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August Single/EP releases – Roma Palace and return of Broken Family Band members

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August Single/EP releases – Roma Palace and return of Broken Family Band members

Posted on 14 August 2019 by Joe

This month two singles/EPs in particular have caught our year. Firstly, Roma Palace from Brighton have released a new single You this month.

This is their first release after impressing during the Glastonbury Emerging Talent competition and the festival itself.

As a judge in the competition we long listed Roma Palace and was delighted to see them make it through to the final shortlist of eight. Although they did not win they did impress the festival organisers enough to appear at the event.

The track follows in the tradition of their previous tracks like Tell Me, mixing pop, indie rock and blues perfectly. One to watch out for.

We have also been sent word from Steven Adams that he has hooked up with former fellow Broken Family Band alumni Tim Victor, for his latest band – Portland Brothers.

Portland Brothers

Portland Brothers

Their four-track debut EP is released on August 23 and is a must for Broken Family Band fans, marking a return to the country and classic pop roots of their releases.

Since the Broken Family Band broke up Adams has been involved in a number of musical projects that have we’ve consistently been impressed by.
by Joe Lepper

Roma Palace can be found on Souncloud here.

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Mike Gale – Summer Deluxe

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Mike Gale – Summer Deluxe

Posted on 25 June 2019 by Joe

One of our favourite acts Co-pilgrim are seemingly no more. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that the melodic indie act’s chief song writer and lead singer Mike Gale is still going strong in the recording studio, releasing a solo collection of tracks, called Summer Deluxe.

Mike Gale Summer Deluxe

So while we mourn their demise we can rejoice in another strong collection from Mike Gale.

This has a far more electronic feel to it than Co-Pilgrim, with synths taking more of a lead in the mix than guitars.

But Mike Gale’s keen sense of melody is still there and while upbeat in places this is a far more melancholic affair than many of this previous indie-rock inspired releases.

Among the best is the dreamy Beach Boys soundscape of the title track and the fine pop of Jump Start My Heart, which follows within the album’s middle section.

The Waves Are High is another high-point, so to speak. Relaxing and full of summer hazy pop sounds this make this another strong release from Gale. This one has more of a 80s pop feel to it, that will appeal to Talk Talk fans in particular.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

More information about Mike Gale can be found here.

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School of Language – 45

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School of Language – 45

Posted on 30 May 2019 by Joe

Trump’s words, given a tongue in cheek twist and set to funk music. It’s an intriguing conceit for the latest album by School of Language, aka Field Music’s David Brewis.

School of Language live in Bristol in 2014 (Pic by Joe Lepper)

School of Language live in Bristol in 2014 (Pic by Joe Lepper)

As with previous albums, Sea from Shore (2008) and Old Fears (2014), School of Language allows David Brewis more space to explore his funk influences. So here there’s still hints of Field Music influences like Medications, but far more Prince and Talking Heads. Prince’s influence in particular is key to tracks such as the marvellous opener I’ve Got the Numbers.

Meanwhile, A Beautiful Wall is great satire on Trump and Nobody Knows has some fine squelchy synths.

David Brewis is not the first to poke fun at the US right, with Southern Tenant Folk Union’s The Chuck Norris Project (2015) particularly good. But this collection is just as effective, offering some great music and keeping the notion of the protest song alive and well too.

9/10

By Joe Lepper

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The Mountain Goats – In League with Dragons

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The Mountain Goats – In League with Dragons

Posted on 17 May 2019 by Joe

What an enviable position The Mountain Goats are in. Beloved by fans and garnering new ones with each release. The band – of songwriter and singer John Darnielle, bassist Peter Hughes, drummer Jon Wurster and multi-instrumentalist Matt Douglas – can essentially do as they please.

The Mountain Goats - In League with Dragons

This time around, on The Mountain Goats  In League with Dragons, they are exploring some familiar themes of recent releases. As on All Eternals Deck ( 2011), Beat the Champ (2015) and Goths (2017) celebrity looms large. But this time around the icons are not the likes of Judy Garland, Charles Bronson or Chavo Guerrero. Instead, for some tracks at least, they are the wizards and characters of the game Dungeons and Dragons. Is there any real difference?

To produce, The Mountain Goats have enlisted Owen Pallett – the multi-instrumentalist who used to record under the name Final Fantasy and wrote a similarly obscure and wonderful rock opera of his own dedicated to ‘fantasy’, called Heartland (2010).

It’s a perfect blend with Pallett giving The Mountain Goats room to go off on their flights of fancy. Pallett, who has worked previously with Darnielle and co, even allows the pitch perfect country number Waylon Jennnings Live! to shine.

He also draws out the fine melody of each track  with An Antidote to Strychnine and Scilian Crest  among many high points.

