Tag Archive | "Belle and Sebastian"

Top Five Protest Songs of 2015

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Top Five Protest Songs of 2015

Posted on 27 November 2015 by Joe

From the tragic consequences of US gun laws to the UK’s ongoing debate around inequality and low wages as well as worldwide debate around the plight of refugees fleeing war torn Syria, it’s been another year where political songwriters have had lots of inspiration.

Here we take a look at our five favourite political songs. All can be loosely called protest songs, but also offer more than that, often looking at the real lives of those affected by the political decisions taking place.

Darren Hayman – Down Among the Dead Men

Chants for Socialists is a rare political album from Darren Hayman. As you would expect from the former Hefner frontman it carries none of the bombast of Chumbawumba. Instead he has taken the lyrics from Victorian socialist William Morris, set it to music and given it a modern take with a choir of friends and those living nearby Morris’s former London home.

On this, one of the album’s standout tracks, Hayman successfully conveys a comforting sense of comraderie among the hopelessness of a world of social injustice, all sounding like a mix of The Kinks and a Victorian pub singalong thanks to co-writing duties from frequent Hayman collaborator Robert Rotifer.

Villagers- Little Bigot

A few years it would have been inconceivable that Ireland, with all the atrocities its Catholic society forced on women and gay people would allow same sex marriages. In the year Ireland really came of age Villagers frontman Conor O’Brien penned the album Darling Arithmetic, which is as much about Ireland’s attitude to gay men like himself as it is a wonderful collection of songs about love.

He is keen that this shold be seen as a love album first and a protest album second, but on Little Bigot he rejoices as finally the old way of thinking is cast aside. “So take the blame, little bigot. And throw that hatred on the fire,” he sings.

Belle and Sebastian – Cat with the Cream

Politicians and the banking elite are the smug cats here on Belle and Sebastian frontman Stuart Murdoch’s bitter take on British politics. Written after the Tory led coalition came into power in 2010 it was not released until this year when the Conservatives won an outright victory and looked to lap up even more cream. ‘Tory like a cat with the cream’ sums up many of that party’s politics wonderfully, but Labour and their ‘grubby little red’ MPs and the Lib Dems ‘flapping hopelessly’ also come under fire.

John Howard and the Night Mail – Tip of your Shoe

This is the second mention in this list of protest songs for Robert Rotifer, who in between fronting his own band Rotifer and helping Darren Hayman out, also collaborated this year with 1970s singer songwriter John Howard as part of the Night Mail. Here Rotifer’s lyrics and Howard’s wonderful voice and music take on xenophobia and right wing media commentators, especially ones of the likes of Katie Hopkins, who spout all sorts of vile political rubbish on their “21st century toilet wall” of social media.

Southern Tenant Folk Union – Slaughter in San Francisco

It seems incredulous that the US government still allows gun ownership to go unchecked in yet another year of horrific shootings. The school shootings are particular tragic and provide the sad inspiration for Slaughter in San Francisco, among the best songs on Southern Tenant Folk Union’s album The Chuck Norris Project, which is packed full of protest at a range of issues from bigotry to gun laws.

Here singer Rory Butler provides genuine emotion as he shows the horror of such incidents through the eyes of one of the frightened young victims. It’s one of the year’s most heartbreaking songs that sadly is set to have resonance for years to come until the US legislature finally sees sense on gun crime.

Compiled by Joe Lepper


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Top 20 Albums of 2015…so far

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Top 20 Albums of 2015…so far

Posted on 03 July 2015 by Joe

At the year’s half way point we take a look back on some of our favourite albums of the year so far. There’s been a distinct up turn in pop amongst our largely indie and alternative releases, with Franz Ferdnand and Spark’s collaboration and the return of Go! Team and They Might Be Giants amongst the standouts. We also feature an homage to arguably the UK’s golden era of pop, a concept album about wrestling, some prog rock, some teen angst, a bit of adult angst and another regular placing for Robert Pollard, who retains his tag as rock’s most productive artist. Watch out for our end of year list in December.

20. Mammoth Penguins – Hide and Seek



Mammoth Penguins, the new band formed by Standard Fare’s Emma Kupa, are one of the best new acts to emerge this year. At it’s heart it’s basic indie pop of drums, crunchy guitar chords, bass and bitter sweet lyrics. But an elevation comes from Kupa’s distinct vocals, which here seem clearer and more powerful than on Standard Fare releases. Plus there seems to be a sharper focus to the songs as well, which pack a real punch. Read our full review here.

19. Alabama Shakes – Sound and Color



Our contributor Sarah Robertson’s favourite album of the year launches itself into our top 20 thanks to its “timeless, soulful” sound and a range of songs “that could provide the backdrop to a cult road trip film.” Read our full review here.

18. The Mountain Goats – Beat The Champ



Fronted by John Darnielle and still very much a three piece, with Peter Hughes and Jon Wurster in tow, the Mountain Goats’s latest is a concept album about the very human tales of wrestling, from their young fans to the stars of the ring themselves. Heartbreaking and joyous. Read our full review here.

17. The Bevis Frond – Miasma and Inner Marshland Reissues



Welcome reissue for the cult 1980s prog rock act’s first two albums. The band’s driving force Nick Salomon is still very much guitar noodling and plays for the second time in two years at Glastonbury this year. Read our full review here to find out why his band is so adored by guitar luminaries such as Jay Mascis.

