Archive | February, 2012

Guide To The UK’s Best Festivals 2012

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Guide To The UK’s Best Festivals 2012

Posted on 29 February 2012 by Joe

With Glastonbury taking a break during 2012 there’s the possibility of around 200,000 revellers looking for an alternative trip away. To offer some of those Glastonbury regulars and others decide where to spend their festival cash we’ve selected our pick of the best the UK has to offer. Our focus is on the best line-ups, those that give new bands a chance to get a bigger audience and those located in unusual and excellent settings. For those looking for the type of  middle of the road bore fest that T in the Park or V Festival have served up once again this year then our list will not be for you. For those looking for an excellent, interesting and diverse line up then read on.

All Tomorrow’s Parties

Jeff Mangum Curates, March 9-11;  The National Curates, Dec 7-9, both at Minehead

The ATP format, of a band curating a weekend of music at a holiday camp, has taken a few knocks in recent months from disgruntled fans. The Jeff Mangum event was moved back to March from December last year by ATP without explanation, leaving many fans who had booked transport out of pocket. ATP has still not given an explanation. The move also meant a number of bands, by strange coincidence mainly those with mammals in their names (The Mountain Goats, Fleet Foxes, Panda Bear) had to pull out. The resulting line-up is still stellar, with Mangum’s oddball tastes represented in the likes of Sun Ra Arkestra, sitting along side ATP regulars  such as Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Joanna Newsom, Sebadoh, Thurston Moore and The Magnetic Fields. The event is also a must for fans of the Elephant Six collective that Mangum is part of, with Oliva Tremor Control, Apples in Stereo and an Elephant Six Holiday Surprise set completing one of the most eclectic line-ups of the year.  Hopefully The National curated festival doesn’t suffer the same postponement without explanation. It is already shaping up to being a great festival with the US band already selecting among others Owen Pallett, Suuns and My Brightest Diamond for the bill.

More information here.

The Great Escape

May 10-12

Dry The River: One of the highlights of The Great Escape 2012

Get your running shoes ready for this Brighton based festival that features 300 bands at 30 venues across the city. Our advice is  make sure you arrive at venues in good time as they can be tough to get into at this increasingly popular event. Among the line up, which focuses on new and emerging talent, is Django Django, who topped our ones to watch list for 2011 , and Dry the River, who made our 2012 list after we caught their energetic performances at last year’s Great Escape and Glastonbury.

More information here.

Field Day

June 2, 2012

Django Django confirmed for Field Day 2012

This 20,000 strong one day festival in Victoria Park, Tower Hamlets, London, is now in its fifth year and in the past has hosted the likes of Battles, Foals and Laura Marling. This year’s line-up is among the most interesting of any UK festival, featuring Neonfiller  favourites such as Django Django, Revere and Andrew Bird alongside more mainstream attractions such as Metronomy and The Vaccines.

More information here .

Indietracks

June 6-8, 2012

For the last two years we’ve made sure we cover the Indietracks festival.  Not only does it offer visitors one of the most scenic  and unusual settings, at a vintage railway  centre in Derbyshire, but the line up is often a who’s who of  indie pop. Teenage Fanclub, Pains of Being Pure At Heart and The Primitives are among previous headliners. This year’s event is shaping up to being one of the best yet with US indie-pop label Slumberland Records teaming up to curate. Neonfiller favourites Tigercats, Allo Darlin and Veronica Falls have already been confirmed among a line up that also includes The June Brides, Tender Trap, Evans the Death, The Sunbathers, Gold-Bears and Sea Lions.

More information here.

Greenman

August 17-19, 2012

Set in Glanusk Park, Wales, this three-day event offers an enticing blend of folk and alternative acts. This year sees Feist as one of the headliners on a bill that includes Neonfiller favourites CW Stoneking, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks and Field Music. Further down the bill we urge you to check out Liverpool trio Stealing Sheep, one of the best acts we’ve seen this year.

More information here.

