Tag Archives: LP

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

The Hayman Kupa Band, LP, released July 2017

A joyous confluence of the talents of singers/guitarists/songwriters Emma Kupa (also of the Mammoth Penguins, they have a new concept album due soon) and Darren Hayman (currently engaged in the ‘Thankful Villages’ music and arts project, commemorating the villages where all the soldiers in World War One returned home).

Opening track ‘Let’s Do Nothing’ is perhaps a surprising choice to start, it is the longest song and is a slow-burning musical dialogue between the couple. Layered with bittersweet regret and ambiguity behind the sung words it is given the time to build the emotion.
‘No More Bombs’ continues the lyrical tension and traded words but this time over a delicate summery guitar and a quick bass solo. In ‘Red Petals’ the two voices blend in harmony with an up-beat chorus. ‘Over’s Now Overdue’ is a beautifully crafted pop gem, with the irresistible title hook, the band sounds like they are having a great time too. ‘Do You Know’ is a real grower, nostalgically romantic in its simplicity.
‘A Tent Of Blankets’ has the biggest chorus on the LP (…I want you to always be there…) and it works a treat, ‘Pretty Waste Of Time’ is an affecting country ballad.

Emma sings solo for the gorgeous ‘Reach Out’, a subtle and sensitive lyric with acoustic guitar picking and gentle bass, then grand finale ‘Then We Kissed’ showcases how well these songs work with the dual voices.

There are other excellent tracks too and although there is no appearance for previously released single ‘Someone To Care For’ which is also a very fine song there is more than enough to sit back and indulge in here.

http://shop.fikarecordings.com/album/the-hayman-kupa-band

Various Artists : This Is The Sound Of Sugar Town, Vol 2, released July 2017

A new collection from the musical cauldron which is ‘rock city’ Bury St Edmunds, also known as the ‘sugar town’ of East Anglia.

1. Sun Scream – She Strong opener, a powerful riff, some nice ooh-oohs with the vocals and an instrumental spectacular to finish.

2. Cathedrals And Cars – The Concierge This is one of those songs that you think you have heard before (perhaps I have?), always a good sign. With busy guitar lines and a rallying call type chorus, it is raucous and uplifting.

3. Janet Street Slaughter – The Sensitive Side Of Bill Sykes Crazy band name and song title, this is a pounding rocker, the vocalist starts off like Richard Butler of the Psychedelic Furs then loses it in spectacular style at the end.

4. The Wilsons – If It Wasn’t So Soon A fine burst of country-rock, a lyric of desperation leading to the hook line each time. Good ‘as-live’ sound on this one conjuring up the wide-open spaces of the journey narrative.

5. The Cuts – Hometown Punk rock never died; here is the proof. Profane and sort of profound.

6. Gaffa Tape Sandy – L’Appel Du Vide Fresh from an appearance at Glastonbury, this power-pop trio play a noisy and very catchy song named after the syndrome that makes you want to jump off buildings if you look down…

7. Bracken – Slaves Pt II Six and a half minutes of engrossing doom laden rock, with a vocal that is not for the faint-hearted. Whatever happened to Pt 1?

8. Horse Party – Looking For Life I love and miss Horse Party who are sadly no more; they were a superb explosive band live and recorded. This song showcases their mellow and mysterious side.

9. Suburban Minds – Sun Break A pulsing drum-driven power waltz at times dense then sparse with emotive vocal.

10. The Virtues – Moon Man
A bit of psychedelic-edged rock with a winning chorus and energetic instrumental break. Great bass sound!

11. Jack Rundell – Wicked Words ’21st Century singing cowboy’ and obsessive Hank Williams fan (read the tribute on his website) lightens up the album with this warm and cleverly crafted lo-fi track.

12. SIAH – Susie Smokes A swaggering belter of a song from the this four-piece fuzzy guitar combo but I still can’t work out the band name?

13. Tundra – Vacation(Cheer Up Chuck) With a raw recorded sound and a simple chord structure this garage band track pulls you in. A gratifyingly loud guitar crashes into the mix near the end.

