Tag Archives: Vinyl

2014 – A Personal Summary of the Year in Music

It’s been a strange year, definitely a good one but strange nonetheless. The strange part has been the personal side of it. I gave up my job at the end of 2013 to focus on sorting out my health issues after a lot of stress and anxiety troubles and I’ve worked really hard at that with good results. I’m miles better off now than I was this time last year. I think music plays a big part in the process of getting better. Listening to music I’ve loved for years, discovering new bands and, as a vinyl lover, getting my hands on some amazing records. I only started writing this blog a couple of months ago and that too was a deliberate part of the getting better process, it’s important to have something to concentrate on that you can really enjoy and writing about music / records has been great fun. I’m always amazed people actually read this stuff but they do. Admittedly I’ve not written as much here as I’d have liked because I’ve got involved with a great new music website called Overblown so much of my writing time has been dedicated to that recently. Please do go and check the site out, like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.

Rather than any sort of definitive lists I thought I’d just write through a summary of 2014 and talk about my favourite albums, singles and festivals. It’ll probably be quite long so just read the bits you want to hear about and listen to some of the great music 2014 has brought us.

ALBUMS

Without doubt my favourite and most played album of 2014 was Here and Nowhere Else by Cloud Nothings. It’s a powerful record, just 8 songs and half an hour long but it never drops in intensity for a second. It’s loud, seriously loud, with layer over layer of distorted guitar and one of the most impressive screaming vocal performances I’ve heard in years. Just when you think it can’t rock any harder it does. Every second of this album is brilliant.

Somewhat predictably I loved the new bis album Data Panik etc which was released on gorgeous white vinyl for Record Store Day. The songs themselves weren’t new but they were unreleased and they’re so much fun. I’ve never come across another band anywhere that packs so much enthusiasm into their songwriting. Can’t wait to see them play again in early 2015.

I loved the chill and classic songwriting of Atlas by Real Estate along with the beautiful packaging from Domino. A really pleasant surprise was the return of Mary Timony with her new band Ex Hex and their fantastic debut album Rips, it’s so much fun. I surprised myself by loving Too True by Dum Dum Girls, at first listen I had pretty much dismissed this album but it’s pop somehow stuck in my brain and it’s been played many times now. Lost in the Dream by War on Drugs is seriously impressive and provided more great packaging, this time from Secretly Canadian.

I loved the rock of Annabelle Dream Reader, the debut album from The Wytches. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart‘s Abandon Days was a great indie pop record. The screaming punk of Say Yes to Love by Perfect Pussy was a highlight and in Meredith Graves they have the most amazing performer, her blog writings and interviews are always worth paying extra attention to. Other favourites are Glasgow’s own Paws Youth Culture Forever and the debut from HoneybloodParquet Courts Sunbathing Animal, Teeth Dreams by the Hold Steady and Burn Your Fire For No Witness by Angel Olsen. I’ve probably missed a few and there’ll be many others I haven’t got round to buying yet but hey, I can’t cover everything on my own…

SINGLES & EPs

I’ve bought so many great singles this year and heard so many others that it’s hard to know where to start. My opinion could change tomorrow but I’ll start with what feels like my favourite right at this moment.

‘Gustave’ by Post War Glamour Girls was released as part of the Too Pure monthly singles club. Lovely artwork, sweet coloured vinyl and a corking song. Quite different to what I’d usually listen to (I think) but this is a spectacularly good single. It’s the blistering vocal delivery that drew me in, imaginative storytelling lyrics and a great bass sound. Excellent.

Many of my favourite singles have already been written about on this blog so go have a look around for more in-depth thoughts. Joanna Gruesome released a couple of great singles but the biggest thrill from them came in discovering  the excellent Tyrannosaurus Dead and Trust Fund who they shared records with. I’m sure I’ll love the split Joanna Gruesome / Perfect Pussy single but as of writing I’m still waiting for it to drop through the letterbox.

Speedy Ortiz released the Real Hair EP, four great new songs, particularly ‘American Horror’. Mazzy Star did what Mazzy Star does best with the beautiful Record Store Day single ‘I’m Less Here’. The For the Feel 7″ by Bleached was a punk pop blast. Girl Band released a couple of great singles in ‘Lawman’ and ‘De Bom Bom’. They’re just signed to Rough Trade so it’ll be great to hear what they do next. I absolutely love The Death Set, what an incredible racket they make and they delivered the goods with their King Babies EP early this year. The charming indie pop of Deers made a great single with ‘Castigadas En El Garnero’. Menace Beach display endless promise on their Lowtalker EP and ‘Tennis Court’ 7″. Another great Record Store Day (that was clearly a good day) purchase was the Brightside 7″ by the Julie Ruin. Again, I’m only scratching the surface but suffice to say it was a great year for singles.

