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  albums - dec 2004


Siobhan Parr - The Lights in this Town are Too Many to Count (IRL)
This review has taken me ages to write as I have been blowing hot and cold about Siobhan Parr since I first heard a snippet of her album whilst up a ladder decorating. I tried listening to the album a number of times but failed to capture that initial gusto. I realize that what was needed was an hour alone in a comfortable chair with a couple of whiskies. With a little effort this album can be a very pleasant experience indeed.

I was surprised to hear that Siobhan is a Londoner, her voice sounds like classic American country/blues. I would like to make comparisons to the greats of that genre, but unfortunately I am not au-fait with the talent. Siobhan's lyrics are mature and intelligent, a further surprise then, to discover she is only 19 years of age.

I do have some gripes with the album. It is a collection of love songs and you need to be in the mood for such an emotional onslaught. This focus on the "Love thing" may have been a conscious decision, but her next offering needs to spread the lyrical net wider to get my dollar.

The album starts off strong with "lose my dress", a great foot tapping number with a beautiful plucked guitar. This and the fourth track "any other way" are my favourites. I notice they are both accompanied by "Graham Henderson" on keyboards and additional guitar, so thumbs up to that collaboration.

Clearly the lady has taste, with a live cover of Tim Buckley's "buzzin Fly" for the encore. I haven't heard the original of this track (shame on me) but she does the song real justice and I love it. It allows her to show off her vocal gymnastics and great vocal range as she moves effortlessly through the scale.

I have a hunch that Siobhan will throw a great live gig and would love to see her in an intimate little club.

Neil Brackenridge

Pinback – ‘Summer of Abaddon’ (Touch and Go)
I’ll start this by saying one thing, I fucking love Pinback. For a good few years I have followed what they’ve produced continually annoyed but the lack of attention and credence they receive and, before their move to Touch and Go, constant frustration at the struggle it was to get hold of any of their material (the are perhaps linked me thinks).

Anyway I had known about the imminent release of a new album for some time and as you do with any band you love waited with both excitement and worry, what if this is the time it alls goes wrong?

It is immediately evident even from the first few bars that this isn’t the case with 'Summer of Abaddon'. ‘Non-Photo Blue’ demonstrates the sound that is synonymous with them and leads onto sender a song nothing short of stunning.  Pinback manage to somehow bring together Brian Wilson-esque harmonies with a sinister edge coupled with grooves and repetition and continuous hooks and end up sounding like no one else but Pinback themselves.

‘Fortress’ works as a perfect example for exactly what makes Pinback such a thoroughly inspiring band utilising live instrumentation, programmed beats and pitch perfect harmonies. This builds and guilds along together layers up and then piece by piece is pulled back down.

However it is in the finale ‘AFK’ that all the stops are pulled out and Pinback may have found their greatest song to date. Thumping drums lead into a passion-fuelled masterpiece, both angry and loud and thoughtful and gentle. Remarkable

I’m sure this is said with every new Pinback release but in a fair world Pinback would be played on the radio and this album would pull them from the relative obscurity they seem to hold to the view of an adoring public. We can but hope.

Luke Drozd

Elliot Smith - From a Basement on the Hill (Domino)
Authentic artists such as Elliot can be used to gauge the depth and integrity of modern music, just as the declining amphibian population indicates the state of our ponds; both are the first to suffer from a poor state of affairs. This offering sprinkles together the ethereal touch of Aqualung and the tenderness of The Finn Brothers, with the coup de grace being a splash of body swaying sixties flower pop. ‘Let’s get lost’ encapsulates the poignancy and depth of Elliot, while the zapping ‘Shooting Star’ demonstrates he possessed energy and diversity until the end.

Dave Adair

DAC Crowell - 04 - 83 (Suilven)
DAC Crowell has apparently been making music for over twenty years and this double CD is labelled a 'retrospective' comprising six tracks which cover most of this period, three at quarter of an hour, two half hour tracks and a slim six minuter. Interestingly the shortest track is the lame duck here a with an indistinct wheezy clattering sound that betrays both DAC Crowell's industrial music roots and perhaps why they where given up long ago for the kind of music which makes up the rest of the album.

