Monday, 31 August 2009

An album only a mother could love

My Mum and step dad came over yesterday, and I made them their dinner. I usually put some music on in the background, just in case I need to let my mind wander when my step dad is boring me shitless about the crane hire business or saying that we really should move to Turkey.

Yesterday I put Pocketbook's 'Flight Paths' on, because, after playing it to death earlier in the year, I'd not heard it for a couple of months. Of course it still sounded marvellous, but then I noticed my Mum tapping her fingers along to it whilst I went and put the apple crumble in the oven. Then a head nod. Then she actually tried to start singing along to it.

My Mum's record collection is virtually zero outside of Rod Stewart albums, and the ubquitous 'Endless Flight' by Leo Sayer (hang on, there's the link!), so this is regarded as something of a breakthrough.

Mum, if you're reading this, here is 'Summertime' to download. And sorry for swearing so much.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Piney Gir - The Yearling (Hotel Records)

I always had Piney Gir down as some kind of ironic line dancer, or something. I really shouldn't make daft assumptions like that, because 'The Yearling' is a quite lovely album.

Imagine, dear reader, a female George Formby singing to the regulars in a dusty bar in an episode of the Dukes of Hazzard. In waltzes Piney Gir (not literally) and regales them all with her slightly quaint, slightly kooky (please don't be put off by the 'k' word; she's not Tori Amos) songs about bumblebees and elephants and castles. Boss Hog would bloody love it.

Sometimes the songs here sound like Bugsy Malone misfits, other times they spook me out because they have a THEREMIN in them. And it's been a while since I heard a good theremin. But check it out in the sweet 'Of all the Wonderful Things'.

The best track here is 'Say I'm Sorry' which starts off nice a slow with a cracking bit of slide guitar, before all of a sudden launching into the chorus. How very modern. But it's the sort of pop song that we miss when Tender Trap are on one of their long breaks.

I didn't really expect to like 'The Yearling' at all. But I do, and what's more, now I can't get the theme tune to the Dukes of Hazzard out of my head. There are worse things in life.

You can download 'Say I'm Sorry' here.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Filipino Indiepop Scene Vol. 4 - Kissing Ballade

Last in the Filipino Indiepop Scene Collective's free downloadable albums is Kissing Ballade. It's another beauty, and you can download it here.

Track listing:

National Express - Can't Really Forget About Everything Skywritings - Serenity Serenade Archway
Close - Longer Farewell
Isobel - Daisy Tune
Spring Boutique - Candy Blue Skies
Outerhope - Lost In Numbers
Sunday Picnic Love Affair - Happy Lonely Day
Archaster - Kissing Ballade
Avalyn - 3.5 Blusher
The Wentletraps - Through You
Slumbook - Your Daily Routine
Love In Athens - Little Chains
Some Gorgeous Accident - Falling Fast
Grace Period - Can't Get Away From You
Dewdrop Fountain - Lazy Sunday Afternoon
Balloon Derby - Moonstruck
Slow Hello - Secret Sunset
That Lingering Feeling - Where The Fallen Leaves Were
Dress - Our Wakeful Dreams
Self-Portrait - The Unrequited Love Song
Goodbye Dakota - This One Decided To Stay (features lyrics derived from One by Jill Bliss)

I also happen to think that Balloon Derby is the best name for a band ever.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Liechtenstein - This Must be Heaven

Has anyone heard the new Liechtenstein song they've made available for free download? It's called "This Must be Heaven" and it's completely beautiful. As Marianthi said, it's like "being tickled on your neck by petals." The big twee-er.

Why aren't Liechtenstein bigger? Why don't teenagers have their photos on their wall (instead of... er, dubious thirty-somethings, for example)? Why shouldn't "This Must be Heaven" be this years Christmas number one?

Answers on a rose petal, please.

You can download 'This Must be Heaven" here.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Stop, look and listen

Downstairs, on the bookshelf, sits The Champagne Socialist single. It arrived in the post over a week ago, and it remains unlistened.

There comes a time in everyone's life when they're just too busy to remember everything. I think my brain reached saturation point some years ago, because although I can remember quite vividly what I did in August 1985, I have very little recollection of my movement last weekend.

