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  albums - feb 2005

 

Six Organs of Admittance – ‘School of the Flower’ (Drag City)
There’s something a foot in the world of folk music. For years we were fed an image of anything described as folk as beard stroking, bland and innocuous. Then slowly but surely scary things began to leak out from under the folk umbrella. Your Will Oldham’s and Devendra Banhart's have shown that the backbone of folk orientated music can be lyrical, frightening and inspiring stuff indeed. Now joining these beardy wierdys is Ben Chasny aka Six Organs of Admittance.

Now first off Mr Chasny will already have disagreed with me because as it says in the press statement about Folk music ‘Never heard it, never played it. Fuck folk!’ Fair enough that’s his opinion and so we shall call…fuck it I’m gonna call it folk!

With Six Organs of Admittance Chasny has given us a complex array of guitar based music which mixes to together a great deal of scope and influences to create an in-depth, beautiful and unsettling album. Much of the record offers a favourable nod towards individuals like Fahey in terms of its guitar compositions. They are frequently complex, often off-kilter but always engaging. What raises this above mere imitation is the overall surreal feel. By track three this is being demonstrated perfectly as the familiar organ drone, that runs through, the album layers itself along with a chant like cultish vocal pattern giving a sort of Psych undertone. This is a distinctive feature that reoccurs throughout. This is not to say we never get to hear Chasny demonstrating himself lyrically as ‘Procession of Cherry Blossom Spirits Home’ shows as somewhat drugged vocals float over a song which has the sinister uncomfortable feel, sounding not unlike, in fact, the sound of a whale being clubbed…in a good way!

This really is a peculiarly good album full of whoa and joy in equal measure. As Chasny said, who for the record I’m sure is a fucking loon, “Fuck folk! Love music!’.

Luke Drozd


Marsen Jules – Herbstlaub’ (City Centre Offices)
It’s an easy thing to repeat yourself when you seem to keep receiving music where descriptions such as haunting, ethereal or atmospheric seem to the best adjectives to use. You sit at the computer and use the Thesaurus (god bless you thesaurus) to make yourself sound less dull but who am I really kidding?

Sadly these words all perfectly describe this very album. I’m a poor journalist at best.

Herbstlaub is the first album Martin Juhls has produced under the moniker Marsen Jules and it is probably more truthful to describe the music featured here as movements rather than songs as what we actually have is a kind of atmospheric modern classical arrangement, harps and strings weave around each other while loops and samples begin to swell and pulse, rising and falling throughout the course of the record. The result is that at time you can have an intense, thick sound and then at others you have what is a far sparser sort of orchestration not dissimilar to someone like the Threnody Ensemble for instance. At times this can begin to tire but whenever that is the case it doesn’t take long before you’re slowly pulled back into the work.

The album has been described before as ‘an autumnal symphony’ and there really is no better way to sum up what is a very beautiful piece of music.

Luke Drozd


Bill Madden – ‘Samsara’s Grip’
On hearing the opening few bars of Bill Maddens ‘Samsara’s Grip’ its not hard to see why American college radio has lapped it up. Not only does it possess that soft rock edge that the phrase college radio tends to conjure up, but at a time when the world is in political upheaval he offers then music with a conscience too. This ends up as a kind of political Counting Crows or the Goo Goo Dolls on a march. Now that may be some peoples idea of progressive fun but its all too Sincere with a capitol S for my tastes. Its fine to have a message but you also need good songs in which to deliver them without being soft rock sermons. The latter is the order of the day here and Samsara’s Grip is one to avoid.

Luke Drozd


David Francis – ‘fake Valentine’
Imagine if McCartney had never had the gift for harmony and melody he once possessed. The songs he would have produced are Fake Valentine by David Francis.

This is like listening to Brain Wilson with all the joy and intelligence sucked out of him, and then given a production job worse than Farrah Fawcett’s face-lift. I’m left simply asking one word, why?

Luke Drozd


Goldmund – ‘Corduroy Road’ (Type)
It is hard to describe a record that is as simple and beautiful as Goldmund’s ‘Corduroy Road’ without just ending up saying things that are superfluous to its description.

