Saturday, 30 November 2013

JONATHAN RICE - ALBUM REVIEW

Johnathan Rice - Good Graces 
Johnathan Rice - Good Graces

Release Date: 25th November 2013

Mr Rice describes this album as a healing record that he wrote as a way to help people he loves to come through some dark times which, as a sentiment, is pretty awesome. I've had one or two dark moments (haven't we all?) and if somebody had written me an album to say 'Hey buddy, it's alright, things will get better' then I would probably have had a good cry and then gone outside to fall in love with the world again. As the album begins with the gentle, sandy swing of 'Acapulco Gold' it is immediately obvious that Rice is in healing, empathetic mood and the fact that he is channelling Evan Dando's voice only makes this all the warmer on your ears. The slow stomp of 'My Heart Belongs To You' is somewhere between Flaming Lips and the Killers with Jack Johnson on vocal duty which is a group of guys I'd want around me if I was feeling bummed out so, again, spot on. Things get a little livelier on 'Nowhere At The Speed Of Light' which is full of jangly guitars, Rice's dreamy vocal and punchy dreams which make you want to get out of your funk and in to the shower, at the very least. Considering when this album was recorded and subsequently released, 'Lou Rider' is an incredibly timely stylistic homage to the much missed Lou Reed with Rice talking on that oh-so-cool rock star drawl and roping in some doop-doop style backing vocalists for extra soul effect. I think we're ready to put some clean clothes on now.

The hopeful, optimistic opening strains of 'Empty Head' are like opening your front door and immediately getting a smile and a nod from the postman as you feel the sun on your skin for the first time in days. 'Good Graces' immediately takes up the mantle with Dylan-esque lyrical structures and a bouncy acoustic riff that will help you walk down the street to the shop for some proper food and, most importantly, a little human interaction. The crescendo ending of 'Good Graces' needs to be played to a Springsteen sized crowd for maximum sing-a-long impact but for now it's just fine rattling round my head. As we hit the final third of the album, 'Surfer's Lament' is mariachi-lite music mixed with expansive vocal effects and Dick Dale guitars that transport you to a beach party in Hawaii where you are bound to be having a good time. The gently twanging guitars of 'Soldiers' would be perfect to wake up on said Hawaiian beach to the morning after the night before as the sea gently nibbles your toes and Rice's voice tickles your ears. To wrap it all up, 'That Summer Feeling' comes along as a kind of "my work here is done" message, Mary Poppins for the bummed out generation, if you will. Rice obviously understands pain and would be a good guy to have around if you needed a shoulder cry on so I'm glad, for his loved ones, that they have him but sad that this album only exists because some people had to go through dark times. Forget time, music is the true great healer here. .


Thursday, 28 November 2013

STACEY - EP REVIEW

Stacey - Stacey EP 
Stacey - Stacey EP

Release Date: 5th December 2013

OK, let's get something out of the way here. Stacey (she doesn't have a last name, she's too cool for that) plays piano and sings with passion and style that make easily comparable to Tori Amos. This is no bad thing but it would be extraordinarily lazy journalism so let's delve a little deeper shall we? Canadian Stacey seemingly has the full package and, most of all, she has the guts to kick off her EP with the hauntingly beautiful 'Worst Part' which is nothing but piano, vocals and regrets. 'Sleep Alone' is more uplifting as we reminisce with our lovelorn heroine and her sensually played piano accompanied by some simple but effective percussion. Lessons can be learned from Stacey by those that think that the Miley Cyrus T&A&LOD (that's Tits & Ass & Loss Of Dignity) approach to performing has anything to do with music or the creative process. Here we have a strong, powerful woman making music on her own terms and playing to her own beat. And do you know what? I haven't got a clue what she looks like at this moment in time which is just the way music should be heard - the only images I get are created by the songs. 'Share' is up next and is the kind of lament that Katy Perry and Lady Gaga would fight to the death, using only their ill-gotten awards as weapons. The smoky, lounge piano of 'Calling Me' is matched perfectly by the echo laden vocals and reminds me of LWM favourite Mary At Midnight in its tender fragility and haunting seduction of the listener. Finishing up with 'All To Myself', Stacey gets a little woozy  and almost drunk sounding but the piano is still played with a gently determined caress that is impossible to resist. Stacey has a talent that is rare these days in that it's entirely pure, unaffected and straight from the heart so I urge you to get involved before life and/or the music industry taints her purity.


Live Dates:
5th December - Measure, Toronto (EP Release)
6th December - The Casbah Lounge, Hamilton
7th December - Imbibe Food & Drink, Kitchener
8th December - Mahtay Cafe, St Catherines
9th December - The APK, London
10th December - The Spill, Peterborough
11th December - Red Brick Cafe, Guelph
14th December - Alphasoul, Ottawa

15th December - Raindow Bistro, Ottawa

CARLOS NOBREGA - SINGLE REVIEW

Carlos Nobrega - Breath Me 
Carlos Nobrega - Breath Me

It's always tricky to judge a song you've been told is a cover version when you don't know the original song, you have to take it on its own merits. Carlos Nobrega's version of 'Breath Me', originally by the hugely talented Sia, is a sparse, piano lead lament which builds nicely with some programmed beats and breaks adding to the sonic landscape. Nobrega's voice is frail and fragile enough to convey the emotion of the song but there are moments when the intimation of a man singing another person's song in another language shines through and something is lost in translation. It wouldn't get through very far on the X-Factor but then who would want to?


More information/Free Download: http://www.carlosnobrega.com/

SIVU FEAT MARIKA HACKMAN - FREE DOWNLOAD REVIEW

Sivu feat. Marika Hackman - I Hold 
Sivu feat. Marika Hackman - I Hold

This is exactly the kind of tune that my teenage music collection is full of on CD single or 7"....or the rare cassette tape. 'I Hold' is yours for free, you lucky devils, and it's a delicately playful piece of music that reminds me of artists like Emiliana Torrini, Ani Di Franco or 12 Rounds. There is a sinister edge to this tune as well which is lurking in the shadows, threatening but never quite coming out to show its face in the full light. Marika Hackman's voice has a clenched teeth menace to it as it drifts out atop the delicate acoustic guitar, bass drones and processed beats. Sivu seems to be on tour supporting the great and the good this year so get and catch this stuff live if you can, it's sure to be a mesmerising experience.



