Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas? Thanks for Nothing

The title of Slow Club's Xmas EP sums it all up for me: 'Christmas Thanks for Nothing'. A festival of consumerism and fake sentiment and bad TV in which very little of interest happens. And it blights the musical landscape too; so much so the only music happening by most accounts has been a mediocre 17 year old song beating a reality TV 'star' covering Miley Cyrus.

But wait. You don't have to look very far to find some decent festive music released by decent bands - and with a lot of it being given away for nothing.

So the three singles you should part money for are:
Slow Club 'Christmas Thanks For Nothing' [BUY]
Camera Obscura 'The Blizzard' [BUY]
The Brute Chorus '(This Christmas) Bury Me in Hawaii' [BUY]

The Brute Chorus: 'Bury Me In Hawaii' from ILL FIT RECORDINGS & PROMOTION on Vimeo.

And elsewhere here is some of the free stuff:

Dean & Britta 'He's Coming Home' [FREE download]
The Joy Formidable 'My Beerdrunk Soul is Sadder Than a Hundred Dead Christmas Trees' [FREE download]
Kill It Kid 'Just Like Christmas' [FREE download]
Johnny Foreigner 'Winterval' [FREE download]
Slaraffenland 'Little Drummer Boy' [FREE download] courtesy of Hometapes
Amy Gore 'Dear Santa' [FREE download] courtesy of Bloodshot Records
The Silos '(Christmas Comes Once A Year) You Are Always In My Heart' [FREE download] courtesy of Bloodshot Records
Dex Romweber Duo "Dark Christmas" [FREE download] courtesy of Bloodshot Records
Kevin Devine 'Splitting Up Christmas' [FREE download] courtesy of Big Scary Monster Records
The Lost Cavalry 'Stop The Cavlary' [FREE download]
The 10p Mixes 'A Christmas Gift from..' [FREE download]

And finally via The Line of Best Fit I discovered this: "Oh! Canada has been working with a whole host of Canadian acts to bring you 25 (see what we did there?) tracks to celebrate the winter and the upcoming festive season: "Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada"'. Artists on this compilation include The Wilderness of Manitoba, The Acorn, Woodpigeon, Zumpano and Ohbijou.
Ho! Ho! Ho! Canada [FREE download but donations encouraged details here]

As well as donations where suggested make sure you save up some of your Xmas spends and gift tokens to support these artists and those releasing new music in 2010.

And that's as festive as I get. Bah humbug one and all.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Chicago residents Fruit Bats play The Roadhouse in Manchester tonight as part of a short European tour (possibly their first visit to Manchester?). Formed around main man Eric D Johnson, Fruit Bats have been an on/off affair since the early noughties. This year they released their fourth - and possibly best - album "The Ruminant Band" on Sub Pop.

Like their earlier records, the Fruit Bats sound on this album sits at the softer end of Sub Pop's roster alongside The Shins, The Postal Service and Iron & Wine. Drowned in Sound summed up their easy-going folksy indie-rock on "The Ruminant Band" thus: "It’s the sound of a band coming into its own: psychedelia-tinged stomps rubbing shoulders with profoundly romantic tales spun of the warmest yarn. All set against an evocative backdrop of Michigan skylines, woozy piano and twinkling slide guitar, this is one made like they used to make ‘em – and it’s utterly gorgeous to boot."

Eric talks about Fruit Bats and his stint as a touring member of The Shins with Hey Manchester (who are promoting) here. Support tonight from Piney Gir and Puzzle Muteson. A heartily recommended evening - especially to avoid the Xmas party season hell elsewhere on offer.

Advance tickets here or pay more on the door.

Fruit Bats
The Ruminant Band [BUY]

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Was it me or did End of Year lists start early this year?

I remember seeing definitive Top Ten Albums in November when there was a still a FULL MONTH of the year to go. Well I shouldn’t complain because I started thinking about this in June. So whether early or late, here is my Top Ten Albums of the Year. Despite advice to the contrary I have kept it to ten – for no other reason than it’s tradition. But that’s not to say there hasn’t been PLENTY of good music I have enjoyed.

So thanks to Times New Viking, Sonic Youth and Titus Andronicus for the art-rock noise. Old favourites – The Wave Pictures, Yo La Tengo, Loney Dear, Malcolm Middleton, Bishop Allen, The Mountain Goats, The Broken Family Band – have all delivered excellent records. I’ve enjoyed first albums from Cate le Bon, The XX, The Low Anthem and Girls; and second albums from The Young Republic, The Victorian English Gentlemens Club, Taken By Trees and Atlas Sound. There’s been great garage-rock from Kid Congo & The Monkey Birds and The Strange Boys; and this was the year when I finally GOT Andrew Bird with the sublime “Noble Beast”. Finally thanks to The Pains of Being Pure At Heart and Dent May and his Magnificent Ukulele – an unofficial 12th and 11th placing (the latter sound-tracking an over-long journey back from Green Man where Dent May’s Saturday night show was a festival highlight).

But what defines my Top Ten is these are the albums that not only I listened to the most, but they are the ones that I talked about /enthused about / made copies of /cajoled people to buy the most.

