Saturday, 25 February 2012

Evans the Death - Evans the Death (Fortuna Pop!)

The vibrancy of youth is often overstated when it comes to music. "Startling" young bands come and go, in a hail of cockiness, Top Shop wardrobes, some instruments still being paid for by Daddy's credit card, and only the most vague idea of how to write a pop song.

A lot of young people are in a lot of bands, but that doesn't make the bands vibrant. In fact, often the opposite is the case. Remember Gomez? Apologies if that name has just brought back terrible flashbacks, but they were permanently two years ahead Chris Rea in the tired and jaded stakes, and they first emerged when they were about eight years old.

Evans the Death, meanwhile, are the real deal. Firmly in that long line of bands (The Smiths, Suede, Kenickie, 2Unlimited) who seem to have ideas dripping from their ears as soon as they get up in the morning. To me, they're the sound of being young at the moment. Not that I'd know much about being young any more, you understand.

That's not to say every song here is akin to something terrible like Supergrass's 'Alright' - far from it. Evans the Death sound as world-weary as the next office drone, but the way they throw themselves into this set of songs on their debut album can only be done by a band on the right side of 20. Or the wrong side if you hate teenagers.

Because I'm a hip fucker I've heard about half the songs here before, but they seem to work just as well - if not better - when listened to as part of an album. So, 'Catch Your Cold' and 'I'm So Unclean' take on even extra power when played back to back at the beginning of this album, whilst 'Threads' (the band's finest moment so far) sounds even more menacing right before the equally ace and somewhat SEXY 'Wet Blanket'.

There's nothing particularly groundbreaking about Evans the Death's sound, but then there doesn't need to be, because they write such fizzing pop songs. Katherine Whitaker's voice might be a strange mixture of Debbie Harry and Morrissey, but other than that they use this almost obsessional drive to play every song like it might be their last. In a world where slack-jawed 21 year olds in bands seem to think that growing a beard will render them instantly fascinating, then this, amongst other things, makes Evans the Death heroes of my pop world.

Evans the Death's debut album is out in April on Fortuna Pop!

Monday, 20 February 2012

Shrag - Tendons in the Night (Fortuna Pop!)

Ever longed for that holy grail where The Fall meet Prolapse perfectly in the middle? Oh, come on - you must have. You need wait no longer, because Shrag's 'Tendons in the Night' is that song.

If this is a taster of what's on the new Shrag album then I'm in for a Spring of hiding indoors, crouched over the CD player, finger hovered over the repeat button, because 'Tendons in the Night' is the band's best single yet. Bob's deadpan delivery melds perfectly with Helen's hissyfit vocals across a strict background of clockwork drums, organ and squally guitar. The last 20 seconds in particular are just about the most exciting thing that's everey happened to me on a Monday.

This track, of course, is Shrag's half of their split single with Tunabunny, their upcoming tourmates. You can buy the single here. And you can - nay, YOU MUST - buy tickets for their upcoming Nottingham show with Horowitz here.

Friday, 17 February 2012

By way of a catch up...

Getting a promotion at work means lots of horrible things, like more responsibility, work and tellings off. It means one good thing: more money, but that has meant working crazy long hours and missing out on listening to lots of good stuff. And so, this post is meant to be a little bit of a catch-up on music that's gone sailing by.

I'll admit now to fair despising just about all science fiction. Call me a small-minded IT department-hating fascist if you will, but I was always more of a Dumbo man than a Star Wars fan, and I've never thought Thunderbirds is "classic". I even struggle with The Flintstones.

And so it was with some trepidation that I first listened to MJ Hibbett & the Validators' indiepoprockopera 'Dinosaur Planet' (Artists Against Success) - a sort of War of the Worlds for the cardigan generation. It could be really, really shit - but somehow it works.

Why? Because 'Dinosaur Planet' - although it tries hard to be funny and wry - also has song great pop songs like 'A Little Bit' which sees Hibbett and his band of long-time friends and collaborators is full-on, straight-faced ACE SONG form.

This is how I've tended to enjoy 'Dinosaur Planet' over the last couple of weeks. Does that sound horrible? Probably, but I'm not really the sort to enjoy any kind of concept album, and often this record reminds of that terrible comedy programme that used to be on Saturday afternoons on Radio 1 in the 1980s. Now that does sound horrible - sorry.

But then straight away comes a song as sweet as 'Here Come the Dinosaurs' - perhaps the only song about an extinct lifeform that you can clap your hands to. Charm sees this record through, and the realistion that no-one quite writes songs as happy/sad as MJ Hibbett & the Validators. And live, this set of songs takes on a whole new meaning. Now - write us a full album of them, please. I'm a very traditional man, and I don't like change. You can buy 'Dinosaur Planet' here.

Same goes for Cats on Fire - a band I'm in deep trouble with after saying that they went to expensive hairdressers whilst reviewing their last album. I'm JEALOUS for heaven's sake, and as they graciously pointed out on their website, I have less and less hair as the days go by. Next time I see them I'm going armed with scissors, some smelling salts and a paper bag.

Anyway, Cats on Fire do have a new album out soon called 'All Blackshirts To Me', on Matinee Records again, and the lead track from that is called 'A Few Empty Waves', the biggest-sounding CoF song I've heard so far. It fair soars, in a very understated way you understand. It's a tasty taster for the new album, which you can pre-order from Matinee from 1 March.

And so back to work...

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Indietracks 2012 - first bands announced

You know we always say, in a moment of reverie late on the Monday night after the festival, how Indietracks gets better and better with each passing year? Well, they've already really gone and outdone themselves this time.

