Saturday, October 31, 2009


Monthly mix-tape time again. A selection from bands playing Manchester this November all in one 43 minute/48MB zipped package - download link in the post following. Enjoy!

Sweet Billy Pilgrim Here It Begins (3 Nov RNCM with Portico Quartet BUY TICKETS)
Yo La Tengo Nowhere To Hide (7 Nov Academy 2 BUY TICKETS)
The Shaky Hands A New Parade (3 Nov Ruby Lounge BUY TICKETS)
My Sad Captains Great Expectations (1 Nov Dulcimer BUY TICKETS)
Blue Roses I Am Leaving (7 Nov Nexus Art Café BUY TICKETS)
Cave Singers At The Cut (17 Nov with Espers + Woods Academy 3 BUY TICKETS)
The Phantom Band Folk Song Oblivion (7 Nov Islington Mill BUY TICKETS)
Tickley Feather Don't Call, Marilyn (15 Nov Retro Bar BUY TICKETS)
Great Lake Swimmers Still (16 Nov Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Wavves Beach Demon (25 Nov Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Bowerbirds House of Diamonds (1 Nov Dulcimer BUY TICKETS)
Emily Loizeau L'Autre Bout Du Monde (17 Nov Band on the Wall BUY TICKETS)
Cymbals Eat Guitars ...And The Hazy Sea (17 Nov Night & Day BUY TICKETS)

And not forgetting... click on the links to buy tickets.
2 Nov Blk Jks Islington Mill / 2 Nov Luke Haines Deaf Institute / 3 Nov Portico Quartet RNCM / 3 Nov Daniel Johnston Manchester Town Hall / 4 Nov Grizzly Bear & St Vincent Manchester Cathedral / 5 Nov Mark Eitzel St Margaret’s Church / 5 Nov Cold Cave The Corner / 6 Nov Grouper Nexus Art Café / 8 Nov Paul Curreri Deaf Institute / 8 Nov Robin Williamson Dulcimer / 9 Nov Babybird Night & Day / 9 Nov A Mountain of One Deaf Institute / 10 Nov Fionn Regan Deaf Institute / 10 & 11 Nov The Fall Mo Ho Live / 10 Nov Soy un Caballo Ruby Lounge / 12 Nov Jay Reatard Roadhouse / 13 Nov William Fitzsimmons Nexus Art Café / 14 Nov Staff Benda Bilili RNCM / 14 Nov Tegan & Sara Academy / 14 Nov A Place To Bury Strangers MoHo Live / 15 Nov Alberta Cross Ruby Lounge / 16 Nov The Flaming Lips Academy 1 / 17 Nov 65 Days of Static Academy 2 / 17 Nov Shred Yr Face 3: Espers The Cave Singers Woods/ 18 Nov The Antlers Deaf Institute / 19 Nov Field Music Deaf Institute / 19 Nov Mariachi el Bronx Club Academy / 20 Nov Alabama 3 Academy 2 / 21 Nov The Duke & the King Academy Ruby Lounge / 22 Nov Jackie Leven Academy 3 / 23 Nov The Sounds Club Academy / 25 Nov We Were Promised Jetpacks The Roadhouse / 26 Nov Gay for Johnny Depp Satan’s Hollow / 26 Nov The Answering Machine Club Academy / 28 Nov Das Pop Soundcontrol / 28 Nov worriedaboutsatan Fuel / 29 Nov Peggy Sue Deaf Institute


The link is here [43 min/48MB]

Friday, October 30, 2009

"A salute at the threshold of the North Sea of my mind"

Is it too early to be starting to think of end-of-year favourite albums? Not when I have been thinking about this since August. Top the heap of last year’s Top Ten was Frightened Rabbit’s “The Midnight Organ Fight”. They won’t be in this year’s list at all: their new album is not due until Spring next year.

However in advance of that we have got the first single of that as-yet-untitled album to enjoy. “Swim Until You Can't See Land" is released on Fat Cat Records on 16 November but you can pre-order it now or listen/view it below. It’s good to report Frightened Rabbit have not cheered up.

OK so it's a bit cheerier than some of the bleaker moments of the last album, partly due to the rolling, chiming guitars and those string arrangements courtesy of Haushka, but the suggestion of being 'out of your depth' or even suicide by drowning is still clearly apparent. Hurrah! Self-hatred mixed with the maudlin and the downcast was a hallmark of “The Midnight Organ Fight”. B-side 'No Fun' continues this trend brilliantly - a wheezy folk lament including the statement that there is "nothing sadder than bad, bad sex". Double hurrah! I'm looking forward to that new album already.

