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singles/eps - november 2010



The Horn the Hunt – Raptor (White Label Music)

You’d be right for thinking that a band with a name like that is a little bit odd. Sure enough ‘Raptor’ mixes luscious Nordic sounding electronic compositions with a taste of the gothic courtesy of vocalist Clare Carter. This has a mixed effect – the deep vocal parts sound a little bit strained, like a depressed Kate Bush, whereas when she really opens up her voice the result is far more satisfying. This is also accompanied by some very effective male throat singing in the background. It’s a difficult combination to master but The Horn the Hunt have pulled it off quite nicely here. 7/10
www.thehornthehunt.com
Listen to 'Raptor' (Aztec remix)

SB


 

The Bazaars – L’Attention / Visions

This double A single features one track which is heavily retro and another which is only slightly less so. ‘L’Attention’ owes a heavy debt to the The Doors ‘Break on Through’ whereas ‘Visions’ is a bit more successful, being a slowly building psychedelic shoegazy sort of beast. Neither are really whetting my whistle to be honest, close but no cigar. 6/10
www.thebazaars.co.uk

SB


The Strange Death of Liberal England – Lighthouse

TSDOLE are rapidly becoming one of my favourite bands. ‘Lighthouse’ features all those clever taut musical amblings that British Sea Power specialise in while adding a kind of folky rabble rousing element more akin to Mumford and Sons. To paraphrase the bands words, you too need a lighthouse to see through the dark. 8/10
www.tsdole.co.uk

SB

 
 

The Gaa Gaa’s – Voltaire (The Playground)

Surely a bad case of a misplaced apostrophe here? Perhaps. But questions get more existential than that as The Gaa Gaa’s ask ‘Why are we here?’ in their eerie goth punk classic ‘Voltaire’. Obvious comparisons with The Rapture surface but it’s a little bit more fun and frenetic than our American cousins. It’s also a little bit more wonky in places – the sythns taking on a Speak n Spell lo-fi quality. 8/10

SB

 
 

Tender Trap – Dansette Dansette (Fortuna Pop!)

I’m not sure I share Tender Trap’s love of the girl-group harmonies or any of the ideals that the girl bands of the 60’s did or did not stand for. ‘Dansette Dansette’ is a busy little track with nice little guitar parts but I’m afraid its raison d’etre, those vocal harmonies, fall a little short in the quality department and frequently unravel in just a little bit of a mess. Or maybe they are meant to, in a clever ironic way that I am missing. 5/10
www.myspace.com/tendertrap

SB

 

Teebs – Why Like This (Brainfeeder)

My Teebs virginity has recently been lost and I am pleased to say it was a near-orgasmic experience. Teebs, the trading name for Los Angeles based producer Mtendere Mandowa specialises in rich, evocative soundscapes that swoosh and throb with intent but which only ever gently caress the ears. ‘Arthur’s Birds’ is an amazing track which seems to distort the natural sound of birdsong and warp it into an ever changing out-of-phase dystopia. Similarly ‘Bern Rhythm’ seems to synthetically recreate the sounds of the outdoors. It really is staggeringly good. 9/10
www.myspace.com/teeeb

SB


 

Catfish and Bottlemen – Bodies

For such a young band Catfish & The Bottlemen have definitely had an impressive career to date. Having formed at the beginning of 2009, they have already been lucky enough to support Twisted Wheel and Ash, have lots of radio airplay and be named BBC 6 Music’s Unsigned Band of the Year 2009. So what’s all the fuss about? Well if forthcoming single ‘Bodies’ is anything to go by, they thoroughly deserve all of the critical acclaim and success they have had so far. It is a catchy and buoyant pop song full of shiny guitars and crisp rhythms. Not dissimilar to The Kooks and the Wombats, the track is hook heavy and flows through picked guitar sections, harmony heavy vocals and punchy riffs. Although not completely original in style they aren’t mere copycats; they have a bit more of a gritty edge to themselves than the aforementioned bands with Ryan McCann almost growling his vocals at times and a slightly more punk feel about their music rather than just catering for the pop rock market. The B-Side to the single ‘Collide’ emphasises this as well, with effect heavy guitars and once again a hook line that is neigh on impossible to get out of your head.

