Friday, September 30, 2011


One victim of the August riots was the independent music scene. The burning down of the PIAS distribution centre in Enfield destroyed huge amounts of physical stock from over 70 record labels. Label Love is the umbrella movement to support those labels and towards the end of the month The Ruby Lounge hosts the Manchester Label Love fundraiser night with The Narrows, Trojan Horse, Nine Tail and Tribal Fighters.

A very different showcase for the independent and DIY music scene is the Carefully Planned Festival – two days of music over four venues in the Northern Quarter for the insanely cheap price of £10 a ticket in advance. Recommended amongst the nearly 60 bands playing are Gintis, Just Handshakes We’re British, Mammal Club, Help Stamp Out Loneliness, Onions, Christopher Eatough, Douga and My First Tooth (if I’d been more organised that would have been a whole mixtape of its own).

As for the rest of October, it all gets off to a thumping good start tomorrow night with Brown Brogues (six new songs AND new T-shirts!) and Ghost Outfit at the Castle Hotel. As ever a mixtape [61 mins / 70 MB] of bands playing Manchester in October to help inform your gig-going decision-making - link in the post below this one.

Mcr Gigs in Music Mixtape: October 2011

Mazes Summer Hits [1.50] (4 Oct Kings Arms BUY TICKETS)
Veronica Falls Right Side of My Brain [4.38] (23 Oct The Castle BUY TICKETS)
Art Brut Unprofessional Wrestling [8.07] (7 Oct Ruby Lounge BUY TICKETS)
Brown Brogues E-R [9.55] (1 Oct The Castle BUY TICKETS)
Fucked Up The Other Shoe [14.48] (30 Oct Sound Control BUY TICKETS)
Bill Wells + Aidan Moffat Cages [17.13] (18 Oct Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Stealing Sheep The Mountain Dogs [19.29] (21 Oct Dulcimer BUY TICKETS)
Emmy The Great A Century of Sleep [23.36] (10 Oct Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Herman Dune Tell Me Something I Don’t Know [27.06] (15 Oct Islington Mill BUY TICKETS)
Beth Jeans Houghton Dodecahedron [30.18] (1 Oct Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
The ABC Club Get Set Go [34.20] (7 Oct Kraak BUY TICKETS)
The Louche FC Back Bedroom Casualty [38.24] (22 Oct King's Arms BUY TICKETS)
Craft Spells You Should Close The Door [41.36] (14 Oct Islington Mill BUY TICKETS)
Elephant Stone Love The Sinner, Hate The Sin [44.53] (28 Oct Dulcimer BUY TICKETS)
DZ Deathrays The Mess Up [48.31] (25 Oct The Castle BUY TICKETS)
Thomas Truax Escape From The Orphanage [52.29] (27 Oct Night & Day BUY TICKETS)
Other Lives Tamer Animals [56.33] (30 Oct Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Jens Lekman Black Cab [61.30] (19 Oct Band on the Wall BUY TICKETS)

