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albums - march 2010


Yordan Orchestra – Psych Introduxeon (Megatier)

Holland’s Yordan Orchestra are not a band that generally does things by half and this 6 song Mini-LP (complete with hidden track at the end of closer ‘T-Borne Egg’) almost sounds like a concept record designed to soundtrack a road film set in the desert.
So opener ‘Kapt’n El, HansIG’ veers between Ennio Morricone, Brian Jonestown Massacre and Swervedriver. We get some quite crazed moments in the drummathon that is ‘Faced You in a Neon Light’ with melodramatic flourishes that hark back to the 60’s psychedelia of Dantallions Chariot. And we get some quite beautiful moments like the bleached and windswept chorus of ‘RMDK’.
A devotion to psychedelia means they have been compared (rather inevitably) in the past with Brian Jonestown Massacre and while they do employ a similarly retro-istic modus operandi, Yordan Orchestra have a far more developed sense of arrangement and the results of this approach are at many points epic and, well…orchestral.
As a genre its not easy to make Psychedelic music sound original however, Yordan Orchestra have managed it here with aplomb and this majestic offering . 7/10.



Trail - To the Rest of the World

Indie outfit, Trail, are a five-piece with the musical world at their fingertips. Their fanbase have raised £20k for them to record their debut album. They hopped on a plane to Los Angeles and teamed up with multi-platinum producer, Matt Wallace to create ‘To the Rest of the World’. And yet I can’t help being disappointed.

‘Prism’ opens the album with a soaring melody and, admitted, catchy melody. These boys can play really well; it’s tight and a satisfyingly solid sound (even if the line, ‘a kaleidoscope of visions’, rubs me up the wrong way). ‘Prism’ even reached number three in the Amazon rock download chart in September 2009. Clearly they’re doing something right.

The album settles down when it gets to the fourth track, ‘Back Home’ where it takes on a distinctive Doves-esqe tone. Interweaving chugging rock in ‘Prism’ and ‘Forever Young’ with melancholic ‘Back Home’ and ‘To the Rest of the World’, lead singer, Charlie Afif, gives off the occasional glimmer of Sting’s vocal style in his Police days.

‘All Down’ has a fantastic middle eight, singing, ‘And it the aftermath it seems that it was all too clever / Random and isolated scenes can now be strung together.’

Maybe this sums up the album. Charlie Afif’s vocals sound effortless. The guitar riffs are perfectly placed. The drums are comfortably clever. Eventually the tracks are only defined by the little guitar riffs, varying intros and dynamics. Otherwise, they pretty much blend together.

I want to like this band. While they’re going for Foo Fighters and Biffy Clyro they’re coming out more like The Lost Prophets. It’s precise, well-crafted and astutely played. But it lacks anything beyond predictable.

Jenny Williams


Ralfe Band – Bunny and the Bull

Where Mighty Boosh’s director - and comedians Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt - are involved you expect something a little nonplussing of Ralfe Band’s ‘Bunny and the Bull’ film soundtrack. “What is a shoe?” a voice asks at the end of the first track. Our expectations are not to be disappointed.
Almost like being transported into a peculiar circus or bazaar, this instrumental soundtrack is the creation of Ralfe Band, comprised of songwriter Oliver Ralfe and drummer, guitarist and arranger Andrew Mitchell.

Having not seen the film, I can only imagine how the soundtrack plays out to a film about a reclusive man’s disastrous trek around Europe with his womanising, gambling-addicted booze-hound friend, Bunny. A story of love, disillusionment, stuffed bears and globalised seafood, Bunny and the Bull’s soundtrack is required to reflect a degree of surrealism.

At times pantomime-like, the 22 tracks almost tell the story alone. Eat your heart out Peter and the Wolf. Encapsulating the sounds and sites of a road-trip around Europe, the piano-based instrumentals also feature mandolins, accordion and viola (did I hear a beloved pedal-steel?) with a mix of electronic and classical sounds too.

Surreally, the recorded piano was left out in the snow during an Oxfordshire winter to achieve a more degraded sound. On that note, it’s not until the seventh track, ‘Snow Song’ that whispering vocals emerge.

Being inspired by the likes of the ‘Once Upon A Time in the West’ soundtrack, Neil Young’s soundtrack to film ‘Dead Man’ – as well as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Wizard of Oz, this album is fantastically surreal, psychedelic and has an alluring spirit about it. With track titles like ‘Crab Eating’ and ‘Attila the Dog Man’, Ralfe Band’s musical creation has captured a cinematic sound and has an addictive quality. I’m not sure.

Jenny Williams


Emily Breeze – The Penny Arcade

It’s shambolic, slightly unnerving and as if Chrissie Hynde went to Dollywood and forgot to come back. Who wouldn’t want to listen to that?

Striking a fine balance between snarling and melodic finesse, there’s shouting and singing and a whole lot of energy. Emily’s voice has so much personality, the country-style backing really is secondary.

After the riotous opening track, ‘Monday’s Right Hook’, Emily settles down to a low snarl by third track ‘Matt Black & Chrome’, a slow acoustic number. A cover of Hank Williams’s ‘Lost Highway’ slips into the album at the fourth track. ‘Penny Arcade’ is the standout track. Scraping at the depths of her vocal range, Emily leaves plenty of room for melodic leaps.

Singing ‘Sweet Jesus won’t you carry me home’ in ‘Visceral Thrill’, you would be forgiven for thinking male vocal chords were behind the notes and not 20-something Emily Breeze. She really croons by the time we reach ‘Last Request’. It’s refreshing to hear a female vocalist not clawing to the top of her vocal range in some mad display of musical scales but reaching for the depths instead, ready to pounce up the octaves at any time.

Emily has a nicotine-blessed vocal style, like a loose cannon ball churning up the country genre and indie rock scene. Florence + The Machine would be proud. (Or claim plagiarism.)

Minus Emily’s voice and this would be another country-inspired creation. But, luckily, there’s a lot of talent in her pipes and song-writing. I would love to see her live.

Jenny Williams


Charlie Alex March – Home / Hidden

If David Bowie thinks it’s good then I would tend to agree. The debut album from Charlie Alex March, ‘Home / Hidden’ follows two EPs – one of which David Bowie praised, saying, “It’s a beautiful glockenspiel and string led instrumental that gently comes and goes in under three minutes. Delightful.” This really does sum it up.

But it’s not three minutes – it’s 32 minutes of strings, piano, electronic keyboards – the occasional ‘ohs’ – and no words. But the blend between real instruments (like the beautiful piano in track eight, ‘Telephone Song’) and the electronic is great.

