Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Elfin Bow and Gary Lloyd – Who Knows Where The Time Goes (7")


LOVE this record! Late contender for single of the year!


Never a label to do things by the book, Fruits de Mer Records release this 7” single on the final day of the year. Quite fitting given the record's title track and the fact that the year has (for me anyway) flown by. I've written about Elfin Bow before. Her delightful debut album was self-released in 2017 and is well worth tracking down. Blessed with a beautiful voice and great songwriting skills, it turns out she's also a fine interpreter of other people's songs. For this version of Sandy Denny's 'Who Knows Where The Time Goes' she's collaborated with composer and producer Gary Lloyd and is backed by the Scottish Session Orchestra, an amazing ensemble of hand-picked principals from Scotland's top orchestras.

It makes my list as one of the finest 7” singles released this year. A sublime reading of a classic song. No surprises, no bells and whistles, simply a beautiful song, sympathetically performed and with a vocal and arrangement that gets right to the song's emotional core. The B-side is awesome too, a re-working of 'The Wisdom', a track from her eponymous debut album made all the more sumptuous by Gary Lloyd's orchestral arrangement. This single marks Elfin Bow's debut as a FdM artist though on it's strength I'm hoping there will be more records to come. Well done and thanks to all concerned.


Click here for Elfin Bow.
Click here for Fruits de Mer Records.


Various – It's Briiiiiixmaaaaaas!


Celebrate Christmas with the Brixton Hill All-Stars. Superb alternative Christmas anthems to warm and amuse you. And all for a great cause!


Let me start with a traditional seasonal cliché - there are not many shopping days or sleeps left until the big day. Cue rolling of eyes and shaking of heads out there in cynical cyberspace. Another line that gets trotted out by seemingly everyone at this time of year is how fed up people are with hearing the same old Christmas records over and over again. You know the ones – Slade, Wizard, The Pogues, Band Aid, Shakin' Stevens, John and Yoko, Mariah Carey et al. It begins around the beginning of October and last to the end of the year. You can't walk into a shop or turn on the radio without hearing at least one of them within five minutes. I should stress at this point that I'm not one that shares this view. Personally I love hearing them and retain a special fondness for Paul McCartney & Wings' 'Wonderful Christmastime' which brings back happy memories of simpler times.

But as much as I love the classics the thrill of hearing new Christmas songs is equally if not more appealing. Recent years I've enjoyed Christmas records by great artists such as, Sufjan Stevens, She and Him, and of course Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings. This year my award for the best Christmas music goes to a beautifully haphazard bunch of misfits and renegades centred around Brixton Hill Studios/Brixton Hillbilly Records in South London. The label/collective has just released a various artist mini-album featuring six brand new Christmas songs, each with their own unique modern perspective on what we call the most special time of the year.

The music is reason enough to buy this CD/download but by doing so you'll also be supporting a great cause. All proceeds will go to Brixton's Soup Kitchen who have been doing amazing work helping the areas's homeless since 2003. So what are you waiting for? Head over to the links below to discover six superb new Christmas tunes to make your alternative Yuletide party a happening event. Artists include HD faves Hot Sauce Pony, Alessi's Ark, Ham Legion, Bad Parents, Scud FM, and Black Fendrix Jersk Midi. Full track-listing and more info via the links below.


Click here to buy It's Briiiiiixmaaaaaas!


Track-listing
Black Fendrix Jersk Midi – Ice Cream
Alessi's Ark – Winter's Grace
Ham Legion – We'd Better Start Dinner
Bad Parents – Christmas Present
Scud FM – Christmas Crime
Hot Sauce Pony – Christmas In Prison

Links
Click here for Brixton Hill Studios' website.
Click here for Brixton Hill Studios on Twitter.
Click here for Brixton Hill Studios on Facebook.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

New Band Alert - One-Way Song


Culturally-aware, artful indie-rock. Manchester collective release their debut EP!


A new band on my radar recently is One-Way Song, a band/collective from Manchester formed by lyricist Luke Gilfedder and vocalist Angus Macalister. What's refreshing about them is that they steer clear of any generic indie norms (difficult when you're from Manchester!) and seem determined to set their own musical path. And it's not just the music that's impressive, their choice of subject matter reflects their interests and passions. History, religion, class, films, books and other cultural references abound. It's a similar mindset to that other bunch of cultural-historians from the north-west - British Sea Power, albeit the music made by One-Way Song contains a more youthful brio and experimental edge. Any band that cites Wyndham Lewis, Colin Wilson and Lou Reed among their influences has to have something worth checking out right?