10. DEAD MAN'S BONES Dead Man's Bones [BUY] [YouTube] []
Two actors and a children's choir make macabre cabaret music for an imagined film soundtrack about zombies and werewolves. It should not work. It does - brilliantly.

9. SWEET BABOO Hello Wave [BUY] [YouTube] []
Achingly beautiful acoustic folk-blues with a big heart and a wry smile.

8. SLOW CLUB Yeah So [BUY] [YouTube] []
Bruised and imperfect (like all good relationships) skiffle-pop that veers between raucous and heart-breaking.

7. CAMERA OBSCURA My Maudlin Career [BUY] [YouTube] []
Just when you thought C.O. couldn't better 2006's "Let's Get Out Of This Country". Sublime.

6. TUNE-YARDS Bird-brains [BUY] [YouTube] []
Lo-fi folk, nursery rhyme chants, African rhythms - all delivered in glorious home-recording fidelity. A danceable avant-pop triumph.

5. BILL CALLAHAN Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle [BUY] [YouTube] []
Philosophic reflections on love and nature draped in gossamer-light orchestral-folk arrangements. Can I say sublime again?

4. THE PHANTOM BAND Checkmate Savage [BUY] [YouTube] []
A thrillingly potent mix of motorik rhythms and voodoo-swamp-blues-rock - with a touch of psychedelic jamming - from Glasgow's genre-defying art-rockers. Difficult to describe - best just played loud.

3. WINDMILL Epcot Starfields [BUY] [YouTube] []
Like sitting in a planetarium in awe at the beauty and wonder of the universe but also feeling small, insignificant and vulnerable. An astonishingly beautiful record: a 41 minute treatise on loneliness, love, death and the end of our planet. And he claims he's retiring from music?!

2. MY SAD CAPTAINS Here and Elsewhere [BUY] [YouTube] []
Superior indie-pop with a hint of Americana, all lovingly arranged and blending bitter-sweet reflection with joy and melody. A quiet triumph that deserved more, much more, of a fanfare this year.

1. FANFARLO Resevoir [BUY] [YouTube] []
Well it's been in pole position since early summer and although they have come close, none of the records above have dislodged it. It combines clever orch-pop (Sufjan Stevens, Andrew Bird) with swooning indie-pop (most things Swedish or on Fortuna Pop) with literate pop nous (say The Shins) with a great rock dynamic (say Arcade Fire, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! on their first album). BUT sounding completely original and not in the shadow of anyone. I've lost count of how many different editions of this album have been issued this year. But whatever edition or format, you should own this.

Spotify playlist of a selection of tracks from 8.5 of these albums is here (no Bill Callahan and only one Slow Club track from the album).

Also highly recommended:
AC Newman / Adrian Crowley / James Yorkston & The Big Eyes Family Players / The Oxygen Ponies / Jim O’Rourke / Wavves / Broken Records / Califone / The Hidden Cameras / Animal Collective / Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern / Great Lake Swimmers / Its A Buffalo / Cymbals Eat Guitars / Lord Cut Glass / British Sea Power / The Voluntary Butler Scheme / Euros Childs / The Bookhouse Boys / Forest Fire / White Denim

Maybe I do need a Top Thirty or a Top Fifty next year?

Monday, December 14, 2009

WRAPPING UP 2009 with My Sad Captains

My Sad Captains take their time to do things. But they do them properly and with great attention to detail. I first heard and saw them in 2007. And bought the single ‘Bad Decisions’ asking in the same breathe “When’s the album out?”

But it wasn’t until nearly two years later said album came out this year in June on Stolen Recordings. “Here and Elsewhere” is beautifully summed up by Rough Trade Shops: "A delicately wrought blend of male and female vocals, sitting on top of sparkling, jangly guitars, warm organs and a remarkably deft sense of melody. Recalling the bittersweet memories of childhood summers, and the yearning of love and loss, but with a definite sense of joy among the moments of reflection. A melodic indie-pop classic in the making".

Here singer and guitarist Ed Wallis reflects on the last 12 months:

What I/we will remember most about 2009 is...
Going to South By South west was probably all round the best experience. It was good for the band and felt like a bit of validation after all the work we'd put in, and good preparation for the album coming out. And then we just had a really good, slightly mad time, staying in Austin with a really friendly Texan with a foot in both Texan camps: the liberal Austin scene of SXSW and the good ol' boy Southerness that shoots squirrels, drinks whisky and wrestles pigs.
Also, it would be remiss not to send an honourable mention to our album coming out this year. We'd been working on it for a while - the oldest song was probably about 4 years old by the time the record came out - so for it to see the light of day, turn out pretty good, and come out on one of our favourite labels deserves a pat on the back.

What should be forgotten about 2009…
Shooting the video we did for 'A Change of Scenery'. Nick had what was a very good idea: to go out in a boat on a river and have swarms of umbrellas floating by while we were playing. but we did it in January/February, and rain stopped play on a couple of occasions; - the river burst its banks; - and then when we did manage to film it was snowing and incredibly windy and cold, which made for some nice shots but a very disgruntled band.

The best gig we played was...
For me it was the day we came back from SXSW. We had a show at the Macbeth with the excellent and much lamented Plan B magazine: we came back with our peckers up and just felt really confident and so kind of nailed it. Another show that sticks in the mind was supporting Pete and The Pirates at the Borderline - it was a Stolen Recordings night, it was sold out, Pete and the Pirates were brilliant as they always seem to be and we tend respond well to fuller rooms and a bit more pressure.