 

FESTIVALS

It’s May, it’s Barcelona, it must be the annual pilgrimage to Primavera Sound. This years PS was definitely one of the best yet. It’s an amazing festival. Every year without fail they have the best line up. It’s always a great mix of bands I already love, bands I’m already interested in and dozens of other bands to go and discover. It’s an endurance test trying to squeeze as many shows as possible in but it’s so worth it.

This year we saw Arcade Fire, Buzzcocks, Cloud Nothings, Real Estate, Girl Band, Dum Dum Girls, The National, Neutral Milk Hotel, Speedy Ortiz, Courtney Barnett, Twilight Sad, Helen Love, The Pixies, Queens of the Stone Age and  Slowdive among others. There are loads of bands I’m gutted I missed but it’s impossible to catch everything. Just about ever set we watched was excellent but my personal highlight was dancing like mad to Helen Love‘s crazy pogo punk set. Her crowd were so happy and friendly and completely determined to have a brilliant time. Tickets are already bought for PS 15.

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From massive to absolutely tiny. The Iona Village Hall Music Festival was one of those perfect summer weekends. Iona is a tiny island off the west coast of Mull and this festival was put together by Idlewild (Roddy lives on Iona) and featured many Idlewild related artists as well as some guests such as King Creosote and Alexi Murdoch. It’s the most beautiful setting, amazing beaches, wild landscapes and  two ferries just to get there. Add in friends (old and new), sunshine, drinks and great music and you can imagine the rest. The music was great. An acoustic set from Idlewild is always lovely (I’ve seen a lot of them) but my personal highlight was a great set in the village hall from the elusive Alexi Murdoch whose bittersweet personal music is perfect in this setting. If you’re unfamiliar start with his soundtrack to the film Away We Go. The weekend finished off with a ceilidh. The pitch black stagger back to the campsite through all the sheep was pretty unforgettable. We didn’t want to leave Iona. No idea if this festival will be a one off but hopefully not, we’d love to do it all over again.

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Third and last festival of this year was Beacons near Skipton in the Yorkshire Dales. Kimberly and I need very little excuse for a fancy dress party so off we went with tents and penguin costumes in tow (Fancy dress theme was Empires and yes, we thought we were clever). We were attracted to Beacons because of it’s great line up for guitar bands, most of whom we’d already seen this year but we can’t get enough. Beacons has a seriously impressive electronic / dance line up too if that’s more your thing.

The festival was great fun. It’s a lovely setting, a nice size and there’s loads of arty tents, stalls, great food and stuff happening all the time. A hilarious dance-off kick started the fun, some dancers were seriously impressive, some seriously funny but the star of the show was the toddler who wandered into the action and tried to copy everyone’s moves.

Music wise we saw great sets from Post War Glamour Girls, Menace Beach, Girl Band, Speedy Ortiz, Daughter, The Wytches, Metz, Cheatahs, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, DZ Deathrays, Action Bronson and Joanna Gruesome. We danced to Optimo (yeah, all the way from Glasgow to dance in a field to Optimo), hung out in the Belgrave Tent, drank a lot of Kopperberg and generally had a brilliant time. We somehow managed to miss Hookworms and Eagulls. Oh well. Horrendous weather on the final day meant we headed home a bit earlier than planned but it didn’t spoil the weekend.  Hopefully Beacons can come up with another killer line-up in 2015.

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And Moving On…

2015 is already shaping up very nicely. January will get off to a great start as we’re off to see bis in Glasgow and Leeds. Other gigs already lined up include Ex Hex, Idlewild and Sleater-Kinney. I’m particularly excited about seeing Sleater-Kinney again and can’t wait to hear their new album. The two songs they’ve shared so far are as brilliant as you’d expect. There’s a lot of new music to look forward to. Menace Beach release their debut album, Trust Fund sound very exciting and their album is out in February. I’m hoping there’ll be new stuff from Metz, Speedy Ortiz and Deers amongst many many others. Kimberly and I will be in Barcelona for Primavera Sound again (The Strokes and Ride already announced) and hopefully we’ll be able to fit one or two other festivals in as well. We’ll just wait and see where the mood takes us.

What is guaranteed is that I’ll be buying plenty more records and writing about them here and hopefully I’ll keep on writing for Overblown too, it’ll be fun to see that site grow as we get more and more great content on there.

Have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone. Happy listening!!

