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Marnie Stern, Sky Larkin, The Hysterical Injury – The Louisiana, Bristol (4 June, 2013)

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Marnie Stern, Sky Larkin, The Hysterical Injury – The Louisiana, Bristol (4 June, 2013)

Posted on 07 June 2013 by Joe

This was a night of powerful front women at Bristol’s Louisiana with the inimitable Marnie Stern headlining and support by other female-fronted acts Sky Larkin and The Hysterical Injury.

Marnie Stern

Marnie Stern

Although guest list problems, which thankfully were resolved, meant my enjoyment of Bristol’s The Hysterical Injury was cut short, they delivered a pummelling performance of charged guitars, screams of feedback and stacked drum beats that went down well. The final song ended with a long, trippy breakdown that had the ambling ambience of The Velvet Underground. All quite impressive for this siblling two-piece, of bassist and vocalist Annie Gardiner and her brother Tom, on drums.

Sky Larkin‘s Katie Harkin has a strong but kooky vocal, underscored by the band’s bittersweet chord sequences. Opener ‘Still Windows’ introduced a battering ram of a sound and these power chords were basked in waves of reverb. The synthy sound of the guitars brings to mind New Order. They’re also a bit Smashing Pumpkins but do have an original sound and integrated new songs from the forthcoming album into the set tonight, as well as an X-Ray Spex cover.

Marnie Stern then arrived on stage and takes the first of several swigs from a bottle of wine. It was a ramshackle entrance but the quality of the playing and the passion of the performance more than made amends during the next half an hour. She is famed as one of the great modern guitarists with her trademark pacy finger-tapping of the fretboard. Her guitar actually did allsorts during the gig and it’s lead was matched simultaneously by all manner of vocal improvisation. ‘You Don’t Turn Down’ introduced a more epic, cosmic guitar sound. Elsewhere, the freeform compositions suggested Pixies as she also maintained the guitar jangle of Television and the sound of her native New York.

Marnie absolutely rocked. She played with a smile on her face and her skipping and pogoing was mirrored by the first rows of the audience. The best was left until last with the insistent, scrawled riff of ‘East Side Glory’ which then gives centrestage to Oneida drummer Kid Millions; whose playing had been an evening highlight. And so closed a highly original night, made for music lovers.

by Matthew Nicholson

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Top Ten Bands To Watch Out For In 2011

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Top Ten Bands To Watch Out For In 2011

Posted on 01 December 2010 by Joe

With the year almost at an end we thought it a good time to profile some of the indie and alternative acts we predict big things for in 2011. We’ve got an eclectic bunch for you. Some have already generated a buzz among the mainstream media, and the likes of BBC 6Music, while others are more obscure but have dazzled us so much this year that we are sure greater success beckons over the coming months. We’ve got some more traditional indie music acts, some exponents of so-called nu folk, some experimental ambience and even a bit of gypsy music. Sit back and enjoy Neonfiller.com’s Top Ten Bands To Watch Out For In 2011.

1. Django Django

Scottish band Django Django’s track ‘Storm’ was a highpoint of 2009. It left us at Neon Filler and countless others gagging for more. Another single Wor followed this year and it showed even more promise, fusing fifties guitar riffs and odd rhythms. It also showed a band unafraid to experiment, full of humour and an act that look like they delight in surprising an audience.

Django Django

Already the darlings of the BBC and with a number of festival appearances under their belts 2011 is set to be a big year for the band with the long awaited release of their debut album. I’m going out on a limb here but I’d wager that if you like Sunderland band Field Music you are going to love Django Django.

2. The Miserable Rich

Comedian and record reviewer Stewart Lee recently said of Darren Hayman, “isn’t it about time he won an award or something.” We feel like that about The Miserable Rich as well. One of the best acts to emerge from UK’s  Willkommen Collective they are two albums into their career and on each they have displayed lush string arrangements, pop savvy melodies and beautiful, often tragic lyrics.

‘Somerhill’, from second album Of Flight and Fury (review here) about my hometown Brighton is one of my favourites. ‘Knife Throwers Hand’, from 2008’s debut album Twelve Ways To Count, is another stand out and made our Top Ten Weepies list. This is a fine, fine band who are deserving of far more success.