16. Matt Creer – The Leeward Tide



As calms after the storm go this latest album by Isle of Man singer songwriter Matt Creer is just about perfect. We first heard his beautiful take on folk music via a Tweet from Chris TT. We hope this placing in our Top 20 albums of the year so far prompts others to discover his remarkable talent. Read our full review here.

15. They Might Be Giants – Glean



The iconic pop duo have revisited and updated their 1980s dial-a-song idea to release a song a week throughout 2015. Glean rounds up the best of those released so far and reveals they have lost none of their pop credentials. Read our full review here.

14. Papernut Cambridge – Nutlets (1967-1980)



So it appears Hot Chocolate used to be cool. Who knew? Well, Ian Button, who releases under the Papernut Cambridge moniker, did. The former Death in Vegas/Thrashing Doves man is something of a 1970s pop expert and this fine collection features ten covers of his favourites from around that time. Read our full review here.

13. SLUG- Ripe



Any album that is connected with Field Music is likely to be enthusiastically received at Neon Filler towers. The band have produced some of our favourite music over the last decade. Ripe is the twisted brain child o their touring bass player Ian Black and has both Brewis Brothers on board for the ride. Imagine Queen producing their music in 21st Century Sunderland and you get a flavour of what is on show here.

12. Calexico – Edge of the Sun



You know what you are going to get when you play a Calexico album, the smooth sounds of Californian country rock with a consistent undercurrent of Marichi brass. Edge of the Sun offers no surprises, but is their most satisfying release in years. Iron And Wine’s Sam Beam, Neko Case and Gaby Moreno all pitch in with vocal support on an album that would sound best listened to in a desert.

11. The Tigercats – Mysteries



Now signed to Fortuna Pop and with Allo Darlin’s Paul Rains in their ranks the London band have managed to nail the potentially tricky second album after the critical success of their debut Isle of Dogs. It sounds great and as ever the songwriting and lyrics are superb. Read our full review here.

10. Evans the Death – Expect Delays



The despair for young people under coalition and now Conservative government since 2010 is embedded in every scream, guitar riff and drum beat on this incendiary latest album from the London four piece. This is what it feels like to be young and pissed off in all its magnificent angst. Read our full review here.

9. Ralegh Long – Hoverance



Gare Du Nord label artist Ralegh Long takes the listener into the world of the English countryside for a beautiful, rural inspired collection of romantic and thoughtful songs. Read our full review here.

8. Southern Tenant Folk Union – The Chuck Norris Project



The Folk and bluegrass collective took a bold step using the film titles of right wing action star Chuck Norris to take on the weighty issues of the world, from gun crime to racism. Thankfully it worked, especially on Slaughter on San Francisco, where their singer Rory Butler delivers one of the vocal performances of the year. Read our full review here.

7. The Wave Pictures – Great Big Flamingo Burning Moon



Is this the best dirty rock n roll album of the year? We declared as such back in February and so far few have come close. With Billy Childish on board for production duties the trio get down and dirty and even roll out a couple of Creedence Clearwater Revival numbers. Read our full review here.

6. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell



His 2010 album The Age of Adz may have been his most successful to date but it never sat quite easy with us. Granted its electronica was innovative but Stevens always sounds best to us with a stripped back sound and a hanky to wipe away the tears from his sad lyrics. Here he reveals his most intimate album yet focusing on his uneasy relationship with his late mother Carrie and his adoration for his step father Lowell Brams, who he runs his label Asthmatic Kitty with. This album is magnificently sad and uplifting in equal measure, as all great Sufjan Stevens albums should be.

5. Belle and Sebastian – Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance



Following a five year break between albums the Scottish indie pop legends were back with one of the best releases. With added disco chic on The Party Line they even dip their toe into politics, with The Cat with the Cream and its heart breaking take on coalition government era Britain.

4. Villagers – Darling Arithmatic



There’s something so wonderfully precise about Villagers’ frontman Conor O’Brien’s voice. Each line is told with such clarity and on this, their third album, the messag O’Brien wants to convey is loud and clear; this is a love album and one made by a gay man from Ireland. Read our full review here.

3. Robert Pollard – Faulty Superheroes


Robert Pollard - Faulty Superheroes

Like Joan Jett and the Blackhearts I too love rock and roll. But sometimes the idea of putting another dime in the juke box baby fills me with horror. Then just when you’d almost given up hope an album comes along and renews your faith in rock and roll. This is that album. Read our full review here.

2. FFS – FFS



This merging of art rockers Franz Ferdinand with 1970s oddball pop duo Sparks is one of the few collaborations in music that works. The Sparks brothers of Ron and Russell Mael look to have the upper hand in directing this, at times utterly bonkers, collection of pop songs. Alex Kapranos and co seem content to follow their lead and enjoy the ride. Read our full review here.

1. The Go! Team – The Scene Between


The Go Team The Scene Between artwork SMALL(1)

The whole album from start to finish is teaming with singles, with wonderful hooks, riffs and choruses shining throughout. Its perfect pop and we challenge anyone who professes to have any form of appreciation for a good pop song to dislike this album. This gained a rare 10/10 from us when released. Read our full review here.