It is predominantly piano only with occasional guitar accompaniment and is recorded in such a way that you are able to hear everything, pedals moving, fingers on keys, the works. It has a sound as if you were sitting on a piano stool listening to someone actually play you a piece…at the turn of the last century.

It is bleak and honest and I can’t really find any other words to describe apart from truly stunning.

Luke drozd


Bitstream – ‘Domestic Economy 7’ (Modern Love)
When an album is described to me using phrases and words like ‘dub plates’ and ‘electro, techno hip-hop’ and ‘devastating low-end mesh’ I usually tend to become disinterested and defensive, mainly because these sorts of phrases make me feel stupendously uncool and, well if I’m honest, I have absolutely no idea what any of it means. And yes all these are featured in Bitstream’s press release meaning they instantly had a bigger hurdle to jump in order to make it into my heart than most. They cleared that hurdle like a young Daly Thompson.

Bitstream are quite simply terrifyingly good electronic music. Yes terrifyingly is the word I was looking for because while a lot of electronically minded music is designed to dance or relax to, Bitstream appear to be intent on creating music that makes you far too scared to even contemplate dancing and too paranoid to relax.

On ‘Open Sesame’, the albums third track, they begin to unleash what ends up sounding like a lost B-movie soundtrack. Sounds swell and throb as you imagine cities raised to the ground by foreign beings in flying saucers. ‘Bass lobe’ is the exact music I imagine I’ll hear if I ever get abducted and they do those things to me that only a hand full of ‘adult’ ‘actors’ are willing to do.

That is not to say this is a novelty album, in fact far from it. It is cinematic and huge in its electro scope and it’s weird and spooky with it. This is a serious electro album with a sense of humour that makes me scared.

Luke Drozd


Big Sister Compendium Vol 2 – tall Order Records
Dear God! Its spazzy, its noisy, it’s a little scary, but most of all its wonderful. This CD is a document of all that’s loud and spazz-tastic in the world of music (well mainly in the south of London actually but who cares?).

From the usual brilliance of Ten Foot Nun opening the proceedings, you know exactly what you’re letting yourself in for. A whole CD of music that is strange, engaging, ridiculous and thoroughly entertaining.

Numpty show us the musical depths that can be plunged by rapping pirates (I kid ye not me hearties!) whilst Mumrah let us know that ska can still be fun whilst referencing an eighties cartoon. Yes my friends it really is that varied.

Look just get out there and buy a copy of what is a great CD and allow yourself to be reminded that sometimes good music is also allowed to be good fun too.

Luke Drozd


Kelly Joe Phelps – ‘Tap the Red Cane Whirlwind’ (Rykodisc)
I first came across Kelly Joe Phelps music a few years ago when I heard one of his tracks on one of those uncut compilations they used to produce every month when they thought Americana was the cool thing. I fell instantly in love with his voice and music. It wasn’t until last year though that I actually had the pleasure of experiencing him live. It still stands as one of the best gigs I’ve been to. What was most interesting was the fact that he didn’t just play the songs straight from his album but rather he improvised around them, changing there structure and sound. ‘Tap the Red Cane Whirlwind’ is a solo live recording which as well as two covers (including a Skip James classic) offers alternate realisations of songs from Phelps’ back catalogue.

As ever Phelps is impeccable, soulful and chilling and demonstrates what is one of the most extraordinary voices in music today. The versions present here stand up to the originals and often surpass them (as is the case with both ‘Fleashine’ and ‘Tommy’ originally on 2001’s ‘Sky like a Broken Clock’) and remind us that modern blues singers can be every bit as haunting as those of yesteryear.

‘Tap the red Cane Whirlwind’ proves it to be a wonderful document of an extraordinary live talent.

Luke Drozd


Seemless - Seemless (Equal Vision)
Scorching guitars and drilling percussion set alight a fuse of release amongst the listeners and band alike, as this bracing debut album from Massechusetts’ metalcore colliding with post grunge quartet that boasts former members of Killswitch Engage, Overcast and Shadows Fall possesses the potential to blast your inhibitions to Valhalla. The thrashing Killswitch Engage and splash of Spineshank instrumentals, coupled with the longing Layne Staley peppered with the spice of James Hetfield vocals of Jesse David provide passion and intensity. This is evidenced in ‘The Wanderer’ that drills into your mind with piercing precision a message endorsing the pursuit of soul searching:
 

“The Shadow that’s lost carries a burden. Cursed to roam. There’s a whispering in mind.  This road will lead you down into your heart. Into your soul.” 

