A collection of songs from Adam Sherif and Julia Oertli, also known as London-based indie duo th’sheridans, celebrating plenty of their back catalogue of addictive ‘incongru-pop‘.
The bleakly atmospheric ‘Cabot Cove’ from 2014 opens the listings then the words and music of ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Dismembered’ pull the listener right into their world as the two and a bit chords punch and roam. ‘Welcome To Town, Pussycats’ has the guitar voice and drums racing each other in a winning combination before ‘Architecture’ is a cleverly twisted social commentary ending with a emotive viola solo from Julia.
‘Hot Day in 20-05’ is one of my favourites; a compact mix of pace, pathos and bursts of electric mayhem, flowing nicely into the similar atmosphere of pre-released single ‘Awesome Summers & Kate’. ‘Ashley Is A Geek’ is a Ramones style mini rock opus, contrasting with the folk-powered guitar of ‘A Quiet Year’.
And there is much much more, the fourteen tracks constantly varying in tone and pushing the minimal instrumentation in all directions, culminating in the finale ‘Keep Warm’ where Adam’s vocals carry the restrained reflection and regret of the lyric with conviction.
The album is a heartwarming, rich and fun compilation of thoughtful but edgy DIY pop.
BansheeVa – Janus. The title character can be described as ‘….god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, frames, and endings…’. That just about sums up the mind-expanding pathways of this jumpy psychedelic instrumental extravaganza.
Death To Slow Music – Pressure. Two minutes of minimalist punk single line bass and guitar erupting into an explosive chorus.
People Look Like Dogs – Allan Thinks We Don’t Move. Probably the best combination of band and track name on the album for this untamed cacophony of guitars, drums and wild vocal.
Jaymotts – Love Paralysis. Retro jazz-funk, sounding enigmatically timeless.
Collars – Hey Lizzie, Lay It On Me full review here
Creepy Neighbour – The Optimist. Striking but slightly disturbing piano-led ballad featuring a strong vocal from Max Taylor along with lush string stylings.
Naomi Randall – Cabbage White. Lovely indie folk; evocative and effortless with the acoustic guitar adorned with other subtle instrumentation and echoing voices to frame Naomi’s sublime vocal.
Dom Howard – Cascade Mix. Like a coda to the previous track, a sparkling guitar chimes out a repeated riff over the lightest of jazzy backing before an introspective solo.
Lady Birdface – (I’m Gonna Give You) The Clap. DIY pop splendour from creative multi instrumentalist and songwriter Kate Shore, full of barbed edges and sparse couplets ‘…don’t you look too close or you’ll feel morose…’
Sunday Driver – Time Machine. Classy acoustic steampunk fusion and sinuous vocal whisks the listener into a cabaret club of the future.
Percy Black – Code Name Covid-19. If you need reminding about the subject, this is as pleasant way as it could be, super-smooth reggae with golden-voiced lead and backing vocals and laced with brass and sax; the messages are clear, ‘….give the scientists the wisdom to eliminate Covid-19….’
Tom Bainbridge – Nocturne. All-acoustic multi-layered piece, built around a gently swinging pendulum rhythm and a chorus of voices.
Keith Somerville – Red Angel. A loosely structured prog-psych song pulls the listener into a spiral of mellow musings, interrupted by a surprise electric solo.
Helefonix – Song Thrush Serenade. Pure atmosphere of delight here as sampled birdsong tonally competes with the semi-ambient electronics.
The Routine – Come Knocking At My Bedroom Door. Strong rock-pop anthem from Cambridge/London quartet with the upfront vocal and musical intricacies giving way to a huge chorus.
A compilation of cover versions of James Bond film themes, with all the artists connected in some way to punk-pop legends The Wedding Present, raising money for charityThe Campaign Against Living Miserably (see link below).
1. James Bond Theme – The Sleazoids. Amiable workout of that most recognizable entry theme for a film character, a flute adds to the feedback and fuzz before the distinctive final chord.
2. You Only Live Twice – The Wedding Present. One of the finest melodies, interweaved with that distinctive John Barry counterpoint figure. David Gedge delivers the words with relaxed gravitas.
3. Goldfinger – Simone White. The bombast of the original is stripped away for a beguiling vocal over a guitar that emphasises all the beauty of the jazzy chords.
