Monday, March 31, 2014

Weekends away 2014: Handmade Festival

WHAT? Like a multi-venue event but more so, putting the outer reaches into intriguing spaces around a major city centre

WHERE? A number of central Leicester venues

WHEN? 2nd-4th May

WHY? With stages supported by 2000 Trees, ArcTanGent, Big Scary Monsters and Alcopop! there's a decent post-hardcore/instrumental/post-rock leaning to the bill, but not without some intriguing deviations. Unlike most city festivals this also exploits non-standard locations, with stages in vintage halls and galleries

HOW? £33 for the weekend

FRIDAY: And So I Watch You From Afar, Three Trapped Tigers, Her Name Is Calla, Grace Petrie, FTSE, Peter Wyeth

SATURDAY: Shonen Knife, Haiku Salut, We Three And The Death Rattle, Katie Malco, Sisterland, TE Morris, Weikie, Tellison, Tangled Hair, Woahnows, Brawlers, Feedback Voice

SUNDAY: I LIKE TRAINS, Dry The River, Dark Dark Horse, VerseChorusVerse

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Phantom Band - The Wind That Cried The World

Just as it looked like they'd been quietly left in a corner one of STN's favourite pop-sonic adventurers are back with a third album, Strange Friend, out June 2nd. They call it "the most straight-up set of recordings" yet but that's only on their terms of detuned bloopy electronics, hints of kosmiche and big threatening wordless caws that refuse to let too much light in. There are dates in June that are fully recommended for their limber live assailment: 3rd Glasgow Art School, 4th Hoxton Bar & Grill, 5th Manchester Deaf Institute, 6th Aberdeen The Tunnels.

Weekends away 2014: Focus Wales

WHAT? 150+ live bands, plus assorted interactive sessions, comedy and so forth

WHERE? A number of central Wrexham venues, all within walking distance

WHEN? 23rd-26th April

WHY? STN has always been a sucker for a thoughtfully booked multi-venue festival, and also for festivals in Wales, so... The first of the year's really fascinating expansive bills, smartly put together and not overly willing to make too much of a fuss about itself. Also a range of panels, seminars and speeches involving the likes of Huw Stephens, Alan McGee, John Robb, Will Sergeant, Chris Hawkins and Islet/Shape Records' Mark Daman Thomas.

HOW? £30 for music, £50 for everything, individual gig and day tickets too - all broken down here

THURSDAY: Damo Suzuki, John Cooper Clarke, Georgia Ruth, Cian Ciarán, Seazoo, The Gentle Good, All We Are

FRIDAY: Islet, Euros Childs, Mowbird, Golden Fable, Masters In France, Houdini Dax, HMS Morris, Poltergeist

SATURDAY: Gulp, Keys, Chris T-T, We Are Animal, Black Moth

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Weekends away 2014: Wales Goes Pop!

Restarting our occasional series of plugs and previews for lesser known festivals and extended events:

WHAT? An all-ages Easter weekend scan of the indiepop high rollers and associates

WHERE? The Gate, Cardiff

WHEN? 18th-20th April

WHY? Smartly booked in an appropriately small-scale grand setting, the first WGP! last year was a joyous occasion, as these things tend to be in the post-Indietracks sphere, and it shows how far those particular stylistic tentacles can reach.

HOW? £40 from Spillers in Cardiff, Diverse Records in Newport or online

WHO? (or at least the best of those playing)
FRIDAY: Helen Love (their first hometown gig in quite some years), September Girls, The Magic Theatre, Flowers, Seazoo, Young Romance

SATURDAY: The Wedding Present, Radstewart, The School, The Proper Ornaments, Steven James Adams

SUNDAY: Withered Hand, Laetitia Sadier, Sweet Baboo, Haiku Salut, Woodpigeon, Owl & Mouse, Rozi Plain

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tuesday's newbies: Slow Club, John MOuse, Cosines, Sylvan Esso

Slow Club - Complete Surrender

Claiming influences from Frankie Valli to Katy Perry - admittedly you could have gleaned that from access to their first two albums and Rebecca's Twitter account - third album Complete Surrender is out July 14th. As the previously released track Tears Of Joy suggested this is a subtle but hefty step sideways, filled out by a rush of electronic beats as it gleefully skips between soul and modern pop depending largely on who's singing, nodding to their mates Summer Camp in doing so. Then big strings come on just to finish it off in a way that hints, surely unintentionally, of My Life Story.