The at times, darkly frenetic mood that reaches pressure point in the raucously rasping ‘The Crisis’ and the thumping ‘Lay My Burden Down’, is mollified in the enchanting acoustic led  instrumental simmer down, as the band subtly invites you to have a short period of reflection. A polished and emotive debut is brought to a conclusion with an intriguing foray into the live Seemless sound with an emotive rendition of ‘Maintain’. 

www.seemlessband.com

Dave Adair


Silver Ray – ‘Humans’ (Broken Horse)
Australia’s finest musical export since Dirty Three, Silver Ray began receiving the attention and praise they deserve after the release of their second album ‘New Love’ ‘Humans’ builds on what we where offered there and the result is a bold and beautiful musical statement indeed.

Recorded in the wee hours of a March morning in Melbourne, The four instrumental tracks present here sweep and build and slowly mutate throughout their lengths (and there’s plenty of time to do so with two of the tracks weighing in at nearly 15 minutes) and the result is kind of like the aforementioned Dirty Threes prettier sister.

And its this that seems to set Silver Ray apart from their counterparts, like Godspeed you Black Emperor for instance, a real sense of joy and posterity that presides over the whole affair. Heck they even have a track called ‘Live in Hope’?

I advise everyone to buy this and bask in the harmonious world of Silver Ray.

Luke Drozd


Never The More – S/T (Engineer)
Never The More’s eponymous debut is a blend of power pop punk and a sprinkling of hardcore for good measure. It’s catchy without being vacuous and is a good solid first release with only one real shortcoming in the form of some slightly off the mark production at times. That said this is a promising start well worth checking out.

Luke Drozd


Skirmish – ‘The Crooked and the Cavalier’ (Engineer)
Skirmish is a band who are apparently bringing hardcore home. I wasn’t aware it had left home in the first place but there you go. What they have ‘brought home’ though is sadly decided run of the mill. While musically not too far off the mark, a rather average vocal performance is essentially this bands real stumbling block.

When you have the choice of such great hardcore as Steel Rules Die or Planes Mistaken For Stars its difficult to see why you’d bother to listen to Skirmish.

Luke Drozd


M83 – ‘Before the Dawn Heals Us’ (Gooom)
There has been an increasing trend over recent years for music described as soundscapes, a musical landscape if you will. Bands such as Mogwai have caused others to follow in their footsteps and often fail. M83 have no such problems though as this, their third album now, goes to show.

Where as with many of the ‘cinematic’ bands doing the rounds forge their sound using predominantly guitar based arrangements, M83 have always leaned more towards the electronic side of things and ‘Before the Dawn Heals us’ is no exception. However what this does do to change the formula is to introduce a more choral and lyrical element to their sound not previously present, creating a far more emotionally charged and more considered album. Moods shift and slide throughout the record, which feels like a soundtrack for a film that was never made, and can at once be subtle and beautiful (farewell/Goodbye) but also down right disturbing (Car Chase Terror!).

This is quite simply an electronically based album that still retains human warmth and feeling. A definite cut above the rest.

Luke Drozd


Farrah – ‘Me Too’ (Lojinx)
Farrah are the kind of band you really want to hate but can’t quite be bothered to. They play what is quite a ‘middle of the road’ sort of pop rock that never really peaks above mediocre.

Reminiscent at times of Crowded House and at others of Maroon 5, this band, that share their name with the worlds most famous brand of slacks, should make my blood boil. However that would take far too much effort on my part and I reserve that sort of unbridled hatred for only the truly evil, like Elton John or Blue.

Bob Harris is a big fan and Radio 2 will no doubt lap this up, but then they also love Nora Jones and Bryan McFadden. Think on.

Luke Drozd


Styrofoam – ‘Nothing’s Lost’ (Morr Music)
A CD recorded to commemorate the 25th anniversary of club Ancience Belgique in Brussels (a venue, club and studio), this is a project of truly international proportions. Arne Van Petegen aka Styrofoam has roped in some of the world’s most talented individuals of the moment to collaborate with on the project including Ben Gibbard (Postal Service/Death Cab for Cutie), Andrew Kenny (American Analog Set) and Markus Acher (The Notwist). The results are subtle and self-possessed.

