Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Here's to you, raise a glass for everyone

Four CDR's worth, nearly five hours of STN-friendly Christmas songs, anyone? You'll need the newly reupped A Very Sweeping Christmas

(And if mp3s are too much for you to handle, we've thought outside the Dropbox and onto Spotify for Sweeping The Pine Needles. But we really, really would recommend the downloadable version ahead of this.)

This isn't on the former because we never found an mp3, but this is what happened when Black Box Recorder, who split this year, got together in 2007 with Eddie Argos and Keith TOTP, who form bands every other week:

It's Christmas time for god's sake

Normal service will now be suspended on STN for the month of December while we scratch an extensive itch regarding the year's best records. As is now traditional the very slow reveal of our top 50 albums of the year begins tomorrow, with old Christmas top forties on the three Sundays leading up to Christmas weekend, the non-album list tracks of the year wrapped around the big day, a roundup of festive telly of a musical bent at some stage and news of Winterval compilations and giveaways as they come in. As for the first week or so of 2011 the UK Blogger Album Of The Year poll requests have gone out and the Class Of 2011 and album releases to look forward to lists are ready and waiting. Tis the season to tl;dr.

Monday, November 29, 2010

What's another year

And another year draws towards its close on Sweeping The Nation, just the usual hyper-countdown of our albums of the year and sundry festive stuff to go. So what have we learned?

Well, at the start of the year we found out our peers' album of the previous year again and then set our store by a number of new bands, nine of whom have released albums, at least one of whom have split up and some of whom just disappeared. Alright, Warmsley's been too busy for Acres Acres, but Euan who is Stars Of Sunday League must be up to something. And will Beth Jeans Houghton ever rear her bewigged head again? (Er, yes, she's supposedly been recording an album all year)

In late May we celebrated our fifth birthday, partly with memories and thoughts but mostly by commissioning this:

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

We did festivals. Latitude was fun, Indietracks was wonderful, Summer Sundae over all three days was mixed, Green Man was very, very wet.

Before we ran out of confidence in the questions, our Q&A The Music That Made motored along with Dave from Frankie & The Heartstrings ("Jo Whiley was shrieking like she'd spilt her skinny latte on her Echobelly t-shirt"), Tom from Her Name Is Calla ("I'm actually a huge western fan"), Elizabeth Allo Darlin' ("I remember wearing out my older sister’s Mel and Kim cassingle"), Mat Riviere ("A, before they became briefly popular"), Nick from Screaming Maldini ("there's a fair bit of hate out there for Jim Carrey, but I think he's pretty close to being an acting genius"), Mitchell Museum ("too much of that fucking about between song sonic jam nonsence and i'll be giving that Moore lad a stern telling off"), Jesca Hoop ("voyeurism") and Standard Fare ("quick! I need to phone my brother! He needs to know how good these guys are!") We went on to question record label owners in Always Check The Label - Fortuna Pop! ("I don't like saxophones and I don't like Serbian death metal"), Brainlove ("Don't forget the 3mm bleed"), Song By Toad ("I've never met a couple of our bands") and Alcopop! ("Ensure to have at least one band in your roster whose manager has a generous expense account"). It was supposed to be part of a whole month celebrating the perhaps dying art of the label. That didn't work out.

We ran A Classic Education's CMJ photo spread, only six months after the fact. We found out that the old charts were our most popular feature so kept pumping that seam, from Italia 90 to Agadoo. We guided you through Ian Dury and Dexys Midnight Runners. We ranted about the singles chart, the cult of the 'unsigned band', the cult of the 'unsigned band' (television version) and the singles chart (Christmas campaign version). And we did plenty of other things. Some were even vaguely readable.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Last Weekender of the year, so what can we round up for next Monday and beyond to the end of 2011? Well, Lambchop's Nixon and Is A Woman are being reissued in deluxe editions, while the entire Jon Spencer Blues Explosion back catalogue reappears in print on 13th December. Next week, the 6th, we get the dramatic debut from Hereford's own violin-duelling explosive post-rock sextet Talons, Hollow Realm, and a new album, Method, from accordion-friendly stormtossed folkie Johny Lamb under his Thirty Pounds Of Bone guise.

Right, loads of pre-Christmas gigs and we know this can't approach covering all those of STN relevance, but let's give it a shot. Let's start with the dual ATPs. Godspeed You! Black Emperor kick us off in Minehead next Friday to Sunday, their own reunion after eight years off doing, they say, "a handful of other bands, and solitary roadtrips and wanderings, a couple of recording studios built, and a restaurant and 3 live venues also. a film soundtrack and 4 new kids and 3 new dogs. dead-end jobs. some farming and vegetable gardens. a small record label. acupuncture as a livelihood. and three of us just stayed on the road." Their friends include Mike Watt and The Missingmen, Scout Niblett, Tindersticks, Deerhoof, Thee Oh Sees, Cluster, Flower/Corsano Duo, Marissa Nadler, Tim Hecker, Oneida and, drum roll please, Weird Al Yankovic, his first UK visit which also incorporates dates in London, Birmingham and Manchester. In Between Days offers Hallogallo 2010 (Michael Rother & Friends Present NEU! Music), Holy Fuck, Caribou, Four Tet Ulrich Schnauss and Factory Floor for those stopping over at Butlins, and why wouldn't you, before 10th-12th sees the coming of a very different type of guest for Bowlie 2. Belle & Sebastian, who brought about this mess in the first place, invite round Julian Cope, Field Music, Dirty Projectors, Wild Beasts, Camera Obscura, Saint Etienne, The Go! Team, Teenage Fanclub, Laetitia Sadier, Those Dancing Days (who play the Lexington and Cardiff Buffalo Bar on 8th and 9th, and judging by a recent pic we've seen Linnea's hair is now extraordinary), Edwyn Collins, Campbell & Lanegan, Foals, The Zombies, Steve Mason, Best Coast, The Vaselines, Sons And Daughters, The New Pornographers, Dean Wareham, Vashti Bunyan, Frightened Rabbit, The Phenomenal Handclap Band, Apples In Stereo, Crystal Castles, The 1900s, the 1990s (fantastic dual booking), the Amphetameanies and "one of Scotland’s top authentic Beatles tribute acts" Them Beatles, a band whose booking agent doesn't mention their appearance at one of the world's top alternative music events but does list testimonials from Argyle Street Glasgow Debenhams, Kwik Fit Insurance and "Frank Cogan, Landlord".

