Friday 30 December 2011

Indiepop lookalikes #2

This suddenly occured to me this morning.

Marc Elston (Bulldozer Crash, Liberty Ship)

Mr Bloom from Mr Bloom's Nursery (second left)

Wednesday 28 December 2011

2011: Everything's going to be okay

The last twelve months have been everything I really shouldn't want from life as I approach forty; chaotic, dramatic, upsetting and sometimes really, really horrible. However, the end of the year saw things settling down a lot more, and, as I stopped being such a stupid bastard, I could begin to realise that the last 12 months have thrown up some of the best music of my life.

I'm picking ten albums here that have meant the most to me this year. They'll have had to have been released in 2011, but that's the only rule. Some, like the mighty self-titled Help Stamp Out Loneliness album I can barely listen to past track three because it evokes such self-loathing; whereas others like the Let's Whisper record bring back happier memories. Both, though, it has to be said, are amazing albums.

Here's my top ten of 2011, in chronological order.

1. Slow Down Tallahassee - Curly Cuh (Thee SPC)
A massive, big, fuck-off farewell of an album which saw me through some dark nights in January and February, and is home to 'Knees as Sweet as These' - possible the most affecting song I've heard this year. In January I said: "Some of the best days and nights of the last few years have been watching or listening to Slow Down Tallahassee. Sheffield is a poorer place without them, but with 'Curly Cuh' they've left a mighty, mighty epitaph."

2. The Andersen Tapes - As I Write 'Today' Ten Times (Fraction Discs)
A record almost too perfect thar you daren't listen to it. Back in January, I gushed: "At times this album can seem almost glossy, but you'd be fool to think so, 'cos at its heart is a beautiful mixture of all that's wonderful in indiepop today. You can hear Liechtenstein in there, parts of Crayon Fields, the odd nod towards Pocketbooks, and then you think "Oh! Maybe those bands took their inspiration from Amanda Aldervall". Only then you realise how important it is to have her back."

3. Comet Gain - Howl of the Lonely Crowd (Fortuna Pop!)
Their best album? Probably, and when Comet Gain's back catalogue includes 'Realistes', you'll understand how much this album means. In March I said: "Comet Gain offer us hope after all. These are songs about belief and hope as much as they are about the daily drudge. And that’s why this album is so special, really."

4. Let's Whisper -The Shorterst Days (WeePop!)
Just when you need a hefty dose of cheer, along come Let's Whisper with perhaps the most inventive record of 2011. "It’s easy to write off Let’s Whisper as a side-project of a band perhaps more feted by Those in the Know, but that would be to undervalue an album like this. It’s only March, but I’d bet by the end of the year I’ll come back to this and realise it has more depth, joy, happiness, and big pop moments than 99 per cent of the rest of albums released this year". In retrospect, I reckon that's right.

5. Help Stamp Out Loneliness - Help Stamp Out Loneliness (WIAIWYA/Papillon Noirs)
I think I've played this record more than any other since it landed through my door in April. It's the sound of a band sprinting at full velocity - a mesmering set of songs that I was lucky to see live four or five times over the summer and into the Autumn. I said in April: "When you get to your late thirties there aren’t many records that make you want to get up off your knees, stick some clothes on, and go out and find out what the city holds at night – but this one does."

6. Moustache of Insanity - Album of Death (Fika/Pull Yourself Together)
All good, clean, harmless fun from the indiepop superduo. As I sweated like a pig in July, I opined: "There, beneath the daft name and keraayyzee samples on this album, lies a beating pop heart - a pop heart we all need."

7. Prince Edward Island - This Day is a Good Enough Day (Crocfingers Records)
I've not really any idea how I first heard this, but I'm glad I did. Musically, it's all over the shop, but post-Indietracks it was all I was listening to. It inspired to be plumb the depths of satire, saying: "To say this album is ambitious would be like saying David Cameron is merely an annoying, shit-faced twat."

8. Pocketbooks - Carousel (Odd Box)
It seems daft to call such a fresh, vital band "veterans", but it seems Pocketbooks have been with us forever now, and thank heavens for that. This, their second album sounds almost like a soundtrack to a musical, and is the perfect accompaniment to late December nights, I've found recently. In September, I was going on about: "When Pocketbooks played some of these songs to open Indietracks it was a bit of emotional experience for some of us. That they manage to carry that feeling onto record is testament to how special they are, and this album is. Proof, if it were needed, that pop remains supreme."

9. Bart & Friends - Stories With the Endings Changed (Lost and Lonesome)
An album that seemed like a long, lost friend. Clocking in at somewhere around the twenty minute mark didn;t matter - Bart Cummings had done it again. I got all dreamy in September, saying: "Again the songs are short, but its hard to be this tender for longer than a couple of minutes without exploding with love. That's what I love most about it; the fact that Cummings packs so much feeling into a couple of minutes that you simply couldn't go on loving these songs for longer."

10. Standard Fare - Out of Sight, Out of Town (Thee SPC/Melodic)
If I'm really forced to choose, then this is my favourite album of the year, and a more whole set of songs you'd be hard pushed to hear. The memory of their perfect, joyous, sweaty performance at the Nottingham all-dayer in October will live with me forever. "I think they call that 'timeless,'" I said in October.

That's that, then. See you in the New Year.

Saturday 17 December 2011

Standard Fare interview

In another year of wonderful albums, Standard Fare's 'Out of Sight, Out of Town' nipped in at the end and stole the show. More confident than the raw naivety of the band's debut 'The Noyelle Beat', 'Out of Sight Out of Town' is my album of the year, and it should be yours.

I emailed Dan and Emma some questions, and by golly they answered them.

Tell me about how long the new album took to record? Was it longer than 'The Noyelle Beat'?

Emma: We recorded the new album in ten days in the studio but we did that over about 8 months. Some songs like 'Suitcase' and 'Call Me Up' we'd written while touring the first album and others such as 'Older Women' and 'Bad Temper' we wrote the week before the last couple of days in the studio.

Dan: We’d gigged a couple of the songs before we did the recording but most of them were still taking shape so it was pretty helpful having a bit more time. We recorded about 16 songs and picked out the 12 we liked the most, that did involve some bargaining of songs though; I see your ‘Older Women’ and raise you a ‘Suitcase’!

Did you find it easier to write the second set of songs than the first?

Emma: I don't really find writing songs hard or easy. I had a bit of fun writing ‘Crystal Palatial’ as it's more of a story song and I got to make stuff up a tiny bit. I wrote the lyrics to ‘Half Sister’ on a train, then when we were in the studio I started playing some chords and sang a melody for it while Dan was recording some of his guitar bits in the other room.

Dan: Yeah, it felt like a different way of writing, it felt a bit more creative having the main body of the songs ready but then figuring different things out whilst we were recording them. Like with ‘Half Sister’ I recorded the guitars when Emma and Andy went for lunch, and I played completely different parts to what I’d planned; I was quite relieved they liked them considering we’d aimed for it to be a disco song.

What - to you - is the main difference between the two albums?

Emma: This one's a bit more varied, a bit more loud, a bit more quiet, a bit more fast, a bit more slow. It was nice to put some violin and trumpet on there. The subjects are a bit more varied as well I have less of a bone to grind with this one. There were other things I wanted to sing about.

What's 'Crystal Palatial' all about? I love that song, but is it a true story?

Emma: Ha! It's a true story in the sense that it's based on getting together with someone and the events happened I just used some artistic license and set it 150 years ago at the world’s first Crystal Palace built for the Great Exhibition. I have been informed it's all horrifically inaccurate; it was a shilling day not a penny day and apparently it would have been difficult to buy a latte in Victorian London too. We played ‘Crystal Palatial’ in Leicester recently and the girl on the merch desk had clearly been trying to work out what I was singing for the chorus she'd written down something to do with fellatio!

