Archive for December, 2007

Video Nostalgia: The Organ – Let The Bells Ring

OK, this video is probably a little too recent to be called nostalgia but it’s in the past and the group who made it are no longer together.  ‘Let The Bells Ring’ turned out to be the swansong single from The Organ, an all-female five piece from Vancouver.

I was first made aware of The Organ’s music when a friend from New York suggested I check them out. It didn’t take me long to buy their EP, which was a wonderfully executed piece of concise but downbeat pop music.

Not long after that I discovered they were coming to tour the UK and one of the venues they would be playing at was in Lincoln, my home city. Even though they were only the support act (to The Wedding Present), I found the 20 or so minutes they were on stage absolutely riveting. I don’t normally get starstruck but I was soon tracking them down after the performance to get them to sign their latest single which was – of course – ‘Let The Bells Ring’.

Let The Bells Ring Cover

That single still takes pride of place in my study and I even asked for a record player that Christmas just so I could actually hear the song. It was worth the wait too. ‘Let The Bells Ring’ shows off all the best elements of The Organ’s signature sound: Katie Sketch’s permanently haunted vocal, Debora Cohen’s nagging post-punk guitar and Jenny Smyth’s Hammond drone.

Although I bought their one and only album on import, it wasn’t until Spring 2006 that ‘Grab That Gun’ was finally released on UK shores where it received deserved critical acclaim. However, by the end of the year The Organ were no more. Little is known why they decided to call it a day but at least their short legacy made its mark.

My Review of the Lincoln Gig
The Organ’s MySpace
Wikipedia Page


Review: Skyline – Higher Reaches

It’s been six long years since the first record by Skyline; a good old-fashioned album full of melodic Scottish indie/classic songwriting influences. The return may have taken a while but the results are well worth waiting for as the group take their songs to the level promised by their name and new album title.

 Skyline Album Cover

‘Swings And Roundabouts’ is just delightful, a cracking piano hook and some lovely harmonies in the chorus, ‘Forget’ is another piano led effort but this time it’s a lovelorn ballad that steadily grows in stature whilst the intros to ‘Why?’ and ‘Chosen Few’ are cut from the same cloth as Orange Juice. Sure, there are times when they slip into misty-eyed whimsy but even then this is a very likeable and tuneful set of songs.

Web Sites:
Bendi Records Artist Page for Skyline

Also Recommended:
The Eisenhowers, Orange Juice, Elvis Costello

Review: Cheekbone – Yesterday

Cheekbone is another artist from the excellent Hidden Shoal Recordings; a label rapidly growing a reputation for its download-only electronica acts.  The man behind the nomenclature is Japanese resident Kouichi Moriuchi who is – rather disconcertingly – inspired by German psychedelia.

 Cheekbone EP Cover

Although ‘Yesterday’ can hardly be described as formulaic, most of the seven tracks here follow a similar pattern, usually consisting of one central melody, which is slowly engulfed in chattering digitised noise before the noise subsides again. It’s like a journey though space but on ‘Reef’ it’s down a safe, fascinating route rather than a macabre, mysterious one. Whirring sounds populate ‘Behind The Irony’ before they are engulfed by noise. Then the EP reaches an impressive peak for the elegant ‘Far’ as one central, chilly melody expands into several layers, each one of them enticing as the other. HSR have produced another winner.

Web Sites:
Cheekbone Artist Page on HSR
Cheekbone MySpace

Also Recommended:
Glassacre, Boards Of Canada

Review: Björk – Volta

These are quite difficult times for Björk. Formerly the artist who seemed to do no wrong; her selection of collaborators and producers seemed inspired in her early years. The results were two great albums (‘Debut’ and ‘Post’) but since then the results have been less consistent. ‘Volta’ is an attempt to redress the balance after the only sporadically good ‘Medulla’. Once again, she falls short unfortunately.

Bjork Album Cover

Thankfully Björk largely dispenses with the acapella on this record but it keeps the harsh abrasive beats meaning that this record is pretty hard work again. Timbaland successfully handles the unhinged nature of Björk with a bouncy but somewhat heartless ‘Earth Intruders’ whilst ‘Wanderlust’ features an impressive lung-bursting chorus backed by a fine brass section. Continuing the good moments, a duet with Antony Hegarty based on an ancient love poem is negotiated with the right amount of tenderness and ‘Pneumonia’ is a quietly grand number. Yet there are quite a few problems with this record. Firstly, save for the frequent use of foghorns (both in the literal and metaphorical sense), there isn’t much cohesion to this record. ‘Innocence’ -the other Timbaland track – is a mess, ‘Declare Independence’ is shouted vocals over some ugly discordant beats and ‘Vertebrae By Vertebrae’ is a fine backing track spoiled by Björk’s waywardness with a tune. The problem is that since 1992’s ‘Debut’ it’s generally been a case of diminishing returns and ‘Volta’ continues the downward trend.

Web Site:
Official Björk Site

Also Recommended:

Ragga And The Jack Magick Orchestra, Anja Garbarek

Music Stream: Canon Blue – The Halcyon EP

I reviewed Canon Blue’s impressive EP last month and it seemed to generate a lot of interest judging by the hits on that page. I am pleased to inform you all that his label Rumraket have very kindly allowed me to post a link to a zip file containing a complete EP of new material from this talented artist:

Download the EP from this link


Review: Mesh-29 – Over The Barricade

Mesh-29 EP cover 

The somewhat awkwardly-named Mesh-29 dispense a very teary brand of anthemic rock. Led by their clearly very emotional frontman Adam Mezzatesta, they are reminiscent of several Coldplay clones. The lead track, bolstered by a steady piano melody and an abundance of strings is stadium friendly but a little OTT for my liking. ‘Questions’ tones down the lush surroundings for more soft-focus seriousness whilst ‘Cigarette’, probably the best of the bunch, contains some nice lyrical touches and a good hook leading up to the chorus. Given that they are in a well-populated category though, it will be tough for Mesh-29 to reach out beyond support slot status.

