Posts Tagged ‘Indie’

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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21st May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

With their latest single in the run-up to their debut album due to drop in July, SENSES threaten ‘an absolute stomper soaked in bass and synth… one for any BRMC fans out there’. And in a bit of a shift from the previous two singles, which showcased more psychedelic and indie leanings, that’s what they deliver. ‘Harder Now’ is one of those classic, scuzzy rock ‘n’ roll tunes that’s simple but effective, and centres around a solid rhythm section and nagging, repetitive riff.

So maybe it does nab the bass stylings of the intro to ‘Spread Your Love’ and the drawling vocal hook of ‘Stop’, but so what? BRMC always amalgamated an almost stereotypical rock ‘n’ roll swagger with a dash of The Jesus and Mary Chain – breezy melodies in a collision a with a whole load of overdrive – and no-one owns these things. That’s the beauty of rock ‘n’ roll: it doesn’t have to be radically new, or break new ground to be of merit: it just has to be good. ‘Good’ can be many things, of course, is subjective, but objective good is having that all-important riff that hook, that self-confidence, and a certain knowingness.

In context of their releases to date, it’s clear that SENSES have a sense (sorry) of history, and a keen appreciation of a span of music of a certain vintage – a vintage that has come to possess a timeless quality.

They’ve got some savvy songwriting going on, and the musical skills to deliver it with just the right vibe, and ‘Harder Now (For Love)’ is a cracker.

Harder Now (For Love) single cover

30th April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Ten months on from last year’s ‘Summer ‘ EP, headed by lead track Recovery, Sleep Kicks return with ‘My Own Demon’, and it’s a solid second single to say the least, putting meat on the bones of the live acoustic version that featured on the EP.

The comparisons I drew to A-Ha and Editors in reference to its predecessor are again applicable here, as the Norwegian foursome spin a hypnotic atmosphere through the medium of strolling bass and chiming, reverby guitar to carve a song that’s a balance of taut 80s pop and brooding new wave, and anthemic is the only word to describe its epic finish. With a wash of guitars and a powerful, uplifting ‘wo-ah-hoh’, you could easily picture this being played in front of a packed arena with several thousand hands waving aloft in time.

Yet, at the same time, the delivery of this big, soaring chorus, is quite a contrast to the lyrical content, which are so striking in their intimacy:

Always feels like someone’s coming after me

Never seem to find a cure for this anxiety

Every day it stays the same, I fear tomorrow’s call

Would be better if it never came at all

We all have our demons and our anxieties, but tend not to talk about them, despite the fact we probably ought: free and open discussion is the only way we will change attitudes to these things, and normalise the topic of mental health, and how it feels to wake up wishing you hadn’t. But we’ve all – or nearly all – been there at some point. It takes real strength to not only commit such lines to paper, but also actually sing them out loud, but it’s that investment of emotion that resonates, and – as I often say – in the personal lies the universal. And this, this reaches out and touches the soul in a special way.

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Wild Goose Chase Records – 27th April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Little Musgrave – the vehicle for Brussels-based Joey Wright – was conceived and recorded during the first Coronavirus lockdown, and its homemade, DIY, lo-fi stylings are perhaps representative of the style and form that will, ultimately, prove to define the period from Spring 2020 to Summer 2021 as musicians, twitchy and desperate for release took to recording at home, minus bands, and without access to studios or even half their kit, let along bandmates. Primitive drum machines, apps, recording and even mixing on mobile phones and releasing via Bandcamp has for many been the only way.

Why not wait? You may ask. Because creatives often need to create and to put it out there: creativity is a compulsion, and for many, public reception is validation of their output, even though got many it’s equally a source of anxiety and self-doubt.

‘Matches’ is a no-messing mess of sinewy guitars chopping out some rough and ready post-punk tinged indie that lands, lay-legged and in a heap between The Fall and Pavement. Wright isn’t really a singer in the conventional sense, often adopting a more Sprechgesang mode of delivery – although that isn’t to say he can’t sing, and there are some brief moments of melodic reflection. This is also a fair reflection of the abstract / elliptical lyrical content, which is wildly veering and often abstract, but not without moments of sensitivity.

