If you are in Brighton why not get a nice paper ticket from Resident records? Whilst you are in there you can pick up a copy of the excellent new Tigercats album Mysteries.
If you are going to come along to the gig then why not make yourself known on the Facebook event page?
Having carved out a coveted space in the scuzzier realm of kinetic indiepop, London five-piece Tigercats have now delivered second album Mysteries, an assuredly contagious record bristling with melody and noise, and mapped out on a lyrical landscape populated by gated longings, bleached-out city skies, and skewed entanglements of the heart.
Tigercats make music that stems from the weird collision point between Half Japanese, Hefner, Daniel Johnston, Prince, and Orange Juice, shuttling through this heady constellation armed with a pop sensibility marked out by its eloquence and ferocity. Duncan Barrett and Laura Kovic articulate sweet laments and aspersions over swathes of magnetic agit-glam-punk noise which prowls an alternately feral and refined musical terrain.
Feted for the urgency and unrest of their live presence, London three-piece Fever Dream have now committed their dark and brittle post-punk-shoegaze noise to tape in the form of debut album, Moyamoya.
Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Adey Fleet, bassist Sarah Lippett, and drummer Cat Loye, Fever Dream make music which stalks the unsettled territory between MBV and PiL; suffused with melody and discordance, unhinged and brutally stapled-down. Via the twitching fragility and freneticism of Fleet’s guitar and vocals, Lippett’s stormy bass, and the propulsive dark heart that is Loye’s drumming,Fever Dream pitch disorientating swathes of noise against irresistible pop hooks and gentle febrile tonality, arriving at a sound which sharply articulates a disorientating world of panic attacks, tender allegiances, and sweet perversions.
Seadog is the project of Brighton-based musician and song writer Mark Nathan Benton. Seadog began with Benton at the nucleus of an ever-changing cast of musical friends where each performer would bring their own piece of imagination to the music.
Now established as a band with a regular cast, Seadog combine their musical ideas, fusing delicate acoustic lullabies with anthemic electric and acoustic textures.
Seadog have a strong presence amongst the Brighton music scene and have supported a number of acts over the years; including Erland and The Carnival, Blue Roses, Pink Mountain Tops and David Bazan (Pedro The Lion). They recently toured in the UK with Norwegian Songsmith Kenneth Ishak (from Beezwax) by playing as his backing band as the main support on the bill each night.
With Isle of Dogs, Tigercats arguably produced the perfect debut album. In garnering a rare 10/10 from us it seemed to perfectly encapsulate 20-something urban life as each song meandered across the records shops, bars and venues of their native East London. Now signed to Fortuna Pop and with Allo Darlin’s Paul Rains in their ranks they have also managed to nail the potentially tricky second album too.
Second albums can be a minefield. So many bands just try and repeat their debut hoping the sound will still be fresh, while others try too hard to change, veering off into experimental and unsuitable areas. Here Tigercats have met that challenge by ensuring their sound has moved onto the next level, while at the same time sticking true to their original ethos. It sounds simple enough, but so few bands manage it.
So how has the sound changed? Firstly, it is more polished, thanks to the band able to rack up a considerable amount of hours at Soup Studios, where bassist Giles Barrett works.
Secondly, there is real ambition here sonically. Not content, as so many indie pop bands are ,with a simple sound they’ve drafted in Gallon Drunk’s Terry Edwards to supply saxophone and horns across the album. This perfectly completes their core drums, bass, guitar, keyboards sound and sets them further apart from the pack. Rains too really adds some polish to the guitars, as he does so well in his day job with Allo Darlin’.
The third and perhaps most welcome change is the elevation of keyboardist Laura Kovic’s role. While on Isle of Dogs her vocal duties were largely confined to final track Johnny, here she is everywhere. She not only duets perfectly with lead singer and songwriter Duncan Barrett across the album but has lead vocals on two tracks, Laura & Cesar and Sleeping in the Backseat. It’s a smart move by the band, really adding depth to the songs with her softer vocals perfectly matching Barrett’s. At times with the horns and Kovic’s vocals there is even a Prefab Sprout quality to their tracks, which here seem more romantic, albeit in a sardonic way thanks to Barratt’s clever lyrics. Junior Champion for example manages the zenith for indie-geeks everywhere, of being simultaneously a love song and ode to chess.
In our review of Isle of Dogs we said Tigercats were an indie pop band you can dance to. For Mysteries they emerge as an indie pop band you can actually first dance to at a wedding – and there are not many of those bands around. With this amount of progress they have set the bar high indeed for album number three.