And not forgetting:
1 Oct Paper Aeroplanes The Book Barge / 1 Oct Working For A Nuclear Free City Salford Lad's Club / 2 Oct Ruarri Joseph Ruby Lounge / 2 Oct Fink Deaf Institute / 3 Oct Cloud Control Deaf Institute / 4 Oct Ruins + Barberos Islington Mill / 4 Oct Plaid Soundcontrol / 5 Oct Paddy Steer + The Bell Peppers The Gas Lamp / 5 Oct Nedry The Castle / 5 Oct Imaginary Cities Deaf Institute / 6 Oct Young Legionnaire Ruby Lounge / 6 Oct Aidan Baker Islington Mill / 6 Oct Cave Painting The Castle / 6 Oct Death From Above 1979 Academy / 7 Oct Gruff Rhys + Y Niwl Central Methodist Hall / 7 Oct Driver Drive Faster + Ghost Outfit Kraak / 8 Oct Brothers of Brazil The Castle / 8 Oct The Paris Riots Deaf Institute / 9 Oct Ghostpoet Deaf Institute / 10 Oct Outfit + Patterns The Castle / 11 Oct Bong + Womb + Organ Freeman Islington Mills / 11 Oct Wakey! Wakey! Night & Day / 11 Oct Kyla La Grange The Castle / 12 Oct Dels Ruby Lounge / 12 Oct Bill Orcutt + Jessica Rylan Islington Mill / 12 Oct David Dondero The Castle / 13 Oct The Blood Arm Ruby Lounge / 13 Oct James Vincent McMorrow St Philips Church / 13 Oct Kirsty Almeida Band on the Wall / 14 Oct Karima Francis Ruby Lounge / 14 Oct We Were Promised Jetpacks Deaf Institute / 15 Oct Benjamin Francis Leftwich Ruby Lounge / 15 Oct Denis Jones Deaf Institute / 15 Oct The Joy Formidable Academy 2 / 15-16 Oct Carefully Planned All Dayer various venues / 17 Oct Tindersticks Bridgewater Hall / 18 Oct Warm Brains Night & Day / 18 Oct Spector Roadhouse / 19 Oct Zun Zun Egui Ruby Lounge / 19 Oct Foreign Office The Castle / 19 Oct Bon Iver Apollo / 20 Oct Ben Howard Ruby Lounge / 20 Oct Circle Islington Mill / 20 Oct The Young Knives Deaf Institute / 21 Oct Label Love Fundraiser Ruby Lounge / 21 Oct The Rain Band FAC251 / 21 Oct David’s Lyre Deaf Institute / 21 Oct Moscow Radio St Philip's Church / 22 Oct Janice Graham Band Sound Control / 22 Oct Rook and the Ravens Deaf Institute / 22 Oct Ghosting Season + Cloud Boat + Hourglass Sea Kraak / 22 Oct The Electrification of Salford King's Arms / 23 Oct Sons and Daughters Ruby Lounge / 23 Oct Josh Pyke Deaf Institute / 24 Oct Laura Marling + The Leisure Society Manchester Cathedral / 24 Oct Real Estate Islington Mill / 24 Oct Theme Park The Castle / 24 Oct Yann Tiersen Academy / 24 Oct Singing Adams Dulcimer / 24 Oct Jeffrey Lewis & The Junkyard Ruby Lounge / 25 Oct Wilco Academy 1 / 26 Oct Rod Jones & the Birthday Suit + Jordan Bolton Ruby Lounge / 26 Oct Silver Apples Night & Day / 26 Oct Michael Kiwanuka Deaf Institute / 26 Oct Good Luck Mountain + Ana Egge Dulcimer / 28 Oct Wolves In the Throne Room Islington Mill / 28 Oct Airship Deaf Institute / 28 Oct Ghost Outfit The Roadhouse / 31 Oct Tribes Ruby Lounge / 31 Oct Dananananaykroyd Deaf Institute / 31 Oct Lykke Li Academy 2


Mcr Gigs in Music Mixtape: October 2011

Manchester Gigs In Music - October 2011 by Follyofyouth on Mixcloud

Or download mixtape [61 mins / 70 MB] here

Thursday, September 29, 2011

PAPER AEROPLANES "A Comfortable Sleep"

Stoked from a bruised heart's embers” says the esteemed Adam Walton about Welsh duo Paper Aeroplanes. Well that’s got my attention. Paper Aeroplanes are on their second EP of the year with “A Comfortable Sleep”, both following the debut album “The Day We Ran Into The Sea" in 2009. However don’t expect playful childhood games and levity as suggested by their name. Sarah Howells and Richard Llewellyn play a pared-back, pensive acoustic folk-pop weighed down with adult concerns and disappointments (“Influences: The sea, notebooks, beaches, friends, silence”).

Every day is one day older, dream in tatters” goes ‘All You Need’ and opener ‘Tuesday’ pores over the minute details of the 24 hours before a relationship finally finishes, the terse exchanges and the difficult pauses “every word, every comma analysed”. It’s not all unrelenting gloom – ‘All You Need’ ultimately suggests that all you need is, of course, ‘love’ and in ‘Painkiller’ there’s a quiet, steely hope as the singer tries to soothe and support a friend in trouble. The four songs here are all performed with minimal instrumentation – picked or strummed acoustic guitar with occasional violin or cello – it’s a sparse but richly atmospheric setting for Howells voice, at times flinty, full and crystal clear, at others frail and faltering. The cosy fireside intimacy and honest confessional nature of Paper Aeroplanes recalls a silkier, less acerbic Martha Wainwright or the more hushed, starker songs of Emily Barker.

Paper Aeroplanes are off on an extensive October and November tour including an afternoon performance this Saturday on The Book Barge at Castlefield Basin, Manchester followed by York, Liverpool, Birmingham and London in the coming week.

Paper Aeroplanes A Comfortable Sleep [BUY]

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

ARCS "So How's The Band?"