The best gig I/we saw was...
Deerhunter at the Scala I think. they surprised me: I really love the band but hadn't expected the vastness of it live, nor how engaging Bradford Cox would be. Also, Blur at Hyde Park was pretty fun and emotional.

A record from 2009 that will be still be played in 10 years time?
Cass McCombs has again probably done my favourite record of the past year ["Catacombs"]. I went to see him last year expecting to hear all the 'Dropping the Writ' songs and he played almost entirely new songs, and its rare that someone could do that and you wouldn't mind because they were so good. It was at the Luminaire, you could hear a pin drop and it was one of the best shows i've seen. A lot of the songs I remembered and are on this record, which is spare, intriguing and lovely. The man deserves more props.

Overlooked in 2009?
Apart from Cass, the Sparklehorse/Dangermouse collaboration 'Dark Night of the Soul'. It strikes me as madness that it hasn't been properly released. The songs and production are brilliant, and it's got many of my fave people singing and doing their best work in years - Jason Lytle, The Flaming Lips, James Mercer.

And what can we look forward to from My Sad Captains in 2010?
We are having a break from gigging to properly work on new songs. We've got lots that we haven't had time to flesh out, so are going to concentrate on that rather than playing shows. I'm getting pretty excited about the prospect of making a new record and am feeling good about the direction things are going, so fingers crossed we might get something out by the end of the year, or early 2011.

2011?! We haven’t even got to 2010 yet and that feels an awfully long way away. The only consolation is that when that second album arrives it will no doubt be as lovingly crafted as this year’s record. As well as the album (available here), My Sad Captains also released a six track digital EP available for the bargain price of 79p. Trust me – you need both album and EP.

My Sad Captains
Here and Elsewhere [BUY]

Sunday, December 13, 2009

WRAPPING UP 2009 with The Miserable Rich

After Clinic yesterday, here is another band who didn’t release an album in 2009. “Twelve Ways To Count”, the debut album from The Miserable Rich, came out late in 2008 and the single from that album ‘Pisshead’ made it – just – on to later copies of my songs of the year compilation. This year the Brighton-based five piece did release an EP of cover versions in November. However I will associate 2009 with The Miserable Rich as they were the single band I saw most this year (at Dulcimer, The Deaf Institute, Sacred Trinity Church and Fuel).

The band’s singer/percussionist James de Malplaquet shares his thoughts about the year:

What I will remember most about 2009 is...
It's a toss-up between recording our second album, and trying to do a photo shoot in a freezing Austrian river the morning after a gig. Certainly blew away the cobwebs.

What should be forgotten about 2009...
All the shitty money stuff.

The best gig we played was...
The Orange Blossom Festival in Northern Germany. Wonderful 2000 crowd, sold 200 CDs in an hour, and they had bottles of absinthe back stage. The memories are a little hazy from there on in.....

The best gig I saw was...
I wasn't there myself but everybody tells me I missed the gig of the year with Andrew Bird at the Green Man. No sour grapes - just wish I'd been there.

A record from 2009 that will be still be played in 10 years time?
Andrew Bird - Noble Beast. Grizzly Bear - Veckatamist

Overlooked in 2009?
Yes, the thought had crossed our minds.

And what can we look forward to in 2010 from The Miserable Rich?
We''ll be back with our new record “Of Flight And Fury”. It's got a life of its own - and a fiery little number it is too.

The band have been playing some of those new songs this year – I filmed Wolfie at Fuel plus elsewhere on You Tube you can hear Oliver, Somerhill, Bye Bye Kitty and Chestnut Sunday. "Of Flight and Fury" will be released on Humble Soul in the Spring. Looking forward to 2010 already!

The Miserable Rich
Twelve Ways To Count [BUY]

Saturday, December 12, 2009

WRAPPING UP 2009 with Clinic

As part of the countdown to my Top Ten Albums of 2009 on Tuesday, here’s Clinic a band who didn’t release a record this year (but “Do It!” was fifth in last year’s Top Ten). However the band did tour to Italy, Belgium, Estonia, Slovakia, Austria and Mexico; and they (nearly) played an autopsy theatre in Liverpool, played the Offset Festival in Hainault Country Park, shared a bill with Shearwater in Leeds, supported Dinosaur Jr in London and headlined three nights of their own Mass Freakout festival in October.

Sadly I didn’t get to see any of these gigs. Must try harder in 2010.

However last month I put forward ‘Distortions’ as one of the key songs of the Noughties. Now I’ve been hard-pressed to finalise a Top Ten of the last twelve months let alone the last ten years, but if put on the spot I do think “Internal Wrangler” by Clinic would top that list of albums of the decade.

Pitchfork rated it 53rd in its Top 200 albums of the decade saying "this album is a precise procedure, opening an incision with a trio of sharp, jabbing songs, exploring with a jumble of fragments, and finally implanting itself permanently in a way few records so scattered and damaged can. Clinic never quite took another little piece of our hearts that way they did on their first album, but Internal Wrangler offers enough emotional surgery to last a lifetime".

