Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Emmy + Earlies = The Great

Second old favourite of the day…

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a proper Emmy the Great post here, but now there’s good reason to have one. Mainly because in a post on her myspace blog on Monday, she confirmed that the long-awaited debut album is now finished

"it's our last day in the studio with the earlies. euan is going to glasgow to mix the record, and tom and i are joining him in two days when i've finished voting for anyone but boris. so far it doesn't sound shit, but there's still time. name and tracklisting here soon."

So we have both have false modesty (how can Emmy’s songs + Earlies production be anything other than great? – see albums by Micah P Hinson and King Creosote for evidence of supreme Earlies production) and a fine piece of political sense (for people outside London/UK – ‘boris’ is one Boris Johnson, the Tory buffoon who may well be London Mayor on Friday – gah!). I’ll be joining Emmy in voting for someone who isn’t Boris and waiting in expectation for the release of her ‘not shit’ album.

Here’s a couple of tracks from her last ‘release’ the myspace-only Chris Moss EP from last December.

Download: Emmy the Great – Winchester
Download: Emmy the Great – Long Island (Wave Pictures cover)

The return of The Young Republic

I’m going back to some old favourites today, starting with The Young Republic.

The first set of good news is that they’re coming back to the UK for a tour next month, starting at the Borderline on 14 May. The bad news (for me) is that I’m going to be out of the country with work on that very date. A great shame, since the gig also features labelmates Woodpigeon the very fine Speck Mountain. Here’s hoping for another London date before they head back to Nashville.

The other good news for YR fans is the promised covers album, which is initially going to be made available as a series of free downloads from the End of the Road Records website. They’re pretty good at covers this lot, as anyone who witnessed their joyous Dylan (and some others) covers set at End of the Road Festival last year (that's the occasion in the pic above). Julian Saporiti even had his face painted up Rolling Thunder Revue-style. It’s no surprise then that the first covers track made available is by Bob.

Download: The Young Republic – Isis

If you’re in London, I strongly encourage you to go to the Borderline on 14 May. It’ll be a great evening, for sure.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Quiet Village - Silent Movie

Remember chill-out? The non-genre that launched a thousand compilations, most of them featuring Groove Armada’s By the River. I’m not sure if the 90s revival has started yet, but it’s surely only a matter of time, and when it does there’s surely going to be a big element of these late-night grooves.

I mention this because it’s not only the whole concept of chill-out that’s been in my mind whilst listening to Silent Movie, the debut album from Quiet Village, it’s that particular Groove Armada song that’s been revived in my mind by the lead track Victoria’s Secret. Oh, and that other downbeat monolith, Kinobe’s Slip Into Something More Comfortable.

No matter how much the press blurb might go on about ‘master crate-digger’ Joel Martin and Matt ‘Radioslave’ Edwards and their blend of acid rock, vintage soul Italian film soundtracks and BBC library music, this is just a blissed-out Balearic album, pure and simple. All the previous stuff may be true, but what I’m hearing sounds like it’s been put through an after-hours Ibizan filter. Just listen to the wave and birds sound effects, the languid horns, and the loping beats. Heck, it even veers a little towards Yacht Rock, that most Balearic of guilty pleasures. And no matter how much they might protest, this album is retro and it takes me right back to the late 90s. I totally love it.

Download: Quiet Village – Free Rider
Download: Quiet Village – Pacific Rhythm

Buy Silent Movie from Rough Trade or download from emusic.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Islands – Arm’s Way

Ways to put people off buying your record:

1. Have a uninteresting, generic-sounding band name
2. Have an awful pun in your album title
3. Have rubbish cover art (see it here)

Ways to encourage people to buy your record:

1. Have an epic sound, where guitars are cranked up and augmented by sweeping strings and massed vocals. Your arrangements, which although they add some complexity to essentially simple songs, never seem too fussy and always help the songs to sound bigger and better. And though of course this will lead to inevitable comparisons to Arcade Fire, you know that healthy doses of Jarvis Cocker-esque style and swagger and some acerbic lyrics make your music very much your own.

That last point of course trumps the first three and means that anyone who pays too much attention to the outward appearances really is missing out.

Download: Islands – Life in Jail
Download: Islands – In The Rushes

Islands' new album Arm's Way is out on 19 May. Available from all these good record shops. It's very good.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Strange Fruit for David

The Wave Pictures have a new single out on Monday. It's called Strange Fruit for David and it's brilliant. You should buy it. These guys are now my favourite band that I've never seen live, though it's not for lack of them playing. It's just in these lean gig-going times (for me) that I've somehow not been able to get to any of their frequent London gigs. There are a few up-coming that I really must make an extra-special effort for. This was the resolution I made last night when listening to their fantastic recent single I Love You Like a Madman and the equally good b-side Holding Hands.

I'm genuinely excited about Instant Coffee Baby, their first album for Moshi Moshi, and second 'proper' release. Of course, that's not counting their many self-released CDR EPs and albums, still available from their website. So much so that this post is just a celebration of my anticipation, and an excuse to post some fine live session tracks that David Tattersall and co. played on Marc Riley's BBC 6Music show at the end of last year. Plus, for a bonus extra, a video of them singing Sweetheart on for the ever-excellent Take Away Shows. If any of the bunches of young bucks currently doing the rounds in London deserves success, it's these guys.

