Thursday, 11 December 2008

Dead Confederate

This bunch of chaps from Athens, Georgia certainly aren't in the market for making happy-go-lucky, jolly stuff. Intense and doomed-laden their music is, but often enjoyable for all that.

A mix of southern sounding, slightly psychedelic, rock with some guitar sounds that are remiscent of Pink Floyd. The grunge meets psychedelia works best on tracks like The Rat and their debut album has a distinctly other-timely length track Flesh Coloured Canvas clocking in at over 12 minutes.

Some tracks from The Wrecking Ball album are streamed on MySpace and they have a clutch of videos on their own YouTube site of course. KEXP in Seattle are obviously fans of Dead Confed given that they had a video as their video of the week on the KEXP blog recently

Photo credit:
Skylar Reeves

Mp3 Dead Confederate - Goner

Friday, 5 December 2008

Max Richter - Music for Mobiles

Max Richter is a UK based composer with references to Philip Glass, Arvo Part and the like and has produced music for films and and an claimed set The Blue Notebooks with readings by people like Tilda Swinton, available through Amazon etc

His most recent work is called 24 postcards and is a fascinating set of work centred around writing music for mobile ringtones. Some really beuatiful pieces that make so much more sense than the usual rubbish most of us have on or phones.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Simon Says No! Podcast

After a couple of little mentions about Norweigans Simon Says No! I was lucky enough to have chat with 3 of the lads about their forthcoming EP, playing in the states and a few other bits and pieces.

Podcast Simon Says No Podcast

VP Technical Advice and General Wizardry: the Peeblemeister
Photo credit: Petteri Lamula

Monday, 1 December 2008

Automatic Drawing

An LA band that bubbled up courtesy of mp3hugger and about whom I can find little information but there is a certain slightly shambolic nature which reminds me in curious ways of Salt and Samovar although they are clearly from different camps. The vocals have tinge of Death Cab about them which may or may not be a good thing, and there is a definite 'californian' air about them.

They have a new EP called The Captain and The Sea, the title track of which I am particularly drawn to. Two tracks of this EP are streamed on their MySpace site and there appears to be another, older, EP called Streets on Fire which apparently was their previous name.

Sunday, 30 November 2008


Seeing as I have been trawling bands that I bumped into a couple of years ago it is well worth mentioning Semaphore. Back in 2005/6 or so they were knocking out some tracks like Morphine and Princess in Chains from an initial EP that I had to write to the band to get - I seem to recall a connection with My Sad Captains but I don't remember too well. Then it was swirling waves of sound but with that distinctive voice of Louis Brennan. The then five piece band collapsed obviously amid personal falling outs.

The collapse happened just before a planned tour that had to be abandoned save a last gig at the Camden Barfly with the three remaining members, Louis Brennan, Marco Ryan Testa and Loris Barbisan.

The three hung together and found a new voice for the band, stripped back and frankly a bit more assured, or at least comfortable with themselves. Brennan's voice sounds like he has seen more than his tender years would suggest - with flavours of Leonard Cohen at time, Johnny Cash at others and a hint of Matt Berninger. Songs of love and loss, pain and anguish.

They have an eponyous album released, part rock, part folk and part americana and well worth a listen - they have come a long way from those early tracks of three years ago. Available through CD Baby it is also available through iTunes and presumably something more local shortly, it is also streamed through their web site.

My Sad Captains

Its almost exactly three years since I first heard of My Sad Captains on podcast between Steve Lamacq (BBC) and Nic Harcourt (KCRW), the now sadly defunct Music Exchange, where they would swap snippets of new bands they were enjoying. Mr Lamacq played a clip from the track All Hat and No Plans which ended up being a his 'single' (do those still really exist?) of the week in May 2008, and released through White Heat Records

My Sad Captains hail from North London and their name is taken from a Thom Gunn poem it is claimed. Their influences seem mainly American and not so very contemporary - the most obvious being Pavement but their may be bits of Sparklehorse and Grandaddy in there as well.

In their original iteration there was a strong, not unwelcome, Pavement feel to their stuff, but later with the addition of Cathy on vocals and bits and bobs, its developed a more poppy feel. Their MySpace has All Hat and No Plans together with its flip side. It also has a track from back from 2005, Bad Decisions. At the time All Hat and Bad Decisions were available as free download from their site together with two other tracks Ghost Song and Hide and Seek. But the web site has been under reconstruction for ever....

A long heralded album is still imminent but it seems that MSC might be off to SXSW which with a bit of luck will do them some good. There is something of the summer about their music, jingly , laid back and sunny - if they can get to Austin, Texas how come they seem unable to escape the M25 and head West (or any other direction) come on chaps, make an effort!

Mp3 My Sad Captains - All Hat and No Plans

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Undertheigloo - Colour Out Space

I have been a bit of a fan of this band since their 2005 debut album, Circlesend. If I remember rightly they had a track on iTunes track of the week or somesuch which cannot have done too much harm.

Originally Oxford based at the time when The Foals, Youth Movies adn the like were getting off the ground, Undertheigloo are apparently now London based and label their music indie/electronica/laptop rock which doesn't seem to invite the right image to me, but I guess it's their choice.

Their second album, Colour Out Space, has just been self-released, like their first, and is available through their web site and presumably later via iTunes etc. Three years seems like quite a wait for the second edition but I guess self-releasing is along and costly process.

Colour Out Space seems like an altogether punchier affair than Circlesend which I have to say has been a regular favorite for me since its arrival. Although this will sound like a criticism it isn't intended to be so - UTI sound comfortably old-fashioned to me (yes that did sound bad didn't it) and although their tracks seldom deliver an instant knockout punch they do get into my brain after a few plays and urge revisits.

Overall the soundstage always is appealingly deep and wide, instruments spread out and distinct- an expansive sound giving the ears space to breathe (yes I know that doesn't make sense). I find myself drawn to the guitar work ( not sure if its Ed or Rich), and Rich's sometimes fragile, underpowered vocals still carve out a place and help everything retain that calm, relaxed vibe that distinguishes their music for me.