John Darnielle, by Joe Lepper (2015)

John Darnielle, by Joe Lepper (2015)

Is there a good single? Not really, The Mountain Goats have never really been a singles band, although Cadaver Sniffing Dog is a close contender. But those that adore the soft folk/rock, pop, celebrity and piano of recent album releases will find a lot to love here. As said, an enviable position to be indeed.

8/10

By Joe Lepper

For more information visit here – The Mountain Goats In League with Dragons.

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Martha – Love Keeps Kicking

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Martha – Love Keeps Kicking

Posted on 08 April 2019 by Dorian

When I first saw Martha play at Indietracks about six years ago they didn’t make a huge impact on me. Don’t get me wrong, they were great, it was fun and the crowd loved them, but I didn’t come away with a strong picture of what kind of band they were. I certainly never suspected that they’d later produce an album as good as Love Keeps Kicking.

Martha Love Keeps Kicking

Listening back over their albums it is clear that they started good but get better and better with each release. The previous two albums were great, with some excellent stand-out songs, but on this release they’ve raised the bar and produced an album that hits home with very track.

They play a power-pop-punk that has a lot of American influences, Ted Leo springs to mind, but they bring some real personal sensibilities to the songs. I think that most of the band contribute vocals and they all sing in their own voice, no fake American accents on show here. This gives their songs so much more personality than if they’d embraced the affectations that so many British bands playing this kind of music fall foul of.

Lyrically they wear their heart on their sleeves, these are open and honest songs that don’t shy away from the personal, or the difficult, issues around love and relationships. It is a difficult line to walk but Martha, like so many of my favourite bands, manage to balance these lyrical themes against some really uplifting and energetic music.

If you want hear some great hooks, some blistering playing and some lyrics from a young band with something to say then you could do a lot worse than heading to your local record shop, or the their Bandcamp page, and picking up this release.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

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Robert Rotifer – About Us/They Don’t Love You Back

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Robert Rotifer – About Us/They Don’t Love You Back

Posted on 01 April 2019 by Joe

Robert Rotifer’s latest is one of those while you were out collections , offering up versions of two recent, less conventionally released albums you may have missed.

In both Brexit looms large – with his love for Britain and Europe and crucially a Britain in Europe the key emerging theme.

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The first of this two disc collection from the Austrian born, long time Kent resident  is an English version of his his 2017 German language release Über uns.

This is a calming friend of an album, with gentle guitar picking backing his melancholy take on a Britain that is departing Europe. We Have Lost, which opens the album perhaps best exemplifies this.

As for his love for Britian, this comes across most strikingly on Westgate Towers, which features some of the most beautiful parts of Canterbury, where he and his family have lived for many years. Who would not want to lie in the sunshine in the gardens surrounding the Westgate, after listening to this?

They Don’t Love You Back

The second album, They Don’t Love You Back, sees  last year’s  77-minute long stream of consciousness, charity release about Brexit converted into a more straight forward release with separate tracks.

A detailed review of They Don’t Love You Back can be found here. If you want to take advantage of the separate track listings to dip in, we recommend the first Psychedelic folk opener and the title track (track 10).

With a 16-minute medley of They Don’t Love You Back at the end of About Us added on, there are plenty of options to choose from when listening to Rotifer’s most recent work.

Speaking of options, as I write MPs are set to vote on yet another range of Brexit possibilities. As the right wingers and centrists alike step into the lobby I can only hope that the real, human side of Brexit, as featured on these two albums, is considered.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

For more information visit Robert Rotifer’s Bandcamp page.

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John Howard – Cut the Wire

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John Howard – Cut the Wire

Posted on 15 March 2019 by Joe

It’s not often that reignited 1970s singer-songwriter John Howard gets compared to the late great Mark E Smith’s band The Fall. In fact this may well be the first time.

But John Peel’s quote about each new release by Smith and co is particularly apt here as Howard’s albums are also “always the same, always different”.

What is always there is his songwriting prowess and wonderful vocals, preserved during a two decade or so hiatus between his aborted 1970s career and his recent comeback. The defiant sense of independence in the stories he tells is also present.

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But each time there’s a difference. On 2012’s You Shall Go To the Ball we found out that his home recording skills included an expertise in creating trippy soundscapes. On his John Howard and the Nightmail collaboration with Robert Rotifer, Ian Button and Paul Weller’ bassist Andy Lewis, he added a strong slice of 1960s pop to the mix. And on Across the Door Sill a delicacy of touch in production came to the fore, on this largely vocals and piano release.

His latest, Cut the Wire, though sees Howard create a collection with a far greater focus on his 1960s and 1970s influences. The result fits wonderfully somewhere between the Beach Boys and English whimsical pop.

French Likely Lads

Opener So here I go, with accordion intro and playful pop, sounds like the perfect theme tune to a French version of The Likely Lads, should Probablement les garçons ever be made.