By track six, ‘Snow Feet’, Charlie Alex March’s melodic and comforting noise reminds me of Virgina Astley’s ‘From Gardens Where We Feel Secure’ - except with added synths, like in ‘Cortot No 7’.

A blend of the electronic and classical pastoral, the use of real strings and even vibraphone (thanks to High Llamas’s Sean O’Hagan and Dominic Murcott) complements the synths surprisingly well. This is an instrumental album that holds its own among a plethora of lyrical musical creations. Its simple wordless existence is something to be celebrated.

Jenny Williams


Justin Sandercoe - Small Town Eyes (Ocean Reds Records)

As a guitar teacher at West London's Guitar Institute, you'd expect Justin Sandercoe's debut album to be pretty polished, and you'd be right.

Initially I'm reminded of Neil Young, then further influences start to show themselves – a little Manic Street Preachers here, some Todd Rundgren there. Album opener Forevergreen is the perfect soundtrack for a summer barbecue (here's hoping for some decent weather this year) with dreamy vocals gently wrapping themselves around delicate finger-picked guitar. Instrumental From Katie's Window gives Sandercoe a chance to let his guitar chops fly, while I Turn To Tell Her is beautiful, introspective nod to Elliott Smith.

The lyrics occasionally dip into cliché (“Mother nature pleads for mercy”) but are generally good, and sometimes great (“All I can think about is page 99, about halfway down, starting from 'perspire'”). Imperfect is an example of the latter, a mid-tempo number that hovers somewhere between Matthew Jay and Bob Dylan, and gives the listener the joyful couplet “Digital makes the perfect art/but zeros and ones don't break my heart”.

As you'd expect, guitar is provided by Sandercoe throughout, but percussion, strings and even a Wurlitzer make guest appearances. The album's well engineered, with nothing overpowering the purity of the lead vocal and acoustic guitar throughout. This puts melody front and centre, highlighting the quality of the tunes.

As with all decent albums, it improves with repeated listens. In fact, it's practically faultless. I was hoping for maybe one track where the golden-voiced one dropped his acoustic guitar, picked up an electric and hammered out some heartfelt, screaming soul – nobody can possibly be this relaxed all the time – but if you're looking for a blissed out soundtrack to your Summer, you could do a lot worse than get hold of a copy of Small Town Eyes.

Chris Moffatt


Cluster - Qua (Klangbad)

Art is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as “the expression of a creative skill”. I've come to think that Bad Art makes you dislike it because you want to change it, whereas Good Art is enjoyable because it changes you. It changes the way you think, your understanding of a particular subject, or your empathy for someone.

There are very few albums that I've heard that I could genuinely put in my Good Art category. Sgt Pepper would be in there, as would Pet Sounds. Bowie and The Smiths would feature, as would Blur and Elliott Smith, then there'd be a few choices from the left-field like Future Sound of London's “Dead Cities” and Orbital's “In Sides”.

I may now have to add another album to my Good Art bucket. Cluster have been making music for nearly 40 years, so it's astonishing that they're still able to make records like Qua that still break the mould. I realise now that many electronic artists that I like (FSOL, Aphex Twin, Squarepusher, Orbital, Boards of Canada, Four Tet) owe a huge debt of gratitude to Cluster.

Describing the music is hard. The CD inlay contains something translated from German about “a toy caravan of dark, fast camels”, while the PR bumf drones on about “musical units that happen...unintentionally and as if by their own accord”.

For what it's worth, I'll try my own description . The tracks are generally short, instrumental and harmonic but don't fit to traditional verse-chorus structures. Instead they evolve gradually over the track, with the loops tending to resolve from arrhythmic to defined as each track progresses. Although electronic, there's a warm, natural feel to the album. I can imagine listening to this on headphones as I navigated the palm house at Kew Gardens. It's more flora than fauna.

Occasionally voices will filter through the tracks, but always as little snippets, like overhearing packets of different conversations in a busy cafe. Some tracks are gentle, others more insistent with deeper frequencies or insect-like buzzing. The overall effect is like swimming through an undersea forest of sound, and encountering strange and mysterious things on the journey.

Having 17 tracks on the CD is a little self indulgent, although some of them are under two minutes in length. There's little point in describing individual songs; apart from the fact that the song titles are short and peculiar, this only works as a collection of songs. A single track would sound very odd in isolation, but as a whole it works. It's certainly not an album for the iPod generation, looking to pick and choose the best tracks from their collection like musical vultures.

It's an album that demands a certain investment from the listener, but there are rich rewards here. If you're a fan of pretty much any electronic music made in the last twenty years, I'd highly recommend you give it a go. Find somewhere comfortable to relax, turn down the lights, put on Qua and let Cluster take you away for a while.

Chris Moffatt


The Hidden Cameras - Origin:Orphan (Arts & Crafts)

The epic, foreboding hum which makes up the first 3 minutes of 'Ratify The New' had me expecting a far different album. However once it breaks the build up suddenly makes sense and the true intensity of the song seeps in. It's a suitably dramatic opening statement from a band who are all about dramatic statements. Since forming in 2001 The Hidden Cameras have been known to perform with as many as 13 musicians on stage at any one time with go-go dancers, a string section and a choir all part of the spectacle at varying times. Venue wise they also tend to favour art galleries, porn dungeons and churches to the usually rigmarole of mid-sized dust-coffins in which most bands choose to ply their wares. As befitting of a man which such a unique vision and artistic direction, band-leader Joel Gibb set out to finally realise his grand visions with the bands 6th album 'Origin:Orphan' and for the most parts it's a rousing success.

What we have here is a sumptuous platter of epic, ambitious chamber-pop which finally matches the ambitious of the bands notorious live shows and although the album never manages to match the dizzying high of it's intense opening song (a common problem when putting your best foot forward) it frequently comes close. Single 'In The NA' is most straight-forward pop song Gibb has ever put to tape, an infectious, hook-laden ditty which wouldn't sound out of place on one of The Flaming Lips less ostentatious records. In fact the Flaming Lips are an apt comparison, like The Hidden Cameras they were birthed from humble, artsy beginnings and gradually figured out how to write fantastic pop songs. Of course there have always been great pop songs at the heart of most Hidden Cameras records but there's a tangible refinement here which has resulted in a fine album.

