Thursday, September 30, 2010

The final quarter

Time for our three-monthly audit of everything we consider major coming up this calendar season. Well, as far as we can go, given you hardly ever get something of worth out in December.

British Sea Power - Zeus EP: 4th October
Nothing more to this than they weren't quite ready with a version of the album they were happy with, so jettisoned some songs that while good didn't fit and stuck them out in this nine track EP, only one track from which will be on the 2011 long player.

Clinic - Bubblegum: 4th October
Taking an overdue step back from the scuzz-Kraut-organ buzz formula that's worked so well they've repeated it over five studio albums, it's their most overtly pop album to date, somewhere between lounge-pop and garage psych.

Sufjan Stevens - The Age Of Adz: 4th October
The two tracks eked out so far definitely point to a return to electronic fixtures Sufjan hasn't exploited since before all the states business began. It's not all like that, it says here, but it is all odd, culminating in a 25 minute freakout.

Belle And Sebastian - Write About Love: 11th October
Norah Jones is on it. So is Carey Mulligan. The last few albums, including God Help The Girl, have been wildly inconsistent and by all accounts this one has been cleaned up production-wise but with a return to post-Fold Your Hands... core strengths (adult pop melancholy, Northern Soul nods)

Islet - Wimmy EP: 11th October
Another six tracks of bizarre rhythmic motorik-drone splintering oddness ahead of a full-length next year. Still shouting and smashing cymbals all over the place. And yes, that odd one they do live where they seem to think they're a Cardiff dub band is here.

Paul Smith - Margins: 11th October
"Inspired by Will Oldham, Smog and Cat Power, Margins reflects a side of Paul Smith that we don’t normally get to see." Well, the single sounds not too far from regular Maximo Park, but we'll take their word for it.

The Walkmen - Lisbon: 11th October
It's already been out a month in America, and already had an 8.6 off P4K. The Walkmen do feel like a band who could easily follow The National into the wider arena, except that the Walkmen have already had their enormoindiehit in The Rat, but it feels like an album with plenty to prove.

Darren Hayman and the Secondary Modern - Essex Arms: 18th October
The second in Hayman's Essex trilogy, which he describes as "about love in unloved places". Emmy The Great duets on a track, members of the Wave Pictures and Fanfarlo turn up, and things take an acoustic country-folk turn.

The Phantom Band - The Wants: 18th October
Twenty months on from the tremendously inventive Checkmate Savage, a follow-up already. The first sound on it is a baliphone (Ghanaian bamboo marimba) being sawn. The band credit a "spiritual adviser of sorts" called Mungo Bang. What can it all possibly mean?

Superman Revenge Squad - Dead Crow Blues EP: 18th October
Ben Parker's past comes back to haunt him again on the 4th as the Nosferatu D2 album gets a proper full reissue with iTunes availability and national distribution and everything. Now expanded with a cellist, Parker's Superman Revenge Squad guise gets a first release that isn't self-funded, still as keen on the words and the existential angst as ever.

Broken Records - Let Me Come Home: 25th October
Another quick follow up, sixteen months past Until The Earth Begins To Part, the band who started all this Edinburgh Scene business, by all accounts this one sounds rawer, darker and more subtle.

I Like Trains – He Who Saw The Deep: 25th October
Financed by PledgeMusic, so those who helped fund it will already have heard it. More straightforward, but more engaged with the here and now, and future, is the word. Oh, and the album launch on the 14th is at The Deep aquarium in Hull.

Warpaint - The Fool: 25th October
Some speculation that this could be a slow burner success in the way the not dissimilar XX have proved. Maybe, maybe not, but the four women of LA's light touch could make this quite special.

Her Name Is Calla - The Quiet Lamb: 8th November
The long side of 75 minutes in all, we've been waiting a while for the promise of this full length of slow swell post-rock shapes by the Leicester/Leeds outfit. You might want to consult Tom Morris' track by track.

Napoleon IIIrd - Christiania: 8th November
Named after an autonomous commune-derived region of Copenhagen, James Mabbett exploits the electronic outskirts on his second album. Come and see him and his labemates at our expense tomorrow.

Orange Juice - Coals To Newcastle: 8th November
Plenty of best ofs out for Christmas, obviously, but this one is special, the long awaited Orange Juice box set. Six CDs and a DVD in all, including session versions, live tracks and unreleased tracks.

Brian Eno - Small Craft On A Milk Sea: 15th November
The prospect of a new Eno album is always something to get excited about. Released on Warp, inspired by film soundtracks and improvised textures, it's in collaboration with experimental guitarist Leo Abrahams and Coldplay-sampled electronic ambient composer Jon Hopkins.

Stereolab - Not Music: 15th November
No, not a return from the hiatus they entered last April, but a second set of songs recorded during the 2007 sessions that brought about last album Chemical Chords. Meanwhile Laetitia Sadier has recently quietly put out a solo album, The Trip.

Talons - Hollow Realm: 15th November
Crushing, fractured riffs and dual violin dramatics from the Hereford-homed instrumental band, produced by Tom Woodhead and released on Big Scary Monsters.

Twin Shadow - Forget: 15th November
A hip namedrop in waiting, this is one George Lewis Jr. of Massachusetts, progenitor of new wave-informed synthpop, but not synthpop in that sense, produced and released by Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor.

Munch Munch - Double Visions: 29th November
One that might come out of left field and surprise some, a Bristol outfit known for spectacular live sets, working with the highly rated James Rutledge without guitars but with a lot of percussion and keyboards for what they call 'power pop show tunes'.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Our buy proper friends

It somehow seems overenthusiastic that this is the second time we've posted about Johnny Foreigner in two weeks given they're still mixing a new EP and writing a third album. It's almost like we're becoming one of those tables you used to see in football magazines where all news about the big clubs of the day is printed whatever the level of importance, but specifically for the sort of people STN goes all unnecessary about ("LOS CAMPESINOS - tweeted about Football Manager again")

But no, this one is important. Having seen nothing and been put out of contact from an expected advance from their publishers for their forthcoming US dates supporting Los Campesinos!, having done as much personal scrimping and saving as able just for the flights they're now short of savings for accomodation, travel costs, hire, living and sundries.

What they do have is some rarities knocking about, and a thing called Bandcamp to put them on and make the money to actually get them somewhere. Being Johnny Foreigner, they've got the hidden catalogue and the wherewithal to make the effort towards some reward. So, from now, they offer these:

We Left You Sleeping And Gone Now; Also....: The 2005 debut album before the debut album, when Kelly was still doing this sort of thing and some other bloke* was on bass, this almost mythical record... no, wait, it's been roundabouts online for a year or so, it can't be mythical if it's known to exist, let's try this again... this record only spoken about by the committed, self-produced and released in tiny quantities. Alexei calls it a country record, pretty much only insomuch as Wilco sprung out of a country band, this veering from quasi-emo (old definition) to experimental ambience.

Every Day Is A Constant Battle: I Like You Mostly Late At Never is the demos collection you may know but this one is more all-encompassing, including their earliest 7" versions of modern classics.

Johnny Foreigner Does Wichiten: You've not got this one. It's an actual hi-res video recording of their set at Wichita's tenth birthday celebrations in July, featuring three new songs, a horn section** and guest appearances from Gareth and Neil Campesinos!, plus professionally recorded sound and bonus mp3s of acoustic versions. There's a proper mp3-only recording available too.

Johnnyforeignerisaces: tour only EP of live, alternate versions, rarities, a remix and a Pavement cover.

