Published November 30, 2007
The Lodger are possibly the nearest any band has got to crossing the youthful Northern charms of The Arctic Monkeys with the romanticism of 80s indie-pop. In typical style, main songwriter Ben Siddall started the band from his humble bedsit flat in Leeds. There is a lot to admire about his music though which ranks it above any allegations of someone riding on the back of West Yorkshire’s current wave of recognition.
Ticking off the influences, ‘Many Thanks For Your Honest Opinion’ is like a slightly-slowed down version of the Buzzcocks classic ‘Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t Have)?’ whilst ’Kicking Sand’ even includes an Orange Juice-style country twang in its expedient pop tune. Granted, Siddall’s vocals have all the punch and aggression of Bobby Wratten (‘Bye Bye’ could even be one of his Field Mice songs) but he has wit and melody to spare. ‘Let Her Go’ is urgent sounding, ‘Unsatisfied’ goes off on a lovely melodic keyboard tangent whilst ‘Getting Special’ is danceable indie. However, not everything is great; ‘My Advice Is On Loan’ is the biggest failing and should be sent to the darkest corner of the C86 scene. Make no mistake though, this isn’t an album to take too seriously so treat it as the enjoyable jangle-fest that it is.
The Lodger’s Official Site
The Lodger’s MySpace
The Field Mice – Where’d You Learn To Kiss That Way?
Published November 28, 2007
Rednetic Recordings have impressed with recent electronica releases such as Inigo Kennedy’s stunning recent album. The label was formed by Mark Streatfield (AKA Zainetica) with Joseph Auer, both of whom contribute tracks to this collection. Together with Boltfish, Rednetic have been a great source for me for discovering hitherto unknown electronica acts.
In fact the first artist to feature on this compilation is Boltfish co-owner Murray Fisher whose ‘Queasy’ conjures up the mysterious atmospheres of space exploration. There’s a surprising variety on show with Liberation Jumpsuit’s slyly seductive ‘One Night Stand’ rubbing up against the subdued wintry drama of ‘Murmurs’ by Vizier Of Damascus. Elsewhere the warm techno sounds of Zainetica’s own ‘Awaken’ recall early 808 State. In the middle of the CD there are some so-so affairs but the ever reliable Kennedy raises the stakes with the deep loneliness of ‘Faraway Towns’ whilst Auer also evokes dark nights of the soul. Overall, it’s a compilation which doesn’t always hit the target (and after seventy minutes that’s perhaps to be expected) but it’s interesting that the label founders’ offerings are amongst the highlights
Rednetic’s Home Page
Boltfish Home Page
Inigo Kennedy – Transaction
Various Artists – Mercury Scales
Published November 28, 2007
I apologise for the lack of updates in the last few days. I was ill with a migraine. I hope to continue updating on a more regular basis from now on. Well, until the next incident anyway!
Published November 24, 2007
I had the pleasure of downloading a review copy of a new EP called ‘Slow Attack’ by the Australian act Glassacre. Glassacre make a very unusual brand of electronic/shoegazing music that sounds to me like the outer space atmospheres of Avrocar crossed with the ambient rock of Engineers. There’s some hypnotic eerie vocals and some excellent unusual melodies on show which lead to a superb and original release.
In my role of music reviewer, I get to listen to an awful lot of music but I sometimes feel a bit jaded by the similarity in sound to so many other acts. Glassacre are one of the special acts who sound immediately different.
Their myspace site is well worth checking out for a preview of several of the tracks whilst the EP itself can be downloaded from Hidden Shoal Recordings.
Published November 23, 2007
Although normally the instrumental albums I have reviewed fall in to either the electronica or post-rock camps, I always have time for Mark Tranmer’s forays with Gnac; an artist who seems out of time in many respects with his evocation of late 1950-early 1960s kitchen sink drama, both with The Montgolfier Brothers and with his solo work. Tranmer favours analogue instruments; making the kind of soundtracks normally associated with Poirot murder mysteries. It may sound quite boring on paper but usually there’s as much intrigue and mystery here as a dozen Agatha Christie novels.
With ‘The Arrival Of The Fog’, Tranmer is in largely sombre form. It begins sedately with the title track; a fittingly lonely piano signalling the bleak winter months. In contrast, ‘Japanese Fiction’ – a faster track which seems a little out of place in this company - makes me think of a chaotic day in a newspaper office. However, ‘Horizontal Happiness’ is Tranmer at his best; using unusual instruments to make beautifully unique melodies, ‘What To Make Of Jagged Graphs’ is another grand affair whilst the finale ‘Cliques And Clusters’ is pastoral and lovely. The only problem is that too many of the tracks here don’t veer away much from mildly diverting territory. In fact, the most poignant moment of all is a bonus track tacked right on the end. Thanks to a minimalist pulse and an understated, repeated melody line, ‘Winter Blanket’ is possibly Tranmer’s most haunting offering yet. So although this is by no means the best Gnac album, its sporadic highlights should be enough to tempt fans of his previous work.
Mark Tranmer’s Official Site
Mark Tranmer’s MySpace
LTM Label Site
Gnac – Sevens
Gnac – Biscuit Barrel Fashion
Gnac – Twelve Sidelong Glances
The Montgolfier Brothers – Seventeen Stars
The Montgolfier Brothers – The World Is Flat
The Montgolfier Brothers – All My Bad Thoughts
Published November 20, 2007
One of my favourite bands of the decade, The Great Depression, release a new album in February 2008 entitled ‘Forever Altered’.
Their last album ‘Preaching To The Fire’ was my favourite album of 2006 (Review link) which led me to use such gushing phrases as “Elegantly constructed from first to last” and “the future of melancholic rock”.
