Tag Archive | "Midlake"

John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts

Tags: ,

John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts

Posted on 25 March 2013 by Joe

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


This makes Pale Green Ghosts frustratingly changeable in pace and likeability. But perseverance pays. Grant’s ability move seamlessly from flabby beats, synthy strings and squeaky tweets to staid rock – and back again – makes this feel like a complete Radiohead retrospective condensed to 12 tracks.

In places it threatens to provide schoolboy poetry. Glacier particularly fringes on the more winsome elements of The Divine Comedy. Yet like the Divine Comedy it soars most unexpectedly out of these am-dram moments to be a thing of beauty. Grant’s rich, deep vocal also brings Neil Hannon to mind.

On Why don’t you love me any more?, Grant tells things as they are, yet remains poetic. In some ways he’s a bit like Morrissey. But clearly these fussy meanderings are derived from a bucket full of black emotion from Grant’s personal life. The singer has gone through drink and drugs problems and recently revealed that he has been diagnosed HIV positive. This helps dispel doubts about his lyrics, putting them in serious context.

More happily meanwhile, Blackbelt is a slice of Scissors Sisters underpinned by words written by a man who has seemingly swallowed a dictionary. It is a stomping, bleeping, slapping masterpiece. And the bass-y title track should be cranked up to 10 on the car stereo, with the windows down as you cruise slowly around a small town striking fear in the hearts of members of the local Rotary Club.

Tracks with downbeat titles such It doesn’t matter to him, and I hate this town, mean this collection has little mass-market appeal for sure. What’s more, Pale Green Ghosts’ genre-crossing nature makes it one for a musical connoisseur. But you’re a connoisseur aren’t you? Otherwise why would you be reading a review on Neonfiller.com?

So go on. Give it a listen.


by Rob Finch

Editors note: It’s also worth checking out John Grant’s debut album Queen of Denmark, where he is backed by the mid 70s folk rock sounds of Midlake. It is also a marvelous album. Here’s a clip of one of its standout tracks Mars.


Comments (1)

Top 100 Albums (80 – 71)

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Top 100 Albums (80 – 71)

Posted on 29 March 2011 by Dorian

Everyone has their own Top 100 Albums list, but this is ours based on our love of alternative and independent music over the years. There are some albums here that you will have seen on many lists before but we’ve also opted for some obscurities with the aim of highlighting some different music for you to seek out.

We have been releasing this list ten at a time every Friday. We hope you enjoy this third instalment. Here’s our previous instalments (90 -81 , 100-91).  See you next week for 70-61.

Also, for  more great albums visit our  Classic Albums section

80. Midlake – Trials Of Van Occupanther

No this is not from the 1970s, but this 2006 release from American folk rock act Midlake is as near as you will get to that era of flares as it beautifully recreates the classic American rock production of Fleetwood Mac and Crosby Stills and Nash.  The effect is that tracks such as Roscoe and Bandits already sound like 30 year old masterpieces. Lyrically the influences go even further back, evoking images of the old west, log cabins, woods and pioneering. This is powerful decade skipping stuff with some sumptuous melodies. Midlake didn’t quite reach the same heights with their follow up album, The Courage of Others, proving just how special this album is.

79. Josh Rouse – Under Cold Blue Stars

Under Cold Blue Stars

Josh Rouse initially came to our attention through his collaboration with Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner on the Chester EP. One trip to see him play in a small room above a Brighton pub and we were hooked. His first five albums are all essential listens, but Under Cold Blue Stars remains our favourite and should have been the album that broke him from a cult act to bigger things. The album looks at some of the darker areas of a relationship, focusing on a mid-western 1950s couple, but softens the blow with some of the sweeter, more tender moments. It is a beautifully warm album, excellently produced by Roger Mountenot, that demonstrated what an ambitious songwriter Rouse had become. On top of this it features some great pop tunes, especially ‘Nothing Gives Me Pleasure’ and ‘Feeling No Pain’ which demonstrate that his influences lie just as much in UK acts of the 1980s (especially The Cure and The Smiths) as the traditional American acts he had become associated with.

78. Mclusky – Do Dallas

Mclusky from Cardiff were among the angriest  and funniest bands around during their short career straddling the millennium.   With  Steve Albini as producer their relentless energy and humour never sounded better as on their 2002 second album Do Dallas.  Has there ever been a better opening song title as ‘Lightsabre Cocksucking Blues’? The music industry itself was a popular target of the band especially on standouts such as ‘To Hell With Good Intentions’,  ‘Collagen Rock’  and ‘Fuck this band’.  They split in 2005 and singer Andy “Falco” Falkous and drummer Jack Egglestone currently plough a slightly more serious furrow with Future Of The Left.

