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albums - november 2009


Snowstorm – s/t (Monotone)

The most striking thing about this new Snowstorm release is the punk rock packaging. A brown card inlay with cut out type writer text stuck on it – Even the CD has a scrap of paper glued to it. The do it yourself, handmade feel already wins me over... And the same could be said for the music. This ten track, twenty minute album (!) sounds as if the whole thing was recorded live in a basement on a tape Walkman. However, don't think this is a bad thing, it just adds to the charm of the whole affair, much like the lo-fi style of the ("late great") Daniel Johnson.

Saying that, Snowstorm are much more alt-country, nu-folk than singer song writer, even though Snowstorm is actually a solo project with a band in tow. In fact there's a distinct emo feel to the songs, akin to say, Brand New. I could imagine this music finding a welcome home on Conor Oberst's Saddle Creek Records. It's emotive, acoustic, introspective and poetic.

Bite size lyrics that pepper this album such as "the sea is blue and so are you... you're going to drown in your misery" or "feels like, you've been had, how you had your Mom and Dad" only add to that emo feel. But this music manages to stay on the right side of emo; it doesn't veer into MCR's unwelcomed moaning about middle class woes and manages instead to strike a balance between sounding emotion and not whining. A difficult act to pull off.

Snowstorm himself cites slightly different influences but the one I agree on is The Beach Boys. The album is full of upbeat but ultimately sad melodies that go as quickly as they appear. Some highlights such as "Silence of the Sea" last less than two minutes leaving you wanting more.

Ultimately, the aptly named Snowstorm is reflective, beautiful and conjures up images of winter evenings inside – This album is a distinctly personal affair which was made for bedroom listening. Mono 015 is (you've guessed it) the 15th release in the long series of 'Mono' recordings, of which this is the first Snowstorm release, which makes me feel that recognition for this solo project isn't as yet forthcoming. Sure, this album may be seem a little genre specific for some, but this is a fantastic talent that deserves attention and shouldn't go without exposure for much longer.



Io Monade Stanca – The Impossible Story of Bubu

Experimental avant-noise quirksters. Guitar jutting post-rock explorationists. New wave jagged math rockers. Rhythm hopping staccato dramatists... No swollen sub-genre categorisation will fit for Io Monade Stanca, no matter how many adjectives are crammed in, they're just way too left field for that. 'The Impossible Story of Bubu' is more than a bit impossible to describe without actually listening.

Erring on the side of what most would consider "math rock", this Italian trio's album comes wrapped in a beautiful and mad pen and ink sketch which looks a bit like a Where's Wally picture on acid. Full of detail, beauty and nonsense it's a good analogy (and forewarning) for the music within. The accompanying press release proudly states this is "music for both the idiot and the savant", and they're probably right. Whatever that might mean.

The album consists of seven fairly similar formatted songs that have a twangy guitar and sometimes-snarly phasered bass cutting out noises from the sparseness that fills the tracks. Solid but meandering drums add structure under some squeaky and yelping vocals. I'd like to mention some lyrics but it's difficult enough to work out if they're in English or Italian. Much like Sonic Youth, the songs are never heavy as hell, more just screechy and spikey. And weirdly, entertaining. Imagine Primus not sucking and even more oddball and you might have an accurate enough discription.

Of course, wacky doesn't always mean good, and there's no denying that this recording is as wacky as they come. But it manages not to leave the listener hanging... it's satisfying more than irritating, with some genuine moments of crunching brilliance. The vocals might just be a sideshow but they do seem to tie in enough with the music and probably seperate Io Monade Stanca nicely from other quirky math-type contemporaries.

Bare-faced obscure and inaccessible, 'The Impossible Story of Bubu' is great. It doesn't seem to take itself too seriously, there are some moments that are oddly marvellous - It's darn difficult not to get swept along with this trio's wacky, eccentric act. Still, it's going to be a love or hate record and only can each individual decide whether they are idiots or savants.



RazorBladeKisses - Twinkle, Twinkle Little Scar

The opening bars of this sound like the start of some Carrie-esque horror film, all atmosphere, deep foreboding and a sense of something very bad about to happen.

Although what follows is not bad. It’s dark, broody, emotional, black, gothic rock-opera. A sense of theatre runs through this from the start, from opening track, Alice, through tales of suicide, broken lovers promises and monsters hiding in cupboards and death.

Each track is part atmospheric thrash, part personal threat. Lullabies for the Goth generation maybe. All I know is I listened to it in the dark, alone and shit myself.

Music to self-harm to? Maybe, but it’s so much more than that. It is powerful, haunting, bleak and, if you like your face palest white and eyeliner deepest black, really rather good.

Jim Johnstone

Razorblade Kisses - 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Scar' (Doll)

Let's face it, music needs its eccentrics. Amidst the avalanche of earnest young men with guitars, the furrow-browed electronica technicians, the surgically hygenic singer songwriters and all the rest, we need a bit of brightness, colour, imagination, a sense of fun, a captivating allure of sensuality.

But enough about Cheryl Cole. Although in another, alternate existence, it isn't too difficult to imagine one or other of our major female stars fronting a band very similar to Razorblade Kisses, about whom you need to know two things. The first is that they like dressing up in a colourful panto-goth style that isn't often seen during daylight. The second is that as colourful panto-goth rock bands go, Razorblade Kisses are actually quite good, although I suspect that girls will like them more than boys do. This is partly down to the squeaky vocals which, while they hint at all manner of girly secrets aren't quite the maniac howl of Katie Jane Garside or ..... actually I'm having a bit of trouble here recalling other similarly colourful, self conciously dotty and highly memorable female vocalists I can make a proper comparison with here so perhaps the sensible thing is to say that if this was Kerrang I'd give 'TTLS' three and a half stars. Perhaps the band could subtitle the album 'Rachel Stevens - What If ?'

