Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Ash Verjee – Lavinia Lives

To follow up the I’m Sorry, I’m Lost album and Kamikaze Eyes EP, Oxfordshire based musician Ash Verjee self releases the Lavinia Lives single. It starts with a guitar and birds tweeting and then the maudlin strings float over the top. Then the female voice comes in, soon joined by a cascade of voices as the music gets even more ethereal. It could be Clannad collaborating with Imogen Heap. Finally things drop out of the swell for a sunrise of a chorus while swathes of sunlight cover the scenery. Falling Out Of Love starts with electronic shards, before the voice is back intoning robotically like Neil Tenant and then settles into a very Dubstar like repetitive rhythm and melody.

Check back to Ash's myspace for release dates

Monday, 30 March 2009

The Follys – Maps To Nowhere EP

Trev and his Follys are back are by god does he mean it. Hostile Town rocks like a good ‘un and Trev is nearly snarling and spitting the lyrics out. He’s a decent singer but this style suits him much better, it’s primal garage rock with a sweet chorus. Maps To Nowhere has a lovely spindly guitar line, reminding me of the ramshackle sweetness of Orange Juice and the staggering confidence of Eat. Don’t Let Them Down is further evidence of The Follys coming together as a band. It reminds me of those great indie bands of the early nineties, The Family Cat and the like. Thinking of You is a crashing end to the EP, the instruments assaulting your senses in constant piercing movements.

Maps To Nowhere EP is out now and available direct from The Follys myspace, which is here

Freeland – Under Control

Here is another one of the sub LCD Soundsystem and Calvin Harris acts that seem to be popping up nowadays. Except Adam Freeland has been around for ages, so the need to start doing this seems all the more odd. Having said that, I’m not familiar with his previous output and maybe he’s been doing this stuff all along. If he has he ought to be better at it by now.

Under Control is out now on Marine Parade
Freeland myspace is here

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Allison Weiss - Allison Weiss & The Way She Likes It

Allison is certainly productive, I’ll give her that. This is her fifth release in two years but the first with the full band. I’m Ready is jaunty and light of touch, sweet pop music, but with a nice edge to take the saccharine off. On I Don’t Want To Be Here you can imagine her twirling around in a field, set free from all constraints. The End is beautiful, a really sparse little tune, whimsical, pretty much her and her guitar while Let Me Go is good but a little too throwaway. The Disappearing Act is indie pop country, a nice little tune with some sweet vocals and Daybreak is a drawn out ballad to close proceedings.

Allison Weiss & The Way She Likes It is self released and out now
Allison Weiss myspace is here

Forever – Forever

Out of the ashes of Me And My Arrow come the band Forever, who reside in Portland and seem to have very little web presence. Their debut EP kicks off with Oh Distant Heart, a song that has a very rough around the edges, rattling Sons & Daughters feel to it. Something’s Missing also hurtles along at a hundred miles an hour, sounding like a speeded up Helen Love. By Tumbleweed things are getting a little samey, but it picks up on You Don’t Care, where a rumbling Joy Division tune propels some yelled riot grrl influenced vocals. And that’s it, in a blur, six tracks and fifteen minutes they are gone.

Forever is out now on Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Video Nasties – On All Fours

HNB kicks things off on Video Nasties debut album like a Tasmanian Devil, the singer screaming ineffectually like a man drowning in quicksand. New single Jellybean is a stroppy, petulant thing, the Hives elegance crossed with Vines youthful exuberance. Old Flowers reminds me of the Darklands inhabited by the Mary Chain while Conversation Dies is spirited new fashioned rock, but nothing too great. Albatross however is back to their scuzzy best, snarling and snapping at every one in its vicinity. Stay Home makes me think of Razorlight sadly, but as this one has balls and bite it’s actually a very good thing. Kaiser is a decent rumbling tune, like the Fall on speed while Teenage Celebration is a slaughtered seven minute epic, guitars spiralling away as the singer struggles to keep going and things descend into a messy business indeed. It’s how good debut albums should sound; a bit all over the place as the band finds their sound and feet. The sheer enthusiasm cannot be faulted however, and you’ll find plenty of reasons here to stick with them.

On All Fours is out on Dead Again Records on 13th April, preceded by the single Jellybean on 23rd March
Video Nasties myspace is here

Je Suis Animal – Fortune Map

The first single following Oslo based Je Suis Animal’s debut album starts with some girl group echo chambered vocals before the chinging guitar comes in. It reminds me a bit of the Flatmates, while the vocals are at times closer to Miki from Lush. Guitars spiral towards the heavens, then drop out leaving the vocals in an indie gothic expanse. It’s good, but pretty derivative.