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Belle and Sebastian – The De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill (Oct 29, 2014)


Belle and Sebastian – The De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill (Oct 29, 2014)

Posted on 11 November 2014 by Dorian

It seems wrong to start a review of such an excellent gig on a negative note, but I feel the need to run through things in a chronological order. The minor gripe about the evening is the support act that greets us as we arrive at Bexhill’s wonderful De La Warr Pavilion. Arriving at 7.30 seemed reasonable, given a 7pm ticket start time, but the running order lists the support act as being “DJ Justin Spear” with the main band not hitting the stage until 9pm. Listening to someone play records, and with not a huge amount of finesse, to a near-empty room is not a great way to spend your time; even if those records are pretty good.

Thankfully the building, and the surrounding environment, is not a bad place to hang out and there is a pretty decent gift shop to waste a bit of time in before the main event starts.

Belle and Sebastian

When the band does take the stage, in the expected large numbers, any disappointment about a lack of decent support is soon forgotten. The songs, both new and old, sound great and the near-perfect concert hall is packed to the rafters with happy fans. A casual Stuart Murdoch and a neatly turned out Stevie Jackson are center stage for most of the evening and it is their songs (the bulk by Murdoch) that the audience know by heart. That is except for the brace of songs from the band’s forthcoming album, Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance, including the new single ‘The Party Line’. This song has received some radio play recently and reveals a hitherto unknown 80s Disco influence on the band. It is an oddity in the set, but sounds pretty good nonetheless.

The band are very aware that they have a dedicated following, and the audience have largely been with them for many years, so they don’t insist on only playing songs from their more recent albums. Indeed it is the album they released between 1996 and 2000 (along with a smattering of EP only songs recorded in the same period) that make up the bulk of the set. The Boy With The Arab Strap, now 16 years old, gets the most tracks by my calculation and it is these songs that get the best response from the crowd.

It is the title track from that album which inspires Murdoch to encourage more dancing and stage participation. Several hundred people eagerly accept the invitation and the band disappear from view for the bulk of the song. Astonishingly they keep the song going without error and it is a rather magical moment (a video of this can be found on YouTube here).

stage invasion

In some ways it is a shame that this song wasn’t saved for the encore, it is one of those moments that is hard to top, even in a gig of this high a quality. However, nobody complains when the band continue for a few more tracks before leaving the stage. The evening of songs has been close to perfect, and nobody could honestly quibble about the choice of songs played, so the clamour for an encore is an unsurprising one.

When the band does return to the stage we are treated to one final song, ‘Sleep The Clock Around’. This is a song that contains the perfect essence of melancholy, melody and positivity that makes them such a unique and wonderful band. They are the only band I’ve ever seen that have left my hands sore, not from applause but from the in-song hand-clapping.

The band release their new album in January 2015 and the full tour starts in the same month taking in New Zealand, Australia, the far east and America before returning to the UK for 14 dates in May.

By Dorian Rogers


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End of the Road Festival, Dorset (Aug 30 – Sept 1, 2013)

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End of the Road Festival, Dorset (Aug 30 – Sept 1, 2013)

Posted on 04 September 2013 by Joe

A sunny weekend in North Dorset, listening to some of my favourite bands of the year. What a treat! The End of the Road festival at Larmer Tree Gardens put on an excellent weekend of great music in a beautiful setting with a wonderful, relaxed atmosphere.

Attracting a diverse crowd of young and old, families and ravers. the festival secured an outstanding lineup featuring a long list of bands I’ve been listening to this year, so I was really spoilt for choice. It’s a small but perfectly formed festival of about 8,000 people and, like my other favourite festival The Secret Garden Party, you can tell the organisers put a lot of love into making it a really special experience for everyone.

Night Beds

Night Beds

A wander around the grounds revealed a forest disco, little surprises in the woods, and peacocks in the trees. We saw the sisters of The Staves strolling about, had a chat to the girls from Pins, and apparently Jarvis Cocker was even there, singing Leonard Cohen songs on an upright piano. There was comedy, a cinema, drumming workshops even a croquet lawn. Just lovely.

And then there was the music. Friday I had a great day in the Big Top where I saw the aforementioned Pins, Money and Parquet Courts.  Manchester’s Pins have the girl-punk thing down and were really tight and impressive;  fellow Mancunians Money were dreamy and thoughtful – check out Hold me forever  – and Brooklyn punk band Parquet Courts got better as they went on. Their songs are short, fast and mostly shouted, but I like it. Stoned and Starving, Borrowed Time and Master of My Craft went down a treat. From there I caught a little bit of David Byrne and St Vincent’s song-and-dance set, before making a beeline to the Garden Stage to see a lovely set from Danish band Efterklang. Their song Sedna gives me shivers each time I listen to it, and, I discovered, even more so live.



Saturday afternoon, and Nashville charmers Night Beds took the Garden Stage. Lead singer Winston Yellen’s voice reminds me a bit of Jeff Buckley – he can really hit a high note – and they just seemed like genuinely lovely guys. Yellen said that 12 months ago he was on his couch with his cat – what a difference a year makes. Theirs was a sweet, if a little mournful, hour in the sunshine. Then to the Big Top and to Deptford Goth, who was quite stunning too. It was ethereal and aloof, sparse but engaging, with off-kilter trippy little beats and soulful electronica. One of my favourites, and top marks to the lighting guy too.

