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!

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

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.


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


'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.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Various – Running The Voodoo Down 2 (Explorations in Psychrockfunksouljazz 1965-77)

Superbly curated compilation exploring the African-American music's myriad shoots.

A compilation album curated with care and expertise can be an absolute joy. It's not necessarily just a historical exercise either - In the past decade or so seminal compilations have helped form current scenes and even inspired bands to form. The resurgence of acid-folk collectives can be traced to to Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs' Gather In The Mushrooms compilation. Similarly the current raft of retro-glam led by bands such as Giuda and Faz Waltz owes much to the Velvet Tinmine reissue series.

Whether this latest compilation on TAD Records will have the same inspirational reach will only be known in due time but it is without doubt one of the finest genre compilations to be released this year, mixing well known tracks with lesser-known gems. Its subtitle (Explorations In Psychrockfunksouljazz 1965-77) tells you much but doesn't spoil the surprises and inspired juxtapositions that come your way. Much of the music is directly inspired by the civil rights movement and mirrors the rise of black consciousness that was also present in literature, poetry, art and sport. Collectively this grouping together of songs brims over with anger, intelligence, sonic attack, superb musicianship, poetry and the sense of fun that comes with being at an exploratory cutting-edge.

The collection opens with John Coltrane's 'A Love Supreme, Pt 1 Acknowledgement'. Coltrane's quest to the outer limits of music and spirituality permeate this collection and its fitting that several of the tracks explicitly honour his influence. Outside of the jazz scene, white rock musicians were also taking note. The following two tracks highlight Coltrane's influence on rock music. The Byrds' 'Eight Miles High' famously features atonal guitar lines by Roger McGuinn, his attempt to echo Coltrane's saxophone playing. Similarly influenced by Coltrane is 'Starship' by MC5, a manic poetic meditation reaching for the outer limits.

It's a fantastic opening trio of songs but there are other joys to come, the standard doesn't dip. Other highlights include Sonny Sharrack's 'Black Woman' its wordless vocal alternating between ecstasy and agony while chains rattle symbolically in the background. Then what about 'Ungena Za Ulimwenga (Unite The World)' by the Temptations, a prime slice of psychedelic soul from the early '70s. It's a track I'd not heard before but it had me staring at my hi-fi speakers in disbelief.

Running The Voodoo Down Volume 2 positively explodes with spirit, ideas and open up multiple avenues of further exploration. If you only buy one compilation this year this should be the one.

Click here to buy via Norman Records.

CD Tracklisting
John Coltrane – 'A Love Supreme, Pt 1 Acknowledgement'
The Byrds – 'Eight Miles High'
MC5 – 'Starship'
Joe Zawinui – 'In A Silent Way'
Shuggie Otis – 'Aht Uh Mi Head'
Melvin Van Peebles – 'Sweetback's Theme'
Sonny Sharrock – 'Black Woman'
Chairmen Of The Board – 'Life And Death in The C&A Suite'
The Temptations – 'Ungena Za Ulimwenga (Unite The World)'
Dr John – 'Zu Zu Mamou'
Jimi Macon – 'Jimi's Guitar Raps'
Lou Bond – 'Do The Establishment'
Isaac Hayes – 'Do Your Thing'
Sarah Webster Fabio – 'Equinox'
Bob Thiele – 'Lament For John Coltrane'

**Vinyl LP contains a bonus track – Herbie Hancock - 'Spank-A-Lee'**

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Shizo Fun Addict - El Shoegaze Bossa Nova

Seventh album from Jet Wintzer and Jayne Gabriel's ever-evolving collective!

The clue is in the title with this one. The meeting of shoegaze textures, indiepop melodies and Brazilian Bossa rhythms make up this latest long-player from New Jersey's Schizo Fun Addict. The band have been around since 2000 and are centred around the musical partnership of Jet Wintzer and Jayne Gabriel. For this record they're joined by guitarist Rex John Shelverton (Bellavista, VUE, Portraits Of Past) and new drummer Daniel Boivin (Asa Ranson, Death Of Fashion).

Musically this album occupies a place quite unlike any other. It is in turn sexy, moody, melancholic, dreamy, sad, cinematic and slowly charms rather than demands your attention. A touch of mariachi brass here and there along with plaintive piano adds to the vaguely spaghetti western feel while the clever use of analogue keyboards and layered guitars makes any attempt at genre-placing futile. Put simply this is mood music – transformative and moving. Best heard on a rainy Sunday morning while contemplating life's regrets and hopes. Deep themes demand deep emotionally resonant music. Here is some.

