Low: ‘Especially Me’

Sunday, 21 August 2011, 0:38 | Category : Video
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The arrival this week of a new Low video for ‘Especially Me’ allows me a moment to talk about C’mon, an album that I’ve failed to mention here yet, despite it being one of my favourites of the year so far. Low are masters of shifting things enough with each release to keep things fresh, yet still comforting us with that familiar, well-loved Low sound.

They moved from the amped-up expansiveness of The Great Destroyer to the awkward stripped-back minimalism of Drums and Guns with ease, and now on their ninth full album, they’re combining these elements to produce a sort of ‘best of Low’, which sees them at the top of their game. Whatever else I like about Low, and there are many things, it’s always about the harmonies. For me, this is the main thing that elevates them from a good band to a great band. And there are plenty on C’mon. It’s what the angels sound like.

Obviously I’m going to recommend that you buy it. I’d suggest getting it from Norman Records. My vinyl LP came with a free EP with acoustic versions of five C’mon tracks. Here’s one of these.

Low: $20 (acoustic)

Seven Songs: Oh Minnows

Saturday, 20 August 2011, 0:50 | Category : Seven Songs
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In the couple of months since I last blogged Oh Minnows, Chris Steel-Nicholson has released his debut album For Shadows. It’s an impressive calling card, full of the synth-led psych-pop I was expecting, but also a few suprises, such as noisy shoegazy guitar, and an inclination to veer from the experimental to the anthemic.

It’s been a while since I asked anyone seven song-related questions, so I fired some off Chris’s way, interested in what he’s say, but somewhere along the way, one has dropped off. So here are Oh Minnows’ SIX SONGS.

1. A song that’s inspired you to do what you’re doing now
Prince – ‘I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man’

2. The best song you’ve heard in the past week
Sam Cooke, ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’

3. A song that you think everybody should hear
Scott Walker, ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine’

4. A song you were listening to while you were recording your new album
Marianne Faithfull ‘My time of Sorrow’

5. Tell us something about a song from your new album
‘Another Volunteer’, recorded and/or mixed in 3 places…Chicago, San Francisco and North Carolina.

6. A song from an album that you’re enjoying just now
Derbyshire/Vorhaus, ‘Love without Sound’

For Shadows is out now on Young & Lost. Download from emusic. If you want to try before you buy, you can stream the entire album below.

Oh Minnows - For Shadows by Stayloose

Everything in its right place

Thursday, 18 August 2011, 14:01 | Category : Songs
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Us music bloggers usually take ourselves too seriously, and the rush to be there first is a tiresome tyranny we impose on ourselves. I know all this, and even though I always tell people that for me, blogging is a hobby, nothing more, I still find myself succumbing to this old nonsense. So when Everything Everthing were nominated for a Mercury Prize this year, I found myself eyeing my 7 inch of ‘MY KZ YR BF’ on Young & Lost and thinking “look, I was there first”. But last weekan even earlier version surfaced - a demo of the song, with a few differences, including the name. It’s not as good as ‘MY KZ’, obviously, or it would have made the cut, but it’s certainly not without merit, so I’m posting it here. Because it’s a good tune, because it’ll be of interest to those who are bigger EE fans than me, and because well, things like this help to correct that blogger imbalance in my head. So what if I’m first or not? Can I think of anyone who really, seriously cares abotu that? ‘Course not.

mp3: Everything Everything - Airstrike On Your Forehead (MY KZ UR BF demo)

The ‘proper’ version of MY KZ UR BF is on Man Alive. Buy it.

Radiohead - Live from the Basement

Thursday, 18 August 2011, 12:47 | Category : Video
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Yeah, we have been waiting for a while for this, and yeah, we’re excited that it’s now here. But it’s been up since yesterday, the ‘0 views’ suggests that no-body has watched it all the way through yet. That’s not going to last long though. For me, part-way through, it’s sounding very good.

New Blitzen Trapper

Friday, 12 August 2011, 15:36 | Category : Good new stuff, Songs
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I know there’s always been a strong country rock element to Blitzen Trapper’s music, but on this new tune, they take that to the next level. And sitting right where I am today, in what I’ve renamed Country Friday, it’s suiting me very well indeed.

mp3: Blitzen Trapper - Love The Way You Walk Away

Blitzen Trapper - Love The Way You Walk Away by subpop

It’s from their new album album ‘American Goldwing’ which is out on 12 September. Bodes well.