Total outlay for all that? £16.50 of your English. And if you pass on it, the band's plans are essentially fucked. Get to it.

* Daniel Boyle, now of glitch-noise duo Gentle Friendly
** Think we're right in saying is the same Stairs To Korea/Internet Forever-boosted wind farmers who've been helping out Frankie & The Heartstrings

Monday, September 27, 2010

Always Check The Label: Brainlove

Next up, Brainlove Records, marking out their territory since 2003 in offbeat, largely DIY alterna-weird pop. Four of their finest - Napoleon IIIrd, Pagan Wanderer Lu, Stairs To Korea and Mat Riviere - start a label tour tonight, part of which is our night at Leicester Firebug on Friday, and we expect to see you there. John Brainlove gave us the requisite answers:

Why start a label?
In our case it was because the quality of the music we were being sent to review on the old Brainlove 'zine was so abjectly low. We knew people in better bands who'd never receive the same type of attention as the wishy washy indie crap that was pouring out at the time. So we decided to do it ourselves, to articulate our taste, and our scene.

What's your ethos?
It's about using imagination, intelligence, heart and melody to make something amazing. Not just walking in the footsteps of other bands, making something intensely special that really matters and means something and succeeds artistically.

Have you been influenced by any labels?
In the early days, Sonic Mook Experiment was an influence. In terms of where they go press-wise and business-wise, I keep an eye on a handful of other labels to see how they progress. Musically, I always like the output of Tomlab and I like 4AD, Good Tape, Domino, Fat Cat, Bella Union... I also feel some affinity with Tigertrap, Akoustik Anarkhy, OIB, Upset The Rhythm and Cherryade.

What do you initially look/hope for in a prospective signing?
I always hope the people that really stand out will turn out to be nice people, and almost without fail, they have - some of our artists are amongst my best friends now.

What else should people looking to send you a demo know?
That we are operating at capacity already, if not past it, so we'll be super unlikely to start work on any new projects in the near future!

If push comes to shove, what would be the most satisfying thing you’ve done through the label to date?
It's always really satisfying getting played out on national radio. Hearing Stairs To Korea interviewed by Lamacq was nice, and Napoleon IIIrd playing Koko was huge. But I think the best thing we've done was going out to Iceland Airwaves in 2009 as a massive gang for a couple of shows. That felt amazing. We're doing it again this year.

What's your biggest selling release to date?
Pagan Wanderer Lu's Fight By Battle For Me, I think, or Napoleon IIIrd's first record.

Anyone notable that you’re willing to admit you passed up on?
¡Forward, Russia! sent around early demos, but it's not my kind of thing really. There were opportunities with a lot of that wave of bands.

What is the future of the common or garden record label?
I think labels have a massive role to play. Bands trying to do it themselves is great, but the workload to do it properly is huge. It requires a lot of knowledge and expertise in lots of different areas, as I have learned the hard way. It's a bit like trying to start a stock exchange instead of buying shares.

Do you still believe in the physical product?
People are still buying stuff, for the time being, and in decreasing numbers, but yes, for now. It's good to have merch and it's nice to have something to hold. It will remove an oppressive cost when we don't manufacture any more though.

One thing you've learned about being a label boss and can pass on to anyone looking to do likewise?
Don't forget the 3mm bleed.

What have you got coming up?
Napoleon IIIrd's new album Christiania is amazing. We have a new Pagan Wanderer Lu single called Chemicals Like You, a Stairs To Korea 7", a Bastardgeist album, the We Aeronauts EP and a new Mat Riviere single. Busy like bees.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A week in rock

A quick addendum to that gigs this week list - theatrical piano pop glorifiers Stars And Sons are heading off on tour from Monday, stopping off in Sheffield, Newcastle, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Manchester, Cardiff and Bristol. The catch is, they're going to attempt to play thirty gigs in those seven days at a variety of locations per city, as detailed here. They've got twenty on the books so far so if you're in those areas they need your help - see the contact details on that page.


The new No Age, Everything In Between, is 75% of a great, grotty record, but your hip friends will tell you all about that. Let's instead talk about a band who, ooh, quote us alongside Lowe, Lamacq and Ravenscroft (W) in their press release. Ice, Sea, Dead People are three gentlemen of Bedford and London who over Teeth Union's 24 minutes take post-hardcore apart rivet by rivet and slam it back into something they think might resemble an order. It's tauter than anything you've heard, arrythmically, epileptically undanceable while still driven by big old basslines and hi-hat, detuned art-punk that splinters as you handle it, and that very much includes the vocals. It's a big mess of noise that occasionally stumbles across a sliver of melody and reacts by beating it to a pulp. And it's ace.

Whether the sudden downturn in temperatures has made something click with people preferring the warmth of being huddled together in the back of a loaned Transit or whether we simply ran out of festivals, there's a lot of exciting tours starting and one-offs happening this week which we'll have to cover in chronological order and paragraphs.

SUNDAY: London! Standard Fare acoustic at the Hangover Lounge! Go!

MONDAY: In the glory days of the rolling label tour revue, Stiff Records used to stick all its current hopes in a bus (or a train once) together and hope for the best. Brainlove Records, that estimable home of all that is off-kilter with everyone else's expectations of what a solo singer-songwriter is, or just everyone else, is doing much the same, albeit with fewer pub soiled Gretschs and more monomes. The tour starts at Cardiff 10 Feet Tall, moves on to London CAMP on Tuesday, then Norwich Knowhere Bar Wednesday, Leeds The Well Thursday (a venue we'll come back to), our own stopover at Leicester Firebug on Friday, over to Dublin Twisted Pepper on Saturday, then next week York on the 5th October and Manchester on the 8th. Meanwhile Shrag take their twisty, shouty, spiky post-indiepoppunk on the road, chiefly notable for some of the supports they're picking up along the way - Love Ends Disaster! at London Social on Monday, LookiMakeMusic at Birmingham Victoria on Tuesday, Horowitz on Saturday at Bristol Croft and, remarkably, Standard Fare on Friday at Manchester Kraak. Sheffield and Leeds fill in the gaps. In more elevated company, your only chance of seeing Rose Elinor Dougall in the wake of her album release would seem to be her support slots on the Mark Ronson tour that starts here in Bristol.

TUESDAY: Darren Hayman is playing an observatory. An Astronomical Evening with Darren Hayman is at Godlee Observatory in Manchester, part of the university building and home to the Manchester Astronomical Society. The gig includes an opportunity to tour the observatory, and Hayman will be playing two sets featuring a themed set of older songs (Alan Bean, then) alongside tracks from new album Essex Arms.

WEDNESDAY: Two bands who we think we'd not be far off beam in calling Official Friends Of STN (so obviously the tour is scheduled such that we don't think we're going to get to any of the dates) go on a joint tour, and haven't they grown between them. Frankie & The Heartstrings' indie dancefloor almost-anthems (and it's a dancefloor Frankie will cover most of during the set) and Summer Camp's synth fuelled Hugheswave make for odd bedfellows but there's a certain romanticism at their varying hearts, not to mention a suspicion they've slaved away at this to a degree they'd be loathe to publicly admit. F&TH start on their own at York Fibbers, then Warmsley'n'Sankey join in from Thursday at Brighton Jam before hitting London Lexington on Friday and Leeds Brudenell on Saturday, continuing on to the following eekend via Cardiff, Manchester, Glasgow, Newcastle and Nottingham.

