Sunday, January 31, 2010


The usual monthly mix-tape of a selection of bands playing Manchester this February to help plan this month's gig-going - download link in the post following [45 mins/52 MB]

Xiu Xiu Gray Death [2.54] (23 Feb Islington Mill BUY TICKETS)
Tune-Yards News [6.19] (13 Feb Ruby Lounge BUY TICKETS)
Internet Forever Pages of Books [8.52] (19 Feb Kro Bar BUY TICKETS)
Jesca Hoop Four Dream [13.48] (18 Feb Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Thao with the Get Down Stay Down Know Better Learn Faster [17.32] (2 Feb Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
These New Puritans Attack Music [22.16] (3 Feb Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
First Aid Kit In The Morning [24.50] (23 Feb Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Shearwater Castaways [27.50] (24 Feb Ruby Lounge BUY TICKETS)
The Low Anthem To Ohio [31.05] (9 Feb Academy 2 BUY TICKETS)
Adam Green Buddy Bradley [33.01] (1 Feb Club Academy BUY TICKETS)
Field Music Effortlessly [36.52] (26 Feb Islington Mill BUY TICKETS)
Surfer Blood Swim [39.48] (6 Feb Sound Control BUY TICKETS)
She Keeps Bees Cold Eye [42.38] (6 Feb Dulcimer BUY TICKETS)
Midlake Acts of Man [45.36] (17 Feb Academy 2 BUY TICKETS)

Not forgetting:
2 Feb Johnny Foreigner Ruby Lounge / 4 Feb The Ex and Brass Unbound Deaf Institute / 7 Feb Imogen Heap Academy 1 / 8 Feb Brett Anderson Academy 3 / 8 Feb Dan Friel The Corner / 9 Feb Band of Skulls Ruby Lounge/ 9 Feb Yasmin Levy Band on the Wall / 11 Feb Sian Alice Group + Esben and the Witch Deaf Institute / 11 Feb Liam Frost MoHo Live / 11 Feb Beach House Islington Mill / 11 Feb Jess Klein Night & Day / 12 Feb MV & EE Islington Mill / 13 Feb Alan Pownall Nexus Art Café / 13 Feb Dick Gaughan Band on the Wall / 14 Feb I Am Kloot Academy 3 / 15 Feb Hot Club de Paris Deaf Institute / 15 Feb Spoon Academy 3 / 15 Feb Everybody Was In The French Resistance…Now Ruby Lounge / 16 Feb Stornoway + Beth Jeans Houghton Band on the Wall / 17 Feb Erland and the Carnival Deaf Institute / 17 Feb Fionn Regan Academy 3 / 19 Feb The Soft Pack The Ruby Lounge / 20 Feb Lowline Academy 3 / 21 Feb James Taylor Quartet RNCM / 21 Feb Yeasayer Academy 3 / 21 Feb Swimming The Corner / 25 Feb Japandroids Deaf Institute / 25 Feb Hockey Academy 2 / 26 Feb Mugison Club Academy / 26 Feb The Telescopes Chorlton Irish Club / 28 Feb African Soul Rebels Bridgewater Hall / 28 Feb Kong Ruby Lounge

And here is the first single from Everybody Was In The French Resistance...Now! in which Art Brut's Eddie Argos and The Blood Arm's Dyan Valdes take on Avril Lavigne. Playing at the Ruby Lounge on 15 February.


Monthly mixtape: download here [45 mins/52MB].

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

TONIGHT IN MANCHESTER: Choir of Young Belivers + Table

The Danish orchestral-pop collective Choir of Young Believers plays the intimate folk bar Dulcimer in Chorlton, Manchester tonight.

Here's what promoter Hey Manchester says: "Musically, Choir Of Young Believers is located somewhere between low-key folk and orchestral indie pop. The simple yet perfectly crafted melodies are arranged around piano, guitar, banjo, drums and percussion, and draped in lush, dramatic and imaginative arrangements, resulting in a sound that is both solemn, stoic, achingly beautiful and unmistakably ‘nordic’".

