Thursday, 31 December 2009

Twenty divided by ten

Lists? You want lists? Okay, you can have ruddy lists.

Top 20 albums of the last decade, in no particular order:

Bearsuit - Cat Spectacular
It might have a few duff tracks on it, but the really ace ones still make me squeal. Where are they these days anyway?

Black Box Recorder - Passionoia
Sexiest album of the decade. And I don't use the 's' word lightly. Not these days.

Chris TT - London is Sinking
I literally played this until it stopped working. I don't think I've heard it since 2004, but it's about the only thing that ever made me want to live in London.

Architecture in Helsinki - In Case We Die
The soundtrack to the perfect summer of 2005. Shame they went so shit

The Lucksmiths - A Little Distraction
It could've been any Lucksmiths record, but this one just edges it for having 'After the After Party' on it.

Slipslide - The World Can Wait
Grown up indiepop? You bet. Made me feel sophisticated in poverty.

Pipas - A Cat Escaped
Just pips (ho, ho) 'Chunnel Autumnal' for being so crazily ramshackle and cute.

Pocketbooks - Flight Paths
I refer the honourable indiepop fan to the answer I've been giving all year.

The Guild League - Private Transport
A travelogue with a musical background. What more could you want? Jet, set... go!

Lovejoy - Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
Glacial, clean, shining pop from Brighton. Got me through many a solitary bottle of wine.

Tender Trap - Film Molecules
Sassy and confident, Film Molecules remains a sort of lost indiepop treasure of the last ten years.

Harper Lee - All Things Can Be Mended
"Never matter how much things are going your way, or whether you’re enjoying life to the full, there’s always Harper Lee to bring you down," I wrote in 2004.

Milky Wimpshake - Lovers Not Fighters
Not many people like Milky Wimpshake. But then not many people deserve them.

Comet Gain - Realistes
If there was any justice in the world then Comet Gain would take up all 40 places of the ...ermm... Top 40. Pray for the day.

The Pines - It's Been a While
So what if it's a compilation? Makes you wonder why Pam Berry doesn't get her finger out more.

Afternoon Naps - Parade
Noob alert. I think "noob" is a internet youth word. This Afternoon Naps lp makes me feel YOUNG AND ALIVE.

MJ Hibbett and the Validators - We Validate!
Almost like a greatest hits album. But with greatest misses. Hibbett was a constant source of joy in the second part of the decade.

Beulah - The Coast is Never Clear
Was this really 2001? An album I can still listen to ten times in a row and can still sing along like a wounded parrot to.

Mascot Fight - Pantomime Hearse
When you think about all the praise heaped on certain bands from big cities who get their arses kissed constantly for producing such mediocre pap, then it's a wonder Mascot Fight ever had the energy to produce such a stunning record. That they had to release it themselves is doubly shocking, but makes the triumph all the more sweet.

The Positions - Bliss
Perfect pop to make you happy. Sometimes less is more, and who needs complications when you have something as pure as this.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

New favourite moment

There's a new Northern Portrait song on the Matinee Records website available for download, which sort of makes me wish I had the album already.

'New Favourite Moment' makes me swoon. It's a sweeping, jangling, torch song, and I really wish they could come back and play Indietracks next year, but that would break the remit, I suppose.

And so what if Northern Portrait want to sound like The Smiths? It's better than wanting to sound like the Jesus and bloody Mary Chain...

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Cats on Fire - The Hague (Cosy Recordings)

I have a sort of love/hate relationship with Cats on Fire. Often I think they're very much style over substance - all hundred pound haircuts and carefully placed neckerchiefs, but then they come back and thwack me around the chops with a tune so downright brilliant that I have to forgive them all over again.

Such a song is 'The Hague', Cats on Fire's new download single on Cosy Recordings. Stripped of the forced bluster of many of the band's songs, 'The Hague' is a cuddlefolk (sorry) at its best. It ebbs, it flows, it makes go a bit woozy when the ba-ba-backing vocals come in. It's quite magnificent, to be honest.

The b-side is a live version of 'The Borders of this Land', and you can download the whole shebang for nothing from here.

Monday, 28 December 2009

"Hold on, you know your time will come"

Just before Christmas I got a cd in the post from Youngfuck, the band I'd written about very briefly earlier in the year. They'd told me that they'd run out of their debut release (and badges!), but very kindly sent me a cd-r of their ep, and some handwritten lyrics.

The music is just too precious to keep to myself, so I thought I better share a track.

If, like me, you can't stand the general bawdy hilarity of New Year's Eve, then this is the sort of stuff you can hide yourself away from the world with, whilst trying not to run into Jools Holland on the telly.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

The pureness of a moment always overstays its welcome

I'm not really keen on end of year lists; it always seems to me like you're submitting your accounts, or something, but of course I've succumbed to a certain extent, because I am a WEAK SHEEP.

It would be somewhat gradiose of me to call the following moments, people and records "defining", but they gave me as much joy as other, more private events over the last 12 months - y'know the moments with friends that could probably properly called "defining" in years to come.

Anyway, here goes...
  1. A warm Spring day in Nottingham and we're in the Fellows, Morton and Clayton. Friends from Sheffield, London, Lincolnshire and London are drinking nervously, as we learn that Chester City have won their early kick-off game. We manage to persuade Jamie to forego his trademark burger and chips and join us on the walk to Meadow Lane to watch Grimsby play Notts County in a nervy, vital game that Town now had to win. County seemed to forget that it wasn't 1982 and that you could really only let as many people through the turnstiles as seats there were in the away seating section. There are four arse cheeks on some seats. Others are standing, singing and swaying.

    The atmosphere is raucous, defiant and exciting. The six or seven pints we've had beforehand help tremendously, but Town are immediately penned back by wave after wave of County attacks. Still, we hold out 'til half time, and in the second half Town are reborn as a stubborn fighting unit and score about ten minutes in.

    Still County pour forward, but Town score again about fifteen minutes later and the people around me go wild. The bonhomie around me is immense. Even Jamie stops moaning about his missed burger and joins in. Beating County 2-0 was probably the most important moment of last season's jittery road to Football League survival. Town need many more moments like that over the next four and half months.

    Afterwards we sit outside the pub and mull over a great result. It's one of those days that just seemed to go on forever, even though I went home at about seven. Who needs days out at the hideous new Wembley stadium when you have episodes like this?
  2. Discovering bands like This Many Boyfriends is a rare treat. I've gone on about them recently, so I shan't expand at any great length. But the sheer enthusiasm of this lot from Leeds is one of the very, very few things that makes me want to be in my early twenties again. Next year's Standard Fare? Probably.
  3. Talking of whom... Standard Fare were this year's Standard Fare. I first saw them play in Spring at Sumac, and they blew me away. At the all-dayer in November they stole the show, and managed to charm a whole new audience. Their album, 'The Noyelle Beat', will, I'm sure, propel them away from the like of us next year, but who cares? If anyone deserves success and money and things like that from playing music to people, then it's these three - a trio more cutely unassuming you'd be hard pressed to find.
  4. Perhaps it's because they're not Londoners, but I seem to have forgotten how the summer, for me, really belonged to The Specific Heats. A splendid midweek, pre-Indietracks weekend show in Nottingham merely hinted at the literally explosive set in the church at the festival itself.

    The Specific Heats have it all: amazing garageindiepop tunes; capes; good looks; and MarissafromTheBesties (RIP). Here's hoping they can come over here again next year.
  5. Album of the year for me is between The Afternoon Naps 'Parade' and Pocketbooks' 'Flight Paths', but Pocketbooks just edge it because of their live shows. Okay, so I've never actually seen t'Naps (but I'm open to offers if they need shows in a dull UK provincial town), but Pocketbooks are The Best Live Band I've Seen in the UK in 2009. I'm sure they're delighted with that prize, yeah...

    'Flight Paths' brough together a hundred amazing drunken memories from shows and nights out from the last two years, and concentrated them all into one flawless album. For that I'll always be grateful.

Honourable mentions this year go to Northern Portrait, The Crayon Fields, The Electric Pop Group, Horowitz, Shrag, Mascot Fight, The School, Tender Trap, Allo Darlin', The Hillfields, Give It Ups, and probably loads of others I've forgotten. Onwards, comrades!

If it's possible to pick such a thing (and it probably isn't), then I think I'd have to pick The Specific Heats' 'End of an Error' as my song of the year. Have a listen.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Happy fucking holidays

Happy Christmas, readers. My present to you is The Bears' 'I'm a Snowman'.

I'm off to the Peak District to drink too much and put on half a stone in two days. Any mention of Gavin and fucking Stacey will be punishable by a blow to the kidneys. x

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Les miserables

Genuine miserabilists in pop seem few and far between these days, so I thought I'd share two of my favourites from recent years. 'Tis the season, after all..

