Sunday, 29 November 2015

National Pastime - Bring Me Your Sunshine

Article by KevW

National Pastime have always been a prolific group, and this is surely down to the fact that they contain multiple songwriters, not least the even more prolific Andy B. With Andrew Padfield covering lead vocals and Chris Head on drums, they're set to release their fourth full-length early next year (I know they like to live in the past a little musically, but I'm guessing the date of "early 2015" on the press release is a typo!) - and if they didn't have enough talent in the band, for this album they're joined by Scott Morrison, leader of recently revived C86 types The Morrisons and solo artist in his own right. So we can perhaps expect new material even more frequently in the future...

The title-track to 'Bring Me Your Sunshine' doesn't break from the retro indiepop sound that both the band and their label Pastime Records have become known for. There's a familiar sadness to the vocals and lyrics which is enhanced by simple piano notes, but the addition of Morrison means that the flashes of lead guitar are particularly effective. 'Do What You Do' also has an '80s sound, but they mix in a little '60s psychedelic garage thanks again to the neat guitar line. The themes of lost love and reminiscing about days gone by that have hallmarked their music are intact across these four songs that feel as though they were written late at night when the mind somehow becomes more reflective than in the cold light of day. Pretty slowie 'Summer Haze' talks of broken hearts to a soft keyboard backing with fresh-sounding guitar strums and is melodically a little different to some of the group's previous material. Finally, 'Perfect In Every Way' is unmistakably National Pastime in its writing, but with maybe a touch grittier guitar work blending in with the organ. Fans of vintage indie won't be let down by 'Bring Me Your Sunshine', and as it's essentially an album sampler, you'd have to say the future looks bright.

National Pastime's website

Buy the EP

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Get Me Free #95: Eternals - Out Of Context

Article by KevW

It was Gram Parsons who coined the phrase "cosmic American music", and he'd most likely approve of Massachusetts group Eternals' new single as a continuation of that idea. Parsons may have been closer to traditional country, but he was pushing its boundaries, and since his untimely death, many bands and artists have taken on that mantle. The four members of this band have been involved with many projects over the past decade or so, including Marissa Nadler, Titus Andronicas and Passion Pit to name but a few, and in 2013 they began working on original material together. Their album 'Isn't That Anyone' is due out early next year.

New single 'Out Of Context' does take in a little country - perhaps alt-country would be a better term - as well as the atmospheric production of high-end dreampop groups. Throw in some classic harmonies (think CSNY or Fleet Foxes) and a smooth but not to sanitised overall sound and you have an excellent introduction to the band (if you're not aware of them already, a mini-album was released last year). You can even detect echoes of Belle & Sebastian about the melody, but really this is beautiful Americana that transcends the genre slightly due to the combination of other influences that help make this a very lush offering from a band to definitely make a note of.

Eternals' website

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Saturday, 28 November 2015

Get Me Free #94: Prints Jackson - Alexanders Dark Band

Article by KevW

Apparently, Prints Jackson is planning a Christmas song for the December installment of his quest to record and release one song every month, and it'll come complete with choirs. Sounds intriguing, but November's edition, 'Alexanders Dark Band', is a pretty good early present as it is, and is perhaps one of his best tracks thus far. As usual there is a slight DIY side to things, but this is a cracking alt-rock/indie track that makes for a nice update of the mid-'90s US alternative guitar scene. In fact, considering he's British, this does have a surprisingly American feel.

It's not just the vocals and the post-grunge styling that make this such a good offering either. The bassline and buzzing guitars reel you in due to their sheer tunefulness and then the melody of the vocal really nails it. There's more depth here then in some of his songs, both lyrically and musically this seems stronger and more inventive, using a multitude of layers and overdubs, as well as samples and electronics to forge what is a stand-out from a project that's been consistently good.

Prints Jackson's website

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Friday, 27 November 2015

Library Voices - Lovish

Article by KevW

Perhaps due to having so many band members (there were originally ten, but they've now slimmed down to a mere seven) is what has made Canadian collective Library Voices reasonably eclectic. Most of their output would fall into the indie/alt-rock category, but they flit between garage-rock, shoegaze, alt-country, post-punk, indiepop, new-wave, dreampop and more ordained alt-rock, plus more besides. New album 'Lovish' is a perfect example of how the septet make all of this work together to form a cohesive and incredibly assured and consistent listening experience.

Single 'Oh Donna' gets things underway with a little bombast, changing tempos, excellent musicianship and equally great production. It's smooth and considered and sinks in right away, making it a perfect opening gambit, before the misty 'Sunburnt In LA' combines an '80s feel with the sound of more recent North American indie bands and is a propulsive number that is equally as appealing. Then we hit the scratchy post-punk of 'Slacker' which underlines their adaptability, using distortion on the vocals and a simple riff to great effect. Three songs in and already they've shown this chameleon-like ability. 'Zzyzx' is perhaps closer in sound to 'Oh Donna' and brings back a bit more bombast thanks to some horns that give an almost Springsteen-esque vibe at times, but the vocals ensure that you could never get the two mixed up. And it's unlikely you'd find The Boss referencing 'Marquee Moon' on one of his songs...

