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albums - october 2009


 

 

 

Kalamazoo - 'How To Hunt A Deer' (Noclappin)

French music. Guillemots. Keep thinking. There is no shortage of French bands travelling across the channel to gig in London. Equally, there's no shortage of French bands putting their own gallic spin onto the work of such as Kings Of Leon, Interpol, The Strokes, and in Kalamazoo's instance Radiohead. Thing is, right when the entire ouvre of 00s guitar music starts to sound just a little tired and overworked in the english speaking world, along comes a bunch of Parisian chancers quite cheerfully tearing up the rule books by smiling during the Joy Divisiony bits, getting a bit bluesy during the normally angst ridden Thom Yorke stuff, and layering a subtle touch of menace onto those smooth KOL riffs.They rejig the timing of some of those slightly overfamiliar 4/4 hihats and grinding powerchords. There's also a sly wit at work amongst the lyrics
that might nearly have you chuckling at ze funnee frenchy types until you realise that they have in fact skilfully
pre-empted your anglo saxon superiority complex, and done it a bit clever like. How To Hunt A Deer' is, if you get to hear it, an inspired and cleverly composed
giutar rock album, and Kalamazoo possibly are the new Guillemots. We could do a lot worse.
http://www.myspace.com/kalamuzic

Jon Gordon

Kalamazoo - 'How To Hunt A Deer' (Noclappin)

The first thing to probably know about Kalamazoo is that they’re French. From Paris in fact. In these enlightened times of cross border cooperation, the common market and a united Europe this shouldn’t be an issue and I certainly don’t bring it up in a derogatory sense. But it is worth bearing in mind. Not least because it explains the accent of singer, Imade (that’s his name), throughout. Which is a little… distracting to those of us brought up on the diet of anglo-american pop/rock.

But Eurovision this ain’t. Definitely of the ‘rock’ genre, these four Frenchmen combine dark, reflective lyrics with a heavy, riff-led sound. There’s very little of a European influence here, other than the heavily accented singer as previously mentioned. The inspiration is drawn very much from the more familiar rock pool to which the band themselves mention within their press release, being the likes of Kings of Leon, Radiohead, Interpol and their ilk.

But that accent, and I’m aware that this is the third time I’ve mentioned it now, is what you’ll keep coming back to. It will either make or break the band because, regardless of what they play or how they play it, the accent will always be the lasting memory. To some it will define their sound, to others, myself included, it will be a distraction to the greater soundscape they are trying to create.

Such an observation may be perceived as racist. I assure you it is not. It is simply, unfortunately, that some sounds do not always work. Whole Lotta Love, with it’s devastating riffs would not carry the same weight if, instead of smashing these out on his Gibson Les Paul, Jimmy Page had chosen to pick up a ukulele. Whilst nowhere near as extreme as the example given, it still stands that the accent leaves you with the feeling that you are listening to a European covers band rather than genuine rock contenders.

But it is not without its charm. If you can get past the accent it is quite an enjoyable, competent 8 track run through. Special mention goes to track 2, titled Run, which sounds like a re-worked Lee Mack routine about an advert for pie. Which is no doubt unintentional and probably quite offensive to it’s writers, but hey, who’s here to make friends? Worth a listen, if not quite your hard earned cash, for that alone.

Jim Johnston

 

Overspill Poets - 'Thompson Falls' (Revenge Western)

I once owned a paperback poetry compilation entitled 'Metaphysical Poets' and it was all these 16th century blokes in ruffs and pointy beards who were interested in science, things like transmuting base metals into gold and discovering India, and in their spare time they all wrote poetry. Overspill Poets claim to take some inspiration from works such as these, and some of the lyrics on the album are taken from the work of John Donne, whom some of you may have encountered at school and whose 400 plus years old work is now out of copyright.

Literary stylings and Byrd-like country rock make for some intriguing listening. The guitars are near note-perfect recreations of the plucked chordage of 'All I Really Wanna Do' and 'Turn Turn Turn' and it's worth remembering that the original Byrds often didn't write their own lyrics either. So far so accurate pastiche, although Tim Taylor's nasal vocal did grate upon me somewhat. You need to admire the ambition though, and it occurred to me that musical interpretations of actual poetry are a bit rare, aren't they? All that springs to mind as comparison is the Fug's 1965 interpretation of Allen Ginsberg's 'I Saw The Best Minds Of My Generation', a track which dates from the same year as some of the best McGuinn/Hillman/Clark/Dylan songs, the ones which Overspill Poets emulate so reverentially.
http://www.myspace.com/overspillpoets

Jon Gordon

 

Lou Barlow - Goodnight Unknown (Domino Recording Co Ltd)

If you buy only one album in the month of October you should… well, you should probably not make it this one. But if you’re the sort of person that instead prefers to run into HMV and keep throwing money at the man behind the till until you have more cd’s than you can carry I can assure you that this will not be the worst you pick up. Far from it.

What we have here is a musician making a record where he both indulges and enjoys himself and the company of the guest musicians he brings in alongside him. And this album captures it perfectly.

An acoustic, folk offering, this at times soars whilst at others speaks softly and directly to the listener. A kind of acoustic Polyphonic Spree for the non drug-dependant.

Jim Johnstone

 

Meretto - Street Talking (RockPop Records)

There comes a point in life where you realise that not liking something doesn’t mean you have to automatically dislike it. Life is rarely so clear cut as to present items that are either one or the other. Often things are not black or white, but rather one of many shades of grey.

And that’s a good thing. Imagine if everything could be only good or bad. Straight into the bad category would be everything ever done by smug Stoke knob Robbie Williams. And that would mean that, by default, everything else, on account of not being as bad as anything by smug Stoke knob Robbie Williams, would have to be lumped in the good category. Even really shit stuff by Blazing Squad and The Feeling. Nope, these things have to be categorised by degrees, a system of the good, bad and everything inbetween.

This latest album from Meretto, released 16 November, falls very much into the inbetween category. There is nothing bad on it. The lyrics are well thought out; intelligent; they rhyme and are sung reasonably well. The music is well crafted, the band are nice and tight in their play, it’s an all round good product that the band produce.

Yet it doesn’t, for want of a less wanky phrase, “talk” to me. It doesn’t catch my ear and make me want to listen on, or again. Despite repeated listens it leaves me indifferent, without an opinion. I can’t say I like it, clearly, but at the same time I don’t dislike it. Certainly I can’t criticise Merretto for daring to release an album. It doesn’t lack talent or product, it doesn’t make me want to jump up and down and rant relentlessly, questioning why such people have chosen to pick up instruments and share such a glaring lack of talent with the world. Because this doesn’t lack talent, and they’re fully justified in picking up instruments because they can play them and play them well.

