Monday, 29 August 2011

Track of the Week: Kutosis – Shadows

In a break from talking about the (rather brilliant) Keep Pop Loud CD, this Track of the Week comes from our (other) favourite young record label – Barely Regal Records and their new signings Kutosis.

Like the label the three-piece band (consisting of Ian Jones (vocals/guitar), James Deacon (bass/vocals) and Ben Isaacs (drums/vocals)) are based in Cardiff and have previously been witnessed on Barely Regal's Zero Years Of... compilation. This new single however, from their forthcoming album, is their first full release together and by all accounts a match made in heaven.

With Barely Regal's admirable dedication to physical product they're putting out a very limited edition cassette of 'Shadows' / 'Skin' that's only available from the next few Kutosis shows and their bandcamp page. But even if you don't manage to get hold of one of the 30 cassettes 'Shadows' makes an excellent addition to the blossoming Barely Regal catalogue (which also includes KPL CD stars Among Brothers).

A wonderfully energetic slice of gnarly pop, 'Shadows', is stomach churning excitement powered by a predatory bass riff. Although the band are capable of heavier, this single is a superb demonstration of what they're capable of and how they marry their influences (arty rocking types such as Les Savy Fav and Future Of The Left) to their individual strain of catchy abandon.

So, like we've said – we really love Barely Regal, and as Kutosis are one of the bands that inspired said label to start up, they're incredibly worthy of a few minutes of your time. This release sits nicely alongside the awesome Strange News From Another Star vs Samoans split 7" from earlier in the year - that you really need to check out!

Keep Pop Loud

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Keep Pop Loud Records

Keep Pop Loud Records: V/A – Keep Pop Loud

To launch the record label arm of the Keep Pop Loud name, we're releasing a limited edition compilation CD. It features some of the awesome bands that we've been talking about on the website over the past year and really shows the world what we mean with the name and aesthetic.

You'll have seen the tracklisting by now and know that it's limited to 100 copies. You probably also know that the CD sleeves are made from second hand clothes, but you may not know about all of the bands that feature, so here's a few words on each and some nice streams for you too.

If you like what you hear (and why wouldn't you?) then you can order the CD direct here. OR if you'd rather buy a copy direct from KPL in Sheffield (and save on postage!), contact us here.

The Winter Olympics – I Miss The Nineties
This epic single was Track of the Week back in March and we still love it more and more with each listen. We described it before as “the 'All My Friends' for the kids of the 1990s”. This huge track will have you bouncing off walls and singing your heart out. This is the perfect way to kick off a compilation - even if we do say so ourselves!

BLESSA – Atlas
The Sheffield band we featured back when they went by the name of Jack Rabbit, BLESSA have shown a real commitment to evolving their sound, and  we're sure that before long they'll be the name on everyone's lips. 'Atlas' was the group's set closer for a while, and it's not hard to see why. Lead by Olivia Neller's charismatic vocal this is luscious dream-pop.

MJ Hibbett – 2000AD Nan
The indiepop legend supplies us with this brand new exclusive, which is a massive honour. It's demonstrative of why MJ Hibbett is one of our all time favourite songwriters. Touching and funny, '2000AD Nan' is a look at the relationship between boys and their nans. And it's about comics.

The Half Rabbits – Gasoline
Oxford's The Half Rabbits have been soundtracking 2011 at KPL towers with their breathtaking vision of post-punk. 'Gasoline' is taken from their download only EP Optimists, that we raved about. Keep Pop Loud is your chance to grab this brilliant track on CD.

Bordeauxxx – Every Holiday Is A Disaster
This self-released single is the best yet from the indiepopsters. Jangly and verging on chaotic, Bordeauxxx are everything that you'd expect from a contemporary indiepop group. We've taken them into our hearts and we know that anoyone who's a fan of acts such as Los Campesinos! or Tilly and the Wall will do too.

Screaming Maldini – Monkey See Badger Do (New Version)
As there's been a lot of coverage for Alcopop! Records on the website over the past year we felt it was only right to ask on board one of their excellent roster. Seeing as Screaming Maldini are from Sheffield and produce utterly perfect pieces of bonkers pop it just had to be them. 'Monkey See Badger Do' is short, sharp and unforgettable.

Dogs Die In Hot Cars – Beauty US
From the mid-00's hitmakers (you'll remember them from 'Godhopping' and 'I Love You 'Cause I Have To') second album sessions, 'Beauty US' is available for the first time on CD here. It's a welcome reminder of their new-wave brilliance and an excellent memento from one of the most underrated and missed of bands.

Pocket Satellite – Man On A Boat
Acoustic popsters Pocket Satellite are currently charming everyone that they come across, and rightly so. With this song from their Paper Aviator EP they fit right at home with all of the other acts on the CD by virtue of sounding nothing like any of them. This is at once delicate and bouncy, a real joy!