That's part of the Belle & Sebastian tour, some of which features the London Contemporary Orchestra on backup, starting on Wednesday at Belfast Ulster Hall, reaching Dublin Grand Canal Theatre on Friday, then crossing over to Gateshead next Sunday, passing through Birmingham, Manchester and Bournemouth before ATP and Leicester, Bristol and three nights at Glasgow Barrowland after. Support at most dates comes from Daniel Kitson, doing one of his storytelling sessions with Gavin Osborn. One step up, Arcade Fire hit the arenas, taking on the O2 on Wednesday and Thursday before Dublin, Birmingham, Cardiff, Manchester and Glasgow. Rather less spacious but equally rarefied atmospheres await a new Billy Bragg tour which also kicks off on the first, heading through Hatfield, Nottingham, Preston, Penrith, Glasgow, Norwich, Leamington Spa, Bexhill, Bournemouth, Cardiff and London (Troxy). Surely it's about time for a new album in 2011, although the fresh song he's been playing recently about rich bankers definitely needs some more lyrical work.

Otherwise, in loosely chronological order: Bobby Conn's post-glam insanity hits Leeds Brudenell tonight with The Blanche Hudson Weekend supporting. The Lovely Eggs, The Just Joans, Paisley & Charlie, The Understudies, Betty and the Werewolves, The Orchids and The Felt Tips are among those playing Glasgow Popfest, SWG3 next Friday and Saturday, Stereo on the Sunday. While that's going on The School and The Loves join forces for Christmas parties at London Luminaire (Saturday) and Cardiff Buffalo Bar (Sunday). Islet end a year of hitting things at Clwb Ifor Bach in Cardiff on the 13th, with Sweet Baboo and H.Hawkline supporting. On the same day at London The Social Alcopop! throw a Christmas party with Johnny Foreigner, Stagecoach, My First Tooth and Attika State. Maximalism! at Brighton Concorde 2 on the 15th, in aid of The Martlets Hospice, is curated by Tom and Alex White, featuring Mystery Jets DJing, a silent auction and British Sea Power, Field Music, The Chap, 80s Matchbox B-Line Disaster, the first Electric Soft Parade show in more than two years and The Pure Conjecture, "a supergroup made up of members of Actress Hands, British Sea Power, Electric Soft Parade, Brakes, The Hazey Janes, The Tenderfoot, Nada and 30 Pounds Of Bone". That's just Tom White, isn't it? The Brixton Windmill on Saturday 18th hosts There's Nothing Wrong With Covers III, headlined as with August's Reading 1992 special by Bananirvana (live karaoke of In Utero, essentially), plus the Johnny Foreigner/Internet Forever/4 Or 5 Magicians (RIP)/Eelectricity And Lust Pavement tribute act Kannberg 1664 and more TBA. Stones Bar and Googies Art Cafe in Folkestone hosts Tinseldayer II on the 19th, headlined by This Town Needs Guns with Tellison, Shoes And Socks Off, Cats & Cats & Cats, &U&I (ex-Blakfish), Tangled Hair (ex-Colour), Stagecoach and Ute. On that same night Maybeshewill play their home venue Leicester Firebug to round off their mammoth European tour, with slow burn blog favourites Dysneyland and Dark Dark Horse (remember, we wrote them up two weeks ago) supporting. On the 22nd Slow Club throw their third annual Union Chapel festive soiree, with the Wave Pictures on before. The Futureheads host Futurefest 2 at Newcastle Academy at the 23rd, celebrating ten years of existence with some of their favourite local bands, including Frankie & The Heartstrings. And then it's Christmas. And then it's the new year. And then the whole sorry charabanc begins again.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


You Thought You Saw A Shooting Star But Yr Eyes Were Blurred With Tears And That Lighthouse Can Be Pretty Deceiving With The Sky So Clear And Sea So Calm. A title, Alexei says, that "came from smoking too much weed late at night and not having anyone to say, well, maybe that’s a bit impractical for a title", none of that entirely out of character for him. This of course a new release, a six track EP on new home Alcopop!, from Birmingham kings and queen Johnny Foreigner. Some of it is almost calm and melodically inclined, in a very Pavement sense. Some of it cleaves to the frantic and fretboard abusive, perhaps more abusively than ever. One track has a violin coda. Half of one track is based on electronic beats and namechecks George Pringle. It's reliably ace. Buy from the label.

Just to get in before the end of the year, three American guitar and black shirt-toting relative giants. A cult of believers will flock to the blessed feet of Berninger as The National play Bristol Academy Wednesday, Warwick Arts Centre Thursday, Glasgow Academy Friday and Manchester Academy Saturday before three nights at Brixton Academy. The only date of the lot not sold out at time of writing is the first Brixton date. Also on the 24th Interpol emerge at Nottingham Rock City, followed by Newcastle, Birmingham, Edinburgh and three nights in Dublin and one in Manchester. Vampire Weekend arrive a day later, starting at Blackpool Empress Ballroom, then Wolverhampton Civic Hall Friday, Edinburgh Corn Exchange Saturday, Sheffield Academy Sunday, then a Brighton stop before the 2nd and 3rd at Ally Pally with special guest support slots for Laura Marling and Janelle Monae respectively. Countering the Yankee charge, two very British bands. The Fall, already labelless and back in the studio, take a trip out to Camden Electric Ballroom on Tuesday, Bexhill on Sea De La Warr Pavilion Wednesday, Holmfirth Picturedrome Thursday, then Leamington Spa, Exeter and Bath next week. Iconoclasts to the last. No such searching subtlety of booking for the annual Madness Christmas tour - actually, Christmas tours plural are annual by nature, aren't they? - which starts next Friday at Blackpool Empress Ballroom, continues through to December 19th.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Playlist additions 20/11/10

Yeah, we'll continue referring to it as Myspace and not My_____, thank you very much. And if they don't get the player working consistently we won't be referring to it at all. It's your fucking selling point!

