Monday, 8 December 2014

Lost Pets

I have to declare an interest here, the wife's the drummer. But there are four other people in Lost Pets, and every one of them makes this three-track demo something to treasure as 2014 slips away from us.

Lost Pets have played three gigs, and only started practising six months ago. How, then - are these songs so full of pop magic?

Not that many would imagine 'Diamonds and Cobblestones' to be a pop song. A wistful waltz that could easily be played at the next Coronation Street wedding as the first dance, it's got Rebekah Barnett's tremulous voice across special guest Marc Elston's tremolo, whilst Hannah Bond honks her brass beautifully in the background. It twinkles and lopes and is downright beautiful.

Over on 'Get Out' Lost Pets get mean, a plaintive rant against a controlling other, with garage band drums, butter-wouldn't-melt glockenspiel and more Hannah Bond honking, but it's 'Richard Loves Doris' that really steals the show, with it's 'Be My Baby' drumming, bouncing bass and starlight glock. It's fun and cocky and wry and knowing and completely disarming innocent pop. You should try it.

Lost Pets play the Glasgow PopSouth! Weekender, which runs from 13th-15th February.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Interview: The Popguns:

Hello, again.

Work has taken its toll on me writing anything new for yonks, now. October was a very cruel month. But I've not been as quiet as The Popguns, whose first release for 18 years - the bolshy, chunky, altogether gorgeous 'Lovejunky' is out now on Matinee Recordings, to be followed by an album, 'Pop Fiction',
to follow on 2nd December.

I emailed Simon from the band a few questions. He was good enough to reply...

I first heard Popguns on the John Peel show, when Landslide was in the Festive 50. Is it true the single was held off being released because of the Hillsborough disaster?
Sorry, I’ve never heard that one before. Maybe it was an excuse for not getting more airplay?

What are your fondest memories of your first time around as a band?
Going out on our first mini-tour after we’d done a Peel Session and people in strange towns were singing back our songs from the crowd. I remember playing Warwick University (I think) and people were singing along to 'Bye Bye Baby' which had its first play on Peel a few days earlier and was not out on record yet.

And why did you stop?
Lack of commercial success. And ten years of indie rock and roll can take its toll you know. If I dwelt on that too much about that we’d probably stop again now so I won’t.

What brought the band back together?
The rest of the band kept begging me to do it again cos they loved the songs so much I guess. I was actually very reluctant initially as I had no new songs, but it all went down very well and then I had a rush of creativity for some reason so we carried on a bit more to do the new album. I never fell out of love with pop music but this experience has really brought that alive again.

Do you understand why some people are wary about so many indie pop bands reforming at the moment?
Not really, indie bands are not that dangerous at all. It was actually a real surprise that there is so much interest in indie music with all the Popfest stuff around the world. There’s plenty of room in the world for all sorts of music and all sorts of indie bands too. Not every band is everyone’s cup of tea, that’s for sure.

What are the differences between making music and gigging now, and doing it all in the late 80s/early 90s?
Plus ca change… and all that really. Live gigs are pretty much the same, playing a bit too loud and a bit out of tune in small venues to loud crowds and that’s the best bit really. Everyone at our shows are clearly out for a good time and that rubs off on us;  it’s just a real pleasure to play our music and see the reaction without the thought that we need to impress some journalists or record companies.

Recording has been a bit easier this time with all the new tech and less pressure to deliver. The biggest difference is the internet I guess which helped keep our music alive and lets us keep in touch with our fan base. Twenty ears ago we relied so much more on the music press and crumbs of radio play to get noticed but now that’s not so important.

Tell me about the new album. What influences have you taken?
Firstly, I’m just really relieved and proud to have made the record I always wanted to all those years ago. In our opinion we never really did justice to ourselves with our recordings and this has to be by far our best album. I was always influenced by great female fronted pop bands (Shirelles, Blondie, Pretenders) and that hasn’t gone away and I can’t stop trying to create that same feeling in our songs. Inevitably the subject matter of songs has hanged a bit but you may not always notice (secret: They are all about The Popguns, ha ha). Actually, there’s one song, “Alfa Romeo”, about the life of trumpet player Chet Baker but I don’t think we could be filed under jazz just yet.

And which new bands are you listening to at the moment?
Of the bands that have come along since we split I guess The Strokes, Libertines and Arcade Fire would have to be 3 that capture what I think is great is about pop music. Although Arcade Fire may not quite fit the uncomplicated pop category. Two albums I’ve listened to a lot this year are 'Crimson Red' by prefab Sprout and 'Help Stamp Out Loneliness' by HSOL (a few years old I admit). My 15 year old daughter’s faves are Taylor Swift… and Arcade Fire and The Strokes! Yay.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Allo Darlin' - We Come From the Same Place (Fortuna Pop!)

"Nothing feels like it did before, and I am grateful for that," sings Elizabeth Morris on 'Crickets in the rain', and with that the downbeat tiredness (but still beautiful) of 'Europe' is put to bed. Locked away. It's time to move on, and life is good.

Allo Darlin', perhaps more than any other indiepop band (if, indeed, that's what they are), have been so closely watched over the last four years. Births, break-ups, marriages, moves and a triumphant emotional comeback-of-sorts at this year's Indietracks - all over the space of three albums. 'We come from the same place' is the perfect, rounded end to their first three albums, in which they've not so much grown up in the limelight, as had it shone so brightly on them.

'We come from the same place' is the sound of a band on top of their game - a band who can write just about any song you want them to. 'Angela' is a deeply delicate hymn to love, but is followed up by new single 'Bright Eyes' - the romping, stomping duet between Morris and Paul Rains (whose guitar playing is the real star of this album, by the way). A call-and-answer masterpiece, it's the feelgood hit of the Autumn: "It feels better hanging out with you." Indeed.

Elsewhere, on the title track, Morris's voice, not for the first or last time in the band's time together, soars and then breaks and then does that thing that invokes such emotion that it's hard not to believe anything is possible. It's the past four years synthesised into one perfect four-and-a-half minutes.

Morris is again to the fore in the reflective 'History lessons', in which she rails against nostalgia and vents her frustration that we can't and don't celebrate the here and now and, for that matter, the future. The indiepop scene would do well to take notice.

There's even a hint of Britpop in 'Half heart necklace', which, if not exactly a straight down the line rock track, gives Rains the chance to sketch distorted shapes with his guitar as Morris tells the tale of her childhood back in Australia.

