Friday, December 28, 2012

MV : "Afar" by The Ice Choir

Enough wallowing in 2012 nostalgia already, lets have something new.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Best of 2012 (3) : A-Z of 2012

So ends the 2012 season of indie/alternative/whatever on this blog. Come back soon for the exciting 2013 season! To conclude this is a playlist of songs that we played a lot this year, not all are from 2012 but all were played a lot by us in 2012. We've done it as an A-Z though a few letters are missing so we only have 21 songs. But they are all great! Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Best of 2012 (2) : Top 10 records

Our top 10 records of 2012 (or rather November 2011 to November 2012 as thats a bit fairer!)

1) rapproacher - Class Actress
2) anxiety - Ladyhawke
3) afar - The Ice Choir
4) ashes and roses - Mary Chapin Carpenter
5) something - Chairlift
6) signs of a perfect disaster - Sea Dweller
7) robots EP - Maple Leaves
8) sleep in symmetry - Some Gorgeous Accident
9) loveless (remastered) - My Bloody Valentine
10) it started with an April shower - The Gentle Isolation

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Onward Chariots - this is my confession

US indie pop band Onward Chariots release this new album early in 2013 which has 16 tracks on the theme of doomed love. The styles and sounds are highly varied, for example "This is my confession I" has a great psychedelic feel that at times sounds like it come off out of a vault of lost 60s classics while "I just met a girl" has an infectious bubble pop shuffly melody. "Sisters and brothers" starts off a bit 70s prog rock before moving into a slinky pop beat.

So the styles are all over the place but they are unified by great melodies and pop energy, a great example of the latter being the pacey guitar pop of "I want everything". "Get me out of this party" has an 80s electro-pop feel and a great title for a song. "When you're smiling" is one of my favourite tracks on the album with its sweet indie pop feel and psychedelic flourishes. The folky pop "You don't have to be unhappy" is also lovely with its added brass, adding that perfect little extra to finish the song off.

An album with some many styles could be a problem but this one isn't. Instead of jarring its a great pop journey and is glorious all the way through!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Best of 2012 (1) : Top 10 songs

Its the end of the year and of course we have a look back at whats thrilled us and whats delighted us and other ways to fill the blog.

Next week we'll look at the top 10 albums / EPs but this week here is our top 10 songs from 2012 (or rather November-ish 2011 to date). The list is a glorious mix of synth-pop, shoegaze, C86, country, rock, folk and punk. That reflects the eclectic mix of music we like but also reflects the amazing variety of the music scene nowadays.

Anyone who tells you music now is rubbish and it was much better in the past is basically an idiot. The music glass is always half full thus i am excited about what 2013 could bring...

1) let me in - Class Actress
2) a vision of hell, 1996 - Ice Choir
3) jump line - Sea Dweller
4) gone gone gone - Ladyhawke
5) heaven can wait - Tender Objects
6) jericho - Mary Chapin Carpenter
7) satellite distortions - Downdime
8) the abject - Cave Cat
9) robots - Maple Leaves
10) DIY - When Nalda Became Punk

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Feeder - pushing the senses (Echo)

Feeder's 5th album from 2005 still sounds as exhilarating today, "Feeling a moment" sparkles above all (above pretty much most songs ever made to be honest) with its high-energy euphoria and amazing pop-rock melody. You just want to listen to it again and again. I do.

Another highlight is "Tender" with its piano led opening building into epic rock ballad territory. "Pilgrim soul" has some brilliant Feeder-esque noise blasting in to drive the song along. Overall the album is a pretty decent collection of tracks, some like "Bitter glass" are a bit indie-rock by numbers but still perfectly fine to listen to. But hey the highlights really are highlights, they make this album essential.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Coldplay - myl oxyl oto

Coldplay's 5th album continued along from the successful blueprint of earlier albums, anthemic indie rock often of a quasi-religious nature. Its also full of songs that appear time and time again as the soundtrack to sports highlights packages and mobile phone adverts, "Paradise" for example has seen plenty of use by advertisers. But why not, its an epic song with a massive synth-chorus that sounds like its blasting out of a cathedral organ.

"Hurts like heaven" is another of the big hits, rocking along in what sounds like a post-modern update of a 70s pop rock sound and then merges into a beautiful synth lush but sparse melody. "Every teardrop is a waterfall" is spacey and another epic anthem. "Princess of China" is a little odd, and not just because Rihanna helps out on the singing, it has a heavy synth remix feel amid waves of guitar nose. Its odd and pretty good too.

Its very commercial, high concept, polished and very good. So there.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Arctic Flow - dreams you'll never find (Dufflecoat)

The Arctic Flow's new single for Dufflecoat Records is a lush collection of blissed out dream pop. And dreamy it certainly is on "cruel kids" which drifts along slowly in clouds of sweet effect pop noise. The title track lifts the pace and has a classic dream pop sound, all breathy vocals and low-mixed melody.