There are numerous highlights such as the dramatic 'Walk On' (which would make a perfect 'Bond Theme' in another dimension), the frankly worrying 'Underage' ("lets do it like we're underage, you pretend your 7 I'll pretend I'm 8") and the understated beauty of 'Colour Of A Man' (a song Fleet Foxes would kill for). So it's an eclectic record, and once which will reveal it's charms over time but that's not to say it's a difficult record, not by any stretch of the imagination. Indeed right up to the defeated, Roy Orbison aping sign off of 'Silence Can Be A Headline' there isn't a dull moment to be found on this album, and to honest that's a pretty damn rare statement these days! 8/10

Benjamin Hiorns


Islands Lost At Sea - Are Having A Lovely Time (Staywarm Records)

Ok I'm officially confused. There's just too much going on here, I don't know what to focus on, I guess the artwork should have tipped me off! Islands Lost At Sea's debut album is almost like the audio equivalent of a crazy eye picture. It sounds like a mess at first but if you stand back, relax your ears a little and try not to focus to hard on it it just about starts to make sense. Some may think I'm being a bit harsh here but one suspects the band would be quite pleased with that analogy, they are (after-all) just THAT kind of band.

There are 15 tracks here with the majority falling between 2 and 4 minutes, so you'd expect winsome pop songs would you not? Especially considering the gloriously bright, abstract wonder of the album's overly complex packaging. What we have instead however is a record which falls somewhere between The Flaming Lips more quirky eccentricities and the free-for-all experimentalism of early Animal Collective. The album was recorded by a revolving cast of characters utilising some vastly eclectic instrumentation (everything from guitars and drums to horns, strings and tablas) and a pleasingly lo-fi assortment of recording techniques. The result is dependably odd with many of the tracks coming across as more 'loose jams' than traditional songs. In fact the record doesn't really work as a collection of songs, it works more as a sustained mood 'piece' as there are no real standout's and the songs tend to fold into each other.

Vocals are sporadic and often buried in the mix and electronics blend seamlessly with organic instrumentation in a similarly charming way to the Beta Band's first 3 EP's. It genuinely feels like alot of care, attention (and most importantly) fun went into these recordings and there are moments where the haze fades to reveal some lovely melodies ('Adelaide Lightning Storm' and 'Sun Song' especially) but overall the album feels incomplete and lacks any definable focus. It's infuriating as there's obviously alot of talent here, it just needs to be refined. A shame as I really wanted to like this! 5/10

Benjamin Hiorns


Test Tone Anthology - Disc Two (Medama Records)

Less a traditional album, more an experiment in sound texture and mood, this collection of experimental live recordings certainly tested the limits of my patience. The 'Test Tone' project is a rather unique experiment in which the spectrums of alternative art, music and performance come together at Tokyo's Super Deluxe centre to create a unique mesh of ideas. Music and visuals were improvised and recorded at the event and the results are now available to purchase via Medama Records in the form of 3 volumes each representing a different aspect of the event.

Volume 2 explores ambient, meditative moods which combine dense, electronic drones with acoustic instrumentation. Everything from steel-drums, bells and whistles to the humble electric guitar are here fed through banks of processors, warped and stretched beyond recognition. The resulting sound is incredibly minimalist, frequently beautiful yet frustratingly inconsistent.

It's a wild ride which isn't always pleasant (the high pitched whine on 'EVP' outdoes even Aphex Twins notorious 'Ventalin' for sheer unpleasantness) but there is much to enjoy here. Granted without the visual stimulus half of the experience is missing but if you've ever experienced anything similar before chances are you'd know what to expect anyway (lots of vague shapes, people squirming around in bin-bags, y'know, the usual). The main problem here is that you can tell most of the tracks were improvised, and whilst the layered clicks and swooshes do at times create a dense bed of sound which can be quite enchanting, there are times when I was left thinking... "why?".

So after 80 minutes of music I was left drained, deflated and yet oddly serene. I find this album hard to recommend but at the same time the few moments of pure gold (Tsuki No Umi's cosmic freak-out a particular highlight) are almost worth persevering for. If it's beautiful, avant-garde electronica with organic flourishes your looking for though personally I'd MUCH rather listen to Stars Of The Lid. 5/10

Benjamin Hiorns


Eight Legs – The Electric Kool-Aid Cuckoo Nest (Bootlegs Records)

The opener “I Understand” is a real blast from the past. A plucky upbeat number that wouldn't sound out of place on the soundtrack to any film about teenagers growing up in the sixties or seventies. Aside from the plain but effective guitar sounds and the slightly toneless punk edge of the vocals, the song's structure is fresh out of that period. It's a winner though, a real winner. Most of the album retains this nostalgia in one form or another, it isn't until the fifth track “Best Of Me” that we hear a track with a sound predominantly modern – with the classic indie hi-hat beat and tones to match. There's an untitled track that has an upbeat country jazz swing fusion feel – which is a bit out of place but it's a great track, as is the oh-so-listenable “Nothing Between The Lines.” Although the album isn't quite as promising as the first track suggests, it's still really good, and there is nothing obvious to criticise. With a album title like “The Electric Kool-Aid Cuckoo Nest” though, you really can't go wrong, can you? 8/10

Thom Curtis


The Automatic – Tear The Signs Down (Armoured Records)

Five years ago, The Automatic took the UK charts by storm with Not Accepted Anywhere and the associated singles, and right now, they're further away than they've ever been. None of this is going to be overplayed in Walkabout, but that's probably for the best. In all honesty, when I picked this up, I was expecting to slice it to bits, but I'm surprised to say it's not half bad, and certainly isn't what I was expecting. The album opens with possibly the most different of all the tracks, “Insides” which has multiple vocals throughout, and twists around much like a slightly progressive metal song, but with a more electro-induced tone. “Interstate” has a far heavier riff, well, heavy in texture at least. The vocals are playful and there's even some call and response “na na na.” “Run And Hide” is oozing Yourcodenameis:Milo and is to be the band's next single. It's pretty good actually. Generally, it seems The Automatic's song-writing has come on in leaps and bounds, they got rid of the screechy pain in the arse, and this record is of an unexpectedly high quality from start to finish. 8/10

Thom Curtis


Ian McNabb - 'Great Things' (Universal)

27 years on from the first Icicle Works album, Ian McNabb must at least slightly resent his position as 'ultimate Mersey nearly man', somehow forever in Pete Wylie's shadow. I'm sure it must feel that way sometimes, but time has clearly tempered McNabb's more effusive songwriting styles, and 'Great Things' is very much the work of an elder statesman refelcting on past glories. It is also a a bit dull, with only third track 'All About A Woman' sounding as if McNabb was actually awake during its recording. Laid back, soporific, it must've sounded good in the studio but ultimately falls a bit flat and doesn't really justify the arrogance of final track 'I Can't Help It If I'm Great'. I can't help it if you're boring, Ian.