End of the Road

September 2-4, 2012

End Of The Road

The stunning setting at the Larmer Tree  Gardens, North Dorset is almost a big a pull as the line-up, which always delivers one of the year’s most interesting mixes of the unknown and more well known alternative acts. This year Beirut, Joanna Newsom, WildBeasts, Laura Marlng and Mogwai are among the major draws on a line up that also includes Best Coast, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and one of Neonfiller’s favourites The Leisure Society. Also watch out for  Canadian act Timber Timbre and This Is The Kit, whose recent albums have impressed us.

More information here.

by Joe Lepper

 

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Chuck Prophet – Temple Beautiful

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Chuck Prophet – Temple Beautiful

Posted on 28 February 2012 by Dorian

Temple Beautiful is former Green On Red guitarist Chuck Prophet’s twelfth solo outing, and his first since his tour playing The Clash classic London Calling in 2011. I mention that because the spirit of The Clash seems to have infected his musical outlook on this album, and made for one of his best recordings to date.

Chuck Prophet Temple Beautiful
The first three tracks are amongst the best songs he has written and as good an opening section as on any album I’ve heard this year. ‘Play That Song Again’ is all chunky guitar riffs and a hugely catchy chorus, ‘Castro Halloween’ adds a new colour to his musical palette sounding like The Posies or a bluesier Teenage Fanclub. The title track ‘Temple Beautiful’ has the most obvious Clash sound, punky riffs and sax, think Tom Petty playing ‘Brand New Cadillac’.

Tom Petty and Bob Dylan are two names that come to mind when you hear Prophet’s have spoken drawling singing voice, an acquired taste but sounding more natural here than on some of his earlier recordings.

Things slow down a little from this point on in the album, and in general we are in familiar Chuck Prophet territory as he plays a range of blues influenced country rockers and ballads. This isn’t a particularly original album musically, Prophet wears his love of classic rock and roll sounds on his sleeve, but I struggle to think of another artist who is playing music like this any better than him.

The album is rooted in San Francisco, recorded there with local musicians and a range of local characters in the lyrics. Most of the references went straight over my head, but that doesn’t make Prophet’s warm story filled lyrics any less interesting. He has always been a good lyricist, but his clear passion for the subjects here seems to have lifted his lyrics up to another level and make this a very rich album that rewards subsequent listens.

The arrangements of the songs are great, and Prophet has assembled a high quality band that matches his own guitar playing, ‘I felt Like Jesus’ is a good demonstration of this with guitar, piano, drums and bass all fighting for space. The production is superb and producer Brad Jones is unfussy enough to let the rootsier and rougher elements of the playing stand out whilst still giving the album a big clear sound.

Prophet is a superb guitar player, and the playing here is typically excellent throughout, a range of guitar styles ring out and the riffs are big and complex. One disappointment, and something that has been true on most of his solo albums, is Prophet’s seeming reluctance to really let rip. Anyone who was lucky enough to see him play with Green On Red will remember the excellence of his extended guitar solos, and his desire to tear it up at any opportunity. We get moments of guitar pyrotechnics, the end of ‘Who Shot John’ and the excellent last section of ‘Willie Mays Is Up At Bat’ (a Thin Lizzy style dual guitar solo no less) but when the guitar playing is this good you want to hear more.

8/10

By Dorian Rogers

See also: Top Ten Guitarists (That Don’t Often Make Top Ten Guitarists Lists)

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Allo Darlin’ – Capricornia

Posted on 28 February 2012 by Joe

Enjoying this latest video for the first single, Capricornia,  from Allo Darlin’s forthcoming album Europe. The single is available from Fortuna POP! in the UK and Slumberland Records in the US. The album is due to be released in May 2012.

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Introducing… Hysterical Injury

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Introducing… Hysterical Injury

Posted on 28 February 2012 by Joe

Where are they from? Bristol and Bath, via Glasgow and Llandeilo.

Who are they? Vocalist and bass player Annie Gardiner and her brother Tom, the drummer.

