Sunday, 22 December 2013

DANIEL WILSON - SINGLE REVIEW

Daniel Wilson - Will You (Zap Records) 
Daniel Wilson - Will You

Some new soulful pop straight outta Detroit for you now. There's more to come in 2014 from Daniel Wilson but 'Will You' is an outstanding opening salvo from this beautifully voiced young man. Blending tenderness and fragility with a sense of braveness and wide-eyed hope is a delicate blend to achieve in a song but Wilson does it superbly. This man's will be all over BBC 6Music next year and popping up on a Jools Holland show if there's any justice because here we have a talent so pure, so unadulterated and so utterly heavenly that everyone will want a piece. 'Will You' is the perfect vehicle to show off Wilson's pipes with minimalist keyboards and finger clicks underneath layer upon layer of that voice. Simple yet stunning.


PLYMOUTH FURY - ALBUM REVIEW

Plymouth Fury - Vaudeville 
Plymouth Fury - Vaudeville

I'll confess, my main for wanting to review this album is that I grew up in and now work in Plymouth (the original Plymouth, not that American copyist version. I mean, who spends all that time trying to get away from somewhere and then gets to a new place only to name it after the place you spent so long trying to leave?!?). Anyway, when I saw the name Plymouth Fury I thought, "that sounds like a cool gang I should have been in or at least the name of an Ice Hockey team" but, instead, Plymouth Fury is actually the name of a huge sounding and hard rocking trio from Paris. It's also a car.

Now, normally I only write about new music and, as this album has been out for a year then it shouldn't really qualify but it's a bit special so I'm making an exception because it's my blog and I can. So there. 'Baiona De Noche' opens the album with a Rage Against The Machine meets Led Zep sized riff and loose, rockin' drums just power through the shouted vocals of Will and Worzo. However, it's 'The Basement' that I think has the most potential to be a crossover smash with pendulous guitars, staccato hand claps and a Franz Ferdinand swagger that would melt the heart of many an indie girl and boy. Nevertheless, rock is what Plymouth Fury came to do and rock is exactly what they do on 'Ajo y Agua', reminding me an awful lot of the sadly missed Belgian band Les Anges. Now, I'm a big fan of sexy song title and, for me, 'Maelstrom Libido' is a very strong contender for the best of the year - it'd make a great t-shirt wouldn't it? I'd buy it.

Slowing things down a bit but with no loss of intensity, 'I Love You Leigh' is a Glasvegas vs Black Rebel Motorcycle Club shaped ballad with heavenly production qualities. The 50s swagger and lip-curl of 'Tati' would sit perfectly on any recent Queens of the Stoneage or Arctic Monkeys album while 'Black Ravines' (another great song title) has a more Black Keys minimalism to it. Ending up with 'The Snake', Plymouth Fury go for full on rock atmospherics as they spend a full forty seconds building up the intro and by the time they reach their inevitable climax, there is a sense that you've just been introduced to the spirit of rock'n'roll. No plans to venture to the UK at the moment, sadly, but when they do I'll be starting a petition to get them to play in Plymouth - it only seems right. (Oh, and check out the cover art closely - it's like Satan's own suburban pool party).


Listen/Download Here: http://www.plymouthfury.fr/

Live Dates:
4th January - Le Buzz, Paris
22nd January - La Taverne Elektrik, Amiens
23rd January - Extra Blues Bar, Bielefeld
24th January - Gasolina, Waregem
25th January - Classic Rock Bar, Brussels
9th May - Subway To Peter, Chemnitz

10th May - Slow Club, Freiburg

THE ALMIGHTY RHOMBUS - ALBUM REVIEW

The Almighty Rhombus - Lucid Living (Cosmic Dave's Record Factory) 
The Almighty Rhombus - Lucid Living

Firstly, if you're here because you fell for my line about Alanis then I must apologise. This is nothing like Alanis. I was just being naughty. Secondly, you should stick around, though, if you like an bit of quirkiness and expansiveness to your music. You do? Wonderful. Then let's dive right on in......

The Almighty Rhombus is an awesome name for a band, I think we can all agree on that, so they've set the bar pretty high for themselves from the get-go. Nevertheless, the indie-disco speed shuffle of 'Down South' and strung out guitars of 'Blank' are a strong start. We're talking Vampire Weekend, We Are Scientists, Weezer and Belle & Sebastian with a little European electro disco influence thrown in for good measure. The visceral, nightmarish sounds of 'House Burns Down' is like something from a 70s B-Movie soundtrack while 'Butane Brain' is a lot more lilting and positive than the title suggests with elements of Cake sneaking through in the key and tempo changes. If you're a fan of organs, however, then you should prepare yourself for 'Thunderstorms' which is so twee you might as well take it to a Scottish village and buy it tea in a small cafe before a walk around the cobbled streets. 'Flourescent', however, is the tune where the quintet take things to a higher level of bat-shit crazy with more ideas than Kanye's got personality flaws and a riff the size of a monster-truck tyre.