Jon G


The Roseville Band - Little Eyes In The Universe (Tri-Tone)

So this is in fact the ‘album sampler’ for the full album. As such I can’t comment upon the album as such having only sampled the sample.

First track, Boxer, opens with the guitar heavy, bluesy, country infused sound you will almost instantly liken to Kings Of Leon. And it’s good. And then the vocals come in and, on first listen, you may believe that Alvin has left the Chipmonks and taken up residency with The Roseville Band. The PR blurb calls the vocals ‘distinctive’. Distracting was my more immediate impression.

However, it is worth repeated listens. Because by the third or fourth repeat you realise the PR blurb is correct, the vocals are simply distinctive. Because they’re not bad, they’re not out of tune, there’s nothing to criticise them on. And by the sixth or 7th listen you’ll be convinced that the album, if this sampler is anything to go by, is in serious danger of bordering on genius.

The band have a horn section with a trombone and trumpet in. They have a mandolin. And they play blues like it was drawn straight from the southern states of Hicksville, US of A. And yet they hail from North Wales. And each of these instruments mentioned, as alien to the blues sound as is the bands North Wales, fits into that sound as easily, seamlessly and as obviously right as the distinctive vocals. That the first few listens are difficult makes it all the better when you finally get it.

Ladies and gentlemen, presenting The Roseville Band. My newest favourite band.

Jim Johnstone


Spectrum 7 - So Silent the Night (Xtra Mile Recordings)

Spectrum 7 have produced an album of sturdy rock, but unfortunately, with little imagination or interest.

First track, ‘Blue Wray’ creates a huge sounds, but little else in terms of substance with shrill and frankly, quite annoying vocals. This can pretty much be said for the whole song apart from a fantastic little mid-break with a muted riff that eventually builds up to pack a punch with its ferocity and intensity. ‘Frozen’ leaves me cold with glazed over riffs and haunting harmonies, however, ‘So Silent the Night’ is very similar. There is just something lacking and I cannot help but think it might be passion for the songs. ‘September’ has the harmonies to melt a thousand hearts, but suffers from a serious enthusiasm deficiency.

‘Everything I Learnt At School was a Lie’ falls short of expectation once again, but after such a promising introduction of soaring guitars and beats bursting out from every corner of the speakers, there is clearly some potential in this band if they were to only to look outside the subdued box they are trapped in. ‘Glass Houses’ is not unlike Bm Linx’s ‘123 Cat’ in its retro beat box style and tinny bass drum pounding through muffled vocals and is a strong track, even if it is a tad whiny. Closing finale ‘Serafin’ sounds as if Pacman was punched several times by Jimmy Eat World in some sort of bizarre video game related frenzy. This is definitely more like it with every instrument becoming its own and creating a full and varied sounds that spans genres and expectations.
Needless to say; Spectrum 7 still have a long way to go...

Eloise Quince


A Skylit Drive - Adelphia (HASSLE)

Ever wondered how to do screamo clumsily and tactlessly? Read on...

Opening on a song so shockingly vulgar and obvious it is painful; here is A Skylit Drive’s appalling introduction. The main vocalist (which I believed to be a woman, but have since been told otherwise) is so whiny and annoying I actually want to punch him. I have honestly never heard screamo so excruciating as this before. It literally sounds as if the back of the throat is being peeled off by a distressed cheese grater. Will anyone donate to the newly constructed cause of; ‘Help A Skylit Drive afford a packet of Lockets every week’ foundation? Anyone at all?

And don’t get me started on the instrumental side of the album. Every musical aspect is over produced, over polished and outright insincere. From the droning drum beats to the suffocating slick guitars – this is not music. Music should be earnest, heartfelt and delivered with passion enough to bring buildings down. It should be artistic and have meaning that can be applied to life and living. This debris from the adolescent, angst ridden, emo-punk sess pit is nothing near to this and never will be.

To be honest, what I have just written sums up the entire album. As a matter of fact I cannot even be bothered to comment on the other twelve tracks of pure and utter myspace-hyped angsty tweenage scene kid drivel I have just had the displeasure of smashing my head against the wall too out of sheer despair of such crap ever being allowed to be made.

Please, for the love of God and all things good in the world, listen to Rolo Tomassi instead.

Eloise Quince


The Cinematics - Love And Terror (The Orchard)

The second album from this Scottish four piece. In all honesty, their debut passed me by so my opinions of the band will be based entirely upon this second album.

The most immediate comparison you will draw is with The Editors. Same dark ballads, same moody, deep drawl imparting the lyrics, same atmospheric soundtrack accompanying the same.

The disappointment with this is that the album offers very little that you can’t already get from The Editors. If you are an Editors fan you will like this. But if you were looking to spend money, you might be better advised to simply wait for the next Editors album rather than spend it on a band that sound distinctly like them.

I’d be happier if this was a debut album. You would then hope that their sound would progress and they would return with the second album and a more individual voice, having moved forward from the first offering. This being their second album suggests this hasn’t happened.

So in summary, if you don’t like The Editors, steer well clear. If you do like The Editors, listen to The Editors. Either way, spending money on this and you’re likely to feel ultimately unsatisfied.

