Monday, January 30, 2012

Withered Hand - Heart Heart

Rarely knowingly underemotive, Dan Wilson is the first name on Fence Records' Chart Ruse subscription-only series of 7" EPs. Pounding, positivist and something to stir the heart and raise the fists to (not to mention as background that it was recorded by Darren Hayman) it kicks Wilson up a gear into the rarefied environs where it matters.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

DZ Deathrays - No Sleep

Getting oddly priority placement in the NME year preview issue, comparisons to every other guitar/drums duo (perhaps bar Slow Club) are inevitable but the band that made your beloved writer almost literally sprint down Duke Street, Cardiff and back during the Saturday shopping crush just to catch ten minutes of their set at Swn are full-on intense and no quarter given. This is lead from their new EP out in March.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Shrag - Chasing Consummations

The first taste of Shrag's third album Canines, tentatively scheduled for May and produced by Andy Miller (Life Without Buildings, Mogwai, Sons And Daughters, Scout Niblett, My Latest Novel), works its way up with insistent subtlety through parping organ onto the sort of ungraspable skewwiff melodic sense they do so well, via a couple of bits where all the vocal tracks are piled on top of each other that briefly made us worry that we'd somehow got it looping twice on itself. Plus, strings! Unusual to hear Shrag flirt with grandiosity, but such is development.

Shrag - Chasing Consummations by Shrag

Andrew Bird - Eyeoneye

The first taste of Bird's sixth album Break It Yourself, released March 5th here on Bella Union, is quite a bit more direct, live sounding and straightforward r'n'r, with a proper pre-Beatles tinge wired to a big echoey production wall, than his chamber looped whistling folk of yore, though the indie Roger Whittaker does get a workout before the halfway mark.

Eyeoneye by Andrew Bird

Monday, January 23, 2012

Fair Ohs - Salt Flats

Released on flexi-postcard, perhaps the ultimate in that it's a format incorporating two forms of dead media, Fair Ohs' explorations into African hi-life - Eritrean Guayla, it's specified here - refracted both through bubbling indie disco and basement lo-fi take a turn for the psychedelic, slowed down, letting more air bubbles develop between the cracks and somehow even more taut than before. Alright, because of that lack of freneticism it does sound a little more like Vampire Weekend (Contra specifically) than hotwired direct from source, but not in such a way they could be accused of late-on copyage.

Salt Flats - Fair Ohs by X-RAY RECORDINGS

Gallops - G Is For Jaile

Ah, Gallops. Ever attempting to encompass the whole of motorik math-rock in one shot, their recent few demos have seen them taking tentative laptoppish steps, or at least more so than their existing releases. This, for instance, takes over seven minutes to unfold its propulsive wares, from the tricksy drumming to the constantly searching synth patterns all with airs of Tangerine Dream off on the horizon. Eventually it all disappears in a unblocked sink-like motion down a wormhole of insistent electronics. This is likely to be on their debut EP, being recorded in February with the highly fitting production work of Three Trapped Tigers guitarist/mains re-wirer Matt Calvert.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Heavy Petting Zoo - Deathproof

If Heavy Petting Zoo were from east London rather than Swansea you'd have heard far too much about them by now. Yes, it's lo-fi garage, but only the demo quality recording suggests deliberate overfuzz of their coiled spring garage, economical unshowy riffage framing Amy Zachariah's Karen O-like holler. The rest of their recordings range from messy hiss to cocksure menace, all with its own frames of reference and internalised power.

