Archive | December, 2013

Alasdair Roberts and Robin Robertson – Hirta Songs

Alasdair Roberts and Robin Robertson – Hirta Songs

Posted on 23 December 2013 by Joe

The evacuation of the remote Hebridian archipelago of St Kilda in 1930, due to hunger, illness and a failure of an old way of life to survive in the new,  is one of the defining moments in modern British history.

It has also been a perfect tale for artists, with the director Michael Powell’s superb 1937 film Edge of The World perhaps best depicting the visual horrors and splendour of this battered island. Now we have an aural record to match Powell’s film thanks to folk musician Alasdair Roberts and  the poet Robin Robertson.

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Their album is a perfect marriage of Robertson’s rhythmic, harsh descriptions of the landscape and Robert’s atmospheric music and thickly accented vocals that ooze history and sadness.

Roberts also takes a turn on vocals, reciting Leaving St Kilda and Well of Youth with backing from harpist Corinna Hewat. Of these the nine minute long Leaving St Kilda is the most powerful and the highlight of the album, coming across like a haunting Tolkien-esque version of BBC Radio 4’s The Shipping Forecast. The music is deliberately kept to the back ground on this track to let Robertson’s superb poetry tell its story.

Robert’s music also really shines through, particularly on the traditional sounding Farewell To The Fowler, which has a medieval feel to it showing the extent of the history that the last inhabitants of St Kilda left behind

The whole album is a stunning piece of work about a little known but important part of British history when a traditional society relented in  its battle with the elements and the modern world  at the edge of the world. Listening to Roberts and Robertson’s evocative portrayal of its harsh, jagged landscape it shows how their choice was inevitable.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

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Darren Hayman  – Blue House

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Darren Hayman – Blue House

Posted on 17 December 2013 by Joe

One man musical cottage industry Darren Hayman is continuing his prolific recent run of releases with this five track EP, composed while staying in a blue house surrounded by the flat grasslands and beaches of Norfolk.

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The focus here is less specific than some of his recent releases, which have been about unusual subject such as lidos and witches. Instead the loose theme here is more broad, of life moving on for better or worse, as the middle-aged Hayman looks back on school memories and considers those around him marrying, divorcing and marrying again.

Leaves and Stars with its mix of electric guitar noodling and folk is the key make up, break up and make up with someone else song on this EP. When The School Sold Its Fields looks at the disappearing greenery around schools, which have sold their land for housing estates. But in typical Hayman fashion this is not placard waving stuff at education secretary Michael Gove and his predecessors. Instead Hayman’s approach is more emotional and personal, remembering a sad school memory of the first time he had confronted death, dressed as a ‘China man’ at a PTA international dinner, during a minute’s silence for a deceased head teacher.

Blackleg looks back on changing language and words you don’t hear so much these days, while Kurhaus Blues sees Hayman remembering ruins on a holiday in Austria and imagining them when they were new, something he does frequently. Loose Change is written by his friend Valentune Leys, to return the favour after she sang on one of his previous songs.

Written away from London and with time and peace to reflect on the past and consider the present this is another well executed, thought provoking release from Hayman, whose zeal for constant writing and recording seems to be getting stronger each year.

Blue House was released for the Indie Label Market in November and is available as a digital release and as a  limited edition CD direct from his website Hefnet.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

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Robert Pollard – Blazing Gentlemen

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Robert Pollard – Blazing Gentlemen

Posted on 14 December 2013 by Dorian

I have some problems when reviewing Robert Pollard albums, whether they be under one of his band guises or his own name, and I doubt my objective judgement. I’m a big fan and I must have listened to hundreds of hours of his music over the years since I first picked up a copy of the Grand Hour EP in a Greenwich record shop in the mid-90s.

I have a slightly exhausted resignation to the fact that, for all but the obsessive fans, it will be impossible to persuade most people to listen to his work and in particular his more recent output. And why should they? There are probably dozens of better albums he has produced that they could pick up first. Indeed the sheer scale of his musical output is going to put most people off, where to start? Even if you plump for the obvious choices, Bee Thousand and Alien lanes, you are missing a huge piece of the musical puzzle that Uncle Bob has constructed.

