Tag Archives: CD

12 Highlights from 2017 : A Sampler of The Year

A distillation of tracks taken from some of the memorable albums and shows of 2017…

1. False Hearts: Cynical Love
Belting rock song, takes your breath (and ears) away

2. Luna Falls: Falling To Pieces
Three part harmonies, acoustic guitars and a gorgeous descending chord sequence chorus. Sounds great live too.

3. Tom Robinson Band: Man You Never Saw
Age does not weary the societal condemnation of the ‘Power In The Darkness’ LP, Tom is still loud and proud live.

4. Elma: Butterfingers
Heart-stretching ballad, just perfect.

5. Goldblume: Wisconsin
Live or recorded, Jethro and the boys put on a great rockshow.

6. Hannah Peel: All That Matters
Hypnotic, ethereal gig and plenty of experiment on a multi-layered album.

7. Seán McGowan: No Show
Sterling live support and heir to Billy Bragg, the minutiae and poetry of a zero hours contract in this ode to the minimum wage.

8. Dos Floris: On The Road
Stunning voice and electronic complexity working very well in a live forum.

9. Baby Arms: Eviscerator
The semi-underground DIY scene is home to this gem of a single.

10. Peaness: Oh George
Chester trio turn the mention of an ex-politician into poptastic gold.

11. Dream Nails: Tourist
Scarily good live band, getting their message across in short punk bursts.

12. Public Service Broadcasting: Progress
Surprising choice of theme for the new album, look forward to seeing it all in concert next year.

All tracks featured on…..

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Various Artists : ‘200’ A Compilation from German Shepherd Records

A compilation from the ever-questing independent Manchester record label to celebrate their 200th release, with proceeds going to the Coffee4Craig homelessness charity…

1. The Get – When The Oil Runs Out Veteran minimalist punksters sum up this burning issue (‘….will we get KFC?…will my solar panels power me?….’) They are a great live band too.

2. JD Meatyard – Ubu@Erics I saw him supporting Half Man Half Biscuit and he seems to have picked up on their surrealistic lyrics but added something of his own intensity. I saw (Pere)Ubu@Junction in Cambridge but it doesn’t scan quite so well.

3. The Screaming Love Collective – Come On A pleasant groove, a bit reminiscent of T.Rex ‘Get It On’ but that is no bad thing. All over too quickly.

4. M.T. Scott – The Auctioneer Piano dominated strange ballad, haunting and thoughtful. A neglected subject in popular music, I will never view Bargain Hunt in the same way again.

5. Issac Navaro – Swam Oceans To Drown In Concrete Ambient delights for 11 minutes. Good to hear the acoustic piano over the top of the electronics.

6. Moff Skellington – The Clegg Twins As well as drawing the artwork for this album(see below) Moff Skellington contributes characteristic fantastical prose over an uncomfortable backing. Unfortunately I couldn’t get the picture of two Nick Cleggs out of my mind but perhaps that was the strength of the track.

7. The Junta – MCR Bassy electronic instrumental, it needs to be loud.

8. Space Museum – Esoteric Another instrumental, drift off into the cosmos with this one.

9. House Mouse and Space Museum – Bigger Than The Beatles The title tells how it could have been; with spoken word over electronic backing, it is like a history of pop music from the last 40 years (‘…with more hits than Simply Red…make Bob Dylan eat his words…’)

10. Toska Wilde – The Death And Life Of A Dreamgirl Minimalist and graphic tale of woe, reminds me a bit of the late lamented Kevin Coyne, high praise indeed.

11. Keltrix – Alibi (Acoustic Version) A bit of timeless folk-rock from Cambridge stalwarts Keltrix, good to hear the violin and the colour-filled vocal.

12. Pearl Divers – Angel in New York Rocky waltz-time epic, the band claim they feature ‘…strong melodies anywhere from Happy Mondays style to Bond themes…’.. I happily listen to that combination…

13. Night Operations – When Night Fell Smooth ambience, the gentle beat underpins slight variations at each cycle, keep listening…

14. The Electric Cheese – 20 Years of Hate Probably the best band name on the album, sounding a bit like the Wave Pictures in their noisier moments, great as-live sound with reassuring up-front guitar.

15. Bouquet of Dead Crows – Without You (Scotch Bonnet Remix) Scarily different remix of one of my favourite Cambridge band’s best tracks, it has gone reggae instead of rocking out, but don’t be fooled.

16. PrunX – Devils Cookbook PrunX are from Berlin, describing themselves as ‘triple p rock, psychedelic – progressive – political’ It carves its way nicely through two of those three genres I think.

