Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Luxembourg Signal - Distant Drive (Shelflife)

That last post was the 666th on this blog since I started it at the beginning of 2009. So, onto a review of something outrageously satanic.

Not really. The Luxembourg Signal's debut seven inch is a piece of simply majestic pop music. With ex-members of Aberdeen, Fonda and Trembling Blue stars you'd expect nothing less, of course, but 'Distant Drive' really hits the spot.

This evokes memories of late-era Sarah Records output, and the insistent drum track makes it all the more urgent. Meanwhile, crystalline guitars spider in and out, up and down, around and about to hypnotise you in the sweetest of ways. It's a might statement of intent.

Over on the b-side 'Wishing Pool' takes things into a much darker direction, with muted vocals washed asunder by broad guitar sweeps and keyboards that have a definite post-punk edge. It all reminds me of those bright young things Night Flowers.

for a debut single, this is a remarkably confident release. A line in the sand has been drawn. Up to the Luxembourg Signal to wash it away with a wave of pop genius, eh?

Take a listen to 'Distant Drive' and fall in love for yourself.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Witching Waves - Concrete (Soft Power)

I knew Mark Jasper when he had nothing. Well, that's a bit of a fib. I sort of knew of Mark Jasper through other people when he worked at the local indie cinema in Nottingham, which I won't name because they have enough money and the lager in their bar is way overpriced.

I digress. Mark has moved to London (another fallen comrade) and teamed up with Emma Wigham to form Witching Waves. They have a new cassette-only (grrr!) release out on the excellent Soft Power Recordings, and mighty doesn't come close to it.

There's only two of them (you might've guessed that by now), and it's all the better for it. Remember that golden period for The Fall when Brix first came along and added some pop nouse to proceedings? That's sort of what these two songs remind me of.

The title track is the perfect downbeat torch song - all scratchy guitars and Woolworths drum kit. It's a kind of backward, twisted nursery rhyme of a song that is both threatening and so very, very sad. It's wonderful.

Back at the ranch, and 'Chain of Command' takes a more traditional route to your heart, with its snake-like guitar line and primal drums. I think you might want to call this beguiling, before it explodes into a lo-fi rocker. Perhaps less instant than 'Concrete', it nevertheless demands your immediate attention.

Get yourselves over to Soft Power and grab this whilst you can. There are only 100 copies - don't faff.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Happy International Indietracks Announcement Day!

It's the third most wonderful time of the year! That's right, pumpkins, those Indietracks types have gone and announced the first tranche (get me!) of bands for this year's festival, and it's a beauty pageant alright.

Headlining will be Allo Darlin' (and I can hear the bitter old men taking to Facebook to vent their spleen that it wasn't like this in their day already), along with that Gruff Rhys Jones, or whatever he's called, from Super Furry Animals and Alas Smith and Jones. Hmm, something not quite right there...

And then feast your eyes on this bag of sweets:

Dean Wareham (US), Spearmint (UK), Rocketship (US), Withered Hand (UK), The Popguns (UK), Sweet Baboo (UK), The Spook School (UK) , The Wellgreen (UK), Let’s Wrestle (UK), Night Flowers (UK), ONSIND (UK), The Very Most (US), The Blue Minkies (UK), The Yawns (UK), Thee AHs (Canada), Franny and Zooey (Dominican Republic) and Lost Tapes (Spain).

Tickets are now available at an early bird discount price of £65 (weekend) and £35 (day). These cheaper prices are available until 5pm on Sunday 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, which is nice but for some reason pisses some people off each year.

Tickets are available by calling the railway direct on 01773 747 674 or visiting Do your worst. 

Monday, 3 March 2014

Withered Hand - New Gods (Fortuna Pop!)

Honesty and open-hearted souls are not particularly the staples of the indiepop domain, but then this probably isn't an indiepop record. What is it? It's the warmest, saddest, downright heartbreaking collection of songs you'll hear this year. It's destined to make everyone sit up and gather in the majesty of Withered Hand.

This is the bit where I'm supposed to mention the Fence Collective, I'm sure, but why waste time? "Nobody in love will ever die" sings Dan Willson on opener 'Horseshoe', and isn't that something to hang your hat on? 'Cos this record seems, to me at least, to deal with a whole load of emotions, worries and "issues" that someone approaching their late-30s, entering their 40s has to come to terms with.

Excuse me if I'm projecting, Mr Willson...

"Shift your paradigm," he sings on 'Black Tambourine', telling us that, as we go through life, our priorities might change, and yeah, we might be lonely, but then isn't everyone lonely? NO. Sing it, sister.

Half the time, I wonder if Wilson is deeply unhappy, whilst the other half I think he's finally at ease with the world, and how jealous I am of that. 'Love Over Desire' is such a schizophrenic song. Also: it might be about the fear of flying - who knows?

But there are genuine toe-tappers here. The Wurlitzer pop of 'King of Hollywood' (whilst it also might be about not liking flying - concept album?), is ACTUALLY REALLY FUNNY, in a tragi-comic way. Meanwhile, the agit-pop of 'Heart Heart' is almost as powerful here as it is live. This is no mope-fest, alright?

The music? Well, the music is an incredibly fine mixture of folk-pop and Americana. It sounds as though you could play it to your Mum if she'd had two brandies too many and was 'up for a party', but is also perfect for a night in on your own. That solitude is nowhere better illustrated than on the Tompaulin-esque 'California'.

Right at the heart of this album is probably the most precious love song you'll ever hear. 'Between Love and Ruin' might be hard to deal with, but through all the turmoil is the fact that, after everything, it's all going to be okay.

It isn't so much world-weariness that runs through throughout 'New Gods', more a bewilderment at growing older, and a longing for something to grab on to. Life is still good, after all, right, and right about now this album says more to me about my life than anything else around. I might have got it all horribly wrong, but, really, I don't care because having this record around the last few weeks has been wonderful. I get the feeling it'll be there for the rest of my life. Y'know... one of those albums.

'New Gods' is out on Fortuna Pop! on 10th March. It's more of an act of self-help than an exercise in buying a record, believe me.