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Girl Ray – Show Me More

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Girl Ray – Show Me More

Posted on 01 August 2019 by Dorian

We were huge fans of the first Girl Ray album, so it is exciting that they have announced new music and a tour in November.

Girl

There is already a song that you can listen to, and buy from their Bandcamp page. Watch the video for ‘Show Me More’ below, the first song from Girl Ray’s forthcoming album Girl. (Released via Moshi Moshi on 8th November).

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Girl Ray – Earl Grey

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Girl Ray – Earl Grey

Posted on 19 August 2017 by Dorian

One of my favourite records is Vampire Can Mating Oven by Camper Van Beethoven. Other than great songs it also has a title that looks like an anagram of the band’s name, but clearly isn’t. Earl Grey by Girl Ray does the same thing, and that appeals to me (probably more than it should). Thankfully this debut release is a fantastic album, one of the best I’ve heard this year, and I don’t need to appreciate it on the strength of the title alone.

Girl Ray - Earl Grey

‘Just Like That’ is one of those great album openers. It starts pleasantly enough before drilling itself into your brain with every melodic twist and turn. On the first few listens to the album I skipped back to this track multiple times before continuing, putting a full listen in jeopardy.

As a regular 6 Music listener I’d heard a number of the tracks before, but in the context of the album they sound even better. There is a real subtlety to the music, and that makes the quirks of the arrangements and the musical flourishes that much more surprising and pleasing. The vocals, in particular, are deceptive. On first listen they are distinctive, despite their lack of showiness, but the more you listen the more the harmonies and inflexions impress.

The most obvious counter-point musically is Gorkys, and that almost-pastoral edge is a cornerstone of the sound here. There is much more on show though, with the (welcome in this case) spectre of prog rearing its head. On the wonderful ‘Cutting Shapes’ we get Pink Floyd drums, Brian Auger keyboards and even some squealing guitar making an appearance. Other unexpected musical influences unfold on the album, a direct musical reference to Todd Rundgren’s ‘I Saw The Light’ (on the intro to ‘Stupid Things’)  being my personal favourite.

One of the things I love about this band is that they are producing quiet, subtle songs and through this low-key approach they have the room to demonstrate a real dynamic range. This is best demonstrated on the title track ‘Earl Grey (Stuck In A Groove)’ which  builds, grows and moves across 13 minutes of playing time. A gorgeous vocal central section giving way to increasing instrumentation that builds to (what can only be called) a free jazz odyssey before drawing back to the vocals again.

My one (small) criticism of the album is the song sequence, something that seems a quaint concern on the age of the playlist. The aforementioned title track is such an epic song that it makes the following songs (as good as they are) seem a bit ordinary in comparison. I’d have personally preferred this track as the album closer, it is so good that it should be the last thing in the listener’s memory. It makes more sense on vinyl, however, with this song opening side 2, and on that basis I’ve already talked myself out of this (already small) criticism.

I’d be surprised if I’ve heard many (or any) better debuts before the year is out, and it would be an exceptionally good year if this didn’t make my personal top 10. So it is still to be decided where this will figure in the best of 2017 chart, but it is a dead cert for the album title of the year award at least.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

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Top 20 Albums of 2017 – Part Two

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Top 20 Albums of 2017 – Part Two

Posted on 20 December 2017 by Joe

Welcome to the second part of our end of year round up of the best albums 2017. This latest instalment reveals who has earned a coveted place in our top ten. The first part (20-11) can be found here

10. The Magnetic Fields – 50 Song Memoir

Magnetic Fields 50 Song Memoir

In which Stephin Merritt celebrates his 50th birthday by writing an auto-biographical song for each year since his birth. The results are pretty great and it is his best hit-rate since 69 Love Songs in 1999. Sprawling concept albums clearly suit him.

9. Guided By Voices – August By Cake

Guided By Voices

This 32 track double album is the 100th album that GBV frontman Robert Pollard has released. It is also the first album released with the latest Guided By Voices line-up, which brings Doug Gillard’s guitar skills back to the fold. Every band member gets some songs on this one, and the results are typically uneven in excellent GBV fashion.

8. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Polygondwanaland

King-Gizzard-And-The-Lizard-Wizard-1510667858-compressed

Perhaps the only act that can compete with Robert Pollard’s production rate is Australian psychedelic rock outfit King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. They set themselves the ambitious task of releasing five albums this year, with a fifth due to be released “very very late in the year” according to frontman Stu Mackenzie.

Of the four released so far this is our favourite for our best albums 2017 list – full of prog rock/jazz treats like 10 minute opener Crumbing Castle and psyche pop gems such as Deserted Dunes Welcome Weary Feet. And what’s more it is available as a free download.

7. Mile Me Deaf – Alien Age

MMD1400

Sound the breakthough album klaxon. Wolfgang Möstl’s Mile Me Deaf act  has always been experimental but they are on the cusp of the big time on the basis of this Best album 2017 release

On previous album’s he’s been looking to push the boundaries of indie rock and guitar pop. Here he’s pushed, then smashed his way past them, veering off into trip hop, dub, jazz, and ambient. Above all, as XTC once proudly sang, This is Pop. Lead single Blowout is a great jumping in point for this entry into our Best albums 2017 list . Read our full review here.

