I have had a most enjoyable week. On Wednesday night (May 14) I paid my very first visit to the new Magpie Music record shop in Chippenham. I say new, they've been open since April last year. The purpose of my visit was not only to go in search of interesting and great records, but also to watch Wiltshire-based acoustic blues-folk newcomer Jordan Whatley, who was playing a most impressive free instore gig. You can read a review of his debut release 'The Shadowed Planet' HERE, where you can also listen to his superb 'Ghosts Of Your Past' single. After a chat with the shop's proprietors, RW/FF will be running a feature on this wonderful independent music retailer very soon.
Originally formed as a backing group for a folk-flavoured Simon Fowler solo project, Merrymouth soon evolved into a great band in their own right, partly due to the creative urges of Fowler's Ocean Colour Scene bandmate Dan Sealey, himself a very talented songwriter and vocalist. 'Wenlock Hill' is their second album and follows on from 2012's self titled debut, which was released as 'Simon Fowler's Merrymouth'. Opening up and embracing a more diverse range of sounds, 'Wenlock Hill' is an unmistakeably English record that offers a more undiluted taste of Fowler's favoured folk style, and delivers moments that will surprise and charm even those who (for some unknown reason) usually dread the very thought of Ocean Colour Scene. Don't expect this to be a bunch of leftovers that didn't make the latest OCS album, because something tells me that Fowler and co have been saving these up for special occasion...
That's certainly the impression given by the gracefully expressive opening title track, a dazzling and magnificently arranged reminder of Fowler's songwriting abilities. That gift for crafting beautifully emotive hooks is boldly evident on the melodious, touching 'Without You', a charming Americana-tinged tale of long distance love and loneliness that's easily up there with all of Fowler's finest works. But the real surprise is hearing the almost sacred The Stone Roses classic 'I Am The Resurrection' recast as a tender piano and violin number with wonderful three part harmonies. An interesting reinterpretation, an impressive one too, and certainly a risky one to put on the album. A risk that has paid off handsomely.
More 60s influences are built into the enjoyably perky 'Teashop Serenade', a vaudevillian swing where Noel Coward meets The Kinks. The colours of Ray Davies even (somewhat ironically) find their way into the trio's splendidly organic take on The Stranglers' 'Duchess', which has to be one of the most perfectly realised covers these ears have ever experienced, a respectfully faithful, yet brightly pastoral reimagining of the song. What we have here seems to represent something of a renaissance for Fowler, whose songwriting sounds more assured than it has been for years. Dan Sealey's contributions are also superb, while Adam Barry's keys add a subtle depth. It certainly puts all the Ocean Colour Scene albums of the last decade in the shade. After hearing the splendid 'Wenlock Hill', you'll know that is not just a mere side project, but a clear snapshot of where the minds of these three musicians are currently at. Read my full 8/10 review of 'Wenlock Hill' HERE.
The debut album from Suffolk-based trio Horse Party is a treat for those who like ragged guitars, sultry vocals and bags of attitude.
After causing a buzz over recent years with a string of top quality singles, it's good to see that the band have made sure they're all present here. They've definitely earned their place too, as the raw, infectious pounding of the opening 'Back To Mono' shows. Inciting vibes and the savvy power of Ellie Langley's soulful, taking-no-shit vocals gift tracks like the funk-tinged 'Clarion Call' with a real fire, while grunge, lo-fi and blues flavour the sound of the moodily emotional 'Scarlet And Blue' and the superb 'What Do You Need', a raucous, swaggering moment of brilliance with shades of PJ Harvey.
A major highlight of this LP comes in the form of the magnificent 'Inbetween', where atmospheric guitars and tumbling rhythms explode into magnificent, angry colours. It falls somewhere between the post-rock soundscapes of Thought Forms and the harmonious melodies of Yuck. After all the guitar thrashing, it's a pleasant surprise to hear the record close with the honeyed acoustic swoon of 'To Know You Less', which shows a more tender side to the band's character.
