29 December 2010


You know how some stuff you really like but you can’t quite describe why? Yeah. Childhood is this. That may seem like a lazy blogger’s cop-out for writing anything worthwhile and, hey, maybe it is, but who cares if a) you’re reading this, b) the music is good, and c) points are made much better if there are three of them.

Woozy, jangly pop that is gentle enough to not disturb you too much from your mid-afternoon day-dream, but catchy enough to still hold your attention. I suppose that’s why I like it afterall.

Childhood - Blue Velvet

Childhood - Paper Wave

28 December 2010


As much as I love looping experimental synth-led songs and bands with 15 members and 20 effects pedals, no frills punk still more than does it for me. And not even just the early and original punk of The Ramones and The Clash, I welcome with open arms bands carrying on where they left off.

Apparently an off-shoot of two other Wales-based punk acts - State Run and Facel Vega – Leeds’ Twisted (internet-less as far as I’m aware) are unfortunately no more, but their angry strums, passionate growls, bags of energy, and bursting songs rarely passing the 2 minute mark live on in glorious MP3 form. For me, they kind of merge early Stiff Little Fingers and The Clash with hints of more modern, Lovvers-esque noise – and one track ‘Four’ which sounds a lot to me like The Hold Steady gone punk, but somehow in a good way.

They released stuff through and appeared on a compilation for Art For Blind (who also released a 7” by personal favourite Saturday’s Kids), with stuff available from them still. Other than playing or downloading the songs below, you can download a 7” available for free download from bandcamp, or you can head to reeksofeffortt for more words and a link to a different EP.

Twisted - Two

Twisted - One

27 December 2010


When writing blog posts, there are certain bands that - although you enjoy to listen to - you are never really sure if they will be appropriately appreciated by the public or even the wider music community. But then there are other bands that you immediately sense are destined for wide adoration after listening to just a few of their tracks.

Birthdays are one of those bands whose hype is easily understood, and most of the reason the hype is so easily understood in all honesty is the one track Howolding Girls (which you may have heard or read of an earlier version, which was called Procreating Flower Bug). As much of a boring cliché it is, it’s one of those songs that really is gripping from the start – opening with vibrant looping synth sounds and bursting into life with celebratory and chant-like distorted vocals and drumming that switches from dance-y bass-snare to tribal tom rolls. It’s a bit like eating sour flavoured Skittles for the first time; the intense flavour forcing your face to do all sorts of unexplained weird shit.

As far as looping experimental psych pop goes, Boston-based Sam (who makes up one-man-band Birthdays, and is also apparently vegan, which makes him cool even without the great music) aren’t a one song pony. I’m Keeping Some Of Mine For Me is a slow-paced droning take on the Animal Collective sound, yet still excites and brims with brilliance. Part That Grows has a country/folk-y Conor Oberst feel to it yet through an underlying pulsing drum beat and rattle shakes, unusual strums, and some “ooh”-s chucked in for good measure, it manages to not feel out of place alongside his other work.

Pretty darn exciting stuff. Listen and download below, and find more on HypeMachine.

Birthdays - Howolding Girls

Birthdays - Software

Birthdays - I'm Keeping Some Of Mine For Me

24 December 2010

Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas music lovers of the world. Here's a little festive tune for you to enjoy - Stiff Little Fingers covering White Christmas live. My Dad thinks it's rubbish, bu I disagree.

Have a good one!

20 December 2010

Curly Hair

The height of twee folk's popularity has been and gone, probably to a fair few people's relief - typical boy-girl harmonies, acoustic guitar strums, glockenspiel pings, cutesy lyrics, but too often had little imagination behind them. What can occur when a 'scene' fizzles out, though, is that all the popularity-chasing bands pack up shop and head on to new, now-hip ventures, leaving only those genuine bands from the lesser-popular genre standing.

Curly Hair were never really your typical boring twee folk/folk pop duo, but could have been lumped in with the movement given their male/female harmonies, acoustic guitar, and odd use of glock, (plus the fact that the male vocalist sometimes wore a scout shirt to gigs). The statement that they weren't in it for the popularity can now be said with a little more confidence now, given that plenty of other folk acts have up and chased the surfy/lo-fi thing (Lightspeed Champion's second album, Jay Jay Pistolet in The Vaccines, etc), whereas Brighton's Curly Hair stay true to their name, still plugging away at the music that their love is genuine for.