Icelandic superstars Sigur Ros took the main Woods Stage on Saturday night, and they were beautiful , but dare I say it, a bit low-key for a Saturday night headline slot? The real Saturday highlight for me was Daughter, who were outstanding. Even better live than their lovely album, If you leave. They sound more edgy live, bigger on the drums and guitars. Really special, and really humble. They actually seemed a bit blown away by the massive crowd that had gathered at the Garden Stage. But they should probably get used to that.



I got Sunday underway with Crocodiles, who had an impressively flamboyant guitarist, but whose songs could probably take a leaf out of Parquet Courts’ book and been about a minute shorter, and therefore, punchier. After that it was one of my favourite bands of this year, Merchandise, who played lots from their album Totale Night, which I love, but I think they would’ve benefited from a night slot rather than mid-afternoon. Theirs is a droney, almost shoegaze sound that is made for the dark. Then from the dark and into the light with Marika Hackman in the Tipi Tent. It was a flawless acoustic set, just her and her lilting voice and her impeccable guitar playing. A real treat. We were mesmerised. And then back to the dark side  – I had to see Palma Violets, just to see what all the fuss is about. And It was actually really entertaining. It’s a bit pretentious and they’re SO young, but it was fun.

Sunday night’s headliners and super-crowdpleasers, Belle and Sebastian, brought the feel-good factor up to 11. It was a real joy and they played all their hits, including If You’re Feeling Sinister, Another Sunny Day and Boy with the Arab Strap and so many more in their hour and a half slot. It was a fabulous way to end a really fun, laid-back festival, and I’ll be going again.

by Patricia Turk


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Documentary Special

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Documentary Special

Posted on 06 March 2013 by Dorian

We appear to be in the midst of a bit of a golden age for music documentary, with films about interesting and surprising subjects coming out or being announced with increasing regularity. The reduced cost of making films in the digital age and the new crowd sourced methods of getting funding make creating a film about a relatively obscure artist achievable without the need for cinema showings or guaranteed DVD sales to support the endeavor.

Last year was a good year for the music documentary at both ends of the success and attention spectrum. At the top end was the Oscar winning ‘Searching For Sugarman’ which took an artists that was both obscure and hugely famous (depending on where you live) and coupled it with a fascinating story to great effect. Also notable was the epic homage to George Harrison, ‘Living In The Material World’, that was perhaps too comprehensive but was certainly a labour of love for Martin Scorsese.

TV has been another good source with BBC4 and Sky Arts leading the way in showing interesting and well produced documentary films on a wide range of artists. Sky Arts tends to show archive films but the BBC have made and shown excellent films on the likes of Squeeze, The Kinks and a surprisingly in-depth look at the work of Chas and Dave. They also have a film about David Bowie in the pipeline which features world renowned Bowieologist Nicholas Pegg in a consultant role.

Lawrence of Belgravia

Lawrence of Belgravia

Last year saw two of British music’s greatest curmudgeons celebrated in film, Felt/Denim/Go-Kart Mozart main-man Laurence and former Auteur Luke Haines.

‘Laurence of Belgravia’ was perhaps the better film and showed Laurence as an increasingly delusional figure, clinging on to concepts of stardom that  would never come, although it is all wrapped up in a self-perpetuated myth by the artist himself. (You can watch a trailer for the film here).

‘Art Will Save The World’ shows Luke Haines as a figure who is increasingly affable and comfortable with his place in modern music. At odds with his (again self-perpetuated) image as the most evil man in Brit-pop it sees him moving towards becoming something of a national treasure. It is perhaps best viewed as a companion piece to his excellent memoir, ‘Bad Vibes’. (You can watch a trailer for the film here).

Pitchfork has also entered the music documentary arena  and done some sterling work as part of their Pitchfork Classic series of films. These films are similar in concept to the 331/3 series of books focusing on a single album by the band in question whilst offering up some biographical details about them. These films to date have been of a very high quality and managed to get all the principle players interviewed for the films and included some excellent archive footage. Best of all is the recent film about Belle and Sebastian’s If You’re Feeling Sinister, and managed to make a brilliant record seem even better. (You can watch the whole of the film on the Pitchfork TV site here).

The Sad and Beautiful world of Sparklehorse

The Sad and Beautiful world of Sparklehorse

Below I preview four films scheduled for release, or in development, most of which have been made possible by crowd funding (the pros and cons of which I will not discuss here, although it is much debated).

‘The Sad and Beautiful World of Sparklehorse’ is a film about the music of the late Mark Linkous, one of my favourite recording artists. The UK interview filming has been completed and the producers are currently trying to raise funds for interviews in the US and Europe on this crowd-funding website. I have mixed hopes for this film based on the interviews captured to date, with some like-minded musicians such as Jonathan Donahue and Ed Harcourt included as talking heads. More worrying is the appearance of TVs Matthew Wright in the film, he may be a big fan but this doesn’t add credibility.  Hopefully the remaining interviews will include collaborators like David Lowery, Dangermouse and PJ Harvey and the archive footage could be what lifts this film.