These long-form tracks are each based on a synthesiser wash/drone into which various melodies are are faded in and out, so on 'ahnomia' a synthesised sound suggesting a softly stroked harp is played off against a more fizzy metallic synthesis in increasingly noticeable washes. This can be compared to the track 'rising invocations' where the background is a fuller sound with more bass and the other main sound has a more tinkly vibrato feel to the melodies.

Both the half hour tracks follow a similar methodology and at various points individual sounds bring to mind Elaine Radigue, Pauline Oliveros and Steve Reich, however the overall feel of the album is that of the early Seventies synthesiser bands from Germany that DAC Crowell mentions in his notes and the instrumental (rather than sample based) ambient music of the early nineties. 'rhapsodic' a track recorded as group called LVXUS seems to acknowledge this and halfway through a simple live drum motif is woven into the synth washes, the drumming has a very full sound which allows a decent attack and decay to be heard and gives the track an edge and provides a distinctive voice both on this album and from the general ambient soup. If this all seems a bit New Agey I would say the main distinction is that here slightly (very slightly) rougher sounds and textures make an appearance, although after ten minutes of the same leitmotif the ear adjusts to any rough edges and so the effect becomes much the same and so it's all a matter of your tolerance of such things, personally I prefer a drone with more bite and to me this is like a warm bath of sound - pleasant enough, but after half an hour you realise that the day is slipping away and the water's been slowly cooling down.

Richard Faith

Foma – Icecaves (Little Kiss Records)
It gives me a glow inside to receive amazing little albums like this. Hot dog! Jumping frog! Foma are from Alberquerque, and they make such a fantastic little noise.

‘Icewaves’ is a brute to peg down, mainly because Foma use the odd piece of off-kilter indie rock to augment what is basically a sweet, sweet indie pop sound. But I give them extra pocket money for using a violin. But to get back to pop again; Foma do it just as good as anyone else. Whether it be the full on jangle onslaught that is ‘3D Mansions’ or the more ethereal, brittle beauty of ‘Junior’, POP! music is at the very centre of Foma.

However, there is more to Foma than just a stab at jangle pop. ‘Rooftops’, for example teaches the vastly overrated Flaming Lips a thing or two about anthemic space-pop, and can rock out, angular style, like Pavement when they want to – see ‘Sydney Smathers’.

All of which makes ‘Icecaves’ a very pleasing, decidedly old-skool indie pop album. Not indie pop in the sense of hairslides and hello kitty, but sometimes that can becomes far too sickly, but very much a pop record all the same. I embrace them.

Sam Metcalf

Instant Species - Plan E
Plan E is Instant Species’ 5th self-produced and released album since forming in 1997. While most would have lost all faith and gone back to the day job, Instant species have plugged away largely it would appear, for their own amusement, which is more the pity, because this is fab.

It is depressing that an industry seemingly preoccupied with dredging up wannabes to mould into carbon copies of the latest fad in their quest for a quick buck; can overlook those bands that do not conform to the latest zeitgeist, but instead have not forgotten that music is first and foremost about entertainment.

But such is life, which leaves Instant Species to entertain themselves, and who ever else happen to listen, which if there were any justice would be .

There is nothing ground breaking here, just a collection of great tunes, none of which can be easily pigeonholed. By releasing their own records, Instant Species are able to record whatever takes their fancy, without being concerned with the constraints of conforming with a particular genre.

Plan E ranges from the straightforward punk of Find Yourself and No Centrefold through the sweetly melancholic country of “Scott Free” (had me reaching several times for the repeat button), culminating in a charmingly perverse hidden track, which sounds uncannily like Vic Reeves’ spoof of Barry White.

She Gives Me Nothing starts out like the Kinks’ Dead End Street, before launching into a chorus that earns innumerable brownie points for its “wooo wooo wooo” backing vocals. Formula 1 dabbles with disco, while Night In The City is an infectious blend of the Strokes with a dash of, dare I say it, Shawaddywaddy minus the cheese.  

Whilst it sounds like the band has had a whale of a time making this album, they haven’t cut corners on the quality; how many demo cd’s come with not one but two home produced promotional videos? Not just crappy home videos either, there is as much imagination and humour gone into these as in the music.

