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The Miserable Rich live at The Dome Studio Theatre (30/11/12)

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The Miserable Rich live at The Dome Studio Theatre (30/11/12)

Posted on 01 December 2012 by Dorian

When The Miserable Rich take the stage at Brighton’s Dome Studio Theatre it is a bittersweet event for the home crowd who have ventured out into the cold to see the band play. You know that a great show is in the offing, but there is also the knowledge that this is the band’s last show, if not for ever, for a long time.

The Miserable Rich

Since I first heard the band in session playing ‘Boat Song’ on Marc Riley’s 6 Music show I have managed to see them seven times in total. This may not seem a lot to the kind of people that obsessively follow their favourite acts, but I have always loved variety and seldom see anyone play that often. It also occurs to me that I have seen them play in a wider variety of venues than any other act.

Here, for posterity, is the full list:

  1. In the heart of South Downs at The Beachdown festival
  2. Upstairs at the Union Chapel as part of a Willkommen Collective takeover
  3. In Resident Records
  4. Downstairs at The Hare and Hounds
  5. On an derelict bowling green in Queen’s Park
  6. In The Green Door Store
  7. And finally, in The Dome Studio Theatre

The significant point about all the shows being that they all had a different feel, but were all a brilliantly performed showcase of great tunes, the final night being no different.

The set-list picked pretty evenly between the band’s three albums, the quality mark being so high that it is hard to pick out highlights from the set. ‘Ringing The Changes’ was memorable as James de Malplaquet forgot the words, not once but twice, and the rendition of ‘Boat Song’ played (as has become tradition) from within the audience was a fitting finale. Also notable was a version of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ that sits in nicely with the band’s other excellent cover choices through their time together.

The band were joined on stage for about half the set by their original guitarist Jim Briffet, boosted to a seven piece from their original five member line-up. One of the great skills of the band is their ability to move between big sounds and delicate moments, sometimes several times within a song.

The band are officially on hiatus, the members pursuing alternative musical endeavors for the time being. The good news here is that there are several great new acts that could rise from the ashes of the band in the next few years. I hope that they do reunite at some point in the future, the prospect of a forth album and more shows is certainly something I would welcome. If, however, this really is the last we’ll see of them then at least I have been lucky enough to enjoy them more than most.

By Dorian Rogers

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Top 20 Albums of 2011

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Top 20 Albums of 2011

Posted on 02 December 2011 by Joe

We have to admit the year started badly in terms of album releases.  By March we were struggling to think of more than a couple of excellent album releases let alone begin a shortlist of 20.

Then winter turned to spring and the flood gates opened with  new bands emerging and some old stagers reliving their glory days and in some cases bettering them. We have our first ever classical music entry in an end of year album list, some great new UK folk music and a staggering achievement in song writing by one familiar face in our end of year lists.

We’ve even found room for an album about 1970/80s wrestling by one of the music industry’s funniest and most caustic writers and artists.

In the end its turned out to be a pretty fine year for releases, as two of the biggest names of 1990s alternative music battle it out for our top two places.  Get your bus fare ready, prepare to race down to your local independent record store, and enjoy Neonfiller.com’s Top 20 Albums of 2011.

20. Johann Johannson – The Miners’ Hymns

In a year of public sector cuts, strikes and the Gleision mining tragedy this soundtrack by  Jóhann Jóhannsson to Bill Morrison’s mining documentary of the same name helped it become our first classical music entry in an end of year list. The haunting and powerful music he creates to depict the brutal hardships of the industry and the chaos of the 1984 strike were recorded live at Durham Cathedral, which gives it added gravitas. Read our full review here.

19. Okkervil River – I Am Very Far

This Texan band’s follow up to its critically acclaimed previous albums The Stage Names and The Stand Ins brings more fire and bite to their sound as frontman Will Sheff took co-production duties. At times cinematic, at others indie rock not one of its 11 tracks are skippable. Among are highlights are opener The Valley and one of its singles Wake Up and Be Fine.  Read our full review here.

18. John Maus – We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves

Former Ariel Pink collaborator John Maus has plunged deep into the murky waters of the early 1980s to deliver one of the most stark, fascinating and strangely enjoyable slices of synth pop you will hear all year. Among our highlights on this, his third album, is the track ‘Cop Killer’. Read our full review here.

