What the hell
is this? Lovely matching blue polo shirts, stand up drumming and a Matt Bianco
style number that sits somewhere between skiffle and psychobilly. Throw the husky
tones of Rhythm Sophie in the equation and you’ve got yourself something
With her sunny disposition she should provide guest vocals for so many
other bands; imagine Bright Eyes featuring Rhythm Sophie? A Morrissey duet with
Rhythm Sophie? PJ Harvey even?
instalment in my treck through the legendary Leatherface’s back catalogue sees
me checking out Minx, the album that follows the point where I stopped
listening for real, Mush. Having said that the majority of the tracks feel
really familiar due to repeated listens of Live albums at the time and as such,
there’s very little that’s completely new to me on Minx.
Even so, it’s
a quality album and I’m not sure why I lost enthusiasm after the aforementioned
Mush, maybe the perceived critical acclaim and the move to a more commercial
sound played a part. This is a standard collection of mid 1990’s era
Leatherface. It’s slower, folkier and less immediate. However lyrically, it’s
up there with their earlier work as Frankie croons his North Eastern world-view
philosophy and most of the time you can hear what he’s saying.
Men Do’ is a chugging anthem, ‘Books’ is a breathless live stalwart and
‘Dustbin Modo’ is a throwback to Cherry Knowle and by far the best of the songs
I’m unfamiliar with. Best of all is the more considered ballad (by
Leatherface’s standards anyway) ‘Pale Moonlight’ where Frankie laments on the
tortures of life and dances with the Devil in the pale moonlight. I’d heard it
before, but the up tempo live version never had the impact of the album version
in all its folk-core glory.
Not a great
album by Leatherface standards, but in 2013 it would be in the top five albums
released this year. Give it a listen, you seriously can’t go wrong, then dig
out ‘Cheery Knowle’ and ‘Fill Your Boots’.
great album rarely goes to plan. Often you hear a great song only to discover
that the album is little more than the great song with nine accompanying
b-sides. This is what is known as the ‘Country Pancake Effect’. Occasionally
however, things take a smoother course and Plan A works perfectly, and this was
definitely the case with Veronica Falls. After hearing ‘The Fountain’ on the
Rough Trade Counter Culture Compilation, I rushed to order their latest album
with a certain amount of trepidation, fearing the usual disappointment. But lo and
behold it’s an absolute cracker. Hurray!
get the feeling that Veronica Falls love what they do. It’s a joyous,
uncomplicated indie album combining infectious melodies, intoxicating harmonies
and a touch of shoe gazing swagger.This
is C86 style indie-pop but injected with Mamas and Papas feel good factor and
is the kind of music you should listen to on an expansive, sun-drenched beach
rather than some dingy urban bedsit.
Veronica a great name too? There are no horrible Veronicas out there. You just
can’t be a nasty person and be called Veronica. And following on from this,
Veronica Falls is a great name for a band. They were never going to be rubbish
with a name that evokes images of a particularly beautiful waterfalls or perhaps catching
a lovely Veronica who has fallen from a ladder. Admittedly, this happens
rarely. But I live in hope.
The songs all
do the business, with ‘If you still want me’, ‘Shooting Star’ and ‘So Tired’
all extra-specially agreeable. The pick of the bunch is the mesmerising ‘My
Heart Beats’; a flagship piece of blissfully harmonic pop music. All I can hope
is that the first album is of a similar quality when I get round to listening
to it next year. Heartily recommended.
If you fancy
a bit of commercial trance then Armin Van Buuren is the go-to guy. I loved his
‘Imagine’ album and this track featuring the vocal talents of Kerli carries on
the quality work. It’s a standard issue trance stalwart with spooky vocals and
an intriguing video where Alice in Wonderland meets the Ring. If you need a
change from all that obscure stuff then look no further.
of Iceland come the pop-folk ensemble Of Monsters and Men. They’re nothing like
as harsh as traditional Scandinavian folk combos and infinitely more accessible
than their puffin worrying cousin, Bjork, (and I even heard one of their ditties
playing over the tannoy at Sainsburys last week). It’s almost an open secret
that commercial success is right around the corner for our heroes, but are they
worthy of your consideration?
fun, fluffy folk with some catchy monster hit singles snuggled away in the
album, but it may not hold your attention for too long. The lyrics are a quirky,
yet mildly irritating, with the feel of a medieval fairy-tale populated by tree
hugging animal cuddlers, and not in a good way. It brings to mind the
soundtrack to an Icelandic Manga version of the Moomins with lots of cuddly
puffins, but sadly Snufkin isn’t munching them. In short it’s way too wholesome
and honey sweet for everyday consumption.
On the other
hand, the voice of the brilliantly named Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir is often a
thing of awe and wonder. Sitting somewhere between the woman from the Cranberries
and the afore mentioned Bjork, she refuses to become bogged down in warbling
and sticks thankfully to straightforwardly belting out the songs. Sadly, her
male partner provides little of the contrast that Einar once did so perfectly
in the Sugarcubes and ends up sounding like a less dynamic version of Mumford
and Sons. Which is difficult to achieve and rarely recommended.
singles are all enjoyable enough with ‘Little Talks’, ‘King and Lionheart’ and
‘Mountain Sound’ all having agreeable singalong potential, but scratch the
surface and there’s little strength in depth evident in their song-writing. If
you own one of those shops that sells trinkets and dream-catchers then this is a
near perfect album, for the rest of us it will probably prove too cutesy, sweet
Conor Oberst presents 2007’s Cassadaga album, and as sure as night follows day,
it’s that textbook combination of poetic genius and camp acoustic
accompaniment. Deeper and darker than ‘I’m Wide Awake…’ and infinitely more
accessible than ‘Digital Ash,’ it strikes the perfect balance between the
melodic and obtuse sides of Conor’s musical persona.
trademarks are there. The curious yet beautiful introspective lyrics, the
alt-country twang of the occasional slide guitar and the off kilter harmonies provided
by the studio cleaner, (although she’s improved massively from her input on ‘I’m
Wide Awake’). Throw in some new quirks like the Susan’s House style vocal
samples, some ethnic wailing and some lovely folky fiddling and you’ve got a
monster of an album on your hands.
