Saturday 22 December 2012

Milky Wimpshake - 20 years of heart and soul

Another year ends with news of the next Milky Wimpshake album, due out in February on Fortuna Pop! 'Heart and Soul in the Milky Way' comes 20 years after the band's first record was released, and, if 'Chemical Spray' is anything to go by, it's set to be another sure-fire pop classic.

Before I disappear to the Peak District to eat and drink way too much this Christmas, take a listen. Milky Wimpshake make the perfect festive gift.

Have a smashing Christmas. See you in the New Year.

Sunday 16 December 2012

2012: Long players for the longest days

Got paid in the end, just in case you were wondering, like.

Anyway, my favourite albums of the year, you say? Well, read on...

Tigercats released 'Isle of Dogs' this year on Fika Records. I've raved about this album loads, and was lucky enough to finally see the band in Nottingham at our Christmas party a couple of weeks back, where they suitably wonderful.

I was also lucky hear 'Isle of Dogs' very early, after being sent the demos. Why on earth had I ignored this band for so long? 'Isle of Dogs' is just wonderful, but listen at me rattling on in January...
What Tigercats has come up with is a manifesto for what it means to be alive, to be in London and to be living life. Like Suede did twenty (gulp) years ago, and like Hefner did a little bit later. Those other three bands I mentioned earlier are doing it to, and however old you are you should cherish these times, because they're golden days for pop. 

Did the Evans the Death album really come out this year? This splendid band seem to have been around for ever now, but their precious eponymous long player on (Fortuna Pop!) rounded that thrilling first year of gigging off perfectly.
In a world where slack-jawed 21 year olds in bands seem to think that growing a beard will render them instantly fascinating, then this, amongst other things, makes Evans the Death heroes of my pop world.

Difficult second albums don't come much more perfectly formed than Allo Darlin's 'Europe'. It took me a fair old while to really love this album, but when it finally burrow its way into my affections it stuck there, and there it will stay. 
If you’re still addicted to the instant pop hit of Allo Darlin’’s first album, then ‘Europe’ might take a while to worm its way into your head and heart, but once it does it’s more than likely to stay there forever. Look back, for sure, but don’t stay there.

Ah, Cats on Fire, we meet again. The band's 'All Blackshirts To Me' (Matinee Recordings) finally realised their potential. Chock-full of off-kilter pop classics, this was the album I'd been waiting for them to make. I'm sure they're delighted they've made me happy.
Five years on from seeing this band at the pre-Indietracks gig we organised in 2007, Cats on Fire are back on form. 'All Blackshirts to Me' is their 'Strangeways, Here We Come'. Only now I really hope they get to make another record.

But, really, there's only one choice for my favourite album of the year, and that's Shrag's visceral pop fest, 'Canines' (Fortuna Pop!/WIAIWYA). Full of sex, zoology, humour and pathos, 'Canines' is a masterpiece.
Real, instant pop albums like this only come along once every three or four years. This time it's Shrag's turn. Still in love with these times.

Anyone who doesn't instantly fall in love with Orca Team needs a good look at themselves. Their 'Restraint' album on Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records was this year's surprise hit, and, combined with some charmingly tense live shows, the band charmed the UK on an early summer tour that I hope they can repeat in 2013.

In a year when the Tory government continued to oppress the weak and vulnerable, then it was good to see The Great Leap Forward take up the agit-pop mantle with the inspiring 'This is Our Decade of Living Cheaply and Getting By' (Communications Unique).
There's nothing wrong with heartbreak over a saveloy, but sometimes I need more, and the Great Leap Forward have given me it. A properly thrilling, angry piece of work. 

Another triumph return came in the form of a newly-invigorated Tender Trap. 'Ten Songs About Girls' (Fortuna Pop!) was somehow the choice for being played endlessly in the car. It kind of seemed perfect.
I didn't really see this coming from Tender Trap. Always a band to adore, with 'Ten Songs About Girls' they've become a band to be in awe of. A bona fide pop masterpiece.

