Tag Archive | "Special Benny"

Free Swim – Yolanda the Panda EP

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Free Swim – Yolanda the Panda EP

Posted on 28 January 2011 by Joe

Shortly after we reviewed Free Swim’s previous EP, ‘TwoHands Is Ok’ last October we received an email from the London based experimental band saying: “Recording next EP next week – who knows what the songs will be, we make it up as we go along!”

A few months on and the fruits of their labour have emerged in Yolanda the Panda, a concept EP about a panda’s attempt to scale Mount Everest. But while the band may appear to have a relaxed attitude to recording don’t be fooled into thinking they are anything other than serious about their music.

As with Two Hands Is Ok, about a man grafting a pair of extra hands onto his chest to multi-task more efficiently, the content may be silly but the music is far from slapdash. In fact, the band are fast emerging as one of the most accomplished, interesting acts in the UK alternative music scene thanks to their very English blend of exciting power pop and eccentricity.

The results on Yolanda the Panda are superb, musically like Super Furry Animals in their prime the tracks are full of drive and energy. The King Missile style story telling on Two Hands Is Ok also returns on track three ‘Swooping swoopily like a swooping swooper’ but this time at breakneck speed.

Free Swim came to Neon Filler as mutual fans of Special Benny, another eclectic and exciting London based band to emerge last year. Fans of Special Benny will find lots to like in Free Swim.

Perhaps the best news for you is that Yolanda The Panda is available for free at BandCamp. We strongly urge you to download it and enjoy this slice of quality English power pop.


by Joe Lepper


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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.


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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Special Benny – Toys


Special Benny – Toys

Posted on 23 September 2010 by Joe

There are so many influences on Toys, the unusual and eclectic debut album by UK six piece Special Benny, that it’s hard to know where to start describing the music.

Largely instrumental, the album is at times prog rock, at others reminiscent of heavy metal funsters  Fang Island, even Frank Zappa in places. Maths rock, whatever that may be, also makes an appearance, then there’s a bit of folk and at times some Field Music. I was even reminded of 1980s US hardcore punk/funk outfit Tar Babies at one point. You can see my problem.

The question I am left pondering as I reel off these influences is that with all its intricate musicianship, odd song construction and eclectic nature is Toys a mess or a masterpiece?  In a strange way this crazy hotch-potch of music works really well, all the influences come together nicely and all nine tracks are clearly worked out, despite the chaos of their musical juggling.

Special Benny - Toys

The keeping of vocals to a minimum, as Fang Island did on their debut earlier this year, also works well, except on track six, ‘Inspector Sands’. This discordant, jittery, almost King Crimson-esque track is the one that fans of Field Music are going to love. The only difference is that Field Music pull off this kind of interesting music with lyrics as well. It’s a shame, musically it is the best on the album, but with lyrics it could have been even better and one of the best tracks of the year.

Other instrumentals do work far better. Take ‘Children Are Cruel’ for example. Delayed guitar heart-beating it’s way across the intro gradually builds up into full out saxophone laced rock tune, all with the sound of children in the background. Its powerful music indeed.

Among other favourites are the meandering, funk-ish, cosmopolitan sounding ‘Croydon,’ which sounds far more interesting than the drab, concrete mess of a London suburb it is named after.

Special Benny, who have been going on and off for around four years, have delivered a remarkably interesting and powerful debut album that will delight those that also like the rock fun of Fang Island and the musicality of Field Music.


by Joe Lepper

Toys is released  by the Proper Songs label. More information here.


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