FRIDAY: Music Like A Vitamin is an event under the banner of the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival, curated by Emma Pollock and Idlewild's Rod Jones. This year's tie-in is a collaborative album featuring the pair plus The Twilight Sad's James Graham, Frightened Rabbit's Scott Hutchison, Sparrow and the Workshop's Jill O’Sullivan, James Yorkston, Alasdair Roberts, Karine Polwart and Jenny Reeve. The launch gig is on the 1st at Edinburgh's HMV Picturehouse, with everyone on the album plus Broken Records. Two tracks from the album can be downloaded for free. Meanwhile beautiful/doomed instrumentalists Maybeshewill basically get on the road from the same day and don't come off until a time when only they see fit, a tour that carries through to the 24th beginning at the Newcastle Cluny 2. Tour dates here, support from the three members of Blakfish who now trade as &U&I.

They "wish desperately to be cowboy folk", it says here, but for now The Swansea Recreation Centre - guess where they're not from - come on like an evil twin to the Cocteaus referencing that's starting to come into vogue. Beat Happening are their top friend but they're the sort of band who try to sound ragged in the same vainglorious way but are too onto something to completely give in. Across the available tracks there's nods to Magnetic Fields, Broadcast, Phil Elverum, Danielson, Jad Fair and plain just-inside-outsider oddness, mostly in the bits where the (male) singer tends to sound like Kermit being throttled. It also reminded us of Brighton's falling apart indiepop dramatists Foxes!, then it turned out the band were formed by one of their founder members so fair enough. They have plenty of ideas, and also know what not to do with them to keep on a straight line.

No two ways about it, Play Patterns looks extraordinary. Taking place Friday to Sunday at The Well in Leeds, it's a two room extravaganza with a properly impressive line-up. Friday brings Calories, Copy Haho, Gallops and Wonderswan; Saturday Hot Club de Paris, Ice Sea Dead People, Dutch Uncles, Cats And Cats And Cats, The ABC Club, The Neat and the long dormant That Fucking Tank; Sunday pulls it right off with Johnny Foreigner closing proceedings after Talons, Lone Wolf, Honour Before Glory, I Concur, Bear Driver and a solo set by now ex-Grammatic Owen Brinley have had a shot. Advance tickets are £15. Almost cheap at twice the price.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Playlist additions 25/9/10

  • Allo Darlin' - Tallulah [Myspace] [live YouTube] [stream via Hangover Lounge]
    This is the one Elizabeth plays solo on her uke mid-set, a tale of nostalgia, melancholy, pangs of young love and finding a Go-Betweens cassette in the car. Hadn't quite realised until hearing this version for an already sold out compilation by the Hangover Lounge Sunday afternoon acoustic club how wonderful this is, but really we should have known.

  • Blonde Redhead - Not Getting There [free mp3] [YouTube] [Spotify]
    Piss-poor album, but one shining jewel (unlike, say, Interpol's record) in this layered slab of dystopian electro darkness that for once sounds like it's actually heading somewhere.

  • British Sea Power - Zeus [live YouTube] [Soundcloud] [mp3-for-email]
    Album early next year, EP early next week. This lead track from the latter won't be on the former. Taut, slamming and turning into a completely different song for a bit at least a couple of times, it's as much a key grower as Do You Like Rock Music? preview track Atom was.

  • The Chapman Family - All Fall [YouTube]
    Wiry, committed and not a little like the aural equivalent of one of those bore drills being used to free the Chilean minors, even the bits in this that sound a little like early Placebo (ie just before it really kicks off, although that explains the eyeliner) We seem to have been talking about ver Chapmans' singles for several decades and appreciate that it remains on the edge of going very wrong, but oh, the noise and funnelling of such.

  • Fujiya & Miyagi - Sixteen Shades Of Black And Blue [free mp3]
    A second cousin to Gorillaz' Glitter Freeze, an insistent, almost glam bass pulse guides us along as David Best's famously deadpan free associating lyrics take on a very worrying hue, even for the band whose most famous song referenced "the ghost of Lena Zavaroni". Fourth album early in '11.

  • Honour Before Glory - Forever [Soundcloud]
    Shortly before welcoming Johnny Foreigner into his studio, Whiskas stuck this seven minute slow burner up from his solo project, starting tentatively, getting anxious in the middle, ending with Mew-like stratospheric delayed guitar-aided triumphalism. First London gig is on 6th October at The Drop, Stoke Newington; hopefully many, many more to follow in 2011.

  • Kyu - Pixiphony [Myspace] [Soundcloud]
    Guided to this by Jen Long's typically restrained TLOBF piece about Brisbane's BIGSOUND Summit, a Sydney duo who resemble The Knife deprived of their synths and given the run of Animal Collective's campfire percussion collection

  • The Lucksmiths - Get-To-Bed Birds [mp3 via P4K] [Soundcloud]
    The glorious Melbourne indiepop dreamers split up last August but their farewell single has only just emerged, as simultaneously bittersweet and sunlit, and as reflecting on life through a glass after dark, as they ever were.

  • Maps & Atlases - Solid Ground [Myspace] [YouTube] [Soundcloud]
    The former Chicago math majors' new (and proper debut) album sounds like they've mainlined TVOTR and Yeasayer, not always in a productive way, but it does produce this restlessly building jolt.

  • No Age - Fever Dreaming [live YouTube] [stream via P4K]
    It sounds a bit like mid-period Husker Du. Good enough for us.

  • Superman Revenge Squad - Dead Crow Blues [YouTube]
    Everything's coming up Milhouse for Ben Parker in October, as the Nosferatu D2 album gets a reissue with better distribution and a long gestating Superman Revenge Squad EP of the same title as this track is released on the 18th by the splendidly tautological Records Records Records records. The piano chords and electronic drums are something we've not heard from him before (the cello has been part of his live show for a little bit, and indeed the rest of the record is acoustic/cello), the elliptical lyrical scheme angling towards self-loathing we very much have.

  • Warpaint - Undertow [free mp3] [Myspace] [live acoustic YouTube]
    For about three fifths of its life, Warpaint seem to have traded the gauzey, wracked atmospherics of the Exquisite Corpse EP for life as The XX with girly harmonies. Then the rush comes and explodes the taut guitar into widescreen.

    We've still not got hold of the Mitchell Museum album, we think because it's not out physically yet. No excuse these days, we know, but there it is. This is the new video for Tiger Heartbeat, a tribute to the twin wonders of 8-bit platform gaming and the ingenuity stemming from ownership of cardboard boxes.

    Mitchell Museum: 'Tiger Heartbeat' ADHD Edit from mitchell museum on Vimeo.

  • Thursday, September 23, 2010

    Easily impressed

    As people who like to keep track of everything bard in exile of Peterborough MJ Hibbett is up to, we're pleased to have in our hand The Forest Moon Of Enderby, his and the Validators' forthcoming (18th October) B-sides and rarities album . Yeah, a rarities compilation for MJ Hibbett If you would like a smaller beer please ask for one. Still, there's a good number of live favourites on it, including this one, known to bring grown men to tears (not us, we're hard, but we have evidence). True story, apparently.