Is 'Darth Vader' the next single? Why? What's it all about?

Emma: We chose it as the lead single but only in the sense it was the first track you could download and I wanted it to have a chance at being played on the radio. We thought it was a bit of a different sound for us and I'd had some fun making a video for it. It's a plea but also a bit of a dressing down for someone to stop feeling needy when there's really no need. Funnily enough it's been the one song that people think was written about themselves. Maybe most people aren't as needy as they think they are?!!

When you played our all-dayer in October you couldn't play some of the songs from the album. Is this always going to be the case?

Emma: That all dayer was ace by the way. A fantastic event.

Dan: Yeah that was an incredible gig, everyone was so overwhelmingly up for it! We just figured that some songs need a few listens before you can get into them, so rather than quieten things down we tried to make it flow better by playing just a couple of new ones mixed with some of the ones we thought people might know.

Emma: We're hoping to play a bunch off the new album at all future gigs, although we might not be able to always have the violin and trumpet bits live! And we will take requests, especially from you Sam!

Everyone says to me you should be huge. Would you all do the band full time if you could? Is that a really stupid question?

Emma: Right well that's nice of them! Difficult question. I know I would, but I can’t speak for Dan and Andy, and thankfully we've not had to cross that bridge and I doubt we will have to.

Dan: Haha, yeah and I can give them the hundred reasons why we’re not! I’d play all day if I could, but I don’t think we’re under any illusions.

What about the next set of songs? Got some ideas already?

Emma: I think Dan and I will always write songs. I've been thinking more about family since I wrote Half Sister and Suitcase and have a couple of other songs in that vein which I’m working on at the moment.

Dan: We had a day recording at Greenmount Studios in Leeds about a month ago, and we wrote a new song for that which came out quite nice, it sounded a bit grunge, so we are still writing things.

If your band ended tomorrow, what would be your most treasured memory of being in Standard Fare?

Emma: Oh wow so many! I think the times we've really managed to enjoy the moment together, like playing Latitude Festival or Athens Popfest or Indietracks or any of the real buzzing full gigs that were unexpected. Nottingham Pop Fest was a recent highlight. The feeling when we had a new song in the practice room and played it ten times in a row because it felt so good which has happened a load. Turning up at Maida Vale studios was exciting. Dan and I meeting in London to be interviewed by Steve Lamacq and then a few months later ending up in a taxi with him randomly. I really should write them all down or I'll forget half the things we did.

Dan: Ooh yeeh, there’s too many! One that comes to mind for me was when we played at a pop festival in France about three years ago and it was huge deal to us as it was our first trip away, we got to play on this massive stage. We were really buzzing after the gig and I remember us all drinking way too much and dancing like crazy!

Tuesday 13 December 2011

By way of a catch-up

A hectic work schedule combined with moving house has meant very little action around these parts. How have you, like, coped?

There's lot to catch up on, but let me start at the beginning with the excellent Kids, a five piece from San Diego who I wrote about a while back. The band have released a split EP with their pals Sledding With Tigers, and it's a right refreshing slab of messy pop.

Veering somewhere between Architecture in Helsinki's best moments and - wait for it - Scarce, Kids are a shot in the arm during such troubled times and the three new songs here seem a real step forward from the stuff I heard earlier in the year.

You can listen to the whole thing here, and then buy it, natch.

Meanwhile, everyone's (well, okay, a lot of people's) favourite pop picks Allo Darlin' have announced that their new album, 'Europe' will be out in May, and if we're all still alive by then, then there's no doubt it'll give the band the step up they deserve. There's a single out too on February 12th called 'Capricornia'. Both are out on good old Fortuna Pop!

Here's a video of 'Tallulah', which you'll have no doubt heard if you've not been living under a rock and not seen Allo Darlin' over the last year or so.

Allo Darlin' - Tallulah from Will Botting on Vimeo.

I'll back sometime soon with some amazing gig news for March.

Sunday 20 November 2011

O come all ye faithful (to see five ace bands)

My good comrade Andy Hart of a fog of ideas has done a most festive flyer for our upcoming Christmas gig (details on the right there).

If the John Lewis advert featuring a slightly misguided Smiths cover doesn't whet your appetite for eating your body weight in meat and chocolate, whilst drinking stuff that would never normally pass your beautiful lips for the rest of the year, then we hope this flyer will.

Oh, and see you at the gig, natch.

Saturday 19 November 2011

Matinee goes Swedish

Matinee Records have dipped their toes in the ever fertile Swedish pop pool again, and are set to release the new Azure Blue album, 'Rule of Thirds'.

Azure Blue, as I'm sure you're aware, is the solo project from Tomas Isaksson, ex- of Labrador bands Laurel Music and Irene.

Matinee have been good enough to release one song from the album, called 'Catcher in the Rye' - a kind of melancholic synthpop whisper, which brings to mind a downbeat Fosca, and that's no bad thing, now is it.

I'm presuming these two tracks are going to be singles, as there are videos for them, but who knows? Whatever, they're both pretty ace.

Azure Blue - The Catcher in the Rye from Jonas Börjesson on Vimeo.

Azure Blue - Little Confusions from Jonas Börjesson on Vimeo.

You can buy the album, which is out on January, on the ever-ace Matinee website. Treat yourself to an early Christmas present.

Monday 14 November 2011

Kissing Orca Team on the face

Just when I thought I could relax and spend the rest of the year listening to old records again, along comes Orca Team's 'Kissing Cousins' ep to keep me on my toes.

Don't even listen to anyone who mentions The bloody B*ach Boys in the same sentence as Orca Team - for they are talking massive amounts of nonsense. Oraca Team make dark surf pop, and 'Kissing Cousins' is a 21st Century death disc masterpiece.

Orca Team have clearly been brought up on a deeply healthy diet of John Waters films and obscure '60s surf bands. The singer sounds like a young Ian McCullloch in parts, and all of these things thrown together over eight bursts of woozy pop perfection makes for one of the records of this year, last year - of any year.

I'm still too wrapped up in this record to offer an kind of reasoned critique of why it's completely essential, suffice to say that it just is.

Also, if this isn't the coolest thing you've ever seen, then you have kitten piss for blood.

This is a band that clearly likes its shorts, and I'm totally cool with that.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Colour Me Wednesday

Colour Me Wednesday are from Uxbridge, and if I've heard a better new band this year then I've been lying to myself.

Colour Me Wednesday are (probably) frighteningly young, but then that means they make the sort of cocksure pop music that makes me shiver a bit.

I know next to zero about this band, other than to thank the anorak forum for making me aware of them. I want them to come and play in Nottingham pretty much every night of the week for the rest of the year.

Everything about this song - from the title right down to the toy drums is perfect. I demand you play it around 20-25 times in a row.

If, by some miracle, the band read this - then please get in touch sharpish. I'm deeply EXCITED.

Friday 4 November 2011

It's that time of next year again...

Traditions are sometimes a wonderful thing to stick to, and so at the arse end of February I like to meet up with my mate Rob in some overpriced pub in London, get drunk and head to the Saturday and Sunday of London Popfest.

There have been five bands announced so far, and I love all of them. Allo Darlin' will headline the Saturday all-dayer at the 100 Club - a legendary venue (legendary for its extortionate beer prices), whilst the amazing Tunabunny and spunky Tigercats are also playing. One Happy Island are coming over too, whilst pop terrorists Shrag will headline the Friday show.

The whole thing runs from Thursday through to Sunday, and you can buy tickets here. For now, here's the latest video from Tunabunny. I've spent the past week listening to the band's new album, and told HHBTM Records chief Mike Turner that it's a real "grower". Apparently that means something rude in America. Trust them!

Friday 28 October 2011

Tomorrow's news today: Indietracks 2012

My word, those lads and lasses who arrange Indietracks are on the ball. Spurred on by wild, salacious internet rumours that this year's event would be the last, they've only gone an announced next year's Olympic-busting dates. The world's best music festival will be held from 6-8 July in 2012.