Support your local indie record label

Wednesday, 10 August 2011, 23:39 | Category : Stuff
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So I had been planning my return to blogging after my holiday on Monday when London went mad. For most of the past couple of days, my latest witterings about my musical likes have seemed irrelevant. And yesterday’s music news has only been about one thing - the fire at the Sony warehouse in Enfield which saw the stock of PIAS, the biggest distributor of independent record labels in the UK, go up in flames. A terrible day for British indie music for sure, but I’ve been heartened by the amazing responses of support on Twitter and across the internet. The main thing that’s emerged naturally is massive encouragement to everyone to buy digital albums from the labels affected (which are loads). You’ll have read all about this already so this post is fairly irrelevant, but I couldn’t write about anything else before mentioning this.

The music in this post is relevant though, not just because Emmy the Great is one of the many awesome people who were out on the streets of London yestarday helping to clear up the mess, but because when she played this song on Marc Riley’s show last night, it was dedicated to her own community in West London and the indie music community in general, both of whom had sorrows to seek as a result of the riots.

mp3: Emmy the Great - Baby I Love You (live on BBC 6 Music)

Along with anyone else, I’m encouraging anyone who hasn’t already, to download an album from the labels on this list. The Quietus has some recommendations. Support indie labels.

She Keeps Bees - Dig On

Thursday, 28 July 2011, 11:46 | Category : Reviews
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Last week saw the release of the new She Keeps Bees album Dig On. It hardly seems any time since their previous full-length Nests, but a quick glance at the calendar reveals that was two years ago. It certainly left its mark on my ears. In the intervening time, the band - Jessica Larrabee and Andy La Plant - have broken free from their New York City home to record their new record in the Catskill Mountains in upstate NY.

But their exposure to all that nature and open space hasn’t resulted in a more pastoral direction. Dig On continues in a similar vein from where Nests left off. If anything, it’s a bit more beefed up and tighter affair, but since the duo deal in straightforward, stripped down scuzzy blues rock, there’s not much scope to mess around with the template. Thankfully they don’t need to. The songs are still short and snappy, the full 12 tracks clocking in at only half and hour. All the things that appeal about SKB are still there. We don’t want a radical change in musical direction. We just want them back, keeping it simple and rocking hard. There may only be two of them, but you’d easily think there were more.

The album highlight is Vulture.  and it’s a perfect suymmary of all that’s good about Larrabee and LaPlant. Everything is perfectly judged, from the slow start to the moment where the guitars and drums come crashing in, where they’re cranked up even more, and where Larabee really hits the high notes. Even though at 3:25 it’s one of the record’s longest tracks, it’s still over too soon. It’s all you really need to know what makes She Keep Bees a great band, but there’s the further bonus of 11 more to add strength to that argument.

Saturn Return by She Keeps Bees

Dig On is out now on Names. Buy from Rough Trade and get a free mix CD.

She Keeps Bees are playing a few festivals this summer. Annoyingly I’ve managed to miss all their London shows this year, but now I’m hopipng to catch them at End of the Road.

Aug 05 The Big Chill Festival Hereford
Aug 20 Green Man Festival Powys
Aug 22 Cardiff Buffalo Bar Cardiff
Aug 27 Reading Festival Reading
Aug 27 Festibelly New Forest
Aug 28 Leeds Festival Leeds
Sep 02 End of the Road Festival Dorset
Sep 06 Saint des Seins Toulouse

Electrelane @ The Scala, 21 July 2011

Tuesday, 26 July 2011, 17:08 | Category : Live reviews
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Verity Susman of Electrelane

Photo: annabelstaff

Band reunions have to follow certain rules if they’re going to be big news. First they need to wait for the optimum time, which judging by recent successful comebacks from the likes of Pavement and the Pixies is at least 10 years. Second, there has to be some catchy story to go with it, ideally involving acrimonious splits and happy reconciliation.

Electrelane aren’t following the rules though. For a start, they never really split up, they only ever said they were going on hiatus, and returning after less than four years away is less than some bands take to release their next album. And there’s no kiss and make up story, just four friends deciding to play some shows together again.