    MJ Hibbett & the Validators - Leave My Brother Alone

    Get the CD, put it in your computer and find Hibbett's Superstore, a large set of Hibbett solo efforts, unreleased songs and Fuzzy Warbles-like odds and sods from advert commissions, radio jingles and 'stuff'. Among them, this demo for an update to Hibbett's celebrated Hey Hey 16K:

    MJ Hibbett - Hey Hey 64K

    Hibbett celebrates this release with a handful of dates for his Edinburgh two-man sci-fi rock opera extravaganza Dinosaur Planet - Stockton on Tees The Waiting Room on 24th October, The Green Dragon in Croydon on the 27th, Northampton in November - and his 'world tour in a room above a pub' Totally Acoustic, every fortnight at The Lamb, Lamb's Conduit Street, London Wc1N, starting on 11th October. There'll be a podcast for each night, and guests include Andy Hudson of Pocketbooks fame, The Bobby McGees of The Weakest Link fame, Pete Green of Corporate Juggernaut/The Sweet Nothings fame, Keith TOTP of being mates with Eddie Argos fame, Chris T-T of being mates with Frank Turner fame and Gavin Osborn of being mates with Daniel Kitson fame. A quick catchup session for Hibbett's work? Check his/their Bandcamp.

    Tuesday, September 21, 2010

    Follow the leader

    We were asked the other day - alright, nobody actually directly asked us, that would imply we had friends who like music and are keen to know our opinions on musical issues, just run with us here - whether Simon Cowell was, and we quote, 'the enemy'. To which our response is: only if you want him to be. Unless Cowell is actually physically stopping people from recording and enjoying certain types of music, it shouldn't have any effect on your own musical view. It's not as if, with available pop promotional space heavily contracting anyway, no other A&R would try and take the lead were Sony's own pantomime villain not around, and with the reductiveness of the modern singles chart it's paste pearls. So what if The Rock, as previously discussed, isn't getting big chart positions? a) It wouldn't be The Rock you like if it were, and b) when did you start caring so much about that, given it isn't 1996?

    Besides which, unified tribalism for coolness versus Biology. Show your hand.

    (The X Factor as the common enemy of non-crass populist television... well, that's another argument altogether, but one that needs taking up with ITV)

    Sky One's Must Be The Music pitched itself as the anti-Cowell, a chance for PEOPLE WHAT WRITE THEIR OWN SONGS to get on telly, win a major label deal etc. and ended on Sunday with someone called Emma's Imagination - a singer-songwriter, wouldn't you know - winning. The quotes on Emma's Myspace, by the way, are triumphs of the unsigned art: "I enjoy real song writing and this falls right in that path" (as oppposed to computer generated songs, presumably - fuck you, Eno!) and "Thanks for introducing me to this great artist", which isn't praise as such but a social nicety.

    We've seen this before, in Channel 4's MobileAct Unsigned/Orange Act Unsigned, a televised battle of the bands with unnecessary knobs on which ran for two series, the first producing Envy & Other Sins, who'd been around for a while on the periphery anyway so had credibility to lose and were clearly not the production choice of winner as they hardly got a sip of priority act status (it didn't work out too well for them - that Leicester gig they mention was the first time we saw their tacked-on support for the night, Johnny Foreigner), the second Tommy Reilly, who sells loads in Scotland and nothing anywhere else. Course, as the bands in that series were competing for a major label deal, they were essentially up for winning an advance they'd never be able to repay because of the disparity between what they won and what people now thought of them, so nobody won.

    But do we? If you can't beat 'em join 'em, true, but why compete? Unsigned band competitions are stupid, pleb-pleasing, worst common denominator things, as is, as we've ranted before, the cult of the Unsigned Band. Put them together, stick them on TV with Fearne Cotton and say-nothing judges who are famous and that's it... you're preaching to Sky One's converted, which is why the ABC1 acoustic girl singer-songwriter won. Ultimately, giving those starting up false ideas that this is somehow completely opposite from The X Factor - and yes, of course the phrase 'real music' turned up in their adverts - and that record sales is all that matters can't be any more legitimate as a tool for originality and whatever lifeblood UK music chooses to run on at that time than the Cherylised showbiz charade.

    Whatever did happen to Hamfatter?

    Sunday, September 19, 2010


    It's tempting to wonder if the unanimous critical praise for Edwyn Collins' seventh solo album Losing Sleep, featuring guest slots for Johnny Marr, Ryan Jarman, Alex Kapranos, Nick McCarthy, Roddy Frame, Romeo Stodart and Jonathan Pierce, isn't in some way connected to his heartening return from the brink. Tempting, but also wrong-headed. There's nothing particularly new in his arsenal this time around - adult contemplation without being AOR/MOR as per his last album, the Northern Soul nods that stretch right back through his career, and his rich baritone seems unaffected - but the contemplation on life and shaky self-doubt ending in something near to defiance tell their own tale. Good to have him on his feet, of course. Great to have him in this form.

    Life spent in the back of a van with all your gear is cramped and uncomfortable enough without having to cart two drumkits around amid the instruments, amps and human detritus. That's why Adam & The Ants got famous first. Islet's first tour begins on Friday at Winchester Railway, with Southampton Lennons being thoroughly circumnavigated on Saturday, and then another two weeks of whooping, bellowing and tambourine-armed chasing after that. Best new live band in Britain? Well, obviously. The Nottingham alldayer is fast becoming a standard of the indiepop scene. Moved from November back to next Saturday this year, it returns to Bunkers Hill in Hockley (although we hear a double booking - for something announced in March? What sort of venue operation is that? - means it's all moving into the actual bar halfway hrough) with an acoustic afternoon at the Chameleon on Sunday. Allo Darlin', Milky Wimpshake, Red Shoe Diaries, Betty and the Werewolves and The Sweet Nothings (nee The Pete Green Corporate Juggernaut) are among those playing the former, Emma and Ian from Pocketbooks head the latter.

    Apart from that they seem to have a NSFW Myspace, Evans The Death, who are playing the Sunday of that just plugged weekender, could be your next favourite indiepop newbies. Equally from Clapham and Chelmsford, their C86 jangle is tempered by a garage/US college rock-infused drive, while up front Katherine Whitaker's plaintive voice can soar or scold on command. They're smarter than they're letting on.

    The Fence Collective's well established Home Game has birthed a baby brother, and it's one where, like some alt-folk equivalent of the Are You Being Served? film, the whole company has gone on holiday together. Away Game takes place on Eigg in the Inner Hebrides, with all of 150 camping places (sold out), and organiser Johnny 'Pictish Trail' Lynch is bringing over the local bakery. British Sea Power, suckers for any sort of out of the way event, headline, over Darren Hayman, Johnny Flynn, Neil from Meursault, Dan from Withered Hand, Gordon McIntyre, King Creosote, Sweet Baboo, Adem, Rozi Plain and new Malcolm Middleton project Human Don't Be Angry. Back on the mainland Sunderland's Split Festival is at Ashbrooke Sports Club all next weekend. The local music mafia - The Futureheads, Maximo Park, Frankie & The Heartstrings, Lucas Renney - are out in force, alongside Sky Larkin, Hot Club de Paris, Dutch Uncles and Let's Buy Happiness among others. Meanwhile in Gloucester it's the inaugural Underground Festival, a route-one title for a free-thinking weekender at the Guildhall. Saturday is headlined by Chapel Club with Egyptian Hip Hop and Stagecoach among the supports; the Sunday looks more interesting with the Joy Formidable surely dreading following Pulled Apart By Horses, with Islet, Gallops, Shoes And Socks Off, Hold Your Horse Is and Boat To Row heading those staying gallantly out of the way.