Robert Pollard - Blazing Gentlemen

Let’s take a simple comparison (sorry, I weill get to the review soon) to illustrate the scale of output. My Bloody Valentine famously took 22 years between releases, one of the slowest album outputs in recorded history. What did Bob achieve in the same period? (Deep breath) 15 Guided By Voices albums, 19 solo albums, 5 as Boston Spaceships, 10 as the Circus Devils, 3 as Acid Ranch, 2 as Airport 5, 1 as Cosmos, 1 as Hazzard Hotrods,1 as the Keene Brothers,  1 as Lexo and the Leapers, 2 as Lifeguards, 1 as Mars Classroom, 1 as Phantom Tollbooth, 2 as Psycho and the Birds, 2 as the Takeovers and probably some I’ve missed. This list doesn’t include the hundreds of singles, EPs, live recordings, box sets or demos and miscelallenous other releases. Anyway, I make that 65 albums he has written, recorded and released in the time it has taken Kevin Shields to agonise over one overated single album release. Pretty daunting stuff (Go to http://www.gbvdb.com/ to see the full picture).

So when you listen to a new Robert pollard album you have a lot to compare it to, and a lot of expectation to supress. Blazing Gentlemen sounds, as you would expect, just like a Robert Pollard album and it is not an album full of surprises. What is notable is that it is a comparatively straight-forward album from Bob. Opening track ‘Magic Man Hype’ is an off-kilter rocker, but compared to some of his solo work this is a fairly poppy entry point. The first half of the album rumbles along in a similar way, enjoyable stuff without necessarily making you sit up and take note of song titles.

However, as is often the way with a Pollard album it starts to make sense as it moves along and by the time you have hit the excellent ‘Extra Fool’s Day’ and the galloping ‘1000 Royalty Street’ you almost forget you are listening to another Robert Pollard album and find yourself wrapped up in the music.

Three songs from this second act deserve special mention.  Single ‘Tonight’s The Rodeo’ because of the wonderful decending melody (forgive my lack of musical accuracy – it appears first time 20 seconds in) that makes it sound so timeless. ‘This Place Has Everything’ just for the drama it manages to generate in only 67 seconds. Finally ‘Tea People’ for sounding like something that Blur would have spent weeks conceiving, and you know Bob tossed it off in not much longer than it takes to listen to, and for knowing that 93 seconds is exactly just enough.

I’m not going to give this album a score. If you are a Pollard obsessive you’ll listen to it anyway. If you remain unconvinced (or feel you have already heard enough) then even a 10/10 review is unlikley to tempt you.

If you don’t fit either of these categories then I urge you to give this a listen, the greatest song-writer of his generation (the most prolific at the very least) deserves your attention.

By Dorian Rogers

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Top 20 Albums of 2013

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Top 20 Albums of 2013

Posted on 11 December 2013 by Joe

The first half of the year was a pretty poor period for releases but we just about scrabbled together our June feature,  Top ten albums list of 2013…so far. But since then the rate of excellent releases has picked up pace and now in December we find ourselves struggling to cram them all into a Top 20.  It is therefore with a heavy heart that we chop off some superb 2013 releases by the likes of Jackson Scott, John Howard, PINS and Josh Rouse from this list. We think we’ve got a good range for you here and urge you to read our full reviews, buy their albums and go see them live. Anyway, enough of our guff, on with the list.

20. Young Knives –  Sick Octave

Young Knives

Finally, after over a decade on the sweaty coalface of jerky punk rock,  some long overdue acclaim for this industrious trio. It’s taken a series of well received EPs, extensive tour schedules and three studio albums to get them thus far,  but this fourth offering will, our reviewer John Haylock confidently predicts, cure your jaded and cynical hearts. Read our full review here.

19. Wave Pictures – City Forgiveness

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Conceived on a US tour with Allo Darlin this latest album from the perplexingly under rated Wave Pictures is heavily influenced by the American blues. Thankfully in their stellar guitarist David Tattersall they have a musician who can pay tribute to the blues and put the band’s  very English slant on the genre with aplomb. Some say it’s a little long. But we say, who cares when the bulk of it is so good. Read our full review here.

