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Top Ten Albums of 2016 So far…

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Top Ten Albums of 2016 So far…

Posted on 20 June 2016 by Joe

With 2016 at the half way mark we thought we’d present our list of the ten albums that have impressed us the most so far. All within our broad focus on indie and alternative music, we’ve some old stagers, new bands and plenty of rage. We’ve also got an act at number one who probably never would have thought they’d be acclaimed as the best indie act of the year in 2016 back. In addition to the ten below we also wanted to mention new albums by Shearwater, Pete Astor, The Wave Pictures, Steven James Adams, Picture Box and Rapid Results College, which are all in contention for a place in our end of year extended best albums list.

10. Robert Pollard – Of Course You Are

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Incredibly, this is now the 22nd solo album from the hardest working man in music and proves another high point in an illustrious career. Read the full review here.

9. Bob Mould – Patch the Sky

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Third album from the former Sugar and Husker Du man’s most settled line up for years. The key to its success is its ability to tackle the tough issues of life in the most fun way possible, as Mould’s rage and melody once again combine perfectly.  Read the full review here.

8. Dressy Bessy – King Sized

Dressy Bessy Kingsized

Fabulous return from a six-year break for the US act. This works particularly well by merging their beefier pre- hiatus sound with the pop nous that made their early work so infectious. Read the full review here.

7. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity

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Like an extended rock jam, taking in science fiction, monsters and, naturally, some awesome guitar riffs this is another stellar release from the Australian psych rockers, with a little help from some robots and a gigantic wasp. Read the full review here.

6. Woodpigeon – TROUBLE

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Heartbreak, loss and a globe trotting meander prove the powerful inspiration for Mark Andrew Hamilton’s latest album. Beautiful and inspiring. Read the full review here.

5. Evans the Death – Vanilla

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On album number three London act Evans the Death have upped, shredded, beaten up and garrotted the ante. It’s full of rage, the guitars are heavier than before, the vocals fiercer and the ambition turned to stadium sized proportions, with a brass section and even a funky bass added to the mix. Incendiary album from what very well be Britain’s best rock band. Read the full review here.

4. Papernut Cambridge – Love the Things Your Lover Loves

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Former Death in Vegas man Ian Button and crew have created their very own 1970s pop band. Full of fuzzed up guitar riffs and stomping rhythms there would have been plenty to satisfy the charts back in the day, especially the album’s title song, and its best pop tune, Radio. Read the full review here.

3. Darren Hayman – Thankful Villages – Vol 1

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One of Hayman’s best pieces of work and possibly his most important, preserving the oral history of the relatives of those who survived the horrors of the Great War as well as paying tribute to the village life these soldiers left and thankfully returned to. Read the full review here.

2. Emma Pollock – In Search of Harperfield

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Childhood memories and the toils of adulthood mix wonderfully on the former Delgados singer’s latest album. With the track Parks and Recreation she has also created one of the best songs of recent years. Read the full review here.

1. The Monkees – Good Times

The Monkees - Good Times

The comeback to beat all comebacks. Originally planned as merely something to sell on their 50th anniversary tour this album has ended up grabbing the headlines in its own right. With Fountains of Wayne man Adam Schlesinger at the helm, a stack of lost demos to dust off and new tracks from talented Monkees fans such as Andy Partridge and Ben Gibbard, Good Times both pays tribute to their place in 1960s pop history and creates a great, modern day indie and alternative pop album in its own right. A well deserved number one slot. Read our full review here.

Top Ten Albums of 2016 So far was compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

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Robert Pollard – Of Course You Are

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Robert Pollard – Of Course You Are

Posted on 07 March 2016 by Dorian

2016 is already proving to be a slightly confusing year for followers of Robert Pollard. He recently announced that Guided By Voices were reforming with a largely new line-up, only drummer Kevin March having been in a previous incarnation. That announcement was accompanied by news that the new Guided By Voices album would be a totally solo affair by Pollard. He then springs a new solo album upon us that is the first for over a decade to not be recorded with Todd Tobias on instrument and production duties. In his place, handling all instruments and the recording desk, is Nick Mitchell, his Ricked Wicky side-man  and newly announced guitarist in the live GBV line-up.

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As typically muddled as this may be it is good news. Mitchell has proved to be a great foil for Pollard on the Ricked Wicky albums and is clearly a first-rate guitarist. It is also true that a degree of saminess had crept in to the albums that Pollard and Tobias were producing – these were good records but you knew largely what they would sound like.

What Mitchell immediately brings to the party is a harder rock edge, and this is immediately brought out on the opening track ‘My Daughter Yes She Knows’ which is riff heavy and unafraid of classic rock cliché. He brings more to the album than guitars though and the arrangements on this album are as adventurous as anything Pollard has produced with strings, horns and keyboards having a noticeable presence on a number of tracks.