Jim Johnston


Amy Millan - 'Masters Of The Burial' (Arts And Crafts)

Starting off with 'Bruised Ghosts' it's very apparent that we're in for a very pleasant evening with the Toronto based singer songwriter. In the mood for pleasantness though? The opening track has a laid back near-melancholy feel to it, and a bar-room country pace that had me wondering if it was really the best choice to start things off with as 2nd song 'Low Sail' might've got things underway in an altogether livelier manner. Amy Millan is definitley a country girl though, there are slide guitars and mandolins plucking and twanging away throughout 'Masters Of The Burial', and Millan herself is also an accomplished interpreter of the songs of others, including here Richard Hawley, whose 'Run For Me' is given a minimal guitar/vocal treatment all the more effective for its simplicity. Amy Millan has her eown backing band - The Tumbleweeds - and a host of fellow Torontonians on hand to provide instrumental support, and it can seem a bit busy musically, with some inventive percussion hidden behind swathes of strings, and the result is an album that appears to swing uneasily between Millans own darkly effusive songwriting and a mainstream country style that might suit a more conventionally rhinestoned vocalist. All that just makes 'Masters Of The Burial' a more involving listen though. The musicianship is mostly excellent and Millan herself has a voice that subtly demands and gains attention, although she is occasionally upstaged by her backing band. Richard Hawley completists will snap it up.

Jon G


Space – Best Of

Thankfully, this ‘Best of Space’ doesn’t have anything to do with the whiney Liverpudlian popsters that nearly ruined the 90s for everyone - It is in fact a documentation of the pioneering 70s and 80s French band of the same name, whose ostentatious dance vision was outrageously funky, soulful and impossibly French. Space were the first band to craft what could now be considered ‘funky house’ (it was called ‘space house’ at the time) other than perhaps the potent Jean Michelle Jarre who was more in the business of creating epic soundscapes than groovy dance floor fillers.

On this 14 track record it’s very clear to hear how influential this band have been. Immediately you can hear Daft Punk, Air or Bob Sinclair all entwined in the music… the whole French shebang. However you can also hear the band’s own influences, which are very much of the time. Tracks like ‘Air Force’ sound like a mix between Staying Alive and the opening credits to Tomorrow’s World and ‘Prison’ is an out and out seventies Blaxplotation song.

Initially I applauded Space for disassociating themselves enough from hideous disco to create a palatable 70s dance sound, yet on further listens, it’s evident that it’s much more complex than that. Space did in actuality fully embrace disco but cleverly ran with it in their own way, adding some kind of x factor to proceedings. Overt disco tunes like ‘Deliverance’ are twisted about so brilliantly they’re enjoyable to even the most discophobic out there. Every track on this compilation brought a new sound or angle to a tired genre. ‘Inner Voices’ is a squealing guitar instrumental that seems to drag rock, disco and house into one song and forces them to harmoniously dance with each other until I’m sure everyone else does. The record is a superb cross genre melting pot that’s full of surprises.

Without the unique craftings of Space I’m sure that Warp Records, Kitsune, Ed Banger et al. would have turned out significantly differently. Nonetheless, to regard this band as mere innovators does them a disservice, for their music stands the test of time well. Importantly it sounds retro rather than old as Space managed to achieve a sound that was both unique and of the time. Ultimately, despite what to some may possibly be too much of a deviation into disco, this exciting best of compilation is an absolute must for discerning house fans everywhere.



Steven Wilson – Nsrgnts Rmxs (Kscope)

Pretentious? Moi? No sooner had I written about Little Comets’ non-pretentious use of quirky grammar than we have Steven Wilson’s self indulgent bastardisation of the Queen’s English. Good thing then that this album of remixes (you see? You see?) of Wilson’s original ‘Insurgentes’ album is a work of beauty in its own right.

Thinking back to my impressions of ‘Insurgentes’ I remember it being a beautifully crafted piece of electro-noir which while possessing a kind of crystalline beauty also had a sense of claustrophobic oppression about it. What ‘Rmxs’ does is to take each of those original emotions and draw them out to their extremes, frankly providing a better album with it (much the same as Nine Inch Nails ‘Fixed’ being better than ‘Broken’ and ‘Further Down the Spiral’ being at least an equal to ‘The Downward Spiral’.

All of which leaves me in a bit of a quandary. I have a bit of an issue with remixes in general, especially where the remixes are by a completely different artist. Is it not the same as Picasso repainting the Mona Lisa or Irvine Welsh re-writing the Da Vinci Code? I will console myself with the fact that with electronically composed and performed music there is more of a place for the re-mix as it’s not like a room of musicians have ever stood together in a room and interacted with one another to perform the original piece – it has always been a synthetic creation. Even if this 6 track CD does feature 2 remixes of the same song.

So if you never heard the original ‘Insurgentes’ album then definitely go out and get this. If you’re a real fan then obviously be buying it (and the 12inch vinyl and digital releases all of which cunningly feature additional tracks meaning you’d have to buy all three formats to get the full set – kerrching). But if you are somewhere in the middle like me, although you’ll find it a good listen you find be left wondering to yourself if the fact that some guy decided to turn the volume knob around a few degrees more on the mixing console this time around is really worth another album.



Ingrid Michaelson – Everybody (Cabin 24 Records)

Ingrid Michaelson sold 400,00 copies of her last album. Pretty impressive. What makes it rather more impressive is that she released the album through her own record label, no fancy label backing and no PR campaign.

However, the subsequent use of her song in a major ad campaign on Grey’s Anatomy make have helped a wee bit in the album going on to see 1.5 million copies. It’s this, and the fact that she supported Jason ‘just when you thought Jack Johnson was bad enough’ Mzraz makes me suspect she’s just cutesy American tv drama fodder.

And at times that’s all that Everybody is – nice enough jangly folk tunes with little substance behind them. But there’s also something a bit deeper and darker to Ingrid Michaelson.