Kidnapper Bell – Everything Ever
'Everything Ever' was Track of the Week as soon as we confirmed it for the CD. With their jagged pop and emotive vocals it's no wonder we got all excited. Whether or not you agree with our take that it's a “showcase of their unique combination of new wave and scatter-shot punk-pop”, you can only pick this song up on Keep Pop Loud.
Kidnapper Bell - Everything Ever by kidnapperbell

Best Friends – Surf Bitches
Standing out from the rest of the fuzz pop crowd by virtue of being bloody brilliant, Sheffield's Best Friends are fast becoming the city's live favourites. Keep Pop Loud is your chance to grab their signature tune 'Surf Bitches' on CD before the buzz takes over.

Pris – Icon On A Motorbike
We've been coving Pris heavily since we first heard them, so we just had to have them on board for this. With their current single ('The Better You Look'/'Blu Tack Baby') setting them up for very big things, this is your chance to pick up what is set to be a legendary early recording. 'Icon On A Motorbike' is their take on the classic girl-group style. Fuzzy bubblegum perfection.

Among Brothers – Bare Teeth
Reviewing Among Brothers Homes EP, kicked off our year at KPL and so we couldn't put this CD out without inviting them back to be a part of it. Taken from said EP, 'Bare Teeth' is a spacious combination of classic indiepop songwriting and modern electronics. Gorgeous. They've even managed to get Radio One coverage.

Twenty Three Persons – Something Colin Wore
This lost song has been dug up from the archives and given a second lease of life. Available for purchase the first time since it's recording in the mid-80s 'Something Colin Wore' is demonstrative of Keep Pop Loud Records' dedication to not letting great songs disappear.

H Bird – A Millionairess In A Ruby Ring
From their download only Danger Makers EP, 'A Millionairess In A Ruby Ring' is a fantastic example of how we fell for H Bird the moment we heard them. Their 90's influenced synthpop is a look at the glossier side of KPL and is available for the first time on CD here.

Glam Chops (featuring The Panther Girls & The Glitter Twins) - Tarzan's Glam Rock Adventure
An epic way to conclude the CD. This song from Eddie Argos' glam project Glam Chops is the story of Tarzan set to a Glam Rock epic. At seven minutes long it's the longest and strangest song we've got. Again, as a testament to our ideals, there's little better than 'Tarzan's Glam Rock Adventure' to close with.
15 Tarzan's Glam Rock Adventure - Glam Chops by Keep Pop Loud

Order the CD from the Keep Pop Loud store now.

And remember to Keep Pop Loud

Monday, 22 August 2011

Track of the Week: Glam Chops (featuring The Panther Girls & The Glitter Twins) - Tarzan's Glam Rock Adventure

It's finally here. After months of plotting and preparing, we're delighted to announce the full details for the first release on Keep Pop Loud Records.

This 15 track compilation CD features many of the artists that have been championed on this site over the past year and bringing them all together is our way of cementing the identity of the record label and Keep Pop Loud name.

So, alongside contributions from Pris, The Winter Olympics, Screaming Maldini, Dogs Die In Hot Cars and MJ Hibbett we're absolutely chuffed to bits to announce that the closing song for the CD is an exclusive provided by none other than Glam Chops.

The glam rock project of Eddie Argos the band has a stellar line up, that as well as featuring the named contributors (The Panther Girls and The Glitter Twins) includes The Vessel (aka Mr Solo) from David Devant & His Spirit Wife. On 'Tarzan's Glam Rock Adventure' this comes together for a tour-de-force of glam riffs and gang vocals, whilst Eddie narrates from the point of view of our titular hero.

It's quite simply the most epic close that we could have got ahold of, and at seven minutes long it's a certifiable epic. And you can get it exclusively on Keep Pop Loud .

Each copy of this compilation comes in a sleeve made from second hand clothes, making each one unique.... but there's only 100 available so you'll have to order quickly.

Scroll down for the full tracklisting … or go here to pre-order....

But first, here's the world premier of 'Tarzan's Glam Rock Adventure' for your listening pleasure.

15 Tarzan's Glam Rock Adventure - Glam Chops by Keep Pop Loud

01. The Winter Olympics – I Miss The Nineties
02. BLESSA – Atlas
03. MJ Hibbett – 2000AD Nan
04. The Half Rabbits – Gasoline
05. Bordeauxxx – Every Holiday Is A Disaster
06. Screaming Maldini – Monkey See Badger Do (New Version)
07. Dogs Die In Hot Cars – Beauty US
08. Pocket Satellite – Man On A Boat
09. Kidnapper Bell – Everything Ever
10. Best Friends – Surf Bitches
11. Pris – Icon On A Motorbike
12. Among Brothers – Bare Teeth
13. Twenty Three Persons – Something Colin Wore
14. H Bird – A Millionairess In A Ruby Ring
15. Glam Chops (featuring The Panther Girls & The Glitter Twins) - Tarzan's Glam Rock Adventure

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Pop Drop – the stuff that nearly fell through the net

Well, it turns out that being unemployed doesn't actually make it any easier in keeping up with everything pop related. There's still much more stuff falling through the net than any of us would like, but today we'll try and make amends. This is a load of stuff that I've come across in one way or another that fits in with the Keep Pop Loud / indiepop aesthetic, but that I've not had the chance to explore further. In short, all of this is rather good...