There is a certain 80s swagger about 'Summer Dreams' that requires a soft-top Cadillac to make the most of it but, conversely, 'Red Eye' sounds distinctly Scottish in origin to me with its handclaps, jangly guitars and Edwyn Collins fuzzy guitars. The clash of fuzzy, scuzzy garage rock with tight, perfectly formed indie-pop tunes is the niche that The Almighty Rhombus are carving for themselves and it is a lovely niche at that. 'Vacation' has cavernous feel to it which lends the tune a retro authenticity I wholeheartedly approve. Meanwhile, over on 'No I Won't' the chugging guitars and dreamy vocals draw you in until you're surrounded by the luxurious keys of Clayton Drake (what a name?!?). Like a complimentary mint at the end of a five course meal, 'Standoff' is reassuringly light and refreshingly breezy with its jaunty piano work - the perfect way to finish of such a meaty, complex and thoughtful meal. I mean album. Sorry Alanis fans.



Live Dates:

28th February - The Big Basement Show, Sudbury, Ontario 

Saturday, 21 December 2013

THE MEDICINE HAT - ALBUM REVIEW

The Medicine Hat - Old Bones (Porcelain Records) 
The Medicine Hate - Old Bones

More new music from Canada as The Medicine Hat have produced the audio version of that couple that we all know that make us want to shout "get a room" at their smug, saliva covered faces. Y'see, Toronto's The Medicine Hat are formed around the love of Nabi Loney and Tyler Bersche which will either make this a passionate and brightly burning album or an absolute slush fest of the most unbearable kind. For starters is the Kate Bush singing with Hot Hot Heat treat of 'All These Eyes' followed by the organ driven delight of title track 'Old Bones'. So far so good, this is a genuine  and heartfelt love with the fragility and tenderness of Feist mixed with the steely resilience of Tanya Donnelly. The soft shoe shuffle of 'Bodies' is dreamy and romantic which is largely fine but it flirts dangerously with the Dawson's Creek soundtrack style that would be a huge letdown.

The pulsating accordion at the start of 'Going' is pure Arcade Fire in their early days while 'Spits Out The Light' has a delightful, lilting charm to it that could only be Canadian or, at a push, Scandinavian in origin. It is this innocence that often comes with pure, unconditional love that runs like a vein throughout this album and ties all the songs together beautifully. 'Ships', for example, has a certain swagger and sassiness about it but that purity and innocence is still there like words through a piece of seaside rock. 'Moths' is a woozy, late night piece of smoky romance which is soon blown away by the restless organ and keys work on 'Statues'. Finishing up with 'Children's Song' is the only way this album could have gone as we experience the full, Polyphonic Spree style freak out abilities of the Medicine Hat and their wondrous range of genres, sounds and ideas. If these ever do get a room then I would like to be in that room too. But not in a creepy, voyeuristic way. Hmmm, this analogy is seeming increasingly ill-advised.


More information: http://themedicinehat.com/

SOLANDER - SINGLE REVIEW

Solander - All Opportunities (A Tendervision Recording) 
Solander - All Opportunities

What better way to start a day with a hangover than by listening to some mellow and beautiful Swedish folk-pop? Seriously. Malmo duo Solander are purveyors of dreamy, laid back tunes like new single 'All Opportunities' that bobs along like a lazy walk through a cornfield on a warm summer's day on the way to nowhere in particular. Elements of Sigur Ros, Royksopp and Jose Gonzalez pervade as well as a sense that this is the music someone like Jim Noir might make in his more reflective twilight years. The overwhelming mood is one of peace and tranquility with a pinch of melancholy which is a pretty tasty soup in my book. My book of soup.


Wednesday, 18 December 2013

CIRCLE OF REASON - FREE DOWNLOAD REVIEW

Circle of Reason - Annie May (free download) 
Circle Of Reason - Annie May (from Yesterday Already)

Yum Yum Yum. Who's ready for a big tasty slab of grunge cake?  I am. This free taster of the forthcoming EP from Southampton's Circle Reason is a slow starter that drifts melodically along with beautiful, almost Hawaiian guitar harmonics punctuating the morning after a heavy night before vibe of 'Annie May'. But then, just when you've mellowed in to their world, the feds coming flying in through the window following a tip off from a neighbour about suspicious smelling smoke. Huge Soundgarden sized riffs and pounding, pummelling come crashing in to this song with Kurt Cobain-esque vocals which makes me yearn for the 90s and an era when MTV showed actual music videos (don't even get me started on MTV. Seriously, don't). Bottom line, on this evidence the EP should be pretty awesome.