The overall feel is relaxed and intelligent, a blend of instrumentation and electronic wizardry, and obvious comparisons to Dntel and the Postal Service are abound (particularly on ‘Couches in Alleys’ a track where Ben Gibbard supplies the vocals).  Other highlights include ‘Bee queen’ where Styrofoam shows the beauty of his own voice, and the wonderful, pop-infected track ‘Anything’.

A gem that should help to warm you on those bitter winter nights.

Luke Drozd


The Rectifiers – Levy [Remixed by Symbiotic] (Sensory Projects)
At last, an EP that reigns in the heights of superiority. A collection of remixes born of The Rectifiers and crafted by Symbiotic, this release should, if nothing else, be sampled by the crowd. As the music meanders through music genre, mood and rhythm I found myself increasingly intriguedand unable to press that overused stop button.

What makes this collection even more deserving of admiration however, is its means of creation. Symbiotic heard none of The Rectifiers tracks, just small samples of the tunes they were to work with, and the results are fantastic.

Flowing through subtle hip-hop, trip-hop sounds, eerie vocals, country twangs and some times the obtuse, Symbiotic have created a masterful compilation. Paso Bionic (Rusty Dawn reprise) has to be the first highpoint – never has a young boy’s voice seemed so hauntingly beautiful; a piece to accompany a twisted reverie.

Beatrix (The Pull of the Restless Earth), with its soothing country riff placed against an odd feeling of everything coming to an end and Terminal Sound System, that I may even place on my Autechre pedestal, are two others, but in truth I could list them all.

The remixes are simply experimentalism expressed to its utmost of brilliance, and confidence in a skilful style that has no bounds. This is far from your average remixed album. Absent are the awkwardly placed drum and base loops and the sliced up vocals so commonly found on a remix, in full dominance are solely 9 superb tracks.

So what of The Rectifiers themselves? Beginning and closing the album with their own work certainly doesn’t sound out of place, the final track particularly providing some incite into their favoured style. But as two pieces are fresh bread are essential to a decent sandwich, it is the well crafted filling that makes it truly scrumptious.

Mel Headley


Coachwhips - Bangers V.S Fuckers (Narnack Records)
Coachwhips are brought to you by John Dwyer, guitar master of the defuncted Pink and Brown. They play cute, loud Garage that makes yr stereo sound like it’s going to crack and yr ears turn inside out. Guitar/Keyboards/Drums and Vocals never sounded so fun. Even the most adamant avant-garde hater could swallow these minute and-a-half long chops and not even realise. Best album of 2004 says me and Best Guitar Sound ever says everyone.

James Islip


Various – The Matinee Winter Warmer (Matinee)
You know the score by now; the usual suspects line up for the seasonal round of exceptional indie tunes on the finest label in the world.

And so here we have Slipslide offering us the lilting, beautiful ‘Baked Alaska’ from their debut album, The Fairways playing a Belle and Sebastian song better than B&S have done for a few years now with ‘Winter Song’ (can you spot the theme yet?) and Pipas score the first hat-trick by giving us the sinister yet snugly ‘Boxes’.

Why can’t other compilation albums be like this? Why can’t other compilation albums have Harper Lee’s ‘Bad Christmas’ (an exclusive, no less!) cosying up for the night with an old favourite like The Windmills’ ‘When It Was Winter’ – a song that brings back so many bad memories of shit journeys back to where I was born that, perversely it remains one of my favourite Matinee tracks?

The Liberty Ship – surely Nottingham’s most cherished secret – even contribute a new track! And a stormer it is too. ‘Photograph’ sounds like it was recorded under Marc Elston’s bed, but that’s half the charm. It’s also got a lovely guitar part running all the way through it, and then gets all jangly in the chorus. How marvellous.

And I still haven’t mentioned the fact that only The Pines can get away with making ‘High Street’ sound so warm and lovely. No band since The Housemartins have been able to make this kind of sparse indie chamber music sound so special.

