Monday, 31 January 2011

Track of the Week: Those Dancing Days - Reaching Forward

We all got pretty excited when Those Dancing Days dropped 'Fuckarias' on us at the end of last year. Rightly so, for not only was the single a long overdue bolt from the blue, but it was bloody brilliant.

No surprise then that Sweden's finest have made Track of the Week this week with their new single and the lead track from their forthcoming second album Daydreams & Nightmares. 'Reaching Forward' is much poppier than 'Fuckarias', with keyboards and synthesisers taking a much more central role.

It has that contemporary '80s retroism that's it's easy to tire of. However it serves an excuse for some fantastic drumming (a Those Dancing Days trademark) and is more than enough to drum up even more anticipation for the new album. A record which by all accounts is going to be eclectic and rather big sounding.

Also, you may have noticed some new pages appearing at the top of the page here. As well as the About one (for KPL virgins) there's one for the Track of the Week feature, with some background as to the thinking behind it and links to all the past TotW's for you to get an overview of what I've been banging on about for the past couple of years.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Album Review: The Joy Formidable - The Big Roar

Released: 24th January
Label: Atlantic Records

When the latest Muse album appeared the fact that the thee-piece had moved so far away from the sound that had ensured their success turned off a lot of fans. Someone somewhere rightly said they wanted back the riffs that “sounded like spaceships exploding”. I hope that whoever coined that phrase has been informed of The Joy Formidable and their début album The Big Roar.

Having cottoned on to The Joy Formidable early on I've been anticipating this album like no other début since Sky Larkin were pups. 2009's mini-album A Balloon Called Moaning was as close to perfection as such a release could get, its ambitious anthems getting me through a pretty crappy time. Last summer at Glastonbury saw the band give a Sunday Second Stage opening set all the gusto of a headliner, blowing away some of the weekend's major acts in the process.

In short, I was expecting a lot.

But not this, exactly.

Don't get me wrong at all here. The Big Roar is not a disappointing album. No sir. But those spaceship exploding riffs I mentioned, they're pretty new. The Big Roar is a loud record. And all the better for it.

'Whirring', one of The Joy Formidable's older songs is now joined by a maelstrom of thundering drums and swathes of cacophonous guitars and feedback, the kick doubling it's efforts and neatly crashing through thrash territory. Whilst 'The Ever Changing Spectrum Of A Lie' is a seven minute 44 second opener that builds the kind of swell with a three person rock set-up that orchestras seldom manage. Ritzy Bryan's vocals surfing over the melee with a sexy Welsh purr.

Clearly written and recorded with playing live in mind, these songs sound like arenas being cracked open; rivets and supports popped clean out of their fittings by the sheer magnificent racket that The Joy Formidable create. The evidence that The Big Roar presents shows that The Joy Formidable are already a massive band and are just waiting for the rest of the world to catch on.

At this moment in time, only having lived with The Big Roar for a week it's easy to pinpoint the older tracks from A Balloon... as being the highlights. 'Cradle' is still one of the best things ever recorded and the new version of 'The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade' makes for the most perfect closer I could imagine for a record of this scope. The trouble with this is that we've been living with these songs for two or more years, so it's always going to have been hard for the new kids to sit side-by-side easily.

This makes moments like 'Chapter 2' all the more remarkable, of course. Massive propulsive rock drums throw the guitars around the mosh pit whilst Ritzy alternates between that purr and an all out bellow. Its frantic passages evoking chaos and exhilaration better than any other song that I've come across in recent years.

At this stage in their career The Joy Formidable are on course better than any of us could have imagined. This album deserves to be the success it has the potential to be. The Big Roar may just turn out to be one of the most fitting album titles of the year. Let's hope they follow up the roar with a bite.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Track Of The Week: The Half Rabbits – We'll Sleep Again

Oxford is shit-hot right now. You've probably come across the Foals lead Blessing Force scene that the NME is getting in a twist over and I've mentioned before my love for Alcopop! Records and Big Scary Monsters labels.

So, let's throw something new into the mix: Spires: A Collection of Music from Oxford Bands is a free showcase of some of the different sides that the city has to offer. All of the bands involved have kindly donated tracks to this mix, including Ute and Spring Offensive as well as the wonderfully named rockers Dial F For Frankenstein. Of course while you can make up your own mind on which song/band is your favourite from the selection, mine, (and therefore this week's track-that-you-should-definitely-listen-to) comes from post-punkers The Half Rabbits.

'We'll Sleep Again' stands pretty much in a field of it's own, but if you think of Maxïmo Park's less full on moments or Franz Ferdinand at their most arch, filtered through a hefty Magazine influence, then you'll get an idea of where they're coming from. It's a refreshing sound, which means that it's good to see that there's plenty more material from The Half Rabbits available from their website.