 

 

The PeeChees – Vinyl Played to Death

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Remember life before the internet? For music lovers the web turned the world inside out. Where did you go to check out new music before you bought it? In fact I know I’m part of a huge minority that still does go and buy the physical product. I’m being dramatic, this wasn’t quite pre-internet days and I could get online at university by visiting the computer room in my building. Yes, there was one room with about eight computers in it for a department of about 300 students. Dial-up. Searches took forever. Searching for the PeeChees didn’t result in many hits and if I wanted to actually listen online I’d probably still be waiting. Still though, I wanted information on who these people making this incredible racket were and if I remember correctly the Kill Rockstars website was the only place I could find anything.

Back in the olden days I’d often just take a chance on a record. Do the Math, the first album by the PeeChees (or the PeeChee All-Season Sensations to give them their Sunday name) was one such record. I’d seen it on the shelves of Glasgow’s Missing record store a few times . I liked the band name although I had know idea what a Peechee was. The cover appealed to me, simple,  a real cut and paste look even though it was printed with a nice glossy finish. I particularly liked the monochrome faces. Molly Drums Vocals. Carlos Guitar. Rop Bass. Christopher Vocals. No messing about, it looks like a band that will get straight to the point. I also knew the record label and would’ve been happy to take a chance on anything on Kill Rock Stars.

The PeeChees formed in California in 1994 when Chris Applegren and Molly Neuman, who co-owned Lookout Records, got together with Carlos Canedo and Rop Vasquez. All four had played in various bands previously, the best known of which was highly influential Riot Grrrl band Bratmobile who Molly played with (Incidently, the first Bratmobile album, Pottymouth, is being reissued on pink vinyl right about now on Kill Rock Stars).

 

First spin of the unknown record. What on earth have I bought? The album kicks off with a muffled, distorted, chewed up riff and even messier vocal. I love it now but my first reaction was that it’s almost unlistenable.  However, a few seconds later and the first song kicks in properly. It’s still a chewed up racket but it’s no longer muffled and it comes screaming out of the speakers. The guitar sound is as raw as  I’ve ever heard, like you’re in the studio with your head taped to the amp and you can’t get away. The bass and drums pound unceremoniously while the guitar tries to keep up. Then there’s the vocals, coarse as sandpaper, sneering, spitting and snapping over the music. I’m hooked after a minute and there’s still a whole album to go. This sounds perfect. This is what I always thought punk rock should sound like.

Do the Math is one of my all time favourite records. It’s a relentless blast of energy. Songs like Pepper,  I Could Have Loved You and Slick’s Living It Up are stand outs but there isn’t a weak song on there.  I would imagine the vocals may be an acquired taste for some but hey, it’s a punk record, it’s not meant to be soothing.

These days it’s easy to know everything about a band by clicking a button or two. In 1996 it wasn’t quite that simple. One of the most exciting things about finding a new band was finding out what else they’d been up to. I couldn’t find anything else in Glasgow but got lucky by finding three 7″ singles on a record shopping spree in London. These were the Cup of Glory 7″ on Kill Rock Stars, The Scented Gum EP on Lookout records and Radio Disappears on G.I.Productions.

The Radio Disappears single was particularly special. This was a split 7″ with garage punk band The Drags where each band covers one song of the others. The PeeChees cover of Well Worth Talkin’ About is one of their finest moments. The bass and drums intro is backed by the screaming feedback of a guitar that sounds desperate to explode into action which it soon does. The vocals are frantic and it’s perfectly topped off with Molly’s “Hey Hey” backing. Also well worth a listen is The Drags cover of the PeeChees Slick’s Living it Up, a great rocky cover and a bit more accessible than most of this bands other recordings.

These singles did nothing to diminish my appetite for this band and I wanted more. Shortly after that I got lucky when a friend gave me the Love Moods 7″ on Rugger Bugger Records, a single I must have played thousands of times. I’m amazed it still plays at all. This single featured two songs, New Moscow Woman and Quadruple Heart Bypass. In my humble opinion New Moscow Woman is one of the best punk rock blasts ever recorded. There’s an almost false start with vocals only before the band crashes in and tears through one minute and twenty seconds of high energy racket. The vocals sound desperate and bitter all the way through right to the cruel ending “you don’t impress me, you don’t astound me, you don’t arouse me, you’re just around me”.  The band come to a clattering halt and it’s over almost as soon as it’s begun. Breathless from beginning to end.

 

A second album called Games People Play was released in 1997 and to say I was disappointed was an understatement. I grew to like it more over time but never felt it came close to living up to the debut album. The songs were fine (New Moscow Woman was one of them but re-recorded from the aforementioned version) but the production really lacked the punch of the first album and it left the record feeling short of energy. A real shame.

