Monday, 29 June 2009

Julius – Shepherdess

The new album from Julius, aka Matt Adams is a mammoth twenty track affair, and at times the strain does begin to show. It starts with Jane Eyre a hypnotically charmed instrumentally, slightly medieval, but infinitely bucolic. The title track tinkles by, Matt sounding like an old sage in a hippyish surrounding, holding court. Wandering would hold up well with much of Iron & Wine’s stuff, although Matt’s voice has an incredible warble, wavering delightfully all over the place. Tread Lightly is expertly picked wandering minstrel time, while Instant Start is a clockwork pub singalong, open fires and arran sweaters all round. Bees whirrs and clicks and sparkles and is a backwoods delight, bright and breezy and clappy. Anne Frank is another sumptuously picked out melody, gentle and sweet. Although we’re barely half way through, I’m wondering if something so lovely but consistent can sustain over the album, without getting repetitive or boring. Road is making me have these doubts. Things improve with My Lovely Boy, a sweet lolloping thing, like sitting by a gently rushing stream in the woods. Dark Days is a hand wringing Bon Iver spiritual, A Man Alive is a brittle wee thing and then the cyclic folk of Separate ends the album. There are some great moments here, but you may want to be selective and cut it down to half of this. Not that there’s anything poor, its just similarity breeds contempt.

You can download the album for free from his myspace

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Night’s Bright Colors – Late Night By Lamplight

This is the companion disc to last years First Set Fire To The Stars, from Night’s Bright Colours, aka Jason Smith from Asheville, NC. Blush is a cute little wistful start to the album, like a sweet little thing from Badly Drawn Boy’s debut. The Popular Girl is shuffling indie pop, a gorgeous little melody and some aching vocals, while Liar’s Tears is in a sumptuous, near comatose vibe, relaxing and soothing. After the delightful tinkling of the title track, we get Minor Love Story a heartfelt ballad of total warmth and gorgeousness. Next is the brief twinkling medieval Shining Moment before Turn Your Thoughts delivers a cute little strumalong. Light Sleeper is a drag your heels, but act all cool Badly Drawn Boy sweet fest and Kiss Kiss Oh is a shuffling piece of sweet pop like Elliot Smith used to make. After the slightly more upbeat Parry The Wind, we get the gorgeous stand out track Bottle Scars. It has delightful finger picked guitars and whispered vocals, its Simon & Garfunkel updated with tender care. Late Night is a satisfied but world weary sigh, which closes a fine album.

Late Night By Lamplight is self released and available as a free download from the band's website

Monday, 22 June 2009

Martin Carr – Ye Gods (and little fishes)

Ye Gods finds Martin back on the pop form of yore. With a slightly nasal vocal style, a bit like Tim Burgess, Dead Of Winter harks back to the summery guitar pop with added brass of the Boo Radleys. The vocal comparison is still there on Darwin’s Tree, but the music is spaghetti western with a mariachi influence. Its sublime stuff and works much better. Bear Lake is more laid back beatifications, verging on the country, certainly taking in the pastoral. Pontcanna Stone is a reflective and not a little doomy rumination, the tune rolling on at dawdling pace, taking its time, like the clouds moving in to herald an impending storm. Goldrush ’49 is a suitable updating of Neil Young’s acoustic vibe, with Martin managing to sound even sadder than on the rest of the album. The song is soothed by a gospel hearted spirit and erupts into an ending of grinding guitars and spiritual rendering to California. Orpheus Lament is a standard but highly melodic and catchy pop song. Running is a gorgeous thing, the sound of someone satisfied with his lot and content to make the best of it. The tune glides by effortlessly and you think of him singing this in his garden, a man finally at home. Why You Gotta Bring Me All This Rain sounds note perfect for something Idha would have recorded in the nineties, while Tired and Broke and Black and Blue is a dark version of The Charlatans at their balladeering and acoustic best. The rousing catchy pop of The Golden Key rounds off a rather splendid album.

Ye Gods (and little fishes) is out soon on Sonny Boy Records
Martin Carr's website is here

Amida – If The Wave Loves Two Suns

Manchester’s Amida issue a new EP through Wee Pop!, their second so far. Lead track These Are Golden Times reminds me of Bizarro era Wedding Present, but slightly feyer and a bit too mumbled. There’s a good meandering song waiting to push through, but it’s all a bit too murky. Weather follows in a similar vein, if a little less dramatic. There are some lovely tinkling melodies, but little of substance. You’ve Changed, Baby Girl is much better, far more strident and sounding like BMX Bandits doing their best Jonathan Richman thing. The pleasant alt Pavement stroll of Miho rounds things off on an EP which didn’t promise a lot, but got progressively better.

If The Wave Loves Two Suns is out now on Wee Pop! Records
Amida myspace is here

Marshmallow Coast – Phreak Phantasy

Phreak Phantasy is the work of ex-Of Montreal man Andy Gonzales. Nasty Dream is a springy, sproingy little funked up piece of dream pop that noodles along pleasantly until some crazy funk guitar soloing at the end. Millionaire is a brief excursion into chilled dream mood, while Hanging On A Cloud is very eighties, burbling synths making it sound like a nippy China Crisis. Please Don’t is nimble and disco expressive, with that early eighties tilt. It squirms and slivers around the dancefloor. After the interlude of Electro March, we’re back to business as usual with Scathom. Sara’s Song slows things down a little, a chilled out groove, its electro glide with added squelches and a lovelorn lyric. Lonely Days is self satisfied bouncy Phoenix style pop, but the trick is proving a little tiresome by now. The title track takes a little of the Thriller rhythm, song nifty popping keyboards and some weird noises and samples thrown into the mix willy nilly, only making way for the sparse lyrics. It’s a suitably odd ending to a weird yet wonderful album.