I am still letting the new album settle in but the opener Rockscraper and later tracks like Inside the Ride, Battleships and Delicate seem destined to emerge as favourites - here's wishing UTI success with this and getting a wider audience (despite their extraordinary 349 millions MySpace friends)

The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock

The notion of Irish music may unfortunately conjure either bad thoughts if twee jigs, smug U2 pomp or maybe the more appealing Pogues but The Spook of the Thirteenth Lock are undeniably Irish and with an edge and drive that avoids the sacharin tinged versions.

Released on the Irish/Japanese Transduction label their eponyous release takes the folk base and adds a bit of post rock/psych flavours in a successful attempt to be both a bit more edgy and experimental. Some welcome banjo and penny whistle components are counterbalanced with some more pounding moments and fuzzy guitars to make this a welcome arrival, clearly already praised in the Irish press and a bit on the blogospher- unfortunatley outside of a Dublin show and some in Jpan no sign of any mainland UK shows. Bu the album is available both through Transduction and iTunes

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Wise Children

These past few days have seen a fair number of new bands bubble up to view, I will try and get posts up on most of them. But first off is a little bunch of chaps called Wise Children hailing from Chichester/Southampton (surely they must be from one or the other?) and tag themselves as folk/indie.

One of the things that caught my eye was the number of bands that I have an affection for in their 'influences' list together with a mention for Yndi Halda who have only recently come onto my radar.

I am always attracted by simple structures, that acoustic thing, and the under-produced naive effort. Wise Children meet these sort of criteria and put out a rather whistful (sp?), delicate sound of picked guitar, a bit of strings, understated percussion and a straightforward, natural vocal of presumably Robin Warren-Adamson.

They have an EP out called not very imaginatively but accurately Wise Children EP available for a paltry £3.00 plus p&p from BigCartel. Three of the tracks are streamed off their MySpace site but it does seem bit tight not just to shell out the three quid.... oh and they have a Facebook group but to be honest I am still not sure what these do other than parade your fancies on your social networking sleeve (i still joined up tho')

Friday, 21 November 2008

James Yorkston at the Louisianna

A venue of considerable if slightly shabby charm, The Louisianna was heaving ( I guess 100 people can just about 'heave') for the combined talents of the Pictish Trail, Rozi Plain and James Yorkston - all associated with the Fence Collective. Its pretty much like having bands in your front room, intimate hardly covers it, but friendly, attentive and laid back it was for this most determinedly lo-fi of nights.

I arrived too late for all but the last of the Pictish Trail's (really just Johnny Lynch) set but it seemed to have gone down well with the supportive and enthusiastic crowd. Next up local girl Rozi Plain whose new album Inside Over Here was launched in October at the nearby Cube in Bristol - with some input from our own Peeblemeister. Stripped back to just her good self Rozi's fragile songs shone with her mixture of diffidence and good humour. A couple of the songs didn't quite do it for me, but then this was a first hearing for me for all her material, but others (some of which I  can't name) clearly had more depth and resilience - here I can remember one - Stolen Shark, performed with Mr Lynch, was a charming closing number.

Mr Yorkston was for me even better live and on his own than on record. There was an immediacy to his performance, a greater accessibility to the melodies, a directness somehow. Often the beautiful recorded arrangments seem, despite their lightness,  to somehow clutter the songs and make them harder to break into. Driving home after the show and listening back to the latest album, it seemed much clearer to me - maybe I  am just gabbling now.

Anyhow the set was nicely relaxed, with ocassional interruptions and asides, but the class of the playing and the quality of the songs was abundently clear. Mr Y said at one point after a minor technical issue that at least we could go away  and report that 'he's not as good live as he is on record and his jokes are crap' - well I thought he was better live and the jokes weren't crap, rather human and warming I thought. The set was a nice mix of the new stuff and some old favourites, with Rozi and Mr Pictish joining in to enrich the sound. 

They all seemed to have agood time, the crowd would have had them play all night, but I stole away at 11.20 after the encore not knowing if they were enticed back for any more songs.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Blissed Out and Ambient

Courtesy of that fine blog Silent Ballet I have floated, bleary-eyed and cosmic-man into a couple of really rather good acts, both playing to this weeks rather hippy/psychedelic sort of vibe ( I have even bought new CD versions of the Floyds Meddle and Relics this week - desperate as I am to regain that 1971 state of mind)

First up is Century of Aeroplanes from Louisville Kentucky who put out what they describe as ambient/classical/indie material. It reminds me inparts of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra stuff but with less sacherine. They are most generous in making some of their albums freely available to download through various places. Their first, rather lovely, release Travel in Any Direction, can be downloaded from a WM Recordings site as can a further album A Simple Process. Slow and Drastic was released in 2007 and can be obtained through Capston Records.

The second band is called This is Your Captain Speaking from Australia and have new album out called Eternal Return through Missing Link Records. Apparently a digital release is being prepared and should be ready 'soon'...As befits my mood at present, this is another ambient/experimental set and jolly beautiful it is as well.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Yndi Halda and Rivulets

I have staggered across a couple of bands who have some affinity with each other despite being on different labels - Rivulets on the O Rosa Records label who of course have the obligatory MySpace as well, and Yndi Halda released on Burnt Toast Records and Big Scary Monsters Records .

First to Yndi Halda, hailing form the rural Kentish countryside around Canterbury this bunch of chaps produce, from their grandfathers barn, a rather beautiful, uplifting sort of instrumental music, with some charming old fashioned instruments among the more usual kit. Sort of akin to a happier, more ethereal Explosions in the Sky, their EP release Enjoy Eternal Bliss (apparently also the meaning of the band name somehow) is in part streamed from their MySpace but also available on iTunes and through the likes of Amazon (expensive).