I don't know that much about Curly Hair. Not even the number of official band members. The photo above suggests five, their MySpace profile picture suggests just the one, when I saw them live it was two, and plenty of other live photos show three. To be perfectly honest, I'd almost forgot of their existence until an email from Toy Soldier Records plopped into my inbox with a new free song, thanks to the recent snow forcing the cancellation of a gig. But I do know that their lo-fi folk-y sounds, the male-female vocals, the occasional high pitched keyboard tones, out-loud metronome, and glock, as well as their pop sensibilities make me very happy.

Download (the lovely) High Fives, Low Fives taken from debut EP (from 2009) Ivy League from The Line Of Best Fit here, or stream and download (the older) Blow The House Down and (the brand new) demo Plentiful Is The Choir below.

Curly Hair - Blow The House Down

Curly Hair - Plentiful Is The Choir (demo)

19 December 2010

The Louche F.C. (Again)

Still haven't gotten over these since posting about them in August. Feel very teased by the small amount I have heard from them, in fact.

Just re-stumbled upon the track (I Cannot Be) Much More Than This, and I really, really love it. The perfect blend of 90s 'gazey jangly pop, and fits in perfectly with my recent listening habits of Beat Happening and Galaxie 500.

Motorcycle Au Pair is still pretty darn great, too. Still pop, but a bit more of a 60s vibe to it.

More stuff soon, hopefully.

The Louche F.C - (I Cannot Be) Much More Than This

The Louche F.C - Motorcycle Au Pair Boy

18 December 2010

Video: Smith Westerns - Weekend

Smith Westerns - Weekend from Fat Possum Records on Vimeo.

I know they're playing us all like suckers, and I don't even care. Haven't been this excited for an album in a long time - Dye It Blonde is out on Fat Possum, January 18.

14 December 2010

Saturday's Kids Update #2

More new sounds from the band that don't cease to impress me. It's a little boring to use the whole "maturing band" thing, but they kind of are - each new release brings tonnes of new ideas.

MySpace here, more songs at Art For Blind's bandcamp here, online shop here, listen below or download a zip (with permission).

Saturday's Kids - Whisper In My Ear

Saturday's Kids - Theorem

Saturday's Kids - Unattainable

9 December 2010

New Yuck, Again

This is probably getting a bit boring, but Yuck have a new song and it's good. Can't wait for the full-length next year.

Yuck - Holing Out

8 December 2010

Top 10 Discoveries of 2010

I didn’t listen to enough albums to make a "Top 10 Albums of 2010" list, but I did listen to lots of new music, so instead I’m making a list of my 10 favourite bands or labels or musical things that I found out about this year. These are things that I’ve really enjoyed, and hopefully you might not have known about and will enjoy too. So, in no particular order:

H. Hawkline
H. Hawkline kind of came out of nowhere for me. One minute I’m listening to some brilliantly spooky weird folk songs on Huw Evans’ (H. Hawkline’s) MySpace to write a blurb for the Swn Festival programme, the next I’m watching Huw plus 2 friends play some brilliant psych surf pop in Cardiff Arts Institute almost ending the show in a scuffle with an audience member, and then in barely no time I’m listening to a beautiful full-length album (released through the wonderful Shape Records, who also released Islet, who would have been on this list had I not seen them live in 2009) of weird instrumental folk meets driving psychedelic krautrock. He’s just finished touring the UK with Gruff Rhys, and apparently might be doing some more recording soon. Seriously good.

H. Hawkline - Gelly

Art Is Hard Records
Only a recent discovery, Plymouth-based independent label Arts Is Hard, but certainly a significant one, especially for me as Plymouth is my home town. There isn’t a great deal of stuff going on here, music-wise (or at all, to be honest), but Art Is Hard really have got me excited and made me believe that the country doesn’t stop at Bristol. Their most recent release has just come out on iTunes (and they also have some vinyl available) – a split with Falmouth’s The Black Tambourines and Exeter’s New Years Evil – and they also released a compilation of some exciting ‘local’ artists. So, so glad I found these.