The lack of polish, while borne out of necessity, is endearing in that it also presents a lack of pretence. And, also of necessity, the fizzing guitars and simple, insistent rhythms that pump away and pin the loosely-played songs together, are found alongside, as the liner notes proffer, ‘sounds which could have been recorded live in the dentist’s chair – we’re talking drills, saws and high-pitched whines’. With trips to the dentist off the table during lockdown, one assumes these extraneous sounds were sourced elsewhere, and primarily around the home. It’s remarkable just how unsettling a blender or electric shaver can sound when recorded and played back out of context, you know.

More often than not distilled into sub-three-minute bursts, clattering percussion and jarring angles are defining features; ‘Your Reputation Precedes You’ pitches a semi-spoken word performance over a clanking industrial-edged backdrop, while elsewhere, ‘Workers’ day’ is dissonant, difficult, and antagonistic, but as a thunking synth bass groove emerges through it all, it takes on an awkward electrofunk vibe that evokes the stylings of early Shriekback – before dissolving into a mess of feedback, whirs, and buzzing, and the scratchy Fall-esque ramble ‘Stick By Stick’ collapses into mangling noise.

And while Matches doesn’t sound like The Fall per se, its wild eclecticism and the levels of discord achieved by the guitars (are they in tune, let alone playing the same key? Just listen to ‘Which of you has done this?’ to get a handle on the stylistic collisions that aren’t just characteristic but define the album.

Weird and wonderful with the emphasis on the latter, Matches is inventive and unusual. At times difficult and brain-bending, it’s also self-aware and interesting, and deserves some time to adjust to. It’s not mainstream, but it’s got real cult potential.

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9th April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The remastered re-reissues of avant-experimentalist oddballs Photographed by Lightning continues apace with the emergence of Dust Bug Cecil (or, to give it its full title, The Rise and Fall of Dust Bug Cecil and the Winking Cats, supposedly taken from an obscure book about a direct to disc recording pioneer, and may in turn be a skewed play on Ziggy Stardust. Of course, everything is skewed in the world of PBL, and if Music From the Empty Quarter wasn’t evidence enough of this, then this should be enough to convince anyone: presented here as a whopping thirty-eight track document (2 CDs worth), Dust Bug Cecil is augmented with the entirety of their other 2002 album, Let Me Eat the Flowers. On the strength of this, it vocalist Syd Howells and co (here represented by Dave Mitchell (vocals, bass, keyboards); Bionio Bill (drums & percussives); Roland Ellis (saxophone); Chris Knipe (mandolin & fiddle), and Rev Porl Stevens contributing vocals to ‘White Master’)) had perhaps ingested more than just pansies prior to these sessions.

As Howells recounts it, ‘following the behemoth like Music From The Empty Quarter we went in search of tunes. Found some too. Glued them together with words and somehow found ourselves making a ‘pop’ album.’ In comparison to its predecessor, Dust Bug Cecil is a pop album in that there are none of the sprawling ten-minute epic headfucks on offer here, with most of the songs – and, indeed, they are songs – clocking in around the three-minute mark. It’s ‘pop’ in the style of the dark pop of post-punk, but its values are ostensibly altogether more punk, and its sound is primitive and murky. It’s pop in the way The Jesus and Mary Chain write breezy, surfy pop tunes and bury them in is a squall of noise that renders them almost indistinct.

There are melodies and choruses bursting out from every corner, but in context of 2002, songs like the album’s opener, ‘Eyes on Stalks’ and ‘Numb Alex’ sound like early 80s new wave demos: driving Joy Division-esque bass dominates a rhythm pinned down by a frenetic drum machine that sounds like it’s struggling to keep up with the throbbing energy, and there are hints of The Cure and B-Movie in the mix here.

