Tag Archive | "Co-pilgrim"

Alex Highton – Welcome to Happiness

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Alex Highton – Welcome to Happiness

Posted on 06 April 2018 by Joe

One of the best aspects of running a music blog is receiving a fantastic album in the post.

But 0ne of the most frustrating aspects is to see such a release fail to get the publicity it deserves from the wider music media.

This has happened many times over the years with acts such as the wonderfully inventive Free Swim and the beautiful Co-Pilgrim, both bands that dazzle time after time as exponents of great English pop.

We do our bit. We promote such acts via social media and write reviews, however, we are just a small fish in a gigantic pond.

Alex Highton

With this in mind we were delighted to receive the third album from another English pop dazzler, Alex Highton, ahead of its March 30th release. But have been also frustrated to discover, via a hasty Google search, that so few reviews have been published since then.

Let’s at least get this review out there and hope more follow. Alex Highton and his great music deserves it.

But before we wade into this latest release here’s a quick recap of Alex Highton’s recent career. He first appeared on our radar in 2012 with the release of his debut album Wooditton Wives Club. This focuses on his own move from city to rural life and features some marvelously savvy pastoral folk-pop. Song for Someone on this is a particular highpoint, and was later covered expertly by John Howard.

Two years later 2014 album number two, Nobody Knows Anything, was released. This saw his palette become far broader, with electronica and a few nods to 1960s psychedelia added to the mix. It garnered a 9/10 score from us.

With this third album Liverpudlian Alex Highton has turned up the synths with 1980s and 1990s influences coming more to the fore. This is particular notable on opener Benny Is a Heartbreaker, an Ultravox-esque thriller of a song.

There’s a Part to Everyone That You Can(‘t) Love is also a great pop song, complete with woodwind section, oddly placed brackets and clapping.

Another highlight is Getting Fucked Up (It’s all you ever do), which somehow manages to blend Beck’s back catalogue with George Harrison’s Beatles epic Within You Without You. This is not the first time the Fab Four’s influence has become apparent across Alex Highton’s albums.  Although previously he appeared to be more of a Macca man, particularly on some of his more whimsical numbers.

Across the ten tracks there a range of different styles. All are hinged together by an inventiveness and desire to do more with the notion of the three minute pop song.

So here we have a great album, one that will appeal to a wide range of people, with a varied array of tastes. The production value is strong. The tunes are excellent.

It is demanding to be reviewed, listened to and even cherished.

What are you waiting for?

9/10

By Joe Lepper

For more information about Alex Highton – Welcome to Happiness visit here.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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Co-pilgrim – Moon Lagoon

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Co-pilgrim – Moon Lagoon

Posted on 14 July 2017 by Joe

Aaaahhhhhhhh! So begins my annual scream at the world to listen to a new album by Mike Gale’s Hampshire and Oxfordshire based band Co-pilgrim.

Gale is a purveyor of fine songs. Sometimes uplifting, sometimes melancholy, often with an alternative country twang but always with a strong sense of melody. His releases have oodles of pop sensibility and annually I despair that he is not being listened to in every home.

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Each year he produces a strong album. This is his fourth in as many years, and it is another exceptional collection. However, there is one key difference here to previous releases. That scream of frustration you heard earlier from me is something that is perhaps boiling up inside Gale too.

Here he’s dusted off his distortion pedal for two belting 90s US college rock openers, Turn It Around and the excellently titled You’ll Look Pretty As A Picture….When The Acid Rain Hits Ya.

The gain has been cranked up – Mike means business.

He then rifles down the back of his sofa for the Sigor Ros manual of main stage festival performances for  the stadium sized epic Cynlidrical Fire Escapes.

Best of all is the title track. Sandwiched in the middle of this eight track album (or at the end of side one if you are of a vinyl disposition) and sounding like Velvet Underground and Nico with a sense of humour. There are some great backing vocals here from Claire Bennett too.

Speaking of Bennett, she is a star on this album with her Kim Deal-esque vocals enlivening Cynlidrical Fire Escapes in particular.

Over on the last half of the album it’s a quieter affair. Gale has unloaded his troubles through the four fuzzed up earlier tracks. It’s time now to sit by the piano, perhaps  in a smoking jacket and explore some new musical directions.

On this second half there is some sumptuous chamber pop on Thank My Stars. There’s familiar alt-county melancholy on I’m Not A Wallflower, I’m The Wall. He then travels back to the late 1970s for a Wings-like ‘slowie’ called Digging Holes In The Whites Of Your Eyes.

Proceedings end with the upbeat horn section and calypso vibe of Wouldn’t You Like To Dance.

