Tag Archives: indie

The Harriets : Hopefuls, LP released July 2020

A track by track review of ‘Hopefuls’, the excellent new album by Leeds quartet The Harriets.

1. Cafe Disco. A distillation of many of the high spots on this album this stunning opening track explodes with creativity; the outsider but celebratory commentary of Pulp’s Mis-Shapes meshed with the musical complexity of timeless Squeeze singles. The first line ‘…Tell me all your guilty pleasures I’ll tell you mine…’ draws you in to listen.

2. Trip To The Moon. Previously released as a single this muses on old movies and cinemas as a backdrop to the hope of a relationship. From the dense, rolling instrumentation suddenly a catchy hookline then a soaring guitar solo appears. This album is full of surprises.

3. Darlin’. Wistful, winning pure pop laced with brass sounds, call and response verse lines and a big chorus ‘…baby when you look into my eyes…and when you come round and we play music through the night until sunrise….’

4. Have Fun In Your Workplace. With its languid pace, surreal lyrics and the patterns and solos in a pure guitar sound there are echoes of the Wave Pictures to be found here, always a good recommendation.

5. Rules For Travelling. Piano and close harmonies begin one of the most addictive and melodically strong songs on the album. The lyric seems like a strange disjointed road movie but definitely in a good way.

6. Johnny. It doesn’t seem to end well for the title character in this piano and jangly guitar filled song, although he may just have left his hometown carrying his Steely Dan albums ‘….but Johnny used to wander round, clutching ‘katy lied’ in his hand oh what a band….’ and forging ahead with his music career ‘….he wrote a lot of his songs with an American accent in mind….and so this story was a song, and the song was always going on…’. Like many of the words on the LP, there is a thoughtfulness and ambiguity which makes you listen again.

7. Come Home. With brass enhancement and a persistent driving beat, this is short and to the point ‘…I woke up today and you’d gone away…now all I seem to think about is you…won’t you, come on home…’. Melancholy but with an undercurrent of optimism.

8. Fall Out Of Grace. A lyric packed full of ideas and images with an excellent lead and harmony vocal and an inviting sixties Who/Kinks atmosphere. For me this is one of the many highlights on the collection.

9. The Boy You Knew. A thoughtful acoustic guitar bookend, delicate and emotionally raw. ‘…and I’ll never carry my love to your door….and I’ll never bury my love…I’ll sing it now once more…’

https://www.theharrietsband.com/

Mr Ben & the Bens : Life Drawing, LP released July 2020

‘Life Drawing’ is the new LP from Sheffield quartet Mr Ben & the Bens. It is a thoughtfully structured concept album, with each lyric related to life events of characters in an imagined town.

Whatever the thematic intentions it is a collection of contemplative, instrumentally varied vignettes – getting to know them is time well spent, like walking through a gallery of unfamiliar impressionist watercolours.

‘On The Beach’ is a strong melodic opener, with a hook-you-in chorus and a keyboard figure that steals the show. Ben Hall’s voice sounds both naïve and world weary with an extra wistfulness on ‘How Do You Do?’ and rocker ‘Danny’.

The gorgeous sonic musings of ‘Astral Plane’ remind me of Neil Young if he was to inhabit an indie DIY album.

It is a generous LP, twelve tracks give chance for the listener to disappear into this welcoming world, via the daydreams of ‘Minor Keys’ and ‘Beast In The House’ or the hypnotic structural experiments of ‘Walking To An Open Sky’ and disembodied voice on ‘The Wind On Spittlehill’.

‘Irish Rain’ and ‘Closing Time’ are beautiful songs with a plaintive vocal accompanied by a gentle acoustic guitar and piano. ‘Watering Can’ is a rich waltz with a lush arrangement of brass sounds driven along by the rhythmic guitar; it is a fitting end to an exceptional collection.

https://www.facebook.com/mrbenandthebens/Album: Mr Ben & The Bens – Life Drawing review

Sunflower Thieves : Hide And Seek, single released 29 May 2020

‘Hide and Seek’, is the excellent new song from Leeds Indie folk duo Sunflower Thieves.

Debut single ‘Two Halves’ was a mellow introduction to their work, with a meditative verse giving way to the catchy chorus featuring their spot-on harmony vocals. Follow-up ‘Heavy Weight’ had a distinct melancholy threading through the descending chord sequence and carefully crafted melody and meditative lyrics ‘….what would you do if all the streetlights burned out?…’ resolving into ‘….restlessly waiting for a train….to take away your heavy weight…’.