Phreak Phantasy is out now on Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records
Marshmallow Coast myspace is here

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Golau Glau – Soft Silver Young

Above the shuffling, tinny rhythm of Soft Silver Young float some ethereally twee vocals. The whole thing sounds like an elegiac hymnal, which is unsurprising when you establish the song is about the family who jumped off Beachy Head recently with their already passed infant son. Therefore the song sounds suitably sad, but also hopeful, as if problems are alleviated and they’re in a better place. Heartland Half Seizure has keyboards that sound like desperate wastelands, while two lost and confused young girls sing a hypnotic nursery rhyme. Its weird, yet affecting and helps make a rather fine single.

Soft Silver Young is released as a free download on Oddnet on July 1st. You'll find it here
Golau Glau myspace is here

The Humms – Are You Dead?

The Humms are another great band from Athens, Georgia. The title track on this EP is basic rock n roll chords and a ghost train heart. It carries a flick knife and is destined for a rumble on the wrong side of the tracks. Think of the way the Raveonettes drew on the fifties and you have a similar idea, but not as close to plagiarism as that band. Do The Graverobber! Is The Darling Buds scuzzed up, looking mean and dirty, while LSD Is Evil is Hank Williams via The Meteors, a rockabilly country rout. The only slight disappointment is No One Wants To Be Alone On Valentine’s Day, which is McFly versus BMX Bandits, a nice enough tune, if a little too sickly for my tastes.

Are You Dead? is out now on Odd Box Records
The Humms myspace is here

Friday, 19 June 2009

The Crack Babies – Smoking At Gas Stations

Smoking At Gas Stations is a reissue of an old Lostmusic Recordings release. Shine is scuzzy Jesus And Mary Chain without the style or panache, the vocals recorded in a muffled echo chamber. All style, no content. America takes the lead track and turns it into a deathly dirge, which is hardly covered up by the squall of feedback. It so desperately wants to be the early Mary Chain, but doesn’t have a clue. Honey Believer is slightly better, but frail and spindly like their legs in their drainpipe jeans. Pretty drops the feedback and reveals very little left. The rest of the EP brings it the noise back, but isn’t very exciting.

Smoking At Gas Stations is out now on Odd Box Records

Pinkshinyultrablast – Happy Songs For Happy Zombies

Russian band Pinkshinyultrablast provide the third release on Odd Box Records. Blaster is run of the mill effects drenched shoegazing, never really going anywhere, but fans of drone rock will take to it. Deerland is a bit better, sprightlier and with wispy female vocals floating above. It also dares to rock out and change pace at times, keeping you entranced. Honeybee falls somewhere between the two pace wise, but fails to have much impression on me. Ode To Godzilla wraps things up, a mysterious surf pop tune drenched with the Dinosaur Jr guitars and effects, but with again a shoegazing vibe.

Happy Songs For Happy Zombies is out now on Odd Box Records
Pinkshinyultrablast myspace is here

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Casper & The Cookies – Modern Silence

Athens, Georgia’s Casper & The Cookies return with their fourth album, and a cracker it is too. It starts with Little King, all big smiley pop in the manner of The Shins. It wavers for respite and then pops back up like a rejuvenated jogger, all psyched up and ready to go. You Love Me starts off chugging along unassumedly, before breaking out and going all Musical on us, and then back to its former trance like state. Maybe it’s because of the surprise that the groove makes more sense after the freak out. It then squirms and high kicks to a fitting close. Pete Erchick Bicentennial Service Area is just plain weird, hyperventilating backing vocals; female strident lead vocals and shonky jerk pop rhythms. Sharp! combines kids TV themes, jittering rhythms and preppy vocals, while Little Lady Larva combines sixties pop with a light version of Siouxsie Sioux and some screaming. Cloud Of Bees is a dream of something beautiful, a gorgeous little number, wistful and other worldly, Moldy Flower is dirty in contrast and at times, a balls out rocker while New Day Zero is again channelling the Shins and Nada Surf for some blissful Cali pop. Keep Talking is Ben Folds kind of wonderful, Sunshine Girl is Gorillaz gospel and Eulogy For Marcel Marsalis is ELO style blue sky. I Am Happy is on an astral plane, drifting blissfully in its own world. All manner of weirdness closes the album in the fifteen minute I Am Gone, suitably for such an eclectic and interesting album.

Modern Silence is out now on Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records
Casper & The Cookies website is here

The Funeral Suits – Eye Spy EP

The second EP from The Funeral Suits begins with Start Of The End, which starts all subdued, edging its way in before exploding into a maelstrom of crazed vocals and a storm of instruments. The drums lead a way through the electrical storm and what’s left is something akin to a melodic thrash. Helsinki is much more formulaic, hurtling skinny guitars and yelping vocals. Like the Wombats and their ilk, its good, but been done before. Dani Is Karl rumbles away like a good ‘un and is a mysteriously spooked piece of dark rock. Acidhappy takes a better turn, going all backwoods on us, being a lovely folk thing with a fuzzy background noise. If you love any of the new breed of ‘back to the earth’ bands, you’ll love this track.