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Thankfully there was better to come in the form of another couple of singles. Sing Like Me was a 7″ picture disc released on Damaged Goods in 1997 and  Dallas was released the following year as part of the Sub Pop monthly singles club.  A compilation album called Life was released jointly between Damaged Goods and Kill Rock Stars in 1998 which collected all the various material recorded and released as singles across various labels over the short few years the band was active. By this time the Peechees were no more.

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I was lucky enough to see the PeeChees when they played Glasgow’s 13th Note basement in May 1998, not too long before they broke up. I don’t remember the gig in as vivid detail as I’d like. It was deafeningly loud, the music was even faster than you could imagine, you couldn’t make out a word that was being said or sung and I think half of my view was a pillar, the other half being Molly drumming and a bass player I never knew (someone from Comet Gain I think, possibly Rop had had visa problems and couldn’t tour). I loved every second of it. I’d like to tell you more and show you the photos but nobody had a camera phone in those days, nobody even had a phone at all. I also had a PeeChees t-shirt that I wore until there were only threads left. My friends band were touring the states and playing with the PeeChees somewhere in California. I was eternally jealous but made them promise to bring me back a souvenir. They came through, as all good friends do.

 

So it was all fairly short lived for this band. There’s the odd video clip of live performances on YouTube that sound pretty awful but do occasionally capture the energy and spirit of the band in action. The best bit is having the records to treasure and there’s a split single with a band called Long Hind Legs that I’ve yet to track down, I’ll need to get that sorted. All in all it probably only amounts to an hour or so of music. Thirty or so songs but good enough to keep me listening right up into 2014 and undoubtably we’ll beyond that.

  •  Cup of Glory – 7″ single on Kill Rock Stars 1994
  • Spend Some Time With – Split 7″ with Long Hind Legs on Skinnie Girl Records 1995
  • Scented Gum – 7″ single on Lookout! Records
  • Radio Disappears – Split 7″ with The Drags on G.I.Productions 1996
  • Do The Math – Album on Kill Rock Stars 1996
  • Love Moods – 7″ Single on Rugger Bugger Records 1997
  • Antarticists – 7″ single on Roxy 1997
  • Games People Play – Album on Kill Rock Stars 1997
  • Dallas / If You Don’t Know – 7″ on coloured vinyl – Sub Pop Singles Club Nov 1997
  • The PeeChee All Season Sensations – 7″ Picture Disc on Damaged Goods 1998
  • Life – Compilation Album on Damaged Goods (Vinyl) and Kill Rock Stars (CD) 1998

 

 

Menace Beach – Heading towards Ratworld

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Easily excited? Yes, definitely. Easily pleased? Not so much so. Hearing just 30 seconds or so of a song can be enough to get me excited about a band, excited enough to find out who they are, check out other songs, find their records, see where they’re playing. It really doesn’t take much for a song to sound instant or  intriguing and grab you by the scruff of the neck to go and find out more. That’s pretty much exactly what happened when I first heard Fortune Teller by Menace Beach.

Menace Beach are a Leeds based band (yep, yet another one. What is it with that city?) who are made up of members of various other bands (Sky Larkin, Hookworms, Pulled Apart by Horses etc.). Due to this they’ll get the phrase Supergroup banded at them but that’s a weird  term as it kind of insinuates that the other bands they’ve come from aren’t super. Not true.

Thus far Menace Beach have only released four records (well, three and a cassette if you’re being picky) ahead of their debut album Ratworld which is due for release on the excellent Memphis Industries label early next year. I have two of these records, The Lowtalker 12″ EP and the Tennis Court 7″ both on Memphis Industries. Prior to that the band had released the Dream Out EP ( 100 copies only for Cassette Store Day) on Desire Records and the Drop Outs 7″ as part of the Too Pure singles club (500 copies for the subscription based singles series – I’ve not got a copy of this, you can sense the emptiness I feel, I’ll track one down somewhere!).

Lowtalker EP 12" Front Cover
Lowtalker EP 12″ Front Cover

So why did I get hooked? Fortune Teller is the first track on the Lowtalker EP and it kicks of with an incredible looping, swirling, dizzying keyboard over guitars that instantly lodged in my skull. It’s got a disorientating off-kilter feel to it and sounds slightly, well, menacing I suppose. It’s a fabulous song.  The remaining four songs are also excellent. Honolulu is rockier, more guitar and feedback heavy. Where I Come From and Nervous follow this rock pattern and sound very like the best bits from the last couple of Wavves albums. Last song Cheerleader is a little slower and more like Fortune Teller in style. The record is filled with hooks, scuzzy buzzing guitars, feedback, great vocals and backing vocals and melodies that fizz around your brain. This music is very much of the early 90’s US indie rock variety albeit via Yorkshire and with plenty pop charm added in to the mix.

