Archive | February, 2014

Top Ten Best Debut Albums (That Don’t Usually Make Best Debut Album Lists)

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Top Ten Best Debut Albums (That Don’t Usually Make Best Debut Album Lists)

Posted on 28 February 2014 by Dorian

A good debut album is a tough ask. Most bands starting out are mere songwriting and production novices who use their debut to test the water before unleashing a killer second or third album. Others just nail it first time. There has already been a fair few best debut albums lists but when we were looking through these we noticed a fair few noticeable absentees. We thought it was about time to give credit where its due and pay tribute to those that do not always make such lists. We’ve got lost albums that were only really heard decades later. We’ve also got popular albums that were perhaps not cool enough for some lists. We’ve also got others that were overshadowed by later releases. So what is our benchmark? Its simple, if it’s a great debut but not on the NME or Rolling Stone’s existing debut albums lists then its in. Anyway enough of the rambling, on with the list…

10. Tigercats – Isle of Dogs (2012)

 

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On this most recent debut on our list London based indie-popsters Tigercats show that they have more about them than a penchant for an afro-beat guitar lick and smart lyric. Here they present a frantic road trip around their East End home, visiting record stores, laughing at hipsters in trendy bars and drunkenly staggering home lamenting on the social divides of the capital. Of course that’s our interpretation. When we asked lead singer Duncan Barrett about how they managed to come up with the concept, he revealed that the tracks were merely the best ones they had at the time. In fact he  looked somewhat puzzled when I even suggested it was a great ‘concept album’  for Coalition government era London.  Happy accident or not, we urge you to check this out. (JL)

9. The Specials – The Specials (1979)

 

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I didn’t live in Coventry in the late 70s but amazingly this album almost makes me wish I had. Combining covers of 60s ska classics with a host of original material, there isn’t a duff track to be heard. Who can listen to Nite Klub without thinking it must have been written about somewhere they’ve been? Concrete Jungle combines social commentary with some amazing guitar playing, the lyrics should be depressing but instead are amazingly uplifting. Dawning of a New Era perfectly captures both the hope and despair as the 70s slipped away into what would be the Thatcherite 80s. The whole album combines great musicianship with thought provoking lyrics. Some of the characters in songs such as Too Much Too Young and Little Bitch are at face value pitiful yet somehow one can’t help but think everyone was having so much more fun back then. (MB)

8. The Go! Team – Thunder, Lightning, Strike (2004)

 

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Thunder, Lightning, Strike is to all intent and purposes a solo album by bedroom recording artist Ian Parton. He cleverly records it under the Go! Team moniker (complete with esoteric punctuation) as he knows. as an obvious music geek, that the mystique of the “band” is part of the appeal. It is one of the most infectious albums of the last quarter century, immediate and energetic. It also performs a pretty neat trick of sounding unlike anything else, whilst being, partly through ingenious sample use. instantly familiar. Even the song titles make you smile and even if you don’t get the references, for example the  motorbiking TV show Junior Kick start is unlikely to be well known these days, they all sound pretty cool. As punky as it is funky, as much in thrall to film soundtracks as hip hop beats, it really is as much fun as you can cram on a CD. The current issue is great even if the extra track is unnecessary and the version of ‘Bottle Rocket’ isn’t as perfect as the original. (DR)

7. John Howard – Kid in a Big World (1975)

 

John Howard -Kid In A Big World

We’ve written about John Howard and his excellent debut album a lot since we were introduced to his music by Neonfiller.com favourite Ralegh Long. Snapped up by CBS in the 1970s he was sort of the next Elton John, but had more of an alternative, melancholy edge to his music. In the end his record company and mainstream radio didn’t really know how to market him to the masses. He made a few more records, but quit to became a music executive only to emerge in recent years with a second prolific recording career, with around a dozen releases since his 2005 comeback. It’s understandable why this album is not on other debut album lists, people quite simply never really got to hear it. But they were missing out. Here are some superb glam pop tracks and piano ballads, such as Family Man and Goodbye Suzie,  that in a more discerning alternative universe would have made him one of the biggest acts of the 1970s. (JL)

6. Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Searching for the Young Soul Rebels (1980)

 

