Friday, March 30, 2007

Monkey Swallows the Universe / Hyacinth House @ The Social, 26 March 2007

Anyone who knows this blog will know of my love for The End of the Road Festival. But it’s not just a festival. Luckily for us Londoners, the organisers also put on monthly gigs at The Social which both provide the capital with a dose of fine new bands, and possibly give a sneak preview for some of the artists who may be gracing the stages at Larmer Tree Gardens in mid-September.

The residency started in January, but Monday was the first night I was able to make it down (shame, as last month featured Loney, Dear). It’s been a long time since I’ve been to The Social and I’ve forgotten what an odd venue it is. On the plus side it’s a fine bar, and has the small-venue intimacy I always prefer. But live music seems to have been an afterthought. The stage is encroached by concrete table-booths, the room is very long and thin, and you have to brush past the drummer on the way to the loo!

These things aside, it’s the quality of the music that counts, and on Monday there was plenty of that. I had never heard of Hyacinth House before, so when I walked in to see the big grizzly guy on stage I was at first intrigued, then won over by their brand of woozy Americana – which takes in Laurel Canyon, the atmospheric mid-West, and even the Appalachians.

For band with the same name as a Doors song, they’re not rubbish, and given their music, they’re not American. Hyacinth House is actually two hairy, affable Swedish brothers – Mack (guitar) and Fredrik (harmonica, banjo). Midway through their set Mack suggests “Maybe we’ll fuck you up a little bit now”, but they’re never likely to do that. Their bend of Neil Young and bluegrass is hardly going to rock The Social's foundations. Neither would I want it to. It’s fine as it is.

Download: Hyacinth House – Ghost Town

Buy their self-titled debut album from CD Baby

Headliners Monkey Swallows the Universe aren’t going to be fucking anyone up either. You know that when one of their number comes onstage and steps up to the mic brandishing a recorder. Plus their indiepop is too sweet and their demeanour a little too shy for acts of hardness. But again, they’re fine the way they are.

The band was formed by Singer Nat Johnson and guitarist Kevin Gori in 2004, and expanded to a five-piece in 2005. They released their debut album The Bright Carvings last year to some acclaim (it made the highly-regarded Rough Trade top 100 albums for 2006). And it seems they already have a bit of a fanbase. “How many times have you seen the Monkeys” I overheard a guy next to me asking. The answer was multiple. Then there were the repeated cries of "Jimmy!" after ‘The Monkeys’ finished their set. This turned out to be a cheery little song called Jimmy Down the Well, which rounded off the evening nicely.

Before that they had played a set of charming and tuneful indie-pop, with the classic ingredients of violin, cello, recorder and glockenspiel to add to their acoustic guitars and drums. They kept announcing new songs, though almost all of them were new to me. Particular highlights were Florence (a mere b-side) and main set closer Elizabeth and Mary, which fuzzed up the guitar sound a bit and provided a better showcase for the quality of Nat’s voice than their other songs.

On the evidence of this gig, and the acts already selected for the festival, the EOTR organisers are people with impeccable taste. I’ll certainly be back to the Social for more.

Download: Monkey Swallows the Universe – Florence
Download: Monkey Swallows the Universe – Jimmy Down the Well

Buy The Bright Carvings from Rough Trade.

I have a few more photos at my Flickr.

MTSU release their new single Little Polveir on Loose Records on 16 April.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Loney, Dear

I’ve just had a bit of a realisation. Swedish singer-songwriter Emil Svanängen actually records under the name Loney, Dear. That’s not Lonely, Dear as I had previously thought (no ‘L’ you see). That may not seem like a big deal, and it’s not. But it seems that I’m not the only one making this mistake. There are plenty of people on still labouring under this delusion.

Thankfully Google allowed for the rogue ‘L’ when I tracked him down and started happily listening to songs on his myspace. I’ve been aware of Loney, Dear’s existence for a few months now, but never really got round to checking him out until I was sent a copy of a track from his new album Loney, Noir last week. I am John is a cracking little song – starting off in a nice gentle indiepop vein, before Emil starts adding more and more quality ingredients in a very measured way, so that the song builds slowly but steadily until you realise that it's a fantastic big-sounding pop song, chock-full of all sorts of stuff I like – chunky tunes, harmonies, fuzzy bass, xylophone plonking away in the background.

