Archive | December, 2011

Album Releases To Watch Out For In 2012

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Album Releases To Watch Out For In 2012

Posted on 14 December 2011 by Joe

Here’s Neon Filler’s five key album releases to look out for during those first few cold months of 2012. Looks like it’s going to be a good year for independent and alternative music releases with some contenders for our end of year best of 2012 list already beginning to emerge.

Guided by Voices –  Let’s Go Eat the Factory

Release date: January 1, 2012 (global outside US). Label: Fire Records

In 2010 the classic Guided By Voices line up of Robert Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, Greg Demos and Kevin Fennell reunited for a series of shows in the US. But this was no mere trip down memory lane. The band has also been working on new material and plan to release two albums in early 2012. The first of these is Let’s Go Eat the Factory, which includes the single The Unsinkable Fats Domino. We’ve been given an exclusive  listen and according to our reviewer it’s a “21 song set of vintage Guided By Voices lo-fi pop brilliance.” Read our full review here.

First Aid Kit – The Lion’s Roar

Release date: January 24, 2012. Label:  Wichita Recordings

This Swedish duo, who are still only young and were made moderately famous on YouTube a couple of years ago for their cover of Fleet Foxes’ Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,  have already released two impressive albums. This, their third album, which has been produced by Mike Mogis from Bright Eyes, is set to  take them to the big time. The title track video has already been released and shows a new depth to their music. What’s more their vocals sound better than ever.

The Twilight Sad – No One Can Ever Know

Release date: February 6, 2012. Label: Fat Cat Records

Forget the Night Ahead, the last album by this powerful, moody Scottish band made our Top Ten Albums of 2009 list. It quite simply blew us away.

We’ve had a listen to their next album. They’ve upped the production quality and clearly listened to a few later Depeche Mode albums but  have lost none of their power. The full track list is: ‘Alphabet’/ ‘Dead City’/ ‘Sick’/ ‘Don’t Move’/ ‘Nil’/ ‘Don’t Look At Me’/ ‘Not Sleeping’/ ‘Another Bed’/ ‘Kill It In The Morning’.

Shearwater – Animal Joy

Release date: February 13, 2012. Label: Sub Pop

Shearwater, the band formed by members of Okkervil River and now a full time project for its singer and chief songwriter Jonathan Meiburg, have moved label to the mighty Sub Pop but look set to lose none of their trademark beauty. It’s all about nature with Shearwater, with their last three albums focusing on environmental splendour and tragedy. Animal Joy was recorded in their native Texas, includes the track Breaking the Yearlings and was produced by Danny Reisch. Their previous two albums have both been listed in our 2008 and 2010 end of year lists. We are already predicting a placing in our 2012 list for Animal Joy from what we’ve heard.

The Magnetic Fields – Love at the Bottom of the Sea

Release Date: March 5 (UK) March 6 (US). Label: Domino (UK), Merge Records (US)

The Magnetic Fields 1999 classic album 69 Love Songs reached the top 10 in our Top 100 Indie and Alternative Music Albums list. Love at the Bottom of the Sea marks a return to Merge, the US label that released 69 Love Songs.

This move bodes well for another stellar release from Stephin Merritt and his band. Contributors include Claudia Gonson, Sam Davol, John Woo, Shirley Simms, Johny Blood, and Daniel Handler. Merritt has promised a mixture of synth and acoustic instruments this time round.

Compiled by Joe Lepper

See Also: Top 10 bands to watch out for in 2012.

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Blueflint – Maudy Tree

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Blueflint – Maudy Tree

Posted on 13 December 2011 by Joe

Maudy Tree, the second album by Edinburgh based four piece Blue Flint, is the latest excellent contemporary folk album to find its way to us. Signed to  Johnny Rock Records, who also have Southern Tenant Folk Union on their roster, the band have a traditional feel, with banjos, violin, double bass and sumptuous story-telling vocals, but remarkably for the genre do not rely on a single traditional cover.

Each song is penned by one of the three main vocalists Deborah Arnott, Clare Neilson or Roddy Neilson, which for the more traditional sounding High Country comes as a real surprise. All rivers winding through lands and images of nature. It’s classic folk fodder but remarkably penned by Clare Neilson in a 21st century era. Its my favourite on the album, timeless and perfect.

But while High Country is my standout track it is the contemporary tracks, that use traditional instruments with a modern feel that are perhaps the album’s most interesting trait. Roddy Neilson’s Bottlebank is another of these more contemporary sounding tracks, with his strong  Scottish vocals reminding me of Ballboy’s Gordon McIntyre, in particular his vocal turn on Isle of Eigg from Darren Hayman’s January Songs project.