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Like so many others I first got into Kevin Rowland and Dexy’s Midnight Runners because of the song Come On Eileen and the album Too Rye Aye. I became obsessed with them in a way only teenagers do and started to seek out their earlier material which soon led me to Searching for the Young Soul Rebels. Recorded only two years previously with a largely different band it’s a harder, edgier sound, swirling organs and storming brass overlaying  bass, drums and guitar are a marked contrast to the violins and banjos of the Eileen era but for me it is Rowland at his finest. There’s anger and passion a plenty in songs such as Burn it Down, Tell Me When My Light Turns Green and Seven Days Too Long, a number one hit in Geno, and my personal favourite There, There, My Dear. (MB)

5. Hefner – Breaking God’s Heart (1998)

 

Breaking Gods Heart

Darren Hayman has stated that Breaking God’s Heart is his least favourite Hefner album. It isn’t my favourite either, that is an accolade that swings regularly between The Fidelity Wars and We Love The City,  but it is a pretty perfect statement of intent and is an essential album in Hefner’s near perfect back catalogue. In fact it is the elements that make this such a good album that most likely bother Hayman, the rough edged recording, the adolescent lyrics and the far from perfect vocals. It sounds like a band starting out, like a band that is raw and passionate and a band that is bursting with brilliant songs they want to get on record. ‘The Sweetness That’s Withi’ is wonderful; not many bands start their first album with a song as strong as this. In fact the first four songs on the album, through The Sad Witch and the Hymn For The Postal Service are as good a quartet of album openers as I can remember. The last of the four Love Will Destroy Us In The End probably has the best opening 40 seconds of any indie pop song in the 90s. I suspect the same song also offers up the most cock-sure guitar solo of Hayman’s career. (DR)

4. The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band- Gorilla (1967)

 

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Formed at art college in the 60s the Bonzos struck upon the decidedly odd idea to reinvent traditional 1920s jazz in a then modern age of psychedelia and kaftans. The result is funny,  inventive and above all superb. The key to the Bonzo’s success and the greatness of this, their best album, was the songwriting of Neil Inness and the late Vivian Stanshall. Liverpudlian Innes, the genius behind The Rutles, was arguably as good a song writer as Lennon and McCartney. His track Equestrian Statue is a real high point. As for Stanshall, the east end lad with a knack for lampooning the English upper classes like no other, he delivers vocal treat after treat on tracks such as Cool Britannia, the Intro and the Outro and I’m Bored, which to this day are regularly used on TV, film and advertising. (JL)

3. Blondie- Blondie (1976)

 

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Perhaps opening your debut album with a song about a sex offender isn’t the most commercial of moves but in the long term it doesn’t seem to have done Blondie much harm. It’s an excellent start to an excellent album that sadly over the years has been overshadowed by the more fully realised new wave pop sound of their later albums Eat to the Beat and Parallel Lines. Tracks on this debut, such as Little Girl Lies have much more 60s rock ‘n roll influence but the new wave attitude is bubbling away nicely on Look Good in Blue, In the Sun and Rifle Range. Debbie Harry’s vocals, churning out these sassy and funny lyrics, sound amazing and the whole band is clearly reveling in the chance to leap out of the New York punk scene of clubs such as CBGBs and Kansas City for a short time and into the recording studio, where they continued to improve for the rest of the 70s. (MB)

2. Supergrass – I Should Coco (2005)

 

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Why on earth doesn’t Supergrass’s  debut I Should CoCo take pride of place on other best debut albums lists?  It’s a glorious rollercoaster of a debut, packed with great guitar pop and above all fun. Just listen to one of its singles Caught by the Fuzz or Alright, and marvel at the cheeky chappie thrill ride of a three minute pop track that they are. I challenge you not to get up and start running across the nearest beach arms flailing around and declaring your adoration for life itself after listening to it this album. And it’s not just us that love it, even if it has been cruelly overlooked by the likes of NME and Rolling Stone. It reached number one in the UK album charts and is now platinum selling. The best Brit pop album of the 1990s? Well, its hard to find one that’s more fun certainly. (JL)

1. Sparklehorse – Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot (1995)

 

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Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot seemed to come out of nowhere when I first purchased it in shortly after its release. I knew nothing of Mark Linkous and his time in the Dancing Hoods or even that he had co-written a song on one of my favourite Cracker albums, even though Cracker frontman David Lowery is a secret contributor on this album under the name David Charles. This was purely an on spec purchase that sucked me in from first listen and instantly gave them “my new favourite band” status. Linkous’s  issues with mental health, and his eventual suicide, cloud his music now but at the time (although there is obvious sadness on the album) it is a very uplifting recording.

