Archive | November, 2010

Global War On Music Pirates Escalates

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Global War On Music Pirates Escalates

Posted on 30 November 2010 by Joe

The global war on illegal music sharing and copyright infringement is marching on with the US government the latest to clamp down on music piracy.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division has now shut down a number of file sharing sites, reports The New York Times.

This includes the sites onsmash.com, rapgodfathers.com, torrent-finder.com, and dajaz1.com. Those visiting the sites are now met with a message from the division notifying users of the closure.

The heat is set to be turned up on music pirates with a new bill now progressing through Congress in the US called the Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act. This would give the government extra powers to close down sites that are “dedicated to infringing activities.”

The New York Times quotes the owner of one of the closed down sites Torrent Finder as saying the site was shut down without any notice. He added: “My Web site does not even host any torrents or direct-link to them,” adding that he only links to other sites.

Other recent high profile legal attempts to curb music piracy include the Swedish courts’ action against the founders of The Pirate Bay website. This week the founders lost their appeal to escape a prison term and have seen their fine increased from £1.3m to £4.1m.

Earlier this year the UK parliament passed the Digital Economy Bill to curb music piracy. But this is now facing a legal challenge. The High Court has granted permission for two internet service providers BT and TalkTalk to seek a judicial review into the bill. It is argued that the bill was passed without proper scrutiny by the previous Labour government.

In one of the most bizarre recent incidents of copyright infringement Sony was forced to apologise this week after mistakenly taking  down a bunch of bedroom recorded demos posted by Deerhunter frontman Brandon Cox under his Atlas Sound moniker.

In a statement Sony said: “The Bradford Cox tracks were mistakenly removed. We have communicated all of this to Bradford Cox and his manager. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

Cox was understandably miffed when the recording behemoth removed Vols 2-4 of his demo series. He posted on his blog: “Apparently Sony Music Owns my bedroom. Feel free to call or email and let them know what you think. I can understand them requesting for me to remove a cover but the only one I can imagine that happening with is Dylan. Which was on Vol. 1. Which was not deleted. I am re-uploading the files now. I’ll put new links in the posts.”

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Darren Hayman To Write, Record and Release a Song A Day in January

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Darren Hayman To Write, Record and Release a Song A Day in January

Posted on 29 November 2010 by Joe

Former Hefner frontman Darren Hayman is to attempt to write, record and release a song every day during January 2011.

The songs will be available to download for free for the first 24 hours of  release. On his website Darren admits that: “They won’t all be good but some might be.”

He also wants other musicians, engineers or photographers to get involved to help him publicise the songs. For those wanting to take part in Darren’s ambitious recording bid, email him at januarysongs2011@gmail.com .

Hayman added: “I suppose I’m looking for out of the ordinary or unusual instruments and collaborators. Surprise me.”

Neon Filler says: Darren Hayman’s latest album with The Secondary Modern, called Essex Arms, received a 9/10 from us and featured the likes of Emmy the Great (read the review here). If you want to get your own artistic career off the ground you could do worse than contact Darren.

For more information visit here.

Darren Hayman (centre)

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The Tallest Man On Earth – Sometimes the Blues Is Just a Passing Bird EP

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The Tallest Man On Earth – Sometimes the Blues Is Just a Passing Bird EP

Posted on 29 November 2010 by Joe

Kristian Matsson, aka The Tallest Man On Earth, is really getting into his stride as one of the best troubadours of the modern age.

The Swedish singer songwriter’s grissled Bob Dylan-esque voice, classic folk finger picking style and sense of mood impressed us greatly on his first two albums Shallow Grave and this year’s Wild Hunt.

For his latest EP Sometimes the Blues Is Just a Passing Bird Matsson does not disappoint, delivering five wonderful songs, under a loose meloncholy theme and with the odd hint of changing styles.

Stand out track ‘The Dreamer,’ which contains the Sometimes the Blues Is Just a Passing Bird lyric,  varies from his usual acoustic guitar picking style. Its not an earth shattering change but he’s gone electric, well he’s using an electric guitar and there’s the hint of synths at times. It works well, still basic and what would loosely be called folk but with more of a European pop quality as well. He is from the land of Abba after all.

Elsewhere the instrumentation is just an acoustic guitar.’ Like the Wheel’ among the most trademark Tallest Man on Earth  tracks. ‘Tangle in This Trampled Wheat’ is another high point. Straight out of the book of Davy Graham and Bert Jansch. Beautiful guitar parts and vocals again, on an EP with one or two subtle changes but above all remarkable music. Amazing what one guy can do with a guitar and a pair of lungs.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

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Susan Boyle hopes to be “in the same calibre” as The Beatles. Fat chance.

Susan Boyle hopes to be “in the same calibre” as The Beatles. Fat chance.

