Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Live Review: Stagecoach at SAWA, Sheffield

I've been around Sheffield for the best part of six years now, so when I see that a must see band are playing a venue that I've never heard of I'm understandable baffled. Scouting out SAWA on the way to see Young Knives the week before I managed to confirm that the place existed and on the Friday of a nice Bank Holiday weekend took myself down there for a night of pop fun.

Now, if you've never been into SAWA before and go for a gig you may be slightly baffled. The entrance takes you into a bar on the ground floor with no obvious stage or music set-up. This is because the venue is upstairs through a slightly different entrance. It wasn't open when I got there so I was slightly confused. But hey, that's all in a days work. Luckily Stagecoach appeared before long, so I went over to them and said hi.

Now if you ever get the chance to chat to Stagecoach you'll discover that they are as nice a bunch of chaps as their music is awesome. That's to say, very. So after some nattering we all went upstairs to watch first band Scholars (who aren't to be confused with the Oxford post-punk band The Scholars). Now although they didn't do masses for me it has to be said that by a long distance, Scholars were the best support band of the night. Playing aggressive post-hardcore they were impossible to ignore. With the singer coming through the crowd and delivering his scream/growled vocals inches from the faces of members of the audience.

With the relentless energy of Pulled Apart By Horses and the knowing humour of The Computers, Scholars certainly made a name for themselves as a band to watch out for. They may not quiet be at their full potential yet, but when they are they'll be fantastic.

After Scholars (who were playing ridiculously early) there was another few support bands to get through, one of whom I'll admit I didn't see at all. One of the ones I did catch I think were called Bravestation. With a contemporary pop sound there was flecks of The xx, Yeasayer and Foals in what they did, but without any of the idiosyncrasies that makes any of those three interesting. Admittedly the gloopy sound at the venue didn't help and you've got to wonder if it was worth them coming all the way over from Canada to play anonymously on a bill like this.

Again, if memory serves then the main support were called Smugglers Run, who didn't live up the promise of their band name, instead sounding a like a weak Funeral For A Friend.

The ridiculous amount of support bands ensured that everything was running late, and Stagecoach didn't take to the stage until about half 11-ish. Still it was entirely worth the wait. Opening with 'Hieroglyphics' and following it up with 'We Got Tazers' they showcased exactly why they're one of the most fun bands in the country right now. But sadly things just didn't seem to be going the bands way. Jostling in front of the small-but-dedicated crowd of Stagecoach fans were several-too-many photographers who insisted in capturing the entire set with their high powered cameras and flashes. This ensured that those who'd actually paid to go and see the band were forced to watch the whole thing either through a 3 inch screen or over the shoulder of someone who had zero interest in what the band were actually playing.

Still, Stagecoach were fantastic. Playing 'Tony Hawk' from their new single, you can't help but think “Yes, this is it! This is what I got into music for”. Then the power cuts out to the entire stage. Valiantly attempting to continue acoustically for a chorus the song is abandoned when power finally returns. Well, that's to say most of the power, for the lone light that the five piece were expected to play by has failed to re-materialise. This combined with the dodgy stage monitors and late running makes you think that this whole set is cursed, but eventually someone turns the house lights on above the stage and it's firing on all cylinders.

It's got to be said that Stagecoach took all of the problems really well and played fantastically the whole way through, delivering an excellent set of killer grunge pop. 'Not Even Giles Would Say We'll Be OK!!!', 'Jonah Lomu' and 'Ice Age' all got airings and dedicated sing alongs from the members of Team PoP present. Closing their all-too-short set with 'Good Luck With Your 45', the mandolin is passed to a member of the crowd whilst Tom takes his mic into the audience the lead the singalong.

Once it's done the band quickly set about getting packed up. They've got a fair drive ahead of them and I've got a forty minute walk up-hill. And it's midnight. Sleepy.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Track of the Week: The Horrors - Still Life

I didn't want to do this, truth be told. The Horrors get enough press as it is, and you don't want to come to Keep Pop Loud the whole time to read about NME friendly bands such as these.

But on the other hand, 'Still Life' is so damn good. With 'Whole New Way' being a bit of a misfire post-Primary Colours, it seemed very much like said Mercury nominated LP was a miraculous fluke. That notion has been completely dispelled now, with this gorgeous synthy masterpiece.

The dreamlike ebb and vague '80s recollections (everyone's saying Simple Minds for some reason) somehow come across as a natural evolution from 'Sea Within A Sea'. Farris' croon is simultaneously uber-cool and affecting in the delivering the vocal hook "When you wake up you will find me". That it all concludes with a concoction of sound that recalls The Boo Radleys 'Lazarus' really makes you wonder how The Horrors were ever the garage-goth berks who wrote 'Sheena Is A Parasite'.

It really had to be Track of the Week at the end of the day.

Friday, 27 May 2011

The History Of Apple Pie

It's official. All of the good bands names have been taken. I think that Our Lost Infantry took the last one. Now we've got bands with names like Not Cool, Grouplove and the ungooglable Best Friends. Hey don't get me wrong. Great bands all, but not great moinikers, if we're honest.

Worst of all though are The History Of Apple Pie. A band with a name so bad that I almost didn't bother checking them out. Just on principle. Well, that and the fact that NME seem to like them a lot. I've made up for that now though, and bloody good job. The History Of Apple Pie are everything that we want in a bunch of young upstarts, and may well be able to one day give The Pains of Being Pure At Heart and Best Coast a run for their money.

OK, that may be a bit hyperbolic at the moment. I'm saying that off the basis of only one track. That track is called 'Tug' and you're going to listen to it right now.