Back to 'Crickets in the Rain', though, which is the real star of the show. Perhaps harking back to older Allo Darlin' songs (at least musically), it's the one with the killer chorus, and another in which the vocals crackle and spark just enough to keep your eyes moistening. And there's that guitar leading everyone a very merry dance, as again, Morris puts nostalgia in its place. No looking back now.

'Another year' ends the album, and still the themes are travel and moving on and not going back. If this song about leaving on a plane is a metaphor for the whole album, or whether it's simply a tale about moving to Italy - it matters not. Sure, there's self-doubt here, but, y'know... onwards.

Much has happened to Allo Darlin' since their self-titled album bounced into the world back in 2010. That they're still around, writing songs as complete and life-affirming as can be found on this flawless record, is something to cherish. Always looking forward, always moving on - and thank goodness for that.

Allo Darlin play The Maze in Nottingham on 19th November, as part of a UK tour. 'We Come from the Same Place' is out on 6th October.

Monday, 15 September 2014

The Debutantes - S/T ep (Soft Power)

Oh, the pop music, the pop music these people make. The Debutantes are Leon and Sarah and Paula from September Girls, and this is their perfect debut.

Whereas September Girls are all dark menace, The Debutantes are at the more blissed-out end of fuzzy, scuzzy pop. Opener, 'Burn the merchandise' revels in its prime-time pop-chime of Jesus and Mary Chain, whilst also hinting at Frankie Rose. The Be My Baby (there must be a more technical term than this) drums only add to the lengthening of the summer as the leaves fall.

'Gentleman's wash' is all new-wave atmospherics, with all feel of 'Japanese Whispers'-era Cure in there, and it's pretty much the jewel in the crown here. It's all fruitless yearning, like most of the best pop songs, and is followed up by the equally sensitive 'Kids', which is just gorgeous, like a freshly made bed with a bottle of wine under each pillow.

'X&Y' is both vital and meek and a rallying cry, and a sob into a pillow. It kicks out every remaining jam, and then comes back for seconds, whilst closer 'Adam's apple' is as near to September Girls as get through five fresh as a daisy tracks.

It's a treat to listen to a new band be clever with pop music. There's a subtlety at work here which is often lost in the eagerness to get your music out 

Now, if only Soft Power would stop releasing these things on cassette, which I have no way of playing. Still, you can get yours from 11th October, listen here, and watch here:

Gentlemans Wash from Leon Butler on Vimeo.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Show offs

I've got four gig promotions coming up before Christmas, and I'm kind of thinking of calling it a day after that (although I've said this before and never stuck to it). But it'll be a great way to go out, because...

On 4th October, of course, is our all-dayer. There are only about forty tickets left for this now, and if they go there won't be any walk-ups, so you best spend your wages whilst you still have them.

After that, it's Withered Hand with The Sweet Nothings at The Maze in Nottingham on 15th October. Withered Hand's new album 'New Gods' is a thing of complete wonder, and you'd be a complete idiot to miss this. Tickets are available here.

Into November, and at The Chameleon, we have Dignan Porch, Witching Waves, Eureka California and (hopefully) one very special guest. No tickets for this one - just be there early on Saturday 15th.

A few days later on 19th at The Maze again, it's Allo Darlin', Making Marks and Seabirds at The Maze. If this is where I exit stage left, then it'll be great to go out listening to my favourite band of the last four years. Do join me and get your tickets here.

I've spent the last week listening to the Allo Darlin' album constantly all week, and I'm deeply in love with it (review to come soon).

If anyone can get Alvvays over to the UK, thenm I'll change my mind instantly about putting on gigs. As it is, these four will do just fine. See you at the all-dayer!

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Indietracks 2014: Permanent revolution and the smashing of the Del Amitri ghetto

The Hobbes Flanclub's Leon, who was packing adult emergency poncho heat all weekend
Indietracks is dead, long live Indietracks. After much huffing and puffing by Various Quarters of Indiepop, this year's festival not only lived up to its predecessors - it probably surpassed it.

Imaging being caught in the indiepop ghetto (or, as it's otherwise known 1988), when everyone (and by everyone, it was nearly always men with quiffs that were just on the right side of damped down so they could go to their office job every day without any hassle) wore their gentle plaid shirts tucked into their 501s and played listless melancholia about a girl named Cathy from Carlisle who doesn't want to roll about in a meadow with you any more. There are probably denim jackets involved, and record sleeves that so desperately want to be Smiths records, that not even Smiths fans clinging onto the distant past buy them. That's what happened back then. I was there. Indiepop was dead (only to be revived briefly by a couple of urchins from Bristol and a set of bands that saw that sounding like a slightly left-of-centre Del Amitri really wasn't doing anyone any favours).

And so in 2014, Indietracks sort of reinvented itself and took chances with the line-up - and it worked. For every person wondering why Gruff Rhys was playing (and I'm no fan, but he was deadly entertaining), there were many more who were probably discovering Slum of Legs, Joanna Gruesome, Thee Ahs, The Hobbes Fanclub or The Royal Landscaping Society for the first time. Isn't that better than our tiny little scene building a Berlin Wall around itself and patting ourselves on the back for being as pure as the driven snow? I'd much rather persuade a Super Furry Animals fan to love The Blue Minkies than the other way around, for example.


Friday night is a complete triumph, and one of my favourite ever times at Indietracks. We see tonieee and Jo at the head of the road down to Swanwick and catch up about kids, life, holidays, and which bands we're looking forward to seeing. And then friends and acquaintances arrive and you get that Indietracks feeling all over again, and just let the weekend wash over you like a comfort blanket.

I'd not seen Spearmint since the early 2000s in a sweatpit of a venue in London, but they've lost none of the sparkle that makes them instant pop stars, mixing old and new and finishing with an obvious, but completely triumphant 'Sweeping the nation'. They've not lost it.

Allo Darlin' somehow continue to rise and rise and as the sun goes down and Elizabeth plays 'Tallulah' you realise that they'll be difficult to beat this weekend, and so it proves.

Saturday is roasting hot, and I'm lost in a haze of a delightful gallon of bitter called American Girl, which is ridiculously easy to drink and makes me lose all feeling from my knees down.

The Royal Landscaping Society overcome early sound problems to claim the hearts of the crowd with their Wake-meets-Brighter sadpop, and it's all quite wonderful.

It's sweaty everywhere, but nowhere more than on stage with MJ Hibbett and the Validators who pull out a performance from the vaults to completely charm the really-quite-large crowd. The new songs sound great, and the band seem genuinely chuffed with the reception, and that's always lovely.

