Monday, 3 August 2009

LIVE: Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard, Bowery Ballroom, New York. 20th June, 2009

The small but perfectly formed Bowery Ballroom was host to the delicious Jeffrey Lewis, his brother, a friend, and the friend's boyfriend - otherwise known as the Junkyard, Jeffrey's band, at the end of June. Playing tracks from the recent 'Em Are I album as well as songs from his back catalogue, his two hour set not only kept my jetlagged eyes open but had me dancing to "If Life Exists," and "Something Good" like I'd actually had some sleep in the last 20 hours.

With such an intimate vibe Lewis was clearly happy to be playing his home town, and if you erase the almost painful support acts (Diane Cluck & Pepi Ginsberg) from memory this was the perfect introduction to NYC; please do "keep on strumming like you don't know what's coming" Jeffrey Lewis.

Amy Honda

Friday, 31 July 2009


WHEN: 1st August. Victoria Park, London

WHAT: Now in its third year, Field Day brings a summer fete and this years best line up to Victoria Park tomorrow. Field Day is definitely the music lovers festival; so much so that it's impossible to pick between the tents - Bugged Out! tent is hosting everyone's favourite DJ Erol Alkan, over in the Adventures in the Beetroot Field tent there is The Big Pink and Micachu; Mumford and Sons are a highlight from the Village Mentality stage and headliners Mogwai will be playing their only UK festival set of the year on the Eat Your Own Ears stage.

If you can prize yourself away from the music, there is all the fun of the fayre in the Village Green, where you make up rude words during a game of scrabble, try your luck with the tombola or gorge yourself on homemade cake.
WEAR: Something presentable, you don't want to look a state picking up your egg and spoon race winners prize.

Tickets can be bought online or on the door.

Claire Evans

Sunday, 21 June 2009

FESTIVAL: Hop Farm Festival

WHEN: 4th July - 5th July. The Hop Farm, Paddock Wood, Kent

WHAT: The festival season is fast upon us; after next weekend's Glastonbury follows the Hop Farm Festival. After the success of last year's Neil Young headlining show Hop Farm has extended to two days. The ethos is simple - everyone gets the same treatment - there's no VIPs and branding is shunned in favour of a purist festival experience of music, music and more music.

2ManyDJs are almost worth the entrance fee alone, but head to the smaller stages for White Denim, 65 Days of Static and Rumble Strips.

WEAR: What difference does it make? This is a back to basics affair so t-shirt and jeans will do nicely.

Tickets are still available

Claire Evans

Sunday, 7 June 2009

FESTIVAL: Standon Calling

WHEN: 31st July - 2nd August. Standon, Hertfordshire

WHAT: Our favourite small festival, Standon Calling returns for another weekend on 31st July. Fusing art and design with music (and a swimming pool,) Standon Calling is a tiny 3000 capacity festival with a big pull. Its small setting offers a great chance to see little bands who will soon be big bands, like Golden Silvers, Michachu and this year's headliners Friendly Fires. Other highlights are Son of Dave and Femi Kuti and the, frankly odd addition, of Tony Christie if that's your thing.

As well as the music, there will be literature, theatre and of course art - look out for the large Eidophone, a machine that turns music into paintings.

Standon Calling should be the benchmark for every other festival out there.

WEAR: As the theme is Space, it has to be those Moon Boots I thought I'd never be able to wear
Tickets are still available.

Claire Evans

Sunday, 17 May 2009

LIVE: Bishop Allen, David Cronenberg's Wife, A Classic Education. The Windmill, Brixton, 10th May, 2009

The best thing about the Windmill isn’t the ramshackle barbeques, the affable crowd or even the headline acts that squeeze into this tiny venue, it’s the fact that no matter who it is you go there to see, there will always be a surprise gem to take home. Last night that crown fell on A Classic Education, an Italian alt-pop band touring their recently released single, the excellent Jeremy Warmsley produced ‘Best Regards’. With swathes of epic, American styled orchestral indie, they are a fun, dark and beautiful bundle.

David Cronenberg's Wife, up before the headliners, are another one of those great bands that not nearly enough people know about. Sounding like they've been transported from the 80s, their macabre lyrics are smoke tinged with a bitter, honest, comic edge.