Tug by The History Of Apple Pie

The Pains & Best Coast references weren't just thrown out there based on not-great band names y'know. That sublime fuzzyness you can hear. That heart on sleeve, sumptuous melody. Well that's just ruddy special. In fact I'm almost afraid to listen to much more in case it ruins the illusion.

(Please note: I have actually listened to some more and they are brilliant)

I've been REALLY good to you this week so far. So seeing as it's Friday listen to this and wind down for the weekend. I'm just sorry that yr going to feel embarrased when someone asks you what yr listening to and you have to respond with “Why, this is The History Of Apple Pie.”

The History Of Apple Pie are playing the following dates:
The Sect – London – June 2nd
Indietracks Festival – July 30th
Field Day Festival – August 6th

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Album Review: Art Brut - Brilliant! Tragic!

Label: Cooking Vinyl
Released: May 23rd

Regular as clockwork, you can rely on Art Brut to put out a quality album every two years. And we all know what to expect, buzzsaw guitars, art-punk anthems and a bloke talking over the top about girls, pop music and comic books. Well; check, check and …sorta check. You see, the big shock about Art Brut’s fourth album is that Mr Eddie Argos has actually learnt how to sing.

Lead single ‘Lost Weekend’ is a good example of this, and a continuation of Art Brut’s fascination with weekends. The whispered singing may imply that Eddie still isn’t fully comfortable with his new-found skill, but with the singles tale of drunkenness and romance it’s easy to envisage this as the necessity of a thumping hangover. More conventionally delivered is ‘Clever Clever Jazz’, a steady builder of a song that lurches into shouty punk choruses.

Elsewhere Art Brut demonstrate how far they’ve grown under the guidance of producer Frank Black. ‘Is Dog Eared’ in particular confines the guitars to staccato stabs on hard pans, whilst Freddie Feedbacks utterly fantastic sounding bass rumbles through what one of Art Brut’s longest songs ever. There are even a couple of quieter moments in ‘Sexy Sometimes’ and the acoustic intro to ‘Ice Hockey’, the former self-deprecatingly tender and bruised, the latter startling even in the context of Brilliant! Tragic!.

When it all boils down to it however, this is still very much an Art Brut album and you’ll not mistake it as anyone else. There’s wonderful and humorous lyrics throughout, a reminder of the days when people assumed the band were a novelty, with the best coming in ‘Bad Comedian’. “He dresses like he came free with the NME. How can you bear to hold his hand? I bet he signs his name in Comic Sans.” is possibly the best put-down outside of rap and is delivered with perfect timing, immediately discrediting the new boyfriend of an ex with truly Argos-ian wit.

On top of all of the expected and unexpected, it also needs noting that Brilliant! Tragic! Contains Art Brut’s most full on songs to date. ‘Martin Kemp Welch Five A-Side Football Rules’ and ‘Axl Rose’ are both blistering punk-pop hits that strip away all of their evolution and go straight for the jugular. “When the world’s got you by the fucking throat! Who do you want in your corner? Axl Rose!” is so ferociously delivered that it breaks down even KPL’s prejudices against the titular singer.

Closing with ‘Sealand’ is a wonderful move. A simple love song that even resolves It’s A Bit Complicated’s ‘People In Love’. Most shockingly of all ‘Sealand’ suggests that Eddie has found contentment. His relationship is transported somewhere outside of jurisdiction, somewhere isolated and somewhere that the two of them can truly build their own world. It’s all that any of us want at the end of the day, and Eddie’s way of getting straight to the heart of his songs subject and fans hearts means that it’s a perfect closing statement for the record.

If there’s one tragedy about this brilliant album it’s that now that Art Brut are established and the initial excitement of their existence is gone it’s going to get taken for granted.

Art Brut!
Mercury Prize!
Art Brut!
Mercury Prize!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011


I wanted to go for things at complete opposite ends of the spectrum today, so that's why I'm overwhelming you with two bands. Doubtlessly you'll have seen this morning's post on Gutter Popsters Not Cool. If you've not then go and listen to them once you've read a little bit about soon-to-be-fawned-over folksters Balto.

If you just baulked at the use of the word folksters there then you're probably not alone. In all honesty I didn't really expect to get a lot from this, but honestly think that it's rather ace. I undertand that it's easy to feel fatigue for the dominance of Mumford & Sons and Fleet Foxes, but as far as I'm concerned at KPL as long as you've got a good thing going it shouldn't matter which way the winds are blowing in the charts.

You see, where the aforementioned Mumford are pillaging an imagined idea of an idylic British past, this six-piece plunge into the roots music of both America and Russia ('TransSiberian Americana' indeed), but neatly sidestep Uncut friendly territory. Theirs is tales of railyards and factories, with the feel of a turning point between rustic and industrial. This is gently ushered along by the combination of traditional instruments such as harmonica and double bass with a modern production finish.

More than anyone else Balto are comparable to last year's unearthed gems Larsen B, who are very much worth checking out if you've the time. What makes Balto particularly special is their willingness to strip everything down so far it almost disappears. 'Railyard' gets so quiet at times it's barely there. Ghostly harmonies recalling the snow swept streets of a harsh winter. In many ways Balto have appeared at the wrong time of year, but listening to them will make you want to curl up in front of a fire safe and warm from the elements.

That's 'Railyard' there, and if you can get past the initial vocal harmonies which may recall some of what we've come to expect from commercial folk-pop, you will hear everything that I've said about above. It's from their album October's Road, which so far only seems to be available from their Bandcamp for US dollars. but will be availble in the UK from June 27th.

Balto have a fantastic backstory that involves mainman Daniel Sheron abandoning Moscow life to go it alone in Siberia but are now based in New York. So, just take one listen and I guarentee you'll be hooked. But give it a chance. This isn't Not Cool, who're gonna smack you about with some obvious noise. This is quiet and it's not pop but it'll appeal to anyone who dug Bon Iver's sense of isolated melancholy, and that was everyone with a heart.