Live Dates:
10th December - The Hope, Brighton
11th December - The Lexington, London
12th December - The Portland Arms, Cambridge
13th December - Gullivers, Manchester

14th December - The Birdcage, Bristol

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

ROYKSOPP - SINGLE REVIEW

Royksopp - Running To The Sea (Wall Of Sound/Cooking Vinyl) 
Royksopp - Running To The Sea

Release Date: 16th December 2013

So those Royksopp boys are back with a new single and it's something of a lively number. Featuring the vocals of Susanne Sundfor, 'Running To The Sea' is an eery, almost trance like tune fuelled by sparse piano and a fast paced beat that sounds like the determined pitter-patter of an early morning jogger. This song promises a lot and certainly delivers if you're in to that Above & Beyond with Ellie Goulding on vocals writing a song for the next Girl With The Dragon Tattoo soundtrack kind of thing. For me, I feel like there's a little bit more to come from these guys but, hey, they've given us a B-side too so stop your moaning! 'Something In My Heart' features the vocal talents of the improbably named Jamie Irrepressible (weakest Viking name ever?) and is a more thoughtful tune with undulating synths mixed with a laid back, almost R&B beats. There's no doubting that these are both beautiful pieces of music which the world is a better place for experiencing but neither of these tunes quite manage to reach the uplifting climaxes I was hoping for.


More information: http://royksopp.com/

Sunday, 24 November 2013

BEDFELLOWS - EP REVIEW

Bedfellows - World Apart 
Bedfellows - World Apart

Brooklyn is supposed to be the centre of the musical universe at the moment, if you believe everything you read which I absolutely do. Bedfellows are three fine gents who hail from this particular corner of New York but, weirdly, they seem to be channelling the electro beats of late 80s/ early 90s Manchester. Opening track 'Like A Hostage' is pure New Order, even down to the slightly uninterested vocals, and that's no bad thing. 'Coming Up' is a little more lively and upbeat, something akin to Vampire Weekend trying to write a new theme tune for a revamped version of Saved By The Bell. The drum and bass combination that opens 'Receiver' is pure 80s fodder and, if I didn't know better, I'd swear that Peter 'Hooky' Hook was slinging his bass as low as is humanly possible to churn out the bass line. What Bedfellows do nicely is mix the synths and beats of the 80s UK dance scene with more modern guitars whilst keeping the vocals firmly in the moody and cool section of the musical kitchen. 'As She Whispers' is a particular triumph that could be ABC or Heaven 17 until the guitars kick in and bring things more up to date. That blend of old technology and more contemporary guitar techniques creates a unique and perplexing sound. Final track, 'Range Of Love', is a seven minute indie-dance-pop romp that could easily be a young Michael Stipe trying out different styles of music before settling on whatever it was R.E.M. settled on. Bedfellows have definitely got something and it's the kind of something I would expect to hear on late night radio driving home from a gig in my car which is a great place to find nuggets of genius from around the world. As is this blog.



NORTHCOTE - ALBUM REVIEW

Northcote - Northcote (Xtra Mile Recordings) 
Northcote - Northcote

I'm starting to get excited when I get a release and I notice it's from the Xtra Mile Recordings camp. Northcote (aka Matt Goud) has thankfully not letting the team down with this collection of songs that fit perfectly with his fellow artists on the roster. The Canadian opens proceedings with the Springsteen-esque duo of songs 'How Can You Turn Around' and 'When You Cry' that are acoustic driven numbers full of inspiring, sing along moments. New single 'Hope The Good Things Never Die' has a slightly Killers feel about it but without all the Vega glitz and glamour while 'A Thousand Nights' betrays Northcote's early country music leanings before settling in to a good time rock'n'roll rhythm and taking you deep in to the night. But there is subtlety to Northcote too and the Bragg-meets-Costello thrum of 'Burn Right Past Them All' shows off a more tender side that label mates Frank Turner or Crazy Arm would be happy to jam on. Although 'Counting Down The Days' may sound like the title of a Bryan Adams love ballad, Northcote has a more road-trippin' approach to the sentiment.

'Drive Me Home' gets back to the tight, acoustic strumming and idealistic but wistful lyrical content before things take a turn for the smoky and cigarette lighter waving lilt of 'Knock On My Door' which shows off Goud's gravelly voice superbly. In terms of big songs, 'Find Our Own Way' has Killers meets Kings of Leon with a pop melody written all over it so I'd put five bucks on that baby. Then again, I get the feeling that Northcote is on a musical journey that is nothing to do with the destination as the tender and heart rending 'Speak Freely' perfectly exemplifies. Finishing up with 'Walking Home In The Rain', Northcote typifies just what it is that drives him - proper songs with lyrics that mean something set to rock'n'roll tunes that lift your spirit and free up your mind. Goud and the gang are over in Europe for a few dates before Santa comes to visit so get out and see him if you can, I'm sure the live experience will be intimate as well as energising.


Live Dates:

24th November - BiNuu Berlin, Berlin
26th November - Gloria, Cologne
27th November - Batschkapp, Frankfurt
28th November - Strom Linienclub, Munich
30th November - Factory Area2, Milan
2nd December - B72, Vienna
3rd December - Universum, Stuttgart
4th December - JH Kavka, Antwerp
5th December - Joiners, Southampton
6th December - The Garage, London
7th December - Bodega Social Club, Nottingham

8th December - The Cluny, Newcastle

TDEL2 - ALBUM REVIEW

TDeL2 - Barnegat (Monkey Records) 
TDeL2 - Barnegat

The improbably named Nebraskan resident Tony De Luca, aka TDeL2, is back with a thirteen track album that ranges from chilled out electronica to acoustic introspectiveness and I, for one, am mighty pleased. 'Counting Trees and USBs' starts proceedings with some instrumental and uplifting sounds before the electro romance of 'Fearless Youth'. The gentle introduction to 'Valves and Sneakers' gives way to a more urgent, A-ha inspired indie-pop romp before 'Kenwood' takes over with its subtle acoustic picking and ambient keys. 'Two Systems' and 'Greta' show off TDeL2's more commercial appeal and hints at his best possible route to widespread success in terms of getting his accessible ambient music to the largest audience possible. The electro swamp noise and campfire crackle that open up 'In Your Mind' blend beautifully with the processed beats and sparse piano melody before that piano motif is continued in to 'Selection Sunday' which, I assume, refers to that day of rest dilemma where you have to decide which old film to watch and what junk food you are going to eat to accompany it - either way, it's perfectly chilled out Sunday music until the huge, stadium filling crescendo shakes you awake.

TDeL2 has a beautiful approach to electronic, ambient music that is as dispassionate as it is tear jerking. The somnambulance of 'Running' is a great example of this ethos until the driving, forging drums kick in and the background voices swirl around your head like the words that appear mid-fever. The 80s synths of 'Tulips' and 'Neon Keys' are immediately immersive and combine the best of electro with the best computer game music from down the years - the only artist to come close recently for me is UK based Ions In the Ether. Penultimate track 'All I Know' is a frantic but uplifting slice of electronica that leads directly in to album closer 'There, The Morning Light' which is a piano riff lead piece of dance music that would be a perfect start to a day when you just want to get things done - whether it's cleaning out the shed or running a marathon, this music would be sure to get you pumped up. TDeL2 is one of those musicians who is probably happy producing this stuff in his 'den' and sending it around the world but, with the right marketing, this could be huge stuff in the mainstream market.