Instant Species’ refreshing eclecticism deserves the kind of praise lauded on that of The Coral a few years back, and I’m baffled, frankly, that they have yet be signed whilst the industry bigwigs continue to peddle dross of the highest order.

However, who cares, as long as the band continues to produce stuff of this quality on their own there is hope. In the meantime, its available from their website, treat yourself.  

Leighton Cooksey

The Prefects – Are Amateur Wankers (Acute Records)
I have loved punk for many years, vehemently and passionately at times. I loved it enough to spend a chunk of my late teens playing a punk band and I even wrote a paper on its history and ethics once. I therefore thought I had a pretty good Knowledge of the subject. If that’s the case then how could a band as good as the Prefects never surface on my radar?

For those who like me have never previously had the pleasure of the Prefects before a brief history may be in order. They were formed in 1977 in Birmingham and over the space of only a few years they mutated from an above average punk outfit into the purveyors of post-punk songs as good as anything from the Fall. Before releasing any records proper they pushed themselves further and were reinvented as the Nightingales. It is now thanks to Acute Records that we get to hear all the Prefects sessions plus a couple of live tracks to boot.

This collection of tracks proves many of us may have been missing out on a hearing an important and brilliant band. From the earlier more traditional punk sounding numbers like ‘VD’ (Peels favourite apparently) an ‘Escort Girls’ to the early post punk tracks which show there want and need to be more than just another punk band by utilising more angular complex songs structures and experimentalism (saxophones anyone, or maybe guitar and clarinet duet solos). This is shown on two of the best songs you probably never got to hear, the slow almost stoner-esque ‘Going Through the Motions’ and the superb ‘Total Luck’. But perhaps the crowning glory of this record is the wonderful 10 minute masterpiece about a pub bombing ‘The Bristol Road Leads to Dachau’, a song that should be heard by anyone who truly loves and respects music.

The prefects were a band who deserved more recognition when they were making this music and who definitely deserve your time and attention now.

Luke Drozd

Misterlee – Night of the Killer Longface (RCR)
Anyone who’s seen Misterlee’s often captivating live show will not be disappointed by how his nightmarish epics turn out on this, the second Misterlee lp.

Y’see, Misterlee makes a fucking terrifying sound. “Slug from the cup of blame”, are the first words Lee Allatson screams on this album, and you know you’re in for a bumpy ride from there on in. There are samples of wicked laughs, bone shaking drums and moans and groans I last heard on the ghost train at Skegness. And if that’s not enough to fill you with dread, I don’t know what is.

Only rarely does the spookiness let up on this album, notably on ‘Kind’, but even that has something not altogether right about it.

If you can imagine Tom Waits fronting a bunch of music playing zombies from ‘Night of the Living Dead’ then you’re pretty much near the sound of ‘Night of the Killer Longface’. Misterlee scare me Mummy.

Sam Metcalf

Collections of Colonies of Bees – Customer (Polyvinyl)
Customer is nothing if not complex. Its three different release formats (LP, CD and Japanese release) are three different interpretations of the same album all of which are an amalgamation of traditional instrumentation and electronic interventions. It is simple and complex, it is minimal and full, and it is an album almost beyond categorisation.

The album specialises in tracks that would be more truthfully classified as movements than songs and from first hum to final thrum they are multifaceted works of wonder. What this album really deals with is a sense of emotion and one that is constantly changing. It can be relaxing and hypnotic and then feel claustrophobic and tense. Every track is constantly surprising and leaves never knowing quite what you should think of it.

This album is a joyous celebration of a band doing what they thought was right whether anyone else paid heed or not. In doing this they have given us a fresh, startling and noteworthy musical experience that truly defies categorisation.

Luke Drozd

Would-be-Goods – The Morning After (Fortuna Pop!)
In a world that is and endless repeat of the fucking X Factor, any kind of high art should be accessible to the masses. Thank heavens, then, that Would-be-Goods are here to save us all.

‘The Morning After’ is easily the best WBG album so far, and their most accessible. This is a record that makes me feel happier on a cold winter’s day. It makes me want to do that little heel kick thing that Eric Morecombe and Ernie Wise used to do. But not in public, you understand.