Download: The Wave Pictures - Long Island (live on BBC 6Music)
Download: The Wave Pictures - Leave the Scene Behind (live on BBC 6Music)
Download: The Wave Pictures - Just Like a Drummer (live on BBC 6Music)
Download: The Wave Pictures - We Dress Up Like Snowmen (live on BBC 6Music)

Pre-order Instant Coffee Baby from Moshi Moshi.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Shortwave Set – Replica Sun Machine

I’ve been waiting for this album for a long time – as noted in my previous post, almost three years. On the strength of a cracking little seven inch at the end of 2006, I half expected a new album to drop last year, but The Shortwave Set were obviously spending quality time in the studio with famous friends Brian Burton and Van Dyke Parks. They landed this enviable opportunity simply because Mr Mouse liked their debut album The Debt Collection so much that he invited Greenwich’s finest to support Gnarls Barkley and the rest is history…

Now that I’ve had a few weeks to listen to second album Replica Sun Machine, it’s that debut album which is still providing the sticking point for me. Because even though The Shortwave Set are still very much the same retro-psychedelic shape, even though the new album is packed with great pop songs, and even though the production is top-notch, there’s something missing. I think it’s because the production is just a bit too top-notch, a bit too clean-sounding. Part of the great appeal of the debut was its slight ramshackle nature, with sparkling tunes and a dash of whimsy. It wasn’t crisp, but its 60s psychedelic pop, complemented with a decent dose modern electronics was a joy to behold, and every song was a gem. The new one, for all the high-level input, the sweeping sting parts and general enhancement, is just not quite as magical. I wonder if they'll be describing themselves as 'Victorian funk' this time around.

That said, there’s still a lot to enjoy. The songs rattle along nicely and unlike many producers, Burton doesn’t impose a particular style. The band’s established sound is still very much intact and that makes me think that this is probably an album that I'll love more over time. I really hope that this is the record which brings the Shortwave Set the success that they so rightly deserve, and maybe then more people will re-discover their earlier classic.

Download: The Shortwave Set – Yesterdays to Come
Download: The Shortwave Set – I Know

Pre-order Replica Sun Machine from Rough Trade. And give yourself an extra treat by buying The Debt Collection.

Update: thanks to Soundbites, I now know that The Debt Collection is available to download, totally gratis from the Shortwave Set website. Now you've no excuse!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Atlas Sound

I never really got into Deerhunter, so should I expect to like Bradford Cox’s solo venture Atlas Sound any better? I think the answer, for the moment at least, is a tentative ‘yes’, although please feel free to encourage me further in a Deerhunter direction.

Cox has gone on the record, talking about his new venture as an outlet for ideas that he couldn’t work out with a five-piece band. What this probably means is that he just wanted to have some freedom to mess around in the studio, adding layers of nice fuzzy guitar and other electronic noise(s). Parts of the album Let the Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel sound like what Brian Wilson might have made had he listened to a lot of Sonic Youth. Other parts glide by in a woozy, dreamlike way, but it's never background music, it's a little too unsettling for that. Fans of M83 and Animal Collective will find plenty to like here. It's an album of complexity and depth which I still don't feel that I've fully appreciated yet, but there's plenty time for that.

Download: Atlas Sound - Recent Bedroom
Download: Atlas Sound - After Class

Let the Blind... is out in the US now on Kranky. The album gets its UK (and rest of world) proper release on 5 May on 4AD, but you can buy import copies now from Rough Trade.

Atlas Sound is supporting Animal Collective on their upcoming European tour, so get down early if you're going. I'd be intrigued to see how this record is going to be done live.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Tindersticks – The Hungry Saw

When my promo of the new Tindersticks album arrived last week, my colleague asked me if they were still as miserable. Another colleague answered the question by merely pointing to the sleeve, which as you can see, might give you an idea about the content.

But there’s something reassuring about that, isn’t there? Sometimes you don’t want bands to change too much. I don’t really want to see Tindersticks go all weird folk or add newer, spiker guitars. I want business as usual. I want lushly orchestrated soulful melancholy. I want Stuart Staples’ warm idiosyncratic vocals. I want that gorgeous downing-a-whisky-late-at-night feel.

And that’s sort of what I get with The Hungry Saw, and I’m very happy about that. Mind you, there’s a definite upbeat feel about many of the songs as they swish along, accompanied by the strings, organ and horns that we've come to know and love. There are some departures too. Nothing major mind, just little sideways excursions into the likes of jaunty seaside organ music (The Organist Entertains), instrumentals (Introduction, E Type) and a sparser, more experimental sound (Mother Dear). But mostly it's the familiar company of a good old friend.

All in, this is a very satisfying comeback. Although it’s been five years since Waiting For the Moon, I’ve not exactly been waiting impatiently for something new, but now it’s here it feels like they've never really been away. And though this album is full of melancholy, nowhere could it be described as miserable. Uplifting more like.

