T-Shirt Weather : Pig Beach, released January 2016

T-Shirt Weather are a pop/punk trio from Durham, making their mark with this first long-player.

‘Devin O’Leary’ is a boisterous opening track spiced up with thrown-in violin, sounding like a powerful hybrid of Arctic Monkeys and something off an early Roxy Music album. ‘Gum’ keeps the momentum going, plenty of brass, a sublime middle eight and a sharp play-out. There is a singalong chorus on ‘The Undersigned’ to splice together some deft instrumentation including a bit of keyboard in there.

I thought that ‘My Dad’s Black Polo’ referred to cool parental 1960s Gallic upper-body wear but it is the car that the singer reminiscences about wistfully. Don’t worry, its not a slow lament and neither is the next song ‘Sometimes’, a punchy tale of not quite coping, with some choice lyrics (“I wear my face to keep my brain in place…”) .

The widescreen sweeping sound of ‘Spaghetti Western (school reunion version)’ is a heartfelt ballad, different in tone and pace from the rest of the album (“it’s not the films I miss, it’s someone to watch them with…”) The last tracks are two more frenetic energy bursts; taken together they sound like a mini-musical with contrasting sections crammed into very short running times.

Noisy, intense, edgy…a great debut!

https://www.facebook.com/tshirtweather

‘Beach Sessions’, Waterbeach, Cambridge, 30 January 2016

Just north of Cambridge, in the village of Waterbeach, the unassuming ‘Sun Inn’ is host to some well-kept ales and also a well-kept secret…there is some great music being made in the upstairs gig room. The ‘Beach Sessions’ bring together a mix of local acts, carefully curated for their musical distinctiveness.

The room was packed to the rafters from the start for the opening act The British IBM. A favourite of mine and the incentive for the trip, they were playing a moody and thoughtful set, with just acoustic guitar and bass as accompaniment to the intense vocals of Adrian Killens. On the albums, the complex strings and drum arrangements work well, but stripped down the lyrics and sentiments take centre stage. ‘Nothing Ever Lasts That Long’ is an outsider’s desolation and ‘We Were The Stars’ and ‘The British IBM’ are still subtle but powerful anthems and close the set tonight.

Atomised are a six-piece Indie-rock band with roots in the 80s and 90s sounds of Echo and The Bunnymen, REM, Sisters Of Mercy and Simple Minds. A prestigious pedigree then, and with the excellent sound quality in this venue tonight (there is an enormous mixing desk at the back…) their sound is clear and multi-layered, with keyboard textures and lots of stirring guitar and strong lead vocals. Many of the tracks played were from their album ‘Dreamlands’, with a new one due out this year.

The memorably named Creepy Neighbour finished the show, even more people crammed in and there was a real sense of anticipation. With two members of the band soon leaving to be part of Mika’s touring band the musicianship was spot-on, with pure ethereal vocals from Max Taylor over some eighties popstyled keyboards, bass and guitar. It was a punchy and sharp performance and as the dry ice filled the room we realised that we had seen a storming show (and it was free?!). Roll on the next one…

http://www.thebritishibm.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Atomised-1180454188650600/
http://creepyneighbourhood.tumblr.com/

‘Just Lovely’ Split EP, released January 2016

Described by the bands as “A 3-way split EP featuring 2 songs each by 3 aging indie pop bands from Motherwell“, this is a sharp collection of varied poptastic finery.

The Just Joans (named after the agony aunt in the Daily Record newspaper) open proceedings with ‘I Love Me, Who Do You Love?’, the title alone saying it all over some rolling guitar and percussion.
GUMS! contribute ‘Two Girls With The Same Name’, a slice of jangly summery delight, but tinged with a bit of regret (“I went to the party but you’d already left…”).

The Hector Collectors, as well as having a great name, have the lyrical intricacy and obscure pop-cultural reference points of Half Man Half Biscuit for the title track ‘Just Lovely’. It is in the great tradition of list songs, backed by relentless guitar skiffle to push along these reasons to be cheerful….

The Just Joans get their banjo and acoustic guitar out for the wistful desperation of ‘Back To High School’, (“I’m phoning the headmaster, my life is a disaster, won’t you take me back…?”), the uptempo ‘I’m Still Awake’ from GUMS! is indeed just lovely, then the disc finishes with the Hectors narrating ‘Leeson Windfarm’, a strange tale over a looming bass and spiked guitar.

Three of Scotland’s finest, listen and enjoy!

https://myspace.com/thejustjoans
https://www.facebook.com/gumsband
https://thehectorcollectors.bandcamp.com/

The Magic Es : We Are Magic EP, released January 2016

Describing themselves as “a righteous quartet of musical adventurers”, The Magic Es are part of the Norwich music scene.

