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Rotifer, Tigercats and Danny Kendall – Oxjam Benefit

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Rotifer, Tigercats and Danny Kendall – Oxjam Benefit

Posted on 30 October 2012 by Dorian

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.

Danny Kendall

Danny Kendall

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

Tigercats

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

Rotifer

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.

Rotifer

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

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Indietracks 2012

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Indietracks 2012

Posted on 15 July 2012 by Dorian

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.

Train

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.

Tigercats

Tigercats

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.

Go Sailor

Go Sailor

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 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).

The Vaselines

The Vaselines

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.

Words and pictures by Dorian Rogers

See more pictures from the festival in our Flickr gallery.

Read our review of the 2011 Indietracks festival.

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Rotifer, Tigercats and Danny Kendall – 26th October 2012

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Rotifer, Tigercats and Danny Kendall – 26th October 2012

Posted on 24 June 2012 by Dorian

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 RotiferTigercats and Danny Kendall.

Oxjam

Rotifer

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‘.

Tigercats

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

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.

Oxjam

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.

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Allo Darlin’ – Europe

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Allo Darlin’ – Europe

Posted on 27 April 2012 by Joe

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.

7/10

by Joe Lepper

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Tigercats – Isle of Dogs

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Tigercats – Isle of Dogs

Posted on 27 March 2012 by Joe

Have a quick scroll down to the bottom of this review and you’ll see something that rarely graces this site. That’s right, it’s a top score of 10/10. For those who are new to us we are not the kind of site that offers these out willy-nilly. In four years of reviewing I’ve only previously given out top marks to two albums, the recent reissues  of The Clash’s London Calling and REM’s Lifes Rich Pageant. This is the first time I’ve ever given a 10/10 to a new album.

So what makes Isle of Dogs, the debut album by London band Tigercats, so deserving of our praise? Well, for a start, as an indie-pop album goes this is as good as it gets. It’s teaming with radio friendly, infectious hooks, especially on Full Moon Reggae Party, Easter Island and Banned at the Troxy. It also has a sense of completeness  as the band take you on an indiepop road tour across the east end of London.

The album starts with “a declaration of independence” on Coffin For The Isle of Dogs, for the “kids in their prams” and “commuters in their commuter trains” to  take control of “this island that has gone to the dogs.”

They then take us across Hackney Downs, for a dream like swim in Regents Canal “with the turtles and prehistoric fishes”, a trip to an indie record shop, bars in Dalston full of people with “ridiculous haircuts” before ending the day with a drunken stumble out of a nightclub, a spot of night swimming and a tale of love.

But it’s not all about catchy hooks and road trips around the capital, on an album that was largely recorded live at Soup Studios, Limehouse.  The thoughtful Kim and Thurston, with its simple but effective guitar arrangement is among the highlights. Is it directly about Mr and Mrs Sonic Youth, the coolest couple in indie rock whose relationship was ultimately doomed, a fictional couple, or a real life relationship of lead singer and song writer Duncan Barrett?  Kim and Thurston sounds like it’s a bit of all three. While their songwriting is direct it leaves just enough ambiguity to let the listener put their own take on the tracks.

There’s a humour to the songs as well.  I particularly liked the references to the one hit wonders of new wave on Vapours. And as an expression of teen angst and insecurity goes the Konny Huck line about smoking “so you won’t see me clear” is among the best around.

Across all of this there’s a uniqueness to their sound that blends Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine and  intricate (what NME hilariously describe as “afro beat-tinged twee-core”) guitar arrangements, with the energy of The Wedding Present’s George Best, the irony of Pete Shelley and the intelligence of Hefner.

It is perhaps Hefner that they are perhaps most similar to in the way they capture city life so well in music. I’m sure this is a comparison that Barrett will not mind, seeing as he is a collaborator of former Hefner frontman Darren Hayman on last year’s Vostok 5 art and music project about space exploration. Fans of Hefner will also be amazed how much Barrett sounds like Hayman.

Putting all these elements together gives Isle of Dogs one of the freshest sounds I’ve heard for some time from a UK act. Plus, as we said when we touted them as one to watch this year, they are an indie pop band you can dance to. That’s actually rarer than you’d think.

10/10

by Joe Lepper

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Fika Recordings Launches Advent Calender MP3 Giveaway

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Fika Recordings Launches Advent Calender MP3 Giveaway

Posted on 29 November 2011 by Joe

Fika Recordings, the UK indie label set up by tea and cassette enthusiasts (yes, really), is launching an advent calendar style  MP3  giveaway  during December.

The smart marketing campaign is to promote its  six track 10” vinyl release of Christmas in Howarth, the latest in a string of releases this year by one of the UK’s busiest songwriters Darren Hayman.