Yes, so this is album crammed with great pop songs. From the opening rush of ‘Pantomime Devil’ and on through ‘What Adam and Eve Did Next’ and onto the dainty baroque strummings of ‘The King of Lace’, Jessica Griffin and co – and the co this times includes the sublime Lupe Nunez-Fernandez from Pipas  - have made a truly strong album.

Some of the guitar playing here is fantastic, and Peter Momtchiloff makes the who thing swing so well with his choppy Smiths chords and gentle strings here and there. When he wants to rock out (in the gentlest sense, of course), he can, most notably on the title track and ‘Miss La-di-Dah’. Elsewhere he picks a mean string of the beautiful closing track, ‘Dear St Valentine’, possibly my favourite here.

So, if you’re feeling a little damp this winter, simply listen to ‘The Morning After’ for that…errm…woolly double glazed effect. Then get Ted Moult round to listen to it. Pop at its most righteous.

Sam Metcalf

Kate Maki – Confusion unlimited
Kate Maki is a Canadian singer songwriter who was recommended to me in the interview he did with Tasty last month. Now what man alive won’t take the advice and judgement of Howe Gelb seriously/ not me that’s for sure so I got Kate to send me a copy…it didn’t arrive. Royal fucking Mail again folks. Thankfully Kate was good enough to realise that I have little to know control over the postal service so sent me another copy. I say thankfully because this album is a true treat.

Kate plays country-tinged folk that aches with laidback candour. On tracks like strangest Dram she sounds startlingly like a cross between Jolie Holland and Laura Viers as lap steel and a whole host of other subdued backing glides along effortlessly with Kate. That is very much how the whole album feels. Its intimate and relaxed, the kind of album you find yourself leaning into to the speakers to listen to, as if this will help you and the music become better acquainted.

This is a record full of hushed tones, plucked melodies and drifting simply stunning songs. To top that off it comes with a recommendation from Howe Gelb. How on earth can you possibly ignore this?

Luke Drozd

Co Star – Keep it Light (Only Ever Records)
I do wonder about some people. Y’know..when they first pick up a guitar or whatever, and decide to form a band.  Do they set out to be different, or do they just think that they’re different?

Whichever path Co Star took, it hasn’t really worked. ‘Keep it Light’ falls between many stools. It’s not emo. It’s not rock. It’s not indie. Sometimes this is a good thing, of course, and maybe I’m just trying to pigeonhole them because I’m a lazy bugger, but I’d beg to differ. Most of this album falls into the same dull territory that the Manic Street Preachers seem happy to inhabit these days. And I hope that Co Star don’t take that as a compliment.

Some people will love their rocky musings. But rarely has there been a more apt title for an album.

Sam Metcalf

The Icicles – A Hundred Patters (Microindie)
It’s such a joy to know that this band are still together. Scoot through the tasty archives to find a review of The Icicles’ last album, and there’s an interview somewhere too. But back to the now, because the fag end of 2004 sees the band release their second wonderful album. ‘A Hundred Patterns’ reminds me of the Popguns at their best, and is girl-flavoured pop at its finest.

If you can imagine the sweetest sound you’ve ever heard, spread thickly across your favourite bread, then you don’t even get close to The Icicles’ majesty. Not only that, but this album came wrapped in a dress pattern, complete with an Icicles sewing kit. Now that, readers, is class.

The music? Well, take your pick from all 11 tracks here. My favourites are the way cute ‘Happy Place’ which has some of the best keyboards you’ll hear on any song EVER, and ‘Snowman’ which is just the most perfect pop song I think I’ve ever heard.

Put it this way; if you don’t buy this album your life will be dull and empty. Do you really want to take the chance on not hearing one of the best albums 2004 had to offer? I thought not…

Sam Metcalf

Owen – I Do Perceive (Polyvinyl Records)
Mike Kinsella has been rather prolific when it comes to his recording carer to date including stints in Cap’n Jazz, Joan of Arc and Owls. Utilising the skills and experience he gained from this rather illustrious list in recent years he has begun recording solo work under the pseudonym ‘Owen’ and I Do Perceive is the latest full length form this solo offering.