Before heading back to America tomorrow Bishop Allen have just one last show to play and it was a treat to have them play it at the Windmill. Live they have boundless energy, relentlessly playing song after song without pausing for breath. With each new song they flutter between emotions – boisterous; angry; poetic; melancholy. The new songs sound bigger than they do on the stripped-back-to-the-bone sound of ‘Grrr’ and they delved into their past with oldies like ‘Busted Heart’ and a few tracks from their EP collections.

Bishop Allen are not big on banter, speaking only to introduce themselves, but that didn't make them any less charming and the little area in front of the stage was packed with a satisfied bunch of people by the end. It's just a shame they don't come to these shores more often.

Claire Evans

SINGLE: Lily Allen -Not Fair (EMI Records)

How do you review a song about premature ejaculation? The whole idea of it ends up outgrowing the song itself so every time I listen to it all I can think about is how it’s Lily having a good laugh at a guy who can’t hold it in. One thing that ‘Not Fair’ makes really clear is what a good songwriter Lily Allen is – the lyrics flow so easily you’d assume that she talks in songs and the deadpan delivery adds even more ironic hilarity to some already hilarious lyrics. Add the instrumentation which sounds like backing track to some low-budget western and the single has me bursting into near-lethal giggling fits. Even if you’re not taken in by its catchiness you have to respect her talent with words and unflinching honesty.

Ollie Khakwani

SINGLE: The Siegfried Sassoon - Muscle Beach/The Al Gore Rhythm (feat. Laura-Mary Carter) (Natural History Records)

A-side ‘Muscle Beach’ is perplexing – running from chorus to different chorus and patched together by completely different sounding verses, which while all well constructed individually (especially the counterbalancing of guitar chords and bleeps at the beginning), makes the song a bit hard to follow at first. Then again, the first chorus where the mariachi trumpets and harmonies come in is charming enough to win over the hardest-hearted of listeners. Still, it leaves you with a ‘what the hell just happened there?’ feeling.

AA-side ‘The Al Gore Rhythm’ is more of the same, featuring at the beginning a vocal battle between the lovely Laura-Mary Carter (of Blood Red Shoes) and what sounds like Wall-E, which in case you’re wondering is something definitely worth hearing. The once again crazy irregular beat and erratic guitar lines give the song a School of Language intelligent guitar pop feel, which if not catchy at first is at least pretty intriguing.

Ollie Khakwani

SINGLE: La Roux - In For the Kill (Polydor Records)

Holmes: Wow, for once the NME wasn’t bullshitting. This has 80s written all over it – mechanical drums, floaty retro synths and production so shiny you can see your reflection in it.

Watson: The vocals are amazing. Well either that or horrendously annoying. Or maybe part of that weird hinterland where the two exist at the same time. So…is it good?

Holmes: That depends on whether you think the 80s were good or not. Actually, let’s look at this more carefully. What happened in the 80s? AIDS, acceptable use of leather trousers, Thatcher, Tiananmen Square and Bon Jovi. Bad, bad, bad, bad, actually quite good.
Watson: Really?

Holmes: No.

Watson: Well I suppose at least it’s catchy.

Holmes: But the 80s were when the current generation of middle-agers were young. This is either going to get them bitching about how much they miss Saint Etienne or doing the robot or whatever atrocity they did in the 80s.

Watson: Oh. And the instrumental b-side was totally pointless.

Ollie Khakwani

Monday, 4 May 2009

FESTIVALS 2009: The Great Escape, Brighton, 15th-16th May

Brighton’s Great Escape is in its fourth year and already it is a highly anticipated event. Set against a seaside background, with plenty of ice-cream, fish ‘n’ chips and the pebbly beach at your disposal, the Great Escape festival rivals the Camden Crawl and has been described as the UK’s equivalent to Austin’s SXSW with its party atmosphere and music loving crowds.

This year is bigger and better than previous years with the seaside town hosting 300 new local and international bands across 34 stages inside and out as well as holding themed parties and club nights so you can enjoy yourself through the night as well as the day.