17. Dominic Carlton Jones – Cat’s Front Door A sort of acoustical Oasis anthem, DCJ sounds like he has really lived it – hold up the lighters and celebrate the end of a great compilation!

https://germanshepherdrecords.bandcamp.com/album/200

Public Service Broadcasting: Every Valley, released July 2017

The follow-up to the acclaimed ‘The Race For Space’, the new Public Service Broadcasting album debuts in the album charts at Number 4, not bad for a concept album about the decline of the coal mining industry in South Wales. Given those perhaps limited parameters this is a superb result, it is more introspective and less immediate than its predecessors but repeated listens brings overall reward and many glistening nuggets like that which no doubt were sometimes found in the coal seams (…enough for another 400 years…).

The narrative starts with the perceived and semi-romanticised nobility of the miners in the opening title track with of course spot-on sampled voices including a too-short snippet of the legendary Richard Burton (which made me want to re-listen to his voicing of The War Of The Worlds!). ‘The Pit’ tells us what it was really like, the 80 degree heat of the tunnels …three feet six inches high from floor to roof… (for further reading see Orwell’s Road To Wigan Pier…).

There are lots of acoustic instruments on these opening tracks, using local strings players and recording in their purpose-built studio in Ebbw Vale. The wryly titled ‘People Will Always Need Coal’ is a favourite of mine, the band using a more familiar electronic-based sound underneath the subtle ironies of a recruitment campaign film ‘….you’ll discover the excitement of going underground, there will always be something new…’. It builds up well, I can imagine it as a future live favourite. ‘Progress’ follows in a similar vein, with the vocal hook added by Traceyanne Campbell.

Then this optimism begins to crumble; the closures, strikes and strife reflected in the angry rock guitar of ‘All Out’, PSB’s noisiest track since car crash opus ‘Signal 30’ on their debut album. The rest of the album deals with the aftermath and how local communities were affected. Guest vocalists (James Dean Bradfield, Haiku Salut, Lisa Jên Brown) contribute effectively but it is those real-voice clips that really hit home.

And if listening to the gradual mellowing of the music towards the end of the album doesn’t leave you spiritually part of the landscape and its uncertain future, the final emotional heft of the male voice choir singing ‘Take Me Home’ is a glorious coda to an affecting musical journey.

https://www.publicservicebroadcasting.net/
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2015/04/26/public-service-broadcasting-corn-exchange-cambridge-25-april-2015/
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2015/03/01/public-service-broadcasting-the-race-for-space-released-february-2015/

Pet Crow : A Simple Guide To Small And Medium Pond Life LP, released March 2017

I missed this when it first came out but having liked the idea of a domesticated corvid and seen the striking sleeve it just had to be looked into further…
Pet Crow are a four piece from Derby, confidently managing to extract a distinctive sound from the conventional guitar/bass/drums line-up. The as-live sound is spot on with the echoing vocals appearing over the distant hills to slice through some aggressive drums and bass.

Opener ‘Harold And Maude’ (named after a 1971 dark comedy drama) has an introduction reminiscent of old standard ‘Can’t Get Used To Losing You’ but don’t be fooled, when the band crash in there is no easy listen as the vocals carve their own path on top. ‘She’s back’ is driven by a busy bass line and guitar fireworks, ‘Bazwatch’ name checks David Hasselhoff (of course) and is all over in a minute and a half.

‘Pressure Sores’ is my favourite, with the plaintive vocal (…why can’t I just be me?…) never resolved over the restless instrumentation. Heavy. ‘Let Your Hair Down’ is superb too, with twin vocals, dissonant guitar and a bass and drum middle eight as anything but light relief. The longer track finale ‘Absorbed’ incorporates many of the musical ideas from the rest of this short and loud but perfectly realised album.

https://petcrow.bandcamp.com/releases

Enderby’s Room, LP released April 2017

Dan Mayfield is a songwriter and folk-influenced violin player; after many years playing for other musicians he is now releasing a collection of his own compositions with a five-piece incarnation of his band Enderby’s Room. Mr Enderby is the name of a character from the pen of Anthony Burgess, of ‘Clockwork Orange’ fame and I must highlight the sleeve artwork, drawn by artist Jonny Voss in one continuous pen line.

This is a gorgeous album with the guitar, double bass and other acoustic instruments blending perfectly, often underpinned by a pedal harmonium to add a different tone. The opening track ‘Lakeside’ showcases the dual harmony lead vocals as those waves of sound roll onto the shore. Likewise ‘Stars’, these are evocative pieces with no need for over-embellishment, the sentiment and music flow together.

‘Birds’ is a delicate fragment, the ornithological observations are followed by a chorus that could easily be used over again but the song is just left hanging there. Also around the 2 minute mark and leaving the listener wanting more is ‘Grey Stones’. Delicate ukulele introduces ‘My Old Friend’ an up tempo track which reminds me a bit of the late-lamented thoughtful indiepopsters Allo Darlin’. ‘Tiptoe’ has a strong hookline and ‘I’ll Find You’ (‘..dance with me to our love songs…’) is an emotion-filled finale.