The Black Tambourines - Tommy

Cycling Season - 1943

Probably one of my first new band discoveries in 2010 and possibly my favourite, too. ‘Georgia’ gripped me on first listen way back in January and Yuck have been a brilliant, if a little teasing, ride since then. More songs have slowly trickled out throughout the year – the sludgey drone of ‘Rubber’, the melancholy jangle of ‘Suicide Policeman’, the driving fuzz of ‘Sunday’ – and they played a great set at Latitude. With a full-length is expected towards the start of 2011, and having recently being named on BBC’s Sound of 2011 list, next year could be an exciting year.

Yuck - Georgia

Yuck - Rubber

Jay Reatard
As tragic as it is, I (and probably lots of other people like me) only ever listened to a Jay Reatard song after the news of his suicide in January of 2010. I didn’t realise what a talent the world of music had lost before it was already gone, but, although I am obviously sad about the his death, I do feel privileged to be able to listen to some of the fantastic music he left behind.

Jay Reatard - It Ain't Gonna Save Me

Barely Regal Records
The second new independent label on this list, Barely Regal are Cardiff based and are doing some mighty fine things. I interviewed Matt and Isaac ages ago (word of warning to potential employees: an interview I still haven’t actually transcribed) and we quickly became good chums, but that’s not to say that they appear on this list for that reason alone. They released a compilation a good few months back featuring bands either from or with a link to the city, have put on a good amount of good gigs (including taking over Irish pub Dempsey’s for a night of Swn curating), and have some exciting releases upcoming from the likes of Among Brothers (who Isaac and Matt both are part of) and Strange News From Another Star.

Among Brothers - Montgolfier

Strange News From Another Star - Bullets (Crop)

Okay, so technically I first heard about Leeds (ish)-based (and blog post cover star)Spectrals in 2009 after a blog post in November by The Pigeon Post, he only properly became stuck in my mind in early 2010 so I think Louis Jones (the one young man behind Spectrals) still deserves a place on this list. First came some fuzzy demos, then came some more fuzzy demos, and then came a brilliant show at Latitude, and finally a month or so ago came the wonderful and surprisingly clean 60s wall of sound inspired debut EP, A Spectrals Extended Play (and then came not seeing him at Swn Festival, but I wont focus on that). It must have been an exciting year for Louis, starting it fairly innocuously, and ending it casually Tweeting Best Coast after a string of support slots. Two-thousand-and-ten truly would have been a far more dull and drab year without his music, and I hope there’s much more to come in 2011.

Spectrals - Peppermint

Spectrals - Keep Your Magic Out Of My House

Manchester’s Mazes were just about the only redeeming factor of 1234 Shoreditch festival lazy summer, but they alone made the price of the tickets and the journey from Cardiff to East London via Egham and the very nearly missed last train from Reading worth it alone. Like Spectrals, I found out about Mazes from The Pigeon Post and, like Spectrals, Mazes also take influence from the 60s, only add a little extra rock and roll rather than pop. Putting out material on the brilliant Suffering Jukebox (which is part run by Jack of Mazes and puts out stuff by lots of other good bands), I’ve been really enjoying their stuff and am excited to hear lots more.

Mazes - Painting Of Tupac Shakur

Mazes - Don't Worry Baby

Beaty Heart
London’s Beaty Heart first grabbed my attention in Loud and Quiet magazine, not for their description of the band, but for the trousers worn in the photo of the band by one of the drummers (notice the plural – they have three drummers altogether). It was nice to find, once listening to their stuff, the band’s sound was as Afro-influenced as the trousers. The fact that they have more than one drummer comes across in their sound, and with a focus on drum beats as well as harmonic vocals, it’s difficult for me not to mention Animal Collective. They’re far from a plain old covers band though, which I reckon they’ll show in style next year when hopefully we’ll get to hear a whole lot more other than the few tracks up on MySpace.

Beaty Heart - Cola

Beaty Heart - Lekka Freakout (demo)

Killing Joke
What kind of moron only discovers Killing Joke in 2010? This kind of moron. I’ve so far only managed to Spotify their debut 1980 self-titled release, and it is incredible. The number of bands that I love that they have clearly had a strong influence on is ridiculous (including a fair few of the bands my Dad has played in over the years) - the riffing, distorted guitar; the angry, harsh vocals; the synth-y buzz; the tight, driving drum beats. I’m disgusted at myself for only listening to these now, but excited to gradually work through their extensive catalogue.

