Archive | January, 2011

Free Swim – Yolanda the Panda EP

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Free Swim – Yolanda the Panda EP

Posted on 28 January 2011 by Joe

Shortly after we reviewed Free Swim’s previous EP, ‘TwoHands Is Ok’ last October we received an email from the London based experimental band saying: “Recording next EP next week – who knows what the songs will be, we make it up as we go along!”

A few months on and the fruits of their labour have emerged in Yolanda the Panda, a concept EP about a panda’s attempt to scale Mount Everest. But while the band may appear to have a relaxed attitude to recording don’t be fooled into thinking they are anything other than serious about their music.

As with Two Hands Is Ok, about a man grafting a pair of extra hands onto his chest to multi-task more efficiently, the content may be silly but the music is far from slapdash. In fact, the band are fast emerging as one of the most accomplished, interesting acts in the UK alternative music scene thanks to their very English blend of exciting power pop and eccentricity.

The results on Yolanda the Panda are superb, musically like Super Furry Animals in their prime the tracks are full of drive and energy. The King Missile style story telling on Two Hands Is Ok also returns on track three ‘Swooping swoopily like a swooping swooper’ but this time at breakneck speed.

Free Swim came to Neon Filler as mutual fans of Special Benny, another eclectic and exciting London based band to emerge last year. Fans of Special Benny will find lots to like in Free Swim.

Perhaps the best news for you is that Yolanda The Panda is available for free at BandCamp. We strongly urge you to download it and enjoy this slice of quality English power pop.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

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Sic Alps – Napa Asylum

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Sic Alps – Napa Asylum

Posted on 26 January 2011 by Joe

With Napa Asylum Sic Alps have created arguably the first genuine punk album of the year.

The San Francisco band of Mike Donovan and Matt Hartman, complete with extra guitars and drums from Noel von Harmonson, have stubbornly stuck with their eight track recorder to achieve the correct punk DIY feel. They have also served up an impressive 22 tracks, mostly around the one to three minute mark, to provide a sense of value for money that Joe Strummer would have been proud.

There’s always been elements of the punk pioneers from the 60s counter culture in Sic Alps music and that’s particularly the case on Napa Asylum, their fourth album. With its fuzzed up 60s melodies, it’s at times reminiscent of the likes of The Deviants, who featured on last year’s excellent Dirty Water punk pioneers compilation from Future Noise Music’s punk label Year Zero.

There’s a lot of similarities with Guided By Voices as well, melodic lo-fi pop delivered in tight, short bursts. But for our money Napa Asylum could be perhaps best described as Deerhunter without the slick production or perhaps even Wavves, but with more melody and likability.

Not all tracks work, but like one liners from a good comedian, there’s so many of them that it doesn’t matter. Wait a while and a gem will soon emerge.

Among the best are a run of tracks in the first half from the surf punk of ‘Cement Surfboard’ through to ‘Zeppo Epp,’ including the album’s standout ‘Saint Peter Writes His Book’.

But others such as (the overlong by Sic Alps standards) ‘Trip Train’ and the thoroughly unpleasant ‘My My Lai’ lack the melody and  garage punk chic of this album’s many other highlights.

Also , the lo-fi doesn’t always work. The bass can judder in the ears at time. But overall this is a giddy, heady slice of fuzzed up garage rock with some welcome punk attitude.

7.5/10

by Joe Lepper

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Django Django Consider Legal Action Over Cricket World Cup Advert Music

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Django Django Consider Legal Action Over Cricket World Cup Advert Music

Posted on 24 January 2011 by Joe

UK band Django Django are considering legal action over the music used in the latest ICC Cricket World Cup advert, which they claim has a remarkable similarity to their 2010 single Wor.

Commenting on their Facebook page the band says: “WOW i think the guys who were commissioned to make the advert for the cricket world cup were more than a little, em ‘influenced’ by our song WOR … needless to say our lawyer is looking into it!!”

The band, which topped our recent Band to Watch Out For in 2011 list, says: “We were neither involved or consulted, and I think most people assume we were. Pretty cheeky to say the least!” They added that they are talking to their music publishers about the next steps to take.