Taking a break from recording studio album number six, Clinic gives these brief verdicts on this year.

What I will remember most about 2009 is...
Everything and probably nothing.

What should be forgotten about 2009...
March and April.

The best gig we played was...
Mexico City.

The best gig I saw was...
Pere Ubu, Berlin.

A record from 2009 that will be still be played in 10 years time?
Sun Araw “Heavy Deeds”.

Overlooked in 2009?
The Lotharios

And what can we look forward to in 2010 from Clinic?
New album: David Soul and a bit of Electric Eels influence.

The Lotharios?? Me neither. So overlooked in fact they are invisible on the internet. Unless they are this scratch band from Liverpool playing ‘Penguins in the Rigging’?? Or this refers to The Lothars, a three-thereminists-and-one-guitarist, improvisational drone quartet?? Typical Clinic misdirection methinks.

But more importantly, a new Clinic album in 2010 taking inspiration from David Soul AND the Electric Eels: now that’s something to be excited about! Sounds like a contender for album of next decade already.

Internal Wrangler [BUY]

Friday, December 11, 2009

WRAPPING UP 2009 with Windmill

Puddle City Racing Lights” by Windmill from 2007 was a very good record indeed. This year’s record “Epcot Starfields” is an EXCEPTIONALLY good record. There will be fans of the former record who will still prefer it over this year’s but “Epcot Starfields” moved me in a way Windmill’s debut didn’t begin to.

I wrote about it previously here and on saying: This second album by Windmill is a suite of ten songs about dust particles, space, Carl Sagan and planetary doom. All inspired by a childhood visit to the Epcot space center in Florida… an astonishingly beautiful record: a 41 minute treatise on loneliness, love, death and the end of our planet, touchingly realised and quite moving... "Epcot Starfields" is an evocative and engaging journey, like sitting in a planetarium in awe at the beauty and wonder of the universe but also feeling small, insignificant and vulnerable. And like those feelings, the mood this album creates stays with you long after it has finished. (And am chuffed that those reviews are quoted on the Windmill Myspace page). It is not just me who rates this record as you can see from reviews on Drowned in Sound, The Line of Best Fit, The 405 and Paste Magazine.

Released in September officially, Windmill took this record on tour during September and October (there is a series of video tour diaries on YouTube documenting this) Here, succinctly, Matthew Dillon (aka Windmill) talks about the last 12 months and what the future holds.

What I will remember most about 2009 is...
District 9. That was very good, indeed.

What should be forgotten about 2009
My bad back.

The best gig we played was...
Blimey... They all blend into one. Maybe something in Austria with mountains and chocolate.

The best gig I saw was...

A record from 2009 that will be still be played in 10 years time?
I'm sure that every record released will have found at least one listener that will adopt the record for life.

Overlooked in 2009?
A bit.

And what can we look forward to in 2010 from Windmill?
"Epcot Starfields" marks the end of Windmill for the foreseeable future. I have reached the end of my desire to tour and to produce music. I would like to make one more record someday, but, I can't see it happening anytime soon.

Yikes! Not only wrapping up 2009 but wrapping up Windmill?! I hope this is only a temporary pause or disillusionment. When Matthew talks about making this record in one of those tour diaries, even casually over a beer, you get a strong sense of what a labour of love this record was and is. And that intensity of feeling is summed up in the closing paragraph of The Line of Best Fit review:

“Epcot Starfields”, like the album that preceded it, is a showcase of the wonderful talent of Matthew Thomas Dillon. There are some spectacular moments on it, and when everything clicks Windmill can be phenomenally beautiful. It can also be such an emotionally draining listen at times that it’s hard not to be concerned for Dillon. After all we can turn the stereo off; this stuff is banging around in his head constantly.

I hope making music is not such a personal drain on Matthew as this suggests – a future without another Windmill record is quite a bleak one.

"Epcot Starfields" is available to buy direct in numerous formats including MP3, FLAC, vinyl and CD with a T-shirt option too if you want. It will come as no surprise when I say I heartily recommend you do so.

Epcot Starfields [BUY]

Thursday, December 10, 2009

WRAPPING UP 2009 with The Phantom Band

As we wind up the year, I asked a few bands who have made an impression of me and on this year to share their thoughts on the last 12 months. So here's the first of four interviews as part of the countdown to posting my Top Ten Albums of 2009 next Monday.

One of those albums is “Checkmate Savage” from Glasgow’s The Phantom Band. Released in January on Chemikal Underground and finishing the year as number one in the Piccadilly Records Best of 2009 chart, “Checkmate Savage” is a thrillingly potent mix of motorik rhythms and voodoo-swamp-blues-rock - with a touch of psychedelic jamming. "Proto-robofolk" in their words. I only got to see them live twice this year, first at the Deaf Institute in March and then at Green Man Festival in August, but the album has been on constant rotation since the beginning of the year.

Duncan Marquiss (guitar) and Andy Wake (keyboards) shared their thoughts separately but as you see they agree on many things: the highlights of 2009 are also the things they want to forget; and that 2010 for The Phantom Band will be a year of bespoke merchandise as well as a new (third?!) album.