6. The Flaming Lips – Oczy Mlody

cover600x600-1476975818-compressed

This is best Lips release since they unleashed Yoshimi on those evil bastard pink robots during their last pop phase. After the mildly entertaining albums Terror and the awful Embyronic, Wayne Coyne and co have gone accessible again, with new classics such as How?? and There Should Be Unicorns among their best ever. Read our full review here.

5. Girl Ray – Earl Grey

Girl Ray - Earl Grey

We are delighted to include this impressive debut from Girl Ray, a quirky lo-fi pop trio from North London. This will particularly appeal to fans for Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci with Don’t Go Back at Ten among our favorites. Read our full review here.

4. LCD Soundsystem – American Dream

LCD Soundsystem

The LCD Soundsystem split didn’t last too long, and this album is a high-quality return by the band to recording. The sound is unmistakably LCD Soundsystem (even down to the usual influences) and there are a few playful tracks among some slightly sombre numbers. This is a welcome entry into our best albums 2017 top ten.

3. Robyn Hitchcock – Robyn Hitchcock

Robyn_Hitchcock-Robyn_Hitchcock-album-2017-promo-1a

It’s taken 21 albums but Robyn Hitchcock has finally gone down the self-titled route for a release, which by happy coincidence just happens to be one of his best in years.

From its purple, cat stroking, cover to its backwards guitars, it is a psychedelic explosion of awesomeness, with oodles of noodles of nods to the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The twinkling, shiny pop of Mad Shelley’s Letterbox is a particular highlight. Read our full review here.

2. Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder

Hug-Of-Thunder

Just like the Flaming Lips, the almighty Canadian collective of Broken Social Scene also saw a return to form in 2017. The return of Leslie Feist to the line up takes them back to their early hey-day, especially with her jaw droppingly awesome vocals on the title track.

New member Ariel Engle, who takes lead vocal duties on Stay Happy, is another impressive addition. While Halfway Home is A fantastic alternative rock anthem that shows just how good this album is within their already prolific two decade spanning back catalogue.

1. Eyelids – OR

Eyelids Or

Featuring members of the Decemberists, Guided by Voices and Stephen Malkmus’ Jicks, Eyelids have leapt to the top of our list thanks to their sweet, jangly melodies on tracks such as Falling Eyes.

This second release from the band also adds ex-REM man Peter Buck into the mix as producer to give it extra class and a 1980s alternative rock feel. A triumph and deserved number one album in our best albums 2017 list. Read our full review here.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

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Sixteen of the Best Songs of 2016

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Sixteen of the Best Songs of 2016

Posted on 29 December 2016 by Dorian

We recently published our Top 20 Albums of 2016, but this only reflected a section of the amazing songs that came out this year.  There were great albums we missed, albums that just missed out and songs that came out on single this year. So, as a bit of an end of year bonus, here are the best songs of 2016 that didn’t feature in our end of year album list.

16. ESP Ohio – Royal Cyclopean

It wouldn’t be Neon Filler without a Robert Pollard track, and this horn driven gem from his latest collaboration with Doug Gillard is one of his best this year.

15. The Wedding Present – Rachel

There are rumours that this year’s Wedding Present album may be there last, if that is the case then they are finishing on something of a high.

14. Childish Bambino – Me and Your Mama

Donald Glover is a successful comic actor, the face of the young Lando Calrissian and a Grammy award-winning singer, sickeningly talented.

13. The Shins – Dead Alive

The Shins releasing a song that sounds like they could have recorded 15 years ago may not seem that exciting, unless you think early Shins is about as good as music gets. Which I do.

12. Allo Darlin’ – Hymn on the 45

Allo Darlin’ sadly called in at day in 2016, but just as they played their final shows they released one last single. A final document, if nothing else, of why they’ll be missed.

11. Car Seat Headrest – Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales

Car Seat Headrest is the work of Will Toledo, this year’s bespectacled indie geek de jour. The album justifies the hype this time around.

10. The Avalanches – Subways

The new Avalanches album may not be much of a step forward given the huge gap between this and their debut recording, but there were enough good songs to make it worth a listen.

9. Parquet Courts – Human Performance

The New York band have been releasing consistently great music since they broke through with Light Up Gold in 2012. The title track from their latest album shows them in almost subdued mode.

8. Angel Olsen – Shut Up and Kiss Me

2016 was a bit of a breakthrough year for Angel Olsen, her 4th LP getting a lot of attention and radio play. This track showcases as much fuzz-pop as folk and is a bit of a break from the softer country vibe she’s associated with.

7. Case/Lang/Veirs – Best Kept Secret

Three of the best vocalists in country-pop come together and, unsurprisingly, the results are great.