LITTLE MATADOR - EP REVIEW

Little Matador - Liar Liar EP 
Little Matador - Liar Liar EP

Well I did not expect this. The email that accompanied this EP was from Nathan Connolly, guitarist with Snow Patrol, introducing his new band Little Matador featuring members of Idlewild and The Frames among others. Now, I've got time for both Snow Patrol and Idlewild plus Little Matador is an outstanding new band name but I didn't have the highest hopes for this debut EP. But then 'Reasons' happened. Queens Of The Stone Age sized riffs with the bombast of Span or INXS at their most rocking hit you like a sledgehammer to the gut before the chugging guitars and thumping drums set about boxing your ears until they bleed...in a good way. Next up is 'Boom Boom' which is part The Cooper Temple Clause towards the end of their career and part Terminator soundtrack but those intense and unapologetic guitars are back with a vengeance. There is an urgency about Little Matador that is so pleasing to hear coupled with the experience and honed song writing skills of musicians that have been there, done that and sold the t-shirt on their merchandise stands. 'Gimme All You've Got' is a slightly more laid back affair but the brooding, menacing rhythm of the drums combined with the constant drone bring to mind the night time scenes in films like the Lost Boys or Flatliners....in a REALLY good way. Final and title track, 'Liar Liar', is a little more punky in approach with fierce, furious and distorted vocals over the top of incessant guitars and pounding drums. I am genuinely really impressed by this as a debut and, in a way, I'm glad this is something of an indie supergroup as if this was a band at the start of their careers I would be hugely worried for the competition. Oh and the artwork is ace too, complete package then!


CARAVAN PALACE - ALBUM REVIEW

Caravan Palace - Panic (Dramatico Entertainment) 
Caravan Palace - Panic

Release Date: 2nd December 2013

So apparently French electro swing is a thing now and Caravan Palace are hot on the heels of Parov Stelar (not technically French but who's counting?) in terms of pushing this new genre to the forefront. The Caravan Palace collective have been touring relentlessly with their electro take on swing, jazz and gypsy jazz and "Panic" is the culmination of all this touring in 18 tracks of fun. Kicking off with 'Queens' and the slightly 90s feeling fun of 'Maniac, Caravan Palace set their stall out for fun and you can almost see the circus performers and burlesque dancers trouping in to join them. 'The Dirty Side Of The Street' is particularly manic whilst '12 Juin 3049' is a distinctly laid back, river side ode to the distant future. Alvin and the Chipmunks are apparently the guest vocalists on 'Rock It For Me' but 'Clash' is a stand out track which sounds like the Puppini Sisters remixed by Bentley Rhythm Ace with Bernard Cribbins on guest vocals - yes, it is that bonkers.

'Newbop' takes things back to a more laid back vibe (nobody could maintain that pace) with Django Reinhardt inspired guitars and a bouncy, dubby beat underneath. There is a marmite moment on 'The Glory Of Nelly' as dreamy guitars and chimes mix with TLC style rapping that I'm still not sure whether I like but then I'm never sure whether I like Marmite so I'm probably not the best judge. As song titles go, 'Dramophone' is pretty ace and the bassline is plenty squelchy, meanwhile 'Cotton Heads' is Lemon Jelly-esque in its bleepy-bloopy delights. Delish. Title track 'Panic' is glitchy, scratchy piece of hyperactivity while the melody on 'Pirates' is pure summer morning fun. Another stand out tune is 'Beatophone' that has a bassline that would turn heads at traffic lights and stands out from the general hum drum of the chart obsessed dance world. The album proper finishes with the Winehouse meets Piaf lilt of 'Sydney' as the bars spill out on to the Parisian streets and the cobbles resonate with the chatter of laughter and the pronouncements of love. Then follows a spicy remix of 'Dramophone' and three different versions of 'Clash', including a huge sounding live version from a hometown gig that hints towards the power these guys must wield in the live arena. So, wax that moustache, pop in a monocle and crack those glow sticks: French Electro Swing is here to stay, daaahhhhling.


SAY YES DOG - EP REVIEW

Say Yes Dog - A Friend EP
Say Yes Dog - A Friend EP

Release Date: 9th December 2013

There is potential for this EP to either break trio Say Yes Dog in to the big time or for it to be yet another collection of songs that I break out at house parties when I've had a few too many drinks to show people what fantastic music there is lurking just outside of the mainstream. The mix of Hot Chip, Transformer and Justice style Dicso Pop on 'Get It' is just sublime and the sexy keys that herald the start of 'Around My Neck' blends perfectly with the hand claps and Soulwax-esque vocals that are just too cool for school. Recent release 'A Friend' is still the stand-out track on here, blending Hot Chip, LCD Soundsystem and latter day Eels in to a soup of bouncy keyboards, clicky beats and lyrics so cool they might have been written by James Dean, "Who needs a girl if you were born on the run?". 'Love You Back' is a beast of a tune that starts off with chilled Parisian accordion sounds before succumbing to a lounge beat that would have a gaggle of Hoxton hipsters nodding their heads with a passive-aggressive stare in the blink of an emotionless eye. Say Yes Dog should be huge and should feature on a number of trailers for cool Channel 4 programmes fairly soon if everything is as it should be. Sadly, that doesn't seem to be the case with the world right now...

More information: http://www.sayyesdog.net/

Listen/Download Here: https://itunes.apple.com/lu/album/a-friend-ep/id700696037

Thursday, 21 November 2013

CHARLOTTE OC - EP REVIEW

Charlotte OC - Colour My Heart EP 
Charlotte OC - Colour My Heart EP

Release Date: 25th November 2013

Well, well, well, what have we here then? This is a little bit lovely. Charlotte OC is a lady with an incredibly soulful and sexy voice that would make the Motown legends sit up and take notice. I have literally no idea where she hails from but Ms OC has found her way in to my heart and I'm only half way through the EP! Title track 'Colour My Heart'  is a sparse, piano driven, throbbing pop lady-beast with elements of Bat For Lashes, Kimbra, Elli Goulding and Florence + The Machine. 'Hangover' is finger clicking cool and OC's voice moves seamlessly between fragile and sultry in a way that can only endear her to the listener. There are two key elements to all of these tunes with one being the atmospheric and carefully constructed music and the other being the stunning, honey thick vocals of our heroine that have to be heard to be fully appreciated. There's no let up on 'Cut The Rope' as the music gets slightly more dramatic and those Florence Welch influences bubble to surface to be mixed with some Kate Bush-isms and sprinkled with a little 80s power ballad dust. Finishing up with 'Stolen Car', Charlotte OC shows off her big, bombastic side as she insists "You make me feel like a stolen car". What we have here, ladies and gents, is a lady with one of the most luscious voices I have heard in a few years and boy does she know how to use it. Now all I need to know is where she comes from and what the hell OC stands for (I'm guessing it's Oblong Cuboids. Just because).