A good debut album is a tough ask. Most bands starting out are mere songwriting and production novices who use their debut to test the water before unleashing a killer second or third album. Others just nail it first time. There has already been a fair few best debut albums lists but when we were looking through these we noticed a fair few noticeable absentees. We thought it was about time to give credit where its due and pay tribute to those that do not always make such lists. We’ve got lost albums that were only really heard decades later. We’ve also got popular albums that were perhaps not cool enough for some lists. We’ve also got others that were overshadowed by later releases. So what is our benchmark? Its simple, if it’s a great debut but not on the NME or Rolling Stone’s existing debut albums lists then its in. Anyway enough of the rambling, on with the list…
10. Tigercats – Isle of Dogs (2012)
On this most recent debut on our list London based indie-popsters Tigercats show that they have more about them than a penchant for an afro-beat guitar lick and smart lyric. Here they present a frantic road trip around their East End home, visiting record stores, laughing at hipsters in trendy bars and drunkenly staggering home lamenting on the social divides of the capital. Of course that’s our interpretation. When we asked lead singer Duncan Barrett about how they managed to come up with the concept, he revealed that the tracks were merely the best ones they had at the time. In fact he looked somewhat puzzled when I even suggested it was a great ‘concept album’ for Coalition government era London. Happy accident or not, we urge you to check this out. (JL)
9. The Specials – The Specials (1979)
I didn’t live in Coventry in the late 70s but amazingly this album almost makes me wish I had. Combining covers of 60s ska classics with a host of original material, there isn’t a duff track to be heard. Who can listen to Nite Klub without thinking it must have been written about somewhere they’ve been? Concrete Jungle combines social commentary with some amazing guitar playing, the lyrics should be depressing but instead are amazingly uplifting. Dawning of a New Era perfectly captures both the hope and despair as the 70s slipped away into what would be the Thatcherite 80s. The whole album combines great musicianship with thought provoking lyrics. Some of the characters in songs such as Too Much Too Young and Little Bitch are at face value pitiful yet somehow one can’t help but think everyone was having so much more fun back then. (MB)
8. The Go! Team – Thunder, Lightning, Strike (2004)
Thunder, Lightning, Strike is to all intent and purposes a solo album by bedroom recording artist Ian Parton. He cleverly records it under the Go! Team moniker (complete with esoteric punctuation) as he knows. as an obvious music geek, that the mystique of the “band” is part of the appeal. It is one of the most infectious albums of the last quarter century, immediate and energetic. It also performs a pretty neat trick of sounding unlike anything else, whilst being, partly through ingenious sample use. instantly familiar. Even the song titles make you smile and even if you don’t get the references, for example the motorbiking TV show Junior Kick start is unlikely to be well known these days, they all sound pretty cool. As punky as it is funky, as much in thrall to film soundtracks as hip hop beats, it really is as much fun as you can cram on a CD. The current issue is great even if the extra track is unnecessary and the version of ‘Bottle Rocket’ isn’t as perfect as the original. (DR)
7. John Howard – Kid in a Big World (1975)
We’ve written about John Howard and his excellent debut album a lot since we were introduced to his music by Neonfiller.com favourite Ralegh Long. Snapped up by CBS in the 1970s he was sort of the next Elton John, but had more of an alternative, melancholy edge to his music. In the end his record company and mainstream radio didn’t really know how to market him to the masses. He made a few more records, but quit to became a music executive only to emerge in recent years with a second prolific recording career, with around a dozen releases since his 2005 comeback. It’s understandable why this album is not on other debut album lists, people quite simply never really got to hear it. But they were missing out. Here are some superb glam pop tracks and piano ballads, such as Family Man and Goodbye Suzie, that in a more discerning alternative universe would have made him one of the biggest acts of the 1970s. (JL)
6. Dexy’s Midnight Runners – Searching for the Young Soul Rebels (1980)
Like so many others I first got into Kevin Rowland and Dexy’s Midnight Runners because of the song Come On Eileen and the album Too Rye Aye. I became obsessed with them in a way only teenagers do and started to seek out their earlier material which soon led me to Searching for the Young Soul Rebels. Recorded only two years previously with a largely different band it’s a harder, edgier sound, swirling organs and storming brass overlaying bass, drums and guitar are a marked contrast to the violins and banjos of the Eileen era but for me it is Rowland at his finest. There’s anger and passion a plenty in songs such as Burn it Down, Tell Me When My Light Turns Green and Seven Days Too Long, a number one hit in Geno, and my personal favourite There, There, My Dear. (MB)
5. Hefner – Breaking God’s Heart (1998)