Eye Spy EP is self released and out now.
The Funeral Suits myspace is here

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Compute – This

Reminds Me Of You is a twiddly bit of icy electro pop, and a gentle way to ease yourself into the first Compute full length, This. All The Things I Swore I’d Never Be is whip crack smart, part industrial light era Depeche Mode, part dramatic eighties girl singer pop. Rushing, Slowing Down is wonderful spook pop, the thwacking electronic beat and rumble coupled with a Hazel O’Connor shriek. All Walk By has elements of the electro Altered Images of early Compute, but with a glacial sweeping landscaping, while A Matter Of Patience threatens to start off like a computer game soundtrack, before embarking on a gorgeous melody reminiscent of one of OMD’s big brash hits. Between all this, the tune hurtles along, like a headrush in an ecstatic discotheque. Over And Over uses a minimal tune to bring the heartbreak; there are beeps of life support, twinkles of light, but mainly a dark despair. Its one that offsets the upbeat nature of the rest of the album well. Words has what can be described as an electro reggae beat. It’s rather beautiful, but a little lacking in substance and doesn’t really get going. More of a feeling than a song, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Better Ways starts like a broken ice cream van tune, before gliding effortlessly into a beauteous study of icy cool. It’s like the Pet Shop Boys cooler female sibling, who’s been inspired by them and come up with a wonderful end product. The Dream closes proceedings with a mysterious tune and an over excited vocal, words spilling from her mouth at ten to the dozen and sounding like a wondrous Bjork. It’s a lovely way to end such a good album.

This is out now on Distortion Girl Recordings and is available to purchase from the Compute myspace

Withered Hand – You’re Not Alone EP

No Cigarettes is a delightfully whimsical opener to this EP, the vocals are winsome and fragile, while the music is gentle piano and guitar. It’s something you imagine cropping up on recent releases by Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes, it’s that lovely. Over an opening beat from an old Pong machine, the lyrics of Oldsmobile Car arrive, recorded in a cupboard while the guitar tries to keep up. Rumbly drums and percussion pop in to round things out a bit, before the game machine is unleashed again for the bridge. When the song comes back in, its like a backwater pub singalong, you only wish the vocals were a bit clearer. Big Ten Four (Paul’s Song) is back to the feel of the opener, but more maudlin, the cracked vocal and piano leaving you heartbroken. Imagine Wayne Coyne singing alt country. R U Courageous is even more brittle, the melodies on the chorus making you think of a family fighting back the tears at a wake. That doesn’t sound like a compliment, but it’s that emotional it’s certainly meant as one. It’s a great end to a lovely downbeat EP.

You’re Not Alone EP is out now on SL Records
Withered Hand myspace is here

Cause Co-Motion! – Because Because Because EP

The new 12” EP from Cause Co-Motion! kicks off with And You Wonder, which is a rickety little thing, like the Pooh Sticks with Duglas from BMX Bandits on vocals. Is What You Say What You Mean? is indie rockabilly, rolling weedy military drums and a spindly guitar line in drainpipe jeans. It’s Time! reminds me of the cute ramshackle mess of early Soup Dragons, while I love the way the guitar on the title track chk chks along, while the singer goes for a croon that misses by a mile, but somehow it comes off as something else entirely. Leave It All sounds like the shambling sound of the mid eighties, a perfect copy in fact. You Lose is a bit more murky and downbeat, it’s almost a neat little instrumental, with what vocals there are sounding just like a gentle feedback overlay.

Because Because Because EP is out now on Slumberland Records
Cause Co-Motion! myspace is here

Monday, 15 June 2009

Bricolage – Bricolage

Bayonets kicks off the debut album from Bricolage sounding like a joyous version of The Wedding Present, the rattling guitars are present and correct, yet the vocals sound more euphoric, without being deliberately so. The song has an infectious melody that can’t help to get your feet moving and you singing along. Flowers Of Deceit reminds me a bit of The Chesterfields, that clipped singing, chirpy guitars and fey, fun tune. Footsteps is a calypso led Orange Juice, while The Spoilsport’s Retort is The Strokes gone indie pop, a particularly askew version of pop, but a very good one. Looting Takes The Waiting Out Of Wanting has some lovely harmonies, an upbeat tune in the manner of The Jam and a smile on its face. Turn U Over reminds me of Dogs Die In Hot Cars and their cool white boy soul. Sixth Form Poet makes me think of The Strokes again, with a guitar line that’s almost Lust For Life and some mumbly vocals. On The Omnibuses is ridiculously catchy, while Sleepwalk To Me lives up to its name, a gorgeous slow song. The giddy whirl of The Waltzers ties things up, a hazy swirl and yet another infectious melody.

