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Top 10 Albums of 2018 ….so far

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Top 10 Albums of 2018 ….so far

Posted on 20 June 2018 by Joe

Each June we take a moment to look back on our favourite albums of the year so far. Inventive pop is a key theme his time around, with bands keen to push their boundaries and take their sound into new directions. It’s certainly paid off in the case of many of our Top 10 Albums of 2018 …. so far. We will revisit this list once again in December, when we will reveal our favourite albums of the year.

 

10. 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.

Alex Highton

Read our full review here.

 

9. Guided by Voices – Space Gun

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

Space Gun

Read our full review here.

 

8. 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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7. 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.

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Read our full review here.

 

6. 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.

Tigercats

Read our full review here.

 

5. 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. The results are pure joy.

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4. 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 into our top 10 albums of 2018 list.

Neko Case - Hell-On

 

3. The Go! Team – Semicircle

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

The Go Team SEMICIRCLE album artwork SMALL

Read our full review here.

 

2. 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 high placing in our top 10 albums of 2018 list.

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Read our full review here.

 

1. Jack Hayter – Abbey Rood

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. This is not only one of the best folk albums of the year, but currently our favourite album of 2018.

abbey wood

Read our full review here.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

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Tim Rutili & Craig Ross – Video Premiere

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Tim Rutili & Craig Ross – Video Premiere

Posted on 08 June 2018 by Dorian

The video below, for the song ‘Like A Rifle’, comes from Tim Rutili & Craig Ross’ forthcoming album 10 Seconds To Collapse. Tim is the founder and principle songwriter for Califone and Red Red Meat. Craig is a producer, songwriter and collaborator who has worked with Shearwater, Lisa Germano, Spoon, Patty Griffin, Robert Plant and Daniel Johnston.

The album, released on the 22nd June by Jealous Butcher Records, has been getting rave responses from other artists:

“Best record I’ve heard in a long time – each song wrapped in it’s own unique foil of odd old colors that get brighter each time you hear – every song worth a good long soak.” – M. Ward

“10 seconds to collapse is brilliant – Tim Rutili and Craig Ross make music of unhinged genius and bruised beauty” – Mark Lanegan

“Melancholy humor, playful messy bombast – it gets the car running then drives it into a ditch to stagger naked into the woods.  A vast and unpredictable ride. Listen loud .” – Thor Harris (Swans, Shearwater)

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US based readers can see the duo on tour in July. Click here for dates and details.

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Tallinn Music Week 2018 Review

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Tallinn Music Week 2018 Review

Posted on 21 May 2018 by Joe

Neon Filler could not resist returning to the Baltics this year for our second consecutive Tallinn Music Week. We unearthed some real musical gems last April so we didn’t hesitate when organisers invited us back for 2018. This year things were bigger and better with TMW celebrating it’s tenth birthday, with a whopping 262 artists hailing from 31 different countries.

Here’s a roundup of the standout acts we saw…

Lexsoul Dancemachine

Lexsoul Dancemachine are fast becoming a party highlight of Tallinn Music Week with their contagious funk capable of forcing dance moves from even the most stubbornly reluctant of Estonia observers.

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Playing this year as Saturday night headliners in one of Tallinn’s more salubrious venues, Erinevate Tubade Klubi (fitted out to look and feel like an authentic 1970’s Brooklyn Discoteque), they put in a sensational performance of raw smoking hot funk. If you need a second invitation to check them out look up the track ‘Beef Grinder’ on YouTube for a sample flavour of Estonian Funk at it’s finest.

Högni

In his native Iceland Högni Egilsson is one of the most respected singers and songwriters, having been a member of both GusGus and Hjaltalín.

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At TMW he showcased his solo work. Songs such as the hauntingly beautifil Paradísarmissir took us and the rest of the mesmerised audience on a journey of serenity and moving contemplation.

Põhja Konn

Põhja Konn (translated directly from Estonian means Northern Frog) can be described as many things; but to listen to their eponymous album you’d think old school prog rock. Witnessing and listening live at a festival like Tallinn Music Week  is an altogether different experience – one that gives real insight into their masterful understanding of all things jazz, classical, rock, funk and pop.

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There’s few live acts we’ve seen at places like Glastonbury, Green Man etc on the biggest stages, that can enchant an audience as much as Põhja Konn. We’d hazard a guess that if lyrically they would turn their backs on their loyal Estonian heritage, and write some material for a wider audience, they’d be filling festival stages across Europe and beyond.

Other highlights included…

Cari Cari

Cari Cari want to have their music featured in a Quentin Tarantino movie. So says their charismatic guitarist Alexander Kock. We managed to catch them perform twice at Tallinn Music Week this year and on both occasions it seemed a pity that the legendary American movie Director was not there to take heed.

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A two-piece act from Austria, the male / female duo played two very different sets albeit with the same set list. The first, a juxtapositioned short gig set in a shopping mall storefront, was a grungey, tribal, foot-stomping affair accompanied by Jew’s Harp and a Didgeridoo. The second was a evening slot in Tallinn Old Town, at a venue more appropriate for their whiskey soaked, bluesy anthems. Comparisons with The White Stripes, The XX and The Kills are inevitable. If they continue on their current upward trajectory it would seem a soundtrack berth on the next Tarantino flick will also become inevitable.

D/troit

Having to follow arguably the most exhilarating act of the weekend Lexsoul Dancemachine, it seemed D/troit had their work cut out. The electricity in the crowd was tangible and people were in the mood to party. D/troit were able to keep the party swinging with their timeless soul style, that brought Saturday night’s live music to a close.

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Once upon a time an obscure Garage band, the Danish group have today found their calling as one of Scandinavia’s finest soul music acts. Craig Charles recently labelled D/troit his favourite new band, playing their music on both his radio 2 and 6 shows. From where we are sitting, D/troit come across as the most under rated and effortlessly cool soul band since The Heavy.

