Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"Get Your Own Song... There's Nothing Going On Here"

Towards the end of last year two things hit me hard: I was spending more time deleting emails than listening to music and Haim topped the Blog Sound 2013 poll.

Now it’s always nice to receive email but there’s only so much inappropriate and unsolicited messages one man can take. And amongst the deluge of dross (commercial hip-hop, piss-poor Croatian synth-wave, the fourth re-send of that generic introduction from the PR intern, more Croatian synth-wave) I was probably overlooking some utter new music gems. And surely Haim is self-explanatory? When a new music bloggers poll IN WHICH I TOOK PART selects the same band as BBC Sound of 2013, the game really is up isn’t it?

But instead of doing the honourable, clear-cut thing, I took a six month break. Shilly-shallying indecision. So I feel the need to apologise and properly, definitively draw things to a close.

So if I’d been active I would have written about: The Android Angel, Asian Babes, The Doomed Bird Of Paradise, Emperor Zero, Fire Island Pines, Haiku Salut, Hookworms, The Indelicates, Jacco Gardner, H Hawkline, Literature Thieves, Meadow, Parquet Courts, Psychic Ills, Rat Bit Kid, Mat Riviere, Sweet Baboo, Toxie and The Wobbly Hearts. Plus those delivering as-expected excellent debuts: Brown Brogues, Eagle Owl, Stephen Hudson. But especially that Trwbador album – now that’s a leap forward! And if there was ever a theme to this blog, it was celebrating the richness of excellent music that is overlooked, the gems that should be better known and more widely heard. Like the above list.

And some contributions from Twitter for you to consider of excellent music from the first half of 2013: Boards Of Canada (@LizardVanilla), The National (@GirlOnATrain), Phosphorescent, TE Morris, Dawn McCarthy & Bonnie 'Prince' Billie, The Besnard Lakes (@UraGrayMalkin) and Ulrich Schnauss (@GoldenFable).

But what might be my favourite to top all the above is the Threatmantics long-player “Kid McCoy”. Partly it has to be said because it so overlooked and appears only on physical sale in Spillers Records in Cardiff but mainly because it’s just such catchy and clever fun. Angular arty folk-punk but with big melodies, a big heart and some surreal silliness to boot. So I now finally leave you with the words of 'Archaeopteryx' from that album: “Get your own song... there’s nothing going on here”. Sorry for drawing it out.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

DAVID THOMAS BROUGHTON, ICHI & RACHAEL DADD @ King's Arms, Salford 24 June 2013

I missed the exact name of Rachael Dadd and Ichi’s son but for the purposes of this account let’s call him Yukio. I tell you now: Yukio is not a child who has a set bedtime routine.

Rachael Dadd opened this evening’s proceedings, the last date of a short tour from all three artists, armed with a ukulele and with Yukio wrapped in a papoose on her back. Her early songs, with clear voice and gentle percussion from shells around her ankles, were quite straight-up, homespun folk for an evening of surprise and experimentation. If anything her halting, lucid almost jazzy enunciation recalled 70s singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell or even Nick Drake at first. After a few numbers on David Thomas Broughton’s acoustic (“this could be the last time I touch it”), her final two songs on the ukulele took on a more animated, flighty even psychedelic streak with closed eyes and soft chanting. Accompanied by Yukio’s delighted gurgles and then finishing with him attempting to yank the lead out of the uke, it was a wonderful collision of the transcendental and the domestic.

If you’ve never seen a man play a fretless, two string wooden stilt, then you’ve never seen Ichi. And like last year when I first saw him, I can never compensate for this loss in your life with words. They will only fall short. Ichi is a one-man band extraordinaire; this time with balloons, hand-made thumb pianos, random pieces of plumbing, multicultural patty-cake games and rhythms made from the amplified sound of brushing his own teeth. Songs about kumquats, stag beetles and reindeer in Japanese or wordless antics with golf balls, steel drums and party-poppers shouldn’t work on stage but the sheer inventiveness and giddy astonishment draws gasps. And yes from Yukio too who no doubt has seen it all more times than we ever will.

