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singles/eps - june 2011



Cosmo Jarvis – Sure as Hell Not Jesus (Frame Productions)

I’m not an ardent Cosmo Jarvis fan but this EP doesn’t do his reputation any harm either. The title track seems half The Wurzels and half Dexy’s Midnight Runners on acid – that’s nothing if not interesting. Similarly the backing tacks are not just fillers – each one is tightly packed with little gems – the organ skiffle in ‘What’s Wrong With Betty’, the moody wobbly guitar sounds of ‘Road Closed’ just add to an overall demonstrably clever aptitude for song writing. 7/10

SB


Sweetheart – The Avenue (Good Fortune)

I seriously thought that the cheese percussive taps of the electric piano were going to drive me insane within minutes but rather than dead end into faux 1950s doo wop, ‘The Avenue’ pleasingly diverts ahead a couple of decades and has more in common with a T-Rex glam stomp. Just to cement this thought, ‘The Beast’ musically evokes thoughts of faeries, little people, LSD and Wizard. Sweet Hearts’ secret is to deploy their overtly demotivational lyrics among these very recognisable pop motifs, cunningly subverting the whole cuddly popstar dream ideology. Good thinking. 8/10
www.facebook.com/sweetheartband

SB


 

Jimmy and the Sounds – Little Victories (New Blood)

This is a very proficient little effort from Middlesborough’s Jimmy and the Sounds, even if it does seem like it was recorded across the Atlantic. In fact I’d go as far to say that were this band from the US then few people would bat an eyelid, but the fact that four geezers from the north east can do this is warranting them greater coverage. 6/10
www.sonicbids.com/jimmythesounds3

SB

 
 

Boy Mandeville – Gorilla (Around the Dial)

World music via Haringey anyone. It’s a s though Paul Simon missed a connection at King’s Cross and ended up on Wightman Road. That said, amid the African guitar sounds there are some seriously skilful parts which at times sounds like they have been recorded backwards and other little trills that are so fast that they almost sounds like s single note. A curiosity to be sure. 7/10
www.boymandeville.com

SB

 

The Lovely Eggs – Fuck It (Cherryade)

I’ve seen the video to this song, basically a loop of the singer drinking continuously from a cider bottle. Sounds a bit dull but is actually pretty endearing. Exactly the same can be said of the song – a simple northern vowelled vocal and sparse drum beat which eventually burst into a lo-fi sizzle of guitars and crackly symbols. Sounds a bit dull but is actually pretty damn cool. 8/10
www.myspace.com/thelovelyeggs

SB

 
 

The Low Suns – Never Gonna Care (Amp Music Productions)

I have an in-built dislike of words like ‘Gonna’ and ‘wanna’ – blame my terrifying GCSE English teacher. And sadly The Low Suns do not elevate themselves from the naughty line with the tune either – sounds like bombastic 80’s synth pop but using slightly more advanced equipment (as though it was designed and built in the last few years even). Hold on...5/10
www.thelowsuns.co.uk

SB



 

Is Tropical – The Greeks (Kitsuné)

It should be a match made in heaven – Is Tropical’s arty synth indie and Kitsuné’s Gallic swank and swagger. And sure enough – this is a surefire hit bringing sounds like Depeche Mode and Pet Shop Boys right up to date with shudderingly good effect. Book me in for a show please. 9/10
www.facebook.com/istropical

SB

 
 

Young Knives – Human Again (Gadzook)

Young Knives seem to have been around forever without making any lasting impression on me. Perhaps things will change with this artful little track which purposefully scoops a bit of cool art rock and dollops it deep into a crisp, biscuity pop cornet. Great breakdown and reprise too – consider me finally educated to the ways of Young Knives. 8/10
www.youngknives.com

SB


 

The ‘A’ Train – Beginning EP (Vantage Room)

I’m finding this a very difficult record to review. Outwardly working through a variety of styles, there’s an underlying air of melancholy which seems to pervade all of these songs in a world wary way. Even after noting this I’m left wondering whether this malaise is a) deliberate and b) desirable. So many contradictions yet I think perhaps this atmosphere is not just down to James McKean’s vocals but the whole bands easy, languid approach – like a bunch of guys 100% comfortable with the music they are making. And ultimately it’s a self confident approach rather than a cocksure one which means I’ll be giving this EP a thumbs up (though possibly I’ll only listen to it during the winter months, next to an open fire and with a glass or two of warming whisky in me first – it just doesn’t seem to sit right in the summer). 7/10
www.theatrain.co.uk