I have uninformed but firm suspicions of what growing up in suburban Surrey must be like. And these are substantiated by Arcs who debate “whether or not ’cricket-core’ is an acceptable musical genre” and enjoy “comparing and contrasting the merits of numerous fried chicken outlets in South Croydon”. At some point in their young lives though, the four-piece have had they horizons broadened. For their second (free to download) EP “So’s How’s The Band?” (out this week) speaks less of the ennui of the leafy county or the local KFC and more of the dark mischief of the metropolis.

Lead track ‘Mubu’ is a pneumatic electronic throb that careers along overlaid with snarling guitars, stuttering to a halt periodically for collective mock-stern sports-jock shouts of ‘Yes!’, ‘No!’ or ‘Maybe!’. It’s a bit krautrock, a bit Melvins, a bit silly; but just the right bits of each. Seemingly empty-headed in its juddering forcefulness, it’s actually cleverly addictive. No wonder the band are “rather chuffed” with it.

Arcs continue their sparing use of words in second track ‘Maicon In My Life’ which simply repeats ‘Maicon’ or occasionally expands it to the full four words of the title over five plus minutes. What starts off as a sweet hymn to friendship (possibly) with gently chiming Durutti Column guitar patterns becomes a second-half sparring match between said meandering guitar and motoring propulsive rock menace. Pointing back to the opening track, ‘Itinerary For Dinnerary’ alternates regal prog-rock processional, both bass-heavy and flouncy, with quieter background chants of empty clichés (“heads up, touch base, check in”). Pomp and circumstantial irony.

“So’s How’s The Band?” is a curiously irregular trio of songs that act dumber than they are: would be prog-metal-leaning stomps but with pop smarts and tunefulness a plenty. A deceptive spinning delivery then but with no mis-fields here and in ‘Mubu’ a clear over-the-boundary six runs.

Arcs So How’s The Band EP [FREE]

Monday, September 26, 2011


When bands cite their musical influences by name it is often a cheap exercise in piggy-backing on earlier achievements or claiming a lineage that patently does not exist. For Vancouver’s Shimmering Stars however it’s a rich confirmation of what you hear in the music – take out some of the fuzzy edges and ‘I’m Gonna Try’ perfectly recreates the innocence of The Everly Brothers, the rippling guitars and gliding, airy vocals of ‘Nervous Breakdown’ point to Del Shannon and the mournful tug of ‘Into The Sea’ or ‘Sun’s Going Down’ recalls the harmonies of The Beach Boys at their most introspective and melancholic. But ”Violent Hearts” and the EP that preceded it late last year are not simply bland retro-pop re-runs of an earlier era. The trio of Rory McClure, Andrew Dergousoff and Brent Sasaki capture the innocent desires and heart-on-the-sleeve yearning of late 50s and early 60s pop perfectly but imbue it with a lofi garage-rock feel: guitars that gently crunch and distort, bags of booming reverb and everything coated with a dusty fuzziness. Even when ‘Believe’ or ‘Sun’s Going Down’ aspire to the cavernous echo-chamber pop of Phil Spector at his most epic, you still feel they were recorded in a suburban Canadian garage rather than Gold Star studios. Don’t expect “Psychocandy” levels of distortion or spiky noise but there is a propulsive drive to some – most notably ‘East Van Girls’ - and a lyrical darkness that lifts Shimmering Stars further away from the preserved-in-amber, bygone dream-pop they revere.

The earlier EP came out in the UK in December which felt seasonally out of step. A late August release for “Violent Hearts” makes more sense for an album that captures both the freedom and romantic languor of summer plus the moment this turns to autumnal wistfulness and regret. Fouteen songs, all but one under two and half minutes, makes for a slender thirty minute running time. Surprisingly then there a few moments where the album does drag – the pacing of songs becomes over-familiar and occasionally those deep or darker feelings become lost in the reverb – but it remains a refreshing and absorbing listen. The names of the labels the band are on (Almost Musique in Europe, Hardly Art in North America) both suggest some musical deficit but overlook those few less memorable songs and there’s no doubt about the talent and song-writing skills here. Given how successfully they have mined this particular and plentiful seam for their debut, it will be fascinating to see how – and where - Shimmering Stars progress next.

Shimmering Stars Violent Hearts [BUY]

Friday, September 23, 2011


I have moments when I am dumbstruck by the fact that Sweet Baboo is not a household name. Surely every home in Britain should own at least one if not all three of his albums? Maybe this tour or his short-listing in the Welsh Music Prize might be the next steps towards rectifying this?

Tonight's eight song solo set opening for Slow Club was dependably excellent: recent and new (all untitled as yet) songs of wit and charm about love, fear of ageing, zombie-based collages and meeting a mermaid cutie off the coast of Anglesey. Who could fail to be charmed? Well too many chattering people waiting for Slow Club for one (although most of them did talk through the headliner too). Possibly not as relaxed and free-flowing of banter as I’d seen him before – and the harsh red glare of the stage lights didn’t help - but this set was still worth the price of tonight’s admission alone.