If you've heard songs from the album "This Is For The White In Your Eyes" or reading the above description you may wonder how they will pull off the sound live. Well this video, 'a short introduction' to Choir Of Young Belivers visiting to New York, shows how they work as a two-piece. Whether they appear as an eight- or two-piece tonight, expect gorgeously poignant melodies.

Support tonight is the highly recommended six-piece Table, also specialists in gorgeously poignant orchestral-pop. Table have just released their debut single 'Songs You Can Sing' on Humble Soul, home of The Miserable Rich and Liz Green. This is a more minimalist and low-key take on their sound but quite solemnly beautiful. The seven inch vinyl version comes with CDR of the two songs and hessian sleeve if ordered direct or you can buy the regular version from Piccadilly Records.

What promises to be a memorable evening of delicate music and beautiful introspection for just £8 in advance. Or pay more on the door.

Choir of Young Believers
This Is For The White In Your Eyes [BUY]

Friday, January 22, 2010

'Just Because We're Running': DEER PARK

Mark Grassick of Deer Park clearly has a good address book. The eponymous debut record by this Anglo-Irish four-piece was produced by Paul Hollingsworth and mastered by Billy Stull (Okkervil River, Centro-matic, Midlake, Shearwater). It features appearances from Mark Hamilton of Woodpigeon, Tom Lewis of Stagecoach and Paul Megna of The Oxygen Ponies. The album cover illustration is from artist Julie Miller (worked with Centro-matic and South San Gabriel) and the whole package was put together by ex-Sub-Pop’s art director and illustrator Jesse Le Doux (responsible for The Shins’ Chutes Too Narrow). However this self-released debut is more than simply the product of good connections and second-hand inspiration.

‘Sounds like: Bottled Misery’ says the band’s Myspace page. This self-description and that list of contributors and collaborators hint at the world-weary, wide-screen and whisky-soaked sounds of Deer Park. But they don’t reveal the variety, depth or the quality of music on offer. Even within the first three songs, Deer Park moves with ease from the confessional misery-blues of ‘Decanonised Saints’ (think Conor Oberst) to the tense punkish roots-rock 'n' roll of ‘Just Because We’re Running’ (think The Hold Steady).

The well-worn Americana genre is respected (if not revered) but given an injection of feisty Irish swagger or a literate, melancholic dose of Catholic guilt and despair. Or sometimes both in the same song – see ‘Your Future Is All Used Up’. In a sprightly but deeply satisfying 32 minutes, these ten songs touch on saints, J Edgar Hoover, Spanish movies, Elmore Leonard novels, escape, loss and redemption, fitting in along the way a last-drink-of-the evening bar-room duet with Randi Russo (‘My Drunkard, My Navigator’) and closing with the final cathartic intensity of ‘Nails’. Highly, highly recommended.

Attention London folk: Deer Park are playing two support slots at the Luminaire this month: Thursday 28th January with Malcolm Holcombe [BUY TICKETS] and Friday 29 January with Will Hoge [BUY TICKETS].

Deer Park
Deer Park [BUY]

Sunday, January 17, 2010


Second album from Vivian Girls "Everything Goes Wrong" did not create the sensation their 2008 debut did; mainly because it was the same formula repeated. And it lacked the breathless sprint that their eponymous 22 minute debut album had. However when the formula is this good ("short, sharp, and punky songs influenced by C-86, shoegaze, girl groups, and classic punk rock played with a ramshackle abandon and with no real musical chops" - Allmusic) why change?

I'm not expecting any future changes in musical direction for the Brooklyn trio of Cassie Ramone, Kickball Katy, and Ali. But you should make sure you catch their gritty lofi melodies now just in case they do decide to go all mature on us.

Vivian Girls play The Deaf Institute tonight with support from much-fancied boy-girl indie-poppers Veronica Falls and local lads Get Serious. Advance tickets just £8 here and here. Vivian Girls continue their UK tour until 24 January - dates here.