In contrast, Pre-dawn sees Howard at his most McCartney-esque., with strings and Eleanor Rigby feel.

Becoming is one of a number of perfect pictched melancholy piano ballads that are pure Howard before the album goes full Wilson brother tribute towards the end. On We are Howard’s admiration for Dennis Wilson is clear for all to hear and will please those, like this reviewer, who consider 2012’s revisting of The Deal as one of Howard’s finest moments

Nod to the Wilsons

Brian Wilson gets a solid nod and a wink on the penultimate track of Cut the Wire Jean Genet Just Imagined. This and We are are perfect together and showcase how far Howard’s production skills have come.

To finish it off he simply eases out a six minute epic Long Since, as you do.

Cut the Wire’s extra focus on paying tribute to classic pop maestros of the 1960s and 1970s adds something more into the mix for fans and looks likely to attract new admirers too.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

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Best Albums of 2018

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Best Albums of 2018

Posted on 17 December 2018 by Joe

It’s been a good year for debut albums in our latest Best Albums list.

Politics has also loomed large, with a number of releases, including our top placed  album, trying to make sense of the chaos of Brexit.

We have also included a special focus on acts from one of our bases – the South West of England, which continues to produce some of the UK’s most best music.

16. Nicholson Heal –Big Jupe

Bristol based Nicholson Heal impresses with his debut album, with a keen focus on melody and  featuring a wonderful brass section. Deservedly one of our  Glastonbury Festival emerging talent competition longlist entries back in 2017. Full review.

NicholsonHeal

15. Tigercats- Pig City

Tigercats are back, bigger, brassier and they’ve brought the party with them, careering round the capital on this gem of a third album, which makes great use of their new horn section and African influences. A deserved spot in our best albums of 2018 list. Full review.

Tigercats

14. The Billy Shinbone Show – The Billy Shinbone Show

Jesse Budd from Glastonbury based psychedelic popsters Flipron becomes Billy Shinbone for this eclectic solo album that blends 1960s psychedelia with country and Cajun music. Fans of Robyn Hitchcock’s recent albums will find a lot to like here. Full review.

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13. Superorganism – Superorganism

This global octet, with members from the UK, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, have impressed us greatly with their stunning debut, which is packed with a range of styles, big choruses and delicious hooks.

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12. Okkervil River – In the Rainbow Rain

In the Rainbow Rain is Okkervil River at their best, featuring great tunes in the likes of Love Somebody and Pulled Up The Ribbon as well as some of the strongest personal writing yet from their leader Will Sheff. Full review.

OkkervilRainbow

11. Guided by Voices – Space Gun

Space Gun may well be the best album that Robert Pollard has recorded under the Guided By Voices moniker since he resurrected the band back in 2012. Full review.

Space Gun

10. Papernut Cambridge – Outstairs Instairs

Former Death in Vegas man Ian Button and his crew continue to reinvent 1970s pop, this time covering themes of grief and loss as he reflects on the passing of his father, whose words of wisdom on No Pressure are among many, many highlights. Full review.

Papernut Cambridge

9. Alex Highton – Welcome to Happiness

For his third album Liverpudlian Alex Highton has turned up the synths and 1980/90s influences to great effect. This is particular notable on opener Benny Is a Heartbreaker, an Ultravox-esque thriller of a song. Full review.

Alex Highton

8. Front Person – Front Runner

Canadian singer songwriters Kathryn Calder (The New Pornographers) and Mark Hamilton (Woodpigeon) come together  produce one of the best albums of 2018. Their trademark passionate lyrics and beautiful vocal delivery combine perfectly on this debut, which features some smart use of vintage electronica. Full review.

FrontpersonFrontrunneralbumart-1530552785-640x640

7. Neko Case- Hell On

The world’s best female vocalist? We certainly think so, especially after hearing this latest highly charged release. She certainly has a lot to be emotional about this time around with this album arriving after her house burnt down and amid a battle with stalkers. Yet another career highpoint and a worthy entry in our best albums of 2018 list.

Neko Case - Hell-On

6. Jack Hayter – Abbey Wood

A derelict children’s home provides the inspiration for former Hefner man Jack Hayter’s latest, where everything falls into place. It has a strong back story, some moments of genuine drama, great music and above all sincerity. Full review.

abbey wood

5. Robert Rotifer – They Don’t Love You Back

The Austrian musician, broadcaster and Kent resident has created an epic stream of folk, psychedelic consciousness that perfectly encapsulates the senseless chaos of  Brexit. Recorded as a 77 minute track as part of a Wiaiwya Records project to raise money for Médecins Sans Frontières. Full review.

Rotifer - they don't love you back

4. The Go! Team- Semicircle

Eu-bleedin’-phoric! There’s no other word combo to sum up the sheer exhilarating joy of this Go! Team latest. Full review.