Given such diverse influences it comes as little surprise to learn that the group originally worked together at a theatre workshop they'd set up, writing and touring their own productions. The decision to branch out into music was made after having written songs to accompany one of their plays. The influence of other mediums is present on the band's debut EP, entitled 'Passionate Leave'. It's released on 27thNovember via Hilltown Records and features lead single 'Billy Fisher Fitzgerald' a track partly inspired by the story of Billy Liar, it features impressive drumming and spoken word lyrics that highlight the modern day relevance of Billy Liar's prevailing themes.


The band have also made a video for another track from the EP. 'Riviera Nightmare' is a song about the Germanwings Flight 9525 disaster of 2015. Not an obvious choice of subject matter for a pop tune but it shows how the band think outside of the box.




**For more on the band check out the links below and look out for tour dates to be announced soon**

Click here for One-Way Song on Twitter.
Click here for One-Way Song on Facebook.
Click here for One-Way Song on iTunes.
Click here for One-Way Song on Bandcamp.
Click here for Hilltown Records.

Monday, 19 November 2018

SonLosGrillos - Garden Of Clouds


(This review first appeared in issue #79 of Shindig! magazine.)

Discos Monterey LP

Acid-folk's roots may lie in the mist-clad British Isles of the late '60s, or in the grooves of Californian private press LPs but its shoots sprout everywhere. The latest come courtesy of Spanish duo SonLosGrillos who return with their third LP, following 2013's Darkness Turns To Light. Vocalist Marta Rodríguez and multi-instrumentalist Mauricio Mora have created an album of soft and sensitive musings centred on compassion, healing and environmental concerns. Equal parts Pentangle, Mellow Candle and early Joni Mitchell, their largely acoustic sound is fleshed out with occasional flute, cello, trumpet and violin.

Whether it's the lilting melody of 'You are Everything' or the fairground waltz of the title track, you're guaranteed a journey into the mystic and a respite from the stresses of the modern world. Alongside the nine original songs is a neat cover of Linda Perhac's 'Porcelain Baked-Over Cast-Iron Wedding', laced with chiming 12-string guitar. A fresh and welcome flowering.

Michael Rault - New Day Tonight


(This review first appeared in issue #79 of Shindig! magazine.)

Wick CD / LP

Having revitalised the contemporary soul scene, Daptone Records' new rock imprint hopes to do the same for guitar-based music. With Rault as an early signing they're off to a cracking start. Much like Daptone's take on soul, there's nothing particularly new about Rault's latest record but it is a glorious and joyful reaffirmation of music's ability to lift spirits. Full of clever catchy songs, decorated with baroque guitars and layered harmonies that steer clear of cliche and constantly surprise, New Day Tonight possesses the kind of mellowed-out powerpop not heard since Supertramp and Wings ruled the FM airwaves. To cement the '70s vibe there's also Stylophone and New York soul strings on several tracks.

Recorded at Daptone's Brooklyn studio with Wayne Gordon producing, the album has precise arrangements yet still has that all-important human feel. With its themes of renewal and optimism, it's the perfect early summer soundtrack for fans of grown-up feelgood pop.





Saturday, 17 November 2018

DeWolff - Thrust


(This review first appeared in issue #79 of Shindig! magazine.)

Mascot CD / LP

Though only in their mid-twenties, Utrecht-based trio DeWolff have ten years of hard touring and five studio albums under their belt. Thrust, their sixth, keeps them firmly in the vintage rock camp but comes flecked with inspired touches and a growing confidence and lyrical maturity. Whether taking barbed swipes at Geert Wilders ('Big Talk') or Donald Trump ('Deceit & Woo'), DeWolff are as adept at moving feet as they are minds, with Thrust drawing as much from the southern soul of Otis and co. as it does the southern rock of The Allman Brothers.

'Once In a Blue Moon' is a gospel-like ballad, complete with heavens-reaching organ and guitar solos, 'Sometimes' echoes The Black Keys' sparse brooding blues, whereas 'Tombstone Child' is a heavy-hitting funk-rock monster. Thrust is proof that there's still much to explore and enjoy using rock's primary colours. Fellow Utrechtian Dick Bruna would be proud.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Jessica Risker - I See You Among The Stars


(This review first appeared in issue #79 of Shindig! magazine.)

