Thursday, August 31, 2006

Shake hands with Yossarian

Here’s one that made it through the piles of average music I get sent. Kind of. OK, I admit I didn’t really give Yossarian a listen till I saw some other esteemed British music bloggers posting on them. So onto the bandwagon again for me again then. But I think this lot are good.

They’re straight out of the (apparently) burgeoning ‘Cardiff scene’, and they do a decent line in moody 80s-influenced indie guitar, with lyrics celebrating the mundanity of normal life. Their myspace lists their influences as

“The Smiths Pavement Modest Mouse Mogwai Belle and Sebastian Weezer Explosions in the Sky Radiohead Interpol The Arcade Fire My Morning Jacket Idlewild ...Trail of the Dead”

If you take out Weezer, Belle and Sebastian and mebbe Idlewild, you’ll get a rough picture of their sound. They’re obviously not as good as any of these, but hey, the kids are showing some fine promise.

Probably their best track, Invincible comes on like a more juvenile Mogwai, who sing about getting pissed and running out of food instead of, er, not singing at all. Some have compared them to The Rakes, but they don’t have the same spikiness, which is probably a good thing.

It looks like they've been targeting UK music bloggers, and they seem like nice blokes. They’ll even send you a 4-track demo EP if you ask. While you’re there, you can ask them what "Come on Koala" means.

And the hot news is that, as of today, they’re changing their name to Shake My Hand. Why? Like that’s a better name than Yossarian? (the main protagonist in Joseph Heller’s Catch 22, fact fans) I can only hope that the name change is a drunken indiscretion in a similar vein to the stories in their lyrics. While they’re hopefully changing it back, have a listen to a couple of tunes.

Download: Yossarian – Invincible
Download: Yossarian – Koala

You can download the other songs from the EP on their myspace.

More songs on their main website (although a couple of these are bizarrely in WMA format).

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Fields / iLiKETRAiNS @ The Legion, 24 August

Thursday night was a hot one. Sold out in advance. A scrum for the few remaining tickets on the door. Bloc Party and their mates hanging around outside. Inside we couldn't get anywhere near the stage. However, the biggest clamour didn’t seem to be so much for the ostensible headliners Fields, but for Leeds band iLiKETRAiNS (that typography is going to annoy a lot of people in the future).

iLiKETRAiNS are the perfect band to play at Sonic Cathedral, the shoegazing-revivalist club night at the Legion on Old Street. They wear old-fashioned British Rail jackets (which they have to remove fairly quickly because of the heat). If Interpol had formed in south east England in 1991 they might have sounded like this. We had waves of guitar noise washing over us as we strained to hear David Martin’s muted vocals. But it's not just shoegazing. Fans of Sigur Ros and maybe even TV on the Radio should find something to appreciate here. Their set was the perfect taster for me to explore their dark and moody charms further.

Not only do they wear rail attire, they also write songs about railways. Take for instance The Beeching Report, which refers to a government report which led to infamous cutbacks in the British rail network in the 1960s where a lot of rural areas lost their stations and trains. Not many songs about that kind of thing in rock ‘n’ roll then, but a fine song all the same.

Download: iLiKETRAiNS – The Beeching Report

But iLiKETRAiNS are a bonus. We’re really here for Fields. If the crowd’s a little less thick for them, there’s still plenty of enthusiasm. Since Matt gave me the heads up a while back, I've searched them out and liked what I found. Despite a whole heap of downloads being available, and mainly sounding good, the best place to encounter them is live. Despite what I said earlier, there’s not so much of the old shoegazing here. Less effects pedals, more acoustic guitar for singer Nick Peill anyway. They’re basically just good old-fashioned noisy indie guitar pop, with lovely melodies and girl-boy vocal harmonies. Songs for the Fields was a rousing opener, Brittle Sticks sounded even more fantastic live.

It sounds like Fields are recording an album. Peill expressed relief about being able to play live after being holed up in some basement in Dublin. Is this where they are (according to Wikipedia) recording their debut album “with legendary producer Michael Beinhorn”? Anyway, here’s hoping that the don’t ‘do a Magic Numbers’ and end up releasing an album that sounds a bit flat after a series of brilliant gigs. They’re a fine live band, and their set tonight only confirms that. Being a club night, there was no encore, but their short set tantalised and left us wanting to hear more. So here’s to next time then…

Download: Fields – Song for the Fields
Download: Fields – Heretic
Download: Fields – If You Fail, We All Fail

Buy iLiKETRAiNS and Fields stuff.

Check out my gig photos at my Flickr site.

More free Fields downloads here.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

No more Hope of the States

I first found out yesterday on Keep Hope Inside that Hope of the States had announced they wouldn't be playing live again. Given that the only other option would be to become a reclusive Boards of Canada–esque band of studio boffins, it was only inevitable that there was an announcement later yesterday that the band were indeed to split up. They were due to announce it onstage at their final gig at the Reading Festival last night.

No reason given for the split yet. There could be a whole host of reasons, but maybe their lack of commercial success was a factor. Sony had put a lot of money into them, and although they had a lot of critical acclaim, particularly for début album The Lost Riots, the record-buying public obviously weren't going much for their epic post-rock tunes.

I only saw them once – at the Barfly in early 2004, and was impressed. Unusually for me, here was a band that I think I'd have rather seen in a bigger venue – at least one that matched their ambitious sound and visuals. The only real problem I felt was Sam Herlihy's vocals – just a bit too weak to live happily alongside their robust sound. As a result their best tracks are probably the instrumentals, particularly the majestic The Black Amnesias which opened The Lost Riots, and which I don't think they ever fully matched. I just wish they had done more tracks like that, and I might have maintained more interest in the band. As it was, I bought their first album with great anticipation but didn't really play it that much. So when the follow-up Left was released earlier this year, I was only half-listening.

Herlihy is apparently forming another band. I wonder if he's going to sing in that one. Well, good luck to them all. Hopefully they can live up to the early promise of HOTS in whatever they're doing next.

Here's a few tracks for your remembrance. The aforementioned glory of The Black Amnesias, their first commercially available single Black Dollar Bills, another instrumental – Sts'ikel from that début single, and The Last Picture Show, a B-Side which was the highlight of that Barfly show and inexplicably not included on either of their albums. I wonder if the split will mean my hessian-wrapped limited-edition copy of Black Dollar Bills is worth more or less?

Download: Hope of the States – The Black Amnesias
Download: Hope of the States – Black Dollar Bills
Download: Hope of the States – Sts'ikel (demo)
Download: Hope of the States – The Last Picture Show

Buy The Lost Riots or Left

For more HOTS mp3s, head to The Halfway Home, which has in impressive list of rare or deleted tracks posted.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Franz Ferdinand @ The Forum, 23 August 06

We could have had it so much better. I was really at this gig to see Tapes 'n Tapes' support slot, but it was definitely worth hanging around to see Franz Ferdinand, in this 'warm-up' for their Reading headline slot two nights later.