I can’t say it’s not good, and it’s certainly not bad. So it’s one of those other ones, a shade of grey, somewhere in the middle. Probably nearer the good end, but not far enough up to make me care.
www.meretto.com

Jim Johnstone

 

The Scratch - Whatever Happened to Friday Night (Ponyland Records)

This is the third studio album, to be released on 19 October.

And I simply cannot make my mind up about this. The lyrics are both witty and incisive, each song is short and simple, whilst at the same time catchy enough to cast a lasting memory but the overriding impression I take away is still one of annoyance with what‘s offered.

Some tracks have a slightly monotone, nasal quality to the vocals which grates. Some tracks don’t, and these tend to be the better ones.

An album of contrasts then. It certainly finishes stronger than it starts. Stand out tracks are Flicker, and title track Whatever Happened To Friday Night, whereas You Want The World and Freakshow embody everything that is irritating with this listening experience.

To sum up the album perfectly is to listen to 2nd track, Independent Unrepentant. Like scratching a musical chicken pox, at once both incredibly annoying and yet extremely satisfying.

A difficult one to call. Several tracks on here strong enough to justify a live visit whilst equally enough chaff to make you worry you’d leave the live gig ultimately dissatisfied. Certainly worth seeking out the stronger tracks on i-tunes but perhaps an entire album purchase is better avoided.
www.thescratch.co.uk

Jim Johnstone


 

The Yeah You’s - Looking Through You (Universal Records Ltd)

Imagine The Feeling, but less shit. Or post come back Take That, if they hadn’t been tainted with being that most terrible of the pop PR creations, the ‘boy band’.

What you’ll have is something not unlike The Yeah You’s. The sort of thing then that you’ll tell all that listen you hate. Yet occasionally this will catch you unawares, perhaps post hangover, in the bath, listening to radio 2, and you’ll find yourself nodding along, smiling, maybe even singing along with the catchy and immediately repeatable choruses.

Oh, you’ll feel dirty. Oh, so very, very dirty. But then what’s the point of a guilty pleasure if it doesn’t leave you feeling ever so slightly dirty once you’re done?

So that’s The Yeah You’s then. The sort of band that you’ll hate for what they are rather than what they do, which is the sort of middle of the road, joyful, uplifting, androgynous, X-Factor led mulsh lapped up by the remaining idiots not obsessed with hip hop or grime. The sort of thing your mother would like.

The sort of band you can see doing a duet with Elton John. You’ll hate it. You’ll tell people you’ll hate it. And then one night, pissed up in some Tenerifian bar on far too many sambucca‘s, you’ll stumble confidently towards the DJ and find yourself blaring this out on karaoke.

So there you go then. An actually not that terrible at all an album. Although don’t tell anyone I said that, please!
www.yeahyous.com

Jim Johnstone

 

Piney Gir - 'The Yearling' (Hotel Records)

'Hello Halo' chirps the coquettish intro to this 16 track collection of jazzy folk ballads, or is that folksy jazz ballads, as one performer resloutely choosing to defy convention and do exactly as she pleases is the Kansas-born and London-based Piney Gir. Now, whenever I hear the word 'Kansas' I think of two things. One is the 70s US band named after the only cast member of the Wizard Of Oz who hadn't a speaking role, Toto. The other is the film itself which I recall being taken to see as a very small Jon Gordon, and I ran out of the cinema when the nasty looking lady on the bicycle took to the skies, missing the very colourful rest of the film entirely. But I listened to all of 'The Yearling', and I think you should too.

There are and have always been good and bad girls writing their own songs and sometimes getting a little competitive in the shouting stakes. Piney Gir, despite a name which sugestts an as yet undiscovered forest dwelling creature, or (I can't quite shake the image) a growling pine marten, is almost fully domesticated. Doesn't mean she's boring though. Angela Penhaligon writes lively and sometimes surreal vignettes of her everyday life, which can include making presents for a sick friend (Blithe Spirit), actually pining for a lover (Love Is A Lonely Thing), asserting her own femininity (Lion (I Am One)) or just pottering around in the garden (Albelah:Bumblebee). All of this is done with quite a bit of skilland some invention in both the percussion and production departments, so wonder no more where the likes of Peggy Sue and The Research get it from.

Anyone looking for a gutsy blues howl might find 'The Yearling' a little well mannered, even twee, but Piney can sing and write some, and her pervasive lack of cynicism you will find both captivating and entertaining, as do I.
http://www.pineygir.com/

Jon Gordon

 

Davy Knowles and Back Door Slam - 'Roll Away' (Blix Street)

One style of music that practically no-one appears to remember nowadays, and I really can't think why, is proper old blues rock. Y'know, 10 Years After, Johnny Winter, even Cream, the kind of stuff you need to trawl through the 2nd hand vinyl racks for, or search out as expensive remastered reissues. No-one's told Davy Knowles and Back Door Slam that 12 bar walking basslines, intricate solos and throaty woman-done-me-wrong lyrics are, for many music fans today, a matter of historical curiosity. 40 years on from 'Disraeli Gears' and 'Rock 'N' Roll Music To The World' (find a copy, it is a genuine, unalloyed classic) and few if any bands seem either interested or able to resurrect the actual sounds of the 70s. Paul Weller might've touched on stuff like this in his 'Heavy Soul' period, but it is a very long time indeed since I heard a new album that took the power trio format and reasserted its musical splendour quite as effectively as 'Roll Away' does.

Not everyone's cup of builder's though. The difficulty Davy Knowles and Back Door Slam have got is that the basic blues format doesn't really allow room for much in the way of either experimentation or development. There are, quite definitely, rules. And while Davy Knowles and Back Door Slam give the sound an assured and purposeful energy, they also, it has to be deliberately, recreate almost note and tone perfect pastiches of some of the earlier work of Clapton and Albert Lee, which if you're up for it are every bit as listenable as these sources Davy Knowles and Back Door Slam are drawing upon. Alternately, dig out your copy of 'Live At The Fillmore' and recreate those heady days of free festivals and loon pants as it actually sounded first time around, scratches and warps and all.
http://www.davyknowles.com/

Jon Gordon

 

Frank Turner – Poetry Of The Deed (Xtra Mile Recordings / Epitaph Records)

Now, it must be said that I've been a fan of Frank Turner's musical exploits. Having been pleasantly surprised at catching the band that sparked his career on the road (Million who?!) at a pre-'Casually Dressed' Funeral For A Friend show, I later headed out to my local record store to pick up the debut Million Dead album, A Song To Ruin. I've never looked back since.

6 years on, and many songs about nostalgia later, Frank Turner returns to my stereo with his third full-release, Poetry Of The Deed. So, what's it like?