Another highpoint is Arnott’s Last Waltz, positioned towards the end of the album and sung by all three vocalists. The three modern tales of love are also worth a mention, from  Arnott’s saucy Take your shoes off, to Clare Neilson’s two break up songs Missed the Boat and the comic P45, with such lines as “I’ll be the P in your P45, the dog shit on your shoes.” I guess that’s as final as a relationship can be.

7/10

By Joe Lepper

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Guided By Voices – Let’s Go Eat The Factory

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Guided By Voices – Let’s Go Eat The Factory

Posted on 12 December 2011 by Dorian

When Robert Pollard broke up Guided By Voices in 2004 it seemed an odd decision to make. The band had always been a revolving group of players based around him, and the logical thing to do (if he was bored with the current incarnation) was to find a new set of players as he had done in the past. Looking back it makes more sense, Guided By Voices created an expectation of the kind of record he needed to produce and he wanted a change from that.

Let's Go Eat The Factory

Despite having a number of line-ups it is the band that loosely came together for Propeller, and would go on to record Alien Lanes and Bee Thousand, that would be seen as the classic line-up of the band. This line-up of Pollard alongside Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, Greg Demos and Kevin Fennell reunited in 2010 and have since played a number of well received shows reviving the Guided By Voices brand.

Given the popularity of this version of the band, and Pollard’s relentless musical output, it was no real surprise to hear that the band were to release (at least) two albums in 2012. The first of these to be made available is Let’s Go Eat the Factory, a modest 21 song set of vintage Guided By Voices lo-fi pop brilliance.

Guided By Voices

What is immediately evident when listening to this album is that it is a classic Guided By Voices record. It doesn’t sound like Boston Spaceships or solo Robert Pollard it sounds like Guided By Voices. There are some developments in the 15 years since this line-up played together, most notably cleaner production and more keyboards, but from the ragged guitar intro of ‘Laundry and Lasers’ you know exactly where you are. These are songs from the garages of Dayton Ohio, played by a group of old colleagues who never grew out of wanting to play noisy poppy rock music.

The three songs selected as singles ‘Doughnut For A Snowman’, ‘The Unsinkable Fats Domino’ (the song here that sounds most like late-era GBV) and the forthcoming ‘Chocolate Boy’ are all examples of Pollard’s mastery of the short pop song. These can be added to the already long list of GBV songs that should have been hits, and reasons why he should be a household name rather than a cult icon.

The other key factor that makes this album a classic Guided By Voices record is the inclusion of six songs written and sung by Tobin Sprout. His more esoteric arrangements and plaintive vocals were the perfect counterpart to the Robert Pollard songs when I first discover Alien Lanes, and they achieve the same thing today. Pollard is at his best when he has another musical talent to work along side and Sprout’s contributions set against his give the album more texture and depth than if just Pollard had contributed tracks. The playing, although rougher than on late-era GBV records, is excellent and Pollard can clearly tailor his songwriting to the strengths of the band.

It is a very enjoyable album that is high in quality from start to finish and, in ‘How I Met My Mother’, it has one of the best song titles I’ve seen in years. I have mixed feelings about the nostalgia and cynical reasons behind most reunions, but if the end result is as good as this then it has to be worth it.

The album is released by Fire Records in January 2012 and is already staking a claim for the top 20 chart at the end of next year. I’m sad that I’ll not get to see the band play, as their ATP appearance has been cancelled, but I’m looking forward to hearing the rest of their recorded output in the coming year.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

We have four copies of this album to give away on our Competitions page.

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Robert Pollard – Let It Beard Boombox Demos

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Robert Pollard – Let It Beard Boombox Demos

Posted on 11 December 2011 by Dorian

Let It Beard, the final album from Robert Pollard’s Boston Spaceships, was a stand-out album this year and made top spot in our 2011 Top 20. The album was recorded by Robert Pollard as demos on his boombox before being sent to the musicians in the band to record their parts. www.gbvdigital.com have made these demos available from their website and we can all get an insight into the song-writing and recording process of one of the most prolific artists of all time.

Let It Beard Demos

The thing that strikes you most when listening to the tracks is how “finished” the songs are at the demo stage. They are rough and warts and all, false starts, hesitation and vocal errors are all there, but the songs have the same basic arrangements, style and rhythm as the finished versions. ‘Blind 20-20’ has the same frenetic guitar style as the final song and you can almost hear the gaps where the superb backing vocals would go on ‘Chevy Marigold’.