And after what seemless like endless touring in North America last year and early this year, Frightened Rabbit will be playing in the UK in November and December. Next week on 6 November they preview songs from the new album at a ‘secret’ gig at The Lexington in London. Tickets, all 150 of them, go on sale on Monday morning. The tour then continues:
Sat 7 Aldershot West End Centre
Mon 9 Oxford Academy 2
Tue10 York Duchess of York
Wed 11 Nottingham Bodega
Thu 12 Liverpool Academy 2
Sat 14 Coventry Kasbah
Sun 15 Northampton Roadmenders
Mon 16 Brighton Corn Exchange
Tue 17 Southampton University
Thu 19 Exeter Lemon Grove
Fri 20 London Troxy
Sat 21 Tunbridge Wells Forum
Sun 22 Cambridge Soul Tree
Tue 24 Sheffield Plug
Wed 25 Whitehaven Civic Hall
Fri 27 Fort William BA Club
Sat 28 Stirling Tolbooth
Sun 29 Inverness Ironworks
Tue 1 Aberdeen Moshulu
Wed 2 Dundee Fat Sams
Sat 5 Galway Black Box
Mon 7 Dublin Academy (with Modest Mouse)
Tue 8 Dublin Academy (with Modest Mouse)
Wed 9 Belfast Mandella Hall (with Modest Mouse)
Sun 13 Manchester Ritz (with Modest Mouse)
Mon 14 London Shep Bush Empire (with Modest Mouse)
Tue 22 Glasgow ABC
Or you could try to win tickets to see them play on the London Eye here.

BE LESS RUDE (Daytrotter Session)
POKE (Daytrotter Session)
Frightened Rabbit [BUY or BUY]

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

'Carl Sagan Are We Doomed?' Windmill's "Epcot Starfields"

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.

I hope you haven't stopped reading because this is an astonishingly beautiful record: a 41 minute treatise on loneliness, love, death and the end of our planet, touchingly realised and quite moving. I've been playing this since its release last month and it is definitely nudging its way into that end-of-year album top ten chart.

Windmill’s debut "Puddle City Racing Lights" created tender, sweeping electronic orch-pop. On this his second album, Matthew Thomas Dillon’s starting point is to strip the arrangements back to mainly piano and voice with additional, sparing use of strings, electronic washes and echo. His voice is a quavering helium-squeak that will not be to everyone’s taste but here it becomes an asset - either a poignant, solitary warble or double and treble-tracked, and overlaid with choral harmonies. It creates a luscious swoon that brings to mind Jonathan Donahue at his most wide-eyed and astral-gazing. In fact a comparison with the flighty and quieter moments of Mercury Rev is a good one for the whole album.

Before watching this video to accompany 'Big Boom', I'd make a plea. Just close your eyes and listen to the song first (or just go straight to 'Photo Hemispheres' probably the key track on the record). Although I like this endearingly lofi video with its cheap space-suits, summer fetes and marching bands, it doesn't convey the child-like wonder - and fearful sadness - at the enormity of the universe as well as the music alone. The video is just a bit too earthbound.

"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.

The record is available to buy direct in numerous formats including MP3, FLAC, vinyl and CD with a T-shirt option too if you want. Sadly no space-suit option. A missed opportunity.

Epcot Starfields [BUY]

Saturday, October 24, 2009

THE BROKEN FAMILY BAND O2 Academy Liverpool 23 Oct 2009

"Fuck This Band" wrote singer Steven Adams when signing the set-list at the end of tonight's gig, their fourth-to-last one before they split up. A sign of the angry resentment that fuelled that split? Or just the usual dark, cynical humour of The Broken Family Band? Who can tell.

Certainly tonight's gig, their first and also last in Liverpool, did not feel like a band imploding or running out of steam. Playing in the smaller room at the O2 Academy (Gary Moore was playing the larger one - more of him later), they delivered a typically powerful set that was as good as any I've seen in recent years. They opened with 'It's All Over' and finished the main set with 'Don't Change Your Mind' - subliminal messages about their demise? But once you start listening to their songs you realise that are FULL of allusions to leaving, separation and break-up.