Well, yes, the authentic Frank formula is still intact. The social commentary on 'da yoof', punk rock, lost loves, and maybe most importantly, the hazy drunken nights out are still sung with as much passion as if it happened yesterday. Of course, with Frank, there's always a projected impression on the listener that it did in fact all happen only yesterday. Yet, the big difference between Poetry Of The Deed and the two full length records that preceded it is that it sounds as if it has been written and arranged with the backing band in mind.

Even after several listens, this writer is still unsure as to whether or not this is a positive step for a lone singer-songwriter who has forged a career as being just that. Poetry Of The Deed features some fantastically articulated folk punk songs with a handful likely to find themselves on a future Radio 1 playlist with ease. Though, and as I finish listening to the record once more, I'm left a little underwhelmed by the experience. Sure, songs such as Isabel, Live Fast Die Old, and The Fastest Way Back Home are wonderfully written stabs at pop but as I skip through the rest of the record (I've even found myself calling it 'the rest'), I'm left with the sour feeling that Frank was writing for a band and not for himself. To me, the appeal of Frank Turner laid in his ability to write naturally simple, stripped down punk songs. Call it a progression if you will, an evolution if you must, but with the increased prominence of his backing band, Poetry Of The Deed is not gripping. If anything, some of its thirteen tracks find me hovering over the skip button, a button I never hoped to press when listening to Frank Turner.

Lee Swinford

 

Strike The Colours – Seven Roads (Deadlight Records)

Damn you Strike The Colours. Damn you for releasing the perfect accompaniment to a lazy Summers evening... wait for it... in October! This is music for sitting on porch's and watching the fading light set in the horizon, a pleasure made a bit of a chore when the sun sets over the tea time rush hour and it's raining anyway!

Anyway, discrepancies aside, introducing the wonderful Strike The Colours, a collaborative outfit lead by Jenny Reeve. Originating from Glasgow, Scotland, Strike The Colours paint a charming and endearing addition to the British folk and indie scenes with their latest record, Seven Roads.

This ten track album is terrifically arranged and beaming with cheerfulness. It's rich with texture and diverse enough to keep you feeling warm and fuzzy on the inside. In songs such as Cold Hands, If I Don't Belong, Rivers, and The Things I Can't Explain, the record shows us its softer side with glimmering and occasionally uplifting melodies performed by violins, pianos, and acoustic guitars, with glitches of dulcimer tracked for successful effect in the latter. It's also now come to my attention that dulcimers do not get used enough in pop music. Well, there we have it.

Breathing Exercise, which pops up as track #2, may just have done enough to win the award of album 'key track' for me. Eeek, how Simon Cowell of me. The song builds up to a crescendo of activity with crashing cymbals and powerful vocals seemingly soaked in reverb. The outcome creates a grand atmosphere and a stirring feeling throughout.

Closing the record is the beautiful Rivers, a song featuring the vocal talents of 'Craig B' who superbly accompanies Reeve to chilling effect. The song oozes a sombre charm that somehow leaves the audience feeling better off because of it.

Right, you've read the review and (hopefully) you've questioned the message. Now, go see for yourself and feel free to thank me afterwards.

Lee Swinford

 

Tiger Shadow – The Rise of the Tiger Shadow (Tiger Shadow Music)

In much the same way as we insist on receiving CDs for review rather than MP3s as we believe it signifies a certain increased amount of intent and commitment on the part of the artist, when we receive a very well put together self-released album, it normally signifies something praiseworthy lurks within. There’s the odd exception where someone is a dab hand on photoshop and works in a mastering factory but cannot string two notes together. But generally a good package is a good package. And Tiger Shadow’s package is very good – complete with original artwork in the form of Gorillaz style cartoons and the glossiest press release we have received this year – these guys mean business.

‘The Rise of Tiger Shadow’ is a bit of a multi genre success story. Sure there’s the dark opening of ‘W’Happen’, reminiscent of DJ Shadow or Massive Attack but generally this is an example of positivity infused hip-hop mixed with various reggae, indie and funk – it doesn’t always have to be about hoes and popping caps in people. In fact, Komla MC has one of the most unusual styles I’ve ever heard – deliberately wondering off in pitch and rhythm frequently but pulling it back together just before you think he’s lost the plot.

Production is superb and a couple of the tracks sound absolutely epic – ‘Escape’ and ‘Hold on Tightly’ being obvious examples. All in all this is a pretty impressive piece of work. Who says good things come in small packages? Sometimes they come in nice packaging.
www.tigershadow.com

SB

 

Alice in Chains – Black Gives Way to Blue (Parlophone)

It’s been over ten years since Alice in Chains’ last studio album? God that makes me feel old. I still remember listening to ‘Dirt’ while at school and Jar of Flies at uni. And I never thought they would make a comeback this good.

In fairness the odds were stacked against them when co-vocalist Layne Staley died in 2002 and many thought AiC would never be able to re-discover that original dynamic which set them apart from the likes of other contemporaries like Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots. But in new vocalist William DuVall the band seem to have re-discovered a sounds that while not emulating their original manifestation, certainly builds on it.

They’ve always been a strange beast. For instance there are not many bands that have true dual vocalists anyway, often misleading you into thinking the vocal tracks have all just been chorused. Then there are Cantrell’s distinctive down-tuned stoner guitars which dredge through half the tracks while pristine 12 strings bristle through others. But they may have capped all this by having Elton John guesting on the title track – that will take some beating.

Individually the tracks all stand up in their own right. Opening single ‘A Looking View’ could have been lifted straight off ‘Dirt’ and second single ‘Check My Brain’ lathers on an awesome downtuned, warped guitar riff that explodes into a poppy singalong chorus which will clearly appeal across many genres. There’s also the bluesey elements of ‘Jar of Flies’ era AiC in tracks like ‘When the Sun Rose Again’ and the vocals here really excel in the way the old Staley-Cantrell formula used to.

One thing I would say is that as an entity, I find the whole album a little bit heavy going. Alice in Chains are no Paramore – they are proper heavy even when they doing their acoustic works and this unremittingly anvil beating sound can eventually wear you down. But how many people actually listen to albums straight through in this day and age of iPod shuffles? Rather ‘Black Gives Way to Blue’ must rank as one of the best comeback albums of the year and firmly cements Alice in Chains as not only one of the most influential bands of the 90s but also as one of the most important right now – no-one else sounds like Alice In Chains.
www.aliceinchains.com

SB

 

Biffy Clyro – Only Revolutions

I got into Biffy Clyro with The Vertigo of Bliss. I bought the albums that followed and went back. Through their back catalogue, it is all ace. I eulogised at great length about the last album and about Biffy…so there was more than the normal anticipation about whether this would be a good album or not. It also means that I don’t have any worries about where their sound might go. So, as far as which Biffy Clyro will turn up on this album, I’m not worried. Neither should you be. This album is great. First single That Golden Rule could probably have done more with the strings but it’s still great. At their least inventive, Biffy Clyro are a great original rock band, able to write great riffs that they occasionally use once, as a surprise in one song and then move on. At their most inventive, they’re sickeningly, mind blowing.