Into the Autumn and a band from years and years ago came back, and how glad I was. Matinee Recordings were good enough to put together The Sugargliders retrospective 'A Nest With a View, 1990 - 1994'. This brought the old days flooding right back.
What you have here, comrades, is the most perfect indiepop - a tribute to defiance, hope and the beauty of finding confidence in a simple piece of spinning plastic. Thank heavens we have that left, at least.

They were my favourite albums of the year. You may very well disagree.

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Single life 2012

... but I'm bored of waiting for a reply from the accounts department of a company that owes me £1,000 in unpaid wages, so I thought I'd go all misty-eyed and take a look back at what was ace about this year.

Firstly, there are two glaring omissions: albums by The School and The Smittens - both of which I've simply not got around to listening to. I am a lazy, good-for-nothing tyke. Also, I missed London Popfest this year after being too tired and too skint to spend even one night in London back in February. With 2013's version just around the corner, I hope to make up for this.

Okay, which were the best singles of the last 12 months? I've omitted the Big Wave record on Soft Power from this, because I've only just come across it. Needless to say it's utterly thrilling.

Let's start at the beginning with...

Allo Darlin' - 'Capricornia' (Fortuna Pop!). It seems so long ago now, but I went all Mystic Meg with:
'Capricornia' ois frankly beautiful. I suspect there are plenty of people waiting for Allo Darlin' to trip up after their faultless rise and rise, but this isn't the single that'll let them down. And if this is a signpost the forthcoming album, 'Europe', then Allo Darlin' will be ready to take on the world. And they will.

Into February, and along come Shrag with 'Tendons in the Night', also on Fortuna Pop! (there's a theme here).
If this is a taster of what's on the new Shrag album then I'm in for a Spring of hiding indoors, crouched over the CD player, finger hovered over the repeat button, because 'Tendons in the Night' is the band's best single yet. Bob's deadpan delivery melds perfectly with Helen's hissyfit vocals across a strict background of clockwork drums, organ and squally guitar. The last 20 seconds in particular are just about the most exciting thing that's everey happened to me on a Monday.

Mascot Fight released a single in 2012, and not many people know that. 'Played a Hand' (Cassette County) was apparently released in March, and here's what I, rather unimaginatively, said:
Mascot Fight are still going, and thank heavens for that. Their brand of awkward pop deserves to be heard by more people than a few people in the East Midlands... if you're tired of the same old chords played in the same old order then you should chuck a few pennies their way.

Into April, and stalwarts Peru were back doing the rounds with their first single in what seemed like forever. And what a dreamy return it was.
'Archie's Luck is In' (Archdeacon of Pop) is like Haircut 100 playing McCarthy song, and if that sounds terrible, then you have tits for ears. There's also a bit of The Loft in there, too. It fair takes you back.

Another band back to haunt me (in the nicest possible way) this year were Amida, whose rattling pop showed up bright as a button in May in the shape of the 'My Life As a Trashcan' ep (Jigsaw Records).
Amida choose their influences well; the eponymous opener comes on like the Bachelor Pad covering one of The Creepers' more frantic moments. It's all over the places in the most thrilling of ways, whilst 'A New Low' sounds like a more wired Jonathan Richman, with its gloriously grating guitars.

Meanwhile, Bart and Friends cooled me right back down with the 'There May Come a Time' ep on Matinee Recordings.
When you've got tracks as chocolate-y as 'A Kiss You Won't forget, which combines the effortless grace of Berry's vocals with a guitar line straight from 'Johnny Marr: the early years', then you'll never be alone.

July threw up three of the best, starting with probably my favourite single this year, The Hobbes Fanclub's 'Your Doubting Heart' (Shelflife).
Sure, The Hobbes Fanclub wear their influences on their sleeves, but they do it with pride and when they take their lead from bands that have sat if your record collection for years, then it's pretty much impossible not to fall in love with them.

Similarly understated, and just about as equally brilliant, was Charlie Big Time's 'Dishevelled Revellers' on Matinee Recordings - a record so world weary I couldn't help but love it.
Charlie Big Time are never going to find themselves breaking down any barriers musically, but when they make such gorgeously gliding melancholia like this, well, I couldn't care less.