Binko Swink

First up there's the unusually named Binko Swink with their debut single 'Patient'. The two piece from London cite American alt. pop groups such as Pavement, The Velvet Underground and The National as influences, their dreamy pop recalls as much Saint Etienne in it's melodic whimsy. Although perhaps lacking in obvious edge Binko Swink's unusual, experiemental sound buries itself nicely in your consciousness thanks to the obvious care that's been taken over songcraft.

Think dreamy, lazy days of a childhood summer spent in fields. Think indie pop of the type that you just don't hear any more. Think of the prettiest vocal of the year. That's Binko Swink.

'Patient' is released on 12th September on Adventure Club Records, but you can pick up a free download of 'Take The Pop' (Live Demo) from Binko Swink's website.

Tiny Birds

This one's more traditionally indiepop. The sort of stuff that yr used to seeing on coloured 7”s. Somewhere between My First Tooth and MJ Hibbett Tiny Birds hail from London and cite The Wave Picture and Hefner as influences. Which sets them in fairly good stock really. On 'The Photographs That You Took' the traditional instrumentation (mandolins and big rattling drums) back the acoustic-lead indiepop nicely and creates a nice individual sound. The flat style of the vocals may put some off, but those that persevere will be rewarded with an earworm of a track that encourages some serious foot tapping.

The band say of the song “Never has the sound of regret been so damn jaunty”, which just about says it all. Great Stuff!

Blood Sport

On the completely other end of the scale now is Sheffield's Blood Sport with the material from their forthcoming debut EP Journal Nº3

They call themselves an afrobeat/noise punk band, but you'll probably be more at home thinking of them as No Age's (sonically) perverted cousins. With rapid rhythms that are bloody hard to get your head around, there is a full out assault on anything that you might have heard before. The afrobeat influence comes forward most on 'Mayan Dance', where there's more of a bounce to the guitars and splashes on the drum kits breakables. Take note of the parping bass sound on this track too for something out of the ordinary.

Largely instrumental and delightfully raw, Blood Sport are frighteningly fresh at a time when lo-fi is pretty much everywhere. Like the aforementioned No Age, Blood Sport have an ability to hit on something really primal in the listener that's at once disconcerting and intriguing. One listen won't be enough to even start to contemplate what this really is.

新 録 by Blood Sport

Cancel The Astronauts

Finally we end on something really really poppy. If some of the stranger acts above aren't yr sort of thing then fear not. Cancel The Astronauts are here for you with a glossy indiepop bounce that'll put a MASSIVE smile on your face.

Which is pretty good for a band from Edinburgh.

I jest of course. I've never been to Scotland, never mind Edinburgh. I'm sure it's lovely.

But back on track. Cancel The Astronauts have two EPs under their belts (2009's I Am The President Of Your Fanclub (And Last Night I Followed You Home) and Funny For A Girl which came out last year) and are gearing up to release their new single 'Seven Vices' which is released on September 12th. Said track is an upbeat pop number with Copy Haho style zinging guitars and a vocal that sounds a little bit like Lloyd Cole. You can listen to that below, but should be aware that it's just about bettered by b-side 'Something Approaching', which boasts a fuller sound that's backed by glistening synthesisers and a soaring vocal. It's all a bit 80's indiepop, but in a great way.

Of their older material there's plenty for you to investigate but I'm going to recommend the title track from Funny For A Girl on the basis that it has a wonderful video to accompany it. The playful and quirky visual creativity on display matches the aesthetic of the band nicely, and like pretty much all of their tracks is a catchy number that'll have you from the first listen. Go on, give Cancel The Astronauts a go, they might be one of your favourite bands very soon...

Keep Pop Loud

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Uke-Tube brilliance of Katie Pham

Of all the places to discover new music, I never thought I'd cite local rag The Sheffield Star. But lo-and-behold picking up an issue for the first time ever (I needed the jobs section) I came across a full page feature on 'Sheffield Uke City'. Yes according to the Star, the sound of Sheffield is no longer that of Human League's pioneering urban electronica or chip shop indie rock, but rather folks with a ukuleles and a sense of humour.

Well, if it's good enough for MJ Hibbett it's good enough for Keep Pop Loud. And it turns out that a key name in ukulele playing in Sheffield is a young student called Katie Pham, whose youtube covers (as the Star emphasises) have gained her fans internationally. But newspapers will be prone to exaggeration and music going global instantly is nothing new. What is however new is that Katie's covers eschew, for the most part, obvious pop covers and showcase what seems like pretty decent taste.