Killing Joke – Requiem

Best Coast
This list would be a lie without Best Coast. As much as I wish I found about Bethany Cosentino’s brilliance before Best Coast, and as much as I wish I found out about Best Coast before 12 months ago, I didn’t. The early, scruffy demos had me incredibly excited, her live performance at Bristol’s Louisiana (where Surfer Blood were also in the crowd) confirmed that they were definitely something special, and then the debut album managed to live up to and exceed all expectations. Much cleaner than the demos but still 60s pop inspired, it allowed Bethany’s fantastic voice to really take centre stage. Her Christmas song with boyfriend Nathan Williams (Wavves) may be a bit pants, and her bratty lyrics combined with her weed consumption may make her a little irritating, but the music is wonderful.

Best Coast - When The Sun Don't Shine

Obviously there was much more in 2010, but these are the 10 that stand out, and that will probably continue having an effect on me well into 2011. Narrowly missing out on this top 10 list were: Twin Sister, Pheromoans, The Racket, The Human Race, Human Hair, and Effort, so check out these, too.

6 December 2010

Art Is Hard

The music scene in the south-west is still a long way off from being anywhere near as busy or thriving as most other parts of the country, but that's not to say that there isn't anything good going on down in these parts. Art Is Hard Records are slowly making me believe that.

Predominantly based in Plymouth, and sometimes based in Bournemouth and Portsmouth depending on university term dates, Art Is Hard is a DIY bedroom label in the truest sense of the word. Run by two friends, they are looking beneath each under-explored rock and in every nook and cranny in the area to find local bands doing something worth listening to, and they're doing a good job of it - having released a compilation album of south-west bands (available through purchasing a t-shirt) and more recently a split release between The Black Tambourines and New Years Evil, they're making sure that people like me are made aware that there are things worth listening to down here. I spoke to (emailed) David about his label.

Hello, Art Is Hard. Who am I speaking to, and tell us a little about the things that you do?

Hello! You're speaking to David. Art is Hard is a record label, but not in a traditional sense I guess. I think I view what we do as more of an outlet, or an aggregator or a cataloger? So far we've only worked with bands from the South West. Although this is more by accident than anything else, it seems to be working quite well for us at the moment.

It’s more and more common for bands to do things completely themselves, and it’s increasingly difficult to break even let alone make money in the music industry today. What motivates you to run a small record label?

I think putting out music by bands you love is something everybody who has more than a fleeting interest in music dreams of. I'm not sure how it really escalated from this pipedream to where we are now. I think one of the main motivations for doing it is drunkenly telling uninterested people in nightclubs that I run a record label.

The South-West of England isn’t best known for its rich collection of alternative music. Why there, and does it have more going on than people think it does?

I think wherever you look there's always something worth your time if you scratch beneath the surface of no-hoping open mic and pay-to-play pop punk bands. It just seems that in the South West you have to do a little more scratching than in other places. The whole 'only releasing bands from the South West' thing was only intended as a theme for the first release; but it feels like it's stuck and when you look back at the great labels (Factory, DTTR, Dischord) they've always had a very strong emphasis on location. Whether we can produce anything as seminal as those releases is yet to be seen.

You said in other interviews that you have some new and interesting ideas, such as your first release (the compilation) being available through purchasing a t-shirt. Without giving too much away, what other interesting ideas do you have as a label?

The great thing about t-shirts is that people always buy them, so you can almost trick people into being interested in the music. Other things young people would rather spend money on than music include pizza and beer, so maybe we'll work on this basis. In all seriousness though we do have a couple of weird release concepts but they'd only lose us more money if we tried them out now. Maybe sometime next year!

You, your most recent release (New Years Evil/The Black Tambourines), and the bands on it have all been getting some decent press coverage recently on blogs and websites, and in magazines. Have you been surprised by how well what you have been doing has gone down?

It's always nice to find somebody has even taken the time to listen, let alone write about us and the bands. Unfortunately we're already coming to realise that selling actual records is pretty hard, irrelevant of how many times you get on the hype machine. God I sound bitter and ungrateful, we're happy really!

Have you got many more releases lined up? What does 2011 hold?