ROOMS DELAYED - EP REVIEW

Rooms Delayed - Nothing Lighter EP (Monkey Records) 
Rooms Delayed - Nothing Lighter EP

Release Date: 22nd November 2013

Italian composer Vincenzo Nazzaro releases music under the name Rooms Delayed but I use the word music loosely. Not because this is bad but because what Nazzaro composes is more akin to the soundscape than it is the 3 minute pop song. Opening track 'Mia' is awash with atmospheric e-bow and long, drawn out guitar notes which are soothing and disorientating, much like being in a sensory deprivation tank I would imagine. 'Blissfully' continues the them albeit in a slightly more hopeful key, and 'Velluto' has slightly more distinct notes to it but is still a warm, lush sound that washes over you like a tropical tide on the hottest of summer days. Final track 'Suspicious Mind' does nothing to suggest that there is likely to be a new direction for Nazzaro but the sweet vocals of Cristina Pullano add a certain direction and soul to that the other songs lack. This is perfect music to just bliss out to but I would seriously suggest you don't listen to this while driving as it is likely to have you nodding off at the wheel!


WOMB - SINGLE REVIEW

Womb - Baby Don't Love Me 
Womb - Baby Don't Love Me

There's a video attached to this song and it's properly mental but more on that later... To start with, Womb's 'Baby Don't Love Me' is a bluesy number with an appealing stomp and pleasing scratchy tone to the guitars. There is a raspy quality to the vocals and a groove that is hard to resist because it's been around from the days of Hendrix to Orphic Soop and now Womb. 'Baby Don't Love Me' isn't going to be winning any awards for originality but the tight drums, smooth bass and funky guitars make a great soundtrack for a video which starts with a girl being romantically awoken by her boyfriend and ends with zombie flesh eaters. Trust me, it's worth a watch.



Wednesday, 20 November 2013

TEMPERS - SINGLE REVIEW

Tempers - What Isn't There 
Tempers - What Isn't There

New York duo Tempers are heading to the UK for a few dates this week and, based on this new release, I'd suggest you take a fist full of Valium, put on some dark glasses and go stand at the back until you are at one with the music. 'What Isn't There' is wonderfully blissed out mix of 80s gothic pop moods, complete with clicky electronic beats, and huge, haunting vocals courtesy of Iranian-Latvian-American singer Jasmine Golestaneh. Depending on your state of mind, this is either music to make love to in a dark, candle lit room or music to absorb yourself in so completely that you don't even notice when the song has ended. Tempers have an ability to alter the atmosphere, not just the soundwaves and that is a real talent so don't pass up the chance to catch them while they're visiting our shores.


Live Dates:

22nd November - The Exchange, Bristol w/Wolf Eyes & ERAAS
23rd November - Shipping Forecast, Liverpool

24th November - The Old Blue Last, London (Free Show) 

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

CATFISH & THE BOTTLEMEN - SINGLE REVIEW

Catfish & The Bottlemen - Pacifier (Communion Records) 
Catfish & The Bottlemen - Pacifier

Release Date: 9th December 2013

In terms of hot bands of 2013 that are probably going to explode in 2014, Catfish & The Bottlemen have surely got to be in the top three (along with Brother & Bones and the Fauns). 'Pacifier' is the latest offering from the Welsh quartet and it does nothing to stave off the unrelenting momentum of the band as they head towards what will surely be 'their year'. With the energy and excitement of Stereophonics when they first started out, the raw sex appeal of a present day Arctic Monkeys record and the swagger of the Killers, these boys have got an exciting package (oo-er missus) that is gusset moistening and saliva enducing. If you haven't come across these guys yet then you a) clearly don't get out enough as they've been touring every populated hamlet of the UK over the past few months and b) you don't listen to enough radio as they're getting playlisted left, right and centre and quite deservedly so. It's still a shocking name though and this is probably their last chance to change it before they get mental big with the release of an album.


Live Dates:

25th November - Heaven, London w/The Family Rain

26th November - Concorde 2, Brighton w/The Family Rain

THE INDECISION - ALBUM REVIEW

The Indecision - New Faces (Do The Dog Music) 
The Indecision - New Faces

There seems to have been a flurry of bands with decent horn sections emerging at the moment and I'm a big fan of a live horn section, that's for sure. What I'm not always a fan of is reggae music that veers too closely to the Soul area and doesn't have any edge. Leeds septet The Indecision teeter on the line between juicy, horny reggae and overly smoothed out, soul and, ironically, this leaves me with an element of indecision about whether I like this album or not. Opening track 'New Faces' is perky, jerky and has a nice skank to it which is a promising start but then 'Sweet Girl' feels too relaxed and not in a shmokin' way. 'Colour Me In' has a darker, broodier feel to it and the horns have an almost James Bond-esque theme but the song never really hits the energy levels you might hope for. Now, 'Who Are You Dancing For?' is more appealing to me and some life about it but it also has the tendency to sound a little like the theme for Rasta Mouse that didn't quite make it.

The scratchy, bouncy guitar of 'It's Only Rain' mixed with the smooth vocals suggest Madness at their peak but, again, there is that danger that this might turn in to an Olly Murs album track at any moment. On the horn fuelled bounce of 'The Love Me Or Die' mixed with the almost mariachi style melodies is the most appealing moment on this seven track album for me and is something that I would suggest the guys explore a little further. Final track 'Water' has a lovely, lazy horn sound in that woozy, boozy way that summers are made of which makes me want a double rum, sand and a sunset more than the log burner and cold ears that I currently have. I reckon if I experienced The Indecision live as my first interaction with the band I would probably have an ace time, drink more than I should and do some horrible, horrible dancing with some very pretty but friendly girls. The chances are I'd probably buy their CD on the way out and go home happy. But, and here's the challenge for the band, if I put the CD on in my car on the way to work the next day, I think I would probably be a bit disappointed and it wouldn't get many more spins after that.