    Here's extraordinary. If you're as big on Half Man Half Biscuit as us, you'll know about their The Bastard Son Of Dean Friedman, in, erm, tribute to the late 70s AOR singer-songwriter. They played in rock city Bilston on Wednesday night, during which Dean Friedman himself came on and did this:

    Apparently HMHB then came on and did their own song in question with Friedman's aid, but nobody seems to have bothered videoing/uploading that.

    Saturday, September 18, 2010

    Playlist additions 18/9/10

  • Captain Polaroid - Inside A Swill Bucket [Soundcloud]
    Usually purveyor of bedroom fuzzbombs, the good Captain's latest self-fulfilled set in the Beat Nostalgia EP series features two splenic acoustic tracks and one that tips the hat towards the shoegazers. So obviously we've picked out the Robert Pollard-like lo-fi charge.

  • Cinema Red And Blue - Same Mistakes [Myspace] [Soundcloud]
    A collaborative effort combining most of Crystal Stilts and a few of Comet Gain (featuring members of Comet Gain, in fact. Old Indietracks joke there) Sounds like Comet Gain's new jangle-soul vision recorded in Crystal Stilts' echoey cellar

  • I Like Trains - A Father's Son [Video via The Fly]
    Like their newly reorganised name it's more straightforward than their blurry, baritone historically adept sound, nodding to the dark end of the post-punks - yes, again, but some distance from your White Lies histrionics. Melodramatic popular song, indeed.

  • Let's Buy Happiness - Six Wolves [YouTube] [Soundcloud]
    We wrote about them yesterday, and this new single is all that we wrote about then in excelsis. Frankly.

  • Maybeshewill - To The Skies From A Hillside [Facebook (!)] [Vimeo]
    Thing with Maybeshewill is their back catalogue has largely either been bucolic and unguardedly sweet or crashingly power chord full-on. Here, they do both together. The shifting drama suits them none more finely. The third album is currently in progress, this is merely a 7" taster.

  • Napoleon IIIrd - The Unknown Unknown [Myspace] [Soundcloud]
    On what we've heard, which might well be a lot more than you have, there's a lot more layered, looping noise deliberately messing around with he who otherwise is James Mabbett's second album Christiania, out November 8th. The charged ire-driven heart and desire to somehow remain melodic despite it all remain in perfect working order.

  • Twin Shadow - Castles In The Snow [Myspace] [YouTube] [free mp3]
    New 4AD signing produced by Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear, which shows in the woozy, rattling backdrop and dreamily ambitious vocal at odds with the programmed B-movie synth languid clattering around it.

  • Under Alien Skies - Faint [Myspace] [Soundcloud]
    If chillwave sounded like what it said it was instead of setting 80s synths to spin wash, if Animal Collective could somehow be deprogrammed before being let into the LSD campfire, if cut and paste atmospherics could be glued to simple melodies, then you too might well be Under Alien Skies.

  • Violens - He Got the Girl [Soundcloud]
    Not too far from modern MGMT, and like both that band and their forthcoming UK tour partners the Drums equipped with an appreciation of mid-80s UK indie, this being a Marine Girls cover.

  • The Walkmen - Angela Surf City [Myspace] [YouTube]
    Reliable old Pitchfork reckon it's their third truly great song, after The Rat and In The New Year. Will have to wait for time's progress to see if that evens out but it's a corker, the opening surf-rock drums insistent through the oft excited blizzard of purposefulness and Hamilton Leithauser emotes like few can.

  • Wild Nothing - Golden Haze [mp3 via P4K] [YouTube] [Soundcloud]
    Still making our minds up about the critically slobbered over Gemini, but for the time being we'll chance our arm with the title track from a forthcoming EP because it sounds a little like New Order circa Low-Life and quite a bit like the post-Washed Out bedroom producer hipster academy.

    And to think that Kate Bush acolytes were up in arms when he put guitars in place of the orchestration on Hounds Of Love:

  • Friday, September 17, 2010

    Happy land

    Welcome to a reason to be excited about 2011, yes, already. Let's Buy Happiness, a bunch of Newcastle youths, are a band we first wrote about back in February but things have been rolling along towards some sort of result ever since, with a John Peel Stage Glastonbury slot and The Great Escape gig soon to be followed by appearances at the behest of In The City and one of Drowned In Sound's tenth anniversary events, with Southsea Fest this weekend. Echoes of the Cocteau Twins and Sugarcubes can't be overlooked, but there's flavours of a range from Emiliana Torrini to Modest Mouse too, a crystalline soundscape of delayed guitars and aereated, glimmering production. This is an example of what they can do from last year's No Hot Ashes EP:

    Let's Buy Happiness - Devil Show

    Tuesday, September 14, 2010

    ...and I'm terrified of what comes next

    So you caught the news that Johnny Foreigner have signed to Alcopop! Records and have a six track EP out in November?

    Oh, you did. As you were. For the record, though, the label say "Yes there are frenetic guitars, with urgent  vocal hooks and giant noise-pop chorus – the double drum tracked coda to 'the wind and the weathervanes' is probably the loudest thing the band have ever recorded,  but there’s a real tender side on this EP too – ‘robert scargill wins the prize’ floats on a ukulele and  a fuzzy organ bass and 'yr loved' is mostly whispered vocals and harmonics loops."

    Perhaps you also caught the recent suggestion from Alexei that the fabled pre-Kelly album We Left You Sleeping And Gone Now is getting a digital wash and brush-up release soonish, with cartoon liner notes. All give, this band. Which reminds us...

    ... what you may not be across is this Sparklehorse cover which their new lords and masters passed on to us:

    Johnny Foreigner - Most Beautiful Widow in Town

    Monday, September 13, 2010

    Always Check The Label: Fortuna Pop!

    Introducing a new occasional Q&A feature on STN, in which we celebrate the slowly deflating but still often fighting fit art of the record label by asking some relevant questions of the people that run out favourite examples. We kick off with Fortuna Pop!, launched in 1996 and responsible for many fine indiepop releases including Allo Darlin', Fanfarlo, The Lucksmiths, Comet Gain, Bearsuit, Milky Wimpshake, Sodastream and most notably/notoriously The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart. El Presidente, and subject of most of the onstage banter at Indietracks, Sean Price takes up our enquiries, giving up some fascinating thoughts and news of things to come:

    Why start a label?
    I love music but I'm completely tone deaf, arhythmic and as ugly as sin so I was never going to be a pop star and never will be, as anyone who's seem me playing in a band will tell you. Also I work in IT when all I ever wanted to do was to write. Dull, dull, dull. Starting a label was another way to be involved in music and to be involved in something creative.

    What's your ethos?
    Be true to your school.

    Have you been influenced by any labels?
    For sure. I was a big Echo & The Bunnymen fan because they had this mystique about them, and then I found out that a lot of this was down to their manager Bill Drummond and the situationist ideas he would apply to managing them, like having them do a tour of ley lines in remote Scottish towns, so Drummond and Dave Balfe's label Zoo. Again with Orange Juice there was this character behind the Postcard label called Alan Horne, and with the Velvets there was Warhol, and then the Mary Chain were connected with Alan McGee and all that early Creation stuff which I adored. They made running a record label look almost as much fun as being in a band. There were a couple of label compilations that I really liked, a Creation Records comp called Doing It For The Kids and Shadow Factory on Sarah, and I suppose they must have fed into my idea of a label being a cool thing in its own right, not just some crappy business. Sarah Records came a bit later on but they were just as much of an inspiration, but more because they seemed more like me and their label seemed to be run on half a shoestring.