The Go Team SEMICIRCLE album artwork SMALL

3. Parquet Courts Wide Awake

Parquet Courts had already done their bit for guitar rock on their first three albums. Now they expertly take their music into new directions, thanks to Danger Mouse on production duties.

parquet courts

2. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – Hope Downs

Melbourne band’s three guitars pack a punch, especially on this album’s fantastic opening featuring  An Air Conditioned Man, Talking Straight and Mainland. Full review.

Hope Downs

1. Field Music – Open Here

From its chamber pop gems to pop-tastic foot stompers, this latest from Britain’s most interesting act continues to delight.  There are serious messages too, as the band eloquently express their fears around parenthood in post-Brexit Britain. A deserved top spot in our Best albums of 2018 list. Full review.

field-music-lp

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

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Bert Jansch – Just A Simple Soul

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Bert Jansch – Just A Simple Soul

Posted on 10 October 2018 by Joe

There are plenty of Bert Jansch compilations that take in his 1960s and early 1970s heyday. But this behemoth of a collection from BMG offers something far more career spanning.

By also dipping into the highlights from his mid-1970s through to a renaissance in the early 21st century this may well be the definitive Bert Jansch collection.

Jansch.jpg

The first CD contains exactly what Jansch admirers would expect. Strolling Down the Highway, Needle of Death and his take on the classic Angie are essential inclusions. As is Black Water Side, It Don’t Bother Me and a sprinkling of tracks from his 1971 classic Rosemary Lane, including the traditional Reynardine and title track.

This first half is a 14 track set of remarkable consistency, with his evocative laid back vocals and stunning guitar work, showcased to perfection.

Intriguing later career

 

But it’s the second half that is perhaps more interesting, as his career stop-started due to ill health.

Among the many high points from this period is what turned out to be his final album, 2006’s Black Swan, which sees Jansch joined by among others Beth Orton, and Devendra Banhart. The best partnership here though is on the title track, in which Helena Espvall’s haunting cello proved the perfect foil for Jansch’s voice and intricate guitar play.

Its also great to hear Kittiwake, a track from 1979’s ornithological concept album Avocet. This saw Jansch reunite with Pentangle bassist Danny Thompson and also joined by multi-instrumentalist Martin Jenkins.

Bert Jansch (centre) performing with Pentangle at Glastonbury 2011

Bert Jansch (centre) performing with Pentangle at Glastonbury 2011

There’s also the welcome addition of Fresh As A Sweet Sunday Morning and Chambertin, from the Mike Nesmith produced LA Turnaround (1974). His cover of Jackson C. Frank’s Carnival, from 1998’s Toy Balloon is another essential part of this collection.

What’s particularly refreshing about this compilation is that it acts as both a definitive collection, as well as a taster to encourage further investigation of his back catalogue.

Jansch sadly passed away in 2011, at the age of 67, leaving an incredible back catalogue that helped influence artists as diverse as Jimmy Page and Nick Drake to Johnny Marr and the Fleet Foxes. It is welcome to see his five decade spanning career at last captured in one place.

9/10

By Joe Lepper

Bert Jansch – Just A Simple Soul is released on October 26. More details here.

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Front Person – Front Runner

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Front Person – Front Runner

Posted on 27 September 2018 by Joe

Separately Canadian singer songwriters Kathryn Calder and Mark Hamilton have impressed us for years, the former as a solo artist and member of the New Pornographers and the latter who records and performs as Woodpigeon.

But after a chance meeting it seems a perfect partnership, under the name Front Person, has been created.

FrontpersonFrontrunneralbumart-1530552785-640x640

The pair met in a studio hallway, clicked, and decided to start a band there and then, or so the press release legend claims. It’s a nice story though so we’ll go with it.

The result encapsulates all that is great about their solo work, their passionate lyrics and beautiful vocal delivery. Like Squeeze’s Difford and Tilbrook their contrasting voices work perfectly in harmony. This is particularly the case on second track Long Night, one of many high points.

This Front Person debut is an ambitious release too. Rather than just recording in any old studio and any old instruments they’ve managed to gain access to raft of historically significant musical artefacts housed at the National Music Centre in Calgary.

Here they used its vast collection of electronica, from classic Mellotrons, Orchestrons, Optigans and the world’s first commercially produced synths.

But this vintage tech never overtakes this project, which still feels like a folk rock album at heart. Take Shorter Days for example, its an epic song that never becomes too showy thanks to Calder’s lead vocals, Hamilton’s backing contribution, as well as some well timed piano interludes.

This City is Mine, with Hamilton taking lead vocal duties, is another worth mentioning. It’s as near as this album gets to Trouble, his 2016 passionate album about love and loss.

As solo artists they are great, but together as Front Person they’ve created something wonderful. Let’s hope this partnership continues for years to come.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

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