Vivian Girls
Everything Goes Wrong [BUY]

Veronica Falls
Rough Trade Indiepop 09 [BUY]

Saturday, January 16, 2010

'I thought I was a bohemian already': Stanley Brinks & The Wave Pictures

In late 2006, André Herman Düne played his last show with the French indie-band Herman Düne and after toying with a range of aliases (including Ben Dope, Ben Haschish, Klaus Bong, John Trawling, John Andreas and Lord Stanislas no less), finally settled on the name of Stanley Brinks.

The lastest Stanley Brinks album, another collaboration with Loughborough's The Wave Pictures but the first in which they get equal billing, is out this month on Ciao Ketchup. If you know their earlier records or are familiar with Herman Düne, you know what to expect: shuffling, uncomplicated indie-pop shamblings, shot through with a healthy dose of bohemian charm.

As ever, these travelling troubadour tales, crammed with characters and incidents where the line between auto-biography and fiction is (probably) blurred beyond recognition, reinforce the image of Stanley Brinks as the itinerant bohemian and romantic. And for me, more-of-the-same is not necessarily a bad thing.

Some songs midway through the album do drag a little - the amiable shuffle becomes a morose trudge at a couple of points - but in gloriously big-hearted songs like 'End of the World', 'Hi Jane' and 'Keep Your Head High' - and even the Jonathan Richman-esque whimsy of 'Why The Martians Are Gone' - there is plenty to recommend this whole album to you. The fanzine-photocopy quality cover may make it look like an amateurish affair but it is far, far from that.

The sessions for this album in Berlin in 2008 also provided (I think) the recordings that would form The Wave Pictures's largely acoustic "If You Leave It Alone" album from last year. There is rumoured to be an 'electric' companion-piece album from these sessions possibly due out soon. Plus drummer Jonny Helm has recorded an album of covers (including Stanley Brinks' 'Blues About The Size Of Someone Else's Heart') and later this year singer David Tattersall's solo album will be released. Wiaiwya Records are giving away first single 'Happy For A While' free here. And guess what? It's co-written with Stanley Brinks....

Stanley Brinks and The Wave Pictures
Stanley Brinks and The Wave Pictures [BUY]

Jonny 'Huddersfield' Helm CD-R [BUY]

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Celebrating Love and Disaster.

Sometimes more than just the music is something to be celebrated and applauded. New imprint Love & Disaster has just released a four track EP ‘Love & Disaster 1: New Music from New Manchester artists’. As well as digital download, it is available as, wait for it, gatefold-sleeve ten inch vinyl (and this photo does NOT do it justice at all).

I don’t get into the game of predicting who is going to ‘big’ and neither does Love & Disaster (in the main I just follow the also-rans, should-have-beens and overlooked of this world). Instead this EP is trying to capture an eclectic mix of Manchester artists at a certain point in time – with two future two releases planned which you could pledge support to here - rather than pigeonhole a 'scene'.
You can listen to the four artists – Airship, Dutch Uncles, Jo Rose and a remix of Delphic from Everything Everything – on the Love and Disaster website. But at £1.79 for all four songs (digitally via 7 Digital) or £5.99 on that limited gatefold vinyl (from Piccadilly Records this week, everywhere else next week) you should probably go straight for a purchase.

It’s an eclectic mix; my favourites being the magnificently gloomy piano-led Americana of Jo Rose and the angular prog-wave of Dutch Uncles. I'm also pleasantly enjoying the indie pop-rush of Airship who have surprised me with this song; my previous experience seeing one live support slot last year was not a good one.

In this interview with L&D main-man Dan Parrott on the Hey Manchester site you can read more about his motivations and belief in music made in Manchester, the reason why the sleeve is gatefold and how these artists aren’t in thrall to the Hacienda era/mythology... because given their age most of them were watching Blue Peter not visiting the club.

Spoiler Alert: the reason the sleeve is gatefold is to accommodate the above photograph of all the artists without cropping it. Aesthetic principles over business sense? ‘Broad church’ and artist-led approach to recording and releasing music? Doesn’t this sound familiar?? Scratch that thought, Love & Disaster is refreshingly free from nostalgia for a bygone era or from trying to capture or define a ‘scene’. That and the label's quiet ambition and gorgeous packaging deserves applause.