Rivulets is really American Nathan Amundson plus assorted mates and friends and is reminiscent of the likes of Bon Iver, Elliott Smith and co - you get my drift. Music of a rather fragile beauty. Rivulets also have a blog/website worth a visit where you can see some rather nice photographs and hear snatches of the (third) album, You Are My Home. Although I have missed the two UK dates earlier this month, there appears to be a tie up between Yndi Halda and Rivulets - I don't know why that should seem such a surprise really.

Anyhow two bands that will be the target of further exploration for me - all a little bit hippy-trippy but that can do it for me sometimes!

Monday, 17 November 2008

DCFC & FRabbit

The Death Cab gig earlier this year in Birmingham had rather left me wondering whether it was wise to see them again quite so soon. But despite the slightly downbeat aspect of a Sunday gig, the disappointment of Brum was forgiven and forgotten.

Having had the time to get to know the Midnight Organ Fight CD from Frightened Rabbit (or Frabbit as it was described on the back of their keyboards) only helped the enjoyment of their solid and energetic opening set. They really do have some fine songs - Modern Leper, Good Arms vs Bad and Keep Yourself Warm being particular favourites.

Rather pleasingly the sense of being recorded in their back room that comes through their CD, was also somehow echoed in the set. They were absolutely together and tight but also managed to sound loose (if that makes any sense). Scott Hutchinson's vocals manage to keep on track despite ocassionally veering to one side or other - all in an endering sort of way, and brother Grant's drumming crashed and walloped away, driving the whole affair along at a good lick. All in all a thoroughly satisfying set and a band with passsion and intelligence. Young Mr Guest would have enjoyed this a lot methinks...

And so to DCFC - well unlike the Brum gig we had a pretty damned good spot three of four people from the front with blessedly short people in front. Opening with a four number chunk, the set fairly sparked along, almost as if they had a train to catch. Again like the Brum gig there was a good mix of new stuff from Narrow Stairs ( a strange combination of some right good tracks and some frankly rather half-arsed numbers), Plans, Transatlantacism and before.

They were right on the money all night, pinpoint sharp; Ben Gibbard in fine vocal form, Nick Harmer putting out some great guitar, Chris Walla with some gut wrenching bass and Jason McGerr as ever rock solid on the drums. For the third time recently a band commented on how attentive a Bristol crowd is - not unenthusiastic or unappreciative but just prepared to listen. Is this a typically Bristolian trait or does it happen elsewhere (certainly not in Wales from my experience...)

All the crowd pleasers were there including a titanic version of I Will Possess Your Heart, a very personal fav, Brothers on Hotel Bed, and a majestic and massive Transatlanticism itself. A great gig (redeeming DCFC in my eyes from a slightly dodgy earlier experience), great support, and a great view (for a change). Hussar!!

Apologies for the rubbish phone cam shots

Monday, 10 November 2008

Frightened Rabbit

A friend of the lad flagged up that the support for the Death Cab gig at the weekened will be Frightened Rabbit.

Although the name ran a bell I know little about them, but a little scratching around suggests that they should be a great, unexpected bonus. Part of that Scotish folk/rock/indie thing that I find so appealing, even a quick listen on MySpace shows that their songs are beautifully constructed , sung with passion and emotion. Excellent tunes combined with strong lyrics and delivered in the Scottish brogue a la Idlewild, James Yorkston, King Creosote vein; sounds like they might become firm favourites

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Sigur Ros at Colston Hall

The two openers for last nights extraordinary set were either new or I didn't recognise them - but how wonderful they were; things of rare beauty, soaring aurgasmic affairs which set the scene for the whole of the evening.

I for one was delighted that Sigur Ros harked back to their more elaborate material, although not ignoring the rather more 'commercial' elements of their most recent outing. Their power for me is in that crescendo-rock stylee that they deliver with such consumate ablility, showing up the plethora of looky-likey bands that attempt the same trick but fail to deliver.

The bowed guitar of Jón Þór Birgisson, heavily distorted, provides an etherial quality helping to fill the hall with those crashing walls of sound that are so mesmerising and elevating, toppped off with his falsetto vocal delivery. Honorable mentions must also go to Jón Þór Birgisson on drums and Georg Holm on bass for their rock solid underpinning and to Kjartan Sveinsson on keyboards for his understated but indispensible work

Inevitably some of the loudest cheers came for the more eassily identifiable 'hits' - Hoppipolla and Goggledigook etc - and whilst good they weren't the highlights for me. The final encore and closing track from the ( ) album was the spine tingling climax - magnificent.

Also mustn't forget to praise the staging - the combination of scratchy film on the cloth backdrop, the use of some on stage cameras to project up abstracted bits of the band, the now legendary 'balloon' lights behind the back cloth and the ocasssional retina burning blast-lights, all helped augment the phantasmagorical feel to the whole shebang (yes, go on , check out that old 1972 Curved Air album, Phantasmagoria!, my second ever gig in Chatham Cental Hall, ah yes)

Openening for SR were another young band of fresh-faced norse chaps from Iceland, For a Minor Reflection who acquitted themselves pretty well. Obviously part of the neugaze/crescendo rock school they wear their influences and aspirations clearly on their sleeves. Although some of their tracks could do with a more carefully structured approach; it became quite predictable where the quiet noodlng would explode it the crash bang wallop, tracks like Okrryd show real promise - good luck to them.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Someone Should Say 'Yes' to Simon Says No!

Well a little bird tells me - actually a young chap called Dany - that SSN! will have an EP out in '09 (probably on download). Young Dany (everyone is young compared to me - sob) tells me he is the UK and US manager for the bouncy young Norweigans, so more power to his elbow.

I mentioned earlier that they bring back memories of early Hawkwind ( which may or may not be good news for the guys) and listening again to their Myspace stuff I am still struck by this, especially 'Peak'. Not sure if its intentional but I find it all rather uplifting stuff, a bit like walking along a hill ridge in a strong wind - makes you want to take flight ... enough now... Suffice it to say their fuzzywuzzy wall of guitar sound and insistent drum work is doing it for me right now.

