24 March 2010

New ARMS EP



The debut album by ARMS was one that I felt didn't get the man enough credit. Kids Aflame, with is indie folk rock sounds (think Cold War Kids for an easy comparison), received a harsh, but still decent, 6.1 on Pitchfork and proved ex-Harlem Shakes guitarist Todd Goldstein was more than capable of doing things alone. Tracks like "Whirring" and "Shitty Little Disco" demonstrated the knack for catchy (but definitely serious) indie rock meolodies accompanied by Goldstein's deep, resonating vocals, whereas "Kids Aflame" and "Tiger Tamer" are somewhat more delicate affairs; acoustic guitar (or maybe ukelele?) strummed over harmonised vocals, sounding almost like Bon Iver.

The good news is, ARMS, now less a solo project and more a band proper with full-time bassist and drummer recruited, is back with a new EP. And, even better news is, this is free to download! Named simply "EP", the new five-track EP has a similar feel to the debut effort; much of it would be classifieded as chilled out indie rock, with folk and country influences. It's decent on first listen, and will likely grow on me.

Click here for a free, legal download of the full EP. For more info, head to ARMS' website, MySpace, or Twitter.

23 March 2010

To Guest-List or Not To Guest-List..?

This little moral dilemma is something that I've been considering for quite a while. Should I feel that I 'deserve' free entry to the show because I am paying for it in the currency of press coverage? Or should I support the band that I'm going to watch and, probably, big up.

I know there are some writers that don't like to ask for guest-list as they feel they are taking away both money from the band and also stopping a potential paying customer from seeing them. And then there are those like me who, so far, at least, feel that free entry to a show isn't too much to ask in return for a review.

I suppose one consideration would be who you are getting the guest-list pass from.

If it's the band themselves sticking you on the guest-list, then I guess that is their way of giving permission - and they get rewarded by the people reaidng about their band on the review I write.

If it's the venue, or promoter, on the other hand, you have to wonder whether the band is losing out from my name being on the guest-list rather than someone else paying to get in. Does the promoter recognise that this band is gaining some press coverage for the gig and the venue. Are the bands getting paid a split of the bar money for the night?

I don't know the answer to these questions. I just hope that they band isn't missing out on money from the generosity of the promoter or the venue.

16 March 2010

Fang Island



I'm just listening to Fang Island on Spotify now after reading a good review of the album on Pitchfork, and I too am enjoying it, so I thought I'd spread the love (it also helps that I am incredibly bored...).

It's sort of post-rock, a little math-rock and most definitely definitely rock rock. It has a sort of instrumental feel, though does have the odd bit of vocal work, as pointed out by those pedantic Last FM taggers. At times it has an incredibly cheesey feel with guitar riffs that elsewhere I may cringe at, but here it really works. The band apparently describe their music as everyone high fiving everyone, which is a visual image that accompanies this album well. It's fun.

So yeah, check out the album on Spotify, buy it, or stream it through links available from the band's MySpace. You (hopefully) won't be disappointed.

15 March 2010

Gallops


Photo by Paul Gregory of Lense Eyes

Gallops grabbed my attention immediately when I first saw them. That I without doubt remember. What I'm not completely sure is when it was I first saw them. But I think it was at Swn Festival 2008, back in them early reviewing days of mine. I distinctly remember totally, and yet completely accidentally, ripping off another review of Gallops by describing them almost identically (it was a review that I had forgotten I'd read but clearly subconsciously agreed with and thus regurgitated at a later date).

The review (my copycat review) in question described Gallops as the following;
Incredible stuff from the Wrexham post-rock four-piece who opt for energy and an electro math-rock punch in the face over a Mogwai gentle caress approach to instrumental post-rock.
To be fair, it's understandable why my subconscious liked it as it's pretty accurate; Gallops are experts at hitting you with a brick wall of sound. Their approach to math-rock is indeed that of well-bashed snare drums and bassy-electro sounds. Think along the lines of Holy Fuck and Battles, only potentially better. Seriously.

It's an understatememt to say that recordings don't do Gallops justice (though this is nothing against their current recordings and is something that may well change with their eagerly anticipated debut EP), you really must see Gallops live. They are most probably the best live band I have ever seen. They create an incredible atmosphere, regardless of whether they play to a crowd of fans or a small pub filled with those less aquainted with their music. I find the drummer completely hypnotising. There's almways so much going on and he doesn't half smash the shit out of those drums (so much so that their Swn 09 set went on with a split snare skin). And whilst the drumming stirs up a hurricane with some incredible fills and the laptop creates a bassy bleepy buzz, their is still room for intricate guitar work and even at times some heavy riffs.

