Friday, 21 December 2012

KPL003 - Pop Kept Loud - Free Download

Merry Christmas from Keep Pop Loud!

As a festive treat for you all we're really happy to bring you our third ever release and present it to you as a free download to say thanks for a terrific 2012!

This compilation EP features a selection of the bands that we've covered and loved over the past 12 months and can be streamed and downloaded below.

Bordeauxxx open the EP with 'Headlights/Fireflies' from the Keep Pop Loud released mini-album Only Fiction. It's one of our favourites from the record and really show what our indiepop sensations are capable of.  

Menace Beach feature members of You Animals and Sky Larkin and released the Dream Out EP at the beginning of this month. The title track is featured here and is a fantastically fuzzy sample of what can be heard in full here.

Formed from the ashes of Kidnapper Bell, Summer are a band we've had our eyes on since the beginning. Their track 'Stay Where You Are' is a fantastic slice of modern pop with a darker edge. A taste of very special things to come we think...

One of our favourite bands of the year Paintings of Ships followed up on the promise of their singles with the great album English Weather. 'Summer Love' is one of many highlights and possibly their most instant track. A band that we think you really need in your life.

As you may have seen, we named Dinosaur Planet by the legendary MJ Hibbett & The Validators as our favourite album of 2012. What a pleasure it is then to bring you our favourite track from this album. 'The Battle of Peterborough' sees space dinosaurs lay waste to the Cambridgeshire city.

Closing our compilation is the delightful Olympians, whose Book Club series of singles has provided us with many wonderful moments in 2012. 'Nova Scotia' is a more measured way to end the year and rounds off this release beautifully. We hope that you enjoy the release and would love to see you share it.

If you like what you hear then please support the bands by investigating their music further or going to see them at a show. And once again, thanks for making 2012 the start of even bigger things to come for Keep Pop Loud.  

Keep Pop Loud

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Top 20 Albums of 2012: #10-#01

#20-#11 was yesterday. Find out what you missed. Bordeauxxx haven't been included because you'll think it biased. It's covered here anyway.

10) Field Music - Plumb
Plumb will be the Field Music album that, in decades to come, will be pointed to as the best place to start when getting into such a legendary band. Containing everything that's made previous FM albums great and working as a whole grand piece, it's one of the only albums I've ever come across that's works so well as a whole that I'm utterly unable to point to any one song from it. Every good thing that's been written about Field Music is true and Plumb is them at their best.

09) This Many Boyfriends - This Many Boyfriends
The rough production meant that This Many Boyfriends début wasn't instantly set for a high placing in my end of year list. Still, a similar issue never stopped Los Campesinos! from triumphing on their first album. And like LC! the songs here are all fantastic. With many familiar to me from previous singles/EPs and a short running time (under half an hour!) This Many Boyfriends found itself easily on repeat. Time and again in 2012 I'd find myself singing these songs to myself – both the hits and the album tracks. And that's exactly what I expect from an album in my Top 10 of any given year.

08) Maxïmo Park - The National Health
Maxïmo Park were one of the few 'old hands' from the last decade's indie rock boom that have never seemed to loose it. That said, The National Health still felt like a return to form. It's because this record, which mixes their more avant garde influences ('When I Was Wild') with classic brit-guitar-pop ('The Undercurrents'), leaves Quicken The Heart seem a little lacking. On full throttle tracks like 'Banlieue' and lead single 'Hips And Lips' they sound ballsier than ever, and still retain their bookish charms. As good in 2012 as it was in '05.

07) Future of the Left - The Plot Against Common Sense
Ah, the fickle music press. All over FotL around Travels With Myself And Another, but now they're onto album 3 the NME doesn't want to know. Foolish! The Plot Against Common Sense sees the band come out of a period of personnel change stronger than ever with an album that's just as vitriolic, aggressive and funny as they've been given credit. Even without the amazing song titles ('Robocop 4 – Fuck Off Robocop', 'Sorry Dad, I Was Late For The Riots') The Plot Against Common Sense would still be the best punk album of 2012.

06) Taffy - Caramel Sunset
Perfectly formed shoegaze britpop from Tokyo, Taffy have delighted us ever since we first laid ears and eyes on them. Caramel Sunset fulfilled all of the promise heaped on them from the preceding singles and has ensured that I've spent the year with their fizzy pop zapping through my brain. From the shimmering pop of opener 'Between' to the chugging Elastica-esque riffs of closing number 'So Long' there's not a moment that can't be savoured. If you've not come across Taffy this year then treat yourself this Christmas.

05) The Darkness - Hot Cakes
Ah, a bit of anomaly this one. Sorry about that. Still, at least I've no need to try and justify it. You likely made your mind up on The Darkness nearly a decade ago and whatever I think is not going to change that. Still, in harking back to their debut The Darkness have crafted a mighty fun stomp of a rock record. It's silly and novel, but I honestly couldn't give a damn.