Special Mentions…

Kalàscima

Kalàscima hail from Salento in Italy. In their local dialect their name is a combination of the words for good and evil.

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And, just like the battle between good and evil in all our favourite books and movies, their music is a tussle between the traditional folk of the region and modern electronic sounds. These collide, thankfully harmoniously, into an unforgettable music experience.

Púr Múdd

If you wanted to encapsulate the look and feel of Estonia’s youth today Tallinn Music Week, you would have had need to look no further than Púr Múdd.

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Their modern and almost gritty electronic pop sound echoes a nation at the cutting edge of modern technology (Estonia refers to itself as e-Estonia), and a determined start up culture that sees its youth striding towards a bright future.

Trad Attack!

If someone were to say to you “We are going to see an Estonian folk band, there will be bagpipes, a jewish harp and such like” you have an immediate expectation. A nice pleasant sound, perhaps traditional costumes and dancing, lovely!!

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What you get is folk that slaps you across the face with its vibrancy and currentness. It’s no wonder that Trad Attack! are playing at festivals around the world.

The Toasters

Ska pioneers The Toasters are a well-known act to many. The seasoned performers first came together in 1981, and despite performing over 6000 shows in their career, it was their very first time in Estonia.

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Luckily, the Tallinn Music Week crowd weren’t disappointed by the wait and thoroughly enjoyed the feast of musical enthusiasm that was served up.

Words by Marc Argent and Mark Taylor.

Pictures by Marc Argent and Tallinn Music Week.

For more information about Tallinn Music Week visit their website here.

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Top 20 Albums of 2017 – Part Two

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Top 20 Albums of 2017 – Part Two

Posted on 20 December 2017 by Joe

Welcome to the second part of our end of year round up of the best albums 2017. This latest instalment reveals who has earned a coveted place in our top ten. The first part (20-11) can be found here

10. The Magnetic Fields – 50 Song Memoir

Magnetic Fields 50 Song Memoir

In which Stephin Merritt celebrates his 50th birthday by writing an auto-biographical song for each year since his birth. The results are pretty great and it is his best hit-rate since 69 Love Songs in 1999. Sprawling concept albums clearly suit him.

9. Guided By Voices – August By Cake

Guided By Voices

This 32 track double album is the 100th album that GBV frontman Robert Pollard has released. It is also the first album released with the latest Guided By Voices line-up, which brings Doug Gillard’s guitar skills back to the fold. Every band member gets some songs on this one, and the results are typically uneven in excellent GBV fashion.

8. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Polygondwanaland

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Perhaps the only act that can compete with Robert Pollard’s production rate is Australian psychedelic rock outfit King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. They set themselves the ambitious task of releasing five albums this year, with a fifth due to be released “very very late in the year” according to frontman Stu Mackenzie.

Of the four released so far this is our favourite for our best albums 2017 list – full of prog rock/jazz treats like 10 minute opener Crumbing Castle and psyche pop gems such as Deserted Dunes Welcome Weary Feet. And what’s more it is available as a free download.

7. Mile Me Deaf – Alien Age

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Sound the breakthough album klaxon. Wolfgang Möstl’s Mile Me Deaf act  has always been experimental but they are on the cusp of the big time on the basis of this Best album 2017 release

On previous album’s he’s been looking to push the boundaries of indie rock and guitar pop. Here he’s pushed, then smashed his way past them, veering off into trip hop, dub, jazz, and ambient. Above all, as XTC once proudly sang, This is Pop. Lead single Blowout is a great jumping in point for this entry into our Best albums 2017 list . Read our full review here.

6. The Flaming Lips – Oczy Mlody

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This is best Lips release since they unleashed Yoshimi on those evil bastard pink robots during their last pop phase. After the mildly entertaining albums Terror and the awful Embyronic, Wayne Coyne and co have gone accessible again, with new classics such as How?? and There Should Be Unicorns among their best ever. Read our full review here.

5. Girl Ray – Earl Grey

Girl Ray - Earl Grey

We are delighted to include this impressive debut from Girl Ray, a quirky lo-fi pop trio from North London. This will particularly appeal to fans for Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci with Don’t Go Back at Ten among our favorites. Read our full review here.

4. LCD Soundsystem – American Dream

LCD Soundsystem

The LCD Soundsystem split didn’t last too long, and this album is a high-quality return by the band to recording. The sound is unmistakably LCD Soundsystem (even down to the usual influences) and there are a few playful tracks among some slightly sombre numbers. This is a welcome entry into our best albums 2017 top ten.

3. Robyn Hitchcock – Robyn Hitchcock

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It’s taken 21 albums but Robyn Hitchcock has finally gone down the self-titled route for a release, which by happy coincidence just happens to be one of his best in years.

From its purple, cat stroking, cover to its backwards guitars, it is a psychedelic explosion of awesomeness, with oodles of noodles of nods to the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The twinkling, shiny pop of Mad Shelley’s Letterbox is a particular highlight. Read our full review here.

2. Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder

Hug-Of-Thunder

Just like the Flaming Lips, the almighty Canadian collective of Broken Social Scene also saw a return to form in 2017. The return of Leslie Feist to the line up takes them back to their early hey-day, especially with her jaw droppingly awesome vocals on the title track.

New member Ariel Engle, who takes lead vocal duties on Stay Happy, is another impressive addition. While Halfway Home is A fantastic alternative rock anthem that shows just how good this album is within their already prolific two decade spanning back catalogue.

1. Eyelids – OR

Eyelids Or

Featuring members of the Decemberists, Guided by Voices and Stephen Malkmus’ Jicks, Eyelids have leapt to the top of our list thanks to their sweet, jangly melodies on tracks such as Falling Eyes.

This second release from the band also adds ex-REM man Peter Buck into the mix as producer to give it extra class and a 1980s alternative rock feel. A triumph and deserved number one album in our best albums 2017 list. Read our full review here.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

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Top 20 albums 2017 – Part One

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Top 20 albums 2017 – Part One

Posted on 13 December 2017 by Joe

Welcome to the first part of our end of year round up of the top 20 best albums 2017. In keeping with our ethos of promoting new and diverse music our list contains a raft of independent artists.