4. Goldeneye – Follow The Moths. A lesser theme to start with but full of sinister intrigue building up to the big chorus.
5. The Man With The Golden Gun – Jetstream Pony. One of my favourites of the collection, pacy and punchy with time for a dreamy interlude in the two minutes.
6. Live And Let Die – The Donalds. The highly regarded multi-sectioned source material is treated with fun and reverence, the semi-spoken vocal imbues some tongue in cheek drama.
7. The World Is Not Enough – Maria Scaroni. This torch song lends itself to the 1920s Berlin nightclub atmosphere and the piano and sensuous voice sound like they are in the room with you.
8. Diamonds Are Forever – Cinerama. Full of atmosphere, emphasising the stealthy smooth melodic allure.
9. Tomorrow Never Dies – Danielle Wadey & Charles Layton. Another favourite of mine, with the descending echoing piano intro and arpeggios, full Spector-ish chorus and soaring but vulnerable vocal. Sensational.
10. All Time High – Minitel. Experimental electronica which builds layers of complexity, the song is in there somewhere (but at the time it was never the most memorable?)
11. Nobody Does It Better – Samuel Beer-Pearce. Slowed down version with sliding acapella harmonies turn this into a late night interlude.
12. For Your Eyes Only – Klee. Developing the 80s synth tones of the original, this is a sensuous, immersive electronic journey driven by a strong vocal performance.
13. Thunderball – The Legendary Len Liggins. Spiky guitar and super deep bass underpins this summation of the Bond character before Len deconstructs the myth in a surprise spoken passage…
14. Mr Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – Sleeper featuring David Lewis Gedge. The proposed theme for Thunderball but then instead used in the film soundtrack, it is full of energy with great lines ‘…like a shark he looks for trouble ..that’s why the zeroes double…’
15. From Russia With Love – Graeme Ramsay. Languorous and echoing, dark and sinister, this is another melodic highlight from the Bond canon.
16. View To A Kill – Terry de Castro. Sixties retro vibe with lounge music overtones gives subtle drama to one of the most commercially successful themes.
17. Die Another Day – The Ukrainians. The band are supreme masters of unexpected covers and as usual this one has all of their excellent musical trademarks. And it speeds up halfway through too….
18. Skyfall – Such Small Hands. The award winning original is turned inside out with hypnotic electronics, percussion and keys and a brilliant, haunting vocal.
19. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – Shaun Charman. John Barry’s descending bass sequence sounds as foreboding as ever, with a classy guitar solo over the top in this cinematic instrumental.
20. We Have All The Time In The World – David Lewis Gedge. As in the film, appearing at the finale and here sounding especially poignant with an unadorned classical piano accompaniment. A fitting end to this rich mix.
A compilation of tracks by Cambridge-based bands old and new, curated by Ian Perry of Aaahh!!! Real Records, the aim being to help financially support much-loved pub and music venue The Portland Arms through these difficult times (see link below!).
1. The Portland Brothers – Invisible Love. Poignant, acoustic country-folk from a band named and formed after a meeting in the venue.
2. The Judge Reinholds – Stars and Satellites. Distant musings take their time to erupt into an impressive onslaught of spectacular noise.
3. Grieving – Bow and Arrow. Continuing the noisy theme and capturing their distinctive live sound, this restless rocker is punctuated by more contemplative interludes.
4. The Baby Seals – Vibrator. Contributing one of their supreme tracks, the mighty trio deliver a concise and singalong powerpop single.
5. Old Man Boom – No Longer Alone. As a contrasting backing to the affecting vocal, the waltzing banjo takes on a life of its own before the whole band crashes in.
6. Model Village – Eulogy. A wistful new track from the much-loved Cambridge collective. As always the voices, acoustic and electric instrumentation are an irresistible combination.
7. B-Sydes – Good Times. With a committed vocal performance pushed on by pure band energy, the track continues to build the momentum to the end.
8. Goldblume – Husk [Live]. One of the rock trio’s best tracks; complex, edgy and rewarding as it twists unpredictably.
9. Beverley Kills – Walk With Me. Blistering introduction, razor sharp sound, machine-gun drumming, strange abrupt middle eight and a vocal soaring above all. Unbeatable.