6. Okkervil River – Judy on the Street

Every two or three years Will Sheff’s band release an album and they all range from good to excellent. This track from Away is no exception to the rule.

5. Teenage Fanclub – Thin Air

More than a quarter if a century in and Teenage Fanclub can still produce some of the best melodic guitar pop around.

4. Girl Ray – Trouble

One of the best bands that we saw at Indietracks this year and one of the bands to watch out for in 2017.

3. Field Music – Disappointed

Due to its release at a busy time we sadly didn’t get round to reviewing Field Music’s excellent 2016 album Commontime. We still loved it though and can assure you it was a typically excellent release from the Brewis brothers. This was a single and one of the best tracks.

2. Luke Haines – Smash The System

Smash The System saw Haines revisit some of his previous themes, with a number of nods to his Baader Meinhof album. The Monkees references in this song are confusing but welcome.

1. Eyelids – Slow It Goes

Eyelids didn’t have a new album out in 2016, that is coming next year, but they did release this song and showcased what we can look forward to. Excellent video as well.

Compiled by Dorian Rogers

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Indietracks Festival 2016

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Indietracks Festival 2016

Posted on 20 August 2016 by Dorian

Friday

As with our last trip to Indietracks we underappreciated the length of the journey from the south coast up to Derbyshire. Traffic jams for most of the route meant that by the time we’d pitched tent and set up for the evening that we’d already missed one of the three acts playing on the first evening.

Indietracks

Simon Love was in full flow at Indietracks Festival 2016 when we arrived on site, in the midst of a set heavy on tracks from his most recent album. Love does seem a little distracted, but puts on a  good show replete in white suit shirt and tie. It’s an irreverent, fun, and slightly shambolic set to start the weekend.

Simon Love

Simon Love

The Spook School have established themselves as Indietracks’ stalwarts since I first saw them play way back in 2012. They are as engaging as ever, although the many distractions of the site see me moving from shed to train to bar and back during their set. They’re an intriguing band with a lot to say, quietly spoken between songs and outspoken within them. Although they’re sound is primarily spiky pop punk there is a real variety to the mood. Some songs are really pretty downbeat, but that doesn’t stop them playing ‘The Vengabus is Coming’ as an encore.

Spook School

Spook School

Saturday

The first full day starts wearily; we camped far too close to the disco tent. Sleeping through a rowdy singalong of ‘The Hymn for the Cigarettes’ isn’t possible. A midday walk around the site followed by an invigorating ride on the miniature railway sweeps some of the cobwebs away.

Beard

Dirtygirl start things off in an “interesting” way, they are pretty ramshackle and don’t seem quite ready. There is a rawness to the band that I appreciate and an honesty to their songs, it isn’t for me. Vaccaciones from Spain are more like it, but also pretty ramshackle I have no idea what they are singing about but I like the sound of it and their senthusiasm seems to drag some sun from between the clouds.

In the Church Wintergreen get an immediate few marks on the obscure instrument bingo-sheet by having an Autoharp and harmonium on show. The bands start is delayed by a lot of tweaking to their set-up, and more endearingly by their violin player still being on the train. Indeed with harmonium and melodic also on the stage they are close to a full house. The band sound pretty good and remind me of a more classically English Efterklang. The only problem is that even with the extended set-up they don’t seem t be able to get the sound set-up quite right. The set breaks down half way through and the band do start to lose the audience a little. One to revisit on record I think.

Wintergreen

Emma Pollock on the other hand gets the sound rust right for her early evening set. The songs from her excellent new album, In Search of Harperfield, sound appropriately punchier live and it proves to be one of the sets of the weekend. Great songs and years of live experience prove to be the magic combination here.

Emma Pollock

Emma Pollock

Although Saint Etienne are the official headliners it is obvious that The Lovely Eggs are the band that the Indietracks crowd want to see most. The crowd is huge and rightly enthusiastic about the duo’s set, They play a nicely dirty take on indie pop punk and the audience goes wild.

Lovely Eggs

The Lovely Eggs

Even though the outdoor crowd is always a bit less rowdy than they are in the train shed, they seem pretty excited about Saint Etienne. They play a pretty great set high on hits, a well chosen selection of album tracks and not too many new songs. There is a lot of comfortable cosiness about them these days, but they are still a pretty great pop band and a fitting end to the day.

Saint Etienne

Saint Etienne

Sunday

Due to the unusually dry weather Indietracks 2016 for me is all be about the open air. So after a brief watch of City Yelps we head out again to get a seat on the grass for Witching Waves. The band play a fairly typical indie punk set, but there is thing wrong with that. They have some really good tunes and their on-stage nervousness is endearing. Wanderlust hits again halfway through the set though as we head for our (only) train based gig. Sadly we don’t get to see the band as some people (cheats!) were already on board and it fills up sooner than promised. Our photographer did get a place so he enjoyed Gavin Osborn and the rest of us had a pleasant train ride. The report came back that he was pretty brilliant, so one to catch in the future.

