Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Bubblegum Lemonade – Ten Years Younger EP

More great pop from Scotland in the form of Bubblegum Lemonade. The title track has the lovely shambling fuzziness that lies somewhere between the Mary Chain and the Velvets. The sort of song that’s just there, yet somehow imposes itself on your consciousness, a nagging little earworm in the best possible sense. The Tomorrow People is a little lighter, a wonderfully crafted pop tune that reminds you of the more twee end of the C86 era. Unsafe At Any Speed is a fuzzy little thing, arriving in the Mary Chain time line somewhere between early feedback days and the rocked out era. The cover of That Thing You Do! is rendered in similar fashion, which sounds pretty cool, but not as good as the sixties pop pastiche of the original.

Ten Years Younger EP is out now on Matinee Recordings
Bubblegum Lemonade myspace is here

The Guild League – Speak Up

Vocally The Guild League sounds like the Lucksmiths for the obvious reason that Tali White sings with both bands. Mouse vs Mountain bursts out the traps with parping brass and shaking percussion, occupying a middle ground somewhere between the Housemartins and Dexys Midnight Runners. If Not Now… goes along with its title, an urgent pop tune, proving the band to be feistier than Tali’s other band. There are lots of chirpy backing vocals and riotous fun. Dead Hour turns things round a bit, being pretty downbeat but somehow uplifting. After another rousing tune in Suit Fits we come to The Idea, a maudlin and beautiful little thing, bringing to mind tea on the lawn while a sinister figure spies from the bushes. Where’s The Colour? has a ska feel and a reggae beat to it, which suits what is essentially an indie groove, and a kick ass white soul chorus. Brains is another song wonderfully indebted to the white soul of the early eighties, powerful brass driving the song, stabbing rhythms hitting the point home. Limited Express is a softly sung slowie, minimal backing sawing slowly away. It’s a gorgeous little thing, a little like Beautiful South without the irony. To wrap things up 17 Summer is a grinding, twisting beast and Incandescent is an evangelical but blissful thing with female vocal accompaniment.

Speak Up is out now on Matinee Recordings
The Guild League myspace is here

The Pines – It’s Been A While

It’s Been A While is a collection of singles and obscurities from the Pines, who constitute Pam Berry and Joe Brooker. Pam has the voice of a songbird, as becomes immediately evident on lead track Milk Bar, while some delicate folk style plucking from Joe provides a wistful backing. Alternately sung verses on A Hundred Doors gives a lovely touch to a rather sad song that sounds if it was recorded tucked away in a basement. Forget Me Nots is like some trad folk tune given a Simon & Garfunkel twist, a tinge of echo on the vocals. Chalet again shows how delightful the Pines tunes are, given air to breathe and plenty of space. The bare minimum of music and vocals are used, neither wanting to intrude on the other, its just beautiful. MGM is another lovely winsome duet, another song that sounds beamed in from another more innocent age in the days before amps went up to 11. Please Don’t Get Married is slow skiffle, or heart rending bluegrass, pick your new genre. Static drifts through the air, like a beautiful snowflake in the winter sun. Marie Claire is a good example of how their voices can blend together, trading parts of the song, then harmonising rather Belle & Sebastian like. Aurora, a cover of a The Cat's Miaow song, sounds like an elegy to something, who knows what, but its incredibly wistful. Joe takes the lead on Some Slow Afternoon and makes for a blissful Lilac Time sounding tune. Brand New Life, a Young Marble Giants tune, is a wispy lite thing that is more atmosphere than anything, but works really well. Seven Clubs finds them doing the trad folk thing beautifully again while High Street is a maudlin, harmonica soaked little thing. I See Stars sets Pam’s warbling voice against some gorgeous picking, you can imagine this being sung on a harbour wall in the Mediterranean. A delightful collection.