Very very promising

Not Cool

I know I say 'indiepop' when I describe what Keep Pop Loud covers but I mean it in the loosest possible sense. Well really I use it because there's not really a word for the sort of thing that I do cover. 'Fight Pop' sorta cuts it for JoFo and Los Camp! but doesn't so much for Art Brut et al. You know what is a good term to use though?

Gutter Pop.

That's what Not Cool (songs play automatically) are described as any way. And it's a great term. We can't go anywhere without having to look up at 'stars', so why not say that we're all in the gutter. At least we can say we're in it together. It's a good place to be. The music's good.

Like Johnny Foreigner scrapping with No Age, Not Cool play punk music that's exciting, bristling and vital. They've just released a mini-album with Sleep All Day Records which goes under the apt name of Rugged Raw. You can stream some of the album by clicking that link there. There's even a free download of the excellently named 'Perfect Hair Forever'.

Opening with 'Retired To Stud', it's immediately gripping. The buzzsaw guitars ensure that the sweet vocal harmonies come across as hunting rather than endearing and minimal intrusion of the production ensures that the drums sound like drums rather than over-processed clattering. With a roomy echo that makes it feel like Not Cool recorded in a basement (a feel that's helped by the vieo below), they feel like the sort of band that you want pummelling yr eardrums .

This Is Fake DIY said that Not Cool “make you sweat just listening to it” and I'm finding it hard to disagree. The video to 'Queens' is squeezing itself out of my puny laptop and I'm trying to put into words just how much you need to give it the chance to wrap itself around yr pop buds.

If you like mclusky, Pixes, Johnny Foreigner, Dananananaykroyd, Male Bonding, No Age or any group of kids who like to force loud pop music into your face with sleezed up guitars (and who are not afraid of putting an actual song in there) you will definitely dig Not Cool. Go now. You've got all of the links.

Pretty tempted now to change the blurb on Keep Pop Loud to “Sheffield's only Gutter Pop Blog. Awesomely.” What do you think?

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Live Review: Flash Fiktion, The Neat & Young Knives @ Academy 2, Sheffield

I rarely venture to the Academy. The corporate branding doesn't help, and the fact that since one opened in Leeds bands just don't seem to bother with Sheffield any more. There's some acts that I just can't resist seeing however and when Young Knives announced that Hull newcomers The Neat were to be support for the Artrocker Tour there's no way that Keep Pop Loud could not be there.

Opening act Flash Fiktion played to a gradually filling room, and although they can't be said to have the most original sound on the planet, they came across very well, performing a solid set. Recalling Two Door Cinema Club with their combination of electronic elements and live instrumentation they're essentially Artrocker Magazine's wet dream. Occasional punky bursts of guitar and an undercurrent of Friendly Fires pop nous means that Flash Fiktion are probably going to go quite far.

The Neat are an altogether more storming proposition however. Barely controlled intensity and a ferocious sound, on record they're great – live they're unstoppable. Looking dapper in sharp suits and fringes, singer/bassist Merrik Sanders is flanked by his guitar toting cohorts. 'In Youth Is Pleasure' of course proves to be the highlight of the set, as it would be in the set of most acts but it's not all that they have in their arsenal. 'New Kids' in particular makes us want an album from the four-piece NOW whilst closer 'Hips', which sees Merrik on the front barrier playing in the face of the crowd, leaves no doubt that the audience are going to go away without strong memories of The Neat. Absolutely tremendous.

Thanks to a long day KPL is pretty tired by this point and it seems an age before Young Knives take to the stage. It's not really that long, not when considering how long it's been since we last saw the band closing Fuzz Club, but when they do appear it's like seeing some old friends again. There's no tweed in sight, Henry's even wearing a t-shirt, whilst Oliver, with his 'tasch and large headphones looks like an RAF pilot from WWII. They're the perennial outsiders of pop, but when they open with 'Terra Firma' it's more than obvious how they've gatecrashed the charts.

Thankfully there's a really decent crowd for Young Knives, even if it's apparent that a sizeable amount of them are yet to hear the excellent Ornaments From The Silver Arcade. Any time that a moment from their Mercury nominated debut is aired there's a massive sense of excitement from the audience. 'Loughborough Suicides' sees Henry joke about The House Of Lords vocal “I love it when we play that song,” he says afterwards, addressing House “Your voice is booming. It's like Brian Blessed.”

The hits come thick and fast. 'Human Again', 'Weekends And Bleak Days', 'Part Timer', 'Running From A Standing Start', 'Love My Name' (“let's gloss over the fact that this didn't do very well,” they comment “I mean it really didn't do very well.”) and one of my favourite songs of all time 'Turn Tail'. Even when it's stripped of its soaring string section it never fails to raise goosebumps. The only trouble with it is that it's one of only two songs from Superabundance to get an airing. Still, that's a minor gripe. Whatever Young Knives song play from their catalogue is going to sound fantastic. Especially if that's 'She's Attracted To'. It's not just the crowd that gets carried away during this, House Of Lords decides he can play drums and takes to smacking Oliver's ride whilst Henry leads the “You were screaming at your mum and I was punching your dad” chant.

Joking about the non-event that was Saturday night's rapture Young Knives finish the main set with
'Silver Tongue'/'Storm Clouds' the tremendous two-parter from Ornaments that takes their incredible pop ability through it's paces before walloping us with the heaviest thing they've ever done. Had the world ended at this point we'd have had the perfect apocalyptic soundtrack and died happy. Luckily it doesn't and the band get to encore.