Being busy got me thinking about things I never do any more. I don't go for bike rides any more. I don't hardly ever read books any more. And, perhaps most galling of all, I very rarely find time to sit down and listen to an album. Of course I still listen to music all the time - but it's usually whilst I'm doing something else like working or washing up or making the tea. You don't really take it all in then, do you?

When I was 15 or 16 I'd go out on a Saturday and buy a handful of records, get the bus home and sit in my room listening to them over and over again until I knew the words. And, of course, at the same time I'd memorise the sleeve notes. Everyone else did that, right?

Nowadays I sometimes don't even listen to new stuff. Not that I'm some kind of whirling social butterfly I hope you understand - more that the general drudge of life constantly gets in the way. Take the last three Morrissey albums for example; when I was a nipper I could name every song Morrissey and The Smiths had released in chronological order. Now I'd be hard-pressed to name a dozen songs off the last three records. Sure, I recognise them when they come on, but I'm not entirely sure what they're called, or even what album they're off.What have I become!

Everyone who loves or has loved music will surely recognise that sitting alone in your bedroom, in front of the stereo - possibly making a mix-tape, possibly not - was or is one of the most enjoyable things in the world.

Of course nowadays we have access to so much more music than ever before, but do we really listen to it all? Or do we just collect it? At the moment, I'm guilty of the latter, and that makes me a little bit sad, because falling in love with a record is still one of the best feelings in the world. It's intensely personal, but at the same time totally liberating because you realise that there must be other people out there that feel the same. And that feeling is all too fleeting these days.

It does come back, right?

There's too many questions here... and it's a silly thing to moan about really.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Lolly gagging

A friend of mine went on the demonstration against the BNP's Red White and Blue festival in Codnor, Derbyshire yesterday. For those that don't know, this is the BNP's annual get-together where by day they play harmless country fayre-style games, and by night they pack all the kids off to bed and get some charmless crackpot in as guest-speaker, chuck racism around like confetti, and end by Sieg Heiling Nick Griffin until midnight. Probably.

The left isn't very good at countering the BNP. It veers from tiny, anarchist kamikaze actions, to the more brain dead, and often arrogant auto anti-racism of Unite Against Facism (UAF), one of the SWP's many fronts.

UAF's main spokesperson is Weyman Bennett who routinely strolls in from London to one of these demos, dons his hi-vis jacket, consults the BNP, fights his way to the front and starts hectoring at everyone through his fucking megaphone, before starting a chant so mind-curdlingly embarassing that the boys of Cable Street must be furiously spinning in their graves.

Jamie said that exactly the same thing happened yesterday. And that he thinks "anti-facism is a waste of time." This is sympomatic of the malaise the SWP spreads over a huge number of socialists and communists it comes into contact with. Young, enthusiastic people join up with the promise of "claiming the streets" or "smashing the BNP" only to find that internal democracy in the party is non-existant, its leadership is arrogant and at times apolitical, it's sectarianism and wilful ignorance of the rest of the left arrogant in the extreme, and that they have to sell as many Socialist Workers as they can in Mansfield town cente on a Saturday morning to a disinterested public who only came into town to get some new work shoes.

The UAF/SWP is obviously claiming a huge victory against the Red, White and Blue festival. But then it claims a huge victory after every action. Bennett is quoted on the UAF site as saying:

"This was a great day for anti-fascists. We brought more protesters to Codnor this year than the numbers the BNP managed to attract to its 'festival' of race hatred. They had fewer people attending this year because the protests drove away their softer supporters.
That's maybe because at around £35 for a ticket, a lot of people couldn't afford to go along. Capitalism is going through one of its deepest crises. Not that UAF/SWP would take that into account, like.

But perhaps the biggest problem UAF/SWP has is it's complete ignorance of what its day-long demos has on the people living in surrounding areas. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't want to hear Bennett hollering through a megaphone all afternoon if I was trying to isten to the footy scores on the radio. Nor would I be too chuffed if I couldn't get to the chippy because most of the roads on there way there were blocked off.