SB

 
 

Brett Martini - 'Lovers Lane'

Bit of a quirky ballad from Brett here, an uptempo tale of romantic doings enlivened with a backwards guitar break, which is always a good thing. It passes almost unnoticed amongst the slightly flat production, although the song itself is enough of a cheery strumalong for this not to detract from 'Lover's Lane' too greatly. Bet the album's a corker.
www.myspace.com/martinbrett

JG

 

Smallgang - 'Wrong Side'

This is how it's done. A sunburst of guitar harmonics and skewed rhythmic interplay, and a solo that Tom Verlaine would in all probability claim as one of his own. 'It doesn't get any better than this' sing the Gang, and it probably doesn't, if your album collection begins with Televisions first album and ends with their second. 'Wrong Side' is far beyond a Jazzmaster pastiche though, and had me digging out my copy of 'Postcards From Waterloo'* just to attempt to second guess what Smallgang might thrust upon us next.
(*Tom Verlaine's critically acclaimed 1983 solo album)
www.smallgangland.com

JG

 

Mono Stereo - 'Girl I Love You'

Whoever said 'they don't write them like this any more' was wrong. A pounding, howling, full-on amphetamine styled Mod anthem from a Swedish band who also make very cool t shirts, and make no bones about their dinner date gender preferences. Europeans do this kind of thing minus the irony and floppy fringed insousciance that we Brits bring to the table nowadays, it's beatnik bop a go go round at Mono Stereos gaff every night of the year, let alone the school holidays. For want of a less committed phrase, cool.
www.myspace.com/monostereomalmo

JG

 

Beth Jeans Houghton - 'Dodecahedron' (Mute)

Is a dodecahedron eight or twelve sided? I was too busy listening to this sumptuously produced tale of geometric confusion to look it up. Smoothly arranged and with Beth's Nicoesque vocal providing a darkly sensuous accompaniment to the gently sinister xylophone notes that echo her every syllable, this is almost a benchmark in sultry, sophisticated alt.folk
http://soundcloud.com/muterecords/beth-jeans-houghton-1

JG

 

The Travellers - 'For The Waves'

Bands choose their names for all sorts of reasons. The Travellers background atually has involved a lot of travelling, with Italian vocalist Gemma Marchi and her Anglo Swedish partner Robert P variously writing and recording their music across Europe; their resume quotes ideas and inspirations gathered in Rome, Dusseldorf, Stockholm, Zurich, and several other stops on the eurorail routes. They then moved to London to record the follow up to their first, more experimental 'Tapping Teapots' album, and the resultant 5 track mini album is a melange of accumulated styles, retro pop and vibey guitar tunes, enlivened with Gemma's soaring, yearning vocal.

First track 'Waiting' is a noir-ish,jangling torch ballad, Gemma's voice gliding over the gritty guitar notes with the effortless grace of Lykke Li eating a Baked Alaska. The deceptively low key 'Leaning On The Wind' suddenly bursts into what sounds like a six string duel, with Robert P clicking his distortion pedal on and off so fast that it sounds like two guitars. A neat trick smartly handled ; The Travellers restless search for fresh influences has also included gaining quite some technical mastery. 'Never And Ever' is a more reflective number, revealing a jazzy touch that all that urban musical exploration inevitably brings, and 'Talk To Me' reveals a harder edged side to their sound, approaching the stuttering neuroses of The Kills or Panic! At The Disco (if they were a duo). Finally, 'Rain' is a song blessed with one of those naggingly familiar chord sequences that you know you recognise but cannot exactly remember where you heard it first. If The Travelllers wanted to subtly but determinedly unsettle their listeners, they've more or less succeeded by the final track.