Live Dates:
19th December - Facebar, Reading
10th January - Hell Fire Club, Redhill
16th January - Asylum, Chelmsford
12th May - Buskers Bar, Eastbourne
17th May - The Rockden, Hatfield

26th July - The Rockden, Hatfield

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

DENIAL TWIST - EP REVIEW

Denial Twist - Get In Line EP 
Denial Twist - Get In Line EP

This Ipswich/Colchester trio remind me of exactly why I started a band and what I thought was cool when  I was in a band. Their take on indie-garage-rock music may not be the most sophisticated but Denial Twist more than make up for that in riffage. Opener 'Itch' has an 'American Idiot' era Greenday riff about it and the vocal snarl of a wannabe Mick Jagger who has spent too much time listening to American 80s rock bands. 'Eve' is a slightly mellower affair with acoustic strumming and sensitive but pained lyrics that come straight out of the Extreme playbook. The Red Hot Chili Peppers style opening to 'Little Bitch' soon gives way to Buckcherry riffs and a certain crotch thrusting sexual aggressiveness that you don't expect to see in Ipswich all that often. The final and intriguingly titled '05.21' (FYI, it's 04.06 long) is the pick of the bunch for me as it opens with leg shaking vocals, earth trembling bass and the spirit of the as yet undead White Stripes. By the time the drums kick in, the black leather and nail polish is seeping out of the speakers and you can't deny their attitude is in exactly the right place. I can't pretend that this is my favourite new band of the year but I will defend to the death their right to rock out with big riffs, attitude heavy vocals and the perfect mix of sexuality and aggression.


Listen/Download for free here: http://denialtwist.bandcamp.com/

Live Dates:
20th December - The White Horse, Ipswich
31st December - Hole In The Wall, Colchester
24th January - The White Horse, Sudbury
16th February - The Eight Bells, Hadleigh
21st March - The Eight Bells, Hadleigh

3rd April - The Thomas Wolsey, Ipswich

MALKA - DEMO REVIEW

Malka - Demos 
Malka - Demos

New York quartet Malka describe their music as Dream Pop which isn't a million miles away from the sound they make but I have to say the opening track, 'Mirame', sounds more like a French version of Simple Minds as produced by Coldplay in preparation for the Moldovan entry in to the Eurovision Song contest. The second of these two demo tracks, 'Mientras se Respira', has a bit more bite to it but it still feels and sounds like U2 having a go at shoegaze and playing at the end of a long, empty tunnel. I can't imagine having a great night out at a Malka gig but in terms of quality, 80s inspired, expansive indie-pop then Malka are your men.

More information: www.malkanyc.com  


Live Dates:

31st January - Pianos, NY

Monday, 16 December 2013

UNWAVE - EP REVIEW

Unwave - Exhale EP 
Unwave - Exhale EP

More great new music from Leeds now as post-rock trio Unwave have a snarling, scratching EP for your ears - be warned, it might make your ears bleed though. In a good way. Reassuringly, opening track 'Flicker' starts off with an At The Drive-In sized riff and continues with the attitude of a confused, disorientated but excited Golden Retriever. 'FPS' has a more mellow feel to it with deep, low slung riffs playing out underneath Cable-esque vocals and atop bone rattling drums. Just when you think 'Continuation Off Course' is going to be a slow-burning, lighter waving ballad, it turns in to an altogether darker, more primal piece of music that lasts for the best part of 7 minutes and takes more twists and turns than a night out with your mates that starts out as a couple of pints and ends up with you waking up in a disused theme park, naked in the rollercoaster. The last of the four tracks on this EP, 'Sixtieht Mile', has a delicate feel to it in a Sebadoh kind of way as the hypnotic guitar riff builds oh-so-slowly from a Sunday morning, post binge slumber before emerging, chrysalis-like in to a jagged edged, bad-ass butterfly. Unwave are the kind of band I like to listen to for hours in the wee smalls when the lights are low and the darkness is all encompassing.


THE DIAMOND AGE - DEMO REVIEW

The Diamond Age - Demo 
The Diamond Age - Demo

This is pretty much brand new stuff people. I'm talking hot off the presses, cellophane wrapped, price tag still on and covered in that new car smell. Southampton duo The Diamond Age have minimal buzz and seemingly not much of a following but what they do have is a picture of a bearded man water skiing and a serious sense of melody. The first of these two tracks, 'Andrew's An Android', has a smattering of Vampire Weekend and early Bombay Bicycle Club about it to begin with but by the end of the tune it has turned in to a Hot Chip vs LCD Soundsystem duel of epic disco proportions with Transformer refereeing. 'Yesterday Was' is a more straight down the line indie guitar romp with a late 80s feel to it channelling the Style Council and Squeeze but the freshness and energy is delightfully refreshing in the cynical, too cool for school musical world that exists these days. They won't be underground for long folks so catch a whiff while there's room for your nose at the trough.  