At her best, she’s comparable to Regina Spektor, particularly on the lush piano and strings ballad Sort Of. The moody, sultry, Incredible Love has as much atmosphere as a Massive Attack track, with some clever rhythm switches and breakdowns, making for a glorious wee-small-hours-of-the-morning feel. Her vocals echo an early Sheryl Crow, with husky undertones and a sharp edge.

Catriona Boyle


The Holloways – No Smoke, No Mirrors (Madfish / The Orchard)

Just when we’d got rid of The Rakes and their hugely dull music about their hugely dull lives, their contemporaries The Holloways return with the follow up to So This Is Great Britain? First time around, Jo Whiley latched onto arguably their one and only good song, Generator, so it was all over-exposure and a disappointing album from there on in.

After a fairly long break and a chance of personnel, No Smoke, No Mirrors does show signs of progression from their previous offering. The jangling, banjo driven Public Service Broadcast has an endearing Cockney chimney-sweep loveable rogue sound to it, but the lyrics are shallower than a very very small puddle.

Sinners and Winners again shows promise with a variety of sounds from plucked strings to a cymbal shuffle, and an annoyingly catchy riff.

Under a Cloud comes across as a poor man’s Arctic Monkeys – fast-paced lyrics attempting to make witty observations a la Mr Turner, but unfortunately falling way short of the witty part. It seems they’ve just had a look around and repeated what they’ve seen “Jamie Oliver…Sainsburys…school gates…”.

Perhaps by the third album The Holloways will finally get it together on all fronts, but at the moment they can write a damn catch riff, but they’re severely lacking lyrically.

Catriona Boyle


Gaunt Story – This Gaunt Story (Ocarina Records)

With such grand gestures currently going on the the quirky new folk/pop scene, subtle ain’t gonna cut it. Noah and the Whale pulled a choir, orchestra and a cracking concept album out the bag, Mumford and Sons released a hugely accomplished debut and one of the catchiest songs ever, and as Laura Marling’s been working on her new album for at least two years, it’s safe to say it’s going to be a little bit special.

But bless the oddly-titled Gaunt Story for trying. It’s all too easy for this album to simply slip in one ear and out the other, with it’s laid-back, quiet folky melodies, especially in the first half. But if you’ve still got an ear tuned to it by the time track 8 rolls around, then you’ll see what happens what Gaunt Story bring out the semi-big guns.

Start to Love begins as another soft acoustic number, but builds up with scuzzy background noise until the previous acoustic stylings have all but disappeared, before the track fades into rather contemplative silence.

Catriona Boyle


Various Artists: Bite Harder – Music De Wolfe Studio Sampler (De Wolfe)

So for the uninitiated, (myself included) what we have here is an album of music that essentially exists for other people to sample. Yeah, I thought it was pretty weird too.

Anyway, this particular trawul through the archives by De Wolfe has produced a rather psychedelic themed compilation. From bad cop shows, Sly and the Family Stone, the Easy Rider soundtrack, and everywhere in between, Bite Harder has certainly got a strut about it.

Handily, the booklet also explains the background to each track, which is rather an endearing touch, and makes the whole listening affair a voyage of discovery and learning.

My personal favourites are Precinct by Simon Haseley - categorised as ‘funky, dramatic, driving t.v. copy style’ (those descriptions are also rather handy, particularly for reviewers). The flute solo combined with a finger-clicking bass line and sweeping Charlie’s Angels style strings makes me want to don some shades and bust some criminals. Hair River by Keith Papworth which follows it features some wickedly-fast drumming courtesy of the guy who provided the drums of Animal in The Muppets. It doesn’t get much retro-coole-er than that.

So if you’re after a change of pace, something a little different to the usual getting ready for party time music, or music to swagger and strut down the street to, then stick this and get ready to feel ultra cool.

Catriona Boyle


Nerina Pallot - The Graduate (Echo)

Well 30 seconds in and this is already better than any other of Nerina Pallot’s efforts. Bold, brassy, and sounding like she actually believes in what she’s signing, this is a definite step up.

This album sees her channelling luminaries like Kate Bush and Chrissie Hynde, and the fact that this album is clearly what Nerina wanted to be doing all along shines through.

She’s nailed the up-beat pop song on the head, well balanced with some low-tempo, quieter, reflective moments.

The Right Side is a gusty stomper that showcases Nerina’s wide reaching vocals, from high pitched angel to a low growl. And then to showcase her wide reaching influences, in contrast the next track, Human, is a country-tinged women-scored bluesy ballad.

Nerina Pallot seems to have finally found her sound. I haven’t heard such an aptly titled album in quite a while.

Catriona Boyle


Cuddly Shark – s/t (Armellodie)

I remember it well. We were 18 years old, just dabbling in Helmsman bitter from Spar for the first time (£1.58 for a four-pack – get in) and full of the misplaced enthusiasm and self confidence of youth. Off we headed to my dad’s garage armed with a guitar and practise amp, an ancient synth and a song book full of lyrics we had secretly written during maths lessons. Turns out we were shit – a complete lack of talent (plus using a set of garden spades as percussion) meant that the neighbours of LN7 6QR never had their eardrums mothered again. But I remember how it felt at the time and I remember thinking we had a million ideas if only we could spill them into something approaching coherent music.

Zip forward a few years and Cuddy Shark descend on us from the Highlands like a musical whirling dervish. And they’ve only bloody gone and encapsulated exactly that sound and feel we were trying to achieve back in the garage. I think Cuddly Shark are slightly underselling themselves as self proclaimed hillbilly rockers - you can certainly hear moments of hillbilly like the drums in ‘Mannybix’, the crazy bass line in ‘Woody Woodpecker’ and the cover version of ‘Boney Fingers’ but they are more than that. In a rapid fire succession you are hit by a variety of styles – Pixies, Weezer, Presidents of the USA to name but a few. But the underlying modus operandus here is that everything sounds so fresh, as though performed by a bunch of hyperactive teenies. It’s a brilliant achievement to maintain that level of youthful exuberance as you get older (I may be wrong but Cuddly Shark do look a little bit past their A-level years) but they have also managed to match it with some mean musicianship.