Joanna Gruesome, despite a stop/start performance (sound problems again), distil more energy into half an hour than most bands manage in a lifetime, and then go all coy when Dean Wareham joins them onstage for 'Tugboat'. They're as thrilling as ever, and that almost goes without saying these days.

By this time, I'm resembling something approaching red cabbage, and so it is with a heavy heart that I give Slum of Legs a miss in the church, and simply settle down on the grass and... wait for the sun to go down.

First on the main stage on Sunday are Axolotes Mexicanos, an Elefant band who I've never heard of, and who I desperately want to hear more of. A hyperactive singer being translated by a deadpan band member and a fantastic line of fizzy, abrasive indiepop later, and I'm fully pepped, and head into the shed, where No Ditching are again impressive, before Hobbes Fanclub show up and play those perfect songs from their new album in such an exciting manner that I forget how hot it is and actually start to dance. I apologise now for anyone who saw this.

One ace set from Night Flowers later, and my Indietracks is done. It's work tomorrow, and there's a four year old to put to bed. He cries when he's told we're going too.

I was told by an organiser that 200 more tickets were sold for this year's Indietracks than last year's. If Indietracks really wanted to "sell-out" (and I mean that in both senses of the word), then I'm sure it could and the people that benefit from the money it raises would be eternally grateful. The fact that they don't is testament to a group of people who say more to me about my life than sniffy purists. Ultra-leftism (in indiepop terms) is all well and good if you can afford to go to more than one of these events each year, but it won't lead us to any kind of Glorious Revolution, and as my dear friend Lenin said, is awfully infantile. Indietracks probably won't get us there either, but we'll have a lot of fun trying.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Slum of Legs - Begin to Dissolve (Tuff Enuff Records)

Welcome to futures and pasts. If Slum of Legs aren't the best band in the UK by the end of the year, there'll be something not quite right. They take the past 25 year of underground pop music and squeeze it out of tiny, tinny speakers. This single is magnificent, let's make no mistake.

The stars of Indietracks (I missed them due to being too hot - ROCK 'N' ROLL), Slum of Legs make the kind of tense, taut glam racket that Prolapse used to specialise in around the same time as Quickspace, and which the dear-departed Shrag excelled in until their demise last year.

There are violins and crunchy synths, mad wig-outs, scenes of genuine emotion (most notably on the superior b-side 'Razorblade the Tape') and a kind of lonesome defiance that is so missing from much of the pop underground right now. Slum of Legs might just give you some hope for the future if you let them.

Meanwhile, and as an aside of some great importance, Tuff Enuff Records is on a run of hits so potent that you'll have to try hard not to become infected.

Do not miss the chance to save yourselves.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Hobbes Fanclub - Up at Lagrange (Shelflife Records)

Right on cue, in the week before Indietracks, The Hobbes Fanclub, have melted my heart.

Indulge me for a few moments. At the back end of 1990, the week before all my friends who'd stayed on for 6th form went back to school to further their accountancy careers, I started a job as an apprentice plumber and pipefitter on an oil refinery in North Lincolnshire. This was exactly the sort of thing that I wanted to do; to get out of the stolid air of Grammar school and around Real People again.

The money I earned (£1.50 an hour, which came to £57.25 for a 40 hour week after National Insurance was deducted) opened up a whole new world of music to me. Sure, I'd bought records before with summer jobs, but that money ran out very quickly. Now, I was earning. I spent most of the next two years hoovering up records from the likes of Pale Saints, Ride, Slowdive, Field Mice, Boo Radleys... that sort of thing. I look back on this period, rather daftly, as "my time". We never thought we'd have a time back then, of course; our "time" was going to last forever.

And it did and it doesn't and didn't and it does.

The Hobbes Fanclub may or may not have been listening to exactly the same records as me at exactly the same time. I think Leon is a day older than me, which is REALLY FUCKING WEIRD, especially when listening to Up at Lagrange and hearing its influences.

'Your doubting heart' and 'Outside Yourself' might have been re-recorded, but they make up two halves of the perfect single, and sit so beautifully on this album that the rest sounds like a singles compilation. 

'I Knew You'd Understand' is the Pale Saints at their most perky and winsome, and is both charming and yearning. It rattles along but lingers long enough to be caught and hugged. 

'Run into the sea' is The Hobbes Fanclub's take on Jesus and Mary Chain, and it's sight better than that band has managed for 25 years.

And then there are the modern shoegaze classics such as 'Why should you tell the truth?' and the crushing, closing duo of the title track, which has early Boo Radleys written through out like Cleethorpes rock, and 'Sometimes', which wouldn't sound out of place on one of the first four classic Ride eps.

I'm referencing these bands partly because I'm desperately lazy, but also because this album brings back a million feelings and memories - and it does it almost effortlessly. It's a classic album, and it'll be seen like that (by me) for years to come. I might even grow that pillarbox red bob back.

In short: this is the sort of record I'd have obsessed over when I was 16, just as much as I'm obsessing over it right now. A masterpiece from start to finish.
The Hobbes Fanclub forever.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Indietracks compilation - the 55 varieties

It's that time of year again, when we all get to listen to those bands playing Indietracks who we've never heard of. Or maybe that's just me not being cool enough, and perhaps this time next month I'll be having a Lonely Tourist tattoo on both inner thighs.

There are 55 tracks here. It's almost a prog rock album. Of course it's not, and it's criminally cheap to download, so why don't you go and do that. Let me tell you now that it's worth it alone for the storming new Hobbes Fanclub track 'Why should you tell the truth?'. If this is a teaser for the album, then we're all in for a treat.

I've got about a year's work to fit in between now and Indietracks, and in the meantime there's this. Please do come along if you at all can.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Tyrannosaurus Dead/Joanna Gruesome split single (Oddbox Records)

Everything is coming to a grinding halt.

But I'm sparked into a life again by a tremendous split-single from Tyrannosaurus Dead and Joanna Gruesome on Oddbox Records, which has made working 14 hours days seem less and less and important. Fuck it, it's not important at all to work 14 hour days, is it?

Jo-Gru commit last year's 'Weird Sister' opener 'Anti-Parent Cowboy Killers' to the single. Oh, it's all sweetness and light for about 12 seconds, then it creeps onto another level, all loathing, and power, and pep and - to be honest - deep, deep excitement. Joanna Gruesome are set to completely walk all over this year's Indietracks, and I can't wait to see them again.