  • And So I Watch You From Afar - Straight Through The Sun [YouTube (live)] [Soundcloud]
    Produced by Sir Andrew Ferris, a new single from Belfast's most chaotic instrumental hazards in which they compete throughout to pull off ever more unlikely elastic riffs. They're also distributing it through one of those free-for-a-tweet schemes.

  • Banjo Or Freakout - 105 [download via P4K] [Soundcloud]
    It feels like Alessio Nataliza has been tossing out tracks every so often for the whole time STN has been going, but he finally has an album out on Memphis Industries in 2011, previewed by this slo-mo lament of underwater dreampop.

  • British Sea Power - Living Is So Easy [download (edit)]
    What will Valhalla Dancehall sound like on the evidence of its first single? God knows is the comforting (as far as BSP go) answer on the evidence of this Kraut-synth exercise that mentions a "Dame Vera clay pigeon shoot" in the second line. If you've seen them this year this is the one with "are you going to the party?" in the chorus, only it doesn't sound much like that version did any more.

  • The Death Notes - In The Spider's Web [Myspace] [YouTube] [Bandcamp]
    Siouxsie Sioux fronting the (second album) Horrors? There's something early gothic about it, certainly, but that guitar sound is equal parts Lee Ranaldo and John McGeogh. As with Chapter 24 the other week it could be that post-punk darkness is, even with a second White Lies album pending, about to get its good name back.

  • Jonquil - Compound [stream via Their Bated Breath] [Soundcloud]
    Oh, and where were the four page NME features about sprawling local collectives when the first album was out? Tricky to pick just the one highlight from One Hundred Suns (not counting Fighting Smiles, which was on our tracks of 2009 list), but we pick Compound for Hugo's brave falsetto, the undulatingly shifting Afro rhythm, the crosshatched harmonies and the detail it sets itself to take off at high gear and then just doesn't.

  • The Lost Cavalry - The Elephant Of Castlebar Hill [Soundcloud]
    Former Fanfarlo member makes record that sounds a bit like Fanfarlo. Well, insomuch that it's a storytelling electric folk record that's intricately produced, lushly arranged, graceful and full of instruments.

  • Marina Gasolina - Leone [YouTube, but not all of it for some reason] [Soundcloud]
    Nothing very baile about the funk peddled by the former Bonde Do Role singer, but this debut single is better than anything on the second CSS album. In fact it sounds like the synth malfunctioning squiggles of early electro-disco accidentally half-taped over Johnny Remember Me.

  • Monster Island - Looking For A Leader [Myspace]
    Is it too easy to say a Manchester band fronted by a spiteful ranter are quite a bit like The Fall? Yes. Yes it is. But there's a gene shared of oddball Northern poetry over garage indie on the verge of falling apart (more early Fall, that bit) This is from an EP out on the 29th called The Green Room, which will be on Bandcamp when the time comes

  • Ralegh Long - Shtick [Myspace] [Bandcamp]
    'Schtick', isn't it? Anyhow, Long may be the first person we've seen to name Lloyd Cole as a primary influence, and he'd know all about cheekbones like geometry and eyes like sin as he's also live guitarist for Rose Elinor Dougall. Actually it sounds most like a Robert Forster Go-Betweens song, and maybe some Robyn Hitchcock.

  • Spokes - We Can Make It Out [Myspace] [YouTube] [Soundcloud] [Spotify]
    We were trying to remember whether these Mancunians used to be instrumental - they certainly used to have a post-rock sweep and monolithic structure. Now they're in a not dissimilar ballpark to The Strange Death Of Liberal England in their tunnel vision theatrics and post-Arcade Fire ambitious string-set vaults.

  • Sunderbans - Death Stalks The Forest [Myspace] [Soundcloud]
    Just when you think you have them pegged as yet more New Wave peddlers, the guitars and harmonies start pinballing around and the title makes more sense. The first really decent Young & Lost Club release in a while. Although if anyone can tell us what the twice repeated guitar riff in the bridge sounds very much like (starting 2:36 on Soundcloud) we'd be grateful because it's been annoying us all week.

  • The Sunny Street - Hit [YouTube]
    With an album on the way it's possible these London-based Frenchpeople (plus a moonlighting Pocketbook) could be next year's indiepop breakout band, configuring Camera Obscura to a Francophile poise.

  • The Wave Pictures - Now You Are Pregnant [Myspace (original version)] [YouTube (live)]
    Perhaps just to annoy us knowing they have plenty of new songs, the Pics are putting out a new EP the Monday before Christmas, this time the self-explanatory Jonny 'Huddersfield' Helm Sings, on which the titular sticksman takes up vocals on two old cuts, this one a new version of an old Moshi Moshi B-side.
  • Thursday, November 18, 2010

    I saw another one just the other day, a special new band

    In which Weekender's popular Bands Start Up Each And Every Day feature gets uprooted - you weren't going to miss it stuck in there - so we can write about three newish bands all in one go:

    There's a lot of post-goth doominess creeping in at the moment, from the Chapman Family at the indiefied end through O Children to Zola Jesus at the Hype Machine end. Somewhere in the middle lie Manchester's Golden Glow, a working name for one Pierre Hall and championed by Jacob from the Drums' free download label Holiday Records, who subsequently invited him/them to a London support slot. While many of his listed influences are from the indiepop end it's more in capsule description like like Chapel Club stripped of the desire to cross over, only really approaching Felt if you imagine Lawrence had been exposed to the Drums' Cure-for-the-modern-man approach. Although the track called The Cure sounds like the Chameleons with gated drums. Elsewhere the guitars are treated or reverbed, the vocal styling is doom-laden, being Manchester there's a little New Order sequencing and the haze is filled with a fug of Velvets narcotics.