Keep checking back over the next few days when we will be revealing who has made it into the Top 10 of our list of  best albums 2017.

20. El Goodo – By Order of the Moose

El-Goodo

Welsh psychedelic act El Goodo spent eight years making this pop gem, which puts their own distinct slant on the US garage music scene of the late 1960s.

There’s a cinematic quality too. This makes it sound at times like a cross between a Spaghetti Western soundtrack and the Oompa-loompa songs from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the good version with Gene Wilder, that is). It Makes Me Wonder is among many high points. A worthy inclusion in our best albums 2017 list.

19. Warm Digits – Wireless World

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Newcastle duo Andrew Hodson and Steve Jefferis’ third Warm Digits album is an electro gem for 2017. Here they team up with a host of guest stars to showcase their squelchy synth music.

Peter Brewis from their Memphis Industries label mates Field Music excels on End Time. So too does St Etienne’s Sarah Cracknell on Growth of Raindrops.

18. Nick Parker – Besta Venya

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This third album from Somerset singer-songwriter Nick Parker blends the two sides of his live shows perfectly, from upbeat, crowd pleasers, such as Down With the Yoof, to poignant numbers such as Guess I’ll Never Know.

The Other Half at the end of this 12 song collection even takes him to Beatles territory, complete with flugal horn. Read our full review here.

17. Granite Shore – Suspended Second

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With Brexit approaching we could perhaps all do with listening to this second album from Granite Shore – the musical project of Nick Halliwell, who runs Exeter based label Occultation Records. Here all our fears of the unknown, the anger (well for remainers at least) of the decision and sense of hopelessness are laid bare.

His savviest move though is to channel these emotions through smart 1970s inspired pop, with legendary singer songwriter John Howard bringing added class with backing vocals and piano on tracks such as Buyer Beware and Where does the sadness come from? . Read our full review here.

16. Ralegh Long – Upwards of Summer

ralegh long

On his second album singer-songwriter UK based Ralegh Long has looked to his early inspirations of 80s/90s college indie rock to produce a decidedly more upbeat affair than his debut Hoverance.

Gone are the pastoral folk subtleties of that first album to be replaced by jangly guitars, smart pop hooks and euphoric choruses, such as on Take Your Mind Back. This best albums 2017 entrant has impressed others too, with the album scooping this year’s HMUK and Pledge Music Emerging Artists Award. Read our full review here.

15. Fazerdaze – Morningside

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New Zealand’s Amelia Murray (aka Fazerdaze) emerged as one of the best breakthrough acts of 2017 thanks to this highly impressive debut. While it relies heavily on the C86 indie scene for influence it sounds thoroughly modern.

Signed to New Zealand’s esteemed Flying Nun Records label, she played a raft of gigs in the UK this year to promote this May release, which features highlights such as Lucky Girl.

14. Co-Pilgrim – Moon Lagoon

moonlagoon

Mike Gale’s Hampshire and Oxfordshire based band Co-pilgrim has been releasing smart melancholic pop albums for years now, always impressing us. Here he’s dusted off his distortion pedal for a first half of belting 90s US college rock tracks. This includes Turn It Around and You’ll Look Pretty As A Picture….When The Acid Rain Hits Ya.

He then shrinks back into the shadows for a second half of introspection and poignancy. Every home needs at least one Co-Pilgrim album.  This is a great place to dive in to Gale’s world. Read our full review here.

13. The Mountain Goats – Goths

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Goths get The Mountain Goats treatment in 2017, with singer-songwriter John Darnielle telling tales from the subculture, daringly with a lounge, jazz feel, complete with sumptuous Fender Rhodes keyboards. Gene Loves Jezebel’s footnote in music history on Abandoned Flesh is among man high points.

Meanwhile, Yorkshire’s provincial Goth hot spots are given an ode on Andew Eldritch is Moving Back to Leeds, as Darnielle cements his role as America’s best story teller in song. Read our full review here.

12. Android Angel – The Hissing and the Hum

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Since he sent us the debut EP from his band Free Swim back in 2010 Paul Coltofeanu has never let us down. Time and again across Free Swim’s funny and perfectly executed pop he has impressed.

Here, in his other guise The Android Angel he excels again, blending club sounds, soundtrack rock and whimsical pop perfectly on tracks such as Cloudless Sky and West Wind.

11. The New Pornographers – Whiteout Conditions

The New Pornographers - Whiteout Conditions

Even with a stronger focus on synths, and the disappointing lack of Dan Bejar, this is unmistakable as a New Pornographers record. The tunes are as strong as ever.

There’s also a couple of “should have been a top 10 hit” singles among them, including High Ticket Attractions. A.C Newman is in fine voice and with the vocal support of Neko Case and Kathryn Calder it sounds pretty great throughout.

Coming soon: Best albums 2017 Top 10.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

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Top 10 – 1987

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Top 10 – 1987

Posted on 02 December 2017 by Dorian

This year is the 30th anniversary of 1987. This isn’t a year that typically gets identified as being a particularly important one for music, but it was an important one for this young indie fan. Aged 15 I’d just started to develop my own taste and, for the first time, had some income that I could use to buy records with.

One year after NME’s legendary C86 cassette we were starting to see bands from that “scene” bringing out albums and breaking (to some extent) into the mainstream. For me it was a wonderful time to discover music and I still own most of the records I purchased at that age.

This top 10 may not be the definitive best songs of 1987, brilliant records by The Smiths, Prince, Hüsker Dü, Julian Cope, Big Black, Sonic Youth, The Go-Betweens, Dinosaur Jr, New Order, The Pixies and more came out that year, but it is a reflection of my experience of music at the time.