Gavin Osborn

Gavin Osborn

The Charlie Tipper Conspiracy have nice instrumentation and arrangements but a tendency to be rather dreary, a lot of which is down to the slightly flat vocal style. We go to watch Girl Ray as part of a rare venture indoors and well worth it. Tuneful vocals and catchy tunes are what I’m looking for and they deliver that perfectly.

Back in our place on the grass Haiku Salut seem perfect in the late afternoon and have a very strong sound. The second time Efterklang have come to mind this weekend, plus a bit of the Yann Tierson thrown in. No festival singalongs here but some very beautiful atmospheric music (Possibly the prize for most instrument changes also).

Darren Hayman arrives on stage in power trio format and takes no time to pillory Bill Botting for forgetting a bass strap. It is a well structured festival set and Hefner make an appearance as early as song 2. It is beautiful stuff with a number of recent songs from the  Thankful Villages and Chants for Socialists albums. A sore throat seems to cause Hayman a few problems but performing ‘The Hymn For The Cigarettes’ as the last song shows he knows how to play a festival.

Darren Hayman

Darren Hayman

I remember Comet Gain but don’t really remember their music, and noting in their set sounds familiar to me. I really like the overall sound, but I struggle to really get into the set without any familiar reference points.

Comet Gain

Comet Gain

Watching the last steamroller can crush of the weekend and stroking the tiny owl do mean arriving late for The Aislers Set. They’re another band I know little of, but I can tell they are a band I would have loved if I had discovered them first time around. It would have been nice to have had a band I was a fan of finishing the weekend, and you can’t fake that feeling.  But on the night they sound pretty great and seem like a pretty decent Indietracks finale.

The Aislers Set

The Aislers Set

So ten down and hopefully many more to come. There is nothing quite like Indietracks and it still holds the prize for being the friendliest and most relaxed musical event of the year.

Words: Dorian Rogers | Pictures: Nic Newman

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Green Man Festival 2018 – Psychedelic awesomeness

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Green Man Festival 2018 – Psychedelic awesomeness

Posted on 23 August 2018 by John Haylock

Our big green friend, the Green Man Festival, never disappoints and once again provides one of the best festival weekends this side of Pluto.

As always the depth and quality of performances was magnificent, with nary a dud in evidence. The oh-so unpredictable Welsh weather remained the right side of sub-Arctic, and on more than one occasion I spotted people applying sun tan lotion. Yes, suntan lotion! Not something I can remember ever seeing in Wales before.

Friday

Arriving with the dawn on the Friday via a breakfast at Waitrose in Abergavenny, we threw ourselves into putting up a tent badly.

This done we were lured by The Lovely Eggs up at the Far Out marquee and were greeted by some very lively punk action. Guitarist Holly was great, playing speedy tunes and throwing shapes. Despite the garish yellow tights she looked and sounded like a star. The crowd loved them.

The lovely eggs

The Lovely Eggs

An hour later The Lemon Twigs played Beatlesque slacker pop to an enthusiastic crowd. They certainly won me over but by then whiskey had been taken, so they could have been rubbish, who knows ? Nice vibes, I think.

The best at the Green Man Festival on Friday was a superb set from Joan as Policewoman. A small woman with big talent,  blessed with a multi octave voice that transports you to heaven via Bonnie Tyler’s chip shop in Crickhowell. Her band was super tight, soulful and classy, and what did she do as an encore? Only bloomin’ well Kiss by Prince. Utterly sublime and it’s not even teatime.

Joan as Policewoman

Joan as Policewoman

The  Green Man Festival layout is great. It’s not too big although there did seem to be larger numbers of people here this year, which was slightly disconcerting. You don’t expect the Walled Garden to be rammed mid-afternoon listening to obscure Australian folk singers.

In the past there was always room to collapse in a semi-catatonic heap next to a rubbish bin and not get your head trodden on.

Next up was a look at the Green Man Rising emerging talent competition, to sample the delights of fresh new blood. They don’t get any fresher (or madder) than Gentle Stranger.

Gentle Stranger

Gentle Stranger

The compere said they were like the bastard sons of Ian Curtis and Talking Heads, which is rubbish. In fact, they were more like the bastard offspring of the Mothers of Invention and a small white sliced loaf.
Among Gentle Stranger’s line up was a drummer who also played oboe and looked like he should be at a Metallica covers band audition. A skinny bassist in awful make up laying on his back holding his bass guitar with his feet whilst applying hair gel. They also featured a topless hairy bloke with braids in a blue midi skirt and hobnail boots playing guitar and blowing on things. Totally fantastic.

The Hungry Ghosts

The Hungry Ghosts

Were also impressed by the dirty, rock ‘n’ roll filth of The Hungry Ghosts from Birmingham. Then had to administer self flagellation for missing Snail Mail, which shows the depth of talent at this year’s Green Man Festival.

Back at the main stage it was time for  headliners King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. The Australian psychedelic rockers have inexplicably become hip. Their lengthy guitar work outs, nimble ensemble playing and nicely complimented vocals went down well. But I failed to achieve orgasm, unlike the other five thousand other folk in the crowd. Mind you their 2016 track Rattlesnake was groovy.

