Friday, 23 December 2011

Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat – The Arches 20/12/11

It’s been quite a year for messrs Wells and Moffat with a critically acclaimed debut, followed by a jaunt around the UK and Europe. Tonight is the star on the top of the metaphorical tree, their Christmas revue.
I arrive fashionably late to catch the last 15 minutes of the first support act, RM Hubbert. He sits alone on a chair in the middle of the stage with just his acoustic guitar and has the crowd captivated. Songs blend so seamlessly into each other you’d be forgiven for thinking that he was just performing one marathon track. The small part of the set I did catch only left me disappointed that I wasn’t there to witness it all.
Next up were The National Jazz Trio Of Scotland. They say trio. I counted 5 - 6 if you included Bill Wells on piano. With it being a Christmas show, their set consisted of Christmas classics reworked in a slower, more solemn fashion. One by one a singer would approach the mic to perform a song, the pick of which was a hauntingly beautiful version of ‘Walking in a Winter Wonderland’ which even succeeded in making a Grinch like myself forget that it was a sodden Tuesday night in Glasgow.

With various pianos, mic stands and amps draped in fairy lights Aidan, Bill and co walk on stage with minimal fuss, cases of beer in hand. They begin with instrumental album opener ‘Tasogare’ before continuing straight into ‘Let’s Stop Here’ with Aidan playing away with a set of symbols and drums he has set up around his mic stand. As you would expect, Moffat is chatty throughout – “Good evening everybody. Are we all looking forward to the big event? …by that I mean Hogmanay, of course.”

Tonight’s set consists mainly of tracks from Everything’s Getting Older, one of the exceptions being a cover of Bananarama’s Cruel Summer. “Does anybody remember Bananarama?” Moffat asks… “Of course you do, nobody can really forget something like that, can you?” The result wouldn’t be out of place amongst some quieter Arab Strap tracks and fits in very well with the set as a whole. ‘Dinner Time’ is the only uncertain point of the set and seems a little out of place with its strictly spoken word vocals and very immediate piano backing. ‘A Short Song To The Moon’ (“okay, it’s time for the happy song. I mean it… THE happy song.”), ‘The Copper Top’ and ‘The Sadness in Your Life Will Slowly Fade’ all sound fantastic, the latter being the highlight of the set.

After playing the majority of Everything’s Getting Older the band leaves the stage to a rapturous level of applause and cheers from the local faithful within the caverns of the Arches, before returning for the encore. Moffat dips into his recent Christmas EP ‘Oh! What A Not So Silent Night Before Christmas’ to play ‘(Oh What) A Night Before Christmas’ which has the crowd cackling in laughter throughout and is a perfect reminder as to why Moffat is such a brilliant song writer. Not many people can work S&M, NEDs and an alcoholic, near death Santa into a cracking Christmas song. ‘And So We Must Rest’ is the last song of the night and with a final “Good night, good night, oh my children goodnight.” everyone is sent back into the wet Glasgow evening. Everything may be getting older but most things are better with age, right?
Words by Luke Phillips

Thursday, 22 December 2011

The ‘Best Of…’ lists always rear their ugly heads at this time of year, many people loathe them, some people like them and others don’t really care. Here at LoBandWidth we aren’t going to pretend we’re above all of the end of year list making - in fact, we’re going to join in, because there’s nothing we like more than trying to please people. Honest. It’s also partly because I (Mel), had to do a top ten for Drunkenwerewolf, and it was a heartwrenching process cutting down this list to ten. So here we are, in a very vague order, my top 21 albums of the last year:

  1) Johnny Foreigner - Vs Everything
Choosing number one for this list was a bit strange, because there isn’t really a clear winner for me from this year. In the end I went for what I would consider the most ‘deserving’ album. Vs everything feels like the culmination of a hell of a lot of hard work and love, Johnny Foreigner are one of those bands who seem to enjoy making their music as much as we do listening to it and it gets away beautifully with being really rather long. I can tell I’ll be returning to and enjoying it for many
years to come.
Standout track: ‘New Street You Can Take It’

2) Copy Haho - Copy Haho 
An album I’ve been waiting for since SWN Festival in 2009, this is a cohesive debut with pleasantly surprising lyrical depth and one of the best opening tracks I’ve heard in a long time. (Full review on uk)  
Standout tracks: ‘Factory Floor’ and ‘When It Gets Dark’ 

3) Slow Club - Paradise
Turning away from their slightly too sweet debut album, this is darker and more mature. With their gorgeous voices entwining over poignant and sassy lyrics, backed by a thumping drumbeat, it’s an immediate, brilliant work. (Full review 
Standout tracks: ‘Where I’m Waking’ and ‘You, Earth Or Ash’.

4) Los Campesinos! - Hello Sadness
I gave this my first ever 10/10 (full review on, and whilst I think that was perhaps a little generous, as it is by no means perfect, it’s still a great listen and of the high standard we’ve all come to expect from LC!.
 Standout tracks: ‘Every Defeat A Divorce’ and ‘To Tundra’.