10.  The Soup Dragons – Can’t Take No More

The Soup Dragons aren’t well-remembered, and when they are it is seldom for this song, but I have a great fondness for this record. The mix of British guitar jangle pop, and a fast paced fuzziness, is what defines this era for me and I think this is a bit of a lost classic.

9.  Pailhead – I Will Refuse

The partnership of former Minor Threat Ian MacKaye and Revolting Cock Al Jourgensen seems a bit of an odd one in retrospect, but together they produced a pretty amazing noise for a couple of EPs. This song is the best of the bunch. Play loud.

8.  The Dukes of the Stratosphere – You’re My Drug

I don’t know if it is true or apocryphal but the story goes that XTC were so out of fashion by the late 80s that even their records as a fictional 60s psychedelia band sold better than their “real” records. This song is so authentically produced that you could forgive someone for thinking they were a genuine lost act of the flower-power era.

7.  Age of Chance – Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Noise

A sound they called “sonic metal disco” and a penchant for cycling gear wasn’t enough to give the Age of Chance much of a career. However, their debut album was pretty unique and spawned some genuinely excellent singles. This is one of them.

 6.  Voice of the Beehive – I Say Nothing

This list is a bit of an (unintentional) “where are they now?” and Voice of the Beehive are another forgotten act. I think that this single was brilliant but I admit that them being my first ever gig may be a factor in this choice.

5.  The Sugarcubes – Birthday

I loved the Chart Show. I loved it most when the indie chart was the specialist chart for the week (oh, the disappointment of heavy metal or dance) and seeing this song in that chart was an eye opener. Even now I still have no idea exactly how the song is constructed as a variety of clashing melodies compete for attention behind Bjork’s unmistakable vocal performance.

4.  They Might Be Giants – Don’t Let’s Start

They Might Be Giants are too often dismissed as a comedy or novelty act. This assessment misses just what a creative and unique pop band they are. This is great and kick-started a long time love for the band.

3.  The Wedding Present – My Favourite Dress

The Wedding Present would be number 1 in an album chart for 1987, the album George Best is still a treasured part of my vinyl collection. There are so many great tracks that I could pick, but this single from the album just about takes pride of place.

2.  That Petrol Emotion – Genius Move

That Petrol Emotion are a band that deserve more of a place in musical history. Formed by The Undertones’ O’Neill brothers they released five excellent albums in a seven-year career. This single is among my favourites of their many excellent songs and gets the nod here as it is not available (to my knowledge) in any format. Spotify has a version on the band’s posthumous live album,  but nothing beats the original single which lives on via YouTube.

1. Faith No More – We Care A Lot

This song would have always been in this chart, but the recent sad death of Chuck Mosley and a nostalgia filled revisiting of the video may have pushed it up a place or two. It is a great single, completely unique, and worthy of a number 1 spot. RIP Chuck.

What songs would you pick as your best of 1987? If you are apoplectic that I haven’t selected ‘True Faith’, or have a love for something from Sinitta’s debut album, please post your choices below.

Compiled by Dorian Rogers

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Grant Hart – Top 10

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Grant Hart – Top 10

Posted on 17 September 2017 by Dorian

I’m not a huge fan of eulogising the dead, I think that praise and recognition is something that is much more powerful when someone is still alive. However, I do understand the sadness, and need for catharsis, that people feel when someone important to them passes away. In the case of someone like David Bowie it is in part due to the huge impact their music has had over the decades. In the case of someone like Grant Hart, who died of cancer aged only 56 this week, it is in part due to the lack of perceived impact they had on the musical landscape.

Grant Hart has never been afforded the same level of respect as his Hüsker Du band mate Bob Mould. He didn’t write and sing quite as many songs with that band as Mould did, but many of his contributions stand amongst the bands best. His solo work gets far less attention and even though he formed a new band (Nova Mob) some three years before Mould formed Sugar you won’t see anniversary editions of either of their albums in your record shop.

Here is a selection of ten of my favourite tracks from across his career, a hard job to whittle down to such a short list. I’ve split the songs (presented in chronological order) 50/50 between Hüsker Du and solo work. I urge you to seek out the albums that these songs are taken from. The non-Hüsker Du work is well represented on Spotify although harder to buy in physical form.

Diane

This song, from Metal Circus, is about a real life murder and is perhaps better known as a single that the band Therapy? released 15 years later.

Pink Turns To Blue

Zen Arcade is my favourite album by the band, and an extremely influential record demonstrating much more scope and invention than a hardcore punk band was supposed to display. I’ve decided to only pick one song from any album for this list and it was tough to exclude ‘Never Talking To You Again’, but this is possibly my favourite from the album. Also one of the few songs where I could find really good quality live footage.

Terms Of Psychic Warfare

New Day Rising was always going to suffer following Zen Arcade but it is still a great album. This excellent footage gives you two bonus tracks; ‘Powerline’ and ‘Books About UFOs’.

Don’t Want To Know If You Are Lonely

It says something about Hart’s growing stature in the band that both singles taken from their first major label release, Candy Apple Gray, are his compositions. This is one of them.

Back From Somewhere

Bob Mould famously told Grant Hart that he would never have as many songs on a Hüsker Du album as him. On their final release, Warehouse Songs And Stories, Hart had nine of the twenty tracks.

The Main

Intolerance is a really fascinating album, with Hart handling all musical and production duties on the record. ‘2541’ almost made this list, but this piano driven song about drug addiction is one of his most powerful recordings.

Admiral Of The Sea

I picked up the 12″ single of this track shortly after it was released. I remember spinning it over and over when I got home.

You Don’t Have To Tell Me Now

This song, from Good News For Modern Man, is another example of hart’s gift for introspective love songs. This version is a live audio recording from what may have been his last live tour.

You’re The Reflection Of The Moon On The Water

In which Grant Hart goes all ‘White Light/White Heat’ for his 2009 album Hot Wax.