As well as a set that took in early songs (lots from "Cold Water Songs" tonight) through to this year's "Please and Thank You", the band were also at their good-humoured best: "We've got nothing to prove, we've been paid". So we got digs at Gary Moore ('his people' were demanding exclusive use of the venue's toilet), put-downs of the The Wave Pictures and tales of a chance encounter with the lead singer of Editors ("Are you sneering at me?").

In fact the evening was full of Gary Moore moments: guitarist Jay sitting on the monitor for the solo in 'John Belushi', the crowd shouts for 'Parisian Walkways' and the band's response - see this video of 'Don't Change Your Mind'.

So then: great tunes, banter, commitment, and on-stage rum & cokes. A typical BFB performance. Except there won't be many more. In the words of the band 'Don't Bury Us Until We're Dead': they play Cardiff, Oxford and then their final gig at The Portland Arms in Cambridge next Saturday.

So it shouldn't be "Fuck This Band". It should read "Fuck. This band: too good to split".

The Set List (although 'Happy Day' may be in the wrong slot...)
It's All Over
The Booze and The Drugs
Living In Sin
Poor Little Thing
A Place You Deserve
At The Back of The Chapel
John Belushi
Happy Days Are Here Again
Hey Captain
Give And Take
Cinema vs House
Borrowed Time
The Mardi Gras Rescue Mission
St Albans Don't Change Your Mind
Devil In The Details
Dancing On The Fourth Floor

Support was from Chris T-T who was on fine form and his agit-prop indie-folk strum a perfect warm-up act. He started solo accapella then played lots of new songs on guitar ('Love Is Not Rescue') and at keyboards ('Nintendo') from next year's new album, his seventh. Finished with a stirring rendition of 'This English Earth' My dodgy photos make him appear much more stern that he was.

The Broken Family Band
Cold Water Songs [BUY]

The Broken Family Band
Hello Love [BUY]

TONIGHT IN MANCHESTER: James Yorkston & The Big Eyes Family Players

I can't think of a recent time when James Yorkston has played Manchester and it HASN'T been Night & Day. Familiar is no bad thing, and whether solo or with full band, James Yorkston live is a captivating experience and the gloomy intimacy of Night & Day is a fitting setting.

However this tour is slightly different - not the usual backing band The Athletes but The Big Eyes Family Players accompany James, playing trad. folk tunes (and JY favourites) as performed on the recent album "Folk Songs". An album that, those following closely will remember, features the name of a certain someone from round these parts...

With support from Mary Hampton and David A Jaycock, an excellent evening of quality music is pretty much guaranteed: read more or buy tickets.

James Yorkston & The Big Eyes Family Players
Folk Songs [BUY]

And don't forget Oxjam Takeover tomorrow Sunday. Umpteen bands and artists including Liz Green, Aidan Smith, MAY68 and Paddy Steer across eight venues in the Northern Quarter with access to all gigs for just £7 advance here. Great value for a great cause.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Going to a gig in a church lends itself to cheap jokes ("best get there early to get a good pew") or laboured analogies (shared audience experience = 'communion' etc etc). I will try and avoid both here, having made them all on the night.

Other than the bad jokes, this was a fine, fine evening at Sacred Trinity Church. It started well with a warm welcome and a real ale bar - with the vicar himself behind the bar. The next happy discovery was how intimate the church was: it is long and narrow with only 3 or 4 short rows of wooden pews either side of a centre aisle with three large bean-bags at the front. The interior was deliberately darkened with lovely green and orange lighting creating a warm glow throughout. A beautiful setting and perfect for the elegant chamber-pop of The Miserable Rich.

Ushered in by the gentle ring of a hand-bell and then a long note on the cello, The Miserable Rich started their thirteen song set with 'Early Mourning' and then mixed songs from the first album with four new songs and an Iggy Pop cover. The sound - vocals, the strings, the peal of hand-bells and the occasional tapped snare drum - was hard to fault throughout, whether the nursery-rhyme quiet of 'The Boat Song' or the brooding urgency of 'Oliver' or 'Poodle'. It was so entrancing I lost track of time.

Lead singer James de Malplaquet, wearing tails over skinny jeans and baseball boots and drinking red wine from a plastic glass, embodies the appeal of The Miserable Rich in some ways: classy elegance with a darker underbelly, rich flavours with a casual charm. But it is the playing and the quality of the songs that really sets them apart and made this such a special evening.