Even more amazingly the songs were written whilst recording took place,”conjuring” as Robert Pollard calls it, leading to some necessity to cut bits of songs together on some of these tracks. Pollard’s individual brilliance takes nothing away from his musical partners Moen and Slusarenoko, it was their brilliant playing that took these sparse acoustic demo’s and turned them into the best guitar album of the year. The gaps are part of the fascination of an album like this,  listening to ‘Tourist UFO’, even in this form, you are waiting for the brilliant J Mascis guitar solo.

It is difficult to review an album like this, and not one that I’d consider giving a score to, it is a brilliant musical document but not one that I expect to listen to as much as the full album. If you haven’t heard the full album (and you really should, go and buy it right now) you are missing a big part of the enjoyment of listening to the songs in this form. Any fan of Robert Pollard’s work in any of his guises will get a lot from this though, a nice insight into the master at work.

It also makes me think that a Robert Pollard solo acoustic album could be a pretty wonderful thing. An album of his songs played by him on his acoustic guitar with a bit more of a slick production (but not too slick) would be a great addition to his already enormous discography.

Limited edition physical copies of this album sold out in just two days but the album is available for digital download for free on the GBV Digital website.

By Dorian Rogers

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Smashing Pumpkins – Gish and Siamese Dream Deluxe Reissues

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Smashing Pumpkins – Gish and Siamese Dream Deluxe Reissues

Posted on 07 December 2011 by Joe

Among all the tantrums, pretention, drug abuse, tyranny, depression and Uncle Fester look-a-like jibes that accompany Smashing Pumpkins these days it is easy to forget they were once one of the most truly awesome bands around.

Their first album Gish (1991) couldn’t have been timed better coming among the explosion of grunge music. Second album Siamese Dream,  broke (1993) them into the mainstream and cemented their place as one of the US’s premier alternative rock bands.

By the time next album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, which debuted at number one in the Billboard charts in the US, came out in 1995 they were arguably one of the key alternative rock bands of the decade.

It soon went downhill though, as drug abuse, depression and a change of direction more to the gothic end of the rock spectrum sent them into a spiral of declining sales and by 2000 they split. Frontman Billy Corgan reformed the band six years later. He is currently the only original member of the act, which continues to blaze the heritage indie rock trail in the US.

But to serve as a reminder that they were once dripping in awesomeness Gish and Siamese Dream have been given the deluxe reissue treatment, both coming with a bunch of extra tracks, a DVD and the customary lovely packaging.

When Gish came out I was at university. For around a year it was probably my favourite album, with Bury Me joining Smells Like Teen Spirit and Groove is in the Heart as the biggest pulls on the indie disco floor at the time.

My copy is on vinyl and I’ve long since lived in a record player-less house so I was pretty excited when their PR got in touch to offer me a copy of this reissue. Even though 20 years have passed I’m delighted to report the album has lost none of its dazzle.

The rules of the music for those that are unfamiliar with their earlier work are simple. Like The Pixies before them and Nirvana at the same time, they listened to Husker Du, copied their quiet verse, noisy chorus arrangements and hey presto instant post Husker Du grunge band.

Of course you need something different to succeed. The Pixies  had their twang, Cobain had his passion and introspection and with Smashing Pumpkins they had undisputed band leader and frontman Billy Corgan’s distinctive fey rock vocals and more than a passing nod to psychedelia.

Bury Me is still a highlight, featuring one of the best bass intros there has still ever been. The drumming and metal riffs on I Am One and the laid back psychedelia of Rhinoceros are as wonderful as I remember them. It is quite striking how it doesn’t date.

Another welcome part of this reissue is the extras. They really add something from the raw energy of their Peel session version of Siva to their inclusion of their early Sub Pop single Tristessa back through one of my favourites Starla.

There’s a real buzz and love of music by a young talented band with the world at their feet. Sure, Corgan was beginning to exercise what would become almost tyrannical control over the group, even playing most of the instruments on Gish, but the band seem to mind less here. For that reason there’s a charm to this album that is lacking in the rest of the albums.

Here’s what Corgan says of the recording of Gish.

Gish’ represents our first foray into the deep waters of rock and roll. In the music within, I still hear our naivete and fresh spirits asking to be heard, and I miss the times that helped make this music so earnest.

Siamese Dream was their breakthrough album, but in many ways the beginning of the end. The recording was more protracted. Corgan’s depression was worsening as his control over musical matters grew and he ended up playing most of the guitar and bass parts on the album.

Meanwhile drummer Jimmy Chamberlain’s drug abuse was now fully out of control. In an effort to move Chamberlain away from the drugs of the band’s native Chicago they relocated to Marietta, Georgia, to record Siamese Dream. He soon discovered a new bunch of friends and a new batch of drugs though.