17. The Leisure Society  – Into The Murky Water

This second album by The Leisure Society gives us the urge to jump in our Neon Filler branded Morris Minor, dress up in our  Prisoner gear and take a dip in the murky waters of Bognor Regis or Portmerion, stopping off for some fish and chips and a pickled egg. This eccentric, most English of albums was one of the highlights of our summer. Read our full review here.

16. Timber Timbre – Creep on Creepin On

Featuring core multi-instrumentalist members Taylor Kirk, Mika Posen and Simon Trottier this peach of an album by Canada’s Timber Timbre seems to inhabit another universe where 1950’s B-movie soundtracks and dirty rock and roll rule supreme. It’s a strange mix that works thanks to Kirk’s soulfully odd (or should that be oddly soulful) vocals and the added instrumentation of pianist Mathieu Charbonneau and saxophonist Colin Stetson to add to its vintage charm. Read our full review here.

15. Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell – Kite

Just like the Mercury nominations we like to feature a new folk act in our end of year round ups. This year’s slot goes to the excellent Jonny Kearney and Lucy Farrell. Nominated for a 2011 BBC Folk horizon award, given to emerging new talent, they have clearly caught the ear of Radio 2’s Mike Harding and his production team. Rachel Unthank and her husband Adrian McNally are also admirers and produced this wonderful debut from the pair  in Northumberland. Read our full review here.

14. Singing Adams – Everybody Friends Now

This debut album from former Broken Family Band man Steven Adams’ latest project was one of the best indie-pop releases of the year, mixing Adams’ clever and poignant lyrics with a fine bunch of melodies. His band are a bunch of seasoned indie and alternative musicians and live they are well drilled outfit. We have been so impressed that they topped our Top Ten bands to watch out for in 2012 list. Our highlights on this excellent album include the singles I Need Your Mind and Injured Party. Read our full review here.

13. Bill Callahan – Apocalypse

With its stripped back feel, punctuated with squealing electric guitars and flutes, Apocalypse can be an unsettling listen at times, but not for too long as Callahan’s luxuriously deep voice has a calming influence and can easily draw you back to normality.  Read our full review here.

12. Battles – Gloss Drop

There are so many striking aspects to Gloss Drop, the follow up to the crazy, cartoonified thrill ride that was Battles’ last album Mirrored.  The range of singers including Gary Numan, the sense of fun and above all some superb drumming are just some that immediately spring to mind. Read our full review here.

11. David Lowery  – The Palace Guards

The Palace Guards is the first solo album from  Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven front-man David Lowery. It’s taken a while to come out but  its been worth the wait. This is among the best work from one of alternative music’s most engaging songwriters. Read our full review here.

10. The Miserable Rich – Miss You In The Days

Three albums in and The Miserable Rich are really hitting their stride as one of the UK’s most innovative acts, mixing compelling story telling with chamber pop and most importantly some damn fine tunes. Among the highlights on this their third album is the swirling Ringing the Changes. Read our full review here.

9. Kathryn Calder – Are You My Mother?

This  solo album from New Pornographer Calder has the professionalism and confidence you’d expect from a seasoned performer and her personality shines through lifting it above the norm and adding real charm to proceedings. The album was recorded while looking after her mother who was dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease. This gives the album an underlying sense of melancholy in places that adds an emotional depth few songwriters can manage. Read our full review here.

8. The Mountain Goats – All Eternals Deck

The Mountain Goats frontman John Darnielle’s song writing and survival instincts grow stronger with each release.  With three different producers there’s a surprising consistency as he exposes his hidden demons and offers up  some bittersweet tales of the famous along the way, from Charles Bronson to Judy Garland.  Uplifting stuff.  Read our full review here.

7. Low – C’Mon

C’mon may just be this year’s great American album, with echoes of Johnny Cash and Gram Parsons throughout. With very precise production from Matt Beckley and the band,  which is fronted by husband and wife Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, they have created an album that is melancholy, epic and just plain beautiful in places. Read our full review here.

6. Destroyer – Kaputt

An immaculate attention detail in recreating the sounds and production of the 1980s has helped Dan Bejar (aka Destroyer) become the second member of Canadian super group The New Pornographers to enter our Top 20.  Bejar has never sounded better as he takes the role of world weary rock star reminiscing in style. Part New Order, part Prefab Sprout, this is arguably his best album to date.  Read our full review here.