3. Allo Darlin’

Allo Darlin’ have a great pedigree in music that is often described as “twee”. Singer Elizabeth Morris plays with Amelia Feltcher’s Tender Trap and Bill Botting is one of the bassists in Darren Hayman’s shifting backing band. It is the honesty and romance and playful melodies of these bands (and the kings of twee Belle and Sebastian) that make them so great, and Allo Darlin’ are a welcome addition to this much maligned genre.

We had the privelage of seeing them perform a captivating set at the End of the Road Festival in September and their self-titled debut album is one of our favourites of the year. “Twee” has a pretty loyal following, and I’m sure that they’ve taken this band to their hearts already, but any fan of quality pop music will find much to love with this band.

4. Cloud Nothings

Cloud Nothings is the work of 19 year old Dylan Baldi from Cleveland. He produces lo-fi indie-pop of a type that sucks in the best of the late 70s, mid-80s and 90s. Think Wavves without the tiresome “attitude” mixed with the geeky charm of blue album Weezer. The songs sound like they were recorded in his bedroom (and they probably were) but the tunes are so catchy that it is easy to forgive the scratchier elements of the (lack of) production.

A handful of 7 inch singles and EPs released in 2010 have been collected by Wichita (read our review of Cloud Nothings as part of the Wichita Recordings tour here) on a single CD. The full length debut is set for release in early 2011. The presence of a professional producer may worry the lo-fi purists, but with songs this good it should prove to be one of the releases of the year.

5. Sky Larkin

Sky Larkin are the second band in our top 10 to have featured in our Wichita Recordings gig review and they proved to be as good a band live as they are on record. Not a new act, they formed in Leeds in 2005 and have two albums under their belt, but they are a band that has being going from strength to strength.

Their sound is influenced by US indie, Sleater Kinney spring to mind, but very British as well. Katie Harkin’s voice and guitar are at the heart of the bands sound, but the rhythm section are tight and just flashy enough to lift the bands sound above the ordinary.

Touring their second album saw them supporting Les Savy Fav, Blood Red Shoes and Frightened Rabbit in the second half of 2010. This will have brought their music to a wider audience, an audience that is sure to grow in 2011.

6.Revere

Folk pop outfit Revere are hard to define. I’ve tried with the aforementioned ‘folk pop’ tag, but there is also gypsy music and Ennio Morricone soundtracks to add to their exhilarating mix as well. At times downbeat and subtle while at others epic and sweeping the act, which was formed by duo Stephen Ellis and Andrew Hawke around five years ago, is now a mighty eight-strong and features glockenspiel, a horn section and strings.

2011 is set to be a big year for the band, mainly as we believe the music would be perfect for festival crowds looking for something new and different. Among their best tracks on Hey Selim! are ‘As The Radars Sleep’, ‘We Won’t Be Here Tomorrow’ and  ‘The Escape Artist’. Read our full review of Hey Selim! here.

7. The Robot Heart

The Dust EP by Brighton, UK, band The Robot Heart and released on Bleeding Heart Recordings, was one of the treasures of 2010. This stunning debut for both label and band with its mix of chamber pop, choral harmonies,  indie cool and down to earth folk is simple, effective and wonderful.

They are potentially the most commercially accessible on out list, with their trademark soft twinkling acoustic guitar, subtle drumming and basic piano melody hard to dislike. We are predicting big things for The Robot Heart in 2011, when a new album is promised and larger tour dates and support slots beckon. Read our review of Dust here.

8.Special Benny

Special Benny sent us their debut album Toys in 2010 along with a single page PR blurb waffling on about Frank Zappa and being perfectionists. We gave it a listen and were blown away by the breadth and ambition of the music.

Largely instrumental bringing in indie, 70s rock, and yes, very clearly Frank Zappa’s music, you name it, its on it. Its fun as well, like US indie metal band Fang Island and what’s more its great music for listening to in a car. In fact we’ve been listening to this everywhere with a hop, skip and jump in our step. Sold yet? You should be. Pick up a copy of Toys (review here), see them live and help make 2011 the massive year it should be for this special band.

Air Filter by Special Benny

9.Veronica Falls

The 1980s are back (again…) but this time it isn’t the poppy synths or new romantic look that is being revived it is the more downbeat end of the C86 scene that is seeing a comeback. This is a trend that has been going on in US music for a little while and is now coming back home.

Heralding from Glasgow, home of The Pastels, they have the sound of the 60s as filtered through the mid-80s perfected. With only a couple of 7 inch singles released to date they still have a long way to go to prove that they are more than just a good tribute act but they show enough promise to make them one to watch in the coming year.