"Friends for Summer" has a more organic feel thanks to the acoustic opening but continues the relaxed blissed vibe with a definite feel of melancholy and half-remembered memories of a more innocent time. Finally "Just say hello" has a beautiful fuzzy melody. This is an EP is lovely lush sonic memories and is highly recommended.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Top 5 Records (November)

1) afar - The Ice Choir
2) reading too much into things like everything - The School
3) ashes and roses - Mary Chapin Carpenter
4) loveless (remastered) - My Bloody Valentine
5) sleep in symmetry - Some Gorgeous Accident

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Ritas - she's with the band / slash fic

The Ritas return with this great pair of songs which is a free download on Odd Box, very punk garage-y and lo-fi yet also with plenty of melody and glamour. "She's with the band" drifts along sublimely while "Slash fic" roars at you.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Cornerboy - just another Sunday song (Dufflecoat)

Cornerboy play some great 60s and Sike edged indie pop with plenty of classic sounds mixed with energy and joy. This EP for Dufflecoat has a great indie pop rush on "Keep on trying" with a chorus to die for. "Just another Sunday" reminds me a bit of the likes of the Sugargliders, mellow and sweet guitar licks and vocals on a simple yet infinitely pleasing melody, with just the right squirt of psychedelic pop in the mix.

"Same old bus" has a very Sixties feel to it and is pure pop joy. Finally "Universal friend" takes the tempo down a lot and has a bit more depth than the poppier tracks having a bit of a Lennon-esque melody meander. This EP is a total winner, if you love indie pop that takes its influences from 60s and classic guitar pop then this is for you.

"Just another Sunday song" is out at the end of November 2012.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Cabaret Voltaire - mix-up

Cabaret Voltaire's first album comes from the earliest days of post-punk electronica and experimentation that finally led to industrial, goth and techno. So what do we get from this 1979 release: scruzzy vocals, dirty dub, tape loops and weird noises abound. Is it all just an atonal din though? Well maybe at times it does sound like some kids messing about such as on "No escape" which seems to go on forever with its annoying melody and actually goes on for longer than that. "Fourth shot" sounds like broken synths over a badly tuned guitar, and could well be.

On "Heaven and Hell" it all finally makes sense, a demented electro melody over disembodied vocals and random noise interjections. Its the soundtrack to the dark future we were all promised but has yet to arrive. When we are going around in black leather in spiked cars amid a smog of a post-Apocalypse then this is definitely the soundtrack. "On every other street" stands out for me as my favourite track with its feeling of electro doom amid the insanity.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ice Choir - afar (Underwater Peoples)

The best album of 2012. 

There i have said it, no ambiguity about that statement this is as good as it gets, and its very very good. The Ice Choir reinvents late 80s synth pop with a mixture of hipster cool and funky techno fun, merging classic synth and 80s pop sounds with modern tech-savvy lyrics. At first listen you might think they ("they" being mostly Kurt Feldman - the drummer in the Pains of Being Pure At Heart) are taking the piss but its far more than that. Its a loving and knowledgable recreation of late 80s sounds beautifully polished and slick like the best of Scritti Politti.

As with Kurt's previous project The Depreciation Guild at the heart of the Ice Choir isn't retro-ness or an encyclopaedic knowledge of a past music scene beyond the stuff "everyone knows" (though these do help) but simply great tunes. The pop hooks of the likes of "A vision of hell, 1996" and "Two rings" with its electro-ish beat are sublime along with the techno-soundscapes of "Teletrips" and "I want you now and always". Its the best album of 2012, its probably also the best album of the 1980s.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Toni Halliday - time turns around

Before Curve... Toni Halliday was a decidedly un-goth and un-shoegaze 80s pop star and this great single is a highlight of her pre-noise career. Late 80s pop with plenty of synths and choppy guitar riffs. You get the title track twice on this 12" version, a harder extended synthy "Euro-tech" remix by Alan Wilder and the 7" version.

The remix is great fun actually with plenty of gasps and bumps moving into synth and guitar soundscapes. Toni never made it as a pop star though but luckily something else was about to happen.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Choir Invisible / Memory Girls (Dufflecoat)

Its been awhile since the last Dufflecoat split single, this one pairing together Ireland's The Choir Invisible with Japan's Memory Girls. Starting with The Choir Invisible, "your boyfriend" is a well-structured song of lost-love bitterness, reflective and mellow before erupting into a guitar frenzy. "Overseas" is a bit more jaunty with a nice beat and a great pop melody.

Memory Girls' "our freedom, our darkness" is a glorious shot of jangly pop as is the following "Lazy blues" with its ringing guitars and dual vocals. Four more essential pop tunes from the world of indiepop bought to you by Dufflecoat Records!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

8-bit Peoples 050

This is what it says on the tin. A compilation of 50 tunes by 8-bit inspired chip tune artists to celebrate the 8-bit Peoples collective. Nearly all of the artists were unknown to me though a couple like the Depreciation Guild i had heard of before. The music is a mixture raging from indie songs that have a heavy influence of chiptune electronica to pure electronic music.

Some of it sounds like a crazy remix of the video games you used to play, 4mat's "vertical" is like that with its classic video game melody married to harder beats with Tugboat's "never enough" on a similar vein. Mesu Kasumai's "worm rider" has a melody that is almost pure 80s pop.