Download: Tindersticks - The Turns We Took
Download: Tindersticks - E Type

Pre-order The Hungry Saw from Rough Trade.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sunny side up - The Breeders @ Koko, 16 April 2008

I like guest posts. Not only does it give me more posts for less work, but it also gives friends a forum to share music they love too. This is a particularly good one - a review my my friend Dan of a Breeders' gig in London last week...

If I enjoyed the Pixies return at all, it was down to Kim Deal, beaming stage-left as they exploded the untouchable band from outer space myth i'd fostered since my musical coming of age. And it's smiling - that unmistakable sign of a band enjoying themselves - that I associate as much as anything with The Breeders. Tonight's no different; Kim Deal relishing every moment and wearing the look of someone continually being surprised by their own songs (literally jumping at the start of one) and Kelley Deal's endearing childish self-consciousness.

Opening with the garage rock of Amps track Tipp City, followed by Huffer, and with their cover of Guided By Voices' Shocker in Gloomtown not far behind, The Breeders waste no time in making it clear that they're here to rock and to have fun doing it, before going into the more subtle details of their musical manifesto. Possible torch song We're Gonna Rise harks back to the raw beauty and poise of Doe from flawless first album, Pod. "No counsel, no grand strategy, No sword to fall on", but the lovely live reverb of Kim Deal's voice covers a multitude of sins, more than compensating for any loss in the clarity of Steve Albini's spacious recording on Mountain Battles. Walk It Off may have a classic Pixies bassline, but otherwise it's pure Breeders, wistful and hopeful. Mountain Battles opener Overglazed has Kim Deal modestly shrugging her shoulders as she packs away the keyboard afterwards, but its plaintive hypnotic refrain, "I can feel it", feels far from tentative. The gentle folk of Here No More is all gorgeous home-baked Deal sister harmonies.

If you want to get to the front at a Breeders gig, just wait for Cannonball. Other songs from the American-indie heyday of Last Splash also go down well with the audience; Divine Hammer, New Year, Saints, Kelley's deadpan delivery of I Just Wanna Get Along and No Aloha - remarkable live - followed around by its pregnant slide guitar. When they play early songs like Iris and the perfect pop of Fortunately Gone, my nostalgia is battled by a kind of anxiety; these songs fix something in the past, songs that were only half a decade old when I first heard them, but even then seemed unreachable. To have them opened up before me, I feel the weight of privilege, compelled to cherish the moment lest it should be the last chance. But The Breeders' smiles as they close with new song German Studies - Kim and Kelley having fun with the lyrical wordplay - put my nostalgia in its place; they're a proper band these days and I'm expecting to see those smiles again before too long.

Download: The Breeders - We're Gonna Rise
Download: The Breeders - German Studies

Buy Mountain Battles from Rough Trade or download from emusic.

Friday, April 18, 2008

John & Jehn continued

In this week of French people singing in English, here’s a couple more. Unlike Sebastian Tellier though, John and Jehn have actually made their home in London and they’re very very unlikely to ever be asked to represent their country at Eurovision. Not if they insist on playing their lo-fi Velvets-inspired art rock anyway.

After posting 20 L 07 a few weeks back and being quite impresses by that, I’ve been looking forward to hearing the whole album. After a few listens though, I’m not totally convinced, still not really feeling it. In a way John and Jehn tick the right boxes. The monochrome shots, the studied Gallic cool, the minimalist sound, the apparent Gainsbourg influences. I had hoped that the album would be much more than that, but what’s bugging me is the real lack of decent tunes in the songs.

The album is split into two sides (this is obviously just about making a point on a CD though) – a 'John side' and a 'Jehn side'. I don’t know if this is because they’ve written the songs for their respective sides, or if it’s meant to represent something more profound. All I know is that the Jehn side (tracks 6-10) is better, with more in the way of tunes, and the fuzzy guitars, cheap keyboards and boy-girl vocals just tend to work more effectively here. It’s like after messing about for five tracks, it begins to come together. So there are pleasures to be had on this record for sure, aside from 20 L 07, most notably You, Far Away and 1,2,3, but as a whole it could easily be accused of style over substance.

Download: John & Jehn – You, Far Away
Download: John & Jehn – 1,2,3

Buy John & Jehn from Rough Trade.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Singles going steady 21: Delakota

My memories of Delakota are a bit blurry. They centre around a gig at The Blue Note (not the original Hoxton Square one – the strange two-floor place in Islington that got demolished to make way for that horrible shopping centre) sometime in the late 90s. I had already been out that evening, I think, and had had a few. After Delakota took to the stage my friend pushed his way through the crowd, several sheets to the wind. I don’t really remember anything about the performance, though I do seem to remember that we danced like nutters throughout, which may have been due to an amazing set, or other lubricating factors. I also hazily remember continuing to dance at an after-party upstairs into the next day. Ah, days of being young and carefree.

Sometime around that gig I must have picked up a CD single (or maybe it’s an album promo) by Delakota. The band were formed by Cass Browne and Morgan Nicholls, who used to be in early 90s crusty noiseniks Senseless Things, but Delakota were a different beast, taking both baggy beats and Primal Scream-style retro American fixations as a starting point and progressing from there. The four tracks are all pretty decent. If my CD is an album promo, it suggests that the album was a good ‘un. Maybe someone can fill me in.