What kinsella achieves with I Do Perceive is a sort of rich and personal record of lush acoustic numbers frequently sombre in tone and often with a subtle complexity. A track like ‘That Tattoo isn’t Funny Anymore’ demonstrates this as well as anything else present here as a small tight repeating guitar part opens up into a full meandering number. This tends to be true for much of the album as it features some rather warm and complex music and pared back vocals.

The problem I do have with this release is though I don’t know if it has enough to it to keep it form being more than just another nice set of acoustic songs focused around heartbreak. It too easily steers towards being self-obsessed and heartbroken for the sake of it and can fail to continually engage.

When kinsella gets it write it can be a beautiful experience to share but I’m just not sure if he has the talent to avoid sounding like another grown man who should, well, pull himself together I guess.  

Luke drozd

Various – GoJonnyGoGoGoGo Favourites Vol 1 (GoJohnnyGoGoGoGo Records)
My word, that’s a pain in the arse to type. GJGGGG is Jonny from Leeds, a somewhat legendary gig promoter who puts on ace gigs and the odd all dayer or five. This is his life.

Thankfully, Jonny gets the piss poor Motormark out of the way straight away, and so it’s not a problem that they’re sub-Sheep on  Drugs schtick fills me full of dread, cos you’ve got a whole album to look forward to after track one is out of the way.

There are some great bands on here…Jeffrey Lewis serves up his usual great narrative-pop with the garage-tastic ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’, whilst Bearsuit go mental on the superb-duper ‘Rodent Disco’, Milky Wimpshake make me shiver at just how good they are with ‘I Love You. You Weirdo’, and bugger me if that isn’t The Chemistry Experiment’s ‘You’re the Prettiest Thing’, which really is the prettiest thing.

Compilation albums are more often than not a touch dodgy. This one is most definitely not. Hurray for Jonny. The little go-er.

Sam Metcalf

Aloha – Here Comes Everyone (Polyvinyl Records)
It’s an oddity to say the least to choose the vibraphone as the base element in your bands sound but that is just what Aloha have done. This is however justly one of the many wondrous and surprising things about Aloha.

What Aloha have managed to create in the writing of Her Comes Everyone is one of the most complete pop records in years. They have then taken this and soaked it in ambience and complex layers leaving us with a dense and charming album.

Songs ebb and flow as elements of jazz-rock and pop collide. This results in hazy melodic gems like the wonderful Summer Away a song about moving on and forward whilst always wondering about what we leave in our wake. These sit side by side with tracks like I Don’t Know What Else To Do a jazz steeped song one part Karate one part The Shins with an almost Eastern European folk slant to it.

Aloha are a band whose songs aren’t about any one element. The complex harmonies created by every aspect of the band from vocals through to percussion sit as one entity and its difficult to imagine the tracks arranged any other way. This is Prog in many ways but it avoids ever sounding pretentious but instead trades this for integrity and a refreshing sound that is all of their own.

Luke Drozd

Louis Elliot – The Long Way Round (Independent Records)
This in a ‘nice’ album. In the way that Aled Jones is ‘nice’. Or tomato soup is ‘nice’. I’ve nothing really against it, but maybe it shouldn’t really be here. A bit like Nottingham Forest.

Louis Elliot used to be in some band or other that were a wow on the mid-90s underground scene over here in the UK. I’ve lost the press release, so I’m gonna have a stab at Delta. I apologise if I’m wrong.

Anyway, ‘The Long Way Round’ has plush packaging and a modern sounding retro production, if that makes sense. It’s a singer-songwriting album, half acoustic, half anthemic. If that makes your dinner party go with a swing then you know where to put your cash. Me? I’d rather go for a veggie burger with Napalm Death, truth be told.

Sam Metcalf

Arameus – Is Your Revolution Merely For Display? (Engineer Records)
From first chord you immediately know what you’re getting with Arameus. They’re loud, complex and pretty damn good.

This album demonstrates a new talent on the hardcore scene as Arameus scream, yelp and sing there way through eight tracks which sound like Small Brown Bike being attacked sporadically by a crow with a love of complex metal. We have tight and complex guitar riffs that spiral and build around a mix of gruff screams, pained squawks and sung elements. The overall result is packed with anger but most importantly it’s also packed with talent.

This is a formidable effort for any with an interest in music that is heavy in volume as well as integrity.