The Sweet Baboo Set List:

I’m A Dancer
New Song (‘Being Slow’)
12 Carrots Of Love
New Song (‘The Wind In My Sails’)
Girl Under A Tree
Who Would Have Thought
New Song (‘Sea Life Is The Life For Me’)

I'm still getting to grips with "Paradise" the second album from Slow Club. On initial listens I'm not finding (what I remember as) the instantaneous charm and laid-back appeal of 'Yeah So'. There's a denseness of production and shifting styles that possibly suggest the duo of Rebecca Taylor and Charles Watson have been poring over their sophomore release for too long. However of course, as usual, I just want this record to be a carbon-copy repeat of its predecessor. These early listen worries continued for the first couple of songs tonight. Despite the energy of twanging guitar and double set of drums opener ‘Where I’m Waking', it still felt a bit stiff and earnest, like kids trying to act mature and straight-faced in front of the adults to show how grown up they can be.

Luckily this soon softened: light-hearted banter between songs about You Tube hits, Jack Daniels and regional competition ("there's more of you than in Birmingham") plus a pleasing if erratic mix of fast and quiet songs largely from "Paradise" ("tough shit if you only want the old ones") felt more natural. Erratic is the wrong word but how else to convey the shift from the full-on, frenetic roar of ‘The Dog’ (one of my favourites from the new album) to the pared back simplicity of ‘Only If You’re Certain’ with just voice and guitar.

Despite excellent backing from Avvon Chambers on drums and Sweet Baboo on bass, the best moments for me were when the purity of the duo was re-established: unfussy delivery of songs, close-buddy interplay and a sense of couldn’t-care-less fun. Of course Slow Club have developed and I’m still wanting the ramshackle looseness of old – and to have Rebecca back behind her stand-up drum-kit again (good to see briefly for ‘Giving Up On Love’). However the first encore - a confident, thumping ’Two Cousins’ - showed how the band could do both slick and abandon, a lolloping anthem with emphatic, cascading rhythm section but also Rebecca stomping and swaying across the stage with mussed-up hair over her face and lost in the moment.

And to finish the third encore was 'Christmas TV' performed off-mic with the duo standing on the barrier in front of the stage. From frail, strummed beginning to final mass singalong, it confirmed what Slow Club are best at: emotional connection. A special, spine-tingling moment.

I must learn not to try and force bands to be who they used to be or freeze them in aspic (and to play the new album to death before seeing them live). I’ve listened to “Paradise” in a new light since this gig and some slight qualms about the band trying too hard still linger. I hope Slow Club continue to have the confidence to be themselves more. As the second half of tonight’s gig and the encores showed, boy does it suit them.

The Slow Club Set List:

Where I’m Waking
Our Most Brilliant Friends
Never Look Back
Horses Jumping
If We’re Still Alive
I Was Unconscious, It Was A Dream
The Dog
Only If You're Certain
Hackney Marsh
Giving Up On Love
Two Cousins
Gold Mountain
Christmas TV

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

INVISIBLE ELEPHANT "Anomie or Swimming in a Black Sea"

The first Invisible Elephant album “The Lights Go Out" – see July 2010 - was initially a self-released affair from Blackpool’s Rob Blunden before gaining support (fittingly) from Sonic Reverie. For album number two, Invisible Elephant has moved to a new home (UK/Australian indie Two Hands Music) and also expanded the palette and ambitions for his shoegazey, drifting soundscapes. Whereas the first album was largely instrumental post-rock haziness played on “his assortment of randomly acquired instruments, ranging from frog guiros to pre-school toy drum kits”, on “Anomie or Swimming in a Black Sea” you also find musique concrète interludes, fielding recordings, apocalyptic ambient crawl (‘When It’s All Over’), dark alt-rock grind (‘Black Sound’), and soulful female guest vocalists. The album can sweetly coo (said guest Ryli on ‘Wish) or gently wrap you in a cotton-wool gauziness (‘Everything’) but can also unsettle. The lurching, grating noises of ‘Room 208’ could be a torture-porn soundtrack, although more psychedelic and intriguing that openly horrific, and ‘Black Sound’ is a intense and malevolent trip.