After four months and $250,000 over budget Siamese Dream was eventually made and set them on the road to rock stardom. It’s epic in places, but there’s an undeniable tension and anger in the music.

Before Siamese Dream came out I had the unfortunate pleasure of seeing Smashing Pumpkins at The Reading Festival. It was at the end of a long tour. They clearly hated each other, the audience, life  itself and even the music. It was awful. I didn’t bother getting Siamese Dream. ‘If you can’t perform to a paying public, why should I buy your record,’ I thought.

Listening to the album after all this time I’ve realised I missed out. Sure it has its faults and a tendancy to revert more to rock clichés and squealing solos but it’s still a mesmerising album and while not as good as Gish has a far more interesting tale of rock destruction attached to it.

The single Today is an obvious standout as is the opener Cherub Rock. The riff on Rocket is another highlight as are the bells and acoustic guitar of Disarm. Geek USA is where the tension in the band really comes out. Corgan’s guitar here is played out of pure anger. It works a treat as does the nearly  nine minute long Silverfuck.

Extra wise the deluxe reissue of Siamese Dream is an even better package than Gish, with demos and rehearsal performances showing what some of the tracks would have sounded like with a smaller budget and perhaps a more convivial atmosphere. There’s a warmth to some of these demos such as on Rocket that the final album ironed out. Perhaps that’s why they are there to remind those like me that beneath the tension they once got on.

Clearly time has given Corgan a sense of perspective as well, acknowledging it was the beginning of the end of the fun rock band he formed and the start of the careerist alternative rock gods that their peers such as  Bob Mould and Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus derided them for being at the time.

Final word on Siamese Dream should go to Corgan –

In 1992, with the weight of a perceived world on our shoulders, we disappeared into a parking garage to write the songs that would change the course of our lives forever. ‘Siamese Dream’ represents all of our dreams coming true, while the dreams of a happy band fell apart.

Gish 9.5/10

Siamese Dream 8.5/10

By Joe Lepper

 

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Guided By Voices Cancel European Shows ‘For Personal Reasons’

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Guided By Voices Cancel European Shows ‘For Personal Reasons’

Posted on 07 December 2011 by Joe

Guided By Voices have cancelled their European 2012 Festival shows ‘due to personal reasons’.

In a statement from their label Fire Records the band have announced that they will no longer be appearing at the Primavera and ATP/I’ll Be Your  Mirror festivals. ATP have confirmed that Afghan Whigs will replace Guided By Voices for the I’ll Be Your Mirror date.

Guided By Voices

The statement says: “Unfortunately Guided By Voices are canceling their appearances at Primavera and ATP/I’ll Be Your Mirror, due to personal reasons. The band apologizes for any inconvenience and disappointment, and thanks Primavera, ATP and the fans for their longterm support.”

It adds that contrary to reports earlier today the band have not split up and plan to release, not one, but two albums next year. Frontman Robert Pollard will also prove he is the busiest man in indie rock by releasing a solo album early next year as well.

The statement adds: “Guided by Voices have not split up and continue to work on new material together. In addition to the album release of Let’s Go Eat the Factory for January, the band are at work on another album, Class Clown Spots A UFO, which will be released in in May. Robert Pollard will also be releasing a solo album, Mouseman Cloud in March.”

A statement from ATP says: “The band apologizes for any inconvenience and disappointment, and thanks the fans for their longterm support. Those of you who bought Sunday Day tickets for this event are invited to claim a refund if you no longer want to attend. Please contact your ticket agency before the end of January to do so. Once again we’re very sorry to be the bearers of this bad news and sorry to those of you who it has inconvenienced.”

This is just the latest setback for ATP, which without explanation postponed its Jeff Mangum Festival at Minehead, rearranging the date from this month to March 2012. ATP is still yet to give an explanation for the postponement, which left many festival goers  that had booked flights out of pocket.

by Joe Lepper

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Rotifer – The Hosting Couple

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Rotifer – The Hosting Couple

Posted on 05 December 2011 by Joe

Rotifer, fronted by Robert Rotifer the Austrian born musician, artist, broadcaster and writer, may just be the most familiar band you’ve never heard of.

Now a trio, with Darren Hayman on bass and former Death in Vegas man Ian Button on drums, this latest album is full of recognisable musical influences, mainly from the 60s and 70s.

It is perhaps  no wonder Rotifer has become one of the first acts to be signed to AED, the label created by Edwyn Collins whose career has been formed through a love of those decades.

Part Stones, part Kinks, part Bowie and even part Neil Innes in places this sixth album, and the first to get a UK release by Rotifer, focuses largely on the young Robert’s journey from Austria as a schoolboy to stay with a hosting couple in Canvey Island  during the summer of 1982.

