Category Archives: Music

Indiepop All-Dayer, Blue Moon, Cambridge, 10 November 2018

The Blue Moon was the venue for the sold out and highly anticipated Cambridge Indiepop All-dayer, now in its third year. With a tasty line-up of nine bands; songs of relationship angst and elation, protest and politics, set to a DIY soundtrack of jangly guitars and spiky drumming.

Opening the proceedings to an already sizeable audience were Doyouthinkhesaurus?, a four-piece featuring staccato drums and creative bass patterns weaving around fuzzy guitars with fragments of lyrical ideas added to the mix ‘…you’re so underwhelming, how long is a piece of string…‘. ‘Lipstick’ resolves into a singalong chorus while ‘Cross-Words’ is based around one lyric line, noisy interludes and general unpredictability. Excellent sounds at 3pm on a rainy afternoon and all strangely addictive.

Last minute additions to the bill were duo Panic Pocket, a minimal mix of harmony voices, guitar and the only keyboard of the day (a retro mini-Korg) that seemed to produce some mighty, echoing tones. The songs addressed modern life concerns of internet dating, the tedium of the workplace and disappointing relationships; the lyrics were brimming with ideas and references. ‘Don’t Get Me Started’ was a standout track among many others.

Next it was short songs played quickly from exciting Leeds trio Nervous Twitch. With a tight uncluttered sound they are not afraid to draw on great 60s and 70s retro influences, especially on the surf guitar of instrumental ‘Tarantino Hangover’. They pushed the standard three piece instrument line-up in all sorts of directions, featuring fantastic vocals from bassist Erin; energetic but tinged with melancholy on ‘You Don’t Want Me’ and ‘Torment Me’. For me, this band was one of the big highlights of the day.

I fell for the irresistible low-fi jangle of Charmpit when I saw them before at the Leicester All-dayer; and as then their easy stage manner and crowd interaction earns a lot of love for their new summery tracks. You can’t resist a song based around the line ‘I’m in love with the world through the eyes of a squirrel’…

Also previously seen and reviewed on this site, Wolf Girl have a new album out and it made up most of their set. The quartet make an excellent sound with strong, uptempo songs and I particularly like the 60s folkier sound of ‘Dream Partner’.
Named after an amusement park ride, Witching Waves make a big noise (despite no bass player for this show). Opening with the relentless ‘Disintegration’, Emma sings and pounds the driving drum patterns while Mark extracts dense textures and spikes on the guitar.
I have reviewed Mammoth Penguins many times and they never disappoint; songs like ‘Cries At The Movies’, ‘Played’ and especially ‘Strength In My Legs’ sung with feeling by multi-talented Emma Kupa are indiepop perfection and there is a new album due very soon…

Another highlight for me were the excellent Happy Accidents , a power pop trio with an intense, sharp sound that belied some of the wit and comment in the lyrics. Opener ‘Wait It Out’,’Chameleon’ and ‘Different View’ motored along and bristled with energy while ‘Nunhead’ was more of an anthem with the repeated request to ‘….meet me by the cemetery…’.

And finally headliners Colour Me Wednesday, beginning with the majestic ‘Sunriser’, a distillation of many of their distinct facets; world-weary feelings of frustration with a relationship delivered with style by Jen Doveton, fascinating and endlessly varied guitar phrasing from Harriet Doveton and a tour de force drum performance from Jaca Freer. With excellent second guitar and bass the sound is full and rich. Transports of delight driving songs ‘Boyfriend’s Car’ and ‘Edge Of Everything’ sound great too and older track ‘Shut’ is a real crowd-pleaser.

All this and then an indie music disco into the small hours, this Cambridge institution is now a firm fixture on the music calendar….

https://www.facebook.com/doyouthinkhesaurusband/
https://www.facebook.com/panicpocket
https://www.facebook.com/nervoustwitchband
https://www.facebook.com/charmpit/
https://www.facebook.com/wolfgirlband/
https://www.facebook.com/witchingwaves
https://mammothpenguins.bandcamp.com/
http://www.happyaccidents.band/
https://www.colourmewednesday.com/
https://www.facebook.com/CambridgeIndiepopAlldayer/

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Goldblume, Portland Arms, Cambridge, 8 November 2018

Peterborough trio FES uk (aka Flat Earth Society) were the first act at the Portland, bringing the room to life with their angular, sparse indie rock. The ever-changing time signatures, stops, starts and complex patterns on bass and guitar (sometimes labelled as the genre ‘math rock’?) were given support by razor-sharp drumming. Strong songs from previous EP ‘You Do You’ and recent single ‘Microwave’ contained numerous musical ideas, with vocalist Pollyanna Holland-Wing binding them altogether. A great opening set, highly recommended!

Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam are a noisy five-piece from Birmingham, with a new LP, heavily featured in their set tonight. With a raucous, exhilarating sound, rarely dropping from fast, intense rock the three guitars and bass blend with fiery drums on cryptically titled songs such as ‘Meatloaf To The Camera’, ‘Mrs JR Hartley’ and the title track ‘Blackout Cowboy’. Some good interaction with the crowd and well-structured set primed us nicely for the headliners…

I first saw Cambridge rockers Goldblume in 2015 (supporting Tellison) and they are much reviewed on this site. Frequent live performance has honed their sound to tonight’s peak; the launch of their debut album ‘Husk’, with the opening six-track salvo showcasing this excellent new release. I especially like the relentless chords of ‘Razor’ and the way that some of the tracks like ‘Fiendish’ start off deceptively quiet until a sudden explosion of sound.

Frontman Jethro sings and roars as he plays complex unpredictable guitar parts; add animated bass and drums and in full flight they show how powerful and varied the basic rock trio continues to be. Older songs ‘Bleach’ and one of my particular favourites ‘Wisconsin’ still sound energetic, then the newer ‘Alice’ calmed the mood down. The darker, atmospheric, three parts of ‘Loose Fruits’ closes the album and was the epic, cinematic end to the show.

There were many Cambridge musicians and fans in the full venue, showing support for undoubtedly one of the best live and recording bands on the flourishing local music scene.

https://www.facebook.com/goldblumeband
https://www.facebook.com/sunshinefrisbeelaserbeam/
https://www.facebook.com/FESuk/

Fightmilk : Not With That Attitude, LP released November 2018

Following on from two tasty EPs recently collected with bonus tracks onto the compilation ‘Both Types Of Hay Fever’, feisty London four-piece Fightmilk deliver their first full album of guitar power pop…..

1. How You Move On A recent single to preview this new album, the teasing guitar intro heralds a big band crash-in and a tale of relationship failure where the dominant legacy is an ill-judged tattoo. The clever and surprising lyrical trick here is that the inked ‘stupid tree’ design becomes the complete theme of the song, with a fade out of ‘…lasers are painful but I think you need it…’

2. Get A Grip Neat twisty bass work on this companion piece to an arrogant character in an earlier song (‘Jesse’). I greatly enjoy the stop-start middle eight (‘…you’re Twitter famous…whatever that means..’)

3. Lucy Driven by a sustained riff à la ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ this is the shortest track; a compact blast with belting chorus and melody, one of Lily’s best vocal performances.

4. Summer Crush It’s that bass again, jumping around under plenty of guitar tricks in this summery anthem with a bittersweet lyrical undertone ‘….a six week sugar rush….‘ that implies it is not all good.

5. Dream Phone ‘… I fell in love at the dial tone…’; beginning with that evocative sound, yes, I probably have fallen in love with this track already, recalling Blondie Hanging on the Telephone and ELO(!) on their Telephone Line. The third of the trilogy of pre-release singles this is a real grower, with pacey backing, great hookline and a strange dreamy atmosphere due to some adventurous electronic drum patterns and echoing guitar.

6. Not Going Anywhere With a superb descending chord sequence, this seems to be an irony-free evocation of childhood insecurities and family life. As on many of these tracks the guitars do so many nuanced but loud twists and turns to make this a great listening experience.

7. Four Star Hotel Trying to rescue a relationship by holidaying in Amsterdam is turned into a tale of regret and paranoia ‘….and all the cyclists were staring…’ (should have come to Cambridge, the cyclists are too polite and reserved to stare…). The nihilistic sentiment is set to a rollicking tune with excellent drumming. This also features another trademark of the band’s vocals, the ‘Greek Chorus’ call and response at the end for emphasis.

8. Over An anthemic love song, straight into ‘…I’m gonna fall for you, over and over…‘ with dense layers of backing, a bit of guitar solo and enormous drums. The repeated overlapping hookline makes the meaning very clear.