That press photo of David Thomas Broughton with the stern, staring eyes and dark, gothic beard is growing a little over-familiar. Still, I was totally foxed at first as to who the baby blued eyed figure with the M&S casual zipped top and Berghaus walking boots on stage at the King’s Arms was. He looked more like misplaced Chemistry post-grad with swept fringe but he soon revealed himself to be the headlining folk provocateur. If previous times I’d seen David Thomas Broughton had been about uncomfortable confrontation or lengthy drones, tonight was about the fragility of the lone performer.

It was a set of all new songs performed as a single sequence but with loops and glitches and gaffes in which it was difficult to tell what was accidental and what was deliberate. For every hip-swinging pose with the guitar, there was a dropped microphone or missed cue or pen that wouldn't find its pocket. A microphone is hidden in a bag but it never stops being used. Again words cannot capture how clever and coordinated this clumsy performance was. “A second rate event” he sang in one of the songs towards the end but for Yorkshire’s most puzzling export there’s no such thing.

I wasn’t going to write about this gig – I’ve had six months just enjoying live music without having to have an opinion – but I needed to write down how special and transfixing tonight was, for myself if no-one else. In a world of sanitised and safe musical acts, here was intimate surprise and sharp delight that fell somewhere between music and performance act. It started off sparse – only just double figures for the start of Rachael Dadd – but filled out as the evening went on. Still - not enough people were there. You dear reader should have been, but I know you weren’t. I carried out a headcount and found you missing. Don’t make this mistake again for any of these performers. Or indeed for any show promoted by Hey Manchester like tonight's was. Quality guaranteed.

And Yukio? Well I know it’s not your real name but Yukio my boy what a start in life you have. Even if on tour those bedtimes go a bit awry.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

End Credits?

So is this the end? Possibly. I am going to take a six month break from Folly Of Youth. And then see if I miss it so much I rush back to its cosy embrace. Or if I stay lost in the wilderness.

So not knowing which way this will go, let’s get ready to say our goodbyes after 672 posts. Just in case.

So was that what the last six years have been about? The tally of posts? The 400+ videos from gigs? Or the 36 hours of monthly mixtapes featuring bands playing Manchester? Or about somehow – still not sure how – becoming a Hype Machine listed blog or being a finalist for the Manchester Blog Awards in 2010? Was that what it was about really?

Hell no. It’s been about... seeing Clinic play in Beatles wigs; taking a Larsen B Antarctic coastal shelf cake to Tan Hill Inn for British Sea Power; going to the last ever Broken Family Band gig with a cake for them too; shaking Cate Le Bon’s hand; returning home with the pineapple from a Brakes gig; a Will Sheff re-tweet; buying the only copy of the Brown Brogues Duck Bills cassette; not seeing The Besnard Lakes in a dark and smoke filled upstairs room of a pub; hearing Withered Hand’s “Good News” for the first time; playing Trwbador, Emperor Zero and Free Swim on Cloud Sounds; seeing the first Manchester gig by Eagleowl; being part of a post-gig bar-room set from Jens Lekman for about 25 people; marvelling (twice) at a seven foot giant panda play bass guitar; and many, many more moments like this.

So a heart-felt thanks to all the artists, record labels, promoters, gig venues and festivals who have created those moments. It's been a blast. I'll still be buying your music and your tickets. Just not writing about it.

And let’s finish as I started by misquoting Hefner (I know, the wasted days).

If you liked this blog, start one of your own.

Be kind to small businesses.

Buy more Sweet Baboo, Withered Hand, Gintis, Mowbird, Benjamin Shaw, H. Hawkline, Cate Le Bon, Dan Hayward’s New Hawks, The Indelicates, Free Swim, The Doomed Bird Of Providence, Windmill, The Douglas Firs and Dad Rocks records . To name but a few.

And I particularly need you all to get behind the much-anticpated debut albums from Brown Brogues (January) and Trwbador (March). Because I won’t be here to remind you.