5. Wilco – The Whole Love

Wilco - The Whole Love

The Whole Love is probably closest in style to previous album Wilco (The Album) but  that little bit better. It also shows  a band at the peak of its powers, playing with confidence, inventiveness and real skill. You get the pop Wilco, the rock Wilco, the experimental Wilco and the soft melodic Wilco, all of which adds up to one of the most satisfying releases of the year. Read our full review here.

4. Luke Haines – 9 1/2 Psychedelic Meditations On British Wrestling Of The 1970s and Early 1980s.

Luke Haines Wrestling

The former Auteur and author of the excellent  book Bad Vibes returns from a two year recording break to turn his attention to the world of British wrestling from around 30 years ago. Witty, concise, well executed and completely unlike any other album we’ve heard this year. Haines clearly isn’t quite ready to throw the towel in just yet on his recording career. Read our full review here.

3. Darren Hayman – January Songs

Busy doesn’t even come close to describing  Darren Hayman’s year. He was involved in the  Vostok 5 art exhibition and album about space explorers, released an album of piano ballads  The Ships Piano, plays bass in Rotifer and  is involved in all sorts of Christmas releases for  Fika Recordings. His crowning achievement though for us was to write,  record and release a song a day during January. The end product January Songs, which is available to download and from January 2012 in CD format, contains some of the former Hefner frontman’s best work and offered a  great example of social media interaction between artist and audience, who helped him along the way with lyrics and ideas.  Read our full review here.

2. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Mirror Traffic

Thanks to production from Beck the former Pavement frontman has ditched some of his rock star, guitar squealing cliches to reveal one of  his best albums for years and certainly his best since his Pavement glory days. The finely honed  single The Senator is among our many highlights. Read our full review here.

1. Boston Spaceships – Let It Beard

Let It Beard

Narrowly pipping Stephen Malkmus to the top spot is another veteran of the 1990s US alternative music scene, Robert Pollard and his act Boston Spaceships. The album echoes a number of Pollard’s favourite classic acts, the Beatles are in there, but it is The Who that are the most obvious influence on this guitar drenched album. It has the Pollard stamp throughout and you can’t imagine anyone else producing a record quite like this now, or any time in the last 30 years. Read our full review here.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

See also: Spotify – Neonfiller.com’s Best of 2011 Spotify List.


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The Miserable Rich @ St John the Baptist’s crypt, Bristol, Nov 8, 2011

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The Miserable Rich @ St John the Baptist’s crypt, Bristol, Nov 8, 2011

Posted on 09 November 2011 by Joe

The Miserable Rich are really throwing themselves into the promotion of their latest album Miss You In The Days, which mixes ghost tales with stories of love. Not only was it released on Halloween but they have decided to select some creepy, haunted venues for their promotional tour.

In Bristol’s St John The Baptist’s church crypt they may just one have found the best venue yet. With its knights’ tombs and low, ornate ceiling it is like no other gig venue I’ve been to.

With no toilets, they were provided by the nearby car park and pub, and  a bring your own booze policy this venue is low on amenities but high on atmosphere.

To get us in the mood the band have selected comic bard Alabaster de Plume as one of the support acts. While his medieval and modern tales of  swearing, sex and drinking would have gone down a storm down the A37 at the Glastonbury Assembly Rooms this largely  urban  crowd just seemed a little confused , especially by one song seemingly about a “wank stained goatee.”

Alabaster fared much better introducing the band, providing an extended intro to their opener Imperial Lines and some surprisingly good saxophone work when he joined the band for some later tracks.

The encore among the crowd

During the hour long set The Miserable Rich  (who were named as one of our Top Ten Acts To Watch out for in 2011) are clearly and  quite rightly pleased with their new album, giving the bulk of it an airing tonight. Live lead singer and songwriter James de Malplaquet also gets a chance to explain some of the stories behind the tracks, from the hitchhiker who never reaches his destination to the pauper who kills himself after being separated from his aristocratic lover.

Among the highlights were final track in the set Ringing the Changes. While on the CD this waltz like number conjures up images of a Victorian couple dancing surrounded by ghouls and spirits, live it transforms into a rowdy Elizabethan drinking song.