    What do you initially look/hope for in a prospective signing?
    Oh, it's pretty simple, that (a) i love the songs and (b) i can go down the pub with the band. I don't release records I don't like even though sometimes I'm offered stuff that I can hear is going to be big, and I don't release records by wankers no matter how good their music is, life's too short. Sometimes in the past I've been guilty of releasing bands that I merely think are good, not great, but I think I've become more circumspect, and sometimes I've released records by bands that turn out to be wankers only I haven't noticed at the time. But that's another story.

    What else should people looking to send you a demo know?
    I don't like saxophones and I don't like Serbian death metal; saying you're influenced by Oasis and / or The Libertines betrays a serious lack of imagination; it's great that you recorded these songs direct to cassette in your bedroom but asking me to imagine them with a full orchestra recorded in a proper studio may be beyond even me; it pays to be polite, and it also pays to show some inkling that you know what my label is about; I know your band doesn't sound like anyone else ever in the history of recorded music but if a picture paints a thousand words a list of influences will convince me to listen way more than that 15 page rambling abstract description of your sound. I could go on.

    If push comes to shove, what would be the most satisfying thing you’ve done through the label to date?
    It used to be blagging The Lucksmiths the support slot on a Jonathan Richman tour, but these days it's watching Allo Darlin' grow up.

    What's your biggest selling release to date?
    It's a toss-up between The Loves' last album and The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart's album. Well, give or take a couple of zeros.

    Anyone notable that you’re willing to admit you passed up on?
    The Mercury award nominated I Am Kloot. I trailed John Bramwell's previous solo incarnation Johnny Dangerously around Manchester for years and was about to release a single with him when he said "I can't do this by myself, I've formed a band with my mates. It's called Herry." I'm like, 'Herry? Have another think mate'. Two weeks later and it's "OK, got another name. 'I Am Kloot'". I said, "Good luck with that!". The single I was going to release, Titanic, became Kloot's first release. I'm being slightly facetious about the name thing... I actually thought he was better solo.

    What is the future of the common or garden record label?
    I watch those BBC4 documentaries about Rough Trade and read books about Creation Records with great envy that the times are gone when you could sell out of a pressing of 1000 7" singles in the first week just from a play on Peel or a review in NME. It's tough to break even selling music and even successful bands make their money by playing live and from getting their music in films and adverts. I don't think the self-funded part-time indie label will cease to exist though, as there are always enough nutters around who will do it for the love of it and don't care about losing money. I think it's tougher at the next level up though, the small labels who do it full-time, and those labels will become more like management companies and will have to get involved with live stuff and synchronisation (films & adverts) in order to make it work financially.

    Do you still believe in the physical product?
    Yes, to some extent, but then I'm not 14 years old. I like 7" singles and I know lots of people who still do but whether that will still be the case in five or ten years I don't know. What's encouraging is the number of young people into indiepop who like to buy the vinyl so long as it comes with free mp3s of the songs. I don't know really. I feel that the format shouldn't be the most important thing yet I find it difficult to visualise running a label that doesn't manufacture physical product. I'm going to have to work this one out with myself.

    One thing you've learned about being a label boss and can pass on to anyone looking to do likewise?
    think there are two kinds of indie label, the one that is happy selling to a core audience and the one that wants to get their bands heard by people beyond that. I fall into the latter, but I certainly don't think one kind is any more valid that the other. What I've learned is only really relevant if you're the latter kind of label, and it might seem a bit depressing, but the fact is just releasing good records isn't enough. Press and radio is the oxygen for sales and works in tandem with distribution, and if you want good press and good radio you're either going to have to put a lot of work into doing it yourself or pay people to do it. And I guess that's what I've learnt, that the more you invest, the more you put in, the better the results are likely to be. That was pretty dull huh?

    What have you got coming up?
    Loads of good shit.

    Next up [today, in fact] is the new Pipettes album which is a great pop (in the real sense of the word) record with a bit of 70s disco thrown in that's going to confuse the hell out of everyone who has Fortuna POP! marked as just an indiepop label, then a Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern album. To me Darren is one of the great British songwriters and he's really hitting his stride now after Hefner. Then in November there's a new Milky Wimpshake album which is no radical departure but is full of class pop tunes as you would expect.

    There's also a new Bearsuit single to be followed by an album in the new year which is absolutely brilliant, produced by Gareth Parton who also produced The Go! Team, very synth-heavy and in your face without losing any of their insanity; Comet Gain have been recording with Edwyn Collins, Ryan from The Cribs and Alasdair from The Clientele which is more than exciting and that will be out next year too; The Loves have decided to "retire" but what will be their last record is easily the best thing they've done... a single from them this year and then an album, again early next year.

    The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart have just finished recording their new album with Flood (no kidding) and they'll be mixing it in a couple of weeks with Alan Moulder (get us!), so that should be out in the next few months. And then there are a couple of other exciting things in the pipeline too that will have to remain secrets until they're confirmed. Watch this space.

    Sunday, September 12, 2010


    The pile-up of new album releases is, thanks to some judicious moving around mostly of import release dates, not as gargantuan as it once looked, which means the way is clear to delve deeper into Grinderman 2. Supposedly Cave, Ellis, Casey and Sclavunos go into the studio without any preconceived ideas of what they're going to do, which while understandable with the not entirely subtly layered music suggests Nick may be bottling quite a lot up at home. The second collection of feral malevolence with electric bouzouki is a coruscating wig-out of mid-life sexual catharsis, as well as the overdue return of Warren Ellis to violin for a bit. The thud and muster of Grinderman is tempered a bit by psychedelic funk and soul, the overall feel being more stuck somewhere between the dissolution of the Birthday Party and those first couple of strung out Bad Seeds records. Can't imagine what the reaction will be come full band reintegration.

    Rockfeedback as a TV concept never quite worked, especially that one where they put on a gig in someone's front room with, if memory serves, Future Of The Left and Jeremy Warmsley and tried to package arranging the gig, talking to people at the gig, showing people at the gig, showing off around the gig and showing the actual fucking gig into less than fifteen minutes with the latter coming off worst. Still, Toby L's plaything from before he went and co-founded Transgressive is a good honest server in these troubled online times, and it celebrates ten years of existence on Friday at somewhere called XOYO, London EC2A. British Sea Power, whose new album is out early next year with an EP in early October, headline over the newly four-pieced Future Of The Left, Anna Calvi, Three Trapped Tigers and special guests, plus a roster of DJs including Geoff Travis, the Rough Trade shops crew, one of the Maccabees, White Heat, Young & Lost, Eat Your Own Ears, all those. In a more northerly direction, Postcards From Manchester at The Deaf Institute brings together Allo Darlin', Internet Forever, Vera November (Verity off Electrelane), Here We Go Magic, Trailer Trash Tracys, Mazes and so forth.

    In existence only for seven months and already with a Yeasayer London Roundhouse support in the bag, The Voyeurist purvey the sort of dirty electronica that could have stepped straight out of the Wasp synthesizers and amusing hair of Sheffield 1978-79, early Human League and Cabaret Voltaire via Martin Hannett's production depths, led by the sort of icy but haughty Siousxieish female vocal you didn't really think anyone dredged any more. Not that the world's been desperately crying out for another synth-led band invoking that era, but they're doing it so differently it's barely recognisable in that context.

