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singles/eps - november 2008



Maybeshewill / Her Name is Calla - Field Split single (Field)

Look at the facts. Field Records: excellent. Maybeshewill: excellent. Her Name is Calla: excellent. There was little doubt that this release would be a turkey and sure enough Field start us off for the month of November in fine style.

'This Time Last Year' by Maybeshewill sees Victoria Sztuka take over bass duties while everyone else in the band just turns up the effort. Noticeably heavier than most of the tracks on 'Not For Want of Trying', this track is just so brilliant that it sends a shiver down my spine every time I hear it. Light and dark and juggled effortlessly with the electronics and samples weaving seamlessly into the riot of guitar and drum noise until the point of the most preposterously thunderous outro featuring the most out of place yet brilliant little tinkly synth sound. Nothing short of fantastic.

As for the part of Her Name is Calla in this trilogy of songs, the words have been said before in our previous review of 'Condor and River'. The words 'opus' and 'epic' get banded around a lot when describing this track yet nothing else seems to do it justice. Not just because it is over 17 minutes long but because of the passion and strength of each constituent part.

Never mind Lauren Laverne - get Field Music on the judging panel for Orange Unsigned Act!
www.field-records.com
www.myspace.com/maybeshewill
www.myspace.com/hernameiscalla

SB

 

The Kooks - Sway (Virgin)

Rock ballad ‘Sway’ differs from previous releases from the Kooks, but is still very obviously a product of the band. Luke Pritchard’s distinctive vocals are the biggest clue, along with the general formula of a standard Kooks song. ‘Sway’ attempts to be a bit different and emotional by adding some slightly clichéd string arrangements into the mix. The idea to build-up towards an intense chorus works well here, but is by no means an original technique. A good song for the radio, but the Kooks have still not really dared to venture far from their comfort zone.
Watch video to 'Sway'
www.thekooks.co.uk

Yasmin Prebble

 
 

The Brascoes - First Impressions of You

It's angular jerky pop Jim, but not as we know it. Actually, it is pretty much as we know but don't let that take anything away from The Brascoes who do it bloody well. they combine lots of elements of bands like The Arctic Monkeys and We Are Scientists and there's even some lovely guitar work towards the end of this track that reminds me a lot of the fretwork of Forward Russia's Whiskers. Nice effort.

SB


 

Robert Wyatt & Bertrand Burgalat - This Summer Night (Domino)

Robert Wyatt, formerly of Soft Machine, releases ‘This Summer Night’ as a prelude to the reissue of his back catalogue. Wyatt has worked together with French composer / producer Bertrand Burgalat, to create this slightly odd, laid-back jazzy ode to a summer’s evening. The Hot Chip remix reworks the song into an epic nine-minute bass-heavy club track.
Watch the video to 'This Summer Night'
www.dominorecordco.com

Yasmin Prebble

 
 

Stay - Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow / 2000 Light Years From Home / Chicago (Fruits de Mer)

Although it is difficult to keep images of Kula Shaker out of my head every time I hear a sitar on record (I know, I'm sorry for reminding you), Spaniards Stay manage to handle it beautifully in 'Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow'. It's 60's psychedelia all the way, giving into the more raucous yet no less 60's rock of '2000 Light Years from Home'. 'Chicago' would be the weakest song of the three here - feels a bit pained and strained next to the free flowing sound of 'Rainy Day...' but a pleasant trio nonetheless to keep the cold out of your bones on a frosty November evening.
www.myspace.com/fdmer

SB

 

Chris T-T - (We Are) The King of England

Opening with a triple burst of snare-roll lifted straight from The Clash the suggestively anarchistic "(We Are) The King of England" is the second single from Chris T-T's London-themed fifth album Capital. A political rant seemingly pointed at the system in general (We Are) The King of England is the latest in a long tradition of singles that try to get by on keeping the melody on (for the most part) one note that goes back as far as Subterranean Homesick Blues. Chris is clearly intent on driving his point home here and, like Give Peace A Chance before it, doesn’t want the listener distracted by something as diverting as a melody. Its driving single note fuzz bass line offers little relief and neither does the chorus, which simply elevates the melody up a few notes. The only flourishes are the jazzy keyboard stabs and the souring female opera vocal line that precedes the verses. Its rambling sarcastic lyrics where Chris equates all forms of authority from the titular [future or past] King to the Mayor of London with a “just cause” are punctuated by some humour (“If you think things are gonna get worse/You’re right, they’re gonna get worse”) but at over five minutes it’s all too much (or too little). An odd choice for a single.

Stephen Jessep
 

 
 

Alison O'Donnell with Head South By Weaving - Day is Done / Frozen Warnings (Fruits de Mer)

Despite the instrumental beauty and undoubted talent of Alison O'Donnell I'm afraid she just has the tone of voice on 'Day is Done' that I really can't stand - all virginal choir girl a la Vashti Bunyan - yuck. Thank the heavens then for 'Frozen Warnings' a swirling, disturbing drone of shimmering guitars and atmosphere which sees O'Donnell lend a skilful unhinged tinge to her voice. I think Nico would have approved.
www.myspace.com/fdmer

SB

 
 

The Paddingtons - What's The Point of Anything New (Mama Bear)