The Depreciation Guild's "kickle's processional" fits in well with their first album's more chiptune orientated shoegaze pop. Jeroen Tel's "alternative fuel" has a great pop hook and against is a video game inspired classic tune with a bit of 80s TV theme thrown in. Nothing can prepare you for Bud Melvin's "62 miles", chiptune bluegrass! It doesn't all work but there is some cool stuff on here, its bleeping great!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Jeremy

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart (hereafter POBPAH) return with their first new material after their second album released last year, and its a hot single bringing together 2 ace cover versions. Side A of POBPAH's new 7" (or the first track if you got it as a digital single) is a cover of The Magnetic Fields' "Jeremy" is a fast and frenetic indie pop rock thrash.

Side B of POBPAH's single is a cover of East River Pipe(!)'s "my life is wrong" and is all punky thrashy guitars and screeching noise and like the A-side is pretty awesome.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

UK top-selling singles of all time

To mark the 60th anniversary of the UK singles chart a comprehensive list of the top-selling singles of all time has been drawn up. The chart lists all 123 singles that have sold over a million copies since 1952, and the full list can be seen here.

The chart, which is topped by Elton John's "candle in the wind" re-release to mark the death of Diana seems to be a bit short of indiepop of course, no Sarah releases make the cut. I can't detect any of the singles i've ever bought on the list at all, the first one i ever got: Iron Maiden's "the trooper" isn't there anyway, nor is the second: the Four-Tops "going loco in Acapulco". I suppose that is a good thing?

However there are a few indie/alternative interlopers. New Order's "blue monday" is at #69 having sold 1.16 million copies, though if the stories are true didn't Factory lose money on every one? Ian Dury & the Blockhead's "hit me with your rhythm stick" is the 82nd best selling single of all time and that makes me kind of happy for some reason.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Willie Ames - night owl

California born singer-songwriter and skilled instrumentalist Willie Ames produces atmospheric alternative folk/rock with a bluesy and gritty edge with shades of Dylan. The title track "Night owl" is a perfect example of his style with hard picking and a vibe that seems to come straight out of a broken boxcar abandoned in the desert (under a starry sky natch).
"Desert run" has a relaxed acoustic feel underpinned by a slap melody which he apparently does himself while playing the guitar. Tracks like "Dance with you" have a simple yet effective melody. Tracks like "Black widow" are darker though and include some banjo, this is not happy bluegrass but hard and raw picking.

"Feelings" is one of my favourite tracks with its breakneck acoustic melody and dead-pan vocals. This is crafted and raw acoustic music and well worth a listen.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Dreamscape - la-di-da recordings (Kranky)

The Dreamscape, the lovely Dreamscape. A prototype Secret Shine if you will, they released a fantastic single "Blackflower" at the start of the 1990s... unfortunately that isn't on here but we do get the rest of the Dreamscape's product including their follow-up EP to Blackflower and some songs which never saw the light of day until now including their recorded but then buried third EP.

I've always liked the Dreamscape with its sometimes laid-back and atmospheric but also non-dominating shoegaze, mostly for Rebecca Rawlings vocals which rate among my all-time favourites. The songs are simple, vocals, guitars and drum machine but so effective. The Dreamscape certainly are one of those long-lost bands who should have been so much more, but there is no justice in the universe we all know that.

But happily in this case there was Secret Shine to follow and they did the odd decent tune...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Top 5 Records (October)

1) la-di-da recordings - The Dreamscape
2) rapproacher - Class Actress
3) deception - Cave Cat
4) all things must pass - George Harrison
5) afar - The Ice Choir

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Best of Top of the Pops '76

Ah 1976 the heady year that saw the beginning of punk... not that you will find any on this covers compilation of course. The songs reflected genuine chart interest in any case and not what the NME said was cool, thus we have the likes of ABBA's "Mama Mia" and an amazing version of Queen's "Bohemian rhapsody". Indeed this cover version is very good and much more adventurous than the likes of "Under the moon of love" though thats done well too, but the original is not exactly one of my favourites...

What is my favourite song from 1976 (at the moment anyway) is on here, and that is "Mississippi". The days before punk (didn't really) blew it all away were often country rock and disco tinged and there are plenty of examples of both here to enjoy.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Time and Energy - strange kind of focus

Experimental music from California, Time and Energy are an indie duo who have added tape loops, woodwind instruments and a whole lot of strangeness to their mix. "Hot air" which starts this album off is a case in point, a rock track with added layers of noises giving it an asymmetric air.

Sometimes experimental rock can disappear the wrong side of listen-ability but Time and Energy manage to pull it off such as on "Tree salad" which sounds like its melody is from some tin cans being bashed and a cheap organ (and maybe it was?!)
Its not all explosive noises, "Breakdown" has a nice relaxed acoustic feel. "Sitting on a scale" is a great psychedelic rock song with lovely keyboards underpinning an air of menace. The album is a great one with so much inventiveness, classic rock mixed with all manner of strange noises, often coming at you suddenly without warning. "Acid Jam" sums up the band with its tempo changes and psychedelic noises. Unexpected, surprising and cool.

"Strange kind of focus" is out in November 2012.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Live : Mary Chapin Carpenter & Shawn Colvin (Birmingham Symphony Hall October 18 2012)

And in a bit of a departure... some folk, country rock in an acoustic setting. In fact i have been a fan of Mary Chapin Carpenter since i was a teenager and as those years are (ahem) some time ago i thought it was about time i saw her live. Here the two singer-songwriters were without their bands, just them on stage with a bunch of acoustic guitars.