Western Vinyl CD / LP

Empathy is an important part of any songwriter's toolkit, so Jessica Risker's experience as a licensed counsellor has no doubt helped shape a record made for one-on-one listening, and full of sympathy and gentle contemplation. Her latest LP marks a departure from the experimental rhythm and noise of 2016's Big Forever (released under her alias Deadbeat), opting instead for acoustic fingerpicking, almost whispered vocals and ambient beat-less electronic textures.

With a similar openness to Elliott Smith, Vashti Bunyan or Nick Drake, Risker's first-person narratives are rooted in the everyday but are deceptive in their emotional depth. At just over half an hour, I See You Among The Stars is a short but lyrically rich set of songs, so understated that they may struggle to be heard among the clamouring tower of new releases. A shame as it's often the quiet ones who have more to say. Modern folk at its most fragile.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

Me And My Kites - Natt o Dag


(This review first appeared in issue #79 of Shindig! magazine.)

Self Release LP

Stockholm's Me And My Kites are a curious bunch. The list of personnel and instruments on their third LP is so long they'd be more accurately described as an orchestra than a band. Flute, violin, oud, electric harpsichord, Mellotron and clarinet all get an airing. Not that their sound is dense, it's anything but, with restraint and subtlety favoured over any wall-of-sound.

As on their previous recordings they draw heavily from the Canterbury sound, but here blend in early classical touches, at times recalling the R&B-infused instrumentals of David Axelrod, the melancholic indie-noir of The Amazing, and Jean-Claude Vannier's atmospheric scores. Best of all is when these textures are married to a pop sensibility as on 'Another, a Lover'. At its best Natt o Dag is courtly chamber-pop with lyrics that touch on astrology and the seasons as well as affairs of the heart. A record whose charms are slow burning but worth the investment.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Durand Jones & The Indications - S/T


(This review first appeared in issue #78 of Shindig! magazine.)

Dead Oceans CD / LP

Originally released in 2016 and now getting a deluxe reissue complete with bonus digital live album. Indiana-based soul outfit Durand Jones & The Indications' brand of nu-retro soul is as accomplished as any made today, shifting between aching ballads and upbeat, funky dance tracks. It's an authentic take on soul music's mid-'60s heyday.

They don't attempt to re-invent the wheel but honour it with a sound steeped in the grit and groove of the deep south. Taut drumming, Cropper-esque guitar chops, punchy horn lines and Jones' warm, convincing tones combine to yield delights. 'Groovy Babe' would easily sit on Otis Blue, while 'Make A Change' is vintage soul with a modern social conscience. 'Is It Any Wonder?' sees them shift into a mellower mode, with Jones singing in a sweet satisfying falsetto. The knowledge that he's a reluctant vocalist, (originally starting out as a saxophone player), only adds to the appeal.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Kacy & Clayton - The Siren's Song


(This review first appeared in issue #78 of Shindig! magazine.)

New West CD / LP

It's a brave move to reference the enticing voices of Greek mythology in an album title, though more than justified here. This follow-up to 2016's Strange Country finds Canadian cousins Kacy Anderson and Clayton Linthicum reach new heights in terms of songwriting, performance and sound. With eight original songs, all of which could be taken for old or future folk/country standards, plus a version of traditional British folk tune 'Go And Leave Me', you're unlikely to hear a stronger collection of songs this year.

Produced by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy at his Loft Studio in Chicago, the addition of drums and bass is a masterstroke, lending some buckskin-clad country drive to the pair's folk stylings. The songs still take centre stage, full of characters, stories and emotion. There are countless sublime moments – not least the stacked harmonies of the title track, Kacy's pure voice, and Clayton's tasteful guitar adornments throughout. Irresistible.

Phil Everly - There's Nothing Too Good For My Baby / Mystic Line


(This review first appeared in issue #78 of Shindig! magazine.)

Morello CD

This two-on-one CD brings together two of the younger Everly's albums made during the brothers' ten-year separation, and comes bolstered with a couple of bonus cuts. The albums were recorded in London for Pye in 1974 and 1975. They're a decent if uneven attempt at striking out on one's own, Phil was still a fine singer and could turn out a reasonable tune. Mystic Line is the stronger album, aided by Warren Zevon's arrangements and songwriting input. Its title track, 'Better Than Now' and 'January Butterfly' among the highlights.