 

Tennis Court / Lowtalkin 7" Front Cover
Tennis Court / Lowtalkin 7″ Front Cover

The more recent Tennis Court 7″ single follows in a similar fashion. Side A is Tennis Court which gets off to a mid-paced start with nice melodies sung over the lead vocal. The fuzz kicks in with the chorus and band friend Alana from Joanna Gruesome lends a hand with backing vocals / shouting. The B-side, Lowtalkin’, is the fastest, noisiest example of Menace Beach I’ve heard yet. It’s sprints through it’s 1 min 50 secs like it’s desperately trying to escape from the turntable and it’s refrain of “Lowtalkin'” constantly yelled over and over in the background is breathless and brilliant.

All this points towards a really exciting debut album Ratworld which will be released on Memphis Industries on 19th January 2015. Four of it’s twelve tracks have already appeared in the two records I’ve discussed. I’m not sure if they’re re-recorded but I suspect they will be. The cover artwork looks great and continues the theme of images over scribbled, wavy lines. It looks like a Ray Bans Never Hide poster. There’s so much promise over the first few records that all point towards Ratworld being full of great ideas and fuzzy tunes. I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on a copy.

I caught Menace Beach live earlier this year at the Beacons Festival which cemented my excitement about them. I’m heading along to catch them at Stereo in Glasgow this Saturday 22nd Nov in support to Pulled Apart by Horses. Can’t beat a gig on a Saturday night. Add Menace Beach to your life as soon as you get a chance.

  • Label – Memphis Industries http://www.memphis-industries.com
  • Lowtalker EP – 12″ on black vinyl released January 2014
  • Tennis Court / Lowtalkin’ – 7″ on clear vinyl released September 2014 (Ltd Edition – no idea how many copies were pressed)
  • Ratworld is released 19th January 2015 on Memphis Industries. You can pre-order it here http://www.memphis-industries.com/release/ratworld/
  • Menace Beach are on tour from 21st to 28th November with Pulled Apart by Horses

 

 

Trust Fund / Joanna Gruesome – Split 12″ EP

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Had I not already been very familiar with Joanna Gruesome this record could’ve caused me some fun confusion. On my copy the labels on the vinyl are the wrong way round so the side that says Trust Fund plays JG’s songs and vice-versa. Are the records all like that or just mine? I don’t suppose it matters one little bit. Great songs are great songs regardless of who’s playing them and I’d doubt either of these bands would mind their songs getting confused for the others too much. Anyway, I digress…

Trust Fund are new to me which (as I’ve no doubt previously mentioned) is part of the joy of split records. Their first track on here is called Reading the Wrappers and is pretty much exactly half gentle indie pop and half fuzzy indie pop. Melody wise it’s bright and breezy but there’s definite melancholy in the vocal delivery. It seems to be about (I could be wrong) that feeling of knowing someone you love is upset by something but they’re not saying what and all you want to do is make everything better for them. It sums up that feeling perfectly.

 

Their second track Scared is much more of an upbeat and immediate choice with choppy guitars. It’s catchier than an oversize baseball mitt and would be fun on any indie rock dance floor. There’s still that feeling of edginess here though, a certain anxiety about the song but i think that’s more down to the lyrics than the music.

Third track No Pressure slows the pace down and is beautifully effective. It floats by in such a relaxed, doleful manner with the great double vocals reacting perfectly with the minor chords. Again it all sounds very melancholic but this song leaves me feeling optimistic, I’m not sure why. I think it’s optimism for hearing more from this band, all very exciting.

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The Joanna Gruesome side kicks of with Jerome (Liar) which is a sub-two minute romp of punk pop that JG do so so well. I’ve no idea what Alanna is screaming in this song but i’m glad that she is.

Up next is Satan (Desire Edition) which is a reworked version of the song that closes their debut album. It’s a slow and sweetly sung ballad (can that really be the right word?) but there’s a squealing guitar feeding back in the background the entire way through. It’s a little longer than the original version and the addition of the extra vocal definitely improves on the original. That feed-backing guitar runs continuously into the next song Coffee Implosion which completes JG’s side of this EP and is almost somewhere between the two previous songs. Not as punchy and punky as the first, rockier than the second. On each song there’s a lot of emphasis on having two vocals and it sounds ace. It’s not that they’ve not used this approach before, possibly the male vocal is just a little louder in the mix this time.

Overall across all six songs i think that these are two bands that go really well together. There’s a perfect stand-off between mournful and joyful on this record, sometimes all in the same song!

The product itself is a gem from Reeks of Effort and much appreciated by vinyl geeks like myself. It comes on clear 12″ vinyl and inside a beautifully printed white card sleeve. It looks as impressive as it sounds.