It takes a
few listens, but every song is ultimately a winner. ‘No-one Would Riot for
Less’ is straightforward and minimal, ‘Middleman’ is atmospheric old school
folk, and ‘Brakeman’ is strangely anthemic and downcast at the same time. Best
of all is the fiddle-fest of ‘Four Winds’ which combines a jolly bluegrass tune
with lyrics so dark that even Beck would be grudgingly impressed.
virtually impossible not to like this album if you like music this side of the
Mars Volta. So if you like your folk music with a smattering of Country and
Western and some polished, left of centre lyricism, then Bright Eyes is a
perfect fit. All bow down to the King of camp acoustic!
A second Pick
of the Week selection for the excellent Shrag, with this frantic live ditty. The
video is remarkable for Helen King’s deranged, angular but peculiarly
attractive dancing, and some left of centre keyboard playing straight out of the
B52’s out-take album.
Having listened to the latest album ‘Canines’, I’ve got
to apologise for likening them to primary school teachers in the Rabbit Kids
video. Although I’m sure they’d be excellent in the classroom they are much too
talented for Ofsted dodging and should stick to being pop stars. Easily the
favourite track of the moment on my Youtube playlist.
their first and second albums together last year, I wasn’t particularly
looking forward to listening to the latter ‘Daydreams and Nightmares’ due to
the fact that ‘In their Space Hero Suits’ was distinctly average. But fear not!
The second album from Those Dancing Days sees them progress from luke warm
promise into a scorching blossoming of talent.
This is a
jolly sing-a-long bunch of songs with much better use made of singer Linnea
Jönsson’s distinctive voice. It’s a meaty collection with catchy tunes,
agreeable melodies and soaring choruses. Ignore the hype, this is nothing like
Northern Soul or sixties girl groups and has more in common with the
alternative pop of the Flatmates, Sons and Daughters or the Primitives,
although it has to be said, with a more soulful vocalist.
The pick of
the tracks are the high octane charge of ‘Fuckarias’, the anthem to stalking ‘I
know where you live’ and best of all, the carefully crafted pop perfection of
‘Reaching Forward’. Admittedly there’s a few average numbers thrown into the
mixer, but the overall its positives by far outweigh the odd smattering of
band has been ‘put to bed for a while’. Let’s hope they wake up soon as they
were just starting to fulfil their potential.
Turn of the
century fallout from the acid house generation and Members of Mayday take you
back to a time when dance music was still interesting and vibrant. ‘Anthems’
basically does what it says on the tin and presents fourteen anthemic tracks
from the underground techno merchants. It’s old school layered techno, flecked
with splashes of acid, house and hardcore.
can’t stomach it as a whole listening session in the car. I can enjoy about
four songs and then it all starts becoming a little samey. Don’t get me wrong
each track works brilliantly mixed up in a shuffled playlist, but as fourteen
songs, one after another it just swamps my brain (and that doesn’t take into
account the remix disk!). This criticism can be levelled at all but the very
best techno albums (take a bow Infected Mushroom), so don’t let that put you
off. This is still a quality offering.
Most of the
selections would work well as singles with the retro-acid stomp of ‘The
Judgement Day,’ the tricky disco-ish ‘Mayday Anthem’ and the surging powerhouse
of '10 in 1' all bone fide stonkers. My personal favourite is the truly
anthemic ‘Sonic Empire’ which combines submarine sonar type sounds with pulsing
repetitive rhythms, and even if you don’t fancy the album give it a listen on
An album that
brings back happy memories but is just as relevant and enjoyable today. We
salute the Members of Mayday. And yes they are German!
avoiding listening to the extreme folk charms of Karine Polwart for some time.
I had visions of another Fay Hield experience, but I needn’t have worried. This
is an altogether gentler and more textured album, more akin to Kate Bush than
Steeleye Span. It has a lovely cover and packaging too, which is always a
Karine has an
undeniably great voice which sits somewhere between Cara Dillon and legendary
crooner Amie Mcdonald. It’s delicate but powerful and at times even a little
quirky. The songs are equally left of centre and nowhere near the stereotypical
folk gruellers that I’d envisaged, with a range of atmospheres, instrumentation
and lyrical themes. It’s the kind of music you take with you if you’re going to
live on your own in a lighthouse for two years in the middle of the ocean.
is a winner in a multifaceted fashion, with layers of subtlety, melody and
meaning. My personal favourites are the silky ode to the seventies ‘Cover your
eyes’ with its spooky wave sound effects, the twinkling grace of ‘King of
Birds’ and the kitchen sink narrative of ‘Salters Road’. Best of all is the
dark whispering menace of ‘Tears for Lot’s Wife’ which almost sounds like a
lost track from Bush’s spectacular ‘Never Ending Story’, if only it had a couple
of croaking frog samples.
enjoyable experience all round. A crafted and polished album from a wholey
under-rated artist. Maybe a duet with Amie Mcdonald is in order?