10. Freedom Faction – What’s it All About? According to their bio the band ‘… inject liquid punk directly into your brain via your earways…’ Agreed.
11. Heartwork – The Used. Roving softer-rock track, the complexity of the musical structure and a passionate vocal gradually pulls the listener in.
12. DoYouThinkHeSaurus? – Lipstick Teeth. Experimental punkish brooding guitar keeps you guessing until the chorus hits home.
13. Mammoth Penguins – Dick Move. Taken from their brilliant 2019 album, the trio deliver a short, precise slice of emotional angst. Powerful, catchy and possibly my favourite on this collection.
14. Just Tom & Pete – Sweet Ass Voice. A gentle meandering with spoken word, acoustic guitar and a winning emotional intimacy from this unassuming duo.
15. The Pony Collaboration – Close Enough. Last seen in Cambridge supporting The Wave Pictures, this easy-going ensemble were a real treat to hear, with tracks that roll along like this pop-perfect meditation.
16. The Travis Waltons – Year of the Snake. With a third album due out soon, the trio remind us how well they can structure a single as the distorted guitar riff and the emotional disappointment in the voice drive towards a chorus line that will stick in your brain.
17. The Grey – Silent Man. Dense layers of guitar and drums introduce this rock epic, the trio make no compromises and take their time delivering this doom-laden but thoughtful anthemic finale.
Cambridge Calling Volume 4 is a new compilation of tracks from musicians based around the Cambridge area, with proceeds going to Emmaus – a charity which aims to reduce homelessness.
1. The Rugs – Blame It On Me Upfront, sparse rocker driven by a guitar counterline and some well-placed handclaps. 2. Colour Sergeant – Now it’s colour Dense ambient layers and creative sampling make a spectral, descending waterfall. A luminous three minutes. 3. ncklcng – Sleeper in the Valley This one is a bit of a grower, busy and accomplished jazz-funk with sax and sharp bass. 4. Kammahav – MLIRIR An acoustic version of the track from their second EP, standing for ‘Modern Life is Rubbish’ and a mystery extra IR? ‘…fields full of skeletons….students on courses reciting white horses….’ populate the lyric as a strong rhythm guitar drives along like Gordon Giltrap’s cult instrumental hit ‘Heartsong’. 5. Luke James Williams – Still In Bed Brilliant song and performance, as previously reviewed on this site ‘…Sung with passion it is a standout track; a simple but stunningly effective ascending and descending guitar line is the only accompaniment to the emotionally raw lyric, coupled with a very attractive melody….’ 6. RJ Archer and the Painful Memories – It’s Snowing In Hell As previously reviewed on this site ‘….adding an extra energy to the insistent riff, always returning to that great title line,‘…you tell me that you’re doing well, it must be snowing in hell…..’ With the gradually increasing desolation of the vocal it is a mini Tarantino movie soundtrack….’ 7. SENEX IV – Valentine Dark rock from trio drilling deep into the mineshaft of Ziggy Stardust glam overlaid with a lovelorn lyric that doesn’t give up. 8. Moonstrips – Nothing Like You This has the initial flavour of echoey detachment of an early Pink Floyd piece then by adding extra noise to a full dense mix, the trio deliver a powerful rock song. 9. Kyanos – Egypt This four-piece draw on psychedelic and dream-like pop to construct a mainly instrumental piece which after gentle synths and a brief vocal sojourn surprisingly starts to rock out. 10. Cong-Fusion – Turned Tables Jazzy and with an 80s smooth sheen, this is an appealing and spirited pop song, embellished by electric piano, brass and a strong lead vocal. 11. Tribes of Europe – Intermission Sounding like it is straight from an imaginary film soundtrack, full of wide-open spaces and a restrained foreboding. 12. Annie Dresner – Nyack One of the brightest talents on the Cambridge indie-folk scene with a wistful reminiscence set over a gentle guitar and piano. 13. Absolute Beginners – Here Tonight Like a meandering river this sociable folky-rock track flows by and is a bit of a grower, winningly enhanced by the moog synth solo. 14. Pink Lemonade – Space Girl The poptastic trio have a new EP out but this is where their recordings started, as reviewed on this site previously ‘….they were out in the cosmos for two and a half minutes of power pop ‘….surfing the waves of the Milky Way…not your usual Friday, hey!…’, a burst of energy featuring a na na na na chorus, fuzzy guitar and as much outer space terminology as they can cram into the grooves. Follow that!…’ 15. Slava B. – Games of System Singer/songwriter from Wisbech, sounding like more than a full band and with very distinctive vocals crossing between doom metal and The Ukrainians. 16. Future Now – Dying Universe Full-on rocker with prog rock storytelling and even though the song has many sections and paces there is no letup in the intensity over nearly seven minutes, good to hear the extended guitar solo ending too. 17. Karalinga – The Old Man Another track that grows in stature with each listen, reviewed on this site previously ‘… Laid-back semi-psychedelia driven along by an amiable saxophone line….’ 18. Amethysts – Stones The gorgeous signature track by this soulful electronic duo; the voices, keys and guitar which sounds excellent live have transferred stylishly to this recording. 19. Lo-Grade Lawrence – Purple Pyramid An instrumental featuring dense layers of synthesisers, built around a steadily wandering theme and bass tone, garnished with other-worldly drums and percussion.