It was interesting looking at the crowd on the balcony at The Forum. The first thing we spotted was a much higher number of women than at most indie rock shows. Maybe Alex Kapranos' assertion a few years ago of wanting to make “music for girls to dance to” has been fully realised. The other thing we noticed was the age group. I know FF aren't as hot as they were a couple of years ago, but unless the average age downstairs was much lower, it seems like The Kids are deserting Franz for more erm, youthful pleasures. Maybe the Arctic Monkeys who played the same venue the next night. Given the Glasgow boys' wide appeal, maybe it was understandble that this was not the usual London gig audience. Take for example the folks on the front row of the balcony who leapt to their feet, clapping over-enthusiastically when the band struck up Do You Want To. Naturally the rest of the upstairs followed suit. Speaking of suits, the middle-aged balding guy in front of us, who looked like he had come straight from his City desk was wiggling and punching the air in a most embarrassing dad-at-the-disco way. I'm not really complaining – it just added to the amusement factor.

Then FF played the ace Shopping For Blood (off the Darts for Pleasure single). But the happy boppers obviously didn't really know that one, and they stopped clapping and punching for a bit. A few more songs in, and a combination of the heat upstairs, tiredness, the poor quality of the sound (better than the disgrace that it was for Tapes 'n Tapes, but still pretty shit), and just the fact that the show wasn't moving us very much, meant that we thought that it was time to go. No offence to Franz. They get slicker and more choreographed every time I see them. Tonight they've even got cordless guitars to make the skipping round the stage and the high kicks even easier. They're polished, dapper and energetic. But tonight we're not feeling it. Ya boo sucks to The Forum and their crappy sound system. I'd have been really pissed off if we'd had to pay for the tickets. But because we didn't, we felt we could just go. And we did.

Download: Franz Ferdinand – Shopping for Blood
Download: Franz Ferdinand - Outsiders

PS. I saw FF again on BBC3's coverage of the Reading Festival. Their performance of Outsiders with a massive entourage of drummers was totally outstanding. They're still an amazing live band, really.

Photo of the gig nicked from Susan Shepard's Flickr. My camera had run out of juice.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Introducing James Cooper

A couple of weeks ago I said goodbye to my friend James Cooper, as he headed back to Australia. James had been in London for a couple of years, combining designing record sleeves for a Shoreditch design firm, with pursuing a musical career. I was a little disingenuous back in January when I reviewed his gig at The Betsy Trotwood as if it was a new artist I had ‘discovered’, when really it was a mate.

With James, I found myself in the odd position of getting to know someone before hearing their music. When it came to listening to it for the first time, I really hoped that I would like it, as I didn’t fancy telling a friend that I thought his music was crap. I needn’t have worried.

Mind you, it didn’t get off to the best start. The first track on his debut album Second Season is firmly in the territory of American FM on-the-road rock. I gulped. How much more of this could I take? Thankfully, the rest of the album is a whole lot better. As I said in my previous review, the album’s great – a classic slice of freewheeling Americana, evoking such singer-songwriters as Ryan Adams and Josh Ritter. I’ve also detected traces of some of my favourite Scottish artists – Teenage Fanclub, Roddy Frame and the Trashcan Sinatras (although I doubt James knows these guys). Earlier in the year it was on constant rotation in the Growl house. It’s a bit funny being into the music of someone you go down the pub with.

Ironically, after coming to London to kick-start his musical career, things seem to have taken off for him a lot more back in his homeland. That, combined with the dream offer of a producer job in Sydney was more than good enough reason for him to pack his bags and leave London. So farewell James, mate. We’ll miss you here, but all the very best back in Oz. I’m sure we’ll hear how it all goes. Looking forward to hearing the new album next year!

Check out some tunes from Second Season. Three of my favourites – the ace Beatlesy Save Me From Love, the gorgeous ballad Dry Reaching for Grace and the sparky guitar pop of Dream Trader. These will only be here for a short time, so get ‘em while they’re hot. If you’re reading this and you’ve missed out, check out his website download page for more free music.

Download: James Cooper – Save Me From Love
Download: James Cooper – Dry Reaching For Grace
Download: James Cooper – Dream Trader

For anyone reading this in Australia, he’s just released Second Season round your way, and he’s playing a few dates in support of it. You can see him at:


Buy Second Season at Amazon

Tapes 'n Tapes @ The Forum, 23 August 06

Things didn’t really go quite right this evening. Firstly we were a bit late for the start of the Tapes ‘n’ Tapes support slot. There I was huffing and puffing unnecessarily outside The Forum whilst the underage fans in front blagged their way in without ID. Then my camera battery ran out after taking one crappy photo (yep, that’s the one above). But most of all, the sound was absolutely shocking. In small intimate venues like The Macbeth, ropey sound doesn’t matter so much. In big venues like The Forum, it’s inexcusable. And when you’re up on the balcony, far from the stage, it’s just rubbish.

However, I’m sure that Tapes ‘n Tapes aren’t rubbish. But I feel sorry for them. The sound is so murky, a lot of the finer points of their songs are lost. The drum mike is way too low, so none of the ace jazzy drumming can be heard. There’s no evident keyboard sound. You’ve got to admire a band who use a euphonium onstage, but shame we couldn’t really hear it. Josh Grier’s vocal mike is too low, so that the quiet-to-loud build-up midway through Insistor goes unheard until he starts shouting. What should have been a barnstrorming close to their set is annoyingly muted.

If it wasn’t just the sound, I guess there are two possibilities:

Maybe TnT really are rubbish. So I had a listen to The Loon again. All the way through. And though there are two or three fillers on there it’s mostly fantastic. In an endearing indie slacker way. The more obvious tracks (y’know, the ones that have been all across blogland this year) – the fast drumming urgency of Insistor, the glorious clatter of Cowbell and the wonderful Pixies-esque quiet/loud dynamic of 10 Gallon Ascot still thrill. And the rest of the album should convince Pavement fans to stop worrying about Steven Malkmus’ disappointing solo material and stop looking for their successors.

Or maybe their live show is still a bit underdeveloped. But then again, that can’t be true either . They’ve played way to many gigs this year to be novices. And they’re clearly well into performing. What with keyboardist Matt Kretzman running all over the stage, joining in on percussion and rolling on the floor. Maybe they just had no idea how bad they sounded out there.

So in the end, instead of being thrilled by the Minnesota boys’ performance, I was just left annoyed by big corporate venues like The Forum, who get the big shows but obviously don’t really care about the quality of the gig experience for the fans. Still, if you were there and were unimpressed by TnT, do yourself a favour and listen to The Loon before making up your mind. You can start with the tracks below.