A couple of older songs, Let Me Fade from their second album Of Flight and Fury, which was one of Neon Filler’s Top 20 albums of 2010, and Boat Song, from their debut Twelve Ways to Count also got an airing. The former because it has similar themes of love and loss and the second because it was perfect for the special encore they surprised the crowd with.

This involved the band coming among the audience, an easy feat for de Malplaquet , less so for the double bass player. The version of Boat Song they performed in this intimate, completely acoustic setting was for me the highlight. The final song of the encore, performed back on stage, was True Love, the one about the lovesick pauper.

Among the lasting impressions is just how good this band are as musicians, especially violinst Mike Siddell. I was informed by my more musical companion that Siddell apparently is a master of the flautando,  something very complicated involving making a violin sound a bit like a flute. De Malplaquet also deserves credit for a vocal performance that was precise and beautiful, not a description often used for male singers.

The only downside, and it’s the same gripe we had when we saw Singing Adams in Bristol in September, where were all the people? Around 50 turned up, thankfully enough to give the creepy venue some added atmosphere, but that is just 50 people seeing one of the UK’s best live bands, and what’s more playing a unique gig.  De Malplaquet pledged to come back to the venue but “with better publicity next time.”

“We’re just a small band trying to push our music, so thanks for making the effort to come and see us,” he added. Not sure how small they will continue to be on this evidence.

9.5/10

By Joe Lepper

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The Miserable Rich – Miss You In The Days

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The Miserable Rich – Miss You In The Days

Posted on 30 October 2011 by Joe

Three albums in and The Miserable Rich are really hitting their stride as one of the UK’s most innovative acts, mixing compelling story telling with chamber pop and most importantly some damn fine tunes.

Miss You In The Days sees singer and songwriter James de Malplaquet and the band’s string ensemble tackle the ghostly themes of possession and haunting. But this is not just lyrically. The production setting,  in a haunted pub attic in the grounds of Anne Boleyn’s home Blickling Hall, and the  Halloween release date also add to the spooky  feel.

It’s a well thought out theme that avoids the pretence of many concept albums, and while the tracks are mostly sad there’s an epic quality that prevents the album becoming downbeat. It’s probably their most complete album yet, demanded to be listened to as a whole, rather than to cherry pick tracks, as perhaps listeners may have done on their previous two albums.

Among the highlights is the swirling Ringing the Changes. This waltz conjures up the themes of possession and haunting perfectly with the dancing protagonists spinning increasingly more wildly in each others arms as the song builds momentum. You can almost see the spectres and vampires dancing around.

Another is the first single One A Certain Night, the key track on the album on the theme of possession.

While the music is still focused on the band’s central instruments of cello, violin and piano there is a greater use of electric guitar and drums than on previous releases. This fills the gaps nicely and gives tracks such as opener Laid Up in Lavender an added dynamism. There’s also some fine melodies, with the chorus of  ‘Honesty’ perhaps the best example of this.

In terms of tunes, playing, singing and having a strong sense of purpose Miss You In the Days ticks all the boxes. It just staggers us that a band this interesting (and named one of our Top Ten Bands To Watch Out For in 2011)  still has to put out its begging bowl and raise money through pledges rather than through the pockets of record labels. As the instruments build up on tracks such as Honesty I can’t help but wonder what they could achieve with a wad of record industry cash and perhaps a full orchestra at hand. Maybe in another life that’ll happen.

9/10

by Joe Lepper

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Jim Briffett – Devil Inside My Soul

Posted on 07 June 2011 by Dorian

This is the video for the debut single by Clearlake and Miserable Rich guitarist Jim Briffett. ‘Devil Inside My Soul’ features Clearlake frontman Jason Pegg on harmonica and The Miserable Rich singer James De Malplaquet cameos in the video.

“We filmed the video at the end of last year,” says Jim. “I loved the idea of a devil song in the snow – it’s like when hell freezes over or a snowball’s chance in hell…”

The song can be purchased from Jim’s bandcamp page at http://jimbriffett.bandcamp.com/.

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Southern Tenant Folk Union – Pencaitland

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Southern Tenant Folk Union – Pencaitland

Posted on 07 June 2011 by Joe

Southern Tenant Folk Union are among a fine crop of genre crossing folk acts to emerge in the UK in recent years. Like England’s The Miserable Rich and The Leisure Society this Edinburgh based act are accomplished folk musicians, have respect for tradition but are brave enough to try out some new tricks. They also have some pretty good tunes as well.