This is not subtle. It is shouty yet melodic punk rock which reminds me a bit of early Manic Street Preachers (which is a neat tie-in as I first saw the Manics in The Paddingtons' home town of Hull). Maybe The Paddingtons were at the same show as me - I doubt it somehow but then they as their title suggests - they aren't trying to change the world with a new revolutionary type of music. Fair play to 'em I say.
www.myspace.com/thepaddingtons
watch the video to 'What's the Point of Anything New'

SB

 
 

Diarmaid O'Meara - Blue

Just when I was thinking that this was starting off a little bit discoey, a little bit Moby, a little bit, well, crap a big pounding bass drum kicked in with a simple beat which drives the whole song through and forms the perfect backdrop to the slow sweeps of chords and the inventive samples and loops. Blue is a corker that would work well in a club scenario or just at home on your gramophone.
www.myspace.com/diarmaidomeara
Download 'Blue' MP3 for free (external link)

SB

 
 

Universal You - Your Sin City (Joe Soap)

This is nothing short of abysmal. It's not just the fact that the lead singer is from Kazakhstan and has an obvious accent which taints the whole thing with a whiff of Eurovision at best and which renders the lyrics incomprehensible at worst. But the whole melody is hackneyed, the playing robotic and the result is calamitous.
www.universalyou.co.uk

SB


Laura Marling - Night Terrors (Virgin)

The guitars on 'Night Terror' remind me strongly of David Thomas Broughton - all skewed and awkward with all the mistakes left in and all the better for it. It's a strong song and sets a sombre tone. Worth watching now before she starts selling out the arenas.
www.lauramarling.com
Watch the video to 'Night Terror'

SB


 

Jess Carroll - Without You (Shed Records)

There' no accounting for taste. From all reports Jess Carroll has scored a big hit across the nations nightclubs with her, what the kids call, 'disco song'. This is the most banal, dismal offering I've had the misfortune to listen to for ages - should be firmly trodden into the sticky, sodden carpets of the nation's chain of Ritzys (which is the only place where it will be appreciated).
www.jesscarroll.com

SB


Broken Records - Lies (Distiller)

A real gem here sees Scottish moderno-folkies Broken Records dish out a lesson in taught, tight song writing and committed performance. 'Lies' is a swelling maelstrom of strings which have a beautiful tinkling piano part overlaid like fresh spring rain breaking on cold granite cobbles. The falsetto of the vocal is controlled and used sparingly to add real feeling. I feel quite moved by this. Time for a cup of tea.
www.myspace.com/brokenrecordsedinburgh
Watch the video to 'Lies'

SB

 

Mr Beasley - Right as Rain (Shoes Don't Fit)

A lovely piece of electronic bleepiness here from Mr Beasley who manage to combine wistful vocals with a taut robotic synth. Just goes to prove that sometimes less is more.
www.mrbeasley.co.uk

SB

 

 
 

Tin Soldiers - Wait for You

It's a familiar blueprint - chugging melodic rock verse with soaring 'epic' emo chorus. It's crisply executed. It even sounds a bit like U2's 'With or Without You'. But it is also a bit souless - for all the thumping drum production, axe soloing and euphoric chorus I can't get convinced that bands like this are anything more than the product of a marketing plan. I shall look forward to a horses head being deposited on my pillow forthwith.
www.myspace.com/tinsoldiersband

SB

 

The Great Shakes - It Won't Stop (NROne)

Just see how this differs with Tin Soldiers above - it instantly sounds enjoyable, or at the very least like the band are enjoying playing it. I do think that perhaps The Great Shakes may have tried to throw in one too many gimmic within what is a pretty swift single at under two minutes - vocal 'woo-hoos', a bit of proggy synth, some good old rock n roll and even a bit of B-movie theramin - it all becomes a little bit cluttered and disjointed, but you certainly can't fault the buggers for effort.
www.myspace.com/thegreatshakes

SB

 
 

Essay for the Ordinary - Cool Cats (End of the Trail)

For goodness sake lads, calm down, calm down. The first minute of 'Cool Cats' sees singer Jon Hampson spitting out his ska punk vocals like barely legible Roy Hattersley speech. But once your ears get up to sped, by George this is pretty good. It's no easy feat combining the inherent jerkiness of ska and punk into something which is listenable but  Essay for the Ordinary have managed it with cracking horn-laden chorus that ties everything together brilliantly - smoothing out all the rough edges and time changes. I would defy you not to dance to this at a gig.
www.myspace.com/essayfortheordinary

SB

 

Helen Boulding - It's You (Maid in Sheffield)

Uh-oh - schmaltz alert. I always feel uneasy when artists and brands seem happy to hop into bed together, no doubt for what they perceive as mutual advancement of both their causes - Lenny Kravitz and Absolut Vodka for example. And so it is with lark-voiced Helen Boulding who seems to have joined forces with the PDSA for this single. And very worthy PDSA are too - got myself a very nice suit from one of their shops once and felt all warm and glowing inside knowing that I might have helped a poorly woodlouse be reared back to health by a team of veterinary experts. But it's impossible to listen to this single without picturing the possibility of Boulding singing lovingly and misty eyed to her three-legged hamster, I need you by my side, It's you keeping me strong, you've been there all along...' ad nauseum - I like animals but this is enough to make me go out and buy a Boulding-sized bear trap.
www.helenboulding.com

SB

 
 

Jonjo Feather - Taxi (Dead Young)