It’s Been A While is out now on Matinee Recordings
The Pines don't seem to have a website, but there's some info here

The Hermit Crabs – Correspondence Course

The lead track on this EP, About You Before, reminds me of a delicate Belle and Sebastian, it has some beautiful strings and a lovely rhythmic chippy melody. It doesn’t grab you greatly but does enough to leave a cute impression. The title track is much better, surfing an orchestral backing which gives the relaxed pop a much better kick. A beautiful guitar break appears on this too, before a vocally reflective moment and a grandiose ending. Turn The Clock Back is better still, minimal backing letting the cute beauty of the voice shine through, the song shuffling by in a maudlin sadness that makes you cry. Final track I Don’t Know How is as chirpy as some of those great female fronted indie pop groups of yore and has a tremendously catchy chorus. A fine EP indeed.

Correspondence Course is out now on Matinee Recordings
The Hermit Crabs myspace is here

Northern Portrait – The Fallen Aristocracy EP

Back to where it all started, Northern Portrait’s first EP starts with the crystalline beauty of Crazy, the sure fire best song of last year. It reminds me of the gentle beauty of The Man From Delmonte and the other bands on that Manchester North Of England cassette that BOP put out. A Quiet Night in Copenhagen sees a croon and a cry, as the singer warbles his way through another near perfect jangle pop tune. Waiting For A Chance is a man alone in a room, biding his time for something, anything. He’s not moping though; as he knows what he is doing is right. The slight jangle of the tune, its blissful nature suggests he knows the fate and he’s resigned to it, but hey, what the heck. The title track that closes the EP is slightly more upbeat, and the one where you can most see the Morrissey comparisons in the vocals. It’s much better though, beautifully styled and restrained, and definitely not prone to the Mozzer whine. You can imagine this one on some forgotten Saturday morning TV show, the band looking bemused at their surroundings while showered in petals. Northern Portrait may be a band of a different time, but its such a beautiful one we just don’t care.

The Fallen Aristocracy EP is out now on Matinee Recordings
Northern Portrait myspace is here

Howling Bells – Radio Wars

The second album from Howling Bells is something of a mixed bag. Lead track Treasure Hunt reminds me of Curve, with its gothic female vocals, the epic sounding guitars and the way the drums build up the landscape. Following that is Cities Burning Down, which is suitably broody and windswept, although the tune is not quite there. It Ain’t You and Nightingale, while blessed with the beautiful vocals, are hindered by the fact they are mere wisps of tunes. Worse still they hint at an epic beauty that is never reached, like they shot for the stars, but gave up half way there. It’s one time I’m really trying to like an album, especially after the promise of the first two tracks, but struggling to get the band to meet me halfway.
Past the midway point Let’s Be Kids has a shimmering melancholy to it, while Ms. Bell’s Song (Radio Wars Theme) is delightful in its weirdness, starting as a beautiful restrained pop song before descending into futuristic strobes and a hymnal chant. Golden Web is another song revelling in being different to most of the album, the tune clicks along and again the voice is there, sounding ghostly and trading parts of a chorus line with male vocals, the offset making a delightful harmony. Lead single Into The Chaos is the business though, a maelstrom of Throwing Muses style kookiness and gothic beauty. It soars and is the epic they so badly wanted and needed. Digital Hearts is another cracking tune, plinky piano and a much more straight forward tune but one full of cool melodies. How Long concludes proceedings and is mournful and graceful. It’s an album you need to stick with, but it’s worth it if you do.

Radio Wars is released by Independiente on March 2nd. A second single, Cities Burning Down, is out now.
Howling Bells myspace is here

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Voomz – Electronautz

Electronautz is the debut album by American artist Marcelle Dandy aka Voomz. There are thumping drums on opening track At The End Of It All, coy feminine vocals and then a belted out chorus. You can just listen and marvel at the way the verses work up the sultriness before exploding into the chorus. Golden starts almost ethereal before working up a disco beat with sexy innocent vocals, slowing down to work up the passion before pumping it up again. Following that you get Rendezvoom, which is more sultry electro sauce but things are starting to become repetitive somewhat, however if you like this sort of thing you’ll be very happy with this. Wonderland is quite eerie, and reminiscent of Strict Machine era Goldfrapp, a good thing indeed. The vocals are key on this album, evoking most of the mystery and emotions. Doll finds her coming on like an electro Kate Bush, moaning that she wants to be our doll, as galloping beats skip the tune along and the rhythm clatters. My Dear My Sweet My Lover is europop in its upbeat style, but a bit too bland to cut any mustard. Yes Yes Boom Boom is making you wonder whether the dregs are left to last, or whether too much upbeat electro pop is enough. A Dance In The Pond, although having a quickstep quirkiness would seem to confirm the problem but Red Hot is good though, swirly and odd, a real piece of avant garde electro pop.