The Set List:
Early Mourning
Bye Bye Kitty
The Boat Song
The Time That's Mine
For A Day
Chestnut Sunday

Thanks to Rhys for filling in the gaps. An EP of covers will be available next month free of charge to those on their mailing list; the new album is due out next year; and there's a few more UK dates this month and next with a Red Deer Club appearance back in Manchester rumoured for 9 November. Missing ANY of these events is not advised.

A video of 'Poodle' from earlier on in the set is also on You Tube.

Support tonight was firstly the folk-pop harmonising of Liverpool's The Random Family with stand-up bass, flute, acoustic guitar and mandolin. They still spend too much time tuning up and swapping instruments (two songs using banjo? why not play them back to back?) but they do sound lovely.

Then Table. I saw them supporting Fanfarlo last month and made a mental note to see them again but didn't remember them being so SERIOUS. It's classy stuff from this six piece but every piano note, every pause, every sighing harmony suggests doom and despair. Even the song called 'Smile', a jaunty, love pledge with accordion is quite maudlin-in-a-good-way. They have their first single out in December on Humble Soul. It won't be happy but I'd suggest you'd join me in buying it.

The whole evening - the setting, the selection of bands, the convivial atmosphere and the wonderful real ale - showed a real love of live music and of creating a special evening. Less than half a mile away, tens of thousands of people were sitting in the MEN Arena. Doesn't matter who was on, you know it was over-priced evening, in a charmless, cavernous air hanger with nasty buckets of lager at a fiver a throw. Tonight's three bands at Salford Trinity Church cost £7 to get in and was nothing short of magical. Thank you Humble Soul and whoever else needs thanking.

The Miserable Rich
Twelve Ways To Count [BUY]

Trails and Tribulations of In The City: Monday & Tuesday

Some more suggested trails to guide you through tomorrow's and Tuesday's bands at In The City Live 2009. Apologies to ITC - there are grids on their website, I just couldn't find them yesterday.

Monday afternoon is a bit of a no-brainer really: free show at Night & Day 12-4pm with Tim and Sam's Tim and The Sam Band with Tim and Sam, Piney Gir and Bright Light Bright Light

Then I'd suggest:
Monday Night
Beat The Radar (alternative 7.20pm Copy Haho Bar 38)
Gloria Cycles No.1 Bar
The Brute Chorus TV21 (alternative 8.40 Blind Atlas)
Sweet Baboo Electric Boogaloo
Taxi Taxi Cellar Vie
Frightened Rabbit (alternative 10.40pm I Am Blackbird Bar 38)

Tuesday Night
Dan Melrose The Bay Horse
Bo Ningen TV21
Amida Space (alternative 8.15 The Great Shakes No.1 Club)
Young British Artists Night & Day
Lion Club Night & Day
Jo Rose (alternative 10.15 Tigers That Talked Cellar Vie)
Treetop Flyers Cellar Vie (alternative 11.10 The Drums Night & Day)

Piney Gir
Hold Yer Horses [BUY]

The Brute Chorus
The Brute Chorus [BUY]

If The Wave Loves Two Suns [BUY]

ITC are also releasing a compilation of unsigned bands - 32 tracks via iTunes for £7.99 - on sale tomorrow.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Trails and Tribulations of In The City Live: Sunday

The annual music industry jamboree In The City rolls into Manchester this weekend. Alongside a whole series of panel discussions and debates about future of the record industry is three day's worth of over 150 gigs (some reports suggest over 300) including many unsigned bands. "The final line-ups and downloadable grids for ITC Live 2009 are now available here" says ITC website but it's not very user-friendly, full of typos and with no links to any music. With this many gigs and this much music (plus other gigs this weekend: The Miserable Rich and Soap & Skin for starters), it's easy to get lost or give up.

So based on personal bias and at least 20 minutes of internet research here is my suggested itinerary for the first day of ITC Live for the lazy. Remember: all timings are approximate AND following this means you could miss out on dozens of other bands.