So although there’s been no press or hype (DiS aside), there have still been a lot of eager fans, desperate to see the formerly Brighton-based four piece again and there are about a thousand of them tonight, crammed tightly into the Scala. It all makes for an ideal gig experience, because even though I was at the back of the venue, there was none of the usual industry types making idle chatter (Electrelane don’t even have a record company these days), just rapt attention as Mia Clarke, Verity Susman, Emma Gaze and Ros Murray take to the stage.

I had booked tickets months ago for this gig, but as it approached I began to worry a little that my levels of excitement and anticipation were so high that I could only be disappointed. I needn’t have worried. Electrelane were amazing. Standing where I last saw them over four years ago, they blew me away once again. Perhaps even more so this time. In the intervening years, I’ve spent more time with their back catalogue, loving the songs more, but perhaps forgetting that playing live, Electrelane take it to the next level. The killer rhytm section of Gaze and Murray pound out blistering motorik grooves. Susman’s vocals seem stronger than ever. And Clarke is still wowing with mad guitar skills whilst making it look no bother at all. And all of them seem genuinely happy to be playing again.

With no album to promote, they were free to plunder their impressive back catalogue, and the setlist drew mainly from their two Steve Albini-recorded albums The Power Out and Axes. I could have been disappointed by the presence of only one song from No Shouts, No Calls (the goosebump-inducing ‘To the East’), but with so much other awesomeness on display it would be daft to complain. Even the likes of ‘Long Dark’, which I’ve never given much time to, was jaw-droppingly good, thanks mainly to some guitar heroics. The encore included the usual cover of ‘I’m on Fire’, but the real surprise was their version of ‘Small Town Boy’. How many bands can cover Springsteen and Bronski Beat and pull it off?

This time around, Electrelane are definitely playing it by their own rules. Their decison to return for the briefest of European tours (they haven’t been tempted to North America), their (massively partisan) crowd, their well-chosen setlist. They’re doing it their way and hopefully making some decent money from it too. If anyone deserves that, and a brief moment in the sun, it’s Electrelane. Who knows when I’ll see them again - a thought that makes being at this gig feel even more of a privelage.

mp3: Electrelane – Only One Thing is Needed
mp3: Electrelane – To the East

Buy all of Electrelane’s albums. Yes, even the b-sides compliation. You know it makes sense. If you’re wondering where to start, try The Power Out. That’s where I began.

Get some Civil Civic before it’s too late!

Monday, 25 July 2011, 23:49 | Category : Good new stuff, Video
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You’ve got to love Civil Civic. Not just because they write their own ace press releases. Not because their third member is a drum machine. And not just because they are providing us with a steady stream of scuzzy, noisy electronic rock goodness from their Dalston base. That’s not all. You really do have to love them if they’re going to release their debut album in the way nature intended.

That’s because they’re asking you. dear fans to help them put it out. Their funding campaign via Indiegogo is now entering its final hours, so if you want them on a decent piece of vinyl, you need to head over here now and pledge your hard earned. In return you’ll get nice big black disc which will sound something like the Venures on peyote, Big Black remixing the Police, or Sonic Youth with synths and a drum machine, but not quite as cool and not quite as old. At least, that’s how they describe themselves and who am I to argue. The only thing you’ll not get for your money is singing, but when you’ve got the rest of Civil Civic’s agreeable racket banging away, you don’t really need it.

mp3: Civil Civic - E8 4AH

Also, check out their new single below. It’s on the album.

As well as pledging, you might want to check out some bargain CC digital wares from their website.

New M83

Tuesday, 19 July 2011, 17:05 | Category : Good new stuff, Songs
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So there I was watching / listening to the Murdochs at the phone hacking enquiry. It was running well behind time, it was sagging a lot and I was feeling bored. So it was a welcome relief to have an email pop into my inbox about the new M83 single. This’ll soundtrack the rest of the enquiry, I thought, and the welcoming synths at the start suggested good things. But who’d have thought that just when the big cheesy sax solo kicks in, the pie-wielding idiot would emerge to splat Murdoch Snr. Or at least that may be what happened. I have no direct knowledge of whehter this is true or not.

mp3: M83 - Midnight City

Midnight City by M83