Monday, 16 February 2009

It Hugs Back

I am afraid that I don't know too much about these four lads who make up It Hugs Back - but the name alone makes them worth checking out. There is something rather endearing about their brand of indie/pop, the almost innocent sound they put out (that sounds a bit weird I know), the keyboards that remind me of the nasty things I mucked around with as a kid, the breathy vocals, the jangly guitars, all make it feel very 'young'.

They now seem to be getting plaudits from all around so it seems these Kentish lads (or maybe lads from Kent, who knows) from my home town of Maidstone, are on their way. They are support to Wintersleep on some upcoming UK dates which will do them no harm, and their debut album, recorded at home and titled Inside Your Guitar, is out on 4AD records on 6th April. If the album is as good as singles like Other Cars Go it'll be a jolly fine affair. A number of their previously released singles (in the flesh lovingly created with hand sewn covers and all) are available via iTunes.

Web Site 4AD
Myspace It Hugs Back
Web Site It Hugs Back

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Drever, McCusker and Woomble at the Union Chapel

Before the Ruin was one of my absolute favourite albums of last year and so the chance to see Kris Drever, John McCusker and Roddy Woomble perform it was irresistible. This was my first time at the Union Chapel on Highbury Corner and its reputation of being a fine, unusual and very musical venue is well founded - a great place to hear this sort of music. Whether in the pews downstairs or up in the gallery as we were, you are never far from the stage, and the sound is great in such a high and sympathetic venue.

By the time we got in we had missed probably half of the set from openers Blue Rose Code, which was a pity. They sounded fine, in good voice, and you could hear their influences (no bad thing) , especially of the now sadly missed John Martyn for whom they performed a faithful version of his song Favourite Boy.

Heidi Talbot quickly and rather diffidently took the stage next, initially accompanied only by Boo Hewerdine. Heidi's crystal clear voice can be heard on Before the Ruin but tonight she performed some of the tracks from In Love and Light her latest album, starting with the track Cathedrals - with her great voice and some excellent guitar from Boo making an attention grabbing opener. Messrs Drever and McCusky joined them for more songs, filling out the sound with their impeccable playing of fiddle and guitar. Roddy Woomble joined for the closing number, and off they went - a fine set and Heidi's vocal sounding even stronger than she does on record.

After a short break they were all back, Woomble, McCusker and Drever accompanied by Boo Hewerdine and a double bass player ( I think Andy Seward - but I can't be sure), with the album opener Silver and Gold. Heidi came back to add some welcome back up vocals and then Andy Cutting on diatoic accordian.

We were treated to the majorityof the album, a couple of very welcome songs from Roddy Woomble's album My Secret is my Silence and some tunes from McCusker, Drever and Cutting together as well as the fabulous Blackwater from Kris Drevers album of the same name. The playing and singing was uniformly superb - Woomble and Drever with outstanding voices, Drever with exemplary guitar and John McCusker on outstanding fiddle duty. In this kind of setting you see the influences that run through Roddy Woomble's Idlewild - the more straight ahead rock band inflected with the scottish folk echoes.

I could gush on about this for pages and pages, but what a joy it is to hear musicians of great quality and ability perform wonderful music, enjoying it all ( it appeared), in brilliant surroundings. Truly one of those great gigs, I was spellbound from start to finish (well the second encore when we had to run to get the last train from Paddington). Seems my folky leanings are getting stronger - last year held some magical folk-led music, these chaps, Laura Marling, James Yorkston ...

They are all worth catching, separately or in any combination. Quality will out - a fabulous gig.

Myspace Roddy Woomble
Myspace Kris Drever
Web site John McCusker
Myspace Heidi Talbot
Myspace Boo Hewerdine
Myspace Blue Rose Code
Myspace Andy Cutting
Web Site Union Chapel

Tuesday, 10 February 2009


Sometimes I feel a bit like a sad old junky looking for the next good hit - but in my case on the hunt for another band that does 'it' for me - you know, like when you first really heard The National and you knew it was going to be a lasting love affair?

Well maybe this is the next one - Wintersleep have sort of been on the edge of my radar for a bit but I didn't take time to look them over. These Canadians have apparently been around for a couple of albums but the newest, Welcome to the Night Sky, according to some like The Line of Best Fit, sees them 'regrouped and re-launched themselves'.

Well whatever they have done it all sounds pretty damned good to me. The album is out here now/shortly under 147 Records (although their web presence is 'enigmatic' to say the least) and they have a few UK dates which sadly I can't get to.

Tracks like Oblivion is a cracking piece and maybe many will first get a hook from Wintersleep from Weightly Ghost (although its not a personal favourite, it is immediately accessible and dare I say, catchy). The UK single is apparently Archaelogists but it is tracks like Search Party that shimmer and attact for me.