It appears that amongst other things Dany runs a blog called Exitfare andI imagine that anyone wishing to give these Oslovians (?) a leg up ( may be a little gig on Bristol would be nice, hint hint!) could contact him through that route. Mr D also seems to contribute to the intriguing Stranded in Stereo blog and their similarly named website - I imagine that the offer of a free CD/DV's is only limited to US subscribers which is a shame if entirely understandable.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Feeling More and More like I am 16 Again

Is it just that I am getting old or what? Seems that more and more 'new' music I hear takes me back to when I had hair and stuff ... is that the destiny of everyone to constantly relate back to a earlier time? Enough of the pop psychology

There are a couple of blogs that consistently prove useful in flagging up new stuff, and certainly stuff I haven't heard of elsewhere - Ryans Smashing Life (lucky old Ryan, grimace) and the Silent Ballet a strangely poetic name methinks)

Earlier this week I stumbled through my RSS aggregator to some
recent Silent Ballet posts and tripped over a free download split sampler type album from The Mylene Sheath label (the news article seems to have disappeared unfortunately with its link for
the download). Some of the bands don't do much for me but a couple do, namely If These Trees Could Talk and Caspian. If These Trees Could Talk in particular grabbed my aural attention becausen despite their math/post/experimental rock
labelling there really did seem to be somethng more there - Signal Tree being a particular favourite. Caspian too, even with their more obvious math rock leanings, are still well worth a good listen.

Maybe my fav though this week has been courtesy of Ryan and his blinking Smashing Life (yeuk). Norweigan band, Simon Says No! (not sure why they should be so negative really) are perhaps the source of my earlier rant about feeling 16 again. Much of the stuff on their Myspace site (save the opening Sleeping Heart) really rather takes me back to that early Hawkwind album (Warrior on the Edge of Time, 1975), not so much the vocal but that insistent muddy guitar track. Have been listening to these tracks a bit now and they have carved out a little niche with me.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Fleeeet Foxxxxxes at the Anson Rooms

After missing FF on their visit to Bristol earlier in the year (gnash gnash) I made sure to get tickets for their return to Bristol at the Anson Rooms. The lad, his mate (looking uncannily like Shaggy from Scooby Doo) and I turned up good and early in the bitter evening air to secure what inevitably turned out to be a crap spot in the hall - aaagh why can't I  be six inches taller, and why can't everyone else be generally more considerate.... sigh

Anyhow support (seated in the red velvet armchair in the photo to the left) was from an enigmatically named J Tillman, like the FF from the Seattle area, Vashon Island I think, and had the identikit long hair and shaggy beard that seems to befit the current swathe of americana/folksie/country-esque bands. But armed only with his acoustic and and excellent voice he managed to keep the crowd both engaged and attentive - hoorah, we could actually hear his rather beautiful songs (is it just Bristol crowds that are prepared to listen quitely to bands? The Bon Iver experience was similar and doubtless a Welsh gig by Mr Tillman would be drowned out why the merry and garulous celtic brethern). Joined (although not recognised by the bulk of the crowd) for a couple of songs by the whole of FF and the 'roadie' Steve (although clearly a toothsome lady), his songs were clearly the sort worthy of greater and closer inspection  - a new album due in the new year I believe. Oh and by the way - Mr Tillman is now also the drummer, vocalist and raconteur for FF...

The Foxes turned up without much pomp, retuned and dithered a bit before launching into a life affirming set that covered all (I think) of the eponymous album and the Sun Giant EP. What a delight, those complex harmonies delivered with gusto and panache (isn't that an Italian clothing brand?) and interspersed with some low key jolly banter - the crowd let them know that Bath is full of 'posh c*nts' much to their amusement and in turn they told us that they had voted for Obama (surprise) as McCain has a values structure based on his life of sin.

Hard to specify set highlights except for my two favourites, Myknonos and the final encore closing Blue Ridge Mountains. Well worth the wait it all seemed to me, could only have been made better with something better than the ocassional glimpse of them through the beanie headed hairies loitering in front of me - still this is now clearly my lot.

Hoorah for some uplifting and joyful music - lets hope they are able to sustain this through the next stuff they write

Photo courtesy of FF Myspace

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Elbow - The Great Hall , Cardiff

This was our second Elbow gig of the year, the first (and excellent) at Colston Hall strangely went without mention in my jottings. The rather misnamed 'Great Hall' at Cardiff University was the venue for this show, part of their post Mercury Prize shows (although booked long before winning the said award). The hall was frankly rather odd; short and wide with a nasty overhang at the rear, but no matter. The Welsh crowd an odd mix of B&B's like myself and student types but all intent on knocking back quantities of ale and having a good (loud) natter. I am afraid that the Guy Garvey-introduced support Jesca Hoop didn't really do it for me, although she had good support from further down the crowd. I do think it is very hard for a single person with what are obviously 'intimate' acoustic songs, to make an impact and gain the attention of a crowd like this in this sort of venue. Listening back to some of the stuff on Myspace, the frail beauty of her songs is easier to assimilate than amid a raucous crowd on a Friday in Cardiff.

Our friends Elbow gave a very similar set to the earlier Bristol one, and no worse for that. The band and four-strong string section sounding confident and strong, Mr Garvey in excellent vocal form. He really does have an extraordinary voice, slightly gruff but with a great range and control, with just enough 'regional dialect' and capable of delivering both the most gentle of songs (see Puncture Repair) as well as the rockier songs (Grounds for Divorce). Newborn from their first album is still a magnificent song that builds to a majestic state.

Despite the difficulties of the venue, the crush of the crowd (how come the tall git always stands in front of me?), the dedication of some of the crowd to carry on their conversations (why come to a show and talk? Sod off to a pub and do that), Messr Elbow still managed to transport me on many ocassions during the evening - beautiful songs, intelligent lyrics, good playing, an OK sound system - can't really fail can it? How many more time will we see them in a Great Hall, or even Colston Hall, environment? Are they destined for the Snow Patrol mega arena circuit? Lets hope not, they come alive in the smaller venues where the human contact can be made and built between artist and the crowd

Monday, 6 October 2008

Windsor Airlift

I am endebted to The Silent Ballet blog for introducing me to Windsor Airlift - an American threesome of chaps apparently from Minnesota. The Silent Ballet gives a more fullsome expose of them than I could do so best read it there! As the blog mentions they are indeed reminiscent of Fridge (of whom more later perhaps), but they also have twangs of Wheat it seems to me - and no bad thing either.

