Tag Archives: LP

Tugboat Captain : Rut, LP released 16 October 2020

This may be the perfect antidote to the maelstrom of uncertainty and contradiction of current everything; London four-piece Tugboat Captain have fashioned a complex and upbeat compendium of rewarding sounds.

Like many of the tracks opener ‘Check Ur Health’ draws on a range of sixties sources with a touch of prog-folk detachment in the lyrical delivery and the unpredictable instrumentation. There are later Beatles influences too, emphasised by the band’s insistence that the disc was recorded secretly at Abbey Road when there was spare time available.

The prescient ‘No Plans (For This Year)’ was finished a while ago, bringing in brass and strings to add emphasis to the vocal lines, driven by a neat piano break. ‘C’mon! Haribo?’ is frenetic fun while ‘Downward Slope’ is a punchy minute and a half. ‘Come Dig Me Out’ lopes along with extra acoustic guitar flourishes before diverting into many different sections and a steadily building entourage of extra instruments and voices (the LP credits 35+ players, singers and helpers…).

And there is much much more to hear as the later tracks open up the studio opportunities with brass, strings, woodwind and ever-changing musical dynamics.

It is an album of depth and colour, every track immaculately constructed but still retaining an underlying anarchy and looseness that create welcome undulations in the polished veneer.

This debut long-player is summed up by Tugboat Captain themselves, ‘….the band have now pushed on, beyond being solely a DIY indie-pop band, leaving lo-fi behind in search of transcendence through pure pop…..’ 

https://www.facebook.com/TheTugboatCaptain/

https://doubleasiderecords.com/

Ward Thomas : Invitation, LP released October 2020

The fourth album from alt-country duo Ward Thomas sees them infusing their sound with contemporary pop to great effect. Opener ‘Sweet Time’ is as uplifting a track as you could hear; especially with the accompanying video of the sisters and friends cycling on a summer day and when they are singing ‘……sipping on champagne stars and slowing down the speed of light…’ all is indeed well with the world.

‘Don’t Be A Stranger’ and ‘Open Your Mind’ keep the pace up but the waltzing ‘Someday’ stops the show. It is a torch song fully using the gorgeous harmonies that roll up to a summit before fading away then reaching the big string-backed chorus ‘….don’t say you love me yet…darling I’m still too scared…’. Gorgeous.

‘Meant To Be Me’ and ‘Hold Space’ are reflections of aspects of current chart pop with acapella interlude ‘Dear Me’ showcasing the voices again. ‘Wait Up’ recalls aspects of their earlier albums sound while full-on Bond theme ‘My Favourite Poison’ is a sweeping strings soundscape.

The last two tracks are quiet and thoughtful with the sisters delicate and gentle harmonies in the forefront of the mainly acoustic backings.

There is more – three bonus cover versions, starting with ‘Halfway’, a rousing duet with James Blunt and a song reminiscent of Ward Thomas crowd pleasers at their live shows. ‘Human’ with Jack Savoretti is a countrified live rendition of The Killers’ song with an angelic vocal arrangement and the finale of Fleetwood Mac classic ‘Landslide’ is as good as a cover of a classic song should be.

https://www.wardthomasmusic.co.uk/

https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2020/06/21/ward-thomas-the-space-between-ep-released-june-2020/

https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2019/03/03/ward-thomas-junction-cambridge-1-march-2019/

Invitation
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Order Of The Toad : Re-order Of The Toad, LP released 2nd Oct 2020

A track by track review of ‘Re-Order Of The Toad’,  the new album from Glasgow esoteric indie-psych trio Order Of The Toad.

1. Ladys Mantle  Previously released, read about it in detail here

2. Just Because  Mellow pop built around rhythm guitar, a driving middle-eight and the spooky chorus that stays in your head.

3. Rabbets  The tale of Mary Toft, who claimed to be giving birth to rabbits in 1726. The bizarre story, baritone vocal and counterpoint musical complexities make this a great listen.

4. Brintons Marrakech  Possibly a song about a carpet or a Moroccan city or who knows? I like the way the vocals are linked and underpinned by the unrelenting bass and guitar figure.

5. Fabulator  The band draw on that 60s hinterland between prog rock, folk and psychedelia on this album to great effect and this is another track that splices pop into that heady brew too.

6. Slow Ballad 44  Moody and sombre, with unexpected chord changes to keep the listener guessing. Maybe this would be an unpredictable live set opener, pulling the audience into the world of this unique band..

7. Do It With Feeling  Loose, laidback retro type hit with spiky instrumental passages. Sounding simultaneously timeless and modern, it could be nicely covered by fellow psychsters King Gizzard…

8. Lindow Woman  Another historical theme and detailed lyric, this time the narrator inhabits the remains of a body from Roman times found in a peat bog in 1983. Listen, learn and enjoy…

9. Toads Theme  A strange epic duel of character-filled vocals and abrupt, urgent instrumentation. An incomprehensible delight.

