Posts Tagged ‘Indie’

Cae Gwyn Records – 29th October 2021

James Wells

Meh, whatever, right? I wish I could be that laid back, shrug that easily, care less – and not in the American sense. I’ve always been a fan of Dinosaur Jr since my early teens, and ‘Whatever’s Cool With Me; and ‘Let it Slide’ for me encapsulated that slacker style, and the appeal was that it was something I simply couldn’t subscribe to in my own life, however I might try.

This five-tracker from The Mighty Observer is far more laid back than that: it promises ‘warm jangly guitars and a low lazy mumble influenced by the likes of Kurt Vile, Sam Evian and Mac DeMarco’. It delivers all of this, and more, with some reflective compositions and soft-hued guitars and hazy vocals propelled gently and at a sedate pace by vintage drum machine sounds.

‘Sunkiss’ turns the lights down for a laid-back simmering groove of a tune. ‘Aros Am Yr Haul’ strikes a low, slow, stealthy groove that’s got hints of psychedelia about nit as it snakes around in a soft haze – and then there’s a way cool blues-orientated guitar solo bang in the middle, and it’s wonderful, immersive and effortlessly delivered.

What’s perhaps most striking is its range: for all its weary-sounding indie stylings, Okay, Cool is remarkably diverse when You explore the details. The longest track, ‘Y Goffod Inbetween’ is a shimmering, rippling instrumental that plods a long at mid-tempo and casts waves of light as if quavering across the surface of a pond.

Hazy, mellow, and easy on the ear, there’s depth and atmosphere going here, too.

12th October 2021

James Wells

The follow-up to her debut, ‘Another Girl’s Man’, ‘Hidden Paradise’ finds Alice SK plundering a host of genres to forge something that’s breezy, undoubtedly poppy, with elements of indie, jazz, and even a hint of ska – in short, the kind of thing I’d normally not go for. But for every rule, there are necessarily exceptions: The Ruts drew heavily on dub reggae without losing sight of their punk roots; Blondie were a new wave and guitar pop in equal measure, and the fact is, pop is not a source of shame, or a cause for criticism or dismissal in itself.

‘Hidden Paradise; is nicely done: it’s got a downbeat undercurrent, but has a nice, catchy swing and some backed-off brass bolstering the breezy chorus. It has an immediacy, but, where it stands up against so much mainstream pop, it also has depth, both in terms of arrangement and lyrically, balancing the deeply personal with an uplifting delivery.

Alice is using her network to positive effect here, too: the track, which appears on her forthcoming EP Electric – scheduled for release early in 2022 – which was produced and co-written by Muca (Los Bitchos, L.A. Salami), and she’s definitely one to include in your ‘ones to watch’ list. She’s on ours.

Alice SK artwork

Clue Records – 27th September 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The best thing about Team Picture is that, well, they’re Team Picture. A band that doesn’t look like a band, and certainly not in a cohesive, stylised way. The band’s name is a subtle but nifty encapsulation of what they’re about – the way teams at work are essentially a bunch of people thrown together with no commonality beyond their employment. They’re not your friends, they’re your colleagues, and while you may gel and not even loathe works nights out, those team photos only highlight the awkwardness, the disparities.

Every now and again, though, these disparate elements coalesce to positive ends, and this seems to be where the Leeds act are coming from, a band who are built on hybridity and variance. Their latest single – a scabrous satire of the pathetically sad and deeply toxic but occasionally dangerous incel community populated by predominantly low-IQ white misogynists – is a corker.

Speaking about the Single, Josh explained;“The Big Trees, The Little Trees’ is a sub-Talking Heads piece of black-pill satire. The title comes from what might be the first piece of incel literature ever unfortunately created, called ‘Might is Right’ by a total asshole called ‘Ragnar Redbeard’ (the pen name of one ‘Arthur Desmond’). The track was originally considered for the recording sessions for our 2nd record, but after completion of this version we decided it stood neatly enough on its own horrifying two feet to be presented separately…”

It’s got a nagging krautrocky groove that grabs you from the start, and even your dad might like it, and its success lies in its juxtaposition of the medium and the message.

The accompanying video really captures the band’s oddball nerdy misfit style, while pushing forward the homocentric / hypermasculine themes in an irreverent fashion – and it works well.