Luke Drozd

Nutron Stars – Melody Rules Everything (Handclaps and Fuzz)
Nutron Stars are mucho fun. And the title of this album is possibly very great indeed. Hailing from the grubby Nottingham of Carlton, this band make great little pop songs using, yes that’s right, handclaps and fuzz, and a drum machine, and sound a little bit like very early Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine. Hurrah! Especially on ‘Surfing the Sunshine’. They’re basically the sort of band that should be playing at every office party ever.

They also make me want to dance. Which is to be commended. ‘The Psychic Fire Brigade’ has far too many ‘ba-da-ba’s than is safe for my hips to ignore. This feeling is repeated of many occasions throughout this deliciously funky little mini-album. I think I may want to snog Nutronstars. Lucky them.

Sam Metcalf

Panda Bear – Young Prayer (Paw Tracks Records)
Prayer is a son’s refection on the death of his father; in particular it is Panda Bear from Animal Collective’s reflection about his deceased parent. It is an album concerned with soul searching, honesty and looking for the meaning in events that we have no control over. It is often difficult and musically complex and to top this off all songs are untitled. This could result in a self-obsessed and pretentious piece of work of no relevance to anyone else other than Panda Bear himself. Thankfully for the main part this is not the case.

Aptly named as it is the whole experience of the album does feel at times spiritual and cultish, like being sucked into some odd American collective and giving them all your money before a ritual suicide that corresponds with the summer solstice. It can also sound tender and is a work obviously rooted in mood and the changing of atmospheres rather than traditional songs. This for the most whilst being rather challenging is ultimately actually rather rewarding especially on track 5 which as about as joyous as nonsense can ever truly be. However I will admit that at times I did tire of its seaming lack of structure. The other side to this is though that it is this unstructured near innocence that ultimately dragged me back each time, a conundrum that has meant I can never really decide quite how I feel about the album.

A rewarding if often demanding release.

Luke Drozd

The (International Noise Conspiracy) – Armed Love (Burning Heart)
All hail the finest communist rock band in the world! By rights, I shouldn’t like this at all, but I bloody well do. If an adrenalin rush is what you need, then stick ‘Armed Love’ on, because it’s knocked the sleep out of my eyes this morning.

This is folk music turned up to number eleven. It’s the sound of a band straining every sinew to play music they love, and get across the message they NEED to. Listen to the passionate entreaties in ‘Let’s Make History’, or ‘The Way I Feel About You’. Sure, this is also music filled with every rock ‘n roll cliché in the book, but so bloody what.

Imagine Redskins jamming with the E Street Band. Imagine the sound of the underground turning into a mass movement. Imagine if this really was the soundtrack to the revolution. Utterly joyous.

Sam Metcalf

Lucie Idlout – E5-770 : My Mother’s Name (Arbor)
think a small history lesson is needed before we begin. In the 30’s and 40’s the Canadian Government allocated the Inuit population with disk numbers depending on their geographical locations as their Inuktitut names made them hard for the Canadian administrators to identify. This led to Lucie's mother being official known as E5-770. How crazy and frankly frightening is that?

Anyway social history out the way, lets get onto the music. Lucie Idlout plays what can most simply described as dirgey rock. It is often industrial sounding and clangs and crunches along. The lyric are often personal and with a high social conscience whilst avoiding being preachy but the real basis of the music is strong, at times somewhat folk and country tinged, rock almost like a female Johnny Dowd.

Lucie Idlout demonstrates she is a refreshing presence in a scene that lacks credible female talent.

Luke Drozd

The Subcons – Time Has Come
There’s a man on the inner sleeve who looks like a young Bernard Butler. This is a good sign.

The Subcons number the tracks on this sprawling album from 6-18 – the SCAMPS! I’m not sure why they do this, apart from some kerrraazzy concept thing that I’m missing. Any road up, as they don’t say round these parts, ‘Time Has Come’ is, in parts a jolly enjoyable affair. The Subcons remind me a little of the Boo Radleys around that brilliant time between ‘Everything’s Alright Forever’ and ‘Giant Steps’ which spawned so many great, great songs. Except that The Subcons have less of a tendency to turn everything up dead loud. Which is okay, ‘cos I’ve got a blinding headache. Instead, theirs is a quite psyche-pop, tinged with gentle touches of folk, which gives this album a very warm, fuzzy feel.

