Thursday 31 December 2009
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' 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
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
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
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...
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
... 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
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.
Monday 7 December 2009
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
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' last.fm page.