Deathproof by Heavy Petting Zoo

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Story Books - Peregrine

Out of the Isle of Sheppey, Story Books initially come over like the long inevitable crossover point between careful, minimal xx nightscapes and Kris Harris' warm folksy vocals. A big guitar solo then crashes in out of nowhere like a sudden tidal wave before snapping back to the plangent, ruminative stillness as if nothing has happened yet entirely changed in a way. There's something of a more energetic Bon Iver sound (not the yacht rock bits, obviously) about how it all fits together but at heart it's very British and evocatively textured whatever it turns into.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Liechtenstein - Strange Ideas

Something incredibly effervescent about the Gothenburg femme trio Liechtenstein's approach to melding Orange Juice funk guitar in a post-punk world to the Dolly Mixture/Girls At Our Best school of girls somehow doing things differently with the same tools as the boys. Their second album Fast Forward is out next week and three years after their debut it showcases a confidence in the limberness of their playing and harmonies alike.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Shamefaced Sparrows - Murder In The Dollhouse

"Our mother was a Ye-Ye girl. Our father was Link Wray." Yeah, that's about the size of the Dalston-based, self described "Death Pop" outfit dealing in reverbed surf garage menace with an underlying obtuse pop sensibility.

Murder In The Dollhouse (Demo) by The Shamefaced Sparrows

Friday, January 13, 2012

Bear In Heaven - The Reflection Of You

Brooklynites Bear In Heaven's last album Beast Rest Forth Mouth was described by us in another place as a band who "clearly aren't stunted for imagination, or eagerness, and there’s equal amounts of pop worthiness and stylistic reinterpretation within them" while stressing that they were still held down by their influences so far. Whether April album I Love You, It's Cool manages it remains to be seen but this is a more than decent start, nodding to AnCo's My Girls at outset before running off the steam of synths playing out pretty patterns and forthright hooks without seemingly trying too hard.

Bear In Heaven - The Reflection of You by Bear in Heaven

Mammal Club - Toward You With Lust

Since writing about them back in April Newcastle's Mammal Club have lost a member and gained a whole new field of sonic vision. No longer firing on nervous energy alone, this new track unfolds over five minutes of pounding textural build as pianos and toms build and develop a dramatic lushness. The enormous coda you'd expect never happens, instead dialling back right as you'd expect the threshold to be crossed into spaced out, circulatory interloping.

Toward You With Lust by Mammal Club

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Field Music - A New Town

Second cab off the Plumb rank, there's a slight return to the freeze-dried funk of Let's Write A Book, a chorus melody half-inched from new wave and rejigged into something that'd both fit as a hook-laden classic radio staple and too sparky and just out of mainstream reach, plus some burbling and blowing of water through a straw mixed just within distracting earshot. Still failing to do wrong, then. Plumb's release party is at the Newcastle Cluny on 10th February, three days before release, with Trev Gibb's band Deerhart supporting.

Field Music - A New Town by memphisindustries

Rose Elinor Dougall - The Night

Not the first fruits of her second album yet, that's still in development hell, but The Distractions EP, three gratis full fidelity demos recorded with her titular live band soon after Without Why's 2010 emergence. She says that second full-length will be of a difficult musical hue to these but that's far from saying it's a drawer clearing exercise alone. This track has the insistent glimmer and cathedral reverberations of Mazzy Star and Treasure-era Cocteaus before bursting into shoegaze pop white light, anchored by Dougall's big vocal of yearning and hoping, before the sort of psychedelic transient noise bursts her brother Tom, on guitar here, is fashioning with Toy.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Rosie Taylor Project - The Last Happy Writer

Leeds' Rosie Taylor Project released a great single you probably missed back in June - here it is. It's from second album Twin Beds, produced by the increasingly reliable Richard Formby and out on Odd Box on 13th February. From it comes this freely downloadable Americana flavoured, slow burning hopeful while lonesome melancholia.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Bear vs Manero - Now Is Not The Time For Impressions, Rory Bremner

So hoped the song would live up to the title. Well, not much would, but the evil bass rumble, piledriver riff and unhinged delivery land in the none too comfortable space somewhere between 80s Matchbox and the Jesus Lizard. Single out 6th February.