Pollard has always been at his best when working with a like-minded instrumentalist and much like Tobin Sprout, Doug Gillard and Chris Slusarenko it looks like Mitchell is bringing the best out of Pollard’s song-writing as well as offering up his guitar skills. The songs on the album are all of a surprisingly high standard for someone who releases so many and there is a good mixture of styles on show across the 12 tracks. There is a slight bias towards the more rocking guitar songs but there is time for some sweet ballads and hook filled pop tunes as well.

The real thing that makes this album work so well though is the variety of arrangement, not just between but within the songs. Listen to the horns on ‘Little Pigs’ or the Love-esque horns/strings/guitar burst in ‘I Can Illustrate’ and you can imagine how much fun was had bringing these songs together.

Best of all is the album closer, and title track, which demonstrates Pollard’s unmistakable gift for crafting tunes that could have been recorded any time in the last five decades.

This is Pollard’s 22nd solo album and he shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. Expect number 23 to be announced any day.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens – The Top 10

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens – The Top 10

Posted on 16 December 2015 by Dorian

This week sees the much-anticipated release of the latest instalment in the world’s most popular space opera series, Star Wars: The Force awakens. It is impossible to avoid such a big release and media saturation is reaching fever pitch as the premier approaches.

When we see a bandwagon of this magnitude the only realistic option is to jump aboard. Luckily space is just as rich a source of inspiration for songs as it is for films. So here, for your listening pleasure, is the top 10 songs about space.

10. The Byrds – Mr.Spaceman

Early Byrds records were dominated by Gene Clark songs and cover versions, until Clark quit after two albums. This left Jim/Roger McGuinn to write the bulk of the songs, including this novelty from their 3rd album in 1966.

9. Pere Ubu – I Hear They Smoke The Barbecue

For a short period in the early 90s Pere Ubu decided to try to be a pop band, with mixed results. This track, about aliens among us, is one of their more successful attempts at being radio friendly.

8. Ash – Angel Interceptor

Ash’s first album, 1977, is very appropriate here as it is named after the year when Star wars first hit cinema screens in the US. ‘Angel Interceptor’ is named after the aircraft in the TV show Captain Scarlet. ‘Girl From Mars’ may have been a more appropriate choice for this list, but this is a better song.

7. Rotifer – The Cosmonaut Who Never Flew

This track is taken from the Vostok 5 EP that was part of an art show about people and animals in space. I could have picked any of the tracks from that EP (they are all pretty great) but this contribution from Robert Rotifer is a wonderful reflection on the Soviet space programme.

6. Sun Kil Moon – Space Travel Is Boring

I’m not a huge fan of Sun Kil Moon, whereas I’ve always loved the work of Modest Mouse. This cover of ‘Space Travel Is Boring’ is great though, and eclipses the original.

5. Robert Pollard – Love Your Spaceman

Superman Was A Rocker was one of Pollard’s least successful solo releases, an overtly lo-fi collection of forgotten songs that should have mostly remained unreleased. However, this is a Robert Pollard album, dig in the dirt and you’ll normally find a diamond. “When Fred says Rock ‘n’ Roll!” indeed.

4. The Beastie Boys – Intergalactic

When the Beastie Boys first hit the scene in the mid-80s it seemed unlikely that they would be releasing critically acclaimed chart topping albums 15 years later, but they were and this track is one of their best.

3. The Star Wars Rap

15 years ago I had no idea what a viral video was, or what a meme was or even what social media was, but I did know that this video was funny. Luke’s whiny delivery, and the slightly odd gin and tonic reference, have stuck with me that whole time. Classic.

2. Hefner – Alan Bean

This was the lead single from Hefner’s “difficult” final album and is one of the band’s most evocative tracks. It tells the story of the 4th man on the moon, who devoted his post-astronaut years to painting pictures of the lunar landscape.

1. Neon Neon – I Told Her On Alderaan

Super Furry Animal Gruf Rhys and Boom Bip collaborating on a song named after Princess Leia’s home planet, on a concept album about the inventor of the DeLorean. Near perfect pop.

Compiled by Dorian Rogers

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Top 20 Albums of 2015…so far

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Top 20 Albums of 2015…so far

Posted on 03 July 2015 by Joe

At the year’s half way point we take a look back on some of our favourite albums of the year so far. There’s been a distinct up turn in pop amongst our largely indie and alternative releases, with Franz Ferdnand and Spark’s collaboration and the return of Go! Team and They Might Be Giants amongst the standouts. We also feature an homage to arguably the UK’s golden era of pop, a concept album about wrestling, some prog rock, some teen angst, a bit of adult angst and another regular placing for Robert Pollard, who retains his tag as rock’s most productive artist. Watch out for our end of year list in December.