    Dark Dark Horse have serious Leicester Post-Rock Scene credentials, 50% of them being Jamie Ward, a founder member of Kyte and current touring bassist with Maybeshewill. This is not post-rock; if it's post-anything it's ambitious electro. Sometimes it's too easy to listen to vocal-led minimally glitchy electronics with pop leanings and wonder why Ben and Jimmy don't just have done with it and make a second album together, but these down-tempo delights ring more of Ulrich Schnauss on downers or the twisted electronic moments of the Notwist.

    teamABC are at core Wulfrunian Stef Purenins, who starts his favourite bands influence list "Johnny Foreigner, Los Campesinos, Jetplane Landing". MOTHER! Over the three releases from the last year - Yesses, Noes & Volcanoes, Fire EP and Water EP, all of which are free downloads via Bandcamp - you can hear quite a bit of mainlining Hold On Now Youngster, but also a dose of Shrag-like boy-girl collapsible pop, a bit of Bearsuit's likeably quavering (a very apt word for Purenins' vocal range) keyboard sugar rush and the sort of half-hidden melodic spike Big Scary Monsters often fall for - think JoFo's briefly lauded mate Sam Isaac.

    Sunday, November 14, 2010


    Couple of albums to mention this week. The more prevalent in 'our' circles is Forget by Twin Shadow, one George Lewis Jr., produced by Grizzly Bear's sonic honcho Chris Taylor and buffed to an 80s shine. Or something like that, anyway - if the initial impression is Summer Camp had it been formed by him out of the Dears, the subtle touches, lyrical love and loss, and warmth of those cascading synth sounds take it out of mere show and tell nostalgia and into the direct hit of the heart. On the other hand, you may have had enough of glistening Rolands and want something with a very British, bedraggled, shouting against the wind mode. In which case say hello to St Thomas by The Scottish Enlightenment. If the often slow moving, chiming guitar cathedrals and thin end of the brooding late night wedge vocals couldn't be more north of the border, the hope and despair, the brutal noise and delicate majesty of the alternating lead guitars are universal, hinting at all sorts while remaining within what the label calls "ecclesiastical rock". The National and Low fans should certainly look this way.

    How on earth did Constellations Festival, across three rooms at Leeds University, garner such a remarkable bill? Here, we can even guide you through it as we've got the stage times here. Start at 2.30 with Honour Before Glory, then wander over for Dog Is Dead, try to catch some of I Like Trains, then check out Dam Mantle before Sky Larkin come on. Pretend you aren't missing Gold Panda - it's just a bloke in a hoodie with some wires - while watching Esben & The Witch, then cower at the feet of Liars. If you want to see some of Local Natives be careful as you might miss the start of Les Savy Fav, except you'll miss it all if you see Los Campesinos! Hang on, whose idea of scheduling was that? Spectrals in the third room haven't got a chance. Anyway, you then finish with Broken Social Scene. Or perhaps Four Tet. Or maybe Sleigh Bells. Most festivals don't manage three days of that quality.

    Back in one room at a time sensibleness, Johnny Foreigner embark on the longest tour in the world, leaving a trail of blood, gin and weed in their wake stretching from Reading Play on Thursday through to Edinburgh on December 11th. All the dates are somewhere here, Stagecoach support on the lot, and no you can't play the second guitar part on Salt Peppa & Spinderella. Holy Fuck fill stages with wires from tomorrow at London Electric Ballroom, with Bristol Thekla, Manchester Academy 3, Belfast Speakeasy, Dublin Whelans, Glasgow King Tuts and Birmingham Academy 2 chalked off before we meet here again. If you thought callow youths JoFo had a lengthy tour, the, let's be honest, ageing David Gedge and the latest incarnation of the Wedding Present would take issue, given their tour starts also on Thursday at Sheffield Leadmill and lasts until December 15th. They'll be chiefly playing the piledriving 1989 album Bizarro in full, dates here. Chad Valley/Trophy Wife/Sold Gold Dragons supergroup (or so you'd be inclined to think these days) Jonquil are finally emerging with new material, the Afrobeat emotional wreck of One Hundred Suns EP, also out tomorrow. The tour likewise starts tomorrow at Leeds Nation of Shopkeepers, followed by Liverpool Shipping Forecast (what?), Sheffield Harley, Cardiff Arts Institute, Oxford Jericho and Nottingham Spanky Van Dyke's (WHAT?) The Oxford date, and one at London CAMP on the 24th, has support from ethereal strings-bothering Blessing Force scenemates Rhosyn. Los Campesinos! play their last gig of 2010 at Liverpool Mojo tomorrow for free, Napoleon IIIrd launches Christiania at Koko on Friday, and Audioscope at Oxford Jericho Tavern winds up next Saturday with SJ Esau headlining a bill including Ice Sea Dead People, Felix and Sennen, the same night that Allo Darlin' and Standard Fare form a supreme team at Wakefield Hop/Guerilla Rooms.

    Here's a band whose featuring here comes with an innate sense of social timing, Manflu. Out on the jerkiest wing of art-post-punk they're like a straightened out Deerhoof, or the Pop Group with Kate Jackson channelling Ari Up (RIP), or the Raincoats to the power of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, or the great lost female-fronted, keys-inclusive No Wave band. Yeah, that sort of thing.

    Unaware of Groupee before this week, but it's a venture that puts bands... in a studio. Yeah, we know, not in any sort of small scale area or anything. What it means is clear sound and fine, largely unfussy visual production work, and some really good stuff ensues. Among their collection Standard Fare play the hits, The Lovely Eggs team up with Jad Fair and Rose Elinor Dougall plays a new song. Plus, at time of posting, 107 others that we don't like as much or have never heard of.

    Flying blind intrigue meanwhile about Lost Souvenirs, whose self-titled album is seemingly only available through Rough Trade on tape with download code for non-luddites. As is the modern way, they're advertised as a mysterious anonymous entity, "a band who don't exist. They'll never tour, or do interviews, or pose for photographs. Instead, their album is a message in a bottle - a greatest hits of their own lo-fi folk-pop archives that they're putting out into the world to see who finds it." We're tipped off that there are a handful of people you may have heard of involved in this; we're reliably informed that it's really rather good.

