Thursday, 30 October 2008

Night’s Bright Colors – First Set Fire To The Stars

Jason Smith is Night’s Bright Colors, and First Set Fire To The Stars is the final album in his Hospital Quartet cycle, after four albums and eight years. Contextually its an odd point for me to come to Night’s Bright Colors, but First Set Fire To The Stars works fine as a stand alone album.
After a mystical instrumental intro, lead track Eastern Thought surprisingly bursts into a very melodic indie pop tune. It’s very well constructed and sung gently in a cutesy voice, warmth exuding from every pore. Following that Collide has some twinkling rhythms and a really spacey airy feel, somewhere between Air and the Lightning Seeds. This Romance continues the jolly air to the album; you can feel the music bopping around with a smile on its face. Its all fairly basic stuff, but no one can ever undervalue the importance of simply writing good tunes above all else. It’ll never be fashionable, but it never needs to be.
Portland is close to drifting into hippy territory, but in this man’s hands, that no bad thing. Change The Colors, is hypnotic, almost hymnal, while Blue Eyes has elements of Fleet Foxes to its spiritual feel. Some lovely classical sounds on Heaven-Proof segue into the lullaby of Inverness, then Catacombs has a mysterious far eastern feel and Our Sky is brittle indie pop. Dark Summer sounds like the end of times, but it’s a good send off and Recessive Traits is like the afterlife, a light fluffy world it inhabits. It’s a good closing album to the cycle, and one that warrants further investigation.

The album is available to download for free from Jason's website

Monday, 27 October 2008

Sick City Club – Thought She Was Leaving

Thought She Was Leaving, the debut single from Brummie indie rockers Sick City Club has a catchy chorus and a general upbeat feel. However you can’t help feel with music like this they’ll fall into a select group of acts, like Puressence and Molly Half Head, who create well crafted indie rock, but will be only be loved by a minority. That said, with the love that they’ll get from that fanbase, it may be enough, as long as they don’t set their aspirations too high.

Thought She Was Leaving is self released on 1st December

Sick City Club myspace

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Cause Co-Motion! – It’s Time!

Cause Co-Motion! take time out to compile their singles from the last four years, which were previously available on the indies What’s Yr Rupture?, Cape Shok, Can’t Cope and Slumberland.
Proper shambly C86 style pop, as done by early Soup Dragons, BMX Bandits et al is in evidence on Only Fades Away the opening track. Second track Baby Don’t Do It is tinny and harsh yet exuberant and fun! All the songs scream pop; all last around 1 minute 30 and aren’t built to last. This Just Won’t Last has more coy vocals and shambling ethics, This Time Next Year is all spindly guitars, while Take A Look is a dead ringer for early BMX Bandits. Which Way Is Up? is snotty and impatient and Don’t You Know? is a cut above, hollow sounding and rumbling, sounding like its bounding down the wrong side of the tracks. Say What You Feel carries this on somewhat scuzzy and tinny guitars bearing a certain menace. When Will It Finally End? chips away at you and Who’s Gonna Care? is a ring a ding ding little tune. You Don’t Say feels more structured and restrained, but works well for it and finally Cry for Attention that closes the album is more of a whimper.

Cause Co-Motion! myspace
It's Time! is out on Slumberland Records on October 28th

Crystal Stilts – Alight Of Night

Crystal Stilts are yet another band from the fertile breeding ground that is Brooklyn and this is their debut album.
Lead track The Dazzled kicks things off in a wonderfully sleazy way, world weary and careless. Sluggish in other hands, but not in these. They follow that with Crystal Stilts, the song, which is very Jesus & Mary Chain, with a twang of Duane Eddy guitar. The drums are a keen point, especially on this song, being limited and supplying only the necessary beat.
Graveyard Orbit has a suitably downbeat shuffle, but with some gentle organ and almost crooning vocals, Prismatic Room is graceful, having lovely guitar arcs and swelling keyboards while The Sinking is more upbeat and rattles along nicely. It shows how in thrall they are to the Mary Chain, but not in a bad pastiche way.
Things sound different on Departure, which is a bit drony, a little Joy Division. Shattered Shine has a bit of the Velvets and some nice mouth organ, while the drums kick Bright Night along nicely, although the vocals are a bit irritating on this, being too moany. By Spiral Transit the vocals and music are becoming ghostly, floating off into the ether and The City In The Sea closes proceedings, one final sigh before the end.

