Thursday, 29 March 2012

EP Review: Hillary & The Democrats – Den Svenska EP

Released: 1st February
Get It: Bandcamp

An absolutely delightful six tracks of witty pop

There are so many funny and interesting lyrics on this six track EP by Liverpool based indiepop band Hillary And The Democrats that this review could quite easily descend into an audio transcript. Entertaining rather than overly wordy and with superb, upbeat pop tunes to back the lyrics up, H&tD are like the warm breeze that welcomes in spring.

First track 'Let's Play Kubb' appropriately has hints of Scandinavian popsters Shout Out Louds whilst singing about procrastinating with a Swedish lawn game. As on other songs there's hints of Dogs Die In Hot Cars' Craig Macintosh about the vocals with “who-oh-oh”s adding to the upbeat bounciness. Meanwhile the lyrical highlight, possibly of the entire EP, is “Now we're talking to you all / I'm breaking down that fourth wall / And just when you're getting bored we introduce a third chord”, the latter part of which accompanies said musical shift.

The Den Svenska EP is more than just a brilliant opening track however. Any one of 'Heart Beats In Binary', 'Vinaigrette' or 'Excuses, Excuses' is easily it's equal. 'Heart Beats...' for example is musically slower and sadder, recalling The Boy Least Likely to in it's playground simplicity whilst finding time for some handclaps. On the other hand 'Vinaigrette' sounds strangely like a lost classic despite it's unique lyrics about a neighbours extension.

Whilst 'Harry Nilsson' makes humerus light of the titular songwriter's shortcomings it's the aforementioned 'Excuses, Excuses' that will ultimately make you return to this EP when you want something to listen to whilst walking to the park in the sun. Acoustic guitar lead with flecks of mandolin accompaniment it's sits favourably alongside The Boy Least Likely To's more country moments and is almost guaranteed to lift the spirits.

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Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Runaround Kids – You'd Feel The Same

Label: Philophobia Music
Released: 16th April
Get It: Bandcamp T-shirt / Mega bundle

Loud guitar pop from Wakefield, that's as good as that other loud guitar pop from Wakefield

The Cribs are back to being good now, but there was a couple of Johnny Marr years where it felt like they'd lost it. Not that many would do differently, but it felt like they were trying to act cool and restrained in front of the guitar legend. But whilst The Cribs were at that Wakefield unleashed a new scuzzy, fuzzy rock band called Runaround Kids on the world. Their debut album Linked Arms came out last year and is being followed up with a year long release schedule that's headed by 'You'd Feel The Same'.

A song of two halves, 'You'd Feel The Same' begins with a mess of guitars, bass, drums and accented vocals, the band throwing themselves through a punk reverie. The Cribs comparisons stand for the slower moments that hark back to that trio's debut album. With memorable chants such as “I say I'm wrong / You say you're not sorry” it gets nicely stuck in the head. For the finale the song disintegrates into a Johnny Foreigner-esque spoken section before building into a massive guitar lead swell before gradually falling apart again. It's an excellent end to an exciting single.

The single is currently available as a T-shit/CDR, but for a few quid extra you can sign up for a subscription that'll see you receive loads more stuff over the course of the year including 12” split done with We Are Losers and a cassette done with The Spills. On the strength of this, it sounds worth doing if you've the cash to spare.

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Monday, 26 March 2012

Track of the Week: Standard Fare - Girlfriend

Label: wiaiwya
Released: 7th June
Get It: wiaiwya 7777777 7” Subscription

Another fantastic single from Sheffield's finest pop trio

The wiaiwya 7777777 series (in short:7 7 inch singles, by 7 bands all released on the 7th of a month and each coming in one of the 7 colours of the rainbow) has so far singles from The Wave Pictures and The Werewandas. Over the next few months they'll be joined by pop luminaries including Shrag and Allo Darlin', but what's most exciting right now is that 7” #4 has been confirmed to feature three new tracks from Standard Fare.

The first of these to be unveiled is 'Girlfriend', and the quality for a band that's only just released a cracking album is surprisingly high. Not that you'd expect Standard Fare to come out with anything shoddy, but where you might expect something of b-side standard, this is arguably one of the best things they've recorded.

Emma kicks it off with an ace bass riff before the boys come in to back her up, it's a gentle start that paves way for their meatiest chorus yet. With the bass leading it's almost an indiepop 'Song 2', Emma's vocals staying clear over the top and the effective quiet/loud dynamics constantly refreshing the song.

Already the lyric “not everyone has encyclopedic knowledge of music” is being cemented as Standard Fare's more memorable and for this song alone the single is going to be one of 2012's most essential.