One of the best things about having a festival here is that gigs are relatively intimate and allow you to get up close and personal with your new favourite artists. And as it’s a student town, you can get great offers on food and drink. Bands on the bill this year include Metronomy, Patrick Wolf, Peggy Sue, Micachu and the Shapes, Brakes, Chairlift, Gang Of Four, Holy Fuck, Noah and the Whale and Johnny Flynn . Our recommended highlight will be The Maccabees show which will see the five-piece return to the place where it all began for them after the release of their second album.

So get yourself down to Brighton between 15th-16th May and witness some spectacular gigs within one of the most memorable backdrops.

There are still day and weekend tickets available.

Stacey Evans

Friday, 1 May 2009

Protest Songs For the 21st Century

After the nth argument with my Thatcher-cheerleader parents about why people can have other people to blame for being poor, I thought having hippie parents would be the coolest thing ever. And then I came to my senses and realised that more localised ranting about how the closest this generation gets to revolution is wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt that was probably stitched by 4 year olds held at gunpoint. But even if ideals have degraded to the point that Akon jingles about being locked up and not let out (for totally legitimate reasons) count as astute political commentary, in an effort to prove we’re not totally incapable of anarchy in the UK, here’s a rundown of the great protest songs of the 00s (minus Akon). It is MayDay, afterall:

Bloc Party – Hunting for Witches
Yep, back in the day Bloc Party lyrics were actually quite good (although compared to ‘at your funeral I was sad, so sad’ anything would be, but still). Add a killer guitar riff to a good old rant against the Daily Mail and everyone, except the neo-Nazis, are happy.

Rilo Kiley – It’s A Hit
There are lots and lots of brownie points for bands that can refer to their ex-President in a song as a monkey throwing his own shit at the enemy. Extra points if they sing as well as Jenny Lewis.

Metric – Succexy
Quite a few songs from Old World Underground are brilliant anti-war attacks on the Bush administration, but apart from its stroke-of-genius video, for once the left-wingers attack themselves for being so passive.

Sleater-Kinney – Combat Rock
The American government were lucky not nearly enough people listen to Sleater-Kinney because they’re more than persuasive enough to incite civil disobedience. A comprehensive attack on wars for oil, consumerist culture, use of arguments involving ‘patriotism’ to silence any dissent and a killer guitar hook on top of that.

M.I.A. – Paper Planes
Sampling/stealing from a Clash song about immigration (Straight to Hell), having a chorus of gunshots and a ka-ching! sounds, and attacking the perception of immigrants?! M.I.A. is a genius.
Green Day – American Idiot
Well, yes, in one way it was selling out, but seeing their cover shot on Q will make you yearn for the good old days of 2004 when 12 year old girls were suddenly ready to burn the good old stars and stripes.

Gossip – Standing in the Way of Control
Even if their 15 minutes of fame barely spanned an undeserved cover of the NME and being used on Skins, their breakout single buzzes with righteous rage about the American ex-government’s abuse of their Constitution by refusing to legalise gay marriage.

Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip – Thou Shalt Always Kill
3 minutes where pretty much everything wrong with the world gets attacked: Coca Cola, Nestle, not liking bands just because they become popular, making generic music, the NME etc.
Ollie Khakwani

Friday, 10 April 2009

SINGLE: The Maccabees - No Kind Words (Fiction)

With the opening bars of this track, there is an immediate contrast to the battling guitars that usually fills The Maccabees sound. No Kind Words has a darker undertone, guitars are minimal, while Orlando’s singing compliments this new departure with less of the cries and yelps, yet it does not feel like the delivery is any less heartfelt.

The lyrics still capture a moment and tell a story, but the topic is not one of youthful nostalgia, describing how someone is diverting and battling from expectation with the words ‘Alone, alone, alone’ always setting the tone, in both its reputation and the way it is delivered. But when we reach the end of the song, there is an air of continuity from their previous sound with the return of a more sedate form of the battling guitars. The Maccabees sound has grown up and we love it.

