Tuesday, 30 March 2010

The Soft City

I always find it very odd when someone from a band you've really loved emails me to ask whether I'll havea listen to their new band or songs. Dur, of course I will. Espeically when you used to be in Comet Gain and Kicker.

The Soft City are the solo project of Phil Sutton, formerly of those two cherished band. Sutton, with the help of various friends, recorded a three-track EP, The Soft City, released by Cloudberry Records, in 2007. After moving to New York in 2008, Sutton recruited Dora Lubin (vocals) and Jason Corace (A Boy Named Thor) (guitars) to make The Soft City a band.

Kyle Forester (Ladybug Transistor, Crystal Stilts) joined the three-piece in the studio in 2009 to help them record their self-titled debut LP, engineered and produced by Ladybug’s Gary Olson, with the assistance of the group. Turner Stough (The Isles, Bel Air) joined on bass later that year.

Here's an album that might just make you want to go out this weekend and spend it in the park eating a picnic and drinking booze and playing football very badly. And if you're missing any new Pocketbooks stuff, then it fills that particular heart-shaped hole.

Download '15 Years' here.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Spring forward

As the clocks go forward to British Summer Time, so comes a charming new demo from the new Annemarie album.

The band emailed and said: "We've been making some changes on the musical arrangement, like, now we're adding some classical melody, latin, and some jazz feel to our songs. Important note to add here is that, even with all these changes Annemarie is still holding tight to its roots with jangly guitar. We're still offering catchy and enjoyable songs, like many people called it, the 'sunshine pop' or 'bubblegum pop', which sounds a lot like music from a children's movie or a music for-a-summer-picnic-trip."

Couldn't have put it better myself.

Download 'Spring Bus' here.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Quiet grrrls

There's not one, but two ace new indiepop videos turned up today.

First up is The School's 'Is He Really Coming Home'. Nice dress, Liz.

Then there's 'Allo Darlin''s 'Dreaming', a song so flippin' catchy that I was singing it in my head through a ninety minute meeting at work the other day. It was about the only thing that got me through. Also, this video makes me want to live in a big doughnut in London.

Both of these clips remind me why I love pop music so much.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Indietracks apogee

I think this has been waiting for at least two years to happen, whatever you think about the band...


The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart will headline this year’s Indietracks Festival.

The festival, which takes place on 23-25 July 2010, is held in the grounds of a picturesque 1950s steam railway in Derbyshire Weekend tickets are now available at an early bird discount price of £55, and day tickets are available for £30. This price is available until Friday 7 May. After this date, weekend tickets will be £60 and day tickets £32.50.

Since forming in early 2007, The Pains of Being Pure At Heart have become one of the most talked about pop bands in years. The New York band’s eponymous 2009 album is an instant classic, packed with brilliantly-executed pop gems that blend the rush of youthful enthusiasm with crafty arrangements, well-honed tunes and buckets of guitar noise.

A host of publications listed their album as one of the best of last year, including NME, Pitchfork and Rough Trade.
Also appearing at the festival, which is held at the Midland Railway in Ripley, Derbyshire, will be John Peel favourites Ballboy, UK chart-toppers White Town, and this year’s two new indiepop sensations Standard Fare and Allo Darlin’.

Over 50 indiepop bands from across the globe will be playing across four stages: the outdoor stage; the indoor stage, the church and on the steam trains themselves.

The festival will also host a range of craft workshops and a selection of discos after the bands finish. Festival goers can have unlimited rides on the steam railway over the weekend, as well as full access to other railway attractions including a farm and museum.

Previous headliners at Indietracks have included Teenage Fanclub, Camera Obscura, Los Campesinos, The Wedding Present, Au Revoir Simone and Art Brut. In 2009, La Casa Azul won a UK Festival Award for their Saturday night headline slot, seeing off competition from The Specials, Pet Shop Boys, ZZ Top and The Prodigy!

Tickets are available by by visiting www.instantticketseller.com/midlandrailwaycentre

Monday, 22 March 2010

Tiger Tape are not Tiger Trap

Tiger Tape used to be Moofish Catfish - a band whose name was so awful that it stopped me putting them on early last year, even though I really quite like their music.

Thanks heavens, then, that they've changed their name to Tiger Tape. Now, that might be utterly confusing and you might spend the entire day thinking you're listening to Tiger Trap (like I've done today), but even the daftest apron and bunting fanatic would agree that's it's a vast improvement.

This last autumn the Cosy Recordings crew received an email from Agnes Brynge, a quarter of its - at present - most successful act. Cosy had released a six track EP and a nine track CD-R with Moofish Catfish and the band had played festivals in Hultsfred and Emmaboda, Stockholm Pride, Pop Dakar… and a successful British ten date tour.