TITANICS - SINGLE REVIEW

Titanics - Low Frames 
Titanics - Low Frames

New York duo Titanics have sent me a little love letter (alright, email) from across the pond and it made it here without hitting any icebergs (too soon?). The two tracks that make up this single have a sense of romance about them and are full of wistful, summer evenings spent with good friends and no worries. 'Low Frames' has a pulsing bass line and spacious, almost distant vocals the drift on the sea breeze to your friends dad's rowing boat that you probably should be out in but who cares, you're only young once, right? Later that same night, when the candles are lit and the warm blankets are out, 'YOU & ZEAL' comes on to soundtrack that moment when you stare in to the deep, brown eyes of the girl you've known for years as your friend only to realise she's probably the one you want to spend the rest of your life with. Or at least until your midlife crisis. It also has some wicked bird noises and muted female spoken word, a la the Orb's 'Little Fluffy Clouds'. It's dream sequence stuff and it's pretty damn gorgeous. I love you too Titanics.


Live Dates:

29th December - TT the Bear's Place, Cambridge MA

14th February - Machines With Magnets, Pawtucket RI

Thursday, 12 December 2013

VAST ROBOT ARMIES - ALBUM REVIEW

Vast Robot Armies - Goodnight Myopia 
Vast Robot Armies - Goodnight Myopia

Seriously? More stuff from Canada? What's going on over there? It's like a musical revolution. In the snow. Vast Robot Armies is the studio name of one Jason Thomson and 'Goodnight Myopia' is a collection of expansive indie tunes that combines alot of the things I loved about the 90s with some more forward thinking. The End. Oh, what? You want more? Sheesh. Well the album opens up with 'For What It's Worth', a pounding, stomping indie tune that is soon overwhelmed by the sweeping, and Elbow-esque delights of 'The Cost Of Doing Business'. The subdued beginnings of '6 Year Vignettes' soon give way to a proper indie-pop slow dance, the kind Feeder used specailise in back in the day. 'Old Hat' is where things start to get going though as the urgency of the tubthumping and jittery, Jam-esque guitars bring the album to life in a vibrant, essential style.

Apart from potentially being a very rude anagram, 'Bullish One Hitters' is like a Duran Duran meets Gary Numan song that's been created for a sparse, bleak Bond film that hasn't been made yet. There's even some awesome use of pitch bend which there just isn't enough of these days. 'Heads' is a fairly non-descript wash of indie guitars but 'Grey Area Living' is a far more interesting affair with sinister, haunting pianos being smashed in to a thousand tiny pieces by a scuzzy bass line and in-yer-face drums and vocals that are delivered through teeth clenched in frustration. 'We Go Where We Know' has an early U2 feel about it as the drums and guitars jostle for position and attention on the record. Finishing up with a tune called 'Epic' is always going to be a brave move but the brooding, menacing mood builds and builds until a sense of frustration is released and dissipates in to the cool, Canadian night air. And you know the best thing about this album? It's free if you want it to be. Give it a listen first though, you might just decide it's worth a few bucks.


Wednesday, 11 December 2013

MANOU - SINGLE REVIEW

Manou - Sadie 
Manou - Sadie

Hipster Pop. Is that a genre? It is now. Teenage chanteuse Manou is a half-German, half-English (half-schnitzel, half-banger - if you will) and entirely enthralling as a prospect. 'Sadie' is an early salvo from the songstress which is swimming in attitude, cool and a pop sensibility that is rare these days. Manou brings to mind sonic images of early Sugababes mixed with Azalea Banks all played out in a Hoxton backroom bar with hipsters lounging around sipping on obscure East European lagers. There is an 80s undercurrent to the melodies but the production qualities are bang up to date which presents an intriguing juxtaposition and makes Manou an exciting proposition.


LYLA FOY - SINGLE REVIEW

Lyla Foy - Easy/Head Down (Sub Pop) 
Lyla Foy - Easy/Head Down

Unless there is a huge coincidence in the world of names, and I seriously doubt there is, Lyla Foy once put a cigarette out in a decorative fire place that adorned my tiny living room in Shepherds Bush. After that, our paths have not crossed until a 24 hour period this week where I heard her name on Steve Lamacq's BBC 6Music show and then her new single appeared in my inbox. Small world, huh? The first of these two tracks 'Easy' is a menacing and expansive tune with pounding drums and a sense of something lurking within the woods. Watching. Waiting. However, 'Head Down' is the more unique tune in my opinion with a laid back bass line, an even more laid back vocal and, if you listen really closely, you can hear the fresh breeze blowing of the west coast of America on a lazy, sunny Sunday morning. There is a beautiful sense of freedom and sense about 'Head Down' that I don't think I've heard in a tune since the Beach Boys were writing their odes to coastal living. All in all, these are two tasty, mouth watering treats that suggest the main course (aka the album) is going to be a hearty treat.