Similar to the swirling patterns of the cover artwork (two swans or a gloved hand? Is that a woman’s face?), the abstract gradually coalesces into semi-recognisable shapes or moods over the course of the album’s substantial 32 minutes, yet retaining an indistinct mystery. Nothing is explicit or obvious. When Blunden takes to the microphone, his treated vocals are either mumbled or buried in murk and drone that it is often difficult to extract clear meaning. The album progresses by shadowy stealth, more like a series of movements than a collection of songs, and it is only in retrospect you realise how much sonic and emotional ground has been covered. And you feel and understand the album really is exploring the “aftermath of heartbreak”.

If it sounds a bit grimly earnest, consider the opening track is called ‘Commercial Appeal’: who says post-rock bedroom artistes lack a sense of self-awareness? And despite earlier hints and suggestions of despair and longing for escape, ‘Do You Believe?’ in the second half of the record is imbued with an uplifting hope, a sense of optimism rising out of gloom. The final ‘Back in the Box’ returns to the nursery school instrumentation of the first album, a gentle music box lullaby bringing a sense of sleepy peace to the album’s conclusion. Not a record of easy, exuberant populism but, like Invisible Elephant’s first label, one of sonic reveries, reflective, thought-provoking and slowly unwinding. And not a return either but a bold/blurry step forward.

“Anomie or Swimming in a Black Sea” is available as a limited handmade hardback library book complete with catalogue card, standard CD or digitally.

Invisible Elephant Anomie or Swimming in a Black Sea [BUY]

Monday, September 19, 2011


New-ish band, think they used to be Deaf To Van Gogh’s Ear, suspect a bit art-rock” went the pre-gig information sharing about tonight’s support band New Hips. Still not sure which of these pieces of info is accurate - other than the last. The four piece – two guitars, drums and synth plus occasional trumpet, electric bass and second drum/percussion – played a hyper-intense math-rock (advanced calculus?) that was so fast and layered (and loud) it was difficult to keep pace with. A short six song set that set my head spinning and of which I’m still not sure what to make – but the twin drumming in the final song was thrilling enough to encourage me to seek more (currently just one video available here I think).

I first saw I’m From Barcelona four years ago at a sun-lit End of the Road Festival. Surely that heart-warming mid-afternoon festival atmosphere couldn’t be repeated indoors even given the band’s the massed indie-pop tunefulness and child-like optimism? We’ve both moved on since then and the Swedish band (27 members in full version, 12 on tour here) have also gone through the difficult second album with the more downbeat melancholia of ‘Who Killed Harry Houdini?’.

Whatever led to that dip in spirits was not evident here tonight. Dapper of dress (lots of braces, waistcoats, skinny ties, two-tone shoes) and gracious of welcome despite the low numbers in attendance, the band instantly exuded an upbeat warmth and playfulness – a snatch of ‘Freebird’, an impromptu jazz interlude and ignoring the (printed) playlist to respond to audience requests. The bonhomie of happy songs about childhood games, the Eiffel tower, listening to music and other simple pleasures was taken to another level eight songs in however: as though from nowhere, the Ruby Lounge and the audience were showered with fluttering red ticker tape and colourful giant balloons for the song ‘Come On’. "Upbeat" went off the happiness scale. The energy of the band – and not just the party embellishments - was highly infectious and utterly irresistible. Oh yes you could recreate that festival spirit plus add in Christmas and New Year celebrations too.

Songs from the first album – especially an epic ‘We’re From Barcelona’ – drew the biggest cheers but such was the joy and spirit of community that even the less familiar tunes from this year’s low-key release (I didn’t even know there was a third album until last month) led to mass singalongs and linked arm pogo-ing. Leader Emanuel Lundgren is a witty and lively frontman but it really is a collective effort to generate this much delirium. Silly me to doubt the power of I’m From Barcelona – a live band not be missed whatever the setting and whatever the critical response (or lack of it) to their recordings. The final encore – of five - was ‘Forever Today’ a song written Emanuel said because he knew one day this would come to an end (“no-one wants to become The Rolling Stones”) but for now they will cherish the present. And it’s true: I’m From Barcelona play every gig as though it could be their last. Barcelona loves you. And we should be very, very grateful for it.

The Set List:

Get In Line
Charlie Parker
Always Spring
This Boy
Come On
Dr Landy
We’re From Barcelona
Barcelona Loves You
Game Is On
The Painter
Paper Planes
Forever Today

Monday, September 12, 2011

TRWBADOR "Sun In The Winter"

I was quite smitten with the “gauzy faerie-folk-glitch-pop” of the first Trwbador EP “It Snowed A Lot Last Year” back in January - and put one track ‘Daw'r Nos, Daw'r Haf’ on the Cloud Sounds podcast I hosted* in March. Now half a year later – but still wintry in title – comes EP number two from the Carmarthenshire duo. And although shorter, four tracks rather than seven, “Sun In The Winter” makes a bolder statement. The EP blends organic and electronic elements as before but is a much more confident set of songs, one that retains the dreamy child-like qualities of its predecessor but also possesses a harder, more assertive edge.