Rather than just playing the songs on the little four string, Katie's gone to lengths to record not only percussion and multiple instruments for the tracks that she covers but also several vocal parts in attempt to capture the spark of the original. As you can see above from her Two Door Cinema Club cover it results in a individual ukulele-led indiepop sound that's not afraid to improvise when it comes to referencing that which it mimics. Checking out the other tracks that are present on Katie's youtube channel it's easy to see how she's evolving her sound, reaching this from the very basic voice and instrument tracks. (Check out Cure cover 'Just Like Heaven' for an example of one of her earliest attempts.)

But Youtube is awash with people with ukulele's and the like doing covers (not sure there's many versions of Darwin Deez 'Radar Detector' though). What makes Katie different? Well, not only has she, like I said, got her own sound that she's clearly committed to evolving by investing in new equipment (such as mics and drum machines) but she's actually branching out and has tentatively uploaded a couple of her own songs.

Now, as Sheffield has varied a folk/acoustic scene that has been bubbling under the surface for quiet a few years (with Nat Johnson/Monkey Swallows the Universe being the most famous names) it's not unreasonable to expect to see Katie Pham breaking out of her bedroom and into the gig scene in the very near future. And I agree with comedy covers band The Everly Pregnant Brothers when they say,“You can't be serious on a uke – if you try you're a tosser, frankly,”. Which is why I'm a fan of Katie Pham. In her case the naïve sound of the ukulele perfectly matches her indiepop asthetic and when combined with her endearing talent provides a great base for a music career that we're sure will cross paths with Keep Pop Loud at some point.

And on that note I'll leave you with Katie's best recording yet: a cover of Arcitc Monkeys latest single 'The Hellcat Spangled Shalalala'. Which also acts as a reminder that Suck It And See is a frankly terrific album.

Keep Pop Loud

Monday, 15 August 2011

Track Of The Week: Race Horses – Benidorm

In Fopp recently Mrs KPL and I were browsing the £3 section when she came across Goodbye Falkenberg, the debut album from Race Horses. Aside from my vague recollection that someone had said something positive about them (did they get album of the month in Artrocker or something?) I knew nothing about them. But based on the artwork, Mrs KPL took a gamble and picked up the CD.

Lo-and-behold it turns out that Race Horses are rather ace, and with new free download 'Benidorm' more and more folk are starting to take notice. Which is rather good timing. For not only is their coming into my life fresh in my mind, but their Super Furry Animals-esque twinkly pop is super for the lovely summer that keeps threatening to break out, and as August is rapidly coming to an end, their futile protest that wishes to extend the summer by staying on holiday really strikes home.

Like all of the best summer pop songs 'Benidorm' is all happy on the surface but full of sadness and nostalgia underneath. We all know summers are never what they're supposed to be (or as they were when we were kids), and this damp squib of one is no different. But by wrapping the song up in a Mystery Jets bounce and with flourishes that recall both The Beach Boys and Friendly Fires, Race Horses can pretend for a moment that they're really going to live that life forever.

There's a naive quality to Race Horses that I really like, and that endears them massively to Mrs KPL. It's a unpretentiousness that ensures that as much as they're capable of having an emotional impact, it's never forced through by over-seriousness. Instead they feel infectiously honest and by allowing dafter moments like 'Cake' fit snugly alongside proper indiepop tykes such as The Boy Least Likely to, despite the gulf in sonic similarities.


More than just worthy of Track of the Week, 'Benidorm' will be the moment you take Race Horses into your heart.

Head over to Fantastic Plastic's Soundcloud page for more Free MP3s from Race Horses, The Victorian English Gentlemen's Club, Ikara Colt and something from the early days of The Futureheads.

Keep Pop Loud

Friday, 12 August 2011

Album Review: LightGuides – Samba Samba Samba

Label: Alcopop! Records
Released: 29th August

As the least pop-flavoured band to be signed to Alcopop! Records, LightGuides perhaps haven't had as much coverage on Keep Pop Loud as tour buddies Jumping Ships or label mates Screaming Maldini and Stagecoach. But that's not to say they've nothing to tickle your pop buds with. Mini-album Samba Samba Samba is the first release by the Glasgow three-pice on Alcopop! and is definitely worth your attention.

At just under 28 minutes and with seven tracks, Samba Samba Samba is only just short of being a full album in length, but crucially it feels as though not adding any more is the right move. By only releasing what makes sense, the underground rock/pop scene in the UK has made something of a trademark of not being constrained by the traditional album (and supporting singles) release schedule. With bands and labels working together for creative purposes there's no filler on board to help make an extra couple of quid and this benefits releases like this, where it's the best of the bands that are put on show.

Each of these seven tracks on LightGuides debut has a distinct identity and there's not one moment of filler. For an album this is one of the tightest releases of the year and as a min-album it has to be the most epic.

So what do LightGuides sound like then? Well, by virtue of them not having a bass player (it's two guitarists and a drummer for them) there's something in there of Yeah Yeah Yeah's early material, meanwhile the effects on the guitars aren't a million miles away from Jumping Ships heavier moments. But the main comparison that people are bound to draw is to mega-stars Biffy Clyro. Like Biffy LightGuides excel at big and intricate anthemic rock, but it's in having a singer with a thickly Scottish accent the weight of the similarities land.

