Monday, 28 November 2011

Track of the Week: Edwyn Collins - Down The Line

Dangerously close to being the greatest pop star that Britain has ever produced, it's always wonderful to hear something new from Edwyn Collins. Last year's Losing Sleep managed to showcase the breadth of what the man is still capable of, after a career that's been going for 35 years.

Now it appears there's another record on the horizon, and as a teaser (and excuse to release an iTunes compilation of singles) a new song has been unveiled. And it's gorgeous.

EDWYN COLLINS - Down The Line by Analogue Enhanced Digital

With a slight country tinge, 'Down The Line' is far removed from 'Blue Boy' or any of the other tracks that made Orange Juice so hugely influential. However as it's a cousin to moments such as 'North Of Heaven' or 'Searching For The Truth' it has a place in the superb body of work that Collins has built up over the years, and more than likely a place in the hearts of any discerning indiepop fan.

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Thursday, 24 November 2011

Live Review: The Darkness @ The Academy, Sheffield

If you can forgive this momentary aberration, this drop in the indiepop facade, then I'd be grateful. For whilst indiepop is of course my heart now it hasn't always been this way. My teenage epiphanies were not with The Smiths and Belle & Sebastian but with The Darkness and The White Stripes and whilst the latter are perennially cool, I understand the former are just seen as perennial. Nonetheless, I'll put the case forward that when we disregard genre and anything deeper than the moment and the show The Darkness are a GREAT band.

That's not something that I'll say about support band Foxy Shazam however. So over-the-top as to make even Do Me Bad Things seem understated they unleashed a torrent of glam pop-rock that is either an abortion of all of the worst moments in rock history, or a deconstruction of all of the values and styles of glam. It certainly wasn't any good. Or at least it wasn't tasteful. But I think I'd see them again. Because, boy, were they entertaining. Imagine if Noel Fielding formed a spoof glam rock band.

The Darkness put on a show at least ten times that however, and have so many tunes to back it up. Of course they are in a much smaller venue than I last saw them. But that was a long time ago. Bass player Frankie Poullain is back in the fold, and unsurprisingly the set draws heavily from Permission To Land. In fact they play the whole damn thing. Starting with 'Black Shuck'. As you do.

The venue is pretty busy, especially when you consider the prices that are being charged, with large swathes of the audience being like me. Men in their mid-to-late twenties going to see one of their favourite bands of their late teenage years. It's quite nostalgic, but that's not to say that newbies fall of deaf ears. There's three or four aired tonight including 'Cannonball which sounds likely to be a single at some point in the future. They sound good and go down well with Justin commenting that the crowd are his favourite of the tour thus far. But it's safe money that he says that to all the venues. He claims his moustache is wilting from the heat nonetheless. Ace!

Old b-side 'Best Of Me' is given an unexpected (but welcome) airing. It feels like I'm one of the only members of the crowd who knows it, but everyone seems to enjoy. Singles such as 'Growing On Me', 'One Way Ticket' and 'Love On The Rocks' get the crowd excited and receive some of the best responses, but it's the unexpected moments that stick in my mind particularly. An acoustic 'Holding My Own' is a delight and their cover of Radiohead's 'Street Spirit (Fade Out)' puts a massive grin on my face. Half way through I start to worry we won't get 'Friday Night', but it's in there.

At the end of the main set the stage lighting gets a bit festive with greens and reds dominating. Justin responds to a chant of “Yorkshire! Yorkshire” by saying that his favourite thing about the county is that it's Christmas already. Yes! They play 'Christmas Time (Don't Let The Bells End)'. I'm a Scrooge, but this is a fantastic moment. I might even find it in me to enjoy the season this year.

The encore is flawless. Instrumental 'Bareback, a cover of 'Tie Your Mother Down' and then the REALLY big guns. So confident are the band that 'I Believe In A Thing Called Love' isn't saved until last. Everyone still claps in the air for it though. 'Love On The Rocks With No Ice' is a stormer to close, with Frankie and Ed's rhythm section having been, throughout the night, as tight and thunderous as tank manoeuvres. Dan's at the front of the stage showing off and Justin rides someone's shoulders through the crowd. He's grinning, there seems to be genuine affection there. I'm grinning, I've had a great night. I love The Darkness.


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Tuesday, 22 November 2011

EP Review: The Social Club - For Drinking

Label: Alcopop! Records
Released: 01/11/11

For Drinking is the first in a series of four EPs to be released by The Social Club on Alcopop! Records, a label that, lest-we-forget, was named after a mini-album by Midget. Appropriate then to find that The Social Club are indeed successors to Midget's upbeat pop-punk, specialising in clean-sounding, sing-along choruses and all-round fun-times.

