Thursday, January 31, 2013

Looking Towards The Sky: Progressive, Psychedelic And Folk Rock From The Ember Vaults

Ember Records was a indie record label before indie meant whiney white boy blues (just kidding, i am an indie kid). In the late 60s and early 70s Ember released a number of records by rock bands. All small bands who didn't really make it but there are some psychedelic and prog gems here and some great bands names too like Rusty Harness, Knocker Junction and 9:30 Fly. Ultimately though the collection lacks a bit of a spark.

Best song is probably by Rusty Harness, a band name so cool i wish i had thought of it first.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Boxed Wine - cheap fun EP

Boxed Wine return with this 3 free track EP which also acts as a sampler for their forthcoming album as well as a great piece of indie pop in its own right. Opener "Bones" is frenetic and packed full of pop punch and a great melody.
"Boomerang" is a bit new wave-ish and again packs in the pop melodies. Its a very danceable track with a great structure and my favourite on the EP. "Dayglow (why can't we stay)" ups the rock noise a bit but like the other tracks has its core a solid pop melody. I love this EP, its a winner. Album due for May and i for one can't wait!
Get the EP free on Bandcamp and Soundcloud.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Top 5 Records (January)

1) afar - The Ice Choir 
2) sleep in symmetry - Some Gorgeous Accident 
3) this is my confession - Onward Chariots 
4) nuclear seasons - Charli XCX 
5) isle of dogs - Tigercats

Friday, January 25, 2013

Where did you buy your first records?

The collapse into administration of HMV sparked some nostalgic musings across the media in the UK about record buying. The BBC had an article about where people bought their first records which generated a number of responses. A theme seems to be it was a lot better in the old days before Amazon and iTunes when you could browse the record racks, i'm not too sure about that.

Is there something missing from buying your music online? Does it lack a "thrill"? I'm not sure, its certainly different but to honest i love the fact i can check out a band on Youtube and Soundcloud before i order the CD.

As for me my first records were some Iron Maiden singles i bought in Erdington market during my brief heavy metal phase when i was 12 (had a denim jacket with patches and everything!). The first one i got was "The Trooper" on 7" and followed soon after by a Motorhead 12" EP and Maiden's "Flight of Icarus".

Later on, after a few record-less years, i bought The Four Tops "loco in Alcapulco" 7" single from somewhere like Boots. My first CD was Waylon Jennings' "hangin' tough" which i bought from Our Price in about 1988, and this one unlike all the other early records i still have got...

What was your first record and where did you get it?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Slade - old new borrowed and blue

Slade released this album in 1974 and it marked a high point of their career, reaching #1 in the UK charts and following hot on the heels of the smash hit "Merry Christmas everybody" which has gone onto be one of the songs that best defines the band. That song isn't on here though, what we do have is a more mature and varied mix of songs than before. The band has moved on from the relentless rock noise blast and instead gives us songs like the acoustic led country rock gem "How can it be" and the piano led "My friend Stan" with its great retro yet slightly novelty vibe.

There is still plenty of glam rock stomp though, "The bangin' man" is a brilliant example of that as is "My town" which roars along in classic Slade vein. A real gem of an album.

Monday, January 21, 2013

How do you turn music into money?

How do you turn your music into money? Of course everyone does it for the sake of the music but that doesn't pay the gas bill. This interesting article shows how an independent artist (Zoe Keating a cellist) makes her money. Basically she makes most of it from iTunes with Bandcamp and Amazon also providing the bulk of her revenue. Streaming sites like Spotify only provide a small amount of income though as with anything the exact mix will depend on the artist and their genre.

The message surely has to be though that by cutting out the middle man (i.e. the major record labels) then artists can be best rewarded for their art. Thats what we indie kids have been saying all along...

Friday, January 18, 2013

Afraid Of Stairs (Dufflecoat)

Afraid Of Stairs are to release this great 7" single on Dufflecoat Records soon. The A-side "I lit up" starts up all messy, odd synths and jingly. That has to be one of the best starts to a song ever, the rest of the song is brilliant too with a great frenetic pop melody with frequent episodes of indie pop jingly joy.
B side "Little voice" is a little more straight forward song but still wonderful, being a lovely indie pop journey with shimmery and reverb guitars.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Meridian 1970

1970, what does it mean to you? Personally not a great deal to me as i wasn't born yet but i suppose for many people it means the split up of The Beatles and the World Cup and... not a great deal else? This excellent compilation expertly put together by Jon Savage tries to prove the boundary between the end of psychedelia and the rock excesses of the 70s was full of great music especially folk rock and the rediscovery of Americana.

"Nobody" by The Doobie Brothers is top class and the jingly jangle guitars of The Move's "Message from the country" too. Rod Stewart's "man of constant sorrow" also appeals. There was great music from 1970, maybe a year that often gets overlooked. This album shows that that is surely a mistake.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sara Jackson-Holman - cardiology (Expunged)

Singer-songwriter Sara Jackson-Holman has been compared to the likes of Adele and Amy Whitehouse (certainly she has big hair) and while there may be similarities its no more than being in the same general field of intelligent pop. Sara's second album is a polished collection of songs which has some real gems including some lovely ballads like "Can't take my love" and the lush and atmospheric "Freight train" which is probably the best song on the album.
"Empty arms" is another atmospheric track, sparse and simple and haunting. "Come by fire" is more of the same, reflective with a piano led melody. "For Albert" is a very different song, with classical flourishes (indeed it nicks a riff from Für Elise) and a fun electronically enhanced melody. "Risk it all" is a bit spacey and retro-electronic that moves into a dancey beat.

No matter what the style its all great modern pop music.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Wake - a light far out (LTM)

The Wake, remember them? A great post-punk band on Factory and later Sarah, well thats all in the past right? Wrong! The Wake returned with a new album last year and pretty good it is too. To be honest you would be mistaken for thinking there hadn't been a long gap in The Wake's history everything just sounds so smooth and right (though to be honest the two Wake members involved had already come together to join The Occasional Keepers a few years ago).

The songs are a mix of electronic enhanced pop and jingle jangle and indeed there is quite a variety but most of all you could describe the album as having plenty of well crafted pop songs. I particularly like the opener "Stockport" with its nostalgic refrains and urgent jangle melody and the layered title track. Varied and refined but never boring or false, this is an album to enjoy and appreciate more with every listen.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Arc & Stones EP

New York's Arc & Stones debut EP is due out next month is a great rock record. Both "Silence" and "Say goodbye" are powerful tracks with driving melodies and soaring vocals. Silence in particular is a really great rock song with an energy packed chorus.
"Let me down" is more sparse but also very atmospheric with a gutsy vocal performance. "She's mine" has a bluesy guitar feel and a melody that veers between soulful and rock attack (a mix that works!) Finally "Rise" has throbbing guitar and an energy packed chorus.
Arc & Stones debut EP is due out in February 2013. Its quite simply a great debut full of great rock noise.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Slade - slayed?

Slade's third studio album from 1972 is widely considered one of their best and also one of their most successful. Its easy to see why, as a slab of early 70s heavy rock its exhilarating with plenty of foot stomping glam fun. "Mama were all crazee now" is a highlight of the album and indeed their catalogue with its rock energy and the sheer joy delivered by every chord.

Special mention also however for the rock anthem "How d'you ride" too which opens the album and is one of a number of uptempo rock attacks. "Gudbye t'Jane" has a great rock melody and has to have one of the best rock choruses of the period. Yeah these boys might be crazee but they were orroight too!