UAF/SWP has no ties in any working class communities it parachutes into. And neither will it develop any if it continues to act in such a high-handed way. It refuses to join locally led demonstrations and even organised separate buses from Nottingham yesterday.

Until the SWP learns that shouting "Nazi!" at the BNP is never going to work; until it realises that working with working class communities in order to fight the BNP might just be a good idea; and until Weyman fucking Bennett stops rolling up to everything and relying on the police all the time, then its strategy will continue to fail. It'd be really interesting to find out how many people from Codnor were on the demo, actually, but that's for another day.

Still, Jamie got to meet Harpal Brar. That's always a bonus. The mad fucker.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Crayon Fields - Mirrorball video

There's something about Crayon Fields songs that make me want to go and wrap myself up in about ten cats. Here's the video for the most goregeous 'Mirrorball'.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Roundabout Records sale!

Two posts in the same night - but this is something you simply can't miss out on.

Jimmy from Matinee is having a huge sale of his old Roundabout Distro stuff from years ago. There are some fantastic records going for next to nothing there, and you really should order as many as you possibly can.

Why, oh why, oh why is pay day a week on Monday? Fresh out of luck. There best be some of those Bulldozer Crash singles left by the time I get paid, or else someone will be getting a very hard stare indeed.

Filipino Indiepop Scene - Strange Carousels

As promised earlier in the week, here's the second volume from the Filipino Indiepop Scene Collective, called 'Strange Carousels This one's a corker.

Track listing:

Daylight Punch by On Petals
First Time by Grace Period
Ann by Slumbook
Miss Photogenic by Camera Shy
Kissus by Arigato, Hato!
Strange Carousels by Radiomanila
Sink Into Something by Superminty
Neither One [Live] by Eulluvye
The Games We Play by The Jealous Sea
With You by Farewell Isobel
Never Meant To Last by Lovely Days And Loud Hurrays
Pop Song (Can't Figure Out) by Lazy Lorelei
I Left My Heart In San Pedro by Spazzkid
Be My Lorraine by Balloon Derby
Summer's Somber by Dewdrop Fountain
A Story About What by Adorable Adorations
We Have To Find A Reason by Aurora's Beating Heart
Blood On The Mat [Live] by Nocturnal We
Moving Up by Aspirin
Evergreen Days by Some Gorgeous Accident
Ananda [Instrumental] by Set Ashore

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Songs that saved your life, part 10

1995 was a funny year. It started with my third straight year on the dole and it ended with me seeing someone still doing the final year of her A-Levels, much to the hilarity of my friends. I was only 21, but they were all approaching 30 (or older), and to them it was one of the most hilarious things in the world.

I spent most of the year living in a grotty Nottingham flat on Forest Road East - one of city's red light districts. I'd wake up in the middle of the night, go for a glass of water, look out of the window and see a desparate young woman giving a slightly embarrassed bloke a blow job. After a while it was water off a duck's back, and at least with people around the place at all hours of the night I was never going to get burgled.

I also lived with the smelliest boy in the world. He really did pong. But that's another story. Because all-in-all it was a fun, exciting year compared with the two and half year struggle that had come before it. I met this girl and it seemed to sweep clear a little bit of the angst that'd built up through my late teens.

Around this time I was heavily into stuff like Scarce, Animals That Swim, Velo-Deluxe, Versus, Polara, Girls Against Boys - that kind of thing. And then, one day, I came across The Harvest Ministers' 'A Feeling Mission' going cheap in Selectadisc. Using some of the £3.33 an hour I was earning as an usher at the local Odeon I bought it and took it home and listened to it. About twenty times on the row.

'A Feeling Mission' isn't the greatest record ever made, but it somehow signalled some kind of tiny rebirth after being dragged down by the relationship I'd moved to Nottingham for in the first place. And there's one song on the album I used to put on after a shitty shift at the Odeon that really rung true: 'Cleaning out the Store'. It was the sort of song you could put on, dive onto the bed, and stare at the ceiling whilst singing really badly. And probably do some kind of weird, dramatic arm dancing at the same time, too. But that was optional. I was only 21.