Apart from the 3 singles of which I am already unashamedly a massive fan, other personal highlights from this album include the slightly peurile 52 second slagging off of Jamie Foxx in ‘Jamie Foxx on Later With Jools Holland’ (which ingeniously doesn’t even mention the singer in the song itself but just repeats the mantra ‘I heard you sing the worst song I ever heard’. Then there’s the stompmongous outro track ‘Shakey Baby’ which mixes some lovely guitar/bass interludes with another signature vocal rant. Just when you think you’ve sussed the Shark ethos they throw in the beautiful Cuddly untitled secret song at the end of the album – against some of the other more whimsical subject matter on offer on the record, it’s a poignant, heartfelt way to finish.

So there you have it, a late contender for album of year. ‘When a man is tired of London he is tired of life’ wrote Samuel Johnson. So this is very much a case of if you are tired of Cuddly Shark then you are probably tired of music.
watch video to ‘Woody Woodpecker
download '12 Months'



Hatcham Social - 'You Dig The Tunnel, I'll Hide The Soil' (Fierce Panda)

This was released earlier in the year, and a copy has only now found its way onto my stereo, which suggests to me that 'You Dig ...' is what is sometimes known in the music industry as a 'sleeper', an album that takes a little while to make a definite impression on the music buying public, usually around 6 months after its release or therabouts. But while listening to Hatcham Social could affect you, the discerning music aficianado, in any one of numerous ways, making you feel drowsy and yawny is very definitely off that list. 'You Dig ..' is actually a very fine guitar record and consistently lively, tuneful and inventive in ways that anyone already familiar with Hatcham Socials declared influences and associates The Charlatans, Klaxons and The Horrors will recognise immediately.

Starting off with the reverberating swagger that is 'Crocodile' it was instantly apparent to this listener that Hatcham Social posess every ability required to create inspiring, uplifting and grimily insistent songs: after all, if Tim Burgess is producing you and The Horrors are getting the drinks in, there's very little room left for error. And 'Sidewalk' is a more than adequate follow on, a moody bassline slouching around some glowering guitar, while 'Murder In The Dark' has the nervy energies of Pete Doherty phoning a taxi; Hatcham Social aren't really bad boys though. 'I Cannot Control My Pure Evil' is nearly a pop song
while 'Hypnotise Terrible Eyes' is a tale of an evening going slightly askew :'I'm drowning in here' sings Finnegan, with the practised ease of a confident swimmer. And including a spoken word interpretation of Lewis Carrolls 'Jabberwocky' - you know, the Alice In Wonderland guy, is less of a risk in the hands of these modern day noir expotentialists than it might've, although listen closely and it's possible to hear producer Tim Burgess fighting the urge to add a ton of echo to the vocal. Second from last track 'Penelope' really is the pop song Hatcham Social want to write though, a stylish, verging on elegant paen to truth,beauty, and everything in between, and at last worthy of Hatcham Social's declared ambitions to equal anything in the work of either Edwyn Collins or Ray Davies.

An album of the year? One or two commentators already think so. An album of the year 2010? Quite likely, Hatcham Social are going to keep us up all night if they can.



Brother Ali – Us

An incredible record. With Us, Minneapolis born rapper Brother Ali (aka Ali Newman) serves up a pretty seamless hour of glorious soul hooks, strident beats and thoughtful lyrics touching on issues such as slavery (‘The Travelers’) and the need for racial and religious tolerance (the closing title track where Ali talks about his own Albinism.) The album is great all the way through and can easily hold its own with the best of modern, creative rap like OutKast and ‘Blueprint’-era Jay-Z. Brother Ali manages to make hip-hop that is soulful without being at all boring and Us has a lyrical edge that makes a refreshing change from all the materialism and misogyny that even the most talented rappers fall back on these days. A masterpiece.

Matt Brown


Stationary Odyssey – Sons of Boy

Formed in 2002 by guitarist Brett Siler and bassist Aaron Tanner, Stationary Odyssey play instrumental post-rock remiscent of early Mogwai or Explosions in the Sky. Sons of Boy is their fourth full length release and is comprised of eight lengthy songs ranging from the heavy atonal riffing of Torticline to the gentle ambient chiming of Brand of Shame. These guys are clearly virtuoso musicians; if there’s one thing that may put some people off, it’s the fact that the album is so schizophrenic and lacks the overall consistency of sound that characterises many classic post-rock albums. Sons of Boy is perhaps best viewed as a collection of (often fantastic) individual tracks and should definitely appeal to fans of epic instrumental rock and emo. Listening to it all in one go gives you a headache though.

Matt Brown


Various: Kitsune Maison Compilation 8 (Kitsune Maison)

Maison Compilation 8 is the latest compilation from fashionable french indie-dance label Kitsuné. It contains a handful of songs that I’d heard, such as the brilliant ‘Let’s Go Surfing’ by new Brooklyn band The Drums as well as great tracks by acts like Heartsrevolution, Delphic and Chew Lips. Happily, most of the unfamiliar stuff maintained this standard with the pure pop of The Parallels’ ‘Find The Fire’ being a further highlight. Rarely for a 70 minute compilation, there’s not really any weak tracks here and you could quite easily listen to it all the way through without skipping. For fans of bands like Phoenix, Daft Punk, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah or The Strokes, Maison Compilation 8 should be an essential purchase.