John MOuse - I Was A Goalkeeper

It's the first football suggestive song of World Cup year! Four albums in John MOuse are offbeat Welsh indie of a type you didn't think you really got any more, meaning the blurb's attempt at promoting it as a big crossover terrace anthem are perhaps wide of the mark, not least as it's actually about childhood dreams through the medium of kickabouts in the park. Gareth Campesinos! (who was making noises about his own band contributing to the England cause this summer not long ago) shouts along on the chorus, a big guitar hook drives through the middle like a runaway HGV and it's done in three minutes.

Cosines - Commuter Love

Cosines put out one of our favourite indie debut singles last year in Hey Sailor Boy!, and they return to the ever useful Fika for its 7" follow-up, filching Goldfrapp's electro-glam stomp for a tale of lives lost to the working week. Apparently the unavailable B-side sounds like "Camera Obscura was influenced by Neu! and fronted by Kirsty MacColl". The mind boggles.

Sylvan Esso - Coffee

A Hype Machine #1 more than a month ago! Who says we're slow to trends round here? A collaboration between Mountain Man's Amelia Meath and Megafaun's Nick Sanborn, it explores Au Revoir Simone's territory of twinkling, gauzy electronic pop with extra longing, the video not straying too far from that aesthetic. Their album is out 2nd June and they're doing European dates in May with tUnE-yArDs, which seems an intriguing match.

Friday, March 21, 2014

One more for the week: Cloud Boat, Witching Waves, Firestations, Kim Deal

Cloud Boat - Carmine

The first new material from the duo since last year's Book Of Hours album is bolder than the misty wisps that enveloped much of that work, the beats more frontloaded and the synths more kaleidoscopic in approach as the lyrics explores the world of discovery and the fear of the unknown alike. An intriguing step in all ways.

Witching Waves - Concrete

Scuzzily primal duos that are in no way 'bluesy' can be quite a tricky thing to pull off and make sound separate from those around them. Witching Waves manage it by locating a stripped back essence of longing amid the fulsome snare bashing and distorto-riffage. Lovely clattering false ending too. Soft Power are putting this out on, being the modern retro way, cassingle on April 21st.

Firestations - Forgetful Man

Do you remember American Analog Set? Their melding of chiming guitars and subtle electronics as equal partners is a good indication of what to expect from Firestations, who feature Quickspace alumni and here explore warm, laid back harmonic melodicism. It'd seem much better suited to the next season along, we'd be bound.

Kim Deal and Morgan Nagler - The Root

We've heard a couple of warped, minimalist Deal solo tracks in the last year or so and despite being a collaboration with Whispertown's Nagler this doesn't seem much different, a wire-thin but likeably twisted riff backing a chantable emotional wreck.

Kim Deal and Morgan Nagler - 'The Root' [Official Video] from Kim Deal Music [Official] on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Martha - 1997, Passing In The Hallway

If you studied yesterday's post about this weekend's Leicester Indiepop Alldayer intently, like you should have done, you'll have spotted a prominent position for Pity Me's straight-edge rocket-powered indiepop-punk dynamos Martha. The light was officially lit under them today on the announcement the mighty Fortuna Pop! label will be putting out their debut album Courting Strong at the end of May, bringing with it another entry from the STN Favourite I-Spy list, MJ off of Hookworms producing. The first single is classic harmonic buzzsaw pop, slightly melodically straighter than their 2012 EP, given the teenage kick pop subject of school crushes. And it contains a mention of the double helix in the chorus. Is it too much to hope, after 1978, Smiling Politely and 1848, Yawning Discreetly from that EP, every track on the album is titled like that? And thenceforth every track on every album?