18. La Femme – Psycho Tropical Berlin

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After watching this video for Antitaxi, the opening track on the debut album from Bairritz based surf popsters La Femme, I’m fairly convinced they are just about the coolest band on the planet, well, in France at least. Blending 60s guitar pop with psychedelia and electronica this album is among the most creative and original of the year. Read our full review here.

17. Thirty Pounds of Bone – I Cannot Sing You Here, But For Songs of Where

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This third album of folk music by Thirty Pounds of Bone, aka Johny Lamb, manages to sound traditional without ever slipping into genre cliche. It is one of the best folk albums released this year and one of the best albums of 2013 full stop. Read our full review here.

16. Mogwai – Les Revenants

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Mogwai’s soundtrack for Les Revenants, the French TV series about the dead returning to haunt a small town, perfectly matches the show’s sense of foreboding. The dead in Les Revenants have feelings too and this is perfectly formed in Mogwai’s brooding mix of piano, cello and percussion and tender glockenspiel. One of the best TV soundtracks you will ever hear.

15. Just Handshakes –Say It

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This impressive debut from Yorkshire’s Just Handshakes features many a familiar C86 sound, with whirly-gig keyboards, chorus pedals and  choppy insightful melodies, all providing the perfect backdrop to the sumptuous, earthy English folk vocals of singer Clara Patrick. Indie pop with a distinct folk twist. Read our full review here.

14. Mum – Smilewound

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Icelandic foursome Mùm’s sixth album Smilewound will draw inevitable comparisons with fellow Nords Sigur Rós. Fortunately this is for all the right reasons. Our reviewer Rob Finch says this is a damn-near perfect album, punch-packed with effortless experimental Scandi dreampop and intelligent, intelligible lyrics. Read our full review here.

13. Robert Pollard – Honey Locust Honky Tonk

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This is Guided by Voices frontman Robert Pollards self-proclaimed country album, but aside from the name, cover and one song (‘I Killed a Man Who Looked Like You’) it would be hard to hear any strong country influences on this album. Our favourite of Pollard’s many solo and Guided By Voices releases this year. Read our full review here.

12. Okkervil River – Silver Gymnasium

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The band’s first on ATO Records is the most autobiographical yet of singer/songwriter Will Sheff’s tenure as Okkervil River frontman as he takes the listener into a brief period of his childhood in the small New Hampshire town of Meriden, where his parents worked in 1986 as teachers at a local boarding school. Its full of influences from the era and the band have even drafted in Cyndi Lauper’s producer to give it that 80s sheen. Read our full review here.

11. Low – The Invisible Way

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Centred around husband and wife duo Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker Low have been fine tuning their brand of so-called slow core rock across ten albums now. The Invisible Way takes the haunting, tender ethos of previous album C’mon one step further. Gone are the overt ’50s and ’60s electric guitar sounds  to be replaced with piano, acoustic guitar and an even softer Americana feel under the direction of producer, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. Read our full review here.

10. Tullycraft – Lost in Light Rotation

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While many of their twee peers are still drinking weak lemon drink from a flask and grumbling about this and that, America’s veteran indie pop outfit Tullycraft have added a good splash of gin to this poor metaphor of a flask and are belting out optimistic happy pop as if the recession and all the other ills since their last album in 2007 had never existed. Read our full review here.

9. Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

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Arguably the longest album title of the year, but one of the most simple albums of the year. Great songs and great voice from the peerless Case. Fans will know there is a darkness to all her albums and this is a much darker beast  than the upbeat Middle Cyclone. One of the true great North American singers. Read our full review here.

8. Mark Mulcahy – Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You

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Classic guitar pop from the former Miracle Legion frontman. Great vocals and some killer tunes here including ‘Poison Candy Heart’  and ‘She Makes The World Turn Backwards’, which our reviewer Dorian Rogers believes should be available in every karaoke booth round the world. Read our full review here.