A missive from Indietracks HQ read like this:

"We have decided to hold the festival earlier than usual this year. Usually the festival takes place on the last weekend of July, but we became aware that clashing with the Olympics that weekend might have meant higher travel and accommodation prices for bands and festival-goers.

"Tickets are due to be on sale shortly, and will be available from the Midland Railway website.

"Any bands wishing to apply to play at the festival should e-mail with a short biography and a web link to their music by November 30, 2011."

You know what to do, pop-makers.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Those times were good times - Fortuna Pop! is 15

You might have Sean Price down as a miserablist with a penchant for outlandish leather jackets, and you'd probably be right. But, remember, his OWN BLOODY BAND were responsible for this...

... and his label, Fortuna Pop! has been putting out hit after hit after hit for the last 15 years. This label, along with Matinee was responsible for getting me back into indiepop at the beginning the last century, and for that I salute it, Sean and all the bands who have given us such precious records over the past decade and a half.

Not one to ever hide his light under any kind of bushel (and why should he?), Sean and his tiny dwarf helpers have put together a kind of Glastonbury for sensible people. But in the fucking week, when I can't make it. The twats!

For those that can - here's the details. You'd be a fool, or an overworked wage slave not to be there.

In the meantime, wet your pants whilst listening to some of F-Pop!'s finest current cuts.

Monday 24 October 2011

It's Christmas

The very beautiful (and I mean that in every sense) Haiku Salut have been added to the bill of our Christmas gig on 10 December at The Chameleon in Nottingham. There are some details over there on the right, and there's the possibility of a very special guest which we're dead excited about.

In the meantime, immerse yourself in this.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Standard Fare - Out of Sight, Out of Town (Thee SPC/Melodic)

Ah, there were times back in the dim and distant past when you’d wear the vinyl through on your favourite albums, when you’d sit in your room with a pile of books whilst the other kids played outside, or smoked in the bus shelter, or went into town because they were brave and – apparently – knew how to have fun. And when the snowballs hit your bedroom window and you heard the catcalls and you knew you would NEVER go out again, you reached for the volume button, pulled the covers up a little higher and lost yourself in the music filling the air.

The songs that saved your life, and all that crap.

Perhaps the two things that make me wish I was 14 again this year have been the Help Stamp Out Loneliness and Pocketbooks albums. This is the third, and – I think – it tops the lot.

Standard Fare’s second album (let’s not shit about with the word ‘sophomore’, please) rips through your mind after half a listen. It’s what they call nowadays “viral”. It’s a masterpiece of three people coming together in the most perfect way and if they better this, then I’ll be surprised and wildly happy at the same time. Mind you, I thought they’d never top ‘The Noyelle Beat’, but they have. They have by some considerable distance.

What they’ve given us all here is a collection of songs that, whilst deeply personal to the band, resonate deeply. One listen and empathy, amongst other emotions happy and sad, will pour out of you.

It begins quietly with the deftly understated ‘Look for Lust’ before ’05 11 07’ grips your hand and chucks you into a train and straight into the middle of some kind of spontaneous romance. Time, then, for the dark skiffle of ‘Suitcase’ – a single so criminally ignored earlier this year (by me too). ‘Suitcase’ is remarkable for myriad reasons: the guitar performance of Danny How; the bounciest of all bass lines by Emma Kupa; the supposed-meaning of the lyrics; and how Standard Fare get around those lyrics by coming up with such a tune. It’s breathtaking.

‘Dead Future’ evokes the spirit of The Housemartins at their perkiest, whislt ‘Darth Vader’, right at the centre of album is Standard Fare’s most perfect moment so far. It’s only three and half minutes long, but it feels epic – a sort of gentle torch song which is either about a parent/child or adult/adult relationship, I can’t quite work out which, but I’m not really sure it matters that much – it’s just a beautiful song.

Enter How again with his guitar and the rattle and rush of ‘Bad Temper’ a complete and surely a future live favourite. Somehow, that’s topped by the hilarious ‘Older Women’ – a sort of ‘Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others’ for the 21st Century, it’s the best display of the sometimes sly humour running through ‘Out of Sight, Out of Town’.

Just when you thought you’d heard it all comes ‘Half Sister’, and it’s a reggae (that’s right) song about rediscovering a long lost sibling. A terribly serious subject, of course, but Kupa manages to keep smiling by asking a series of questions to the mystery subject of the song, such as ‘Do you like Steve Earle?’ It’s a remarkable song in many ways – not least the fact that Kupa is singing about this kind of thing “in public”, but also because it just throws you. It’s this light reggae song about discovering you have a sister. Where the fuck did that come from?

Closing is the wonderful Duane Eddy rush of ‘Crystal Palatial’ – a typical (and I mean that in a good way) Standard Fare paean to lost love, in which Kupa’s yearning is almost too much for her already fragile voice. There’s yearning here, and she means it. The rest of us better leave the room.

In many ways this is Danny How’s album, in the fact that the guitar playing on it is wizardly. Then you listen to Andy Beswick’s hammered out, second-perfect drums and you think he holds it all together. Then you go to Emma Kupa and you hear those elastic bass strings and THAT voice, and you think Standard Fare are all about her.

None of these things are true, though, because they’re just so very much a band - a gang, if you will.

Standard Fare, for just over half an hour, on ‘Out of Sight, Out of Town’ make the music that would’ve saved you from the tuff kids outside back then, just like this music will save you from the all that crap out there now. I think they call that “timeless”.

'Out of Sight, Out of Town' is out on 12 December.

Sunday 16 October 2011

Imaginary Friend

Those bemoaning the lack of action from pop geniuses Pinkie, Lovejoy or Harper Lee can take solace in the fact that the gentle, shypop mantle has been passed from the south coast to the north west. Enter Imaginary Friend, who make the sort of introverted, awkward, melancholic music as those bands mentioned up there, and they make it very well indeed.

So, if you haven't locked yourself away for a weeked recently you know have the chance by nipping over to Imaginary Friend's soundcloud page. Prepare to wallow in the majesty of it all.

If you think I'm fibbing, then have a listen to this.
Summer Junction by ImaginaryFriend.

Sunday 9 October 2011

Men approaching middle age don't cry

Sometimes it does you good to look back at things and wonder how you got here. In fact sometimes, it's pretty much essential.

I've been listening to my first love a lot of late. The Cure were the first band I really, really fell for when I was about 11 years old. I'd made the leap from Shakin' Stevens to Elton John to Simple Minds and onto the Cure in about 18 months. Shakey just wasn't cutting it any more, and, to be honest, how he could he follow tracks such as 'This 'ole house' (the first seven inch single I ever bought), 'Green door' (the third) and 'Lipstick, power and paint' (I wasn't that fucking desperate).

I cannot explain Elton John to this day, and even at that age, I remember being heavily disappointed with the 'Ice on Fire' cassette I received for Christmas.

Simple Minds I thought were Way Out There and weird and groovy - we all knew and know they weren't, aren't and never will be.

It was 'Lovecats', of course, that snared me. Who couldn't be seduced by that perfect pop single? I listen to it nowadays and it sounds like something from another age (which, I suppose, at 27 years old, it sort of is), but it still comes across as one of the most exotic things you'll ever hear. So, when 'The Head on the Door' came out I bought it with some pocket money, and played it to death.

You might think this sounds silly, but I still think 'The Head on the Door' is one of the most perfect pop records you'll ever hear. Sure, it sounds terribly '80s in parts (the brass on 'A night like this' is particularly telling), but me and few others started asking for 'Inbetween days' and 'Close to me' to be played at school discos, and we thought we were the bees knees, even though were all had mullets and were wearing those terrible flecked trousers that are probably dead cool now.