Those releasing free tracks during December include Hayman, Terry Edwards, The Wave Pictures, Josie Long, Ballboy and Tigercats, who are one of our Top Ten bands to watch out for in 2012. By Christmas more than 50 tracks will be released.

For more information and to download the tracks click here.

Fika,  which is named after the Swedish word for afternoon tea, specialises in cassette and vinyl releases.  Each release comes with a digital download code, a tea bag and a recipe for a cake.

This marks the end of a busy year for former Hefner frontman Hayman, who has already written, recorded and released a song a day during Janaury for his January Songs project (review here). This is currently available on download and is set for a CD release in January 2012. He has also released The Ship’s Piano (review here).

 by Joe Lepper

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Top Ten Bands To Watch Out For In 2012

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Top Ten Bands To Watch Out For In 2012

Posted on 16 November 2011 by Joe

Last year London band Django Django topped our list of acts  to watch out for  in 2011. As autumn came they didn’t disappoint as they  began unveiling tracks from their forthcoming highly promising debut album.

Another to justify their place on the 2011 list was The Miserable Rich, who unveiled their superb third album Miss You In the Days in October.

This year we look at our top ten bands to watch out for in 2012. Some have already being wowing festival crowds and attracting attention in the blogosphere. As 2012 progresses we predict these bunch will climb up the festival bills and garner even more praise.  Sit  back and enjoy Neonfiller.com’s top ten acts to look out for in 2012.

10. Alice Gun

Just before the 2011 Mercury nominations were revealed a few names cropped up among bloggers, including ourselves, for possible inclusion. One of those names was little known singer -songwriter Alice Gun, whose debut album Blood and Bone impressed us greatly when it was released early in 2011. It’s sparse, it’s eerie and a beautiful debut that was sadly overlooked by the Mercury  panel. Comparisons to PJ Harvey are inevitable, but Gun is her own artist and we are expecting big things of her in 2012 as word  of her talent spreads.

9.Tigercats

Tigercats from London are that rarest of bands, an indie-pop act that you can actually dance to. After a string of singles and EPs they are finally ready to release their debut album in 2012. We’ve had a sneak listen to a couple of tracks already and we predict it will bring them to a far wider audience than the small band of wise indie-kids that have already discovered them.

The album will be backed by a series of tour dates. Among our favourite Tigercats tracks, and one we are keen to see live is Easter Island, which was released in August 2010.

8. Free Swim

Free Swim are one of those unusual bands that pop up in our inbox occasionally that leave us lost for words. The first email we received was to promote their debut EP Two Hands Is Ok, about a man who was so busy he had to graft another set of arms onto his torso. The next time it was to tell us of EP #2 Yolanda the Panda, about the adventures of a mountain climbing Panda. The subject matter may be comical, but they are serious about their music, sounding like a cross between Super Furry Animals and King Missile. A whole bunch of other reviewers from 6Music to XFM also agree.  Live they are a force to be reckoned with as  their bassist becomes a real life Super Furry Animal by donning a giant panda costume. A funny, interesting band that are set to release their third EP in 2012 and continue wowing crowds with their unusual  live show. Here’s some footage we took at one of their 2011 gigs, in Brighton.

7.Kill It Kid

How Kill It Kid are not already one of the UK’s biggest bands is a mystery. Their 2009 self titled debut album’s mix of rootsy blues and rock wowed critics, but failed to shift CDs.  But 2012 could prove to be their year as they continue touring to promote 2011’s excellent second album  Feet Fall Heavy, which features a bigger and bolder sound.  We predict a main stage slot at one of the major festivals in 2012, surely the perfect stage for their ballsy approach to rock. What’s more in Chris Turpin and Stephanie Ward the band, which formed at Bath Spa University, are blessed with two excellent singers.

6.Twin brother

During our visit to Glastonbury this year we made sure we spent alot of time at the BBC Introducing stage. First up on the Friday were Brighton’s Twin Brother and what a performance they put on. Held together by the sumptious vocals of singer songwriter and  multi-instrumentalist Alex Wells, the band evoke classic mid 1980s sounds of Aztec Camera and Lloyd Cole and the Commotions. Twin Brother also played the Anglo-French White Nights festival during 2011 and a string of dates are booked in for 2012.

Here’s an acoustic version by Wells of Send Me A Letter, a track from one of their planned releases during 2012.

5.Two Wounded Birds

Margate’s Two Wounded Birds were another act that dazzled us at the BBC Introducing stage at Glastonbury. Surf-punk is probably the best way to describe them as they mix classic punk, with surf and rock and roll. They are also gaining alot of attention from national radio stations and online broadcasters, including 6Music and NME online.