Biffy always, always sound great and they’ve always liked the simple brilliance of bands like Far and Weezer as much as they’ve liked to confound and embrace the ODD. Biffy Clyro has always been a band that revelled in both though, and it often ebbed from simple, wonderful tunes to things that you didn’t know would sound right in any circumstances. It was often in the space of one song. This album has those moments but also more riffs in general, more rock. I’m totally OK with this.

Some of the songs on this album are wonderful. God and Satan could stop you. Born on a Horse is, I hope, wonderfully hilarious and playful, Mountains is monstrous. Here Biffy Clyro can make the complicated sound simple, like a good explanation of something you didn’t get. (The end of Bubbles might go on a tiny bit though) Simon Neil’s voice is still superb and clear and true. There are songs on this album that remind you that invention doesn’t necessarily have to come in the form of chord choice or time signature. When the right speaker kicks in on Many of Horror your jaw drops. It sounds so cool and to sigen off, the last track is the best track. Biffy are still crammed with ideas. Still thinking. That they aren’t necessarily thinking in the way you might expect is testament to them.

This album confirms that Biffy Clyro are great and original and happy to acknowledge their influences. That they move it all further; I really can’t wait to see this live. There is no point in being wilfully smart, in fact no one likes that.

The last album was steeped in Simon Neil’s sadness at the death of his Mum; this follow up is the sound of a slightly jaded, sadder band, still full of hope.

Christopher Carney

 

Barricades Rise – You and Your Adored

Barricades Rise offer a thin pub-band approach to acoustic rock, or that wishy washy bit of music that not many people talk about. And as is a recurring theme with my reviews, the vocalist Jonathan Coates is going to take the brunt of the abuse. With some whispy breathy tone that is probably supposed to sound mysterious, but just sounds a bit Tina Turner. Aside from the weak tone, he strives to sing a majority of the words on the very curb of his own vocal range, and frequently overstepping the mark. He's just trying to sound far too epic, and for a backing track which is acoustic guitars and sometimes bongos, with no real hard-hitting rhythm, it just doesn't work. The songs become a bit of a joke. Like the girl with weird colours in her hair who shows up at an open mic night and starts singing some awful song she's written about her ex. Everyone stands round covering their faces as giggles arise. And that's what I get from this.

Some of the guitar solos too. You know those CDs you buy for a couple of quid of “Pan Pipe Classics” and the like, some of this is the acoustic guitar equivalent. I'd expect it of Europe, but never Nuneaton, England.

Nothing stands out on the album, and apart from a close following in select areas, I can't really see this album selling very many copies.

Thom Curtis

 

Tubelord – Our First American Friends (Hassle Records)

It's been quite a while since something has filled me with potential excitement, as have Tubelord – and England have an answer to Scotland's Biffy Clyro. This Kingston three-piece are ones to watch – providing they don't go a bit too Marmaduke Duke. That said, I suppose they already are a little bit. They magically combine pop-punk vocal breaks, harmonies and energetic Blink-esque choruses, with the erratic outbursts, earth-rattling riffs and mind-boggling breakdowns of the best Biffy tribute act.

Each song – jumps through numerous phases of crazy guitar licks coupled with odd rhythms, wonkily twitching its way between foot-stomping hip-jolting verses and choruses.

Considering the opening track /Your Bed Is Kind Of Frightening/ sounds like an airy post-rock song, I was preparing to relax when all of a sudden my ears were blown up by a ball-shaking drum-sequence and straight into a wonky riff that instantly brought a smile to my face.

Every track is a winner, so there's no point naming them. But there's one called /Somewhere Out There A Dog Is On Fire/ and /He Awoke On A Bench In Abergavenny/ too. They're at the absolute cutting edge of music and I've no doubt similar bands will be springing up everywhere. This time next year we might be sick of it, but until then, Tubelord are where it's at.

The pace remains high for nearly all the ten tracks, and it really is, at the end of the day, fantastic.

Thom Curtis

 

Spiral Stairs – The Real Feel (Domino Records)

Another disappointingly average release from Domino – Spiral Stairs are at best, a generic pub band. Some songs drift into /Crowded House/ territory. The difference being that when /Crowded House/ made it, there was plenty of music of a similar style floating about. Now there isn't. This sounds dated. You see how it works. Other songs take a very /Pink Floyd/ approach, which grow on you, but you can't help but feel the half-arsed singing lets it down.

There's nothing to grab you – to put it simply. Dad's nationwide will be driving home excited to tell their kids that there's a new band that they actually like.

Yep. Just an average pub band, with a good knowledge of fancy pedals and good friends with the owner of a good recording studio and a sound technician.

Thom Curtis

 
 

Canterbury – Thanks (FriendsVsRecords)

What a misleading album. I started off so excited. This paragraph sung its praises and squeeled in joy as I announced their supporting slots with Billy Talent and Hundred Reasons. I skipped through the album and changed this paragraph. It's not as excited anymore, is it.

Punchy high-octane rocking starts off the album, but doesn't last as long as hoped. There are some oddballs thrown into the mix which really kill the exciting vibe initially created by the opening tracks /Peace & Quiet/ and /Eleven Twelve. /By the time you finish up you seem to have arrived at /Fall Out Boy Central Station/, which certainly wasn't
advertised as the final destination at the start of the journey- and if I'd have paid for a ticket on this musical experience I'd feel really cheated.

Thom Curtis

 

Hovercraft Pirates – Mixtape (True Blue Records)

The first thing to say about Hovercraft Pirates is that I don’t believe their press. They’re described as a punk band but I’d say this album is almost too polished to be punk, and yet too punk to be purely a rock album. Maybe it’s nu-punk. Maybe it’s pure punk-rock. Whatever, the album crosses a few genres and does each one well. From the Dropkick Murphys-esque Always Free to the ska-influenced Happy/Free to the rocking out on Just Another Rock Song, it’s three lads making a lot of noise very well. It’s very tight musically and has hints of Muse, Green Day, the Pixies and Butch Walker, among others.

I like the heavy irony in Just Another Rock Song, and I think Wanna Go is in the same vein as the raucous Briggs song Bored Teenager. Dreams is an absolutely gorgeous song with beautiful vocals that fluctuate between quiet and loud, a jingly guitar line and a hard chorus that stops and starts wonderfully. I think the album as a whole owes more than a little to fellow Irish band Therapy?, but that most definitely is not a bad thing.

My one criticism of this album is that, at not even 40 minutes long, it isn’t anywhere near long enough.