The advertising campaign for the ICC entitled Tightrope was created by the Mumbai, India office of advertising agency Ogilvy and Mather.

Both the ICC and Ogilvy and Mather’s Mumbai office were contacted by Neon Filler, but both have so far declined to reply.

Here are Django Django’s Wor and the ICC ad. What do you think, are they similar?

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The Decemberists – The King is Dead

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The Decemberists – The King is Dead

Posted on 20 January 2011 by Dorian

When I first heard the Decemberists, on Picaresque, I was interested by their sound and impressed by the musical execution on the album. It wasn’t an album I fell in love with though and I wasn’t tempted to buy the follow up record, The Crane Wife.

Their 2009 album, The Hazards of Love, was a different story entirely, I came to it late last year and was immediately blown away by it. A folk-rock opera with a multitude of overblown ideas and over dramatic guitars it was unlike anything else I’d heard in years. It was a record that was pretentious and unpredictable but one that encourages the listener to stick with it from start to finish to appreciate the whole picture. As such it is an album at odds with the single song buying public and one that the critics didn’t quite know what to do with.

The King Is Dead

The Decemberists - The King Is Dead

The King is Dead is a real change of pace and style for Colin Meloy, an album that is most influenced by the radio safe country pop of REM.

Initial review reaction to The King is Dead has been split between “Boring, not as exciting as The Hazards of Love” and “Brilliant, not a pretentious mess like The Hazards of Love”. That seems to make me the winner here as I love The King is Dead and I loved The Hazards of Love as well.

The King Is Dead isn’t as exciting a record as its predecessor, and the scope is definitely more modest. It is a classic country rock album that has hints of early Wilco, mid period REM and late period Camper Van Beethoven, whilst sounding like The Decemberists throughout.

The Decemberists

The Decemberists

Opening track ‘Don’t Carry It All’ is one of the standout tracks and sets things up perfectly. Chunky acoustic guitar, harmonica lead off the song which includes a range of beautifully played acoustic instruments (including mandolin by Peter Buck, who guests on several tracks). Meloy’s vocals well on this kind of music and seem less affected than on previous outings. They are balanced perfectly by Gillian Welch’s backing vocals, present on most of the albums 10 tracks.

The album is well paced balancing country rock stompers, like the aforementioned ‘Don’t Carry It All’ and the spritely ‘Calamity Song’ with ballads including the pedal steel drenched ‘Rise To Me’ and the beautiful ‘June Hymn’.

Many of the lyrical themes match the more pastoral feel of the album but they cover a wide variety of themes. One of Meloy’s finest skills is making songs seem simple and poetic whilst managing to make them reveal more with each listen. Classic themes or love and loss and death are covered with real subtlety and skill.

It is true that The King Is Dead sounds like a safer option than on previous outings, but when it is executed this well that need not be a problem. The fact that The Decemberists can produce such diverse work in the space of two albums is something to treasure. It means that you have no real idea what they’ll produce next, which is both exciting and unusual.

9/10

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Reef and Toploader to Play Godney Gathering

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Reef and Toploader to Play Godney Gathering

Posted on 20 January 2011 by Joe

Recently reformed 1990s indie rockers Reef and Toploader are headlining a festival taking place in Somerset this July.

The one day Godney Gathering, taking place at Godney Farm near Glastonbury on July 16, is dominated by indie rock acts and also features The Joe Public and Rude Tiger.

Others appearing are StringerBessant, the surf folk project of Reef’s Gary Stringer and Jack Bessant, and ska punk act Shoot The Moon.

Reef

Organiser Academy of Carnival has pledged to keep prices low at the event and Somerset residents are being offered the chance to get early bird discounted tickets. A maximum price of £2.50 has been set for all beer and cider sold at the event.

A spokesman said: “There was no way I going to make any of the prices for the event over the top and that’s why every thing will be as low a cost as possible to the public “

Early bird local tickets costing £15 (plus booking fee, which according to one of our visitors appears to be £1.50) are available from Tor Records, Glastonbury, and Jaywalk Guitars, Street, from Feb 1. Tickets for the general public costing £17.50 (plus booking fee) go on sale from 1 April.

For more information visit here.