Mind you, Tyrannosaurus Dead aren't half bad either. Their 'Post Holiday Dead Song' is somewhere between Seafood, Uresei Yatsura and the Pale Man Made, T-Dead make a beguiling sound, all drawling, cool vocals laced with a sad, vulnerable lyrics - all encased in a warm, comforting wall of fuzz.

They used to release singles like this all the time on seven inch when I were a nipper. Now it's all downloads and lost files on your computer. It's great to see Oddbox keeping the flame alive - this single is out on 21st July on the lovely plastic stuff.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Men Oh Pause - Pulse Check ep (Tuff Enuff Records)

Forget C86 revivalism, there's a new sound in town, and it's called Men Oh Pause, who make the poppiest anti-pop this side of Young Marble Giants.

This defiantly indie four-track ep from the often excellent Tuff Enuff shows Men Oh Pause resurrect the ghosts of Huggy Bear, Slampt!, Prolapse and several mid-90s US obscurities on the much-missed Troubleman Unlimited imprint. That's right - "imprint".

Featuring Jacindy Cartland from King Alfred, Man Of Leisure, Maureen Bourne from Leopard Leg and Flo Brooks from Chaps, Men Oh Pause sound almost too cool, with their playground chant vocals, underpinned by an impending sense of doom and/or claustrophobia.

"Sapphire and Steel" (named after everyone's favourite early 80s creepout sci-fio series) is the highlight here, a sinister Wurlitzer of a tune, that suddenly changes tack and turns into a growling drone pop delight. Imagine Free Kitten with a touch of the music hall. It's a heady brew alright.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Comet Gain: for better, for worse, forever

Oh, another Comet Gain album. For every fantastic night out that has been soundtracked by Comet Gain, there have been half as many drastic times where they've been more than a night nurse.

Over the last two decades, Comet Gain have been there for me, and even after a dozen or so proper listens of their latest classic, 'Paperback Ghosts' (Fortuna Pop!), this new runt to a litter of perfectly mis-shaped albums is way, way up there.

It's for the dreamers, schemers and miscreants. For those who have loved and for those that have lost and want to be lost. It's heartbreaking and genuine and a shot in the arm... and a kick in the head - just when you probably deserve it.

It has a song called 'Behind the House She Lived In', which is dancefloor filler that has the ability to reduce anyone to tears whilst they're flailing around at 1 in the morning. Then there's 'Breaking Open the Head Part 1' - a new wave shimmer and a complete attack dog of a pop song. Fights behind the youth club, a party you know you're not wanted at. A walk home from a terrible club on your own, in the rain. Go home and put a Comet Gain album on and FIGHT BACK.

And what is everyone else going to do because they haven't heard 'Casino Classics' or 'Realistes' or 'Howl of the Lonely Crowd' and now Paperback Ghosts? Those poor, lost fools. And they've never heard 'The Last Love Letter' - where David Feck's open heart is there in full, gory, bleeding beautiful detail.

When I first heard Comet Gain back in 1995, I was properly on my arse. On the dole, in a bedsit with no running water and having found myself newly single after splitting up with the person who I'd moved to Nottingham with. Times - and problems - change. Comet Gain keep on, keepin' on. And that is one of the most precious things in the world.

Needless to say, you need 'Paperback Ghosts' in your life - and whatever your life is like, this album will make it that little bit better. Go get.

Monday, 26 May 2014

New gig, new danger

In case you were worried, we're just about fending off the crypto-fascists here in Nottingham, although we think they stole some people from the audience at the criminally-attended Fever Dream/Cosines/Poirot's Boys show we put on the other week.

Not to worry, because, like the gluttons for punishment we are, we've got another show coming up. It sort of acts as an Indietracks warm-up for half the bill. The other half I'm deeply excited about seeing. It's been a while since we've been brave enough to put such a varied bill on, so if no-one comes to this one, we're going to start a popular revolution and sweep away the political elite. If we can be arsed.

Here, in a lazy way, is a teaser of what to expect. You can find the rest of the secrets to a happy life over on the right, and on facebook.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

The Yearning - If I Can't Have You (Elefant)

Remember back in the late 1990s when Belle and Sebastian were making that series of wonderful pop records that you thought would last forever? Then you might remember that they spent the most of the next 15 years disappearing up their own backsides and writing songs that sounded like Leo Sayer b-sides.

It is with this in mind that we should thank The Yearning for taking up the baton so effortlessly. 'If I Can't Have You' is a download only single from their forthcoming album 'Dreamboats and Lemonade' (which beats those Heartbeat compilations hands down as far as a name goes), also out on Elefant.

It's a crackling flame of a song, that begins with a gorgeous keyboard part that backs a plaintive lament about the old unrequited love conundrum. Seems the heroine of the song is bound to settle for second best here, and isn't that a sad old thing to behold?

Labelmates The School are clearly a big influence on The Yearning, but there are also echoes of formative Camera Obscure and (yes) Belle and Sebastian on those first three electric albums which now seem to be a lifetime away.

The Yearning have lived up to their name in a single song, and I hope I'm not feeling a bit fragile when I see them at Indietracks this year. A beautiful, painful pop song.

Monday, 5 May 2014

INTERVIEW: Indietracks: "Stop worrying - everything is brilliant!"

We've all seen this shadowy figures, somehow completely pristine each year, placing the wristbands on your arm as you excitedly go through the Indietracks gate each year - but what do the festival's organisers really think about The World's Best Weekend? Andy, Ian, Marianthi and Nat - some of  the people who put these whole delicious three days together each year, were good enough to answer a few questions.

You're a person down this year, with Emma retiring. Has this affected how you've planned Indietracks?

Nat: We'll keep planning Indietracks in the same way as always, but we'll really miss Emma of course. She's always welcome to come back to the team!

What can we expect this year? More of the same, or anything different?

Andy: Usually the Midland Railway come up with something new that we're not expecting ourselves! We turned up to find an owl sanctuary a few years ago, a beach last year, and a huge batch of glow sticks a few years ago! Plus there was the railway volunteer playing The Last Post on the bugle last year! From our side, we've tried to book a really exciting line-up, as always, and we've still more to announce. The steam trains, real ale, art and crafts workshops and Gopal's curry shack will all be there as always. There might be wood-fired pizza this year, but no promises!

There's a lot made of the Railway, and how it relies on Indietracks for revenue. Does this ever play a part when you're picking bands? Do you go for crowd-pleasers to bring revenue in, for example?