Catfish & The Bottlemen deserve every bit of praise they have received to date and if they keep on writing songs like ‘Bodies’ then I think it is fair to assume that they are due a lot more. Although what they are doing is nothing particularly new they are going about it in such a way that will make them stand out from the rest and hopefully will get them the recognition they deserve. 8/10
www.myspace.com/catfishandthebottlemen

James Borland

 
 

50ft Woman – Ménage á Trois

Is it me or is the idea of creating a whole band and image around the fact that the lead singer is quite tall a little bit odd? You’ve got to hand it to them – they’ve even got folk sending in photo montages featuring statuesque vocalist Minki towering over various London landmarks. But seeing as Minki is also a major manufacturer of ironing boards, perhaps 50ft Woman missed a trick in the under-populated music-domestic chore crossover market. OK, well the ironing boards are by Minky with a ‘Y’ but it was a beautiful plan.

I digress. ‘Ménage á Trois’, rather logically, features three tracks and it’s not just the name which has a touch of B-movie madness about it. The music is a little punk rock musical, aided in no little way by Minki’s theatrical delivery. ‘Psychic Hygiene’ borders on the Elastica in places but rapidly gets towed back in by the 30 second axe solo. It’s all a bit of an odd mix but yet I still find myself strangely drawn to it. The fact they are performing a little tongue in cheek makes it easier to approach – there’s no great pretence to greatness here. I still think there’s a gap in the ironong board market though. 7/10
www.50ftwoman.com

SB


 

Tom Mansi and the Ice Breakers – Need Want (Metric Acorn Ltd)

Tom Mansi seems like a talented chap, he’s even just returned from a tour with Donovan and David Lynch (yes, of Twin Peaks fame). Sadly, for all its frenetic energy and delivery, ‘Need Want’ is just a pretty bog standard rockabilly type track that passes all too unremarkably. 5/10
www.tommansi.com

SB

 
 

Ulterior – Sex War Sex Cars Sex (Speed)

Even though I was in the middle of writing quite an important email when I started listening to this track, I couldn’t help but be taken aback. I know very little about Ulterior other than they fuse bristling electro with proper guitars in quite a ferociously entertaining way. Like an up to date and vastly more talented incarnation of Sigue Sigue Sputnik. 7/10

SB

 
 

Skinny Lister – Kite Song

‘Kite Song’ meanders along in a breezy summery way and you are already tempted to have it pigeon-holed firmly in the Tweepop category when wow, out of nowhere the band bursts into life and really sing from the heart in a wonderfully uplifting rousing finale. 8/10

SB

 

Marvin B Naylor – Boy Became a Man (Folkwit)

This track sounds nothing short of amazing. A bit of 12-string guitar is always nice. Ten try tuning that down and you get an ethereal harpsichord sound that rings out full and mellow. Add to that Naylor’s weirdly intoxicating discordant vocal and you get a recipe for something special. It’s like the Christmas Eve midnight mass being sung after someone has spiked the local choir’s mulled wine with LSD. 9/10
http://www.myspace.com/mbnaylor

SB

 
 

Polly Mackey & the Pleasure Principle - Higher (The Playground)

Polly Mackey has a great strong, powerful voice, like a reigned-in version of fog-horn Florence Welch and ‘Higher’ is a suitably serious indie stomper to showcase her talents. I do get a little bit of a retro vibe from this one – it’s a little bit 1980’s Goth in being so earnest but I’d rather that than throwaway pop any day. 7/10
www.pollymackey.com

SB

 
 

Volcanoes - Monkey. Gossip. Cross. Tessaract.

Swathes of keyboard introduce this incendiary punk funk combination of growling bass and tripletime drumming, plus the alternately gritty and thrashing Volcano guitars. What the lyrics represent I am unable to fathom entirely although the bands blistering avalanche of sound contains a solid core and the purposefully oblique words are framed skilfully. I had a 4 track EP from Volcanoes a few months back and now this 2 track single. Album anytime soon?
www.volcanoesband.co.uk

JG

 
 

The Following Announcement – Jenny

I’m afraid that however polished The Following Announcement are going to be with their pick slides and boyishly good vocal harmonies, this kind of over-produced and sanitised version of punk just never really appeals to me. Pop-punk just seems to be a contradiction in terms and ‘Jenny’ would be more at home on the X-Factor than gracing your MP3 player. 5/10
www.thefollowingannoucement.co.uk

SB

 
 

Transgression – As Tides Change EP (Rising)

In fairness to Transgression, I don’t think they are claiming to be the saviours of British metal. Even the press release intimates that basically they are about being brutal, uncompromising and heavy. The fact that the vocals in ‘As Tides Change’ sound like a strong gale whistling around a tent on the side of an exposed mountain ridge is presumably uncompromising.