Rebecca McCormick

 

Charlotte Hatherley - New Worlds (Little Sister Records)

It is said that the third album is always the best, and with this stunningly perfect offering it is difficult to believe otherwise. Hatherley uses every tool of her trade to paint a musical canvas every colour of the rainbow to provoke every emotion.

Beginning on ‘White’, Hatherley creates a detached yet vibrant tale of lovers with lingering vocals and a suave dance triggering beat. ‘Alexander’ is everything Bat for Lashes ‘Daniel’ should and could have been: more energetic; more intriguing; more fun. Guitar led ear smasher ‘Straight Lines’ is rugged and beautiful, with its twisted spaced out solos and haunting vocals. Following swiftly, title-track ‘New Worlds’ boasts one of the catchiest riffs ever written and encapsulates the mischievous energy of the album. ‘Firebird’ sounds like the 1920’s taken into space and given a Bowie-style makeover. Sweet and gleaming with harmonies, yet innovative enough to make you think you have just left Earth in a tiny silver rocket ship.

‘Full Circle’ and ‘Little Sahara’ are dirtier and troubled but still retain that sugary influence that has been so skilfully sprinkled across the entire album. ‘Colours’ is the cherry on top, emitting glittering magnificence and oozing astounding resonance from a distorted guitar and cymbal crashes. ‘Cinnabar’ and ‘Wrong Notes’ bring a breathtaking steady acoustic finish to an unparalleled album of colour and beauty.

Sumptuous and sultry; inventive and playful, ‘New Worlds’ is pushes music to new horizons, breaking boundaries and making music shimmer and sparkle with inspirational shades.

Eloise Quince

 

Alexis Gideon – Video Musics

Alexis Gideon is an American musician, animator and filmmaker from Portland, Oregon and this EP is the soundtrack to his latest video opera. Gideon’s music is a bizarre mix of hip-hop, synth-pop and weirdly joyous childlike folk melodies. It’s totally charming and engrossing and not really like anything else I’ve heard. His recordings (and presumably his animations) have an endearing homemade feel and the vocals have a warm, slightly drunken air to them which draws the listener in. ‘Video Musics’ may be slight, clocking in at only twenty minutes, but it is original and fascinating and deserves to be heard.

Matt Brown

 

Sanjuro – I Want My Money Back

Sanjuro are a London-based five piece who blend folk, punk and gypsy music on this 7-track mini-album. The mention of gypsy music in the opening line of the review may cause you to think of the extremely irritating Gogol Bordello. Fortunately, Sanjuro have at least two things which make them a step above the aforementioned Romanians. Firstly, they actually try to write proper songs rather than just making a generic folk racket and shouting over the top. Secondly, they’re not friends with Madonna. ‘I Want My Money Back’ is nothing spectacular (it’s unlikely that any of the songs will be stuck in your head after it has finished) but it at least makes pleasant listening for twenty-five minutes or so. The problem it has is that the band seem capable of writing traditional songs and of playing ramshackle folk jams but find it difficult to blend the two, leaving most of the tracks sounding either aimless or pedestrian. The one exception to this is ‘Redundancia’ which is by far the standout track. Whilst Sanjuro may well prove to be a more exciting proposition as a live band, there is little on this recording to feel passionate about.

Matt Brown

 
 

Johnny Lightning – Thunder Lightning 4

Johnny Lightning (the press release spells his name with an ‘i’ but I’ve gone with the name on the cover) is a vocalist/multi-instrumentalist/producer from Reigate in Surrey. He lists his influences as, amongst others, OutKast, Prodigy, Prince, Nine Inch Nails, Timbaland and Squarepusher which seems more of a list of what he (as well as any other sensible person) likes rather than a guide to what his music actually sounds like. This EP serves up five tracks of frantic breakbeats, squelching keyboards and looped vocals which, although crude in places, is not a bad listen. ‘Like That’is a highlight and has some nice moments when the rhythms slow down and the track adopts more of a dub feel. ‘See You Again’ is the most straightforward song on the EP and is driven by a catchy synth line in the style of chart acts like Calvin Harris. Track 4 ‘Scenes’ is a heavy dance track with sped up house vocals contrasting with ragga style MCing and is likeably mental and invigorating throughout its four and a half minutes. Overall, there’s nothing distinctive or accomplished enough here to be truly memorable but ‘Thunder Lightning 4’ is an enjoyable enough release which is well worth investigating.

Matt Brown

 

Foreign Beggars – United Colours of Beggattron

‘United Colours of Beggattron’ is apparently the third album by hip-hop crew Foreign Beggars. I’d never heard of them until I opened the CD but was pleasantly surprised by a lot of the tracks on offer. The sound they achieve is accessible, with strong vocal hooks and laidback beats, without in anyway pandering to the mainstream. Most of the backing tracks are fairly sparse, being based on offbeat but catchy basslines around which the MCs can weave their rhymes. ‘Seven Figure Swagger’is a highlight, with a heavy dub/ragga feel and lyrics that are pretty funny in a lairy kind of way. ‘Keeping the Line Fat’ also stands out and has more of an electro feel with soulful female vocals and a more conventional melody mixed with rapping reminiscent of current UK MCs like Sway or Lethal Bizzle. The album is consistently strong, with the only real weak points being the three skits which, in addition to adding nothing to the album, aren’t even particularly funny. Overall though, this is an impressive album and hip-hop fans would do well to ignore the (appalling) name and check it out.

Matt Brown

 

The Brothers Movement - The Brothers Movement

Okay, I’ve listened to this once, and once is more than enough for me. The Brother’s Movement are horrible. Horrible. More than that, there’s something quite sad about the whole thing. I remember a friend of mine whose cousin had complained once that strawberries didn’t taste strawberry. He wasn’t just being paradoxical, no. The kid had just never tried the real thing, and instead had been brought up on strawberry flavoured things.

Where am I going with this? Here’s where. The Brothers’ Movement have never heard Echo and the Bunnymen, or Jesus and the Mary Chain, or even Oasis, and if they did hear them, they’d say something like ‘ewch, this does sound like Embrace’. And they’d hate it. They’d think it was rubbish. They’d scoff at the very notion that people actually liked it. The only song they like of Urban Hymns is Lucky Man; they reckon The Drugs Don’t Work is a bit ‘hard to get into’. And they sing their eleven songs about blindness and eyes and holding and minds and all that other useless shit that crap lyricists use as short hand for ‘having a bit of a rough time of it’. Here’s a world where songs involve woman who are referred to as ‘baby’, and say, stay, and way isn’t a tired and idiotic rhyming scheme. Horrible. Really, quite horrible. I fear that record buying idiots will buy this and record schlepping (cough, Wiley) will declare this as genius. But then I have a low opinion of the race to which I belong.