4. Dry the River

Festivals have been key to Dry The River’s excellent 2011, bringing their energetic live sets to events such as Glastonbury and Brighton’s Great Escape.  Gradually they’ve been building up a solid fan base thanks to their mix of accessible classic rock with an alternative, folk edge.  They start 2012 as part of the Q:Now the Sessions events playing XOYO, London in January and are certain to start climbing up the festival bills during the summer. In a few years time we wouldn’t be surprised to see this band, which formed in East London in 2009,  headlining a festival main stage.

3.Youth Lagoon

Already Idaho 20-something Trevor Powers, who performs under the name Youth Lagoon, has generated plenty of buzz in the US. His debut album The Year of Hibernation, which has been released on the influential Fat Possum label, has been given near universal critical praise, including a coveted Best New Music tag from Pitchfork. His subject matter of love, loss and anxiety is still immature at times, but he is at the start of what promises to be a long career. We are confident that the US buzz around Powers will soon spread to the UK. Watch out for European tour dates in 2012.

2.The Revival Hour

DM Stith is one of the gems of US label Athmatic Kitty’s roster. The multi-instrumentalist has spent much of 2011 supporting label mate Sufjan Stevens on tour and promoting his dramatic debut album Heavy Ghost. For 2012 he is taken a slightly different direction with his new porject The Revival Hour. This collaboration with John Mark Lapham from The Earlies was formed through a mutual love of Roy Orbison and judging by their first single Hold Back they have been heavily influenced by the 1960s. An album is due out in 2012 and is set to feature contributions from Stevens, My Brightest Diamond and Shearwater.  Hold Back is one of our highlights of 2011 and we anticipate the album to be one of the best of 2012.

1. Singing Adams

After splitting from the Broken Family Band its songwriter and lead singer Steven Adams (pic: second from left) has taken an indie pop direction with his next project Singing Adams. Bringing in indie stalwarts Matthew Ashton, Melinda Bronstein and Michael Wood the band perfectly compliment Adam’s bittersweet and often humourous song writing. We saw them in September in Bristol play to about 70 people, a far cry from Adams’ time with festival favourites Broken Family Band. This meagre crowd is set to grow in 2012 once word spreads. They are a well drilled and engaging live act and in 2012 are set to release their second album. Some tracks were trialled at the gig we saw in September and we were left impressed. Watch out for this band at a festival or venue near you, they could soon be your next favourite band.

The band’s debut album Everybody Friends Now was one of our highlights of 2011. Here’s one of our favourite tracks from the album, I Need Your Mind.

 by Joe Lepper

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Various – Vostok 5

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Various – Vostok 5

Posted on 05 September 2011 by Joe

In the same year that Nasa officially abandons its space shuttle programme it is fitting that five  musicians and artists in the UK have decided to create a project to pay tribute to those hardy heroes of a space race that is seemingly no more.

Under the name Vostok 5, the five artists who include Darren Hayman and Paul Rains from Allo Darlin’, have created a range of artwork, an exhibition as well as this fine nine track CD, looking at the often heartbreaking tales of the animals and human heroes of the space race.

For Robert Rotifer the setting of his two tracks is Star City, the strange elite cosmonaut city on the outskirts of Moscow, through the eyes of Austrian Clemens Lothaller, a substitute cosmonaut who stayed behind in the 1990s while his friend Franz Viehbock jetted into space and became a hero.

Opener ‘Star City’ focuses on Lothaller stuck in the surburban safety of Star City, dreaming of what could have been. There is a happy ending though, as Lothaller is now a bass playing neurosurgeon (yes, seriously).

On his second track ‘The Cosmonaut Who Never Flew’ Rotifer looks at Lothaller’s imagined darker days; bitter, drunk and very much earth bound in the vodka bars of Star City.

The Cosmonaut Who Never Flew by Robert Rotifer

Both Rotifer’s tracks bring space travel right down to earth through the far more terrestrial themes of friendship and ambition and are all the better for it. There’s also a deliberate hint of Ziggy Stardust era David Bowie on his vocals, giving the tracks a nice cosmic touch.

The beautifully sad names of the dogs that were catapulted into space, strapped to wires and surrounded by darkness, provide Hayman with his inspiration.

Both his tracks use different styles to give the listener a genuine sense of the fear and confusion these dogs must have felt.

On ‘A Breeze and a Little Piece of Coal’ (the English translation for space dogs Veterok and Ugolyok who hold the dog record for space endurance at 22 days) Hayman has raided his vintage keyboard collection to surround these canine cosmonauts with the bleeps and electro belchs that became their master’s voice for so long.