Download: Tapes ‘n Tapes – 10 Gallon Ascot
Download: Tapes ‘n Tapes – Buckle

Bonus track (via Rewriteable Content)

Download: Tapes ‘n Tapes – Cowbell (Black Eyes Remix)

Buy The Loon

Check back to my previous post for some live acoustic Tapes ‘n Tapes

Review of headliners Franz Ferdinand coming soon…

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The inevitable bandwagon-jumping Beirut post

OK, so Beirut isn’t the hot news on the blogs any more. Although it’s a few months since I picked up the debut album and liked it, I’ve never got round to doing a post. Maybe because everyone else was. Maybe because I didn’t have anything new to say. Well now I do. It seems that Zach Condon (for he is Beirut) has signed to 4AD. He’s still on Ba Da Bing in the US, but he’s on the legendary UK indie label everywhere else.

Of course this news is of no consequence to all the British hipsters who rushed out and bought Gulag Orkestar on import, but still, nice to see that it’ll be more widely available in this country.
Interesting also to see 4AD turning from being the label of choice for classic English indie, into something of a home for fine American artists (TV on the Radio, Celebration, Mountain Goats, The Late Cord, M Ward). I can only say I approve.

The other good news for UK-people is that Zach’s bringing his dreamy Eastern European gypsy-styled music over here later in the year supporting Calexico, along with Beirut collaborators Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost, who will also be playing as A Hawk and a Hacksaw. After seeing both the 'Hawks' and Tuscon’s finest recently, I know that’ll be a great show.

UK tour dates are:

OCT 31 Gateshead Sage
NOV 01 Glasgow ABC 1
NOV 02 Dublin Olympia
NOV 03 Liverpool Academy
NOV 04 Sheffield Octagon
NOV 05 London Camden Roundhouse

Download: Beirut – Prenzlauerberg
Download: Beirut – The Bunker

Buy Gulag Orkestar.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Blood Arm @ The Macbeth, 18 August

After Summer Sundae I was (unusually for me) feeling a bit ‘gigged out’. I even passed over the chance to go and see the excellent Rogers Sisters at the Barfly on Tuesday. However, Andrew did manage to tempt me out on Friday to see LA rockers The Blood Arm at The Macbeth pub in Hoxton. It was at least in a small part to his email, which promised:

"hook laden songs which rock like a sweet shop in brighton. the main attraction is their lead singer who is one of the most entertaining frontmen i've ever seen - a pint size jim morrison figure who loves to jump into the crowd."

So down we went to see them. It was actually part of a club night called The Secret Door, run by Sean McClusky (formerly?) of Sonic Mook Experiment fame. The Macbeth is actually a fine venue for gigs, despite the well-dodgy sound system. There were four bands on the bill, so we had to endure three rubbish sets (Thomas Tantrum, Oxfam Glamour Models, LR Rockets, if you’re interested) before The Blood Arm came on. But it was worth the wait.

I admit to only being vaguely aware of TBA before. It turns out that they were being touted by Franz Ferdinand last year and even recorded a session for Xfm. Actually, on the Xfm site they’re described as "a sultry combination of Franz Ferdinand, The Doors and The Strokes." Now the FF and the Strokes comparisons are there to be heard. But they have less spikes and more soul than Kapranos and co, and better tunes and less posturing than Casablancas’ bunch. Their likeness to The Doors is less obvious, though they share a similar set-up to their LA forebears in that they have no bass guitar, and an ace keyboard player. Mind you, in this interview, singer Nathaniel Fregoso admits to a love of Morrison et al, so maybe there’s something there.

But enough of the comparisons. They’re an amazing live band. And just as Andrew promised, Fregoso is an entertaining frontman. That’s putting it mildly though. He’s a human dynamo, racing round in a whirl of pent-up energy and sweat. He was off the stage at every opportunity, and being in a small bar, he was given endless possibilities for energetic stunts. So there he was standing on the bar singing whilst being poured a glass of wine (much to the bemusement of the bouncers), lying prostrate on the floor, grabbing chairs to both sit and stand on and even starting the song Hey Girl! from inside the ladies’ toilets. But he’s not just a bit mad, he’s charming too – asking fans their names and dedicating various songs to them in person. He even ends up dancing with one during the last song. They had to pull the plug way too early for my liking, but it was a blast, a live experience to remember and repeat.

On the way to the gig, we were expressing collective incredulity at the popularity of the likes of Kasabian and Razorlight. After the show we agreed that it was almost heartbreaking that these bands sell out Brixton Academy in a flash while bands like TBA still toil with other journeymen in small pubs like The Macbeth. But then again, give me a gig in a venue like this anytime over the corporate production line that is the Carling venues and their like. For now at least, The Blood Arm’s loss is our gain.

One reason for their relative lack of success may be to the fact that their self-released debut album Bomb Romantics had a limited run and is now out of print. So I’m posting a few more tracks than I normally would from a single album on this blog, just so you can appreciate these crazy Angelenos too.

Download: The Blood Arm – Do I Have Your Attention?
Download: The Blood Arm – Say Yes
Download: The Blood Arm – Hey Girl
Download: The Blood Arm – Want x 3
Download: The Blood Arm – O Passionate One

Check my photos of the gig on Flickr

There are more photos of the gig and the band's trip to London on their very own blog!

Live at Summer Sundae

I've had a week now of milking Summer Sundae to the max for blogging purposes, and here's one more. BBC 6 Music were the main media partners of the festival, so naturally they broadcasted quite a bit of live music from the festival. So thanks to them, here are a few choice 'live at Summer Sundae' tracks from some of the bands I saw over the weekend.

Download: Calexico - El Picador
Download: The Proclaimers - I'm on My Way
Download: The Long Blondes - Separated by Motorways
Download: Gomez - Get Myself Arrested
Download: Buzzcocks - Even Fallen in Love
Download: Belle & Sebastian - Dirty Dream Number Two
Download: Belle & Sebastian - The Boy With the Arab Strap
Download: Isobel Campbell - Time is Just the Same
Download: Howling Bells - Ballad for the Bleeding Hearts

If you've not seen them already, you can read my reviews of Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the festival, as well as a younger person's perspective.

Oh, and a selection of my photos.

And that really is that for Summer Sundae. A more normal service will be resumed now.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Summer Sundae - a fresh view

Meet Evan Jones. He's 13, and is the son of my friends Andrew and Sarah. He came along to Summer Sundae with the rest of us and it was his first festival experience. He was great to have around, particularly because he's such a big music fan! After going on about the festival at great length myself over the past few days, I thought I'd give Evan the chance to share his festival highlights with the blogosphere, so here goes...