Live Dates:

8th December - Old Bar, Leeds w/Cool Beans
15th February - Nottingham House, Sheffield w/Cool Beans

20th April - The London International  Ska Festival, London

Sunday, 17 November 2013

LION BARK - DEMO REVIEW

Lion Bark - Longhorns/Two Prongs 
Lion Bark - Longhorns/Two Prongs

There's an awful lot of 'hype' around the early awakenings of Brighton quartet Lion Bark and on first listen it's obvious that these guys have a remarkably polished sound for ones so youthful. These two tracks, opening salvos if you will, represent a band taking their first steps in to the brutal world of music and they are confident, accomplished steps at that. However, on the first of these tracks, 'Longhorns', I can't seem to get particularly excited by a band that is blending Editors' or Gene's crooning style with some shuffling, shoegaze-light indie tunes and choruses that want to soar but don't quite achieve enough velocity. 'Two Prongs', for me, is the stronger of the tunes with its more laid back, Tennis-esque melodies and Buddy Holly structures topped off with what appears to be a trademark in the making crooning vocal style. These guys are young and they have plenty of time as well as some nice ideas so I hope they just gig for all they're worth until that sound is beautifully honed and entirely theirs.


Friday, 15 November 2013

HARTEBEEST - SINGLE REVIEW

Hartebeest - Death 
Hartebeest - Death

This is the most 80s tune released since 18th December 1989 (that being the last Monday in the 1980s that wasn't Christmas Day - enjoy that fact, fact fans). Ironically though, for a song called 'Death', it has a certain poppy, upbeat charm about it and would have been the perfect song to play out at the end of an 80s romcom as the helicopter mounted camera sweeps up from the happy couple to show a night time landscape of Chicago. Hartebeest are one of those duos that could dribble this kind of tune out in their sleep but I'd put some money on them having a one hit wonder top 10 hit in the next 3 years with something that gets plaid to death (hah!) and gives them a green card to remix everyone under the sun. And why not?



THE FOREIGN FILMS - SINGLE REVIEW

The Foreign Films - Fall Of The Summer Heart 
The Foreign Films - Fall Of The Summer Heart

I haven't finished listening to this single yet but I can tell you that, musically speaking, there are more original ideas in the first thirty seconds of this song than the combined efforts of Will.I.Am and Olly Murs. Not saying a huge amount, I know, but food for thought nonetheless. The Foreign Films are driven by the husky voiced Bill Majoros who is something of a Prog Rock Indie Folk version of James Murphy, if that makes sense. 'The Fall Of The Summer Heart' is a twelve minute opus that takes on most song based genres and channels the likes of the Beach Boys, the Flaming Lips, Cast, LCD Soundsystem and ELO. The song is split in to eight sections or movements that take you on an undulating but seamless which is made impressive when you learn that this song took a year to record. I must also make mention of the artwork for this track which is an area so sadly neglected in our digital age - whoever did the artwork has a beautiful if slightly melancholic mind but this is the perfect match for such a rich audio tapestry.


More information: http://theforeignfilms.com/

SAY YES DOG - SINGLE REVIEW

Say Yes Dog - A Friend (Free Download) 
Say Yes Dog - A Friend

Release Dates: 9th December 2013

I went to Luxembourg once on the way to Holland. I stopped, had a drink, took a photo of my shoes and got back in the car. I was nine. But still, such is Luxembourg's diminutive stature, there's a relatively high chance that whilst sat in the back of my dad's Renault, listening to the Pet Shop Boys on my yellow walkman, we drove alongside one of the three Luxembourgers that make up Say Yes Dog - Aaron, Pascal and Paul. This latest offering from the trio, and as a free download it really is an offering, goes by the name 'A Friend' and it has me torn between two influences. It's either Hot Chip playing a trendy kids birthday party or it's Kraftwerk following a series of expensive divorces trying to write a more club friendly tune. Either way, 'A Friend' is a chirpy little beast of a tune and maybe, just maybe, it's time I went back to Luxembourg (by the way, if you're wondering why I was taking a photo of my shoes it's because I was going through a phase of proving that I'd been places by taking photos of my feet standing in that place. I could probably sell those photos as a coffee table book to people in East London now).



Live Dates:
16th November - MFM Festival, Luxembourg
18th November - Unikneipe, Landau
19th November - Schon Schon, Mainz
21st November -Astra Stube, Hamburg
22nd November - 1210, Stuttgart
23rd November - Seven, Geldern
25th November - Weekender, Innsbruck
26th November - Blue Shell, Koln w/When People Had Computers
27th November - Privatclub, Berlin w/Chaplin
28th November - Aaltra, Chemnitz
29th November - Musik Club Garage, Decin
30th November - Noch Besser Lebenm, Leipzig
1st December - Heimat, Regensberg w/Asbjorn
2nd December - Strom, Munchen w/Asbjorn
3rd December - Glashaus, Beyreuth w/Asbjorn
11th December - L'International, Paris
12th December - Ex-Haus, Trier
13th December - Hafen 2, Offenbach
14th December - Glimps Festival, Ghent
18th December - Oakford Social Club, Reading

19th December - Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, London

BURNING HOUSE - SINGLE REVIEW

Burning House - Post Party Stress Disorder (Naive Records) 
Burning House - Post Party Stress Disorder

Release Date: 25th November 2013

AWOOGA!! AWOOGA!! AWOOGA!! You know what that is? That's the patented LWM huge choon alert going off in yo face. Sucka. Ahem, sorry, got a bit carried away there. Burning House have a got a new single out in a week or so and you seriously need it in your lives. 'Post Party Stress Disorder' fuses Hot Chip, LCD Sound System, Daft Punk's bass lines and the suave of Justice. Dirty, grinding bass played out on synths mixed with a loose, disco beats and smooth vocals make this a hot tip for party hit of the festive season if there is any justice in the world. Oh, and if you're wondering who the hell Burning House is well they are two giants of the music world in the form of Blackalicious founder member Chief Xcel and keyboard maestro Herve Salters aka General Elektriks. That's who.


NINA - SINGLE REVIEW

Nina - We Are The Wild Ones (Aztec Records) 
Nina - We Are The Wild Ones

Release Date: 25th November 2013

I hear a lot of pop these days, it's hard not to, and most of it offends for one reason alone; it lacks soul. Berliner Nina does not lack in this area despite the unashamedly poppy approach in this new single. 'We Are The Wild Ones' fuses Ladyhawke, Goldfrapp, Mary At Midnight, Bat For Lashes and then delivers with the sass of Robyn and the whimsy of a hundred 80s pop ballads. The single also includes the slightly punchier and more 'Now That's What I Call Music' friendly 'Waste Of Love' that has a smidge of Lana Del Rey about it. Nina is not breaking down any huge artistic boundaries here but I'm glad she's creating top quality pop music with soul and heart. And she pisses all over Ke$ha.