This all bodes very well for Loney, Noir, and the Beach Boys-esque track Saturday Waits currently streaming on the myspace is even better. Lovely stuff. The album’s been available on import via Sub Pop in the nation’s better record shops for a few weeks now, but it gets its proper UK release on Regal on 16 April. I am John is out as a single a week later. Loney, Dear is back in London at the Water Rats on 25 April. I may well be there.

Download: Loney, Dear - I am John

Pre-order Loney, Noir.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Singles, going steady

So I have a new project on The Daily Growl. One that was precipitated by last week’s project – that of decorating my lounge. As part of the clearing-out process prior to painting, I moved all my CDs upstairs, and now I have several cases and baskets of them lying around. One of these is a storage tower containing all of my CD singles. Now I really don’t like CD singles. They’ve always seemed a bit of a rubbish format – just a bit light and disposable, and certainly not with the aesthetic appeal of a nice piece of 7 inch or 12 inch vinyl.

Anyway, I have this heap of CD singles which I’m wondering what to do with. I’m probably going to go through them, decide which ones I want to keep and the rest will end up on ebay or down the local second hand shop. But not before I’ve brought you some of the contents of said discs. It’s a perfect opportunity to revisit a forgotten part of my music collection, some of which has remained untouched for years. It may even be a bit nostalgic.

As this is going to be roughly alphabetical, I’m kicking off with Air, from the first single off their now classic Moon Safari album. This is a record that has stood the test of time, though it has been a bit tarnished by appearing on so many adverts and TV shows. It began to be derided as one of the typical ‘coffee table’ albums, but it’s definitely worth revisiting – it’s much better than the denigrators might suggest.

The single Sexy Boy is one Air’s most archetypal songs, and a true gem. Though I’m not posting the normal version. Instead here’s a remix by Etienne De Crecy (of Super Discount fame), which wisely leaves the bulk of the original intact. And also one of Air’s loveliest songs which never made it onto an album – Jeanne, sung by legendary French chanteuse Francoise Hardy.

Download: Air – Sexy Boy (Etienne de Crecy et Les Flower Pistols remix)
Download: Air – Jeanne (avec Francoise Hardy)

Although I’ve consistently enjoyed Air’s material since these songs, they’ve never really advanced their template or produced anything much better than these. Their new record Pocket Symphony is out now, but I don’t really care that much. I just can’t see the point in buying it. Maybe someone can convince me otherwise.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

James Yorkston and the Hype Machine

There was an article on The Hype Machine in the Guardian yesterday. Nothing that interesting, and nothing that regular blog-readers don’t already know. But I was interested in the portrayal of a world where “James Yorkston is more popular than James Blunt”.

So I thought I’d put it to the test. Is this really true? And by heck, it is. But only just – by about 2 or 3 tracks at the moment. James Yorkston isn’t really "big in the blogosphere" as the accompanying picture caption to the article suggests (although he should be), and he’s unlikely going to be troubling The Hype Machine’s ‘most popular’ list anytime soon, but I’m going to strike a blow for the better James and give him another Hype Machine hit.

So here’s a track from his debut single on Domino from 2002 – a record I’ve long coveted and only just managed to track down after paying top dollar on Ebay. It’s a remix of the a-side The Lang Toun ('The Long Town' for all those unfamiliar with Scots) and probably one of Keiran Hebden’s less heard remixes.

Download: James Yorkston – The Lang Toun (Four Tet remix)

I'm hoping to get round to doing a proper James Yorkston post sometime soon.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Arcade Fire @ Brixton Academy, 16 March 2007

I'm a whole week, late with this, but then again, I've got an excuse...

Arcade Fire are making up for lost time. Back in 2005 when they first arrived on these shores riding waves of critical acclaim and internet hype, they only played three London shows – the now legendary gigs at King’s College and ULU and one a few months later at the Astoria. For a band of their stature, that wasn’t nearly enough to satisfy the demand of their growing British fanbase. So this time round, they’ve clocked up no fewer than nine gigs in less than three months – their five-night London residency in January which served as the world premiere for new album The Neon Bible, and now four nights at Brixton Academy. It’s no surprise that all of these dates sold out in a flash. Especially now the band are no longer just the critic’s choice. They’re an international phenomenon.