But if like me you buy the vinyl, before ripping a digital copy you should read the section of the L&D website that I missed: "Order the vinyl from any of these stores and email us a photo of you and your vinyl and we’ll send you the MP3s".

Dutch Uncles
Dutch Uncles [BUY]

Saturday, January 09, 2010


Beat The Radar are four Cumbrian exiles relocated to Manchester and tonight they are playing at Cafe Saki as part of an Underachievers Please Try Harder night: "Downstairs we have This Many Boyfriends from Leeds, making their Manchester debut. Currently receiving some much deserved blogging hype on the ole megaweb. Alongside them we have an absolute gem of a band in Uranium Lake, and the consistently brilliant Beat the Radar"

"To The City, From The Sea" the debut album from Beat The Radar came out late last year on Akoustik Anarkhy. Whereas some AA bands lean more to obtusely ramshackle, Beat The Radar are not in that mould. They play tightly executed, slightly shouty but marvellously old-fashioned indie. Indie as it used to be.

The AA website waxes lyrical about their latest signings:
"If you’re starting to feel that indie music has lost its heart, then Beat The Radar may be the antidote to your malaise. BTR’s debut album, To The City, From The Sea, is packed with heart-on-their-sleeve lyrics, raw vocals, chunky guitars and big, pop choruses. Named for their move from the wilds of the far northwest coast to inner city Manchester, To The City, From The Sea was recorded with producer Tom Knott (Micah P Hinson, King Creosote, The Courteeners, Emmy The Great, The Ting Tings) at Airtight Studios in Chorlton. The finished result is a proper, old fashioned debut album: plenty of upbeat songs, a couple of downbeat ones, and a brilliantly raw distillation of Beat The Radar’s raucous live shows".

I can't comment on their live shows (yet) but the album is an enjoyably punchy 34 minute listen and promises great things. (One of the standout tracks '18, 19, 20, 21, 22' was on this month's mixtape). And you can get a copy for just £7 in the Akoustick Anarkhy Shop. I just hope the current recruitment drive for a new drummer doesn't interrupt their upward trajectory or tonight's performance.

Not sure if there are any advance tickets for tonight but at these prices who's complaining? "Bands open at 9. Clubnight upstairs opens 10.30. And the fun doesn't stop til half 3. All for £4 or £3 before half 10/ anytime with a flyer".

Beat The Radar
To The City From The Sea [BUY]

Thursday, January 07, 2010

'What's So Bad About Dying?': Joe Pernice's "It Feels So Good When I Stop"

In the early 90s I fell heavily for 'alt-country' starting with Uncle Tupelo and Giant Sand; moving on to Palace Brothers, Lambchop and anything else in the genre (or close to it) especially anything released on Loose Music. One band that eluded me though was Scud Mountain Boys, despite them cropping up on several of the Loose "New Sounds of the Old West" compilations that I was buying compulsively. I just never got their sparse, brooding take on country-rock despite the critical plaudits.

Scud Mountain Boys disbanded in 1997 after just two records and leader Joe Pernice formed Pernice Brothers (with his brother Bob would you believe), releasing their debut "Overcome by Happiness" in 1998. And THIS is where I got interested.

I fell hook, line and sinker for the lush arrangements of tracks like 'Crestfallen', 'Clear Spot' and 'Monkey Suit' on that record. This wasn't alt-country - although Pernice did sound a little like Josh Rouse's older brother to me - this was glorious orch-pop, more in debt to Brian Wilson, the Left Banke and Todd Rundgren than Gram Parsons. Pernice Brothers released four more albums up to and including 2006's "Live A Little" but all has been quiet since. And then at the end of last year came "It Feels So Good When I Stop: A Novel Soundtrack".
Now it's not an album of Pernice originals (although one is planned for later this year apparently) but an album of cover versions to accompany Joe's debut novel of the same name 'a story of a deeply flawed but irrepressibly likeable hero stumbling towards adulthood, learning about heartbreak and redemption, and struggling to love and commit on his own terms'. It gets even more "Hi-Fidelity" according to Joe:
"Though the book is not explicitly about music, there are quite a few cover and fictional songs mentioned, so I thought it would be a cool idea for me to record some of those songs and release them, as a soundtrack album to the novel". Now not having read the book I can't comment on whether it is any good or whether this album 'works' as a soundtrack. But the ten songs (and three brief excerpts from the book) work pretty well as a listen in its own right.

