Archive | May, 2012

Free ‘Bundle’ Track To Get You Into The Bank Holiday Mood

Tags:

Free ‘Bundle’ Track To Get You Into The Bank Holiday Mood

Posted on 30 May 2012 by Joe

Indie label Wiaiwya  is offering a free download from their 26 track sporting compilation album It’s the taking part that counts to get people into the Jubilee Bank Holiday mood.

The track, called Bundle, is by Darren Hayman and pays tribute in few words but lots of love to the great school sport of bundling. Here’s a link to the free track, hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Others to appear on the compilation include Saint Etienne, Jeff Mellin and Hong Kong in the 60s. We’ll have a full review of the compilation up on Neonfiller.com early in June.

by Joe Lepper

Share

Comments (0)

Two Wounded Birds – Two Wounded Birds

Tags:

Two Wounded Birds – Two Wounded Birds

Posted on 29 May 2012 by Joe

Surf culture has suffered a lack of pivotal vanguards in recent times. Musical exports have equated to lazy, conceited production with little focus on sonic enlightenment and more focus on the aesthetics of stoner nostalgia. And, as the deluge of social media canoodles with substandard sounds of nonchalant surfer delinquents, such as fashionable novices, Best Coast, it comes as an abating reassurance that the genre is in no way as fleeting as the vaporised swill of spliff smoke.

Finally, with the release of their self-titled debut, Two Wounded Birds, who are one of our top ten bands to watch out for in 2012,  seem fully prepared to grapple with integrity over image.

Riding the waves off of the back of their 2010 EP, Keep Dreaming Baby, the band have remained stalwart patriots to delivering vintage pop diamonds. Consisting of twelve progressively sentimental odes to the ‘rebel with a heart,’ Two Wounded Birds focus their attention on emanating throwback rock’n’roll jingles, so authentic they could almost be mistaken for the real thing.

Coincidentally, along with the unavoidable similarity to their unambiguous tour-buds, The Drums, there is a distinctly potent whiff of post-chillwave chic drifting between each segment. The distant Hawaiian guitar twang, coupled with nuances of 60’s psyche warbles in Night Patrol, or the abrasive Beach Boys crudity of opener, Together Forever, are equally as traditional as they are acknowledging of current trends. But, where similar bands fall short, Two Wounded Birds’ straightforward songwriting approach is as believable as Brian Wilson’s affection towards a Bahama shirt.

And instead of repeating the post-Pet Sounds abstruseness, Two Wounded Birds channel their fresh faced energy into short, punchy pop ditties. Daddy’s Junk plays like a 45inch Cramps record being played at 33inch speed. To Be Young becomes a signature to sobered slackers: deceptively angsty and boisterous. Accompanied by such impeccable production, every shading of the afternoon sun seems to have been captured with every snare snap and every six-string boing.

Yet, like the turn of tides, the record travels from polite punk youthfulness towards more of a washed out timidity. Following the instrumental Tarantino-esque interpretation of western trailblazing (much akin to Miserlou, or an acerbic Deltones), the album slows to the pace of driftwood circling around the fringe of a shoreline. The tone in, lead vocals, Johnny Danger’s melodic patterns soften to weepy whines. Whereas the opening numbers fixate on upbeat summer vibes, tracks such as I’m No Saviour and No Goodbyes oscillate around soft, slow guitarwork and moody lyrical material. Dangers’ reverberating vocal lines  become almost Lynchian in execution – eerie and elegiac – only intensified by the album’s closer, Growing, an evident homage to The xx’s bleak minimalism and dark composition.

Despite the ungovernable buoyancy bouncing around Two Wounded Birds’ debut, one fault to note is how clearly effortless everything seems to them. With the impending release for the self-titled this June, the group have proved their ability to clone a carbon copy of a pre-existing sound. Their next task should be to challenge the tradition and build upon their influences. They have the potential to revitalise a genre being lost to sea by an over populated blogosphere and general musical ignorance. Here’s hoping.