Many of these fine performers can be seen at the Hunter Club alternative music nights run by local promoters ‘Washing Machine’, see you there!

https://repeatfanzine.bandcamp.com/album/this-is-the-sound-of-sugar-town-volume-2
http://www.washingmachinebse.co.uk/
http://www.hunterclub.org.uk/

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/

Moscow Circus : Resounding LP, released June 2016

Music and lyrics can be many years in the making; this album from Nottingham-based four piece Moscow Circus was mostly written and played live during 1987 to 1991. Finally it has been recorded by the reformed band, giving a neat ambiguity to the title, is it ‘resounding’ down through the years or re-sounding for this new era? The good news is the album sounds fresh and relevant, as well as drawing confidently on its many influences.

‘Timebomb’ is the strong opening song, a mix of unrelenting bass, insistent guitar line and paranoid lyrics. It all motors along like a hybrid of late 80s Bunnymen/Cure/REM which is a good combination. ‘Bleed For You’ is densely worded, as is most of this album, this lyric cleverly showing the power balance in a relationship but not in a direct narrative. There are many well-crafted lines from twists like ‘…you ate my words like you always do…‘ to surreal ‘…I should have worn my other shoes, I can’t reason in these they give me the blues…‘. The track rocks along with a repeating guitar figure. ‘Clarity’ is a quieter piece, with spoken ending ‘…on the continuum between wrong and right…’

My favourite is ‘Princess Rainbow’, a lyrical confection about an imaginary relationship (or is it?) and a hook chorus, reminding me of Robyn Hitchcock on top form. Seeming to usually be the outsider appearing within the song, lead singer/composer/guitarist Jonathan Beckett comes up with some good lines in ‘Snapshot’ (…I need to know I’m not the only human in the race….’).

There are plenty of words to get absorbed in but the music is good too; a sensitive keyboard sound at the end of each section in ‘Wintersong’, blazing rock in ‘Ex Genius’ and swirling psychedelic organ in ‘Coconut Shy’ and ‘Between The Lines’. The album ends with the reflective mood of ‘Chances’, fragmented words over six minutes of dark, brooding drums and guitar.

Patience is a virtue, this album was worth the wait…

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Dexys : Let The Record Show, LP released July 2016

‘Let The Record Show: Dexys Do Irish And Country Soul’ is the full title of this new CD, the follow-up to their 2012 magnum opus ‘One Day I’m Going To Soar’. The title may be slightly misleading; I was anticipating a majority of new interpretations of the likes of ‘Carrickfergus’ but many of the songs included are much more recent, all given the unmistakable vocal insights of Kevin Rowland. The rest of the band play carefully blended acoustic instruments ; no over-lush strings or brass extremes.

The pastoral and mostly instrumental ‘Women Of Ireland’ is followed by the Bee Gees’ hit ‘To Love Somebody’ and the track list jumps around in a similar way for the whole album. There are many recurring Dexys features: a spoken introduction (to ‘Curragh Of Kildare’), the drum sound that could be in the room with you, personal asides added in the middle of the lyrics and the ability of the songs to grow in stature with repeat listens.

‘How Do I Live’ (1997 mainstream mega-hit for Leann Rimes) is a highlight and would have slotted in nicely onto the last album , ‘Grazing In The Grass’ is an up-tempo hallucinatory brassy blast. Best of all for me is ‘The Town I Loved So Well’, an understated but potent story of how a youthful idyll is changed beyond recognition by conflict. The song has a similar feel to ‘And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ (as covered by The Pogues) and it is equally powerful. Several reviewers have focused on the song ‘Both Sides Now’ and just as the Joni Mitchell re-recording in 2000 expresses a lifetime of reflection, Kevin Rowland delivers a similar retrospection.

And who can resist the waltz of ‘I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen’, sounding as if the immaculate band are playing on the small stage in your favourite pub?

http://www.dexysonline.com/
https://cambridgemusicreviews.net/2015/03/18/dexys-then-and-now/