TNTGFMB also has some lovely moments – the sunshine pop on 'Summershine', and the intriguing lyrics to 'Invisible Man' (an olive branch to Don?), but is hampered by descents into the session player sterility and the MOR blandness prevalent at the time. Few will find the soft rock and old-timey pastiches essential, and both albums' attempts at reggae are excruciating. For completists only.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Keiron Phelan - Peace Signs


Beautiful songs, sumptuous arrangements, lounge-bar crooning and sceptical sideways glances!


What a year it's been for music. Though there's been no unifying next big thing or exciting new genre, there's been a steady stream of strong albums released over the last twelve months. One record label in the midst of a purple patch is Gare du Nord Records. Their year began with the eponymous debut by The Cold Spells, followed by great records by Papernut Cambridge and Jack Hayter amongst others, and now comes Peace Signs by Keiron Phelan. He has previous form as a member of State River Widening, Smile Down Upon Us and Littlebow, but I'm saddened to admit this is my first encounter with his work.

Peace Signs is an album that's easy to enjoy, full of gorgeous arrangements, lyrically rich and melodic, but also full of surprises, curve-balls and intriguing cul-de-sacs. The connection may not be obvious and I want to avoid comparisons where possible but the record it most reminds me of is Don't Stand Me Down by Dexy's Midnight Runners. Not only because it shares Irish showband textures at times, but also because it's a record that blurs the lines between the personal and the political. Similarly it's an album that takes serious subjects and sceptical sideways glances, adds a little humour and puts them into gorgeously arranged pop songs, though on Peace Signs there's the extra adornments of harps, woodwind, pedal steel and piano in addition to the Dexy's-style violin.

This gently intoxicating instrumentation is present on opening track 'New Swedish Fiction' set atop some subtly but funky drums, with Phelan singing of the joys of Scandinavian noir novels. The album's title track then follows, a piano-led ballad about hippie girlfriends with Phelan's deep-voiced lounge-bar crooning lending the song depth and poignancy. 'Satellite Hitori' is the catchiest offering here, containing all the hallmarks of a hit single. Pete Waterman would no doubt part with a some vintage train memorabilia to have written it.

By rights 'Song For Ziggy' should be the theme tune for a gentle television sitcom set in suburbia, centred around a warring but ultimately loving family. It's on 'Mother To Daughter Poem' where things take a really interesting turn, the song containing Polynesian folk textures, neo-classical composition and a tune and lyrics that bring to mind a nursery rhyme from the height of the industrial revolution. 'Apple Shades' acts as a mid album instrumental interlude, a short tone poem before 'My Children Just The Same' and 'Ain't She Grown' where the band sound like an accomplished but road-weary Irish showband playing melancholy songs for themselves after the bar has closed and emptied of punters. Both songs expressing the beauty and sadness found in the passing of time.

The album's final closing song include a country and western instrumental ('Country Song'), a gentle swipe at religion ('Hippie Priest) and 'Canterbury' where a spoken word vocal pays homage to Chaucer while the music pays tribute to Canterbury's reputation for jazz and folk-infused rock. Apologies for breaking down this record into its individual songs, and thanks for reading if you've made it this far. I may have not quite done this record justice but if you give it a listen you'll be richly rewarded as you'll hear new things with each listen, be it an insightful lyric or an instrument tucked away somewhere in the arrangement. A highly recommended release.


**THE PEACE SIGNS ALBUM LAUNCH SHOW IS AT THE GALLERY ROOM, ANTENNA STUDIOS, CRYSTAL PALACE ON SATURDAY 17TH NOVEMBER. SUPPORT FROM OLIVER CHERER**

Click here for Gare du Nord Records.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Hot Sauce Pony - 'What You Don't Know' - Video Premiere!


Hot Sauce Pony are at the forefront of an increasingly happening Brixton scene centred around local label Brixton Hillbilly Records. It's a great honour for us at HD to unveil their latest single and video ahead of its November 16th release.

'What You Don't Know' is a sonic rendering of domestic strife, its dueling yin/yang vocals detailing a relationship in meltdown. Driven by a bass-heavy industrial barrage and topped with buzzsaw guitars, the track is a taster from the band's eponymous debut album which is set for release early next year. It was recorded with the help of legendary producer Steve Albini at his Electrical Audio Studios in Chicago. It's a darkly humorous track matched by a suitably disturbing video. Set in seemingly normal suburbia it features blindfolds, rope, teacups, and er.. strawberry cake with cream. Once seen, always remembered, check it out!