Songs move from delicate, such as Homecoming Queen to the noisy, such as Rainmaker via surreal noise interludes, most notably 350 Double Pumper Holey, without sounding at all unnatural or lacking cohesion. This is an album that covers so much ground whilst retaining the unique Sparklehorse identity. You want a banjo driven country epic? Well, listen to Cow. You want an indie disco classic with crunching guitars? Well, there is Someday I Will Treat You Good to scratch that itch. This outstanding debut is oddly left off far too many debut albums lists and we are delighted to give it top billing here. (DR)

Written and compiled by Martin Burns, Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

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Catfish & the Bottlemen, The Louisiana, Bristol (25th February, 2014)

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Catfish & the Bottlemen, The Louisiana, Bristol (25th February, 2014)

Posted on 27 February 2014 by Kevin McGough

Armed with incendiary 2-minute indie firecrackers, fiery choruses and a stadium sized sound Catfish & The Bottlemen are here primed for the big time and aren’t afraid to tell you about it.

Having been impressed last year by these rascally boys from Llandudno, who made our Top Ten Acts To Watch Out For in 2014 list, I was intrigued to see how preparations for their debut album – to be released later this year – were coming along and what progress had been made in the intervening four months since I had seen them.

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Signs of the strides they have made even in the short time since last we met are all around, from the slicker more substantial merch store that greets us as we arrive, to the swollen size of the crowd that have packed into the Louisiana for this re-engagement.

All clad in plain black post-punk attire they are led by their implausibly titled frontman Van McCann – Miles Kane meets Joey Ramone – and waste no time on introductions deciding instead to dive straight into an extended intro of feedback and swagger that then fuses into previous single Rango. While many of the key elements remain intact from my previous encounter there is clearly a more toned feel to the interplay and a discernibly stronger audience reaction with the crowd returning every line from the off.

The ‘it’ factor is an entirely subjective notion but as McCann’s scouse charm (half comedian/half front man) beguiles the crowd it becomes obvious that his very blood runs thick with the stuff.

He later admits that he is indeed a test tube baby (a fact that has inspired the bands obsession with spermoza – see video for Rango and band logo) and perhaps this is where his charismatic, yet endearingly modest, genealogy was crafted.

New single Kathleen sits confidently amongst their other hits and as they recount has just that very night been named by BBC radio’s Zane Lowe as his Hottest Single in the World – the second time they have received this recognition.

Storming through song after song Pacifier could almost be mistaken as the theme tune to This Life dripping as it does with enough 90s musical nostalgia that would make an Elastica reunion seem palpably modernist.

They have indicated prevously that they have three albums worth of material already and at points they do wander from the more familiar path into the murkier waters of experimentalism (see Hourglass, Alabaster and Test Tube Baby ) to see what works and what doesn’t around their core numbers as the lineup of their debut album is finalised.

Homesick is still their standout track and is a two minute howitzer that explodes from a strummed intro into its stadium sized chorus. Hands reach out desperately into the sticky air to salute as lines are sung raucously to the sky like any closing-time classic worth its salt.

The Bottlemen leave it all on the stage and finish with standard closer Tyrants. A six-minute stomp whose stampeding start sounds like the soundtrack to the closing scene of a heroic western and brings proceedings to a halt with an exclamation mark!

Genuinely moved by the whole experience McCann invites all and sundry to join them for a drink afterward in a way only he could make sound inviting and not boastful and by the throng that await their arrival downstairs afterward its clear he has the common touch. How long this personable interaction can survive as their ascent continues apace is a conversation for another day. Catch the Bottlemen while you still can.

New single Kathleen is released on 6th April.

by Kevin McGough

 

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Sun Kil Moon – Benji

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Sun Kil Moon – Benji

Posted on 26 February 2014 by Joe

It’s quite an ability to write 11 songs about grief and death and make it one of the year’s most uplifting releases. On each of the songs on Benji, Mark Kozelek, under his Sun Kil Moon moniker,  takes us through some downright horrific tales of loss, but we emerge at the end treasuring life and ultimately happy.