Stacey Evans

SINGLE: Metric - Help, I’m Alive (Last Gang Records)

Forcibly laser etched onto every Metric fan’s brain since it appeared on the internet and Canadian airwaves a few months ago, if there’s any justice in the twisted universe of the music industry ‘Help, I’m Alive’ might be Metric’s breakthrough single in the UK.

The band are backed by their usual array of strengths – breathy sing-talky vocals from Emily Haines, a well placed acoustic guitar second chorus and some clever juxtaposition of music and lyrics (‘my heart keeps beating like a hammer’ over the bass drum’s heavy heart-like pounding), as well as a new more personal perspective and clearer songwriting certain to drag in new fans. A brilliant single worthy of a great band.

Ollie Khakwani

SINGLE: Tommy Reilly - Gimme A Call (A&M Records)

A sparse combination of folky guitar, voice and a bit of foot stamping on the chorus (I think, but it might have been a quiet drum), ‘Gimme A Call’ is one of the better examples of the work of singer-songwriters if not particularly groundbreaking. The single is lyrically tight and rendered by some not unpleasant but sort of pubescent sounding vocals that have a vulnerable charm (especially on the chorus where Reilly croons ‘Gimme a call/you got a phone, don’t you?). Still, if it weren’t for the acoustic guitar freakout of a post-chorus, the song would pretty quickly disappear into the forest of teenagers playing MTV Unplugged covers in their rooms. Good, but not really and instant classic.
Ollie Khakwani

ALBUM: Metric -Fantasies (Last Gang Records)

Now that ’09 synthpop has apparently become an official term (at least according to the Guardian’s Guide from last week where contemporary slang was dissected), most 80s-sounding things have become more unwelcome to my ears than questions about censorship are to the Chinese government. Still, it’s hard to fault a band whose two albums both got nominated for Alternative Album of the Year at the Juno Awards, collaborate in Broken Social Scene, and are unknown enough in England for me to lecture/brag about to friends. Fantasies leaves their untouchable aura of brilliance intact, providing yet another reason to love Emily Haines and James Shaw.

First single and opener ‘Help, I’m Alive’ was in simplest terms a wet dream to Metric fans, showing their trademark sound remains as good as it ever was with poignant lyrics, a killer refrain and possibly even sweeter breathy vocals. It also provides a good insight into the rest of the album – even though the perfect musical formula from before remains unscathed, the political element that dominated earlier releases (‘I fought the war/I fought the war/I fought the war but the war won’) has been eclipsed by a more personal theme. The album involves more songs that centre on controlling your own life and the problems that fame and other unwelcome monsters have caused on the subject. ‘Help, I’m Alive’ sees Emily use her brilliant falsetto to ask why she shouldn’t do what she wants; ‘Sick Muse’ attacks Cupid for sticking his arrows in her; Metric turn their attention to the need of musicians to push themselves so hard they burn out for the sake of staying edgy on ‘Front Row’.

As a whole, musically, Fantasies is appealing as anything they’ve released with songs catchy and credible enough to match up to the highlights of their back catalogue - the chorus on ‘Gimme Sympathy’ has super heart-melting powers; ‘Stadium Love’ will force you to dance like it’s got a gun to your head. Lyrically it shows a more wistful side of the band – they’re not railing against rehashing of old stuff in the music industry or the left’s failure to galvanise against the Bush administration’s capitalist-war machine, so it doesn’t feel quite as angry, but there’s little trouble being as emotionally intense – if anything it’s a sign Metric are getting even better at what they could already do perfectly.

Standout Tracks: Help, I’m Alive; Sick Muse; Gimme Sympathy; Front Row
Ollie Khakwani

ALBUM: Bishop Allen -Grrr… (Dead Oceans Records)