Matt Brown


Ste McCabe – Murder Music

So... Whatever your political stance, yeah? Whatever your secret thinky thoughts about those who co-habit this planet with you, ah-ha? However it may make you physically wretch when some absolutely soulless, mindless, heartless, and fatuous twat sprays forth their deeply rancid bile about this group or that group, how they’re the bad guys because of skin or sex. Surely, we cannot surrender our freedom to say ‘oi, you are a repugnant little fucker and I hate every sentence your poxy mind strings together’ in order to gag these simpletons in the first place? No? Just me?

Well, Ste McCabe would definitely disagree. Fight fire with fire, David Byrne once sung and Ste must have been soaking a dish cloth is gasoline when he heard that sentiment. Now, I once saw Ste McCabe, around ten years ago, when he played under the guise of Stephen Nancy. At the time, someone commented that Ste’s core audience must be those militant right-wing homosexuals you hear so much about. The ones that reject all that liberal ‘can’t we just get on’ bollocks and instead take the line of... well, let’s look at the lyrics of Ste’s first song: ‘I wonder how people would react if we said similar things... the kinds of things they say about us... about someone like the pope, maybe? Something like KILL HIM KILL HIM (repeat ad nauseum)’. Ste’s next song, Militant Disco, advocates the bombing of a ‘Chavvy disco’ as replacement for the usual ‘silly protest’ that is often the recourse of sensible and freedom loving people when they wish to react to something they may feel strongly about (yeah, I know, what the fuck are they thinking, ay?). In fact, McCabe essentially wants to see the death of everyone except for... hmm, maybe it is everyone.

I get it, Ste. Some people are horrible bastards. Some people have no respect for human life and the wonderful diversity that such a thing offers. And there’s no excuse for them or their ideas, especially not for the violence they may do on to others. But your reactionary, politically under-cooked and rhetorically over-blown songs are verging on the insane, rooted in the ill-conceived. Mainly, because you don’t seem to realise that a view or idea or opinion can’t rape, murder, or torture. People do that, Ste. It’s people. It’s dickheads, Ste. I hope you don’t sell any records, because I genuinely think that you’re offering nothing but the kind of resentment and hate-filled tenets that those you rage against disseminate. And I’d fight to the death for your right to express it, I really would. I remember reading how the Democrats (I can hear you booing, Ste) had to rethink the language they used because they were always forced to use terms invented by the Republicans (yay, Ste, hawks aplenty). Thus, the Democrats (hissssss) were always waging war on the Republicans’ (whoop! whoop!) field of battle. See, Ste? Change the diction and great things can happen. Using their words and their actions only cements their opinions. Just a thought.

Sean Gregson


Monster Island – The Anchor

Let’s just get this clear before we go any further; I fucking love Monster Island. Essentially this review should just end there, because all I’ll really be treating you to now is different versions of the sentence – I fucking love Monster Island. This one for instance – Monster Island are what you’d get if Mark E Smith, Pavement, Beefheart, Talking Heads, John Cooper Clarke, and Wire had all got together to open a trendy wine bar in an area that wasn’t populated by the kind of cliental that could viably keep a trendy wine bar in profit, so they had to close and, having signed a six year lease on the premises, decided to (at a considerable personal loss to each of them) turn the building into a rehearsal room in order to facilitate playing in a band together. See. Overly long, overly metaphorical, yet this sentence if you scratch under the surface reads, you guessed it, I fucking love Monster Island. AND... Apparently you can get this album for not one penny if you email them. I fucking love Monster Island. Not a bean, and yet people pay money to listen to Coldplay... what the sweetened Jesus is happening?

Opener, The Anchor Age, sounds like a guided tour of a Northern town on the back of a sometimes lumbering, sometimes skipping dinosaur while Siamese twin tour guides each describe the scene down the same microphone. From here on in, it’s as brutal and beautiful as music should be. Track Eight, Open Collar, is the song I tell everyone I meet they have to listen to. I stand in the street with slightly waxy earphones and make them listen. And they forget about the wax and incongruity of us stood in the high street, one earphone each, while I yell ‘this bit, this bit, listen again’. Yes, it’s rough and it’s ragged, let us celebrate those very things. How fantastic to hear music untainted by digital reverb, compressors, and all that other ‘produced by’ crap; Albini would approve.

So yeah, let yourselves be taken down the seemingly grey northern cul-de-sacs that actually lead to roaming fields all colours of the rainbow.

Soaring, indeed.

Sean Gregson


Robin James - 'Saint Jude' (Pocket Size)

The ten tracks that make up 'Saint Jude' were apparently recorded onthe same day that singer/songwriter Robin James packed his trunk and left London for Yorkshire. Nothing beats showing confidence in your work now, does it? The press release dosn't give any hint as to what prompted James' swift exit although it does mention that sleeve designer Rachael Burnett has shared gallery space with Damien Hirst. Clue? Let's put the CD on :

I need to hand it to Robin James the guitarist. He is good. His tunes are low key, darkly melodic and unquestionably the work of a skilfull player.I'm less keen on Robin James the vocalist though, as his singing voice sounds a lot like that of comedian Joe Pasquale, high pitched, nasal, and somewhat at odds with the accomplished guitaring that's backing it up. And similarly Rachael Burnett's sleeve booklet, which includes full song lyrics, is both visually entertaining and irritatingly illegible.

Scoring highly on curio value, 'Saint Jude' is too well crafted to find itself dismissed entirely, but Robin James needs to lower his voice by at least half an octave if he really wants to make an impression outwith his own set of acquaintances.