Although the release is themed around boozing, it is thankfully much more subtle about it's subject matter than you could reasonably expect. Looking instead at the thoughts of the drinker rather than the inebriated actions it's not 'Tubthumping' five times. Also, although describable as pop-punk The Social Club are thankfully not short-trouser wearing American Pie-soundtracking knuckle-heads. In fact those who enjoy Supergrass circa I Should Coco and Life On Other Planets or The Hold Steady's Boys And Girls In America should find familiarity in For Drinking.

'The Remedy' is undoubtedly a highlight, and it's no surprise to find it being the moment that the band have chosen to promote in the form of a video. It condenses down everything that the band have on offer on this release into a 3 minute 15 second pop tune. Should the tides ever turn again so that guitar bands have the shot at success that they did in the middle of both the '90s and '00s then 'The Remedy' is good enough argument for The Social Club having a proper chance of a big chart hit. It's not the only stand out however, the meatier 'Rock Bless You' is a satisfyingly riffy and the piano bounce of 'Song Contest' comes across as a lost britpop number.

Still for all it's bounce and aplomb For Drinking can sound a little samey. Each track contains the upbeat chorus, ace drum fills, racing keys and punky riffs. Sure, they are all rather catchy but the lack of variety could put off those wanting something with more depth or longevity. Still, this is enough to grab yr attention and, if you're the sort of person who's more interested in music that's fun and catchy than you are in self-important dirge, then you could do worse than investing in this.

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Monday, 21 November 2011

Track of the Week: The Neat - Good In Bed

It's been a long time since we've heard anything new from Hull's The Neat. This year's tour supporting Young Knives showed us that they were indeed still active, and in conjunction with this month's Artrocker Magazine they've unleashed a new free download to tempt us all back into the fold.

'Good In Bed' is by no means as instantly brilliant as last year's essential debut single 'In Youth Is Pleasure', it is however much more intriguing and expansive. There's a similarity in their spacious sound to a pre-prog These New Puritans - thanks in part to the shared influence of The Fall. But whilst the vocals retain this spoken blur the guitars are now decked out with some nifty reverb that imbues the track with a sense of urban night hostility.

If you've not come across The Neat before but rate jittery art-pop then follow the below link to the soundcloud player. If you have heard The Neat before then you simply need to download.

The Neat - Good In Bed

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Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Pop Drop: Some songs you might've missed

As much as we all love the Track of the Week feature some songs inevitably fall through the gap. Either they're online just after the feature is published and therefore a week old by the time their chance to nab the spot comes again or I'm just too late in coming across them.

So here's some of the tracks that fell through the gaps. Take some time to listen because, unusually for this time of year, there doesn't seem to be an end to great acts putting new songs up.

And for those of you who like yr reviews in bite-sized chunks: I apologise for dropping all of this pop on you at once.

MJ Hibbett & The Validators - Theme From Dinosaur Planet
After a couple of years absence MJ Hibbett has re-unieted the Validators in order to bring to life his 'indiepop War of the Worlds' Dinosaur Planet. Lead track and free download 'Theme From Dinosaur Planet' is a taster of what to expect. A massive pop tune about dinosaurs, it is (as Hibbett would say) GRATE! After hearing acoustic renditions of this years ago it's awesome to hear it in its full glory.

It's also one of the best videos you'll see this year too.

The History Of Apple Pie - Mallory

It's not been deliberate, but I've neglected The History Of Apple Pie since first writing about them. New single 'Mallory' (out this week) is beefier than you might remember them being with walls of fuzzy guitars and sweet vocals. Second album Pains of Being Pure At Heart is a fairly close reference point (but fans of Yuck will also love) and it sounds like the start of what's going to be a very big 2012 for THOP.

Olympians - Wake Up Old

Another band that I can't belive I've forgotten to post more about. Olympians have singed to the ACE Barely Regal Records and released this fabulous slice of epic & intricate pop. As pretty as British Sea Power's most glacial moments but with jerky Foals-like bits thrown in. The trumpet part is just Christmassy enough that you'll be listening to this throughout the festive season. It's also a free download - so what are you waiting for?

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

The DIY pop success story of the year. Frankie & The Heartstrings have sacrificed none of their credibility for chart success and have looked rather dapper whilst doing it. 'Everybody Looks Better (In The Right Light)' sounds pretty much like you'd expect a post-first album single to sound like from the band (Dexy's meets Franz with '50s vocal harmonies), but a little more stripped down. Not something that you'd expect from a Bernard Bulter production but as ace as you'd hope from Frankie and co.