Sean Gregson

 

Samara Lubelski - Future Slip

Oh, Samara, Samara, you have such a beautiful name to live up to please don’t let... us...
down.

Sometimes, people beg the question ‘what’s not to like?’ Sometimes, the best retort is ‘what is to like?’ That’s what I’m struggling with, Samara. Culture Kings ’66 starts things off with an ethereal, lo-fi (sorry, mum) groove. After that, well, after that nothing really happens. Yes, it’s all a bit Serge Gainsbourg; yes, it’s self aware and ironic but, Samara, is it any good? I’m all for psychedelica. I’m all for folk. I’m all for understated beauty. Yet, I’m not all for Future Slip.

Maybe I wanted too much from you, Samara. You played on Thurston Moore’s Trees Outside the Academy, and I thought that was tantamount to musical infallibility. It isn’t.

Certain moments, The Trip is Out, for instance, give a glimpse of the maybes that are held within you. Silver Hair too is beautiful. But it’s not enough.

Sean Gregson

 

Shelley Short – A Canoo, A Cave

Say what you want, laugh at me behind my stupid back; I love Shelley Short. There, I’ve said it.

And what’s not to love? Ay? Answer me that. First line of the album: ‘There’s a party, I’m gonna go.’ It’s like Shelley’s inviting us all along. Get your coats everyone, we’re off out with Shelley.

Okay, at worst claims will be made that there’s certain hints of a Rufus’ sister and Bill Callanhan’s girl and numerous others but... but that’ll come later, like when you say your ex was nothing special, just like all the rest. Well, I don’t believe it. Miss Short is something special. And all that’s a load of crap anyway. The male dominated music and media industries mean that all female singer/songwriters are simply waved away as sub-such-and-such, usually Bjork, often Patti Smith, frequently Debbie Harry, and more recently Kate Bush.

There’s a real story throughout the album, a sense of a world being created. You know, like Raymond Carver or Miranda July do with their short stories, we’re given a world to inhabit, a child-like land to give ourselves over to for 40-odd minutes.

Go and spend your pennies on this.

Sean Gregson

 

Polite Sleeper - Lake Effect

Demographics are weird. In this shiny, web 2.0 age you can find loads of nifty little gizmos - lastfm and the like - that'll recommend music to you, like an over-zealous best friend. 'Like this?' they cry, 'then why not listen to these guys. They'd be right up your street'. And I'm sure if your record collection included the likes of Grandaddy, Modest Mouse, Pavement and especially Neutral Milk Hotel, then I'm sure they'd throw up Polite Sleeper. On paper you should love this one man band. I should be all over this album like a rash.

But lifes not that simple. The reasons people like music are too intricate and complicated to be expressed in a bit of computer code. I can't quite put my finger on exactly what irks me about this record. Its a well put together, varied little lo-fi record. Its not a million miles away form the Airborne Toxic Event album from 2008. The nasally vocal style could certainly put a few people off, but then none of the singers of the bands I mentioned above were exactly Mariah Carey, and they seemed to do alright. The lyrics are possibly a little too in love with the idea of the tortured bedroom poet and I'll wager Mr Polite Sleeper owns a lot of Leonard Cohen albums and Keroauc books ('This reminds me of Venice' - does it? Does it really?). But pretensions not necessarily a bad thing either; this is indie rock after all. Its just the record as a whole seems a little too clever, too considered. Even the more comparatively rollocking tracks don't really sound like someone letting go of themselves. Its as if he set out to do a Daniel Johnston and ended up coming up with David Gray.

Andy Glynn

 
 

Blackchords - Blackchords

Blackchords kick off this album, their debut in the most understated way possible, a minute and a half of hushed vocals over gentle feedback. Its a surprisingly bold move when most young bands want to show off every idea they've got within the first five minutes. When 'At World's End' finally kicks off, into a jerky, grungey march, it doesn't disappoint. 'Blackchords' is a remarkably assured album, not a million miles away from Elbow's breakthrough from last year (which lest we forget took the best part of a decade for them to perfect). Its a collection of subtle, brooding songs which don't ever have to resort to trying too hard. Singer Nick's voice isn't unlike Lloyd Cole's, and it drips honey over the wistful, minor key tracks. 'These lights' is especially lovely. But this lot can rock out when nescessary. Its a record which gets the small things right, adding a good dose of darkness in the form of a nasty guitar riff or two, whenever things drift too far into radio 2 territory. They're particularly adept at pushing your emotional buttons when required, like on the one-two punch of 'Diplomat' & 'December'. Both songs build to massive creshendos; the first by rocking the hell out and the second by gradually ramping up the tension, live a quivering bottom lip. Closer 'Disappear' is bleeding lovely too. This is a record men could cry to without having to feel ashamed.

While this certainly isn't a record chock-full of radio-friendly singles, it doesn't seem like it was ever intended as such and it works best as a whole. As a mood piece, its a lovely wintery gem.

Andy Glynn

 

Adrian Killens - Selected Demos 2002-2009

Its a bold move, releasing your rarities album first, but ok I'll call your bluff. Lets see what you've got...

Its not actually such a bad idea; whatever you think of the actual music, listening to how someone progresses over 7-odd years is going to be fairly interesting. I'm assuming the tracks aren't in chronological order, but from the varying recording styles, and states of mind, I reckon I could hazard a pretty decent guess what order they were recorded in. Adrian seems to be a decent, if unspectacular, singer song-writer, making plaintive little indie pop tunes in the same vein as Babybird or Minuteman. You can hear the production improve and the instrumentation get a bit more varied but even at the end you're not sure you've actually come that far.

The lyrics are a big problem. The Weezer comparisons Killens himself makes are pretty accurate although probably not for the reasons he would want. Theres a hint of Rivers Coumo's forced childishness which is going to rankle with some and the nursery-rhyme lyrics seems straight out of Noel Gallagher's rhyming dictionary. When he trys to make things a bit darker things don't get much better. He seems to have gone through an 'I'm a bad motherfucker and I'm dangerous to know' period, with less-than-convincing results, which also includes a fair bit of (hopefully) ironic misogyny (at least 2 songs include the phrase 'fucking whore'). Hes obviously aiming an Arab Strap vibe but its comes across like a 14 year old's version of Aiden Moffat, without any of the wit or grace.

And then in the middle of the record theres 'Argillian's Gone', a lovely little tune which comes out of nowhere and sounds a bit like the Jesus & Mary Chain at their softest. Its the one song where Killens stops trying to put on a mask and trying so bloody hard, and actually conjures up some genuine emotion. At the end your left with an impression of someone who obviously knows their way around a song, but hasn't quite worked out how to put any of themselves into it.

Adrian Killens - hes ok.