Two House fronted tracks close the evening even though the clock is yet to hit 10. Although 'The Decision' is expected 'Sister Frideswide' doesn't disappoint. “This one's about a sexy nun” the band say before launching into what is easily one of the best tracks of 2011. Of course once this is done it's time for the band to play the song that adorned more t-shirts here tonight than any other. “I wore the blue with the green, I wore the blue with the green,” yes they can't get away with not playing 'The Decision'. If there's another band that can goad a room full of people into declaring at the tops of their voices that they are the Prince of Wales then I really want to hear about it. Endearingly bonkers and proof that Young Knives are truly one of our great bands.

Funny and fun whilst being arty and crazily clever. Young Knives are in that class of band alongside Art Brut that never fail and who's continued existence just makes life that little bit more worth living.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Track of the Week: BLESSA – Vices

EDIT: At the time this was written BLESSA were operating under the name Jack Rabbit.

Hopefully you remember Jack Rabbit. They were featured on Keep Pop Loud a few weeks ago. “Sheffield's newest hot property” I said. And that's still the case.

Well, this last week they landed a brand new song from a forthcoming EP that's currently in the process of being recorded. 'Vices' is an epic piece of indie rock that pairs the rattling of effected guitars and the striking female vocal and delivers on all of the promise of their early live sets. Deftly showcasing a combination of influences from both ends of the spectrum 'Vices' could easily be described as a combination of shoegaze and pop.

Although it's still very early days and there's a distance for Jack Rabbit to travel before they reach the mega status that they're destined for, there's little doubt that the band have got what it takes. With the right producer they'll be unstoppable, so get in now.

Vices by BLESSA

Friday, 20 May 2011

Our Lost Infantry

It’s not unheard of that several bands will surface at once, linked not by a location or sound but by a common intangible thread. A vague sonic aesthetic that means you just want to get the bands on a tour together and make sweet sweet carnage across the UK.

At the moment something seems to be bubbling up and could well be about to break the surface. With Alcopop! recently having signed both Jumping Ships and LightGuides who sit somewhere just outside of being punk, and Oxford tunesmiths Spring Offensive gradually making a name for themselves (check out this cover of ‘Bonkers’) now seems like a good time to introduce Our Lost Infantry to a wider audience.

Combining this rough edged rock with pianos and raw backing vocals, Our Lost Infantry certainly know how to pen a tune. There’s a level of intricacy to the arrangements that implies that, like Jumping Ships, they’ve a taste for post-rock and ensures that they're very difficult to pigeonhole as anything other than being a rock band. All of this is best displayed on their current single 'I Love You Sandra Billson (The Last Dance)’.

As well as being excellent, that single and accompanying B-Side ('Stalemate') are available from the Our Lost Infantry bandcamp for an amount of your choosing. Which is something that no-one can complain about.

For geography fans, Our Lost Infantry (can we call them OLI?) are based in Aldershot. So you Southern pop fans should go and see them if they're near you at some point (Upcoming shows include Guilford, Winchester, Harrow and Aldershot - more info at their bandcamp) - Of course this is demonstrative of how there are occasional disadvantages of being Sheffield based.

As well as 'Sandra Bilson', 'Stalemate' and 'Parkin' OLI have a handful of other songs that the uninitated should look at, including debut single 'The Arsonist', which leans more heavily on a keyboard. In the vicinity of Tellison, it's a bit of a cracker as you can see below:

With those songs and links in mind I'll leave you to enjoy Our Lost Infantry in peace. And I guarantee that you'll enjoy them.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Compilation Review: Hello Pink Mist

Released: April 16th
Label: Pink Mist

There's little sexier than a pink 12” arriving through yr letterbox. And there we can end the inuendo. This compilation from the Pink Mist collective (Holy Roar, Big Scary Monsters, Blood And Biscuits) is a fantastic introduction to the three labels and was originally released for last month's record store day. And if you don't know what to expect, could prove to be a bit of an eye opener.

One of the bigger names on the compilation, Three Trapped Tigers open proceedings and are becoming rather renowned in certain circles for their 65daysofstatic style post-rock electronica. On the basis of 'Cram' you can really understand why. Its percussion is clattering whilst the lower end throbs underneath math-pop guitars. Similarly fresh is Teej, whose 'Galactic' is like Midnight Juggernauts should sound. Epic and blissful, this is instrumental pop for prog fans. And yes, that's a compliment.

Knowing that BSM are involved it's not a surprise that there's a few examples of noisy, abrasive art-punk.†Hymns† and Shapes both bring two piece a two piece dynamic and earsplitting songs, whilst Grates attempt to throw with a hip-hop sample before throwing 'Aneurysm' full pelt in yr face. As brutal as these can get however, it's Hang The Bastard who bring the heaviest moment on Hello Pink Mist.

Metal with a smidgen of hardcore influence 'The Great Destroyer' will sit well with Mastodon fans but is without any wankery or prog-isms. It's raw right now, but there's no doubt that Hang The Bastard will refine their sound before long. Unlike run,WALK! whose screaming assult is choc with nasty sounding guitars and what may have at some point been a keyboard. It's barely coherent and much more frantic than anything else on offer.

Like Side A, Side B of the vinyl offers a plethora of unusual treats. Whether it's Bastions' method of getting in and out whilst causing as many casualties as possible on 'Warmth Of The World' or Delta/Alaska's gorgeous and intricate fuzzy indie-math-pop there's something to discover that you won't have considered before. It makes it something of a shame that the vinyl has sold out already. Still, you can investigate the bands separately, and in the case of Delta/Alaska I strongly recommend that you do.

The last two tracks that come highly recommended from the compilation are LA2019 and Tall Ships. The latter of which I can guarantee you are going to come across elsewhere before the year is out. On Big Scary Monsters things are really starting to happen for the band, and on the basis of this remix of 'Snow' you can hear something really special. The glitchy beats back the original vocal croon, whose slight whine betrays a Radiohead influence, but surpasses it in every way. It's ACE! But arguably pales into comparison to 'Water' by LA2019, whose future-pop is way too short at just shy of five minutes in length. And it's not often I'll say that.