Posted on 26 November 2010 by Joe

It’s not often we write about the likes of SuBo, but her comments in UK paper The Sun have left us so incensed that we had no choice but to vent our spleens.

Boyle is monstrosity with a good voice and as far as we are aware does not possess a shred of credibility regarding musical composition. Comparing herself to The Beatles is just laughable.

Being able to conjure the melodies of tracks like Yesterday, Hey Jude or be able to sit down with George Martin and arrange the string parts for say an Eleanor Rigby are not skills that we are aware she has ever or will ever possess.

Susan Boyle

She is a bit simple, has a good voice, looks weird and sings show tunes. That’s it. She hasn’t been shaped by years of late night Hamburg gigs. She’s been shaped by Cowell and the army of money makers behind the likes of American Idol and X Factor.

Sure, Brian Epstein got The Beatles into suits and marketed them well, but crucially they had talent beyond the ability to look sharp in winkle-pickers and collarless suits. They had genuine musical talent beyond being able to sing, well three of them did at least.

Susan Boyle is not fit to even mention The Beatles let alone compare her carefully crafted career to theirs.

She tells The Sun: “The Beatles are still around now, their records live on. I hope to be in the same calibre one day,” adding that she’d like to meet and perform with Paul McCartney one day. “’I’d like to meet Paul. If he ever wanted to perform together, I’d have no problem with it – here I am, baby!”

What an embarrassment. Our advice to her – stick to show tunes and wowing Americans with your “I look like a village idiot, but just you wait until you hear my Les Mis” act.

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Dirty Water: The Birth Of Punk Attitude

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Dirty Water: The Birth Of Punk Attitude

Posted on 25 November 2010 by Joe

Speaking on BBC 6Music recently former Sex Pistol John Lydon listed his many influences. This included German band Can, but then he surprised the interviewer by fixing a piercing stare, pausing then adding, “don’t you dare leave out Abba.”

In compiling ‘Dirty Water: The Birth Of Punk Attitude’ journalist and DJ Kris Needs has thankfully chosen to leave out Abba but has provided us with no shortage of other surprises.

Can are included, so too are other more obvious influences on punk Dr Feelgood, New York Dolls and The Monks. But in mining music from the 1950s to the mid 1970s he has looked for punk roots in all sorts of other places.

For every obvious choice such as MC5, represented here with a live version of ‘Rocket Reducer No. 62’, there’s an off the wall selection like the DIY doowap sound of ‘Get A Job’ by The Silhouettes or ‘Elemental Child’ by T Rex.

There’s also some real discoveries on here for us at Neon Filler. I feel cheated to have lived so many years on earth without hearing the fantastic mid 70s metal sound of Detroit black punk trio Death, whose ‘Politicians in My Eyes’ is featured here. This is one of a number of standout discoveries, as is The Pink Fairies’ track ‘Do It’, from their 1971 debut album Never Never Land.

The Standells ‘Dirty Water’ is a downright dirty slice of mod influenced rhythm and blues as is The Hollywood Brats’ version of The Kinks’ ‘I Need You’, which appears here on CD for the first time.

For Needs, who is a former editor of the fanzine ZigZag, punk pioneering is about both musical influence and attitude. This explains the appearance of Gene Vincent, whose punk attitude and love of a good riff shaped The Cramps and much of Jon Spencer’s output. It also explains the appearance of  1960s counter culture  band  The Deviants, whose track ‘Garbage’ is featured here.

Mick Jones from The Clash’s favourite Mott the Hoople gets a place as does reggae act Culture’s ‘Two Sevens Clash,’ which influenced much of The Clash’s work.

Across the mammoth 33 tracks  all show a glimmer of the punk music to emerge in the late 1970s and indicate this wasn’t a music revolution at all – punks had been around for years.

This is now the third compilation to be sent to us through the Future Noise Music’s punk label Year Zero.  The previous two, under the ‘Bustin’ Out’ tag and focusing  at punk’s influence on electronic music, were also excellent collections but this latest is by far the pick of the bunch. Even the curmudgeonly Lydon would be hard pressed to find room for Abba on such a collection.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

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Belle and Sebastian’s Surprise ATP Guest Unmasked

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Belle and Sebastian’s Surprise ATP Guest Unmasked

Posted on 24 November 2010 by Joe

Franz Ferdinand are rumoured to be the surprise guests at the Belle and Sebastian curated ATP Festival next month.

Belle and Sebastian have been teasing fans that the event, Belle and Sebastian’s All Tomorrow’s Parties Bowlie 2 Festival taking place on December 10 -12, will feature a surprise guest band.

Belle and Sebastian - Write About Love

It is now being widely speculated that Franz Ferdinand are the band in question, according to Musicrooms.net quoting an anonymous source.