The album, produced by Wreckless Eric in his studio in France, is full of references to English culture, mostly seen through the eyes of a child from Austria, from run down seaside towns and low quality 1980s English television to his  less than enthusiastic hosting couple, who spent most of the time sunbathing in their suburban garden surrounded by the stench of creosote stained fences and sheds.

It’s a nostalgic concept that works well, especially as years later Rotifer made Kent, the county located over the other side of the Thames estuary his home. Among my  highlights is the album’s centrepiece Canvey Island, full of lovely turns of phrases such as “white sock summer”.

Another is the first track I heard, Aberdeen Marine Lab, which was released on Youtube earlier this year. It’s my favourite on the album. Perfect pop.

Mr Extra Item Seat, like a mash up of Neil Innes and the Kinks, is another great track and riff of the album belongs to Ernst Jandell at The Albert Hall. The Kinks link is unsurprising given one of the young Robert’s highlights of his stay was experiencing the mod revival of the time. There’s also a hint of Elvis Costello on Ernst Jandell at The Albert Hall, also unsurprising as he was no doubt a familiar voice on radio at the time of Robert’s visit.

The album’s slow track, Art for the Spare Room, is perhaps the only one I’ve yet to warm to, although I concede it provides a necessary change of pace to the smart riffs and jangly pop of the rest of the album. I’m sure I’ll get there though.

While plundering the music of the 60s and 70s for influence can often go wrong (see Oasis) Rotifer’s genuine fondness for  the music and culture of the country he now calls home gives this album a warmth and honesty that other plunderers can only dream of.

8/10

By Joe Lepper

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The Forgotten Stars Of Indie Rock

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The Forgotten Stars Of Indie Rock

Posted on 04 December 2011 by Dorian

A recent concert had a star studded band, including Dave Grohl, backing Bob Mould in a celebration of the music of Hüsker Dü. On Twitter Matt Stevens questioned how Grant Hart might feel about this event, and it got me thinking about how some significant members of bands can get forgotten as we celebrate the legacies of others.

Hüsker Dü

Hüsker Dü (Grant hart pictured centre)

There is no denying that Grant Hart was a big part of the Hüsker Dü sound, with his distinctive drumming as well as writing and singing many of the bands best songs. Mould would probably get more tracks on a best of collection but some of their finest moments, especially on their masterpiece Zen Arcade, come from the pen of the singing drummer. And yet it seems pretty unlikely that a star studded cast is lining up to play a similar concert to celebrate the music of Hüsker Dü with Hart.

Post-Hüsker Dü things have been kinder to Mould and his musical output has been better received, especially his debut album as Sugar, Copper Blue. However, take a listen to Hart’s career retrospective Oeuvrevue and you’ll hear plenty of excellent songs that have been largely overlooked, and this is a compilation that ignores his best singles ‘2541’ and ‘Admiral of the Sea’, one of the standout tracks from Hart’s post-Hüsker Du band Nova Mob. For me a celebration of Hüsker Dü would have Hart involved as well as moustachioed bass player Greg Norton who still plays in bands when he isn’t running restaurants.

The Lemonheads

The Lemonheads (Ben Deily 2nd from right)

Despite not getting the respect I think he deserves Grant Hart is hardly forgotten, something you can’t say about former Lemonhead Ben Deily. When I first heard the Lemonheads they were a band with two front-men, Deilly and Evan Dando. Each contributed songs, guitar, vocals (and often bass and drums) to the band’s first three albums Hate Your Friends, Creator and Lick. I loved Dando’s songs, and he had the sweeter voice, but Deily was an excellent songwriter and the balance between the different song writing styles was what made the albums so enjoyable. After Deilly left the next Lemonheads album, Lovey, sounded a little flat and was a bit of a disappointment.

It is true that It’s A Shame About Ray is a brilliant record, close to faultless from start to finish, but I find it hard to see it as a Lemonheads record with only Dando present from the original line-up. For me the magic of many bands is the collection of component parts as much as it is the skills of individuals.

It is pretty common for the songwriters and singers of bands to forget the importance of their other band members, and the crucial part they have to play in creating a band’s sound and identity. Morrissey and Paul Weller have both been guilty of downplaying the importance of their respective rhythm sections and arrogantly assuming it was their individual genius that lead to their success. They must both know that if they reformed The Smiths and The Jam they would sell more tickets and sell more records than they ever will as solo artists.