 

Tyrannosaurus Dead / Joanna Gruesome Split 7″

This excellent split single on Odd Box Records is the first time I’ve come across Tyrannosaurus Dead (excellent name) but definitely not the first time I’ve come across the wonderful Joanna Gruesome (Will post a review of their new split 12″ with Trust Fund soon).

Post Holiday Dead Song is the offering from Tyrannosaurus Dead here and I’m instantly hooked. We’ve got great fuzzy double guitar attack right from the outset. Upbeat, bright and sharp sounding. Very reminiscent of 90s American indie rock, particularly Dinosaur Jr who I know a lot of bands get compared to but that can’t be a bad thing.

Particularly pleasing is the cutting back and forth between the male / female vocals. The two voices are actually fairly similar and complement each other really well, especially when singing together. This is not the bands first single so there’s plenty else for me to go and discover. As good timing has it their debut album will be released on Odd Box Records on 11th November. If it’s a strong as this single i can sense a lot of listens ahead.

The Joanna Gruesome track here is Anti-Parent Cowboy Killers, the song that opens their brilliant album Weird Sister. It scorches through it’s two-and-a-half minutes and is a perfect introduction to this band. We’ve got the pop hooks crossed with crushing indie-rock and  the switch from singing in verses to yelling and great boy/girl vocals in the chorus. Joanna Gruesome have tunes all over the place and the music should please anyone who loves a bit of melody twisted with some ferociousness. If you get a chance to go see JG play live don’t miss it.

Well Played to Odd Box Records for giving each band one side of the cover for the sleeve of this single. That doesn’t happen enough on split singles for my liking but it’s great when it does!

Girl Band – De Bom Bom 7″

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Girl Band are astonishingly impressive to see live. I’ve been lucky enough to catch them twice in 2014, first in Barcelona and then somewhere in a field in Yorkshire. Even more impressively they seem completely capable of transferring the controlled chaos of their live performances onto record.

De Bom Bom is the latest in a series of singles from Girl Band on Any Other City records. It’s the only one I’ve actually been able to get my hands on (their Record Store Day single Cha Cha Cha only had 100 copies pressed) and I’m so pleased I did. It’s not that their music is hard to get hold of, their singles are available as free downloads from their bandcamp page so go get ’em.

De Bom Bom fizzes and crackles like an electric shock. The drums pulse along keeping a frantic dizzying beat whilst the guitars and bass sound like they’re winning a fight with a chainsaw. There’s no hook here like the catch of the bass line from their earlier Lawman single. Just power and electrical energy crackling and pounding through disintegrating speakers. The vocals range from polite, if slightly lazy sounding charm to maniacal screaming and yelling. It doesn’t feel like it all fits together in one place, how can any of this be planned? It does fit though, perfectly.

Side B is a cover of I Love You by Beat Happening. I’ll not pretend to know the original but we’re treated to more noise over a hypnotic bass line and what occasionally sounds like a broken lawnmower plugged into an amp. I’ll need to go and check out the original to see how much of the Girl Band treatment this has been given, I suspect a lot. Either way it doesn’t really matter. It’s excellent.

The single comes in a really simple white sleeve with De Bom Bom stamped on it and it’s hand numbered on the back (mine is number 32). The white sleeve is wrapped in card, again with the band name simply stamped on and the song titles stamped on the back. Pleasingly the vinyl is also hand numbered. It’s all straightforward to look at and feels like a really special package, very much DIY.

Deers – Barn 7″

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Having heard this on the radio a couple of times recently I was delighted to pick up a copy of the 7″ single. I wasn’t so delighted to discover that this isn’t the first single by Deers meaning I’ve missed the boat to get my hands on the Demo 7″ that they released earlier in the year. Ah well, can’t get them all, I’ll go download it soon no doubt.

The Barns single has two tracks. First up on Side-A is Castigadas en el Granero (apparently this loosely translates as “Grounded in the Barn” if that helps at all – probably not). This is such a friendly track, not in a polite shake-your-hand way but in an instant let’s-be-best-friends-right-now excitable way. It’s rough and ready and happy to please. This is indie pop having a good time. The band sound extremely enthusiastic and I’m guessing when they play live they’ll probably be having just as much fun as the audience.

On the flip-side is Between Cans, a little bit slower paced than the a-side but equally infectious. The guitar intro strongly reminds me of Beach House minus the dreamy sound and production. Similarities end there though, the vocals kick in and it’s sounding more like a 60s girl group. It’s pop all over. The voices sound great together (Spanish accents always sound so good) whether singing or almost shouting (but shouting in tune of course).