I’ve no idea if Delakota ever made much of an impact, but after the gig I never came across them much again. More recently Browne has been found drumming for Gorillaz (the Jamie Hewlett connection goes way back to Senseless Things cover art) and Nicholls seems to be a steady member of Muse’s touring set-up.

There you go – a fuzzy part of my CD single collection, but worthwhile all the same. Here’s a couple of tracks to remember Delakota by.

Download: Delakota – C’mon Cincinnati
Download: Delakota – 555

You can buy Delakota CDs at pretty low prices at Amazon marketplace. I could be tempted...

Teenagers – real vs. fake

Today’s conundrum – which teenagers? We have two sets – one real (sort of) and one fake for your consideration today. One even uses the word in their name. But which set, if any, is worth your time and money?

The first lot are the real ones, or at least they used to be until very recently. When Be Your Own Pet burst onto the scene two years ago, it was all frenetic teenage energy, attitude and a good few decent tunes to back it up. This time round, most of them have slowly crept out of their teens, with only drummer John Eatherly still able to be officially called a teenager. And it’s this very issue which seems to have inspired the whole album. Growing up is not always easy, and this much is clear right from first song Super Soaked when Jemima Pearl snarls “I don’t wanna grow up and have to let go” and by the time she gets to screaming “Don't wanna have responsibility! Don't wanna be a part of society” she’s already pissed off and the album’s hardly a minute old.

And so on, through songs about wild teenage parties, food fights, school murders and bastard boyfriends and the usual high school fayre. It’s all prolonged teenage angst bundled up in supercharged, shouty pop punk in two-minute packages. There’s nothing groundbreaking (this sort of music never is) and it’s all pretty ephemeral stuff but it’s a lot of fun while it lasts, and is guaranteed to blast away any musical mustiness in your brain. As you’d expect it’s best experienced live with Pearl a hyped-up blur on the stage while her bandmates throw all the necessary teen-punk shapes and the real teenagers in the crowd go nuts. People like me stand at the back, observing the spectacle, and like Be Your Own Pet, wish we were younger.

Download: Be Your Own Pet – Becky
Download: Be Your Own Pet – Twisted Nerve

Buy Get Awkward from Rough Trade or download from emusic.

The next lot are the fakes, because even though they’re called The Teenagers, they’re all at least in their mid 20s. Who knows, maybe it’s the whole don’t-want-to-grow-up thing that makes this French trio give themselves such a name. Their lyrics, in all their juvenile puerility are certainly only worthy of a teenager. As for the music, it’s very average electro-guitar-pop, which would probably have as much mainstream appeal as the Wombats or the Pigeon Detectives if it weren’t for these naughty lyrics.

Speaking of which, surely it’s because The Teenagers are French and therefore inherently more cultured and sophisticated that they’re getting any sort of attention at all. If it was a pasty-faced bunch of boys from the home counties playing this sort of music, they’d be ignored (we already have I Was a Cub Scout), and if it were a gang of shaven-headed northern oiks singing these lyrics, they’d be dismissed as sleazy pervs. But somehow the French factor makes them more acceptable. Who knows? It’s not like they’re terrible, they’re just not very good, and certainly nowhere near deserving of the hype they’ve been given. But no need to complain, that’s just the music business for you, eh?

Download: The Teenagers – Starlett Johansson
Download: The Teenagers – French Kiss

If you really must, you can buy Reality Check from Rough Trade. Maybe though, you'd be better off with these Teenagers.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Mind your language

So, Sebastien Tellier's got into trouble with his French Eurovision song today. This morning on Radio 4, I heard a French MP shouting about how terrible it was that the French entry is (partially) sung in English. What's the world coming to, eh?

We Brits like to point and laugh at the French and their language protectionism, as if they're a bit silly for doing so. But if we were in their position, faced by an encroaching behemoth of another language, threatening to engulf our own, we'd do exactly the same thing. If the tables were reversed, there would be tabloid articles every week about the decline of the Queen's English and how dangerous the French takeover is. I sometimes wonder why it is that the English dislike the French so much - but maybe it's because they're actually far more alike than they'd ever dare admit.

Anyway, here's a remix of the controversial tune which came my way last week.

Download: Sebastian Tellier - Divine (Midnight Juggernauts Remix)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Rosie Taylor Project

The Rosie Taylor Project have a confusing name. Not a bad one, just a misleading one. Surely it's not unreasonable to think that there would be a female singer-songwriter called Rosie Taylor, with the 'Project' as her (all-male?) backing band? Imagine then my surprise to hear male vocals coming out of the radio, when I first heard their music played last week. It turns out that this Leeds-based band contains six people, only one of whom is a girl, and she's not even called Rosie.

But leaving name-related confusion aside, I'd recommend The Rosie Taylor Project to anyone who likes their indiepop with a melancholy flavour. Think Belle and Sebastian's less upbeat moments with a bit of Tindersticks, a dose of sweet boy/girl vocals, and a dash of beautifully mournful french horn, the latter of which is the thing that really seals it for me. They may proclaim a love for Americana types on their myspace influences, but this band's sound is quite a British one. Downbeat and lovely, it almost seems like it couldn't be made anywhere outside the north of England. This is a good thing.