I make no apologies for simply cutting and pasting the press release below. Suffice to say that the Slumberland stage is perhaps the greatest thing to have happened to me since last Indietracks.


Indietracks Festival is to collaborate with American indiepop label Slumberland Records for this year’s festival, due to be held on July 6-8 in the grounds of a picturesque 1950s steam railway in Derbyshire.

Allo Darlin and Veronica Falls are amongst the first bands to be announced as part of the partnership with Slumberland Records, who will help curate the outdoor stage. Other Slumberland artists confirmed so far include C86 legends The June Brides, Tender Trap, Evans the Death, Gold Bears and Sea Lions.

Other bands announced today are Bart Cummings (with Pam Berry of Black Tambourine), Tigercats, The Hobbes Fanclub, Language of Flowers, Colour Me Wednesday, Orca Team, Doggy, The Sunbathers, and The Birthday Kiss. Further bands will be announced shortly.

Mike Schulman, founder of Slumberland Records, says: "When we were asked to help curate this year's Indietracks festival we were delighted! Indietracks has a global reputation for supporting a diverse range of top-notch indiepop bands, and their aesthetics are right in line with ours. We've long looked forward to bringing some Slumberland flavour over to the UK, and Indietracks is the perfect opportunity."

Allo Darlin began as a vehicle for the solo songwriting exploits of Australian Elizabeth Morris, who moved to London in 2005 and began performing and recording as “The Darlings”. The band extended their line-up in 2009, became Allo Darlin, and released their self-titled debut in 2010. Regularly championed by BBC DJ Steve Lamacq, they have variously been described as “classic indie pop” and “fully formed talent at the first attempt”. Their second album Europe is due to be released on Fortuna Pop! and Slumberland Records later this year.

Veronica Falls are a four-piece indiepop band comprised of former members of The Royal We and Sexy Kids, formed in 2009 in London. Their self-titled album, released in 2011, was met with widespread critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic from the likes of BBC6 Music, Clash, The Guardian and Pitchfork.

Weekend tickets are now available at an early bird discount price of £60 (standard price £67). Single day (Saturday or Sunday) early bird tickets are available for £32.50 (standard price £35). The early bird prices are only available until 5pm on Saturday 14 April.

Tickets for children aged 5-14 are £6 for a day ticket and £10 for the weekend. Under-5s get in free.

Over 50 indiepop bands will be playing at the festival across four stages: the outdoor stage, the indoor stage, the church and the steam trains themselves. The festival will also host a range of art and craft workshops and a selection of discos after the bands finish.

This is the sixth annual Indietracks festival, which takes place at the Midland Railway in Ripley, in the heart of the Derbyshire countryside. The site houses a whole range of lovingly restored steam diesels and locomotives. Festival goers are allowed to have unlimited rides on the steam railway over the weekend and full access to other railway attractions including a farm and museum.

Previous headliners at Indietracks have included Edwyn Collins, Teenage Fanclub, Camera Obscura, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Los Campesinos, The Wedding Present, Au Revoir Simone and Art Brut.

Tickets are available by calling the railway direct on 01773 747 674 or by clicking here.

I'm going to the shed to hug my tent until 6 July. See you there.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

We Need Secrets

Cor, I'm tired after a brute of a week at work. So, it's nice when things like this come your way...

We Need Secrets are a completely brand new band from Halifax. No, not the mildly depressing Yorkshire town, but Halifax in that America.

As far as I can make out they're about to release their second single 'Melancholy' (a split with a band called Sea Glasses) on Noyes Records, after making their debut on the label in October of last year.

It'd be perfectly easy for me to regress back to being 16 again and say that We Need Secrets sound a lot like Ride, Chapterhouse and early Swervedriver, and in parts they do. But there's also a hint of mid-90s American pop thrown in here, with other influences including Velo-Deluxe and Polara - two bands who I was crazy for back then.

All in all, it's pretty lovely to hear people still making this kind of music, and 'Melancholy' is just that, but at the same time pretty life-affirming and direct and vital. And as catchy as anything.

Here's a video:

Melancholy - by We Need Secrets from Daniel MacDonald on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

This Many Boyfriends - Starling (Angular)

Try as you might (and you might), you can'T help love this new single from This Many Boyfriends. it's got all the ingredients to firmly plant itself in my head; it starts off sounding a little like something from The Smiths' 'Hatful of Hollow', before loitering  in the same post-C86 territory as the Man From Delmonte. And then there's a really lovely, crap guitar solo which is very endearing.

I've not been a massive fan of TMB up to now, deciding that their live shows have been less than enamouring, but this single is like the bar of chocolate sitting in your cupboard when you're on a diet. It's there, it's wrapped in something shiny, and it's pretty much irresistable.

Now, if only they didn't try so hard on stage I'd probably fall completely in love with them... I'm sure they're really taking note here...

TMB will be doing their thing around the country thus:

23 February 2012 - Manchester - with Allo Darlin', The Deaf Institute
24 February 2012 - Sheffield - with Allo Darlin', Queens Social Club
25 February 2012 - London Popfest - 100 Club, Oxford St
26 February 2012 - Leeds - with Allo Darlin', Brudenell Social Club
28 February 2012 - London - with The Cribs, ULU Live
29 February 2012 - Cardiff - with Allo Darlin', Buffalo Bar
01 March 2012 - Edinburgh - with The Cribs, The Liquid Room
02 March 2012 - Brighton - with The Cribs, Concorde 2
03 March 2012 - Leeds - with The Cribs, Metropolitan University

Here. Have a listen.