04) The Winter Olympics - Profit & Loss
The Winter Olympics would have had to go a long way to fail in my eyes this year. Compiling a string of brilliant singles and packing in great new tracks is the perfect way to go when getting an album together and this is the best example from 2012. The songs are memorable and packed with character (in such a way that riled the Guardian somewhat), but what keeps me coming back to Profit & Loss is the fact that it's clearly made lovingly by people who are huge fans of music. Like with Art Brut it's this level of connection that makes it impossible for me to say anything against The Winter Olympics. A real highlight of the year!

03) Japandroids - Celebration Rock
Somehow I managed to avoid Japandroids until this year. It really wasn't deliberate, but it was incredibly silly of me. Visceral two piece rock and roll has been in vogue of late, but it's yet to be done any better than this. Mixing blue collar desperation with a hard-partying attitude that Mr WK would be proud of this excellently named band have provided us with THE rock album of 2012. No argument. If in 2012 you've felt downtrodden or trapped, in need of escape or a beer or simply pissed off at the world then it's been articulated by Celebration Rock.

02) Allo Darlin' - Europe
So close to taking the Album of the Year award, Allo Darlin's superb second pop masterpiece has been trumped due to an album from 2011 getting a delayed release. Not that this detracts from the quality here at all. With Europe (and it's bonus disc of cover versions) we're all reminded of how no matter what gimmicks bands employ, or what technology they deploy to create their music very little can capture the heart like beautifully crafted honest pop.

01) MJ Hibbett & The Validators - Dinosaur Planet

OK, I've spoken up for both gimmicks and a lack of them in previous entries. By putting a indiepop-opera about Dinosaurs from space laying waste to Peterborough I'm surely siding with novelty right?

Well, yes and no. Because although this is the most unique album you're going to have heard in 2012 this alone wouldn't carry it. It's in fact the universal appeal of such oddities that makes Dinosaur Planet the best album of the year. It's an album that promotes good scientific practice, working together and doing yr little bit to make the world a better place. It delivers these ideas with a solid plot and songs that are as catchy as they are fun. Nothing is forced here and it's as far away from po-faced as possible. As such if there's no part of you that can appreciate Dinosaur Planet I'm really not sure that we can be friends.

Keep Pop Loud

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Top 20 Albums of 2012: #20-#11

No pre-amble. Just albums. Bordeauxxx haven't been included because you'll think it biased. It's covered here anyway.

20) Jack White – Blunderbuss
This is the album we've all been waiting for Jack to make since Elephant. Reigning in White's esoteric tenancies it delivers a full album of cracking tunes that, whilst in line with all of the blues reference points that we expect, manages to feel at home in 2012. Stick a pin anywhere in the Blunderbuss tracklisting and there's a single waiting to happen. What's more, with the variety on offer we get to see more sides of Mr White in one place than on any previous release and have an album that's easy to stick on repeat without any danger of boring. 

19) Paintings of Ships - English Weather
It's entirely possible that I over-use the word 'gem' in relation to music. But in order that it not lose it's meaning here I'll only use it once in this list and it will be to describe Paintings of Ships. Following on from last year's cracking single 'Love Will Always Follow You Around' the London three piece released this under-appreciated gem in an otherwise pop-starved summer. Enjoyably fuzzy and tuneful pop it made no pretences and instead works its way into hearts through repeated listens and catchy songs.

18) The Lovely Eggs - Wildlife
The dust hasn't had chance to settle on last year's Cob Dominos yet (because I'm still listening to it), but that didn't stop The Lovely Eggs from closing 2012 with yet another collection of scrappy, brilliant pop songs. Wildlife is punkier than their previous efforts, yet no less eccentric with several tracks (including the memorable 'Scooter's Got Itchy') lasting under a minute. Several of the songs here have already been released as singles, with 'Allergies' featuring the production talents of Gruff Rhys. Bonkers.

17) Gaz Coombes - Here Come The Bombs
I must be getting old. Not only am I listening to more solo artists, but increasingly they're members of bands that were my favourites as a teenager. In fact until I discovered the extend of Pulp's brilliance Supergrass were my teenage favourite. Full stop. Still, Here Come The Bombs isn't in here on nostalgic value, the debut album from former 'grass singer/guitarist/sideburns Gaz makes it on its own merits. From the more tender moments such as 'White Noise', to the darker, modern pop of single 'Hot Fruit' there's a great depth to ...Bombs that people have often overlooked on Coombes previous work. This starts to set the record straight and points to a promising post-Supergrass future.