The band perform live with just acoustic guitar and their luminous vocals but this new track allows other instruments and extra voices to drift in and out, adding subtle multi-layers to the mix. The overall effect is laid back, atmospheric and as summery a sound as you could want. It is a warm and comfortable lyric, evoking reminiscence of younger, less complicated days ‘…..falling asleep in the back of your car… hoping you’ll carry me up to my room…’ , feelings so good that ‘….I don’t want this to end…’.
It is definitely a track to fully immerse yourself in.

This is their third single and you can find other high-quality tracks on YouTube and various radio shows too if you do some searching…

 

https://www.facebook.com/sunflowerthieves/

sunflower theives hide and seek artwork

GodNo! : Hulk, single released 3 April 2020

Combining elements of art and math rock the debut single from indie supergroup GodNo! (featuring members of Grawl!x, Pet Crow, Cable, Merrick’s Tusk) was the dissonant ‘Unholy Water’ with its tight, spiky anger loping between a main riff of two chords underneath a sinister double vocal describing the psychoactive effects of alcohol. The satisfying total onslaught sounded like it could fit into an electric version of Brecht/Weill’s ahead-of-their times 1930s theatre songs.

The new track ‘Hulk’ begins slightly lighter, with just drums and sparse guitar before a raw bass joins the party. This instrumental power frames an excellent disconnected vocal from Shelley Jane, with a gradually building level of intensity and tension ‘…. when what I get is the minimum that I expect….’ soon exploding into the searing guitar-led sensational chorus ‘…and being nice won’t save you….my strength is growing all the time…‘.
There are a couple of short instrumental bars but the rhythm guitar continues unrelentingly as the vocal phrases become more dominant, brittle and in the end unhinged ‘…I don’t say sorry for what I do…. I could be nice this is the choice….’ before a final link into the dark but catchy chorus.

This duo of blistering singles should be joined by more releases later this year…

https://www.facebook.com/GodNoBand/
https://recklessyes.com/

Fightmilk : I’m Starting To Think You Don’t Even Want To Go To Space, single released March 2020

An excellent new single from powerpunk quartet Fightmilk, a preview of their much-anticipated second album, currently being recorded for release later this year on eclectic popsters haven Reckless Yes Records.

As on lead singer Lily’s recent solo EP (as ‘Captain Handsome’) there is a melancholy weaving through the lyric ‘…you said one day you’d fly me to the moon…these days you just make sad songs in your room…’.
Like many of the Fightmilk tracks there are cultural references to mull over and enjoy ‘….watching Interstellar didn’t make it better….reading Carl Sagan, looking kind of vacant….’ as well as a rare namecheck for ‘background radiation’ in a pop song.

The space theme is an apt metaphor for regret and disappointment (see Billy Bragg’s ‘The Space Race is Over’, ‘Jupiter Crash’ by the Cure, ‘Rocketman’ etc etc) but this new track manages to simultaneously embrace those feelings and take a different direction, as well as including a title that is possibly the longest in the history of this genre (beating Klaatu/The Carpenters ‘Calling Occupants Of Interplanetary Craft’….).

It is a thoughtful but sharp lyric, well-delivered by Lily over rich ever-changing music with otherworldly guitar shimmers and a thumping bass and drums in the chorus. A short instrumental break has an ascending wall of distortion like Apollo 11 taking off, before the music calms down and celestial harmony is restored…

https://www.facebook.com/fightmilkisaband
https://recklessyes.com/

Tape Runs Out : Sleepwalking Into A Fire, EP released February 2020

Creative indie experimenters Tape Runs Out release an excellent new EP, a companion piece to last year’s ‘Talking Through The Walls’.

The Cambridge-based septet have an armoury of sonic flavours they can employ, but can still play  more conventional synth-rock as on opening track ‘Train Toy’. A waterfall of random sounds gives way to a stunning bass-driven chord progression; over this lushness a partly disembodied voice weaves strange, paranoid  imagery. The instruments come and go (especially a roaring guitar sliding up and down octaves) over a spectacular, relentless but soothing six minutes.
A bit like an epic song by The War On Drugs, or a journey travelling on water, it takes the time to do what needs to be done.

‘Anklebone’ is a much shorter psychedelic interlude, but like the following track ‘Children Will Dance’  there is a pulsing power produced by this talented ensemble.

‘Into The Sea’ is built around an urgent guitar figure (or is it the hammered dulcimer that they use later in the track?), tempered by some rich synths and violin. There is a melancholy in the lyrics on this pivotal song, ‘…maybe I’m optimistic…or maybe I’m sleepwalking into a fire…’

A repeating bass note beneath a treated violin heralds baroque chants and progressive rock moodiness in ‘Even Colours Follow The Rule’ then finale ‘Flowers’ is a calming meditation to bring this generous (twenty-six minutes) and accomplished EP to a satisfying conclusion.

https://www.taperunsout.co.uk/