Bricolage is out now on Slumberland Records
Bricolage myspace is here

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Dinosaur Jr – Farm

The second album since the original line up reformed and its business as usual for Dinosaur Jr. It’s all there in opener Pieces, the languid, effortless vocals, the slacker guitar solos and wonderful fuzzy melody. I Want You To Know is proper alt grunge, lurching around all over the place, but also with some none more rock guitar lines. It reminds me a lot of Buffalo Tom, which is only a good thing. This is something that carries on a little with Ocean In The Way. Maybe it’s J singing, slightly more enunciated than before, the melodies shining through more and being allowed to live in harmony with the solos, rather than be overshadowed by them. Plans seems much more melancholy, a beautiful continuous rolling wave of a song. Your Weather sounds like the Byrds drenched into guitar effects and strung out, while single Over It almost achieves classic Dinosaur territory, but although really catchy doesn’t quite have the hook of some of their best remembered songs. Friends is Dinosaur as you’d expect, but with an element of the Foo Fighters jagged rocking and Quo’s heads down boogie present and correct. Said The People is incredibly lethargic, and oddly sounds like Neil Young’s balladeering with a fuzzy wall of guitars threatening to intrude every now and again. There’s No Here is a chugging boogie, but good for it, while See You is a twiddly prog folk style thing, with elements of Jack White’s songwriting musically. The eight minutes plus slacker epic I Don’t Want To Go There sends the album to dizzying heights. It’s just a shame that it’s not the album closer instead of damp squib Imagination Blind, but it’s a minor quibble.

Farm is released by [PIAS] on 22nd June. A single, Over It, precedes it on the 15th.
Dinosaur Jr myspace is here

Peter Parker – Swallow The Rockets

Swallow The Rockets is the debut single by Glasgow quartet Peter Parker. Some new wave guitar strobes and darts through the landscape on Swallow The Rockets, while a girl with the child like cool of Clare Grogan intones the lyrics. Every so often she shoots off, while the smooth alternative guitars provide a steady base. The song only really comes into life in the chorus, but its fun when it does. Temper Temper is more disjointed, where female vocals call and respond and the tune chugs along in a pleasant enough fashion. It’s decent enough, but far too reminiscent of a lot of nineties nondescript female fronted bands.

Swallow The Rockets is released by Lucky Number Nine Records / Say Dirty Records on July 6th
Peter Parker myspace is here

Friday, 12 June 2009

MJ Hibbett & The Validators – Regardez, Ecoutez Et Repetez

MJ Hibbett & The Validators are another band who are very much about their lyrics and this is very much in evidence on this, their third album. Lead track Being Happy Doesn’t Make You Stupid is a knockabout indie pop tune, with weird interference. It’s difficult not to think of Half Man Half Biscuit, especially when they break into a chorus of “hey there emo boy, give us all a smile”. Do The Indie Kid is the Time Warp for non-indie kids, affectionately sending up their dancing. Do More, Eat Less is a disturbed Muppet Show theme tune, with an upbeat chorus. Vocals are buried deep in the verses, meaning the chorus attracts more attention. It’s weird and wonderful. Its when you get to Best Behaviour you realise how much Mark can sound like Eddie Argos at times, those great affected, sometimes surprised vocals which are also over accentuated and with lots of gaps for effect. It’s a good thing, and he retains enough of his own character to make it endearing. We Can Start Having Fun starts out all mournful and although the lyrics are optimistic it sounds sorry for itself. There’s then a celebratory awakening, brass and shimmering guitars and swaying teary eyed vocals. Red Black Gold rocks out, and goes over the top with bells on when we get to the chorus. It then turns into a waltz about Morrissey lyrics and rocks out at the end only to be covered by radio interference. My Boss Was In An Indie Band Once reminds me so much of I, Ludicrous. It tells the perils of someone reliving his past glories through a following in the far east, to a rattling melody. Has the tale of an impossible office romance every sounded as sad and sweet as It Only Works Because You're Here? Probably not, its maudlin country in its heart, but indie pop in its clothes. And it has a cool wonky chorus too. We’re Old And We’re Tired (And We Want To Go Home) is my favourite on the album, a roustabout tune that would make a great pub singalong for those sensitive and long in the tooth. And it’s all about having an early night. Leicester’s Trying To Tell Me Something has that slow early Mary Chain drumbeat, the sad lyrics of a musical past disappearing to the cost of development, a vented wall of fuzzed guitars now and again and the tear jerking vocal. Regardez, Ecoutez Et Repetez is a very fine album indeed.

Regardez, Ecoutez Et Repetez is out now on Artists Against Success
MJ Hibbett & The Validators website is here

Beck – One Foot In The Grave (Expanded Edition)

Originally released by K Records in 1994, this is the one in which threw people a curve ball after Loser and went lo-fi. It kicks off with some fine finger picking blues in the shape of He’s A Mighty Good Leader. Sleeping Bag follows, a sublime slacker blues. I Get Lonesome staggers around drunk, before Burnt Orange Peel is a riotous fuzz like Eels make when they’re psyched up. Cyanide Breath Mint is the early folky lo-fi we so loved Beck for. After a couple of ‘’lost the plot’ style bits of nonsense, we get Hollow Log, a lovely open hearted acoustic blues. Asshole is a sign of things to come, some cool wordplay, a strung out vocal, albeit over a cyclical strummed acoustic guitar. I’ve Seen The Land Beyond is ramshackle hillbilly moonshine music, but somehow endearing, while Painted Eyelids is a lovely little campfire singalong, warm and rustic. Atmospheric Conditions closes the original album, a duet with a gravely voice fellow, which is spooky and very cool.

The additional tracks double the size of the album. Whiskey Can Can is Beck’s Velvet Underground tune, perfectly executed. Mattress precedes the anti folk movement with its rambling vocals and cardboard box drums. Woe On Me sets Beck up as a disciple of Dylan, while Teenage Wastebasket is more Eels sleaze and Your Love Is Weird an oddly endearing teenage love poem. Piss On The Door is a rickety piece of old school rock n roll and the title track a blues stomp, rhythm tapped out and harmonica blown. These are enough alone to make it worth investing in the expanded edition, something of a rarity these days to find enough unreleased nuggets out there.