‘Song Dynasties’ has already managed to get full funding through Kickstarter and looks set to bring out the story of Kevin Barne’s Of Montreal on DVD later this year. The film has been put together from hundreds of hours of footage from throughout the band’s career and has been 16 years in the making. If it is anything like as entertaining as Of Montreal are live on stage then it will be captivating viewing. (You can read more about the project and watch a trailer for the film here).

In February we posted a review of a little-known (in this country at least) album by the South African punk band National Wake.  We now have an opportunity to find out more about the African punk scene thanks to the forthcoming release of ‘Punk In Africa’, a film made by Deon Maas and Keith Jones in South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia and Kenya. (No UK showings of the film are currently scheduled but more details about the film and some footage can be found here).

Best of all is ‘Are We Not Men?’, a film about Devo. And  if you watch the trailer (above) you’ll see what an exciting film it looks to be. Devo were colourful, subversive, different and had some ideology to support the ideas in their songs. The perfect subject for a documentary film and one that should appeal to those unfamiliar with the band as well as their fans. The film was made possible by a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $70,000 and is scheduled for a release in August this year.

If you have any favourite music documentary films, or know of any interesting projects in production, please post a comment below.

By Dorian Rogers


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Arthur in Colour – Malatrophy EP

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Arthur in Colour – Malatrophy EP

Posted on 30 November 2012 by Joe

Tip for bands looking to get their EP reviewed – send us a personal hand written letter and include a picture of a rabbit drunk on tea on the cover and you’ll rise to the top of the pile. London five piece Arthur in Colour did just that, inviting us to review their debut five track EP Malatropy EP.

We are told their music has been compared to The Magnetic Fields and Belle and Sebastian and can’t argue with that. The band’s leader Arthur Sharpe’s deep throaty  vocals are more than a little reminiscent of The Magnetic Fields Stephin Merrit. But while the tracks he takes lead vocal duties on are very 69 Love Song era Magnetic Fields there is a subtle and welcome difference. Perhaps its being London based that gives them an added sense of English eccentricity. This is particularly noticeable on final and best track One In A Million, which sounds like Belle and Sebastian does Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. A marvellous heart warming, sing along  that warmed the cockles of my soul on the cold, winter morning this EP arrived through my door.

Elsewhere on the EP another high point is the hooky indie pop of The Ghost of the Town, in which the band’s Lizzie Owens takes lead vocal duties. Great voice and great pop song.


For more information visit here.

by Joe Lepper


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Top Ten Olympic Songs

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Top Ten Olympic Songs

Posted on 23 July 2012 by Joe

With Olympic fever taking the UK by storm, we thought we’d run another of our topical top tens featuring our favourite indie and alternative Olympic and sporting  themed tracks. Sit back, order a McDonalds, drink a Coca-Cola or other Olympic endorsed junk food product and enjoy Neonfiller’s Top Ten Olympic Songs

1. Flaming Lips – Race for the prize


2. Belle and Sebastian – Stars of Track and Field

3. Pavement  – Gold Soundz

4. Gene – Olympian

5. Super Furry Animals – Rings Around the World

6. The Vatican Cellars – A Palpable Hit (features on the WAIWYA compilation It’s The Taking Part That Counts )

7. Foals – Olympic Airways

8. Sparklehorse – Gold Day

9. New Order – Run

10. Aztec Camera – Jump (Van Halen cover)

Honourable mentions: The National – Racing Like a Pro, Queens of the Stone Age – The Bronze, Guided By Voices – Keep It In Motion, LCD Sound System – Sound of Silver, The Decemberists – The Sporting Life, Beck – Loser.

Compiled by Joe Lepper, Dorian Rogers, Rob Finch, Vanessa Thompson, Barnaby Salton, Nick Parker and Leon Cox


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Stevie Jackson  – (I Can’t Get No) Stevie Jackson


Stevie Jackson – (I Can’t Get No) Stevie Jackson

Posted on 21 June 2012 by Joe

Belle and Sebastian guitarist Stevie Jackson’s tracks have been sparsely used across the B&S back catalogue but have always lit up each album with their pop-savvy nods to the Sixties.

In releasing his debut solo album (I Can’t Get No) Stevie Jackson he has thankfully not opted for any strange flights of fancy into jazz or classical music, it is as you would expect, 12 tracks of intelligent pop of which each could quite happily sit within 12 forthcoming Belle and Sebastian albums.

While it is a solo album it still has a full band feel, with Jackson using a host of collaborators, including members of Belle and Sebastian, The Pastals and The Company over the lengthy six-year period it has taken to write and record the album. This gives the album an eclectic nature without sounding uneven. Indie pop is still what Jackson is all about.

Opener Pure of Heart starts low key before building up into Jackson’s trademark Sixties drenched pop and on second tack Just, Just, So To The Point there’s some great disco strings to add to the mix. He clearly held this one back from  Belle and Sebastian album discussions, as surely this would have been a shoo-in for their Trevor Horn produced Catastrophe Waitress or The Life’s Pursuit.

