Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The Community Games: it's the taking part that counts

Popical Island is fast becoming the go-to label for new music, and so its no surprise that their new 'Community Games' sampler is nothing less than ace.

It's not even out yet, mind, but the four tracks on offer hint at a full-length record that will at times delight and horrify you - just like all the best albums. These four songs zip by in a haze of youthful verve, reminding you what it was to be young and thin and heading out into a night full of possibilities without having to fret about three-day hangovers and the 7am bus to work.

Take the none-more-urgent 'No-One' by Grand Pocket Orchestra, which clocks in at 1 minutes 43 seconds, yet by the time it falls over at the end, seems almost epic. If I was 15 years younger and could still find my cheekbones, this'd be the song of my life.

The schlock-glam from No Monster Club, who contribute the terrifying 'Freaking Me Out' has more energy in its four minutes than I've had in four decades. It's completely all over the shop, but is all the better for that. It disarms you half the way through with a spot of whistling, before going into some kind of drone rock psychedelia and is, in all honesty, about 15 songs in one.

Cave Ghosts, who I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, are here too, with a re-mastered version of their indiepop hula classic 'Hideaway'. I've already said how wonderful this song is, but it bears repeating. Lots.

Ginnels, who have one of the best names I've heard in a while, give us "Rotting Meat", but you can come out from behind the settee because these lot play the most delightfully wistful pop music. This drifts right through me like the best Teenage Fanclub or Gorky's songs.

What you have with Popical Island is something quite rare; a mini-scene that seemingly chucks out great song after great song. Remember those record labels you could rely on? Well, Popical Island is fast becoming the latest in a great tradition. Get in there whilst you can.

You can listen to the Community Games four-track sampler here.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Pop music in an age of austerity

Getting ready for next week's Budget? All set to see what that evil, pursed-lipped fuckpig Osborne can throw at the already marginalised next? Feel like starting some fires? Then why not listen to Autumns?

Autumns is, as far as I can make out, one person called Christian Donaghey from Derry, and he makes a sort of claustrophobic pop music that sounds like a thousand frustrated screams condensed into two and a half minutes. It's heavy on the reverb, and sounds like it was played on a guitar bought from Woolworths in 1978, and recorded in the bath.

There are four tracks on the Autumns soundcloud. 'Tired Eye' rattles and rolls and sounds like Eddie Cochrane playing in a cave. 'I Will Not Go' has a bastardised 'Be My Baby' drum line, and amateur Duane Eddy guitar riff... it's generally pretty thrilling. 'Who Would Have Thought' starts like a Joy Division number and never really breaks out the laffs, but is deeply enjoyable all the same, with Donaghey mumbling away in the background like some bitter old crooner...  I suspect he's a mere strip of lad, mind. 'Keep on Sinking' sounds like the music that should be on all ghost train rides if these seaside types are serious about making them scary.

Take all of this and then listen to it whilst you're looking at a photo of George Osborne. I can't be held responsible for your actions.

Cave Ghosts, meanwhile, seem a happier, more fluffy prospect - but no less delicious. From Dublin, they sound "like cats singing sea shanties", and, forgive me, but I'm trying hard to see how that can be a bad thing.

The band has some music available here, and it's all Very Nice Indeed. In many way Cave Ghosts remind me of Slow Down Tallahassee, with their "aahh, ahhhs", "oooh, ooohs" and general ability to, y'know, write deadly addictive pop songs. 'Hideaway' is such a thing, and purrs hither and thither with its jaunty keys and crystal clear vocal.  Meanwhile, 'La Concha' nearly gets funky before simmering down into something the dearly-departed Orca Team would be proud of. Last up is 'When You Go Away', a sun-drenched uk*lele number which begs to be played on a beach whilst a monkey waiter rubs suntan lotion into your back, and you're served pints of lager by your favourite football player. It's all very dreamy.

Two very different new musical delights, then, but both of them drag you out of this world of piss and shit, and into a much, much nicer place. If Autumns make you want to go out and kick a car, then Cave Ghosts are there to put a plaster on your toe afterwards. Bless them both.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Indietracks 2013: the most wonderful time of the year...

You know that spring is in the air when Indietracks announces it's headline acts, and so, without further faff...

Scottish indiepop favourites Camera Obscura and Bis are among the headliners for this year’s Indietracks Festival, held on July 26-28 at a picturesque 1950s steam railway in Derbyshire.