77. Cat Power  – You Are Free

You Are Free

Cat Power’s hushed fragile, yet powerful voice would reach a bigger audience on The Greatest in 2006 but this 2003 release is the best example of her songwriting, whilst retaining some of the edginess of her earlier recordings. Cat Power (real name Chan Marshal) plays most of what we hear here but a diverse group of musicians including Warren Ellis, Dave Grohl and Eddie Vedder contribute to some of the tracks. The sparse piano lead ‘I Don’t Blame You’ sets the tone for the album but fuller sounding songs such as ‘He War’ mean that it never sounds one paced or lacking in variation. It isn’t always an easy listen, break-ups and child abuse are some of the lyrical matter, but it is certainly an enriching experience and Marshal’s voice is one of the loveliest things on record.

76. Pylon – Gyrate

“We’re not the best rock ‘n’ roll band in America,” Pylon deserve that accolade, said REM drummer Bill Berry in 1987. Formed in REM’s hometown of Athens Georgia in 1979 they were helped along the way by another of that college town’s bands The B-52s to create frenetic, danceable new wave music that was wholly unique. Singer Vanessa Briscoe Hay’s raw and emotional vocals, backed with a sparse Gang of Four influenced rhythm section is expertly captured on this their debut album, with highlights including opener ‘Volume’ and final track ‘Stop It’. All bands should aspire to be this original. Berry certainly knew what he was talking about.

75. Field Music – Measure


Field Music’s Measure has the distinction of being the most modern album in our top 100, it was also the number 1 album in our 2010 round-up. Field Music, brothers Peter and David Brewis, recorded Measure after a hiatus where they focused on solo projects as The Week That Was and School Of Language. In an age where most people consume songs track by track it is a brave move to release a double album, but the quality of songs is so good here that it demands to be listened to in its entirety. The vocal harmonies are great, the playing typically tight and the variety of songs styles greater than anything they had released before. Read our full review here.

74. Kings Of Convenience – Quiet Is The New Loud

If a revolution for those that like subtle melodies, beautiful guitar playing and melancholy lyrics were likely then Norwegian duo of Erlend Øye and Eirik Glambek Bøe would be leading the charge. The title of their album itself is a statement of quiet revolutionary intent for all the poetic and moody waifs of the world and the album delivers a stunning array of understated and downright lovely indie folk tracks. Their Scandinavian background echoes through each track with highlights including ‘Winning a battle, losing the war’ and a stripped back cover of A-Ha’s’ Manhattan Skyline.’ This album received mixed reviews when it came out in 2001, but over time has been rightly seen by many as up there with the best naval gazing folksters, earning them justifiable comparisons with Simon & Garfunkle and Belle & Sebastian.

73.  The Dead Milkmen – Beelzebubba


A band called The Dead Milkmen is unlikely to attract a mainstream audience, and an album containing songs called ‘My Many Smells’ and ‘Life Is Shit’ is not an easy sell. However, if you are looking for snotty punk with a sense of humour then you can’t go far wrong with this album. ‘Punk Rock Girl’ is the album’s standout moment, and their one MTV hit, but there is plenty more to entertain here including songs about rednecks, James Brown and a vengeful Ringo Starr buying a rifle to get back at John and Paul for overdubbing his drums (sample lyric “Hey Paul, you asshole… Dub this!”). The band sound bad tempered and angry and the music is fast and furious, great fun throughout. You probably don’t need many Dead Milkmen albums in your collection, but you need one and this is the pick of the bunch.

72. Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Searching For The Young Soul Rebels

Perfectionist Kevin Rowland built up and smashed down incarnations of his band Dexy’s Midnight Runners seemingly at will during the 1980s. But it’s this 1980 debut from the band’s first incarnation as a soul band with a punk heart that is our pick. Littered with stomping singles such as ‘Geno’  this album is also home to some contemporary soul classics penned by the band, such as ‘I’m Just Looking’ . The album was reissued to mark its 30th anniversary last year including a welcome set of extras of singles, B sides and radio sessions of this first and best Dexy’s line up.

71. Neutral Milk Hotel – In The Aeroplane Over The  Sea

In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

In The Aeroplane Over The Sea has become a staple of ‘best album’ lists in recent years, which is strange considering what an odd record it is. The combination of stream-of-consciousness lyrics, over-wrought vocals and erratic instrumental arrangements is like nothing else, and all the better for that. Lead by former Olivia Tremor Control member Jeff Mangum and produced by Apples In Stereo front-man Robert Schneider Neutral Milk Hotel were the most esoteric act in the Elephant 6 roster. There is some of the psychedelic 60s garage sound, ‘Holland 1945’, but also aggressive folk and songs built around acoustic guitar and horns that sound like nothing else. From the twisted pop of ‘The King Of Carrot Flowers, Pt.1’ through to the Dylanesque folk of ‘Two headed Boy, Pt.2’ it is a surprising and unique album that never disappoints.

by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

Top 100 (90-81)Top 100 (100-91)


Comments (1)

Midlake – Late Night Tales

Tags: , , ,

Midlake – Late Night Tales

Posted on 29 March 2011 by Joe

Midlake’s influences across the folk rock scenes of the 1960s and 1970s are well known, so in many respects their role as the latest curator in the Late Night Tales series will produce few surprises.

