Archive | October, 2014

Jim Noir – Finnish Line

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Jim Noir – Finnish Line

Posted on 29 October 2014 by Joe

We talk a lot about pop music here. Not that modern rubbish, obviously. The good stuff from the 1960s, Paul McCartney and David Bowie stuff from the 1970s or New Wave hits from the early 1980s. We look for those three minute pop gems with their bright, crunching guitars, oh-so clever and bittersweet lyrics and synths in most new music. When we find it we hold it high on our pop pedestal. Earlier this month Papernut Cambridge, the ensemble cast assembled by former Death in Vegas man Ian Button, scratched our pop itch with There’s No Underground, an ode to suburban pop through the decades. Now its Jim Noir’s turn to dazzle us.

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Noir, aka Alan Roberts from Davyhulme, Greater Manchester, has always had a great ear for a catchy pop tune. Since his debut EP Eanie Meany in 2004 he has been channeling all our favourite pop influences to great effect and Finnish Line, his fifth album is no exception. But while Button’s canvas was the surburbia of Sidcup, Noir’s is grimy post industrial Greater Manchester, with this album recorded in a former mill in Ancoats.

The results though owe more to Liverpool than Manchester, with McCartney’s influencing looming large. In the press release sent to us Noir is unabashed in his adoration of all things fab four. He says: “I’m not trying to consciously channel The Beatles, it just happens that I do have a lof the intruments they used and its hard to not want to go near that sound of slightly wonky drums, sharp guitar, moving bass and loud vocals. What’s not to like?”

So while Tower of Love, his debut album, was more about synth pop and 2012’s Jimmy’s Show more psychedelic pop, Finnish Line ends up being packed full of Macca influences, particular his Ram solo era. Piece of Mind and The Boy, towards the end of the album, are exactly the kind of slight melodic pop McCartney excelled at in the early 1970s.

On Stone Cold Room the opening piano is pure Beatles but more John Lennon  than Macca. It is even reminiscent of Neil Innes, whose Rutles creation frequently matched the Beatles it was set up to lampoon.

But Noir isn’t all about sounding a bit like the Beatles. On The Broadway Jets he’s his own man with this more reminiscent of his own earlier pop nuggets. Strange Range too is different, far more glam rock than McCartney and co attempted in the 1970s.

In recording in a studio this marks a change for Noir from bedroom recording to a more professional set up. It’s a good move on this evidence and while  his earlier albums are great this feels like his most complete and polished yet.

The future of pop’s past is in good hands.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

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Deerhoof – La Isla Bonita

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Deerhoof – La Isla Bonita

Posted on 29 October 2014 by Joe

Despite having 20 years experience under their belts this 13th album from the San Francisco punk act manages to give the impression it is a debut by a group of youngsters. Its bold, enthusiastic and packed with a gigantic palette of genres like a band starting out and finding their feet in the world.

Deerhoof

But, of course, these are far from teenage debutants. These are seasoned pros and they know exactly what they are doing as they take rehearsal jams and turn them into perfect live and recording material. From the bombastic intro of Big Waltz to the punk of Exit Only and the pure pop of Paradise Girls each track may give the impression of youthful chaos but is in fact the work of experienced old stagers.

At times this almost seems like a mainstream album, especially Paradise Girls but the Frank Zappa guitar breakdown in the early XTC-esque Last Fad and other quirky  moments reveal it is far more alternative than that. Take the changing moods within the two minute Tiny Bubbles for example, it is pop but strange, wonderful pop that will divide a room.

While there’s a clear dance influence groove at times above all this is a powerful punk guitar album stuck together perfectly by the glue that is their   singer Satomi Matsuzaki.

A quick autumnal look at their tour news shows a raft of dates at the tail end of 2014 in the US and Japan. Hopefully some UK dates will be arranged for 2015, as with La Isla Bonita San Francisco punks Deerhoof have served up just about the year’s best ‘come see us’ to gig goers.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

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Alternative Top 40 – Autumn 2014

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Alternative Top 40 – Autumn 2014

Posted on 27 October 2014 by Universal Horse

The Alternative Top 40 is a regular music chart shared across multiple music blogs, and a great way of discovering music you might not have heard elsewhere. We are delighted to be among those blogs involved in sharing this list, which is created from nominations from you and compiled by the website Universal Horse.

