Saturday, 31 March 2012

Stereo Silence - Lone Youth EP


EP review by KevW



The trouble with a lot of IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) is that it's often designed as much for the stroking of wizened muso chins as it is for actually dancing to. Although this isn't a problem in itself, unless you're in the right, shall we say, frame of mind, drawn-out noodling and beats, however impressive and experimental, can rapidly descend into tedium. It's here that Stereo Silence (aka Russian Alexey Martynov) comes into his own. Instead of finding and idea and needlessly prolonging it, the seven tracks here (four originals and three remixes) are briefly allowed to shine and cut off before their light begins to dim; only a solitary song breaks the four-minute barrier.

Apparently incorporated into the 'Lone Youth EP' are samples of Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine, however you'd be hard pushed to find them. The title track begins the EP with glistening atmospherics and soulful beats, then just as it seems about to morph into a different creature altogether, the plug is pulled at the perfect time to leave you wanting more. Happily, more is supplied as the opener very much sets the blueprint for what follows: more deep house beats and night-bus twinkles. Stereo Silence's music is engineered to appeal to nocturnal types. 'A Film' is chilled and unshakably urban and 'At The Night Walk' is as much a serving suggestion as a song title. As a collection of ambient soundscapes, 'Lone Youth EP' is refreshingly succinct.

A mix of the EP's tracks can be downloaded free here:




Stereo Silence's website

Buy the EP





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Dead Mellotron - Glitter


Album review by KevW

This article also appears on http://www.soundsxp.com 



It was following singer/guitarist John Frazier's relocation from Louisiana to Baltimore that Dead Mellotron was born, with the addition of Courtney Corcoran and Aimee Bowen to add flesh to the bones of his ideas. Two self-released albums followed and now, two years on, 'Glitter' arrives fully-formed and with the hope of propelling them towards some form of wider recognition. These seven tracks are far from commercial, but by god they're good, and while this means they won't be troubling the mainstream, it should be enough to swell their fanbase considerably.

'Glitter' is largely instrumental and when vocals are used they're so heavily treated and pushed back in the mix that it has the effect of merging with the backing rather than taking any kind of lead. As such, any actual lyrics are barely distinguishable, instead padding out the already dense layers of resonating reverb. This is no noise-fest however, and songs such as 'Making Up' are both delicately pretty and loaded with gentle distortion. Analogue electronics seem to be pushed to a crackling breaking point, although the result isn't harsh, it's a warming hum that envelopes you in its cascading fog.

The simple riff of 'Babe' becomes more dreamy than it has any right to be when wrapped in this blanket, and the chiming 'Oohahh' simply soars, again pushed upwards by the thrum of the equipment. From the opening, pounding haze of 'Stranger' to the build and fade of the feedback in closer 'Dying', Dead Mellotron have created a wash of tumultuous, reverberating sound that's both beautiful and accessible. They say that watching a dying star can be a breathtaking experience; who knew that listening to a Dead Mellotron would have the same effect.



A free download of 'Stranger' is available here

Dead Mellotron's website

Pre-order the album





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Five For Free #66


Dive - Geist


Another day another great new band from Brooklyn. Quartet Dive are led by songwriter Z. Cole Smith and make music that blends a mix of styles with driving energy and raw power to create a beautiful noise. 'Geist' is five minutes of frantic drums and psychedelia-tinged guitars taking in ethereal vocals; it's part psych-rock, part shoegaze and part Kraut-groove.



Dive's website

Buy the single





Trevor Moss & Hannah Lou


Trevor Moss & Hannah Lou are a husband and wife duo, but rather than the dreamy lo-fi that so many couples in music have been forging these past couple of years (Summer Camp, Cults, Tennis etc.), this pair specialise in the folkier side of things. This single from their album 'Quality First, Last & Forever' takes in upbeat rhythms and jangly guitars that straddle both folk and indiepop.



Trevor Moss & Hannah Lou's website

Buy the album





Wild Belle - Keep You


A male/female duo of another kind are the talk of the recent SXSW Festival. Brother and sister combo Wild Belle apparently blend many styles in their music, but as we were nowhere near Texas last week we've only got debut single 'Keep You' to go on. What we learn from this mixture of reggae, pop and indie is that they have bucketloads of crossover appeal and could well make a big splash sometime soon.



Wild Belle's website

Buy the single





The Hussy - Undefined


Wisconsin psychedelic-garage band The Hussy are yet another male/female duo and have recently released their album 'Weed Seizure' after perfecting their sound over the four years since they got together. Free download 'Undefined' is loaded with feedback, fuzz and distortion and clatters and buzzes its way though two and a half minutes of primal bliss.