7. The National   – Trouble Will Find Me

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Born out of the chaos of the hurricane that ripped New York state apart last year the Brooklyn based band have produced one of their most calming and satisfying releases yet. Read our full review here.

6. Southern Tenant Folk Union – Hello Cold Goodbye Sun

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Conflict about musical direction, song choices and album themes, can be a destructive influence for some bands. Fortunately for Southern Tenant Folk Union, the Edinburgh based collective that loosely falls under the folk/bluegrass banner, the opposite has happened and pre-production disharmony has conspired to create one of their best releases and one of the year’s most innovative albums. This is folk and bluegrass like you have never heard it before. Read our full review here.

5. Matthew E White – Big Inner

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White is part of an eclectic country, rock, soul, gospel, you name it, collective of musicians in his native Virginia who are put through their paces with on this, his first album. The end result is timeless country soul at its best and fans of Lambchop’s Nixon are going to love this. Read our full review here.

4. Phosphorescent – Muchacho

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American album of the year and our favourite so far as Phosphorescent’s Matthew Houck expertly blends country, soul, electronica and rock. Perhaps the greatest exponent of sounding epic and in need of a good night’s sleep in modern music. Marvellous stuff. Read our full review here.

3. John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts

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In Pale Green Ghosts, sweary ex-Czars man, John Grant, presents an album of wonderful contradictions. In parts almost dirge-like folk rock, this incredibly raw and openly confessional record is also awash with poppy electronica. Read our full review here.

2. Rotifer –The Cavalry Never Showed Up

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Clever political lyrics mixed with some fine guitar pop make this the best album yet by Austrian broadcaster, artist and now resident of Canterbury Robert Rotifer and his band. With the track  I Just Couldn’t Eat As Much As I’d Like To Throw Up this trio has also served up our favourite song of the year. Read our full review here.

1. Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold

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This US band emerged this year with a sound that has captivated us. Part Sonic Youth, part The Modern Lovers  and with a liberal sprinkling of  Pavement at their most Fall-obsessed this is a noisy, snotty album and the 15 songs fly by with several bum notes but no duff tracks. Read our full review here.

Thanks to all our album reviewers during 2013: Rob Finch, Patricia Turk, Conal Dougan, John Haylock, Scott Hammond, Kevin McGough and Matthew Nicholson.

List compiled by Neonfiller.com co-editors Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers.

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The Amps – Pacer

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The Amps – Pacer

Posted on 08 December 2013 by Dorian

The Amps album, Pacer, is not viewed as an equal among the work of Kim Deal. Her albums with the Pixies are some of the best loved American alternative albums ever and after the critical success of Pod and the commercial success of Last Splash she had firmly made her name as the face of the Breeders. Taking some time off from her main act, originally to record the album solo, it is seen as somewhat of a stop-gap release, and is certainly no way near as commercial as her previous album, with nothing to bother MTV in the way that ‘Cannonball’ did.

If you look at the album on its own merits, it is equal to any of her work with the Breeders and deserves to be recognised as a significant mid-90s release and true exemplar of Deal’s unique songwriting.

The Amps

In essence it is Kim Deal’s Guided By Voices moment. The album was recorded using studio time originally booked for GBV, Jim McPherson and Nate Farley (drums and guitars respectively) would later be GBV members and it contains a cover of a GBV track. It also has the loose immediacy that makes Guided By Voices records so enjoyable. After the slick production of Last Splash that may be one of the reasons why it is not rated so highly (although interestingly the original US chart position for Pacer was higher that its predecessor).

The album is fuzzy, rough and ready with some pretty loose playing on show but it is actually a very consistent and enjoyable record. The 12 songs clock in only just over the half hour mark, it is a pretty classic pop album with a lot of personality.

There are no real duff tracks on the album and a handful are classics that should be included on any Kim Deal compilation cassette. ‘Tipp City’, ‘Bragging Party’ and ‘Full On Idle’ (later included on the Breeders Title TK album) would be my three picks for a desert island. Although perhaps my favourite track is ‘I Am Decided’ a version of a Guided By Voices song that bears little resemblance musically or lyrically to the original. (Listen to them  and play spot the similarities).