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To contribute to the next #AltTop40 all you have to do is suggest your favourite tracks of the moment to Universal Horse via their online form – or email them at alternativetop40@gmail.com by Saturday 3rd January. Here’s this month’s edition:

1. Michael O’Neill – Cheetham Hill Speed Scene

2. Robert Plant – Little Maggie

3. Noura Mint Seymali – Tzenni

4. Grumbling Fur – All the Rays (East India Youth remix)

5. Cassetteboy – Cameron’s Conference Rap

6. Hazel Winter – Y.D.F.L.M.

7. Vessel – Red Sex

8. The Bug feat. Warrior Queen – Fuck U

9. Deerhoof – Exit Only

10. Alex Dingley – Knuckle Bone

 

11. SJ Esau – Soul II Skull / +
12. Lowell – The Bells / +
13. Stop Motion Orchestra – Mystery Grandma / +
14. Boxcar Aldous Huxley – The Slow Decline of the London Necropolis Railway / +
15. Vietcong – Oxygen Feed / +
16. Kogumaza – NB / Kолокол / Ursids / +
17. Yellow Creatures – Spinning Orange Catherine Peel / +
18. Perfume Genius – Fool / +
19. The Feminists – Schnippi / +
20. New Cowboy Builders – Black Moses / +
21. SJ Esau – Frustrating / +
22. Mogwai – Teenage Exorcists / +
23. Amanda Palmer – The Killing Type +
24. Hamell on Trial – Happiest Man in the World / +
25. Camera – Synchron / +
26. Kendrick Lamar – Swimming Pools (Drank) / +
27. Mano’s Daughter – You / +
28. Mylets – Hungover Tehran / +
29. Perfume Genius – Queen / +
30. The Death of Pop – Whenever / +
31. By the Rivers – Vultures / +
32. Rachael Dadd – Strike Our Scythes / +
33. Kate Tempest – Circles / +
34. Marianne Faithfull – Late Victorian Holocaust / +
35. The Wytches – Burn Out the Bruise / +
36. The History of Apple Pie – Special Girl / +
37. Logos feat. Mumdance – Wut it Do / +
38. The Brackish – Surf’s Down / +
39. Kate Bush – There Goes a Tenner / +
40. Metal Office – Downard / +

Compiled by Universal Horse.

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Clowwns – Shame On You

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Clowwns – Shame On You

Posted on 27 October 2014 by Joe

We are delighted to premier Shame On You, the excellent Dylan Thomas inspired track from Clowwns’s forthcoming debut album.

Based on this two minute psychedelic rock gem the album, The Artful Execution of Macho Bimbo, looks like one to check out when it is released in January next year by one of our favourite labels Bleeding Heart Recordings.

C L O W W N S – Shame On You from Horn Blower on Vimeo.

The Brighton based band’s  own description of their live shows sounds promising too, with them joyfully telling us in their press release that they perform with “celebrations of gleeful, bloody-minded fury.”

For the literary types among you Shame On You is influenced by Dylan Thomas’s poem Do Not Go Gentle In That Good Night. For the illiterary types among you just enjoy the great music instead.

Clowwns are Andrew Claridge (guitar), Miles Heathfield (vocals), Damo Waters (drummer) and Etienne Rodes (fuzz bass).

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For more information visit their Facebook page or Bleeding Heart Recording’s homepage.

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Eyelids – 854

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Eyelids – 854

Posted on 16 October 2014 by Dorian

When Robert Pollard chose to bring his Boston Spaceships project to an end (the band that released our favourite album of 2011) the core of the band stayed together and formed Eyelids. Headed up by Chris Slusarenko and John  Moen the band play a classic hook laden rock that evokes Big Star, The Byrds, Teenage Fanclub and Velvet Crush across their debut album 854.