Electronautz is out now on Voomz own label, StuLover Records
Voomz website is here

Friday, 13 February 2009

The Bishops – If You Leave Today / For Now

If You Leave Today
The Bishops new single, If You Leave Today, is all sixties harmonies, new romantic charms and a big chirpy sing along. The other track, By Your Side, is all handclaps, stern alternative eighties pop like Teardrop Explodes. What you’re left with is a competent, if not terribly exciting single. Which is a shame as its not all bad, but there’s no hook (melodic or otherwise) to hang any love on.

For Now
The Bishops album meanwhile, expands on this. City Lights is a decent chirpy pop song that sounds like its come from the remnants of Brit Pop. Wandering By is more innocent pedestrian pop, decent enough and pleasant on the ear, but not likely to set the world alight. Hold On bursts out the traps, shrugging off anyone getting in the way, a bustling pop tune while Nothing I Can Do Or Say is the statutory slow one, starting off acoustically before getting an inoffensive bounce in its step. But from then on in you know what you’re getting, mainly because its what you’ve got already, a set of half decent tuneful Britpop cast offs. It’s not bad really; just it doesn’t really provoke any emotions in me.

If You Leave Today is released on February 16th by W2 Records, who will then release For Now on 2nd March
The Bishops myspace is here

Saturday, 7 February 2009

Elvis Perkins In Dearland - Elvis Perkins In Dearland

LinkElvis is back with the follow up to Ash Wednesday, this time as part of a band, though from their name it’s quite clear whose band it is. Lead track Shampoo comes across like a folk punk alternate take on Donovan’s Colours. Elvis has one of those strange but effective guttural vocal deliveries, a bit like the other Elvis, Costello that is. This comes across a lot on Hey, a skronky little thing that brings to mind a more zestful Beirut. The pace slows on Hours Last Stand, and the cracked beauty of Elvis’s voice shines through even more. It’s a tune that ebbs and flows ever so slightly, like ripples on the lake’s shore. It vocally reminds me of a more conventional Antony mixed with King Creosote. By the time we reach Send My Fond Regards To Lonelyville we’re still experiencing some lovely keep the homefires burning rustic style folk, but there’s little in the way of dynamics to hold your attention and prevent from the songs starting to just wash over you. I’ll Be Arriving is weird and eerie, like the debt collector trudging through a heavy snowfall to get to your door. The backwoods sound and comforting brass make Chains, Chains, Chains into a heartfelt lament, Doomsday is surprisingly upbeat, almost like a updated polka or something and 123 Goodbye shuffles by like a Fence Collective off cut.

Elvis Perkins In Dearland is released by XL Recordings on April 6th
Elvis Perkins In Dearland myspace is here

Monday Morning Sun – The Usual Mile

From the remnants of Xmas Lights come Monday Morning Sun, an Oxford/London duo with their debut EP. Bad Bones kicks things off with frantic dramatised emergency calls, before dropping some sweeping noises and low bass sounds and slinking into a repetitive groove. Some mysterious electronic vocals kick in for a while, but the relaxed yet unrelenting groove presses on regardless. Around eight minutes you think it’s going to end, as white noise envelopes proceedings, but eventually the beat kicks back in. And on it goes, for just over eleven minutes, although it doesn’t seem overly long. Blind Leading The Blind is springy and initially sounds like a gothic choir chanting over an electronically treated didgeridoo. Doesn’t sound like it should be great, but it works well. Then some doom laden vocals arrive and things plod along somewhat, the music atmospheric and industrial. Never Put A Foot Wrong is a very cyclical sound piece of music, it sounds like it might break of into a jig or reel or even some crazy flamenco. Eventually some very Ian Curtis style sombre vocals arrive, not altering the music one jot. It’s very repetitive music, but wonderfully easy to get lost in their dark world. Smoke And Mirrors starts out suitably hazy and this is the first tune that is rather lacking in dynamics, and at five minutes plus it takes some going. Questions is doomy again, and stomps through the quagmire stalking its prey. The tune sounds like its wearing heavy boots, and squelches electronically. The lyrics are odd intoned stuff about why questioning why and letting sleeping dogs lie. This EP is weird and wonderful and very dark, but ultimately rewarding.