You really have to head to Gallops' MySpace - they are probably the only band whose page I bother going to just to listen to their tracks - but even more importantly you must go to see them live. It is a decision that you will not regret.

Gallops are in the final stages of preparing their debut EP for release, and have a number of upcoming shows. In the mean time, watch them "rocking out" on the BBC.

Edited to add:
For a free download of a new song of their's, head to A New Band A Day.

Yuck



Once again, I'm not particularly new with Yuck. Well, I am. I've known of them for a while, but only just have I got around to writing some things about them. So I think I still qualify as cool as funk.

I could describe Yuck in a way that would bore you. In fact, I will to start with (and, frankly, probably continue with). Yuck could be seen as another one of those catchy lo-fi indie fuzz pop bands that we've all become accustomed with over the past year or so. They have boy-girl harmonies and, actually most surpisingly when you listen to the band, include ex-members of Cajun Dance Party. But they are this, and so much more.

"Georgia" (which is the second most played song in the last three months, according to those trusty Last FM folk) is an incredibly catchy fuzz-pop masterpiece with an emotive feel that tucks you in and keeps you warm at night. The vocals are delicate yet strong, the guitar riff distorted yet incredibly easy to swallow and I defy you to listen to it and not love it. It's like dancing at a funeral, celebratory and upbeat but with a deep sadness and feeling of grief.

"Automatic" goes all out at tugging at your heartstrings, with no blanket of catchy pop riffs to cover up the despair. The boy-girl vocal work again is delicate, with a fragility and almost desperate feel backed only by a piano for the most-part, which for me brings forth images of a lone pianist in a dark empty room - the simple pressing of keys seems almost too much effort with all the feelings of sorrow that the poor sod is having to deal with.

The band are getting themselves noticed by the right people, and this news is something which pleases me. Not long back did they support Dum Dum Girls in London, but this summer they also go on tour with Japandroids and look set to have a bright future.

New single, "Georgia" has just been released and is available on vinyl here. "Sunday" is available for free download here, and more info can be found at the band's blog and MySpace. Enjoy.

Edited to add:
Legendary noise pop act Black Tambourine are also a good point of comparison.

For anyone still not convinced, check out the new free download posted by the band at their blog.

13 March 2010

Lloyd Grossman is a Punk?



Ok, so apparently I'm a bit late on this. But it's definitely worth posting for all those people who didn't see all the news stories about Lloyd Grossman's punky past!

Apparently his band even reached number 49 in the UK singles chart! Below is a recent video of Lloyd "rocking out". Disgustingly, it isn't that bad.

Amanaz. Amazing



As part of my usual Hype Machine and Gorilla vs Bear scouring, I came across the song "Khala My Friend" by Amanaz, a 70s band from Zambia, Africa.

It took all of one listen for me to fall in love with the funky bass-line, psychedelic grooves and slightly husky and accented vocals of "Khala My Friend". It is a brilliant song, as you'll see from the comments on the Gorilla vs Bear post, so brilliant that I've felt the desparate need to get hold of more Amanaz that I've resorted to downloading it illegally. I know, it is very naughty, and I do feel guilty for it.

But thankfully the whole album, which is full of fuzzy psychedelic guitar riffs and chilled out bass lines, has been re-pressed and re-released and is available to buy here, which is something I will be doing on Monday when I get three-hundred free English pounds (thank-you, UWIC).

For the time being, listen to the track that sparked my love affair. It really is very, very good.


Amanaz - Khala My Friend

10 March 2010

I Went To A Gig Last Night... Well, Sort Of



I went to a gig last night. Swathes was being put on by FLUX=RAD, a brilliant little weekly night at Cardiff Arts Institute who play great music and put on gigs, usually for free. To convince you how good they are, last night's DJ-ing was opened with Georgia by Yuck and followed by Surfer Blood... great! And only a few weeks ago did they put on Beach House. So yeah. They're good. But last night things didn't quite go to plan.

Cardiff-based support band Among Brothers ' set was really good and passed without any problems. They play a sort of blend of Arcade Fire and Sigur Ros with some electronics chucked in for good measure and are definitely worth checking out.