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

Time to party until the late hours, 11:55pm in our case. We were knackered.

Saturday

We awoke to no rain, at all, not even drizzle, remarkable.

After a dodgy dinner the Walled Garden played hosts to Goat Girl who seem more popular than The Beatles. The place was full, and quite rightly as they did their no nonsense pop-lite thang.

A duo under the name of Ider did it for me. Poppy niceness to the fore. They should be pop stars tomorrow with their nice bouncy tune and big singy choruses.

Baxter Dury

Baxter Dury

Happiness achieved but  had to curtail my enjoyment to rush over to the main stage to catch the late Ian Dury’s son (thats him on the cover of new boots and panties), Baxter Dury.  Top notch swearing and funky jams predominated the proceedings. He seemed slightly aggrieved but was all the better for it. A riveting set.

The evening then turned into a cosmic trip with a visit down memory lane with the ever dependable Teenage Fanclub.Boy Azooga, despite a hesitant start, won in extra time but then it was time for John Grant.

If you know Grant, you’ll know he was inevitably superb and if you’re unfamiliar with him then where have you been for the last few years?

It’s been heartening to witness  him graduate from touring half full pubs with Midlake five years ago to thrilling eight thousand people in a Welsh field on a nippy night.

John Grant

John Grant

Such is his charm and self-depricating wit that he can make these intimate, lyrically subversive songs work even on a grand scale.

They don’t get grander than Queen of Denmark which tonight is bombast incarnate, yet there is so much more to his music. You have the whimsy Marz. The electro incisiveness of Black Belt and Pale Green Ghosts. The beautiful Glacier and even an almost hit-single singalong GMF.

I asked Grant before he went on to sign a Barry Gibb and Barbara Streisand album. He laughed, signed it and then asked him to do a Bee Gees number. He said he’d think about it but sadly it didn’t happen [what an anecdote that wasn’t].

This Green Man Festival gig was one of the last times you’ll hear this material for a long time, he admitted. It’s new stuff from now on in , and personally I can’t wait to see where he’s going to go next. It is certain to be intriguing.

One of the absolute standouts of the entire weekend was an appearance by Simian Mobile Disco, performing with Green Man Festival regulars Deep Throat Choir.

This was an aural massage the likes of which will live long in the memory of those who witnessed this performance. The two guys within  their jumble of leads, decks, cables , laptops and other magical devices (probably stolen from magic pixies on a night with a full moon), delivered the most deliriously sublime set. Murmerations was performed in its entirety. The choir building up tension as waves of beautiful sound crashed like waves of pure love over our collective heads. I forgot the number of people I spoke to  the next day who thought it was astonishing.

Two hours later and we’ve still not got back to the tent. There were a few distractions. Impromptu Aretha Franklin singalongs, a cocktail bar, a merman and a mermaid, an art installation that was just some lights outside the toilets and a chat with a bloke dressed as a bacofoil deep sea diver thankfully was all I can remember.

Sunday

Sunday and your despicable soundchecks from War on drugs. I’d only been asleep three hours, still we are veterans after all and by 10 o’clock we were asleep again.

First band on at the Mountain Stage at dinnertime were the new project featuring Simon Raymonde from the Cocteau Twins, called Lost Horizons.

Black Angels

Black Angels

They excel at atmospheric gritty soundscapes with vocal contributions by the bassist, the keyboardist and especially their very expressive lead singer.  A very good way to start the day.

Such is the current vogue for glamping we found an area where you can sit in a hot tub and be served champagne. We were quite rightly immediately ejected.

We tried to enjoy Anna Calvi. But I appeared to be sitting next to the Abergavenny under-fives acrobatic team. It was difficult to concentrate but she was good and the version of Don’t Beat the Girl Out of My Boy was stunning. As was the encore  – a cover of Ghost Rider in the Sky from Suicides’ debut album.

An evening of dark intense brooding rock ‘n’ roll at the Green Man Festival followed. First up Chilean trio Follakzoid who put in an unbelievable performance.

They only did two songs, the first was 25 minutes long, the second 20 minutes and that was only shorter because their enigmatic guitar shaman Domingo Garcia got increasingly angry over the mixing desks inability to hit maximum volume on his monitors. He pulled over the speakers and flounced off in a Chilean huff. After five minutes he came back on due to public demand and finished off the set.

It was great to watch as he played about with his pedals and various fuzz boxes. Then he’s doing the dance of the seven veils and swinging the guitar round his neck as it squeals its protests.

This was in the Far Out tent as were the three remaining acts we saw.

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever

Rolling Blackouts Coastal  Fever from Australia recalled fellow brethren The Triffids, with some great guitar interplay and punchy tunes.

But the  best was to come. The Black Angels were relentless –  a fucked up marathon boogie  kept in the air by non stop drumming from Stephanie Bailey, the likes of which I haven’t witnessed for years. The woman is a machine built of steel and unsmiling stamina. It was like the Velvet Underground but with better tunes.