Their is something about the magical make-up of a great band that fans understand in a way that band members often forget. Blur were lost when Graham Coxon left, REM never really recovered from the loss of Bill Berry and I can never warm to The Undertones or the Stranglers with their substitute singers.

The tension, personality and style that a band produces is a magic that can’t be replicated with musical talent alone. Take the career of Stephen Malkmus for example. His latest band the Jicks are clearly a better band technically than Pavement,and Malknus is still writing great songs, but I’ll never be as excited about seeing him play live with the Jicks as I was when I saw the reformed Pavement. I have mixed feelings about bands reforming, it can often destroy the old magic, but when it does happen it is often a success just because people want to see something back that they had lost.

The Clash were a great band, and had a gang identity like no other, but the writing was on the wall when they released Combat Rock. Look at the video for ‘Rock The Casbah’, Topper Headon replaced on drums by Terry Chimes despite having written some of the music for the song (and playing bass, drums and piano on the record). His drug problems had forced the band to replace him, but seeing the gang broken up in this way was disappointing. Although not as disappointing as the risible Clash mark 2 featured on Cut The Crap, a sad way for a once great band to bow out.

Some of music’s most changeable acts seem to survive despite rotating line-ups. Guided By Voices and The Fall had such unstable line-ups from day one that it didn’t seem so important when band members changed. Even so it is notable how much attention has been devoted to the GBV “classic line-up” in a year when Bob Pollard’s ‘Boston Spaceships’ knocked out one of the albums ofn his career to little fanfare. And you can only imagine the rise in ticket sales if  The Fall announced a tour with the same line-up that recorded Hex Education Hour.

Nostalgia is a dangerous thing in music, and can get in the way of new acts breaking through, something so important to keeping the music industry alive. But the singers and song writers from those new acts want to remember that the magic of the band is an important thing before they decide to sack their band members or go solo.

By Dorian Rogers

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Allo Darlin’, Rotifer, Ralegh Long & The Primary 3 @The Buffalo Bar, London, Nov 30

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Allo Darlin’, Rotifer, Ralegh Long & The Primary 3 @The Buffalo Bar, London, Nov 30

Posted on 03 December 2011 by Joe

As I walk into the Buffalo Bar for the album launch of Rotifer’s new album ‘The Hosting Couple’, it seems strangely empty given that the first band is on in only fifteen minutes.  But this crowd are seasoned gig goers with expert knowledge of set times, within a few minutes of first band Ralegh Long & The Primary 3 taking to the stage the venue  soon fills up with a noisy and dedicated midweek crowd.

Ralegh Long eases the rabble into their evening with two songs which he confesses are “boarder-line depressive”.  This piece of honesty calms any doubters as the band play ‘their most upbeat number.

Ralegh Long

Despite their slightly grungy persona Ralegh Long & The Primary 3 are tight, but in a small venue like this, Ralegh’s voice struggles to make the impact that it would in a larger venue with more echo.  The group’s style is good though, and the chorus of ‘Range’ hasan uncanny resemblance to Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘America’.

Next up is Rotifer , the band fronted by Austrian born indie-popster Robert Rotifer and now a three piece featuring former Hefner man Darren Hayman on bass  and Ian Button (ex-Death in Vegas) on drums.  The atmosphere instantly changes as Rotifer jumps into the set head first making the crowd and most of all Hayman bop along to their 60’s and 70’s influenced music.  The band churns through their set which includes The Hosting Couple opener ‘The Drone’ with comfortable and experienced ease, with rocky solos being made to look simple.

Rotifer

In between songs Rotifer gets laughs from the crowd as he explains the how ‘The Hosting Couple’, one of the first released on Edwyn Collins’ AED label,  is based on his first holiday without his parents to Canvey Island.  Rotifer declares himself “challenged” when his beer froths up (probably on his guitar), but he certainly is not when it comes to captivating the crowd.  They happily bounce along to humorous songs about the contents of a kitchen and space, including The Cosmonaut Who Never Flew, one of two Rotifer songs on the Vostok 5 album released this year to honour the heroes of space travel.

The set finishes with an almost ‘London’s Calling’  rendition of ‘Jazz Cigarettes’, which concludes a highly polished yet relaxed and entertaining set.

By the time Allo Darlin take to the stage the small room is packed.  The four piece rip into the set and the overriding impression is how much the band enjoy playing their music.  Bassist Bill Botting jumps around with a huge grin on his face, making the small wooden stage shake, spilling his beer in the process.  He doesn’t care one bit though.