Darren Hayman has stated that Breaking God’s Heart is his least favourite Hefner album. It isn’t my favourite either, that is an accolade that swings regularly between The Fidelity Wars and We Love The City, but it is a pretty perfect statement of intent and is an essential album in Hefner’s near perfect back catalogue. In fact it is the elements that make this such a good album that most likely bother Hayman, the rough edged recording, the adolescent lyrics and the far from perfect vocals. It sounds like a band starting out, like a band that is raw and passionate and a band that is bursting with brilliant songs they want to get on record. ‘The Sweetness That’s Withi’ is wonderful; not many bands start their first album with a song as strong as this. In fact the first four songs on the album, through The Sad Witch and the Hymn For The Postal Service are as good a quartet of album openers as I can remember. The last of the four Love Will Destroy Us In The End probably has the best opening 40 seconds of any indie pop song in the 90s. I suspect the same song also offers up the most cock-sure guitar solo of Hayman’s career. (DR)
4. The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band- Gorilla (1967)
Formed at art college in the 60s the Bonzos struck upon the decidedly odd idea to reinvent traditional 1920s jazz in a then modern age of psychedelia and kaftans. The result is funny, inventive and above all superb. The key to the Bonzo’s success and the greatness of this, their best album, was the songwriting of Neil Inness and the late Vivian Stanshall. Liverpudlian Innes, the genius behind The Rutles, was arguably as good a song writer as Lennon and McCartney. His track Equestrian Statue is a real high point. As for Stanshall, the east end lad with a knack for lampooning the English upper classes like no other, he delivers vocal treat after treat on tracks such as Cool Britannia, the Intro and the Outro and I’m Bored, which to this day are regularly used on TV, film and advertising. (JL)
3. Blondie- Blondie (1976)
Perhaps opening your debut album with a song about a sex offender isn’t the most commercial of moves but in the long term it doesn’t seem to have done Blondie much harm. It’s an excellent start to an excellent album that sadly over the years has been overshadowed by the more fully realised new wave pop sound of their later albums Eat to the Beat and Parallel Lines. Tracks on this debut, such as Little Girl Lies have much more 60s rock ‘n roll influence but the new wave attitude is bubbling away nicely on Look Good in Blue, In the Sun and Rifle Range. Debbie Harry’s vocals, churning out these sassy and funny lyrics, sound amazing and the whole band is clearly reveling in the chance to leap out of the New York punk scene of clubs such as CBGBs and Kansas City for a short time and into the recording studio, where they continued to improve for the rest of the 70s. (MB)
2. Supergrass – I Should Coco (2005)
Why on earth doesn’t Supergrass’s debut I Should CoCo take pride of place on other best debut albums lists? It’s a glorious rollercoaster of a debut, packed with great guitar pop and above all fun. Just listen to one of its singles Caught by the Fuzz or Alright, and marvel at the cheeky chappie thrill ride of a three minute pop track that they are. I challenge you not to get up and start running across the nearest beach arms flailing around and declaring your adoration for life itself after listening to it this album. And it’s not just us that love it, even if it has been cruelly overlooked by the likes of NME and Rolling Stone. It reached number one in the UK album charts and is now platinum selling. The best Brit pop album of the 1990s? Well, its hard to find one that’s more fun certainly. (JL)
Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot seemed to come out of nowhere when I first purchased it in shortly after its release. I knew nothing of Mark Linkous and his time in the Dancing Hoods or even that he had co-written a song on one of my favourite Cracker albums, even though Cracker frontman David Lowery is a secret contributor on this album under the name David Charles. This was purely an on spec purchase that sucked me in from first listen and instantly gave them “my new favourite band” status. Linkous’s issues with mental health, and his eventual suicide, cloud his music now but at the time (although there is obvious sadness on the album) it is a very uplifting recording.
Songs move from delicate, such as Homecoming Queen to the noisy, such as Rainmaker via surreal noise interludes, most notably 350 Double Pumper Holey, without sounding at all unnatural or lacking cohesion. This is an album that covers so much ground whilst retaining the unique Sparklehorse identity. You want a banjo driven country epic? Well, listen to Cow. You want an indie disco classic with crunching guitars? Well, there is Someday I Will Treat You Good to scratch that itch. This outstanding debut is oddly left off far too many debut albums lists and we are delighted to give it top billing here. (DR)
Written and compiled by Martin Burns, Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers
Each year we give our run down of ten acts that have caught our attention over the last few months and are set for bigger things in the coming year. These are artists that we’ve either seen as emerging artists at festivals or as support acts, or those that have released teasingly good singles and EPs during 2012. Some are old stagers, some are brand spanking new bands. To be boastful for a moment, we have a pretty good track record with our lists, with the likes of Tigercats in our bands to watch out for in 2012 list more than delivering this year with the release of their album Isle of Dogs. Tigercats also played at our Oxjam gig in October among a raft of gigs across the UK, France and Spain. Even when we mess up we just about get it right, our top act to watch out for in 2011 Django Django ended up spending most of that year in the studio, but did eventually become a huge success in 2012 to spare our blushes.
10. Owl and Mouse
Owl and Mouse, a four piece from London, fronted by Australian born songwriter Hannah Botting are self confessed lovers of “ukuleles and bittersweet pop songs”. They came to our attention on a set of free Christmas releases by Fika Records last December in which their tender track Sandwich Day was the perfect way to showcase Botting’s intimate, beautiful vocal style.