The icing on the  psychedelic cake of this year’s Green Man Festival was an appearance by the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Imagine the aroma of late 1980s Primal Scream inhaled from a pipe of Exile on Main Street. Loose but tight. Rough but nice. Good cop, bad cop but mostly bad cop. Oh man, this is my rock ‘n’ roll.

Brian Jonestown Massacre

Brian Jonestown Massacre

I am unable to describe any further events of that Sunday night as I appear to have run out of superlatives.

Not one bad band or performer at Green Man Festival all weekend. No hassle and no downsides, apart from the small matter of missing the Wedding Present, Tom Wrigglesworth, War on Drugs, Public Service Broadcasting, Kelly Lee Owens, Phil Wang and Teleman.

This festival spoils you every time and you have to make choices.

I choose Greenman.

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes

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Top 20 albums 2017 – Part One

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Top 20 albums 2017 – Part One

Posted on 13 December 2017 by Joe

Welcome to the first part of our end of year round up of the top 20 best albums 2017. In keeping with our ethos of promoting new and diverse music our list contains a raft of independent artists.

Keep checking back over the next few days when we will be revealing who has made it into the Top 10 of our list of  best albums 2017.

20. El Goodo – By Order of the Moose

El-Goodo

Welsh psychedelic act El Goodo spent eight years making this pop gem, which puts their own distinct slant on the US garage music scene of the late 1960s.

There’s a cinematic quality too. This makes it sound at times like a cross between a Spaghetti Western soundtrack and the Oompa-loompa songs from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the good version with Gene Wilder, that is). It Makes Me Wonder is among many high points. A worthy inclusion in our best albums 2017 list.

19. Warm Digits – Wireless World

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Newcastle duo Andrew Hodson and Steve Jefferis’ third Warm Digits album is an electro gem for 2017. Here they team up with a host of guest stars to showcase their squelchy synth music.

Peter Brewis from their Memphis Industries label mates Field Music excels on End Time. So too does St Etienne’s Sarah Cracknell on Growth of Raindrops.

18. Nick Parker – Besta Venya

BESTA_VENYA_REC_UNION

This third album from Somerset singer-songwriter Nick Parker blends the two sides of his live shows perfectly, from upbeat, crowd pleasers, such as Down With the Yoof, to poignant numbers such as Guess I’ll Never Know.

The Other Half at the end of this 12 song collection even takes him to Beatles territory, complete with flugal horn. Read our full review here.

17. Granite Shore – Suspended Second

the_granite_shore_suspended_second_RHEA7E1056_LP_1024x1024

With Brexit approaching we could perhaps all do with listening to this second album from Granite Shore – the musical project of Nick Halliwell, who runs Exeter based label Occultation Records. Here all our fears of the unknown, the anger (well for remainers at least) of the decision and sense of hopelessness are laid bare.

His savviest move though is to channel these emotions through smart 1970s inspired pop, with legendary singer songwriter John Howard bringing added class with backing vocals and piano on tracks such as Buyer Beware and Where does the sadness come from? . Read our full review here.

16. Ralegh Long – Upwards of Summer

ralegh long

On his second album singer-songwriter UK based Ralegh Long has looked to his early inspirations of 80s/90s college indie rock to produce a decidedly more upbeat affair than his debut Hoverance.

Gone are the pastoral folk subtleties of that first album to be replaced by jangly guitars, smart pop hooks and euphoric choruses, such as on Take Your Mind Back. This best albums 2017 entrant has impressed others too, with the album scooping this year’s HMUK and Pledge Music Emerging Artists Award. Read our full review here.

15. Fazerdaze – Morningside

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New Zealand’s Amelia Murray (aka Fazerdaze) emerged as one of the best breakthrough acts of 2017 thanks to this highly impressive debut. While it relies heavily on the C86 indie scene for influence it sounds thoroughly modern.

Signed to New Zealand’s esteemed Flying Nun Records label, she played a raft of gigs in the UK this year to promote this May release, which features highlights such as Lucky Girl.

14. Co-Pilgrim – Moon Lagoon

moonlagoon

Mike Gale’s Hampshire and Oxfordshire based band Co-pilgrim has been releasing smart melancholic pop albums for years now, always impressing us. Here he’s dusted off his distortion pedal for a first half of belting 90s US college rock tracks. This includes Turn It Around and You’ll Look Pretty As A Picture….When The Acid Rain Hits Ya.

He then shrinks back into the shadows for a second half of introspection and poignancy. Every home needs at least one Co-Pilgrim album.  This is a great place to dive in to Gale’s world. Read our full review here.

13. The Mountain Goats – Goths

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Goths get The Mountain Goats treatment in 2017, with singer-songwriter John Darnielle telling tales from the subculture, daringly with a lounge, jazz feel, complete with sumptuous Fender Rhodes keyboards. Gene Loves Jezebel’s footnote in music history on Abandoned Flesh is among man high points.