Test Tone - Anthology Disc 1 (Test Tone)

You know that moment when you walk into the local 'modern' gallery (eg Bristol Arnolfini, Glasgow Tramway), only to find yourself confronted with a load of white wall stencilling that in fact lost any claim to the description 'innovative' over a decade ago? The Test Tone anthology (there are more than one of them) is the audio equivalent. The performers share backgrounds in performance art, electronics and improvised live performance, but it all sounds a bit rubbish, really, with only Shintaro Aoki and Missing Man Foundation presenting anything actually listenable. The rest is either too indulgent or just plain weird: Meri Nikula sounds as if she's setting her hair on fire: Scriptones need to visit a real factory if they're serious about 'industrial' music: Go Kayashiki is a bit predictable: Henna Dress might need some new equipment.

Actually, you probably won't need to even buy a copy of the Test Tones album. Just follow these easy-to-memorise instructions: 1) choose any CD from your own collection. 2) switch on every electrical appliance in your home. 3) throw CD about the room while impersonating Yoko Ono. 4) await financial assistance from the Swedish arts council.



Polar Bear - 'Peepers' (The Leaf Label)

If 'Peepers' isn't a jazz album. then exactly what is it? Critically lauded if probably unknown outwith their own immediate circles. Polar Bear's fourth album is a lively, even danceable collection of Blue Note influenced bebop, led by Sebastian Rochford's inventive sax playing. Nominated for a Mercury prize in 2005 and only improving their range and dexterity since then, 'Peepers' is as good a new British jazz album as you can expect to hear in 2010.

It isn't just jazz though. What it actually sounds like is a tightly controlled experiment in rhythmic structuralism, every seemingly random note planned almost architecturally and then run through a vintage Cobol computer programme to make certian the ensuing logarithims don't repeat themselves within carefully delineated diametric patterns. This is MathJazz at PhD levels, and the probable explanation as to why carnivalesque album opener 'Happy For You' is instantly followed by the mellow reggaesque tones of 'Bap Bap Bap' and with the entire album threatening to collapse in a welter of shambolic chaos as soon as third track 'Drunken Pharoah'. It doesn't all just sound the same, this jazz stuff, and it's when the atonality subsides and the pace slows somewhat that Polar Bear show some actual finesse in their playing, with the altogether less frantic 'The Love Didn't Go Anywhere' and 'A New Morning' showing the quintet at their most effectively introspective. It's the title track that really highlights what Polar Bear are capable of though, a two -tone samba that will probably leave Mark Ronson kicking himself with jealousy and only lacks a nervous Terry Hall vocal to make it one of the greatest tracks the Fun Boy 3 ever recorded.
After this bout of actual structuralism it's back to more experimental areas for the Bears, with squally horn parts and random acts of percussion carrying the day until the oddly muted 'Want To Believe Everything' and the verging on mesmeric album closer 'Finding Our Feet'.

Inspired, inventive, challenging, hugely talented and more than prepared to take risks with their music, Polar Bear are performing at the very forefront of improvised composition and 'Peepers' is that jazz album you've been looking for: I cannot recommend it more highly.



Die! Chihuahua Die! – Bitch Songs

Much shouty-shouty shoutyness from Welsh rockers Die! Chihuahua Die! on their shouty debut album ‘Bitch Songs’. They brand themselves punk ‘n’ roll and in retrospect this is a surprisingly apt cross-genre title to bestow upon themselves. Sure they might have hardcore traits, shouting like Madball or having the aggression of TRC, but there’s a lot less metal posturing and palm muting going on here. Guitar lines are less clinical and more loose, almost stoner at times, playing bass heavy riffs that rumble through each track as drums pound away and a poor old snare drum gets a relentless hammering.

To their credit, despite the ramshackle sound, Die! Chihuahua Die! are much tighter than they let on. They actually feel very complete as a band. Vocalist Davies suits the music so well his shouty voice (did I mention this?) may as well be another guitar, it sounds completely sown into the music. There are also some nice details hidden in this record to reward the more avid listeners out there. ‘Happy Song’ is technically accomplished, the grinding head swaying riff of ‘Brianmaiden’ (or is that Brian Maiden??) is superb and there’s enough neat drum fills and musical breakdowns in the rest of the record to keep the listener entertained.

The trouble is, whilst this is a decent offering from Die! Chihuahua Die!, ‘Bitch Songs’ lacks a certain dynamic. For all the bluster and energy bursting out the speakers the songs still follow a fairly recognisable formula. Perhaps this is purposeful, subscribing to the “what you see is what you get” attitude and who can blame them, after all where else is there to go with this genre? But whilst this may be a solid album that will no doubt please the metal heads out there, for most this is just some standard rock and roll fun. 6/10



Slaraffenland - We're On Your Side (album)

Slaraffenland by no means play the folk game by numbers; openly challenging folk traditions with a wry smile. Their unusual twist on the genre veers towards Folktronica and progressive soundscapes that sit beneath layered vocal melodies and fingerpicked guitars. In fact, for what is essentially a folk album ‘We’re on Your Side’ is surprisingly inaccessible. Slaraffenland seem purposely esoteric and experimental in their music. Whilst there are frequent and teasing hints at melodic hooks and poppy choruses (especially within the vocals) no such resolution is ever actually provided, making the songs feel more like sprawling musical expanses than boxed up entities in their own right, ready for consumption.

Songs such as ‘ Meet and Greet’, ‘Hunting’ and ‘Falling Out’ are practically post-rock arrangements; yearning trumpets and slow paced notes lending themselves to the kind of ominous sounds you’d expect iLiKETRAiNS to create. In the times when the experimentation is more restrained such as it is with ‘Too Late to Think’, we are still presented with emotional and fragile music that’s a joy to listen to. Critics will surely argue that this album is too much of a slow burner, too insular, but surely all great music is about investment and the personal journey the listener undertakes with the band?