This Brixton Academy gig was always going to be a bit different from the St John’s show I was at in January. That’s both a good and a bad thing. For a start, the sum of all the audiences for the January gigs could have fitted into the Academy with plenty room to spare. Then we were standing in serried rows. Tonight it’s hands in the air wild abandon from most of the downstairs crowd. So the atmosphere is better. And their stage set is bigger and more impressive. But on the negative side there’s the high bar prices (that’s high cost for low quality), the awful sound (on the third night, why is there still feedback throughout the whole set?), the higher than usual number of idiots in the crowd (that’s big gigs for you) and no scope for any of the Arcade Fire’s fabled end-of-gig extra-curricular activities.

But most importantly, the band’s performance is better. They seem on top form tonight, and their passion and mad energy make up for all the technical problems. In a funny way it's appropriate that they should walk on stage to a film clip of a crazy Pentecostal preacher offering to give her congergation a 'Holy Ghost enema', given that their fervour in playing and singing is almost religious in intensity. And of course the songs are so impressive too. It’s a joy to behold. I always expected that they would major on playing the new record, and they do, missing out only Antichrist Television Blues, My Body is a Cage (a shame, given the big pipe organ on stage) and the title track. However, this time seeing them, I’ve had more time to spend with The Neon Bible, and I’m beginning to really love it. Even the much-derided people who suggested that it was better than Funeral are beginning to look like they have a point.

Although the new songs go down a storm, even inspiring mass sing-alongs from fans who know all the words already, it’s still the Funeral tracks that get the biggest adulation. Six tracks off their debut long-player is more than most audiences have been getting on this tour, and the crowd responded in kind. Two encores. Two of the biggest Funeral songs (Wake Up and Power Out) were kept till the screaming end to send most of the crowd off in raptures. However, I was not quite so moved. Because for me, Arcade Fire will always be victims of their own greatness, and giving me in that 2005 ULU show one of my lifetime’s greatest live music experiences. I’m not sure that any of their gigs, now or in the future, can live up to that night. Still, tonight came close , and all that said, Arcade Fire are still such an amazing band that I'd watch them almost anywhere. Maybe not Wembley Arena though - everyone has to have their limits.

See some more of my Arcade Fire pics from the gig at my Flickr, along with some of Electrelane, who were supporting (there's a separate post for them coming up). Three Pink Monkeys has much better shots, but then again, she got into the photographer's pit.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I'm in DIY hell

Sorry for the lack of posts of late (and any lack of responses to emails). I'm in decorating hell. I hate it, but I should emerge, hopefully relatively unscathed, in a few days with more music-related posts. I have stuff to write about, honest. It's just that right now, my developing lounge needs more attention.

So in the meantime, here's a vaguely related cheesy link.

Download: The Beatles - Fixing a Hole

Friday, March 16, 2007

Whatever happened to... Lincoln?

Here’s the first in what will probably be a very occasional series. Whatever happened to… isn’t intended to tell you amusing anecdotes about what happened to various indie bands after their prime. I haven’t suddenly discovered that the former Menswear bass player works in my local hairdressers. Not yet anyway. No, it’s going to be me genuinely asking what has happened to some bands I’ve liked, because I really don’t know. I’ve searched the internet for info and have found nothing. So if anyone knows anything, I’d love to hear what they’re up to, particularly if they’re still producing music.

I’ll kick off Lincoln, a band from Stoke Newington who I first heard on John Kennedy’s show on Xfm back in early 2001. Though they were a London band, the first time I saw them play was at the inaugural Summer Sundae festival in Leicester that summer. I was immediately seduced by their lovely dusty rolling Americana, and the sweetly impressive vocal pairing of Alex Gordon and Tracy van Daal. At that time, they had two mini-albums (or is that EPs?) to their name – Barcelona (2000) and Kibokin (2001), which were excellent. I’m listening to them as I write this and they still sound amazing. If you want comparisons, it’s a bit like Tindersticks go country. Or a more Anglicised Lambchop. But with added brass a female co-vocalist.