Since the Rosie Taylor Project's live session for John Kennedy on Xfm was my introduction to the band, it may as well be yours too. Check out these three songs, along with another demo track I picked up. Incidentally, A Good Cafe on George Street (their current single) is actually about an old favourite of mine - The Elephant House cafe on George IV Bridge in Edinburgh. Since Mrs Growl is a bit of a pachyderm fan, this was naturally the first place I took her when we first went to Edinburgh together. Since then it's achieved some fame as the place where JK Rowling was reputed to have written the first Harry Potter novel. Anyway, enough of the Scottish nostalgia, on with the tunes!

Download: The Rosie Taylor Project - Sun on my Right (live on Xfm)
Download: The Rosie Taylor Project - A Good Cafe on George Street (live on Xfm)
Download: The Rosie Taylor Project - A Few Words of Farewell (live on Xfm)

Download: The Rosie Taylor Project - From the Crowd (demo)

The Rosie Taylor Project's album This City Draws Maps is out on Bad Sneakers Records on 5 May. Available from all good record shops, I guess.

Slight return?

Rarely has a such a hugely anticipated return been married to such lack of regard for a commercial sound. The single is out this week, as I'm sure you know. On single sided etched 12 inch no less. I'm very tempted.

In other related video news, click here to see a video clip for potential new single We Carry On.

And you can listen to the whole album on from 21 April.

Good stuff.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago

It’s a romantic story for sure. Justin Vernon heads out to a backwoods log cabin for three months, chops wood, lives off the land and what he can shoot, spends time recording an album using basic equipment which he then releases himself, to massive acclaim. It’s the stuff that legends are made of, so there’s no wonder that there’s been a lot of interest in Vernon’s project Bon Iver, but none of the misty-eyed back-to-basics ruralistic charm would count for anything if the music wasn’t any good.

At first it might not seem very impressive. I initially thought the nine songs on his album For Emma, Forever Ago were a bit sketchy. But like most great music, give it time, and the sketches take on greater shape, depth and colour. The songs are stripped down, with only the most necessary and effective augmentations – a little flute here, a bit of mournful horn there. Most of all though, it’s Vernon’s voice, a ghostly falsetto which stands out so beautifully. It’s this voice, plus the multi-layered vocals, and sometimes the arrangements (most notably on Creature Fear) that make me think of Bon Iver as an acoustic approximation of TV on the Radio. Maybe if Sitek and Adebimpe had spent some time in the middle of a forest, howling at the moon they would sound like this. It’s a lovely, otherworldly record that given time will take root in your head and take you somewhere else. A backwoods log cabin maybe.

Download: Bon Iver – For Emma
Download: Bon Iver – Creature Fear

For Emma, Forever Ago is out now on Jagjaguwar in North America. Astute people over here may have already got their copy from superior record shops, but it gets its proper release UK on 4AD on 17 May.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Speck Mountain

I'd never heard of Speck Mountain before Friday. Even yet, I'm still trying to get the image of a huge pile of thin Italian ham out of my mind. But that aside, I'm impressed. The track that made its way to me is Backslide, a b-side to their forthcoming Blood is Clean 7 inch single. The beauty is in the simplicity. A minimum of synth notes, a sparse backbeat and a simple little guitar line. That's it. It's lovely in a retro-spacey way and whets my appetite for more psychedelic Speck Mountain sounds.

Download: Speck Mountain - Backslide

Friday, April 11, 2008

New Tilly and the Wall

Good news in my inbox yesterday – new Tilly and the Wall! I’ve loved this happy-clappy Nebraska outfit before – mainly in 2006 where they seemed to be everywhere in the space of a few months. They did give me possibly the most uplifting gig experience of that year, where on their second UK gig, the confined walls of the Buffalo Bar struggled to contain the joy pouring from the stage, and in turn, the entire audience.

Seeing them a couple more times that year wasn’t quite as amazing, but there was always enough in their all-singing, all-tap dancing performances to stir the soul and put a smile on the face. Second album Bottoms of Barrels, though not as wonderful as debut Wild Like Children, was still brimming with sparking indie-pop gems. But now there’s a new record, seemingly self-titled (though some people have mystifyingly decided to call it O on the basis that there’s a circle round the band’s name on the sleeve) on the way on 17 June. Like I said, this is good news, or at least it is if they keep up the quality of previous outings.

Not having heard it all, it’s hard to say what it’s going to be like, but there are some indications – particularly for those who’ve listened to the Daytrotter session from the end of last year. Two of these tracks – Chandelier Lake and Too Excited – are on the album. One is good, the other is OK. The track that came my way yesterday – Cacophony – sounds like business as usual, which in a way is a good thing, but here’s hoping for some slight sideways excursions like Bad Education to make sure that it’s not going to be an over-sugary snack.