Crystal Stilts myspace
Alight Of Night is released by Slumberland Records on October 28th

Various – Be True To Your School

Compilations are funny things. They can be a place for new discoveries, finding old favourites again, but most of all inconsistent. A trip into the vaults of Fortuna Pop! however, produces many more gems than duff tracks. Over 25 tracks the hit rate must be about 90% and to be honest, there’s nothing absolutely awful here.
For a mere £4.99 you’ll find Tender Trap, which is Amelia Fletcher and cohorts doing what they do best, the Belle and Sebastian like Blinky by Sodastream, the excitable juddery pop of Itsuko Got Married by Bearsuit and the Gallic pop meets Pizzicato 5 sounds of Cannonball Jane’s Take It To Fantastic. The Loves best bubblegum pop moment Xs and Os is here, as is T Shirt Weather by the best pop band around, The Lucksmiths.
On the other side of the coin you have the gritty country of Yvonne by micktravis and the downbeat and dishevelled Rob A Bank by The Butterflies Of Love. MJ Hibbert’s Work’s All Right is rough around the edges, fuzzy and funny, while Too Old by Would Be Goods reinvents Nico. There are enough reasons already to get this, and I haven’t even mentioned the great pop by Milky Wimpshake, Comet Gain and the childish fun of I’m A Tiger by International Strike Force.

Be True To Your School is released on 24th November on Fortuna Pop!

The Lorimer Sound – Greenstreets

Greenstreets is the latest release by Chicago’s The Lorimer Sound, a lovely little EP for your delectation.
Lead track Brooklyn Bound is as well crafted as something like The Lucksmiths, the jolly bounce of it also sounds like The Brilliant Corners in places. Kristine’s vocals are delightful, sweet but not overly so. Block Party is twee rockabilly, a gentle rumbling instrumental while Through The Park has vocals that are slightly too twee and distract too much from the great indie pop melody running beneath. This track is too good to not spend time mixing it again. Photograph that follows proves they know how it should be done.
A guest vocalist is introduced for Notre Chanson En Francais, which is suitably Gallic and effortlessly cool. Amy’s spoken vocals just add the final touch to a cool song.

The Lorimer Sound's myspace is here

Greenstreets is out now on 3" CD with gorgeous packaging on Wee Pop!

Megamoog – Icicle

Megamoog are a duo from San Francisco, Phoebe joining Megan last year after she’d spent years doing Megamoog solo.
A sparse keyboard and a cymbal tish make up the melody behind Megan’s gorgeous vocals on Icicle, a delightful little tune about the world of boys and relationships. Tease has a sweet little gentle guitar line, with a processed minimal backing. The subject seems similar, but then aren’t all the best songs about boys and girls? Personally I like Eleanor best, the beats and keyboards seem more well rounded, the melody is the best one and Megan sings much more sweetly.

Megamoog's myspace is here

Icicle is out now on 3" CD with beautiful packaging on Wee Pop!

The Humdrum Express - What A Carry On! EP

Two albums into his solo career and The Humdrum Express is back, this time with a free EP of new stuff, reworked oldies and a cover.
Lead track What A Carry On! is a little gothic, but reminds me of Magazine or Wire more so. It’s a branch out from his previous stuff, but a smart move, and a sound that suits him well.
The reworked The Way It Goes is rendered into a sweet little nursery rhyme. Cool as that is, much better is Stay In Bed All Day, which is given an Electro Mix. This finds some robotic effects and fine beats over which snippets of vocals float. It provides a nice new slant on his work and let’s hope more work is done in this direction. I for one would like to hear an instrumental version of this track.
Vocally Tom Morgan’s The Outdoor Type, as made famous by The Lemonheads, is rendered faithfully but there’s an air about it that inflates the tune and gives it room to manoeuvre. In this slightly-delic style it probably hits closer to the heart of the song than any of the previous versions.