All this is without telling you about the lovely new Lucksmiths track, ‘The Winter Proper’, or indeed ‘I Dream of Angels’ – another gentle epic from Lovejoy that bodes well for the future. The Melodie Group end the album with their Casiotone version of ‘Jingle Bells’. Throwaway? You bet, and all the better for it.

Christmas may be gone for another year, and thank heavens for that. But, remember. ‘The Matinee Winter Warmer’ is for life, not just for Christmas.

Sam Metcalf


Enablers - End Note (Neurot)
Not to be confused with the dull-as-you-like pub Pop Rock band of the same name, these guys have their feet planted firmly in early-Nineties Slint-y. You might be forgiven for getting turned off by the seriousness of this but repeated listening (and it’s quite obvious when this band plays live) makes you realise that this band bring something relatively new and fresh round for lunch. Melodramatic at times, yes, but the vocalist can draw you into his spoken chunterings and show you a good time.  

A more elderly Birthday Party perhaps – definitely less boring than the Bad Seeds.

James Islip


Ginferno s/t 10” EP (Gssh Gssh Records)
Amazing release by Madrid based label Gssh Gssh Records, both in looks (any wannabe Graphic designers check their website and spray your shorts) and soundings. Ginferno are old drunks who mix Spanish Surf Folk with more modern ideas of rocking out; Think Arab on Radar, Lightning Bolt, Frank Zappa & Grand Funk Railroad. The drummer plays with his drums spread all over the floor and they have a song called ‘Scottix & Endlix.’ Brilliant, I’m sure you’ll agree.

James Islip


Dirty on Purpose - Sleep Late for a Better Tomorrow
While the charts in this country are slowly getting clogged up with groups intent on creating carbon copies of albums by the likes of Orange Juice, Jesus and Mary Chain and Gang of Four, across the pond they seem to have struck a balance that has created what is already, I’m guessing, going to be one of the best EPs of 2005, and that is a claim I do not make lightly.

While hundreds of bands are flooding forth in the wake of Franz Ferdinand et al, none of them seem to want to advance the sound they have plundered from the late 70’s and 80’s; Dirty on Purpose on the other hand seem to have a different agenda, while clear influences of bands like The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen, Jesus and Mary Chain, The Wedding Present and My Bloody Valentine are very evident within their music, but it seems to somehow meet a crossroads with contemporary acts such as The New Year, Sigur Ros, The Shins, Low and Belle and Sebastian. The combination of these sounds is nothing short of incredible, the quality of song writing is of a caliber that really should see this band become internationally recognized, and if there is any justice in the world, then by the end of the year this will be that case.

Having listened to this EP over and over I really struggle to find any fault with it, aside from the fact there are only five songs; but I suppose that you should leave an audience wanting more.
www.dirtyonpurpose.com

Drew Millward


John Wayne Shot Me – The Purple Hearted Youth Club (69TV Records)
John Wayne Shot Me are from Holland, and are easily the best band I’ve heard from the flat lands since…ooh…well, ever really. ‘The Purple Hearted Youth Club’ is a sprawling mess of an album, and is all the better for it. This is what the last Fonda 500 album should’ve sounded like, instead of being an half-arsed journey into faffing around. In contrast, John Wayne Shot Me are altogether more direct and exciting.

As with all the best records, ‘The Purple Hearted Youth Club’ deal with pop music in all its glorious forms. Take ‘Speakers Are Microphones’ for example, which has the daftest lyrics are microwaves, and reminds me of Buggles’ ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’, a good thing, I’m sure you’ll agree.

At the other end of the spectrum is ‘Let Sleeping Monsters Sleep’; the kind of song that has me swooning after the first few bars. It sounds like the Mysterons have come to play at a dingy indie club near you, and it’s fantastic.

Throughout, John Wayne Shot Me play homage to the likes of Grandaddy, Jeffery Lewis and actually include Kimya Dawson – clearly one of their heroes. If that’s your thing, you’ll love this wonderful little album. And if you don’t then you can find solace in some ace pop songs about robots and pilots and fishing. What more could you want…really?