Mattias from Cosy Den says: "In September a 'real' album was beginning to take shape, and we would, of course, still be somehow involved - even now when it was no longer about CD-r. That’s when we received this:

from moofishcatfish@gmail.com

to cosyrecordings@gmail.com

date 21 September 2009 10.46am

subject Moofish Catfish R.I.P?

Well. We have been thinking and after a lot of discussions back and forth come to the conclusion that Moofish Catfish is (probably) changing names. It may sound as a crazy project. But I’m feeling fed up with the MC concept – it’ll take a slightly new direction now, although you obviously see clear connections to what has been. Like suicide and starting from scratch again really. But perhaps even necessary if I’m not going to end up alienated from the whole thing. We’re taking a break from gigs and will work strenuously to get the new (fantastic) songs ready and release a record in the Spring as planned. It’ll be a bit as if we’d quit, but still not. The same line up, and the music really isn’t radically different. Would you still be interested in the co-release?

Agnes xx

Mattias wasn't happy. But he should be, because the result is an album that hints at the energy and youthful fizz of the Standard Fare album, whilst retaining a slight off-kilter pop charm that makes you think: "Ooh, I wasn't expecting that." And I dn't really get more animated than that these days.

The Tiger Tape album is called 'I Woke up in Hökarängen' and it's a joint release from Cosy and Lo and Behold Recordings. It's really pretty wonderful in that it can tear you up and then take you soaring off onto a different planet, before dropping you back down again like a sack of spuds. All this happened today whilst I was trying to write a feature at work about the forthcoming Budget. It made it a bit tricky.

Download 'Is it Me or is it Everyone Else' here.


Sunday, 21 March 2010

When Hari met Aino

Ah, Sunday morning. Which means roaming around in my pants until the little hand is nearly at twelve, basking in a rare, yet ultimately futile, win for Grimsby Town yesterday. And perhaps making my six month old try his Town strip on for the first time.

This Sunday morning has also brough with it a new single from Hari and Aino, called 'All That Remains', which is sort of perfect for today in a happy, carefree, way that reminds me a little of Would-be-Goods poppermost moments.

Here's the smashing video for it.

The ep is avaiable in a crazily-limited run of just 50 copies from Edition 59, or you can download the ep at Bandcamp via the band's homepage.

Do your worst.

Friday, 19 March 2010

When space invaders were big

If, like me, you still mourn for the passing of 90s gripepop heroes Prolapse, then here's something that might brighten your spirits. Trev from Oddbox Records is putting together an album of their songs played by modern-day pop stars. A tribute album, if you must - but then I hate that term.

Anyway, bands already one hundred per cent interested and/or committed to the project, honest guv, are MJ Hibbett and the Validators, Magoo, The Wednesday Club, The Mai 68s, Leaf Library and The Humms, which is a pretty good start, but it's not enough. Your country needs you to take part, and it doesn't matter if you don't have a Scottish accent or a tiny, pretty woman in your band. No, a love of Prolapse is all you need, as the Beatles once said.

For those not au fait with Prolapse: 1. Why not? 2. Don't eat your tea whilst you're googling their name. And, don't, whatever you do, click on the 'images' tab.

Get in touch with Odd Box if you'd like to take part, won't you? Or email me and I'll pass your offer to cover 'Surreal Madrid' on to Trev, if you like.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Standard Fare, live in New York

Hey, hey, hey! Live at New York's Cake Shop a few days go, on their first US tour. We might have heard this song a million times before, but doesn't stop me wishing against everything that I was there.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Interview with Stuart from Indietracks

Those of you who haven't seen the line-up for Indietracks yet would do well to have a look. It's the best line-up of any festival ever.

I'm led to believe that the Indietracks team is in the process of confirming headliners AS WE SPEAK, so I thought I'd try and wangle some information out of Stuart, who put the first Indietracks event together back in 2007. I failed, of course, but here's what he had to say.

Does putting the festival together get easier as each year passes?

Not normally as as we've developed and grown there's always been new things to deal with. But this time as we're sticking pretty much with what we had last year, just different bands to arrange.

When do you start contacting bands?

The Specific Heats were offered a return slot a few minutes after they left the stage last year, so that'd probably be the first. I would randomly bump into bands during the year and offer them slots, then forget about it till they remind us when all the slots have been filled. I'm Mr Disorganised.

Is the railway still enthusiastic for the festival each year?

It's still the highlight of their year. Probably as it's not a train-based event (for them) and everyone is so nice.