One Foot In The Grave (Expanded Edition) is out now on XL Recordings
Beck website is here

The ‘A’ Train – Black And White Memories

The title track of this EP by three piece The ‘A’ Train is a decent enough tune, reminding me of The Coral with added keyboards. The problem lies in that it doesn’t particularly grab you vocally or musically. Where It Counts is better, a bit country in the style of Gram Parsons, some lovely liquid melodies and a languid vocal. This type of tune seems to suit them better; they seem to wear it well. Luckily Chimes At Midnight carries on in a similar vein; you can almost see them recording this in bespoke Nudie suits. A tambourine splishes in the background and other instruments tinkle and the vocalist sings his tale of woe, without much regret. Place Of No One is a twinkling little acoustic number, to round the EP off on a sweet and decidedly low key note.

Black And White Memories is self released and out now
The ‘A’ Train website is here

The Foxes – Lover, Killer

A different band entirely to Foxes! who were reviewed earlier in the blog, this is the third single by The Foxes, just ahead of the release of their debut album. Lover, Killer is a ramalama of a tune, stomping its way through a cool melody. There are some pleasantly spindly rock n roll guitar lines in an updated take on the fifties. The only thing giving it away is the vocals, very contemporary with a slight Strokes twang. It goes to show all those desperately commercial bands that you can come up with something catchy and still be effortlessly cool. B side Headlock staggers along, forgoing the rock n roll for something approaching angsty early Radiohead. It twists and turns and fights like a bastard.

Lover, Killer is released by Room 10 Records on August 3rd
The Foxes myspace is here

Tiny Maters Of Today – Skeletons

The early teenagers and siblings from Brooklyn are back with their second album and things don’t look good. Drop The Bomb! is a jarring instrumental, where guitars, keyboards and sound effects all battle for space, jabbing in when they can. Skeletons sounds like an old Bis song being played by Liam Lynch, while Pop Chart is built on a cool chunky rhythm and sounds like a particularly disjointed B52s. It becomes apparent now that they don’t really do lyrics, just random noises over the beats. Real Good is distinctly lo fi, a bit like Helen Love’s twee Ramones tribute. Big Stick is a robotic grooving mess, which sets the tone for the rest of the album. These are some young kids who think they’re Sonic Youth, but basically have few ideas and ending up making an incoherent mess that’s thoroughly tedious.

Skeletons is released by Mute on 15th June
Tiny Maters Of Today myspace is here

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Foxes! – Who Killed Rob?

From Brighton via Oxford, Foxes! serve up another lovely single. Who Killed Rob? is shuffly twee pop, with alternating male and female vocals and odd lyrics. It clap claps along until the middle hum, where it all appears to switch off, before Kayla’s heaven bound intonements, as splashes of keys murmur in the background and there’s a gently fuzzy finish. Sometimes its nice to have a tune that just makes your background so much nicer, rather than imposes itself on you and Who Killed Rob? does just that. Bunnyrabbits (Chip and Dale) is a sweet female sung tale of youthful days, with a tune that jigs back and forth, mainly sounding like a Casio on demo. Mainly due to the vocal performance the twee minimalism works well. Finally, Albania swells and the lyrics make nonsense, before it then kicks into a languid indie popper, a sweet little thing with plenty of charm.

Who Killed Rob? is out now on Cat Cutter Records
Foxes! myspace is here

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Arthur And Martha – Navigation

The debut album from electro pop duo Arthur And Martha commences with Autovia which has robotic Grace Jones style vocals and an expansive eighties new romantic sound. It cascades plumes of electro melody down over the listener, while a thumping electronic heartbeat keeps things on an even keel. It’s like Saint Etienne gone ridiculously grandiose and it works wonderfully. Music For Hair Products has a tune that’s like a pumped up version of Visage’s Fade To Grey, replete with new romantic thunderclaps. The vocals show a steely female determination, coupled with an icy cool. Kasparov passes over to male vocals, the tune a cold war heartless thing, all lonely sounding synths. It has a New Order cool, with the vocals sounding like a particularly dispassionate Barney Sumner. Vallorian is the most straight forward thing so far, gorgeous female vocals floating over a dreamy melody, one that burbles away delightfully. Navigation is a life support machine on its last legs, which suddenly gives way to a second wind half way through. Follow The Path is like an instrumental remix of Enola Gay with added pep. Memory is an ever increasing and climbing fast disco beat, with a disenfranchised hymnal vocal. To a clicking beat This City Life is a journal through the city at night in a sound proof car, blocking out all the noise and just viewing the hustle and bustle of the night life. Squarewave To Heaven is an English take on Kraftwerk and their Trans Europe Express, spiritually rather than actually you understand. Finally Turn To Dust is an elegiac end to the album, a rumbling ponderance of things. One of the best albums of the year so far.