Thursday's children: Farewell JR, King Post Kitsch, Gymnast, Dad Rocks!

Farewell J.R - Skin Pieces

Taken from second proper EP And Still, out April 21st, a song that seems to float under its own steam on rough seas, building on swelling arrangements that culminate in elegaic strings and lucidly broken vocals in finding the moments of realisation in the dark.

King Post Kitsch - The Days Keep Coming

A previous recording by Glasgow's Charlie Ward appeared on one of our compilations, so little hesitation from this end in recommending a track, unsettled in its tightly nervously coiled, attractively rhythmic scrappiness, from his second album Sheep On A Beach, out April 14th.

Gymnast - Geneva

Manchester-based duo play with the delicacy and intrigue in stuttering, atmospheric synths, shuddering and struggling to locate its psychological place like a warmer London Grammar or freeze-dried out-take from Present Tense.

Dad Rocks! - Peers

I see, sending out a track with the lyric "you even embedded a SoundCloud in hope that it helps out with crowds at gigs" for blog embedding. Quixotic Danish-based Icelander Snævar Albertsson's second album in this guise Year Of The Flesh, out in September, deals with weighty issues of ageing and the modern world while sounding like a lo-fi folk equivalent of Yoni Wolf, but starts off with a treatise on the ethics of filesharing. But not with the sort of tone you might imagine.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Ten: The Spook School's favourite things in music

As those who follow us on Twitter will know, we have our third annual indiepop soiree at Leicester Firebug coming up this Saturday, followed by a warm-down nearer the city centre on Sunday. Details/artwork:

£8 advance tickets are still available (and there'll be plenty enough on the door); full details on the Facebook event.

Even with that engagement getting in the way, this looks like being a big year for Edinburgh's Spook School, whose album of the tail-end of last year Dress Up matchmakes insistent jangly pop-punk with smart lyrics largely about identity and sexuality, with a side order of an acclaimed live show that's known to veer off in all sorts of banter-based directions. As part of the build-up to Saturday, they told us what they like most about what they do:

- When a song's chords spell a word. Like BEG. Or CAB. Or PHILANTHROPY (It's a toughie, you've got to use ALL your fingers. On both hands.)

- When you spend all night on a bus and you don't get any sleep so the next day you experience auditory hallucinations of exciting new backing vocals in all your favourite songs.

- When a guitar goes "ehehryrhheueheheue" which is a rough phonetic translation of a feedbacky guitar.

- When David Bowie does music. Highlights include when he makes music AND films. Like Labyrinth. And he sings that song in it. You know, that song.

- When gigs are indoors so the likelihood of birds attacking the stage is low. And if birds do attack we know our escape routes as the fire exits are helpfully illuminated in most music venues.

- When Niall is able to take his top off in the guise of musically-influenced joy when really his top is two sizes too small and chafing his nipples.

- When you invent a new dance move and everyone thinks you're a genius. In the future everybody will perform the 'Tofu Twist'!

- When your guitar string breaks and it cuts your finger and you bleed all over your guitar and everyone thinks you're really cool. But inside the pain is really bad and you're holding back the urge to call your Mum.

- When you hear a song that seems to perfectly mirror your current emotion. Like that one time when we felt the emotion 'anticipation' and then PJ and Duncan's Let's Get Ready To Rhumble came on and it seemed to capture our feelings perfectly!

- When you pretend a song is your theme tune and when you enter a room you punctuate it with a superhero pose. And even if you don't save the day at least you know you sounded good on entry. Ooooooh yeah!