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

The Pipettes - Boo Shuffle

With last year's Earth Vs The Pipettes sadly turning out to be rather forgettable it's great to see the band so quick off the mark with new material. And it's even better to see that they've returned to their polka-dot pop roots. 'Boo Shuffle' is a bit of a grower and turns out to be as catchy as anything else they've done. However it does highlight how much the group misses the excellent vocal talent of Rose Elinor Dougall (and also how well suited to this material her voice was).

Little Boots - Shake

This return on the other hand has been a long time coming. With her (excellent) debut album a distant memory for the pop charts it seems that Victoria Hesketh has decided that this time around the electro is more important than the pop and has delivered a tune that's the dubstep influenced cousin of 'Stuck On Repeat'. I can't say that I'm completely on board with 'Shake' at the moment but am sure that Little Boots has got some killer pop moment up her sleeve for the first single proper. Failing that a radio edit to remove the long and repetitive intro wouldn't go amiss.

Fanzine - Roman Holiday

Fanzine are a band that I came across supporting someone (The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart possibly) earlier in the year and have been keeping half an eye on since. They've recently put out a video for their new single 'Roman Holiday' which is out on Fat Possum records at the end of the month. That they're sharing a label with Yuck makes it even easier for me to compare their ace slacker-pop to their more famous label mates and anyone who's been enjoying the album by the aforementioned are urged towards this tuneful fuzz.

Roman Holiday from Fanzine on Vimeo.

Pulled Apart By Horses - V.E.N.O.M

And lastly some nice meaty rock music. You're probably familiar with Pulled Apart By Horses Now. They've made plenty of waves and lots of people are really excited for album number two. Which makes sense and their debut was ace. 'V.E.N.O.M' is a smack around the face that rocks harder than the latest Mastodon record. It sounds like you expect but better.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Track of the Week: Gorgeous Bully - That Kind Of Girl

This week I'd be lying if I said that I'd been keeping my ear that close to the ground with regards to new tunes hitting the web. Most of my listening has revolved around the latest albums from Johnny Foreigner and Los Campesinos!, neither of which am I coming anywhere near tiring of.

Still, even with that, interviews and potentially arranging another move some new stuff has trickled through. Although to be fair you'd have to be living under a rock to have missed the fact that Pulled Apart By Horses have unleashed a new number.

But as riotous as that is, it's 'That Kind Of Girl' by Plymouth based singer-songwriter/fuzz-popster Gorgeous Bully that has made most impact at KPL Towers. The name rung a bell after he appeared on the excellent map compilation Dry Route To Devon that Art Is Hard Records released in September. And like 'I Think' this newbie is an excellent hazy pop gem. Although where that one begged to be tagged with 'surf pop' and 'nostalgia' this one feels as though its inception involved listening to some very old country records. (Always a worthwhile past-time for my money)

The end result however is lo-fi blog pop of the best kind. And testament to the Art Is Hard team for bringing Gorgeous Bully to my attention in the first place. (And a timely reminder to pick up the aforementioned map). A talent worth keeping an eye on.

If you like what you hear - and why wouldn't you - you can download more Gorgeous Bully material from his Soundcloud page.

That kind of girl by gorgeous bully

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Album Review: Johnny Foreigner – Johnny Foreigner Vs Everything

Label: Alcopop! Records
Released: 07/11/11

It's difficult to heap too much praise on Johnny Foreigner... or any of the bands in the pop underground. Over-analysis of what they say and mean or in depth dissection of their musical chops will just lead us down the über-serious road that far too many pop writers at institutions such as NME and Pitchfork try and take. And if there's something that we've learned this week it's that we're not like the NME. Their petty vindictiveness shown in this review draws a clear line in the sand.

All of that said, Johnny Foreigner Vs Everything is as close as I feel that it's possible to get to the perfect DIY pop album. It's the sound of a band utilising everything that they've learned. It's determined and honest. It has real depth and variety whilst maintaining focus and it hangs together as a complete piece of work. It's also got some of their best songs yet.

With 'What Drummers Get' and a new recording of 'Johnny Foreigner Vs You' making return appearances from the Certain Songs Are Cursed Frisbee EP, Johnny Foreigner's 2011 campaign is nicely tied together whilst ensuring yr not going into a 17 track 'Musical Catastrophe in Three Parts' completely cold. Not that you particularly need this entry point, two interludes of musique concrète break up the running and add further to the sonic variety. The spoken word samples follow on again from the 'cursed songs' theme of the previous EP and are well chosen, although with their emotional openness potentially uncomfortable for those unaccustomed to the concept.