Anyhoo the young Windsor Airlift chaps knock out some pleasing sounds and as if their generosity knows no bounds , they have been kind enough to make three of their four track EP's and another track available for download free from Virb. Apparently they are puting together a full size album which I await with interest

Sunday, 5 October 2008

TVOTR - What's the Fuss About?

Oh dear I fear that I might have missed the point again.. after a rave review on a NPR podcast and then seeing esctatic reviews around the place I picked up my copy of Dear Science - apparently TV on the Radio's fourth album. But after a number of attempts to listen and love I am still a little nonplussed. Its OK I guess but there's nothing here that grabbed me and made me want to listen again - just doing it out of sense of duty. Sure I can here a bunch of influences but mostly I hear a rather incoherent jumble of stuff that doesn't seem to settle down (maybe that's the point) and little to make me think that the claims of the 'next great thing' are well founded. 'Halfway Home' is an example of a reasonable track but with 127,000 Myspace listens it must be me with a problem - is this really this years music saviour?

On the other hand after heaven knows how may times picking up the CD and never quite buying it, I finally grabbed a copy of Neutral Milk Hotel's seminal album Aeroplane Over the Sea. Sadly now defunct (despite occasional rumours of reforming and new/old music) here is music who's impact you can all too easily trace - Arcade Fire, Decemberists etc all acknowledge their debt. A few listens and you are hooked - those odd vocals and playing eat under your skin. With songs revolving around the issues of death and the here-after, war and other 'big' questions, often sounding like a music carriage rattling along with the wheels barely holding on, this is inspirational music. I wonder whether TVOTR efforts will still be sounding as fresh and vital as this after 10 years or so?

Photos courtesy TVOTR and NMH web site

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Drever, McCusker and Woomble -Before the Ruin

I have long had a deep affection for Idlewild, regrettably now a tad out of fashion - the Scottish undertow, the sort-of punky attitude but with a slice of literary influences and probably, it has to be said , my fondness for things Scottish and echoes of my personal history.

Roddy Woomble as frontman obviously has a lot to answer for in that respect. His solo album of a couple of years back - My Secret is My Silence - was one of those genuinely beautiful albums, the folkiness a refreshing counterpoint to some of the Idlewild material, the quality of the songs, the musicianship and all that jazz. It remains one of those few albums that have a particular place in my musical heart.

The new collaboration with Kris Drever and John McCusker, Before the Ruin, was either destined to be a further slice of that pie or a bit of a mistake. Comprising Kris Drever (acoustic and electric guitars, vocals), John McCusker (violin, cittern, whistle and tenor guitar), Francis MacDonald (drums), Phil Selway (drums), Ewan Vernal (bass), Norman Blake (vocals), Heidi Talbot (vocals) and Roddy Woomble (lead vocals), it is no disappointment. Clearly different from the Woomble solo album, but in a similar vein, heartfelt music that will last

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Winchell Riots - Histories EP

We saw the improbably named FellCityGirl once when they supported the Delays at the old style Zodiac in Oxford. At the time I was quite taken with them and especially the then new song February Snow. As if to spite me they split up soon after my first encounter.

From the ashes sprang more recently the, again, Oxford based Winchell Riots, a foursome that includes Phil McMill ex-vocalist etc of FellCityGirl and now leading a new bunch of chaps. Their name apparently springs from a Philip Roth novel, an author of whom they are clearly fond. I have to say that I somehow rather like his vocal style, although sometimes it threatens to annoy but manages to stay the right side of that. They have just released an EP, Histories, on Andrew The Great Records, ANDREW001 - yep, obviously the 'labels' first release. Available to be purchased via their MySpace site the four track seems worth the minor outlay. The title track has a remixed version courtesy of Youthmovies, fellow Oxford-ites and all round good eggs

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

The Great Gig in The Sky

Farewell then Rick Wright. Pink Floyd provided the soundtrack to much of my teenage years. I remember well in 1973 the arrival of Dark Side of the Moon that along with many others proved to be a musical turning point for a tender 14 year old. I had never heard such music, the then remarkable stereo treatment, the assortment of audio 'objets trouves' and more conventional sounds, the sheer spine tingling music that remains as affecting now 35 years on as it did back then when I had hair and a future

Always being an aspirational keyboard player my heros were Rick Wakeman (together with the pomp and flounce of the capes, orchestras and general over-the-topness of it all) and Keith Emerson (for his more rock and roll virtuosity) but Rick Wright was still in there with his more understated (and ultimately more durable) keyboard structures and careful song writing.

The memories of the Animals show at Wembley Empire Pool and later The Wall at Earls Court did nothing to halt my attraction to the overwhelming shows prevalent in those hazy prog rock days. But behind the glitz the music was sound and skillful and part of that love affair of music forged all that time ago. Hey Ho - no Floyd reunion now it seems, probably just as well don't you think?

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Bon Iver at the Trinity

Bristol Trinity is a funny old venue; decomissioned church in an 'edgy' part of town, disappointingly low ceilinged given its original structure but none the less a pleasingly 'intimate' venue as Messrs Bon Iver mentioned at last nights sublime show (they played the Shepherds Bush Empire the previous night).

Just prior to their set Justin Vernon sidled his way through the sell-out crown apparently un-noticed by everyone as they stared at the stage wanting the set-up to be over. The dishevilled Vernon doesn't give off the air of a 'star', more like a local wandering around a gig. How does it feel to be overlooked one minute and then greeted with an uproareous welcome as soon as you set foot on stage?