Tickets are now available at an early bird discount price of £65 (weekend) and £35 (day). These cheaper prices are available until 5pm on Saturday 11 May. After this date, prices will be £72 (weekend) and £38 (day). Weekend tickets for children aged 5-15 are £10, or £6 for a day ticket. Children under 5 get in free.
Camera Obscura are bringing their refined cinematic indiepop to Indietracks, marking the release of their forthcoming album, Desire Lines in June 2013. The Glasgow band released the albums Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi (2001) and Underachievers Please Try Harder (2003) before enlisting Swedish producer Jari Haapalainen in 2006. The resulting album, Let’s Get Out Of This Country, featured entrancing pop gems such as "Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken" alongside more downbeat yet melodic offerings.   The band signed to the legendary 4AD label in 2009, and their fourth album My Maudlin Career again showcased the band’s sophisticated pop, including "French Navy" and "Honey In The Sun". 2010 saw the band tour Europe, USA, New Zealand, Australia, Japan and Indonesia.

Bis are a Scottish indiepop band composed of John Disco, Manda Rin and Sci-fi Steven. In 1996, they famously appeared on BBC’s Top of the Pops, performing "Kandy Pop", and also released a series of EPs, three of which entered the UK Singles Chart. Bis quickly won fans with The Delgados and The Beastie Boys, who signed them to the Chemikal Underground and Grand Royal labels respectively. They released three studio albums; The New Transistor Heroes (1997), Social Dancing (1999) and Return to Central (2001), gradually moving from frenetic punk pop towards a more electropop sound.  The band reformed in 2010 to play at the Primavera festival, and will perform on the Friday night at this year’s Indietracks.

Also playing Indietracks this year will be The Ballet (Canada),  Flowers (UK), Martha (UK), The Understudies (UK), Fever Dream (UK) and American band The Secret History, who will be visiting the UK for the first time.

Around 50 indiepop bands from across the globe will be playing across four stages: the outdoor stage; the indoor stage, the church and on the steam trains themselves. The festival will also host a range of art and craft workshops and a selection of discos after the bands finish.

This is the seventh annual Indietracks festival, which takes place at the Midland Railway in Ripley, in the heart of the Derbyshire countryside. The site houses a whole range of lovingly restored steam diesels and locomotives. Festival goers are able to have unlimited rides on the steam railway over the weekend and full access to other railway attractions and museums.

Previous headliners at Indietracks have included Teenage Fanclub, Edwyn Collins, Allo Darlin’, The Hidden Cameras, The Wedding Present, Los Campesinos!, Summer Camp and The Vaselines.

Tickets are available by calling the railway direct on 01773 747 674 or visiting www.indietracks.co.uk/tickets.html

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The Felt Tips - Symbolic Violence (Firestation Records)

It's been over two years since I first heard The Felt Tips' excellent 'Living and Growing' album - although it seems longer. That record brought with it chiming guitars, kitchen sink drama, and stories of underage sex. It remains a firm favourite.

'Symbolic Violence', after repeated listenings since I got my hands on it on Saturday, dares to join its older brother at the top table. It's hardly a statement that The Felt Tips have moved on - but then why bother changing for the sake of it?

Most of what made 'Living and Growing' so special is still all here to lose yourself in; the unanswered questions of 'Teenage Bully', the comfort of nostalgia and the thrill of near-violence in 'The Heat of the Summer', or the seedy skiffle of 'Whipped Off'.

The centrepiece of this wonderful album is 'Friends in High Places' - an clarion call of comradeship for those who have seen their friends go on to better-paid jobs, and/or who see themselves as more "virtuous" than those lower down the social scale. Vocalist Andrew Paterson rightly points out that piety might be a good sleeping aid, but then so is Benilyn... and fuck sleeping anyway, he's going out tonight. It's an understated masterpiece that brings to mind The Smiths' 'Stretch Out and Wait' both lyrically and musically.

The album ends with a tongue-in-cheek (I think) look at being a second child. "Everybody knows, what no-one wants to say..." croons Paterson in his choirboy Scottish brogue. Autobiographical? Who knows, but on this showing Ma and Pa Paterson can be proud.

Take a listen to 'Iron Lady', from 'Symbolic Violence'.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Nottingham pop all-dayer tickets

We might all be dead by then, but the tickets for the 2013 Nottingham Pop All-dayer on 14th September are now on sale. They're a quid cheaper if you buy them up front, so you can treat yourself to a Gregg's sausage roll for tea tomorrow night with the money you've saved.

Whilst I go and iron my pants for tomorrow's London Popfest all-dayer, you can make one of those online purchases we hear so much about these days, can't you?