With no moments of filler it's hard to pick out highlights. Even 'With Who, Who And What I've Got' (a live highlight that many have been waiting for a long time to hear the “Standard Rock” recording of) doesn't overshadow tracks such as 'Doesn't Believe In Angels' or opener 'If I'm The Most Famous Boy You've Fucked, Then Honey, Yr In Trouble. But if my arm is twisted then I'd have to single out the left-field pop of '200X', epic communal sing-along 'New Street, You Can Take It' and single '(Don't) Show Us Yr Fangs' as personal favourites. At the moment.

But it's worth saying that I've only been living with this album for a short while. The closing pair of 'The Swell/Like Neverwhere' and 'Alternate Timelines Piling Up' are much more subtle and honed than anything we've heard on Johnny Foreigner's previous two albums with the latter disappearing in a patter of drum machine at close. This feels like a wind-down after the hearts-on-sleeve intensity of the rest of the record, but perhaps in time and with a focus on the album sections individually these moments will come to have their own impact.

Conversely, maybe the opposite will be true and the impact this album has will dull over time. Perhaps to get the most from Johnny Foreigner Vs Everything you need yr life to be that bit screwed up so that you need pop music to fulfil an emotional need. (Maybe this is more opinion piece than it is review.) But right now as 2011 starts to draw to a close this is the Album Of The Year.

Because of their excellent lyrics, because it feels like we're in this mess together but, most of all, because as long as there's Johnny Foreigner there is hope... and that's not something anyone's ever said about the NME's continued existance.

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Monday, 7 November 2011

Track of the Week: Johnny Foreigner - 200X

The past week has been a clusterfuck of PoP releases. Both Los Campesinos! latest Hello Sadness and Johnny Foreigner's eagerly anticipated Johnny Foreigner Vs Everything dropped onto the doormat at KPL Towers. Both in extraordinarily sexy bundles. Lovely stuff.

Thus far the record that's been spinning between my ears most isJohnny Foreigner Vs Everything and this week's top track reflects this. Whilst it's early days at the moment it feels like it could be the album of the year and early highlight 200X sounds like it could be the nearest JoFo have got yet to replicating the awe-inspiring heights of 'Salt Peppa & Spinderella'. Saying that '200X' doesn't seem set to be a live behemoth in this vein, as down-beat as it is.

As you can listen (and watch) there's little point in hosting a description of the sound. Brilliant. Special. Life affirming. Johnny Foreigner.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

EP Review: Katie Malco & The Slow Parade

Alcopop! Records
Released: 21st November

It's clear from what's been written on Keep Pop Loud over the past few months that I'm fairly smitten with the excellent acoustic pop of Katie Malco. From her captivating performance on the Alcopopalooza patio through to the recent split threEPeople release, she's been an artist that has been worth keeping a close eye on. Now she's released her first full EP for Alcopop! Records, encapsulating everything nice that's been said about her.

With a band fleshing out her creations, Katie Malco & The Slow Parade is the sort of record that is only ever made by an artist that's a complete one-off. Being a young lady with an acoustic there's been comparisons to Laura Marling that here simply don't ring true (especially if we're talking Marling's most recent releases). Monkey Swallows The Universe are a closer act, but still don't sound all that much like Malco. Whilst her voice doesn't discernibly have anything 'other' about it she doesn't sound like anyone else. Musically there's moments that recall fellow PoPsters My First Tooth, but again it's not the full story.

Katie Malco - Johnny by alcopop

You'll know 'Johnny' by now. It's the lead track that's been up for streaming for the past week or so. And depending on how closely you've been reading KPL you might have glimpsed 'Florence Nightingale's House', a Track of the Week that I was raving about post-Alcopopalooza. Likewise if you've been subscribing to Big Scary Monsters '11 Collection you'd have heard 'Get In The Car'. In this respect coming to this EP is like coming to the debut album of a band that you've been following from the singles. These existing tracks still sound great, but it's the collection together with the new ones that really confirms what you've been thinking all along.

The best of these newbies here is, for my money, 'Sad Eyes'. It's the poppiest of the bunch, with the most going off musically, but still it's Katie's voice that really carries it and transports the listener into the song. With a mega-catchy chorus it's easy to just sing along if you don't want to think and just get carried away. It's like it's being beamed in from a place where everything's not totally fucked, and just for four minutes it takes you there too. A brilliant song.

But that's just a personal favourite. Each of these five is going to stand above the rest in the ears of a listener, and deservedly so. This EP is a wonderful and unique little musical artefact that is hopefully only the start of a fruitful career for Katie Malco. How Alcopop! finds so many artists of such a high quality I really don't know, but I'm bloody glad he does.

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