Download: Tilly and the Wall – Cacophony
Download: Tilly and the Wall – Chandelier Lake (Daytrotter Session)

Head over to Daytrotter for more of these sessions mp3s.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Lucy and the Caterpillar

Here’s something new, or at least new to me. Lucy and the Caterpillar is really just Lucy from Manchester with her acoustic guitar and pop songs. You may ask yourself the question of whether we need another female singer-songwriter with an obsession for vintage dresses, playing a wistful, often twee selection of indie folk-pop songs. It’s a valid question, but in this case, having one more is definitely a good thing.

Lucy's a 20-year old from Manchester and describes herself as a cross between Vashti Bunyan and Destiny’s Child, which isn’t such a bad comparison as it first sounds. The Caterpillar, by the way, seems to be her guitar. She’s been playing around Manchester for a couple of years now, but maybe the time's right for some national attention. So far she’s only released a couple of limited singles – Red Red Wine and King’s Cross and a new one – Lucy’s Opinion , produced by the fantastic Earlies, comes out on 28 April.

There are some tracks below. This is music that won’t change your life, but Lucy's whimsical observations on everyday life and sparkling tunes will almost certainly brighten a dreary day.

Download: Lucy and the Caterpillar – Beans on Toast
Download: Lucy and the Caterpillar – Kings Cross (Goldierocks remix)
Download: Lucy and the Caterpillar – I Don’t Want Your Stupid Crisps

Buy the singles, and other goodies, from Lucy's website shop.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Neon Neon – Stainless Style

I’m a bit late with this one, but Super Furry Animals are held in such high regard at Daily Growl Towers that I couldn’t let anything involving Gruff Rhys pass by without comment. Particularly if it involves Gruff teaming up with Boom Bip to produce a concept album about playboy engineer John DeLorean. It’s just too intriguing, and that’s even before hearing the music Neon Neon have made. Here’s a tip first, it might help to go to Wikipedia and read a bit about their subject, because he’s an interesting character. For instance, it helps to explain why there’s a track called Belfast (the city where DeLorean had his eponymous, Back-to-the-Future appearing sports car manufactured). Other song titles like Dream Cars and Luxury Pool are a bit more self-explanatory.

But so much for the background. You don’t really need to know the DeLorean-related facts. You mainly need to know that it’s a terrific album, crammed chock-full of sparkling pop nuggets that could probably all be singles in their own right (with some judicious editing out of sweary words of course). It’s appropriately 80s in style, with a cracking synth sound, but there’s more. Gruff’s melliferous voice for one. There are some guest rappers and vocalists too (such as Spank Rock and Yo Majesty) but the genius behind the project is clear. The two main men have got so many good ideas, so many great hooks, that Stainless Style is damn near irresistible. Shockingly, I might even like it more than the last SFA album. Now we’ve got the soundtrack, all we need now is the John DeLorean biopic to go with it. Now that the Hollywood screenwriters are back from striking, someone needs to get busy.

Download: Neon Neon – Trick for Treat
Download: Neon Neon – Belfast

Buy Stainless Style from Rough Trade.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Broken Records @ The Barfly, 4 April 2008

“You didn’t tell me we were going to see The Arcade Fire” said my friend when he came back from the bar at the Barfly on Friday night. Now I know that Broken Records aren’t too keen on the comparisons with Win Butler and co. but I’m afraid they’re going to get a whole lot more of them as their profile rises, which no doubt it will, over the next few months. You may argue that just because they use violins, mandolins and accordions, they’re not necessarily comparable to their more famous Montreal peers, but these elements are there, there is a little similarity to the sound and well… you know…

But back to the show. This was my first real opportunity to see Broken Records and my anticipation was high enough to be mightily annoyed by missing the start of their set due to one of these inexplicable queues outside the venue. Inside and upstairs Broken Records were making a lovely noise. The Barfly has an excellent sound system which often seems just a wee bit too powerful for the size of the space, and I’m pleased to say that it was used to the maximum. All the elements were right as the seven guys on stage made their way through their short but memorable set. What they lacked in stage presence they made up for with extraordinary proficiency – Matthew Song, By Toad has already talked about how fully-formed Broken Records appeared to be when they first appeared playing in Edinburgh earlier last year. Although it’s been a good few months since then, the same is true now, just more so. They play like they really mean it and make an amazing sound. As expected, One Good Reason was a particular highlight.

Given that they were ostensibly the second support band at this gig, I don’t think I’ve seen a venue quite so full for the first band on before. There were certainly a lot more bodies in the room than for the next lot for sure. And by all accounts the Drowned in Sound gig the next day was a bit of a storm as well. Chequebooks are no doubt being readied as I write this and we’re going to be hearing a lot more from Jamie and the boys soon.

Download: Broken Records – Lies
Download: Broken Records – If Eliot Lovborg Wrote a Song, It Would Sound Like This

Pre-order the debut 7 inch from Rough Trade. Buy the band’s EP from their myspace or download from 7Digital Indiestore. And if it’s free songs you want, go to Song, By Toad for an excellent acoustic session.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Free Blood and Found

Another good new thing out today is the 12 inch single from Free Blood, on Adventures Close to Home records. It's got two tracks plus a remix of each, but the track that I’m really interested in is the version of Grumpy that’s been remixed by FOUND.