Meanwhile, Yorkshire’s provincial Goth hot spots are given an ode on Andew Eldritch is Moving Back to Leeds, as Darnielle cements his role as America’s best story teller in song. Read our full review here.

12. Android Angel – The Hissing and the Hum

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Since he sent us the debut EP from his band Free Swim back in 2010 Paul Coltofeanu has never let us down. Time and again across Free Swim’s funny and perfectly executed pop he has impressed.

Here, in his other guise The Android Angel he excels again, blending club sounds, soundtrack rock and whimsical pop perfectly on tracks such as Cloudless Sky and West Wind.

11. The New Pornographers – Whiteout Conditions

The New Pornographers - Whiteout Conditions

Even with a stronger focus on synths, and the disappointing lack of Dan Bejar, this is unmistakable as a New Pornographers record. The tunes are as strong as ever.

There’s also a couple of “should have been a top 10 hit” singles among them, including High Ticket Attractions. A.C Newman is in fine voice and with the vocal support of Neko Case and Kathryn Calder it sounds pretty great throughout.

Coming soon: Best albums 2017 Top 10.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

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The Dears – Leeds Brudenell Social Club (February 26, 2017)

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The Dears – Leeds Brudenell Social Club (February 26, 2017)

Posted on 28 February 2017 by John Haylock

The last time I saw The Dears, inflatable breasted page three girl Jordan was in an indifferent public battle with Gina G for the chance to represent the UK in Eurovision, Prince Charles had announced his intention to marry the very beautiful Specsavers model Camilla Parker Bowling Green and small sweary Eminem was number one with Like Toy Soldiers.

The Dears

The Dears

That was what seems like an eternity ago, but was in fact February 2005 to be precise and somehow our paths have long since diverged. They were promoting the No Cities Left album back then, which promised much but criminally failed to garner public attention. Dears one, fickle useless public nil.

What a pleasant surprise then to see that this fine Montreal based ensemble led by husband and wife Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak are still creating epic and grandiose soundscapes.

The Brudenell in Leeds is a strange venue, part wheeltappers and shunters club, part mini 02 Arena. With a pizza wagon in the car park it is the Ritz of the North.

As support bands go Plants and Animals were magnificent. They won everybody over with their twisting, turning urgent popscapes. Coming out of Halifax Nova Scotia via The Dears birthplace Montreal they inhabit a similar musical world, full of restless inventive song structures with subtle melodic undertones. With a focus on tracks from their most recent album, Waltzed in from the Rumbling, their all too brief set was a fiery precursor to tonight’s main course.

Opening with one of the highlights from the new album (Times Infinity Vol 1) The Dears plummet head first into We Lost Everything and I Used To Pray for the Heavens to Fall. It is akin to falling into an abyss of sound, with chiming guitars and the impassioned vocals of Lightburn hypnotising and disorienting the listener into submission. It is a joyous surrender and something they do time and again throughout the evening. As the vocals get more desperate, the guitars get heavier, the mood darkens before exploding, subsiding and emerging triumphant on the other side.

The Dears' Natalia Yanchak

The Dears’ Natalia Yanchak

This new album really is a grower and they continue with the haunting Face of Horrors, another wonderful addition to their oeuvre.

At one point Murray is to be found amid the crowd roaring his heart out like a caged rock and roll tiger. There’s no half measures with this guy, who is two parts Otis Redding, one part Kurt Cobain.

Then it is Natalia’s chance to destroy your heart, from behind her trusty Roland keyboard she sings lead on a desolate and pessimistic new number called Onward and Downward. The chorus of which goes as follows ‘in the end we’ll die alone’. Yes, I think they’ve been listening to Joy Division again. But it is delivered so beautifully as to render it heartbreaking.

The songs spew out thick and fast. Whites only party, Hate Then Love, and a tremendous version of There Goes my Outfit from Gang of Losers.

5 chords is resurrected from Degeneration Street and they even stretch back to No Cities Left with Who Are You Defenders of the Universe.

I was trying to pinpoint their sound for the uninitiated, and was going to suggest Pixies meet Elbow. But no, that is bollocks, that is not right. For the life of me I can’t think of a suitable comparison. The Dears are so individual I can’t think of anyone who sounds anything like them.

After the gut wrenching Onward, the band leave the stage and Murray goes all acoustic on us, with A Reading of the Second Part.

This comes as a welcome breather before they go stratospheric with the 22 Death of All the Romance.

Love The Dears, times infinity.

Words by John Haylock, pictures by Arthur Hughes

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Best of 2015 Albums – The Ones That Got Away

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Best of 2015 Albums – The Ones That Got Away

Posted on 26 January 2016 by Joe

Like many music blogs the work we do reviewing albums and writing features is a labour of love, rather than a source of income. Sometimes though this means planned reviews of albums don’t get written up as life gets in the way. This happened towards the tail end of last year, a busy time with family matters and the day job.