In 2010 we’re faced with an unwelcome plethora of nu-folk projects: Grizzy Bear, Fleet Foxes, Frightened Rabbit and The National to name but a few. Perhaps then, because of this Slaraffenland feel like a considerable breath of fresh air. Last year at SXSW the band hosted an event called ‘Danish Dynamite’ to showcase their national talent and I do hope they included themselves in this bracket, as with addictive, beautiful songs that seem to grow with poignancy on each listen, this album is indeed explosive – in Slaraffenland’s own inimitable way of course. 8/10



Lightspeed Champion - Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You (Domino)

It’s been 2 long years since Lightspeed’s last album ‘Falling Off The Lavender Bridge’ and this is a comeback and a half. An odd mixture of influences and sounds that all piece together to create a wonderfully eclectic fifteen track album of pomp and energy.

Opening on the epic musical fiasco of pianos and self pity is ‘Dead Head Blues’, things kick off rather well. Following into ‘Marlene’ a 70’s glam funk themed tune with that kitsch Dev twist that makes it irresistibly catchy. Not to mention the fantastically excessive guitar solo before the sing-a-long coda. Ukulele wonders, violins and watery tambourines in ‘There’s Nothing Underwater’ pluck as gently at the heartstrings as the guitar strings. Three songs in and already multiple genres have been explored and expressed with no restraint – just what I like.

But then, an odd mish-mash of children’s keyboard skills and piano crashes wishes to ruin the party in the shape of ‘Intermission’. Thankfully we move on swiftly to the radiant ‘Faculty of Fears’, already a hit with jumpy bass lines, gorgeous lyrics and that chorus. Taking a dive into the classic piano concertos box with absurdly English ‘The Big Guns of Highsmith’ has never made combining early nineteenth century piano with a massive bass drum such a good idea. From this, ballad ‘Romart’ seems the most logical pursuer; gentle but retaining enough bite to make you sit up and listen.

Lost love is a definite theme for this album and ‘I Don’t Want to Wake up Alone’ is no exception - stark, yet loving and tragically beautiful with its violins and step down sequences of notes. ‘Madame Van Damme’ is again, a twist in the tale of Mr Champion. It has a summery Zutons feel, but still stays fresh and indefinable – is that an organ I hear? Keeping on the feel good summery path is the mellow guitar lick laden ‘A Smooth Day (At the Library)’ that bursts into a tick-tock finale of plucking and picking.

Taking up a tribal focus is ‘Intermission 2’ with a rain stick and some lovely bongos. Much better than ‘Intermission’, it leads perfectly into the Wild Western blockbuster of ‘Sweetheart’ that ticks all the country and western boxes. Staccato plucks? Tick. Lazy single chord strums? Tick. Tambourine madness? Tick. A no expense spared chorus finale? Tick.

Going back to our much loved concertos, we have ‘Etude Op.3 “Goodnight Michalek”’. ‘Middle of the Dark’ is a tad Bowie, a tad late Beatles and a tad genius - that chorus is incredible. Closing on ‘A Bridge and Goodbye’ purifies the soul and completes this album of little treasures.

A massive review for a massive album; and there is still so much that cannot be put into words or quite pinned down. Take a listen, I promise you will not be disappointed.

Eloise Quince


Owen Pallett - Heartland

Owen Pallett's 'Heartland' is gold and glimmering. If you drove to this record, then you could drive forever. But it's also crumbled gold. Like little nuggets. It's like panning a gold record. Owen Pallett is obviously great. He's obviously really bloody good at playing instruments. This is obvious from when he was Final Fantasy and all over everyone's records all the time. But then if you took 'He Poos Clouds', this record is removed. It's got more of the charm of his well-known 'Peach, Plum, Pear' cover. It's fast and shimmering. The red lines on the cover give you a glimpse of the shimmering, almost shrill, 'Lewis Takes Off His Shirt', as it builds up, repeating the line "I'm never gonna give it to you." "Oh Heartland, Up Yours!" is more slow, with a bounce almost akin to a Kevin Barnes-but-with-less-pomp. "The priest with his broken ah-ah-rrrows" reveals a "method to the madness", that they will "feign an expression of sadness". I'm sure it's good, I mean, it must be, it is golden. But I'm still a prick who prefers Patrick Wolf.

Phil Coales


Djevara - The Rising Tide (Part One): Corsa Al Ribasso
run, WALK! - I hope this all works out so I can stop standing on even amounts of manholes in the street

Cool, so the second record is released on Holy Roar (Rolo Tomassi, Throats, etc.) and it's got a title... well... that's the title. And that's what it is. "Fuck off bastard noise" is a term coined in the press release. Djevara's press release concerns them being "hugely frustrated with life and even more angry before"; "definitely more an exercise in catharsis than a deliberate attempt to 'entertain'". Add to that "genreless", and "energetic, passionate, honest, determined".

So, of course, they're both really angry. run, WALK! seem less keen on putting the world to rights, and they don't have a song called 'Jesus vs. Mohammed (Ali)'. I also reviewed Owen Pallett's 'Heartland' this month, and I am certainly tempted to allow this review to dip even further into that vein of V*CE magazine / Platform-house-style anti-criticism. Because DIY 'aesthetics' are so easy to mock.

So although the Djevara cover features a disturbing scene of what looks like a cross between the gas masked "Are you my Daddy?" child from Christopher Eccleston's Doctor Who run and Karin (?) from The Knife and Fever Ray being abused by an odd choice of slab serif font (Courier), like, the music.

"At a nuts and bolts level, Djevara are a late-90s Rage Against The Machine rip-off. Think of rumbling guitar lines distorted into a swampy mess; think of randomly inserted bits of noodly musical landscaping; think of vocals that meander between whispering and shouting; think of a band like One Minute Silence minus the funk, or Tura Satana minus the tits playing in a West Country pub car park filled with empty cider cans and bored teenagers.

It is not that Djevara are incompetent musicians, it’s that their sound as captured here is uninspired, derivative and profoundly ill-conceived.

said some guy called Jonathan McCalmont writing for a website called The Dreaded Press.

Listening to it on the back of this makes me want to be sympathetic because I don't like the feel of that review a bit - I mean, you can Google it if you want to read it all, but you've pretty much just read it "at a nuts and bolts level". The song 'Lines in the Sand' is reminiscent of a live recording of Future of the Left (see 'Last Night I Saved Her From Vampires' for this - it has a brilliant track on it where Dwayne Chambers is repeatedly labelled "a useless cunt who can't even cheat properly"). The spoken bits about the weather being changed are kind of confusing and a lyric about "feeling angry" is kind of irritating, but then, I guess you'd listen to a band like Djevara when in an irritable mood. It's stripped, post-Mclusky post-hardcore. It's not hateable. By any stretch. Sorry Jonathan.

run, WALK! take more cues from Dillinger and the like. For a band with a man in a bunny suit on the rear of their cover, they have some great music. The 1:05 'Horizons' is nearly brilliant. The title track, stuck right at the end, is more post-rock than that Rolo Tomassi track that was really long on their self-titled. It has a better build and the keys and second guitar and horn make it terrific. 'Back of my Mind' is brilliant for the duration of the bit where it sounds like they are playing their guitars with a junior hacksaw. And it has much better quiet vocal bits than Djevara.