This song is so 'of it's time' that I barely dare listen to it nowadays, but it's almost impossible not to revisit it now and again.

Ooh, that felt good to get off my chest. And I can't believe I managed to find a photo on the internet of that shitehole flat.

You can download 'Cleaning out the Store' here.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Philipino Indiepop Scene - Summer Escape

Someone called heyconstance uploaded four albums of stuff from the grandly-titled Philpino Indiepop Scene Collective on anorak today. Four whole albums for free!

I'll link to the other three over the next few days (or you could go and find them on anorak, I suppose), but here's the first to download.


Hello Misery by Blue Stereo

Constellation Of My Heart by Archaster

Clouds Upon Clouds by Under Shooting Stars

Moonlight Darling by Carnival Park

Winter Over Summer [Live] by Melody Style Apartment

The Rain Knows by The Wentletraps

Pillows And Blankets by Kid Auto Races At Venice

Until Goodbye by A Painted September

Last Summer's Love Affair by Apple Orchard

Why Are You So Lovely? by National Express

Sunday Picnic Love Affair [Live] by Sunday Picnic Love Affair

The Things You Say by Sodajerk

Just Like The Sky by Soft Pillow Kisses

Everything She Had by Citrusphere

Before Anything Else by Fantasy Lights

Untitled #1 by In Between Blue and Green

A Summer Escape by Golden Teardrops

Division by Envelope And Seabirds

Pretending That We're Smart by Candyaudioline

Sleeve design courtesy of Chary, of The Wentletraps.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Withered Hand - Good News (SL Records)

Lynsey and Marianthi and Andy and Pete have been mithering on about Withered Hand for a while now, and apart from hearing about a song and half on the radio I've sort of been too lazy to hunt anything down. So it was nice when Ed from SL Records got in touch and sent me a link so that I could listen to 'Good News', Withered Hand's debut album. And it's a rare treat.

The first thing you notice, of course, is Dan Wilson's voice, which veers between choirboy and complete emotional breakdown about fifteen times every five seconds.

The second thing you notice are the confessional, often quite funny, lyrics. 'Religious Song' tells (I think) of Wilson's experiences of organised religion, and is pretty hilarious without being all "hey maaannn, religion SUCKS". And so it's really quite clever and charming.

'I am Nothing' is particularly wonderful. As Wilson sings: "In the greater scheme of things/I am nothing" you can feel hundreds of broken hearts pounding along with his. And yet he somehow manages to turn his own feelings of nothingness around by the end of the song, and it becomes a celebration of being anonymous. That's quite something, isn't it? And that's what will turn Withered Hand into some kind of touchstone for everyone who relishes being the underdog, and like anonymity of a crowded city centre, or a busy pub, or a train ride. Because being anonymous means you've got time to write amazing songs like this, obviously.

I'm probably gushing a little too much. But in Edinburgh there lies, in Withered Hand, a thing of great beauty. 'Good News' means you can own a little piece of that. Lucky you.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

The Champagne Socialists interview

I ordered The Champagne Socialists' new single 'Blue Genes' from Slumberland the other day. Of course you can hear it at their myspace page, but it's not quite the same, is it?

The Champagne Socialists are something of a mystery. Apparently, they have members of The Royal We and Bricolage amongst their ranks, but are now based in the US.

That dull history lesson over, you should all know that The Champagne Socialists are thrilling. They sound like The Ronettes playing Crystal Stilts songs. And so I asked them a few questions. The answers confused me even more...

How did you come to meet?

Jihae, Mike, and Devon, who sadly is no longer with us ( the band that is, not the world of the living), met at the West Coast School for advanced children. Jihae and Wallace met through a correspondence program run by the international ring of 'special' schools. New members include Jackson Baugh, whom we met on Sunset Ranch while riding horses in the hills, and Jessica Espeleta, whom we sadly can't remember meeting.
What's with the name, and who is your favourite champagne socialist?