Allo Darlin'

Just as the band have got the crowd dancing more than they have done all night, lead singer Elizabeth Morris tells the crowd in her shy but affectionate way, ‘we only play this at this time of year’.  The song they play is ‘Will you please spend new year’s eve with me?’.  The performance is quite beautiful, with soft and cute vocals and completely in-time whistling from the other three members.  The crowd is so transfixed by the song that when it finishes there is a pause before they realise it has finished.

The remainder of the set is high tempo and there is a genuine air of disappointment when they play their last song.  The hyperactive crowd asks for an encore, and the band are more than happy to satisfy with what they describe as a “jumpy one”.  Their choice is Woody Allen which seems to do a good job of sending the crowd home satisfied, and ends a successful night at the Buffalo Bar.

by Danny Foy

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Top 20 Albums of 2011

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Top 20 Albums of 2011

Posted on 02 December 2011 by Joe

We have to admit the year started badly in terms of album releases.  By March we were struggling to think of more than a couple of excellent album releases let alone begin a shortlist of 20.

Then winter turned to spring and the flood gates opened with  new bands emerging and some old stagers reliving their glory days and in some cases bettering them. We have our first ever classical music entry in an end of year album list, some great new UK folk music and a staggering achievement in song writing by one familiar face in our end of year lists.

We’ve even found room for an album about 1970/80s wrestling by one of the music industry’s funniest and most caustic writers and artists.

In the end its turned out to be a pretty fine year for releases, as two of the biggest names of 1990s alternative music battle it out for our top two places.  Get your bus fare ready, prepare to race down to your local independent record store, and enjoy Neonfiller.com’s Top 20 Albums of 2011.

20. Johann Johannson – The Miners’ Hymns

In a year of public sector cuts, strikes and the Gleision mining tragedy this soundtrack by  Jóhann Jóhannsson to Bill Morrison’s mining documentary of the same name helped it become our first classical music entry in an end of year list. The haunting and powerful music he creates to depict the brutal hardships of the industry and the chaos of the 1984 strike were recorded live at Durham Cathedral, which gives it added gravitas. Read our full review here.

19. Okkervil River – I Am Very Far

This Texan band’s follow up to its critically acclaimed previous albums The Stage Names and The Stand Ins brings more fire and bite to their sound as frontman Will Sheff took co-production duties. At times cinematic, at others indie rock not one of its 11 tracks are skippable. Among are highlights are opener The Valley and one of its singles Wake Up and Be Fine.  Read our full review here.

18. John Maus – We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves

Former Ariel Pink collaborator John Maus has plunged deep into the murky waters of the early 1980s to deliver one of the most stark, fascinating and strangely enjoyable slices of synth pop you will hear all year. Among our highlights on this, his third album, is the track ‘Cop Killer’. Read our full review here.

17. The Leisure Society  – Into The Murky Water

This second album by The Leisure Society gives us the urge to jump in our Neon Filler branded Morris Minor, dress up in our  Prisoner gear and take a dip in the murky waters of Bognor Regis or Portmerion, stopping off for some fish and chips and a pickled egg. This eccentric, most English of albums was one of the highlights of our summer. Read our full review here.

16. Timber Timbre – Creep on Creepin On

Featuring core multi-instrumentalist members Taylor Kirk, Mika Posen and Simon Trottier this peach of an album by Canada’s Timber Timbre seems to inhabit another universe where 1950’s B-movie soundtracks and dirty rock and roll rule supreme. It’s a strange mix that works thanks to Kirk’s soulfully odd (or should that be oddly soulful) vocals and the added instrumentation of pianist Mathieu Charbonneau and saxophonist Colin Stetson to add to its vintage charm. Read our full review here.

15. Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell – Kite

Just like the Mercury nominations we like to feature a new folk act in our end of year round ups. This year’s slot goes to the excellent Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell. Nominated for a 2011 BBC Folk horizon award, given to emerging new talent, they have clearly caught the ear of Radio 2’s Mike Harding and his production team. Rachel Unthank and her husband Adrian McNally are also admirers and produced this wonderful debut from the pair  in Northumberland. Read our full review here.

14. Singing Adams – Everybody Friends Now

This debut album from former Broken Family Band man Steven Adams’ latest project was one of the best indie-pop releases of the year, mixing Adams’ clever and poignant lyrics with a fine bunch of melodies. His band are a bunch of seasoned indie and alternative musicians and live they are well drilled outfit. We have been so impressed that they topped our Top Ten bands to watch out for in 2012 list. Our highlights on this excellent album include the singles I Need Your Mind and Injured Party. Read our full review here.

13. Bill Callahan – Apocalypse

With its stripped back feel, punctuated with squealing electric guitars and flutes, Apocalypse can be an unsettling listen at times, but not for too long as Callahan’s luxuriously deep voice has a calming influence and can easily draw you back to normality.  Read our full review here.