16) Tall Ships - Everything Touching
How to describe Tall Ships without making myself sounding incredibly wanky? That's the dilemma that I've spent the end of 2012 wrestling with. 'Epic' is an overused word, but fits them well. 'Grand' has multiple meanings, but again seems to work. 'Bloody incredible!' is a bit colloquial but possibly the best you'll get. 65daysofstatic's last album is a a touchstone, but there's much more going on on Everything Touching than electronically infused post-rock. It's affecting and energising, a record that just by listening in makes you feel a bit invincible. Recommended for anyone that likes any type of guitar based music.

15) Internet Forever - Internet Forever
Bubblegum indiepopppers Internet Forever seem to have drifted under most people's radars in the years since their early singles. Which is a shame as their debut album is a cracking pop smash that recalls Los Campesinos!, Bis, The Pipettes and The Go! Team. Often all at once. It's charming and fun, with each song being a potential earworm and potential favourite. Alongside This Many Boyfriends debut, IF are keeping pop loud in exactly the way that we'd hope. Oh, and did we mention it's fun? Because it is. Really really fun.

14) The Futureheads - Rant
To be bluntly honest, Rant suffers slightly on this list as it's a capella nature makes it damn hard to listen to on a noisy commuter train. Not a comment on the quality of the record of course, it ranks as one of The Futureheads best. Giving the same treatment to modern and classic pop songs and traditional rounds as well as selections from their own discography it's almost a comment on the nature of pop music as folk culture. By stripping the songs of their context and delivering them sans-instruments each of these catchy numbers is given right back to the people. Also, it's incredibly catchy and I didn't want to get caught singing along on the way to work.

13) Friends - Manifest!
Friends started the year under a wave of hype, and although their sales haven't lived up to this their music certainly has. A funkier, sexier record hasn't come this way in 2012, it's just baffling that it comes from a group of white Brooklyn hipsters. If The Long Blondes had listened to classic hip-hop rather than lots of Pulp, and were produced by The Go! Team they might have sounded like Friends. On the other hand they might not have. Who can say? That aside, in a world where Rhianna is so overexposed, this is a showcase for genuine empowered-pop.

12) Richard Hawley - Standing At The Sky's Edge
Despite being robbed of the Mercury prize by a useless aural graphic design team, Richard Hawley deservedly received many many accolades for his latest album and sold a more than respectable number of copies too. You've in all likelihood heard samples of this already and should need no more convincing, but in case that's not the case I'll take the chance to say that even at his most guitar-centric Hawley loses none of his romantic edge and still manages to connect at his most vitriolic. And also 'Leave Your Body Behind You' is among his best ever recordings.

11) Standard Fare - Out Of Sight, Out Of Town
One of two albums on this list that was due to be released last December, but ended up delayed until the start of 2012 instead, Out Of Sight, Out Of Town has had nowhere near the press that it deserved this year. Delays aside this could conceivably be down to the fact that they're 'just' three people playing their instruments very well and writing excellent songs in the process. It's just not dramatic enough in such a attention seeking market. The wider world's loss though is our gain, as OOS,OOT is crammed with the sort of pop goodness that we'll always need and love.

Keep Pop Loud 

Friday, 14 December 2012

Best of 2012 Part 1: Odds & Ends

Although the blog side of KPL has been relatively inactive for a large part of the year my ears haven't been. The real End of Year Listageddon is going to happen next week, but in tribute to those odds and ends that don't always get a mention, I've decided to acknowledge a few things that have been 2012 to Keep Pop Loud...

EP of the Year: Public Service Broadcasting – The War Room
Although not the strongest year for EP releases in recent memory, 2012 has supplied us with some cracking short form releases. Not least this incredible record by Public Service Broadcasting. When I last heard an act arrive as original and fully formed as this I really couldn't say. The use of public information films alongside their combination of electronic and live instrumentation results in something really rather rousing and feels both stately and new. A full album is due next year, but in the meantime this conceptual release is worth your time and attention.

Event of the Year – We release Bordeauxxx mini-album Only Fiction
I absolutely have to mention this in any run-down of 2012. Not (just) because I want you to buy it (I do), but because it is the single release that has taken up the most of my time in this or any other year. For a label that I'm running on such a small budget I'm immensely proud to have this in the discography. Bordeauxxx are terrific (and wonderful people too!), and have supplied us with great pop music in the past, Only Fiction however is the moment where they're really stepped up a notch or three. I was blown away when I first heard the rough mix of this, and the finished product is easily one of my favourite music things of 2012.
You'd probably think I was biased if I put it in the Best Albums of 2012 list though...