Monday, 9 December 2013

ABBY - SINGLE REVIEW

Abby - Monsters (Universal)
Abby - Monsters

Imagine, if you will, early Depeche Mode being remixed by Lemon Jelly and using Jonsi as a guest vocalist. Then picture them all collaborating on the soundtrack to a beautifully short animation about a girl who finds herself waking up in a world inhabited only by the devil's own Pokemon collection. Finally, stretch that creative mind a little further to allow yourself to believe that all of this will be awesome and what you have just created, inside your tiny mind, is the reality that has been achieved by Berliners Abby with their new single 'Monsters'. Normally I'd describe the music but it needs to exist with the, frankly, sublime video so check out the link below and enjoy. You can thank me later.



Listen/Watch here: http://vimeo.com/76047780

UNCONDITIONAL ARMS - ALBUM REVIEW

Unconditional Arms - Kinship 
Unconditional Arms - Kinship

When a child is born in to this world it is traditional to buy a present, send a card or just make ridiculous noises at an alarmingly close distance from the poor child's face. California man Jeffrey Wright, however, went one step further and wrote an album for his recently born son (Owen, since you asked). The six tracks that constitute 'Kinship' are a filmic representation of Wright's emotional state at the point of becoming a father, no doubt, but they are also potentially the most embarrassing 25 minutes that poor Owen will have to endure in his life. This is not because the music is bad, far from it, just because literally everything our parents do tends to be embarrassing at some point.

Starting out, fairly logically, with 'The Family Tree' Wright takes us on an undulating journey across a sea of guitars that chime and sing in a way that would make an ace lullaby for young Owen if it weren't for the crashing crescendo. 'Television On The Weekends' is sparser and more reflective in tone, like something the Arcade Fire might use as their walk on music to lull the crowd in to a stunned but attentive silence and state of awe. Up to this point there have been no lyrics and the crackly spoken word on 'First Look' don't really constitute lyrics but mixed with the ethereal melody it does sound like the world might sound from inside the womb. At this stage I can't help but wish I was so drunk or sleep deprived that I could switch off and focus on nothing but the music as this is perfect 'zone out' stuff from Unconditional Arms.

Not only does 'Transition and Finality' sound like the title of a lost collaborative work between Rush and Genesis, it's also a hugely prog influence piece of atmospheric soundscaping that leaves you in a desolate but cleansed space. 'Conscious Whirr' is, for me, the weakest song in this collection as it feels in dire need of speeding up but you can't win them all I suppose. The acoustic lightness of 'Rest' is at odds with the weight of the rest of this collection but it's a beautiful, spring garden piece of music full of hope, innocence and genuine wonder at what the world has to offer. I hope Owen doesn't grow up embarrassed by this as I think it's a genuinely heartfelt snapshot of time from father to son - better than any scrapbook or time capsule!



RICHARD LOMAX - EP REVIEW

Richard Lomax - [mk iii] EP (DogFace Records) 
Richard Lomax - [mk iii]

Release Date: 9th December 2013

I first came across Richard 'Dickie' Lomax a few months back when he sent me a work in progress version of a few songs from this EP so when the full version appeared in my inbox I was excited to hear the finished article. Lomax doesn't disappoint and hearing some of these songs is like catching up with old friends who've been working out and have a new haircut. 'Glamour' sounds as jaunty and cheeky as ever without too much change from the earlier version which is reassuring as Lomax should never be one of those over-polished, over-produced artists. Next up is a new track on my ears in the shape of 'Vodka Stomach' which is skiffle ode to abusing one's own body with recreational substances. For a mellower, more subdued experience, why not try the delightful 'Windmills'? This is a song that channels Badly Drawn Boy, latter-day Divine Comedy and Jim Noir in its simplicity, charm and quirkiness.

Back on the skiffle tip, 'Set Me Free' comes shuffling in with a cowboy swagger and an Alex Turner sense of cool that is undeniably attractive in a man and a song. 'Set Me Free' also has one of the best drum solo interludes I've heard recently so get involved and prepare your air drum kit for a duet. 'Wag The Wonderbitch' has a beautifully scuzzy bass sound and a sprinkly, tinkly melody that shouldn't work together but they entirely do and Lomax's Jarvis Cocker meets a young Elvis vocal is just.....well, put it this way, it needs to be heard by more people. Closing the EP with 'Wellness', Lomax walks off in to a Tarantino sunset with his hands in his pockets and his heart on his sleeve before looking back over his shoulder to give you a nod, a wink and a wry, knowing smile. Richard Lomax is that rare thing these days in that he has taken time and care over the crafting of each of these songs from penning the lyrics to arranging the musicians and it is something that shines through like a beacon in a fog of mediocrity. Well played sir, well played indeed.