Bishop Allen deserve love. They had the brilliant idea of an EP a month for a year, released the both charming and clever Broken String, and they were on screen for about 30 seconds in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (although I’d question the choice of song – ‘Middle Management’ is good, but why not ‘Click Click Click Click’?)
On the first listen, it doesn’t seem like much has changed since the surprisingly good last album – same mix of folk and pop, cute minimalist arrangements and general sugary twee-ness that makes you buzz with child-like joy. If anything, musically Grrr… is more exciting and even tighter than its predecessor, with more interesting instrumentation (like marimbas and trumpets on ‘True of False’) and addictive but understated melodies, sort of equivalent to valium among drugs, with ‘Oklahoma’ and ‘The Lion and the Teacup’ containing some of the best poppy treats. However, lyrically the album as a whole fails to match up to earlier work, sounding too infantile or simple, and in particular spots dissolves into nursery rhyme-like mush (the main offender being ‘The Magpie’ although ‘Tiger, Tiger’ is a bit of a howler if you’re in the wrong mood). The title’s toddler/tantrum implications might have been a warning that was coming. As well as this, Grrr…lacks the effortlessly appealing songs like ‘Rain’ and ‘Click Click Click Click’ that really made the last album so brilliant.

It would be pretty harsh to call this a bad album, because it’s far from that – there’s a lot of great indie pop to be found and masterful arrangements on basically every track, but overall Grrr…suggests that the cohesiveness of The Broken String was more a happy accident than anything and that Bishop Allen still have some growing to do.

Standout Tracks: Dimmer, The Lion and the Teacup, Oklahoma, Cue the Elephants
Ollie Khakwani

Thursday, 12 March 2009

ALBUM: The All-American Rejects - When the World Comes Down (Interscope/Doghouse Records)

The All-American Rejects - When the World Comes Down (Interscope/Doghouse Records)

Although I don’t think the magazine I read that contained the interview in which Tyson Ritter went on about how ‘totally different this album is’ was the NME, it seems like enough of a preposterous lie to have been published in that reputable publication.

I should point out now that I like (tense?) the All-American Rejects – even if I was into black eyeliner when I heard their first album, its adorable teen peppiness still isn’t lost on me now, but I have to say, ‘Gives You Hell’ does exactly what it says on the label (SEE? The title isn’t even creative!!!) What really grates about this album is that 7 years later they might have actually regressed as a band – it physically hurts hearing a 20-something write lyrics like ‘I’ve figured it out/breaking’s what your heart is for.’ Maybe that’s why I think the Jonas Brothers are worse than STDs (they’re roughly equal in destructive terms but those teen pop tossers are catchier). But I digress, the point is, studio polish will never be a decent substitute for imagination, and patriotic rejects’ eyes are blanker than my list of things I like about Miley Cyrus.

Standout Tracks: Do I have to? Fine, I guess ‘Real World’ was momentarily distracting, even if its namesake is the kind of show that would sink to using this album for a soundtrack.
Ollie Khakwani

ALBUM: Dead Young Club Vol. 1 - (Dead Young Records)

Record label samplers are always a good way to get a quick snapshot of fresh, new bands and Dead Young Records’ latest release is no different. Showcasing four of their newest signings, ‘Dead Young Club Vol. 1’ spans the genres from bluesy indie to epic Welsh glacial scores.

‘Edward the Confessor’, provided by Liverpool’s The Cubical is a jaunty, blues tipped psych pop song that would be straight out of the Black Keys’ back catalogue if it wasn’t for the slightly menacing, growling vocals. Perfect for cutting some 60s shaped rug to but perhaps not so much for putting the kids to bed to…

A Love Supreme are a more child-friendly prospect with the emotional and driving ‘I Know You Got Soul’. Slightly self-indulgent with the guitar solo at the end but otherwise just the right sort of momentous and raw sound new and old bands alike should be trying to create.

Fuzzy JAMC pop has seen a bit of a resurgence of late, Glasvegas being a prime example. The Lucid Dream are a bit less current indie than the nation’s new favourite band from north of the border, instead sounding more like they’ve stepped into a time machine in the 1960s and somehow ended up in 2008. ‘I Got the Devil’ is a sparkling 5 minutes of distortion and noise proving the Lucid Dream to be something to look out for in the coming months.

Last but not least comes Yucatan, creating epic Sigur Ros-esque scores that represent and reflect the Welsh valleys. Singing entirely in their native Welsh language adds a more magical touch to the music although occasionally the whole thing does smack a bit of jumping on the aforementioned Icelandic group’s bandwagon a bit.