The Hussy's website

Stream the album in full

Buy the album





Woods - Wind Was The Wine


Alternative folk band Woods are taking the unusual step of releasing a split album next month with experimental noise maker Amps For Christ, with each band contributing four tracks each. From Woods' half of the album is the short and lovely 'Wind Was The Wine' which despite its brief duration has lofty ambitions sound-wise, cramming in some grand and ambitious production.



Woods' website

Pre-order the album





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Friday, 30 March 2012

Hospitality - Betty Wang/Friends Of Friends


Single review by KevW

This article also appears on http://www.soundsxp.com



With Merge Records taking care of their US output, Brooklyn trio Hospitality have remained a little under the radar in the UK. Hopefully that will change when Fire release their debut album here in a couple of weeks, and as an introduction for those who've thus far missed out of their lovable brand of indiepop, it's a great idea to bundle together these two Stateside singles as a double A-side for British ears.

'Friends Of Friends' shows the band's more experimental side, taking in stuttering beats, brass parps and tempo changes while maintaining a pop edge. It's the more conventional 'Betty Wang' that proves most irresistible though. Despite a slightly quaint feel it packs in enough honeyed melody to seduce even the most cynical pair of ears. It's reasonably minimalist in construction and the production is crystal clear, the classic combination of jangly guitar and percussion combined with "ba-da-da daa-daa" vocals should be enough to charm the pants of any indiepop fan.




Hospitality's website

Pre-order the album





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One Happy Island - A Purpose Of The Surface


Album review by James M



When I start a review I like to set myself three or four paragraphs as a rough estimate. I’ll be honest – I hadn’t heard of One Happy Island when I was given their second album ‘A Purpose Of The Surface’. “This could be difficult”, I thought. I had little background information, I hadn’t listened to their debut record and filling up that much space about a band I was new to felt a daunting task. After a couple of listens to their February release it all became clear – it would take three or four paragraphs just to summarise this band's sound. See, eclectic is an overused word, I myself use it far too often for things that, in reality probably don’t deserve it. However One Happy Island are a band that deserve that accolade and then some. Described by themselves as “Ramshackle Indie Pop”, One Happy Island are a three-piece from Boston, Massachusetts who, after two members departed, have now settled and released their albums on London’s Odd Box Records. All three members share the duties on just about every instrument, which perhaps explains why it sounds like there could be seven or eight in the band on any one song.

It all starts off rather deceivingly. ‘The Song About To Start’ and ‘The Broken Toe’ are two perfectly crafted, joyous folk-pop songs in which Shannon and Brad split the vocals, one song a piece. With the glee of a nursery rhyme and the tempo of a child on a sugar rush, it shows a new side to the 21st century’s spin on all things wooden and folk related. It is of course a genre that’s had a revival in recent years with Laura Marling, Noah And The Whale and Fleet Foxes to name but a few that are often in the upper reaches of the UK charts. It’s refreshing to hear songs just as good, but with an added zest that puts to bed the old myth of acoustic pop songs only appealing to lonely old men and twee lovers alike. The best example of this comes just three tracks in, when it’s Meghan’s turn to take the mic on ‘Meet Me In The Chorus’. Stripped to the bare minimum instrument-wise, she sounds like a woman possessed as she races against a metronome to reach the chorus, which in its own subtle way never really occurs. It doesn’t matter anyway, as a cheeky blow on the kazoo reminds us it wasn’t a serious race anyway and was all just a bit of fun. The mood changes as the lights dim in ‘Lonely, Lonelier’. “She had a boyfriend then, that was 10 years ago. Now it’s almost criminal, the signals she sends”, a bleak tale of rejection and being unnoticed.

The album's middle section is perhaps its deepest and most thoughtful and is full of songs that could easily be hit singles in the making. ‘White Collar Disco’ is far from the free flowing club anthem the name might hint at, but while it’s hard to imagine it at a disco, the white collar aspect is here in a track that shows their workmanship is second to none when they want it to be. It’s arguably the biggest and boldest track on the record. ‘Darla Dunning-Kruger’ follows suit, a stripped down, acoustic country number that has more than a hint of Loudon Wainwright III’s version of 'High Wide & Handsome' to it. The pitch changes completely, not for the first time, in ‘Kiss Me, Peach’. The nearest One Happy Island get to a stone-cold indie smash hit. With layers of reverb covering Meghan’s, cheeky, yet bratty vocals, it’s an open letter demanding you pay her attention and well, why wouldn’t you want to kiss her when the offer is so blunt yet so sweet? With nothing but a clap-along drum beat, ‘Lock It Up’ is a one minute singalong that finishes before you’ve had time to analyse just what it was about. Much like a lot of the stuff on here, however personal it may be to the band, to the listener it’s just a recipe for entertainment and would perhaps be spoiled if you really knew what the hell was going on.