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Friday, 23 March 2012

Glow Kit – Head Factory

Label: Alcopop! Records
Get It: Soudncloud

Alcopop + Denmark = Pop^2

With typical Alcopop! aplomb, their new signing Glow Kit have been described as “WAVVEs meets Futureheads meets FUCKING AWESOME!” on the label's site. Which sorta takes the fun out of it for us. After all, how do you continue a review from there?

Certainly the reference points are accurate, with 'Head Factory' holding in its grubby paws a excitable buzz that's part surf-pop and part post-punk. Nice jittery guitar parts come all from all manner of angles and help get the chorus nicely wedged in yr head. Hailing, as the band do, from Denmark there's a sense of slightly off kilter fun about them that's refreshing in a landscape full of try-hards.

In terms of the Pop! roster, despite differences in sound, Glow Kit will probably please those who miss Elephants. Looking to the wider picture, it's easy to see how they'll appeal to those for whom the guitar pop of the mid-00s was a musical delight.

There's no word yet on any Glow Kit releases as yet. But keep yr eyes peeled. And in the meantime download this.

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Thursday, 22 March 2012

MJ Hibbett – We're Privatising Everything

A new song from MJ Hibbett: not pro-Osbourne

Written initially as satire, in light of yesterday's budget this new MJ Hibbett track seems somewhat prescient. With the roads and the NHS joining the rail network and utility companies in being flogged to the best connected bidder, it's excellent to see a musician calling the government out. Not that they'd listen, Landley (the Beeching for the 21st Century) has proved repeatedly that listening in not on their agenda.

Anyway 'We're Privatising Everything', even with it's current affairs topic is thankfully not too heavy. Yes, it raises excellent points but does so by extrapolating current trends to ridiculous proportions, and raises several laughs on the way. Like an indiepop 10 o'clock live. With added Mars Men of Jupiter.

“The human race's history has been a sorry tale
Of mismanagement within the public sector
Millenia of mistakes which would never have occurred
With an accountable board of directors”

These sarcastic opening lyrics give you an idea of what to expect from this live recording. If you're all for privatisation then, frankly you might not find the song quite as funny but then again you're probably far too busy congratulating yourself on syphoning funds from the health service into your Mercedes fund to be reading an indiepop site.

Furthermore, the Moon Horse vs The Mars Men Of Jupiter podcast series has started over at the Moon Horse site, with the first two episodes ready for download/streaming now. 'We're Privatising Everything' is set to appear later in the podcast.

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Tuesday, 20 March 2012

EP Review: Summer – Happens Every Year

Pop focused regrouping from the ex-Kidnapepr Bell trio

As it turns out, the last release from Birmingham's Kidnapper Bell was 'Everything Ever' on last year's Keep Pop Loud CD. Having spent the winter working on their new angle they are, like their namesake, making tentative steps towards re-appearance.

Happens Every Year is the first fruits of a winter of Tuesday evenings, and although Summer bare some of the trademark sounds of their old guise the very nature of the change has had the biggest sonic impact. Echoing guitars reverberate around over skittering electronic drum machines with an effect that's closer to pop than their post-punk/rock earlier guise. It's a new and welcome development, setting Summer apart from their past and peers.

This EP tests the waters for this new sound, and among the five songs are two that stand out straight away as highlights. First and foremost there is opening track 'Decisions Decisions'. From the first moments where a sunny piano lays the foundations for tight vocal harmonies and interplay between the bass and electric guitar we're treated to a sense of optimism. Steadily building in an almost cyclical fashion, it's not what might have been expected from the band, but is all the better for it. Equally as fresh is 'Stay Where You Are, a track that best utilises the scratchy drum machine snaps as a backdrop for the shimmering feel of either a harsh and isolated urban winter or blissful idealised hazy summer. The snatches of background samples and live percussion make this a perfect headphones moment.

In fact, it's moments that Summer's music best captures: tiny snapshots of their namesake season. There's the feeling of momentary contentment that comes with sitting in a beer garden as the sun goes down that comes with 'Off We Go' as the song is stripped back to simple elements and makes the most of backing vocals and drum machine taps. Meanwhile 'This Is Proof' brings to mind the later evening walk to a night out, with friends. Zippy guitars mean that this is perhaps closer to their Kidnapper Bell days than some of the other moments on Happens Every Year , but ultimately is only a lusher production job away from being a dancefloor filler in it's own right.

Although on 'Stay Where You Are' Summer sing “If it hurts to move stay where you are”, it's clear that this is advice they've not taken themselves. Moving forward short of a band member cannot have been the most easiest choice, but these recordings show that they have indeed moved in a very good direction.

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Monday, 19 March 2012

Track of the Week: Veronica Falls – My Heart Beats

Released: 9th March (MP3) / 26th March (7”)
Label: Bella Union
Get It: MP3 / Pre-order 7”

A summery indiepop hug from Bella Union's London darlings

Somehow (I blame time and money: lack of) I managed to miss Veronica Falls 2011 self-titled album. But that's not to say they've not been on my radar. With hazy indiepop gems like 'Beachy Head' under their belts, and on compilations, they reserved themselves a spot at the top pop table and with new video 'My Heart Beats' they've come to dine.