What do they sound like? As a self confessed “noise-pop” band they have been compared to among others The White Stripes, Queens of the Stone Age, Nirvana and Sonic Youth. They have even been compared to Donna Summer, Kate Bush and Laura Marling by some reviewers, who the band admit maybe “getting a bit carried away, but we’ll take it.”

What have they got to say for themselves?  Annie tells us that rock and roll “is good for your health, and it keeps you in tune with your time on the earth,” while Tom can talk for England about his drumming influences including the likes of “Chad Smith of the Chilli Peppers, Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine and Jimmy Chamberlain from Smashing Pumpkins.” Among his more recent influences are Battles’ John Stanier, one of Neonfiller.com’s current favourites as well.

What releases should you look out for? Their debut album Dead Wolf Situation was released early in 2012. They have also released two EPs, Our Lives are a Futuristic Nightmare and a self-titled EP. They have plans to release some split singles with other bands in the near future including The Big Naturals.

Where can I find out more? Visit their website here.

By Joe Lepper, pic credit: Jamie Worsfold

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Field Music – The Fleece, Bristol (Feb 23, 2012)

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Field Music – The Fleece, Bristol (Feb 23, 2012)

Posted on 27 February 2012 by Joe

The last time we saw Field Music headline a gig was two years ago in Brighton, just after the release of their ambitious double album Field Music (Measure). Despite critical acclaim for the album, lack of ticket  sales meant they were shifted to a smaller venue. Even then it was still barely half full.

Two years on and with a shorter but no less ambitious album to promote, called Plumb,  they are back on the road. For whatever reason, perhaps better PR, perhaps more consistent airplay (particularly on BBC 6Music) the tour has been a sell-out, with their gig at Bristol’s The Fleece no exception.

Field Music

Even though their star is rising, at heart they are still a small band, which gave their hour long set a  warmth that was full of good humour and self-deprecating banter such as “this one’s from our first album, which about five people bought.”

For those unfamiliar with the band its core is brother David, the tall one with a high voice, and Peter, the shorter  one. The pair alternate between drums and guitar, and in Peter’s case keyboards as well.

Their music is breathtaking and bold, mixing styles from across the last 30 years with one fan at the front putting it succinctly saying, “they have taken all the music I like such as King Crimson, XTC, Talking Heads and Television, put it together and put their own stamp on it.”

Field Music's Peter Brewis

For tonight’s set they crammed in a mammoth 22 tracks, showcasing the bulk of  Plumb in two to three song bursts and punctuated with tracks across their previous three albums and Peter’s solo album under the name School of Language.

It was a well worked idea, with the older tracks giving the gig a greatest hits feel, with tracks such as Them That Do Nothing and Let’s Write a Book, from Measure, as well as If Only the Moon Were Up from their self-titled debut  actually getting some whoops from the packed Fleece.

Plumb opener, Start the Day Right, with Peter seated at keyboards was a perfect start to the gig and the evening’s first Plumb segment, especially  as it was followed by School of Language’s standout track Rockist (Part 1). Plumb is a great album to hear live, full of short guitar solos, harmonies and jerky shifts in mood. New Town was particularly effective as was their closing track and the album’s first single (I just keeping about) A New Thing. Back for an encore and track number 23 they choose another “ancient one”, from their debut album,  Tell Me, Keep Me with its thudding bass intro.

“This is our first headline gig in Bristol,” David beamed, “unless of course you count the one we did at a record shop.” Judging by the growth in their popularity in the last two years an even bigger venue beckons when they hopefully return out west in 2014.

Stealing Sheep

Support was from Stealing Sheep,  a band that took the packed Fleece by surprise. As the band  took the stage there was no hint that we were about to witness quite frankly the best support act I have ever seen. Wholly original, mixing pounding drums, surf guitar and keyboards I’ve debated long and hard how to describe this three piece’s music. In the end I’ve come up with this, so let’s see how this works. If  Quentin Tarentino were to make a movie about the band Pentangle and cast Nancy Sinatra as the folk super group’s lead singer Jacqui McShee the soundtrack would sound something like Stealing Sheep. Ok, it’s not perfect, but the message I want to get out loud and clear is that this is a band you must see live.