Louis Gordon - 'Electric Shock Treatment' (Toffeetones)

I've said unkind things about electronica recently. About how it's got repetitive, predictable, about how no-one really seems to write songs anymore, unlike in the late 70s and 80s, in that far off and mysterious world that existed before sequencers were invented. Then along comes Louis Gordon with a full album, and we ought to listen, as Louis Gordon is best known for his work alongside John Foxx, who after he left the original Ultravox lineup wrote 'Underpass', 'Europe After The Rain', 'Your Dress' and others with which he enjoyed a degree of international success, around 25 years ago. Exactly what I've been complaining about.

Now, I think it's fair to say that I haven't heard an album like 'Electric Shock Treatment' for some time, and also that isn't quite the album I was expecting to hear. Not the blankly soulless wall-of-polyphony recreation of one or two of Kraftwerks more overbearing moments, nor an attempt to recover the more accessible side of early Ultravox: instead, 'Electric Shock Treatment' is a slightly patchy but oddly compelling display of controlled eccentricity that more closely resembles the Flaming Lips than any of those New Romantic mini-operettas.

So there are actual songs such as the title track and 'Dance With Me'; then there are semi-instrumentals like 'Stretford Meders' and 'Crash That Car', and spoken word pieces where Louis tells us about the day he saw a flying saucer, or what happened when he went fishing ('Occupants' and 'Strawberrymaggots forever'). As I said, Flaming Lips enthusiasts will find 'Electric Shock Treatment' of some interest, while anyone old enough to remember the 80s can play 'spot the arpeggio' as Louis recreates some of the headier moments of OMD, Soft Cell, and indeed Ultravox. Had Syd Barrett been a member of Depeche Mode, this is how 'The Madcap Laughs' might've sounded.



Wishful Thinking - 'A Waste Of Time Well Spent' (We Make Mistakes)

Two abums of what is known as Americana. Very different though. Wishful Thinking is Paul Wold, son of Seasick Steve, and the press release makes for interesting reading. The Seasick Steve I already knew about had lived in a trailer park since the 1950s and only got famous after accidentally taking a shower. I now know he ran a recording studio in Cobainburg Wa, and that Paul Wold is part of the Seasick touring band. His album isn't at all bad although he does sound a bit world-weary for a 21 year old, what with having a famous dad and everything.



The O's - 'We Are The O's' (Idol)

The O's are of a radically different stamp. Former members of numerous Dallas area bands - Polyphonic Spree and Young Heart Attack are two I've actually heard of -and for an acoustic duo backed with only minimal percussion they make one very loud noise indeed. The songs are tuneful and relentlessly upbeat, performed with a skill and raw energy that leaves albums such as 'A Waste Of Time ...' choking on the dust the O's leave in their wake. Taylor Young and John Pedigo have gone out of their way to breathe some life into a genre not always known for provoking excitement, and by and large they appear to have succeeded. Banjo album of the year.



The Leisure Society – The Sleeper/ A Product of the Ego Drain (Full Time Hobby)

In March, The Leisure Society quietly released what is arguably one of the finest albums of 2009. Sadly, not many people noticed, and it took a summer of numerous festival appearances and a session for Dermot O’Leary on Radio 2 to really make people sit up and take notice.

So after nearly a year of constant gigging, The Leisure Society have re-released The Sleeper, featuring some of the tracks which have become permanent fixtures in their setlist, and a few b-sides and demos to make it worth your while.

The original album, The Sleeper, is a gorgeous folk-drenched, multi-instrument, gloriously soothing and wonderfully uplifting album. From the triumphant, conclusive A Matter of Time to the brooding, regretful We Were Wasted, to the barnstorming Love’s Enormous Wings, The Sleeper has a wonderfully warm sound running all the way through, thanks to the combination of violin, cello, flute, glockenspiel, ukulele, guitars, keyboards, drums, Hammond organ, clarinet…they weren’t joking when they called themselves a society.

The highlight of A Product of the Ego Drain has to their unlikely cover of Gary Numan’s Cars, with that annoying synth line sounding much lovelier on a flute, and a ukulele taking away that nasty industrial sound and making it almost a folk anthem.

An incredible album that gets better with each listen. Buy it.

Catriona Boyle


Les Fauves – Liquid Modernity

You know when you cook your favourite dinner and leave out a vital ingredient, and it tastes familiar and yet completely strange? Or when you go back to an old job, and it’s the same place, same people, yet there’s something just a bit off-kilter about it? Or when you wake up put the clocks back and the next day there’s just something not quite right about that day, but for no apparent reason?

Well imagine that something’s-not-quite-right-in-this-picture feeling in audio and you’re somewhere close to Les Fauves’ new album, Liquid Modernity. The familiar sounds are there, but they’ve been put through some kind of distortion and disorientation mangle. The first three tracks are simply a law unto themselves – there’s the odd moment where a bit of a melody or sensible rhythm will weave in, but blink and you’ll miss it, as it’ll be replaced with a bleep, blip, or wail before you know it. Les Fauves seem to settle down and get into their stride around track four though, as more traditional song-writing methods are employed. Death of the Pollo is like a journey through an arcade, all shooting noises and retro video-game riffs, interspersed with somewhat discordant, weary vocals, before it’s game on again.

A crazy, crazy album, but not a gimmick in sight – Liquid Modernity is like a trip to Alice in Wonderland, and confirmation that originality is alive and well.

Catriona Boyle


Various: Future Relics (Geek Pie)

Compilations are a mixed bag, literally. Never been a fan myself, there's little consistency or satisfaction in listening and besides my record collection is half full of those bloody free-with-magazine ones that are awful but I can't bring myself to throw away because you know, it's free music.