Friday, December 21, 2012


Once again the year ends with the number of albums I still haven’t heard or will only get round to late into next year far outweighing those I actually did listen to. But of what I did wrap my ears around in 2012 I enjoyed albums from Allo Darlin’, Ambulances, Yusuf Azak, Andrew Bird, Blind Atlas, Boletes, Cheval Sombre, Cold Pumas, Cousins, Adrian Crowley, Devoted Friend, Eat Lights Become Lights, Fanfarlo, Goat, Ghost Carriage Phantoms, God’s Little Eskimo, Darren Hayman, Island Twins, Richard James, Jesus H Foxx, Johnny5thwheelandthecowardsKaatskill MountainsLazarus and The Plane Crash, Jens Lekman, The Leg, Jack Lesser Lewis' Awkward Energy, Les Liminanas, Huw M, Moonface with Siinai, Onions, Plank!, Pulco, Race Horses, Randolph’s Leap, Sex Hands, Shearwater, Sone Institute, Standard Fare, The State Broadcasters, The Sufis, Temple Songs, The Wave Pictures and James Yorkston.

And if I allowed myself to break the self-imposed ‘Top Ten only’ straitjacket a 11-20 list would look like (alphabetically) Euros Childs, Clinic, The Douglas Firs, First Aid Kit, Golden Fable, Hooded Fang, Damien Jurado, Kiran Leonard, This Many Boyfriends and Woods.

Huge thanks for those artists and bands who shared their thoughts and reflections on 2012 namely (in order of appearance) Seamus Fogarty, Tigercats, Laura J Martin, The Douglas Firs, The Eccentronic Research Council, Mowbird, Richard James, Hooded Fang, Whistle Peak, Land Observations, Easter and Kiran Leonard.

So following that excellent wrapping up of the year, here is my Top Ten albums of the year. Yes it’s subjective. Yes it’s a rum bunch which at first glance appears wilfully random with no connection or shared stylistic approach between them. But – to my ears anyway – they are all formed by a distinctive and original voice (even when indebted to forebears) which delivers consistently – no weak links - across the full length of the album. You may disagree with this or with entries on the list. But hey that’s the fun of lists.


10. JULIA HOLTER Ekstasis [BUY]
The second album from LA multi-instrumentalist and composer is a beguiling dream-world of layered electronically processed and natural sounds and voice; coolly arty but gorgeously accessible.

Minimal motorik instrumentals about the Roman highways that criss-cross ancient Britain and Europe from ex-Appliance man James Brooks. Again (visual and musical) artiness and accessibility go hand in hand.

8. WHISTLE PEAK Half Asleep Upon Echo Falls [BUY]
A happy-sad electro-folk shuffle from Louisville, Kentucky. An excellent set of “children’s songs by grown men” to luxuriate in.

Practical Electronics enthusiasts from Sheffield, make spooked out spoken word LP with Maxine Peake.” Understatement for the underture to the story of the Pendle Witches then and now and a side-swipe at contemporary society, shallow politicians and Jeremy Kyle.

6. TIGERCATS Isle Of Dogs [BUY]
A joyous, edgy and infectious declaration-of-independence that touches on Talking Heads, Hefner and Los Campesinos. Music that makes you want to be a teenager again indeed.

5. LAURA J MARTIN The Hangman Tree [BUY]
Can I use (someone else’s) phrase again? “Liverpudlian flute-wrangler” goes on magical excursions – from deserts to Morecombe Bay to Japan – switching from child-like (but never infantile) innocence to breathy sultriness. Heart wrangled.

4. COLD SPECKS I Predict A Graceful Expulsion [BUY]
Gospel-flavoured folk-noir from Al Spx and her Anglo-Canadian collective that is subtle but stirring, underplayed but over-powering. I cried when I saw them live (big softie).

3. SEAMUS FOGARTY God Damn You Mountain [BUY]
The James Yorkston-endorsed and Fence Records-signed nomad from County Mayo delivers rough, earthy ruminations with a transcendental other-worldliness. Wayward folky sounds on guitar, banjo, fiddle and cello with the added curious spaciness of analog synthesisers, laptop interventions and sea-shell percussion.