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There’s the second cousin who dies in a horrific accident on Carissa, as well as murder, suicide and the simple tragedy of dying of old age. The loss on this album is also of relationships, such as on the brutally explicit Dogs and the loss of youth, on album epilogue Ben’s My Friend. On this track the aging Kozelek doesn’t take the chance to hang out back stage at a Postal Service gig with his friend Ben Gibbard but instead drives home and laments about the ‘sports bar shit’ taking over his town centre and moans about having to stand up for so long at the gig.

Despite the maudlin subject matter there’s an uplifting quality throughout, conveyed through the deep joy of remembering the lives that have been lost and of giving a meaning and depth to each character that he sings of.  On Carissa, he wants to know more about the life of his second cousin and through the rich lyrical story telling we the listener want to know more too. Each tale is gripping and as good as any good novel.

Benji is at its most poignant and powerful when it tackles the loss that is yet to come. Both Kozelek’s parents are still alive, but the devastation when they eventually depart is beautifully covered on the tracks I Love My Dad and I Can’t Live Without My Mother’s Love.

While clearly drawn from his own life, there is also fiction and artistic license here.  We are not quite sure whether Kozelek genuinely knew all those people he is referring to. Some he admits to, while others have only a small inspiration in reality. Jim Wise, for example,  is a real friend of his father’s, although not by that name.

Musically Kozelek’s acoustic and Portuguese guitars, supplemented by former Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley on percussion and drums, and even a horn section on Ben’s a Friend of Mine, fit the mood perfectly. Vocally Kozelek has developed an extra gravelly gravitas, but there’s still sweetness especially from the backing vocals provided by Will Odlham among others.

Where this stands in Kozelek’s catalogue is high, possibly at the summit. As a piece of story telling its on a par, if not better than his other two Sun Kil Moon masterpieces April and Ghosts of the Great Highway. This combination of lyrical and musical perfection to create a mood and connect with the listener about their life and any loss they feel makes this for me a faultless album deserving of only my second ever top score for a new album in five years of reviewing.

10/10

By Joe Lepper

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Pernice Brothers – Yours, Mine and Ours

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Pernice Brothers – Yours, Mine and Ours

Posted on 24 February 2014 by Dorian

By the time Joe Pernice’s band of brothers got round to releasing this, their third album, the music community had started to lose interested. Originally mainly promoted by the alt-country press they had made it pretty plain that they weren’t going to sound like his previous band The Scud Mountain Boys. They weren’t even going to have the big string sections that had received such plaudits on their previous outings, I  still remember the dissapointed expression on the face of the person who sold me the CD.

yours mine ours

In fact this album is clearly in just as much thrall to UK 80s indie bands as it is with Teenage Fanclub, country music or any of their other previous influences. Brilliantly written by Joe Pernice, with some career best guitar work by Peyton Pinkerton (more on him later) this may well be the best album the band produced. More than that it might be one of the best guitar pop albums of the 2000s.

The album opens with the fuzzy guitar pop blast of ‘Weakest Shade of Blue’, a proper “should have been a top ten hit” contender, complete with joyous vocal harmonies and sparkling guitar melody. From there on in it is a blast of songs of such consistent quality that the relative obscurity of the band is mystifying on listening today.

The beauty of Pernice’s work is the mismatch of music and lyrics, tonally at least. A generally upbeat sound is a deliberate disguise for the predominantly downbeat lyrics here. That isn’t to say that this is a sad listen, Pernice is too sophisticated a songwriter for that, and he is possessed of enough wit and warmth to carry the sadness.

New Order are an obvious influence on a couple of places on this album, most notably on, arguably the best track here, ‘Sometimes I Remember’. Peyton Pinkerton is a brilliant guitarist, from his early work with New Radiant Storm King through the Pernice Brothers up to his debut solo album he released last year, his playing has been some of the best on record. His work on ‘Sometimes I Remember’ is just perfect, managing to bridge the gap between 21st century American pop music and the Factory Records circa 1983. Almost as good is ‘Number Two’ where the subdued vocals and piano is punctuated with some pretty fierce fret work.

All in all this is one of those records that you can come back to again  and again and it will sound as fresh and as timeless as the first time you played it. The best slice of 1980s UK indie influenced 21st century Americana you’ve never heard, Probably.

By Dorian Rogers

This review was inspired when I revisited Joe Pernice’s back catalogue after seeing The New Mendicants and listening to their debut album. I’d recommend pretty much anything he has recorded, with great songs across his career. Listen to a Spotify playlist of some of his best tracks here.

