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  tasty 19 albums
-Melodie Group
-The Guild League
-The Broken Family Band

Pipas - A Cat Escaped (Matinee Records)
Without wanting to sound like nasty piece of work, I wasn’t expecting much of this. I hadn’t really liked much of Pipas’’ earlier stuff, far too tricksy thought I! But then isn’t it wonderful when you’re surprised? And Pipas have not only surprised tasty with this perfectly formed little album, but they have charmed tasty too, which is no mean feat...

Many of the songs here clock in at around the two minute mark and four dip under. And so Pipas have 10 great pop songs on their hands. ‘‘What Nobody Does’’ opens us up to their gentle world, but it’s not until we hit track three - ‘‘barbapapa’’, that we really nail the Pipas ouevre. Theirs are stunningly simple songs, yet stunningly strong. Mixing sythns with the odd guitar may sound like something Jesus Jones did very badly a very long time ago, but what we have here are ten of the most finely crafted and lovingly put together songs that you’ll ever hear. ‘‘Rock and/or Roll’’ is particularly perfect, with its dreamy vocals and cute electro backdrop to make something that is at once both twee and, somehow, a little bit sexy. I know...I should calm down.

Easy! Because with tracks like ‘‘Old Kent Road’’ and ‘‘A Cat Escaped’’ Pipas excel in the art of the maudlin, with careful strummed guitars and hazy vocals.

There is a sense that this is a small, personal, very intense album. But don’t let that fool you, because this sort of music everyone should hear. Charmed.

  Razorcuts - R is for..... (Matinee Records)
Being of a certain age, I only vaguely remember the C-86..well, I was gonna say explosion, but it was never really that. At the time I seemed to immersed in my personal holy trinity of The Smiths, The Housemartins and The Cure to worry about bands like Razorcuts who were never gonna get in the proper charts and were, by definition, a bit rubbish. I wish I knew then what I knew now, that’s all I can say...

This beautifully packaged Razorcuts compilation has hardly left my stereo for the last month. So this is what was happening whilst I was in the gap between ‘‘The Head on the Door’’ and ‘‘Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me’’, and whilst I was swirling to ‘‘The Queen is Dead’’ Razorcuts were using the twelve string with more guile than Johnny Marr.

Each one of the 21 one tracks here is marvellous. And that’s the truth. From the mad, joyous rush of ‘‘Big Pink Cake’’ to the very deep beauty of ‘‘Try’’ to possibly the jangliest song ever in ‘‘Jade’’, each of these tracks are treasures, that in such a desolate musical climate, it is a joy to discover.

Sure, this is pure nostalgia, for a time I remember that was both pure and exciting. But listen to some of the later tracks here and you’ll hear where The Stone Roses learned their trade, and where most of those who still hold indie-pop so dear today have taken their lead from. Pioneers? Maybe not. Inspirational? Definitely.


Souvenir - Points de Suspension (Shelflife)
Oh how utterly marvellous this record is. Honestly, it’s bloody ace. I can’t quite believe the standard of indie pop coming out of Matinee and Shelf life at the moment - this is truly a golden era.

Souvenir are without exception, the coolest band on earth, and anyone who challenges this will lose their toes in a bizarre cheese toastie accident. These are 13 tracks of perfection, each sung in French, each contrasting between the Jane Birkin whispers of the title track to stylish jangle of tracks such as ‘Je Tiens ma Parole’, which reminds me a little of Hefner in their country and western guise.

If it’s the ultimate thrill of guitar pop that you need, look no further than this. And if you can resist the preceding 12 tracks, ‘Harley Davidson’ll get you in the end, you see if it doesn’t! A classic.


Melodie Group - Updownaround (Matinee Records)
His name is....his name is....his name is....Roy Thirlwall. Funky he is not. A genius he most certainly is. Not only does Roy play in The Windmills, he is also the Melodie Group, and both of these bands, you should know by now are outrageously good.

Updownaround, Melodie Group’s second long player is the sort of record any sort of serious fan wishes Morrissey would make, instead of pissing about with those rockabilly chancers. ‘Hold’ is the first outstanding track. Based around the simplest of guitar parts and a rather eerie keyboard, Roy croons on be touched up. Clear Morrissey territory. ‘Summerness’ from an earlier ep is also included here, and sounds as fresh and lovely as it did last year. Simplicity is what counts in both of these records. Thirwell has that kind of plaintive voice that suits these kind of fragile yet nagging soundscapes, and what’s the more the lyrics make the spaces in the songs seem not only right, but essential.

You really want to know my favourite track? I couldn’t tell you. ‘I Do Not Not Love You’ is a pure pop nugget, but I’m not sure if I prefer that or something as warm and intimate as ‘Bathtub Full of Water’. Each is a simple love song. And each is magical. Can you tell I’m astounded? Good.


Artisokka - A Hiding Place in the Arbor (Shelflife)
Yeah, and so what if all the albums so far have been from two labels. What does it matter when the two of them are putting out such stunning records. ‘A Hiding Place in the Arbor’ is another one of these. Slightly different from what we’ve had before, yet oddly the same. Because Artisokka have class in kettle fulls. Theirs is a more hazy, slightly trippy take on the pop formula, but it is sure is pretty.

‘Motionless’ sets the scene for the rest of the album, all heavily strummed guitars and breathy vocals from...oohh...whoever it is. There then follows eight tracks of gentle, almost acoustic pop songs. This brings to mind last year’s Neil Halstead album in the way that nearly all the tracks here are in style at least, written in the vein of the classic songwriter. Think Simon & Garfunkel or Nick Drake, but don’t think too far back, Atrisokka are here for you today. Hurray!


The Guild League - Private Transport (Matinee Records)
Brainchild of Tali White, The Guild League’s line-up - if you can call it that - reads like a who’s who of Antipodean indie pop. In all, 16 people contributed to the music on this album, so you’d expect a bit of a mess, wouldn’t you? Of course you’d be wrong! The Guild League wrote last year’s best single in Jet-Set....Go!’ and they don’t piss about by making that the opener here.

I guess that this is an album about travel. Hence the title, and also the subject of most of the songs. But anyone expecting a Lucksmiths album is going to be disappointed - hell, some of this album is a touch funky (!) especially the wonderfully funny ‘Siamese Couplets’, and I don’t think I know another album that namechecks so many holiday destinations.

There are, of course, moments of Lucksmiths-like beauty, listen to ‘Gravity’ for this, but what you have here is an album of no little versatility. Perfect for holidays and days at home alike, ‘Private Transport’ could well be your favourite album of 2003....already....


The Broken Family Band - The King Will Build a Disco (Snowstorm)
Odd what a trip to Texas can do for you. In a past life Jay and Steven had been in third division indie band, Hofman, now they’re in one the UK’s finest alt. country groups. And using their new found Yankophilia, Jay and Steven and their cohorts have made this delightfully quaint debut mini lp. You have seven tracks here of delightfully laid back musings, from gem of opener ‘Queen of the Sea’, to where they try and get angry and fail wonderfully on ‘Off the Radar’. Fine stuff that has me rubbing my chaps in delight. Ho, ho, ho.....