They tell us an album is out this summer and judging by its first single Shut Eye it’s going to be exceptional. David Brewis joked during their set that they will be supporting Stealing Sheep in a few years time, “that’s if they’ll have us” replied Peter with trademark Field Music self-deprecation.

 by Joe Lepper

See Also: Field Music (Measure) reviewed. The album topped our 2010 end of year album list and was named in our top 100 albums of all time list.

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Shearwater – Animal Joy

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Shearwater – Animal Joy

Posted on 21 February 2012 by Joe

Shearwater have produced songs of beauty, anger and even at times progressive rock. One thing they have never been up until now is commercially appealing. Animal Joy, their first album on Sub Pop after a move from Matador, changes that.

Animal Joy features largely three to four minute pop songs, rock riffs and pulsating bass intros. It’s still Shearwater, the band formed by former Okkervil River keyboardist and environmentalist Jonathan Meiburg, but with the key difference – a chance of chart success.

It’s a change that not only works well and gives some extra bite to their tracks, but after the prog rock leanings of their last album The Golden Archipelago, a stunningly researched musical treatise for the plight of the world’s islands, it is perhaps a wise career choice.

The subject matter on Animal Joy is still fiercely green, focusing on  familiar territory for Shearwater of the beauty and horror of nature, but this time around pretty much all the tracks  could be  a single, with the exception of the slightly Euro-pop sludge of final track, Star of the Age.

Only one deliberately skewed guitar note after the chorus on the title track, which opens the album, hints that this is the work of a small, alternative rock band from Texas.  Breaking the Yearlings, with its rock bass intro and menacing keyboards is a real statement that Shearwater now feel they are ready for more success. The band also find time for a 12 bar blues single in Immaculate, complete with that most classic of lyrical rock standards, a loner called Johnny. It’s my favourite on the album.

Even the nearly seven-minute long Insolence has the potential for a wide audience, like a mix of Radiohead and Talk Talk’s later albums, in particularly Laughing Stock. Pushing the River has echoes of The National, with its off kilter drum beat. More than anything this track shows just how blessed Shearwater are, not just for having Meiburg’s stunning vocals, but also the considerable drumming talents of Thor Harris.

While Animal Joy’s quality should earn the band more than just praise this time around it may take the wider music buying public a while to cotton onto Shearwater’s blend of indie rock and environmentalism. Many other reviewers have dismissed parts of this album as a transitional phase. I disagree, with Phil Ek taking production duties, the band have already evolved into a potentially powerful force in rock music while still sticking to their alternative and environmental roots.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

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Pulp – It (1983), Freaks (1987), Separations (1992) Reissues

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Pulp – It (1983), Freaks (1987), Separations (1992) Reissues

Posted on 21 February 2012 by Joe

Given the commercial and critical success of Pulp’s Brit pop defining run of 1990s albums, from 1994’s His n Hers to 1998’s This Is Hardcore, it’s hard to assess their many years of  work beforehand as anything other  than a comparative failure.

Started by teen Jarvis Coker and his friend Peter Dalton in 1978 the Sheffield band continued throughout the 1980s with Cocker assembling different musicians throughout the period and finding very little success at each turn.

Pulp in 1983

With this year marking the 20th anniversary of their 1992 album Separations, Fire Records, their label though much of this period of failure, decided now is a good time to reissue the album in addition to their first two albums, It and Freaks

As one of the many that first heard Pulp when His n Hers came out I’m hearing these albums for the first time. My assumption had been that  a lack of  luck rather than talent  had stymied their search for success. Turns out though that in the case of It and Freaks success evaded them because quite simply they were not very good. Separations on the other hand shows that after more than a decade of try outs something had finally clicked and the Brit-popping Pulp sound we reminisce about today was born.

