A new recording from Carterband, led by musician David Carter, a member of multi-talented Cambridge collective Lizard Brain. Featuring a full range of genres and moods, the LP is crafted carefully into neatly structured songs that invite the listener to become part of David’s unique musical world.
The opening pair of sparse poppy three minute bursts roll along nicely with a bonus of sonorous sax on ‘Calling Any More’. The gentle jazzy meditation of ‘Waterloo Station 20/07’ is an attractive listen with thoughtful lyrics (‘…harmonies are harder in a minor key…’, ‘….riding tandem with the random traffic in our lives…’) then ‘Good Men Do Nothing’ features some bitter political reflections. The next two tracks are longer, intriguingly dense and dark with mellow instrumentation that fits perfectly, especially the piano and saxophone to frame the inverted domestic bliss described on my favourite track ‘Everything Is Fine’.
‘Jet Pack’ is fizzing punk energy followed by ‘Safe From Harm’, featuring a string quartet and haunting vocal. ‘Always’ is a classy end to this excellent album; an effortless ballad with acoustic guitar, trumpet and the definitive final statement ‘….the times we’ve spent together are the best days of my life…..and the best part of me is with you……I’ll always love you….’
Cambridge indie-stalwarts Model Village have supported HMHB before and tonight they warm up the sold out crowd with tales of getting older, social comment and wry observations over some jangly guitar and keys. With bass and drums setting a jazzy-folk pace for Lily’s vocals, the Village feature tracks from their three albums; most recently the critically acclaimed ‘World of Carp’.
Half Man Half Biscuit return to the Junction for a near two hour set including many tracks from early on in their long career. Good sound quality meant we heard nearly every lyrical twist and cultural reference as well as the dynamic instrumental power that intermeshes so effectively. Full of highlights, a brilliant show much appreciated by the packed audience.
A new track from emzae; composed, performed and produced by the Derby based musician. It will be the central track on her forthcoming album ‘All Those Things I Thought I Knew’, due on 1st September this year. ‘I Guess, Anyway’ is the follow-up to the concise funky blast of ‘Extraordinary’, also to feature on the album.
In contrast to the casual tone of the title it is a sweeping, epic track encompassing many of the themes of her strong run of previous singles, both lyrically and musically. With a soothing introduction establishing the gentle waltz pace the phrases drift in and out ‘….if the sky still is the limit it seems like its falling for me….’ leading into ‘…..if only I’d taken a moment to capture the confidence I had before…’. There are four musical sections to investigate the themes of introspection and reflection, culminating in a big thoughtful chorus ‘…here I am at least twice my age at the same time I swear I’m too young, for the next stage….’.
Just when you think the song is ending in atmospheric contemplation big bold washes of sound create a guitar sounding solo to herald the strong finale; a cascade of dense electronic immersion for a passionate declaration of powerful words; ‘…..the knowing nothing years….desperate for loving years…..wishing for golden years…..hate getting older years……it’s all been played out before….’
I have followed emzae’s music for a while (see other reviews on this site) and with this track her gift for melody has combined with one of her best ever vocal performance to produce a brilliant result.
Cambridge six-piece Tape Runs Out opened the show; they are a complex ensemble performing on the edges of many genres to produce a satisfying hybrid sound. Driven by the unique tones of hammered dulcimer and violin enhancing the restrained backline and the atmospheric vocals they previewed several new tracks due to be released early next year.
Indie pop-rock favourites The Wave Pictures always receive a warm welcome in Cambridge, returning tonight to showcase their 2022 release ‘When The Purple Emperor Spreads His Wings’. This is a concept-ish collection built around an album side for each of the four seasons and gives the trio extra scope to spread their fine sounds.
Beginning with older gems ‘Roosevelt Sykes’, ‘Spaghetti’ and ‘Pea Green Coat’ demonstrating the varied styles of the band repertoire, the newer songs then slotted in comfortably to form a hugely enjoyable setlist. David Tattersall’s serene guitar playing beguiles as Franic Rozycki and Jonny Helm mesh bass and drums together seamlessly, especially for the addictive delights of ‘Pool Hall’, ‘Strange Fruit for David’, and ‘I Love You Like a Madman’.
A fantastic show, hopefully they will be back soon…
A musical highlight in the ‘Sound + Vision’ multi venue festival bringing new and established music and comedy to the city.
Unfortunately we missed indie strategists Death to Slow Music but arrived in time for some of the psychedelic noise burst of Cambridge favourites Lemondaze, fresh from a support slot for cult shoegazers Ride the previous evening. As on previous encounters, the density of the band’s sound engulfs the intimate confines of the Portland but there is always a loose and off beat ambience that warms the soul.
Chester-based trio Peaness played the whole of their soon to be released long-player ‘World Full of Worry’, starting with the gentle acoustics of ‘Take A Trip’ and the punchy previous single ‘Kaizen’. Full of light and shade the songs are relentlessly likeable and there is always instrumental twists and delights, given extra depth with the inclusion of a keyboard player for this opening night of their tour.
‘Doing Fine’ carries subtle sadness along with a crisp melody as does ‘Left To Fall Behind’ with the haunting refrain ‘…hoping for the best…preparing for the worst…’. The superb pop of ‘Hurts ’til it Doesn’t’ is identified by the band as a Beatles-type composition then the wistful ‘Sad Song’ finishes the main set.