We're undecided what order our next releases will go out in but we have some really great artists lined up. Hopefully an AIH tour within the first months of the year. We definitely have a lot to give in 2011.



Find Art Is Hard on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter or at their blog. Listen to the tracks from their latest release, a split with The Black Tambourines and New Years Evil, as well as some tracks from their first compilation release below.

The Black Tambourines - Tommy

Colours - Desert Dessert

New Years Evil - Shame

4 December 2010

Future of the Left: New Demos

Future of the Left have posted links to some new demos, which will presumably eventually appear on their upcoming third studio album, on their Facebook page. It's the first chance fans will have had to listen to what the Cardiff band has been up to since their line-up change earlier in the year, other than from live videos like this one. Stream the tracks tracks below.

Future Of The Left - I Am The Least Of Your Problems (demo)

Future of the Left - Notes On Achieving Orbit

Future of the Left - My Wife Is Unhappy

2 December 2010


I don't know much about drum and bass. In fact, I know hardly anything whatsoever, and to be honest, I don't like a whole load of it. Still, I wrote about Conek4 (real name John Barr, based in Cardiff) during my esteemed role as music editor of my student union newspaper a year ago and I like the music that he makes, in a kind of feeling drunk without drinking way. Some people who actually know stuff about music like it too, such as BBC Radio Wales' Adam Walton. Listen below and decide for yourself.

If you're interested to read the interview I did with John in December last year, head here. To hear more, visit John's Soundcloud. John also plays regularly at Clwb Ifor Bach, so check there for info of future happenings.

Conek4- Catharsis

Conek4- Chasing le Lotus

1 December 2010

The Pigeon Post's Great Mixtape Swap 3

The Pigeon Post is a blog similar to this one, only better. They too write words about some of the best new bands, but they also regularly gather up all the music community spirit through running their mixtape feature. Now in its third installment, this will be my first time to get involved which is, I know, a poor effort. The premise is as simple as it sounds. A bunch of people interested in music make a playlist of around 10 tracks of new, interesting, and lesser well known songs, upload it to a file-sharing website, and send the link to Matthew at The Pigeon Post. He then puts all of the digital mixtapes into a big e-hat, plucks out the different mixtapes one by one, and sends them back to everyone who had sent one in - thus all those who join in both receive and create a little bit of happiness through the medium of music they hopefully haven't heard of and enjoy. I'm looking forward to it.

To get involved, or to read more about the mixtape (as well as the most recent Ducktapes release), click on these underlined words.

Arc Light

The words to mention when describing Arc Light seem to be "lo-fi", "psychedelic" and "pop", but for me this is far too basic a reduction of the complex sounds coming from the project of Brooklyn's Ryan Gabel.

In fairness to the bloggers and Last FM taggers, these are some of the words Gabel himself uses to tag his releases on bandcamp page. As well as that, Arc Light, in Gabel's words with Ashtapes, make the sound of "too much inspirational music" and indeed it's immediately clear from listening to his music the juxtaposition of a wide range of influences. Hints of psychedelic and pop are evident (the king of the combo Bowie comes across at times, especially in "Mind Me Mr. Halloway"), and there is a lo-fi and DIY feel to the sounds where you can imagine Gabel sat in a dark bedroom conjuring these sounds, but other than that Gabel also seems to be a fan of post-punk, shoegaze and heavier industrial sounds - songs almost always featuring an electronic drumbeat, lots of synth experimentation, and plenty of whirring noise. Even in poppier moments like during the catchy beats and high-pitched harmonies of "The Interview" songs have a real dark and sinsister feel to them - like The Beach Boys, not everything beneath the surface of the songs might be as jolly as first seems apparent.

Obviously it's not practical to tag himself with a whole paragraph of adjectives when describing his own sound - such is the nature of the music industry we live in today - but even so, you get the sense that Gabel is selling himself a bit short, especially considering he is making some of the most interesting music I have heard in a good while.

Download lots of content for free from the bandcamp page - including Arc Light's s/t debut full-length - or purchase his most recent album Westinghousing here, find out a little more from MySpace, or stream and download some tracks below.

>Arc Light - Battery Children

Arc Light - SmokeRings

Arc Light - Reverb Mystic

Arc Light - Digi Wiki