More information: http://www.ninamusic.co.uk/

Live Dates:


3rd December - The Good Ship, London

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

THE WHARVES / THE ROSY CRUCIFIXION - SPLIT ALBUM REVIEW

The Wharves / The Rosy Crucifixion - Split Album (Soft Power Records) 
The Wharves

Release Date: 25th November 2013

Two bands, one album and twelve songs for your delectation today. First up, London trio The Wharves bring us haunting/haunted all girl vocal harmonies with 'Thick Syrup' followed by the Monster Mash meets B52s via the Bangles fun of 'Unhand Me'. The running theme with these songs is already apparent in the throbbing, poppy basslines and wailing but melodic vocal harmonies that bring to mind the likes of the Nature Set and September Girls. 'Motif' has a dramatic and macabre feel to it whilst 'Woodchip' channels Kate Pierson in triplicate which is, well, wondrous. The impish delights of 'Past Life 1887' play out over the briefest of moments before giving way to the prog meets punk tendencies of 'Deepwater Horizons' which is like the daughters of Led Zeppelin having a go at a bit of Queen. Appealing in a world of ways.

The Rosy Crucifixion
A slight shift in styles sees us pop in on the world of The Rosy Crucifixtion, an intriguingly named bunch from Glasgow. The waspish openings of 'Do You Right' coupled with the Buddy Holly-esque drum sounds and slick yet frail vocals suggest there is something darkly powerful on offer here. That is a suggestion that is brought to fruition by the dual bass and guitar riff of 'Lose Yourself' which comes steaming in like steam train picking up pace all the way along. The slinky, sexy bass that introduces 'Sinners' is like a beautifully curved woman walking in to a room with a wink to all the boys and a flash of thigh as she approaches the bar to order a double bourbon, straight up - sexy but no messing. 'Dr Zaiden' (no, me neither) has a Tarantino meets Dick Dale feel to it which is just fine by me while 'Hot In My Head' is Nancy Sinatra gone bad. Real bad. Finishing up with the sonic assault of 'Night Of The Wailers', The Rosy Crucifixion are a band that match style with substance perfectly and then smother it with a thick layer of distortion which makes it extra tasty.

More information:



Tuesday, 12 November 2013

ROBIN PAHLMAN - EP REVIEW

Robin Pahlman - Robin Pahlman EP (Monkey Records) 
Robin Pahlman - Robin Pahlman EP

Release Date: 15th November 2013

Here's an odd one for you. Finnish fella Robin Pahlman used to be a member of Agent Kooper but a while back he eschewed the electric guitar, adopted the acoustic version and relocated to Seattle, WA to write gentle, wistful folk songs. This EP represents a new start for Pahlman and it's a privilege to be able to get in on the ground floor with this music. Opening with 'Miss Lonelyhearts', Pahlman has a Royksoppian (it's a word, get over it) quality despite his instrumentation being largely acoustic guitar, banjo and muted horns. Pahlman's voice is smooth, almost chewy and, if t'were a food, t'would be a dense caramel - t'is that good. 'Ghosts' has an oddly upbeat beginning for a song about dead folk but the sparse, expansive sounds that Pahlman creates with simple instrumentation are nothing short of enthralling. Third track 'Waves' is potentially named after my local pub but in all likelihood it's probably related the motion of the ocean and the music has a gentle but persistent rhythm that mirrors the rolling seas beautifully.

Disturbingly, straight after a song called 'Waves' comes a song called 'Man Over Board' - there's that famously dark Finnish humour. Once again, Pahlman creates space and distance with minimal instrumentation whilst creating an aura that makes you want to stare out to sea and think of all the mermaids that never learned to swim (seriously, the sea bed must be littered with them). Finishing up with 'Dreams In The Headlights' suggest perhaps a track too far for this EP as it's an overtly middle of the road affair that does nothing for my senses but an 80% hit rate on an EP is good enough for me and so consider me a fan of the Finn.


Live Dates:

16th November - Black Horse Inn, Vienna
18th November - Krone, Darmstadt, Germany
19th November - POP IN, Paris
20th November - Le Sombrero Cafe, Amiens, France
21st November - LR6, Brussels
23rd November - Barrock, Maastricht
24th November - Hannekes Boom, Amsterdam
26th November - House Show, Leverkusen
27th November - KINGKONGCLUB, Berlin

28th November - Laika, Berlin

THE DIRTY NIL - SINGLE REVIEW

The Dirty Nil - Nicotine 
The Dirty Nil - Nicotine

What has a sub two minute punk-rock'n'roll tune fuelled with gasoline, cigarettes and testosterone got in common with an extra dimensional being going on a Jeremy Kyle style TV show because she has a possessive boyfriend?  No, these are not the dreams I had after eating a whole wheel of Brie washed down with a bottle of mouthwash. In fact, these are the two artistic representations of the new single 'Nicotine' by Canadian power rock trio The Dirty Nil. The rumbly, rattly nature of this track is charming in its own way but it's the high-octane approach to Status Quo riffing that makes this track so highly addictive. That, and the fact that you can listen to it at least five times in ten minutes which is one of the best things you can do five times in ten minutes without risking serious dehydration. And chafing.


Monday, 11 November 2013

PAROV STELAR - ALBUM REVIEW

Parov Stelar - The Art Of Sampling (Dramatico/Etage Noir) 
Parov Stelar - The Art Of Sampling

Release Date: 4th November 2013

Austrian DJ Parov Stelar is, for my money, a bit of an underground hero waiting to hit the big time. This collection, 'The Art Of Sampling', fuses a whole range of styles to create a sound that would sit perfectly in a lively, cool city bar where people want to live the high life in their finest clothes and rub noses with the beautiful people. I have already given my thoughts on the opening track in another review but needless to say I still think 'Keep On Dancing (feat. Marvin Gaye)' is an amazing tune and worthy of more outings on our airwaves. 'Josephine (feat. Anduze)' is a jazzy, swinging tune and is the first glimpse we get of Stelar's penchant for reed instruments that feature heavily throughout the album. The soulful, Nina Simone-esque tones of 'Heaven's Radio (feat. Y'akoto)' follow on sounding for all the world like the tune Moby, Laura Mvula and Ceelo Green would come up with given enough hooch and woes. But it's the infectious stomp of 'She Ain't Got No Money (feat Lukas Graham)' that is the next single in the making if you ask me. Fusing the blues swing of Aloe Black and answering the lyrical posturing of Kanye West's 'Gold Digger', Stelar has created something of a potential smash and quite an addictive one it is too.

The piano riff on 'All Night' soon gives way to a funked up dance romp that has an appeal that I can't put my finger on. Stelar has an ability to put things together that shouldn't work but he makes them work and that is a genuine talent (seriously, the only combination I've ever created that worked was Peanut Butter and Bovril. Genuinely. Try it). However, there is a down side. Every now again, Stelar falls of the taste beam on to the europop crash matt. 'Catgroove' is fun but reminds of that infernal 90s hit 'Doop' and 'The Phantom (1930 Version)' is 'Doop' mixed with DJ Otzi....after one too many espressos. And don't even get me started on the Edith Piaf meets Flat Eric nutsiness that is 'Libella Swing'. 'The Mojo Radio Gang (Radio Version)' goes slightly easier on the Clarinet and Charleston combo, instead using a bitchin' horn riff and some well placed Piano. After a brief moment where he thinks he's Daft Punk on 'Love Remix', Stelar gets sexy, in a morbid kind of way, on 'Milla's Dream' which is full of smoky sax, tinkly keys and sweeping strings as well as some scratchy old vocals from, undoubtedly, some sturdy French chanteuse.