5) Danananaykroyd - There Is A Way
It was a sad year for fight-pop as Dananananaykroyd went on their final tour ever, leaving us all in a state of shock as  we realised there’d be no more from them. It’s perhaps not as consistent as ‘Hey Everyone’ but at several points you’ll find yourself wondering how exactly they manage to sound that happy, angry and addictive all in one go.  
Standout track: ‘Apostrophe’

6) Beyonce - 4 (standout track: ’ I Was Here’.)  

7) Aidan Moffat and Bill Wells - Everything’s Getting Older (standout track: ‘Let’s Stop Here’)

8) Summer Camp - Welcome To Condale (Standout track: ‘Losing My Mind’ 
9) Zola Jesus - Conatus (standout track: ‘Shivers’)  

10) Benjamin Shaw - There’s Always Hope, There’s Always Cabernet (standout track: ‘HULK’)  

 11) Destroyer - Kaputt (standout track: ‘Poor In Love’)
12) Felt Drawings - Body (download here for free)
13) EMA - Past Life Martyred saints (standout track: ‘Milkman’)

14) We Were Promised Jetpacks - In The Pit Of The Stomach (standout track: ‘Pear Tree’) 

 15) Dear Reader - Idealistic Animals (standout track: ‘Mole’)

16) Katie Malco - Katie Malce and the Slow Parade (standout track: ‘Sad Eyes’)

 17)  Drake - Take Care (standout tracks: ‘Over My Dead Body’ and ‘Take Care’)

18) The Beautiful South - Live At The BBC (it’s actually physically impossible for me to choose a ‘standout track’. Sorry)

19) Fight Like Apes - The Body Of Christ And The Legs Of Tina Turner (standout track: ‘Thank God You Weren’t Thirsty (Lightbulb). Read about why this one’s on the list here)

20) Tellison - The Wages Of Fear (standout tracks: ‘Get On’, ‘Freud Links the Teeth and the Heart’ and ‘My Wife’s Grave Is In Paris’.) 

21) Nicola Roberts - Cinderella’s Eyes (if you don’t love this album, here’s why you should).

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Los Campesinos! - Hello Sadness

Wichita Recordings, Mon 14th Nov ‘11

It’s been said before that one of the reasons they command such a following is that many of their listeners have grown up listening to their music. I first heard Los Campesinos! in July 2007 in a field in Cornwall. Thanks to a friend and the best, free music podcast I’ve ever heard (indiefeed), I then spent the next few days of my holiday enjoying You! Me! Dancing! and We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives. The friend then took me to see LC! in 2008, since then I’ve seen them live many times and watched their music grow and change.
Lyrically, they’ve matured; Gareth’s metaphors have become even more vivid, visceral and dramatic. To Tundra elegantly creates a soft, romantic atmosphere with ease, different to the wordy lyrics of their first few releases. Although, in true morbid LC! fashion, it isn’t long before he’s slipping “down into pebbles and silt…and found the seabed the comfiest quilt”. The romantic summer’s day is left behind as he is almost howling, begging “take her body to tundra, just take me with you as well”. The eloquent extended, visual metaphors are one of the great things about Hello Sadness…..

Read the rest on

Monday, 14 November 2011

It's Over, For Good.

Dananananaykroyd - It’s a stupid name, no one can pronounce let alone spell it without practice. It belonged however, to the finest live band I’ve ever seen, and by all accounts they kept up the standard last night, at their final gig ever. I’ve been lucky enough to see them live twice, first time at SWN Festival ‘09, and the last in Cardiff a week ago. They will be missed, no band makes music in quite the same way, are as audience involving or, as lovely as Dananananaykroyd. Some of the individual members of the group have their own musical projects, but really, it’s goodbye forever to the creators of the wall of cuddles, and fight-pop.

Los Campesinos!, The Globe Cardiff - 10th Nov ‘11

The first act is something of a surprise. He’s called John Mouse, and was not mentioned in any of the publicity (that I saw) before the gig. He walks on stage alone, sings loudly “god” and then stops. There’s a slight sense of confusion from the audience, but completely undeterred he carries on, “god, put you on this earth. To save me”. He explains, with a strong Welsh accent, that normally he has a band with him, but they’re all in London and pretty miraculously for the first support act of an evening, silence soon falls as people stop talking and start to focus on him. Not afraid to make eye-contact, even during the hilarious track ‘Sex With You’, Mouse is brimming with confidence. His final two songs are especially daring, doing “karakoe” to his own songs, and unbelieveably it really works. He bounces off stage during ‘Got You Shaking Your Head (Like David Gray)’, disappearing upstairs and then reappearing at the back of the crowd. It’s a funny, endearing, entertaining performance, and the way he seemingly doesn’t care at all what we think, only adds to that.

Next up are Strange News From Another Star, who are fronted by Jimmy of Future Of The Left. They also take time to engage with the crowd, even leading in to ‘Tell Your Mother I’m Back. Again’ by asking one of the people I’m with, “what would your mother say if you brought me home and introduced me to her?”, to much amusement. At times their Mclusky-esque thrashing is verging on the overly testosterone fuelled, but that’s brought down with ancedotes, including a wry story about asking a member of Pret A Manger whether the cheese “is dolphin friendly”.