Fortune Map is released by Lucky Number Nine Records on April 6th
Je Suis Animal myspace is here

Saturday, 21 March 2009

NME Awards Tour - Oxford Academy - 17.02.09

Here is an unedited version of something from the March issue (no. 164) of Nightshift, which you should go and have a read of here

I really should know better than to trust the NME’s opinion on things by now. Two years ago I went to the Indie Rave leg of these tours and was shocked just how bad The Klaxons, CSS (a good band normally) and some others whose names escape me, actually were. Tonight is better, but still not the amazing showcase you would hope for.
Firstly take White Lies and Friendly Fires. Please. If this is what passes for the best nowadays I fear for the bands who weren’t good enough. White Lies don’t help their cause by having a singer who bellows like a donkey caught in an animal trap. This combined with some fey eighties industrial greyness makes for an unholy combination. One song sounds like Love Will Tear Us Apart played badly, others are sub-Editors dullness. Their best moment is when a gay disco beat unexpectedly intrudes half way through the last song, but even that can’t save them.
Friendly Fires start promisingly with Lovesick, all bubbling beats, jungle rhythms, yawning vocals, and a whole lot of Rapture. Thereafter the law of diminishing returns applies as they play what appears to be the same song over and over, making the next forty minutes seem the longest of my life.
Before both of these we at least get Florence & The Machine. Florence knows how to work an audience, and doesn’t need any tricks to do it. She just struts around with her kooky imposing stature. It’s a bit disconcerting just how much louder her band is than the others, this is a band featuring a harp after all, but the songs still come through. The singles are the stand outs, Kiss With A Fist with all its resigned brutality and the crystalline beauty of Dog Days Are Over. New song Ghosts is another to remember, it’s pummelling drums which threaten to blow your brains out, making it, in Florence’s words, perfect headbanging material. As their set comes to a close I’m ruing the queueing problems that caused me to miss the start of their set.
From first to last and Glasvegas prove themselves worthy headliners, being head and shoulders the best thing tonight. They know how to make an entrance, unleashing Geraldine right at the start. This is how great stadium rock could sound in the right hands as the band threaten to surge the song right through the roof. Two things seem key to Glasvegas greatness. The rudimentary drumming, standing up and with half a kit, is perfect for the band. Less is often far more. They also manage to pick up the baton from the Jesus and Mary Chain and take the fuzzed up Spector-ish Wall of Sound one step further, a feat they do best on It's My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry. Flowers and Football Tops, while not as epic as on record, does at least have a maudlin/epic refrain of You Are My Sunshine, while Go Square Go is a barrelling fight club style song, and contains a “here we fucking go” chant. It’s another Glasvegas trick, if the obvious works, may as well use it. The set ends with a cracking version of Daddy’s Gone, again making a sad tale sound optimistic. And for that we should be grateful.

Ane Brun – Changing Of The Seasons

It’s Ane’s curiously kooky and other worldly voice that evokes her native Norway and sets her apart from other singer songwriters. Single and lead track The Treehouse Song is midway between Dolly Parton and Vashti Bunyan, and has a catchy chorus of shattered dreams. With The Fall I’m starting to think of the way Kristin Hersh used to wrap her tongue round some lyrics producing the most interesting vocals with fairy tale music. The Puzzle is a whirlwind of emotions, the calm subsiding and giving way to a frenetic chorus, as Ane runs away from some mythical beast. Musically not lyrically you know. Ten Seconds is another treasure, lifted now and again by booming and twinkling percussion and deep male voices, as Ane scatters her sparkles over the top. Lullaby For Grown-Ups is a calm, barely there piano tune, which sits beautifully with her vocals while Armour is a woozy Baltic waltz. I love the song Gillian, there’s no fancy flourishes or touches, its just a simple tune and Ane’s beautiful voice. The bonus tracks are two covers, her better than the original versions of True Colours and Big In Japan. The former is fairly faithful, the latter stripped back and made her own, both are wonderful.