It certainly is heavy though and there’s no little amount of skill involved in drumming very fast and strumming guitars accurately. But as a total, this EP just lacks a bit of guile – it’s a constant wall of noise – there’s little suspense, tension or contrast offered and as such it becomes a bit of a chore to listen to. 4/10
www.myspace.com/transgressionuk

SB

 
 

Stages of Dan – Gary / What is Love (DTR)

‘Gary’ is a bright and breezy lo-fi surf rock affair that steadfastly banishes the November fog and drizzle and injects a much needed sunnyness into your life. It’s probably about 30 seconds too long to be ideal but that’s a minor indiscretion. A far bigger indiscretion is covering Hadaway’s ‘What is Love’, though in fairness, Stages of Dan give it a sufficient lather, shave and spruce to actually make it sound halfway good. 7/10
www.myspace.com/stagesofdan

SB

 
 

Vessels (feat. Stuart Warwick) – Meatman, Piano Tuner, Prostitute (Cuckundoo)

Now for some serious stuff. Vessels are behemoth among bands, multitalented musicians who sound like they are reaping the rewards of putting in hours of practice, editing, careful reflection and refinement before committing any track to recording. ‘Meatman...’ is no exception, even adding on the band’s already formidable range of dynamic mastery by via the introduction of a doleful vocal by Stuart Warwick. This is simply beautiful stuff to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. 9/10
www.myspace.com/vesselsband

SB

 
 

Live Like Lions – Cecile (Echo Palace)

Sweet Dreams are made of this...I think you can trace the sound of the intro to ‘Cecile’ a little further back than Delphic and Metronomy. That said, these are not some dry electro uber-cool kids at play – there’s times during this track when it properly rocks out. Pop + rock + disco = success. 7/10
www.livelikelions.com

SB

 
 

The Sequins – Man Alive / On the Streets of Japan (Sturdy)

I can’t quite decide yet whether Sequins are some band of geniuses or a motley bunch of musical villains. Throughout both tracks here there are moments when the recording sounds boxy and a little bit cheapskate. There’s plenty of opportunities when singer Hywel Roberts’ voice strays between Fergal Sharkey and Justin Hawkins. And there’s definitely a vibe of glam operetta to ‘On the streets of Japan’. But then I’m not sure all this uncoolness really matters – The Sequins have strung a couple of good tunes together here – let’s just take them at face value. 7/10
www.thesequins.co.uk

SB

 
 

Inner City Pirates – Seen It All Before (Superdark)

Not a lot of info coming along with this one but a nice little surfy guitar springs open promisingly before, by Christ, a guttural raw is spawned forth ahead of a string of no-that-poppy ‘oh-oh-oh-oh-woh-oh’s. Future of the Left battling it out with Teenage Fanclub perhaps? It’s certainly very exciting. 8/10
http://www.myspace.com/innercitypirates

SB

 
 

Gazelle Twin – Changeling / I Wonder U (Something Nothing)

This is a rather wonderful offering from the mysterious Gazelle Twin who appears to look a little bit like The Predator from the CD artwork. But ‘Changeling is a mesmeric dark electronic with a twisted iciness about it that crackles and hisses away over great swathes of glorious instrumental tones. There’s also a pretty audacious cover version of Prince’s ‘I Wonder U’ which is even wackier than the original. 8/10
www.myspace.com/gazelletwin

SB

 
 

Trophy Wife – Microlight (Moshi Moshi)

I love the start to ‘Microlight’ – it kind of clumsily clumps its way into activity in an outwardly arhythmical fasion. Then before you notice it’s metamorphosed into a standard drum beat – very clever. Thereafter it’s a little bit Delphic and therefore a little bit underwhelming. But ony because they set the bar so high at the outset – this is still an excellent debut. 8/10

SB

 
 

The Aftermath – Northern Lingerie (Live Transmission)

‘Northern Lingerie’? What exactly is that? The staple diet of the Geordie lady’s wardrobe – boob tube + miniskirt combo? ‘The postman says it’s cold today, make hay’. What? It’s fair to say that some of these lyrics are a bit contrived. But sonically this aches back yesteryear and could well be passed off as a stylised version of The Beatles’ ‘Daytripper’. Maybe Northern Lingerie is like the stuff that Michael Caine wears when he chases those guys down the street naked in Get Carter. 6/10
www.myspace.com/theaftermathband

SB

 
 

Wild Party – Take My Advice/Life’s Too Short (Friends vs Records)