The band consisted of the aforementioned people (Alex also played guitar and trumpet), David Hannam (guitar and harmonium), Jim Friedlander (Bass and trumpet), Matt Dowse (Trombone, Fender Rhodes) and Crum Hall (Drums). Crum also had a home studio where some of their tracks were recorded. But is was to a castle near Aberdeen that the band headed to record their debut full-length album Mettle in 2002, in front of a roaring fire. Again it was another splendid showcase of their lovely sounds. I saw Lincoln three or four times but somewhere towards the end of 2002 I stopped hearing about them. The last gig I remember was their biggest one – at Dingwalls – but unfortunately I couldn’t go to it. I thought that they might be on the verge of something, but instead everything went quiet.

Although this was all in the days before myspace, they did have a website. However it looks the same now as it did five years ago. No information from their label Narwhal Records either – their website has totally disappeared. So if anyone’s got any information, please let me know. Maybe if there were no serious ‘musical differences’, maybe someone could even tempt them to reform. Otherwise, just enjoy the tracks below.

From Barcelona

Download: Lincoln – Barcelona
Download: Lincoln – Johnny Morris

From Kibokin

Download: Lincoln – Little Mistakes
Download: Lincoln – Proud of Myself

From Mettle

Download: Lincoln – Blood on the Streets
Download: Lincoln – Crooked Smile

Someone seems to be selling Lincoln albums in the Amazon Marketplace for the princely sum of 99p. Bargain! So go and buy Kibokin, Mettle and Barcelona. All of them are very good.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A history lesson with iLiKETRAiNS

Another week, another decent band from Leeds. Only I’ve been on about these guys before. The good news is that iLiKETRAiNS have gotten round to releasing their debut single for Beggars Banquet. It’s called Spencer Perceval, and it’s no ordinary single.

Why? Well, for a start it continues their interest in obscure historical events as subject matter for songs. For the band who’ve previously tackled Captain Scott’s polar exploration, and government reports supporting closure of local railways in the 60s, it’s only a small step to writing a song about the first and only British Prime Minister to be assassinated. Not only does it go into the details of Perceval’s murder in 1812, it’s also over nine minutes long. So I guess they’re not desperate for radio airplay then.

Spencer Perceval may well be absent from the airwaves, but that’s no reason not to hunt it out at your local record shop or favourite download site. Particularly if you like their already-established dark and brooding guitar sound. It actually starts off reminding me a lot of Slowdive with gloriously chiming guitars (in my book, that's a good thing) and by the time it gets to the end of its epic length, there’s a lot more swirly noise going on. It’s all very good, and presents the nation’s youth with the prefect combination of being educational whilst satisfying a demand for loud, gloomy guitar music.

This track is posted here for a very limited time, as I don’t want to hamper the already diminished commercial potential of the single. If you arrive here after the mp3 is gone, go here to listen to it. Or here to watch the video. Or even better buy it! The single features another track I am Murdered (the dying Perceval's last words) which serves as a very pleasing lengthy reprise to the A-side.

Download: iLiKETRAiNS – Spencer Perceval

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Buy Fence, support independent music

The nation’s independent music shops are slowly closing. I know people have been talking about this for years, but the last six months have seen the closure of Reckless Records and Smallfish in central London alone. A big shame.

Thankfully there are still great shops like Rough Trade. And also thankfully there are people like the Fence Collective, doing their little bit to help the plight of our favourite record emporiums. Their latest compilation Don’t Fudge With the Fence Made, is available from the princely sum of £5.99, but only in a select group of indie shops. These are Unknown Pleasures (St Andrews), Avalanche (Edinburgh), Monorail (Glasgow), One-Up (Aberdeen), Norman Records (Leeds), Resident Music (Brighton) and Rough Trade. If you buy it online from the Fence store, you’ll pay more. So you know what to do.

But why should you buy it anyway? If you’re not familiar with them, the Fence Collective is a er, collective of musicians based around the quaint little fishing village of Anstruther in Fife, who all pursue a similar acoustic / folk / leftfield way of making music, often sharing stages and each other’s songs. They also run a record label called Fence Records on which they put out their tunes, although their most prominent artists - James Yorkston and King Creosote (the ostensible leader of the pack) - release their songs on other labels (Domino and 679 respectively).

It’s not just artists from Fife though. Their roster includes like-minded souls from across the British Isles. So we have Things in Herds from Brighton, Adrian Crowley from Dublin, Hardsparrow from Poole, and Daily Growl fave Barbarossa from London. All of these people are on this delightful compilation, which perfectly showcases Fence in all its melodic, oddball glory. It’s not all acoustic strumming either. Some of the tracks on here have a distinctly electronic bent, but there’s a whole other post in that. Watch this space.

