Big Scary Monsters, the independent record label that's given us releases from (amongst others) Talons, Copy Haho, Tall Ships, Andrew W.K. and Tellison. With their annual download series, now in it's third year, they're going to prove how they're the record label most worthy of the attention of the discerning British rock fan.
From post-rock to weird math-pop and via so many sub-genres inbetween, the '11 Collection cements the Big Scary Monsters sound and is an excellent entry route into the harder end of the pop underground for people too baffled at the sheer scale of it to know where to start.
With a download every week it's easy to absorb each song individually and get a grasp of the full flavour. As a mass the 26 that make up the first six months of the Collection may well blur into a mess of LOUD if approaching them all for the first time. Of course, that's generally the fault of the listener and their lack of experience. Still, kicking things off with Rosa Valle's 'Mathmagician' is something of a smart move, epitomising the core sound (smart, hard rock that goes for the jugular) that spurs on BSM.
But there's many other highlights. For instance, Rival Schools frontman (and BSM signing) Walter Schreifels makes an appearance with the title track of his solo album. Shedding the post-hardcore of his day-job in favour of a semi-acoustic ballad that recalls Frank Turner, 'An Open Letter To The Scene' is a more than suitable advert for his change of direction. Mojo Fury contribute 'The Mann', a track which is all riffs and tight turns into the unexpected. (On a side note it's also works acoustically as it appeared on the B-Side to their single 'Colour Of The Bear'.
On the other hand there's the bonkers indie of Bear Cavalry ('Roman Summer'), the intricate pop of Everyone To The Anderson ('High Brow, Low Brow, No Eyebrow'), Alcopop!-punk heroes Jumping Ships ('Bad Outweighed The Good'), an exquisite post-rock head-fuck from Brontide ('Jura'), and thrash of the first order from Hawk Eyes (formerly known as Chickenhawk with 'Scorpieau' cut from their album Modern Bodies). All out top track however could well be the one supplied by Brew Records Castrovalva.
'Pump Pump' is such an exhilarating slice of hardcore, fist-pumping punk that it's impossible to physically resist. Slinging yr ears straight into a moshpit and pummelling them into submission. Fans of Pulled Apart By Horses, Hawk Eyes or any other exports from the Leeds scene from which Castrovalva have sprung will effectively cream themselves when they hear this (on the off-chance that they've not already).
But all of that isn't to say that that is all there is. Across the first half of the year the BSM '11 Collection will have thrown up multiple tracks that you'll really enjoy and (unless you're so completely immersed in the scene already) will not have heard. Plus, by the time we come to the end of 2011 there'll be approximately three CDs worth of material, a years worth of entertainment and more surprises than a series of Dr Who. All at a ridiculously cheap price (£15 including a free CD from a selection from the BSM catalogue and a 11% discount in the store).
What the rest of the year holds noone can say for certain, but it's a safe bet that there's some gems in the second half of the BSM '11 Collection. It makes Mondays worth getting up on.