For Those Too High Aspiring

His final release, 2013’s The Argument, isn’t the easiest of listens. It is a sprawling concept album based on John Milton’s Paradise Lost and needs a few listens to get into. It is worth the effort though, like Zen Arcade it proves that the best work is ambitious and cerebral and takes a bit of effort to understand. This is the last song from his final album, and seems an appropriate way to end this list.

By Dorian Rogers

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Glastonbury Festival 2017

Glastonbury Festival 2017

Posted on 27 June 2017 by Joe

Last year’s Glastonbury Festival was typified by Brexit fears and mud, lots and lots of mud. It was draining at times, both physically and mentally.

Thankfully, this time around it was a different story, with a post general election sense of hope replacing despair and lovely dry grass replacing ankle deep sludge.

Glastonbury 2017 feel good factor

Glastonbury Festival 2017 feel good factor

Already some, including  Glastonbury Festival organiser Emily Eavis, are referring to it as the best  yet. We are inclined to agree, especially as there seemed to be more going on this year too, to add to the good mood and weather.

New areas had popped up, including Cineramageddon, a Johnny Depp approved post apocalyptic drive-in cinema. Another was the punk and hardcore metal focused Truth Stage, defiantly nestled in the dance area, Shangri-La.

Surprise and high quality guest slots also sprang up, with Elbow taking The Park stage by storm on Friday evening and The Killers doing likewise on Sunday afternoon at the John Peel Stage.

Jeremy Corbyn Sand Sculpture

It was also the year of Jeremy Corbyn, with the Labour leader attracting one of the Pyramid Stage’s biggest ever crowds, while reciting Percy Shelley (yes, this all actually happened). His face was on masks and t-shirts and even a sand sculpture with the veteran campaigner astride a giant fox, ready to give chase to Theresa May through a field of wheat.

Here we take a look back at some of the best acts we saw at some of the site’s many venues.

As with all our Glastonbury reviews, we focus more heavily on the smaller stages away from the main television coverage.

William’s Green

Our favourite venue on was on top form, once again showcasing quality emerging talent, including those destined for larger stages in future years.

Las Kellies

Las Kellies

Among the William’s Green highlights were a Friday afternoon set from Argentinian trio Las Kellies, who sound like a garage punk version of seminal Athens band Pylon, backing their distorted riffs with smart, danceable bass lines and rhythms, on tracks such as Mind Your Own Business.

On just after were The Pictish Trail, aka Johnny Lynch from the Isle of Eigg in the Scottish Hebrides. Here with full band, this plump, bearded glitter faced singer excelled as a frontman, with his psychedelic, euphoric pop pulling in the crowds.

The Pictish Trail

The Pictish Trail

Dutch Uncles were another highpoint of the William’s Green line up and proving to be the best party band in the Metropolitan Borough of Stockport. Here to showcase their latest album Big Balloon, lead singer Duncan Wallis is a joy to watch, with his frantic dancing and soulful vocals.

Dutch Uncles

Dutch Uncles

The Big Moon, a critically acclaimed quartet on Saturday’s bill already sound and look too big for Williams Green. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them on The Park, John Peel or even the Other Stage next time. Here they rattled through a strong set of tracks from their debut album Love in the 4th Dimension, which was released in April.

The Big Moon

The Big Moon

The last time we saw Thurston Moore perform, he  was one grumpy git. It was at an ATP Festival in Minehead after the release of his solo album Demolished Thoughts and he spent the whole set complaining about the sound and looking miserable.

Whether it was the sunshine, lack of mud, or Corbyn himself, but at this year’s Glastonbury Festival the former Sonic Youth man was in fine fettle. Making up for lost time he has plenty of stage bantz these days and smiled throughout, through his trademark long hair. Another factor in his good mood may be the fast paced incendiary content of his new album Rock n Roll Consciousness, which sounded great live.

Marika Hackman

Marika Hackman

We managed to grab a couple more William’s Green acts on the Sunday, both equally impressive. Sub Pop artist Marika Hackman from Hampshire has an excellent album out this year, called I’m Not Your Man, which veers between grunge, folk and pop.

Live though she was far more on the grunge side, but with the voice of an angel. It was an enticing combination that provided yet another high point on this stage. A definite star of the future.

The Veils

The Veils

The Veils have been going for around 16 years. Why have we never seen them live before?  Their programme billing of ‘a savage collision of Bowie, Nick Cave and Nine Inch Nails’, is spot on, with frontman Finn Andrews definitely of the Cave school of impassioned down and dirty tales of horror. It is no surprise that Andrews features in the new series of Twin Peaks. A Lynchian act that seems criminally underrated.

The Park

The Park seemed to have significantly upped its game this year. Situated up the hill near the iconic Glastonbury Festival sign it can struggle to pull the crowds.

Not so this year.

As well as Elbow’s good natured and heart warming surprise set the venue also hosted what may have been the festival’s best stage headliner – The Flaming Lips.

The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips

With a Glastonbury Festival friendly set of hits, most notably those from their peak pop album Yoshimi and the Pink Robots (2002), frontman Wayne Coyne was on exceptional form. Like a psychedelic faerie prince he relied on his full repertoir of showmanship – blasting the crowd with explosions of glitter and balloons, rolling around in a giant ball across the crowd and even riding a giant unicorn at one point.

Those that shunned Radiohead on the Pyramid Stage at the same time to catch this set were richly rewarded.

Hamilton Leithauser

Hamilton Leithauser

Hamilton Leithauser’s massive voice, and I mean properly massive voice, was another high point in the Park’s line up. Showcasing tracks from his impressive latest album I Had A Dream That You Were Mine, which was recorded with former Vampire Weekender Rostram, he dazzled in the Friday afternoon sun, delivering a fine set of shouty lullabies to perfection.

1,000 Times and The Bride’s Dad, about a determined father inviting himself to his estranged daughter’s wedding, were among the highlights.

John Peel Stage

The John Peel Stage had sort of lost its way over the last couple of years for us. The acts seemed to increasingly veer away from the Peel ethos of being interesting, to more a venue for acts that  produce a sort of bland power-ballad indie rock.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

This year’s Glastonbury Festival though it seemed that a bit more effort had been made to mix that up a bit with King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard providing one of its high points.