St Rupertsberg - Coming Home

We were going to apologise for lateness onto this - the Seasonal Glimpse EP was released in September and they've gone on pause since after their drummer left - but it's probable you've never heard of them before so it doesn't really matter. St Rupertsberg are an all-female octet from Wellington, NZ whose misleadingly perky choral maxi-indiepop is like a chamber Tilly & The Wall, horns, handclaps and lots of tambourine heightening the possibly only surface fun element.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Nature Set - I Am A Planet

Frantic C86 pop from Sheffield, just like they do so well. Coming in a spot under 120 seconds, this burst of primal exhilaration, buried analogue synth squiggle and single line repetition from a band made up of three of the briefly touted Navvy and Reenie from the Long Blondes (who seems to have been in 70% of the Sheffield bands STN has ever written about) is part of a split limited edition cassette> on which three of their tracks vie with three from Former Lover, the grand Young Marble Giants-with-Fall-guitar-noise return of fellow ex-LB Dorian Cox, who sound like this.

Trev Gibb - Are You Tryin' To Fall In Love

Newcastle singer-songwriter Trev Gibb had David Brewis of Field Music work with him on his self-titled debut album (see Bandcamp page for details) and that band's subtly complex melodic sense is reflected here alongside a richly expressed introversion with shades a 4-era Scott Walker plus hints of Mark Eitzel and Elliot Smith. In its own unobtrusive way Gibb has constructed a DIY patchwork of real feeling and oblique directness.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Hooded Fang - ESP

Taking the fuzz pedal back out of garage rock, Hooded Fang's Tosta Mista, out here via Full Time Hobby on 12th March, is one of the year's first ear-prickingly lively albums. With their reverbed guitars and insistent surf riffs the Toronto collective aren't exactly breaking sonic ground, not even with the fidelity being as it's just disorted enough to resemble the best of the Nuggets set, but you'll go a long way to find something more lively and inherently joyous.

Hooded Fang - ESP by fulltimehobby

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Whales In Cubicles - We Never Win

Fixers aside, 2011 saw things go a little quiet for major label A&R manque Young & Lost Club, but their first release of 2012, due on the 23rd, puts them back on track. Whales In Cubicles, based in London and fronted by an Italian emigre, sounds like three and a half minutes of pent up energy threatening to explode violently and while it never quite manages that the staccato verses and quiet-loud exertions call to mind the Maccabees filtered through mid-90s US college rock. More of a marker for potential spectacular things ahead than a world beater in itself, but best to get in early.

We Never Win by Whales in Cubicles

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Allo Darlin' - Capricornia/Tallulah

We really hope Allo Darlin' don't get tarred with the post-Zooey brush because they're ukelele led and can be a touch delicate in emotion. Their second album Europe, out in the US April 17th and here (via Fortuna Pop!)... they've not said yet but April 16th would be a fair assumption, seems from what we've heard live to be a development in light touch while remaining hopeful in the manner of Elizabeth Morris' beloved Go-Betweens. Hot from the inbox, this is the preceding single Capricornia, named after the area of Queensland Morris is from and according to her an attempt to locate a midpoint between A New England and Cattle And Cane. That sense of timeless shuffle (can we say Spring Rain for the latter instead?) is prevalent, as is a willingness to embrace the basic longing in location.

Allo Darlin' - Capricornia by Slumberland Records

Tallulah - another Go-Betweens reference - is the song Elizabeth's been playing solo over the last year or so and we observed absolutely silencing a packed Big Top at End Of The Road. It's charming, witty and ultimately gorgeous in intent.

Allo Darlin' - Tallulah from Will Botting on Vimeo.

About as joyous a live band as you'll find, and that's even if you just take Bill Botting's bouncing on the spot into account, Allo Darlin' play the Fortuna Pop! Winter Sprinter at The Lexington tomorrow, then head around the land like this:

20th February Glasgow Captain's Rest
21st February Edinburgh Sneaky Pete's
22nd February Newcastle Star and Shadow Cinema
23rd February Manchester Deaf Institute
24th February Sheffield Shakespeare (with Standard Fare!)
25th February London Popfest, 100 Club (with Comet Gain and Ace Bushy Striptease)
26th February Leeds Brudenell Social Club
27th February Leicester Musician
28th February Bristol Fleece
29th February Cardiff Buffalo
1st March Oxford Cellar
2nd March Norwich Arts Centre
3rd March Brighton Haunt

Woodpigeon - For Paolo

An impressive live unit, Calgary's Woodpigeon have never quite transposed their chamber folk exertions into consistent recorded material. Singer/writer Mark Hamilton reckons this title track from the new EP out on the 23rd sounds like Tango In The Night Fleetwood Mac, but it doesn't. Instead it's dreamily captivating, sighing in its evocation of togetherness and beautifully produced to subtly fade in every instrumental nuance. They might just have it right here.