Franz Ferdinand played shows in Spain earlier this month but last played in the UK in 2009 and have supported Belle and Sebastian before, on their Dear Catastrophe Waitress tour in the UK in 2003.

The ATP festival is part of the UK leg of Belle and Sebastian’s promotional tour to support the recent release of Write About Love (read our review here).

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Free Swim – Two Hands Is Ok EP

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Free Swim – Two Hands Is Ok EP

Posted on 24 November 2010 by Joe

London based experimental indie band Free Swim certainly know how to get the attention of this music site. A sticker on a plain white CD simply reads: “This is our first EP and it tells the story of a man who is so busy he has two extra hands grafted onto his chest to help him multi-task more efficiently.”

It’s hard not to want to listen after reading what is essentially the weirdest concept EP idea of the year. Opener the ‘Eureka Moment’ is where the hero realises painful horror show surgery is the best way to efficiently make a cup of tea, switch TV channels and read the paper simultaneously. Despite this oddball conceit its actually a pretty good new wave instrumental. A little bit XTC, with Ricky Wilson from the B52s style guitar added in.

It gets weirder mind you. ‘I’ll graft two extra hands on my chest,’ is pretty self explanatory as the hero goes through the tracks regretting his decision and realising that he was better off with just the normal two hand quota.

‘Rubik’s Rue,’ is among the standouts and is the nearest I’ve heard in a while to US band King Missile, famed for tracks such as ‘Detachable Penis’ and ‘The Boy Who ate Lasagne and Could Jump Over a Church.’

End track ‘Quality time with the wife and kids’ sees an end to the hand grafting nonsense and this odd morality tale is complete, all with a Bowie-esque ‘Heroes’ groove.

Free Swim have already gained recognition from Tom Robinson on 6Music but the masses have yet to discover them, presumably because a morality tale about extra hand grafting clashes a little with the bulk of the music industry.

I’m not sure I’d go as far as saying that the world is a better place for having an EP in it about the grafting and removal of a spare pair of hands by a busy man, but it’s certainly a sillier place.

Two Hands Is Ok EP can be downloaded for free here.

7/10

by Joe Lepper

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The Extra Lens – Undercard

The Extra Lens – Undercard

Posted on 22 November 2010 by Joe

In essence Undercard by The Extra Lens, the stage name for The Mountain Goats frontman John Darnielle’s collaboration with Franklin Bruno, is a new Mountain Goats album.

Ok, so that’s a little simplistic as it features more electric guitar and is laden with Bruno’s riffs. But at its heart is the vocals and story telling of Darnielle, who is a surefire contender for the US’s greatest living lyricist for this reviewer.

Here we find Darnielle tackling the person who is most like you and I. Not the victim, not the hero of a tale, just the ordinary Joe. For this album the focus is the middle manager, the reluctant fighter on the undercard at a tin pot local boxing event or a father fishing with his son. Just ordinary people.

Darnielle (left) Bruno (right)

Some of the tales are tragic, like album standout ‘Cruiserweight.’ Here the hero is an ex-convict fighting to earn an honest wage at a boxing event in Cleveland Ohio in the mid 1980s. “ I hate this town,” he repeats in his head as he takes blow after blow. Darnielle and Franklin got the idea from watching old local fights from the 1980s that have since been converted from VHS to DVD.

Some are just wonderful like ‘Tug on the Line’ about a father and son enjoying each other’s company while fishing. Others are tragic and then wonderful like ‘Rockin Rockin Twilight of the Gods’ charting a broken man’s reaction to hearing that all his investments have been lost. “Every time it rains, it brings pennies from heaven, Every time it rains I’m a rich man,” he says as his life caves in.

The music is pretty good too. ‘Rockin Rockin Twilight of the Gods’ makes good use of jazz chords to add to the false jolity. The Mountain Goats mainstay and Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster joins the pair to add some percussion for ‘Cruiserweights’ and across the album the production is low key, basic, giving Darnielle’s lyrics a chance to shine.

This is an album that will delight Mountain Goats fans and all of us who are pleased that the average guy is finally getting the attention he deserves from a songwriter who is anything but average.

Final word goes to Darnielle and Bruno on the album’s sleeve notes. “There are tragic heroes, and then there are really tragic heroes, and there there are guys who, knowing that they’re never going to get rich or famous, will nevertheless consent to have most of the bones in their faces broken in front of an auditorium full of other guys.”

8/10

by Joe Lepper

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Rachel Harrington – Celilo Falls

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Rachel Harrington – Celilo Falls

Posted on 22 November 2010 by Joe

Beneath what is possibly the year’s worst album cover are hidden some of 2010’s most heart warming tracks.