I must admit to being nervous that Vernon and his excellent companions Mike Noyce and Sean Carey on guitar and drums would struggle to reproduce the fragile beauty of the album - but if anything they surpassed it with an even greater distinction between the quiet, faltering passages and the, comparatively, more straight ahead sections. The crowd was thankfully suitably reverential and hushed for the affecting quiet, acoustic sections but vociforously appreciative in all the right places.

The heartfelt, emotive nature of the songs came over in spades and the whole show was simultaneously emotional, uplifting, joyful and heartbreaking. The new song, Bloodbank, went down especially well as did the final encore when all of Bower Birds ( the support) and the Bon Iver chaps gathered around a single (rather small ) mic and sang a beautiful song (by a songstress whose name I didn't catch) with just Vernons acoustic gutar for company

Much as with the Band of Horses gig, the band really did seem to have a good time and appreciate the genuine warmth and affection from the crowd. It was a delight to see the band in such cosy surroundings and to have them perform such complete music so well. I wonder if we will really ever see them i such a small venue again?

Photo Courtesy Bon Iver Blog

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Haar to you to Mr Yorkston

Not sure why it has taken so long but I finally got a James Yorkston CD, the new 'When the Haar Rolls In', and a beautiful disc it is too. It seems a rather delicate offering in many ways, reinforced by his vocal style and the production. Although it is all skillfully played there is a sense that he didn't waste energy endlessly polishing and tweaking the final sound - not that this is a criticism, its quite refreshing really.

The lyrics are more like prose poems than the usual song lyrics and consequently manage to put over stories with sentiment and feeling rather than forcing unecessary rhymes and wotnot. 'The Capture of the Horse' being especially evocative for me.

The bunch of chaps that help out on instruments and vocals, collectively called the Athletes, help render the nu-folk scottish flavour well. As if it needed it, folk royalty in the form of Norma and Mike Waterson add their considerable qualities to 'Midnight Feast', itself written by Lal Waterson.

How good it is to have, for a change, a set of music which not devoid of instant pleasures, actually allows the listener the chance to listen and discover more at each turn - this is the music that lasts, quality will out in the end

Friday, 29 August 2008

New Sounds to My Ear

Whilst in Seattle I asked for some suggestions of bands to listen to and one of them was The Secret Machines , not a new band but I took home the album Now Here is Nowhere and they have a new album released on 14 October according to their web site as well as a free non-album track, Dreaming of Dreaming, available from here .

Back home in the UK the Peeblemeister mentioned Pete and the Pirates and their album Little Death which has gone down well with me. The aforesaid Peeblemeister went to school/college/hung around with Pete in Winchester (presumably sans Pirate at that stage) - they rock along pretty well and have already found favour with the Lad at home.

Paging through my RSS feeds I came across a post from Mike Smiths really rather excellent blog Nothing But Green Lights and his mention of Spolkestra as Mr Smith says ‘Pop music mined in the Broken Social Scene vein. Scottish-folkster speed-jazz? Sure. It’s paced for the marathon, and glides in and out of cavesin search of brass and freshly cut grass to roll around in.’ Definitely worth a listen is the track posted on the blog as well as other material on MySpace.

Finally for now Steve Lamaq mentioned the Summer Sundae festival on his blog and a few people flagged up Project Notion from Melton Mowbray as being the band of the festival. They are indeed very fine judging by their Myspace and if you ask them really nicely they will send out a EP free, gratis and for nothing…just vote for them on the Orange Unsigned web pages from the start of September – seems like a small price to pay. Oh and by the way the free EP duly turned up super fast and is really rather fab

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Vampires up the Coast

The sound track (or at least pat of it) to the family trip from San Francisco up the Oregon coast to Seattle was provided by the Vampire Weekend album . I know I am a bit late to the party here but none the less it’s all jolly good stuff. The African-esque guitar work recalled (a tad unfortunately methinks) the Paul Simon/Graceland guitar, and perhaps more positively 1980’s era Zaire music and more recently still the Extra Golden boys. Tracks like Campus and Blake's Got A New Face always caused a sing-along in the hire car.It was one of those rare albums that satisfied us all including my fourteen year old daughter who prefers the likes of Adele (whose album also accompanied us on our trip…) and whilst this really isn’t my thing a couple of tracks like Hometown Glory stood up to repeated listening.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Simons Cat

Well this made me laugh early on a Wednesday. Many thanks to William Rycroft's blog for alerting me to this little cartoon that will presumably only make real sense to cat owners. There are a few more similar cartoons on the Simons Cat Youtube space

Monday, 21 July 2008

Slipping out of Focus

Oh my goodness, direct from the NPR Blog comes a rave from my own personal grave. Focus, that slightly odd mix of 1970's Dutch rock and virtuosic performance, were if I remember rightly the second band I ever saw in their own right, at the Chatham Central Hall in 1973 (first up in 1972 were Roy Wood's Wizard.... swiftly followed by the Crystal Palace Garden Party with all sorts of hairies - Procol Harum, Gryphon (anyone remember them?), Leo Sayer (good grief) and my hero of the time Rick Wakeman)

The YouTube clip here pretty much sums up the experience... Thijs van Leer was extra-ordinary on keyboards, flute and manic vocals, and Jan Akkerman was a genuinely accomplished guitarist. How strange is it now that I have a colleague in HR who plays in band that has recently supported the still-rocking Focus at a recent gig in Bournemouth ... old rockers never die they just go to Bournemouth

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Death Cab in Birmingham

Not an auspicious lead up to a show - trailing down the blocked motorway to Birmingham, arriving just late enough to hear the last support band song (no, don't know who they were), and having to go on my own like a sad lonely type, still...

Once I had extricated myself from the 30 foot concrete overhang position and its ear ripping bass levels I got to a place where I could just see then band, and more importantly hear them properly, things started to get a bit better

I must say the sound was not brilliant and the band seemed a little detached (or was that because stuck on the margins I wasn't properly engaged?) but Bixby Canyon Bridge was a good opener. After a couple of songs that seemed frankly rather dreary they got back on track with a storming version of I Will Possess Your Heart and some welcome favourites from the Plans album and quite a few from Transatlanticism.