Changing Of The Seasons is out now on Balloon Ranger Recordings/DetErMine Records
Ane Brun myspace is here

The Grave Architects – Highway Be True / Love TBC

The sound of America is prevalent on the debut release from The Grave Architects, a band from London via Nottingham. Highway Be True is a nice enough little trucking number, but seems to be trying a little too hard to do something that’s not natural. You can sense the awkwardness in their delivery, but this may well smooth out with time. It is mainly the vocals, as the guitar and especially the drums sound quite at home. Love TBC is much better, closer to their beloved Jonathan Richman, coupled with a curiously affecting sixties schmaltz middle and peak period Lemonheads ending. Great stuff.

Highway Be True / Love TBC is released on Fortuna Pop! on March 30th
The Grave Architects myspace is here

Fredo Viola – The Turn

The title and opening track of Fredo’s debut album is a barbershop elegy, where Fredo appears to be singing in tongues at times, at other times his voice breaks free of the murk. It’s a weird downbeat opening, but a very intriguing one with a breakout seaside ending. The Sad Song is the first thing to show why he’s been getting comparisons with Sigur Ros, yet it still manages to sound like a man drowning in a maelstrom of despair. Friendship Is… is Super Furry Animals on demo mode, Red States again has the Furries other worldly charm, but is lacking something of an edge while The Original Man is a quick stepping nimble rambler, a bit like T Rex referencing movie stars. Robinson Crusoe bleeps in all the right places and sounds like a paean to floating in space with the Beach Boys. With K Thru 6 and Moon After Berceuse things lose their way a bit, as they are two rambling half thought out pieces. Puss is dreamy psychedelic Beach Boys music, Death Of A Son comes on like an aboriginal rain dance and although Umbrella noodles the album to an end, it can’t take away from such a rich and varied album.

The Turn is out now on Because Music
Fredo Viola myspace is here

Si Jubb – Demonstration EP

Oh dear. State Of My Union is like a poor man’s Billy Bragg, with nothing to say, little charm and far more discordant. Malarkey is more of the same, much supposed bile but little direction. And so on and so on, through another couple of tracks, the slower but decidedly more moany sounding Dear Friend Of Mine and the drunken piss stained waltz of Her Indoors. So there you have it, and it’s far from being the most charming EP you’ll come across.

Demonstration EP is out now on Pink Hedgehog
Si Jubb myspace is here

The Felt Tips – Bought And Sold

Although the title track of this single is a lovely bouncy summery pop tune, the singer isn’t sure where to pitch his voice. That or its not his strongest suit and he’s holding himself back. Either way it detracts a bit from the overall tune, a more upfront vocal would have been more befitting of this melody. While The Love That Never Spoke It’s Name suffers a little from the same fate, the tune sways enough to take precedence, there’s some lovely lyrical repetition and some upbeat strumming. The One Who Got Away is a galloping melody, with the singer struggling to keep up with the cracking music. Hopefully things will fall into place, because there’s a great band hiding in here.

Bought And Sold is out now on Wee Pop! Records
The Felt Tips myspace is here

The Just Joans – Love And Other Hideous Accidents

Ah that beautiful Scottish accent again, so rough and yet so sweet and lovely. The new Just Joans EP kicks off with I Won’t Survive, which is the anti Gloria Gaynor. It has an odd pulsing disco beat, some syncopated Jamaican rhythms and a shuffling Orange Juice guitar line. Weird yet wonderful. Hideous Accident is a tear jerking maudlin ballad, just like Ballboy make while Teenage Tears see female vocals, a missive from the lonely bedroom years and a heartbreaking tune. If You Don’t Pull is a bit too amateurish and ramshackle for my tastes unfortunately. It picks up again with Let’s Not Keep In Touch, which reminds me of Arab Strap if fronted by a girl, the tone and lyrical content are that sombre. Overblown Gestures bobs along like a drowning man and Almost Out Of Love sounds like the end of a clown/circus affair, it sways and staggers weirdly.

Love And Other Hideous Accidents is out now on Wee Pop! Records
The Just Joans myspace is here

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Mexican Kids At Home – Recycled Songs For A Happy Environment

A new Mexican Kids At Home EP begins with The Canal Swan Song, which is a silly little nursery rhyme thing played on primitive instruments and is rather good for it. No Eyed Deers features tweedly keyboards and indie punk guitar stabs, with a shambling Wreckless Eric spirit. One Day Older Than Today is sawing indie folk; it’s a lovely campfire singalong. Animal Shells is banjo time, circulating banjos providing a spiky bed for some sweet boy/girl vocals. It never comes to winsome, but just wonderfully affecting. Mexican Kids At Home evidently have many strings to their bow, so they should be treasured and followed avidly.