For STFU on Pentcaitland there is a strong folk feel regarding the instruments and in some of the melody, but there’s so much more going on to refer to this as a simple folk album.

Take ‘I dream of burning buildings’ for example. This opener uses traditional instruments but has a strong contemporary feel and above all is a beautiful song.

Elsewhere the tracks merge between traditional folk, radio friendly ballads and political songs. Sometimes upbeat, sometimes sad there’s a lot that impresses us here.

In their press release the band, that was formed five years ago by banjo player and vocalist Pat McGarvey, is keen to emphasis that it is a ‘democratic album, with five of its seven members taking song writing duties. Lead vocal duties are also shared around the band.

While lead vocalist Ewan Macintyre is still the standout Scottish voice on the album violinist Carrie Thomas’s vocals offer something different on ‘The Tide’ as does the English voice of guitarist Jed Milroy, particularly on one of the more traditional sounding tracks ‘An Irish Airman Forsees His Death’, which is adapted from the WB Yeats poem.

There’s undoubtedly something for the beardy traditional folksters in their music, but I urge those that have started to look and marvel at bands such as The Miserable Rich to check out Southern Tenant Folk Union as well. There’s clearly a lot more to come from this act, given their desire to push the boundaries of folk music rather than stubbornly stick to its traditional basics.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

For more information visit Southern Tenant Folk Union’s website here.

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The Leisure Society – Into The Murky Water

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The Leisure Society – Into The Murky Water

Posted on 06 May 2011 by Joe

When the Willkommen Collective of chamber pop and folk bands began emerging in Brighton a few years back there were two acts that stood out from the pack, The Miserable Rich and The Leisure Society. It is no surprise that both have now gone on to slightly larger indie labels and greater success through their blend of Englishness, beautiful music, pop savvy tunes and story telling.

While for us The Miserable Rich are story tellers that happen to play great music, with The Leisure Society their music is arguably far more about the tunes than the lyrics.  ‘Last of the Melting Snow’ on The Leisure Society’s debut album The Sleeper (review here) even achieved a prestigious Ivor Novello nomination.

On this their second album, as with their debut, they have once again produced some great tunes all wrapped up in a warm, cosy sense of Englishness.

The first single ‘This Phantom Life’ (see video here)  is among the most pop savvy tracks, but there’s so much more radio friendly stuff here, suggesting that bigger and better things await this English treasure of a band. ‘Dust on the dancefloor’ and ‘You Could Keep Me Talking’ are our pick of the tracks.

But as with all good albums there needs to be even more than just a good sense of melody, they also need a sense of direction and purpose.  For us this album gives us the urge to jump in our Neon Filler branded Morris Minor, dress up in our  The Prisoner gear and take a dip in the murky waters of Bognor Regis or Portmerion, stopping off for some fish and chips and a pickled egg on the way and listening to this most summery, most eccentric, most English of albums.

8.5/10

by Joe Lepper

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Top 20 Albums of 2010

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Top 20 Albums of 2010

Posted on 20 December 2010 by Joe

We usually compile a top ten albums of the year list, but in recognition  of 2010 being one of the best years in recent memory for indie/alternative releases we’ve decided to double the size.

The year started well with ambitious albums by the likes of Field Music, Los Campesinos! and Owen Pallett and got better with stellar releases from the likes of The National, the welcome return of Belle and Sebastian and some surprises from the likes of Janelle Monae. Some familiar names return to our end of year countdown on a list that features some excellent new UK music. Sit back, get your emails to Santa ready and enjoy Neon Filler’s Top 20 Albums of 2010.

1. Field Music Measure

Measure, a double album no less, sees the band move on yet another level. There are aspects of the sweeping, mazy songs on their eponymous debut as well as the jerky, more structured pop of second album Tones of Town, but a whole lot more has been added. Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, even ELO, XTC, The Move and 10cc are thrown into the mix. This album came out at the beginning of the year but its breadth and ambition continues to astound as the year comes to an end.  Read our full review here.

2. The Miserable Rich – Of Flight and Fury

Of Flight and Fury is the second album from Brighton’s The Miserable Rich and it picks up from where their excellent debut left off. Part of Brighton’s Willkommen Collective they are the most compact and focused of the bunch. One of our top ten bands to watch out for in 2011, we are expecting big things from this band. Read our full review here.

3. Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern – Essex Arms

The album is the second part in a trilogy about Hayman’s native Essex and continues with a warts and all nostalgic look at working class England. Like its predecessor Pram Town (which topped our Top Ten Albums of 2009 list) Essex Arms is wonderfully evocative of a place and time, without descending into sneering or cloying sentiment. Surely Hayman has earned national treasure status by now.  Read our full review here.

Essex Arms

Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern - Essex Arms

4. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest

Deerhunter have named their fourth album Halcyon Digest for good reason, as once again the US band serves up an unusual and effective mix of music that takes a range of influences from the golden years of rock n roll to the 1990s shoegazers. Halcyon Digest is lush, layered and timeless. Deerhunter’s most focused and accessible album yet. Read our full review here.

Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest

5. Janelle Monae

The debut album from former stage school kid and Outkast collaborator Janelle Monáe could well be the most eclectic album of the year so far. Mixing orchestral pieces, hip hop, soul, pop, psychedelic rock, folk and even a collaboration with Of Montreal into 18 tracks. It is ambitious and mesmerising as it effortless travels between genres. Read our full review here.

6. Belle and Sebastian – Write About Love

It’s been a long wait for such adoring fans, but the band are now firmly back after a four year hiatus touring and with a sparkly new album, Write About Love, a concept album of sorts about, well, love. So where does Write About Love sit in its catalogue?  For us its one of their best yet. Welcome back Belle and Sebastian. Read our full review here.

Belle and Sebastian - Write About Love

7. The Walkmen – Lisbon

With Lisbon US band The Walkmen have delivered a perfect follow up to their last album You and Me, which topped our Top Ten Albums list for 2008. Retaining You and Me’s stripped back, timeless production with nods to the 50s and 60s, Lisbon has plenty more goose bump moments and once again offers a perfect showcase for lead singer Hamilton Leithhauser’s stunning rock vocals and the band’s love of vintage instruments. Read our full review here.

8. Owen Pallett – Heartland

With the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Arcade Fire’s Jeremy Gara involved, Heartland is at times pure Brian Wilson  as it effortlessly takes in aspects of classical music, electronica, pop and indie-cool. Read our full review here.

Owen Pallett

9. Surfer Blood – Astro Coast

As debuts go Astro Coast is already a modern indie classic. Full of  a marvellous mix of riffs, indie rock influences such as  Sonic Youth and Pavement, passionate singing and some neat tricks as well. It is all that is good about the best of modern US indie rock. Read our full review here.

10. The National  – High Violet

How can a band this good, this radio friendly, this professional not be bigger? Why is it that the likes of Muse, Radiohead and Coldplay play in front of multi-zillion seater stadiums and headline major festivals and not The National? After the release of High Violet The National are well on their way to similar success. Read our full review here.

11. Shearwater – The Golden Archipelago.

When the end of the world comes, as pollution lays waste to the Earth, Shearwater’s leader singer Jonathan Meiburg will be on a nuclear  ravaged tropical island somewhere screaming bloody murder in his haunting baritone at the corporations and politicians. This indie/folk/rock album is powerful stuff. Read our full review here.

12. Tallest Man on Earth – The Wild Hunt

Swedish folk singer Kristian Matsson, who takes to the stage under the name Tallest Man On Earth, must be bored to tears with being compared with early Bob Dylan, especially when in many respects he is actually better than the great man at the same stage in his career. Read our full review here.

13. Broken Bells – Broken Bells

Opening track and lead single ‘The High Road’ kicks things off beautifully on this debut album from Shins frontman James Mercer and producer Danger Mouse and is a sign of the good things to come. By the time you’ve listened to ‘Vaporise’ and Mercer’s surprisingly good falsetto on ‘The Ghost Inside’ you know that the duo have produced something worthy of an end of year best of list. Read our full review here.

14. Beach House  – Teen Dream

The slicker production and attention to detail  on Teen Dream  compared to previous releases unsurprisingly coincides with a move to the label Sub Pop, which has a strong track record of getting the best out of its eclectic mix of artists ranging from The Fleet Foxes to Postal Service. Read our full review here.