Judging from the new samples, they’ve taken on board backing singers and gone even more epic.
The Great Depression MySpace
Also check out the Fire Records label site for more downloads and news.
Published November 19, 2007
The first Editors album was a commercial as well as an artistic triumph; successfully aligning post-punk guitars to modern day anthems. This leaves a lot of pressure on the follow-up and although it’s by no means a disaster, there’s something missing here.
The title track could have easily fitted on to the debut record as hurtling guitar riffs and Tom Smith’s baritone increase their intensity to reach a breakneck chorus. ‘Bones’ is semi-dirgey but finds euphoria in darkness whilst ’Spiders’ shows that Tom Smith and co. can still pluck the heartstrings with an emotionally-driven performance. However, these moments are few and far between. ‘When Anger Shows’, although it’s a fine song, seems to borrow half of it’s melody from Athlete’s ‘Wires’ single. Samey guitar effects struggle to bring the likes of ‘The Weight Of The World’, ‘Escape The Nest’ and ‘The Racing Rats’ out of the ordinary whilst ‘Push Your Head Towards The Air’ has a big build-up but ends up sounding like a Coldplay cast-off. In some ways ‘An End Has A Start’ mirrors the second Interpol album; not only styliistically but it’s also a consolidation of a successful formula, except where Interpol maintained a noticeable edge, Editors seem to have blanded out somewhat.
Editors Official Site
Review Of Coldplay’s ‘X&Y’
Review Of The Departure’s ‘Dirty Words’
Review Of Editors’ ‘The Back Room’
Review Of Interpol’s ‘Turn On The Bright Lights’
Review Of Interpol’s ‘Antics’
Published November 18, 2007
Usually it’s quite easy to spot the country from which a band come from, simply by listening to their music. With their jagged guitars, youthful vocals and general air of positivity, Isabel At Sunset sound like they come from a modish indie American scene yet they’re actually based in Parma, Italy. The Pavement influence is most apparent thanks to the often awkward but melodic time signatures - drummer Kevin Coley (the only non-Italian in the band) actually plays in a Pavement covers band as well.
Some songs seem to value youthful viguor over songwriting but ‘The Coming Back Guy’ is undeniably infectious as is the buzzsawing pop of the title track. Meanwhile ‘Trucks ‘N’ Cars’ and ‘Just Me In The Mirror’ blend subtle instruments with vocalist Alain Marenghi cast as the yearning frontman for the first time. A little disarmingly, however, ‘Barbarians Within The Gate’ reveal Oasis-style ambitions of laddish pop. That apart, this is a promising debut from a band who will undoubtedly improve as they mature. For now though, they sound like a young band witha bagful of influences but not quite making their own individual mark.
Isabel At Sunset MySpace
Review Of Pilots Of Japan’s ‘The Plan To Reverse Time’
Published November 17, 2007
Leaving barely enough time to settle since their B-side and remix compilation, Grand National unleash their second album of danceable indie pop on an expectant world. The first thing that struck me about ‘A Drink And A Quick Decision’ is that it’s very similarly stylistically to their debut. On ‘Kicking The National Habit’, at least half of the songs bore the hallmark of a cracking single and there’s much the same here. Then again there’s also a healthy quota of slow-burners; featuring more considered moments. There’s a similar feeling of the excitement of the night out, followed by the regret of the morning afterwards.
If you’re after great songs then ‘A Drink & A Quick Decision’ boasts plenty of them. ‘Weird Ideas At Work’ possesses hooks-a-plenty both in the verse and the chorus, ‘By The Time I Get Home…’ wastes no time in going straight for the dancefloor whilst ‘Going To Switch The Lights On’ is wonderfully rhythmic and bouncy. These are all topped by the irresistably infectious ‘Close Approximation’. On a more cerebral level, ‘Animal Sounds’ and ‘Cut By The Brakes’ have their fair share of early-80s synth sounds but these are songs that reap rewards the more you listen to them. Towards the end of the record comes the downbeat material; ’Joker & Clown’ and ‘Pack All The Things You Need’ are signs of real maturity. All these factors make ‘A Drink And A Quick Decision’ possibly the thinking man’s dance album of the year.
Review: Grand National – Kicking The National Habit,
Review: Grand National – B-Sides, Remixes & Rarities
Review: Whitey – The Light At The End Of The Tunnel Is A Train
Published November 15, 2007
Christian McKee first contacted me about 6 months ago to review his four-track EP. It contained one track which combined low budget hip-hop with witty pop whilst the others covered his more romantic side. The debut album follows a similar ratio of styles but moreover proves that McKee’s impressive start was no fluke.
Kicking off with ‘Alive By The Weekend’ is certainly a lively (almost hyperactive) way to start. Yet, good as that song is, ‘Flowers In The Rain’ is likely to offer longer term enjoyment. McKee is at his lovelorn peak; his voice is rich and distinctive whilst soulful synths and a lovely melody belie the meagre self-produced recording. ‘When Was There’ and ‘Lot Of Pain To Bury’ are other highpoints thanks to their simple, melancholic refrains. Elsewhere the mid-paced ‘Noses Of The Philistines’ represents the acceptable face of MOR even if ‘Seventeen Again’ and ‘It’s Over’ sound like the product of a man approaching the blandness of middle age. It’s hard to think of any artist who sounds quite like McKee but at his best he certainly has the warmth and soulfulness of artists like the simlarly underrated Merz. Better still, the album is available completely free for download from his own website on http://www.christianmckee.com/.
Review Of McKee’s ‘The Ipods & Cyclops E.P’
Review Of Merz’s ‘Loveheart’