Sam Metcalf


Cheval de Frise - Fresques Sur Les Parois Secrètes Du Crane (Ruminance)
This French duo creates very free and introspective music; shy because the combination of acoustic guitar and drums can be unimpressive at first. You can’t help but be utterly wowed by the complexity in both the musicianship and songwriting however and then you realise this band is really great. I wouldn’t really like to draw any comparisons to this because it wouldn’t really do it any justice; suffice to say this album sounds amazing throughout.

Ruminance (who released this) has given Euro-Birth to the likes of US Maple and Oxbow, so if you dig that and realise, like I do, that Improv-Prog-Folk is the next big thing, seek this beauty out!!

James Islip


No-Shadow Kick - Basement Make-Out Party (Blue FX Records)
T
his is somewhat of a mixed bag, kid of like Haribo Star Mix; they are all good, just in different ways.

It’s difficult to review an album that is so seemingly random, but soon it becomes evident that the order of the day is predominantly funk. Although the feel of the songs changes they are all held together by a great rhythm section, throwing about influences ranging from Captain Beefheart to what is apparently the soundtrack to a low grade erotic movie (‘Three in the Afternoon’ being a prime example of this).

The range of sounds throughout the album is pretty varied but if you have a love of 70s funk, psych and low-fi indie, this may well be the band for you, I suppose I can hear echoes of Eels or Beck…..but that isn’t really any sort of guide as to what No-Shadow Kick sound like.

Overall it stands as a very confusing, yet enthralling listening experience, quite odd.

Drew Millward


Last Night’s TV – Letters Without Envelopes (Demon Suitcase Records)
The first thing to mention is the extremely nice cover and inlay. The second is that these Leeds based dreamers make a very sweet laid-back pop sound.

Which is first shown in ‘Distracted’ which builds and builds and – forgive me Last Night’s TV – but reminds me greatly of some kind of mid-70s album track. But, y’know, I quite like that.

There are no great, mad dynamics at work here – each song resonates perfectly, but don’t go expecting anything bombastic. In the way that Galaxie 500 used to be able to get more from less, so do Last Night’s TV.

Particularly special is ‘Holidaymaker’, sung over a sparse backdrop by either, Natalie Long or Sarah – soz, I’m not sure which.

This won’t win any prizes in the All West Yorkshire Party Album of the Year Award – but if you fancy a night in with the cat, well, it’s perfect.

Sam Metcalf


Cheuvreuil - Chateauvallon (Ruminance)
Recorded in 2003 by some guy called Steve Albini, this French duo has taken some time to cross our Anglo borders and filter through all the British shit; I smuggled in a copy of this album via boat but have since found you can order it via Ruminance’s website. The band feature drums and a guy playing guitar through 4 amps!! Count them mate! They’re not just for show either; using clever pedals the guitarist builds up loops and layers of guitar to sometimes brilliant effect. You’d be forgiven for thinking this band had more than two people within their ranks but then that’s the whole schtick I suppose. It’s a great album, definitely recommended for fans of Shellac, Don Caballero or at a push Oxxxes.

James Islip


Whole Sky Monitor – Just Let Me Talk To Her (Firebomb)
Remember this fact: quite a lot of people in bands now would’ve grown up listening to The Manic Street Preachers. Whole Sky Monitor seem to be such creatures. ‘Just Let Me Talk To Her’ is full of bombastic Manics moments and sky-scraping guitar solos.

That’s not to say that WSM don’t jump on a number of different bandwagons, of course. You’ll hear Muse, Radiohead and a number of other over-wrought numbskulls. There must be a reason for being this pissed off about living in a nice house in suburbia that’ll make WSM such a big hit with the eye-linered kids everywhere. I’m afraid I gave up wearing make-up days ago.

Sam Metcalf


The Stick Finlays - Progress on Paper (Hackpen Records)
I’d been putting off listening to this for some time, mainly because of the cover (and that the press release mentions MUSE….big, no no). But as the old adage goes ‘never judge a book/CD by its cover’, and in this case you would be right to follow that advice. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but this wasn’t it.