At just over 30 minutes in length and comprising eight accessible, often exciting tracks, 'Cover Your Eyes' doesn't take long to listen to, and strongly encourages to give it another play right after the last track has come to an end. And since a few of these numbers are growers rather than instant winners, giving half an hour to this LP every so often will reap rewards in the long run. Read my full 7.9/10 review HERE.
After a few years away, James return with their new studio album 'La Petite Mort' on June 2, their finest in years and a record enriched with terrific songs and immersive emotional atmospheres. With an urgent high reaching chorus, 'Moving On' is classic James, stepping forward in their own way while recalling the liberated passion of their 'Seven' era material. Topping it all off is the blast of Andy Diagram's evocative trumpet, which adds something of a magic touch. Interestingly 'La Petite Mort' is French for "the little death", a euphemism for orgasm. The LP is the band's first full-length album since 2008's 'Hey Ma' and follows the two 2010 mini albums 'The Night Before' and 'The Morning After'. La Petite Mort was recorded in the wake of Tim Booth losing his mother and best friend in quick succession and understandably many of the songs deal with mortality. In spite of that, what we have here is an incredibly uplifting record.
For a live review of James' magnificent gig at Bristol Colston Hall last year, go HERE. To read a review of their boxset 'The Gathering Sound' go HERE. The band are going to be touring the UK in November, with support from Starsailor. Tickets are on sale now, and more details can be found HERE.
Velvet Morning are a British group who formed in 2012, and released a hugely impressive debut mini album called 'Velvet Moon' earlier this year. They're not wasting time following it up either, as a proper full-length is currently in the process of being recorded. It's likely that the upcoming LP will feature this blissful psychedelic beauty, which is available as a digital download now. On the English calm of 'Barrett Land', graceful ripples of guitar drift through sunset toned tranquility, as puffs of softly hallucinogenic smoke float upwards and outwards to evoke a hazy serenity. The band have just announced that they will be playing at Glasgow Psych Fest in September, and more live dates can be found HERE. Read my review of their excellent mini album 'Velvet Moon' HERE.
The new album from The Horrors has hit the music world, and yes it is a wonderful thing indeed. 'Luminous' is their fourth studio album, and sees them take things truly stratospheric. From it, here is the fantastic new single 'So Now You Know', which turns from cosmic melancholy to explosive anthemics in the blink of an eye, and emphasises both their more reflective side, and the powerful sky-high surges they've become known for... “It has a goal, which is to take a listener on an ascent in some ways,” says Rhys Webb of the album. “For us, if a DJ is to play a set, his role is to elevate. We were inspired by how we could incorporate that into our music - we like the idea of elevation and euphoria and how our sound can make you feel.”
"Off the wall" is the term that keeps springing to mind. There's just so much going on! I'm relatively new to the musical world of tUnE yArDs, but this song served as the best introduction I could have possibly had. Constructing arrangements from lots of contrasting bits and bobs, while finding unusual yet wholly effective ways to emphasise melodies and hooks, the third album 'Nikki Nack' gave me a headache on the first listen, which can be contributed to the fact that I'm not used to music like this. And that would be because no-one else makes music like this. So credit to New Englander Merrill Garbus, the brilliant mind behind tUnE yArDs, who also feature Nate Brenner on electric bass. Recorded in Haiti in the summer of 2013, 'Nikki Nack' is the third full-length release. It appropriately begins with a track called 'Find A New Way', and carving out uniquely different paths is something this LP does very well indeed. Dominic Valvona at the Monolith Cocktail has recently reviewed this enjoyably inventive record, hailing it as "a hyperactive sound-clash, an electric kool-aid luminous flavour of bubblegum pop, Nikki Nack is once again fuelled by a larger than life version of African rhythms and sounds, with Merrill digging deeper than ever to pull out something fresh." Read the full review HERE.
As their press release states: "Teleman – 'Tele', from the Greek for 'distance' – are a band you're invited to, not inundated with." I saw these guys supporting Suede last year, and thier music proved to be a slow-burning delight. It's charming, melodic alternative pop with a slight Krautrock twist in places, and comes fronted by the voice of Thomas Sanders, who you may or may not remember from Pete And The Pirates. Due for release on June 2 via Moshi Moshi records, their debut album is called 'Breakfast' and was produced by the legendary Bernard Butler. Before that hits the music world, you can enjoy a taste of what's to come, with this superbly hazy, emotionally robust single. The video was directed by band member Johnny Saunders, who has taken on the visual aspect of the band’s work, including the album artwork.