Therefore the prospect of reviewing this Geek Pie Records compilation wasn't a thrill. Yet, reading the press release the whole thing started to sound a little exciting. “Half the bands on here are bedroom bands” they write. “From Wakefield”. “Lo-fi indie”. “Rough round the edges”. They're even having a launch party in a place called 'The Red Shed' and right now, I'm imaining a wickedly small garden shed with some Walkman speakers, a bottle of Cava and about 30 people crammed in smoking rollies (let's hope this is the case). This is real music written by artists with a vision but not necessarily the money or time to spend all day in a studio tweaking samples or layering violins. So... what's it sound like?

Well, scrappy, under-produced, charming, passionate and a little punky. Basically. Here's the run down for the curious out there (brace yourselves): Brilliantly monikered 'One Day After School' opens with ramshackle melodies, whilst 'Savage My Dream' and 'Chat Noir' give us ghostly Velvet Underground cool. 'Andy & The Big Shark' offer nu-folk Verlaine style wails whilst 'By By' opt to sound like a slurring Mudhoney. Social commentary is provided by The Streets style 'The Frog Next Door', Half Man Half Biscuit-ites 'Three Sheets T'Wind' and folky 'The Passing Fancy'. 'Rainbowcollector' puts us on a melancholic shoegazey path and more jangly new wave with 'The Librarians'. 'Jamiesaysmile' sound like Mike and the Mechanics, whilst superb Siobhan Reilly provides celtic style emotion and closer 'Clive Smith and The World of The Very Young' provide more commentary against a backdrop of crazy guitar samples.

Perhaps I'm showing my age but 'Future Relics' reminds me of battered up bootleg cassettes you'd get off your mates from a gig you never made, or demos of your favourite bands that are included as bonus tracks on a box set you've saved up to buy. Not always consistent but ambitious and real, this record, and more importantly Geek Records seems to be the kind of small label to believe in; it's grass roots music for the masses, barefaced, honest on the whole superb.



The Very Foundation – This Restless Enterprise

Okay, okay... I admit it, I never got the Stone Roses (and me a Manc), never understood Beck, didn’t really like the Pixies all that much and, although Neil Young is to me like God is to the Catholics, I’ve never been keen on Crosby, Stills, Nash, with or without Young. All these I tend to keep quiet, mainly because people attempt to convert you. Yes, I can tell they are all very good at what they do and I should like it, but I don’t. Sorry Jeeee-sus.

However, Belle and Sebastian are a band I vehemently hate. Hate. And still people try to convert me. Yes, I can tell they’re very good at what they do and I should like it, but I hate it. So when the first thing that came to mind when listening to The Very Foundation was ‘hmmm, it’s a bit like the guy from Silver Jews fronting Belle and Sebastian’, you may be left thinking I hate The Very Foundation (what a wonderful sentence). Well I don’t. I very much like The Very Foundation.

They’re cute these lot. It starts off all brass and joy; you can imagine them in the recording studio on trampolines, hitting each other with feather filled pillows. After that we get a few sombre moments but generally there’s a kind of flamenco flick that keeps everything from being all too obvious.

The best way to listen to This Restless Enterprise is to play a sort of guessing game as the songs go along. How is this one going to pick me up, make me smile a bit? Maybe it’ll be hand claps, possibly a trumpet solo, who knows... it might be a song about pornography induced insomnia. Sometimes the guessing game turns into ‘why haven’t you done justice to this’, as in the case with Signs & Wonders which starts like it’s going to break your heart and leaves you feeling depressingly unchanged. In fact, the latter moments of the album seem to consist of The Very Foundation arranging their fantastic pop songs in such a way that it’s hard to fight through the bullshit. It is, however, worth the fight.

Sean Gregson


No Go Know – Time Has Nothing To Do With It (Union)

Well, Sir, at two discs and eight seven minutes, I’d say time has everything to... sorry, suddenly thought I was some pithy broadsheet reviewer. My apologies, dear reader.

Anyway, No Go Know, any good? Yes, as it goes, they’re... well, let me explain.

No Go Know have taken it upon themselves to record a double album and, by the fact that disc one starts with the same song disc two ends with and vice versa, you get the strangest feeling that this is a (sshhh) concept album. What’s the concept? Hmm, well, possibly it’s a matter of scale, how three people can draw your attention to the most delicate pin drop, as well as play like a musician of the year competition gone to riot, but then that’s possibly a bit too conceptual.

Forgetting the concept for a moment, I’ve long since been a Akron/Family advocate, forcing people recently to buy Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free at gunpoint. I can honestly say that Time Has Nothing to Do with It gives the Family a run for their money at every turn.

I actually stopped reviewing for a while because I was sick of being the ‘it’s all a load of shit’ guy. It’s not a load of shit, please believe me. I’m listening to the album now and it’s hard to concentrate on what I want to say. I’m listening.

Yes, it’s classic rock with punk edge and contemporary blah, blah, blah, let’s leave that to metacritic. Just stop what you’re doing, stop reading this and only return once you’ve got this album (download it from and listened to it all.

Back? Yeah? I know, I know, me too. So, what is the concept?

I think I know. No really, I do. The concept is that bands can still and should still reach beyond the ceiling, beyond the sky, even. An album should sound like it’s struggling to stay on the disc, as though it might crack and breakout, bursting from its cell. Maybe the concept is if you give everything you have people will love you and, hopefully as this is the obvious next step, renounce all those pale, make do, fly by night acts that operate as mere lifeboats to keep afloat a failing music industry. To hell with the concept. Let’s just bask in what must be contender for album of the year.

Sean Gregson