8/10
by Tom Watson
Share

Comments (0)

Sandy Denny – Sandy and Rendezvous

Tags:

Sandy Denny – Sandy and Rendezvous

Posted on 28 May 2012 by Dorian

Island records are reissuing three of Sandy Denny’s albums from the 1970s. We chose to review Sandy (1972) and Rendezvous (1977 – the year before her death) as they demonstrate some real contrast in her solo output, with Rendezvous proving to be a weak swansong for such a great artist.

Sandy Denny

Sandy is considered by many to be Denny’s finest hour as a solo artist, and it is hard to disagree with that assessment. The songwriting is superb, mostly Denny’s compositions, and her vocals match even her best work with Fairport Convention. The musicianship and playing is superb, with contributions from Richard Thompson, Sneaky Pete Kleinow (of the Flying Burrito Brothers) and many others.

The album blends the traditional English folk styles with American country pop influences perfectly and the whole thing just feels natural, fully formed and perfectly realised.

Jump forward five years and the decision seems to have been taken to turn Denny into a kind of British Carly Simon, all big production and songs that demand a belting vocal. The production by Trevor Lucas suffocates the songs, a far cry from his production on Sandy, which really put the songs first. Denny’s songs are good, beneath the sheen, and her vocals are good but not so well suited to the arrangements which seem to demand BIG when Denny’s voice is delicate and subtle. The acoustic guitar picking and pedal steel of Sandy is replaced by electric guitar effects and saxophone solos of Rendezvous, I leave it up to you to guess which of these has dated better in the intervening years.

The choice of cover versions is another comparison point; Sandy brings a beautiful reading of Bob Dylan’s ‘Tomorrow Is A Long Time’, Rendezvous brings Elton John’s ‘Candle In The Wind’. It is hard to be objective about that song in a post Diana world, but I bet it sounded schmaltzy in 1997, and it sounds schmaltzy now.

Both albums come lovingly packaged with a wealth of demos, alternative takes and live tracks, the quality of which is very high. It is these bonus songs that save the Rendezvous reissue, presenting the songs in piano demo form gives you a taste of what could have been. If you wanted to proof that less is more then this CD set is presents the evidence perfectly. Non album track ‘By The Time It Gets Dark’ (a song covered by Yo La Tengo) is a included twice, first in full band mode and secondly as an acoustic guitar and vocals demo. Both versions are good, but the demo is just much better, sweet and fragile and showing off the beauty of Denny’s voice and songwriting.

Both the albums are well worth exploring, and the expanded versions make them great value for collectors who are familiar with the originals. Sandy stands up as one of the great albums by a singer-songwriter whereas Rendezvous is a flawed collection that demonstrates how bad business decisions and production can ruin a good set of songs.

9/10 (Sandy) 7/10 (Rendezvous)

By Dorian Rogers

See Also: Our review of last year’s reissue of Sandy Denny’s debut solo album The Northstar Grassman and the Ravens

Share

Comments (0)

Silver Jews – Early Times

Tags: ,

Silver Jews – Early Times

Posted on 28 May 2012 by Joe

This year I gave my first ever 10/10 review for a new album, to UK band Tigercats’ debut Isle of Dogs. This year also marks my first ever 0/10 which goes to this appalling collection of cobbled together band practices from cult US act Silver Jews, which disbanded in 2009.

For those that don’t know about the band, they started as a trio in 1990 of David Berman and Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastonovich. Berman remained the only constant member of the band that later also included his wife Cassie, who played bass.

We saw them live in 2008 at Explosions in the Sky’s ATP Festival and they were one of the highlights. Mixing Americana and indie rock the music was enthralling, the lyrics clever and in Berman they had one of music’s most engaging and witty frontmen.

