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singles/eps - nov 2011



Born Blonde – Radio Bliss (Moriarty the Cat)

It only seems like yesterday that we listened to Born Blonde’s last single and we’ve been having our ear bent (well, our email inbox has been mithered) ever since. But for once the track justifies the hype. Again, all swirling psychedelia, ‘Radio Bliss’ has that enchanting quality of being able to fizz with life while also gently wafting out of the speakers unnoticed. Listen hard or listen soft – the choice is yours but either way it is a treat. 8/10
www.bornblondeofficial.com

SB


Is Shepherd – Pine Box

Curious band name, curious record. ‘Pine Box’ sweeps along part clacky guitar, part sinister swamp rock but with thoroughly interesting melodies and eclectic compositions throughout. Really nice bass sound too (double bass by the sound of it). 7/10
www.isshepherd.com

SB


Daniel Pearson – Wishing Well (in the City)

For a debut this is a very self assured song, sounding more at home in a second or third album slot. Simple compositions compelling played and layered give this an air of grandiose alt rock. 8/10
www.danielpearson.net

SB

 

Syd Arthur – Ode to the Summer (Dawn Chorus Recording Co.)

Crafty tricksters Syd Arthur are actually a four piece band, not a Mr Arthur. ‘Ode to Summer’ is unashamedly retrospective with an energetic analogue sound and light-psyche outlook. Although sailing dangerously close to Ocean Colour Scene at times, it’s the analogue aspect that ensures Syd Arthur manage to stay away from such cheese. 6/10
www.sydarthur.co.uk

SB


 
 

Sweet Sweet Lies – No One Will Love You (Like I Do)

You can’t beat a good tune and a bit of talent and Sweet Sweet Lies have both in spades. Throw into the mix some clever lyrics as well and you’ve got a little gem here (not a lettuce though). It’s simple balladeering by a gentleman who actually sounds like he has lived some life based on a guitar led waltz. ‘When I was a boy I could have been quite smart, If I thought with my head and not with my heart, if I didn’t treat apathy like some form of art’ – brilliant no? 9/10
www.myspace.com/sweetsweetliesmusic

SB

 

Sophie Barker – A Forest/Say Goodbye

This is a tough one to call. On the one hand ‘A Forest’ is just about my favourite Cure song ever and the instrumentation of this version is a brilliant rendition, multi instrumental but eschewing any great digital trickery. On the other hand, Barker’s vocal songs completely disinterested. Fortunately the smokey voiced chanteuse saves the day with ‘Say Goodbye’ which has a nice trip hoppy vibe to it – think Portishead meets Morcheeba. 7/10
www.sophiebarker.com

SB


 

Arctic Monkeys – Suck It And See (Domino)

Ah, I remember when the Arctic Monkeys used to write vital songs which made you get up and dance or sing along with your car stereo. This isn’t like that – it’s a more measured, some might say mature, release and for me it complete lacks interest. A band sitting on their laurels or angry young men who have mellowed out? 5/10
www.arcticmonkeys.com

SB

 

Khaliq – World Alone (While My Sitar Gently Weeps)

Things get a bit confusing when you refer to both yourself and your band by the same name. Like Bros or The Carpenters (the Carpenters were even more confusing, name of a band, name of the members and the name of craftsmen, even though neither of them could do a dovetail joint to save their lives).
So, ahem, onto Khaliq (the band). Ostensibly a guitar band but with plenty of eastern influence courtesy of sitar and table (though not in a Kula Shaker way). They seem a bit serious, and ‘World Alone’ gives off an earnest air of ‘Gangster’s Paradise’ stylee to me. 6/10
www.khaliqmusic.co.uk

SB

 
 

C.R.S.T. – Soul Glo EP (Deep Thrills)

Definitely an Ep of two halves this. Having little passion for house and garage music, the first three identikit tracks are of no interest to me at all – could be Russ Abbott for all I care. The last three tracks, however, are less commercial and verge on the more experimental – glitchier, grimier and altogether immensely more interesting. 6/10

SB

 

Machines Don’t Care – Incoming EP (Cheap Thrills)

I start off listening and the mechanical high hat instantly fills me with despair. But that’s the last time that despair surfaces – the rest of this EP is more euphoric, mixing old school rave with deep, dirty nu-jungle (apparently). Machines Don’t Care is one of label boss Hervé’s side projects and in ‘Full Moon’ he shows some love for Moby rave era massive tunes with a modern bassy twist. By comparison ‘Warlord’ is more Jilted Generation era Prodigy or Aphex Twin – all break beats and jabby synths. Excellent work Monsieur Hervé– just deploy a bit more quality control on the rest of your label. 8/10