Subtitled ‘An Everlasting Compilation’, here is a selection of artists from the Cambridge-based record label…
1. The Jims – The A to Z of You and Me A leisurely instrumental bookend, featuring acoustic guitar, bass and xylophone with a hint of percussion. A dissonant piano interrupts creatively towards the end. 2. Victorian Tin – Silver and Perfume This one is strangely addictive, with shades of 80s cult popsters Japan as it features roving bass slidings and a world-weary vocal. 3. Bug Teeth – Emily A double note on acoustic guitar provides the rhythym and melodic structure of the song as the ethereal vocals enchant for this heavenly two minutes. 4. Karalinga – The Old Man Laid-back semi-psychedelia driven along by an amiable saxophone line. 5. Ivan Campo – Magic A short pastoral interlude. Woodwind and acoustics weave a spell featuring shows and shamen with sinister undertones. 6. Lizard Brain – Am I Just A Dub I haven’t heard one of these for a while, an echong, sparse percussion and bass infused remix of an existing track – this one from the band’s cornucopia album ‘Stray’. 7. A J Jackson – World In A Wheel This is a wandering, speculative track that always returns to the strong hookline. The relaxed vocal delivery and circularity of the song reminds me of 80s pop minor-masterpiece ‘Kiss Me’ by Stephen Duffy. 8. Stenbit – Vanished From Earth Electronic meanderings certainly conjure up a cosmic journey. Meteoric pulsing interjections and a distant phone ringing(?) make it all a bit unsettling. 9. The New Fools – Oh Steven, Why? A fine waltzing Smiths-style song carries a coruscating lyric that acknowledges the impact made by the band before describing the fall from grace of their lead singer. 10. Smoothy – Bad Television A chiming, lingering riff gives shape to the plaintive vocal and sentiments in this thoughtful piece. The bass burrows around under the stately beat as the guitar gradually takes over. 11. Ollie Jackson – Let’s Be Clear One of my favourite tracks on the compilation, a rolling acoustic guitar beguiles under a quietly despairing vocal and affecting melody. 12. Kammahav – I’m Hers, She’s Gone Lovelorn and a bit confused about the loss of a relationship, the narrator sums up the ambiguity over a reassuring acoustic rock background. 13. Captain Crylaugh (featuring Bug Teeth) – We Two Boys Together Clinging Acoustic and electronic loops merge into rewarding strata as Bug Teeth adds the spectral vocal magic again. 14. Schaum – This Film There is plenty of time for the ideas in this carefully constructed track to develop. It could accompany a long aerial view of a city at night in a dystopian black and white movie.
Another excellent compilation from the musical cauldron which is ‘rock city’ Bury St Edmunds, also known as the ‘sugar town’ of East Anglia.
1. Gaffa Tape Sandy – Water Bottle Premier Bury trio start the LP with one of their best, exploding and distorting from the speakers.
2. Tundra – Walking Stick Noisy opening leads into loose grungy punk guitar topped with an angry rant ‘…shut your mouth, stop talking, I’ve heard enough and I don’t want to hear any more…’
3. Sun Scream – Extract Sinister introduction soon gives way to some heavy fuzz guitar and a mind-bending lyric. The psychedelic tones include some synth-type bubbling and a general good-time atmosphere.