For an example of the big anthems that LightGuides are capable of check out 'The Arts Factory'. A huge spiralling number where the lead guitars runs rings around it's rhythm counterpart whilst the latter sticks to the drums providing a hard hitting backing. Come climax it's a classic case of arena sized headphone music. You know that these guys have the potential to be really big, but sort of want to keep them to yrself to make it just that more special.

One thing that's worth bearing in mind, is that Samba Samba Samba is a grower. Espcially, if like me you've lived most of yr music life in the indiepop world. First few listens saw former free download 'Old Bucket Seats' stick out as highlight through both familiarity and by being the closest to indie rock that LightGuides get. In the long run though it's closer 'W.H.Y.L.' that's the favourite. Building from the gently played electric guitars through hard rocking passages and vocals that yell “This is the sound of our battle cry!”. It's progressive in structure and with plenty of kick. Lyrics such as “so pack your bows and arrows” demonstrate the imagery that I'm a massive sucker for, whilst the guitars on the outro take some beating.

But there's more; whether it's the gritty emo moment 'Colonel Crookshanks' with noisy jagged riffs, or 'Bachelor Death Party' which uses the old pop-punk trick of having the intro sound as though it's coming from a FM radio before taking a turn into Ikara Colt style artrock there's something on Samba Samba Samba that will grab yr attention. Whether yr ears are open enough to let a big sounding rock band into your life is yr business, but I suggest that if they're not then it's you that's missing out.

Keep Pop Loud

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

EP Review: Jumping Ships – Standard Bearer

Label: Alcopop! Records
Released: 12th September

What more is there to say about Jumping Ships? Since they first grabbed my attention with 'The Whole Truth' they've simply refused to let go of it. Their Alcopopalooza set was triumphant and single 'Heart And Hope' got me more than a little bit excited. So after all of that it'd be a bit gutting if new EP Standard Bearer was disappointing wouldn't it?

Well, you'll never have guessed it, but it's ruddy great. A real step up from Orientation and the point from which their star will rise and rise. And for good measure 'Heart And Hope' crops up again, making sure that everyone recognises it as being one of the best singles of 2011. It shows that how no matter how familiar one gets with their material it just doesn't get tired.

As a step up there's evidence on Standard Bearer of more influences and a broader pallet. Where Jumping Ships have claimed that punk and post-rock are key touchstones to what they're trying to achieve, it's been the former that's been the more audible in the past. However, across the instrumental passages of songs such as 'Broken English' it's the latter that's really noticeable. Whilst the quiet bits are quiet and the loud bits are chuffing loud there's an intricacy that weaves throughout, with the guitars sounding particularly fiddly. But in keeping with the punk ethos this isn't wankey or self-congratulatory guitar work, it's tight concise and kept strictly within the bounds of songcraft.

And it'd be remiss to have a review of Jumping Ships without commenting on the fact they write great songs. Properly big anthemic stuff it is too. It doesn't take a stretch of the imagination to see the band getting picked up for some massive support slots pretty sharpish, and once that happens, when the venue is big enough to suit the sounds of the songs Jumping Ships are going to start getting big. At least that's the hope.

Any set opening with something such as EP starter 'Movers And Shakers' is bound to attract attention from any self-respecting rock fan. But better still is 'Bygones'. Starting with the noisy and hard, before letting the quieter moments take charge for the pre-chorus, it feels as playful as it is intense. If there's one criticism, it's a minor one, and it's that the lyrical subject matter is somewhat conventional. But hey, howling yr heart out over relationships gone awry and life slipping out from underneath you is pretty necessary sometimes.

And whilst each song on Standard Bearer certainly deserves it's place (at just over 23 minutes it's basically the perfect length to just play repeatedly, without breaks) it's moments such as that on 'Talisman' that really stand out as worthy of mention. The heavily effected guitars give an extra uplift in place of the chiming guitars. It's this electronic-sounding element that roots Jumping Ships thoroughly in the present, fleshes out the sound and allows the listener to place it in their surroundings. It's a deft touch and makes the song in particular (and EP in general) that bit extra special.

As well as adding to the already impressive Alcopop! Records catalogue Standard Bearer shows that Jumping Ships are really making themselves available for consumption outside of the DIY pop sphere. It's an arsenal of songs they now have in their repertoire, it seems unlikely they'll be stopped.

Keep Pop Loud

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

EP Review: Tyrannosaurus Dead - Tyrannosaurus Dead EP

Label: Cupboard Music
Released: Soon

If there's one trick that's guaranteed to win my attention it's a band named after a dinosaur*. Honestly, it never fails. Sometimes checking out a band's output based on such a name can lead to a big old 'meh', and we all move on safe in the knowledge that the band has at least managed to get a decent name together.

Sometimes, and this is very rare, after I click play any thoughts about the name are dispelled completely to be replaced with the simple thought of “YES! This is the stuff!”. With EP opener '1992' Tyrannosaurus Dead achieve this. Within about four seconds.