Contact The Humdrum Express for a free copy of the EP via his website or myspace

Amadou & Mariam – Welcome To Mali

Something a bit different and unusual here. It’s African music, but highly influenced by all sorts of other flavours. It doesn’t help the casual listener that there’s some weird synthesised vocals on opening track Sabali that are highly irritating to say the least, and which draw away from a rather nice spacey electro tune. Ce N’est Pas Bon works much better, the African music is toned down for Western consumption, yet it still takes you to a place in the desert, dark yet welcoming.
Following that, Magosa shakes and shimmies nicely, Djama has a sweet reggae lilt to it, Djuru has an oriental vibe to it while Je Te Kiffe has a laid back hip-hop feel infusing the music. Masiteladi is upbeat and bouncy, and has a cautious celebratory thing going on. The rhythm is like slowed down drum and bass. Compagnon de la Vie and Batoman are much more traditional, more like what I was expecting. The former locks into a groove and sways to the rhythm as male and female vocalists share the words around, weaving in and out effortlessly. Unissons Nous has the funk, and wants to set off running, but reigns itself back in constantly and I Follow You is graceful, with almost a classical air the way the strings give it an amazing gravitas.
I love getting treats from unexpected sources, and this is another one.

Visit their website here

Welcome To Mali is released on 17th November on Because Music

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Various - Just A Minute

I've just published a review of the new compilation on Filthy Little Angels over on Indie-mp3 and it can be found here

The Affection - Derelict

Nice to see dadrock still going strong after all these years.
The a-side Derelict is melodic, yet lumpen and soul less, which makes it pretty hard going. For a band who have been going four years by now, you’d think they could do better than this.
Bermuda is slightly better, more upbeat and sprightly, but still a tad dull. Not the most inspiring single, but it could well prove popular.

The demo is self released and out now.

The Affection myspace

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Giro Junkie - If You Feel Like Working…Sit Down It’ll Pass

If You Feel Like Working…Sit Down It’ll Pass is the debut single from Stoke based singer-songwriter Giro Junkie. It’s fairly standard acoustic fare, but well constructed and more than worth a listen.
The three tracks contained within are Confiscate The Hippies, which has all the grit of The Levellers and a Celtic vibe, Like The Dog To The Vomit, that snarls to a bongo beat and Novemtree, a more stripped back protest song. It is also the best track here.
Good as this stuff is, it’ll need something special to be added to mark him out in an already cluttered singer songwriter field. Still, it’s early days and there’s no reason he can’t build on these solid foundations.

If You Feel Like Working…Sit Down It’ll Pass is self released.

Listen to and contact Giro Junkie here

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

The Loose Salute - Why'd We Fight?

I wasn't intending that this blog would end up hosting loads of videos, but here's another already. It's simply here because the song and video are so good. So, if you fancy some sweet country & western accompanied by some Terry Gilliam influenced (especially at the start of the video) animations, then watch away.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Emiliana Torrini - Big Jumps

The lovely new single from Emiliana Torrini is out today, so to celebrate the fact, here's the rather cool accompanying video.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Swiss Concrete no. 54 - October 17th

In case you don't know already, Swiss Concrete is the night that some friends and I run in Oxford. Here is the lovely flyer for the next night, which is this Friday. For this gig we have the following:

More Silage
More Silage all grew up together in a Somerset village called East Harptree. Indeed, guitarist David held drummer Joel in his arms when he was not yet a day old. David still regularly holds Joel in his arms, although usually around the neck in a strangling motion. Banjoer Thomas and accordionist Robert are brothers, although in the genetically tangled web of East Harptree this means they could just as well be father and son, uncle and nephew, or even their own siamese twin. (Work that one out, biologists.) The band are trained in a highly specialised brand of full-voiced, ill-rehearsed, real-ale-fuelled, multi-hyphenated folk-pop. This genre may be described as 'Silage' in years to come.