First up are the wonderful Calvin Party - long time noiseniks from from the north-west of England, who now feature Cathy Brooks, ex of Dub Sex, on bass. Here's 'Lies, Lies and Government', which came out on a split single with Dumb a few years back. On vinyl its a corsucating splash of energy, but live its better than ever.

Second are a band from Grimsby that weren't completely shit, and that made a change. Neave vs the Jazz Cigarettes might have had a terrible name, but, led by arch-miserabilist Tim Neave they made some beautiful music.


You can listen to Tim Neave rattling on in a lovely, broad Grimsby accent on 'Neave Addresses the People' here.

Remember: there are always people more miserable than you this Christmas.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Must we throw this filth at our popkids?

Of course there are bigger arseholes than Chris Grayling out there, as Nick Griffin, leader of the racist BNP manages to portray effortlessly time after time. Surely even the coldest-hearted soul cannot failed to be moved to tears of laughter by this pant-wetting nativity story.

As someone just pointed out to me - does he realise he has an incinerator in his living room?

Back to some lovely indiepop later in the week. Promise.

Fighting talk

Remember, comrades, that when, after the next General Election, the Tories come and steal your job, then apparently you'll quite within your rights to ring up Chris Grayling, ask him around for a scone and a pot of tea, and then kick fuck out of him without any fear of breaking the law.

Quite how anyone can think this sort of quasi-libetarian bollocks is any way stopping people going out and robbing stuff off other people is beyond me. If anything, it'll only escalate violence. But then you only have to look at Grayling's recent history to realise he's utterly divorced from reality. Comparing Moss Side to The Wire - a fictional show, I'm led to believe - betrays his intense media training and his communications background.

Maybe the £100,000 Grayling claimed off the state for a flat in Pimlico for eight years means any one of us could nip over there and threaten to duff him up unless he gives us his money back.

To put the icing on the cake, he's a Man Utd fan, despite being born in London and brought up in Buckinghamshire. Mind you, he's hardly on his own there... but heaven help us when this reactionary bastard is Home Secretary next year. He makes Jack Straw seem like Kirk from Corrie.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Hibernation songs

For those of you fighting through the crowds of wild-eyes shoppers, or putting off the thought of extracting the giblets from up the arse of a long-dead bird, or merely falling out with your significant other after the annual barny that comes with Putting Up The Christmas Tree (that's not just me, right?), then I bring you a moment of solace.

If you feel like locking yourself away in a darkened room until 4 January, then I think I might have found the perfect album to take with you. Make sure you have enough space in your bag alongside the Withered Hand album and a couple of cans of baked beans for A Singer of Songs' 'Old Happiness' album, which is out on 5 January on Underused Music - the same people who brought us the excellent Hillfields album earlier this year.

If, like me, you have a deep fear of the forced jollity of Christmas and want to hide in the cupboard under the stairs for the rest of December, the have a listen to the title track of this beautiful little album. Then, to be contrary, fight your way through the January sales rush and go out and buy it.

Download 'Old Happiness'.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Garlands/Sugarplums split single (Atomic Beat)

Marianthi brought this up to me last week, and it's sat on the shelf since then.

You know when you can tell a record's going to be great, just by looking at the sleeve? Well, this is one of them. I know next to nothing about either band, which is quite nice, really, but I know that The Garlands' rushing melancholy reminds me of The Flatmates now and again, and that 'Tell Me' sounds like a train rushing by. It's a toe-tapper, and no doubt.

The Sugarplums come across like one of those really cool, obscure 60s beat groups that probably played a lot in Germany. They're all moody, shy vocals and have a song here called 'Joyce's Bicycle Gang', which, apart from being probably the best name for a song ever, hints at The Chesterfields, which is never a bad thing at all.

I'm not really sure when this charming little seven inch single is out, but keep your eye on the Atomic Beat website, and you should find out how you can buy it.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Standard Fare - The Noyelle Beat (Melodic/Thee SPC)

I think I can say without any risk of contradiction that despite it being 2009 and that album not being out until next March, that it's the best record of 2010. Recorded in just six days, 'The Noyelle Beat' bristles with the sort of excitement, sex, longing, ennui, desperation and joy that reminds me of, say, 'Hatful of Hollow'. And I'm not even making that up, because that's how good this album is.

Opening the album with 'Love Just Doesn't Stop' might be considered chucking away one of your strongest songs dangerously early, but when you can follow it up with 'Nuit Avec Une Amie' (or a 'A Night With a Friend' as we've become to know it), then it hardly matters.

You might be forgiven for thinking a lull is the order of the day, but you'd be wrong, because up next is 'Philadelphia' - the track that set Standard Fare's early demo apart, and piqued my interest to such an extent that I immediately sent out a gushing email to Darren at Thee SPC demanding Standard Fare come and play in Nottingham.

'Philadelphia' is like Mungo Jerry's 'Summertime' played by three people on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Listening to it on record makes me turn into a big mess of jelly; hearing it live leaves me in a puddle on the floor. It's a big and swaggering, and then it's fragile and coy. It floors me every time.

The best thing about Standard Fare is that even their more sedate songs are edgy and wired. Take 'Wrong Kind of Trouble' - a song about hopping into bed with the wrong person. A similar theme runs into 'Fifteen'. Well, I blame the make-up boys wear these days.

If you want to get back to something a little more pure, then 'Secret Little Sweetheart', which Danny sings with such innocence that you wish you could reach the speakers and hold his hand. And then 'Married' sees Emma coming on like Nico on uppers. It's all ridiculously beautiful.

Am I gushing enough? Good, because it's not over yet.

'Dancing' begins with that haunting skeleton of a guitar line, before Emma's voice - THAT VOICE - cuts through you like cheese wire before filling you with such glorious defiance that you want to press 'repeat' on this song over and over again, for another hit.

'Wow' ends on a triumphant, almost epic note, with Emma howling, "This could really lead somewhere/This could really go somewhere." Apt really, because 'The Noyelle Beat' draws me in like no other record for ages, and I say that after an amazing couple of years of records. Yet this one drips with so much character and emotion and humour that it manages to transcend everything else. 'The Noyelle Beat' is a quite stunning record by a remarkable band, and come next March thousands more people will know that.

Download 'Nuit Avec Une Amie' here.

Monday, 14 December 2009

A Christmas gift from Moustache of Insanity

Despite the general pant wetting over the likes of 2009's superstars like Allo Darlin' and Standard Fare and Pocketbooks on this here blog, tucked away in the corners of each month have been little thrill pockets, such as Moustache of Insanity.

Okay, so that name might remind of you fucking bastard Sultans of fucking Ping, but their two-minute fizzbombs of pop reflect an altogether more canny offering. I was lucky enough to have them put a track called 'You and Things' on the first volume of 'Life Has it in for Us', and now they've gone and recorded an ep of five songs called 'Postcards to Strangers', which you can download for absolutely nowt.

Apparently, there'll be a physical copy available at some point next year, each with a different vintage postcard cover. Kitsch!

Friday, 11 December 2009


Back when The Smiths and Morrissey ruled my life lots more than they do now, every band that Morrisey endorsed, from James to The Primitives became essential listening. But perhaps the most overlooked Morrissey-endorsed band were Bradford, whose beautiful 'Skin Storm' Morrissey covered so wonderfully as a solo artist on the b-side of 'Pregant for the Last Time' years after it was originally released.

But I was always more taken by Bradford's 'In Liverpool', the video of which seems to capture that late 80s feel better than any documentary made about the time could ever hope to.

Nothing ever became of Bradford, of course. They suffered from the Morrissey seal of approval curse that affected other, similar bands like Easterhouse. Yet Bradford were perhaps Blackburn's best ever band - and what a triumph that is. Their first, eponymous, album was released on the sometimes ace Midnight Music label, who also put out records from McCarthy, The Woldfounds and the amazing Popguns.

But then Bradford seemed to get all starry-eyed and, under the guidance of Stephen Street, went and signed to Sire. It could only go all wrong, and it did. Bradford's second album was poor, and they disappeared in or around 1991, along with a lot of post-Smiths bands.

Still, a skinhead band in the late 80s was a rare and wonderful thing, and for that I'll always cherish them.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Christmas, part 3

... and on the third day of Christmas, I will shoot you in the face.

Or at least I would if I was listening to Brontosaurus Chorus's mighty 'Calling Birds' on the superb '12 Days of Christmas' album, that you can buy here. I think, in this album, I might have found the perfect antidote to memories of Christmas shit outlined a couple of posts back.

Each band on this album was only given 31 days to write a Christmas song, which seems a bit mean. But they've nearly all triumphed. The Rocky Nest prove once again that they should write the soundtrack for the first indiepop spaghetti western film; Them Squirrels have written the best lonesome Christmas song ever; Allo Darlin' contribute a song so evocative that if I wasn't so ruddy MACHO I'd break down in floods; Speedmarket Avenue's 'Where Maids are Queens' makes 'The Frog Chorus' sound like a Napalm Death track; whilst if Silence at Sea were to come to my door to sing 'Lords Keep Leaping', I'd invite them in for a biscuit and an episode of Coronation Street. If that wasn't enough, The School (yes, them again) end things off with the cute, ramshackle 'Drummer Boy'.