10. St Gregory Orange

Tucked away on Under the Bus Station Clock, the excellent compilation of Wakefield areas bands released this year from Philophobia Music was ‘Pan Away And Fade To Black’ by St Gregory Orange. It was among a number of standouts from bands like The Bambinos, but St Gregory Orange’s track was particularly striking for its soft, electro feel.

Not sombre like more familiar Yorkshire electro pioneers, such as early Human League or showy like, er, well later Human League, but it was enough to get our interest. We have since enjoyed their 2009 eight track mini album Things We Said In Bedrooms. An EP and another album are due out in 2011.

There’s something likeable about them too, especially when reading their Facebook updates. Take this one about a recent unusual gig for example. “St. Gregory Orange performed a set of improvised noise to literally tens of people over four 30 minutes sets whilst artist Bruce Rimmel produced a mural of marker-pen-interpretation. There was wine too.” Sounds fun.

Click here to hear ‘Pan Away and Fade To Black’ by St Gregory Orange

See Also:  Top 100 Indie and Alternative Albums Of All Time

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

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Les Savy Fav: Komedia, Brighton 15 Oct 2010

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Les Savy Fav: Komedia, Brighton 15 Oct 2010

Posted on 21 November 2010 by Dorian

Wichita Recordings is an interesting record label. Based on the triple bill of acts featured here, Les Savy Fav, Sky Larkin and Cloud Nothings, the quality of the band is the key to be signed, not the style of music you play. Sure, all three acts are guitar lead indie acts, but they couldn’t be more different within that boundary.

First up we have Cloud Nothings, a band that I have only just discovered who’s only release is a collection of bedroom recorded EPs and singles. On record they sound like The Russian Futurists, with guitars replacing the keyboards. All fuzzy and homemade. Live there is more of a punk rock attitude (albeit a geeky one), how I imagine Weezer would sound if they had grown up listening to the Buzzcocks rather than Van Halen. The songs sounded fresh and spirited and despite the small audience (the set finished just as the venue was starting to fill up) the atmosphere was good. The lights were oddly low throughout and made it hard to see what was going on onstage. The only upside to this was that it looked just like the band was fronted by Superbad’s McLovin. Having looked up pictures of Dylan Baldi since on Google I can see that this isn’t the case.

Sky Larkin

Sky Larkin (drummer not in shot due to being in the shower)

Sky Larkin herald from Leeds and, like Cloud Nothings, are one of my bands to watch out for next year (see our feature later this month). They have released two excellent albums and, on the strength of tonight, are unassuming but pretty captivating live. A classic indie three piece they nicely straddle the line between British female fronted indie pop and the harder edge of a band like Sleater Kinney. Like Cloud Nothings their set is short but sweet. ‘Fossil, I’ from their debut album The Golden Spike being a standout from a very strong set. Again the stage is oddly dark and this detracts a little from the performance.

Les Savy Fav

Tim Harrington sings to the startled bar staff

Les Savy Fav are a band that I’ve liked but not loved on record. Let’s Stay Friends being their only album I own, and enjoyable as it is I’ve never been tempted to buy anything else. Seeing them live is a revelation.

Front man Tim Harrington is a big figure, not just physically (although he is) but in presence and in voice equally. He arrives on stage in a smart shirt and a wig, assuming the role of a motivational speaker. As soon as they launch into their first song he dives into the audience and sings most of the vocals from various positions in the auditorium. Beer flies high and the crowd is 100% engaged from the start.

The band are excellent as well, powerful and tight. They are also the first act tonight with the confidence to demand that more light is shone on the stage, a vast improvement. The sound is classic American alternative rock, but with an angular edge. How The Hold Steady might sound if they had listened to more Fugazi and less Springsteen. The energy doesn’t drop from start to finish, and Harrington seems to have an infinite energy supply.

The only problem with the set was the behaviour of the venue’s security. I saw several people being ejected and this from one of the least threatening audiences you are likely to ever see at a gig. Happy and enthusiastic, yes, aggressive and dangerous, no. At one point a number of people got on the stage (Harrington breaks down the audience/stage boundaries with his unusually mobile behaviour). Within seconds they were outnumbered by security staff. Their presence was unnecessarily heavy handed and out of keeping with the mood of the gig.

This is a minor downside to an otherwise brilliant gig, probably my favourite gig of the year so far.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

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