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The Kindling – Half Light EP

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The Kindling – Half Light EP

Posted on 21 February 2014 by Patricia Turk

Every now and again I like to take a good gloomy mood and run with it.  Make the most of a melancholy moment, indulge a sad Sunday – in the nicest possible way. These occasions are always accompanied by a soundtrack (and red wine). In the past, this has included a bit of Low, or Nick Cave, or even Scottish misery merchants Arab Strap. But I’ve recently been introduced to The Kindling, a London-based band that manages to make muted melancholia so enticing that I may well make an effort to linger low a little while longer.

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The Kindling seems an ideal name for a band whose sound, to me, is a bit like something burgeoning, but going nowhere fast – and that’s a good thing. It’s comfortable place to occupy, a dreamy, hushed world of minor notes and dark harmonies.  Their second EP ‘Half Light’ is a study in restraint and subtlety, culminating in beautifully dark folk music, accompanied by finely realised lyrics.

Formed in early 2011 as a vehicle for singer/songwriter Guy Weir’s songs, The Kindling has developed from a duo featuring Leon Baker on drums (whom Weir met when they were both involved in a second incarnation of late 1990s dreampop band Drugstore) to a four-piece line-up that now features Tomas Garcia on drums, bassist Ben Ramster and Steph Lunt on backing vocals. They’ve had some successes already, with the lead single from first EP ‘From out of the wreckage’, getting them on to the Glastonbury  Festival Emerging Talent Competition long list in 2011, and support slots for Daughter and Laura Stevenson.

But it’s Half Light that has grabbed music bloggers’ attention. There’s something of pistols at ten paces about first track The Longwave, which conjures an image of a bleak, desolate American-west landscape at twilight. Breathe In has elements of the more mellow moments of Radiohead (Exit music for a film, No surprises). I also hear bits of Oklahoma band Other Lives in this, but, with both comparisons, The Kindling are still much more subtle, more pared back.

Hunting Stars is the standout track for me. The lyrics have fantastic imagery (‘You are the clench inside a fist’), and sweet sentiment. None of the Dreaming is as stripped as it gets, just Weir singing and plucking at minor chords, backed by little more than those haunting harmonies and the odd little quiver of the tambourine.

Influences such as Sparklehorse, Mount Eerie, and Tom Waits are evident in Half Light’s slow-burn simmer, and Weir’s voice has a stillness that commands your attention – I found myself hanging on every word.  It is music that is very in touch with itself, self-contained and a little bit strange.  It managed to make me feel both hazy in body and sharp in mind.

It’s something I can picture myself listening to alone, on a dark, cold, rainy Sunday afternoon – and loving it.  They’re about to start work on their next set of recordings for release in autumn/winter, and I’ll be listening out for what comes next with great interest.

8/10

by Patricia Turk

For more information about The Kindling visit their website here.

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Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent 2014: Two more acts to impress

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Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent 2014: Two more acts to impress

Posted on 17 February 2014 by Joe

After around 150 songs I’m at the end of my first phase of judging for the Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent Contest. As I entered the final segment of entries two acts stood out above the crowd. My task now is to find three acts from these two, these four as well as these three acts to present to the longlist judging panel. Just a reminder that the longlist panel will be putting through their favourite eight to the live final battle of the bands in Pilton, near the festival site, in April. The top prize is a slot on one of the festival’s main stages.

DB Cohen

Dan Cohen bills himself as a cross between Bob Dylan, Ray Davies and Madness and has a love of The Rolling Stones. Strangely he doesn’t mention Billy Bragg though, his closest comparison. He’s certainly got enough about him to raise his entry above the fold; a swagger perhaps, or a sense of belonging and being grounded in his music and environment, as he proudly sings in his south London accent. Great guitar playing as well.

Ukes of Hazard

I’ve seen some ukuleles in my time but never one that can do a heavy metal solo. In fact these Ukes of Hazard haven’t stopped at mere fret onanism, they have a whole rock guitar and bass section made from souped up ukes. A novelty for sure, but one that rocks the hell out of a lovely little instrument.

 

by Joe Lepper

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St Vincent – St Vincent

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St Vincent – St Vincent

Posted on 14 February 2014 by Conal Dougan

Art rock stalwart St Vincent, aka Manhattan’s Annie Clark, recently revealed that she tries to live ‘at the intersection of accessible and lunatic’. If her latest, eponymously titled, album is anything to go by, this is something she achieves with great success.