During 2013 they have plans for a UK tour during June and July and possibly some European dates too. A split 7” picture disc single featuring their track Canvas Bags is due for release in January and you can catch them at the Hangover Lounge, at the Lexington on January 6, 2013, where they will be launching the release. An album release is also a possibility during 2013. Hannah says: “We’ve been at Soup studios with Giles (Barrett) from Tigercats and have enough material for an Album which we’re determined to release in 2013.”
Their five track EP, called EP One, is available for just £1 here. Incredible value.
9. Evans the Death
The summery indie pop spirit of the mid 1980s courses through the veins of this London band, which released their self titled debut in 2012. Cut them and they bleed Shop Assistants and Mighty Lemon Drops. We just missed out on reviewing the album through time constraints, but are making amends now by recommending them for 2013, when they attempt to take the next step in their career by impressing the great and the good at the South By South West annual music meat fest.
Signed to Slumberland in the US and Fortuna Pop over here they already have two respected labels of the indie pop world to promote them and further their credentials as one of the UK’s most interesting new bands. Fans of Allo Darlin and Veronica Falls will find a lot to like in their music and we’ve been particularly impressed with the vocal talents of Evans the Death singer Katherine Whitaker.
8.Southern Tenant Folk Union
One of our favourites since the release of their last album Pencaitland. While broadly speaking this is a bluegrass act, they exhibit a range of influnces from soul to cinematic music to indie rock that gives them a real edge. Those that like Miserable Rich and Leisure Society will have a lot to like here and 2013 looks set to be a busy year with the release of their album ‘Hello Cold Goodbye Sun’ and a string of dates planned. This is set to be an excellent follow up to their previous album Pencaitland, which was among our highlights of 2011.
We caught their live set in Frome last year (pictured above) and urge you to go and see them when they play near you. Superb music that adds further depth to the vibrant British folk and roots scene.
To hear tracks from Hello Cold Goodbye Sun check out their soundcloud page.
Brighton drums and keyboards duo Soccer 96 make some of the best low budget electronic music around. Powerful and catchy hooks that adorned their self titled debut album impressed us this year and during 2012 they were named as one of BBC 6 Music presenter Steve Lamacq’s ‘new favourite bands.’ They are primed for more live shows during 2013 to build on the good publicity they’ve already received during 2012. This includes a show at The Green Door Store in their hometown in March with Can singer Damo Suzuki and members of Sons of Noel and Adrian.
They are also in the studio working with producer Dan Swift on some new tracks which, accordng to the duo, “promises to be a real step up production wise” A second album release is pencilled in for 2013 and a collaboration with Stereolab’s Joe Watson is also on the cards next year for the duo, who go by the pseudonyms Danalogue and Betamax to hammer home their back to basics approach to electronic music. As our review said of their debut album “The drums are heavy and the analogue synths pleasingly squelchy and bassy, with 8-bit style squeaks and beeps adding retro texture.”
Fever dream play music you can lose yourself in. It’s what some might call showgaze, others call indie rock and they call “dark, fuzzy menacing music that blurs the line from noisy new wave to angular post punk.”
We were first introduced to them via 2011’s Vostok 5 compilation CD about space flight and since then they’ve released a self titled EP, which they will continue to promote during 2013. They are back in the studio this month to record some new tracks. As Adey from the band tells us: “If we can scrape ten or so songs together, I’m sure we’ll call it an album.”
They played the Long Division and Land of Kings festivals during 2012 and more festival appearances during 2013 are sure to follow. Adey adds: “As we’ve only played one foreign gig so far – in a toilet, in Berlin – it would be good to spread our wings and creative juices all over the World, so if anyone fancies inviting us to play abroad we’ll jump at the chance.”
This London based singer songwriter’s EP of piano ballads The Gift left us really impressed in 2012. There’s more to come in 2013 with a follow up EP planned, plus the possibility of a full band record. Heavily influenced by the likes of Bill Fay and John Howard his songwriting is full of subtleties few others can match.
Long is an emerging talent that you should keep an eye out for in the gig listing, where he tours with his band Primary 3 as well as solo, as well as the new release sections. Among our favourite of his tracks is Elizabeth from The Gift.
If you are in Australia next year we urge you to check out this Melbourne based indie supergroup Boomgates, who are oozing with DIY punk spirit, catchy indie pop hooks and fronted by one of our favourite singers, Brendan Huntley from Eddy Current Suppression Ring. Other members include Teen Archers’ Gus Lord, The Twerps’ Rick Milovanovic, Sean Gionis from Trial Kennedy and Steph Hughes, ex of Children Collide.