    Saturday, November 13, 2010

    Playlist additions 13/11/10

  • The Agitator - Give Me All That You Got [Myspace] [DailyMotion] [Soundcloud]
    The press release, on the album being called 'NO!', claims "You’ll be seeing a lot of this word out and about in the near future, if The Agitator has anything to do with it." For god's sake, PRs, never write anything that can be taken as read by pisstaking reviewers! Not that we're writing one of those, it being one man (Derek Meins, once upon a time of Eastern Lane) ranting like a political punk but only against a load of percussion.

  • The British Public - Bears [Myspace] [Soundcloud]
    Bar that this is the debut single by one Robert Gregory we can't tell you a lot about this, bar that it's a very fine British-as-the-day-is-long odd-pop record projected through a prism of XTC, Stiff Records and subtle unsettlement.

  • Jam On Bread - It's Always Sunny Inside [Myspace] [Vimeo] [Spotify]
    Fulsomely bearded Steve Carlton and his ukelele have between them this week brought out an album, A Railcard Adventure, of low-cost recorded, lovingly crafted songs wistfully and quirkily seperated from anyone else's standards for songwriting.

  • Johnny Foreigner - Tru Punx [Soundcloud]
    Sounds like Johnny Foreigner, which is as much as you can ask of them. Not even on the EP or album beyond.

  • Laura Marling - The Needle And The Damage Done [live YouTube] [Soundcloud]
    Wasn't she supposed to be releasing a second album in 2010? This is a cover, obviously, produced by Jack White, as is the other side of Third Man's upcoming 7" Blues Run The Game.

  • Tennis - Take Me Somewhere [download via P4K] [Myspace] [Soundcloud]
    Current blog hype Colorado married duo come on like Camera Obscura if Tracyanne was replaced by Bethany Cosentino, who'd first been given a strict talking to by, we dunno, Gavin to lay off the stuff about cats and weed. Just for this time of year, too.

    Nothing like video literalism:

  • Tuesday, November 09, 2010

    Choose your A-side and shut up

    No sooner do we get to Always Check Alcopop! then their next release pops up in the popular music streaming format. Johnny Foreigner are about to go on a huge tour, as is their wont, with Stagecoach supporting, and to tie in they've brought out a split 7" - one new song each, one cover of the other apiece. So the B-sides are JoFo doing Good Luck With Yr 45 and Stagecoach laying into Salt, Peppa & Spinderella, while the A-sides are as follows:

    Tru Punx - Johnny Foreigner by alcopop

    Not Even Giles Would Say We'll Be OK by alcopop

    Order the 7" or downloads from Alcopop's shop. The tour dates in as full as we know them:

    18/11 Reading Play
    19/11 Northampton Labour Club
    20/11 Brighton Jam
    22/11 Cardiff Buffalo Bar
    23/11 Cambridge The Portland Arms
    24/11 London Barfly
    25/11 Guildford Boileroom
    26/11 Nottingham Gatecrasher
    28/11 Leeds Brudenell Social Club
    29/11 York Stereo
    30/11 Sheffield Harley
    1/12 Birmingham Flapper
    3/12 Bristol The Croft
    6/12 Southampton Joiners
    7/12 Leicester Sub91 (by the way, Sub91, as this is the date we'll see you might want to start listing this in your online presences, cheers)
    8/12 Glasgow Nice N’ Sleazies
    9/12 Aberdeen Cafe Drummonds
    10/12 Dundee Doghouse
    11/12 Edinburgh Sneaky Pete’s

    Monday, November 08, 2010

    Always Check The Label: Alcopop!

    Our occasional series of chats with label bosses gets round to Jack PoP from the inventive, committed and fast rising Alcopop! empire.

    Why start a label?
    You know how when you’re a fresh faced teen who’s just learnt to drive, you’ve installed a bass tube in the back of your Fiat Panda Dance (I honestly did this) and you can’t wait to give your mates lifts so you can inflict all your favourite music on them? Well, running a label’s a bit like that, but with loads more reach! It’s such an honour to hear a band I love, and be able to work with them to get their records out, and push them to new achievements and dig the reaction of people who appreciate where we’re coming from.

    What's your ethos?
    I guess what Kev and I (the entire Alcopop backroom staff) always strive for is to be fiercely independent, and consistently pushing new and exciting ways and ideas to get music we genuinely love out there. We like to be personable too. We don’t want to be pushing to be a monolithic label in the major mould – it’s more about the community. Bringing fans and bands closer together, and making people who buy the music feel special too. Alcopop is not just about the bands and us. It’s about everyone who wants to get involved whether they’re into buying stuff, going to gigs, helping out or whatever.

    Have you been influenced by any labels?
    Loads! There are so many people at good indie labels (most notably Big Scary Monsters, Hassle, Holy Roar, Walnut Tree, Pandycane and Moshi Moshi) who are always ripe for inspiration and ideas – and a few (who I shan’t name) that do things really badly and are useful to keep an eye on! Perhaps my biggest inspiration though, and the reason I got into all this in the first place, is Fierce Panda – who were not only the source of some of my favourite ever bands, but also personally amazing! I remember writing to them once when I was in my first year at university, about a radio feature I was penning about them. Not only did they write back with some lovely info/ ideas – but sent me test pressing vinyl, stickers and all sorts. I was enamoured and immediately decided all labels should be like that.

    What do you initially look/hope for in a prospective signing?
    First and foremost it has to be the music. Obviously. We only work with stuff we love (we’ve literally had bands getting in touch before saying they’ll pay for everything, yet still split profits 50/50 if we release on the label - Not going to happen), but there’s more to it as well. Ideally (though not necessarily)...
    - we’ll get on with them
    - They’ll have a semblance of a fanbase
    - Be working hard with gigging etc
    - They’ll get the first round in

    What else should people looking to send you a demo know?
    Most of all that although we listen to every demo, I literally can’t tell you how much I love a bit of creativity when it comes to music packages – and the feeling that the band actually want to be with Alcopop, rather than just printing off a list from the unsigned guide and shipping out 250 unsolicited CDs. It doesn’t mean we’ll definitely sign a band, but I’ll put it on wanting to love it. We had some guys recently who sent the CD, hand written letter, badges, hand-knitted wrist band and a T-Shirt. Awesome stuff!