There’s a youthful exuberance about Wild Party that spills out in these two tracks. Combine that with a sound not a million miles away from a combination of the Killers and We Are Scientists and you probably have a recipe for success. 7/10
www.wearewildparty.com

SB

 
 

Sensorites – Just Because You Can (Hollowhole)

In places, ‘Just Because You Can’ sounds a little like The Proclaimers covering Shed Seven tracks. Which is odd, because The Sensorites are from Liverpool. Fortunately their alien Lothian accent diminishes quickly to be replaced with a warm Mersey delivery. The CD is nicely packaged in a brown paper bag and embossed sleeve which is perhaps why they thought this track was worth 6 mixes. Don’t get me wrong – it’s nice enough but I’ve not fallen in love with it the extent that I want to hear 6 different versions. 6/10
www.sensorites.com

SB

 
 

The Volitains – Lovely Bones/Joy (The Playground)

This is a big, melodramatic effort here from The Volitains and their charismatic singer Candice Ayrey. It sounds a little bit like they are playing in the middle of a glorious dancehall while it burns to ground around them. If you can inspire that kind of atmosphere then you must be doing something right. 7/10
http://www.myspace.com/thevolitains

SB

 
 

Diarmaid O’Meara vs Alexander Price – Rent remix

I don’t get it. I like it, but I don’t get it. This thumping remix (of a re-release of the Petshop Boys Classic) sees O’Meara weave his techno wizardry over the Alexander Price track. There’s next to no vocal but plenty of signs of O’Meara’s mastery of beats and bleeps. Where does Alexander Price come in? Maybe he as a Malcolm McLaren behind the scenes role? 7/10
www.diarmaidomeara.com

SB

 
 

Rubicks – Worship (Sharp Attack)

The melodies and effects in ‘Worship’ wonderfully collide and coalesce in equal measures as Vanessa Anne Redds melancholy vocal lists and bucks over the top of a spookily dark electro track. There’s combinations of fast cowbells over the general slow analogue beat and this multiplexing if ideas all comes together in a brilliant whole. 8/10
www.rubicks.net

SB

 

Spokes – We Can Make It Out (Counter)

Spokes turn out a triumphant track here where the mass vocals and stings give it a folk collective feel over a distinctly post rock song construction. It’s disarmingly simple yet ambiguously complex at the same time. 7/10
www.counterrecords.com

SB

 
 

Allo Darlin’ – My Heart is a Drummer (Fortuna Pop!)

Err, Cyndi Lauper does ukelel anyone? It can’t just be me that thinks large sections of this track sound like they are lifted straight off ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’ can it? That said, it is fun enough in its own right, and as an ex-boss of mine once said, you only have one original idea in your lifetime. I’m still waiting for mine. 7/10
www.allodarlin.com

SB

 
 

Lotus Mason – Dreams Surreal (GlowB)

The name sounds like a formula one racing team yet the track stalls on the grid and never gets out of first gear (did you see what I did there?) It’s very much mid-tempo, as heralded by the press release, and that’s an odd quality to want to highlight. On the plus side, there’s a great balance of live and electronic elements and the production is spot-on. 6/10
www.lotusmason.com

SB

 
 

The ex-men – Famous (Flowers in the Dustbin)

I like The ex-men. They have just the right mix of sardonic wit, ability to laugh at themselves and musical talent to raise themselves above merely penning comedy songs. They also use a rude word (in fact the rudest word) with some aplomb in this track. But I definitely have no desire to listen to 8 remixes of it. 7/10
www.theexmen.co.uk

SB

 
 

I, Ludicrous – Clerking ‘til I Die (Brettpack)

This fits next to The Exmen remarkably well. I’ Ludicrous are resolutely DIY with a clunky sounding production which suits this song perfectly – they are like a guitar and drums version of the Exmen in many respects. The constant mantra through this song is about being content with a mundane life and avoiding stress wherever possible. It’s not obvious whether this is tongue in cheek or not but the outro is genius, the vocalist ‘having to let you go’ to the guitarist and seeing him head off to tour with just the drum machine. 7/10
www.iludicrous.co.uk

SB

 
 

The Bug – Infected EP (Ninja)

Deep and dirty bass combine with Hitomi’s delicate vocal to balance out a nice starter with ‘Catch a Fire’. ‘Tune In’ follows the gut rumbling sub-bass pattern, combining it with some ghostly glitch in a progressive dub style – it’s a bit unremitting but definitely gets its message across. Autechre supply a weirded out remix of ‘Skeng’ and things are rounded off with Scratcha DVA’s more upbeat remix of ‘Poison Dart’. 7/10
www.myspace.com/thebuguk