They’ve got a raft of gigs planned in Australia during 2013 to continue promoting the release of their 2012 debut album Double Natural and are sure to continue to pick up interest in the US, where Brendan’s stock is high after a string of Eddy Current Suppression Ring releases on US garage punk label Goner. 2013 will also see them support Wilco during the Australian leg of their tour, which is certain to bring their ramshackle pop to a wider audience.
To here more tracks from their debut album click here.
Robert Rotifer has been knocking around the indie and alternative scenes of Europe and England for a while now and with a new album planned for 2013 we sense this will be one of his band’s most successful year’s yet. Now a three piece, Robert has assembled two of the UK’s most experienced musicians , Death in Vegas’s Ian Button and The Television Personalities’s Mike Stone.
They were our headliner for our October Oxjam gig and have one of the best live guitar sounds around thanks to Rotifer’s playing and Button’s electronic wizardry. Their last album The Hosting Couple, which featured Darren Hayman on bass, was one of our highlights of 2011 and is worth checking out while you wait for their new album.
Another Brighton band on our list, who are set to release their second album Wash the Sins Not Only The Face on indie heavyweight label Matador in January 2013, followed by a 12 day UK and Europe tour ending on Feb 26 at London’s Scala. Described by NME as “gothic not goth” they are as haunting and unsettling as that description suggests.
While their 2011 debut album received a reasonable response, from what we’ve heard of their latest release it’s set to bring them to a far wider audience and make 2013 the busiest year yet for the band.
This Liverpool trio with a folk surf feel somewhere between Pentangle and a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack have the accolade of being the best support band we saw all year. They quite simply blew the crowd away when they supported Field Music on their sell out tour this year. By the end of 2012 their debut album Into the Diamond Sun, with great tracks such as Shut Eye, had received similarly excellent reviews and they were headlining shows in their own right.
It’s at 2013 festivals where you should particularly watch out for this band, after a run of successful festival gigs in 2012 garnered them even more attention. Great live band with a wholly original sound. A deserved number one in this list.
For more information about Stealing Sheep visit their website here.
Here is our November preview of the best music releases and events in the coming month. Items marked with an * are currently scheduled for review on the site.
Album of the Month
Darren Hayman and the Long Parliament – The Violence
In the final instalment of the former Hefner man’s trilogy about his native Essex he turns his attention to the county’s 17th century witch trials in which more than 300 vulnerable, often destitute women, were slaughtered. It marks a poignant and sad end to the trilogy in which Hayman finally realises his potential as one of the best English folk artists around. See our review here.
Nov 5 Friendly Fires – Late Night Tales•
Nov 5 Revival Hour – Clusterchord•
Nov 12 Crystal Castles – III
Nov 3, London, Half Moon in Herne Hill, with Willard Grant Conspiracy
Nov 17, London, Rambling Rose/Haringay Arms, as part of The End festival
Nov 17, Paris, L’international
Nov 27, London, The Lexington with Let’s Wrestle
Dec 8, Nottingham, Chameleon Arts Café, with Fever Dream and Young Romance
First Aid Kit
Nov 20 and 21, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, London
Nov 22 HMV Ritz, Manchester
Nov 24, Queen Margaret Union, Glasgow
Nov 27, O2 Academy, Bristol
Our second live music showcase of 2012 at Brighton’s Quadrophenia-esque Green Door Store, which is tucked into the arches underneath the city’s giant Victorian railway station, featured three of our favourite UK acts Rotifer, Tigercats and Danny Kendall. The night was held as part of the Oxjam festival, with all profits from the night being donated to help causes in Africa through Oxfam.
First on the stage was Danny Kendall, the pseudonym of part-time Chris T-T and Jim Bob drummer Ben Murray, an act named after the troubled mid-80s Grange Hill character. For this gig his line-up was completed by Jen Macro and Lucy Parnell, two thirds of the band Something Beginning With L . The three piece took to their stools for a quietly beautiful set of acoustic melancholia played on guitar and harmonium. ‘We’ve Never Been To Singapore’ was a high-point in an accomplished set of songs that showcased some lovely three part vocal harmonies and delicate melodies.
Tigercats, from east London, are spending much of 2012 touring venues across Spain, the UK and France promoting this year’s debut album Isle of Dogs. What makes them such an interesting act live and on the album is the mix of styles. There’s plenty of upbeat, indie guitar pop in their set, on tracks such as Banned at the Troxy and Full Moon Reggae Party, but it’s never relentless as their repertoire includes more thoughtful moments, perhaps best shown tonight through the tragic ballad Jonny and the sardonic call to arms from lead vocalist Duncan Barrett on Coffin For The Isle of Dogs. Highpoints of tonight’s set included their dream like tour of London and one hit wonders on Vapours, guitarist Stefan Schafer’s intricate guitar playing and the relentless energy of bassist Giles Barrett, who like Duncan was mysteriously barefoot for the performance.