Perhaps not as bold as or well produced as the two stand-out tracks in the middle, the albums biggest treasure is found just before it’s time to say goodbye in ‘You Go Out’. What it may lack in epic proportions it makes up for in genuine emotion and heartfelt imagery. Once more, it’s the gorgeous, sincere vocals of Meghan that tear on your heart strings as she tells a story that just about anybody who’s ever loved can relate to. “I like when you go out” are her initial feelings before it hits her and she realises “I hate when you go out, it makes me feel anxious”, summing up that difficult moment when romance and jealousy overflow. Of course it’s fitting on a record where so many twists and turns overlap one another. This is of course the age of the iPod and all things shuffle related. I’m an old fashioned kind of guy who listens to an album from start to finish. ‘A Purpose Of The Surface’ sounds more a collection of songs thrown together on the first few listens, an erratic display of recorded moments placed side by side. After many listens the jigsaw is still as manic and hard to solve as it was the moment I took it out of the box. But I’m happy to say I don’t mind, and after nearly a month of trying, the reality is One Happy Island probably don’t want you to know how they did it. It’s an excellently made album from a band that are abrasive enough to make music the way they want to. It’s refreshing to hear though, and after the initial headaches and confusion, it’s a really well made indie-pop record.


One Happy Island's website

Buy the album





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Thursday, 29 March 2012

Mummy Short Arms - Silicone Dream


Single review by KevW

This article also appears on http://www.soundsxp.com



Things have been going remarkably well of late, with many of our tips for 2012 coming up trumps with some cracking tunes and proving that, if you dig just below the surface, the world of alternative music is in as capable hands as it's ever been. Next in line to try and live up to the modicum of hype we've bestowed upon them are psychotic experimental rockers Mummy Short Arms whose debut album will be with us in May. Preceding it will be new single 'Silicone Dream', a track that more that matches the promise shown on the previous two singles.

Once again the vocals are desperately shrieked as though James Allan's life depended on it. This disturbing delivery brings a raw passion that feels 100% authentic and inimitable. That it's backed by playful, light-hearted bleeps means a wonderful contradictory quality is reached. This is accentuated by the almost mundane tempo of the song at times, combined with a buzzing guitar riff. 'Silicone Dream' pretty much defies attempts to stamp a genre or a direct comparison on it and this definitely works in Mummy Short Arms' favour. Needless too say, our appetite for the album is thoroughly whetted.


Mummy Short Arms' website

The single will be available through Flowers In The Dustbin





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Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The School - I Never Thought I'd See The Day


Single review by James M



Just as Britain experiences its annual early heat wave, The School return with their summery indiepop and brand new single ‘I Never Thought I’d See The Day’. Taken from their second album ‘Reading Too Much Into Things Like Everything’ which is due out in the summer, it sees the Cardiff seven- piece picking up from where they left in fine form with 2010 debut ‘Loveless Unbeliever’. Not a lot has changed in truth, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s as charming and welcoming as you’d expect, the perfect tonic for those waiting for the next Camera Obscura or Belle & Sebastian album. 

You can almost picture singer Liz dancing herself into dizziness as she shares stories of modern romance against the backdrop of an organ which rushes through in what’s just 2 minutes and 30 seconds of pure bubblegum pop. ‘Loveless Unbeliever’ definitely paid tribute to girl groups of yesteryear such as The Ronettes and The Shangri-Las in parts, this single hints that the newer material could lean closer to that of contemporaries Those Dancing Days. Expect more fun and sunshine tunes come 14th May when the album is out and the weather is back to its old self.



The School's website

Buy the single





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Five For Free #65


Best Coast - The Only Place


The clocks have changed, spring is in the air... all that nonsense. If there's a better way to mark the return of longer, sunnier, warmer days than the return of sunshine-slacker-pop group Best Coast then I don't know what it is. 'The Only Place' is one of their most summery songs yet, a gorgeous, melodic jangle about sun, waves, beaches and happiness. It would be corny if it wasn't such a great track.




Best Coast's website

Pre-order the album





Creepoid - Dream Out


Also suited to lazy summer days is this track from Philadelphia's Creepoid who take hazey, grungy guitars and filter them through a pair of rose coloured shades and create a blissful, laid-back vibe full of shoegazey distortion and skyscraping guitars. It's musically a different kettle of fish to the Best Coast track but the effect is the same, and it's aptly named 'Dream Out'.



Creepoid's website

Stream the album in full

Buy the album





Bear In Heaven - The Reflection Of You


Brooklyn electro-rock band Bear In Heaven are back with their fifth album 'I Love You, It's Cool' next week, and from what we've heard so far it could be 'quite something'. Have a listen to free track 'The Reflection Of You' with its shimmering synths, fuzzy vocals and stuttering drums. It's a great piece of pop experimentation and it's also quite summery too...