    What with the weather having turned we're at the scrag end of proper festival season with stuff like Loopallu (Paolo Nutini headlines, but also Idlewild and Aberfeldy) in Ullapool. So we're increasingly looking at things like Campfire Trails, Wednesday to Friday at Troxy, E1. The Felice Brothers headline day one ahead of Adam Green, White Rabbits and Mountain Man; Wild Beasts play Thursday with Fanfarlo and Here We Go Magic; Old Crow Medicine Show bring it all back down to earth. For our money, though, Southsea Fest looks faintly unbeatable. Taking over Albert Road in the town, and raising some funds for Ellen MacArthur Trust, it's £15 advance, £18 on the day for a lineup including Pulled Apart By Horses (James will more than likely end up at the other end of the road), Islet (Mark will more than likely start at the other end of the road), Talons, Shoes And Socks Off, The Megaphonic Thrift, The Strange Death Of Liberal England, Screaming Maldini, SixNationState, The Miserable Rich, Stars & Sons, Let's Buy Happiness, &U&I (75% of Blakfish's new band), The Agitator, Cats In Paris, Stagecoach, Revere, Hold Your Horse Is, Crazy Arm, King Charles, Pure Reason Revolution and loads, loads more.

    Saturday, September 11, 2010

    Playlist additions 11/9/10

    A week pretty much consisting of proper free mp3s scrounged from only the most popular blog artists. May we take this intertiatic moment to mention again the ongoing STN 2010 Spotify playlist.

  • Darren Hayman and the Secondary Modern - Calling Out Your Name Again [Vimeo] [Soundcloud]
    The third song to be issued in some form from Essex Arms, this one bringing the ratio of Emmy The Great single guest spots to Emmy singles about level, a bucolic paen to the new town life. The video, by the way, is frame by frame drawn onto one sheet of card that is constantly scanned in between Hayman drawing, erasing or painting over parts of it. That art school education had to come in handy some time.

  • Grinderman - Bellringer Blues [Myspace]
    Jim Sclavonus describes the closer from Grinderman 2 as "a battlefield hallucination set to stoner funk". It's certainly a psychedelic mass hallucination that, much like the second half of the album, leans closer to the Bad Seeds at a particularly malevolent moment without making it seem like they really know what they're doing but know they're enjoying the catharsis.

  • Islet - Ringerz [free mp3]
    Could be wrong, but we don't think this is one of the two or three new songs they've been playing live, going further as it is into their quest to become the analogue dub Gang Gang Dance. Meanwhile someone called Tidal Barrage has remixed Holly, and the band are giving that one away.

  • Japandroids - Heavenward Grand Prix [YouTube] [free mp3]
    Someone is going to have to come out and admit this, so here goes. There are too many bands, far too many being touted in various circles for anyone to ever seriously keep up without making sacrifices. Hence, strike us down but here it is, this is the first time we've properly heard Japandroids. And this for a 7" out-take from their last album sessions. Makes you as newcomer wonder, though, with the circular saw fuzz of the guitar and athletic pounding of the drums. This is them relatively becalmed, apparently. Phh.

  • Owen Pallett - A Man With No Ankles [free mp3]
    Quite difficult to pin Pallett's current manoevurings down, especially with the slow heat of Heartland. More immediate, this, and we know for writing this a murder might be in order, but there's something quite 80s about the subtle layer of plinks, drum machine and texture in the background. Only insamuch as it uses that base to float downstream into something less tangible, though. A Swedish Love Story EP is out in a couple of weeks.

  • Sufjan Stevens - Too Much [free mp3]
    This isn't the debut of Sufjan as electronic invigilator - pre-Michigan collection Enjoy Your Rabbit came out of a laptop, and he hung around with the Danielson Famile around that time so he's clearly of an experimental bent, but announcing the last track of forthcoming The Age Of Adz is 25 minutes long might well be beyond several pales. Of the two tracks so far eked out into the world this is the more ear pricking as it's the one which takes his usual folk showstopper tendency and drowns it in glitches, Disney musical samples and loops that eventually find their counter-melodic path back home much dirtier but wiser for the experience.

    And to taste, the new Edwyn Collins video:

  • Friday, September 10, 2010

    Die Vraag

    Do you remember Die Antwoord? Of course you do, it was only February when people started picking up on a frankly very odd looking YouTube clip of, well, whatever it was. It was South African, and that's about all we could take for granted. It quickly made it into seven figure views and lit up the world's message boards. Then it turned out to be the work not of Afrikaan-white trash nuts but performance art-school pranksters, and most of the world stood down while Pitchfork and Stereogum held firm. You know, just in case.

    And then Interscope went and signed them for five albums.

    Enter The Ninja is out in the UK next week, which means it's being serviced to radio and UK promo. So, let's go right to the top. The Sun, how do you, in cahoots with the label/PR, present this one divorced of YouTube/blog culture to a fresh, possibly easy to lead audience?

    Introducing hilarious new South African rave-rap act Die Antwoord...

    Ninja credits Hi-Tek - who "owns a PC computer" - with pioneering their unique 'Zef Rap-Rave' sound, while the MC himself is responsible for the cutting lyrics about life in the ghetto.

    Words like "open your mind as quick as a fart" give you an idea of the gritty turmoil inside his tortured mind.

    Ninja and Yo-Landi demonstrate an aptitude for dancing in their YouTube videos, with the MC unveiling a fondness for wiggling his package around during close-up scenes.

    They have no fucking clue, basically. Note how the writer attempts to take the piss, then realises he doesn't know where he is. This mostly applies to their British reception, the American coverage seems to take them at face value as far as their cultural claims go.

    It's the use of that word 'hilarious' that gives it away, essentially. Rave-rap with a self-knowing sheen is Scooter's stock in trade; the lyrics or Yo-Landi's very being won't really shock anyone unprepared who's heard N-Dubz; few of us know what South African youth culture actually is or represents so we're willing to accept 'zef' as much as we've all seen chav pisstakes. Basically, our nearest comparative resource is Goldie Lookin' Chain, but Ninja is no Maggot in terms of what style is brought to the table.

    From all of which, two interesting questions emerge. Can you be sold as a quasi-comedy act if the comedy has to be explained to you before you can appreciate it? And moreover, can the gap still be bridged between online culture and what actually sells? We'll find out next week, we suppose, but entrusting a viral hit to the kids that make up single sales these days is a precarious business, especially when you have little idea of how to translate that first "WTF OMG LOL" hit to repeated play.

    According to Ninja/Watkin Tudor Jones's Wiki, he has a sideline in taxidermy. If only he could introduce that to the act, then we'd be away.

    Wednesday, September 08, 2010

    Sons of the stages

    As if to back up what we last wrote about, according to Official Charts Company data rock single sales have dropped in the last year. What does that mean, exactly? Where are these 'rock' parameters being set if Florence & The Machine, Mumford And Sons and Pendulum all count? Does electro count as rock or pop? Does Helping Haiti get its own special category? And does this really, really mean that ALL ROCK IS DEAD? When in a couple of years a couple of big selling artists emerge will 'rock' be 'back'? Will 'rock is back' be officially announced by Fearne Cotton making a devil horns gesture at a camera as usual? In the meantime, should we be feeling ashamed and embarrassed for having liked 'rock'? Why the fuck are they running quotes from Mani?