Los Campesinos! make their way on stage and with very little fuss start playing. The crowd remain mostly still, ‘no matter’ I think, things will pick up. Unfortunately they don’t particularly. Sonically, LC! are still very good, they’ve made some clever, slight changes to their older songs -  some really interesting syncopation on ‘Miserabelia’ and they get away without Harriet’s beautiful violin playing, replacing it with an echoing, stretched guitar melody that fills the gap without compromise. But something still isn’t quite right.
When they suffer a slight technical difficulty in between two songs, Gareth tries a little to keep us entertained, but seems mostly content with the silence. This happens a couple of times, his anecdotes and jokes feel a little forced and at one point, when he says, “I’m finding it hard to take this singing thing seriously” the ripple of laughter from the audience is more polite than genuine.

Again, I should point out that it was mostly of a very high standard, ‘To Tundra’ is as powerful live as you could hope, the sharp opening rhythm blares out, and the bass vibrates through the crowd, but there’s always been something more to LC! concerts than just how they sound. If I compare tonight to the (many) times I’ve seen them before, it just isn’t in the same league. I was expecting a sweaty, exhausting and amazing evening and I didn’t leave the venue, thinking ‘yeh, that’s why they’re my favourite band’ which is normally what happens. At times, things pick up and it feels more like all those other times. The inevitable crowd-pleaser ‘You! Me! Dancing!’ livens the pace, although the usual throw-away comment about beer is mumbled out, and they follow it up with ‘The Sea…’ which brings things right down again.

There’s an encore tonight, unlike on Sunday, when the applause petered away pretty quickly, so that’s a little reassuring, but even then, as “one blink for yes, two blinks for no” is shouted out, something still isn’t quite right. Personally, I love ‘Hello Sadness’ (read my review of it here for evidence), but I’ve seen a fair amount of people who haven’t. It’s been preying on my mind for a while, whether a band can remain as consistently good as they have done, let’s hope this is just a temporary blip.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Danananaykroyd, Cardiff Undertone - 5th Nov ‘11

Danananaykroyd are splitting up, if you didn’t already know. In fact, as of this Saturday they will be no more, (we assume) forever. The day we discovered that this band, one of the most interesting and fun collectives making music in the last five years, are no longer willing to continue was a dark one for the music scene indeed. They promised to “go out with a bang”, and well, that they did.

We arrive at Undertone, a tiny venue lurking underneath a bar in central Cardiff with plenty of time to take advantage of the comfy leather sofas they provide. These sofas are around the edges of what is, essentially just a room with a bar at the back, and a stack of speakers at the front - the monitors creating the “stage” space. It already seems a suitably intimate venue, enhanced by the fact that the group of people dancing around on the sofa next to us, are actually the band.

The support act begin playing without any fuss, the acoustics in the room aren’t great, and I’m still none the wiser about what they’re called, despite the fact they did say (if anyone can tell me I’d be very grateful EDIT: they're called Drains). They play a short set of noisy but rhythmic tracks and then that’s that.

Danananaykroyd make their way on stage well, in a way only they could pull off, the two lead singers Calum Gunn and John Bailie Junior hug their way along the front two rows of the crowd, before launching into the first track released from their second album, ‘E Numbers’. It feels a little strange to be standing so close to the band, and as the crowd get more into things the front rows are fighting not to end up the wrong side of the wires and monitors, to varying degrees of success (which is how I’ve ended up with very bruised shins). Calum Gunn and JBJ have always been charismatic front men, and they’re on form tonight, with jokes about knife fights in Glasgow being a more likely sight than fireworks in their distinctive Scottish brouge - and even managing to get the crowd to crouch down on to the floor before diving into ‘Think and Feel’.

The first half of their set is mainly newer songs, the band are clearly at ease playing them, with a lot of wriggly dancing to the beat. It’s when they start some of their older stuff that the crowd really gets into it. With much hand-clapping and roof-slapping (I did say it was a small venue) they work their way through the highlights of ‘Hey Everyone’. The humour evident in their (highly enjoyable) tour videos and irreverent blog posts comes through even on what is a slightly sad occasion, the last time they’ll ever play this city. Guitarist David Roy adds musical backing to the joking around, with an impressive ‘X Factor style’ version of Muscle Memory improvised. This comes about after they say, with mischievous straight faces, that they’re only splitting up so they can go on X-Factor next year under a different name. Waving, they finish on ‘Infinity Milk’, but it’s not long before they’re back. The set up of Undertone doesn’t really allow for tension building as we can see them standing slightly to the right as a chant of “Da - Na - Na - Na - Naa - Kroyd” starts up.

The famous wall of cuddles is not forgotten, and for one final time, JBJ and Calum split the crowd down the middle, egging us on as each singer says “my team always wins”. There’s a palpable irony in their voices, we all know that this is one of the last times they’ll be doing this. The sweet, joyus melody that opens ‘Some Dresses’ is shoved into our already echoing ears, and as it begins to fade out, the hugging goes a little awry and we all end up in a heap on the floor - I’m pulled to my feet by a slightly concerned looking Calum, who checks we’re all okay and the band mill around a little longer, for some more hugs, saying their goodbyes and then that’s it. Goodbye Dananananykroyd.