With a bit of time in January we thought, better late than never, we’ll get some brief reviews up of our quartet of Best of 2015 Albums that escaped us at the time

The Everlasting Yeah – Anima Rising

 

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Formed from the UK based members of That Petrol Emotion, this debut is a true hidden gem. On a first casual listen some of the tracks, like opener A Little Bit of Uh-huh and All Around the World its full of some standard Rolling Stones or Primal Scream rock riffs. But then the layers of guitar music begin to shine through and a far more sophisticated beast than the tired, old rock of Gillespie and co becomes apparent. This is perhaps best heard on Take That Damn Train Again, which is elevated way beyond standard rock fare with the addition of Gallon Drunk’s Terry Edwards and his marvellously insane saxophone playing.

The ‘slowie’ Everything is Beautiful is among our highlights and the sort of track we’d like to hear more from on future releases. There’s some lovely guitar work here and this track has the best melody on the album and reminded us a little of XTC’s later work – high praise indeed.

Design – Black Marker Red Marker

 

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Time for one of our local bands, hailing from Somerset this trio are formed by former Chesterfields band member Simon Barber and features Helen Stickland on guitar and Rob Parry on drums. It sounds nothing like the twee pop of the Chesterfield though and instead more akin to another great West Country band of old – 1980s punk act Thatcher on Acid, particularly on the driving bass on opener You Only Had to Ask.

There’s some good tunes on here, as well as zeitgeist lyrics tackling weighty issues of the day such as consumerism and the Middle East. If You Like That is among the best  on the album, as is the more rock orientated Kill Someone.

Promised Land Sound – For Use and Delight

 

promised land sound

Slapped wrists indeed for us in missing this excellent album from folk, pop, psychedelia, you name it, act from Nashville. There’s some downright lovely guitar arrangements here as you’d expect from a band from Nashville, and in lead vocalist Joe Scala they have a great frontman, whose relaxed vocal delivery seems effortless but takes a lot of work for far less talented singers to get right.

Those who saw Alabama Shakes in the US recently may have caught them live. You were lucky on the evidence of thisalbum . Check out the final, frantic minute of Push and Pull (All the Time) to hear why we were so impressed with this release.

Chorus Girl – Chorus Girl

 

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This debut album from this London-based guitar pop quartet is full of great indie anthems, part Breeders, part the quality, modern indie-pop we’ve come to expect from their label Fortuna Pop. The beating heart of these songs is their chief songwriter Silvi Wersing, whose vocals brings a certain,  at times goth, edge to the music. Key tracks include Sweetness and Slight and opener Oh To Be A Defector.

Reviews by Joe Lepper

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Alternative Top 40 – Winter 2014/2015

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Alternative Top 40 – Winter 2014/2015

Posted on 12 January 2015 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 a top 5 at alternativetop40@gmail.com by Saturday 4th April.

Here’s this month’s edition (note that for its January edition Universal Horse only counts releases from the previous 12 months, making this a de facto ‘tracks of the year’ list):

1. Vessel – Red Sex

2. Eels – Where I’m Going

3. Wenonoah – Hide

4. Copeland (Ft. Actress) – Advice to Young Girls

5. Noura Mint Seymali – Tzenni

6. Boxcar Aldous Huxley – The Slow Decline of the London Necropolis Railway

Telegrams Elapsing by Boxcar Aldous Huxley

7. Rabit – Red Candles

8. Swans – She Loves Us

9. SJ Esau – Soul II Skull

10. Robert Plant – Little Maggie

11. Die Antwoord – Ugly Boy / +
12. The Brackish – Surf’s Down / +
13. Rachael Dadd – Strike Our Scythes / +
14. Bob Mould – I Don’t Know You Any More / +
15. Perfume Genius – Queen / +
16. Alex Dingley – Knuckle Bone / +
17. New Cowboy Builders – Black Moses / +
18. Deerhoof – Exit Only / +
19. Gulp – Vast Space / +
20.  Yasmine Hamdane – Hal / +
21. The War on Drugs – Red Eyes / +
22. The Spitfires – I’m Holding On +
23. Marilyn Manson – Third Day of a Seven Day Binge / +
24. The Bug feat. Manga – Function / +
25. La Dispute – Extraordinary Dinner Party / +
26. Papernut Cambridge – Nutflake Social / +
27. tUnE-yArDs – Water Fountain / +
28. Paul Orwell – Tell Me, Tell Me / +
29. Tape Waves – Looking at the Sun / +
30. Grumbling Furs – All the Rays / +
31. Downard – Metal Office / +
32. Porcelain – My Friend Paranoia / +
33. Scott Walker & Sunn O))) – Herod 2014 / +
34. Xiu Xiu – Stupid in the Dark/ +
35. Psyence – Chemicals for Breakfast / +
36. Happyness – Great Minds Think Alike, All Brains Taste the Same / +
37. Henry Blacker – Pullin Like a Dray / +
38. Adrienne Lenker and Buck Meek – A Better Time to Meet / +
39. The Van Allen Belt – Clouds/ +
40. The Spiritualized Mississippi Space Program – Always Forgetting with You / +

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