Bear In Heaven's website

Stream the album in full

Buy the album





Siamese Twins - We Fall Apart


Enough about the sun? Nope. Bugger it, this whole batch of freebies is tailored to celebrate the brief bit of optimism we get before it pisses down for the rest of the year. So check out these amazing sun-kissed melodies from Siamese Twins. 'We Fall Apart' is only a demo but it's got us very excited about this Massachusetts trio, we're expecting dreampop of the highest order from them in the future.



Siamese Twins' website





laVoy - Pegleg Bird


You wouldn't normally associate Alaska with the joys of spring, but Anchorage band laVoy make Americana-influenced alt-rock that would sound equally at home in warmer climes. 'Pegleg Bird' contains twinkling guitars and a sing-along chorus that's suitably warm, relaxed and hopeful. Normal blogging service will resume later this week when the weather takes a turn for the worse...



laVoy's website





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Tuesday, 27 March 2012

bikos - Let Down Your Avant Garde


EP review by KevW

This article also appears on http://www.soundsxp.com



If you enjoyed last year's debut album 'Make Your Sound Sound', then you'll be glad to know that the only real change of note on bikos' new EP is that the songs are just that little bit better. No ill-judged changes of direction or attempts at stadium-friendly anthems. Wisely the LA collective stick to what they do incredibly well: itchy, stuttering, post-punk inspired indie/pop guitar tunes, as sharp as a gob full of lemons and as crystal clear as a peal of bells. It's the sound of skinny jeans, converse and haircuts but it certainly doesn't come over as contrived in any way.

New single 'Y3k' is urgent and stammering like early Maccabees crossed with Stellastarr*, the lyric "my heart is gunning at humming bird rates" sums up the spiky energy perfectly. Gabe's desperate, yelping delivery is offset nicely by Miki's gutsier, soulful accompanying vocals. When she takes the lead on 'Verses v. Verses' it brings an extra dimension to the group's sound; it's almost like two bands for the price of one. The shouty 'Fun Fun Fun @ the MJT' is chaotic and feels like it could fall apart at any given moment, whereas 'Maybe The One' comes over like a less cutesy Belle & Sebastian' - echoes of whom can also be found in 'Waldo And Carmen Sandiego'. The lasting impression you get from these six tracks is that bikos is currently a band in rude health and still have much more to offer.


Bikos' website

Buy the EP





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Johnny Parry Chamber Orchestra - Fields & Birds & Things


Album review by KevW

This article also appears on http://www.soundsxp.com



Barring any dodgy attempts at irony, you can be pretty sure that with a name like Johnny Parry Chamber Orchestra you're unlikely to be looking at Ministry Of Sound-style club bangers, and it's also safe to assume you're not buying a one-way ticket to ROFL Central. Oddly though, there are moments of dark humour to be uncovered here; dark humour and a whole host of other emotions, sounds, styles and atmospheres, as 'Fields & Birds & Things' is an album that flits about all over the place.

This is a concept on grand scale and is certainly not bereft of ambition, as Parry enlists the help of over thirty musicians and sets his sights on encompassing multiple genres as part of his baroque vision. The term 'chamber pop' has become commonplace and filtrated the mainstream in recent years, but this is far removed from Arcade Fire's indie-rock-with-strings set up. Essentially this is chamber without the pop, making this a piece of work that some may find impenetrable at first, yet once you break through the surface there's a fascinating world to be found.

'Keep Kicking & Screaming' is an early Spiritualized drone overlaid with military drumming and a chorus of voices, it's then followed by maudlin brass and organ over the top of a sampled story a stomach-churning seafaring adventure: "when you get seasick, at first you're afraid you're gonna die, then you're afraid you're not gonna die." It recalls the madcap experimenting of early Gorky's.  This combination of antiquated instrumentation with the relatively modern addition of samples is used again to great effect on the simmering finale of 'Find Your Way Home'. In between we're taken on a cinematic tour of sound that takes in monastic chanting ('Rebuild It Piece By Piece'), lachrymose pleading ('God Still Loves Me'), playful operatics ('Love & Death') and much more.

Despite the impressive ensemble, 'Fields & Birds & Things', although complex, is an exercise is restraint, staying true to its blueprint and resisting the temptation to indulge in Wagnerian dramatics. It is, therefore, unlikely to go down well at parties, but of course that's not its purpose. This is an impressive, innovative and unique piece of work. If at first the shell seems difficult to break, persevere. Lurking inside is an unusual and enchanting box of secrets.




Johnny Parry Chamber Orchestra's website

Buy the album





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Monday, 26 March 2012

Boy Of The AfterThought - Burning Holes In The Paper I Wrote Things On For You To Have


Single review by James M



‘Burning Holes In The Paper I Wrote Things On For You To Have’ is the lead single from the forthcoming second album by London’s Boy Of The AfterThought. The band is the lead project of Aaron John and has an impressive array of influences that range from 60s garage rockers like The Sonics and MC5, drone enthusiasts The Melvins and Earth, right through to dreampop heavyweights Sigur Ros. 