We're then into indiepop territory with the lovable jangle of 'Hey! Adrienne'. By this point it's dawned on you that Library Voices don't really do "album tracks". Pretty much every song on 'Lovish' could be a potential single, even tender, lovelorn slowie 'The Wild Roar Of Love', which may not at first seem the most upbeat and radio-friendly, is easy on the ear. There's an electronic, new-wave side to 'Escape Artist' - no trick is repeated twice but at the same time the difference isn't so great as to become incohesive, and this is the key to this LP's success. 'Fangs Of Love' is a curious beast, combining classic '60s rock with the fuzz of shoegaze, a decent brass section and a glam stomp. It's not always necessary to mention each song when reviewing a record, but this is something of an exception. 'Death By Small Talk' is perhaps the most alternative and psychedelic song of the lot, but it's still a fusion of ideas and styles; it's maybe less instant too, but your taste buds are soon tingling again with the punky pace installed in 'Bored In Berlin' which is a bit like The War On Drugs after too much Ritalin. Library Voices are even kind enough to supply us with an epic, experimental last track in the form of 'Every Night' which begins with Byrdsy guitars and a military beat before evolving into an expansive, brooding number ending with a psychedelic wig-out and the hiss of static electricity. There can be no doubt that 'Lovish' is a good job well done.

Library Voices' website

Buy the album

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Problems With The Supposed "Vinyl Revival"?

Article originally published by Nathanial Cramp on Sonic Cathedral's Facebook page

What is the point of releasing records on vinyl?

Anyone know?

I ask because this week (November 23rd), at the launch party for Disappears' 'Low: Live In Chicago' LP at The 100 Club in London, we didn't have any copies of the record available to sell. There also weren't any in the shops last Friday as the official release date came and went. This is despite the order being placed in April, the audio being delivered in May, the artwork being signed off on July 8 and the test pressings being approved on August 5. Oh, and the small matter of paying £2,787 for the manufacture of what will undoubtedly be an incredibly beautiful and special record (despite what the reviewer on Drowned In Sound might claim).

Where else would you pay all that money up front, with no guarantee of making a release date, or an album launch gig? Not to mention the other costs on top of that, such as advertising, now rendered almost completely pointless with nothing to actually sell.

So, again, what is the point of releasing records on vinyl?

It just seems to be a nice little earner for the major labels – some sample 'new' releases include Bob Dylan's freely available '60s albums and a triple-vinyl set of Roger Waters doing 'The Wall' *shudder* – and if you're an indie, good luck getting a pressing slot. Only four and a half months until Record Store Day! (This whole situation is more grist to the ‪#‎recordstoredayisdying‬ mill; it's the same problem, too many snouts at the feeding trough.)

Ironically, tonight's gig is being recorded and released on a tape that will be ready to sell at next weekend's Independent Label Market. If we're lucky we might have some vinyl to sell there, too.
Don't hold your breath, though...

UPDATE: After much delay, we finally have 'Low: Live In Chicago' by Dissapears on vinyl. It will be available at the Indie Label Market on Saturday, pre-orders will go out next week and it will be in shops from December 11. Big thanks to our very own Peter Saville - Marc Jones -  for the design, and to @roxytheman for making it look more like how we imagined it in these photos!

Disappears' website

Download the album

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Slim Twig - Live In, Live On Your Era

Article by KevW

Having your music released on certain labels always gives it a stamp of approval, in fact we could name many such imprints, but DFA Records is generally considered to rarely let music fans down. Earlier this year they released the new album from acclaimed Canadian artist Slim Twig and, as expected, 'Thank You For Stickin' With Twig' rightly received rave reviews. Now Max Turnbull (the man behind the alias) is heading to Europe for some shows and has released a new single, 'Live In, Live On Your Era', from the album to coincide, and it comes with unusual video that looks like it should have been made in the early '80s by some new romantic band.

Musically, Slim Twig is quite eclectic, but you wouldn't really class him as new romantic in any way. 'Live In, Live On Your Era' is a track about "accepting your own cultural circumstances", and musically its difficult to pin down without using fairly generic terms such as "indie" or "psychedelia". A classic riff anchors the song and stop/start drums and vocal bursts make this something interesting when generally they can prevent music being as fluid as it could be. You can pick out elements of folk lurking in the background too, as well as the occasional flash of '70s rock. It's a melting pot of ideas, but the end result works brilliantly.

Slim Twig's website

Buy the single

Catch him live:

27.11 Berlin, DE @ Badenhaus Szimpla
28.11 Leipzig, DE @ Pracht
01.12 Hamburg, DE @ Hafenklang
02.12 London, UK @ Dalston Victoria
03.12 Brighton, UK @ The Hope

04.12 Amsterdam, NL @ De Nieuwe Anita
05.12 Tournai, BE @ Water Moulin
07.12 Bilbao, ES @ Antzokia
08.12 Oviedo, ES @ La Lata de Zinc
11.12 Paris, FR @ Espace B
12.12 Milan, IT @ Sacrestia

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Get Me Free #93: Embers - The Bitten Tongue

Article by KevW

I'm sure we weren't the only ones thinking that we'd heard the last from Manchester's Embers. It was late 2012 that we caught wind of the band through a couple of immensely impressive live performances and went on to include them in our tips for 2013 list. But then... silence. Quite why we don't know, and it's probably none of our business anyway, but the surprise announcement of a new single this week was a very welcome bolt out of the blue - especially as the band launched it with the words "We've been away far, far too long. Never again". So does this mean we can look forward to live shows next year? An album maybe?

Future plans will reveal themselves in due course, but the quartet seem intent on not leaving us waiting, and new track 'The Bitten Tongue' is big and bold enough to act like a statement of intent. Mind you, the same goes for everything they'd done so far. It doesn't sound as though Embers have changed too much since we last heard from them; the grandeur and ambition is still in evidence, but perhaps 'The Bitten Tongue' is slightly less cinematic, although its no less powerful for it. Thunderous drums and an expansive, all-conquering sound mean that this is still a group to make you stand up and take notice. One of the most promising alternative rock bands have awoken from their slumber, and they seem ready to blow similar acts out of the water.

Embers' website

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