On a slightly more personal and general note, I can’t think of any other band that I’ve been this genuinely sad to see go. They’ve always been endearingly enthusiastic about what they do, seem to genuinely care for their fans (can you think of many other bands that would take the time to help out and ensure the audience are ok if things get a bit messy?) and it’s with a heavy heart I finish the last thing I’ll ever get to write about them.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

WHY? - Bristol Coulston Hall, 23rd Oct '11

Bristol Coulston hall is heaving when we arrive, I’m a little surprised by this, until I remember it says on my ticket that we’re going to hall 2 for WHY? Rather than hall 1, where Stephen Merchant is playing. We’re told that they’re running an hour behind, and so we hang around. Eventually the foyer is almost empty, it’s at this point that someone else who’s there for WHY? Turns to my

friends and I to share with us the story of “how my friend has found the most beautiful, true kind of love” (the reason I’m mentioning this will become apparent later). After an embarrassed “uh, ok, that’s nice…” from his friend, and us, the sea of beards and plaid shirts drifts towards the doors, and we’re finally allowed in. 
The room is draughty, and feels a little like a church, with prints of famous musicians performing on the walls, in a similar manner to stained glass windows, and we’re all seated in very neat rows. Serengeti, the support, shuffles on stage, with a nervous air, he perches himself on the edge of a Westlife-esque stool. He welcomes us and introduces Doug, the pianist, because of course, this is not just any gig, it’s part of WHY’s acoustic grand piano tour. He tells us how his album was produced by WHY’s Yoni Wolf and Owen Ashworth of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone (now Advance Base), and begins.
His charismatic stage presence is magnified by a sense of uncertainty, fiddling with his mic, before standing again, clearly more comfortable when he’s able to move, and move he does. Swaying he sings the chorus of ‘PMDD’, with Doug on piano harmonising on Joey Fever’s part. Picking up a recorder he apparently “just bought in Berlin”, he manages to make it fit beautifully with the looped piano and vocals - either he’s been practicing or is one of those infuriating instantly musical people. With a wave he has us all echoing his shouts on ‘The Whip’ and then that’s it, laughing he says “I’ve got shit for sale over there…WHY Will be here soon” and wanders offstage.  

With slicked back hair, thick-rimmed glasses and a shirt buttoned up to the top, Yoni Wolf doesn’t look quite how you might expect. The band launch immediately into ‘These Few Presidents’, to much whooping from the crowd. There’s a masterful surge of dynamics, shrinking almost to nothing and then rising instantly when Yoni begins singing. He rubs his recently broken hand, with a recently broken finger (which led to the cancelling of their tour of America) and tells us they’re going to “play a bunch of new songs”, with a quick plug of their forthcoming album, and how it’s really “taken it out” of him. The first new track is darker and heavier than much of what they’ve done before, and it’s certainly piqued my excitement for the new album. Josiah Wolf is playing bass guitar and bass drum (with his feet), while a new member of WHY? Plays the high hat etc, she’s soon introduced as Liz Wolf, Josiah’s Wife (and musical partner). Laughing they thank Stephen Merchant for opening for them, and “wish him well”.

Yoni’s quick humour, always evident in their lyrics, is shown as he mutters out a joke about how Liz is allegedly “from Bristol” and does a passable British accent when he makes a pun about her maiden name, Hodson (“Hodson, as in what a hot son you have”). They also deal rather well with some half-hearted heckling, including calling one shouter “coward” and inviting him to come up to the stage and repeat himself, this is all done with a smile. Much to their surprise however, to the stage he does come, asking to shake hands with Yoni (oh and look, it’s the guy from earlier who told us about his friend’s new love). Yoni turns this into an elbow shake because of his broken hand - which still looks pretty swollen and his dancing is a little wooden at times because of it. They rush off stage after their final song, but after much cheering return for ‘On Rose Walk’. Two songs later and they finish, this time for good.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Frightened Rabbit - A Frightened Rabbit EP

Poster-boys of Scottish misery, Frightened Rabbit are renowned for their clever, dark and beautiful lyrics, as well as the roaring, swaying music that surrounds them. Having released an album a year, for the past four years (if you include the acoustic version of 'The Midnight Organ Fight'), you might think they'd want to take it easy for a bit, but this seems not to be the case.

Fresh from touring in support of Death Cab For Cutie, they're giving away a three-track EP, for free, and it's also available on limited edition 10" vinyl. If you're unsure whether this is one for you (unlikely as that is), track 2 'Fuck This Place', a heartbreaking duet with Tracyanne of Camera Obscura, has long been one of my favourite songs. Plus, if you read this article on DrownedInSound, you'll learn how it was inspired by a dream, which just seems to add that little bit more to its addictive sound (also follow that link to get your free download!)
If that's not enough Frightened Rabbit for you, have a search around, and give some of their live sessions (particularly the Bandstand Busking ones) a listen, the quality of their music is only more evident when stripped back.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Some Albums For However You May Be Feeling....

