Ocean, and as you can see it's only currently available via Bandcamp, with a very limited physical run through his website from a week on Wednesday. Vocals and guitar only for the most part in the style that would once have been called anti-folk, he's a very acute writer loosely in the path of a Ben Parker or Paul Hawkins, poetically wry, acutely melancholic and wrapped up in a certain amount of regret and longing, with an uncommonly for that sort of solo bloke with guitar and issues properly emotive voice.


    <a href="http://thesoundoftheladies.bandcamp.com/album/we-went-to-the-bottom-of-the-ocean">What we did with our lives by The Sound of The Ladies</a>

    Sunday, August 01, 2010


    Well, The Suburbs, obviously. Unlike everyone else in the world we haven't heard it yet because we've learnt not to trust advance leaks, but we're slightly disconcerted by the way every single review stretches to call Neon Bible a letdown of Sonny Pike proportions. No it wasn't! No Funeral, but then very little is, and it's got (Antichrist Television Blues), the growing terror of Black Mirror and the superior version YES IT IS of No Cars Go, none of which can make a record bad per se. Still, what they say about this one is it's becalmed, Win's singing about kids again and there's some fascinating musical divertions. We'll just have to listen to it on Spoti...oh.

    Jens Lekman doesn't get about much, especially now he lives in Melbourne. He's having a sojourn around Europe at the moment while he works on his third album, the first sightings of which we discussed yesterday. In the past his live presence has run the gamut from acoustic and backing tape to huge choir, strings and horns. All he'll give away for this trip is he'll be backed by "a full, formidable band", which pull into the Manchester Deaf Institute tomorrow and London Union Chapel on Tuesday.

    The frankly wrongly named Biggles Flys Again is the name under which Conor Deasy (not the Thrills one, though he's also from Dublin) makes quiet songs of simple feelings and internal confliction. Elliott Smith comes to mind in the subtly intricate singer-songwriterliness of it all, although something also tells us he's heard a bit of solo Paul McCartney, the early stripped back stuff.

    Relentless Boardmasters looks so depressing while Rebellion looks faintly hilarious - the King Blues and Gallows adrift among third reunion wave punk - so that'll be the Big Chill next weekend, then. It's always seemed to us slightly too keen to project itself as cosmopolitan and 'laid back', that old standby, and Spencer Tunick's doing some mass nudity-based nonsense. It's not art as living sculpture and texture, it's an excuse for papers to print a lot of people's bums. Still, once we're past that we're on for headliners MIA, Thom Yorke and Massive Attack, plus Liars, Gregory Isaacs, Kelis, Beth Jeans Houghton, Explosions In The Sky, Roots Manuva, Lonelady, Caribou, the Willkommen Collective, Steve Mason, Gallops, Hope Sandoval and The Warm Inventions, Patrick Wolf, The Heavy, Gaggle, Mystery Jets, John & Jehn, The Phenomenal Handclap Band and The Agitator, plus talky turns from Harry Shearer, John Hegley, John Shuttleworth and Paul Morley. And also Peter Hook And Howard Marks Present 'An Evening Of Unknown Pleasures', but into every life a little self-promotion must fall. And the ever popular Disco Shed turns up. It's just a shed with lights and a smoke machine, but people flock to it. Meanwhile Standon Calling has the somewhat left of the usual headliner rota Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club featuring Omara Portuondo heading up affairs this year, alongside British Sea Power, Liars, Jeffrey Lewis, Joe Gideon and the Shark, The Phantom Band, Summer Camp, Steve Mason, Wildbirds & Peacedrums, Three Trapped Tigers, And So I Watch You From Afar, A Hawk And A Hacksaw, Jesca Hoop, Telepathe, Fucked Up, These New Puritans, Erland and the Carnival, Sparrow and the Workshop, Lone Wolf, Revere, Swimming and Tom Ravenscroft DJing.

    - You don't come across the concept of a splendid tribute album every day, but here goes: a splendid tribute album is being released soon. None Of Your Fairy Stories is an indiepop tribute to the Ramones, being issued through Precordial Catch Records, the outlet of Spiral Scratch co-ubermensch Marianthi and sparkly Grimsby Town fan of note Pete Green. All proceeds go to Lymphoma Association, the support charity for the type of cancer that killed Joey. Helen Love, of course, get track one, followed in various order by The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Allo Darlin' (doing I Wanna Be Sedated), MJ Hibbett (Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue), Pocketbooks, the Just Joans, Liechtenstein, Little My, Horowitz, plenty more, and closing with Green's own take on Blitzkrieg Bop.

    - Speaking of which, did we ever link to Pete Green's pub review blog? Well, we have now. His band, formerly the splendidly named Pete Green Corporate Juggernaut, are called The Sweet Nothings now, by the way.

    - Here's a curio, passed on by our man on the inside of superior post-nostalgia dumping ground TV Cream. He has a copy of the 1978 Christmas Radio Times for the West, and on 5th January 1979 the listings include this:

    10.15pm XTC
    A synthesis of the unorthodox and the conventional. One of the leading new
    wave groups based in Swindon perform their latest songs. Plus rock in a
    rather different style from the Bath group Interview.
    Director ROY CHAPMAN
    BBC West

    Leaving aside what "rock in a rather different style" might be, and whether Julian Cope should know about it, this seems fascinating scheduling. They'd had a couple of albums out by then, White Music and Go 2, which had had critical acclaim and sold well but nothing you'd call worthy of a BBC1 documentary, even regionally (although Partridge did go the local BBC TV feature route later on) - indeed they'd only break the singles chart in 1979. Given the exhaustive archiving tendencies of the XTC fanbase it's strange that this doesn't seem to be known more widely. Anyone know anything?

    (Also, just found out while researching this that expanded reissues of the whole XTC catalogue are reportedly due to start before the end of the year, with English Settlement, Skylarking and Oranges & Lemons first. Coo.)