And it was great, despite being in a (nearly full) big hall the feel was intimate. Carpenter mentioned how the two of them often just played songs to each other in their kitchens, this was a bit like that only sans coffee. The banter between the songs was great especially from Colvin, the little stories adding much to the songs that followed. As for the songs, they were a mix of old and new and performed well. Carpenter plugged her new album quite a lot (which is brilliant by the way) but there was a cheer when the golden oldie "This shirt" was played. That indeed was a song off the first album of hers i bought so many years ago...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Sunbathers (Dufflecoat)

Following on from their CD single on Dufflecoat earlier in the year the UK based pop duo make their 7" single debut with this lovely trio of seaside set pop songs. I said "gorgeous acoustic driven melodies" before i think, and as i believe in recycling i say the same again. "Hope" with its cute percussion is a simple and lovely song well played and sung evoking the delicate beauty of a sand castle.
"Hopeless romantic" has a simple sparse yet jaunty melody and quirky lyrics. "Northfield Lane" is my favourite track on it, seaside sound effects (seagulls!) take us into a reflective melancholy. Perfect music for when you are peering out of a rain soaked window, at the endless crashing of waves on the shore. And if you are land locked, then looking out at the A38 works just as well. The Sunbathers EP is due out in November.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Stone Roses - i am the resurrection

This is my favourite Stone Roses song and the single is still treasured even though it just has 3 versions of the same song and a rather pony remix of "Fools gold".

So 3 versions of the A-side then but ignore the radio edit and the album version check out the 5:3 Stoned Out Club Mix of "I am the resurrection". This is the best version, this is the kind of version you went mental to in the club after all. Beefed up beats and bass, its of its time but has weathered well unlike some early 90s indie dance tracks. Love the artwork too, the late 80s/early 90s high watermark of the indie/mainstream crossover. Just genius.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Ash - free all angels (Infectious)

Ash's third studio album rocked 2001 (is it really so long ago?) The album is notable for its big rock ballad "shining light" (put your lighters away please) however to me the album only really gets going on track 9 or 10...

The final few tracks on the album are among the best sequences of songs on an indie album ever. The power ballad "Sometimes" with its tasty guitar then the fun rock-thrash of "Nicole" with its shouty chorus. Then we have the sweeping strings of "There's a star" taking us into another glorious rock ballad. Brilliant sequence of songs, the rest of the album isn't bad either.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Cave Cat - deception (Dufflecoat/Luxury)

Sweden pop duo make their debut on this great 7" single released jointly by Luxury and Dufflecoat Records. Cave Cat came together thanks to a shared love of British guitar pop from the 80s and 90s and that influence is clearly evident on the two catchy and fresh pop tracks on show here.

"Deception" is a jaunty little tune with a great yet simple pop melody. I prefer "The abject" though which has a bit more of an anthemic indie pop feel to it and a chorus you'll be quickly singing along to. At once familiar but also new. Great debut!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

George Harrison - all things must pass (EMI)

The story of this album is well known, it came out in 1970 not long after the final break-up of The Beatles and astounded people with the sheer amount of music on offer (3 LPs worth which has translated to 2 CDs here with some extra tracks added) and the sheer quality too. So how does this remastered version of the album stand up 42 years on...

It stands up perfectly well thank you, an album that is just sheer class. The album didn't spring out of nowhere, it included songs George had written during the latter years of  the Fab Four (indeed some of which where rejected in favour of Lennon & MacCartney songs on the Beatles final few albums).

Whether it is the familiar hit "My sweet Lord" or the sublime adult rock of songs like the amazing and moody "Beware of darkness" it just oozes class. True there are hints of what some might term Dad rock excess in the years to come in some of the tracks especially the jams but i think they are fine and anyway can be omitted if you wish. On this album George certainly came out from behind the shadow of John and Paul, the album showcasing his songwriting and musical skill, heart and feel.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Top 5 Records (September 2012)

1) in her gentle jaws - Depreciation Guild
2) afar - The Ice Choir
3) ashes and roses - Mary Chapin Carpenter
4) i was running - Alpaca Sports
5) Penguin Prison

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Psychocandies - you feel the sun (i kiss the floor) (Dufflecoat)

This is glorious noise. The Psychocandies' debut EP has razor sharp feedback straight out of the JAMC school married to atmospheric soundscapes. Harsh and gritty (8 track studio naturally) yet with a beauty amid the waves of noise and post-punk beats. The title track has a wave of screaming guitar noise amid beats that disappear into the ether. Its pretty awesome to be honest.

"A place in the sun" is a long continuous grind and howl that seems recorded in a nuclear bunker, or it seems so anyway. "You got no soul" has brutal industrial beats and slabs of guitar noise, deadpan vocals natch. The closer "Psychotic" reminds me of noise jams from the likes of Fushitsusha. Its fantastic and you need this in your life!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dot Dash - winter garden light (The Beautiful Music)

The second album from US (Washington DC to be exact) band Dot Dash is a indie pop/rock gem packed full of great melodies and post-punk energy both of which are really evident on the powerful opener "Faraway". A track I particularly love though "Countdown" with its jangly pop rush and great also is the robust pop of "Writing on the wall" which has a great melody and beat.