Despite the tongue twisting title and the masses of artists that have helped to stimulate their sound, ‘Burning Holes...’ is an all round more calming and dreamy affair that fits somewhere in the middle. Shamelessly plodding along and capturing you in its haze without lifting a muscle. It’s a perfectly crafted track that sounds familiar to the better bands plying their trade at the modern shoegaze sound, such as Engineers and Film School. With their earlier material having a slightly darker, Gothic tint on it and the list of said influences, it’s hard to predict just what the album will sound like. Going off this however, it seems like it could be one to look out for in 2012.

To stream the single head here

Boy Of The AfterThought's website






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Out This Week - 26th March 2012


Way Yes - Singing


This week's selection of superb new releases kicks of in Ohio with oddpop trio Way Yes. Formed as a duo two years ago, they intended to make uplifting songs about good times and bad; something they've achieved with new EP 'Walkability'. Have a listen to the sunny, experimental pop of free download 'Singing', which shines an optimistic light on the experience of growing old and, er, dying.



Way Yes' website

Buy the EP





La Sera - Break My Heart


Sometime Vivian Girl and full time lo-fi pop crusader Katy Goodman releases her second album as La Sera this week. 'Sees The Light' takes her bubblegum melodies and scuzzy guitars to new levels, snaring the hearts of a few critics along the way. If you haven't already, grab free download 'Please Be My Third Eye' - and then check out another free album track, the excellent 'Break My Heart'.



La Sera's website

Buy the album





Young Prisms - Floating In Blue


This hazey cut from San Francisco's Young Prisms' new album 'In Between' is pretty darn lovely. 'Floating In Blue' is perfect for drifting away to, a blur of kaleidoscopic, dreamy shoegaze. It's a track that could have been made any time in the past 25 years and the slightly warped, off-kilter feel of the piece makes sure it sounds absolutely timeless too.



Young Prisms' website

Buy the album





Oberhofer - Heart


Bringing us a different kind of off-kilter pop are Brooklyn quartet Oberhofer who put out their new album 'Time Capsules II' this week. Brad Oberhofer is a songwriter in the vein of Brian Wilson or Wayne Coyne; plenty of melody and delicate arrangements that create an appealing nursery-rhyme pop that it's difficult to resist, and thankfully 'Heart' is a free download so you don't need to.



Oberhofer's website

Stream the album in full

Buy the album





OBLIGATORY RECORD OF THE WEEK

The Raveonettes - Night Comes Out


Never ones to waste any time sitting on their backsides when there are records to be recorded and gigs to be played, just a year on from last album 'Raven In The Grave', Denmark's finest are back with a brand new EP, 'Into The Night', in April. As expected, the first offering from it doesn't disappoint. 'Night Comes Out' is another superb fuzz-pop single. Distorted guitars, sweet vocals, sparkly percussion, shrill, trebly production, a twangy solo... you know the drill. The Raveonettes are back.



The Raveonettes' website

Pre-order the EP





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Sunday, 25 March 2012

Clockwork Era - Fear Inside EP


EP review by KevW

This article also appears on http://www.soundsxp.com



Either Clockwork Era have a remarkably defined vision of how they want to sound, or they don't have many ideas. Whichever, the tracks on this debut EP offer little in the way of diversity, being essentially four variations of the same theme. Still, that's not always a bad thing, it made The Ramones legends. While this duo are unlikely to reach such saintly status, there is a certain appeal to their primitive, no-frills noise-punk, and they attack these songs with an urgent, visceral energy.

With basic, jagged riffs borrowed from Nirvana, wild, thrashing drums and a half spoken, vexed vocal delivery, there's nothing here you won't have heard before and listening to the EP in its entirety becomes repetitious, but isolate the tracks and the mixture of punk ethics, zero production and sheer determination pulls them through. The title track wins by a nose when rating the songs against each other and everything you need to know about this record is encapsulated therein. As first steps go 'Fear Inside' is a difficult record to knock, but more depth and variety will be needed to sustain them. Mind you, they sound like they'd be a riot to see live.




Clockwork Era's website





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Saturday, 24 March 2012

Five For Free #64


Firehorse - Our Hearts


Firehorse is the project of Brooklyn singer-songwriter and instrumentalist Leah Seigel who put the group together last year and released debut album 'And So They Ran Faster'. Free track 'Our Hearts' appears on the album and is the perfect showcase for Leah's powerful vocal and oddpop songwriting. The sound is like a cross between Feist and a less overblown Florence & The Machine, yet unique at the same time.



Firehorse's website

Stream the album in full

Buy the album





Ghost Hands - Aching Eyes


Also formed last year were Alaskans Ghost Hands who create robust indie-rock with gutsy bass and surging rhythms. We don't have a great deal of info on them at the moment, but it sounds as though an album is pretty much complete and awaiting release. In the mean time, check out excellent new track 'Aching Eyes' which you can grab free below.