'For The Waves' is a more than just an intro to a band whose experience and skill bring a very real light and warmth to the disjointed and occasionally soulless world that anyone who travels a lot will recognise instantly. My only minor complaint is that, during all those euro-wide ramblings, didn't The Travellers find an actual label to release their brightly performed, subtly ironic and sophisticated music? If they continue to produce songs of this quality, that should change, and soon.
www.myspace.com/thetravellers73

JG

 

iLiKETRAiNS – Siren

Is it just me or do we all have those bands who we’d love to love a bit more but sometimes find a bit hard to put up with everything they do? Probably is just me actually – contrary git. But take arch miserabalists and locomotive fans iLiKETRAiNS – for a start I’m sick of writing all those upper case letters with lower case ‘i’s. And there was a stage when it seemed like every one of their songs seemed to follow a pretty similar pattern. But with ‘Sirens’ I can wholeheartedly open my arms and embrace the band at last – this song is just beautiful and eerily uplifting at the same time (especially seeing as it is about luring gents to their death). The guitar-bass interplay is totally wondrous and borrows slightly from fellow Leodians Vessels perfectly crafted lines. And even the sometimes morbid baritone vocals have been lifted to a delicate level. Purchase immediately. 9/10
www.iliketrains.co.uk

SB

 

Club Smith – No Friend of Mine / Young Defeatists (Front Wall)

There’s a nice glam stomp sound about this one which will infuriatingly permeate your inner ear and become unforgettable in moments. It’s simple but effective. ‘Young Defeatists’ is also a fine accompaniment as Sam Robson’s falsetto scrapes up alongside the fuzzed up basslines as arrestingly as finger nails down a blackboard. 7/10
www.clubsmith.co.uk

SB

 

The Death Set – Can You Seen Straight (Counter)

I’ve got to admit that I didn’t really ‘get’ the last The Death Set single I reviewed but this is far more to my idiosyncratic liking. It’s still their own brand of surf pop infused punk, but wonderfully melodic and euphoric rather than nihilistic or antagonistic. Plus, musically this is a lot less simplistic than previous releases. In addition, on this particular disc there is a good remix package and the equally catchy ‘They Come to Get Us’ – part CSS part Is Tropical. 7/10
www.thedeathset.com

SB

 

Look, Stranger! – If You’re Listening EP

Odd name, odd sounding band. It’s something to do with the bedroom quality synth loops and the slightly fey vocals that leave this EP sounding like some weirdo funk-lounge-space synth hybrid. Then there’s the droning guitar sound and infectious rhythm of the title track and before you know it, you’re firmly stuck with the melody in your head.

Reverb effects re-surface regularly on the EP but can’t forgive the bastard union of ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ and, well, I don’t know what – a bloke singing in a falsetto over some pretty cheap electric keyboard sounds and tumbling sampled toms. If Look, Stanger! Haven’t baffled you enough yet, they really leave you scratching your head after ‘Wade Out’ which for all its reverb, changing time signatures and general unlikely combinations, actually results in quite a lovely closing track. Whatever you final stance, you’ll certainly have an opinion on ‘If You’re Listening’. 7/10
www.lookstranger.bandcamp.com

SB

 

Bang On! – Got It (Big Dada)

Oh dear – I assume that Bang On! weren’t to know that Bombardier beer was to use their band name as the tag line for their new Rik Mayall inspired advertising campaign. Or maybe it actually acts in their favour (though a quick Google results in no higher than a 6th position for this act). All of which delays the fact that I am pretty clueless about this track – quite a nice dirty backing track while some man carries out what I believe is called a ‘rap’. It doesn’t really stick in my head to be honest. Bang On! Now there’s a phrase which sticks in my head. 5/10

SB

 

Lazydisco – More Tigers (Discotexas)

Oh dear, this is very dull. At least you cannot accuse Lazydisco of false advertising – their name perfectly describes the sound. Well, maybe more Lazygenericpianodrivenhousegibberish would be a bit more apt. There’s 5 remixes too – sorry, I didn’t feel compelled to listen to them after sitting through the dullest 4 minutes of the original, even after it briefly threatened to morph into 808 State’s ‘In Yer Face’. 3/10
http://discotexas.com

SB

 
 

Pete Yorn – Sans Fear (Because)

Produced by Frank Black and it surely does show. ‘Sans Fear’ sounds like something off Black’s ‘Dog in the Sand’ album. And like that album, I liked it but wouldn’t say I ever learned to love it. 6/10
www.peteyorn.com

SB

 