If you’re not familiar with them, Free Blood are from Brooklyn which obviously makes them cool from the start. They peddle a thoroughly 'now' type of dancey indie music, the sort of which you can hear all over the place. Think Foals without the spiky guitars or Friendly Fires without the funkiness. There’s skittery, propulsive beats, and they have a good bass and a nice cello sound. Though what I like about Grumpy most I think is its slight sense of sparseness.

FOUND I’m a bit more familiar with, mainly from Matthew Song, By Toad going on so enthusiastically about them. They’re from Edinburgh, so a lot less cool than Free Blood, but what I’ve heard is all pretty good. More of your electronic folkery stuff, but with a distinctive voice that’s unique to themselves.

The real magic of what FOUND do to Grumpy is that they accentuate that sparseness and the cello sound, creating something a bit different and definitely better than the original. At times you might think it’s trying to be a bit Arthur Russell, but you’d be paying too much attention to the cello. Despite the sparse feel, there’s actually quite a lot going on in this mix. The FOUND boys have created something quite tantalising.

Download: Free Blood – Grumpy (FOUND’s Blood Donation)

Buy the new record from Pure Groove.

Quality is a four letter word

If you're forming a band, what do you call yourself? For a start you could follow some of the latest trends in band names. There have been a few recently - mainly animals it seems. We’ve had a few ‘Bears’ and more than a few ‘Wolfs’ in the last few years. But now the word to have in your band name is ruder. Fuck. There are a good few of these outfits around at the moment, but no doubt plenty to come your way soon. I’m featuring some of these here today.

I’ll start off with a band which I should have written about six months ago, because that’s when I received a promo of their debut album, unexcitingly called LP. This wasn’t the reason that the CD lay around in my pile for months unlistened to. In fact, I don’t really know what was, but anyway a couple of weeks ago I put in on, and soon after regretted the six months with no Holy Fuck in my ears. The name’s going to get them nowhere of course, which would be a shame because this Canadian band’s particular take on Krautrock is a particular treat. There’s plenty very pleasing grooves cranked out on analogue synths and an appropriate absence of vocals – the Toronto-based band stick to what they know best, which seems to be making the indie rockers dance. It’s a great album, and given that they make the brave move of starting LP with a live track, I’ve no doubt that they’re a great live band too.

Despite being well behind with the album, this post is oddly timely, because today HF release an EP, which consists mainly of remixes of album stand-out Lovely Allen. So in the spirit of things, as well as a track from LP, here’s one of the mixes, in which No Age subvert the usual convention that remixes should be longer than the original track. In fact they chop more than half the running time off and create something very much in their own image.

Download: Holy Fuck – Royal Gregory
Download: Holy Fuck – Lovely Allen (No Age Remix)

Buy LP and Lovely Allen from Rough Trade or download from emusic.

And before I leave these crazy Canadians totally, they’ve also done a remix of Radiohead’s Nude which no doubt has done the blog rounds, but hey. Nude can’t really be improved, but this is just an interesting alternative.

Download: Radiohead - Nude (Holy Fuck Remix)

Next up is another band who have been making waves lately and who make Holy Fuck sound like a Xenomania-produced pop outfit. They are Benjamin John Power and Andrew Hung who collectively are known as Fuck Buttons. They’ve just released their debut album Street Horrrsing on ATP records, which along with their ear-splitting live shows have had many critics salivating, and rightly so.

Opening track Sweet Love for Planet Earth starts with a gentle melody – a tinkling piano or something, which sounds quite beautiful but soon becomes distant and intangible as it's pushed to the background by pulsating electronic noise and the sound of chaos. This is a band who don’t have much time for the usual crap. Not for them a conventional bass and drums rhythm. In fact, large tracts of their music is beat-free. Instead they sculpt something with electronic noise that is both beautiful and unsettling. This is not an album to chill out to. In fact, I’m not sure what the right occasion would be. But I do know that it’s a bold, brave record which eschews existing conventions of rock and electronic music to create something what will be for most people (unless you’re a Wire subscriber of course) a singularly unique listening experience.

Download: Fuck Buttons – Sweet Love for Planet Earth

Buy Street Horrsing from Rough Trade or download from emusic.

Who’d have thought that it would take a band of pseudonymed oddballs, fronted by a shaven-headed man mountain to turn the cool kids back to hardcore? Actually on second thoughts it’s probably for that very reason they have. Also from Canada, Fucked Up have developed a bit of a ferocious live rep, with said man mountain, aka Pink Eyes aka Father Damian throwing his not too inconsiderable weight around small venues on recent trips to the UK. This review of a London gig on The Wirewool gives a good impression of what it’s like to experience the full sonic and physical assault of these mad (and I use the word carefully) Canadians.

I’ve heard a few tracks of theirs and it seems that they’re putting more than a couple more minutes onto yer typical hardcore-type tunes. I hear talk of prog elements and if you’ve heard their 18-minute epic Year of the Pig, you’ll know what I mean. There’s even a bit of that sort of thing on the album Hidden World, from which I’ve got a some tracks which I like. Maybe not quite enough for me to download the whole thing, but I could be persuaded.