If you need any more convincing then the video is right here:

The Half Rabbits: We'll Sleep Again from AdamPellinDeeve on Vimeo.

This single isn't on their recently released album From The Horizon To The Map but forms a half of a Double A Side with 'Of This City' which is. But like I said, you can go and grab 'We'll Sleep Again' along with the rest of the Spires Compilation right now.

It's ace. You should get it. I can guarantee that there's something on there that you'll fucking love.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Download Review: Darren Hayman - January Songs (Part 1)

Released: Every Day In January
Label: None

“My name is Darren Hayman. I'm going to write, record and release a song every day during January 2011. They won't all be good but some might be.” is the quote at the top of the page on Darren Hayman's January Songs site. That's a pretty ambitious statement really, when you think about it. Not the “They won't all be good” bit – the releasing a song a day for a month bit.

For those out of the know: Darren Hayman used to be in indie heroes Hefner who split in 2002 and has been releasing albums since 2007 under the name Darren Hayman & The Secondary Modern – the last of which Essex Arms came out last year and was by all accounts really very good.

And now that's out of the way it's hard to know where to start with this review other than to say that Hayman has been either too cautiously modest, or too self-deprecating with the above inference to the quality of the songs. The first half has all been really quite good, aside from the one's I'd go as far as describing as chuffing ace.

As each song has been recorded and released within hours of conception it's understandable that often the feeling is of sketches of tracks rather than completely fully fleshed out ideas. This is heightened by the comparatively short length of most of the first 16. Still, both factors add up to a collection of charm and lo-fi beauty, complimented by collaborations and keeping a strong link with his recent material.

The first day's tune 'It Was Over' provides an early example of Hayman playing with a different style. Unseasonably summer, it's a rough sonic drawing of what could be a 6Music summer mega-hit. Whilst Day 2 gave us 'Bad Technology' a sonic showcase of the sweet electronic side of Garage Band. Featuring lyrics such as “wrap the flux around your heart” and “this bad technology, it breaks promises” it's more downtrodden than dystopian, but close to essential too.
02 Bad Technology by Darren Hayman

'Esplanade Drive' is Hayman's “80's Synth Ballad” and features a drum machine that Flight of the Conchords would have rejected for 'Inner City Pressure'. In its critic-less dissection of ambition it recalls an uncynical Damon Albarn, circa The Great Escape. Sonically it's nowhere near this, being much less mess, for a start. Yet surprisingly, this isn't the only time that it's easy to see a convergence between Hayman and Britpop. 'Britain's In Bloom' is foot-tappingly pop like Supergrass used to be before they grew up and has a chorus that is the most likely to stay with you after the first listen.

Undoubted highlight of January Songs so far is 'I Know I Fucked Up', a song sung by Elizabeth Morris from indiepopsters Allo Darlin'. It's a brilliant and oddly pretty document of
flipping out and soon regretting it. The lightness of the music juxtaposes with the emotional impact of the lyrics and stunning vocal performance.
10 I Know I Fucked Up (Sung By Elizabeth Morris) by Darren Hayman

Not dissimilar on the sound, but featuring Darren Hayman himself on vocals, 'Isle of Eigg', 'Hold Back The Clock' and 'Old Man Hands' are those that most reflect the aforementioned & The Secondary Modern albums. Their subdued folksiness makes it strange to think that you've not been listening to Hayman forever. Warm and familiar like your favourite slippers. And no, I don't mean that as anything other than a compliment.

'My Dirty Widow' is just gorgeous and the fact that 'Who Hung The Monkey?' features The Wave Pictures means that you probably need to find these two completely dissimilar songs right now and play them. I can help there:
13 My Dirty Widow by Darren Hayman
14 Who Hung The Monkey? by Darren Hayman

Of course, there's been several more songs since then and you can listen to all of them and download the latest ones from Darren Hayman's Soundcloud page. The second half of January Songs will be reviewed at the beginning of February.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Johnny Foreigner - Harriet etc

Johnny Foreigner basically own a spot on here, so what better to show you than their killer new video for 'Harriet, By Proxy' from last year's you thought you saw... EP.

It's all been done independent of any budgets and is properly by and for the fans.

It all ties in nicely with Alexei (I assume)'s rant against this 'Death of Rock' crap that we're hearing about everywhere (seriously, do Channel 4 news have so little else to report on?). Written for Rock Sound magazine, there's no better State of Music address that you'll read this year. Guaranteed!