2.45pm Start at the Bay Horse for Eleanor Lou (alternative: Christopher Eatough at Space at 3pm - but allow 10 minutes to get to Nexus for...)
3.45pm Wu Lyf at Nexus Art Cafe (listen to Heavy Pop demo)
4.25pm LR Rockets then Don't Wait Animate at 5.25pm both at Dry Bar
6.20pm My First Tooth then Stagecoach at 7.10 both at Space
8pm Sweet Baboo at Cellar Vie (alternative Air Cav at The Garratt; Sweet Baboo is playing on Monday)
9pm Egyptian Hip Hop at Night & Day (alternatives: Beat The Radar at 8.30pm at The Garratt or Copy Haho at 8.30pm at TV21)
10.15pm Cate Le Bon Cellar Vie
10.40 Kong at Deaf Institute

If you here for Saturday (today) which seems be a pre-ITC day, a trail isn't required. I'd suggest you simply camp out in Night & Day for Little Red Rabbit's free show case 12-4pm (Fuzzy Lights, Anna Kashfi, Crazy Man Michael) followed by Everything Everything and Help Stamp Out Loneliness plus support from 8pm. With maybe a quick trip to see The Angel Hurricane at Nexus Art Cafe between the two.

Monday and Tuesday trails to follow tomorrow.

We Got Tazers! from Helsinki Films on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

'The train is leaving at the same time you arrive' The Young Republic's "Balletesque"

Out this week is the second album from The Young Republic. Having seen two of their three sets at End of The Road in 2007 and snapping up a copy of debut "12 Tales From Winter City" at the time, I've been looking forward to this release for some time.

Even on first listen, it is a different beast from that earlier record. Whilst there was a melodic, almost dreamy, quality to their take on folk Americana for their debut, "Balletesque" is a more confident, complex and punchier affair that packs a dense, panaromic variety into its 11 tracks. The cover alone suggests darker territory.

Here's what Rough Trade say: "The second album from The Young Republic is a more mature release with stronger songwriting and musicianship. Gone are the Dexy's influences and in its place is a classic sound that sits somewhere between prime Wilco and Dylan. In 2008 The Young Republic returned to their Sky Mountain studio in Nashville to start afresh... the subject matter of 'Balletesque' mines the depths of the American historical consciousness, past and present. Characters of salesmen, bootleggers, preachers, outlaws, western poets, actors, in settings of depression era New England, bloody, war-rattled Texas and mid-century Middle America"

After a couple of listens it is weaving its charms on me and this will only continue. From the gentle balladry of 'Napoleon Roses' to the rum-sodden blues-funk of 'Black Duck Blues' to the autumnal wistfulness of 'Sam Clemens', this is not an immediate record but one that is ultimately richly rewarding. If ordered from Rough Trade it comes with a bonus CD of four exclusive tracks.

And The Young Republic are hitting the UK soon starting at Swn Festival on 22 October and then continuing. Sadly like their last visit to Manchester, I am away whilst they are here. Thank goodness, I've at least got the record to console myself.

On A Bus In Austin - The Young Republic SXSW 09 from Wasp Video on Vimeo.

The Young Republic Tour Dates:
23rd October: BIRMINGHAM, The Rainbow [BUY TICKETS]
24th October: COVENTRY, Taylor John's House [BUY TICKETS]
26th October: LEEDS, The Brudenell Social Club [BUY TICKETS]
28th October: GLASGOW, Nice n' Sleazy [BUY TICKETS]
29th October: MANCHESTER, Dulcimer Folk Bar [BUY TICKETS]
30th October: MIDDLESBROUGH, Westgarth Social Club [BUY TICKETS]
31st October: NEWCASTLE, The Cumberland Arms [BUY TICKETS]
1st November: BRISTOL, Thekla [BUY TICKETS]
2nd November: LONDON, Cargo [BUY TICKETS]

The Young Republic
Balletesque [BUY or BUY]

Sunday, October 11, 2009

FROM THE INTRAY: Friska Viljor, The Victorian English Gentlemens Club & Martin Heslop

A round-up of some recent(ish) singles and songs sent my way.

Friska Viljor are back this month with a new album "For New Beginnings" and the ever dependable Daniel from the band (and head of their record label Crying Bob records) sent through this song to share 'Wohlwill Strasse'. It is "a tribute to the people living at the street Wohlwill Strasse, situated next to Reeperbahn in Hamburg. Me and Joakim (the other half of the band) spent a week there a couple of years ago and fell in love with it". It's a jaunty pop travelogue complete with swinging horn section and 'whoo-hoo-hoo' chorus; and suggests the new album (pre-order here to receive a signed copy) is another must-buy from the excellent Swedish folk-pop duo. Friska Viljor are on tour in Oct and Nov across Europe (and hopefully at some point the UK?)

Friska Viljor
For New Beginnings [BUY]

And in case you need reminding, here's Friska Viljor performing the first song from previous album "Tour de Hearts" on Swedish TV.