Many indie bands falsely claim they sound nothing like their peers; for good or ill, Borderville can make that claim with a cocksure degree of certainty. Chanelling the spirits of Kate Bush, Bowie, Brel and even Stephen Sondheim, Borderville re-imagine glam rock with towering walls of sound and ornate flourishes of baroque piano, all imbued with the morbid romanticism of a drunken Rufus Wainwright harbouring an ugly vendetta.

Schuman The Human
Following in the footsteps of groups like the Broken Family Band and the Barker Band, Schuman the Human, gives his Americana music a decidedly cheeky and remarkably British twist. Also known as Mark Foster and the former guitarist with Vic Godard, Schuman sings along with his rippling banjo, like he's gathered round the 'old Joanna' in an East End pub, blasting away those It's-a-long-way-to-Tipperary war-time-blues, helped on occasion by a soft voiced lady called Chilli Gold. And while this isn't the most sophisticated collection of songs to be released this year, the lack of pretension and good-time feel of SHOWTIME is somewhat charming. A blend of bluegrass, cowpunk and country pop, not afraid to throw in something a little off the wall, like a kids choir singing along on Oh How Happy, a harpsichord on A Weekend Away, and some amusing lyrics. Highlights include Tow That Line!, a song that flip-flops from sad to happy more times than a bipolar Robbie Williams and the disco-banjo opener Klutz, which has a kind of slapstick Monty Python feel to it. A cult-classic if nothing else. - Maverick Magazine

All this will only cost you £4 on the door or £3 in advance here

Swiss Concrete are on Myspace and Facebook (Group) (Event)

Howling Bells - Into The Chaos

Howling Bells are back with a splendid new single, the first to be taken from their forthcoming second album. It’s a limited edition 7”, so get in there quick and nab one.
It’s reminiscent of Curve at their best, with vocals that sigh and swoon and send the chorus skywards. The drums shuffle and stagger along, almost in awe of Juanita’s presence. It’s a reminder that gothic doesn’t always mean doom and gloom, but can be transcendent beauty.

Into The Chaos is released on Independiente on 17th November
Howling Bells myspace

Marc Collin – Hollywood, Mon Amour

In which the Nouvelle Vague mainman, with the assistance of various female vocalists, reinterprets songs from 80s movies and intends to reveal the beauty beneath the bombast.
Firstly he plays safe, taking on Blondie’s Call Me. It’s slowed down and with a calypso feel, but it was such a great song to begin with it’s no surprise it still sounds lovely. Following that Eye Of The Tiger becomes a sumptuous lounge pop thing, which works pretty well, When Doves Cry is another safe bet, but the pretty much acoustic version is beautiful and A View To A Kill does the trick of stripping away the bombast of Duran Duran’s original and making it something Parisian and sparkly.
Yael Naim helps out on Flashdance and turns it into a weepy torch song; it’s an amazing transformation. Footloose is lively and boppy and very fun indeed thanks to Cibelle, while Juliette Lewis shows and hitherto unknown tenderness on This Is Not America, which is gracious and mysterious. Nothing much is added to Arthur’s Theme, and while Reality is fine, but not knowing the original it’s difficult to say what they’ve done to it.
At this point it’s worth saying, that while Collin renders most of the tunes in a loungecore style, there’s still enough variation and style to avoid the repetitious reworkings of the likes of Mark ‘More Trumpet’ Ronson.
For Your Eyes Only is rendered fairly bland, but the album finishes with Leelou doing Don’t You Forget About Me as if she was Tori Amos trapped in a music box. While the album isn’t a resounding success there’s enough moments to make you think again about the originals.