For the next five years The Cure, along with The Smiths (and for a horribly short time, The Housemartins) were my favourite band. I gulped back their entire back catalogue, straining to pretend that I immediately fell in love with 'Pornography' and 'Faith' and 'A Japanese Dream'; and never really listening much to the last side of 'Kiss me, kiss me kiss me'.

What's perhaps worse is that I started dressing like Robert Smith. Or perhaps a fourth division version of him. The hair was pretty good, but the rest of it left a lot to be desired. There was a distinct lack of decent goth shops in Grimsby in the late 1980s, and so I had to make do with a black and white paisley shirt from Burton, some black jeans from BHS and a pair of massive trainers out of Freemans catalogue.

I read 'Ten imaginary years' like it was my own personal bible, over and over again, and spent the summer of 1989 pretending I could draw and copying every Cure single cover out onto square bits of paper. Whilst the sun burned down outside, I listened to 'Seventeen seconds' on loop and pretended to be aloof and interesting by not speaking to anyone for two months.

By the time of 'Disintegration'I was still clinging onto The Cure, but having my head turned by Ride's first three eps, which seemed more "now" and vital than a band that had been going for over a decade (and when you're 16 that seems an awful long time, doesn't it?), but I still took the day off work experience to go and see The Cure at the NEC in Birmingham, where we had the worst possible seats, and I bought the worst possible bootleg t-shirt.

Shoegaze beckoned and I dropped The Cure. I didn't buy another album, apart from the patchy 'Mixed up' double LP that came out in 1990. Sure, we all boogied on down to 'Friday I'm in love' in Gullivers every Tuesday night, but now bands liked The Family Cat, Lush, Kitchens of Distinction and Slowdive meant more to me than The Cure.

That I still listen to The Cure more than these other bands, though, must mean something. I just don't really know what. A case of not ever really falling out with your first love? Well, I never really loved Shakin' Stevens, I guess...

I just wonder if 11 year olds these days feel the same way about Bombay Bicycle Club. I hope so.

For your records, this is my favourite Cure song. It's overblow and pompous, romantic and dramatic. I was probably all of these things once. I'm only some of them now.

Wednesday 5 October 2011

The heat of the moment

It's sort of difficult to put into words how ace last Saturday's indiepop all-dayer was. It was a lot of things: very hot; nicely busy; less for some notable people who weren't there through no fault of their own; and at the time really quite stressful. But, in the middle of a fucker of a week at work, I sure wish it was 11am on Saturday 1 October again right now.

Reviewing your own gigs is the work of megalomaniac, perhaps ("and so you're perfectly qualified to do it, Sam!" I hear you cry), so I won't, but many, many thanks to all the bands who came, took part, played their pop-filled hearts out and, y'know what - actually hung around to watch their peers. I love that.

There were plenty of ups and downs, like the Great Merch Stand Beer Spillage of 2011, but everyone got through that like there was a war on - and their often was with the woman from Clinton Cards downstairs, bless her. But I'd like to think we all not only got through the ebbs of flows of the day, but we actually, y'know, enjoyed ourselves, and got really too sweaty.

If I'm desperately pushed then my extra special moments came during the following acts: The Whatevers, Help Stamp Out Loneliness, Milky Wimpshake, and the amazing scenes (as the young say) during a set by Standard Fare that rose above any superlative I've ever heard. Just you wait until you hear their new album.

Thanks to comrades Ian, Josey and Alex for their support and work on the day. Let's do it all again next year. Oh, in fact let's do it all again on 10 December when, hopefully, we're all getting together again at The Chameleon for Just Handshakes (We're British), Moustache of Insanity and August Actually., plus the enigmatic One to Be Confirmed.

In the meantime, here's a video, courtesy of Martyn Clayton, of Let's Whisper. If there's a better way to kick off an all-dayer you can take it with you and piss off.

Sunday 25 September 2011

Humousexual - Meaning to these maps (Everard Records)

I had always assumed Humousexual to be way too cool for me. The people that usually name-dropped them were the same people who regularly snapped up micro-pressings of impossibly obscure bands who everyone else but me seemed to know about. And so, I'm mildly ashamed to say, I ignored them. How daft and stubborn is that?

That was until I saw them at this year's London Popfest, where they were probably the best band of the weekend for me. I then bumped into Victor at Indietracks, and he was the most charming, shy, unassuming person ever. And so I decided to warm to Humousexual immediately

And so it's a good job that 'Meaning to these maps' is such an ace record - their first in seven years. It's five songs are full of urgency and fun and politics

and pop and make a dreary Sunday seem slightly more bearable. There's scratchy guitars and defiant lyrics and a underlying sense that Humousexual, despite this outward display of being oh-so-humble, are really QUITE DANGEROUS INDEED.

Don't be scared. Buy this ep on seven inch white vinyl from Everard Records

Saturday 17 September 2011

Nottingham indiepop alldayer: a preview of sorts

Around about now in exactly two weeks I'll be panicking my arse off, already three quarters of the way through my fourth pint of the day, and wondering why on earth any of the bands playing the Nottingham indiepop all-dayer haven't turned up yet, and why the soundman is spending more time in his mysterious smoking alley than he is setting the first band up. This, of course, is the curse of the small-time promoter. I don't pretend to be doing the world a favour, and I probably wouldn't have it any of other way. I'm sure Ian will be a rock on the day, anyway.

Panic over.

I thought, by way of a half-arsed preview, that I'd get together a few video clips of the bands playing, so you can see what you're missing out on when you decide to stay at home and watch X Factor/wash your hair/paint the cat. So, in no particular order...

A Fine Day For Sailing - Ballad of the Bedsit

Ste McCabe - I've Got a Big Car

Standard Fare - Love Doesn't Just Stop

The Blanche Hudson Weekend - Let Me Go

Ace Bushy Striptease - HM9 (Waterfall)

Milky Wimpshake - Pearshaped

Help Stamp Out Loneliness - Biergarten (this one features my bald spot. Yeah!)

The Whatevers - You and Your Twisted Romance

Pale Man Made - B-Line

Let's Whisper - Dylan's Song

Thursday 15 September 2011

Pocketbooks - Carousel (Odd Box)

Clarity is what's needed at the moment. Something to blow the uncertainty away for once and all. A kind flush through of everything. Luckily, Pocketbooks' second, superb album, 'Carousel' is here to provide all of that and more.

'Flight Paths', this scrumptious band's debut album, is only two years old, but it seems longer than that. In between we've had sporadic live performances outside of the capital, and half the year most of the band are up to their necks in organising Indietracks. You can forgive them the two year wait. Life, and indiepop festivals, do seem to get in the way a bit.

'Carousel' is markedly different to its predecessor. If 'Flight Paths' was snotty, charmingly naive and marked the band's arrival, then 'Carousel' is their autumn album. It's all about introspection and staring out of windows and feeling a little bit lost with life.

Outsiders (those people who are considered that by others, not people who call themselves "outsiders" - they're fucking idiots) will love this album. Throughout there's a desire to break free of life's little obstacles and celebrate a little. Listen to 'The sky at night' for an ace example of this.

And this is a common theme. Love and life is lost - or couldn't attained. And if it has, there's a sense of restlessness. I think that's something a lot of us can relate to in one way or another. 'Sound of the carnival' is particularly knowing.

But, hey, let's not get too deep, chumps. What, essentially, you've got in 'Carousel' is a gem of a pop album. With Andy Hudson's twinkling keyboard and Emma Hall's amazing, crystal clear voice to the fore. And this time everything's backed up by some perky strings. I'm not gonna use the word 'mature', but it's pleasing to see a band can move on without losing any of their pop sensibilities. Chancers like Belle and Sebastian should take note.