Recycled Songs For A Happy Environment is out now on Wee Pop! Records
Mexican Kids At Home myspace is here

Monday, 16 March 2009

Godsmania – Tyre Kicker EP

The Godsmania EP is the first release on indie label Spanner Records. Lead track Thanks But No Thanks is a neat little shambling indie pop tune, but overly fey and a bit too lo fi for me. Don’t Go is a bit better, the lo-fi used to good affect with some warm vocals and a chugging tune. Going To Be Blue has a nicely picked out tune, and a croon in the style of Edwyn Collins, marking it out as the best track so far. Lost In You sees Ben consolidating things, a neat little stroll of a tune, a bit like Jonathan Richman. Finally we have All Gone Wrong Today; a nice jangler has little of substance.

Tyre Kicker EP is out now on Spanner Records
Godsmania myspace is here

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Heritage Centre – The City, The Tree and The Fox EP

The debut EP from Dublin’s Heritage Centre will have you pondering how they can make their vocals sound slurred yet also crisp and even. I still haven’t worked it out, but Heritage Centre manage it on You Are Something. It’s also a bumptious, joyous pop thing, full of the joys of spring and summer. It’s reminiscent of the American collegiate rock, the stuff with the West Coast wind in its hair. Then you get Death By Science bustling out the traps, pinging itself around the dancefloor. Losing Touch is a tad sluggish, but makes me think of Pavement with the rough edges planed off while Stars is far more boisterous than anything that’s come before, a ballsy rocker and a staggering wave of plume. Somehow I Feel Cheated is a languid Ben Kweller fronting Weezer and Your Leaders Are Dead is a slacker pop venting of all their frustrations and a mighty fine end to the EP. Heritage Centre turn this way and that throughout the EP, keeping you on your toes and for that we should applaud them.

The City, The Tree and The Fox EP is out now and available from the band's myspace

Kids Love Lies – Count In My Head

Count In My Head is Kids Love Lies debut single. On the title track Ellen’s vocals can be a little Kate Nash at times but the song is spirited enough to pull it off. It’s a nimble little number, all cowbell, shuffling rhythms and jerking movements. This may make it sound like any other band nowadays, but think of those things being used in a good, fun way with little care for success and you’ll be near to their sound. Fight Face continues the same formula, but with diminishing returns, while Perfection in its Acoustic Mix works pretty well. It sounds like some weird, wired folksters cranking out their psychosis. Cracking yelps too.

Count In My Head is out on Cherryade Records on 13th April
Kids Love Lies myspace is here

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

The Very Most – Spring

After a couple of albums for other labels, Idaho’s The Very Most release their debut EP for Indiecater Records. As you may have already guessed, it’s the first of four EPs to come out through 2009. Lead track Today It Is Even Better skips along, a lovely guitar happy pop tune, shimmering tambourines and girly backing vocals helping things by. April Is The Kindest Month is a twinkling hippy dream, with dreamy vocals reminiscent of Ooberman. The Only Pretty Ring Time squelches and huffs like an electronic recording of a steam train, while some gentle twinkling vocals add a gloss as the tune skips along down the track. Finally A Two Week, Springtime, 7th Grade “Romance” is a delightful bucolic instrumental ramble and a fitting close to a fine EP

Spring is out now on Indiecater Records
The Very Most myspace is here

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Polly Scattergood - Polly Scattergood

Here we have the debut album by Polly Scattergood, a mere 21 year old from just outside of Colchester.
Lead track I Hate The Way is a less kooky Bjork, spooky and breathy. Her singing voice also has the drama of Kate Bush. These are obvious reference points perhaps, but accurate ones. After about three minutes of a spookily slow build the drums start pushing the tune higher and lifting it from its beautiful slumbers. It’s quite gorgeous despite never going anywhere until the crazy psychosis ending.
There follows Other Too Endless which reminds me of the disturbed drama of Bellatrix and their off kilter pop. Untitled 27 is a fairly paint by numbers mysterious mood piece while Please Don’t Touch is better, a catchy if fairly straightforward kook pop number. I Am Strong is electro pop lite, it’s a decent tune but there’s nothing that grabs hold of you. Unforgiving Arms is similarly MOR, and the formula is starting to wear thin. After the shock of the opening track it appears the ideas were few and far between.
But then we get Poem Song, much more interesting, a sparse piano line and some interference holding up a distraught and wonderfully played vocal. Bunny Club continues the upturn in fortunes of the album, an innocent twee little electro nursery rhyme. Recent single Nitrogen Pink finds Polly sounding very like Bjork again, as a raging song with mad fiddles and the like powers away in the background. Breathe In Breathe Out sees the vocal comparison continue, but this time on a quite affecting minimalist emotional piece. Polly’s made a decent album, one that would be all the better for the removal of the mid section, but there’s enough here to keep you happy.