2. EASTER Innocence Man [BUY]
Crumpsall pipe-dreams, heavy US alt-rock hooks and riffs and experimental post-rock meet for an "immense, brooding and ruggedly beautiful journey, as monumental and carefully hewn as the carvings at Mount Rushmore or the implacable Victorian brickwork of Strangeways prison".

"“Cyrk” is an album inspired by the Isle of Eigg, recorded in Cardiff, named after the Polish word for ‘circus’ but sounding like none of those places. It is at once grounded and otherworldly, cryptic and cool but curiously compelling and warm-hearted. Each listen pulls you deeper in, revealing more but telling you less. At the beginning of the last decade ‘New Weird America’ was coined to describe outer limits folk music looking at the world askance but rooted in heritage, myth and elemental forces. Welsh psychedelic music has been on a parallel course for many decades and hasn’t needed a short-hand description. Whatever the Welsh version is called, with this record Cate Le Bon proves she is at the forefront of the contemporary wave of that movement".

I was fairly certain when I wrote that in April that this record would be one of my top five of the year. By early November it beat Easter in my affections to secure top billing. But the SCANDALOUS omission of this record (and many others above) from record shop, magazine and website end-of-year lists shocked me.

Yes this is my list, it’s personal and wilful and random but surely by any objective standards “CYRK” should be lauded as an eerie creative triumph? How could it be overlooked?? I started this blog to record - for myself - what I liked and why; and if anyone read it and wanted to listen too that would be a bonus. All the above records from 2012 are truly important to me but also all in different ways are under-appreciated in this cruel, inattentive world. I recommend them all to you. Maybe more than just listening, together we can over-turn the under-appreciation that hangs too heavily around them? Over to you...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

WRAPPING UP 2012 with Kiran Leonard

Tomorrow is the end of the world accordingly to the Mayans. So who better to answer some questions about 2012 than Kiran Leonard who has just released the 24 minute “The End Times” partly inspired by hearing of this predicted catastrophe aged 10. If the apocalypse does arrive tomorrow, it may not just be the ancient peoples of Mesoamerica who will feel justified.

When I wrote about Kiran Leonard’s "Bowler Hat Soup" back in March, I commented amongst other things on his attention-span, mainly due to the restless stylistic zig-zagging and multiple time signatures deployed on the album. Having now corresponded with Kiran (via, as well as a restless intelligent mind fizzying with ideas and sounds, I now see this is also matched with an acute sense of detail and control. So not only did he respond almost instantly, he was adamant that the punctuation, grammar and use of case in all his answers was exactly how he intended it, had been thoroughly checked and should not be changed.

So here are the unedited thoughts of a pre-apocalypse Kiran Leonard on his 2012 (and if we all do survive tomorrow he’ll be washing dishes in an Italian restaurant in Delph, where we are welcome to join him and, apparently, “the penne markotte is very tasty”).

What I will remember most about 2012 is...
this year was the first time a group of people started following what i was making rather than just my friends... i started PERFORMING and got in touch with a LABEL or two... it's been a very unassuming and minute crescendo but it's been satisfying

What should be forgotten about 2012...
don't forget anything and preach awareness + pleasure above all

The best gig I played was...
I PLAYED the CAREFULLY PLANNED FESTIVAL in october at the SOUP KITCHEN... it is a lovely venue... the first song we did was a grotesque punk version of WILD WALKS where my guitar was a quarter-tone out with everything else so i just beat the shit out of my strings so it could sound brutal and all the dissonances would no longer be discernible over the wall of noise... i yelled my face off like a phantom howler dog to the moon... everyone in the crowd was smiling but none of them came very close.... our saxophonist went on walkabout.... the band i play with were really encouraging and loud... it was the closest thing to a punk show we as a band, had ever done... we were under-rehearsed and nervous (at least i was)... we sounded terrible but it looked and felt brilliant

The best gig I saw was...
AT THE DRIVE-IN at leeds fest this year... surrounded by people who'd grown up with their music, all screaming the words to the songs... it was exhilarating...
it didn't even matter that OMAR wasn't into it because we were all aware that it wasn't 1998 anymore... chanbara was PHENOMENAL...