The Amps – I Am Decided

Guided By Voices – I Am Decided

By Dorian Rogers

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Songs: Ohia – The Magnolia Electric Co.

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Songs: Ohia – The Magnolia Electric Co.

Posted on 07 December 2013 by Dorian

It is a mystery to me why I came to the work of Jason Molina so late. His music is exactly the kind of thing I normally gravitate to and his prolific career meant that I was long aware of the names Songs Ohia and Magnolia Electric Company (without ever listening to them). In fact I first came to his music after hearing of his decline into ill health (both physical and mental) and picked up copies of two of his albums. Axxes and Ace, which proved to be the perfect introduction to Songs: Ohia, and Josephine a beautiful pure country collection that would become his last work as Magnolia Electric Company.

Jason Molina

His sad death earlier this year lead me to listen to more of his music and the back catalogue is a real goldmine of melancholy gems from a songwriter who never achieved the profile that he deserved. Perhaps the best realised and most accomplished of these albums (although I am far from familiar with them all) is Magnolia Electric Company, just reissued as a 10th anniversary special edition. The album is typically credited to the Songs Ohia moniker, but it is really a transitional album as Molina made a self conscious switch to operating more as a band, and less as a singer-songwriter backed by other musicians.

This is particularly notable on the epic opener ‘Farewell Transmission’ a full on band recording that mixes Molina’s trademark delivery with a Crazy Horse approach to playing. I was never lucky enough see Molina play live, in any of his guises, but people who have say that this song is the closest we have on record to the full band live sound.

The album is book-ended with another seven minute plus song, ‘Hold On Magnolia’, that is a much softer country song but no less epic and packs a real emotional punch. These represent just two songs from several on the album that deserve classic status and demand a place in every self-respecting record collection.

On two songs Molina relinquishes vocal duties. This is only moderately successful when Lawrence Peters  sings ‘The Old Black Hen’ but is inspired on ‘Peoria Lunch Box Blues’ with the voice of Scout Niblett.

Perhaps my favourite song is ‘Just Be Simple’, another tug of the heart-strings; the last minute and a half is a near-perfect combination of simplicity and emotional impact.

The record was engineered by Steve Albini and is among his most successful recordings. The balance of the instruments is great, the vocals wonderfully recorded and there is a real clarity to the sound of the album.

This anniversary edition adds two bonus tracks, and both of them add something to the collection. Better still is the second disc of demo recordings for almost all the songs on the album. This is the opportunity to hear the songs in their original raw form, much like the solo live performances of Jason Molina dotted around YouTube. This gives the songs a different dimension, stripped of anything but Molina’s guitar and voice, making this a must have collection.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

To buy a brilliant tribute album featuring loads of Neon Filler’s favourite bands , raising money to pay for Jason Molina’s medical expense, go here.

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Top 10 Bands To Watch Out For In 2014

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Top 10 Bands To Watch Out For In 2014

Posted on 06 December 2013 by Joe

We are pleased to introduce you to our annual look at the year ahead and those bands and solo acts that we think you should look out for in record shops (yes they still exist, go to them and find out) and gig venues. In our latest list we’ve got bands from the UK, US and South Africa all hand picked by our  our team of  expert contributors.

10. Super Squarecloud

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We heard their song Lollymoon while judging this year’s Glastonbury Emerging Talent competition and fell in love with their blend of math rock and twee pop, It is no surprise that they remind us a lot of XTC with their sense of musical invention, as they too come from Wiltshire. Their debut album Soupeater was released late in 2013 and we think it’ll help catapult them from their south west of England heartland into many more UK lugholes during 2014. (Joe Lepper)

9. Catfish and the Bottlemen

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Led by the implausibly titled Van McCann, the rascally Catfish & The Bottlemen are already armed with an impressive arsenal of incendiary two-minute indie firecrackers that will surely see them blow up some time in 2014. An album is expected early in the new year and is sure to feature some of their current stage set highlights  including the raucous Rango, crowd favourite Sidewinder, and the howitzer that is their single Homesick. Exhaustive touring has already helped catch the ear of BBC radio presenters Zane Lowe and Steve Lamacq who have both championed them. 2014 is the year they explode, mark our words. (Kevin McGough)

