Monday, 30 July 2012

Savages, The Cockpit, Leeds

In 2007, the now defunct Observer Music Magazine published two of my letters. One of the letters won me the star prize of a six month subscription to the Rough Trade album club. But it was my second letter that gave me the most satisfaction by seeing it in print. In fairness, it wasn't actually a letter, but a question in response to a review by Paul Morley of the latest LCD Soundsystem album Sound of Silver. In his usual egotistical and bombastic way, Morley more or less used his 750 word limit to list a number of bands and albums of who he felt the new LCD Soundsystem record sounded like or was inspired by. I read the review four times and wasn't clear whether he liked the new album or not. Hence the reason why I fired off the following email to the editor:

Could you tell me if Paul Morley's review of the new LCD Soundsystem album was a favourable one? 

I thought back to this letter on Saturday night as Savages brought to a close a barnstorming 9 song set that would have put Morley's 'I'm going to show-off my encyclopaedic knowledge of popular music by listing every band/song/album I can think of and pass it off as a review' approach to criticism into overdrive. While the band wear their influences on their sleeve - Siouxie Soux, Joy Division, Squirrel and G-Man period Happy Mondays, Patti Smith - their intense sound also singles them out as something totally unique and refreshing when compared with the current crop of 'buzz' bands (Alt-J, Django Django et al).

The relatively low stage in room 3 of the Cockpit, means the more vertically challenged members of tonight's audience don't get to witness the intense stage presence of lead singer, Jehenny Beth, whose passionate and intriguing approach to lead singer duties means those who are able to, don't take their eyes off  her throughout the 40 minute set. Beth yelps and shrieks the band's dark and brooding songs with an intensity that has seen her being lazily compared with Ian Curtis. I have to admit, I did't know what she was singing about, but I got the impression that she meant every word of it. The two stand-out songs from tonight's set Husbands and Flying to Berlin show off the dynamic between Beth and guitarist Gemma Thomson who cranks up the intensity on stage with a wave of white noise. The rhythm section, however, is what takes the band to another level. Bassist Ayse Hassan's trembling bass-lines and Fay Milton's infectious post-punk drumming provide the band's power and what makes it very difficult for anyone in attendance tonight not to nod their head or shake their hips along to the pulsating sound of the best new band in the UK.

Set list

Savages set list

Friday, 27 July 2012

Something for the weekend #4: Octagon Court

Hold on son! I hear you cry. TWO weekend recommendation posts in one afternoon? And another push for one of your mates bands with vague Norwich connections?
Nil desperandum as this is an ABSOLUTE BEAUTY of a tune and the video is equally brilliant.


Something for the weekend #3: Olympians

As far as I'm concerned this should be the last time the 'O' word is mentioned on the blog, but it seems a shame that on this particular weekend we should miss highlighting this lot who I reviewed a few months back. Great video too.

You can download a bunch of their stuff, some of it for free, at their bandcamp which is....



Velvet Owl Single of the Week

Mystery Jets - Greatest Hits

Unlike the protagonist in this cheery little number, my own series of failed relationships were sound-tracked by the likes of T'pau, Whitney Houston and M People - all of whom I saw live at least once in the company of an over-excited girlfriend. I can smile about it now, but at the time it was terrible.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Something for the Weekend #2: Darren Hayman goes Mogwai

Well, not exactly. Its just he isn't doing any singing... and anyone who knows any of Hayman's output of the past 15 years (from late 90s cruiserweight indie what-nots Hefner, the criminally overlooked  The French, his acoustic/piano led solo stuff or his fifty billion electro laced side projects) will know that Hayman is probably known best for his lyrics. But this new album about Britain's long-lost outdoor swimming pools doesn't have any. Uh-oh!
Anyhow the video to this first track Super Swimming Stadium is a nice way to spend 5 minutes of your time, particularly with the 'O' word about everywhere at the minute. So give it a whirl(pool) and click on the image below. (Which is of the lovely looking limited to 500 blue vinyl package version, out in August.)

Velvet Owl Single of the Week

Beachwood Sparks - Forget the Song

Prolific songwriters they may not be, but when they do produce the goods, Beachwood Sparks are a joy to behold. Following a 10-year long hiatus, the band are back this summer with their new long-player The Tarnished Gold. Expect to see it feature in 'best of 2012' lists come the end of the year.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Honor Blackbelt

Velvet Owl Single of the Week (2)

James Yorkston - I Was a Cat From a Book.

I Was a Cat From a Book is the new album by James Yorkston and is his first since 2008's When The Haar Rolls In. The vinyl version of the record includes a backgammon board on the gate-fold and some exquisite backgammon pieces.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Velvet Owl Single of the Week

Father John Misty - Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings

Former Fleet Foxes drummer, Josh Tillman, has been releasing his own albums for a number of years now, but this is his first under the guise of Father John Misty. Picked out at the start of the year by Stool Pigeon as one of the 25 'hottest pieces of indie real estate' for 2012, Tillman draws inspiration from the great singer-songwriters of Laurel Canyon to create one of this year's most outstanding records.  