20. Mammoth Penguins – Hide and Seek

 

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Mammoth Penguins, the new band formed by Standard Fare’s Emma Kupa, are one of the best new acts to emerge this year. At it’s heart it’s basic indie pop of drums, crunchy guitar chords, bass and bitter sweet lyrics. But an elevation comes from Kupa’s distinct vocals, which here seem clearer and more powerful than on Standard Fare releases. Plus there seems to be a sharper focus to the songs as well, which pack a real punch. Read our full review here.

19. Alabama Shakes – Sound and Color

 

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Our contributor Sarah Robertson’s favourite album of the year launches itself into our top 20 thanks to its “timeless, soulful” sound and a range of songs “that could provide the backdrop to a cult road trip film.” Read our full review here.

18. The Mountain Goats – Beat The Champ

 

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Fronted by John Darnielle and still very much a three piece, with Peter Hughes and Jon Wurster in tow, the Mountain Goats’s latest is a concept album about the very human tales of wrestling, from their young fans to the stars of the ring themselves. Heartbreaking and joyous. Read our full review here.

17. The Bevis Frond – Miasma and Inner Marshland Reissues

 

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Welcome reissue for the cult 1980s prog rock act’s first two albums. The band’s driving force Nick Salomon is still very much guitar noodling and plays for the second time in two years at Glastonbury this year. Read our full review here to find out why his band is so adored by guitar luminaries such as Jay Mascis.

16. Matt Creer – The Leeward Tide

 

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As calms after the storm go this latest album by Isle of Man singer songwriter Matt Creer is just about perfect. We first heard his beautiful take on folk music via a Tweet from Chris TT. We hope this placing in our Top 20 albums of the year so far prompts others to discover his remarkable talent. Read our full review here.

15. They Might Be Giants – Glean

 

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The iconic pop duo have revisited and updated their 1980s dial-a-song idea to release a song a week throughout 2015. Glean rounds up the best of those released so far and reveals they have lost none of their pop credentials. Read our full review here.

14. Papernut Cambridge – Nutlets (1967-1980)

 

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So it appears Hot Chocolate used to be cool. Who knew? Well, Ian Button, who releases under the Papernut Cambridge moniker, did. The former Death in Vegas/Thrashing Doves man is something of a 1970s pop expert and this fine collection features ten covers of his favourites from around that time. Read our full review here.

13. SLUG- Ripe

 

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Any album that is connected with Field Music is likely to be enthusiastically received at Neon Filler towers. The band have produced some of our favourite music over the last decade. Ripe is the twisted brain child o their touring bass player Ian Black and has both Brewis Brothers on board for the ride. Imagine Queen producing their music in 21st Century Sunderland and you get a flavour of what is on show here.

12. Calexico – Edge of the Sun

 

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You know what you are going to get when you play a Calexico album, the smooth sounds of Californian country rock with a consistent undercurrent of Marichi brass. Edge of the Sun offers no surprises, but is their most satisfying release in years. Iron And Wine’s Sam Beam, Neko Case and Gaby Moreno all pitch in with vocal support on an album that would sound best listened to in a desert.

11. The Tigercats – Mysteries

 

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Now signed to Fortuna Pop and with Allo Darlin’s Paul Rains in their ranks the London band have managed to nail the potentially tricky second album after the critical success of their debut Isle of Dogs. It sounds great and as ever the songwriting and lyrics are superb. Read our full review here.

10. Evans the Death – Expect Delays

 

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The despair for young people under coalition and now Conservative government since 2010 is embedded in every scream, guitar riff and drum beat on this incendiary latest album from the London four piece. This is what it feels like to be young and pissed off in all its magnificent angst. Read our full review here.

9. Ralegh Long – Hoverance

 

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Gare Du Nord label artist Ralegh Long takes the listener into the world of the English countryside for a beautiful, rural inspired collection of romantic and thoughtful songs. Read our full review here.

8. Southern Tenant Folk Union – The Chuck Norris Project

 

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The Folk and bluegrass collective took a bold step using the film titles of right wing action star Chuck Norris to take on the weighty issues of the world, from gun crime to racism. Thankfully it worked, especially on Slaughter on San Francisco, where their singer Rory Butler delivers one of the vocal performances of the year. Read our full review here.

7. The Wave Pictures – Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon

 

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Is this the best dirty rock n roll album of the year? We declared as such back in February and so far few have come close. With Billy Childish on board for production duties the trio get down and dirty and even roll out a couple of Creedence Clearwater Revival numbers. Read our full review here.

6. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell

 

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His 2010 album The Age of Adz may have been his most successful to date but it never sat quite easy with us. Granted its electronica was innovative but Stevens always sounds best to us with a stripped back sound and a hanky to wipe away the tears from his sad lyrics. Here he reveals his most intimate album yet focusing on his uneasy relationship with his late mother Carrie and his adoration for his step father Lowell Brams, who he runs his label Asthmatic Kitty with. This album is magnificently sad and uplifting in equal measure, as all great Sufjan Stevens albums should be.

5. Belle and Sebastian – Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance

 

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Following a five year break between albums the Scottish indie pop legends were back with one of the best releases. With added disco chic on The Party Line they even dip their toe into politics, with The Cat with the Cream and its heart breaking take on coalition government era Britain.

4. Villagers – Darling Arithmatic

 

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There’s something so wonderfully precise about Villagers’ frontman Conor O’Brien’s voice. Each line is told with such clarity and on this, their third album, the messag O’Brien wants to convey is loud and clear; this is a love album and one made by a gay man from Ireland. Read our full review here.

3. Robert Pollard – Faulty Superheroes

 

Robert Pollard - Faulty Superheroes

Like Joan Jett and the Blackhearts I too love rock and roll. But sometimes the idea of putting another dime in the juke box baby fills me with horror. Then just when you’d almost given up hope an album comes along and renews your faith in rock and roll. This is that album. Read our full review here.

2. FFS – FFS

 

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This merging of art rockers Franz Ferdinand with 1970s oddball pop duo Sparks is one of the few collaborations in music that works. The Sparks brothers of Ron and Russell Mael look to have the upper hand in directing this, at times utterly bonkers, collection of pop songs. Alex Kapranos and co seem content to follow their lead and enjoy the ride. Read our full review here.

1. The Go! Team – The Scene Between

 

The Go Team The Scene Between artwork SMALL(1)

The whole album from start to finish is teaming with singles, with wonderful hooks, riffs and choruses shining throughout. Its perfect pop and we challenge anyone who professes to have any form of appreciation for a good pop song to dislike this album. This gained a rare 10/10 from us when released. Read our full review here.

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Robert Pollard – Faulty Superheroes

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Robert Pollard – Faulty Superheroes

Posted on 26 May 2015 by Dorian

Like Joan Jett and the Blackhearts I too love rock and roll. But sometimes the idea of putting another dime in the juke box baby fills me with horror. Then just when you’d almost given up hope an album comes along and renews your faith in rock and roll. This is that album.

Robert Pollard - Faulty Superheroes

This album has all the good stuff that you hope for in a Bob Pollard release, with none of the more frustrating elements. Catchy off-kilter alt-rock? Check. The title track and ‘Up and Up and Up’ deliver that wonderfully. You want some oblique lyrics and British Invasion classic rock? Well howsabout ‘Take Me To Yolita’ or ‘You Only Need Me’. Inclined towards a galloping bit of proper post-punk? Skip forward to ‘Mozart’s Throne’. Stick around until the end and you get to sign-of with the pretty acoustic psyche-folk of ‘Perikeet Vista’. Even better, there are none of the sludgier tracks or tuneless noise-pieces that have upset the flow of even his better solo outings in the last decade.

I always enjoy a lazy comparison with a Guided By Voices album and for this release I choose Earthquake Glue, which is an album that has been a little overlooked in the GBV discography.

Sure there are a number of songs that sound like other Bob Pollard songs. So what? He releases 10 albums a year. It is easy to reinvent yourself if you are Radiohead and can only muster one album every four years or so. Lazy he is not, and this album perfectly captures his obvious love of writing and recording music.

The other thing is that however much he sounds like himself, he doesn’t really sound like anyone else. The Who influence is there, track one has that REM vibe he loves (possibly his most REM-y track since the 1986 debut Guided By Voices EP)  and the Beatles make an appearance, but all in all it sounds like Bob Pollard in a way that nothing else does.

It is also a really well played album, the band all earning their recording fees on this one. Kevin March is reliable as ever behind the drums and this album features some of Todd Tobias’s best guitar playing on a Pollard solo effort. ‘Cafe Of Elimination’ features a proper bit of alt-rock guitar soloing and ‘Photo Enforced Human Highway’ just sounds great, faux-flute keyboards and all (and is perhaps the finest song on the whole record).

Typically I give Pollard’s albums a good review, whatever guise they might appear in, but I’m normally cautious to recommend them. They are not always easy listens, and the erratic quality can be off-putting to the uninitiated. Faulty Superheroes however I can recommend wholeheartedly. It is simply 12 excellent songs and a very easy album to enjoy. Coming off the back of the similarly excellent Ricked Wicky album this could prove to be a bit of a golden year for an artist that undoubtedly has a lot more music up his sleeve.