We're actually thinking of changing the name. We hadn't played any shows yet when Slumberland asked us to put out a 7" and tour with the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, so we didn't really get to think it through, and now that we have, we don't really dig it. However, our favorite champagne socialist would have to be... George Galloway, George Hamilton, Geroge Best... all the Georges... sounds like a twee band...

My wife you said you sound like you're playing at the end of a very long tunnel. Does this please you?

Oh yes, in many ways. We learned a lot of atmospheric tricks from great Uncle Joe (Meek), who is actually Wallace's great uncle. And then there's the metaphoric tunnel... the one we hope we are coming out of into riches and hi-fi recording studios.

Which John Waters film do you belong in?

Cry Baby. It's good bad, but not evil. Which means no singing anuses? Ani? How do you say more than one anus? Anyway, it ain't got none.

How did the single come about? And are you pleased with it?

Mike Slumberland asked us and we said 'Yes.' Don't mean to sound cheeky, just not very interesting a story.

Who are your other favourite bands at the moment - present and past.
Favorite bands past... the Beach Boys, Sparks, Fire Engines, Heinz, Del Shannon, Dexy's Midnight Runners, Slade, Brett Smiley, the Television Personalities, the Zombies, Lenny and the Squigtones... Jan and Dean, Tiny Tim, and 1910 Fruitgum Company!

Present... Jihae doesn't like much new music but there are a few we can all agree on... Abe Vigoda, Magic Kids, Tyvek, Hunx and his Punx, Brilliant Colors, Panda Bear.

Mike from Slumberland tells me you're about to start recording an album for the label. Tell me all about it.

We're currently holed up in the top secret practice space making lists and getting everyone up to speed to start recording in October. We can say no more. It's a secret.

When will you be coming to Europe?

As soon as it is possible for us! Whenever we get out of this bloody tunnel...
You can - you should! - buy The Champagne Socialists' single from here.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

My defiance is my number one

I was just talking to Marianthi about songs that make you feel defiant. Because sometimes feeling defiant is better than feeling happy, isn't it? Sometimes being defiant can make you do great things, go great places and meet great people. And often just being happy can make you a bit lazy, and no-one wants that.

Anyway, I don't know if Marianthi's making a mix cd, or whatever, but I offered up the Windmills' version of Airport Girl's 'Striking Out on your Own'. If this doesn't make you get up off your knees and go and thump a Labour MP, nothing will.

Download The Windmills - Striking out on Your Own here.

Monday, 3 August 2009

It's Christmas!

Remember November? Good, because that's when the next Nottingham indiepop all-dayer is going to be. Sunday 15th to be precise, and Lee Rosy's Tea Shop on Broad Street.

Last year's was a gentle success, so me and Andy thought we'd done another one this year. There'll be about seven or eight bands, and there'll be a BAR. Or so we've been promised. We were promised that last year, like, but there was a mumbled excuse about forgetting to apply for the license in time, or something.

So far The School, Standard Fare and Mascot Fight are confirmed, but we'll be announcing more as the weeks go by and we get even more bored at work than normal.

It'll be ace!

In other news the swine flu pandemic has claimed its first indiepop victim. Dan Pocketbooks is currently sat on the sofa moaning like a big fanny that he needs some soup (I imagine). It's Emma Pocketbooks I feel sorry for in all this.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Horowitz - Super Snuggles (This Almighty POP!)

Happy August.

Finally - finally! - this Horowitz single sees the light of day. And it's been worth the wait.

Horowitz songs are like something you can cling to when times are hard, or you've had a shit day or work, or you have no money or your girlfriend's just told you she's running off with your sister. 'Super Snuggles' has this melancholic feel which makes you realise that it's not just you who's fed up and skint. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, 'Winona' hammers out a primitive beat whilst Ian purrs about doing the nasty with the unnattainable. Warning: contains mild peril.

Hang on! What's this? It's 'The Boy From Whatstandwell', and it's a Horowitz torch song! It's in 3/4 time, and everything. I think the more pompous among us would call it "mature". I won't bother doing that.

Another amazing pop fix from Horowitz, then. Look out for the album which is apparently ready to go when the band can get a label to release. Come the revolution, comrades, Horowitz will be fighting record labels off with a shitty stick.