The brakes were certainly one of the highlights of summer sundae, made up of two members of electric soft parade, one of british sea power and another from the tenderfoot they ranged from sex pistol like pop songs to comical country tunes. Having missed some of the set due to a rumbling stomach and a nearby fish and chips van i did not see as much as i would of liked but what i did see was well preformed and was enough to keep me well interested despite the fact it is very easy to dose off in the comfortable balcony seats. This is only my first festival so i have nothing to compare it to but even i could tell this band could keep even some of the most snobbish rock lovers entertained.

The very best band of the festival were without a shadow of a doubt the buzzcocks. Loud and fast they lived up to there reputation it wasn't until the last song (ever fallen in love) that the mosh pit started but when it did it started with a bang. It carried on all the way through the encore and having excused myself from a friend i ran to join in. My only regret is i didn't get a chance to crowd surf, ah well maybe next time. The point is they rocked hard and didn't let me down.

Download: Brakes - You're So Pretty

Download: The Buzzcocks - What do I Get

Brakes photo stolen from Rick & Mindy's Flickr stream

Friday, August 18, 2006

Summer Sundae volume 3 (Sunday)

A soggy wet Sunday morning meant an escape from the campsite to seek refuge in a dodgy city centre caff (the only thing open at 10:30am). But it gave us the chance to linger over breakfast and read the papers. The musical action re-started for me halfway through The Long Blondes' set – actually with their ace single Weekend Without Makeup, which is particularly appealing Pulp-esque number (how appropriate for a band from Sheffield). But that's about as good as they get really. They're a band who probably look better than they actually are, though set closer Separated by Motorways is a good 'un too.

Download: The Long Blondes – Weekend Without Makeup

Next, it was into the Hall for M. Craft. Despite me touting the talents of the East London-based Aussie on this blog before, I've failed to get to any of his London gigs this year. But it's oddly appropriate that I'm seeing him at Summer Sundae since this is the last place I saw him, two years ago. This time he was on a bigger stage, and I can only hope that his bigger-than-usual audience warmed to his music. Despite some ropey sound he played a decent set. Although You are the Music wasn't as funky as it should have been, Emily Snow sounded fantastic and Love Knows How to Fight is surely a hit-in-waiting in a more just world.

Download: M. Craft – Love Knows How to Fight

Goodness knows why Camera Obscura were playing so far down the bill in the Rising Stage. I expected it to be rammed, and sure enough, it was, even on the normally spare right side of the tent. But they had a problem – the airport closures of the previous couple of days meant all their gear was stranded in Copenhagen, so they had to borrow instruments from a local music shop. Traceyanne Campbell was profusely apologetic throughout, no doubt expecting a disaster. But she needn't have worried. Apart from a strangely muted keyboard intro on the normally euphoric intro to Lloyd, I'm Ready to be Heartbroken, everything else sounded fantastic. If this is how they play when they're off form, they're potential world-beaters when they're on fire! Their set, almost exclusively from Let's Get Out of This Country, was one of the best of the festival.

Download: Camera Obscura – Tears For Affairs

I remained at the Rising Stage for Absentee. I've been quite keen on them ever since catching them in the Rough Trade Shop earlier in the year, and getting their full-length debut Schmotime. I think I like them because they remind me of an early Teenage Fanclub, and with my former Scottish heroes not really cutting the mustard these days, I welcome their fuzzy riffs and rough-hewn charms. In the tent, some initially dodgy sound minimised the full effect of Dan Michaelson's gloriously wasted vocals, but it's a minor glitch in an otherwise fine display from Bethnal Green's finest, especially as they were augmented by a two man horn section which helped them to sound that little bit more special.

Download: Absentee – You Try Sober

Absentee's short set meant that I made it back into the Hall for the last three songs from Adem. I was quite surprised, as was Mrs Growl who witnessed his whole set, to see him rocking out. Well, that's relatively speaking. Last time we saw him, a couple of years ago on the same stage, we were quietly blown away by his delicate lo-fi songs, with quirky but minimal instrumentation. This time he had a full band, and although he didn't quite go electric, there was an urgency and a beefed-up sound that wasn't there before. Not that I entirely disapprove of this new direction though – it was particularly effective on recent single Launch Yourself. But apparently he did some quiet ones as well, so hopefully pleased old fans and won a few new ones.

Download: Adem – Launch Yourself

I had an inkling that the Rising Stage tent would be rammed for Jamie T as well. "The kids are into him" I told my friends, as if I know what the kids are into. But it looks like I was right (though I had a heads up after reading Neil’s post on Jamie). Mr T is inexplicably 15 minutes late, which is weird, since his only accompaniment was an acoustic bass. Whilst they waited, a section of the crowd right in front of the stage kept up the chants and screams for "Jamie T, Jamie T, Jamie T!". You can imagine the reaction when he finally took to the stage. However, I’m still puzzled over what all the fuss is about. Sure enough, the lad is talented, his lyrics are interesting, and he was clearly enjoying himself, but I couldn’t help thinking that a full band might have added that extra something that seemed to be missing. Although I began to tire of his high-pitched vocals after a while, his delivery, almost rapping, is very impressive, and makes his songs more compelling. He’s another of the young urban poets in the same school of the likes of Mike Skinner (though I think JT is better) and his mate Lily Allen (who does have better tunes), providing a soundtrack to youthful escapades and (sub)urban life in the noughties. According to my friend Dan, Jamie was mobbed by teenage fans as he was waiting for Larrakin Love to come on stage. Maybe he better get used to this stardom thing then, though unlike a lot of our other current starlets, he’s definitely worth a listen.

Download: Jamie T – Sheila

A different demographic entirely was waiting for The Buzzcocks. We waited too – about ten minutes before we were allowed into the packed Hall to see the punk veterans play. But once inside I struggled even more than with Jamie T to see what the fuss was about. Maybe it’s oldies’ nostalgia, or just my unfamiliarity with all the songs we witnessed, but Mrs Growl and I only lasted about five songs before we decided it was time to leave. Maybe we were too hasty – as we left the Hall, we heard them strike up Ever Fallen in Love, but by then it was too late and we would have had to re-join to queue. Maybe if we had heard classics like that and What Do I Get, I would have got into it more, but I was put off by all the rock posturing, which would have been bad enough if it was a young band. But with old men, it’s undignified. And was that a devil sign that Pete Shelley flashed? Urgh, that’s just embarrassing.