Anyway, check out these tracks, see what you think and if you like what you hear and live in any of the fair cities above, buy the comp and strike a blow for independent music!

Download: The Pictish Trail – All I Own
Download: Things in Herds – You Know

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Disco Pogo for Punks in Pumps - Volume 11

Here it is at last. The delayed final edition of my Disco Pogo for Punks in Pumps series, this time volume 11 from Jockey Slut's October 2003 edition. Again I have James from Yer Mam! To thank for these tracks, because although I still have the magazine and CD case, somehow the CD has gone missing. So cheers again James, and here are my picks of tunes from the compilation.

Luke Vibert’s Acidisco does exactly what it says it does. The Junior Boys were on this CD three years before they were the toast of the blogosphere. Two Banks of Four is another project of Rob Gallagher, originally in jazz-funkers Galliano, and also known for his Earl Zinger alter ego. It’s decent Gilles Peterson-style groovy stuff. Tortoise get the dubious prize for the longest and most incomprehensible name for this piece of classic noodling off their TNT album. Princess Superstar, big in 2003, brings a slab of er, disco pogo punk funk. And finally we have a bonus of Sasha Funke’s piece of moody electronica.

Download: Luke Vibert – Acidisco
Download: Junior Boys – Birthday
Download: Two Banks of Four – Two Miles Before Dawn
Download: Munk & Princess Superstar – Ah Uh
Download: Tortoise - In Sarah, Mencken, Christ And Beethoven There Were Women And Men (D’s Winter Crazy Dub)
Download: Sasha Funke – Now You Know

This really is the last in the series. It’s been occasional, but I’ve finally got through all the compilations in this legendary series. Hope you’ve enjoyed the tracks. And I’m glad to have given some old ravers (including myself) a bit of nostalgia for a great lost mag.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The End of the Road is a fine place to be

So most of the summer festivals are getting round to announcing their line-ups. This year, Mrs Growl and I will be taking a bit of a break from most festivals, due to the arrival of the Baby Growl in June. Thankfully we won’t be totally absent from the season though.

On Friday, the End of the Road Festival announced the first set of artists from its line-up, and it was with great joy that I beheld Super Furry Animals at the top of the list. Mind you, even with one of our favourite bands headlining, we were always going to go anyway. It was the highlight of my live music calendar last year, and hopefully this year will be no different. So tickets are booked, and we’re looking forward to it. It’s such a lovely setting, good crowd and great vibe.

There’s a few other artists booked too. The list features Herman Dune, Howe Gelb, The Young Republic, Euros Childs, Broken Family Band, Charlie Parr, Seasick Steve, Viking Moses, Sons of Noel & Adrian, Monkey Swallows the Universe, Darren Hayman, Hush The Many, Sunny Day Sets Fire, David Thomas Broughton. Some of these played last year, but unlike the spirit-crushing inevitability of the likes of V Festival line-ups, these bands are back at EOTR just because the lovely organisers are such big fans, and true lovers of good music

Anyway, I’ve been inspired to spin some Super Furries for the first time in a while – mainly what I consider to be their two greatest albums – Mwng and Rings Around the World. And from these, possibly the finest moments on each.

Download: Super Furry Animals – Receptacle for the Respectable
Download: Super Furry Animals – Gwreiddiau Dwfn/Mawrth oer ar y Blaned Neifion

Buy Mwng and Rings...

Friday, March 09, 2007

Kate Nash live

Here's another gig I didn't go to this week. But then again, there's more to life than going to gigs. There are other things to do. All the same, I still haven't managed to get to see Kate Nash play live, which is a shame. On Tuesday she played with the excellent Fields and Daily Growl favourite Jeremy Warmsley at the Barfly for Xfm's Xposure. Some tracks were broadcast by John Kennedy last night on his show. Here are three I managed to record.

Interestingly, it seems like she's now doing Caroline's a Victim in a quite different way than on the single, which is probably a good thing. Anyway, enjoy these tracks. My December Kate Nash post with tracks from a previous Xfm studio session has been one of my most popular of the last few months, so there's obviously a few fans out there.

Download: Kate Nash - Merry Happy (live at the Barfly)
Download: Kate Nash - Caroline's a Victim (live at the Barfly)
Download: Kate Nash - The Nicest Thing (live at the Barfly)

You can buy Kate's debut single from TuneTribe.