Adrian's entire back catalogue is available to download via www.aidy.com

Andy Glynn

 

Vowels - The Pattern Prism

...and with that, the circus veered cliffwards, disappearing over the edge and plummeting into the valley below and clattering to a halt in one long violent, discordant crash. And thus began 'Sonny' by Vowels. Vowels' don't really make songs, more tame cacophonies that throw layer upon layer of dissonant sounds into the mix before slowly reigning it in to a manageable groove. Weirdly it all seems to just about work, albeit only in places. When the band hit their stride, they make some of the most unique music you're likely to hear - strangely euphoric, glitchy math rock that judders and clanks so much you can almost hear the kitchen sink. There are softer moments too; 'Two Wires' is a gentler, motorik jaunt that sounds a bit like Neu out for a bike ride. Theres bits of Trans Am here and a good smattering of Aphex Twin but in all honesty, with music this deliberately 'out-there' its pointless trying to make comparisons with anyone else. The problem is that once the band hit a groove, they stay there, stuck in a never-ending holding pattern. Half of the album's eight songs go on for more than 6 minutes and while the initial build up is always pretty exciting, they then proceed to milk it for the length of an average tea-break. Its just as possible for avant-garde noise terrorists to be boring as your average pub-rock band.

Andy Glynn

 

Ruberlaris - Beneath the Spire

Gentle, mid-tempo, ploddy, indie-ska. Nice tunes and that, but doesn't really seem to have any ambitions beyond being something the milkman would want to whistle. On that front it probably succeeds, but when it comes to actually engaging anyone, Ruberlaris don't really seem all that arsed. All the lyrics seem to echo this, with songs either about not wanting to get up in the morning or having been up all night. I know they say write what you know, but if all you do is sit around getting stoned all day then for fuck's sake lie a bit. Inject a wee bit of glamour or excitement. Pretty sure the Specials didn't die in the great ska war of 81 for this. Its competent enough, and they're obviously good at what they do, but you get the impression that every provincial town in the UK has their own identical band that you could swap with this lot without anyone noticing. Like branches of Greggs. I hope they've got a union.

Andy Glynn

 

Nephu Huzzband - Elementary

This bunch of noisenicks make angular, atonal rock, not unlike an English version of And You Will Know us by the Trail of Dead. Songs growl and leer like the scuzzy 'Its Only Ordinary', but they never really explode. Nephu Huzzband occupy a weird musical space: too arty to appeal to the metallers, not weird enough to appeal enough to the chinstrokering math-rock fans and not quite hooky enough to appeal to your average emo kid. They do a lot of things well, but none of them spectacularly. This is a tight enough band, but they don't really have a USP.

At times it seems like they're going out of their way to be deliberately harsh to listen to. Songs turn back on themselves the second they get going, the equivalent of an M. Night. Shyamalan film, where the plot twists are so frequent and expected that they lose any impact they might have had. When they reign in their artier tendencies ever so slightly, like on the weirdly uplifting 'Papers' you get a hint of the band they could be, but as it is all I can really say is 'ok if you like that sort of thing.'

Andy Glynn

 

The Raudive – Ghost Box (Sugarbeet Stallion)

The Raudive are a band who, rather excitingly, met through a local band messageboard. Come on. I mean, COME FUCKING ON!! Lesson number one: Never, ever tell the dirty public you met through a chatroom. You have a cool nom de plume, taken in honour of a Latvian intellectual with a penchant for parapsychology, and then you go and ruin any possible mystique with the “Steve met Steve, who already knew Steve” scenario. Bad skills.

Number one on their list of influences are Sonic Youth which is a good and a bad thing. Good because you could do far worse than Sonic Youth as an influence. Bad however as The Raudive consequently have become a small inner moon that has given up trying to escape the gravitational pull of Thurston Moore’s Jupiter (nowhere more evident than on the opener “Warning”). This is a shame as if a bit more thought was put into matters, they might be capable of making some interesting music. As it is, they do their best to sabotage this thought with appalling school band guitar solos; the otherwise sopoforic “I’m Control” and “Under the Willows” are both put through a mangle as a result. Mark Atkinson’s lazy affected Moore drawl also belies the fact he is from Cambridge, and quite possibly not American.

There is, buried underneath all this though, an actual songwriting ability. “I’m Control” (not withstanding the rotten solo) and the gently hypnotic “Torch Song” are both decent enough. And this makes it all the more frustrating. The only thing worse than a band with no talent is a band with some talent woefully mis-employing it. On the basis of this offering, it has to be hoped that future releases by The Raudive rectify this.
www.myspace.com/theraudive
www.theraudive.co.uk

RM

 

Reuben – We Should Have Gone to University (Xtra Mile)

This is a comprehensive collection of live sessions, demos, outtakes, videos, etc etc. which is slightly bizarre considering that these are normally things for acts of a certain success level, and Reuben are certainly not among them. So that can only lead me to assume this comp is for mums, dads, girlfriends and mates then.

Anyway, the music itself is competently played Emo/MOR (no, I didn’t think it possible to cross the two either) tosh. Most of it is so-so; “Suffocation of the Soul” chugs on reasonably enough, and “Shambles” sounds vaguely dangerous. The biggest problem proves to be the marmite-like qualities of Jamie Lenman’s voice, whose Americanised whine becomes increasingly irritating over the course of CD1’s 25 tracks. Honestly, there are food blenders out there that have more agreeable tones when in use.

It must be noted title of this album does give rise to a heaven sent opportunity for some baiting by the reviewer, but I rise above it…no I don’t. I wish they had gone to bloody university, that way they might have saved my ears from this drivel. This is for completists who are already familiar with/live with the band only.
http://www.myspace.com/wordsfromreuben
www.wordsfromreuben.com

RM

 

The Fauns – The Fauns (Laser Ghost)

Bristol-based band The Fauns acknowledge that their mission in life is to provide a modern twist on the Thames Valley/Shoegaze sound of the early 90’s. At first it’s a struggle to not compare it to other guitar bands with female vocalists. At points (“Lovestruck”) they do sound like The Cardigans after an evening spent smoking bongs but this cannot be a bad thing. They allude to My Bloody Valentine being a major influence but MBV they are not; the sound is too polished and the guitars of Elliot Guise and Lee Woods don’t quite manage the anarchic levels of Shields and Butcher. However, they have a good stab on “The Sun is Cruising”, with undertones of The Charlatans “Sproston Green”, and they’ve managed instead to make something of their own without sounding too derivative. It’s a pretty listen this, with things like “1991” (arguably the peak year in terms of shoegazing) swirling around the headphones like a Slowdive wet dream. “Road Meets the Sky” is probably the most anthemic and has ‘single’ written all over it but it does so with a more serene air than similar fare produced by contemporaries such as Sad Day for Puppets.
The lyrics are not something that you’d spent hours analysing, but to do so would be to miss the point; this is audio experience rather than an exercise in storytelling or projecting a manifesto, and Alison Garner cooing sweet nothings in your ear is merely the icing on top of a considerably layered cake.