If you want to force me to pick a favourite, then it'd have to be 'The Beaujolais Lanes' - a truly affecting mixture of words and music that deserves a much wider audience than it'll get. It's the sort of song you can imagine filling up a huge TV studio, whilst Ant & Dec look on. Y'know the sort of thing. It's a yes from me, anyway.

When Pocketbooks played some of these songs to open Indietracks it was a bit of emotional experience for some of us. That they manage to carry that feeling onto record is testament to how special they are, and this album is. Proof, if it were needed, that pop remains supreme.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

Sigh on life

It's now less than three weeks until the Nottingham indiepop all-dayer, and if work wasn't getting in the way (recurring theme, there), then I'd be filled with that sense of nervousness and excitement that always comes before these dream-fuelled events we put on sometimes. As it is, I can barely see past the next hour at the moment.

Someone was asking me the other day who, apart from those already in the line-up, I'd like to add to the bill. I let out a long sigh and said these lot of lovely buggers.

Cor, how I miss The Deirdres. This seems like such a long time ago now. I repeat: sigh.

Friday 9 September 2011

Everyone loves a happy ending

In preparation for their forthcoming UK tour at the beginning of October, Let's Whisper have put together a little video for 'All Happy Endings'. It's as cute as a button, of course. Look out for them playing a small room near you soon.

Wednesday 7 September 2011

Bart & Friends - Stories with the Endings Changed (Lost and Lonesome)

Having finally settled down after another sporadic bout of John Fenty-hating, work has taken over about 18 hours of my day once again. I've been working on my own for nearly six weeks now, and it's beginning to take its toll. I've got the worst spot I've ever had in my life on my bloody chin, and I actually had a dream about a venture capitalist the other night.

So, it's at times like this that you need a record to take you into its arms and give you a great big hug. Luckily, I've had Bart and Friends' 'Stories with the endings changed' to do just that for the past month.

This record is lots of things. On the surface it's a straightforward pop album of sweet nothings. But, to me, it's been like a best friend for the last few weeks. Like last year's 'Make you blush' it's intimate and homely and instantly recognisable - even when you're listening to these songs for the first time.

They music here meanders - but in a perfect way. Pam Berry is gone from this album, and in comes Mark Monnone and a cast of thousands (well, seven) to create an at times, almost country-ish sound. Monnone's hand is all over this record, and his influence can be found on just about every song, but especially 'When I've Got No Choice', 'There's no place I'd rather be', and 'Tomorrow will be better than today'. But look to the credits and it's all Bart Cummings' own work. More of an indirect influence then.

Again the songs are short, but its hard to be this tender for longer than a couple of minutes without exploding with love. That's what I love most about it; the fact that Cummings packs so much feeling into a couple of minutes that you simply couldn't go on loving these songs for longer.

And then you skip to track one and start all over again, of course. Thank you for being a friend.

Sunday 28 August 2011

Going... going... John

After yesterday's latest Grimsby Town defeat (2-1 at home to Darlington, since you ask - a team we've not beaten at home in the league for 30 years), joint manager Rob Scott confronted a couple of the many moaning, myopic morons that rock up at Blundell Park once a fortnight.

Here are the "shocking" scenes from in front of the Pontoon stand.

Fair play to Scott, but after watching that you could just sense that Our Dear Leader, chairman John Fenty, a local Tory councillor, would want his say. His inbuilt reactionary nature has been the downfall of my once wonderful club, and this was a prime opportunity.

The internet isn't big enough to list the times that Fenty has contradicted himself ove the last decade, however, some of this takes the cake.

Football is a confidence games, says Herr Fenty, as he blames the boo boys (and girls) in the stands at Blundell Park. Correct, I suppose, but why then did he start slagging three of our players off to the local press as recently as May?

Maybe it's because for Fenty the truth is only the truth until he wakes up again the next day, his knee jerks, and he sacks the next manager. It's a fair bet that Rob Scott and Paul Hurst will be out the door before Christmas, with Fenty taking another roll of the dice on an ever-decreasing list of managers who want to come and work for him.

Fenty often defends himself by saying he's the biggest fan the club has. Here's a thought: just because you're a Grimsby Town fan, doesn't mean you're not a inept, ridiculous, fucking idiot. I'd rather see the club go part time than this man keep my club afloat with his horrible Tory money.

Fenty, as much as the moaning idiots who boo their own team, you're the problem too. And that's "what is wrong with Grimsby".

Up the Mariners.

Thursday 25 August 2011

Nottingham indiepop all-dayer stage times

Hey, chumps. This looks like it's going to be quite busy (famous last, facebook-influenced words), and those that know the Chameleon know that, if you want to actually be able to touch The Whatevers legs whilst they're playing, then you'll have to be there from the beginning. So, could we ask that you turn up as soon as you can to secure your place down the front to see up Thom from A Fine Day For Sailing's skirt? Ta.

Here's some stage times. As ever, they remain dead rough.

1.30pm - Let's Whisper
2.15pm - The Whatevers
3.00pm - A Fine Day for Sailing
3.45pm - Pale Man Made
4.30pm - Ste McCabe
5.15pm - Ace Bushy Striptease

(break for an hour)

7.00pm - The Blanche Hudson Weekend
8.00pm - Help Stamp Out Loneliness
8.45pm - Standard Fare
9.45pm - Milky Wimpshake

11.00pm - Ian Horowitz DJ set
12.30pm - Dan Pop-O-Matic DJ set

2pm - Close

Tuesday 23 August 2011

My dressing gown is my choice of apparel for this season

I've been aware of Evans the Death's 'I'm So Unclean' for about a year now, but it doesn't get tiring. It's a song with the energy of a three year old, with the sound of one of those early, amazing Ride eps, with the drums shooting you in the heart like an arrow. It is, dear reader, VITAL. And so are Evans the Death, because they're easily the most exciting young band to come out of the UK in years. And they're so, so young - it sort of makes you sick.

If I was 18 right now I'd think this band were sent to to save my life. Now I'm older I'll keep that kind of thing quiet, if you don't mind.

'I'm So Unclean' is released on seven inch on Fortuna Pop! (yeah, him again) on 6 September, thank God. Buy it like your life depends on it.

Sunday 21 August 2011

Fifteen years of fun

I don't really remember when Fortuna Pop! started changing the way I thought about buying records. Maybe it was Aiport Girl's 'The Foolishness We Create Through Love...' seven inch that made me follow the pop travails of the fake-miserablist Sean Price's ace label - maybe it wasn't. The last decade and a bit has been a bit of blur.

This year Fortuna Pop! celebrates 15 (fifteen) years of putting out consistently ace music. Sure, there's been the odd duff release, but for every Finlay there have been bands like Milky Wimpshake, Would Be Goods, Allo Darlin' and latterly, Evans the Death who have been able to take advantage of Price's seemingly bottomless pockets.

To celebrate such magical trousers, Fortuna Pop! is putting on a three day pop extravaganza from 1-3 November at Scala and the Lexington. Crystal Stilts, Allo Darlin', The Primitives, Comet Gain, Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern, Bearsuit,Shrag, The Ladybug Transistor, Tender Trap and Evans The Death are all playing, and that's a pretty foxy line-up.

If I wasn't forced to work like a twat that week I'd be there. I presume you have no such worries. More details here


Tuesday 16 August 2011

Prince Edward Island - 'This Day is a Good Enough Day' (Crocfingers Records)

I've waited quite a while for a record to come along to rival Boo Radleys' 'Giant Steps', but Prince Edward Island's 'This Day is a Good Enough Day' might just be the one.

To say this album is ambitious would be like saying David Cameron is merely an annoying, shit-faced twat. I meant to say it would be to understate the fact. PEI have written an album which takes in myriad influences; from aforementioned Boo Radleys through Fonda 500, New Order, Belle and Sebastian and, they tell me, even a bit of Arab Strap.