About a week or so ago, I checked my Twitter feed and found The Quietus raving about an album by an act I had never heard of before, describing it as "a profound grasp on the history of techno, house, and dark electronic music". The artist was named as Further Reductions, and the album they were talking about was called 'Workflow'. Well, at least that's what they said. Intrigued by the sound of this and wanting to know exactly what it was like, I went off on an internet search for places where I might be able to stream or preview the album. All I found was a stream of this track, but it was enough to keep me happy for the time being. Today I decide to feature it as Track Of The Day, and discover that the album is in fact called 'Woodwork' and not 'Workflow' like The Quietus suggested. So that brings me a step closer to hearing this album... The dark, raw and hypnotic (not to mention rather frightening) tribal pulse of 'High End Basics' opens the record from the Brooklyn duo in powerful fashion. Shawn O’Sullivan and Katie Rose formed Further Reductions in 2008 as an outlet for their shared passion of electronic dance music. Released a few weeks ago on April 30, 'Woodwork' is a limited edition of 999 copies pressed on 160 gram clear vinyl with purple and silver splatter, presented in a high gloss printed LP jacket. Order your copy via the link below...
Graceful melodies, soaring choruses and intimate warmth are all things that can be found in abundance on Roddy Frame's new album 'Seven Dials', his first in eight years. Released on Edwyn Collins' AED Records, the LP is the Aztec Camera man's fourth solo offering and was released earlier this week (May 5). The boldly catchy country-flavoured stomp 'Forty Days Of Rain' is one of the highlights of this charming new collection of songs, which according to Flipside Reviews "positively romps past the winning post". Read their 10/10 review of the album HERE. Meanwhile The Line Of Best Fit state in THIS review that "this, for any lover of the cracked ballad, the pop hit, the smart word or the perfectly chosen chord, is essential." Other high points of 'Seven Dials' include the West Coast cool of 'Postcard', the sad beauty of 'In Orbit' and the heart grabbing emotional pull of 'The Other Side'.
It's been a busy few weeks for album releases, and this week (May 12) brings new offerings from Horse Party, Cherry Ghost, Swans, the Black Keys and Dan Lyth And The Euphrates. Last week was just as musically packed, with Gruff Rhys's new 'American Interior' being just one of the records hitting the shelves. It's the fourth solo album from the Super Furry Animals man, a concept album that tells the tale of John Evans, a distant relative of Gruff's who set out across america to find a Welsh-speaking Native American tribe in 1792. Following the album will be a feature-length film, a book, and an app which all complete this ambitious multimedia project. While the album received an ecstatic 10/10 review on God Is In The TV last week, I'm personally awarding it a tidy 8 out of 10 on the strength of it being Gruff's most consistent solo effort yet. The climactic highlight of the LP comes in the form of the beautiful 'Year Of The Dog', which then segues wonderfully into the closer 'Tiger's Tale'.
Sheffield indie popsters The Crookes release their new single this week, the second to be taken from their marvellous third album 'Soapbox'. "'Don't Put Your Faith In Me' is one of the most straightforward and to-the-point songs we've ever written," says Daniel Hopewell from the band. "It takes a long time as a songwriter to get to the point where you don't worry about what the listener might think of you and to be honest and expose your flaws is a difficult thing to do. I think it's a brave song and I'm happy to play the anti-hero in it." Underneath the light, there's always an undercurrent of darkness brooding throughout the album's ten tracks, evident within the self deprecating charm of the irresistible 'Don't Put Your Faith In Me'. Read my full review of 'Soapbox' HERE.