Navigation is released by Happy Robots on July 6th
Arthur and Martha myspace is here

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Jack Penate – Everything Is New

After hearing the first two singles and then the start of Pull My Heart Away, Jack has obviously got a shimmer in his heart for his second album. Pull My Heart Away features a wonderful vocal like Robert Smith’s mumbly album track sound, the songs where an atmosphere is required more than a lyric. Imagine a funereal calypso and you’re near the tune we have here. New single Be The One starts with a gospel chanting of the title and soon hits the killer chorus, as Jack sings optimistic lines that invite a euphoric backing vocal response. It’s a song that builds to each chorus, making you anticipate the next one. Everything Is New follows a similar rhythmical pattern as previously, slightly celebratory, but with diminishing returns. Tonight’s Today hits the mark again though, a lovely Afrobeat feel, and again it has a rave like throw your hands in the air at sunrise chorus. It’s unimposing, but decidedly lovely. Over a twangy electro spine, So Near shuffles its way like the Wombats until cracking out a smiley chorus. Overall it’s like the aforementioned band in Honolulu, which is actually no bad thing. On Every Glance and Give Yourself Away, Jack finds himself lost and directionless in his calypso and Afrobeat rhythms, and the ideas are running out. Let’s All Die has a daft lyric, some thumping drums which are cool, but it’s all a bit murky and there’s not much of a song there. Finally which have Body Down, which is good, a sort of spooky thing from an alternative musical, with weird incantations, shoe gazey bits and a general ethereal feel.

Everything Is New is released by XL Recordings on June 22nd, proceeded by a single, Be The One, on the 15th.
Jack Penate myspace is here

Monday, 8 June 2009

Les Clochards – Sweet Tableaux

Welcome to the Parisian sidewalk life of Les Clochards. Lead track Pride Prevents Pt 1 is a lovely tune, with a dark edge. Ian’s croon is very Richard Hawley, while Karen’s accordion delightfully directs the tune. Glad I Made You Laugh is French country, a new thing on me, but something that works rather well. With a shuffling drumbeat, Lavinia squirms along and feels like a black and white walk along the Seine. Tango Borracho takes a different turn with mainly female vocals and some male spoken word bits. It’s jazzy and mysterious, and suffice to say you can’t go wrong with the spoken word. Stone Angels is a gorgeous thing, like Roy Orbison with a touch of Elvis in the vocals, while Demode employs another cannot fail touch, singing in French with a lovely jaunty melody. Shallow is absolutely stunning, Karen sings, but imagine Lloyd Cole at his most bookish and you’ll be somewhere near this tune. It’s the highlight of the album. No Shame comes out much more upbeat, and Ian’s croon sounds Hawley like again, and the song’s a match for any of his output. In A Previous Life is gorgeous, a really slow meandering tune, strolling along at dawdling pace, while the accordion chirps away and life passes it by. Pride Prevents Pt 2 is a lovely maudlin duet, a lovely way to close the album.

Sweet Tableaux is out now on Big Red Sky Records
Les Clochards myspace is here

The Relationships – Space

The very English sound of the Relationships heralds their return and they are back with their third album. Many of these songs have been kicking around in their live set for some time now, so will be familiar with many. Soft Rock Canyon is a fine example of the gentle pastoral feel of their songs, Richard’s voice caressing the melodies and singing about everyday things. The guitar wends its way beautifully and the drums splash in where needed, it’s sublimely gorgeous. Clockwork Toy is a slightly psychedelic remnant of the sixties, while Her Constituency wobbles delightfully, almost unsure of itself, despite its sumptuous melody and threatening to rock out in the middle. Time In The World makes me think of the Byrds and their shimmering tunes, laid back yet beautiful. There’s a delightful warble to Richard’s voice on Victorian Séance and a spooky, stalking tune, while Living In A House With Brian Jones is possibly my favourite, and it stood out ever since the first time I heard it live. It is perhaps the quintessential Relationships song, being sublime indie pop, delicious guitars, oh so English lyrics and a walk in the country voice. Having said that The Eternal Colonel is pushing it close, a six minutes epic of hazy Eight Miles High guitars and psychedelic wonders, wending its way towards a close at its own pace. Another album, another success.

Space is released on Big Red Sky Records on June 18th
The Relationships myspace is here

Friday, 5 June 2009

The Seven Inches – Openness and Honesty EP

The first release on Indie-mp3 Records is by Leeds based band The Seven Inches. The title track is a gorgeous piece of bright pop, to match other current purveyors in that field, The Smittens and Pocketbooks. It just sounds so classic indie pop, albeit with a discordant guitar break, an a capella bridge and a great brass coda. It’s chirpy, catchy and great fun. The Rowing Song clocks in at less than a minute and sounds like a cross between a second wave mod tune and a keyboard led sixties pop song. Finally, To Boldly Go is a brash Brilliant Corners, surfing a tune along with insistent vocals. It wheels around itself in giddy excitement and streams effortlessly to the end.

Openness and Honesty EP is out now on Indie-mp3 Records
The Seven Inches myspace is here

The Kick Inside – Oh, Vanity!

Oh I love this. It’s chirpy guitar pop from the mid eighties, guitars picked at ten to the dozen, diving this way and that, twisting you in circles. The rest of the tune fits lovely around this spindly guitar line, just the right foppish vocals, drum fills and cool attitude. It’s Always The Quiet Ones isn’t quite as good, the singer going for a more Morrissey like moan, and the song sounding like the Smiths after a trip to Africa. It’s not bad; it just feels a bit too awkward for its own good.