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Dates:

SEPTEMBER 
28th Bootleg Social, Blackpool 
29th The Parish, Huddersfield 
30th Broadcast, Glasgow 
OCTOBER 
1st Westgarth, Middlesbrough 
2nd Sidney + Matilda, Sheffield 
12th Yes, Manchester 
13th Camden Assembly, London 
14th Komedia, Brighton 
15th Brudenell Social Club, Leeds 
17th Wild Paths Festival, Norwich 
24th Karma Festival, Nottingham

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6th August 2021

James Wells

Some bands claim to be eclectic, but fail to substantiate those claims in the music itself serving up middling mediocrity, usually of a fairly anaemic indie / rock persuasion. Of course, no act with a diverse range of influences is likely to incorporate all of those influences into a single song (while rendering anything listenable), but, y’know, claiming Bowie and Led Zep and coming on like Oasis just doesn’t cut it.

Helve (not the Leeds post-metal act, but the London indie group) intimate that they draw on an eclectic combination of jazz, folk, electronic and experimental music, influenced by an array of genres and artists spanning Aphex Twin, Radiohead, Slint, Pat Metheny, Nick Drake, Portishead & Bill Evans.

All rolled together at the same time, that lot would sound absolutely fucking awful, but ‘Cabin Fever’ is nuanced in its hybridity, a kind of jazzy, blues influenced stroller at first that gets a bit proggy further down the line.

Singer/songwriter Leon has one of those voices that’s got range – not just technically good vocals, but vocals capable of conveying emotional range and depth too. A bit Thom Yorke, you might say, but also entirely his own, haunting and evocative, and here he spins all the different aspects of isolation – the introspection, the reflection, the self-loathing, the confusion, it all there, and we’ve all been there. Originally penned and demod in 2019 (as a much longer, more post-rock orientated tune with samples and other stuff in the mix) and rerecorded for this, their debut release, it feels particularly salient.

‘Cabin Fever’ isn’t an instant grab; instead of big hooks and an attention-grabbing chorus, it’s more of an atmosphere-orientated mood tune. Jazzy without being Jamiroquai, it’s the sound of late-night basement bars, and while it’s very much a product of our immediate times, clearly betrays roots that reach back further.

Slick on the image to select streaming service:

Helve artwork

Fierce Panda Records – 20th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Just two months on from the release of ‘Tear Ourselves In Two’, Jekyll follow up with ‘Catherine Wheel’ to cement their reputation as a band with a knack for a bona fide indie pop classic.

This one is particularly relatable on a personal level. I felt as if I was living in a different world from most people during lockdown. While friends, family, and many people on social media were managing by revelling in the masses of free time they sound themselves with on their hands and blasting through books and Nexflix boxset binges and bakery galore, and articles in the media about how people were re-evaluating their lives and work/life balance during ‘the great pause’, I found my anxiety was finding new peaks not because I was scared of the virus or running out of pasta or loo roll, but because with working and home-schooling, and surrounded by the tornado of panic what was engulfing friends and colleagues, I had less than no time, less than no energy, and weeks would evaporate.

In the event, the best part of sixteen months evaporated. Nothing happened, nothing really got achieved, and everyone got older, at least those who made it. I’d been spinning, windmilling at a frantic pace just to stay still, and still am. What is there to show for it?

Lockdown – when it eventually did happen in the UK – hit hard and fast and everyone clenched. Emerging from lockdown has been long and slow, and still feel like a massive adjustment, as if rising to the surface could induce the psychological equivalent of the bends. But here we are.

Singer Joel describes ‘Catherine Wheel’ as being about ‘the disorientation and panic of feeling that your life is passing by faster than you can keep up with, before you’ve even figured out what you want from it or how to use the precious time you’ve got to its full potential.’ Because life is too short, and every day wasted is a day closer to death. Butthole Surfers nailed it with the line ‘it’s better to regret something you have done than to regret something you haven’t done’. To do nothing… well, you may as well already be dead. But being forced to do nothing – that’s hard to stomach.

‘Catherine Wheel’ is succinct but explosive, three-and-a-half minutes of pent-up energy finding its release. It starts off with a gentle acoustic guitar that conveys a wistful sort of feeling, and is vaguely reminiscent of early Mansun, then very swiftly piledrives into a soaring guitar melded to a thumping, busy drum beat – loping, rolling, urgent, a beat on every beat and bursting with energy, and there’s a lot going here, and not just deep layers of reverb. It’s got that vaguely psychedelic / goth hue of The Horrors, but Jekyll are very much their own band rather than being in thrall to anyone.