SB

 
 

The Guilty Hands – Razor

Here’s a band very much coming in under the radar then blitzkrieging the music scene. ‘Razor’ is a minor tour de force, pulsating muscular electro beats, clever samples and the skronkiest guitar parts heard since Carlos Alomar squealed all through Bowie’s Scary Monsters. Plain ace. 9/10
http://www.theguiltyhands.com

SB

 
 

Thea Gilmore – Teach Me to Be Bad (Fullfill)

It’s got all the bells and whistles, all the parts are played correctly, Gilmore has an impressive voice (though sounding somewhat throttled back here) so what’s the problem? Well I’m not really sure but this just doesn’t feel that special. You know, it’s just OK, one of those teasing tracks that makes you think you should be falling in love with it but ultimately just makes you feel like you’ve been teased. 5/10

SB

 

Two Bit Desperados - Macumba para Exù (Shit Music for Shit People)

Two Bit Desperado make a lovely garage surf rock din via Sardinia, Portugal and Brazil. Released by the slightly self-effacing Shit Music for Shit People, this 4 track EP also introduces a bit of sixties psychedelia by way of ‘Pretty Girl’. Anyone who is not a fan of analogue recording should probably look away now as there are definitely moments in this where the vocals get more than a little bit shrill but if you can put up with that then you should still be rewarded with a worthwhile 10 minutes of Euro-indie. 7/10
http://www.myspace.com/twobitdezperados

SB

 
 

The Narcoleptic Dancers – Not Evident (Bleep Machine/Captaine Plouf)

Very twee folk pop here by a brother/sister combo who sport the largest combined fringe length in music today. It’s very gentle and a little bit quirky, should go down a storm with circles of Allo Darlin’, The Loves etc fans. 6/10

SB

 
 

Foreign Office – On Repeat (Quiet Life)

Intelligent disco indie here from Foreign Office who manage to combine 80’s synth pop with a more contemporary sound. Hell of a catchy foot-tapping hook too. 7/10
http://www.myspace.com/foreignofficemusic

SB

 
 

Eels – Baby Loves Me

A surprisingly aggressive and even more surprisingly optimistic effort from an otherwise melancholic and introverted blues outfit. It’s a little repetitive but with a good beat, humour, and an emotional, defensive cry of “But baby loves me”, this track will prove to be one of the stand-out songs on the Eels latest album Tomorrow Morning. 7/10

Matt Bull

 
 

The View - Sunday

Rather different to the ‘Same Jeans’ band we all know, this new approach sees a glittered modern indie disco take on the romantic movement, fiercely mixing a dab of electronia with layers of choral splendour. However, buried deep within the synths and harmonies, there is still a gritty guitar and rugged vocals showing that this band can take the dive into new waters, yet still retain an essence of home.

Eloise Quince

 
 

Modern Superstitions – All The Things We’ve Been Told (Pink Noise/Last Gang Records)

“I’ve got no control over my dreaming” sings Modern Superstitions’ singer on “Everything That Is Not Mind”. It will be hard to see for such a young teenage band like Modern Superstition whether they will succeed realizing their dreams. Anyway the Toronto three-piece proves on their debut EP “All The Things We’ve Been Told” that they have the courage to take the hard and long way to success. They could have chosen an easy way just doing what all the other bands are doing at the moment, but their sound is not very common in today’s music scene. Basically it is an easy rock style with punk and indie attitude, with a fuzzy bass, drums rattling like chains and a basic, uninspired guitar. What makes the sound noteworthy, however, is the singer Nyssa’s voice, bringing about associations with Deborah Harry, but also having the dark energetic spark of Florence and the Machine. The whole package brings close the notion of the end 70s new-wave-rock of Blondie and The Pretenders.

Despite their courage for their sound influences, the songs lack of urge and essence. Maybe it makes too great demands on such a young band to ask for deepness and meaning; however, this is what separates the outstanding from the “nice try”. Though you have to take your hat off to Modern Superstitions for their courage in writing a clearly country-rock inspired piece like “Beck & Call” (also containing wonderful “dum-shewoop” and “bum-shebum” vocals and meaningless lyrics alike) and for a “Everything That Is Not Mine” that builds up to be a grown up considerate rock piece.

But let’s them give a couple more years, and they might turn this “nice try" into something richer in content.

Wolfgang Günther