Eyelids 854

Now, I’m not at all surprised that this is a good record. John Moen has played with the Jicks, The Decemberists and Eliott Smith (and dozens more, so he clearly has good taste and is a skilled musician. Chris Slusarenko to my mind is the equal of Tobin Sprout and Doug Gillard in being the perfect foil to Robert Pollard, their work together as The Takeovers is among my favourite of the Guided By Voices side-projects. What does surprise me is just how good a record it is, and one that is making a strong challenge to be my favourite of the year so far.

The album splits loosely 50/50 between John and Chris taking lead vocals and both is in fine voice on the record. Backed up with some lovely vocal harmony work the voices sound great throughout. In fact ‘854’, the albums title track, features lead vocals by them both and is possibly my favourite track on the album.

The playing is great too, with fine guitar work provided by the two lead singers as well as fellow Boston Spaceship’s alumni Jonathan Drews. A strong rhythm section (Jim Talstra on bass and Paulie Pulvirenti on drums) completes the band and we have a very full and fully formed sound on our hands.

Strong singing and playing is nothing however if the songs aren’t good enough, and my past experience of the band members gave me no clues as to their songwriting chops. The good news here is that the songs are uniformly great right from the twin single blast ofd ‘Seagulls Into Submission’ and ‘Psych #1’ through to the tense and hurried ‘Say Its Alright’ (complete with a vicious guitar solo) and the final calm of ‘From A Distance’. These are songs that have a classic sound but also have a real timeless quality, this isn’t retro-rock for the sake of it, you can tell that the band care about these songs.

Throughout the record their are sweet hooks, catchy phrases and magic moments to enjoy.  ‘Abby’s Friends’, sitting in the middle of the album, possibly edges it for me as my favourite song on the record, and perfectly encapsulates all the great elements that make it such a satisfying release.

This is an album that I enjoy more with each listen, and one I expect to come back to for years to come. Hopefully it is the first of many releases from the band.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

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Co-pilgrim – Plumes

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Co-pilgrim – Plumes

Posted on 16 October 2014 by Joe

Hiding in Winchester is Mike Gale, one of the UK’s brightest song writing talents.  Recording under the name Co-Pilgrim, Plumes is  the act’s  third album of beautiful alt-country and is once again packed full of Beach Boys harmonies and Pernice Brothers/ Teenage Fanclub melodies. It’s a gem, as was his last album A Fairer Sea, which sat on a pile of CDs at Neonfiller.com towers shamefully way past its 2013 release date and reviewing opportunities. Apologies Mike, we loved it.

The experience of A Fairer Sea with us, a small music blog made up of volunteers, shows how difficult it is for those like Gale to get attention. If we couldn’t find time how are the big boys in the music press going to? A Fairer Sea was arguably one of the albums of the year but barely anyone heard it and despite knocking around social media for years Co-Pilgrim can barely muster 1,000 followers across Facebook and Twitter.

So when I say hiding in Winchester, he’s not hiding at all. He’s doing his best to get attention, has a PR firm and crucially is producing great stuff. It’s more the music listening public is hiding from him.

So what is everyone missing? Plumes follows on perfectly from  A Fairer Sea, which featured Ride’s Mark Gardener on producing and backing vocals duty, in retaining Gale’s neat trick of taking melancholy and turning it into something joyous.

Opener Grew Into Something New sets the scene wonderful, slide guitar and harmonies swiftly taking the listener from pessimism through to optimism.  I Know Love and Pushover pack a pop-punch full of west coast shine, while Come out Alive provides a thoughtful slow twinkle to proceedings. Other highlights include Shame On You with its English take on Americana.

Will Plumes help him find a bigger UK audience? I hope so but its confusing release schedule suggests Gale is once again struggling to get the audience he deserves. The album was in fact released with little fanfare in the UK in May but an album launch party venue couldn’t be found until July. A third attempt at UK publicity is now taking place this month to coincide with a US and Europe release.

It is clearly tough for Gale to push his head above the parapet, but he has what so many others don’t have on the UK music scene – genuine talent. Fingers crossed.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

For more information about Mike Gale and Co-Pilgrim visit here.