What I will remember most about 2009 is...
Duncan The release of “Checkmate Savage”
Andy Sitting naked round a fire in the middle of a Norwegian Festival arena

What should be forgotten about 2009…
Duncan “Checkmate Savage”
Andy Sitting naked round a fire in the middle of a Norwegian Festival arena

The best gig we played was...
Duncan ...hard to say as there were quite few belters for us, for many different reasons - nudity in Norway, stage invasion in Inverness, sublime execution in St. Gallen. Maybe, our first show in Paris, I've never seen French people so enthusiastic and it was really nice that it was our fault.
Andy In terms of our performance I think the show in an old cinema in St.Gallan, Switzerland is up there as one of our best ever. It was either that or Belladrum Festival. Or maybe Storas Festival in Norway. Can't decide... let's go with Green Man Festival.

The best gig I saw was...
Duncan Chromehoof and Cluster at Rich Mix in Bethnal Green.
Andy Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at T in the Park.

A record from 2009 that will be still be played in 10 years time?
Duncan “Spoils” by Alasdair Roberts, even though he doesn't like it himself apparently.
Andy Alasdair Roberts “Spoils

Overlooked in 2009?
Duncan Climate change.
Andy Gnod - Gnod LP01

And what can we look forward to in 2010 from The Phantom Band?
Duncan Another album, tour videos and bespoke phantom knitwear.
Andy Hopefully our as yet untitled third album (we're going to release our third album before our second - we'll probably release our second album fourth or fifth) if we can get it recorded in time. Other than that, more tours etc - the usual stuff, but as well as that we are thinking of releasing a line of custom pedals and effects that we've been tinkering on as well... maybe by this time next year people will be twiddling with their own Phantomators. We're also planning to give away a lot more free stuff. And open a bank, a radio station, a mechanics workshop and launch a line of designer suits. Aftershave?

Final words from Piccadilly Records:
“Checkmate Savage” is otherworldly, and hard to pin down, with a freeform spaciousness that band’s only usually discover on their third or fourth albums, and in that respect The Phantom Band are most certainly way ahead of the game, one can only wonder what their next album will bring. They’ve been compared to the Beta Band, krautrock legends Neu! and Can, as well the likes of Nick Cave, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, the Violent Femmes and Captain Beefheart, but The Phantom Band are truly out on their own. A quite fitting, and truly exceptional album of the year.

BURIAL SOUNDS [Spotify] []
The Phantom Band
Checkmate Savage [BUY]

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Wow. Great evening - but don't expect me to be able to sum it up meaningfully or do it justice though.

Before tonight's gig I was still trying to get my head around this year's album "Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of The Radio Age". "More Focus Group than Broadcast" best describes it: seances, tape hiss, library music and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop all spliced together with elements of the signature Broadcast sound. But tonight wasn't a presentation of that record or indeed any of their earlier records in a strict sense. They wove together a set without intermissions or breaks blending drones and electronica with old songs and new songs (I think) played out against a shifting cinematic backdrop.

The first 20 minutes or so saw Trish Keenan and James Gargill on opposite sides of the stage, almost opponents across a boxing ring, behind long tables with banks of Korg keyboards, samplers, effects pedals and microphones, playing along to (or responding to?) a film of abstract black and white images and patterns projected on to a backdrop centre stage. It was like a filmic Roschach test applied to the new album but with other sounds thrown in for good measure. I think. It was equally spooky and hallucinogenic but I only caught or recognised fleeting elements or references to the new record.

Then the set entered another phase. Trish moved centre stage and sang against the now technicolour back-drop projections. Old songs appeared, but were heavily re-worked plus (I think) new ones, all flowing together to create a continuous suite of sounds and images. Trish moved side stage for most of the remaining set. There was nothing showy about her on-stage presence but it was as captivating and haunting as her voice. James played bass or guitar occasionally and for final song Trish played a strange thin, single string instrument (someone please enlighten me).

It finished without encore and was probably not much longer than 70 minutes or so but was such a rich and entrancing experience I didn't feel cheated in anyway. Support was from Moon Wiring Club who played a soundtrack of cut-up dialogue, library music and samples to clips from hammy 70s horror movies and 'Tales of the Unexpected'-type visuals; a perfect warm-up for Broadcast.

There's only two more UK performances of this - Liverpool and Glasgow - before Broadcast head off to Europe and Ireland before then playing ATP but miss this at your peril. Difficult to sum up but one of the live highlights of this year for me.

Tender Buttons [BUY]


In the continuing saga of Major Matt Mason USA and myself never being in the same place at the same time, tonight Schwervon!, his band formed with drummer Nan Tucker, play Cafe Saki whilst I’m up the road watching Broadcast.

Schwervon! play "roughhewn, exposed-brick NYC indie rock with a freshly squeezed pop twist" and joining them on tonight's bill are The Lovely Eggs and Amida.

This Underachievers Please Try Harder promotion best is most aptly described by fellow promoters and zine-writers Pull Yourself Together: "In the red corner- one of New York's best lo-fi, DIY, noisy, imperfect double acts. In the blue corner- Lancaster's best lo-fi, DIY, noisy, imperfect double act. Some people have said that if The Lovely Eggs were from NYC they would be like the new Moldy Peaches. We think they'd be more like the new Schwervon!, so this chance to see the two bands together will be a real treat!"