If Muse frustrate with their immense pomp, then on ‘Catherin Wheel’ Jekyll capture the positive elements without being so overblown, distilling the elements down to create something that possesses a palpable intensity and that head-squeezing claustrophobia while at the same time looking outwards to the possibilities. It’s got a dark new wave edge, but it’s a truly killer single and a song for the times.

Catherine Wheel

20th July 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

More than I dislike talking politics or sport with colleagues and strangers, I feel most uncomfortable talking about music, because unless their leanings are, it’s almost guaranteed that we won’t hare similar tastes or knowledge. Usually, it’s a case of my hating everything they love, and their not having heard of anything I listen to. There’s no middle ground there: even if I feign an interest, nod and smile, where is there left to go?

And so I do often wonder about press releases, specifically the influences artists cite. In the more fringe fields of obscure metal, ambient, and electronica, esoteric reference points abound, perhaps because to an extent obscurantism carries a certain coolness and cachet. In more commercially-leaning circles, the opposite tends to be true. Artists aiming for a broad acceptance tend to cite artists who are well-known to the point that they’re essentially household names.

This isn’t to single out Jack Caine by any means, but his listed influences – Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Patti Smith, Arctic Monkeys, Joni Mitchell, The Smiths – feels incredibly ‘standard’. Are these really his influences? Maybe – it could really be that most people who make music listen to the same well-known artists. I also have a personal discomfort with citations of The Smiths, a band I loved with a deep passion in my teens, but have since struggled to relate to in my thirties and forties, and with their memory sullied by the colossal twat Morrissey has confirmed himself to be.

Of course, even music that is very much an evidential sum of its parts should be judged on its own merits, and while ‘derivative’ clearly bears heavily negative connotations, the assimilation of tropes and absorption of influences is, in itself, no bad thing per se. It’s all in the delivery, and for all this, ‘All in a Day’s Work’ is an accessible, melodic middling tune with hints of classic vintage indie and pop when pop wasn’t slick, manufactured, mechanised, digitised – and it’s well-executed. It has spirit, it has soul.

Building from a muted electric guitar played clean, over which Caine paints a kitchen sink scene, the bass begins to get twitchy and the muffled drumming begins to push things along and you just sense it’s going to break sooner or later… and then it spills. It’s a great single, with dynamics, energy, and emotion, and hooks.

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25th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The older you get, the weirder things get. On the one hand, the generational gap widens by the day, but on the other, you see thing come full circle, and faster. Growing up in the 80s, the fact of the matter is that my parents had abysmal taste in music, both contemporary and of their era. My mum would groove to Phil Collins and Tina Turner and Paul Young Van Halen and the fucking Bee Gees while ironing, while my dad hadn’t bought a new LP since Steeleye Span’s ‘All Around My Hat’. Car journeys on family holidays were a real hoot, what with Leo Sayer and 80s Cliff Richard tapes alternating with Now That’s What I Call Music 1 and 2. Philip Larking was right: your parents fuck you up in ways they don’t even realise. However, the point is that increasingly, new bands are turning to their parents’ rather cooler collections and discovering the likes of Nirvana, Pavement, Weezer, Teenage Fanclub and Pixies – and Sweethearts are a case in point.

They’re pitched as standing at the forefront of the 90s resurgence, but for some of us, the 90s never ended, especially for many of those who were in their teens and early twenties at the time and are around 4 now. Midlife crisis? Maybe. But then, for many, music stops when they hit 30, and I’ve spent the last fifteen years listening to peers bemoaning the lack of any decent new music. They’re all wrong, of course: there has been innovative and exciting new music released every year since the beginning of music. It just happens that none of the music of interest has received any kind of mainstream attention for a long time. But it’s all out there if you know where to look.

You wouldn’t call ‘If I Could I Would’ innovative, but that isn’t the point: this is a classic example of a band drawing on their influences, which so happen to reach back a generation – and distilling them into a strong and potent mix. ‘If I Could I Would’ is a melodic grunge-leaning slice of college rock, but there are some obvious indie features spun into the composition, not least of all the lead guitar part that spins its way around the rhythm section like a tripwire.

Lyrically, the song explores the limitations of desire and capability, and the song’s hook is a neat piece of circular, self-negating logic: ‘If I could, I would, but I can’t so I couldn’t’. It’s not nihilistic, just more a slackerist ‘meh’, and with its nostalgia-inducing retro musical backing, it’s the perfect summary of the listlessness of the zeitgeist.