What is most striking about It is the lack of keyboards and its folk direction. It (1983) is a world away from the power and pop sensibility of Mercury Music nomination His n Hers. As a debut its pretty dire, with only the occasional flashes of the brilliance of later work. The major problem is Cocker’s voice. It’s just awful here, all nasally like a bad Morrisey impression. I’m sure in his head he thinks he sounds like Scott Walker. In reality on this and Freaks he sounds like the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band’s Vivian Stanshall singing about pink halves of drainpipes.

The songs too, while upbeat are largely forgettable. There’s no clever, bittersweet lyrics, no sweeping flourishes. Only opener My Lighthouse, co-written by Cocker and Simon Hinkler, who later left Pulp to join the Mission,  emerges with credibility.

They moved in a slightly harder direction with Freaks (1987) with a more traditional  and basic indie rock electric guitar, bass and drums feel to it.  It was to be no more successful for the band. Freaks is a real mess with Cocker still sounding like Stanshall and horribly out of tune in places, especially on I Want You. You’d think that would have been ironed out at the time. Opener Fairground is probably the worst track, at best a parody of the Wonderstuff and at worst a genuine attempt to recreate Spinal Tap’s Stonehenge in a fairground.  Masters of the Universe sounds like The Damned, but not in a good way.

Separations is the real find here for those that came to the band from the His n Hers or Different Class period. This is arguably the first recognisable Pulp album and one the cool kids with their finger on the pulse of new music in 1992 should have quite rightly held up proudly as their new favourite band.

Adding synths to the mix was a master stroke giving tracks such as Love is Blind a real identifiable Pulp sound. Cocker’s vocals have improved markedly as well and as a result tracks on the first half of the album such as Don’t You Want Me Anymore sounds credible and epic rather than laughable and sad. The placing of violin high in the mix also gives it a welcome difference to later, more successful albums and Freaks.  The second half descends a little into a kind of indie, acid house mix on tracks such as My Legendary Girlfriend, but the genre shift is not too glaring and the first half is so good it more than makes up for a weak finale to the album.

It and Freaks are worth buying for curiosity value, but for a genuinely good album Separations is the pick of this trio.

It (4/10)

Freaks (3/10)

Separations (8/10)

By Joe Lepper

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Top Ten Indie Movie Soundtracks

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Top Ten Indie Movie Soundtracks

Posted on 17 February 2012 by Joe

Every successful indie film needs a cool  indie music soundtrack. In some cases the choice of tracks or artists involved is so good the music ends up overshadowing the film. In most cases though it acts as the perfect compliment, with independent music showcasing the best of independent cinema. We invite you to pull up some popcorn, settle down in your slightly uncomfortable cinema seats and enjoy Neonfiller.com’s Top Ten Indie Movie Soundtracks.

10. Alex Turner – Submarine

Arctic Monkey Alex Turner’s  ballads and pop sensibility proved the perfect match for Submarine (2010), the charming and bittersweet coming of age tale set in coastal Wales in the 1980s. Turner even looks a little like Craig Roberts, the star of the film.  This is the shortest soundtrack on our list, with just six tracks, but sometimes less is more. The songs, which are especially written for the film, perfectly encapsulate teenage life and are a far cry from his bombastic work in the Last Shadow Puppets and the increasingly dark rock of the Arctic Monkeys. Among the standout tracks are Hiding Tonight on a soundtrack mini-album that proves  Turner has clearly found another fine string in his bow.

9. Velvet Goldmine

Velvet Goldmine is not a great film, in truth it isn’t a very good film at all, but it does have a great glam racket soundtrack. Alongside originals by the likes of Lou Reed, Roxy Music,  Shudder to Think, Pulp and T Rex are covers of classic 1970s songs. These are recorded by a range of collaborations (a trick that director Todd Haynes would play again on the soundtrack to I’m Not There, another contender for this list) including two supergroups The Venus In Furs and Wylde Rattz. The English musicians who played under the name The Venus in Furs on the soundtrack were Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, David Gray, Suede’s Bernard Butler, and Roxy Music’s Andy Mackay. The American musicians who played as Curt Wild’s Wylde Ratttz on the soundtrack were The Stooges’ Ron Asheton, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Steve Shelley, Minutemen’s Mike Watt, Gumball’s Don Fleming, and Mark Arm of Mudhoney.