The guitars buzz like flanged wasps on the vaguely baggy / shoegazey ‘Lady Lucifer’, prefacing the sound that A Place To Bury Strangers would come to make their signature. Elsewhere, the sound swings from almost straight 60s-tinged indie on ‘Let Me Eat the Flowers’, while ‘The Remains of a Tramp Called Bailey’ sounds like a head-on collision between The Pixies and The Psychedelic Furs, and ‘The Risen’ comes on like early New Order. If it reads like I’m chucking in a list of seemingly random and incongruous artists by way of confused and confusing reference points, it’s because that’s what the listening experience is like. None of the elements of the album are unique by any stretch, but their hybridisation very much is. The 60s garage vibe of ‘Untitled (for Dylan’) and the Fall-like scuzz of ‘David Dickinson Said’ (with its obvious but necessary ‘cheap as chips’ refrain) are well-realised, and suit the lo-fi production values.

Sonically, Dust Bug Cecil is nowhere near as challenging as Music From The Empty Quarter, and it was almost inevitable that they had to do something different, having taken the avant-jazz oddity to its limit. Then again, of course, there’s still the customary weird shit, like the squelchy racket with spoken word of ‘Bob’ and ‘Pablo’, and the doomy industrial synth robotix of ‘Be This Her Memorial’, which mean it’s hardly the most accessible album going and it is quite bewildering just in terms of its stylistic eclecticism.

It’s unquestionably a mixed bag, and not all of the efforts are completely successful or gel quite as hoped, something the band themselves acknowledge with hindsight. But it’s still very much a musical, if not commercial, success, showcasing a band capable of wild diversity in their creativity, as well as a band who’ve spent a career making the music that pleases them over anyone else.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Videostore continue to make the most of lockdown, with the pair banging out a second mini-album, comprising three of their recent singles along with three brand new tracks. Does the title have a significance? Does the end of lockdown mark the end of Videostore as Nathan and Lorna return to work and also reconvene with Argonaut? Perhaps time will tell, but for now, this is a document of the effects of life in confinement – or, as they put it, ‘what happens when you are locked down with Disney plus and Taylor Swift and Spacemen 3 CDs for company.’

It’s an interesting blend, but also a hybrid that works and is distinctively Videostore: scuzzed-out lo-fi pop songs that articulate ennui and nostalgia with a rare energy. As ever, it’s the contrast between Nathan’s worldweary monotone baritone and Lorna’s light, lilting, airy tones that really distinguish and define their sound.

It starts off with single cut ‘Superhero Movies’, a lively blast of choppy guitars where they ruminate on the disparity between movies and life, whereby everyone aspires to be a superhero from the comfort of their sofa. Media and unattainable aspiration is also the focus of ‘Your Perfect Life’. ‘Halfway There’ is a middle-aged lament that finds Nathan mulling over the passage of time, and in its downtempo mood and delivery, I’m reminded of The Fall’s ‘Time Enough at Last’, and even the semi-spirited call of ‘techno techno techno techno’ and a swerve into synth territory near the end can’t lift the melancholy mood – that’s a job for the blistering Pixies-like blast of single ‘Your Mind’, which stands out even more in context.

Low-key single ‘Anglepoise’ marks another return to Brix-era fall stylings, and there’s something affectingly sad in the sound of tiredness, of defeat. The last song, ‘Go’ is the biggest surprise of the set. It’s not a cover of the Moby track, but it is an all-out electro dance banger. It’s incongruous, so say the least, but there are some trademark squalls of noise among the trancey synths and insistent beats.

They Closed Down The Videostore may only contain six tracks, but it’s their most diverse work yet – and if the store remains open, the indications are they’ve no shortage of ideas to pursue.