So why is this release of their early work, featuring Berman, Malkmus and Nastonovich so appalling and deserving of such a low score. For a start it’s recorded on boombox mics making the production value non-existent and most of it pretty much inaudible. Sure lo-fi can work, just look at the Mountain Goats John Darnielle’s early boom box releases. But this worked for Darnielle because the home made amateur feel brought out the intimacy in his songwriting, vocals and simple guitar playing. For this release the lo-fi recording just makes it unbearable to listen to.

What has been released here is essentially a series of  bad band practices, full of background giggles, poor playing and pretty much no artistic merit. The songs here were originally released on the Dime Ma of the Reef 7” and 12’EP the Arizona Record. They are essentially barely audible pieces of drivel that surely even the most ardent Silver Jews fan will struggle to listen to. When you can just about make out a tune it sounds a little like early Pavement with bad drumming.

What angers me most  about this release is that some people may actually waste their money on it. Please, I implore you do not. This is not a lovely curio from the past, this is about someone, somewhere, trying to release, quite frankly, any old shit and hoping it sticks to someone. Well, no siree, this brown stuff will not stick with this website.

The press release tells us that there may be an additional release of “rare and unreleased” early recordings in the near future. On this evidence I hope that is a joke.

0/10

by Joe Lepper

Share

Comments (6)

Introducing… Fighting Kites

Tags:

Introducing… Fighting Kites

Posted on 25 May 2012 by Dorian

Who are they?
Fighting Kites are a well-meaning shadow rock band from the British Isles with a secret desire to let loose and cut some rug. After five years creating musical levitations in a three-legged dog refuge, they now reached an unspeakable climax and release their debut album on Variant Records.

Fighting Kites

What do they sound like?
Imagine if early Soft Machine played the music of the Shadows with nothing but good intentions and the shy hope the listener might shake a limb or two.

What have they got to say for themselves?
Little bits and bats really, nothing of great importance. On stage they keep the talking to a minimum and only utter brief syllables to one another backstage when it’s absolutely essential. They don’t let themselves get carried away. No, there’s not really too much to report here, just good intentions and a terrible desire that someone will like them.

What releases should you look out for?
As it happens, their debut album is out now on Variant Records and it’s a curious little one. It took them two years to make and at times the process felt like (their words) “trying to step dance in two feet of mud”. You can look out for that if you like. Other than that, you can also look out for the inspirational ‘Split’ ep, on Audio Antihero, which apparently took two minutes to make and felt like (their words again) “step dancing in a field of dreams”!

Where can I find out more?
Best to visit their Bandcamp page to give them a listen.

Share

Comments (0)

Still Flyin’ – On A Bedroom Wall

Tags:

Still Flyin’ – On A Bedroom Wall

Posted on 25 May 2012 by Joe

San Francisco based Still Flyin’ may just be the best party band since The B-52s. We caught their late show at Pavement’s ATP in Minehead in 2010 and were mightily impressed as the eight or nine piece (I lost count, it was late) rattled through a fine set mixing ska, indie and funk across singalong choruses and the best (well, only) horn section of the weekend.

The problem with bands like Still Flyin that are just so darn good live is how can they ever reach such dizzy heights on CD. They tried on their ska/reggae focused first album Never Gonna Tough the Ground (2009) and it worked in places. But on their latest album On A Bedroom Wall they’ve just held their hands up, admitted defeat and tried something different.

The different in question is to take a leaf out of Daniel Bejar’s book and go 80s. Under the Destroyer moniker Bejar’s 2011 album Kaputt was one of the year’s best as it effortlessly mixed New Order bass lines with Prefab Sprout riffs. Much of On a Bedroom Wall follows this path with Peter Hook bass, synths  and crisp, clean guitar riffs, especially at the start of the album on Elsie Dormer and Travelin’ Man.

For third track Big Trouble in Little Alabama  they add a little of their live experience. The guitars get funkier, the choruses more  like indie sing-alongs and the band’s female backing vocals turned up a notch. It’s also around this point in the album where lead singer and chief songwriter Sean Rawls starts sounding more like himself, rather than New Order’s Bernard Sumner.