The Usual Mile is self released and out now
Monday Morning Sun myspace is here

It Hugs Back – Inside Your Guitar

The debut album by Kent four piece It Hugs Back starts off with Q, which is some fuzzy folktronica that burbles along gently, then squeals politely into life before getting back to its place. Work Day follows and shows some softly sung shy indie pop, the band no doubt hiding bashfully behind fringes. Don’t Know continues in similar fashion, apart from a pulsating keyboard bit in the middle and some chiming guitars near the end. Forgotten Song is more wistful, breathy modern folk, but with the negligible effect it has on you the title is in danger of becoming apt. Soon is atmospheric more than anything and sounds like static interference with mumbling over the top. Back Down is much better, shambling and fuzzing like a coy very of early Jesus & Mary Chain with the rough edges smoothed off while Remember, although brittle and laid back again, is rather beautiful. There are lots of pregnant pauses to accentuate the emotion in the song. Now + Again is a little shambling delight, Look Out is slow paced, but with a bit more meat on the bones, some nice drones and gentle riffing and finally Rehearsal sounds like just that, a whispered but can’t really be bothered piece. Overall, there are some interesting moments, but a feeling of a potential being unfulfilled.

Inside Your Guitar is released on 4AD on April 6th
It Hugs Back myspace is here

Friday, 6 February 2009

Rachael – I Bet You Like Drugs More Than Sex EP

Next up we have some interesting garage/psych stuff coming out of Poland in the form of the band Rachael’s debut EP. Asian Girl is a scuzzy sleazy track that reminds me of the primitive greasy biker rock that Pop Will Eat Itself were making around the time of Beaver Patrol. Juditha swaggers around but to little or no intent, the baby brother of the lead track and Going Up In Smoke sways about and lurks in the shadows, waiting to unleash its sinister presence on passers by. V66 is an interesting gothic quickstep, but lacks any real punch to bring the point home while All You Need Is Lead is probably the best, stalking the crowd as it does with its downbeat attitude, before revving up and accelerating off into the sunset.

I Bet You Like Drugs More Than Sex EP is available now as a free download from the Rachael myspace

Knight School – The Poor And Needy Need To Party

Brooklyn’s Knight School crack open the CDR wing of Lostmusic Records with their new album. Pregnant Again sees the band shambling around joyfully in an echo chamber while No One Likes Me No More merely shuffles itself around feeling sorry for itself. There may be some vocals on this, but they are that low in the mix they’re practically inaudible. Gordo Got The Part doesn’t do much for me either. Gardeninginginging is better, fuzzy and lo-fi, descending guitar parts and an abrupt stop giving it the feel of some mates recording in their shed. Things get better still as Maggot improves on this too, slumbering geek pop that it is. Head In A Hive is an interesting experimental sub minute squall and Vampire Schampire is mainly one man with guitar, lots of effects and rudimentary percussion. It works pretty well for its stripped back style. Who The Fuck Hung The Moon could be an indie pop classic, it sounds like a lost treasure dug up from the eighties. Crybaby completes a great double whammy with the preceding track, Mother Gas Station could be a nice little acoustic number, but is too lo-fi for its own good while Mrs Tambourine Man is a sweet little shuffly guitar number. You Are The Key is another of the too lo-fi numbers and Oprah is a sweet little harmonic pop thing to round things off nicely.

The Poor And Needy Need To Party is out now on Lostmusic Records
Knight School myspace is here

The Morning Paper – Almost Real / Moscow Olympics – The Farthest City

The fourth single on Lostmusic Records and first split 7” features Sweden’s The Morning Paper and Moscow Olympics from the Philippines. The Morning Paper’s side starts all sombre, like a new romantic version of Joy Division stuck in the greyness Eastern Europe. The vocals, when they arrive, are perfect for the music and waft over the top like the rolling fog over the picturesque highland lake. Moscow Olympics are a bit more of a rather slight shoe gazing style prospect, but the guitars sometimes remind me of the Cure’s more reflective moments. It’s a pleasant enough and rather wistful way to spend five minutes, but the spoils go to The Morning Paper this time.