Stuck in a musical rut? Even the most musically minded of us sometimes feel like they've run out of stuff to listen to, and perhaps them even more so than others, with that in mind, I've selected some aural delights for you - tailored to the mood you might be in, and maybe even something you've not given a proper listen to before.
Now, this list is only six albums long, but I'm not suggesting that you've only got six possible options to feel. Well, you might do. It's not really any of my business. No, instead I've picked eight albums that have a tangible thematic link within them, so that rather than the perfect tear-jerker ending, and your ears being filled with major chords and tambourines, you can finish your weeping in peace. The same applies to other emotions obviously, but I'm assuming you're all the types that will empathise with misery more than anything else.

Everything's Getting Older - Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat
Joyous to melancholic:
As the title may suggest, this one is in part for those evenings sat at home (alone), with a glass of something, while you ponder on how "there's at least a hundred billion galaxies with a hundred billion stars, and every single one could be a sun just like ours...all life is finite, so use your time wisely" (as heard on 'The Greatest Story Ever Told'). However it's also got some truly beautiful and joyous moments, 'Tasogere' and 'Let's Stop Here' (mentioned as one, because of how closely they fit) are equal-parts euphoric and heart-wrenching.

Allo Darlin' - Allo Darlin' 
Not alone:
This one's for holding hands, smiling and wearing nice jumpers to. Seriously, it's almost unbearably cute, it teeters on the nauseatingly adorable, but tracks like 'Heartbeat Chilli' and 'Let's Go Swimming' just about brings things back, and you can almost hear the Polaroid sunsets, but maybe steer clear if you're feeling a little lonely.

Crystal Fighters - Star Of Love
Like dancing: 

There's dark, thudding bass on 'Solar System', as well as crashing drums and almost unbearably joyous choruses on 'At Home', all of which will make it nigh on impossible to listen to and stay still.

Picastro - Whore Luck 
Sleepy and a little sad:
Sinister, dark and eerie at times, this could also have fitted nicely into a wintry playlist, but with the lurching violin, on tracks like 'Hortur', and Liz Hysen's soft but cutting vocals, it's marked out as more than just your average morose listen. 

Death From Above 1979 - You're A Woman, I'm A Machine
Normally, a bad mood means Mclusky or Bikini Kill for me, but I decided to go with this DFA1979 record, because it's cleaner, catchier and deeply cathartic. 

Sam Cooke - The Best Of Sam Cooke
Everything else:
Whenever I'm unsure about what to put on, I invariably turn to this, and it's also great for background/dancing to when you've got people over - I'm yet to befriend anyone who doesn't enjoy it, even if they've not heard anything from him before. 

 (Look! I’ve put them all in a handy Spotify Playlist for you! Although they don’t have the correct ‘Best Of…’ for Sam Cooke, but the rest are all here)

Monday, 10 October 2011

Nicola Roberts - Cinderella's Eyes

This album has, admittedly been out for a while, and if I’d been more on the ball I’d have reviewed it sooner - but I forgot. That’s the thing; Nicola Roberts is often seen as the forgettable one of Girls Aloud, now personally, I don’t really care about any members of Girls Aloud. Or I didn’t, until I saw Nicola Roberts doing a documentary on the dangers of tanning for young people, she talked about how determined she became not to allow her record label and management to force her into fake tanning, and she now has her own make-up range for pale skin. Which is all pretty admirable, really and I promised myself I’d keep an eye on what she got up to, but somehow it never happened.

Then I heard ‘Beat Of My Drum’, it’s fun, instant and empowering, Roberts is standing up, telling people she’s in charge now. The video is sadly, not very good, but she’s doing her own thing, so we’ll let her off for that bizarre bending over dance move, and it certainly doesn’t seem to have caught on, which is something of a relief.

‘Cinderella’s Eyes’ is at the very least a good listen because it’s daring. It’s depressingly rare to come across an album that’s likely to chart, which does anything different, but if you listened to this abstractly, it certainly wouldn’t sound like Girls Aloud karaoke with only one member (unlike some people, naming no names…Cheryl Cole). In fact, the opening of ‘Fish Out Of Water’ is reminiscent of Xiu Xiu, it’s treading that beautiful line between great pop and plain weird, which if straddled successfully is often the most rewarding, listens. Although, I’m politely ignoring the cover of ‘Everybody Hurts Sometime’ because, well, it’s a bit rubbish.

 There’s a pervading sense of dark regret throughout, dark nights filled with drink, music and emptiness inside, she lists her fears on ‘i’, telling us she’s “scared of dying…scared of getting old” and “scared of bodies…scared I’ll lose control” and there’s something truly heartbreaking about the way she says “I don’t like nasty words, they hurt me like you’d never know”. She whispers “you’re my childhood sweetheart the one I’ve chased for years”, which sounds lovely until the chilling next line, “feels like you’ve got your hands locked over my lips and ears”. The painfully honest confession, ‘sticks + stones’, with its references to underage drinking, “too young to buy my own bottle of vodka so I beg the driver” and mental health issues “say no to the shrink I can fix me I think, I’ve got friends in my head” never once feels smug. Even though she’s talking about the downsides of famous so young, which such subject matter often leads to, instead it feels truly honest.