Hoodlums – Landmarks / The Great Outsiders (Blow the Whistle)

More famed for their rambunctious live performances, Hoodlums adequately impress me here in the recorded format. With the gift of string and keyboard driven bombast, Hoodlums pull off the cunning trick of not making you feel nauseated by this overt posturing. There’s just enough of a delicate touch, enough Idlewild styled sincerity to make you take note. 7/10
www.hoodlumsband.com

SB

 

Airship – Kids (PIAS)

All very frenetic energy yet flowing at the same time, ‘Kids’ is a fine effort here from Manchester’s Airship. Clearly from the musical legacy of Doves and Editors, Thankfully Airship imbue their sound with a greater urgency and even some British Sea Power style guitar caterwauling. Almost perfect 3 minute indie pop. But the track is 3.01 minutes long. 8/10
www.airshipband.com

SB

 

Black Moth / XM-3A – A Split Single (New Heavy Sounds)

Embarrassing revelation ahead – I like The Stone Temple Pilots. There, I’ve said it now and it’s in the public domain. The reason for this fateful confession? Well I think Black Moth sound pretty similar – heavy, melodic, chorused vocals. Admittedly Black Moth’s singer is a lady which, I regret to say, is incredibly different to STP’s gravel voiced serial jailbird Scott Weiland, but there’s definitely that slickened grunge sound there.

I wasn’t quite sure what to make of fellow splittees XM-3A first couple of times I listened but, By George, I think I’m coming round to their infectious acid-funked heaviness and cheesoid metallicious riffery. 8/10
www.myspace.com/newheavysounds

SB

 
 

Kevin Rutkiewicz – Time Tick On (GMAC Studios)

This song is quite remarkable, mainly for the fact that it is by a footballer currently playing in the Scottish Premier League. Banging your brother’s wife in a Giggs stylee is not for Kevin Rutkiewicz. Instead this is a gentle ballad, inoffensive and innocuous in equal parts. It’s dull as dishwater without being poor. I won’t exactly be counting down the days until Kevin hangs up the boots for Dunfermline for good and concentrates full time on his music. 5/10
www.facebook.com/kevirino

SB

 
 

Benjamin Francis Leftwich - Box of Stones (Dirty Hit Ltd)

This track has a very reverby, smokey, almost ethereal quality to it which just about elevates it above the mundane. The vocal harmonies work well though, spiralling off at pretty tangents above the heart beat percussion. 6/10
www.benjaminfrancisleftwich.com

SB

 
 

John Stammers – s/t EP (Wonderful Sound)

Despite the strangely crackly quality of the CD on offer, it can’t disguise the lovely steel string and slide guitars which form the supple backbone of the country tinged opener ‘The Fridge’. There’s a languid Balearic infused remix of ‘Idle I’m’ by Colourama Coloured and quite an annoying final track called ‘Your Good is As Guess as Mine’ remixed by The Kramford Look. It’s hard to tell what John Stammers is like when the majority of tracks are remixes – he’s open to interpretation if nothing else. 7/10
www.wonderfulsound.com

SB

 
 

Slugabed – Moonbeam Rider EP (Ninja Tune)

Don’t even try and categorise this EP which sees Greg Feldwick embellish his god given name with the moniker Slugabed and sees him mix glitch, B-movie sound effects, bass, grime and multitudinous other effects into this five-tracker. There’s little surprise that he has worked with Eskmo which would give a basic idea of the sound though perhaps a darker, more British version. Get the bass turned up and open your mind. 8/10
www.sugabed.net

SB

 
 

Jonathan Powell – Brave Captain Mallard (Small Voice)

I love the mandolin on this track which is only sparsely accompanied with strings at tactical interludes. The subject matter is the fate of a flock of ducks which got sucked into a plane engine – quite unusual. In fairness Powell really gives it his all. Personally, I hate ducks. 7/10
www.jonatanpowellmusic.com

SB

 
 

Elan Tamara – Organ EP (Big Dada)

It’s inarguably refreshing to hear a female singer songwriter who differs slightly from the run of the mill crop that churns the machinations of the music industry on a monthly basis but Tamara’s vocals are so arresting that I find them dominating every aspect of these tracks. She seemingly s able to oscillate between being pitch perfect and (hopefully) then veering off-pitch for dramatic effect. But, like Les Dawson playing the piano out of tune, while it is incredibly skilful to do, it’s almost quite irritating to listen to. 5/10