10. Mend It  A hippy reverie with a comfortable psychedelic melody and structure, in the middle it breaks up nicely into distorted guitar solos.

11. A Pittance  Like a medieval tale of legendary battle, the marching drums and bass play along under a fine storytelling vocal from Gemma Fleet.

12. Cruise Control  This final track combines many other elements from the album to make a fresh, sparkling punch of pop.

https://www.facebook.com/orderofthetoad

https://recklessyes.com/

http://www.gringorecords.com/

Such Small Hands : Carousel, LP released 18 September 2020

‘Carousel’ is a new release from Such Small Hands, the performing name of Brighton singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Melanie Howard. A blend of treated acoustic instruments, voice and electronics create a haunting, drifting sound.

‘Lonely Is The Rain’ is an evocative and sombre title for the opener – a measured and mellow five minute meditation, with an echoing guitar and keyboard counterpointing with Melanie’s ethereal voice. The electronic percussion picks up the pace near the end but the listener is overwhelmed by the delicate beauty of the track.

‘Do I Belong Here?’ is built around an acoustic guitar triplet figure and smoky layers of vocals weaving into a heady mix. ‘Drifter’ is a lo-fi delight then ‘Still Dreaming’ is probably my favourite on the LP. The introduction could be the theme to a cult sixties movie thriller then it transforms into a sensuous interweaving of vocals and descending chord progression. With spectral keyboard tones continually adding flavour, by the end it is epic and almost orchestral in its ambition.

The title track ‘Carousel’ is built around a repeating note and a louder electric ambience alternated with quieter thoughtful sections. The pensive and beautiful ‘Anhedonia’ closes the album (along with two bonus acoustic reworkings of older songs).

Reflecting the experience of ten years of writing and reshaping of the music, this excellent LP rewards in-depth listening and immersion in the tracks as they range from atmospheric vignettes to darker pieces that occupy the hinterland between nightmare and daydream.

https://en-gb.facebook.com/suchsmallhandsmusic/
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2017/02/05/such-small-hands-the-deep-released-october-2016/

 

The New Fools : Papillion – The Complete Lock Down Sessions, LP released September 2020

Cambridge band The New Fools have continued to consistently produce and perform new music in recent years and have not been stopped by a pandemic; with a combination of back and forth recording technology and determination they recorded a succession of singles through the lock down which are now collected on this new mini-LP.

As always with their work there is a variety of styles showcased here; the rocking ‘Solowly’ is heralded by a fuzzy guitar riff which gels the sections together on this comment on wealth and happiness, while ‘Sunday Night’ is a gentler, dreamy lyrical meditation from a nostalgic musical narrator featuring an empathetic guitar solo and flugel horn. ‘Another Way of Thinking’ is a languid companion piece to an earlier track, contrasting with the dynamic pace and urgency of imaginary film theme ‘Witch’.
‘Nothing Toulouse’ is a thoughtful melody and guitar line driven pop song with hints of the psychedelic tone that used to thread its way through 60s chart songs. ‘Old Bones’ features some rich sustained Hammond organ notes and a shade of Bob Dylan in the delivery and timing of the lyric phrases, followed by the joyous skiffle minimalism and even some whistling on ‘D.N.S.’

So far there has not been much direct reference to the strangeness of recent times but on longer track finale ‘We’ll Meet Again’ (not the Vera Lynn ‘classic’!) aspects of this theme are covered, accompanied by a discomfiting drum and piano waltz. The flugel horn makes another welcome appearance then eventually the song ends with a reference to the Beatles world-unifying song ‘All You Need Is Love’ with massed vocals and the richness of the instruments brought to the fore too.

https://www.thenewfools.co.uk/

Dream Nails : ‘Dream Nails’, LP released 28 August 2020

This is the long-awaited first album from London quartet Dream Nails, a glorious amalgam of rage, fun, protest and emotion; reminding you just how good their live shows are.
Interspersing the tracks with short spoken ‘skits’ to introduce songs and keep the momentum going it is a concise 24 minutes, full of insight and energy.

From the start, you are pulled into their world as the celebratory holiday sound of ‘Jillian’ flows into the bitter twists of the workplace in ‘Corporate Realness’. Whatever the messages, the bass sound and drum dynamics are off the scale. The lyrical ideas keep coming, but it is also their music that pushes forward; when I have seen them live the meticulous attention to their set up and sound pays dividends and this production has captured that as-live atmosphere.

The razor-sharp bass and surf-rock guitar splendour of ‘Swimming Pool’ is frenetically followed by ‘This Is the Summer’ which manages to celebrate the season as well as weave a strong environmental theme through the perfect structure of a powerpop single. Watch the video too to see the band performing in a scrapyard, wrestling with a giant frog and footage of climate demonstrations.

‘Payback’ has caustic riffs, a soaring echoing guitar and an excellent wide-ranging vocal performance in thoughtful quieter sections and then unleashed full-on.

‘In Other News’ introduces one of the most disturbing news items from last year, when homophobic taunting on a London bus led to assault. The band’s explosive response pulls no punches; ‘Kiss My Fist’ is musically and lyrically a very powerful track.