The artwork shows Roberts sitting on top of a pile of junk, a surreal Alice in Wonderland, but for all her porcelain skin, and doll like hair, she isn’t taking any nonsense. The idea of her being in a fairytale that turned bad, is clear, she used to “write all her dreams in her storybook”, according to a daring and successful rap on ‘Take A Bite’, but she’s taken this idea and turned it around to her benefit. Which is pretty much what she’s done with all that’s happened to her. How do I know that? How do I know ‘what’s happened to her’? Well I don’t, I haven’t read it in any magazines or anything like that, but that’s the picture ‘Cinderella Builds” and frankly, the potential of an honest, heartbreaking, and frankly, shockingly dark pop album, that really tells a story, is not something I want to explain away. For all the open confessions, I’m not left pitying her, because she comes across strong. It may not be to everyone’s tastes, but then very few things are, and the fact she’s done something different, begins to restore my faith in pop music.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Slow Club - Paradise

Moshi Moshi - 12th September ‘11

I’ve always been a fan of Slow Club, their first album was enjoyable, but really, not anything hugely special.  The reason I think, I’ve still loved them, comes from both members being hugely talented and working together so well - which makes any live performances, recorded, session or otherwise, really enjoyable and interesting…but they’d never really managed to translate this onto any studio recordings I’d heard. They’re obviously something unique when things are stripped back, but in a studio environment it’s never come across immediately. All of this meant I was hugely anticipating the release of their second album, particularly after hearing rumours of a change of sound and approach.

‘Paradise’ opens with the first single, ‘Two Cousins’. It’s a catchy, fun song that makes you feel like dancing and in regard to that is a move away from their original sound. It’s certainly angrier - ending with a rush of fuzz that blends nicely into the opening drums of ‘If We’re Still Alive’, on which Rebecca cries out, heartbreakingly, that, “it’s okay, you’re leaving, and we never even talked about, even thought about it, ever before”. As on their first album ‘Yeah So’, the lyrics can seem a little at odds with the music, often darker than the overall sound might suggest, but it works well here. The harmonics of Charles' and Rebecca’s voices have always been a close blend and at times they use this to great effect, but they also take the chance to show off individually. Lyrically, they’ve made great leaps forward too, clever lines like “It’s hard to be in this together, well we both know that it’s hard apart, and it’s a storm I am willing to weather, but it’s a storm that I…I recognize” show a maturity clearly evident throughout this album. Lyrically, things still sometimes seem a little nonsensical, but there’s some really tender moments of introspection too.

Things get rhythmic again on ‘Beginners’, one of the standout best tracks on ‘Paradise’, where the raw talent they give live feels more evident. It’s tight, the vocals are perhaps a little buried, but it still remains energetic and passionate, with some more smart phrases; “you know you haven’t got all the answers, if you did you would be screaming them out”. The final ‘secret’ track, ‘Paradise’, is a reworking of an old song. The added guitar fuzz and clattering drums aren’t actually necessary to make this a great listen but it fits well on the closing track. The idea of wanting to “live in paradise” is quite a thematic one, their lyrics often noting the intricacies and difficulties of relationships, especially those that are breaking down. On first listen ‘Paradise’ is a pretty good album. After a few more listens, it gets addictive and soon you’re listening to songs that are a world away from ‘Yeah So, an album that has led to them (much to their disgust) being labelled as ‘twee’. Sure to remain circling in your head, ‘Paradise’ shows a band that’s grown into their talents,  a superb listen.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Johnny Foreigner vs Everything

Johnny Foreigner have been pretty quiet lately and it seems that’s been with reason. They’ve posted details of their new record, ‘Johnny Foreigner vs Everything’, which will be available in some sort of exciting two cover format, as yet not properly revealed, there’s information on some competitions to win stuff too, their new stingle (that isn’t a typo) and how they’ve been getting on with Alcopop! Records.

(Don’t) Show Us Your Fangs

…is the title of their first single. Opening with a simple guitar melody and gradually building from there, this feels more similar to the ‘You Thought You Saw A Shooting Star….’ EP, rather than their previous material. Which is good, because there was always the slight concern that the progress to sounding a more mature band made on that EP, might be lost a little.
This track is filled with hope and standout lines like “we caught fire, but fire burns bridges best”. It would be easy to say that the subtle, but important changes in Johnny Foreigner’s sound are a result of their move away from Best Before Records to Alcopop! Records. Which is probably true, they say on their website ““it felt like we took a massive gamble leaving our old label” and in typical Johny Foreigner fashion, with their personable sense of humour, “we’ve never had this much control over recording, or been able to take so long, or had a producer that grew up with us buying the same records at the same time and whose mother constantly fed us square and balanced meals. This record is us, made by us. this record is us, made by us. it doesn’t feel like a gamble anymore”. The prospect of a Johnny Foreigner record they believe in so whole heartedly? An exciting prospect indeed.