Oh! Vanity is out now on Odd Box Records
The Kick Inside myspace is here

Blue Roses – I Am Leaving

Once she was Laura Groves, now she is Blue Roses and this is the second single from the forthcoming self titled album. Gentles waves of synth and choral sighs usher I Am Leaving in. Then comes the shrill voice, like a folky Kate Bush. It also reminds you of early Joanna Newsom, how the voice was a tad grating at times, but you knew it was worth persevering with. Tune wise it’s very Nick Drake with added electronic flourishes, very Green Man Festival. I have a slight liking for it; one that I’m sure will only grow with time. Moments Before Sleep is more mysterious, vocally more like Kate Bush straight. The spectral feel of this song could see her ride in on Bat For Lashes coattails.

I Am Leaving is out now on XL Recordings
Blue Roses myspace is here

The Bobby McGee’s – L’Appropriation Bourgoisie De La Bobby McGee’s

And so the debut album from The Bobby McGee’s arrives and all the weirdness that holds. Tractatus Logico-Musica is a skiffling Beefheartian opener to the album, all weird and wonderful. A Note On The Watson Problem is a mumbling, shrill incoherent mess, while the jazzy, shoop shoop of We Never Sleep is another reason I’m often reminded of the Bonzos when listening to The Bobby McGee’s. The wonderfully named Buckfast At Tiffany’s is a surreal a capella nursery rhyme, Prick Up Your Ears is an eerie chanson and Goodbye Blue Monday fuses aboriginal rhythms, twee indie, saxes and smoky nightclubs. A Masonic Youth is Bis with balls, while Kabhi Khushi, Khabie Gham is a beautiful little song, sounding like a fair maiden singing it in a medieval garden. It’s Faster Stan is a wonderful jiggly rolling tune and Wovon Man Nicht Sprechen Kann, Daruber Mus Man Schwen sees the guy doing his best Ivor Cutler, while the girl and music come on all madrigal style. The Torment Of Existence Weighed Against The Horror Of Non-Being ends the album on a surprisingly low key note, a sweet little tune with barbed lyrics, which sums up The McGee’s well.

L’Appropriation Bourgoisie De La Bobby McGee’s is released by Cherryade on June 29th
The Bobby McGee’s myspace is here

Starsurfers – EP

This is the debut EP from Italian trio Starsurfers. It begins with Undersurface which plays on the riff from Rocket From The Crypt’s On A Rope and builds a rather pleasing groove around it. The vocals are somewhat buried in a murky mix, which is a shame as there appears to be a decent song trying to break out. White Love follows a similar formula to the above, even down to the problems. I can’t peg down the familiar riff, but look somewhere near the Hives and you won’t be far away. Miracle seems more interesting, a stoner groove something like a blissed out Secret Machines. Hypnoise is a weird little new romantic thing, while Pleasure Generators is Queens of the Stone Age light. 4 You ends the EP, a lovely blissful thing. It’s a mixture of styles for sure, but one that works more than it doesn’t.

Starsurfers EP is self released and available from their myspace.

The Bobby McGee’s – L.O.V.E. / Go Tiger Go!

Ahead of their new album The Bobby McGee’s released a new three track 7” on Twee As Fuck. L.O.V.E. is a sweet school assembly grade song, with a bit of a deranged shouty chorus. I love the sweet vocals on the verses though, which are whimsical and fun. The single is completed with Go Tiger Go! which races along like a ferocious Ivor Cutler and lastly Harold & Maude, which is a sweet, yet creepy lullaby.

L.O.V.E. / Go Tiger Go! is out now on Twee As Fuck
The Bobby McGee’s myspace is here

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Golden Silvers – Arrows Of Eros

Arrows Of Eros is a lovely song, all squelches of keyboards, slight percussion and a very eighties feel, without seeming cloying or affected. It is however basically what the Mystery Jets do at their best, and from that point of view, feels like a bit of a swizz. It’s a strange thing that a band can ape a time of long ago, and end up sounding more like something recent, yet even more derivative. Having said all this, if you don’t know Mystery Jets then you can just love the song. Also here is The Shoes remix, which adds nothing whatsoever.

Arrows Of Eros is released by XL Recordings on 15th June
Golden Silvers myspace is here

Kid Harpoon – Stealing Cars

The first single from the debut album he’s been recording with Trevor Horn, Stealing Cars is a great big pop song, a huge fun rush. It’s something that could be a big hit, it has an edge that will appeal to alternative fans, yet enough hooks to cross the commercial divide. Don’t Cry On Me is better, a big searching song, with some jaggedy White Stripes riffs and a big blast at the charts. It seems like an obvious tilt for success, but the more discerning fan may bore of this quickly.

Stealing Cars is released by Young Turks on July 20th
The Kid Harpoon myspace is here

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Heritage Centre – I Will Protect You

Following on from a single and their debut EP, Dublin’s Heritage Centre are back with a new single. I Will Protect You is a delight to me, as it reminds me of The Smoking Popes, a much ignored American band, who traded on a beefed up Morrissey vocalist and some restrained and cultured power pop tunes. I Will Protect You has the wonderful grace to ape this, but also to be its own wonderful thing. Whatever is another thing in the same vein, this one more airy and joyously surfing the tune home, like Weezer in their heyday. Additional track You Are Something is more delicate, probably the one that could be a hit for them. It combines the above influences with a bouncy feel and an edge for the commercial.

I Will Protect You is self released and out now. Pop by Heritage Centre's myspace to get it.