4. Sam Eagle – The Things You Taught Me Multi-instrumentalist/singer Sam with a small-hours jazz groove, coaxed along by smooth guitar, languid brass and a counterpointing vocal.
5. Kulk – Fix Me With only vocals, guitar and drums Kulk produce an all-enveloping sound that is so heavy it generates its own gravity field.
6. Stretch Soul Gang – Earache Jazz-funk from six-piece combo, not afraid to give each instrument some space to contribute to the tight sharp mix.
7. The Interesting Times Gang – Wayward Navigator With a theremin giving its usual mysterious sound this is a mix of proper prog and folkrock. It is a tale of roaming the cosmos on some strange quest; by the end of the second middle eight I was completely under its spell.
8. Kyanos – Lost In Blue Peaceful, playful psychedelic jazz with gleaming, ringing guitar figures leading the sound. The instrumental break is a thing of beauty leading into a thoughtful, fading coda.
9. Druids – Up To Mars The spirit of Hawkwind classic ‘Silver Machine’ lives on in this space-rock extravaganza, featuring countdowns, voiceovers, a driving riff and a ruthless instrumental break. Get on board!
10. The Catch – Tie Dye Short and to-the-point power rock from this trio, featuring a strong hookline chorus and neat lyrical rhymes around the title, with a decisive blast of rhythm at the end.
11. Amethysts – Wreckers Beautifully created electropop, with stately but delicate synthesisers descending the scales and floating beneath the exquisite vocals. Gorgeous.
12. Thy Last Drop – A Rake’s Tango Great fun here as this hybrid of Divine Comedy, Tom Waits and the Pogues tells its tale of lurid woe. You keep expecting to speed up and it does to great effect, driven by a sparkling featured mandolin.
13. The Glitter Shop – Fizz This one moves along like a road movie, with pace and energy. There is a big catchy chorus and an effects-drenched guitar solo too.
14. B.U.H. – No More Lines First recorded song (apart from a seasonal ‘butchering’ of Fairy Tale Of New York on YouTube!) from Bury’s leading noise exporters. A calm intro then with two vocalists, frenetic guitars, bass and drums all hell is let loose on this environmental epic.
15.Enterlude – British Dream Full-on indie rock from energetic five-piece. Big chorus, swirling keyboard, punching bass and drums; a fine end to this compulsive summary of the local scene.
Many of these musicians can be seen at the Hunter Club alternative music nights run by local promoters ‘Washing Machine’, see you there!
A second choice of tracks showcasing the diversity of the Cambridge music scene, DJ Dave Hammond has again aimed for quality, variety and surprises. The proceeds from this release go to the Cambridgeshire Alliance for Independent Living, a charity run by and for people with disabilities.
1. Beverley Kills – Sticks And Stones Great entertainment vibe with an intro straight from the punk of 77, you wish you were up on stage with them. Clever change of tempo part way through to keep you focussed. 2. Sound Menagerie – House Of Yesterdays Recent album title track of sixties spookiness from dreamy psychedelic revivalists. There is no-one else in the city quite like them. 3. Perfect Machine – Lost In The City A childhood nightmare of paranoia set to an electronic 1920s Berlin style soundtrack, the first entry on the collection from a multi-persona muso. 4. Searching Grey – I Accomplished melodic rock, adventurous drumming, soaring vocals and guitar solo too. 5. Izi Phoenix – Fears Gentle tune with warm vocal and lovely sparse guitar work. 6. James White – Take Me Home Solid boogie-blues with a brass section, much soloing and an as-live sound. 7. The Sound Of Pop Art – Freedom Sultry groove of jazz-rock with recurring ringing guitar motif. Smooth! 8. Psychic Lemon – Death Cult Blues Much reviewed on this site, the Lemon’s tracks always have something different to reveal on repeated listens to the complex, fiery fuzz. 9. Shyer – Bad Company Another favourite on this site, here with a brooding, intense piece driven by dark guitar and a great vocal performance from Amanda George. 10. Louis Perritt and Maverick – You Gotta be Strong Wow. I didn’t expect this; it is an epic, orchestral sounding mid-tempo stormer with Rick Wakeman style piano and a yearning vocal line. 11. Farlanders – Come Back Home A mellow, comfortable groove, all a bit retro celtic folk with the title phrase reflected in the lyric and the music. 12. Saving Scarlett – Hourglass A guitar fanfare heralds an in-your-face beefy rocker, a taster for their forthcoming debut album. 13. Nero’s Thumb – It Said Down and dirty with sampled preacher vocal, guitar riff never goes away. 14. Ricky Boom Boom and Tom Colborn – Eyes Of Strangers Characterful blues from tireless live performer, with of course a sad lyric, punctuated by the earthy slide of the second guitar. 15. Tape Runs Out – Red Vines Hear the unique instrumental line-up of this experimental ensemble, haunting and involving voice too. 16. Luna Falls – Falling To Pieces Superb songwriting on this deceptively simple arrangement, with three acoustic guitars and three-part harmonies. Great chorus line, the whole effect is pure magic. 17. The Abstracts – Aquarius Rising This band is a prominent fixture on the Cambridge scene, each of the musical elements of the players gel together here in a masterly rock anthem, featuring an impassioned vocal. 18. For The Hornets – I Believe Tight, minimalist power with great riff and drum bursts from this energetic three-piece. 19. Transoceanic – If You Look Up At The Sky At Night 13 minutes of ambient drifting, electric-ish piano and synthetic harp blending into some sort of cosmic music-box.