Has the festival reached a tipping point regarding attendance now, do you think? Or do you want to get steadily bigger?

The railway felt that 2009 was big enough for them. I'd like to drop the bigger names with the associated hassles of dealing with booking agents so we'll probably shrink keeping the core indiepop crowd, although not everyone in team indietracks shares the same view. They're getting their way this year.

How do you choose which bands will play?

There's no easy answer to that, there's so many different threads that all come together and are dealt with in different ways - bands that we've seen or heard we like, bands that approach us, overseas touring bands and the headliners. The rest of the team (I wasn't involved in band picking this year) got together in January and drafted a schedule and start confirming slots with the bands.

Why did you drop the Christmas gigs?

Getting people to Derbyshire in December for a three band show wasn't working, numbers were falling to the stage it wouldn't work (it was probably a revolt against us using the tw** word!)

What's been your favourite Indietracks moment of the last four years?

Probably getting to go home at the end of each weekend.

Who would be your dream headliners for the three nights, if money was no object?

Pocketbooks, The Smittens, and Ballboy continually playing Day In Space for the whole weekend.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Pale Sunday: dream fulfilled

I've long admired Brazilian indiepop band Pale Sunday, who, you might remember, released their last single on Matinee just after Christmas after a hiatus that was seriously worrying for fans of the band.

Well, this afternoon, they were announced as playing Indietracks, along with Burning Hearts, The Hillfields (yes!), La La Love You, Internet Forever, Stars In Coma, Springfactory and Urbantramper.

I couldn't be more excited about seeing Pale Sunday - a band I thought, because of geography, I'd never ever get to see.

Back in the mists of time, just after they contributed a track to Matinee's Smiths tribute album, 'Romantic and Square is Hip and Aware', I interviewed the band. They said it was their dream to play in Europe. Mine too. Both will be realised come July.

Here's that interview in full.

Of all the newer bands on Matinee, Pale Sunday are probably the greatest. Their debut ep on the label, ‘A Weekend With Jane’, was rightly hailed as one of last year’s best releases. Here tasty has a quick chat with Sineval about how it is to sing in Portuguese and not be gay…

Do you think that you're completely different to other Brazilian bands, or is there a large indie pop movement over there?

I don’t believe that we are so different to the other Brazilian bands, there’s a lot of wonderful bands here in Brazil (not a specific scene) recording their songs, releasing their own cds. and making people like me very happy! Bands like Hey miss!; Luisa Mandou um Beijo; The Tamborines; Postal Blue, Wonkavision, Multisofa; Spengler tenglers; Magic Crayon; Superphones; etc. I believe, can put a smile in your face.

How did you come across Matinee Records?

In 2002, with a self release 'Everything starts when you smile' ep. We sent this record to Brazilian zines, e-zines, etc. They liked a lot, so I thought that could be a good idea to try some international label; we sent the cd to jimmy and to our great surprise he said he liked Pale Sunday and invited the band to belong to the Matinée Records cast!

How did you feel when 'A Weekend With Jane' was instantly hailed as a classic? Do you feel under any pressure with your next releases?

’A Weekend With Jane’ is very important to us. A "classic"? I don´t think so, but you can be sure, it´s a honest ep and we loved to do it! To all the positive reviews and all lovely e-mails sent to us, we need to say thank you!

You sing in English - on the songs I've heard anyway. Why is this?

Here in Brazil if you sing these kind of songs in Portuguese the majority will ask you: "Are you gay?" …hehehe. It’s true. People say this kind of words and song are too sensitive! We are not a rock and roll band.

Who are your big musical heroes?

I don’t have musical heroes but a lot of bands that make me feel proud to be alive. Some of them? The Smiths, my favourite band. The Field Mice, Nixon (from Sweden), Brighter, Camera Obscura, Hey Miss, Postal Blue, Les Ondes Martenot, The Diskettes.

How difficult is it to get noticed as a band in Brazil?

There’s no specific indie press here, just some zines. This is a problem, you could fill pages and pages with a lot of cool bands.

In my zine, pop friends and I write some articles about these bands. I´d love to run my own label.

How do you feel about the current turbulent political situation in Brazil? Did you vote for 'Lula' and what do you make of his reforms?

Brazil is a nice country to live, I don’t know what image people have of us in Europe. We have a lot of problems (political, social), but we have a lot of good stuff to show too. Our culture, our medical and scientific research, the beauty of a lot of wonderful places.