For someone supposedly eschewing traditional, populist melodies, 'Taxi' does seem to be based around pretty sturdy rhythm and blues chordage. But in fairness to Feather, he has surrounded this musical core with a skuzz of effects courtesy of his improvisational soldering skills on telephone handsets, microphones etc and thoroughly warped the idiom. With B-side 'Count Me Down' he takes this a step further an sounds more like an English version of Beck. Very promising.
www.myspace.com/jonjofeather

SB

 

Amadou & Mariam - Sabali (Because)

With Damon Albarn's presence left in no questions (his name is plastered all over the press release) it is still the voice of Mariam which leaves the biggest impression from this tarck. Although slightly tweaked by Albarn's production no doubt, she seems to hit notes that no other human could do without the aid of a vocoder. All this over the backing of a pleasing oscillating keyboard scale and a bit of low key Malian rap make this a very listenable single.
www.amadou-mariam.tv

SB

 
 

Psapp - The Monster Song (Domino)

It's easy to mistake this outwardly upbeat and poppy track for a cheery little throw away pop song. IN fact it is even more upbeat than most of Psapp's previous offerings, spilling over with found sounds, plinkety strings and Galia sounding more upbeat than usual. But the lyrics are darker giving it a bit of extra depth. Not my favourite Psapp track, not even my favourite Psapp song from their latest album, I'm not sure I'd recommend this one.
www.psapp.net
Watch the video to 'Monster Song'

SB

 

Fightstar – The English Way (Search and Destroy Recordings)

This latest single from Fightstar, opens with a Cave In-esque verse which oozes ambiguity; the song can either fade into wispy rubbish, or build to some rawk. After a pre-chorus drowned in synth pads and twinkly noises, the thirst for energy is quenched by the chorus which is infectiously catchy, and rather good.

But I don't know, there's something about the complete package that isn't really ticking all my boxes. In general, it's all quite nice and lovely and has some great moments, but there are still select sections (i.e. Some choir vocals, hello Take That?) that grate against the “yay Fightstar” vibe that has magically appeared during the song thus far.

I'd probably argue that's what really makes Fightstar. Since they started out, the blend of soft and rock is always present, but whether you class that as good or bad is up to you. Personally, I'm not a fan, I think they're generally a lot stronger when they're giving it a bit of oomph, and don't overstep the line between gentle and 'sissy.'

If you're a Fightstar fan, you won't be disappointed. The same can be said if you're fifteen and consider yourself “alternative” or “emotional.” You might be in danger of being a bit unsatisfied if most of the stuff you listen to isn't of a similar genre.
Watch the video to 'The English Way'
www.fightstarmusic.com

Thom Curtis

 

Last of the Shadow Puppets – My Mistakes Were Made For You
(EMI/Deltasonic)

Your personal opinions of The Last of the Shadow Puppets, will completely dictate how you feel about their latest single, given that it sounds like all the others. Another uneventful tune that bobs along and meanders through orchestral scores, and strangely, sounds like it could be featured in every James Bond film, ever.

It's well written, it's clean, and it's musical – much like Alex Turner's Arctics' – minus the excitement, the catchy chorus, the quirky northern phrases and true-to-life story-telling, the hip-twitching beats, and general sense of fun.

No. Sorry. I'm bored.
Watch the video to 'My Mistakes Were made for You'

Thom Curtis

 
 

Revere – The Escape Artist (Albino Recordings)

It took me a while to like this track, and I almost stumbled at the first hurdle, thinking I was listening to Radiohead, or Muse, or the beginning of some nouveau-prog-rock epic, so that it took a few repeated listens and a visitation to the acoustic version of the track that’s available from the bands ‘unplugged’, alternative MySpace site before I got the measure of it.

London eight-piece collective, Revere, augment a guitar-based sound with violin, cello, harp, trumpet, keyboards and glockenspiel, to produce a dramatic, theatrical, cinematic soundtrack to a deep lyrical story of loss, separation, abandonment and exile, that builds from a languid opening to a fine closing crescendo and feels like it belongs to some larger, epic narrative.
http://www.myspace.com/reverelondon
http://www.myspace.com/revereunplugged

Bill Howe

 
 

Milky Wimpshake - One Good Use For My Heart EP

Milky Wimpshake are a band clearly at odds with critics throwing them in with the Twee-Pop crowd, defending their Punk credentials on (Show Me The Way To) Anarchy (“You don’t need Mohawks for Punk attitude”) and during an altercation with a baker in Milky Cliché protesting “You must be drunk/’Cos Wimpshake isn’t Pop, it’s Punk”. So anyway, the One Good Use For My Heart EP is the latest release of catchy Pop tunes from Indie Poppers Milky Wimpshake on Pop-centric label Fortuna Pop. Ah. Okay, this is Punk in the Jonathan Richman, Billy Bragg or perhaps Kevin Rowland sense (especially on Soul cover This Old Heart of Mine) injecting the attitude less into the arrangements and more into the delivery or the sentiment, such as on the title track, which wrestles with its lustful intentions like a early Buzzcocks number. The songs are short and to the point (at one point singer Pete Dale declaring “I’ll finish this song like I’ll finish a beer”), but don’t feel rushed, though next time it would be preferable if Wimpshake spent less time explaining themselves.