I reviewed elsewhere last month, The Victorian English Gentlemens Club single 'Watching The Burgulars' and loved its "ringing, jangly art-pop with an African rhythm that could easily find a home on either Abe Vigoda’s “Skeleton” or XTC’s “English Settlement”". Here is B-Side 'Polish Man' and the video for 'Parrot' both also from the album "Love On An Oil Rig".

The Victorian English Gentlemens Club
Love On An Oil Rig [BUY]

An mp3 of 'Parrot' can be yours in return for your email address at the band's website. And if none of this is enough to persuade you to buy that album, try this great review on The Line Of Best Fit. It did it for me.

And finally Martin Heslop. His record label Shipyard was in touch offering me a copy of this EP (and their first release) "As The Stories Burn". I replied (OK several weeks later) but heard nothing further from them sadly/annoyingly so no song to share here. But you can hear the whole EP on Martin's MySpace page.

My first thought before I heard a note given his name and knowing he was from Newcastle-upon-Tyne area was 'Northumbrian Folk', probably with lots of fiddle. But I was wrong - sort of. The five songs display quite a variety but they are at heart folk - but more alt than trad. 'As The Stories Burn' is a Waits-ian stroll down the wrong side of the tracks with spooked guitar and creepy, crashing percussion. And 'Mince and Potatoes' is a luckless, self-loathing take on Conor Oberst despair. Well worth a listen. But keep the lights on and a happy thought in your head.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

SLOW CLUB @ MOHO LIVE 6 October 2009

Mrs A knows I have a weakness for women who play the drums (Meg White being the exception that proves the rule). She also knew that I was going to see Slow Club tonight. But I didn't reveal that the in the duo of Charles Watson and Rebecca Taylor, who are Slow Club, Rebecca plays the drums. She not only drums but she drums STANDING UP. I do not think of this as subterfuge but I suspect my drooling admiration and the excess of photographs of Rebecca (did I mention that she drums? STANDING UP?) may be used against me at some point in the future in a divorce case. Whatever my private weaknesses, this gig was so much more than just the drumming - impressive though it was.

Given their songs veer from loud folkabilly skiffle-pop to pin-drop-quiet heartbreak, I was intrigued to see how Slow Club would fare live, especially at MoHo Live which is a functional but fairly charmless, quasi-industrial aesthetic basement. Well Slow Club started the gig by ignoring the stage completely: they began the set from the middle of the crowd. They elbowed they way in with acoustic guitar and gave us 'Wild Blue Milk' before making their way on to the stage and launching into 'Giving Up On Love'. On album this has a full-band feel, but even these louder numbers performed just on drums and amplified acoustic (or occasional electric) guitar had a surprisingly amount of 'oomph' behind. There's a loose, ramshackle feel to them (false starts, occasional missed notes or drumbeat) but precision-perfect-delivery is not what Slow Club live is about. And all the better for it.

The apparent casual approach mixed with the rambling amiable banter (tales of farting in tour vans, coping with sweaty fringes, a mini-tour diary of sorts: "Derby was rubbish, Milton Keynes was rubbish, this is alright though") reproduces not the sound of their debut album but its affable charm. Charles and Rebecca are natural, unpretentious and a pair of total charmers. No-one was going to complain when they asked us to sing 'Happy Birthday' to "tour manageress" Caz.

In my last post about Slow Club (a poor piece of scheduling? Or carefully planned preview piece?) I declared that 'When I Go' was my favourite Slow Club song. And the one that left with weak at knees. Well after tonight that affection has now been transferred to 'Boys On Their Birthdays', the 'secret' track at end of "Yeah So". (I now know this is its title rather than 'secret track' by asking Charles at the end). This is one of those slow, sad numbers sung solo by Rebecca accompanying herself on guitar (She plays guitar too!!). It was jaw-droppingly beautiful. As with the other quieter songs tonight, Slow Club ably managed the transition from louder songs to these more poignant and moving ones. An impressive trick to pull off live.

To finish it off, Slow Club had one more trick up their sleeves. They took us outside to the carpark and performed 'Christmas TV' on acoustic guitars whilst standing on a wall. A song about loneliness, performed in the Manchester drizzle, under the orange glow of the street lamps. It was magical.