Peel – the early 1970s Peel at any rate – would surely approve as with a psychedelic backdrop the hardworking Australian act rattled through their extensive back catalogue, that includes an incredible 11 albums since forming six years ago.

Highpoints were the Nanogon Infinity segment, with Gamma Knife and People Vultures sounding excellent. Complete with lead singer Stu McaKenzie gurning and guitar noodling a plenty they also impressed with a fantastic finish featuring The River, a highpoint from their jazz influenced 2015 album Quarters.

Appearing on the same Sunday afternoon were Sundara Karma, a posh bunch of ex-public school boys from Berkshire who use smart riffs and hooks to ensure they avoid accusations of being bland.

While they safely avoid blandness musically they did provide the lamest call to arms in the history of rock, when lead singer Oscar Pollack said – “If you don’t like something, say something about it, but in a nice way.”  I’m guessing he wasn’t part of the debating society back at the posh knob Oratory School where they met.

Real Estate

Real Estate

Real Estate also took to the stage on The Sunday and impressed us with their neat guitar interplay and REM like songs. They are a band that are far better live than on record, where they can sound a little lifeless, so it was great to catch their set.

The Acoustic Stage

Another favourite venue of ours at the Glastonbury Festival is the Acoustic Stage, a huge tent covered in giant red drapes and with one of the best sound teams on site. The crowd is a little older than the rest of the site, many of the acts are too, but it’s a great place to see some legends as well as new up and coming folk and roots acts.

Among the stalwarts were Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, who rattled through a Squeeze greatest hits set with aplomb. Their vocal harmonies, (Chris the low one, Glenn on high notes), is one of the best in popular music. Glenn’s guitar skills, here on acoustic and clean Fender Telecaster are also astonishing- intricate but never showy. Hearing Up the Junction in this format was a particular treat.

Difford and Tilbrook

Difford and Tilbrook

The Magic Numbers were another that graced the Acoustic Stage well, showcasing tracks from their forthcoming album on the Sunda as well as playing the crowd pleasers through their career and finishing on a sublime cover of Neil Young’s Harvest Moon.

The Truth Stage

The Dead Kennedys may be without their original singer, Jello Biafra. But it doesn’t matter these days as, on the evidence of their Saturday night headline slot at The Trust Stage, in frontman Ron Skip Greer they have a superb replacement. He’s theatrical like Biafra, full of political swagger, but doesn’t impersonate him. Grear is his own man and the Dead Kennedys legacy is in good hands.

The Dead Kennedys

The Dead Kennedys

The rest though is the same, with drummer DH Peligro, who has been with the band since 1981, original bassist Klaus Floride and original guitarist East Bay Ray, all performing like it was back when they started.

To hear Ray’s abrasive surf riffs in person was a joy for us old punk fans. But it wasn’t just fogies like us there – what was great was how many young people were watching them. It was a joy to see how their music – which is as apt now in an age of Trump and May as it was in the Reagan/Thatcher era – chimes with a new generation.

The Other and Pyramid Stages

A sign of a good Glastonbury Festival for us is that we enjoy the smaller stages and larger ones alike. Among the Other Stage highpoints were The Pretenders cobweb busting opening set on late Friday morning. Unlike the dire rock dirge and shouty hoarse vocal performance of their contemporaries Blondie in this slot a few years back The Pretenders were superb.

The Pretenders

The Pretenders

Not only are their new tracks pretty good, especially the title track of 2016’s Alone, but Hynde’s voice is pitch perfect. In addition the band were true to their roots, with Martin Chambers ,who joined in 1978, on drums and their guitarist and bassist sounding as near as they could to the late James Honeyman-Scott and Pete Farndon. Mystery Achievement, a lesser known track from their first album, was among many highlights.

British Sea Power were another good booking for the Other Stage, complete with dancing bears.

British Sea Power

British Sea Power

Meanwhile, on the Pyramid Stage Barry Gibb‘s Bee Gees catalogue provided the perfect soundtrack to a sunny Sunday afternoon, complete with flashmob disco dancing security staff. The veteran seemed genuinely amazed and touched to receive such acclaim. If anyone was at this gig and hated it then they must be dead inside. Heartwarming.

The National almost, just almost provided gig of the weekend, with lead singer Matt Berninger doing his best to mirror Nick Cave’s incredible Glastonbury Festival Pyramid performance of a few years back.

While The National’s was a powerful and passionate set of a headliner of the future, the passion and angst  seemed a little forced in places, especially the oh-so deliberately visible wine swigging and snipes at the band members from Berninger, in particular aimed at Bryce Dessner, who he accused of having too much camera attention.

Is their friction real or put on? Either way it didn’t help their performance. Having said that Fake Empire, from their album Boxer, and the tracks from High Violet sounded superb.

Words and pictures by Joe Lepper

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Top Ten Glastonbury Festival Gigs (2011-2016)

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Top Ten Glastonbury Festival Gigs (2011-2016)

Posted on 19 June 2017 by Joe

With five Glastonbury Festivals, from 2011 to 2016, under our belt we decided to have a look back at some of our favourite gigs over that time. Feel free to mention your favourite Glastonbury performance in the comment section below or let us know if you also saw any of these acts.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Pyramid Stage 2013

Cave and co were scheduled before trustafarian folksters Mumford and Sons on the Pyramid Stage. The Bad Seeds promptly took ownership of the iconic main stage and presented the waistcoat wearing fops with one of the festival’s greatest ever ‘follow that, arseholes’ sets.

Resplendent in silk black suit and paisley shirt Cave provided a master class in how to perform at a festival. Each soft moment perfectly placed among the dangerous, violent lyrics and tales of murder that Cave has excelled at throughout his career. The brooding epic Jubilee Street became an instant live favourite, as were older classics such as Mercy Seat and a spellbinding encore of Red Right Hand.