I love rock and roll. This is rock and roll.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

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Ricked Wicky – I Sell the Circus

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Ricked Wicky – I Sell the Circus

Posted on 16 January 2015 by Dorian

2014 was one of the most up and down years in all my 20+ listening to the music of Robert Pollard. The ups included two first rate albums by the rejuvenated Guided By Voices. The downs included the collapse (again) of Guided By Voices and a rare Robert Pollard album that I couldn’t get along with, under his Teenage Guitar moniker.

It is hard to say what 2015 will bring, or indeed just how many records he will release, but the release of his first album as Ricked Wicky is a pretty stellar start to the year.

Ricked Wicky I Sell The Circus

I Sell the Circus sees Pollard teamed with regulars Todd Tobias and Kevin March as well as Dayton based cover band professional Nick Mitchell. It also sees him producing my favourite non-GBV recording since he called it a day with Boston Spaceships.

It is the Yin to Teenage Guitar’s Yang, showcasing the other side of Robert Pollard’s album style. Where that album was all fuzz and crackle, this is a surprisingly well produced record, where that album was half-formed ideas and snippets this is a set of fully formed psych-pop classics.

It is a remarkably consistent, by Pollard’s standards at least, with no duff tracks on the album. It is also a very well sequenced album, with no risk of front loading the standout tracks. These alternate universe radio favourites are peppered through the album and surprisingly strong for an artist roughly 1 billion tracks into his career.

The attractively titled ‘Piss Face’, completed with distorted slide guitar, is the kind of off-kilter rock that Boston Spaceships exceled at. This is followed immediately by the acoustic ‘Even Today and Tomorrow’ which is what Love might have sounded like if they were fronted by a sozzled former school-teacher rather than Arthur Lee.

‘Frenzy of Blame’ is the most obvious “pop song” on the album, and in the great tradition of Pollard casually throwing in a classic two-thirds of the way through an album. To the converted this will come as no surprise but whether the uneducated will ever take the time to listen to this album is another question.

Pollard is surely at peace with his place in the musical world, his days of employing star name producers to push his albums a distant memory. In fact he sounds like he is having more fun on this album than he has for a long time. Album closer ‘A Real Slab’ is a case in point as Pollard and co. knock out three and a half minutes of the best Who song the Who never recorded.

If Pollard was to bring out a dozen even better albums this year it wouldn’t be a surprise, but if this is the last record we see from him in 2015 it would be more than enough.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

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Robert Pollard – Blazing Gentlemen

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Robert Pollard – Blazing Gentlemen

Posted on 14 December 2013 by Dorian

I have some problems when reviewing Robert Pollard albums, whether they be under one of his band guises or his own name, and I doubt my objective judgement. I’m a big fan and I must have listened to hundreds of hours of his music over the years since I first picked up a copy of the Grand Hour EP in a Greenwich record shop in the mid-90s.

I have a slightly exhausted resignation to the fact that, for all but the obsessive fans, it will be impossible to persuade most people to listen to his work and in particular his more recent output. And why should they? There are probably dozens of better albums he has produced that they could pick up first. Indeed the sheer scale of his musical output is going to put most people off, where to start? Even if you plump for the obvious choices, Bee Thousand and Alien lanes, you are missing a huge piece of the musical puzzle that Uncle Bob has constructed.

Robert Pollard - Blazing Gentlemen

Let’s take a simple comparison (sorry, I weill get to the review soon) to illustrate the scale of output. My Bloody Valentine famously took 22 years between releases, one of the slowest album outputs in recorded history. What did Bob achieve in the same period? (Deep breath) 15 Guided By Voices albums, 19 solo albums, 5 as Boston Spaceships, 10 as the Circus Devils, 3 as Acid Ranch, 2 as Airport 5, 1 as Cosmos, 1 as Hazzard Hotrods,1 as the Keene Brothers,  1 as Lexo and the Leapers, 2 as Lifeguards, 1 as Mars Classroom, 1 as Phantom Tollbooth, 2 as Psycho and the Birds, 2 as the Takeovers and probably some I’ve missed. This list doesn’t include the hundreds of singles, EPs, live recordings, box sets or demos and miscelallenous other releases. Anyway, I make that 65 albums he has written, recorded and released in the time it has taken Kevin Shields to agonise over one overated single album release. Pretty daunting stuff (Go to http://www.gbvdb.com/ to see the full picture).

So when you listen to a new Robert pollard album you have a lot to compare it to, and a lot of expectation to supress. Blazing Gentlemen sounds, as you would expect, just like a Robert Pollard album and it is not an album full of surprises. What is notable is that it is a comparatively straight-forward album from Bob. Opening track ‘Magic Man Hype’ is an off-kilter rocker, but compared to some of his solo work this is a fairly poppy entry point. The first half of the album rumbles along in a similar way, enjoyable stuff without necessarily making you sit up and take note of song titles.