As expected this 19 track compilation is dominated by UK folk legends from the past such as Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span, as well as some of their key US influences,  including The Band and Flying Burrito Brothers.

But there’s also a welcome acceptance that some modern acts are also influencing them. Bjork’s ‘Unravel’ gets a place as does ‘Silver Soul’ from Beach House’s excellent 2010 album Teen Dream.

There’s the odd curveball as well. Scott Walker does not immediately spring to mind when I think of Midlake, but his track Copenhagen is a welcome addition, adding some tranquil gravitas. The final carousel moment on that track is especially wonderous. Will Self’s story The Happy Detective is another odd choice, but one that works.

All good compilations need to stick to a theme, in this case to provide a set of songs to drift off to in the evening. Midlake achieve this perfectly. What better way to relax than to listen to the beautiful sounds of  one of the UK’s finest ever folk singers Sandy Denny.

Good compilations also need to provide some obscurities and the chance to discover your next favourite band. ‘Times the Thief’ by 1970s Edinburgh folk rock act Bread, Love and Dreams certainly fits that bill. This is especially as it features the unmistakable rhythm section of Pentangle’s drummer Terry Cox and bassist Danny Thompson.

Final mention must go to Midlake, who include an exclusive and well worked acoustic cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘Am I going Insane’ to the collection.

For fans of Midlake (whose album Trials of Von Occupanther is #80 in our Top 100 Albums of all time list) this compilation is  a must as they take you through their record collection. But it also acts as a pretty fine introduction to some of the best folk music to come out of the UK, with many of the tracks on this compilation featured within our Top Ten Albums From The Golden Age Of UK Folk feature.


by Joe Lepper


Comments (0)


Midlake – The Courage of Others

Posted on 21 September 2010 by Joe

With 2006’s album The Trials of Van Occupanther, Texan band Midlake perfectly recreated that sunny, kaftan wearing feeling of the early 1970s. All Fleetwood Mac and Eagles, songs such as ‘Roscoe’ and ‘Bandits’ could easily have come from the era.

Three years on and their follow up The Courage of Others once again visits that time. But while The Trials of Van Occupanther had a distinctly US feel to it The Courage of Others has more of an emphasis on folk-rock and in particular British acts of the early 1970s such as Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull.

Other points of difference with The Trials of Van Occupanther are The Courage of Other’s crisper sound. This makes it less laid-back and somehow more British and stiff upper-lipped. The greater use of flutes also adds to this classic British folk rock feel.

Overall it will please fans of The Trials of Van Occupanther with its attention to detail and ability to take the listener back to that bygone 1970s era. It also mirrors the previous album’s ability to sound like the most mainstream of  albums in places yet retain the band’s alternative credentials.  It’s a neat trick that another pastoral sounding band The Fleet Foxes also pull off well.

The Courage of Others starts off pretty tamely, with opener ‘Acts of Man’ just about the weakest on the album. ‘Winter Dies’, brings the pace up a bit and is far better. But it is the middle section of the album that has the standout tracks.

The soft ‘Fortune’ sounds like The Byrds, with its twinkling acoustic guitars.  Next track ‘Rulers, Ruling All Things’ is epic stuff, pompous folk-rock warts and all. ‘Children of the Grounds’ is another standout.

However, as the album progresses the tracks merge more and more into one big folk-rock-athon. More flutes, more twinkly guitars, more imagery of nature. The guitar solos seem to get longer and by the time I got to final track ‘In the Ground’, just like music buyers at the end of the folk rock era, I’d had enough.

On the plus side at least Midlake have the good grace to keep most of the tracks down to a sensible three to four minutes and not move into true folk-rock territory and torture us with 11 minute flute and drum solos.

Comparisons with The Trials of Van Occupanther are inevitable and sadly this is where Courage of Others ultimately falls down. It’s impossible to match the impact of that previous album and this latest offering essentially serves up a similar  retro feel without having a track to match the wonder of Trials of Van Occupanther’s ‘Roscoe’ or showing a band that is keen to progress.

Courage of Others is good enough, but for their next album they will need to alter their sound further, and perhaps look forward rather than backwards if they are to last longer than the folk-rock acts of the 1970s they seek to emulate.


by Joe Lepper, Jan 2010


Comments (0)

Advertise Here

Photos from our Flickr stream

See all photos

Advertise Here