The real highpoint though was Stagger Lee, as Cave embarked on one of two attempts to crowd surf/schmooze. As he screamed at those he made contact with about all the things he was going to do to poor Billy Dilly in the song suddenly this pre-Raphaelite looking women appeared. She kept resolute eye contact with Cave throughout as he ended up singing directly to her. This kind of thing is cheesy when someone like Bono does it, but not when Cave gives it a go. As far as I’m aware the U2 singer has never looked into an audience member’s eyes, held her hands and screamed “I’m going to fuck Billy Dilly up his motherfucking ass.”

Billy Bragg

Leftfield Stage 2016

Billy Bragg

Billy Bragg, Glastonbury 2016

I often go to Bragg’s regular Friday night set at this stage that he helps curate but this set, just hours after the shocking Brexit vote outcome was announced, was by far the best.

The crowd’s roar after hits like Milkman of Human Kindness and Sexuality was “just what I needed”, he said, after the day’s testing events. We needed it too. Even Bragg admitted towards the end that this had been one of his best ever gigs and certainly it was the busiest I’ve ever seen the Leftfield in five years as a regular.

There Is A Power In A Union sing-a-long was intense with its added topicality and New England was dutifully rousing. Activism was duly recharged.

St Vincent

Park Stage, 2014

St Vincent

St Vincent, Glastonbury 2016

St Vincent provided one of the most astounding show of 2014’s event. Dressed in gold and black she moved around the stage like a android doll who has just discovered rebellion. Coordinated dancing, theatrics and two of the most insane crowd surfing moments I’ve witnessed were incredible on their own and that’s without mentioning the superb music and her sensational guitar playing.

Your Lips Are Red and a tender version of Prince Johnny were among many highlights of an incredible masterclass in performance and music.

John Grant

John Peel Stage 2016

John Grant

John Grant, Glastonbury 2016

Poor John had flu but this somehow made his performance at the John Peel stage better, with the crowd urged to sing-along and wave their arms around to keep him going. He has come along way as a performer since I last saw him at Glastonbury at the Park Stage in 2014 and he is now a proper diva, albeit one in a country and western shirt and a massive beard.

Queen of Denmark, Greatest Mother Fucker were highlights but Glacier blew the whole gig apart with its emotional brilliance.

Pentangle

Acoustic Stage 2011

Bert Jansch (centre) performing with Pentangle at Glastonbury 2011

Pentangle, Glastonbury 2011

Reformed for this special gig at the Acoustic stage, folk super group Pentangle excelled during a set that  featured the full original line up of guitarists Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, singer Jacqui McShee, drummer Terry Cox and bassist Danny Thompson. For a folk fan like me this was a very special occasion.

Even though they’d barely rehearsed together the old magic was still there. Watching Renbourn weave his intricate guitar playing around Jansch’s riffs and Thompson and Cox’s jazz folk rhythms was one of my favourite musical moments at the 2011 festival. They seemed delighted to be there as they swept though tracks such as ‘Hunting Song’, ‘Bruton Town’, ‘House Carpenter’ and ‘Cruel Sister’. This was an experience to cherish.

Tragically it was also the last chance to see Jansch, who sadly passed away just two months later. Renbourne is also no longer with us and the loss of these two pioneers of British folk music makes this chance to have seen them even more special.

Ron Sexsmith

Acoustic Stage 2015

Ron Sexsmith

Ron Sexsmith, Glastonbury 2015

Ron Sexsmith appeared in 2015 to celebrate two decades of music, but up until his engaging set his music had completely evaded me somehow. Through a career spanning set, including Strawberry Blonde and There’s a Rhythm to the more recent Getaway Car, he had me hooked. For a week later I was still humming these tracks, that I had only heard once – that’s how good a song writer he is.

La Femme

William’s Green Stage 2015

La Femme

La Femme, Glastonbury 2015

Another sensational performance at the 2015 event was Parisian eccentric surf-dance-you name it-pop act La Femme. At their William’s Green set there was crowd surfing, crazy dancing and wonderful banter. This is a fun party band who were on top form as they showcased tracks from their just released debut album Psycho Tropical Brazil.

Wilko Johnson

Acoustic Stage 2015

Wilko Johnson

Wilko Johnson, Glastonbury 2015

Like a crazed bird Johnson made a mockery of the cancer that the previous year threatened to take his life, as he weaved around stage, machine gun-chording the audience with his trademark Fender telecaster. He and his regular bassist Norman Watt-Roy are a sheer joy to watch.

Franz Ferdinand and Sparks

John Peel Stage 2015

FFS

FFS, Glastonbury 2015

For my final act of Glastonbury 2015 I ventured over to the half full John Peel Stage to see Franz Ferdinand with Sparks, who were competing with the Chemical Brothers and The Who. This didn’t stop them putting on one of this year’s best sets as they ripped through each other’s hits and showcased their remarkable and fun joint album from 2015.

Highlights included Alex Kapranos and Russell Mael’s endearing acting during the splendidly ironic Collaborations Don’t Work. Top moment though was the surprise sight of Ron Mael emerging from behind his keyboard to laugh and dance for a quick 30 second mesmerising burst of pop history. Not bad dancing skills for a man for whom John Lennon once said “bloody hell, its Hitler on TV.

Ok Go

John Peel Stage 2011

Ok Go

Ok Go, Glastonbury 2011

I love a band that makes a bit of an effort and Ok Go certainly do that. Known for their inventive videos this US pop rock are equally impressive live. With each member dressed in a bright coloured suit,  I was left impressed with both their showmanship and song writing.

Squeeze are the nearest comparison as OK Go  as put in for me the performance of the 2011 festival, featuring great versions of ‘Here it Goes Again’ (the one with the treadmill video) as well as ‘This Too Shall Pass’ and ‘Sky Scrapers’ from their then most recent album Of The Blue Colour of the Sky. It was a masterclass in audience engagement too, with a member of the crowd joining them on guitar duty.