Hot Sauce Pony are:- 

Caroline Gilchrist - Vocals
Anna Dodridge - Drums
Ross Davies - Guitar
Stephen Gilchrist - Bass

BAND LINKS


'What You Don't Know' by Hot Sauce Pony. Taken from their upcoming debut album.

Recorded/mixed by Steve Albini at Electrical Audio Chicago.
Mastered by Sean McGee at Abbey Road Studios.

Video by Chris Purdie. Featuring Stephen Winfield.
Brixton Hillbilly Records (c) & (p) 2018.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

The Peawees - Moving Target


Back and blasting! New album from Italy's good-time rock and rollers!


As we enter the season of dark nights and mornings it helps to have a soundtrack that blows away any hint of wintry downbeat sentiments. One record that's been an audible tonic and companion to me recently is Moving Target, the sixth and latest album by Italian quartet The Peawees. The band formed in 1995 and have released a string of albums and 45s mixing garage-rock with old school rock 'n' roll, played with a smile and an innate powerpop sensibility.

All this is evident on the album's opening track - 'Walking Through My Hell' sounds like the best song Elvis Costello never wrote, killer chord changes, impassioned vocals, neat guitar runs, melodic twists and turns, all delivered at a hi-octane tempo. It sets the template and standard for what's to come. Over following nine tracks the band's brand of good-time rock 'n' roll intoxicates and delights in equal measure. This is an album that's sure to lift your spirits. Another highlight is 'Justify', one the album's more laid-back moments, still catchy as hell with a very likeable Nick Lowe/Stiff Records vibe.

Between them, the band members may not own a record made later than 1978 but that's to their (and our) benefit. This is an album that takes its cues from Brill Building songwriting, girl vocal groups, and a string of boys-with-guitars bands ranging from Hamburg-era Beatles to the Flamin' Groovies. Moving Target is released on CD by Rum Bar Records and on vinyl LP by Wild Honey Records. I suggest you get on board.


The Peawees are:-

Hervé Peroncini – Vox/Gutar
Carlo Landino – Guitar
Fabio Clemente – Bass
Tommy Gonzalez - Drums

Click here for The Peawees' website.
Click here for The Peawees on Facebook.
Click here for Rum Bar Records.
Click here for Wild Honey Records.


Ace Of Cups - Ace Of Cups


First studio album from San Francisco's legendary all-female rock band! Featuring stellar guest appearances!


There's a school of thought that claims band reunions are always something of a let down, as anyone waiting for half-decent new songs from the Stone Roses must surely agree. But once in a while there's a comeback that bucks the trend. Ace Of Cups formed in San Francisco in 1967 and for the next five years were an integral fixture on the city's music scene, highly regarded by audiences and peers alike. Despite regular high profile gigs and support slots with acts such as the Grateful Dead and the Jimi Hendrix Experience the band never got around to recording a studio album. Until now.

Though the band folded in 1972, the four founding members would continue to make music individually and perform collectively when opportunities arose. A performance at Wavy Gravy's 75th birthday party brought the band to the attention of High Moon Records. The label had originally planned to release some Ace Of Cups archive material but a new plot was hatched to make an album featuring new songs along with newly recorded versions of their '60 songs. The newly invigorated Ace Of Cups were able to call on old friends to come and join them on the record, hence guest appearances by Taj Mahal, Bob Weir, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Jack Casady and Charlie Musselwhite, amongst others.

The resulting album is impressive. Not least because the core band can still really play, sing, and write. A bumper collection of top notch songs many of which posses a unashamed spirituality. There are celebrations of family and new life alongside heartfelt remembrances, simple homilies and calls for more tenderness. Love and peace ideals that are as relevant and needed today as they were in the late '60s. With music that ranges from bluesy and folksy, to psychedelic rock to an occasional in-the-garage blast, there's a warmth that permeates the whole album, not least due to the band's vocal harmonies and obvious belief in the material. Ace Of Cups is an album of charming modern Americana that honours the band's '60s legacy and begins a new chapter for the band. If that weren't enough a second volume is set for release next year. For more on Ace Of Cups check out the mini-documentary video below.


Click here for Ace Of Cups' website.
Click here for Ace Of Cups on Facebook.
Click here for Ace Of Cups on Twitter.
Click here for High Moon Records.