Compilation of the Year - Alcopopular 5: The Hit-Hikers Guide To The United Kingdom
When it comes to 'various artists' compilations you have to go a hell of a distance to beat Alcopop! Records in any given year. It came as something of a surprise then that come the start of December we'd still not heard the LONG promised 5th addition to the Alcopopular cannon.
Dropping in December it was certainly worth the wait. A 20 track beauty with a gorgeously designed map, it packs in pop hits like Tokyo trains pack in commuters. Highlights for me include Summer Camp, Fear of Men, Bos Angeles, Luke Barham (from Stagecoach) and Our Lost Infantry but you're handsome enough to pick your own favourites. Not only is this warming me up this cold cold winter but it's a great reminder of what I'd love Keep Pop Loud to be.

Gig of the Year - Pulp at Sheffield Arena, 8th December
I won't go on about this, because we could be here all day. But basically Pulp have been the most important band to me ever since I moved to Sheffield as a teenager. Their records give me feels. So many feels. And so did the gig. I'll admit to basically being in awe for the most part. Standing there in the middle of a 12,000 person crowd in semi-disbelief that yes, this is actually happening.
They opened with 'Do You Remember The First Time?'. They showcased their pre-fame years and threw toilet roll across a the arena. They played the big hits. Richard Hawley turned up. They bought out b-side 'Like A Friend' and the legendary 'Sheffield: Sex City'. They played an encore after finishing their main set on 'Common People'.
But facts, facts, facts. All to disguise the fact that Pulp get under my skin in the best possible way. All because I can't really find the words to say how great this concert was. All a crap way of me saying “I love Pulp!”. And I do. Their songs get to me like no other and having seen 24 of them performed live, and terrifically in the greatest city on the planet I can die happy.

Keep Pop Loud

PS: Come back next week for the Keep Pop Loud Top 10 Albums of 2012

Friday, 7 December 2012

Single Reviews: Olympians, Alarm Bells, Joanna Gruesome, Tim & Emmy

We're more than ready to say goodbye to 2012, and as we prepare to do so the last trickles of its pop music comes our way. A mixture of continuing projects, tasters for next year and festive tunes this is the last batch of single reviews before we take to the bloggers tradition of End of Year lists and summaries. So, once more unto the breech...

Olympians – Everything's Amazing (Nobody's Happy)
Closing the year in style is Norwich four-piece Olympians who have a released the final and best of their book club series of singles. An early version of 'Everything's Amazing (Nobody's Happy)' first saw the light of day last year in the Big Scary Monsters '11 Collection download series, but now could scarcely be further away from that jaunty guitar driven number. Carried on wintery, choral vocals the song drifts through, twinkling like snow and with festive inflections that get to the heart of seasonal disaffection. It's a song for early nights where you can't afford the heating and need the warmth that only a duvet and pop music can provide.

Alarm Bells - Cocoon
Formed from the ashes of everyone’s favourite defunct fight-pop band, Alarm Bells have unveiled a new EP that's available on limited edition/bit to expensive for us 12”. Closing the EP is 'Cocoon', (the only song available to listen to at time of writing), a song that unsurprisingly recalls Dananananaykroyd, albeit a version of the group rebuilt RoboCop style. Snarlier and less predictable than you might expect or treasure, 'Cocoon' travels in several directions without much resembling a chorus in sight. Thrashing drums, vocal effects and a sense of unease are expertly thrown around, resulting in a Doctrines like chaos.
It's worth noting that bandcamp lists track 1 ('Whitemere') as being 13 minutes long. Where Alarm Bells do from here is anyone's guess.

Joanna Gruesome - Do You Really Wanna Know Why Yr Still In Love With Me?

In honestly we're coming to the end of what we can enjoy with the current crop of lofi hazy fuzzpop bands. There was always a limited range of sounds to be mined from the genre, and no one seems willing to put a new spin on things. That is, aside from Joanna Gruesome who are almost single handedly making the whole shebang worthwhile. 'Do You Really Wanna Know Why Yr Sill In Love With Me?' was unveiled this week as was their signing to Fortuna Pop. A delightful and noisy pop song wrapped up in the warmth that's frequently absent from the fuzz, 'Do You Really..?' instantly readies us for more from this group.

Emmy the Great & Tim Wheeler – Zombie Christmas

The wonderful This Is Christmas album has already had airplay in KPL Towers this year, and as it's one of the few things that makes the festive period tolerable (the others being advent calendars and pigs in blankets) it's only right that coverage is given to the latest single. From the names involved the uninitiated should know what to expect; a fun yet silly pop number it speaks to the nerd in all of us and provides ample argument against the zombie fad being completely over (as well as commentary against the capitalistic drudgery of the season). Most importantly for a novelty-leaning festive pop song it has great lyrics with the highlight being “Well I don't wanna have my last Noel / We better kick those zombies back to hell”. It will raise a smile, and yr spirits, every time.

Keep Pop Loud