In to the home straight with the piano lead funk of 'Matilda' followed by 'Shine (feat. Lilja Bloom)' which sounds like the incidental music from some Scandinavian cop show produced by Portishead. Finishing up with 'Jimmy's Gang (Radio Edit)', Stelar is once again obsessed with the swing era which, by this point, is getting a little tiresome. However, there are so many genuinely amazing tracks on this album that you can forgive the man a bit of misguided obsession. I'm going to be a bit bold and say that this is better than the over hyped offering by Daft Punk this year and many won't agree but, hey, if you don't agree then get your own blog. This is my house and in my house we dance around the kitchen to Parov Stelar. If you don't like it you know where the door is...

More information: http://www.parovstelar.com/


Sunday, 10 November 2013

POST-APE - SINGLE REVIEW

Post-ape - The World Is Over 
Post-Ape - The World Is Over

Release Date: 2nd December 2013

The first time I came across London Producer Post-Ape, it was while watching a music video of his where a willing young lady has buckets of varying fluids poured all over her head. No such video accompanies 'The World Is Over' but the song itself conjures enough images of its own so maybe that's a good thing. The squelchy, sinister synths are those you would expect to hear as the background music in the cloakroom area of Satan's private member's club. In fact, the whole song is slightly woozy, disjointed and off kilter which gives you the sensation of being at odds with the world, jarred with reality and pushing against everything that's comfortable. This is not easy going, fun loving party music but it certainly creates an aura which is both frightening and enticing in equal measure. A delightful combination.


THE RIFLES - SINGLE REVIEW

The Rifles - Minute Mile (Cooking Vinyl Records) 
The Rifles - Minute Mile

Release Date: 11th November 2013

Indie-pop-rockers The Rifles hail from London town and are armed with some fine 'n' dandy melodies with which to knock your socks off. 'Minute Mile' is a bright, sparky and bouncy mug of indie-pop tea that has got at least three lumps in it and good splash of milk. It hits the spot and is refreshing in a lot of ways but I made the mistake of reading that the Times described the Rifles as "life affirming pop" and I think that's taking it a little far. As good as 'Minute Mile' is, I would suggest the music journalists at the Times need to get out more or expand on their horizons if their life has been affirmed by the chirpy, cheeky, fun indie shenanigans of the Rifles.

More Information: http://www.therifles.net/

Live Dates:

15th November - The Forum, London
18th November - Institute Library, Birmingham
19th November - The Leadmill, Sheffield
21st November - Academy 2, Manchester

30th November - Cockpit, Leeds

Friday, 8 November 2013

HELLA BETTER DANCER - SINGLE REVIEW

Hella Better Dancer - Sleeptalking (Beautiful Strange) 
Hella Better Dancer - Sleeptalking

Release Date: 11th November 2013

OK, it's prediction time. I'm going to go out on an admittedly fairly sturdy limb to say that girl-boy quartet Hella Better Dancer have a shot at reaching indie notoriety. I'm not talking about headlining Glastonbury but definitely a 6Music session and maybe an NME tour. On the basis of this single you see, these guys have got that haunting indie sound that the XX and Foals have made so popular, they've got the innocent swagger of bands like Best Coast and the luxurious vocals of a Lana Del Ray. Put that altogether and indie purists everywhere will be falling over their vinyl collections to catch a glimpse of these upstarts......reading all that back sounds terribly dismissive but I actually do like 'Sleeptalking'. My only concern would be that these guys have almost ticked too many musical boxes and spread themselves too thinly. It's a tasty spread nonetheless.


Live Dates:


14th November - The Green Door Store, Brighton (w/Torres)

WE THREE AND THE DEATH RATTLE - ALLIGATORS

We Three And The Death Rattle - Alligators (Pawpurr Records) 
We Three And The Death Rattle - Alligators

Release Date: 25th November 2013

This song contains the line "L is for lunar crater, M is for mashed potato". For this reason alone I absolutely love 'Alligators' but there are so many reasons to fall in love with this latest offering from trio We Three and the Death Rattle. You could love them because they are a beautiful mix of Boss Hogg, Sleigh Bells, the White Stripes and Duke Spirit. You could love them because this single is just so relaxed it's barely even bothering to be a song whilst simultaneously being a relentlessly sultry blues stomp full of organ blasts and snarling vocals. Or you could love them because We Three And The Death Rattle look like a punk rock version of N-Dubz. Whatever your reason, you should, at the very least, cop off with this single.


VERONICA BAIRD- ALBUM REVIEW

Veronica Baird - I Am 
Veronica Baird - I Am

Well, this is a new prospect for me. New but not entirely unexpected. You see, the beguiling voice of Veronica has been on my radar for a while and this album has been a while in the making but this is not necessarily intended as a showcase of her performing abilities. No, what our Irish friend intends to do with 'I Am' is use it as a calling card for publishers to hear her songs and cherry pick the best from within the album. This is a shame for two reasons; Firstly, Veronica has a beautiful and versatile voice that we should all welcome in to our lives and secondly it's going to be bloody hard for any half decent music publisher to distinguish one gem from another on this album! Nevertheless, we can enjoy this music now so let's do just that...

Infectious is a word that can get over used at times but I think 'Sunflowers' qualifies as the wordless vocal melody at the very beginning stuck in my head for a good 48 hours and the song itself is a lovely, floaty summer pop song that can't help but put a spring in your step. But, as if to make a point, 'I'm Fine' is a much darker, moodier piece that has its roots in the rock world as choppy guitars and pounding drums push the song forward at a determined pace. By the time we get to track three, 'Always', and Veronica's breathy tones drift out over a lazily plucked acoustic melody, it's clearly apparent that this is a particularly diverse collection of songs that not only showcase her song writing abilities but also her stunning voice. 'New Beginnings' is a pimped out version of a single that was released a while back and while the same quality song still lies underneath the surface, there is a new, sexy sheen on top that you could see becoming a huge crossover pop-rock hit for someone with enough edge (I'm thinking Pink off the top of my head). 'I'm In Love' does what it says on the tin and has another one of those cursedly infectious vocal melodies in the chorus that just won't leave my ears - if I didn't know any better I'd swear it was some sort of witchcraft.