Words and photos by Joe Lepper

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Preview: Indietracks 2017

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Preview: Indietracks 2017

Posted on 05 June 2017 by Dorian

Indietracks is one of the highlights of our musical calendar, and 2017 doesn’t look like it is going to buck the trend of friendly vibes, steam trains, owls and great music that we have come to expect over the years.

We have written about the festival many times in the past, so go here if you want a flavour of what to expect.

Indietracks 2017

The bands on the bill this year are the typical mix of new and old with some familiar faces alongside festival debutantes offering up a really strong line-up across the three days. The Tuts, The Wave Pictures and Endersbys Room have all been Neon Filler favourites at previous festivals, and there are dozens of acts we are less familiar with playing over the weekend.

Darren Hayman played a great set here last year and he is back again with Emma Kupa playing as the Hayman Kupa Band. Kupa is very busy over the weekend also appearing in Mammoth Penguins and Friends as well as being one of the festival organisers.

There are plenty of new bands to discover over the weekend with Luby Sparks, ME REX and Milk Crimes all having formed in the last couple of years. There are veterans playing too, with The Orchids and Milky Wimpshake adding a few years to the bill and Monkey Swallows The Universe reuniting 10 years since they last released an album.

Indietracks 2017 line up

(Clockwise) Cate Le Bon, The Tuts, The Wave Pictures, Monkey Swallows The Universe

The headliners are strong this with Martha bringing some lively North East power-pop to the stage on the Friday night, and Cate Le Bon closing the festival on the Sunday night with her distinctive “Television meets John Cale”  approach to songwriting.

It is The Wedding Present on the Saturday night that are the pick of the bunch for me, even though they are a band I get the opportunity to see in my home town several times a year. I remember picking up their debut album, George Best, 30 years ago aged just 15 and it remains one of my favourite records to this day. This is a band that, with their appearance on the legendary C86 cassette, helped to define what indie-guitar-pop was. David Gedge may be the only consistent member of the band, but his weary tales sound pretty good to this day, and their most recent release Going Going was one of their best.

Me and Gedge

Me and David Gedge in 2012

We spoke to some of the Indietracks team (Nat Hudson, Beck Conway, Jasmine Allen, Andy Hudson and Emma Kupa) to find out a bit more detail on what makes the festival tick.

Lots of festivals have come and gone over the years, with small festivals often disappearing. Indietracks is in its 11th year. What do you think is the secret to the festival’s success?

Beck: Without a doubt, I think it’s the atmosphere and community spirit. The festival has such a lovely, relaxed and friendly vibe and I’ve made so many friends there over the years. I can’t wait until July to catch up with everybody again!

Nat: I think it’s the friendly, relaxed atmosphere and the sense of community. A lot of Indietracks goers come back every year, and it’s always wonderful to see so many friendly, familiar faces as well as new ones. I also think our mix of established and up and coming bands also attracts people – Indietracks is always a good opportunity to discover your next favourite band!

The Wedding Present were my introduction to indie pop 30 years ago. What was the point that you realised your love of the music?

Beck: I was a big fan of indiepop bands before I really knew what indiepop was! I found a couple of Field Mice records in a charity shop when I was about 15 and started to realise the wonders of Fortuna Pop after getting into Bearsuit and The Aisler’s Set. I used to run a clubnight in Manchester years ago where we’d play those bands alongside stuff like Dressy Bessy, Helen Love and Hefner. I don’t think I ever really understood that all these seemingly disparate bands fitted together under the umbrella of ‘indiepop’ before I started coming to Indietracks!

Nat: Like Beck, I was a fan of indiepop before I really knew what it was! As a student I was a huge fan of Hefner, Stars of Aviation, Marine Research, Belle and Sebastian and similar bands. I moved to London in 2004, met friends who were into similar music and ended up going to the How Does It Feel To Be Loved? club night. Through that I ended up discovering lots of new and old indiepop bands and eventually became involved with Indietracks.

Jas: Although music was always a big part of my life, I first discovered ‘indiepop’ by attending DIY clubnights and gigs at University. A bunch of my friends were involved with a society called Burn the Jukebox – which encompassed a variety of genres. I was always drawn to the more indie, electro, pop end of this. After University I ended up dating someone in a band, and that has been a great way of discovering bands by attending gigs, and of course that’s how I also discovered Indietracks.

You have some new faces on the Indietracks team this year. What are they bringing to the festival?

Nat: Myself, Andy and Emma Cooper are still part of the organising team, but this year we’ve also welcomed new members Beck Conway, Jasmine Allen and Emma Kupa. They’ve been in bands and have also been involved with organising the Sweet Revenge club night in Manchester and the Cambridge indiepop all-dayer, so have loads of experience of putting on indiepop events! They’re also all regular Indietracks goers, so know the festival and are really keen to help make it the best it can possibly be. We’re so lucky they volunteered to get involved – they’ve done so much of the work this year, and have brought lots of energy and enthusiasm to the team too!

Beck: Along with Jas and Emma, I’ve been a massive fan of Indietracks for years and I think that’s a really useful perspective that we bring to the organising team. We have a good sense of what people really love most about the festival and what new ideas might work well.

If you were put on the spot and had to pick your one must watch act this year who would that be?

Emma: Frankie Cosmos

Nat: Lucky Soul

Andy: Cate Le Bon

Beck: I think I’ll have to pick one of our international bands because you never know when they’ll be back in the UK – I’m really looking forward to Luby Sparks who are travelling all the way from Japan to play for us!

Jas: It’s difficult to pick one, and I often enjoy the smaller bands the most. However, The Wave Pictures have a lot to offer – they are an incredibly versatile band with lots of talent and a large back catalogue.

Words and interview by Dorian Rogers

Indietracks is on from the 28th to the 30th July at the Midlands railway Centre in Derbyshire. Go to www.indietracks.co.uk for more details and to buy tickets.

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