Polly Scattergood is out on Mute now
Polly Scattergood's myspace is here

Friday, 6 March 2009

The Bicycles – Oh No It’s Love

The second album is from Toronto’s The Bicycles is full of lots of sixties style beat pop, pure and simple. There are no big thrills but plenty of fun. However when they do veer from type it when the album finds its most interesting moments, such as these; Won’t She Be Surprised is like a streamlined Go Team, with cheerleader chants, electro popping and a sweet tune. One Twist Too Much is highly melodic sixties pop which male vocals, while I’ll Wait For You, with Dana Singing, is a stroll along the river. Once Was Not Enough is a bit of a jumbled mess of ideas whilst Roland and Green Light are both slices are upbeat bouncy pop. Walk Away squirts by Stereolab like and Stop Calling Me Baby has a clich├ęd country feel to it. So while it’s good stuff, a little more experimentation will reap better results.

Oh No It’s Love is out now on Fuzzy Logic Recordings
The Bicycles myspace is here

Peter Project – Peter Project

Founding member of Toronto’s The Midways, Peter Chapman releases his third album as Peter Project. Fair and Square is replete with pulsing electro beats and TV evangelical preacher style vocals low in the mix. Repetitive Stress Injury, finds a small Mission Impossible bit, some old skool scratching and some sublime rapping to give us the kind of laid back style that was prevalent in the Daisy Age. The Same Obnoxious Tie is a chilling instrumental that sounds like it should be the theme for some seventies murder mystery cop and robbers program, while Septal Defect is a nice mysterious slinky thing, with sampled news bits. So Hard To Catch starts off reminding me of The Avalanches Frontier Psychiatrist, then drops some neat relaxed rhymes, then slips back into the former. Weird stuff indeed. The Golden Trumpet is Kid Koala unveiling his hitherto unknown hip hop slant. Ok? Ok, another instrumental is a soft shoe shuffle, but the ideas are starting to wear thin. Man At His Leisure sounds an apt title for the effort showing. Take The Time is the most commercial thing here, veering dangerously close to R&B in the female hip hop vibe while Turn It Down is a vocal sample laden slinky groove. It’s a good album, if a little overlong, stretching the ideas too far.

Peter Project is out now on Fuzzy Logic Recordings
Peter Project myspace is here

Wake The President – You Can’t Change That Boy

I’m a sucker for a Scottish accent, so I’m chuffed to hear the singing start on Something To Turn Up, the lead track on the debut album from Wake The President. It starts a little like Roddy Woomble’s folk stuff before slipping into some dream pop. Professor unleashes its inner indie pop rock out beast before becoming some lovely melodic fully formed indie pop. Not a bad feat in the space of one tune. Mail Alice kicks off with some tub thumping upbeat Celtic pop while Miss Tierney is a rabble rousing highly melodic thing. On hearing this I’m reminded a bit of the Go-Betweens way round a tune. Wake is beautiful, like a misty morning setting sail across the sea. The title track and Remember Fun? are slices of more fully formed classic Postcard pop. Give Me Two Secs is more Celtic folky stuff, with an element of a more upbeat Arab Strap thrown in. A&E is a suitably maudlin epic tale, sweetly and softly sung to conclude the album.

You Can’t Change That Boy is released by Electric Honey Records on March 9th
Wake The President myspace is here

Suburban Kids With Biblical Names – 4

Finally the fourth release from Sweden’s Suburban Kids With Biblical Names arrives, following their album of 2005. 1999 begins proceedings and has the pleasant chirpiness of Jens Lekman with loads of bells and whistles and squeaks. It has a very thin eighties electro sound to it, but is inordinately catchy. Studenter Pa Flak is shuffling shy indie boy pop that bubbles infectiously, Europa makes me think of Lemon Jelly and their sweet chill out tracks and World Music is African rhythmically, and very fluffy. It has some nice boy/girl vocals but is a bit too light. Overall though, it’s another fine EP.

4 is out now on Labrador Records
Suburban Kids With Biblical Names myspace is here