Still Flyin' at Pavement's ATP, Minehead, 2010 (pic by Joe Lepper)

The funk guitar on Camouflage Detection is particularly good during this middle segment, but as the album draws to a close its back to the book of Bejar and more of the 1980s.

While this hint of their live prowess on some tracks, and conscious effort to replicate the 1980s presents an uneven album it is by no means unsatisfying. In fact, it’s on the whole full of fun and summery pop. My main quibble though is where are the trumpets and sax? These were the highlight of their live set and first album and gives the band a nice, early Dexy’s Midnight Runners feel. It would be a shame if in the ever changing giant line up of Still Flyin’ there is no more room for a horn section, which after all was a cornerstone of so much of mainstream 80s music anyway.

7.5/10

by Joe Lepper

Share

Comments (2)

Jherek Bischoff – Composed

Jherek Bischoff – Composed

Posted on 23 May 2012 by Joe

David Byrne, French singer and actor Soko and Wilco guitarist Nels Cline are just some of the collaborators Seattle based pop polymath* Jherek Bischoff has cobbled together for his latest album Composed.

Part classical, part pop and part, what some might call, chamber pop, it’s an intriguing mix. There is a coherence, with a strong beginning in Introduction and end with Insomnia, Death and the Sea, but its not a great listen all the way through.

There are wonderful tracks. David Byrne’s collaboration on second track Eyes particularly stands out, as does Nels Cline’s contribution on Blossom and Parenthetical Girls Zac Pennington and Soko’s duet on Young and Lovely.

My  favourite is The Nest, featuring Mirah Zeitlyn on vocals, which  sounds like a lost Nancy Sinatra track discovered by Quentin Tarantino for his latest soundtrack.

But it is a little patchy in places. The Secret of The Machines, featuring Caetano Veloso is just too whimsical. And final track Insomnia, Death and the Sea, with Dawn MccArthy on vocals, while offering a satisfying conclusion does sound a little silly in places, like a soundtrack by a drunk Michael Nyman.

There are similarities to another so-called pop polymath, Owen Pallett, in composition and sense of melody but Bischoff does not quite have that same keen sense of drama, except maybe for The Nest.

As a complete album this is not great, but some of the individual tracks, most notably Eyes  and The Nest are among my favourites of the year. Definitely worth checking out, but one for fast forward button fans in places.

*Bischoff has been called a pop polymath by the New York Times and it refers to an artist’s ability to do more than one thing associated with pop at the same time. Essentially for Bischoff it is the ability to ring up David Byrne, coordinate a string ensemble and write lyrics simultaneiously that impressed the New York Times. A pop polymath is not to be confused with a ‘rock polymath’ such as Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson who has the ability to fly a large passenger airline and air guitar at the same time.  

7/10

by Joe Lepper

Share

Comments (0)

Denison Witmer – The Ones Who Wait

Tags: , ,

Denison Witmer – The Ones Who Wait

Posted on 18 May 2012 by Joe

I’m going to confess that despite his fifteen year career in music,  I only discovered Asthmatic Kitty artist Denison Witmer last month when his ninth and latest CD The Ones Who Wait landed on my doormat.

Listening to the album I can see why he has been the anonymous bridesmaid but never the bride for so long. He can clearly sing well, has a keen sense of melody, just the right blend of instruments and mixing and writes considered lyrics. The problem is there are a hundred thousand  quite good versions of Witmer out there. On this evidence he will continue to struggle to  walk down the aisle of fame.

Part of the problem is that he is far too similar to Josh Rouse. I like Josh Rouse, but I’m not sure I want to listen to another one, I’m quite happy with the original.

His lack of originality does not however make this a bad album. On the contrary it’s a pleasing listen. It’s just none of the tracks or lyrics have stayed with me after several listens, which for me is a key requirement of any singer songwriters’ output.

There’s a nice west coast 70s feel in places, some nice banjo (Influence) and trumpet arrangements (Every Passing Day), but with each track I’ve thought, ‘ooh, I really fancy listening to a bit of Josh Rouse now’.