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Fans of St Vincent’s 2012 collaboration with David Byrne on the excellent Love This Giant LP will be pleased with much of her new material. Album opener Rattlesnake and single Digital Witness feature the same exuberant, chopped up percussion and cheerful brass and synths, albeit lacking Byrne’s nerdy, longing vocals to complement Clark’s more wispy voice. The energy in the tracks is matched only by their refusal to settle into a groove, pleasingly tugging the listener into new directions whenever it feels like it.

Elsewhere on the album, Clark effortlessly switches between melodic ballads, garage rock and numerous other musical styles. Huey Newton combines, bizarre as it may sound, low-fi hip hop tunes with marching band percussion and, eventually, electro-grunge. Prince Johnny and I Prefer Your Love feature Clark in Kate Bush mode, heartfelt lyrics juxtaposed with choral backing and soaring synths. These are the album’s most moving tracks.

It is Clark’s ability to leap from one idea and musical theme to the next while keeping the listener engaged that is her real selling point. She does this by creating memorable, bold melodies to latch on to fizzing backing tracks, and several of the songs do an excellent job of sticking in the listener’s mind for days. Lyrically, Clark switches from the melancholy – describing her work as party music “you can play at a funeral” – to the mundane. Birth in Reverse runs details her morning routine, including taking out the rubbish and masturbating, and calls to mind Nick Cave’s ability to juxtapose lyrics on everyday happenings with emotional intensity.

While it is unlikely that Clark will ever gain mainstream popularity – something she is certainly not looking for – it remains the case that she produces consistently engaging, challenging material, and this latest album bears testament to that. Her UK tour takes her only to London and Manchester, something which may disappoint her fans from further reaches. However, they are compensated here in this album with new bold, eccentric and memorable material that Clark is so deft at deploying.

8/10

by Conal Dougan

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Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent 2014: Three More Acts To Impress So Far

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Glastonbury Festival Emerging Talent 2014: Three More Acts To Impress So Far

Posted on 11 February 2014 by Joe

Over February I’m  listening to around 150 new, emerging bands and artists as a judge for the Glastonbury Emerging Talent competition. There are around 40 other music writers like me busy looking over their spread sheet and plugging themselves into Soundcloud and Youtube. Last week I showcased these four acts who have impressed me so far. This week I’ve got three more for you as I head into the final few entries on my list.  For more information about this excellent contest, click here.

The Gnarwhals

Garage punk act The Gnarwals sing songs about skating legends, sound like they can barely play and are as yet the only band I’ve ever seen attempt to crowd-skate (yes crowd surfing with a skateboard). What’s not to love? Channelling the energies of great UK skate rock bands like The Stupids, mixing in the punk DIY ethos of Australia’s Eddy Current Suppression Ring, this lot have enough to grab my attention. The fact that their 2013 album is called Fuck Cameron as well also demands I take notice as does their Facebook blurb, which says under interests “Stressing the Gnarliness of the Gnarwhal since 1879.”

The Mourning Suns

I’m a sucker for a bunch of folkies hanging around in woods. Step forward The Mourning Suns complete with double bass to satisfy my Pentangle cravings as well. From Birmingham this act have the makings a great band on the folk festival circuit and this clip of their track A Cloud certainly makes me want to hear more, especially with the appropriately mournful viola of Lizze Chan-Foxley and vocals from Rosie Wilkes.

History of Sleep

There can be a tendency with acoustic guitar based music to over complicate things. We’ve all seen those blokes who start drumming away midway through on the woodwork, or frantically bashing away at bar chords until it all becomes a mess. The old cliché of less is more is there for good reason and that’s something History of Sleep does really well, just gentle picking of chords, the melody backing the simple lyrics well. Above all his voice is natural sounding and honest with no pretention. A welcome relief in a complicated world.

Anywhere from History of Sleep on Vimeo.

by Joe Lepper

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Let’s Wrestle – Let’s Wrestle

Let’s Wrestle – Let’s Wrestle

Posted on 07 February 2014 by Patricia Turk

Snotty-nosed, scuzzed-up punk is how Let’s Wrestle was described when the band first emerged in 2008. They had a sound that their press team admits made it hard to imagine them lasting five weeks, let alone five years.