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10th April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ve said it before, but it’s always worth saying again: oftentimes, less is more. This adage seems to have informed the latest offering from Milton Keynes hybrid indie quartet Ali In the Jungle: at two and a half minutes, ‘Fuel on the Fire’ is succinct, and based predominantly around acoustic guitar and vocal, it’s a pretty minimalist work, at least on the face of it. But being simple and direct, it’s got room to breathe, and that also means more room to absorb everything that’s going on, and focus on the details. And the details reveal themselves over time and through repeat listening.

‘Fuel On The Fire’ initially cultivates an intimate feel that contrasts with the darker subject matter that informs the lyrics. And as the song progresses, thing get busier, with some quite lively jazz-influenced drumming and more noodly, mathy guitar and a buoyant bassline pushing everything along at quite an urgent pace, and before you know it, there’s a lot more going on than you realise. At times, the vocals soar in a style reminiscent of Mansun’s Paul Draper – which is most definitely a compliment.

Everything comes together to form a rich and detailed sonic tapestry, and ‘Fuel On The Fire’ is a well-considered, deftly arranged rush of a tune.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Ahead of their debut album, Little Pictures Without Sound, due out on 16th July, SENSES offer a second taste of what’s to come with ‘Drifting’. On the one hand, it’s a slice of quintessential indie, drawing heavily on the sound of the late 80s / early 90s jangle – it would be almost impossible to not mention The Stone Roses by way of a touchstone – but on the other, there’s a lot more going on here than some direct and derivative copy.

The chiming guitars emerge through an atmospheric haze and some samples of dialogue, and soar away on a wash of dreamy shoegaze vibes. The song’s certainly appropriately titled, as it floats along… it’s less about verse/chorus dynamics and hooks than it about the overall sensation, as layered harmonies lift the listener and carries them through hues of golden sun and a sense of time without time. It’s blissed-out and mesmerising, and under four minutes is nowhere near enough.

26th March 2021

James Wells

‘Quiet down – you’re just a voice inside my head,’ sings Tom Farrelly, presenting the crossover between the internal / external monologue that we play out to ourselves. Even when sanity threatens to slip and we find ourselves talking to ourselves, we pull ourselves back with a good talking to. Strangely, there is no contradiction here.

Is ‘I A Fire’ as deep and meaningful as it is anthemic, or is it simply a fortunate lyrical stab that hits a certain level of resonance in verses that exist as much as anything to fill the space and provide a bridge from one chorus to the next? Benefit of the doubt says that this is a genuinely soul-searching moment of introspection that’s found its way into one of the biggest, most stadium-friendly tunes I’ve heard from any act, let alone a new one on the scene, in a long time.

Comparisons to the likes of The Killers and U2 are entirely warranted, but ‘I A Fire’ equally calls to mind the early noughties, and the emergence of Coldplay and Keane, before they came to represent the face of drab musical conservatism and instead marled the arrival of a new breed of acts who placed great emphasis on songwriting and the conveyance of emotion. More than anything though, something about this – and not the title – suggests that ‘I A Fire’ could – and should – be Third Lung’s ‘Sex on Fire’, their breakthrough moment. It ought to be.

Third Lung Artwork

7th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Videostore are on a serious roll at the moment, and continue to exploit the benefits of being a DIY operation, with their latest cut, ‘Anglepoise’ being conceived, written, and recorded on Saturday. Today is Sunday, and here it is, released with a promo video.

‘Anglepoinse’ reminds me of ‘A Gentleman’s Agreement’ by The Fall, not least of all because of its sparse, downtempo style that contrasts with the majority of their other material, and also because Nathan’s reflective, introspective vocal delivery is a laconic drawl. As is characteristic of their sound, the vintage drum machine sound, kicking out a simple, metronomic beat and the juxtaposition of the two vocals are the defining features of this lo-fi indie tune.

The video is another lo-fi, no-fi effort: this time, instead of the pair miming in their living room, we get to watch their sea monkeys gliding and flitting serenely around their tank, and it feels oddly appropriate as a visual accompaniment. And it just goes to show that you don’t need budget, sets, or even much by way of equipment – just an ear for a tune and a bit of imagination, and Videostore have both.