8. James Murphy – Greenberg

LCD Soundsystem main-man James Murphy goes for a lower key piano driven sound on most of his songs for the Ben Stiller film Greenberg. The result is a soundtrack that is much more engaging than the film it was taken from and more interesting than the LCD Soundsystem album of the same year. There are some uber-cool tracks by Galaxie 500, The Sonics, Albert Hammond and Duran Duran (the excellent ‘The Chauffeur’) amongst others but it is Murphy’s tunes and songs that make this stand out. His LCD Soundsystem work showed what a sophisticated songwriter he is but these tracks reveal a level a Laurel Canyon sound that is a refreshing change from his typical New York coolness.

7. The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou was the forth Wes Anderson film to feature a soundtrack produced by Devo front-man Mark Mothersbaugh. In addition to his music, and ‘Gut Feeling’ by Devo themselves, are a number of well chosen songs by the likes of Scott Walker, The Zombies and, in particular, David Bowie. What makes the soundtrack stand out are the contributions of one of the film’s stars Seu George. In his songs, played diegetically in the movie, are brilliant Portuguese language versions of some of Bowie’s best loved tracks.

6. Away we go – Alexi Murdoch

Scottish folk musician Alexi Murdoch soft vocals and intricate guitar playing proved a perfect match for 2009 romantic comedy Away we go, directed by Sam Mendes and written by Dave Eggers. The soundtrack features nine Murdoch tracks, all beautifully echoing the likes of John Martyn and Nick Drake and supplemented by a few classics as well, including The Stranglers’ Golden Brown and George Harrison’s What Is Life. Orange Sky, from Murdoch’s 2003 Four Songs EP is among many highlights.

5. Clint Mansell – Moon

This soundtrack stands out on our list in that it doesn’t contain any indie songs, or any songs at all for that matter. However, it was written and performed by the former pineapple headed lead singer of so-so grebos Pop Will Eat Itself. A career of average singles with the midlands indie act was the surprising foundation for a second career composing award winning soundtracks for critically acclaimed films. The majority of his soundtracks have been for Darren Aronofksy films, but his finest hour was the soundtrack for Duncan “Zowie Bowie” Jones’ debut feature Moon. The music is incredibly atmospheric and the perfect accompaniment for the story of lonely Lunar Industries employee Sam Bell.

4. Belle and Sebastian – Storytelling

Happiness director Tood Solandz’s Storytelling,  with its two part premise of ‘fiction’, ‘non-fiction’ involving disability and high school life,  got a rollicking from most critics. The Belle and Sebastian soundtrack on the other hand is a work of genius in comparison. While not enough to save this movie from the bargain bin this soundtrack takes pride of place on our shelves through its careful instrumental score and piano ballads. It’s actually a fairly decent Belle and Sebastian album as well, especially the tracks Wandering Alone and Big John Shaft, but sadly overlooked due to the film’s sour reputation.

3. Jon Brion – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Jon Brion has had a pretty impressive career, but most people will be unfamiliar with his name. The former Jellyfish guitarist has worked with Kanye West, Evan Dando, Aimee Mann, Of Montreal, Best Coast and (ahem) Keane as a musician and a producer. He will probably be best known for his soundtrack work which includes Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love, I Heart Huckabeees and, our personal favourite, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. His downbeat instrumentals, including a beautifully mournful theme, are the perfect accompaniment to the film. The addition of songs by ELO, The Polyphonic Spree and Beck (covering The Korgi’s ‘Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometimes’) make this a very special musical set.