OK, perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration. But the intro to '1992' does give you a fair idea what I'm talking about. Lovely fuzzy early '90s influenced indie rock, with a slightly cleaner guitar line providing the melody. It's everything there is to love about Trailer era Ash, The Lemonheads or Teenage Fanclub. There's the Dinosaur Jr influence in there too, and once the vocal melody joins in I can't help but consider Yuck's finer moments. I'm sure you know by now the sort of ball-park we're in here. But this isn't just revivalism of a sub-genre or style.

The lyrics get right to the core of what it is we want from pop music. It's a love song, set in nostalgia. It's the rush of being a teenager and the beating down of the sun in the summers. It's that lethargy and excitement. Not to get deliberately hyperbolic but when the last utterance of '1992' is “Can I always chose you” Keep Pop Loud wants to say the same thing to the song. By the end of the first listen I actually wanted to sign the band straight away to KPL Records.

But this EP isn't just one song. 'Smiling Politely' is a bit rougher, with a grunge kick to it. The drums are hammered on nicely, whilst the guitars and bass fizz together into a wall of sound. It's one of three moments that are all completely different in flavour and yet add up to a really astonishing release from a band so new.

Last track, 'Silver' again is more gentle and rounds off the EP. By more gentle, of course that's not to say that it has no edge. Like slowly driving at night it's like that cocooning bubble of the car against the strange night. Although it occasionally feels as though it's due to kick into something louder it restrains itself and leaves the listener with a similar feeling to that gotten from the more sombre moments of Arcade Fire's The Suburbs. It doesn't really need the lyrics to conjure this feeling, but they add to it anyway. “In the back seat of your car. In the back seat of your car”.

The EP is due out on Cupboard Music at some point soon. There'll definitely be more news on Tyrannosaurus Dead on Keep Pop Loud as it happens. In the meantime, visit their blog and have a look around. This is the start of something fantastic. 

*Or something from Star Wars

Keep Pop Loud

Monday, 8 August 2011

Track Of The Week: This Many Boyfriends - Young Lovers Go Pop!

This appeared a couple of weeks ago, but there's much worse in the world than being a little late in saying that This Many Boyfriends are super!

If you're short on time simply look at the band name and song title. That'll tell you why why 'Young Lovers Go Pop!' is Track Of The Week. On Steve Lamacq's Round Table one of the chaps from The Crookes described the band as being "slightly worse" than Los Campesinos!. Especially as he said that he's not a fan of the latter it's a bit of a silly thing to say. Yes, there's definitely a link there between the two groups, with the exclamation marks and all, but if nothing else there's a fuzzy robustness and feel of unpretentious giddy thrills that (early) LC! never achieved.

As you'll have seen, I often take a very broad approach to what I refer to as 'indiepop' on Keep Pop Loud. But this time, with This Many Boyfriends I can point to something that is the very epitome of the subgenre/style done exactly right. It's music that makes yr heart skip a beat. It is "oo-oo-ohh-ohhh-oh-oh"s that you have to sing along to with a broad grin on yr face. It is choruses that make you pogo and verses that make you shuffle around the dancefloor in an uncordinated fashion.

But it's not ace because it plays by the rulebook. It's ace because This Many Boyfriends have their hearts in the right place and tunes to spare, and if that and 'Young Lovers...' isn't good enough for you, well my friend you've missed the point of pop music.

'Young Lovers Go Pop!' is released on Angular Records on 22nd August

Friday, 5 August 2011

Review: Big Scary Monsters – 5-a-side Football Tournament 2011 CD

Released: 13th June
Label: Big Scary Monsters

This year's BSM 5-a-side tournament may have been and gone, but thanks to the magic of Royal Mail it's only now that I've got my CD.

Running alongside the tournament as a way to raise money for the Bobby More Fund that raises cash to research into bowel cancer, the CD documents not only those currently signed to Big Scary Monsters, but also some of the other excellent groups that form a part of that same underground scene. Like Alcopop!'s We Grew Up On A Diet Of Jurassic Park And Sensible Soccer, the 5-a-side CD represents the highlights of a scene that's currently at its best. With distinctive and inventive acts showcasing their material it's basically a must own for anyone interested in the British rock underground.

Some of the songs on here I've talked about already. Delta/Alaska's 'D.L.O.I' previously appeared on the Hello Pink Mist compilation (alongside the also present 'A Punch To The Temple' by †Hymns†), and with familiarity has become even better. A very fine example of forward thinking alt rock. Instrumental rockers Brontide and their track 'Jura' meanwhile appeared on the BSM '11 Collection and is highly recommended.

The wealth of familiar names doesn't end there though. Stagecoach contribute what sounds very much like a re-recorded (or re-jigged) version of 'Ice Age', Johnny Foreigner turn up with former b-side 'I Heard, He Ties Up Cats' that includes a star turn from Kelly on joint lead vocals. With Alcopopalloza still ringing in my heart if not my ears, it's great to get another prompt in the direction of Shoes And Socks Off. His semi-acoustic number 'Made' stands out from many off the fuller-on tracks on the CD and ensures the compilation has a full range and depth.