15. Los Campesinos! – Romance is Boring

Los Campesinos! are among the most divisive of bands. A bunch of shouty students, spouting immature teen angst to some, one of the most innovative British bands around for others. Their 2010 release Romance is Boring is a pretty good case for the latter’s cause. Read our full review here.

16. New Pornographers – Together

When we first heard the song ‘Your Hands (Together)’, from the fifth album by The New Pornographers, we were disappointed. So much so that we avoided the album and didn’t review it on this site. But after hearing another track from the album, the brilliant ‘Crash Years’ (one of our songs of the year) we realised we were missing out. Building on the more subtle styles of 2007’s Challengers with a return to the more bombastic power chords of their earlier albums this is classic pop music at its best.

The New Pornographers - Together

17. The Besnard Lakes – The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night

After the first 30 seconds of opening track ‘Like The Ocean Like The Innocent’ we were sceptical. We’ve heard enough meandering drone rock to last a lifetime, but nine minutes later at the end of the track we were converted. This is music with genuine substance and power. Read our full review here.

18. Allo Darlin’

Allo Darlin’s self titled debut is a near perfect slice of British “twee” pop played by associates of Amelia Fletcher and Darren Hayman. Melodic, sweet and sensitive it has possible singles from start to finish. The more jaded listener might find songs like ‘Heartbeat Chili’ a little hard to stomach, but if you keep your mind open there is much to love here. One of the discoveries of 2010, and very much a band to watch in 2011.

Allo Darlin

19. Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse – Dark Night of the Soul

Second appearance for Danger Mouse in our top 20, this time his long awaited collaboration with the late Mark Linkous, aka Sparklehorse. Unreleased for some time due to contractual wrangles it was originally intended to accompany a book of visuals by David Lynch. The book was published, but the album itself was shelved and emerged some months later during 2010. It features contributions from a number of singers and musicians including the Flaming lips, Suzanne Vega, Iggy Pop, can be a difficult listen in places but as you would expect from Linkous and Danger Mouse, stunning in others. Read our full review here.

20. Fang Island  – Fang Island

Imagine if you will Bill and Ted’s band Wyld Stallyons, but better, speeded up and backed by members of Primus, Faith No More and The Descendents. It’s a heady mix of humour, power chords and squealing solos that Fang Island pull off with aplomb. Read our full review here.

To hear more by the bands above (and some other great acts from the year) listen to our best of 2010 Spotify playlist.

See Also – Top Ten Albums of 2008, Top Ten Albums of 2009

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers

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The Miserable Rich – Covers EP

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The Miserable Rich – Covers EP

Posted on 06 December 2010 by Joe

We love good cover versions and adore Brighton band The Miserable Rich, who we recently touted as a One to Watch in 2011. So when we heard that their covers EP was getting a welcome European release this month we slapped our wrists for missing last year’s UK release and decided to belatedly delve in and see what they made of some well known ’80s tracks by among others The Stranglers and  The Eurythmics.

The Stranglers’ ‘Golden Brown’ kicks off the four track EP and the band’s string section take to it well, creating something that retains its oddball new wave charm and makes it sound somehow more Eastern European.

It’s next track ‘Gigantic’, originally by The Pixies that really grabbed me though. The trick to a good cover is make it your own and respect the original. With ‘Gigantic’ retaining Kim Deal and co’s goosebump inducing moments is key. I’ve seen grown men weep at a Pixies performance of Gigantic in the early 1990s and believe The Miserable Rich can easily do the same with their take, as lead singer James de Malplaquet’s stunning vocals grab at your heartstrings and pluck them for dear life. Remarkable stuff.

Third track ‘Shades’ is less effective for me. Mainly because I’m less familiar by this Iggy Pop number. Final track ‘Sweet Dreams’ really impresses though. It’s a tricky song to cover as it is remarkably simple musically. Apart from the austere early 80s bleakness of The Eurythmics original there’s little to play with outside of its simple synth riff. The Miserable Rich are hard workers though and find nuances in the melody that the original didn’t know it had. They also take that 80s bleakness and make it warmer through their use of more traditional instruments. They actually make it a better song – the Holy Grail of the cover version and a feat that very few can manage.

For more excellent cover versions visit our Top Ten Cover Versions feature here.  For some less good ones visit our  Top Ten Terrible Cover Versions feature here.

8/10

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.

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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