A evening full of charms then which left me going home with a big dopey grin on my face. Don't miss them. The tour continues this week with dates each night until Saturday. 'Trophy Room' is released on Monday but you can pre-order it now

The Set List:

Wild Blue Milk
Giving Up On Love
I Was Unconscious, It Was A Dream
Because We're Dead
There Is No Good Way To Say I Am Leaving You
Sorry About The Doom
If We're Still Alive
Dance 'Til The Morning Light
When I Go
Boys On Their Birthdays
It Doesn't Have To Be Beautiful
Trophy Room
Christmas TV

Slow Club
Yeah So [BUY]

Sunday, October 04, 2009

"There are so many questions that still burn".. Slow Club's "Yeah So"

I didn't write about the gorgeous skiffle-pop of Slow Club's debut album "Yeah So" when it came out in July. But the band are in the middle of a UK tour with a new single ('Trophy Room') due out on 12 October plus Mr S of Salford wanted to see more 'album coverage' here, so it feels appropriate to give it some attention belatedly.
I was introduced to the world of Sheffield's Slow Club, the duo of Rebecca Taylor and Charles Watson, by last year's December single 'Christmas TV' (provided to me by Last.Fm for which thanks is due). I'd missed the earlier singles in 2007 and 2008 but luckily some of those tracks are included - plus live tracks - on the 2 x CD version of "Yeah So". However it's the album itself that is the main draw and a downright charmer to boot.

In my crude categorization of the twelve songs on "Yeah So", there are three types. All of them deal with falling in and falling out of love but differ, by degrees, stylistically. The first is the uptempo, swinging rockabilly types like "It Doesn't Have To Be Beautiful" and "Giving Up On Love". Irresistable, damn-fine, party tunes.

Then there are the folky duets, stripped-back ballads sung by the two in harmony like 'Apples and Pairs' and 'When I Go'. Delicate, frail numbers that suggest the pitfalls and precariousness of love. And finally the third type: the solo-sung songs that do the same trick but to the nth degree - Charles singing 'There Is No Good Way To Say I Am Leaving You' and Rebecca singing 'Sorry About The Doom'. Total and utter heart-break.

He strums, she drums throughout, with occasional piano or full-band treatment depending on the song. This shifting between song styles can feel a bit of an uneven carousel ride at times, swapping maudlin introspection for full-throated folk-abilly at the twirl of a drumstick but it is a minor quibble. Whatever the mood or style, "Yeah So" is chock full of charm. And I can't quite put my finger on where that charm lies - in the infectious pop tunes, the interplay between the two singers, the beauty of the individual voices or the touching subject matter? Clearly it's the combination of all the above.

But the one song that nails this for me and leaves with weak in the knees is the album opener: 'When I Go'. Forgoing the shiny production elsewhere on show, this has a demo-like intimacy with Charles and Rebecca singing over acoustic guitar. It starts with a comic image of needy friends so desperate for partnership they would consider each other "if we're both not married by 24, pass me those knee-pads". It then shows each decade of their life together with the refrain "will you hold my hand when I go?". Death-bed pledges of affection always bring a lump to my throat, but it is simplicity itself and damn-near-pop-perfection: it even has whistling in it that doesn't sound embarrassing or awkward.

"Yeah So" is a great record and comes with a hearty recommendation from me. Whatever place it gets - or not - in my end of year album chart though, 'When I Go' will definitely remain one of my songs of the year. Sentimental old fool that I am. And it could just work too, for anyone about to embark on a life-journey together... you know who I mean.

The Slow Club tour continues this week (Manchester on Tuesday) with 'Trophy Room' released a week tomorrow (in advance you watch the video or pre-order the single)

Slow Club
Yeah So [BUY]

Thursday, October 01, 2009


October is bank-balance-bashing glut of good gigs. Alongside the individual gigs below a couple of events to mention: In The City 18-20 October and John Peel Night the week before on 10 October at Night & Day.

ITC is the music industry shindig with accompanying showcases and gigs. Tomorrow (2 Oct) is the last day to buy wrist-bands at an early bird price: £20 for access to all shows over the three days. The full ITC schedule is not announced in advance (or maybe it is and I never find out in time??) but two highlights: Frightened Rabbit headline Drowned In Sound's 9th Birthday party at the Deaf Institute on 19 October and Swn Festival brings Cate Le Bon, Islets and Sweet Baboo to town on 18 October.

The Peel Day event is a Pull Yourself Together presentation: headliner Malcolm Middleton alone would make this an essential event but in addition there is Sweet Baboo again (excellent second album ‘Hello Wave’ out now), Sky Larkin, Dutch Uncles and The Loves. All for a tenner with profits going to Diabetes UK and the Musicians Benevolent Fund.