Right, I'm off to put my Christmas tree up, whilst you listen to Silence at Sea's 'Lords Keep Leaping'.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Christmas, part 2

I'm usually pretty cautious when it comes to enthusiastic people. Being a Grimsby Town supporter has made me expect the worst, and so when things go occasionally go right, well, it's a nice surprise.

That sounded a bit emo. Soz.

Anyway, there's one person who always seems enthusiastic, and that's Mark Hibbett. Either he's mainlining Sunny D into his eyeballs or his pint glass is half full of Christmas booze, or perhaps it's both. Whatever, he's made a Christmas single and video that's nearly enough to force this curmudgeon to go shopping for miseltoe. What's more, in the spirit of GEAY (gender equality a yuletide) he's made a video for the ladies, and one for the gents. What a trooper.

Oh, and James Walsh of Come Out 2 Nite will be sent to the Britpop gulag for getting hthat hammer and sickle back to front. Bourgeois scumbag.

Hey, ladies!

Oi, gents.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Christmas, part 1

Imagine, if you can, the Chips Christmas household in 1984. Fucking Wham! are number two with 'Last Christmas' and the puke-inducing twatfest that was Live Aid was number one - FOREVER - with 'Do They Know it's Christmas?'. My Mum loved them both and played them constantly. It was a grim time to be a pop fan.

Which is why if you're an eleven year old now you should be listening to Standard Fare's 'Tinsel Politics', a paean to the time-old, tiresome arguments about where to spend Christmas, that only seem to arise when your relationship has got so far advanced that 25 December is to be endured, rather than enjoyed.

I don't know about you, but it's that sort of cynicism that makes me feel most festive.

An alternative view tomorrow.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

"Fanzines aren't friends": the This Many Boyfriends interview

Leeds-based shamble-poppers This Many Boyfriends are my favourite band in the world this week, so I thought I'd send a few questions over to Lauren. She's the one who plays the drums and sings at the same time. But the Phil Collins comparisons stop right there.

How, why and where did you all meet?

This is kind of a long story involving a lot of change! Adam and I promote in Leeds, we've been going since September 2008 with Tiger Trap, which is sometimes a clubnight, sometimes a gig and a clubnight and sometimes a themed covers gig. In December last year I decided to try for a versus night with my friend's indipop clubnight, With Whom To Dance? The friend in question was Alex, our ex guitarist. We all met up and had a friendly pub quiz-off, and discussed details for the versus night. There I met richard and Nicky, who were also in the original line up of the band. Everyone was discussing the band (then called HORSES!) and it sounded like fun. It turns out they were stuck for a drummer for the first practice so I volunteered and basically joined the band. Originally it was Richard singing, Nicky singing and on glock, Adam on guitar, myself drumming and Alex on bass. Then we decided to get Tom on bass so Alex could lead (I didn't know Tom before, he was Alex's friend) and then Nicky and Alex left. We had a brief stint with Ed from Just Handshakes (We're British) as our guitarist but sadly that only lasted one gig as he' actually a bassist and wasn't comfortable on stage. We then got Jamie, who is Tom's housemate in on the action. He picked everything up super fast, we've had him for 3 gigs now and he's pretty brilliant and fits the band perfectly. It's ace.

What's the song 'That's What Diaries Are For' about?

Ha, well this is a difficult one. I know that you know who it's about but I can't say as word gets around, y'know? It's kind of a critique on the bands who basically end up being parodies of themselves, writing songs about the same things and being stuck in a sort-of musical rut, too hung up about whatever it is (childhood in this instance I guess), to actually have anything important to say. It's about letting go of everything that makes your band into a caracature of itself, and just get on with life. How you treat people now is much more important than how you were treated 20 years ago, move on and make real friends, who cares? Like we say "fanzines aren't friends". They're really not, trust me.

Is the Leeds scene supportive towards the band?

Well… Our first gig was the scottish themed one we did with Tiger Trap, which is why two of our three songs were Ballboy covers (I adore the scottish music scene and Ballboy are maybe my second favourite scottish band behind Orange Juice). So really I put us on for our first gig. The others have been sometimes luck, but mostly because Trapdoor Minotaur love us! They've been really supportive and have basically handed us three out of our total of seven gigs! They are really ace, and such lovely people that we're really lucky to have them behind us.

Otherwise, Leeds is a difficult one. Unless you have the right kind of buzz behind you and know the right people it's sometimes very hard to crack. We have friends in other bands, of course, but they seem to find it a little bit easier to get offers. I don't know what it is about us but there's really only 3 promoters (excluding myself) who are actually willing to put us on in leeds. HOORAY for Mark Sturdy, Dead Young and the Trapdoor gang. Without you, we would be nothing. What do you all do in real life? I work two jobs, one at the o2 Academy, and the other as an Admin assistant at the University. Richard works at Borders (for the time being). Adam, Jamie and Tom are all students. Jamie and Tom are in their third year this year so we're going to have to take some time out in 2010 for them.

How did your gig in London go? What that your first time in the big city of red buses and miserable people?

London was ace! It was really great. Gigwise it was lovely, not only because I remembered some of Of Mice and Mental Arithmetic from school (hooray for Chesterfield!) but also it was just so much fun. The other bands were all really nice, we got our first ever (shared) dressing room bit, and aside from majorly messing up a cover, the actual gig went really well. Our friend Nestor travelled down with us, and there were a few friendly faces in the crowd so it wasn't as intimiating as it could have been. We sill found it hard to follow OMAMA and we're going to have to do that again in December. Lord knows they're a hard band to follow. The feedback from the gig was fantastic, too. I really really liked the crowd.

After all of the shenanigans, on Friday we went exploring the city and went to the British museum, which was my favourite part of the day. I was (like most children) a major Egypt geek when I was younger, so actually getting to see the mummies and statues and everything was amazing. After that I went out and to a gig at Cargo (I think?) and ran into one of the first bands we ever booked for Tiger Trap, Wonderswan. Apparently they'd just played. The world is really small isn't it?! All of us had a really good time, it's not often we get to travel down south, so it was quite exciting. We even had a photo taken under the Holloway Road tube sign in tribute to Darren Hayman (Darren, we hope the hole in your skull isn't too painful and get well soon!); Adam, Richard and I are also massive Hefner fans. Maybe one day we'll do the Hefner tour of London.

Do you like The Pastels?

Easiest way is this:

Richard - YES!!

Adam - YES!!

Me - yes

Tom - didn't know who they were until after we introduced him to them

Jamie - I don’t think he likes them, no.

You're on tour with Trapdoor Minotaur in February. How did that come about?

Well like I mentioned before, they're all really nice (and like us) and they like us and invited us on tour with them over the summer some time this year. It'll be for a week and it's pretty exciting time really. Not sure exactly what's going on but I'm sure it'll be good fun. Sometimes I think that TMB is becoming increasingly close to becoming a Real Band. Only Real Bands go on tour, right?

For heaven's sake, when are you releasing a single?

We're doing on better than that, WE'RE RELEASING A 6 TRACK EP. Which will include a re-recorded diaries. Since the line up change, we need to get the right members recorded and actually up there. It's like the photos really. We've all been incredibly busy so a lot of things we have on the internet are slightly out of date. We're currently going on a couple of haphazard tracks and word-of-mouth. Which is probably why I shouldn't moan about not getting Leeds dates. It's all good though, we're probably playing the Brudenell for a free gig in the new year. The EP should be out before the tour. If everything goes to plan it will definitely be out before the tour. If it isn't, then I guess everyone is gonna have to order it online! This is all going a bit quick but hopefully we'll be able to organise ourselves and get our music out there.

You can download the mighty 'That's What Diaries are For' from This Many Boyfriends' page.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

That Rabbit song again

Just a quick follow-up to last night's Shrag post. The band have very kindly let you all listen to the a-side for nowt. So now you don't have to rely on my hard-arsed dribblings to be convinced how great a song it is.

Download it here.

Then buy it here.


Monday, 30 November 2009

Shrag - Rabbit Kids (WIAIWYA)

I don't really get the Huggy Bear comparisons when it comes to Shrag - i think it's a bit lazy, really. And as much as I'll always hold Huggy Bear very dear, Shrag make songs with just as much pop vitality as the riot grrrl heroes.

'Rabbit Kids' is like a siren for happy times. It should be installed into every alarm clock in the world. It starts off like a punk rock Glitter band and the sticks two fingers up to everyone and everything. It's the sort of record you can skip down the road with your best mate to, but you can also do the ironing on a wet Tuesday afternoon with this in the background, and it'd still sound important, righteous and thrilling.

Yes, it passes the ironing test.