SB

 
 

Miniature Dinosaurs – Alligator

This track reminds me a lot of the clever, jerky pop of little known and now disbanded Blind Jackson. However, vocals sit a little bit high in the mix and are a bit grating to me. 6/10
www.miniaturedinsosaurs.co.uk

SB

 

The Words – Everybody’s With You (Phoenix)

The Words have had their work featured in a Windows 7 promotional campaign, a Playstation 3 game and used by Mercedes Benz for their mixtape promotion. Not too precious with their material then. But this title tracks doesn’t suffer too badly from this commercial enterprise, cannily melding James and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, exactly as the press release states. 7/10
www.thewordsmusic.co.uk

SB

 
 

Johnny Get the Gun – Take It

Not your average power rockers, Johnny Get the Gun might peddle the type of tunes you’ll have heard a thousand times before but if they are spat out with a certain amount of self belief then they become very listenable. Johnny Get the Gun (and vocalist Wayne Lightowler) in particular have that gift. I particularly liked the big pre-chorus at the end ’Take It’ which sounded like the Damned doing ‘Eloise’. 7/10
www.myspace.com/johnnygetthegun

SB

 

The Slow Readers Club – Sirens

I’ve got a bit of a suspicion that this might be just a little bit cheesey. I mean, it’s not easy to get away with singing ‘ah-woo’ like a Jeff Lynne martian and not sound a little bit silly, even if you are trying to initiate a siren. I love the band name though. 6/10
www.theslowreadersclub.co.uk

SB

 
 

The Raid – Heads or Tales (The Sonic Front)

What may be ‘one continuous glorious guitar swamp’ to Club NME is another man’s morass of indistinct melodies and muddy vocals. The Raid will have to do something else to convince me I’m afraid. 5/10
www.theraid.net

SB

 
 

Circus Envy – Say Something

There’s not a whole host of bands knocking from inside the borders of East Yorkshire but Circus Envy might just be one to watch out for. ‘Say Something’ has a string inspired drive about it - could be one of the many mysterious instruments employed by Circus Envy – a bouzouki or a Cajun perhaps? Answers on a postcard. 7/10
www.circusenvyband.com

SB

 
 

Jake Morley – Freddie Laid the Smack Down (Sandwich Emporium)

Seems when I heard this track as B-side back in march I wasn’t that impressed. Well, I am nothing if not a fickle bastard and now I have decided I like this with its impossibly fast paced vocals and amazing guitar work. Might not like it next week though. 8/10
www.jakemorley.com

SB

 

Tim Kasher - 'Bigamy' (Affairs Of The Heart)

A singer songwriter from Omaha in the American mid west, Tim Kasher's melodies are brightly played and tuneful, but his lyrics would drive just about anyone over a cliff. 'I hope I die before I'm adult' he sings on 'No Harmony', and the entire album could find itself mistaken for a lengthily scripted and intricately played farewell to life and all its assorted failures and travails. 'I'm a misery', runs the intro to 'Opening Night' and while it's powerchords and deftly plucked melody are cheerful enough to even provoke some mild head nodding and foot tapping, Kasher himself sounds like one of the least cheerful songwriters in the history of recorded music and someone whom you might prefer to avoid in a barroom, a bus queue and definitely in a stuck elevator.

The mood lightens - well it couldn't do very much else - with 'Lilybird', the tale of a cinema visit that invokes an assortment of memories and reveals his adoration of the Lilybird of the title, although his by now characteristic morbidity soon makes itself apparent once more: 'I'm tortured by the same demons though I can't put my finger on it' he sings. My finger briefly hovered on the 'off' switch of my media player, but Tim Kasher is slightly too good a musician to completely lose my or perhaps your attention completely and 'Rabbit Run' is it has to be said a quite good song, as songs about rabbits go, although I'd already stopped listening to the vocals some minutes previously. The last track is called 'Trees Keep Growing' and is a grandiose, epically scored paen to ... a tree? Several trees? A sprightly twig forcing its way through the late winter soil? The Polyphonic Spree have much to answer for and this seven track disaster is a prime example of what some misguided individuals are continuing to describe as 'psychedelia'.
www.myspace.com/timkasher

JG

 

Humphrey Milles – No. 4 EP

It’s amazing how the smallest seed of an idea to spawn into a waste of half an hour. On finding out that Humphrey was feted by dance act Chicane a few years back to become their singer I went on a (virtual) wild goose chase trying to see if he actually played on any of their tracks. All I can say is that Humphrey sounds an awful lot like the guy singing on ‘Come Tomorrow’ (which incidentally we rather enjoyed) – the same gentle crackling voice. However there seems to be some mystery to the identity of this singer, perhaps some acrimony at play, and he is simply credited as ‘Jack Starks’. We’ll never know eh?