Phil Coales


The Raincoats – Self-titled – Reissue (We Three Records)

This is a reissue of an album that has never got the recognition it deserved. As the blurb says, The Raincoats were one of the highlights of post-punk and were a breakthrough for women in music, and influenced artists such as Kurt Cobain and Sonic Youth. It was this that first attracted me to them eleven years ago, but back in the cassette mix-tape days when the album was unavailable, I had a really ropey version taped off a friend who taped it off a friend, etc etc. So to hear these digital remasters is a bit of a Holy Grail for me and as such, I really enjoyed this album.

No Side To Fall In has amazing harmonies like a punker version of The Ronettes, and this carries throughout the album, even though it’s ramshackle and sounds like it was recorded in a potting shed. Off-Duty Trip is maybe the high point, with a thrumming bassline, and No Looking, the final track, careers along as if the band were worried they were running out of time and is somehow more ramshackle than all the others but is none-the-less still lovely for it.

The Raincoats have been somewhat known for their cover of The Kinks’ Lola, and it is track 6 on this album. It’s not a particularly good cover, per se, but I do love it because it’s a woman singing a song written by a man about a woman who turns out to be really a man – I like the gender-play involved in that.

This isn’t a particularly great album, but it was influential and it more than deserves its reissue and to be heard by a new generation or two. It deserves to be listened to by anyone who likes grunge or modern emo, or anyone with more than a passing interest in punk. Just don’t force the Kurt Cobain connection down my throat, okay, because I really couldn’t care less.

Bloody excellent basslines, though. 6/10

Rebecca McCormick


Lou Rhodes - ‘One good thing’ (Motion audio records)

Lou Rhodes is a singer songwriter and mother of two. Born in Manchester she has worked closely with the band ‘Lamb’, she now lives in rural Wiltshire and has begun a solo career. This is Rhodes' third album and follows in the folk trend of the previous two, ‘beloved One’ (2006) and ‘bloom’ (2007), quite a change from the blend of trip hop and jazz that ‘Lamb’ was known for.

Rhodes said that she takes inspiration from the old classics such as Nick Drake and Nico. I can definitely hear this through the iconic plucking style used in Nick Drake's music and story telling style of Nico. Similarities can also be drawn between Kaki Kings amazing abilities on the guitar and the blend of instruments that Rhodes uses, the music flows so beautifully holding its own behind the voice of Rhodes telling its unspoken story like the changing rain of the seasons.

Rhodes uses her music to tell her story, from the pain of the loss of her sister to the beauty of the world around her. The album moves your emotions up and down, from the haunting simplicity of ‘Melancholy Me’ to the plucking harmony of ‘The Move I Run’. My favourite track is ‘It All’ - I think the guitar of the piece is so effectively mixed with the strings it takes you to another place, with Rhodes' almost poetic story telling and a melody laying on top, the effect is forever memorable.

As Rhodes hers self says “there’s so much in life we can’t control. All we can do is find the joy in the little things that happen to us along the way.” And there is a lot of little things in this album. For that I score it a solid 9/10.

Imogen Davies


Turin Brakes - ‘Outburst’ (Cooking Vinyl)

Turin Brakes is the guitar duo of Olly Knights and Gale Paridjanian. ‘Outburst’ is their sixth album and has seen them “return to their roots” after the success of their UK top 5 hit song ‘Painkiller’. This album is a more simplistic look at music bringing the boys back to the fans with a collection of folk soft pop music.

Taking influences from many popular bands of the 90’s, Turin Brakes has found their feet and their sound in this album after experimenting with folk, pop and even a little electro. The soft pop sound uses the duos voices, guitar and a blend of classic instruments from xylophones to violins.

This album is an interesting one; it has a mix of different styles but maintains a wholly distinctive sound. Tracks such as ‘Apocolips’ ring similarities to music such as the band ‘Elbow’, with its up beat but yet soulful pop style overlaying a folk acoustics style of guitar playing, (although maybe not as ‘pop catchy’ as Elbow have managed to achieve in tracks such as ‘Grounds for divorce’).

Having been a fan of their hit track I’m undecided about the boys' new album. The old sound, a cross between ‘Steriophonics’ and ‘Starsailer’, seemed to work well and although I do like the new album and its move back to a more acoustic feel, I wonder if it is what the fans will be expecting. They have taken their music towards more of a Ben Harper feel and although this really works on some of the tracks such as ‘never stops’, I feel they need to work on a bit more of a blend between the soft electro pop, that got them into the bright lights of top ten tracks, and their root music of soulful folk pop. Although they do both well, for me other bands can do folk pop slightly better, although only a duo such as Turin Brakes could come out with a track like ‘Painkiller’ so for me the album is going to get a 6/10.

Imogen Davies


Kah - More Than Dawn (Joy Lane Music)

Kah is a London based singer songwriter who takes heavy influence from and bases her music in the electronic genre. She creates all her music single headedly performing and creating every element of her tracks. ‘More Than Dawn’ is her first album though she has released a single ‘fugitive/Back seat Driver’ in 2008.

I am still amazed by this album; Kah has a very original sound produced by her clever use of layers both through her vocals but also with the use of instruments and technology. It is hard to make a comparison to others due to this music’s distinctive originality. I can hear little bits of Bjork in some of Kah’s vocal tones and some of the organised randomness to each track.

It is hard to believe that the tracks are all done by Kah almost completely alone. The difference technique she uses is breathtaking. Tracks such as ‘Goose Girl’ make you view instruments such as violins completely differently. ‘Dragonfly Boy’ makes me think of ‘Blue Foundation’ and their track ‘Bonfire’ or ‘eyes on fire’. Kah’s ‘Architect’ is a beautifully simplistic piece much like Joanna Newsom’s music with a modern twist of spoken verse used alongside the flow of the vocals giving the piece a truly surreal up to the minute edge.

To truly understand this album you will have to listen to it and this I would strongly recommend. In Kah’s own words, “sometimes it’s like reading under the covers by torch light. Like time no longer exists…..I am a little girl lost in a forest of detail. In my songs are my dreams. In my dreams are my songs. I simply could not live without them.”