The musical arrangement is minimalist but sounds lush and full, like an antique watch you don’t need to take it apart to realise its beauty and intricate workings…

http://enderbysroom.co.uk/
http://jonnyvoss.com/

Broadway Danny Rose, EP released March 2017

This EP from Broadway Danny Rose is called ‘Passive Aggressive Post-Its’ and according to the band is the distillation from 14 hours of music; that sounds like plenty to choose from, which is not surprising given the range and scope of the music made by Joe Bell and his cohorts.

‘Rabbit Foot’ is an out-and-out rocker, it sounds like Wilko Johnson has temporarily joined the band to play along with the riff for a tale of gambling, debt and low-life deals. Worth the price of the EP on its own, it is a great opener.
We then go over to ‘Jeffrey’s Place’, a strange concoction of loud loping bass and driving guitar; also it includes the lyric ‘….For Jeffrey knows what’s wrong, haunted by mistakes… Rupert Brooke’s can charm but the sentiment’s misplaced….’ and other cryptic delights.

‘Organised Sport’ is a short blast of punk pop energy, with an opaque cut-up lyric where it is the sound of the words that count. I am lucky to own an early acoustic version of ‘Carrie Simmons’, on this release it is now filled out to form a swirling mini-movie murder ballad,‘….There’s something about the way you use that knife….Together in death as in life…’. Disturbing stuff; this is also a track of musical contrasts and shows the impressive versatility of the band.

I look forward to the album….

https://broadwaydannyrose.bandcamp.com/releases

Various Artists : Cambridge Calling Vol 1, released March 2017

A new compilation of tracks representing the diversity of the Cambridge music scene, curated by Dave Hammond from his highly-regarded alternative radio show on Cambridge 105.

1. Trick Bird – Window Catchy opener from DIY popster, an up-beat tune carrying a lyric with dark undertones.
2. All We Earthlings – Berlin Plenty going on in this rock-prog epic with a story to tell over some powerful instrumentation.
3. Broadway Danny Rose – Find It/Hide It I really like this, Joe Bell effortlessly whisks you away into shadowy territory, a troublesome serenade sounding like it was recorded in the middle of the American desert…
4. I Strip For Couples – An Introduction Orchestral rap, killer guitar, crowd noise, fireworks? It is like a whole album condensed into one track.
5. Black Buttercups – 209 Sinister blues, hotel room 209 (and 208) sounds the place to be, before a buzz-saw guitar solo explodes into the mix.
6. The Seven Twenty – (Can’t Find No Love In This) City – Alt. Mix Evocative, thoughtful song, musically restless with violin roving in and out to great effect.
7. Garuda – Theta This one rocks, relentless drums and unusual guitar effects combine hypnotically.
8. Motor Tapes – Count To Ten Experimenters play electronic slabs over solid drums and bass pedals. Great vocals too, but I still can’t decipher the distant voices over the end fade…
9. Keltrix – Butter A martial drum approaching over the horizon heralds the arrival of a folk pomp-rock ode, the spirited vocal underlined by a violin sounding like medieval pipes. Complex and rewarding.
10. 3 Screaming Popes – Great Day A memorable name for the band and a laid-back, gently rocking track, taking its time and delivering a strong hookline.
11. Bouquet of Dead Crows – Drownout Heaviest track on the album, crackling from the speakers and capturing the high quality of their live performances.
12. Eil Marchini – Come and Go Introspective, intense and very melodic acoustic musings.
13. Datum Plane – Lighthouse Optimistic gospelly ballad with a timeless feel.
14. Pete Newman Clarinet Project – Cheap Black Plastic Cool jazz interlude from clarinet/sax virtuoso. Nice!
15. Lizard Brain – Bring The Curtain Down This is the longest track on the collection, atmospheric alt-rock with rolling percussion and warm vocal performance.
16. The Scissors – Haunted Mirror Prominent Hammond organ gives sixties vibe to a short groove from one of the city’s premier live bands.
17. Model Village – Don’t This is a folky-rock grower from one of my favourite bands. Do!
18. Umbrella Assassins – Chicken Crazy lyric of bird species over an addictive tabla/sitar type drone. Are all their songs like this? I hope so…
19. Gavin Chappell Bates – Follow The Light Live-looping troubadour gives the full band treatment to an impassioned anthem from his debut album.

Great stuff. There is such a rich seam of musical talent to be mined, there is enough for a Volume 2 already…

https://germanshepherdrecords.bandcamp.com/album/cambridge-calling-vol-1 (Proceeds going to the Arthur Rank Hospice)
https://germanshepherdrecords.com/