Shrag have recently finished recording their second album, ‘Life! Death! Prizes!’ which will be released in early 2010, it says here. This single is out on 14 December. Buy it, for heaven's sake.

Ballad of a boot boy

I am sat in a Northampton hotel desperately trying to write a speech for this work thing I have to host at half seven in the morning, in a different hotel, close to the M1, that I can't afford to stay overnight in. I can't even find solace in a bottle of wine tonight because I have to concentrate for an hour in the morning. Life isn't sweet.

Me and Northampton have form. I lived here for three months once in the mid-90s, and had the worst time ever. I didn't really quite realise how much it'd affected me until I got off the train, walked through the town centre and spotted a few buildings I vaguely recognised. If I listened to Belle and Sebastian's 'The Boy With the Arab Strap' album - a record that I will forever associate with Northampton bus station - I might have one of those proper breakdowns I hear so much about.

A quick straw poll of friends revealed that parts of Athens, Aberdeen, and (of course) Scunthorpe made other people feel like this.

Shining brightly across from my hotel window is a neon sign that says 'Northampton's best kebabs', or something like that. I might have to find solace in some dubious lamb-based product.

Actually, one bottle of wine won't hurt, will it? Thank heavens I have the Afternoon Naps album to keep me company.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

How many boyfriends?

Leeds has, from time to time, thrown up some ace indiepop bands. Think Boyracer, for example. But for one gem, you have you to wade through what seems like a million Babyshambles wannabes, and then after that you have to try and survive getting home from a gig in one of the most intimidating city centre atmospheres I've ever experienced. The latter was one of the reasons I stopped putting on gig on there.

But like a pound coin in a bucket of turds are This Many Boyfriends, a noisy, quiet, charming five piece that put me in mind of The Regulars' more frantic moments, or perhaps some of Mascot Fight's poppier episodes.

They have this ace song called 'That's What Diaries Are For', which, it wonderfully transpired, is about a Leeds self-promoter par extraordinaire who, for the sake of wanting to sound superior and IN THE KNOW, I'll not repeat here.

Anyway, I want to get these lot over to play in Nottingham very soon.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

London Popfest can't come too soon.

A whirlwind week at work has left me needing something to look forward to, and so it's a good news that the 2010 London Popfest looms, twinkling, on the horizon.

Last year's London Popfest was lost for me in a haze of drinking too much, too early, but I'm determined not to make the same mistake twice when this (or next, I suppose) year's event comes 'round.

London Popfest is put together by Sean at Fortuna Pop!, Marianthi and Ian of Spiral Scratch, and John at WYAIWYA - so you know you're guaranteed a blinding line-up.

Already announced for February is Rose Melberg and long, lost Swedish indiepop types Dorotea who are getting back together for a couple of shows between then and now.

I's pretty wonderful that we all have something to look forward to that doesn't involve bloody Christmas, really.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

An interview with The School

I know I've rattled on ridiculously about The School lately, but so what? They're great. And here's an interview with that Liz. I make no apologies. I just hope her boss isn't reading.

What are you up to today?

I'm at work on the internet.

How was the Nottingham all-dayer for you?

Amazing, one of my favourite School gigs of all time. The day itself was very long and tiring but in a good way, there were so many great bands on the bill. We finally got to watch bands we hadn't seen before like The Just Joans, and saw old favourites like Allo' Darlin, Tender Trap and the Rocky Nest. Our set was fun, it was the first time some of us had met (there are so many of us now and getting everyone together at the same time is difficult!) so it was a little shambolic but a lot of fun. The crowd were fantastic, I didn't expect so many people to know our songs let alone be able to shout them back louder than me!

The album seems to have been a long time coming. Any reason for this, or are just a perfectionist?

It was 30% due to bad luck with timing e.g. having to wait for the Christmas drop before releasing it in the new year, it was recorded ages ago! 30% writer's block mainly due to personnel changes causing some delays, 40% perfectionism. I didn't want any fillers, I wanted something that I'd listen to over and over again. I feel bad keeping everyone waiting and hope they feel it's worth it, people don't seem to have forgotten about us which is a good sign. Also Elefant wanted to give plenty of time to promote it properly - there are so many albums that I don't even realise have come out yet, we want to make a big fuss! The long wait has been good for me though because I've had time to start writing the second album, so there shouldn't be such a long wait next time.

What's with all the personnel changes? Is this just bad luck or a conscious decision?

A mixture of both really. Some people weren't able to be in the band due to personal commitments, some really weren't suitable and didn't have their hearts in it, and some just left. We're still looking for a permanent guitarist but have 2 people on board to stand in until we find the right person - there's such a lack of indiepop musicians in Cardiff. The person I regret losing the most is Rob who left because being in a Cardiff band when you live in Birmingham just isn't practical, and there's also that other band he's in (The Voluntary Butler Scheme) who are a bit good aren't they?!! Rob just seemed to 'get' us. But the rest of the band at the moment are fantastic, I couldn't ask for a nicer bunch of people, I've certainly found some musical soulmates there..

Is it annoying that you've had to go overseas to get your records released?

I didn't really consider where labels were based when I initially sent off the demos, we only sent a few to people we loved and Elefant had always been the ambition, but I didn't expect them to react so well - I assumed they'd only end up listening to us after we'd released a few singles and even then would never have thought we'd be an Elefant band, I feel so very lucky.

Looking back now it was the right decision, I could've waited around to see if other labels were interested or tried going after big advances, but it wasn't what I was looking for. Elefant have such a good reputation and back catalogue, a loyal fanbase, and they're genuinely wonderful people. They've been going for 20 years now so have got good connections, they're well respected all over the world and they know what they're doing!

What's been your best moment as a band so far?

The Nottingham alldayer, playing Indietracks in 2007 and 2009, getting to play outside the UK and watching the Spanish film 'Yo, Tambien' which features two of our songs - 'I Don't Believe in Love' and 'Kiss You in the Snow', it was unreal.

You're also involved in organising gigs in Cardiff. What's the response like over there?

It's good actually, we've been promoting under the name Loose for several years now, the first one being an alldayer with The Loves, then I was hooked. We've put on some amazing acts like Daniel Johnston, Of Montreal, Shonen Knife, Vivian Girls, Neko Case, Marnie Stern, Mae Shi, Broken Family Band, Apples in Stereo.. but we also get to bring indiepop bands here that wouldn't have made it otherwise, like Saturday Looks Good to Me, The Motifs, Lucky Soul, Speedmarket Avenue, Brontosaurus Chorus, Dressy Bessy, Still Flyin'.. loads! It's taken a long time to perfect the gigs, establish a small following and get contacts with agents but I think we do ok.. I've just got a job in-house at 2 venues we've been using so it's my dream job, and hopefully will free up more of my spare time to dedicate to School activities!

This looks like you're biggest tour to date. What it's like travelling around with such a big band?

It's exciting! After all this time and playing so many shows we still get really excited about playing any gig like small children, no matter the size or location. We absolutely love playing live and meeting people, it's probably the best thing about being in a band, but also getting to hang around with each other all day, we all get on really well. It'll be the first time we've travelled with so many people as some couldn't get time off work previously, but we've tried extra hard to make it work for the album tour. Harri owns a minibus so we'll be going around in that with Allo, Darlin'. We've still got a couple more shows to announce but it should be approx 12-13 dates in the UK, followed by 4 in Germany, 5 in Italy and then some Spanish dates in April/May.

Where do you get your dresses from?

I need new ones so badly!! Some are from eBay, some have been fiddled with from charity shop bits and some are Liz originals (the wonky ones) - I'm learning how to sew at the moment, I'm really really bad right now, but hopefully in March there'll be a whole new selection of slightly less wonky Liz dresses!

Monday, 23 November 2009

The importance of being optimistic

The news that Next Time Passions have reformed and have posted two mighty songs on their myspace page got me round to thinking about how much great Greek indiepop there's been over the last 15 or so years.

My introduction to this tiny, but vital, scene came nearly nine years ago when Marianthi wrote a great piece on Greek indiepop for my fanzine tasty. I hope she doesn't mind, but I've reprinted that here, because it got me into so many ace bands, and I think it's important that it's shared. So here it is. From the swoonsome Kissamatic Lovebubbles to the sublime One Night Suzan, Marianthi charts the ebb and flow of those precious times.

Greek Indiepop: the importance of being optimistic

It may sound nostalgic or just plainly boring to those of you who have never heard of the existence of a Greek indiepop scene, but for about four years at the very beginning of the 1990s, Athens was the centre of our little world. Then, what with that wretched military service, what with real-life taking over, that little world collapsed. But, as it happens with music, things were left behind that make it worthwhile to write a few words about it 10 years later.