Stephen Jessep

 

Eugene McGuinness – Moscow State Circus (Domino Recording)

The first thing you notice about this song, is the incredible amount of treble over bass. The whole piece sounds very thin as the lead vocal warbles over a simple piano and guitar underscore, with drums. The vocal melody is unpredictable and quite hard to follow, it often hits notes you aren't expecting, although the song touches on some very nice sounding chords- but it isn't really tickling my pickle. It's very happy snappy and all that jazz, but, really? It doesn't really reach a conclusion or get anywhere at all, it simply meanders on and on, and finally fades to silence.

With the literature accompanying the single, is the quote “gloriously out of time yet thoroughly modern,” and I'd agree for most of that, with the exception of “gloriously.” There is something nostalgic about the single, which I think lies mainly within the vocal – both how it sounds from the outset, and the effects applied to it for the “old record” feel. Which leaves the only thing making it modern as the music, which in fact is only “thoroughly modern” when set against the vocal. Stand-alone, it's another monotonous Killers song.
Watch video of 'Moscow State Circus'

Thom Curtis

 
 

Blackmarket – The Elephant in the Room

Smelling a bit like Biffy Clyro, who smell a bit like Foo Fighters Blackmarket are a salt-of-the-earth rock band. Their style goes along the lines of get the riff down, get the big drum beats in there then make sure people can jump to it. They have put consideration into their lyrics and front man Daryl Lamont has a clichéd voice but is likable enough. The ‘infectious’ ‘Sheila’ falls flat and doesn’t get stuck where it wants to (in your head). ‘An Alibi Can’t Give Me A Place To Go’ has a fat bass and a plucky guitar line which over take the majority of the Reading festival main-stage-by-numbers material here.

It’s not bad by any means; this lot pull off what many a modern day teenaged pub band could only wish to achieve. Some would argue they’re more style over substance but to their credit the sound is by no means ‘of the minute’ and definitely not following any of the current extra-cool genres appearing, which is refreshing. The problem with Blackmarket not being ‘of the minute’ is that they miss the mood of the current pop landscape – not running with it in a new direction or catching a certain mood in a different light it just sounds out of time. In short ‘The Elephant in the Room’ is unnecessary.

Nick Burman

 

The Deirdres – Milk Is Politics/Sir Michael Of Aspel (Cherryade)

As easy as it would be to write off this double A-side single as drivel before one listen (stupidband name, track names, and stupid CD ‘art) the fact that I did listen to it, and that it’s actually quite good means that the band can sort of be let of for their ‘random’ name choices.

With a nod to indie twee such as Tilly and the Wall, Milk is Politics is a lovely, glockenspiel-laden happy, shouty ode to, well, milk and politics, and the fun their having is clearly infectious.

Sir Michael Of Aspel, however, is far more ramshackle. The song is supposedy and account of when the band apparently appeared on the Antiquees Roadshow, with said presenter. However, all I can make out is some shouting, a bit of foul language, and Michael Aspel. A double A-side this is not. An A-side and a Z-side would’ve been far more appropriate.
www.thedeirdres.com

Catriona Boyle

 
 

Tom Jones – If He Should Ever Leave You (Parlophone)

The original trouser snake is back for yet another ‘comeback’ – for ‘comeback’ read bother the music industry for a bit. Luckily this time around he hasn’t bothered trying to be cool and down with the kids, and this is an inoffensive swing inspired classic mid-tempo ballad about a lady who’s just not interested.

This is of a slightly higher calibre than Tom Jones’ recent attempts, borrowing more from the sound of his heydey than anything around at the moment, save from Winehouse and Duffy, but they’re just ripping him off anyway.

Most of us will be avoiding him on Jools Holland et al, but the album’s out just in time for Christmas to satisfy many a female relative.
http://www.parlophone.co.uk/tomjones

Catriona Boyle

 
 

The Verve – Rather Be (Parlophone)

Rather Be sounds exactly like anything and everything else The Verve have produced. Slurry Ashcroft vocals, some synthed strings, a bit of echoey guitar and a tempo slow enough to sing along with. It’s a tried and tested formula that, if you don’t like The Verve you’ll find both trying and testing.
www.theverve.co.uk
Watch the video of 'Rather Be'

Catriona Boyle

 
 

Sigur Ros - Við spilum endalaust (EMI)

Sigur Ros are, let’s face it, a cracking band. There are very few souls who fail to be drawn in by their amazing soundscapes that have the complication levels of a full blown orchestra, and the accessibility and addicitiveness of pop.

This single is taken from their latest album (the one with the naked men on the cover), and is, as you would expect, another brilliant piece of music.Hung around a jabbing piano undercurrent, the track builds up into a huge horn filled cacphony that can’t help but produce a smile, and then skips merrily off into the distance.
www.sigurros.com

Catriona Boyle

 

Clinic - Tomorrow

11 years of wearing surgical masks and still not a doctorate between them Liverpool’s Clinic are back (again) with Tomorrow, the third single off 2008 album Do It!, curious given most bands as esoteric as Clinic would settle on just the one. Tomorrow opens with a slapped acoustic guitar that sounds like Jonathan Hartley is attempting to work out the opening riff to These Boots Are Made For Walking by ear, before a simple weeping harmonica levels it out and Ade Blackburn’s unhinged and cryptic vocal about joy of living "before tomorrow comes" carries the song forwards. A chiming electric guitar drowned in 60s reverb gives the song more of a characteristically psych-garage Clinic feel and the percussion is kept minimally to a kick drum beat. The song feels like it's constantly building towards something but never crosses the line, instead unnervingly keeping it on the brinke of full-on psychosis for it's duration. As long as they never take up actual surgery I think we're still safe.
Watch video to 'Tomorrow'