Nat: We only book bands we really love, and we've been lucky enough to find lots of high-profile bands that suit the perfectly festival so far - Teenage Fanclub, Camera Obscura, Edwyn Collins in previous years (to name just a few!), and Gruff Rhys, Dean Wareham, Allo Darlin', Withered Hand and others this year. We really want the festival to appeal to a wide audience and to introduce new people to indiepop, and booking high profile bands helps with this. We also want to give all the bands the opportunity to play to as large an audience as possible, and high profile bands encourage more people to come along. There's no pressure from the railway and they took great risks in the early days to back us financially in booking established bands.

Where do you think you sit in relation to other, smaller festivals? Do you ever hear from organisers? Is there a secret revolutionary international union we don't know about?

Andy: Well, there's an Association of Festival Organisers, but it probably doesn't quite qualify as a secret revolutionary union! They're very nice but we're not involved at the moment. We know a few other small festival organisers, but we feel a lot closer to people like Wales Goes Pop!, Going Up The Country, the Birmingham and London popfests, the OddBox Weekend and the Nottingham, Leicester and Glasgow indiepop alldayers. Hopefully we share a similar spirit with those events, and it's great that there's so many good opportunities for bands at the moment.

What do you say to people who think there should be more local bands playing?

Nat: We've booked lots of amazing local bands in the past - Haiku Salut, Standard Fare, Slow Club, The Sweet Nothings, Slow Down Tallehassee, Seabirds to name just a few. Looking at the wishlists on the Anorak messageboard, people are suggesting bands from all over the world. We try to book lots of international bands and bands from across the UK, including some that people might not get an opportunity to see otherwise. So we try to strike the right balance between local, national and international. If you're a great local indiepop band, please get in touch in future years!

Would you/could you ever move the festival away from the site?

Andy: It's not something we've ever thought about. The Midland Railway have been so generous with their belief and backing for the festival, and the festival really belongs to the railway and our audience. Lots of people have worked really hard to build it up at that location.

It must be extremely disheartening sometimes to try and please all the people all the time - or is this something you gave up trying to do years ago?

Nat: We're just really pleased that so many people have stayed with us! Everyone's actually been very supportive of the festival so far, and people seem most disappointed when their favourite bands clash, rather than because they'd rather we'd booked different bands. We're booking over 50 bands for each festival, so it's usually possible for people to find a band they like at any given time. Also, I think people understand that if their favourite band isn't playing, it's very possible that we've tried really hard to book them and it wasn't possible. We do try to book a varied and interesting festival and to please as many people as possible, and we pay close attention to the Anorak wishlist when we're booking bands.

Tell me your all-time favourite Indietracks memory.

Ian: Impossible question. As one of the organisers you have a different set of memories and highlights than a festival goer. From boring stuff like things going smoothly or that line up sheet you stuck on the shed wall in the morning still being there at the end of the day to people you've never met telling you they've had the best weekend of their lives - that's hard to top. I'll never forget watching Teenage Fanclub playing ' The Concept' as it started to rain a little bit in 2009 and thinking how bloody amazing this whole thing is. Edwyn Collins is probably my highlight though, especially considering what happened before with the mainstage generator, the whole set was a joyous relief.

Marianthi: My favourite Indietracks memory is the moment I found out it was happening. I remember it so clearly: I was sitting lazily surfing the internet and this page popped up on MySpace or something. Something about an indiepop gig at a heritage railway site in Derbyshire. What? I really thought the universe was trying to tell me something at that moment. I think what it was trying to tell me was, "Stop worrying - everything is brilliant!" And it was. It is. Everything is brilliant because how can it not be when, for eight years now, we've had indiepop and trains and amazing, amazing people all in one place? It just fills me with love.

Andy: I've really enjoyed so many of the bands - The Hidden Cameras, Stars of Aviation, Haiku Salut, The Magic Theatre, Standard Fare and Camera Obscura have been some of my favourites. However, I also really enjoy discovering different and amazing part of the railway site that I never knew existed. My absolute highlight was finally and accidentally discovering the Butterley Miniature Railway in 2012. This isn't the light railway that runs past the main stage, it's a separate mini-railway in an beautiful area of country park a little way behind the museums - it's amazing and has its own proper stations, signals and everything. I discovered it purely by accident while getting lost walking back to Butterley, and it's so hidden and beautiful there. It's only open on Sundays and bank holidays and it's possibly the best kept Indietracks secret!

Nat: Aw, it's just too difficult to come up with one favourite memory! Every year is different, and every year I experience something which seems to make me love Indietracks even more. However I think my one of my favourite memories was the La Casa Azul set in 2009. It was the first year we'd had the large outdoor stage, lots of indiepop fans had come along from Spain due to the Elefant tie-in and everyone was dancing along to his wonderful cover of Love Is In The Air. We weren't quite sure what to expect from his set but it was an absolutely magical moment. To me, that sums up the essence of Indietracks - lots of unexpected magical moments where people come together through the sheer love of music. It sounds cheesy - but it's true!

Early bird tickets are still available for Indietracks (but only until 11th May). If you've not been before, and want to get as close to experiencing full communism for three days, then I suggest you put down that sandwich and do the honourable thing.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Trick Mammoth

I'd love to be able to tell you what a welcoming, diverse, friendly and supremely well-organised weekend Wales Goes Pop! was, but I've simply not stopped working since the long drive back from south Wales to Nottinghamshire.

I managed to surface this afternoon to listen to Trick Mammoth, all the way from the N(ew) of Z(ealand) - Dunedin to be precise. They describe themselves as 'flower cult pop', and who am I to argue?

To these ears they sound a little like Free Loan Investments, and whenever can that be wrong? It's that's sort of wriggly indiepop that might sound all innocent on first listen, actually probably wants to kick your balls out.

Trick Mammoth have a single out as part of the WIAIWYA 7777777 singles club series (which I simply can't keep pace with, so I've given up like some kind of idiot), and an album called 'Floristry' out on Fishrider Records in New Zealand and Occultation Recordings (spooky!) in the UK.

I'd be deeply delighted if they came over to the UK and played some time. And that is an invitation, yes.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

The Proper Ornaments

Ornaments were something your Nan had when you were little. Those weirdly popular inanimate depictions of flower ladies set in an indeterminate past. They gathered dust and you got a proper bollocking if you ever dropped on the floor and it broke into pieces.

Ornaments seem a thing of the past. You don't see many ornaments in IKEA, do you? Although if you go to IKEA then there's something altogether WRONG WITH YOU, anyway.

I'm rambling. The Proper Ornaments are duo from London who, at first glance, look frightfully hip. All skinny legs, a mess of hair and cheekbones you could slice some ham on. But then you listen to them, and they make the sweetest sound ever.