It is however often that I'll stress how amazing the British underground is right now. There's plenty of entrance routes and plenty of overlapping scenes. For the heavier and more experimental end of things say hello to Pink Mist!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The Answering Machine Split

Sad news yesterday when The Answering Machine announced that they've decided to call it a day in their current form.

In a handwritten note that you can see on their website they state that after some soul searching they have “decided to stop making music as The Answering Machine” and that “it obviously hasn't been an easy decision.”

I first encountered The Answering Machine in the Autumn Term of 2006 in my second year of University. I was working at the Students Union at the time on the technical crew and The Answering Machine came through Fuzz Club (THE indiepop club to end all indiepop clubs) in support of The Rumble Strips. It transpired that this event was my first time behind a lighting desk, and although I can't remember if I operated the lights for the then three-piece the event was the first of many that I would be the 'lampy' for.

After The Answering Machine/Rumble Strips Fuzz Club I went on to do the lights for many many bands (Ash, The Long Blondes, The Futureheads, Dinosaur Pile-Up, The Wombats, Pete And The Pirates, Roots Manuva, Wild Beasts, Matt & Kim to name but a few) in many capacities. But The Answering Machine will always be the first to take to the stage under my lighting rig.

Of course it took them a while to follow up these early gigs with an album. After becoming a four-piece and ditching drum machine Mustafa Beat; Martin, Pat, Gemma and Ben recorded and released Another City, Another Sorry. That was in 2009. The spiky indie rock was at odds with the flacid jangly mainstream of the time and still sounds excellent now. It cemented their place in my heart and made the Keep Pop Loud Top 20 Albums of the Year list.

Around the same time as the list was compiled I reviewed the band's live set for This Is Fake DIY and sadly this would be the second and last time that I'd get to see them live.

Still, with Track of the Week spots for singles 'Animals' and 'Lifeline' their second album was hugely anticipated by the now indiepop centric Keep Pop Loud. It's still one of the best of the year, if not the best. Needless to say Lifeline got a glowing review  (the phrase “utterly spectacular “is used) as did the Rarities 2006-2009 EP. Neither seemed like the work of a band who'd given their last.

It's sad that a band split when they're just reaching their stride and we can only wish The Answering Machine well in whatever musical ventures they chose to take up next.

Give us a call guys or at least leave a message.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Track Of The Week: Pris – The Better You Look The More You See

Pris have unveiled their debut single and in an unrelated activity, begun their legend. 'The Better You Look The More You See' captures their balance of the really clever/really dumb pop as well as their Twitter attack on Guillemots and their fans captures their godawful/amazing attitude problem.

Imaging that beautiful universe where Art Brut brought back Top Of The Pops. Yeah, on this TOTP 'The Better You Look' is the theme tune and Pris are about to become one of the most well known names in the UK. It's a fucking sexy universe where that dickhead from Glasvegas died at birth and Kenickie are still going.

But in this universe, Pris are either fucking amazing or a pile of shit. It depends on how cloth-eared you are. They have IT so hard they can only fail spectacularly or take it all the way. They're Track of the Week on Keep Pop Loud, so what do you reckon we think?

Ace wordplay. Classic PoP. A brit-pop-punk “Fuck You” to shit music.

Pris - The Better You Look The More You See. by Somethingfortheweekend

They are wrong about Guillemots though.

Friday, 13 May 2011

EP Review: My First Tooth – Sleet And Snow

Released: April 11th
Label: Alcopop! Records

'Sleet And Snow' itself is a sample from My First Tooth's full length record Territories, and as it's backed by one new demo and a live recording it's very much a single rather than an EP. However, as said record and the band who made it have been totally under-appreciated by pretty much everyone in the world this deserves a full review in order that you understand completely what you've been (in all likelihood) missing out on.

Like the artwork, there's a timeless quality to My First Tooth's folky indiepop. Rooted in acoustic instrumentation and backed by an array of percussion, there's no pomp to MFT, 'Sleet and Snow' is delicate and sublime. Torn between the banjo jangle and piano tinkling, the ears soon veer towards the vocals which waste no time in getting to the hook “If you're sleet, I'm snow”. Of course from that description you could be fooled into thinking that MFT are Mumford wannabes, and that's the fault more of language than anything else, for where M&S can frequently grate with their ambition of mass appeal and shiny production, MFT are rougher around the edges with charm and heart written all over their music.

Opening with whistling is a brave move on the demo of 'Courthouse' but as the acoustic guitar is backed by little other than this, hand-claps and vocal harmonies, the emphasis is placed on how stripped bare the band are. At times it feels so slight that it might just blow away in a breeze, but the more sparse moments somehow serve to anchor it and ensure that 'Courthouse' is all the more beautiful.

Last up is 'Take The Airship'. Recorded live it has a wonderful title and the feel of a lullaby. Fingers brushing on the strings can be heard adding to the feel that this is proper folk music. Folk as in music of the people, designed more to be performed live to those who happen to be around. And where folk is more and more frequently used as a term to sell records and neckerchiefs 'Take The Airship' feels really special. Like being sung to sleep by someone who means the world to you.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

EP Review: Freeze The Atlantic – Colour By Numbers

Released: 18th April
Label: Alcopop! Records

Called as such because the EP comes with some crayons and the option to colour in the front cover, Colour By Numbers marks the debut of Freeze The Atlantic on Alcopop! Records and the start of what's clearly going to be something a bit ace.