The title track that opens the EP is an assured mix of playground ‘tronica and R&B beats topped off with Angharad Van Rijswijk’s halting, child-like tones. This is a darker version of the innocence and wonder that Trwbador are so adept at creating: innocence that’s cautiously trying to enter the adult world: “I’ll make my mama and papa so proud/ stand on two feet and move out”. From a lolloping first-half the song then adopts a caffeinated, beat-driven surge in pace and intensity to its sudden climax. Its playful edginess and melodic catchiness are both taken a step further in ‘Red Handkerchiefs’, a much more oddball offering, the aural equivalent of those strange European animations aimed at children but crammed full of surreal, unexpected and unnerving imagery. The different uses of Angharad’s voice are key to its success – an eerie almost-spoken chorus, wordless tones underneath this and then interlocking cooing voices for the verses. At the end the pitch of Angharad’s voice is altered to sound like a man –gender-bending through electronics, Laurie Anderson style. Astonishing.

‘Once I Had A Love’ is a more subdued acoustic affair that is almost a come-down after the clever experimentation of the previous two songs – folky regret at the loss of a lover with washes of electronic judders and whirrs but sticking in the mind is the lonely voice and plaintive acoustic guitar. The music-box chimes and tick-tock lullaby rhythms of ‘Onions Make Me Cry’ make a honey-sweet setting for wordplay on the disappoint of relationships: “lemons make me bitter / so you don’t need to”.

Trwbador conjure a world of wide-eyed, youthful wonder out of a bold experimental palette. On this EP their world is made a little more sinister by encroaching adult concerns and more dramatic brush-strokes from that resourceful palette but it is still captivatingly beautiful. “Sun In The Winter” is released digitally and on CD via the band’s own Owlet Music label.

Owain from Trwbador is looking to start a blog showcasing the people’s love of vinyl records. And the only shame with this release is that is not available on vinyl. I’m sure the economics of vinyl pressing mean a high volume run is required. In a just world, with song-writing and inventiveness of this calibre, healthy sales of Trwbador should be a copper-bottomed certainty. Highly recommended.

Red Handkerchiefs by Trwbador

Sun In The Winter by Trwbador

Trwbador Sun In The Winter [BUY]

* ‘hosted’ = mumbled through

Sunday, September 04, 2011


Not being at End of the Road Festival this year, seeing one of the bands who are play the Brudenell Social Club was a minor consolation not to be missed. Especially when that band is North Carolina’s Megafaun who at last year’s Green Man turned in one of the most joyous, surprising and life-affirming live sets I’ve seen. No pressure on tonight to deliver then.

And I wasn’t the only one travelling over the Pennines on the M62: Manchester’s Blind Atlas were the first support band. Both supports this evening appear to have been booked only that morning (“we thought we’d be watching TV tonight”) but neither seemed fazed or flustered by the short-notice appointment. Blind Atlas, now a six piece live with violinist/backing vocalist Helen Temperley, played a confident, unrushed set of their classic Americana country-rock – no rockin’ out, no up-tempo '4th Street' tonight - but highlights included the primal pounding of ‘Ironwall’ and the yearning ache of ‘My Proud Mountains’. I’ve seen Blind Atlas several times in different scale venues in Manchester over the last three years or so; I was pleased to see them on this bill but even more pleased to see how comfortably and boldly they filled the Brudenell stage.

Another band who found out they were on bill only earlier today ("when I woke up this morning at 10.30am") was Invisible Cities. The instrumental four-piece - drums, bass, guitar and violin - combine the jauntiness of folk reels with math-rock – some occasional prog touches but there was more jazzy swing than cerebral noodling to their songs. The band via their drummer also had a good line in dead-pan humour about the meaning of their music and the plight of baby seals. It was only a four song set but didn’t feel meagre: an engaging and feisty support.