Download: The Buzzcocks – Ever Fallen in Love

The end of the festival presented me with the worst clash of the weekend. After two nights of headliners I didn’t care much about, the two bands I most wanted to see were on at the same time! OK, Coldcut and Belle and Sebastian don’t make very similar music, but surely there are loads of people who love both. I had decided to stay for about half of B&S’s set on the main stage, then head back inside to catch the end of Coldcut’s. But a combination of being stuck in a packed crowd near the front, and Belle and Sebastian being really good, meant that I stayed there till the end. In a way I’m glad I did. Stuart Murdoch and co get better every time I see them. Their tightness and togetherness as a band seems a world away from the late, awkward indie shamblers of Shepherds Bush Empire 1998. They don’t even use their set as an excercise in over-promotion of The Life Pursuit, choosing to spend a lot of time on their excellent, ever-expanding back catalogue. Apart from Funny Little Frog, they even stick to just the good songs from their latest album. One element of the classic B&S live set remains – the messing about with the audience, though these days Murdoch does it with more aplomb. This time he invited a girl to dance with him on stage and made his way into the audience twice – once to get mascara applied during Lord Anthony. The encore brought a storming version of La Pastie de la Bourgouisie and the inevitable Boy With the Arab Strap. So a brilliant end to Summer Sundae, but one tinged with sadness that I didn’t get to see Coldcut.

Download: Belle and Sebastian – La Pastie de la Bourgouisie

Oh go on, since I missed them – one more track, from Jon and Matt.

Download: Coldcut – True Skool

Read my reviews of Friday and Saturday.

Check my Flickr festival photos.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Summer Sundae volume 2 (Saturday)

Saturday’s musical adventures started at the early hour of 2pm with Howling Bells in De Montford Hall. My prior knowledge of HB has been through some tracks off various blogs. I quite enjoyed their dark brooding rock which had a certain swagger and was perfect for the darker-than-usual interior of the Hall. The highlights came at the beginning of the set with a song that sounded like a sexier Throwing Muses, and the final track which may have been the cracking single Low Happening. In between, it meandered a little for me. But a qualified thumbs up.

Download: Howling Bells – Low Happening

This slot presented the first unfortunate clash of the weekend. The much touted Joan as Police Woman was playing on the Rising Stage. At one point I ducked out of Howling Bells to see the tent rammed out the doors. Luckily Mrs Growl was inside with plenty space on the right of the tent (that problem again) and reported that she was good. She was particularly taken by her voice and the quality of the songs. Shame I didn’t make it in then. Oh well, some other time.

Download: Joan as Police Woman – Eternal Flame

The next gig I got to was Isobel Campbell in the Hall. I’m very fond of the Ballad of the Broken Seas, but it was always going to be hard to recreate it without the gravely tones of Mark Lanegan. Subbing for Mark was Glasgow music legend Eugene Kelly (of Captain America/Eugenius and Vaselines fame), and although his voice is decent enough, it just isn’t Lanegan. Isobel had vocal problems of her own. Either her breathy vocals are just on the ‘too light’ side or the sound was a bit ropey. Maybe both. However, the songs still sounded good. And she seemed to be enjoying herself and she flounced around the stage.

Download: Isobel Campbell – Ramblin’ Man

It’s interesting to see the shifting demographics as different bands play on the same stage. ¡Forward Russia!’s demographic is definitely on the younger side of the festival crowd. Well below 20. The kids went crazy for the band with the awkward Spanish-style exclamation marks, as they charged through their set of scuzzy, shouty electro-rock. And it transpired that it wasn't just the kids – Steve Lamaq (of Radio 1 and BBC 6 Music) was among the crowd surfers. I’ve since listened to their album, and if you have a tenner to spend on them, it’s certainly better to catch them live. There’s a compelling urgency and energy about their performance that’s not there on record. Frontman Rob Canning spent the set getting tangled up in his mike cable and on the closing number jumping off stage and trying to get into the crowd. He returned to leave the stage with blood streaming from his burst nose. Rock ‘n’ Roll – eh?

Download: Forward Russia! – Nine

I caught the end of Vashti Bunyan’s set in the Hall. She seemed a shy, even reluctant performer, but her quiet folky songs are wistful and lovely and washed over me without really sticking. However, Mrs Growl and I felt compelled enough to stay to the end. However, she could have done without the annoying kids making a lot of unnecessary noise down the front. Although she’s shy, I’m sure she’s enjoying her recent rediscovery and rise to prominence on the alt-folk scene. Her tour schedule for this year testifies to that.

Download: Vashti Bunyan – Diamond Day

Calexico are always a great live band, but like Richard Hawley, their festival set was never going to match up to their blisteringly good gig at the 100 Club earlier this year. However, their classic dusty country meets mariachi, and even their new straighter rock direction on latest album Garden Ruin seemed to go down well with the festival crowd. And they played Crystal Frontier, which they didn’t do in London, which was a nice bonus.

Download: Calexico – Crystal Frontier

At the end of Calexico I wondered if I should bother going to see The Proclaimers. I’ve never really been into them, and (as a Scot) even considered them to be a bit of a national embarrassment. I also had no idea of how big they are outside Scotland (where in the 80s they were pretty massive). The queue to get into the Hall proved that they have some international appeal at least. I knew 500 Miles was probably their best known song, but I was totally unprepared for the frenzy that ensued when they played it – certainly the biggest mass leaping around of the festival and easily it’s most surreal moment. But I shouldn’t have doubted them so much. The four songs I caught were brilliant. Gone are the days of the skinny speccy boys in Hibs shirts. Now we have chunky blokes playing big chunky tunes with an evident passion. Even better than the comedy hysteria of 500 Miles was their gorgeous, countrified version of Sunshine on Leith, which was one of my (unexpected) highlights of the whole festival.

Download: The Proclaimers – Sunshine on Leith

After that we couldn’t really muster enough enthusiasm to see any of the headline acts. X-Press 2 who I was very keen to check out had to call off because Ashley Beadle was sick. They were replaced by the Blockheads, who instead of the late Ian Dury, were being fronted by comedian/DJ Phil Jupitus. So instead we sat in the real ale and cocktail tent for a bit. Towards the end of Gomez’s set some of us wandered over for a look. I was pleasantly surprised. It’s been a while since I’ve been interested in them to be honest – about 1998 when I saw them playing their debut album in the West London club formerly known as The Subterrania. But as well as the songs from that album (which are still the clear audience favourites) the never stuff sounds alright too. Not good enough for me to go out and buy but good enough for a rainy Saturday evening.

Download: Gomez – Whippin’ Piccadily

Mrs Growl fared less well in the Hall going to see the Blockheads. She returned to our spot watching Gomez to declare it a bit of an embarrassment. I shouldn’t have doubted her. When I went in to the Hall for the loo (always a better bet than the portaloos outside) I couldn’t resist a peek inside. Sure enough. Although the Blockheads are clearly brilliant musicians, the whole thing was really just celebrity karaoke.

Then the rain came down. And kept going all night. We didn’t even get to stay up past 12, as we were ejected from the campsite café when it closed, and trudged our way back to our tents.

I've uploaded more picks to the ol' Flickr page.