Off quite quickly they came back for a five number encore set that finished with a moving and triumphant version of Transatlanticism itself. So all in all a bit of a mixed bag including some rather uninspiring elements that seemed to expose the rather fragile and insubstantial qualities of some of their songs that I hadn't really noticed on the recorded versions. However there equally were moments of great beauty and emotion when their fondness for building songs over long 'ish stretches can result in powerful and affecting music

Photos coutesy of DCFC Flickr

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Band of Horses at Shepherd Bush Empire

Oh I have been waiting for this! First picked up on BoH via podacst on KEXP (not surprisingly given their prior residence in Seattle) where there are a number of podcasts with BoH content. I am now rather hooked, along with others of their ilke (inlcuding the wonderful Mr Tyler Ramsey guitarist of this parish)

Well the lad and I schlepped (sp?) up the M4 to London and the splendid Shepherd Bush Empire for the first of their two sold out nights - squeezed onto the first row of the balcony which was none to comfortable but got us fine views.

Support was from The Virgins (unlikey it seems to me , but there you are) a bunch of skinny chaps with a not unpleasant if not especially memorable bunch of songs (the lad thought them rather good, for the record)

Well the BoH set just blew me away - once Ben settled into his vocal the whole thing rocked along. How great to see a band obviously really enjoying themselves, the audience was absolutely up for it and the set flew by. The whole thing was brilliant, not too many stupid pyrotechnics just great music, ( including a wonderful version of No-One Goes Out Anymore from Mr Ramseys solo album) and Funeral might well have been the high spot for me. As I say they obviously had a ball and it was great to bring them back for a second unplanned encore before we all melted back into the night

Sometimes a gig seems to transcend the usual, this was one such occasion, the lad and I agreed that this was one of the top two or three gigs we have seen (and I even bought the right size T shirt for a change...)

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

The National in Birmingham

What a joy - The National in Birmingham. OK the Academy in Brum is not my favourite venue (and this time especially sticky underfoot) but who cares when they put on such a good show. I still find it hard to know how a band keeps up the energy when they are in the middle of what seems an interminable list of festival slots and filler gigs like this one - a few days earlier they had been at Glastonbury.

Opening for them was Caroline Martin with a collection of slightly morose looking chaps. Caroline hails from Bristol and was unknown to me. Her very lyrical and fragile songs seemed an unusual choice as support. However it became a little clearer later in the show when Matt Berninger announced that in his opinion Ms Martin had written the best love soing of the last six years or so, Without Permission, a track on the Virginia EP and part of the encore delivered alongside Ms Martin. To be fair this is a fine song and perhaps Ms Martin might be better in a more intimate and conducive environment.

Any hoo the National set was strong and joyful, rather wonderfully expanded with a small horn section that gave some welcome album-like textures. All the usual tracks were there (save About Today unfortunately, and do they ever play Thirsty?) But great to hear The Geese of Beverley Hills.

I was there with my lad as ever and this time managed to drag along my good chum Martin who, it transpires, had last been to a gig 15 years ago to see local Brum band Pop Will Eat Itself (I think that was it... mmm) - he must come out more ...

Thursday, 26 June 2008

People of Water

Another introduction from the Peeblesmeister - People of Water is in fact one Ben Shillabeer who knocks together his collection of music in his personal studio (read - bedroom). Recording on Sink and Stove records from Bristol (again with some linkage to Mr P) People of Water have/has (isn't that confusing?) a first EP out with but six tracks of " of experimental, atmospheric but playful indie-rock, with electronic, lo-fi and world music influences". I first heard some of this on DJ Shannon KEXP podcast number 102 that ran the track Pink Conch - (how do people like KEXP get hold of this sort of stuff I wonder? They also got hold of stuff by Glasweigans We Were Promised Jetpacks who are worth a listened if for nothing else than their name)

Anyhow I must admit to being rather taken by Mr Shillabeers efforts (one free hi quality mp3 of Constant Spring is available from the S&S web site). I am fortunate that the Peeblemeister has given me access to rather more tracks to listen to - perhaps they will appear on the planned full length album. Constant Spring, Pink Conch, Too Much Information, Built Like Clocks and Pet Level all deserve a listen as do other tracks across this varied, lo-fi, laid back selection

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Her Name is Calla

Well in pretty much a volte face from the sublime Fleet Foxes, I have stumbled upon the really rather excellent Her Name is Calla who must labour under the unhelpful Post Rock label it seems.

The blurb on Last FM says , and I quote: "Leicester based 4 piece Her Name Is Calla have recently signed a deal with Gizeh Records. The bands debut single ‘A Moment of Clarity’ is released in October 07 with a debut album to follow in mid 08. Calla’s sound brings to mind a raw, stripped back Radiohead with strong post-rock influences thrown into the mix." Well I don't know about that but the now-unavailable-save-on-download, Condor and River is a majectic 16+ minutes wash of sound, with some nice tinkly bits thown in. The single (not much airtime awarded I imagine) A Moment of Clarity, gives the same sort of stuff but at around six minutes.

Their new album (or is it a long EP - who knows) 'Heritage' is out on Gizeh Records at a mere £6 or via the inevitable iTunes. Of course tracks are on their MySpace site, and much is also listenable via Last FM.

Reviews on Drowned in Sound , The Silent Ballet and Whisperin and Hollerin to name a few

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Fleeeeeeeet Foxxxxes

Well the eponymous album is here and deeply gorgeous affair it is too. It doesn't outstay its welcome at around 40 minutes but is a joy from start to finish. Laiden with achingly lovely harmonies and subtely infectious songlines - Blue Ridge Mountains and Ragged Wood being current favourites. The curious but affecting habit that Fleet Foxes have of seeming to crash two songs into one provides a two-for-the-price-of-one formula. Robin Pecknold has a wonderfully sonorous vocal which he uses in a controlled but liberated style.