Free download: 'Aching Hands'

Ghost Hands' website

Buy the track





Miike Snow - Black Tin Box


Swedish/US trio Miike Snow returned with their second album this week. 'Happy To You' is the follow up to their 2009 self-titled debut and sees them taking a different approach this time around, aiming to work together as a band more (rather than a production team) and add a touch more experimentation. You should by now have heard 'Devil's Work', and here's another album cut - 'Black Tin Box'.



Free download: 'Black Tin Box'

Miike Snow's website

Stream the album in full

Buy the album





Sean Bones - Here Now


Brooklyn genre-hopper Sean Bones has just finished promoting second album 'Buzzards Boy' at this year's SXSW festival and one of the highlights from the album is current single 'Here Now'. It's three and a half minutes of sparking, sunshine-pop with twinkling pianos and is pretty damn catchy. As advertisements for the album go, this is just about perfect.



Sean Bones' website

Buy the single





Faces On Film - Waiting For GA


The latest instalment of Weathervane Music's 'Shaking Through' series features Boston-based singer-songwriter Mike Fiore and his band Faces On Film. 'Waiting For GA' is lush Americana with a rootsy feel and ethereal backing. The track seeming has its sights set on reaching great heights musically and it just about manages it, delicately soaring away. Not a bad way to round things up!



Faces On Film's website





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Friday, 23 March 2012

Madeaux - Song #2/Running Up That Hill


Single review by KevW



This free two-track download is the first official single release for US solo artist Madeaux and is a strange lop-sided beast. Lead track 'Song #2' is an original work, yet it sounds like a remix. A remix of what isn't clear but it bears no resemblance whatsoever to the similarly named Blur track. Consisting of many textured layers, 'Song #2' is a mash of choppy vocals cries, big beats and atmospheric guitar and piano, shifting from punchy, laid back breaks one minute to chilled soundscapes the next.

'Running Up That Hill' is a remix although it feels more like a complete song than the opening track. However, it's not, as you may expect, the Kate Bush original that gets the makeover here. To confuse matters slightly, this is Placebo covering Kate Bush remixed by Madeaux and ends up sounding like The Sound Of Arrows in need of anger management. The original may be a well known and well respected track, but the version here is pretty damn splendid too. All in all, a decent first offering.


Madeaux's website




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Thursday, 22 March 2012

Partly Faithful - Partly Faithful EP


EP review by KevW

This article also appears on http://www.soundsxp.com



Supergroups, as we're all aware, can go either way. For every Bad Seeds or Travelling Willburys, the system spits out a Power Station. Partly Faithful's members may not be household names, but comprising variously of members of John & Jehn/Savages, Somewhere Outside New York, Screaming Banshee Aircrew and Nosferatu, they certainly have an enviable pedigree. Unsurprisingly given their past form, this first release as Partly Faithful sets its sonic GPS on the post-punk and Goth explosion of thirty or so years ago.

Things are kept tight and simple, there's no unnecessary instrumentation and this economical approach means these four tracks stay true to the ethics laid down by the bands who inspired them. 'Partly Faithful' is a web of spidery guitars, moody bass and forbidding drum thuds. It's a crisp sound and is taken a step further on 'Just Fine' which could happily grace an early Cure or Bunnymen album, pushing the tempo forward. The stuttering 'Strange Disease' lays down some dark atmospherics, again it's moody and intense. 'Your Song' could be the EP's crowning moment, its hints of Joy Division-esque despair come over like a younger brother to 'Atmosphere', petering away on a static electric fuzz. As d├ębuts go this is a sterling effort, and the good news is that this supergroup have every intention of continuing what they've started.



Partly Faithful's website





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Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Artist To Check Out: Shealan Faere Butler


Article by Simon Francis Hambrook



Shealan Faere Butler is a young female artist based in Stourbridge, although originally from the Western Cape, South Africa. She describes herself by using the terms fine art, photography and film, and indeed she is creative director at Fields of View Productions. However, while her films are truly very fine pieces of work in their own right it is really her music which I want to touch on here. I hope she takes her talent for music further and realizes what she can do to people with these rich and rising melodies, and these perfectly expressed sentiments within her short, ethereal songs.

Yesterday I came across her for the first time. I found one of her songs hidden away on a youtube video while I was searching for the ancient love poem ‘Song of Songs’. I found this link and could not stop listening to it. Enchanting, beguiling, exalted and almost holy – it was honestly a very refreshing find for me.