Check here for my review of Friday.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Summer Sundae volume 1 (Friday)

Friday's music began at half six for us. But like I said, festivals aren't just about running to see band after band. There was plenty hanging about, talking, eating, drinking and even shopping in Leicester to be done before heading to the main stage.

Richard Hawley’s set feels way too short. It feels like he’s just begun when he’s telling us that he’s going to get pulled off soon. He isn’t immediately pulled off, and he and his band get the maximum time out of set closer Run to You by adding an extended rock-out ending. Anyone who knows this blog will know of my love for the former Pulp man’s music, so of course he was good. But a short, early outdoor set was never going to match up to the heights of his Shepherd’s Bush Empire show earlier in the year. I wonder if the early set was the reason for him forgoing his normal dapper attire, but I’m not really digging the stonewashed denim look, Rich. Still, this was potentially a good introduction to the uninitiated of the man’s fine music.

Download: Richard Hawley - Something Is

A Hawk and a Hacksaw were an interesting proposition. Musically not a million miles away from bloggers’ favourites Beirut, the Hawk... is a combination of Heather Trost on violin and ex-Neutral Milk Hotel man Jeremy Barnes on everything else. There's a local connection here, as apparently he recorded half his latest album in Leicester (and worked in the Post Office, he tells us). It’s quite amusing how he may be single-handedly making the one man band cool again. It’s every bit as good to watch him playing the cymbals with his jingling bell hat, and playing drums with his feet as it is to listen to the actually quite lovely mournful eastern European funeral waltzes of the music. One to watch out for.

Download: A Hawk and a Hacksaw - The Moon Under Water

DJ Format had no Abdominal with him, and seemingly no hip-hip records in his bag either (at least from what I heard), instead treating us to a set of funk tunes. It was eminently danceable though. I used to dance a lot, but only danced intermittently these days, so it was a pleasure to bust some moves.

Download: DJ Format & Abdominal - Ill Culinary Behaviour

My bad dancing continued over at the barely-lit Rising Stage, as I eschewed the indie MOR of Elbow in favour of the hypnotic old school techno of Plaid. It seems like years since I danced to this kind of music, and although I’ve never really checked out Plaid properly, I know they’re legends in their sphere and they fairly rocked the tent with their laptops. Great stuff.

Download: Plaid - Zeal

Mrs Growl came back from the main stage, confirming that my decision to stay away was the right one, and we both hung around in the Rising Stage tent to see Psapp. I had absolutely no preconceptions of what they’d be like – I probably expected something a bit more electronic like Plaid, but instead I got a joyful, playful gang of people using toy instruments, hitting odd bits of percussion and throwing hand-made cats into the audience. But they had some fine tunes too, coming on a bit like a funkier Stereolab with a leftfield sense of humour and a love of cats. The set was late in starting due to their keyboard player being stuck in Verona, so we got just over half an hour before they were pulled off. That just whetted my appetite for more. Probably my ‘new musical discovery’ of the weekend.

Download: Psapp - Eating Spiders

Summer Raindae

Well that's it over for another year. I'm just back from the Summer Sundae festival in Leicester where I was with assorted friends and family (some of the gang are pictured above). It was all pretty good. No real major musical stand-outs like last year, but a lot of fine stuff seen and heard and general fun had by all. There'll be much more to be reported on over the next few days, but for now, here's a few non-musical highlights and lowlights.

The De Montford Hall and gardens continues to be an excellent festival venue. This year featured an further expanded Rising Stage, which was regularly rammed out the door throughout. Only it wasn’t rammed inside – the two entrances on one side meant that the far right of the tent was always pretty uncluttered while the poor latecomers had to stand outside. This year the marketplace area (with the cabaret tent that I never ventured into) at the top of the hill was a welcome addition giving space to relax, eat and drink away from all the bands (festivals are not just all about music y'know).

The weather was rubbish again. Not only is Summer Sundae a terrible name for a festival, but each year it tempts fate with the 'sun' part of the name, and the references to ice cream, neither of which were much in evidence this weekend. It all started so well on Friday when we were pitching up, only to degenerate to the soggy mess of Saturday night and Sunday morning. However, the rain of the past four years has taught us to be prepared. Wellies were brought out.

Like last year, there was a real ale and cocktail tent. Real ale and cocktails. Together! What a great combination! Why is this not done more often? Mind you, just because it's real ale doesn't mean it's good, and with no real time to get tasters, it was a bit of a shot in the dark. Thankfully all the ones I tried were alright. Which is less than we can say for the shockingly watered-down cocktails on Saturday night.

Sea Cow had easily the best fish and chips I've ever bought from a van, and way better than should be expected at festivals. Chips and fish done just right (how often does that happen?) which more than made up for gripes about the size of the fish. If you see these people at a festival near you, do yourself a favour and get some.

I'll be covering the music over the next few days. As they're the main media partner of the festival, BBC 6 Music has a load of live stuff recorded over the weekend, which I'm hoping to post for your listening pleasure.

There's a small, but growing set of photos on my Flickr stream...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Hip hop and hop off

Here’s a quick ‘n’ lazy post for you.

Lazy because probably every music blogger out there has got an email from ‘Jesus’ recently bearing mp3s from the new Dan the Automator album. But hey, I don’t post the email freebies I get very often (usually because I don’t like ‘em) and I’m not claiming to be cutting edge here. Plus it ties in with my ongoing quest to get more decent new hip hop that doesn’t involve misogyny and self-aggrandising shite. These tracks do the trick quite nicely, and I’m sure the new album will be well worth checking out.

Quick because I’m off! Off for a long weekend to the Summer Sundae festival in not-so-sunny Leicester. The weather forecast for the weekend’s a bit foreboding, but the last couple of years have featured rubbish weather, which largely failed to dampen spirits, and the music was great. This year should be no exception.

Apart from a few weird scheduling anomalies (Gomez headlining? Camera Obscura playing way down the bill in the ‘new bands’ tent? Stephen Fretwell playing above Jose Gonzalez, and just before Belle and Sebastian?) the line-up is pretty fine, and I’m looking forward to seeing lots of old favourites and checking out new stuff. I’ll report back on it all next week.

Download: Dan The Automator feat. Hieroglyphics - Don't Hate The Player
Download: Dan The Automator feat. Ghostface & A.G. of D.I.T.C. - 2K007

Come join the cabaret

Fruitstock is surely the ultimate in what journo Miranda Sawyer recently called ‘restivals’. That is, “festivals tailor-made for the bourgeois festival-goer. You get good music, gorgeous surroundings and 'relaxed' people; but you also get proper toilets, decent food and comfy accommodation.”

Now as I get older, I can almost embrace that description as something positive. It’s not longer good enough merely to be in eyesight of my heroes any more. But you do get the impression that at events like Fruitstock the music is kinda incidental, or just a part of the experience. The vast majority of the tens of thousands of people there on Saturday were picnicking, chatting, hanging out or playing with their kids while the music happened in the background. I don’t say that as a jibe – I was doing the same!