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Darren Hayman – Arthur the Dog

Posted on 17 January 2011 by Joe

My dog went missing last week. It was a pretty traumatic time, but after his five nights under the stars we found him.  We were delighted to learn that Arthur’s story has inspired Neon Filler favourite Darren Hayman to write a song about him as part of his mission to write, record and release a song a day in January. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did. The dog in the video is the real Arthur by the way. The cat at the end is called Ruby.

The saw on the track perfectly captures our eerie, rainy night time walks looking for Arthur. We will be reviewing Darren’s January Songs project early in February.

For more about Darren’s project and details of how to download the tracks click here.

by Joe Lepper

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Daniel Martin Moore – In The Cool Of The Day

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Daniel Martin Moore – In The Cool Of The Day

Posted on 17 January 2011 by Joe

Harry Crews’s novel The Gospel Singer  tells a sweaty, horrific account of an ultimately doomed religious  singer. Daniel Martin Moore’s latest album, of self-penned gospel songs and reworked traditional hymns, reminds me of The Gospel Singer in religious subject matter but lacks the edge and sense of drama that Crews so perfectly captured.

Here Martin Moore, who is signed to Sub Pop and comes from Kentucky, pays tribute to the spiritual songs he grew up with and has discovered on the way. But as Crews shows in much of his work religion is not all harps and angels. Religion can be corrupt, even abusve at times and certainly has drama. There’s no sense of anything other than a dewy eyed tribute to spiritual music on In the Cool of the Day and that is ultimately disappointing for an atheist like me. It is a further disappointment given that earlier this month  UK folk act King James so effectively managed to both pay tribute to and question spiritual music on their self titled debut album.

Martin Moore is not trying to be controversial here just pay tribute to music that inspires him and I concede to criticise this album for lacking drama and controversy is probably missing the point.  Indeed this rose tinted approach to spirituality will be In the Cool of the Day’s strength for some, but for me  it lacks the necessary depth to truly enjoy it.

Having said that Martin Moore’s beautiful  singing and genuine love of the music is undeniable. Another is that his own spiritual numbers are indistinguishable from the traditional hymns. This is a tougher gig to pull off than it sounds and deserves recognition. ‘O My Soul’ is probably the standout, written by Martin Moore but as uplifting and poignant to a modern audience as it may have been to a flock of Kentucky churchgoers from the 19th century.

But among others I struggled with are the title track. Musically its excellent, very British folk in style, like a demo from Fairport Convention’s Liege and Leif. But instead of Fairport’s songs about the real life drama of war and love, the track is simply about the garden of Eden, and doesn’t even bother to convey the real drama of that story, the expulsion of Adam and Eve.

It’s a tough ask to expect a secular audience to enjoy an album of hymns and indeed a religious audience to enjoy the work of a Sub Pop artist. He’s secured some support slots on Iron and Wine’s UK tour in 2011, a shrewd move for Martin Moore that will hopefully give him a chance to showcase his musical talent and appeal to the unbelievers out there.

6/10

by Joe Lepper

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The Flaming Lips 12 Songs Project Fails to Impress

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The Flaming Lips 12 Songs Project Fails to Impress

Posted on 14 January 2011 by Dorian

In December The Flaming Lips announced that would create a song a month in 2011. This would lead to a staggering total of 12 songs released in the year. Amazing…

The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips

In 2009 Robert Pollard released 6 albums and 4 in 2010. Assuming he only releases 3 albums this year he will still be on an average of over 4 albums a year. His albums often have 15 to 20 tracks, but even if they only averaged 12 songs an album that means he releases something like 50 songs a year on average. That is more than 4 songs a month, every year.
So, the feat of releasing a song a month isn’t that impressive, and it isn’t even original. In 1992 The Wedding present released a single every month. Each single came out on limited edition 7″ vinyl and featured a cover version as a b-side. The singles all had accompanying videos and each one made it into the charts. This meant that they equalled Elvis Presley’s record of having 12 hit singles in a year. Which means that releasing 12 songs in a year dates back to 1957.

So, unless you are Kevin Shields, releasing a song every month of a year really isn’t something to shout about.