2. Juno

Kimya Dawson and the twee poetry folk of Antsy Pantsy take the lion’s share of tracks on this mother of indie soundtracks, helping this heart warming tale of teenage pregnancy to become one of the biggest grossing indie movies of all time.  Indie music interweaves in the plot too with Jason Bateman’s aged indie-kid’s taste in the likes of Sonic Youth dismissed by the teenage central character played by Ellen Page, who prefers the innocence and warmth of Mott the Hoople’s All The Young Dudes, which along with Sonic Youth’s version of The Carpenters’ Superstar, features here.  Belle and Sebastian also get a couple of tracks, including the excellent Piazza, New York Catcher from Dear Catastrophe Waitress.

1. Trainspotting

Back in 1996 the soundtrack to Irvine Welsh’s tale of drug abuse in Scotland was everywhere. For us it’s impossible to hear the likes of Underworld’s Born Slippy,  Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life and PF Project’s Choose Life,  featuring the film’s lead Ewen McGregor, without traveling back to that time. The music was so integral that two soundtracks were released. For us there has been no better combination of music and film, on a pair of soundtracks that successfully manage to mix a group of artists as diverse as Lou Reed, New Order, Heaven 17 and Fun Boy Three and still sound cool.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers.

 

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The Twilight Sad – The Fleece, Bristol (Feb 13, 2012)

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The Twilight Sad – The Fleece, Bristol (Feb 13, 2012)

Posted on 14 February 2012 by Joe

During last year’s early promotion for The Twilight Sad’s latest album No One Can Ever Know the Scottish Band selected final track Kill It In The Morning to unveil their new sound. With  Andy Wetherall producing, No One Can Ever Know brought vintage synths and Kraut rock bass  to the fore and left the band’s trademark guitar feedback low in the mix. It was no surprise to see this same track open their mesmerizing hour long set at Bristol’s The Fleece. They are clearly proud of the album and on the night its driving bass, synths and above all lead singer James Graham’s almighty vocals were spot on.

The Twilight Sad

The bulk of No One Can Ever Know got an airing tonight but there was still enough time to squeeze in two or three tracks from their 2009 My Bloody Valentine-esque album Forget The Night Ahead, including the album’s lead single I Became a Prostitute and opener Reflection of the Television. Thankfully they didn’t ditch the guitar feedback and squeals for this and this wall of sound was turned back up for these rare tracks from Forget The Night Ahead in the set.

While the music and their new direction is enticing enough it is Graham’s vocals and stage presence that is the band’s real draw. At times he appears Ian Curtis like, as if in a trance as his haunting, and quite frankly beautiful voice, soars above the synths, bass, precision drumming and feedback. Each ambiguous lyric hinting at the dark nature of society and relationships appears to be torn from him as he shows a genuine passion for performing and the subject matter.

The Twilight Sad

Of course it is an act, but an act he performs remarkably, complete with mimed silent screams when the guitar and synths take centre stage. In between songs there was time for some banter showing that beneath the serious way they take music there is also a likeability with no trace of arrogance. “I love you,” shouted one of the 150-200 crowd at this legendary pub venue that over the years has played host to Radiohead, Pulp, Coldplay and pretty much every major rock act of the last 20 years. With a smile Graham looked at her and said in the broadest Scottish accent, “ah, no you don’t really. I’m a total knobhead.”

While refusing to play an encore and leaving the stage as  the squeals of feedback continue may appear aloof for some bands this is not the case for The Twilight Sad. Before leaving the stage Graham said: “Thanks so much for coming to our gig on this cold Monday night. We are a small band from Scotland and we don’t expect people to come. Thank you.” This was a masterclass in how to give an impassioned performance  without the trappings or rock arrogance.

Evacuees

Support came from Somerset’s Evacuees, an indie guitar rock band of the type the NME believe are dead or  should be killed off in a funeral pyre with Kaiser Chiefs at the top. While the lead singer was guilty of a low slung guitar cliché or two they showed that indie guitar music is far from dead. This regular support band at Bristol venues are good at the genre, put in a more than solid set and when the NME remembers guitars are cool again their hacks may perhaps come knocking on their door, that is if they know where Bristol is.