The single itself was made available digitally last week, but is yet to arrive on vinyl, which judging by their sound is right where it belongs. It has all of the qualities of the late '80s brigade of underground pop outfits, something emphasised by it's not being present on the album. It's a stand a lone gem that's swathed in fuzz and hooks, coming across like a hug from The Primitives.

If that sounds too cutesy then I apologise, for there's meat on Veronica Falls musical bones. The feedback on the guitars has the bit of The Jesus And Mary Chain which works perfectly with the tight vocal harmonies. It's one for the summer and just sneaky enough to get right under your skin.

Veronica Falls - My Heart Beats from Army Of Kids on Vimeo.

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Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Single Review: The Hives – Go Right Ahead

Released: 4th June
Label: Disques Hives
Get it: Forthcoming album Lex Hives
Listen at Rolling Stone

2007's The Black And White Album wasn't great. It wasn't awful either – killer tracks such as 'Tick! Tick! Boom!' and 'Well... All Right!' saw to that – but it means that it's now been eight years since The Hives released an album truly worthy of mention. Although it could be argued that LPs aren't really the band's forte (Your New Favourite Band was after all a compilation) it feels like we could really do with a full set of stunners right now. An album that, like The Hives themselves is full of the true spirit of rock and roll. Something that encapsulates the stage presence, suits and steam rolling energy of The Hives.

With that in mind, 'Go Right Ahead doesn't exactly scream “CLASSIC” in yr face. But there is something special going on here.

The vocoder introduction is something of a red herring and it quickly becomes clear that Pelle and co. have left the ill-advised pop experimenting of TBAWA behind in favour of a Thin Lizzy meets The Stooges wail-athon topped off with some skronking sax. Unsurprisingly thanks to the vocals of Howlin' Pelle and the be-suited attitude that seeps through the speakers this still sounds like The Hives. And after a couple of listens the vocal hook is buried deep in yr head.

It's certainly a good start for their album campaign, although their absence during a time when the tastes of the record buying public has changed considerably means they've got a lot of work to do to regain ground. However, if we're talking just about quality then they need not worry as 'Go Right Ahead' is going to slot in fine amongst the classics come the inevitable tour and festival sets.

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Monday, 12 March 2012

Track of the Week: Internet Forever – Centre Of Your Universe

Released: 2nd April
Label: Tape Alarm
Get it: Internet Forever self-titled album on 12”
or Audio Antihero Compilation

Classic sounding indiepop goodness of the type that's regularly featured on KPL - because we love it so much.

Briefly touched on in the review of Audio Antihero's charity compilation Some.Alternate.Universe last week, Internet Forever are really rather good. 'Centre Of Your Universe is their song from said release and it also features on their forthcoming debut album.

Rarely has the 'Be My Baby' drumbeat been misused, and this is no expection – putting Internet Forever in the lineage of The Long Blondes, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Johnny Boy and – of course – The Ronettes. Jangly with a festive feel it's a wall of sound topped with handclaps and a sweet female vocal. There's all of these easy-to-point-to references, but at the same time Internet Forever feel new and stand on their own. The instrumentation is odd and with a modern twist that prevents the song from lapsing into retro copying and ensures a completly immersive experience.

Bravely fading out when you expect it to return to the chorus, 'Center Of Your Universe' hints at very promising things for their debut album. Unfortunately unemployment means that my vinyl budget has already disappeared for the foreseeable future, but not to worry. This stands on it's own as a perfect pop single... or compilation highlight.

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Friday, 9 March 2012

Review: Audio Antihero Presents: 'Some.Alternate.Universe' for FSID

Released: 5th March
Label: Audio Antihero
Get it: Bandcamp

You shouldn't buy this because it's for charity, but rather because it's many kinds of brilliant.

Audio Antihero is the DIY label that's not only responsible for one of the finest records of the past decade (Nosferatu D2's We're Gonna Walk Around This City With Our Headphones On To Block Out The Noise) but also does a fine line in self-deprecation. But for all of the disparaging comments on their Twitter about the reviews that their releases receive they've created a nice niche for interesting, but unpretentiously different music.

This compilation, entitled Some.Alternate.Universe is the second of its type put out by the label and features a massive 36 tracks, with proceeds going to The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID). The names spread across the two discs worth of material include both the familiar, the strange and those that we presumed we'd never see anything widely available from and covers all bases in the process.