    If push comes to shove, what would be the most satisfying thing you’ve done through the label to date?
    Hmmm – tough to say really, but it may well be the response we got to the Alcopopular compilations. We dug the idea, but really we had no idea how well a map in a bottle would be received. Then we had loads of lovely emails, ace blog posts and the NME called it the "coolest compilation ever" which was pretty ace. Stagecoach being the first Alcopop band to represent at Reading/Leeds was pretty swell too.

    What's your biggest selling release to date?
    We’ve had a number of singles and EPs sell out in the past (Pavilion, Elephants, Attika State, My First Tooth), but probably the best seller has been the map in a bottle compilation – Alcopopular 3. It’s gone an awesome line up (Unicorn Kid, Pulled Apaprt by Horses, Tellison, Stagecoach etc) and you know – it’s a real tea-stained map in an Alcopop bottle. Feast of PoP (Alcopopular 4) is catching up too I think – people dig the menu and the fact the discs come in a plush burger CD case.

    Anyone notable that you’re willing to admit you passed up on?
    Ah, there’s been a few but I stand by our choices... The only one I regret slightly is that Dinosaur Pile-Up got in touch about Alcopopular 2 and said they loved the tape vibe and wanted to be on the next one – and we never really sorted it out before they got all big. Actually – sod it, I’m gonna try for them on PoP 5.

    Do you still believe in the physical product?
    My pet hate is when bands, labels, management or whatever send whiney messages bitching about how not enough people are supporting them, seeing them live or buying their stuff. Our job is to put the effort in to release such great stuff (both musically and aesthetically) that people can’t help but want it! So yeah – I totally believe in the physical product, and while a whole lot of people would rather buy digital (and fair play to them), there’s still a whole lot of people out there who love buying something they can hold. Something that looks like hot stuff. And we want to make those releases as exciting as we can.

    What's the idea behind the various incarnations of Alcopopular?
    Alcopopular is an extension of our ideal that we want to make something a little special of every record. We believe we’re putting out some of the best stuff in the country, so it deserves as much effort from our part as we can. Whether that be with a bonus acoustic disc, hand-crafted map or big burger case and menu. It’s all about opening up the package from Alcopop, and bloody loving it before you’ve even listened to the music! And then when you do it’ll feel like birthday and Christmas all in one (or so we hope anyway)

    What is the future of the common or garden record label?
    Strong I think. Some bands can do it all themselves and why not if that suits them, but I feel that massively passionate, low-overhead, indie labels can bring new contacts, creativity, different listeners and a real community to ace bands coming through – and do wonders in propelling them forward. I believe that major labels are a spent force though. They’ll survive as ghosts of their former selves – but the future is here for labels that communicate, innovate and keep things fresh. The day I don’t love Alcopop from the bottom of my heart I’ll quit – because there’s space for all of us indie labels, but only those with real passion and ambition for their bands!

    One thing you've learned about being a label boss and can pass on to anyone looking to do likewise?
    One – make sure to explore all the options when putting out your records. Expensive might not always be the way to go... For example, don’t just spend a huge wad of cash on pressing up a whole lot of standard jewel case EPs, when perhaps a more creative, hand-made or limited edition packaging may be cheaper and more effective. Think from the ‘punters’ point of view, and if you were they, what kind of release would you be more likely to want in your possession. Two – Ensure to have at least one band in your roster whose manager has a generous expense account.

    What have you got coming up?
    It’s been a fairly exciting last couple of months in truth, with The Attika State and My First Tooth albums finally having seen the light of day, and there’s loads more to roll in the end of 2011! Firstly, in the form of Johnny Foreigner, who not only are releasing their brand new 12" EP with us *much excitement*, but also a split 7" tour record with the mighty Stagecoach with each band covering the other. All good! Elsewhere we have a wonderful EP from Oxford newcomers Ute in early December, a band who I really can’t stress enough that you must keep your eyes onÉ (SO good). Then we’ll have a Christmas Party or two, an awesome sampler split with probably my favourite other label in the world right now - and we’re brewing some mighty exciting plans for 2011. Keep an eye on updates at www.ilovealcopop.co.uk or twitter @ilovealcopop – and much wintry love to you all!

    Sunday, November 07, 2010


    The Orange Juice box set Coals To Newcastle is out tomorrow, but at six CDs and a DVD it might be a bit pricey, what with Christmas and cuts coming up. And especially as this week also sees the release of two albums that are uniquely spectacular in their own ways, both oddly/coincidentally/neither second LPs with Leeds connections. In one corner James Mabbett, Napoleon IIIrd to you, who in the three years since STN's fourth favourite album of 2007 In Debt To has accumulated what sounds like a great wealth of keyboards, loopstations, things with wires like handheld telephone exchanges and suchlike, left them to fight with cutting lyrics (even if it does end with two instrumentals) and a half-submerged pop knowledge, and called the giddy rush of noise and moral confusion Christiania (download tomorrow, CD 15th), after an autonomously self-governing, counterculturally inclined Copenhagen neighbourhood-cum-commune. Here's the track that closes it. In the other corner the six people collectively calling themselves Her Name Is Calla. Such was the level of care absolved into The Quiet Lamb (out in some formats for ages, but physically tomorrow - complicated, all this staggering labels do now) that just mixing and mastering the thing reputedly took a year. Technically it's post-rock, in that there's contemplative quiet patches and explosive loud patches, but it's difficult only in how it requires special effort to take in its 75 minutes of pitch and yaw, tense, fragile and cathartic, almost modern classical in its remarkable scope - have a glance at Tom Morris' track by track guide, where it's revealed one track is about "my own place in hell". We will write more about both of these deep into next month.