    And while we observe that photo of commitment, what is it with Mumford & Sons anyway? Observing their following both in the flesh thrice, where they'd had the weekend's most vociferous crowd, and on telly at Glastonbury and Reading, while we know Sigh No More has sold a hell of a lot of copies - eighth on the year to date list, fourth among Brits - that doesn't necessarily follow into this massive live appeal that they drag along with them, the type who swoon at everything. At Reading "we're going to play a new song" was the cue for their people to holler themselves collectively hoarse, not the usual response. At Summer Sundae their roadie line checking a trumpet got a huge cheer. Thousands of people are wetting themselves over a band featuring mandolins, double bass and a man playing a solitary kick drum. Is it a higher class status answer back to the post-Oasis derived luddite mentality that got into Kings Of Leon when they became cleaner produced? You'd call them a folk Coldplay, except the chiming beer aloft chords and lyrical universal utalitarian standpoint that brought people into Coldplay's world aren't as evident. There's big shoutalong wordless bits in the coda, but that's not the same. It's amped bluegrass, after all. And this has taken off in a way that only big stadium guitars (Pendulum inclusive) have in the runaway festival market in the last few years. It's not a little strange on paper.

    Monday, September 06, 2010

    The great divide

    At some point just after Britpop breathed its acrid dying breaths, there was a church-and-state wall of separation schism between the shiny new Saturday morning fare in Boyzone's wake chasing a young audience and the grizzled, often post-Liam guitar holders. 'Pop' and 'Indie', of course, and it's never closed. Now that in singles sales terms the latter has retreated to nurse its own agenda, it's fascinating these days to watch which way certain new acts jump, because increasingly never the twain shall meet.

    Taio Cruz, for instance. What do you know about Taio Cruz? Exactly. His last two singles have been number one, they went to 1 and 2 in America, yet unlike N-Dubz and Tinchy Stryder as contemporaries he's nowhere near a break into mainstream acceptance outside his core following. He's the least established genuinely consistently selling pop star in Britain, perhaps ever. On the other hand, you watch MTV Rocks (gnnh) or NME TV and wonder exactly how parts of their playlist qualify as 'the alternative' that the channels' MO represents. Hurts, for example. What in their influences or perceived soundalikes makes them away from commerciality? Answer: that's what they are. Men dressed as Belouis Some who take heed from Johnny Hates Jazz and have David Sneddon writing for them are part of the alternative because they aren't groomed (well, not in the career development sense of the word) for POP!!! as the modern audience knows it, and that's a peculiar situation. See also La Roux.

    Maybe we've got so far and put so much into this divide that the pop kids of today don't understand any other method than to divide and conquer. Sure, we can appreciate Kanye or Janelle Morae, but they're American and thus of an alien, inclusive culture. Nobody seems interested in managing it in UK hipsterdom.

    Sunday, September 05, 2010


    Summer Camp are Jeremy Warmsley and Elizabeth Sankey. It's important to mention this off the bat as every single review has felt duty bound to go on about secretive groups in general well before the primary purpose of telling you what the music's like. Look there, they've now done gigs and photoshoots and everything, they're hardly the Residents. And now they've got a six track EP out, Young, which in some quarters has seen them filed as complicit in 2010's other growth economy, chillwave, but is nothing of the sort. It's basically a warped pop record about youth, nostalgia and consequent loss of innocence built on wipe-clean synth production that knows evoking the 80s is about more than pretending you're Vince Clarke, not careful at all with its sources. Where they go next will be fascinating. Where they've gone now, likewise.

    Horse The Van fired up again, cymbals cowering for their lives, Sky Larkin are getting round to touring Kaleide, a good length journey starting in Brighton on Friday - full dates here. If you like your rock'n'roll a bit more amped up heavy and garagey, your venues a little more heaving and smashed up and your drumkits that much more redistributed and set alight, Monotonix sprint, climb and dive across the country in advance of an Albini-recorded album due out in January - Brighton Volks Monday, London Camp Tuesday, Leicester Musician Wednesday, Sheffield Plug Thursday, Bristol Croft Friday.

    The Sailplanes have been around for two or three years already but they have a new EP available free from their site. Describing the approach as "toning down the abrasive sounds, and concentrating more on playing our fucking instruments", it's not too far from the post-punk with extra spiky, awkward bits that we've been talking about before in relation to Love Ends Disaster!, but similarly in thrall to the frictionless rhythmic bloc of Life Without Buildings via the ever present Sonic Youth and the Raincoats' poised clatter.

    End Of The Road time again, always a great occasion with fine clientele and more than enough special to carry the musical side through comfortably. Headliners are Modest Mouse, Yo La Tengo and Wilco, also in the list are Edwyn Collins, the Mountain Goats, Caribou, Allo Darlin', Steve Mason, Brakes, Jonquil, Monotonix, Smoke Fairies, The Low Anthem, Eagleowl, Three Trapped Tigers, Errors, Pulled Apart By Horses (clerical error?), Left With Pictures, Mountain Man, Iron & Wine, The New Pornographers, the Unthanks, Adam Green, Felice Brothers, Wolf Parade, Black Mountain, Philip Selway, the Antlers, Woodpigeon, Diane Cluck and the Ruby Suns. Meursault and Darren Hayman are also playing, but only on the Thursday for early camping arrivals. There's an understandable crossover with the far more easy press-friendly Bestival, although they get the flashier names. Dizzee Rascal, the Prodigy and The Flaming Lips headline, while the rest swings wildly from off-beam - LCD Soundsystem, the XX, Wild Beasts, Fever Ray, Jonsi, the High Llamas, Archie Bronson Outfit, Janelle Morae, Everything Everything, Summer Camp, Beth Jeans Houghton, Four Tet, Sleigh Bells, Washed Out, Beardyman, Yuck, Gaggle - to heritage - Roxy Music, the Wailers, Gil Scott Heron, Chic, Heaven 17, Echo & the Bunnymen, Cornershop, Babybird, Rolf Harris, Level 42 and most famously Howard Jones. More northerly, while we usually shy away from new startups - we remember the stories of Zoo Thousand - we're assured that some good people with level headed plans are behind Headstock, on Saturday at Newstead & Annesley Country Park, Nottingham. Your old favourite descriptive terms for festivals that aren't Sonisphere - "laid back", "family friendly" - are all applied in the official bumph, while Ash, Field Music, Frightened Rabbit, The Beat and the Penguin Cafe Orchestra stand out in the programme. And the most expensive tickets are £30. Harvest at Jimmy's is also next weekend, but we took one look at their site, saw the opening sentence "We are beside ourselves with excitement and very honoured to have the very talented Scouting For Girls live and unleashed", and scarpered. Are they trying to convince themselves?

    Now the BBC seem to have given up on Peel Day, it's left to the web to keep the memory alive. Football And Music are organising a blog/Twitter-wide #keepingitpeel day for 25th October.

    Saturday, September 04, 2010

    Playlist additions 4/9/10

    Cursory this week, partly because some stuff we want to talk about isn't for public consumption just yet. Which, in this post-summer pre-autumn lull of a week, leaves us with...

  • The School - Can't Understand [YouTube] [Spotify]
    Because in a slow week some new School output must be cherished. Spot everyone in Cardiff in the video.

  • The Vaccines - If You Wanna [YouTube] [Soundcloud]
    Jesus & Mary Chain on Flying Nun via the surf revival, essentially, classic sunshine pop from a band whose website merely posts pictures and who have sent no other information out about themselves. It's former nu-folk hanger-on Jay Jay Pistolet's new band. There you go. We suspect they may do nothing else of value, but right at this post-Drums A&R-driven moment it works.

    The new Indelicates video is just about SFW. Please remember, however, that what the mind's eye sees cannot be unseen.

  • Friday, September 03, 2010

    There'll be stuff up here soon. Plenty of it.