"The past is another country" has some great guitar work packed into a song thats over in an instant. "The Devil's road" has a great noisy fuzz grind to it. There are some truly great songs on here, Dot Dash remind me of some of the great US and UK indie rock bands i used to listen to but also have a freshness and style that marks them out as something special and new. Great album indeed!

"Winter garden light" is available now on The Beautful Music.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Nancy Priddy - you've come this way before (RPM)

Occasionally i get albums purely because of the cover, i admit female artists tend to appear on most of these covers but i am sure that is purely a coincidence. Nancy Priddy's album intrigued me though because the cover just looked that cool and very much of its time.

This album by the singer-songwriter came out of New York in 1968 and has an interesting mix of late 60s folk pop and jazz. Take the title track for example with its easy melody and instrumental flourishes or "And who will you be" with its horns and spacey beats.

At times the album is a little odd, but its a good odd. Nancy Priddy is the mother of the actress Christina Applegate by the way, according to the liner notes Christina was named after a painting which one of the tracks on the album is about.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

MV : "Magic" by Ladyhawke

Lets celebrate international talk like a pirate day, this video is a bit pirate-y me hearties!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Some Gorgeous Accident - sleep in symmetry EP (Dufflecoat)

Relaxed blissful C86 noise is Some Gorgeous Accident's forte, especially on this is collection of beautiful pop melodies. Though as the band are named after a Blueboy record that should not be a surprise to anyone. "See you shine" has all the hallmarks of a twee classic: a simple pop melody that builds up to a crescendo of razor sharp chords.
"Tracing Baguio" again is winning with its simple pop melody and shards of guitar noise. "Avenue" is again simple and effective, a dreamy classic. "Your gaze" is blissful shoegaze, drifting you away on a sea of pop noise.

This EP, which will be out on Dufflecoat Records in late September, is a bliss drenched classic.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Pontoons - slow

When we reviewed Pontoons' great single "antidote" earlier in the year we said the album should be something to look forward to as well... well here it is, and it is (hopefully that makes sense!) Like the single the full length album is a great indie album with classic sounds wrapped up with earcatching tunes and intelligent playing.

The dreamy melancholy of "The first time" starts us off and then we are into the pacey pop thrill of "Shiver". Other highlights include the experimental 80s feel of "Persuade me" and the multi-faceted melody of "Leave the light on". "The path" is a bit of a departure being a gritty garage rock thrash but works well with the other (refined) tracks.

Closing things off is the extended track "Shaking" that builds and builds. Despite first forming in 1991 this is Pontoons first full length album (albeit for a lot of those years they were not active) but its worth the wait, brilliant!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Monks of Mellonwah - neurogenesis EP

Monks of Mellonwah have a sound that reminds you of grunge and alternative rock bands like the Chili Peppers (and "Neverending spirit" certainly has the feel of a song from the RHCP with atmospheric swirls of rock noise) but also classic 70s blues rock.
"Kyoto" is a more straight forward fast rock track and has plenty of energy and some great funky rock guitar. "You shine" is a brooding and epic rock masterpiece, my favourite song on the EP. The title track, which has some great rock hooks especially in the chorus, is a song about the development of atomic bomb, yes!

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Five Day Week Straw People (RPM)

This was a concept album from the late 60s by a London duo, one of whom now runs Toni & Guy apparently, and some musicians from other bands including the singer John Du Cann from The Attack. The concept was the life of ordinary British people who work hard during the week and then let it all go at the weekend...

Recorded in a few hours (and sometimes you can tell, often very rough around the edges) it has some truly great moments. Take the shambling trippy "Sunday morning" that conveys the morning after the night before really well. "Postman" starts with some great psychedelic noises before clicking into a poignant bluesy number. "Five day week straw people" is one of my all-time favourite psychedelic tracks, dreamy and asymmetric yet still with a great tune.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Top Of The Pop (28/07/1977)

Noel is here and we're straight into a song - no credits, music nada. It just feels a bit weird, like we've missed the first minutes of the show, anyway...

Steve Gibbons Band - Tulane
And what a way to start the show, well if you like a bit of country rock boogie woogie. Hey i don't mind and Steve is in good voice. The audience also seem more animated than usual, maybe they are sending electric current through the floor?

Noel introduces the chart run down, the Detroit Emeralds providing the music backdrop to the likes of the Sex Pistols and Olivia Newton John. Not sure its working.

Boney M - Ma Baker
In Interwars Period outfits to match the gangster era theme of the song (well vaguely) but the same pop funk fun. The performance seems taken from elsewhere as the audience are all sat down but are clapping which puts them ahead of the usual TOTP crowd.

Showaddywaddy - you got what it takes
This band must have been the favourite of 1970s TV engineers, their different coloured suits must have been very handy when tuning in a TV. What interests me about this lot is that there are so many of them in the band and on stage yet their sound is so traditional and safe. Its like they were formed as a job creation scheme.

Legs & Co. are in a car that looks like it could have been in Death Race 2000 to perform Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers' "Roadrunner". The "dancing" mostly consists of headbanging on the back seat.

Bob Marley & The Wailers - Exodus
Cool people shake their stuff on stage.

Dana - its high time you put some words together
From Bob Marley to Dana... thats the magic of Top of the Pops! Typical light entertainment fare, almost expect to see Morecambe & Wise messing about in the background. There is a bit of a country feel to it though which actually makes the song very up to date... Noel says it'll keep the Dana fans happy. Bit of a back-handed compliment eh?