Some shows below appear to be sold out including The XX, Jonathan Richman and Los Campesinos! If looking for tickets, avoid the touts and Ebay chancers, and try Scarlet Mist the ethical ticket re-sale site.

Download the compilation below [45mins/52MB] here.

Telekinesis! Tokyo [2.53] (5 Oct Dulcimer BUY TICKETS)
Crocodiles I Wanna Kill [7.29] (21 Oct Night & Day BUY TICKETS)
The Miserable Rich The Time That's Mine [9.16] (18 Oct Sacred Trinty Church Salford BUY TICKETS)
The XX Crystalised [12.33] (4 Oct Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
The Mountain Goats Romans 10:9 [15.08] (11 Oct Ruby Lounge BUY TICKETS)
Los Campesinos! We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed [19.02] (26 Oct Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Kill It Kid Heaven Never Seemed So Close [22.24] (4 Oct Night & Day BUY TICKETS)
Slow Club Apples and Pairs [26.08] (6 Oct MoHo Live BUY TICKETS)
Fiery Furnaces I'm Going Away [28.34] (6 Oct Night & Day BUY TICKETS)
Girls Lust For Life [30.56] (11 Oct Night & Day BUY TICKETS)
Bombay Bicycle Club Ghost [34.53] (1 Oct Academy BUY TICKETS)
James Yorkston & The Big Eyes Family Players Low Down In The Broom [37.47] (24 Oct Night & Day BUY TICKETS)
Cate Le Bon Hollow Trees House Hounds [41.18] (18 Oct Cellar Vie BUY TICKETS)
Sweet Baboo Darlin' If You Think My Songs Are Funny, Then Darlin' You Are Wrong [44.42](10 Oct Night & Day BUY TICKETS)

And not forgetting:
1 Oct Joan as Policewoman Deaf Institute / 2 Oct My Tiger My Timing Chortlon Irish Club / 2 Oct Emperor Machine Deaf Institute / 2 Oct Richard Hawley Bridgewater Hall / 3 Oct Zu & Kong Islington Mill /3 Oct Julie Fowlis RNCM / 5 & 6 Oct Jazzanova Band On The Wall / 6 Oct Wave Machines Deaf Institute / 7 Oct Health Deaf Institute / 7 Oct Trespassers William Sacred Trinity Church Salford / 7 Oct Panda Su Art of Tea Didsbury/ 8 Oct Micachu & The Shapes Deaf Institute / 8 Oct J Tillman Night & Day / 9 Oct Dan Michelson & The Coastguards Ruby Lounge / 9 Oct Wild Beasts Academy 3 / 10 Oct Rook and the Ravens Academy 3 /11 Oct Jonathan Richman Deaf Institute / 12 Oct The Slits Deaf Institute / 12 Oct The Longcut Academy 3 / 13 Oct Johnny Foreigner Deaf Institute / 13 Oct Devon Sproule Band On The Wall / 14 Oct Bat For Lashes Academy 1 / 14 Oct Casiokids Deaf Institute / 15 Oct iLiKETRAiNS Deaf Institute / 15 Oct St Etienne Ritz / 15 Oct Starless & Bibleblack Dulcimer / 16 Oct Super Furry Animals Ritz / 17 Oct Everything Everything Night & Day / 19 Oct Soap & Skin RNCM / 19 Oct Brendan Benson Academy / 19 Oct Frightened Rabbit Deaf Institute / 19 Oct & 20 The Unthanks Band On The Wall / 20 Oct Felice Brothers Academy 2 / 21 Oct The Twilight Sad Ruby Lounge / 21 Oct No Age Deaf Institute / 22 Oct Alaska in Winter Nexus Art Café / 23 Oct Tinariwen Academy 2 / 23 Oct Mico & worriedaboutsatan Kings Arms Salford / 23 Oct Les Savy Fav Deaf Institute / 24 Oct Passion Pit Academy 2 / 25 Oct Johnny Flynn Deaf Institute / 27 Oct Edwyn Collins Deaf Insitute / 28 Oct Portugal The Man Roadhouse / 29 Oct Dananananaykroyd Academy 3 / 29 Oct The Young Republic Dulcimer / 31 Oct Efterklang Deaf Institute


The download link [45min/52MB] here.