 

Back Cover - nice intro to the band
Back Cover – nice intro to the band

The recording and production on both tracks is rough to say the least. It sounds like we’re sitting in a room above their Madrid practice space listening to the band playing live below. It suits the songs perfectly and sounds all the more charming for it. Really looking forward to hearing more from Deers, debut album out in 2015 so i’ll be keeping an eye out for that. I’m also hoping to catch them playing Glasgow at the end of November.

  • Label – Lucky Number  http://www.luckynumbermusic.com (and Mom + Pop Records in USA)
  • Format – 7″ Single on black vinyl (Limited to 500 copies) available at
  • Released 3rd Nov 2014

Owl & Mouse – Somewhere To Go EP

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It’s not everyday you discover a band by watching them play a gig on a moving steam train. That’s the wonderful Indietracks Festival for you and that’s where I first came across Owl & Mouse in 2013. It was hot and seriously sweaty on that packed train carriage, I couldn’t really see the band but could hear them, if only just. Just was enough though and I sought out their CD at the merchandise tent which came complete with a hand drawn cover. I also got given a 7″ picture disc of this band for free (I tried to pay for it but they wouldn’t take any money) which I believe was the only “official” Owl & Mouse release before the Somewhere To Go EP.

The hand-drawn CD Cover
The hand-drawn CD Cover

Owl & Mouse seem to be the perfect fit for a label like Fika Recordings with their love on indie pop and all things nice. Owl & Mouse are 100% nice so if nice isn’t your thing then look away now. Me? I like nice. It’s nice to be nice.

The Somewhere To Go EP offers four songs (aren’t EPs just great?) and the formula is very simple. This is heart-felt folky pop, usually just a ukelele strumming a gentle chord pattern at a gentle pace. Hannah Botting’s singing melts across the songs. Her tone is beautiful, it’s like a voice that’s kept wrapped up in a blanket and only let out for special occasions.

Opening song Don & Anna starts with the lyric “You made my day before it started, I thought of you ’til dawn” and we’re off to a warm start. This is where Owl & Mouse songs get intriguing. The music and the vocals are dreamy, sweet and almost always sombre. However, the lyrics can be surprising. Often pleasant, often sad and almost always very personal. Don’t Read the Classics, the 3rd track on this record, is the perfect example with lyrics so personal you can feel the hurt and heartbreak so much it can be uncomfortable. It’s devastating and powerful stuff but yet it couldn’t possibly be any softer on the ears.

Track 2, Western Skies, offers a bit of a change with a male voice but other than that it’s all exactly what you’d expect from this band. These 4 songs do present a bit of a development from some of the bands earlier songs with additional instrumentation and vocals. It definitely feels like a bit more of a band rather than a girl and her songs. It’s bittersweet from start to finish and it sounds perfect when lying in the dark if you need or want to relax.

The record itself is very well presented by Fika Recordings. There’s the label’s trademark brown cardboard sleeve and nice hand-drawn artwork (by Paul Rains of Allo Darlin I believe) with one simple colour. It looks as good as it sounds. The record itself is pressed on blue vinyl to match the colour on the sleeve.

  • Label – Fika Recordings http://fikarecordings.com
  • Format – 7″ blue vinyl Limited to 300 copies (still a few left i believe, go buy one)
  • Released – May 2014 (roughly!)

Bleached – For The Feel EP

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Front Cover

So it’s late October in Glasgow and it’s been unseasonably warm of late but all of a sudden today it’s freezing. Let’s face it, we’ll be freezing here until at least April. As soon as this record starts it’s summer again and you’re dancing with friends at a festival just as the sun sets to end a warm day.

Bleached’s For the Feel 7″ EP on Dead Oceans Records has 3 tracks. The title song is on side-A and side-B contains two cover versions, Poison Ivy by The Coasters and Born To Kill by The Damned. This EP follows on from the bands’ excellent 2013 album Ride Your Heart. Originally released as a download in July 2015 the EP was put into a physical format just recently.

Lead track For The Feel bubbles with optimism. This is straightforward rock n’roll punk being played and sung with a smile and it’s catchy as hell. The guitars jangle through their three chords backed up by a bass line that adds the roll to the rock. The vocal harmonies at the chorus add some more sunshine. This is fun from start to finish.

There’s a real vintage feel to the Poison Ivy cover. The main guitar part surfs along, the vocals catch that doo-wop spirit of the original artist and it all adds up to Bleached sounding like they’re loving making this great song their own.

back cover
back cover

Born to Kill is the noisiest and fastest of this 3 song collection and that’s no surprise given it’s a song by The Damned. This is more punk sounding than most Bleached songs I’ve known previously and it’s a sound that suits the band really well. This punk aspect is what makes this my favourite song of these 3. It’s just as much fun as the other two tracks but deserves to have the  volume notched that wee bit higher.