Rotifer, the band fronted by Austrian born now Canterbury based songwriter, journalist, broadcaster and festival organiser Robert Rotifer, proved a worthy headliner, as they showcased a number of new songs from their forthcoming 2013 album as well as highlights from last year’s excellent mod-era influenced album The Hosting Couple and The Children of the Hill (2009).
What became apparent from their first few bars of opener Aberdeen Marine Lab, from The Hosting Couple, was what an accomplished live trio Robert Rotifer has created. With Death in Vegas’s Ian Button on drums and Television Personalities’ Mike Stone on bass they are seasoned pros who know all the tricks to a successful live set. Robert’s engaging banter about futuristic kitchens and newspaper practices won over those that were unfamiliar with his previous albums. While the raft of new songs: Now On There Is Only Love, By The Time November Comes, Ms Pendantovic Resigns, I Just Couldn’t Eat As Much As I’d Like To Throw Up and set closer Black Bag, proved an enticing glimpse of their forthcoming album for fans such as Tigercats, who later described Rotifer’s set as “furious” on their Facebook page.
Final mention goes to Robert Rotifer’s sumptuous guitar sound, played on a Japanese reissue of a custom 1962 Fender Telecaster through a Vox amp. The special ingredient we are told is the use of a EMR valve-driven spring reverb unit made by Button. “Every guitarist should have one,” says Robert proudly. We implore you to check out these three bands, who are not only a fine advert for the vibrancy of the UK music scene but also gave up their time for free for a good cause.
Words – Dorian Rogers and Joe Lepper. Pictures – Nic Newman.
More of Nic’s pictures from the night can be found on our Flickr page.
Forthcoming gigs by the bands.
Rotifer: Nov 3, London, Half Moon in Herne Hill, with Willard Grant Conspiracy; Nov 17, London, Rambling Rose/Haringay Arms, as part of The End festival
Tigercats: Nov 17, Paris, L’international; Nov 27, London, The Lexington with Let’s Wrestle; Dec 8, Nottingham, Chameleon Arts Café, with Fever Dream and Young Romance
Indietracks 2012 was my first experience of the “indiepop at a heritage railway” festival and, for reason that should become obvious, it is unlikely to be my last.
Arriving at the campsite, independent from but close to the festival itself, I was a little concerned as the rain bucketed down upon us. The rain soon stopped and sun returned, a sign of things to come with sun primarily dominating the periodical heavy showers over the weekend. Arriving at the festival site itself, the charming Midland Railway Centre, we found that the bands had been driven inside by the inclement weather and would play on the second stage in the cavernous train shed.
Evening on site
The first night of music was limited to just three acts, but it proved to be a pretty satisfying evening’s entertainment none the less. First up were The Smittens, a technicolor blast of cheerful pop from Vermont. Sitting somewhere between Architecture In Helsinki and The Magnetic Fields they put on a good show and open the festival in an appropriately quirky manner. Next up The School set a high bar for the most members in a band with their sweet vocals and soulful 60s pop sound. Belle and Sebastian are a clear influence, or at least the band are coming from a similar musical place.
Finishing the night, and turning in one of the sets of the festival, saw Darren Hayman and the Long Parliament turn in a crowd pleasing mixture of new and old favourites. A new line-up sees Allo Darlin’s Bill Botting move to guitar, Tigercat’s Giles added on bass and the addition of a keyboard and harmonium player. This backing band could well be the best in his career and the songs, including a version of The Bee Gees ‘I Started A Joke’, sounded brilliant throughout. A closing version of Hefner favourite ‘Painting and Kissing’ goes down a storm and sees Hayman hammering his guitar during the extended outro.
Day two saw the standard pattern begin in earnest as we flitted between the outdoor stage and the train shed to catch the best of the acts. First up outside was the pleasant, if a little generic, pop of The Birthday Kiss. They suffered, as most outdoor acts did, from a smaller crowd as people prepared for rain and headed inside to the guaranteed dry safety of the train shed. (One suggestion for the organisers would be a beer tent near the outdoor stage to encourage people to stay there even if the clouds threatened). First act inside was more interesting as Vacaciones brought an energetic punkiness to their sweet Spanish pop tunes. Flitting back outside we caught a little of the Evans the Death set, a band that impressed me a lot more live than they had done on record.
The outdoor music was cut short as we decided to catch the next round trip on the steam train (free to all festival goers). This proved to be a relaxed and picturesque experienced and meant we got to catch one of the train carriage gigs happening throughout the weekend. Marc Elston‘s brand of acoustic songs may not be anything new but it sounded pretty good played to a toddler heavy audience in one of the moist unique festival venues.