12. Battles – Gloss Drop

There are so many striking aspects to Gloss Drop, the follow up to the crazy, cartoonified thrill ride that was Battles’ last album Mirrored.  The range of singers including Gary Numan, the sense of fun and above all some superb drumming are just some that immediately spring to mind. Read our full review here.

11. David Lowery  – The Palace Guards

The Palace Guards is the first solo album from  Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven front-man David Lowery. It’s taken a while to come out but  its been worth the wait. This is among the best work from one of alternative music’s most engaging songwriters. Read our full review here.

10. The Miserable Rich – Miss You In The Days

Three albums in and The Miserable Rich are really hitting their stride as one of the UK’s most innovative acts, mixing compelling story telling with chamber pop and most importantly some damn fine tunes. Among the highlights on this their third album is the swirling Ringing the Changes. Read our full review here.

9. Kathryn Calder – Are You My Mother?

This  solo album from New Pornographer Calder has the professionalism and confidence you’d expect from a seasoned performer and her personality shines through lifting it above the norm and adding real charm to proceedings. The album was recorded while looking after her mother who was dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease. This gives the album an underlying sense of melancholy in places that adds an emotional depth few songwriters can manage. Read our full review here.

8. The Mountain Goats – All Eternals Deck

The Mountain Goats frontman John Darnielle’s song writing and survival instincts grow stronger with each release.  With three different producers there’s a surprising consistency as he exposes his hidden demons and offers up  some bittersweet tales of the famous along the way, from Charles Bronson to Judy Garland.  Uplifting stuff.  Read our full review here.

7. Low – C’Mon

C’mon may just be this year’s great American album, with echoes of Johnny Cash and Gram Parsons throughout. With very precise production from Matt Beckley and the band,  which is fronted by husband and wife Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, they have created an album that is melancholy, epic and just plain beautiful in places. Read our full review here.

6. Destroyer – Kaputt

An immaculate attention detail in recreating the sounds and production of the 1980s has helped Dan Bejar (aka Destroyer) become the second member of Canadian super group The New Pornographers to enter our Top 20.  Bejar has never sounded better as he takes the role of world weary rock star reminiscing in style. Part New Order, part Prefab Sprout, this is arguably his best album to date.  Read our full review here.

5. Wilco – The Whole Love

Wilco - The Whole Love

The Whole Love is probably closest in style to previous album Wilco (The Album) but  that little bit better. It also shows  a band at the peak of its powers, playing with confidence, inventiveness and real skill. You get the pop Wilco, the rock Wilco, the experimental Wilco and the soft melodic Wilco, all of which adds up to one of the most satisfying releases of the year. Read our full review here.

4. Luke Haines – 9 1/2 Psychedelic Meditations On British Wrestling Of The 1970s and Early 1980s.

Luke Haines Wrestling

The former Auteur and author of the excellent  book Bad Vibes returns from a two year recording break to turn his attention to the world of British wrestling from around 30 years ago. Witty, concise, well executed and completely unlike any other album we’ve heard this year. Haines clearly isn’t quite ready to throw the towel in just yet on his recording career. Read our full review here.

3. Darren Hayman – January Songs

Busy doesn’t even come close to describing  Darren Hayman’s year. He was involved in the  Vostok 5 art exhibition and album about space explorers, released an album of piano ballads  The Ships Piano, plays bass in Rotifer and  is involved in all sorts of Christmas releases for  Fika Recordings. His crowning achievement though for us was to write,  record and release a song a day during January. The end product January Songs, which is available to download and from January 2012 in CD format, contains some of the former Hefner frontman’s best work and offered a  great example of social media interaction between artist and audience, who helped him along the way with lyrics and ideas.  Read our full review here.

2. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Mirror Traffic

Thanks to production from Beck the former Pavement frontman has ditched some of his rock star, guitar squealing cliches to reveal one of  his best albums for years and certainly his best since his Pavement glory days. The finely honed  single The Senator is among our many highlights. Read our full review here.

1. Boston Spaceships – Let It Beard

Let It Beard

Narrowly pipping Stephen Malkmus to the top spot is another veteran of the 1990s US alternative music scene, Robert Pollard and his act Boston Spaceships. The album echoes a number of Pollard’s favourite classic acts, the Beatles are in there, but it is The Who that are the most obvious influence on this guitar drenched album. It has the Pollard stamp throughout and you can’t imagine anyone else producing a record quite like this now, or any time in the last 30 years. Read our full review here.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

See also: Spotify – Neonfiller.com’s Best of 2011 Spotify List.


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