What is it? Well, it's mixture between 1960 West Coast pop, shoegaze, the rattle and thrum of early Stereolab and the Jesus and Mary Chain's gentler moments. This heady brew is made all the better by the fact that I've now got FOUR days off work and I'm heading to Wales Goes Pop in a few hours, where The Proper Ornaments are playing on Saturday night, before the BLOKES move in to nod knowingly to The Wedding Present.

Anyway, The Proper Ornaments have an album out on 9th June through Fortuna Pop!, called 'Wooden Head', and it's a glorious sweep through downbeat majesty. I've just listened to it in the bath twice through, and, frankly, there's no higher accolade.

From that album, here's Summer's Gone from the album.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

A field of their own - more Indietracks bands announced

It's not even Easter yet and I'm starting to plan for Indietracks. We're camping this year, which fills me full of dread, but we're going with my brother, so I'll just bung him in my ears if anyone tries keeping me awake.

Anyway, what's this? More Indietracks bands announced. Yeah! So, to add to the last little lot (scroll down, I can never be arsed to link stuff), are: Laura J Martin (UK), TeenCanteen (UK), Los Cripis (Argentina), The Just Joans (UK), Linda Guilala (Spain), Elopes (UK), Big Joanie (UK), Axolotes Mexicanos (Spain), Slum of Legs (UK), Cosines (UK) and MJ Hibbett and the Validators (UK), Hidden Cameras (Canada) and Joanna Gruesome (UK).

I'm particularly chuffed that I'm going to get to see Joanna Gruesome again after trying desperately to get them to come and play in Nottingham for the last 18 months. False starts and cancellations have hampered that.

Also, I'm past the stage of caring who's played before (and what's more I can't remember). Indietracks does a brilliant job of showcasing the huge, yet tiny, world of indiepop. I mean, why else would a band from Argentina come and play in at railway station in the Amber Valley? That's pretty special, if you think about it, isn't it? And so is Indietracks.

Here's the science bit:  Tickets are now available at an early bird discount price of £65 (weekend) and £35 (day). These cheaper prices are available until 5pm on Sunday 11 May. After this date, prices will be £72 (weekend) and £38 (day). Weekend tickets for children aged 5-15 are £10, or £6 for a day ticket. Children under 5 get in free.

Tickets are available by calling the railway direct on 01773 747 674 or visiting

Monday, 7 April 2014

The 7th (seventh) Annual Nottingham Pop All-Dayer

Around this time of the year we like to be ridiculously organised and announce the full line-up for a gig that is taking place six months hence. But, y'know, our lives are so empty and these bands are so ace, that it's nice to be able to get excited about the Nottingham Pop All-Dayer way before it even happens.

One of these days it's all going to go horribly wrong and three people will turn up... until then, here's the link to the Facebook page. Please be painfully aware and militantly diligent that last year's all-dayer sold out, and there were no walk-ups available on the day. Do your bit for society and buy a ticket now.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Luxembourg Signal - Distant Drive (Shelflife)

That last post was the 666th on this blog since I started it at the beginning of 2009. So, onto a review of something outrageously satanic.

Not really. The Luxembourg Signal's debut seven inch is a piece of simply majestic pop music. With ex-members of Aberdeen, Fonda and Trembling Blue stars you'd expect nothing less, of course, but 'Distant Drive' really hits the spot.

This evokes memories of late-era Sarah Records output, and the insistent drum track makes it all the more urgent. Meanwhile, crystalline guitars spider in and out, up and down, around and about to hypnotise you in the sweetest of ways. It's a might statement of intent.

Over on the b-side 'Wishing Pool' takes things into a much darker direction, with muted vocals washed asunder by broad guitar sweeps and keyboards that have a definite post-punk edge. It all reminds me of those bright young things Night Flowers.

for a debut single, this is a remarkably confident release. A line in the sand has been drawn. Up to the Luxembourg Signal to wash it away with a wave of pop genius, eh?

Take a listen to 'Distant Drive' and fall in love for yourself.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Witching Waves - Concrete (Soft Power)

I knew Mark Jasper when he had nothing. Well, that's a bit of a fib. I sort of knew of Mark Jasper through other people when he worked at the local indie cinema in Nottingham, which I won't name because they have enough money and the lager in their bar is way overpriced.

I digress. Mark has moved to London (another fallen comrade) and teamed up with Emma Wigham to form Witching Waves. They have a new cassette-only (grrr!) release out on the excellent Soft Power Recordings, and mighty doesn't come close to it.

There's only two of them (you might've guessed that by now), and it's all the better for it. Remember that golden period for The Fall when Brix first came along and added some pop nouse to proceedings? That's sort of what these two songs remind me of.

The title track is the perfect downbeat torch song - all scratchy guitars and Woolworths drum kit. It's a kind of backward, twisted nursery rhyme of a song that is both threatening and so very, very sad. It's wonderful.

Back at the ranch, and 'Chain of Command' takes a more traditional route to your heart, with its snake-like guitar line and primal drums. I think you might want to call this beguiling, before it explodes into a lo-fi rocker. Perhaps less instant than 'Concrete', it nevertheless demands your immediate attention.

Get yourselves over to Soft Power and grab this whilst you can. There are only 100 copies - don't faff.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Happy International Indietracks Announcement Day!

It's the third most wonderful time of the year! That's right, pumpkins, those Indietracks types have gone and announced the first tranche (get me!) of bands for this year's festival, and it's a beauty pageant alright.

Headlining will be Allo Darlin' (and I can hear the bitter old men taking to Facebook to vent their spleen that it wasn't like this in their day already), along with that Gruff Rhys Jones, or whatever he's called, from Super Furry Animals and Alas Smith and Jones. Hmm, something not quite right there...

And then feast your eyes on this bag of sweets:

Dean Wareham (US), Spearmint (UK), Rocketship (US), Withered Hand (UK), The Popguns (UK), Sweet Baboo (UK), The Spook School (UK) , The Wellgreen (UK), Let’s Wrestle (UK), Night Flowers (UK), ONSIND (UK), The Very Most (US), The Blue Minkies (UK), The Yawns (UK), Thee AHs (Canada), Franny and Zooey (Dominican Republic) and Lost Tapes (Spain).

Tickets are now available at an early bird discount price of £65 (weekend) and £35 (day). These cheaper prices are available until 5pm on Sunday 11 May. After this date, prices will be £72 (weekend) and £38 (day). Weekend tickets for children aged 5-15 are £10, or £6 for a day ticket. Children under 5 get in free, which is nice but for some reason pisses some people off each year.