While effective, it is his second track ‘A Little Arrow and a Little Squirrel’ where Hayman really nails the emotion of dogs tumbling through space. Combining the same country twang from his 2010 album Essex Arms with painfully sad lyrics we learn of the two space dogs of the title (whose Russian names are Belka and Strelka) who became the first to return to earth alive.

Lines such as “In a cage made of metal and glass, two beating hearts, beating too fast,” are among the best of Hayman’s career.

Belka and Strelka (aka A Little Arrow and A Little Squirrel)

For Rains and Fever Dream, whose bassist Sarah Lippett is another of the Vostok 5, the focus is firmly on heroism.

Fever Dream’s track Poyekhali! (The Russian for ‘Let’s go!’ – the words uttered by Yuri Gagarin as he took off to become the first man in space) is bashed out like Joy Division’s Transmission as it tracks Gagarin’s flight. Fever Dream’s brand of rock provides an excellent contrast to the other more melancholy tracks. Not a bad thing. Space exploration is after all exciting.

Rains is a little more thoughtful in portraying herorism. For him it is Gagarin’s friend and fellow cosmonaut Alexei Leonov who is more of a hero.

When Gagarin died in 1968 when his plane crashed, Leonov had to identify his shattered remains, giving his second track on the album its tragic title ‘Remains in a bowl’.

Rains’ other track ‘Michelin Man’ looks at Leonov’s heroism when he almost died becoming the first man to float in space. As his space suit drastically inflated and he feared for his life his sheer bloody mindedness and bravery meant he survived. This is perhaps the most indie-pop sounding track on the album and one that has prompted me to seek out more Hexicon releases, a band I’d shamefully not heard until now. The French horn on this track is a particular joy.

Mike Collins (Allo' Darlin/Hexicon) and french horn player Thomas Allard who feature on Michelin Man

Tigercat’s Duncan Barrett’s two tracks look at Wernher Von Braun, the former Nazi scientist who built the deadly V2 rocket as well as the Saturn V rocket that took US astronauts to the moon. On ‘Sometimes I Hit London’ the unofficial subtitle of his biopic  ‘I Aim At the Stars’, Barrett looks back on his reluctant Nazi days .On ‘Maria’, his love life is the focus. Both effectively bring that human touch to his grand dreams although ‘Sometimes I Hit London’, which features the other Tigercats, is marginally the better of the two.

Across all nine tracks there’s a togetherness even though the five musicians’ have their distinct styles. This gives the CD  more of a whole band feel than other compilations. Above all its good to hear some good stories in song, especially when the heroes are such extraordinary space pioneers.

9/10

By Joe Lepper

There are just 500 copies of Vostok 5  available. For more information on how to get a copy click here.

We also visited the London exhibition by the Vostok 5 on Saturday 3 September when some of the artists performed these songs. Read our review here.

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Vostok 5 Exhibition

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Vostok 5 Exhibition

Posted on 04 September 2011 by Dorian

An art gallery isn’t the normal venue we cover here on Neon Filler, but when some of our favourite musicians have produced the artwork it seemed too good to miss. The opportunity to see a selection of the artists perform songs was an added incentive on the first weekend of the group show.

The show is called Vostok 5 and is a collection of images on the subject of people and animals in space. Darren Hayman, Robert Rotifer, Paul Rains, Sarah Lippet and Duncan Barrett have supplied a range of cartoons depicting space dogs, cosmonauts, the moon, space monkeys, Star City and other similarly themed pictures.

Duncan Barrett

Duncan Barrett

On the Saturday of the show three of the Vostok 5 treated the small packed gallery space to songs from the CD they have produced to accompany the show. Duncan Barrett opened proceedings with two delicate songs accompanied on an old organ. He was followed by Robert Rotifer who provided his tracks as well as offering up a song apiece by Paul Rains and  Sarah Lippett who were unable to perform on the day. Last up was Darren Hayman with his space themed songs, including a rendition of Hefner favourite ‘Alan Bean’, and one of the songs from his forthcoming album about the Essex witch trials.

Robert Rotifer

Robert Rotifer

The songs were accompanied by interesting stories, facts and information about the songs and the subjects of the exhibition. If you managed to get to the show over the next few days (and I highly recommend you do), and any of the artists are present, then ask them some questions about the pictures. There is a real profound sadness about many of the images as well as reflection of human endeavour and a desire to reach the stars.

It is an excellent and understated exhibition and you can also pick up some original artwork, the limited edition CD, or one of the prints and posters on sale.

Darren Hayman

Darren Hayman

The show is at the Outside World Gallery in Shoreditch until September the 7th and you can find out more information on the Vostock 5 website.

There is also an opportunity to see all 5 of the Vostok 5 bands play at London’s Willmington Arms on Wednesday 21st September.

By Dorian Rogers

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