In a funny sort of way, our story goes back a little further, well into the 1980s and it takes place a few thousand miles away from Athens. In 1980, brothers Constantis and Alexandros Veis move to London to study the arts and they find themselves in the whirlpool that was Mike Alway’s mind. Inspired by the alluring sounds and aesthetics of Postcard Recordings, they sent Alway a demo and the legendary Fantastic Something and their “If She Doesn’t Smile” 7” is born (Cherry Red, 1983). Then they move to Blanco Y Negro, record a LP and they disappear into oblivion- no one knows where they’ve gone until very recently when a brand new and lovely pop fanzine from Athens (Carousel) tracks one of the brothers down and torture him into confession. The ‘80s give Greek indiepop one more record to be proud of, The Jaywalkers 12” on Virgin Records (not so indie, yet so pop!) which included the now legendary “(You Can’t Be) Happy All The Time”. Then, suddenly, there is silence.

…Until the fanzine craze comes along that is. In Those Days and later Little Charmer, two wonderful pop fanzines written with unprecedented fervour and feeling, transform Athenian sleeping independent minds into enthusiastic indiepop hearts. They introduced us to the wonders of él, early Creation, Sarah Records and Marsh-Marigold and before we knew it, their soap-bubble parties had become the stage for Greek bands playing indiepop and a new label was on its way: Innocent Label.

The legend has it that Dimitris and Christos (the boys behind those two fanzines) had decided that urgent label action was needed when a band called One Night Suzan presented them with their trumpet-filled indiepop anthem “Until” in ’91. “We have to let everyone know this beautiful song exists”, they agreed, almost in tears. Isn’t it how it all begins in indiepop music? Money was needed to actually release “Until” on 7” vinyl, and until this was found Innocent Label had to release tapes. One Night Suzan’s Autumn Falls was the first Innocent Label release (Guilty 01) and it included the song that started it all along with another five gems of either loud yet melodic guitar pop in the form “Postcards” or ethereal epic noises (“Autumn Falls”).

Guilty 03 was Next Time Passions’ Sleepy Hollow Lane and there are only 50 copies of it - the colourful covers were too expensive to make! They were playing a kind of sensitive, organ-based pop with fragile vocals and a drum machine sound to die for. Next Time Passions also had their own little studio, appropriately called “Sunnyside”, in a suburb of Athens. When the time had come for Innocent Label to release “Until” as a single, disaster struck and the copies were lost before they managed to get to the shops or to anyone’s hands for that matter and a great opportunity was lost. Still One Night Suzan, Next Time Passions along with a couple of other bands like the electronic masters Sound Devise (and yes, this is the correct spelling! I was told off once…) and masters of the political Groove Machine did not give up and kept performing live in mini-festivals organised by the two fanzines, inspiring other people around them to form bands and be part of this majestic atmosphere.

Kissamatic Lovebubbles was one of these more inspired bands characterised by pure pop frenzy. With their name taken from a Strawberry Story and… oh, an unhealthy obsession with The Wedding Present… the Kissamatics set out to conquer the world of Greek indiepop. Their noisy jangly guitars and Vassilis’ heartbroken voice never failed to impress the audiences with drunken tales of lost love.

It was time for action again, it seemed, and This Happy Feeling was born: it involved more or less the same people as Innocent Label and it made its first appearance with Next Time Passions Painter Girl 7” which included three mellow, yet rhythmic melodies. The aesthetics were there, although the money wasn’t and this first release (limited to 500 copies) stands out as the more DIY record the kids ever made. The indiepop manifesto of the insert whispered words about lovers, hot summer days, Pale Fountains records and the happiness of doing your own thing!

The three records that followed Painter Girl were released under the same umbrella of long lost dreams that had to be recovered and included the C86 sounds of Kissamatic Lovebubbles, the ‘60s loud guitars and trumpets of One Night Suzan (“Until” was at last put on vinyl) and, for the first time, the mellow, bossa nova gems of The Crooner. We had come across this name before, when the Spanish label Elefant had released a wonderful split 7” EP with the Passies and a psychedelic combo under the name of Impossible Tymes. At the time, the Crooner was one of them, the almighty Zissimos, aka voice and guitar with ONS… For the purposes of Happy 04, however, The Crooner had become a band. Sounds complicated? Well, it is! Still, if you know anything at all about the currents whereabouts of Greek indiepop, you should have come across The Crooner, by far the most successful exponent of where it all heads towards.

This Happy Feeling is no longer around but there is a new label called Pop Art which promises to not let the unique sensitivity of Greek bands die. Pop Art recently released a wonderful compilation entitled Try a Little Sunshine where one can encounter most of the roads followed by Greek indiepop bands, old and new. They have also released records by Byron’s Girlfriend (whose delightful “Hey Beauty!” should be the first song of every serious mixed tape) and Vel, a new all-singing-all-dancing combo with an unmistakeable summer feel to it. I should also note here that the brand new Crooner album just came out and you should be able to find it through the usual mailorders. Other labels that have released songs (either in compilations or as separate records) by Greek bands, include Shelflife (US) and Les Disques Aquatic (France).

Needless to say, if you‘d like to know more about indiepop from Greece you have to try bit harder than just reading this article! It is really difficult to avoid namedropping when you are just writing to let everyone know of the existence of a relatively unknown music scene, but I hope I did my bit to make you slightly more curious to find out what this is all about …

The School announce album and tour

Fresh as Grimsby haddock (that's very fresh and lovely, by the way) from their damp-eyed performance at the Nottingham all-dayer last week, Cardiff's finest, The School have announced the release date of their long-awaited debut album.

'Loveless Unbeliever' will be released on 15 February on Elefant (I think), and there's a great big tour to promote it. You can catch The School on the following dates at the following places:

Sat 6 March - CARDIFF Clwb Ifor Bach - album launch * **
Thurs 11 March - SHEFFIELD venue tba *
Fri 12 March - EDINBURGH venue tba *
Sat 13 March - GLASGOW The Flying Duck *
Sun 14 March - ABERDEEN Tunnels *
Mon 15 March - tba (probably newcastle) *
Tues 16 March - LEICESTER Firebug *
Fri 19 March - CHESTER Telford's Warehouse
Sat 20 March - BIRMINGHAM The Victoria **
Sat 27 March - LONDON Bush Hall * **
Sun 28 March - BRIGHTON The Prince Albert
Wed 31 March - CHELMSFORD The Basement

* = with Allo, Darlin'
** = with Pagan Wanderer Lu

I'm thinking of taking the pony and trap up to Glasgow for the evening, so I'll see you there.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Fleeting moments

There's a song by Math and Physics Club called 'Weekends Away' I love so much that I had it played during my wedding. It's a pretty simple tale of getting in the car and naffing off somewhere for a, um, weekend and leaving all your troubles behind you at boring old home. And it's the story of a two fearless adventurers - one who does the driving, and one who reads the map.

As someone who doesn't know one end of a car from the other, I try and fail miserably to read the map, but it's the journey that I find most exhilarating. I was saying to someone the other day; the journey to somewhere is almost better than the actual destination - at least I think so. It's sort of like gig promotion in that I find all the arranging and technical bits and pieces leading up to putting on a gig sometimes more satisfying than the actual gig itself.

Anyway, this was the feeling I had last night as we crawled slowly through a sodden Peak District on the way to see our friends' new baby. The rain was pelting down, and the sky was an inky blue-grey - the sort you only get this time of year at 3pm in the afternoon, and the sort that makes you feel almost priveleged to be out in it, but also sheltered from it.

And then on comes 'Unloveable' and 'The Headmaster's Ritual' and finally, and wonderfully, 'Well I Wonder' by The Smiths, and the strand in your life that is missing when you go to work and then come and home and then go to bed and then get up and go to work... is complete. It's like that amazing verse in Pocketbooks' 'Fleeting Moments':

Fleeting moments are insomnia for the curious and
Untied endings are the curse of inquisitive minds
And so what’s potential,
When potential might be all you ever know?
I don’t know

And then all too soon you're home back to the washing up and two hungry cats. Life's like that, I find.

Listen to 'Weekends Away' by Math and Physics Club here.

Friday, 20 November 2009

New Horowitz single rumour verified

Back when I were a lad, there was this story doing the rounds that Horowitz were releasing 'How to Look Imploring' as a single on Cloudberry Records. Seasons passed, years came and went, my hair got even thinner - and yet nothing happened. Maybe the story was a thing of fantasy, or maye I dreamed it along with that one about Sophie Ellis Bextor joining Horowitz as a second guitarist and then asking me to marry her from the stage of their MEN Arena gig.

I accepted, by the way.

And yet when I opened up my Facebook inbox this morning and saw a message from Horowitz, these words hit me like a firm trout: New single out November 25th(pre-order now!)

And so this single is no longer the staple of hushed conversations in pub room gigs; it's real, it's living, and that money is burning a hole in your pocket. And if you don't want a copy, then you can buy me it as a birthday present. See here for pre-order details.