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Eyelids – Psych #1

Posted on 13 October 2014 by Dorian

This is the Alice In Wonderland influenced video for ‘Psych #1’, from the forthcoming album 854. 854 is the debut album from Eyelids, a band fronted by Chris Slusarenko and John Moen from Neon Filler favourites Boston Spaceships (amongst many other bands). The album is out on October 14th on Jealous Butcher and we’ll post our review next weekend.

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Avi Buffalo and Happyness – Thekla, Bristol (Oct 8, 2014)

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Avi Buffalo and Happyness – Thekla, Bristol (Oct 8, 2014)

Posted on 09 October 2014 by Joe

Bands should never try and replicate their recorded work on stage. It rarely works. Foals were the worst offenders I’ve seen, a band who note for note can faithfully recreate each album with precision. A few songs in during a festival set a few years back I almost drifted off.  Avi Buffalo on the other hand offer something different live and as a result offer a far more captivating experience.

Avi Buffalo

Avi Buffalo

The Californian band are here aboard Bristol’s floating venue Thekla as part of a European tour to promote their excellent second album At Best Cuckold. It’s an album full of beautiful sunny pop by frontman and songwriter Avi Zahner-Isenberg as well as very precise well worked guitar parts and even a horn section in places. Live though they strip it back, Just Zahner-Isenberg’s guitar, keyboards to fill out the sound a bit and drums and bass. Nothing fancy. This gives each song from At Best Cuckold a new, welcome take.

At times the live experience significantly improves on the recorded version. Oxygen Tent, the set closer, is the prime example. This track passed me by a little on disc. Live I thought it was a Randy Newman cover, so good is the songwriting. The guitar break out towards the end has gone from just okay on  disc to simply awesome on stage.

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Another highlight was  Zahner-Isenberg’s solo middle section, with an excellent Fender Stratocaster and vocal only version of Summer Cum, from their self titled debut album. At Best Cuckold tracks Two Cherished Understandings and Overwhelmed with Pride then follow exquisitely just with acoustic guitar and later keyboards added in.

Of course they play What’s It in For, their first single and most recognisable track. But when this once would have been greeted with whoops here the crowd know their best work is in the here and now on their latest album not the past.

As the set progresses, which fitted expertly into an hour precisely, the band’s confidence clearly grows and the banter flows more freely. By the encore of She Is Seventeen, Zahner-Isenberg offers to be everyone’s “best friend at the merch stall, well for tonight anyway.”

Happyness

Happyness

Support was from Happyness, a band that mine the memory banks of aged indie kids everywhere to give a little bit of Pavement, a little bit of Sparklehorse and a little bit of Teenage Fanclub. Here with a fine album of their own to promote, Weird Little Birthday, their half an hour set feels far too short. It’s not just the quality of songs like the pop of Great Minds Think Alike, All Brains Taste the Same, it’s also their attitude that warmed the crowd.

They remind me of Mclusky, the great Welsh band who took apart the often ludicrous life of being in a band so expertly.  Like them Happyness also take out all the pretension and offer you exactly what they are – a band who like playing live, within their “allotted time” to an audience who they hope will visit them at the merchandise stall later. Their humour is dry and may not appeal to all, but for this audience it went down a storm.

Words and pictures by Joe Lepper

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Yann Tiersen, Huxley’s Neue Welt, Berlin (Oct 4, 2014)

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Yann Tiersen, Huxley’s Neue Welt, Berlin (Oct 4, 2014)

Posted on 07 October 2014 by Dominic Blewett

The closer this gig came I started to worry. I had no idea how someone with a back catalogue as diverse as Yann Tiersen’s would be able to pull off a coherent live show.

Known primarily for his beautiful soundtracks – Amélie and Goobye Lenin, among others – he also releases more traditional albums of song-based solo material. His latest album Infinity, for example, offers a bewilderingly wide appeal with  vocal samples in an array of European languages. It’s certainly a diverse portfolio of music that on paper may not be ideally suited to a single live set and one audience.