Man of God appears the most interesting, looking at song titles alone.  Could it be about Belle and Sebastian ‘s chief songwriter and Christian Stuart Murdoch? Sadly not from journalists point of view as the B&S lot are clearly an affable bunch unlikely to criticise each other  publicly or in song.  This track is actually about something far more tacky than inter band tittle tattle and recounts Jackson and collaborator Ray Moller, from The Company, trying to seduce the same girl with 70s soul records

Without a single duff track and packed full of Jackson’s influences from soul to disco to the likes of The Kinks and early Pink Floyd, this solo debut album offers few surprises but plenty of summery pop.


 by Joe Lepper



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Top Ten Indie Movie Soundtracks

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Top Ten Indie Movie Soundtracks

Posted on 17 February 2012 by Joe

Every successful indie film needs a cool  indie music soundtrack. In some cases the choice of tracks or artists involved is so good the music ends up overshadowing the film. In most cases though it acts as the perfect compliment, with independent music showcasing the best of independent cinema. We invite you to pull up some popcorn, settle down in your slightly uncomfortable cinema seats and enjoy Neonfiller.com’s Top Ten Indie Movie Soundtracks.

10. Alex Turner – Submarine

Arctic Monkey Alex Turner’s  ballads and pop sensibility proved the perfect match for Submarine (2010), the charming and bittersweet coming of age tale set in coastal Wales in the 1980s. Turner even looks a little like Craig Roberts, the star of the film.  This is the shortest soundtrack on our list, with just six tracks, but sometimes less is more. The songs, which are especially written for the film, perfectly encapsulate teenage life and are a far cry from his bombastic work in the Last Shadow Puppets and the increasingly dark rock of the Arctic Monkeys. Among the standout tracks are Hiding Tonight on a soundtrack mini-album that proves  Turner has clearly found another fine string in his bow.

9. Velvet Goldmine

Velvet Goldmine is not a great film, in truth it isn’t a very good film at all, but it does have a great glam racket soundtrack. Alongside originals by the likes of Lou Reed, Roxy Music,  Shudder to Think, Pulp and T Rex are covers of classic 1970s songs. These are recorded by a range of collaborations (a trick that director Todd Haynes would play again on the soundtrack to I’m Not There, another contender for this list) including two supergroups The Venus In Furs and Wylde Rattz. The English musicians who played under the name The Venus in Furs on the soundtrack were Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood, David Gray, Suede’s Bernard Butler, and Roxy Music’s Andy Mackay. The American musicians who played as Curt Wild’s Wylde Ratttz on the soundtrack were The Stooges’ Ron Asheton, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Steve Shelley, Minutemen’s Mike Watt, Gumball’s Don Fleming, and Mark Arm of Mudhoney.

8. James Murphy – Greenberg

LCD Soundsystem main-man James Murphy goes for a lower key piano driven sound on most of his songs for the Ben Stiller film Greenberg. The result is a soundtrack that is much more engaging than the film it was taken from and more interesting than the LCD Soundsystem album of the same year. There are some uber-cool tracks by Galaxie 500, The Sonics, Albert Hammond and Duran Duran (the excellent ‘The Chauffeur’) amongst others but it is Murphy’s tunes and songs that make this stand out. His LCD Soundsystem work showed what a sophisticated songwriter he is but these tracks reveal a level a Laurel Canyon sound that is a refreshing change from his typical New York coolness.

7. The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou was the forth Wes Anderson film to feature a soundtrack produced by Devo front-man Mark Mothersbaugh. In addition to his music, and ‘Gut Feeling’ by Devo themselves, are a number of well chosen songs by the likes of Scott Walker, The Zombies and, in particular, David Bowie. What makes the soundtrack stand out are the contributions of one of the film’s stars Seu George. In his songs, played diegetically in the movie, are brilliant Portuguese language versions of some of Bowie’s best loved tracks.

6. Away we go – Alexi Murdoch

Scottish folk musician Alexi Murdoch soft vocals and intricate guitar playing proved a perfect match for 2009 romantic comedy Away we go, directed by Sam Mendes and written by Dave Eggers. The soundtrack features nine Murdoch tracks, all beautifully echoing the likes of John Martyn and Nick Drake and supplemented by a few classics as well, including The Stranglers’ Golden Brown and George Harrison’s What Is Life. Orange Sky, from Murdoch’s 2003 Four Songs EP is among many highlights.

5. Clint Mansell – Moon

This soundtrack stands out on our list in that it doesn’t contain any indie songs, or any songs at all for that matter. However, it was written and performed by the former pineapple headed lead singer of so-so grebos Pop Will Eat Itself. A career of average singles with the midlands indie act was the surprising foundation for a second career composing award winning soundtracks for critically acclaimed films. The majority of his soundtracks have been for Darren Aronofksy films, but his finest hour was the soundtrack for Duncan “Zowie Bowie” Jones’ debut feature Moon. The music is incredibly atmospheric and the perfect accompaniment for the story of lonely Lunar Industries employee Sam Bell.

4. Belle and Sebastian – Storytelling

Happiness director Tood Solandz’s Storytelling,  with its two part premise of ‘fiction’, ‘non-fiction’ involving disability and high school life,  got a rollicking from most critics. The Belle and Sebastian soundtrack on the other hand is a work of genius in comparison. While not enough to save this movie from the bargain bin this soundtrack takes pride of place on our shelves through its careful instrumental score and piano ballads. It’s actually a fairly decent Belle and Sebastian album as well, especially the tracks Wandering Alone and Big John Shaft, but sadly overlooked due to the film’s sour reputation.