Audience favourite ‘Oh George’ showcases Peaness at their best; politically biting, sharply delivered vocally and musically, but always with warmth and humour. Then ‘Same Place’ is a celebration of friendship before the emotional flourish of ‘Skin Surfing’ brings this excellent show to an end.
First onstage was US singer/songwriter Samantha Crain, a performer with a quiet authority evident from the first track ‘Joey’; a languid leisurely waltz with the gentle instrumentation as a perfect platform for her rich vocals. The tempo was increased for ‘Pastime’ and through her short set her accompanying musician played pedal steel, second guitar and keys to add extra colour to the involving narrative strengths of the songs. A highlight was the emotive tale told in ‘Elk City’, sung to a solo guitar as her overall performance effortlessly won over the audience.
The Staves create an intimate and welcoming musical atmosphere; opening song ‘Failure’ features the harmonies and indie folk rock ambience that instantly draws the listener in. Sisters Camilla and Jessica (Emily is currently not touring) are joined by an empathetic band that knows how much to push the sound forward or keep in the background more for a track like ‘Good Woman’; the title song from the 2021 album that makes up most of the set.
The songs can move into moody territory like the walk through a dark forest of ‘Blood I Bled’ or luxuriate in the deceptively simple beauty of ‘Make It Holy’. It all flew by in a delicious haze of ethereal melody and musical textures, a triumphant performance after too long away..
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.
A new single from Derby quartet The Bagatelles is a likeable slice of summery power pop, from the jumpy electric guitar line that is a welcome intervention throughout the song, to the wistful lyric evoking past times but always with a thoughtful optimism. This is set out in simple and affectionate terms in the middle eight, ‘….I want you and you want me with all the vulnerability….well take it slow though time goes fast…’. Musically the band deliver a crisp indie rock sound; full of light and shade and there is constantly something interesting to catch your attention.
I previously reviewed their 2019 single ‘Point Of View’ which was built around a simple echoing guitar figure and used the cosmic references to emphasise the emotion in the lyric, ‘…. you’re in my orbit girl and you’re voice I can’t help but listen…. I want to be your sun….I’ll be your galaxy…..’. It may have been heavily ironic or tinged with later regret but taken at face value it was straight to the heart, just like this new track.
The band are building up a catalogue of attractive songs and hopefully they will soon be able to cement their live reputation for immediacy and energy.
A new EP from London quartet Bitch Hunt, following on from their split EP with adults in 2020, featuring the incisive ’23’ and the lo-fi high-concept pop art of ‘Spaceman’ (complete with fun video!)
Opener ‘Out of Eden’ is built around a descending chord sequence that arrives as if from a distant horizon before the arresting lyric sets the sombre tone ‘….under the apple tree…is where I was when he found me…’. The full four-piece sound is dissonant and disturbing to go with the implied subject matter but the music is punctuated with gentler interludes. ‘Identity Clinic’ is a punkier track and shows off the ability of the band to mix up the musical styles from distorted funk guitar under the catchy chorus to a sprawling instrumental workout at the end.
‘Eau Claire’ was previously released as a single and the companionship and water themes seem to carry an undercurrent of darkness, ‘…two died in the river that year…dull water…filled with parasites…’. It could be a companion track to cult classic ‘Next of Kin’ by indie dreamers Alvvays.
‘Shapeshifter’ is probably my favourite, a plaintively sung lyric, ‘….nice to meet you… sometimes I wish I could be you …sometimes I could eat you…’ as the guitar and bass lines quietly jump around. The drums and vocal harmonies control the dynamics of the song, until a short jazz influenced coda. Bonus track ‘I Wanna Be Un/Happy’ pulls many aspects of the band’s music together for a brooding and echoing finale, raising the noise level when the chorus kicks in.
This is a satisfying, energetic and thoughtful EP full of wit, warmth and wisdom.
A highly regarded performer at shows around the West Midlands, Bryony Williams now releases a re-imagining of some of her earlier work – opening with ‘Little Tree’, a song described as ‘….a reminder that everything is temporary, including your current self….’. That may be a downbeat concept to address, but nevertheless this is a life-affirming, celebratory folk-rock piece with layers of insistently rhythmic guitar, sparkling drums and a sensuous vocal performance that brings the lyric fully to life.
The words place the narrator and us in a continuing circle of eco-life ‘…as the Earth turns….’, ‘…..little tree springs forth from little seeds…’ and similar sentiments are thoughtfully described and subtly delivered, especially when the instrumentation slows and quietens during the chorus. It is an excellent track, the richness and depth increasing with each listen.
The short ambient/spoken atmospheric rush of ‘Tell Me’ links to ‘Silhouette’. Strangely soothing, this is a dark and moody piece about the end of a relationship. The poignant verses resolve into a strong chorus line as the gathering storm of dissonant guitar and synths build, despite a deceptively playful guitar figure floating above and appearing to mark the passing of time.
It is a contrast to the lead track so the package presents itself musically as a retro double ‘A- side’ single, along with a new long-form video due to be premiered soon….