An album of two halves? Definitely. But they both work well together, showing a broad range of styles all brought together by the recurring search for a mythical utopia called the ‘moon lagoon’.

We learn from the press release that this is an album borne from loss, the death of a parent for Gale. We also discover he suffers from a debilitating agoraphobia. Often his albums show an uplifting sense of optimism out of such adversity and in this regard Moon Lagoon is a very typical Co-pilgrim album albeit with a far keener sense of ambition than its predecessors, which for this reviewer makes it Gale’s best yet.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

For more information about Co-pilgrim including details about Moon Lagoon visit their website here.

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Pete Astor – Spilt Milk

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Pete Astor – Spilt Milk

Posted on 06 January 2016 by Joe

It says something about the quality of Pete Astor and his 1980s band The Weather Prophets that their track Worm in my Brain emerged as one of the best on the recent 76 track commemorative box -set reissue of the NME’s C86 tape. Up against the likes of Primal Scream and The Wedding Present this track with its wonderful guitar arrangement and Astor’s honest vocals stands up remarkably well 30 years on.

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Once of Creation band The Loft and still managed by Creation boss Alan McGee while in The Weather Prophets, Astor went solo in 1990. But a familiar story in music unfolded – critical success greeted Astor, while success continued to elude him.

He took a break for a few years, some more solo projects eventually followed, Astor briefly reformed The Loft and healso took on a new career, as a university lecturer on the music industry.

Now signed to Fortuna Pop he starts 2016 with this his eighth solo album. On this evidence Fortuna Pop, where he joins a recent roster of young up and coming bands as well as veteran indie troopers such as Darren Hayman, is a good fit.

The guitar and vocal delivery from Worm in my Brain is still there thankfully on this release, which has an unshowy production that allows the songs and lyrics to shine. The sparse use of a talented backing band, that includes former Hefner man Jack Hayter on pedal steel, helps as well. This means that when they do appear it has more impact.

As a disciple of the “sing what you know about” school of songwriting, so advocated by XTC’s Andy Partridge among others, Astor’s lyrics are unmistakably that of a middle aged man, full of wistful nods to the past and a wry look at the present and future. As he puts it in accompanying press release, time passes, shit happens; some losses, some gains. Don’t cry – but I did.” This is a good way to sum up this album’s feel.

My Right Hand about friendship and the country sounding Good Enough are among the best but for me Sleeping Tiger emerges as the stand out track. It’s got the melody, the full band feel and a great guitar hook driving it throughout. Very Good Lock is another good introspective piece that offers hope to the downtrodden.

As an advert to a new audience this album will hopefully do its job, with Darren Hayman’s recent solo work and the meloncholic melodies of Co-Pilgrim good points of reference for the uninitiated.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

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Co-pilgrim – Slows To Go

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Co-pilgrim – Slows To Go

Posted on 02 November 2015 by Joe

Our last album review of a Co-pilgrim release, for 2014’s Plumes, focused on why this talented band from Winchester is failing to get greater attention.

In song writer and frontman Mike Gale they have one of UK music’s best kept secrets, with his bittersweet lyrics merging beautifully with ’60s guitars and melodies. How his tracks are not well known is seemingly a mystery, we gushed.

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With their latest release, Slows to Go, we are back at the gushing again. The same beautifully arranged guitar pop is evident, but sounds bigger here. The press release says as much too, with Gale keen to point out that this is much more of a full band release, with Andy Reaney’s bass, backing vocals from Claire Bennett and the lap steel and 12 string guitars of Joe Bennett, who as with Plumes is once again producer, all given greater prominence.

For points of reference Gale is a huge Guided by Voices fan and the same sense of indie melodies that Robert Pollard creates year in year out as a solo artist, with GBV and Boston Spaceships, are clear on this release. Teenage Fanclub at their song writing peak on Grand Prix is another, as is REM, particularly their earlier albums, where they too mixed melancholy and joy so well.

From the opening title track this larger sound is evident with its lush vocal harmonies that drift into second track Echo in My Dreams ,where the lap steel washes in and out over the guitar pop.

Speaking of pop You Come Over, You Go and She’s Finally Here have the album’s best melodies, instantly in the brain after just one listen.

Is there a duff track? Not one and even when Gale and co take a break from the lovely guitar pop with the lilting It’s a Blue Moon,  the lap steel’s emotion shines through to make it another standout song in this collection.

Looking across this album and its companions Plumes and A Fairer Sea (2013) this is perhaps the best of the three, the melancholy takes an even bigger backseat to optimism and musically this is the most polished of the lot with Gale’s songs given the sound they deserve.

9/10

By Joe Lepper

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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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