The industrious Darren Hayman

The industrious Darren Hayman

One person who has more right that most to be a bit miffed by the press that accompanied the Flaming Lips announcement is Darren Hayman. The former Hefner font-man (and Neon Filler favourite) is currently heading for the half-way point in his January Songs project. This project involves writing, recording and releasing a song every day in the month of January. That amounts to 31 songs in one month, which is a lot more impressive than The Flaming Lips January target of one song.

When Hayman started the project he said “They won’t all be good but some might be”, in reality the standard has been very high and the songs surprisingly varied. A range of instrumentation, collaborators and styles has made it an extremely enjoyable project to follow.

All the songs and videos (including daily video diaries) can be found on the website http://januarysongs.tumblr.com/. The songs are free to download for the first couple of days and will be available to buy after the project is completed.

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Beirut to Headline the End of the Road Festival

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Beirut to Headline the End of the Road Festival

Posted on 13 January 2011 by Dorian

Beirut have been named as the first headliner for this years End of the Road festival.

The event, held at Larmer Tree Gardens in Dorset, was one of the highlights of Neon Filler’s year in 2010. Read the full review here.

Beirut

Beirut

Beirut, lead by multi-instrumentalist Zach Condon, have released three critically acclaimed albums influenced by pop music and Eastern European Gypsy styles.

The End of the Road Festival 2010

The End of the Road Festival 2010

Other artists already confirmed for the festival include The Fall, Midlake, Gruff Rhys and former Violent Femmes front-man Gordon Gano. The full list of artists confiormed so far is below:

Beirut

Bo Ningen
Bob Log III
Cass McCombs
Doug Paisley
Dry The River
Gordon Gano & the Ryans
Gruff Rhys
James Yorkston
Joan As Policewoman
John Grant
Jolie Holland
Josh T Pearson
La Sera
Lanterns on the Lake
Lightning Dust
Micah P Hinson
Midlake
Mountain Man
Perfume Genius
The Deadly Syndrome
The Fall
The Walkmen
Timber Timbre
Treefight for Sunlight
Twin Shadow
tUnE-yArDs
Wild Beasts
Willy Mason
Wooden Shjips
Woods
Young Man

More details of the festival can be found at http://www.endoftheroadfestival.com/.

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The Dark Water Hymnal  – Collapse The Structure

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The Dark Water Hymnal – Collapse The Structure

Posted on 07 January 2011 by Joe

It took a couple of songs to pinpoint who The Dark Water Hymnal’s lead singer Jeremy Ballard reminds me of. Then the penny dropped. Despite coming from Austin, Texas, Ballard’s vocals are frighteningly similar to Tim Booth, lead singer with iconic early 1990s UK band James. In fact their voices are so similar I had to check back to see whether Booth was perhaps guesting on the album.

Aside from the James similarities there are others comparison to be made with UK acts, more so than with US indie folksters like Iron and Wine who the band were compared with following the release of their debut album As Above As Below. The Waterboys is another that spring to mind, as violins weave around Ballard’s vocals.

Across the nine tracks on Collapse the Structure, which is their second album, there’s a lot to like. There’s a welcome consistency creating a pleasant enough indie folk album that requires no skipping. However, with that consistency there is also a lack of killer moments. The music may be like The Waterboys in places but there’s no ‘The Whole of the Moon’ standout.

Nevertheless while Collapse the Structure, which was mixed and mastered by Erik Wofford, who has worked with other notable Austin bands such as Okkervill River and Explosions in the Sky, may not collapse any structures of music, it is still a welcome and worthwhile record. And it is one we’d certainly recommend to those that have begun discovering other interesting North American acts with strong UK influences such as Rural Alberta Advantage.

Among the best tracks are the gypsy rhythms of ‘The Quiet’ and the twinkly ‘Whole City Glows’. Final track ‘Black Confetti’, which by the way is a great song title, is another of the more interesting tracks, rousing with superb anthemic vocals towards the end.

When listening to Collapse the Structure I’m also reminded of another Austin singer Robert Harrison, the former frontman with Cotton Mather and now Future Clouds and Radar, who sounds uncannily like John Lennon. They clearly like British singers in Austin. If the city ever staged a version of British soundalike TV programme Stars in their Eyes, it’d be one hell of a show.

7/10

by Joe Lepper

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