Stephen Jessep

 

New Rhodes - Everybody Loves a Scene (Salty Cat)

This is a track fizzing with the energy of its instigators' own self confidence, overflowing with their exhuberance. Jolly energetic it is too. But while some bands constantly push back the boundaries anmd try out new things, bands like New Rhodes seem content to keep ploughing along the furrow of The Killers, Editors, Kaiser Chiefs etc. Fine if you want to pick up on an already established market and try and get carried along oo the aforementioned bands coat tails. But I'd just prefer something a little bit more innovative myself.
www.myspace.com.newrhodes

SB

 

The Tunics - Cost of Living (Manta Ray)

The Tunics appear to incredibly polished for such a new band. Joe Costello's vocals just seem to drip effortlessly off the jangly guitar lies and he has a definite gift for rhythm - singing like a rapper and chopping up sentences around the beat of the music. On the downside is the ostentatious cockernee-ness a la Kate Nash but it is a small criticism against the undoubted success of the single.
www.myspace.com/thetunics

SB

 

Moby - Ooh Yeah (Mute)

I saw Moby on the US election edition of This Week in Politics where he was waxing lyrical about he and his Democrat mates had been having an election party. And this single sounds as middle aged as Moby's preoccupation with election parties (don't get me wrong - it's great to be politicaly motivated but having fondue parties and sitting round chatting about Joe Biden doesn't reallt stimulate me). 'Ooh Yeah' is gentle electro pop, mechanical and formulaic. There's no excitement or energy of the stuff off 'Animal Rights' or 'Everything is Wrong'. It's as though the style of the music is trying to get back to his dance roots but Moby has had his soul sucked out by the intervening years of penning soundtracks for filmscores and commercials. Or maybe he would just prefer appearing on This Week rather than writing new tunes?
www.moby.com
Watch the video to 'Ooh Yeah'

SB

 
 

She & Him - Why Do You Let Me Stay Here? (Double Six)

Sometimes it is the simple stuff in life that really stands out. And so it is with She & Him - a lesson in the art of vocal harmonies with a simple descending melody of guitar and piano - part Motown classic, part 60's girl group. Timelessly effective and beguiling.
watch video to 'Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?'

SB

 
 

Howling Bells - Into the Chaos (Indipendiente)

Somewhat mysteriously the press blurb on the back of this CD has been crossed out - are we to assume it is no longer being released on the said date? Have the band had a rethink about releasing their album in February .Who knows. But it is very very good, even if the production sounds a bit 80's - very Steve Lillywhite in all crashing drums and prominent bass. But if you can get over the fact that 'Into the Chaos' sounds a it like a Simple Minds track from 'Sparkle in the Rain' then you'll start to hear the wistful airy vocals come through and smother the crashing percussion in a lovely dose of shoe gaziness.

SB

 
 

The Lights – The Fair Weather Travelling Companion

I'm afraid I just don't get this. Although there are lots of individual aspects to this CD which should work well, they seem to conspire to make it trudge drearily from track to track at a sedentary pace and with very little scope for originality. For instance there is the use of a strange sort of counter melody during 'Film within a Film' – a good idea but it just doesn't work – it throws the whole track off kilter.
The Stipe-esque male vocals of 'She's the Answer' sound more strained than heartfelt and although again it is a pretty enough tune, it just seems to lumber its way bleakly from start to finish. All in all it's a disappointing listen, mainly because (at the risk of sounding like a school teacher) it Feels like The Lights are not achieving their full potential. D+.
www.thelights.co.uk

SB

 

Bears from Labrador – Wilderness EP

After recovering quickly from a bluesey guitar intro that sounds a bit like a 15 year old trying out Fenders in a guitar shop, opening track 'God' emerges like a beautiful beautiful butterfly, a gorgeous dollop of psyche-blues pop. I'm especially in love with the big chunky sound of the chorus. By comparison 'Trees' is a much lighter affair although still deeply submerged in a 60s psychedelia inspiring thoughts of Nottingham's Johnny Domino. There's also an alt-country vibe laced through with Mariachi horns, especially in closer 'Rearview'. It took a little while to get round to writing up this review but as long as Bears fom Labrador can keep away from too many alt-country cliches, they may well be onto something quite wonderful here.
www.myspace.com/bearsfromlabrador

SB

 
 

Telegramme – Okay (End of the Trail)

I'm in a bit of a dilemma with this one. I can't decide if it is absolute genius or absolute toss. I'm very smitten by the simplicity of the clean guitar verse into fiery chorus and the power of the vocals cannot be doubted – this lady sure has a big voice. But during the quieter parts maybe a bit more control and a bit less gut busting volume should be employed. But no, I have decided – this is a cracking tune in a true call to arms style. Deploy earplugs at live shows though.
www.myspace.com/telegramme

SB

 

Santa Dog – Spark it Up (RaRaRa)

By contrast to Telegramme's all guns blazing vocal approach we have Bristol's golden voiced Santa Dog. In fact 'Spark it Up' is almost the complete opposite of Telegramme's simplicity – every bit of space is squeezed out with twinkling guitar, a nice reverby snare and any remaining gaps are mortared up by Rowena's gorgeous voice. Different method, same result – ace.
www.santa-dog.co.uk