Emerson, Lake & Palmer - fanfare for the common man
Prog rock in an Olympic stadium. Couldn't happen here... or could it?

Rita Coolidge - we're all alone
Same film footage as a couple of weeks ago. Noel makes the lamest joke ever about the Wirral. I wonder if he did it for a dare.

Thin Lizzy - dancing in the Moonlight
A nice spot is a couple dancing real slow and romantic at one end of the stage. Noel is astonished his prediction that their last song would go to #1 didn't work out. Funny that, his predictions usually are spot on. Yeah right.

Donna Summer - i feel love
Donna isn't here so instead we get large pictures of her for the audience to dance in front of and Legs & Co. gyrate in their car from earlier. Oddly its all very retro-futuristic.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My Bloody Valentine - loveless (Remastered) (Sony)

21 years ago My Bloody Valentine released "Loveless", an album that has gone on to become one of the icons of shoegaze and indie noise and one of the best albums of the 1990s. It was My Bloody Valentine last full-length album but here finally is the follow-up... a remastered version.

Its all here as before, updated by Kevin Shields, only better : the waves of noise, the drones, the whale noises, and some amazing indie rock moments especially "Only shallow" and "Soon" which bookend the album. In between noises and a soundscape that were beyond many people's imagination (although personally i can imagine quite a lot). You actually get Loveless remastered twice on 2 CDs, once from the original tapes and then again from DAT tapes.

My ears arn't good enough to tell much if any difference to be honest between the 2 CDs... all i can tell is it is a work of genius.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Ladyhawke - anxiety (Island)

Ladyhawke's second album after a 4 year gap and times have moved on. Ladyhawke has moved her sound away from a retro synth laden pastiche of great late 80s pop on her great debut to something altogether harder and rockier and more refined in direction. Whereas her first album was a little patchy "Anxiety" is pretty full on straight off the bat with the driving pop-rock of "Girl like me".

Highlights are a-plenty and include the blistering power-pop of "blue eyes" and the power of "black, white and blue". At times maybe it feels like Ladyhawke has moved on from the 80s to 90s Brit Pop though there are also 80s and psychedelia influences in the mix. There are also plenty of amazing pop hooks in that mix.

I can't deny i do miss the "old Ladyhawke sound" a bit but she was probably right to move on. The 80s can be a great decade to dip into but its very easy to become entrapped by the cliches. Overall verdict then, brilliant. Its in the running for one of the albums of the year.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Top Of The Pops - Volume 20 (Hallmark)

Released around the time i was born, thus these were the hot pop sounds exciting the nation while i was ready to make my debut, what a scary thought. Some of the songs are pretty good, the cover of "Maggie May" has been on another of these Top Of The Popper CDs i have reviewed and is a good attempt at the song though the singer sounds more like Joe Cocker than Rod.

"Spanish Harlem" and "The night they drove old Dixie down" also delight, though in the latter case its as much for the subject matter more than anything else, pop songs about the American Civil War are pretty rare these days. Much of the album is bland however. Maybe that just reflects a less than vintage crop of pop tunes at the time to cover, then i arrived and it all changed. Or did it?

"I'm leaving" is the Elvis cover, unfortunately with this series you always imagine they got a cheesey Elvis impersonator to do the song. Best song on the album is the Four Tops cover "Simple game" which is very true to the original and performed very well indeed.

Top 5 Records (August 2012)

1) songs - Jackie DeShannon
2) if i crawl, you crawl - Nature Set
3) Penguin Prison
4) rapproacher - Class Actress
5) ashes and roses - Mary Chapin Carpenter

Sunday, August 26, 2012

MV : "See Emily play" by Pink Floyd

Taken from the original TOTP performance in 1967 (the show now wiped i believe) but this performance survived though badly distorted and has been restored.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Top Of The Pops (21/07/1977)

DLT is here to present... a song first no chart rundown as usual... and the song is...

John Miles - slow down
Frenetic late-70s funky sub-disco boogie complete with weird vocal effects. Its so magic DLT is caught air guitaring like a BOSS.

DLT explains TOTP is changing, and we have the top 30 rundown with the Tavares as a soundtrack.

The Bay City Rollers - you make me believe in magic
The Rollers are near the end and even seem to have dispensed with the tartan. They've done a MOR pop track too so at least they haven't tried and gone disco.

Brotherhood of Man - Angelo
Pleasant enough song by the Brotherhood...

The Jam - all around the world
...but compared to this it seems to come from another reality completely. This is the youth explosion yeah, the TOTP audience don't get above a mildly energetic jiggle though.

Alessi - oh Lori
Gentle beat and high pitched vocals, though really it is actually better than that. Close your eyes you could almost be in a cocktail bar, or a Berni Inn.

Fleetwood Mac - dreams
Film footage on a stage somewhere and very fine it is too.

The Rah Band - the crunch
Now for something different, how about a keyboardist in a wetsuit and a plastic bag. Why we don't know, and lets face it the answer would no doubt disappoint. Lets just revel in the fact a band from the Blakes 7 universe and somehow managed to make it into our spacetime realm.

Danny Williams - dancing easy
The song seems based on the Martini jingle "anytime, anyplace, anywhere", when the song starts you wonder if you've switched to 70s ITV by mistake. Its a nice song but isn't quite as good as...