Web Sites:

Also Recommended: 

Budapest, Coldplay, Blackbud

Review: The Insect Guide – 6ft In Love

The Insect Guide are Su and Stan, a Leeds-based group who have made the ambitious move of releasing their first album with an accompanying DVD. I can’t comment on the quality of the DVD since only the album was available at the time for review. Nevertheless the duo seem to have pulled off quite a coup with the mix done by Hood collaborator Choque Hosein. The Insect Guide are essentially a shoegazing act though.

Insect Guide cover 

Songs generally range between narcotic Velvet Underground style tunes (atmospheric opener ‘Frozen’, ‘White Flowers’) and occasional faster-paced songs like ‘It’s Nothing’ and ‘Touch Me’. There’s lots of effects-saturated guitars with Su’s emotionless vocals floating on top of them whilst drones dominate the background. The chiming, almost celebratory feel to last track ‘David Hero’ is probably the best thing on here but overall it’s acceptable shoegazing fare with a modicum of originality and thrills.

Web Sites:
Official Insect Guide Site
Insect Guide MySpace

Also Recommended:
Pale Saints, The Pocket Gods, Stellarscope, Sunray

Review: Anaemic Arch – Anaemic Arch

Anaemic Arch is Liverpudlian Daniel Cook, who describes himself, rather reluctantly, as a synth-songwriter. Certainly each song here has an emphasis on the electronic element. Cook himself is certainly no great shakes in the vocal department with his almost apologetic monotone, even choosing to digitise his voice for the tinny, disappointing ‘Colour Of Pleasure’.

Anaemic Arch cover

However, there’s also much to enjoy here: the lovely keyboard melody for opener ‘Vacuum’, ‘Who Knows’ is reminiscent of mid-80s period Depeche Mode whilst the last song ‘Timeless’ meanders off into lots of different but tuneful tangents. Elsewhere, the political ‘Bonfire Night’ recovers from a start which uses far too many early 80’s effects before building into a hypnotic digital rhythm, ‘Break Point’ demonstrates that Cook can deliver quality electro-pop and for both this song and the subtle ‘The River, The Bridge’, he is clearly improving as a vocalist. There’s no doubt that as an album it’s way too long but with a bit of careful song selection, this would have been a very good start.

Web Site:

Anaemic Arch MySpace 

Also Recommended:
White Town, Depeche Mode, Nitzer Ebb

Review: Interpol – Our Love To Admire

Considering Interpol are frequently bracketed with Editors as purveyors of anthemic but doomed post-punk, the latest albums by the two protagonists makes you wonder why they’re often compared with each other. Whilst Editors have softened their act and ambled down the Coldplay market, Interpol are discovering a different musical landscape. ‘Our Love To Admire’ is not perfect but it’s a commendably brave effort.

 Interpol Album Cover

Their ambition is revealed straight away with opener ‘Pioneer To The Falls’. It builds from a Morricone drone into an epic number that is as much about spaghetti westerns and Radiohead as it is about a group clinging on to the Joy Division bandwagon. In fact, at these times, they don’t really sound like Joy Division at all. ‘No I In Threesome’ is another superb track. It’s another widescreen, cinematic number with a huge driving chorus. ‘The Scale’ is slightly dirgey but in a good way. It’s testament to the strength of this beginning that the momentum is lost a fraction by the fourth track, ‘Heinrich Maneuver’. It’s the first single off the album but it is best described as a means of ensnaring those enthralled by their previous album ‘Antics’.

On ‘Pace Is The Trick’ the momentum is restored with guitarist Daniel Kessler relocating another chiming melodic undertow (not to mention a wonderful middle eight) whilst Paul Banks makes a mockery of those “sad robot” comparisons with an arresting performance in front of the mic. Furthermore, when he insists “I got the fire, it’s in this soul” on ‘All Fired Up’ he is believable. ‘Rest My Chemistry’ is another standout with some mid-paced but winning, strident hooks courtesy of Kessler whereas ‘Wrecking Ball’ and the atmospheric ‘The Light House’ show a hitherto area of vulnerability in Banks’ distant, despairing performance. Overall, Interpol have taken a breather from the danceable and high quality brand of indie, slowed the pace right down and become a more expansive outfit as a result. If only all “new directions” were as successful as this.

Web Sites:
Interpol Official Band Site
Interpol MySpace

Also Recommended:

The Departure, Editors, Medium 21

Feedback Required

Dear readers

I’ve been running the blog for about 6 weeks now and Ive been reasonably pleased with the hit count, considering it’s not really been publicised yet. But what do YOU, the readers, think of the site?

Should I do more reviews or less reviews? What other features would you like to see? Is the video nostalgia feature a good idea? It’s unlikely I’ll be able to post more often than I do now so if it’s a question of what you’d like to see more of, bear in mind this may be at the expense of something else.

I would love to hear what you think whether it’s good or not so good. Either comment on this topic or E-mail me directly. Thanks very much to those who’ve commented already.