SB


 

Pierre – Broken (Colonel)

What the shitting hell is this schmaltzy sub X-FActor nonsense? It's amazing how far you can get with a keyboard pattern, some proficient production and a decent haircut. Not one for the more discerning listener though I'm afraid.
www.pierreofficial.com

SB

 
 

The Beat Poets – Staring Stars Down/G.I. (Absolute/Universal)

A quick check back reveals that we gave this very track by The Beat Poets a bit of a spin way back in 2005 – cor blimey – how time flies. While it still brims full of energy and enthusiasm and is undoubtedly fine piece of song writing, I somehow wonder if time has not been kind to The Beat Poets as what may have sounded like a fresh sound in 2005 is now in good company from plenty of other bands in 2008. That said, there's always got to be a place for good unadulterated indie rock played at a thousand miles an hour, no matter how simplistic the melodies. It's all in the attitude.
www.thebeatpoets.com

SB

 

Gabby Young – Bear With Me EP (Albino)

Strewth and blimey - this has been an interesting set of tracks to review tonight and now Gabby Young is not letting up on the quality. Her striking visual appeal and the resultant video to 'Snakebite' perhaps stem from the current rise in popularity of burleque. To say there is a high degree of melodrama about this track would be a bit of a shortfall – it's chocked full of jazzy skits, horns, music boxes and boom-chacka drums. Oh, and the not unremarkable vocal talents of Miss Young herself. Like a big top full of musical circus freaks, you suspect you shouldn't really like this but you can't stop yourself from at least having paying for a ticket just to have a look.

All of which is a bit misleading when it comes to the remainder of the CD which takes on a far more melancholy if no less startling tone. Young's voice could perhaps be pitched somewhere between Michelle Shocked and Psapp's Galia Durant. The cat-obsessed latter would surely be impressed with 'Tiger' which builds up superbly like some Bond theme tune. In fact there is a big cinematic sound about each of these tracks, not because they need a visual with them to work but moreso because they are powerful and evocative I their own right. Mind you – that means they would probably not be any good as sound tracks – I'm getting confused because I'm so overwhelmed. Fantastic.
www.gabbyyoung.com

SB

 

Katy Perry – Hot n Cold (Capitol)

Oh Katy Perry I love you for providing one of the funniest moments in pop in the last 10 years. It wasn't the slipping around the stage that I thought was so funny, it was her full blooded dive into a cake constituted out of at least 90% concrete – and then trying to get up and pretend it didn't hurt. But this single is a big disappointment – sounds like Tiffany.
Watch the video to 'Hot n Cold'
www.katyperry.com

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Blabbermouth – Something I Need / Blabbermouth's Funeral (Hobgoblin)

The problem I have with this single is that for all the finely plucked banjo and electric piano quivering in the background, Blabbermouth manages to take the folk style and make it sound particularly middle of the road. It's all a bit I loved you, you loved me then we fell out, now I'm sad sort of thing – the standard for a folk song, but delivered in a completely unconvincing way. Pity really because the banjo/electric piano (or organ on B-side 'Blabbermouth's Funeral') works a treat.
www.myspace.com/therealblabbermouth

SB

 
 

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Everything With You (Fortuna Pop!)

Shoegazy twee pop seems to undergoing a bit of a surge in popularity at the moment, especially from a few of the bands we are listening to from New York. All of which is a little curious seeing as there is a distinctly English sound to 'Everything With You' – think Ride, Belle and Sebastian, The Fall etc. You will either think it is simplistic and monotonous, played by fey kids with little musical ability or minimalist genius purveyed by poets of our time. I will leave that decision to you.
www.thepainsofbeingpureatheart.com

SB


 

The Amsterdams – Automatic EP (One Music)

Another Tasty first I think – our first Romanian band being reviewed. And what do they go and call themselves? Only the Bloody Amsterdams. Tsk. From the sleeve shots they look a bit like OK Go and the first few bars sound a little similar too – spiky guitar pop. Great use of stereo mixing sees the guitar lines slashed out of their very own speaker throughout and opener 'Automatic' is actually really, really good. Somewhere between the aggression of Feverdream and the offbeat indie of Frenchies Call Me Loretta, The Amsterdams continue throw out shouty choruses. I have no idea what 'Petrolize All Mice' is about but I like the idea of it and I like the sound of it very much. And the EP is rounded off by the darker 'Suffering and Surfing' which is very Scando rock – think The Hives or fellow ace Swedes The Je Ne Sais Sais Quoi. I cannot fault this – highly recommended.
www.myspace.com/theamsterdams

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Society of Imaginary Friends – The Moors EP

Instantly compelling, Society of Imaginary Friends are (for this EP at least) a four-piece but not voice, guitars and drums. Vocalist Louise Kleboe has a near operatic voice which mournfully sails across the beautiful accompiment provided by the keys, accordion, violins and cellos. 'The Moors' at once evokes the misty desolation of windswept hillsides, but as seen from a cosy fireside window. 'The Lovely Rain' and 'Windows' work in a similar vein – haunting and wistful – this is cinematically beautiful stuff. Hang in there during 'Windows' for the spooky mechanical chanting which lets you I on the secret that SOIF are not wholly obsessed with the physical world and the elements but also document technophobia too.
www.societyofimaginaryfriends.com

