Tuesday, 31 January 2012

January 2012 Playlist

It used to be a long-standing tradition for WWWTM to produce a quality end-of-month playlist of juicy mp3s that were gracing the iPod of our founding father, Lord Jal of the Shire. This short list of what's been doing the rounds on the Schönberg turntable over the last month is by no means a replacement for the classic WWWTM playlist, just wanted to log what I've been listening to. Enjoy (or otherwise)!

Field Music - A New Town

Friends - Friend Crush

Allo Darlin' - Capricornia

Standard Fare - Suitcase

Lana del Rey - Born to Die

Grouplove - Love Will Save Your Soul

Fanfarlo - Shiny Things

Concrete Knives - Brand New Start

The Chameleons - In Shreds

Bleached - Electric Chair

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Concrete Knives - Youth Compass

Did anyone catch Concrete Knives at the Thekla in Bristol earlier this week? If not, pity. This French indie pop band have just finished a (very) mini tour of the UK and are now safely back in their motherland. Their biography says that they are the rightful heirs to the B52s, but I would say that they sound like a poppy version of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, or even a de-folkified Polyphonic Spree. Anyway, have a listen - I'm sure they'll be back to these shores in the near future...

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Standard Fare - Out of Sight, Out of Town

I haven't posted much in the last week. This is not because I'm getting bored of posting, but rather because I've been listening to a few new albums that I've acquired in the post-Christmas, early new year lull. They're mainly albums that I've missed out on over the last year, and one of them is so good that I've decided to review it for you.

Out of Sight, Out of Town is the second album from Sheffield Indie-popsters Standard Fare. The album was released under the radar just before Christmas and so did not get enough of a listen to feature in any of the reviews of 2011, but after pretty heavy rotation on the Schönberg decks, I would maybe like to re-do my top albums of the year.

Not unlike Standard Fare's first album 'The Noyelle Beat' this album is full of whimsical indie pop, reminiscent of the 'C86' movement in the late eighties. In fact, the first song, 'The Look of Lust' is very much in the vein of "life's a riot" era Billy Bragg, a slow-burning start before the indie floor-filler that could be 051107. It is with this song that you realise that this second album marks a step up for Standard Fare - gone (but not forgotten) is the DIY, jam-in-the-bedroom production to be replaced by something so much more produced. This could be the breakthrough...

The real allure for me is Emma Kupa's (Cooper?) vocals. I would describe her sound as always on the edge, be it the edge of a scream, or breaking down into tears, but always evoking emotion as she sings tales of relationships and love and loss. And when her voice is accompanied by guitarist Danny How, then the clash is fantastic. Dead Futures is a great example, the chorus of 'b.. b.. b.. bite my tongue' and the bouncy melodies is akin to an edgy Belle and Sebastian. Emma's vocals can be mellow and soothing too - the low-key "Darth Vader" has her consoling over what must be a U2-inspired bass and drum beat (well, it sounds an awful like '40' to me).
So, all in all a great many really catchy indie pop tunes in there, in fact I'm amazed that they haven't already been booked to support The Wedding Present later this year when they tour the 21st anniversary of 'Seamonsters'. This album shows Standard Fare's graduation from their under-produced, quirky first album (which was incidentally also very good) to indie mainstream hopefuls. There's a new movement of C86-style whimsical indie pop coming, and Standard Fare will be right at the forefront.

051107 by Standard Fare

Thursday, 19 January 2012

No Direction Home

The time has come for Mr and Mrs Schönberg to indoctrinate the Schönberiños by subjecting them to their first music festival. Actually, what I mean is first festival in a field with tents and chemical toilets and stuff like that, because they've already experienced the rather excellent Tramlines festival held in downtown Sheffield. And really, this festival will be nothing like my first experience of a festival all those years ago at Reading. The No Direction Home festival is an off-shoot of the family-friendly 'End of the Road' a boutique festival held each year in Dorset. No Direction Home is the new Northern counterpart, to be held for the first time in 2012 at Welbeck Abbey, on the outskirts of Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire.