And so to Megafaun now expanded to a four-piece live with the addition of a bass player alongside brothers Phil and Brad Cook and drummer Joe Westerlund. It was a surprisingly thin crowd at the Brudenell tonight and they seemed a bit uncertain how to react to the band initially. Also the band took a few songs, after a hurried sound-check in front of the audience, to settle down: older songs like ‘Carolina Days’ and ‘Volunteers’ were assured but didn’t soar. However six songs in once the band started moving around the stage and swapping roles, everyone on- and off-stage seemed to loosen up and get the measure of each other. To me the precise moment of this shift was when drummer Joe took to guitar and mic for his own song ‘Second Friend’. Whether it was the McCartney-esque simplicity, the none-too-serious facial contortions of the harmony singers or the drummer’s endless beaming smile that caused the audience to melt I’m not sure, but melt they did.

The remainder of the set maintained the cosy vibe whilst demonstrating the versatility of the band; from “space jams” (‘Eagle’) to love-lorn ballads (‘The Longest Day’) from righteous and rowdy gospel (‘The Robe’) to jangly country tunes (‘Guns’ and ‘State/Meant’). It never threatened to turn into the infectious love-in that was Green Man 2010 but there were elements that came close: the masterful playing combined with a tongue-in-cheek geekiness, the humourous banter and evident enjoyment of making music and of course the non-stop, pleased-just-to-be-here grinning. By the end even the suspicious parts of the crowd were totally won over: loud calls for an encore (‘The Fade’) followed by an impromptu singalong of “You Are My Sunshine” then ‘Happy Birthday’ to the band’s tour manager led to an acapella ‘Worried Mind’ with the band at the edge of the stage and the audience pulled in close beneath them. A wonderful, joyous moment of unity.

Driving back and now writing this, the evening has only got better in my mind. I stupidly went expecting this evening to recreate a true one-off festival moment or to ‘compensate’ for not being at End of the Road which was unrealistic and a bit juvenile. Instead of looking back, I should have enjoyed the moment more. Of course tonight would not be that moment from thirteen months ago but it was still an able demonstration of what a generous, big-hearted and special band Megafaun are live.

The Set List:

Real Slow
Carolina Days
Get Right
Second Friend
The Longest Day
The Robe
The Fade
Worried Mind

Friday, September 02, 2011

GOLDEN FABLE "The Chill Pt.2"

Golden Fable is a side-project of Tim McIver and Rebecca Palin of pastoral indie-folk purveyors Tim and Sam’s Tim and the Sam Band with Tim and Sam. A “new challenge” rather than the end of the old band it seems. With members of the band scattered across the UK it proved difficult to make progress on new Tim and Sam material; however as a duo McIver and Palin managed to write, record and produce a Golden Fable album in under six months.

This double A-sided single is the first published fruits of their work. ‘The Chill Pt. 2’ starts with softly scuffed programmed beats, sombre echoing keyboards and eerie, haunting vocals from Ms Palin. Summer is definitely mentioned but this feels initially like something more glacially Scandinavian than the warm bucolic sounds of Tim and Sam album “Lifestream” – more Fever Ray rather forests-and-flora-and-fauna nature hymns. ‘The Golden Hour’ is closer in feel to those earlier instrumental idylls with its rich textures and uplifting orchestration: opening with twittering birds and repetitive plucked acoustic guitar before adding in densely layered synths, gently tinkling glockenspiel and finally some wordless female vocals. If ‘The Chill Pt. 2’ is a little, ahem, cooler, then ‘The Golden Hour’ is imbued with the rosy warmth of a summer’s sunrise.

A charismatic and intriguing pairing of songs that point as much away as towards their alma mater. Tim and ‘Becca’s new found band may have shortened the name but there’s no short-changing of quality: rich, multilayered folk-pop goodness whether hot or cold. ‘The Chill Pt.2’ is available as a free download or to order as a limited hand-packaged CD (out 7 November). The full Golden Fable album will follow in 2012.

Golden Fable The Chill Pt.2 [BUY]

Thursday, September 01, 2011


Just another month in Manchester: home-grown DIY pop rubs shoulders with Danish punk, Costa Rican indie, Swedish twee-pop, Sacramento psyche-folk. As ever a mixtape [55 mins / 64 MB] of bands playing Manchester this September to help inform your gig-going decision-making - link in the post below this one.