If you hadn't noticed, then 'How to Look Imploring' has been on Horowitz's myspace page for a while now, and it's one of the best songs the band have written. Defiant bubblegum pop at it's very best.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Tales from the fringe

Of all the shoegaze bands I loved, Blind Mr Jones were perhaps the most ignored. Which sort of suited me quite nicely, because by the time they managed to release their second, superior album, 'Tatooine', in 1994 anyone admitting they still listened to shoegaze records was put in the village stocks and had rotten fruit thrown at them.

'Tattoine' was sent to me when I edited Atomic Magazine, and it made a healthy change from the early 90s dross that was coming out of both the UK and the US, as well as getting on the nerves of the friend who I ran the magazine with, who was getting into gabba at an alarmingly fast rate.

The album mixed the racing pop of Adorable with some of Ride's poppier moments, which was right up my junction at the time, and it even made me forget or ignore the fact that half the songs on the album featured a pissing flute.

Tracks like the appalling named 'Spooky Vibes' provided me with a pop rush that saw off the fact that I was somehow living off a daily diet of macaroni cheese and a weekly dole income of £35. And when I was feeling a bit down on my luck, then you could rely on the a doleful hymn like 'Hey' (they weren't much good at song titles, Blind Mr Jones).

But my favourite track was 'Disneyworld'. In fact it remains my favourite track of the early 90s, and might interest fans of the Pains of Being Pure at Heart.

Cherry Red have two compilations available, but I'd give those a miss and just buy 'Tatooine', if I were you. Fifteen years on it still sounds bittersweet, innocent and homely.

The School live in Nottingham

Quite a few people now have said how great The School were in ending the all-dayer on Sunday. Luckily, you can now download their set from here.

Thanks, whoever you are, for recording this. It's ace, and a lovely momento.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

There's always going to come a time when we go dancing

One hundred people dancing to The Rocky Nest; Standard Fare looking almost shy that people knew the words to their songs; Liz from The School getting a bit teary during their set; Elizabeth Darlin' making grown men weep and swoon at the same time; and Tender Trap playing a set so effervescent that it belied the fact that they were by far the elder statespeople of indiepop.

All these things and more made the all-dayer on Sunday such a wonderful, wonderful day. It started at 11am in The Bell where I met Andy and drank a couple of Sunday morning(!) pints to fight off the nerves, and ended, for me at least, around 10.30pm, competely dead on my feet.

Every act was great, but Standard Fare ruled the day for me. I always think it must be strange being in a band and hiding yourself away for hours, trying to write these songs, and then actually having people love them. That's what seems to amaze Standard Fare more than anything else in the world, and it's completely disarming and wonderful. And Emma's voice doesn't so much send shivers down my spine as paralyse me for half an hour.

The days after events like this - events when you've seen so many friends in the same room as you enjoying the same things - are horrible. Luckily we've got the London Popfest in February to look forward to, and it's nearly time for Indietracks again, right?

I'm off back to bed.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Internet Forever

I don't know much about Internet Forever, but I do know that I've fallen in love with their debut single, 'Cover the Walls'.

For some reason, they've been supporting Johnny Foreigner on tour later this month. It doesn't take a genius to know that there is a wonky bill.

This will embed itself in your brain and send you loopy in the best possible way imaginable.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Mascot Fight - Losers Can't be Choosers (Cassette County)

I'm going to twatter on about Mascot Fight until they are kings of the world, although that moment might be slightly closer after this ace new ep.

There's no great change of style here, unless you count the odd choirboy theatrics of
'Shonan Bellmore' (I'd like to know the last time Mascot fight went to church), but there's just more of the same sort of crackling, twisted songs you found on this year's marvellous 'Pantomime Hearse' album.

Highlights for me are the biting 'Haha, That's not Anarchy', a diatribe against class tourists, with the ace line: "You're a revolution in yourself/While I'm not worth/So slice open and bridge that class gap/Since it's easy to dip down/And tour those Camden towns/then choose who's deserving of your bootstraps." Great stuff.

But the best track here, for me, is 'Reunion is a Laugh', a sort of early Pink Floyd fantasy-rhyme with nonsense lyrics about paper aeroplanes and magic carpets. That makes it sound shit. It's not. It's ace.

Mascot Fight are that most wonderful of bands: they tell stories in their songs. Everyday life might be boring and drudgeful from Monday to Friday, but it sounds sort of thrilling when Mascot Fight sing about it.

Monday, 9 November 2009

You'll always find me into the Kitchens

For years now, when I've been feeling down or nostalgic, or any of those other shit emotions that come around (usually on a Sunday afternoon), I've often turned to a Kitchens of Distinction record to bring me round.

And so it's sort of wonderful that Patrick Fitzgerald is still making music as stephenhero. His new album, 'Apparition in the Woods' is out today, and you can buy it from here.

Why it was only this morning that I was walking through the dark streets of Nottingham on my way to work that I had Kitchen of Distinction's 'Drive That Fast' running around and around my head. That often happens, because they seemed to make the sort of music that I could only listen to on my own. I don't think I've ever sat down and enjoyed a Kitchens album with anyone else, I really don't. Maybe that says as much about how wilfully unpopular they were more than it does about me, mind.

Download Patrick's acoustic version of Kitchens' 'Goodbye Voyager' here.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

New Sourpatch video

Lots of exciting news from Happy Happy Birthday below, but if buy one more record before Grimsby Town lose their Football League status, make sure it's Sourpatch's 'Crushin'', details of which below.

Here's the beautiful 'I Want You Either Way' from the album.

How good is that? You can download a demo version of Sourpatch's 'Water Without Land' here. Thanks, Andy, for finding it.

Also, there's the free single from WIAIWYA, which is ace.

Here's the rest of the HHBTM news:

Hey folks,
First off the Tunabunny / Hulaboy split 12" is in and available and ready to ship right now. I have roughly 30 copies. Tunabunny is a true Athens band... danceable, minimal, care freee, Hulaboy is the combination of Hula Hoop and Boyracer. The version of this 12" on HHBTM comes in a silkscreen sleeve while the 555 Recordings version comes in a letter press sleeve. Both versions of the 12" comes with a CD-R of the record.

You can now download the Marshmallow Coast albums "Times Square" & "Coasting" with bonus tracks and the regular version of "Seniors & Juniors" via emusic, itunes, or your favorite download service. Andy is currently reworking Seniors & Juniors into "Super Seniors & Juniors" which will feature more guests than you could imagine. Look for a CD / LP release in summer 2010. There might also be vinyl reissues of Times Square and Coasting as well to follow shortly before or after.

Cars Can Be Blue are currently writing a new album which will come out next year. Their debut album "All the Stuff We Do" will be back in print on vinyl in early 2010 with a much bigger pressing this time around. All the Afternoon Naps pillowcases and Bunnygrunt dolls for the special pre-orders are gone.

Currently at the pressing plant is the debut album "Crushin'" by Sourpatch which will come out in January 2010 on both CD and LP. To celebrate this fun little pop record we are doing a pre-order like always and a contest. The pre-order will start on Monday November 9th. The pre-order will consist of either the CD or LP and the bonus goodies will include a silkscreen Sourpatch tote bag, a button, and a CD-R EP. We will choose a random name from the pre-order and this person will receive a mix tape from the band, a 3 color poster, postcards, stickers, a letter, and a phone call on their birthday. I'd get in on the pre-order early as the Bunnygrunt and Afternoon Naps ones didn't last long. The Sourpatch CD will ship in mid-December while the LP will ship in early January.

If you haven't joined the HHBTM newsgroup yet then you really should. You can join the newsgroup or news list by going to the site and clicking the newsletter button at the bottom of the site. Each Friday I pick a subscriber at random and send them free stuff. The last two winners have received the new Tunabunny / Hulaboy split 12" or the 08-09 HHBTM CD catalog. The next giveaway will be next Friday with the winner get a mix CD box set.

There are three new videos up at the website in the media section, or you can use the links below....

Cars Can Be Blue "Eyeballs" from the album Doubly Unbeatable

Casper & the Cookies "Little King" from the album Modern Silence

Sourpatch Fun" from the album Crushin'

Charlie Mcalister - Turn of the Century Photograph (unread)- South Carolina banjo spaz pop...imagine a very southern fried Dan Deacon minus the schtick and keyboards. cassette $4.00
Charlie Mcalister - Creosote (unread) LP $12.00

Afternoon Naps
11.13 - Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom
12.10 - Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom

11.21 - St Louis, MO @ Casa De Black
11.27 - St Louis, MO @ Schlafly
12.4 - Columbus, OH @ Used Kids Records
12.4 - Columbus, OH @ Treehouse
12.6 - Brooklyn, NY @ Bruar Falls
12.12 - St Louis, MO @ KSHE Klassics
12.26 - St Louis, MO @ Off Broadway

Casper & the Cookies
11.7 - Athens, GA @ the Secret Squirrel

Lovely Eggs
11.13 - Birmingham, UK @ Autumn Store
11.20 - Manchester, UK @ Star & Garter
11.27 - Lancaster, UK
12.7 - Preston, UK @ the Continental
12.8 - Manchester, UK @ Sake Bar
2.6 - Newcastle, Uk @ Popklubb C86 Festival

Red Pony Clock
11.17 - Los Angeles, CA
11.20 - San Francisco, CA @ Amnesia
11.21 - Merced, CA @ Partisan
11.22 - San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar

Happy Happy Birthday to Me Records
P.O.Box 742
Athens, GA 30603

Saturday, 7 November 2009

There's more to life, but not much more

There are some bands that just get better and better with each release. In recent times there's been Math and Physics Club, Electrip Pop Group, Northern Portrait, Pocketbooks... and probably a few more that I've forgotten.
Add to that list Allo Darlin' and The Middle Ones, who both have new singles which take them way beyond anything they've released before.