From the get go this lot grab you by the neck and don’t let go, it’s not comfortable, but it is, nonetheless exhilarating. This is not an album that is going to rewrite any rule books, but it does stand as a document of a young band with evidently a great deal of talent and potential, the influences are pretty apparent, but by no means too obvious. There are elements in the music of hundreds of bands that it would do no one any good for me to list, so I won’t bother, but I will say the somehow it is easy to hear a Scottish sound to the music, probably something to do with the desperation of growing up in the middle of nowhere…..like a younger Idlewild, and that should be taken as a compliment.

Although there are riffs aplenty within the music, the guitar and bass work is kept nimble and interesting, it never feels like songs drag, which is trap many a band has fallen in to but I’m glad to say The Stick Finlays avoid. Oh, I should probably give the vocals a mention, as they are damn fine.

Oh, and the homage to The Smashing Pumpkins is a bloody nice, and ballsy touch.

Drew Millward


Pipas – Chunnel Autumnal (Matinee)
It’s only the end of January and already the year is complete. Yes! Pipas have released another album! ‘Chunnel Autumnal’ is perhaps not as ambitious as ‘A Cat Escaped’ but it doesn’t need to be in my opinion, ‘cos it’s just so nice to hear Pipas jangle-out now and again.

Opener, ‘Tout Va Bien’ does just this, and I just love the way that Mark and Lupe almost rush through their lyrics and the ‘ba-bas’. It’s just way too cute.

Like a lo-fi Francoise Hardy, Lupe mumbles so delightfully across ‘Wells Road’, and sets the atmosphere for the rest of the album. For those who delight in bedsit chic – and there’s nothing particularly wrong with that – then this is the album for you. ‘Channel Autumnal’ is for indie pop fans who would rather holiday in Skegness than St Tropez, would rather have white toast than wholemeal, that maybe POSITIVELY enjoy being a bit pissed off. But who love pop music at the same time. This is the way that Pipas make me feel. And I love it.

At the moment Pipas are my favourite band. I see no reason why you shouldn’t take a dip in the disappointed end too.

Sam Metcalf


Bright Eyes - Digital Ash in a Digital Urn (Saddle Creek)
Two albums on one day from one of my favorite bands, it’s all a little too much to take. I’ll deal with it though….it’ll be alright. Of the two I was slightly more hesitant about hearing this one…. I needn’t have been; it’s bloody great.

From what I had read about the albums, this had been billed as an ‘electronica’ album, well I’m not sure if that is really a correct label, but it’s as close to electronica as I think Bright Eyes will ever get. This is by no means a bad thing, the electronics are incorporated into a sound that is very much what can be expected from the band, the guitar is always at the centre, with accents of horns, strings along with a huge plethora of other instruments to create the usual finely crafted Bright Eyes songs.

There are highlights throughout the album; so much so it really isn’t worth listing songs….it would just end up as all 12.

Great stuff, which isn’t a surprise.

Drew Millward


Simple Plan – Still Not Getting Any (Lava)
Fed up about Busted splitting up? Get some Simple Plan down yer lug holes. Honest, there’s no difference. Apart from Simple Plan don’t sing about running away from school, they sing about how shite life is sat in your double glazed, centrally heated double bedroom, crying your eyes out because Will from the sixth form said your new dyed hair looked shit.

Will said my hair was ace. So there!

Sam Metcalf


Bright Eyes - I’m Wide Awake, its Morning (Saddle Creek)
Of the two albums I was looking forward to this one the most, and as it turns out I was rightly excited. Whereas ‘Digital Ash in a Digital Urn’ is much more of an ensemble piece (similar to previous Bright Eyes albums) ‘I’m Wide Awake…’ is a much more stripped down, and for want of a better term ‘country’ album. Hell, it even has several duets with Emmylou Harris; I think that pretty much means it’s a country album.

Of the two is this is definitely the stronger album, encompassing the great song writing that runs through the Bright Eyes back catalogue, but stripped back to what, at a lot of the time is nothing more than a guitar, voice, brushed drums and bass.

As in the case of ‘Digital Ash…’ it is difficult to pinpoint any highlight due to the constant high quality, the album as a whole reminds me of ‘Heartbreaker’, it has a very similar sound; high praise, I know, but it really is that good. It worries me that this quality of songwriting can come from someone who is 24.

Run along and buy the pair….