However, as is often the way with a Pollard album it starts to make sense as it moves along and by the time you have hit the excellent ‘Extra Fool’s Day’ and the galloping ‘1000 Royalty Street’ you almost forget you are listening to another Robert Pollard album and find yourself wrapped up in the music.

Three songs from this second act deserve special mention.  Single ‘Tonight’s The Rodeo’ because of the wonderful decending melody (forgive my lack of musical accuracy – it appears first time 20 seconds in) that makes it sound so timeless. ‘This Place Has Everything’ just for the drama it manages to generate in only 67 seconds. Finally ‘Tea People’ for sounding like something that Blur would have spent weeks conceiving, and you know Bob tossed it off in not much longer than it takes to listen to, and for knowing that 93 seconds is exactly just enough.

I’m not going to give this album a score. If you are a Pollard obsessive you’ll listen to it anyway. If you remain unconvinced (or feel you have already heard enough) then even a 10/10 review is unlikley to tempt you.

If you don’t fit either of these categories then I urge you to give this a listen, the greatest song-writer of his generation (the most prolific at the very least) deserves your attention.

By Dorian Rogers

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Top 20 Albums of 2013

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Top 20 Albums of 2013

Posted on 11 December 2013 by Joe

The first half of the year was a pretty poor period for releases but we just about scrabbled together our June feature,  Top ten albums list of 2013…so far. But since then the rate of excellent releases has picked up pace and now in December we find ourselves struggling to cram them all into a Top 20.  It is therefore with a heavy heart that we chop off some superb 2013 releases by the likes of Jackson Scott, John Howard, PINS and Josh Rouse from this list. We think we’ve got a good range for you here and urge you to read our full reviews, buy their albums and go see them live. Anyway, enough of our guff, on with the list.

20. Young Knives –  Sick Octave

Young Knives

Finally, after over a decade on the sweaty coalface of jerky punk rock,  some long overdue acclaim for this industrious trio. It’s taken a series of well received EPs, extensive tour schedules and three studio albums to get them thus far,  but this fourth offering will, our reviewer John Haylock confidently predicts, cure your jaded and cynical hearts. Read our full review here.

19. Wave Pictures – City Forgiveness

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Conceived on a US tour with Allo Darlin this latest album from the perplexingly under rated Wave Pictures is heavily influenced by the American blues. Thankfully in their stellar guitarist David Tattersall they have a musician who can pay tribute to the blues and put the band’s  very English slant on the genre with aplomb. Some say it’s a little long. But we say, who cares when the bulk of it is so good. Read our full review here.

18. La Femme – Psycho Tropical Berlin

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After watching this video for Antitaxi, the opening track on the debut album from Bairritz based surf popsters La Femme, I’m fairly convinced they are just about the coolest band on the planet, well, in France at least. Blending 60s guitar pop with psychedelia and electronica this album is among the most creative and original of the year. Read our full review here.

17. Thirty Pounds of Bone – I Cannot Sing You Here, But For Songs of Where

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This third album of folk music by Thirty Pounds of Bone, aka Johny Lamb, manages to sound traditional without ever slipping into genre cliche. It is one of the best folk albums released this year and one of the best albums of 2013 full stop. Read our full review here.

16. Mogwai – Les Revenants

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Mogwai’s soundtrack for Les Revenants, the French TV series about the dead returning to haunt a small town, perfectly matches the show’s sense of foreboding. The dead in Les Revenants have feelings too and this is perfectly formed in Mogwai’s brooding mix of piano, cello and percussion and tender glockenspiel. One of the best TV soundtracks you will ever hear.

15. Just Handshakes –Say It

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This impressive debut from Yorkshire’s Just Handshakes features many a familiar C86 sound, with whirly-gig keyboards, chorus pedals and  choppy insightful melodies, all providing the perfect backdrop to the sumptuous, earthy English folk vocals of singer Clara Patrick. Indie pop with a distinct folk twist. Read our full review here.

14. Mum – Smilewound

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Icelandic foursome Mùm’s sixth album Smilewound will draw inevitable comparisons with fellow Nords Sigur Rós. Fortunately this is for all the right reasons. Our reviewer Rob Finch says this is a damn-near perfect album, punch-packed with effortless experimental Scandi dreampop and intelligent, intelligible lyrics. Read our full review here.