The first round of bands to appear have been released, and I'm expecting more to be named in the coming weeks and months. You can learn more about the festival here. Some interesting bands already confirmed, one I'm particularly interested in seeing is Veronica Falls, but a quick check on their website reveals that they've double booked themselves with Primavera in Portugal! They'd better turn up!

Bad Feeling by Veronica Falls

Monday, 16 January 2012

Fanfarlo - Shiny Things

On the 4th January Marc Riley, on his 6music evening show, played a world exclusive of the new Fanfarlo single. Entitled 'Shiny Things', the track will be taken from the forthcoming second album by the group 'Rooms Filled With Light', and has already been showcased with new album material on the band's recent tour.

Fanfarlo, in my opinion, are the quintessential band for this blog. Mainly ignored by the mainstream in favour of other folk-rock combos such as Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes, Mumford and Sons, etc., the band's debut album in 2010 was an absolute triumph. It seems from this track, and the album opener, Replicate (downloadable from the band's website here), that the band will follow up with yet another great album.

It's taken me four days to write this post, hoping that Shiny Things would appear on Soundcloud to stream, but so far nothing is available so you'll have to make do with this youtube video of the track live at The Mercury Lounge in New York last year.

I've purposefully held off  writing this post in the hope that the track would appear on SoundCloud, and yippee! It has. I've already pre-ordered the album, and listening to this has certainly got me salivating.

Fanfarlo- Shiny Things by MMMusic

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Guitar Bands are dead...

... Long live the Guitar Band?

A recent interview with Jim Chancellor, MD for Fiction Records, revealed that record companies are scared to sign up guitar bands, preferring to invest in other forms of music. The reported interview can be found on the BBC Newsbeat website here.

Apparently there was only one debut album in the top 35 of 2011 from a guitar band (The Vaccines). The interview also cites the fact that only one guitar band made the top 15 shortlist for sound of 2012 as reason to panic.

Shaun Keavney on 6music hit the nail on the head the same morning when he declared that this sort of non-news story rises up every three or four years as music tastes cycle, and a quick search of the internet in trying to find the newsbeat story brought up quite a few, very similar, stories from previous years.

So, what do you think? I certainly would agree that there isn't the mainstream interest in indie guitar music that has been enjoyed around the time of, say, the Madchester scene of the late eighties / early nineties, or the Britpop scene in the mid nineties, but that's not to say that the quality of the movement is any lower, rather the genre is missing that one (or two) great bands to lift the scene into the public eye. I can't see 2012 delivering any such band, but then again sometimes I quite like the fact that the genre is left to deliver good, honest music without having the massive mountains of hype dropped on it by the 'mainstream' radio stations and TV programmes.

In celebration of the institution, here's a track by my favourite guitar band of all time. One, Two, Three, Four!

This Boy Can Wait by The Wedding Present

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Well Did I Do It?

Following in Schonberg's footsteps I attempted to buy 12 albums during 2011. Did I do it? Well as I type this I honestly don't know, so together let's have a look at the albums I bought and see how I got on. As I think it will be close, I'm going to count all albums I bought, whether they were released in 2011 or not - I may revise this if I easily make it!

So first up was Vampire Weekend's Contra which I bought in January. Meh. I last listened to it in June probably tells you all you need to know.

Next, also in January was Two Door Cinema Club. Tourist History is a great pop album, I also managed to see them live. Indie pop live is never as good as rock live plus most of the audience probably couldn't buy alcohol in the venue (18 in the UK). Beware this album is catchy.

Early February saw me purchase My Chemical Romance: Dangers Days... I wouldn't recommend it. Reminded me of Green Days last album. Like Green Day's album it had all the features of the previous album but with none of that special ingredient that makes you want to listen to it again and again.

Thankfully MCR were followed by the perfect antidote, Frankie and the Heartstrings. I know I've mentioned them a few times in the past year but their album got me through some solitary times as I worked by myself for nearly 8 months. I also managed to see Frankie et al live, sadly it was on a rescheduled Monday night and there was a poor turnout. The band and songs were great and were let down by a lacklustre atmosphere.

Their latest single came out on the 28th November. Preview it below.