Back on stationary ground we headed to the front of the shed to see if Tigercats could live up to the high expectations their debut album had created. They didn’t disappoint turning in a really confident and energetic set which included the bulk of the album. The strong tunes and interesting arrangements supported by a great rhythm section including the best drumming performance of the weekend.
A detour as we crossed the site ended up with a guided tour of the narrow gauge rail shed by one of the Midland Railway staff. It was interesting to find out about the trains, but also to see what a partnership between the Indietrack’s team and the centre staff the festival was. Something that may go a long way to explaining the excellent atmosphere at the festival. He really seemed to enjoy having the festival saying “We are in our 6th year and we are just about getting the hang of it.” adding “We have never had any trouble, except once when a local wandered up the track.”
Returning to the music (via the Burrito van – some of the best festival food I have ever eaten) we made our way to the stage to see one of my most anticipated acts of the festival, Go Sailor. Go sailor are one of those bands that most people will never hear, but are a firm favourite with those that know them. Lead by Rose Melberg (more on whom later) they play a pure high energy guitar pop that is the sound of happiness, despite the bittersweet lyrics. The crowd should be bigger but again the rain comes and people (those without umbrellas at least) are sheltered in the shed.
Later in the shed comes the first real disappointment of the festival as Summer Camp fail to live up to the hype. Their whole sound seems too slick and too studied, lacking any innocence or authentic enthusiasm. Reports suggest that the second half of the set was better than the first, but by this time we are enjoying a drink in the train carriage bar and it passes me by. (At this point it is worth mentioning what good value drink was at the festival, and snacks as well. You never felt that you were being fleeced at any point on site)
Headliners Veronica Falls do a better job and it is nice to see a big crowd at the outdoor stage as the sun descends. They walk a neat line between upbeat and dour and it is a reminder to me to check out their album when I get home.
Day three proves to be the most varied and eclectic mix of the weekend. It is apparent though that what a loty of acts have in common, be it the endearing noise of The Spook School or the pitch perfect vocals of The 10p Mixes, is a DIY ethos that reminds me of the first wave of punk. If you can’t guarantee money from music sales then you can generate a fan base by handing out handmade CDs to the crowd.
The Spook School
The rest of the day is dominated by indie veterans who set a pretty high standard for the younger acts. Brighton C86 survivors 14 Iced Bears prove to be the latest victims of the rain adjusted crowd syndrome but their melodic psychedelia sounds pretty good to those that stick it out. Stevie Jackson also suffers from the opening clouds but does a better job of keeping hold of the crowd. He plays an engagingly eclectic set that moves from pop to blues to an appropriate cover of Dillard and Clark’s ‘Train Leaves here This Morning’. His song sounding much better freed from the shadow of Stuart Murdoch on the Belle and Sebastian records.
Super stylish surf pop from Seattle residents Orca Team takes a little while to warm up the crowd in the train shed. By the end of the set it seems clear that this is one of the bands to watch from the festival and they might turn in to something that little bit special in time. One band that seems fully formed, at the busiest outdoor daytime show of the festival, is Allo Darlin’. With two excellent albums to draw from they move from pop gem to pop gem for the partisan crowd. With a rock solid rhythm section (including the engagingly bouncy Bill Botting), a fantastic lead guitarist and a front-woman with real star quality they are the “band most likely to” on the bill.
Sadly I have to cut their set short to make sure of space in the church to watch Rose Melberg play a solo set. It proves to be worth it though as she turns in the performance of the festival to the hushed and attentive crowd. Her voice is sweet and gentle and the songs sad and lyrical, perfect for the setting. She is also the second act of the day to cover Kirsty MacColl’s excellent ‘They Don’t Know’, which sounds pretty lovely both times. I head to the merchandise tent after the set to pick up one of her solo albums to find the WIAIWYA record boss still wiping tears away from her set, I doubt you see that with major label bosses (who are also unlikely to man the merchandise stall).
Finishing the festival off in irreverent style is Kurt Cobain favourites The Vaselines, a band who recently returned after a 20 year hiatus. The banter between Eugene Kelly and the filthy mouthed Frances McKee (who offers herself up to the crowd and claims to have given Jesus a blow-job the previous night) is very entertaining, as is there messy alt-rock sound. Supported by some excellent guitar (supplied by Stevie Jackson) they rip through a bit proportion of their small back catalogue. They also prove Kurt Cobain right, ‘Son of a Gun’ is just a brilliant piece of music.
There are a dozen reasons to recommend the festival to anyone but the most indie averse music fan. The interesting setting, the variety of stages, the friendly reception from the railway staff and volunteers and the cheap and plentiful beer on offer. It really is a unique musical event and I hope it continues on in the same vein for years to come. With so many festivals struggling it is important that a few truly independent festivals survive, we don’t end up with bore-fests like Isle of Wight as the only options.