13. Robert Pollard – Honey Locust Honky Tonk

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This is Guided by Voices frontman Robert Pollards self-proclaimed country album, but aside from the name, cover and one song (‘I Killed a Man Who Looked Like You’) it would be hard to hear any strong country influences on this album. Our favourite of Pollard’s many solo and Guided By Voices releases this year. Read our full review here.

12. Okkervil River – Silver Gymnasium

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The band’s first on ATO Records is the most autobiographical yet of singer/songwriter Will Sheff’s tenure as Okkervil River frontman as he takes the listener into a brief period of his childhood in the small New Hampshire town of Meriden, where his parents worked in 1986 as teachers at a local boarding school. Its full of influences from the era and the band have even drafted in Cyndi Lauper’s producer to give it that 80s sheen. Read our full review here.

11. Low – The Invisible Way

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Centred around husband and wife duo Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker Low have been fine tuning their brand of so-called slow core rock across ten albums now. The Invisible Way takes the haunting, tender ethos of previous album C’mon one step further. Gone are the overt ’50s and ’60s electric guitar sounds  to be replaced with piano, acoustic guitar and an even softer Americana feel under the direction of producer, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. Read our full review here.

10. Tullycraft – Lost in Light Rotation

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While many of their twee peers are still drinking weak lemon drink from a flask and grumbling about this and that, America’s veteran indie pop outfit Tullycraft have added a good splash of gin to this poor metaphor of a flask and are belting out optimistic happy pop as if the recession and all the other ills since their last album in 2007 had never existed. Read our full review here.

9. Neko Case – The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

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Arguably the longest album title of the year, but one of the most simple albums of the year. Great songs and great voice from the peerless Case. Fans will know there is a darkness to all her albums and this is a much darker beast  than the upbeat Middle Cyclone. One of the true great North American singers. Read our full review here.

8. Mark Mulcahy – Dear Mark J Mulcahy, I Love You

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Classic guitar pop from the former Miracle Legion frontman. Great vocals and some killer tunes here including ‘Poison Candy Heart’  and ‘She Makes The World Turn Backwards’, which our reviewer Dorian Rogers believes should be available in every karaoke booth round the world. Read our full review here.

7. The National   – Trouble Will Find Me

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Born out of the chaos of the hurricane that ripped New York state apart last year the Brooklyn based band have produced one of their most calming and satisfying releases yet. Read our full review here.

6. Southern Tenant Folk Union – Hello Cold Goodbye Sun

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Conflict about musical direction, song choices and album themes, can be a destructive influence for some bands. Fortunately for Southern Tenant Folk Union, the Edinburgh based collective that loosely falls under the folk/bluegrass banner, the opposite has happened and pre-production disharmony has conspired to create one of their best releases and one of the year’s most innovative albums. This is folk and bluegrass like you have never heard it before. Read our full review here.

5. Matthew E White – Big Inner

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White is part of an eclectic country, rock, soul, gospel, you name it, collective of musicians in his native Virginia who are put through their paces with on this, his first album. The end result is timeless country soul at its best and fans of Lambchop’s Nixon are going to love this. Read our full review here.

4. Phosphorescent – Muchacho

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American album of the year and our favourite so far as Phosphorescent’s Matthew Houck expertly blends country, soul, electronica and rock. Perhaps the greatest exponent of sounding epic and in need of a good night’s sleep in modern music. Marvellous stuff. Read our full review here.

3. John Grant – Pale Green Ghosts

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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. Read our full review here.

2. Rotifer –The Cavalry Never Showed Up

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Clever political lyrics mixed with some fine guitar pop make this the best album yet by Austrian broadcaster, artist and now resident of Canterbury Robert Rotifer and his band. With the track  I Just Couldn’t Eat As Much As I’d Like To Throw Up this trio has also served up our favourite song of the year. Read our full review here.

1. Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold

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This US band emerged this year with a sound that has captivated us. Part Sonic Youth, part The Modern Lovers  and with a liberal sprinkling of  Pavement at their most Fall-obsessed this is a noisy, snotty album and the 15 songs fly by with several bum notes but no duff tracks. Read our full review here.

Thanks to all our album reviewers during 2013: Rob Finch, Patricia Turk, Conal Dougan, John Haylock, Scott Hammond, Kevin McGough and Matthew Nicholson.

List compiled by Neonfiller.com co-editors Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers.

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Some that we missed

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Some that we missed

Posted on 17 October 2013 by Dorian

We try and get reviews up of all the best albums over yer, but sometimes we miss them on release, or just don’t get time to give them a review.  Here is a small selection of albums released earlier this year that deserve a mention and a place in your record collection.

Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold

Texan band move to New York and make a classic sounding New York punk album, probably my favourite album of the year so far.