Friday, 6 July 2012

Something for the weekend: WHY? R BAK

My favourite Californian indie-hip-hopsters Why? are back in action with a new EP entitled Sod in the Seed with the lead track available through the link bellow. Sweet way to spend a drizzly Friday afternoon.

WHY? - Sod in the Seed by City Slang


Monday, 2 July 2012

Velvet Owl Single of the Week

The Antlers - Drift Dive

This blissed-out track from The Antlers new e.p. is the perfect soundtrack for balmy summer evenings. It's a shame, therefore, that the band have decided to release it in the autumn. 

What? Shut up!!! July? 

*looks out of the window*

But it's pissing it down out there! 

You should be ashamed of yourself, Britain! 

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Some albums of 2012 (Jan-June)

With the football seemingly over (53 mins: 2-0) I thought I ‘d knock together a vaunting, mid year run down of what new music been on my turntable.  (The word ‘new’ unfortunately means putting aside a plastic obsession with Throbbing Gristle, The Human League, Blancmange, Chapterhouse, Orbital, The Teardrop Explodes, the Housemartins and the best of the Beatles).

Where to start? It’s hard to look beyond French electro-pop duo Yeti Lane’s Grandaddy-shagging (gilf?) album the Echo Show, particularly after their blinding set at the Art Centre last week. I did my best to blow my mind and they duly finished me off. The Echo Show is a must.

Despite loving the first five (5?!) Graham Coxon records as much as any one of my age and indie-orientation would do, I must confess to loosing interest in his past few outings. But this new one is fantastic. He sounds frantic and de-hinged and ironically like he is the age I was when I first dreamt of making a Telecaster sound like that; about 13. A Peter Pan of Pavement rock. And some bits go loopy and sound a bit like CAN. (A good time to mention that although I haven’t got/got the time to listen to the new CAN Lost Tapes- by all acounts it’s a belter and although I’m dead against adding to the overload of lazy and expectant links to music on the net, this ‘new’ CAN track, ‘Deadly Doris’ HAS to be heard). Funky little bleeder...

(68 mins- the italians have started the injured face routine).
Back to the ‘charts’ and in April I charped on about how much I loved the Pre-New’s album, Music for People Who Hate Themselves and I’m not budging; it is so much ruddy fun. Both for the Mars-munching, gun wielding nonsense lyrics but also for the glam-Fall noize they make. It has also added to the fact Earl Brutus are moving up my best bands of the nineties list at an alarming rate. The Pre-New's recent 6 Music session was fantastic also. (And album cover prize winners too). Phew.
A decent third effort from Errors, but Have Some Faith In Magic isn’t yet providing the enchantment that previous efforts or indeed the title suggests. The Echo Lake EP Young Silence of last year got me ready for their recent full length Wild Peace and it lives up to the lovely dream-like Cocteau Twin pop of its predecessor.
All the Saints despite their stupid name made Intro to Fractions which although not likely to win most original album ever does sound like a whole bunch of bands I like (namely My Bloody Valentine, Jesus and Mary Chain, BRMC). And they do it pretty well. AU's title track to their album Both lights is called EPIC and that makes total sense to the overall sound of the album- it's big. It's one of my favourite albums of the year (thus far) and despite a few dodgy, overly-orchestral fuckers in the middle, is a real worthwhile listen.

This weekend has been all about BEAK>’s new album >>. It seems Geoff Barrow kept a bit back from his production witchcraft of the second Horrors masterpiece to make a return album for this Portishead side project. Not sure how it stands up to their first album yet (which was reet good) but the track Wulfstan ii might be one of the best things I have ever heard. Stream the album here. Also Barrows other side project-  Drokk - made an album which sounds like a glorious head-fuck (in a good way) for fans of the Bladerunner soundtrack. Noice.
Alt-J’s new album, from a couple of listens, seems like a solid effort and like the Wild Beasts whom I saw them support recently, are probably better on record than live. I LikeTrains made a good un’ with the Shallows and as too it seems (from a few listens anyhow) did A Place to Bury Strangers with Worship. Very loud seems like the best advice for listening to that one.  (Torres makes it 3).  Luke Abbotts Four Tet electronic wizardry on Modern Driveway has been a treat of lateOh and My Bloody Valentine re-released Loveless with a bunch of previously unheard F-off good b-sides. Didn’t they do well. Twenty twelve you are spoiling us. But ambassador I'm ready for more. Well I'm not and just want to go and dance around the kitchen to that CAN song again, so to round off in the lamest way I have also heard things of varying levels of decent to good from Sebastian Tellier, Liars, Richard Hawley and PiL (surprised on that one being any good) which you'll just have to go and find out more about yourselves. Whilst in negative news I couldn't be bothered to do the new Spiritualized album just yet.
And finally the new Fall album is fucking brilliant too. Oh wait; they haven’t released one yet? Well when they do I’m sure it will be like the others. Here’s looking forward to the next six months and I will round this drivel off with anticipation for an album (September release I believe) to accompany what is my track of the year at this mid-point (you HAVE to do this one). No-one knows much about GOAT except they are from a Swedish village infamous for Live-and-Let-Die-style voodoo shit and they have a song called GOATMAN!!!!! And i'm off to see them in October. What is there not to like about that wah-wah humping rawk? (four-nil. Spain win I guess.)