It's a motely collection of covers spanning Del Shannon, Plush, Sebadoh, Todd Rundgren, Tom T. Hall and The Dream Syndicate but all held together by Joe's familiar weary-wistful voice and a clear affection for the material.

Not all songs and arrangements work: I find it hard to listen to 'Soul and Fire' without the deranged intensity of the Sebadoh original. However there is enough hazy swoon and romantic ache on offer to keep me more than happy. And in an astonishingly brave move, Pernice somehow makes a cover of 'Chim Chim Cheroo' (yes the chimney sweep song from "Mary Poppins") so captivating I forget the original Dick van Dyke original.

So not perfect but perfectly-good until that new album of originals comes along. And there's more - a short tour to accompany the record that accompanies the book. Joe is playing three solo shows this month (his first appearances outside North America since 2003):

26 Jan The Union Chapel, London [BUY TICKETS]
27 Jan Oran Mor, Glasgow [BUY TICKETS]
28 Jan Academy 3, Manchester [BUY TICKETS]

Not sure how much of the book is on offer on this evenings; but the music will be definitely worth catching.

Joe Pernice
It Feels So Good When I Stop [BUY]

Pernice Brothers
Overcome by Happiness [BUY]

Scud Mountain Boys
Massachusetts [BUY]

Sunday, January 03, 2010


New year, new music I say. January may be quiet month for gigs but there's still plenty to discover with gigs from new Manchester bands (Beat The Radar, Delphic, Egyptian Hip Hop, The Answering Machine) as well as from visitors from American, Denmark and Finland. Plus what looks to be the first ever live performance from New Jersey's Memory Tapes. This will sell out so don't miss out on this or other treats this chilly month.

As usual a monthly mix-tape of a selection of bands playing Manchester this month - download link in the post following [38 mins/44MB].

The Answering Machine Obviously Cold (29 Jan Academy BUY TICKETS)
Vivian Girls Moped Girls (17 Jan Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Future of the Left Arming Eriteria (19 Jan Ruby Lounge BUY TICKETS)
Memory Tapes Bicycle (16 Jan The Corner BUY TICKETS)
Real Estate Fake Blues (27 Jan Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Bird Names People Should Get More Aware (18 Jan Retro Bar BUY TICKETS)
Joe Pernice I'm Your Puppet (28 Jan Academy 3 BUY TICKETS)
Beat The Radar 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 (9 Jan Café Saki BUY TICKETS)
Joensuu 1685 I'm On Fire (20 Jan Ruby Lounge BUY TICKETS)
Laura Veirs Wide-Eyed, Legless (19 Jan Club Academy BUY TICKETS)
Choir of Young Believers Apart (26 Jan Dulcimer BUY TICKETS)

And not forgetting:
16 Jan The Austins Night & Day Café /16 Jan The Stupids Retro Bar / 16 Jan Denis Jones Band on the Wall / 17 Jan Wolfmother Academy / 18 Jan Rolo Tomassi Deaf Institute / 19 Jan Fyfe Dangerfield Deaf Institute / 20 Jan Mancunia Americana Night & Day / 23 Jan John Cooper Clarke Ruby Lounge / 24 Jan Durutti Column The Lowry / 28 Jan Marble Valley Dulcimer / 29 Jan Delphic Islington Mill / 29 Jan Egyptian Hip Hop Sound Control


Monthly mixtape: download here [38 mins/44MB].