Hello Sadness

After much teasing and tantalising Los Campesinos! have finally released details of their fourth album (or arguably third, but we’re not going down that one). It’ll be called ‘Hello Sadness’ and paired with the gloomy artwork, melancholy song titles and Gareth’s mentions of it on twitter, it’s already clearly not going to be the most cheerful of listens, but then you should expect no less from these guys, dealing with misery is something they do brilliantly.

Described on the website as dealing with, “love, loss and heartbreak nail-gunned to a back-drop of broken, tangled bodies, creeping, dead-eyed animals, suffocating, looming shadows and World Cup exits” there are serveral pre-order bundles, including vinyl, a ltd edition t-shirt and demo CD from their ‘HONY’ days.
Eloquent as ever the description of it as a, “documentation of breaking up and trying not to break up in the process”, seems like one that’ll stick, as well as building up the excitement for its release on 14th November.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Copy Haho

“The opening track on Copy Haho’s self-titled debut, Factory Floor, is a glorious, euphoric start. The first line “I’m feeling bitter but I dunno what I’m bitter ‘bout”, seems a coquettish confession and there’s something a little charming about the delivery”
You can read my review of Copy Haho’s amazing debut album here, on Goldflakepaint.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Yeah, Yeah

Dylan Moran

Yeah, Yeah

Dylan Moran is perhaps most well known for his comedy series Black Books, which he wrote and starred in, as misanthropic bookshop owner, Bernard Black. For several years his talent for stand-up has been one of the hidden highlights of British comedy. Shunning panel shows, Moran is not quite a household name - unless you happen to be in a house with excellent taste in comedy, in which case the mention of his name is likely to release a torrent of compliments about this Irish comedian. On top of this, he's appeared in many films, the brilliant dark comedy of 'A Film With Me In It' (one of my favourite films, everyone should go and watch it immediately) and as unrecognisably different characters in 'Shaun of the Dead' and 'Run Fat Boy Run'. Clearly broadly talented (he's also writing a book) his stand-up is a real treat.

Looking around me, the audience members are from a variety of different demographics; largely it seems young students, but also some middle aged ex- students. It is perhaps a cliché to say that the atmosphere at the Bristol Hippodrome is one of palpable excitement, yet the hold Dylan Moran has on his fans is evident.

The stage is the same set up as on Moran's previous tours, a chair, a table with a wine glass, a screen with his drawings projected on and a microphone. As he walks on stage we all cheer, smiling, he waves and grabs the microphone; the loud "hello!" causes the audience to suddenly fall quiet, expectantly.

Clearly at ease, he begins. Everything he says immediately feels fresh and as though it's just occurring to him - joking about Bristol being a great place because it feels like it's "run by 23 year old Rastafarians", and his knowledge of the area and its stereotypes, traditions and habits is refreshing, he clearly knows where he is.

Moran tackles similar subjects to his past comedy shows. Middle age, love, youth, ageing, death, sex, politics and society in general, all fall prey to his razor sharp observations. It never once becomes a rant, his voice rises at times, increasing in volume until it seems that he can't possibly be following a pre-written script, he must be making it up on the spot....and then, with a disarming grin, he almost starts to whisper, as the previous point links beautifully to his theme. His bizarre analogies and quotable comparisons on DVD are certainly funny, but the clinical atmosphere of a recorded live show makes them seem perhaps less brilliant. Live however, it's clear that this humour is genuine, nothing he says is there to make us laugh for the sake of it, and every sentence carries a hidden weight.

Which brings me onto my favourite thing about Dylan Moran: he jokes about women and men, and not always in a particularly complementary way. He asks the audience with a small frown "who wrote Frankenstein?" and it's difficult to be sure if he's really forgotten, or is just making us feel more involved (the latter being more likely). The quick echoed reply of "Mary Shelley" perhaps proving something about the type of people that enjoy his comedy. This leads him onto a routine in which he compares men to The Creature and women to Dr Frankenstein/Mary Shelley. Such a comparison could easily alienate either all the men, or all the women in the audience but at the bottom of it all, a question remains about our society and the roles of gender within it. Not the easiest thing to do in comedy without being 'offensive'. It's unbelievably uplifting to spend about two hours in the power of such an intelligent comedian, and at no point feel uncomfortable, particularly when he by no means steers away from topics that could lead to offence. Instead, his disarming charm and perfect delivery mean that the audience are completely within his power and as it ends, it feels like barely ten minutes have gone past.

He ends saying, "the thing is....I don't know what the thing is" , apologizing for not having any more to say, although whether that's because he has forgotten to say something, or because the audience are so clearly hungry for more, is difficult to say, he wanders off with another wave, glass of wine in hand, leaving a projection of his unusual and amusing drawings and one of his silhouette alone on the stage.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Fight Like Apes - The Body of Christ and the Legs of Tina Turner

Fight Like Apes - The Body Of Christ and the Legs of Tina Turner
I’ve been a fan of Fight Like Apes for a while now; their first album ‘Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion’ was one of my favourites of 2008. Its mixture of synth hooks, fuzzy guitars and lead singer May Kay’s wonderful ability to switch from huskily whispering her words to screaming. It’s endearing, enjoyable - and there’s something sincere about them that makes the refrain of “and did you fuck her? and did you stick things up her?” (from ‘Digifucker’) enjoyable for more than its barefaced rudeness.