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As if to illustrate his diverse appeal the crowd were suitably eclectic. Just in my immediate gaze alone  there is an elderly man, a pierced goth and a very small girl who could be anywhere between eight and thirteen. An odd mix indeed.

When Tiersen and his band take to the stage you can tell they are tight. The music is pleasant enough and this diverse crowd of ages and tastes is clearly enjoying it. But as the show progresses the feeling that everyone there is waiting for something different grows. My point of entry to his work was 2010’s wonderful exploration of grief, Dust Lane, so I am waiting for the sorrow. Some are waiting for the new. Others wait for the bittersweet. His instrumental material gets the best reception, especially the pieces from Amélie, and it’s hard to escape the feeling that the show would work best if he either played only soundtrack material, or only songs. Perhaps ‘Yann Tiersen plays the music from (insert name of film here) at the Royal Albert Hall’, or, ‘Yann Tiersen plays (insert one album here)’ would work better as live events? As it stands, things don’t quite fit together, and it’s hard to lose yourself in the slightly jagged spaces between.

That doesn’t mean it wasn’t enjoyable; it was. There were moments when everything worked, when it felt like everyone in the room had met at that single point. ‘Palestine’ for example, was a real highlight from Yann’s song section of the set; very simple, just the words of that tormented land spelt out over and over again, and everything, the rhythm, the lights (coloured red, white, and green), focused on one powerful idea, its execution, and the man at the centre of it.

For the encore the first two tracks are instrumental. For both, Yann is alone, lit by a single spotlight. First he is on the piano playing a tune of almost unbearable prettiness, and this is followed by him playing the violin as if he wants to saw the thing in half. And it’s only during these final moments that I feel our gathered eardrums can transcend the multitude of our wants and needs, and all the lines we were riding to this place meet at a hushed, single point – a little circle of light where a man is playing his heart out.

by Dominic Blewett

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Allo Darlin’ – We Come From The Same Place

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Allo Darlin’ – We Come From The Same Place

Posted on 01 October 2014 by Joe

Three albums in and the wait for a truly great Allo Darlin’ album continues. They have great songs and lyrics, thanks to lead singer and songwriter Elizabeth Morris. They are all accomplished musicians with oodles of connections across London’s indie music fraternity. They have also caught the ear of the trendsetting Pitchfork, whose staff are clear fans.

But there continues to be something missing. Perhaps it is because they still produce albums that sound like any other small band starting out. Maybe they don’t realise how good they are and that they are head and shoulders above the bulk of jangly, introspective bittersweet indie pop out there.

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Having said that We Come From The Same Place is  by far their best album to date. There is a greater emphasis on guitars in the mix and Morris’s voice sounds stronger here than it did on second album Europe, where it sounded strained at times.  The lyrics are just great here as well, full of beautiful lines about love and hope. This is an optimistic, happy album with Morris’s recent marriage clearly a key factor in it upbeat, romantic feel.

Among my favourite lyrically is fourth track Crickets in the Rain with lovely lines such as “The truth is when I realised I loved you, It was like everything I had lost had come back” as well as images such as an “apricot sky over the city lights” and “you’re lips are sweet from the Juicy Fruit.”

Musically, We Come from the Same Place is beautiful, especially the guitars and Another Year is particularly good with its sumptuous slide guitar. It is this  Americana sound I’d like to hear more of from the band and could be the sound that dominates Allo Darlin’s as yet released great album, that still only exists in my dreams.

But much of the album, particularly the unimaginative production,  is still standard indie fare. Romance and Adventure for example sounds like it’d be great live but on disc sounds like too many other bands.

As with their first two albums I’m left feeling like I’ve heard a good album, but frustrated that it is not the great album I’m convinced they have in them.

I have a nagging fear though that my search for the great Allo Darlin’ album will continue for some time and more good, but not great, albums like this will follow. What if, to quote Morris on Europe’s standout track Tallulah, that “I’ve already heard all the songs that’ll mean something” from this band?

8/10

by Joe Lepper

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