I was shocked to read on the Fucked Up blog Looking for Gold last week that they were changing their name to Fed Up “in order to be able to reach more people with our message”. Then I looked at the date.

Download: Fucked Up – Crusades
Download: Fucked Up – David Comes to Life

Download more Fucked Up stuff at emusic.

That'll do for now. There are loads of other f-word named and related bands I could write about, but in interests of time I'll stop here. I was going to write about London duo The Fucks (above) who have more than a little Shoreditch-style irony contained within the lurid pink and green of their myspace, as well as their music. But the irony also seems to extend to the mp3 downloads from their myspace all being 1kb. Maybe I'm missing something in my technological know-how, but I don't really think you're missing out too much on the music.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The Shortwave Set are back

It’s been a while all right. It was summer 2005 when the first Shortwave Set album was released and I still remember the day I bought it. Not too difficult, considering it was 7 July 2005, and the whole of the London tube network was closed down. I got home from central London to the East End by getting a boat down the river to Greenwich. Before I hopped on the DLR to cross the river, I made a quick detour into Music and Video Exchange for a browse. There was a promo of The Debt Collection in the racks and I bought it. I had previously seen them supporting The Earlies and Sean Rowley had been caning the brilliant Is it any Wonder? on his old BBC London show.

It was a fine album, and one which I still go back to regularly. Unfortunately it didn’t sell very much, but crucially it did make its way into the possession of one Brian Burton who was at the height of new-found, Crazy-related megafame and in interviews he talked about The Shortwave Set as his new favourite band. It wasn’t all empty rhetoric though because the Greenwich band were invited to support Gnarls Barkley at some major-sized gigs.

I suppose when it came to hire a producer for their second album, the band had few thoughts other than their famous friend, who has done a very nice job. I’m going to do a review of the album – Replica Sun Machine – in a week or so, but suffice to say the word ‘ramshackle’ won’t be used about them much again. For now though, it’s all about the single No Social, which is out on new label Wall of Sound on 21 April. As comeback statements go, it’s a good one. The familiar elements are still there, but it’s tighter and more focused. More sheen, more pop, but still great. I hear the wheezing Hammond and learn that “a dog dressed in clothes is still a dog” and am very happy to have them back.

I won’t be posting No Social, but here’s a decent remix from Glasgow’s premier record spinning knob-twiddlers.

Download: The Shortwave Set – No Social (Optimo Espacio Remix)

Pre-order No Social from Norman Records.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


Remember Ladyfuzz? Probably not eh? I do though – mainly through a performance at End of the Road Festival back in 2006. They weren’t great to be honest, but now something different, and dare I say much better, has arisen from the ashes in the shape of their former drummer Ben Esser. He’s now branched out on his own, using only his surname, to bring us something much poppier but no less self-consciously cool.

The song here is the forthcoming single I Love You, which is out as a 7 inch on Merok records next week, and comes across a bit like a vaudevillian Gnarls Barkley. It’s about love as you might expect, but Ben’s tongue seems firmly in his cheek as he sings “Love is deadly, like a fire in your kitchen”. Most of the best pop songs are about love and this is no exception. The other songs on the Esser myspace make it clear that he’s no one-trick pony either.

Download: Esser – I Love You

Pre-order the 7 inch from the Merok myspace, and no doubt you'll be able to buy it at your local quality record emporium once it's out. If you want hi-quality downloads, (of all places) is where you need to go.

Welcome to our TV show - episode 3

That man Warmsley has done another Welcome to our TV show. The March 2008 edition made its way online last week, and it's another fine display of musical talent and living room antics. This time, in addition to superb performances from Ed Harcourt, One Little Plane and Jeremy himself (hey, it's his show, he can put himself on as much as he wants), there's a slight branching out going on into the world of comedy. I know that people have been saying that comedy is the new rock and roll for years and years now, but you can judge for yourself in the shape of one Niall Spooner-Harvey.

Watch the performances below via Youtube, or for better quality video, watch on the WTOTS myspace page.

Part 1: Ed Harcourt, One Little Plane

Part 2: Niall Spooner-Harvey, Jeremy Warmsley

As before, here are the mp3s of the performances courtesy of the man himself. Although Ed Harcourt seems to have been around for ages, I've never really listened to him much, though this track should see me heading off to check out more of his stuff. One Little Plane is aka Kathryn Bint, formerly of Chicago, now resident in London and working with Kieran Hebden who will release her debut album on his Text Records label in June (and also appears here on guitar). Jeremy's cover of New Order's Tempation is more than decent, and if you only listen to the mp3 of Spooner-Harvey, you're missing out. Stand-up comedy, even more so than live music, is a physical experience that is best seen as well as heard.

Download: Ed Harcourt - Until Tomorrow Then
Download: One Little Plane - The Snails Are Out Tonight
Download: Niall Spooner-Harvey - All My Conservatories Have Won Awards
Download: Jeremy Warmsley - Temptation

The good news is that there are more WTOTS episodes to come 'later in the year'. Hope it's sooner rather than later.