Listening to this song, and another ‘Butterfly In My Heart’ I am reminded faintly of two other contemporary artists who experiment with new soundscapes in a similar way: Bat For Lashes, and Sufjan Stevens. Shealan Faere Butler is similar to Sufjan in that she does not seem to be confined in any way to one particular art medium. Sufjan was a trained illustrator and has recently made a well received film called 'The BQE'. Voice-wise Shealan has her own style, a kind of deep but luscious effect which reminds you of deep earth and warmth. I hope people find the time to check out Shealan’s music and her other talents on her youtube channel. Let's let her know how good she is. What a butterfly.

Shealan Faere Butler's website





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Five For Free #63


The Child Actors - Summer Lawns


Despite the name suggesting otherwise, The Child Actors is the solo project of New York resident Mike Pace, former frontman with the band Oxford Collapse. 'Summer Lawns' is one of the tracks on his debut single under this guise and is lovably exuberant and joyous with pounding drums and organ swirls backing his urgent vocal delivery; it's catchy, optimistic and fun.


Free download: 'Summer Lawns'

The Child Actors' website





Strawberry Whiplash - Now I Know It's You


Drawing on their fellow Glaswegian indie heroes of the past, this track from Strawberry Whiplash's forthcoming 'Hits In The Car' album mixes fuzzy dreampop, a touch of C86 and a coating of shoegaze warmth to create a superb noise that's part The Radio Dept. and part The Primitives. Not only are they great at hand-picking the best bits from past bands, they can craft a neat melody too.



Free download: 'Now I Know It's You'

Pre-order the album





Release The Sunbird - I Will Walk 


Release The Sunbird is a project formed a couple of years ago by former Rogue Wave singer Jack Rogue. After releasing their debut album last summer, they now have a new EP, 'Imaginary Summer' for us to enjoy before their second full-length. From it is the stunningly pretty 'I Will Walk', full of hope and harmony it's pretty difficult to dislike.



Release The Sunbird's website

Buy the EP





Turquoise Boy - You're An Apostrophe


Residing in Anchorage, Alaska, Turquoise Boy are a quartet who describe themselves as a rock 'n roll band and a pop band. The two genres often go hand in hand, and on the oddly named 'You're An Apostrophe' they successfully bridge the gap between the two. This is pop music made with guitars, drums, keyboards and vocals - a familiar mix of ingredients with superbly upbeat results.



Free download: 'You're An Apostrophe'

Turquoise Boy's website





Mirel Wagner - The Road/No Hands


We posted a track from Mirel Wagner's self-titled album a few weeks ago and since then a couple more have been made available. 'The Road' and 'No Hands' are both brilliantly constructed acoustic simplicity that are crying out for a storm of hype to surround them any time soon. The Ethiopian-born Finn could well be an alternative-folk star in the making. She certainly deserves to be.





Mirel Wagner's website

Buy the album





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Tuesday, 20 March 2012

ZiD - Adapt To Society EP


EP review by KevW

This article also appears on http://www.soundsxp.com



Launching a new label with the aim of discovering and promoting new sounds is without doubt a commendable thing to do. NeuroPlastic are aspiring to bring us fresh electronic sounds with no boundaries, although citing genres such as omphaloscopy, post-stepcore, monkey-hop and trousergaze, it sounds more like the brainstorming session of a load of stoned students intent taking the piss. Quite what category their first release, the debut EP by Swedish artist ZiD falls in to isn't quite clear, but the four tracks here are difficult to pigeonhole.

The title track is two and a half minutes of little more than some distant, maudlin piano. It's not exactly what you'd call a 'tune', rather some vague atmospherics, nice enough but somewhat unsatisfying - as is the hum of 'So Much Beauty In The World'; a track so subtle it barely exists. 'That Someone' wafts along in a haze of smoky sax ambience before giving way to 'Don't Stop', the closest to convention that we get, bringing in beats and a sampled vocal, then just as it seems a direction has been decided upon it fades away into the ether.  Still, half a song is better than none. All this makes for an unusual listening experience - and of course that's the idea - but 'Adapt To Society' is likely to leave many scratching their heads, so in that respect it's mission accomplished for both ZiD and NeuroPlastic. Bring on the trousergaze revolution!



ZiD's website

NeuroPlastic's website





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All Will Be Quiet - Wide Eyes & Space Flights


Single review by James M



Some of the most stunning guitar-based music of the last five years has come courtesy of the Nordic countries, and Finland’s All Will Be Quiet continue that trend with their own take on the post-rock genre. Their debut single ‘Wide Eyes & Space Flights’ is being released on Lionheart Records as a taster from their as yet untitled album due out on 2nd May. The record apparently took a year and a half to record due to the band wanting to make sure everything was tuned to perfection and ‘Wide Eyes...’ indeed sounds like it’s been given a lot of attention. 

Alex Kauffmann’s distinctive, haunting vocals lurk behind little more than a drum beat for the opening minute or so, before the general outbreak of noise you’d expect from a post-rock outro. Uniquely this particular world of noise includes instruments such as cellos and violins, leading to the sound feeling more akin to the likes of Arcade Fire or The National in places. The past few years have thrown up some incredible bands for me from Sweden, Denmark and Norway and it looks like come May, if the full-length is as polished as we’re told, Finland might have a submission to that list.