Formed from members of Hundred Reasons and Reuben, Freeze The Atlantic are an entirely new proposition that sound unafraid of embracing their roots in the British post-hardcore movement of the early 2000's. Arguably less abrasive then they were in previous guises however, there's a kinship on 'Waking Up' (the opening track on the EP) with Dinosaur Pile-Up and an argument for them being seen as a British version of Foo Fighters at their peak.

As great as the lead track is however, it's eclipsed completely by 'The Alibi'. Mixing the grunge tinged guitars with top-notch drumming that mixes a four-to-the-floor chorus with tom rolls and fills in the skycraping-yet-pummeling bridge it's much more individual and not as easy to pigeon-hole. Based on 'The Alibi' alone it's easy to see Freeze The Atlantic making a big name for themselves in the PoP underground in the next year, and by the time the album lands we can fully expect them to be breaking out to the next level.

Closing with an acoustic version of 'Broken Bones' FTA take it down a notch, and whilst the rendition doesn't break any new musical ground it shows the bare bones of what's clearly a darn good song. If or when 'Broken Bones' gets unleashed in it's full form it's more than a little bit likely to be a crowd pleaser.

So, it's early days yet but Freeze The Atlantic have learned much from their years in this music game and they're applying themselves very well to this project. Expect brilliant things in the future and pick up this EP now for an ace taster in a unique package.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Thomas Tantrum - Hot Hot Summer

Last video of the day - I promise. But I KNOW that you'll want to hear this one.

Artpop stars Thomas Tantrum yesterday confirmed all of the details of their second album. About bloody time, says I. But less of my impatience. The record is going to be called Mad By Moonlight and is due on June 12th. This is the tracklisting:

1. Tick Tock (Satie)
2. Face The Music
3. Cold Gold
4. Sleep
5. Hot Hot Summer
6. We Are The People
7. Only Human
8. Turning Blue
9. On The Phone
10. Betty Blue
11. All In Your Head
12. Supermodel

And with new albums there always comes new singles and new videos. So have a listen to 'Hot Hot Summer'. (Although now you've heard the title you're probably thinking of the Young Knives song 'Weekends And Bleak Days'). Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked again. You want a nice soundbite so you know what yr letting yrself in for don't you.

Pop perfection of the highest order. This slender new wave treat is up to the high standards that we expect from Thomas Tantrum. A band who show no signs of ever letting the quality dip below excellent.

Bordeauxxx - Every Holiday Is A Disaster

Second video of the day. Yes, I'm spoiling/bombarding you, but there's some bands that I just couldn't resist.

You may remember that I wrote an all too brief post on Bordeauxxx previous video 'Heartstrings' back in February. If you don't remember it go back now and have a quick look. I'll wait here.

Ace isn't it. Well they're back with a new single that's equally as brilliant. What's more it's available as a 'pay what you like' download from the Bordeauxxx bandcamp. Go and grab it.

In the intricate and clattering vain of Los Campesinos!, 'Every Holiday Is A Disaster' is one of those pieces of life-affirming indiepop that's guaranteed to rattle around your head for better or worse. It's a contemporary jangle that's an alternative to the American lo-fi. Also, it is utterly splendid. Watch it below.

Of course if you're like me then you prefer physical releases. The Bordeauxxx shop is here and has a limited number of physical copies of the single alongside the previous EP Mother's Ruin.

There's a Keep Pop Loud announcement coming soon that I'm ecstatic to say involves Bordeauxxx and 'Every Holiday Is A Disaster' so follow the KPL Twitter to make sure that you don't miss it!

Tellison - Say Silence (Heaven & Earth)

There's so much good stuff going off right now in Pop that I could never hope to bring you it all. Today I'll try my best however, by bringing you three of the hottest tracks to have landed in the past 48 hours or so. Any other week any of these could be Track of the Week.

Keep Pop Loud do love Tellison. 'Collarbone' proved to be one of the highlights of he end half of 2010 and said single is still one of my favourite little releases to listen to.

So I couldn't let it pass that they've got a new video for their ace new single 'Say Silence (Heaven & Earth)', the lead from their forthcoming second album The Wages Of Fear.

'Say Silence' hits all of the right places, and if I was less weary of the term then I'd call this spectacular rocker 'emotionally charged'. But that's all too often used when people want to call bands emo without using the word. That's not the case here. Tellison are skyscraping punk pop with pounding drums and massive choruses with debts to both post-hardcore and pop. If you've not come across them before, here's as good a place as any to start. Fans of Young Legionnaire will dig this big time.

Also, it's worth mentioning that the video is pretty spectacular in it's use of moustaches and miniatures.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Track of the Week: Stagecoach – Jonah Lomu / Tony Hawk

The first Stagecoach release to come out on a label other than Alcopop!, double A side 'Jonah Lomu' / 'Tony Hawk' is two utterly brilliant tracks of punked up slacker pop that showcases Stagecoach at their best.

Basically this is mastery not only over the form of pop music but also of popular culture as a whole. Dropping references left, right and centre Stagecoach are a perfect product of the generation that we grew up in. One where the elements in film, TV and computer games are as much a part of the hyper-reality of existence as the everyday. Here Tony Hawk is a game rather than an actual person, whilst blasters are referenced as nonchalantly as if Stagecoach were inside the Star Wars galaxy.

But of course, we could be reading far too much into things there. 'Jonah Lomu' opens with a fuzzed up riff that recalls early Weezer, whilst the “woo-ooo-ooo-oooh” come from the same place as Blur's self titled record. Yes, there's more than a touch of pop-punk present, but it's something that when deployed this skilfully is utterly joyous. Despite being about bullying. Hmmm...

On the flip-side is 'Tony Hawk', a biting attack on privileged Uni students who throw away an opportunity on playing Tony Hawk games all day. With a stop-and-start chorus it begs for there to be fists in the air at festivals and it's something that we're more than happy to comply with.