So when I discovered they had another album due out, I wasn’t really sure what to think…the energy from their first album might well have petered out by now, three years after their first full album. Luckily, however, Fight Like Apes far from disappoint.

The first single, Hoo Ha Henry maintains the sense of comedy FLA are renowned for, particularly through their use of samples, but it manages this without losing the quality of the song. The contrast of the ‘traditional views’ in these samples and the attitude of Fight Like Apes makes for even more enjoyable listening. The same technique is used to great effect on the next track ‘Pull Off Your Arms and Let’s Play In Your Blood’ which I’ve already seen quoted in several reviews: the line “my well read friends inform me that I was a cunt” seems to be striking a chord with people.

‘Thank God You Weren’t Thirsty (Lightbulb)’ is a brief pause, it’s a genuinely beautiful track and May Kay does something a little different with her voice, making it softer. She begs, “my heart is all grey, please, please stay away, from anyone’s heart or their brain…would that be okay?” and even after the screams and almost indistinguishable swear words towards the end (well, it is Fight Like Apes, let’s not get too sentimental) there’s something tender here and another side is shown. A welcome change from the anger and elements of triviality normally seen, not a criticism as they do it well, but it would certainly be interesting to see them try this on a couple more tracks.

On ‘Poached Eggs’ (released before the album as a free download as well) FLA are masking their rudeness and behaving with more subtlety (but only a little bit). May Kay’s coquettish way of singing “I’m sorry for being so incredibly gay, the day you spilt your poached efforts, all over my duvet” means it takes a couple of listens to be certain what she’s singing about. . ‘Indie Monster’ gifts another lyrical gem, the repetition of “you look like a hairstyle” and ‘Ice Cream Apple Fuck’ sums up the band’s approach simply, with the line “I will not take your shit”

’The Body Of Christ…’ is a glorious mix of Riot Grrl, pop, punk, humour and authenticity. It’s messy at times, but that adds to its charm and there’s a little more cohesion than on the first album. Its difficult to shake the feeling that no matter how you feel, Fight Like Apes like what they’ve done and (I’m hoping at least) will continue to do what they do, and frankly won’t give a damn.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Rachael Jensen Leaves Parenthetical Girls

In a post on their website it has been revealed that Rachael Jensen has left Parenthetical Girls to “pursure a higher education”.

Zac Pennington said that she is “in many ways the heart of the thing called Parenthetical Girls” but the band also “continues in many ways stronger than it has ever been, with new stock and new excitement”.

For me, Parenthetical Girls are a band I hear and get this overwhelming urge to go and tell someone just how really really amazingly great they are, (normally with that slightly giddy grasp of grammar) and while this is certainly sad news, the fact that they will be continuing to make music is always exciting. I’m already curious to see what will be next for them.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Dove Hounds

After a productive year: releasing a new album as Former Ghosts, touring in support of that album with Xiu Xiu and Zola Jesus, and another tour of Europe coming up, you might expect Freddy Ruppert to be feeling like taking a break...apparently not.

The two tracks on this website seem to have more in common with This Song Is A Mess But So Am I than Former Ghosts. Ruppert's vocals aren't hidden behind any synthesizers or distortion (perhaps the only slight criticism of Former Ghosts I've ever really had), allowing his distinctive and emotional voice the prominence it deserves. These tracks feel raw and clear - every sound is audible, Ruppert’s talent for communicating the most painful (and personal) emotions through his music clearly has not diminished.

With an album only planned for release, and the intriguing possibility of Freddy Ruppert starting a small (vinyl only) label it looks like patience is going to be necessary before anything more is heard from Dove Hounds.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Xiu Xiu Interview...

Link to Tumblr

A little teaser for my interview with Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu.

The full interview can now be listened to here: Link to Tumblr

Monday, 3 January 2011

Jack Hayter - Sucky Tart

The first track, 'I Stole The Cutty Sark' contrasts traditional sea-shanty style vocals with discord and unusual instrumentation effectively, managing to tread the line between 'folk' and 'alternative' without becoming dull. 'A Doll's House' is lyrically smart and humorous; "he's got her head in his lap, but her body's in the corner of another room. It's not what it seems...'. The image this creates at first is surreal, but Jack Hayter makes it seem a deeply personal emotional tale.

'A Simple Song' and 'Jacquie I Won't Mind' are pleasant and again emotionally literate. On the evidence of this EP, Hayter's lyrics have a knack for making you think one thing, which is then later revealed as something more. This makes it feel quite touching and personal, as in 'A Doll's House', "It's not what it seems...'cos what it seems is, they're living in a Doll's House". His refreshing blend of sounds and influences make 'Sucky Tart' is a pleasant listen.

Available to order from Audio Antihero on 31/01/2011