Queen - good old fashioned loverboy
The same performance footage as shown a couple of times already i think.

Donna Summer - i feel love
Its the sound of the future, the song that redefines dance music and indeed pop music for the next 20 years but for now is number 1... though Donna isn't here so instead we have Legs & Co jiggling to the synth beats. Then they also run around in unison so the effect is more Benny Hill than space disco.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Best of Top Of The Pops '72 (Hallmark)

Good as some of these Top Of The Poppers covers albums are, a few were not up to par. The "Best of 1972" either reflects the weakness of the charts in that year or simply the "best of" from that year was badly chosen. Some songs are pretty good such as the versions of "Telegram Sam" and "You wear it well" and a few songs fall just the right side of listenable kitsch such as the cover of "Puppy love".

However a lot of the covers are just... bad. But then again a cover of a bagpipe version of "Amazing Grace" is always going to sound pretty off next to glam rock and teen pop. "I'd like to teach the world to sing" is also pretty awful, just like the original then. Make mine a Pepsi out of sheer spite.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Alpaca Sports - i was running

Sweden's Alpaca Sports' latest 7" single comes with two lovely twee pop songs that provide the perfect soundtrack for a lazy sunny day or indeed any day. The title track races along with light tones and a simple perfection.
"Lets go somewhere" drops the pace a bit but has a really poppy melody and so much jangly joy in it you can't help but smile. To complete the perfect package the single has another lovely illustration by Ray Kimura. Available from Susy, Luxxury and Dufflecoat Records at the end of August.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Best of Top Of The Pops '71

The best Top Of The Poppers cover versions from the year of my birth, as you might expect (if you are familiar with this series at all) its a bit of a mixed bag.

"Maggie May" is pretty good and is probably the album's highlight though the cover singer sounds more like Joe Cocker than Rod Stewart. The mandolin work is also a bit limited compared to the original but a good song all the same. The sessions musicians also make a decent job of "My sweet lord".

"Knock three times" and "Chirpy chirpy cheep cheep" are also well done, though i am pretty unfamiliar with the original version of the latter song. None of the songs on here are actually that bad though some of them are not that true to the original (which of course was the TOTPers raison d'etre). On the evidence of this 1971 was a pretty decent year for pop and rock...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Twin Berlin - there goes my virtue EP

Boston based Twin Berlin produce gritty, raw yet very listenable rock on this EP released on Bandcamp. "Can't take, take take" gets the EP up to a great start with frenetic guitars and pounding drums. The song blasts along with loads of energy.
"Don't hang around" is another frenetic ride with terrific guitar noise including some brilliant solos. "Give up on me" has plenty of attitude and more widdly guitar noise, love it! Twin Berlin are turning some heads over in the US and also have some high profile supporters, this EP being produced by Blink 182's Travis Barker and the EP artwork by Mikey Welsh of Weezer. You can feel they are going places on evidence like this EP.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Top Of The Pops (14/07/1977)

Kid Jensen mangles the English language again to present...

The Real Thing - love's such a wonderful thing
I'm not sure which artists have been on these TOTP repeats the most since BBC4 started reshowing programmes from 1976 but The Real Thing surely must be a contender and here they are again. A pleasing pop number with a little bit of funk. Pleasing but not much more.

Rita Coolidge - we're all alone
Music video time, or rather wandering around a forest looking thoughtful and reflective while singing a romantic song. The romantic solitude effect ruined by the camera crew following her around of course.

The Saints - this perfect day
An Australian band from "just outside the charts", and they are rather punky or at the least you'd describe them as driving power pop if you are allergic to the p-word. Pretty decent they are too though they don't seem to think much of having to mime. The singer kind of ruins the miming effect by accidentally dismantling his microphone stand and almost dropping the microphone. Or maybe that just adds to the PUNK ROCK!!! effect?

The Commodores' sublime "easy" up next but no Lionel Richie alas instead Legs & Co swaying vaguely in time, though not so much with each other.

Dave Edmunds - i knew the bride
Kind of retro (even for then) rockabilly fun, though done with style and a bit of feel not a Showaddywaddy horror.

Jigsaw - if i had to go away
Jigsaw's latest hit requires the singer to wear very tight trousers, its all falsetto and very feminine and rather disturbing. The Bee Gees had a lot to answer for in the late 70s.

Supertramp - give a little bit
Music video, or filmed performance time anyway.

Cilla Black - if i wanted to call it off
In between her 60s heyday and 80s TV hogdom. Cilla seems curiously out of time, probably a song that would be great on a 70s Eurovision but this is Top Of The Pops 1977 baby and its time for...

The Sex Pistols - pretty vacant
The highest new entry and the BBC couldn't ignore this song like they did the other one, though no one could guess that by 2012 "God save the Queen" gets into the Olympic opening ceremony and the Queen herself jumps out of a helicopter. Such futuristic thrills are beyond even the most acid damaged/enhanced imagination, back in 1977 instead we get this studio rampage and brilliant it is too. Better than Cilla Black anyway.

From Sid Vicious to Kenny Rogers who is here to talk to Kid, Kenny has been working in Saudi Arabia, on an oil rig or a camel farm something. Kenny introduces the number one...