3. Jon Brion – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Jon Brion has had a pretty impressive career, but most people will be unfamiliar with his name. The former Jellyfish guitarist has worked with Kanye West, Evan Dando, Aimee Mann, Of Montreal, Best Coast and (ahem) Keane as a musician and a producer. He will probably be best known for his soundtrack work which includes Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love, I Heart Huckabeees and, our personal favourite, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. His downbeat instrumentals, including a beautifully mournful theme, are the perfect accompaniment to the film. The addition of songs by ELO, The Polyphonic Spree and Beck (covering The Korgi’s ‘Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometimes’) make this a very special musical set.

2. Juno

Kimya Dawson and the twee poetry folk of Antsy Pantsy take the lion’s share of tracks on this mother of indie soundtracks, helping this heart warming tale of teenage pregnancy to become one of the biggest grossing indie movies of all time.  Indie music interweaves in the plot too with Jason Bateman’s aged indie-kid’s taste in the likes of Sonic Youth dismissed by the teenage central character played by Ellen Page, who prefers the innocence and warmth of Mott the Hoople’s All The Young Dudes, which along with Sonic Youth’s version of The Carpenters’ Superstar, features here.  Belle and Sebastian also get a couple of tracks, including the excellent Piazza, New York Catcher from Dear Catastrophe Waitress.

1. Trainspotting

Back in 1996 the soundtrack to Irvine Welsh’s tale of drug abuse in Scotland was everywhere. For us it’s impossible to hear the likes of Underworld’s Born Slippy,  Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life and PF Project’s Choose Life,  featuring the film’s lead Ewen McGregor, without traveling back to that time. The music was so integral that two soundtracks were released. For us there has been no better combination of music and film, on a pair of soundtracks that successfully manage to mix a group of artists as diverse as Lou Reed, New Order, Heaven 17 and Fun Boy Three and still sound cool.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers.



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Top 100 Albums (20-11)

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Top 100 Albums (20-11)

Posted on 29 March 2011 by Joe

We have been releasing this list ten at a time every Friday. Hope you enjoy this latest instalment. The rest of the Top 100 can be found here.

20. The Flaming Lips – Soft Bulletin

Soft Bulletin from 1999 marked a change of direction for The Flaming Lips from their experimental  earlier albums to a more conventional  rock sound. Although  coming after Zaireeka, their four disc album to be played on four separate stereo systems simultaneously, arguably anything would have seemed conventional. ‘Race for the Prize’ and ‘Waiting for Superman’ are among many highlights on their ninth album Soft Bulletin, but perhaps our standout is ‘The Spark That Bled’, a perfect example of how the band managed to merge their sentimental charm with a psychedelic edge. This commercial direction for the band was to continue for the next two albums, with great effect on album number 10 Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. By their 11th album At War with the Mystics this focus on pop music seemed a little tired and they made a welcome return to  their experimental roots with the sprawling 2009 double album Embryonic.

19. Ryan Adams – Heartbreaker

On his first solo outing after splitting Whiskeytown Ryan Adams recorded a surprisingly honest and sensitive album considering his alt-country bad boy reputation. The album is a homage to the good and bad side of relationships, moving between celebratory and despairing over 15 brilliant tracks. After an opening conversation about Morrissey albums it kicks into the rollicking country-blues of ‘To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)’ before settling into a quieter acoustic feel for the remainder of the album (excepting the Stonesy ‘Shakedown On 9th Street’). Backed by David Rawlings and Gillian Welch (two of the best players in rootsy Americana) the playing is never less than excellent and the singing (including duets with Emmylou Harris) is top notch throughout. Great singing and playing coupled with the best set of songs in Adam’s, never less than interesting, career add up to a great album.

18. Belle and Sebastian  – The Boy With The Arab Strap

For us aged, fey indie-kids at Neon Filler picking the best Belle and Sebastian is a tough call. Sometimes 1996’s If You’re Feeling Sinister is our favourite, other times Dear Catostrophe Waitress whets our appetitie. But after having a good trawl though their back catalogue in recent weeks the one we keep coming back to is their third album, 1998’s The Boy With the Arab Strap. The production is pitch  perfect allowing the subtle instrumentation to work around lead singer Stuart Murdoch’s stories. There’s some great tunes as well. Among our highlights are the title track, ‘It Could Have Been a Brilliant Career’ and ‘Dirty Dream Number Two’. Guitarist Steve Jackson’s turn on lead vocals on  ‘Seymour Stein’ is another highlight on this much loved album by this much loved band.

17. American Music Club – Mercury

American Music Club - Mercury

Most critics name the previous American Music Club, Everclear, as the bands finest hour but we think that Mercury just pips it as the band’s true masterpiece. Mark Eitzel paints a pretty bleak picture lyrically on many of the songs here but his soaring vocals, lush instrumentation and warm production soften the blow. It is the most varied album of the bands career mixing slow paced ballads (‘I’ve Been A Mess’), indie pop (‘Keep Me Around’) and loose noise (‘Challengers’). Guitarist Vudi sounds like he is fighting the urge to let rip at all times, but it is this forced restraint that adds tension to the quieter songs. The album contains the bands greatest and best known song ‘Johnny Mathis’ Feet’, a deserving entry into the great American songbook. Eitzel is a confusing and oblique character, but anyone who writes a song with the title ‘What Godzilla Said to God When His Name Wasn’t Found in the Book of Life’ deserves our attention.