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And yet they’re about to release their third, self-titled album, which to me is less scuzzy punk and more London troubadour via Newquay. It’s twangy, surf-rock with an introspective, heartfelt edge. Not your run-of-the-mill combination.

Named after a book by David Shrigley, Let’s Wrestle was formed by Wesley Patrick Gonzalez on guitar and vocals, Darkus Bishop on drums and Mike Lightning on bass. They recorded their first two albums with that line-up before Mike left and was replaced by Sam Pillay (who left after the recording of the new album to focus on his band, Virginia Wing).

The third album also saw the addition of Max Claps of The Proper Ornaments on guitar, and there are guest appearances by Darren Hayman on B Bender guitar, Meilyr Jones from Racehorses on organ and Max Bloom from Yuck on trumpet.

Citing the psych-pop pioneers of the 1960s and Laurel Canyon cowboys of the 1970s as influences, the album does have a sun-shiney feel despite being born out of dank old London. In fact, the lyrics are often at odds with the music, which is mostly chirpy and in juxtaposition to inward-looking, emotional lines like ‘I thought to myself, I’ve got nothing to do with me’.

The songs are also apparently an open account of Gonzalez’s life, and on closer listen, they do have a sense of transition from boy to man about them, more so when you consider that their two previous albums, In the Court of Wrestling Lets (2009) and Nursing Home (2011), were written when he was still in his teens.

I like the local references woven into the lyrics, which give the songs an instant nostalgia, like in Codeine and Marshmallows, referencing the Queensbridge Road in Hackney (and for the record, apparently they have an after taste of sick, blood and loneliness). It gives them a time and a place, what’s been described as evoking feeling through location.

Best tracks on the album for me are Don’t Want to Know Your Name, which has a great little strings and brass build-up in the middle. In fact, the odd bit of orchestration is scattered throughout the album, giving the album an interesting lift. Wrexham Aluminium, one of the more gloomy tracks on the album (‘Your girlfriend’s been crying…’), and Irish Sea (I shot a bird out of a tree, It was an accident, but you didn’t see) are also stand outs. Second track I Am Fond of You has echoes of The Shins’ circa Chutes Too Narrow, and there’s a sweet duet with Roxanne Clifford of Veronica Falls in Pull Through for You.

In my opinion there’s nothing terribly ground-breaking here, but it’s a charming, pleasant listen, and I do think Gonzalez is a talented lyricist. It’s a nice album of sensitive songs that belies their teenage-boy name.

6.5/10

by Patricia Turk

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Stergin’s Window Farm – Grow

Stergin’s Window Farm – Grow

Posted on 05 February 2014 by Joe

Vinzenz Stergin is an odd sort of chap.  On one hand this Austrian born, London based composer is a very serious musician. His work has been performed at the International String Quartet Festival, London,  as well as the Festival of Time & Space at the Royal Observatory. He has also toured with Tom Norris, the principal violinist at the London Symphony Orchestra.

On the other hand he’s a silly bugger who writes songs about a caribou called Stu and a bloke with his face on back to front. He also has a weekly Youtube post where he sets a newspaper article to music.

stergin

On the evidence of Grow, from Stergin and his ‘Window Farm’ ensemble, it’s a blend that works well, proving it pays to be serious about being silly.

With the Window Farm’s violin, cello and percussion backing it is also about as psychedelic as its possible to be with a bunch of strings; ending up like a fantastic mix of Donovan (Barabajagel era) and Dukes of Stratosphear, the still superb 1980s side project of XTC.

The echo fade out on Jack and Jill provides a lovely aural lava lamp lighting up the inventive strings on second track Run. Human Being is darn fine psychpop and the track Frank is just completely teapots and the one about a man with his face on backwards. The penultimate track features the aforementioned caribou. Of all the tracks it is Frank that appeals to me the most, sounding like a cross between the Mr Men cartoons from the 1970s and the meandering, jazzy verse and catchy chorus  technique that makes XTC’s songs so good.

But there is a also  sense that his music is a work in progress and he’s yet to peak. I’d love to hear what he does with a full orchestra or using more electronic instruments. Maybe it’d ruin the warmth he conveys here. I think though there’s plenty more ambitious work to come from him beyond his window box of caribous and violins.

8/10

By Joe Lepper

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