Woodpigeon - For Paolo from Boompa Records on Vimeo.

Spectral Park - The Thief's Journal

At first Luke Donovan's work as Spectral Park may make you think of another one man lo-fi beat boom operation, Spectrals. (And not just for the obvious reason) Then things start going odd. Imaginary kids' TV themes, spectral psychedelia and Mandelbrot set keyboard patterns all conspire to pull these bedroom recorded layered odd-pop confections apart limb from limb for the fun/hell of it. If a broken hearted Syd Barrett and a down on his fortunes Raymond Scott were teamed up only with access to a dictaphone and a laptop set-up this might have been the result. The free EP Factory Peeled is well worth your time; a couple of its other tracks have home-warped videos.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Foxes! - Oh Rosie

Brighton's Foxes! have been lurking on the periphery for a few years now, so under the radar that Neon Gold have unwittingly started developing a completely different female-fronted outfit called Foxes. It's Weekend all over again. Foxes! release their eponymous debut album on the 16th, from which this frantic and flagrant pace-shifting track comes, shifting from jet propelled rockabilly to swaying shuffle and onto a big anthemic outro.

LookiMakeMusic - Not Every Beaver Grows Up to Build Dams

Birmingham's indie-math-emo-noise-talky awkward uni kids gave us all a Christmas present in the free shape of This Year We Go To War, a five track EP exhibiting their developing coiled spring dynamics and Miles Bradley's continuous inability to pare the number of words down to fit the tune (not a bad thing). Also, the closing piano track was it says here recorded on the night we put them on back in July.

Cats On Fire - My Sense Of Pride

Let's kick off the new year with the return of a band who enliven any indiepop dance party. We last heard from Finland's Cats On Fire in 2009, their third album due in the spring, trailed by a track singer, writer and eternally hopeful pessimist (as in the opposite of hopeless optimist) Mattias Björkas describes as "traced back to a time when I must have been wearing red, furry hairmuffs". Whatever, it's darker than their signature post-Smiths jangle without sacrificing their ultimately melodic edge, perfect for ungainly indie kid moving around on the spot.

Cats On Fire : My Sense Of Pride by Soliti

Monday, January 02, 2012

The Blog Sound Of 2012 top 5

Remember this? Good, because that means I don't have to go through it all again. Well, we're duty bound to reveal the top five...

5 Daughter

4 French Wives

3 Beth Jeans Houghton

2 Theme Park

1 Friends

STN's 2012 phase of blogging gets underway tomorrow.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

UK Blogger Albums Of 2011 Poll Results

For the seventh year - check the tag - we present the hip list poll of polls, a bringing together of the UK music blogging and DIY magazining elite (or at least those that did lists) to determine what the online hivemind made as the best anyone recorded in 2011. Our steering group this time around largely comprises the following: 17 Seconds, Alphabet Bands, And Everyone's A DJ, The Auditorium, Aye Tunes, Both Bars On, Bowlegs, Breaking More Waves, The Daily Growl, Dots & Dashes, Drunken Werewolf, Eaten By Monsters, Echoes And Dust, Flying With Anna, Folly Of Youth, Give Pop A Chance!, God Is In The TV, GoldFlakePaint, Hotcakes, I Prefer Their Older Stuff, In League With Paton, It's All Indie, Just Music That I Like, Just Played, Keep Pop Loud, The Metaphorical Boat, Monobrow, Mudkiss, Music Fans Mic, Music Liberation, Muso's Guide, Nu Rave Brain Wave, Parallax View, Peenko, Pinglewood, The Pigeon Post, Ragged Glories, The Recommender, Song By Toad, themilkfactory, The Pop Cop, The Sound Of The Overground, There Goes The Fear, This Music Wins, This Must Be Pop, Useless Chamber, The Von Pip Musical Express, Wait For The Click.