If you love your music to be fast, fun, uplifting and carefree go and check out Bleached.

  • Label – Dead Oceans http://www.scdistribution.com/release.html?catalog=DOC094
  • Format – 7″ Limited Edition (I’ve no idea how many copies it’s limited to)
  • Released – September 2014

Sleater-Kinney – Start Together 1994 – 2006 Box Set

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I remember reading an article in one of the UK’s music weeklies or monthlies back in 1997  or 98 about what was going on in the U.S. alternative music scene. Sleater-Kinney’s third album Dig Me Out had just been released and the article exclaimed that we just needed to sit back and wait for endless more bands to appear having been inspired by this record. Such bombastic praise is perhaps not particularly unusual within music journalism but in this case it was correct. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Sleater-Kinney is that they went on to repeat this across several more albums, the quality of their output hardly ever wavering right up to their final album The Woods.

A year or so later I saw them play at King Tuts in Glasgow as part of the Dig Me Out tour. The band I played in at the time were opening for them on a bill that also included The Yummy Fur (Oh my god were we excited..) and they were equally breathtaking live as they were on record. This gig was busy, but not exactly packed out. The critical acclaim around the band at this time had not yet translated to record sales and bigger venues than clubs but that was to come over the following years. Dig Me Out and the introduction of Janet Weiss on drums seemed like the major kick-starter for that process.

The rate of development from their 1995 debut Sleater-Kinney and 1996’s Call the Doctor to Dig Me Out is incredible and it all happened across such a short space of time. Ok we’re not quite at Guided by Voices levels of productivity here but the songwriting partnership between Corrin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein provided so much quality in so short a space of time.

After Dig Me Out the standard didn’t drop for a second. The three albums that followed, 1999’s The Hot Rock, 2000’s All Hands on the Bad One and 2002’s One Beat were all fairly similar in nature, sometimes a little more subdued (the Hot Rock), sometimes a little more noisy (All Hands on the Bad One) and perhaps slightly more angry than usual (One Beat). Never any less brilliant. It was only 2005’s The Woods, the bands’ final album at the time and rooted in classic rock, that made any significant departure from their most recognised style. By this time Sleater-Kinney’s popularity had grown considerably over the years. We’re not talking Pearl Jam levels of fame here but certainly a major departure from their Olympia Riot Grrrl roots. Then it all stopped. Their unwavering presence across 12 years would come to an end in 2006 and many hearts would be broken. Until now of course as excitement builds towards the bands 2015 return.

My personal favourite Sleater Kinney album? Usually depends which one I’ve just listened to although I think it’s fair to say I go back to Dig Me Out slightly more than the others. Every song on that album is memorable, no more so than the devastatingly sad One More Hour.

Now for the geeky part. The Start Together box set is a large slice of heaven for vinyl lovers. Sub Pop love to produce a special edition or two, a “Loser” edition as they lovingly refer to these things. The contents of this box are beautiful and the perfect tribute to Sleater-Kinney and their career thus far.

Front Cover of the Photo Book
Front Cover of the Photo Book

Vinyl aside there is a fabulous hard-back photo book crammed full of previously unseen pictures of the band. It’s all presented in chronological order with photos representing the times and tours for each album. There’s also a nice foreword from each of the band members. It’s a great pictorial history of the band in a format that works far better than any online gallery ever could.

The box also came with a white vinyl 7″ single featuring Bury Our Friends from their forthcoming album No Cities to Love. I’ve written about this elsewhere in this blog so I’ll not write any more here.

As for the seven albums, each is produced on a different coloured clear vinyl with a marbled effect. Each comes with an inner lyric sleeve as well. The One Beat LP also includes a poster of the photo from the front cover of the box set. The Woods is a gatefold cover, double green vinyl with music on 3 sides.

The box set isn’t a complete musical history of the band. Sleater-Kinney did release other songs on various singles and compilations. A particular favourite of mine is a split 7″ with Cypher in the Snow as part of the Free to Fight singles series on Candy-Ass Records.

Free to Fight #1 7"
Free to Fight #1 7″

Overall Sub Pop have clearly put a lot of love into this collection. Fans of the band who also love their vinyl will treasure this collection forever.

Next on the want-list will be the Loser edition of the new album, out in Jan on Sub Pop of course!

  • Label – Sub Pop
  • Released Monday 20th October (UK)
  • Format – Limited Edition of 3,000 box sets containing 7 x LP albums on various coloured vinyl + Book + Art Print + 7″ single on white vinyl (one side etched – 500 random copies of this 7″ were signed by the band)
  • Note – After the initial 3,000 boxes sold out the set is being reissued with each LP on black vinyl. Each remastered album has also been released individually on black vinyl