8. John Wizards

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Despite receiving critical acclaim from The Guardian and BBC 6 Music, South African six-piece John Wizards have flown somewhat under the radar in 2013. Having supported Jagwar Ma on their UK tour, we are looking for their blend of electro rhythms, township basslines and Graceland-esque guitar riffs to appeal to 2014’s summer festival crowd in particular. Their sound is one of overriding optimism, perhaps stemming from their multicultural lineup and the history of South Africa. If 2014 offers up another heatwave, then John Wizards could provide the perfect soundtrack. (Conal Dougan)

7. New Mendicants

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You’d be hard pressed to find two better exponents of melodic guitar pop than Teenage Fanclub veteran Norman Blake and Pernice Brother Joe Pernice. It makes sense that they would collaborate and as New Medicants they are set for a big 2014 . Joined on drums by Mike Belitsky of The Sadies they have so far released one EP and played some very well received live shows (including their Bristol show which we reviewed) where they mix new songs with their own classics. January dates in the UK followed by their first full album mean they’ll be making a big (if soft and sensitive) noise in 2014. (Dorian Rogers)

6. Withered Hand

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Otherwise known as Dan Willson, this Scottish singer songwriter has signed to indie pop heavyweights Fortuna Pop in the UK and Slumberland Records in the US for the 2014 release of his next album New Gods. Its track Black Tambourine, which was released late in 2013, was enough for us to propel Wilson straight into this list. If the rest of the album is as exciting as this track it’s likely to be a shoo-in for our end of 2014 best albums list. But we are jumping the gun a little. For now, go see him, go buy his album and help him have a great 2014. (Joe Lepper)

5. Making Marks

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It was at 2013’s Indietracks Festival that we first saw Making Marks, the Norwegian indie pop act with a country feel that for the last two years has been steadily building up interest among indie popsters. Their debut album A Thousand Half Truths, featuring the track Barcodes,  is due in February 2013 and we anticipate their audiences will grow as a result. Formed in Oslo their star turns are vocalists Ola Innset, whose intricate guitar picking style is worth paying close attention to, and Nina Bø. (Joe Lepper)

4.  Alex Highton

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Highton’s album Wooditton Wives Club, about his move from London to a small Cambridgeshire village proved to be one of our favourite releases of 2012. Turns out we are not the only ones to be enjoy his refreshing take on folk and pop as improbably Ashton Kutcher is among his fans. The Guardian also likes him and in 2013 interviewed him when he topped their readers’ vote for the best breaking act. 2014 marks a busy year for Highton, who releases his next album Nobody Knows Anything in April. He also has a tour of the UK and Europe planned.  Go see him if you can. (Joe Lepper)

3. Wolf Alice

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Wolf Alice impressed us as one of the best new acts that we saw at the Great Escape Festival this year. A simple mixture of good songs, good playing and assured, if understated, performance made them stand out. This year they’ve released a handful of impressive singles and EPs demonstrating their knack for wistful, melodic indie rock. At the time of writing they were due to headline the Club NME New Year’s Eve Ball at Koko, which shows how highly they are regarded by the music press, and we expect to see much more of them in 2014. (Dorian Rogers)

2. Temples

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These  psychedelic rock revivalists from Kettering emerged during 2013 after their virtues were extolled by the likes of Noel Gallagher and Johnny Marr. First coming to the attention of Heavenly Records founder Jeff Barrett  in 2012 with the self-produced ‘Shelter Song,’ Temples soon evolved  into a full touring band over the next 12 months and, despite their youth, they have added a  watertight live dynamic to accompany their considerable song-writing chops. They certainly impressed us when we caught their Bristol show late in 2013. Think the melodies of psychedelic-era Beatles, the 12-string jangles of The Byrds and a hint of Madchester bagginess; all  given a hypnotic contemporary twist. Over the next 12 months we predict many more than Marr and Gallagher will be left impressed. (Scott Hammond)