Unfortunately a lot of politicians derive great benefit from their own position. There’s a global interest in Amazon (this is our big problem). Not to protect the jungle, but to explore it. All the water, all the uranium, all the medical plant, all the gold, everything the world will need in the future . You can find there.
About Lula, the population believe him. I’m still waiting for the results. I’m tired of promises.

Have you any plans to come and play in Europe?

We’d love to play in Europe. In due course. Europe is a dream.

How difficult or easy was it recording your version of 'I Know It's Over'? (for the Matinee Smiths tribute album, 'Romantic and Square is Hip and Aware')

The difficult is the responsibility to work with a Smiths song. In a tribute album, you need to put something new in the song you’ve choose. Something like to say "Thank you!" We did the best we can. We love our indie-bossa nova version of I Know It’s Over’.

And finally, do you agree that you have the cutest website in the world?

Hahaha. We need to say thank you to a Brazilian fan, Rodrigo Maceira.He asked us "hey, you don´t have a site. Can I do it?" we said "yes" He did! We love it!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Love Dance

I picked Love Dance up from someone's Facebook feed a couple of days ago, and I've listened to little else ever since.

Not much is known (by me, at least) about this mysterious Norwegian band, who once used to go by the name of Try Happiness, but Marianthi tells me Love Dance had an album out in 2007 on Marsh Marigold called 'Results'. She also kindly sent me a copy.

I've just listened to it twice through, but it's a stunning record - all chiming guitars and swooping melodies. You know that feeling you get when you listen to a band, and you think: "Yes! If I had one iota of musical talent in me, I'd want to be in a band EXACTLY like this!" Well, this is how I feel about Love Dance. They should be superstars. Why aren't they superstars.

If anyone can tell me if they're still together, and what they're up to, then I'd be most grateful.

Meanwhile, have a listen to "Unsympathetic Ways".

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Hello, kitten

That there are bands out there as ace as Meow, Meow! - the band named after the drug for young, slightly enthusiastic people who wear loose fitting clothes - which have so far eluded my, admittedly limited, ear makes my heart sing. They're from Liverpool and they remind me loads of early Dressy Bessy, All Girl Summer Fun Band, and The Icicles. Indeed, they take me right back to when I first heard all three bands, which was right around the same time.

But that's irrelevant!

They now have a free download single, 'I Wonder What Went Wrong' available from WIAIWYA, backed with a cover of Go Sailor's 'Ray of Sunshine'.

Imagine your favourite summer band. Then double them. And book them to play in your town.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Filling out for the summer

I come back from a desperately poor night out in Leeds (is there any other kind?) to find that more bands have been announced for Indietracks. The full list so far is:

The Felt Tips
Chariots of Tuna
Winston Echo
Stars Of Aviation
The Give It Ups
Betty & The Werewolves
The Cannanes
This Many Boyfriends
Be Like Pablo
Standard Fare
The Smittens
MJ Hibbett & The Validators
Boy Genius
The Loves
Sunny Street
Allo Darlin
White Town
Just Joans

For me, that's already the best line-up in the four years Indietracks has been running, and if Stuart and Emma want to stop booking bands right now, then I'd be happy.

I bumped into Stuart at London Popfest a couple of weeks ago, and he put me in mind of a football scout, trawling the lower leagues for talent. I think I'd had too much to drink, mind...

Saturday, 6 March 2010

'Allo Darlin' - 'Allo Darlin' (Fortuna Pop!)

It was exactly this time last year that I first heard Pocketbooks' 'Flight Paths' album, a record so rammed full of potential singles, that it felt like a greatest hit set. One year on, and 'Allo Darlin' have repeated the trick.

This debut album opens up with the double kiss on the lips of 'Dreaming' - a song which should be Fortuna Pop!'s next hit single - and 'The Polaroid Song', which was released late last year and didn't deserve to be lost on the Christmas rush. These two have been stuck in my head for weeks now, and it shows this band's confidence that they can whack out two of their best songs so early in the album.

Wonderfully, 'Heartbeat Chilli' from last year's now sold out 'Henry Rollins Don't Dance' ep is also included, and showcases Elizabeth's sunshines vocals perfectly.
Perhaps the most impressive track here is 'My Heart is a Drummer', which evokes 'We Love the City'-era Hefner and is genuinely SAD, and is perhaps the only time on the album where Elizabeth really lets her voice go on a song which is all about defiance. It's also got this amazing bouncy bassline that makes your legs go all bendy.

And that's followed up by 'What Will Be Will Be', a delightfully downbeat, autumnal love song which finishes this most fun of albums off on a slushy note. And I quite like that they've done that.

This album isn't out until June, but once you get it and the sun's out, you won't need much else. Apart from the Standard Fare record, of course...