Hot Chocolate - so you win again
For the third week, Hot Chocolate are still on top of the chart, and they deserve it.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Penguin Prison (Stranger)

The neo-synth pop movement has a lot to answer for... namely some amazing music. Penguin Prison is another artist (see also the divine Class Actress) who sounds like he was frozen in carbonite in around 1987 and recently defrosted to continue his insanely catchy pop ways.

And there are pop hooks a plenty on this album, as well as some interesting lyrics and song subjects such as "Multi-millionaire" and "Don't fuck with my money" which are songs for our times backed by the sounds of an earlier age... or even earlier economic collapse.
"A funny thing" really scores with a fast electro beat and is a super dance track but the sheer retro-ness almost reaches the point of no return on "Something i'm not" which starts off sounding like it was recorded on a VIC-20 but luckily does get a bit more sophisticated later on, C64 then. There is also an infectious 80s funkiness on "The worse it gets" which approaches George Michael territory.

So many great songs, one of the best examples of modern synth pop, retro but fresh. Really this is one of the best 80s albums you haven't heard... up until now.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Best Of Top Of The Pops 1976 (Hallmark)

1976, i knew it well. Actually no i didn't as i was only 5 however the BBC's repeats of Top Of The Pops began with shows from 1976 so i have become familiar with the pop hits of the year. This Top Of The Pops album is an album of covers and as earlier reviews of this series have shown the covers can be a bit of a mixed bag.

Nothing changes with this edition, the songs here are a mix of the great, the inspired (if maybe sometimes unintentionally) and the... well nothing is that terrible, just that some songs are a bit "meh". "Bohemian Rhapsody" has to fall into the inspired category. The session musicians did a really good job at trying to reproduce this varied song, a few strange sound effects are thrown in though for some reason, the first time you listen to the song you wonder if the world is under alien attack or if the stereo is broken. The only part of the song that fails a bit is the final rock attack phase but it would be hard to get close to the original.

"Mississippi" is a decent cover, its a bit murkier than the original but has plenty of country twang. "Under the Moon of love" is also remarkably good, a description i never thought i would write for a Showaddywaddy song but it just works. The Top Of The Pops session musicians did tend to struggle with ABBA though and there are a couple of attempts on here which probably should best have remained hidden in a vault.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Top 5 Records (July 2012)

1) anxiety - Ladyhawke
2) belong - The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
3) something - Chairlift
4) afar - The Ice Choir
5) ashes and roses - Mary Chapin Carpenter

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Barrens

The Barrens' self-titled album is often dark, brooding and menacing like on "Claw remains" and powerful, dangerous such as on the rock attack of "Felt".

This is the first full-length album from New York based The Barrens and it runs from heavy grunge rock to lighter psychedelia, "Bottom of the well" is a good example of the latter which comes complete with cute handclaps.
I like them best on the darker heavier stuff though, "Face the eighth" for example with its booming beat and atmospheric guitar noise or on my favourite track on the album "Never knew" with its grinding rock melody and waves of guitar noise.

The Barrens' album is full of great atmospheric alternative rock power and its quite simply great! Its available as a digital download or as a vinyl LP on the band's Bandcamp site.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Top Of The Pops (30/06/1977)

Noel is here to introduce late June 1977's hottest sounds including...

T-Connection - do what you gonna do
We start off with some rather grainy and lo-fi film footage that gets played on a big screen in the TOTP studio as the audience dance funkily... well dance anyway. To be fair the audience seem more animated than usual, not that its hard.

Gladys Knight - baby don't change your mind
And straight into the MV played a couple of weeks ago. Two songs in and nothing studio based yet? The MV itself is one of those behind-the-scenes films of life of the Pips. You know the kind of film, everything is cool and fun and nobody has a cross word for anyone else, those arguments are strictly for the cutting room floor.

John Miles - slow down
Into the studio at last, fast disco based pop played by a motley crew. The band's dressing room must have not had a working light, that must explain the drummer's green PE kit, mind you he is a drummer... Noel thinks the song has #1 all over it, so i guess its peaking in the mid-20s then.

Jesse Green - come with me
Jesse has a bit of a wardrobe faux-pas as his shades, while cool, continually reflect the studio lights giving him the effect like he has some kind of white laser spot on his head. Hopefully the sniper won't fire.

Queen - good old fashioned lover boy
Repeat of the non-TOTP studio performance of an earlier show.

Cliff Richard - what happens when two worlds drift apart
Cliff croons a low-key piano led pop song. Sounds very much like a reasonable if a bit lifeless album filler track but not quite sure what its doing here. Its Noel's record of the week which of course guarantees it was a mighty hit that peaked at... #46, oh.

Legs & Co are in fetching black dresses to dance to the Detroit Emerald's "feel the need in me". The stage set has black and white lines that head off towards infinity giving the whole thing a somewhat surreal air.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer - fanfare for the common man
An Olympic tie in! Playing in an empty Olympic stadium somewhere a lot colder than the UK in July. I'm guessing its the Montreal 1976 stadium, didn't they just finish paying for the Olympics?

Hot Chocolate - so you win again
Hot Chocolate's first (and only) number one Noel tells us, after insulting them in the rather awkward segment from ELP's song. Its a good song though maybe flattered by the less than stellar competition at the moment.