Their own particular brand of futuristic folkpop music can be gentle and delicate, such as on 'I Nearly Don't Love You, but Not Quite', or joyous like on 'You Look Like I Need a Drink', or downright visceral (see the amazing 'The Keith Disaster Fund'). In between there are songs that sound like 'Our House is a Very, Very Nice House', songs about mothers-in-law, songs that bring to mind Envelopes' short-lived bright, buring candle.

Strictly, this isn't an indiepop album, but who cares? It's pop music to me, because it makes me sit up, take notice and it demands to be listened to over and over and over again.

I'm not going to mention the strong Scottish brogue on each song, because to reduce everything to nationalities isn't what pop music is about. No. It's about wanting to get up, go out and see your friends. This album is as good a soundtrack to that as any you're likely to find.

  Prince Edward Island - The Keith Disaster Fund by Soundandvisionpr

Saturday 13 August 2011

Covered in a World of Fox

I'm becoming increasingly impressed with World of Fox, and was a bit miffed to miss out on their performance of Indietracks, but there was no way I was going to mortgage my life by queueing for the church what with all the heat.

Anyway, World of Fox have a free download single available on the WYAIWYA website, and it's a beautiful cover version of the already stunning 'Flowers' by Galaxie 500, backed with their version of 'Pristine Christine' by The Sea Urchins.

You need to know that both are excellent. Suspicious fans of the original versions won't be disappointed.

Thursday 4 August 2011

Kids are (more than) alright

Pull yourselves together, slack-jawed tweescum - Indietracks is over, and whilst it might've been The Greatest Thing to Ever Happen to you, there are other treats out there too.

Take, for example, San Diego's Kids whose 'Summer Frights' album has lifted me out of a post-Indietracks, ongoing work benny at times this week. At times this records reminds me Architecture in Helsinki's 'In Case We Die' (a record that became the soundtrack of a pretty amazing summer of 2005 for me), and at others they remind of that just-about-to-keel-over pop fragility of The Deirdres. But with more guitar solos.

'Hidden Hills' is straightforward sunny pop, whilst 'Blind Eel' and the title track manage to be both tricksy and simple at the same time, and the singer sounds a little Eux Autres. In fact, quite a lot like Eux Autres.

'Melt' is perfect garage pop, with a cute little organ in the background, and then 'Further' carries on that theme with scratchy guitars and an energy you last had when you were about eight years old.

'Summer Frights' ends with a pretty faithful rendition of The Ronettes' 'Be My Baby', which is very sweet.

You can buy and download 'Summer Frights' here. Consider yourselves perked up.

Monday 1 August 2011

Indietracks 2011: punks, Pocketbooks, and parents

Half way through Pocketbooks' 'Cross the Line' and the sun is just low enough in the sky that it makes everything seem a million times more pretty than it actually is. I look around and, bopping along to this amazing song, are some of my best friends. What's more, up there on stage singing one half of this song, is someone I've known for over 20 years. How did we all end up here? And why? I don't even want to try and fathom it.

This year's Indietracks was the best yet, and I'm not going to try and fathom that either. Perhaps it had something to do with there not really being the slew of reformed bands there (although there was a few), or perhaps the lack of Wedding Present fans made it seem altogether more genteel, more mannered, and more... well, more like the first couple of Indietracks really. A sense of nostalgia just five years on! Whatever next?

Friday evening was spent wondering how Pocketbooks could get any more thrilling after opening the festival. If they were great in Nottingham the night before, then they were on another planet on the big outdoor stage. Their sound has gone from being decidedly lo-fi, to something that filled the field with joy at Indietracks this year.

Oh, yeah - look over there; it's a couple of American punks - mohicans, safety pins, the lot - frugging wildly to Pocketbooks. Were there tears? There might have been, but I wasn't the only one.

I spent most of Friday night laying in my tent listening to the fucking moronic blether coming from the tent next door, interspersed with bursts of 'The Best of REM', or whatever it was. People who stay awake all night yelping at each other on campsites deserve nothing but contempt, really. The height of rudeness.

Anyway, safe in the knowledge that they'd feel like shit the next day (not much makes me glow more than that), we made our way to festival site on Saturday afternoon to experience something akin to pop heaven.

It's pretty much impossible to see everything you want to see at Indietracks, but when you've got a few hours that involve Help Stamp Out Loneliness (whose impeccable set was accompanied - beautifully - by a hot air balloon floating low across the field), Math and Physics Club, Graeme Elston on a sweaty train, The Fireworks, and then, so gorgeously, and so urgently, Milky Wimpshake then it rarely matters who you miss. You can't win them all, but you feel pretty special when you can watch Milky Wimpshake completely tear up the cavernous shed stand. Like they were born to play huge venues.

You look around again, and there are you friends smiling, dancing, and then smiling and dancing back at you.

After that, Saturday was pretty much a haze of being at the bar, sitting down after getting way too hot, and try hard to like Edwyn Collins's set. I did try, honest.

Sunday brought with it our little boy, and a completely different side of Indietracks emerges. Mingled between the third-day festival veterans are families with small kids running around like maniacs. But, it seems, everyone is happy to have the kids there. There's no tutting or rolled eyes or anything that seems too much trouble for people.

I spot Friday night's villains out of the corner of my eye and feel like emptying a shitty nappy on them, mind. The mood soon passes.

We watch Model Village and my little boy starts dancing to them with Pete Green from The Sweet Nothings' little boy. It's a pretty magical moment. He doesn't get his moves from me.

It's time to go, really. This is a weekend that will live with me forever, just like all the other Indietracks ones. I can't put my finger on what makes Indietrack so special, and I don't really want to, else I might spoil it all. It's just there, once a year, like some kind of second Christmas - only you don't have to take your in-laws if you really don't want to. It's special, anyway.

Thanks to all those who helped organise it. And if you don't do it again next year, I'll offer out your spare rooms to those people I camped next to on Friday night. Think on.

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Thursday 21 July 2011

The night before the weekend after

Remember that feeling that never exists now? The one on Christmas Eve where you used to lie in bed wondering whether you'd get that new bike, or whether your Mum and Dad would buy you the shittest Alba stereo going (guess what happened to me?) - that sort of feeling that, even if you have kids, you'll never have again?

Well, the nearest you're (and I'm talking about me, natch) going to get to that feeling as you sit in your armchair of despair, flicking through old records that you bought over 25 years ago and feeling that life is passing you by as you wade through day after endless day at your pointless job, comes in the shape of the night before Indietracks starts.

This year, for me, this once-a-year night of anticipation is doubly special because I have four of most favourite indiepop turns playing on my doorstep. Not literally, you understand, they'd never fit on, what with the milk bottles and discarded needles, but only a short bus ride into town. All the info you need is here, and below in a delightful flyer, courtesy of Andy Hart.

Whether this show will  be busy or not (it bloody better be) is nearly immaterial. Because we know we can dance along to four ace bands, chat to friends old and new, have a couple of drinks, go to sleep, and the wake up and make our way to Indietracks. Fuck work - life doesn't get much better than that.

Tuesday 19 July 2011

Pocketbooks - Promises, Promises

There are certain things that always remind me of summer. These are: Test matches; ice cream vans; fish and chips at the seaside; a couple of months when the depressing travails of following Grimsby Town can be forgotten; drunken weddings; inadequate barbecues; walking out of the pub at 10am, really drunk, and it still being light; and fucking, fucking Glastonbury.

And then there's Pocketbooks - the ultimate summertime band, whose new single 'Promises, Promises' is now available as a free download. I've only heard this song about five times now, and it already reminds me of some of my favourite summer memories; of one of those still-romantic weekends in London with friends down in London; of getting pissed in the park and playing football with my friends; and of watching my little boy take his first steps into the sea. This is the stuff of life, alright.