9. Solving Crimes In Sweden With acoustic guitar and piano, it is a bit of a contrast on this imaginatively themed opus. Cold climate ‘…five hours of sun a day, we stay in anyway…‘ and escaping into neverending detective work make this scandi-drama sound like an attractive date;‘….this time I’m not coming home, I want to see the snow…’

10. Your Girlfriend Previously released but re-worked for this new album, this musical tour de force is a superb song, stealthy and sinister with minimal verses giving way to a singalong chorus. Dissonant guitar, caustic lyrics in a turmoil of mixed emotion and another fine middle eight, ‘..I don’t have a pencil case but if I did I’d write our names…’. The band are on top form for this epic with another great vocal too.

Currently touring with these excellent new songs (and some oldies too!) the band are a formidable live attraction…

https://www.facebook.com/fightmilkisaband/
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2018/06/01/fightmilk-both-types-of-hayfever-ep-collection-released-may-2018/

Annie Dressner, CB2, Cambridge, 26 October 2018

Opening the sold-out show in the atmospheric basement space of the CB2 café bar was Milton Keynes based singer/songwriter/guitarist Anna Hester. Playing her own compositions she moved effortlessly between genres, but always with an emotional core. Starting with the minimal ‘In The Meantime’ she soon won over the supportive audience. Especially poignant was the musical interpretation of WW1 poem ‘Everyone Sang’ (which we did…) and I particularly enjoyed the gorgeous drifting jazz tones of ‘Watch The Clock’; as light as air in the spirit of an early John Martyn track as it resonated around the intimate venue.

Luke James Williams uses the percussive and rhythmic possibilities of his guitar to showcase his intense, personal songs which he describes as ‘…reflecting the opposing forces and wonderful chaos of the world around us…‘. There is some darkness in the lyrics of ‘Snares & Traps’ and lead single ‘Rabbit Hole’ from his forthcoming EP. He played ukulele too, and a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’ fitted in well. The final thoughtful song ‘Still In Bed’ rounded off an impressive set.

This was the launch event for ‘Broken Into Pieces’, the new alt folk/country LP from Annie Dressner, with her set featuring a complete play through of the album.

Annie led with acoustic guitar, supported by occasional keyboard/electric guitar/cajón/percussion from her two fellow musicians. On the album there is denser instrumentation on many tracks but this line-up worked too, because of the strength of the songs and Annie’s pure, clear voice.

Opener ‘Fades Away’ builds around a simple guitar figure, with a dream-like hookline. ‘Heartbreaker’ is an uptempo jaunt featuring eternal themes of country music; reminiscence, then the inevitable ‘moving on’. Lead single ‘Don’t Go’ is a cleverly structured pop song, with big chorus and classic middle eight. ‘Bruise Beneath My Bone(s)’ is a compact, deceptively simple song of regret.

And so it continued; this is an excellent album, with many, many highlights. Originally from New York, Annie is now a Cambridge resident but recalls anecdotes and memories of her former life to draw on for lyrical inspiration, especially on two of my favourites ‘Kentucky’ and ‘Paper Moon’. The haunting, spiritual ‘Morning’ was the closing track from the album showcase, but there were more delights to come, especially ‘Fly’ and ‘September’ from her previous LP.
‘The Book Of Love’ by the Magnetic Fields suited Annie’s voice perfectly, then for a final encore the three acts played a gentle version of ‘You Are My Sunshine’ bringing a fine evening to a close.

http://anniedressner.com/
http://www.lukejameswilliams.co.uk/
http://annahester.com/

Hairband : Hairband EP, released October 2018

A new EP from Glasgow five-piece Hairband, formed in 2016 from members of many existing bands on the local DIY/Indie scene.

1. Bee Beginning with voices buzzing (of course) the band then set up a sparse rolling groove with angular spiky guitar (sharing an alternative universe with fellow residents Television, Gang Of Four and more recently Shopping). The dual vocal lines interweave smoothly with reassurance for the threatened species ‘….honey, I promise it’s gonna be alright….’

2. Bubble Sword The jazzy bass leads this track, not sure what the lyrical message is but the riff rocks along with conviction.

3. Flying Atmospheric, impressionistic piece ‘….thank you gravity for all you’ve done for me but don’t let me go….’, you can lose yourself in this one as the guitars combine, the bass has that insistent tone again and the drumming is nicely forward in the mix.