El Shoegaze Bossa Nova is available digitally now from all the usual outlets. There is also a limited audiophile vinyl release via Sugarbush Records.

Click here for Schizo Fun Addict on Twitter.
Click here for Schizo Fun Addict on Facebook.
Click here for Sugarbush Records.

Papernut Cambridge - Mellotron Phase: Volume 2

Retro-to-go! A second volume of library music from Ian Button & co!

It's impossible not to love Papernut Cambridge. Already this year they've released the fantastic album Outstairs Instairs, and now this, a follow-up to 2017's Mellotron Phase: Volume 1. For anyone unfamiliar with those two albums here's the crack – Outstairs Instairs is a song-based album rich in sentiment, intelligence and lyrical ideas and allows the collective's many talented musicians to shine. Mellotron Phase: Volume 1 is a 10” vinyl LP featuring library-music inspired instrumental pieces with sounds sourced from original Mellotron tapes. At times the music is funny, sad, moving, intriguing, cheesy, evocative, wry, uplifting and much more. And now we have a volume 2!

Released by head-Papernut Ian Button's Gare Du Nord label in conjunction with boutique library music company Ravenwood, this album is as authentic as it gets. As stated on the sleeve - “Apart from the drums, bass guitar and some light percussion all the instrument sounds you hear on this record were made originally by a Mellotron or one of its contemporary tape/disc-based playback instruments. The sounds were picked from Gforce's M-Tron Pro tape libraries... Throughout, the original unedited mono patches were used to preserve the tone and functionality of the original instruments.”

Library music remains as highly prized among collectors as ever and continues to inspire today's musicians. It's not difficult to see why. It allows them to step outside of traditional band-based collaborations and draw upon a different set of influences – foreign pop and folk, soundtracks, new age music,TV themes, light entertainment orchestras, military bands. Literally anything goes. The track titles on Mellotron Phase: Volume 2 are evocative in themselves – for example 'Cha-Cha-Charlie', 'Cygnus Probe', 'Boss Club' and 'Sergeant Major Mushrooms'. My own personal favourite being 'A Cowboy In Montmartre'. Each piece is its own mini film score delivered with wit, verve and a whole lot of musical ability. For all the melodic and stylistic variation, the sonic restrictions lend the album a continuity of sound which holds the whole thing together in a most delightful and satisfying way.

Like its predecessor Volume 2 is released on 10” vinyl. There is also a CD version which collates both volumes. Buy with confidence, you will love this record.

Click here for Papernut Cambridge on Twitter.
Click here for Gare Du Nord Records.
Click here for Ravenwood Music.

Various - The Three Seasons

Mind blown! 3LP set celebrating the flowering of late '60s counter-cultural pop!

It can't have escaped your notice that The Beatles are on sale again. This time to mark the 50th anniversary of the White Album. Originally released in 1968, a year after the dazzling summer-of-love opus Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and a year before they opted to “get back” to their roots by playing a stripped-down adaptation of rock and roll. Now I love the Beatles as much as I ever did but I've long since concluded that Paul McCartney has had quite enough of my cash over the years and I'm not shelling out a chunk of my wages on the boxed set of the White Album, as good as it may be. I'm sure the 102 takes of 'Sexy Sadie' are illuminating in their own way but I won't be investigating further.

A much better way to celebrate the flowering of late '60s counter-cultural pop is via this latest compilation from Fruits de Mer Records. A triple vinyl set featuring the cream of today's psychedelically inclined grass-roots artists covering their favourite tracks from the late '60s. The set is titled The Three Seasons in reference to the the years 1966, 1967 and 1968. It's from these three momentous years that all the tracks are taken. There are big names covered (The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Small Faces, Love and even Neil Diamond), along with the ever fascinating foot-notes from the era (Touch, Family, Made In Sheffield, Don Shinn and more).

There is so much great stuff here it's difficult to know where to begin. Take a look at the tracklisting below to get an idea of what makes this such an amazing collection. I won't go through every track but they're all worth hearing. Standouts for me include The Locker Room Cowboys excellent take on The Stones' 'We Love You', The Past Tense's version of 'Magic In The Air' (originally by The Attack) and Jay Tausig's take of folk standard 'Let No Man Steal Your Thyme' (included here having been covered by Pentangle in 1968).

Suffice to say this is probably the best compilation I've heard all year, I can't recommend it highly enough. Oh and it also features three '60s legends in The Pretty Things, The Electric Prunes and The Yardbirds. So if fiftieth anniversaries are your thing avoid that White Album deluxe box set and opt for this fabulous collection instead. You will not regret it.