As we stand by the road waiting for our taxi back to the station a car pulls up, “I hope you enjoyed your weekend lads, come back and see us again next year” says the old boy behind the wheel. I bet you don’t get that when you leave V Festival.
Neon Filler is very proud to present a fabulous bill of bands as part of the Oxjam Festival this October. The three bands playing are Rotifer, Tigercats and Danny Kendall.
Rotifer is the work of Austrian born, England based, songwriter Robert Rotifer. His sixth album, The Hosting Couple, was the first release on Edwyn Collins’ AED label and was described by our reviewer as “Part Stones, part Kinks, part Bowie and even part Neil Innes in places”. Rotifer’s current line-up sees him backed by Ian Button (Death In Vegas) on drums and Mike Stone (Television Personalities) on bass. Listen to ‘Star City‘ from the Vostock 5 compilation and watch the video for ‘Canvey Island‘.
In 2011 we named Tigercats as one of our “ones to watch in 2012”. When they released their debut album this year they received a perfect 10/10 score, living right up to our high expectations. Our review described the album as “teaming with radio friendly, infectious hooks” and you can judge for yourself by listening to ‘Banned From The Troxy‘ or watching the video for ‘Full Moon Reggae Party‘.
Danny Kendall is the work of Ben Murray, sometime sticksman with the likes of Chris T-T and Jim Bob (of Carter USM fame). As Danny Kendall he released his debut EP this year and it is an understated gem, all sweet melodies and bittersweet lyrics. Listen to the fuzzy pop of ‘You Can’t Go Home Again’ or watch him in more melancholy mode playing ‘Waiting On The Engines’.
Click the image below to buy tickets on line.
Click on the Oxjam logo below to find out more about this great nationwide event.
If you are coming to the gig please add yourself to the Facebook event.
Many thanks to Nic Newman for the design work, The Print Room for posters, flyers and tickets and SWAT for posters and distribution.
Homesickness is a recurring theme on Europe, the second album by UK indie-pop act Allo Darlin’. Named after a disastrous tour of Europe, which involved a near fatal gas fumes issue with their van, the album revolves around lead singer Elizabeth Morris’s reflections on her native Australia and the band’s life in London as they road trip unhappily across the continent. They clearly miss home, but where, many of the songs ask, exactly is home?
Tallulah, with just Morris’s vocals and ukulele, is where these ideas come out most strongly, with Morris one minute reminiscing about a drive, with her friend in her “university car” in Australia, where the car door is so hot it burns their arms, and the next minute back on tour, in Berlin, writing postcards.
She clearly hates where she is but where does she long to return to, she ponders with the line, “And it’s been a long time, Since I’ve seen all my old friends, But I really love my new friends, I feel I’ve known them a long while.” As she remembers Tallulah Ghosh on the car tape player in Australia and thinks of friends across the globe she heartbreakingly leaves the listener with this terrible thought, what “if I’ve already heard all the songs that’ll mean something. And I’m wondering if I’ve already met all the people that’ll mean something.”
Another reason Tallulah, which has been a highlight of their live sets for a while and previously appeared on a 2010 Hangover Lounge’ EP, stands out is because it takes a welcome break from the band’s usual indiepop style. While this more up tempo style works well in places on the album, I just get the sense that I’ve heard this kind of jangly pop far too many times before over the last 30 years.
The tricksy picking of guitarist Pail Rains and the driving rhythm section of bassist Bill Botting and drummer Michael Collins, plus Morris’s natural vocals, are what has attracted their small but dedicated following over the years. But I can’t help feeling it could be their undoing if they continue to stick with this tired old C86 style on future albums.
Their peers such as London’s Tigercats or Brooklyn’s Hospitality have successfully breathed new life into the indiepop genre, but this is something Allo Darlin’ fail to do on the bulk of Europe.
Morris’s vocals just seem to work so much better on the ballads, such as Tallulah and another highlight Some People Say. Her track I Know I Fucked Up on Darren Hayman’s 2011 January Songs project was another recent vocal triumph. But on Europe’s upbeat tracks such as Capricornia her style seems slightly out of place, not strong enough for pop, like a folk singer who has found herself in the wrong band as she struggles at times to squeeze all the words in.
There are welcome flashes of where their sound may go, the violin on the album’s title track and slide guitar on Some People Say hint at a growing influence of US country and folk on the band, who are touring the US as this review is being written. I hope this is a path they continue to follow. Such moments bring to mind First Aid Kit’s country twanged album The Lion’s Roar of earlier this year, which was produced by Bright Eyes’ Mike Mogis. He would do an equally fine job on bringing out the country heart of Allo Darlin’.
Allo Darlin’ are clearly still wedded to their indie-pop influences and Tallulah Ghosh tapes, but Europe, even with its flashes of brilliance, only offers the prospect of something as “amazing” as the day Morris sings about in Some People Say.