16. The Mountain Goats – Sunset Tree

The Mountain Goats frontman John Darnielle is a master story teller. On latest album All Eternals Deck the focus was on other’s lives, including Judy Garland and even Charles Bronson. But on 2005’s The Sunset Tree Darnielle looks to his own life with dramatic effect as he recalls his teenage years in an abusive home. Across the album these deeply personal tales chart his escape into a world of video games, music, drink, drugs and storytelling away from the grim reality of his homelife and his drunken step father. It’s harrowing stuff, but never depressing. The tracks from ‘Dance Music’ to ‘This Year’ are about survival and are full of hope.  Final track ‘Pale Green Things’ provides a  fitting conclusion with Darnielle recalling his step father’s death and remembering a rare nice day out at the race track. For more about The Mountain Goats read our Top Ten Bands That Changed Our Lives article here.

15. Sparklehorse – Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot

The late Mark Linkous released four albums as Sparklehorse in his too-short life and Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot was a dazzling and mesmerising debut. Played largely by Linkous alone (with a handful of musicians including David Lowery in support) it is an eclectic, sad and beautiful collection. Despite moving between the soft elegance of songs like ‘Homecoming Queen’ to the catchy alt-rock like ‘Someday I Will Treat You Good’ and the dischord of ‘Tears On Fresh Fruit’ it always sounds cohesive and natural. Linkous came from a traditional folk background and moved into alternative rock music, the album suceeds in bringing these styles seemlessly together. This works perfectly on the banjo lead ‘Cow’ with the memorable refrain “Pretty girl, milkin’ a cow, oh yeah”.

14. REM  – Murmur

Back in 1982  executives at record label IRS were keen to send their recent signing REM on the road to rock stardom. Only problem was that the band were having none of their methods. Shunning the label’s choice of producer Stephen Hague and pressure to incorporate guitar solos and synthesisers into their music, they instead wanted to create a timeless feel. With producer Mitch Easter, who had worked with the band on their first EP Chronic Town, on board the band managed to get free rein to turn the tracks they’d been touring for a year or so into the album they wanted. From start to finish this is packed with great tracks with first single ‘Radio Free Europe’, ‘Talk About The Passion’ and ‘Catapult’ among many highlights. Musically it’s a mix of The Byrds, particularly through Peter Buck’s guitar style, and Pylon, the eccentric new wave band from their home town of Athens, Georgia. REM’s approach was proved right in the end. Wthin a few months of its release they were well on their way to superstardom, supporting The Police at Shea Stadium and producing a fine run of commercially and critically acclaimed albums throughout the 1980s and early 1990s.

13. Talking Heads – More Songs About Buildings And Food

Talking heads - More songs about buildings & food

Picking the best Talking Heads album is tough, most of their albums (including either of their live albums) could claim a place in this chart. One of the most important American acts of the 1970s and 80s they mixed soul and funk influences into their jittery new wave sound. More Songs About Music And Food takes a measured step forward from their 1977 debut and embraces David Byrne’s interest in the people and landscape of middle-America. Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth provide a tight simple backing to the wired frontman and neat guitar interplay with Jerry Harrison adds texture to the bands sound. The album contains few of the band’s best known songs, only their cover of Al Green’s ‘Take Me To The River’ was a hit, but it is their most rounded collection. ‘Found A Job’ stands out in particular, with a great instrumental outro, and is as good a song as you’ll find by any of New York new wave acts.

12.Blondie – Parallel Lines

Has there ever been a better female fronted band than Blondie? In our ears and minds the answer is a clear ‘no’. Take Blondie’s third album, 1978’s  Parellel Lines for example. It boasted a ker-ching making six singles among its 12 tracks. What’s more  the album tracks that didn’t make it on to 7” were pretty fine  too. Blending rock, new wave, and even disco on ‘Heart of Glass’, the tracks echo the sixties at times, such as on ‘Sunday Girl’. Under producer Mike Chapman  it was musically inventive too, with the guitar work of King Crimson’s  Robert Fripp  on ‘Fade Away and Radiate’ still capable of sending shivers down our spines to this day.

11. The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead

As the album opener ‘The Queen Is Dead’ kicks in with punchy bass and drums you are immediately aware you are listening to something pretty special, and equally aware that Morrisssey was wrong to dismiss the role of Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce in the band. The Smiths were one of the most important bands of the 1980s and it is difficult to overstate tyhe fanatcism of their fanbase at the time. Morrissey is a fascinating figure and, like him or not, their has never been another singer like him and his lyrics are witty and erradite here. Jonny Marr shines on the album and the arrangements are uniformly excellent throughout, it is also a little surprising how subtle and restrained his playing in. Only ‘The Boy With The Thorn In His Side’ showcases his signature jangle and it isn’t until the end of ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ that he lets rip (and then only for a short burst). ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ is the highest peak on an album of peaks and deserves a place on every best of the 80s collection.

Compiled by Joe Lepper and Dorian Rogers


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