Official audio: tUnE-yArDs, Lykke Li, Marika Hackman, School Of Language

tUnE-yArDs - Water Fountain

The first release from Merrill's third album Nikki Nack, which like every other album made in the last nine months or so is out May 5th - seriously, labels, talk to each other once in a while - is as usual a whirlwind of whooping, almost speaking-in-tongues chanting and looped percussion, the propulsion and call-and-response structure at least initially sounding like a modernising of those early rock and roll sock hops of a Clapping Song/Iko Iko bent. That's just the sound of it before gradually building up steam, though, with Garbus dropping in plaintively sung snippets alluding to "blood soaked dollar" and "watching us til we're gone". 4AD's video perhaps inevitably doesn't focus on those bits.

Lykke Li - No Rest For The Wicked

Another album out May 5th is I Never Learn, increasingly seeming to be Lykke attempting to reinvent herself as showstopping torch singer. There's a little more to this track than Love Me Like I'm Not Made of Stone, as posted a couple of weeks ago, but it still sounds set in a vast desolate space with Li lost in her rawest of emotional letdowns.

Marika Hackman - Call Off The Dogs

Another pained, spare second emission/escape from a haunted return, this one the Deaf Heat EP out April 14th. Hackman seems haunted by the indefinable, the backing drifts serenely through the woods at night.

School Of Language - Dress Up

David Brewis' continuing investigations into white northern funk lead him into something almost freeze-dried, falsetto and wired to the mains around its edges like Lynx exhumed and given a faulty autopsy. Old Fears is out April 7th.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Ten: We Three And The Death Rattle's favourite songs and debut albums

Helping bring this feature back after its stalled start last year, WTATDR were one of our tips for 2014, their scuzzy, distorted garage blues (with added theremin) attracting attention from the likes of Josh T Pearson and Craig Finn as touring partners. Their fine debut album came out last month, meaning it's high time we found out what music brought them here.

WTATDR: Album Teaser from WeTheConspirators on Vimeo.

Chain And The Gang - It's A Hard, Hard Job (Keeping Everybody High)
Aesop Rock - 1,000 O'Clock
Charles Bradley - The World Is Going Up In Flames
Dead Moon - I Hate The Blues
Fugazi - Turnover
The Childballads - Cheekbone Hollows
Free Kitten - Call Back
Ol' Dirty Bastard - Shimmy Shimmy Ya
The Amps - Tipp City
Scout Niblett - Gun

And their favourite debut albums:

Dead Moon - In The Graveyard
Ol' Dirty Bastard - Return To The 36 Chambers
Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill
The Make-Up - Destination: Love - Live! At Cold Rice
Fugazi - Repeater
The Breeders - Pod
PJ Harvey - Dry
The Gun Club - Fire Of Love
The Saints - (I'm) Stranded
Beastie Boys - Licensed To Ill

Friday, March 14, 2014

Wrapping up another working week: Broken Records/Trust Fund/Ides

Broken Records - Revival

If the first track we heard from the Toska EP, out 24th March, took them a step closer to more overtly windswept compatriots, this one carries on down its own ambitious path, starting like it wants nothing and nobody to get in its way and building from there. Swelling without having to artlessly become 'epic', its peaks and troughs are just as we found them all those years ago right through the moment the thing bursts wide open and becomes actively celebratory.

Trust Fund - No Surprise

Ellis Jones' soul baring came to our attention not long ago on the Don't Let Them Begin EP, which felt a British south-western kinship with Lou Barlow-like cracked directness. On this new track, which will feature on a Reeks Of Effort split EP, Sick of Hits Vol​.​2, Ellis uses acoustic fragility to cut himself away from his friends before a distorted roar of electric guitar attempts vainly to take over. Trust Fund is playing the Reeks Of Effort Prom on Saturday 15th - that's tomorrow - at the DIG arts space in Lewisham, alongside Playlounge, Saturday's Kids, King Of Cats, Poledo, Lone Omi and...

Ides - Machine

...well, not Ides actually, but Alanna McArdle's other employers Joanna Gruesome. As with that above Ides is a vehicle through which McArdle can fling her rawest thoughts into the ether, though here she's literally and metaphorically keeping her distance from anything too sharply pointed.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

And the next one: Free Swim, Fuck Art Let's Dance!, Luke Haines

Free Swim - You Get Out What You Putin

Ooh, topical. Well, not really. Their return EP Well Done Everyone is out May 5th; from it comes some heavy circular riffage and some quixotic rapidfire lyrics.