Hollywood, Mon Amour is out now on [PIAS] Recordings

Album website here

Milky Wimpshake - One Good Use For My Heart EP

The title track on the new Milky Wimpshake EP is a nice, if somewhat standard indie pop tune. It’s overshadowed by (Show Me The Way To) Anarchy, a spacious stroll that gives more room for Pete’s lyrics, which is a good thing indeed, as he has a lot to say.
It takes a special mind to put together a medley of the old music hall tune If You Want To Know The Time Ask A Policeman and Yummy Fur’s Policeman. But it works rather well, the former setting up the latter to drive a point home.
The nonsense of Milky Cliché shows up what makes Milky Wimpshake slightly better than a lot of indie pop, and that’s Pete’s voice. It’s commanding of attention and sits rather well with backing.
A fun run through The Isley Brothers’ This Old Heart Of Mine finishes the EP in a nice fashion. Three albums and numerous singles down the line, the quality shows no signs of slipping.

One Good Use For My Heart EP is out on Fortuna Pop on 3rd November

Milky Wimpshake website here

Saturday, 11 October 2008

The Lucksmiths - Up With The Sun / A Sobering Thought

In advance of their eleventh album, the Lucksmiths release a free two track download. When you think of The Lucksmiths, you think of all the purveyors of perfect pop, The Go-Betweens, Belle and Sebastian, etc. and this time is no exception.
Up With The Sun is another gem, delightful lyrics and a crisp vocal performance from Tali White. A Sobering Thought (Just When One Was Needed) is a close relation of Belle and Sebastian’s The Boy With The Arab Strap, but another beauty in its own right. Wry and soulful, with a gentle groove. Looks like the album First Frost, is shaping up to be another great one.

Download available 10th November
First Frost is released on Fortuna Pop on 8th December

The Lucksmiths website
Fortuna Pop myspace

The Deirdres – Milk Is Politics

Cherryade celebrate their 20th release by putting out a white vinyl 7”, which marks The Deirdres debut UK release. If you think of the shambling cuteness of The Research and the exuberant joy of Los Campesinos! and somewhere in the middle you have The Deirdres and their new single Milk Is Politics. It’s shouty, but cutesy and wonderfully happy.
Sir Michael of Aspel is a ramshackle tribute (possibly, who knows with the yelping lyrics) to the fella off the TV. You can’t help but be dragged along on their wave of enthusiasm for him. The lyrics are childish, but deliberately so, and endearing they prove. The single proves you have far more fun when you don’t pretend to be cool.

The Deirdres myspace

Cherryade Records website

Friday, 10 October 2008

The Simple Carnival – Girls Aliens Food

The debut album from The Simple Carnival is simply delightful. It starts with Really Really Weird, which has some beautiful harmonies, and lies somewhere between the Beach Boys and one of those delightfully MOR tunes from the seventies. I still can’t shake the Beach Boys influence on Keeping It Quiet, albeit nicely coupled with some easy listening. Oddly enough when he hits a summer song, Caitlin’s On The Beach, he move away from the aforementioned influence, this being more reminiscent of Squeeze, but somewhat less frantic. Cocktails is oddly affecting easy listening wine bar music. Nothing Will Ever Be As Good is the most beautiful a capella tune, fantastic harmonies and melancholic, yet uplifting. Over Coffee and Tea is like the Beach Boys to a bossa nova beat, You Jump First is more standard indie pop, but so well written and catchy and Effortlessly is a sun kissed lament.

Girls Aliens Food is out now on Sundrift Records

The Simple Carnival website

A new dawn

So, five and a bit years down the line from the start of Russell's Reviews it's time for a little change. Not a massive one granted, but from now on this is our new home. Being in the realm of blog will hopefully find us some new readers, at least that's the intention anyway. As ever, feedback is always welcome.

And fret not retro fans, the old website will still exist with all the content that was written before today.

Happy reading!