A record from 2012 that will be still be played in 10 years time?
DEATH GRIPS' THE MONEY STORE. one of the most incredible records of all time and i do not say that lightly... every lyric is poetic, scarring and fantastic...
they are the defining band of this decade, no question... nobody can reach their level or do what they're doing... i am a proud owner of their complete discography of 46 tracks (as far as i know.. anyone reading who has more hit me up somewhere... on my or something). they'll play this record till the end of civilization, never mind in 10 years time

And what can we look forward to in 2013 from Kiran Leonard?
in 2013, besides the vinyl pressing of the record i put out this year BOWLER HAT SOUP, i am planning a return to ELECTRONIC BEAT MUSIC and NOISY MUSIC. i will probably record approx. 4-5 HOURS of new material in 2013, with the intention of releasing every minute (though i may not succeed in releasing it all within the same year). though i will try to release the follow-up to bowler hat soup GRAPEFRUIT this year... and a beat album... there may also be a couple SPLITS in the making, more work for CASSETTE, lots of VISUAL media, small TOURS around the uk and parts of europe, LIVE albums, OUTTAKE comps.... BUSY YEAR HOPEFULLY. i'm looking forward to it. i think it will move faster than 2-0-1-2 did

Hearing "Bowler Hat Soup" for the first time and seeing Kiran Leonard play live were two of the unforgettable moments of this year for me – that and getting over his age and just concentrating on what a talent he is. 2013 certainly looks intriguingly busy. Hopefully it will mean he’ll be able to spend less of his time as a dishwasher. "Bowler Hat Soup" will be re-issued physically by Hand Of Glory.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

WRAPPING UP 2012 with Easter

If you cast your mind back to May on these pages, Thomas Long was talking about the “more rocked up” mark 2 version of Easter that had created the album “Innocence Man” and was on the cusp of releasing it. Come the autumn, with the album out of the traps and the band touring, there was another line-up change for the band and some internal re-shuffling of roles (Mark 2.1?). Although a quarter different in personnel, this version of the band was still damn sharp in delivering those towering songs from “Innocence Man”.

I thought the record an “extraordinary listen: an immense, brooding and ruggedly beautiful journey, as monumental and carefully hewn as the carvings at Mount Rushmore or the implacable Victorian brickwork of Strangeways prison”. Americana UK said “Easter have produced a pretty remarkable feat with "Innocence Man". Its six tracks, some stretching out over six or even eight minutes, are both expansive and intense. There is a delicate balancing act of discordant riffs against powerhouse drumming and intimate, articulate and half hidden singing... Easter are noise alchemists shaping discord and painful feedback into sound sculptures of disconnection and confusion. For the most part it sounds suitably splendid”. I have to disagree – I think it all sounds splendid.

Thomas Long here looks back on the last twelve months of releases and re-births.

What I will remember most about 2012 is...
Getting the album out this year was the big one. It took us a while so to finally have it out and get some good reviews, airplay and people getting into it has been great. But almost as important has been getting the new line-up together, it's feeling really good at the moment cos we can now get out and tour, which we weren't really able to do before. We just did a string of UK dates in November and it was a big buzz.

What should be forgotten about 2012...
Like I say the line-up change has worked out well but it's always a bit of a drag sorting it out, it's almost like starting afresh, it could crumble, but thankfully it hasn't.

The best gig we played was...
The album launch gig at Kraak was awesome - it was packed. But our gig in Edinburgh with Broken Records probably tops it. It was the last night of the tour, great crowd and the new line-up was really firing.

The best gig I saw was...
Best gig for me was Radiohead at the MEN [Arena], it was just immense, epic set, great choice of tracks, a real fan's set. Made me realise how great they are as I'd overlooked them a little bit over the last few years.