Drew Millward


City City City - Dawn and the Blue Light District (Sensory Projects)
Call me old fashioned (and many people do) but I just don't like jazz. Even though my mates from have grown older and tried tempting me to the dark side, I've never been able to enjoy those seemingly arbitrary keen changes and chopping tempos. Not that this is out and out jazz but I sure found it heavy going.

Things started off OK with 'Entry' and even the 11 minute long 'Prat' had its moments. But after the first few bars of 'Grayscale' alarm bells were ringing. This is a rip off of 'Killing all the Flies' by Mogwai! Except with every 5th or 6th note played in a bizarre discordant way. maybe it isn't supposed to like that, but I just found the whole thing quite annoying, like knowing you are just around the corner from your favourite pub but never being able to find it.

This album may appeal to the more developed of musical tastes, but to describe it as post-rock would definitely confuse your man on the street. If you like your post-rock drenched in sitar, tuned percussion, keyboards and sax then this may be for you. But if you prefer that simple layered composition (which defines 'post-rock' for me) then this may prove to be uncomfortable listening.

Shane Blanchard


Red Nettle - Continuosity (Promo Mini-LP)
This bafflingly-titled offering is one of those records that immediately grabs your attention with what practitioners tend to call an ‘in your face’ attitude, only to lose hold of it mere seconds later as the realisation quickly dawns that it has little else to say, and that it’s really all over bar the gurning. Admittedly, it contains some nifty (albeit undercooked and ultimately very samey) riffs, but undermines these with chest-beating vocals, meandering basslines, the seemingly obligatory, infuriating, distortion-off/reverb-on-stun Coldplay bits (for added sensitivity, of course), and – most importantly – an inability to hitch what at least could be interesting ideas to anything resembling a memorable hook (or tune, for that matter). And, as with so many ‘local circuit’-type bands, all the beenie-hats in the world couldn’t disguise the whiff of music college jazz-rock fusion lessons evident here.

 

Ieuan Jones


Farming Incident - Our Glorious Five Year Plan (Wrath)
Not some glib pseudo-political title here, but testament to the fact that this album really has really taken five years to produce and in some ways is a bit of a retrospective. I was bopping away and spilling Guinness over myself to 'The Harder You Fall, The Better Life Gets' in some grimy gig venue 5 years ago. The latest recording of the brooding 'Equaliser' adds a harder edge to the original with Agent Mays knocking 7 bells out of his drum kit and the bass getting a right pounding too.

Not an easy band to describe soundwise, Farming Incident flip effortlessly from space synth to post rock to post punk.There's even what could easily pass for a Bulgarian beer drinking ditty in the form of 'Sputnik 8 Ace' (though it's actually sung in Welsh). Production is pretty raw and at times the it seems like the vocals are being sung two feet away from your head while the music is being played in a cardboard box on Dartmoor. But this actually adds to the cosiness of the album for me - Phil Spector is not required here.

The newer songs add a real punch to the album though, demonstrating perhaps a greater drive in the music and more uptempo attitude. Lyrics are as edgy and playfully antagonistic as ever and somehow have even more bite in the age of spin and pseudo-socialism.

With another album promised by (gulp) the end of the year and a raft of gigs on the way, it seems Farming Incident have finally built up the head of steam they needed to sweat out the top record that was always lurking in their musical pores. Until the next one comes out I'll just have to make do with bouncing around like an idiot to 'The Flute of Shame' and 'When Your Political Ideology has Gone out of Fashion'....

Shane Blanchard


White Lies - White Lies (Pronoia)
From the back of the CD case here are four reasonably normal looking chaps. There's even the hint of a smile on a couple of the faces there. But by God, is this album bleak.

It's not the fact that the album is clearly influenced by listening to a lot of stuff like Coldplay, Radiohead and Muse. Call me a wuss, but unlike my tasty counterparts, I don't think those bands are really that bad - it just seems that it is almost trendy not to like them. What baffles me is the almost unstinting miserableness of the thing. The songs are undoubtedly beautifully crafted pieces, with big string/guitar/keyboard harmonies and massive anthemic gestures. But aside from the brief respite offered by 'Millionaire', a piano driven beast of a song, this album sounds like White Lies are suffering from a hefty dose of depression. And so am I after listening to it - I'm off to drown some kittens or something...

Shane Blanchard