SB

 
 

Obrigado – The Same Thing That Makes You Live (Diffusion)

It's back to basics from Obrigado with their militaristic snare drum intro. 'The Same Thing...' is based on a round, again back to playground basics. It's simple and effective though there are times when it feels like the vocals are dragging the other musicians along and there are definitely times when the whole thing unravels timing wise. Come on let's start again now, London's Burning, London's Burning...
www.myspace.com/obrigado1

SB

 

Bearsuit – Pushover / Robot Arms (Fantastic Plastic)

Blimey – it seems an awful long time when I saw Bearsuit crammed into a sweaty Rescue Rooms in Nottingham. It was after a particularly heavy pre-gig 2-for-1 offer on Stell and I confess to not remembering much about the music other than thinking that Bearsuit were a bit 'kooky'. Oh yeah, and there were a lot of them. But by golly, they've grown up into proper little pop devils. 'Pushover' is a chunky, squeeky, quirky Jap-pop call to arms against being pushed around. And it is brilliant.
www.bearsuit.co.uk

SB

 
 

Imajim - We Are Speakers

Imajim inhabit a murky world where various genres are mixed together in big bubbling flasks of liquid spewing fumes. 'Aqualuna' opens the CD with its croonery B-movie vibe whereas 'Proximo Now' follows up with a much more urgent rhythm and beat demonstrating where the Queens of the Stone Age comparisons arise. Well, it would be Queens of the Stone Age if they were fronted by David Bowie - on more than one occasion vocalist Jim Connelly conjurs up images and sounds of His Royal Bowster amid the fuzzy bluesey soloing and digeridoo. By comparison to the claustrophobic openings, 'Thunked Up' provides a far more expansive atmosphere with its slide guitars and country lilt. The title track closes the EP like a modern take on a traditional folk song and really lets Connelly's vocal gymnastics soar. All in all a very impressive debut and worth keeping an eye out o the guig circuit for.
www.imajim.net

SB

 
 

Kenan Bell -‘Good Day’

I won’t lie to you I really wanted to like the ‘Good Day’ EP from LA rapper Keenan Bell his press release said all the right things “No Ordinary Rapper”, “Diverse Demographics” and he “Manages to blend pop sensibilities, indie-rock edge and hip hop attitude with ease” but then again making sweeping statements like this is what the PR team get paid for. What we do have is an OK rap/hip hop EP nothing which is gunna set the world alight but you no is pretty inoffensive. The production is accomplished if somewhat obvious and the rapping is again OK but is often unintentionally humorous, Kenan seems to be going for the family friendly market with little mention of the Guns, Bitches and Bling which has become almost a prerequisite for today’s rappers. The question you need to ask yourself is why buy this when there groups like Cool Kids doing this exact same thing only much much better?
www.myspace.com/theblackkenanbell

Anth Chrisp

 
 

Heads We Dance - ‘The Human Touch’

Is somebody taking the piss out of me asking for a review of the record? Seriously I imagine Beadle is going to rise from the dirt point his decomposing little hand at me and say “Don’t Worry It Was Only A Joke”. Everything about this record it wrong from the dreadful electro production and shockingly bad “We wanna be the Pet Shop Boys” lyrics right down to the hopefully ironic Daft Punk art work on the front cover. Apparently this records only physical release is as a super limited edition 12” vinyl as if this makes it something special but lets be honest somebody along the line has clearly realised that there’s something in the old saying “Don’t throw good money after bad”.
www.headswedance.com

Anth Chrisp

 
 

Kyte - ‘Two Stars, Two Sparks’

Kyte manage to evoke feeling of absolute joy with their records creating a musical landscape of plinky plonky happiness. With the release of their ‘Two Stars, Two Sparks’ EP they are building substantially on there previous self titled mini album released at the start of 2008. The stand out track in my opinion is ‘Bridges in the Sky’ which with its looping drum machine beats reminds me of all the best parts of debut ‘Postal Service’ album ‘Give Up’. Kyte seem to be currently at the peak of their creativity and I look forward to seeing what they come up with next.

Anth Chrisp

 
 

Neon Neon – Dream Cars

John DeLorean is back from the conceptual album ‘Stainless Steel’ for another trip in Neon Neon’s super modern sounding visual-based single. ‘Dream Cars’ is a bit like a mate who’s great when your in a good mood, but when you’re in a bad one you just want to throttle them. The melodies are nice enough, the production’s tight. Unluckily for NN, I’m in a bad mood – so I’m thinking DeLorean would have rather stayed lying in his grave than be brought back from the dead for this. The ‘brand-new B-side’ ‘Mr Right’ hits the spot, though. Originally by Young Marble Giants (a hint at Rhys’ Welsh rock roots) the stripped back setting does good things for the duo. The remixes, also, are worth a look out for budding noise-jerks into their shoe-gaze. You are allowed out of the cupboard now, Mr DeLorean, it’s not all bad.

Nick Burman

 

2 Hot 2 Sweat – Half Assed Rom Com

Electro, post-industrial girl/boy duo make noisy follow up to what I can only guess to be a noisy debut. Hard nosed drum machines crush riffs and imaginative keyboards all over the place. Equally appalling and engrossing – like a ear bleed on a primary school playground.
I can only imagine the free add in the back of a retro-1977 newspaper which brought these two together: “art house girl seeking guy with attitude…and good hair” (maybe). Exciting for the first two times you hear, not a track to put on to get you into the routine on a Monday morning.