I'm sort of scared at how brilliant Allo Darlin' are, and could be. Disarming and self-effacing they might be, but when they smack you square on the nose with a pop song so instantly loveable as 'The Polaroid Song' it makes my jaw drop in awe. I have a new favourite single almost weekly, but this has been my most cherished song of the year so far this week. It has everythng; delicately plucked guitars; girl group backing vocals; a really, really, ramshackle guitar solo; and even a flute. At least I think it's a flute.

You can hear 'The Polaroid Song' and its b-side 'Will You Please Spend New Years Eve With Me' (which I might add is the finest anti-New Years Eve song every recorded) on All Darlin' myspace page, and you can - you must - buy it in December from Fortuna Pop!

The Middle Ones' new single is the kind of brittle folk pop that they've been gently building over the last couple of years. Their eponymous, debut ep is a 10" single in hand made scrapbook sleeve. The tracks are 'River Song, 'Slow Bridge, 'Courage' and 'Young Explorer'. I've heard the last track there and it's gorgeous.

This is another must-buy before Christmas, I think. You can get the record from Rough Trade or by emailing John and WIAIWYA, who are releasing the ep.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Interview with Souvenir

I've rambled on about Souvenir on here before, and so after Ed at Sheflife sent me the couple of records he put out by the band, and after I'd listened to them to death, I thought I'd get in touch with Jaime and ask him a few questions.

I sort of lost contact with the band after the records you put out on Shelflife in the early 00s. Were you happy with those records, and what happened after them?

We were really happy with them, and the fact that they were licensed in the US by Shelflife and in Japan by Tone Vendor made us really proud! We had formed the band in 1999 and it felt great to have our songs heard abroad, and to be asked to take part in compilations like the Marina Records tribute to Brian Wilson (Caroline Now!) alongside bands such Saint Etienne, Alex Chilton, members of Teenage Fanclub and Belle And Sebastian… The original idea was to do French Pop songs in a contemporary context but with the spirit of the 60s. Then we started integrating other influences, the sound of bands such as The Go-Betweens or The Pale Fountains, and things like surf music…. Anything that we liked at that moment, really.

You sound seems to have changed a lot over the years - why is this?

It’s part of that impulse for integrating new elements all the time… we get bored easily, so after a couple of records we started dropping the yé-yé elements and looking more at other types of music we loved. So our third and fourth records (Recto/Verso, 2003, and Des équilibres, 2005) had elements of indie pop, electronica, 80s, country music… In 2007 came the biggest change, though. We had grown a bit tired of being tagged as ‘melancholic pop’ and we needed to do something totally different. So in 64 (2007) we embraced electronica and techno pop. In this year’s record (Drums, Sex and Dance) we’ve kept on that path because we feel really comfortable with what we’re doing now.
Are you big popstars in Spain?

Ha, ha, well… not really. I wish we were! We’re an indie band, and one that sings in French too… down here most of the indie bands sing in Spanish or English, so we’re a bit like freaks in a way. That said, I have to say that we’re really happy about our situation in the current alternative scene… we’ve got great reviews in the media for all our records, our songs are played very often in Radio 3 (the only Spanish radio station which plays independent records) and we feel really appreciated. Our label takes care of us, we’re playing love more than ever, we get to do nice videos… we’re happy. But we’d love to be more popular abroad, because we think that what we do could be appreciated in other countries.

I love the video to 'Monkey See Monkey Do'. What's the story behind that?

Well, this guy who directs videos and films contacted us to try and work with us. We met in Barcelona and he came with this huge notebook full of crazy ideas for a video. We discussed all the options and we went for that idea, a weird late night story about a boy and a girl monkeying around… The filming was done one hot night in August in Barcelona and we had a great time with all the crew and some friends who came to take part as extras… the video is a bit unusual, but we really wanted to do something different after a couple of videos (Allô, allô and Ta Machine) which were ‘nicer’. We wanted something a bit rougher.

Tell me about your new album - are you happy with it?

We’re really happy. It’s the first record we’ve made entirely in our studio, so our vision hasn’t been biased by having to use a producer and someone else’s studio. For better or worse, it sounds exactly as we wanted - and it’s taken us 10 years to get there! The sound is less polished than in 64, the beats are heavier but there’s still room for melody. These are the songs that work better with the audience when we play live.

As far as I'm aware, you've never played in the UK. Would you like to?

No, you’re right, we haven’t. We’d love to!

Who are you current musical heroes?

Vince Clark, Lux Interior, Ellie Greenwich, Bat For Lashes, Radio Futura, Duane Eddy, Suicide, Brigitte Bardot…

Is the band your full-time job, or do you have a dull proper job like the rest of us?

We have dull proper jobs, yes… nursing and teaching pay the bills! But we love our jobs, though. Plus they guarantee a certain artistic freedom – we make records because we want to, not just because we have a band we depend on to make a living.

And what's next for you?

We’ve sort of finished the 2009 leg of our tour. We’re hoping to have more gigs in 2010. We’d definitely love to be able to play live abroad. In any case, in 2010 we’ll start working in new songs for a forthcoming album and keep playing with our other bands too. So no room for boredom really!

Monday, 2 November 2009

Indiepop killed the video star

To my mind there should be more indiepop videos. I remember watching a great video called 'Carry on Disarming' that NME put together in aid of CND, that had amongst other ace clips, the video to The Bachelor Pad's 'Country Pancake'. It was something of an epiphany after being subjected to a diet Curiousity Killed the Cat videos coming out of the telly, and it made me think more indiepop bands should make videos.

Here's the Bachelor Pad video.

Of course these days, just about anyone can get their video seen what with that there YouTube and the rest, but not many bands either have the time or the money or the inclination to make something fun.

Tender Trap have, though, for their download-only single 'Fireworks', and whilst it might be slightly more high-tech than the Bachelor Pad effort up there, it's no less disarming. So, more indiepop videos, please!

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Afternoon Naps interview

If you didn't already know by now, then The Afternoon Naps album 'Parade' is probably the finest record released this year. You can buy it now at the Happy Happy Birthday to Me records website.

Here's a little interview I did with Tom. Is that an appearance at next year's Indietracks he's hinting at?

How happy are you with Parade? I think it's probably the best album made this year.

I am very pleased with how it turned out. It took a while to finish and was a lot of work in some parts, but the end result i feel is a good representation of us.

What's the difference between your first record and 'Parade'?

The biggest difference is the sound quality. Sunbeamed was recorded in a basement with semi-decent equipment compared to what 'Parade' was done on. It was produced by the same guy, and he has a great ear for getting good sounds no matter what he's using. Stylistically weve grown a lot since then. We were only a band for 3-4 months when we made the first record. With Parade, we constructed an LP over a years time, plus the arranging had gotter better. This time around, we wrote and arranged in the studio and really took our time.

What's the scene like in Cleveland? Who are you favourite local bands?

Its a pretty fun scene here. Kinda random. Lots of good bands doing their own thing. Not a lot of indiepop bands like us. As Clevelanders I think alot of us have an Us vs The rest of the World mentality... ha!

Do you think you'd be more famous if you were from Brooklyn?

Hmmm... maybe that's a "the grass is always greener" sorta thing. I think living seperate from such a massive scene of music, like that one, was good for us in a way 'cos it allows us to develop on our own. Brooklyn/NYC is such a big crazy place that I'm sure lots of great bands probably get lost in the shuffle there. But on the other hand the opportunities there are big, too.

Will you come and play in the UK, please?

I would love to come play the UK. That is in the works actually. Hopefully we can make it happen next summer. I'm pretty sure it will so look out!

Tell me a secret about the band that no-one knows.

Here's a few: Two of us are massive sports fans... two of us work in hair salons... one of us collects pez dispensers... Leia puts on puppet shows for her solo project... and Orange Paw is named for my cat, who has one orange leg.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Killing the bland

I was in Fopp earlier today, killing some time. Is there anywhere on earth less soulless to buy music from? Casting your eyes across the £3 Kasabian, Black Crowes and (gulp) Morrissey albums is like looking at the frozen chicken section in the supermarket. Here are all these records that were probably cherished by someone on their release, now piled high and available for less than a city centre pint. It makes me feel a bit dirty looking at them.