A record from 2012 that will still be played in 10 years time?
EL-P “Cancer 4 Cure” is great, really intense, paranoid as ever, and great production. Think he's still one of the few people pushing things in hip-hop. Live he was immense too, played the full album. Only just bought Swans “The Seer” but that's great, lot to get yr teeth into but I think it'll definitely be remembered.

Overlooked in 2012?
Easter “Innocence Man”? Ha!

And what can we look forward to in 2013 from Easter?
Hopefully have a seven inch out in the spring, and we're working on a proper UK tour for around that time as well. Then it'll be down to work on the second album which we’re building up tracks for at the moment. There might just be something else in the pipeline too but I don't want to jinx it.

I agree about “Innocence Man” being overlooked. Some enthusiastic reviews and praise from online sites and record shops, plays on 6Music and Xfm but it didn’t get the recognition it should have done in the monthlies or major music websites. If that was their loss, make sure it’s not yours too: “Innocence Man” is one of this year's, if not ANY year's, essential purchases.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

WRAPPING UP 2012 with Land Observations

In Summer 2011, I became entranced by the “Roman Roads” EP from Land Observations, a trio of minimal motorik instrumentals created out of layered guitar. Although it was hinted this was from a forthcoming album inspired by the major Roman roads that criss-crossed Britain & Europe, I didn’t hold out much hope as Land Observations aka James Brooks, previously one-third of post-rock minimalists Appliance, had concentrated on an artistic career since the dissolution of his previous group in 2003. And nine years on his visual arts practice and interest in cartography and mapping seemed to dominate.

But then in September came the release of the eight track album “Roman Roads IV-XI” on Mute, his old label with Appliance. What I said about the EP in July 2011 still holds true for the album: “although there is repetition to their meticulous construction, rather than those sturdy (and perpendicular) feats of Roman engineering, these songs make me think more of the natural world in those times, of green fields, chalk horses, untamed hedgerows and empty skies: more pagan joy than imperialist perfection”. And this was echoed by The Quietus: “recorded in Berlin, the eight tracks here pay easy homage to their European forebears, but are unmistakably British in their overall sound and feel, nodding melodically to the traditional folk music of these isles, and existing at a slower pace, on a smaller scale, than the cross-continental constructions of Kraftwerk and company”. The EP is excellent but “Roman Roads IV-XI” goes further and not just in length – a more confident and complete investigation of these themes, musical and geographic.

Continuing the Wrapping Up series, Land Observations’ James Brooks casts a glance back on 2012:

What I will remember most about 2012 is...
Well, in musical terms I enjoyed the continuing renaissance of vinyl.... Along with another year cementing the fact that interesting music can still cut through and have an impact... In life - East London flourished and Fender brought out a new Jaguar guitar.

What should be forgotten about 2012...
Musically.... mmm, it feels negative to mention names... In everyday life, that the government and universities made some terrible decisions for education, (or maybe that would be a bad idea to forget)

The best gig I played was...
I think in Kreuzberg, Berlin for the enthusiasm and attention towards the performance. The album tracks are getting broader and it all seemed to grow at this show...

The best gig I saw was...
I enjoyed seeing the Matthew Bourne in Glasgow. Some days you are more receptive to watching a performance after you play and that was one.

A record from 2012 that will be still be played in 10 years time?
(Obviously taking Land Observations out of the equation...) I enjoyed the Lightships record in a 70s album kind of way.

Overlooked in 2012?
The Kranky record label in Chicago, stills seems consistent, but perhaps doesn't get the attention it deserves.

And what can we look forward to in 2013 from Land Observations?
Well, I've started demoing the next record already and plan to record it in a very unique place... So it would be nice to think I could have that out by late next year on Mute.

Plus there are some extra tracks from last year's Berlin recording session, so it would be great for them to see the light of day. Then Enraptured are re-issuing the 3 track “Roman Roads” EP. So, all in all, it should be a fruitful year...

For more from James Brooks including how Land Observations became a musical project and his subsequent return to Mute Records, there’s an excellent interview on The Quietus from September. My main recommendation however is a swift purchase of “Roman Roads IV-XI”.