    Les Savy Fav gigs are less performance than they are crash circus, with Tim Harrington wandering all over the place in all sorts of gear, connecting with people in a way the recipients could only ever fear. They're over from Saturday at Glasgow ABC2, with Brighton on the 15th (the day after Constellations Festival, and we'll be coming back to that rarefied clusterfuck next week), off around Europe for a bit, then back to London Electric Ballrooms on the 22nd. Speaking of maniac hairiness, Nestor Matthews and his Sky Larkin bandmates are supporting. LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip share plenty in common - a live member (Al Doyle), a disappointing last album and a live show that gets more synaptic excitement then you'd expect from some people playing some keyboards. Their tour together begins at the Ally Pally on Wednesday, moving across to the Coronet Theatre on Thursday, Cardiff International Arena on Friday and then the rather less glamorously decadent sounding Rotherham Magna Centre on Saturday. Manchester, two nights in Glasgow and three in Dublin follow. Wire have a new album out early in January, one that promises to showcase them at their most malevolent. A preview comes at Oxford Jericho Tavern on Wednesday as part of Audioscope's run of outre nights in aid of Shelter. Meanwhile for no other apparent reason then they can, Slow Club take another break from recording their second album to play a hometown gig at the Sheffield Leadmill next Saturday.

    Let's not beat about the bush, We Are Trees, who've just played CMJ, sound a lot like Grizzly Bear. Daniel Rossen-like vocals, Chris Taylor production touches (the steadily hammering drums, the rolling surges, the pinpoint seperation of instruments), the works. There are of course much worse, and less difficult, bands to sound like, and Virginian James Nee, who is they, brings his own sense of orchestrated touch and lyrical open hearted touch as it goes along. Listen on Soundcloud, order the vinyl Boyfriend EP out on Tuesday via Bandcamp.

    Saturday, November 06, 2010

    Playlist additions 6/11/10

  • Breton - December [Soundcloud]
    The EP by the SE London multimedia collective has all sorts of flagrancy with darker styles going on, tracking through dubstep, math and electronica to find new ground, on this highlight from the forthcoming Counter Balance EP strutting vocally and searching out the murky sample-aided netherworld underneath.

  • The Decemberists - Down By The Water [download] [live YouTube]
    The King Is Dead, released third week of January, seems to have no driving concept story at all. You're slipping, Meloy. Peter Buck's on this, which is why it sounds like Fables Of The Reconstruction and a bit like Buck's other employer Robyn Hitchcock's the Soft Boys. Dear lord, can you fix a proper, uninterrupted, within reasonable distance of us (or at least at a festival that cares) Decemberists UK tour for some point in 2011?

  • The Loves - December Boy [YouTube]
    The Big Star-reappropriating, huge Spector-invoking, Darren Hayman video-cameoing first proper single (a double A side with Bubblegum, which was added ages ago, but if you insist...) from next year's fourth album, thus far shaping up to be Simon, Jenna and whoever else is in the band this week's career highpoint. So obviously they're splitting up just after its release.

  • The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Heart In Your Heartbreak [Soundcloud]
    We don't know if it was us that broke the news through Fortuna Pop! that POBPAH had been working with Alan Moulder and Flood on next year's second album, but we'll claim it was for the time being anyway. What that means is something slightly more pop-Cure, slightly less drowned in fuzz, but still recognisably their rain during the sunshine.

  • Paisley & Charlie - Julia Misbehaves [YouTube]
    A flute straight out of Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs' best sample disc, and the rest of it's pretty akin to their humanised electronic pop music, given a very sunny (timely, then), very English feel. Spot the reference in the video to Half Man Half Biscuit's 99% Of Gargoyles Look Like Bob Todd.

  • The Scottish Enlightenment - The First Will Be Last [download via Song, By Toad] [Soundcloud]
    From a tremendous, stratospheric album called St Thomas which is out on the 15th, a religious confession as well as a confession about religion, converting from fragility to strength in ambition.

  • Swansea Recreation Centre - Aquatic Finesse [Myspace] [YouTube] [Soundcloud] [Spotify]
    It's not a promising name for a band, although you can at least guess where they aren't from. They're part of The New Floatiness to be filed alongside Still Corners, this all minimal aereation and poise before turning tail and launching into an all-out extended finish that teeters on the edge of indiepop chaos theory falling apart.

  • Tellison - Collarbone [YouTube]
    Not Ross from the Futureheads on vocals, despite the visual evidence. Having been out of sight for two to three years they return having stripped emo-before-it-became-emo-as-it's-now-known down to its component parts and reassembled it with loose energy replacing overcareerism.

  • Trembling Blue Stars - All Our Tomorrows [YouTube] [Spotify]
    After fifteen years erstwhile Field Mice leader Bobby Wratten is bringing his fragile, panoramic indie dreaming to a close at least in this guise.
  • Thursday, November 04, 2010

    We need a futile gesture at this stage

    Sigh. So we're all back here again.

    You may recall last year, in the belief that the modern singles chart is anything other than physically bereft, a campaign was launched to get Rage Against The Machine to the Christmas number one position ahead of X Factor winner Joe McElderry. Cowell fumed. McElderry fumed (well, of course he wouldn't, think about what he is and how he got there). Louis talked nonsense, which he does. And when all was said and done, the last chart before Christmas showed Killing In The Name a good 52K sales ahead of the corporate opposition.

    So this year, everyone's having a go. Think of a song from the past with some sort of cultural cachet and someone will be campaigning to have it become this year's Christmas number one. In one corner, the one that's attracting a lot of the comedic attention and quite a few broadsheet pieces, Cage Against The Machine, 47,000 strong at this stage, hoping to get Cage's celebrated silent piece 4'33" to number one largely on the basis that it'd be hilarious to hear whoever does the chart show these days to have to play four and a half minutes of silence as the ultimate chart topper of the year. Except they won't, because the emergency breakdown cart would kick in after thirty seconds. The BBC has to make special provision when it broadcasts Rememberance Sunday silences on the radio, and that has the ambient noise around the Cenotaph.

    That was thought to be the only gig in town... until a couple of weeks ago a couple of news sites picked up on BIRD is the WORD for UK Christmas number 1 2010 to beat X-Factor (catchy) and its 530,000 likes, although the actual official page has only managed 9,000 to date. This one is campaigning on behalf of the Trashmen's nutzoid US 1963 surf-garage hit Surfin' Bird, and is related to nothing other than it being played prominently in an episode of Family Guy.

    Family Guy fans are at the forefront of this year's big anti-X Factor campaign. It's like choosing your poison.