He concludes with this:
"Pick your bands, pick yr writers, all that stuff that goosebumps you thru otherwise colourless and drab times, and know that if they stop, have to get "real" jobs, it'll be your fault and your loss. and i hope we're both still here on the other side."

But you should go and visit Johnny Foreigner's Blog and read the whole thing which takes in DIY, rock dinosaurs, broadsheet bullshit and the awesomeness of Pulled Apart By Horses. Go!

Monday, 17 January 2011

Track of The Week: The Lovely Eggs - Don't Look At Me (I Don't Like It)

There's some excellent stuff cropping up at the moment in indiepop-dom. The Go! Team's 'Buy Nothing Day' sounds very much like it could be one of the best things of all time. But this week's Track of the Week can be nothing but The Lovely Eggs.

Their classic 'Have You Ever Heard A Digital Accordion?' earned itself a TotW spot last year after after I managed to catch them doing a gig at the now-closed-down Stockroom in Sheffield. They're also really nice and very very deserving of lots more press.

'Don't Look At Me (I Don't Like It)'
is the first taster from what should be their second full length album (their début If You Were Fruit was released on Cherryade Records in 2009) and perfectly encapsulates the scrappy craziness of the pair.

And scrappy is the key word. The video seems to have been recorded for the price of a sausage roll and the sound's not so much polished from their debut as it is stuck together with gaffer tape. As well, 'Don't Look At Me' is lyrically pure bonkers and sonically the perfect example of loud pop.

It's also very fun. Try and watch this video without smiling. I bet you can't do it.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Album Review: British Sea Power - Valhalla Dancehall

Released: 10th January
Label: Rough Trade

It’s strange to these ears that 2008’s Do You Like Rock Music? has got more than its fare share of detractors. I’m not just talking about people who don’t rate it, but there are British Sea Power fans out there who seem to genuinely despise the record. Apparently it sounds too much like Coldplay or something. I must have heard a different record. Even though DYLRM? was a much more commercial proposition than BSPs preceding two releases, it still very much contained their essence.

However if DYLRM? was British Sea Power making a mainstream rock album then Valhalla Dancehall is (at worst) British Sea Power making a British Sea Power album. Which means that (at worst) Valhalla Dancehall is brilliant, eclectic, imaginative and engrossing.

Scattered across the running time is glimpses of all that we’ve heard of BSP over the past 10 years. The earsplitting post-punk of ‘Thin Black Sail’ echoes ‘Apologies To Insect Life’ in its lightning quickness and howling guitars. Only this time rather than introducing the record it finds itself between two glacial experimental pieces in the final third. It’s all that stands between the hypnotic wonder of ‘Cleaning Out The Rooms’ (the only track to return from last years Zeus EP) and the 11plus minute stunner ‘Once More Now’.

The viola of new member Abi Fry and the firm drumming of Wood are all that punctuate the backing drones that sound to be made from ghostly sighs, gurgling synthesizers and field recordings of howling winds. Like the stretches of The Suburbs that allow themselves to fade into the subconscious ‘Once More Now’ doesn’t always demand yr direct attention. The stabs and moments that jar the awareness serve to show how special a composition it is.

Luckily for those of you with short attention spans, British Sea Power haven’t forgotten their pop chops or their ability to write a crazy anthem. Valhalla Dancehall opens with ‘Who’s In Control?’, a perfectly timed clarion call questioning the power of authority. It’s drawing comparisons across the board to early Manic Street Preachers, for good reason. ‘Stunde Null’ is a personal favourite that shreds through snare drums in a blast of barely controlled chaos. It forms one of a perfect pair with ‘Mongk II’ in a front half that’s completely contrary to the glacial pace towards the end.

‘Mongk II’ is a cut from Zeus (originally called 'Mongk') that’s been newly and completely flashed out. A Motorik beat keeps in check the shooegazy noise of the guitars whilst the vocal bears slight inflictions of a vocoder. It’s a very distant relative of the excellent ‘No Lucifer’ and houses possibly the best moment on a very fine album. After a brief subsidence in the noise a slight break in the beat heightens the return of the guitars an a squall of feedback. When listening to it on headphones it forces a blink. It’s that loud. It’s that good.

Earning points for un-obvious choice of single ‘Living Is So Easy’ is hidden towards the end of the record and has been sited as British Sea Powers electro-pop song. Whilst it’s true that it features a rare use of synthesisers by the band, it comes across as an attempt as such by some people that have never heard anything from the 1980’s. This is meant as a compliment, obviously. The strange bubbling and observatory angle make this a much braver single than the still excellent (but predictably BSP) ‘We Are Sound’ which it can’t help but be felt that any lesser band would have lead with.