And opening the bill Amida who are worth making sure you arrive early for. Advance tickets here for £5 or £6 on the door.

Quick Frozen Small Yellow Cracker [BUY]

If The Wave Loves Two Suns [BUY]

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

MANCHESTER GIGS IN MUSIC: December 2009 pt.1

With the Christmas shut-down of the live music scene hitting home about the third week of December, it means that this month there are plenty of clashes over the next few weeks. As usual a monthly mix-tape of a selection of bands playing Manchester to help you choose wisely - download link in the post following [57 mins/65MB]

Lightning Dust I Knew [2.30] (4 Dec Roadhouse BUY TICKETS)
Young British Artists Bring The Sun [6.25] (11 Dec Islington Mill BUY TICKETS )
The Pains of Being Pure At Heart Young Adult Fiction [10.27] (4 Dec Academy 2 BUY TICKETS) Schwervon! Dinner [13.46] (8 Dec Café Saki BUY TICKETS)
Fruitbats Primitive Band [17.08] (17 Dec Roadhouse BUY TICKETS)
Kurt Vile Heart Attack [20.18] (14 Dec Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Battles Atlas [27.16] (7 Dec Academy 2 BUY TICKETS)
Broadcast The Be Colony [31.49] (8 Dec Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Deer Tick Easy [35.38] (3 Dec Dulcimer BUY TICKETS)
Horse Feathers Working Poor [38.47] (9 Dec Dulcimer BUY TICKETS)
Six Organs of Admittance Hazy SF [42.07] (3 Dec Islington Mill BUY TICKETS)
Early Day Miners In The Fire [46.31] (2 Dec Retro Bar BUY TICKETS)
Air Cav Alliance [51.25] (19 Dec Cross St Chapel BUY TICKETS)
Dutch Uncles Takeover [54.25] (4 Dec Night & Day BUY TICKETS)
Misty’s Big Adventure Smart Guys Wear Ties [57.19] (17 Dec Club Academy BUY TICKETS)

And a couple of Christmas-themed events worth extra special consideration: the Red Deer Animal Masked Christmas Ball at Islington Mill ("wearing an animal mask is essential") and Air Cav's Christmas Congregation at Cross St Chapel with festive refreshments. Click the links above for tickets for both.

And not forgetting:
1 Dec Thea Gilmore Band On The Wall / 2 Dec Cass McCombs Roadhouse / 2 Dec Josh T Pearson Ruby Lounge / 2 Dec Everything Everything MoHo Live / 3 Dec Sam Isaac Ruby Lounge / 4 Dec Good Shoes Ruby Lounge / 6 Dec Athlete Ritz / 7 Dec High Llamas Band On The Wall / 7 Dec J Mascis & The Fog MoHo Live / 8 Dec Sun O)))) Islington Mill / 8 Dec Sleepy Sun Retro Bar / 9 Dec Lightning Bolt Islington Mill / 9 Dec Ariel Pink’s Haunted Grafitti Deaf Institute / 10 Dec Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks / 12 Dec Brown Orange Blue Retro Bar /13 Dec Modest Mouse Ritz / 14 Dec The Raveonettes Ruby Lounge / 14 Dec Spiritualized Apollo / 17 Dec Gnod The Corner / 17 Dec Beak Deaf Institute / 20 Dec Grammatics Deaf Institute


Monthly mixtape: download here [57 mins/65MB]

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Noughties by Nature #113: Clinic's 'Distortions' (aka 'The One That Slipped Through The Net')

Over on Sweeping The Nation there has been an impressive crowd-sourcing approach to listing and celebrating the songs of the decade: Noughties by Nature.

In the final stages I put myself forward to deliver one of the planned 120 entries. Sadly I delivered mine the day AFTER the list had to prematurely ended (at #112). I've never been good with deadlines. So in all its glory here is my entry, the 'one that slipped through the net'

Noughties by Nature #113: Clinic - 'Distortions'

Clinic’s debut full-length album “Internal Wrangler” came out in the first year of the Noughties. It built on the earlier John Peel-approved singles (compiled on the “3 EPs” album) and set the template for their following 4 albums: art-punk-garage with splashes of surf, doowop, Suicide or Krautrock. From “Internal Wrangler” came three singles – ‘The Return of Evil Bill’, ‘The Second Line’ and ‘Distortions’. In an alternative format I’d make the case for all three featuring in a best of the Noughties list; but for politeness and compliance I’ll put forward just ‘Distortions’.

The defining aspect of some Clinic songs is momentum – the surging break-neck pace of say ‘Cement Mixer’, ‘Pet Eunuch’ or ‘Tusk’. For others it’s tension – see ‘Harvest’ or the controlled metronomic rhythms and abrupt, regulated gasps of ‘The Second Line’. What defines ‘Distortions’ for me is its emotional force – something not often associated with a band who can appear on the surface a little distant, unengaged and, well, clinical.