Catch them live when you can, in the meantime enjoy this scorching debut LP!

https://www.facebook.com/yourdreamnails
https://ilovealcopop.awesomedistro.com/bands/dreamnails
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2019/06/25/the-baby-seals-blue-moon-cambridge-22-june-2019/
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2017/11/21/indiepop-all-dayer-blue-moon-cambridge-18-november-2017/

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

Bob Dylan : Rough and Rowdy Ways, LP released June 2020

A track by track review of the new album from Bob Dylan, his first collection of original material since 2012.

1. I Contain Multitudes.
Pre-released as a single, over an almost ambient acoustic backing this time spanning meditation places the narrator in the midst of cultural icons and emotional experiences. It would be a central track on a lesser album; here it is one of many major highlights. The line ‘…I play Beethoven sonatas Chopin’s preludes…I contain multitudes…’ could only be rhymed and delivered by Dylan.

2. False Prophet. The tracks on this LP are long, even this loud languid loose but edgy blues clocks in at six minutes. Its like a cut up script for a mythical western, packed with restless one-liners ‘…don’t care what I drink – don’t care what I eat…I climbed a mountain of swords on my bare feet..’

3. My Own Version of You. Gothic and comic, the descending chord sequence cascades calmly as a tale of creating an ideal being is laced with name checking, ‘…..I’m gonna make you play the piano like Leon Russell… like Liberace…like St. John the Apostle….’ then encompassing a circle of history and philosophy. An excellent track on first listen then it gets better.

4. I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You. Set to a stately but subtle classical waltz theme this is an unassumingly gorgeous love song. For fans of ‘Make You Feel My Love’ from 1997’s ‘Time Out Of Mind’.

5. Black Rider. A gentle but dark interlude; a jazz guitar chord rolls across the start of each bar as Dylan sings homage, fear and redemption to the title character.

6. Goodbye Jimmy Reed. A bar-room brawl twelve-bar celebrating the influential bluesman (1925-76). Good to hear some harmonica in there too.

7. Mother of Muses. Stately and thoughtful, describing mythology and music history as the narrator draws multiple inspirations before the poignant ending ‘… got a mind to ramble – got a mind to roam….I’m travelin’ light and I’m slow coming home….’

8. Crossing the Rubicon.
Like the opening line of a novel, Dylan pulls the listener in with ‘….I crossed the Rubicon on the 14th day of the most dangerous month of the year….at the worst time at the worst place…’ followed by seven minutes of searing guitar-led but still mellow backing and every verse ending with the title phrase. It is an effective lyrical device, echoing the classic ‘Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts’.

9. Key West (Philosopher Pirate). Another lengthy musing, a cryptic travelogue featuring a sleepy accordion and some of the most evocative descriptions on the album, ‘….people tell me that I’m truly blessed…bougainvillea bloomin’ in the summer and spring…winter here is an unknown thing….’

10. Murder Most Foul. This too was pre-released as a single(!) and it is granted a whole extra CD on the album release.
The track is a detailed news description of the assassination of JFK ‘…Zapruder’s film, I’ve seen that before…seen it thirty three times, maybe more…it’s vile and deceitful – it’s cruel and it’s mean…ugliest thing that you ever have seen…they killed him once, they killed him twice…killed him like a human sacrifice..’ weaved through with a celebrity cast, cultural touchstones and influences of the 60s and beyond.
It is a towering achievement; the dense tapestry of words and ideas needs to be savoured at length to be fully appreciated.

http://www.bobdylan.com
 

Bugeye : Ready Steady Bang, LP released July 2020

Following some single releases over the last few months the debut album from London quartet Bugeye arrives…

Opener ‘On And On’ is a disco stomper, spiked with punky edges and although filled with synth swathes it still sounds organic and played live by the band. ‘Breakdown’ has the desperate vocal and staccato rhythms of an early 80s misfit chart song. ‘Shake and Bake’ is enhanced by a sliding keyboard figure, a shouting title line chorus and a psychedelic ‘theremin’ sound somewhere in the mix.

The concise ‘Blue Fire’ has stealthy superdeep bass and sinister overtones and lodges firmly in the brain. Some albums may be running out of steam by this point but ‘When The Lights Go Out’ keeps the energy level up with a banging chorus and rock and roll piano to push the rhythm along then the track evolves into an instrumental electronic spectacular near the end.

I am usually drawn to calendar list songs (…Friday I’m In Love…Manic Monday….) so ‘Sunday Monday’ is immediately interesting with its work-life balance over some great drumming, duelling guitar and a constantly varying backing.

And still four more tracks, including ‘Electric’ a previously released perfectly constructed pop single and a great vocal powerhouse performance on ‘Nightlife’ and ‘Don’t Stop’

Definitely a band to catch live when the time comes – the ten tracks on this LP would form a rich and juicy setlist….

https://www.bugeyeband.co.uk/
https://recklessyes.com/