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Keith Alexander: 1956-2010

Today's news that a proper Grimsby Town legend has died is awful. I've been asked to write a tribute to Keith for Cod Almighty, and I'll post that here when it's up there.

In the meantime, I'll just say that in age when players come and go at Blundell Park and you never know who is going to be in the squad from one game to another, someone like Keith Alexander seems a lifetime away. The fact that he played very much in the modern era, and has now gone is very sad indeed.

So thanks, Keith, for the best two seasons of football anyone could hope for.

The Loves - Sweet Sister Delia EP (Fortuna Pop!)

The title track of the new Loves ep is the best thing they've done since, ooh, probably their debut album all those years ago. It's got sass and makes me want to clap my hands either side of my head in a camp manner. But I don't want the window cleaner seeing me, so I best not.

Apparently, it's all about Delia Sparrow, ex of Mambo Taxi, The Action Time, Baby Birkin and Manic Cough (I don't remember this last lot, but I like the name). It's got a lovely organ part in it that drives it along and makes me want to wake up at work. And that, my friends, is as good a recommendation as any, especially on a sleepy Wednesday afternoon.

On the b-side, somewhat oddly is a track from 2001 called 'Low', which sort of meanders along a bit, and 'God Saves Our Souls', a bit of cod-blues fun which is credited to Simon Love and The Turkeys. No, me neither.

Oh, lovely cover art, too.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Breakfast isn't for wimps

I obviously don't know the power of my own written word, because since I moaned a while back about there not being enough indiepop videos around, there's been loads of ace ones knocking about. I am, I like to feel, all powerful.

The newest of these that have come to my attention is the dreamy and - and dare I say it - somewhat sexy "Graceless" by Crayon Fields.

Crayon Fields - Graceless from Geoff O'Connor on Vimeo.

Looks quite expensive that, doesn't it?

Perhaps the finest pop video I've seen is The Cure's 'Charlotte Sometimes' - purely for comedy value and the dramatic looks into the camera. However, this effort for Allo Darlin''s sublime 'Polaroid' comes a very close second. Better than that, it reminded me that 'Molly Ringwald!' can be substited for "fucking hell!" if you're in the company of a vicar, your mother-in-law, Morrissey, etc...

Monday, 1 March 2010

Pre-Popfest Tales

Getting lost around Green Park the pouring rain in a pair of ill-fitting plimmies doesn't seem to matter so much when you walk through the door of The Blue Posts, just off crappy Oxford Street, and see Ian and Pete from Horowitz in there - Ian manfully drinking through his hangover, and Pete gently sipping a delicate orange juice.

And then more friends and familiar faces turn up and the half hours and the pints slip by, and, after checking into the hotel, we walk to the 100 Club (yeah, we all did)and see Dave stood outside, and London Popfest is GO!

Wonderfully, they have Flowers on tap. Not-so-wonderfully it costs £3.80 a pint, but it doesn't really matter because Plouf! are up next, and toniee is very nervous indeed. Even his elaborate cardigan looks nervous. This is the first time the band have played together in four years (it seems longer than that to me) and, yeah, it shows. But once they get into their stride, Plouf! charm the pants off most of us in the room. They're funny and cute and not many of their songs make the one minute mark, so even those spoilsports who hate them can't really grumble.

Red Shoe Diaries and Standard Fare seem genuinely honoured to be here, and both are as ace as ever. There's a tiny Nottingham dance troupe at the front for RSD, which makes me smile. And although most of us have heard the Standard Fare set at least half a dozen times over the last year, it remains as electric and alive and exciting as ever.

And then Allo Darlin come on and floor me. I'm not sure if I've ever seen them as a full band, but if it works solo, then as a band it's something sublime. The songs ooze out of the PA and, for about half an hour I forget that I'm pissed beyond words on rancid lager (the Flowers having run out ages ago) and just float away. There are only a few times that music does this to me these days, and this is one of them.

By now, i'm properly knackered, having been up since 5.30am, but it'd be rude not to say and see Shrag. Why? Because they're thrilling live. Just watching Helen King stomp her way through their set keeps me awake for another thirty minutes.

We stumble out into the night, and into a Cornish pasty shop. My mate is a Plymouth fan, so he's well versed in all things West Country, and he gives the pasty 4/10. Just for your records.

I got to work this morning a bit disconsolate, only to find out that the first Indietracks bands have been announced. Feast your eyes...

Standard Fare
The Smittens
MJ Hibbett & The Validators
Boy Genius
The Loves
Sunny Street
Allo Darlin
White Town
Just Joans

Roll on July...