Without further ado, the results are:

75 COLDPLAY - Mylo Xyloto
74 COLD WAR KIDS - Mine Is Yours
73 GRAILS - Deep Politics
72 KATE BUSH - 50 Words For Snow
71 BRAIDS - Native Speaker
70 GRUFF RHYS - Hotel Shampoo
69 WALLS - Coracle
68 BATTLES - Gloss Drop
67 BALAM ACAB - Wander/Wonder
66 OTHER LIVES - Tamer Animals
65 THE VACCINES - What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?
64 DESTROYER - Kaputt
63 PETE AND THE PIRATES - One Thousand Pictures
61 GIRLS - Father, Son, Holy Ghost
60 BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUB - A Different Kind Of Fix
59 KATY B - On A Mission
58 NICOLA ROBERTS - Cinderella's Eyes
56 THE NAKED AND FAMOUS - Passive Me, Aggressive You
55 WASHED OUT - Within And Without
54 MOGWAI - Hardcore Will Never Die But You Will
53 SUMMER CAMP - Welcome To Condale
52 DUM DUM GIRLS - Only In Dreams
51 THE WEEKND - House Of Balloons

50 BEERJACKET - The White Feather Trail
49 FUCKED UP - David Comes To Life
48 VERONICA FALLS - Veronica Falls
47 BRITISH SEA POWER - Valhalla Dancehall
46 TOM WAITS - Bad As Me
45 TIM HECKER - Ravedeath, 1972
44 LANTERNS ON THE LAKE - Gracious Tide Take Me Home
43 MAZES - A Thousand Heys
42 GILLIAN WELCH - The Harrow And The Harvest
41 LOW - C'Mon
40 WU LYF - Go Tell Fire To The Mountain
39 LOS CAMPESINOS! - Hello Sadness
38 THE GO! TEAM - Rolling Blackouts
37 ANNA CALVI - Anna Calvi
36 ARCTIC MONKEYS - Suck It And See
35 NICOLAS JAAR - Space Is Only Noise
33 BJORK - Biophilia
32 ADAM STAFFORD - Build a Harbour Immediately
31 GANG GANG DANCE - Eye Contact

30 ADELE - 21
29 BILL WELLS & AIDAN MOFFAT - Everything's Getting Older
28 THE WAR ON DRUGS - Slave Ambient
26 METRONOMY - The English Riviera
25 LYKKE LI - Wounded Rhymes
24 THE ANTLERS - Burst Apart
23 WILD FLAG - Wild Flag
22 BILL CALLAHAN - Apocalypse
21 JOHNNY FOREIGNER - Johnny Foreigner vs Everything

20 GHOSTPOET - Peanut Butter Blues And Melancholy Jam
19 ROB ST JOHN - Weald
18 AUSTRA - Feel It Break
17 EMMY THE GREAT - Virtue
16 ELBOW - Build A Rocket Boys!
15 THE HORRORS - Skying
14 LAURA MARLING - A Creature I Don't Know
12 JOSH T PEARSON - Last Of The Country Gentlemen
11 KURT VILE - Smoke Ring For My Halo

10 EMA - Past Life Martyred Saints
Video: California

9 ST VINCENT - Strange Mercy
Video: Cruel

8 NOAH AND THE WHALE - Last Night On Earth

7 JAMES BLAKE - James Blake
Video: The Wilhelm Scream

6 FLEET FOXES - Helplessness Blues
Video: The Shrine/An Argument

5 RADIOHEAD - The King Of Limbs
Video: Lotus Flower

4 WILD BEASTS - Smother
Video: Bed Of Nails

3 tUnE-yArDs - w h o k i l l
Video: Gangsta

2 BON IVER - Bon Iver
Video: Holocene

1 PJ HARVEY - Let England Shake
Video: The Words That Maketh Murder