Back to ‘No. 4’. Milles has a gift for writing good tunes with a penchant for a narrative in the lyrics surfacing more than once. Stylistically it varies but all tracks are relished with Milles distinctive vocals. Would I buy it? Not a chance – singersongwriters generally bore me half to death. But even if you are a miserable hackneyed music writer as I am then you can still find it in your heart to appreciate Milles talents here. 7/10
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Humphrey/192938130742167?ref=ts

SB

 

Pinkunoizu – Peep EP (Full Time Hobby)

Trepidation sets in when the band announce that their opening track ‘Time is Like a Melody’ is one of their most condensed at just under 4 minutes. And with good reason, EP closer ‘Dairy Queen’ weighs in at a hefty 11 minutes. Better buckle up then...

As it goes, ‘Time is Like a Melody’ plays out like a rather pleasant round, a more grounded version of Spiritualized perhaps. But on the full sonic voyage of this EP we are quickly treated to South American sounding barrage of cattle bells, 60’s space synth and deep funk basslines. Oh, and a bit of static, a bit of glitchiness and a whole stack of other stuff thrown in for good measure.

Do they pull it off? Well it’s certainly an entertaining background listen – I’ve managed to do a whole shitload of cutting and pasting while listening to this and haven’t made a single mistake. But just like Spiritualized – it can easily be accused of being a bit self indulgent (admittedly mainly by folk with a short attention span). I’ll have to sit in the middle on this one for now. 6/10
www.fulltimehobby.co.uk

SB

 

Weird Shapes – Blue Sky at Night/Weird Shapes Light

Marvellously obtuse stuff here from Teeside’s Weird Shapes. Opening with a nice precision, mathy guitar line which is insistent throughout the track, the cascading falsetto vocal harmonies build and crash like waves on a beach. There’s a brief lull in the storm to provide a moments respite before the full force of Weird Shapes return to usher in the finale, a bass solo. I love the way they manage to eschew every obvious choice and do the opposite.

‘Weird Shapes Light’ is a little more mainstream but sounds like they are doing a DJ Food without using the samples and loops. It’s all impressive stuff and the cover graphics are beautiful too. Watch this space. 9/10
www.weirdshapes.co.uk

SB

 
 

The Minutes – Black Keys

No surprise to see that Dubliners The Minutes have already supported Supergrass – they share the same full pelt vocal style. They’ve also got a gratifyingly fuzzy quality to their guitars and vocals courtesy of some pretty hardcore analogue equipment apparently. Although it started off sounding a little bit wooden, like an angry Slade, I find myself liking this more and more every time I listen. 7/10
www.theminutesmusic.com

SB

 

We Are Augustines – Book of James

Written as a eulogy for his brother’s tragic suicide, We Are Augustines’ Billy McCarthy gives this just the right amount of gravitas without it becoming morose. In fact it’s rather uplifting with its freeform spirit and ramshackle nature. 7/10
www.weareaugustines.com

SB

 
 

Patrick Cleandenim – Crazy in the Night/Something More than Love (Broken Horse)

Patrick Cleandenim is cool. He’s got a nice looking jacket on the cover sleeve. He lives in New York. And he weaves a dozen different genres into these short tunes here. There are really nice parts where the mainly 70’s glamour pop suddenly gets disturbed with a growling guitar that phases its way across the speakers –very Bowie. 7/10

SB

 
 

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 – Rise (Because)

Nice Afrobeat vibes here from Seun Kuti and his father’s band, Egypt 80. Don’t let the languid beats and funky brass sections fool you, the Kuti clan mean business and ‘Rise’ is quite an uplifting call to arms (not necessarily literally, in fact, I’m not exactly sure what they are singing about but it sure sounds like they have a message to tell.) 8/10

SB

 

Stalking Horse – Waterhole (ILR)

Mightily impressive outing here from Leeds’ soloist Stalking Horse who sounds like a butched up version of Hot Chip due to his mastery of harmonies. Presumably this requires a lot of overdubs so I wonder how well it would work live – I think I will be investigating further though. In the meantime marvel at the rich compositions and thumping drums, more than enough to see you through this 4 minutes. 8/10
www.stalkinghorse.co.uk

SB

 
 

The Lights – Mostly Water (Sleep Now)

Presumably a comment on the human condition for we are mostly water. Mind blowing. ‘Mostly Water’ is a pretty energetic stuff in no small part due to the lung capacity of lead singer Liz Shiels (though also the twinkling instrumentation shouldn’t be discounted. Not fully convinced I’d ever listen this again but a stout effort nonetheless. 6/10

SB

 

Francois and the Atlas Mountains – Piscine (Domino)

A rare promenade into the world of French music by Domino though it’s a bit confusing when they name themselves after an African mountain range. Musically this is quite thoughtful and gentle, the rumbling of the drums ensures the song rumbles along with an increasing energy just when it is in danger of being as stale as yesterday’s baguette. 7/10
www.francoisandtheatlasmountains.com

SB

 
 

Akira Kiteshi – Transmission (Afterglo)

Wow, some super cool unknown DJ/producer from Tokyo? Nope, Akira Kiteshi is the moniker of Glaswegian Tommy Forrest. Sounds less exotic already doesn’t it? And this release is a bit similar – for all the slightly oddball, off kilter creative moments, there are just as many times when I feel like I could be in a club in the early 90s listening to happy house or rave. The slightly harder, dubbier edge may just save the day. Or is it like the name – just a more exotic description of the same thing? 6/10
www.facebook.com/akirakiteshimusic

SB

 

The Cesarians – I’m With God EP (Africantape)

This is a pretty eclectic EP from Londoners The Cesarians. Having had the good sense to decamp to Italy for Christmas to write and record, ‘I’m With God’ sees a mixture of styles lurching from rock operetta ‘Worst Thing’ to the spoken word soliloquy of ‘Questa è lei’. It’s a cliché but they sound like the sort of band that is best enjoyed live. 6/10
www.thecesarians.com

SB

 

Guided by Voices – ‘Doughnut for a Snowman’ (Fire records)

Guided by Voices are about to release their 16th full length album Let’s Go Eat the Factory. I’ve taken a passing interest in this band over the last eight or nine years but the sheer volume of albums, one-off singles and side projects by Robert Pollard’s band has meant that I’ve never taken as much of an interest as I have with contemporaries like Pavement or Dinosaur Jr. This new single is great though – just under two minutes of descending chord sequences, strings, glorious harmonies and nonsense lyrics. Once the song ends, you want to play it again straight away. Highly recommended. 9/10
http://soundcloud.com/firerecords/gbv-doughnut

Matt Brown

 
 

The War on Drugs – ‘Come to the City’ (Secretly Canadian records)

This is the single from the Philadelphia-based band’s second album Slave Ambient. ‘Come to the City’ has a great sound, with layers of guitars, synths and echoing drums making the track immediately engaging in a sort of Arcade Fire meets Spiritualized sort of way. However, the song keeps threatening to lead into an epic chorus or hook which never quite arrives meaning that it fails to make the lasting impression that it might have done. Good but not life-changing. 7/10

Matt Brown

 

The Lovely Eggs – Allergies (Too Pure Singles Club)

You wouldn’t have thought you could get much more rock n roll than naming your previous single ‘Fuck It’ but ‘Allergy’ probably trumps even that one. Not that The Lovely Eggs will be seen wearing spandex or supporting Guns ‘n’ Roses any time soon. While they dip a toe into the leather clad world of punk rock, they clearly never let them themselves get drawn into the whole earnest, self satisfied smugness of it. Instead they have their only endearing little quirks (like the sitar sounds accompanying the outro here) which makes them all the more lovable. 8/10
www.thelovelyeggs.co.uk

SB

 

DJ Food – Magpies, Maps and Moons (Ninja Tune)

Another day, another excellent outing from DJ Food. Not that we should be surprised by this – his last three of four EPs have all been excellent and there are strands from those predecessors which are drawn through here in the form of ‘Discovery Workshop’ and the 1 11 minute long ‘Magpie Music’ where samples pontificate on the construction and experiential qualities of music. Sonically the latter dips into territory previously occupied by the likes of Bentley Rhythm Ace before adding Foods only slightly darker twist.

But it is the opening tracks which really see a greater change in direction with the darkometer turned up (or should that be down?) to pitch black. The collaboration of industrio-experimeter Jim Thirlwell on ‘Prey’ definitely ups the anti and produces the kind of gnarled up grizzly sound you would expect from him. Sure the ever present Foodisms are there, the layers of samples, the simple stepped melody lines but it’s the brooding presence of Thirlwell in the background that lends this a particularly sinister edge. 8/10
www.djfood.org

SB

 
 

Foxx on Fire – March into the Sun

Very strange little EP here from Melbourne’s Foxx on Fire. They seem to morph between various styles very proficiently whether it’s the summery psychedelic pop of ‘March into the Sun’ or the funkadelic lounge of ‘Mission Abort’. The result is a sound that they never firmly claim as their own and leads to the heavily remixed reprise of ‘March into the Sun’ being the most successful track on the record. Being released in the middle of a foggy British autumn probably doesn’t help their outwardly sunny vibe either. 6/10
www.foxxonfire.com

SB

 
 

The Bloogs – s/t EP (Starling Recordings)

Oops, a little bit late with this one (well, six weeks after release actually). There’s a reason for this – it’s simply languished at the end of each week’s list of CDs despite taking several spins on the CD player because it has singularly failed to make much of an impression with its mild mannered middle of the road indie pop. The malaise begins with the press release which describes opening track ‘Sideways’ as ‘Oasis without the attitude’. What exactly does that leave you with?

A couple of other tracks offer a bit more in the way of a very belated Britpop sound but it is an overriding sensation that The Bloogs sound like the wedding friendly Stealers Wheel hit ‘Stuck in the Middle with You’ or the Steve Miller band which last longest. And in fairness, there’re quite a few bands who wouldn’t mind that comparison. 6/10
www.thebloogs.com

SB

 

Ahab – kmvt (Navigator)

I like a bit of ‘alt’ to my ‘alt folk’. Ahab show no evidence of anything other than timeworn traditional folk and the thin-sounding production does little to make them sound anything other than a half decent pub band on this EP. All spiffing chaps no doubt, judging by the frolics and hi-jinx being had and illustrated in the sleeve photos but this is just not a CD I can get anything out of. 4/10
www.ahabofficial.com

SB

 

Simian Ghost – Lovelorn EP (Heist or Hit)

At 7 tracks long this EP from Sweden’s Simian Ghost is longer than half the albums we will get to review this month. Maybe this is a result of art perpetrator Sebastian Arnström and his self confessed requirement to have a prodigious musical output in order to squeeze out time for various neuroses to take seat.

Think Daft punk meets MGMT and you won’t be far off the mark. The idea of making this sound DIY may be taken a little bit to extremes when artificial wow and flutter are added to the track – it just gets a little annoying like when my car stereo suffers the same problem playing music via Bluetooth (does anyone else suffer this? How can a phone playing MP3s via Bluetooth suffer from wow and flutter?! Truly a modern phenomenon.)

While sonically rich and well rounded, it’s all too easy for this whole EP to wash right over me. It lilts along in the background like aural wallpaper and Arnstrom’s therapy progresses unabated. But frankly it’s just a bit dull – I can’t recall a single song five minutes after listening to it. 5/10

SB

 
 

Franc Cinelli – Fortune Teller Song (Definition Arts)

I’m not sure that Franc’s desire to inject a bit of verve into his alt-folk leanings has really paid off here. The jittery synth melody part just ages this track horribly – sounds like some 80’s drum pattern being played under an unremarkable track. 4/10
www.franc-cinelli.com

SB

 

Ourfamous Dead – I Am Human EP

Leeds via West Cumbria Ourfamous Dead still sound a little bit rough around the edges on this four track EP. But you know what, they might just be onto something. Sure the synths plus metal approach instantly sprigs comparisons with Enter Shikari, but there’s also a much more deeply seated punk sound underpinning everything here, and this is then in turn animated with impressive swathes of metal and electronics. There’s equal amounts of individual virtuosity and crowd singalong choruses and only briefly on ‘Great and Inevitably’ do the band let themselves plough on with an idea which isn’t really working instead of adding an extra twist, a change of dynamic or similar to break things up. Outro track ‘Untitled Part Two’ gives the game away perfectly – this is obviously still a band in its infancy but early signs are more than promising. 8/10
www.facebook.com/ourfamousdead

SB

 
 

Crowns – Kissing Gates (Ship Wreckords/PIAS)

Folk punk innit, with a Cornish slant. No surprises that Crowns have shared stages with the likes of The Pogues, ‘Kissing Gates’ sounds exactly what you’d expect it to sound like – and it’s always good to know where you stand isn’t it. Energetic stuff, I’m off for a cup of tea. 6/10
www.crownsband.com

SB

 
 

Patrick Plunkett – Attracting Attention

A near perfect little track here from the difficult to say when you are drunk Patrick Plunkett. Good voice, good track etc etc but how do you get your head above the parapet formed of the multitude of singer songwriters that knock about? I’m not sure. 7/10
www.patrickplunkett.co.uk

SB

 

trioVD – X (Naim Edge)

Cult jazz experimentalists? Yuck. Not sure that just having some brass constitutes jazz but this is certainly experimental x 10. I like the jerk quality of ‘Tulisa’ and the way it appears to stop/start constantly with the unplugging of some still connected mic jack. Not singing along out of the car window stuff, but though provoking nonetheless. Don’t try and interpret the stabbed vocals- completely indecipherable.
There’s a much more techy approach to ‘Walsh’ with its phasing guitar sounds plunging in and out of the mix. I’d lose the sax completely personally but I suppose it does add a slightly morose quality. ‘Kelly’ starts vey eerily and is quietly brooding – reminds me a bit of God Machine’s trippier output. All very though provoking in a week when the other singles have been a bit one dimensional. 8/10
www.triovd.com

SB

 

Bobbie Gordon – Matters of the Heart EP

I normally have a pretty good instinct at sniffing out the horribly commercial pop tat that comes through our mail box, mainly based on judging a book by its cover (well, its cover art). And this one is a stinker. Good news indeed then that the contents have far surpassed expectations and are actually quite a bit more interesting than I was expecting.

Gordon has one of those voices which is borderline annoying but which also makes it a bit more distinctive and compelling. Some solid song writing too which only gets a bit gooey with (ironically) ‘Fight You’. I still say the cover is horrible though. 7/10
www.bobbiegordon.com

SB

 

General Fiasco – Waves

This is one of those tracks I really don’t expect to like – you know, young band, bastard handsome, far too optimistic for their own good etc. But ‘Waves’ is pretty fantastic actually – you can’t help but get drawn along with the enthusiasm they exude. Great things ahead. 8/10

SB

 
 

Our People Versus Yours – Lights EP

Fantastic musicianship here from Essex based Our People Versus Yours. The guitars are staggeringly varied, alternately powerful and intricate. Then there’s a bloke who screams quite a lot and when he’s singing and not screaming he sounds like a bit of a weed because he was screaming just a second ago. Maybe they’ll hit the middle ground between Thrice and 30 Seconds to Mars or maybe they’ll alienate fans of both bands, time will tell. 6/10
www.facebook.com/ourpeopleversusyours

SB

 

Teeth – UR1 (Moshi Moshi)

We must be going through cool half hour and you don’t get much cooler than the Moshi Moshi label. Another unapologetically synthetic offering here but this one hammers its way into your consciousness with a rare kind of charming insistence. Very simple, very clever and very listenable. 8/10

SB

 

Breton – Edward the Confessor/Kensington System (FatCat)

Breton are feisty little blighters with a large amount of fizzling electronic equipment at their disposal in their self titled ‘Lab’ in Kensington. Must be nice having a converted bank as a base. Of the two tracks I find ‘Kensington System’ a slightly smoother ride but both feel like they are scratching your eardrums. In a good way obviously. 7/10
www.bretonlabs.com

SB

 
 

The Black Stars – Read My Lips

All the rock excess of The Savage Nomads but none of the swagger or eloquence. ‘Read my lips motherfucker’ + sax +axe + Maidenesque vocals all sounds a bit like a bunch of wizened rockers having a mid-life crisis. 4/10
www.theblackstars.co.uk

SB

 
 

The Savage Nomads- What the Angel Said

Unapologetic old school rock n roll here from whipper snappers The Savage Nomads. And all very good it is too, neat riffery and a distinctly English sound, contrary to what NME Radar might think. 8/10

SB

 

Ellie Lawson – Lost Without You EP (Create Your Own Reality)

The beautiful title track of this EP is probably reason alone to seek out more about Ellie Lawson. Gentle but not sickly, ‘Lost Without You’ sweeps without melancholy and soars without bombast. The news that Ellie is an ambassador for Quiksilver is a bit of a sickener – bad that to get anywhere you need to prostitute yourself to some corporate brand. Hey ho.

On other tracks, Lawson sounds a little similar to Sneaker Pimps Kelli Ali and ‘How Hard We Try’ sees a similar trip hoppy sound to the fore. By contrast there’s a folkier, DIY quality in other pieces like ‘Change the Way’ and ‘Ba Ba da’. 8/10
www.ellielawson.com

SB

 

Blacklisters – I Can Confirm (Brew)

If you combine various elements of Helmet, Kong, Therapy? and Nirvana together you will more than likely come up with something that I would find pretty tasty. Blacklisters do that then add their own visceral chipotle sauce. Noisy excellence. 9/10
www.blacklisters.bandcamp.com

SB

 

Future of the Left – Polymers are Forever (Xtra Mile)

Kelson may have left the building but Future of the Left are back and if this EP sampler is anything to go by, their new album due in the new year then we’re in for a bit of treat. There are three album tracks here and 3 B-side fillers but I’ll leave it to you to work out which are which when you listen – it’s not necessarily an obvious choice. But first things first, the title track brings together FotL’s trademark unhinged lo-fi synths and crunching guitars to great effect. There’s also the most ridiculously annoying yet catchy chorus that will (I guarantee it) get you singing ‘Bop bop bop bop bop do it do it do it’ around the house like some demented loon. You’ll see.

A couple of the tracks like ‘Emily’ and ‘Dry Hate’ are much scratchier, punkier and frankly less tuneful – substituting the catchy melodies a bit for the newly beefed up four-piece dynamics. Best track would be a toss between ‘Polymers...’ and ‘My Wife’, mainly because I like the line ‘he’d phoned in sick for years but no-one cared to tell him the plant had relocated and moved to Solihull’ – it reminds me of Bob Mortimer’s man with the stick singing about ‘This year’s works holiday...’. But then that’s just me. You’ll find something on this EP you’ll like unless you’ve had your music gland removed. 8/10

SB

 
 

Sonny – Illuminant (Minimal-escent)

Well, there’s a surprise.I listened to this several times before fully reading the press release and it was only towards the final paragraph of the page that the game is given away that Sonny is in fact a guy. But such is Sonny’s gentle vocal touch and range that he has completely duped me. Or there is a guest vocalist at work. Who knows?

Either way, although broadly categorised as dream pop, ‘Illuminant’ is a bit light on the pop and very heavy on the dream. The four tacks have an airy, ethereal feel to them which sees one slide into another with few distinguishing features apart from slightly differing baroque overtones. There’s only so much reverb and falsetto you can get away with in succession. Sonny does have a great tremulous voice though. 6/10
www.sonnyminimal.com

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Mr Scruff – Feel It / Bounce (Ninja Tune)

Like the last day of school or the end of a doomed romance, this had to happen. Ninja finally release something which I don’t really like. I’ve seen the name on the poster boards around town, advertising sets at some of the swankier/pretentious dance clubs and thought nothing of it. But ‘Feel It’ is little more than your standard funky house track, and a bloated one at that. ‘Bounce’ follows in the footsteps, over 8 minutes of key driven house, albeit with a touch of squelchiness added for interest. 5/10

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Freaks – Where Were You When the Lights Went Out (U-Boot)

Oh dear, this is a remix package. Double oh dear. It’s a remix package of a 2003 house hit. I got as far as the re-working of the original by Freaks in their Redux Vocal Version and then my ears started bleeding during the admittedly very cool, very hard Adrian Lux & Blended techno remix. But frankly, no matter how good you may or may not think the original track was, there’s only so many times you can listen to Stella Attar singing ‘Where Were You When the Lights Went Out’ before you reach for the pause button. 6/10
www.u-boot.be

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James Apollo – Two By Two (Marterry Music)

Although a clear take on some folk classics, ‘Two By Two’ has a lovely balance of delicacy and a that big tubby double bass sound. As a prelude to Apollo’s new album ‘Little War, Little Less’, this track will prove more than an adequate taster. 7/10

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Zenon – Can’t Breathe (Matrix)

After the merciless slating I gave Zenon’s last release ‘Falling’ it’s great to hear them straight back at it with this much rockier, faster paced and better performed track. It’s light rock I guess but there is a bit of a killer guitar solo to rough things up a bit. Only negative is the horrible distorted drum sound which I am going to put down to a bad promo copy of the CD and not a production choice. If it was deliberate, delete 2 points from their score!). 7/10
www.zenon-music.com

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Cosmo Jarvis- She Doesn’t Mind

What a brilliantly weird track this is. A vocal narrative delivered in a Bowie-esque sort of way, yet with words that actually make sense in a self deprecatingly mature way. Over a bit of a reggae skit and upside down guitar intro. With a recorder part? But a bit like the Meatloaf, we never do get to discover exactly what ‘She Doesn’t Mind’ – how frustrating. 8/10
www.cosmojarvis.com

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LeBreton – Glass EP (Blood Music)

Nice hyper-synthetic technoey stuff here from Jersey’s LeBreton. Yes, Jersey, home of the huge cakes and strong slimline cigars (apparently). While the press release is full of interesting channel island factoids, the music works on a much more spartan level, especially in ‘Glass’ (things are a little more rounded in ‘Ghoul’ and resultantly not quite as successful. So the verdict former comes down to the third and final track ‘Dactyl’. Starts well with a nice name and synthy oil drum sound gradually growing into a tech-heavy version of Orbital. Now that is good. 7/10

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Fingersnap – Smokehouse EP (Siskin)

Er, there were several moments during the opening track here when I had to check all the windows on my computer browser were fully closed and not playing different tracks independently of one another as there’s certainly a fair melange of styles. Although it started off a little awkwardly everything nicely gels together as the EP progresses. That is until Fingersnap go off on one with a song about gay US bishop Gene Robinson. Apart from the obviously general ‘why can’t we all just get along’ sentiment, it just sounds like it is sung out of tune. 6/10
www.finger-snap.co.uk

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Djanan Turan – Artigo EP (Natural Rhythm)

Given the Dali-esque graphics on the sleeve it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that this Ep is a little bit off kilter. Turkish born Djana Turan sounds like a Turkish folk version of Kat Vipers by adding a strangely Baroque tone to the songwriting in ‘Goldfish’ whereas the title track is a much simpler, warmer ballad. ‘Will You Worry’ and ‘Scissors’ continue the world-music imbibed take on pop and we’re even treated (lucky us!) to a bonus Turkish track. Expertly co-produced by Tansay Omar, this is a bit of a find. 7/10
www.djananturan.co.uk

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Doomed from Day One – The Wasted World (Noise Control)

Come on guys, cheer up a bit. It’s a bit glum isn’t it? Doomed from Day One. The Wasted World. Emergency sirens. This may be the stuff which death metallers lap up but it’s not for me I’m afraid (though I bloody love the opening instrumental track which is very ‘New World Order’ Ministry. Oh god, look what you’ve made me do. Now I’m miserable too. 6/10
www.myspace.com/doomedfromdayone

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Shaker Heights – Sitting in the Fire

You know what it’s like. You get to the closing stages of Masterchef and some hopefully serves up a Bubble and Squeak. A perfectly executed, delicious tasting bubble and squeak, but a bubble and squeak nonetheless. At this stage of the competition we are looking for a bit more flair, a bit more finesse, you know, fine dining. And so it is with ‘Sitting in the Fire’ – a pretty enough little song but no competition winner. The difference is that music isn’t about winning competitions. 7/10
www.shakerheights.co.uk

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Owen Franklin – The Film Noir EP

Owen Franklin has at least a couple of things on his side. First of all is youth. Secondly, in contrast to his tender years and preppy appearance, he has a gift with words making them dance along to his melodies. But where this EP falls a bit short for me is in performance and songwriting. Lyrically good but vocally a bit shakey, even if the wavering voice is a deliberate ploy, it becomes a bit of an affectation after a while. And musically ‘Danse Macabre’ just sounds like the middle of the road loungey, noodly stuff you would hear in a cabaret lounge on a cruise ship. 5/10
www.owenfranklinmusic.com

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Goodluck Jonathan – The Future’s Got No Love For Us

Another strong effort here from Brighton’s Goodluck Jonathan despite their nihilistic subject matter. In fact the subject and sound match together perfectly, starting out with a pared down plaintive mathy sound and evolving into more of a helpless shouty protest. 7/10
www.bygoodluckjonathan.tumblr.com

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Tantrum Desire – Reach (Technique)

At the risk of sounding like an old fart, this track is all a bit too euphoric clubby for me. And also a little bit cheesey too – there’s plenty of laser beam synth sounds not seen since Jeff Lynne finished War of the Worlds. 6/10

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Centre Excuse – Don’t Let Go

Interesting expression used in this press release – ‘Centre Excuse are a hard hitting trio creating a fresh sound that fuses their own contemporary 80’s style synth pop with the raw energy of punk rock’. I like the idea of something that is both ‘contemporary’ and ‘80’s style’. But you can hear what the writer means as soon as you listen to the track – it isn’t half bad and is strangely difficult to pigeon hole. In other press release related news, they inform us that Centre Excuse are based in the village of Empingham in ‘England’s smallest county, Rutland’. Fantastic music/geography crossover info there further embellished by the fact that my housemate at uni lived in the Manor House in Empingham so her Dad may very well have been the, er, Lord of these oiks. Furthermore, their farm was so big it had its own underground railway. Fact. 7/10
www.centre-excuse.com

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Annette Berlin – Lady at the Window

This is properly weird. Annette Berlin is the same vocalist as fronts deranged Bristol noise-monkeys Big Joan. That’s all shouty, screamy feedback whereas ‘Lady at the Window’ demonstrates amazing versatility with its radio friendly hip hop/r ‘n’ b tones. A bit nurdly for my taste though, I think I prefer Annette’s shoutier stuff. 6/10
www.soundcloud.com/annette-berlin

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