On 'Flying The Distance', Veronica does that thing that Katy Perry seems so fond of where she starts off all quiet and calm before building the song up to a nicely crafted crescendo - not a bad effort but the weakest track on the album for me as it never quite delivers on what it promises. We're back to the rockier side of things on 'I Could Never' which is almost a rock power ballad about undying love but has just too much kick to it to be classed as a ballad - no bad thing. 'Speechless' is a Tori Amos style piano lead tune full of delicacy and fragility and, whoever picks this one up, needs to do a video of the singer walking through a snowy park and looking wistful as the sun reflects off the melting ice. For the last two tracks we have 'Surrender', a dark and brooding piece of dramatic music that could easily be a Britney smash if they whacked a load of vocoder on her voice (I really hope that doesn't happen), followed by 'Can I Take You There'. Now this last track is one that could definitely be a contender for a hit record but, and this is where I struggle with this album, I think it could only be properly done by Veronica herself. So much of the lyrical content seems to come from a very personal place and I'm just not sure anyone else could do the words justice or approach the vocal versatility displayed across these ten tracks. There's only one thing for it; we're all going to have to make the pilgrimage to Ireland to hear this stuff live before any of it gets tampered with by Will.I.Am (no offence if you're related Veronica.I.Am.....see what I did there?).

More information: http://www.veronicabaird.com/

Live Dates:

9th November - Everyman Theatre, Cork 

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

JAMIE LENMAN - ALBUM REVIEW

Jamie Lenman - Muscle Memory (Xtra Mile Recordings) 
Jamie Lenman - Muscle Memory

Release Date: 11th November 2013

Anticipation's a bitch ain't it? Since I discovered the band Reuben around the time their last album proper was released, I've been in love with the music that comes out of the brain of one Jamie Lenman. So, when I heard that there was a double album of his material coming out I literally couldn't wait to hear it. Lenman, to me, is special because he is capable of writing the most tender, sweet, heart rending ballad that can make this grown man cry but at the flick of a wrist can churn out the most ear-bleedingly visceral songs fuelled by hate, malice and utter despair with the modern world. He might not be the happiest chap around but happy isn't always what I'm looking for in my music and when it comes to the un-happy then Lenman is the way to go.

Just to be clear from the get-go, Muscle Memory is a double album of songs that is split in to the two halves of Lenman's personality; anger vs observational melancholy. There is a smack around the face triumvirate of 'The Six Fingered Hand', 'Fizzy Blood' and 'No News Is Good News' to kick things off with relentless guitars, mostly incomprehensible screaming and rapid fire drumming. By the time you reach 'One Of My Eyes Is A Clock' and 'Shower Of Scorn' you'll either have switched off completely or you'll be screaming at your own face in the mirror but to switch off now would be a mistake as those unmistakable Lenman melodies and lyrical subtleties are starting to show through. The grinding riff of 'A Terrible Feeling' pounds and head butts the listener until it makes way for the brilliantly title 'The Fuck Of It All' more relaxed take on anger and bitterness. Maintaining a fabulous track record of song titles, 'All The Things You Hate About Me, I Hate Them Too' is up next followed by the more subtle 'Gary, Indiana' which has a certain stoner rock feel to it until the doom laden vocals kick in. The groovy bassline that opens 'A Plague On Both Your Houses' along with the loose drums is probably the moment that is most reminiscent of Reuben's material and signals the shift from extreme aggression in to a more considered approach to the music on the rest of the album. It is also one of my favourite songs on the album with its siren like guitars and mix of screamo and almost rap-like patter at times. 'Muscle' finished off the heavier side of this album with the death throes of a beast accepting the anger in its life as part of who it is and becoming at one with itself.

Musical genius and dapper gent. Gentius. 
It's the second half of this album that sees Lenman really stretching out though as he tries on a variety of musical styles and is that annoying kind of bastard that suits every hat he puts on. Opening with the gentle ukulele of 'Shotgun House' we find our hero in wistful, historical mood - in complete contrast to the earlier tracks. 'I Ain't Your Boy' is a soft shoe shuffle of a song that would have a crowd of lighters held aloft at most rock shows before giving way to the soft and beautiful duet of 'It's Hard To Be A Gentleman'. The muted Banjo of 'For God's Sake', coupled with the New Orleans shuffling percussion and mumbled lyrics creates an aura in which you can almost hear the crackle of bonfires and the click of restless crickets. 'Little Lives' is another musically gentle tune but, as always, the lyrics pack a punch even if the music is more subdued. There's nothing subdued about 'If You Have To Ask You'll Never Know' which is a rousing bluegrass stomp that could easily sit on any album by label mates Crazy Arm or Frank Turner and it basically pisses all over the bonfire that Mumford lot built. Half of the recent single and stand out track, 'Pretty Please', is just a joyous song in every sense as Lenman puts on his best spats, waxes his moustache and takes the idea of our constant need for validation in everything we do for a spin around a dimly lit dance floor. This is the kind of song that used to get people excited about Ben Folds Five such is the excellent melody, pithy lyrical content and complete disregard for anything remotely approaching what might be considered 'cool'.

Next up is the persistent chug of 'A Quiet Understanding', a song that so beautifully sums up the feeling of knowing that your girlfriend's best male friend really fancies her and she doesn't realise it. Jealousy? Perhaps. Experience? Fo sho. Now, prepare yourself for this next track. The title is 'Saturday Night' but the opening line, set against a lone acoustic strum, is "My old man died on a Saturday night, I watched as he just stopped breathing'. I don't know if this is a true story but I don't think the crackle of emotion or hint of tears would be so evident in this song if this was an imagined scenario. - it's heartbreakingly beautiful in its simplicity. To bring you back from the edge of tears is the a cappella chain gang chant of 'A Day In The Life' where, accompanied only by the rhythmic stomp of boots, a group of male voices sing a world weary melody and tell the story of how the vast majority of us wage slaves spend our days. To finish up the collection is the banjo twang of 'Memory' that sees Lenman again in reminiscent mood as the song builds in to a reluctant epic. There are tour dates but these are reported to be the first and last for this album and although disappointing that somehow seems fitting. 'Muscle Memory', to my ears, sounds like someone collecting their thoughts and emotions from the past few years and putting down a record of it. It wouldn't surprise me if next year Lenman came back with a whole new album, either solo or with a band, but one thing is for sure; the genius and the mischievous sparkle are still very much there. Bravo, sir. Bravo.

More information: http://www.jamielenman.com/

Live Dates:
10th November - Banquet Records, Kingston-Upon-Thames
4th December - Green Door Store, Brighton
5th December - Temple, Birmingham
6th December - King Tuts, Glasgow
7th December - Night & Day, Manchester
8th December - Thekla, Bristol
9th December - Garage, London

10th December - Garage, London