The time, effort, detail, imagination and talent that has gone into this album has resulted in me having to award my first ever 10/10 a real must for a good music collection although not wholly mainstream Kah’s music will have something for every taste so plug yourself in and live for a few minutes in the cascading sound of Kah’s dreams.

Imogen Davies


The Half Rabbits – From the Horizon to the Map

Melancholic, deadpan and angular, The Half Rabbits debut is a collection of ten songs that the band have been touting around for some time now. So is this final collection worth the wait?

Well, probably. In terms of small “indie” bands The Half Rabbits are an ambitious bunch. They play up to the complexities of their music rather than to a commercial appeal and brand themselves as “intelligent art rock”. Sounding similar perhaps to Joy Divison, Editors or Interpol, the Oxford foursome make no bones about what they’re trying to do.

With dynamic guitars skipping from minor key arpeggios to screeching choruses, delicate piano, male-female vocals and a propulsive rhythm section to boot, this album was never going to be anything but layered and intricate, full of little gems that reward the avid listener. The pokerfaced warbles of Michael Weatherburn do well to create a morbid feel to proceedings, the grim realism of his voice holding its own through blistering choruses on such songs as ‘Stay Positive’ and the excellent ‘Someone’s Coming’. These energetic bursts are in direct contrast to the more progressive explorations on songs such as ‘In Vulnerability’ where the band have moments of brazen post rock.

Unfortunately, marring proceedings is the minor but persistent feeling that this album sounds dated. Whilst bands from the same mould, such as iLiKETRAiNS, Foals and Editors have progressed with their music, The Half Rabbits seem to have stuck with a post / art rock formula that feels more at home in the first half of last decade. Is this a problem? Not really, but some may find it a rehash of what’s only just been and gone – the worst type of rehash as it’s not even been long enough to be branded retro cool. Nonetheless such trivial bugbears shouldn’t detract from what is a substantial and weighty offering that’s packed with some stunning guitar work and bucketfuls of passion. 7/10



The Burning Hotels - Novels

It’s with a selfish, heavy heart that I put this back on, in order to get this review written. Selfish in that I want someone else to be put through this rather than me. Honestly, what’s the point? A friend of mine complained a while back, when he was trying to get funding from the Arts Council, that the level to which you had to prove your project’s worth was akin to the proof required to convince the Pope there’s no God. Now, he’s quite the fan of hyperbole, but if those kinds of checks mean that bands like this no longer get record deals, I for one am all for it.

One of the most unhappy nights of my life was spent stood in the pissing rain while Kelly Jones and his idiot friends bludgeoned their way through shit song after shit song, and I’d quite gladly have gone back there rather than listen to The Burning Hotels, if only for the fact that I had the very real fear of trench-foot to occupy my thoughts, as respite from the horror show.

What is it though, this obsession with sounding like a Disney© version of Interpol? Perhaps the world requires this Kings of Leon lite; after all, what else perpetuates the cure, if not the disease? Maybe that’s it. The Burning Hotels lay bare what is so awful about bands such as those crowned Leon boys and the Killers, that it may well become impossible for anyone to take them seriously. That, at least, is a pin prick of light at the end of a turgid tunnel.

What else is there to say? Nought. 0/10

Sean Gregson


Kaki King – Junior (Cooking Vinyl)

I’ve been listening to this for a few days now, repeated listens, trying to form an opinion. Summary being... I’m struggling. I don’t hate it but there’s nothing in there to get me passionate about it either.
It hints at times to being a rock record without ever really rocking. At other times it nudges you towards a lilting ballad but never really gets there either. So instead it tends to fall just between the two.

It gives the album no real sense of voice. More a collection of songs than a single statement of intent spread over 11 tracks as this is.

Musically competent and lyrically interesting but very much only ever managing to be only the sum of its parts. 6/10

Jim Johnston


Straight Lines - Persistence In This Game (Xtra Mile Recordings Ltd)

There seems to be a real reluctance in home grown guitar bands to keep what you could recognise as a British sound. It’s not so much a problem found north of the border where there is a steady progression of bands with a familiar Scottish growl. But south of Hadrian’s Wall it seems a much more Americanised presence is creeping into what’s being played.

Such is the case with Welsh band Straight Lines. In their defence, it is a decent stab. The tunes are decent and there’s nothing particularly weak on here, but whilst each track can thrash along at a decent pace there seems very little deeper to what’s going on. No working class swagger, so working class hero anthem to the down trodden to be taken on by the masses. Nothing then that characterises the best of British bands.

Not unpleasant, but it does little to stir me. A little too clean, a little bit too guitar band by numbers to really hit the spot. 6/10

Jim Johnston


Damien* - Crippled Cute (Suiteside)

Damien* are a brand new indie outfit from Pesaro on the Italian East Coast – not that there is any indication from their music. There are all kinds of ridiculous hints in there, a dabble of Brand New in the opener “On Ice,” dribbles of Strokes and Supergrass throughout and even maybe a smidgen Alkaline Trio on “Softcore,” although there is an overarching indie vibe throughout. There is a grizzly bass, a dual male vocal, a fairly generic guitar and the predictable (but necessary) indie beat, bursting with hi-hat tickles. I'm going to take a gamble and say that if you liked Sunshine Underground's latest album, you're probably going to like that. It's really for a fan of all things indie, there is a lot of eighties-esque nonsense going on, and although there isn't much on here I'd bring up in conversation, it's certainly not hard to listen to. My top track is probably “Storyboard” - but I can't be sure why. It's all quite samey. Regardless, not a bad effort from the Italians. 7/10

Thom Curtis


Chris T-T - Love Is Not Rescue (Xtra Mile Recordings)

Love Is Not Rescue is the 7th full length release from Chris T-T, the man The Sunday Times once described as staking a claim to becoming “The 21st Century Ray Davies”. Having not heard any of his previous material and having only heard this album I can safely say I agree with them.

This record mixes stripped down instrumentals with introspective and personal lyrics that reflect the pressures and issues of personal relationships “Nintendo” and “Love IS Not Rescue” and everyday goings in of our modern world, such as the brilliant Bragg-esque protest tune “Elephant In The Room” with lines such as “I forgot how to live a private life, I put it on the internet and call it sharing”. Although this kind of social commentary has been resurged since The Streets hit the scene with many artists from all genres favouring talking about the dull realities of life in 21st Century Britain to more imaginative lyrics Chris does it well, doesn’t overdo it and doesn’t focus on pubs and shit nights out like some of his contemporaries. Another highlight is “Market Square”, a light hearted whimsy looking back into an olde worlde of rabbits on the common and market stalls selling lavender, worthy of membership to The Village Green Preservation Society.