Which, is something that this review can't hope to do without becoming a tl;dr. So, some highlights then:

Well they come think and fast, with Internet Forever's 'Centre Of Your Universe' providing a succulent, sweet indiepop treat. Contrastingly, BITCHES are riotously noisy, blasting their number out in under two minutes. The real surprise in the opening salvo however is Eddie Argos' other-other band The Art Goblins making an appearance. Mashing what sounds like the riff to '18,000 Lira' to the “the kids don't like it” refrain from 'St. Pauli', 'Disco' is all of the fun you could hope for from one of the men behind this Glam Chops number.

It's always good when Johnny Foreigner crop up too. 'With Who, Who And What I've Got' is a blast of familiarity that reminds us exactly why the band have such a grip on our hearts. Whilst Alexi's side project yr friends shows that even his rough sketches are worth more than most bands other careers. (See also Nosferatu D2 and Superman Revenge Squad).

Whether you lean towards the more abstract or conventional ends of DIY pop there's more than four pounds (the minimun donation) worth of material to explore here. The only problem comes if you're unemployed (like me) and can't afford to investigate any further. There's so many moments that grab the listener here with a piercing emotive impact that you find yourself repeatedly promising to buy records by bands that you've only just heard of. It's why we listen to compilations. Get this one and a charity gets to see some cash too. This is an alternate universe where everyone's a winner.

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Wednesday, 7 March 2012

EP Review: Gunning For Tamar – Time Trophies

Released: 19th March
Label: Alcopop! Records
Get it: Alcopop! Store

Watch out for these guys. Watch! Geddit? TIME Trophies. Oh, nevermind...

As KPL kicks back into gear after a late winter hibernation, so too does the Alco-beast arise from it's slumber with a slew of new releases. This week sees the first new music releases of 2012 from veteran DIY indiepop label Alcopop! With a single from Freeze The Atlantic (reviewed here at the beginning of February) and the second EP from The Social Club. On the not so distant horizon (coming over a hill you could say) however is this monster release from Oxford rock quartet Gunning For Tamar.

Staying with the Alcopop! tradition of ensuring records have a quirky physical aspect, the Time Trophies EP comes as a bright orange wrist-watch – it's relation to the EP title self-apparent – but it's the music that's of concern here. And what strikes about the it is that it seems much more suited to Alcopop!'s sister label Big Scary Monsters than it does to the pop bands we know and love. For fans of the label think along the lines of Jumping Ships and LightGuides rather than My First Tooth, for the uninitiated think of crunching but smart rock music with brave instrumentation and an emotive bent.

The first and title track sets this out well with the progressive tenancy to shift between rhythms and textures underneath the melodic lead guitar motif. There's hints of Foo Fighters appeal in the end section too, which doesn't harm GFT's prospects. The emo-leaning vocal may put off some who are more indiepop-inclined, but this remains a more than decent rock number that brings new ideas to the table.

'Chocolate Hooves' is up next with a less guitar driven intro acting as a misnomer for the riffy choruses. With this quiet-loud structure it's certainly catchy, if somewhat disposable between 'Time Trophies' and the EP highlight. The piano and bass intro on 'Astronaut-Abort' hints at a more pop appeal and enables GFT to reach greater heights. The vocal is toned down whilst retaining it's distinctive character and in messing with the instrumentation they allow everything to breathe. The tinkling of the keys combined with the spacious and rolling drums lends this a post-rock feel that's more than welcome.

Closing proceedings is the Maybeshewill remix of 'Time Trophies'. Whist normally a remix would fail to add to anything other than minutes to the running time, this again gives the group another dimension, bringing the title track to the forefront of the mind whilst looking at it a completley different way. But that's what remixes are supposed to do, right? Well, it just does to show how many get it wrong. This is snappy and electronic with a stripped down feel. Quite good, in other words.

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Monday, 5 March 2012

Track of the Week: Taffy – So Long

Released: 21st April
Label: Club AC 30

It came from Japan

It's not deliberate, but KPL can be rather Anglo-centric at times. Great news then that some excellent new pop is coming your way from Tokyo and bringing with it the terrific sounds of a mixed gender group bashing out some artsy pop with potential for wide appeal.

Taffy recall mid-90s pop wonders such as Echobelly and Elastica in such a way that feels a culmination of their influences rather than Britpop revivalism. They've gained comparisons to The Primitives and Teenage Fanclub and are signed to the same label as Ringo Deathstarr. This is pop lineage of the finest order and heavily implies that they've the tunes to back up any praise that's heaped their way.

Debut single 'So Long' certainly hints that this is the case. With an Elastica guitar rev that paves the way for a post-punk meele with each instrument engaged in an attempt to take control. The cooly detached vocal glides over the top guiding us to the long awaited chorus. The perfect combination of agitated and melodic, sweet and scruffy it's a refreshing single the band should rightly be proud of.

'So Long' is being released on Record Store Day (21st April) with album Sunset Caramel following it on 7th May.

Head over to soundcloud to listen to this track

And a shout to the Von Pip Musical Express for bringing this to my attention.

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