Manchester Gigs in Music Mixtape: September 2011

Love Inks Blackeye [1.51] (26 Sep The Castle BUY TICKETS)
EMA Milkman [5.09] (16 Sep Deaf Institute BUY TICKETS)
Iceage Broken Bone [7.40] (2 Sep Islington Mill BUY TICKETS)
The Fresh and Onlys Waterfall [10.50] (7 Sep Ruby Lounge BUY TICKETS)
Golden Glow Streetfighter [14.24] (10 Sep The Castle BUY TICKETS)
The Great Wilderness Dark Horse Pt. 1 [19.00] (13 Sep Night & Day BUY TICKETS)
The Black Lips New Direction [21.28] (24 Sep FAC 251 BUY TICKETS)
Friends Friend Crush [24.33] (30 Sep The Castle BUY TICKETS)
Ganglians Jungle [28.18] (19 Sep Night & Day BUY TICKETS)
Fear of Men Phantom Limb Demo [31.30] (20 Sep The Castle BUY TICKETS)
The Bell Peppers Rubber Bullets 34.27] (2 Sep Fuel BUY TICKETS)
Laura Stevenson + The Cans Holy Ghost [37.22] (15 Sep The Castle BUY TICKETS)
I’m From Barcelona Always Spring [40.31] (18 Sep Ruby Lounge BUY TICKETS)
This Frontier Needs Heroes Firefly [44.05] (8 Sep The Castle BUY TICKETS)
Richmond Fontaine The Mechanic’s Life [47.17] (15 Sep Academy BUY TICKETS)
Chris Mills Signal/Noise [54.51] (9 Sep Briton's Protection BUY TICKETS)

And not forgetting:
2 Sep The Flatliners Night & Day / 2 Sep The Heebie Jeebies + Onions + New Hips Fuel / 3 Sep Ron Sexsmith Bridgewater Hall / 5 Sep Kurt Vile + Woods Soundcontrol / 5 Sep Austra Deaf Institute / 5 Sep Dave Arcari + Bob Log III Ruby Lounge / 5 Sep Blonde Redhead Club Academy / 6 Sep Jolie Holland Ruby Lounge / 6 Sep Joan As Policewoman St Phillips Church / 6 Sep Treefight for Sunlight The Castle / 6 Sep Beirut Academy 1 / 6 Sep The Black Angels Academy 3 / 7 Sep Public Enemy The Ritz / 7 Sep Junip Sound Control / 7 Sep Poppy & The Jezebels Deaf Institute / 7 Sep The Rapture Club Academy / 7 Sep Sarabeth Tucek The Castle / 8 Sep King Creosote + Jon Hopkins Deaf Institute / 8 Sep P J Harvey Apollo / 10 Sep Jez Kerr + Emperor Zero Night & Day / 10 Sep The Whip The Ruby Lounge / 10 Sep Big Deal Deaf Institute / 10 Sep David J Roch The Castle / 10 Sep Screaming Females Islington Mill / 12 Sep Wise Blood The Castle / 12 Sep Scott Matthews Band on the Wall / 13 Sep Airship Kings Arms / 13 Sep Dry The River Deaf Institute / 14 Sep G Love Ruby Lounge / 14 Sep Handsome Furs Deaf Institute / 15 Sep Folk Apocalypse 3 Night & Day / 15 Sep Crystal Fighters Sound Control / 15 Sep Awolnation Deaf Institute / 16 Sep Brasstronaut Kraak / 16 Sep Blue on Blue + Royal Treatment Plan Night & Day / 17 Sep Peggy Sue Deaf Institute / 16 Sep The Narrows Ruby Lounge / 18 Sep The Sparrow and the Workshop Deaf Institute / 20 Sep Howling Bells Academy 3 / 21 Sep Gintis Dulcimer / 21 Sep Treetop Flyers + Blind Atlas The Castle / 21 Sep Boxes Night & Day / 21 Sep Kill It Kid Deaf Institute / 21 Sep FOE Fac 251 / 22 Sep Slow Club Ruby Lounge / 22 Sep Pete & The Pirates Deaf Institute / 23 Sept Let's Buy Happiness + Evans The Death Roadhouse / 23 Sep J P Cooper Ruby Lounge / 23 Sep Young Rebel Set Deaf Institute / 23 Sep Various Cruelties Night & Day / 23 Sep Teeth + Ghosting Season Kraak / 24 Sep Vinny Peculiar Kings Arms / 24 Sep Milk Maid Kraak / 24 Sep Kai Fish Deaf Institute / 25 Sep Is Tropical Deaf Institute / 26 Sep The Civil Wars Night & Day / 26 Sep Connan Mockasin Deaf Institute / 26 Sep Metronomy Academy 3 / 27 Sep Ut Soup Kitchen / 27 Sep Death Grips Islington Mill / 27 Sep John Vanderslice Deaf Institute / 28 Sep Male Bonding Ruby Lounge / 29 Sep Cattle & Cane The Castle / 29 Sep Danny & The Champions Of The World Deaf Institute / 30 Sep Get Cape Wear Cape Fly MoHo Live


Mcr Gigs in Music Mixtape: September 2011 [54 mins / 62 MB] - download here