I feel a  little bad for penning this review especially as Denison is clearly highly accomplished and the subject matter of much of the album, about the death of his father from cancer and his own  fatherhood are weighty and worthy subjects.

As a reviewer though I accept that I may over time change my mind about this album. I did with Asthmatic Kitty’s Sufjan Steven’s most recent album Age of Adz, which grew on me over time. I will keep coming back to this as it is by no means a bad album, it just doesn’t have that same sparkle as many other singer songwriters CDs that drop on my doormat.

6/10

by Joe Lepper

Share

Comments (0)

Beach House – Bloom

Tags:

Beach House – Bloom

Posted on 17 May 2012 by Joe

Beach House’s fourth album is called Bloom for good reason, as it emerges spring like from the icy cold wintery pop of 2010’s breakthrough album Teen Dream.

As with Teen Dream, Bloom is still full of wonderful dreamy synth and guitar pop but the duo, of singer and keyboardist  Victoria Legrand and guitarist Alex Scally, are no longer walking with snow crunching under foot. They are now in a sunlit meadow somewhere gazing at the dandelions and marvelling at the world.

Opener Myth, which has been getting considerable radio airplay in the UK ahead of the album’s release, follows in the same mould as Teen Dream tracks as Norway, but with an added sparkle to the mix as Legrand’s androgynous vocals, like a tuneful Nico, shine throughout.

Across all ten tracks there’s not a single duffer and plenty of potential for further airplay, especially the synth riffs of second track Wild and the choral intro and pure pop of The Hours. There are some lovely segments of tracks too, such as the swirling New Year, which acts as the perfect starter to the main course of Wishes that follows. It is this track that is my highpoint and where Beach House’s journey throughout each track from slow burning dream pop to pure pop euphoria is at its best. Without wishing to be crude Wishes is one of the most orgasmic songs you will hear all year.

Complete, euphoric, even orgasmic in places, on Bloom the band has taken all that was great about Teen Dream and given it a perfect spring clean.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

 

Share

Comments (0)

Girlyman – Supernova

Girlyman – Supernova

Posted on 16 May 2012 by Joe

When Girlyman’s Doris Muramatsu was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010 the band’s world caved in. For the next nine months tours this US vocal harmony folk act’s career was put on hold and Muramatsu embarked on her painfully frightening journey through blood transfusions, hospital visits and chemotherapy.

Finally, last year she received the news this horrific disease was in remission. Supernova, the band’s fifth album is very much about this time and littered with tracks of mortality, bravery and introspection. It’s not a sad album by any means. This is an album about facing death and being dragged back into the light especially on tracks such as Nothing Left and Break Me Slow.

The problem is though that in comparison to their other work, most notably 2009’s Everything’s Easy, this focus on such painful subject matter has meant the fine attention to detail on the vocal production and harmonies appears to have taken a back seat.  Too many tracks seem to focus on one lead singer with backing vocals, rather than the clever three part vocal arrangements on Everything’s Easy. Caroline and Break Me Slow in particular sound bland without such vocal invention.

The mix by Ben Wisch, who did such a fine job making Everything’s Easy sound like the band were in the room with you, has given this latest album a lifeless quality. Which is cruelly ironic given much of the subject matter.

That’s not to say it’s a bad album. It’s sure to please Girlyman’s fans and this reviewer for one is delighted that Muramatsu, a beautifully voiced American I’ve never met, has beaten this horrible disease.

But after a number of listens of the album, St Augustine, with its wonderful melody and cello, is the only track I want to come back to.

Back in my local newspaper journalism days I interviewed many people with leukemia, some fortunate like Muramatsu and some less fortunate. It is a truly terrible disease and we urge you to visit this website  for the Anthony Nolan Trust and feel free to make a contribution or show your support.

6/10

by Joe Lepper

Share

Comments (0)

Advertise Here

Photos from our Flickr stream

See all photos

Advertise Here