Despite the post-rock tag and the faint hint of bands like REM, U2 when they were young and good, Wintersleep produce some life-affirming, 'up' and glorious sounds that are all their own and a welcome intrusion into my recent introspective obsessions - result!

Wintersleep "Oblivion" from Joshua Rainhard on Vimeo.

Wintersleep Myspace
Wintersleep Website
Line of Best Fit blog
147 Records blog

Monday, 9 February 2009

Wooden Birds and Tigers That Talked

I was a fan of American Analogue Set (AmAnSet to their friends) and was sorry only to have caught them just prior to their desolving. But from the ashes, or rather with one of the AmAnSet founders Andrew Kenny, comes Wooden Birds. Kenny's vocals are indeed recognisable from previous days, including a stint in Broken Social Scene that I had missed, and now he has some extra mates along in the form of Chris Michaels, David Wingo, Leslie Sisson, and Michael Bell. An album, Magnolia, is due out on Morr Records in Europe early this year. I am endebted to Burn the Bowery for bringing Wooden Birds to my attention...

Once again I must give thanks to another blog, Dany Sloan's Exitfare, for mention of Tigers That Talked (how does a chap 'loafing' in the Californian sunshine get to uncover so many British artists that are just under the rader - he must indeed be an avid Anglophile). The charmingly named Tigers hail from that current swirling mass of creativity that seems to be Leeds, but sound rather different to what I normally ascribe to that fair city - this isn't so much crashing agsty youth noise, but a much more layered and interesting affair, likened to bits of Elbow and faint edges of Arcade Fire... well we'll see... But their single 23 Fears has already grabbed the ears of Steve Lamacq and Zane Lowe so presumably their star is in the ascendant. Currently in the studio recording their debut album seems the Tigers might be well worth watching out for

Myspace AmAnSet
Myspace Wooden Birds

Tuesday, 3 February 2009


Rather than me write a pale imitation of someone else's blogpost, below is the opening paragraphs from a Rollo and Grady recent post - its well worth visiting for the whole post and the attached interview. The whole RCRD LBL project is also worth investigating:

"Peter Rojas is one of the world’s most famous bloggers. He’s also a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard and received his Master’s in Critical Theory at the University of Sussex in England. Before his launch into the blogging business, Rojas worked in his native California for Red Herring Magazine until he was laid off after the dot-com bust in 2001.Then he moved to New York City where things started changing for him. Quickly.

In 2002 Rojas started Gizmodo and in 2004 he was hired by Weblogs, Inc., the world’s largest blog network, to start Engadget. Both Gizmodo and Engadget are focused on consumer electronics for the tech-savvy and quickly became the two most successful blogs ever. Not long after his arrival at Weblogs Inc., Rojas was made Chief Strategy Officer and when AOL purchased them in 2005, blogs became further validated as a viable revenue stream. The sale also made Rojas a “blog-millionaire”.

In November of 2007 Rojas moved to combine his two passions, technology and music, to launch RCRD LBL with Downtown Records. RCRD LBL has taken a completely different approach to the music business; it’s an online record label that offers all digital, all-free MP3’s for streaming or download that are DRM free. It’s a powerful combination. Since then he has quickly emerged at the head of the pack, leading the music industry towards a new and more progressive business model. While that model is clearly still being defined, RCRD LBL is breaking new ground and signing emerging and established artists including Dinosaur Jr., Public Enemy, Moby, Spoon, Dead Confederate, Bon Iver, White Denim and the Felice Brothers."

Photo credit : Rollo and Grady

Monday, 2 February 2009

Kitchens of Distinction

I have long harboured a fondness for KOD and especially the 1990 album Strange New World. I really don't l know why they didn't make it much bigger than they did, but their 10 year stint ran out in 1996.

They were genuinely ahead of their time (how often do you hear that?) but the swirling wash of guitars and vocal style wasn't to see its like again until the advent of Interpol and more especially Editors, who took up the baton - whats that, almost 10 years after the demise of KOD.

A post on the blog Ryan's Smashing Life reminded me of KOD again and helpfully gave a couple of jumping off points to follow, first through Braggin Billys Music Blog and then to the site of Patrick Fitzgerald the former singer/bass player and songsmith of KOD. Mr Fitzgerald now trades under the monicker Stephenhero ( James Joyce character I think?) and has been producing more music for the theatre and stage and again largely as a solo artist. From his site you can download a free EP that contains a couple of tracks not put on his recent CD '57 Stars of the Air Almanac' (no, I have no idea what that means but it reads well)

There are also a few, now slightly bizarre, but welcome vids on YouTube that bring back those jangly days of the early 1990's including the brilliant 'Quick as Rainbows'...

Stephenhero Myspace
KOD Myspace
KOD Youtube