Side 1
1. The Past Tense - Magic In The Air (originally by The Attack : recorded in 1967)
2. LoveyDove - Bedazzled (originally by Drimble Wedge and the Vegetations : 1967)
3. Campbell Stokes Sunshine Recorder - Amelia Jane (originally by Made In Sheffield : 1967)
4. Jack Ellister - Aquarius (originally by The Zodiac:Cosmic Sounds : 1967)
5. Rob Gould - Granny Takes A Trip (originally by The Purple Gang : 1967)

Side 2
1. Mark McDowell and Friends - Up The Wooden Hills To Bedfordshire (originally by The Small Faces : 1966)
2. Anton Barbeau – Sunshine Superman (originally by Donovan : 1965)
3. The Electric Prunes - 7 and 7 is (originally by Love : 1966)
4. Moonweevil - Child Of The Sky (originally by The Deviants : 1967)
5. Kris Gietkowski - A-Minor Explosion (originally by Don Shinn : 1966)
6. The Yardbirds - Think About It (live in 2016) (originally by The Yardbirds : 1968)

Side 3
1. The Locker Room Cowboys - We Love You (originally by The Rolling Stones : 1967)
2. King Penguin - White Bird (written : 1967, released by It's A Beautiful Day : 1969)
3. Aunt Cynthia's Cabin - Solitary Man (originally by Neil Diamond : 1966)
4. The Luck Of Eden Hall - Reflected (originally by Alice Cooper : 1968)

Side 4
1. The Honey Pot - Kites (written by Hackaday/Pockriss; recorded by The Rooftop Singers / Simon Dupree and the Big Sound : 1967)
2. Cary Grace - 1983 (A Merman I Should Be...) (originally by the Jimi Hendrix Experience : 1968)

Side 5
1. Sidewalk Society - A Saying For Today (originally by The Action : 1968)
2. Jay Tausig - Let No Man Steal Your Thyme (trad. recorded by Anne Briggs : 1963 / Pentangle : 1968)
3. Magic Bus - Tribal Gathering (originally by The Byrds : 1967)
4. Proud Peasant - Down At Circe's Place (originally by Touch : 1968)
5. Icarus Peel - Beck's Bolero (originally by Jeff Beck Group : 1966)

Side 6
1. The Green Ray - Dusty (originally by John Martyn : 1968)
2. Ex-Norwegian - Winter (originally by Family : 1968)
3. Consterdine - Fly (originally by J.K. & Co : 1968)
4. The Gold Needles - The Smell of Incense (originally by West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band : 1967)
5. The Pretty Things - Loneliest Person (live at the Half Moon, 2010) (originally by The Pretty Things : 1968)

Click here for Fruits de Mer Records.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Lara Smiles - All For You

Debut album of bold and glossy electro-indie rock.

Lara Smiles is that rare artist that recognises the importance of accessibility while simultaneously chipping away at the coal face of experimentalism. This duality is present throughout the the ten tracks that make up her debut long-player All For You. Self-produced by Smiles and mixed by recording legends Youth and Tim Bran, the album brims with confidence, strong melodies and state-of-the-art pop production.

At the core of the sound is a three-piece indie rock band – Smiles on guitar and vocals, Sara Leigh on drums and Joe Singfield on bass. All superb players. Added to this are layers of electronic sound taking the record to a different place and level. None of this would matter of course if Smiles' songs and singing were not up to task. They are however, and then some. Coming across like a version of Amy Winehouse seeped and schooled in post-punk and electro rather than vintage soul and jazz. That comparison is bolstered by the album's closing track 'Turn It Around', a relative soft landing after the preceding fast-paced tracks, where Smiles delivers a final aural-love-letter full of soulful longing and melodic twists and turns.

A startlingly impressive debut from an artist who will no doubt progress and develop as time goes on.

Click here Lara Smile's website.
Click here for Lara Smile on Facebook.
Click here for Lara Smile on Twitter.

Eyeball – Paradox Of Eternal Limits

Experimental astral rock from North Carolina.

A nice surprise waiting for me when I returned from my summer holiday was this CD EP by Eyeball, they're a quartet from Raleigh, North Carolina. Not only do Brian Oaksford, Trey McLamb, Aaron Albrecht and Myriam Martian have a great collection of surnames they also make music that entertains, challenges, defies expectations and gets into a fistfight with any notion of categorisation. The band describe themselves as a “Psychedelic Experimental Music Ensemble” which is a pretty good starting point. Paradox Of Eternal Limits is their debut release and came out in 2017. Don't expect any love songs here unless they relate to aspects of quantum physics or astronomy.