Sweethearts - Artwork

2nd June 2021

James Wells

So often, less is more. Ben Denny Mo’s latest single is simply acoustic guitar and vocal. As such, it’s certainly less in terms of arrangement, and with so few elements in the mix, it’s hard to go particularly OTT on the production too. This is what really makes this: there’s no multitracking, no gimmicks or studio trickery, no deception or other kind of alchemical wizardly to enhance the performance. What we have here is just a staggering wealth of musical talent and ability on display.

The Fakenham-based singer-songwriter has already become a firm favourite with BBC Introducing at home in Norfolk, having drawn comparisons to a wide range of singers from Jack Johnson, Dave Matthews, Michael Jackson, Sam Smith and John Martyn. It’s testament to his range and versatility, and there’s a lot going on, all packed into this concise little number. The guy’s got real soul, and she swoops, soars, leaps and bounds all over the song with unbridled energy, calling to mind Everything Everything’s Johnathan Higgs.

But with so much focus on ben’s voice, what about the musicianship, and what about the song? There’s a complexity of technique that belies the apparent simplicity of tapping a few chords, with some fast fretwork that blends classical and jazz with a dash of funk.

In cramming so much in and dazzling so brightly with it, it’s sometimes a little difficult to follow the song itself. The hooks are overshadowed by the performance itself, and I suppose ‘6am’ evokes the same kind of sensation as listening to Jamiroquai – which of course is subjective and divisive. The popular perspective is that it’s a groove, and there’s no question Ben’s got mass appeal, and ‘6am’ could yet prove to be the breakthrough.

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Big Stir Records – 4th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Well here’s a wakeup: The Speed Of Sound are into their fourth decade, yet are so underground they’ve bypassed me all this time. I feel a certain sense of both guilt and shame for this. Obviously, no reviewer can know everything about every band going, but sometimes, a band will slip under the radar and leave you kicking yourself. The Speed Of Sound is one such band.

The fact they’re releasing a double A-side says something about their vintage. 7” singles may still be a thing, but they’re a niche, collector thing rather than the thing you’d experience as a youth. I was in my early teens – perhaps younger – when I’d go into town and visit WHS or Boots or perhaps Woolworths and pick up a 7” single for 99p, and the B-side would often be as integral a part of the experience as the A-side, while a AA said sometimes meant the second A-side – the one less likely to be played on the radio – was the better one. Hearing it would be a revelation after you slipped it over the spindle and onto the turntable. It was a magical experience that words struggle to convey.

The two tracks on this release are thematically-linked in that they’re all about the band’s love for sci-fi soaked in reverb and with some hints of dappled sunlight mellowness.

The inspiration behind ‘Replicant’ probably requires little explanation as it draws the comparisons to the world of Bladerunner and the contemporary corporate world. The Hearing Ann-Marie Crowley enunciate ‘Replicant’ calls to mind Johnny Rotten emphasis on ‘Pretty vacant’, but more than anything, the uptempo acoustic guitar that leads the track has a distinctly 90s indie flavour to it, and it jangles along nicely.

‘Melancholy Rose’ is a spacey indie-psychedelic folk effort with the jangle of the early 90s and some mellow shoegaze meanderings, sort of like The Fall covering The Charlatans. There are hints of sleepy, summery funk to the track, too.

Together, it makes for a nice single that does very much evoke the experience of yesteryear’s 7” purchase.

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The Speed Of Sound Artwork

Pennies By The Pound present classic/psych-rock-imbued ‘Indigo Screams’ ahead of new LP, mastered by Ride’s Mark Gardener. 

With comparisons to Bob Mould, And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Marillion, and Jethro Tull being tossed around – and not wrongly – there’s a hint of early 90s Dinosaur Dr in the mix, too. Check ‘Indigo Screams’ here:

Hailing from Helsinki, Pennies by the Pound was formed in 2016 by Johannes Susitaival as a solo project, but it quickly became a three-piece involving musicians from his past bands.

While still part of a punk rock band, Johannes began exploring some quite different musical avenues, which led to the self-produced ‘Bloodshed and the Blinding Sunlight’ EP in 2018. Having found their ideal producer after several years of searching, they began recording demos in 2019 for what would become this album. Due to the pandemic, they were finally able to record these tracks in autumn of 2020.

Pennies By The Pound’s sound blends ’80s prog rock and ’90s-early ’00s alternative rock – essentially heavily guitar-driven with a touch of keyboards… Big choruses, quite a few guitar and keyboard solos and grandiose arrangements.

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