More information: http://richardlomaxmusic.com/

Live Dates:


19th December - The Ferret, Preston

Sunday, 8 December 2013

BEANS ON TOAST - ALBUM REVIEW

Beans On Toast - Giving Everything (Xtra Mile Recordings) 
Beans On Toast - Giving Everything

I think Beans On Toast is a the band or artist logo I have seen most without ever having heard a single note of the music so I was quite excited to get to this album through that there internet. One listen to this album and I realise that I think just about all of us have a friend like Beans On Toast, whether you like it or not. You know that guy who disapproves of everything, knows all about obscure conspiracy theories and gives you a frown every time you eat something made by a company with questionable ethics. Kicking things off with a rile against the monarchy, 'Harry In A Helicopter', shortly followed by the jaunty but slightly directionless 'Things'. Then follows a whinge about not being able to get a gig at Glastonbury called 'Can't Get A Gig At Glastonbury' which admits that it is self-indulgent but that's about the same as starting a sentence with "I don't want to offend you but".

The sweetly honest ode to a guitar in the shape of 'Favourite Thing I Own' is a redeemable feature of the album before returning to the self pitying theme on 'Who Is Big Jeff?'. 'Sold Out Shows' has a melancholy feel about it as the death of Rock'n'Roll's edginess is lamented but when the singer admits that they are touring (albeit reluctantly) around the country and playing in O2 Academies it smacks of that friend of mine again - turning up to meet you in Starbucks only to spend half an hour blabbering on about the homogenisation of the high street. 'Post Bestival Festival Blues' is another self-absorbed number while 'Charlie' finds our singer informing us that he's giving up his cocaine habit - how noble. Beans On Toast looks at the rest of the world for a moment on 'The American' and does his best Billy Bragg impression singing about Twin Towers conspiracy theories. Meanwhile, 'Throat Cancer' tells us of a trip to the doctor that resulted in the singer giving up smoking and just how easy it is to give up (again, we all know that mate right?). Final track, 'Keep You', is a more honest and open track but why leave such openness to the end of the album when my mind is already made up? I can see why folk like Beans On Toast, the songs are original and the lyrical content is far from predictable but every time he starts going off on one I just want to skip forward a track - maybe because I can't do that in real life. Beans On Toast has the approach and style of Frank Turner and Billy Bragg with a little Cosmo Jarvis thrown in for good measure but he doesn't have the incisiveness or wit to hold a torch to any of these artists I'm afraid. Shame, I was really looking forward to this as well.


Live Dates:

11th December - Garage Venue, Swansea
12th December - The Old Bookshop, Bristol
13th December - The Haunt, Brighton

Supporting Frank Turner on the following dates:
6th February - Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff
7th February - Capital Arena, Nottingham
8th February - Corn Exchange, Edinburgh
9th February - Arena, Manchester
11th February - Pavilions, Plymouth
12th February - O2 Arena, London

13th February - Guildhall, Portsmouth

OXYGEN THIEF - ALBUM REVIEW

Oxygen Thief - Accidents Do Not Happen, They Are Caused (Xtra Mile Recordings) 
Oxygen Thief - Accidents Do Happen, They Are Caused

Release Date: 9th December 2013

I'm getting a little bit bored of the constant stream of excellent artists just falling out of Xtra Mile's arse these days (I'm not really, I just like to pretend I'm so incredibly cool). Oxygen Thief is the latest of the production line from Bristol and is the stage name of local boy Barry Dolan whether he's part of a fully electric trio or just solo acoustic. This album is a fully electric affair and all the better for it as the visceral and urgent 'There Can Be Only One' hitting you round the chops like a sudden and blinding hang over at 10.00am on a Sunday. 'Modesty Is Dead' is a slightly lighter affair, embracing the indie-pop-punk side of the musical spectrum with aplomb as Dolan sings "If patience is a virtue what's the point in urgency?". The superbly titled 'Terry Nutkins Salute' is invokes the spirit of Reuben, Hundred Reasons and Symposium which makes me feel young again. Young and angry. Young, angry and way, way cool. The spoonerism inspired 'Mestle & Portar' is pure Jamie Lenman in its attitude, content and delivery while 'Camera Shy' is a relentless, pounding, grinding machine of a song that doesn't let go of your jugular until it's good and ready.  Dolan's songwriting skills are fully evident on 'Disaster Plan' where, despite the bouncing drums and popping bass guitar, you can close your eyes and fully imagine this being picked out furiously on a battered acoustic guitar for a small and intimate audience. Finishing up with 'Words On Walls' which doesn't relent on the furious music combined with melodies and engaging lyrics with are a theme of this short but perfectly formed album. Oxygen Thief is a great vehicle for some vital and vibrant songs that are powerful with electricity running through them but I suspect might be even more forceful played on just an acoustic guitar.