Packed with a thick, no-nonsense groove and quirky synth lines straight out of an 80's discotheque, 'Fever' is the relentlessly infectious new single from The Black Keys, and the first track to be unveiled from their eighth studio album 'Turn Blue'. The LP lands on May 12, and Clashmusic.com have hailed it as "their best yet" in a review they recently published HERE. The video for 'Fever' was directed by Theo Wenner (son of Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner), and features the band's Dan Auerbach as a sleazy, sweaty televised preacher and Patrick Carney as his sidekick.
Jack White releases his second solo album 'Lazaretto' on June 10. Of the his new material, White has said: "it's definitely not one sound. It's definitely several. Like you heard in Blunderbuss, there're many styles there. I don't pick my style and then write a song. I just write whatever comes out of me, and whatever style it is what it is, and it becomes something later." On Record Store Day this year, White made the world's fastest recorded and released record, recording the album's title track live, where it went straight to vinyl. A little while later, multiple copies were pressed and within a few hours were sold to fans. But here is the kickass studio version of 'Lazaretto', which is available as a download now...
Their previous offering 'World Pleasure' slipped into worlds of baggy funk, but the brand new offering from Peace seems to have picked up an influence from the Black Keys somewhere along the way. 'Money' is taken from the band's upcoming second album, due for release later this year. In about a month's time, the song will be available as a signed 7" single, backed by exclusive B side 'Flirting USA'. Pre-order it from the band's website HERE. Meanwhile, you can catch Peace on tour throughout May and June, dates below...
In need of some fresh new music? Or just looking for a way to pass time? Here is the 17th edition of The RW/FF Compilation, which you can listen to via the Mixcloud player below. It showcases the music that has featured in the column over the last few weeks, mostly stuff from April 2014.
Just imagine if the 'Now!' albums featured the best recent music instead of lowest-common-denominator shite... they would sound like this! I don't have regular dates set for each of these mixtape-type things, instead I just wait until I have an 80 minute CD's worth of great new music to make up each compilation. Contrary to what some ignorant people think, there is plenty of excellent new music out there, as is proved by every one of these brilliant mixes. The idea is to buy all of these tracks and burn onto a blank disc, hence why each compilation will be roughly the length of a CD.
Plaid - 'Hawkmoth'
Echo And The Bunnymen - 'Market Town'
Cherry Ghost - 'The World Could Turn'
The Amazing Snakeheads - 'Here It Comes Again'
The Juan MacLean - 'Get Down (With My Love)' (feat Nancy Whang)
Paul Weller - 'Brand New Toy'
Pixies - 'Greens And Blues'
The Crookes - Howl
Halo Blind - Revolutionary Soul
Two Skies - '(In Flight) Hyperventilation'
The Vickers - 'She's Lost'
The Diaphanoids - 'You Can't Shine If You Don't Burn'
King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard - 'Head On/Pill'
And here is the 18th edition of The RW/FF Compilation, which again showcases the music that has featured in the column over the last few weeks, mostly stuff from April and May 2014.
THE WANDS - THE DAWN
THOUGHT FORMS - FOR THE MOVING STARS
DAMON ALBARN - HEAVY SEAS OF LOVE
MANIC STREET PREACHERS - WALK ME TO THE BRIDGE
MERRYMOUTH - WITHOUT YOU
THE BLACK KEYS - FEVER
JACK WHITE - LAZARETTO
tUnE yArDs - WATER FOUNTAIN
HORSE PARTY - INBETWEEN
PEACE - MONEY
EMBRACE - AT ONCE
THE CROOKES - BEFORE THE NIGHT FALLS
JAMES - MOVING ON
THE HORRORS - SO NOW YOU KNOW
VELVET MORNING - BARRETT LAND
THE DIAPHANOIDS - 55TH DIMENSION NERVOUS BREAKDOWN
RICHARD FEARLESS - HIGHER ELECTRONIC STATES
DAMON ALBARN - MR TEMBO
EELS - WHERE I'M GOING
Again, I have been too busy indulging in fresh new music to find time to write nostalgically about my youth. The first part of my musical memories from 1996 may have taken a while to emerge, but it WILL be worth the wait, trust me. While you're waiting, have a listen to my mammoth 1995 compilation HERE.
and while you're listening to that, read these:
Back next week, or maybe the next. Bye.