On 'Promises, Promises', Emma Hall gives perhaps her strongest performance yet; half Harriet Wheeler, half Kirsty McColl, whilst in the background the rest of 'em play the sort of joyous wurlitzer pop that has been the hallmark of their glorious three or so years together.

Nights seeing Pocketbooks playing their hearts out are always summer nights - the best kind of summer nights, and 'Promises, Promises' is the latest of their greatest hits. If it's raining outside, stick this on and then pre-order their second classic album, 'Carousel' from Oddbox Records. Alright?

Thursday 7 July 2011

Moustache of Insanity - Album of Death (Pull Yourself Together/Fika)

There, beneath the daft name and keraayyzee samples on this album, lies a beating pop heart - a pop heart we all need.

And you might have had a shit day at work, but you'd need the heart of Rupert Murdoch for 'We Need More Awesome' not to make you smile, which lies at the very point where Jonathan Richmann meets Bis. Similarly, who hasn't compiled one of those fantasy dinner parties in their head? MOI have, and they've written a cracking pop tune about it.

BREAKING NEWS: MOI won't ever get their chance to be photographed on holiday by the News of the World, but I'd like to see them in a bikini after hearing modern classics such as 'Superiority Complex' or 'Dancing with Emma'.

Go and see this band immediately at the following flea pits (Indietracks isn't a flea pit, OBVIOUSLY):

9th July 2011 – The Wilmington Arms, London
22nd July 2011 – The Labour Club, Northampton
23rd July 2011 – Henry’s Cellar Bar, Edinburgh
25th July 2011 – The Old Blue Last, London
26th July 2011 – The Castle, Manchester
27th July 2011 – Buffalo Lounge, Cardiff
28th July 2011 – Horse & Groom, Brighton
29th-31st July 2011 – Indietracks Festival, Ripley, Derbyshire
19th August 2011 – The Red House, Sheffield
20th August 2011 – Album launch party at The Dogstar, London

And then check out their back catalogue before it appears on Ebay for a grillion pounds:

Album of Death (2011) – CD, LP, download on PYT Records/Fika Recordings
Moustache Dammit! (2011) – Limited edition cassette on Fika Recordings
Postcards To Strangers (2010) – CD-R, self-released 5-track EP
Moustache of Insanity (2009) – Limited edition mini-CDR on WeePOP! Records
Knock Knock! Who’s There (2008) – CD-R, self-released 7-track EP

'Album of Death' is released on Monday 22nd August. Buy the bugger. Until then, download 'Lynn Lowry


Sunday 3 July 2011

Tunabunny - (Song For My) Solar Sister (HHBTM)

It seemed to me that maybe Tunabunny's debut album was just too dense, too awkward for some pop fans. Maybe the band have been listening to that, or maybe their trajectory towards a poppier sound is all too natural, but the band's new single '(Song For My) Solar Sister' is easily the most "accessible" thing I've heard from them.

To me, this new single (out on Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records) reminds me - a lot - of getting into early-ish Throwing Muses stuff whilst still at school. That slightly folks-y vocal against a lazily perfect pop backdrop. It's pretty much the finished product, really.

'(Song For My) Solar Sister' is taken from Tunabunny's forthcoming second album called 'Minima Moralia', also out on HHBTM in August. The sooner they save up some pennies and come and play in the UK, the better.

Monday 27 June 2011

Lee majors

There was a time about ten or eleven or twelve (who's counting?) years ago when I'd find it hard to go a day without listening to Spearmint's 'A Week Away' album. That record has taken on almost legendary status in indiepop circles, and with some justification, really. Who didn't jump around the room before heading out to town to 'We're Going Out'? You? Really? Loser.

Shirley Lee, the singer off of Spearmint has tottered around since then, often with the band, putting out deightfully understated masterpieces that have failed to sell more than, ooh, 47 copies each. Some people are idiots. Now, he's released a an album called 'Winter, Autumn, Summer, Spring' on Missing Page Records, and I'd wager my last tenner that it's ace, if Maidenhead is anything to go by.

Off the same album, and as a tribute to some old DJ or other, is 'An Old Cricketer (For John Peel)', which is similarly ace.

And, for old time's sake, one of the finest singles ever released - live, from ages ago now...

Sunday 26 June 2011

Happy Sundays

Ah, Sunday. A time for guiltily buying the News of the World to see whether or not Ashley Cole has slept with you yet; eating half a chicken at a disappointing pub; and getting thoroughly depressed at the thought of work tomorrow.

Sunday really isn't what it used to be. Sundays used to be endless, with long days spent pissing around on your cheap BMX - not worrying about your the homework you hasn't done because you knew that you'd be able to copy it off Hannah Rutter if you got into school early enough.

Nowadays, though, the thought of Monday mornings are enough to have me on my knees within seconds. I expect you're the same, and so, in a completing disarming display of public duty, here are two new Modern Moving Image Videos to help you relax. I love them both.

Amor de Dí­as - Wild Winter Trees from Merge Records on Vimeo.

swansea recreation centre - celeste! from dankp on Vimeo.

Saturday 25 June 2011

Evans the Death gig poster

Here is a lovely poster that Andy Hart at a fog of ideas did for the Evans the Death show in Nottingham in a couple of weeks. Smart, isn't it?
Here's the facebook page for the show, anyway.

Dinosaur planet

Not that we should expect anything else from the leader of the labour Party at almost any time in it's shameful history, but if Ed Milliband's latest lurch to the right is has ruined your weekend, then I might have something to perk you up.

if, like me, you find the Wallace and Gromit-faced leader of the opposition a complete intellectual void who will pander to the right wing press's scare stories on immigration and housing benefit "scroungers", as well as urging public sector workers not to strike, then perhaps Dinosaurs Are Still Alive will restore your faith in humanity with their scratchy, urgent take on pop music.

It makes me feel pepped up enough to wish the Labour Party and its reformist milieu was extinct.

Sunday 19 June 2011

Stilts walk on

I still get all tingly when I listen to that last Crystal Stilts album (or is is the one before last? I'm quite tired...), but that time I tried to go and see them in Nottingham put me right off the band.

Still, it's hard not to love the new single, out on download tomorrow (Monday 20 June). Slightly more poppy than their previous stuff, 'Shake the Shackles' still sparks that sense of existential doom that appeals to the long-gone teenager in me. So to speak.

Crystal Stilts - Shake the Shackles from Army Of Kids on Vimeo.

Saturday 18 June 2011

The Dalesman

It's always a pleasure interviewing Pete Dale off of Milky Wimpshake, and so here's a link of a little email chat I had with him about the band's upcoming Indietracks appearance.

Tuesday 14 June 2011

Last minute gig fandango

I'll admit I'd had a few drinks after I'd listened to that new Evans the Death single, and so it seemed a good idea to book a random, last-minute gig for them and a couple of other bands in Nottingham.

So, Evans the Death will be playing with August Actually and one more at The Chameleon in Nottingham on Tuesday 5th July. Doors at at 8pm, and it's only four quid to get in. Bargain, that.

If you or your band fancies taking up that other slot, then send me one of those email things and offer me your services. So to speak.

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Oh, Evans the Death

How delightful that a band who showed so much early promise have delivered. Noisy, raucous pop fun, and weighing in at just over two minutes, the debut Evans the Death single is a joy. This reminds me of the first time I heard Pixies or Tunabunny or Horowitz or any of those bands that seems to make such sweet sounds by physically abusing their instruments. Cuddle this one quickly.

'Threads' is born on the 4th July on the ever-brilliant Fortuna Pop!

Tuesday 7 June 2011


There are many, many bands out there who are raved about without must justification, sometimes for the fact they’re from London, or perhaps because they have a load of mates “in the industry”. Then there are those bands who are so deeply unfashionable, have a terrible name, and don’t go out of their way to be seen at all the places to be seen at. Hello, Spaghetti Anywhere.