This impressive four track EP is rooted firmly in a pure, unadorned sound, with strong influences from bands such as the Who. Opener ‘Headrush’ starts with a simple guitar figure and lonely vocal but then a great bass sound rolls in and the track gradually builds. The production gives a very good ‘as live’ sound which I am sure would be even stronger in a cramped and dedicated music venue. ‘Running Through’ has a more country-rock feel with vocals from Pete Thompson having a yearning and strained quality similar to Roger Daltrey.

My favourite song ‘Melody Jane’ has a garage-band simplicity, but that can be deceptive, all of the tracks on this EP have surprise middle sections, snatches of guitar solo and many other deft touches. The more epic soundscape of final track ‘Cellar Door’ is driven by acoustic guitar and a cryptic vocal, finally fading into an electronic coda.

This is a confident debut EP, it needs to be played loud. Very loud…

http://www.wearemagic.uk/

King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard : Paper Mâché Dream Balloon, released November 2015

Banish any winter blues with ‘Paper Mâché Dream Balloon’, the latest album from Australian psychedelic troubadours King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard. The energetic seven-piece band sing and play an array of acoustic instruments (except Eric Moore credited with ‘nothing’!) and each of the songs is a musical burst of summery optimism, although some of the lyrics are a bit darker, such as ‘Cold Cadaver’….

Opening track ‘Sense’ starts with laid-back clarinet over a jazz groove and a lyric of bewilderment. Two more songs with a similar flavour then the sumptuous title track adds punctuations of unpredictable drums, lots of flute, harmonica and kaleidoscopic words (“stuck in a daydream, under a moonbeam…”). ‘Trapdoor’ is a fast paranoid work-out, ‘The Bitter Boogie’ is a longer blues reminiscent of The Doors.

The elements used in the songs recur and drift in and out, seemingly almost random at times but always mesmerising. I saw the sound praised somewhere as ‘tightly shambolic’…
The final track has the flute playing the opening part of all the songs that came before on the album, then rewound fast to a concluding explosion!

They are gaining a reputation for brilliant live shows, I will be seeing them soon!

http://kinggizzardandthelizardwizard.com/index.html

Flaming June : In Pursuit Of Happiness EP, released December 2015

As well as a flourishing Indie music scene in Cambridge there are many performers who take that attitude and apply it in a folk setting, one of the most regarded being Flaming June, fronted by singer/guitarist/songwriter Louise Eatock. They have been recording and playing live since 2010; I saw her recently playing a spirited and well-received solo set outdoors at the Mill Road Winter Fair, just after this EP was released.

‘In Pursuit Of Happiness’ is a lively opening track, propelled by tight drumming from Paul Richards (multi-skilled member of many Cambridge bands) and smooth violin by Di Llewellyn giving the authentic folk texture. The lyric of ‘Dopamine Oxytocin’ is about the chemical balance that causes emotional response (I think), over a frenetic acoustic guitar. Then slowing down for the yearning delights of ‘The Sailor Boy’, as so often in traditional folk it doesn’t sound like the story ends well. ‘Freedom’s Fairytale For Girls’ is the new single and pivotal track on this EP, a slow-burning song using imagery from traditional tales. ‘The Devilling Kind’ is another veiled warning, again with atmospheric violin.

Louise Eatock is a charismatic and talented performer and this is a strong set of songs, drawing effectively on folk traditions with added modern twists.

http://loui552.wix.com/flamingjuneuk

Dos Floris : The Widowed Earth, released November 2015

Based in Italy, Dos Floris is the performing and recording name of Florence Donovan. Her debut album ‘The Widowed Earth’ is a dense, multi-layered collection of atmospheric vocal and electronic pieces. Each track is crafted and complex, substantial yet brittle enough to slip through your fingers.

Every one of these cinematic soundscapes is given plenty of time to construct the right instrumental mood and reveals more on subsequent listens.A brief intro of a cassette loading gives way to ‘Rivers’, a pastoral theme built from a simple flute figure with the addition of ever-changing keyboards. The vocal simmers and yearns before final resignation. The electronic waves of ‘Before You Loved Me’ pulsing through the track, the gentle and unpredictable piano chords like droplets of rain in ‘Water’, the loose drum patterns in ‘The Other Side’ supporting simple vocal phrases; it is all elegant and addictive.
I really like the title track ‘The Widowed Earth’, huge swathes of synthesised strings in the introduction then the sustained vocal interweaves like another instrument.

In nearly an hour of music there is plenty more to get lost in, including the two part epic ‘To The Wolves’. As a change to guitar music, give this album a late-night listen.

https://www.facebook.com/dosfloris