Mind you, it wasn’t that “relaxed”. Certainly not as much as last year. The sheer volume of people cramming onto the site made it damn near impossible to move anywhere. Ideas of getting drinks from the bar tents soon evaporated when I realised that it really wasn’t worth queuing for 20 minutes for a pint of Amstel. The toilets might have been OK, but you had to wait even longer for them.

But if music was incidental, why am I going on here? Well, it wasn’t entirely. The Puppini Sisters, onstage when we arrived, grabbed my attention long enough for me to stray from my picnic site to watch them doing their dance routines and 1940s swingy jazzy versions of pop classics and er, 40s swingy jazzy tunes. They’re essentially a polished cabaret act, their cocky confidence and banter no doubt coming from working the London cabaret circuit (most recently at hip venues like Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club and Bistrotheque), and somehow, someone somewhere at Universal thinks it’s time to launch them into the public domain. I quite liked them. The covers ranged from the bad (Panic) to the OK (Wuthering Heights) to the good (I Will Survive). But it’s not just about the music. It’s about the whole package. How appropriate for Fruitstock.

The other band that caught my attention, Nouvelle Vague , would probably be irked at being called a cabaret act. I reckon they see themselves as more of a ‘serious’ band, even though they’re doing a similar thing to the Puppinis – covering ‘classic’ tunes in a different style. Their bossa-lounge covers of post-punk and new wave tunes is well known from their first eponymous album from 2004. Their new one Band A Part is much of the same. It sounds alright really. To be fair, they don’t really go in for the whole dance routine, period costume thing, and does having a beatboxer make them cooler than cabaret? I don’t know. But look! Both bands do a cover of Heart of Glass! So for now, I’m calling them both cabaret – but in the best possible way.

Download: The Puppini Sisters – I Will Survive
Download: The Puppini Sisters – Heart of Glass
Download: Nouvelle Vague – Heart of Glass
Download: Nouvelle Vague – The Killing Moon

Buy the Puppini Sisters' album Betcha Bottom Dollar, or Nouvelle Vague’s Nouvelle Vague and Band A Part.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The World is Gone

I’ve been listening to the new album from Various (aka Various Productions) a lot recently on my iPod and on my computer at home. But somehow I feel I’m missing out on an extra dimension of their music, because I remember back to earlier in the year when I first encountered the Various crew. They were DJing at an XL Records party, and I had my innards rearranged by the bass. It was quite something.

But their album The World is Gone is something even better. Various (known to their mothers as Adam Phillips and Ian Carter) have potentially confused unaware record store employees across the land, as well as thrilling the rest of us with their heady mix of thundering dub, swirling beats ‘n’ glitches, twisted strings and gorgeous vocals. It’s kinda like Mezzanine-era Massive Attack, but without the celebrity vocalists, and updated for the 21st century whilst being given a shot of folk melody. The production is amazing for sure, but what elevates this record way above its peers is that at the heart of all the special effects, there are great songs.

Dance-store vinyl heads have been onto these guys for a while. They’ve released a slow but steady stream of 7 inches on their own label (they’re now on XL) – most notably the menacing dub of Hater – complete with their own unique pencil-drawn artwork. They’ve also been described as dubstep, though apparently they’re not part of that (mainly) south London scene. In fact, they transcend dubstep and all other genres, to make something so current and essential that if you had to make a time capsule which contained a representation of music in 2006, I’d skip way past the skinny boys with spiky guitars and head straight to The World is Gone. I reckon that when listening to it in 10 years time, it’ll still sound as fresh as it does today. Unless the skinny boys trade in their guitars for turntables and studio trickery and copy the formula.

Now it’s time for me to put Various on a proper stereo system, turn up the bass and enjoy The World is Gone the way it should be!

Download: Various – Circle of Sorrow
Download: Various – Sweetness

And it’s not just a review and tracks you get today – you get a Various poster giveaway! Yep, I’ve got a few posters featuring their own original artwork to go with the album – that’s what’s in the picture above. I’m not going to bother with a proper competition – just email me at daily dot growl at yahoo dot co dot uk (or click on the link in my profile). This competition favours the swift!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Belated RIPs

I've been bit slow with these but better late than never. A couple of RIPs.

Firstly and most famously, Arthur Lee of Love. Laterally, since his release from prison in 2001, the rejuvenated Arthur was Love. I'm kinda wishing now I'd got to see him, as Forever Changes is a particular favourite of mine. Give me that any day over yer Sergeant Peppers and the likes. Classic stuff. There's really no need for me to say much more, as plenty has been said already (for one, read this obituary). Just enjoy perhaps his best-known song from Forever Changes, and a version of it by Calexico.

Download: Love - Alone Again Or
Download: Calexico - Alone Again Or

Buy Forever Changes

Secondly, and a lot less famously, I found out on Friday that Tony Ogden had died. Who? you may ask (indeed - I tried and failed to find a decent photo of him). I was reading a piece by John Harris in the Guardian on Friday when I found out. He was the singer and songwriter from Manchester band World of Twist, who made some well-received singles in the latter days of the Madchester craze.

They're definitely part of my musical history as well, as I remember back to the heady days of summer 1991 when I discovered record shopping and 7 inches, and I bought the single of Sons of the Stage. It was a cracking tune. Noel Gallagher agrees too (though I'm not sure if that's necessarily an endorsement) and apparently almost called his band Sons of the Stage instead of Oasis. Who knows how different the future could have been for Ogden if he had. He disappeared not long after the break-up of the band in 1992. They never really got over the lack of success of their first and only album Quality Street, which was beset by production problems. In recent times, Tony put together a project called Bubblegum Secret Pop Explosion, and you can buy a digital EP from their site. John Harris calls Ogden "the last of the lost geniuses". I'm not sure I'd go that far, but he's certainly worth a tribute.

You could buy Quality Street from Amazon, but do you really want to pay £26 and wait 6 weeks? Instead best check eBay or download the tracks below. You can get more of these from the lovingly curated World of Twist tribute website. They're all pretty good y'know.

Download: World of Twist - Sons of the Stage (12" version)
Download: World of Twist - The Storm (12" version)
Donwload: World of Twist - She's a Rainbow (12" version)

Monday, August 07, 2006

Lost in the K-hole

Other people’s drug stories are never that interesting. Especially if they involve magic mushrooms. “Yeah man, it was like this and it was great and this and that happened and…” by which time you have slunk off to get another drink / find someone better to talk to. But here’s young Mr Ali Love, straight outta his flat above On The Rocks in Shoreditch with his own drug related escapade – following his debauched evening round East London, a rave in Docklands, and a dive into the underbelly of Soho, which ends up with Ali’s dive into some bins up some back alley.