Closer ‘Heavy Water’ is deserving of mention for bringing proceedings to a stately close. After the contrasting chaos and dreamlike states it’s a calming and epic closer. It’s also the most notable instance of the influence Pulp have had on the band. The lushness of the sound and crispness of the drumming brings to mind the Sheffield legends swansong We Love Life in all of the right ways.

That British Sea Power exist is enough for me and this is another album which simply confirms their status as one of the very best bands in the world. Valhalla Dancehall is a complete, immersive, strikingly intelligent, evocative and brilliant rock album. If there’s one band operating anywhere near the mainstream that signify what rock music can mean in the 21st Century then it is British Sea Power. Highest praise for a band of the highest order.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

EP Review: Among Brothers – Homes

Released: 24th January
Label: Barely Regal Records

Finding home on Cardiff's Barely Regal Records Among Brothers are a six piece who count a violinist amongst their number. Homes is their first proper release and gets the dubious honour of being the first thing reviewed on Keep Pop Loud in 2011.

The five song release opens with the oddly titled 'Montgolfier', a miniature epic that announces itself with Efterklang style clattering percussion and some hasty group vocals that it's easy to compare to the most recent Los Campesinos! album. So I will. In reality this is barely more than an introduction to what is a début EP but it manages to be much more. It surpasses it's status and title and stands very much on its own.

Across Homes Among Brothers combine their influences into something organic, spacious and engaging. Take centre-point 'Sam, Isaiah and the Wolf' which showcases an organic rural sound. Combined with the straining of the vocals this helps bring to mind the sadly defunct Leeds heroes Grammatics at their most considered.

Elsewhere 'Bare Teeth' begins with the warm minimalism of Four Tet and adds little other than vocals for the first third before a break reveals a piano and violin. The maudlin sounds offer aural representations of wind and rain lashed spring days. There’s something about it that has the ability to transport us to the rained off days of our childhood. It’s pretty special really and perhaps the best track on the EP.

Closing Homes is 'Great Famine Family'. With a long running time of over seven minutes it doesn't outstay its welcome. Ideas are run and space utilised to the fullest, taking everything to conclusion. The “ba-ba-da” vocals bring to mind a dreamy sea shanty, an image reinforced by the lyrics “Washed in salt and dried in dirt, they made my bed below the earth”. Meanwhile the glockenspiel and naïve electronic sounds juxtapose a Boy Least Likely To twee-ness.

Interesting and accomplished. For a debut EP Homes introduces Among Brothers perfectly. Not as loud as some pop I may champion here, but reflective beauty rarely comes any better. For a band with so much going on musically it’s refreshing to hear this sense of space too.

For those who’d be put off by the ‘gentler’ tag – don’t be. This is as gripping as any faster paced music, but allows you to simply get lost in the ebbs and flows that come with the collision of instruments and styles if you so wish. For a combination of indie rock set-up and hushed electronics, finished off with a last gang left on the moors loneliness you can't go wrong here.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Track of the Week: Jumping Ships – The Whole Truth

If Royal Mail were a bit better at getting deliveries to me then this Track of the Week may have ended up being my favourite cut from Valhalla Dancehall by British Sea Power, which is actually released today. But that's not to say that 'The Whole Truth' is merely a second choice type of track. No sir.

Jumping Ships
are the latest signings to one of our favourite labels at KPL: Alcopop! Records – also home to The Attika State, Stagecoach and Johnny Foreigner.

This is what they look and sound like:

If you're not going to listen to them right now – then shame on you – they're for those who like their pop loud, and punk poppy. Think Tellison powering through 'The Beginning of the Twist' and you're almost there.

'The Whole Truth' is available to download from the Alcopop! soundcloud page so head over there and get some Jumping Ships onto your portable music device.

They're due a single and EP within the next couple of months, so keep your ears out for that.

Friday, 7 January 2011

You Animals

There’s an episode of How I Met Your Mother where Ted is off to meet the woman who a dating site has determined is his ideal partner. Finding her is the motivation behind much the character’s existence and in the lead up to the meeting he imagines his whole life with her. Their future, their children, their old age. Everything.

So he decides not to meet her. Keep their relationship pristine by never initiating it. Why bother when it already exists perfectly in his head. He knows exactly how it will go and there’s no fun in that.

This goes for Tip Season too. When someone’s getting a certain amount of press based on not much material you know how it’s going to go. The big album release, the high-octane gigs in slightly too small venues, the non-album single, the disappointing second record. Hell, we’ve all just lived out lives with The Vaccines/James Blake/The Naked And Famous in our heads.