Over vintage organ hum and sparse drum pattern, Ade Blackburn’s softened vocals suggest pure vulnerability and yearning. Occasional moments of tenderness (“
I love it when you blink your eyes”) are countered by something more sinister playing out “You'd never know how often / I've pictured you in coffins / my baby in a coffin”. As with most Clinic songs, it is difficult to tell what is going on lyrically. My assumption is that ‘Distortions’ is documenting the conflicting sensations of pregnancy, and how it changes and distorts the female body and emotions. And ultimately wishing for birth/abortion as a way of escape: “I want to know my body / I want this out not in me / I want no other leakage”. I could be so wrong. But whatever the personal interpretation or true sense, for a band that disguises meaning through cryptic lyrics and muffled vocals as effectively as they disguise themselves on stage, it is a rare glimpse of empathy and tenderness. The instrumentation on the song is equally delicate and appropriately atmospheric: languid bass and spectral backing vocals so subtle you almost don’t hear them. At its finale, the song builds in intensity to a final brief wig-out with squealing horn: beautiful and frightening.

In a decade where TV ‘talent’ shows and the conservatism of a failing record industry have obliterated music that is original, interesting or genuine from the charts and the mainstream, we need more than ever to celebrate and cherish bands like Clinic and others featured on this list. The ‘nature’ of the Noughties should not be remembered as lowest-common-denominator blandness and copy-cat music-making. Let’s keep celebrating the distortions.

[BUY Internal Wrangler]

If you didn't visit Noughties by Nature, it's all still there to view and is heartily recommended. As STN says "it's been interesting to see what didn't make the cut. Among the 111 were three unreleased songs, a B-side and one unreleasable (in its original form) track, such being the nature of the beast. And yet no Radiohead, Strokes, Arctics, Kanye, White Stripes, Winehouse, Franz, Elbow, Coldplay, Outkast..." What did make it were the following:

Aaliyah, Adam Green, Airport Girl, Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diabate, Amanda Palmer, And So I Watch You From Afar, Arcade Fire, Ash, Art Brut, At The Drive-In, The Avalanches, Ballboy, Battles, Bearsuit, Billie The Vision And The Dancers, Blakfish, The Bobby McGees, Brakes, Bright Eyes, British Sea Power, Broadcast, BrokeNCYDE, Burial, Chris T-T, Clock Opera, Colour, Comet Gain, The Concretes, The Coral, Dan Deacon, Darren Hayman, David Cronenberg's Wife, The Delgados, Deerhunter, Dizzee Rascal, Eastern Lane, Eels, The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, Euros Childs, Felix da Housecat, Girls Aloud, Girls On Top, Half Man Half Biscuit, Hefner, Helen Love, The Hold Steady, The Horrors, Hot Hot Heat, The Indelicates, Jarvis Cocker, Johnny Boy, Johnny Flynn, Johnny Foreigner, Justice vs Simian, Kat Flint, Kate Nash, Klaxons, The Knife, Kylie Minogue, Lambchop, The Libertines, The Long Blondes, Los Campesinos!, The Lucksmiths, Lupen Crook, The Manhattan Love Suicides, Maps, Mclusky, Minnaars, Mint Royale, Missy Elliott, Misty's Big Adventure, Mo-Ho-Bish-O-Pi, Moldy Peaches, Monkey Swallows The Universe, The National, Neon Neon, New Order, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Patrick Wolf, Pelle Carlberg, The Pipettes, Primal Scream, Pulp, Rachel Stevens, The Research, Robbie Williams & Kylie Minogue, Ryan Adams, Saturday Looks Good To Me, Saul Williams, Saves The Day, Sebastian Tellier, Sergeant Buzfuz, Snow White, Spiller feat. Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Stars, The Streets, Sufjan Stevens, Sugababes, Sunset Rubdown, Super Furry Animals, Tim Ten Yen, The Ting Tings, Town Bike, The Unicorns, Von Sudenfed, The Wave Pictures, Why?, Wyclef Jean, XX Teens and You Slut!.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

TONIGHT IN MANCHESTER: We Were Promised Jetpacks

Fiery young Scots rockers (no clichés here) We Were Promised Jetpacks play The Roadhouse tonight – highly recommended if you haven’t seen them live.

I first saw them supporting Frightened Rabbit at Night and Day last year and was impressed by the energetic delivery and the remarkably finished sound they had for a then-unsigned band. Unsurprisingly they were picked up by Fat Cat (home of fellow travellers Frightened Rabbit and The Twilight Sad) and the release of their album “These Four Walls” followed in June this year. The album didn’t quite capture my imagination in the same way as the live performance – putting these songs on tape seemed to restrain them too much? But it garnered some good write-ups in the broad-sheets:

"They’ve already perfected a sound that sits between post-punk and pop, soaring choruses saved from over-sentimentality by stark, even bleak verses." The Independent '5 bands to watch'

"Quiet Little Voices is a rousing, sinewy, post-punk romp that crashes its way towards a Wedding Present-style duelling guitars denouement."
The Guardian

The album is available digitally or on CD/LP from Fat Cat. If you don’t want to make that commitment so early in your relationship with WWPJ, a good introduction is the double-A side single released next Monday (30 November): ‘It's Thunder And It's Lightning / Ships With Holes Will Sink’. The first of these is the fine lead-off track for the album: a barn-storming performance welding raw lyrical vulnerability to huge rugged guitar riffs and by-the-end pained howls of singer Adam Thompson. Or maybe see them live? Advance tickets for tonight's Roadhouse gig are available here.

(And more videos from last week's sold-out Borderline gig from babz54321 here).