Frankie & The Heartstrings - Everybody Looks Better (In The Right Light) by Wichita Recordings

Now on to the first album that both myself and Schonberg both bought. No surprises that it was White Lies album Ritual. This didn't get the same kind of play time that their debut album got and I think it's not because the overall album isn't as good I just don't think it has the stand-out tracks that the first album did. There's no Death or Unfinished Business.

The Vaccines is another album we both set our hearts on and I think I was happier than Schonberg, much more the singalong indie rock/pop that's my scene. I've run to this album, I've sang along in the car. Definitely in my top 5 albums of the year. My favourite track is Wetsuit, at a festival it would be awesome with the crowd joining in.

My patience is struggling with Elbow. Album after album I have bought of there's and every time I put a lot of energy in to listening to their albums. I know that all sounds like a chore but I know that if you give them time they will grow on you and become a really comfortable jumper that you put on at just the right moment. However, in a world of instant downloads it's hard to keep putting in that energy when I have such instant gratification at hand with the likes of The Vaccines and plus I've got four other comfy jumpers of theirs that I can put on at any time I want. I'll still buy their next album though...

Now Noah and the Whale was an album I really enjoyed when it came out, with a sound of Tom Petty and a couple of catchy singles that I couldn't get out of my head it was my kind of music. Yet for a reason I can't explain it's not an album I go back to often. I think it's just a bit slow at times without being beautiful or touching. However you look at it though Noah has grown up since his days at the zoo.

The Airbourne Toxic Event I believe are A LOT bigger in the States than they are in the UK. If I hadn't been careful they could have past me by altogether. All At Once is their second album and I love it, it's another one I like running to or driving fast. I particularly the combo of listening to The Kids Are Ready To Die followed by Welcome To Your Wedding Day. Like a great line out of a horror film "and the sign says run". Check it out.

Hard-Fi's Killer Sounds was downloaded rather than bought on CD as it was to be taken on holiday and studied. Sadly my daughter's love of Postman Pat seemed to win out and I didn't get much chance to listen to it. Without a physical CD in my hand I forgot about it on my iPhone and by the time I did remember about it my enthusiasm had gone. It just isn't anything new and if you stand still you go backwards.

Eleven already! I bought The Whip's album purely on the back of the strength of the first album and without expecting another stand-out track like Trash. As I was going to see them live I wanted to give the five "preview" tracks heavy rotation and those tracks came across fairly well, is it as good as the first album? No.

Cosmo Jarvis my main man! The gay, kiddy fiddling pirate/priest (you have to listen to his music to get what I'm on about) comfortably takes me over the finishing line. He's albums not bad, a real mixed bag of music styles and quality. As a debut album it's a good marker in the sand and I have big hopes for his next album, if he can refine his writing skills and choose a sound he is happy with I'll think he'll nail it. We could all be talking about him in 2013.

Kasabian's fourth album Velociraptor! took me by surprise in more ways than one. I'd not heard rumbles that they were about to release another album in what felt like a short time since the last album. It was in fact two years since the great W.R.P.L.A. had been released. It has seen a fair change in style with a more experimental and mellow style and it took some time to grow on me (to be fair all their albums have). Yet now I rank it amongst the best albums of the year. Don't get me wrong they show some of the old style and finesse but anybody who thought they might be getting stale will enjoy this new direction. For me the stand out track is Goodbye Kiss, a real departure from the hard rock of the Kasabian of old but it really shows their amazing range and why they look set to dominate for years to come.

I didn't buy this album but I'm still counting it as it was given to me before 2011 was up. Grouplove were brought to my attention last year with the excellent Colours. A real strong indie track. Then in 2011 Schonberg also ran the Lovely Cup and Tongue Tied tracks past my ears and despite being poppier (Tongue Tied reminds me a bit of Black Kids at times) I put them on my shopping list for January's pay day. Thankfully I didn't have to pay for it and incredibly I've already listened to it more than half the albums on this post. Buy it, you know you want to.

P.S. I did of course listen to other albums over the year, The Strokes, Coldplay, Noel Gallagher, Pete and the Pirates, The Horrors and Foo Fighters amongst others all had their chance but ultimately I didn't buy them for one reason another (I might still buy Noel's). However if I (and Schonberg) have missed some albums that we should definitely bought, let us know.