Imagine yourself inside a psychedelic ball of cotton wool, and just snuggle down with The Subcons. They do, after all, deserve your hugs.

Sam Metcalf

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – The Doldrums (Paw Tracks)
Ariel Pink is the first non-Animal collective band to have had the privilege of appearing on the Paw Track roster and was discovered in its previous incarnation as a demo CD-R distributed by the man himself. Animal Collective loved and now wants us to love it to.

Now there in lies the problem, as it’s not the easiest thing in the world to love. On first listen its hard to shake the feeling that perhaps your listening to a chewed tape or the Beach Boys lost underwater demos as extremely lo-fi pop (recorded with only a guitar, keyboard and 8-tarck tape) jerks and hisses from the speakers. It is an album of often sinister, constantly bizarre tunes akin to a radio broadcast on The Twilight zone.

However what you do realise on repeat listening is that what first seems like the messy work of a man with obvious mental worries is actually phenomenally complex pop with a definite leaning towards Bowie, for instance all the primitive drum sounds throughout are produced with his vocals and you soon realise that hidden within there are wonderful harmonies and a kind of childlike sense of fun and wonder.

This may well be the nonsense put together by a human oddity misusing music as a form of expression or equally it may well be the wondrous work of a an inspired and deeply talented individual, but I think its probably an amazing combination of the two. 

Luke Drozd

Spraydog – Mint Hand (Kittridge Records)
Hey, hey, hey! This is a great little album. I remember when there were a lot of little bands like this doing the rounds, and their absence has made the dangerous world of indie a lesser place for their leaving. Think The Family Cat, think Backwater. Think for a minute at just how good the fuzzed up guitar and ramshackle drum kit can sound.

Sure, Spraydog take their cue from Sonic Youth and the like, but they wouldn’t be the first, now would they? No. What sets Spraydog apart from the rest of the smaller indie world at the moment is their adherence to a formula that works for them. Whilst other people rave about just how ‘far out’ some bands are using loads of different instruments, the old-fashioned bugger in me is drawn to the fact that Spraydog can make a bloody ACE sound with just a couple of guitars, a bass, some drums and a couple of vocal lines. In short, this takes me back. Great stuff.

Sam Metcalf

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy / Matt Sweeney – Superwolf (Domino)
Yes it’s finally here. I know that since earlier this year when first mention of a new Bonnie ‘Prince Billy release was hinted at fans have been awaiting it with much anticipation. Oldham by now is a cult figure surrounded by a great deal of rumour and story and his music is often met with mixed reception (many fans were less than happy with his covers of his early Palace songs given a rather country leaning earlier this year for instance). What makes this release, under his pseudonym Bonny ‘Prince’ Billy, slightly different from others is that rather than being a solo effort the songwriting duties have actually been shared here. The individual in question? Matt Sweeney. Now I must stress this isn’t merely an Oldham album with Sweeney guesting, rather a literal sharing of song writing, Oldham being responsible for the lyrics and Sweeney looking after the music side of things. The big question this poses then is, ‘Does it work?’. The very simple answer is thankfully yes.

It is evident from even the first song that Sweeney and Oldham have a close understanding of each other and their abilities. Instrumentation marries with vocals beautifully as if this were always the way the two wrote songs. By track three it is evident that we have Oldham on fine form with the mix of sinister wit tainted with a smutty humour as together the two of them sing of taking someone over there knee and spanking them mercilessly.  It is also the track on which you realise the diversity of musical talent Sweeney possesses and brings to the record. Goat and Ram sees him putting Oldham’s vocals to a guitar riff soaked in prog glory and achieves a sound like Queens bastard brother. This is not to say this album strays to far from the Bonnie sound or benchmark. Bed Is For Sleeping is classic Oldham and with it we get a beautiful semi-lullaby that basks in melancholy.  The closing number I Gave You also has echoes of Oldham’s solo song writing and is a pained lament full of fragile bitterness as only he can write.

Building on the kind of more considered and directional song writing we heard displayed on Master and Everyone, Superwolf proves he is still one of the most intriguing individuals in contemporary music today. It also marks the first realise of a partnership that seems to bring out the best in both parties. Lets hope this sort of anti-Simon and Garfunkel don’t leave it as a one off freak occurrence.