Tickets are available by calling the railway direct on 01773 747 674 or visiting Do your worst. 

Monday, 3 March 2014

Withered Hand - New Gods (Fortuna Pop!)

Honesty and open-hearted souls are not particularly the staples of the indiepop domain, but then this probably isn't an indiepop record. What is it? It's the warmest, saddest, downright heartbreaking collection of songs you'll hear this year. It's destined to make everyone sit up and gather in the majesty of Withered Hand.

This is the bit where I'm supposed to mention the Fence Collective, I'm sure, but why waste time? "Nobody in love will ever die" sings Dan Willson on opener 'Horseshoe', and isn't that something to hang your hat on? 'Cos this record seems, to me at least, to deal with a whole load of emotions, worries and "issues" that someone approaching their late-30s, entering their 40s has to come to terms with.

Excuse me if I'm projecting, Mr Willson...

"Shift your paradigm," he sings on 'Black Tambourine', telling us that, as we go through life, our priorities might change, and yeah, we might be lonely, but then isn't everyone lonely? NO. Sing it, sister.

Half the time, I wonder if Wilson is deeply unhappy, whilst the other half I think he's finally at ease with the world, and how jealous I am of that. 'Love Over Desire' is such a schizophrenic song. Also: it might be about the fear of flying - who knows?

But there are genuine toe-tappers here. The Wurlitzer pop of 'King of Hollywood' (whilst it also might be about not liking flying - concept album?), is ACTUALLY REALLY FUNNY, in a tragi-comic way. Meanwhile, the agit-pop of 'Heart Heart' is almost as powerful here as it is live. This is no mope-fest, alright?

The music? Well, the music is an incredibly fine mixture of folk-pop and Americana. It sounds as though you could play it to your Mum if she'd had two brandies too many and was 'up for a party', but is also perfect for a night in on your own. That solitude is nowhere better illustrated than on the Tompaulin-esque 'California'.

Right at the heart of this album is probably the most precious love song you'll ever hear. 'Between Love and Ruin' might be hard to deal with, but through all the turmoil is the fact that, after everything, it's all going to be okay.

It isn't so much world-weariness that runs through throughout 'New Gods', more a bewilderment at growing older, and a longing for something to grab on to. Life is still good, after all, right, and right about now this album says more to me about my life than anything else around. I might have got it all horribly wrong, but, really, I don't care because having this record around the last few weeks has been wonderful. I get the feeling it'll be there for the rest of my life. Y'know... one of those albums.

'New Gods' is out on Fortuna Pop! on 10th March. It's more of an act of self-help than an exercise in buying a record, believe me.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

The Pretty Greens - Jealous Waves (February Records)

This is a delicious slice of DIY pop from Philadelphia, which brings to All Girl Summer Fun Band, The Icicles - even Tender Trap in parts, and it's another triumph from the transatlantic February Records.

The title track is all understated majesty and shambling shoegaze strums with a laid-back, almost coy nature. Meanwhile, Lonely Hunter brings to mind Unrest or, closer to home, September Girls' earlier stuff. There's even time for a cover of The Palisades' 'Make the Night a Little Longer', which is a deft little coquette of song.

If there was any justice in the world, then The Pretty Greens would be famous and Liam Gallagher's fashion label would be (literally) consigned to the dustbin of history. It won't happen, of course, but then that shouldn't take anything away from just how flippin' ESSENTIAL The Pretty Greens are. If they don't make it across the sea to play in the UK this year then I'll throw a terrible strop. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Jealous Waves by The Pretty Greens from Tear-n Tan on Vimeo.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Evans knows I'm miserable now

Another short post because I can;t do anything else at the moment than write news stories and for pointless walks to dismal places - all in the name of "making money". Today I bought a tie for work to cheer myself up. What a world.

Any way 'round, there's another gig to look forward to in the very near future, as we welcome back Evans the Death to Nottingham, ably assisted by Emma Kupa off of the late, lamented Standard Fare, and heroic underachievers Mascot Fight.

All of which led me to listen to this again. Easy to forget this was one of the best singles of recent times. I'll see you there.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Slowcoaches: our troubled youth

If you ask me, being young hasn't got much going for it bar being able to get out of bed without the aid of a tower crane, but it does have some redeeming features. Such as being in the audience in this Slowcoaches video. There can possibly be only one thing better than that - and that's being in the band.

Slowcoaches are wonderful, don't you think? Get back to me when you find a time machine that strips away all the crap of being 18, 'cos this makes me wants to get drunk and do daft things and then get up and go to work and do come home and do it all over again.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Slum of Legs: a modern Iskra

Back in the early '90s I was writing a fanzine here in Nottingham. Thinking back, it was a pretty desperate time; living in a mice-infested flat with no running water in the bathroom and 70 quid to live on a fortnight (this has gone a bit Four Yorkshiremen, but bear with me). However, a few things made it worthwhile...

Tapes in the post. Tapes from all over the world. Demo tapes, promo tapes - all full of rough edits of glitterball songs covered in the dirt of DIY production - which often made them better, it has to be said. Listening to the Slum of Legs demo tape immediately slings me back to those freezing cold days in Radford, when only the music kept me warm.

Slum of Legs are from Trendy Brighton, and have a member of The Chemistry Experiment and an unknown number of Blue Minkies among their number. They make lo-fi soul music that claws at your heart, and their three-track demo tape is a proper winter warmer alright. These songs drip with a passion you rarely hear these days - this is the pop underground kicking back, the sound of defiance in cruel times, the very essence of indiepop (although I doubt they'd welcome that term).

It's a shot in the arm for a scene struggling a little after five years of the best times. If this demo can inspire a new generation of indiepop bands then it'll be even more than just a fantastic demo tape. Here's the spark - you do the rest

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Darren Hayman and Emma Kupa - Boy, Look at What You Can't Have Now (Fortuna Pop!)

When these two met they wanted to make a record that sounded like Bryan Adams an Sporty Spice as possible. Bloody students. Thank God they've failed.

'Boy Look at What You Can't Have Now' is more like a pair of jealous kittens spitting out barbs than anything you'll find on Now 65. Think of Tom Jones and her out of Catatonia, and then forget them immediately because that song was a crime against humanity, whilst this discordant rattle through self-defiance is a slow-burning beauty.