Basically Stagecoach are going to own this summer. If you're not onto them yet then this forthcoming single on (the always brilliant) This Is Fake DIY is the perfect place to start. But you might as well go and pick up their two EPs right now too!

Jonah Lomu by stagecoachuk

Friday, 6 May 2011

Album Review: H Bird – Operation: Fascination

Released: 10th January
Label: Corporate Records

London based and apparently active on the indiepop scene for some years, H Bird's debut record Operation: Fascination dropped back in January to sadly little attention. Thankfully a couple of months is nothing when yr pop comes perfectly crafted and on this record there's songs that could turn out to be as timeless as those that inspired it.

There's no doubt that H Bird wear their influences on their sleeves. A love of Saint Etienne is more than apparent in the nonchalant vocals of Kate Dornan whilst the markings of early '90s Pulp comes across in the keyboard arrangements of multi-instrumentalist Aug Stone. Far from being mere pastiche or rehashes of the artpop of the 1990's however these are translated into perfect pocket sized pop songs that, over the course of Operation: Fascination fail to feel repetitive or dull in the slightest.

Down as much to the fact that no one is mining this set of influences right now, the structuring of the record is essential in ensuring this vitality. Split loosely into two halves, the front sees the upbeat electro-pop dominating, whilst 'side two' is the moments where we see a wider breadth of instruments slower tempos and more space. It also transpires that these sides are marked by the two best songs on the record, opener 'Violet' and H Bird's first single 'Pink Lights And Champagne' which although not telling the full story give the listener a fair idea of what to expect.

From the Pipettes like vocal harmonies and Dubstar sense of melancholy on '100 Days' to the drum machine patter that opens 'Danger Makers' there's a deftness of touch that adds an extra dimension to H Birds glamorous pop. 'Die B├╝chlein' is a perfect example of the more acoustic side to H Bird all the while complementing the more electronic side. The juxtaposition serving to showcase the crisp sound and exquisite production that ensures the record not only hangs together but elevates Operation: Fascination above most of it's contemporaries.

But if there is one criticism of Operation: Fascination it is that it's a record that you really must be in the mood for. The melodies that can make your heart soar whilst yr wondering lazily though a summer park or buzzing from the thrills of the night-time landscape can serve to press when listened to in such a dreary environment as the morning commute. But that's a minor quibble. This is a great free time record and in the right frame of mind or in the right surroundings nothing will sound or feel better in the world than Operation: Fascination.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

EP Review: Franz Ferdinand - Covers

Released: 2nd May
Label: Domino

Originally released for Record Store Day I was absolutely gutted that I didn't manage to pick up a copy of this EP of Franz Ferdinand songs covered by some top artists. Luckily it was announced pretty close to the actual release date that the EP was getting a full release. Well, I was pretty damn happy with that, because even though Franz have milked Tonight for all that it's worth (Blood dub mix album, Live album available from the shows, a Remix 12” etc) the line up really is top notch.

Debbie Harry is backed by the boys themselves for a run through of 'Live Alone'. Quite nicely it's not simply a re-recording of the vocal by the Blondie legend but a completely new version that blends Franz's way with folkier arrangements to the new wave that made both Ms Harry and FF famous. Backing vocals are cooed seductively and even if Harry's voice isn't what it used to be the version ends up rather dapper.

That's not the only take on 'Live Alone' on the five track EP however. And neither is it the best. Back in 2007 Franz supplied a cover of LCD Soundsystem's masterpiece 'All My Friends' for the single's B-Side, and now LCD return the favour. With Murphy's gang having split the need for this song in our lives becomes even greater, because even though it's not an LCD original the band pull it all out of shape turning 'Live Alone' into a sombre beauty akin to 'All I Want' from This Is Happening. Drawing out the close until the song collapses in on itself, LCD Soundsystem leave us with an clatter of piano and are gone.

Closest to the Franz Ferdinand original are classic New York post-punkers ESG with their take on 'What She Came For'. Chaotic and noisy it demonstrates perfectly how Franz Ferdinand have never moved away from their artistic roots, no matter what their critics claim. Fuzzier and with more cowbell perhaps, but ESG stay thrillingly close to the source material through a shared set of reference points.

The remaining contributions come from Magnetic Fields man Stephen Merritt and Peaches who tackle 'Dream Again' and 'Turn It On' respectively. Neither takes any turns that cannot be expected, with the Peaches contribution being cut from the same cloth as her Stooges 'Seek And Destroy' cover. Pulsing bass and throbbing electro is the order of the day and it remains pretty damn sexy. Merritt on the other hand takes the hazy folk of 'Dream Again' and turns it into hazy dream pop. It's worth remembering here what a fantastic songwriter he is at this point (remember, it was him who gave us 'The Book Of Love') and to say that the Franz song slots perfectly into his cannon is a compliment to both artists.

And that's the point really. Franz have suffered critically of late, and by bringing in the revered to cover their tracks in relatively true ways demonstrates not only how Franz Ferdinand are a fantastic band with integrity and vision but how their pop sensibilities and mainstream success haven't eroded at their creativity or artsiness. Roll on Album #4.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

EP Review: Johnny Foreigner – Certain Songs Are Cursed

Released: 18th April
Label: Alcopop! Records

You can't buy it any more, because it sold out on pre-orders (you can still download it from the usual - itunes, amazon etc) but this latest EP from Johnny Foreigner (their second for Alcopop!) comes on the underside of a Frisbee. It's amazing and another demonstration of why Alcopop! is at the forefront of pop music innovation. But release format aside, is the music any good?

Well, yes. Of course it is. Johnny Foreigner haven't let us down yet and they're not about to start now.