The material in this album is quintessentially English, well arranged and you don’t have to decipher the lyrics which is the first essential to becoming “Peoples Poet”, I think Damon’s position is still open and with an impressive CV on his side it can’t hurt applying. 7/10.



Elliot Smith - Roman Candle Re-issue (Domino Records)

Unfortunately, Elliot Smith's legacy will always be overshadowed by his rather grizzly, violent and self afflicted departure (he stabbed himself twice in the chest in October 2003). However he left in his wake a catalogue of beautifully spare, haunting lo-fi acoustic folk music which married the tunefulness of the Beatles to the dark anger and frustration of Neil Young.

His first solo release (recorded alone on a 4-track recorder while he was still the front-man with 'Heatmiser') was recorded solely for his own pleasure and was never intended to be released, and what a crime that would have been! Although it lacks the polish and refinement of some of his later albums (especially XO which sits amongst my favourite albums of the 90's) this newly re-mastered debut deserves to be re-evaluated as there's a stark beauty here which was never really captured on his later releases (or anyone else's for that mater)

The title track is one of the most affecting songs Smith ever recorded with it's fuzzy, lo-fi sound owing as much to it's charms as the song itself. Smiths vocals are buried beneath heavily panned acoustics and a soft, buzzing electric guitar in the verse before emerging from the murk in the chorus. It's a stunning song which had been brought out of it's shell a little by a re-master which manages to retain all the eccentricities of the original print whilst bringing out the clarity in the melodies. That's not to say the rest of the album pales in comparison though with the 4 'No Name' songs possessing a more optimistic style which recalls the more restrained work of Alex Chilton (sadly recently departed) at his most forlorn. Also the multi-tracked, finger-picked acoustic guitars on 'Condor Ave' could almost have been recorded by Nick Drake with their melancholic whimsy and 'Last Call' rests a nagging lead guitar over one of the most straightforward pop songs Smith ever wrote.

Lyrically it's pretty dark stuff with songs reflecting on everything from child abuse to heartbreak. However the album was recorded before he became embroiled in substance abuse so many of these songs read as songs of love, loss and loneliness, it's almost quaint when compared with what was to follow and it's part of the albums charm. If you want to delve into the darker side which was to follow, the follow-up self titled album is the place to look. As a primer on one of the most significant talents of the 90's before the darkness swallowed him whole though, 'Roman Candle' is pretty much without equal. 8/10

Benjamin Hiorns


Sparrow & The Workshop - Crystals Fall (Distiller)

Forming in late 2008, gloomy Glasgow folk trio Sparrow and the Workshop have garnered much press attention and after releasing two critically acclaimed EP’s present to us their debut full length album Crystals Fall this April as well as stepping out in support of The Brian Jonestown Massacre across Europe.

The bands sound occupies a position somewhere between Arcade Fire circa Neon Bible and The Fairport Convention and comprises of Belfast born, Chicago raised Jill O’Sullivans beautifully haunting vocals backed with indie folk arrangements that conjure up images of faded photos and rusty brass table sets whilst managing to feel creepy and melancholy enough to fit in with the current trend for a darker, more prophetic folk/rock sound.

Lead single “I Will Break You” incorporates elements of post-rock guitar into ghostly melodies that gives the sound a more driving and ‘epic’ sound, the band have definitely forged themselves a unique sound despite their use of traditional song forms. Other highlights include “Mercenary” which explodes into a fuzzed out Neutral Milk Hotel style jaunt towards the end and debut single “Devil Song” which trips into psychedelic Jefferson Airplane territory.

Most of the material on offer here is already available on the EP’s that precede it, albeit in a less polished rougher state with only two new songs making the album. Although fans may feel a little short changed if they already own the earlier releases the album is sure to gain Sparrow and the Workshop some new ones. As a debut album it is certainly strong, and although there is nothing particularly striking on show, I feel the foundations are in place and the best is yet to come. 7/10

A. Tzikas.


Marvin - Hangover The Top (African Tape)

Hangover The Top is the latest offering from French trio Marvin, but i’m not too sure what it offers. The sound falls somewhere in the Hard Rock/Post Rock/Noise category and is made up of synths and heavy guitars, imagine Air playing System Of A Down’s instruments and you would be thinking in the right sphere, “Dirty Tapping” the only track on the album with a prevalent vocal certainly does sound like a heavier Air, especially with its liberal use of Vocoder.

The problem with the rest of the album is that it’s instrumental for the vast majority of the time but never exciting enough musically to keep from dragging, instead of creating a post-rock style soundscape the songs just feel like a long intro or a backing track. One tune that does save Hangover The Top from complete mediocrity though, is the final track, a rather good 7 minute cover of Brian Eno’s classic “Here Come The Warm Jets” which sees the band verging into a shoegaze territory and to their credit, does the song justice. Its a real pity about the rest of the album though. 3/10

A. Tzikas


Love Is All - Two Thousand And Ten Injuries (Polyvinyl Record Co.)

After parting ways with their label last year, Gothernburg quintet Love Is All found themselves faced with a situation rare for a touring band...they could do what they wanted, thankfully they put their time to good use and the end result is their third full lengh Two Thousand And Ten Injuries.

Says Bassist Johan Lindwall of the record “We didn’t have a record contract, therefore the record developed completely on our premises and only because it was fun”. The benifits of the laid back natural process certainly show in the 12 short blasts of lo-fi New Wave pop jangle and melody that make up the album. Joshephine Olaussen’s unique vocal twins innocent lyrics with a feisty riot grrl delivery that gives the band a sound similar to that of Le Tigre or the twee cross between Talking Heads and Blondie.

Opener “Bigger Bolder” instantly hooks you in and bristles with garage pop energy and urgency as do album highlights “Less Than Thrilled” and “Dust”. The band move into a more relaxed pace on tracks such as “Never Now” and “A Side In Bed” and prove they can write and arrange great songs full of charm and pop sensibility. The best thing about this album is that it oozes fun, not knowing whether the album would make it to the shops the band recorded it for their own enjoyment and without any constraints of time or an expected outcome from a label, just like all great albums the ethos comes across in the music and surely proves that it’s the best way to work. 7/10

A. Tzikas