4. White Teeth Supergrass may have the most famous passing dental musical references in ‘It’s Alright’ but this is a whole song about them ‘….your teeth glisten in the sun….so white…very, very clean…’, as a way of conjuring up a lingering memory of a current or lost relationship? It is my favourite track; with a rock-solid bass, ringing guitar line and haunting vocals.

5. Sassy Moon The longest track on the EP, a steadily building, unrelenting brew featuring many of the elements from the previous tracks. Solo vocal lines are punctuated by the chorus ‘…how do you feel, how do you feel about the moon…’ then as a surprise the song begins to speed up and enters another level.

The whole EP has a sharp as-live sound, with a sparkling uncluttered production…

https://hairband.bandcamp.com/album/hairband

Jo Ash : Constellations, LP released October 2018

Jo Ash is a singer and keyboard player from Ely, releasing her first LP of self-penned compositions. It is an album of introspection, intensity, imagination and above all of confident, well-structured song writing.

The first two tracks have a broad cosmological theme as referred to in the album title, with ‘Otherworldly’ a strong opener to the collection with its orchestral introduction before the acoustic piano and voice drive the song and lift its haunting chorus. Jo’s piano style is rich and compelling on many of these tracks, on ‘4D Journey’ it adorns a stealthy synthesiser bass pulse and another arresting chorus.
If the album generally tends towards slower tempos, in contrast the spirited ‘Story Behind Your Smile’ dances along briskly, ably supported by guesting guitar, bass and drums.

‘Adrift’ and ‘I See You’ are stately ballads where Jo gives full range to her clear, pure voice. ‘Her Eternity’ is a waltz led by some darker piano textures and tempo changes. ‘Smoke And Mirrors’ is a progrockish concoction with marching orchestra, spiky strings and a complex many-section arrangement.

‘Embers’ is a favourite of mine; with minimal piano and backing voices it still achieves a lush, emotive sound and it features one of Jo’s best vocals. ‘Blue Heart’ uses the repeating waltz rhythm of the echoing piano to great effect to counterpoint the abstract sentiments of the words.

For the final song a foreboding drum beat underpins a dark lyric musing on the inevitability of time passing and the idea that we only have ‘30,000 Days’ of life? The sombre chorus drives the song, ‘…here I am walking this Earth….’.
It is an unusual and haunting end to an impressive debut album.

http://joashmusic.com/

The Nightingales, Portland Arms, Cambridge, 4 October 2018

A long ago sold-out evening at the Portland started with Near Jazz Experience playing a set that explored the seemingly limitless possibilities of a jazz trio; with drums and hefty electric bass providing the foundation for multi-instrumentalist Terry Edwards, mainly on saxophone (sometimes two at once!), melodica and pocket trumpet. Together they produced a super-tight rhythm driven sound varying from complex up-tempo pieces to the more wistful new single ‘Afloat’. The audience were happy to join the celebration of their addictive sound by playing along with percussion shakers (which I think were mostly handed back at the end…)

There was a time when a music line-up would often feature a comedian or poet (John Cooper Clark, Attila the Stockbroker, John Shuttleworth et al) and The Nightingales have maintained this tradition for their shows; on this tour it was cult legend Stewart Lee performing a relaxed and hilarious 20 minute act drawn from some of his 1988 club routines. Much-loved and appreciated, he certainly made his mark and left the audience wanting more!

The Nightingales continue to be a formidable live attraction with an energy and commitment that doesn’t diminish with time. Tonight playing an hour of continuous songs with no let-up for audience interaction or appreciation; it was a fully immersive experience. They have an immense back catalogue to draw on but also still release new material with album ‘Perish The Thought’ just out and featured single ‘Chaff’ being one of the highlights tonight.
Dynamically supported by spiky guitar and incisive bass and the superlative drumming and duelling vocal from Fliss Kitson, the lyrics and vocal demands of founder member Robert Lloyd draw you into their special and unique world. A a bit like listening to the late Mark E Smith, it is an onslaught on the senses. From the noise fuzz of ‘Real Gone Daddy’ to the punching art-rock of ‘Best of British Luck’ and the timeless sentiment of relative oldie ‘Company Man’, tonight showed that the Nightingales continue to push against the barriers.

https://thenightingales.org.uk/
http://www.stewartlee.co.uk/
https://en-gb.facebook.com/NearJazzExperience/