Live Dates:


9th December - The Garage, London w/Jamie Lenman 

Saturday, 7 December 2013

THE VOLUNTARY BUTLER SCHEME - SINGLE REVIEW

The Voluntary Butler Scheme - Quinzhee (Split Records) 
The Voluntary Butler Scheme - Quinzhee

Release Date: 23rd December 2014

Multi-instrumentalist Rob Jones writes, releases and performs all his music under the pseudonym of The Voluntary Butler Scheme which is weird but, hey, what's weird these days that isn't worth investigating, eh? Apart from being a shelter made in a hollowed out pile of snow, 'Quinzhee' is also the title of Jones' attempt at a Christmas single, hence the release date. Opening with the lines "I'm building us a house out of snow, and if it doesn't melt then we'll know, that our love is unheatable and our love is unbeatable" shows that Jones has a penchant for the quirky and the fun as well as a tender, honest approach to the love in his life. Sounding very much like a mix of Jim Noir, Badly Drawn Boy and the Flaming Lips, The Voluntary Butler Scheme hasn't got a hope in hell of reaching the Christmas number 1 spot but this is by far the most fun Christmas song that has been released in some time so it's alright by me.


Live Dates:


17th December - The Macbeth, London

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

SCNTST - ALBUM REVIEW

SCNTST - Self Therapy (Boysnoize Records) 
SCNTST - Self Therapy

German born producer Bryan Muller, AKA SCNTST, is being touted as a huge new talent on the techno scene and, to these uninitiated ears, the prospect of over an hour of modern German techno was not an appealing way to spend a Tuesday evening. How wrong I was. 'Self Therapy' is rhythmic delight that takes the listener deep in to the heart of club-land and then an extra mile or two further. Album opener 'Velour' is the first hint that this is going to be something a little bit special with its click-clack rhythm and dreamy melody giving way to bouncy, boingy bass noises. Once you're in to this album it's almost impossible to resist the throbbing, undulating melodies and beats that move from the click of a cricket to the pounding you get in your head the day after a REALLY good night out.

There are 14 tracks on this album and not all of them stand out on their own but the Flat Eric style organ bop of 'Percee Scan' and the woozy Parisian charm of 'Murder' are two tracks that do stick out like an accountant at a rave. Some tracks, like 'Throwback', go on a bit long for my money but then reviewing music that has been created for people to dance to is a bit of a pointless task. There are also moments of utter, explorative genius as well such as the stuttery, terrible mobile signal of 'So Though' and the Matt Bellamy dueting with Edith Piaf vibe of 'Fovea'. And then there's the downright party romp of 'King Of Beets' which is about as far from techno as you can get but still a hugely enjoyable track. This is a great pre or post club album to get your head bobbing and your shoulders loosened up so come and join the party.


FINNMARK! - SINGLE REVIEW

Finnmark! - Branno (February Records) 
Finnmark! - Branno

Leeds indie-pop fun from a band named after a tiny northern county of Norway? Don't mind if I do. 'Branno' is a single that I am a little late coming to thanks to the obscenely disorganised nature of my inbox/life but it's worth a 'shout out' as the kids would say due to its velvety loveliness. Musically it rattles around the Fall duelling with early Long Blondes (y'know, when they were still learning their instruments) but it's the baritone vocals mixed with the persistent organ drone that really seals the deal for me. This is quintessentially English indie with pop sensibilities and an entirely unique vocal style so it's A.O.K. by me. Nevermind what the Norwegians think....


Monday, 2 December 2013

FLETCHER - SINGLE REVIEW

Fletcher - Open Up (Dramatico Entertainment)

Fletcher - Open Up
Release Date: 2nd December 2013

Sadly, this isn't a delayed single release by Ronnie Barker's character from Porridge. Gladly, this is the new single from Australian singer-songwriter Benjamin Fletcher and 'Open Up' is a tasty slice of munch. The relentless beat behind the child-like melody urges you to join in with whatever Fletcher wants you to do while his soulful yet fragile voice dribbles like syrup all over the lush layers of guitar, piano and percussion. I can imagine this song being used in a short film about surfing in Cornwall but, for some reason, listening to this whilst I sit next to my recently erected Christmas tree is giving me a somewhat nostalgic feeling. That and my cat's gone missing so I'm pretty bummed anyway. This one's for you Poppy.