Celilo Falls by US bluegrass/folk singer songwriter Rachel Harrington is romantic and full of warmth with its timeless, traditional take on American folk. There’s a lot of love here, with many of the songs focusing on long term romance of elderly couples dealing with inevitable grief and looking back at their lives.

All this you would struggle to know from the cover, which features Harrington standing straight backed and stoney faced in her lace up wellies by some old twigs . She looks like she’s just taken the rubbish (trash to our US readers) out rather than looking to sell the world some much needed romance.

Terrible cover, wonderful album

The shame of this is that the cover will put people off. So our message to those who spot this in stores or online is buy it but close your eyes before purchasing and imagine a far better cover.

Among the best tracks are ‘Bury Me Close’, inspired by her widowed grandfather reminiscing about her grandmother, with tears in his eyes, sitting in a wheelchair saying: “You should have seen her dance.”

There’s a lot of traditional instrumentation here, dobro, banjo and mandolin, but for me the album is at its best when its mainly Harrington and her guitar. On ‘You Don’t Know’ and ‘Where Are You?’ for example, the lighter touch production takes Harrington’s music out of traditional country and Americana, across the folk boundaries and into a world of more contemporary singers like Shannon Stephens and perhaps a wider audience.

What impresses me most is that while singing about love and loss on Celilo Falls, which is released by Skinny Dennis and is Harrington’s third album, her songs never feel depressing. An inspiring album indeed. I just hope she ditches the cover when its reissued.

7.5/10

by Joe Lepper

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Les Savy Fav: Komedia, Brighton 15 Oct 2010

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Les Savy Fav: Komedia, Brighton 15 Oct 2010

Posted on 21 November 2010 by Dorian

Wichita Recordings is an interesting record label. Based on the triple bill of acts featured here, Les Savy Fav, Sky Larkin and Cloud Nothings, the quality of the band is the key to be signed, not the style of music you play. Sure, all three acts are guitar lead indie acts, but they couldn’t be more different within that boundary.

First up we have Cloud Nothings, a band that I have only just discovered who’s only release is a collection of bedroom recorded EPs and singles. On record they sound like The Russian Futurists, with guitars replacing the keyboards. All fuzzy and homemade. Live there is more of a punk rock attitude (albeit a geeky one), how I imagine Weezer would sound if they had grown up listening to the Buzzcocks rather than Van Halen. The songs sounded fresh and spirited and despite the small audience (the set finished just as the venue was starting to fill up) the atmosphere was good. The lights were oddly low throughout and made it hard to see what was going on onstage. The only upside to this was that it looked just like the band was fronted by Superbad’s McLovin. Having looked up pictures of Dylan Baldi since on Google I can see that this isn’t the case.

Sky Larkin

Sky Larkin (drummer not in shot due to being in the shower)

Sky Larkin herald from Leeds and, like Cloud Nothings, are one of my bands to watch out for next year (see our feature later this month). They have released two excellent albums and, on the strength of tonight, are unassuming but pretty captivating live. A classic indie three piece they nicely straddle the line between British female fronted indie pop and the harder edge of a band like Sleater Kinney. Like Cloud Nothings their set is short but sweet. ‘Fossil, I’ from their debut album The Golden Spike being a standout from a very strong set. Again the stage is oddly dark and this detracts a little from the performance.

Les Savy Fav

Tim Harrington sings to the startled bar staff

Les Savy Fav are a band that I’ve liked but not loved on record. Let’s Stay Friends being their only album I own, and enjoyable as it is I’ve never been tempted to buy anything else. Seeing them live is a revelation.

Front man Tim Harrington is a big figure, not just physically (although he is) but in presence and in voice equally. He arrives on stage in a smart shirt and a wig, assuming the role of a motivational speaker. As soon as they launch into their first song he dives into the audience and sings most of the vocals from various positions in the auditorium. Beer flies high and the crowd is 100% engaged from the start.

The band are excellent as well, powerful and tight. They are also the first act tonight with the confidence to demand that more light is shone on the stage, a vast improvement. The sound is classic American alternative rock, but with an angular edge. How The Hold Steady might sound if they had listened to more Fugazi and less Springsteen. The energy doesn’t drop from start to finish, and Harrington seems to have an infinite energy supply.

The only problem with the set was the behaviour of the venue’s security. I saw several people being ejected and this from one of the least threatening audiences you are likely to ever see at a gig. Happy and enthusiastic, yes, aggressive and dangerous, no. At one point a number of people got on the stage (Harrington breaks down the audience/stage boundaries with his unusually mobile behaviour). Within seconds they were outnumbered by security staff. Their presence was unnecessarily heavy handed and out of keeping with the mood of the gig.

This is a minor downside to an otherwise brilliant gig, probably my favourite gig of the year so far.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

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