Fuck Art, Let's Dance! - We're Manicals!

Alongside their love of exclamation marks we'd like to think this band are named after the early Madness slogan, despite being from Hamburg. It's not a hint that follows through to the music, mind, this being halting, darkly warped electronically aided guitar pop of a fairly Everything Everything bent. Their album Atlas is out 28th April.


Luke Haines - Alan Vega Says

The completion of Haines' squelchy psychedelia/pop cultural nostalgia/high tariff individualism trilogy, NY In The 70s, out May 19th, is "a mythic re-imagining of the New York Rock n Roll scene 1972 - 1979". Well, it would never be a straight retelling, would it?

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Today's good stuff: Farewell JR, Fujiya & Miyagi, Juce, Archie Bronson Outfit

Farewell J.R - Slow Breath

Having just been out on Communion's New Faces tour (headlined by Luke Sital-Singh) his/their first material since the Health EP is a delicate thing, reverbed and pensive, a thing of picturesque serenity, like a painting of a misty Scandinavian lake. But with music. And then someone deliberately spills a few gallons of oil into the lake as massed strings and noises slash across the peace, turning the vocals from stillness to loss.

Fujiya & Miyagi - Flaws

The electro-motorik the Brighton outfit have extended across four albums outright transforms into the propulsive pulses of prime Moroder on the opening track from their fourth album Artificial Sweeteners, out May 5th. Less quixotic than some of their previous work but no less enveloping.

Juce - Braindead

Is it too reductive to call the London trio the British female !!!? (What? Oh alright, the British female Chk Chk Chk) Releasing this through Dan Carey's Speedy Wunderground label it's fairly indebted to ESG - especially when they nick the call-outs from Dance towards the end - with an extra bubbly disco groove that nods at their self-definition as a girl group. But with that indelibly fluid punk-funk rhythm section, not that much.

Archie Bronson Outfit - Two Doves On A Lake

They're back! Albeit without bassist Dorian Hobday but with their psychedelic attack mode still fully engaged on this serrated lope that's taken a step back from Cuckoo's cliff edge to roam the undergrowth. Recent collaborator Kristian 'Capitol K' Robinson produces and is presumably responsible for the bubbling synth bass and Duke Garwood popping by with free jazz abandon just to put the tin lid on the deal. Album Wild Crush follows on May 19th.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

The Tuesday select: Marika Hackman/Sharon Van Etten/Lykke Li/White Lung

Marika Hackman - Deep Green

The preview from the Deaf Heat EP, out 14th April, is more ghostly than what we've heard before from Hackman, driven by haunting wails, tribal percussion and something in the background that's either detuned strings or prepared piano. That fragile voice is still front and centre, as are her personal neuroses.

Sharon Van Etten - Taking Chances

Having explored the personal, emotionally cracked depths and fights on Tramp, the first taste from Are We There (May 25th) goes off in a separate direction, one where the production is much smoother and Van Etten in a more contented place. The backing nods to R&B production and droning organ sounds, sounding not all that dissimilar from latter day Cat Power's excursions.

Lykke Li - Love Me Like I'm Not Made Of Stone

Lykke claims of I Never Learn, out May 4th, that "every song on the album is a power ballad". That's getting there for this very stripped back track, which takes away the electronic background we're used to in favour of a field recorded acoustic guitar and an emotionally tender vocal. You do fear she's released the mid-album showstopper first rather than an easier way in, but maybe that's the point.

White Lung - Down With The Monster

And now for something completely different. Vancouver hardcore punks White Lung, newly overground on Domino, are one of a tranche of recent new(ish) bands bringing feminist theory and anger to already thunderously noisy indie-rock. Their new 7" is a fine example of getting a pit to centrifugal force speed within just over two minutes.