Luke Drozd

Stressed Vol.1 - ‘The Finest Underground Noise in the Midlands’ (Stressed Records)
This compilation boasts the finest underground noise form the Midlands. Now stop sniggering many fine things have come from the Midlands (including myself) so why not some fine underground noise as well. And to be fair this compilation actually does actually live up to its title as well.

While a compilation will always be a mixed bag, the Revels of the music world if you will, there are certainly some gems in here. Dragonflies Draw Flame’s own blend of melodic rock akin to the Jam being attacked by some punk kids is a personal favourites is Lardpony’s electro pop love tale of the woes of loving those who do you no good, in this case a noxious gas. Following this in Flight Program deliver some first class heavy punk tinged rock not unlike a less thuggish consumed. However there are stinkers (the Coffee ones if you like), Fallen Friend are nothing short of painful, The Atoms prove three chords can be misused and today’s poor mans Muse are You Judas.

Still that said this is a fine little comp that is certainly worth grabbing a copy of and having a listen. Who knows what gems the midlands has in store for you?

Luke Drozd

Skandinavia - Skandinavia (Blobal Warming)
Essentially a vehicle for ex-Bellatrix singer/songwriter Eliza Newman, Skadinavia bridge the tricky crevasse between metal, operetta, The Corrs and Norse mythology. I imagine that if you trawl deep enough into the bottom of a crevasse you find all sorts of nasties that would have been best left at the bottom of a crevasse. The same could also be said about listening to this album.

Is it me or does the frankly bizarre opening line of the album 'I am a hunter of love' sound like it is sung slightly out of key? I'm not sure. I am sure however that some things are best not mixed. Two of those I would say are metal riffs and violins. Add to that the undeniably powerful vocals of Eliza and you have created a cocktail of sound that frankly makes me cringe at times.

By far the highlight for me is 'Swim' where the overdrive and distorted guitars are kept at bay long enough for a rather beautiful ballad to be formed. But before long the Zeppelin rip off 'Dark Days' has stomped all over my ears.

There is hope here but this is the sound of a band who have yet to really decide what sound suits them best and who have thrown every metal genre in to the mixer.

Shane Blanchard

Mama Scuba - You're a Long Time Dead, So What's the Rush? (Redemption)
Hurrah for Leeds boys Mama Scuba! When I was telling long time Tasty collaborators from Wrath Records how great this album is the simple response was ' It should be - it's taken nearly five years.'

I don't know the details of the album's inception but it is definitely a tour de force in indie spaz pop with just enough sinister snarly undertones to keep a bitter and twisted individual like myself interested. There are moments which are so bleak such as 'The Untouchable' that they would have Leonard Cohen reaching for the Kleenex. Then these cheeky chappies disguise some deeply disturbing character traits in an upbeat Christmas type jingle on 'Snow'.

I'm not really one for lyrics but these make for a pretty grim reading, universally morbid. But this is not reflected in the songs themselves which out-quirk Franz Ferdinand and out-rock The Hives. It would be lazy to categorise this as art rock as there are clearly more influences on display like Echo and the Bunnymen and The Pixies. Already with recognition from Melody Maker, The NME and Radio 1 it would seem that those 5 years making the album were well spent.

Shane Blanchard

Redjetson - New General Catalogue (Drowned in Sound)
New General Catalogue is an attractive proposition. With photography in the sleeve that instantly creates a strong ambience, I have hopes for this offering from Red Jetson. They don’t last long.  

Striving to be Radiohead they seem to have got waylaid listening to Keane. It’s a familiar pitfall for musicians growing up on a diet of The Bends (a classic album but I always end up listening to OK Computer); it is an easy profile to imitate, but not necessarily to do well. They are trying to be epic and ambient, with some tracks hitting 7 or 8 minutes, but there is little depth to it; a guitar with an echo doesn’t make for a soundscape. 

When the tracks are isolated from each other they start to sound a bit more interesting, playing them through a random selector, they hold their own a little better. Maybe the album is a little premature, the band perhaps needing to broaden their horizons before settling in to producing 11 finished tracks. 

Lucy Gibson