The Spaghetti’s (as no-one is calling them) new ep ‘Doolally’ is a piece of mild-mannered, quiet genius, and it’s mostly about getting off your head, and the consequences. So, you have ‘Super special’, which is basically a slowed-down version of the band’s ace ‘Nice to be Nice’ track from a while back, telling the maudlin, tragi-comic tale of an alcoholic. Imagine a gentler version of 8-Ace from Viz. That may well flummox some overseas readers - soz.

‘Drugs’ is a variation on the theme, about a character who tends to take LSD, take his clothes off, and go for a walk outside.

Meanwhile, ‘Hulk’ is all about thinking you can take anyone on in a fight after a few pints. Come on, we’ve all been there. We’ve all turned into a bit of reckoner now and again after a good night out - Spaghetti Western are only saying what we’re all thinking.

I’d love for this band to be universally loved, but they won’t be, because of reasons I mentioned earlier. But they’re up there for me, whilst writing about those people down there. There’s a sort of wonderful symmetry about that.

Tuesday 31 May 2011

The music will save us, again and again

Not fancying, or being able to afford, Primavera didn't mean I missed much I wanted to see, but I'd have killed to have seen Comet Gain over there. 'Howl of the Lonely Crowd' has managed to worm its way back onto heavy rotation at work, and 'Thee Ecstatic Library' - one of the finest loveletters to pop music I've heard - is one my favourite tracks.

Still, at least we can enjoy it third hand via the powers of the young peoples' youtube. Thanks to Helen from Shrag for catching this two minutes nine seconds' worth of brilliance.

I live with my mum in a chalet bungalow and I've read half of Ecce homo

Scumbag Philosopher's 'God is Dead So I Listen to Radiohead' seems to have been around for ages, and in a move designed to make Horowitz seem even more prolific than they actually, secretly are, Words on Music finally have a release date for the single.

Synchronise watches, please, for 6th June when you can buy this ace single from the label.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, it's pretty obvious that Scumbag Philsopher are heavily influenced by the Fall, but then there's nothing wrong with that at all. And - get this - the two bands are touring together. Expect mass fallings out and many punches thrown on the following dates:

Wed 1st June - KOKO, London (with The Fall)
Fri 3rd June - MOHO Live, Manchester (with The Fall)
Sat 11th June - Glade Festival
Sat 2nd July - Manchester Roadhouse

Apparently, some of the band even like Radiohead. Democratic centralism in action, right there. Sepp Blatter should take a leaf out of Scumbag Philosopher's book. Or maybe he is. You decide.

Thursday 26 May 2011

More? You want more?

The internet means that any news more than two hours old is tomorrow's chip wrapping (hmm, that needs more work...), so I suppose everyone knows now that Crystal Stilts and Herman Dune have been added as the last headliners at Indietracks. I've just not been near a computer, y'see.

Anyway, the main headliners for this year’s Indietracks festival are:
Friday 29 July:           Suburban Kids With Biblical Names, Jonny
Saturday 30 July:       Edwyn Collins, The Hidden Cameras
Sunday 31 July:          Herman Dune, Jeffrey Lewis, Crystal Stilts 
I've been looking forward to seeing Crystal Stilts ever since I turned up, and then walked away from (too many hispters in a very small room), a show they played in Nottingham a couple of years back, and their new album is supposed to be a thing of great majesty. So, ta once more to Team Indietracks for asking them along. And if you don't think this year's line up is the best thing ever, then there's something wrong between your ears. And probably your legs, too.

Monday 23 May 2011

Preston pop

You wouldn't normally associate Preston, Lancashire, with the world of indiepop gigs, but hold on right there, comrades, because the mysterious Rico is set to change that. He's putting on some ace shows up there this summer, including:

28th June. 9pm Darren Hayman/Mick Travis

16th July. 8pm. The Monochrome Set and Factory Star

24rh July. The Middle Ones and Best Friends Forever

7th August. The Loft and a screening of The Upside Down Creation Records documentary.

All the gigs are at The Continental Pub in Preston. Gig-starved Prestonians (is that right?) can start rejoicing now.

More people should do this kind of thing in unglamorous locations. Not that I'm saying Preston doesn't have its glamour, you understand

Monday 16 May 2011

Sparkles in motion

Le Man Avec Lunettes I might have written about before (I forget), but I'm writing about them now because their new ep "Sparkles" has just brightened a pretty awful Monday up.

Imagine being lowered into the most comfortable bed in the world, with the sun pouring through an open window, and a dozen kitten butlers attending to your every need. Well, that's the sort of feeling I get when I hear Le Man Avec Lunettes. Nostalgia is a dirty, cruel bastard, but it's that feeling of childhood security you get when you're listening to '4 Notes (are filling you with kindness)'. Your Mum and Dad are downstairs, you're not going to be made redundant from your worthless job at the end of the month, there are no bills to pay, and Le Man Avec Lunettes are playing on your stereo. It's a pretty gorgeous thought for a few minutes at a time.

You can listen to Le Man Avec Lunettes do their own version of Air playing a Galaxie 500 song here. Me, I'm, off to lay on the grass and stare at the clouds for a while.

'Sparkles' is out now, but I'm not entirely sure where or how you can get it. I'm sure you can find out...

Wednesday 11 May 2011

The north will rise again

Like most of the people in the tiny room at The Chameleon on Saturday night, I’m still recovering slowly from the complete majesty of Help Stamp Out Loneliness’s set. Their album is still on constant repeat around these parts...

Still, I did take a break to listen to the new set of songs from The Whatevers, which is as pleasing as usual. Funny, ramshackle, world-weary and romantic - these songs have been through the mill all right.

It’s particularly pleasing to see The Whatevers getting a bit of attention. They’re playing an Which Way is Up show on 20 May at The Wilmington, and you really should go and see them, if only to catch the sublime pop thrill that is ‘Violence For Northern Independence’. After that they’re playing on the train at Indietracks, and, of course at the Nottingham indiepop all-dayer on 1 October. Now, go and have a listen.

Lastly, before I naff off on holiday for a few days, those Indietracks types have run a little interview with me and that Andy from a fog of ideas. If you really must, you can read it here.

Friday 6 May 2011

The strange case of Dorset pop

Remember a few years back when all those corporate indie bands were trying to sound like Joy Division? They were pretty much all shite, weren't they? Well, Bos Angles (one for the terrible bands name file, there) might be five years late, but they've at least they've written one great song, which is more than can be said of Interpol.

Sure, 'Beach Slalom' might completely rip off 'Digital', but what the heck? It's a great song.

Why aren't there more bands from Bournemouth?, he asks in a moment of genuine curiousity. Answers on a deckchair.

Monday 2 May 2011

Towards the three-day week

These are the longest weekends; days spent in the sun trying not to spend too much money on bottles of wine which end up in the park bins. And of nights spent sat in beer gardens, or in the backrooms of tiny venues watching mediocre bands try and win your favour with some carefully-placed soul-baring.

And then these are the weekends when you find yourself stood, open-mouthed, at the majesty of bands like Haiku Salut, who are playing two maybe twenty people in the bar of The Chameleon in Nottingham on a Sunday afternoon. There are those of us in the audience for who this is personal. Gemma, Sophie and Louise used to be in The Deirdres - and band a handful of us here loved perhaps a little too much for a year or so. But then perhaps we didn't love them enough, come to think of it.

Haiku Salut playing instrumentals. Wait! Come back! There's something magical at work here. There's a hint of Ukranian folk music courtesy of that accordian, and then there's some duelling glockenspiels, some brushed drums, and a song where all three of these clever Haiku Salut types play the keyboard at the same time. Don't ask me for the names of these tiny masterpieces, because - frankly - it doesn't matter. For half an hour most of us in this room forget about being sunburned and hungover and let simple, beautiful pop music make us feel better again.

The longest weekends are often the best weekends, it turns out.