I used to love Hefner, you know. There was a time when I hung off every Darren Hayman lyric, but I haven't really hit it off with much of his solo stuff. However, a sprinkle of Emma Kupa on anyone's cornflakes is enough to transform the mundane into the magical. There are rumours of a duet album. That might fill the Standard Fare-shaped hole in my life for a while, but for now, this is very nice, thank you very much.

'Boy, Look at what You Can't Have Now' is out on Fortuna Pop! on 3rd March.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Withered Hand - Horse Shoe (Fortuna Pop!)

And just as quickly as this song grab your heart, rips it out of your body and stamps on it... it picks it up and kisses it better again.

'Horse Shoe' is the sort of soul-stirring, draining, joyous, happy, sad, FUCKING FANTASTIC four minutes that comes along in song form once or twice a year. It's a tune that you can listen to with a group of friends on the best night of your life, or completely alone on the worst.

Quite what it's about is open to interpretation. Have Withered Hand written a song about losing a loved one way before their time? Is this about a lost romance? Could it all be a metaphor for something else altogether? It's really up to you to make your own mind up on this one - Dan Willson's done all the hard work, you need to put a shift in.

Over on the b-side 'Not Another Sunny Day' is a prime piece of melancholic pop, which seems almost lightweight compared to its majestic partner on the a-side, but that's to do it an injustice. It'd make a perfect lead track any other time.

As January drags winter through another week of horror stories from our wonderful masters in Westminster, then 'Horse Shoe' offers something in desperately short supply at the moment: solidarity. A song to rally around - on every political level. I hate to use the word anthem, but that's really what it is. An anthem for hope. Grab it.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

The Hobbes Fanclub: "I'm the obsessive one, Louise is the cool one and Adam is the wise one."

After spending last year gadding about around the world playing to rapt audiences, The Hobbes Fanclub return in 2014 with a new new album that promises much. I spoke to Leon, vocalist, about the rest of the band, and the new record. Leon was born two days before me. He was deeply in love with Ride back in 1990, and used to visit Grimsby regularly with his Dad. I feel we have something...

You started off sending tapes across the world - this much I'm sure you're bored of talking about. So, what's the best thing about actually being in a proper band?
It's good having someone to just knock about with and you can't play gigs with an email collaborator. We've had some really fun trips away together. Eating cheesy chips and paying £4 for a can of Carlsberg in a Sheffield Travelodge on a Tuesday night can be a real bonding experience.

What is The Hobbes Fanclub about?
Adam reckons its getting laid and taking drugs but that must be after I've gone to bed.

How do you rate the other two members?
They're great and I couldn't have done this without them. I'd never fronted a band before and they're both a few years younger than me and give me confidence to go onstage and to write songs. I reckon I'm the obsessive one, Louise is the cool one and Adam is the wise one who can play all the instruments in the band better than any of us.

What's the songwriting process? Are you IN CHARGE? 
I mostly instigate things and some of the songs in the live set predate Adam and Louise's time in the band but on the album we've started writing some stuff together. A lot of songs start with me doing a demo but they can change a lot once we start playing them as a band.

What's the best bit about being in The Hobbes Fanclub so far?
It's hard to pick a best bit as there have been so many. We've been able to play Indietracks, been to Paris and New York, supported The Pooh Sticks, plus done two Nottingham Alldayers in a row which must be a record surely? Telling the stage manager and sound guy in New York to go fuck themselves for cutting our set short was a highlight too.

How have you found trying to put records out? It seems such a struggle these days.
I think we've been pretty lucky. Everything we've released has sold out and we've never had to wait too long for another offer to come in for the next release. I suppose the hardest thing is funding everything that goes into making a record. We're lucky that labels like Shelflife will stand the cost of pressing but obviously (and understandably) at our level there's no such thing as an advance to actually record the thing, so you either have to pay a studio or build one.

Who is the most inspiring person you've met through being in The Hobbes Fanclub?
We met a funny guy called Ham in a bar round the corner from the venue when we played in Paris with Tender Trap. He's inspired me and Adam make as much money as possible from the band and then retire to a life as a Parisian lush, gliding between tables and seducing lovelies.

Tell me about the new songs; different to the old songs?
We've evolved a bit, as no one wants to play on or buy an album with ten 'Outside Myself's on it, but we still sound like us. Theres a few slower songs and a few noisier songs but its still pop.

And tell me about the album. When is it out, etc?
It's coming out on Shelflife and should be released in April/May. Its nearly finished but we've got to fit in with Shelflife's release schedule. Its taken us a while as we had an aborted attempt at recording at a local studio and in the end I've recorded us myself at home so we know we'll get the sound we want. I think that's why my next door neighbour moved out.

None of us are getting any younger, but do you wish you'd met the other two 20 years ago?
I spotted The Spook School and Joanna Gruesome outdoing each other with their youthfulness on Twitter this week but Adam has pointed out that 20 years ago him and Louise were only 13 so I'm not sure it would've worked. Also all the songs I wrote back then were shit so I'll take this now and be grateful.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

The Lucksmiths - Cartography for Beginners (Matinee Recordings)

It's only when you get right in the middle of this double album that you realise how special The Lucksmiths were, and how much, in a time when indiepop seems to be going through a bit of a downturn, they're missed.

With lovingly-written notes by another avatar of pop majesty, Darren Hanlon, 'Cartography for Beginners' is the story of a band that started out as an almost folk-punk-pop outfit, then morphed, wonderfully, into some kind of pure pop machine, before flickering beautifully before their death with a more relaxed, introspective sound. It's all here.

The Lucksmiths came into my life around 2000 when I started a paper fanzine called Tasty and had just about given up on indiepop altogether. Along with Spearmint and a few others, this band (and that label), opened up a whole new world for me, and I'll be forever grateful.

There are songs here that evoke such strong emotions, such as 'Smokers in Love', 'Untidy Towns', 'Southermost', 'A Downstairs to the Upstairs', 'The Cassingle Revival' and the immense 'Stayaway Stars' which is perhaps one of the most beautiful songs that will ever be written.

They burned bright again near the end with 'Sunlight in a Jar' and 'After the After Party' when most other bands would have slipped into mediocrity. That they kept up such magnificence for 16 years is testament to a quartet who have love in their hearts and pop music in their soul. Like all the best bands, then.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

New Year, new popshow

The first gig of the year is now finalised, and although Seabirds have had to pull out, we've got the mighty Night Flowers to step in and take the strain.

This promises to be a night of high taste and strange lager. There are more details in this mysterious flyer by Andy Hart below, and you can register your interest here.