The one fly in the ointment is a pointless cover of Brian’s “Understand” otherwise this a fine album that is almost an allergic reaction to the skinny jeans Libertines/Razorlight-esque rock still currently doing the rounds, and is all the better for it.
http://www.myspace.com/thefauns

RM

 

EastStrikeWest – W o l v v e s

EastStrikeWest are epic. Epic post rock with epic vocals on this epic debut that unsurprisingly comes with an epically hyperbolic press release. This band sound massive. They’re music is overwhelming, thick and textured but… is it any good?

Well there’s no doubt that this band are talented. Their stark musical vision is beautifully laid out by multi-instrumental songs that often contain soaring choruses that might sound like Doves if Doves weren't so bloody catatonic. Other comparisons could be drawn to a latter day Anathema or even Elbow.

Wolvves itself begins with the fantastically named 'God Can't Take His Eyes Off Me' that skips between piano and the full onslaught of the entire band roaring at the speakers. It’s stunning, the crème de la crème of post rock instrumentation. As the record progresses, the same themes are repeated in meticulous detail. Every tune is a gorgeously produced, layered work or art. It really is a thing of beauty. The drama of the howling choruses, chiming guitars and thunderous rhythm sections are irresistible as the band plough on through taking the listener with them.

However as dazzling as Wolvves can be, it is almost too epic, drowning in its own sound. It’s difficult to pick out a highlight on the record as one track slips so seamlessly into another. Violins are ever present as they swoop alongside the wailing vocals that merge chorus and verse together. After a while, it all becomes a blur. It would have been great if this album was spikier; even the crescendos in tracks such as ‘The Architect’ or ‘Electricity’ feel smoothed off with post-production compressors. The album can feel like a bloated behemoth which distracts from what is ultimately a comprehensive musical vision.

As paradoxical as that may be considering the genre, ESW sometimes sound too introspective and too self-indulgent. The listener has to work unintentionally hard to reap the rewards of this album – which is a shame as there are many. Nevertheless flaws aside, there is no doubt that this band have created something slick, professional and, if you get there, very special.

Moker

 

Orange - Phoenix (Hellcat Records)

And I thought that there was absolutely nothing cheesier than Metro Station waving their dirty little faces around on the American pop punk market. How naive I was.

Phoenix is painfully try hard and unbelievably clichéd. From start to finish this album is the same three power chords and cascading solos that make up just about every pop punk song ever. Not to mention the strained vocals that are just scream ‘Green Day Wannabes!’ at the top of their whiny frequency. ‘Everything I Need’, ‘Happening Today’ and ‘Sunday Night’ are apparently ‘utterly anthemic and optimistic’. Clearly, these songs were only meant for those of us who have never experienced any music of any merit in our lives as these tracks are boring and plod on for what seems an age. ‘Never Going out Again’ is something I wish Orange would do with lyrics as appalling as this; ‘I was walking down the street, thinking “what’s up”/When I had this great idea to hit a strip club’. God give me strength. Annoying stint ‘Desperation’ is the cherry on the top with its ‘Clash-influence’. If The Clash heard this they would all spontaneously combust from pure shame of being associated with this drivel. Also, I feel it is my duty to point out that this SOUNDS NOTHING LIKE THE CLASH AND NEVER WILL. Jesus, don’t even get me started on the murder of ‘Perfect Day’ that supposedly ‘sums up the entire record perfectly’. This could only sum up my day if I have had the most awful day imaginable in which I was poisoned through a cursed goblet and subsequently suffered a slow and painful death, after which my ears were cut into tiny little pieces whilst my eyes were fed to crazed dogs.

Orange, look, it’s like this; fire your PR Company or just go away.

Eloise Quince

 

Fieldhead - 'They Shook Hands For Hours' (Home Assembly Music)

Often, I find electronica a bit predictable. Not in a dull or boring way, but in a 'I can hear the next part of the track I'm listening to already' kind of way. When electronic music is done well, this isn't an issue, but only too often it can seem that the people making it are too involved in living out fantasist existences in which they are in fact Ralph Hutter / Dr Dre / some really obscure Swiss avant-garde composer even R3 haven't ever played, or only played once. Then along comes an album such as 'They Shook Hands ...' and heard-it-all cynics such as myself are reminded that they posess more prejudices than they actually thought they did, and also that a lot of really good, orignal and innovative electronic music doesn't actually get heard very widely.

I live near Bristol, and there is something undeniably, indeed recognisably Bristolian about 'They Shook Hands ...'. At various points Fieldhead reference dub minimalism, spacey prog rock, adding moments of elegaic acoustic interplay, even just blank soundscapes that require the listeners imagination to bring them to life. The album is constructed with a clarity and attention to detail that some electronics performers miss out on, losing focus as the sequencers do the work and the squiggles multiply, and there is a proper aspect of minimalism to Fieldheads sound, and if there's one album I've heard this year that would bring a defined ambience to a large art gallery, such as Bristol's Arnolfini, then that album is most definitely 'They Shook Hands ...'. What it really sounds like though is Hawkwind and Massive Attack jamming on top of a lighthouse on Lundy island on a very foggy evening. And Fieldhead are actually from Leeds. Quality.
http://www.myspace.com/fieldhead

Jon Gordon

 

The Molotovs - 'And The Heads Did Roll' (Fierce Panda)

It's that time of year again, the introduction to next years contenders for Best New Band, and my money is very firmly on The Molotovs to captivate the nation with their laddish antics, putting a smile on the lips of a dozen national djs and leaving a generation of club doormen shaking their heads in sorrow, or just disbelief at the sheer nerve of these 20-something jazz funk stylists.

Something of a introduction to a band whose full length first album should reach us next spring, these are 6 tracks of classy Britpop, whose mixture of danceability and lyrical bite hasn't been heard since, well I'll give the game away if I start making too many references as to where these Londoners really get it from, but rest assured that there are echoes of some influential crossover stylists here, the best and coolest sax playing I've heard in yonks, and sufficient cultural weight to ensure that single and album highlight 'Flowers' finds its way onto a sunday supplement giveaway CD in 2011, by which time even your wheezy old dad will have heard of The Molotovs, so I reccommend that you, the youthful hipster, hear them now before the mainstream drains the band of their talent and energy, as it inevitably and tragically will. Like Jack Penate if he ever stopped jogging on the spot, or Scouting For Girls reaching puberty, 'And The Heads Did Roll' has the edgy element of surprise that all truly great pop requires, and can we hear the full album sometime shortly?
http://www.myspace.com/themolotovs
Vinyl copies of 'Flowers' available from: http://www.myspace.com/coolforcatsrecords

Jon Gordon