But one-man-band Swathes' (aka Matt Webber) set wasn't so successful. Opening with a wall of noise, reverb and distortion, everything sounded really good only for his laptop to start playing silly buggers and cutting out randomly for a few seconds at a time. A reboot and a few guitar smashes to the floor later and it turned out things could not be saved, which is a real shame because when they laptop was working, things sounded very good.

It was still a good night. I heard enough of Swathes set to confirm my suspicions that his music is very good, and I found a new band in Among Brothers.

Swathes - Distances

Swathes - Very White

Connan Mockasin



I saw Connan Mockasin last year supporting Fanfarlo to a relatively empty Clwb Ifor Bach and have since had a burning desire to hear more and more of his stuff. Many of you may be aware of him from his support tour of Late of the Pier not long back and, seemingly by Connan's Last FM shout box, not many of you liked it. Indeed he seems to have a nack for supporting very good acts, having shared the stage with First Aid Kit, Late of the Pier and Micachu in his last few shows (I don't think much of Fanfarlo so haven't included them in this list).

Connan Mockasin is another act from New Zealand, a country which seems to be spitting out great band after great band (see Ladyhawke, The Ruby Suns). Despite being previously known as Connan and the Mockasins and being backed by a full band at live shows, Connan Mockasin seems essentially a monikre for the solo work of Connan Hosford. At gigs he is undoubtedly the man in charge, orchestrating his band so everything is as perfect as he wants it to be. He plays a sort of blues inspired psychedelic pop, topped off with his unusual yet completely addictive high pitched vocals - these unusual vocals suiting the unusual song content brilliantly ("It's Choade My Dear", "Unicorn in Uniform" etc).

His MySpace promises UK album details soon (it's already been released in New Zealand, apparently). For more info, check out the MySpace, Twitter, and website.

5 March 2010

Saturday's Kids


I first saw Saturday's Kids a few months back supporting Lovvers. To be honest, probably the first emotion they evoked was fear. All I saw was an incredibly angry teenager who spat inconprehensible lyrics as ferociously as Johnny Rotten backed by a band of schoolmates thrashing away at their instruments. But what took my interest that night was how, mid-thrash, they would slow down revealing a much more intricate side to their work. That night I took a demo disc off of the lead singer, Sion, which I have grown to love. Since this first gig, I've listened to this disc extensively and I've really grown to like the band. So much so that I featured them as my university student newspaper's band of the month, wrote up a piece on them, including an interview, for The 405, and persuaded them to write a tour diary for The 405 which will be online soon enough.

Add them to MySpace, and download their 5-track demo EP and hopefully you will enjoy them as much as I do. But remember, be patient.

Saturday's Kids - Social Crimes

Saturday's Kids - Telling Lies To Our Children

Saturday's Kids - Passing Vehicles

Edited to add: And the tour diary, with photos, for The 405 is now online here.

Free Things - Holiday Records


Isn't it lovely how musicians and labels are pleasant enough to give away their work for free. Some do it somewhat randomly to promote a recent release or to whet the appetites of listeners. But one label that has caught my attention recently for spitting out release after release of what is usually lo-fi loveliness (veering from cutesy pop to gutsy shoegaze) is Holiday Records, which is an American based label ran by The Drums guitarist Jacob and friends.

They aim to release something every Friday (although don't quite always manage it), and I have been enjoying these for some time now. As well as weekly singles (which I am reminded about through email - a list I'd highly recommend subscribing to), Holiday Records have now spat out 3 compilations and on the odd occasion release a whole album for free. Past releases include a very early version of The Drums's "Let's Go Surfing" and a track by Surfer Blood way before everybody loved them. You can find the back-catalogue of releases from their website (hyperlinked above). I'd recommend The Young Friends, who make surf pop songs along the same lines as The Drums and NunParty, a fuzzy pop female fronted two-piece whose songs rarely top the minute barrier. At the very least give a compilation a go.

Edited to add:
Also worthy of a mention are Acorn Boys, made up of The Drums' guitarist and Holiday Records big boss man Jacob and Justin, who also helps to run the label. The old recordings were one of the first things to go up on Holiday Records, which were recorded way before the band were put on hiatus due to each member's respective success. They play chilled out guitar pop songs, fronted by Jacob on vocals, with the odd hint of electro-synth. Pleasant!


Acorn Boys - Walkin Under Trees


Acorn Boys - We'll Always Have Eachother