SB

 
 

Hungry Ghosts – By the Bridge (Animal Farm)

You will sit up and take notice of Hungry Ghosts, that’s for sure. While they maintain an innate sense of good songwriting with ‘By the Bridge’ they are also quite happy to throw in a shed load of prog, pomp and stadium pleasing choruses. Catch them live this summer (though you will need to have an A-Z of East Yorks seeing as their venues include Thorne, Driffield, Thirsk and Easingwold). 8/10
www.hungryghosts.co.uk

SB

 
 

Reset! – Love & Revolution / Calypsoul (Cheap Thrills)

Turbofunk anyone? Nope, I’ve ever heard of it either but if ‘Love and Revolution’ is anything to go by then it’s pretty good. Big squelchy basslines, builds, break downs and a touch of very synthesized vocoder from Italian producer Reset! Mean this is unabashedly aimed squarely at the club scene, not the bedroom market. Think Lo Fi Allstars meet Josh Wink and you wouldn’t be far off. As far as ‘Calypsoul’ goes, a whole load of the same sounds return with only a bit of a horn sample introduced to differentiate from ‘Love and Revolution’. I don’t expect I’ll be clubbing anywhere in the Balearics this summer but if I was then I certainly wouldn’t mind listening to a bit of this.8/10
www.wearereset.com

SB

 
 

Crystal Stilts – Shake the Shackles (Fortuna POP!)

I’m loving the mix of shoe gaze, psyche synth and post punk which Crystal Stilts cobble together here and bind with great catchy guitar riff. I guess it’s part of the deadpan indie-noir delivery to drench the track in reverb and analogue crackle but I wouldn’t mind a little bit more clarity next time – I nearly junked my speaker cables trying to find a fault before I realised it was actually supposed to sound like that. 7/10
www.fortunapop.com

SB

 
 

Impact – Strength Through Loyalty EP

Maybe this sort of music is timeless but eyebrows are raised by the copyright 2009 note on the CD sleeve here. I’ve heard some Pantera in the past but I’m far from an expert and this CD leaves me horribly out of my depth. Occasionally melodic, frequently shouty but always loud, frankly it gives me a bit of a headache. 6/10
www.myspace.com/impactukhc

SB

 
 

James Vincent McMorrow – Sparrow and the Wolf

McMorrow’s mellifluous vocals carry this folk-infused barrel of indie pop admirably as he skips from world weary to falsetto without taking breath. 7/10
www.believedigital.com

SB

 
 

Clubfeet – Edge of extremes (Plant Music)

Man, this track takes some warming up before it really gets going. You could quite easily skip the first minute with no negative effect as various drum patterns and cheesey loops slowly build up to a point where some rather lovely chorused vocals eventually emerge. Clubfeet sound a bit like a sunnier version of Laid Back which figures seeing as Laidback were from Denmark and Clubfeet originate from Melbourne. Get it down to 4 minutes and I’d love this. 7/10

SB

 
 

The Lancashire Hotpots – You Could Get Hit By A Bus Tomorrow (Townsend)

Yawn. The Wurzels of the northwest, did anyone really think that The Wurzels were musically praiseworthy? It’s just a gimmicky parody and frankly other bands do it better. If I’d spent £200 on a Glastonbury ticket I’d be gutted to find out The Hotpots were filling up space on the bill (though they will, no doubt, go down a storm). 3/10
www.facebook.com/thelancashirehotpots

SB

 
 

Plant Plants – Plant Plants EP (Less Music)

Really nice mix of genres here from London duo Plant Plants. There’s the intricate guitar parts that you might associate with Foals or Minaars but coupled with the bass-heavy sounds you’d more likely expect to hear from the likes of the Ninja Tune stable such as Eskmo. Yet there is more than one occasion when the composite effect is actually a bit retro – ‘She’s No One’ left me thinking more Tears for Fears than anything super contemporary. And occasionally things are a little long winded, ‘Hands That Sleep’ seems to play a lot longer than its listed 4 minutes. But this is nit-picking – basically this is a superb debut EP. 8/10
http://soundcloud.com/plantplants

SB