1. Hospitality

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As debuts go Hospitality’s self titled 2012 album has been among the best we’ve heard since Neonfiller launched in 2009. Signed to Fire Records this Brooklyn trio’s set is full of infectious pop hooks all delivered superbly by lead singer Amber Papini, whose songwriting and vocals perfectly sum up all the hopes and fears of the developed world’s 20 somethings. But these are no mere indie, niche act as the likes of the mainstream Rolling Stone are  among their many admirers. After a quiet 2013 they are back in 2014 with a new album Trouble, including the song I Miss Your Bones, which displays an even keener ear on appealing to mainstream and indie audiences alike. (Joe Lepper)

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Crushed Beaks – Moles, Bath (November 28, 2013)

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Crushed Beaks – Moles, Bath (November 28, 2013)

Posted on 03 December 2013 by Joe

It’s highly unlikely that many of the young folks in attendance tonight have an awareness of London-based noise-pop duo Crushed Beaks, who released their excellent debut EP ‘Tropes,’ in September. In this Somerset university town, it appears that Moles’ indie disco night offering £2.50 pints, two for one shorts and free entry before midnight are the main motivations for the predominantly student audience. However, amongst the fledgling youth there is a smattering of grey-hairs and receding hairlines representing the old hands, no doubt with a kinship for Moles and its considerable heritage of showcasing the nascent talents of bands such as The Smiths, Oasis and Radiohead.

Crushed Beaks

Crushed Beaks

Though the majority of the audience is seemingly preoccupied with acquiring drinks at the upstairs bar during local support act Twin Falls’ set, the urgency of Matt Poile’s telecaster and boisterous vocal as he fires into the opening ‘Tropes,’ sees a mass exodus from above. The visceral clamour of the song’s first verse demands to be respected and, like a tractor beam, the music draws a near instantaneous flocking towards the stage.

“Welcome to Bath….Bath….I need a Bath,” Poile states somewhat awkwardly as he addresses the crowd for the first time. There is nothing wavering about his musical delivery, however; backed by Alex Morris’ relentlessly ferocious drumming, his garage-infused guitar and leary vocal that sometimes bears a Strummer-like resemblance are nothing short of assertive.

The striking thing about Crushed Beaks, despite the fact that their sounds emerge from just a single drum-kit and solitary guitar, is just how raucously loud they are. Taking us from one joyful scuzz-pop racket to the next with the punk inflected, anti-virtuosity of Poile’s playing and Morris’ powerful machine gun drum fills, the pair create a pleasing sonic turbulence. However, conspicuous within the cacophony, are their greatest assets: a melodic sensibility and ear for a hook.

The verse to ‘Lies,’ with its reverbed arpeggios slows things down a little and offers some breathing space before sharp guitar chops and another frenetic drum fill become harbingers of the tuneful clatter of another chorus that sticks pleasantly in the memory. The young crowd are receptive to the songs and the prevalent display of audience movement is mirrored by the mobility of Poile; the front man being animated throughout as he bounces around the stage with insouciant skips and swaying bodily movements.

Within the set are a couple of new tunes that, while undoubtedly being of the same stock of the more familiar tunes, sound strong enough on first hearing to provide an excited anticipation of what the duo could achieve with a full album of material in 2014.

2012 single ‘Breakdown’ makes an appearance towards the end of the set and its distinctly disparate ska-pop rhythms offer the first slow song of the night and, despite its quality, it highlights that Crushed Beaks in 2013 are a much changed, and no nonsense, incarnation.

‘Feelers,’ the opening track from their debut is the final track of the night. Described by the group as a song about “the unknowability of others,” the track’s clattering discordance is a fitting end to a powerfully noisy set.

Then it’s time to hit the bar and take advantage of the discounted drinks as I queue up alongside the annoyingly youthful sprawl of students. I order a Carling for £2.50 and, while this represents a bargain by today’s standards, it is the spectacle of having watched a stirring set by Crushed Beaks totally free of charge that has easily provided the night’s best value.

By Scott Hammond

 

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