All Will Be Quiet's website





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Monday, 19 March 2012

Culkin - Several Sundays


Album review by KevW

This article also appears on http://www.soundsxp.com



Are guitars cool or not? The ultimate symbol of rock 'n' roll is still the weapon of choice for an endless stream of kids with the desire to create their own sounds and guitars are used in abundance throughout the alternative music world. However, in most cases a lead guitarist is forced to hide their light under a bushel. The instrument is to be played with restraint to fill songs with a wall of sound and, if you're feeling generous, maybe a slight solo every now and then. Anything more will be seen as excessive fret-wankery, to be used only by boneheaded heavy-metal or prog rock throwbacks. Thanks to the abuse of many an egomaniac, guitar prowess is to be treated with the utmost caution.

Skip back 20 years and this wasn't the case. Alt. rock bands such as Husker Du, Dinosaur Jr., Deus and their ilk were happy to make the guitar the star of the show and for a few years it thrived. Then The Darkness came along and ruined it for everyone. Culkin seem hell-bent on resurrecting the roll of the six-string in the fight against the banal. Bred from the same Swedish stable that brought us the brilliant Sad Day For Puppets, this quartet use their instruments wisely, but don't shy away from the odd blistering solo, as on 'Pay Per Fist', 'Kim Heroin' or the ace 'Left Behind'. Their approach pays dividends, employing similar levels of distortion and virtuosity that made Sugar's 'Copper Blue' such a classic album.

The key to 'Several Sundays' success is the lack of indulgence; the sound is never abused, never over the top and definitely never over-produced. The production is subtle, capturing songs that feel live and organic, and it's this warmth that makes the album feel alive. Sure there are lots of guitars and they're not scared of a solo, but it's done in a warts-and-all manner, with discord and occasionally strained vocal delivery. They're wonderful attributes to have, giving character instead of being sterile. 'Several Sundays' is a proper grower too, taking a few plays to reveal its hidden depths, but if you like guitars used correctly - and lots - then you should give Culkin some time. Their mission statement is to "make you start believing in indie-rock again", and with this record that mission is well and truly under way. In this corner of the world guitars are most definitely cool.







Culkin's website

Buy the album





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Out This Week - 19th March 2012


Frankie Rose - Night Swim


So the former member of Crystal Stilts, Dum Dum Girls and Vivian Girls, Frankie Rose, has ditched another band, The Outs, and is flying solo with new album 'Interstellar'. The reviews have been fab and the album sees her embrace different styles along with her usual fuzzy indiepop. 'Night Swim' harks back to the early 80s, mixing post-punk with goth and it's a welcome flashback.



Frankie Rose's website

Stream the album in full

Buy the album





Choir Of Young Believers - Ny Nummer Et


The second full-length album from grand Danish avant-folk/chamber pop group Choir Of Young Believers is out this week and is titled 'Rhine Gold'. 'Nye Nummer Et' has a booming, pastoral feel, similar to some of Fleet Foxes' more epic moments. It's difficult to resist a big chorus and with the kind of production treatment this track has been given it could happily grace any great album.



Choir Of Young Believers' website

Buy the album





Lee Fields & The Expressions


Although not as famous as some of his contemporaries, veteran soul man Lee Fields as been showcasing his fine set of pipes since the 60s, and with the help of Aloe Blacc's band puts out a new album, 'Faithful Man', this week. The title track is just the kind of vintage soul that just isn't normally made to a high enough standard these days. Fields succeeds where imitators have failed.



Lee Fields' website

Buy the album





Novella - Don't Believe Ayn Rand


London trio Novella put out their new EP of shoegazey indiepop this week on Italian Beach Babes. The five tracks included were recorded with producer Rory Atwell over the winter and have a definite hint of early 90s 4AD bands in the ferocious guitar and understated harmonies, the distortion adds a pleasant psychedelic effect too. Definitely a band worth keeping an eye on.



Novella's website

Buy the EP





OBLIGATORY RECORD OF THE WEEK

Beach House - Myth


*Smug face* As we predicted on The Sound Of Confusion back in 2009, Baltimore duo Beach House are now officially a big band (not like Glen Miller, you know what we mean). When it was announced that the first offering from forthcoming new album 'Bloom' was streaming online (and is now a free download, see below) they were trending on Twitter for the entire day. Getting to this level of acclaim - both critical and public - has been done without selling out or compromising their sound. First taster 'Myth' is more of their usual amazingly lovely dreampop and seems a natural continuation from 'Teen Dream', despite them saying the record may be darker. Maybe it will, but if it's all of this standard it should be another classic.


Beach House's website






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