The short and sweet EP begins with the sound of a drum machine, but rather than being Salt, Peppa & Spinderella Mk II the band swing fully into the trademark punk that we know and love them for. 'What Drummers Get' is Johnny Foreigner at their most Johnny Foreigner. With the brilliant lyric “I'm half the man you think I could have been” they demonstrate how they've captured our hearts and won't ever let go. Again, Kelly plays a full role on vocals, complimenting Alexei's semi-incomprehensible treatment of the lyrics

As much as it's easy to get caught up in the vocal and musical interplay between Alexei and Kelly, it needs mentioning that the band wouldn't be who and what they are without ace drummer Junior. His individual style of drumming holds the whole thing together when disparate elements threaten it's collapse in on itself. Take 'Twin Sisterzz' for example. It's pretty chaotic with catchy pop verses and snappier punk thrusts but finds the time and space for a'capella harmonising and additional keyboard textures. Anything less that brilliance on Junior's behalf would mean it's a mess. It's superb. But it's not the best moment on the EP.

No, the highlight here is 'Johnny Foreigner Vs You (Cursed Version)' which sees Alexei and a piano backed by delicate harmonies from Kelly. The tape fuzz over the recording just adds to the tugging at the heartstrings. It sounds weary in the way we all feel from time to time and is indicative of how unjust the world is that JoFo don't get the attention that they deserve.

'Certain Songs' closes ...Are Cursed and is another of Johnny Foreigner's acoustic beauties. Fading to a haze as a spoken word sample discusses the crux of the song. Taking the reverse of the theme The Hold Steady explored on their track of the same name, it's about the music that etches itself into our being despite our hatred or indifference. It's for those of us who had shit times as teenagers sound-tracked by sappy radio pop that keeps coming back to us. “You had your worst ever heartbreak to fucking 'Run' by fucking Snow Patrol”.

I've said it before but it warrants mentioning again. Johnny Foreigner are basically the best band in the world. We're really lucky to have them. So if yr reading this guys then thanks. And I'm sorry that I can't do yr music justice with my words.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

EP Review: The Half Rabbits - Optimists

Released: 19th March
Label: Self Released - get it from The Half Rabbits Bandcamp

Stealthily down in Oxford The Half Rabbits have been concocting some of the freshest and best post-punk in the UK. Their track 'We'll Sleep Again' proved to be a fantastic introduction to the group on the Spires compilation, demonstrating their way with tightly controlled songs, repetitive guitar motifs and snappy drums. Well, less than a year on from releasing their debut album they're rolling out more new material already and breaking out of their Oxford confines. With the Optimists EP The Half Rabbits are putting forward a case for being the most vital young act in Britain.

None of the four songs on Optimists outstay their welcome. Each is dispensed with in under 3 and a half minutes, making its point and abruptly concluding. It's a method that feels right, if somewhat jarring. There's the expectation of some concluding coda thanks to the experience that we've had with more successful post-punk and new wave influenced bands of recent years, but just goes to show how The Half Rabbits are more in tune with the original ideas of the genre than simply the aesthetics.

Take EP opener 'Gasoline'. Tackling the issues of oil slicks and the increasing fear of losing the resource the songs builds up the sense of dread that Cold War era groups managed so effectively. Whilst the lyrics such as “I see the oil slick grow each day” you can feel the oncoming disaster whilst the guitar chimes and popcorn keyboards narrate the tension. The nearest comparrison in contemporary times to this would be early Bloc Party, but where they veered towards po-faced-ness The Half Rabbits keep everything tight and snappy.

'Poor Me, Poor You' completely changes the pace, with a spiky punk kick. With the tightness of early Wire and a frantic pacey chorus it's the most urgent song on Optimists and is certain to win over all those who hear it. Still, at KPL Towers it's following song 'How The West Was Won' that proves to be the EP highlight. Again true to the post-punk spirit it expands it with a quiet/loud dynamic that makes us think of Magazine being played by Pixies. mpeccably produced, the guitars move to and from the fore for either texture or drama. The vocals are, as is a Half Rabbits trademark, emotionally controlled, serving to heighten the tension in the music. It's really special and a wonderful vindication of them as a group.

Optimists closes with 'Extremadura', a more creeping-ly brooding track where the guitars wind through darkened streets that are set out by the cymbal splashes whilst the bass stalks behind. Frontman Michael Weatherburn is at his most Bowie here, with his vocal pitched somewhere between a croon and a bark declaing “It's been a long time” menacingly over again. Sound clips appear in the distance and add to the film-noir feel of crisp melodrama. Stunning.

With these songs in their arsenal and not even being present on an album there's no telling how good The Half Rabbits are going to be when they really hit their stride nationally. As for Optimists, it's going to give everyone else a run for their money when it comes to deciding the best release of the year.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Track Of The Week: H Bird – Violet

I do love it when someone contacts me out of the blue with a music suggestion that presses all of the right buttons. Following on from my Pris coverage H Bird got in contact and mentioned that I might enjoy their stuff. Well, y'know what? - I do.

Completely different to the aforementioned but staying true to the core pop ideals that we jointly hold, H Bird take a dollop of influence from '90s pop legends such as Saint Etienne, Dubstar and Pulp and.... well I'll tell you more about that later in the week when a review of their album Operation: Fascination goes up.

Now, this Track of the Week is the opener from said album and captures their brilliant electronic pop appeal in a nutshell. Disco guitar jabs, rolling synthetic basslines and an ice cool vocal all mix together with a proper chorus to create a piece of perfect pocket sized pop. Frankly it's amazing that H Bird haven't come our way before now, or broken out towards a huge audience. This will make you want to dance under mirrorballs and sing into your hairbrush. Even if you're a guy. What more is there to say?