    If the RATM campaign was driven more by shits and giggles (and an undeniable 'WE ARE CULTURED, WE ARE BETTER THAN YOU PLEBS' undercurrent from some, the way that the discourse last December ran) rather than any proper attempt to stop the Syco hegemony on Christmas chart toppers then fair enough. Point made, now we get back on with our lives. The band seemed to believe the latter but they never seemed the type for a light laugh. Did it bring anything down? Not really, no. So McElderry's 450K Christmas chart week sales weren't enough? Never mind, he sold 195K the following week (RATM, in their week of the most mainstream press of their lives, managed 68K) and 70K the traditionally slow week after that. Meanwhile, Saturday's X Factor was watched by twelve million people, not all of whom watched it just to take the piss on Twitter. Ask them what beat Joe last year and they'll likely have forgotten. Did it actually derail Cowell one iota? Of course not, for all his Sun-friendly stage managed bleating in the week of battle. Everyone who cared got a free RATM gig out of it, and that was the point at which any idea that there were sociological leanings behind the LOL-motive died.

    But now it's been done, you can't go through the same slapstick routine again and again because we've seen the punchline already. If last year was Situationist tomfoolery with an undercurrent of hatred for what they've done to your beloved chart (which was never driven by any sort of counterculture, by the way) this year is either a carbon copy with a far less populist/nostalgic/rhetorical centrepiece, and one that in its basicness doesn't really challenge anything as it once did now that everyone knows what it entails, or something from the exact same school of mindless Point A To Point B telly culture. It's bloody-mindedness for the sake of it and to look inclusive. Meanwhile, Wagner LOL.

    Tuesday, November 02, 2010

    Back catalogue

    Some time earlier in the century we began bringing together the dark corners of Spotify, the places where few listeners tread, the sort of records that only end up there because the distributors signed a deal for better known stuff. Our findings before now are obtainable if you follow that label link at the bottom of the post, or we've playlisted tracks from most albums selected. Regardless, fascinating new material keeps cropping up, and here's a brand new selection. As ever, suggestions welcome via comments.

    WWE Anthology
    An anthology! Of wrestling themes! Most of these 86 tracks are the handiwork of one Jim Johnston, a commercial jingle writer who's been with the panda copyright-avoiding 'sports entertainment' company since the mid-80s, and herein are guest appearances by Lil Kim, Slick Rick, Naughty by Nature, celebrated German punks H-Blockx and Rick Derringer, whose band The McCoys did one-time 1960s TV-advertised compilation staple Hang On Sloopy and uses his elevated status to get the vocal on Hulk Hogan's Real American. RIYL: cheap takes on arena rock dynamics, sappiness beyond credit when the moment requires (the theme to Randy Savage and Elizabeth's wedding! She's dead now, you know), a range of redolent styles as the years progress from synths to nu-metal, all suffering from a deficiency of production values. It's entirely possible we're missing a million layers of subtlety in Billy Gunn's theme being called Ass Man, but listening to the lyrics we increasingly doubt it.

    Spitting Image - 20 Great Golden Gobs
    We don't know what Nashville-via-Boston hard rock band The Spitting Image will make of Spotify grouping them together with some Limey impressionists, if they ever find out, but it amuses us. Released in 1990 it's a compilation of the songs with which the weekly latex lampoonery often ended, not featuring The Chicken Song or anything else casual viewers would recognise. The style variation, if as with the above clearly on a tight budget, is testament to the dab (re)creative hand of musical director Philip Pope, occasionally aided by regular TV composer and sometime Glen Ponder actor Steve Brown (who produced Rumer's album, MOR kids) plus lyrical contributions from Ian Hislop and Grant & Naylor, neither/none responsible for the three seperate jibes at ageing rock stars. Unless you count the last track on which one of the four credited vocalists is Carl Wayne - of The Move? - the characters do their own singing, which means Italia 90 cliche previewing Sick As A Moon has credited vocals to Steve Coogan, Chris Barrie and Hugh Dennis - a super three!* - pretending to be Ian St John, Jimmy Greaves, Bobby Robson, Emlyn Hughes (whose name Dennis has to include), Jimmy Hill, David Coleman (who hadn't done football commentary for nine years by this point) and whoever Coogan's being at 0:49. Partridge several years early, by the sounds of it.

    4th of July Patriotic Favorites - The Best Of Documentary Recordings
    Should you ever require a one-stop shop of army drills, bugle calls, male choirs, military bands and the theme to Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines, it's all here. There's also a bluegrass song about a young soldier being killed when his parachute wraps around his body ("Intestines were a'dangling from his paratrooper suit"). Our favourite is Hard Work, a handclapped call and response drill only a horn section away from resembling a lost Stax classic and surely ready to be sampled by someone, unless it already has been.

    Max Miller - The Cheeky Chappie
    Ere, now listen! Music hall commandeur, man of the white book and the blue book, wearer of suits that go somewhere beyond flamboyancy, master of double entrendres, influence on a range from Bob Monkhouse to Paul Merton to Ross Noble, captured in various stages of his live act. Superb track titles: Max Sings Of Some Of The Girls He Has Met And Tells Of Some His Father Knew!!, Max Is Now A Swimming Instructor But Is Never Out Of His Depth, Chats On Etiquette & Manners, Jean Carr Asks Some Questions But Max Knows All The Answers, He Now Recites 'What Ju Ju Wants, Ju Ju Must Have', the blunt He Tells Some More and the refusal to let us be the judge Is There No End To His Cleverness.

    (* See, you'd know what this was if you followed this feature)

    Monday, November 01, 2010

    Not everything's for the best in this best of all possible worlds

    Shocked today to learn someone we've stolen at least two tags and many, many more lines from, Danny Baker, has been diagnosed with cancer. STN extends what it can to him and his family and hopes his peculiar, singular, hugely influential and above all brilliant broadcasting style, whether on music, football or random, will be back on the air before we know it.

    As a side order, if you haven't already, listen to his guesting on The Word's podcast in which an all too willing to indulge David Hepworth and Mark Ellen provoke tales of life on the road and as an NME hack, which might be the single greatest podcast of its type.

    And as a musical fanfare, this glorious slab of late 80s Canadian power-pop which Baker played incessantly in his Radio 1 days: