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singles/eps - jan 2012

Hawk Eyes – Mind Hammers EP (Brew)

It may be Christmas (well, that festering period between Christmas and New Year by the time we get onto this) but bring on the rock. With the ‘Mindhammer’ EP, Hawk Eyes pick up where they left off with debut album ‘Modern Bodies’ and add some new twists into the sound too.

The ear-crunching riffs and melodies which leave most other rock bands standing are still there in abundance, probably none more so than in the title track. But there’s also a gratifyingly dirty, scratchy sound at times to this EP which cuts brilliantly against the slick slabs of power chord. But the biggest shift occurs in the last two tracks. First up ‘Eleven Years’ sees Hawk Eyes record probably their lightest, most melodic sounding track yet, a potential crossover moment. And we finish with the six and half minute opus that is ‘Hidden Hound’ – clearly Hawk Eyes have been listening to their Alice in Chains back catalogues and picking up a few dropped tunings and a nice vocal harmony sound in the Staley-Cantrell ilk.

If there was even any doubt before, this EP will decimate it and confirm Hawk Eyes as one of the brighest lights in modern British rock music. 9/10



Bear Cavalry – Maple Trails EP (Hot Wax)

Let us start with EP closer ‘Dragon’s Milk Part II’. If ever there were an example of a band being far too smart for their own good then this is it. Multi-instrumental and genre hopping like a cat on hot tin roller skates, this turns into a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster of a song. Which is a shame because at various other points through the EP there are little chinks of brilliance – mathy inserts to ‘Roman Summer’, vocal breakdowns in ‘Custom Hands’ and doleful sax in ‘Will Smith Solves the Rubik’s Cube’. With a touch more quality control (or simply keeping a tighter grip on their impressive bag of musical tricks) Bear Cavalry could be great. 7/10



Little Roy – Lithium (Ark Recordings)

Ah, that’s quirky – a Jamaican pensioner covers Nirvana’s ‘Lithium’ in a reggae style. Quirky, yes. Visionary, as some critics have suggested? I think not. 5/10



The Doomed Bird of Providence – The Bell of the Jardines / The Death Flurry (Front and Follow)

Just the curious titles demand further investigation. ‘The Bell of the Jardines’ is suitably funereal pomp being as it depicts the story of a man and wife who died of leprosy before they could establish their new port of Somerset by using their bells to attract ships sailing down the coast. The fascination with early colonial times continues with the slow burner that is ‘The Death Flurry’. In fact the Doomed Birds of Providence could have as much of a fascination with the early colonisation of Australia as iLiketrains have with the Beeching report.7/10



Rise to Remain – This Day is Mine (EMI)

Definitely not as good as Hawk Eyes but not bad. ‘This Day is Mine’ is probably what vital, aspiring young metal bands sound like once they get signed and sucked up by the corporate machine – deadeningly slick production which sucks a bit of the life out of an otherwise spirited effort. 6/10



Kenna – Chains (Cheap Thrills)

After what I thought was going to be moribund cowbell intro a veritable burbling melody breaks out and underpins this thumping track from Ethiopian born and US raised Kenna. Yes, it’s music designed for dancing in a club but it’s rich and interesting enough to listen to at home too. 8/10


The 2 Bears – Work (Southern Fried)

Nope – I’m not getting this at all. Although it sounds broadly like a hyped up version of Laid Back’s ‘Bakerman’ it’s lurching all over the shop a bit too much for my stale old ears to keep up with. 5/10



The Milk – B-Roads

Weird, before even opening the press release I was going to write that this sounds a bit like the Fun Lovin’ Criminals. Next thing you know – I’m reading that Huey Morgan thinks the Milk is the hottest thing since, well, the Fun Lovin’ Criminals. So you get a pretty good idea of the sound – laid back, soulful but with a little twist of urban break beat. 6/10



Bowski – Poppies EP (Blood)

What is this? It’s not really dance music is it – you could only dance to it if you were a malfunctioning jittery robot. It’s definitely not ambient or chill out music – it would give you a guaranteed bad trip. Nope – it’s apparently an introspective shoulder shuffling version of house music. All glitch. Fizz and pop – ‘Poppies’ sounds like someone have your head inserted into a metal vat while someone makes popcorn in it. Comparably, ‘White Russian’ is a much more comfortable listen with just a gentle keyboard refrain to punctuate the airy loops. ‘Balloon Brain’s is just way too thumpy for me to warm to. But despite the odd headache, the EP is an odd listen but a good one. 7/10



This is Freedom – Welcome Home (TIF)

There’s something unerringly perfect about this EP. And that makes me weary of it very quickly. Every song is well written, well performed, mixed perfectly etc so why do I feel so unfulfilled after listening to the whole thing? Dunno – put it down to just one of those things I guess. 6/10



Monument Valley – Tongues EP (Tritone/PIAS)

It may not have escaped your attention that a few of the reviews this month are actually way late and in fact, this one by Monument Valley is later than most, the EP was released in November 2011. Part of the delay is normally caused by not having much to say about a CD straight away which makes review writing pretty hard. The absurb upside of this scenario is that I’ll listen to the article in question far more times than one which creates an instant impression. And even though I didn’t think anything of this when I first heard the EP, I now come back to it and think it is actually rather wonderful. What initially passed as dull and innocuous now turns out to be delicately understated and this is all part of Monument Valley’s Ned Younger’s creation. Simple but delicate compositions and a slightly claustrophobic feel to the vocal mix provide a great intimacy lost when a cast of thousands is involved in recording an album. A very pleasant New Year surprise. 8/10


Dark Captain – Right Way Round (LoAF)

Great tack here from East London’s Dark Captain. Kind of whispy folk meets summer shoe-gaze meets Madchester indie, it’s all bristling with the dirty sounds that accompany multiple strumming and percussionings. Skip the Balearic style Enjoyed Remix and proceed directly to the instrumental track 4, ‘Jealous Enemies (West Avenue Version)’ – another shimmering beauty all clipped guitars and airy cinematic soundscapes. 8/10


Concrete Disco – We Make

Hard-edged electro pop all the way here, akin to The Whip with a less euphoric line in choruses. Like a robotic chant in a Korg factory. 7/10



Alphabet Backwards – British Explorer EP (Highline)

It must be hard to be very rock and roll in a band when one of your bandmates is also your sibling. I mean, every time you snort some coke off a groupie’s stomach you don’t want your little sister going running off to tell your mum do you? Maybe that’s the reason Alphabet Backwards are so wet – they have a brother and sister among their number. A bit twee perhaps but admittedly very pretty – the sickly sweet boy-girls vocals about meeting your ex-girlfriend in the street certainly bounce off one another. ‘Tonight’ decides to strangely veer off towards sounding like a 70’s regional news programme theme tune. 5/10



Rams Pocket Radio – Dogs Run in Packs EP

Throw away any preconceptions of Keane-alike piano led bands and open your ears to Rams Pocket Radio, the musical vehicle of songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Peter McCauley from Northern Ireland. His percussive stabby technique adds a drive and urgency to these tracks rather than smothering them in schmaltzy nostalgia. There’re nice bits of sampling and drum patterns thrown in, a drone ballad and a humongous epic closing track to boot – a fuller, more complete EP would be hard to find. 8/10



Francis Neve – Dance Around the Fire EP (FRR)

Written about his summer in London (hopefully the fire Neve was dancing around was not the Reeves furniture store in Croydon) there is a distinctly summery, twinkly vibe to this track. But the vocoder heavy B-side ‘I Lie’ adds an icy experimentalism that I’ve not heard from Neve before and it is this track which piques my interest more. 7/10


Red Sky July – How to Get Your Love

Once you hear past the lilting folk-country skiffles and female vocal harmonies, the most interesting thing about this release is that one of the singers is called Charity Hair. Quite remarkable. 5/10



Action Man – Action Traxx EP (Cheap Thrills)

What started off being a mildly irritating life support machine noise all becomes apparent in the song title ‘Life Cycle’ as the track builds in a classic techno style. Action Man (AKA Cheap Thrills label supremo Hervé) follows up with the housier ‘Your Prayers Won’t Save You Now’ which mixes aspects of Orbital, 808 State, Arabic chanting in one big fizzling lump of dance. 7/10



Kris Menace & Adam Shaw – Starchild EP (Compuphonic)

Presumably not the same Adam Shaw that used to present the Working Lunch with Adrian Chiles and who now does the business news on Radio 4’s Today Programme. ‘Starchild’ is a pleasingly complex electronic track vaguely in the Balearic vogue, though admittedly at the hard end of the spectrum. Great mixes of pounding bass and more expansive synths give drive and latitude. B-side ‘Maschine’ is harder to love – it’s a heavier, bastardised robotic stomp that drops in and out for 6 minutes before petering out like a damp new year Chinese lantern crash landing in next door’s conifers. 7/10



Jess Hall Band – Play Shy (Hi-tone)

You don’t get many bands named after their singer anymore do you? Maybe people think it is a bit self centred. But Jess Hall Band’s pretty, clappy, light pop music sounds far too mild mannered to imagine them ever having any internal power struggles – theirs is a world of fluffy kittens, cups of tea and holding hands. And we all need a bit of that in our lives don’t we? 7/10



Hookworms – Hookworms EP (Faux Discx/Gringo)

Another one of those digital releases which has slipped between the floorboards, Hookworms self titled EP has been lurking on the Tasty hard drive for now for some time. Good fortune indeed though as these 4 tracks of stonery, psychedelic shoegaze all raise a bit of appreciation when they randomly appear on any playlist. There’re elements of Spaceman 3, stripped down Spiritualized, even a lit bit of The Doors sent swirling our way through what sounds largely like a well organised jam session, especially during final track ‘Resolution’ which ebbs and flows before everyone seems to come to an agreement to finally end. 8/10



Post War Glamour Girls – Suburban Barbarian (Sturdy)

More Leeds-based new year revelry here, this time from Sturdy Records stable. Initially melancholic swing, ‘Suburban Barbarian’ builds loftily into a harrowing rant, courtesy of some great guitar effects and increasingly rasping vocals. Just plain good. 8/10



The Glass – Washed Up (Plant Music)

A disappointingly dated indie dance track here which clearly inspired the requirement for 5 remixes to try and spice things up. I’m not sure even the remixes achieved it. 5/10



Mama’s Gun feat. Beverley Knight – Only One (Candelion)

Some cruise ship somewhere has lost its cabaret band. ‘Only One’ is so faux soul that it makes me cringe and could the band look any more smug and pleased with themselves in the video? 4/10



Deco Child – Pray (Ninja Tune)

Deco Child (aka Alex Lloyd) has a lightness of touch which elevates the lead track ‘Pray’ above the mundane trip hop and ‘Nocturne’ way above a doleful ballad. Gentle keys and the slowly oscillating synths in the back of the mix both combine beautifully with Ben Dodgson’s vocal track. Three further re-workings add a breadth and depth of experience to this pristine little release. 8/10



Union Starr – I Know About Art (Woodenhouse)

There’s a distinctly English sound to ‘I Know About Art’, perhaps as it sit eh distillation of 10 years of working together for Roger Wells and Jason Applin. At times joyfully shambolic, at others sticking tightly to the mode du jour, ‘I Know About Art’ hits all the right spots. 7/10



Kai Fish - Homerton Baby

If the bluesy romp that is ‘Homerton Baby’ could be personified, it would be a James Dean character; tight jeans and leather jacket, lurking in the darkest corner of a sullied bar Soho, cigarette hanging from the mouth nonchalantly. But somehow you are unbelievably attracted to it and can’t help but take up his dashing offer to dance to the pounding drum beat and fun, bouncing guitar line. Sexy and husky, this is a sure fire winner.

Eloise Quince


Blood Orange - Champagne Coast

Sleek, soft and danceable: always a winner for Dev Hynes and he has done it again with this wishful, longing romp that soars and glides like an albatross over the coast. A short riff sandwiched in the centre of the song gives a little spark to this little treat.

Eloise Quince


Kick To Kill - 'Black Kisses'

Glacial artrock based around a resonating synth riff, an epic soundscape of kaliedoscopic electro-punk.



Make Do And Mend - 'Part And Parcel EP'

Sometime skatepunks go partially acoustic and the results are are a sharply played reappraisal of their full on electric sound that emphasises tuneage over power. Emo folk rock that's both refreshingly direct and performed with considerable skill.



Ravens In Paris - The Hideaway (This Feeling)

Knocking it out of their instruments like they haven't got strings or something, a blast of Garagepunk energy that'll scorch your ceiling. And it's free.



Late Night Fiction - 'Exits, Pursued By A Bear'

Late Night Fiction will need to put a bit more into their verging-on-slowcrore guitar indulgences if they don't want that nasty old bear to catch them. Great video though.



Stay Okay! – Time to Grow EP

Dubliners Stay Okay! Manage that tricky feat of making their pop-rock that little bit more edgy than some of their chart bothering contemporaries. The tremulously voiced Timmy Chadwick adds a superb range to the vocals and the guitars are crisp and direct. One minor quibble would be each track is quite sonically similar but it is a minor gripe. 7/10



Anja McCloskey – A Kiss (Sotones)

McCluskey’s trademark accordion is used as a rough saw-tooth introduction to this pretty little track by the Southampton based chanteuse. It quickly develops into a rollicking shanty, very suitable for someone based in such a nautical city. 7/10




The Ghosts – Enough Time (Pocket)

There’s something about the drum machine beat and falsetto which makes me expect this to turn into a Flight of the Conchords track. It doesn’t though, preferring to remain as a whispy piece of Balearic infused electro pop. 7/10



Kleine Schweine – Breakfast in Albania/ Ceau?escu Let The Dogs Out

Anyone who knows anything about International Trust and the fact that Kleine Schweine includes some ex-members of International Trust will not be surprised to hear that these tracks are the kind of garage gutter punk that was last seen doing a massive a conga around the HiFi venue in Leeds as part of the Tea Time Shuffle. Dirty buggers. 7/10



Vranorod – Secret Teller

Despite only being sent a YouTube link to review this from, we have made a noteworthy exception for this is the first track we have ever been sent from Serbia. And despite any early concerns that this might be a cheesey euro version of post rock/shoe-gaze, ‘Secret Teller’ actually turns out to be a nice track with a vulnerable female vocal and dynamic guitar work. 7/10



Frank Turner - Wessex Boy

There are some songs by Frank Turner that make me desperate to be in motion. I want to have my head against the inside of a window, in a vehicle which is moving fast across country. I want it to take me to a town I've not been to and I want to play some songs to people I won't see again for 3,4,6 months.

Wessex Boy, even though it is about going home, is one of them. I love Frank Turner. I hope that I listen to my heart and very soon hit the road.

The song tells a tale of going home, of everything that will forever keep you fond of the place you happened to be born in. It serves as further proof that memory can be stored in buildings, in parkland, on the top of pavements. It is equally effective as a reminder that almost everyone could do with getting away from where they are. Especially if that is where they were born.

Christopher Carney


Allo Darlin' - Capricornia

If you’ve never heard Allo Darlin’ before, they are a Britain-based band which began as a vehicle for Aussie Elizabeth Morris, whose vocals are a little bit Rilo Kiley and a little bit Angus & Julia Stone. I first heard of them when a friend put ‘Henry Rollins Don’t Dance’ on a mix CD. If you haven’t heard that song, run, don’t walk, and find it. It’s like Helen Love for the year 2012. It’s funny and fun, and so is this new single, called Capricornia. I googled it: it’s a name given to the areas in Queensland where the Topic of Capricorn lies, which explain the chorus about finding someone under Capricornia skies.

Musically this single is very Belle & Sebastian, with a lot going on but all of it extremely well done. There’s not a note out of place, and the layers add a lot of welcome depth. This is added to by the backing vocals, which are Morris herself echoing her vocal line, which make the single sound a bit like the Pipettes (that’s a compliment). This is twee jangle pop at its best, completely glorious and fun to dance to. I can see this being a perfect summer song, happy and bouncy and reeking of sunshine.

Allo Darlin’ are one to watch, I think, because they’re edgier than most female-fronted bands around at the moment. I can’t wait to see them live next month!

Rebecca McCormick


Of Montreal – ‘Dour Percentage’

The first single from the American band’s new album ‘Paralytic Stalks’ is a big jumble of ELO style harmonies, woodwinds, horns and tortured lyrics which seem to hint at the inner turmoil of songwriter and frontman Kevin Barnes. Of Montreal are somewhat reminiscent of Sufjan Stevens or Dirty Projectors in the way they try to make complex music that is melodic enough to work in a mainstream context. However, while Barnes is clearly a talent and the track’s many melodic twists and turns are expertly handled, ‘Dour Percentage’ sounds a little too arch and complex to really have the emotional impact of a great pop song. 6/10

Matt Brown


The Twilight Sad – Another Bed

Nowadays, if you haven’t re-created yourself by album number three, you might as well be signing up to stack shelves at Morrisons. That’s why The Twilight Sad’s new single, ‘Another Bed’ – which displaces the diesel-thick noise folk they have been known for in the past for chilling, industrial gothica - is a smart move. It rolls along like a corrugated conveyor belt, the bass throbbing mechanically in straight 16’s, saturated with morose vintage synths and hopelessly bleak ambience. It’s like what New Order would be jamming today if Ian Curtis came back from the grave. They’re so adept at doom-peddling it’s actually hard to imagine that they recorded in a studio, not outside in a fucking thunderstorm. They’ve got some convincing emotional baggage, and know how to create atmosphere (sounds like they have as much fun with their bounty of effects boxes as any shoegaze pedal-boffin), but for fuck’s sake, someone give them a hug or something.

Lawrie Donohoe


Underclass – Beat Your Fist

Their Facebook page may big them up as the next genre-smashing big thing, but in their latest release, ‘Beat Your Fist’, I can’t hear the faintest hint of most of the genres Underclass claim to have welded together. To me this is symptomatic of a patronising trend I have noticed a lot of recently – a band sing a pentatonic scale and suddenly they play ‘blues’; they use a wacky sounding synth and suddenly they’re ‘psychedelic’. Ok, rant over.

Contrary to what I may have insinuated, I don’t actually dislike this record. The middle 8 may sound a little like an alt rock nursery rhyme but the throaty brute force of that riff isn’t fucking around – it’s like something Black Rebel Motorcycle Club would play if someone hosed them out of bed at six in the morning. There’s an anthemic quality to the chorus, but it lacks the memorability needed to be a true rock anthem – next week I’ll have probably forgotten it.

Lawrie Donohoe


Reset! – Don’t Let the System Control You (Cheap Thrills)

It doesn’t matter who you have done remixes for or who owns your record label, if you do tracks like this that keep you hanging in a mid-90’s house limbo for 2 minutes before anything of interest happens then you are going to struggle to keep anyone’s attention. There’s a brief respite of interesting bleepiness but otherwise pretty cardboard. 5/10



Frank Eddie – (Let Me Be) The One You Call On (Impotent Fury)

The pseudonym of Lemon Jelly’s Fred Deakin, Frank Eddie merge a whole cosmos of styles into this song to leave you feeling a little bit disorientated. Lo-fi electro and glitch through madchester through soul, r’n’b and even a brief Josh Wink style techno-ish interlude. I suppose if you don’t really know what you like then this is perfect. 6/10



Essáy ft Rhian Sheehan – Morning Mountain (Glyph)

You’d have thought this was an Irish duet from the name but it’s actually a German-New Zealand combination from producers Simon Schilling and Rhian Sheehan. Sonically it’s airy electronic, a little bit Balearic chill out. There’s nothing stand-out about it but both ‘Morning Mountain’ and ‘A Cold Day’ are pleasantly soporific. 7/10



Holy State – Dial M for Monolith (Brew)

A glorious rusty-stringed racket here from Brew’s latest rosterettes Holy State. It’s kind of DIY surf punk sounding but manages melt some stonery vibes over the rough edges courtesy of some string bending goodness. 8/10



RepoMen – Priceless EP (Phantom Power)

If there were a prize for variety then RepoMen would walk away with it. From lead track ‘Do It’ with its uniquely annoying yet catchy guitar riff, through ‘Good Time’s similarities to Black Francis or the cheese synth overtures and moody keys of ‘Div III North’ – RepoMen veer all over the place. 6/10



Charlotte Gainsbourg – Anna (Because)

Ah, the delectable Ms Gainsbourg returns with this effortlessly chic little guitar track which sees her apparently expend very little energy in performing it yet achieving maximum suave gallic impact. Tres bien. 7/10



Feeder – Borders (Big Teeth)

Blimey, Feeder are still on the go. And if your pattern book for success ain’t broke then don’t try and fix. ‘Borders’ features all the classic Feeder motifs – the simple chords, the euphoric choruses and the mildly annoying yet unforgettable vocal harmonies. Paydirt. 7/10



Youngman – Who Knows (Digital Soundboy)

Those of you who favour music featuring chipmonk vocalists will instantly gravitate towards/this one. Begins to sound a little bit like a defective car alarm after about 30 seconds repeating but thankfully ceases completely thereafter to be replaced with an autotuned ‘human’ voice. Sad times. 4/10



Rags and Ribbons – Even Matter

Combining the sounds of Arcade Fire, Sigur Ros and Mumford and Sons would probably be have been unpredictable but on this exquisitely written and produced track, Rags and Ribbons pull off the trick with aplomb. 7/10
Download the track for free here



Public Service Broadcast – ROYGBIV (Test Card Recordings)

Mixing samples from TV and film with programs, beats and live instruments is nothing new and I’m not sure the likes of DJ Food and even Pop Will Eat Itself don’t do it better – they just seem to be able incorporate the samples within the tracks unlike ‘ROYGBIV’ where the samples are very much apparent and superimposed. That said, it’s still a pleasing reminisce down the corridors of the Pathé archives with a diverse instrumentation to suit. 6/10



Manna feat. Mark Lanegan – Wishing Well

What an awesome track from relative newcomer Manna and gnarly veteran Mark Lanegan. Part gentle Nordic folk and part thundering North American guitars and Lanegan inspired doom grunge. The two voices conspire brilliantly. 8/10



The Indicators – Simon D

The Indicators frontman Simon Dinwiddy does seem to have a thing about working in a chip shop. It’s mentioned on his press release, it’s all over The Indicators website and he even sings about it. Oh, and his Dad is a bin man. Quite the working class hero then. ‘Simon D’ features Dinwiddy squawking in a moderately to severely annoying mockney voice to an admittedly jaunty little tune with some good lyrics. And then he goes home for his chips. 6/10



Hoodlums – Dark Horses (Blow the Whistle)

Although demonstrably commercially orientated, ‘Dark Horses’ manages to maintain its composure and with crisp production stamps and whoops its way towards quite a pleasing crescendo. 7/10



Flies Are Spies From Hell – Nerves Still Beating (Field)

Flies are Spies From Hell seem to manage to mould together a number of different influences yet still emerge sounding very much like a band still in charge of its own destiny. Airy post rock a la Detwije? Step up title track ‘Nerves Still Beating’. Brooding, swelling opuses (opii?) – try the Mogwai-esque Axe to the Root with its insistent and threatening bass line. Three remixes also – ‘The Great Deadener (Gunning for Tamar Remix) is all glitch and stop start beats akin to 65 DOS while the Karhide remix of King Sly by label honcho Tim Waterfield sounds every bit like a very good Nine Inch Nails track given a thorough working over by Timo Maas. Diverse and greatly appealing. 8/10



Cut Yourself in Half – Say Goodbye to the World / Psycho Human Being Disaster (New Heavy Sounds)

Quite a mouthful in the title line but Cut Yourself in Half are a lot more direct in their music, churning out a heavy, prog-laden sound that evokes, snakebite, long hair and sweaty moshpits. 7/10