As if that wasn't enough, back from the dead came Pale Sunday after far too long away with 'The Fake Stories About You and Me' (Matinee Recordings).
Like everything about indiepop, it's a small miracle that this records exists at all, but it does and that's wonderful. Here's hoping Pale Sunday continue to soundtrack the lives of people everywhere.

The unsung heroes of 2012 have been Dufflecoat Records, and I guess they'd have it no other way. The Proctors/Apple Orchard they released in August was the perfect end to the summer.
Dufflecoat Records, the perennial outsiders of a scene already outside of just about everything else, have been putting stuff out at an alarming rate over the last couple of years. CD-Rs have been a speciality, but this is a beautifully packaged indiepop seven inch single on vinyl so thick you want to bite it.

By the time September was here, Shrag had pummelled me into submission with their flawless 'Canines' album. It was only natural that their 'Devastating Bones' single on Fortuna Pop! struck a chord.
'Devasting Bones' is at the same time savage, sexy, filthy and full of pop.

Just as deliciously dark were Fever Dream who in October released their 'EP', erm, through Underused Records. I'm still listening to this every day.
Six songs, then, that show more invention, more emotion and more pop nous than most bands manage in six years.

Also sneaking around in October were Pale Lights, releasing a single on their own Calico Cat label. It's flippin' tremendous.
The whole ep makes me want to sit and play the record over and over again - y'know, like you did in the old days. Take a listen to the mod-ish 'She Won't Ever Calm Down' and tell me you don't want to get off the settee, get dressed up and go out dancing. And how many records do that to you now that you're THAT age? 

The Spook School look set to take off in 2013, but this year they did just fine too, ta very much. Singles on Softpower and, before that, Cloudberry have been vignettes of what's to come.
This single is one of the most exciting things I've heard in quite a while. By the time the gentle distortion fades away at the end of 'Here We Go' you immediately want to go right back to the begin again. This is what pop music is all about.

I've nearly finished - honest.

November was similarly wonderful, mainly for September Girls' dark pop classic, 'Wanting More' (Matinee Recordings).
Throughout the three flawless tracks on this seven inch, September Girls create something so exciting and deeply beautiful that it's hard to understand why they aren't pop stars already.

Lastly, at the other end of the scale, come The Sunbathers with their 'EP' (lot of those this year) on Dufflecoat. A quiet classic with which to wrap up warm with.
The Sunbathers are something of a rarity. Julie and Paul are never really morose, but if you're looking to cut a rug, then you'll be searching in the wrong place on a Sunbathers record or at a gig. A gentle masterpiece.

This year was more of a great singles year than great albums year for me. Of course there were some great albums. The next time someone's not sending me any money for something I've worked ridiculously long hours for I'll write them down. Probably tomorrow, then.

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Out with the old

As the year creaks to an end I and I turn my thoughts to those pesky top ten lists, out of the blue come two prime pieces of new pop music to make me screw up those bits of paper and throw them in the bin.

Northern Portrait are back with another ep on Matinee in January, and the lead track from that, 'Happy Nice Day' fair blows the cobwebs away. It's the same sort of sublime pop we've come to expect from the Danes, but then what were you expecting? Dub step? 'Happy Nice Day' swoops and glides and ends on a suitably joyous, hopeful note. But, heck, why take my word for it? Listen to this over and over again for yourself.

And then there's Joanna Gruesome, who have pretty much taken 2012 and given it the roughest, most ramshackle power cuddle they can. They end with these tracks from their forthcoming Happy Happy Birthday to Me Records seven inch.

We've heard 'Lemonade Grrl' before, and it's still as thrilling as ever, so why not lose yourself in Do You Really Wanna Know Why Yr Still in Love With Me', which, underneath all that gorgeous fuzz and discordance, is just a really, really beautiful pop song.

Northern Portrait and Joanna Gruesome have a lot more in common than I first thought. Here's to seeing them both do more of the same next year.