Opening track 'Acid War' is built around an ominous and eerie guitar riff, driving beats and a vocal that despite being centred only two or three notes is as catchy as they come. The track comes across like Jethro Tull's 'Aqualung' re-imagined by Neu. Pretty neat! 'Inside The Moon' opts for a more textural Dreampop approach with slow tempo, shoegazey guitars, electronic shimmer, and (what sounds like) a violin solo.

'Astral Projector' then flips any expectations on the head by going all acid-folk – gently strummed acoustic guitar, hand-held percussion and a vocal that sounds not unlike Anton Barbeau. The EP finishes with 'The Red Minimum' a doom-rock opus that starts slow but picks up tempo a minute in. It comes adorned with '50s sci-fi movie sounds and a vocal from the John Lydon school of singing. It occupies that sweet spot between punk and metal.

Interesting to note that with only four songs the band demonstrate a variety of styles and sounds. If they ever release a full-length LP and really stretch out who knows where they'll take us. Wherever that is it will be worth the ride.

Click here Eyeball's website.
Click here for Eyeball on Bandcamp.
Click here for Eyeball on Facebook.
Click here for Eyeball on Twitter.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

PoP - 3

Second time around for New Jersey band. An infectious mix of power pop and indie rock.

I send apologies to any regular readers for the recent lack of posts. A combination of school holidays, going away on a family holiday, and getting back to an increasingly demanding workload at the day job has meant I haven't had the time I'd have liked to concentrate on the blog. Hopefully that should change soon, and looking on the positives there's been a build up of great music to listen to, write about and gently push your way. So I'll start now!

One promo that was waiting for me when I came home from holiday was this EP from PoP. The band are a three-piece based in New Jersey, USA. They original formed as a quartet in the mid '90s and like many a band worked hard, wrote some great tunes, gigged plenty but somehow never managed to get that lucky break and wider recognition. The music eventually took a back seat as careers and families became more of a priority. As all musicians know the desire to make music is an itch that will eventually need scratching. With the sudden and unexpected passing of founder member Ian Long, the remaining members (Andre Mermegas, Matthew VanNortwick and Christopher Goss) got together to record this five song EP in his memory. It's a fitting tribute that not only shows that the band have lost none of their drive and energy, but also that they can still turn out decent catchy tunes.

The music a mix of Anglo and American power pop and melodic indie rock (think of a Venn diagram with circles representing Big Star, Teenage Fanclub, Foo Fighters, and The Jam, then place PoP somewhere in the middle). It's a sweet spot that finds just the right balance between jangle and crunch. Factor in vocal harmonies, overdriven guitar riffs and tunes that pass the whistle test and you have a pleasing and accomplished comeback.

Lyrically it's a case of taking stock with songs that either look back to the band's earlier days and lack of lucky break ('Warhol's Promise') or document the band's present ('4 Is 3') and their future ('New Again'). Today is a different era to those heady pre-internet days of the mid '90s and whether PoP progress any further this time round only time will tell, but that's really not the point. The music is reward enough as I'm sure they're only too aware. And one of its many associated pleasures is being able to share it with an increasingly switched-on world. Ladies and gentlemen take a listen to PoP.

Clickhere for PoP on Facebook.
Clickhere for PoP on Bandcamp.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Big Star - Live At Lafayette's Music Room

(This review first appeared in issue #77 of Shindig! magazine.)

Omnivore CD / 2LP

This hometown set from 1973 has been released before (as disc four on the Keep An Eye On The Sky box set) but a standalone release comes newly restored and remastered, and makes its debut on vinyl. The band were supporting Archie Bell and The Drells at the same venue where four months later they'd play the legendary Memphis Rock Writers Convention.

Despite Chris Bell having recently left, the new three-piece are captured on top form. With superior sound and performances than those on the Live (at WLIR) album from the following year, it's a set worth owning for Jody Stephen's joyful drum fills alone, and contains sprightly covers of The Kinks, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Todd Rundgren and T Rex. It's also a reminder that the band were not then lauded – acoustic versions of 'Try Again' and 'Watch The Sunrise' compete with disinterested audience chatter and receive scant applause. Here's to hindsight!

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Birth Of Joy - Hyper Focus

(This review first appeared in issue #77 of Shindig! magazine.)