Member Of The Wedding – Chapter & Verse EP

The new EP from Glasgow three piece Member Of The Wedding starts with No Idea, which falls somewhere between Jonathan Richman and the BMX Bandits, beautifully crafted simplistic slightly country pop. Stoop To Conquer finds the singing reminding me of Cathal Coughlan, but in a benign moment, quietly de-stressed and with nothing to rail against. The song seems resigned to its fate, despite its lyrical content. Leave The City Behind is the best so far, it seems like it’ll fall apart at any minute, and reminds me of the outsider music of Daniel Johnston, in a spooked out country style. Closing track Friend Of A Friend Of A Friend is even better, vocally reminding me of Nick Cave at his most brooding, musically chirping along in a subdued way.

Chapter & Verse EP is out now on Cosy Recordings
Member Of The Wedding myspace is here

Various – Last And First

This Spanner Records compilation showcases six new band. Kicking things off, Snowday fancy themselves as a slacker rock band, mixed with some sun soaked Californian pop. It’s not bad, but a little ineffectual and ends up a little murky. Lean Tales are slightly gothic, a little ethereal, but not that memorable. Godsmania are a sweet little indie pop band, and their Look In Your Eye is a stammering tune, sung from what sounds like a sad viewpoint. Broken Down Lorry is a great name for what sounds like one man and his guitar, and a world weary voice. When his song is called Here Come The Hoodies he has every right to be suspect. It’s a plaintive if upsetting tale. Temba’s Dancer is a nuclear horror sounding tune, with an insistent stabbing chorus paraphrasing Elton’s Tiny Dancer. The horror spikes up as the song progresses, violins and weird synths helping this effect. The best thing here though is Stoliday’s Look At The View, a whispering light vocal cascading over a folkish, yet electronically subnormal tune. It’s beautiful and has to be heard to be believed.

Last And First is out now on Spanner Records

A Camp – Love Has Left The Room

The second single from A Camp’s second album is Love Has Left The Room, which reminds me of the Byrds’ Goin’ Back at points, but is also much more glamourous and dramatic, Nina singing, nay crooning beautifully. They’ve really gone for it on these songs, as exemplified on Us And Them, another amazingly beautiful song. These songs should be on a film, except no-one has filmed anything worthy of them yet, everything else seems drab in comparison. Us And Them has slowed things down to an effortless sashay, before we get Boys Keep Swinging, which is a fairly faithful rendition of the Bowie song, albeit with the female vocals. It still works though and sounds pretty great.

Love Has Left The Room is out now on Reveal Records
A Camp myspace is here

Monday, 1 June 2009

Fever Fever – Keys In The Bowl / Stage Shoes

This is the debut single from Norwich’s Fever Fever, a double a-sided 7” no less. Keys In The Bowl is fairly by numbers shrieky girl punk pop, although the guitars rock far more than anything else of this ilk, the drums are military and the vocals cheerleader like. It’s quite the conundrum. Stage Shoes passes by at a blistering pace, and while it’s a pretty decent tune, it’s all too much of a blur to make anything out. An interesting debut, albeit not one that stands out in the crowd.

Keys In The Bowl / Stage Shoes is out now on Cherryade
Fever Fever myspace is here

The Lovely Eggs – If You Were Fruit

The Lovely Eggs played a gig for me last year, and their ramshackle charm saw them as the night’s winners, most people agreeing this was the case. This album can only see them carry on gathering fans by the bucketload. The lead track of this, their debut album is Sexual Cowboy, a song that is harder than their previous stuff, a hard riffing blast with some yelled invitations at the end. I Like Birds But I Like Other Animals Too seems stroppier than previously, Holly’s vocals at turns cute and angry. Musically its riot grrl meets lo fi grunge. Mices employs a neat trick I’ve heard once before, where Holly and David sing across each other. Otherwise it’s a surreal nursery rhyme with some tantrum explosions of expression. Luna Café starts sweetly, and descends into interpreting the inside of Tom Waits head, while inhabiting his body. Where’s My Animal? is a surprisingly straight forward little ballad, but If You Were Fruit is an odd updated take on the If I Had A Hammer theme, done in disjointed, Steptoe & Son style ballad. Oh The Stars is a whimsical thing, based around a game I used to play when I was little, where you describe something and what its in, and so on, until you get to the universe. O Death hits on The Lovely Eggs formula again, alternating between sweet lo-fi rhymes to screaming banshee choruses, while Have You Ever Heard A Digital Accordion? riffs like Albini era Wedding Present, the strikes to emphasise the over rhyming chorus. Baulk Cushion is sweet and wheezy, it sounds like an asthmatic youngster trying to keep up with his friends in the forest. It’s fun, if not quite normal. Hey There Woodsman has all sorts of weird percussion including bicycle bells and horns, and wobbles along on a precarious ledge. America closes the album, claustrophobic and disturbing, a weird and wonderful end to an excellent album.

If You Were Fruit is out now on Cherryade
The Lovely Eggs myspace is here

Boy Genius – Blame Love

Brooklyn’s Boy Genius are issuing this 7” single, in advance of the release of their second album. Blame Love has a twisted moan of vocals, with some lovely female backing vocals. It reminds me of The Brilliant Corners or maybe Bob, one of those slightly off kilter mid eighties indie pop bands who still made ridiculously catchy pop. The Backyard on the flip side makes me think of a mysterious middle ground, somewhere between the wonky pop of The Loft and the suburban country sound of The Rockingbirds. It’s a good place to be especially as the sun starts to stream in through the window.

Blame Love is self released and out now. Buy it from their myspace page.