Remaining dates in Liverpool, Sheffield and Glasgow this week and then WWPJ join Frightened Rabbit for the Edinburgh Hogmanay celebrations. European dates in January 2010 follow.

We Were Promised Jetpacks
These Four Walls [BUY]

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"Honey... they're playing our song" - Pere Ubu now on You Tube

As previously reported Pere Ubu, the avant-garage art-rockers from Cleveland, Ohio, have been mightily opposed to their material appearing on You Tube or elsewhere.

However news from the Ubu Projex website:
Recently there has been a change of policy as regards YouTube. This is due to the appointment of Robert Wheeler as Grocery Police Officer, now in charge of internet activities. He advocates a more liberal approach to uploading videos of the band, though he will continue to censor and instruct the removal of not-approved uploads. David remains opposed but acknowledges Robert's authority in this matter. For related matters email Robert.

As well as Grocery Police Officer, Robert Wheeler plays electronics in Pere Ubu, namely an EML-101 synthesizer and homemade Theremin. And you can see him playing said homemade Theremin about 2 minutes in to 'our' song.

This video and others are available to download in MV4 format from the Hearpen label website plus live recordings of the band, spoken word from David Thomas and high quality digital versions of the extensive Pere Ubu catalogue. And the reason you won't find this elsewhere?
We must find our proper niche. That niche will be the place where we can control our output and offer it on terms that we can live with. It is not possible to enter into a commercial contract without negotiating download rights. It is intensely frustrating to hear sound that we've spent months meticulously constructing being reduced to a dog's dinner with lousy encoding ratios. If it's going to be out there we want it reproduced in such a way as to adequately convey the meaning of the sound. So we'll do it ourselves. Follow this link for a detailed explanation of the technical and aesthetic decisions made.

'Folly of Youth' is from the 1995 album "Ray Gun Suitcase" which can be bought here, here or here. Highly recommended.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

TONIGHT IN MANCHESTER: Tim and Sam's Tim and the Sam Band With Tim and Sam

Highly recommended to escape the wintry weather tonight in Manchester: the gorgeous instrumental post-folk of Tim and Sam's Tim and the Sam Band With Tim and Sam.

Despite the tongue-twisting name I've always had a soft spot for Tim and Sam's Tim and the Sam Band With Tim and Sam, since seeing them in 2007 at Cafe Saki with Liz Green and Bishop Allen. They'd sold out of their self-released 'Stepping Stones' EP but I managed to buy a CDR with colour photocopy insert from them which they assembled before my eyes. This cottage-industry DIY approach was charming but didn't prepare you for how good the music was. 2008 the saw the release of 'Put Your Slippers On' EP and then this year the release of 'Summer Solstice' - which I am sad to say I overlooked at the time.

Rough Trade Shops say it best as always:
It's a wonderful concoction which drifts effortlessly on the summer breeze, and recalls Sufjan Stevens in its spine-tingling simplicity. The four-piece's sprightly, windswept folk mines a seam which is reminiscent of Fence mainstays such as James Yorkston, while also being a close cousin of Shady Bard. Their slow-burning, pastoral sounds are expansive and littered with psych-folk flourishes, leaving you quietly swooning like watching blossom fall from the trees.

Tonight TSTSBTS (is this acceptable?) play The Bay Horse (Thomas St, Northern Quarter M4) with support from The Momeraths and The Search Map. Details are scarce - can't find any advance tickets, event listing or price on the door but I'd guess you should aim to arrive for 8pm with some spare cash in your pocket. And expect a proper cosy 'night-in' whatever the weather outside.

And if you can't make this gigs in Watford, London, Oxford and Sheffield coming up.

Stepping Stones EP
[BUY music & merchandise]

Monday, November 16, 2009

'I could be the sunlight in your eyes couldn't I?' Tune-Yards "Bird-brains"

Tune-Yards (or tUnE-yArDS to be correct) is the musical alias of Merrill Garbus and her debut album on 4AD "Bird-brains" is out today. It is an astonishingly animated experimental pop record that is soothing and unsettling in equal measure - and comes highly recommended.

Recorded with digital voice recorder and shareware mixing software, the album feels distinctly 'demo' and does not try to hide these origins. It is thrillingly inventive - combining toy-box rhythms, kitchen utensil percussion, sing-song verses and tribal chants to great effect. I was captivated on first listen. Stereogum described it as "a self-contained Sublime Frequencies compilation, jumping between blues, African tunes, shiny reggae-esque sprawls, and lo-fi folk" Mrs A's response was less effusive: "More like NO Tune-Yards".

Reviewing it elsewhere I got a bit carried away: "If Fever Ray’s album was the dark twilight world of insomnia directed by Ingmar Bergman, Tune-Yards’ record is a sunshine-lawn double-dutch-skip directed by David Lynch". Forget and forgive the waxing lyrical and just enjoy a great, great record.

If "Bird-brains" is not enough Tune-Yards for you, then sign up on her website to receive an mp3 plus there is a Karn remix of 'Hatari' free to download on the 4AD site. And if you buy the limited edition version of the album from Piccadilly Records or Rough Trade it comes with a 5 song DVD including the one from the 4AD sessions above.

Bird-brains [BUY or BUY]