Pic of Kate live at Chalk at the Scala the other week from gregscargill's Flickr.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Black Lips pack 'em in

Looks like I caught up with Black Lips a little too late. They've been doing a sorta tour of London over the past week, playing about a gig a night. By the time I had got round to listening to them, there was only one night left - a gig at The Old Blue Last in Shoreditch last night. And bonus! It was free.

So I assemble a few people who may be interested in hearing some free raucous retro 60s-style US garage rock and head down there, only to be told that it was full and only guest list was being allowed in. Damn! However, we didn't hang around too long on Great Eastern Street, a quick trip to The Griffin for drinks meant I wasn't going home on the tube as sullen as the Arsenal fans.

So what should have been a gig review is a bit of a moan. Sorry about that, but here's an mp3 - the b-side of the Atlanta band's new 7 inch on Vice records. It's pretty good. If you can imagine the Beatles as a rough-edged garage band.

I hear they're meant to be back over here for more shows in the summer. I'll be quicker off the mark then hopefully...

Here's a short youtube of them playing Not a Problem at the OBL.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Los Campesinos! & Sky Larkin @ The Spitz, 5 March 2007

So, two of the most tipped new bands of the year so far, on tour together. At least judging by the end of year poll on Nothing But Green Lights, which had its top two as Los Campesinos! (2) and Sky Larkin (1). Both of them wound up their recent short UK tour at a long sold out gig at The Spitz on Monday night.

By virtue of being the higher profile of the two bands – now with a record deal on Witchita – The Cardiff outfit are the headline act. But I reckon most people are out tonight to see both.

I really quite liked Sky Larkin, the Leeds band made up of Katie (vocals, shiny skirt, cute guitar poses), Douglas Adams (bass, big curly hair, not being a million-selling author), and Nestor (drums, wild thrashing, even wilder facial expressions). I’m not going to give you a detailed breakdown of their sound and influences. They’re basically a trio playing decent indie rock with good tunes. Nothing particularly groundbreaking, but they do it very well. I guess if you really want a comparison, think a slightly less poppy Long Blondes, without the self-conscious coolness. But that’s not really important. They’re a small and perfectly formed band. The first mutual appreciation of the evening came when Katie invited the ‘Los Campesinos! male voice choir’ onstage to sing Somersault.

Download: Sky Larkin – One of Two

Los Campesinos!, their slightly more illustrious friends , bring their seven-member line-up to the stage for a set of full-on indie pop songs that will be familiar to anyone who’s benefited from their policy of giving away loads of free mp3s of songs from their myspace, and website. Although most people there were probably seeing them for the first time, they do seem to have some superfans who threw themselves around with wild abandon to every note played.

But it’s understandable really. They’re a lot of fun, and their spark and energy over-rides their sometime lack of tightness. Each song seems to begin and end with a clatter of instruments, and continues through the cheery keyboard riffs, mad plonking on xylophones, singer Gareth’s shouting, posing and posturing, and smiles all round from the rest of the group. Their mutual appreciation is even greater – not only Sky Larkin, but also third support act Nosferatu D2 are called onstage for an awesome rendition of You ! Me! Dancing! Which has to be their best tune so far, and really should have been the finale, because they were never going to top that.

Although their supercharged indie pop (they have, by their own admission, only one ‘ballad’) is hugely appealing, I think on the night they were probably edged by their less numerous friends. Still, two fine new bands on a dismal March evening in East London isn’t a bad deal.

Download: Los Campesinos! – We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives
Download: Los Campesinos! – Please Don’t Tell Me to do the Math(s)

Things are obviously looking up for these kids. Los Campesinos! next London gig is at the much bigger Scala (on 5 June). You’ll have to wait till around then to see them play anywhere though, because neither Los Camps or Sky Larkin are doing much in the way of live music until they’ve sat their exams. They are students after all.

See more of my gig photos at my Flickr photostream.

More mp3s from Los Campesinos! still available on my previous post.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Mules @ Cargo, 27 February 2007

The Mules aren’t your average post-punk band. Sure, they have that classic rhythmic spiky guitar sound on a lot of their tracks, but honestly, that’s the least interesting part about them.