The single is out now on Lostmusic Records
The Morning Paper myspace is here
Moscow Olympics myspace is here

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Emmy The Great – First Love

Here’s another updated version of folk music for you, with Emmy The Great telling tales with a delicious homely voice. Absentee has the feeling it should be sung in a nice sitting room, or an old pub round a roaring fire. Emmy peaks at just the right moments, and there’s something making a lovely buzz in the background. There are backing vocals or multi tracked vocals that lift it so it hovers above slumbers. 24 starts off about the TV show, but turns into a song about unfulfilled dreams and disappointing men. It is such a basic song, with little instrumentation, yet Emmy’s voice holds you captivated. We Almost Had A Baby skips along in such a way you expect it to turn cartwheels before long. The break in the middle twinkles delightfully and it’s surprisingly upbeat given the subject matter. Easter Parade dispels some myths but in Emmy’s usual charming way, it’s a disarming tactic, and one that you can’t help falling for. And there’s probably a dig at Doherty in the way she reveals there’s no Albion. Dylan skips along nicely, due to some lovely C&W drums and cushioning strings. Drums that sound like waves lapping on the shore and a gently strummed guitar is all we have for Museum Island, but it’s all it needs, leaving us to focus on the sad story and Emmy’s lovely voice. War chirrups along string bound, a distant relative of The Divine Comedy’s Tonight We Fly. In her own sweet way, she takes on the subjects of Hallelujah and MIA over the next couple of songs, fitting them as the central point to hang another relationship song around, because that’s what most of her songs are about, one way or another. We Are Safe positively gallops, the rhythm sounding like stampeding horses while Emmy chirrups delightfully across the top. Everything Reminds Me Of You is the most trad folk track here, with a touch of country heartbreak thrown in for good measure, and it wraps up a tender yet realistic album.

First Love is released by Close Harbour on February 9th
Emmy The Great myspace is here

Erasure – Total Pop! The First Forty Hits

It’s an optimistic band that calls their best of a title like this, just like the band that issues their first best of as Greatest Hits volume 1 and promptly fails to issue a follow up. And Erasure’s classic (and I don’t use that word lightly) pop tunes dried up towards the end of the first disc. Still 17 or 18 cracking pop tunes is a good run by anyone’s standards. You don’t need me to go on about how great Sometimes, Blue Savannah, Stop, A Little Respect, Who Needs Love (Like That) et al are. You really should know by now, and if not then you need this album. Or possibly pick up a copy of Pop! The First Twenty Hits cheap, the album that this is an expansion of. After the big glam electronic pop hits, full of hooks, surging choruses and wonderful melodies the band went a bit more adult and slowed things down. It works alright as we enter the second disc, Always, Run To The Sun and I Love Saturday are all decent but not great. Stay With Me is some sort of lame torch song. The rest is lots of mid tempo balladry, pretty much coffee table music. It’s a shame this is what’s happened to Erasure, but everyone gets older and loses their vim and vigour. It’s still worth purchasing this for disc one though.

Total Pop! The First Forty Hits is released by Mute on 23rd February
Erasure's website is here

Ivan Campo - << Super 7 >>

The Ivan Campo in this case is not the oddly haired footballer, but actually a folk pop combo delivering their new EP.
The Great Procrastinator is a sweet little minimal folk number, which is followed by Lotus Eater, which raises the tempo slightly, but the tone is still relaxed. The singer has the voice of a grubby little urchin, endearing yet unkempt. Lotus Eater reminds me of one of the Kooks more downbeat numbers, but without being irritating. The Curse and Rat Race sees the band dispensing what they seem to be experts in, frayed around the edges folk pop gems in two minutes. The Curse has the Bon Iver backwoods vibe to it, while Darling Diva is particularly lovely, a sumptuous pop song with gorgeous backing vocals and some cool beeping. After The Girl I Think I Thought I Saw the EP finishes on the twinkling beauty of The B&B. Marvellous stuff indeed.

Super 7 is self released on March 30th
Ivan Campo website and myspace