Parquet Courts - Light Up Gold

Alongside a sound that is equally in thrall to Sonic Youth and The Modern Lovers is a smattering of Pavement at their most Fall-obsessed. This is a noisy, snotty album and the 15 songs fly by with several bum notes but no duff tracks. This is actually the band’s second album, the first a cassette only release, but it sounds fresh like a debut album and features such an invigorating sound that the somewhat banal lyrics on some songs don’t matter at all.

10/10

Guided By Voices – The English Little League

It was inevitable that I’d fall behind on the many releases of Robert Pollard, and several others have come out or been announced since this latest Guided By Voices set hit the shelves.

Guided By Voices - English Little League

The shine has worn off the GBV reunion a little bit with four albums coming out in less than two years. That makes it hard to tell if this album isn’t quite as good, or if I’ve just had a little bit too much of a good thing. The thing is, even a not-quite-as-good GBV album is pretty great, and there are few bands around doing this kind of thing as well. The sound is a little harsher this time round, Wire spring to mind on occasion, and it is lighter on the whimsical side of Pollard on this occasion. Tobin Sprout is on excellent form and his three songs are, as always, a great counter-balance to his better known bandleader.

8/10

Fear of Men – Early Fragments

Early Fragments is a collection of singles and cassette releases by the Brighton based band, but manages to have a very cohesive feel.

Fear of Men - Early Fragments

Then band’s sound, sitting somewhere between early 90s shoegaze and the jangle pop of The Sundays isn’t going to be to everyone’s taste, but they do this stuff so well that I can forgive the obvious reference points. This isn’t a lyrically light and breezy album, singer Jess Weiss is laying here feelings on the line here. Musically it counters the rather morose lyrics with some bright and chiming guitars and lovely melodies. ‘Ritual Confession’ is a case in point and is a strong contender for prettiest song of the year.

8/10

Robert Pollard – Honey Locust Honky Tonk

This is Robert Pollards self-proclaimed country album, but aside from the name, cover and one song (‘I Killed a Man Who Looked Like You’) it would be hard to hear any strong country influences on this album.

Robert Pollard - Honey Locust Honky Tonk

Country or not, this set of 17 songs in 30 minutes is one of his best releases in years, and definitely his most consistent (even more so than the recent Guided By Voices releases). It is a great album from start to finish, but Pollard saves the best until the end of the record with a run of four songs that are as good as anything he has released in many years. He has several more albums on release this year, but I’d be surprised if any of them better this.

9/10

Cloud – Comfort Songs

Originality is an overrated virtue and the fact that I can hear a multitude of influences on Comfort Songs doesn’t make me like Cloud any less.

Cloud - Comfort Songs

Imagine Conor Oberst and Avi Buffalo jamming with the Flaming Lips and you’ll get some of the flavour of this very enjoyable album by the young Long Island band, Clouds. It sounds great, and there is no shortage of musical invention on show here and no shortage of instruments being played across the eleven songs. It is a long album, made up of long songs, and a little bit of editing might have helped but this is a very enjoyable recording. You can pick this up from Audio Antihero here.

8/10

Mogwai  – Les Revenants

Mogwai’s soundtrack for Les Revenants, the French TV series about the dead returning to haunt a small town, perfectly matches the show’s sense of foreboding.

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The listener already  knows bad things are going to happen from album opener and series theme tune Hungry Face onwards. But the music also shows that this is no ordinary zombie plot. The dead in Les Revenants have feelings too and this is perfectly formed in Mogwai’s brooding mix of piano, cello and percussion and tender glockenspiel. Considering the soundtrack was devised after Mogwai had only read a brief sysnopsis it shows how much series and soundtrack influenced each other.

9/10

Reviews by Dorian Rogers (except Les Revenants by Joe Lepper)

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Robert Pollard – The Big Make-Over

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Robert Pollard – The Big Make-Over

Posted on 09 February 2013 by Dorian

Regular readers of this site, and anyone who knows me, will realise that I have an unhealthy obsession with the music of Guided By Voices and their leader Robert Pollard. Recently I stumbled across a video entitled The Who Went Home and Cried on YouTube. It is a brilliant film in that it captures the most incredibly relaxed band rehearsal you will ever see. Also it features Pollard himself playing all the lead guitar (something you rarely get to see) and some great versions of lesser known songs.

One such song featured is ‘The Big Make-Over’ from his 1999 solo album Kid Marine. The song is one of my favourites and inspired me to put together an accompanying video for the album version which you can see below.

I’m no skilled film maker, my camera skill and editing are sorely lacking in finesse. However, I think that the rhythm, shaky camera and lack of obvious meaning fit with Pollard’s song pretty well.

Robert Pollard - Kid Marine

Kid Marine is no longer in print, and as such quite expensive to buy, but can be listened to on Spotify.

By Dorian Rogers

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