Glitterhouse CD / 2LP

Birth Of Joy's fifth studio LP finds the band capturing their road-worn psych-blues rock in all its VU meter pushing glory. No fancy production embellishments, more a straight ahead juggernaut of a record that you either jump aboard or risk being crushed by. For all its bludgeoning testosterone-fuelled energy there are many moments of sophistication – the scale-ignoring organ fills on 'Join The Game', the swing-jazz found on 'Forenoon' or 'Sypdorkat's hint of afro-rock rhythms.

The Dutch power trio's tag-line is “sixties on steroids” and indeed their sound has roots in the organ-led heavy rock of Deep Purple, ELP, Vanilla Fudge et al. Similarly the album's title could be read as a sly reference to fellow Dutchman Thijs van Leer's long-serving prog rockers, but Hyper Focus pioneers as successfully as it follows. State of the art 21st century heaviosity that's both a portal to the past and to new possibilities.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Dodson And Fogg - A New Day

(This review first appeared in issue #77 of Shindig! magazine.)

Wisdom Twins CD

You wonder how Leeds-based polymath Chris Wade finds the time. The debut LP released by his musical nom de plume Dodson And Fogg, came out in 2012, since when he's released a further sixteen albums, wrote several books and made a couple of films.

The music on his latest album falls loosely under the folk-rock banner, be it the delightful sitar accompaniment on the titular instrumental, or the one-chord acoustic guitar and flute boogie on 'Look At Your Home', Wade finds enough variety to maintain interest, at times recalling a cross-legged Bolan and the anti-establishment protest of Roger Waters.

Best of all is elegiac closer 'There's a Change In The Air', where rooted and muted brass sounds back an exploratory electric guitar. A neat musical metaphor for contemporary Britain? Perhaps not but the homespun folk on A New Day resonates with a decidedly bucolic Brit-folk vibe that's as eternal as the Pennines.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

The Osiris Club - The Wine-Dark Sea

(This review first appeared in issue #77 of Shindig! magazine.)

Indie CD / LP

Much modern music claims to fall under the banner of dark psychedelia but little of it contains such drama and energy as found on this second LP by London-based quartet The Osiris Club. Their follow-up to 2014's debut The Blazing World sees them mix nightmare-inducing '70s prog with doses of post-punk spikiness and nu-metal urgency. It's music that echoes King Crimson, Cardiacs and even at times The Teardrop Explodes, but ultimately evokes their own shadowy universe, one dense with guitar riffs and ominous textures.

Such sombre haunting is not surprising given the songs' subject matter which draws from the horror fiction of HP Lovecraft and Robert Aickman, and sinister comic book characters ('Citadel of the Fly' is inspired by occultist Gustav Strobl from Hellboy). It may be an unrelenting voyage to the darker side of music and the human psyche, but is recommended for those that need to nourish their inner Goth.

Friday, 17 August 2018

Nick Coleman - Voices: How A Great Singer Can Change Your Life

(This review first appeared in issue #77 of Shindig! magazine.)


Coleman's previous book A Train In The Night was a poignant but hopeful account of suffering from Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss. A big deal for anyone but more so if you've spent the previous 25 years writing about music for a living. Though impaired his hearing has returned in sufficient form to allow the consumption and enjoyment of music again.

Voices is the result of binge-listening to his favourite singers in an attempt to store up the feelings, insights, nourishment and emotions they generate. Over the course of ten taut chapters Coleman distills what it is about an artist's voice that makes it so affecting, mixing in some social history and a little autobiographical colour. He dissects why certain music chimes with us at certain times (or not in the case of Sinatra). It's a subjective book but covers much ground mixing the great with the unexpected. Whether analysing rock 'n' roll giants, Motown legends, footnotes of jazz, or ruminating on British blue-eyed soul, rock's mature sophistication and punk's re-scattering of the dice, Coleman always presents a precise and engaging case.

As Coleman knows only too well there are times we'll all need the services of a doctor, nurse, specialist or surgeon. Hopefully not often and not for long. Our favourite singers however can be called on every day for solace, sensitivity, salvation, inspiration and wonderment. Coleman's book is a warmly written reminder of this that will have you delving into your music collection with fresh thanks and renewed appreciation.

Click here to buy via Amazon.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Snowchild - Age Of Change

(This review first appeared in issue #76 of Shindig! magazine.)