Was it always this way? I don’t remember it being so, I don’t think. Even the cover art on most of the pile ‘em high albums in Fopp is a slightly different shade than the original release. It’s like those Smiths t-shirts they sell these days with the day-glo green on the Meat is Murder cover.

Where I’m going with this is fairly well-trodden territory, of course. The albums in Fopp are generally considered by the twatterati as “classic”. And as anyone who reads the Guardian music pages will know, you simply have to have these albums in your collection, whether you like them (or even play them) or not. You have to. It’s the law.

This makes me a little sad for a number of reasons. Mainly because Fopp – one of the few remaining high street record shops – takes up square foot after square foot of shovelling out shit for next to nothing. They could be using that space to push new music. Whatever you think about the Pains of Being Pure at Heart (and the jury is very much not that fussed around these parts), I’d rather see rows and rows of their album ready to be bought than frigging ‘Harvest’ by Neil Young. Fucking Neil Young…

Time was, of course, when you could wander into any record shop and have a good look through the vinyl to find what you were after, and bugger me, tucked away in the back corner of Fopp in Nottingham was the new Pains of Being Pure at Heart single. Well done, Fortuna Pop, I suppose. Never mind that it was right next to the posters of Jesus smoking a spliff. Well, the students are back in town.

Fopp, of course, has nothing on HMV, which gave up pretending to be interested in music and has turned its biggest Nottingham store upside down. Now you walk into a fucking HUGE wall of ‘buy three DVDs for £15’ banality. If you’ve never seen Napoleon Dynamite, you will this Christmas. Tucked away downstairs are some cds, if you remember them? You don’t? Oh, well.

Oh, yeah, and you can buy lots of games for something called an ‘X Box’ in HMV. It’s like some kind of tarted up cash and carry, really.

There were rumours a while back that someone had bought the name and premises of Selectadisc in Nottingham, and were planning to reopen it. A sign went up in the window to that effect. That sign’s gone now, and it’s been replaced by some agent’s boards which scream ‘TO LET’ at every passer-by of this once great haven for the music lover.

When Selectadisc went a little bit of my history went with it. When I first moved to Nottingham from Grimsby, I’d hardly ever seen a double decker bus, never mind a chop so chock full of records that you only ever read about every Thursday. It was thrilling and terrifying at the same time. I can ‘t say I ever feel thrilled about going into Fopp or HMV. Terrified, maybe…

For the record I bought ‘George Best’ by The Wedding Present from Fopp today. My vinyl copy has worn out. A bargain at £3.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Go get organised

At the risk of sounding organised, we now have a running order and stage times for the 2nd annual Nottingham indiepop all-dayer.

Naturally this will all go horribly awry and the panic will set in at around 4.35pm when I run to the front of the stage and make the throat-slitting sign at whoever is unfortunate to be playing at the time, but here goes:

10.00pm - The School
9.00pm - Just Joans
8.00pm - Mascot Fight
7.15pm - Red Shoe Diaries
6.15pm - Tender Trap
5.20pm - Standard Fare
4.30pm - The Rocky Nest
4.00pm - Elizabeth Allo Darlin'
3.30pm - Of Mice and Mental Arithmetic

Doors aare at 3pm, and all we ask of you is to get there early so not to avoid disappointment. And before we run out of change on the door. That lying, cheating Facebook is saying that over 100 people are turning up, and in hindsight selling tickets might have been the order of the day. But we like flying by the seat of pants and pushing the envelope with our shirts off. Going forward.

Only three weeks to go!

Friday, 23 October 2009


Thanks to Kris at Heaven is Above Your Head for bringing Youngfuck to my attention. Despite the, erm, strange name this band from Gothenburg make the sweetest, most melancholy sounds you'll hear this year. They have songs that you feel like you've known them for years; songs that can express more emotion in one verse than most bands struggle to do in their entire existence.

If they ever come to the UK, I might just smother them in love.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Hope not hate

It's kind of ironic that Grimsby sacked Mike Newell after a defeat to Rochdale, because although supporting Rochdale must be like stuck in some kind of footballing Groundhog Day year on year, supporting Town is never, ever dull.

Sure, you might be infuriated or depressed with the Club most of the time, but when stories like this appear, a small smile crosses your lips, and you realise that you really shouldn't be suprised if this actually happens. If your manager can throw some tea cups at you best player during a half time team talk, then simple things like employing the first female manager in the Football League are bound to happen.

Well, sadly, it won't of course. But it's brightened the afternoon up.

In the meantime, have a listen to The Blanche Hudson Weekend, which is an offshoot of Manhattan Love Suicides. I never really understood MLS, but this is ace.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Pocketbooks step into the sunshine

There are some bands that you follow who you couldn't really care less about on a personal level. And then there are bands like Pocketbooks, made up of people so life-enhacingly charming, gracious, witty, self-effacing and just downright perfect who you care deeply about for one reason or another. Or all of the reasons above. And it's nice when other people see what you see in them. Which is why it's such wonderful news that Pocketbooks have managed to snag a support slot with God Help The Girl at the 100 Club in London on Saturday 21 November.

Now, whilst this blog may think that GHTG is a load of self-indulgent toss by a few people well past the peak of their powers, the fact that Pocketbooks will get the chance to play in front of so many people really brightens up a damp Tuesday afternoon. Especially after they've spent the last couple of years tramping around the provinces playing to people who wouldn't know a great pop song if it came up and French kissed their cat.

So, you see, sometimes good things happen to good people.

You can buy tickets to see Pocketbooks at the 100 Club here. They'll be on sale in, ooh, about four minutes.

Here endeth the lesson.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Lardpony beached

Downstairs at Cabaret, Nottingham, on a screaming hot summer day in June 2005 and Lardpony take to the stage, supporting Milky Wimpshake and Mirah. Later, Vanessa would get so drunk that she'd fall off her stool during an extra-quiet Mirah moment, and about 100 people would turn around and gawp at her, as she struggled not to show everyone her pants. But now it was time for Lardpony.

I can't remember where I first came across Lardpony, but I think it was some time during 2004, when I heard the majestic 'I'm in Love With a Noxious Gas'. I'd seen them live a few times, and they'd never really managed to recreate the effervescent sound they got in the studio. Until that gig supporting Mirah, when - for me - it all started to make sense.

That day Lardpony very nearly managed to blow Milky Wimpshake away, which is something not many bands can do. Tom, beardless for once, managed to fight the shyness and sing his heart out; Pod and Nathan were tighter than a gnat's nether regions, and at last - at last! - you could hear Mandy's keys.

Thus began a run of putting Lardpony on whenever I could, simply because they made me smile, and they had fantastic songs. It was a run that ended earlier this year, when they decided to call it a day because of people growing up and having kids, and the general pressures of life when you have to worry about more than where your next pair of jeans is coming from.

Perversely, Lardpony exited stage left in peculiar circumstances at the horrendous Bodega Social in Nottingham. Mandy's keyboard wouldn't work, and they played their final gig as a three piece. Of course they were still brilliant But after seeing the band over a dozen times over the last seven years, it was a weird way to end, and singer Tom seemed genuinely upset by everything. Well, of course he was.

Things carry on, of course, and Nathan is slapping his bass in a macho fashion in The Making Of, who feature members of Mascot Fight amongst them, and Kristian releases stuff as Waar. Tom continues to make music on his own as Vom Vorton, and as part of the Deirdres/Lardpony supergroup, Of Mice and Mental Arithmetic, who, not surprisingly, sound like The Deirdres covering Lardpony songs. Such a precious thought.
Anyway, the reason for this belated obituary is to tell you that Lardpony have made their final load of songs available for free, under the title of Seaside in Painless. You can download it here.

They've obviously never been to Mablethorpe.
Listen to 'I'm in Love With a Noxious Gas' and weep with pleasure.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Something to look forward to

It's Friday afternoon and I'm pooped. This week has been murder; all late work events and early morning train rides to the arse end of nowhere. And Manchester. And I don't have a bath soon, I reckon someone will call environmental health. It sort of makes you long for somethig to look forward to.

Something like this...

The Just Joans (Glasgow)
Bitter and twisted lovesongs about exes and Coia that will change your life.

Stars of Aviation (London/Brighton)
Playfulness and trumpets and all manner of things that are good about the world

The Rocky Nest (Hull)
Are they minimal? Are they orchestral? Are they bonkers? Oh, they are beautiful.

Friday 13 November
Downstairs at the Betsey Trotwood, 56 Farringdon Road, EC1 (here's map)
Doors at 8pm - first band on stage at half eight
Tickets are £5 in advance from

For some reason half the tickets have already gone, so please don't wait too long to buy one if you haven't already - the Betsey is only tiny.

Isn't that a beautiful flyer? Nobody does it better than Spiral Scratch. This is the same weekend as our all-dayer, and what better way than start the weekend off, eh? Right, I'm off to hose myself down in the back yard.