Nick Burman

 
 

The Shortwave Set – Glitches ’N’ Bugs

The lead single from this EP (before the release of their third LP) is a masterclass in song writing of the best calibre; essentially a Beatles-esque psychedelic pop tune in the same vein the as the recent Brooklyn ‘hippie renaissance’ collectives. An acoustic guitar plays into Andrew Pettitt’s soulful voice until weaving into Ulrika Bjorsne’s perfect harmonies.

‘Homesick’ has a Beck feel, with samples and scratching on top of Pettitt’s soothing voice – which is very similar to the before said artist. The grinding bass gives a bit of variety to the following track, a lament to Grace Jones’ ‘Slave To The Rhythm’, is an interesting take on the track, but not really necessary. The two remixes, as always on these kind of things, seem a bit tacked on and aren’t worth your time either way.

The two original tracks are great by themselves. Don’t splash out on the whole package, wait for album number three.

Nick Burman

 
 

Pete Green - The Platform Zero ep (Lostmusic)

Four songs from a Sheffield singer-songwriter who isn't expecting much coverage from the weekly music press anytime soon. 'Best British band supported by Shockwaves' is a satircal swipe at, variously, the NME, hair products, Goldfrapp, Klaxons, Kaiser Chiefs, and the music industry in general. Interestingly, the press release features a lengthy quote from an article in the Independent which contains a lengthy quote from Simon Reynolds, compiler of books about the music of the early 80s/90s and which bemoans the 'glossing up' of the traditional indie scene, which is most properly a place where individuals can do their own things without style gurus pushing them about, and will doubtless provoke a thousand pub conversations regarding the semantics of artistic freedoms and the rights of the guitarists of the 21st century.

Pete Green is a tuneful and engaging songsmith and while 'Platform Zero' won't - correction, Might win an award of some kind, we can all sleep a little more soundly knowing that the mainstream of the British music industry has characters such as Pete Green to contend with when things get too trendy and soulless.

Jon Gordon

 
 

Peggy Sue and The Pirates - 'Horror Movie Marathon'

This two track CD is available at Peggy Sue's live shows and if you missed their recent tour, call them up on Myspace and ask them to send you a copy of this totally indie slice of girl pop. Probably recorded for a halloween party show, the first track tells of a moment of terror in the company of a probable serial killer - 'he's telling me he's an artist/and it's red paint on his hands' - replete with high pitched screams, furious percussion and a breathlessly gabbled lyric that tells of Katy's eventual escape from the clutches of some bloke she met at a party. The second track has a slightly bluesier feel and is the tale of a night out on the town that goes a bit wrong - which wasn't a Peggy Sue gig, let me assure you.
http://www.myspace.com/peggysueandthepirates

Jon Gordon

 

Loyal Trooper - One Day All This Will Work Out

If record sales were achieved by effort alone then this would get straight to number one. A failed Royal Mail delivery, a download onto a now defunct hard drive and several trips to Maplin to purchase various nerdy leads later and finally we get to hear Loyal Trooper's EP.

Fortunately it was worth the wait and the effort. Loyal Trooper aka Andy Walker keeps the method relatively simple - nice clean acoustic guitar lines and vocals but by jingo he can write a great tune. Opening track 'Nottingham Wasn't Built For Me' is an upbeat pop masterpiece and 'Five Year Plan' is the equivalent melancholy yin to its yang - rousing and provacative. In fact a very personal narrative runs through the EP, be it the homogenisation of the high street, the mundanity of 9 to 5 or cocaine culture.

If there were a minor negative it would be the relentless low level whinging nature of most of the subject matter - an issue which is compounded when Walker's vocals get a little nasal and whining, particularly on 'Division Street Blues'. After all, everyone has gripes and a lot of this EP sounds like someone airing them. But just a quick listen to the beautiful closer 'M1 to A52' makes you forgive any negativity and remind you that song writing of this quality should be cherished.
www.myspace.com/loyaltrooper

SB

 

Satellite Dub - Magnolia Lane EP (Antimatter)

Although each of the four tracks comprising this EP have been heard before, this release, Satellite Dub's first on the Antimatter label, makes a timely reminder of what we've been enjoying for the past few years (or what you've been missing if you've been unlucky enough not to hear any Satellite Dub yet).

It could be perceived a s weakness that although the EP is notionally named after one of the tracks, in reality any of the four could be the lead and there is no obvious running order. Each stands up in its own right and as a quartet they do not offer any great group composition (this is best saved for the near legendary Satellite Dub live set anyway).

But it is the business, the attention to detail and the pure energy of each of these tracks that stands out. Some will warm to the frenetic break beat counterpointed with the tinkling keyboards on 'Magnolia Lane'. Other will prefer the gurgling baseline and crisp percussion of 'Trying to Stop a Tank With Your Hands' while some might like the throbbing and fizzing melodies of Hardware Software Nowhere'. Sonically the only really obvious pointers come from the Death in Vegas sounds of 'Power Off Einstein'. But the real genius here is the kinetic energy of each track, like a beating heart with its own life and which is so often missing from electronic music. I'm just looking forward to hearing the next set of new tunes to add to this superb collection.
www.myspace.com/satellitedub

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