Likewise, it's not all guitars and grunged noise. Although granted, that does form a large part of the BSM Sound, which this compilation helps to promote. No, Tall Ships (who are utterly exquisite by the way) contribute the dynamic and layered keyboard beauty 'Ode To Ancestors' from their There Is Nothing Here But Chemistry EP whilst proceedings are closed by Mimas, with some post-everything piano pop that is wonderfully fragile and tender. In fact 'Relationship', which plays on the nautical nature of the latter section of it's title, really cuts to the core delivering an emotional blow that's allowed to hit home by the spacious arrangement.

So, who else is great then? Well Rosa Valle definitely win 'best song title' for 'Needless To Say Nothing Really Mattress (I'm Declaring Judy A Nemesis)' and Talons, as always, kick more ass with violins than most acts do with guitars. Hold Your Horse Is are also forcing their way into my affections the more I hear from them. It's that combination of directly riffing guitars and actual songs that I'll always have time for. Massively looking forward to that forthcoming album. And as much as it'll now just seem like I'm throwing names at you, big thumbs up to The Xcerts. With b-side 'I Am Home' it's more than evident why they've got a hugely devoted fanbase. I'm sure you'll be able to count me fully in that before long.

For balance, and because some people seem to think I'm too positive on here, we'll conclude on a different note. I don't think I get Three Trapped Tigers. Sure, when listening it's all rather decent, but otherwise I'm not sure it clicks. I'm aware that there's some people who totally swear by them but (and perhaps it's because I'm not heavily into instrumental stuff) it seems a bit too serious for my liking. Plus people confuse them with Tall Ships too often.

But, yeah. As a compilation it works on every level. It's going to push me towards more bands that I was only vaguely into and it's given me some rarities by some old favourites whilst ensuring that cash is going to a much under-publicised good cause. Personally, I'm unemployed right now and am enjoying nothing more than slouching around listening to this CD on my headphones. I feel like a teenager again in all of the good ways.

Oh, and the artwork is rad, too. It's a bargain - BUY IT!

Keep Pop Loud

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Review: An Introduction To The Scaramanga Six

I'm perhaps a bit slow off the mark on this one, but for those of you who've not seen it yet, The Scaramanga Six have compiled an introductory compilation that you can download from their Bandcamp page.

Covering their six album/15 year career, the imaginatively titled An Introduction To The Scaramanga Six is available for as much or as little as you want as a download. Although be warned, across the sixteen songs you will find something that you'll want to investigate more. For me the 'introduction' has encouraged me to delve deeper into those albums of theirs I already own (Strike! Up The Band, The Dance Of Death, Songs of Prey), cutting up their discography and serving as a promt reminder of why I took to them in the first place.

As such 'Baggage' is an excellent opener to the compilation and a taster of what to expect. Mixing the absurd with the creepy, it is flamboyant and eccentric with theatrical piano, cinematic violins and chugging guitars. As always the production is pretty clean and the choruses huge. The feeling persists from here-on-in that there's really nothing other than The Scaramanga Six's hardcore independent ideals (and perhaps a prudish music press) that's stopped them form breaking through to the big time.

When we bear in mind that they begun in Huddersfield the height of Britpop and have survived everything from the 'New Rock Revolution' to 'Nu-Rave 'and right through the 'New Yorkshire Scene' (why did everything have to be 'New' in the 00's, fuck me) it's great to see that they've refused to comprise one iota on their mission and are still as unfashionably cool as ever. But like I said, it's not something that should get in the way of them getting much more attention.

On 'You Should Have Killed Me When You Had The Chance' and 'I Didn't Get Where I Am Today' (both from Songs Of Prey) The Scaramagas come across as Yorkshire's answer to Queens Of The Stone Age. Of course they're not as po-faced as Josh Homme's lot, but could just as easily out riff them. Like QOTSA these guitar parts get ingrained easily in to your consciousness. If they were more commercially successful you'd happily call them iconic.

There is more to the Six than just riffs and rock though. The aforementioned theatrics lend themselves well to any genre or style that the band chose to tackle. Whether they're playing at fairly straight indie rock ('Misadventure') or channelling an undead Supergrass ('Soul Destroyer') it's held together by the vocals and guitars of the Morricone brothers who form the core of the rotating line-up. The same goes for the moments when they take on breakneck punk ('Pressure Cage'), epic pop balladry ('Singer Of Songs'), warped Bond themes ('Horrible Face') or steampunk informed gothic pop ('Choking')... which admittedly all sounds pretty disparate, but works wonderfully on record.

When they're described on their bandcamp as “one of the most creative and prolific underground rock bands of the decade” it's not an exaggeration. Not in the slightest. Really, I've only just scratched the surface in selecting moments from this career condensing compilation. In short, if you're at all interested in excellent underground British rock, get yourself over there now and get introduced to The Scaramanga Six. You won't look back.