Another excellent choice, I look forward to Volume 3….
End of year sampler CD from Brighton based record label Fat Cat Records….
1. Traams ‘Selma’ Good opener, punchy drumming, spiky guitar and forlorn vocal giving way to a singalong chorus. The lyric is a bit deranged, the sound a bit retro and all over too quickly. 2. Mazes ‘Astigmatism’ My favourite track on this disc, the lead song from the third Mazes album. A rolling riff, punctuated with some strange backward sounding guitar lines and intriguing words about obscured vision and devotion. ‘You are a winning quiz team, you are a morning sun…..beam’ 3.The Growlers ‘Big Toe’ A 5-piece band from California, describing their sound as ‘beach goth’. This is a jaunty pop song, jangling guitar belying a lyric of post-relationship dislike. Quite intense dislike really. ‘Her love’s so uncomfortable, she strikes down like a hammer on your big toe’ and plenty more… 4. Paws ‘Owl Talons Clenching My Heart’ A great title from this Glasgow trio and another difficult relationship in the lyrics. Super-low thumping bass and fuzzy distorted vocal with a frequent chorus line packs a strong punch. It reminds me of The Wytches, another dark but sensitive trio. 5. The Twilight Sad ‘There’s a Girl in the Corner’ Formed in 2003 and described by one reviewer as ‘perennially unhappy Scottish indie band’ this is another tale of love gone wrong, with the repeated phrase ‘she’s not coming back’ over layers of stadium keyboards and booming drums. Quite addictive in an unrelenting way. 6. C Duncan ‘Silence and Air’ New Scottish talent Chris Duncan with a meld of vocal and distant choral effects over a soothing multi-layered instrumental background. 7. Vashti Bunyan ‘Across the Water’ Recording her first album in 1970, influential folk legend Vashti Bunyan restarted her music career 35 years later. This new release from her 2014 album Heartleap is a lovely song. Gentle acoustic guitar, flute sounds and strings float by, blended with her ethereal voice, taking the listener to another place and time. 8. Tlaotlon ‘Myriade’ A contrast to what has come before, this is frenetic electronica samples and loops. A challenging listen, any logical patterns or structure dismantled as quickly as they arrive. 9. Gentle Friendly ‘Shake Up’. Not sure about this one, some electronic drones, drums and vocal from this London-based duo. Claustrophobic and a bit relentless, I may have to listen to a few more of their recordings. 10. Honeyblood ‘Super Rat’. This is more like it, Number 20 in the NME Top 50 tracks of 2014 and not even the best track on their album. The two members of Honeyblood make a rich dense sound with just guitar and drums and certainly do not hold back on the lyrical vitriol, ending with ‘I will hate you forever, you really do disgust me’. For the brighter side of HB, see my live review on this site… 11. We Were Promised Jetpacks ‘Safety in Numbers’. Nostalgic band name, sound and song. So many influences here, it starts with a pure voice and keyboard weaving around then bursts into life with a big Indie rock flourish, well honed since their debut album in 2009.