Let’s take a risk and spend some time with something that may be rather good instead. And I’m talking longer term – not just for 2011.

You Animals have been signed to This Is Fake DIY Records, which is already home to We Are The Physics, Popular Workshop and The Victorian English Gentlemens Club. They’re from Derby and the cover of the Japanese release of their debut album (Crimes, Creeps and Thrills) looks like Admiral Ackbar in front view.


But most importantly, they’ve got a couple of songs that are more than a wee bit listenable.

‘What You Want/What You Need’ is the prime cut amongst these, with some shouty gang vocals that make for obvious comparison to Los Campesinos!. Musically, rather than being charmingly shambolic they’re sharp and tight, walking the fine line between indiepop and post-punk revival. It’s guaranteed to make your feet move.

Otherwise there’s the punk-pop goodness of ‘Halfway to Heartbreak’ and indie-rock epic ‘Shotgun Valentine’ – both of which are available as free downloads with corresponding b-sides at You Animals bandcamp page.

previous singles by You Animals

If you can’t wait until the spring for the UK release of the album or require further proof then listen to this EP of alternate/gentler mixes and takes.

Same Sky, Different Sea E.P.
Same Sky, Different Sea E.P. by You Animals

No hyperbole – You Animals are a strong band with good material and I’ll be keeping an ear out for forthcoming material. You should as well.

Let’s have those links again:

Monday, 3 January 2011

Track of the Week: Pete And The Pirates - 'Winter 1'

And so we kick of 2011 with a brand spanking new song from artpop heroes Pete And The Pirates. Little Death was one of my top records of 2008 and it's been a nailbiter waiting for the Reading band to return.

As always, Track of the Week is merely my way of pointing you towards a single new song that's very much worth listening to this week at expense of any others.

'Winter 1' is the first taster of the forthcoming Pete And The Pirates New Record (as it's being referred to) on Stolen Recordings. It showcases a fairly large leap in the bands sound, being built around a repetitive bass line as it toys with a cyclical structure. This prevents the song from being as immediate as first album singles such as 'Mr Understanding' or 'Come On Feet', but lends the song a fresher air. The fairground organ that enters a quarter the way from the end instantly recalls Modern Life Is Rubbish era Blur, but aside from this it's hard to draw comparisons between the new Pete And The Pirates sound and anyone else around.

Multiple listens ensure that 'Winter 1' becomes a surprising earworm and the unexpected nature of the new sound guarantees the return for more.

As well as the video below 'Winter 1' is available as a free download from the Pete And The Pirates bandcamp page. Alongside this there is also a free EP of demos called Precious Tones which is similarly worth grabbing.

Pete and the Pirates - Winter 1 from Stolen Recordings on Vimeo.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Happy New Year Pop Fans!

Thanks to everyone's who's kept with me and helped in their own way to keep pop loud over the past year, I hope 2010 was as good for you as it was for proper music.

As far as I can see 2011 is set to be a good one. The January release season is already looking pretty hot with new albums from British Sea Power, The Go! Team, The Joy Formidable and Noah & The Whale immanent and even Franz Ferdinand in the studio.

On top of that this blog is now hosted at – so update your bookmarks accordingly – with a brand new focus on the underground/independent world of artrock and indiepop . In 2011 you can expect to hear about exciting bands new and old that are not getting talked about every place else. Some come to Keep Pop Loud for all the indie-artpop goodeness than you can shake a stick at with a Track of the Week every Monday and links, videos, rants and reviews the rest of the time.

Here's a sample of some more of the acts you can expect to hear about over the next 12 months...

Pete & The Pirates / Johnny Foreigner / You Animals / Thomas Tantrum / Darren Hayman / MJ Hibbett / The Popguns / Slow Club / Those Dancing Days / Allo Darlin' / Flashguns / Dananananaykroyd / Madame Ray / The Attika State / Hot Club de Paris / The Answering Machine / Bromheads / Edwyn Collins / Tellison / Future Of The Left / Copy Haho / Los Campesinos! / Mariachi El Bronx / Standard Fare / The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart / Esben And The Witch / The Crookes / Ash / Stagecoach / Malachai / The Boy Least Likely To / Chapel Club / Young Knives / The Neat / The Futureheads / Wolf Gang / Orphan Boy / HTRK / Your Twenties / The Victorian English Gentlemens Club / Brakes / Rose Elinor Dougall / Lemuria / Sparky Deathcap / Gaz Coombes / Blood Oranges / The Radio Dept. / Bearsuit / Art Brut

… anything released on Big Scary Monsters or Alcopop! Records

… and The Hives (with some luck)

… and Pulp