Oh dear, I am getting a bit over the top with this, but I have to say this, and the equally wonderful Sun Giant EP, provide some of the most affecting and genuinely beautiful music so far this year ( and indeed for some time)

Oh and there's a neat little interview/piece about t their views on 'transcendence' on the 6 Music site to coincide with their rapturous reviews following their UK gigs (which I missed tickets for in Bristol :( )

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust ... Sigur Ros

A new offering from the bonkers Icelanders of course is always welcome - anyone who can sing so beautifully in an entirely (?) made up language deserves a hefty wack of respect. The charmingly named Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust apparently means 'With a Buzz in Our Ears We Play Endlessly'.The Sigur Ros chaps are kindly streaming the new album prior to official release off their web site ( and sundry other places it seems)

Some comments are welcoming the more up-tempo tracks which sound jolly enough, but I still prefer the more haunting episodes - still all in all another beautiful offering jauntily bouncing off the sides of the mainstream dross

Oh and full marks for a suitably dotty cover shot of naked chaps running across a road ... sure it must mean something or maybe it just took their fancy...

Friday, 30 May 2008

High Dependency Unit

I am indebted to young Hector Peebles for this stuff. A kiwi band that is hardly new - back to the late 90's at least and without a prodgious output. High Dependency Unit - HDU claim to be a bit metal, a bit psychedelic, a bit rock and twist of ambient - seems about right to me. Oddly reminiscent of Mono on ocassions they make an exillerating sound

Its a real shame that their stuff isn't available over here - big H has been trawling the web to amass his collection of which EP's Momento Mori and Higher are personal favourites. Some stuff can be bought via Smoke CD's in NZ

They have new album coming out/is out not sure which - Metamathics, a slug of which is in the vid below. Metamathics: (n) (short form of 'metamathematics')
The investigation of the properties of realities intrinsically unknowable by and from our own, but whose general principles can be hazarded at.

Guillemots at Bristol

I think that this was probably our fifth time of seeing Guillemots - including Oxford Zodiac (RIP), Cardiff Uni and Bristol Academy,(not quite sure why I feel a slight twinge of embarassment here). Been a fan since first hearing them on a snippet on a KCRW/Radio 1 podcast for new music. The early (well 2005) stuff, Made Up Lovesong #43 and I Saw Such Things in my Sleep got me hooked, and the later We're Here (see vid below) - none of which now appear on their Myspace site unfortunately

They have always had a mix of solid pop song drive with some more odd components, a satisfying mixture for me. Fyfe has a good ear for a tune and his colleagues are fine musicians (with Arista being a Stroudie adds some local colour as well - like Eamon Hamilton from Brakes and Tom Smith from Editors)

Whilst I enjoyed the show, and especially the later portions, the band seemed a little ragged on ocassions - a bit like running down a hill together, and Fyfe's vocals weren't as sharp as he has been - a new propensity to a shouty style didn't help

But some of the stuff from the latest album Red seemed better on stage than on disc (my lad reckons they'd be better off with a more live sound on recordings but then he likes stuff a little 'rockier') and a fine verison of Sao Paulo wrapped it up with fevered activtiy all around and especially from Mr Drum man

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Business Time - Flight of the Conchords

Ok Ok maybe not the first time its been cited but I still find this a laugh. How come they are so big in the States and not here? Whats going wrong?

Monday, 26 May 2008

Cuong Vu - Trumpet a-go-go

Just listening back to some Pat Metheny (who has always made me go weak at the knees) and reminded just how great his sometime-trumpet player Cuong Vu is. A bit hard to locate any decent files or vids but there are some samples on his web space from his latest solo effort, Vu Tet, of which Solitary Confinment has some extraodinary playing. His MySpace of course has a bunch of stuff and there is some decent stuff on his MySpace Blog which also shows off Cuong bassist, Stomu Takeishi: a fine player.

Band of Horses/Tyler Ramsey

Just having a little peek at Tyler Ramsey's Myspace and noticed - joy of joys - that he will be supporting Band of Horses in London when we trek up the M4 to see them in June.

I seem to be having a bit of a 'thing' about all things currently (or recently just ex- in the case of BoH) Seattle. Tyler Ramseys album is genuinely beautiful and likely to be a contender for one of my albums of 2008.

BoH seem to have spawned not only Mr Ramsey but triggered a number of other bands like Fleet Foxes, Grand Archives etc all of whom are giving off that rather hippy, slightly blissed thing that is obviously finding much favour with yours truly

The National - Virginia EP/DVD

Loathe as I am to criticise my bessy band, and whilst its good to have summat 'new' to clutch to my bosom, I am still feeling a little let down. The EP is mostly stuff available elsewhere no matter how welcome (especially the live About Today - hence the vid link) but the DVD is just too smart ass arty for my tastes - Mr Moon and his hand held, washed out and fuzzy camera work ... sigh

Hey Ho they are still the band that is consistently on play for me with tracks that continue to reveal new layers with repeated plays. After much anticipation we saw them in Bristol earlier this year and they blew me away, and with a bit of luck they might do something similar in Birmingham in a few weeks as part of what seems their never-ending summer tour of festivals and ocassional gigs

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Fleet Foxes

A bunch of chaps - with the almost now inevitable connections to Band of Horses, from Seattle and whose parents obviously had loads of Buffalo Springfield and similar albums around - but hey it works for me. Happy, slightly hippy, five part harmonies and so forth.

The Sun Giant EP (Mykonos a stand out track) is a delight and precedes their eponymous debut in a few weeks. Shame there are no decent vids yet but the YouTube steal of Winter Hymnal does them justice

Bon Iver

Well this chap has done it for me - For Emma, Forever Ago , is a stunning album with a stack of great tracks including The Wolves (Act I & II). Check out a bit of stuff on Myspace

Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs

Well frankly I am still a little disappointed by the new DCFC offering, Narrow Stairs. It does have some good tracks, notably the loooong version of Possess Your Heart, Grapevine Fires etc, but it doesn't match up to Plans for me. Still owts better than nowt as they say.

Despite having to go on my lonesome, am still off to see them in Brum in July and hope they are worth the wait