Standout track: The Lucid Dream – ‘I Got the Devil’
Rhian Daly

SINGLE: Tallulah Rendall - Lay Me Down (Transducer Records)

Remember Mercury award winners Anthony & the Johnsons? Tallulah Rendall is essentially a British female version of focus point Anthony Hegarty, but with slightly less mystique and allure. ‘Lay Me Down’ is an almost timeless sounding single, all enchanting vocals and delicate piano accompaniment woven with other atmospheric instrumentation to create a haunting yet beautiful four minute wonder that will have you charmed from the very first beat.

Rhian Daly

SINGLE: Subliminal Girls - Self Obsession is an Art Form (PopArt London)

“Vodka makes me act like a fool, I’m not very cool” sings Jim Rhesus on a ‘Self Obsession is an Art Form’, a song that will strike chords with many with it’s “I’m too drunk to carry you home, you’re too drunk to carry me home” chorus and descriptions of messy nights out. Wittily charming, it leads nicely into ‘Posh Girls Names’, a more confusing piece of synth-pop to get your teeth in. Underneath Rhesus’ vocals runs a spoken-word commentary that provides your brain with the conundrum of what part to concentrate on most. As a result, it ends up getting fairly annoying quickly as you try and snatch snippets of each separate vocal. Final track ‘Electronic Hearts’ is far more straightforward and easy to listen to and scores highly with its Sonic Youth referencing and dry, sarcastic lyrics cutting through melodic guitars and 80s synths.

Although sometimes they’re hard work, Subliminal Girls are worth the effort, once you get your head around them. Plus, they’re always coming up with something interesting – for instance, this latest single will set you back nearly £1500. Not a money-grabbing rip off, but an investment in art, with the record being housed in a special screenpainted box designed by Stuart Semple. Perhaps not the best timed move considering the current economic climate, but interesting nonetheless.

Rhian Daly

EP: Milky Wimpshake - One Good Use For My Heart EP (Fortuna Pop!)

Fortuna Pop! can generally be trusted to release music by only the most interesting and exciting artists and this occasion is no exception, with the slick indie this time putting out Milky Wimpshake’s latest EP. Stalwarts on the Newcastle scene, the simplistic yet sophisticated pop group have been going strong since their formation in 1993 and have an “indie celeb” fan in Ross Millard of Futureheads fame.

All this is well and good though but it doesn’t count for much if the music isn’t up to scratch. It’s hardly surprising to find that the ‘One Good Use For My Heart’ EP is way above par with five jangly post-punk indie tunes to keep you entertained in the miserable dark evenings this winter. They do tend to overdose a bit on brackets in song titles but surely they can be forgiven for such a crime this time; after all, if you’ve written a song as witty, catchy and downright wonderful as ‘(If You Wanna Know the Time Ask a) Policeman’ or the self-referential ‘Milky Cliché’ then you can probably get away with a bit of punctuational over-indulgence.
Standout track: Milky Cliché
Rhian Daly

SINGLE: Le Reno Amps - Send Me on My Way (Drift Records)

Scottish might be a phrase you’ve come to dread, knowing that you’re in for a dull and painful listen but instead of running for the Highlands, perhaps you should give one particular quartet a try.
Le Reno Amps are the antithesis to the aforementioned dirge merchants, instead bringing to the table a fun and cheerful take on things. ‘Send Me on My Way’, their first single on Drift Records, shows the two sides to the group quite clearly with the title track falling more into the country camp and b-side ‘Airwaves’ fitting snugly under indie. Both are superb displays of musicianship that should have you up out of your chair and cutting some rug, although the lead track may be more of an acquired taste, with its successor a bit easier on the ear. But everyone knows good things come to those who wait, and after a little perseverance you’ll love both songs as if they were your own children.

Rhian Daly

SINGLE: Kora - Cabaret Voltaire Versions – ‘Kora! Kora! Kora!’ (Shiva Records)

If you’re after some bog standard electro trying to be innovative by cutting and pasting sections of post punk legends, Cabaret Voltaire then look no further for Kora have created the perfect record for you. However, if you’re looking for something a bit more interesting and, y’know, above average then your best bet is to move along and fast.

Rhian Daly