On one hand they mess around with the post-punk formula quite a lot, particularly betraying their roots as a more folk-country outfit. So they chuck in mad fiddling, crazy drumming, rock ‘n’ roll piano, odd synth riffs and a certain frenetic energy and joi de vivre that puts a gulf between then and the legions of young identikit post-punk bands, desperately wanting to prove that they really were into Gang of Four and Pere Ubu like, since they learned to walk.

On the other hand, they embrace the true post-punk spirit of experimentation. Apart from the above concoction of styles, they even manage to throw in curveballs like Live Feed, which is almost a soul tune. This both confounds their own assertion that they favour rhythm over melody, and showcases singer Ed Seed’s fine voice to even greater effect. They’re also a talented bunch that like to step outside their comfort zones. So Ed, though primarily a guitarist, takes up drumsticks. Fiddler Nico was originally in jazz bands and synth and piano player Tim works rehearsing singers at the National Opera Studio. Half the band also indulge their quieter, more melodic side in Fireworks Night (previously blogged on the Daily Growl).

Good though the record sounds, the best place to experience The Mules is live. Here you really get the full effect of their frantic energy, centred on Ed Seed as he sits front-centre stage, thrashing away at his drumkit with increasing speed as the set progresses and knocking away the vocal mic just at the wrong moment (surely an occupational hazard of being a singing drummer). They’re both tight and gloriously ramshackle. Tuesday night was the second time I’ve seen them, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Here’s a couple of tracks from their album Save Your Face. I’m slightly confused by its availability. I thought it was out last year (their label’s website suggests it was), but their PR says it’s out on X March. Whenever, check it out.

Download: The Mules – Save Your Face
Download: The Mules – Ham Shank

The album is followed a few weeks later by the single We’re Good People, which though not the best tune on the album, does get a couple of decent remixes – one of which is from Brazillian wunderkids CSS. It sounds like what you might imagine a CSS remix of The Mules might sound. It’s posted here for a very limited time – after which you’ll need to buy it!

Download: The Mules – We’re Good People (CSS remix)

Apologies for the slightly rubbish live photo. My camera ran out of juice after three snaps.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Best of February

It’s the first of March. Saint David’s Day for those unaware of all things Welsh. Anyway, time to cast my mind back over what I was liking in February.

Album of the Month

Alasdair Roberts – The Amber Gatherers

No contest here. I waxed lyrical about it last week. But there hasn’t been an album in ages that I’ve listened to so consistently and still loved it. I can’t recommend this highly enough. I’ve gone out and got more of his albums since. I love it when you ‘discover’ an artist who already has a decent back catalogue. Not so good for the bank balance though.

Download: Alasdair Roberts - River Rhine

Buy The Amber Gatherers.

Songs of the month

The Early Years – Say What You Want To

The storming lead track from The Early Years' cracking new Great Awakening EP. I was looking forward to this one and I wasn’t disappointed. All new material and not a duff track on it. As I said in my live review, I love the way they combine the populist and the experimental, and that can be heard on all four tracks on this EP. All different. All good. Check them out.

The Barker Band – Heart Like Mine

I first came across The Barker Band on a compilation last year with this song. Now it’s come out on 7 inch, and it still sounds brilliant. If you’re looking for some decent British country music, look no further than these kids.

Amp Fiddler – Faith (Jazzanova Remix feat. Miss Yolanda)

As I said in my Downloader review, Amp Fiddler's original is OK, but it gets very good indeed when Jazzanova take things a bit deeper, stretch it out, add some wicked basslines and bring in MC Miss Yolanda to lay down an ace dancehall vocal on top. Even at over seven minutes, it’s not a moment too long.

Jamie Woon – Wayfaring Stranger (Burial Remix)

In ten month’s time, this is surely going to be one of the remixes of 2007. Dubstep scene leaders Burial take Jamie Woon’s already excellent version of Wayfaring Stranger (see previous post) and make it into a monster.

Kate Nash - Birds

So the much-hyped Miss Nash got her long-awaited debut 7 inch out a few weeks ago. Its two sides polarised a lot of fans. I'm with those who say that Caroline's a Victim isn't much cop, but there's something about this simple flip-side tale of teenage love on London transport and birds shitting on people's heads that I really like.

The Shins – Australia

I haven’t loved the new Shins album as much as I thought I might. But I love this song.