Kozmic Artifactz CD / LP 

This Wichita-based power trio know certain boxes need ticking for successful doom/stoner/sludge rock – long songs, ominous riffs and sheer heaviness for starters. What happens beyond that determines whether you rise above the competition. Snowchild needn't worry - subtle tempo changes, intuitive ensemble playing and dynamics ensure that Age Of Change never gets boring. And despite the old-school rock leanings, the subject matter makes for an album as contemporary as they come.

Anyone upset because Black Sabbath have knocked it on the head can find solace and cause for celebration here as bassist/vocalist Larry Donaldson is a graduate from the Ozzy School of Vocal Phrasing. There are other influences – the intro of 'Born in Flames' owes as much to Isaac Hayes' Hot Buttered Soul as it does to Master Of Reality, and 'Boudica' expands their palette with sitar-like guitar, eastern scales and a space rock vibe. Dark, heavy and soulful.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Daniel McGeever - Cross The Water

(This review first appeared in issue #76 of Shindig! magazine.)

You Are The Cosmos CD / LP

Edinburgh-based musician McGeever has plied his trade as guitarist in The Wellgreen and Delta Mainline but now steps out front with this wholesome solo debut. Taking inspiration from Lennon's piano period with a pinch of Bill Fay, McGeever has a classicist's approach to songwriting, turning out meaningful heart-on-sleeve lyrics and memorable choruses. His middle eights are pretty decent too.

'MMXIII' is a highlight with dreamy backing vocals, strings and what sounds like a Mellotron in the coda. 'You're Coming Home' is a Memphis soul ballad transported to Auld Reekie, whereas 'For Violet' makes the personal universal, a heartfelt song for a newborn family member that could melt the most cynical of hearts. Not one to shy away from the big themes, with family, love, life and death all covered, there's a sense of McGeever taking emotional stock, looking back and forward in equal measure, with a rarely found but welcome openness.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Richie Havens - Richard P. Havens, 1983

(This review first appeared in issue #76 of Shindig! magazine.)

Retroworld CD

1969 was a defining year for this Greenwich Village folkie. The opening appearance at Woodstock and the release of this sprawling 17-song collection, which originally came out as a double vinyl set. The Orwellian title taps into the paranoia of the age, the songs half utopian ideals, half the dawning of dystopian realities, all rendered in the production values of the time - heavy stereo, loose jams with subtle exotic touches of tabla, sitar, congas and even an Ondioline.

An underrated writer mixing poetry and protest in his self-penned songs, Havens' was also a skilled interpreter, unearthing nuances here in songs by Dylan, Donovan and Cohen, along with four Beatles tracks. Most poignant is the final run of songs (side four of the original vinyl), recorded live at a Santa Monica gig where his rich soulful voice, warm rapport and willingness to improvise remind us what an original talent he was.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Brad San Martin - Shoot Tomorrow / Learn Tonight

(This review first appeared in issue #75 of Shindig! magazine.)

Jigsaw CD

The former member of indie-popsters One Happy Island stays the right side of twee on the follow-up to 2015's Tell Someone, not striving for complication or perfection, but winning listeners over with simple arrangements and inspired instrumental touches from his guest players (Mitch Easter, Pete Weiss and Kevin Dunn). Added to that is his vocal delivery, reminiscent of Eric Matthews, and a winning way with tunes, be it the stately piano pop on 'Promises' or the sprightly upbeat 'Hey Everyone'.

The main attraction however is the range of subject matter. Martin is unafraid to lay his frailties, fears and faults on the line which makes for an album that's honest and brims with curious thoughts and obsessions. Whether comparing the merits of various British jazz critics, analysing the appeal of The Bar-Kays' 'Soul Finger' or documenting his move from Massachusetts to North Carolina he's unguarded and open. Therein lies the album's charm.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Belle Adair - Tuscumbia

(This review first appeared in issue #75 of Shindig! magazine.)

Single Lock CD / LP

Muscle Shoals is famed for its soul music but Belle Adair's second LP makes it clear there are other sounds to be found in modern day Alabama. With a sound rooted in '70s soft pop and melodies and tempos more indebted to Teenage Fanclub than to the purveyors of deep, brassy soul, Belle Adair channel the same introspective melancholia that made the records of Big Star and Badfinger such a bittersweet delight.

Though the record is named after the band's hometown and was produced at the legendary FAME Studios by longtime Wilco collaborator Tom Schick, there's an unmistakable Anglophile tint to it. Personal but universal lyrics, chiming guitar arpeggios, gentle organ washes and Matt Green's understated vocals all help recall the legacy of the British invasion and merge it with some southern state sadness. A successful and intoxicating mix, and one that deserves to resonate far beyond the Cotton State.