The catalyst for the evening’s entertainment is none other than the people’s horse tranquiliser of choice, ketamine. Now who knows if the story is true – whether he really did buy some K instead of cocaine from a dealer in the Old Blue Last, whether he did pull a dominatrix at the rave and end up in her Soho pad, and whether he did get a kicking from her bouncer boyfriend and end up in the aforementioned alley. Who knows even if it’s a salutary warning against ketamine, or whether despite his assertion that he’s “never going there again”, he’s actually celebrating it. Whatever, it’s a fairly compelling listen and certainly struck a chord with the kids, since it’s become a bit of an anthem on John Kennedy’s Xfm show. So Ali came in with his mates a couple of weeks ago to play some tracks and chat.

The results below are posted for your listening pleasure. I’m aware that many of you won’t have heard the original, so head over to Ali’s myspace to check out the full rockin’ version as well as the acoustic one I’ve got here. While you’re there, you can also get an alternative version of Camera on a Pole.

My favourite Ali Love track unhelpfully isn’t posted here at all. It’s the B-side to K-HoleVideo Dream Girl, a lovely little tune that sounds like it could have recorded in the mid-80s. I think it’s definitely better song, but I guess it doesn’t have the anthemic fists-in-the-air-down-the-indie-disco nature of the A-side. Unfortunately as I don’t have the lurid pink 7 inch vinyl I don’t have the mp3, but we can all enjoy listening to it at Ali’s website (along with an Erol Alkan remix of K-Hole).

The last track below was actually my introduction to Mr Love. It’s his cover version of M. Craft’s brilliant You Are the Music, which he makes a decent fist of. Though if you haven’t heard the original, check my previous post and buy the excellent M. Craft album!

Download: Ali Love – Lost in the K-Hole (live on Xfm)
Download: Ali Love – Camera on a Pole (live on Xfm)
Download: Ali Love – K-Hole (Sebastian remix)
Download: Ali Love – You are the Music (M. Craft cover)

Buy the K-Hole 7 inch from Rough Trade.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Gotan Project @ Shepherds Bush Empire, 29 July 06

Having experienced Gotan Project live before, it was with a real sense of anticipation that we hot-footed it from Clapham Common to Shepherds Bush for a dose of their brushed-up tango. Mind you, I must admit I haven’t got fully into their new album Lunatico properly yet. Maybe, like the last album La Revancha del Tango, I’ll have to give it more time before I realise its greatness. But this gig certainly helped the cause. The set was mostly drawn from their latest and it all sounded amazing. From their vantage point high above the brilliant tango musicians, Philippe Cohen Solal and Christoph Müller chucked out some chunky beats, electronic trickery and ace rhythms that made me glad we got there late and couldn’t find a seat. The vantage point in the standing section of the Empire was perfect for both seeing the spectacle on stage and dancing a wee bit.

Not that everyone seemed into it. During the quieter, jazzier Celos, the buzz of conversation made me wonder why all these people paid good money just to ignore the band. Then I realised. The (perhaps over-) use of tracks from La Revancha on TV trailers and ads seems to have introduced Gotan Project to the dinner party set, who obviously can’t get used to the idea of having their music on without talking about mortgages or little Johnnie’s school.

Their loss. It was a great show. I’m not always one to consider virtuoso musicianship as the most important thing in live performances, but it’s so right here. The tango musicians that guitarist Eduardo Makaroff (the third core Gotan member) has assembled were fantastic. And didn’t they look good all dressed up in their white tuxedos and dresses? They’ve obviously put a lot of effort into the lighting and projections too. All of which wouldn’t matter too much if the music was crap, but that was never going to be a problem. It all contributes to a fabulous whole.

Good as the new album sounds live, the biggest cheers are saved for the favourites off La Revencha, particularly the stunning encore of Queremos Paz and Santa Maria. And don’t they deserve them! Just when I’m wishing they could play all night, it’s all over, mystifyingly early at 10:15pm. Oh well, some of the audience might even be able to squeeze in a dinner party before the evening’s out.

Download: Gotan Project - Mi Confesión
Download: Gotan Project - Criminal

Buy Lunatico and La Revancha del Tango

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

New McAlmont & Butler

McAlmont and Butler. Artists whom I have always enjoyed hearing together, but somehow never fully checked out properly. However, my interest was piqued the other day in finding out that they are going to be releasing a new single (7” and download only) on its own, without any album to promote, just for the love of it. That sounded quite refreshing, so when I switched on 6 Music the other night, they were on the Tom Robinson show, all ready to play a few acoustic tunes. Luckily the SD card was in and I was quick enough on the record button.

The songs are great. David McAlmont has an amazing voice that simply soars. Bernard Butler gets busy on the acoustic. They played the new single Speed, plus Falling off their last album, and another totally new track called Midnight. M&B fans – get 'em while they're hot. Me, I'm off to discover more.

Download: McAlmont and Butler – Falling (live on BBC 6 Music)
Download: McAlmont and Butler – Speed (live on BBC 6 Music)
Download: McAlmont and Butler – Midnight (live on BBC 6 Music)

You can read more about M&B over on to die by your side.

Buy the M&B back catalogue here and here.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The best of July

Right, before the month gets any older, a quick look back at my musical highlights of July.

Album of the month

It's been a bit hard to choose this month, what with so much good stuff out. In the end, the choice was between the ubiquitous Lily Allen and the posthumously ubiquitous Johnny Cash. Maybe it's the summer heat addling my brain, but I'm going with Lily. Maybe in a year's time I'll look back and think I was mad - what? choosing the hyped starlet's reggae-lite over the magisterial valedictory album from a legend like Cash. Well, maybe, but it is summer, and just now it seems so right - it's certainly the record I've been most consistently listening to and enjoying most in July. Plus there's not a duff track there, and how many albums can you say that about?

Download: Lily Allen - Take What You Take

Songs of the Month

1. Dangerdoom - Old School (feat Talib Kweli)

My journey back towards decent hip-hop continues. I missed The Mouse and The Mask last year, until I heard this monster blasting out the radio earlier in the month. Then I made amends.

2. Adem - Launch Yourself (Thomas Erikson Mix)

Adem's quirky downbeat folk number gets a minimal scuzzy synth re-working, to magnificent effect.

3. Sol Seppy - Slo Fuzz

I admit I know next to nothing about Sol Seppy (aka Sophie Michalitsianos), but this warm, er, fuzzy song is real beauty. I've got the iTunes free download to thank me for the introduction.

4. Fields - Brittle Sticks

I raved about this lot recently, so I'm re-posting. Just really good indie rock, the way it should be done.

5. Peter, Bjorn and John - Young Folks

This insanely catchy tune has been all over the radio last month. Cue mass whistling (maybe).