Keep Pop Loud

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

EP Review: Screaming Maldini - Secret Sounds

Label: HipHipHip
Released: 21st June

It may seem impossible for me to give Screaming Maldini a fair review. With a brand new track of theirs appearing on the forthcoming Keep Pop Loud Records compilation CD you may think my opinion biased. Well, be that as it may, and regardless as to if you pick up the KPL compilation or not, you still need Screaming Maldini in yr life and record collection. And Secret Sounds is a fantastic place to start.

Comprising of a song from each of their Alcopop! released EPs and two new recordings, Secret Sounds is the release that's helping to launch Screaming Maldini over the Channel. French label HipHipHip has picked them up over there and Secret Sounds is the first EP the Sheffield group are releasing with them. Short and sweet, it's a crash course in Screaming Maldini's all-encompassing pop sound and will carve a space in the hearts of anyone who enjoys pop.

'Secret Sounds' first saw life on the And The Kookaburra EP and is arguably the bands signature tune. Bonkers vocal harmonies help the song to feel like a pop classic the instant it starts up. Whatever way you look at it, coming from an indiepop standpoint or the appreciation of originality, there's a spark present that only comes around when you hear a tune that's been created by a band or an individual of remarkable talent. A talent that's even more obvious when breaking the music down into it's component instruments.

Vocally, and especially on the backing, the voices are so controlled that you'll wonder how it's done. Vocalist/keyboard player Gina is a singing coach by trade and her stunning voice is really integral to the Maldini sound. The drums too, an instrument far too often under-appreciated, shine on Maldini releases and Secret Sounds in particular. Their drumming champ (who also plays in Renegade Brass Band, or so I'm informed) is remarkably good at what he does, hammering out quick and intricate patterns that never overtake the floating melodies but yet ensure that the drums act as an instrument in their own right.

Their use of a full-time trumpet player in the group to create a party atmosphere is also key in helping Maldini rise to the top of the pop pile. It's long been a maligned instrument in the indiepop realm thanks to misuse in naffer music, but here fleshes out the arrangements and adds to the feel of a everyone's-invited street party. ACE! You could almost call them a pocked Polyphonic Spree if you were that way inclined.

Nowhere do all of these elements come together better than on newbie 'The Silver Mountain'. It's epic, summery and seems to offer up a summer sky of limitless possibilities. That it rubs up against the wintery 'Restless Hearts And Silent Pioneers' (taken from the EP of the same name) serves to highlight the feel of sunshine. On the latter, the skittering beat is complimented by strings, tinkling percussion and choir-like backing vocals to paint a perfect sonic portrait of Sheffield at Christmas time. It's as romantic as we'd all like winter to be, uncovering those little details about wrapping up warm and coming into yr bright warm house from the cold. In a word, magical.

Again, the final track on the EP skips seasons yet again. 'The First Raindrop' takes us to a barbecue on an “unesasonably warm Sunday afternoon in Spring”. Like 'Restless Hearts' it's the little details and flourishes, both lyrical and musical that fill out the corners of the song. From the strummed ukulele in the background to “trying to figure out how rain could fall from a blue sky” it's the perfect little portrait of one of the small moments of contentment that makes life worth living.

But what's more, rather than just soundtracking or describing those moments, just listening to the music of Screaming Maldini helps to create them. It's the sound of pockets of uplift in dull days and sonic heavens in the hustle and bustle and does so with incredible talent that's never cloying. As a taster for an album, or an introduction to Screaming Maldni's world it's very very special.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Track Of The Week: Boys Noize & Erol Alkan feat. Jarvis Cocker – Avalanche [Terminal Velocity]

I saw an Erol Alkan DJ slot once. It was at the Students Union where I was working for the big end-of-year party, in what was supposedly the live venue. Aware of his reputation as a superb producer (Long Blondes, Mystery Jets, Late of the Pier) I expected some sort of epic indie/electronic mash-up which was rather fashionable at the time. What the set actually consisted of was two hours of repetitive bleeps and Radiohead to close. If the majority of the set consisted of more than one track I wasn't to know, but hey, I'm just a pop fan. Perhaps repetitive bleeping is actually a good thing.

Although on the grounds of this Track of the Week, I'd guess not. Alkan and Boys Noize have roped in in pop-god Jarvis Cocker for this re-working of an old Leonard Cohen track. And it's rather ace.

At over six minutes it builds itself up into a rather hypnotic groove with scattering pieces of minimal electronics and hazy keyboards reinforcing the spoken word narrative from Cocker. As the artwork implies, this is informed as heavily by the original wave of post-punk as it is by Warp Records. Ominous and imposing it's horrifying at the same time as being quite sexy. Like 'Space' by Jarvis' main band Pulp (it's good to refer to them as that) it takes over your ears and pins you to the ground.

Don't listen to this whilst walking anywhere on your own at night. Or if you do, don't blame me for having to change yr underwear when it kicks off at roughly the three and a half minute mark.

'Avalanche [Terminal Velocity]' is available to download now and is due out on vinyl at some point.