Let's Wrestle

Second support Let’s Wrestle, led by singer and chief song writer Wesley Patrick Gonzalez, lived up to their Pitchfork billing from last year as a ”band of early twentysomethings that comprehensively captures the mindset of young men kicking and screaming against their inevitable transition into adulthood.”

Their brand of jangly indie pop has a real edge and they put in a headliner style set for an appreciative crowd that was mainly hearing them for the first time. Among the highlights was In Dreams Part II with its Wedding Present-style, driving guitar and Opium Den, which Gonzalaz dryly dedicates to their friend Ben, “because his name rhymes with the name of the song.”

by Joe Lepper

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Field Music – Plumb

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Field Music – Plumb

Posted on 14 February 2012 by Dorian

Field Music’s forth album Plumb initially seems like a step backward. their previous album, Measure, was an impressive double album with huge scope and topped our 2010 album chart. On first listen Plumb seems to have more in common with 2007’s Tones of Town and runs at a very modest 36 minutes across the 15 tracks. Subsequent listens (and this is an album that deserves and demands repeated listens) reveal more and more depth to the album and as much ambition as ever.

Field Music Plumb

Opening track, ‘Start The Day Right’ is a case in point, demonstrating a MaCartneyesque knack for different song sections together in one place. It opens like a chamber pop piece before moving into prog meets new wave guitars followed by a Beatle influenced piano segment and back to the guitars again before coming to a halt. Think ‘A Day In The Life’ by way of ‘Band On The Run’ played by XTC and you’ll not be far wrong.

The effect is made more so by the way one song moves to the next, the first three songs on the album could be one, but sound like ten.Also worth noting in this section is the drums on ‘It’s OK To Change’, both Brewis brothers are drummers and the drums always sound great on their records, in this case they come close to a Phil Collin’s sound (and I mean that in a good way).

Track four, ‘A New Town’ brings a change of pace as the band return to the falsetto white funk that they first attempted on Measure’s ‘Let’s Write A Book’. Bringing different musical styles together in a cohesive fashion isn’t unique, their mix of new wave and prog rock is something we’ve heard before, but by successfully bringing the post-Beatles sounds of ELO and funk into the mix they have something a little bit special. The only band I can think of that managed that level of musical scope without losing their identity was Talking Heads circa Remain In Light when Adrian Belew was playing with the band. The big difference here is that Field Music is essentially two people, where David Byrne brought dozens of musicians to the party, along with Brian Eno, to achieve his ideal sound.

The Brewis brothers play and produce the songs brilliantly layering instruments and vocals together to create their signature sound. They don’t get enough credit for the quality of the vocals on their records, and their harmonies are pretty faultless throughout. This is demonstrated on ‘How Many More Times?’ an acapella number that isn’t scared to play the Beach Boys at their own game, and does it pretty well. This track is followed up by ‘Ce Soir’ which is almost entirely orchestral instrumental, bar a short piano and vocal section at the finish. It is these small understated touches that make Plumb such a satisfying album, and one that you’ll want to come back to again and again.

The Brewis brothers have probably given up on stardom by now, the music buying public have been lukewarm on them from the start, despite their back catalogue being as good as any of their contemporaries, but they must know that they have a loyal following. This leaves them free to make the kind of album that they want to make, and free to make an album that is sequenced in the way that they want to. ‘(I Keep Thinking About) A New Thing’ is a brilliant track, and the most commercial song on the album, but they leave it until last –  a confident move.

It has been a pretty excellent year for albums so far and with Plumb we have another near perfect release. If you haven’t been sold on Field Music by any of their previous releases you are unlikely to be converted here, but you are clearly a lost cause. If you love their previous work you may find Plumb takes some time to reveal its brilliance, but once it does you’ll be hooked.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers


 

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