More information: http://fletcheruponayr.com/

Live Dates:


8th February - Abbey Pub, Chicago w/Mammoth Indigo

HEY, SLEEPER - EP REVIEW

Hey, Sleeper - Gone For Ten Fingers EP 
Hey, Sleeper - Gone For Ten Fingers EP

Berkshire. Home of...Berks. And Luke Roberts. Luke is the man behind the mellow loveliness that is Hey, Sleeper with a voice like Chris Martin before he went all Bono and a sparse approach to recording. This five track EP is a thing of simple beauty that shouldn't be overlooked just because it is standing in the corner at a party nervously fingering a bottle of Becks. 'Playing Cards' is your entree and it reminds me of the tender, more bleary eyed moments of Frank Turner which is a delightful thing in my book. 'Done Deal' on the other hand reminds me of little known but much loved troubadour Avert Francis with the gentle finger picking mixed beautifully with Roberts' intimate, heart rending vocal style.

Things a turn for the slightly jauntier on 'Home #2' but this is still undeniably reflective, introspective stuff of such delicate beauty that you fear each song might just blow away on a breeze before you've finished listening to it no matter how many times you've listened to it already. One lovely fact about this EP is that it was recorded on a Tascam 8 track which means you get every lip smack, voice crackle and reverberating guitar string as fresh and honest as it was performed. 'Could You Just' is the kind of song that you hear overdubbed as a depressed bar maid clears up on Christmas Eve knowing all she has to go home to is a cold flat and a drunk boyfriend. But, as said bar maid leaves the bar it starts to snow, 'Thomas & The Good Book' begins and everything is magical for the briefest of periods. Just magical enough to make her happy for a moment and surely that's all we ever need in life. Hey, Sleeper is an awful nom de plume but who cares when the music is this good? Not I, sir, not I.


Sunday, 1 December 2013

HANNAH GEORGAS - ALBUM REVIEW

Hannah Georgas - Hannah Georgas (Dine Alone Records) 
Hannah Georgas - Hannah Georgas 

Release Date: 25th November 2013

Earlier this year, I went on a bit of a positive rant about the specific areas of the UK that seemed to be churning out endless steams of excellent artists. Throughout the year, this here blog has become increasingly international and I'm on a new rant; bloody Canada. Canada is supposed to be lovely and safe and clean, Canada is not supposed to produce a stream of talented and soulful musicians that make me want to drink my own body weight in maple syrup and wrestle a moose. Hannah Georgas is the latest talented Canadian to arrive at the door of LWM and boy is she a talented lady?! The intermittent thrum of 'Elephant' opens proceedings with a distinct Feist-yness about it before 'Somebody' takes things up another notch mixing the Feist influences with Ladyhawke and Bat For Lashes style personality. Georgas' voice is so cool and unaffected that you feel under no pressure to hear her but you almost can't help being lured in to her fantasy world through an inexplicably ornate mirror. On 'Enemies', Georgas takes the music of the XX and cranks it up a bit whilst retaining the atmospheric sensibilities and singing "You're going to make an enemy of me" in potentially the least threatening way possible.

'Shortie' is Georgas' effort at an out-and-out pop song as she promises to "Dance, dance, dance until the cops come" and as fun as it sounds, she never really explains what she's going to do when the cops come. Are they invited to the party? Anyway, things take a turn for the mellow on 'Fantisize' before turning a sudden left turn down kooky street on 'Millions' which contains some mild swearing, a statement that "I wanna make a million buck, wanna make my millions" and a melody that seems to be played out on whatever instrument they wrote the music for 90s PC games on. 'Million's is certainly my favourite track on this album and if it had been recorded by Weezer or Fountains of Wayne it would be a sure fire indie disco hit. 'What You Do To Me' is sparse and minimalist but simultaneously seductive and a little threatening - perfect soundtrack music. The tender 'Ode To Mom' shows the depth and range of Georgas as she switches from muted guitar work to stomping, anthemic rock that should grace a festival crowd or at the very least an arena. Following on is the 80s pop throb of 'Waiting Game' which really should have been the opening music to a Judd Nelson film about trying to get 'the' girl that he works with but who just doesn't notice him because he's such a goof ball. Or something. Unusually, this album has a bonus track in the shape of 'The Hardest Part' which is a sassy, swaggering country-pop number with a dark heart and dead eyes. Georgas is at least as good as every other artist I've mentioned in this review but the fact that she is as good as all of them and she is just one woman makes her pretty damn special indeed.


Live Dates:

19th December - Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver

21st February - Huxley's Neue Welt, Berlin